Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (The 2/4th Battalion)

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1917, APRIL 26th – BEING BRIEFED FOR A RAID AND RELIEVING THE 2/1st BUCKS NEAR FAYET

By G. K. Rose

By G. K. Rose

The Battalion relieved the 2/1st Bucks in the front line during the night; H.Q. at Fayet; 4 men wounded.

 From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920

 The 184th Brigade had been warned to carry out an ‘enterprise’ against the enemy. During the morning of April 26 I was sent for by the Colonel. I found Headquarters in their new position, an oblong greenhouse over whose frame, destitute of glass, was stretched a large ‘trench shelter.’ They had passed a shell-ridden night. Bennett just now had narrowly eluded a 5.9. This morning shells were falling as usual in Holnon, and pieces occasionally came humming down to earth close by. I listened to the plan of a large raid which with two companies I was soon to perform. Moore was here to outline the scheme and also Colonel Cotton of the R.F.A., whose guns were to support the operation.

The Battalion was mostly fortunate in the opportunity of its reliefs. One always prayed that the time spent in moving up and changing places with troops in the front line would coincide with a period quiet in regard to shelling. One hoped still more that no hostile attack would clash with the relief.

Such prayers and hopes on April 26, when a quiet, easy relief was specially desired, came near to being falsified. At dusk, just as our companies were starting towards Fayet, the enemy commenced an operation against Cepy Farm, a ruined building near the front line, predestined by its position to be an object of contention. The attack was ably dealt with by Tubbs’ company of the Bucks and had proved abortive for the enemy. The circumstance was accompanied by much erratic shelling from both sides. Orders to stand-to were issued rather broadcast, and as the relief was now in progress a degree of confusion resulted everywhere. The destination of my company and half of C was the sunken road leading down into Fayet, but that I found already crowded with troops. Almost all units of the Brigade seemed to be trying to relieve or support each other, and the front line itself was in quite a ferment, nobody actually knowing what the enemy had done, was doing, or was expected to do. Under these conditions it became impossible for me to send patrols to learn the ground from which the impending raid was to be launched. It happened, in fact, that when the time to move forward had arrived, I alone of all the five platoons about to be engaged knew the route to the ‘position of assembly,’ that is to say, the place where the attacking troops were to collect immediately before the raid. That most severe risk–for had I been a casualty the entire enterprise would have miscarried—was owing partly to the accident of the confused relief, but more to the short notice at which the work was to be carried out. Instead of that thorough reconnaissance which was so desirable I had to be content with a visit, shared by my officers and a few N.C.O.’s, to an advanced observation post from which a view was possible of those trenches and woods we were under orders to raid.

The sunken road proved anything but a pleasant waiting place. The shelling of Fayet–fresh-scattered bricks across whose roads showed it an unhealthy place–was now taken up in earnest by the enemy. Partly perhaps from their own affection for such places, but more probably because it was our most likely route to reach the village, the Germans seldom allowed an hour to pass without sending several salvoes of 5.9s into the sunken road. My men were densely packed in holes under the banks. I was expecting large supplies of flares and bombs and all those things one carried on a raid, and had, of course, orders and explanations of their duties to give to many different parties.

Died  of Wounds April 26th 1917

 33451 Private James Owen Wooster

1917, APRIL 3rd – RELIEVED 2/1st BUCKS EAST OF SOYECOURT

By G. K. Rose.

By G. K. Rose.

Moved up to the line and relieved the 2/1st Bucks in the sector east of Soyecourt;

D Company in front-line posts;

C in close support;

B at railway embankment at Montolu Wood;

A and Battalion H.Q. at Soyecourt.

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

At midnight, April 3/4, the Battalion relieved the Bucks. B, C, and D Companies shared the new outpost line. Headquarters and A Company went to Soyécourt. The relief, the first of its kind, was difficult. In my own front a small brushwood copse was reputed to contain a sentry post. The ground was dotted with small copses which the darkness made indistinguishable, and no report of this post’s relief was ever made. When dawn was breaking in the sky, Sergeant Watkins, accompanied by the Bucks guides, returned to say that no sentry group nor post in any copse could be found. The most likely copse was then garrisoned and the night’s mystery and labour ceased.

Further advance was evidently in store. The smoke of burning villages still mounted the sky. At night a glow showed where a great fire in St. Quentin was ablaze. The weather now changed for the worse. Hail, rain and snow prevailed alternately. A fierce wind blew. Winter conditions were repeated in the outpost line, where no shelter other than tarpaulins rigged across the shallow trenches existed. Nor was the artillery inactive. As the enemy’s resistance stiffened, shells commenced to fall on fields yet unscarred by trench or shell-hole. Better ammunition seemed to be in use–or was it a month’s holiday from shells that made it seem so?–and more subtlety was shown by German gunners in their choice of targets. Our casualties, though not numerous, proved that the war, in most of its old incidents, had been resumed.

1917, APRIL 1st – TO SAILOR’S WOOD IN SUPPORT OF THE 2/1st BUCKS

Photograph by: Brooks Ernest (Lieutenant) Surrey Yeomanry passing round a crater on the main Amiens-St.Quentin Road, near Vermand.  21st April 1917.

Photograph by: Brooks Ernest (Lieutenant)
Surrey Yeomanry passing round a crater on the main Amiens-St.Quentin Road, near Vermand.
21st April 1917.

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM FIRST WORLD WAR MAPS COLLECTION" (photographs) Map Vermand. Edition 1A 62C SE2.

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM FIRST WORLD WAR MAPS COLLECTION” (photographs)
Map Vermand. Edition 1A 62C SE2.

By G. K. Rose.

By G. K. Rose.

C and D Companies moved to Sailor’s Wood, in close support to the 2/1st Bucks.

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

At 3 a.m. on April 1 C and D Companies were ordered forward to support the Bucks in an attack on the line of single railway which runs northwards from Vermand. The attack gained the ridge east of the railway and no support by us was wanted. Ten prisoners were captured by the Bucks, whose only casualties resulted from our own shells dropping short and an unfortunate mistake of some other troops, who lost direction and, pressing forward, encountered men of their own side. Towards evening the General ordered D Company forward to occupy Montolu Wood. The journey was made at dusk through a blinding storm of hail and rain. The wood to which I went was the wrong one altogether. Nevertheless to my wood my company returned twice later, till tactical recognition was gained for it from the failure of the staff to observe the mistake and my own to disclose it. The wood I went to was some half-mile distant from the proper one, but the same shape, as near the railway, and answering the General’s map-description to a nicety. I like to think of my wood, where I was so rarely found, whither perplexed runners brought orders so late, where I never was relieved, but where my old shelters of tin and brushwood escaped disturbance in my absence.

1916, AUGUST 27th – RELIEVED FROM FRONT LINE TRENCHES IN THE FANQUISSART SECTOR BY THE 2/4th ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT

Laventie, Showing The Fauquissart Sector 1916 From the The Story of the 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment 1914-1918, by A. F. Barnes, M.C.

Laventie, Showing The Fauquissart Sector 1916
From the The Story of the 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment 1914-1918, by A. F. Barnes, M.C.

The War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1916-08-27
Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire
Location France, Laventie
Entry Took over Left Sub Section of FAQUISSART Sector of Trenches from 2/4 OXFORD and BUCKS LI. Relief complete 7pm. 2/1 BUCKS on our right. 37th BN AUSTRALIANS on our Left. Enemy retaliation to our evening bombardment. One shell dropped amongst BNB Bombers in Reserve Trench (Casualties OR 2 Killed, 6 Wounded).

1916, JULY – IN THE LAVENTIE SECTOR

Winchester Trench Company HQ Front Trenches, Picantin (Laventie),  October 28 1916 Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)  A view along a section of trench immediately before a badly bomb damaged building. The trench has duckboards along the bottom and the walls are supported by a structure of wooden planks.

Winchester Trench
Company HQ Front Trenches, Picantin (Laventie),
October 28 1916
Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)
A view along a section of trench immediately before a badly bomb damaged building. The trench has duckboards along the bottom and the walls are supported by a structure of wooden planks.

 

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

During July 1916 the Battalion was in and out of the breastworks between Fauquissart and Neuve Chapelle. When the 184th Infantry Brigade went  back to rest the Battalion had billets on the outskirts of Merville, a friendly little town, since levelled in ruins; and, when reserve to the Brigade, in Laventie. Brigade Headquarters were at the latter and also the quartermasters’ stores and transport of battalions in the line.

Some favourite spots were the defensive ‘posts,’ placed a mile behind the front line and known as Tilleloy, Winchester, Dead End, Picantin. Reserve companies garrisoned these posts. No arduous duties spoilt the days; night work consisted chiefly in pushing trolley-loads of rations to the front line. Of these posts the best remembered would be Winchester, where existed a board bearing the names of Wykhamists, whom chance had led that way. Battalion Headquarters were there for a long time and were comfortable enough with many ‘elephant’ dug-outs and half a farm-house for a mess–the latter ludicrouslv decorated by some predecessors with cuttings from La Vie Parisienne and other picture papers.

Though conditions were never quiet in the front line, during the summer of 1916 back area shelling was infrequent. Shells fell near Laventie cross-roads on most days and, when a 12 inch howitzer established itself behind the village, the Germans retaliated upon it with 5.9s, but otherwise shops and estaminets flourished with national nonchalance. The railway, which ran from La Gorgue to Armentières, was used by night as far as Bac St. Maur–an instance of unenterprise on the part of German gunners. Despite official repudiation, on our side the principle of ‘live and let live’ was still applied to back areas. Trench warfare, which in the words of a 1915 pamphlet ‘could and must cease’ had managed to survive that pamphlet and the abortive strategy of the battle of Loos. Until trench warfare ended divisional headquarters were not shelled.

Meanwhile the comparative deadlock in the Somme fighting rendered necessary vigorous measures against the enemy elsewhere on the front. A gas attack from the Fauquissart sector was planned but never carried out. Trench mortars and rifle grenades were continuously employed to make life as unpleasant as possible for the enemy, whose trenches soon became, to all appearances, a rubbish heap. All day and much of the night the ‘mediums’ fell in and about the German trenches and, it must be confessed, occasionally in our own as well. Whilst endeavouring to annihilate the Wick salient or some such target, one of our heaviest of heavy trench mortars dropped short (perhaps that is too much of a compliment to the particular shot) in our trenches near a company headquarters and almost upon a new concrete refuge, which the R.E. had just completed and not yet shown to the Brigadier. Though sometimes supplied, the co-operation of this arm was never asked for.

NOTE: I believe the term Wykhamists refers to former students of Winchester College.

Although the 184th Infantry Brigade, to which belonged both the 2/4th Battalion and the 2/1st Bucks Battalion of the Regiment, took no part in the actual battle of the Somme, its task of making demonstrations to assist the Somme operations was arduous in the extreme, and its casualties heavy.At the commencement of the Somme offensive the 2/4th Battalion was at Laventie, holding the trenches and front posts

 

1916, JULY 19th – THE BATTLE OF FROMELLES

The Battle of Fromelles – Order of Battle for British and German forces.

The Battle of Fromelles – Order of Battle for British and German forces.

Extracted From The Regimental Chronicles of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

The 61st Division were to attack on the line from Bedford Row to Bond Street, the 184th Brigade on the front from Sutherland Avenue exclusive to Bond Street inclusive, the 183rd Brigade were on the right, and the Australian Division on the left.

The 2/1st Bucks and the 2/4th Berks were in the trenches and were to make the attack, one Company (C) of  the Battalion was in immediate reserve just north of the Rue Tilleloy, and the remainder of the Battalion remained in reserve at their billets. Owing to a misunderstanding of orders, a platoon of C Company, which was destined to carry trench-mortar ammunition across No Man’s Land after the attack had been established in the enemy’s trenches, was kept in the front line and suffered very heavily in the bombardment. An intense bombardment was kept up from 11 a.m. till 6p.m., when the assault was delivered, but owing to the machine-gun fire of the enemy the assaulting Battalion could not get across No Man’s Land and suffered very heavy losses.

About 7 p.m. the Battalion was loaded on to motor-buses and moved up towards the firing-line, and was sent up to take over the line held by the Berks and the Bucks. The relief was completed by 11, and at 11.30 the C.O., who had been ordered to remain at the Battle Headquarters, received orders to organize an attack with two companies on the Sugar Loaf, being told that he would find a party of Engineers with consolidating material at a certain point for which he was to provide a carrying company.

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

This harassing warfare had a crisis in July. The operations of July 19, which were shared with the 61st Division by the 5th Australian holding trenches further north, were designed as a demonstration to assist our attack upon the Somme and to hold opposite to the XI Corps certain German reserves, which, it was feared, would entrain at Lille and be sent south. That object was achieved, but at the cost of severe casualties to the divisions engaged, which were launched in daylight after artillery preparation, which results proved to have been inadequate, against a trench-system strongly manned and garrisoned by very numerous machine-guns. The objectives assigned to the 61st Division were not captured, while the Australians further north, after entering the German trenches and taking prisoners, though they held on tenaciously under heavy counter-attacks, were eventually forced to withdraw. ‘The staff work,’ said the farewell message from the XI Corps to the 61st Division three months later, ‘for these operations was excellent.’ Men and officers alike did their utmost to make the attack of July 19 a success, and it behoves all to remember the sacrifice of those who fell with appropriate gratitude. It was probably the last occasion on which large parties of storming infantry were sent forward through ‘sally ports.’ The Battalion was in reserve for the attack. C Company, which formed a carrying party during the fighting, lost rather heavily, but the rest of the Battalion, though moved hither and thither under heavy shelling, suffered few casualties. When the battle was over, companies relieved part of the line and held the trenches until normal conditions returned.

 KILLED IN ACTION JULY 19th 1916

3560 Lance Sergeant Arthur Lunn

Corporal Reginald Harding

5417 Private Frederick William Bateman

5148 Private Charles Bryden

202028 Private Sidney Butler

2990 Private George Jones

6736 Private William John Jones (Formerly 1347, Welsh Regt.)

4317 Private George Edward L. Simpson

4167 Private William Arthur Taylor

3022 Private George Tolley

From the War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1916-07-19

Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire

Location France, Laventie

Entry Artillery preparation opened at 11am attack at 6pm 2/1 BUCKS on our LEFT. AUSTRALIAN Division on Left of 2/1 BUCKS. 183rd Bde on our Right and 182nd Bde on Right of 183rd Bde, 8th and 61st Divisional Artillery behind our lines. Casualties Officers 3 Killed (Lt Col J H BEER, 2/Lieut G S ABBOTT and 2/Lieut F C D WILLIAMS) and 2 wounded (Major T SHIELDS and 2/Lieut D R GIBSON). Other ranks 35K, 115W and 8 Shell Shock. Bn relieved by 2/4 OXFORD and BUCKS LI at 1030pm. Marched back into billets at RUE DE LA LYS (G.27.c.2.2 1/2).

1916, July 6th – MARCHED TO BE IN SUPPORT AT CROIX BARBEE

Extracted From The Regimental Chronicles of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

On the 6th July Captain Scott was instructing some men of D Company in bombing, when a bomb burst prematurely, killing Private Lord, severely wounding Captain Scott and Corporal North, and slightly wounding Lieut. Loewe and Private Williams. At 3 p.m. that afternoon the Battalion was suddenly ordered to march to Croix Barbee, where they relieved the 1st Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment and remained in reserve.

DIED OF WOUNDS JULY 7th 1916

5448 Private Charles Montague Lord

 From the War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1916-07-06

Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire

Location France, La Gorgue

Entry Route march 8 miles. 1 man fell out. At 3pm Bn received orders to move as soon possible to CROIX BARBEE (M.26.c.8.3) and await orders. Marched out at 4.20pm arrived at 6pm. Ordered to relieve 1/1 CAMBRIDGESHIRE Regt in LEFT Sub-Section of FERME DU BOIS Sector (Ref: Trench Map S.10.d.2.7. to S.5.c.5.6 1/2). “B” Coy on Right, “C” Coy in Centre, “A” Coy on Left, “D” Coy in reserve. Three Platoons of “D” Coy in LANSDOWNE POST (S.4.a.1.1)). HQ and 1 platoon of “D” Coy at S.4.b.6.0. 2/1 BUCKS in Sub-Section on our Right, 2/7 ROYAL WARWICKS in Sub-Section on our left. 2/4 OXFORD AND BUCKS LI in support at CROIX BARBEE – 2/5 GLOSTERS in support of 2/1 BUCKS at REICHBOURG ST VAAST. Bde HQ at 8 MAISONS (R.30.c.5.8).

1917, AUGUST 22nd – CAPTURE OF POND FARM

Attack Aug 22 1917

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose KC (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

On the following night Companies assembled for the attack. Neither the starting place nor the objectives for this are easily described by reference to surrounding villages. The nearest was St. Julien. The operation orders for the attack of August 22 assigned as objective to the Oxfords a road running across the Hanebeck and referred to as the Winnipeg-Kansas Cross Road. The 48th Division on the left and the 15th on the right were to co-operate with the 184th Brigade in the attack.

Shortly before 5 the bombardment started. In the advance behind the creeping barrage put down by our guns, of which an enormous concentration was present on the front, C, D and A Companies (from right to left) provided the first waves, while B Company followed to support the flanks. The Berks came afterwards as ‘moppers up.’ Half-an-hour after the advance started D, B and A Companies were digging-in 150 yards west of the Winnipeg-Kansas Cross Road. The losses of these companies in going over had not been heavy, but, as so often happens, casualties occurred directly the objective had been duly reached. In the case of C Company, on the right, but little progress had been made. Pond Farm, a concrete stronghold, to capture which a few nights previously an unsuccessful sally had been made, had proved too serious an obstacle. Not till the following night was it reduced, and during the whole of August 22 it remained a troublesome feature in the situation.

Before the line reached could be consolidated or they could act to defeat the enemy’s tactics, our men found themselves the victims of sniping and machine-gun fire from Schuler Farm, which was not taken and to which parties of reinforcements to the enemy now came. More dangerous still was an old gun-pit which lay behind the left flank. The capture of this had been assigned to the 48th Division, but as a measure of abundant caution Colonel Wetherall had detailed a special Berks platoon to tackle it. This platoon, assisted by some Oxfords on the scene, captured the gun-pit and nearly seventy prisoners, but failed to garrison it. A party of the enemy found their way back and were soon firing into our men from behind. During the early stages of consolidation, when personal example and direction were required, John Stockton, Scott, and Gascoyne were all killed by snipers or machine-gun fire. Scott had been hit already in the advance and behaved finely in refusing aid until he had despatched a message to Headquarters. While he was doing so three or four bullets struck him simultaneously and he died.

Throughout the 22nd no actual counter-attack nor organised bombardment by the enemy took place, but much sniping and machine-gun fire continued, making it almost impossible to move about. Our loss in Lewis-gunners was particularly heavy.

Callender, the acting company commander of A Company, had been killed before the attack commenced, and Sergeant-Major Cairns was now the mainstay of that company, whose men were thoroughly mixed up with B. Upon the left the 48th Division had failed to reach Winnipeg, with the result that this flank of A and B Companies was quite in the air. On the Battalion’s right the failure of C Company, in which Brucker had been wounded, to pass Pond Farm left the flank of D Company exposed and unsupported. But the position won was kept. Ground to which the advance had been carried with cost would not be lightly given up. Moberly, Company Sergeant-Major Cairns, and Guest -the latter by volunteering in daylight to run the gauntlet of the German snipers back to Headquarters-greatly distinguished themselves in the task of maintaining this exposed position during the night of August 22 and throughout August 23. Some of our men had to remain in shell-holes unsupported and shot at from several directions for over fifty hours”.

At 4.45 a.m. the Battalion attacked on a front of 750 yards, the objective being about 900 yards distant. On our left were the l/5th R. Warwicks, and the 2/1st Bucks on the right, with five platoons of the R. Berks acting as moppers-up. The assembly, which was carried out unknown to the enemy, was on a tape line, laid down in advance of our line by 2nd Lieut. Robinson the previous night. The disposition of companies from left to right was A, D, C in front line, and B in support. The Battalion advanced under our artillery barrage, and A and D Companies, closely followed by two platoons of B, reached their objective and consolidated. C Company on the right, with a platoon of B in support, were held up owing to the failure of the mopping-up platoon to take Pond Farm. Owing to casualties among senior officers, the front-line command devolved on 2nd Lieut. Moberly, with whom were 2nd Lieut. Coombes (A) and 2nd Lieut. Guest (D). The battalion on our left was unable to hold its objective, and consequently both flanks of the front line were unprotected; but 2nd Lieut. Moberly decided to hold on, and arranged to provide such protection as was possible. At 4 p.m., with the assistance of two platoons of the 2/5th Glosters, we assaulted and captured Pond Farm.

KILLED IN ACTION AUGUST 22nd 1917

Captain J. G. Stockton.

Lieut. WT. D. Scott. 2nd

Lieut. W. E. Gascoyne

201057 Sergeant Alfred Mobey

202295 Lance Sergeant Albert Barnes

200871 Corporal Albert Margetts

200978 Corporal James William Smith

202440 Lance Corporal Harold William Percival Bolt (Born Sydney Australia)

201270 Lance Corporal Eric George Cheasley

200689 Lance Corporal Frederick Edginton

267405 Lance Corporal William Merrith

201458 Lance Corporal Benjamin Arthur Tyler

201230 Private Harold Bolton

203189 Private Dennis Bush

240310 Private William James Callow

201694 Private Aubrey Castle

14783 Private Albert Thomas Childs

201655 Private William Walter Cox

24484 Private Herbert Charles Date (Formerly 141415 R.F.A.)

202885 Private William Dennis

203867 Private Albert John Drewitt

285020 Private Arthur Henry Drewitt

202393 Private Joseph Eversden

240350 Private James Charles Ferriman

202151 Private Frank Herbert Gardiner

203844 Private William Guess

201358 Private Lewis Heath

266895 Private Edward George Hoare

203475 Private Arthur James Hughes (Formerly 2694, R. Bucks Hussars)

201435 Private Harold Hughes

201864 Private Henry Impey

200931 Private Howard Stanley May

29025 Private George Albert Missen

240409 Private Leve Mitchell

202701 Private George Payne

202768 Private Christopher Piekton

203787 Private William Richard Pitson

22534 Private Jasper Quincey Plumb

204409 Private Ernest William Rolfe

202554 Private Harold Rolph

202661 Private George Roper

201967 Private Ernest John Rose

204413 Private John Elford Soper (Formerly 3457, Berks Yoemanry)

203434 Private Robert John Stratford (Formerly 1794, R. Bucks Hussars)

203535 Private Ernest Walter Sutton (formerly 2777, R. Bucks Hussars)

203811 Private Alfred Fred Taylor

23717 Private Horace White

200270 Herbert Edward Wright

DIED OF WOUNDS AUGUST 22nd 1917

32542 Lance Corporal Arthur Stamper (Formerly 3427, Notts and Derby Regt.)

Wounded: Captain A. H. Brucker. 2nd Lieut. T. A. Hill. 2nd Lieut. H. G. Turrell. 2nd Lieut. F. Dawson-Smith 2nd Lieut. T. W. P. Hawker And 74 other ranks.

Missing: 44 other ranks (3 of whom were afterwards reported to be prisoners, the remainder presumed to have been killed).

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose KC (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

The attack, in which the Bucks had successfully co-operated on the right of our advance, earned credit for the Brigade and the Battalion. It had been, from a fighting standpoint, a military success. But from the strategical aspect the operations showed by their conclusion that the error had been made of nibbling with weak forces at objectives which could only have been captured and secured by strong. Moreover, the result suggested that the objectives had been made on this occasion for the attack rather than the attack for the objectives. The 184th Brigade had played the part assigned to it completely and with credit, but what had been gained by it with heavy loss was in fact given up by its successors almost at once. Withdrawal from the Kansas trenches became an obvious corollary to the German omission to counter-attack against them. Ground not in dispute ’twas not worth casualties to hold. On the Battalion’s front Pond Farm, a small concrete stronghold, remained the sole fruit of the attack of August 22. It was after the 61st Division had been withdrawn, wasted in stationary war, that what success could be associated with this third battle of Ypres commenced. Judged by its efforts, the 61st was ill paid in results.

TO 1917, AUGUST 23rd

1917, APRIL 26th – RELIEVING THE 2/1st BUCKS NEAR FAYET

By G. K. Rose

By G. K. Rose

The Battalion relieved the 2/1st Bucks in the front line during the night; H.Q. at Fayet; 4 men wounded.

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose KC (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

The Battalion was mostly fortunate in the opportunity of its reliefs. One always prayed that the time spent in moving up and changing places with troops in the front line would coincide with a period quiet in regard to shelling. One hoped still more that no hostile attack would clash with the relief.

Such prayers and hopes on April 26, when a quiet, easy relief was specially desired, came near to being falsified. At dusk, just as our companies were starting towards Fayet, the enemy commenced an operation against Cepy Farm, a ruined building near the front line, predestined by its position to be an object of contention. The attack was ably dealt with by Tubbs’ company of the Bucks and had proved abortive for the enemy. The circumstance was accompanied by much erratic shelling from both sides. Orders to stand-to were issued rather broadcast, and as the relief was now in progress a degree of confusion resulted everywhere. The destination of my company and half of C was the sunken road leading down into Fayet, but that I found already crowded with troops. Almost all units of the Brigade seemed to be trying to relieve or support each other, and the front line itself was in quite a ferment, nobody actually knowing what the enemy had done, was doing, or was expected to do. Under these conditions it became impossible for me to send patrols to learn the ground from which the impending raid was to be launched. It happened, in fact, that when the time to move forward had arrived, I alone of all the five platoons about to be engaged knew the route to the ‘position of assembly,’ that is to say, the place where the attacking troops were to collect immediately before the raid. That most severe risk–for had I been a casualty the entire enterprise would have miscarried–was owing partly to the accident of the confused relief, but more to the short notice at which the work was to be carried out. Instead of that thorough reconnaissance which was so desirable I had to be content with a visit, shared by my officers and a few N.C.O.’s, to an advanced observation post from which a view was possible of those trenches and woods we were under orders to raid.

The sunken road proved anything but a pleasant waiting place. The shelling of Fayet–fresh-scattered bricks across whose roads showed it an unhealthy place–was now taken up in earnest by the enemy. Partly perhaps from their own affection for such places, but more probably because it was our most likely route to reach the village, the Germans seldom allowed an hour to pass without sending several salvoes of 5.9s into the sunken road. My men were densely packed in holes under the banks. I was expecting large supplies of flares and bombs and all those things one carried on a raid, and had, of course, orders and explanations of their duties to give to many different parties.

1917, APRIL 7th – FAILED ATTACK AND RELIEF BY THE 2/1st BUCKS

AdvanceStQuentin

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

Before dawn our troops were in their old positions.

In the attack the sergeant-majors of both A and B Companies were hit. Of the officers, Barton, commanding B, and Tilly, of A, were killed. Aitken and Wayte were wounded. Nearly 40 of rank and file were casualties.

The attack had proved a failure, but, as often happened, hopes of success were reluctantly abandoned by the staff. Thus my company was warned that it might have to repeat the attack at dawn. Pending such a fate, I was sent to bivouac in a windswept spinney known as Ponne Copse. It was still snowing. After their week’s exposure I was loth to inform my men of such a destiny.

But a more favourable turn of events was in store. The weather cleared, and at 11 a.m. on the 7th I was allowed to return to my version of Montolu Wood. On the same day the Battalion was relieved by the Bucks and marched back through Soyécourt to Caulaincourt. There we found Bennett, who had come from the Aldershot course to be Second in Command. The château grounds were quieter than before, for our guns had now moved further up towards the line.

On relief by the 2/1st Bucks, the Battalion moved to Caulaincourt, except B Company, who went into close support at Sailor’s Wood.

KILLED IN ACTION APRIL 7th 1917

Lieutenant C. J. Barton

2nd Lieutenant A. H. Tilly

200230 Company Sergeant Major Cecil Amos Witney

200917 Sergeant Bertie Elliott

200401 Lance Corporal William James Pacey

200864 Lance corporal Richard Yeates

203455 Private Donald Carruthers

200924 Private Frederick Jesse Gulliver

203473 Private Edward Harris (Formerly 2768, R. Bucks Hussars)

201263 Private Francis Walter Salcombe

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