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

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Archive for the tag “22nd February 1917”

Relieving the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment, trenches at Deniecourt, 23rd/24th February 1917

The following details are extracted from a great Web site: http://www.purley.eu/H142.htm. The site details the operations of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment, but within it is contained a wide range of information on the 184th Brigade and the Battalions that made up the Brigade.

The 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment was holding trenches at Deniecourt, S.W. of Peronne

They were relieved by the 2/4th Oxfords on the 24th February 1917.

“SECRET Copy No 11
2/4th Bn, Royal Berks Regt
Order No 59 February 22. 1917

1. The Battn will be relieved by 4/OXFORDS on night of 23/24th inst and move to RAINECOURT. Relief to be completed by 6.0 AM.

2.The Order of Relief will be as under:-
OXFORDS BERKS ROUTE
D Coy relieve B Coy via VALET – BC4
A Coy “ A Coy “ BC3
C Coy “ C Coy “ VALET – BC4
B Coy “ D Coy “ OVERLAND TO 908
HQ Coy “ HQ Coy “ VALET

3. BERKS “B” Coy will remain in position until OXFORDS “C” Coy is in the trench and will then move out, followed by BERKS
“C” Coy via BC4.

4. “A” Coy will move out by BC3 and VALET on completion of relief.

5. East of the line FOUCAUCOURT – HERLEVILLE of distance of 200 yds between platoons will be maintained and 200 yds between Coys when West of that line.

6. Each Coy will send 1 Guide per platoon to B BROM, West Exit of ESTREES at 6.0pm tomorrow. These guides must be
reliable men and should reconnoitre the route during the day.

ACKNOWLEDGE
C R Allen Capt & A/Adjutant
WVQ [TX00662]”

The account below details the preparation for the Relief by officers of the 2/4th Oxfords:

From G. K. Rose, The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

“It is morning of February 22, 1917. Colonel Bellamy and his four company commanders are setting out to reconnoitre the new front line. Guides are to meet us at Deniecourt Chateau, a heap of chalk slabs and old bricks, beneath which are Brigade Headquarters. To reach this rendezvous we pass through Foucaucourt and then along a corduroy road through Deniecourt Wood to the village of that name. The wood has been fought through and but few branches remain on the trees, whose trunks, like so many untidy telegraph poles, rise to various heights from the upheaval of shell holes and undergrowth. Dismal surroundings on a dismal morning, for the frost has relented for
several days and already sides of trenches are collapsing (flop go the chunks into the water!) and on top the ground is loading one’s boots at every step.

We change into gumboots in an old cellar and our journey commences. See the Colonel, Cuthbert, Marcon, Brown, Stockton, Robinson and myself lead off down a communication trench behind a guide, pledged to take us to the Berks Headquarters. The going is desperate water up to our knees; however, each hundred yards brings our goal nearer, and it can hardly be like this all the way. We come to a trench junction, and our guide turns left-handed; presently another the guide knows the way and again turns to the left. Confound the mud ! If we do not get there soon we shall never be home for lunch …. but we do not get there soon. The guide, always protesting that he knows the way, has led us in a circle and here we are whence we started an hour ago !

After such well-meaning mockery of our efforts, a route ‘over the top’ is tried. Soon we are outside Battalion Headquarters of the Berks. Whilst we are there, German gas shelling starts a few rounds of phosgene and helmets require to be adjusted. It is not everybody’s helmet that fits, this being the first real occasion on which some officers have worn them. There is some laughing to
see the strictest censor of a gas helmet (or its absence) in difficulties with his own, when the moment for its adjustment has arrived.

The company commanders duly separate to go up to their own sections of the front. They see the ‘ posts,’ or any of them that can be visited in daylight, make notes of local details affecting the relief, and so home independently.”

The relief:

“On the afternoon of February 23, we marched up to relieve the Berks. Near Foucaucourt the cookers gave us tea. There also we changed into gumboots. Guides met us at Estrees cross-roads,
a trysting place possible only when dusk had fallen, and the lugubrious procession started along a tramway track among” whose iron sleepers the men floundered considerably, partly from their precaution of choosing gumboots several sizes too large.
On this occasion the usual stoppages and checks were multiplied by a brisk artillery ‘ strafe ‘ upon the front, accompanied by all manner of coloured lights and rockets. The noise soon dying down we were able to continue a bad journey with men frequently becoming stuck and a few lost. The relief was not over until nearly dawn, by when the last Berks had left and our worst stragglers been collected.”

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Captain Kenneth Edward Brown, M.C

From G. K. Rose, The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

“I should like to recall memories of such comrades as Bellamy and Wetherall, Cuthbert, Bennett, Davenport, ‘ Slugs’ Brown, Rose, ‘ Bob” Abraham, Regimental Sergeant-Major Douglas, Company Sergeant-Major Brooks, V.C., and a host of other friends of all ranks.”

August 1916
“Brucker, of C Company, became Adjutant of the 61st Divisional School, and command of his company passed to Kenneth Brown, a great fighter and best of comrades, the first member of this Battalion to win the Military Cross.”

November 1916
“At Albert, Bennett was taken from A ‘Company to act as Second in Command of the Berks. Brown assumed command of his company and Robinson about this time of C Company, Brucker having returned to the 61st Divisional School, which was set up at St. Riquier.”

Christmas Eve 1916
“On Christmas Eve, 1916, the Battalion relieved the front line. Brown and Davenport took their companies to Desire and Regina.”

December 1916
“A few nights later Brown, with a small party and on a clear frosty night, solved the riddle by boldly walking up to Grandcourt Trench and finding the Germans not at home.”

22nd February 1917
“We change into gumboots in an old cellar and our journey commences. See the Colonel, Cuthbert, Marcon, Brown, Stockton, Robinson and myself lead off down a communication trench behind a guide, pledged to take us to the Berks Headquarters.”

23rd February 1917
“The Battalion took over a three-company front. Brown with A Company guarded the left.”

Ablaincourt
“Some parties which attacked Brown’s front were, under the able example of that officer, driven off with Lewis guns, and D Company, whose loss in prisoners was nil, also maintained its front intact.”

April 6th, Good Friday, 1917
The Battalion’s objective was a line of trenches recently dug by the enemy and running between Le Vergier and the river. To capture them Brown’s company, which hitherto had stayed in reserve at Soyecourt in tolerable accommodation, was selected. B and D Companies were ordered to keep close behind A to support the attack, while C remained to garrison the outpost line. Zero was midnight, but before that snow and sleet were falling heavily. It proved the dirtiest night imaginable. Companies moved in columns across the 1,000 yards of open fields between their old positions and the objective, against which our artillery kept up as severe a fire as possible. That fire was less effective than was hoped. In its advance A Company lost men from our own shells, of which nearly all were seen to be falling very short. The German wire, still the great argument to face in an attack, was round uncut. Although at first inclined to surrender, the enemy soon saw the failure of our men to find a gap. Machine-guns were manned, which swept the ground with a fierce enfilade fire. Brown, Aitken, and Wayte behaved in a most gallant manner, the line was rallied, and a renewed attempt made to storm the trenches. In vain. No troops will stand against machine-gun fire in the open when no object can be achieved.”

August 1917
“A Company still had for its Command Brown, among whose officers were Coombes, Callender, and Webb.”

“They were so left in order that, if the casualties were very high,
some nucleus of veteran soldiers would still remain around whom the new Battalion could be built. A like rule applied to officers. A month ago the Colonel had decided which of these should not take part in the first Ypres attack. Brown and myself stayed out of the line, and in our stead Callender and Scott respectively commanded A and D Companies.”

7th September 1917
“On September 7 Brown and myself went up through Ypres to view the scene of the attack. At Wieltje, where Colonel Wetherall and B and C Companies already were, we descended to a deep, wet dug-out and that night listened to a narrative brought by an officer who had participated in the last attempt to take the hill.”

21st March 1918
“It is said of A Company that, when surrounded by the enemy, Brown formed the men into a circle, back to back, and fought without surrender. The monument which stands above Fayet is happily placed. It is inscribed to the sons of France who fell in action nearly fifty years ago. On March 21, I918 , it was enriched by its association with a later sacrifice, The credit won in this
lost battle gives to the 2/4th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry a share of honour in the war equal to that which has been earned by our most successful troops in the advance.”

The following information is from HARROW MEMORIALS OF
THE GREAT WAR VOLUME VI, APRIL 10th, 1918, to THE END
OF THE WAR.

CAPTAIN K. E. BROWN, M.C.

Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
The Headmaster’s 09*- 13′ Aged 22 April 12th, 1918

Youngest son of James Wyld Brown, of Eastrop Grange,Highworth, Wilts, and of his wife. Primrose, daughter of Captain Kennedy, of Finnarts-Glenapp, Ayrshire.

Three of his elder brothers — all Old Harrovians — Major G. D. Brown, M.C, 1st Wilts, Captain E. F. Brown, 5th Wilts, Lieutenant D. C. Brown, Royal Scots, all lost their lives in the War ; their records appear in Vols. IV, V and VI.

Entrance Scholar : Monitor. Cricket XI, 1914.

Captain Brown was intending to go up to Oxford and had already
matriculated at Magdalen College, when the War broke out. In
September, 1914, he received a Commission in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and, after training at Oxford, Chelmsford, and on Salisbury Plain, went to France with his Battalion in May, 1916. The following September he was awarded the Military Cross for rescuing a wounded Officer and some men, to accomplish which he had to go over the parapet four times under very heavy fire. In the spring of 1917 a Bar was added to the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry in leading an attack.

On March 21st, 1918, north of St. Quentin, he led the counter-attacking Company of his Battalion, and, after rallying his men, or what was left of them, several times, he was shot through the left lung and became unconscious from loss of blood. When he came to he found himself a prisoner of war and died in a German hospital on April 12th.

Colonel Ames wrote : —

*’ ‘ Mitty * is doing very well indeed, and accomplished a very good piece of work at the end of last month, when I sent him into No Man’s Land to creep up to the German lines and see if there was a gap. He was out four and a half hours by himself, and he came back with valuable information. Later in the evening he went out several times under heavy fire and brought in dead and wounded after the raid. . . . The Brigadier was very much
struck with his performance and made a note of it.”

His CO. wrote : —

” You know how well he had done, and how grateful I was to him for all his hard work while I was with the Battalion, and I know how universally he was loved and respected by all ranks who knew him. God rest his gallant soul,”

Lt. K. E. Brown also gets mentioned in the history of the 2/4th Royal Berkshires on 14th July 1916.

Major J H Simmonds and Lt. K E Brown, 2/4th Oxford & Bucks L.I. behaved very gallantly in going out into NO MAN’S LAND for 2 hours and superintending the evacuation of the wounded from same.

UK, British Officer Prisoners of War, 1914-1918 

K E Brown
Rank: Capt.
Regiment: 4th Battalion. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Lig
Date Missing: 21 Mar 1918
Record Number: 2905
Section: Western Theatre of Operations.

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