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

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

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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

1917, APRIL 6th – GOOD FRIDAY ATTACK EAST OF SOYECOURT

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The 184th Brigade attacked the enemy’s trenches; 2/5th Glosters on the right, 2/4th Oxford and Bucks on the left. “Zero” hour, midnight. A Company was the attacking company. The enemy wire was found to be uncut; two attempts were made to break through, but without success, and the attacking companies, were consequently forced to withdraw. Casualties. — Lieut. C. J. Barton and 8 men killed; 2nd Lieuts. J. P. Wayte, R. Aitken, A. H. Tilley and 21 men wounded (2nd Lieut. A. H. Tilley afterwards died of his wounds)

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

For April 6–Good Friday, 1917–an attack on a large scale had been arranged. The 59th Division on our left, the Gloucesters and the 182nd Brigade on our right, shared in the operations. The line was to be advanced a mile on both sides of the Omignon. 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 Soyécourt 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 found 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. It was idle to repeat the attack or send fresh companies to share the forlorn enterprise.

KILLED IN ACTION APRIL 6th 1917

201177 Lance Sergeant Francis Hugh Silvester Smith

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