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

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1917, APRIL 29th – RAID BY B COMPANY ON CEPY FARM BEFORE A RELIEF BY THE 2/4th ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT

By G. K. Rose

By G. K. Rose

Relieved by the 2/4th R. Berks, and marched to reserve billets. Cepy Farm was entered by a strong patrol of our B Company/and had one or two encounters with the enemy, leaving some killed, and obtaining an identification. Two men wounded.

ORDER NO 70. April 29th 1917 (2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment)

1.The Battalion will relieve the 2/4 OXFORDS in the Front Line on night 29/30th as under :-

“A” Coy 2/4 BERKS relieve “A” Coy 2/4 OXFORDS.

“B” Coy “C” Coy

“D” Coy do “B”

“C” Coy do “D”

Guide per platoon and one for HQ will be at the gap in the wire about S.3.b.8.3 at 9.0 pm. Companies will march by platoons at 200 yards distance. A. B. C. D. Coys, Hdqrs.

2.BAGGAGE :- Officers valises and mens packs will be dumped at Coy HQ by 4.0 pm. for collection by Transport. Mess boxes will be dumped at Coy HQ by 7.30 pm.

3.1 Representative per Coy and HQ will go up in the afternoon and take over Stores (except SOS Grenades).

4.The spare Lewis guns with Companies will be carried forward and utilised in the Posts.

5.Trench Shelters and Stores (except SOS Grenades) will be handed over to 2/1 BUCKS and receipts obtained. Receipts will be made out in triplicate for all Stores (except SOS Grenades) taken over from 2/4 OXFORDS and sent to Bn HQ by 6.00 am. 30th inst.

6.Rations for 30th will be carried on the man. Companies will carry their own Petrol cans (filled) for 30th.

7.Code for Completion of Relief :- “HANKEY PANKY”.

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 night another minor operation preceded the relief. Orders were given for B Company, which held the right of the Battalion’s line, to seize the much-disputed Cepy Farm and hand it over to the incoming Berks. Moberly, who had recently rejoined his old Battalion, was in command of this enterprise. The farm was reached and duly occupied, but when the time for handing over to the Berks arrived our post was driven out by a strong party of the enemy. This was the first of many similar encounters at Cepy Farm. Luckily it did not long prejudice the relief. Though chased a little on the way by shells, the Battalion had an easy march to Holnon Wood, in which a pleasant resting place was found. The trees and undergrowth, just bursting into green, presented happy contrast to the dust and danger of Fayet.

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1917-04-29
Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire
Location France, Bois d’holnon
Entry [This entry covers 29th/30th April 1917] The Battn relieved the 2/4 OXFORDS in the front line on night 29th/30th, relief complete by 1am 30th. A Coy (Capt Willenk) on right. B Coy (Capt Allen) right centre. C Coy (Capt Whitaker) left centre and D Coy (Capt Field) left. Patrols were sent out during night. A patrol under 2Lieut Hinchcliffe A Coy went out to ascertain if CEPY FARM was held by the enemy. It had been shelled by our guns and reported clear but subsequently the patrol reporting this was[driven] in. The guns were again put on, previous to 2Lt Hinchliffe’s patrol, on cessation of the guns his patrol pushed forward to FARM although fired on from the buildings and ascertained that enemy still held it in strength 12 men were seen to enter. 2 Lieut Hinchcliffe again went out on morning of 30th at 7am to reconnoitre FARM and report. He reported no movement at all observed nor was anything heard. The day was little below normal – the enemy’s artillery being not so active with the shelling of posts. At 9.30pm a party of 50 OR of A Coy under Capt Willink together with 2nd Lieut Hinchcliffe, 2Lieut Watson, 5 Lewis guns and 2 Vickers Guns carried out a small operation against the enemy in CEPY FARM. The object of the operation being to drive out the enemy should he be in occupation, and also to prevent him establishing himself there and ultimately creating a strong post there against us. At 9.30pm the guns opened on the FARM with 3 guns putting small barrage behind the FARM in the valley E of it. Directly this concentration on the FARM ceased (which was 10 minutes) the party advanced into the FARM. It was reported at 10.50pm that the enemy fled directly we appeared and relived to trenches on N and E of the FARM. The FARM was thoroughly searched and cellars bombed but no sign of the enemy found there or identification. The party then withdrew leaving a standing patrol of 1 Sgt and 10 men. When the party that had been withdrawn reached our line again, the enemy immediately approached the FARM to the extent of about 50 men. The standing patrol seeing their position made a fight of it but were forced to relive to a position underway between FARM and the Outpost line. Two strong listening posts were then pushed out to prevent the enemy establishing in strength in the FARM or in the valley, E of it. At 4.30am on 1st May Sgt Denton and his 10 men worked forward to the FARM again and reported no sign of the enemy neither was there any noise or movement. Casualties 1 OR killed, 1 OR wounded, 1 OR Shell Shock, 1 OR wounded at duty.

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1918, MARCH 18th – MOVING FROM THE ATTILLY HUTS IN THE BATTLE ZONE TO THE FORWARD ZONE NEAR FAYET

Redoubts 21st March 1918 The Fifth Army in March 1918 Walter Shaw Sparrow

Redoubts 21st March 1918
The Fifth Army in March 1918
Walter Shaw Sparrow

 

The following narrative of events from March 18th to 25th, 1918, was written shortly afterwards by Lieut.-Colonel H. E. de R. Wetherall, D.S.O., M.C., Commanding the 2/4th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry:

My Battalion, in the natural course of reliefs, went up on the 18th March to hold the Forward Zone for 8 days.

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1918-03-18
Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire
Location France, Gricourt-Fayet St Quentin Wood
Entry The Raid carried out last night was repeated in the hope of obtaining identifications. As soon as our Barrage commenced, however, the enemy replied intensely and the flanks of the point of entry were strongly manned with rifles and machine guns resulting in our raiding party being beaten off without effecting an entry.

From The Story of the 2/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, 1914 – 1918, by A. F. Barnes, M. C., (Gloucester, The Crypt House Press, Limited, 1930)

On March 18th the Battalion relieved the 2/4th Oxfords and took over the defences of Holnon Wood, one of the strong points in the Battle Zone.

PRIVATE WILLIAM (BILL) LOVERIDGE

Killed in action 23rd February 1918 in the frontline trenches between Gricourt and Fayet, with the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

Name: William Loveridge
Birth Place: Oxford
Death Date: 23 Feb 1918
Death Location: France & Flanders
Enlistment Location: Oxford
Rank: Private
Regiment: Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Battalion: 2/4th Battalion
Number: 202276
Type of Casualty: Killed in action
Theatre of War: Western European Theatre

In the 1901 Census he was listed as a Paper Mill Labourer.

In the 1911 Census he was shown as a Fitter’s Labourer at the Paper Mill in Wolvercote, Oxfordshire.

Married Margret Josephine Harrison in 1911. I believe they had a son William Alfred Loveridge.

 

 

1918, FEBRUARY 22nd – REORGANIZATION OF THE 184th BRIGADE

Redoubts 21st March 1918 The Fifth Army in March 1918 Walter Shaw Sparrow

Redoubts 21st March 1918
The Fifth Army in March 1918
Walter Shaw Sparrow

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1918-02-22

Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire

Location France, Holnon Wood

Entry The morning was spent preparing to march and in the afternoon the Battalion moved to UGNY. The 184 Brigade which has been reorganised now consists of 3 Battalions disposed in depth.

2/4th Bn OXFORD AND BUCKS LIGHT INFANTRY in the Front Line.

2/5th Bn GLOSTER Regiment in HOLNON WOOD.

2/4th Bn ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT at UGNY.

184th BRIGADE HQ are at ATILLY.

61st DIVISION HQ are at AUROIR

XV111 CORPS HQ are at HAM

Fifth ARMY HQ are at NESLE.

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 three Battalions which remained were now arranged in ‘depth,’ a phrase explained by stating that while one, say the Berks, held the front line ‘twixt Fayet and Gricourt, the Gloucesters as Support Battalion would be in Holnon Wood and ourselves, the Oxfords, in reserve and back at Ugny. When a relief took place the Gloucesters went to the front line, ourselves to Holnon, and the Berks back to Ugny. The Battalion holding the line was similarly disposed in ‘depth,’ for its headquarters and one company were placed more than a mile behind the actual front.

From The Story of the 2/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, 1914-1918, by A. F. Barnes, M.C.

A new system of defences was adopted by General Headquarters (Early 1918). There were to be three distinct areas of defence – a Forward, a Battle, and a Rear Zone. The Forward Zone was to consist of a line of outposts with strong fortified redoubts on the rising ground behind. These redoubts though from 500 to 1,500 yards apart, were not connected up by any system of trenches but a single line of barbed wire with a machine-gun post here and there. The redoubts and the machine-gun forts were sited so that they could sweep with converging fire all the intervening low lying ground. The depth of the Forward Zone was about 3,000 yards and its purpose was to break up and disorganize the leading troops of the German assault.

Behind this came the Battle Zone, consisting also of Redoubts but without the line of outposts.

The Last line was the Rear Zone, some two miles behind the Battle Zone and consisting of a double line of trenches.

So far as the 184th was concerned, the forward battalion held a line of posts north of Fayet with a strong point at Enghien Redoubt. These posts were very lightly held and were at distances of approximately 100 yards. The support Battalion held that part of the Battle Zone which lay along the front of Holnon Wood, The reserve battalion was some miles behind at a village called Ugny.

1918, MARCH 19th – MOVED INTO THE FORWARD ZONE NEAR FAYET

 

Redoubts 21st March 1918 The Fifth Army in March 1918 Walter Shaw Sparrow

Redoubts 21st March 1918
The Fifth Army in March 1918
Walter Shaw Sparrow

 

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

On the night of 18/19 March the Battalion went into the front line. C Company was on the right, in front of Fayet; B Company, under the command of Wallington, was on the left, just south of Gricourt. A went to Fayet itself and D Company, commanded in Robinson’s absence by Rowbotham, provided the garrison of Enghien Redoubt, which was a quarry near Selency Château; Battalion Headquarters also were at this redoubt.

The Battalion relieved the 2/4th R. Berks in the Forward Zone.

Dispositions: C Company, right front; B, left front; two platoons of A in Sunken Road near the Needle, as counterattack company; two platoons of A (with Company H.Q.) at the Willows (M.28.C.1.5 on Map 62 B.S.W.); D Company and Battalion H.Q. at Enghien Redoubt.

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1918-03-19
Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire
Location France, Gricourt-Fayet-St Quentin Wood
Entry The Battalion was relived early in the morning by the 2/4th BN OXFORD and BUCKS LT INF and marched to MARTEVILLE and thence to UGNY, reaching the latter place at about 8am. The remainder of the day was spent in Resting and cleaning.

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 27th – PREPARING FOR THE RAID NEAR ST. QUENTIN

By G. K. Rose

By G. K. Rose

Enemy’s artillery active; 4 men wounded.

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

All this made April 27 a vexatious day. During the early part of the night men from my company had to carry rations to the front line companies. At midnight, while resting in a wretched lean-to in the sunken road, I had tidings that Corporal Viggers and several others had been hit by a shell, which destroyed all C Company’s rations. Of these casualties there was a man whose name I forget, who insisted on going, not back to hospital, but into the raid a few hours afterwards. He went, and was wounded again. It is a privilege to place on record the valorous conduct of this un-named soldier.

While I was receiving the serious news which deprived me of a valuable leader and several picked men, a shell pitched a few yards from the spot I occupied. The light went out, and I was half covered with dust and rubbish. To move was second nature. Followed by Taylor I ‘moved’ 100 yards down the road to the rest of my company. My kit and maps were later rescued from the dirt and brought to my new position. Company Headquarters should be mobile, and on occasions like these were volatile.

1917, APRIL 28th – RAID NEAR ST QUENTIN BY THE 2/4th OXFORDS

By G. K. Rose

By G. K. Rose

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

At this point I must explain for the benefit of lay readers the difference between a raid and an attack. The purpose of the latter was to drive the enemy from ground he occupied and stay there. Early attacks upon the Western Front were usually directed against trenches, of which successive lines, reaching to a distance or ‘depth’ of several thousand yards, were often our goal or ‘objective.’ So that our Infantry could enter hostile trenches it was invariably necessary to destroy the wire in front or make a pathway through it. Many attacks failed because the wire had not been cut. Before the days of Tanks the means employed consisted, broadly speaking, in artillery fire, which it was also hoped would put the enemy’s machine-guns out of action and frighten his garrison. Our Infantry advanced immediately this fire had ceased or ‘lifted’ to the next objective. During the Battle of the Somme it was found that the enemy often left his actual trenches and came forward into shell-holes in No-Man’s-Land so as to escape the fire of our artillery. To counter this manoeuvre the ‘creeping barrage’ was devised. Our shells were fired so as to form a moving curtain of destruction immediately in front of our men in their advance, whilst at the same time the enemy’s trenches were bombarded. Attacks on any scale were planned to capture and hold against the enemy some ridge, by losing which he lost observation of our lines, while we, in gaining it, saw more of his and also were enabled to advance our guns.

The purpose of a raid was to penetrate a portion of the enemy’s front, to kill or capture as many Germans as possible, and then retire. Raids differed materially from attacks in this respect, that no attempt was made in the former to hold the ground won longer than was necessary to satisfy the plan. Raids were usually supported by artillery and took place at night; but daylight raids, though less common or successful, were sometimes made, and ‘silent raids,’ when no artillery was used, were also tried.

This explanation, dull to military readers, will serve to indicate what operation I was now about to undertake. The scheme, of which the General and his Brigade Major were the authors, was to pass a body of men through a gap in the unoccupied portion of the German trenches opposite Fayet, deploy, and sweep sideways against some other trenches, thought to be held, and through several copses which Bucks patrols had pronounced weakly garrisoned by the enemy. These copses, which were expected to yield a few handfuls of runaway boys in German uniform, would be attacked by us in flank and rear at the same time. The scheme promised well, but the proposed manner of retirement, which would be in daylight and across nearly a mile of open ground, presented difficulties. The more to overcome them and to be fresh for the event, D Company and the platoons of C selected for the task were to stay in the sunken road north of Fayet, while A and B Companies went to garrison the outpost line……..

The Raid on August 28th

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

At 1 a.m. I roused the men, some 150 all told, and the responsible task of issuing the bombs, wire-cutters, and other things commenced. All these, invoiced with excellent precision by the Brigade Major, Moore, had been carried up by the Berks. The shelling rarely ceased, and I owed everything on this occasion to Corporal Leatherbarrow, who showed not only steadfast bravery but skill. The platoons could not, on account of the shells which sometimes fell in the roadway itself, be paraded, and each received its share of bombs piecemeal by sections. Food, to supplement which I did not scruple to issue some of the next day’s rations, was partaken of at 2 a.m., but it took long, and half an hour later the whole party should have started upon its journey across the mile of open fields to reach the assembly post. Disposal of the bombs, the meal, and those many last attentions which breed delay had taken longer than I had allowed. Time was getting very short. I wanted to dodge the shelling, but had missed a quiet interval that occurred at 2.30 a.m. At 3 a.m. I moved, leading the party in a long column over the open ground north of Fayet to reach its eastern side. The inevitable ‘wire mats,’ an encumbrance without which few raiding parties ever started, hampered the progress. It was a pitch dark night, nor was I certain of the way. To cover the mile and then pass 150 men, ignorant of their whereabouts, silently and in single file through a gap into No-Man’s-Land ere dawn broke and our bombardment started now seemed impossible. It was a serious quandary. To go on might be to compromise not only the operation, but the lives of 150 men, who would be discovered in daylight and in the open near the enemy. But to go back was to jeopardise the reputation of the Battalion.

I went on.

Great darkness preceded the dawn, which was expected shortly after 4 a.m. I found the road, the first crater, the narrow track through the wire, and the empty ground beyond. A few minutes after the last man had reached his place our barrage opened. Shells fell spasmodically here and there for a few seconds; then all our batteries were shooting together. Their fire was admirable, heavy and well-directed.

In the stumbling rush forward to reach the nearest wood–C Company to the second crater on the Fayet Road–waves and platoons were rapidly confused. The Germans, who found themselves attacked in flank and rear, were totally surprised. They had not stood-to and many were yet asleep. Some lights went up and a few sentries’ shots were fired, but it appeared that small resistance to our progress would be made. The wire was trampled through, and for some minutes our men played havoc with the Germans, who ran, leaving draggled blankets and equipment in their trenches. Dug-outs were generously bombed, and explosions filled the air as our men hastily used the weapons brought to hurt the enemy. Three machine-guns fell into our hands. A miniature victory was in progress.

But a turn of events followed; the trenches and woods beyond those we had first entered were neither unoccupied nor weakly held. A force certainly equal to ours was in opposition. After their first surprise the Germans recovered, manned their reserve machine-guns, and opened a fierce fire from front and flanks upon their assailants. Many of us were hit, including Taylor, the officer of No. 15 Platoon, who was severely wounded in the thigh. In No. 13 Platoon, which lost most heavily, Allden and his Platoon Sergeant, Kilby, were killed. The full programme could not be effected. It was getting light; so I decided to withdraw. Most of D Company I found had already done this in their own way, but the remainder now collected at my summons. Lance-Corporal O’Connor with his two Lewis guns did yeoman service to stem what had become the German counter-attack. Ammunition was running short, and German stick-bombs obliged me, in order to save from capture those less badly hit, to leave Taylor, whose wound made him quite helpless. The wire, through which Sergeant Mowby had been busy cutting a path, was safely passed, and an hour afterwards we had regained the sunken road. I learnt that Jones, who had led the right of the advance, had not returned. He with his men had narrowly missed being cut off when the dawn broke. During the ensuing day this party had to lie scattered in shell-holes till darkness enabled them to reach our lines.

The raid was hailed as a signal success for the Battalion. Two machine-guns and one protesting prisoner had been dragged back to our lines. The German trenches had been over-run and many of their occupants had been killed or wounded. By a satisfactory coincidence the troops whom we surprised were a battalion of the Jaegers, the very regiment which after three hours’ bombardment had raided us exactly two months previously at Ablaincourt.

Our losses, considering the scope of the operation, were heavy, but not so proportionately to the number of troops of both sides engaged nor to the severe nature of the fighting. Most of our casualties had bullet wounds. The list, officially, was: Killed, 1 officer and 10 other ranks; wounded, 2 officers and 41; missing, 1 officer and 2. Of Taylor I regret to say no news was ever heard. I left him wounded, probably fatally, and quite incapable of being moved. The likelihood is that he died soon afterwards and was buried by the enemy in the trench where he lay. Allden and Kilby were a serious loss to the fighting efficiency of D Company.

D Company and 2 platoons of C raided the enemy trenches at 4.20 a.m., and reached the second objective, capturing two machine-guns and one German. Our casualties were heavy, viz. : 2nd Lieut. T. H. Allden and 16 other ranks killed, 2nd Lieut. H. S. Taylor  wounded and missing, 42 other ranks wounded, 9 missing.

KILLED IN ACTION APRIL 28th 1917

2nd Lieutenant T. H. Allden

2nd Lieutenant Herbert Samuel Taylor

200603 Sergeant Herbert Kilby

201083 Corporal Frederick Harris

201477 Corporal Harry Harbud

201373 Lance Corporal Francis Edward Buckingham

203761 Lance Corporal Albert Henry Souch

203458 Private James Edgar Cockridge (Formerly 3065, R. Bucks Hussars)

200445 Private Stanley George Covey

203459 Private William Henry Dear (Formerly 3043, R. Bucks Hussars) (Died)

203534 Private Thomas Ginger (Formerly 3139, R. Berks Regt.)

203839 Private Willie Goff

203497 Private Reginald Jack High (Formerly 2829, R. Bucks Hussars)

203502 Private William John Murphy (Formerly 3015, R. Bucks Hussars)

202654 Private Ernest Roof

200361 Private John Shepherd

202139 Private William Waite

201381 Private George Walker

203762 Private John Thomas Williams

DIED OF WOUNDS APRIL 28th 1917

267483 Private George Henry Williams

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

For their gallantry Corporal Sloper and Sergeant Butcher received the Military Medal and Jones the Military Cross. Corporal Leatherbarrow for his steadfast conduct in the sunken road was mentioned in dispatches. To Sergeant-Major Brooks fell the honour of the Battalion’s first V.C., of which the official award ran as follows:–

‘For most conspicuous bravery. This Warrant Officer, while taking part in a raid on the enemy’s trenches, saw that the front wave was checked by an enemy machine-gun at close quarters. On his own initiative, and regardless of personal danger, he rushed forward from the second wave with the object of capturing the gun, killing one of the gunners with his revolver and bayoneting another. The remainder of the gun’s crew then made off, leaving the gun in his possession. S.M. Brooks then turned the machine-gun on to the retreating enemy, after which he carried it back to our lines. By his courage and initiative he undoubtedly prevented many casualties, and greatly added to the success of the operations.’

Company Sergeant-Major Edward Brooks V.C.

Company Sergeant-Major Edward Brooks V.C.

2nd Lieutenant C. H. Wallington, M.C.

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

17th November 1917

“B Company, though they missed the gap through the enemy’s wire, entered the trenches without opposition and captured a machine-gun which was pointing directly at their approach but
never fired. Wallington, the officer in command of the storming party, killed several Germans.”

18th / 19th March 1918

“On the night of 18/19 March the Battalion went into the front line. C Company was on the right, in front of Fayet; B Company, under the command of Wellington, was on the left, just south of
Gricourt.”

UK, British Officer Prisoners of War, 1914-1918  

Name: C H Wallington
Rank: 2/Lt.
Regiment: 4th Battalion. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Lig
Date Missing: 21 Mar 1918
Repatriation Date: 14 Dec 1918
Record Number: 2908
Section: Western Theatre of Operations.

He became a POW and was interned in Holzminden.

January – February 1918

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

The Battalion’s mid-winter respite was brief. On New Year’s Eve, 1917, the 2/4th Oxfords quitted the wretched Suzanne huts and marched through Harbonnieres to Caix. No ‘march past’ was necessary or would have been possible, for so slippery was the road that the men had to trail along its untrodden sides as best they could. Old 61st Divisional sign-boards left standing nearly a year ago greeted the return to an area which was familiar to many. The destination should have been Vauvillers, but the inhabitants of that village were stricken with measles. Better billets and freedom from infection compensated for a longer march. At Caix the Battalion was comfortable for a week.

The Division’s move from the Bray-Suzanne area to south of the Somme heralded a new relief of the French, whose line was now to be shortened by the amount on its left flank between St. Quentin and La Fere.

About January 11 the Battalion found itself once more in Holnon Wood, where a large number of huts and dug-outs had been made by the French since last spring. The front line, now about to be held between Fayet and Gricourt, was almost in its old position. The outpost line of nine months ago had crystallised into the usual trench system. Those courteous preliminaries, so much the feature of a French relief, were, on this reintroduction to scenes soon to become so famous and so tragic a little marred by an untimely German shell which wounded Weller, who had
accompanied the Colonel to see the new line.

Industrious calm succeeded the relief. Since the Russian break-up and the consequent liberation from the Eastern Front of fresh German legions, the British army had been on the defensive. A big effort by the enemy was expected, and when it came, the St. Quentin front was not unlikely to receive the brunt of his massed attack. The months of January and February and the first half of March were ominously quiet. Shelling was spasmodic. After the artillery activity of the last summer and autumn our guns seemed lazy. So quiet was it that Abraham used to ride up to the two small copses that lay behind our front.

For the time being the ‘offensive spirit’ was in abeyance; our paramount task was the perfection of our defensive system. By this time in the war it was acknowledged that against attacks in weight no actual line could be held intact. Faith in ‘lines’ became qualified in favour of the series of ‘ strong points ‘ or redoubts, which were constructed to defend ‘ tactical features.’ This policy, founded on our experience of the German defence during
the Third Battle of Ypres, was very sound. All the redoubts constructed in the area occupied by the 184th Brigade were so well sited and so strongly wired that the faith seemed justified that they were part of one impregnable system. But against loss of one important factor no amount of industry could serve to insure. ‘ Strong points ‘ must act in concert and for such mutual action ‘ on the day ‘ good visibility was essential. As we shall see, this factor was denied. In rear of these redoubts, which lay along the ridge west of Fayet, a line known as the ‘Battle Line’ was fortified, and in rear again a trench was dug to mark the ‘ Army Line,’ where the last stand would be made. These lines were strong, but more reliance was apt to be placed upon their mere existence on the ground than, in default of any coexistent scheme to fill them at a crisis with appropriate garrisons, was altogether justified.

Early in the year the Bucks had been taken from the Brigade (now like all Infantry Brigades reduced to three Battalions) and went to Nesle to work as an entrenching Battalion. Many old friends, including especially Colonel ‘Jock’ Muir, had to be parted with. The three Battalions which remained were now arranged in ‘ depth,’ a phrase I explained by stating that while one, say the Berks, held the front line ‘twixt Fayet and Gricourt, the
Gloucesters as Support Battalion would be in Holnon Wood and ourselves, the Oxfords, in reserve and back at Ugny. When a relief took place the Gloucesters went to the front line, ourselves to
Holnon, and the Berks back to Ugny. The Battalion holding the line was similarly disposed in ‘ depth,’ for its headquarters and one company were placed more than a mile behind the actual front.

After the January frost and snow had gone, a period of fine, clement weather set in. This, in a military sense, was a golden age. Boxing, thanks to encouragement from the Colonel and Brown and under the practical doctrine of ‘ Benny ‘ Thomas, the Battalion pugilist, flourished as never before. Each tour some officers, instead of going to the line, were sent to worship at the shrine of Maxse. The Battalion reached the zenith of its efficiency.

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