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.

1918, MARCH 20th – FORWARD ZONE BETWEEN GRISCOURT AND 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)

During the night of March 20 a raid on the Battalion’s right was carried out near Cepy Farm by the 182nd Brigade. It was successful. German prisoners from three divisions corroborated our suspicion that the great enemy offensive was about to be launched. From headquarters to headquarters throbbed the order to man battle stations.

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 the night of the 20th/21st of March a strong raid by the 2/6th Warwicks was made against the enemy trenches east of Fayet. This raid was completely successful, and resulted in the capture of fifteen prisoners and three machine-guns, establishing the fact that the enemy forces opposite our immediate front had been increased by at least two Divisions, and, from prisoner statements, that an attack would be launched on the morning of the 21st.

The Fifth Army in March 1918, by Walter Shaw Sparrow, John Lane Company (1921)

Next evening, at ten o’clock, after our guns had poured in a great many shells, two companies of Warwickshire troops – Shakespeare for ever!—raided the German trenches beyond Fayet, partly to get a few prisoners, and partly to learn how much the foe’s ordinary line troops had been reinforced. Fifteen Germans were captured, and three German regiments, nine battalions, were found on a span of front formerly held by one regiment, or three battalions. More valuable still was the news that in five or six hours Ludendorff would open his attack. This warning was made known at once to all Headquarters, British and French.*

* Ludendorff says, I believe with truth, that on March 18 or 19 two Germans deserted from a trench mortar company and gave information to us of the impending attack.

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1918-03-20
Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire
Location France, Ugny
Entry The ADJUTANT – INTELLIGENCE OFFICER and one Officer per Company spent the day in reconnoitring the ground of the Battle Zone Sector and the ground between SPOONER REDOUBT and HOLNON WOOD, being one of the positions to which the Battalion be required to move in the event of an attack. Light Training was carried out by the Battalion.

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.

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.

1917, AUGUST 2nd – DUG OUTS AT ATTILLY, NEAR HOLNON

Attilly2nd51917

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

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. In the sandy railway cutting, where the single line turns through the wood to reach Attilly, companies sat during the day and slept secure at night. Transport and cookers were near, and for a spell one was on terms of friendship with the world.

Marched into divisional reserve, and billeted at Vaux and Etreillers; H.Q. and A Company at Vaux.

1917, APRIL 9th – TO MARTEVILLE, WEST OF HOLNON WOOD

Moved up into the 182nd Brigade area (Marteville) to consolidate and hold a line of trenches west of Holnon Wood.

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 7.30 a.m. on April 9 we marched in wind and rain to Marteville, and then formed a reserve line in front of Maissemy and Keeper’s House. All day we dug trenches and erected wire. A divisional relief was to take place. The weather was vile; almost every hour a violent squall of hail and snow swept over us. That night was spent in bivouac in sunken roads.

2nd Lieutenant Bernard Orlando Weller

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

January 1918
“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.”

His medal records show that B. O. Weller was promoted from the ranks.

According to the London Gazette of August 15th, 1917, he was commissioned from an Officer Cadet Unit to be a 2nd Lts, on August 1st 1917.

Bernard was born in January 1893, registered at Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England.

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