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

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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, AUGUST 21st – RELIEVED THE 2/4th ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT IN THE FANQUISSART SECTOR

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.

Killed in Action 21st August 1916

1538 Private James Henry Light

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1916-08-21

Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire

Location France, Fauquissart

Entry Relieved by 2/4 OXFORD and BUCKS LI. Relief complete at 6pm. Marched into old Billets at LAVENTIE.

1916, SEPTEMBER – MOATED GRANGE SECTOR, LAVENTIE

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.

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 Battalion was not called upon for much fighting activity in September, 1916. Raids and rumours of raids kept many of us busy. An attack by the 184th Brigade upon the Wick salient was planned, but somewhat too openly discussed and practised to deceive, I fancy, even the participating infantry into the belief that it was really to take place. Upon the demolished German trenches many raids were made. In the course of these raids, the honour of which was generously shared between all battalions in the Brigade, sometimes by means of the Bangalore Torpedo, sometimes by the easier and more subtle method of just walking into them, the enemy’s front line was usually entered; and rarely did a raiding party return without the capture of at least an old bomb, an entrenching tool or even a live German. These ‘identification’ raids possibly did as much to identify ourselves to the enemy as to identify him to us, but they proved useful occasions on which to send parties ‘over the top’ (always an enjoyable treat!) and gave practice to our trench mortars, which fired remarkably well and drew down little retaliation–always the bug-bear of the trench mortar.

The mention of these things may make dull reading to the _blasé_ warrior of later battlefields, but, as there are some whose last experience abroad was during Laventie days and who may read these lines, I feel bound to recall our old friend (or enemy) the trench mortar, the rent-free (but not rat-free) dug-out among the sandbags, the smelly cookhouses, whose improvident fires were the scandal of many a red-hatted visitor to the trenches, the mines, with their population of Colonial miners doing mysterious work in their basements of clay and flinging up a welter of slimy blue sandbags–all these deserve mention, if no more, lest they be too soon forgotten.

Days, too, in Riez Bailleul, Estaires and Merville will be remembered, days rendered vaguely precious by the subsequent destruction of those villages and by lost comrades. Those of the Battalion who fell in 1916 were mostly buried in Laventie and outside Merville. Though both were being fought over in 1918 and many shells fell among the graves, the crosses were not much damaged; inscriptions, if nearly obliterated, were then renewed when, by the opportunity of chance, the Battalion found itself once more crossing the familiar area, before it helped to establish a line upon the redoubtable Aubers Ridge, to gain which so many lives at the old 1915 battles of Neuve Chapelle and Festubert had been expended.

It was a fine autumn. The French civilians were getting in their crops within a mile or two of the trenches, while we did a series of tours in the Moated Grange sector, with rest billets at the little village of Riez Bailleul. And then box respirators were issued.

Laventie days are remembered with affection by old members of the Battalion.

Until the 10th the Battalion was at Robermetz training, and on the 11th took over trenches in the left sub-section of the Moated Grange sector, coming out on the 19th, and going in again on the 29th. The tours in the line were without incident; 2nd Lieut. Buhner was wounded on the 13th and between the12th and the 30th two men were killed and six were wounded.

1916, SEPTEMBER 19th – RELIEVED FROM THE LEFT SUB-SECTION OF THE MOATED GRANGE 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.

 War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1916-09-19

Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire
Location France, Riez Bailleul
Entry Battn relieved 2/4 OXFORD and BUCKS LI on Left Sub Section of MOATED GRANGE Sector – 2/7 ROYAL WARWICKS on our Left (183rd Bde) (casualties 2 OR wounded).

1916, JULY 1st – FRONT LINE TRENCHES IN LAVENTIE SECTOR UNDER HEAVY SHELLING

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.

 

Killed in Action, July 1st 1916

200546 Private Henry (Harry) George Hayward

3537 Private Alexander John Rennie

Died of Wounds, July 1st 1916

4199 Private Frank William Hartwell

5346 Private Percival Gordon Lines

5459 Private George Morris

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1916-07-01
Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire
Location France, Laventie
Entry Working Parties. Heavy shelling heard on Right front. One Coy stood to arms 11-11.45pm.

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, AUGUST 15th – RELIEVED BY THE 2/4th ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT FROM THE TRENCHES AT FAUQUISSART

Laventie, Showing The Fauquissart Sector 1916

Laventie, Showing The Fauquissart Sector 1916

After the Relief moved to Laventie.

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1916-08-15
 Regiment.

2/4th Royal Berkshire

Location France, Laventie

Entry Took over Left Sub Section of FAUQUISSART Sector of Trenches from 2/4 OXFORD and BUCK LI. Relief completed 6pm. 2/5th GLOSTERS on our Right. AUSTRALIANS on our Left.

1916, SEPTEMBER 2nd – TRAINING AT ROBERMETZ NEAR MERVILLE

Near Laventie,  September 2 1916 Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)  A sketch of wild flowers growing amongst long grass in the foreground, with open countryside beyond and a few trees on the horizon.

Near Laventie,
September 2 1916
Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)
A sketch of wild flowers growing amongst long grass in the foreground, with open countryside beyond and a few trees on the horizon.

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, JUNE 27th – RELIEVED THE 2nd/4th ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT IN THE FRONT LINE

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 27th they returned to the front line. During this time Major D. M. Rose returned to England sick, and Captain Cuthbert became Adjutant.

Killed in Action 27th June 1916

202946 Lance Corporal William Henry Rimmer, (Formerly 1624, Liverpool Regiment)

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

1916-06-27

Regiment.2/4th Royal Berkshire

Location France, Trenches

Entry Quiet morning. Relieved by 2/4 OXFORDS. Complete at 9.30pm. Returned to Billets and Posts at LAVENTIE as before. Lt Col M Wheeler relieved of his Command by Major J H Beer 2/8 R WARWICKS, who assumes command from this day.

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