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

Research and Resources around the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during WWI

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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.

Lieutenant-Colonel, Sir Geoffrey Christie-Miller, D.S.O., M.C.

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

“The Colonel and myself were the next victims, and when the time came for the Battalion to go into the line, it was necessary to send for Christie-Miller, of the Gloucesters, to take command and to make Murray from quartermaster into adjutant.”

There is a full page photograph of Lieutenant-Colonel, Geoffrey C. Christie-Miller in:

Story of the 2/5th Battalion the Gloucester Regiment 1914-1918
ed by A.F.Barnes
ISBN: 9781843427582
Format: 2003 N&M Press reprint (original pub 1930) 192pp with 39 b/w photos and 12 maps.

The following dialog is from the Web site: http://somme1916.6.forumer.com/a/posts.php?topic=14&start=. It has some interesting comments on Geoffrey Christie-Miller.

“London Gazette has showing on Geoffrey Christie Miller.”

“16th March, 1916. The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Captain Geoffrey Christie Miller to be Adjutant, vice Captain (temporary Major) Robert W. Harling.”

“Dated 29th April, 1915. (I Believe this is a missprint for 1916) 16th May, 1916 Oxford and Bucks. L.I. Capt G. Christie-Miller to be temp. Maj. with precedence as from 3. Mar. 1916, but without pay and allowances of that rank prior to 17 May 1916”

“16th June, 1917. TERRITORIAL FORCE INFANTRY Oxford and Bucks. Light Infantry Capt. (temp.) (temp. Maj) G Christie-Miller to be Capt. (temp. Maj.), with precedence as from 5th Aug. 1914. 17th June 1917. Capt. (temp. Maj.) G Christie-Miller relinquishes the temp. rank of Maj. (another missprint ? should read ‘temp. rank of Capt) 17th June 1917.”

“2nd August, 1917. Oxford & Bucks. L.I.- Capt. G. Christie Miller to be actg. Maj. whilst empld. as Maj. on Hd.-Qrs. 17th June 1917.”

“17th June 1918. Gloucestershire Regt.Capt. (actg. Maj.) g. Christie-Miller, M.C., Ox & Bucks. L.I., retains actg. rank of Maj. whilst empld. as 2nd in Command. 8th Apr. 1918.”

“8th March 1919. AWARDED THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER. Capt. (A./Lt.-Col.) Geoffrey Christie Miller, M.C., Bucks. Bn., Oxf. & Bucks. L.I., attd. 2/5th Bn. Glouc. R. 15th. July 1919. War Office, 15th July, 1919 The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Territorial Decoration upon the undermentioned Officers of the Territorial Force who have been duly recommended for the same under the terms of the Royal Warrant dated 17th. August, 1908, as modified by the Royal Warrant dated 11th. November, 1918:- Officers of the Territorial Force who are eligible and recommended for the Territorial Decoration. Yeomanry. Bucks. Battalion, Oxford & Bucks. Light Infantry.- Capt. (A./Lieut. Col.) Geoffrey Christie -Miller, D.S.O. , M.C. Citation for The Award of The D.S.O. Capt. (A./Lt.-Col.) Geoffrey Christie- Miller, M.C., Bucks. Bn., Oxf. & Bucks. L.I., T.F., Attd. 2/5th Bn, Glou Reg. On 30th September and 1st October 1918, his battalion was engaged in operations south of Fleurbaix. He reconnoitered the ground beforehand, established his headquarters far foward, and maintained it there for two days under continuous shelling. The sucessful issue of the fighting was due to his personal control and fine example of indifference to danger. He continued to command his battalion after being wounded.”

The following is a debate around his MC.

‘Given the vaguaries of the London Gazette Search Engine and the propensity for occasionally misspelling names I poked about among the M.C. citations and found the following citation published on 14th November 1916. Temp. Lt. Gerald Cedar Miller, Oxf. & Bucks. L.I. For conspicous gallantry in action. He fought his machine guns with great courage and skill, rendering most valuable services.I am not saying that this is your man , just that the initials are the same and the last part of the name is the same, as is the regiment.’

Mentioned in dispatches:

“Yesterday I found Christie-Miller’s Medal Index Cards at the Nat’l Archive and there is one that notates a MID (Mentioned in Dispatches) in the LG May 25th 1917. This is from Haig’s dispatch of April 9th. This was a huge list (the LG published it over six supplements) with bunches of Ox and Bucks LI and loads of others. Must have been a big battle. Apparently (from the MIC) he went to France in May 1916. I think the Buckinghamshire Battalion of the Ox and Bucks was in reserve at the Beaumont Hamel and Serre part of the Somme and may have been held back when that attack failed.”

I believe it is the same person below from www.peerage.com

Colonel Sir Geoffry Christie-Miller was born on 15 March 1881. He was the son of Wakefield Christie-Miller.2 He married Kathleen Olive Thorpe, daughter of Venerable J. H. Thorpe, in 1908. He died on 2 April 1969 at age 88.

Colonel Sir Geoffry Christie-Miller was educated at Eton College, Eton, Berkshire, England. He graduated from Trinity College, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, with a Master of Arts (M.A.). He fought in the First World War, where he was mentioned in despatches. He was decorated with the award of Military Cross (M.C.). He was decorated with the award of Companion, Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) in 1919. He held the office of Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) of Cheshire. He was invested as a Knight Commander, Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) in 1951. He lived at Acton Grange, Nantwich, Cheshire, England.

Story of the 2/5th Battalion the Gloucester Regiment 1914-1918
ed by A.F.Barnes
ISBN: 9781843427582
Format: 2003 N&M Press reprint (original pub 1930) 192pp with 39 b/w photos and 12 maps.

April 23rd 1918
“On April 23rd the Battalion again distinguished itself. At Bacquerolles Farm, and to the south-east of it, the British line formed a re-entrant. The object of the attack was to straighten out the line. One Battalion from each Brigade in the Division was employed, and from the 184th Brigade the 2/5th Glosters was the selected Battalion.

The attack commenced at 4.30 a.m. and, so far as the Glosters were concerned, it was completely successful. The artillery barrage did its work so well that the enemy was badly demoralized before the infantry came to grips. Setting off from a line taped out by Major Christie Miller and Capt. John Hunter, the Glosters gained all their objectives and consolidated, capturing 79 prisoners and 10 machine-guns.”

June 24th
After the death of Lt.-Col. A. B. Lawson., D.S.O., “ The command of the Battalion was temporarily taken over by Major Christie Miller, M.C., an appointment which was confirmed on July 11th.”

30th September / 1st October 1918.
“An hour or two after the completion of these operations the Germans put over a covey of 77’s at short range on the Battalion Headquarters, which was at once vacated for the open country, but not before one had hit a Battalion signaler and a second knocked some teeth out of the Commanding Officer”

October 1918
“On Lt.-Col. Christie Miller, M.C., proceeding to England, the command of the Battalion was taken over by Major R. H. Huntington, D.S.O. Lt.-Col. Christie Miller had been Commanding Officer since the death of Col. Lawson on June 24th. It was no easy task to succeed such a distinguished officer, but a combination of conscientiousness and courage quickly won for him the confidence and respect of all ranks, and the fact that the battalion maintained its standards of efficiency through the trying months during which he controlled it. Testifies to the value of his leadership.”

Lieutenant Henry Raveley Guest, M.C.

From the London Gazette, 18 October 1915

Henry Raveley Guest to be Second Lieutenant, and seconded for duty with a Provisional Battalion. Dated 19th October, 1915.

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

“Guest, another new officer, before he went into the line showed that he was made of the right stuff; he was commander of No. 16 Platoon.”

22nd/23rd August 1917
“Ground to which the advance had been carried with cost would not be lightly given up. Moberly, Company Sergeant-Major Cairns, and Guest – the latter by volunteering in daylight to run the gauntlet of the German snipers back to Headquarters greatly distinguished themselves in the task of maintaining this exposed position during the night of August 22 and throughout August 23.”

September 1917
“So ended the attack on Hill 35. Upon its slopes were added our dead to the dead of many regiments. But our casualties were few considering that the attack had been brought to a standstill by machine-gun fire. Of D Company officers Guest was wounded (he had behaved with gallantry in the attack) and Copinger missing.”5

The description of his MC award in the London Gazette Issue 30561 published on the 5 March 1918. Page 23 of 60: 2nd Lt. Henry Raveley Guest, Ox. & Bucks L.I. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. In an advance against the enemy positions, when his company officers became casualties. he sited and consolidated a position on reaching the objective, arranging a defensive flank. He organised a resistance to counter-attack, and by his example and courage he inspired his men to hold the position.”

Captain Charles Ernest Philip Foreshew, M.C.

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

“Early in March some reinforcements from the 6th Oxfords, who had been disbanded, arrived; they numbered two hundred. Among the new officers who joined were Foreshew, Rowbotham, and Cunningham. Foreshew received command of C Company, whose commander Matthews went to England for a six months’ rest.”

UK, British Officer Prisoners of War, 1914-1918 

Name: C E P Foreshew
Rank: Capt.
Regiment: 4th Battalion. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Lig
Date Missing: 21 Mar 1918
Repatriation Date: 14 Dec 1918
Record Number: 2906
Section: Western Theatre of Operations.

 

Major Geoffrey Keith Rose, M.C., 1889 – 1959

I’m using the content of The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry to help structure this blog. All the content of the book is freely available online. Just click on the title of the book above.

I’ve also discovered today that the Imperial War Museum holds a collection of over 150 sketches by G.K. Rose, but sadly they don’t seem to have given access to them online. Please see the article below:

The Sketches of Geoffrey Keith Rose

From The Avenue of War

Major Geoffrey Rose MC served on the Western Front for three years in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and kept a sketchbook throughout that time. Over some 150 separate drawings Rose drew upon the image of the avenue as a ‘talisman’ of order and rationality. From the first drawing of June 1915 to his last work in Bourlon Wood in October 1918 the avenue is a fixture in his sketchbooks, sometimes smashed to pieces, at other times restored to its axial dignity. Even on the desolated battlefield of the Somme Rose craves the formal rigidity of the avenue, trying to pick out from amongst the debris of battle the former path of the approach road to the Chateau at Bourlon. G. A Willis, interestingly, also concludes his pictorial record of his war with a watercolour Advance through Belgium, November 1918- which depicts army transport moving along a symmetrical avenue towards a recaptured town. As with Rose’s obsession or the underlying geometric order, Willis chooses the avenue for his summative war image – a metaphor for renewed propulsion and the liberation of space and movement.

Geoffrey Rose, 156 Sketches chiefly of the Western Front, IWM Dept. of Art nos. 4775-4930.

P.S. http://www.vortex.uwe.ac.uk/index.htm: The Home Page of Paul Gough is contains a fresh perspective on WWI.

Details of his M.C. award from the Supplement to The London Gazette, 18 June 1917. 5983: Capt. Geoffrey Keith Rose, M.C., Oxf. & Bucks. L. I. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When in command of a raid on the enemy’s trenches, he displayed the greatest skill and energy. He organised an effective resistence to the enemy counter-attack, and conducted a masterly withdrawel under heavy machine gun and rifle fire. (M.C. Gazetted 14th January, 1916.)”

The Medal Record of Major G. K. Rose:

I would love to find the personal papers of G. K. Rose and further information on his life.

Officers of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, December 1918

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

Officers of the Battalion at the Armistice

Headquarters.
Lieut.-Colonel E. M. Woulfe-Flanagan, C.M.G., D.S.O.
Major G. K. ROSE, M.C., 2nd in Command.
Captain R. F. Symonds, Adjutant.
Lieut. T. S. R. Bouse, M.C., Signalling Officer.
Lieut. W. A. F. Hearne, Intelligence Officer.
Captain J. W. Shilson, Assistant Adjutant.
Lieut.G. W. Woodford, M.C., Transport Officer.
Captain W. G. Murry, Quartermaster.
Lieut. E. P. Neary (U.S.), Medical Officer.

Company Commanders.
Captain H. Jones, M. C., A Company.
Captain R. E. M. Young, B Company.
Captain J. Stanley, M.C., C Company.
Captain J. H. D. Faithful, D Company.

Captain Leonard Frank Buttfield, M.C.

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

April 1918
“The addition of some 300 N.C.O.s and men, with whom came such valued officers as Clutsom, Buttfield, Kemp, Lodge, Boase, Kirk, and several others, acted as an infusion of new blood and vigour into the Battalion which had given nearly all of its best in the St. Quentin fighting.”

“In this fighting Lodge, a young officer to whom command of C Company had fallen in consequence of a wound to Captain Buttfield, and also Boase much distinguished themselves. To them and to the N.C.O.s of C Company, and also to the conduct of the new draft, was owing the success of the day’s operations.”

Sir Harry Edward de Robillard Wetherall, D.S.O., M.C.

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

Late April 1917
“Colonel Bellamy’s successor, H. de R. Wetherall, was a young man whom ability and leadership had already lifted to distinction in his regiment and placed in command of an important military school. From now onwards he is the outstanding figure in the Battalion’s history. In the new Colonel a quick brain was linked with vigorous physique. In spite of his Regular training, Wetherall could appreciate and himself possessed to no small degree the peculiar virtues of the temporary officer, who based his methods on common sense and actual experience in the war rather than servile obedience to red tape and ‘Regulations.’ He had studied during the war as well as before it, with the result that military tradition – his regiment was the Gloucestershire – and his long service in the field combined to fit him for command of our Battalion.”

June 1917
“A totally different spirit characterised training in France. Colonel Wetherall was a master of the art of teaching. His emphatic direction and enthusiasm earned early reward in the increased efficiency of all ranks.”

August 1917
“The capture of this had been assigned to the 48th Division, but as a measure of abundant caution Colonel Wetherall had detailed a special Berks platoon to tackle it. This platoon, assisted by some Oxfords on the scene, captured the gun-pit and nearly seventy prisoners, but failed to garrison it.”

September 1917
“The defence of the three strongholds, Iberian, Hill 35, and Gallipoli provided a striking example of German stubbornness and skill, but added an object-lesson in the squandering of our efforts in attack. Operations upon a general scale having failed to capture all three, it was fantastically hoped that each could be reduced separately. Iberian, Hill 35, and Gallipoli supported one another, nor was it feasible to hold any without holding all. Yet to take Hill 35 on September 9 the 2/4th Oxfords were specially selected. The spirit of A and D Companies, chosen by Colonel Wetherall for the attack, was excellent. We confidently believed that we could succeed where others failed. Optimism, so vital an ingredient in morale, was a powerful assistant to the English Army. It was fostered, perhaps unconsciously, throughout the war by the cheerful attitude preserved by our Generals and staff, but its foundation lay in our great system of supply. The A.S.C.,
which helped to win our victories, helped, too, to temper our defeats.

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. He dispensed the most depressing information about the gun_pits, the machine-guns, the barrages, and last, but not least terrible (if believed), the new incendiary Verey lights used by the Germans to cremate their assailants. The description of a piece of trench, which we were to capture and block, particularly flattered our prospects. ‘Wide, shallow trench, enfiladed from Gallipoli, filled with the Division dead,’ it ran. The tale of horror becoming ludicrous, we soon afterwards clambered on to the wire bunks
and slept, dripped on, till the early morning.”

November 1917
“A series of gas projections. smoke barrages, and raids were to take place. The better to maintain secrecy from the German ‘listening-sets’ no telephones were used. The Battalion bore its share in the programme: already at Arras plans for a novel raid were under contemplation. Cuthbert had devised a scheme, which
Colonel Wetherall adopted and chose B Company,under Moberly, to carry out.”

“Now it was planned by Wetherall to fire lethal gas against the enemy for several nights. On the night of the raid and during it, non-lethal only would be used. The two gases smelt alike and the presumption was that on the night of the raid the enemy would wear gas-helmets.”

21st March 1918
“At Enghien Redoubt Battalion Headquarters had received no news of the attack having begun; the dense mist limited the view to fifty, yards. The earliest intimation received by Colonel Wetherall of what was taking place was enemy rifle and machine-gun tire sweeping the parapet.”

22nd March 1918
“Early on Match 22 Colonel Wetherall, limping and tired, arrived. He bore the tale of his adventure. During the 21st we saw him disappear from Enghien Redoubt to go on a reconnaissance. Near Holnon he was surrounded by an enemy patrol and led a prisoner towards St. Quentin but when the fire of 6-inch howitzers scared his escort into shell-holes, the Colonel escaped, and the same night, choosing his opportunity to slip between the German digging parties, contrived to reach our lines.”

“Colonel Wetherall had already started on the way to Languevoisin but was caught up at Matigny. He the same night (22nd) regained the Beauvoir line and took command of the Brigade.”

24th March 1918
“On the same day of which I was last speaking, March 24–the 184th Brigade, minus those Oxfords who were in action with the 20th Division. though sadly wasted in numbers, formed up again to make a stand. Colonel Wetherall, the acting Brigadier, had received orders to hold the line of the canal east and south-east of Nesle.”

25th March 1918
“At 11 a.m. on March 25 the enemy attacked. As often during these days, when a line was held solidly in one place, it broke elsewhere. By noon the enemy had captured Nesle, and the left flank of the Brigade was turned. During the fight Colonel Wetherall was wounded in the neck by a piece of shell and owed his life to the Brigade Major, Howitt, who held the arteries.”

“The line was driven back to Billancourt and the same night (25th) the remnants of the XVIII Çorps withdrew in darkness to Roye, a town where our hospitals were still at work, evacuating as fast as possible the streams of wounded from the battle. One of the last patients to leave by train was Wetherall, who at this crisis passed under the care of Stobie, the Oxfords’ old M.O.”

From a letter by Brigade-Major Harold Howitt, 183rd Brigade, 61st Division, to his wife Dorothy, 30/3/1918. Found in full in To The Last Man, Spring 1918by Lyn Macdonald, Carroll & Graf, 1998.

“Col. Wetherall got a nasty wound & I am going to boast that he owes his life to me.  An H.E. splinter got him in the throat whilst talking to me and severed one of the main arteries & cut his throat – he gushed all over me & it was a long time before I could stop it, but he was a model of self-possession & I lay with him for over an hour till a doctor could be found. All the time the Hun was attacking & I had to keep one eye on him & the other on messages that were coming in & yet not let Wetherall know. Finally the Hun was right round us for he had taken Vesle on our left & there was nothing for it but to make tracks at once – we had no stretcher so output the old Colonel on a bike and pushed him along. I hear is all right & you can look for his name in the future as one of the soldiers of our day – and I ave never met a finer fellow.”

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

Mid-April 1918
“About this time Colonel Boyle, who had commanded the 6th Oxfords until their disbandment, arrived to assume command of the Battalion. He remained till Wetherall, whose wound had taken him to England, returned.”

End of May 1918
“Towards the end of May Colonel Wetherall returned to take command of the Battalion. To be his Second in Command was both a pleasure and a privilege, similar feelings were evoked towards the Brigadier, General Pagan, in whose small frame beat a lion’s heart.”

7th/8th August 1918
Throughout the night of August 7/8, when things generally were very active, a heavy gas-bombardment was kept up. The Colonel was away from his headquarters at the time. He returned after the shelling to find that gas helmets had been taken off. No harm was expected, but the next day after the sun’s heat had awakened dormant fumes, the Colonel, Symonds (the adjutant), Kirk, who had brought up the rations, and Cubbage, as well as the Regimental Sergeant-Major and many signallers and runners, all round that the were gassed. Their loss was serious. It was known that Wetherall would soon have to leave the Battalion, for he had been appointed to a command in the Machine Gun Corps; indeed alreadv his successor, Colonel Woulfe-Flanagan, had arrived to take his place. Under the present unlucky auspices (for more than half Headquarters were knocked out) the interchange took place.

Herodotus says of the kings of Sparta that the last was always regretted as the best the country had ever had. Colonel Wetherall’s merit did not depend on his being the last of a series. Phrases such as ‘he was worshipped by the men’ have become so hackneyed as to be meaningless, nor shall I use an even worse commonplace, that ‘he was sparing of his words.’ Wetherall was just a rattling good Commanding Officer, a true friend, and a fine soldier.”

Further military career:

Harry Edward de Robillard Wetherall

Sir Harry Edward de Robillard Wetherall (born 1889; died 1979) was an officer in the British Army during World War I and World War II.

Lieutenant-General Wetherall commanded the 11th African Division during the East African Campaign. He was part of the “Southern Front” for this campaign. Wetherall commanded the 11th African Division during the advance from Kenya, through Italian Somaliland, and into Ethiopia.

On 23 November 1941, with the campaign all but over, the 11th African Division was disbanded. Wetherall became the acting General Officer Commanding of the East Africa Force.

In 1943, Wetherall moved on to British Ceylon.

Command history

* 1936 to 1938 Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment
* 1938 to 1940 Commanding Officer, 19th Brigade
* 1940 General Officer Commanding, 1st African Division, East Africa
* 1940 to 1941 General Officer Commanding, 11th African Division, East Africa
* 1941 Acting General Officer Commanding, East Africa Force
* 1941 to 1943 General Officer Commanding, Command Area, East Africa
* 1943 to 1945 General Officer Commanding, Ceylon
* 1945 to 1946 Commander-in-Chief, Ceylon
* 1946 Retired

Soldiers of Gloucestershire have a photograph of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Edward de Robillard Wetherall and Major-General C.E.A. Firth. Service of Commemoration and Intercession. Gloucestershire Regiment. Gloucester Cathedral, 17th June 1951.

Lieutenant R. A. O’Meara, M.C.

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

Christmas 1917
“After one night at Lechelle the Battalion entrained at Ytres and moved back to Christmas rest-billets at Suzanne, near Bray.

Huts, built by the French but vacated more than a year ago and now very dilapidated, formed the accommodation. In them Christmas dinners, to procure which Bennett had proceeded early from the line, were eaten. And O’Meara conducted the Brigade band.”

15th April 1918
“The attack, carried out by B Company under Stanley, with D in support, was quite successful in its plan but not in its result. From a cause such as every series of complicated operations in open
warfare threatened to introduce, the troops of the 4th Division on our right failed to cooperate as we expected. O’Meara, whom Stanley had placed in charge of his leading troops, after securing the cottages named as his objective, round himself attacked by the enemy from the very direction whence he had counted on assistance. After ineffectual attempts by our ‘liaison’ officer, Kirk,
to get our neighbours to do their share, B Company had to be withdrawn to their original position. The 4th Division at this time were the flank division of one corps while we were of another. To reach Battalion acting on our right a notice of our plan had to climb up through our Brigade, Division, and Corps to Army and down again as many steps the other side. A staff-officer from Army or from Corps should have been on the spot. Coucher and Kemp, two capital officers, were killed during the evening when this attack took place. Our other casualties were Killed, 2; Wounded, 18; Missing, 1.”

I only find the following R. A. Omeara in the British Medal Records:

Second Lieutenant Sydney Frank Kemp, M.C.

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

April 1918
“The addition of some 300 N.C.O.s and men, with whom came such valued officers as Clutsom, Buttfield, Kemp, Lodge, Boase, Kirk, and several others, acted as an infusion of new blood and vigour into the Battalion which had given nearly all of its best in the St. Quentin fighting.”

15th April 1918
“The attack, carried out by B Company under Stanley, with D in support, was quite successful in its plan but not in its result. From a cause such as every series of complicated operations in open
warfare threatened to introduce, the troops of the 4th Division on our right failed to cooperate as we expected. O’Meara, whom Stanley had placed in charge of his leading troops, after securing the cottages named as his objective, round himself attacked by the enemy from the very direction whence he had counted on assistance. After ineffectual attempts by our ‘liaison’ officer, Kirk,
to get our neighbours to do their share, B Company had to be withdrawn to their original position. The 4th Division at this time were the flank division of one corps while we were of another. To reach Battalion acting on our right a notice of our plan had to climb up through our Brigade, Division, and Corps to Army and down again as many steps the other side. A staff-officer from Army or from Corps should have been on the spot. Coucher and Kemp, two capital officers, were killed during the evening when this attack took place. Our other casualties were Killed, 2; Wounded, 18; Missing, 1.”

Name: KEMP
Initials: S F
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
Unit Text: Bucks Bn.
Age: 34
Date of Death: 16/04/1918
Awards: M C
Additional information: Eldest son of Frank John and Ellen Kemp, of 40, Lansdowne Gardens, London; husband of Eva Kemp (formerly Wisdom), of 10, Ross St., Rochester.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: I. D. 13.
Cemetery: ST. VENANT-ROBECQ ROAD BRITISH CEMETERY, ROBECQ

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