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

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Archive for the tag “Story of the 2/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment 1914-1918”

1916, AUGUST 10th – IN THE TRENCHES AT FANQUISSART: AN UNLUCKY SHELLS KILLS LIEUTENANT R. J. E. TIDDY

Lieutenant Reginald John Elliott Tiddy 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

Lieutenant Reginald John Elliott Tiddy
2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

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)

 Early in August an unlucky shell deprived the Battalion of one of its best officers. Lieutenant Tiddy had joined the Infantry in a spirit of duty and self sacrifice, which his service as an officer had proved but to which his death more amply testified. The regrets of friends and comrades measured the Battalion’s loss.

 Killed in Action 10th August 1916

Lieutenant Reginald John Elliott Tiddy

Tiddy’s war was quickly over; he was posted to France in May 1916 and killed by a stray shell on August 10 while searching for wounded comrades.

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1916, NIGHT OF AUGUST 19th / 20th – RAID ON THE GERMAN TRENCHES NEAR SUGAR LOAF

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)

At 10 p.m. on August 19 a raid upon the German trenches near the ‘Sugar Loaf’ was carried out by A Company. The raid was part of an elaborate scheme in which the Australians upon the left and the 2/5th Gloucesters on our own front co-operated. The leading bombing party, which Bennett sent forward under Sergeant Hinton, quickly succeeded in reaching the German parapet and was doing well, when a Mills bomb, dropped or inaccurately thrown, fell amongst the men. The plan was spoilt. A miniature panic ensued, which Bennett and his Sergeant-Major found it difficult to check. As in many raids, a message to retire was passed [1]. The wounded were safely brought in by Bennett, whose control and leadership were worthy of a luckier enterprise.

[1] [Footnote 1: A failure of this kind was far less due to any indetermination of the men than to the complex nature of the scheme, which any misadventure was capable of upsetting. On the occasion the ‘order to retire’ was said to have been of German manufacture, but such explanation deserved a grain of salt. Owing to the danger of its unauthorised use, the word ‘retire’ was prohibited by Army orders.]

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

During this tour of duty C Company made a raid on the night 19th / 20th August.

The rough outline of the trenches that were raided was an inverted T, affront trench of some eighty yards with a communication trench running back from the center.

The raiding party was divided into six sections: two were to act as flank guard; a third was to be the covering party, and was detailed to take up its position on the parapet of the German front line trench at the same point and to work respectively right, left and up the communication trench. The signal for the attack was to be the fist shot from the artillery which, it had been arranged, would open fire on the enemy’s support line and shorten to the front line immediately after the raiders had evacuated the trenches.

Two novelties were introduced into the plan. Firstly the raid was to be made on the same night and an hour or so after a similar operation had been carried out on exactly the same sector by another battalion. Secondly, the preliminary bombardment was to be dispensed with.

In these ways it was hoped to take the enemy by surprise – and this indeed proved to be the case……

In preparation for the raid the Company spent the previous fortnight behind the lines. Each day the attack was rehearsed on some disused trenches which approximately resembled the plan of those to be raided. Each night No Man’s land was carefully reconnoitered………..

Despite the hope that that the war might end on August 18th, the fateful day rolled round (19th). The raiders trudged up to the frontline about 10 p.m. and spent a desultory hour or so quaffing rum and blackening hands and faces. At about 12.45 a.m. they moved out into No Man’s L, and the various sections took up their allotted positions, the three that were to enter the trenches and the covering party, lying down in a ditch which ran nearly parallel to the German line and about forty yards from it……

Everything was depressingly quiet, as is usually the case just before a raid. A light mist hanging over the scene lent an eeriness to the picture: an occasional Verey light alone relieved the darkness; nothing was so audible as one’s breathing; the merest whisper jarred.

Thus they waited. Some dozed nonchalantly; some watched the luminous hand moving slowly yet inexorably towards the hour of zero. One minute still to go – thirty seconds – fifteen – ten! There was a slight brazing of limbs. Suddenly – a sound from far behind – faint, but unmistakable – the guns had opened fire. The raiders rose up and, rushing towards the German trenches, reached them as the first shell burst on the support line. What a moment ago, might have been a meadow outlying some English village, was now a caldron of flames and metal. The night air was riven by screaming shells; hundreds of Verey lights transmuted the darkness into a dazzling carnival; the quivering gun flashes from the German counter-barrage illuminated the distant sky-line; rat-tat-tat of innumerable Vickers guns, the muffled explosion of bombs; the ear-piercing bursts of the 4.9s completed the transformation. The enemy was taken completely by surprise, as is shown by the fact that the first sentry whom the raiders encountered was still looking out over No Man’s Land and was bayonetted through the back. Dugouts were bombed as well as several of the enemy who were endeavoring to escape.

The battle was at its height when  shell from one of our batteries, falling short, burst in the fire bay close to one of the raiding sections. A certain amount of disorganization resulted and taking advantage of the occasion, some cute German shouted “Retire.” The raiders, taking the order to be a genuine on, immediately scrambled out of the German lines. The guns almost at the same time shortened their range on to the enemy’s front line, so that the mistake was of little consequence.

It had been prearranged that the sections would reassemble in the ditch from which the attack started, the flankers naturally remaining where they were. This was done in order that the party on returning might not get caught by the German barrage which was then falling heavily on the Battalion’s front line. Only one member of the entire party disregarded the precaution and unfortunately was killed just before he reached the safety of his own trenches. The rest remained out in No Man’s Land for forty or fifty minutes while the shells from both sides hissed and shrieked overhead. Eventually the British Artillery barrage died down and ceased and the German guns followed suit in a few minutes. When all was quiet again, the party walked back to its trenches without sustaining a single casualty on the journey.

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1916-08-19
Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire
Location France, Fauquissart
Entry Quiet day – Wire cutting by our Artillery and TM’s 9.30 – 9.45pm and 10pm – 1230pm. Two small Raids were carried out on our Right Centre front. The first took place after Artillery preparation at PM by one company of 2/4th OXFORD and BUCKS LI. The second raid was upon the same front without Artillery preparation at AM (20/8/16) by one Company of 2/5 GLOSTERS. Wire was found to be cut and the second Raiding Party entered Enemy Trenches and inflicted loss on enemy with Bombs and Bayonet. Both Raiding Parties suffered slight casualties only. (2nd/Lt S WHITWORTH, 6th Manchesters joined Bn)

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.

1916, NOVEMBER 22nd – IN TRENCHES NEAR GRANDCOURT

Trenches Near Grandcourt November and Dececember 1916

During this time the 2/5th Gloucesershire Regiment was in the front lines.

Captain R. S. B. Sinclair, M.C. and Bar, Officer Commanding A Company  2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment

Captain R. S. B. Sinclair, M.C. and Bar,
Officer Commanding A Company
2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment

 

Captain R. S. B. Sinclair described the conditions as follows:

In the front line the mud made movement of any sort practically impossible until the frost hardened the ground; shaving was not to be thought of; ration parties were held up in the mire and so we were down to one cup of cold tea per man per day, hence the aptness of the code word (of the relief complete, “another little drink won’t do us any harm”). The shelling was so incessant that we were compelled to live more like rats than men.

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, JUNE 20th – IN THE RED HOUSE SUB-SECTION OF THE FANQUISSART SECTION

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

During this period the 2/5 Gloucestershire Regiment made a raid, and the Battalion assisted with rifle-grenades and demonstration.

From the following description and the casualty figures of the 2/5th of June 21st I believe the raid was made on the night of June 20th / 21st.

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)

The other event of note was a raid made by A Company under the command of Capt. Wales. Unfortunately after the raiding party had gone over the top , it was held up by the wire which was found to be insufficiently cut. The party was thus exposed to a ruthless machine-gun fire from the enemy and was eventually compelled to return to its own trenches after having suffered heavy casualties. For the purpose of the raid , an attempt was made by the signalers to establish lamp signal communication between the front line and Battalion Headquarters, but the difference between a dress rehearsal on a quite night and the real thing with Verey Lights and gun flashes abounding, had been miscalculated. The signalers on this occasion included Tom Voyce of Twickenham fame. He cameto the 2/5th from the 1/5th, having been sent back as underage. He tells how he was placed in the “awkward” squad. Many who have tried to circumvent Tom Voyce when he was dashing for the goal line in those long loping strides of his have good reason to know how “awkward” he really was. Many acts of gallantry were performed during the raid and the following awards were made – M.C. to Capt. E. W. Wales, D.C.M. to Pte. L Fletcher, M.M. to Sgt. A. H. Norris and Cpl. C. Driver. The total casualties were 5 other ranks killed, 1 died of wounds, 3 officers wounded, 13 other ranks wounded and 4 missing*. Among the missing was Sgt. Newman of C. Company.

The Killed in Action of the 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment from 21st June 1916 are listed below:

240948 Lance Sergeant Victor Garnet Newman

4589 Lance Corporal William Cambray 5809 Private Henry Barnes

5859 Private William English (Formerly 1687, Northumberland Cyclist Battalion)

4517 Private John Hall

3580 Private Charles William Jackson

5765 Private Joseph Ryan

3345 Private Ernest Skillern

5783 Private Frederick George Yeldham (formerly 2240, 8th Essex Regiment)

* It looks if all those listed as missing, were actually killed in action.

The Died of Wounds of the 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment from 21st June 1916 is listed below:

5807 Private William Young

A side note on Tom Voyce:

Regarded as one of the game’s greatest back row specialists, he began his playing career at the local Gordon League club. The flank forward made 218 appearances for Gloucester in which time he scored 54 tries.

Tom appeared in every match of England’s Grand Slam winning teams of 1921, 1923 and 1924, and also represented the Army and the Barbarians. Tom was captain of Gloucester from 1924-1927 and was a member of the British touring side to South Africa in 1924.

His career was an amazing achievement because of the serious eye defect he sustained whilst serving for the Gloucestershire Regiment in World War I.

Tom Voyce

Raid on the 2/4th Oxfords, 28th February 1918

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

“Another scene, in which the rival motif is heard, shows a strong body of ugly-looking Germans at practice over some shallow trenches some distance behind their line. By a quaint coincidence these trenches are a facsimile of those just taken over
by the Battalion. The ugly Germans are members of a ‘travelling circus.’ For long past they have lived in the best billets and been receiving extra rations. They play no part in the retreat house-
wrecking, the flooding of cellars, the hacking through of young fruit trees and throwing over of sundials and garden ornaments, much as they might enjoy it, is not their function.

They are a professional raiding party, with two successful raids at Loos, one at Ypres and one near Hébuterne to their credit. Wherever the English have just relieved the French they are sent for to perform. They are accompanied by two 8-inch howitzers and several batteries of 5-9s and 4-2s belonging to the ‘circus’ and by a Minen- Werfer Abteilung. Their raid upon the Oxfords
is fixed for February 28, when the moon will be a third full. The last aeroplane photograph admir- ably shews the Sucrerie, communication trenches leading forward and the whereabouts of all dug-outs. The pioneer detachment–whose thoughts are turned only to the retreat, of which rumours have been plentiful – must move from its comfortable dug-outs in the railway embankment to make room for H.Q. of the raiding party.

The front held by the Battalion was tacticallv not satisfactory. Being three on a front, with B Company placed nearly 1,000 yards in rear, companies had to find their own supports, which, owing to absence of other dug-out accommodation, were disposed in positions not only too far back but inadequately covering those portions of the front which they were engaged to defend. Moreover, practical means of communication to and by
these support platoons were likely to prove, in event of need, negligible. They were, in fact, isolated in places themselves not defensible and equally remote from company and battalion commanders. This situation was bad enough as point d’appui for an advance; to resist a counter-attack
or raid it was deplorable. Like many similar situations, it was due to the lack of habitable trenches on the ground that should have been occupied and defended. It could be no one’s fault either high up or low down that the line was held in this way, though perhaps had fewer men been allowed to crowd into trenches and dug-outs in the forward line, casualties in killed and prisoners might have been spared to the Battalion.

A few hours after the relief was complete orders came up for patrols to go out to see if the enemy had or had not gone back yet. Our artillery, which was not vet strongly represented behind this sector, also began to fire at extreme ranges on the German back area east of Marchélepot and Chaulnes. The enemy, on his part, sniped at and bombed our patrols at night. The behaviour of his guns and aeroplanes by day suggested no passive retreat in
the near future. While BAB 1 code messages, providing mingled toil and excitement, announced the impending departure of the enemy and asserted the necessity for keeping touch, aeroplanes flew a thousand feet overhead and directed the fire of fresh batteries of 5.9 s and 4-2s upon our trenches. No doubt the Germans had stocks of ammunition they preferred to fire off rather than cart backwards.

Gas shelling became common for the first rime in the Battalion’s experience. In the front line masks had often to be worn. Headquarters also were gassed more than once and suffered much inconvenience. This activity by the enemy was reasonably regarded as his normal policy with which to impede our preparations for advance, so that complaints of registration coming from the front line received no special attention from the authorities, who were themselves tossed to and fro and kept quite occupied by the man conflicting prophecies of the enemy’s retreat.
On the morning of February 27 German howitzer batteries commenced some heavy shelling on the Battalion sector, especially on the communication trenches passing under the former French titles of B.C.4 and B.C.5. Working parties who were busy digging out mud from those trenches were compelled to desist.
(A secret trench code, intended for use in operations.
Deliberate shelling to ascertain exact range of targets for a future bombardment.
B.C. = Boyau de commmunicatione, communication trench.)

At 10 o’clock I heard that Fry, the commander of No. I6 Platoon, had been hit by shrapnel on his way from Company H.Q. to the Sucrerie. To get him to the nearest shelter (C Company H.Q.) was difficult through the mud, and uncomfortable enough with 5.9s coming down close to the trench, but the men, as always, played up splendidly to assist a comrade. Soon afterwards, the doctor, in answer to a telephonic summons, appeared at my H.Q. On our way to reach Frv we were both knocked down in the trench by a 4″-‘, which also wounded Corporal Rockall in the shoulder-blade. I regret that Fry, though safely moved from the trenches the same night, had received a mortal wound. In him died a fine example of the platoon officer. He met his wound in the course of a trivial duty which, had I guessed that he would do it under heavy shelling, I should have forbidden him to undertake. His type of
bravery, though it wears no decorations, is distinguished, more than all other, by the unwritten admiration of the Infantry.

During that night I had a peculiar and interesting task. It was to report on the condition of all roads leading through our front line across No- Man’s-Land. Mud, battle and frost had so combined to disguise all former roads and tracks, that to decide their whereabouts it was often necessary to follow them forward from behind by means of map and compass. Seen by pale moonlight, these derelict roads, in places pitted with huge craters or flanked by shattered trees, wore a mysterious charm. More eloquent of catastrophe than those thrown down by gale or struck by lightning are trees which shells have hit direct and sent, splintered, in headlong crash from the ranks of an avenue. If wood and earth could speak, what tales the sunken roads of France could find to tell!

Morning and afternoon of the next day, February 28, were fine and ominously quiet. Excessive quietness was often no good sign.
Presentiments could have been justified. At 4.15 p.m. a strong barrage of trench mortars and rifle grenades began to beat upon the front line, accompanied by heavy artillery fire against communication and support trenches and the back area. This sequel to the previous registration clearly indicated some form of attack by the enemy. The rhythmic pounding of the heavy howitzers, whose shells were arriving with the regular persistency of a barrage table, suggested that a long bombardment, probably until after dusk, was intended. Under such circumstances it was the part of the Company Commander to ‘stand to’ and await events with the utmost vigilance. This never meant that the men should be ordered out into the trenches and the fire-steps manned, for to do so would have invited heavy casualties and demoralised the garrison before the opportunity for active resistance had arrived. To keep look-out by sentries, to watch for any lifting in the barrage, and to maintain communication with H.Q. and with the flanks were the measures required. Otherwise, except to destroy maps and papers, there was nothing to do but wait, for only in the most clumsily organised shows did the other
side know zero. On this occasion, at the moment the German raiding party came over, a patrol consisting of Corporal Coles and Timms had onlv just returned from D Company front line. They
said that though the shelling was heavy immediately behind and on the flanks, the wire was intact and there was no sign of attack. At dusk, therefore, there was nothing save the heavy shelling to report to Cuthbert over my telephone, which by luck held until cut by German wire-cutters.

Within a few minutes, shouts and a few rifle shots were heard, and the next moment bombs were being thrown into my dug-out.
The lights went out and the interior became filled with fumes, groans, and confusion. A German raiding party had penetrated
C Company, seized the front line, which” ‘was a bare 80 yards from my H.Q., and, without touching my own front (which indeed was 200 yards distant and to the flank), had picketed my dug-out, and awaited their haul of prisoners.

Now, a bombed dug-out is the last word in ‘unhealthiness.’ It ranks next to a rammed sub- marine or burning aeroplane. For severaI minutes I awaited death or wounds with a degree of certaintv no soldier ever felt in an attack. But in such emergencies instinct, which, more than the artificial training of the mind, asserts itself, arms human beings with a natural cunning for which civilization provides no scope. Life proverbially is not cheap to its owner.

That evervone inside was not killed instantly was due, no doubt, both to the sloping character of the stairs, which made some bombs explode before they reached the bottom, and to the small
size of the bombs themselves. A gas bomb finished the German side of the argument. Hunt’s useful knowledge of German commenced the answer. We ‘surrendered.’ I went upstairs at
once and saw three Germans almost at touching distance. In place of a docile prisoner they received four revolver shots, after which I left as soon as possible under a shower of bombs and liquid fire. Shortly afterwards, but too late to follow me, Hunt also came forth and round the enemv had vanished Afterwards the Sergeant Major and Uzzell, sanitary lance-corporal, who on this occasion showed the genius of a fieId marshal, emerged and prevented the return of our late visitors.

After an hour’s struggle through mud and barrage I reached the two platoons in Trench Roumains, who (I mention this as a good paradox of trench discipline) were engaged in sock-changing and foot-rubbing according to time table! From there the counter-attack described in Sir Douglas Haig’s dispatch of Match 1st was carried out. Ifear this ‘counter-attack’ was better in his telling
than in the doing, for the Germans had already decamped an hour before, taking with them Lieutenant Guildford and some 20 prisoners from C Company, several Lewis guns, and their own
casualties.

Against a front line crowded with untried troops (I refer to the new draft of which the platoons holding C Company front line were principally composed) a well-planned raid powerfully pressed home under a severe box barrage and assisted by gas and liquid fire, was almost bound to succeed. The mud, strange trenches and weak artillery support were other factors for which allowance might have been made before such degree of blame was laid upon the Battalion as was seen fit for it to receive. The only cure for being raided is to raid back. That was happily done exactly two months later against the very regiment to which the German raiding party on this occasion belonged. Nor was it true that the enemy was not fought with. Some parties which attacked
Brown’s front were, under the able example of that officer, driven off with Lewis guns, and D Company, whose loss in prisoners was nil, also maintained its front intact. Casualties were inflicted
on the enemy, but these mostly regained their own lines or were carried back by stretcher parties. Our loss in killed that night amounted to some twenty.

The story of this raid I should not have allowed to reach this length but for the fact that the affair created some stir at the time, and correspondence raged on the subject till long afterwards

Hunt, who was with me during the bombardment and the bombing of my H..Q., was not captured on emerging from the dug-out, but himself, some hour or more afterwards, while wandering among the blown-in trenches in an effort to follow me, entered a German listening post and became a prisoner. As a prisoner he was present at a German H.Q. when the details of an exactly similar raid upon a neighbouring division were being arranged ; which raid proved for the enemy an equal success.

The aftermath of this fighting proved a trying experience. The dug-out to which I returned to spend the remainder of the tour was a shambles.
The stairs were drenched with blood. Of my companions, Thompson, a signaller, Timms, Smith (Hunt’s servant, a fine lad) and Corporal Coles one of the bravest and most devoted N.CO.’s the Battalion ever had were dead or died soon afterwards. Longford and Bugler Wright were severely wounded. Longley and Short had escaped before the first bombs exploded in the dug-out, but the remaining survivors, the Sergeant-Maior, Lance
Corporal Rowbotham, Roberts and myself were all partially gassed and hardly responsible for further action. Under these circumstances the task of carrying-on involved a strain, lessened, as always on such occasions, by management of everything for the best by Battalion Headquarters.”

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.

28th February 1917
“Since the offensive had died down, this sector had been very quiet, but seemingly for the special benefit of the 184th Brigade, the Germans brought up their traveling circus, as it was called. There was a considerable amount of gas shelling here and the activity culminated in a raid on the Oxfords on February 28th. The preliminary barrage over the whole sector was so heavy that Capt. Badcock, who was on the right of the Oxfords naturally concluded that a general assault was imminent. He therefore, proceeded to discharge S.O.S rockets from the bottom of his dugout steps. As the rockets were gaily discharged, he was discomfited by hearing a savage yell and much bad language. It transpired that a plump company cook had taken shelter from the bombardment at the top of the dugout steps and was a little upset at being bombarded in the rear by his own Company Commander – another of the ‘stern’ realities of war.”

184th Brigade School of Instruction at Arras, October 1917

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.

October 1917
“About this time the Brigade formed a School of Instruction at Arras under the command of Major Bennett of the Oxfords; and to the school each battalion sent a platoon. After eight days’ training, a competition was held. It speaks well for the efficiency of the 2/5th that of the four platoons sent, three won the first prize and the other the 2nd. 2nd Lieutenants. Downing, Ross Jenkins and Welch were the winning Platoon Commanders. The Brigadier told Major Bennett that he was surprised that the Glosters appeared to be the best trained unit in the Brigade, but the Glosters had their own position on this.”

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

“Another feature of this period was a Brigade school, ‘with Bennett as its commandant, at Arras. A week’s course was held for each platoon in the Brigade. The school was well run and partly recompensed for the lack of training during the long tours in the trenches.”

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