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

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1917, JUNE 6th – RELIEVED THE 2/4th ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT IN THE FRONT LINE TRENCHES SOUTH EAST OF MONCHY-LE-PREUX

The outskirts of Monchy-le-Preux, 30th May 1917. (Captured 11th April 1917, by 37th Division).

The outskirts of Monchy-le-Preux, 30th May 1917. (Captured 11th April 1917, by 37th Division).Relieved 2/4th R. Berks in the front-line trenches (Monchy); A Company, left front; C, right front; B and D, in support; 3 men wounded.

Relieved 2/4th R. Berks in the front-line trenches (Monchy); A Company, left front; C, right front; B and D, in support; 3 men wounded.

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

To prepare for an attack on Infantry Hill, a position held by the enemy south-east of Monchy-le-Preux, the 2/4th Oxfords went into the front line on June 6. Orders were received to advance across No-Man’s-Land and link up a line of shell-holes as a ‘jumping-off place’ for the subsequent attack. A Company successfully accomplished the task, and the Battalion earned a message of thanks from the Division which a few days afterwards made the designed attack.

Apart from this achievement, the confused network of old and new trenches occupied during this period offered few features of special interest. C and A Companies and part of D were in the front line, which ran through chalk and was unsavoury by reason of the dead Germans lying all about. The enemy’s fire was of that harassing kind which began now to mark the conduct of the war. In the old days conventional targets such as roads, trenches, and villages within a mile or two of our front were generally shelled at times which could be guessed and when such places could be avoided. These methods changed. Wherever Infantry or transport were bound to go at special times during the night, the German shells, reserved by day, were fired. Roads, tracks, and approaches, where in daylight English nursemaids could almost have wheeled perambulators with confidence, by night became hated avenues of danger for our Infantrymen moving up the line or ration-carrying to their forward companies. The fire to which they went exposed was the enemy’s ‘harassing fire,’ and we, in our turn, very naturally ‘harassed’ the Germans. At this time a crater on the Arras-Cambrai road which must needs be passed and a shallow trench leading therefrom, known as Gordon Alley, were the most evil spots. Monchy, the hill-village which had cost us so many lives to capture, was heavily shelled by German howitzers both day and night; below its slopes lay several derelict tanks. Our gun positions, in proportion to the new increase in counter-battery work, were also often shelled.

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1917-06-06
Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire
Location France, Trenches
Entry [In trenches at MONCHY LE PREUX] The Battalion was relieved in the front line by the 2/4th Oxfords on the night of 6/7th and companies marched independently to Reserve Trenches in the WANCOURT-FEUCHY line. 2 OR killed, 1 OR wounded, 1 OR shell shock.

1916, NOVEMBER 26th – DRENCHED WHILE RELIEVING THE 2/4th ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT

Trenches Near Grandcourt November and Dececember 1916

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 next night (26th / 27th) the Battalion moved up to relieve the Berks, but was conducted, or conducted itself, along the very communication trench which I had studiously avoided using and which was in a shocking state from water and mud. As the result of the journey, D Company reached the front line practically wet-through to a man, and in a very exhausted condition. A proportion of their impedimenta had become future salvage on the way up, while several men and, I fancy, some officers, had compromised themselves for some hours with the mud, which exacted their gumboots as the price of their future progress. I regret that my own faithful servant, Longford, was as exhausted as anybody and suffered a nasty fall at the very gates of paradise (an hyperbole I use to justify the end of such a mud journey), namely Company Headquarters in Regina, where, like a sort of host, I had been waiting long.

Desire Trench, the name by which the front line was known, was a shallow disconnected trough upholstered in mud and possessing four or five unfinished dug-out shafts. These shafts, as was natural, faced the wrong way, but provided all the front line shelter in this sector. At one end, its left, the trench ran into chalk (as well as some chalk and plenty of mud into it!) and its flank disappeared, by a military conjuring trick, into the air. About 600 yards away the Germans were supposed to be consolidating, which meant that they were feverishly scraping, digging and fitting timbers in their next lot of dug-outs. To get below earth was their first consideration.

Regina dug-out deserves a paragraph to itself. This unsavoury residence housed two platoons of D Company, Company Headquarters, and Stobie, our doctor, with the Regimental Aid Post. In construction the dug-out, which indeed was typical of many, was a corridor with wings opening off, about 40 feet deep and some 30 yards long, with 4 entrances, on each of which stood double sentries day and night. Garbage and all the putrefying matter which had accumulated underfoot during German occupation and which it did not repay to disturb for fear of a worse thing, rendered vile the atmosphere within. Old German socks and shirts, used and half-used beer bottles, sacks of sprouting and rotting onions, vied with mud to cover the floor. A suspicion of other remains was not absent. The four shafts provided a species of ventilation, reminiscent of that encountered in London Tubes, but perpetual smoking, the fumes from the paraffin lamps that did duty for insufficient candles, and our mere breathing more than counterbalanced even the draughts and combined impressions, fit background for post-war nightmares, that time will hardly efface. Regina Trench itself, being on a forward slope and exposed to full view from Loupart Wood, was shelled almost continuously by day and also frequently at night. ‘Out and away,’ ‘In and down’ became mottoes for runners and all who inhabited the dug-out or were obliged to make repeated visits to it. Below, one was immune under 40 feet of chalk, and except when an entrance was hit the 5.9s rained down harmlessly and without comment.

War Diary of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

1916-11-26
Regiment. 2/4th Royal Berkshire
Location France, Trenches
Entry Normal artillery activity on both sides. Casualties 3 OR killed, 2/Lt DANIELLS and 4 OR wounded. Relieved by 2/4 OXFORDS.

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