Based on extracts from the Regimental Chronicles of The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Vol 25 1915-1916
October 29th-November 2nd.-The Regiment moved on the morning of the 29th October to billets at Annequin and Cambrin. Fatigue parties were out every day on work in the trenches. The weather was very wet.
On the 2nd November the Regiment paraded at 8.30 a.m., and took over Z.I Section (from Boyan R.I. inclusive 100 yards north of railway at A.22.C.5.2 to Boyan 15 inclusive).
Each company found 2 platoons in the front line and 2 in support, D and C Companies finding the garrisons of Sim's and Arthur's Keeps respectively (one platoon of each). Order of companies from right to left was A. D, B, C.
The German line was approximately 200 to 300 yards distant.
Opposite Boyan 15 was a crater. Here we had sapped out, and were about 50 yards distant from the enemy's sap-head.
The weather had been very wet, and the trenches were in an extremely bad state. A great deal of building up, revetting, and trench-flooring was necessary before the trenches became habitable. One hundred and seventy pairs of trench boots were issued to the men and they were very serviceable. Nothing happened this day to stop work.
November 3rd,-A quiet day, and weather better. No shelling and little sniping. Work in trenches all day and night. An officer's patrol visited the crater.
November 4th.-A fine day. Work progressed well. No shelling, and very little sniping.
November 5th.-A fine day. Trenches now dry and boarded in the front line. Enemy very inactive.
November 6th.-Relieved by Glasgow Highlanders at 0.30 a.m. and marched into Beuvry to billets.
November 7th.-Moved to billets at Annezin, in relief of the 1st Queen's.
November 8th-10th.-(In billets at Annezin.) Usual work as when in reserve.
November 11th.-In the morning the Regiment marched to Annequin and went into billets there. Found garrisons (of 1 platoon each) for Russel's Keep and Lewis Keep.
November 12th.-The Brigade commenced to move back to rest. In the morning the Regiment marched to Bethune, and were billeted in the Orphanage.
November 13th.-In the morning marched to billets in Gonnehem (south), taking over from the 1st Herts Regiment (6th Brigade). A bitterly cold day, blowing a gale, and with rain as on two previous days.
This area is a very compact one for a regiment. Very good shower-baths (new Divisional pattern) have now been constructed, and there is also a good cinema theatre.
November 15th.-The whole Division is now out resting. Very cold weather. A field was found near Choques, where Adjutant's and Company drills were carried out, also physical training and other useful work. Special company wiring squads and bombers were trained.
November 19th.-Still in rest, doing some good training; much bathing. Each company has put all its men through a short musketry course, firing two practices (grouping) of 5 rounds each, on a short (50 yards) range near Bois de Dames, which included an hour's march each way.
November 20th.-This was our last day in rest at Gonnehem— one of the best rests we have had for a long time, and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, perhaps more particularly by the men, because they were able to have roast meats every other day, in place of the familiar stew, several of the cottages containing good ovens.
November 21st.-At 9.30 a.m. the Regiment left for Annequin, where it arrived at 12.30 p.m., and took over billets from the 1st Middlesex Regiment.
November 22nd.-At 9 a.m. we commenced to relieve the 1st South Staffords (7th Division) in A.1, or right Cuinchy Sector. This area is rather different now to when we were here last July. It now extends for nearly a company frontage south of the road, and the left only just reaches to the brick-stacks. The trenches are in rather a dilapidated condition, caused partly by the bad weather and partly by the few men now kept in the front area. The present policy is to have as few men as possible in front, so that in estimating the number of men required to hold the front system one really has to consider the question of the upkeep of the trenches rather than that of defence.
Companies were distributed as follows :-- A Company in front line trenches, just south of Bethune-La Bassee Road. C Company in front line trenches from this road as far as Ridley Walk, whence the 2nd H.L.I, continued the line Both companies had 2 platoons in the front line and 2 in supporting line. B Company in support in Praed Street and Marylebone Road. D Company had 2 platoons in Cuinchy support point, 1 platoon in Park Lane Redoubt, and 1 platoon in Stafford Redoubt. Headquarters of the Regiment at Woburn Abbey.
November 23rd.-The enemy fairly quiet, except for occasional sniping. Some rain yesterday and today.
November 26th-29th.-At 9 a.m. (26th) the Regiment was relieved by the 1st Queen's, whose billets were taken over in Harley Street, Cambrin.
Companies were distributed as follows :-- B Company, 3 platoons in Braddell Point. 2 sections in Cambrin Support Point. 1 section in Carter's Keep. 1 section in Tourbieres Keep. D Company, at Pont Fixe (south of the canal). A Company, immediately south of D Company (in the street). C Company, in huts at Beuvry.
Rain on the 26th and 29th; frost on the 27th and 28th.
On the 28th Captain Southey, Lieut. Sewell, and 4 N.C.O.'s were attached to the 24th Royal Fusiliers, to superintend and instruct their trench training.
November 30th.-To trenches at Cuinchy, relieving the 1st Queen's at 10 a.m. in A. 1 Section. Enemy very quiet. Weather wet.
December lst-3rd.- (In trenches at Cuinchy.) Enemy inactive; a few trench-mortar bombs at intervals.
December 4th.-(To billets in the Rue d'Aire area, Bethune.) At 9 a.m. the Glasgow Highlanders commenced to relieve us, but it took nearly 5 hours instead of 2 on account of the mud. Practically every man in the front system wears gum-boots, which makes the negotiation of landslips and deep mud a great difficulty. These boots are an immense boon, and undoubtedly save the men's feet as well as their ordinary boots, but getting them out of store and returning them again are very lengthy processes. Here they are stored in part of the village school, and before going to the trenches the men have to go to the store and fit gum-boots. Again, on returning from the trenches, each man has to wash his boots, so as to hand them in clean. The washing operation, of course, entailed a large crowd of men at one spot, and I was always particularly thankful when the day was cloudy and hostile aeroplanes did not venture over our lines.
December 5th.-A beautifully fine day. We were visited by our old C.O., Brigadier-General Davies.
December 6th.-At 8 a.m. we were off forward again, taking over Cuinchy, B.1. area, from the 1st Queen's. This is a quiet area, but very low lying in parts, and consequently very wet. In some places a pump has to be kept going incessantly, in order to keep the floods down.
December 10th.-Relieved by the Glasgow Highlanders, the relief taking nearly four hours instead of two. To Beuvry for billets.
December 12th.-At 9.30 a.m. we relieved the 1st Queen's in A.1 sub-section, Cuinchy trenches.
Headquarters are now in Harley Street instead of Woburn Abbey, the sleeping dug-outs having become uninhabitable. The line has also been rearranged, on account of the state of the trenches, as follows :-- One company has 1 platoon in the trenches south of La-Bassee Road, 1 platoon in Waterloo Place and Oxford Street, 1 platoon in Stafford Redoubt, and 1 platoon in Park Lane Redoubt.
One company has 2 platoons in and about Ridley Walk area, and 2 platoons in Cuinchy Support Point.
One company has 2 platoons in Braddell Point, 1 ½ platoons in Cambrin Support Point, 1 section in Carter's Redoubt, 1 section in Tourbieres Redoubt.
One company in reserve in Harley Street.
December 12th-14th.-One company of the 13th Essex Regiment (for 24 hours at a time) came into the line as left front company. Weather improving—colder and drier, but the trenches have become so bad that fewer are now ordered to be kept up. With the exception of some " whiz-bangs " at intervals the enemy has been very quiet.
December 14th.-At 11 a.m. the Regiment was relieved by the 24th R. Fusiliers, and went into billets at Beuvry (N.), remaining there, in reserve, until the afternoon of the 16th, and being able to get all the men bathed—a great thing.
December 16th-20th.-At 2 p.m. on the 16th companies started to march back to the Cuinchy trenches, in relief of the 2nd H.L.I., and occupied A.2 section, where we had never been previously.
Rain three days out of the four. The enemy, though very quiet, was alert and vigilant, especially at night.
Hard work keeping the trenches passable. Companies somewhat isolated, and the main work concentrated on keeping the communication trenches open and free for passage. About 200 of the 13th Essex were employed daily in assisting this work.
Companies were disposed as follows :-- One company on the right front, with Headquarters in Brickfield Keep, and 1 platoonin Cabbage Patch Redoubt ;
1 company on the left front with Headquarters, and 2 platoons about the railway embankment, and 2 platoons in and about Lover's Keep.
The remaining 2 companies in houses in Harley Street, near Pont Fixe. Regimental Headquarters at Kingsclere House.
These conditions as to distribution of companies had practically been imposed on account of the unbearable state of so many of the trenches. There was an unoccupied space of 150 yards in the front line between the flanks of the two companies.
Casualties :-- 17th December, 1 officer and 2 men wounded. 20th December, 1 man killed.
December 20th.- The 2nd H.L.I, relieved us at 5 p.m., and we moved to billets in Annequin North—a new area.
December 21st.- (In billets, in reserve, in Annequin.) Rain again. The Regiment standing by last night and this night. Our heavy guns, of which we are in the midst, have kept up an intense bombardment of the enemy's trenches all day, and the noise is deafening. In the evening we let off some gas, but the result was not good, and, owing to the vigilance of the enemy, no advance was made by our infantry.
December 22nd-26th.-At 10 a.m., 22nd, the Regiment commenced the relief of the Glasgow Highlanders in A.1 section Cuinchy trenches.
The companies were distributed as follows :-- One company has 3 platoons in trenches south of the main La Bassee road, and 1 platoon in Stafford Redoubt.
One company has 3 platoons in trench north of the road, and 1 platoon in Park Lane Redoubt.
One company with Headquarters and 2 platoons in Cuinchy Support Point, and 2 platoons at Braddel Point.
The 4th Company, with Regimental Headquarters, in Harley Street.
The trenches were wonderfully clean when we took them over, but we had a good deal of rain off and on, entailing plenty of repair work. During this period the enemy remained quiet, and our artillery was very active.
On the 25th the 37th reinforcement (28 men) joined from the Base.
The 2nd and 33rd Divisions have now been reconstituted. The 19th Brigade and the 1st Queen's and 2nd Worcesters (of our Brigade) have gone to the 33rd Division, while the 2nd Division has received from them in return six of their Service battalions. The 5th Brigade now consists of ourselves, the 2nd H.L.I., 17th R. Fusiliers, and 24th R. Fusiliers.
December 26th.-The 2nd H.L.I, relieved us at 11 a.m., and we moved back into billets at Annequin North.
December 27th.-The relief of the 2nd Division by the 33rd Division commenced. We paraded at 12 noon and marched to Bethune (5 miles), going into billets in the Rue d'Aire area. Thus ended a long and hard spell of trench life, made all the worse by constant reliefs.
For good reasons our normal system had to be broken. This system consisted of the Brigade being in the trenches for 16 days, each battalion being 4 days in and 4 days out, a pair of battalions relieving each other twice. Then the whole Brigade went back away from the trenches for 8 days. We have always found this system works very well, but nearly every Division and Brigade has a system of its own.
December 28th.-The Regiment paraded at 9 a.m. and marched through Chocques and Lillers to Cottes (12 miles), arriving there at 2.30 p.m., the men having had dinners, from the cookers, on the road. The men marched well. Billets considerably scattered, but good.
December 29th-3lst.-In billets at Cottes, St. Hilaire—a nice little village. A great relief to be right away from all noise for a time, and the weather very pleasant.
All companies fully employed in cleaning themselves, their clothing, and equipment.
The 5th Infantry Brigade is now concentrated as follows :— 2nd H.L.I, at Bourecq, Glasgow Highlanders at St. Hilaire, 17th R. Fusiliers at Norrent Foiites, 24th R. Fusiliers at Fontes, Brigade H.Q. at Cottes, with ourselves.