& TRENCH ROUTINE JULY TO OCTOBER 1916
BASED ON EXTRACTS FROM “CITIZEN SOLDIERS OF BUCKS” BY JC SWANN.
On the 20th July the Battalion, on relief by the 2/4th‘Oxfords, withdrew to its billets near Laventie, and at 10 a.m. was conveyed by motorbus to Estaires.
On the 22nd the Battalion was inspected by Major-General John Mackenzie, Commanding the 61st Division. The strength of the Battalion on paper was 19 officers and 545 other ranks, but the muster on parade was very different. “B” was a fair-sized Company, “C” was represented by two platoons of medium strength, but the rest of the Battalion produced a mere handful of men, and practically no N.C.O.’s. Major H. L. C. Barrett and Captain H. S. G. Buckmaster had just been invalided to England, the Battalion thus losing the last of its four Company Commanders. Except in “B” Company, there were no Company officers of any experience left, and the vacancies had been filled by recent postings, new and as yet untried.
The work of reorganisation was started at once, and carried on as rapidly as possible. On the 24th a move was made to Riez Bailleul, and on the 27th two Companies went into the line in the Moated Grange subsection, the other two Companies occupying ten posts.
On the last day of the month, to the great regret of all ranks in the Battalion, Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Williams handed over the Command to Major G. Christie-Miller, pending the arrival of Major J. B. Muir (4th Black Watch), who was appointed to succeed him, and joined on the 5th August.
During the period of nearly two years in which he Commanded the Battalion, Colonel Williams had won the respect and esteem of all under his Command. His long connection with the Bucks Battalion had given him a thorough understanding of the citizen soldier, his business ability enabled him to deal successfully with the administrative side of his duties, whilst his close study of military subjects was shown by the high standard of efficiency attained by the Battalion in training and the way in which he handled it in action. During the whole of the seven hours’ bombardment on the 19th he was in the front line, setting a fine example to his men of coolness under fire, and had personally superintended the reorganisation of the Battalion after the attack.
The Battalion moved into billets at Le Grand Pacaut, three drafts amounting to just over 100 men in all were received, though not sufficient to bring the strength up to establishment.
On the 5th August Major J. B. Muir arrived and took over the Command of the Battalion from Major Christie-Miller, and was gazetted Lieut.-Colonel.
The task that lay before him was not an easy one. The Battalion had been knocked to pieces, few officers and N.C.O.’s of any experience remained, drafts in every stage of efficiency and inefficiency were being sent to fill up; the material was good, but much had to be done before the 2nd Bucks regained its standard of efficiency. Lieut.Colonel Muir had the experience of a dozen years’ service with Territorials, in peace and war, firmness, tact, and last but not least, a keen sense of humour, in giving expression to which he was a past-master. From the first his popularity was assured, and his hold on all ranks strengthened as time went on. His ready appreciation of all that was good was matched by his candid but kindly criticism of lapses from the standard of the Corps. The old nucleus that remained was good, the new drafts quickly became imbued with the esprit de corps that was so marked a feature of the Battalion, all ranks were keen. Under these conditions progress was rapid during the weeks of comparative quiet in the line in the Moated Grange sector with periods of rest at Riez Bailleul.
On the 3oth September Brigadier-General the Hon. R. White, C.M.G., succeeded to the vacancy in the Brigade Command caused by the accident to Brigadier-General Dugan. During this period and up to the 28th October, the Battalion continued to relieve and be relieved by the 2/5th Gloucesters every six days, going into billets at Riez Bailleul when out of the trenches.
On the 29th October the Battalion marched to billets near Robecq.
During the past two months, owing to the amount of work on the defences, etc., imposed on Corps it had been extremely difficult to arrange for the training so urgently required in view of the number of young officers and N.C.O.’s with the unit. Every opportunity therefore was welcomed, and several occurred on the march to the Somme, after leaving Robecq on the 2nd November.