THE VIMY SECTOR JUNE 1ST - JULY 20TH 1916 Based on extracts from the Regimental Chronicles of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Vol 26 1916-1917
June 1st.-Took Company Commanders to view our new trenches opposite Vimy. They do not seem to be as bad as people make out. Still beautiful weather. The 47th reinforcement (20 men) arrived.
June 2nd.- The Regiment left Gouy-Servins at 8 p.m. for the trenches in 2nd Division Berthouval left sub-sector (Vimy Ridge), relieving the 1st Royal Berks (99th Brigade). Regimental H.Q. in Zouave Valley, Brigade H.Q. in " Battle Headquarters " near Cabaret Rouge, and about half an hour's walk from us.
The front of the Regiment, described by trenches as named officially, is from Vincent Street inclusive on the right, to Ersatz Avenue exclusive on the left. The front line is held by the two flank companies, three companies being in the line, in order A, B, D. B Company is in second line, except at night, their part of the front line being unfinished and untenable in daytime. There is no second line for the left front company, and a very poor semblance of one for the right company.
The 24th R. Fusiliers (5th Brigade) are on our right, and the 1st King's(Liverpool), of the 8th Brigade, are on our left.
The relief began at 11 p.m. and was completed in about an hour and a half. Very quiet night, which enabled us to put in good work digging and repairing.
June 3rd.-Had a good look round the trenches today. They require an immense amount of work on them, as it is practically a new line, some 300 or 400 yards in rear of our former one. This is part of the front on which the 47th Division had been driven back on May 21st-22nd. There are indications everywhere of a very severe bombardment by the enemy, but the battlefield had, of course, been well cleaned up before we came in.
The men were hard at work all last night, deepening and connecting up the trenches. The enemy were working on their new front line, but they were not interfered with until the relief was complete. Our wire was very poor, and every effort was made to improve it. Sixteen chevaux-de-frise were brought up and placed in position before dawn. The enemy's wire was found to be of very little strength.
Between 9 and 11 this morning shellfire considerably interfered with work. About 40 heavy shrapnel and H.E. shells fell on the area immediately east and west of Zouave Valley during this time, but no damage was done. Casualties.—1 man killed (A Company) and 1 man wounded (B Company).
June 4th.-Men working very hard making the line. Enemy very quiet; little shelling, and practically no trench-mortar firing or mining.
June 5th.-As much progress as possible is being made on the wire and deep dug-outs, but work on the latter is much hampered by lack of material, which is difficult to get up.
June 6th.-In the evening the 17th R. Fusiliers relieved us, and we became support battalion in and about Cabaret Rouge, Alhambra, and Coliseum Redoubts. Casualties.—1 killed (C Company) and 2 wounded (A Company).
June 10th.-At 9 p.m., after drawing rations, we relieved the 17th R. Fusiliers in the same area as before, Showery weather at present.
June 12th.-Wonderfully quiet. Both sides, certainly at night are far too busy working on their defences to want to interfere with one another. We are making rapid progress with the work.
The 48th reinforcement (52 men) arrived, and two sergeants joined at Petit Servins from the Base.
June 13th.-Rain interfered with work considerably tonight. Find that I cannot get to rest much before 12.30 a.m., as working parties must be inspected and new works laid out, then "Stand-to" is at 2.30 a.m., so the nights are very short.
June 14th.-We have been working hard at the construction of deep dugouts in the frontline system. Only a few men can work at a time on each entrance, but reliefs are used, and the work continues for 20 out of the 24 hours. A great amount of timber has to be carried up to keep the work going, as all the passages as they are excavated have to be shored up, and the entrances have to be rather cunningly contrived. The rate of work averages one step per entrance per diem, and during these last four days we have put in over 200 steps—thanks to the energy displayed by the men and the untiring supervision of Crosse, who runs the show as a sort of " foreman of works."
During the night we were relieved by the 17th R. Fusiliers.
June 15th.-The Regiment, on relief, moved to Camblain 1'Abbe, the last company getting in at 4.30 a.m. We all had breakfast first and then went to sleep till midday.
June 16th.-Bathing, resting, and ordinary forms of training going on.
June 17th.-About 200 men employed each night on Brigade fatigue in the trench area.
June 18th.-The 49th reinforcement 45 men joined from the Base. Church Parade Service in the morning. In the evening the Regiment moved back to billets in Estree-Cauchee. A very small billeting area, and a large proportion of all ranks very uncomfortable.
June 19th.-500 men on fatigue today. There is a 50 yards range available close to the village, so each company in turn is being put through a short course of musketry-grouping practice and rapid firing.
June 20th.-A battalion of the Naval Division is now in the other half of this village.
June 21st.- 500 men on fatigue again.
June 22nd.-The Waterloo Sports were held today, in splendid weather, in a field close to billets. There was a large attendance of visitors, including the Divisional and Brigade Commanders, and the whole thing was a great success. We had two capital competitions for bombers, and in the evening got up a very fair concert for the men.
June 24th-26th.-(In Reserve Billets at Estree-Camblain.) Bathing, training, etc.
June 27th.-The Regiment marched to billets at Villers-au-Bois. The 50th reinforcement (30 men) arrived.
June 28th-30th.-Training carried out as usual, particularly of the last two reinforcements, who are being trained as a separate party.
Casualty (on the 29th).—1 man wounded (D Company).
July 1st.-At Villers-au-Bois in Brigade Reserve. The 51st reinforcement (1 Sergeant and 25 R. and F.) joined.
July 2nd.-To trenches in 2nd Division Carency (2) sub-section, in relief of 17th R. Fusiliers.
July 3rd.-Quiet day.
July 5th.-At 11.30a.m. our trench mortars registered. At 1.15 p.m., in retaliation for our trench-mortar fire, the enemy fired a few rounds at Regimental H.Q., killing 1 man (the sentry) and wounding another man.
July 6th.-At 11 a.m. our trench mortars began wirecutting. At 12.35 p.m. enemy started retaliation on Regimental H.Q., and kept it going until 2.30 p.m. At night, on relief by 17th R. Fusiliers, moved to the support battalion position. B Company at the disposal of the left battalion; C Company at the disposal of the right battalion; D Company at Cabaret Rouge; A Company at Carency.
July 7th.-Raid by 17th R. Fusiliers. Barrage on Regimental H.Q. and Zouave Valley in general.
July 8th.-Quiet day. Captain and Brevet-Major R. B. Crosse, D.S.O., to be temp. Lieut.-Colonel from this date.
July 9th.-At 8.30 p.m. the enemy blew a mine beneath Football Crater, thereby damaging our lip of the Crater. At 11 p.m. we relieved the 17th R. Fusiliers, and Regimental H.Q. were established in a new place, upon which we have been working for the last two days, our sapping platoon having done very good work. It had been considered advisable to vacate the old H.Q. (Holloway) altogether. D and C Companies took up their former places in the right and centre respectively, B Company on the left, and A Company, in support, in the Quarry.
July 10th.-Quiet day. We expected a mine to go up, but nothing happened.
July 11th.-At 5.30 a.m. the Brigadier-General went round the trenches occupied by the Regiment. The enemy fired from his trench mortars at about 6a.m. and 11a.m., but the day was otherwise quiet.
July 12th.-At 11 p.m. a German patrol emerged from round the north side of Football Crater, and bombed our wiring party in front of the right picket. We retaliated vigorously with bombs (ours are now far superior to the German bombs); quiet was restored, and the wiring proceeded.
July 14th.-At 1.30a.m. the Regiment was relieved by the 13th Essex Regiment (6th Brigade), and marched to Estree Cauchie.
July 15th.-To Camblain Chatelain.
July 16th-l9th.-At Camblain Chatelain.
July 20th.-The Regiment paraded at 9.20 a.m. and entrained at Pernes Station at 10.50 a.m.; arrived at Saleux, a little south of Amiens, at 4.35 p.m. Detrained, and had a long march (16 miles), not arriving at Corbie until after midnight. The men marched very well, only two falling out.
1. The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Chronicle, 1916-17. Vol 26 : compiled and edited by Lieut.-Colonel A.F. Mockler-Ferryman: London : Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1918