November 23rd.-The Regiment was placed at two hours' notice to move at 4 p.m. last evening.
At 9.30 p.m. the Regiment paraded at Winnezeele and marched to Cassel Station (properly Bavinchove), with orders to entrain at midnight for an unknown destination, though the detraining station was said to be Gouy-en-Artois (about 7 miles W.S.W. of Arras). Tea and rum were issued at the station.
November 24th.-The train moved off at 2.20 a.m., and, after a very good journey (for a French train), arrived at Achiet-le-Grand about 9.30 a.m. There was the delay usual at a detraining station, and it was accompanied by an air of mystery and confusion, but the detrainment was completed by about noon, and the Regiment marched via Bapaume to Beaulencourt (on the Bapaume-Peronne road), where it was accommodated in very good huts.
November 25th.-Marched via Villers-au-Flos and Haplincourt to Le Bucquiere, a cold and disagreeable camp. Weather at first pleasant, then changing to the opposite.
November 26th.- Stood fast. Conferences. Mystery gradually clearing. The 6th and 99th Infantry Brigade (of our Division) were said to be going into the line in relief of the 36th Division. The Regiment passed from the Vth into the IVth Corps.
November 27th.-The Regiment relieved the 87th (1st Royal Irish) Fusiliers (of the Reserve Brigade, 36th Division) in the area K.20.a. and c., and K.26.a. and c., being accommodated in the British front-line trenches.
November 28th/29th.-Reconnaissances by officers and N.C.O.'s, otherwise quiet.
BATTLE NEAR CAMBRAI.
November 30th.-The early morning broke quiet and fine, but was shortly afterwards disturbed by a heavy bombardment on the Divisional front. The Regiment had been at two hours' notice for nearly 48 hours, and now began to be involved in the operations of the ensuing week.
Shortly after 10 a.m. orders were received to stack at our present position all packs and other articles surplus to fighting scale, and to prepare to move, equipped for battle conditions. It was possible shortly before noon to report that the Regiment would be ready by that hour.
Immediately on being ready, orders were received to move by companies to Lock 7. This was done. Major Brett and the officers and other surplus to fighting scale remained behind, to superintend the removal of stores to the Transport Lines (Slag Heap in J.3.4.).
Almost on arrival at the Lock orders were received to counterattack, in conjunction with the 24th R.F., against the Sugar Factory in E.29.a., said to be in German hands, but in reality never otherwise than within our own Divisional line, where the forward troops, the 6th and 99th Infantry Brigades (left and right flanks respectively) were making a magnificent defence against a series of very determined enemy attacks.
Evidently considerable confusion and misunderstanding of the situation prevailed, and it seemed best to place the Regiment under the orders of Brigadier-General R. O. Kellett, C.M.G.. commanding the 99th Infantry Brigade, and get into touch with him at the earliest possible moment.
Steps were being taken to effect this, when a further order, from Brigadier General Kellett, requiring the 24th R.F. to go up to the vicinity of his H.Q. at once arrived at Lock 7. This was put into effect, and the Regiment was preparing to follow, when the Brigadier-General 5th Infantry Brigade and Brigade Staff (less the Staff Captain, said to have been left under his horse, which had been shot) arrived at Lock 7, and approved the movements, which he directed should proceed. The Regiment was eventually stopped as Reserve Battalion to the 99th Infantry Brigade, and located in Hughes' Switch (K.l0.a. and b.), where some casualties occurred from shells hitting the trench, B and D Companies suffering to the extent of 7 killed and 14 wounded.
I would emphasize the movements of the Regiment at this juncture for two reasons: (1) The leading by the Captains of companies, who were given map references in a complicated trench system in the dark without previous reconnaissance, and on whom everything depended, was in my opinion beyond all praise. (2) Fiction sometimes becomes history. Messrs. Beach-Thomas, Dewar, and probably other war correspondents, seem to have credited British troops with having retaken the Factory in E.29.a. The original orders (addressed to the 24th R.F. and ourselves) to do so are in existence, but no such attack was ever attempted, for, had it been, it would have resulted in the capture of our own troops acting as support to the front brigades, who never yielded the ground at all. It is most desirable (from the point of view of historical accuracy) that it should be placed on record that the Regiment was in no way concerned in any " retaking of the Sugar Factory."
December 1st.-At 2.30 a.m. the Regiment moved into close support of the left battalion (1st K.R.R.C.) of the right Infantry Brigade (99th) of the 2nd Division, and was located as follows : A, B, and D Companies in Kangaroo Alley; H.Q. (joint with the 1st K.R.R.C.) in E.28.d.45.90; and C Company in the Hindenburg Support Trench.
At 7.30 p.m. the Regiment began to relieve the 1st K.R.R.C., which relief amounted to an exchange of position of companies, both H.Q. standing fast. C Company took over the Right Front Line and Strong Points 1, 2, and 3 (in process of construction); B the Left Front Line and Strong Points 4 and 5 (in like condition) ; A stood fast; and D Company moved farther west, down Kangaroo Alley.
The front line consisted of an untraversed and painfully broad and shallow communication trench, but the strength of the position lay in the excellently sited posts in rear, which, with the aid of one company of the 10th D.C.L.I.(Pioneers), who worked splendidly each night of the tour, was formed into a continuous line by the night of the 4th/5th December.
December 2nd-3rd.-These days were quiet and uneventful, save that a very unsatisfactory situation with regard to a sap and observation post at E.28.a.39 was cleared up by very good patrolling by C Company and the post occupied by a platoon of C Company.
D Company relieved B on the night of the 3rd/4th.
December 4th.-Two men were wounded today. Orders were received for the evacuation, and put into effect as under
December 5th.-At 2 a.m. the Regiment, less rearguards, began to withdraw to C line.
At 3.45 a.m. the rearguards (under Lieut. Vigars and Lieut. Blackwell) followed. All possible destruction was carried out, with and without R.E. help. A dead pack-horse was left halfway down the stairs of the H.Q. dugout.
The positions taken up in C line were : Kangaroo Alley, in touch with the 24th R.F. on the right, B Company; then A Company, holding Lock 6 and blocking the Hindenburg Support System west thereof; D Company in close support, less two of its platoons, sent, during the morning, one to B Company, and one to A Company; C Company in Regimental Reserve close to Regimental H.Q.
The enemy grew troublesome, having evidently become partially aware of the situation. Regimental H.Q. was shelled from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., but little damage was done, and one orderly was wounded.
In accordance with orders received, as definite touch on C and B lines could not be made with the 51st Division on the left, the left flank of the Regiment was refused before and at dusk, so that A Company, reinforced, held Lock 6 and bent its left flank round to connect with D Company, now facing west along the Hindenburg Main Line, the gap southward, in front of Regimental H.Q., being patrolled by C Company. The enemy shelled Kangaroo Alley heavily. Captain Barnard (commanding B Company), his bugler, and 9 others were wounded.
December 5th/6th.-(Near Hermies.) The night was quiet, but in the early morning the enemy made two determined attempts to eject A Company from the Lock. These were repelled in a manner which reflected the greatest credit on Captain Fullbrook-Leggatt and his company.
C Line was ordered to be evacuated, commencing at 5.30 p.m. (6th December), but the evacuation was ante-dated a quarter of an hour by another enemy attack, as a result of which the mine in the Lock had to be blown.
The Regiment passed through the B and A Lines to K.20.a.-c. and K.14.a. and c.
The companies were distributed as follows : C Company in close support to the main line of resistance; B, D, and A Companies, in that order from right to left (i.e., south to north), in the old British Front Line, which was in many places in a disgusting condition. H.Q. and Aid Post were in a dugout in Sunken Road at K.l3.d.83.
Two men were wounded.
December 7th.-Quiet. Certain reliefs of officers and N.C.O.'s with those at the rearward services were carried out.
About 6 p.m. very complicated orders were received to find two reliefs (each of two companies), almost at once, to work on a new communication trench. One of the companies (C) was in close support, and on completion of the work it was relieved by a company of the 24th R.F. The work was carried out without incident.
December 8th.-The 91st reinforcement (23 men) joined. Orders were received that the Regiment would be relieved by the 13th Essex Regiment (6th Brigade). As the relief was about to begin, some commotion was occasioned by the rounding-up of a post (in the K.3.c. slagheap, on the outpost line), whose garrison of the 17th R.F., however, fortunately contrived to elude the enemy (superior in numbers) and escaped. Two of our companies (A and D) were required to carry out an operation which, it is understood, was to result in the recapture of the post, but the idea was abandoned, and the relief was proceeded with. It was a miserably cold, wet night, but the companies marched very well into Le Bucquiere, H.Q. and A Company being in huts; B, C, and D Companies in tents in O'Shea Camp.
A man of D Company was wounded today.
December 9th.-The three companies moved from their tents into huts, about 100 yards farther west, and were infinitely more comfortable.
December 10th-13th.-Baths were allotted to the Regiment near Haplincourt. These days were spent in cleaning up and resting. The health of the Regiment was surprisingly good, but all ranks were very badly in need of rest, and this they were now able to get.
December 14th.-The Regiment relieved the 2nd South Staffordshire Regiment and two companies of the 13th Essex Regiment in the front line-main line of resistance-from the junction with the 99th Infantry Brigade on the right (about K.9.a.65) to the junction of Kellet, Walsh and Bullen Trenches on the left. D Company on right; C on left; B (less 1 platoon with D), right support; A (less 1 platoon with C), left support.
December 15th-20th.-These days passed very quietly; the weather fine and cold, with some snow. The area was organized for defence and upkeep by one battalion. Trenches were labelled, and the position of the bombing-posts " Adam " and " Eve " improved, as they had been found to be in a very unsatisfactory and defenceless condition.
On the 17th companies relieved each other without incident. Two men of C Company were wounded on the 19th.
December 20th/2lst.-During this night the Regiment was relieved by the 2nd H.L.I., and on relief took up positions as follows : H.Q. and Aid Post, K.13.d.83; C Company in Hunt Avenue, south of our former H.Q.; D about bridge K.15.a.35, in shelters and entrances of dug-outs ; B and A Companies, in that order from right to left (north to south) in the old British Front Line.
December 21st-26th.- In the position of Support Battalion to the Left Brigade of the 2nd Division.
C Company was kept off working parties for 48 hours, for the purpose of making shelters, as the accommodation was very bad.
There was snow on the ground, but the weather was cold and dry.
On the 23rd A Company lost 2 men killed and 3 wounded.
On Christmas Day working parties were relaxed, and the troops spent an uncomfortable but otherwise not unpleasant day.
The Rev. E. M. Guilford, B.A., C.F., conducted Morning and Evening Services at Regimental H.Q.
December 26th/27th.-The Regiment was relieved by the 1st Royal Berkshire (99th Infantry Brigade), and moved to huts on the Haplincourt-Barastre road.
December 28th.-Celebration of Christmas Day. Brigadier-General Eden, D.S.O., visited the Regiment.
December 29th.-Lewis Gun and Bombing classes commenced.
December 30th.-The Regiment was ordered to stand by, and then to move in support of the 63rd (R.N.) Division (but this was cancelled immediately). The order to be ready to move at one hour's notice was withdrawn at 9 p.m.
December 31st.-Lewis Gun and Bombing classes continued.
6 men of the 52nd are commemorated on the cambrai Memorial for the period 30th November - 31st December 1917.
3 men of the 52nd killed in action on 30th November 1917 lie in this cemetery.
6 men of the 52nd are commemorated in this cemetery, 3 are buried here and 3 have a special memorial as their original graves in a nearby cemetery were destroyed in later actions.
Special memorial for 6 soldiers including 3 of the 52nd "Who fell in 1917 and were buried in Havrincourt Cottage Garden Cemetery but whose graves were destroyed in later battles"
3 men of the 52nd lie in this cemetery from actions between 1st and 24th December 1917.