EXTRACTED FROM THE REGIMENTAL CHRONICLES OF THE OXFORDSHIRE & BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY
January was spent by the Battalion (forming part of Line of Communication troops below Baghdad) in the construction and occupation of the Blockhouse line protecting the railway from Sheikh Saad to Atab. Headquarters were at Sinn, and one platoon acted as guard to prisoners-of-war.
Dujailah Redoubt was occupied by 200 men, under Major R. H. Crake (K.O.S.B., attached to the Battalion as Second in Command), the men there undergoing specialist training as Vickers and Lewis Gunners, Battalion Bombers, Company Bombers, Snipers, Scouts, etc. It was, in fact, the Battalion School of Instruction, and courses succeeded one another continuously.
The companies in occupation of the blockhouses underwent training in the mornings, and found working-parties and fatigues in the afternoons. Building the new blockhouses and keeping the old ones in repair necessitated, a considerable amount of work, no fewer than 17,000 sandbags being used in a few days. Wire fences also took much time to put up. Twice during the month Arabs made attempts to cut the wire and break through the line, the first time with some success, but on the second occasion checked by Lewis-gun fire.
It was found that the system of splitting up companies in occupying blockhouses 300 yards to 600 yards apart put difficulty in the way of training, nor was the scheme particularly efficacious in, keeping out marauding Arabs armed with wire-cutters. It was thought, however, that when once a continuous wire fence, property constructed and "aproned," had been put up, there would be very little fear of serious attack on the line from this class of enemy. On the other hand, marauding Arabs very soon learned to recognize bomb traps, which are, moreover, useless unless placed in every bay, involving great waste of bombs, which are ruined by rain and by continual exposure to the sun.
To obviate these various difficulties of blockhouse defence, the Commanding Officer put forward the following suggestion: When a unit is allotted a line for protection against Arabs, an efficient fence should first be erected. Then small posts to hold 3 men each should be constructed along the line at intervals of not more than 100 yards, and at every 1,000 yards a post to hold 12 men or more, with a machine or Lewis gun. Special attention to be paid to nullahs, etc., leading through the line—not to be blocked, but used as traps.
These posts would be occupied by night, and would make it impossible for Arabs to remove horses and large gear, although they might still be able to crawl through singly, but after a few had been shot by the occupants of the posts the Arabs would probably find that the game was not worth the candle. Under this arrangement, by day companies on blockhouse duty would return to a central camp, near the line and equipped with a crowsnest, whereby training, supervision, rationing, watering, etc., would be greatly simplified. Thus would be obviated the tendency which the prolonged occupation of small detached posts has towards lowering discipline. In flat country a crowsnest look-out 30 feet high would give ample warning of the approach of enemy, mounted or otherwise.
January 17th.—A draft of 16 other ranks joined from India. January 22nd.
January 31st.—The present strength of the Battalion was 25 officers and 835 other ranks.
The following extracts from the London Gazette of December 22nd, 1916, were published :—-
Honours and Rewards.
Distinguished Service Order, Major L. J. Carter.
Military Cross, Captain G. E. Whittall.
Promoted Brevet-Lieut.-Colonel, Major F. H. Stapleton.
February 28th.—Major R. H. Crake (K.O.S.B.) left the Battalion to take command of the 8th Cheshire Regiment. Captain G. E. Whittall took over the duties of Second in Command of the Battalion, and retained the command of D Company.
Effective strength of the Battalion, 24 officers and 848 other ranks.
ROLL OF OFFICERS. 1st March 1917.
Headquarters. Lieut.-Colonel L. H. R. Pope-Hennessy, D.S.O., Commanding. Captain G. W. Titherington, Adjutant. 2nd Lieut. B. F. Roberts, Machine-gun Officer. 2nd Lieut. E. B. Parkinson, Transport Officer. 2nd Lieut. H. W. Bleeze, Bombing Officer. 2nd Lieut. K. E. Anderson, Sniping Officer. 2nd Lieut. T. R. Milford, Signalling Officer. Hon. Lieut. G. Dancy, Quartermaster.
A Company. Captain C. Fitzgerald. Lieut. D. Murphy. 2nd Lieut. F. M. Hardie. 2nd Lieut. P. G. Wells.
B Company. 2nd Lieut. H. T. C. Field. 2nd Lieut. H. E. F. Smyth. 2nd Lieut. D. A. T. Wilmot. 2nd Lieut. J. R. Brown.
C Company. Captain W. E. C. Terry. Lieut. W. W. wooding. Lieut, S. J. Griffin. 2nd Lieut. L. J. Rock
D Company. Captain G. E. Whittall, M.C. Also second in command of the Battalion. Captain H. Bicknell. Lieut. E. C. Kinghorn. 2nd Lieut. G. C. Huggard.
The Battalion was still in occupation of the Blockhouse Line, with H.Q. at Sinn.
March 6th.—Battalion H.Q. moved from Sinn to Imam-al-Mansur.
The Arabs now causing some trouble by grazing their herds nearer to the blockhouse line; machine-guns fired to frighten them off, and proclamations ordering them to give themselves up were dropped. A few came in under the white flag.
March 11th.—Heard that Baghdad had been entered by British troops at 11 a.m. today.
March 13th.—A party of about 50 Arabs attempted to penetrate the blockhouse line near Blockhouse 75. One Arab was found dead on the wire.
March 14th.—-Lieut.-Colonel Pope-Hennessy received orders to join the 3rd Division as G.S.O.I.; he handed over the command of the Battalion to Captain G. E. Whittall, M.C., and left at 2 p.m. Lieut. Kinghorn took over command of D Company-.
March 15th.—Intimation received that Captain G. E. Whittall, M.C., was appointed second in command (A/Major) from 1st March.
March 18th:—A draft of 21 (14 from India) joined the Battalion.
March 19th.—Lieut. A. E. S. Kiddle rejoined from sick leave to India, and was posted to D Company.
March 20th.—Arabs penetrated wire and were fired on on their way out. They dropped much valuable material collected by them from old trenches in Abdul Hassan Bend
Major G. E. Whittall took over Post Commandant's duties at Imam.
March 21st.—Arabs removed donkeys from Labour Corps Wire was not cut, but the animals' feet were tied together and they were then dragged under the wire.
March 22nd.—Lieut.-Colonel F. Stapleton joined from India and took over command of the Battalion.
March 24th.—Lieut. H. E. F. Smyth broke his collar-bone at football.
March 27th.—Private A. V. Spencer, while on Imam Dump Guard, was shot by an Arab and died of his wounds.
B Company furnished a detachment (24 O.R.) to Megasis Pumping Station.
March 28th.—Lieuts. D. Murphy and G. C. Huggard with 43 N.C.O.'s and men left for Amara for formation of Stokes Mortar Battery. Lieut. H. D. Radford, on his way from Basra, joined this party at Sheikh Saad.
March 29th.—Captain H. K. Bicknell left for Magil to relieve, as A.P.M., 2nd Lieut. G. R. Grosvenor, who is under orders to proceed to Amara for the Stokes Mortar Battery.
March 30th.—2nd Lieut. L. R. Watts rejoined from hospital.
D Company H.Q. moved from Atab to Imam.
March 31st.—Railway dismantled as far as Imam.
Blockhouses 81 to 69 dismantled and abandoned.
D Company to Sinn,
Battalion strength, 22 officers and 821 other ranks,
April 1st.—The dismantling of the Blockhouse Line now proceeding rapidly, and companies assembling at Sinn.
April 2nd.—Battalion H.Q. moved from Imam to Sinn. 2nd Lieut. L. R. Watts admitted to hospital.
A new outpost line was established by the 119th Infantry from Sinn to Megasis.
April 3rd.—Dujailah Redoubt abandoned. The Battalion (less C Company) marched to Twin Canals, arriving at 10.30 a.m
April 4th.—Marched to Sheikh Saad, the baggage going by train.
Camp near the old site of December last.
Lieut. A. IMce (Sussex Regiment) rejoined from B Convalescent Depot, Amara. and was posted to A Company.
April 12th.—The Battalion was all together at Sheikh Saad for the first time since December last. One month's leave to India granted to 6 officers and 250 other ranks (most of whom had been in Mesopotamia continuously since April 1st, 1916, and many for an even longer time).
April 24th.—Company and individual training, etc., going on daily.
April 26th.—Lieut. H.E.F. Smyth rejoined from hospital 2nd Lieut. D. A. T. Wilmot and 4 N.C.O.'s proceeded to Amara for 3 weeks' Physical Training Course.
April 28th.—A and D Companies embarked for Azizieh, the animals marching with XV Echelon.
April 30th.—The remainder of Battalion embarked for Azizieh.
May 2nd-3rd.—On these days the two parties disembarked at Azizieh, and pitched camp.
May 3rd-12th.—Settling down, improving camp, taking over defences, training, etc.
May 13th.—2nd Lieut. B. E. Anderson proceeded to Kut for duty with the Military Light Railway; Lieut. A. Price took over command of D Company.
May 17th.—14 men rejoined from Amara (hospital, etc.).
May 18th.—Lieut. W. Rance and 57 other ranks joined from India, some of whom had been with the Regiment before, but others were almost untrained.
Lieut. A. E. Riddle and 30 other ranks proceeded on escort to cable at Umm-el-Tubal.
May 19th.—Lieut. Ranee appointed Staff Officer to the Azizieh Mobile Column. Sergeant Robinson and 68 other ranks joined from India, via Amara.
May 21st.—2nd Lieut. P. G. Wells proceeded to Basra on transfer to the Royal Flying Corps in Eygpt.
May 24th.—2nd Lieut. Smyth and 30 men proceeded on escort to telegraph party halfway to Zeur. The Mobile Column marched out and bivouacked, returning next day.
May 26th.—2nd Lieut. L. J. Rock and 20 men returned from escort to railway party halfway to Zeur.
May 27th.—2nd Lieut. Watts and 30 men proceeded on escort duty halfway to Zeur with 600 camels and Labour Corps.
May 28th.—2nd Lieut. D. A. Wilmot returned from P.T. Course at Amara.
May 30th.—Lieut. A. E. Riddle and 30 men proceed on escort halfway to Ali-Sherki.
May 31st.—Strength of the Battalion : Present, 17 officers and 732 other ranks; on leave in India, 6 officers and 250 other ranks.
June 9th.—D Company, reduced to 100 rifles, proceeded to garrison Azizieh Railway Station, and to construct perimeter and blockhouses.
June 14th.—2nd Lieuts. D. S. Northcote and A. L. Tompkins joined from England, and Lieut. T. P. Williams rejoined from India.
June 18th.—2nd Lieut. L. H. Watts and 25 men to Umm-el-Tubal, to meet and escort telegraph party; and on the 20th Lieut. T. P. Williams and 50 men went to the same place as escort to Railhead.
June 22nd.—Lieut. J. W. Meade, 2nd Lieut. A. L. Thompson, 90 other ranks from England, and 13 from hospital, joined the Battalion; 35 of these were from the Shropshire Light Infantry. Most had about twelve months' service, but a few from the A.S.C. were untrained.
June 23rd.—Further escort halfway to Zeur went out.
June 26th.—2nd Lieut. J. S. Fenwick, 2nd Lieut. L. V. Steele (K.R.R.C.), and 213 other ranks joined from Bangalore. The party left Basra 254 strong, but the remainder went into hospital en route. Except a few men returning from hospital, etc., this draft averaged only a few months' service, and were practically untrained.
June 30th.—Strength of the Battalion : 27 officers and 1,026 other ranks, of whom 70 were sick (off duty).
On the 1st July 1917 the Battalion, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel F. H. Stapleton, was guarding the railway line south of Baghdad. Later in the year it moved up to Hinaidi, and thence proceeded via Baghdad to Faluja, on the Euphrates. Moving forward in February 1918 the Battalion took part in the Euphrates operations, which resulted in the capture of Hit and the rout of the Turks, and remained in the vicinity of Hit until the end of the War.
The following are extracts from the Battalion Diary:-- July 3rd.—Captain C. Fitzgerald to India on one month's leave.
July 4th.—2nd Lieuts. Carew-Hughes and C. M. Banks with 177 men joined from India, 170 being returned furlough party.
July 5th.—Lieut.-Colonel F. H. Stapleton proceeded to Baghdad on leave, and Major G. E. Whittall assumed command of the Battalion.
July 7th.—Captain H. T. C. Field left for India on one month's leave.
July 8th.—Major G. E. Whittall assumed duties of O.C. Mobile Column and Defence Troops during the absence of Lieut.-Colonel J. Lloyd, l/6th G.R.
July 10th.—126 degs was registered in an E.P. tent today. East wind.
July 11th.—At 8.45 p.m. B and D Companies (125 rifles each) embarked on P. 32; 2nd Lieut. J. R. Brown and 20 men embarked on H.M.S. " Sedgefly." Sailed at midnight, towing a barge containing 1 troop and M,G. section 10th Lancers, armoured car, and section of Field Ambulance; the whole under the command of Major G. E. Whittall, advised by Captain C. Fowle. Assistant Political Officer.
July 12th.—At 5 a.m. the landing, on the right bank, 12 miles below Azizieh and 4 above Tubal post, was completed, with the exception of the armoured car which could not be disembarked under 5 hours owing to the high bank. The cavalry moved off to surround a village 4 miles inland, and was supported by infantry in three colunins. No resistance was offered, but the Turkish Agent (nephew of Subri Bey), whom it was desired to arrest, had left.
Re-embarked at 9 a.m. and reached Azizieh at 3.15 p.m. The Turkish Agent was given up by Arabs three days later.
July 14th.—Lieut.-Colonel F. H. Stapleton returned from Baghdad and resunled command.
July 21st.—Lieut.-Colonel Stapleton left for Baghdad to take up temporary appointment of G.S.O.I.; Major Whittall took over command of the Battalion.
July 24th.—Captain H. K. Bicknell, A/M.F.O., Baghdad, died of heatstroke at Baghdad.
July 26th.—2nd Lieut. H. C. Joyce joined from India.
July 31st.—Strength :—26 officers, 1,215 other ranks.
August 1st.—One company at Railway Camp, Battalion at Azizieh, training, etc.
Captain J. W. Meade from hospital, to command D Company.
August 13th.—Regimental Sergeant-Major A. J. Conley awarded the Russian Cross of St. George.
August 16th.—Lieut. T. P. Williams proceeded to Basra in charge of Arab prisoners. Captain G. W. Titherington proceeded to Baghdad on a week's leave; Lieut. W. Rance took over the duties of A/ Adjutant.
August 20th.—Started company training in open warfare.
August 30th.—The prevalent sickness this month has been sand fly fever, which incapacitated men attacked for a period of about a week.
Strength of the Battalion, 23 officers and 1,135 other ranks.
September 14th.—Received orders to move, and hand over to 2/7th Hants (expected to arrive from India). Kits were sorted into 20 Ib. and the remainder dumped. At 5 p.m. heavy baggage loaded on to P. 35 for Railway Camp; at 8 p.m. C Company embarked.
September 15th.—At 6 p.m. first train left for Hinaidi. This carried the baggage, C Company, and 1 platoon of A Company. At midnight the first party of the 2/7th Hants arrived, and took over the standing camp. The l/6th G.R. and details had taken over all guards and duties. At 1 a.m. the same train left for Hinaidi with B and D Companies, but with no baggage except 20-lb. kits.
September 16th.—At 5 a.m. the second party of the 2/7th Hants arrived, and at 7 a.m. the same train took the remainder of the Battalion to Hinaidi. The Battalion took over the camp of the l/4th Dorsets at Karrada, half a mile from Hinaidi Station. The 42nd Brigade had left for Faluja the same day.
September 17th.—The Battalion under orders to proceed shortly to Falaja to join the 50th Brigade (17th Division).
September 25th.—Lieut.-Colonel F. H. Stapleton appointed A.A. and Q.M.G. 17th Division.
September 29th.—Joined the Battalion, Captain H. T. C. Field from India; 2nd Lieut. Rock from hospital; 71 other ranks from the Base.
September 30th.—Strength, 26 officers and 1,195 other ranks. On this date there were 74 sick (off duty). There has been a noticeable drop in the daily sick since leaving Azizieh, which is a very bad place for sand-flies.
October 2nd.—Intimation received that the 50th Brigade to which the Battalion is posted, has been transferred from the 17th Division to the 15th Division, now at Ramadie.
October 4th.—C Company less 2 platoons took over the prisoners-of-war camp (Tigris right bank) from the l/6th Hants.
October 8th.—Battalion ceased to wear helmet shades.
October 10th.—A party from the Battalion escorted Turkish prisoners through the streets of Baghdad.
October 13th.—The men's dinner hour changed from evening (hot-weather time) to midday.
October 14th.—Men's kits reduced to 20 Ib., officers' to 80 Ib., the surplus being dumped with the 15th Division dump at Hinaidi.
October 15th.—The Battalion was re-armed, exchanging L.V. rifles and M.R. VI. ammunition for H.V. and M.R. VII. 76 first-line mules drawn from the 15th Divisional Depot Transport.
October 16th.—47 other ranks, unable to march, proceeded to the Rest Camp (right bank), with a view to being passed P.B.; 11 other ranks to 15th Divisional Dump, Hinaidi. At 3 p.m. drew transport carts; loaded by 5 p.m.
October 17th.—Reveille at 3.30 a.m.; loaded and moved off at 5 a.m. Marched via Lower Bridge, Baghdad Railway Station, Iron Bridge, to Temple Post, arriving at 1.30 p.m.; 18 miles.
October 18th.—Marched at 6 a.m. via Nukta, and arrived at Mahratta Post at 11.30 a.m.; 12 miles. ;
October 19th.—Marched at 5.30 a.m. and arrived at Faluja at 11 a.m.; 15 miles. Here joined the 50th Brigade, and pitched camp on right bank; 160-lb. tents for men, 40-lb. tents for officers.
October 20th-24th.—At Faluja, training, etc.
October 29th.—Took over station guards, fatigues, and duties from the 97th Infantry.
B and D Companies moved to camp on left bank.
October 30th.—Strength, 25 officers and 1,004 other ranks.
November 1st. The Battalion less two companies on right bank; B and D Companies on left bank. Defensive posts constructed on both banks.
November 12th.—Relieved as duty battalion by 97th Infantry. Two companies on left bank rejoined H.Q.
November 19th.—Captain R. C. Loverock awarded D.S.O. (London Gazette of 17.9.17).
November 23rd.—Lieut. J. H. Annequin (R.A.M.C.)relieved Captain S. L. Haslett as Medical Officer.
November 25th.—85 other ranks rejoined from hospital.
November 26th.—The Battalion relieved the 97th Infantry as duty battalion; A and C Companies to left bank.
November 30th.—Strength of the Battalion, 26 officers and 1,025 other ranks.
December 3rd.—Commenced work on a new Brigade Camp on higher ground on the left bank, one mile from the river.
December 12th.—The Battalion is now supplying 250 men daily for work on the railway.
December 15th.—The Supply Guard shot three Arabs looting during the night.
December 17th.—The Battalion now has 1st Line Transport as follows :—76 pack mules, 5 A.T. carts for 16 Lewis guns and their ammunition; 44 N.C.O.'s and men have relieved the native drivers in charge of the 1st Line Transport mules.
December 2lst.—250 men of the Battalion are still working on the railway. There being a smallpox epidemic, all men were vaccinated if they had not been done within five years.
December 23rd.—No railway work during Christmas week. Football tournaments, gymkhanas, sports, hockey, etc.
December 31st.—Strength of the Battalion (at Faluja), 25 officers, 1,029 other ranks. 62 admissions to hospital during the month.