BACK TO ST QUENTIN & DISBANDMENT JANUARY TO APRIL 1918
BASED ON EXTRACTS FROM “CITIZEN SOLDIERS OF BUCKS” BY JC SWANN.
Early in January the 61st Division moved forward to its old line at St. Quentin.
The Battalion marched from Suzanne to Vauvillers, remained there a few days, and then marched to Nesle, where they entrained to go up to the front line in the same sector as before.
During February it was found that the man-power of the country was insufficient to maintain all the units that had been formed and at the same time to provide for the expansion necessary in Special Arms, Tanks, Machine Gun Battalions, Heavy Artillery, and Aircraft. It was therefore decided to reduce all Infantry Brigades to three Battalions, and to effect the reduction on a basis of the manpower of the recruiting areas.
In the 61st Division six Infantry Battalions were abolished.
The 182nd Brigade, composed of the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Warwicks, lost three Battalions.
The 183rd Brigade, composed of the 4th and 6th Gloucesters and 7th and 8th Worcesters, lost two, only one Battalion of each County being retained.
In the 184th Brigade the 4th Oxfords, 4th Royal Berks, 5th Gloucesters were retained, and the 2/1st Bucks Battalion marked for abolition.
The composition of the Division then became:
182nd Brigade—the 2/5th Warwicks, 2/4th Gloucesters and 2/7th Worcesters;
184th Brigade—2/4th Oxfords and Bucks L.I., into which the Bucks Battalion was eventually absorbed, the 2/4th Royal Berks and 2/5th Gloucesters.
The surplus units were detached as entrenching Battalions behind the line until drafts were required for the surviving units of their County Regiment.
On the 22nd February the 2nd Bucks marched to Germaine and thence to Herly (near Nesle), where they became the 25th Entrenching Battalion, and were employed on the construction of a light railway. Having recently received drafts, the Battalion was strong: 42 officers, 6 W.O.’s, 120 N.C.O.’s, and 637 other ranks.
On the 21st March the great German offensive took place, and the whole St. Quentin front gave way under the enormous pressure of the masses concentrated against that area. The Battalion was called upon to assist stemming in the rush, and did good service in the defence of Nesle. During the subsequent ten days, the Battalion was attached to the 61st Brigade, 20th Division, and was involved in continuous fighting during the retreat, gaining special distinction at Le Quesnil, Demuin, and Hanguard. Their losses in killed and wounded during this time amounted to 9 officers and 150 other ranks.
At Quevanvillers the Battalion left the 20th Division and rejoined the 61st Division near Avesne, where, on the 7th April, the men remaining were absorbed into the 2/4th Oxfords, which had lost heavily in their gallant defence of Enghien Redoubt, and the line in front on the 21st March, and during the subsequent withdrawal.
The amalgamation was smoothly carried out. The two Battalions dovetailed together satisfactorily, each able to make up the deficiencies of the other: the combination was carried out without friction and proved a great success.
Regret there was doubtless amongst the Bucks men at losing their separate County individuality, but the less was absorbed by the greater, and the esprit de corps of the Battalion mingled in that of the Regiment.
Side by side the men of Bucks and Oxford added to the laurels already won by the 2/4th Battalion of the Oxford and Bucks L.I.
The following is an extract from “The Story of The 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry” By G. K. Rose, M.C.
To Avesne, a remote village behind Amiens, the 2/4th Oxfords were withdrawn early in April for completion with new drafts and for refitting. An amalgamation—which was a great advantage to both units—of the Battalion with the Bucks now took place.
As the 25th Entrenching Battalion the Bucks had been engaged in the fighting round Nesle, when they became attached to a Brigade of the 20th Division. They were now most anxious to be sent to join us or at all events to rejoin the 61st Division. Unable to obtain the orders they desired, the Bucks availed themselves of the prevailing confusion to march away 'without authority' and were already at Avesne when the Oxfords arrived.
The addition of some 300 N.C.O.s and men, acted as an infusion of new blood and vigour into the Battalion which had given nearly all of its best in the St. Quentin fighting. On April 7, before the regimental tailors had half finished substituting the red circles for the black ones previously carried by the Bucks, a large draft of 431 men joined the Battalion from England. Many of these were boys, but among them stood a few veteran soldiers who had been out before and been wounded. With this draft, which I believe was posted without the knowledge that the Bucks had joined us, the Battalion reached the strength of over 1,000 men.