BASED ON EXTRACTS FROM THE REGIMENTAL CHRONICLES OF THE OXFORDSHIRE & BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY
September 2nd.-In accordance with 5th Infantry Brigade Order No. 321 of yesterday, the Regiment, under the temporary command of Major G. Field, M.C., was at one hour's notice to move from 6.30a.m.
Orders to move to the area east of Behagnies were received, and companies moved off at 11.30 a.m. by cross-country tracks. Frequent heavy showers and the heat made marching very tiring. Areas were allotted to companies and arrangements made for dinners, when the Regiment was ordered to move forward another 1,200 yards.
In the evening orders came that the 2nd Division would relieve the 62nd Division in the line. The transport moved from Douchy to Behagnies.
September 3rd.-Moved forward at 10 a.m. to the ridge N.E. of Vaulx-Vraucourt, and bivouacked; transport to the high ground west of the same village.
September 4th.-Orders to move at 5 p.m. were cancelled just as the leading company was moving off.
September 5th.-Companies at training. Officers reconnoitred the approaches to forward areas.
September 6th.-Moved to the Morchies area, officers and scouts reconnoitring forward.
September 7th.-Training, games, etc. Reconnaissance of forward areas continued. The 101st reinforcement (36 other ranks) arrived.
September 8th.-Having been ordered to take over the left front area of the Brigade in the line from the 23rd R.F. (99th Infantry Brigade), the Battalion moved off at 7.30 p.m. and was joined near Beaumetz by one company of the 24th R.F.
September 9th.-The relief was completed at 2 a.m. without casualties, in spite of the fact that the enemy was shelling Doignies and Demicourt throughout the night.
From 4 a.m. to 5.30 a.m. and again at 8 a.m. the enemy heavily gas-shelled (mustard gas) Demicourt and the area occupied by our support and reserve companies. Owing to lack of accommodation the companies affected could not be moved. The soil and the men's clothing being impregnated with gas, the effects began to be felt about 1 p.m., with the result that Lieut. Colvill and 27 other ranks became casualties. The total casualties for the day were 3 wounded and 40 gassed.
September 10th.-The morning was wet, and enemy shelling diminished.
5th Infantry Brigade Order No. 326, for a minor operation to take place at 6.15 p.m. on the 11th, was received :
The VIth Corps was advancing on Havrincourt, which village was to be captured by the 62nd Division on the morning of the 12th. The way was to be paved by a preliminary operation to be carried out by the 5th Infantry Brigade on the evening of the 11th. The 52nd, with two companies 24th R.F. in close support, was given as its objective the enemy trench system from Fagan Avenue inclusive K.15.c.3.3. to K.9.a.3.9., joining up a defensive flank with Betty Post. On the right flank of the 52nd the 2nd H.L.I, were to attack from K.26.b.0.5. to Fagan Avenue K.15.c.3.3. inclusive, and push forward to the west bank of the canal.
A party of the 10th D.C.L.I, was attached to the Regiment for the purpose of making bombing blocks in the captured trenches. Owing to the whole area being under direct enemy observation, all assembling for the operation had to be done during the night of the l0th/11th. In spite of the darkness and harassing enemy fire, this was accomplished without casualties. On this night and on the previous night two companies of the 10th D.C.L.I, worked on Betty Trench, deepening it so as to form a jumping-off trench. They also removed blocks and obstacles in Walsh Trench and Walsh Support, these being the sole communication trenches to the front line.
September 11th.-Enemy artillery quiet during the early part of the day. The attack began at 6.15 p.m. For the two preceding minutes our artillery put down a very effective smoke barrage, which greatly assisted the advance by preventing the enemy from observing that four very weak companies were attacking on a frontage of 1,500 yards. Each company advanced over the open on a two-platoon frontage in section worms, with 50 yards interval between worms and 100 yards distance between the first and second lines. There were three or four very deep belts of Hindenburg wire to be passed; but our artillery, who had been wire-cutting for several days, had made sufficient gaps to prevent the advance being checked.
D Company, on the right of the 52nd, crossed the canal and gained its objective (Fagan Avenue) fairly easily, such casualties as it suffered being caused by running into our own barrage. The 2nd H.L.I., on our right, also crossed the canal with similar ease. This was explained by a map captured during the operation which showed the enemy line of resistance running along London Support and London Trench to the canal, whence on the west bank it ran along Hunt Avenue and Alban Avenue.
C, A, and B Companies met with strong resistance from the front and left flank, chiefly from M.G. fire, and they only succeeded in establishing themselves on a line between Hunt Avenue and Alban Avenue that night, throughout which strong enemy pockets had to be dealt with continuously.
As a result of B Company in the first advance losing direction and bearing too much to the left, a considerable gap resulted between its right flank and the left of D Company. In this gap was a strong body of Germans. Communication was very difficult; all signal lines gave at once; and Walsh Trench and Walsh Support were instantly under shell and M.G. fire. In consequence there was great delay in getting back information and in making known casualties. Lamps were not used forward of Regimental H.Q.
Casualties : 11 men killed; 2nd Lieuts. T. B. Baines and R. W. Sawers and 52 men wounded, 5 missing, 3 gassed. Total, 73.
September 12th.-Before daylight a battalion of the 3rd Guards Brigade took over the frontage occupied by our C Company and also D Company of the 24th R.F. C Company was accordingly ordered to push south past A and B Companies, whose strength was already considerably diminished, and establish touch with the left flank of D Company, but this was not effected.
A and B Companies (combined strength about 60 of all ranks), working as one company, secured Alban Avenue. Lieut. Tyrwhitt-Drake, M.C., who had taken over command of A Company when Lieut. Colvill became a casualty, led a small patrol down Alban Trench towards the canal, until he was held up by an enemy post which his party was too weak to tackle. D Company, on the east side of the Canal du Nord, was ordered to attack London Support and London Trench by organized bombing parties, in conjunction with an operation by the 62nd Division attacking from the north of Havrincourt. Owing to these trenches being strongly held, and also to a big pocket of Germans in Fagan Support firing on D Company from the rear, no progress was made. Shortly after C Company had been ordered to push southwards and gain touch with D Company of the 52nd, A Company of the 24th R.F. was ordered to work northwards from Fagan Support.
The situation developed very slowly, the enemy putting up an obstinate resistance. In one case a German machine-gunner wearing the Red Cross armlet was killed while working a machine-gun. Communication continued very difficult, and it was impossible to keep any lines through
The Regiment was relieved by the 2nd South Staffordshire during the night; relief complete by 7.5 a.m. (13th). Whilst the relief was in progress, the enemy gas-shelled the area immediately N.E. of Demicourt, with the result that the Medical Officer (1st Lieut. E. G. Htickin, U.S.A.M.C.) and the entire Aid Post personnel became casualties soon afterwards. Other casualties in the Regiment this day were 5 killed, 5 wounded, 2 missing, and 4 gassed; while 5 men were wounded during the relief.
September 13th.-Early in the morning the enemy pockets west of the Canal gave way to the encircling pressure of the Regiment from the north and of A Company 24th R.F. from the south, and made off. One party, attempting to use the dry bed of the canal, was caught by one of D Company's Lewis guns.
On relief, Companies marched to billets east of Morchies, in a German Casualty Clearing Station.
September 14th.- The Regiment ordered to move tomorrow to the Gomiecourt area (A.22.b.).
September 15th.-Marched to the new area, by bad cross-country tracks, and accommodated in dug-outs and shelters on the railway embankment (A.22.d.3.2 to A.22.b.4.5).
September 17th.-20 Officers and N.C.O.'s witnessed a Tank demonstration near Behagnies, and next day all four companies witnessed the carrying out of Tank exercises by the 2nd H.L.I, and several Tanks. On the 21st the 103rd reinforcement (77 men) arrived, the remainder of the time being devoted to training until ordered to move on the 26th.
September 26th.-Band and First Reinforcement proceeded to 2nd Division Reception Camp, while the Battalion moved to the Morchies area.
September 27th.-Moved forward to Lock 7, Canal du Nord, in artillery formation;
September 28th.- to trenches in area L.8.b. and d.;
September 29th.- to Cantaing Trench and Support (1 man killed);
September 30th.- moved forward to relieve the K.R.R.C. (99th Infantry Brigade) in Noyelles, but during the move diverted to Flat Foot Farm, in relief of A Company 23rd R.F., with a view to making an attack next day.
During September the total casualties amounted to 140, of whom 18 were killed, 65 wounded, 7 missing, and 60 gassed.
Reinforcements received numbered 164.
SOURCE 1. The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Chronicle, 1917-18. Vol 27 : compiled and edited by Lieut.-Colonel A.F. Mockler-Ferryman Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1919
Map from the History of the Second Division 1914-1918.
19 men of the 52nd who fell between 11th & 12 September 1918 who have no known grave are commemorated on the Vis-En-Artois memorial.
Ptes Lyman & Underdown of the 52nd who died on 11th September 1918 are buried in the Hermies Hill British Cemetery.
LCpl Williams & Pte Wheeler of the 52nd who died on 11th September 1918 are buried in the Lowrie Cemetery.
5 soldiers of the 52nd who died between 12th & 23rd September 1918 are buried in the Sunken Road Cemetery.
LCpl Shuck of the 52nd who died on 12th September 1918 is buried in the Lagnicourt Hedge Cemetery.
Pte Wakeling of the 52nd who died on 29th September 1918 is buried in this cemetery.