RECORD OF THE 2/4th BATTALION. 1st JULY 1917 to 31st DECEMBER 1918.
EXTRACTED FROM THE REGIMENTAL CHRONICLES OF THE OXFORDSHIRE & BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY
1917 Extracts from the Battalion Diary. July lst-25th.—The Battalion was in rest billets at Noeux, carrying out training. Lieut.-Colonel Wetherall, M.C., rejoined on the 11th.
July 26th.—Marched to Auxi-le-Chateau, and moved by train to St. Omer, thence marching to billets at Broxeele.
July 27th-3lst.—At Broxeele training. The Battalion received drafts amounting to 6 Officers and 153 Other Ranks.
August 1st-l4th.—Remained in rest billets, training, etc.
August 15th.—Entrained at Arneke, detrained at Abeele, and marched to camp at Watou, where remained until the 18th, when marched to reserve camp in Ypres N. area.
August 19th.—Company Commanders reconnoitred St.Julien area; and next day the Battalion moved up first to the support line, and at night into front-line trenches.
August 21st.—Preparations for attack on German position. 2nd Lieut. J. C. Callender and 4 men killed, 31 wounded.
August 22nd.—At 4.45 a.m. the Battalion attacked on a front of 750 yards, the objective being about 900 yards distant. On our left were the l/5th R. Warwicks, and the 2/1st Bucks on the right, with five platoons of the R. Berks acting as moppers-up. The assembly, which was carried out unknown to the enemy, was on a tape line, laid down in advance of our line by 2nd Lieut. Robinson the previous night.
The disposition of companies from left to right was A, D, C in front line, and B in support. The Battalion advanced under our artillery barrage, and A and D Companies, closely followed by two platoons of B, reached their objective and consolidated. C Company on the right, with a platoon of B in support, were held up owing to the failure of the mopping-up platoon to take Pond Farm.
Owing to casualties among senior officers, the front-line command devolved on 2nd Lieut. Moberly, with whom were 2nd Lieut. Coombes (A) and 2nd Lieut. Guest (D).
The battalion on our left was unable to hold its objective, and consequently both flanks of the front line were unprotected; but 2nd Lieut. Moberly decided to hold on, and arranged to provide such protection as was possible. At 4 p.m., with the assistance of two platoons of the 2/5th Glosters, we assaulted and captured Pond Farm.
CASUALTIES. Killed. Captain J. G. Stockton. Lieut. WT. D. Scott. 2nd Lieut. W. E. Gascoyne And 26 other ranks.
Wounded. Captain A. H. Brucker. 2nd Lieut. T. A. Hill. 2nd Lieut. H. G. Turrell. 2nd Lieut. F. Dawson-Smith 2nd Lieut. T. W. P. Hawker And 74 other ranks.
Missing. 44 other ranks (3 of whom were afterwards reported to be prisoners, the remainder presumed to have been killed).
August 23rd.—In front-line trenches at St. Julien. At dawn the enemy rushed and captured Pond Farm, but at 8 a.m., assisted by three platoons of the 2/6th Glosters, we recaptured it. Afterwards the enemy made some local counter-attacks; which were repulsed with heavy loss. In these two days we took about 80 prisoners. Casualties today :—2nd Lieuts Webb and Gray and 3 men killed, 29 wounded.
At night the Battalion was relieved by the 2/6th Glosters, and marched to camp near Ypres (Goldfish Chateau), whence, on the 25th, it moved to Query Camp near Brandhoek for five days' rest before returning to the Ypres camp.
September 1st-6th.—The Battalion remained in reserve camp at Ypres. On the 7th moved up to the support line at Wieltje, and on the 9th to the front line (Right Brigade), St. Julien.
September 10th.—At 4 p.m. A and D Companies, under Captain K. E. Brown, M.C., and Captain G. K. Rose, M.C., respectively, proceeded to attack certain German positions on Hill 35; A on the left, D on the right. The two companies assembled at dawn in shell holes about 400 yards forward of our front line, and remained there until zero hour. At 4 p.m. they advanced under an artillery barrage and arrived within 30 yards of their objectives, when they were held up by M.G. fire from gun-pits, from Iberian Farm on the right, and from Aisne House on the left. One platoon of C Company under 2nd Lieut. Little was sent forward to reinforce A Company, but it was still found impossible to advance, and the troops remained in this position until withdrawn under cover of darkness.
The Battalion was relieved by the 2/1st Bucks by 11.30 p.m., and returned to reserve camp at Ypres. Casualties: 16 men killed, 2nd Lieuts. H. Stooken, H. R. Guest, J. P. Coppinger, H. E. Coombes, and 34 men wounded.
September 11th-30th.—From Ypres the Battalion moved to Brandhoek on the 13th, to Watou next day, to Wormhoudt on the 17th, and by rail to Aubigny on the 18th, thence marching to Gouves on the 19th, and to Arras (Grimsby Camp, St. Nicholas) on the 24th. In the vicinity of Arras the Battalion remained until the end of November.
During September the following honours were notified:-- D.S.O., Lieut.-Colonel H. E. de R. Wetherall, M.C., 2nd Lieut. W. H. Moberly ;
M.C., 2nd Lieut. H. K. Guest ;
D.C.M., 201098 C.-S.-M, J. C. Cairns, 23252 Corporal J. Frost, 203440 Lance-Corporal D. R. Collard, ;
MM., 201234 Sergeant J. Arris, 201176 Corporal T. S.Jones, 203435 Lance-Corporal D. Dedman, 33017 Private H. Townsend, 202136 Private W. A. Slatter, 9852 Private W. Miles, 201337 Private H. Kemp, 201713 Private T. Barrett, 29015 Private G. F. Evans, 202735 Private W. Bond.
October.--Nothing of particular interest occurred during this month; the Battalion took its turn in the trenches (Greenland Hill Sector), furnished working parties, etc and on the 28th returned to billets in Arras.
Three men were wounded during the month, and the Military Medal was awarded to 202909 Private R. Fleming and 202864 Private W. Slocombe.
14 officers and drafts amounting to 73 other ranks joined the Battalion.
November.—Most of this month was spent in Arras and in the trenches in the Chemical Works Sector. Captains R. F. Cuthbert and W. H. Moberly, D.S.O., 2nd Lieut. G. C. Green, and 14 other ranks were wounded.
2nd Lieut C H Wallington was awarded the Military Cross and 203736 Private T Hatt the Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty during a raid on the enemys trenches at Arras on the night of the 19th/20th November.
On the 30th the Battalion entrained at Dainville at 9.50 a.m., and proceeded to Bapaume, when on detraining previous orders were cancelled, and the Battalion was hurriedly conveyed in buses to Bertincourt, information having been received of a German counter-attack in the vicinity of Cambrai.
December.— Had little or no fighting, but lost 2 men killed and 15 wounded. Christmas was spent at Suzanne, where the Battalion remained till the 31st, when it moved to Caix.
1918. January 1st-9th.—The Battalion was in rest billets, training, first at Caix and then at Voyennes.
January 9th.—The Battalion moved to hutments at Attilly, and next day relieved the 6th Battalion, 224th French Regiment, in the front line of the Gricourt Sector, where it remained until the 14th.
January 15th-17th spent in support trenches at Maissemy;
January 18th-22nd in front line, and then in support until the 26th,
January 27th.—In reserve billets at Holnon Wood until the 3rd February. Casualties during January: 2nd Lieut. B. 0. Weller and 3 men wounded.
The New Year's Honours List contained the following:-- Awarded Military Cross: Captain R. F. Cuthbert, Lieut. C. R. Parsons.
Mentioned in Dispatches: Lieut.-Colonel H. E. de R. Wetherall, D.S.O., M.C., Captains A. J, Robinson and W. H. Moberly, D.S.O., Lieut. W. H. Enoch, 201052 R.-S.-M. W. Douglas, 200555 Sergeant Leatherbarrow, 200895 Sergeant A. Sherwood.
February.—On the 3rd the Battalion went into the line near Fayet, and remained in the front line and in support (Holnon) until the 19th, when it moved into reserve at Vaux.
On the 23rd front-line trenches were taken over again, with H.Q. at Fresnoy Quarry.
Casualties during the month, 1 man killed, 4 men wounded. The Battalion received on the 7th 3 officers and 300 other ranks from the 6th Battalion of the Regiment.
No. 201109 C.-S.-M. B. M. J. Osborne was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre.
March 2nd.—On relief, the Battalion moved to reserve billets at Ugney, where it remained until the 10th, when it moved to Attilly Huts and took over positions in the Battle Zone.
March 18th.—The Battalion relieved the 2/4th R. Berks in the Forward Zone. Dispositions: C Company, right front; B, left front; two platoons of A in Sunken Road near the Needle, as counterattack company; two platoons of A (with Company H.Q.) at the Willows (M.28.C.1.5 on Map 62 B.S.W.); D Company and Battalion H.Q. at Enghien Redoubt.
March 19th/20th.—Wiring and improving trenches. Fighting patrols sent out.
THE GREAT GERMAN ATTACK. March 2lst.—Our positions were subjected to a severe enemy bombardment commencing at 4.30 a.m., gas shells being freely used on our back areas and keeps.
At 9 a.m., under a heavy smoke barrage, a strong hostile attack was launched, penetrating the Forward Zone and surrounding Enghien Redoubt. The garrison of the latter, D Company and Battalion H.Q., held out till 4 p.m., at which time, owing to casualties, they attempted to fight their way out. The remainder of the Battalion (Captain G. K. Rose says they were less than 50 men.)attached themselves to 2/5th Glosters.
Casualties: Killed, 5 other ranks; Missing, believed killed, Lieut. G. E. Bassett, 2nd Lieuts. R. G. H. Gough, W. H. Flory, C. C. Hall; Wounded and Missing, 2nd Lieut. E. Little and 31 men; Wounded, 32 men; Missing, Captain K. E. Brown, M.C., Captain C. E. P. Foreshew, M.C., Captain F. T. Cahill (M.O.R.C. U.S.A.), 2nd Lieuts. R. Ostler, J. Pett, C. H. Wallington, M.C., V. C. Gray, J. C. Cunningham, J. W. Mallett, F. A. Naylor, G. Shelley, G. V. Rowbotham, M.C., C. H. Leach, P. J. Sims, and 494 other ranks. Total: 19 officers and 562 other ranks.
Later statistics show that of these 525 missing men 407 were made prisoners, 54 of them being wounded. The number of killed must therefore have been upwards of 120 men.
March 22nd-31st—From the foregoing accounts it will be understood that the Battalion had practically ceased to exist as a distinct unit, the few men who remained being formed into a composite company with the survivors of other battalions of the Brigade. As the retreat continued, the men of the 2/4th Battalion grew fewer each day. On the 22nd, 1 was wounded, 1 wounded and missing, and 5 were missing; on the 23rd, 2nd Lieut. G. Gefeall was killed, and 6 men were wounded ; on the 24th, 1 killed, 7 wounded, 1 missing ; on the 25th, Captain W. H. Moberly, D.S.O., and 2 men wounded, 2nd Lieut. G. A. Rowlerson missing, 2 men killed; on the 26th, 2 men wounded; on the 27th, Lieut.-Colonel H. E. de R. Wetherall, D.S.O., M.C., wounded; on the 28th, 2nd Lieuts. A. H. Lewis and S. A. Garrard and 2 men wounded ; on the 30th, Major H. J. Bennett missing, 20 men wounded. Total casualties, 7 officers and 43 other ranks.
Grand total between the 21st and 31st March, 26 officers and 605 other ranks.
The following narrative of events from March 18th to 25th, 1918, was written shortly afterwards by Lieut.-Colonel H. E. de R. Wetherall, D.S.O., M.C., Commanding the 2/4th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry:-- My Battalion, in the natural course of reliefs, went up on the 18th March to hold the Forward Zone for 8 days. The Forward Zone was held by having two companies in the Outpost Line and Line of Resistance; one company for counter-attacks; one company and Battalion Headquarters in a well-fortified redoubt connected to Brigade Headquarters by a cable buried to a depth of 8 feet. This cable was not cut throughout the whole fight. On the 19th we received 5th Army Intelligence to say that everything pointed to the much-talked-of German offensive starting on the 21st.
The Battalion Sector between the villages of Fayet and Gricourt was exceptionally quiet; however, General White, in view of the above intelligence, ordered that wiring should be pushed on with all speed.
On the night of the 20th/21st the 2/6th Warwicks, who were on my right, did a raid which came off very well. They took 15 prisoners, belonging to three different regiments, two of which were not normal, which showed that three regiments were on a front usually held by one. Without hearing any more, I knew that we were in for it. After the noise of the raid had died down, the night was extraordinarily quiet, and it seemed impossible that a great battle was going to start in a few hours. I turned in early (about 11 p.m.) and told the signallers to call me at 4 a.m. if nothing happened before. I slept well, and on being called at 4 a.m. on the 21st not a sound was to be heard, and the line reported all quiet. On going upstairs out of the dug-out, I found there was a dense ground mist and a light north-west wind. I went back to bed again, and at 5.40 a.m. I was awakened by a roar from a terrific bombardment, though I could hear no shells bursting in the redoubt. The following gives a time-table taken from a rough diary I made at the time as opportunity allowed.
March 21st, 5.40 a.m.—Bombardment started; all lines to front companies cut in ten minutes, and the shelling between the redoubt and line of resistance too heavy for us to repair them. Before the lines went, I was told that the Boches were using mostly trench mortars to cut our wire.
6 a.m.—I go up out of the dug-out and find the redoubt is full of gas, the Boches having burst their shells some distance over the redoubt and allowed the wind to blow it back on us. I order all men below, and have the gas blankets put down. Some of the men who were on sentry are pretty bad from its effects. One can order everybody down in safety, as if the enemy has gassed a place he cannot come there himself until its effects have worn off.
6.15 a.m.—Gas is very bad. We have had orders to evacuate the redoubt if the place is badly gassed. I go out to see if this is possible, and, although I know the place by heart, I have not gone 50 yards in the fog with my respirator on before I am lost. It took 15 minutes to find my way back to the dug-out, so therefore I determine to stick where I am, as it would be impossible to move a company and Battalion Headquarters.
7.30 a.m.—No more gas shells corning over. We are now shelled by high explosives alone. I judge, together with a gunner officer, attached for liaison, that about three 4.2 batteries and one 5.9 battery are now shelling our quarry, a space of about 50 yards by 60. It is evident that having, as they hoped, demoralized us by gas, they are now giving the gas time to clear off before attacking. The officers I have with me now take it in turn to go up and hear and see what they can. As a matter of fact only five men are put out of action by gas.
9.20 a.m.—Very heavy shrapnel and high-explosive shelling now taking place; also the noise of the bombardment of the line of resistance seems nearer. I expect they are attacking. I order all the men to get ready to rush up.
9.30 a.m.—Shell fire has lifted off us. We rush up and man the posts; we can only see about 20 yards, and no Boches to be seen; they have no doubt lost their barrage, which is not to be wondered at in the fog. Three of the outlying posts come in; the moral effect of not being able to see is too much for them.
9.40 a.m.—Bullets begin to come over, and Lieut. Bassett and my good servant are both shot in the head. We reply, though we can see nothing. Now we can see about 50 getting out of the Fayet-Holnon road, which is sunken as it passes the quarry where we are. We see about 25 go down and the rest run back on to the road. The men are very steady. I asked the Brigade for our last protective barrage, but only about five of our 18-pounders answer. I suppose they cannot serve them, as they are being tremendously shelled.
9.50 a.m.—Captain Rowbotham reports to me that an important part of the redoubt, the sand-pit, has fallen. We organize a bombing attack, and he leads it, regaining the sand-pit, so we now hold the entire redoubt, with the exception of Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Posts. I go down into the sand-pit and find five dead Boches down there.
11.10 a.m.—The Boches make a big bombing attack from three sides, which looks very ugly at one time; but the men fight well, and we drive them back, killing about 15.
11.30 a.m.—We are now practically surrounded, and I get an urgent message from 12 Post, which is a rear post, for help, which, of course, I cannot give. I go down to visit them and find them very happy, a Vickers Gun having killed, I should say, 60 Germans, whose bodies I can see in the fog hanging on to the wire.
11.45 a.m.—The fog is beginning to lift, and as we are manning the sides of the quarry owing to our having lost the outlying posts, it became imperative to know if Holnon, which is in our rear, is still occupied by our guns or not, as otherwise I want a barrage put down on the village to prevent the Germans, when the fog has lifted, from firing into our backs. This village is about 300 yards off No. 12 Post. As 2nd Lieut. Cunningham has done so much, I take two men and go out to visit Holnon. We get into the village under cover of the fog all right, and find nobody left in it. We commence to crawl back, when suddenly I find from a shell-hole that we are covered by three rifles at a range of about 30 yards. One of the men with me is shot, and I and the other man, a lance-corporal, surrounded. They take everything off us, except my watch, but do not treat us badly, though they are inclined to be rough to the lance-corporal. Later, they condescend to offer me one of my own cigarettes out of my case, and ask me if I would like the lance-corporal to have one also. As the fog is lifting, they do not like to take us to the rear, as there are a good many bullets about, so we all sit down in the shell-hole very peaceably until about 5.45 p.m., when it begins to get misty. Our captors hold a consultation which ends in one going away, I suppose to report to some officer, while the other two take us to the rear, a thing they are very pleased to do, as they do not seem very much for the battle. Of course I know the ground perfectly, and they take us between our redoubt and Ellis redoubt towards St. Quentin. When we have reached our old line of resistance, one of our own 6-inch shells, with a 106 fuse, burst very near us, about 50 yards off. We heard another coming, and it-was evidently coming very near. The three Bodies ran forward in a panic to a shell-hole, and I and the lance-corporal ran back. We ran about 300 yards and then got into an old trench. I never saw or heard any signs of our captors; perhaps they were hit. There were heaps of Boches about, mostly in companies or platoons. They were easy to avoid, and they did not trouble to come and look at us. All went well until we reached our old line between Holnon and Round Hill, which I found the Germans were working on and consolidating. As they were working so near together, it was impossible to step in between them, and it took us about one hour, which seemed an eternity, before a party about the size of a platoon had finished, when we could get over. We now had to go about 800 yards to our battle position, and this was very difficult work, as there were innumerable small patrols of Boches about, no doubt reconnoitring for the attack to be delivered next day. We had to run and get down, and altogether had a very bad time. At last we reached our line on the front of the 2/6th Warwicks, and got well shot at before we could convince them who we were. I got into our line about 10 p.m., and went down to report to Brigade Headquarters at Attilly, where I got my first drink since 5 a.m. the day before. The General told me that the redoubt held out till 4.30 p.m., when it was overwhelmed, Cunningham doing magnificent work.
March 22nd.—After staying some time with the General, I go back to have my toe dressed (which I have forgotten to say got a bullet, which passed between the big toe and the second toe, without, however, breaking either of them), and also to get a sleep with our transport. At about 4 p.m. I went up to Beauvois to see the General and discover how things went. I found him very well and cheerful. We have been forced to leave our Battle Line owing to our left flank being turned. I return to the transport, and at 5.30 p.m. orders are received from the Division to retreat across the Somme, marching by Matigny on to Voyennes. While tranquilly going along, a mounted orderly comes up to tell me that the Brigadier had been hit, and that I am to go back and command the Brigade.
On my way I call at Divisional Headquarters at Matigny to find out what the orders are, as I know nothing of the situation. As I do not know if orders have been given for the Brigade to retire, I ride back towards Beauvois in order to try to find the Brigade Major. It is not a pleasant ride, as I know that Foreste, a village on my right rear, is in German hands; however, my orderly and myself are well mounted.
I get back as far as Lanchy, and can find only a few remnants of the Glosters and Royal Berks. There is still no sign of the Brigade Major, but I do not like to go farther, and so return to Voyennes to see how many of the Brigade have collected there. I find about 80 Glosters, 60 Royal Berks, and 10 Oxfords. Later in the day we collect about another 100 of the Glosters and Royal Berks, and I also come across the Brigade Major, who I find was taken prisoner on the evening of the 22nd, but managed to escape by pushing one of his escorts against the other, so that they both rolled in the ditch.
March 23rd.—The Brigade receives orders to rest at Languevoisin and Billancourt. We rest here all that day and get a good night's rest. During the day the transport of another Brigade starts a panic by galloping through Billancourt saying that the Germans are upon them. After some trouble we check this, and are told that the panic started in Nesle.
March 24th.—We have a quiet day until about 12.30 p.m., when we get orders to secure the crossing over the Nesle Canal from Breuil to Quipery. I send the Glosters to secure Breuil, and the Oxford and Berks, under Major Bennett, to secure Quipery. There are now about 280 men of the Glosters, 40 men of the Oxfords, and 160 men of the Berks. The idea of securing these crossings is that the 20th Division holding the line of the Somme near Voyennes and Offoy are going to retire through us and line the banks of the canal, while we continue to hold the Bridge Heads. The Brigade is in its place by 3.30 p.m., with Brigade Headquarters at Languevoisin.
At about 5.30 p.m. the 20th Division begin to retire through us in good order, and take up positions assigned to them. While riding round visiting the Brigade, my horse gets hit in the hindquarters by a bullet from a machine gun. He bolts, but luckily he heads the right way. Soon after this I can see considerable numbers of Boche Infantry advancing in platoon columns in three lines on each side of the Voyennes road. They get a certain amount of our shrapnel, but as far as I can see they have no casualties. There are also several parties of horsemen about, possibly battery staffs, keeping up with the fight.
At about 9.30 p.m, very heavy musketry and machine-gun fire starts; on inquiries, we find that it has all been caused by one German patrol approaching our lines. All firing dies down about 10.30 p.m., and the rest of the night is spent in comparative quiet, though the situation appears bad, as the left flank of the Brigade on our left is in process of being turned.
March 25th.—As Languevoisin is sure to be heavily shelled when daylight comes, I order (at 5 a.m.) all men out of the village, and move Brigade Headquarters back to a sunken road 60 yards west of the village. Things begin to get noisy at about 7.30 a.m., when Bennett reports that about two companies of the enemy have tried to get across the canal at Quipery, but suffered badly. They were supported by some field artillery which, judging by the report, seem to be firing at very close range.
I hear about this time that the 22nd French Division is coming up to counter-attack from Nesle in the direction of Rouy. Things on our left flank are getting very uncomfortable, as apparently a very heavy engagement is going on, and I begin to see (about 10 a.m.) large bodies of our troops retiring. Soon after this platoons of French Infantry pass us and are cheered by the men. They look fine men, and are very much for it.
At 12.15 p.m., while standing over the telephone waiting for the operator to ring up the Division, a piece of shell hits me in the neck and cuts a small artery. The Brigade-Major, Captain Howitt, with great presence of mind, and being a very strong man, manages, by half strangling me, to stop the bleeding after about half an hour, when we get hold of the M.O. of the Royal Berks, who ties me very tightly up. While this has been going on I hear that the Germans have taken Nesle, so I order up a company of Glosters to the threatened flank, and not wishing to be captured for the second time, I get two men to put me on a bicycle and push me towards Cressy, where the Field Ambulance is.
On the way I meet the ambulance, which has been sent out to pick me up. I hear that I only got away just in time, as Brigade Headquarters had to move, owing to the Germans getting round our flank. I could not have walked, being too giddy. From Cressy I went down to the C.C.S. at Roye, and was evacuated to Rouen that night, thus for the third time joining the lucky ranks of the wounded.
Extract from a letter written, from a hospital in London, by Captain W. H. Moberly, D.S.O., on the 8th April, 1918:-- I am afraid the Battalion is completely smashed up. We always knew that whatever battalion happened to be in front at the time of the German assault was bound to be "done-in," and unfortunately it happened to be the Oxfords. I myself was not with them, and that is how I escaped. I had been left,out, to take a N.C.O.'s class, and was down at the Transport Lines with Bennett. B and C Companies were in the front line between Gricourt and Fayet, north of St. Quentin; A Company, in two separate parties of two platoons each, were just behind as Counter-attack Company; D Company was in the Redoubt, with Battalion H.Q. some little way back, immediately east of Holnon.
The bombardment began about 4.30 a.m., and included a lot of gas. This had cleared off when the Germans came across about five hours later; but there was a thick mist, and the Germans had put down a heavy smoke barrage, so that, as a few survivors told me, it was impossible to see your hand in front of your face. Under the present system of defence in depth, there are big gaps between, posts. The Germans seem to have come through these, and especially to have broken through the front of the Brigade on our left, and to have come round behind our people via the village of Fresnoy. The first people assaulted seem to have been Brown and the two left counter-attack platoons, who were standing-to in the Fresnoy-Fayet road; They suddenly found that the Germans were all round them on an immense circle. Brown thereupon extended his men on an inner circle, and they fought it out until there were only about ten of them left. These then threw down their arms and equipment in token of surrender, but some of them managed to get away in the mist. They did not know for certain what had happened to Brown, but I fear that there can be little doubt that he had been knocked out in some way or other. Of course, it is possible that he is a wounded prisoner.
From C Company one officer (Jones) and C.-S.-M. Liddell got away. They went back to bring up the counter-attack platoons, but these were almost at once overwhelmed, though a few men got away from this part of A Company.
From B Company (my own) only one man got away, so far as I know. Wallington, formerly a lance-corporal in A Company, was in command; and Company H.Q. were on the right of the Company, He sent down two runners to the platoon on the left about the time of the attack, and they found the Germans already there. One of them succeeded in getting back, and Wallington started with Company H.Q. to try to make his way back to the reserve trench. At this point the man who ultimately got away was detached to try to bring up the counter-attack company. He only found Germans all the way back, and had many adventures in the mist before making his escape.
The Redoubt held out, though surrounded, till 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and was during all that time in communication, by underground cable, with the Brigade. The last message that came through (from a 6th Oxford subaltern named Cunningham, who was Acting Adjutant) was that the Germans had got up on to the top of the quarry and were firing down into them, and that it was all up.
The Colonel had previously got out to visit some machine-guns. He was captured in Holnon, but managed to slip away in the mist. I believe he is now home, or on his way home, wounded, but I have not yet managed to get into touch with him.
Meanwhile, all the Divisional Details were formed into a single composite battalion back at Ugny, under Bennett, with Davenport and myself in command of the 182nd and 184th Brigade Companies respectively. During the retreat on the night of the 22nd, this battalion was divided into two parts and sent to guard the bridgeheads on the Somme at Voyennes and Offoy. Bennett went to Voyennes, and Davenport and I to Offoy. On the next day Davenport and I were engaged in a counter-attack on the southern suburb of Ham; and I was doing a reconnaissance in Davenport's company the following night, when I got a machine-gun bullet through the calf of my left leg. I am afraid I know nothing of what happened to him afterwards, but he was safe and sound when I left. I wish I could throw further light on the fate of our "missing." One can only hope that most of them may be prisoners.
April 1st.—The remnants of the Battalion were at Gentelles, Captain Robinson (who had rejoined) being in command. On the 3rd marched to Longueau and on by bus to Mericourt, where, on the 6th, Captain G. K. Rose, M.C., joined for duty, and assumed command.
On the 7th marched to Avesne, and the Battalion received a draft of 431 other ranks from England in addition to some 300 of the 25th Entrenching Battalion (late 2/1st Bucks Battalion), which was now amalgamated with the 2/4th Battalion.
Casualties between 1st and 3rd April, 1 killed and 8 wounded.
April 11th.—The Battalion, now upwards of 1,000 strong, marched to Hangest and there entrained for the north.
From the Battalion Diary(Kept by Captain G. K. Rose, M C.).:-- April 6th,—At Mericourt. Reorganizing the Battalion. Captain G. K. Rose, M.C., joined for duty and assumed temporary command of the Battalion.
April 7th.—The Battalion marched to Avesne and went into billets. The 2/1st Bucks Battalion (25th Entrenching Battalion) has been amalgamated with the 2/4th Battalion, which retains its original name. A draft of 431 other ranks joined.
April 8th-l0th.—At Avesne. Reorganizing. Drill and training.
April 11th.—Battalion (less D Company, travelling with 2/5th Glosters) entrained at Hangest, the 61st Division having been ordered to the north. At Hangest there was a delay of several hours, a change of destination being necessitated by a German attack at Armentieres. Between Candas and Doullens the train broke in half, which caused further delay, but no accident.
April 12th.—Arrived 3 a.m. at Steenbecque. The Battalion ordered to march forward at once and take up a defensive position along the line of the Noe River, it having been reported that the Germans had broken through our battle positions and were threatening Merville. The 51st Division was reported to be holding a line east of Calonne.
Operation orders issued, special instructions being left at the station for D Company. The Battalion halted from 7 to 8 a.m. for breakfasts, on the roadside west of Haverskerque; the C.O. and three Company Commanders rode forward through St. Venant to Les Amusoires, and discovered the situation to be serious. There were no troops holding about a mile of the Calonne-Robecq road, which had been reached by enemy patrols, while our artillery, which had withdrawn west of La Bassee Canal between 9 and 10 a.m., put down a light barrage 500 yards north-west of the Calonne-Robecq road. In addition, a large ammunition dump along the St. Venant-Robecq road was on fire, and provided a valuable screen against observation by the numerous enemy observation balloons, but which on the other hand was likely to be a menace to the Battalion's right flank, if manoeuvre was required. Under the circumstances orders were given for an attack to be pressed if necessary in order to gain the south-east bank of the Noe River.
Companies moved forward in column of fours and 50 yards between platoons along the St. Venant-La Haye-Les Amusoires road, in C, B, A (C Company finding the advanced guard). The companies debouched from Les Amusoires and crossed the open ground to a point 200 yards north of the Calonne-Robecq road, when the advance was stopped on the left (C Company), owing to the inability of the 182nd Brigade on the left to make good the line of the road.
The C.O. decided to disregard the danger of an exposed left flank, in favour of seizing the bridge-head at Q.14.c.8.2.; and at 11.30 a.m. A and B Companies held the Robecq-Calonne road, with patrols across the Noe River; while C Company was fighting for the possession of the bridge-head at Q.14.c.72., and driving the enemy from Bacquerolles Farm. By 1 p.m. these latter objectives were in our hands, amongst the casualties being Captain Buttfield and 2nd Lieut. Bennett, wounded.
During this fighting the finest use was made of Lewis guns and snipers from house roofs. The enemy resistance was not obstinate except at Bacquerolles Farm. Enemy artillery was active against the Calonne-Robecq road during the afternoon, and a heavy trench mortar of long range fired on Carvin and the houses in P.24.b., when A Company first occupied them. It was silenced by concentrated Lewis gun and rifle fire. During the night the position Carvin-Bacquerolles Farm was consolidated.
April 13th.—At 7.30 a.m., in thick fog, the enemy attacked the frontage occupied by the 183rd Brigade (1,000 yards to the Battalion's left), at the same time enfilading the Calonne-Robecq road with his artillery, which had been moved up in the fog to very close range. Owing to the exposed condition of the Battalion's left flank at Q.14.c.35, and to guard against the risk of the three companies south of the river being isolated by a strong enemy attack down the Colonne-Robecq road, D Company was ordered to form a defensive flank to C Company, and remained thus in position until 10 a.m., when all was quiet.
Between 12 noon and 3.30 p.m. the troops holding the line of the Calonne-Robecq road on the left of C Company were heavily shelled by the enemy, and (in spite of the control and example shown by 2nd Lieut. Lodge, who twice went up to their position) withdrew to the line of the road through Q.13.b. facing east, and in so doing gave up the houses along the Calonne-Robecq road as far south as road-junction Q.14.c.3.4.
This move of the troops on their left obliged C Company to withdraw from the houses at Q.14.c.3.3 and the farm south, of the Noe River at Q.20.a.5.8. As these houses (especially the house at Q.14.c.33) constituted the key to the line of the Noe River, orders were given for the recapture by C Company both of the buildings from which withdrawal had been obliged, and of the houses on each side of the road at Q.14.c.4.6.
At 7.30 p.m. two platoons of C Company attacked and captured the three houses at Q.14.c.33 and 46., taking a machine gun and killing a good number of the enemy. Two light trench mortars, manned by personnel of the Battalion, assisted in the operation. The houses at Q.14.c.4.6. were reoccupied by the Warwicks at nightfall.
April 14th.—At 6.30 a.m., in continuation of the policy of the previous day, C Company, assisted by the L.T.M.'s, occupied the farm at Q.20.a.5.8, and also drove the enemy out of the house at Q.14.c.8.2.
During the morning it appeared that the houses about Q.20. central were not held by the enemy, civilians being seen moving among them, and no fire being directed at, our aeroplanes from the area. A battle patrol, consisting of a platoon of A Company, was accordingly sent to find out whether the ground was held by the enemy, with orders to reach the road running through Q.20.b. and d. if only slight opposition was met with, when our line would have been advanced to include the houses and enclosures in Q.20. The patrol reached the road immediately west of the houses without opposition, but came under machine-gun and rifle fire from the houses east of the Honnebecq when a further advance was attempted. After a short fire fight the patrol withdrew, covered by Lewis-gun fire from the farm at Q.20.a.5.8.
Riez-du-Vinage was attacked and captured by the 4th Division operating on the Battalion's right during the afternoon, in consequence of which A Company swung its right forward south-east of Carvin, in order to join up with the left flank of the 1st Hants.
Casualties : Lieut. H. C. Banton, wounded; other ranks : 3 killed, 22 wounded, 1 missing.
April 15th.—The day passed quietly, our artillery and L.T.M.'s carrying out registration. At 7 p.m. the enemy, after a brisk bombardment of our line, developed an attack against C Company, moving in extended order from Q.14.d. against Bacquerolles Farm. This attack was beaten off by rifle fire. Soon afterwards a report was received that large numbers of the enemy were collecting in the houses in Q.14.b. and d. Our artillery heavily shelled this target, and the enemy must have lost great numbers.
At 7.30 p.m. B Company (Captain Stanley) carried out an attack on the houses in Q.20 in accordance with operation orders. The operation was entirely successful, and by 9 p.m. the objectives had been captured.
Unfortunately, the Division on our right, which had been relied upon to co-operate, did not effect a junction with B Company's right flank, and the enemy, who were in large numbers along the road east of the Hennebecq, and were strongly reinforced from La Pierre-au-Beure, commenced to counter-attack at 9.30 p.m., and threatened to envelop B Company's flank in the houses at Q.20.d.o.6 and 3.7. Orders were then given at 10.15 p.m. for B Company to withdraw to their original position. This they did, bringing in all the wounded.
During the night our artillery shelled La Pierre-au-Beure, Q.20, and Q.14.b. and d. A German prisoner was taken by B Company.
Casualties : Killed, 2nd Lieuts. S. F. Kemp and G. W. Coucher, and 2 other ranks; wounded, 18 other ranks ; missing, 1.
April 16th.—Considerable shelling by the enemy at various times during the day. In the evening the Battalion was relieved by the 2/5th Glosters, and went into billets at St. Venant. Relief was not complete until 2 a.m. The Battalion came under the orders of the G.O.C. 183rd Infantry Brigade.
Casualties : Captain A. F. L. Shields, R.A.M.C., and 2nd Lieut. A. C. Stowell, wounded at duty. Other ranks : killed, 2; wounded, 25; missing, 5.
April 17th.—The village (St. Venant) was frequently shelled by the enemy during the day without causing casualties, nearly all the men being accommodated in cellars. Lieut.-Colonel C. R. C. Boyle, D.S.O. (2nd Oxford and Bucks) joined the Battalion and took over command, Captain Rose, M.C., taking up the duties of second in command. One man was wounded.
April 18th.—Village shelled, otherwise a quiet day. Companies found working parties afternoon and night. Four men wounded.
April 19th.—In the evening the Battalion relieved the 2/5th Glosters, taking over the frontage previously occupied by the Battalion with the exception of farms at Q.19.b.8.6 and Q.20.a.5.8, which had remained in the hands of the enemy after an otherwise unsuccessful attack upon the 2/5th Glosters during the night of April 18th/19th.
Dispositions of companies : A on the right, B in the centre, D on the left, C in reserve, Battalion H.Q. Amusoires.
Casualties : 1 man killed, 5 wounded.
April 20th.—Quiet day. At night improving posts, wiring, etc., special attention being paid to the defence of D Company's front. One man killed.
April 21st.—At dawn B Company (Captain Stanley) occupied the farm, at Q.19.b.8.6. without opposition, and established a post there. Quiet day, with little shelling of front line. During the afternoon Battalion H.Q. was shelled with 5.9's for 20 minutes, but no damage resulted. At night the 4th Division on the right attacked Pacaut Wood. Two men of the Battalion killed and 2 wounded.
April 22nd,—Quiet day. One man wounded.
April 23rd.—At 4.30 a.m. the 2/5th Glosters, who had assembled in the area between Carvin and A Company H.Q. at Q.19.c.5.9, carried out an attack upon the houses and enclosures in Q.20, with their final objective the road running south-east through Q.20.b. The 4th Division co-operated on the right. B and D Companies assisted the advance with Lewis gun and rifle fire. The attack was completely successful, nearly a hundred prisoners and several machine guns being taken by the Glosters. In addition, 45 prisoners surrendered to D Company, being brought in by A/C.-S.-M. Moss, who went out to reconnoitre two hours after the attack had taken place. During the day and following night 5 machine guns were taken by D Company, one having been brought in by the prisoners, and the rest found in posts south and west of Bacquerolles Farm, from which the enemy had been driven by the attack.
During the afternoon and night enemy artillery was active against the Glosters' new front and D Company's left flank, which now prolonged the new line northwards. A and B Companies remained in their positions, which ceased to be front line after the attack. Casualties : 2 men wounded.
April 24th.—At 5 a.m. enemy shelling set fire to Bacquerolles Farm, and D Company moved into trenches until fire died down. At 6.30 a.m. the enemy attacked the Glosters on their new front. The attack was defeated with loss, and 70 prisoners were taken by the Glosters. In the evening we were relieved by the 2/4th R. Berks, and moved to billets (St. Venant and Robecq), getting in about midnight.
April 25th-27th.—Cleaning up, training, working parties.
April 28th.—Relieved 2/4th R. Berks in evening. Two-company frontage astride the Robecq-Calonne road. Three men wounded.
April 29th.—Enemy shelled the line rather heavily at times. One man killed and 2 wounded.
April 30th.—Enemy artillery active against the back area. 2nd Lieut. H. Jones, M.C., wounded (at duty), and 1 other rank.
May 1st.—Quiet day. At night working on support line, and wiring in front of posts. One man wounded.
May 2nd.—Relieved at night by 2/5th Glosters, and moved back into support. Two men wounded.
May 3rd-5th.—At Robecq. Quiet.
May 6th.—Moved back into reserve.
May 7th-9th.—At St. Venant, A certain amount of shelling.
May 10th.—Returned to front-line trenches (Robecq).
May 12th.—Hostile artillery became active at night and caused casualties, 9 killed and 9 wounded.
May 13th.—A successful raid was carried out by C Company during the night. Under cover of an effective artillery barrage 2nd Lieut. Rowlerson, with 25 other ranks of No. 12 Platoon, cut their way through the wire which the enemy had put up round his posts in the orchard at Q.14.d.7.4. and afterwards cleared both the posts and the farm. Two prisoners were captured, and our party had no casualties. Congratulations were received from the Corps Commander.
May 14th.—Relieved by 2/5th Glosters, and moved into support. During the relief our trenches were shelled, and 6 men were wounded.
May 15th-17th.—At Robecq, in support.
May 18th.—The Battalion moved back into reserve.
May 19th.—In reserve at St. Venant. At night the transport lines were heavily bombed by enemy aircraft. One man wounded.
May 20th,—Slight shelling. One man wounded. Captain Abraham met with a riding accident and had to go to hospital.
May 2lst.—Between 7 and 10 a.m. the Asylum was rather heavily shelled by an enemy battery of 5.9 guns. A shell pierced the roof of the house occupied by C and D Companies' H.Q., and after glancing off the inside of the reverse wall of the building, fell through the ground floor and exploded in the cellar, with the result that 2nd Lieut. Lodge (commanding C Company), Captain Robinson (commanding D), were wounded, while 2 other ranks were killed and 2 wounded. 2nd Lieut. Lodge succumbed on his way to hospital, and was buried the same evening in Guarbecque.
May 22nd.—Returned to front-line trenches, in relief of 2/4th R. Berks.
May 23rd-27th.—Fairly quiet, with occasional slight shelling. One man killed and two wounded.
May 28th.—Enemy artillery more active, but no casualties. The Band, 28 strong, which previously belonged to the 5th Battalion of the Regiment, joined for duty.
May 29th.—At night the Battalion was relieved by the 2/5th Glosters, and moved back to support billets at La Pierriere. During the relief the enemy shelled the roads and tracks north and west of Robecq somewhat heavily, but caused no casualties. One platoon of A Company was bombed by low-flying aeroplanes, but suffered no damage. Casualties during the day: 7 killed, 5 wounded.
May 30th/31st.—At La Pierriere. Weather fine and warm. Cleaning up, etc.
June 1st.—Boxing Competition in the orchard behind H.Q.
June 2nd.—Relieved the 2/4th R. Berks in the Left Battalion Sector. The front line is a chain of detached posts, very exposed, and with very little wire.
June 3rd-8th.—Days unusually quiet. Some shelling at night. Much work on the line, and patrolling. Casualties on these days: 9 men wounded.
June 9th.—The Battalion suffering from influenza. Two men wounded.
June 10th.—On relief by 2/5th Glosters, returned to La Pierriere. Five men wounded.
June 11th-13th.—At La Pierriere. Bathing, cleaning up, and training.
June 14th—Influenza increasing; the C.O. and second in command went sick. Major G. Christie-Miller, from 2/5th Glosters, took command of the Battalion. The Battalion relieved the 2/4th R. Berks in the Right Battalion Sector of the front line during the night. Two men were killed and 4 wounded.
June 15th-18th.—Usual wiring, patrolling, etc. Generally quiet. Two men were wounded.
June 19th.—Lieut.-Colonel Wetherall returned from hospital and resumed command.
June 21st.—Weather changed and became windy and cloudy. A little shelling. One man wounded.
June 26th—Work much handicapped by influenza amongst officers and men. Relieved by 2/5th Glosters, and returned to La Pierriere.
June 23rd-27th.—At La Pierriere, training, etc. Companies have now been reorganized as follows : Each platoon three sections, i.e., two rifle sections and one double Lewis-gun section (strength, 11 other ranks with two Lewis guns). 12 other ranks are now also allotted to Battalion H.Q. to man the four Lewis guns.
June 28th.—The Battalion and transport inspected by the G.O.C. Brigade (Brigadier-General Pagan, D.S.O.), who complimented them on their excellent turnout.
June 29th-July 9th.—At La Pierriere. Training, football and boxing competitions, etc.
Summary of Battalion Diary :-- July.—This month was spent principally in training, at La Pierriere until the 10th, then at Liettres for a week, and subsequently at Cottes, Warne, and Pont Asquin. The Battalion had now been transferred from the XIth Corps, 5th Army, to the XVth Corps, 2nd Army (Plumer).
August 1st-6th.—The Battalion moved to Cottes and remained there until the 4th, when it proceeded in lorries to Thiennes. and next day took over front-line trenches (Arrewage Sector).
August 7th.—At 7 p.m. A. and B Companies carried out a successful attack on the German front line between the Hazebrouck-Merville road and Bonar Farm. About 12 casualties occurred, but the companies captured 4 prisoners and a machine gun. Total casualties in the Battalion: 2 men killed, 2nd Lieut. A. R. Moore and 12 men wounded.
August 8th.—Lieut.-Colonel E. M. Woulfe-Flanagan, D.S.O. (East Surrey Regiment), took over command of the Battalion from Lieut.-Colonel Wetherall, D.S.O., M.C., who was suffering from the effects of gas. Casualties : 5 men killed, 4 wounded, and the following gassed : Captain R. F. Symonds, Lieut. J. Kirk, 2nd Lieut. W. C. M. Cubbage, and 38 other ranks.
August 9th.—On relief, the Battalion moved into reserve trenches (H.Q. at Chappelle Boom). Lieut. R. Thomas and 1 man wounded.
August 12th.—In support at Arrewage.
August 14th-19th.—In reserve camp in Nieppe Forest (Spresiano). Lieut. L. G. E. Rammage wounded.
August 20th.—The Battalion moved forward to the Chappelle Boom area, and remained there until the 24th. Lieut. J. E. Ellis and one man wounded.
August 24th.—Moved to the outpost line in front of Neuf Berquin.
August 28th.—Attacked the German positions astride the Neuf Berquin-Estaires road. Casualties: 4 killed, 2nd Lieut. W. A. H. Goodman and 22 men wounded, 1 man wounded and missing.
August 29th.—The Battalion continued the advance, and at night was relieved, and went back to the support trench west of Vierhouck-Merville road.
August 31st.—Moved forward to Neuf Berquin, etc.
September.—The Battalion moved as follows : 1st, to Rue Montigny; 2nd, Chappelle Duvelle; 4th, Estaires; 11th, Laventie; 14th, Sailly; 17th, Linghen; 24th, Le Crusecbeau, where it occupied frontline trenches.
Casualties during the month: 8 men killed; Captain C. R. Clutsom, 2nd Lieuts. J. F. George, H. Clayton, and 26 men wounded; 2nd Lieuts. G. A. Rowlerson and P. E. Craddock and 19 men missing.
October.—This was a month, of rapid movement by train, by bus, or marching, the Battalion following up the retreating enemy eastward of Cambrai, and reaching the Valenciennes-Le Quesnoy railway line by the end of the month.
Casualties :—17 men killed; 2nd Lieut. J. Abbot and 52 men wounded.
November.—Some heavy fighting took place in the early days of the month, when many prisoners and machine-guns were captured, the casualties in the Battalion being 7 men killed, and Lieut. G. W. Willis, 2nd Lieut. S. W.T. Bown, and 47 men wounded.
November 11th.—When the Armistice was announced the Battalion was at Maresches (about 5 miles S.S.E. of Valenciennes), carrying out company training.
November 12th-31st.--The remainder of the month passed almost without incident. Some days were spent in the Cambrai area, principally in salvaging, and then the Battalion moved by rail to billets at Domart-en-Ponthieu, where it remained until the end of January 1919.
The following awards were made during November :--
VICTORIA CROSS. 285242 Corporal A. Wilcox. During a local operation on the morning of 12th September, 1918, in front of Laventie, the flank platoon of A Company, 2/4th Battalion Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, was held up by heavy and persistent machine-gun fire from a trench about 70 yards distant.
Finding it impossible to advance, Lance-Corporal Wilcox crawled towards the trench with 4 men, bombed it, and finally rushed the gun nearest to him, disposed of the gunner, and, being unable to take the gun along with him, put it out of action.
He then worked his way up the trench, bombed the next gun position (during which action two of his section were wounded), and himself again rushed the gun, killed the gunner in a hand-to-hand struggle, and put the gun out of action.
In spite of the reduced number of his party, this N.C.O. continued his advance up the trench. Bombing the gun-positions, he killed 1 gunner, wounded another, and put two more guns out of action (it still being impossible to dispose of them otherwise), and successfully reached his objective.
Having by this time only 1 man with him, Lance-Corporal Wilcox was obliged to withdraw when the Germans counter-attacked in strength. Besides being so extremely outnumbered, he was without fire weapons, rifles being clogged up with mud, owing to the fact that the weather during and before the operations was very bad. In spite of the very superior numbers against him, he withdrew successfully.
Second Bar to Military Cross. Captain H. Jones, M.C,
Military Cross. Captain J. Stanley. Lieut. F. M. Passmore. 2nd Lieut. E. J. R. McAnsh.
Distinguished Conduct Medal. 9663 C.-S.-M. R. Cunningham.
Military Medal. 202123 Corporal L. R, Rosser. 265994 Private F. C. Ward. 266962 Private H. R. Strange. 34633 Sergeant T. Maddick.
December.—At Domart. Ordinary peace-time routine, football, etc.