RECORD OF THE 5th (SERVICE) BATTALION. 1st July 1917 to disbandment in 1918.
Based on extracts from the Regimental Chronicle
Recuperated after its strenuous exertions and heavy losses in the attack on Vis-en-Artois, the Battalion moved north in the late summer of 1917, and came in for further fighting in August on the Ypres-Menin road, in the neighbourhood of Inverness Copse and Glencorse Wood; and again in October its losses were heavy. The diaries and other records here reproduced give full particulars of these events and of others that followed in 1918, while the congratulations received and the large number of acts of gallantry performed testify to the good work done by the Battalion.
1917. From the Battalion Diary.
July 2nd.—The following were recommended for foreign decorations : Captain C. B. Crawford, 2nd Lieut. H. N. Parker, C.-S.-M. J. Holt.
July 3rd.— Company training, and night wiring. Captain S. R Sebastian rejoined the Battalion from the Senior Officers' Course at Aldershot, and resumed his duties as Adjutant.
Extracts from the Diary of Captain and Adjutant Sebastian, M.C. (Supplemented by extracts from the Battalion Diary.)
July 3rd.—Rejoined the Battalion at Vert Galant, where it was billeted in a disused aerodrome by the side of the Doullens-Amiens road. An ideal place for fine weather, as the Battalion was concentrated and easily controlled; also there were first-rate parade grounds adjoining, with bombing grounds and rifle ranges close by. The Battalion appeared to be in fairly good form, but perhaps not as good as one would have expected. There were few officers whom I knew—Colonel H. L. Wood, Captains Crawford and Cooke, and 2nd Lieuts FitzGerald and Holiday. During the stay here a good deal of training had been put through, and the Battalion had been fairly successful in the various Brigade competitions.
July 5th.— Field-firing practice was carried out. A concert was given to the Battalion by the 3rd Army Trench Mortar School.
July 7th.—Our sergeants gave a concert to the sergeants of the 6th Battalion of the Regiment—a great success.
July 8th.—Church Parade. In the afternoon football final against K.S.L.I., resulting in a draw—1 all.
July 9th.—Platoon field-firing.
July 10th.-Company training. Football final with K.S.L.I.. replayed—no score.
July 11th.— The Battalion marched to Candas at night.
July 12th.—The Battalion entrained at Candas at 2 a.m. with hardly a hitch. Detrained at Bailleul, and marched 1 1/2 miles to Meulehouse Camp. Went under canvas, and fairly comfortable.
July 13th.—Company training. Showery morning. Captain Crawford took over command of C Company from Captain Spurge, who becomes Assistant Adjutant.
July 15th.—Church Parade with K.S.L I. on our parade ground at 10.45 a.m.
July 17th.—Colonel Wood and I, with Company Commanders, made a reconnaissance of the new position at Wytschaete. Most interesting. The taking of the place must have been a marvel of organization.
July 21st.—Preliminary rounds of Novice's Boxing Tournament.
July 22nd.—The Battalion won the Brigade Football Competition, playing the K.S.L.I. for the third time and beating them by 2 to 1. The finals of the boxing produced some good fighting.
July 23rd-25th— Company training. Lewis gunners on the range. Bombing at the IXth Corps School. Gas drill at night.
July 26th— General Plumer, 2nd Army Commander, inspected the Division, brigade by brigade. The most thorough inspection possible, and he went round the whole. We are glad to be back in his Army again, as we look on it as the very best
When our Division left the VIIth Corps, it received the following message :-- " The Corps Commander is unable to let the 14th (Light) Division leave the Corps without recording his appreciation of the way the 14th Division fought and endured, not only when the main fighting was in progress, but also during the very long time the Division was in the line ; during the heavy fighting in April and May the Division gallantly carried on the traditions of the Light Division of Peninsular fame. " He wishes the Division the best of luck, and is certain that wherever it goes it will add to its previous grand record."
July 30th.—There has been a good deal of rain lately, and the field day today had to be cancelled on account of it.
July 31st.—Battalion under orders to move at an hour's notice. The officers played those of the 5th K.S.L.I. at football, and lost 0 to 1. The Battalion played the 9th K.R.R.C. and won by 2 to 1. A party of German prisoners passed our camp.
August 1st.—The Battalion was confined to camp, ready to move to new area. Captain Spurge reconnoitred the new position.
August 2nd.—Lieut.-Colonel Wood received orders to proceed at once to England. I took over temporary command of the Battalion,(Shortly afterwards Captain Sebastian was gazetted Temp. Lieut.-Colonel, to command the Battalion.—Ed.) and Captain Spurge assumed the duties of Adjutant.
August 5th.—Church Parade. Received orders to move to new area.
August 6th.—The Battalion marched from St. Jans Cappell to Pradelles, east of Hazebrouck, 9 miles. A successful march, in hot weather. Eleven men fell out, but all were reported by the doctor to be in an unfit state of health. Billets very comfortable, but scattered.
August 7th.—Training. Company Guard-mounting Competition, in which A and C Companies tied, as being the smartest and nothing to choose between them.
August 8th-10th.—Training of various kinds. Brigadier-General Dudgeon, having been appointed to the command of the 56th Division, left the Brigade, and very sorry we were to lose him. He was relieved by Brigadier-General Foster (Warwicks).
August 13th.—A 12-mile route march. The men going well. They have started singing again—a feature which had almost disappeared.
August 14th.—Specialist Training. Lewis-gun and Bombing Competitions in the afternoon. The men are hard and fit now, and ready for action.
August 15th.—The Battalion left Borre Camp at 8.30 a.m. for the forward area, and proceeded by lorry to Ouderdom, where we relieved the reserve brigade of the 56th Division who are going to attack tomorrow. Very heavy rain. A poor camp. Whilst at Pradelles companies were reorganized on a three platoon basis, which in these days is far preferable to the 4-platoon organization.
August 16th.—Rest. Organized for attack. Inspected model trenches in IInd Corps area. Lecture by Intelligence Officer of IInd Corps.
August 17th.—Warning order to move forward received at 2 a.m. At 7 a.m. ordered to move by lorry to Cafe Beige, on the Dickebusch-Ypres road. Battalion settled down for the day in a field, and awaited orders. Equipped for attack, and details sent to transport camp. Orders given out at C.O.'s conference, and consisted of notes. At 7 p.m. the Battalion moved up straight into the line to take over from parts of five battalions of the 56th Division in the Glencorse Wood Sector. (The battalions we relieved were the Middlesex, Queen Victoria Rifles, Kensingtons, Rangers, Queen's Westminster Rifles). Movement was delayed by having to wait for rations. The march up was long and tiring, but all went well, owing largely to Captain Crawford's arrangements for guides, who met us near Halfway House. 2nd Lieuts. J. T. Rose and Guise were wounded by a 77-mm. shell on the way to the trenches, and the relief was gas shelled at Zillebeke Lake.
August 18th.—Relief completed by 3 a.m.—not bad work. The Division, which had been detailed to make an attack on Inverness Copse and to withstand expected counter-attacks, was astride the Menin Road; the 41st Brigade was south of and just astride the road. The Battalion in front of Glencorse; 9th R.B. behind Westhoek. The Battalion was distributed as follows : D Company on the right, A Company on the left, each having 2 platoons in Jargon Trench (from 8.c.20.40 to 14.a.30.50) and 1 platoon in Jargon Switch. D Company H.Q. were at Surbiton Villas, in the cellar of a demolished house. B Company, in support, was near Battalion H.Q., close to the Ypres-Menin Road, at J.13.a.7.4. C Company in reserve in Ignorance Trench.
The trenches were very bad, and the scene of desolation all around was appalling. The Menin Road was at this time the most important point on the Ypres front, because it passed over the highest ground of the Passchendaele Ridge, and was the point from which movements were to be made over the lower spurs of the ridge at Polygon Wood, Tower Hamlets, etc. Soon after the relief, orders were received for an outpost line to be established inside Glencorse Wood, with a view to taking the other high ground in the wood. These orders were passed on to the front companies, who were asked to report if they could carry them out at such short notice. If they could do so, they were told to throw out the outpost line forthwith. On the left there was no difficulty, and A Company advanced its line. On the right, movement without careful reconnaissance was not possible, owing to the distance to be traversed, and the difficult going.
During the morning all was fairly quiet, but in the afternoon things became, noisy. Between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. the enemy shelled heavily, confining himself chiefly to the Menin Road and James and Jackdaw Trenches. In his final effort he blew in Battalion H.Q., burying the Forward Observation Officer completely, Captain Spurge (Adjutant) partially, and just missing me, as I was too quick for it. It was rather a shock, and all our papers were destroyed. These Battalion H.Q. of ours were situated in the famous Menin Road Tunnel, which was made by the Huns, from Clapham Junction to Hooge, for the purpose of bringing forward their reserves under cover. It was a wonderful piece of work, with head cover varying from 3 to 4 feet. Our guns early in the operations had blown it in in several places, and the Huns did all they could to blow in the rest of it.
After being blown out of H.Q. we moved back about 50 yards and joined the 9th R.B., who were most hospitable. Their H.Q. were in the same tunnel, but a little drier than our late place, which was wet underfoot and smelly.
August 19th.—Visited by the Brigadier and Paget was asked if the proposed outpost line could be established quietly, and said that I would go into the matter and make a written report. After consultation with Royal-Dawson (D Company Commander), I came to the conclusion that, with careful reconnaissance, it could be done. So, assisted by the Lewis-gun team of B Company, D partially succeeded in putting out the line. During the reconnaissance, Royal-Dawson found a man of the 56th Division who had been lying out for six days, and brought him in safely, the Medical Officer reporting that he would probably pull round. The ground reconnoitred was found to be most difficult, as this part of the wood, having been an old enemy strongpoint, was most carefully and thickly wired, and had innumerable concrete dugouts leading from Jargon Trench. All of these dugouts had been blown up, and were full of enemy dead, while the ground on top was littered with British dead of two Divisions. In addition, broken trees and large shell holes increased the difficulties of getting forward. The day passed fairly quietly.
August 20th.—The Battalion was relieved by the 5th K.S.L.I., who were to make an attack (to take the German outpost line), as part of the attack on Inverness Copse by the 43rd Brigade. On relief the Battalion moved to Halfway House.
August 2lst.—Relief complete by 2 a.m. Halfway House consisted of an enormous dugout, which accommodated two Battalion H.Q. and 4 companies (B and C were in dugouts, whilst A and D were in trenches round). It was a horrible place, full of smells and water, and most uncomfortable both for officers and men. But it was tolerably safe. During the day advice was received that the enemy had registered two R.F.A. batteries on the top of our dugouts, and that these would probably be knocked out that night. Acting on this information, I crammed A Company into the dugout, and Royal-Dawson put D into an adjoining place, occupied by Brigade H.Q. That night the enemy fairly plastered the place with gas-shells and H.E. The R.B. had 160 casualties; we had none.
August 22nd.—The 43rd Brigade attacked Inverness Copse, and the 5th K.S.L.I, carried out a small movement against Glencorse Wood. Early in the afternoon we were ordered to send one company to reinforce the 43rd Brigade; so B Company (led by Jacks) went to Stirling Castle, and were shelled by heavies for five hours. However, they stuck it, and their casualties were remarkably light. To get there they passed through three barrages, but these were taken by platoons at the double, and they got off lightly. A little later another of our companies was ordered to reinforce the 5th K.S.L.I.; C Company went up to Ignorance Trench, and had no great difficulty. Later still, A Company acted as carrying party for the 5th K.S.L.I., and did two journeys from Hooge Crater to Glencorse, through heavy gas shelling and intermittent H.E. It did its work successfully, but suffered some 60 casualties from gas. Gas casualties are considered by the higher authorities to be bad casualties; but in a case like this it is absolutely impossible to carry stores for a distance of 2,000 yards twice over with box-respirators on all the time. You can either carry the stores or save the casualties. You cannot do both.
August 23rd.—We relieved the 5th K.S.L.I. Casualties necessitated a readjustment from last tour, and we had to get assistance from the K.S.L.I. Whilst going up I lost the services of Spurge, who was wounded; but an officer of the K.S.L.I. was lent to help me. Lieut. T. Hutchison was also wounded. Towards midnight the enemy began to shell heavily, mostly on Menin Road-Chateau Wood-Hooge.
14th (Light) Divisional Orders of this day contained the following :-- "The attack on the 22nd instant by the 14th Division has resulted in tactical gains of the very highest importance. "In addition to the loss of very valuable commanding ground, there is good evidence that the enemy losses have been very severe. "The G.O.C. congratulates the Division on the success which has attended their stubborn fighting."
August 24th.—Gradually increasing in violence, the shelling continued until dawn, when (at 4.30 a.m.) the S.O.S. was reported from our right brigade (43rd). My right Company (D) sent up one S.O.S. light from the support trench to assist, although no attack had been launched against it. At 4.45 a.m. the enemy delivered a heavy bombing attack against the 6th D.C.L.I., who were on our right, and against our D Company. The D.C.L.I, fell back to the strongpoint, and our right post conformed. The enemy appeared to be making particular use of the trench running from J.14.a.1.0 to J.14.a.5.1. This trench was in the D.C.L.I, area, the Battalion boundary being J.14.a.6.2. Directly Captain Royal-Dawson knew what had happened, he himself with the support platoon went forward to restore the line, and succeeded in doing so in the face of heavy machine-gun fire. At the same time Lieut. Jacks (B Company) went forward with a party to assist the D.C.L.I, round the strongpoint. Lieut. Jacks was wounded almost immediately, and the party was taken over by D Company. (At 7.30 a.m. D Company was reinforced by bombing-squads of A and C Companies, who were on the left.) At 5 a.m. the enemy began bombing down the outpost line from point J.14.a.5.1 towards my right post, and towards the strongpoint. Owing to a shortage of No. 23 grenades, the enemy got within close distance of my right post. Captain Royal-Dawson and 2nd Lieut. Line having been wounded, 2nd Lieut. Mullis took command of D Company. He formed a defensive flank from my right post towards the strong-point, and there held the enemy. Soon after this bombs were sent up, and a bombing squad was despatched to clear our trenches, while the D.C.L.I, arranged to clear the trench running to the strongpoint. Snipers were put out to catch the enemy, if they tried to come over the top. This bombing squad succeeded in driving the enemy out of the outpost line, and the snipers shot many of them as they ran back. The enemy's bombing attack having failed here, that against the strongpoint fizzled out also. Those of the enemy who got away apparently did so down the trench up which they had come. At 9 a.m. I ordered up supports from C Company, which was in Jargon Switch, to assist the right, sent forward C Company 5th K.S.L.I, to Jargon Switch, and asked for a further company of the K.S.L.I, to form a reserve. It was a most hectic day, and seemed to be quite unending. The shelling went on almost continuously. Communications of all kinds, except runners, broke down. The runners were, however, absolutely magnificent and did wonderful work. At 2.45 p.m. I sent forward the remainder of C Company to reinforce D Company. From 6 p.m. to midnight things were fairly quiet, and during the night we were relieved by the 8th R.B. The relief did not go off very well, as two platoons got lost, and I had the pleasure of guiding them myself to Jargon Switch. On returning to H.Q. I had a fair run for it, as the Huns started to barrage again. Fortunately, it was a pretty mild affair. Amongst the wounded today was 2nd Lieut. L. E. Davis.
August 25th.—The relief was completed by 3 a.m. We arrived at Halfway House about 5 a.m., and, finding that Barwell was looking after everything, I went off to sleep. At 5 p.m. we marched in small parties to Cafe Beige, and there bivouacked for the night, having bathed the whole Battalion at some friendly baths nearby. Barwell was taken ill. Captain 0. S. Royal-Dawson died of wounds received yesterday.
August 26th.—Barwell went to hospital. The Battalion was taken in buses to Abeele, and marched to billets close by. Not a bad place, but billets rather scattered. Considering what the Battalion had gone through, it seemed to be in wonderfully good form. Eight days without real sleep is hard work, especially in heavy shelling. This tour cost us dear in officers—besides Captain Royal-Dawson, Captain Spurge and 2nd Lieut. Guise subsequently died of their wounds. All these were fine officers and invaluable; and Jacks and Line; who were wounded, were both first-rate.
August 27th/28th.—Refitting and training. On the 28th 2nd Lieuts. C. E. Sherwood, E. W. White, H. M. Gray, and H. Haywood joined the Battalion.
August 29th.—Marched to Fletre, and went into camp.
August 30th/3lst.—Training and reorganization.
September 1st.—The Battalion marched to the Neuve Eglise area (Map 28, 1/40,000, S.18.C.8.3), whilst I, with Company Commanders and the Assistant Adjutant, went on ahead to reconnoitre the line. 2nd Lieut. England, who went up to the trenches in advance, was wounded by a bullet.
September 2nd.--In the early morning marched to the Reserve Battalion position (Bristol Castle), where relieved the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers; remained there the day, and then moved on again up into the line at night. We relieved the 17th Manchesters in the right front sector, commencing at 8 p.m., and completing at 1.16 a.m. (3rd September). B Company on the right, C on the left, D in support, A in reserve. On our left were the 9th K.R.R.C. and on our right the 2nd Sherwood Foresters.
September 3rd.—We heard stories of the line which made one's blood fairly creep—enemy got the upper hand—machine guns and shells all day and night, etc. I will say at once that we did not experience any of these things. The relief went off very well considering the difficulties of sodden ground and long distances. On going round the trenches, I found them to be distinctly bad, with practically no wire and no communications ; and it did not look as if any work on the trenches had been attempted. The day was quiet and the Battalion got to work. Concentrated on wiring, digging new and improving old communication trenches, also deepening and fire-stepping the fire trenches by night.
From the Battalion Diary. September 4th,—Quiet day. Continued work on the trenches. In connexion with the recent fighting congratulatory messages were received from the Commander-in-Chief, the Army, Divisional, and Brigade Commanders, giving high praise to the Battalion.
September 5th.—The same. In the early morning two of B Company's posts were approached by the enemy, who were, however, driven off by bombs and Lewis-gun fire, and suffered casualties. Slight rain.
September 6th.—Very quiet day. At night the Battalion was relieved by the 9th R.B. and went into reserve at Bristol Castle. Casualties during this tour : 1 officer and 6 men wounded.
September 7th.—Rest. 130 men of D Company for work at night under 62nd Company R.E., At 8 p.m. A Company was ordered back into reserve, owing to the weakness of the 9th R.B.
September 8th.—Rest. Two new Lewis-gun teams per company being trained. 140 men on night working party. One man of A Company was wounded.
September 9th.—Fine day. Slight shelling with 8-inch in afternoon ; no damage. 140 men for work at night.
September 10th.—Relieved by the 8th K.R.R.C. at 7 a.m., and marched to Aldershot Camp by platoons at 200 yards distance. A Company arrived at 12 midnight.
September 11th.—Fine day. Company and platoon drills. Training of Lewis gunners. B Company furnished 50 men for working party in the evening. ,
September 12th.—Usual training, and working party at night.
September 13th.—The whole Battalion digging practice trenches for the 41st Brigade near Neuve Eglise.
September 14th.—One company on the range, the remainder at drill, etc. In the afternoon the officers played the sergeants at football (2 all).
September 15th,—Marched to Doulieu area, and went into very scattered billets.
September 16th.—Church parade. Voluntary firing on the ranges.
September 17th.—Firing on the ranges, drill, etc. C.O.'s conference at Brigade H.Q. at Doulieu. The Brigade is now temporarily in reserve to the 57th Division.
September 18th.—Marched to Bulford Camp (Map 28.T.26.a.5.9), starting at 1.30p.m., and arriving at 4.20p.m. Excellent camp, with a small range attached.
September 19th.—Very hot. Training. One man of the Battalion was wounded by a splinter from a shell fired at an observation balloon. Information received that Captain spurge died of wounds on the 17th September.
September 20th.—Platoon training, and firing on the range. In the afternoon the officers played those of the 9th K.R.R.C. at football, and lost (1—2), 2nd Lieut. FitzGerald spraining his ankle.
September 21st.—Training, as before.
September 22nd.—Training continued. One man was wounded at Neuve Eglise.
September 23rd.—Church Parade at 9.45 a.m. 320 men on various working parties. The Band played in the afternoon.
September 24th.—The Battalion attended a very interesting gas demonstration by the Divisional Gas Officer.
September 25th/26th.—Training. In the afternoon (26th) the Battalion played the 5th K.S.L.I, at football and beat them (2—0).
September 27th.—Lewis-gun tests fired on the range. At 9.45 p.m. the enemy dropped a bomb on a C Company hut with the unfortunate result that 6 men were killed and 13 wounded.
September 28th.—At 7 a.m. the Battalion started to relieve the 6th K.O.Y.L.I, at Bristol Castle. The relief passed off without incident. The day was quiet, and at 7 p.m. we moved up to relieve the 6th Somerset L.I. in the same line as we held before. Relief complete by 11.10p.m.
September 29th.—During last night there was intermittent shelling of the back area, but the front line was quiet. D Company had 3 casualties from a bomb this morning. Every one hard at work, wiring, improving trenches, etc.
September 30th.—From 4.45 a.m. to 7 a.m. there was quite a heavy Strafe, shells falling mostly between our support and reserve lines. C Company had 8 casualties. The remainder of the day was quiet. October 1st.—D Company was rather troubled by "Minnies" in the early morning, Captain Mullis's Company H.Q. being blown in. The same trouble occurred again between stand-to and 8 a.m., but otherwise the day was quiet.
October 2nd.—A very quiet night followed by a gloriously fine day. D Company had two more men killed this morning by a trench mortar. The men have done a lot of work on the trenches during this tour, and, luckily, the weather has been perfect. The Battalion was relieved by the 9th R.B., and returned to Bristol Castle. Relief complete by 11.15 p.m.
October 3rd.—Training, and working parties.
October 4th.—Much colder. Ground becoming dirty. All spare men working on trenches and "elephant shelters." Towards evening the Huns did some area shelling, but without damage.
October 5th.—More shelling in the early morning, C Company suffering again. Weather very cold and stormy. Lightly shelled at night.
October 6th.—Busy at work on trenches and shelters. Furnished one carrying party, but no working parties.
October 7th.—Cold and wet. Visited B Company in the Corps Line. Reconnoitring party from 33rd Division came round in the afternoon.
October 8th.—The Battalion was relieved in the morning by the 1st Cameronians, and marched back to Bulford Camp. Relief complete by 10.45 a.m. Very wet afternoon and evening. B Company, who had been left in the Corps Line, in reserve to the 9th R.B., arrived in camp about 11.45 p.m. thoroughly wet through.
October 9th.—Quiet day spent in cleaning up. Late at night got orders to move to Berthen.
October 10th.—Left camp at 10a.m., and reached our old billets near Thieushouk at 2 p.m. Rather cramped quarters for the men. Ordered to move tomorrow up beyond Dickebusch
October 11th.—Marched at 9.30 a.m. for Bedford House. It was a long and tiring march of 18 miles, and we did not get in until 5p.m. The accommodation was found to consist of one ruined house and a dirty open field, but everyone settled down pretty soon. Fortunately we had our cookers with us, so the men got a good meal. The officers' mess-cart and valises did not turn up until 9.30 p.m.
October 12th.—We came in for a heavy storm of rain in the early morning, and the men's shelters suffered. With the help of two R.E. sections we managed to put up some temporary huts, and by nightfall everyone was fairly comfortable. It rained off and on all day and night, and the mud became pretty bad.
From the Diary of Lieut.-Colonel Sebastian, M.C.
October 13th.—Still bad weather. A Company went off early on a carrying party for the King's Liverpool, and lost one man killed just outside Zillebeke. A lot of work on the camp cleaning up, and erecting more huts. At 9 p.m. got orders to move back tomorrow to Ridge Wood where the rest of the Brigade are, the 9th R.B. taking our place here.
October 14th.—Quite a fine morning. B Company provided a carrying party, and had one man wounded. The Battalion moved back soon after noon. The new camp rather a miserable one.
October 15th.—Bright sunny day. Very busy getting ready to go up to the line tomorrow. The Corps Commander visited the camp in the morning. Enemy aircraft busy in early evening dropping bombs, but no damage done.
October 16th.— The Battalion left Ridge Wood at 11 a.m., and halted for lunch just off the Zillebeke Road. The sector which we are to take over appears to be a very dirty one in all senses of the word. Our right is to be on the Menin Road, and our left on the Scherriabeek, the right flank apparently being in the air. As we know, we are only to hold the line, but one never knows what may happen in this Ypres Sector. At 3.30 p.m. we moved off again, and picked up our guides just below Tor Top. Thence onwards we ran into a bit of shelling, and when we reached Clapham Junction there was a heavy enemy barrage ready for us. The men were heavily loaded with packs and two days' rations; but, thanks to some excellent guides, they kept moving; and, considering the intensity of the fire, we got through with comparatively few casualties—about 40. Captain T. Hutchison was unfortunately among the wounded, and A Company's H.Q. suffered severely. As soon as we were well past Inverness Copse we were clear of the barrage, and after that the relief went like clockwork, being completed by 9.30 p.m.—a really fine performance.
October 17th.—The enemy's artillery and snipers Were pretty active all night, and casualties kept coming in. The morning was bright and sunny, but quite cold—a pleasant change from yesterday; From 9 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. enemy artillery was very active around Battalion H.Q., but our " pill-box " was solid, and we did not worry much. The rest of the day was fairly quiet. Given the chance to dry, the trenches do not seem bad, but a very little wet would make them almost untenable. The support companies (A and D) have a pill-box each for their H.Q., but neither of the front-line companies have any acccommodation at all.
October 18th.—There was a considerable amount of shelling all last night, but most of the shells went over the front line. One unlucky hit, however, wounded Captain W. A. Ford and 2nd Lieut. W. Towner. 2nd Lieut. E. W. White was also wounded in the support line. Rain fell early in the morning and made the trenches very wet, but they dried up a little during the day. About midday we received a message from the Brigade, asking whether we would remain in two days longer, and then be last battalion up for the next tour. We answered, " Yes, of course." So at night A and D Companies relieved B and C in the front line; but the relief was not completed until 3 a.m. (19th October), owing to the spasmodic shelling with H.E. and gas shells. The Boche was apparently using gas in H.E. shells, and several of our people were caught out by it.
October 19th.—Yesterday we were visited by two Lieut.-Colonels, today we had the Brigadier and Brigade-Major—all inquiring about the ground, with a view to a push to be made at this point in about a week from now. Next came some Tank Officers; and during the day all sorts of other spare parts drifted in at intervals. Intermittent shelling went on all day; we seem to be keeping up our average of 20 casualties a day. More rain at midday made the trenches very nasty, and the apology for a communication trench
October 20th.—At 4 a.m. the Boche put down 15 minutes' annihilating fire from our support line backwards, from which we had 6 men killed and 4 wounded. The K.S.L.I., behind us, suffered pretty heavily, too, I fancy. We had more visitors in the early morning—from the 7th Division. All of them seemed very optimistic about their coming show. A fine and dry day, and things much quieter. In the afternoon our heavies put in some indifferent shooting on Gheluvelt church; altogether they seem rather off colour at present, our front line having quite an irresistible attraction for them.
October 21st.—Very fine day. More visitors crowded in at intervals during the morning. Up to the present, in five days we have had 21 parties. About 6 p.m. we were relieved by the 5th K.S.L.I.; completed by 10.30 p.m. It should have been done quicker, but the guides went wrong, and it was due to 2nd Lieut. M. F. Fritz that we got through as soon as we did. Luckily the Boche was tolerably quiet, and we had few casualties.
October 22nd.--On taking over the new line we had C, D, and B Companies in the front, and A in reserve, with two platoons south of the Menin Road. C Company managed to crowd into 4 pillboxes, and so did one platoon of A ; but all the others were in open trenches, which were very little improvement on those which we had just left, except that they were a trifle drier. At 5.30 a.m. our Army barrage came down, and the Boche retaliated with some vigour. Our front line was badly shelled, B and A suffering severely, though there were fewer casualties than might have been expected. 2nd Lieut. C. E. Sherwood was unfortunately killed. As soon as matters calmed down a bit, we crammed two platoons of D Company into the pill-boxes round Battalion H.Q., and this undoubtedly saved a lot of casualties later on. Early in the evening 2nd Lieut. E. Lidington, of B Company, was wounded rather severely, and there were a few more casualties in the same company. The night was a little quieter.
October 23rd.—As soon as it got light C Company relieved B, the relief passing off without incident. We had a lot of trouble over rations in the morning, as ours were taken up by mistake to the Shropshires (5th K.S.L.I.), and our people had not the sense to bring us the Shropshires' rations. However, all was fixed up eventually. Every day now we get two Army or Corps barrages, but the enemy seems to reply less and less each time, for which we are not sorry. 2nd Lieut. J. L. Choate (A Company) and 2nd Lieut. W. A. Litchfield (C Company) were wounded this evening. This has been a most unfortunate tour as regards officer casualties.
October 24th.—Considerable activity in the air all day; in the afternoon we had about 40 aeroplanes up for some three hours. Our relief tonight is to be a pretty complicated affair, as three battalions are to relieve us—the 15th Warwicks, the 9th Devons, and the 1st R.W. Kents. The first party of the relief arrived at about 6.15 p.m., and after a little trouble, all was complete by 10.30 p.m. Most fortunately the Boche was very quiet, and we had only about 4 casualties from start to finish. On relief the Battalion went down to Shrapnel Corner, where hot tea and rum was served out. We were then taken straight off to billets in the Berthen area. All arrangements worked wonderfully well, and the whole Battalion was in by 6.30 a.m. (25th October).
The total casualties during this tour in the line amounted to: Officers, 1 killed and 7 wounded; Other Ranks, 20 killed, 4 missing, 149 wounded and gassed. Total all ranks, 181.
October 25th.—The Battalion slept for most of the day. The men seem to be fairly comfortably settled in billets; only very few tents are in use.
October 26th.—Companies at disposal of Company Commanders.
October 27th.—A fine autumn day.
From the Battalion Diary. October 30th.—Individual and specialist training.
October 3lst.—Two companies on the range, firing at 25 yards. Inter-platoon Football Competition commenced in the afternoon.
November 1st.—Two companies firing on the range.
November 2nd.—The Battalion defeated the Brigade H.Q. at football by 3 goals to 2. Night work from 5.30 to 6.30 p.m.
November 3rd-5th.—Weather cold. Companies on range, firing at 200 yards. Football, etc.
November 6th.— The Battalion moved by bus at midday to a camp 1kilo, north of Ypres. Camp in good condition, and tents plentiful.
November 7th.—The Battalion found a working party of 300 for the light railway running to Zonnebeke from 10.30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; also a party of 15 at night, as an emergency break-down gang on the line.
November 8th.—Working parties as yesterday, also a good deal of work on the camp, making paths, shelters for cookers, etc. The weather is dry, but the ground is still sodden.
November 9th.—Working parties as before. A tent occupied by three cyclist orderlies was, unfortunately, hit by a bomb just before 7 a.m., with the result that 1 man was killed and the other two men wounded.
November 10th —Very wet day.
November 11th.—Enemy rather more active in shelling the back area today.
November 12th.—Five bombs were dropped on the camp at about 8 a.m., but luckily without doing any damage. B Company was slightly shelled while working on the railway, and lost 1 man killed and 2 men slightly injured.
November 13th.—A misty morning, but bright later. A camp a quarter of a mile from ours was heavily bombed about 10.30 a.m., but little damage done. B Company had another slight casualty in the afternoon.
November 14th.—Heavy mist all day. Artillery on both sides less active.
November 15th.—The work on the railway is progressing very satisfactorily, and the shelling has been less the last two or three days. The Shropshire camp close by was bombed about 2 p.m.
November 16th.—Working parties withdrawn early in the afternoon owing to heavy shelling. 2nd Lieut. E. Wilson was gassed on the working party, and 2 men were wounded. Crosses were made and put up to mark the graves of Captain R. 0. Logan, 2nd Lieuts. Smith and Melliss, and the N.C.O.'s and men of the Battalion killed in action in this neighbourhood in 1915.
November 17th.—Thick mist all day. Artillery quieter.
November 18th.—2nd Lieut. Payne left for the Xth Corps Gas School for a week's course.
November 19th.—Enemy artillery more than usually active on the back area.
November 22nd.—Working parties considerably annoyed by shell-fire, but fortunately there were no casualties.
November 26th.—The laying of the rail was finished today, and working parties were occupied in ballasting and ditching. Very wet night.
November 28th.—Orders received that the Battalion will be relieved tomorrow by the 39th Division, and will move back to Winnizele.
November 29th.—The whole Battalion on working parties in the morning. Considerable artillery activity on our back areas. The Battalion entrained at Ypres at 4.15p.m., and reached Winnizele about 8.30 p.m., marching from Godewaersvelde. The billets (except those of A Company) were good, but scattered.
November 30th.—A Company moved to a better and more central billet in the village, and every, one now settled in very comfortably.
December lst/2nd.—At Winnizele. Training, Lewis-gunners firing on miniature range, officers' revolver practice, etc.
December 3rd.—Cold and frosty. The Battalion moved to Vlamertinghe, starting at 8.55 a.m., and arriving about 2 p.m. Every one accommodated in empty houses, rather crowded.
December 5th.—Several bombs were dropped on the town in the early morning, but no damage done.
December 6th.—Cold and bright. The Battalion supplied 4 Lewis-gun teams for the line, to protect 18-pr. batteries against enemy artillery.
December 7th.—Orders received that the Brigade will move into Divisional Support tomorrow. Training in wiring and consolidating shell-holes.
December 8th.—The Battalion entrained at Brandhoek at 4.15 p.m. Owing to contradictory orders there was some uncertainty as to the location of our camp, but finally everyone was settled in by 7 p.m. A, D, and H.Q. Companies at California Camp, some 1,000 yards east of Wieltje; B and C Companies near St. Jean. California Camp consisted of "pill-boxes" and small elephant shelters; B and C Companies were much more comfortably accommodated in Nissen huts.
December 9th.—The Battalion found carrying parties of 190, principally to carry trench-boards for the R.E. In the evening H.Q. Company moved down to the camp occupied by B and C Companies.
December 10th.—All companies employed as working or carrying parties.
December 11th.—B and C relieved A and D Companies at California Camp. No working parties today. Three of our four Lewis-gun teams which had been lent to the R.F.A. returned, having lost 4 men killed and 1 man wounded.
December 12th.—The Battalion left camp at 7.30 p.m. and relieved the 6th D.C.L.I. (43rd Brigade) in the line, B, A, and C Companies in front, D Company and H.Q. at Metchele. Such trenches as there are seem good and dry.
December 13th.—Relief complete at 1.30 a.m. A few casualties, amongst whom was 2nd Lieut. Turner, wounded. The front companies are very much on their own. Dry day, but bad visibility.
Remarks by Lieut.-Colonel S. R. Sebastian, M.C. :-- The part of the line which we had taken over from the 6th D.C.L.I. was the centre sector held by the division on the Passchendaele Ridge. Our experience of this sector was that, once in position, companies came to little harm; the three companies in front were not shelled, which may have been accounted for either by the enemy being so close, or by our line being so undefined; the reserve company was also immune, as it was just outside the barrage zone. Going up and down, however, was heavy and dangerous work, because it was a 6-mile march, and for the last 4 miles shells might always be expected. As a matter of fact, we were most fortunate, and lost hardly a man on relief.
The yarns about our being on the high ground and able to contemplate the enemy wallowing in the mud, with the tables of the three previous winters turned, proved to be pure delusion. The enemy still holds a considerable amount of high ground, and has a great deal of observation.
Owing to the entire destruction by us of all the ground between Ypres and Passchendaele, movement is most confined, and the posting of troops very difficult. The three frontline companies are out in the blue, and are commanded by Captain Boardman (A Company). I am left with the reserve company (D), in the hope of holding the spur; and we have managed to improve the company's position by echeloning it by platoons out of the barrage area.
The so-called line consists of only some short pieces of trench and isolated shell-holes.
Battalion Diary continued. December 14th.—Enemy artillery active, as usual, in the early morning, but otherwise a fairly quiet day. A few casualties in the reserve companies.
December 15th.—Relieved by 6th D.C.L.I. Trench-foot is the great trouble in this line; the 41st and 43rd Brigades have suffered heavily from it; so far we have had only 2 cases.
December 16th.—Several casualties occurred during the relief, the enemy having apparently discovered it. 2nd Lieut. Lane was amongst the wounded. The Battalion returned to Haslar Camp near St. Jean, and every one pretty comfortable in Nissen huts. Total battle casualties during this tour : 2 officers wounded, 3 men killed and 18 wounded.
December 17th.—The whole Battalion taken for work on a light railway.Weather bright and cold, with sharp frost.
December 18th.—Carrying parties. Severe frost.
December 19th.—The Battalion moved up into the line again; relief complete by 10.30 p.m., with only 3 casualties.
December 20th.—Thick mist all day. A Company captured a German in the evening.
December 2lst.—Misty again, but very cold. The order that every man is to wear two sandbags on each leg is proving of great value. Captain Brindley was wounded twice by a sniper.
December 22nd.—The Battalion was relieved by the 7th K.R.R.C., who suffered a good deal coming in, the relief having evidently been discovered by the enemy. We managed to get out without losing a man, in spite of a heavy barrage of H.E. and gas at Kansas Cross.
December 23rd.—Resting and clearing up. H.Q., A, and C Companies in Capricorn Camp; B and D in California Camp.
December 24th.—Cold weather continues. Baths on the canal bank were allotted to the Battalion today. Six other ranks were presented with the ribbon of the Military Medal by Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston, the Corps Commander, in the Grand Place, Ypres, at 8 p.m. Captain Mullis and 50 men of D and B Companies formed the guard of honour.
December 25th.—Frequent snowstorms all day. At 12.40 p.m. the Battalion left St. Jean by train for the St. Omer area. Arrived at Wizernes at 5 p.m., and thence marched 4 miles to St. Martin-au-Laert, where we found very comfortable billets.
December 26th.—Day spent in cleaning-up and settling down in billets. The French inhabitants do not seem very pleased to have either officers or men billeted on them, owing to their having been treated previously none too well by English troops.
December 27th.—We had a great snowball fight with the 7th R.B., and defeated them.
December 28th.—Battalion route march in the morning; roads a bit slippery, but conditions for marching otherwise perfect.
December 29th.—Training of specialists begun. Revolver practice for officers. The officers had a very successful Christmas dinner in the village school.
December 30th.—Slight thaw. The men had their Christmas dinners, under very good arrangements by all companies. The dinner consisted of roast pork, 3 kinds of vegetables, plum pudding, and a good quantity of beer and stout, as well as cigarettes.
December 31st.—All box respirators tested at Brigade H.Q. in the morning. Officers' revolver practice in the afternoon.
1918. Summary of Events. On New Year's Day the Battalion was on the move again back to the Somme country, where January was spent mostly in training. About the middle of the month the 42nd Brigade was ordered to shed a Battalion, and for a few days the fate of the 5th Battalion hung in the balance. Eventually, however, it was decided that the 6th King's Shropshire Light Infantry should be broken up to furnish reinforcements, instead of the 5th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, and during February the Battalion was in the trenches at Bois d'Urvilliers, with rest intervals at Montescourt. The first twenty days of March were similarly spent, and all was quiet. Then on the 21st descended the German avalanche, with results already described earlier in this volume. On that day and on the 23rd the Battalion put up a stout fight, but, being overwhelmed by numbers, was withdrawn only with difficulty. On the 4th April it again came in for further hot fighting, and was again forced back, its casualties in the fortnight having amounted to some twenty-six officers and upwards of five hundred men.
Lieut.-Colonel Sebastian, who had commanded the Battalion so successfully in many of its previous fights, met with a motor accident on his way to rejoin from leave in England, and was still suffering from the effects when he took up the command on the night of the 22nd March. Next day he fell mortally wounded, and the command of the Battalion devolved on Major Labouchere, who, unfortunately, was wounded and captured in the engagement of the 4th April, when Captain S. L. Symonds (the Adjutant) brought the remnants of the Battalion out of action. This chapter of accidents, together with the depletion of all ranks, sealed the fate of the Battalion, although its ultimate disappearance as a fighting unit was deferred for a while.
Major Barwell (wounded and invalided to England in 1917) now rejoined and assumed command. An effort was made to patch up the Battalion by amalgamating with it some 10 officers and 300 men of the 6th Somerset Light Infantry, but these were required for reinforcing other units, and were presently withdrawn.
The hope of saving the Battalion, at any rate in name, still lingered, as it was thought that, in the course of time, drafts from England would be forthcoming to bring it up to strength again; and building on this hope, the authorities detailed the Headquarters of the Battalion, with a few officers and about 50 other ranks, for the instruction of American troops on first arrival in France, while the remainder of the Battalion was dispatched to the Base, to be used as reinforcements.
Early in June it became known that the scheme for instructing Americans had fallen through, and the cadre of the Battalion was ordered to join the 16th Division and proceed to England, where the Division was to be reformed for further service in France. At the same time the 14th (Light) Division, as part of which the Battalion had served throughout the war, also came to England for a similar purpose.
On the 20th June, 1918, the 5th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry ceased to exist, its cadre being transferred to form the new 18th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment.
From the diary kept by Lieut.-Colonel S. R. Sebastian, M.C.
January 1st, 1918.—The Battalion marched to St. Omer, and entrained at about 5 p.m.
January 2nd.—Arrived at Edgehill, between Dernancourt and Buire-sur-Somme, about 7 a.m., after a very cold journey. Hot cocoa was supplied to the Battalion by the Division, and very good it was. Marched to Cappy-sur-Somme via Dernancourt, Meaulte, and Bray. The roads were like glass, but the transport managed to get along all right with the help of platoons. The billets at Cappy were good, though a bit leaky. Everybody soon settled down quite comfortably, and there were canteens, recreation-rooms, and a sergeants' mess. The village had been knocked about by shell-fire, so there was plenty of fuel to be had. There were few inhabitants.
January 13th.—Our time at Cappy was very well spent. All Lewis gunners were classified, and did plenty of shooting at both long and short ranges. The Battalion was put through a week's musketry course (3 days' training and 3 days' shooting). There were also various musketry competitions for all ranks, and a Brigade Lewis-gun competition, which was won by No. 2 Platoon (of the Battalion), commanded by 2nd Lieut. Stace, and trained by Captain Boardman. Amongst the amusements were an excellent concert given by the 9th K.R.R.C., a good show by ourselves, and a cinema entertainment by the 43rd Brigade at Bray, to which the whole Battalion went in two parties.
January 19th.—The Battalion route-marched to Longueval via Susanne and Maricourt. The band played at the Cross Roads to a mixed audience of U.S.A. Railway R.E. and hillmen from Burma. Returned by Montauban, Carnoy, and Maricourt—altogether 20 miles. Received information that the Battalion is to leave the Brigade, and be broken up for reinforcing other battalions.
January 22nd.—The Battalion marched south-west via Chuignolles, Proyart, Harbonnieres, and Caix to Le Quesnel. Heard that the Army Corps has decided that we are not to be broken up, but that the K.S.L.I. will leave the Brigade instead.
January 23rd.—Marched via Hangest-en-Santerre to Davenscourt (6 miles), where we went into a comfortable French camp, in a most delightful place, and with very kind people. The Vicomte de Villeneuve, a charming gentleman, who owned the estate and was also Maire, helped us in every possible way, and the troops thoroughly enjoyed their stay here.
January 24th.—Our band and that of the R.B. played in the chateau grounds during the afternoon.
January 25th.—The Battalion was bussed to Buchoire (Map: St. Quentin Sheet), a most interesting journey through the devastated country round Roye. Bouchoire was a nice place with fair accommodation.
January 26th.—Parades, training, etc. Our officers played R.B. officers—a good game—1 goal all.
January 27th.—Marched via Berlancourt, Villeselve, Cugny, Flavy, and Jussy to Montescourt. Had dinners on the way. A good march, but the Battalion had to wait outside Montescourt an hour for the 9th K.R.R.C. to go up to the line. A very comfortable French camp. The Brigade relieved the French.
February 2nd.—The Battalion relieved the 5th K.S.L.I. in the left sector, Bois d'Urvilliers. D Company in front; A in support; 1 platoon and H.Q. in reserve; B and C back at Brigade H.Q. A very interesting line, with excellent observation. The wood has all been cut down, and dug-outs for everyone are first-class. Cookers and canteen are up in the line.
February 4th.—I took over temporary command of the Brigade, and Labouchere the Battalion. The Brigadier on leave.
February 13th.—The Battalion was relieved by the 9th R.B. yesterday, and returned to billets at Montescourt. One man was wounded on the 5th. Seven officers and 200 other ranks from the 6th Battalion of the Regiment arrived as a reinforcement. The Battalion paraded by way of welcoming the new arrivals, and I explained what had recently happened in connexion with the threatened break-up of the 5th Battalion, how the K.S.L.I. had been taken instead, and how, in a similar manner, the 6th Battalion of the Regiment had been taken out of the 60th (Light) Brigade, 20th (Light) Division, and broken up to furnish reinforcements for other battalions. Sergeant W. M. R. Lake was awarded the-Croix de Guerre on the 6th February.
February 14th-16th.—The Battalion found strong working parties on these three nights.
February 17th.—Relieved 9th K.R.R.C. in the trenches.
February 19th.—One officer and 33 other ranks sent to R.E. for one month's attachment as pioneers. Captain Conway (R.A.M.C.) proceeded to the 42nd Field Ambulance for duty, and was relieved by Captain Irvine (R.A.M.C.). 2nd Lieut. M. F. Fritz was badly wounded yesterday.
February 22nd.—After three days of thaw and rain the trenches are full of mud, and are falling in everywhere.
February 23rd.—Captain J. H. Boardman (attached from 2nd Battalion) proceeded to join the 9th R.B. for duty. One of our men was missing today.
February 25th.—Still raining.
February 21th.—I went on a fortnight's leave to England. (This was the last entry in Lieut.-Colonel Sebastian's diary. He was mortally wounded within a few hours of rejoining from leave.—ed,)
From the Battalion Diary. February 28th.—Yesterday Montescourt was slightly shelled, and this afternoon enemy artillery was active. The Battalion was relieved by the 6th Somersets (43rd Brigade). Our Brigade sector is now to be held with one battalion only in front, one at Montescourt and one at Jussy. Relief completed at 10.30 p.m. Battalion to billets in French huts at Jussy.
March 1st.—Arrangements made for baths for half the Battalion today and half tomorrow. Settling in billets comfortably.
March 3rd.--Heavy snow at intervals. The Battalion found working parties (300 men) for the rear defence line from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
March 4th-l0th.—Fine weather. Working parties each day. Football in afternoon.
March 11th.—The Battalion relieved the 9th R.B. in the Brigade sector; A and D Companies in front, C in support, B at Brigade H.Q.
March 12th.—Enemy quiet. Trenches in very decent state.
March 13th.—Work on communication trenches being pushed forward. Patrols out at night, but no enemy seen.
March 14th.—Weather still fine. Enemy very quiet.
March 15th.—Enemy artillery active in early morning. Patrols saw no signs of the enemy.
March 16th.—The front trenches were slightly shelled last night. Our men working hard on the trenches.
March 17th.—Fine weather continues. Our night patrol saw a small party of the enemy, but no identification obtained.
March 18th.—The Battalion was relieved by the 9th K.R.R.C. and returned to Montescourt. A Company remaining at Brigade H.Q.
March 19th.—Wet day. Baths, etc.
March 20th.—Another wet day. The Battalion provided working parties at Le Fay Farm. Front exceptionally quiet. " Precautionary Action " received at 4.30 p.m.
THE GERMAN ATTACK. March 2lst.—Misty morning. Action :-- 6.5 a.m. Battalion, under command of Major Labouchere, moves up to Battle zone. A and B Companies lose very heavily from shell-fire. Enemy reach Battle zone about 11.30 a.m. Front posts lost, having been obliterated (with their occupants) by shell-fire. Second line held in front of Brigade H.Q. along Benay-Essigny road. Some hand-to-hand fighting; 8 prisoners taken. Enemy massing in Lambay Wood and Essigny all afternoon. Line abandoned at night; all British troops retire behind the canal at Flavy. Casualties : Lieut. B. A. anderson, M.C., and 2nd Lieut. W. Fawcitt, killed; Major C. H. Williams, 2nd Lieut. J. F. Traynor, and 2nd Lieut. J. W. Baldwin, M.M., wounded; Missing:Lieut. W. A. Ramsay, Lieut. E. C. Cook, 2nd Lieut. F. J. Collinge, (all three Afterwards reported prisoners of war,) and 2nd Lieut. R. J. Mcl. W. Theobald, (later reported killed).
March 22nd.—Battalion arrives at Petit Detroit about 5.30 a.m., awaiting orders to move forward. Canal bank held. All details there under Lieut. Money and 2nd Lieuts. Creswell and Cooke. Colonel Sebastian joins Battalion about 10 p.m.
March 23rd.—Line of canal lost in early morning during thick mist. B Company, sent up to reinforce near Flavy station, is entirely overwhelmed. Battalion retires before enemy at 11.30 a.m., fighting all the way back to Riez de Cugny. Intense machine-gun barrage put down by enemy. Battalion digs in in a strongpoint. Casualties : Lieut.-Colonel S. R. Sebastian, M.C.,(Died of wounds on the 27th March.) Wounded: Captain E. V. Mullis, M.C., and 2nd Lieut. H. M. Gray, all B Company and Details missing, including Captain D. J. Banks, (POW) Lieut. H. C. Money,(POW) 2nd Lieut. Creswell,(POW) 2nd Lieut. J. Finlayson,(killed) 2nd Lieut. F. M. Hughes, (killed) and Lieut. A. H. Edwards. Other ranks killed, wounded, and missing since 21st March, about 350.
March 24th.—Battalion again retire under orders, heavy enemy machine-gun fire causing a few casualties. Battalion collects at Guiscard, and marches via Crisolles to Sermaize, arriving 11 p.m.
March 25th.—Men get three hours' sleep, then take up a position covering the Oise Canal in positions dug by Entrenching Battalion. During afternoon French troops, who had been holding Bussy in front, retire, and on advance of enemy in large masses, Battalion again retires by order, and marches to Thiescourt, arriving 1 a.m. (26th). Battalion shelled by enemy field guns at close range after leaving Sermaize; no casualties.
March 26th.—Battalion marched out at 7 a.m. to Ecouvillon, and prepare to take up a position there covering the French. At 4 p.m. march to Elincourt, where men get billets with plenty of straw.
March 27th.—Battalion marches to Remy, there joining transport. No billets; men sleep in open, officers in school. Lieut.-Colonel S. R. Sebastian, M.C., died of his wounds at Rouen.
March 28th.—Weather breaks. Battalion moves in afternoon to Sarrons, arriving 11 p.m.; every one wet through. Much trouble in getting billets.
March 29th.—Move at midday to Nogent (transport following independently), arriving there at 5.30 p.m. Busses, expected at 9 p.m., do not arrive until after midnight.
March 30th.—Embus at 1 a.m., arrive Loeuilly 11 a.m. Fairly good billets. Accommodation chiefly occupied by refugees. Raining hard.
March 3lst.—Miserable day, heavy rain. 5 officers and 200 other ranks (Glosters and Northumberland Fusiliers) join the Battalion from 13th Entrenching Battalion.
April 1st.—Embuss at 3 p.m.; taken to St. Nicholas, whence we move to small valley behind the Bois de Gentelles. In reserve to 41st and 43rd Brigades.
April 2nd.—Fine day. Remain in valley all day. Relieved at night by French. March to Bois deBlangy in pouring rain. Bivouac for night in wood.
April 3rd.—Remain in wood till afternoon, when we march to Hamelet. Battalion rests here for 3 hours. Move out at 8 p.m. and relieve cavalry holding line just east of Hamel. All four companies in front line.
April 4th.—Heavy bombardment opens at 5.25 a.m. About 8 a.m. Germans attack, employing at least four waves of troops. Both flanks go; Battalion forced to evacuate position. Line taken up south of Vaire. Casualties : Killed 2nd Lieut. E. N. N. Sellman, Wounded; Lieut. C. R. Charsley, 2nd Lieuts. Cliff, Borman, Horncastle, S. Clark, R. N. Addington, Wounded and Missing: Major A. M. Labouchere (died while a prisoner, on the 20th April.—ed.) Missing: Lieut. L. V. D. Owen, Other ranks killed, wounded, and missing, about 160.
April 5th.—Relieved at 1 a.m. by Australians. March back to Aubigny; rest for half-hour for rum and coffee; then march out and man rear defence line near canal. Captain Symonds in command.
April 6th.—Move to new position about 1/2 mile south of road. Quiet day. Wire put out in front of position. Extraordinary activity overhead on part of Royal Flying Corps.
April 7th.—Remain in reserve until evening, when Reserve Line taken over by Australians. March to St. Fuscien; poor billets; men very crowded.
April 8th.—Wet day, spent chiefly in checking rolls, etc.
April 9th.—Another wet day. Men draw pay for first time since operations began.
April 10th.—March out at 6 a.m. Entrain at Saleux. Detrain at Gamarches, and march to Bethencourt-sur-Mer. Good billets. Men get good night's rest.
April 11th.—March to Fenquieres and entrain. Arrive at Maresquel at 6 p.m. Long, dreary march to Herly. Men very tired.
April 12th.—Arrive Herly 3 a.m. Eventually settle in pretty comfortably.
April 13th.—Fine day, spent in cleaning up and reorganizing.
April 14th.—Move to Laires (14-mile march); arrive 6 p.m. Draft of 11 officers and 323 other ranks from 6th Somersets amalgamated with the Battalion.
April 15th.—March to Isbergues ; arrive 4 p.m.; billeted in empty houses near the railway. Very slight shelling.
April 16th.—Working parties of 100 found, to work on G.H.Q. line running through Aire and Lillers.
April 17th.—Working parties of 300. Battalion moved to Molinghem in the late afternoon; two companies billeted in barns, and two under bivouac sheets in sheds.
April 18th-20th.—On these days the Battalion found a working party of 550 each day.
April 2lst.—Work as usual. Preparation made for splitting up the Battalion; a small nucleus of 10 officers and 45 men to be left for instructing American troops.
April 22nd.—Fine day. Work on reserve line progressing slowly; the ground is too wet for trenches to be dug, and breastworks, revetted with sods, have to be made.
April 23rd.—A few shells dropped near the village in the early morning. Work as usual. The Band played in the afternoon.
April 24th—Band instruments sent off to the 2/4th Battalion transport camp. Orders for the Battalion to be sent to the Base, for drafting, expected at any moment.
April 25th.—Fine day. Work as usual.
April 26th.—Farewell dinner of all the officers of the Battalion; space rather limited, otherwise very successful.
April 27th—The Battalion was split up. Officers and men for drafting entrained at Berguette, for Etaples. at 4.30 p.m. The following are left to form a staff for training Americans : Majors Barwell and Cooke, Captains Wetherall, King, Symonds, and Stace, Lieut. Addington, 2nd Lieut. McKechnie, Captain Peel, Lieut, and Quarterniaster Toplis, 2nd Lieut. Vaughan ; also 49 other ranks, composed of N.C.O. instructors, C.S.M.'s, C.Q.M.S.'s, etc. It is hoped that, after a lapse of a few months, when sufficient drafts have been collected, the Battalion and also the Division will be reformed.
April 28th.—The remains of the Battalion marched to Predefin, some 14 miles. Average billets.
April 29th—Marched to Cavron (16 miles). Very comfortable billets. The 5th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry (as it is still called) is now entirely separated from the 6th Somersets, and is under the command of Major Barwell, M.C.,
April 30th.—Wet day. Baths at Fressin; no change of clothing.
May 1st.—Standing-by, ready to move, all the morning; but later in the day the order to move was cancelled.
May 2nd.—Moved to Humbert. 2 officers and 10 other ranks proceeded on courses.
May 5th.—Church Parade at 10 a.m. at Sempy, the Rifle Brigade Chaplain officiating.
May 10th.—Lecture by the Commanding Officer in the school at 5.30 p.m. 2nd Lieut. Vaughan returned from Sniping Course. First list of Honours gained by the Battalion in recent fighting was published : viz. : 1 D.S.O., 1 Bar to M.C., 3 M.C.'s, 1 D.C.M., 10 M.M.'s.
May 12th.— The following Awards were made : Bar to M.C., Captain B. K. Cooke, M.C.; M.C., 2nd Lieut. R. N Addington.
May 16th.—Training commenced; physical training, map reading, tactical exercises (indoor and outdoor), and lectures in the evening.
May 22nd.—Moved to Royon in the evening; billets not as comfortable as at Humbert.
May 25th.—The G.O.C. the Division saw the Battalion at training this morning.
May 26th-31st.—Training continued. Weather fine.
June 1st.—Moved by lorry at noon to Campagne-lez-Boulonnais via Fruges. All three battalions of the Brigade comfortably accommodated in the same village. We are now attached to the 49th Brigade, 16th Division.
June 2nd-5th.—Training continued. The following Awards were made in H.M. the King's Birthday Honours Gazette : M.C., R.S.M. G. T. Arlett; M.S.M., R.Q.M.S. Trendall.
June 6th.—Marched in the evening 3 miles to billets at Bourthes, as our old quarters were required for an American Divisional H.Q. We were informed that American troops for us to train would probably arrive in this area very shortly.
June 9th.—Orders received that the Americans previously allotted to us for training will not be trained in this area, and that we are to rejoin the 14th Division in a day or so.
June 12th.—Marched to Royon (12 miles) to our old billets, and came under the 14th Division again.
June 14th.—Heard from the Base that Captain Peel was sent to England on the 6th June for six months duty at home, and that our transport (with personnel) had gone to the American Army. The entries in the Battalion Diary from this date onwards were made by Major N. F. Barwell, M.C.-ed.
June 15th.—The Divisional Commander (Major-General Skinner, C.M.G., D.S.O.) visited the Battalion to say farewell. We received orders that we were to be transferred to the 16th Division forthwith, and would proceed with it to England. We also had a note from the Brigadier of the 42nd Brigade (which is some 30 miles away) telling us that the 14th Division is to be split up, and that the Brigade cadres are going to England a day or two earlier than those of the 16th Division, to which formation we are to belong in future. The Brigade sent us a silk and gold tasseled flag to commemorate the winning, by our representative platoon, of a Brigade Competition held some while back. "
June 16th.—Movement Orders received—the last issued by the 14th (Light) Division : the cadre of the Battalion to march to Hesdin, and there entrain for Boulogne. All remaining transport to move north, and report to O.C. Divisional Train. We thus lose our chargers, many of whom had come out with the Battalion in 1915 and become, as good "war-horses" as ever we are likely to find. Tonight we dined with the 9th Rifle Brigade, our comrades since September 1914, when the Division was formed as a Light Division in the so called "First Hundred Thousand" (i.e. the first hundred thousand volunteers called for by F.-M. Lord Kitchener). The 9th R.B. is now under orders to join the 34th Division. Curiously enough, just before the Division left England in the spring of 1915 we had asked the 9th R.B. officers to dine with us, to commemorate the ancient ties dating from the days of the original and famous Light Division of the Peninsular War. This was recalled in the friendly speeches tonight.
June 17th.—The cadre of the Battalion moved in accordance with orders, by march route, to Hesdin, leaving Royon about 9 a.m. The officers and other ranks of the 9th Rifle Brigade turned out to say good-bye to us, the troops exchanging cheers. Reaching the station at Hesdin at 3 p.m., we found that no train arrangements had been made for us by the 14th Division, and the railway officials of course could not move us without authority. The 14th Division had already left the country, so the only authority that it was possible to obtain was from the 1st Army. This the R.T.O. managed to obtain, and by a stroke of luck we were able to entrain at 8.30 p.m. in an empty supply train.
June 18th.—Reached Boulogne at 2 a.m., and the men were in billets by 2.35, the officers obtaining lodgings wherever they could in the town. Embarked at 2 p.m. in fine weather. Fine crossing, and the men were provided with tea at Folkestone. The various cadres now gathered under the 16th Division left in two troop trains for Aldershot, reaching the Government siding at 10.30 p.m. Detrained and marched, in rain, about 4 miles to the standing camp at Crookham Racecourse. At the railway station the Divisional Commander was handed papers, from which it appeared that most of the battalions (which we had been sent home to form) were other than those for whom cadres had been sent; thus, in our case, the 5th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry was to form the cadre of a battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment (the 18th).
June 19th.—Orders were received for the cadre to proceed to Clacton-on-Sea (Essex), there to form the new battalion from drafts, which, it was expected would take a week or ten days to collect. The Commanding Officer drew up a protest against the change of name, and the Brigadier promised to forward it. In the meanwhile the Commanding Officer proceeded to London and was granted an interview at the War Office, at which the difficulty of maintaining the Oxford and Bucks Battalions was explained to him, as well as the reasons for raising a new Gloucestershire battalion.
June 20th.—The cadre of the 5th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry was taken on the strength of the 18th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, which Battalion was formed, and published its first Part I. and Part II. Orders this day. With regard to the dispersal of the 5th Battalion, it will be of interest to place on record that when, in April, the fate of the Battalion was realized, the Commanding Officer (Major Barwell) made arrangements for the disposal of the private property of the Battalion. To the 2/4th Battalion of the Regiment were presented the Band instruments, with cart and horse, and the balance of the band fund (£42). To the Oxford and Bucks Prisoners of War Fund were sent £20 from the Sergeants' Mess, and £40 from the Battalion Canteen Fund, while the Regimental Association received £40 from the Grocery Fund, and £11 2s. Id. from the Sergeants' Mess.