Ligny-Thilloy and the end of 1916

 

On the 1st August, Major White took over command of the Battalion as Lieutenant Colonel Hill, slightly wounded at Guillemont went home on leave to England. The next day saw the Battalion move to Citemes where it remained for two days. On the 4th, they moved to Robecq and remained there training until the 10th, when they moved to Gorre in Brigade reserve. A draft of 10 Officers and 150 men from various units joined and training continued until the 14th when the Battalion relieved the 18th Kings Liverpool Regiment in the trenches at Givenchy. The tour lasted until the 19th when they were relieved by the 2nd Wiltshire’s. The battalion took over the defence of the village line and held and improved the conditions in 9 keeps. On the 23rd, the Men were again back in the front line trenches and the next day an artillery barrage was opened on the Enemy mine shafts behind Red Dragon crater. A raid was attempted on the night of the 26th by Second Lieutenant Parkes and 32 Men with the object of locating the enemy mine shaft and dropping incendiary bombs down it. At 10.55pm the raiding party left the trenches and divided into 3 bombing sections a clearing party. Rain had been falling heavily and the night was exceptionally dark. The raiders lost direction and only Second Lieutenant Parkes and 4 Men reached the objective. They found that the wire had not been cut and the enemy were on alert and were compelled to withdraw.

 

The battalion was relieved on the 27th and Marched to Hingette, where it was billeted. On the 3rd September, the Commanding Officer returned from leave and the Battalion moved to Le Hamel and Essars and took over billets. The battalion was in and out of the trenches for the rest of the Month and by the end of September was billeted at Naours carrying out training.

 

On the 4th October, the Battalion left Naours and by the next day was in the Pommern Redoubt, Major General O’Shea inspected the Men on the 9th and the N.C.O’s were parading for demonstration purposes when a German grenade exploded and caused 21 casualties.

 

On the 10th October, the Battalion moved off and spent the day at work on a new road between High wood and Longueval. The following day, whilst working in Crest trench, the position was violently shelled and six Men were killed.

 

On the 12th October, the ridge in front of Ligny-Thilloy was assaulted by the Men of the 89th and 90th Brigades and the 19th Battalion had been held in reserve. From 4.00am on the 13th, two hundred of the Men were engaged for over 12 hours carrying the wounded from the front line to the dressing stations.

 

 In the Evening, orders were received for the 21st Brigade to relieve the 89th, and the Battalion moved to Flers trench. No sooner had the relief taken place when the enemy shelled the trenches, causing many casualties. From 1.00am to 4.30am on the 14th, the wind was blowing towards the German lines and the enemy dropped gas shells behind the Battalions lines. Gas helmets were quickly donned and only six men were slightly affected. On the 15th, the Battalion were again at work on the high wood-Longueval road but orders were received to relieve the 2nd Wiltshire’s in the front line trenches. The relief was completed by 10.30pm. The trenches were intermittently shelled for the next 2 Days, damaging the trenches the Battalion were digging in preparation for the attack planned for the 19th.

 

At zero hour, 3.40am the British artillery opened a terrific bombardment on the German positions and the 21st brigade attacked the enemy trenches. The two Companies under the command of Captain Keefe and Captain Myers were already in the communication trenches which had been vacated by the assaulting Battalions. They suffered a few casualties as they passed Battalion HQ, one of whom was second Lieutenant Walker who was injured and died later that Day. By the time the Battalion reached the front line trenches it was apparent that the attack  had failed, although some progress had been made by the 2nd Wiltshire’s who had  managed to gain Gird trench and take some prisoners. At 10.30am, a tank went over to the German line and cleared the trenches of the enemy, and coming back, reported no sign of the 2nd Wiltshire’s. At 12 noon, the Brigade Major, Captain Hobson came to Battalion HQ and said that the Brigadier wished the Commanding Officer to attach a company to the 18th Kings Liverpool Regiment for another attack. As the Battalion was already badly depleted, the Commanding Officer suggested two Companies would be required. Subsequently, the Brigadier ordered that the whole Battalion was to attack in conjunction with a tank.

At 12.35pm, orders were issued and the Battalion assembled 2 Companies in the front line trenches. The assault was planned for 4.30pm but was cancelled at the last minute as the tank due to lead the attack broke down on its way to the trenches.

 

During the night of the 18th-19th the enemy made violent bombing attacks on the front line trenches, at one point using a flame thrower, but with little success. It rained heavily during the night and early morning and, consequently, the trenches were deep in mud. The Men were under constant heavy shell fire and there were a number of casualties. Heavy rain continued throughout most of the next day and the shelling was especially severe towards midnight.

 

Early on the morning of the 20th, the Brigadier asked if the Battalion could hold the line for a further 24 hours and although the Men were greatly exhausted the Commanding Officer agreed.

 

By the time the Commanding Officer toured the trenches at 9.00am, the rain had stopped but the trenches were in a shockingly bad condition. There were many dead and wounded men and several of the trenches had collapsed completely but the Men were cleaning their rifles, attempting to clear the trenches and burying the dead.

Casualties for the day were; 8 Men killed, 31 wounded and 3 missing.

 

The Battalion were relieved the next Morning by the 56th Australian Regiment and started the march back to the Pommern redoubt. The Battalion transport, under Lieutenant Ince, met the exhausted Men close to Flers village to carry the packs of some of the most exhausted Men. Near the village of Bazentin, ambulances picked up about 25 of the most exhausted who were in a state of collapse. The 23rd was spent resting, cleaning rifles and equipment.

 

On the 24th, the Battalion marched to Dernancourt. The enemy shelled the village during the day and the Battalion lost 1 Man killed and several wounded.

 

On the 26th, the Battalion moved to Lucheux and was transferred from the 4th to the 3rd Army and spent the next few days training.

 

On the 30th, the Battalion moved to Bailleumont-staying there for the next few days.

From the 4th of November, the Battalion were in and out of the trenches around Berles, supplying working parties and training.

 

The Battalion was relieved on the 5th December and went into Brigade Reserve at Bailleulval.

 

The Battalion were again in the trenches on the 23rd and here Christmas 1916 was spent. The weather was very wet, but a fairly quiet time was spent until the 29th when the Battalion were relieved by the 2nd Yorkshire’s. The next few days were spent in Brigade reserve at Bailleulval. The year of 1916 came to a close with the appointment of a new Commanding Officer with Lieutenant Colonel White replacing Lieutenant Colonel Hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Arras Sector- 1917

 

The 1st January 1917 was a general holiday, a welcome change for the Battalion but the next day they relieved the 2nd Yorkshire’s in the trenches in the Berles line. There was little activity and although the weather was extremely wet, the Men set about cleaning and improving the trenches. The Battalion was relieved on the 6th and moved to La Cauchy for the night before moving, the next day, to Boquemaison.

 

On the 15th, a move was made to Pommern where training was continued. By the 5th February the Battalion had moved to Beaumetz and by the 8th had relieved the 2nd Yorkshire’s in the line. On the 13th, the Battalion moved to Arras in Brigade reserve.

 

On the 27th, the Battalion moved to Achicourt and remained there training and providing working parties until the 18th March, when they moved to Arras.

 

On the 19th, an urgent order was received for the Battalion to move up in support in preparation for moving forward the following night. The move, however, did not develop and the Battalion was relieved the following day and moved to Beaumetz

 

On the 21st, the Battalion moved to Pommern and on the 28th to Madeleiene redoubt to provide working parties. The redoubt was heavily shelled-causing a number of casualties.

Command of the Battalion changed again-Lieutenant Colonel McDonald taking over from Lieutenant Colonel White.

 

At 8.30pm on the 30th March, Number 3 Company moved off from the Madeleine redoubt and relieved the 2nd Yorkshire’s in the trenches. A few casualties were caused by heavy shelling but the relief was completed. At dawn on the 31st, the Company fell back to another line of trenches, leaving a bombing section as a Garrison. It was later found that the Yorkshire’s and A Company of the Wiltshire’s had to leave their positions, but the Battalion had orders to hold their position at all costs. At 2.00am on the 1st April an attack on the Garrison by about 50 enemy was repulsed and driven back to Nagpur trench.

 

Number 4 Company moved off From Madeleine redoubt at 8.30pm on the 30th March and relieved A Company of the 2nd Yorkshire’s. A patrol of 4 Company ascertained that the enemy was in occupation of Nagpur trench. Movement was observed at a cross roads and a machine gun was directed on the patrol from the West corner of the village of Henin-sur-Cojeul. On the 2nd April, during the attack on the village, the lewis guns of the Company opened up on an enemy strongpoint that had been holding up the advance. On the evening of 3rd April, the Company was relieved by the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

 

Number 1 company moved off from the Madeleine redoubt at 10.30pm on the 1st April and reached its advanced assault position by 4.50am. At 5.15am the Company advanced behind B Company of the 2nd Yorkshire’s. The company was responsible for mopping up the village. When the village was entered, the OC was injured and the Company was held up by snipers. The snipers were accounted for with rifle grenades and a Lewis gun and 5 prisoners were captured. The Company was relieved at 11.45pm on the 2nd April by the 16th Manchester’s.

 

Number 2 Company moved off behind the 2nd Yorkshire’s as moppers up and crossed the Cojeul River in good order, maintaining direction. The Company entered the village and carefully searched the ruins and captured several prisoners, suffering slight casualties.

 

The Company was relieved at the same time as Number 1 Company.

On the 3rd, the Battalion moved to billets in Basseux where training was carried out in preparation for the pending assault on the Hindenburg line.

 

On the morning of the 23rd April, the Battalion was in the trenches in the Hindenburg line on the West side of the Cojeul River. At 9.15am, they were ordered to cross the river to the slopes of South East of Heninel. At 12.40pm, the Battalion moved off to occupy the left of the old British front line.

 

D Company led the move followed by C, B and A Companies, but came under heavy artillery and machine gun fire. A certain amount of reorganisation had to be carried out on reaching the trenches.

 

At 5.00pm, the Commanding Officer was sent for from brigade HQ and told that the attack would be renewed at 6.00pm.The objective was a line overlooking Cherisy and the attack was to be made by the 19th Battalion on the left and the 18th Battalion on the right.

 

The Commanding Officer had little time to plan the attack and found it necessary to attack in 3 waves using 3 Platoons in each wave. The Commanding Officer called his Company Commanders together and quickly gave his orders. C company were to attack on the right, B in the centre and A on the left. D Company was to support each of the other Companies with 1 platoon each, unfortunately Second Lieutenant Purdy, who was Commanding D Company at the time, was killed on his way back from HQ, and His Company having no orders did not leave the assembly trenches.

 

At 6.00pm, the attack was launched. The frontage was too wide for the Companies to keep in touch and the enemy trenches were only penetrated in a few places. During the advance, a good many casualties were suffered from our own artillery barrage. When the Men came under machine gun fire, they doubled forward and the Officers and Sergeants were unable to hold them back. The companies reached the enemy trenches and found them still full of Germans and there was no sign of the Battalion which the Commanding Officer had been told would mop up behind the Battalion. A great deal of machine gun fire poured from the enemy second line trench, causing many casualties. All the Officers of both Companies had become casualties and the N.C.O’s decided to hold on to what they had already gained. The men held the position until midnight, when the 2nd Yorkshire’s moved up in support.

 

At about 11.00am the next day, the Commanding Officer advanced 3 Platoons of the Battalion to occupy the German support line. In the evening, 4 strong points were constructed by the Royal Engineers and these were garrisoned by one platoon each under Second Lieutenants Cookson, Fyfe, Swann and Sergeant Ford.

 

Two of the platoons were relieved on the 25th and the remaining two on the 28th.

 

On the 29th, the Battalion marched to Arras and entrained for Maisnil St Pol where training was carried out for the next few days.   

 

 

   

The Third Battle of Ypres and Disbandment.