RHG injured at Gueudecourt – November 1916

Despite surviving the horrors of the Battle of Pozières, in July/August 1916, Reg was soon to face more of the same at Gueudecourt, near Flers, in November. According to C.E.W. Bean, the official historian “The Australian divisions, almost restored by their rest at Ypres, were now to plunge into the hardest trial that ever came to them.” Official History, Vol III, Chapter XXV – Flers. The Somme Battle Ends, p.894.

After Pozières in August, the 7th Brigade moved north to Flanders and spent most of September billeted at Steenvoorde, behind the lines near Ypres, training and refitting with a large batch of reinforcements and men returned from hospital. There were many promotions to replace the officers and NCOs lost in action during Pozières. Reg was promoted to Captain on 1 October 1917 to replace Capt A.S. Isaac in charge of C Company. Capt. Austin Stirling Isaac had been wounded in the arm at Pozières (which resulted in amputation but he survived the war) and was the only company commander to survive the night of 28/29 July:

Reg had previously complained to his brother about the delay in having this promotion conferred for the job he had been doing already for some time – I’m sure it was a typical complaint. (Reg’s letter to Theo 11 September 1916)

The rain during this period was incessant and the training ground reduced to a quagmire – which was rather fitting for what was to come. But the period was peaceful and a welcome respite – there was even a full sports programme with the 28th victorious in the football. During off duty hours the men were free to roam around Steenvoorde that the relationships with the local inhabitants were very cordial and it was a common sight to see the men of the brigade working in the fields, in the absence of the local men who had all been conscripted. [Neville Browning, The Blue and White Diamond – History of the 28th Battalion AIF 1915-1919 – pp146-7]

ANZAC soldiers wearing sheepskin jackets, and a mixture of slouch hats and steel helmets, resting on their way up to the trenches at the Somme, Dec 1916

In October the 28th AIF moved to Ypres, which was derelict due to two years of almost constant bombardment, and from there into the front line. The ‘weather was becoming wintry and the terrain and trenches were waterlogged due to the abundance rain that fell with monotonous frequency’. It was here that the 28th experienced the largest rats they had ever seen. “These unpleasant rodents, the size of well-grown kittens, infested dugouts and shelters and tunnelled into the earthworks…. One even had the temerity to bite the Regimental Sergeant Major’s nose one day when he was snatching forty winks!” [H.K. Kahan, The 28th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force : a record of war service ] The Battalion then moved back to the Somme, to the front line at Dernacourt near Albert, which caused some resentment, as the survivors of Pozières were not keen to return to the Somme believing that countless lives had been needlessly thrown away there for such little gain. The general feeling running through the AIF was that the Australians had done more than their share of fighting and dying. The weather was still dreadful and the condition of the trenches appalling. Mud oozed from the trench walls and communication trenches were reduced to canals. Reg’s mate Lieutenant Roy Phillipps was wounded at this time by attempting to walk across open country to inspect his Company post rather than attempt to negotiate 150 years of thigh deep mud in the communication trenches. He was almost half way across when a bullet struck the ground to his immediate front. he started to lope through the mud when another round went past his head. He wrote “the third got me, I tell you I was a bit blue crawling the rest of the way, some thirty yards expecting one in the neck”. Phillipps had been shot through the thigh and it took six stretcher-bearers nine hours to haul him two kilometres to an aid post through waist deep mud and slush.  (Browning, pp152-4)

The Battalion moved up to Gueudecourt, near Flers, for an attack on a German trench system named The Maze scheduled for 5th November. The 28th were detailed to take Gird Trench (known to the Germans as Gallwitz Stellung) on the left hand size of the Maze.

The Maze (Browning, p172)

Captain Charles Bean, Australian Official War Correspondent, knee deep in mud in Gird trench, near Gueudecourt in France, during the winter of 1916

Horses haul ammunition forward in deep mud outside Flers. November, 1916.

But the conditions were appalling. The mud caused havoc for the attack, preventing the men exploiting the creeping artillery barrage that preceded the attack and was supposed to cover the advance across no mans land. There was a gale, which preventing reconnaissance by air. Leading to poor execution of the barrage, with plenty of time for the Germans to emerge from their dug outs and face on the oncoming assault. The 28th, struggling through the mud, were decimated by the German machine guns, pinned down in no mans land, some for many days, in what we now see as typical of the First World War. The mud hampered the evacuation of the casualties and of the remaining men, most of them suffered from trench foot  – 90% of the 27th Battalion (Browning, pp157-9; Bean, Ch XXV, pp 917-920) The 28th’s Battalion War Diary for November 1916 typically records the horror of this period in its tragically understated way:

“3rd/4th   Took over front line from 53rd Bn AIF. Trenches in very bad order. In mud from 12 inches to 3 feet deep. Location M. 24. A. GUTDECOURT. Map [?]

4th   General work improving front trenches and preparing for attack of next day.

5th  The Bn in conjunction with 27th Bn & Coys of 25th & 26th Bn who were on our Right and the British Division on our left made an attack on the German line known as GIRD TRENCH. Owing to the inaccuracy of our Artillery fire, through lack of observation, the enemy were not kept down in their trenches by our barrage and the advancing troops were subjected to very heavy rifle & machine gun fire which prevented them reaching the objective. Our losses in this attack were 1 officer (Lieut W R Moore) killed and five wounded (2/Lieut F Muller, Lieut A W Curran) Previous to the attack four officers were wounded. Capt. R C Phillips, 2/Lieut MG Hammond, 2/Lieut CC Flower, Lieut RH Gill. The casualties of other ranks were as follows. 58 Killed, 166 wounded, 50 missing, 27 Other ranks were evacuated to Hospital suffering from effects of wet & [exposure?] ”
Battalion War Diary, 28th Battalion, AIF – November 2016

Australian Pioneers making a duckboard bridge across the trenches of the ‘Maze’.

Conditions for those wounded lucky enough to be rescued from no mans land and taken to the aid post were not much better. The aid post was incessantly shelled and there were no rations, water or blankets for the wounded. Those unable to walk were left lying on stretchers out in the open during the cold night. One casualty was discovered to have died of exposure over night. (Browning, p163)

 

 

 

 

 

Is it not recorded exactly when or where Reg was wounded – only ‘previous to the attack’ like Roy Phillipps and M.G. Hammond. Reg’s casualty list on his file at the AWM records a ‘GSW’ – gun shot wound – to his left wrist. The wound was serious enough for Reg to be sent for treatment to England.  Reg was heading back to England once more.

 

Place of Casualty

 

Date of Casualty

Date From whom received
10.11.16 CO 28th Bn, List Wounded in action France 3-6/11/16
19.11.16 A.I.F.List 114 Placed on Seconded list France 4.11.16
7.11.16 8th Sty Hosp. Adm. GSW Lt Wrist. Rouen 6.11.16
9.11.16 do To England. GSW Lt Wrist ,, 8.11.16
9.11.16 HS”Austurias” Embarked for England
GSW Lt Wrist
Havre  

9.11.16

Of the other people mentioned by name in the Battalion War diary:

Lieut W.R. Moore: killed in the action “MOORE. Killed in action on November 6, Lieutenant W. R. Moore, fourth dearly beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. A. Moore, 193 Newcastle street. Perth; Deeply mourned. – His duty nobly done” The Western Mail, 8 Dec 1916

Capt. R C Phillips: Reg’s mate from Perth, Maj Roy Phillipps, MC & Bar, DFC – previously covered in this post here.

2/Lieut MG Hammond: Captain Meysey George Hammond MC MM – was one of the wounded had only just returned to the battalion on 23 September, having been wounded in the leg at Pozières. He ‘walked with a pronounced limp and with the aid of a walking stick’. During  the deployment before the attack, his left elbow was shattered by enemy fire and he had to be forcibly received of his command and sent to the dressing station. It was a wound that would have seen the end of active service of most men. The 3rd London General Hospital back in England (the same place Reg was treated) found that “there is almost complete fixation of the elbow at right angle, and at present no use in forearm or hand, although there is no organic lesion of nerves”. Despite this wound, rendering his left arm permanently useless and needing to be supported in a sling, Hammond convinced the authorities to return him to front line service. In January 1917 he was promoted to lieutenant and for his actions as an Intelligence Officer near Westhoek on 20 September 1917  he was awarded the Military Cross in 1917 for his actions at Polygon Wood. While having only one functioning arm and the added handicap of a walking stick, he managed to single-handedly capture 20 German prisoners and gather important information. On Christmas Day 1917 near Ploegsteert, Hammond had a narrow escape from a sniper when a bullet was stopped by his field notebook and his cigarette case as it tore through his breast pocket. In early 1918 Hammond was posted to the Australian War Records Section in England but following numerous appeals to his superiors he returned to his battalion in France in May as captain in command of ‘A’ company. His actions near Morlancourt on 10 June 1918 were recognised with the award of a bar to his Military Cross. During the fighting he moved across no-mans-land, ten metres in front of his men, directing the attacking line with his walking stick hanging from his useless left arm and a watch in his right hand. Despite the danger he frequently had his back to the enemy while following closely behind the creeping artillery barrage, and would occasionally straighten the line with a wave of his stick. When his men followed him into the German trench, Hammond had already captured a number of enemy prisoners. He was mortally wounded by a sniper’s bullet the following day and died on the 14th June 1918. A fellow officer said of Hammond that ‘I am quite sure that [he] did not know what fear meant never once saw him duck for either a shell or a bullet’. He is buried in Vignacourt Cemetery. [https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C118771]

2/Lieut CC Flower: Cyril Cecil Flower, a clerk from Perth, was also wounded at the same time. He had been promoted from Sergeant to Second Lieutenant on 16 August 1916, after Pozières. He was wounded again, severely, on the fateful night of 28 September 1917 but survived the war returning to WA in May 1918. He is recorded as Captain CC Flower as a contributor to Herbet Collet’s History of the 28th AIF in 1922.

Lieut AW Curran: was wounded for the second time. Appointed 2nd Lieutenant on 30 August 1916 having being Mentioned in Despatches on 9 June 1916 after the Raid at Armentières “For consistent goodwork during 3½ months on Gallipoli and two months in France; As Signalling Sergeant he displayed great resource and coolness in repairing lines whilst under fire.” He became Battalion Signally Officer ad was Mentioned in Dispatches again on 2 January 1917 “For conspicuous work in maintaining communication and excellent conduct under fire. Am original member of the battalion, his work through has been of the highest order. He distinguished himself on three separate occasions since March 1916.”

2/6th Gurkha Rifles in Mesopotamia 1916

In March 1916 GTG arrived by ship  in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) serving with the 2/6th Gurkha Rifles. 2/6GR joined the 15th Indian Division which was formed in Mesopotamia in 1916 as part of the MEF – Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force. A brief explanation of the Mesopotamia campaign can be found here: Mesopotamia campaign – The National Archives

The Battalion War Diary for 2/6GR in the first few months in Mesopotamia (transcription: War Diary 2-6GR March 1916 – May 1916) records their marching from camp to camp up the Euphrates river from Basra to Nasiriyah, constantly working on maintaining the flood defences in this low-lying waterlogged area. It seems disease was a constant threat and they record an outbreak of cholera.

GTG took a number of photographs during this campaign. He records some of the key preoccupations from the War Diary – the endless bund construction and maintenance work (‘bund’ is the Anglo-Indian name for a river embankment or flood defenses, like ‘levee’) and the hospitals! It is not known if he made use of these but it seems many did. GTG also seems to have been very interested in the various ships and boats he saw, carefully noting their names and the companies that owned them, probably because of his initial career with P&O.

GTG arrived on the SS.Coconada. The Battalion War Diary records him arriving a bit later than the main battalion, on with 3 other B.O.s (British Officers – Captain Harte, Lieut. Barton and Lieut. Marley) and 208 other ranks from Suez. Lieut. Barton is recorded elsewhere (see below) as serving with 1/6 GR form 9.9.15 who I believe were still in Gallipoli but moved to Suez to assist guarding the canal in December 1915. If GTG was with Barton, on board in the Persian Gulf and then on arrival from Suez in Basra in March 1916, I assume GTG must have also served with 1/6GR at Gallipoli from September to December 1915.

This photo shows a Sikh regiment on board the SS Coconada in the Persian Gulf.  The horses and mules are in boxes on the port side of the ship and the men are collecting food on the starboard.

Major R. Maurice Searle Barton, T.D., “born in Frampton, Gloucestershire 4.8.1892; Second Lieutenant Indian Army Reserve of Officers, 18.12.1914; attached 1st Battalion 6th Gurkha Rifles, 9.9.1915; Lieutenant 18.12.1915; served in Egypt and Mesopotamia during the Great War; commanded “C” Company 2nd Battalion 6th Gurkha Rifles at Ramadi, September 1917; Captain 18.12.1918; served with 1st Battalion 5th Gurkha Rifles, 1918-1919; attached 2nd Battalion 11th Gurkha Rifles 1920; retired 20.11.1922; Assistant Commandant, Mewar Bhil Corps and Assistant Political Superintendent, Hilly Tracts, Mewar, 6.7.1926; re-engaged as Staff Captain Royal Artillery (T.A.) for the Second War, 16.6.1939; posted to Mountain Artillery Training Centre, Amballa, India; retired Honorary Major, 2.11.1947″ (taken from http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=6459279443&searchurl=an%3Dgurkhas)

GTG records two ships in the Shatt-al-Arab, the famous waterway where the Euphrates and Tigris converge – the SS Edavanha owned by B.I. (stands for British India Steam Navigation Company, a well known shipping line at the time, actually owned by P&O)  and the H.S. Sicilia (HS stands for Hospital Ship) owned by P&O (Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company) – GTG’s former employer.

The photos also shows sunken vessels in the waterway – scuttled by the Turks in an attempt to prevent shipping:

There are photos of the General Hospital at ‘Busra’ and a hospital ship aboard a ‘steernwheeler’ at Nasiriyeh

GTG also took photos of the smaller, local river craft, ‘bellums’ and ‘mahailas’ which are mentioned in the Battalion War Diary as used for carrying men and stores.

There are photos too of Ashar Creek and Margil in ‘Busra’, where the battalion had disembarked on 14 March 1916.

And the Military Governor’s House at Qurna.

There is also a rather morbid photo of the gallows at Nasiriyeh:

Finally there are photos of the troops, engaged in building the defensive ‘bund’ against the flooding. The spring flooding of the rivers was particularly severe in April / May 1916.

“The Supercilious Oont” !  – ‘oont’ was an Anglo-Indian word for a camel.  It seems transportation was a problem and the carts had difficulties in the water-logged terrain. Camels were used as well as reliance on local water vessels such as the bellums and mahailas pictured above.

The above photo claims these are the 7th Gurkha Rifles but I’m not sure this is correct. 2/7GR were part of the forces besieged at Kut-al-Amra in early 1916 and then captured and imprisoned upon the surrender of Kut. I understand that 2/7GR was reformed in Mesopotamia in 1916 and this may be the reformed battalion.  Or it may be a photo of 1/7GR back in India taken earlier before GTG left for Mesopotamia. Or it may be another Gurkha regiment, perhaps 5th Gurkha Rifles who were part of the same brigade as 2/6GR  – the 42nd Indian Infantry Brigade in the 15th Indian Division.

It is not known how long GTG served in Mesopotamia but he is recorded as ‘Granted temporary rank of  Captain whilst holding appointment as Platoon Commander at School of Instruction for Officers – 31st October 1917’

ARG wounded at Yangwani, April 1917

ARG was seconded to the 1/2 KAR in October/November 1916, by which time they were fighting at Kibata, near the port of Kilwa, south of Dar-es-Salaam. He was promoted Temporary Captain on 10 November 1916:

Haccy Fecitt’s article on 1/2 KAR paints a useful background to the battalion’s movements:

The Battalion sailed from Tanga on 5 October 1916 and disembarked at Kilwa Kiswani, a harbour south of Dar Es Salaam, forty eight hours later.

Kibata

On 10 October 1/2KAR along with 250 sepoys from 129 Baluchis marched towards Kibata, a hilly region northwest of Kilwa, to seize the area from the German Schutztruppe who violently contested it. The fighting centred on Kibata Fort and the hills around it and most actions were fought from entrenched positions where artillery and machine guns dominated the battlefield.  The young Askari of 1/2KAR were often shaken by the ferocity of the fighting and enemy shelling but they took part in many of the operations and performed well under the direct leadership of their officers. The Kibata campaign ended in mid-January 1917 and 1/2KAR’s casualty figures were 3 officers killed or died of wounds, 2 officers wounded, 17 Askari killed, 46 wounded and 1 missing. Also 1 porter was killed and 16 were wounded. This new unit had come through its first serious trial by enemy fire but ominously the officer casualty figures had been high, and as yet the Askari had not encountered the savage and swift attacks that well-led German troops could mount through thick bush.

After minor operations inland the battalion was withdrawn to Kilwa during the last week of February 1917 and there re-equipped, with the old leather belt and pouches being replaced by webbing items.  Four new machines guns were issued. Lieutenant Colonel Soames had returned to Nyasaland to command the Depot and recruiting activities of 2KAR as a third battalion, 3/2KAR was to be formed, and Lieutenant Colonel Giffard became the new CO.

[1st/2nd King’s African Rifles at Yangwani and Schaeffer’s Farm: German East Africa, April and May 1917 ]

And according to ARG’s MOD service record and handwritten record, he was promoted full Captain on 23 February 1917. This promotion may have been for his participation in the operations at Kilwa and Kibata but I have found no mention of him in the Battalion History for this period. And he does not list Kibata in his handwritten record or cigarette case.

However, I have been lucky to discover mention of ARG in the Battalion War Diary and War History during the events around Yangwani & Lutende in April 1917 – near the port of Lindi where the battalion had moved in March – and where it is recorded that ARG was wounded in the thigh. Yangwani is mentioned in ARG’s cigarette case in which he recorded all his postings but he made no mention of being wounded, neither in his handwritten service record nor in subsequent conversation, and this discovery is news to the family. [Actually, I see that ARG’s handwritten service record does mention that he was wounded during his service in East Africa: here]

I have gathered together the various primary sources for the 1/2 KAR’s action at this time and set them out below, together with Harry Fecitt’s very readable summary.

I found this map in Moyse-Bartlett showing Yangwani and Lutende just to the north of the port town of Lindi,  on the coast in the south of Tanzania (then called German East Africa) close to the border with Mozambique (then called Portuguese East Africa (see here for a contemporary map).

Harry Fecitt sets the scene:

“Lindi

1/2KAR were now deployed by sea further south to Lindi, a major German trading harbour where a long tidal creek ran 15 miles inland.  Large agricultural estates and areas of bush surrounded Lindi town and the ground rose into ridgelines further inland.  The Germans had 600 men in the area and they intended to resist any British attempts to advance from the coast.  A 4.1-inch gun salvaged from the destroyed German cruiser Konigsberg was being fired at British ships in Lindi harbour with some success.

Lindi Force, the British garrison at Lindi that 1/2KAR joined on 5 March 1917, consisted of troops from the 2nd West India Regiment (2WIR), Indian sepoys from the 5th Light Infantry (5LI), the Arab Rifles – a unit recruited from Yemenis working on estates in British East Africa, and the Indian 27th Mountain Battery. More Schutztruppe units moved towards Lindi and they contained, as was the German practice, a high proportion of European officers and NCOs. By comparison 1/2KAR was suffering from wastage of its few European personnel and its present ratio was one European for every 70 Askari. At this time the battalion received a draft of 180 young Askari.”

[1st/2nd King’s African Rifles at Yangwani and Schaeffer’s Farm: German East Africa, April and May 1917 ]

The official dispatches record the activities at Yangwani very briefly:

“Lindi Area.

At Lindi, Brig.-Gen. O’Grady carried out several local offensive enterprises. His patrols did well, and got the upper hand; the hills south of the harbour were secured; and a well executed surprise attack on a German post west of Nguru Mahamba on March llth [1917] resulted in the dispersion of the garrison and the capture of a pompom. The enemy had mounted a 4.1-in. gun in the neighbourhood of Mrveka, and with it they kept up an intermittent and comparatively harmless tire on our picquets on Kitulo Hill. On the 23rd April [1917] our troops surprised an enemy camp at Yangwani, the Germans retiring in confusion, and leaving many stores behind. On the 24th our small post at Sudi Bay was attacked by a couple of companies, who were driven off, leaving a dozen dead. On the 25th there was a smart engagement between the King’s African Rifles and an equal number of the enemy. The result was satisfactory, and but for the lack of white personnel might have been a decided success. By the end of April several fresh companies were reported in the Lindi area, and a considerable number, including Kraut’s command, were at or about T’unduru. The latter force had re-crossed the Portuguese border towards the end of March. Nothing further of importance took place in this, area until the 19th May, when a strong reconnaissance towards Mrveka met the enemy in considerable. force just west of Ngurumahamba.”

[13559-60 SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 27 DECEMBER, 1917

http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30447/supplements/13559

http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30447/supplements/13560]

The Battalion History written by Colonel Giffard gives a much better account:

[p11]

“IX.

                The whole battalion left Kibata for Kitambi, arriving there on the 7th [February 1917] where it remained until the 18th, resting and generally cleaning up. The Brigadier inspected the Battalion on the 14th, and on the 19th the until left for Kilwa. Kilwa was reached on the 23rd [February] and the whole Battalion was re-equipped. Here the old leather equipment was discarded and the battalion issued with web equipment. Four new machine guns were also drawn.

Orders were received on the 28th [February] that the battalion was to proceed to Lindi and on 3rd March, embarked on H.M.T’s “Barjora” and “Motrose”. Lindi was reached on the night of the 4th [March] and disembarkation took place on the 5th.

Lindi is situated at the mouth of the estuary formed by the Lukuledi and Mwreka Rivers, the creek formed being some 15 miles long. The camp was formed some 2 miles outside Lindi on the slopes of the Kitule Hills.

On the 9th [March] Lieut. Reymolds left and crossed the creek to garrison the Twin Hills at Nyanda, a position which overlooked Lindi completely. The German force was encamped roughly in the line Mkwaya–Mingoyo–Schaedel’s Farm–Schaeffer’s Farm, and no movement of any importance was made for some time after the Battalion’s arrival. The enemy, however, were soon shelling and the Battalion Camp and the village received much attention from another of the “Konigsberg” guns, which the enemy were able to move very easily, there being two trolley lines in this area, one running from near Lindi to Ntua, the other joining this line in the vicinity of Mingoyo, from Mkwaya. However, they never managed to do any damage with this gun, either to the camp or the village. On the 13th of the month [April] six men volunteered to endeavor to find the gun, but eventually returned having been unable to get through the enemy picquet line.

At this time the Battalion formed the nucleus of what afterwards became the Lindi Force, and all troops were now under the command of Brig. General O’Grady.

The nature of the country demanded the most extensive patrolling and these with the various posts fund by the Battalion continuously employed over the whole Company. Many roads led into this village and the district was of some importance before the war and was a source [p12] of much revenue to the German East Africa Company, who had a district manager there. The main road from Lindi to Massassi was one of the old slave routes used by the Arabs.

It was now decided to make some sort of demonstration against the enemy positions, and on the 20th [March] Lt.-Col. Giffard flew over the enemy lines in the hydroplane. Air reconnaissance in this neighborhood was, however, not of much use owing to the very thick bush which covered the whole district. Flights were only possible too in the early morning as with the close proximity of the sea, air currents and pockets were very dangerous and frequent.

Major Hardingham left on the 24th [March] to take over Mtanga Post from the West Indians. An enemy patrol was encountered on the 28th [March] and our men effected the capture of the German white leading this party.

A demonstration was made against the enemy position at Schaeffer’s Farm on the 1st April [1917] supported by our 4” naval gun and a 15-pounder. April continued quiet until the 22nd, when the Battalion, together with the West Indian Regiment and Light Infantry with one gun of the 27th Mountain Battery left for Yangwani arriving there after a night march in the heavy rain at dawn on the 23rd [April].  The enemy position was attacked at 10am and after half an hour’s engagement, the enemy retired. The battalion remained at Yangwani and patrols were sent out to reconnoiter the enemy’s ground and on the night of the 24th [April] the Column moved towards Lutende. The enemy were encountered at 6.50 am on the 25th [April] and were driven back slightly but bringing up strong reinforcements they counter attacked vigorously and a heavy engagement ensued and at 6.30 pm the column retired some 1,000 yards into the bush, the enemy being in strong force. At the time there were very few whites with the Battalion, and two days before the action a large draft of 180 recruits arrived, and it is undoubtedly due to the lack of white leaders that the men did not do at all as well as was expected. “A” Company had to be sent into action without an Officer at all, Lieut. Gray of this Company, having previously not returned when the Company retired. Captain A.R. Gill was wounded, and Lieut. W.J. Woods was so dangerously wounded that he died the following day in Lindi. It was useless remaining out in these conditions and the whole Column accordingly retired to Lindi marching on a compass bearing through the bush in torrents of rain, arriving in camp about 10 am on the 26th [April]. In addition to the European casualties the Battalion had 8 rank and file killed, 45 wounded and 6 missing. A follower was killed, 5 wounded and 1 missing. In the course the action we captured 10 German porters with medical stores and quantity of S.A.A.

This action was not as successful as it should have been though the enemy probably received casualties as heavy as our own.”

[War History – 1st/2nd King’s African Rifles, National Archives ref: WO 161/75 N484]

Harry Feccit summarises:

“Yangwani and Lutende

The British commander in Lindi, Brigadier General H de C O’Grady, heard of new German arrivals nearby at Yangwani and Lutende and, on 22 April, he dispatched Lieutenant Giffard with 4 machine guns of 5LI, 2 machine guns and 50 rifles of 2WIR,  2 Stokes Mortars and a section of 27th Mountain Battery  to attack the enemy positions that were manned by Abteilung Rothe. Lieutenant Colonel Giffard made a successful night march and drove the enemy troops off Yangwani on 23 April after an action lasting 30 minutes. Patrols then went out to locate the German base camp at Lutende. This was found after 24 hours of reconnaissance patrolling and Giffard again made a night march in heavy rain, attacking at 0630 hours on 25 April.  The Germans (4 Schutzen Kompagnie, a predominantly white unit) were prepared and after conceding some ground they vigorously counter-attacked with 400 men and 6 machine guns. 1/2KAR lost sight of Lieutenant C V Gray commanding “A” Company, and this left that company without an officer. Two other officers, Captain A R Gill and Lieutenant W J Woods were wounded and evacuated, the latter dying at Lindi the next day.

The remaining handful of officers could not now control the young Askari, confusion reigned due to lack of leaders, and the ability to manoeuvre was lost. Most men wanted to fight but did not know what to do. The battalion swiftly retreated 1,000 yards.  Out of contact with the enemy Giffard got a grip over his men and marched them back to Lindi having lost 8 Askari killed, 45 wounded and 6 missing. The transport detachment sustained 8 casualties. The enemy did take casualties, 1 German and 3 enemy Askari were seen bayoneted to death. Two bombers from 1/2KAR repeatedly crawled through the long grass to bomb enemy positions, and they also brought in the badly wounded Sergeant Njasa under heavy fire. These two Askari, 2864 Private Mataka and 2620 Private Makama, were awarded Military Medals for their gallant conduct.  Lieutenant Gray was taken prisoner and not released until 18 November 1918.”

[1st/2nd King’s African Rifles at Yangwani and Schaeffer’s Farm: German East Africa, April and May 1917 ]

The most detail is given in the Battalion War Diary (see below), which mentions that ARG arrived on the night of the 24th April. This must have been after the night march from Lindi and the subsequent skirmish at Yangwani. ARG arrived with two junior officers, the Medical Officer, 20 rank & file and rations – so I assume he arrived from Lindi. Was he joining the battalion for the first time, having spent the previous months training at the KAR depot at Nairobi? I have not found any mention of ARG in the Battalion War History prior to Yangwani, but ARG’s fishing diary written later in life mentions an incident with the KAR on the Rufigi river, which is up near Kibata.

Or had ARG just rejoined the Battalion after a short absence from sickness? His fishing diary, mentions time spent on sick leave at the KAR training camp at Mpagathi just outside Nairobi. But this could have been after he was wounded at Lutende. Or there could have been multiple periods of sick leave. From the accounts of the sickness that plagued the European officers and NCOs, this would make perfect sense.

Or had he been with the Battalion on arrival in Lindi and was merely re-joining the main force, bringing out a body of men who had not been able to leave immediately when Colonel Giffard had made the emergency night marches through the bush from Lindi to Yangwani on the nights of the 22nd and 23rd April?

I shall try to find out more on my next visit to the National Archive.

1/2 KAR Battalion War Diary

APRIL 1917

[p4]  …

14th         A coy takes over following picquets from 5th L.I.

GUN:                     35 rifles

NOTO ROAD:     16 rifles

BARE HILL:           20 rifles

15th         Enemy shell (20, 4 1/3) neighbourhood of camp between 16.30 & 17.30 less. No damage.

16th         Sgt Msusa’s patrol returned from MCHINGA. He encountered small German patrol which was driven out of RUAWA by him.  Two local natives acting as scouts for German patrol were shot by our patrol.

Practice embarkation on shore by B, C & MGs.

17th         B Coy taken over picquets from A Coy.

18th         Lieut Turner relieved at NYANDA by detachment 5th L.I.

Following patrols left

a.            1&6 to YANGWANGI- LUTENDE

b.            1&6 NGURUMAHAMBA-KATUTU-NGAPA

c.             1&6        DINANA-KIHANGA (S of LUKULEDI)

d.            1&3 (bombers) to back of Schaefer’s Farm

[p5]

19th         (d) patrol returned 10.15 hrs reported trenches at back of Schaefer’s w[?]ed.

G.O.C. inspected M.G. detachment at 7 hrs.

20th         Nil

21st         JANGWANI patrol returned reporting enemy (about 7&50) at that place.

Lt Woods & 75 rifles left for NAMEMBO at 6.30 hours.

22nd        Lt-Col Giffard with whole 1/2nd KAR, WIR TM Bty, 45th LI mgs + 1 gun 27th MB left for NAMEMBO at 2.30hrs. Reached NAMEMBO at 7.30hrs and moved off at 17.30 hrs.

23rd        Night marching, arrived close to YANGWANI at 5hrs. Patrols sent out reported at 8hrs. Attacked enemy 10 hrs. A Coy + 2 mgs from S, B Coy 4 mgs, 2TM’s from NWW. Enemy  fled after ½ hr, putting up negligible resistance: hence we were prevented from inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. The remainder of the force was in reserve. A few sniping shots in the afternoon, 1 white + 1 black seen.

Casualties            1/2 K.A.R.            Lieut W.J.Woods dangerously wounded

1 r&f killed, 9 wounded

[some comments in the margin – obscured in my copy]

Enemy              1 Askari & 3 porters killed, 4 porters captured

Wounded sent in at 14 hrs with M.O.

All quiet during night 23/24

24th         All quiet

Patrols to LUTENDE & RUAWA during day. Former failed to reach LUTENDE owing to enemy picquets.

Capt Gill’s party arrived 16hrs, consisting of Lts Longworth & Anderson, 1 M.O. 20 r&f  & rations.

[p6]

25th                         Patrol sent off 17 hrs to locate LUTENDE camp.     returned  8 hrs, having failed to locate camp. All quiet night 24/25.

Heavy rain; enemy 4.1”gun fired during night. Target [?]

At 16 ½ hrs advanced guard under Capt Wilson came into contact with the enemy and drove him back about 100x. Enemy, reinforced, vigorously attacked the right flank with 4 mgs; opposed by A Coy, 2 mgs & T.Ms. Capt Gill & C.S.M. Chibwana wounded; Lt Gray alone left to command 4 platoons. Touch impossible. Attack not driven home, “A” Coy outflanked at 17.30 hrs. Enemy now had at least 6 mgs in action; KAR mgs almost useless owing to being officerless and having many N.C.O.s hit. C Coy then withdrew 200x and [?] gun & 5th LI mgs swept the bush to our rt flank. Enemy moved more to our right & B Coy moved up to the right of the 5th LI mgs. Lieut. Gray, ordered to withdraw ‘A’ Coy, disappeared in bush & was not seen again

At 17.45 hrs firing opened on our left. “A” Coy was sent, without an officer, to protect our left. 18.30 hrs Battle over,  the column withdrew 1000x south and reorganized. B Coy acting as covering party.

A party under Lt Anderson, accompanied by the M.O. returned to YANGWANI camp, to find it occupied by men who had come back with wounded. The wounded with transport  & escort had already left for LINDI. The M.O. & 40 rifles followed them up along the YANGWANI-LINDI Road. The remainder returned with Lt Anderson to the [?] place of the column. B Coy was then [p7] recalled.

Owing to lack of officers,  medical arrangements, ammunition and transport, the column night marched through the bush on a compass bearing to the YANGWANI-LINDI Road. Excessively difficult march, pitch dark, torrents of rain, two land fords, water ankle to knee deep along whole line of march, mountain battery mules continuously in trouble.

26th                         Joined road 6 hrs 26th, Lead of column reached LINDI 10 hrs.

Presence of ample supply of officers & white N.C.O.s would undoubtedly have converted a drawn battle into a victory.

Casualties            1/2 KARifles

Capt A.R.Gill       Wounded in thigh (not serious)

Lt C.V. Gray        Missing

r&f                       8 killed  36 wounded       6 missing

followers             1              5                              1

Recommendations for award

2084 Pte Mataka & 2610 Pte Kamana were recommended for DCM on account of their gallant behavior in rescuing Sgt Njasa.

27th         C. Coy relieved the 5th L.I. at

NOTO Road        30 rifles

BARE HILL            20 rifles

A Coy relieved the 5th L.I. escort to the

4” Gun                  35 rifles.

28th         Draft posted to their companies.

Flag of Truce learns officially that Lt CV Gray is in enemy hands unwounded.

[Battalion War Diary 1/2 KAR, National Archives, ref: WO 95/5325, Lindi Column Mar-Jul 1917]

Battalion War Diary – 2nd Ypres – April & May 1915

[Update 09/04/12 20.05: I have found links to scanned images of typescript pages for all the War Diaries for the 11th Brigade, including the Brigade Headquarters and all the member battalions on the great website of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group – the diaries  are actually hosted on the Library and Archives of Canada and include the other Brigades of the 4th Division for the months of April and (despite the fact it only says April, they also include) May 1915. You can find them here.  I have therefore been able to fill in the missing days of May 1-3 from the manuscript war diary of the 1st Hants held at the National Archive here in the UK. I don’t know when the typescript copies were made and by whom. But there is an explanation of why they are held in the Canadian arhives here]

April 1915

April 1st – 5th: Occupying same trenches at PLOEGSTEERT WOOD

5th :  Bn having been relieved by the E. Lancs marched to rest billets at NIEPPE

11th :  Returned to PLOEGSTEERT trenches

15th :  Bn relieved by 4th Royal Berks (T.F.) and marched to rest billets at NOOTE BOOM about 1 ½ miles from BAILLEUL.

15th – 23rd : Billeted in farms in NOOTE BOOM district. Carried out general training, route marches etc.

23rd :  Brigade warned to be ready to move at short notice.

25th :  Brigade marched at 6am to VLAMERTINGHE and remained till 6.30pm, when Bde marched up to relieve Canadians N of ZONNEBEKE, reached WIELTJE about 9pm, when guides from Canadian Bde were to meet 11th Bde. After waiting for more than an hour the B.G.C 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade arrived but no guides. Little information could be obtained regarding the situation on left of 85th Bde where the Canadians had been holding trenches, so Brig. General Haslar Cmdg 11th Inf Bde decided to send the Hampshire Regt to occupy a line with its right on 85th Bde and extend to its left to meet the other 3 Bns of the Bde which were to extend to their right from FORTUIN. We moved off to VERLORENHOER and reported to Genl. Chapman, B.G.C. 85th Bde who had just heard that the Canadians no longer held trenches and that his left (the 7th Fusiliers) was en l’air.  We at once moved off to the headquarters Royal Fusiliers where unfortunately no guide could be found who knew the way to their left trench.  It was then 2am and with an hour and a half left a position had to be found and dug since the position of the late Canadian trenches & whether the Germans had occupied them or not was very uncertain.

ypres3R

night of 25/26 April 1915 (maps from Canadian Great War Project)

ypres3R close up

close up – night of 24/25 April 1915. The British 11th Brigade filled the gap where the 2nd Canadian Brigade had been.

A hasty reconnaissance having been made, the Bn began to dig itself in along a position where there were already short lengths of partially dug trenches.  Fortunately there was a thick fog at dawn which gave an extra hour for digging and by 4.30 am we had got fairly well into the ground.

The position altogether not actually in continuation of the 85th Bde proved to be a good one and prevented the enemy getting round the left of the Royal fusiliers.

Heavy shelling began around midday and continued till dark, the trenches being enfiladed from both flanks.

Casualties:-

Killed

Capt G.A.C. Sandeman
Capt A.T. Chapman (E Surrey Regt)
2/Lieut  O.R. Walford
F. Fidler
50 Other Ranks

Wounded:

Lieut R.P. Watts
2/ [ditto] E. Le Marchant
98 Other Ranks

Missing

9 Other Ranks

ypres4R

night of 25/26 April 1915. The 1st Hants were holding a position at the northern edge of the 11th Brigade’s allotted zone

I believe the 1st Hants position was stretched out along the area marked on this later 1917 map as ‘Abraham Heights’, just south of the road to ‘s Gravenstafel’, and on the night of 27/28th April stretching west to the Haanebeke Stream. The wood that the Buffs were holding at the corner of the Brigade’s position, but then lost (see below diary for May 3rd) is just to the north west near the farm named “Berlin”. The Hants records refer to this as “Berllin Wood” (map from NLS)

sketch map from 28th Division Diaries – 25th April 1915 (map from War Diaries of the First World War)

 

27th :  Trenches extended and improved during night 26/27th. Learnt during night that Rifle Brigade were about 1 ½ miles to our left rear, this still leaving a large gap. Fairly quiet day.

Casualties:-

Killed

Capt L.U.Unwin
16 Other Ranks

Wounded

Lt E. Capel
28 Other Ranks

Missing

2 Other Ranks

Night of April 27/28th :   Reinforced by 2 Coys of the D.L.I and were enabled to extend our left to the HAANEBEKE stream.

Casualties:-

Wounded :-

2/Lt G.C.Weston
10 Other Ranks

28th :  Col. Hicks called away in early morning to command Bde in place of Genl. Haslar killed.

Major Palk took command. Rather less shelling. Violent French counter-attack on our left during afternoon. Made little headway.

Casualties:- above [?]

29th : Moderate shelling – got in touch with R.b. at dusk who began digging in on our left. We began to extend line to the right to close gap between us and the Buffs who had relieved the Royal Fusiliers on right of 28th / 29th

Casualties

Killed:

6 Other Ranks

Wounded:

13 O. Ranks

sketch map from 28th Division Diaries – 9 am 29th April 1915 (source: War Diaries of the First World War)

 

30th :  Another counter-attack by French to the North, made but small progress. Bn Hd. Qrs heavily shelled. Col Prowse took over command of Bde last night. Col Hicks returned to Battn.

Casualties:-

Killed:-

3 O Ranks

Wounded:

Capt J.D.M. Beckett
8 O. Ranks

30 4/15
FR Hicks  Lieut Colonel
Cmdg   1st Bn Hampshire Regt.

Reinforcements:-
1. 4.15    30 O.Ranks
6. 4.15    Capt C.F.H. Twining & Lt A.F. Prendergast
4. 4.15    25 O. Ranks
26.4.15    25 [ditto]
27.4.15    143 [ditto]

Admitted to Hospital      89
Discharged [ditto]          32

May 1915

[pages for May 1st – 3rd missing from the manuscript diary held in the National Archives – I have found the missing entries in the typescript diary shown on the Canadian Library and Archive website http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e064/e001580789.jpg]

May 1st:  Fairly heavy shelling. Trenches have been much improved. Two Coys East Yorks relieved the two Coys of the D.L.I.

Casualties:-

Killed:  2 other ranks.

Wounded: 16 other ranks

Missing:  1 other ranks

May 2nd:  Weather colder and wind. Germans attacked 10th Brig. on our left. heavy shelling – attack expected. Two Coys Royal Fusiliers sent up at dusk and occupied a line in rear of Buffs left in close support.

Casualties:-

Killed: 12 other ranks

Wounded:  18 other ranks

May 3rd:   Tremendous shelling from 5 a.m. all day long. reports from all along our front of enemy reinforcing his trenches. At 3p.m. order received to withdraw through new line after dark. About 3.15p.m. enemy delivered first attack on Buffs left in small wood. We assisted to drive this back. On further heavy shelling in wood, Buffs withdrew to support trenches and abandoned wood.

May 3rd cont.:    After still more shelling an attack launched against our line about 6.30 pm. Gas apparatus place in position for enemy but not used. Attack easily driven back. No further attacks.

10.30 pm: 1st Half Battn withdrew followed by other half at midnight. Retirement successfully carried out and Battn concentrating at WIELTJE about 2 a.m., marched to ELVERDINGHE. Raining hard – Billeted in a field near a French Battery. Shelled out about 9 am and moved to Chateau.

Casualties:-

Killed:-

Capt C F H Twining
8 Other Ranks

Wounded:-

17 Other Ranks

Missing:-

7 Other Ranks

4th:  Brigade moved back at dusk about 2 miles SW and went into bivouac in a wood to rest and refit

Casualties:-

Wounded:-  3 Other Ranks

Total Casualties:- April 25th – May 4th

Killed: –             Officers     5          O Ranks            91

Wounded:-       [ditto]         5          [ditto]                214

Missing             [ditto]        18

May 5th:  Arrived at Chateau VLANERTINGHE house near VLANERTINGHE ELVERDINGHE soon after dawn had breakfast & moved into Chateau Grounds. Remained till dusk & moved back to wood near OOSTHOEK & here the Bde was concentrated.

Sudden orders at midday for Bde to move to CHATEAU at VLAMERTINGHE. remained till 7.30pm & moved up to relieve Kings Own on the left up SHELL TRAP FARM. Orders cancelled on reaching LA BRIQUE and BN put in second line with right on WIELTJE FARM.

Casualties          Lt Col Hicks wounded. Maj LC Palk took command

Killed:-   2 Other Ranks

Wounded –  80 Ranks

Missing –    2 [ditto]

May 9th:  2 WIELTJE Line.  front line heavily shelled.

Casualties [blank]

May 10th           Relieved by Essex Regt. we relieved Kings Own in front line.

Casualties

Wounded:- 6 Other Ranks

May 11th:  In front line between SHELLTRAP FARM and HAMPSHIRE FARM. Fairly heavy shelling.

Casualties:-

Killed:-   7 Other Ranks.

Wounded:- 10 O Ranks

May 12th: Fairly quiet day –  Germans showed much activity in the evening with rifle grenades which we silenced with Trench mortars.

Killed:- 2 Other Ranks

Wounded:- 2/Lt M. Holroyd.

May 13th: Heavy bombardment began at 4 am.

7 5.50 am:  All guns turned on to our second [?] line

7.15 6.5 am: Heavy shelling of our trenches began again [?] During this break a few Germans came on in small parties but half heartedly. Shelling increased till 6.15 when for ¾ hour it was terrific. It continued, but decreasing violence till 2 pm when it gradually died away.

A Coy which suffered the most heavily was relieved by C Coy from support trench

13th:

Casualties –

Killed:-  34

Wounded:-  57

Missing:-  3

May 14th: Fairly quiet day – Shell Trap Farm on our right changed hands twice without our knowledge! Some of the E.Lancs captured there

Casualties –

Killed:-  4
Lieut AF Prendergast

Wounded:-  10

Missing:-  2

Reinforcements        70 O.R. arrived.

May 15th :  Quiet day

Casualties:-

Killed:-  2 OR

Wounded:-  8 Other Ranks

May 16th :  Fairly quiet day. Relieved at dusk by 1st Rifle Bde. Bn moved back about 500 yards too Divisional Support line near VIE IN FARM.

Casualties:-

Killed:- 2 Other Ranks

Wounded:- 9 Other Ranks

May 17th : Divl. Support Line

Casualties:- 4 Other Ranks

2nd Lts Budge & Flint joined

May 19th:  Relieved Lancashire Fusiliers in Front line in the de [?] on left of SHELL TRAP FARM.

Casualties          Nil

May 22nd:  After a fairly quiet 3 days in font line relieved by 15th Royal Irish. Heavy Thunderstorm during relief causing several casualties.

Killed:-  3 Other Ranks

Wounded:- 1 Other Ranks

May 23rd :  Arrived VLAMERTINGHE CHATEAU soon after dawn. Breakfasted & went in to billets in Farms just E of PESELHOEK. Battn rather fatigued.

Wounded:-  2 Other Ranks

May 24th:  Orders at 4am to march to VLAMERTINGHE as soon as possible. Reached Chateau about 6.30 am & learnt the Germans had mad a gas attack on the SHELLTRAP FM salient.

Casualties:-  Nil

May 25th-26th:   Remained at Chateau, ready to move. Marched to W. bank of CANAL at 3pm in order to be in close support but then withdrawn at 9.30 pm to Chateau.

Casualties:-   Nil

May 27th :  Relieved Royal Irish Fusrs in front line at POTIJZE. Good trenches excellent headquarters.

Casualties:-  Nil

May 28th:  Quiet day

Casualties:-

Wounded:-  2 Other Ranks

May 25th:  Quiet day.

Casualties:-

Wounded:- 2 Other Ranks

May 30th :  Quiet day. (House next to POTIJZE CHATEAU about 100x from Bn HQ shelled and burnt)

Casualties:-

Killed:-  1 Other Ranks

May 31st :  Quiet day. Zeppelin seen at dusk sailing N.W.

Casualties: Nil

2nd LT WORTHINGTON joined

The weather throughout the month has been perfect.

Reinforcements:-

  5. 5.15        51 Other Ranks
13. 5.15        96 [ditto]
22. 5.15         38 [ditto]
26. 5.15        22 [ditto]
29. 5.15        59 [ditto]

Officers Joined

2/Lt H Cromie
2/Lt  C.C Burge [?]
[ditto] H. Flint
[ditto] J.A. Des Voewe
[ditto] J.K. Bostock
[ditto] G.D. Chew [?]
[ditto] G.F.P. Worthington
Lt H.J. Icke [?]
2/Lt C.J.H. Goodford [?]
Capt R.D. Johnston [?]

Admitted to Hospital:-                107 Other Ranks
Discharged from Hospital           104 Other Ranks

11 6/15
L.C.Palk    Major
Cmdg 1st Bn Hampshire Regt.

Battalion War Diary – January to March 1915

ARG returned to the battalion in February 1915.

His service record says that he rejoined the 1st Battalion on 6th February, but his return is not recorded in the Bn War Diary – see below. Furthermore, his service record later says he returned to service overseas in France and Belgium on 26 January 1915 so when he actually arrived back with the Battalion is unclear.

ARG’s fishing diary written much later in life recalls this time, albeit briefly:

“1914/1915 (With the 1st Hampshire Regt Home sick from France) Fort Gomer Gosport & New Bks. Portsmouth –  Many very pleasant & happy weekends were spent at Adhurst St. Mary, the home of Mary & Arthur Bonham-Carter. Arthur was a Captain in the regiment. A judge in Mombasa, recalled from the R.A.R.O. We shot Pheasants & Partridges. He was a bachelor & Mary was his sister. It was a big house and large estate. It is only in later life that one appreciates how happy those times were.”

The Battalion were still at Ploegsteert Wood and remained there until April. A new scheme was adopted of Battalion relief by the Brigade of rotating six days in the front line, and then six days in support.

Bn War Diary – 1st Hampshire Regiment

January 1915

Jan 1st-31st        During January the Bn continued to occupy the same position – trench running 400 yards N of LE GHEER when it met the bight (caused by the loss of ground on N of [?] and ended in a T piece. A very wet communication trench occupied in places by one platoon ran back to PLOEGSTEERT WOOD, whence the line was continued along the front of the wood by the 1st R.B.

The weather was very wet right up to the end of the month, but not very cold. With more pumps and better revetting the work in the trench was steadily improved, and casualties consequently reduced. The houses behind the trenches were also greatly strengthened.

The enemy began to use their guns a little more and shelled the wood almost daily with howitzers or field guns & especially a light gun named as “Little Willie”, they also shelled PLOEGSTEERT on our Hd. Qr. Farm or the neighbourhood occasionally. The actual loss caused however was practically nil.

Several drafts joined and the Bn was brought up to strength in both Officers and men.

Casualties for the month.

Killed – 6 Other Ranks,               Wounded – 7 Other Ranks.

Admissions to Hospital during month. Lieut CB Collet [?] and 150 others Rks. [?]

Discharges from  [ditto] [ditto] [ditto] 62 other Rks.

 

                                                GF Perkins Capt & Adjt. for [?]         Major

                                                Cmdg. 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment

 

February 1915

Feb 1st – 28th     During the month the Battalion continued to hold the same position of the line. There has been little activity except on the part of the hostile artillery which has intermittently shelled PLOEGSTEERT with shells of various calibre. The trench also has occasionally been bombarded but little damage done.  Work has been devoted to strengthening defences generally and improving communications in the Wood, pumping and revetting the North Trench. The Saxons are still in front of us to the best of our belief

Colonel Worship of Munster Fusiliers (K) attached from 16th to 19th
2 Companies of 7th (British Columbia) Canadians attached from 21st to 27th
2 Companies 7th (Robin Hood) Sherwood Foresters (T) attached from 4th to 8th

The weather generally improved and becoming much warmer with less rain. Occasional frost & snow

Casualties

Killed                Captain A.P. Knocker

                           2 other Ranks

Wounded          16 other ranks

To Hospital       Lt Goodford

[ditto] Cromie

114 other ranks

Discharged Hospital

                           53 other ranks

 Reinforcements

 20th Feb.   40 other ranks

25th Feb.   40 other ranks

      { 2nd Lieut B.P.G. Beaulands [?]

3rd { [ditto] H. N. Hume

      { [ditto] O.R. Walford

10th  2 Lt G.H. Wiggins

 Net + 1 officer + 1 man

L.C. Palk              Major

Commanding 1st Hampshire Rgt.

 

March 1915

March 1915       Battalion held the same position of the line as previously until 19th when a new scheme of Battalion relief was adopted by the Brigade. Under this each unit does six days in the forward trenches consecutively and on being relieved does 6 days in support and reserve alternatively after each tour in the Trenches.  The Battn in support remains on rear edge of PLOEGSTEERT WOOD and the two farms LE TOUQUET BERTHE and 1875 to the South of the Wood.  Under the new scheme our front line extends from road junction S of LE GHEER crossroads to GERMAN HOUSE.

There has been very little activity during the month. Both sniping and shelling has decreased. The enemy has occasionally bombarded us with rifle grenades but little harm ensues [?]

Major F.R. Hicks took over command of the Battalion from Major Hon. L.C. Palk DSO on March 14th.

Casualties

Killed.               Other ranks 3

Wounded          Lieut V A G Cecil and 11 other ranks

Admitted to hospital      Lieut K A Johnston

                                    94 other ranks

Discharged from hospital 38 other ranks

Reinforcements

4-3-15               25 other ranks

13 – 3 – 15        32 other ranks

16 – 3 – 15        11 other ranks

21 – 3 – 15        50 other ranks

 

FR Hicks

Major

Cmdg 1st Hampshire Regt

December 1914 and the Hampshire Regiment – the Birdcage and the Christmas Truce

ARG fell sick in November and shipped out of Boulogne and back to Southampton by 21st. It is not stated what his sickness was but it must have been pretty severe to ship him back to England.

He was to miss the particularly bloody and unsuccessful attack by the 1st Hampshire on 19th December on the bulge in the German line, to the East of Ploegsteert Wood called “the Birdcage”, on account of the amount of barbed wire surrounding it like the cage wire of a birdcage.

ARG was also to miss the legendary Christmas Truce which was recorded in the Bn war diary.

At some point ARG was promoted to Lieutenant. This was published in the Supplement to the London Gazette dated 9 Decmeber 1914.

But his service record states his promotion date as 1. 5.15. I’m not sure why there is a difference here. If any reader can explain this, please do let me know. Thank you.

Bn War Diary – December 1914:

1st to 18th Dec.   During this period there was practically no fighting. The Bn was employed in improving their trenches, owing to the heavy rain the trench had become flooded and pumps were provided & worked constantly night & day. The trench required to be rebuilt every night owning to the rain. The Coy in the Breastworks were employed in carrying material to the front trench for building purposes.

                        The Coy at PLOEGSTEERT rested, for 24 hours but were available for any extra working parties which may be required. Major FR Hicks & Capt the Hon. L.C. Palk rejoined from England * and Major F.R. Hicks took over the command of the Bn from Major GH Parker.

[note in the margin]

* with a draft of 260 on 22nd November, but this number being too large to absorb at once, Maj Hicks remained with the bulk of them at ROMARIN for a time.

                        Baths were arranged for the 4th Div. for Coys at NIEPPE where such Coy bathed & had a complete change of clothing. Capt B.B. im Thurm took over the duties of Acting Adjutant from the 1st of December.

                                                        Casualties Killed    11         Wounded 207

19th Dec            Orders were received that the 11th Bde were to attack and capture the bight in the line.

The Divnl [?] and Heavy Artillery were ordered to heavily shell the enemy’s position until the moment of attack, and then lengthen their range.

The Rifle Brigade and the Somerset L.I. were to leave the attack at 2.30pm assisted by the Hants,  [some words crossed out] on their right.

The disposition of the Bn was as follows.

C Coy in main Trench. One platoon D Coy in North (or communication) Trench. Remainder of D Coy in front Breastwork with one platoon ready to advance on right near of R.B. to fill up the gap at the N end of our main trench and entrench there. C & D Coys were under the command of Major Parker. A Coy occupied in 2nd line Breastworks. B Coy occupied a line of dug outs on west edge of PLOEGSTEERT WOOD.

19th Dec. contd  The artillery opened fire at 9am making very good practice on the enemy’s trenches. Towards noon however their  shells began to fall short and eventually landed in our trenches.

                        The Rifle Brigade moved forward to the attack at 2.30 pm but were held up by machine gun fire. One platoon D Coy reinforced the RB but were unable to make further progress. We succeeded in gaining some ground, but owning to the state of the weather this was found to be untenable.

[note in the margin]
This attack was really stopped by shrapnel from our own guns FRH

We captured some defended houses and succeeded in making good the EASTERN edge of PLOEGSTEERT WOOD. Major Parker was killed in the main trench whilst directing machine gun fire.

Casualties          Killed    Major G.H. Parker – 15 Other Ranks

                        Wounded Lieut A.F.C.V. Prendergast – 25 O. Ranks

 

20th to 31st Dec. During this period nothing of importance occurred. The main trench is still flooded and the Coy in occupation having to work night and day pumping & baling out the water.

                        All casualties during this period caused by snipers. The house at LE GHEER have been placed in a state of defence and are garrisoned each day

 [notes in the margin]
On Xmas Day an informal truce began with the  133rd Saxons, XIX Corps, opposite us, & continued till the New Year

                                    Killed                4 Other Ranks

                                    Wounded          2 Lieut W. Bay & 6 other Rks

                                    Admissions to Hospital during month      179 other Rks

                                    Discharges from Hospital [ditto] [ditto] 79 [ditto] [ditto]

 

                                    FR Hicks                        Major

                                    Cmdg 1st Bn Hampshire Regt.

Account of fighting at St. Yves, 30th – 31st October 1914

I have been transcribing the Bn War Diaries of the 1st Hampshire for the period of December 1914 and on into Spring 1915.

I discovered the following ‘Account of fighting at St. Yves , 30-31 Oct 1914’ with the Bn War Diary at the end of December 1914. It is written by hand, and ‘(signed) A Hunter Weston,  Major General, Comdg. 11th Infy Brig.’  (Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Gould Hunter-Weston KCB DSO GStJ )  I have transcribed it in full, together with the sktech maps at the end of the report.

Account of fighting at St. Yves

30th – 31st Oct

 

Regts engaged { 1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGT.

                           { 1st Bn SOMERSET LIGHT INFY.

 

30th Oct 1914

            On this day the Hants regt were holding a line from cross roads at LE GHEER to Riv. DOUVE (2800 yards); the Som. L.I. being in brigade reserve.

            Although every man was in the trenches the Hants line wa very thin, the majority of the trenches being quite isolated as there had been no time to dig communication trenches.

            The Germans kept up a very heavy artillery bombardment from dawn until about 4p, while their infantry crept closer and closer to our lines and dug themselves in under cover of a considerable volume of rifle fire.

            The principal attack was directed against the left centre – [C Coy] – of the Hants, and about 3.30pm O.C. Hants reported the situation critical as one platoon under Lt. Trimmer had been put out of action. Their trench had been destroyed by shell fire and most of the men killed or wounded, when O/C Som. L.I. reinforced it with one platoon under Sec [?] Lt Braithwaite.        The Company Comdr. Capt. Harland had been killed early in the fight and the Coy was now under Lt Atchison, who had with him Lt Wade with the M.G. Sections. Lt Atchison was hit in the head but continued to direct operations. About dusk the M.G. Officer Hants Regt saw that the enemy were breaking through on his left and threw a barricade across the road which he manned with one gun under Sgt. Dacombe [?] and a few men. This gun enfiladed the Germans as they came on and prevented a further advance – their infantry being forced to search for any available cover and get into the houses.

            About the same time Sec Lt Braithwaite reported to Lt. Col. Prowse, comdg Som. L.I. that the Germans had broken through, whereupon Lt Col. Prowse moved his whole Battalion against them – 2 Coys were to draw a line round the rear of the broken section of the Hants line – 1 Coy was to be ready to man the lost trenches – and 1 Coy was to attack from the north and turn the Germans out of the trench and houses with the Bayonet.

The houses had been evacuated and the line was restored.

            The only survivors of the Hants Regt platoon were a man who had been sent with a message early in the fight and Sgt McCall, who was found wounded in the trench when recaptured. Sec Lt Braithwaite arrived at a critical moment and managed to throw up a barricade and pin the enemy to the ground

            About 70 dead Germans were found in the barbed wire in front of Lt Trimmer’s platoon.

 

31st Oct 1914

An almost identical attack was made in another part of Hants Regt line. It was reported to Col. Parker and Lt Col Prowse that a trench had been occupied by the Germans by an officer of the Hants, who thought that these were very few Germans there. He took two sections of B Coy Som. L.I. and with his own men attempted to rush the trench.

            About 1.30 am a Lce Corp. of the Somersets reported to Col Prowse that this attack had encountered very strong opposition and had been practically wiped out. Two men had actually got into the trench and picked out two Germans – one of whom they shot, the other being taken prisoner.  It was now decided to counter attack with the Som. L.I. and re-establish the line, but among the approaching daylight this was not done as it was thought impossible. At dawn the enemy had retired and the trench was re-occupied by the Hants Regt.

 

(signed) A Hunter Weston

Major General

Comdg. 11th Infy Brig.