The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1914-1918: Volume II (1928) by Everard Wyrall

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VOL. II. 1917—1918.


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“ Aisne, 1914, 1918,” “ Armenticres, 1914,” “* Neuve Chapelle,” ‘‘ Aubers,” “ Hooge, 1915,” “* Loos,” “Somme, 1916, 1918,” ‘Albert, 1916, 1918,” “ Bazentin,” “ Poziéres, ” * Flers-Courcelette,” “ Morval,” ‘* Thiepval,” ‘“‘ Le Transloy,” ‘“‘ Ancre Heights,” ** Ancre, 1916,” “ Arras, 1917, 1918,” “ Scarpe, 1917, 1918,” ‘“‘ Bullecourt,” ‘“‘ Hill 70,” ‘“* Messines, 1917, 1918,” “Ypres, 1917, 1918,” “ Pilkem,” ‘ Langemarck, 1917,” ‘*‘ Menin Road,” “ Polygon Wood,” ‘“ Poelcappelle,” “ Passchendaele,” ‘ Cambrai, 1917, 1918, ” St. Quentin,” “ Rosiéres,” “ Villers-Bretonneux,” ** Lys,” ** Hazebrouck,”’ “ Bailleul,”’ “‘ Kemmel,” “ Marne, 1918” “ Tardenois,” “ Amiens,” “ Ba aume, 1918,” “ Drocourt-Queéant, ” “ Hindenburg ine,’ “ Havrincourt,” ‘“ Epéhy,” ** Canal do Nord,” “Selle,” ‘‘ Valenciennes,” Sambre,” “ France and Flanders, 1914— 1918,” “‘ Piave,”’ “‘ Vittorio “ Italy, 1917—1918,” “ Suvla,” ‘“ Landing at Suvla,’” ‘“ Scimitar Hill,” ** Gallipoli, 1915,” “ Egypt, I9I5—I916.”

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Page 264, line 25, for “ Quarant” read “ Quarante.” » 265, line 7, for “ Vandame” read “ Vandamme.” » 360, line 4, for “ Warnavie’’ read Warnave.” » 363, line 3, for “Yven” read “ Yves.” » 368, lines 21 and 34, for “ Bousignies” read ‘* Bouvignies.”’ » 376, line 18, for “ Saulzoin” read “ Saulzoir.” » 378, line 7, for ‘* Catillon-Basufel” read * Catillon-Bazuel.’’ » 378, line 15, for “ Gibremont” read “ Gimbremont.” »» 391, line 19, for “ Aulnoy” read “Aulnois.” » 391, line 37, for “ Guisgnies ” read “Gesguies.”

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PAGE Introduction : The Regiment in France and Flanders on the rst January, 1917 oe ee ee we ee . CF THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE, 1917 IV. Actions of Miraumont . . a . 7 The German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line : 14th March—sth April . . - we 25 THE ALLIED OFFENSIVE, 1917 V. THE ARRAS OFFENSIVE : THE BATTLES OF ARRAS, 1917 The First Battle of the Scarpe, 1917 : 9th—14th April .. -- 37 The Second Battle of the Scarpe, 1917: 23rd—24th April .. 45 The Third Battle of the Scarpe, 1917 : 3rd—4th May .. 47 Flanking Operations round Bullecourt: The First Attack on Bullecourt, 11th April .. .. 57 The Battle of Bullecourt, 1917 : 3rd—17th May oe .. 63 THE FLANDERS OFFENSIVE, 1917 The Battle of Messines, 1917 : 7th—14th June . 73 The Battles of Ypres, 1917: 31st July to roth November. Introduction we .. 83 The Battle of Pilkem Ridge, I9I7: 31st July—2nd August The Battle of Langemarck, 1917: 16th—18th August .. 95

The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge,1917: 2oth—25th September IOI The Battle of Polygon Wood, 1917: 26th September—

3rd October ws .. 105 The Battle of Broodseinde : “4th October we .. III The Battle of Poelcappelle: 9th October . .. 113 The First Battle of Passchendaele : 12th October we .. 133


The Battle of Cambrai, 1917: The Tank Attack, 20th—21st November .. 137 The Capture of Bourlon Wood : 23rd—28th November .. 167 The German Counter-Attack : 30th November—2nd December 173 The Last Winter in the Trenches (1917-1918) to to the Eve of the German Offensives, 1918 : oe -. 179

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THE OFFENSIVE IN PICARDY: 21ST MARCH—5TH APRIL A Note on the General Situation on the evening of 20th March,

1918 . . .. 207 The First Battles of the Somme, 1918 : The Battle of St. Quentin, 21st—23rd March we .. 211 The First Battle of Bapaume, 24th—25th March _... .. 224 The Defence of Bucquoy, 26th—3Ist March .. .. 229 The Battle of Rosiéres, 26th—27th March oe .. 234 The First Battle of Arras, 28th March .. oe 235 Actions of Villers-Bretonneux, 24th—z25th April ve .. 241


The Battle of Hazebrouck, 12th—15th April... we .. 251 The Withdrawal from the Passchendaele Ridge .. » 255 The Battles of Bailleul and Kemmel Ridge, 1 3th—19th April .. 259 The Second Battle of Kemmel Ridge, 25th—26th April .. 261 The Battle of the Scherpenberg, 29th April . ve .. 269 Of the Pioneers ws we .. 271


The Battles of the Aisne, 1918 : 27th May—6th June .. .. 273 The Action of La Becque, 28th June, 1918 . 281 Operations near Elzenwalle and Ridge Wood, 14th July, 1918 . » 285 Actions of 15th/17th West Yorkshires near La Becque Stream, 19th July, 1918 oe .e ee . 289



The Battle of Tardenois_ .. .. 295 Capture of the Montaigne de Bligny .. »» 303


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VII. THe ADVANCE TO ViIcroRY—(continued) PAGE The Advance in Picardy : The Battle of Amiens... . .. .. 309 The Second Battles of the Somme, 1918: The Battle of Albert... . os -. 313 The Second Battle of Bapaume, 1918 . .. 319 The Second Battles of Arras, 1918 : The Battle of the Scarpe, 1918 . . .. 323 The Battle of the Drocourt-Quéant Line .. .. 327 The Battles of the Hindenburg Line : The Battle of Havrincourt .. .. 329 The Battle of .. .. .. 331 The Battle of the Canal du Nord .. 337 The Attack on the Quadrilateral .. 343 The Battle of Cambrai, 1918 .. os -» 345 The Pursuit to the Selle a -. 349


I. Flanders: The Battles of Ypres, 1918 a .. -. 359 II. Artois . . -» 365 III. Picardy : The Battle of the Selle .. . .. .. 371 The Battle of Valenciennes .. .. 381 The Battle of the Sambre 1 .- 385 ITALY. The Battle of the Piave .. ws . 395 Conclusion .. 405 Appendix : Extracts from “London Gazette” of awards of Victoria Crosses . 407 Allocation of Battalions to "Brigades and Divisions... .. 410 Citation of Award of Croix de Guerre to 8th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment... we .. 412 Casualties, January, t917, to end of War we ve .. 417

Index . . .. .. 491


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H.R.H. The Prince of Wales’ Christmas Card .. .. Frontispiece

Panel of a Dug-out Door ...... . .. Facing page 25 Near the Wieltje-Gravenstafel Road, 1917 ee 9» Near Graincourt: Tank moving up to Attack Bourlon Wood .. oe oe 6:7 Villers-Bretonneux, May, 1918 _.... oe ee 39 » 241

The 8th West Yorkshires Returning from the

Mont de Bligny wee 3 » 305 German Prisoners near Abbeville, October, 1918 4, 5, 337 Douai: October, 1918 ee ee oe 9599S gs 353087

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The Battles of Arras, 1917 .. ve .. Facing page 37 The Battles of Ypres, 1917... ve » 83 The Battle of Cambrai, 1917 .. we » 9» 176

The German Offensive on the Somme, March, 1918 .. we ee ve ee » 9 207

The Battle of St. Quentin, 1918 we » 222 The Action of Villers-Bretonneux.. .. 9 » 246 The Battles of the Lys, 1918.. ee oe » 9» 268 The Battle of the Selle; 1st Battalion » 99 37

The Advance to Victory: Positions of all Battalions of the Regiment at the Armistice » 404

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The Regiment in France and Flanders on the Ist January, 1917

N the first day of the New Year, 1917, there were no less than sixteen battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment in France and Flanders. The Ist Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel G. H. Soames) of the 18th Infantry Brigade, 6th Division, held front line trenches in the Cambrai sector, just south of the La Bassée Canal, at this period a comparatively quiet part of the line. The 2nd Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel J. L. Jack) was undergoing an uncomfortable existence in Priez Farm, just west of Rancourt, in support of the front line units of the 23rd Infantry Brigade, 8th Division. The Division had but recently relieved the 4th Division and the condition of the sector is thus described by an officer of the 1st Somerset Light Infantry, which battalion had handed over its “‘ trenches ” to the 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment :—‘‘ The conditions beggar description, the trenches are flooded and have fallen in. There is no cover either in front, support or reserve lines, and men are being evacuated sick with frost-bite and exhaustion by the hundred. To-day four men were dug out of the mud who had been unable to move for three

days. The conditions were so bad that we were unable to see the actual

The four battalions of the Regiment which formed the 146th Infantry Brigade, 49th Division, were located : 1/5th (Lieut.-Colonel H. D. Bousfield) and 1/7th (Lieut.-Colonel C. H. Tetley) at Bouque Maison; the 1/6th (Lieut.-Colonel W. A. Wistance), 1/8th (Lieut.- Colonel J. W. Alexander) at Le Souich. The goth Division was then out of the front line, training and reorganising. The 9th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel F. P. Worsley) of the 32nd Infantry Brigade, 11th Division, occupied reserve dug-outs amidst the mud and horrible surroundings of Beaumont Hamel, whilst the 1oth Battalion (Lieut.- Colonel P. R. Simner) was in Camp No. 22, Carnoy with other units of the soth Infantry Brigade, in 17th Divisional Reserve. The

B 1

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2 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

11th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel M. C. H. Barker), 69th Infantry Brigade, 23rd Division, were at Ypres in the Hospice, supplying working parties whilst not in the front line. The 12th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel R. C. Smythe), in the oth Infantry Brigade, 3rd Division, was billeted in Louvencourt. The ‘“‘ Bantam” Battalion —the 17th (Lieut.-Colonel F. St. J. Atkinson), 105th Infantry Brigade, 35th Division, was at Ternas. The three West Yorkshire battalions of the 93rd Infantry Brigade, 31st Division, 7.e., the 15th (Lieut.-Colonel S. C. Taylor), the 16th (Lieut.-Colonel A. Croydon) and the 18th (Lieut.-Colonel H. F. G. Carter) were located in the Hébuterne area, in Authie, Couin and Hébuterne Keep—Sailly-au-Bois respectively. The Leeds and Bradford ‘“‘ Pals ” were engaged with the enemy early in the year (at Rossignol Wood, which action will be described later)

though they were relieved in the first line before the advance to the Hindenburg Line was completed. The 21st (Lieut.-Colonel Sir E. H. St. L. Clarke, commanding) the Pioneer Battalion, serving with the 4th Division, was at Maurepas, erecting camps and cutting tenches. The Division had been relieved by the 8th Division in the front line on 29th December, 1916, and on Ist January was located in Chipilly and neighbourhood. The 22nd (Labour) Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel J. S. Stewart) was still in the Somme area, one company at Mametz and three companies

at Fricourt, chiefly engaged on road-making.

Four more battalions of the Regiment, the (Lieut.-Colonel J. Josselyn), 2/6th (Lieut.- Colonel J. H. Hastings), 2/7th (Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Jackson) and 2/8th (Lieut.-Colonel W. Hepworth) left England for France between sth and 8th January. They formed the 185th Infantry Brigade (Brig.-General V. W. de Falbe) of the 62nd (W.R. Division— Major-General W.P Braithwaite). ‘These new arrivals were second line Territorial troops.

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The Advance to the Hindenburg Line, 1917.

Operations on the Ancre, 11th January—13th March, 1917. Actions of Miraumont, 17th—18th February. The German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, 14th March— sth April, 1917.

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HE advance should not be confused with the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. Inthe former the Allies advanced in the face of fierce opposition from the enemy, while in the latter there was very little severe fighting, action being confined practically to rear-guard affairs. And yet the two operations cannot be entirely separated one from the other, for the German plan—the ‘“ Alberich Movement” as it was called by Ludendorff—was interrupted and the retirement actually began some days before it was due to begin; both French and British had discovered the enemy’s carefully guarded secret. The general situation in January, 1917, was by no means satisfactory either for the Allies or for the enemy. The French and British Armies were suffering from exhaustion after the Somme battles of 1916 and their condition was only a little better than that of the enemy, whose depleted ranks were indeed causing him grave concern. ““ The enemy’s strength,” said Sir Douglas Haig, ‘‘ had been considerably reduced by the severe and protracted struggle on the Somme battlefield, and so far as circumstances and the weather would permit, it was most desirable to allow him no respite during the winter.”” The Battle of the Ancre, 13th-18th November, 1916, was the outcome of this decision, and by the time bad weather put an end to offensive operations, valuable positions had been gained from which to begin the spring campaign of 1917. The principal gain was a footing on the Beaumont-Hamel spur, commanding ground which overlooked the Ancre and Beaucourt valleys, the possession of which was most desirable and necessary before any extensive advance could be made. The latter part of November and all December was spent in improving trenches and in repairing the roads and communications to them. Early in January, 1917, operations again became possible and a number of small attacks by the 3rd, 7th and 11th Divisions were 7

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20TH FEs.

8 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

carried out with the object of securing the remainder of the Beau- mont-Hamel spur. On the 11th of the month the 7th Division attacked a system of hostile trenches extending for some 1,500 yards along the crest of the spur east and north-east of Beaumont-Hamel. The attack was completely successful and all objectives, together with over 200 prisoners, were captured, whilst the enemy’s counter- attack was broken up. The attack by the 11th Division was launched at 6-35 a.m. on the 17th January, the 9th West Yorkshires supporting the 6th York and Lancaster Regiment and the 6th Yorkshire Regiment. The point of attack was the enemy’s trench system just north of Beau- court, dug amidst sunken roads, and in every way difficult to get at. The 9th West Yorkshires apparently did little fighting: ‘‘ Left sector was ordered to advance its line, taking some German dug-outs around Artillery Alley and Puisieux Road and establish posts at heads of long banks in R.1.d. Attack commenced at 6-35 a.m. The battalion being in support .. . all objectives were taken and consolidated, no counter-attack was made by Germans.” The battalion, however, did splendid work in supplying carrying parties. On the 18th the 32nd Infantry Brigade was relieved by a brigade of the 63rd Division and left the Beaumont sector without any regrets whatsoever, the 9th West Yorkshires finding themselves successively in Rubempre, Berneuil and Domléger ; in the latter place the battalion remained until 20th February. The possession of the Beaumont-Hamel spur gave splendid scope for artillery action. The whole of the Beaucourt valley and the western slopes of the spur beyond from opposite Grandcourt to Serre, hitherto hidden from the British gunners, now lay exposed. Accordingly the guns got to work as quickly as possible, the infantry advancing to clear the remainder of the valley south of the Serre Hill. On the night of the 3rd/4th February an important section (a front of about three-quarters of a mile) of the enemy’s original second line system north of the Ancre was captured by the 63rd Division. The enemy’s hold on Grandcourt, and his more western defences south of the river, were now very precarious. On the 6th February he evacuated the latter and the same night withdrew from Grandcourt, which was occupied by the 63rd Division. On the night of the 7th, Baillescourt Farm, half-way between Beaucourt and Miraumont, was captured. On the 9th February the Germans began the devastation of the area occupied by them between Soissons and Arras. Under

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1917 ** It was necessary to shorten our Front ”’ 9

the rubric ‘“‘ Alberich ” the “‘ Army of the Crown Prince Rupprecht ” said Ludendorff, ‘“‘ had made out a programme for the work of clearance and demolition, which was to spread over five weeks. If an attack on the part of the enemy made it necessary, we could at any moment interrupt this programme and begin our retreat. Our first object was to avoid a battle, the second to effect the salvage of all our raw material of war and technical and other equipment that was not actually built into the positions, and finally the destruction of all high roads, villages, towns and wells, so as to prevent the enemy establishing himself in force in the near future in front of our position.” The German retreat in 1917 was one of the results of the Battles of the Somme, 1916. The appalling losses sustained by the enemy in the Somme operations and the shaken moral of his troops had produced a situation of considerable gravity in the German Army. The enemy had been so terribly weakened by the terrific blows dealt him by the Allies that his line in places was held only by worn-out and exhausted divisions, and he was fearful lest the Somme battles should break out afresh. “ The general situation made it necessary for us to postpone the struggle in the west as long as possible in order to allow the submarine campaign time to produce decisive results.! Tactical reasons and a shortage of ammunition provided additional reasons for delay. At the same time it was necessary to shorten our front in order to secure a more favourable grouping of our forces and create large reserves. In France and Belgium we had 154 divisions facing 190 divisions, some of which were considerably stronger than In view of our extensive front this was an exceedingly un- favourable balance of forces.2 Moreover we had in certain sectors of our line to endeavour to avoid heavy enemy attacks as long as possible, by preventing our adversaries from concentrating strong forces in front of them. At the same time we secured positions in which weaker divisions, wearied by fighting, could be employed. These considerations, taken in close connection with the opening of the submarine campaign, led to the decision to straighten our front by withdrawing to the Siegfried (Hindenburg) Line, which was to be in a state of defence by the beginning of March,

1 The German submarine-cruiser ca mmpaign opened on ist February, 1917, and its immediate result was the breaking off, on the 3rd ebruary,, of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and Germany on account of the ‘‘ unrestricted submarine warfare.”

2 And many considerably weaker. 3 The statement of the ‘' balance of forces’ must be received with caution.

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10 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

and methodically to carry on the work of demolition over an area of fifteen kilometres in breadth in front of our position... The decision to retreat was not reached without a painful struggle. It implied a confession of weakness, bound to raise the moral of the enemy and lower our own. But as it was necessary for military reasons, we had no choice ; it had to be carried out. On February 4th the order was given to carry out ‘ Alberich’ according to plan. The first ‘ Alberich ’ began on February 9th. The retreat was to

begin on March 16th, but under enemy pressure might start at any earlier Thus, Ludendorff ! On the night of the roth/11th February the enemy was driven out of 1,500 yards of a strong line of trenches on the southern foot of Serre Hill, only the strong points (which held out for a few days longer) remaining in the hands of the enemy. The attack was carried out by the 32nd Division. Three enemy counter-attacks were broken up and were entirely unsuccessful. It was in this sector (Beaumont-Hamel) and about this period that four more battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment came into

2/sTH, 2/6TH the line of battle. They were the 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th


Battalions, constituting the 185th Infantry Brigade of the 62nd (W.R.) Division. The West Riding Division landed in France in the beginning of January and for a month had received instructions in trench warfare and active service conditions generally, in the front line, support and reserve sectors held by the 19th and 32nd Divisions. They were keen soldiers, these men of the West Riding of Yorkshire, who since 1914 had been training in England and getting ready for service overseas. The 62nd Division was a second line Territorial Division, the first line Division being the 49th, which contained the four Territorial battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment, 1.e., the 1/5th, 1/6th, 1/7th and 1/8th. The arrival in France of the four West Yorkshire battalions of the 62nd (W.R.) Division brought the number of battalions of the Regiment serving overseas in a theatre of war up to twenty. To meet the wishes of French G.H.Q., Sir Douglas Haig, early in January, had begun to extend his right flank from a line drawn between the villages of Lesboeufs and Le Transloy, as far south as a point about five miles west of Roye. By the 26th February the new line had been taken over completely and the British divisions

1 It is perfectly obvious that the retreat did begin before the 16th March; it had begun before February was out.

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1917 “ Alberich” Plans Interrupted II

were hard at work improving and making more habitable the wretchedly inadequate trenches into which they had marched.' That the enemy was unable to carry out his “ Alberich ”’ pro- gramme without a good deal of interference is obvious from the number of attacks of a local nature which took place before the retreat to the Hindenburg Line. And in these local attacks several battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment were concerned. On the night of 8th February, two companies (“ B’’ and **D’’) of 10TH the roth West Yorkshires had acted as “ carrying parties” in an attack pA; yn made by the 7th Yorkshire Regiment of the soth Infantry Brigade, 17th Division, on the enemy’s trenches just east of Sailly-Saillisel. The attack was completely successful, and the Yorkshire battalion was later relieved by the West Yorkshires—the companies of the latter being disposed as follows: ‘“‘C”? Company in Green Howard Trench : “A” Company, Old Front Line: ‘“ D” Company in Cane Alley (three platoons): ‘“‘ B”’ Company, Chateau and ‘“‘ strong points. The relief took place on the oth. Now, although the enemy’s front-line divisions had received orders not to engage in actions involving the employment of large numbers of men, they obviously had to maintain their forward positions until the area behind the lines had been cleared and devastated as laid down in “ Alberich,” and the new formidable position—the Hindenburg Line—completed. At this period, also, the German was a good enough soldier to resent the continued grabbing by his opponents of a little bit here and a little bit there of his front line trenches ; and as a consequence counter-attacks were not infrequent. At I-1§ a.m. on the morning of the 1oth February, the enemy put down a very heavy barrage on the front and support lines and the strong points taken over by the West Yorkshiremen from the 7th Yorkshire Regiment. The back areas were also violently shelled. For three-quarters of an hour all positions occupied by the West Yorkshiremen and the supporting troops, were deluged by a constant stream of shells of all calibres. Simultaneously, bombing attacks against both flanks of Green Howard Trench—the new position held by ““C”” Company—were launched by the enemy. But all his attempts to reach the trench were frustrated and he was met by such a torrent of bombs and rifle grenades and streams of bullets from rifle, machine- gun and Lewis gun that he retired to his own trenches, having

1” This alteration entailed the maintenance by British forces of an exceptionally active front of 110 miles, including the whole of the Somme battle front.""—Official Despatches.

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12 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War I9I7

accomplished nothing. A bombing attack against the centre of Green Howard Trench met with similar results. The hostile bombardment had completely severed communication with British Headquarters, and the artillery and the West Yorkshires were entirely without means of signalling their distress. Lamp signalling had been tried but had failed to attract notice. So the gallant fellows stuck it out. Towards morning the enemy again opened fire, shelling the battalion’s right. Several of his shells, however, fell short into his own trenches. When this occurred it was noticed that the enemy’s troops sent up a single red light. This information was valuable, for on occupying the position the West Yorkshires had found in an old German dug-out several of these red flares. When, therefore, the enemy shelled the West Yorkshiremen, the latter promptly sent up a red light and the hostile shelling ceased immediately. On the 11th the battalion was relieved and marched back to Combles, in Brigade Reserve, having lost six other ranks killed, four died of wounds and twenty-four wounded during the tour.! Terribly hard was life in the front line sectors, and the mud and filth of the trenches were truly awful. Violent shell-fire blew in dug-outs and demolished shelters. Tours in the trenches lasted only 48 hours, yet in that short period the average number of casualties was from thirty to forty. Although it was poor satis- faction, the troops were heartened by the knowledge that the enemy was in no happier condition and that his casualties were not less heavy. By the middle of February, Serre formed a very prominent salient in the enemy’s line, and any further advance along the Ancre valley would render the retention of the village almost impossible. Accordingly, operations were begun which, if successful, would carry the British line forward along the spur running northwards from the main Morval-Thiepval Ridge above and gain possession of the high ground which not only commands the approaches to Pys and Miraumont, but affords observation over the upper valley of the Ancre, in which many hostile batteries were situated, defending the Serre sector. Arrangements were also made for a smaller attack along the northern bank of the river with the object of securing the approaches to Miraumont from the west. These attacks were entrusted to the 2nd, 18th and 63rd Divisions

1 After this action the roth West Yorkshires were not engaged again in the advance to, or German retreat to, the Hindenburg Line. ‘The battalion, with its Brigade and Division, moved in stages to the neighbourhood (and west) of Arras.

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1917 ** A Horrible and Loathsome Place” 13

(in the orders given from right to left) and were delivered simul- taneously at 5-45 a.m. on the morning of the 17th February.! Into all the details of the attack it is not possible to go, but south of the river guns were run to within a few hundred yards of Petit Miraumont, whilst along the northern banks of the Ancre complete success was obtained and several counter-attacks, delivered by considerable enemy forces, were completely broken up. On the left flank of the 63rd Division, the 62nd (W.R.) Division 2/5Tn, 2/6TH had begun the relief of the 32nd Division on the 13th February, 2/ 7TH, 2/8TH three battalions (2/5th, 2/6th and 2/7th West Yorkshires) of the , Fee. four forming the 185th Infantry Brigade, having taken over the line held by the 97th Infantry Brigade ; the 2/8th West Yorkshires were in Brigade Reserve. The 2/5th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel J. Josselyn) had two companies in Ten Tree Alley, one in Lager Alley and one in Munich Trench ; this was the right sub-sector. The 2/6th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel J. Hastings) held the left sub-sector, with one company in Ten Tree Alley and the Axle Group of posts, in support, one in Wagon Road in support, and two companies in reserve. The 2/7th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Jackson) was in the centre sub-sector, two companies holding the front line, one in support and one in reserve. The 2/8th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel W. Hepworth) was in Y Ravine, in Brigade Reserve. The Beaumont-Hamel sector, which this newly-arrived West Riding Division had taken over, was little more than a line of posts and shell-holes situated in the midst of slough and quagmire which beggars description. The continual heavy shelling to which the line had been subjected had reduced the trenches to a state which can only be described as appalling. A few weeks previously Ten Tree Alley, Lager Alley and Munich Trench, had indeed some semblance to properly constructed defences, but when the West Yorkshires moved into them they were battered and broken, filthy with viscous mud, gaping pools of dirty and evil-smelling water and pock-marked with huge shell-holes. A horrible and loathsome place in which to live and fight. Ration parties and reliefs often failed to find those whom they sought to feed or relieve. At all times of the day and night the enemy’s guns kept the sector under heavy shell-fire ; snipers pursued their activities with intrepidity and at first with loss and annoyance to the West York- Shires ; machine-guns swept the area and trench-mortar bombs fell

1 The official title of these attacks is ‘‘ The Actions of Miraumont, 17th and 18th February "

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2°§TH, 2/6TH 2/7TH, 2/8TH BATTALIONS. 17TH FEB.

14 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

in and about the shell-hole posts, churning up the already rudely disturbed earth.! In taking over the line from the 97th Brigade several casualties were suffered by the 185th Infantry Brigade. The 2/5th West Yorkshires lost four other ranks killed and eighteen wounded ; the 26th Battalion five wounded and the 2/7th Battalion one other rank killed and one wounded. The first officer casualty in the 185th Brigade was Capt. Nevitt of the 2/8th West Yorkshires, wounded on 15th whilst with a working party in Station Road. On the 17th the four West Yorkshire battalions had forty casualties killed, wounded and missing. But fortunately the line soon ceased to be stationary, and troops of the 62nd (W.R.) Division were a few days later in Miraumont and the neighbourhood. The 185th Infantry Brigade (less 2/6th West Yorkshires) was relieved on the night 20th/21st February and moved back in Divisional Reserve. The men had had a terrible time. In less than a week and without being engaged in active operations, the West York- shiremen had suffered three officers wounded, thirty-eight other ranks killed, 110 wounded and six missing. On the night of the 19th ‘20th Major F. A. Lupton and one other rank, both of the 2/8th West Yorkshires, went out to look for a post and were not heard of again until Major Lupton’s body was found some days later. Lieut.-Colonel W. Hepworth relinquished command of the 2/8th West Yorkshires on 22nd, being physically unable to stand the severity of winter conditions. He was succeeded by Major R. E. Negus of the North Staffordshire Regiment. Meanwhile the enemy was gradually being forced to evacuate his forward positions. Pys, Miraumont and Serre were evacuated by him, patrols entering the third village on 24th Febuary without encountering resistance. By the evening of the 25th, the enemy’s front system of defence from north of Gueudecourt to Eaucourt, Pys, Miraumont, Beauregard, Dovecot and Serre, had fallen into British hands. At this period the 187th Infantry Brigade of the 62nd Division held the front line, with the 186th in support and 185th in reserve. For two days the 187th Infantry Brigade felt its way cautiously

1 Extract from Infantry Brigade Diary, 16th February, 1917: ‘' B.G.C. and B.M. visited battalions in the line. Slight thaw during day. Considerable towards evening and some rain. Extremely difficult conditions in the line, very scanty communication trenches, no front line trenches at all. The line is held by a few isolated posts in shell-holes by about one and ten men in each. Touch very difficult indeed to maintain, the 2/6th and 2/7th West Yorkshires (s-¢., left and centre battalions) not yet in touch. Access to companies by diy 18 amporsible."'

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1917 Germans burn their Dug-outs 15

forward, pushing the enemy back in a north-easterly direction. Gudgeon Trench and Orchard Alley were occupied and an advance on Puisieux had been begun when, on the 27th, the 185th Infantry Brigade again came into the front line (right sub-sector), relieving the 190th Infantry Brigade of the 63rd Division, whilst the 186th Brigade relieved the 187th in the left sub-sector. On the 28th 28rx Fas. February, at 11-10 a.m., both the 185th and 186th Infantry Brigades reported Puisieux “in our hands.” It is necessary, however, to look north and south of the West Riding Division, up and down the British line, where other battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment had, with their divisions, been playing their part in this great act of the war drama. Whilst the advance on the southern flank of the Gommecourt Salient was in progress, several battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment were in and out of the trenches north and south of Gomme- court village. North, the four battalions of the 146th Infantry Brigade (49th '/STH. 1/ 6TH Division), i.e., 1/5th, 1/6th, 1/7th and 1/8th West Yorkshires had none” relieved the 21st Brigade (30th Division) in the Ransart sector, on a 11TH Fes. two-battalion front. Little happened during the remainder of January, and it was not until 11th February that any item of interest is mentioned in the records. On this date, however, the diary of the 1/8th Battalion reports a raid on the enemy’s trenches carried out by the battalion, in order to obtain an identification. It was unsuccessful. A week later (on the 19th) the 146th Brigade was relieved and by the end of February the 49th Division had returned to its old sector of 1915—Fauquissart.

Just south of Gommecourt, in the Hébuterne sector, the 15th, 15TH, 16TH, 16th and 18th Battalions West Yorkshire Regiment (93rd Infantry

Brigade, 31st Division) having been relieved by the 92nd Infantry BATTALIONS. Brigade on 2nd January and having spent just over a month out of the front line in the Doullens and Bernaville areas, came back again on the 21st February, the 15th Battalion taking over reserve position 2'St Fes. in Bayencourt, the 16th Battalion the right sub-sector (L.3) and the 18th Battalion the left sub-sector (L.4.). On the 22nd, numerous fires broke out in different parts of the enemy’s line ; the Germans were burning their dug-outs preparatory to the retirement. This, however, was not known to the West Yorkshires until a few days later. Active patrolling had begun on the Brigade taking over the front

line, the enemy’s wire being closely watched. At 11 p.m. on the

Page 28








25TH Fes.



27TH Fes.

16 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

24th, Brigade Headquarters wired the 18th West Yorkshires that as the enemy was supposed to have evacuated his trenches opposite the Vth Corps front (south of the 93rd Brigade), patrols were to be pushed out immediately to investigate the truth of the report. Company Commanders were summoned immediately to Battalion Headquarters and two platoons each of “* C’’? Company (right) and ** A’? Company (left), supported by two platoons each of “ B” and ** D”’ Companies were ordered to “‘ go over” at § a.m. on the 25th and enter the enemy’s trenches. If the latter were successful, patrols were to be pushed forward to “ act with vigour.” The 16th West Yorkshires were also ordered to send out patrols into the enemy’s line. The two patrols of the 18th Battalion got across ‘“‘ No Man’s Land” without incident and entered Gommecourt Park. Here Opposition was encountered, and after a severe bombing fight in which both sides suffered casualties, the West Yorkshiremen with- drew to their own trenches, having established the fact that the enemy’s forward positions were but lightly held. At 2 p.m. the 18th West Yorkshires were relieved by the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. The patrols sent out by the 16th Battalion also entered the German trenches, encountering only five of the enemy, who were speedily driven off. A post was established and consolidated in the German front line about 100 yards north of the Hébuterne-Bucquoy Road, but later, under instructions, was evacuated: the reason is not given. The 15th West Yorkshires then relieved the 16th Battalion, which marched back to Bayencourt. During the early morning of the 25th, ‘““C” Company of the 15th Battalion entered the German first line without opposition, and several hours later occupied the second and third lines. On the 26th, ‘‘ D ’’ Company of the battalion pushed out posts into the 4th German line. On the night of the 26th/27th the 16th West Yorkshires marched back again into the front line, t.e., the Hébuterne sector. The battalion had been detailed to carry out an attack on Rossignol Wood at 6-30 a.m. on the 27th. The attack was carried out on a two-company front with the two remaining companies in support. The leading companies, as ordered, were clear of the line of posts which had been formed along the Gommecourt-Puisieux road by 6-30 a.m. The right company reached the southern edge and entered by the trenches. A desperate struggle now ensued. The wood was a maze of trenches,

Page 29

1917 Rossignol Wood 17

in fact a very strong system which stretched from Puisieux to Gomme- court. The trenches which the right company had entered were subjected to a very heavy enfilade machine-gun fire and very soon the whole of three platoons were killed or wounded. The fourth platoon, however, took cover in shell-holes just west of the Wood, where it remained all day, rejoining its battalion at night. The Company Commander and the Second-in-Command were both missing, the platoon commanders were wounded, and one managed to crawl out of the wood when darkness had fallen and reported at Battalion Headquarters at 10 p.m. Meanwhile, the left company had met with better luck. Having cleared the old German third line about 5-20 a.m., it deployed in No Man’s Land, and, preceded by scouts well in advance, reached the Puisieux-Gommecourt road without incurring heavy casualties. The Company Commander then sent one platoon up towards Pioneer Graben to occupy the high ground in the neighbourhood. But on reaching the trench the platoon was counter-attacked and driven back towards the Crucifix. A bombing party was then sent forward and succeeded in killing one and wounding several of the Germans, driving the remainder back 150 yards. The bombers then established blocks in Moltke Graben and Pioneer Graben and a bombing post at the junction of these two trenches. The remainder of the left company then advanced, several men entering Rossignol Wood, but the majority dug themselves in in Stump Alley and Pioneer Graben, south-west of the Crucifix. Two platoons from the reserve companies of the battalion were then sent forward and these assisted in consolidating the position won. The left company was shelled all day (it had indeed been under continuous fire from about 6 a.m.) but gallantly hung on to its position until relieved at night. On the 28th, the 18th West Yorkshires relieved the 15th Bat- talion in forward positions and the 18th Durham Light Infantry took over the line occupied by the 16th Battalion. At the conclusion of the above operations the line of the 93rd Infantry Brigade followed approximately the Gommecourt-Puisieux road from a point about 200 yards south-west of Gommecourt cemetery to a point about 100 yards south of the south-west corner of Rossignol Wood.! On the 28th also, Puisieux was reported in the hands of the British. Gommecourt had been captured on the 27th but Rossignol

‘ From the official diaries, no figures of the casualties incurred were obtained, neither were names given of the officers killed or wounded.



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18 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

Wood still held up the advance towards Bucquoy, though from columns of smoke which had been seen rising from Biez Wood and other portions of his line, it was evident the enemy was engaged in burning dug-outs and generally preparing for a still further retirement. The capture of Rossignol Wood and the enemy’s trenches in the immediate neighbourhood was therefore the next step forward. The Wood, the trench system in the vicinity and Garde Stellung were vigorously shelled by the Divisional Artillery, to which the enemy replied with equal vigour, and life in the front line became horrible. The trenches were by this time appalling and deep in mud, tumbled and blown about by shells and trench-mortar bombs, and it was fortunate that an advance, though of a piece-meal nature, was in progress. The enemy’s wire still presented formidable obstacles, even though the guns pounded it regularly from morning till night. An attack by the Durham Light Infantry, which should have taken place on 2nd March, had to be postponed owing to the hostile wire-entanglement being insufficiently cut. On this date both the 15th and 16th West Yorkshires were relieved, the former marching off to billets in Coigneux and the latter to Magnolia Camp. The 18th Battalion was still in the line, and in conjunction with the Durhams, attacked the enemy on the 3rd March. The latter battalion, at dawn, under cover of a magnificent barrage, attacked and captured the 1st and 2nd Garde Stellung, the troops keeping so close to the barrage that they were in the German trenches before the enemy could get out of his dug-outs. The 18th West Yorkshires attacked Rossignol Wood with great gallantry, and although met by heavy rifle and machine-gun fire and the annoying activities of snipers, quickly broke down all opposition and established a line east of the wood. Nearly twenty prisoners were taken, and a Lewis gun which had been lost by the 16th West Yorkshires in their attack on Rossignol Wood a few days previously, was recaptured. The casualties of the battalion were slight. The 93rd Infantry Brigade had now obtained all its objectives. On the night 3rd/4th March the 18th West Yorkshires and Durham Light Infantry were relieved by the 13th York and Lancaster Regi- ment and 12th York and Lancaster Regiment respectively, the 94th Brigade thus completing the relief of the 93rd. Both battalions, on relief, marched back to Rossignol Farm, and so far as the three

Page 31

1917 Hard Conditions of the Advance 19

West Yorkshire Battalions (15th, 16th and 18th) of the 21st Division were concerned they had played their part in the advance to the Hindenburg Line, for at the end of March the 93rd Brigade (with the exception of the 16th West Yorkshires at Beuvry) was billeted in Béthune, attached to the XIth Corps in reserve to the 66th Division. Meanwhile, the 62nd Division (after the Actions of Miraumont 17th/18th February), had been steadily pushing its way forward. The four West Yorkshire battalions (185th Brigade) of the Division on the last day of February were holding the right sub-sector of the , , STH, 2/6TH Divisional front, with the 2/5th and 2/8th Battalions! in the front 2/7tH, 2/8TH line, 2/6th in reserve and 2/7th in support; the left Divisional BATTALIONS. sub-sector was held by the 186th Infantry Brigade. ane SEB. The 185th Brigade Diary on the 27th had reported that ‘‘ (The) Germans, apparently retiring along the Vth Corps front to the Bucquoy—Achiet-le-Petit line, leaving a few small posts behind to hinder an advance. The condition of the roads makes supplies of all kinds difficult to obtain. Pack transport appears to be the most satisfactory The Brigade line ran roughly along Gudgeon Trench, but on the left flank the 186th was slightly ahead, while on the right the 63rd Division was not so far forward. At 4 p.m. on the 28th the right company of the 2/8th West Yorkshires occupied Goods Trench. On the rst March the 2/6th and 2/7th* West Yorkshires relieved 2/6TH the 2/s5th® and 2/8th‘ Battalions respectively, and until the 185th 2/7TH, 2/8TH

° . . . . . BATT 3. Brigade was relieved in the line on the 6th, battalion reliefs were Nunes:

frequent. The conditions in the front line were appalling ; snipers and the enemy’s artillery were very active and casualties were heavy, while the discomfort was intense. The weather was fine, but snow fell during the night 4th/5th and the slush and mud was horrible. Water was scarce in the front line and had to be carried up on pack mules ; in fact, pack transport was the only possible way of supplying the needs of the troops in the forward areas. The 185th Brigade was relieved on the 6th and marched back to shelters in Mailly Camp, where for several days the West Yorkshire- men were engaged in “‘ cleaning-up,” in supplying working parties and in practising for an attack on Achiet-le-Petit, to take place in the

' Major R. E. Negus of 2/8th West Yorkshires was wounded on 26th February.

* On the 2nd March, Major O. C. S. Watson, 2/sth K.O.Y.L.L., took over temporary command of the 2/7th West Yorkshires, eice Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Jackson, M.P., reported


* Mayor Alwyne Percy Dale (Second-in-Command) was killed by shell-fire on the 1st March.

* Lieut.-Colonel A. H. James, 8th Northants. Regiment, took over command of 2/8th West Yorkshires, vice Major Negus, wounded.

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20 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

near future.’ No advance during this period had taken place along the Divisional front, for it was impossible to go forward without building up the roads and improving the communications generally. Moreover, the enemy, though obviously preparing for a general retirement (and was indeed retiring along certain parts of the front), still contested the advance of the 62nd Division and the Vth Corps. Although the official despatches stated that an extension of the British front as far northwards as a point opposite the town of Roye “* was decided on in January, 1917,” it is evident that the line had already begun to extend by the end of 1916. For during the evening of the 29th December the 23rd Infantry Brigade (8th Division) relieved a Brigade of the 4th Division in the La Priez Sector, some three or four miles south of the line Lesboeufs—Le Transloy, the old dividing line between the British and French fronts. This Le Priez sector, when the 8th Division took it over from 4th Division, consisted only of a line of posts both in the front and support lines with a short length of support trench known as Bar Support and a Reserve line. It was divided into two sub-sectors— ** Castor” on the right and “ Pollux ” on the left. The main feature of the sector was the ridge running from Rancourt to Sailly-Saillisel, the possession of which, on account of the observation it conferred, was of the greatest importance. At present it remained with the 8th Division, but it was such a valuable feature that attacks might be expected at any moment, as the St. Pierre Vaast Wood and the valley running up through it from Moislains provided covered lines of approach and places of assembly for an attack on the ridge. This was the front taken over by the 23rd Infantry Brigade, and on the Ist January the Diary of the 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshires, records (the battalion being then in Brigade support): “‘ A shell struck one of the ‘D’ Company’s shelters last night, killing five men and wounding three.”’ It was a bad beginning, but not surprising in a portion of the line which both sides desired to possess. At 3-15 p.m. on 2nd January the battalion moved off from Priez Farm at 100 yards intervals between platoons towards the front line in order to relieve the 2nd Devons. Keeping to the left of Priez Farm the march was by way of Frégicourt cross-roads, then by the Combles-Frégicourt road to the light railway (which ran south-east

1 Major C. K. James, 6th Border Regiment, assumed command of the 2/7th West Yorkshires on sith March, Major O.C S. Watson returning to his battalion.

Page 33

1917 The New Line South of Sailly-Saillisel 21

along the valley just west of the Bapaume-Rancourt road) thence to the Round Trench line in Bramon Trench. The light railway continued to the Bapaume road. ” Company of the battalion took over the front line (posts). «“ B? was in Bar Support, disposed as follows: “‘ 14 platoons to north of duckboards, which continued on due east from the end of light railway ; 2} platoons on Bapaume road, near Battalion Head- quarters ; ‘A’ and ‘ D’ Companies were in reserve. ““*C’? Company’s position in the front line was not to be envied. The company was in ten posts, unconnected holes, part of an old trench, now water-logged. These posts were about four feet deep and a very thin parapet. There was practically no wire in front, no duckboards in position, and some of them very wet. Battalion Headquarters at U.20 C.3.5. Men wore thigh gum boots and jerkins and waterproof sheets. Greatcoats not taken in.” Although work could only be carried out during the night the battalion soon had the posts in something like habitable condition. Wire was put up and when relief came on 6th the line had been vastly improved. This tour proved the only period spent in the front line by the 2nd West Yorkshires during January, for after relief the battalion moved into camp at Maurepas, thence to Camps 111 and 112, Sailly- le-Sec, and Camp 117, Suzanne. The supply of working and fatigue parties and general training occupied the battalion until 31st of the month. On roth February the West Yorkshiremen marched back to Camp 112 and on the following day to Corbie, where the battalion billeted. On 19th and 20th February the battalion marched to Camps 117 and 17 respectively. On 21st the battalion moved in twenty-two motor lorries to the Crucifix near Maurepas, thence by march through Craniar to the front line, #.e., the northern sub-sector of the Buchavesnes sector. and “‘ C” Companies were in the front line and ‘‘ B” and ““D” Companies at Andover in dug-outs in reserve. The front line was still in a horrible condition: ‘“‘ Mud terrible, most posts up to the knees in liquid mud. _It is much milder and fine. The two communication trenches to front line impassable for mud. Agile Avenue leads to left company and Alpha Avenue to right.” ** Trench feet ’ caused a great deal of discomfort during this tour, and when on 25th the battalion was relieved, no less than forty-five cases had been reported. Only three days’ rest was allowed, at the expiration of which the West Yorkshiremen marched



Page 34

22 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

back into the same sub-sector, taking over their old line from the 2nd Middlesex Regiment on 28th. But in the three days’ interval one portion of the line had been badly damaged: ‘‘ The trenches occupied by left company have been considerably knocked about since we were last in, and the mud is thicker and more difficult to get through. The posts by day are practically cut off.’ 2ND At 12-25 a.m. on the 3rd March the 2nd Battalion was relieved, BATTALION. and the night being clear with a bright moon and the ground covered 3RD MARCH. by a hard frost, the relief took place rapidly, the last company of the battalion arriving at Linger Camp at § a.m. But at 11.45 a.m. the same morning, orders were received to be at Asquith Flats by 6 a.m. on the 4th, as Divisional support in an attack which the 24th and 25th Brigades were making at 4 a.m. on that date. The battalion marched out of Linger Camp at 4 a.m., arriving at Asquith Flats at 5.15 a.m.—* Zero” hour for the attack. Here the West Yorkshiremen waited in support all day until 3-30 p.m., when they came under the orders of the G.O.C., 24th Brigade, and were ordered to move at once to Andover. From Andover the battalion went forward to Aldershot, arriving at the latter at 6-30 p.m. The attack of the 24th Brigade on Pallas and Fritz Trenches had been successful and at 7-15 p.m. the West Yorkshiremen were ordered to take over the latter trench and consolidate it. The strength of the 2nd West Yorkshires at this period had sunk very low: ‘‘ We were only 340 strong all ranks,” said the Battalion Diary, “‘ and therefore one company of the rst Sherwoods was left in Pallas Trench in support to the battalion.” The relief was not completed until 12-30 a.m. on 5th, but no sooner were the men in possession of the trench than they set to work to consolidate Fritz Trench, which had been captured by the 24th Brigade. There were, however, two short communication trenches leading to Bremen Trench, which was still held by the enemy. Both of these short trenches (one of which was Fritz Cut) had to be blocked. The whole area was called the Tirangle, and before it passed into the hands of the 24th Brigade desperate fighting had taken place. 2ND The West Yorkshiremen therefore worked hard in order to BATTALION. strengthen their position, out of which they expected the enemy would try to turn them. The battalion, during the dark hours, managed to put out a little wire, though all night long the German artillery ‘‘ planked ”’ shells on to Fritz and Pallas Trenches. Indeed

1 Battalion Diary, 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment. On the 27th, Lieut.-Colonel J. L. Jack was admitted to hospital and Major R. J. McLaren assumed command of the battalion.

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1917 Re-organisation of ““ Battalions 23

when dawn broke “ B” Company had suffered heavily. The stretcher bearers, however, stuck manfully to their grim work, though they not only had to evacuate wounded men of their own battalion, but also Worcesters and even wounded Germans who had

Jain in the trenches all day. Throughout the 5th and 6th the enemy 5TH Marcu.

continued to plaster his lost trenches with shells of all calibres, including gas, but made no infantry attack. All companies of the battalion worked splendidly, though casualties continued heavy. On the night of the 5th Second-Lieut. G. H. Greaves was killed by shell-fire and Second-Lieut. H. Ingham wounded. On the 7th the Lincolns relieved the 2nd West Yorkshires, companies marching back to Albany Priez Farm, Asquith Flats and Hospital Wood.! Several days (from 8th to 11th inclusive) were spent by the battalion in a well-earned rest and in “ cleaning-up ”’ and training, during which Lieut.-Colonel J. L. Jack rejoined from hospital and assumed command. On the 12th all companies moved to Cranier for ‘‘ trench feet prevention,” and later at 4 p.m. marched off to relieve the 2nd Middlesex in the Rancourt sector, a miserable line of posts, wet and uncomfortable. Fortunately their stay here was of short duration, for two days later the enemy began to evacuate their trenches in front of St. Pierre Vaast Wood and moved back towards the Hinden- burg Line. Meanwhile, on the 26th February, another battalion of the



regiment, the 17th West Yorkshires (106th Brigade, 35th Division) BATTALION,

had moved into the Lihons sector of the line, immediately west of 7° Chaulnes, towards the southern extremity of the new front taken over a few hours previously from the French. The battalion had been out of the line for nearly two months, but during that period had been completely re-organised. Origin- ally the 17th West Yorkshires were one of the “‘ Bantam ”’ battalions, but it had been found that owing to the wastage of war it was im- possible to keep up the supply of reinforcements of the requisite standard, that many of the men were physically unfit, and complete re-organisation of all ‘“‘ Bantam ” units became necessary. The 106th Brigade Diary briefly summarises the change in the following words: ‘“ Ist-31st January: During this period the rejection of all units and men of the ‘ Bantam” standard was under- taken, drafts of full-sized men being received in their place.”” The drafts, when they arrived in France, were badly in need of training,

1 As far as can be gathered the casualties of the 2nd West Yorkshires between 1st and ath March, 1917, were as follows; Officers—one killed, two wounded; other ranks—seven killed, fifty- four wounded, eleven missing.


Page 36



24 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War I9I7

and thus a prolonged period out of the front line was necessary in order that the Division might train and re-organise thoroughly before it once more took over a front line sector. The 17th West Yorkshires left the Ternas Area on 6th February and, moving by marches and train journeys, reached Marcel Cave on 2oth, receiving orders on the following day to move to Caix, south of the Somme river, On 22nd. From Caix the battalion marched forward to the Camp de Ballon, occupying some old French wooden huts in a wood. In this camp the battalion remained until 11 a.m. on the 26th, when the West Yorkshiremen marched to Rosiéres, halting until dusk, but moving forward again at 5-30 p.m. up to the front line trenches in the Lihons sector. The battalion from A.15 a.7.5 on the right to A.4. ¢.2.0 on the left.! Shelling, sniping and trench-mortar activity, during the intervals of which work was done on the defences, occupied the battalion for several days. On the 3rd March, under cover of an intense artillery bom- bardment, the enemy raided the trenches of the West Yorkshiremen, the battalion’s casualties being one man killed, one wounded and five missing. Relief took place on the roth, when the battalion marched back to Rosiéres and billeted, where the next day (11th) was spent in giving the men a rest after the terrible condition of the trenches and in “‘cleaning-up.”’ On the 14th the battalion marched to Decauville Camp.

' Ref: 66 (E) N.E., 66 (d) N.W. (part of).

Page 37



NERAL LUDENDORFF gives 16th March as the beginning of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line; the Report of the Battles Nomenclature Committee as 14th. Both dates are open to question, for as early as the 3rd March the enemy found it necessary to issue frequent reports of the ‘‘ success ” of his movements. One (bearing the date of the 3rd) stated: “‘ The fact that our move- ments have been universally successful during the last few days, and have cost us practically nothing, is due to the skill and bravery of our troops. Regimental historians will tell us in the future how delighted our officers and men were to return once again to open warfare.” The Germans (especially during the Great War) were never gifted with a sense of humour, and the “ delight ” of their soldiery having to retire from hard-won positions, soaked with the blocd of their comrades, is difficult to picture. Queer mentality that could find cause for jubilation in an enforced retirement ! Up to the 14th March, the enemy’s principal retirement appear to have taken place within the area hitherto referred to as the Gomme- court Salient, or along the front of the old British line, which ran from east of Lesboeufs to just south of Arras. But on and after that date the enemy seems to have retired from, or he made prepa- rations to evacuate, other parts of his line, south of Lesbeoufs. No less than ten battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment took part in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line: 17th, 2nd, 2/sth, 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th, from right to left. The 17th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel H. R. H. Drew) 1771 having arrived in Decauville Camp on 14th March, began prepara ~ tions for practising the assault, but at 10 p.m. on the night of 15th the battalion was ordered to relieve the 23rd Manchester Regiment of the 104th Brigade in the Chilly sector, on the night of 16th. The battalion, in motor lorries, left camp at 2-30 p.m. on the latter date and, on arriving at Vrely, there found guides waiting to conduct the relief parties to the front line. The relief appears to have been 25

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26 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

carried out without incident, the West Yorkshiremen coming temporarily under the orders of the G.O.C., 1ro4th Brigade. Throughout the night of the 16th/17th March, red lights were observed burning in the enemy’s lines. They were not the ordinary flares which suddenly grew brilliant and then flickered out, but a steady red light, and they were seen all up and down the enemy’s line. They were German signals for the general retreat to the Hindenburg Line. The battalion pushed out patrols, and as a result of their reports the West Yorkshiremen, at 2-30 p.m. on 17th, entered the enemy’s front line which had been evacuated. An officers’ patrol worked south and entered Fransart, which was also found clear of the enemy. On 18th the battalion advanced to Mamelas Trench and later reached Hattencourt. The railway in front of the latter place had been destroyed, and the village bore unmistakeable signs of “the beast’’; the houses had been demolished and the place heavily wired and mined, and great care had to be taken not to fall into the enemy’s “‘ booby traps.” On the 19th, however, the battalion moved north to Hallu and rejoined its Brigade (106th). For several days now, the 17th West Yorkshires with other units of the Brigade, were engaged on the repair of roads in the neighbourhood of Hallu, from which area no move forward was made until 29th, when the 17th Battalion marched forward to Potte. Work on roads, the filling-in of huge craters, formed by the enemy at every cross-roads, and the repair of canal and river bridges, occupied the West Yorkshiremen until sth April, when the battalion moved to Ennemain : and on this date the retreat officially ends. Thus the 17th West Yorkshires had actually had no fighting, though the battalion was complimented by the G.O.C., 106th Brigade, on being the first battalion of the 35th Division to enter the enemy’s lines at the beginning of the advance. Two officers of the battalion, Lieut. H. F. O. Jenkins and Second-Lieut. A. D. Rose, were specially congratulated for their patrol work. Meanwhile the 2nd Battalion Yorkshires had hardly settled down in the Rancourt sector, after relieving the 2nd Middlesex on the night of 12th March, when all ranks that could be spared were set to work on wiring the front line, or rather the posts. About 6 p.m. on the 14th, however, a Guards Brigade (of the Guards Division) on the left of the West Yorkshires sent a message to the latter that the Brigade was going to move at dusk to the German front line—

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1917 ** Booby-Traps ” 27

Drossen Trench—as the enemy had vacated it. ‘‘This astounding news,’ said Colonel Jack (commanding 2nd West Yorkshires) “was promptly followed by patrols from ‘ B’ and ‘ D’ Companies entering the German front line, Drossen Trench—the patrols of Second-Lieuts. May and Hall being in about half an hour after orders to move and, as subsequently transpired, from a document captured by the battalion, only one hour after the enemy had left, about 8 p.m. ‘ C’ and‘ B’ occupied the Drossen Trench, gaining touch soon afterwards with Guards on left and 2nd Devons on right. And patrols were pushed forward at once to gain touch with the enemy. Front, 1,500 yards.”” In this manner began the German retreat along the front of the 2nd Battalion, and as the diary is of considerable interest extracts will be given from it. At Ir a.m. on the 15th Capt. Palmes, under orders, advanced and occupied the south-east side of “the wood.”' Several groups of Germans witnessed this manceuvre, but were fired on and imme- diately withdrew. The left of the battalion was then about 2,000 yards in front of the Guards on the left, and well advanced in front of the unit on the right. Night found the battalion occupying about 4,000 yards of front with “ A” on south-east edge of Wood, “‘ C ” (Lieut. Myers) thrown back to left, ‘‘ B”’ (Capt. Alexander) in old German front line and ‘‘ D” (Second-Lieut. Ingham) in old British line. Some good patrol work was carried out during the night. lower lying than ours, the hostile trenches were deep and dry and contained large numbers of dug-outs, mostly blown in. And in some cases holding traps of various kinds which our troops had previously been warned about. Except for a number of hand- grenades little material was here left behind.” On the afternoon of the 16th the 2nd West Yorkshires were 2xp relieved by the 2nd Middlesex and marched back to Hospital Wood. Batration. The 17th was spent in “‘ resting and cleaning-up,” but on the 18th the battalion again moved up to Apollo, near Rancourt, arriving at 5 p.m. During the night, orders arrived for the battalion to move on the following morning to Moislains (which in the meantime had been occupied) and arrive in the village by 9 a.m. on roth. 19TH MARCH. At 7 a.m. the West Yorkshiremen, moving via south-east corner of St. Pierre Vaast Wood and Moislains Wood, set out for the village. ‘* Curious,” records the Battalion Diary, ‘‘ to be now moving glibly Over enemy’s trench system with chargers, flags and all. Battalion

_ It is possible that the “ wood ‘' referred to was St. Pierre Vaast Wood, but Moislains Wood was also near, though to the south-east of the former.

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28 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

previously detailed as outpost battalion to Division and to occupy a line on main Péronne-Cambrai road when cleared by Corps Mounted Troops.” The fire of a few snipers was the only opposition en- countered by the battalion as it took up its allotted positions, ground gained being about 2,500 yards on a front of about 4,000 yards. On the night of the 19th the battalion patrols crept forward towards Nurlu, which was found to be still occupied by the enemy. But about dawn on the 20th “ D’”’ Company entered the village, with very little opposition from the enemy, and at 11 a.m. the whole battalion advanced about 1,000 yards, with its right on the south-east end of Nurlu Wood, and left about Nurlu including the village. Only enemy snipers were encountered, and these were soon dealt with. ‘““ A few shells. Yeomanry scouts in vicinity. Battalion officers riding their chargers. Nurlu in ruins, houses demolished, dug-outs blown in, furniture smashed, trees destroyed. Every conceivable damage planned by the enemy. Good many enemy to be seen in groups, but out of rifle range and our guns not yet much forward on account of broken bridges and mined roads, and red glares all over horizon point to further damage and withdrawal.” At 3 p.m. on 21st the 2nd Middlesex again relieved the 2nd West Yorkshires, and the latter “ retired to cellars and holes in débris in Moislains.”’ ‘“‘ Cleaning-up,” bathing in an improvised bath-house and kit inspection took place on the 22nd: on that date also another event, duly recorded in the Battalion Diary, took place: ‘“ Battalion furnishes BEER, carefully hoarded by Quartermaster Hinchcliffe since The manna which fell from the heavens to feed the famished Israelites was not more welcome than that “ carefully hoarded ” beer! It goes without saying that the “‘ Quarter Bloke ” on that day was more popular than ever ! On the 23rd the battalion was back in Nurlu and 1,000 yards south of the village. The weather was still bitterly cold—“ perishing cold ” as the records have it—and the enemy not only sniped with rifles, but was obviously using up his dump of artillery ammunition, seeing that he was engaged in firing shots with 8-in. howitzers, even at single men. Battalion Headquarters had a narrow escape, a shell bursting four feet above the door: ‘‘ The door and entrance, I may add,”’ said Colonel Jack, “‘ faced the wrong way for us, so as to admit more easily these things.’” Gradually the 8th Division pushed its way forward, following

Hattalion Headquarters had vacated this dug-out charge of explosives was found just behind the mess store, intended for blowing dug-outs 1n and failed to explode."

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1917 ** Excess of Zeal” 29

closely on the heels of the retreating enemy. On the 27th the 2nd West Yorkshires occupied a line on a ridge almost 1,000 yards south- west of Hendecourt. At dawn on 28th an N.C.O. and six other ranks, 28TH Marcu. on patrol, approached within 200 yards of German posts and had to retire, through excess of zeal on the part of some company posts spent a miserable day in hole between lines, sniped by both sides.” On the 29th a brisk little affair took place: ‘‘ At dusk Second- 2xp Lieuts. May and Yorke proceeded, each with fifteen men and a Lewis Battation. gun, to enter and occupy Hendecourt. The latter and his men got close to a hostile post just south of village, and there met heavy rifle and machine-gun fire which caused about seven casualties and stopped the operations of that patrol. Second-Lieut. Yorke was severely wounded and carried away with difficulty. All others got back except one man. Second-Lieut. May was more fortunate and entered Hendecourt, but opening fire on enemy machine-guns to assist Lieut. Yorke’s party, the enemy began closing in on him from all directions and in superior numbers. On these groups he opened a lively fire and did some damage, and then was obliged to withdraw his men adroitly. In view of other operations further enterprise was abandoned for the time.” Relief followed this little adventure and the battalion withdrew to Moislains. Hendecourt was captured on the following day by the Middlesex and Devons. The 1st April found the 2nd West Yorkshires in Divisional ist Apriv. Reserve in Nurlu and the battalion seems, at last, to have obtained some measure of comfort: ‘‘ Men in cellars, dug-outs and remains of barns, and all fairly comfortable. There was ample fuel and each little billet had its own fire.” Here the battalion remained until the 11th of the month, by which time the enemy was practically settled in his new line of defence. The four West Yorkshire Battalions of the 185th Infantry Brigade (62nd Division), after relief on 6th March, had on the 7th 2/STH, 2/6TH

. . , (9TH, 2/8TH moved into the following quarters: 2/5th to No. 4 Camp; 2/6th

Oldham Camp; 2/7th Lytham Camp; 2/8th Mailly Wood Camp, 7TH Marcu. where also the Brigade established Headquarters. The 62nd Division, after a tortuous advance, had halted in front of the Roc- quigny-Bapaume-Ablainzevelle line and had begun preparations for an attack on Achiet-le-Petit. With this intention the West York- shire battalions set to work on the construction of a theatre in which to practise the attack. The latter, however, was not destined to take place for the enemy within the next few days began to evacuate

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30 The West Regiment in the War 1917

his positions and fall back in front of the Vth Corps. The capture of Irles by the 18th Division on the roth March! and the subsequent evacuation of the Loupart Line on the 16th were followed by still more extensive retirements along the whole front. For here, also, on the night of 16th/17th the sky was illuminated by red flares, the enemy’s signal to his troops for the general retreat to the Hinden- burg Line. The 185th Infantry Brigade was not, however, called upon to enter the front line of the Division during the remainder of March, and it was not until the night of the 4th April that the Brigade relieved the 22nd Brigade of the 7th Division in the Ecoust-St.- Mein sector, which had been captured by the latter, together with Croisilles and Longatte on the 2nd of the month. During the interval, the West Yorkshiremen had experienced most trying conditions in the gradual move forward. Large working parties had to be supplied each day in order to repair the damaged roads and communications and collect stores of rations and ammunition for the new ‘‘ dumps.” The weather was atrocious, accommodation for the men awful and the troops, with not three months’ service in France, suffered greatly. But their spirit was fine, and speaking generally the men were in splendid fettle and eager for their first real battle with the enemy.’ Thus, so far as the regiment was concerned, ended the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, a retreat, be it remembered, forced upon the enemy by the successful tactics of the Allies. The general Situation was admirably summarised in a divisional report in the following terms: ‘‘ The German retreat on the German front proceeds. No such war of movement has taken place on the Western Front since the days of the Marne. From Monchy, south-west of Arras, to north of Soissons, a distance of seventy miles, and allowing for convolutions of the line—about 120 miles—the German armies are retiring towards the Belgian frontier with British and French forces, including cavalry, in close touch. Not only Bapaume and Péronne, as already reported, but Nesle, Chaulnes and over eighty villages have come into British hands in the last few days. The enemy has been laying the country waste and has poisoned the wells

1 Major C. K. James, 6th Border Regiment, took over command of the 2/7th West York- on the tith March, vtce Major O. C. Watson, who had temporarily commanded the attalion.

? During the advance to the Hindenburg Line, and whilst the 185th Infantry Brigade was employed as ‘' working the body of Maj or F. A. Lupton, 2/ath West Yorkshires, was found in front of an old German post near ‘Ten Tree Alley. He had been killed by a bomb and had been missing since the night or tgth February.

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1917 Released from German Thraldom 31

with arsenic. About forty miles of French line are affected by the enemy’s withdrawal from a point near Andechy to neighbourhood of Soissons. The retreat on this front has been so rapid that at Roye 800 French civilians escaped from German thraldom. At Nesle, also, troops were welcomed by French inhabitants who had remained through the German occupation. French official reports state that Guiscard (north-east of Compiégne) has been taken and patrols have advanced along the St. Quentin road. East of the Oise the second German positions were captured. The number of town- ships and villages released by the French is about one hundred.”

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Page 47

The Arras Offensive; 9th April—17th May, 1917.

THE BATTLES OF ARRAS, 1917; 9th April—4th May. The First Battle of the Scarpe, 1917: 9th—14th April. The Second Battle of the Scarpe, 1917: 23rd—24th April. The Third Battle of the Scarpe, 1917: 3rd—qth May. The Flanking Operations round Bullecourt : The First Attack on Bullecourt, r1th April. The Battle of Bullecourt, 1917: 3rd—17th May.

The Flanders ; 7th fune—1oth November, 1917. The Battle of Messines, 1917: 7th—14th June.

THE BATTLE OF YPRES, 1917: 31st July—r1oth November. Introduction. The Battle of Pilkem Ridge, 31st July—2nd August. The Battle of Langemarck, 16th—18th August. The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, zoth—25th September. The Battle of Polygon Wood, 26th September—3rd October. The Battle of Broodseinde, 4th October. The Battle of Poelcappelle, 9th October. The First Battle of Passchendaele, 12th October.

The Cambrai Operations ; 20th November—7th Decem- ber, 1917. The Battle of Cambrai, 1917: The Tank Attack, 20th—z21st

November. The Capture of Bourlon Wood, 23rd—28th November.

The German Counter-Attack, 30th November—3rd December.

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THE ARRAS OFFENSIVE, 1917: The First Battle of the Scarpe, 1917: 9th—r14th April

URING the British advance, and the German retreat, to the Hindenburg Line, the Allies had been completing arrangements for their offensive, planned to take place in the Spring of 1917. The role assigned to the British was first an attack on the salient between the Scarpe and the Ancre, into which the enemy had been pressed as a result of the Somme battles of 1916. This, for convenience sake, had always been referred to as the Gommecourt Salient. The German retreat, however, from the southern face of the salient, though in no way delaying Sir Douglas Haig’s plans, necessitated a slight modification of his scheme of attack, which subsequently resulted in the Fifth Army (having followed up the retreating enemy from the Ancre front) keeping a heavy pressure on the enemy, so as to contain his forces whilst the Third and First Armies, north of the river, attacked from Croisilles to the Scarpe and the Vimy Ridge. The Arras Offensive was to be followed by an offensive along the Flanders front, Sir Douglas Haig’s scheme being “ to strike hard in the north before the enemy realised that the attack in the south would not be pressed further.”’ ** Zero ” had been fixed for 5-30 a.m. on 9th April, but for three weeks prior to that date the systematic cutting of the enemy’s wire was begun and the hostile trenches and communications were subjected to a tremendous bombardment. This period of prepara- tion exceeded in fury even that carried out on the Somme during

the previous summer, and captured German prisoners gave terrible details of the destructive and moral effect of the British artillery fire. Twelve divisions of the Third Army and four Canadian divisions and one British Brigade of the First Army took part in the initial Stages of the operations, but with only three divisions, 3rd, 4th and 17th, is this story concerned. In the 3rd Division were the 12th West Yorkshires, in the 4th, the 21st Battalion, Pioneers, and in the

17th Division the roth West Yorkshires. The former division was 37

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Ist JAN.



38 The West Yorkshire Regiment tn the War 1917

just north of the Scarpe, the latter south of it (just south of the Arras- Cambrai road), whilst the 1oth Battalion was in Talavera Camp, Agnez, on the evening of 7th April. On the 1st January the 12th Battalion West Yorkshires was at Louvencourt, mostly engaged in furnishing working parties, though regimental classes for Lewis gunners and bombers were held when- ever possible. On the 7th the battalion marched to Raincheval, moving on the goth to Fieffes, where training was carried out until the 27th, when another change was made, the battalion marching via Neuvilette and Beauvois to Dieval. Here, several days were spent in training before a further move was made, this time to Houvin-Houvigneul. The last day of February saw the battalion taking the road to Liencourt, where after nearly three weeks’ training a definite move forward to the front line was carried out, the 9th Brigade having taken over I.1 sector, just east of Arras. On the 22nd the battalion took over front-line trenches, relieving the Ist Northumberland Fusiliers. Intermittent shelling was responsible for six casualties incurred by the 12th West Yorkshires on taking over this new sector and, until 27th, when the battalion was relieved, there were several casualties daily, though the enemy’s reply to the heavy bombardment to which his line was being subjected was comparatively feeble. In accordance with the general plan of attack the 12th West Yorkshires marched into Arras on 4th April and were billeted in cellars during the concluding stage of the preliminary bombardment. Small parties of men were sent up each night to improve the assembly trenches, cut wire, etc. On the night of 8th April the battalion paraded and began to move forward at 10.10 p.m. to its assembly trenches between Iceland and Twenty Street. By 2 a.m. the West Yorkshiremen were in their allotted positions, having suffered no casualties. On their right were the 4th Royal Fusiliers and, on their left, the 13th King’s Regt. The 76th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Division was to attack at “‘ Zero”? and having captured the Black Line, the 9th Brigade was to go through and capture the Blue Line. The village of Tilloy lay in the line of attack to be carried out by the 12th West Yorkshires, and the Battalion Diary gives the following disposition of com- panies prior to the attack : ‘* Battalion Headquarters (Lieut.-Colonel R. C. Smythe) No. 5 assembly trench; two platoons of ‘C’ Company and two platoons of ‘B’ Company (who were to form

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1917 Fury of the British Guns 39

the first wave) No. 6 assembly trench; two platoons of ‘D’ Company and two platoons of ‘ A’ Company (first line of ‘ moppers- up ’) No. 7 assembly trench ; two platoons of ‘C’ Company, and two platoons of ‘B’ Company (second wave) No. 8 assembly trench ; two platoons of ‘D ’ Company and two platoons of ‘A’ Company (second line of ‘ moppers-up’). Battalion Headquarters were situated in the old German front line at G. 36. Strength 720 all ranks.” The general attack north and south of the Scarpe was launched 12TH at §.30 a.m. under cover of a most effective artillery barrage, behind BATTALION. which the British infantry ‘‘ poured like a flood across the German ” lines, overwhelming the enemy’s garrisons.”’ Of the 3rd Division, west of the village of Tilloy-les-Mofflaines, the 76th Infantry Brigade attacked and captured the first hostile system of trenches from G. 36 c. 9.1 to H. 31 a 4.4. At 7 a.m. the 9th Infantry Brigade was launched against the second German system of trenches from Noisy Redoubt, N.1.a.3.0 to H.32.c.8.5., the 12th West Yorkshires being in the centre of the line of the three attacking battalions. The battalion left its assembly trenches in columns of sections in single file, maintaining this formation until the enemy’s fire com- pelled a change; the men then advanced in extended order. The effectiveness of the artillery barrage was evident as the troops reached the broken and tumbled German wire, behind which the enemy’s trenches resembled masses of churned-up earth, with here and there a blown-in dug-out, the planks flung in all directions bespattered with blood and mud. On all sides lay dead and wounded, and smashed machine-guns and trench-mortars. As the troops came upon the almost obliterated trenches, from the bowels of the earth, where they had been crouching in a few still-habitable dug-outs, there emerged Germans, their hands up, too terrified almost from the awful bombardment to utter the words ‘‘ Kamerad, Kamerad.” These men told the West Yorkshiremen that for four days prior to the attack the relentless fury of the British artillery fire had kept them below ground; they were afraid to venture out even for food or water. The battalion, without meeting with serious opposition, ad- vanced to Tilloy. Pushing on through the village they emerged from the eastern exits, but here came to their first halt; the 13th King’s Regt., on the left, had been held up by the enemy who, between Tilloy and the Cambrai-Arras road, had put up a determined fight.

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40 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

Lewis guns and bombers, however, soon broke down the enemy’s resistance, and, the temporary check thus overcome, the West Yorkshiremen pushed on to their objective (the Blue Line), which was reached about 8-30 a.m. Without interference from the enemy the battalion consolidated its gains, Battalion Headquarters being first in Hastings Trench, but later moved to Tilloy.1 Heavy casualties had, however, been suffered by the 12th West Yorkshires. Two officers (Capt. W. C. Skeet and Second-Lieut. G. F. Parkin) had been killed and six other officers wounded, whilst of ‘‘ other ranks’”’ nineteen were killed, 119 wounded and five missing. Most of these casualties were the result of the enemy’s artillery fire, which caught the battalion in its assembly trenches preparatory to the advance for, after the attack had been launched, the enemy’s barrage was very weak, owing to the splendid counter- battery work of the Briush artillery. North of the Scarpe, the 9th Division had first captured St. Laurent Blangy and then Athies. The 4th Division now leap- frogged the 9th, directing its advance on Fampoux, which, with the Hyderabad Redoubt, was speedily captured. The 4th Divisional Pioneers (21st Battalion West Yorkshires), however, do not appear to have gone forward with the attacking battalions, but were set to work on making the roads eastwards passable for artillery and transport. The 21st Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel Sir E. H. St. L. Clarke) had, for a month before “‘ Zero’ day, been working under XVIIth Corps at Etrun, St. Catherine and St. Nicholas, preparing roads and tram- ways for the expected advance. Now, although pioneer work behind the lines, compared with life in the front line trenches, was far less dangerous and less un- bearable, it was by no means as free from risk as was popularly supposed. Long-range hostile guns and the enemy’s bombing aeroplanes continually searched the roads upon which any signs of life appeared, and a working party was invariably marked down as a good target for a storm of shells and bombs. Thus the West Yorkshire Pioneers had a fair number of casualties in officers as well as other ranks whilst at work in the Arras area. Second-Lieut. Richardson was wounded on 30th March and Capt. Gott was killed on 4th April, whilst many other ranks were also killed and wounded. The battalion had arrived in the Arras area on the 8th March,

' Three machine-guns, two broken trench-mortars, two new trench-mortars complete with forty-one boxes of ammunition, fifteen boxes of bombs and other miscellaneous articles were captured by the battalion.

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1917 Of the Pioneers 4!

having moved up gradually from the Somme area—the New Year having found the West Yorkshiremen at Maurepas. February had been a particularly hard month for these Pioneers, used at all times to a strenuous existence. There was one night (15th) which will probably be remembered by all who served with 21st Battalion and came through the war. A move had been made from camp near Curlu to Marriéres Wood dug-outs. Following a period of hard frosts and frozen ground, a thaw had just set in, and when at night the men set to work on the trenches the ground beneath the three- inch covering of mud and slush was found to be solid ice. In vain the men, using picks, endeavoured to penetrate the stubborn soil and, after a night of terribly hard work, carried out almost in inky darkness, very little had been done and everyone was worn out. On the 3rd 3rp Marcu. March the battalion, then in Camp 12, Chapilly, began to move north to the Arras area and, on the 8th, “A” and “ B ”’ Companies arrived in Etrun, taking over work from a Pioneer Battalion, Nor- thumberland Fusiliers, whilst Battalion Headquarters and “‘ C”’ and ““D” Companies moved into Arras, relieving a Pioneer Battalion of the Royal Scots. Then ensued a month of strenuous labour in preparing for the offensive. On “ Zero” day (9th April, 1917) the Ban Battalion Diary has the following entry—“ Battle of Arras. ‘A’ ott APRIL. and ‘B’ Companies extending light railways from Roclincourt to old German line towards Nine Elms, ‘C’ Company making Bailleul road passable for guns and wheeled traffic over British line and No Man’s Land up to Clarence Crater, ‘ D ’ Company making St. Laurent Blangy road similarly passable from the British line, over No Man’s Land and the German line to St. Laurent Blangy Church. “The advance began at 5-30 a.m. and was so successful that the companies could commence work at 7-30 a.m. with very little inter- ference from the enemy’s guns, and the only casualties were four men From rst March the 17th Division, in which the roth Battalion 10TH West Yorkshires was contained, had been resting and training for the Arras offensive, first in the Warloy area and then in Willerman and neighbourhood. The Division was to be attached to the Cavalry Corps, with orders to follow the cavalry when the latter moved forward after the initial attack. The soth Brigade (in which the West Yorkshires were contained) was to follow the 3rd Cavalry Division, moving along the main Arras-Cambrai road. On the afternoon of 9th April, after the offensive had been

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42 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

launched and was in progress, the roth West Yorkshires (in Brigade) marched via Agnez-les-Duisans to the main Arras-Cambrai road. On reaching the outskirts of Arras at dusk and owing to the dense block of traffic, it was impossible to get any further and the Brigade was ordered to bivouac for the night, the West Yorkshires passing the night in a field to the south of the road. Snow fell heavily and no cover was available. This, so far as the Regiment was concerned, ended the first day of the Allied offensive. On roth the 12th West Yorkshires (3rd Division) continued work on the new trenches, ‘‘ A” Company being detailed to carry up S.A.A. to the 8th Brigade for an attack on the Brown Line. The weather was at its very worst—hail, rain and snow swept the trenches —and without shelter of any description the battalion had a most trying time. Even in fine weather an advance was horrible enough, for on all sides mangled and torn bodies lay unburied and amidst the shell-craters and blasted earth the most ghastly sights met the eye ; added to the dull misery caused by filthy, muddy trenches, it may well be imagined that the position of the 12th Battalion was not one to be envied. At 4-30 a.m. on the 11th, in a blinding snowstorm and half- frozen, the battalion moved off to a position of assembly, described in the Diaries as ‘‘ N.3.a.”” The battalion had been ordered to occupy a portion of the Brown Line that night, and for this purpose first two officers (at 9 a.m.) and later the C.O. and the Brigadier, set out to reconnoitre the new position to be taken over from two battalions of the 76th Infantry Brigade (3rd Division). It was 10 p.m. before the 12th West Yorkshires marched into the trenches in relief of the above units and 2 a.m. on the morning of the 12th before the relief was complete. Thus for sixteen hours the West Yorkshiremen had spent ‘‘ a most trying and miserable time ”’ at N.3.a. before moving up. ‘“C” and “ B” Companies occupied the front line which ran immediately south of the Cambrai-Arras road, east of Les Fosses Farm. ““A” and “‘ D” Companies were in the Brown Line, and Battalion Headquarters were at Point 52. Throughout the 12th the battalion consolidated the line, under intermittent shell-fire, during which, however, only one man was killed and four wounded. The morning of the 13th still saw the battalion in the same position. But at 10-30 a.m. the C.O. attended a conference at 9th Brigade Head- quarters, when an attack on Guémappe was arranged. The 12th

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1917 The Attack on Guémappe 43

West Yorkshires and 1st Northumberland Fusiliers were to form the leading line, the 4th Royal Fusiliers and the 13th King’s Regt. being in support. “Zero” hour was to be 6 p.m. South of the gth Brigade the soth Division was attacking the high ground south of Guémappe, whilst north of the latter the 29th Division was to capture the high ground east of Monchy, which village had already fallen into British hands. At 6 p.m. “‘ A” and “ D ” Companies of the West Yorkshires, r2tx in artillery formation, left the Brown Line and advanced to the BATTALION. support of “C” and “B” Companies. The latter advanced to 137 the attack at 6-29 p.m., the two supporting companies being then some 200 yards in rear, as ordered. The Northumberland Fusiliers went forward in similar formation. As the two battalions advanced the enemy put down a very heavy artillery barrage, but casualties were not severe until the crest, just west of the sunken road running through N12 and N.18, was reached. At this point a murderous machine-gun and rifle fire was met with and the line wavered. In spite of the British artillery barrage, which was very heavy, from the direction of Guémappe and Wancourt the enemy’s fire was intense and, although with great gallantry the left company of the Northumberland Fusiliers and the West Yorkshiremen pushed on a little further, they were eventually held up and could do nothing against the storm of bullets which met their advance. So until darkness fell, the West Yorkshiremen and Fusiliers crouched in shell-holes, taking whatever cover presented itself. After dark the 18th received instructions to withdraw to the sunken road and the original front line and consolidate. The battalion’s casualties had again been heavy: four officers were wounded ; twelve other ranks were killed, eighty-five wounded and twelve missing. Throughout the night the enemy persistently bombarded with gas shells the line held by the West Yorkshiremen. On the morning of the 14th, at about 5-30 a.m., the battalion was 14TH APRIL. relieved by the South Wales Borderers of the 29th Division, and marched back to Arras where billets were occupied in the town. Meanwhile the 21st Battalion was still engaged on the roads 21sT in and about Arras and it was not until a later phase of the operations BATTALION. that this battalion carried out work in the front line. Shortly after daybreak on the roth, the soth Brigade marched Ba into Arras and the roth West Yorkshires found quarters in cellars in jor: April. the Grande Place. No further move took place until 3 p.m. on 11th,

when the Brigade marched out of Arras along the Arras-Cambrai

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44 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

road. The 17th Division had now been ordered to join the VIth Corps and all previous instructions as to following the cavalry through had been cancelled, the soth Brigade being ordered to relieve the 44th Brigade (15th Division) north and south-west of Monchy-le- Preux during the night r1th/12th. The roth West Yorkshires relieved the 7th/8th King’s Own Scottish Borderers and small detachments of eight other units of the 15th Division, the relief being completed by 5 a.m. on 12th. The West Yorkshires held the right of the Brigade front with the 6th Dorsets on the left. The line taken over by the battalion (in H.36 a.c. and d. and N.6.b.) consisted of small lengths of trench facing in all directions where the advancing troops had dug themselves in. The best possible line was chosen, though thin, and the battalion ‘“‘ dug in” with its right resting on Monchy and its left meeting the 6th Dorsets at H.36 a.2.6. At 2 p.m. orders were received that the 9th Division was going to attack north of the Scarpe against the Roeux-Gavrelle road, with Roeux as a second objective, and that the soth Brigade was to co-operate south of the river. The roth West Yorkshires and 6th Dorsets were to advance in conjunction and capture a line following the road from Monchy to I.25.d.7.9. and push strong patrols thence to the Scarpe. The West Yorkshiremen got into position and strong patrols were sent forward and established themselves on the Monchy- Pelves road, but as the operation north of the river had failed the intended attack was cancelled and the battalion returned to its original trenches. The 13th was a trying day for the battalion; all day long the enemy, assisted by his aeroplanes, heavily shelled the front line trenches of the soth Brigade and casualties in the roth West York- shires were severe. Four officers were killed by this shell-fire— Lieuts. A. G. Titley and H. Parsons and Second-Lieuts. H. Marshall and C. W. Andrews. No figures are given of the losses in other ranks, but they were heavy. At midnight on 13th orders were received to co-operate with the 88th Brigade (27th Division) in an attack to be made eastwards at 5-30 a.m. on the 14th. The West Yorkshires were to cover the flank of the 88th Brigade by pushing forward northwards of Monchy during the night and occupying the spurs with a series of strong points. Strong patrols were immediately sent out by the battalion and a series of posts were dug with the left on the Pelves road (Harness

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1917 Reasons for continuing the Offenstve 45

Lane ?) and the right on Bit Lane; a support trench was also dug inside north edge of Monchy Wood (between the two roads). The posts contained a garrison of 100 men with six Lewis guns and one machine-gun. The attack of the 88th Brigade apparently coincided with a counter-attack by the Germans (3rd Bavarian Division), the latter having orders to retake Monchy at all costs. Throughout the day the West Yorkshiremen’s posts were heavily engaged with the enemy, and although pressed hard the roth Battalion succeeded in beating off all attacks from the north, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. By 3.30 p.m. the enemy’s attack had been definitely broken, but for four hours his artillery shelled Monchy intensely. During the night 14th/rsth the soth Brigade was relieved by the 52nd Brigade and marched back again to the Caves in Arras, well pleased to be out of the inferno going on in the front line.

The Second Battle of the Scarpe, 23rd-24th April.

From the official despatches it is apparent that the operations round Arras should have stopped on 14th April, for Sir Douglas Haig stated that: “‘ At the end of six days’ fighting our front had been rolled four miles further east and all the dominating features, forming the immediate objects of my attacks, which I considered it desirable to hold before transferring the bulk of my resources to the north, had passed into our possesston.”’ But owing to weather conditions the French offensive had been delayed and as it was important that the full pressure of the British offensive should be maintained in order to assist the French, the operations were continued, the next phase of which was the Second Battle of the Scarpe. Although the official despatches make no mention of it (though mentioning the other divisions engaged) the 17th Division took part in this battle. For two days (16th and 17th April), after relief from the line on torn the 15th, the roth West Yorkshires remained in the Caves in Arras. BATTALION. On the 18th, however, the battalion moved to dug-outs in Railway 18TH APRIL. Trench and on the following day marched up to the Brown Line (H.28) for work as carrying parties to the front line ; Battalion Head- quarters were in a railway cutting at Feuchy. Until the evening of 21st, when it was relieved and marched back to Museum cellars in

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46 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

Arras, the battalion “‘ carried’ for other troops, but the 22nd was a rest day. At midnight, 22nd/23rd April, the roth West Yorkshires (in Brigade) moved up to the White (or Orange) Line, behind the crest of Orange Hill, for the attack on Bayonet Trench—a trench running north of Monchy down the slopes of the hill towards the River Scarpe—was to be made by the 51st Brigade. At 4-45 a.m. on 23rd the battle opened on a front of about nine miles from Croisilles to Gavrelle. The attack of the 51st Brigade failed and at 2-30 p.m. the soth Brigade was ordered to repeat the attack—the roth West Yorkshires on the right and 6th Dorsets on the left. A hundred men of the West Yorkshires had already been engaged during the day in carrying bombs and ammunition for the first attack on Bayonet Trench through constant shell-fire and machine-gun fire. The roth West Yorkshires received orders to attack at 6 p.m., the objective allotted to the battalion being Riele Trench, whilst the 6th Dorsets were to attack the northern half of Bayonet Trench. As the two battalions of the soth Brigade advanced the enemy put down a very heavy barrage. The West Yorkshires, who had to advance down the slope of the hill, were at once perceived by the Germans, who opened a hurricane barrage consisting mostly of 5.9 and 8-in. shells, whilst from the northern bank of the Scarpe a murderous concentrated machine-gun fire swept the ranks of the Yorkshiremen. In spite, however, of heavy losses the roth Battalion with splendid pluck and tenacity struggled on and finally dug in about 200 yards in advance of and to the east of Lone Copse, in touch with the Dorsets. Here they hung on until relieved by the 7th East Yorkshires. The battalion then withdrew to the original front line, supplying parties for the East Yorkshiremen throughout the 24th. The failure to capture the objective allotted to it was no fault of the roth Battalion, or indeed of the soth Brigade. The situation north of the river had changed when the attack began, and Roeux was no longer in the possession of the British. As a result the enemy was able to bring a deadly enfilade fire on the West Yorkshiremen as they advanced. Capt. P. K. Allen was killed on 23rd. On 25th April the roth West Yorkshires returned to Arras, entraining on the following day for Saulty. From the latter place the battalion marched out to Sombrim and went into rest billets, where all ranks were speedily engaged in “‘ cleaning-up ” after the strenuous period through which they had passed.

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1917 Five Battalions in Action 47

Between roth and 25th April the roth West Yorkshires had lost five officers killed and eight wounded ; in other ranks the losses were thirty-eight killed, 264 wounded and eleven missing.

The Third Battle of the Scarpe, 1917, 3rd-4th May.

In}the Battle of Arleux (28th-29th April) no battalion of the Regiment was engaged, and it was not until the 3rd and 4th May, in the Third Battle of the Scarpe, that the West Yorkshires again exchanged blows with the enemy. In this battle, however, no less than five battalions of the Regiment took part, t.e., 12th, 1§th 17th, 18th and 2Ist. The 12th Battalion (3rd Division) after relief in the trenches on 12TH the night of 14th April, had moved back to Arras, moving out to BATTALION. Duisans on 21st. Only two days were allowed at Duisans, and then the battalion returned to Arras unul the night of rst May, when the gth Brigade, having received orders that it was to attack the enemy on Z” day—(3rd May)—the West Yorkshiremen marched to trenches near Tilloy. On 2nd May all Company and Platoon Commanders recon- 2np May noitred the route to the assembly positions, the battalions moving forward by companies at9 p.m. “A” and “‘ D”’ Companies were to occupy Shrapnel Trench from left to right, whilst ““ B ” and “‘C ” Companies had to dig cover for themselves in rear of the trench. On the way up the enemy put down a very heavy barrage of gas shells and shells of different calibre, on Monchy, and on the track leading up to the assembly positions allotted to the West Yorkshiremen. This barrage unfortunately caused casualties and disorganised the advance, thus delaying the assembly. By “ Zero,” however, in spite of losses, the 9th Brigade was formed up as follows : In the front line 4th Royal Fusiliers (R), 13th King’s Regiment (L). In support 12th West Yorkshires (R), 1st Northumberland Fusiliers (L). ‘“ A” and “‘ D”’ Companies of the West Yorkshires formed the two leading waves of the battalion, followed by “B” and “C” Companies, the distance between waves being 75 yards and between lines 50 yards. The battalion was ordered to move at 200 yards distance in rear of 4th Royal Fusiliers. “ Zero” hour was 3-45 a.m. on 3rd May. 10TH, The 15th, 16th and 18th West Yorkshires (93rd Brigade, 31st Battations.

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48 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

Division) had been but a few days in the Arras area when they were ordered to take part in the operations of 3rd/4th May. On 29th April the 93rd Brigade relieved the 188th Brigade (63rd Division) in the front line in the Gavrelle sector. The 15th West Yorkshires had taken over the right sub-sector—C.19.c.7.4- C.25.b.8.2 ; the 16th West Yorkshires the left sub-sector B.18.d.4.5- C.19.c.7.3. ; the 18th West Yorkshires were in support, one company at Hill 80, two companies in B.30.C.49-H.6.a.4.7. and the remaining company at C.25.c.8.2.-C.25.c.3.9.! Brigade Orders issued on 2nd May stated that the 31st Division would attack the enemy’s trench line—Gavrelle Support, Windmill Support and Oppy Support trenches—with the 93rd Brigade on the right and 92nd Brigade on the left. To the former Brigade a frontage of over 2,500 yards from a point south of Oppy (junction of Windmill and Link Trenches) to Gavrelle, had been allotted. The three West Yorkshire battalions were assembled for the attack in the following positions : 15th on the right, 18th in the centre and 16th on the left; the 18th Durham Light Infantry were in support. There were to be two attacks, the Southern and Northern ; the 18th West Yorkshires were to be divided into two half-battalions—the half on the left of the 15th Battalion co-operating with that battalion in the Southern Attack, and the half on the right of the 16th Battalion co-operating with that battalion in the Northern Attack. ‘*¢ Zero ” hour was 3-45 a.m. on the 3rd May. The 15th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel S. C. Taylor) numbered only 547 officers, N.C.O.’s and men when the battle opened, the battalion having to attack on a frontage of 250 yards from I.1.a. 9.9 to C.25.a.6.6. ‘““ D ” was right front Company with “ A” in support and “ B” left front Company with ‘‘ C” in support. Each company went over in two waves of single line. Battle Head- quarters of the battalion were in the Cemetery, south of Gavrelle. About 2 o’clock on the morning of 3rd the enemy appeared nervous and put down a very heavy bombardment on Gavrelle and its en- vironments. For three-quarters of an hour he continued to plaster the village and the neighbourhood with sheel of all calibre, but all was quiet just prior to “ Zero.” At 3-45 a.m. the British barrage opened and the troops at once went forward to the attack. Up to 5-30 a.m. no information reached

1 Without maps or any other means of describing these positions, it is impossible to avoid the use of co-ordinates. ‘The diaries generally during the Arras offensive of 1917 are lacking in detailed descriptions of the operations, and the positions of the various battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment are at times extremely difficult, if not impossible, to locate.

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1917 Terrible Losses of 15th Battalion 49

Battalion Battle Headquarters of what had happened in the front line, but at that hour wounded men began to dribble in, and from these it was learned that the first objective, an irregular line running through Gavrelle Trench, the Windmill and Windmill Trench, had been captured. The attack had swept on towards the second objective, the line of Gavrelle and Windmill Support Trenches, but had been beaten back, and finally had had to abandon the first objective. Definite news was, however, unavailable, and finally Colonel Taylor closed his Battle Headquarters, sent all his papers back and, with runners, signallers and all Battalion Headquarters’ Staff, manned the front-line parapet. Heavy fire was then opened on groups of the enemy’s infantry, who could be seen retiring, seemingly from trench to trench, over the top. All stragglers were collected and organised, and about 7-30 a.m. eighty men were available for the front line. But touch had been lost with flanking battalions on right and left; the trenches were therefore blocked and bombing parties stationed on each flank. The Battalion Diary states that: ‘‘ At this period it was quite evident what had happened. The battalion had got forward all right, and had driven back the enemy, but having no supports had lost all driving power, and the enemy, realising this, had turned on them and commenced organising to counter-attack.” The enemy, about 400 strong, could be seen advancing in extended order, but an S.O.S. was sent up and the artillery soon broke up the threatened attack. In answer to the C.O.’s appeal to Brigade Headquarters for assistance, a platoon of K.O.Y.L.I. and two companies of D.L.I. were sent up, and these were used to reinforce the left flank of the 15th , ory West Yorkshires, that flank being out of touch with the right of the Barrazion. 18th Battalion. Touch had, however, been obtained on the right with the K.O.S.B. About 8 p.m. the enemy opened a heavy bom- bardment, but the night was fairly quiet. Terrible indeed had been the losses of the 15th Battalion. Only three officers returned and reported to Battalion Headquarters, and of these two had broken arms and the third was slightly wounded. Capt. R. M. S. Blease and Capt. G. S. King, Lieut. D. Robinson, Second-Lieuts. W. H. Jackson, F. W. Scholes, J. S. Thomas, A. S. Parkin, J. L. Jennison, J. W. Lisle and A. T. Peek were killed ; Second-Lieuts. R. S. Tate and A. H. Riley were reported missing. The total officer casualties was fifteen. In other ranks the battalion

had lost fifteen killed, 122 wounded and 262 missing, though during E

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4TH May.



3RD May.



3RD May.

50 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

the night and early morning of 4th May a number of slightly wounded men crawled in from No Man’s Land. The 18th West Yorkshires (the centre of the 93rd Brigade line) attacked as two half-battalions, each half-battalion having been assembled on a half-company frontage in four waves, the order of companies from right to left being “‘ D,” “ C,” “B” and ce A.”’ Of what happened to “ D ” and “‘ C”” Companies who, with the 15th West Yorkshires, formed the Southern Attack, there are records, the C.O. of the 18th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel Carter) reporting the actions of these two companies in the following words: ‘‘ On the right, the right-half battalion did not seem to have got very much further than the first objective. In one or two cases they were held up by wire, but were mostly wiped out by machine-gun fire before they reached the first objective.” Of ‘‘ A” and B”’? Companies, however, who, with the 16th West Yorkshires formed the Northern Attack, Lieut.-Colonel Carter’s report is given in greater detail. At 1.15 a.m. on the 3rd, Colonel Carter went up to personally superintend the forming-up operations of ‘‘ A” and “‘ B””? Companies on the right of the 16th West Yorkshires. The moon was bright at the period and a certain number of men must have been seen by the enemy, who opened heavy machine- gun fire. At 2 a.m. the enemy put down a barrage which lasted for twenty minutes, and resulted not only in much damage to the trenches, but in the killing and wounding of several men who were just moving out of the trench to line up for the attack. About 2 a.m. a German S.O.S. signal went up on the left of the West Yorkshires from the direction of Oppy Wood, and in response a very heavy barrage with machine-gun fire fell on the assembling troops. Colonel Carter states that in spite of the barrage: ‘‘ The men, however, did not hang back, and I myself saw them crawl out and get into position quite unhesitatingly and fearlessly under the heavy barrage, in some cases even treading on the dead bodies of their comrades in doing so.” By 3-40 a.m. companies were reported in position, and five minutes later, as the barrage came down, the whole line moved straight forward, keeping close up to the barrage at a distance of about 60 yards. The moon had set by now and the night was pitch black. Moreover it was almost impossible to see more than a yard ahead

owing to smoke and dust.

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1917 Gallant Efforts of 16th and 18th Battalions 51

Within thirty seconds of the opening of the British barrage the Germans poured an extremely heavy barrage of 8-inch, 5.9 and other big calibre shell on the front-line trenches of the battalion, and this continued incessantly until 12 noon. From all directions, also, hostile machine-guns added their monotonous barking to the roar of the guns and bursting shells ; it was pandemonium ! From the reports it would seem that the fate which met the attack of the 15th Battalion was also suffered by the 18th West Yorkshires, for the first objective appears to have been reached, but owing to the very heavy machine-gun and rifle fire the attacking waves were considerably depleted by the time they had reached the second objective. In the darkness touch had been lost and there was confusion, but for this the dust and smoke were responsible. A number of prisoners were taken, but the lack of driving power robbed the West Yorkshires of the fruits of their gallant effort. Many Germans were about to give themselves up when they realised that there were no waves coming against them and that “‘ the few odd- ments of men in the trenches were the only ones they had to deal with.” This at once altered the situation, and in many instances, instead of surrendering, the Germans fought on, surrounding those to whom they had at one time intended giving themselves up. When it became apparent to Lieut.-Colonel Carter that the attack had failed, he held a consultation with Lieut.-Colonel Croydon (commanding the 16th West Yorkshires), and together with two C.O.’s took steps to hold at all costs their original trenches and line. Promptly at “ Zero ” the 16th West Yorkshires (on the left of “A”’ rere and “‘ B”’ Companies, 18th Battalion) went forward, keeping close 3RD May. up to the barrage. The men advanced, well extended, in good order, and in four waves. The first line was made up of a platoon of ““D ” Company (Capt. Parker) on the right and two of “‘ C”’ Com- pany (Lieut. Crowther) on the left, the second line being made up of the remaining platoons of both companies. The third wave was formed of ‘‘ B”? Company (Capt. Ashworth) and the fourth of Company (Capt. Illingworth). Heavy machine-gun fire from the Windmill and Link Maze met the advance and tore gaps in the moving lines of West Yorkshiremen. When the advance began it was quite possible to see the advancing waves, but in less than five minutes after the hostile barrage had fallen, dust and smoke blotted everything out, and those whose duty it was to observe the course of

the battle found observation impossible, even though they were posted in shell-holes on the battlefield.

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3RD May.

52 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

The O.C. “ D” Company, of the 16th Battalion, stated that about 6 a.m. the first objective was reached, little wire still standing in front of the trench to impede the advance. The trench was but lightly held by the enemy and a number of the Germans surrendered. The first wave having been left to “ mop up ” and consolidate, the remaining waves advanced. But suddenly considerable machine- gun and rifle-fire opened on the immediate left of the battalion, the machine-guns firing apparently from the junction of Windmill and Link Trenches. The advance was continued until the second objective was reached, the enemy in large numbers retiring in disorder as the West Yorkshiremen approached. Many casualties were inflicted on the Germans as they ran off. “ D” Company thereupon occupied the trench, but the Company Commander stated that at this period he discovered that the companies on the right and left of him had not come up. The time was now about 4-20 a.m. and it was possible to see some distance. In very indifferent trenches, with a Lewis gun pushed well out, the position was being consolidated when the enemy was seen approaching from a half-right direction in extended order. His strength was about 100. Thinking they were coming up to surrender, the men of ‘““D’’ Company waved their arms to them to come over, whereupon the Germans opened fire. The fire was returned and, after many Germans had been shot down, the remainder fell back in disorder. Hostile machine-gun and rifle-fire now met “‘ D’’ Company in flank (on the left) and rear, and it was impossible to continue digging operations. An exceedingly uncomfortable two hours were then spent, until about 7-30 a.m., when the enemy was again observed advancing in waves on the right flank of “‘ D”’ Company, whose left flank and right rear now came under heavy machine-gun fire. For ten minutes the Lewis guns and rifles blazed away on the advancing Germans, but they were coming on in considerable strength, and it was obvious that the position would have to be evacuated. Many casualties had already been suffered when the withdrawal took place from the left, the men extending as they went back. In spite of a murderous fire from both flanks and their front, the West Yorkshire- men eventually reached their old front-line trenches, which they at once proceeded to man, the Company Commander having reported to his C.O. The O.C. “C” Company became a “ missing, believed wounded ” casualty, and there is no report of the action of his


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1917 The Attack 53 “ B’’ Company (Capt. Ashforth) of the 16th West Yorkshires,


which formed the third wave of the Northern Attack, was formed up no Mar

behind ‘‘ D ” and “‘ C”’ Companies, the right-half of “‘ B ” (8th and 7th platoons) to follow “‘ D”’ and the remaining two platoons (5th and 6th) to follow “ C.” At 3-45 a.m. as the Divisional barrage opened, the troops moved forward and, although the enemy’s barrage came down four minutes later, ‘‘ B ’? Company was quite clear of it and suffered no casualties. A sunken road was crossed and then several enemy posts were encountered, which the Battalion Diary states ‘“‘ were disposed of.”’ At this period touch had been lost on the right, with the left- half battalion 18th West Yorkshires. The right platoons of ‘‘ B”’ therefore eased off to the right, but direction was difficult to maintain owing to the intense darkness, and touch was not obtained. At 4 a.m. ‘‘B” Company reached the line of the first objective and crossed over, but it was now found that ‘‘ D’’ Company (in front) was out of touch on both flanks, and although two more platoons were moved up into the line and the latter eased off to the flanks, touch was still unobtainable. A probable explanation of the failure to obtain touch was now forthcoming, for at this period very heavy machine-gun fire was heard on the left; the advance of the left of the attack had almost certainly been held up. Several more enemy posts were found and dealt with, and prisoners were sent back. At 4-15 a.m. the line of the second objective was reached, but now dawn was breaking, and in the dim light it was possible to see that neither the right nor left flanks of the attack had advanced in line with the attack of the 18th West York- shires, the O.C. “‘ B ’? Company stating in his report that “‘ neither flanks were up.” Consolidation of the line now began, the men working hard to get themselves “‘ dug in” before daylight. ‘“ B” Company (Capt. Ashforth) was, however, in constant touch with ““D” Company (Capt. Parker) and ‘‘ A’? Company (Capt. Illing- worth). At § a.m. the enemy attempted a counter-attack with about fifty men, but was easily repulsed. A little later (at 5-15 a.m.) Capt. Dockett of the 18th West Yorkshires, with four men, came up on the right of ‘‘ D,” “ B” and ‘‘ A’ Companies. About 5-30 a.m. the situation began to change—for the worse. Hostile snipers and machine-guns which had been firing from the front, now opened from the flanks and right rear of the West York- Shiremen. Gradually it increased in volume until presently it was

RD May.

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54 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

necessary for the men engaged in “ digging in” to keep low, a difficult matter, especially as the flanks where the trenches were were only as yet very shallow. In the face of difficulty and danger, however, the men stuck to their task, and by 7-30 a.m. the trench in the centre was in a good condition for defence, but still not deep enough on the flanks. After taking a survey of his position, Capt. Ashforth estimated he had now with him about 100 men, but the enemy was advancing, and hostile fire from both flanks was increasing, and men began to fall. Capt. Illingworth (O.C. ‘* A”? Company) was here mortally wounded, dying later in the day. The enemy was, however, held back, but at 7-40 a.m. about 500 Germans in waves were seen working round the right flank, and after a hurried consultation it was decided to evacuate the position, otherwise the companies would be cut off and compelled to surrender, as ‘“ the only thing to do to save any men was to withdraw from the left.” This movement was successfully carried out, the enemy following, but not advancing beyond his original line. On reaching their own line the survivors of ‘‘ B ”? Company manned the fire-bays. Meanwhile the C.O. 16th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. C. Croydon) had had an adventurous morning. Shortly after ‘“* Zero” hour he discovered that the battalion’s attack on the left of the 16th had been held up, causing a gap. He immediately ordered his Adjutant (Second-Lieut. Stanley) to organise two bombing parties, composed of Headquarters signallers, runners and servants, and an artillery liaison officer ; these were to block the trench. A few minutes later a party of Germans advanced down Wood Trench from Oppy. The Adjutant jumped on to the parapet of the trench and with a party of bombers bombed the enemy from behind, cutting off their line of retreat, thereby forcing fourteen of the party to surrender. Several men from the force on Colonel Croydon’s left now came doubling down the trench, having been driven out of their positions by the enemy. These men were halted and placed out in shell- holes on the right and left, forming a good line of defence. Mean- while the Adjutant had led another party of bombers against the enemy, attacking opposite their line of retreat and forcing the Germans to surrender. A little later the Adjutant was wounded but a good defence line had been formed which proved of inestimable value. Colonel Croydon had already sent back his wounded and had got a wire through for reinforcements, when a very heavy bom- bardment of his position opened, the enemy using 5.9 and 8-in.

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1917 Colonel Croydon a Casualty 55 shell. Already the little force had been weakened owing to heavy 16TH

casualties, and in face of the bombardment now opened upon his veo May. party, Colonel Croydon had no alternative but to retire to a better © position in rear of the railway. The men were sent back two at a time and dug themselves in, but on reaching the new position himself, Colonel Croydon was struck on his helmet by the burst of a shell and knocked down. Suffering from concussion, he was led off to a dug-out, where he had to remain for four hours until sufficiently recovered to resume command. His little force had in the mean- time been reinforced by the Durhams, and later, apparently, by men from the East Yorkshires, 18th West Yorkshires, R.E., K.O.Y.L.I1., M.G. Corps and L.T.M.B. The situation got worse instead of better, and late at night a withdrawal from rear of the railway was made, back to the original trench line of the 16th West Yorkshires. Heavy casualties were suffered by the 16th Battalion on 3rd May. Three officers were killed—Capt. Illingworth and Second- Lieuts. L. M. Platnauer and D. O. Greville; four officers were wounded, one of whom was missing, and four officers had fallen into the hands of the enemy. In killed, wounded and missing in “‘ other ranks ” the battalion had lost 303. 16TH On the night of 4th May the 93rd Brigade was relieved and with- ALD ‘8TH drew to St. Catherine, where with Brigade Headquarters, the 15th, BATTALIons. 16th and 18th West Yorkshires were billeted. 4TH May. The narrative contained in the Diary of the 12th West York- 12TH shires of the part taken by that battalion in the Battle of the 3rd/4th wee May May, is very brief: ‘“‘ At ‘ Zero” hour (3-45 a.m.) it was pitch dark and there was a very thick mist, which lasted far into the morning. The attack commenced punctually at ‘ Zero” hour, but owing to the darkness, mist, strong concentration of hostile machine-guns, prompt heavy hostile barrage and alertness of the enemy, the attack made very little progress and soon became more or less disorganised, and men had to take shelter in shell-holes. Casualties: Killed—Capt. J. H. Getty, Second-Lieut. H. Booth, Second-Lieut. P. L. Smith, and twenty-four other ranks. Wounded—Second-Lieut. E. G. Groves, Second-Lieut. A. Holden, Lieut. W. J. Charsley, Second- Lieut. E. Bradley, Lieut. C. Sanders and 109 other ranks. Missing— Second-Lieut. R. B. Wooler! and twenty-six other ranks. Missing, believed killed—three other ranks. The weather was very hot and

the cause of much discomfiture to the garrison of the trenches.” 1 Subsequently reported died of wounds 3/5/17

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4TH May.

56 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

Throughout the 4th the position of the battalion was the same as that on the night 3rd/4th. On the night of the 4th/5th, however, the line was reorganised and the 12th West Yorkshires occupied a line from O.2 Central to O.2 b.1.6 distributed in depth with supports

in Dale and Shrapnel trenches. Two officers and eighteen other ranks were wounded on 4th May.

Page 69


FLANKING OPERATIONS The First Attack on Bullecourt—11th April

HE Official Despatches stated that ‘‘ In combina- tion with this attack on the Third Army Front (on Monchy- le-Preux northwards), the Fifth Army launched an attack at 4-30 a.m. on the 11th April against the Hindenburg Line in the neighbourhood of Bullecourt (4th Australian Division and 62nd Division, Major-Generals W. Holmes and W. P. Braithwaite). The Australian and West Riding battalions engaged showed great gallantry in executing a very difficult attack across a wide extent of open country.” The West Riding troops mentioned were the four West York- 2/stu, 2/6TH shire battalions (2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th)—18sth Infantry 2/77H, 2 8TH . ee ATTALIONS. Brigade of the 62nd Division. It will be remembered that on the 6th March the 185th Infantry Brigade was moved back to Mailly Camp, where the four West Yorkshire battalions set to work to “ clean-up,’”’ reorganise, and practise for the proposed attack on Achiet-le-Petit. They also furnished large working parties for road-repairing in the Beaucourt area. Successively the attack on Achiet-le-Petit was postponed from 1oth to 13th, then to the 18th, and during this period the 185th Brigade remained out of the front line. But before the latter date arrived the enemy had again retired, making his way back with all possible speed to the Hindenburg Line. By the roth, however, the 7th (on the left) and the 18th Divisions (on the right), who were advancing in a converging direction, had squeezed the 62nd Division out of the front line, and the leading Brigade of the Division (186th) concentrated in the area Bihucourt Line—Gomiecourt—Logeast Wood—Achiet-le-Petit. For several more days work of a very strenuous nature was carried out by all units of the 62nd Division, on the roads and railways behind the front line. But rumours of an early attack on the Hindenburg Line were prevalent, and on 26th March orders were 57

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58 The West Regiment in the War 1917

received from Vth Corps Headquarters to attack the Bullecourt- Fontaine Line. A plan of attack was drawn up immediately, and preliminary orders were issued on the 30th of the month. The date given for the attack was 9th April (the date upon which the Allied offensive for 1917 was to begin), the 185th Infantry Brigade being ordered to assault Bullecourt. The date and the scope of the TH—s5TH Operations were subsequently altered, but on the night of 4th/s5th RIL. April the 185th Brigade took over the line in front of the village from the 22nd Infantry Brigade (7th Division). The new positions held by the West Yorkshiremen ran from the Bullecourt-Longatte road, thence in a north-westerly direction partly along the railway ; thence along the sunken road to the right bank of the River Sensée: this was the main defence line. In front of this main defence line was an outpost line, and behind the latter, in support, a line of companies and platoons at points varying from 500 to 2,000 yards in rear of the railway. The 4th Australian Division and the 21st Division (which had also just relieved troops of the 7th Division) were the right and left flanking divisions respectively. On completion of the relief, carried out in bitterly cold and wet / _ weather, the 2/7th West Yorkshires held the right sub-sector, the rH aan 2/8th (Leeds Rifles) the centre, and the 2/5th West Yorkshires the left.1 The 2/6th Battalion was in Brigade Reserve at St. Leger. The enemy’s position in front of the Brigade (and the Division) was extremely powerful. The Hindenburg Line was a prepared position which the enemy could be counted upon to defend with the utmost stubbornness. His trenches were deep and dry ; his machine- gun positions were strong and three thick belts of wire, each from ten to fifteen yards deep, in No Man’s Land prevented surprise. All approaches could be swept both by frontal and enfilade fire. So thoroughly had the Germans devastated the area evacuated during the retreat to the Hindenburg Line that Ludendorff had calculated many weeks must pass before the Allies would be able to attack his new positions. He was wrong, for mainly owing to the splendid work of the sappers new trenches and communications sprung up with marvellous rapidity. The West Yorkshiremen were hardly settled in their new positions when orders were received to push forward their posts gradually towards the Hindenburg Line, so that by 9th April they

1 The three sub-sectors were (righ) from C.3.d.2.2. to U.26.c.6.3. (centre) U.26.c.6.3. to U.19.c.9.5. (left) U.19.¢.9.5. to the River Sensée.

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1917 Orders of 185th Brigade 59

would be within 300 yards of the enemy’s trenches. The guns were, however, engaged in wire-cutting operations and the posts were, for the present, ordered to stop short at about 500 yards from the German wire. The 2/s5th (Lieut.-Colonel J. Josselyn) and 2/8th (Lieut.- Colonel A. H. James) Battalions West Yorkshires found little difficulty in pushing their posts out to a distance of 500 yards from the enemy’s wire, but the 2/7th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel C. K. James), on the right of the line, and in front of Bullecourt village, had to attack the enemy in order to eject him from the line of the railway between Ecoust and Bullecourt. The attack took place at 3 a.m. on 6th, “‘ D ” Company advancing close on the heels of the barrage, with the Australians in co-operation on the right. The attack was successful and achieved its object, but at the completion of the operation the Australians were not in touch with the right flank of the 2/7th West Yorkshires. This enabled a small party of Ger- mans to penetrate the gap and work round behind the right of the latter. The enemy’s success was short-lived, for the West Yorkshire- men counter-attacked and successfully drove the Germans back.! Thus the line of posts was established 500 yards from the enemy’s wire, ready for the larger operation—the attack on Bullecourt village, which the guns were pounding day and night. In the forward areas the troops lived as best they could. Their position was not enviable. Extemporised shelters and ruined houses and cottages sheltered a few, but many were forced to live in the open with what protection ground sheets could offer them from the inclement weather. The battalions in support and reserve fared little better. On the morning of the 9th April the general attack from just orn Apriz. north of Croiselles to (and including) the Vimy Ridge took place, and was completely successful. But, in place of the projected attack on Bullecourt, the 185th Infantry Brigade received instructions to push out strong patrols at 4-30 a.m. on roth, under an artillery barrage, and occupy the enemy’s front line and support trenches if he had vacated them. Tanks and an Australian Brigade on the right of the 2/7th West Yorkshires were to co-operate. Three strong patrols were made up from each of the 2/7th and 2/7TH, 2/8TH

2,8th West Yorkshires and were formed up ready for the attack. BATTALIONS.

The 1B stb Brigade Diary reports that Capt. C. Dyson, Lieut. C. G. Fowler, Second- eut. H. C. Waite and one er rank, all of 28th West Yorkshires. were killed on 6th, but ti re is no record of how they met death.

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60 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War I9I7

Of the 2/7th Battalion, ‘‘C” Company found the patrols, ** A’ Company being in support 150 yards in rear. At “‘ Zero’ hour the barrage fell and at once the attack began. The three patrols of the 2/7th were through the first belt of German wire by 4-45 a.m. and “‘ A’’ Company had moved up into support to the sunken road in U.21.c. Five minutes later heavy machine- gun fire from both flanks opened on the West Yorkshiremen, and it was obvious that Bullecourt was still strongly held. By ten minutes past five, as no sign of support on either flank was forthcoming, ‘“‘ C ”’ Company was ordered to withdraw to the sunken road. The withdrawal was more difficult than the advance had been, for bullets swept the ranks of the company, and men began to fall everywhere. In spite of considerable casualties, however, and the loss of two Lewis guns, which had to be left on the enemy’s side of the wire, the retire- ment was eventually carried out, and the situation as reported in the Battalion Diary of the 2/7th at 5-20 a.m., was: and ‘A’ Companies holding sunken road with post on German wire.” On the left of the 27th the 28th Battalion had been repulsed, the Diary containing the following account of the operation: At dawn three strong patrols under Lieut. Alexander, Lieut. Mocran and Lieut. Burrows, attacked the Hindenburg Line, but met with considerable resistance and had to retire. Posts were relieved as usual. Casualties : six wounded. Capt. R. M. Waddington wounded.”’ In accordance with para. 5 of Operation Orders, ‘‘ B’’ Company of the 2/7th West Yorkshires, which had been detailed to follow up the tanks and act as a “‘ mopping-up”’ party, moved up to U.26.b.8.o0. at 5-30 a.m., and lay down awaiting the arrival and attack of the tanks. For an hour “ B’’ Company lay out in the open in full view of the enemy, machine-gun and shell-fire sweeping the position where the men were lying. At last, as no tanks could be seen and the company had suffered many casualties, the Company Commander ordered a withdrawal to the trenches south-east of Ecoust. It was not, how- ever, until 8 a.m. that information reached Colonel James (command- ing 2, 7th) that the attack on the right (by tanks and Australians) had been cancelled. As the Diary of the 2/7 records: “ This fully explained the strong opposition met with. It is, however, hard to understand how the information re the cancelling of this operation was not sent off earlier by the Brigade on our right. It was obvious during ‘C’ Company’s advance that, if any support had been forthcoming, they would undoubtedly have got through and occupied the position allotted to them in the Hindenburg Line . . . Our

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1917 Orders to the 2/6th Battalion 61

losses under the circumstances were light, and great credit is due to the officers and men of the battalion for their very gallant behaviour under very trying circumstances. The sunken road was an extremely good position to occupy, and undoubtedly strengthened our front. Casualties: one officer wounded; nineteen other ranks killed, seventy-two other ranks wounded, nineteen other ranks missing.”’ At 3 o’clock in the afternoon orders were received by the 66nd and Australian divisions to make another attack on Bullecourt the following morning, t.e., 11th April. ‘“‘ Zero” was to be at 4-30 a.m., at which hour the Australians were to attack the enemy’s line between U.30.a. and U.28.b., and clear Bullecourt as far west as the western exits of the village. The 185th Infantry Brigade was then to advance one battalion from the south-west into Bullecourt and, supported by tanks, clear and occupy the Hindenburg Line as far as U.20.b. Riencourt and Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt were the final objectives of the Australian and 62nd Divisions respectively. The battalion selected by 185th Brigade Headquarters was the 2/5TH, 2/6TH 2/6th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel J. Hastings), then lying at 2/ 8TH St. Leger. The 2/7th (right) 2/8th (centre) and 2/5th (left) Battalions held the Divisional front line at this period.! During the night roth/11th April, the 2/6th Battalion moved 2/6TH up from St. Leger, arriving, with intervals between platoons, from BATTALION. about 3-45 a.m. to 4-30 a.m. The companies were posted as follows : ‘““A” on the railway at U.26.d; “‘ D” on the railway at C.2.b.7.9. to b.5.9.; “‘ B” in support in houses, cellars, etc., near cross-roads at C.2.a.8.1.; in reserve on the south-east edge of the village of Ecoust St. Mein. The 2/6th, be it remembered, was ordered to advance into Bullecourt and clear and occupy the Hindenburg Line on its front, only after the Australians and tanks had first attacked and captured the village, as far as the western exits. In the history of the 2/6th Battalion this point is important. The barrage fell on Bullecourt, and at ‘‘ Zero” hour the 2/6th 11TH Apri. stood ready to advance as soon as the tanks arrived and word had been received that the Australians had reached and cleared the village. But no tanks came, neither was any message received from the Australians as to the progress of their attack. At 5-15 a.m. the

1 More closely defined, the positions of the three battalions were as follows — . 2/8th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment was on the line of the railway through U.26.c., U,2s.d. and b. with posts in front. Headquarters at U.25.a.5.3. 2/7th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment were on their (2/8th) nght: Headquarters, German dug-out at C.2.d.8.8.

2/sth Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment on the left of the 2/8th Battalion and holding as far as the Sensée river.

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62 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

C.O. 2/6th reported the situation to Brigade Headquarters, following up the message by others at 6 a.m. and 7.10 a.m. Then, as none of his companies reported progress, Colonel Hastings went forward to make personal enquiries, visiting some of his companies. On his return to Battalion Headquarters he reported the situation to Brigade Headquarters as obscure, “‘ that the Australians had not entered Bullecourt and were indeed said to have orders not to do so, but to work to the right of it.” About this time a message arrived from Brigade Headquarters, via 2/8th Battalion, stating that the Australians were reported to have posts in Riencourt, that tanks were at the factory between Bullecourt and Hendecourt and ordering immediate action (without waiting for tanks to arrive) to clear up the situation in Bullecourt and seize the Hindenburg Line to west of the village. These orders were obviously based on faulty information, and although the Brigadier visited Colonel Hastings’ Headquarters, and the latter again went forward to enquire into matters and reported “the village cannot be captured by daylight, except by very great sacrifices,” patrols were sent forward, but found the wire uncut, and it was apparent that any attack was predoomed to failure. At dusk the 2/6th relieved the 2/7th Battalion in the front line. The enemy’s activity throughout the day was obvious from the casualties of the 2/6th—two officers (Lieut. C. F. R. Pells and Second-Lieut. A. G. Harris) being killed and one wounded, whilst in other ranks the battalion lost thirty-one killed and twenty-nine wounded.! Thus ended the first attack on Bullecourt.

1 Other casualties on April: 2/7th West Yorkshires, three other ranks killed, sixteen wounded ; 2/8th West Yorkshires three other ranks killed, ten wounded ; 2/5th West York- shires, nil.

Page 75


THE BATTLE OF BULLECOURT, 3rd-17th May, 1917.

FTER the first attack on Bullecourt on 11th April, the four West Yorkshire battalions of the 185th Brigade (62nd Division) were withdrawn from the line on the night of 12th/13th.!. The relief was completed by 6 a.m. on 13th, the 2/5th Battalion marching back to Sapignies, 2/6th Battalion to Ervillers, 2/7th Battalion to Gomie- court and the 2/8th Battalion to Behagnies. Brigade Headquarters were at Gomiecourt. For the remainder of April the 185th Brigade was out of the front line, but on 1st May received orders to relieve the 91st Infantry Brigade in the trenches, though only one battalion—the 2 /7th— went into the front line, the 2/8th West Yorkshires moving up in support near Ecoust St. Mein, and the 2/5th and 2/6th remaining in their quarters at Behagnies and Ervillers respectively. The reason the 2/5th and 2/6th West Yorkshires remained in their billets was that on 3rd May the 62nd Division had been ordered to take part in another attack upon the Hindenburg Line in the neighbourhood of Bullecourt. This attack by the Fifth Army was to take place simultaneously with attacks by the Third and First Armies from Fontaine-les-Croisilles to Fresnoy The Third Battle of the Scarpe, already described) ; the 2/s5th and 2/6th West Yorkshires had been detailed as the attacking battalions of the 185th Brigade. Three objectives had been assigned to the 62nd Division: (1) the capture of the Hindenburg Line from U.22.d.0.3 to U.14.d.3.0. including the village of Bullecourt ; (2) the capture of the village of Hendecourt ; (3) the formation of a defensive flank from the west of Hendecourt to the Hindenburg Line in U.20.a.9.6. All three Brigades of the Division were to take part in the attack : 185th on the right, 186th in the centre and 187th on the left. And to the 185th Brigade had been allotted the task of capturing Bullecourt. During the night of 1st/2nd May all three Brigades took over their battle positions from the 91st Brigade (7th Division) which

' Casualties on the 12th April were: 2/6th Battalion, two other ranks killed and four wounded ; 2/8th Battalion, Second- Lieut. A. R. Moore and four other ranks killed, four other ranks wounded.


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3RD May.


64 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

for several days had held the Divisional front in order to allow the assaulting troops time in which to rest and practise the attack. At dusk on the 2nd May the 2/7th West Yorkshires (Lieut.- Colonel C. K. James) began taping out the forming-up line! for the attacking battalions of the 185th Brigade, and streamers were run out across the railway and road? in the direction of the attack ; this Operation was completed by 11.45 p.m. The 2/8th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel A. H. James) was attached to the 187th Brigade. Meanwhile the 2/s5th (Lieut.-Colonel J. Josselyn) and 2/6th (Lieut.-Colonel J. Hastings) West Yorkshires, having been met by guides from the 2/7th Battalion at I a.m. and 2-10 a.m. respectively, had taken up their allotted positions, and by 3-15 a.m. reported to Brigade Headquarters “‘ all formed up.” Each battalion was to attack in four waves (leap-frog system), each on a frontage of two companies. On the right of the 62nd Division the 2nd Australian Division was to attack the first objective frontally, only as far to the left as U.22.d.6.3. ; the Colonials were then to bomb down the Hindenburg Line westwards to their left boundary until touch was gained with the 2/6th Battalion West Yorkshires (185th Brigade). It will be shown later how the method of attack affected the whole battle. The danger was obvious, for by attacking frontally and not going forward side by side with the West Yorkshiremen the Colonials would leave a gap of some 300 yards of the powerful defences of the Hindenburg Line, with no barrage on it, unattacked from ‘‘ Zero ” plus 33 to “ Zero” plus 60—a period of 27 minutes. It was con- sidered, however, that the bombing attack down the Hindenburg Line, with the 2/6th West Yorkshires working eastward, would overcome the enemy’s resistance. The importance of gaining touch was impressed on the O.C. 2/6th West Yorkshires. The day had been hot, and the ground over which the attack was to go forward was hard and firm, though pitted with shell-holes. During the early part of the night a brilliant moon shone down on the battlefield-to-be, but about 2 a.m. the sky became overcast and an inky darkness settled over the terrain, obscuring the German wire and trenches, and the battered village beyond. The narrative of the attack of the 2/6th West Yorkshires does

not give the order of companies, and the action of that battalion is therefore difficult to follow.

1 U.29.d.9.1.—U.27.¢.9.2.—U. 2 U.27.d.9.4.—U.297.d.2.5.—U.27.a.8.2.

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1917 The Result of “‘ Squeezing out” Tactics 65

At 3-30 a.m., fifteen minutes before ‘‘ Zero ” hour, the enemy put down a heavy barrage in No Man’s Land, which gradually spread

along the whole front. The 2/5th West Yorkshires were the 2/sTH

principal sufferers from this barrage. Punctually at 3-45 the Divisional barrage opened, and immedi- ately the attacking troops began to move across No Man’s Land. But now an unexpected difficulty presented itself; as the shells fell, churning up the hard ground, clods of dust were flung into the air which, with the smoke from the guns and from smoke bombs, blotted out the objectives completely, and there was loss of direction. A tornado of machine-gun and rifle bullets was by now sweeping No Man’s Land, especially from the direction of that portion of the Hindenburg Line which formed a triangle between the right of the 185th Brigade and the left of the Australians. ‘‘ A’’ Company of


the 2/6th West Yorkshires made gallant efforts to correct loss of 2/6TH

direction, but very few men reached the hostile wire, and those who did advanced as ordered up the trench on south-east of village, but were counter-attacked by the enemy and all either killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. ‘ B’’ Company shared a similar fate, the narrative stating that the Company was “ also driven away from their objective and were mostly killed, wounded or There were few survivors from this (the right) attack, and no junction was possible with the Australians, for although the latter attacked the front and support line of the Hindenburg Line, they were unable to bomb westwards down into the village. The left attack of the battalion was more successful, ‘‘ C ”’ Company actually occupying a trench in front of Bullecourt, while ‘““D ” Company was known to have reached as far as the church in the village. But “‘C” was heavily counter-attacked from east of the village and driven on towards the 2/5th Battalion, which was in the west section of Bullecourt. The supply of bombs then gave out and the remnants of “‘ C ”” Company were withdrawn to the railway embankment. ‘“‘ Of ‘D’ Company the only information obtain- able, after going through ‘ C’ Company to the north of the village, was that posts had been established from the centre of the village. This was reported by an officer of the 2/5th West Yorkshire Regi- ment. How long these posts held out, or what was their ultimate fate, no news has been procurable.”! The survivors of the 2/6th Battalion—about 100 rifles—were eventually driven back to their Original positions. ) Narrative with Diary of 2/6th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. F


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66 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War I9I7

The 2/5th West Yorkshires, at ““ Zero” hour, were assembled for attack in the following formation: ‘‘ A’’ Company on the right and ‘“‘ B” on the left, these two companies forming the first two

waves. ‘‘ D” Company, on the right, and “‘ C ” on the left, formed the third and fourth waves.

As the Diary of the 2/5th Battalion contains the most interesting, and apparently correct, account of the battle, it is given in full :— ** At ‘ Zero’ the battalion moved off under the barrage, got through such gaps as there were in the wire and occupied the German trench to the south of the village, with the 2/6th West Yorkshire Regiment on their right, somewhat overlapping the boundary line of the two battalions. The short trench running south of the Crucifix was cleared as far as possible in view of a barrage still on part of it, as well as on the trench running north from the Crucifix. An officer and thirty-one other Germans were captured in these trenches and another officer and a number of others killed. At about 4-10 a.m. there was a large explosion, caused by the Anzac trench-mortar battery and ammunition being blown up. It was completely des- troyed. The second wave reached its objective and posts were established at U.27.b.6.8. and U.21.d.5.0. There was considerable machine-gun fire on the waves, and on these two posts, from east and west and from a trench-mortar battery about U.21.d.6.2. A part of the third and fourth waves, in touch with the 2/6th West York- shire Regiment, got past road junction of the church and established themselves in a post about U.22.C.0.5. ; a further part of the third and fourth waves got out in front of that post, but were held up by fire of some kind, the direction of which they could not state, and finally joined the post in a communication trench in the centre of the village. It is not possible to give the time when any of these events actually occurred. The Company Commander of company follow- ing the left portion of the third and fourth waves came in wounded at 6-20 a.m., and reported that these waves had got half-way through the village at about 5 a.m. There was heavy machine-gun fire from the south-west corner of the village from a strong point at U.27.b.2.8., which interfered very much with communications. Machine-gun fire came also from the derelict tank at the south corner of the village, and froma strong point there which is believed to have prevented the whole of the right of the 2/6th West Yorkshire Regiment getting far into any part of the German trench. With the exception of the

two strong points mentioned, it has not been possible to locate the

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1917 Automatic Rifles used by Enemy 67

many machine-guns or automatic rifles' used against our troops throughout the village. A further part of the third and forth waves 2/cTx got well up in U.21.d., but so far as is known did not reach the trench BATTALIon. to the north of the village. It is thought (but the evidence is not 3*” May. clear) that the two officers now missing with the right of the third and fourth waves, got out into the open beyond the village. Touch was never established with any troops on the left, with the exception of one party of the 2/5th West Ridings and 2/8th West Yorkshire Regiment in the trench running north and south to the west of the village and the short trench running south from the Crucifix. ** At 6-35 a.m. it appeared clear that the attack was being held up in the centre of the village, and it was decided to send forward a company of the 2/7th West Yorkshire Regiment to reinforce, two platoons to the 2/5th and two to the 2/6th. It was reported by the company that they had seen two battalions coming back on the left and that they had conformed with them and resumed their position on the railway embankment. At about 9-30 a.m. the enemy, who had always been in some force on the right, was bombing parties of the 2/6th West Yorkshire Regiment in the trench at about U.27.b.9.1. and driving them westward. A block was established near the Ecoust—Bullecourt road, which block was held by our troops so far as their own and German bombers enabled them to do so. On the left, German bombers drove back the West Riding Regiment and 2/8th West Yorkshire Regiment to about U.27.b.1.6. In the end they drove them out altogether and the officer? in charge of the trench was left with about forty men and no bombs. He attempted to reach his posts in the centre of the village, but found them cut off, and he was finally forced to retire about 11-30 a.m. on to the railway embankment. ** Some of the men from the posts were brought in at night time by battalions of another Division? who had endeavoured to take the village.” Thus both the 2/6th and 2/5th Battalions were back on the 3rp May. railway embankment, having been unable to hold the village. Of the 2/8th West Yorkshires little is known of their attack but 2/8TH what appears in the narrative already quoted from. “A” and BATTALION. ‘““B”? Companies plus one platoon of “‘ Company went forward

1 Used by a German Musketeen Battalion ; this weapon fired twenty-five rounds.

§ Capt. A. E. Green—on the first occasion he fought his way through the Germans to his posts in the centre of the village with a supply of bombs and back again for a fresh supply. He made a second attempt though wounded in two places

39th Division. See later.

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68 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

apparently with troops of the 186th Brigade to whom the West Yorkshiremen were attached. The 185th Brigade reached the first objective with considerable loss, and was unable to establish itself in the enemy’s front line owing to heavy enfilade machine-gun fire. The remnants of the Brigade then took up a position in the Sunken Road some 400 yards from the enemy’s front line, and there held on until dusk, when they were ordered to retire on the original line of resistance, returning during the evening to Ecoust St. Mein and Vraucourt. With the exception of one Company (““ D”’), sent forward to reinforce the line (two platoons on right and two on left of the Bullecourt-Ecoust road) the 2/7th West Yorkshires were in reserve all day. The O.C. ‘‘D” Company, seeing battalions retiring, conformed and took up a position on the railway embankment. During the evening all attacking troops of the 185th Brigade (with the exception of the 2/7th West Yorkshires) were ordered to retire to Ecoust and reorganise ; the 2/7th Battalion was to take part in another attack on Bullecourt, to be carried out during the night 3rd/4th May by the 7th Division. The first big battle in which the 185th Brigade had been engaged since its arrival in France in January had cost the West Yorkshire battalions very heavy losses. Of the casualties suffered by the 2/6th Battalion no figures are given, but seeing that Colonel Hastings reported only about 100 survivors, they must have been very heavy.? The 2/sth Battalion lost Capt. F. H. Knowles and Second-Lieuts. A. Wilson and E. G. Annely killed, two officers missing and five officers wounded. In other ranks the losses of the battalion were 257 killed, wounded and missing. The 2/7th lost two officers wounded, “‘ other ranks ” casualties not being given. The 2/8th had two officers missing and three wounded, and in “ other ranks ”’ five killed, forty-nine wounded and thirty-seven missing. The failure to capture Bullecourt was certainly not due to the gallant troops of the 185th Brigade who assaulted it, for they fought well and were well led by their officers. Two incidents are sufficient to show the spirit which prevailed throughout the line on that costly day: In one part of the line a young subaltern led his platoon forward with great dash and determination in the face of a murderous 1 Capt. E. C. Gregory, 2/6th West Yorkshires, in his history of the 2/6th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, says -—‘‘ All twelve company officers, apart from the liaison and head- quarters officers, became casualties, and out of 393 other ranks who went into Bullecourt, 287 were killed, wounded or missing. Lieuts. T. Armistead, G. Charlesworth, E. S. Fletcher, J.

G. Hall and G. K. Brown were killed ; and Capts. G.S.Gordon, Gregory, Lieuts. Frost, Bicker- dike, Dowling, Rhodes and Wilson wounded.’

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1917 Reasons of Failure 69

machine-gun and rifle fire. He fell wounded, but was on his feet in a moment, rushing on with his men until he fell wounded again, more severely, and in no less than fourteen places. Nevertheless, in spite of his wounds, he still kept up in the enemy’s wire with his men, encouraging them to hold on to the position they had won, until he was carried away by a stretcher party. Another young officer, leading his platoon against a strongly-defended position, was shot through the right eye and, for a while, rendered unconscious. But on coming to he collected his men and insisted on going forward in a further attempt on the enemy’s front line. These incidents are but examples of many which happened on that day of hard fighting. The failure to capture Bullecourt was due to an error in tactics, which had so often failed during the earlier years of the war, most notably at Festubert in 1915, the attempt to “‘ squeeze out ” a portion of the enemy’s line. In this attack on Bullecourt, the un- attacked portion on the right of the 185th Brigade, and between the latter and the Australians, held up the whole battle. It was a very strong portion of the enemy’s line in which he had mounted a large number of machine-guns which caught the advancing troops in enfilade, and created havoc long before they had reached the wire entanglements. Even the troops who had penetrated the village were caught in a murderous enfilade fire from the east, 1.e., the unattacked trenches. Loss of direction in the attack, owing to the inky blackness of the night, and the clouds of dust and smoke, were contributory causes of failure. At II p.m. on 3rd, two battalions of the 22nd Brigade (7th Division) to which the 2/7th West Yorkshires were attached, made a fresh attack on Bullecourt, but only succeeded in obtaining a footing in the south-west corner of the village. On appealing for rein- forcements “‘ A’? Company of the 2/7th was sent forward to the railway, but was later withdrawn. Another attack, launched at 3-45 a.m. on 4th, did little to improve the position. The 2/7th West Yorkshires were relieved at 10 p.m. on the 4th and marched back to Ervillers. The battalion, during the night 3/4th and 4th May, lost in other ranks five killed and forty-seven wounded. For several days the 185th Brigade remained out of the line, reorganising and resting after the gruelling of their first real battle since their arrival in France, but on the morning of the 8th May (at 4 a.m.) the Brigade relieved the 186th and 187th Brigades, taking over the whole of the Divisional front line. Meanwhile, on 7th, the 7th Division and the Australians had again attacked the


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2/5TH, 2/6TH 2/9TH. 2/8TH BATTALIONS. 8TH May.


7TH May.

11TH May.

70 The West Yorkshire Regiment tn the War 1917

Hindenburg Line and the south-east corner of Bullecourt and, in spite of a determined resistance, gained a footing in the village, clinging successfully to the position though heavily counter- attacked. Two composite battalions of 2/5th and 2/8th West Yorkshires, and 2/6th and 2/7th West Yorkshires, under the command of O.C.’s 2/8th and 2/7th Battalions respectively, had been formed before the 185th Brigade took over the front line on the morning of the 8th May.' Between that date, however, and the 17th May and the close of the Battle of Bullecourt, the 2/5th, 2/6th and 2/8th West Yorkshires were not involved in attacks on the enemy. Only the 2/7th West Yorkshires were engaged in active operations, the battalion assisting the 7th Division in another attack on Bullecourt on 12th May. On 7th May (at 7 p.m.) the 2/7th West Yorkshires (as two com- panies) with 2/6th West Yorkshires (as one company), all under the command of Lieut.-Colonel C. K. James, had relieved the 2/6th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in the line. “B” and “C” Companies, under Lieut. Owen, took over all posts relieved. A company of 2/6th West Yorkshires was in support in the Railway Cutting at U.26.c. “‘ A’ Company established two new posts in the Sunken Road at U.21.c., and a wire was laid out to a point in U.21. C.4.1.2. under great difficulties by the Battalion Signalling Officer— Second.-Lieut Carlisle. This wire was maintained throughout the period in the line, and reflected great credit on the Battalion Signalling Officer. The line of posts held by the 2/7th was heavily shelled through- out the 8th May, but casualties were light, only four men being wounded. In the dark hours many wounded men, who (poor fellows), had been lying out since the attack on 3rd May, were brought in. On the morning of the 11th, orders were received stating that the gist Brigade, in conjunction with the 5th Australian Division, on the right of the 2/7th West Yorkshires, would again attack Bullecourt. The 2/7th was ordered to co-operate by capturing the Crucifix. One company of the 2/4th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was ordered up to the railway embankment to straighten the line U.27.b.1.9., while “‘B’”’ and “C”? Companies of the 2/7th West Yorkshires were reinforced by four officers, and N.C.O.’s and men

1 Lieut.-Colonel C. K. James, O.C. 2/7th West Yorkshires, was slightly wounded during the day, but remained “‘ at duty.”’

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1917 Gallant Patrol Work 71

from the reserve. The two companies had been resting since the night 9th/roth. The attack was to take place on 12th May. At I a.m. on 12th the four officers who had reinforced “ B ” 2/7Tx and “‘ C ” Companies, with the latter moved forward to the Sunken BATTALION. Road in U.21.c. ane The plan of attack is thus given in the Diary of the 2/7th Battalion West Yorkshires: ‘‘ Lieut. T. Hamilton and platoon on left of-road U.21.c.5.0 to U.21.¢.9.0 in one wave ; Second-Lieut. A. W. H. Cleland and platoon on right of the road in the wood. No. 266352 Sergeant G. Woodhead and one platoon in columns of sections down the road ; Second-Lieut. F. H. Birch and one platoon in reserve. Company Headquarters U.21.c.4.0. ‘ Zero’ for attack on our right, 3.40 a.m. Waves were to advance at ‘ Zero’ plus 20 and assault at ‘ Zero’ plus 26, when barrage lifted off the From 4 a.m. (“‘ Zero ” plus 20) when the waves advanced to the attack, until 6-30 a.m., no news was received of the progress made by the 2/7th West Yorkshires. Even the wounded men who crawled back from the firing line were unable to give any information which lifted the veil of obscurity. But at the latter hour an aeroplane gave the welcome report that “our men were well dug in at the Crucifix.” This message was followed by others, all from aeroplane observers, but no actual message from the gallant fellows at the Crucifix reached Battalion Headquarters. The battalion attacking on the right of the West Yorkshiremen towards the latter from the village, failed to reach their objective and “‘ left our men in the air.” All day long the 2/7th maintained themselves in this precarious position, and although details of the fight which ensued are un- available, yet it is certain the West Yorkshiremen gave a good account of themselves before they were eventually overwhelmed by the enemy and wiped out. For, about 8 p.m., an aeroplane re- ported that the Germans held the Crucifix. The final act in this little tragedy took place after darkness had fallen, when about 10 p.m. a young officer of the 2/6th West York- shires—Lieut. E. B. Humphries—took a patrol out with the intention of gaining touch with the 2/7th West Yorkshires. Three most gallant attempts to connect up with the 2/7th were made by this officer, but each time he and his comrades were driven back, and finally the attempt had to be abandoned. At midnight the 2/4th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was ordered to again attack the Cruci- fix at 3-40 a.m. on 13th. The men were personally formed up in the Sunken Road by the Brigade-Major (Major R. N. O’Connor)

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72 The West Yorksmre Regiment in the War 1917

and Lieut. Humphries, 2/6th West Yorkshires, but the attack never reached its objective. The casualties suffered by the 2/7th in this affair were five other ranks killed, thirty-one missing and thirty-two wounded. Two officers (Lieuts. T. Hamilton and Second-Lieut. A. W. H. Cleland) and the thirty-one “‘ missing ” other ranks were those who reached the Crucifix and later disappeared. Lieut. T. Hamilton was sub- sequently reported killed and Second-Lieut. Cleland “ missing.” 2/s5TH, 2/6rH On the 14th the battalion was relieved and marched back to billets 2/7TH, 2/8TH at Courcelles, where later the 2/5th, 2/6th and 2/8th West York- Mer shires were also located. Bullecourt was finally captured on 17th May by the 58th Division, but the cumulative efforts of the various attacks made on the village prior to that date were largely responsible for its capture.

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THE FLANDERS OFFENSIVE: 7th June—roth November, 1917

The Battle of Messines, 1917: 7th—14th June

HILE the Arras offensive was in progress the French, on sth May, had delivered their attack against the Chemin des Dames (north of the Aisne river) and successfully achieved the objects they had in view. This closed the first half of the Allied plan and marked the close of the spring campaign on the Western Front. In less than one month’s fighting the British alone had captured 19,500 prisoners, including over 400 officers ; 257 guns, including 98 heavy guns, 464 machine-guns and 227 trench-mortars ; immense quantities of war material had also been taken from the enemy, and Sir Douglas Haig had pushed forward his line to a greatest depth of over five miles on a total front of over 20 miles. It was now possible for the British Commander-in-Chief to turn his attention to the northern plan of operations, and to direct the bulk of his resources to the new theatre of operations. General Sir H. Plumer, commanding the Second Army, was ordered to be prepared to deliver an attack on the 7th June against the Messines- Wytschaete Ridge, the capture of which, owing to the observation from it over the British position from the north in the Ypres Salient, was an essential preliminary to the completion of the preparations for the principal offensive east and north of Ypres. A necessary part of the preparations for the Messines attack was the maintenance of activity on the Aisne front, in order to keep the enemy in doubt as to whether the offensive in that quarter would be proceeded with. Preparations as elaborate as for the Somme battles of 1916 and the Aisne offensive were necessary for the attack on the Messines- Wytschaete Ridge, and strenuous indeed was the work demanded of the troops. The construction of railways and roads, the forma- tion of forward dumps of material, the laying of pipe lines for the water supply and extensive arrangements for the transport of water, rations 73

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74 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

and stores by pack animals and carrying parties, were but a part of the enormous amount of work which had to be carried out before ** Zero ”’ day. A special feature of the attack, and one unique in warfare, was the preparation of many deep mines, nineteen of which were sub- sequently exploded at the moment of assault. In all, twenty-four of these mines were constructed, and a total of 8,000 yards of gallery were driven in their construction; over one million pounds of explosives were used. The simultaneous discharge of such an enormous quantity of explosives was without precedent in land mining. The group of hills, known as the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge, lay about midway between Armentiéres and Ypres. Messines was situated on the southern spur of the Ridge and commanded a wide view of the valley of the Lys, enfilading the British line to the south. Wytschaete lay north-west of Messines, almost at the point of the Salient and on the highest part of the Ridge commanding, from its height of about 260 feet, even more completely the town of Ypres and the whole of the old British positions in the Ypres Salient. The German front line skirted the western foot of the Ridge in a deep curve from the River Lys opposite Frélinghien to a point just short of the Menin road. The enemy’s second-line system followed the crest of the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge, forming an inner curve. In addition to these defences of the Ridge itself he had constructed two lines running from south to north, the first just east of Oosttaverne village, known as the Oosttaverne Line, and a second known as the Warneton Line, which crossed the Lys at Warneton and ran parallel to the Oosttaverne Line, but a little more than a mile east of it. The actual front selected for attack was from St. Yves (just north- east of Ploegsteert) and Mount Sorrel (just north of Zwarteleen), a dis- tance following the curve of the Salient, of between nine and ten miles. The IInd Anzac, IXth and Xth Corps, in the order given from right to left, were to carry out the attack. Each Corps consisted of three divisions with one division in support. The 11th Division was in support of the I[Xth Corps, while the 23rd Division was one of the three attacking divisions of the Xth Corps. In the former division the 9th West Yorkshires were contained, and the 11th West York- shires were in the 23rd Division, At “ hour on the 7th June—3-10 a.m.—Sir Douglas Haigh’s despatches show the 11th Division in support, just north of Kemmel, and the 23rd Division in the front line north-west of

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1917 The Attack Launched 75

Battle Wood, the south-east corner of which rested almost on the Ypres-Comines Canal, above Hollebeke. After several months of a comparatively quiet existence passed in the Somme area in the front-line trenches, with periodical “ rests ”” out of the line, the 9th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel F. P. Worsley) in Brigade and Division, had moved north to the Meteren area, the West Yorkshiremen arriving at the latter place on 19th May, having marched there from Bailleul. During the early months of the year the 9th West Yorkshires had been much weakened owing to the losses sustained in trench warfare, but when the battalion reached Bailleul it had attained a strength of twenty-nine officers and 801 other ranks. On the 25th May the battalion moved to a new area (described in the Diary as “ leaving Meteren at 10-30 a.m. As the new area was reached at II-30 a.m., and tents were pitched before dinner, it cannot have been far away from the village, though near enough to the front line to come under hostile shell-fire. Reference to a map shows “‘ S.1.d.7.6.” to have been a little north of Bailleul, and in this camp the battalion spent several days in training and providing working parties. As “ Zero”? day for the attack on the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge drew nearer the utmost excitement prevailed Rumour had been busy over the probable effect of the mine explosions, which everyone anticipated would immediately fling the whole German line into the air. Next came orders that the 11th Division, less 33rd Brigade, was to be in IXth Corps Reserve and, on the night before “‘ Zero” day, the 9th West Yorkshires left ‘‘ S.1.d.7.6.” and orn marched to another camp at N.25.C. i.e, Kemmel Hill, arriving BATTALION. there at midnight. . Dawn was just breaking on the morning of the 7th June when, 7TH June. at 3-10 a.m., the ground rocked and shook, and the watchers on Kemmel Hill felt all the tremors of an earthquake as the still air was suddenly rent by terrific and awful explosions. Kemmel Hill was only between three and four thousand yards from the front line, and the 9th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel F. P. Worsley) standing to arms, witnessed a scene which Sir Douglas Haig said was “‘ without parallel in land mining.’’ Clouds of smoke and dust and flame, debris of every description, and the mangled bodies of Germans fell everywhere. And no sooner had the explosion taken place than the British guns opened an intense bombardment of the enemy’s lines, or all that remained of them. Under cover of this bombardment the British infantry attack was launched, and English,

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76 The West Yorkshire Regiment tn the War I9I7

Irish, Australian and New Zealand troops swarmed across No Man’s Land and quickly entered the enemy’s front line. The 9th West Yorkshires, however, were not called upon during the first day of the Battle, and the Battalion Diary merely records that: “‘ At daybreak the battalion from this point (Kemmel Hill) witnessed an intense bombardment of the enemy’s lines and the explosions of several huge mines prior to an attack by the [Xth

Corps and IInd Anzac Corps.”” The 9th was more fortunate than the 11th Battalion. The 11th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel Barker) had, since the beginning of 1917, passed a comparatively quiet time in periodical tours in the front line just south of Ypres, or in “‘ rest’? camps in the neighbourhood. On the Ist June the battalion, then out of the line, left the Boeschepe area and marched to a camp about ** L.33.d.1.9.”2 where ‘‘ cleaning-up,’’ company parades and bat- talion drill occupied all ranks until the 3rd of the month, when another move was made, this time to “‘ L’? Camp. On the 4th the West Yorkshiremen moved into Zillebeke Bund. All arrangements had been made for the attack on the 7th to take place, when the 11th West Yorkshires, on the night 5th/6th June, moved out of Zillebeke Bund and took up positions in the sector allotted to it for the Briefly the plan of attack of the 69th Brigade (to which the 11th West Yorkshires belonged) and the 23rd Division was as follows : The capture of Battle Wood and the Klein Zillebeke Spur had been allotted to the 23rd Division, also the task of covering the left of the Xth Corps by forming a defensive flank facing east. The frontage of attack allotted to the 69th Brigade was from Windy Corner (I.35.a.0.2.) to the Snout (1.29.d.3.7.) inclusive, this was known as the Hill 60 sector. The 142nd Brigade (47th Division) was attacking on the right of the 69th Brigade and 7oth Brigade on the left. The inner flanks of the 69th and 7oth Brigades were to converge so as to meet at I.30.c.1.1. (about 250 yards east of Corner House). Three battalions of the 69th Brigade (1oth Duke of Wellington’s Regiment on the right, 8th Yorkshire Regiment in the centre and 11th West Yorkshire Regiment on the left*), and two of the 7oth Brigade were

1 Near Scottish Lines in the Busseboom Area.

2 The Battalion Diary is (ap parently) des : the fear of giving information to the enemy should documents fall into his ha de was stil rampant in France and Flanders, and probably ‘explain why the C.O.'s of many battalions and units purposely recorded their move- ments and actions in "he briefest ible, and often cryptic, style, having no thought that the Diary would one day be used as t basis of military history.

3 There are no maps giving the exact disposition of the attacking troops and no co-ordinates are given in the Diaries which would enable the dispositions to be worked out.

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1917 The Great Mine Explosion 77

to make the assault upon the Red and Blue Lines, each battalion to attack in four waves. Lewis-gun sections were to hold the Divisional front line during the assault. The third and final objective (the Black Line) was to be captured by troops passing through the Blue Line. The Black Line was to be consolidated and held. It is impossible to give all the instructions as issued for the attack, as they cover many closely-typed sheets of foolscap paper, but one small paragraph is of special interest, as it shows how care- fully operations were organised in 1917: ‘“‘ Every platoon, every section, and as far as possible every man, must be given a definite point to reach, and work to do in each objective to be attacked.” The orders concerning the fighting kit of both officers and men in 1917 are also of interest : ‘‘ The fighting kit to be carried will be as follows: Steel helmet, haversack on back, water bottle filled, en- trenching tool, waterproof sheet, one large tool on back of every other man in proportion of five shovels to two picks, tube helmet, box respirator, field dressing, two sand-bags per man, two grenades, one in each top pocket of jacket to be collected by Section Com- manders on reaching objective and used to form a reserve, S.A.A., 120 rounds, two flares every other man, one in each bottom pocket of jacket, one iron ration, one day’s preserved meat and biscuits. All infantry officers must be dressed and equipped the same as their men. Sticks are not to be carried.” The 11th West Yorkshires spent the day of the 6th in making 11TH final preparations, and the Battalion Diary states that: ‘It passed quietly and with few casualties ” which, considering that the guns had been bombarding the enemy’s front line and rear positions for five days, thereby heralding an attack, was surprising, for hostile Shell-fire must have been negligible. During the night of 6th/7th all battalions moved into their assembly positions, and at 2-30 a.m. on the 7th the West Yorkshire- men telephoned to Brigade Headquarters the single word “ yellow,”’ which meant that the battalion was ready for the attack. Not a single casualty was incurred prior to “‘ Zero ” hour. At 1 a.m. all tunnels and trenches in the neighbourhood of the 77n Jung. front line had been evacuated. Mines had been placed beneath Hill 60 and the Caterpillar, and these were to be fired from the Spoil Bank (along the banks of the Ypres-Comines Canal near Lock No. 2 Bis) at 3-10 a.m. The simultaneous explosion of the nineteen mines at “‘ Zero hour was an experience, awesome both to those who witnessed it

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78 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

and to the enemy beneath whose trenches the mines had been placed. The roar of the explosion was deafening, the earth rocked, resembling a violent earthquake, and the air was filled with clouds of dust and falling debris. And to the horrible confusion the guns added their din as they opened fire the very moment the explosions occurred. Covered by a concentrated bombardment which overwhelmed the enemy’s trenches, and to a great extent neutralised his batteries, the attacking troops rushed forward, sweeping over the German defences all along the line. Without hesitation the assaulting battalions went forward, mostly escaping the hostile barrage, but following so closely on their own that several casualties were suffered. The first message from the attacking troops reached 69th Brigade Headquarters at 4-20 a.m.; it was from the 8th Yorkshire Regiment who reported that, at 4 a.m., both craters (at Hill 60 and the Caterpillar) were being consolidated. Next a runner arrived at § a.m. from the 11th West Yorkshires stating that, in conjunction with the 8th Yorkshire Regiment, the Red Line had been captured. The hostile barrage had by now become very severe, and for some time few runners were able to get through. At 7 a.m., however, all units reported to the Brigade that they had occupied the Blue Line, the roth West Riding Regiment in Battle Wood, 8th Yorkshire Regiment astride the railway cutting, r1th West Yorkshires from Imp Avenue to Impartial Lane, 9th York and Lancashire Regiment Image Reserve, and 11th Sherwood Foresters from the junction of Image Reserve and Image Crescent to St. Peter’s Street. At 7 a.m. the Brigade reports state that: “‘ The situation was very Meanwhile, at 6-50 a.m., the second phase of the operations—the attack on the Black Line—had been launched, the 9th Yorkshire Regiment passing through the Blue Line held by the roth West Ridings, and the 12th D.L.I. passing through the 11th West Yorkshires. But of the latter battalion there are no further reports, and it is impossible to gather from the official records any details of the attack made by the West Yorkshiremen. The Battalion Diary of the latter thus briefly narrates the operations of the 7th June: ‘‘ At 3-10 a.m. (7th June) simultaneously with the explosion of the mines at Hill 60 and the Caterpillar, the attack was launched and proceeded entirely according to plan. By 4-30 a.m. it was reported that the whole of the Red, or first objective, had been taken, and by 5 a.m. the three companies (‘ A,’ ‘B’ and ‘C’) in the front line, were consolidating the Blue Line. By 7 a.m. the 12th D.L.I. had passed through our Blue Line to assault the Black

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1917 11th Battalion sends two German M.G.’s. to Leeds 79

Line. Up to now casualties, though very heavy amongst officers, had been comparatively reasonable amongst ‘ other ranks’ and remained at the same figure for the rest of the 7th.” Casualties in the battalion had indeed been heavy : Six officers— Capt. V. M. Hobday, Second-Lieuts. C. W. Miller, T. Ostler, G F. L. Porter, H. W. Knowles and G. Wood—had been killed, one officer (whose name is not given) was reported ‘‘wounded and missing, believed killed ” and nine other officers had been wounded; 253 other ranks were also reported killed, wounded and missing. A paragraph in the Brigade report of the operations states: ‘‘ Up to the Blue Line the advance was comparatively easy, and all units consider that, had there been no long pause there, the Black Line would have been reached without difficulty, the Germans being demoralised. The halt for three hours on the Blue Line enabled the enemy to recover from his surprise and loss of morale.”” During that long halt the enemy’s shell-fire became increasingly heavy, and on the left flank of the attack enfilade fire caught the units, inflicting severe losses. Amongst the papers of the 69th Brigade there is a document headed : ‘‘ Claims for captured trench-mortars, machine- guns and stores (other than guns, etc.) and under this heading it appears that the 11th West Yorkshires captured two Granetenwerfer and two machine-guns and the former, with one of the latter, are mentioned as being sent to the Lord Mayor of Leeds, whilst the remaining machine-gun was retained by the 69th M.G.C. From the 8th June onwards heavy shell-fire swept the trenches 117TH of the 11th West Yorkshires, especially on the left flank, and casual- BATTALION. ties were heavy, particularly on the night of 8th/gth when a counter- TH JUNE. attack threatened. On the night of gth/r1oth the battalion (less ‘“D ” Company) was relieved by the 13th D.L.1. and withdrawn to Battersea Farm. ‘‘D’”’ Company was not relieved until the following night. At Battersea Farm the battalion remained until the night 12th/13th June, when part of the 17th Brigade of the 24th Division took its place, and the West Yorkshiremen marched back to ‘“P ” Camp in the neighbourhood of Ouderdom. In the meantime the 9th West Yorkshires, “‘ standing to” 9TH throughout the 7th June, watched the course of the first day of the oe Battle from Kemmel Hill. At 8.15 p.m. 32nd Brigade Headquarters received orders from Divisional Headquarters “‘ not to move to-night, but be prepared to move to-morrow.” But no movement orders for the 8th arrived, though at 10 p.m. on the latter date the 32nd Brigade was ordered “to relieve the 107th Brigade in the Reserve area

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80 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War I9I7

(N.29) by 9 a.m. on 9th and to relieve 108th Brigade in the line (N. boundary O.21.c.7.1; S. boundary C.27.d.2.9.) during the night oth, roth June.” Early on the morning of gth, the 9th West Yorkshires (in Brigade) left Kemmel Hill and marched to Camp at N.34.a.! arriving at IO a.m. Here dinner and tea were taken, after which the battalion, by platoons, proceeded to relieve the 11th R.I.R. in reserve right sub-sector at O.25.d. By 10 p.m. the relief had been completed and, although the enemy searched the area practically all night, the West York- shiremen suffered no casualties. On the night of roth, however, the battalion moved back again to N.34.a., and it was not until the night of 11th/12th June that the 9th West Yorkshires relieved the soth Battalion of the Australian Infantry in the front line. The battalion left bivouacs in N.34.a. at 9 p.m., each man carry- ing the following day’s ration. Water was carried in petrol tins on pack ponies. Guides from the Australians met the West Yorkshire- men at 0.32.a.5.5. and conducted companies to the front line. By 2 a.m. the relief was complete, the disposition of the battalion being : Battalion Headquarters at O.33.a.9.9.; “‘ A’? Company 0O.28.c.6.3. to 0.34.a.8.5. ; B? Company in support trenches about 0.33.b.5.5. to 5.9.; “‘ C’’ Company in reserve at 0.32.a.5.5.; “‘ Company in trench at O.27.d.4.5.2, The battalion was in touch with Australians on the right and 6th York and Lancaster Regiment on the left. During the concluding stages of the relief, and in the early morning of 12th, hostile shell-fire was comparatively heavy, and two other ranks were killed and nineteen wounded. The West York- shiremen were barely settled in the line when a report was received from the Australians stating that the enemy in front of the former did not appear to be in any “ strength.” The C.O. of the 9th West Yorkshires therefore sent Capt. L. P. Kirk to establish “‘ A ” Company in posts against the road running south-east about 400 yards in front of the battalion line, and also place a post in Delporte Farm. By 9 a.m. this had been successfully accomplished, the posts being established at O.28.b.6.1., O.28.d.7.8., C.27.d.8.5. and O.34.b.9.9. (Delporte Farm), each having a garrison of one platoon. One officer and two other ranks were wounded by snipers during the operation. ‘‘ B’’ Company was moved up to occupy the line pre- viously held by “ A”? Company.

1 N.34.a. was about 1,000 yards S.E. of Lindenhoek.

2 Owing to the absence of maps showing the trench system and records of trenches, the only method of giving the disposition of the battalion is by co-ordinates taken from the Diary.

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1917 Results of Messines Operations 81

During the next two days the battalion was shelled inter- mittently, but no infantry attacks were made by or on the enemy, and on the night of 15th the 9th West Yorkshires were relieved by , June. the 8th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and marched back to the Reserve line at N.35.b. The general results of the Battle of Messines, which ended on the 14th June, not only included the capture of Messines and Wytschaete, but the Salient between Zwarteleen and Le Touquet had been pinched off and the Oosttaverne line and the German Third System of trenches had been captured and held.

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THE BATTLES OF YPRES, 1917 31st July—r1oth November


N the Battles of Messines the Second Army front had been pushed forward as far as was then desirable, and everywhere along the new line work on the defences and the establishment of posts had been begun. The attentions of the Allied Commanders were then turned to the coming main offensive east and north of Ypres, and as French troops were taking part in the operations several alterations in the dispositions of the Allied forces were necessary. The Fifth British Army on roth June took over command of the whole front from Observatory Ridge to Boesinghe ; British troops relieved the French who were holding the coast sector from St. Georges to the sea, and in the first week of July the Belgian troops holding the front from Boesinghe to Noordschoote were relieved by the first French Army. Into all the preparations for the series of battles soon to be fought, it is impossible to go, but the difficulties under which they were carried out were enormous for, as Sir Douglas Haig said: ‘‘ On no previous occasion, not excepting the attack on the Messines-Wyts- chaete Ridge, had the whole of the ground from which we had to attack been so completely exposed to the enemy’s observation. Even after the enemy had been driven from the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge he still possessed excellent observation over the Salient from east and south-east, as well as from the Pilkem Ridge to the north.” Thus all the work of the formation of dumps, subways and trenches, and the assembling and registering of guns, had been carried out under the very nose of the enemy. It was no light task. By the middle of July preparations for the combined Allied Offensive were far advanced. The date of the initial attack, originally fixed for 25th, was postponed until the 28th, and then to the 31st. Artillery bombardments and discharge of gas were carried out extensively during the fortnight preceding the attack, and careful watch was maintained lest the enemy should endeavour to disarrange the Allied plans. On the 27th the German forward defence system 83

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84 The West Yorkshire Regiment tn the War 1917

on the eastern bank of the Yser Canal from just east of Boesinghe to about 3,000 yards north of the latter place, was found to be unoccupied, and troops of the Guards Division and French troops crossed the canal and established themselves firmly in the enemy’s front-line and support trenches, beating off all attempts to eject them. This successful operation was of great value to the troops who had been detailed to make the northern attack, as the crossing of the Canal in the face of fierce opposition would have been no light task. ““ The front of the Allied attack extended from the Lys river opposite Deulemont northwards to nearly Steenstraat, a distance of over fifteen miles, but the main blow was to be delivered by the Fifth Army on a front of about seven and a half miles, from the Zillebeke-Zandvoorde Road to Boesinghe inclusive.”! The task of the Second Army was to cover the right of the Fifth Army by advancing only a short distance. On the left of the Fifth Army the First French Army was to advance its right flank, keeping in close touch with the British forces and secure them from counter-attack from the north. The attack of the Fifth Army was to be carried out by four Corps 1.e., IInd Corps (24th, 30th, 18th (one Brigade) and 8th Divisions), XIXth Corps (15th and 55th Divisions), XVIIIth Corps (39th and 51st Divisions) and XIVth Corps (38th and Guards Divisions) in the order given from right to left. The 41st Division of the Second Army was astride the Ypres-Comines Canal and on the right flank of the Fifth Army ; the rst French Division was on the left of the Guards Division, t.e., north of Boesinghe. ** Zero ” hour was 3-50 a.m. on the 3Ist July. Of the ten British Divisions which formed the attacking troops on that July morning, only one is of special interest to West York- shiremen—the 8th Division—which contained the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment. After the first day of the Battle of Ypres, 1917, other battalions of the Regiment (contained in fresh Divisions brought up to continue the operations) were put into the front line, but for the time being the narrative concerns only the 2nd Battalion. The last incident recorded of the 2nd West Yorkshires was the relief of the 2nd Middlesex in the outpost line north of Epéhy at dusk on 11th April. ‘‘ C” and “‘ D” Companies went into the front line with “A” and ‘“B” in support about 150 yards in rear. The right of the battalion rested on the railway about 500 yards north of Peiziére.

' Official Despatches.

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I9I7 2nd Battalion at Villers-Guislain 85

At 2 a.m. the following morning a combatant patrol of twenty- two all ranks, with two Lewis guns, under Second-Lieut. Tucker and Second-Lieut. Lancaster, went out and entered the Beet Factory, about 600 yards south-west of Villers-Guislain, capturing three Germans. Evidently roused by the sound of firing, the enemy sent out a small force of about 150 men who attempted to surround the factory. A brisk fight ensued, and from the way in which the enemy exposed himself it is certain that he suffered heavy casualties. Capt. Bartley, after hurrying up with a few supports, decided to break off the action, and the patrol withdrew in good order, having put up an excellent fight. Both Second-Lieuts. Tucker and Lancaster were wounded as well as one other man, but the prisoners were brought back safely. Throughout the 12th April the weather was bitterly cold and there were frequent sleet and snow showers. At dusk, in a heavy snowstorm, the 2nd West Yorkshires again attacked the Beet Factory, Meunier House near Villers-Guislain, and the crest about Meunier House, in conjunction with the 2nd Scottish Rifles, who attacked Gauche Wood. The formation in this action was “ C’’ Company on the right and “‘ D ” on the left, with “‘ A”’ and ‘‘ B ” Companies in support. In spite of very heavy shelling whilst the troops were assembling in the sunken road, 1,000 yards north of Peiziére, no casualties were suffered. The attack was only lightly opposed and, with the assistance of two Stokes mortars which came into action about 300 yards from Meunier House and the Beet Factory, the enemy, after very desultory fire, withdrew. By dawn on 13th all objectives had been gained and posts dug in. During the day the battalion was heavily sniped and shelled, the Beet Factory (““ D ” Company’s Headquarters) coming in for special attention, but no alteration took place in the line.’ At dusk on 14th the Middlesex relieved the West Yorkshiremen, the latter marching back to Guyencourt. 2np In the latter village two days were spent in “ resting and cleaning-up,” BATTALION. but the weather was wretchedly cold and miserable, the C.O. stig- Matising it in the Battalion Diary as “‘ Meanwhile the capture of the village of Villers-Guislain had been decided upon, and the West Yorkshiremen had been ordered to move into the front line at 10 p.m. on the 16th with the object of carrying the village at 4 p.m. On the 17th. But again the elements interfered with the arrangements, for on the latter date the Battalion Diary records : Infamously cold and wet. Sleet showers and other abominations.

1 The Battalion Diary has the following note on 13th April ‘‘ Battalion strength now (on Paper) 35 officers, 717 other ranks , really 22 officers and sos other ranks, away from Battalion thirteen officers and 212 other ranks."

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86 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

Thank Heaven attack postponed.”’ It was, however, carried out on the 18th. At 11-30 p.m. on 17th the 2nd West Yorkshires had a hot tea at Guyencourt, after which the battalion set out to cover the four and a half miles between the village and the place of assembly, t.e., about 600 yards south-west of Villers-Guislain. The march was slow and tedious, over abominable country, thick in mud and slush, and it was 3-15 a.m. on 18th before the battalion was ready formed up on the taped lines. “‘ D’”’ Company was on the right, ‘“‘ A” on the left, with “CC” and “B’” in support, a platoon of each of the latter companies carrying tools for “ D ” and ‘‘ A” Companies. Just prior to the assault rum was served out to the men and greatcoats were taken off. At 4-25 a.m. a heavy barrage opened on a sector of the hostile wire on the south-west exits of the village and the four companies, under Capt. J. P. Palmes, advanced in quick time. The enemy’s wire was well cut and the men got through with very little opposition. The leading lines of the attack entered Villers- Guislain at about 4-45 a.m. and advanced on the sections allotted to them. Some thirteen Germans and two machine-guns were taken in the village. The remainder of the enemy bolted, and as the battalion reached the eastern and northern exits about fifty Germans were seen running down the valley in a north-easterly direction. The enemy’s barrage, which had fallen four minutes after ‘“* Zero,” fortunately fell on the hollows from which the West York- shiremen had advanced. At 5-45 a.m., while the companies were re-forming, Second- Lieut. Reese of the left Company (“‘ A ”’), saw the enemy getting a machine-gun into position near the southern end of the Ravine. He immediately opened fire on the hostile gun with Lewis guns and rifles and, though two attempts were made by the enemy’s machine- gunners to mount the gun, they could not do so and had to abandon the attempt. Meanwhile Second-Lieut. Reese had collected six men and, under cover of Lewis-gun fire, made a dash from the flank towards the hostile gun. The enemy’s gunners disappeared into the trench from which they had attempted to mount the machine- gun; one was captured, also the machine-gun and the mounting. By 6 a.m. the final objective had been gained and companies began to dig in, and, although the enemy continued to shell the battalion throughout the day, only eleven casualties were suffered. Companies of 2nd Devons and 2nd Middlesex, detailed to guard the flanks of the 2nd West Yorkshires on capture of the village, very quickly came

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1917 2nd Battalion Congratulated 87

up and were of considerable assistance in establishing the position. The 19th April was uneventful, though the battalion at night time pushed out posts still further forward. On 2oth the Battalion Diary records: Several villages and farms seen burning behind enemy’s lines. Famous Hindenburg Line clearly visible on high ground about 3,000 yards in front. Enemy’s snipers giving way in places before battalion patrols, which usually gain some ground By the night of 2oth the battalion patrols had pushed as far out as the western edge of Honnecourt, beyond which, on the eastern side of the Canal de St. Quentin, lay the Hindenburg Line. Gonnelieu was carried at dawn on 21st by the 25th Brigade (8th Division) and 21ST on this date also patrols of 2nd West Yorkshires entered Honnecourt Wood. At dusk the West Yorkshiremen were relieved by the Middlesex and marched back to Hendecourt, where the remainder of April was spent. Warm congratulations were received by Lieut.- Colonel Jack, commanding the 2nd West Yorkshires, on the behaviour and gallant conduct of his battalion during the recent operations and, indeed, they were well deserved, for the vile weather, the mud and slush and filthy state of the ground over which the advance had to be carried out, tried to the very utmost the soldierly qualities of all ranks. May was not an eventful month. The battalion went into the 2ND line near Gouzeaucourt on Ist and was relieved on the 6th. On the last day of the tour Second-Lieut. G. T. Scott was wounded, and died later in the day of his wounds. By the 11th the trench strength of the battalion had sunk to twenty-one officers and 434 other ranks. The 13th saw the battalion in tents near Nurlu in Corps Reserve. On the 29th May reveille was sounded at 4 a.m. Camp was 29TH May. struck, and at 8-30 a.m. the 2nd West Yorkshires set out to march to hutments at Curlu, a distance of ten miles. The route lay via Haut Allaines-Cléry. The day was luckily cool and only two men fell out. The Divisional and Brigade Commanders watched the battalion pass and were well pleased with their appearance. The description of the march is picturesque: ‘‘ Latter part of route lay through the devastated, shell-swept, smelling and still-covered-with- debris battle ground of two years. The villages, recognisable by a few bricks lying here and there, the woods, a few bare shell-blasted poles, the ground a mass of shell-holes where the positions of one

' Ie is clearly evident from the above that the date of the German retreat to the Hindenburg

Line, given by the Battles Nomenclature Committee as from 14th March to sth April, 1917, 18 Open to revision.

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88 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

side or other had drawn intense shell-fire. The old front-line trenches, distinguishable still by the remains of the rust-brown wire entanglements, unexploded shells, scattered graves everywhere, marked not at all or by broken crosses, the French with a tri-colour rosette.” This description of what, in pre-war days, was one of the fairest parts of France, may well be read by those who ask why Frenchmen insisted on reparations from those who were responsible for such wholesale destruction. Early in June the 8th Division moved north from the Somme area. On 3rd the 2nd West Yorkshires (in Brigade) marched to Edgehill Station and entrained for Bailleul, arriving at 6-30 p.m. and marching out to billets in Outtersteene, about three miles. Here the battalion remained unul 11th, when a move was made to Burre. The stay at Outtersteene was chiefly notable for the arrival of four drafts to fill the depleted ranks of the battalion. On the 13th the West Yorkshiremen (again in Brigade) marched out of Burre to a point just south of Vlamertinghe, a distance of about 15 miles. Although the march was completed at about 10 a.m. (Burre having been left at 1-30 a.m.) the hot day and trying conditions told heavily on the men, though only four fell out. In the evening, at 7 p.m., a move was made to Scottish Camp about a mile away, where three companies went into huts and the fourth company into bivouacs. Dominion Camp and Ecole de Bien Fasonce, just east of Ypres, were the next two places occupied by the battalion before taking over a portion of the front line in the neighbourhood of Railway Wood on 2oth June. On the night of 24th 25th, patrols were sent out by the battalion and carried out a successful raid on the enemy’s trenches. Prisoners were captured, which “‘ resulted ”’ (states a congratulatory message from the Corps Commander to the C.O., 2nd West York- shires) ‘‘in a most important identification being obtained of a division whose whereabouts had been unknown.”’ For nearly a month following this raid the battalion was out of the line, and it was not until 23rd July that “‘ A”’ and “‘ C ” Companies moved up to the front line again, relieving the 2nd Wilts. “B” and ‘“‘ D”’ Companies moved to the Esplanade, Ypres. Angther successful raid on the enemy was carried out by the battalion on 24th, five more prisoners being captured and about fifteen other Germans being killed. On 25th the West Yorkshiremen were relieved by the Devons and moved back to Esplanade ; this was the last tour in the line before the Battles of Ypres, 1917, began.

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1917 The 2nd Battalion at Ypres 89

Lectures and final instructions for the coming operations were given to the battalion on 28th July, and on 29th the Diary records zor Jury. that ‘‘ Battalion moved into front line after dusk, prepared to advance on receipt of final instructions. Casualties, ten other ranks. Two days’ rations brought up to the battalion by the transport and issued to the men before leaving The sector held by the 8th Division at this time was west of Hooge, and extended from Zouave Wood on the south to the western edges of Railway Wood, immediately south of the Ypres-Roulers railway. The Divisional front line ran in a north-westerly direction along the eastern edge of Zouave Wood, cutting the Menin road about the Culvert, thence just east of “ Y” Wood through the western portion of Railway Wood to the Ypres-Roulers railway. The 24th Infantry Brigade held the right sub-sector and the 23rd Brigade the left; these two Brigades were to attack the Blue Line, 1.e., the Ist objective, and the Black Line the 2nd objective ; the 25th Brigade was to attack the Green Line and final objective. The two battalions of the 23rd Brigade detailed to attack the Blue Line were the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment on the right and 2np the 2nd Devon Regiment on the left; the 2nd Scottish Rifles on BATTALION. the right and the 2nd Middlesex Regiment on the left (of the same Brigade) were to attack the Black Line, passing through the Blue Line for that purpose.

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THE BATTLE OF PILKEM RIDGE, 3Ist July—2nd August, 1917

HE final entry in the July Diary of the 2nd West Yorkshires, on 30th of the month, records :—“ Battalion in front line awaiting attack which was to take place next morning at dawn.” The official despatches record that: ‘* Preceded at ‘Zero’ hour by discharges of thermit and oil drums, and covered by an accurate artillery barrage from a great number of guns, the Allied infantry entered the German lines at all points. The enemy’s barrage was late and weak, and our casualties were light.”” The enemy’s barrage may have been late in falling on other parts of the line, but on the trenches of the 2nd West Yorkshires the first hostile shells dropped at ‘* Zero ”’ plus one minute, for it was at this period that the C.O., Lieut.-Colonel J. L. Jack, was wounded by a shell splinter. At Zero ” hour it was still very dark, and the West Yorkshire- men on the right, and the Devons on the left, had to move forward by compass bearings, which fortunately had been taken previously. East of Ypres, where the Menin road crossed the crest of the Wytschaete-Passchendaele Ridge, the country was difficult, and the “ going’ very rough. Fortunately, little opposition was experi- enced by the West Yorkshiremen, and although somewhat scattered owing to the darkness, the leading waves reached the Blue Line just before 5 a.m., where “A” and ‘‘C” Companies dug in in small posts; the battalion was then collected. At 5-20 a.m. the 2nd Scottish Rifles passed through the Blue Line, but it was not until 9 a.m. that the Black Line was finally held. The small posts established on the Blue Line by the West Yorkshiremen were, for the first hour, garrisoned by only 150 men. But men were continually arriving, and by 12 noon the strength of the posts was 320. Major R. J. McLaren had arrived about § a.m. and took over command of the battalion, as Colonel Jack had been evacuated. When the posts had been consolidated, rifles were cleaned, S.A.A. issued, and all ranks awaited developments. The



31ST JuLy

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1st AUG.



92 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

attack on the Green Line by the 25th Brigade does not appear to have been successful. About 2 p.m. a German aeroplane flew very low down over the 23rd Brigade, and from 4 to 8 p.m. the position was heavily shelled, though casualties were light. p.m. the West Yorkshiremen were ordered to relieve the 2nd Scottish Rifles on the Black Line (Westhoek Ridge) and half an hour later was clear of the Blue Line. The relief of the Scottish Rifles was completed by 11-30 p.m., the front line being held by “ A,” “‘ C”’ and “‘ D” Companies, while “ B”’ Company was in support in Jaffa Avenue and posts near to it. The next morning at II a.m. a hundred of the enemy were seen advancing across the open, but they were dispersed by rifle and Lewis-gun fire. Throughout the day the German artillery kept a strong barrage of 5.9’s and 4.2’s on the Westhoek Ridge and the railway beyond it. Between 2 and 8 p.m. the barrage increased in intensity and was responsible for the death of two more gallant officers belonging to the 2nd West Yorkshires. About 3-15 p.m. Major R. J. McLaren was mortally wounded! and Capt. J. P. Palmer killed. During the night Ist/2nd August the 23rd Brigade was relieved by the 75th Brigade (25th Division) and moved back to Halifax Camp. The operations of 31st July/rst August had cost the 2nd West Yorkshires in officers: Three killed, three died of wounds, five wounded ; in other ranks: Twenty-one killed, 152 wounded and thirty-six missing.’ On the 3rd August Major H. St. J. Jeffries, Worcester Regiment, joined the battalion and assumed command vice Major McLaren, who had died of wounds on the previous day. Three days were spent by the 2nd West Yorkshires at Halifax Camp, and then on the 6th the battalion moved to huts and tents in Dominion Camp. On the roth the strength of the battalion stood at thirty-four officers and 669 other ranks, but of these seventeen officers and 118 other ranks were away from the battalion, leaving an average strength of seventeen officers and §51 other ranks. On the 11th all companies carried out a practice attack, and later officers took their N.C.O.’s to see a model of the ground and objectives in the forthcoming operations. On this day Divisional Orders, received at Brigade Headquarters, stated that on the night of

1 Died of Wounds, 2/8/17.

2 The narrative of the Battle of Pilckem is very bare, and in no way gives an accurate descrip- tion of the operations. Neither were the names of the officer casualties fother than those quoted

obtainable either from the Battalion or Brigade Diaries).

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1917 Bellewaarde Ridge 93

12th/13th August the 23rd Brigade was to relieve the 75th Brigade (25th Division) in the front line just east of the Bellewaarde Ridge. The West Yorkshiremen set out from Dominion Camp at 3 p.m. on the 13th for Swan Chateau, halting en route at Halifax Camp, where every man was completed with bombs, rifle-grenades, flares, etc. From Halifax Camp companies moved up by platoons and reached the dug-outs at Swan Chateau without incurring casualties. Throughout the 14th the battalion rested in dug-outs, though the C.O. and one officer from each company proceeded to Westhoek Ridge in order to reconnoitre the “‘ jumping-off ” place in the forthcoming attack.


Page 107



HE Battle of Pilkem and subsequent minor opera- tions had resulted in the Allied line being pushed forward a considerable distance from the Menin road to north-west of Bixschoote; south of the Menin road the gain in ground from the enemy was not so extensive. The second attack, ordered to take place at 4-45 a.m. on the 16th, was against the Langemarck-Gheluvelt line, the British front extending from the north-west corner of Inverness Copse to the junction of the Allied lines south of St. Janshoek. The First French Army, on the left of the British Army, also attacked the enemy. Orders issued from 23rd Brigade Headquarters on 13th August stated that, in conjunction with the 25th Brigade on the right and 48th Brigade on the left, the 23rd Brigade would attack the Green Line which ran in a general direction from Anzac to the cross-roads on the Ypres-Roulers railway (D.26.b.9.4.). The 2nd West Yorkshires were the right attacking battalion, and the 2nd Middlesex the left. The 2nd Devons were to act as “ carriers” and “‘ moppers-up,”’ and the 2nd Scottish Rifles were to hold the Black Line. The boundaries between attacking battalions were as follows : 2nd West Yorkshires, south boundary— J.1.d.7.6.—J.2.¢.3.9.—J.2.a.90.17.—J.—J.2.b.98.88 ; Nor- thern boundary — J.1.b.11. — J.1.b.11. — J.1.b.7.4. — J.2.a.5.8. — D.26.d.5.4.—D.27.c.1.6. The southern boundary of the Middlesex attack was the same as the northern boundary of the West Yorkshires ; the northern boundary of the Middlesex was the Ypres-Roulers rail- way (exclusive). At 1-30 p.m. on 15th the West Yorkshiremen, by sections, moved to the assembly trenches in Railway Wood, though before leaving Swan Chateau an enemy shell killed two men and wounded six; hostile aeroplanes also dropped bombs on the transport lines, wounding two more men. At Railway Wood tea was provided for the men, and at 10-30 p.m. the battalion moved up to the “‘jumping- line on Westhoek Ridge. There were no tracks or roads to

guide the companies, but by means of compasses the correct bearing 9s



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96 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

was obtained, the taped-out lines were found, and the battalion was successfully assembled on the eastern side of the Ridge by 2-30 a.m. The West Yorkshiremen were formed up in two waves on a three- company frontage—‘‘ A” on the right, ‘“‘B” in the centre, “C” on the left; ‘“‘D’”’ Company supplied a platoon as “‘ moppers-up ”’ to each of the three front companies, the remaining platoon forming a support in rear of the second wave. One company of the 2nd Devons was formed up on a third taped line, 100 yards in rear of the second wave of West Yorkshiremen, in order to act as “‘moppers-up”’ to the latter battalion. Thus all was ready for the attack. At 4-15 a.m. 23rd Brigade Headquarters reported to Divisional Headquarters that all battalions were in position and, half an hour later, the creeping barrage fell and the assaulting battalions began their advance. The Divisional barrage was immediately replied to by the enemy’s guns, which placed a heavy screen of fire on the top of the Westhoek Ridge, and also on the eastern side of it just west of the front forming-up tape, so that the leading waves suffered but little from it. Keeping close on the heels of their own barrage the West Yorkshiremen on the right, and the Middlesex on the left, advanced straight on their objectives, meeting with little opposition, for the guns had done their deadly work well. In Hannebeek Wood two machine-guns, still hot from firing, were found, their detach- ments lying near the guns—all killed or wounded. The machine- guns were found merely resting on the top of the parapet, and had been fired without tripods. The advance was successfully carried out up to the Green Line Ridge, and by about 7-30 a.m. an outpost line had been pushed down the eastern slope. But by this time the West Yorkshires’ line was extremely weak and was out of touch on both flanks. For an hour, however, lack of support on the flanks was not felt, then heavy machine-gun fire was suddenly opened on the West Yorkshiremen, who were compelled to withdraw their line to the western side of the Green Line. At 9.30 a.m. a strong hostile counter-attack began, the enemy advancing in considerable numbers all along the Ridge. Once again the battalion fell back and established two posts just east of the Hannebeek Wood, while the remainder of the battalion found shelter in the Wood itself. Had it been possible to get a message back to the guns immediately, the position might have been retrieved, but communication was bad, and it was not until about 10-15 a.m. that an S.O.S. barrage was opened along the Ridge, by which

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1917 The Enemy’s “‘ Pill Boxes” 97

time the enemy had established himself in front of the West Yorkshiremen. At 3-30 p.m. another hostile counter-attack developed against the right flank of the West Yorkshiremen, and the enemy succeeded in pushing forward and taking up a position in right rear of the two posts east of Hannebeek Wood. The garrison holding the posts was then ordered to retire to the western bank of the Beek, S.O.S. lights were fired and pigeons sent up, appealing to the guns for further assistance and, thirty minutes later, the gums opened. At 5 p.m. another S.O.S. was sent up by the battalion, which brought down an excellent barrage a few minutes later all along the Green Line Ridge. At II p.m. the 2nd West Yorkshires were ordered to withdraw to Railway Wood on relief by the 2nd Scottish Rifles. Very heavy casualties had been sustained by the battalion. When the survivors of the battalion withdrew to the final position west of the Hannebeek only two officers were left, the remainder having become casualties, and before relief came at 11 p.m. the two hitherto uninjured officers (Second-Lieuts. Crossland and Ferrill) were both killed by the same shell. Altogether ten officers had been lost: Killed—Capt. B. C. Clayton and Second-Lieuts. G. Whelan, R. P. Hoult, F. H. Gill, B. W. Long, W. P. Crossland, T. A. Ferrill and A. D. Woodcock ; Second-Lieuts.*J. Exley and J. G. Berry were missing. In other ranks the casualties were: Twelve killed, 121 wounded and 131 missing. Of the first day of the battle the Brigade Diary states : ‘‘ Great damage (was) done to the enemy, but owing to various divisions being held up the attack was not pushed through, and no further advance made.” The enemy’s resistance had been most obstinate in the centre; his “‘ pill boxes ” were of great assistance to him in repelling the attack. They were built of reinforced concrete many feet thick, and their construction had become necessary owing to the difficulty of making deep mined dug-outs in soil where water lay within a few feet of the surface of the ground. The ‘“‘ pill boxes ” (or field posts) were distributed in depth all along the front of the British advance, and offered serious obstacles to progress. They were heavily armed with machine-guns and manned by men who, the despatches add, ‘‘ were determined to hold on at all costs.’’ But in the remainder of the battle which ended on the 18th

August, the 2nd West Yorkshires took no part—the battalion had H

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5TH AvG.


98 The West Yorkshtre Regiment in the War I9I7

done its full share of the fighting—and throughout the 17th lay in Railway Wood “ cleaning-up and reorganising.” On the 18th it was relieved by a battalion of the London Regiment and marched back to Swan Chateau, leaving the latter place the following night (19th) for Halifax Camp, whither all units of the 23rd Brigade had withdrawn on relief by the 142nd Brigade of the 14th Division, which had relieved the 8th Division in the front line. On 2oth the 23rd Brigade moved to Caestre. Nearly a month elapsed before the next large attack—the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge (20th-25th September)—was made on the enemy. But in the interim three small local assaults upon the hostile trenches took place, and one of

these (on 27th August) was made by the 9th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment.

After relief from the front line in the Battle of Messines the 9th West Yorkshires, in gradual stages, had arrived in the Houtkerque training area on 23rd June, where the battalion remained throughout the remainder of the month and until the 13th July. On the latter date a move was made to Bayenghem for a period of “‘ intense train- ing ’’ and practising the attack for forthcoming operations. Eventu- ally on the last day of the month the battalion was located in “‘ D ” Camp in “ A.30,” from which place the C.O., Adjutant and Company Commanders visited the front line which had been captured from the enemy that very morning in the Battle of Pilkem. For four days the 9th West Yorkshires remained in Camp D ” awaiting orders, which came to hand on the 5th August, stating that on 6th the battalion would relieve the 9th Royal Scots on the (Yser) Canal Bank. The West Yorkshiremen left Camp “ D ” at 12-55 p.m. on 6th, and on reaching the Canal Bank “B,” “C” and “D” Companies went into dug-outs, whilst ‘“‘ A ’” Company moved forward to the old British front line. The next day the remainder of the battalion moved forward—‘‘ C” and ‘“‘ D” Companies occupying the front line with “‘ A” and “‘B” in reserve. This position was no sinecure, for the enemy’s shell-fire was intense, and from 9th to 13th, during which time the battalion held the line, ten other ranks were killed and twenty-nine wounded. Relief came on 14th, when the oth West Yorkshires proceeded to Dirty Bucket Camp. Two days were spent in the latter, and then the battalion moved back again to reserve dug-outs on the Canal Bank. From 18th to 25th practising the attack for forthcoming operations occupied all ranks, and at 9 p.m. on the 26th companies marched off to take over a portion of the front line held by the 9th Sherwood Foresters, north-east of St.

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1917 Appalling Conditions of No Man’s Land 99

Julien and east of the Steenbeek, with Battalion Headquarters at Maison Bulgare. In conjunction with troops on either flank, the 32nd Brigade (11th Division), to which the 9th West Yorkshires belonged, had been ordered to attack and capture the Pheasant Trench Line and establish a line of strong posts on the Blue Dotted Line. The attack was to be carried out by the 9th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel F. P. Worsley, commanding) on the right and the 8th Duke of Wellington’s Regi- ment on the left; one company of the 6th Yorkshire Regiment was to hold the posts on the extreme left of the Brigade front forming a point on the left flank of the attack. The objectives allotted to the gth West Yorkshires are given thus in the Battalion Diary : “‘Pheasant Trench from U.30.d.1.9. to C.6.b.9.1. The intention was to capture and hold the line with the first wave and to establish a line of posts from U.30.b.7.2. to D.1.a.6.2. with the second wave.” Each attacking battalion (formed into three platoons) was to advance with two companies in the front line, forming one wave ; two platoons of each company in the first line and the third platoon forming the second line. The remaining two companies of each battalion were to form the second wave. Of the 9th West Yorkshires the first wave consisted of ““C” Company on the right and “‘ D ” Company on the left ; in the second wave “‘ A’ Company was on the right and “ B ”’ on the left. The 7th Worcesters were on the right and the 8th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment on the left of the West Yorkshiremen. “* was at I-55 p.m. on 27th August, at which hour a orn heavy shrapnel barrage was put down on the enemy’s trenches. BATTALION. Under this barrage the attacking battalions left their assembly 7”"” Aus. trenches and began their advance. The most appalling conditions met the men as they endeavoured to cross No Man’s Land. Rain was falling heavily, and in many places the ground had become absolutely impassable. Mud and filth and great gaping shell-holes, in many places continuous and full of water, formed barriers across which it was impossible to advance. Three minutes after ‘“‘ Zero” hour—‘ at 1-58 p.m.” the Diary States, the enemy’s barrage fell on the Langemarck-Winnipeg road. From Pheasant Trench and several “ pill boxes ”’ (chief of which was Vieilles Maisons) heavy machine-gun and rifle fire now swept the ranks of the West Yorkshiremen, and the advance was checked. Presently the Divisional barrage lifted and a gallant attempt was made to occupy the enemy’s trenches, but by this time few men remained,

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100 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

and those who were successful in entering the trenches were unable, being too weak in numbers, to remain there. But one house at Vieilles Maisons was captured, and a line of posts was formed east of Bulow Farm, running parallel with Pheasant Trench. Here the battalion hung on. Throughout the 28th the line of posts taken up by the battalion on the previous day was consolidated, and the whole of Vieilles Maisons passed into the hands of the West Yorkshiremen without opposition. On the 29th the battalion was relieved and marched back to billets in Poperinghe. In this affair, which is not even mentioned in the official des- patches, though the 11th and 48th Divisions both took part in it, the 9th West Yorkshires lost three officers killed! and eight wounded, and in other ranks sixty-two killed, 144 wounded and seventeen missing. Some three weeks were now spent by the battalion out of the line, and during this period special training in the attack on “ pill boxes ”’ was given to all ranks. The companies, which in the action of 27th August had fought on a three-platoon basis, resumed the normal formation of four platoons per company. On the 24th September the battalion marched from Poperinghe and relieved the 6th Gordon Highlanders in the support line near Langemarck, and on the 28th took over the front line at Bulow Farm from the 6th York and Lancaster Regiment. The 29th and 30th were comfortless and nerve-wracking days, for the enemy’s shell-fire was continuous, and when the month closed one officer and 24 other ranks had been wounded, and nine other ranks killed.

1 Names not obtainable from the Dianes.

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BATTLE OF THE MENIN ROAD RIDGE, 20th—25th September, 1917

HE official despatches state that: “‘ At the beginning of September the weather gradually improved and artillery and other preparations for my next attack proceeded steadily. But the extent of the prepara- tions required, however, and the need to give the ground time to recover from the heavy rains of August rendered a considerable interval unavoidable before a new advance could be undertaken. The 20th September was therefore chosen for the date of our attack, and before that day our preparations had been completed. The front extended from the Ypres-Comines Canal, north of Hollebeke, to the Ypres-Staden railway north of Langemarck, a distance of just over eight miles along the line held by us. The average depth of our objectives was 1,000 yards, which increased to a depth of a mile in the neighbourhood of the Menin road.” The latter sentence is particularly interesting to the 11th West Yorkshires, as it refers to the depth of the objectives allotted to the 23rd Division (right) and Australians (left), the greatest depth along the whole front in the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. From the night of 13th June to the 27th of that month, the 11th West Yorkshires remained at ‘“‘ P”’ Camp in the Oudedom, or, as the Brigade Diary describes it, Berthen area, refitting, reorganising and training. On 28th the 69th Brigade moved to camp near Chippewa, and on the 29th relieved the 72nd Brigade in the line north of the Ypres-Comines Canal. The 11th West Yorkshires held the Battle Wood sub-sector. The month of July was uneventful, the battalion during periodical tours in the trenches, in support, or in Micmac Camp. One tour in the front line was costly, the West Yorkshiremen suffering sixteen other ranks killed and fifty-seven wounded. The whole of August and the better part of September were spent out of the line, and it was not until the 18th of the latter month that the battalion left Micmac Camp at 9 a.m. and proceeded

to relieve the 8th York and Lancaster Regiment, which was then 101




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102 The West Yorkshre Regiment in the War 1917

holding the Inverness Copse sub-sector. The battalion strength on going into the line was only twenty-one officers and 590 other ranks, and before the relief was completed twenty-five more casualties had been suffered. The 19th September was spent in making final arrangements for the assembly and attack, to take place on 20th. The 23rd Division had been ordered to capture the high ground forming part of the Menin Road Ridge,? the attack to be carried out in three successive phases known as the Red, Blue and Green objectives. The 68th Brigade was to attack on the right and the 69th Brigade on the left, the Division having on its right flank the 41st Division and on the left the 1st Australian Division. On the 69th Brigade front the Red objective was to be assaulted and captured by the 11th West Yorkshires, the Blue objective by the 9th Yorkshire Regiment, and the Green objective by the roth Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. Orders issued from Brigade Headquarters stated that : ** The advance of the 11th West Yorkshire Regiment will commence at ‘ Zero” plus three minutes, preceded by a succession of creeping barrages nearly 1,000 yards in depth from ‘ Zero’ hour.” “ Zero” hour was §-40 a.m. on 20th September. At Io p.m., whilst the troops were forming-up for the assembly, heavy rain fell and continued for an hour. There are no details of the actual positions of assembly in the Battalion Diary, but apparently the 11th West Yorkshires had three companies in the front line and one in support, and when all movements had been completed ready for the attack to begin, the West Yorkshiremen were east of the enemy barrage line Stirling Castle-Clapham Junction. Luieut.- Colonel M. G. H. Barker (commanding 11th West Yorkshire Regi- ment), after visiting all companies, handed over his command to Major H. H. Hudson and was withdrawn to Brigade Headquarters, where he assisted the G.O.C. until the conclusion of the operations on 24th. Although the task of assembling the troops had been carried out in silence and without a hitch, about § a.m. the enemy opened a tentative barrage on the eastern edge of Inverness Copse, which caused the West Yorkshiremen somewhat heavy losses, nearly fifty other ranks being killed or wounded. But the barrage fortunately lasted only half an hour, and the final hour before ‘‘ Zero”’ was passed in quietude. At 5-40 a.m. the barrage opened and fell with a tremendous

1 The 60th Brigade Diary says the Passchendaele Ridge, but this is probably a confusion with the Menin Road Ridge

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1917 Smoking captured German cigars 103

crash upon the enemy’s trenches. Three minutes later the West Yorkshires advanced to the attack. A mist hung over the battlefield, and observation beyond a couple of hundred yards was impossible. Inverness Copse, attacked by the West Yorkshiremen, was very strongly held, but the British barrage had demoralised the Germans, who were very ready to surrender. With splendid precision the attack advanced towards the Red Line, everything going in clock- work like fashion. In the advance a slight gap occurred between the left and centre companies of the West Yorkshires, but it was at once filled with two platoons of the Reserve Company under Lieut. Irving who, on his own initiative, rushed the two platoons up into the line. By half an hour after “‘ Zero’ (6-10 a.m.) the Red Line had been captured and consolidation begun, while patrols were pushed forward all along the line to “ mop up ” as close as possible to the standing barrage, and to discover crossings over the Basseville Beek and surrounding boggy ground. Dug-outs were cleared of the enemy and other Germans were rounded up in the woods, the ‘‘ mopping-up ” task being carried out most successfully. Some of the West Yorkshiremen even pushed on through their own barrage and began the assault of the Tower (‘“‘ Tower Hamlets ’’) and the neighbouring dug-outs, the chief of these parties being led by Lieut. Irving who, the report states, ‘‘ displayed exceptional initia- tive, courage and energy.”

During this period the 9th Yorkshire Regiment closed up and prepared to assault the 2nd objective—the Blue Line. In front of the Red Line the 11th West Yorkshires had captured some old German Aid Posts, and these were handed over to the 9th Yorkshires for Battalion Headquarters. An advanced report centre at the north- west corner of Inverness Copse, which had been established by

Second-Lieut. Lyne-Stephens of the 11th West Yorkshires, did fine 11TH work in collecting and sending back information and keeping touch BATTAtion.

with advanced parties of the Brigade. The Brigade Diary relates that : “Isolated cases of fighting still occurred in Inverness Copse, and more than one German sent up the S.O.S. from behind, but resis- tance was soon overpowered. The pause enabled direction to be checked by compass by officers in all parts of the line while rhe men, in the best of spirits, sat smoking captured German cigars and waiting for the moment to advance.

The Battalion Diary concludes with this sentence: ‘ The battalion remained in the line clearing the battlefield unul 24th /25th,



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104 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

when it was relieved by units of the 98th and rooth Brigades (33rd Division) and moved back to Micmac Camp.” The losses of the 11th West Yorkshires were severe. All four Company Commanders had been either killed or wounded, the former including Capt. C. A. Town and Second-Lieut. F. J. Thomas, whilst two officers—Second-Lieuts. J. Cave and W. Baker—died of wounds ; three other officers were wounded. In other ranks the losses were fifty-six killed, four died of wounds, 208 wounded and

ten missing; in all a total of seven officers and 281 other ranks. The Battalion Medical Officer—Capt. D. O. Riddell—was wounded on 21st. On 27th September the 11th West Yorkshires moved back again into the line, taking over the line in support from mixed elements of the 33rd Division in the Inverness Copse sector. Here, until Ist October, the battalion remained, and although other units of the 69th Brigade were engaged with the enemy, the West Yorkshiremen were not involved, though they had to endure some very heavy shelling. At 9-45 p.m. on Ist October they were relieved by the Gloucesters and moved back to the Canal Bank, thence on 2nd to Ridgewood, and finally, on 3rd, to the Berthe area.

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THE BATTLE OF POLYGON WOOD, 26th Sept.—3rd Oct., 1917

N his despatches Sir Douglas Haig stated that the heavy hostile counter-attacks which followed the successful Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, were not allowed to interfere with the arrangements made for a renewal of the advance by the Second and Fifth Armies on 26th September. The front of attack on this date extended from south of Tower Hamlets to north-east of St. Julien, a total distance of rather less than six miles. South of the Menin road only a short advance was intended, the object of the attack north of the road being to obtain a position from which a direct attack could be made upon the portion of the main ridge between Noordenhoek and Brood- seinde, traversed by the Becelaere-Passchendaele road. ** Zero’ hour was fixed at 5-50 a.m. In this attack the 3rd Division, which had but recently arrived in the Ypres area from the Morchies, Louverval and Lagnicourt sectors (Third Army), took part. Although the 12th West York- 12TH shires (Lieut.-Colonel R. C. Smythe) (9th Brigade) was not one of BAaTTAtion. the assaulting battalions in the initial attack, it is nevertheless neces- sary to record briefly the actions of the 12th Battalion during the battle. After the Battle of the Scarpe, 3rd/4th May, the 3rd Division was relieved on 13th May by the 27th Division and moved out of 13TH May. the front line. On 13th the 9th Brigade moved to Simencourt, thence to Manim on 18th and to Habarcq on 31st. On Ist June, ist June. however, the 9th Brigade returned to Arras and, until the 2oth of the month, the 12th West Yorkshires did alternate duty in the Brown Line, the support trenches and the front line. On the 20th, however, 20TH June. a move was made (in Brigade) to a fresh area, Gouy-en-Artois, where the remainder of June was spent, the 3rd Division receiving warning that it was to go into the Hermies sector on the night 30th July, relieving the 48th Division. The 9th Brigade was to relieve the 145th Brigade in the right Brigade sector between Ist and 41H Juty. 4th July.


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106 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

The 12th West Yorkshires had arrived in buses at Achiet-le- Petit on 30th June, marching to Velu on 2nd July where, until the 8th, the battalion remained in training. On the night of the latter date the West Yorkshiremen moved up into the front-line trenches. This tour was the first of many spent in the front lineof the Morchies- Louverval-Lagnicourt sector and, until the 3rd Division moved up north to the Ypres Salient in September, there was (to use a collo- quial phrase much in use during the war) ‘‘ nothing doing.” On 17th September “‘ A,”’ “ B ” and ‘* C ” Companies marched (in Brigade) to Miraumont, entraining at the latter place on 18th for Houpoutre. From the latter place the battalion marched to the Watou area, moving to Brandhoek on 19th in Corps Reserve to an attack by the 9th Division. The Brigade was not, however, involved in the operations of 20th September, and it was not until the 22nd that front-line trenches were taken over from 27th Infantry Brigade (9th Division). On 23rd the 12th West Yorkshires and 4th Royal Fusiliers relieved the South African Brigade in the left Brigade sector, the relief being completed at 2-30 a.m. on 24th. At 6a.m. on the latter date the enemy placed a very heavy barrage on the support line, using gas shells, and all day long artillery duels between the opposing forces took place. Two officers were sent to hospital suffering from gas, and two other officers (including the Battalion M.O.) were wounded. On 25th preparations were continued for the operations which were to take place on the following morning, the guns were busy all day, and heavy intermittent shell-fire was opened by the enemy. On this day another officer of the 12th West Yorkshires was wounded. Briefly, the plan of attack was as follows: The 76th Infantry Brigade on the right, and the 8th Infantry Brigade on the left, were to advance, each on a two-battalion frontage, each battalion on a 400-yards frontage and each with two companies in the front in two waves of two platoons each. To each company was allotted a definite objective, companies leap-frogging one another as the advance progressed. Similarly, the two following battalions of each brigade leap-frogged the leading battalions on the first objective. The leading battalions were then to ‘‘ mop-up” their areas, re-form, consolidate, and, if required, be prepared to support the battalion which had passed through. In order to have an immediate reserve at the disposal of the Brigade Commanders, the two battalions of the gth Infantry Brigade, one in each Brigade sector, which were holding the front line prior to the concentration, were to be withdrawn to

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positions in Brigade Reserve, leaving garrisons in all the concrete strong points. Thus the 12th West Yorkshires were not to take part in the initial attack, but were to be drawn back and placed at the disposal of the G.O.C., 8th Infantry Brigade as his reserve. At 2-30 a.m.on the 26th, the 8th East Yorkshires and 2nd Royal Scots relieved the 12th West Yorkshires in the front line; these two battalions successfully formed up in their assembly positions while the West Yorkshiremen marched back to Grey Ruin area in Brigade Reserve, occupying most uncomfortable positions in shell- holes. The final direction of the attack of the 3rd Division was east- wards towards Zonnebeke. At 5-30 a.m. on 26th September, after a two hours’ heavy bombardment, the advance was begun under a triple barrage. A heavy ground mist covered the battlefield and to keep direction was difficult, but by the aid of compasses the correct bearing was obtained. Across boggy ground the troops advanced gallantly to the attack, and the right Brigade of the 3rd Division captured the first objective without serious loss. The 8th Brigade, however, experienced greater difficulty, the ground over which the attacking troops were advancing being boggy and marshy. Up to midday the position of the 8th Infantry Brigade was obscure. At 11 a.m the 12th West Yorkshires received orders to move forward to positions near the battalion’s original line, in support of the attack of the 8th Brigade. The West Yorkshiremen therefore moved up to a ridge running from Zonnebeke Road to Waterend Farm, through Bremen Redoubt, Battalion Headquarters being established at D.26.a.6.5. At 2 p.m. the position of the 3rd Division seems to have been as follows : 76th Infantry Brigade (Right) 2nd Suffolks, Blue Line— Brickyard to Zonnebeke Church, roth R. W. Fusiliers from Church 1§0 yards along road running N.W. from the Church, 8th K.O.R.L. between Tokio and St. Joseph’s Institute, 1st Gordons between St. Joseph’s Institute and the railway, two companies 1st North- umberland Fusiliers (9th Brigade) just east of Frezenberg Ridge, and the remaining two companies of this battalion in the original front line. 8th Infantry Brigade 2nd Royal Scots (right) from the Concrete Work at D.21.d.7.6. (inc.) to D.21.a.6.0. with a post at D.21.d.0.3., 7th K.S.L.I. Station-Kansas cross-roads from opposite Levi Cotts to south of Dochy Farm, the 8th East Yorkshires and 12th


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108 The West Regiment in the War 1917

West Yorkshires on a line 150 yards in rear (south-west) of the 7th K.S.L.I.) Hill 40 and the Station had apparently held up the advance of the 8th Brigade and another attack on these two points, at 6-30 p.m., was ordered. In this attack the 12th West Yorkshires were ordered to be in close support, but the results of the fresh attempt were not very successful, and the Divisional narrative thus describes the reason : there was delay in getting out orders to the battalion commanders of the 8th Infantry Brigade, and it appears that owing to the men being scattered in isolated groups in shell-holes, and to the activity of hostile snipers and machine-guns, the orders for the attack failed to reach all units in the front line, with the result that instead of a well-organised and combined advance on the part of the attacking troops, only small parties started to advance.” The attack was brought to a standstill, and subsequently a small loss of ground (owing to a mistake) took place, about 100 yards on the right and 200 yards in the centre. The Battalion Diary of the 12th West Yorkshires sums the action up very briefly: ‘‘ 6-30 p.m. Heavy enemy barrage placed on supporting battalions. Our attacking battalions moved forward, but apparently as they were not supported on the flanks they halted, and a few groups appeared to move back to jumping-off places. Two companies of 12th West Yorkshires still moved forward and reinforced the front line, the remaining two making their way to the original British Line and assuming battle formation there. Enemy counter-attacked near Hill 40, but were repulsed. The day closed with the 12th West Yorkshires strongly reinforcing the front line, and efforts were made to get communication on either side of support- ing companies. During the attack Battalion Headquarters moved to and occupied shell-holes on the ridge top, about 600 yards behind front line.” On 27th reorganisation took place and continued all day, the West Yorkshiremen holding their position of 26th. About 6 p.m. the Germans were reported massing on Hill 40 for an attack. Forty minutes later an intense enemy barrage opened on the supporting lines, and at 6-45 an attack was launched from north-west of Hill 40. But, in response to the S.O.S., the British barrage opened quickly and the German attack was broken. For a couple of hours, how- ever, the enemy continued shelling the back areas. On the morning of 28th, at 3 a.m., orders were received by the West Yorkshiremen to

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1917 Fine progress made 109

reorganise immediately, as the 8th Brigade was to be relieved. Com- tH panies were then reorganised, ““B” and “A” in the forward PATTALION. support lines, and “‘ C”’ and “‘ D ” in rear support. The 29th and 30th appear to have been uneventful, though heavy shelling by both sides was frequent, and at 2 a.m. on Ist October, having been relieved 1st Oct. by units of the 9th Australian Brigade, the 12th West Yorkshires were withdrawn from the line and moved back to Camp at Vlamer- tinghe. In the Battle of Polygon Wood fine progress had again been made all along the line, and the greatest depth of ground won was on the front of the attack made by the 3rd Division and 4th Australian Division, left and right respectively, where, in spite of very heavy counter-attacks delivered with great violence and accompanied by

flammenwerfer, only two small posts south of the Polygon Wood were lost.

Back in camp at Vlamertinghe, the 12th West Yorkshires set to work to clean up and reorganise, for the battalion had suffered many casualties in the operations between 24th September and Ist October. One officer (Second-Lieut. R. F. W. Walton) had been killed in action on 26th September. Another officer, wounded (Second-Lieut. R. S. Clapham), had died of his wounds on 28th September. Capts. N. Parrington, P. R. Hall and P. M. Amy, Lieuts. P. S. Wakefield, A. D. Young and M. S. Munro—M.O.— and Second-Lieuts. A. G. Cowman, C. Lowther and J. C. Barker, were wounded. In other ranks the battalion had lost twenty-nine killed, 176 wounded and ten missing. On 3rd October, the 3rd Division received orders to concentrate in the St. Omer and Wizernes areas, previous to entrainment on 4th and sth for the Third Army area north of the Somme. The 12th West Yorkshires (in Brigade) entrained at Wizernes on §th for Bapaume, and on reaching the latter place moved to Lechelle. The 3rd Division, having been ordered to relieve the 62nd Division in the Lagnicourt-Noreuil sector, the 9th Infantry Brigade relieved the 186th Brigade on the night of the gth/1oth and roth/11th October. Ocr.

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T 6 o’clock on the morning of 4th October, the British advance was resumed. The attack delivered on this day was against the near line of the ridge east of Zonnebeke, the principal front of attack extending from the Menin road to the Ypres-Staden Railway— a distance of about seven miles; it was successful at all points, and large numbers of prisoners (some 5,000 including 138 officers) were taken. On the northern flank of the attack the r1th and 4th Divisions advanced between the Stroombeek and the Ypres-Staden railway. But the 9th West Yorkshires (in Brigade) were not involved in this 9rx Battle, the battalion, with other units of the 32nd Infantry Brigade, BATTALION, being then out of the line, practising for the next attack to take place on gth October. Of the 21st West Yorkshires (Pioneers) with the 4th Division, 21st it is impossible to say much, the battalion narrative consisting of BATTALION. three lines only: “ B,” “‘C” and ‘“‘ D” (Companies) repairing roads and tramways, and laying duck-board tracks Sandy Farm to Ings (one killed, seven wounded). Division attacked from north of Poelcappelle. Four of our Lewis-gun teams went over with the Division. ‘“‘ A’? Company attached to 7th York and Lancaster Regiment and camped at B.23.d.9.8.” The 21st Battalion had but recently arrived in the Ypres Salient, having been at work for several months in the Arras area. On 7th September the Pioneers had handed over all work to a Pioneer Battalion of 15th Division, and on the 8th marched to camp at Blairville for rest and training. And they deserved a rest, for since 30th April the battalion had been at work continuously—a hard life. Leaving Blairville on 20th September the Pioneers proceeded 20TH Serr. by rail to Peselhoek, and on arrival at the latter place marched to Camp Pheasant, near Proven. Four more days of rest and training, and then ‘“‘C”’ Company of the battalion was sent off to the Yser 11

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2ND Oct.

4TH Oct.

112 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

Canal Bank for work with the 2oth Division. On the 28th the whole battalion moved to the Canal Bank, relieving the 11th Battalion (Pioneers) D.L.I. From now onwards the 21st West Yorkshires were engaged in work on the roads and tramways in the Langemarck area. Although not exposed to such intense fire as that suffered by battalions holding the front-line or support trenches, the gallant Pioneers none the less carried out their work, in the midst of a good deal of danger. The enemy’s guns were continually searching the back areas for working parties, whilst his aeroplanes bombed any spot which showed abnormal activity, or wherever a number of men presented a possible target. On the 2nd October the battalion had several men wounded. On this day “‘A” Company was at work on the railway, and “‘ C ” was engaged in extending the tramways from Steenbeke to Langemarck, necessitated by the successful advance which had been made. “‘B” and “ D” Companies erected camou- flage screens at Marsouin Farm and Gaity Farm. During this work the Pioneers had nine men wounded. During the Battle of Broodseinde, on 4th October, the Pioneers had eight killed and wounded, and it is probable that the four Lewis-gun teams, which “went with the 4th Division, suffered more casualties, but there are no records to confirm this. The pity is that there is no narrative describing the actions of these gallant Lewis gunners.

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N the six battles which preceded the operations of 9th October, known as the Battle of Poelcappelle, the Allied line had been pushed a considerable distance east, north-east and north of Ypres, large numbers of prisoners had been taken from the enemy, great numbers of his troops had been killed, much material captured or destroyed, and the new German system defence—his pill boxes—had been brought to naught, by the successful methods adopted by both French and British Commanders. Nevertheless, the northern portion of the Passchendaele Ridge still remained in the enemy’s hands, and so long as it was in his possession the uncaptured portion was a menace to the security of the British line. But the time had come when Sir Douglas Haig had need to reconsider his position, the ‘‘ general situation ”’ had to be studied and, indeed, at this period the Allies were in a none too favourable position. The failure of the Russian offensive in July had resulted in the Russian Armies' ceasing to be a fighting force, internal troubles had affected very seriously the fighting capacity of the French Armies, the situation on the Italian front was disquieting, large numbers of German forces were being transferred from the Eastern Front (set free by the Russian collapse) to France and Flanders, and America, at this period, was unable to lend any assis- tance on land. The British Army was the only Allied Army capable of conducting serious offensive operations, and if that offensive ceased the enemy would regain the initiative and be free to attack where he knew the Allied line was weakest. It therefore followed that Sir Douglas Haig must continue to attack until the coming of winter prevented, for the time being, the danger of a German counter-attack. The decision to continue the attack having been made, the next combined operation (the Battle of Poelcappelle) was ordered to take place from a point east of Zonnebeke to a point opposite Draaibank,

* Russia was proclaimed a Republic by the Provisiona) Government on 15th September, 1917. I 113

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1/5TH, 1/6TH 1/7TH, 1/8TH QTH, 218T BATTALIONS.



114 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

the British front stretching from east of Zonnebeke to the junction of the Allied line north-west of Langemarck, a distance of over six miles. ‘“ Z” day was to be 9th October and “‘ Zero ”’ hour 5-20 a.m. The despatches describe this attack very briefly, but they mention certain Divisions in which battalions of the West Yorkshire Regi- ment were contained: “‘ On the right of the Guards, other English Divisions (29th and 4th) made equal progress along the Ypres- Staden railway, and secured a line well to the east of the Poelcappelle- Houthulst road. Stiff fighting took place around certain strong points, in the course of which a hostile counter-attack was repulsed. Farther south, English battalions (11th Division) fought their way forward in the face of great opposition to the eastern outskirts of Poelcappelle village. Australian troops and East Lancashire (66th Division), Yorkshire (49th Division) and South Midland Territorials (48th Division) carried our line forward in the direction of Passchen- daele and up the western slopes of the main ridge, capturing

Nieuwemolen and Keerselaarhoek and a number of strong points and fortified farms.”

Thus the 1 5th, 1/6th, 1/7th and 1/8th Battalions West York- shire Regiment of the 49th Division, the 9th Battalion of the 11th Division and the 21st Battalion (Pioneers) of the 4th Division, were all in the battle area. For several months (from the end of February to the middle of July, 1917) the 49th Division had spent a comparatively quiet period in the Laventie area. In a way it was recompense for the long, weary and terribly exhausting months through which the Division had passed, in the Ypres Salient, soon after its arrival in France. With the exception of raids and patrol encounters no attacks were made by the enemy or by the 49th in the Fauquissart sector, and yet it is impossible to dismiss those four and a half months of trench warfare without some mention of numerous incidents in the lives of the four battalions of West Yorkshiremen comprising the 146th Brigade of the Division. On the 2nd March the Brigade Diary describes the new sector as a “‘ very quiet sector, no trenches, all breastworks. German front line under water and not held. All our sector under observa- tion from Aubers Ridge.” The enemy’s activity with trench-mortars and rifle grenades, and several attempts by his patrols to raid the British trenches, seem to have kept the 1/5th West Yorkshires busy whilst in the front line during March. Lieut.-Colonel Bousfield still commanded the

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1917 Loss of a gallant young Officer II§

battalion. Casualties were negligible, and on most days the Diary records ‘‘ casualties nil.” In April much patrol work was carried out, the enemy’s front line being kept continually under observation, and although on several nights two, and even three, patrols crossed No Man’s Land, losses were small. On 1st May the strength of the st Mav. 1/5th Battalion was forty-one officers and 815 other ranks. On 16th Second-Lieut. D. W. Wallace and sixteen other ranks, all of ““A”’ Company, carried out a “silent raid ”’ on an enemy post. This raid was a complete success, one German N.C.O. and five men being captured and three more killed, the West Yorkshiremen suffering no casualties. The G.O.C., XIth Corps, wired his con- gratulations to the battalion and the G.O.C., 49th Division, addressed the raiding party when it came out of the trenches. During the month Major W. Oddie and another officer were wounded. During July only one other rank was killed, though again much patrol work was carried out by the battalion. On roth July the 1/sth West rorn Jury. Yorkshires were relieved by a battalion of Portuguese and marched off to Estaires, where all ranks went into billets. March was a quiet month also for the 1/6th West Yorkshires. 1 6TH On 2nd April Major H. D. Anderton left the battalion to take com- BATTALION. mand of the 2/6th Lancashire Fusiliers; the Battalion Diary is signed by Major R. Clough at the end of the month, so apparently he was then in command. Like the 1/5th, the 1/6th Battalion sent out many patrols, and the adventures of one of these parties is given in full, as the narrative records the actions and death of a gallant young Officer, little more than a boy, whose loss was felt by all ranks. The affair took place on the night of 26/27th May: “A recon- noitring patrol, consisting of Second-Lieut. C. S. Harris and two May. other ranks, left our lines at 1-10 a.m. at M.24.b.75.90 to investigate conditions of enemy line at N.19.a.28.59. Patrol moved forward to parapet where a party of about fifteen Boches was seen, forty yards to the left (north) of the patrol in the trench. Huns passed the point where our patrol lay, halting thirty yards on right of it (south) and climbed on to the parapet. Whispering was heard, then one of our patrol saw two Boches crawling towards them, so he warned Second-Lieut. Harris, who arranged that if the two Boches spotted and dropped on them he (Second-Lieut. Harris) would take on the right-hand man and Scout O’Donnell should take on the left-hand man. Patrol faced the two Boches and, peeping over the shell-hole (in which they were lying) saw that the Boches were only a few yards

away. Second-Lieut. Harris, finding that progress was barred,

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116 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

called upon the Boches to‘ put their hands up.’ The two Boches then got up, and, calling something out, evidently to warn the rest of the group, aimed rifles at Second-Lieut. Harris and Scout O’Donnell, who then fired their revolvers. The two Boches fired simul- taneously but they dropped. Our patrol then fired again and the right-hand Boche dropped again, but raising himself on his knees, he got to his feet and fired his rifle point-blank at Second-Lieut. Harris just as he was throwing a bomb, having emptied his revolver. Both he and the Hun dropped at the same moment, Second-Lieut. Harris being killed, shot through the chest. The two scouts, finding that Second-Lieut. Harris was killed and that the remainder of the Huns were getting round them, were compelled to retire.” They eventually reached their own trenches. ‘A patrol of two other ranks went out as soon as it was daylight and searched the ground, but could find no trace of either the body of Second-Lieut. Harris or those of the two Huns who were most certainly killed.” The nafrative ceases with the following words: ‘“‘ The Battalion lost in Second-Lieut. Harris one of the most gallant and one of the most lovable officers who ever joined the battalion. All ranks deeply deplored this loss.” The 1/6th lost another brave officer on 12th June, one of two who were in charge of a large fighting patrol of seventy other ranks who went out at 12-30 a.m. and penetrated the enemy’s front line with the object of killing or capturing enemy in the vicinity of Bertha Sap. ‘‘ The party was hampered by the wire, which was difficult to get through even at a slow pace, and the enemy fired on them with rifles, low machine-gun fire and bombs. On the order to charge being given the men responded splendidly, and though often tied up in the wire or immersed in water, never ceased working forward until they had penetrated the enemy line at practically every point. The enemy put up a barrage of bombs on his parapet and bolted, pursued for some distance by our own bombers and Lewis-gun fire. Numerous casualties were inflicted on the enemy, but no prisoners were taken. The men withdrew in very good order, and it was then found that Second-Lieut. H. E. Jackson was missing. Search parties went out with no result. Second-Lieut. Jackson was seen standing on top of a Boche dug-out calling upon some of the enemy to put their hands up. He was last seen chasing two Boches down a communication trench. Three other ranks were also Little of importance happened after this patrol affair and, on 9th

1 Second-Lieut. H. E. Jackson was subsequently reported killed.

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1917 German Raid Repulsed 117

July, the 1/6th was relieved and went into billets in Sailly, marching to La Gorgue during the afternoon of 11th.

The Diary of the 1/7th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel C. 1/7TH H. Tetley) up to the date (5th July) when the battalion left the BATTALION. trenches in the Fauquissart sector for the last time, contains few items but the words “ nothing to report.” On the roth July the torn Jury. battalion moved from Laventie to billets in Estaires.

Towards the end of March a determined hostile raid was made on the 1/8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel Hudson). From 1/8Tx 5 p.m. to 6-30 p.m. on 25th the enemy’s guns heavily shelled a BATTALION. portion of the line held by the battalion, 1.e., from M.24.b.7.8. to N.13.a.1.2. Again from 7 p.m. to 10-30 p.m., North Elgin St. was bombarded. At 11-30 p.m. a party of about forty Germans endeavoured to enter the front-line trenches of the 1/8th West Yorkshires, immediately north of Bedford Row (M.24.b.7.8.). They threw many bombs but were driven back by rifle fire. The enemy appears to have separated into small parties, and one of them was attacked by a patrol of West Yorkshires who turned a Lewis gun on to the Germans. The 1/8th suffered the loss of two killed (including Second-Lieut. J. C. Chadwick) and seven wounded, while the enemy left three dead on the field, though he succeeded in

carrying back his wounded. Valuable information was obtained from letters and notebooks found on the dead Germans.

The repulse of this determined attack drew from the Divisional Commander the following message to the O.C., 1/8th West York- shires: ‘‘ The Divisional Commander is much pleased at the manner in which the German raid last night was driven off. Infor- mation was sent back throughout the preliminary bombardment without delay ; the plan based upon it is an excellent example of the best and boldest method of meeting an attack, and the execution showed boldness and determination on the part of all who were On 19th May an unlucky shell, which fell near Battalion 19TH May. Headquarters (M.4.d.73.10.), killed Second-Lieut. J. W. Raistrick. June was a quiet month, only six casualties being suffered by the battalion, and of these only one was patrol. On the 9th July the 1/8th 9TH

West Yorkshires were relieved by a Portuguese battalion and moved to Le Nouveau Monde.

About the middle of July the 49th Division moved to the

Belgian coast. The 146th Brigade began entraining at Estaires for the Fort Mardyck area on 13th, and the move was completed by

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118 The West Yorkshtre Regiment in the War 1917

the 14th, the Brigade being then in camps amongst the sand dunes, south-west of Dunkerque. The Brigade was to have had a week on coast defence, but plans were suddenly changed and on 17th all units moved to the Coxyde-Oost Dunkerque area, under orders to take over the right sector (St. George’s) of the Nieuport trenches. On the 18th the Brigade took over the front line from the 96th Brigade

1/sTH, 1/6Tn (32nd Division), the 1/6th West Yorkshires relieving the 2nd 1/7TH, 1/8TH Inniskilling Fusiliers in the right sub-sector, the 1/5th relieving the



16th Lancashire Fusiliers in the left sub-sector; the 1/8th Battalion went into support billets at Nieuport and the 1/7th to Rebaillet Camp, in reserve. The new sector is thus described by Capt. E. V. Tempest (1/6th West Yorkshire Regiment): ‘‘ The Brigade sector was divided by the canalised Yser river, a broad waterway about thirty- five yards wide. Another waterway, the Passchendaele Canal, formed the left of the Brigade front and on the right was Noord Vaart. All these waterways ran into a wide and deep canal which surrounded the town of Nieuport. Thus the communications of the front line depended on bridges. There was a very great contrast between the right and left sub-sectors of the Brigade front. On the right, in what was called the St. George sector, a reach of water one kilometre in extent, strengthed between our own and the enemy lines. Natur- ally this sector was very quiet. On the left, the Brigade was holding about 500 yards of the bridge-head on the north of the Yser, which remained in British hands after the July roth attack. This sub- sector was extremely unpleasant and noisy. It was therefore arranged that the 1/6th Battalion should remain in the St. George sector during the whole time the Brigade was in the line, and that the other bat- talions should relieve each other every four days in the left sub-sector. Thus the 1/6th Battalion was extremely fortunate, and our men were able every night to look northwards across the Yser to the lines on the left near the Passchendaele Canal and Lombartzyde, and from their comparatively quiet area regard the incessant fury of a constant battle, rather in the same way that men from Authville Wood in 1916 looked across the valley to the fighting in the Leipzig Salient. No battalion, however, in the Nieuport sector in July could escape heavy casualties, as all roads and trenches converged on to the Nieuport Bridges. And it is no exaggeration to say that every man who lived in or walked through Nieuport from July 18th to July 29th was lucky if he escaped becoming a casualty.” The Brigade Diary comments on the new line thus: “ Very

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1917 Heavy Hostile Gas Shelling 119

little work been done in the sector—trenches (breastworks) not even 22ND Juy. bullet-proof—communications very bad indeed.” With the exception of violent shelling by both sides and patrol work by night, little happened until the 22nd July, when the enemy vigorously shelled Nieuport and area with gas shells, causing very heavy casualties throughout the whole of the 49th Division. The bombardment began between 11 p.m. and midnight, the town of Nieuport being literally drenched with gas. The Diary of the 1/6th West Yorkshires speaks of it as a new kind of gas, and though the battalion suffered less than any unit in the neighbourhood, its total losses were thirty-eight “‘ gassed.”» The St. George’s sector was really outside the shelled area but the gas was very insidious. The 1/5th, however, lost heavily. The battalion was disposed 1/5Tx as follows : ‘‘ A”? Company was on the right in Nice Trench, ‘‘ C ” BATTAtion. on the left in Nun Trench, ‘‘ D ” Company in support and “ B” Company in reserve in Nieuport. As already stated, Nieuport received the full blast of the tornado, but despite the severity of the fire in the front-line trenches, comparatively little damage was done to Nice Avenue and Nice Walk. The unfortunate company in reserve in Nieuport—“‘ B ”—was almost entirely put out of action, four officers and 141 other ranks being gassed ; the casualties from shell-fire being only one other ranks killed and six wounded. The Diary of the 1/7th Battalion merely records that the “‘ Battalion ‘ stood to’ for S.O.S. left Brigade. No developments. Batration. Intense The best narrative is contained in the Diary of the 1/8th Bat- 1/ 81TH talion: ‘ On the night of the 21st/22nd Nieuport was subjected to BATTALION. severe bombardments of gas shells mixed with H.E. These bombardments took place at 9 p.m. and II p.m. on the 21st and again at 2 a.m. on the 22nd, each bombardment lasting for half an hour. The wind was about three miles per hour, warm and ideal for gas shells. On each occasion the gas shells were mixed with H.E., thus causing the gas shells to be mistaken for ‘ duds’ in the first bombardment. After the first bom- bardment the effects of the gas seemed very slight. About midnight many men became sick and started vomitting, and in consequence could not keep their box respirators on. Undoubtedly many casualties were caused by the mixture of H.E. with the gas shells, the latter being mistaken by the smell being unfamiliar. The main Symptoms were intense pain in the eyes and conjunctivitis, vomitting of the sea-sick type, sometimes diarrhoea and abdominal pain, skin

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120 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

erythema. Later on, it was found that bronchitis developed in a number of cases, turning in some instances into broncho-pneumonia. The shells appear to have been of the 77 mm. type with single copper driving band, shoulder painted a drab yellow, body painted blue with a small blue cross. The smell of the gas was that of mustard and slightly of garlic. About 7 a.m. on the 22nd the men’s ¢yes became so affected that blindness came Every officer and every man with the 1/8th Battalion in Nieuport was affected, and, with the exception of four officers and forty men, had to be sent to hospital on the 22nd. The total casualties of the battalion up to the night of the 22nd July were 18 officers and 662 other ranks. The finest descripuon of that terrible experience is thus given by Capt. Tempest in his History of the 1/6th Battalion: “‘ The gas bombardment of Nieuport was one of the great and terrible experi- ences of the War. The gas shells came over with a peculiar scream quite unlike ordinary barrage fire and the explosion was slight, merely a sharp ‘ ping ’ as the glass nose of the shell was broken and the gas poured out. Compared with the earth-shaking crashes of an ordinary bombardment this steady rain of thousands of ‘ yellow cross’! gas shells seemed ominous, like silent death. Terror took hold of every man as battery after battery of enemy guns poured more and more shells into the thickening gas cloud which lay over the town and all the approaches to the bridges. The gas was so deadly that if a man received the full force of the explosion he was killed instantly. His comrades, not realising that he had been gassed, in some cases delayed a few seconds before putting on their helmets. They could not see the gas fumes in the darkness and the smell was novel, not unpleasant—rather like burnt mustard. But even those few seconds delay were fatal. . . . Before dawn, on the roads and tracks immediately south-west of Nieuport, there were hundreds of men in every stage of the disease, lying down in exhaustion on the roadside. Every few minutes their numbers were increased by small parties of blinded men, one man holding on to the other, often led by a comrade who was coughing his lungs away or could not speak. . . . As often seemed to happen on these mornings of supreme tragedy, the dawn on 22nd July was more than usually beautiful. The red rays of the sun gave a wonderful rose-coloured tint to the gas clouds and smoke which hung over Nieuport. To those standing amongst the gassed men in the fields south of the town the ruins of Nieuport seemed invested with an unforgettable glory. The beauty

1 Enemy gas shells were called ‘“* Yellow Cross "’ or ‘‘ Blue Cross ” from the marking so the shell which distinguished their properties.

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1917 Attack by 49th Division 121

and horror of the scene seemed inextricably mixed as in an amazing dream. The glories of the rising sun quickly passed. The long line of gassed men groped wearily towards Oost Dunkerque.”’ For all the days of their lives, from the rising up of the sun to the going down, the survivors of that terrible gas attack shall not forget it; it was one of the most awful experiences through which the 49th Division passed. On 2nd August the 146th Brigade was relieved by the 96th Brigade and moved vza the Coxyde area to Ghyvelde, and on the 3rd to the Uxem-Teteghem area where, until the 28th August, all battalions trained and supplied working parties. On the latter date the Brigade (less 1/6th Battalion) moved to Ghyvelde. September also was spent out of the line, the Brigade being engaged towards the end of the month in Divisional attack practices. On Ist October the 49th Division began to move towards Ypres. The Division had been ordered to take part in the operations of 9th October. By the 3rd of the month the 146th Brigade (less 1/5th and 1/6th Battalions West Yorkshires) was at Watou No. 2 area, and by 6th was in camp at Vlamertinghe No. 2 area. The 1/5th had, on the night of 5th October, been moved out to reserve positions in shell-holes at Spree Farm, about one and a half miles north-east of Wieltje, where the battalion arrived about dawn on 6th. The 1/5th Battalion moved from Vlamertinghe at an hour’s notice on 6th to the old German Reserve Line trenches in preparation for the coming operations. The following day, 7th October, officers and N.C.O.’s of the West Yorkshire battalions made a preliminary reconnaissance of the country west of Passchendaele, for the attack due to take place on the 9th. It was a most uncomfortable day, for heavy rain fell. The 146th Brigade had been ordered to attack in conjunction with the 148th Brigade on the right and the 48th Division on the left. The attack was to be on a three-battalion frontage, 1/5th West Yorkshires on the right, 1/7th in the centre, and 1/8th on the left ; the 1/6th Battalion was in reserve. The objectives allotted to the three battalions were as follows : Ist Objective. 2nd Objective. 1/5th Battalion West Yorkshires Peter Pan Wolf Copse D.4.c.9.7. 1/7th Battalion West Yorkshires D.3.d.9.4. Wolf Farm, D.4.c.3.8. 1 /8th Battalion West Yorkshires Yetta House D.4.a.0.4. D.3.d.3.7. 1 /6th Battalion West Yorkshires In reserve at Calgary Grange.


28TH AuG.,

1st Ocr.

Page 134



8TH OcT.









gTH Oct.

122 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

The 1/5th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel H. D. Bousfield) spent the 8th of October in making final arrangements for the attack and then, at 5 p.m., moved off to take up its position, assembling in shell- holes at a point near Calgary Grange. The battalion was to attack on a two-company frontage: ‘“‘ C” Company (Capt. B. S. Bland) on the right and ‘“‘ A’ Company (Capt. D. W. Wallace) on the left forming the first wave to take the first objective, and “‘ D Company (Lieut. T. W. Hardwick) on the right and “‘ B ” Company (Second- Lieut. H. Irish) on the left, to leap-frog ‘“‘ C ” and “‘ A,” and capture the second objective. ‘‘ The battalion went in twenty officers (including Medical Officer) and 642 other ranks.”?! After a difficult and very trying march the 1/7th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel C. H. Tetley commanding) reached Calgary Grange about midnight, and by 3 a.m. on 9th October had taken up its allotted position on the left of the 1/§th Battalion. The Battalion Narrative does not give the dispositions or order of attack of companies. The 1/8th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel R. A. Hudson) marched from Vlamertinghe to St. Jean on the morning of 8th October, had dinner at the latter village. Sandbags, bombs and other stores were then drawn and, at 5 p.m., in heavy rain, the battalion set out on a twelve-hour march, “ in single file along trench to its assembly position, the rear company arriving only five minutes before ‘‘ Zero’ hour on the oth. “ B” and “ C”’ Companies were detailed to capture the first objective, and ‘‘ A” and “‘ D” were to leap-frog “‘ B”’ and “‘ C” and take the second objective.

The 1/6th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel W. A. Wistance) arrived in assembly position (in reserve) three minutes before “‘ Zero” and was disposed in shell-holes at Calgary Grange.

The night of the 8th/9gth October was very dark, and rain fell heavily as the troops moved up, over ground deep in mud, to their assembly positions. The 1/5th West Yorkshires were in position at I-20 a.m., so that for four hours the men, in great discomfort, waited patiently for ‘“‘ Zero ” hour, 1.e., §-20 a.m.

Punctually at 5-20 a.m. the British barrage fell, but it does not appear to have been very effective, for the Diary of the 1/5th Battalion states that: ‘‘ The barrage was extremely thin throughout the attack and, as a result of this, difficulties were encountered in the late stages of the attack.”” Great efforts were made by the attacking battalions

1 Diary, 1/5th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment.

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1917 “* Pill Boxes” Again 123

to keep close on the heels of the barrage, but the latter was moving !/ 5TH BATTALION, too quickly. gta Ocr. In front of the 1/5th the ground was extremely wet and much cut up by shell-holes. Moreover, the Stroombeek, a small stream adjoining a marsh about 200 yards wide, had to be crossed, and it was impossible to keep pace with the barrage (which was lifting 100 yards every six minutes), though the gallant West Yorkshiremen made every effort to do so. Within five minutes of ‘‘ Zero” hour the enemy’s barrage fell, heaviest on the Stroombeek and behind the battalion’s assembly positions on the north-east end of Calgary Grange. Few casualties, however, were suffered from the hostile barrage, but on crossing the Stroombeek the 1/5th came under machine- gun and rifle-fire from snipers who, from “ pill boxes ” and shell- holes, were able to fire through the British barrage. In particular, hostile machine-guns, firing from Bellevue and Yetta Slopes, were responsible for most of the casualties. In spite of the difficulties of the ground, and the murderous fire of the machine-guns already mentioned, Peter Pan was taken and, by 6-40 a.m., the first objective (the Red Line) was captured by the two first-wave companies (““C” and “ A’’) of the 1/5th Battalion. The two remaining companies D” and “B’”’) then advanced on the second objective, though in moving forward they carried with them some men of both ‘‘ C” and “‘ A ” Companies. The advance on the second objective was, however, held up. The volume of hostile machine-gun fire coming from the enemy’s ** pill boxes ” at Bellevue caused heavy casualties amongst the West Yorkshiremen, and all attempts to capture the stronghold failed. The only details recorded of these attempts to capture the “ pill boxes’ are concerning an attack made by Second-Lieut. J. W. Parker of ‘‘ D ’”’ Company and Corporal F. A. Tomlinson of ‘‘ C”’ Company who, with a party of West Yorkshiremen and some men of the 148th Brigade (on the right of the 1/5th Battalion), got within forty yards of the enemy before they were held up by wire and brush- wood. An attempt to work to a flank was met by heavy machine- gun fire, and Lieut. Parker and his men were forced to take up a position where they were. The Battalion Diary states that: ‘‘ No details of any other fighting ’’ were obtainable, but apparently Capt. D. W. Wallace and Lieut. S. W. Birbeck (both of ‘‘ A ” Company) were killed in attempt- ing to assist the companies in front. For some time no information from the front line could be sent back to Battalion Headquarters.

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1/7TH BATTALION. gtx Ocr.

124 The West Regiment in the War 1917

The advanced companies were close up to the enemy’s snipers who, being posted on higher ground, had complete observation over the West Yorkshiremen, and any runners which the latter attempted to send back were immediately shot down. But eventually a message (how it was sent is not stated) from Lieut. Hardwick (commanding ** D ” Company) asking for reinforcements, reached Colonel Bousfield about 8-15 a.m., and, taking the Headquarters staff with him, the C.O. set out with the idea of lending whatever assistance was possible. He had not, however, gone far before he was wounded, and Headquarters, unable to get forward owing to machine-gun and shell fire, had to take whatever cover presented itself. Word was then sent back to Major D. P. Mackay, then in the old German Reserve Line near Wieltje, that the C.O. was wounded and the former officer hurried forward. He reached Headquarters about 3-30 p.m. An hour later Major Mackay was killed, and command of the 1/s5th Battalion then devolved upon Capt. B. E. Ablitt, who remained in charge until the battalion was relieved on the night of roth by the 4th N.Z. Rifles. The position finally reached by the 1/5th West Yorkshires was a line 100 to 200 yards in front of the Red Line (first objective) and on this line a chain of detached posts running from the southern edge of Wolf Farm to the eastern edge of Wolf Copse, thence along the south-eastern side of Wolf Copse with a detached post about 150 yards south-east of the southern corner of Wolf Copse, was established. A support line, approximately along the line of the limit of the first objective (and about 200 yards behind the line of forward posts) was also established. Several small infantry and bombing attacks made by the enemy on these advanced posts were broken up with loss by the West Yorkshiremen before the latter were relieved. Colonel Tetley’s battalion (1/7th West Yorkshires) had reached their assembly position ‘‘ dog tired,’ and when the barrage fell at 5-20 a.m., could hardly drag their weary bodies through the clinging mud and spongy morass which had to be passed before they reached their first objective. Moreover, the Stroombeek had to be crossed. It was not surprising, therefore, that the troops were unable to keep as close on the heels of the barrage as had been expected, though they made splendid efforts to do so. The “ heavy going” and the objects to be crossed were responsible for a slight loss of direction, companies bearing off towards Peter Pan, but later this was remedied and Yetta Houses were passed at about proper distance. Battalion Headquarters had moved forward behind the attack

Page 137

1917 A Brave Leeds Rifleman 125 and Colonel Tetley took up a position in shell-holes near Calgary 1/7TH

Grange, where he awaited news of the attack. But it was about 7 a.m. before the first report reached him. At that hour a wounded officer—Lieut. Baldwin, O.C., Left Company—reached Battalion Headquarters and stated that his company was held up by machine- gun fire and snipers’ fire as soon as a move had begun from the line of the first objective. He had detailed two platoons to deal with the hostile machine-gun, but they had failed to silence it. As no further information was obtainable, and no other reports were coming in from the front line, Colonel Tetley went up to near Yetta Houses and found his three companies consolidating with their left about 100 yards from Yetta Houses. The trenches were so crowded, however, that one company was collected and withdrawn to a line further in rear. The front company (the Right Company for the first objective) was found near Peter Pan in touch on the right with the 1/5th West Yorkshires. The only officers (two) left on duty were with this company, all the officers and most of the senior N.C.O.’s of the front three companies having become casualties, hence the reason reliable information was difficult to obtain. The 1/7th Battalion had indeed suffered heavy The enemy’s machine-guns and snipers were cleverly hidden in concealed positions and were very active. They continued to fire through the barrage and entirely held up the advance to the second objective. A number of the enemy were, however, killed by Lewis-gun and rifle fire, the West Yorkshiremen taking every advantage of favourable targets. One brave fellow of the 1/7th (Rifleman C. A. Capp) rushed a hostile machine-gun single-handed. This gun had caused considerable loss and trouble. It was mounted on the parapet of a trench on the right, and the troops advancing on the left were caught in enfilade. As the gallant West Yorkshireman rushed the gun the German machine-gunners bolted, but as he could not work the gun he disabled it and rejoined his company. Capp, without doubt, saved the lives of many of his comrades, and was awarded the D.C.M. for his gallant exploit. During the morning two companies of the 1/4th West Riding Regiment were sent up to Colonel Tetley, and at 2 p.m. he sent one company up to Yetta Houses to fill the gap between the left of the 1/7th and right of the 1/8th Battalions. Several small counter- attacks on the 1/7th West Yorkshires were successfully beaten off

_' Killed: Lieuts.—A. J. A. Hobson, R. A. M. Rogers, E. H. Fender, E. B. Longbottom, J. S. Parker, E.C. A. Learmouth; 2nd Lieuts—C. W. Lund, J. T. Carter, and W. Jackson. Five officers were wounded. In other ranks the casualties were about 230.

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gtH Oct.

126 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

and, on the night of roth October, the battalion was relieved by New Zealand troops, the relief being carried out under heavy shell-fire from which many casualties were suffered.

In spite of almost impossible difficulties the 1/8th West York- shires advanced at “‘ Zero”? hour towards their objective. “B” and ‘“‘C’’ Companies had been detailed for the first objective (Yetta Houses—D.3.d.3.7.) and “‘ A”’ and ‘‘ D ” Companies for the second objective—the line D.4.a.0.4. Machine-gun and rifle bullets swept the line of advance and casualties soon became very heavy. Especially amongst officers and N.C.O.’s the losses were severe. The enemy’s snipers were extremely active and claimed many victims. The Commanding Officer, Lieut.-Colonel R. A. Hudson, was killed early in the attack, and the command devolved upon Major Brooke who, at one time, had only two officers beside himself available. So heavy was the opposition encountered by the 1/8th West Yorkshires that the battalion could only advance about 300 yards, and here dugin. Battalion Headquarters were in Kron- prinz Farm. To this position the West Yorkshiremen clung with great tenacity, beating off hostile attempts to turn them out, until they were relieved on the night of roth October. They then marched back to Wieltje. The losses suffered by the 1/8th Battalion are thus given in the Battalion Diary: ‘‘ Out of the twenty-three (including the M.O.) officers who went in with the unit eight were killed,? eight were wounded, one missing, and two wounded but remained at duty, this included two liaison officers ; 301 casualties amongst other ranks.’’

The 1/6th West Yorkshires (the Reserve Battalion) were south of Calgary Grange when the three attacking battalions went forward, and it was not until 7-40 a.m. that information reached Colonel Wistance that a gap existed in the attacking line between the right of the 1/5th West Yorkshires and the left battalion of the 148th Brigade (1/4th Y. and L.R.). Immediately the report came to hand Company was moved up to fill the gap, “B” and “C” Companies were sent to the neighbourhood of Peter Pan and “ D”’ Company, less two platoons (previously detailed for carrying parties), took up positions in the old British front line. Colonel Wistance then moved his Headquarters to shell-holes south-west of the Stroom- beek (about D.9.b.7.8.). About 9 a.m. “‘ Company (on the right)

' Lieut.-Colonel R. A. Hudson, Capts. C. J. C. la Coste, E. F. Wilkinson, L. F. Callaghan, Second-Lieuts. H. Northrop. A. L. Baker, B. J. Richardson and C. C. Studley.

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1917 Of ‘* Peter Pan” 127

reported that it was impossible to go on owing to heavy machine- gun fire from front and flanks. From two “ pill boxes ”’ and trenches near Bellevue the enemy kept the line of advance under very heavy fire. ‘‘ C”’ Company was therefore despatched to work up the slope east of Peter Pan and, in conjunction with “‘ A’’ Company, attack the hostile ‘ pill boxes.”” This movement was successfully carried out and the advance was progressing well, when suddenly the troops found their way barred by a thick fence and masses of uncut wire 150 yards in front of the “‘ pill boxes.”” In vain gallant efforts were made to pass these obstacles, but the volume of fire was too intense and, having suffered heavily, the two companies dug in half-way up the slope of the hill. In making a reconnaissance of this position Capt. J. L. Speight, commanding “C” Company, was killed. Meanwhile ““B” Company had dug in and consolidated about 150 yards west of Peter Pan. From this position the company made strenuous efforts to get in touch with the advanced party of 1/5th West Yorkshires, but it was impossible, the enemy’s fire from his ** pill boxes ”’ and trenches near Bellevue being too severe. During the night 9gth/roth, however, communication was established between “‘B”’ Company and No. 2 Platoon of ‘“‘ A’’ Company, t/sth West Yorkshires, whilst “‘ A’? Company of the 1 /6th Battalion had also obtained touch with the 1/4th York and Lancaster Regi- ment (148th Brigade) on the right. No change in the positions occupied by the 1 /6th Battalion took place until the night of roth, when all four companies were withdrawn to the Old British Line, whence the battalion marched back to Vlamertinghe in the early hours of the 11th, having to traverse roads often knee-deep in mud. Somewhere about 5-30 a.m. on the r1th October, the New Zealanders completed the relief of the 146th Brigade, and all four


1oTH OcT.

1/5TH, 1/6TE 1/7TH, 1/8Tt


battalions of the West Yorkshires were, by the evening, located in ;; 1%

No. 2 Camp, Vlamertinghe. On the following morning the Brigade moved to the Winnizeele area for training. Only three items of interest for the remainder of October appear in the Brigade Diary : The first is the move of the 1/6th West Yorkshires to Poperinghe for work under the C.E., Anzac Corps; the second records the inspection of the 146th Brigade (less the 1/6th West Yorkshires) and the congratulations given all units by Lieut.-General Godley, who commended all ranks on their fine work on 9th October. The third item records the loss by the Brigade of its popular Brigadier —Brig.-General M. D. Goring-Jones—who went home to England

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3RD Oct.

128 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

on 18th, handing over command to Brig.-General G. A. P. Rennie. And here, for the time being, it is necessary to leave the four Terri- torial battalions of the regiment and return to the 9th October. For two other battalions—the 9th and the 21st West Yorkshires— were also engaged in the Battle of Poelcappelle. After taking over front-line trenches at Bulow Farm from the 6th York and Lancaster Regiment on 28th September, the 9th West Yorkshires appear to have had an uneventful tour until relieved by a battalion of another Brigade of the 11th Division on 2nd October. On 3rd October the West Yorkshiremen moved in buses to Hout- kerque and were accommodated in tents, where several uncomfort- able days were passed in refitting, re-organising, and in practising the attack for the forthcoming battle. On the 7th, buses arrived and carried the battalion to Siege Camp, whence a forward move was made to the front line, the 9th West Yorkshires relieving the 7th South Staffords. The gth West Yorkshires occupied the centre sub-sector of the 32nd Brigade front, having on the right the 6th York and Lan- caster Regiment and on their left the 6th Yorkshire Regiment. The 8th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment formed the Brigade Reserve. The line upon which the Brigade formed up for the attack ran approximately from just north of Ferrier Farm in a north-westerly direction to a point on the road about 1,000 yards east of Lemnos House. The right boundary of the Brigade was roughly the right banks of the Lekkerboterbeek Stream. The West Yorkshires were formed up for the attack on a two- company frontage—‘‘ A” Company on the right, “ B ” on the left, with *‘ C ’? Company on the right and “ D ” on the left in the second line ; the average strength of companies was 100. The battalion frontage was about 600 yards. ‘‘ A” Company’s objective was Meunier House and the establishment of a line beyond; “B” Company was to establish a line running from V.20.a.9.9.—V.20.b.1.5 (a line facing north-east about half-way between Meunier House and Noble’s Farm) and hold it as a Battalion Reserve against counter- attack: “‘C” and ‘‘D’”’ Companies were to pass through “A ”’ and “‘ B”’ and establish a line from V.14.d.9.1. to V.21.a.2.0. In the September Diary of the 9th West Yorkshires there is an interesting note on the method of attack in which the battalion was trained when out of the line, and in view of the operations of gth October it is not out of place to quote from the records in full : ‘* The tactical training of platoons was modified to meet the recently

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1917 Floundering through Mud 129

adopted method of defence by the enemy. At present the German 9TH method of resistance is by isolated strong points, usually concrete BATTALION. buildings, containing one or more machine-guns. Artillery fire has very little effect on these, and the latest idea is to capture these strong points by platoons in their normal organisation, viz.: one section bombers, one section riflemen, one section Lewis gunners, one section rifle grenadiers. The platoons commenced to practise such attacks using all the weapons referred to . . . Concrete em- placements and strong points were attacked, the erections being improvised from canvas, etc., and poles. Emphasis was laid on the tactical use of the platoon weapons in attacking such places, and different formations were practised. The tendency is to advance in small columns instead of a succession of extended lines, as was adopted in the early part of the year. Frontages became less and the attacking force is distributed in depth. Night dispositions were practised in stages : First, the approach march to a position ; second, forming up on tapes in the formation practised by day; third, advancing from tapes to an objective.” “ Zero’ hour on 9th October was 5-20 a.m., when the British 91H Oct. artillery barrage came down promptly on the enemy’s front line and his emplacements. But the ground was sodden, inches deep in mud and in an altogether appalling condition, so that many H.E.”’ shells did not burst. The heavy rain of the previous day and night had turned No Man’s Land into a veritable quagmire, and the Battalion Diary records that “ the ground was churned up so as to be one endless mass of shell-holes ; mud and water was everywhere, and almost impassable.” The barrage was moving at the rate of 100 yards in four minutes as the West Yorkshiremen advanced, floundering through mud and filth, skirting the shell-holes where possible, though mostly having to “‘ take ’? whatever came in the way in order to keep formation. Seven minutes after the British barrage opened the German barrage fell, but generally it was not very heavy. The British guns, however, literally plastered the enemy’s trenches and emplacements with shell of all calibre, and the ordeal through which the Germans were passing must have been terrible ; indeed, the records speak of it as “ terrific.” Yet, through all that hell of bursting shell and storm of shrapnel the hostile ‘‘ pill boxes ’”? (or emplacements) stood practically unharmed and, as the British troops went forward, murderous machine-gun fire met their advance, for the machine-guns, safely ensconced in

these “‘ pill boxes,”’ could not be silenced. Hostile cross-fire and K

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grul BATTALION, gtH Oct.

130 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

traversing machine-gun fire swept the whole of the Divisional front, and the ranks of the attacking troops thinned very quickly. The enemy had made good use of the ruins of Poelcappelle, concealing in them his riflemen and machine-gunners, who were able to fire in enfilade. From the meagre details given in the Diary of the 9th West Yorkshires it is impossible to give details of the gallant efforts of the battalion to push on in spite of the fierce opposition met with, and the story (such as it is) of the attack given below is all the information available : ‘“‘ On our left flank the attack was held up at the Brewery and after heavy casualties the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment found themselves with both flanks ‘in the air.’ Very few officers were left in either the Yorkshire Regiment or our own battalion, and the lack of command began to have effect. On the left, the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment was completely hung up and the remnants of the battalion fell back in the hope of reorganising. When our men saw this the news quickly spread that the 6th Yorkshires were retiring, and as the enemy had by this time parties almost in line with us on this front, some took up a position further back so as to preserve the general line and remain in touch with our flanks. Mean- while, the attack had progressed with less resistance on the right and further headway would doubtless have been possible but for the stoppage in the centre and on the left. The only course open in view of heavy casualties, the serious resistance and the prospect of counter-attack in a few hours was to consolidate as far as possible and prepare to hold a line approximately to our assembly line. Every effort was made with this object in view and, to guard against any serious attempt to dislodge us from the position, the 6th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment was brought into position between Pheasant Farm and Retour Cross-roads.”’ But for the moment the battalion was safe from counter-attack, for from the statements made by prisoners taken it was evident that the enemy’s losses had been very heavy, for a new division had taken over his front line on the previous night and the stoutness of his resistance had resulted in a heavy roll of casualties. After the attack had come to a standsull and the assaulting battalions had consolidated their positions, numerous parties went out from both sides in order to collect the wounded and dead. For the time being both British and Germans refrained from firing on one another during this mournful task, and in one place the opposing troops were but thirty yards apart. As long as daylight lasted the

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1917 Heavy Losses of 9th Battalion 131

work continued and when darkness fell the roll was called. Heavy, indeed, had been the losses of the 9th West Yorkshires—twelve officers! and 203 other ranks?* being killed, wounded and missing. On the night of roth/11th October the battalion was relieved by the 7th Buffs. of the 18th Division and moved back to Irish Farm, OCT. entrained for Watten, marching thence to Zudrove, where the usual process of ‘‘ cleaning-up ” and reorganising after a battle was carried out, the battalion settling down afterwards to a period of training and “rest,” before moving south to Noux-les-Mines on 23rd October. On the 5th October, the day following the Battle of Broodseinde, 21sT the 21st Yorkshires (Pioneers) were again hard at work, “‘ A’’ Com- BATTALION. pany on light railway construction at Rudolph Farm, while “ B,”’ ° I “C” and Companies were repairing roads and tramways and laying duck-board tracks up to the front areas. Several days were thus spent, casualties, fortunately, being small, though the Pioneers were by no means working in “‘ safe” areas. Only twenty casualties (one killed) were sustained during this period. While the 4th Division (on the left of the 11th Division) was 91 Ocr. attacking Poelcappelle on 9th October, “ B,” “C’’ and ‘‘ D’’ Com- panies of the 21st West Yorkshires were engaged in repairing the Schreiboom-Poelcappelle road, whilst ‘‘ A’? Company was still at work on the light railway at Rudolph Farm. Three other ranks killed and fifteen wounded were the battalion’s casualties from shell- fire on this day. On roth October the C.O. (Lieut.-Colonel Sir E. H. St. L. Clarke, Bt.) was wounded in the leg and evacuated to hospital. For the remainder of October there is little to record. The 4th Division moved from the Ypres area to join the Third Army 16tTu Oct. on 16th October, but the gunners and the Pioneers remained behind —relief from the tortuous life in the Salient was not to be theirs just yet.

The killed were : Capt. L. C. Kirk, Lieut. F. H. Evans and Second-Lieuts. R. A. Harns, Ik. Roberts, G. C. G. Grose and E, J. Woods. Lieut, E. S, Pyne died of wounds on 12th October.

* Other ranks : Forty-seven killed, 113 wounded, forty-three missing,

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INE battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment had already been involved in the Battle of Ypres, 1917, when the First Battle of Passchendaele opened on 12th October; and in this operation another battalion—the roth—came into action. The roth West Yorkshires, after the Arras 10TH Offensive had spent its fury, had passed the inter- vening months between the 30th April and the end of September in and out of the line just north of the Scarpe. The battalion was in support during the operations of the 17th Division at Roeux on 13th-14th May, and some excitement was caused by the enemy 13tH—14TH counter-attacking and recapturing a portion of the line on 16th May. May, though his triumph was short-lived for he was immediately ejected and sent scampering back to his own line, having suffered heavy losses. The enemy’s attack had been made while the West Yorkshiremen (who had taken over a portion of the front line from the East Yorkshiremen on the night of 13th) were being relieved by units of the 51st Division. After the hostile counter-attack had been dealt with the roth West Yorkshires moved back to camp at St. Nicholas, where the men arrived in a very exhausted condition. The remainder of May and the months of June, July, August and the better part of September were bare of incidents, though trench life was always dangerous, laborious and nerve-wracking. It is interest- ing to note, from a battalion point of view, that the trench strength of the roth West Yorkshires on 26th August was twenty-two officers, 26TH Avc. four warrant officers, twenty sergeants, sixteen corporals and 380 privates. The battalion was finally relieved by troops of 61st Division on 24th September and on the following day the soth 24TH Serr. Brigade (in Division) began to move by march-route to the Ambrines area. After a week’s training in the attack the Division moved by train to camp west of Elverdinghe, the roth West Yorkshires reaching Pitchcott Camp, Proven, on 5th October. On gth the battalion gru Ocr. moved by rail to Elverdinghe and proceeded to Cardoen Camp, the


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12TH Oct.

13TH—14TH Oct.

134 The West Yorkshtre Regiment in the War 1917

move forming part of the relief of the 29th Division, the soth Brigade coming temporarily under the command of the G.O.C., 29th Division. On 11th orders were received from XIVth Corps to renew the attack on the enemy’s position between Houthulst Forest and Poel- cappelle, the attack to be carried out by the 4th Division on the right, the 17th Division in the centre and the Guards Division on the left. The 51st Brigade of the 17th Division was to carry out the attack along the front of that Division, the soth Brigade was in support and 52nd Brigade in reserve. In consequence of these orders the roth West Yorkshires, on 11th October, moved forward to the neighbourhood of Pilkem and bivouacked in shell-holes and ** pill boxes ”? under conditions it is impossible to describe. Throughout the 12th, in spite of the fact that the area was subjected to frequent heavy bursts of hostile artillery fire, causing numerous casualties, the West Yorkshiremen worked hard on the improvement of their wretched bivouacs. Later, when news was received that the attack of the 51st Brigade had been successful, the 50th Brigade moved up during the night 13th/14th October and took over the line won, the Yorkshire Regiment and the roth West York- shires occupying the front line. During the relief the latter battalion suffered one officer and forty other ranks casualties. “‘ The Brigade held the line for four days. The weather was bad. There were, of course, no trenches, the front and support lines consisting of posts of consolidated shell-holes, almost as bad as the mud of the Somme. Reliefs were carried out under great difficulties, the only means of progress being duck-board tracks which the enemy had well marked. The ground was so churned up by shell-fire and saturated with water that movement across country, except by these tracks, was practically impossible.’”! Those four days were a veritable nightmare; the enemy’s shell-fire was frequent and very violent ; the conditions under which the troops held the front line were appalling, and when relief came on 16th/17th and the Brigade moved back to camp west of Elver- dinghe the men were utterly exhausted, though no attack had been made on the enemy. The West Yorkshires went into Patalia Camp at Proven, the first operation being to give the men a bath and general clean-up. The total casualties suffered by the battalion during its short tour in the line was two officers killed,? two officers wounded ; eleven other ranks killed, 103 wounded and eleven missing.

1 History of the soth Infantry Brigade, 1914-1919." 2 Second-Lieuts. F. E. Barker and W. V. C. Watson.

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1917 “* They advanced every time” 135

On 21st October the 17th Division moved back to the Recques area, west of St. Omer, and remained there, training, until 7th November, when a forward move to the front line was made. But until the 17th Division moved down south to the Cambrai sector, after the German counter-attack of 30th November had spent its violence, little of interest is recorded in the Diaries, and the story of the 10th West Yorkshires begins again at Bertincourt on 22nd December.

x x x *« * x

Much has been written of the sufferings and casualties of the British troops during the Battles of Ypres, 1917 : too little has been said of the military results of the operations. Into all the details of the latter it is impossible to go, but careful reading of the despatches of Sir Douglas Haig dealing with the battles, demonstrates once again that a continuance of the operations was absolutely necessary ; that the enemy’s losses were equal if not in excess of the British losses, and that the fighting in Flanders between 31st July and the roth November, 1917, had a disastrous effect upon the moral of the German Army. No one can read the letters of German prisoners captured during those fierce battles without being impressed by the dire straits to which the enemy was put. The intentions of the British Commander-in-Chief to contain the enemy in the Ypres Salient, to exhaust his troops and gain ground were successfully carried out ; no greater justification for the Battles of Ypres, 1917, is necessary. And to the West Yorkshire Regiment, ten battalions of which were engaged during those three and a half months in bloody contests with the enemy, fighting under conditions which entailed almost superhuman exertions and heavy losses, it will always remain a matter of pride that again and again those battalions were praised by Brigade, Divisional and Corps Commanders for their indomit- able pluck, splendid endurance and fierce tenacity. Speaking generally of the troops under his command (which, of course, included the West Yorkshiremen) Sir Douglas Haig pays this fine tribute to his gallant fellows, officers and men: ‘‘ They advanced every time with absolute confidence in their power to overcome the enemy, even though they had sometimes to struggle through mud up to their waists to reach him. So long as they could reach him they did overcome him, but physical exhaustion placed narrow limits on the depth to which each advance could be pushed, and compelled long pauses between the advances. The full fruits of each success were


21st Ocr.

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136 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

consequently not always obtained. ‘Time after time the practically- beaten enemy was enabled to reorganise and relieve his men and to bring up reinforcements behind the sea of mud which constituted his main protection.” And if further proof of the fighting qualities and successes of the British troops were needed they may be gathered from the words of the Chief of the German Imperial Staff,' who said : ‘* Enormous masses of ammunition, such as the human mind had never imagined before the war, were hurled upon the bodies of men who passed a miserable existence scattered about in mud-filled shell-holes. The horror of the shell-hole area of Verdun was surpassed. It was no longer life at all. It was mere unspeakable suffering. And through this world of mud the attackers dragged themselves, slowly, but steadily, and in dense masses. Caught in the advanced zone by our hail of fire they often collapsed and the lonely man in the shell-hole breathed again. Then the mass came on again. Rifle and machine-gun jammed in the mud. Man fought against man and only too often the mass was successful.” For “ the mass ” read British troops.

IGeneral Ludendorff in ‘* My War Memories, 1914-1918.”

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THE BATTLE OF CAMBRAI, 20th November—3rd December, 1917

F all the Allied operations of 1917 the Battle of Cambrai is, perhaps, the most interesting, for it was a fine example of a surprise attack, and sur- prise attacks have always been held by soldiers as one of the greatest tests of military skill. During the Flanders Offensive, the Allies had been secretly searching the enemy’s front along the southern portion of the line for a weak spot against which to launch a sudden attack. The huge losses suffered by the enemy in the Ypres Salient had made it necessary for him to concentrate large forces inthat area, with the consequent weakening of other sectors of his front. One ofthese weakened sectors—the Cambrai front—appeared to Sir Douglas Haig as the most likely against which to launch his surprise attack. Accordingly, before the fighting in Flanders had ceased, preparations were made for the Cambrai operations. “If,” said Sir Douglas Haig in his despatch of 4th March, 1918, ‘“‘ after breaking through the German defence system on this front we could secure Bourlon to the north and establish a good flank position to the east in the direction of Cambrai, we should be well placed to exploit the situation locally between Bourlon and the Sensée river and to the north-west. The capture of Cambrai itself was subsidiary to this operation, the object of our advance towards that town being primarily to cover our flank and puzzle the enemy regarding our intentions . . . The general plan of attack was to dispense with previous artillery preparation and to depend instead on tanks to rush through the enemy’s wire, of which there was a great quantity protecting his trenches. As soon as the advance of the tanks and infantry, working in close co-operation began, the artillery was to assist with counter-battery and barrage work, but no previous registration of guns for this Purpose could be permitted, as it would rouse the enemy’s sus- picions.” To General Sir Julian Byng belongs the credit for the innovation of an attack by tanks and infantry without artillery preparation, a


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138 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

plan whereby one Division at least (the 62nd) was able to make a record advance of 6,000 yards in a single day. The enemy’s position to be attacked lay on a front of about six miles from east of Gonnelieu to the Canal du Nord opposite Hermies. Six divisions were to be employed in the front line, which from right to left ran as follows : 12th Division (immediately north of Gonne- lieu), 20th Division (east of Villers Plouich and west of Welsh Ridge), 6th Division (north-west of Villers Plouich), 51st Division (just north-east of Trescault), 62nd Division (in the north-east corner of Havrincourt Wood) and the 36th Division (west of the Canal du Nord): the 29th Division was in reserve at Gouzeaucourt: the Cavalry Corps was disposed behind the front line, ‘‘ to be passed through to raid the enemy’s communications, disorganise his system of command, damage his railways, and interfere as much as possible with the arrival of his The operations were to begin on 20th November. It will thus be seen that the West Yorkshire Regiment was IST represented in the Battle by no less than five battalions—the Ist in the 18th Infantry Brigade of the 6th Division, and the 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7TH, 2/8TH 2/7th and 2/8th of the 185th Infantry Brigade, 62nd (W.R.) Division. BATTALIONS, But before describing the terrain of the battlefield-to-be, the enemy’s defences, operation orders for the attack and preparations for the battle, it is necessary to digress for a while and follow the five battalions through the long period of trench warfare, which frequently intervened between the various actions in whichthe regiment took part. It will be remembered that after the attack on Mild and Cloudy IST Trenches on 12th October, 1916, the rst West Yorkshires (in Division) BATTALION. moved from the Somme area north to Bethune, and on the Ist ist JAN. January, 1917, the battalion was in the front-line trenches in the Cambrin sector, then a comparatively quiet part of the line. Months of trench warfare, at times of a very strenuous nature, were now before the West Yorkshiremen, and from the Battalion Diaries it is evident, in 1917, that despite the fact that the enemy was kept busy in other sectors of the line along the British front, he was none the less agres- sive, and raids and counter-raids were frequent, whilst constant vigilance was necessary : bombing actions, heavy artillery bombard- ments, sniping and machine-gunning took place at all times, while the repair of trenches and improvement of the defences occupied

the troops during the brief periods when they were not otherwise engaged.

1 Official depatches.

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1917 Prussian Guards Captured 139

January was but nine days old when the acting C.O. (Major !5T

G. H. Soames) was killed by a sniper—a great loss to the battalion. Major G. G. Gilligan assumed command until Lieut.-Colonel A.


M. Boyall (the C.O.) returned from leave. At 3 a.m. on 26th a suc- 26TH JAN.

cessful raid was made on Madagascar Trench, south-west of Auchy, five of the Prussian Guards being captured, whilst fifteen dug-outs were blown in and heavy losses inflicted on the enemy. The raiding party numbered 160 all ranks, taken from “‘ A ”’ and “‘ B ” Companies. These were divided up into six parties under the command of Capt. J. B. O. Trimble, Capt. W. E. H. Spicer, Lieuts. Canning, Mason, Swift and Cavill and A/C.S.M. Orange. Casualties amongst the raiding parties were four other ranks killed, one officer and thirty- nine other ranks wounded, and one other rank missing. The enemy retaliated on 4th February by raiding the West Yorkshiremen, capturing a gun and corporal of the Lewis-gun section. On the 18th March the battalion front line was again raided by the enemy and six other ranks were missing and five wounded. About the middle of April the West Yorkshiremen moved into the Loos sector of the line, and at 4 a.m. on 14th the enemy entered the battalion trenches some thirty yards north of Boyeau 46. For ten minutes hand-to-hand fighting took place and eventually he was counter-attacked and driven off without having obtained an identification. One German was killed and ten were wounded, whilst the 1st West Yorkshires lost Second-Lieut. L. W. H. Mason killed and two other ranks wounded. The battalion retaliated on the enemy on 18th April, when three officers and sixty-five other ranks of ‘‘ D ”’? Company, commanded by Capt. E. J. Rendall, attempted to enter the German trenches. But as soon as the British guns began firing prior to the attack the enemy put down a very heavy barrage on No Man’s Land, so that less than a dozen officers and men reach the German parapet. One officer (Second-Lieut. E. J. Bartlett) and one other rank were killed, one officer and thirty-eight other ranks were wounded and another officer and seven other ranks were missing. It is evident from the Battalion Diaries that at this period the guns on both sides were continuously pounding the opposing trenches, for casualties are more numerous, though the majority of officers and men who figured in the casualty lists were amongst the wounded. On 28th Second-Lieut. J. Ayrton was wounded and died of his wounds on the following day. Another unsuccessful attempt by two parties, one of eighteen and the other of twelve, officers and other ranks, to raid the enemy’s trenches on 29th April, brought a



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23RD Oct.

318T Oct.

2/5TH, 2/6TH 2/7TH, 2/8TH BATTALIONS. 14TH May.

140 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

month of considerable activity to a close. The rst Battalion was relieved on this day and moved back into Brigade reserve—its strength was now thirty officers and 579 other ranks. From rst May until 23rd October (upon which day the 6th Division was withdrawn from the front line and marched to the St. Hilaire area, west of Lillers, for a much-deserved rest) the 1st West Yorkshires went through all the excitement of trench warfare, but were not engaged in any general attack on or by the enemy. The unflinching courage, tenacity and endurance of the battalion are acknowledged again and again in the Diaries, in messages received from both Corps and Divisional Commanders, after the West Yorkshiremen had either raided the enemy’s trenches or had bloodily repulsed his attempts to enter their lines. These affairs were full of breathless excitement and intense anxiety : it was the dull agony of the violent bombardments, during which both trenches and men were often blown to atoms, that tried the endurance of officers and men to the very utmost, so that they frequently came out of the front line nervous wrecks and but shadows of their real selves. Let those who, after reading the above neces- sarily brief references to trench warfare, are tempted to regard it as of no account and fraught with little danger, remember that there are thousands of officers and men who bear upon their bodies or minds scars which are the result of life in the trenches during the intervals between general attacks on or by the enemy. On the last day of October, the rst West Yorkshires were billeted in Mazaires, the 18th Brigade having moved from St. Hilaire to the Ambrines area. A fortnight was now spent in careful training, infantry co-operation with tanks being the principal feature. But on 15th November the West Yorkshiremen (in Brigade) moved south to Péronne, and after detraining marched to the Equancourt-Fins area. At 4-15 p.m. on 17th the 18th Brigade moved forward to Bois Dessart and L.2. Camp, where Operation Orders for the battle which was to begin on 20th were received. Throughout the 18th and rgth the 1st West Yorkshires were engaged (as were other units of the Brigade) in making final preparations for the coming operations, and at 6-30 p.m. on the latter date the battalion marched off to take up its assembly positions 200 yards south-west of Beaucamp village. The four West Yorkshire battalions (2//5th, 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th) of the 62nd Division had been withdrawn from the Battle of Bullecourt to Courcelles, and on 14th May were billeted either in ruined houses or camped out in the open under canvas. Several months of hard training were now in front of the West Yorkshiremen.

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1917 The Second-Line Territorials in France 14!

They had lost heavily at Bullecourt, but they had shown a fine fighting spirit, though their first actions had shown (as battalions newly arrived in France and Flanders always showed when they underwent their baptism of fire) that further training was necessary. Back in Courcelles, therefore, all units quickly got to work and were soon engaged in bombing practice, musketry, physical training and Lewis-gun firing on ranges. A Brigade Bombing School was also established in Courcelles. On 26th May the 185th Brigade moved to Ervillers, and working parties were supplied for the digging of trenches and wiring the front line, as well as for the construction of a rifle range near Ervillers and other duties. On the 29th the 62nd Division was relieved in the front line, which entailed another move of the 185th Brigade, all units marching back to camp near Gomie- court. Towards the end of June the 62nd Division received orders to relieve the 20th Division in the Noreuil-Lagnicourt sector, and it was decided that the 185th Brigade should take over the right of the line and the 186th the left; the 187th Brigade was to remain in Divisional Reserve. On 25th June all units of the 185th Brigade packed up, and, having cleaned their camp thoroughly, handed over to the 59th Brigade (20th Division); they then set out on their march up to the front line. The right sub-sector of the Divisional front was Lagnicourt, and here the 2/7th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel C. K. James) on the right and the 2/5th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel J. J. Josselyn) on the left, took over the outpost and main line trenches from units of the 60th Brigade (2oth Division). The 2/6th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel J. Hastings) were in support, and the 2/8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. H. James) in reserve at Vraucourt. The outpost line taken over by the 2/7th Battalion had a fairly continuous trench with good wire out in front of it, but the trench in the main line of resistance was poor, though it was well wired. “A” and D ” Companies held the former and “‘ B” and C” Companies the latter. The 2/5th Battalion was also in posts and the main line of resistance. It is interesting to note that the strength of the 2/5th Battalion at this period is given as twenty-two officers and only 356 other ranks. The remainder of June appears to have been quiet, for the German troops across No Man’s Land, facing the West Yorkshire- men, belonged to the 1st Grade Reserve Division, which had but recently arrived in the sector, having been badly shaken in the

2/5TH,2, 6TH 2, 7TH, 2, 8TH BATTALIONS


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142 The West Yorkshire Regtment in the War 1917

operations at Messines. For a few days, therefore, the enemy’s attitude was anything but aggressive, whilst his guns were compara- tively quiet, and this inaction gave the West Yorkshiremen much- needed opportunities for improving their defences, which were as yet far from complete. About the 3rd and 4th of July, however, the enemy appears to have realised that a new Division had come into the line opposite him, and he made several attempts, which were successfully beaten off, to obtain a prisoner for identification purposes. Meanwhile, all up and down the Divisional front patrols were out nightly, recon- noitring the enemy’s line and locating his posts and machine-gun emplacements. Much excellent work was done by these patrols, and considerable skill and ingenuity were employed both by officers and men in their dangerous task. On the roth July, for instance, a patrol of the 2/7th West Yorkshires, in the Lagnicourt sector, consisting of an officer, one N.C.O. and two men, crawled forward to the German line with the object of raiding a post. The patrol reached its objective, but found that the latter was behind a strong outpost line of three posts, and the possibilities of getting back once the raid was launched were practically nil. The officer in charge, therefore, withdrew his men and without having disclosed his presence, returned safely without casualties. Two days later another German prisoner was captured, and from this man information was obtained that the enemy was still ignorant of the identity of the Division facing him. On 11th July Lieut.-Colonel J. H. Hastings, commanding 2/6th West Yorkshires, was appointed Area Commandant, Arras, and to the general regret of his battalion left to take over his duties. Colonel Hastings was succeeded by Lieut.-Colonel C. H. Hoare. About the middle of July the 185th Brigade was relieved by the 186th and moved back to Favreuil, all units being encamped in the neighbourhood of the village. On the night of the 16th, however, the 2/7th West Yorkshires sent a party up from Favreuil to raid an enemy post. The reports of the result of the raid are missing, but apparently one officer and two other ranks were wounded, and three other ranks were missing. The 185th Brigade went back into the front line on 22nd, relieving the 187th Brigade in the Noreuil sector. During this tour a fine example of bravery was shown by a young subaltern of the 2/7th West Yorkshires. On the night of 27/28th July Second-Lieut. G. Edwards was ordered to reconnoitre the enemy’s wire and ascertain

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1917 An Officer’s Sacrifice 143

the strength of the garrison of a strong point in front of Riencourt. He was to go out at midnight, accompanied by an N.C.O. (Acting- Coporal C. Elsworth). Second-Lieut. Edwards left his post at the appointed hour, and creeping across No Man’s Land reached the enemy’s wire, which he examined closely, and then turned north to reconnoitre the remainder of the strong point. He had, however, gone but a few yards when, from a distance of about five yards away, two “ stink ’? bombs were thrown at him. The first he caught and threw back in the direction from which it came. The second fell at his feet and, being unable to escape from it, with great bravery and presence of mind he placed his foot on it, thereby saving his own life and preventing Corporal Elsworth from being wounded. But this gallant act cost him his leg, for the bomb exploded, blowing his foot away and causing him terrible injuries. Unable of his own efforts to move, he was dragged back to the battalion’s trenches by Corporal Elsworth and, although suffering great pain, reported the information he had gained before being carried away on a stretcher. Throughout the month of July a great deal of work was done 2/5TH, 2/6TH on the defences, both in the front-line, support and communication 2/ 7TH, 2/ BT 4 trenches. An enormous quantity of wire was put out in No Man’s Land, and what with continuous patrols and reconnaissances the West Yorkshires, with other units of the 62nd Division, were kept busy by day and by night. The patrol work produced particularly fine results, for by their pluck and audacity the control of No Man’s Land passed almost entirely into the hands of these troops from the West Riding Division. So far as work and training were concerned August was a busy month. The 185th Brigade took over the Bullecourt sector during s1ru—ort the night of 8th/gth, for the 62nd Division had side-stepped, the 3rd Division taking over the Lagnicourt sector. Patrols were out each night, but seldom came into contact with hostile parties, and the Diaries of all units of the 185th Brigade contain but few items of more than ordinary interest. The Brigade had a new Brigadier on 21st August, when Brig.-General Viscount Hampden took over command from Brig.-General V. W. de Falbe, invalided home. On the 28th Lieut.-Colonel J. J. Josselyn went into hospital, and command of the 2/5th West Yorkshires was assumed by Major F. Peter. On the 1st September the enemy’s artillery was reported more 1ST SePr. active, and patrols reconnoitring the railway near Quéan came under machine-gun fire. The 2/5th West Yorkshires lost one officer

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144 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

(Lieut. H. H. Hutchinson) and two other ranks killed and two wounded ; the 2/7th and 2,8th Battalions also had a few casualties. Every night patrols from the 185th Brigade crossed No Man’s Land and many exciting encounters took place with the enemy. On the night 6th/7th September the 2/5th West Yorkshires raided an enemy post; the raiding party consisting of Second-Lieuts. E. M. Kermode and Simpson and seven other ranks, with a Lewis gun. The party went out to the cross-roads in front of the battalion sub-sector, but here the Lewis gun jammed and the gunners had to be sent back for another gun. But owing to the darkness they could not locate the cross-roads and had to return to the trenches. Mean- while, about midnight, Second-Lieut. Kermode had crawled round two enemy posts and lay down within fifteen yards of them. These posts were visited every quarter of an hour by a German N.C.O. The other officer (Second-Lieut. Simpson) was waiting with the five other ranks at the cross-roads, when he observed six Germans approach- ing him from a north-westerly direction. He waited untul they were within forty yards and then ordered his men to open rapid rifle fire, both on the enemy and on the two posts. Three of the enemy fell. Second-Lieut. Kermode then bombed the posts and retired to the cross-roads, where rifle-fire was kept up on the enemy, who were observed running away from their posts. Finally the patrol formed up and rushed in with the bayonet, but the enemy had unfortunately made good their escape. The patrol then withdrew without being molested in any way. One light machine-gun, complete, was captured, together with two rifles, a pair of field glasses and other equipment. No casualties were suffered by this patrol. The 2/5th Battalion was highly complimented on this little affair. ‘“‘ The Brigade Commander,” records the Diary, “‘ being satisfied, to say the least, at this performance.” The 2/6th West Yorkshires next carried out a raid, the night of the 11th being selected for the operation. The objects of this raid were to kill Germans, take prisoners and any valuable war material, destroy dug-outs and capture documents. With the exception of the two officers who were to lead the raid, the raiding party was sent off to Vaux for training. Meanwhile the two officers (Second-Lieuts. O. E. Brooksbank and J. R. Allett) went out each night across No Man’s Land in order to reconnoitre the ground over which the raiders were to pass, and also to observe the state of the enemy’s wire and trenches, upon which the Divisional artillery had already got to work. Other patrol parties were also out

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reconnoitring the enemy’s defences, but the enemy was ever on the alert and two officers—Lieuts. T. B. Wakefield and J. N. Parker— were ‘** Zero” hour for the raid was fixed for 11-10 p.m. on the night of 11th September, and “ C”’? Company of the 2/6th West York- shires was detailed to carry out the operation. ‘‘ A” Company furnished one section of rifle grenadiers, armed with Hales grenades, to take up a position on the left flank, while ‘‘ B®’ Company detailed a similar party for the right flank. The composition of Company’s party was as follows : Two officers, two sergeants, two signallers, four stretcher-bearers, two sections of riflemen, two sections rifle grenadiers, two sections of bombers, each section consisting of one N.C.O. and six men. One section of Lewis gunners was in support. The raid was to be made under an artillery barrage—18-pounders and 4°5 Howitzers— the 185th Trench Mortar Battery firing on selected points. The faces and hands of the raiders were to be darkened, also the bayonets. The objectives of the raid were the enemy’s front and support trenches between Ostrich Alley and the Star Cross-roads, both inclusive.*? Opposite the battalion sub-section the enemy’s line did not lend itself to a small raid, for almost throughout its length observation was impossible, while the ground between the trenches was very broken. But whatever other portions of the front line had been selected a raiding party must have been exposed to flanking fire. About 4 p.m. on 11th the raiding party arrived at Pudsey Support Trench, and at 8 o’clock began to move forward. The night was dark, though the sky was brilliant with stars and a moon was due later. By 11 p.m. the troops detailed for the raid, and the flanking parties, were all lying out in No Man’s Land, apparently unobserved by the enemy, for in the latter’s trenches all was quiet. On the stroke of the hour the field guns, howitzers and trench- mortars opened fire, under cover of which the raiders crept forward to within fifty yards of the hostile trenches, waiting for the barrage to lift. At “ Zero” plus 3 the guns lifted and the leading line of raiders advanced straight on to the enemy’s front trench. But by now the German machine-gunners had got to work, firing from the flank, and two men fell wounded. At the junction of the front line

1 On the night 7th/8th September.

2 In co-ordinates the objectives are given as: ‘' U.23 d.12.56—U.23.d.05.75.—U.23.d.27 —U.23.d.05.75.”




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with Ostrich Avenue Second-Lieut. Brooksbank found two Germans. One was inclined to show fight, and was killed, the other was taken prisoner. About fifty yards west of the trench junction two more prisoners were taken from the top of a dug-out. There were more Germans inside, but as they refused to come out and surrender, the dug-out was destroyed with “‘P” bombs. In the neighbourhood of the dug-out there was a little fighting and several more Germans were killed. Meanwhile, the party under Second-Lieut. Allett, detailed to raid the support trench, had passed through and found no difficulty in reaching its objective. One German seen running off in the direction of Riencourt was shot down. The party next found a dug-out and called down to the occupants (if any) to surrender. There was no answer and this dug-out was also destroyed with “ P ” bombs. Not far from the Star Cross-roads another German was wounded whilst endeavouring to escape, and was eventually brought in. At II-30 p.m. the signal to withdraw was given and the retire- ment was carried out exactly according to orders. By 12-10 a.m. the whole of the raiding party, having had only one man seriously and two slightly wounded, reached Pudsey Support Trench, bringing in three unwounded and one wounded prisoner. Twenty of the enemy had been killed, two dug-outs were destroyed and some valuable documents captured. The success of the raid was very largely due to the very careful reconnaissances carried out on five separate nights by the two sub- alterns, Second-Lieuts. Brooksbank and Allett, and on at least two occasions by sergeants ; the section leaders throughout the raid did splendidly, all ranks behaving with the greatest courage. The success of this raid drew congratulations from Brigade, Divisional, Corps and Army Commanders. Throughout the remainder of the 12th September the enemy maintained a passive attitude and, contrary to expectation, did not deluge the Divisional area with shell of all calibre as he was wont to do, as a sign of his displeasure. His artillery retaliation during the raid and subsequently was of a feeble nature, indeed his attitude was suspicious. Whenever it was very quiet across No Man’s Land British troops in the front line invariably expected “‘ something to happen ”’; it was an almost certain sign that the enemy was meditat- ing mischief. And on the night of 12th, 13th in the trenches of the 2 ‘6th West Yorkshires, holding the front line, there was a curious

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feeling that the enemy was “up to something.” They were not 2/6TH

mistaken, for just before dawn—at 4 a.m. on the 13th—a terrific hostile barrage was put down all along the frontage held by the battalion. Field guns, howitzers, trench-mortars and machine-guns poured shell, bomb and bullet on to the posts and trenches held by

the 2/6th. The Apex was made a special mark of German fury and here the shells burst rapidly one after the other, creating havoc and destruction, while as far back as Pudsey Support hostile guns searched the area. For about an hour the storm raged over the posts and trenches held by the West Yorkshiremen, lifting at 5 a.m. off the left company and fifteen minutes later off the right company. ‘* As the enemy’s guns lifted his troops, in considerable strength, advanced to the attack. Approximately one hundred Germans advanced between the left post of the right front company and the right post of the left front company. Every man in the right post (No. 1) had either been killed or wounded, but no one left his position, each man fell where he had fought. ‘ They put up a fine fight,’ said the report, ‘ and bayoneted one German officer and two men.’ Some of the enemy’s troops penetrated as far as the old Company Headquarters in London Support, where they were met by Second- Lieut. Hodgson and four men. The Germans threw stick grenades at Hodgson and his men, but were soon forced to beat a hasty retreat to their own lines. ‘‘ Meanwhile other parties of the enemy were attempting to break through opposite Nos. 4 and 5 Posts. A German sprang on to the parapet of No. 5 but was shot dead immediately, other Germans were shot in front of the Post and in front of No. 4. Only at No. 1 Post had the enemy any measure of success, and that of a temporary nature. In spite of the very heavy bombardment not a post was abandoned, officers and men clinging to their positions with splendid tenacity and absolute fearlessness.”* In this affair the 2/6th West Yorkshires lost one officer (Capt. G. C. Turner) and two other ranks killed, and thirty wounded. The records state that ‘“‘ Capt. G. C. Turner did magnificently before receiving a direct hit by a medium trench-mortar, and is reported to have himself accounted for five Germans.” In a Special Order of the Day by General Braithwaite (G.O.C. 62nd Division) the fine fighting of the West Yorkshiremen of the 185th Infantry Brigade was acknowledged in these terms: ‘‘ The Corps Commander desires me (the B.G.G.S., VIth Corps) to convey

' History of the 62nd (W.R.) Division, 1914-1919."



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2/ 5TH, 2/6TH 2/7TH, 2/8TH BATTALIONS.

12TH OcrT,

148 The West Regiment in the War 1917

to you and through you to Brigadier-General Viscount Hampden and the troops of the 185th Infantry Brigade who recently carried out successful raids and patrol work, and also to all ranks who recently repulsed the enemy’s raid on the morning of the 13th inst., his high appreciation of their staunch and gallant behaviour.” During the night of 13th/14th September the four battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment were relieved by the 186th Brigade and moved back to Favreuil, where several days were spent in cleaning-up and training. On the night of 21st/22nd the 185th Brigade took over the Bullecourt sector from the 187th Brigade, the relief being completed by 12-20 a.m. on the latter date. At 8-50 p.m., after a heavy barrage of all calibre placed on the trenches of the left sub-sector, a party of Germans approached a post in Bullecourt, attacking it from rear. Two men and a Lewis gun were subsequently missing, the 2/7th West Yorkshires had an officer and one other rank wounded, while the 2/8th West Yorkshires lost eight other ranks killed, ten wounded, two died of wounds and two missing. On 23rd Captain (Acting-Major) R. H. Waddy, 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, assumed command of the 2/s5th West Yorkshire Regiment vice Lieut.-Colonel J. Josselyn, who returned to England invalided for shell-shock. For the remainder of September, and until the 12th October, trench warfare occupied the attention of all ranks. Of that period there is nothing to record of outstanding importance. The enemy’s guns and snipers took toll of the gallant fellows who held the front- line trenches, the West Yorkshiremen returning blow for blow, or rather shot for shot. Vigilant eyes and staunch hearts watched No Man’s Land continually, and held it against all attempts of the enemy to make it his own. After relief on 12th October the 185th Brigade (in Division) moved from the Noreuil-Bullecourt sector to a training area round Haplincourt and Barastre. Here a fortnight of intensive training, which subsequently proved of great value, was gone through. On 30th October a move was made to the Fosseaux area, west of Arras, where a special course of training with tanks was begun, on 2nd November, in preparation for the Cambrai operations. Each battalion carried out two days’ training with the company of tanks with which it was to fight, the steel monsters inspiring the greatest confidence amongst all ranks of the 62nd Division.

1 On the 2nd October the body of Second-Lieut. E. G. Annely, who had been missing since 3rd May, was found in Bullecourt.

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On the night of 16th/17th November the troops of the 62nd Division reached their concentration area, west of Havrincourt, and on the following night the 2/7th West Yorkshires relieved the Ist Irish Rifles (36th Division) in the Havrincourt sector, but the Irish- men still held the outpost line so as to avoid any chance of the enemy gaining information of the relief. The wisdom of this procedure was almost immediately apparent, for during the night the enemy raided the outpost line, capturing two men belonging to the 36th Division : thus the only identification he obtained was “ During the night of r9th/2oth the remainder of the 185th :9TH—2o0TH Brigade, with the 187th Brigade (both of the 62nd Division) moved N°V. up through Havrincourt Wood along the taped tracks to their assembly positions. By midnight on 19th, all along the line from Gonnelieu to south and west of Havrincourt, the troops detailed for the attack were in position. The general scheme of operations has already been briefly described, but for a better understanding of the operations of the 1st and 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th West Yorkshires, it is necessary to outline the orders issued to these battalions. In the first phase of the Battle the 20th Division, on the right, and the 6th Division, on the left, of the IIIrd Corps, were to attack the Hindenburg front and support lines, and the 29th Division was then to pass through and secure the crossings on the Canal at Marcoing and Masniéres, and the heights south-west of Rumilly and about Premy Chapel. The 12th and 20th Divisions were to cover the flanks of the 29th Division. Of the 6th Division the 16th Infantry Brigade, on the right, and the 71st Infantry Brigade, on the left, were to carry out the attack on the Blue and Brown Lines, and the 18th Infantry Brigade was to push through after the capture of the Brown Line and secure the line from Premy Chapel to L.19.b.6.4. (the Red Line), connecting at the latter point with the right of the 51st Division. The 18th Infantry Brigade was then to patrol towards Marcoing and Support the tanks there. The action of the rst West Yorkshires (Lieut -Colonel A. M. Be Boyall) was to be as follows : the battalion was to form the advanced B*TTALION guard of the 18th Brigade and be prepared to cross the Brown Line at 3 hours and 20 minutes after “ Zero.”” One company was to form the point of the Advanced Guard, one company to be thrown back in echelon on either flank, and one company in rear, echeloned to the right. The leading company on the right flank was to supply “ moppers-up ” for the communication trench running through

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150 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

L.20.d. to L.21.a and b, and also push out patrols into Nine Wood, in support of the tanks. On the IVth Corps front the 51st Division, on the right, and the 62nd Division, on the left, were to capture the enemy’s front and support lines and the villages of Flesquiéres and Havrincourt (the Blue and Brown Lines). In the ‘“‘ 2nd bound ”’ the infantry were to advance to the line Bois des Neuf—Graincourt Sugar Factory and trenches immediately north of the Bapaume-Cambrai road. Of the 62nd Division the 185th Infantry Brigade, on the right, and the 187th Brigade, on the left, were to capture the Blue and Brown Lines, and the 186th Brigade was to pass through to the Graincourt-Sugar Factory trenches immediately north of the Bapaume-Cambrai road. The 185th Infantry Brigade (Brig.-General Viscount Hampden) 2/8TH, 2/6rH Was disposed as follows : 2/8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. 2/7TH, 2/5TH H. James) on the right, 2/6th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel C. BatTaLions. 31, Hoare) on the left, 2/7th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel C. K. James) in rear of 2/8th Battalion, and 2/s5th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel R. H. Waddy) in rear of 2/6th Battalion. The 2/8th and 2/6th Battalions were to capture the Blue Line and the 2/7th and 2/s5th the Brown Line. One company of the 2/7th and one of the 2/5th West Yorkshires were detailed to advance in front of the 2/8th and 2/6th Battalions respectively, but in rear of the tanks, and capture the enemy’s outpost line before the two front assaulting battalions of the 185th Brigade attacked the first objective. ‘** Zero” had been fixed for 6-20 a.m. along the whole front, at which hour the attacking troops were to advance behind a line of tanks : ‘‘ There will be no preliminary bombardment of the enemy’s positions and the only path through his wire will be along the track made by the tanks.”” It will thus be seen that, apart from the concealment of all plans from the enemy, the results of the operation were to be very largely determined by the success or failure of the tanks. Each tank had on its back a huge fascine resting on a giant pair of arms. An ingenious contrivance provided means by which the fascine could be dropped into an unusually deep trench across which the tank could then pursue its way, without having to dip its nose with the possibility of being stuck. The wire-cutting tanks were in the front line. As already stated, the utmost secrecy had to be preserved ;

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indeed, the precautions taken to keep the impending attack from the enemy were exhaustive. When they raided the posts held by the 36th Division and carried off two prisoners, fears were entertained that in an unguarded moment the enemy may have extracted infor- mation from the Irishmen, but, to their everlasting credit, they did not give the coming “‘ away. Nevertheless, the whole line was kept in anxious suspense until ‘“ Zero” hour arrived. Once, indeed, it really seemed as if the enemy had discovered every- thing, for about two hours before “‘ he suddenly opened a furious burst of fire. This incident is well described by the C.R.A. (Brig.-General A. T. Anderson) of the 62nd Division. ‘“‘ The night of the 19th,” he said, “‘ was a very anxious time, and will long be remembered by all who took part in the battle. It was impossible to tell whether the enemy had any suspicion of what was in store for him. He might even have known all about it, and this was the more possible as he had made a raid two nights before the battle and had captured one or two of our men. There was a chance that he might have wormed some information out of them, for an uneducated man may often give away valuable information quite innocently, out of pure ignorance or indiscretion. If he did know, the enemy might wreck the attack before it began, by bombarding the long line of guns which had the most definite orders on no account to fire a round till 6-20 a.m., when the attack was to be launched. As it happened, the Boche showed great uneasiness and fired very heavily during the night, though fortunately not on any vital places. We listened to the firing in great suspense and watched the flashes of the shells bursting apparently very near our line of guns,' but one could get no information of attack, for no telephones were allowed until the moment of attack lest indiscreet things might be said and tapped by the enemy’s listening apparatus. At 5-45 a.m. there was a particularly furious burst of firing, which died down at a few minutes before 6, and was succeeded by a dead silence, during which one could fancy one heard the anxious beating of fifty thousand hearts. Did the Boche know? Had he some infernal surprise for us ? ” All along the line the spirit of the troops was splendid. Enthusiasm for the attack was very great, the men placing great confidence jn the tanks, of which some 420 were to be employed between Gonnelieu and Havrincourt. In Battalion Orders, issued by the C.O. of 2/6th West York- shires, the following phrase occurs: ‘‘ The word ‘ retire’ does not

1 The guns of the 62nd Division were along the Hubert Road in Havrincourt Wood.

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exist.” And that was the spirit all up and down the line on that November morning as the troops awaited the signal to attack. Two minutes before ‘“‘ Zero ” there was not a sound, though the tanks were emitting volumes of smoke, and straining like chargers pulling at the reins, anxious to go forward. Then, at 6-20 a.m., there was a sudden roar, and the quiet stillness of the morning was broken by the voices of a thousand guns ; the grey sky grew red as death and destruction swept down upon the enemy’s forward trenches. The barrage was tmed to keep well in front of the tanks as the latter nosed their way forward, led by the wire-crushers. The artillery had been ordered to allow the tanks approximately 100 yards for every five minutes. From Gonnelieu to Havrincourt the tanks, moving forward in advance of the infantry, fell upon the enemy’s heavy wire entangle- ments, tearing great gaps through which the oncoming troops could pass. Protected by smoke barrages from the enemy’s artillery observers, the steel monsters rolled on across the German trenches, smashing up the enemy’s machine-guns like matchwood and driving his infantry into their dug-outs, or forcing them to surrender. Dazed and demoralised, the Germans had little time to recover before the British troops were upon them, and soon the clashing of bayonets, intermingled with the cries and groans of the wounded and dying, were added to the awful din of the battle. The 12th Division, moving along the Bonavis Ridge, carried Lateau Wood after fierce fighting, and captured a number of German batteries. The 20th Division cleared La Vacquerie and stormed the powerfully defended Welsh Ridge. After much bloody fighting in the streets and houses, the village of Ribecourt fell to the 16th and 71st Brigades of the 6th Division, but the Germans in the trenches on the southern exits of Flesquiéres held up the advance of the 51st Division, though the latter secured the remainder of its first and second objectives. Havrincourt had fallen to the 62nd Division, and on the western side of the Canal du Nord the 36th Division was advancing side by side with the troops of the West Riding. Such, briefly, is the story of the opening phases of the battle. The surprise of the enemy was complete. The attack of the 6th Division was made on a two-brigade frontage, z.e., the 16th Brigade on the right and the 71st Brigade on the left. The objectives allotted to these two Brigades were: first, the Hindenburg front-line system ; second, the Blue Line—a line between the Hindenburg Main and Support Lines—including the

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village of Ribecourt (71st Brigade); and third, the Hindenburg Support Line. At 3 hours and 20 minutes after “‘ Zero,” the 18th Infantry Brigade was to pass through the 71st Infantry Brigade and capture the high ground above Premy Chapel and form a defensive flank along the ridge from L.15.d.6.7. to L.19.b.6.4. The rst West Yorkshires were to form the advanced guard of the 18th Brigade. One company of the battalion was to form the point of the advanced guard, two companies to be thrown back in echelon, one on either flank, and one company in rear echeloned to the right. The leading company was to be responsible for ‘“‘ mopping-up ” the communica- tion trench running in a north-westerly direction from the Hinden- burg Support Line towards Premy Chapel, also for pushing out patrols into Nine Wood in support of the tanks. The 14th D.L.I. were to advance echeloned in rear on the right flank of the West Yorkshires, with orders to the leading company to push on to Marco- ing, there to establish touch with companies of the 16th and 7!st Brigades, who having reached the Brown Line, were to push forward to the bridgeheads on the Canal and there hold on until the arrival of the 19th Division The 2nd D.L.I. was echeloned on the left flank of the rst West Yorkshires. During the night of r19th/2oth the 18th Infantry Brigade assembled south-west of Beaucamp village, the West Yorkshires having marched at 6-30 p.m. from the tents in Dessart Wood. At 6-20 a.m. there was an ear-splitting roar as the guns opened fire, and the tanks began at once to move across No Man’s Land. But for nearly two hours, beyond a message received from the 11th Essex Regiment (attached to the 71st Brigade) that the 71st Brigade was making good progress, no word reached the 18th Infantry Brigade of what was happening across No Man’s Land. But just before 8 o’clock the Brigade received orders to advance and, at 8-8 a.m., the West Yorkshires moved off from their assembly positions to the old British front and support lines which crossed the Argyle Road. On arrival in the ‘“ O.B.L.”’ the battalion received fresh orders to push on to Plush Trench (the German original outpost line). At 8-45 a.m. the 71st Brigade sent back a message to 18th Brigade Headquarters that the main Hindenburg Line had been captured. The rst West Yorkshires were then ordered to continue the advance as soon as word was received from the 11th Essex Regiment that that battalion had gained its objective, 1.e., the Brown Line.

About 9.50 a.m., tanks were seen advancing up the slopes of


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154 The West Yorkshre Regiment in the War 1917

the Premy Chapel Ridge, and it was evident that if the success gained was to be exploited no time was to be lost. The West Yorkshiremen were therefore ordered to push on without waiting for further information. An hour later (10-50 a.m.) the West Yorkshires were seen crossing the railway line north-east of Ribe- court, the leading company of the battalion entering the Hindenburg Support System at 11-10 a.m. The hostile barrage by this time was inaccurate, but heavy machine-gun and rifle fire swept the line of advance as the battalion passed Ribecourt and through the Hinden- burg Support System. Unfortunately there are no details of what happened between this period and the next entry in the Battalion Diary, timed 12-15 a.m., when the record states that the whole of the objectives on Premy Chapel Ridge, allotted to the 1st West Yorkshires, had been captured and consolidation was in progress by “A” and “ B’’ Companies, who were then holding the forward slopes of the Ridge with ‘‘ D” and ‘“‘ C”’ Companies in reserve. Patrols had also been pushed out into Nine Wood. Of one gallant episode the information available is all too brief. During the advance over the Ridge ‘“‘B”’ Company came suddenly upon a German battery of 4°5 howitzers and a 77 mm. field gun. The latter continued firing at point-blank range at the West Yorkshires who, without staying their advance, gallantly rushed the guns at the point of the bayonet and captured them. After his battalion had captured the objectives allotted to it, Colonel Boyall established his Headquarters in a German artillery O.P., which the records state ‘“‘ was wonderfully organised and fitted up.” The cavalry should now have advanced through the West Yorkshiremen, but for some reason or other none passed through the 18th Brigade front extending along the Premy Chapel Ridge. The tanks had splendidly carried out the rdle allotted to them, and the successful advance of the 6th Division on 2oth was largely due to the gallant manner in which the steel monsters were driven. At dusk the 18th Brigade set to work to consolidate its gains. On the left of the 6th Division the 51st was held up in front of Flesquiéres, on the line of the railway north-east of Ribecourt: on the right Marcoing and Masniéres had fallen, and the passages of the Canal de |’Escout had been secured at both villages. The casualties of the 1st West Yorkshires on the first day of the battle were extraordinarily light. Only one other rank has been killed and two officers and eleven other ranks wounded. The

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1917 A Record Advance 155

battalion captured one officer and seventy-three other ranks, and a few artillerymen and telephonists. A complete battery of 4:2

howitzers and one 77 mm. gun were also taken, as well as many valuable maps and documents.

While the senior battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment (1st) was pushing on to the Premy Chapel Ridge, away on the left, at Havrincourt, the four second-line Territorial Battalions (2/§th, 2/s5TH, 2/6TH 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th West Yorkshires of the 185th Brigade) had, 2/7™, 2/8TH with other troops of the 62nd (W.R.) Division, accomplished what, 567 Nov. I up to that period, was destined to be known as the record infantry advance in any one day. And, fortunately, full details of the splendid

fighting of the West Yorkshiremen on this day are available.

At “‘ Zero ” hour, ‘* C ” Company of the 2/7th West Yorkshires 2/7TH (Lieut.-Colonel C. K. James), which had been detailed to attack and BATTAL!o%. capture the enemy’s outpost line in K.34.d. (i.e., in front of the 2/8th West Yorkshires), was located at the head of ““B”’ Sap, (Q.4.b.6.8.). “A” and ‘* B’’ Companies were in Trescault Trench

and ‘“‘ D”’ Company in an old trench some forty yards in rear of ‘“ A” and “ B ”? Companies. As the barrage fell the tanks should have crossed the outpost line, but at “‘ Zero” plus 10, no tanks had appeared at the head of “B’’ Sap, where “C’? Company was waiting to attack. But, presently, in the uncertain morning light, the ungainly forms of the steel monsters were discerned going forward, and as the last of them passed the Tip the West Yorkshiremen left “‘ B’’ Sap and advanced towards the enemy’s outpost line in Femy Scrub. Stull dazed and Shaken by the barrage and the terrifying actions of the tanks 100 German prisoners (taken by ‘“‘C’’ Company) were soon making their way, under escort, back to the cages: “‘ C’’ Company also captured four machine-guns. After ‘‘ mopping-up ” the area the company re-formed into platoons and the 2/8th West Yorkshires then passed through in order to attack the Hindenburg Front Line.

The 2/8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. H. James) 2/8TH advanced to the attack with “ A” Company on the right and “ B” BATTALION. Company on the left, in two waves, each company taking a front of , 200 yards ; their orders were to capture the Hindenburg Front Line. The latter and the communication trenches were then to be con- solidated by ‘“‘ A”? Company, whilst the other three companies— “ C,” “ B” and “ D” in the order given—passed on to the capture of the second and third objectives: ‘“‘C’’ Company the second

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156 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

objective and “‘ B” and “‘ D” the third objective, the latter being the Blue Line (1st Divisional objective). It was fifteen minutes before the tanks got clear of the 2/8th West Yorkshires, who then followed about 100 yards in rear. The leading waves of ““A” and “‘B” Companies reached the front trench of the Hindenburg Line at about 6-50 a.m., where a few Germans who showed fight were shot down or bayoneted, the remainder surrendering freely, being too cowed to offer any resis- tance. Eighty prisoners, six machine-guns and one trench-mortar were captured and several dug-outs were bombed. Then, according to plan, “‘ A’’ Company took over the whole front captured by ““A” and “ B” Companies, and began the work of consolidating the line, while “‘C’’ Company followed the tanks to the next objective. The objectives allotted to ‘““C’’ Company were three short lengths of trench west of Triangle Wood. Each of these small trenches was defended by machine-guns. As the company advanced it soon became evident that Triangle Wood was occupied by the enemy and had not been captured by the troops of the 51st Division (on the right of the 2/8th West Yorkshires), in whose sector the Wood lay. Heavy machine-gun fire was coming from the Wood, and it was necessary to rush the position from both flanks simultaneously, though to do so meant trespassing on another Division’s area. This small operation was successful, and twelve more Germans and their machine-guns were added to the captures of the West Yorkshiremen. By “‘ Zero ”’ plus 60, ‘‘ C”’? Company had captured all its objectives, and “‘D”’ and “ B’”’ Companies moved on towards the battalion’s final objectives. On the right “ B ” Company (its right flank “‘ in the air ’’) had some forty casualties from the direction of Ribecourt and were slow in advancing, but a tank came along and effectively protected the exposed flank. ““D ” Company, on the left of “ B,”’ had lost all its officers before reaching “‘ T ’”? Wood, but the senior sergeant took command and led his company to the final objective, where Lieut. Jowett of “A” Company joined him and assumed command. The advance of “‘ D ” Company was full of excitement. At ‘‘ T ” Wood a hostile machine-gun held up the advance for a short while until, under a shower of bombs, the German gun teams scattered, the two remain- ing gunners being bayoneted. A little further on Nos. 13 and 15 Platoons experienced opposition from a concrete emplacement to the

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1917 Suff Fighting 157

left of a small copse. Twenty Germans were killed and three officers and sixty other ranks were captured in this neighbourhood. In the trenches east of the Dressing Station the enemy was encountered in large numbers. Many were killed and 110 taken prisoner. All four companies of the 2/8th West Yorkshires having now gained all their objectives, Colonel A. H. James moved his Battalion Headquarters from the Hindenburg Front Line, where they had at first been established up to Chapel Trench (K.22.d.). Meanwhile, on the left of the 2/8th West Yorkshires, the 2/6th 2/6Tn Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel C. H. Hoare) had also won all its objectives, though at heavy cost, as the advance of the battalion lay not only through the Hindenburg Front Line, but through Havrincourt Park and the eastern portion of the village. One company (“‘ A’) of the 2/5th West Yorkshires had been detailed to capture the enemy’s outpost line before the 2/6th advanced through to its objective. “‘ A’? Company was to have attacked in conjunction with six tanks, but two of the latter (one detailed to proceed up the Glade and the other down Trescault Valley) did not arrive. Asa result, as the 2/6th West Yorkshires advanced, hostile machine-guns, firing from a trench crossing the Glade, held up the leading platoon of ““C’’? Company. Stokes mortars were, however, promptly brought into action and the strong point was captured, though not without considerable loss. The strength of the enemy’s Opposition at this point induced the only surviving platoon com- mander of “‘ C ” Company to believe that he had reached the Hinden- burg Front Line and he reported to Battalion Headquarters that he had done so. The error was not discovered for some little while, but as soon as it was found out Colonel Hoare sent forward his Intelligence Officer with a platoon of “‘ D”’ Company to ascertain the position and to secure the Hindenburg Line. This Intelligence Officer at once pushed ‘‘ C’’? Company forward to the Hindenburg Line and, with a platoon of ‘‘ D,”? went on to strengthen “ B”’ Company, which, during the advance on the left had lost about sixty per cent. of its effectives. ‘‘ A’’ Company (2/6th), well led by Capt. W. Moorhouse, had pushed through the Hindenburg Line, unassisted by tanks, and had won the line of the road running north north-west from the Grand Ravine to the south-east corner of Havrincourt village, thence northwards along the eastern outskirts of the village. But here also the advance was held up by heavy machine-gun fire, and until “‘ Company came up on the left “A” could not get on. But by 9-30 a.m. “ B” Company, reinforced by “‘ D,” had

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20TH Nov.



20TH Nov.

158 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

pushed through, and with the assistance of one tank Havrincourt village was entered. During this time, from Havrincourt Park and the Chateau, heavy machine-gun fire harassed the garrison of the Hindenburg Line, but the Brigade-Major (Capt. Harter) and the 2/6th Intelligence Officer (Second-Lieut. Moor) organised a party with the object of breaking down the opposition. In this they were successful, and by 10-15 a.m. the park and village were cleared. The 2/6th had now won through to its objective—the Blue Line—and at once began the work of consolidation. The Blue Line, along the 185th Brigade front, having been captured by 2/8th and 2/6th West Yorkshires, the second objective— the Brown Line—was then attacked by the 2/7th (right) and the 2/5th (left) West Yorkshires, who “ leap-frogged ”’ the two battalions in the first objective. At “‘ Zero’ plus 45, in accordance with the plan of attack, the 2/7th and 2/5th West Yorkshires (less one company each, detailed to attack the enemy’s outpost line) moved off from their assembly area in Trescault Trench and formed up in the road below “ T ” Wood. The portion of the Brown Line, which formed the objective of the 2/7th Battalion, lay between points K.17.a.5.5. and K.16.b.6.4. Two hours before ‘‘ Zero ” the four companies of the battalion were disposed as follows: ‘“‘C’’ Company at the head of “B” Sap (Q.4.b.6.8.), “* A” and “‘ B ” Companies in Trescault Trench from Q.4.d.5.8. to Q.4.d.3.8. and “* D”” Company in an old trench some forty yards in rear. A good breakfast had been issued to all com- panies after they were formed up, cook-houses having been established for this purpose in Trescault village. ““C” Company (as already described) had been ordered to attack and capture the enemy’s outpost line in front of the 2/8th Battalion, an operation entirely successful, resulting in the capture of 100 prisoners and four machine-guns. After the outpost line had been taken the company re-formed itself into platoons, the 2/8th West Yorkshires passing through. At “ Zero ”’ plus 45, ‘‘ A,” “ B ” and “‘ D”? Companies advanced from their assembly positions in normal attack formation, ‘“‘ C” Company following in rear, when the three forward battalions had passed over the outpost line. At “‘ Zero ” plus go the 2/7th reached its assembly position, the sunken road in K.28.d. running east from Havrincourt, t.e., just below “‘ T ” Wood, and there formed up for the attack on the Brown Line. Preceded by the tanks detailed for

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1917 More Objectives Captured 159

the 2nd objective, the 2/7th advanced at “ Zero” plus 145, the order of companies being “‘ A,” “‘ B,” D ” and “ C.” “ A” Company attacked, captured, and “‘ mopped-up ” the area in K.22.b. “‘B” and “* D” Companies then passed through and stormed the Hindenburg Support Line from K.18.d.9.9. to K.17.C.6.6., 150 prisoners and seven machine-guns being captured by these two Companies. ‘“‘C’” Company then passed through “B” and “ D,” and established a strong post on the Brown Line at K.17.a.5.5., and also gaining touch with a flanking battalion of the sist Division, west of Flesquiéres. On the left of the 2/7th, the 2/5th West Yorkshires had encountered considerable opposition from enemy machine-guns before capturing the Brown Line. The 2/ 5th (less “‘ A’? Company, detailed to attack the enemy’s 2/ 5TH outpost line in front of the 2/6th West Yorkshires) had assembled BATTALION. in Trescault Trench on the left of the 2/7th Battalion by 5 a.m. ‘““D ” Company was on the right and “‘ B”’ on the left, so disposed as to get out of the trench in diamond formation. The first wave of these two companies was on the fire step with the second wave in the trench proper. ‘‘ C’’ Company, forming the first wave of the battalion, assembled in Sap “‘ C” with orders to move diagon- ally to the right until touch had been obtained with the company of 2/7th Battalion assembled in Sap “‘ B.” Soon after “ Zero”? “‘C”’ Company, as previously ordered, sent out parties to cut gaps in the enemy’s wire in front of Femy Scrub, as the tanks had skirted the latter, leaving it on their left. The battalion, led by “‘ C”” Company (forming the first wave), left its assembly positions, followed by ‘“‘ D” and “ B”’ Companies forming the second and third waves. At this stage no tanks covered the advance of the 2/5th. On the right the 2/7th Battalion was advancing in the same formation. On the left touch was not ob- tained with the right battalion of the 187th Brigade until the two battalions converged on the southern end of Havrincourt village. On the way to the second assembly position the 2/5th passed through the 2/6th West Yorkshires, who had captured their objective but were still fighting in the southern corner of the village. Soon after starting the first wave (“‘ C ’’ Company) encountered a machine-gun post with twenty men in Femy Scrub. This was dealt with by rifle grenades and captured. On the line of the second assembly position (the road south of “‘ T ’’ Wood) about twenty-four casualties were suffered from hostile shell-fire, but in about half an

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160 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

hour the re-organising of the waves was accomplished and the battalion advanced. The three tanks allotted to the battalion failed to appear, but with the timely arrival of two tanks, survivors of the attack on the first objective, the advance was begun at “‘ Zero”’ plus 115. Shortly after leaving the “‘ jumping-off ” line the right platoon of the leading wave came under fire from a machine-gun in ‘‘ T’’ Wood. The platoon sergeant (whose name unfortunately is unobtainable) rushed the gun with the bayonet, whereupon the German gun team jumped into a dug-out. But the latter was successfully bombed and the machine-gun placed in one of the tanks. Opposition next came

. from the Cemetery near Havrincourt, where another machine-gun

and thirty prisoners were taken by a tank. Machine-gun fire from Havrincourt held up the advance of the second and third waves for fifteen minutes, but again a tank, rushing on the hostile gun, soon put it out of action and the two waves proceeded, finally assisting the first wave (“‘ C”’ Company) in dealing with the opposition from the Cemetery. Machine-gun fire from a trench which covered the front of the battalion forced the latter to seek shelter in a sunken road near the Cemetery. At this point there were no tanks covering the advance of the 2, 5th, but on signalling a tank on the right of the battalion responded and smothered the hostile gun. On the left, another machine-gun, overlooked by the tanks, was still causing trouble, but four Lewis guns concentrated their fire on the post and it was rushed, the gun with its team being captured. The battalion then advanced, “‘ C ’? Company occupying its first objective, whilst ‘‘B” and ‘‘ D” Companies passed through, attacking and capturing the Hindenburg Support Line and that portion of the Brown Line allotted to the battalion. About seventy prisoners were captured in the trench or taken from dug-outs in the neighbour- hood. The trench was then ‘‘ blocked ”’ on the left, patrols working some 400 or 500 yards up the trench meeting with no opposition. Thus the Blue and the Brown Lines had been captured by the 185th Infantry Brigade. The attack had been made with fine dash, and all ranks had behaved splendidly. Eleven officers and ninety-seven other ranks had been killed, nineteen officers and 454 other ranks were wounded, and two officers and 124 other ranks were missing.'

' So far as can be ascertained from the Diaries, the following are the losses of each battalion on 20th November: 2/cth West Yorkshires : Second-Lieut. Smith, killed; Second-Liecut. Watson wounded and 113 other ranks casualties. 2/6th Battalion : Two officers killed and five wounded, twenty-three other ranks killed, sixty-cight wounded and fifty-nine missing. 2/7th Battalion : Two officers killed, twenty other ranks killed, seventy-six wounded, six missing. 2/8th Battalion : ‘T’hree officers and ninety-five other ranks (it is not stated whether these were killed or wounded).

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1917 Situation at Night—2orh November 161

Twelve officers and 1,341 other ranks had been captured by the 20TH Nov. 185th Brigade, as well as ninety-seven machine-guns, two medium trench mortars, one light trench-mortar and a large number of rifles. On the left of the 185th, the 187th Infantry Brigade had similarly (after stiff fighting) won all its objectives and, while the two Brigades were organising and consolidating the Brown Line, the 186th Brigade passed through to attack Graincourt and the line of the Bapaume-Cambrai road. For the remainder of the 20th November and, indeed, until the evening of the 21st, the four West Yorkshire battalions held these positions of the Blue and Brown Lines captured by them during the early part of the day. The tank attack of the 20th November was a great success ; it had demonstrated that, working in conjunction with infantry, the steel monsters had a most demoralising effect on the enemy, and that in the capture of strong points and machine-gun nests they were invaluable. The surprise of the enemy had been complete, but unforeseen events robbed the gallant troops who had rushed across No Man’s Land in the wake of the tanks of the full fruits of victory, though the 62nd Division advanced 7,000 yards—the record advance in any one day up to that period of the war. When darkness fell on the 20th November, the British line from right to left ran approximately from Gonnelieu, east of Lateau Wood, almost due north to Masniéres, thence in a north-westerly direction including Marcoing and Nine Wood, whence the line dropped sharply back in a south-westerly direction to just south of Flesquieres, then taking a sweep north again round the eastern exits of Grain- court to the Sugar Factory on the Bapaume-Cambrai road and back along the latter to the old British Line west of the Canal du Nord. It was not (as already stated above) until the afternoon and evening of the 21st that the 185th Infantry Brigade came again into the front line of the battle. Neither the Ist nor the 2/sth, 2/6th, 2/7th or 2/8th West isr Yorkshires were engaged with the enemy on 21st November. The BATTALION. Ist Battalion remained all day in positions on Premy Chapel Ridge, 21st Nov. forming a defensive flank on the left, and working on and consolidat- ing the line gained on the previous day. It was early yet, and the powerful German counter-attacks made later were not immediately possible, since Ludendorff had had to order up several German divisions, and the 21st was the earliest date on which they could arrive ; two more days must elapse before sufficient forces could be

massed to hold up the British attack M

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2/5TH, 2/6TH 2/7TH, 2/8TH BATTALIONS. 21st Nov.

162 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

During the night of the enemy had retired from Flesquiéres, and very early in the morning patrols of the 51st Division had reached the Brown Line. At dawn two battalions of the Scottish Division passed through the village and established themselves on the Brown Line. Throughout the actions of 21st November the 185th and the 187th Brigades of the 62nd Division were not engaged, though the former had gradually moved forward, and by 1 p.m. Brigade Head- quarters were established in Graincourt, all four battalions of the West Yorkshires taking up positions in K.4. and K.10 (¢.e., in the Hindenburg Support Line, west and south-west of Graincourt). The 185th Brigade had, however, been ordered to relieve the 168th Brigade in the front line during the night 21st/22nd. When darkness had fallen the 185th Brigade moved forward to take over the line captured throughout the day by the 186th Brigade. The 2/7th West Yorkshires relieved the 24th Duke of Welling- ton’s Regiment in Anneux and the positions round it, including the Quarry and the Chapel, three companies being placed in the outpost line and one in reserve: the 2/8th West Yorkshires relieved the 27th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and the two right companies of the 2/6th Battalion of the same regiment, who were holding the sunken road south-west of Bourlon Wood. A company (‘‘C’’) of the West Yorkshires relieved the two left companies of the 2/6th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment from E.17.c. and D to E.23.a., and there formed a defensive flank for the 2/8th West Yorkshires, to whom the Company of the 2/5th was attached. ‘“‘ D’’ Company of the 2/5th West Yorkshires was also attached later to the 2/8th West Yorkshires: ‘A’? Company was moved up to the junction of the Hindenburg Support Line and the Bapaume-Cambrai road, under orders of the 2/6th West Yorkshires: ‘‘ B’’ Company was held in reserve. The 2/6th West Yorkshires relieved the 2/5th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment on the left of the 62nd Divisional front line, 1.e., about the Bapaume-Cambrai road. The battle had now lasted two days, and, on the evening of the 21st, the position along the whole front was thus described in Sir Douglas Haig’s despatches: ‘‘ From our old front line east of Gonnelieu the right flank of our new position lay along the eastern slopes of the Bonavis Ridge, passing east of Lateau Wood and striking the Masniéres-Beaurevoir line north of the Canal de l’Escaut at a point about half-way between Crévecoeur and Masniéres. From this

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1917 The Decision to ‘‘Go On” 163

point our line ran roughly north-west past (and including) Masniéres, Noyelles and Cantaing, to Fontaine, also inclusive. There it bent back to the south for a short distance, making a sharp salient round the latter village, and ran in a generally westerly direction along the southern edge of Bourlon Wood and across the southern face of the Spur to the west of the Wood to the Canal du Nord, south-east of the village of Mceuvres. From Meeuvres the line linked up once more with our old front at a point midway between Boursies and Pronville.” But now the time had arrived when it was necessary for the British Commander-in-Chief to decide his future plan of action— to go on or to hold what had been gained. The element of surprise had passed and the enemy was collecting powerful forces to hold up any further advance. The positions gained in the two-days’ battle were, however, dominated by the Bourlon Ridge, and either the latter must be captured or the British line withdrawn to the Flesquiéres Ridge. Sir Douglas Haig decided to go on, but before a further advance could be made the worn and weary troops, who had borne the brunt of the heavy fighting of 20th and 21st, must be relieved and rested. There was no other course. The delay was unavoidable and was a bitter pill to swallow, for all the while it was known that the enemy was hourly growing more formidable. Good news from Italy, the Italian repulse of the Austrians between the Brenta and Piave, released two more divisions which had been earmarked to go to the assistance of the Italians, and with these reinforcements the prospects again became favourable. So the 22nd November was spent in organising the captured ground, z2np Nov. in carrying out certain reliefs, and in giving the troops the rest they greatly needed, though on this day the enemy delivered the first heavy counter-attack on the 62nd Division. This counter-attack was made at dawn on 22nd November against the 2/6th and 2/8th West Yorkshires, who were holding the line north of the Sugar Factory' on the Bapaume-Cambrai road. The centre of the section of the front held by the 2/6th Battalion , /¢74 formed a salient dominated by the Bourlon Ridge and a powerful Bartation. system of German trenches. Three or four large spoil heaps, about 22N° Nov. one hundred yards east of the northern point of the Salient, completely overlooked the latter, and, when daylight broke on the 22nd, Colonel C. H. Hoare (commanding 2/6th Battalion) took out two rifle sections to occupy them. The enemy at once opened heavy fire,

1 In E.22. and E.23,

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164 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War I9I7

2/5TH, 2/6TH but the spoil heaps were successfully occupied, though the position was


no sinecure. Colonel Hoare then returned to Brigade Headquarters to report the situation to the Brigadier, 185th Brigade. Three separate attacks were then made by large numbers of the enemy and ‘“‘ B”’ and “‘ A” and the left of ‘““ D ”’ Companies ; they were all repulsed, but the company of 2/5th West Yorkshires attached to the 2 6th was moved up to support the left flank of the latter battalion. A particularly heavy attack, supported by rifle and machine-gun fire, was then launched against the 2, 6th, the enemy advancing on all sides of the battalion and almost surrounding it. The situation was critical, for the West Yorkshires had fired all their ammunition and were thus forced to retire. By 9 a.m. the 2,6th were back on the Bapaume-Cambrai road. After sending his Headquarters to establish a defensive flank on the right, Colonel Hoare collected all the ammunition he could and again led his men forward in extended order against the ridge. The men were tired and hungry, having had nothing to eat, the rations having gone for- ward just as the enemy’s attack began. But they advanced splendidly, though almost without officers, and by 10 a.m. the ridge was re- occupied and the Germans were in retreat, leaving a good many killed on the field. A platoon of the 2,/5th Battalion, however, which had been ordered to establish a defensive flank on the left of the 2,/6th, was unable to carry out this order, and about 10-15 a.m. a large number of Germans in extended order and in column were observed working round that flank. Before the C.O. of the 2, 6th could get to the left flank the whole line began to crumble up. ‘* Before I arrived,” said Colonel Hoare, “ my line crumbled up from the left, eventually all coming back to the Cambrai-Bapaume road, where I was able to rally it.” A platoon of the 25th West York- shires was then pushed up the road to a wire barrier about 200 yards to the left of the 2/6th, and with sixty men the C.O. of the latter advanced to a bank about 300 yards north of the road; patrols were then sent out with instructions to regain the crest of the ridge if possible. All companies of the 2,6th were by now intermingled, and the battalion was reorganised on the line of the bank, the 2/6th on the right and the company of 2/5th West Yorkshires on the left. On the right about a company and a half of Germans, who were attempting to turn that flank, were driven off. So far as the 2/6th West Yorkshires were concerned the day’s fighting was over, save for desultory shelling, to which the enemy subjected the whole line. During the early fighting, which had been

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1917 Fontaine Lost 165

at very close quarters (from 50 to 100 yards), the 2/6th had lost five officers! and about thirteen other ranks killed, and five officers? and sixty other ranks wounded. Colonel Hoare was amongst the wounded officers, but remained “at duty.” In his report, the C.O. of the 2/6th records his appreciation of the great assistance rendered to his battalion by the company of 2,/5th West Yorkshires placed at his disposal. The 2/8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. H. James) in 2/grn the centre of the 185th Brigade Line were also partly driven back BaTTation. from the high ground, but were not as heavily attacked as the 2 6th 22%? Nov. Battalion, and with the assistance of the 2/4th York and Lancaster Regiment (187th Brigade) attacked the enemy and re-established the line.* The 2/7th West Yorkshires were not involved in the counter- 2/sTn attack of 22nd, but nevertheless came to blows with the enemy. In the early morning, just before dawn, Second-Lieut. Moore was 77%? *°Y: sent out with a platoon to establish a post in the Quarry. Here a large party of Germans was encountered coming from Bourlon Wood ; the Germans were dispersed by rifle and Lewis-gun fire, and suffered heavy casualties. No field of fire being possible from the Quarry, the platoon established itself in a sunken road near by. A little later Second-Lieut. Swift took a patrol of ten other ranks and a Lewis- gun team from Anneux Chapel, out about 400 yards along the Cambrai road, and opened fire with rifle grenades on the enemy, who held the trench system north-east of Anneux. A large party of Germans emerged from these trenches, and the patrol charged them with the bayonet, but a hostile machine-gun opened fire from a flanking trench, killing Second-Lieut. Swift and two N.C.O.’s. The patrol then retired to Anneux Chapel. About midday on the 22nd, the 51st Division had been forced out of Fontaine and fell back south-west of the village. This temporary loss disorganised the plans formed by the 62nd Division for the attack on Bourlon, which had to be abandoned for the time being. At night the goth Division relieved the 62nd, and the 185th Brigade moved back to the Lechelle area. For the next two or three days neither the Regular nor the Terri- torial battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment were engaged with the 1 Capt. W. Moorhouse, Capt. G. Barker, Capt. H. Smith, Second-Lieuts. P. Haywood and J. G. Booth, 2 On 13/12/17 Second-Lieut. H. Potterton died of wounds. 3 Of the 2/8th Battalion Second-Lieut. Hutchinson was killed and two officers were wounded.

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26TH Nov,

166 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

enemy. Indeed, the 1st Battalion did not again join action with the enemy until the 30th of the month, when the heaviest German counter-attack took place. From 21st to the evening of 24th the Ist Battalion remained in position on the Premy Chapel Ridge, moving back to billets in Ribecourt on the latter date. Working parties were supplied on the night of 25th, and on 26th the battalion (less ““ A’ Company left in billets) moved forward again to relieve the 2nd Coldstream Guards in support in the sunken road, south- west of Cantaing.!

3 From L.8.b. ro L.g.a.

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THE CAPTURE OF BOURLON WOOD : 23rd—28th November, 1917

N the second phase of the operations which took place from 26th to 28th November (inclusive) the Territorial battalions of the Regiment (185th Brigade) were used mostly to support the attacks of the 186th and 187th Brigades on Bourlon village. The 185th Brigade had moved up into the Hindenburg Support Line, north of Havrincourt, on the evening of 25th. On the following evening the 2/7th and 2/5th West Yorkshires were attached to the 186th and 187th Brigades respectively : the two battalions were moved forward to Bourlon Wood in order to support an attack by the two Brigades on Bourlon village at dawn on 27th. The 185th Brigade narrative of these operations hardly does justice to the West Yorkshiremen, for it does not mention the 2/7th West Yorkshires at all, though this battalion saw heavy fighting and lost during the attack on Bourlon village six officers wounded, fifteen other ranks killed, forty-nine wounded and twelve missing; the battalion also captured twenty Germans, two medium trench-mortars and a machine-gun. The 2/7th West Yorkshires, after (as already stated) attachment 2/771 to the 186th Brigade, the right Brigade of the 62nd Division, on BATTation. reaching Bourlon Wood on the night of 26th, proceeded to dig them- selves in as the Wood was under heavy shell-fire. The objectives allotted to the battalion in the attack on the following morning included portions of the railway north-east of Bourlon village and portions of the main street through the latter. Troops of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment of the 186th Brigade were to lead the attack and the 2/7th West Yorkshires were to go through them. At 5-30 a.m. on 27th “ A,” “ C” and “ D ” Companies were 277 Nov. ready formed up on the road running due west through the centre of the Wood: ‘‘ B” Company was in reserve in a hollow just below the ridge in the Wood: Lieut-Colonel C. K. James, the C.O., had his Headquarters in the Chalet. At Zero”? hour (6-20 a.m.) ‘“‘C”’ Company, followed by “ D,” in turn followed by ‘‘ A’? Company, advanced, the road run- ning due north through the Wood to the village being the battalion’s


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168 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

right flank. Two platoons of ‘‘D” who had crossed this road were held up by heavy machine-gun fire, but ““C’’ Company and the remainder of ‘‘ D”’ Company pushed on, and by “ Zero” plus go had reached their objective, 1.e., the eastern portion of the road through the village. But they also were held up by German machine- gun fire, in face of which a further advance was impossible. No troops could be seen on either flank, and ‘‘C”’ Company and ‘“‘ D ” (one platoon), reinforced by ‘‘ A’? Company, set to work to con- solidate a line just south of the road through the village. At least five counter-attacks were launched against the West Yorkshiremen, but they were easily beaten off with rifle and Lewis-gun fire. At ‘“* Zero” plus 300, no battalion having come up on the right flank of the 2/7th, ‘“* B’’ Company was sent up to form a defensive flank. At “ Zero” plus 420, 1.e., I-20 p.m., “‘D” Company was with- drawn into support about 150 yards in rear of “‘A” and “C” Companies. In this position, shelled heavily and subjected to machine-gun and rifle fire, and the unpleasant attentions of snipers, the 2/7th West Yorkshires hung on all day until 7 p.m., when they were relieved by a composite battalion of cavalry, and ‘‘ A ’ Company and part of ““B” marched back to dug-outs in the bank of the Canal du Nord, south of the Bapaume-Cambrai road, while the remainder of “‘B” with “‘C” and Companies moved back into support of the cavalrymen who had relieved them. In this position they remained until dusk on the 28th, when they also marched back to the dug-outs in the banks of the Canal du Nord, joining up with “‘A’’ Company and part of “ B.” On the 29th the 2/7th Battalion (in Brigade) moved back to Beaumetz.' The 2/5th West Yorkshires had, on the night of 26th, moved up to the southern edge of Bourlon Wood, with orders to recon- noitre a position for themselves in trenches there. But the order had come too late to permit of a reconnaissance being made and, although moving off at 8 p.m., it was 10 p.m. before the battalion reached the position indicated, only to find that trenches were non- existent. The enemy’s guns were reaching the Wood, and a few casualties from shell-fire were suffered before the battalion had dug itself in round the edge of the Wood: Battalion Headquarters were close by in a dug-out. Nothing was known as to the position of the first line, and no instructions from 187th Brigade Headquarters (to which the 2/s5th West Yorkshires were attached) reached Colonel R. H. Waddy (the C.O.), though he knew he was to support

1 Battalion casualties have already been given.

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1917 At all Costs” 169

the attack at 6-20 a.m. the next morning. The Adjutant, who was 2/ 5TH

sent out to find the whereabouts of Brigade Headquarters of the front line, both of the 187th Brigade and of the 2/'7th West Yorkshires, failed to locate their whereabouts, though he came across a Head- quarters of a Guards battalion who could supply no information. On the following morning the attack had been in progress for an hour, when about 7-30 a.m. an officer of the York and Lancaster Regiment reported that his Battalion’s Headquarters were a little further up the same sunken road as those of the 25th West Yorkshires. This officer had been sent out to find the West Yorkshires and to ask Colonel Waddy what support he could give, as a heavy German attack on the left flank of the York and Lancaster Regiment was feared. The C.O. of the 2/5th West Yorkshires, therefore, warned all his companies to be ready to move up in support of the 2/5th York and Lancaster Regiment and the 2 ‘5th K.O.Y.L.1. (on the left of the York and Lancaster Regiment). About 9-30 a.m. the K.O.Y.L.I. also called for reinforcements, and ‘“ A” Company of the 2/5th West Yorkshires was sent forward to a trench on the forward slope of the ridge. Half an hour later a subaltern of the 2/5th York and Lancaster Regiment (apparently then in command, the battalion having lost heavily in officers) reported to Colonel Waddy that he had withdrawn the remnants of the York and Lancasters to a trench on the ridge just south of Bourlon village, and he was promised assistance if necessary. Next the C.O. of the 2/5th K.O.Y.L.I. reported to Colonel Waddy that the enemy, debouching from a strong point which had not been dealt with by the tanks, was endeavouring to work round the left flank of his battalion. ‘‘B’’ and “C’”’ Companies of the 2/sth West Yorkshires were then sent up to stop any advance of the enemy from this direction. Only one company (“‘ D’’) remained with Colonel Waddy, so that when a little later orders came from 187th Brigade Headquarters to move his battalion up to the ridge and hold the line with the remnants of the 2/5th York and Lancaster Regi- ment, the C.O. of the 25th West Yorkshires reported that his remaining company was entrenched about his Battalion Headquarters, ready to assist the York and Lancasters. The Brigade, however, stated that ‘‘ the high ground must be held at all costs,” and when, almost simultaneously with the receipt of these instructions, the C.0.’s of the York and Lancasters and K.O.Y.L.I. appeared at Battalion Headquarters, 2/5th West Yorkshires, and the C.O. of the latter reporting the situation in the front line, it was evident that


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170 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

a critical stage had been reached. The three C.O.’s then decided to call upon one of the supporting battalions, which were believed to be near the Sugar Factory along the Bapaume-Cambrai road, and an officer was sent off immediately to ask for its assistance. This bat- talion was the 2/8th West Yorkshires. Lieut-Colonel A. H. James, the C.O. of the 2, 8th, gave the following story of the actions of his battalion after his assistance had been asked for: ‘I immediately moved the battalion forward to the sunken road, and myself pro- ceeded to the Headquarters of the 2,/§th West Yorkshire Regiment at E.24.b.6.7.1_ During this time the shelling was intense, but it was marvellous how few men got hit. Arriving at E.24.b.6.7. I inter- viewed the Commanding Officers of the 2/5th West Yorkshire Regiment and 2/5th K.O.Y.L.I., and asked what they desired me to do. I was informed by the latter that the attack on the village had failed, and that the position was critical. He requested me, in writing, to reinforce the high ground at E.17.b and E.18.a., a position to be held at all costs. Before moving my battalion from the sunken road I desired to personally reconnoitre the position in front and find out the situation on the spot. Arriving at the trench which runs on the top of the crest on the 100-metre contour at E.17.b., I found it to be full of men of the K.O.Y.L.I. There was no question of reinforcing them, as the trench was already crammed with men. Looking down the slope and into the village I could see no sign of the enemy massing for a counter-attack, but on the left flank small parties were making their way round the trench. Sniping was in- termittent from rifle and machine-gun, but there was a complete absence of shelling in the front line. Having already moved the battalion to the sunken road, which was occupied by troops of the 2nd Division, and on the left by two companies of the 2/5th West Yorkshire Regiment, I considered it advisable to make certain of the high ground in case the enemy made a counter-attack, so decided to dig-in in depth just behind the line held by the 2/5th K.O.Y.L.I. This I did, forthwith, without many casualties, one officer? being killed and two other officers wounded whilst superintending the consolidation. Late at night I took over the line held by the 2/5th K O.Y.L.I., holding it with two companies and also a company of the 25th West Yorkshire Regiment on the extreme left. My remaining companies were dug in behind this line. Casualties during the day, three officers and twenty-seven other ranks.”

1 About six hundred yards north-west of Anncux Chapel. 2 Second-Lieut. A. W. Shann.

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1917 Germans prepare their Counter-attack 171

Both the 2/s5th and 2/8th West Yorkshires remained in the same positions throughout the night 27/28th, and during the 28th Capt. Nevitt of the 2/8th was killed by a sniper on the latter date. In the very early hours of the 29th the two battalions were relieved and moved back to the Hindenburg Support Line. The 2/6th West Yorkshires, during the 27th, were disposed 2/6TH as follows: ‘‘ A” and “ C” Companies were detailed to reinforce BATTALION. the 4th Cavalry Battalion in Bourlon Wood and “B” and “D” ‘ Companies were used as carrying parties for S.A.A. and bombs. But the battalion saw little fighting, and casualties for the 27th and 28th were very slight, one officer being wounded one other rank killed and nine wounded. On the 29th the battalion moved back to Beaumetz. From the above account it will be gathered that, as a whole, the 18sth Brigade was reserved chiefly as support for the 186th and 187th Brigades in their attack on Bourlon village. That the attack was a failure was due to the arrival of heavy German reinforcements. Ludendorff had fully appreciated the danger of a successful thrust towards Cambrai—and had rushed up fresh divisions from neighbour- ing sectors of his front, and was preparing for a great counter-attack to retake his lost positions.

Page 185


THE GERMAN COUNTER-ATTACK, 30th November, 1917

HE official despatches stated that: ‘“‘ During the last day of November increased registration of hostile artillery, the movements of troops and transport observed behind the German lines, together with other indications of a like nature, pointed to further efforts by the enemy to regain the positions we had wrested from him.” On the morning of the 30th November, when the enemy 30TH Nov. launched his great counter-attack, the line which had been gained since the initial attack on the 20th November formed a dangerous salient. The divisions forming the front line, from right to left, were as follows: 55th west of Vendhuille, 12th west of Bantaux, 2oth at Lateau Wood, 29th at Masniéres, 6th just south of Noyelles and west of the Scheldt Canal, 59th at Cantaing, 47th at Bourlon Wood, 2nd from the left of the 47th Division, north of the Bapaume- Cambrai road, thence across the Canal du Nord to just south of Meeuvres, and 56th south of Tadpole Copse. The enemy’s attack was launched against the right and left flanks of the salient, by which method he hoped to pinch off the intervening ground. The opening attack was against the right flank from Vendhuille to Masniéres inclusive, and from the latter place to Bantaux (both inclusive) after a short, but intense, artillery bombardment, the enemy between the hours of 7 and 8 a.m. flinging four divisions against three British divisions (29th, 20th and 12th) holding the line. Between Bantaux and Vendhuille one German division and portions of two others were employed against the northern half of the 55th Division. On the Masniéres front the 29th Division gallantly beat off a succession of powerful attacks and maintained its line intact. Upon the northern end of the Bonavis Ridge and the Gonnelieu sector, however, the enemy’s assault was delivered with such suddenness and so close on the hostile bombardment that both these flanks were lost. Shielded by an early morning mist, and assisted by many deep folds and hollows typical of a chalk formation, the enemy’s


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174 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

troops had been able to assemble and advance before they were observed. Great numbers of German aeroplanes, low-flying, rained machine-gun fire upon the British infantry in their trenches, whilst the enemy’s use of smoke shells and bombs made it almost impossible to see what was happening on other parts of the front. The consequences were that the defences of Villers-Guislain, Gon- nelieu and Bonavis were rapidly overrun by the Germans. Gouzeau- court was captured by the enemy about 9 a.m. and the outer defences of La Vacquerie were soon reached. But now the enemy was forced to call a halt. The official despatches state that: ‘‘ At this point the enemy’s advance was checked by the action of our local reserves, and, mean- while, measures had been taken with all possible speed to bring up additional troops.” The despatches then continue with an account of the assault on, and recapture of, Gouzeaucourt by the Guards Division, the main- tenance of the defences of La Vacquerie and the re-establishment of a line north of the latter village, in touch with British troops in Masniéres. But no mention is made of the very gallant actions of the Regimental Transport of two battalions—the rst West Yorkshires and the 2nd Durham Light Infantry—who prevented the enemy continuing his advance westwards from Gouzeaucourt. The 1st West Yorkshires, on the morning of 30th November, were holding a line of support trenches about 1,500-2,000 yards east of Orival Wood ; these trenches had been taken over from the 2nd Coldstream Guards on 26th. When the German attack began the battalion was at work on the consolidation of the line and was not, apparently, engaged with the enemy throughout the day. Only the Regimental Transport fought the Germans, and fought them to a standstill. So meagre, however, is the description of this gallant little affair, yet so necessary is it to preserve all the existing details, that the contents of the Battalion Diary and other documents des- cribing the action of Capt. Paul and his gallant N.C.O.’s and men are given in full. The Battalion Diary thus relates the incidents of that stirring day: ‘‘ At dawn the enemy commenced a heavy attack on the right base of salient near Masniéres, continuing it with a heavy bombardment on left side from north of Flesquiéres to Bourlon. The enemy broke through the 20th and 12th Divisions and, about 11-30 a.m., were seen advancing between Gonnelieu and Gouzeau-

court. ‘* Just outside the village were the Regimental Transport lines,

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1917 Gallant Acuon of ‘‘ The Drums” 175

whose first intimation of the attack was rifle and machine-gun fire ist into their midst. Capt. Paul, M.C. (the adjutant who had been sent BATTALION. back from the battalion for a few days’ rest after the opening battle joTH Nov. on the 20th) at once collected ‘the Drums’ together with a spare Lewis gun and a few of the Regimental ‘ Employ ’—a total of about three officers and forty other ranks. With these men he held a low ridge in Q.30. outside the Transport lines, enabling the Quarter- master, Major E. G. Butler, M.C., to inspan, load up and get away without loss, the whole of the Regimental Transport and impedi- menta! Capt. Paul, aided by an equal number of the 2nd Durham Light Infantry under their gallant Quartermaster, Lieut. Shea (who was killed that day) effectually prevented the enemy from debouching from Gouzeaucourt unul the Guards Division, who had been brought up from Fins, passed through them to recapture the village. On their way through, the Colonel of a Guards battalion shook hands with Capt. Paul, who was by then mortally wounded, and said ‘Thank God! There is a regiment left that can and will fight.’ For this very gallant and glorious affair Capt. Paul was granted a posthu- mous D.S.O. and Major Butler the Military Cross. “ Two Distinguished Conduct Medals and two Military Medals, awarded to ‘the Drums’ and the Regimental Employ, show that the former at least had not forgotten the example set by their for- bears in 1789 at Famars, who won for the regiment its famous March Past of Ca Ira. It is worthy of note that the united service of the three res- ponsible officers, Major Butler, Capt. Paul and Lieut. Shea, at that time totalled a matter of 75 years. The Guards took Gouzeaucourt and Gonnelieu and re-established the line as it existed before the operation. Second-Lieut. G. A. Robinson remained in reserve to the Guards Division at Q.30 with thirty officers, N.C.O.’s and men. Company brought up in reserve from Ribecourt to line south of Flesquit¢res. Casualties: Killed—Lieut. Macdonald and one other rank. Wounded—Capt. W. Paul, M.C., Second-Lieut. E. N. Evison and two other A staff officer of the 29th Division, however, sent in the follow- ing report to the Brig.-General commanding 18th Infantry Brigade, to which the 1st West Yorkshires belonged :— “To Brig.-General, commanding 18th Infantry Brigade. I beg to call your attention to the conduct on November 3oth of two Officers belonging to your Brigade. About 10 a.m. on November 30th I found the Transport lines of the 6th Division were unaware of

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176 The West Yorkshire Regiment tn the War 1917

the approach of the Germans. I saw two officers, one, I believe, of the West Yorkshire Regiment and the other of the Durham Light Infantry. I told them that the Germans were reported in Gouzeau- court and that they were threatening the Fins-Gouzeaucourt road, from which direction shots were coming. These two officers, with the greatest promptness, got hold of some men and advanced south, the West Yorkshires taking up a position 200 yards north of the Fins-Gouzeaucourt road and the Durham Light Infantry 200 yards to their west—a Lewis or machine-gun came into action still further west. About the time they got into position the Germans crossed the road. Up to the time I left, the enemy had been successfully held. The officer of the West Yorkshires had been hit through the chest; his men remained in their position, firing under an N.C.O. It was undoubtedly due to the promptness and protection of these officers and the way they dealt with the situation that the enemy were held up in their advance at this point, the western end of Gouzeaucourt and the Fins road west of it.” The above letter was followed by another from the G.O.C., 6th Division, to the G.O.C., 18th Infantry Brigade: ‘ Major- General Sir H. de B. de Lisle, commanding 29th Division, has asked the Divisional Commander to convey his appreciation of the excellent behaviour and devotion to duty displayed by the Regimental Trans- port of the 1st West Yorkshires and the 2nd Durham Light Infantry when guided up to Gouzeaucourt to hold it on the 30th November aaa. By their gallant conduct they prevented the enemy from enter- ing Gouzeaucourt and thereby arrested what might have developed into a very serious situation aaa. The Divisional Commander congratulates most heartily the Transport of these two battalions, especially Capt. Paul and Lieut. Shea, on their soldierly conduct, which has been so distinguished as to attract the attention of the G.O.C. of another Division, and has reflected the greatest credit on themselves, their units, the 18th Brigade and the 6th Division.” As will be seen from the previous quotations this last message contains slight errors, for the Germans had already captured Gouzeau- court when the West Yorkshire’s Transport took up their position west of the village. But the combined Transport of the two bat- talions, numbering something less than 100 officers, N.C.O.’s and men, did hold up the advance of the Germans, vastly superior in numbers, and thereby added another splendid instance of gallantry to their Regimental History. No other action of the rst West Yorkshires is recorded on the

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1917 The Battle Ends 177

30th November, but north and north-west of the battalion the enemy had launched very heavy attacks in massed formation against the Bourlon Wood-Tadpole Copse line, and here the 47th, 2nd and 56th Divisions put up a splendid fight, inflicting on the enemy enormous casualties and maintaining the line intact though greatly out- numbered. Owing, however, to ground having been lost on the right flank about Gonnelieu, the salient was now too dangerous to hold, and eventually positions north of the Flesqui¢res Ridge (won so hardly) were evacuated and, early in December (by the morning of 7th) the British line according to the despatches ‘‘ corresponded roughly to the old Hindenburg Reserve Line and ran from a point about one-and-a-half miles north by east to La Vacquerie, north of Ribecourt, and Flesquiéres to the Canal du Nord, about one-and-a- half miles north of Havrincourt, j.e., between two-and-a-half miles in front of the line held by us prior to the attack on 20th November. We therefore retained in our possession an important section of the Hindenburg trench system, with its excellent dug-outs and other advantages.” The Battalion Diary of the 1st West Yorkshires for 6th December, 1917, reads as follows: ‘‘ Outpost line withdrawn at 3 a.m. without difficulty, and whole battalion became close support.”” The position the battalion held then was on the north-western outskirts of Ribe- court.” The Battle of Cambrai, 1917, was over and from the foregoing 2 5TH, 2/ 6TH it will be seen that both the oldest battalion—the 1st—and the newest 2/51" battalions—the 2/5th, 2/6th, 2,/7th and 2/8th—had alike brought honour to the regiment.

Page 191



NTO the vortex of the Allied offensives of 1917, the whole of the West Yorkshire battalions then in France and Flanders had been drawn. At Arras, Bullecourt, Messines, Ypres and Cambrai the regiment had spent its blood, gaining fresh honours but, alas! losing heavily both in officers and men. The greedy hand of Death had spared no battalion, and the last winter in the trenches was the more strenuous because of the lack of reinforcements, which failed to arrive, or if they did arrive were in such niggardly numbers that finally battalions had to be disbanded and their personnel distributed amongst those divisions which were pitifully weak as the result of the exhausting fighting through which they had passed. Extensive gains of territory won during the offensives from the enemy necessitated a vast amount of work. Moreover it was known that the Germans were heavily reinforcing their front, and already British and French General Headquarters had fears of a great offen- sive. Urgent, therefore, were the demands upon the men to strengthen the defences all up and down the line and make prepara- tions for heavy enemy attacks early in 1918. Early in December, 1917, orders had been issued from British G.H.Q. defining the defensive policy to be adopted and the methods of defence, and the despatches stated that : ‘‘ A vast amount of work was required to be done in the construction of defences, old systems had to be remodelled and new systems created. The construction of new communications and the extension of old, more especially in the area south-east of Arras, which the enemy had devastated in his retirement last year’ involved the building of a number of addi- tional roads and the laying out of railways, both narrow and normal gauge. Work of this nature was particularly necessary on the Somme battlefield and in the area recently taken over from the French? . . . All available men of the fighting units, with the

' This despatch was written in 1918.

* The extension of the British right flank as far south as the neighbourhood of Barisis immediately south of the River Oise, an cxtra front of over 28 miles, took place in January, 1918.


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13TH Marcu.



180 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

exception of a very small proportion undergoing training, and all labour units were employed on these trenches. Though the ume and labour available were in no way adequate if, as suspected, the enemy intended to commence his offensive operations in the early spring, a large portion of the work was in fact completed before the enemy

launched his great attack.”

For the moment, however, it 1s necessary to turn from the subject of the coming enemy offensive and see how the battalions of the regiment fared during that last (and momentous) winter in

the trenches.

So far as the 1st West Yorkshires were concerned, the winter of 1917-1918 was without incident other than the constant digging of new trenches and the repair of old ones. On the 11th December the 18th Infantry Brigade had moved back into General Reserve, and on the 12th the Ist Battalion enbussed and arrived at billets in Blaireville. Three days were spent in these billets and then, on 16th, the battalion moved up to trenches opposite Riencourt. Here a great deal of work was done on a new trench opposite the Apex, ultimately intended for a front-line trench. On relief the West Yorkshiremen moved back again to Blaireville, where Christmas Day was spent. H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, then in Italy, sent the regiment his customary greetings at Christmas time. A move to Bavincourt took place on 27th December where, until 17th January, the battalion enjoyed a well-earned rest. The next tour in the front line was in the Mceuvres sector, taken over on 28th January from the 11th Essex Regiment, where several days of quietude were spent. The enemy appears to have been inactive, though both sides were vigilant. Finally, on the 13th March, the battalion moved up into the right sub-sector of the Morchies sector, relieving the 2nd Durham Light Infantry, two companies in the front line and two in the reserve lines. Thereafter, until the enemy launched his great offensive on the 21st March, the Battalion Diary contains the words : “very quiet day and night ’—calm before the storm !

When on the 25th August and following days, the 8th Division relieved an Anzac division in the front line east of Caestre, the 23rd Brigade took over the front line in the Brune Gaye sub-sector, the 2nd West Yorkshires being billeted at Bulford Camp. On 31st August the battalion marched to La Rossignol, in Brigade Reserve, where good billets were found in farms: ‘‘ B’’ Company was in touch with the forward trenches at Reserve Farm.

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1917 The Enemy’s “ Tail up” 181

On the 1st October the battalion was in the front-line system, 1st Ocr. but it is not until the 6th that any item of interest is recorded. On Bae this date, however, a young subaltern, Second-Lieut. T. H. Brown, ATTALION. carried out good patrol work on Bridge 11, near Pont Rouge, the Brig.-General personally complimenting him. But two days later the battalion Diary records: ‘“‘ Second-Lieut. T. H. Brown died of wounds received in action in the front line near Plantation Farm.”’ On the gth Lieut.-Colonel H. St. J. Jeffries (the C.O.), who had been evacuated to England and was in hospital, was succeeded in command of the battalion by Major A. E. Lowry. The early days of November were spent either in front-line trenches at “‘ Plugstreet ’’ or in billets at La Rossignol. When the . battalion relieved the 2nd Devons in the front line on 11th November, !!7# Nov. persistent rumours were afloat that the enemy was going to raid the trenches of the West Yorkshiremen, for the Diary records: ‘‘ Great stories of the enemy having his ‘tail up” and trying to raid the battalion. Men hope he does, and it is decided to receive him with the correct hospitality.’”” But later there are two more entries : ** promised raid not so far developed,” neither did it develop during that tour, and when the 2nd Battalion was relieved it did not go back again into the Ploegsteert trenches, but on the 18th marched to Caestre and entrained, detraining at Brandhoek, and marched to a camp near Poperinghe : the 8th Division had again been transferred to the Ypres Salient. On the 19th the 2nd West Yorkshires (in Brigade) marched to ““ D ” Camp, St. Jean, the 23rd Brigade having taken over the St. Jean-Wieltje area. Several days spent in work behind the front line, chiefly in pulling field guns out of the mud, “some having become totally submerged,” were followed by a tour in the front-line trenches east of Passchendaele. But on the 27th the battalion was back in “‘ A’? Camp, Wieltje. Three weeks out of the front line, during which Christmas was spent at Esquerdes, and then the battalion moved to Brandhoek via Wizernes. On 31st 31st Dec. December the 2nd West Yorkshires were back at St. Jean in Hasla 1918 Camp. The Battalion Diaries for January, February and the early days of March, 1918, contain little of interest, and it is not until the 21st of the latter month (the day on which the Great German Offen- sive was launched) the 2nd West Yorkshires being then at Wizernes, that the records again compel attention. On 21st March the entry 21!stT Marcu. consists of eight words only, but they are of tremendous significance : “ Division (8th) put on 1-5 hours’ notice to move.’”’ For a while, however, it is necessary to leave the 2nd Battalion preparing for the

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28TH Oct.

182 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

great events so soon to happen, and turn to other battalions of the

regiment. On 28th October the 146th Brigade Group had moved from Winnizeele to the Steenvoorde East area, with Brigade Headquarters

in the latter village. Here the four front-line Territorial battalions

1/5TH,1/6TH of the West Yorkshire Regiment, 2.e., 1//§th, 1,/6th, 1/7th, and 1/8th,

1. 7TH, 1/

23RD Nov.


remained until the 8th November, when a move was made to Swan area. Three days later (11th) the 146th Brigade took over the defence of the Broodseinde sector. The Brigade front extended for slightly over two kilometres, from immediately north of the Broodseinde- Zonnebeke road to Molenaarelsthoek, and was held by two battalions, the 1/7th West Yorkshires taking over the right sub-sector and the 1/5th West Yorkshires the left: the 1/8th and 1 /6th Battalions were in support, respectively. The winter of 1915, in the Ypres Salient, was the only period comparable with the terrible conditions which prevailed during the first six or seven weeks of the winter of 1917 on the Broodseinde Ridge: the limits of physical misery and wretchedness had indeed been reached. This is what an officer of the 1/6th West Yorkshires said: ‘‘ The Broodseinde experiences were aggravated by the incessant shelling and the extreme dis- discomforts of ‘ shell-hole’’ existence in Flanders mud. In the ‘ front line ’ small groups of four or five men lived in shell-holes under the direct observation of the enemy from the Keiburg Spur opposite. Thus all movement was impossible except by night. It was useless digging shell-holes deeper as they filled with water. If one tried to make them larger they attracted the attention of the enemy. Almost every attempt at digging resulted in the disturbance of dead bodies in every state of decomposition. No fires could be lit, no hot food brought up from behind, water was very scarce owing to the extra- ordinary difficulties of the carrying parties in such a sea of mud, and the only chance of a hot drink depended on the inhabitants of the shell-hole being in possession of ‘Tommies’ Cookers.’ ” On the 15th, the 1/8th and 16th Battalions relieved the 1/7th and 1/s5th respectively, until the Brigade was relieved on 20th and moved back into Divisional Reserve at Dickebusch. On the 23rd November Lord Scarborough and General Mends paid another visit to the 146th Brigade. On 28th the Brigade moved up to Ypres in Divisional support. December witnessed great activity between the artillery of the opposing forces in the Ypres Salient. Of infantry attacks there were few and then only by small parties ; there were no general attacks.

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1917 A Quiet Period 183

In consequence the Diaries of all four battalions contain nothing of 1/ STH, 7 6TH outstanding importance. BATTAL IONS

The Diary of the 1/5th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel W. Oddie) frequently mentions the large working parties supplied when out of the front line. And when the battalion was in the trenches and patrols went out across No Man’s Land, the report was almost always the same: “ no sign of the enemy.” Casualties were slight, in spite of frequent heavy shell-fire, only two other ranks being killed in December. On the 29th of the month the 1/5th was the Reserve Battalion of the Brigade in Halifax Camp. The 1/6th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel W. A. Wistance) also lays stress on the heavy shelling—‘‘ H.V.”’ and “ mustard gas ” to which the enemy subjected the trenches of the battalion. An officer—Lieut. W. McLean—was mortally wounded on 17th November, the dug-out in which he was sitting having been blown in, and he died soon afterwards. The battalion was relieved on the 19th, and on the 20th moved into huts in the Canal area. After nearly three weeks out of the front line the 1/6th relieved the 1/5th West Yorkshires astride the Zonnebeke-Broodseinde road. Intense dis- comfort was the chief event of this tour. On Christmas Day the enemy celebrated the festive occasion by putting down a particularly heavy barrage on the Passchendaele sector, but no infantry attack followed; neither did patrols of the 1/6th, reconnoitring Dairy Wood, find any sign of the German infantry. The last day of the year found the battalion in Divisional Reserve, billeted in the Infantry Barracks, Ypres. The Diaries of the 1/7th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel C. H. Tetley) for October, November and December contain nothing at all worth recording, the battalion being located in Vancouver Camp on the 31st December. Similarly, the Diary of the 1/8th 31st Dec. West Yorkshires to the end of the year is colourless, even the capture of prisoners and attempted enemy raids failing to move the Diarist to give anything but the barest statements. In common with other units of the 146th Brigade, the 1 8th moved into Divisional Reserve at the end of December, being billeted at Chateau Belge. The New Year began with more activity on the part of the 1918 enemy. The 146th Brigade had moved back into the Zonnebeke sector on the 4th January, the relief being completed at 6-55 p.m. That night, about 9-30 p.m., the enemy raided a listening post, consisting of one N.C.O. and three other ranks of the 1//5th West Yorkshires. The hostile party numbered fifteen and, after a struggle,


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184 The West Yorkshire Regiment tn the War 1918

the N.C.O. and two men were captured by the enemy, the third man escaping. A patrol of the 1/§th went out immediately, but the Germans had regained their trenches, taking their prisoners with them. This small success on the enemy’s part seems to have aroused the West Yorkshiremen, for on several successive nights patrols went out into No Man’s Land and lay in wait for hostile parties, but none were encountered. On the 11th/12th strong fighting patrols from the 1/5th and 1,7th West Yorkshires crossed No Man’s Land and reached the enemy’s trenches, but no Germans were encountered. That night the 146th Brigade was relieved and marched back to camp east of Ypres, moving to the Staple area on 13th. During this period out of the line the 1/8th West Yorkshires, to the great regret of their comrades of the 49th (West Riding) Division, were transferred, under ‘‘H.Q. scheme,” to the 62nd (West Riding) Division, the Second-Line Territorial Division. The number of reinforcements arriving from England had so dwindled that, early in 1918, Sir Douglas Haig was forced to reduce the number of battalions forming infantry brigades from four to three, some battalions and several divisions even being disbandeG altogether in order to make up the strength of other divisions. This scheme, unfortunately necessary, occasioned a great deal of heart- burning in France and Flanders, many splendid fighting battalions disappearing altogether in the reorganisation. The officers and men of the 1/8th West Yorkshires, selected to go to the 62nd Division, left the 146th Brigade on 30th January. The surplus officers and men of the 1 8th were transferred to 1/5th, 1, 6th and 1/7th Battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment—thus, to their great delight, remaining with the 49th Division. For just over a month the 146th Brigade was out of the line, but on the 23rd February relieved the 3rd New Zealand Brigade in the Broodseinde area. The 1/7th West Yorkshires took over the front line, Battalion Headquarters being at Retaliation Farm. That night, at I1-30 p.m., the enemy suddenly put down a very heavy bombard- ment on the front and support lines along the whole battalion front. Simultaneously a strong hostile raiding party approached an advanced post of the 1/7th West Yorkshires, manned by Corporal Moss (of ‘‘D” Company) and eight other ranks. This N.C.O. estimated the enemy’s strength at nearly one hundred. With Lewis guns and rifles Moss and his comrades immediately opened heavy fire on the Germans, who attempted to surround the post and bomb it with ‘“‘ stick’? grenades. After putting up a stout resistance (he had

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1918 Raids 185

already suffered two killed and two wounded), and being in imme- diate danger of being cut off and captured, the N.C.O. withdrew his party (or the survivors of it) to the front-line posts. The enemy then made an attempt to enter the centre of the line held by the 1/7th. On the right company’s front more of the enemy were seen by the sentry and a party of one German officer and fifteen of his men succeeded in crossing the West Yorkshires’ front line. The enemy’s presence was first detected by Capt. Booth (of B ” Com- pany) who, on moving up Nidd communication trench met a German who was running towards him. This man he promptly captured. The remainder of the hostile party then appears to have crossed the communication trench and moved towards No. 2 Support Post. The Germans were seen by Capt. Roberts (‘‘ A ’? Company) who ordered Lewis-gun and rifle fire to be opened on them, while he sent an N.C.O. (Sergt. Sanderson) with some men up a com- munication trench to work round and cut off the enemy’s retreat. The result of this manceuvre was that the German officer was wounded and captured and one of his men killed; the remainder were captured by Sergt. Sanderson and his party. That attempted raid was an expensive experiment for the Germans. No other incident of importance happened to the 1/7th West Yorkshires during the month. The battalion was relieved by the 1/6th West Yorkshires on the 28th. The 1/sth did not go into the front line during February. Another heavy hostile raid was carried out on the 1/6th West Yorkshires on the night of 11th/12th March. The Germans came over in two parties under cover of a heavy bombardment. One party was repulsed with loss to the enemy, but the other succeeded in capturing eight other ranks from No. 9 Post. On 13th, Second- Lieut. W. H. Backhouse was killed. The 20th March found the three battalions occupying the following positions : West Yorkshires were in support of the left Brigade (49th Division), Battalion Headquarters at Carter Point, “PD” Company at Molenaarelsthoek and Moulin Farm, “ C” Company at Broodseinde Cemetery, ‘“‘ B’’ Company at Alabama and ‘‘A” Company at Tokio. The 1/6th Battalion was in Brigade Reserve at Hussar Camp. The 1/7th Battalion was in the front line, Zonnebeke sector, having relieved the 1 /5th on the previous night.

1ITH—12TH Marcu.



From Beaumetz, whither it had been withdrawn from the z 6TH Battle of Cambrai on 29th November, the 185th Brigade received 2/77, 2/8TH


orders on the afternoon of 30th to move at once to Hermies, where 29rn Nov.

Page 198

2/5TH, 2/6TH 2/7TH, 2/8TH BATTALIONS.

1918 STH JAN.

186 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

it would come under the orders of the G.O.C., 47th (London) Division. Heavy hostile attacks were then in progress between Villers-Plouich and Gonnelieu. By 6 p.m. all four battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment were in shacks in the neighbourhood of Hermies, with Brigade Headquarters in the village. The Brigade, however, saw no fighting. On the 1st December the West York- shiremen moved up to the Hindenburg Support Line in reserve to the 47th Division ; on the 2nd all units were busily engaged in wiring and consolidating the Hindenburg Support Line, but on the 3rd the Brigade was relieved and marched back to Beaumetz, moving on 4th to Fremicourt where all four battalions entrained for Arras, the 62nd Division having been ordered back to a rest area west of the town. The remainder of December was spent in the Savy (6th to 13th), Lapugnnoy (14th to 17th) and Monchy-le-Breton (18th to 3ISt) areas. On the last day of the year orders were received at Divisional Headquarters for the 62nd Division to relieve the 56th (London) Division in the Gavrelle-Oppy sector of the line east of Arras, 1.e., from 500 yards south of Gavrelle to 500 yards north-west of Oppy. The relief began on 5th January, the 187th Brigade taking over the right and the 185th Brigade the left sub-sectors of the new Divisional front. January appears to have been a quiet month and the only items of interest are those which concern the 2/6th and 2/8th West Yorkshires, who were the victims of that reorganisation scheme which affected the 1/8th Battalion of the 49th Division. The party of officers and other ranks from the 1,'8th arrived at Roclincourt on 31st January and were amalgamated with the Battalion, the augmented battalion being designated the 8th West Yorkshires. But the unfortunate 2,/6th Battalion was disbanded altogether, though the blow was somewhat tempered by the fact that its personnel largely remained with the 62nd Division. Of the demise of the battalion one of its officers! wrote thus : ‘‘ On January 29th General Braithwaite came to say farewell and to express his sorrow at the inevitable break-up, and, the day following, the Brigadier—Viscount Hampden—made a final inspection. A farewell dinner was arranged by companies and on the 31st January the battalion was actually disbanded ; nine officers and 200 other ranks were transferred to the seven officers and 150 other ranks to the 2/s§th, and four officers and 100 other ranks were held in readiness for transfer to the 1/6th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (49th Division), which

1 Capt. E. C. Gregory, M.C.

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1918 185th Brigade Reorgamsed 187

they subsequently joined. The remainder, except for thirty-four 2/sTH, 2/7TH men of the transport and twenty other ranks of Battalion Head- rH ALIONS quarters, were transferred to Corps Reinforcement Camp. The _ end had come very suddenly and although as a unit we ceased to exist, yet the bulk of the personnel was still in the 62nd Division and therefore in a sense we are entitled to a share in the glorious future exploits of the Division.” The 185th Brigade was now formed of the 8th, 2/§th and 2/7th West Yorkshires. On 1st February the Brigade was disposed as follows: 2/5th rsr Fen. Battalion West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel R. H. Waddy) in support (B.27.a.7.7.); 2/7th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel C. K. James) holding the Oppy front-line system; 8th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel A. H. James) at Reclincourt in Brigade Reserve. The early days of February were uneventful and on 1oth the 185th Brigade was relieved by the 168th Brigade and moved in stages back to the Orlen- court training area, where the remainder of the month and March, until the 4th, was spent in hard work. The training area was changed on 4th, the Brigade moving to Mont St. Eloi where a further period of preparation was spent before taking over the Arleux sector from 187th Brigade on 12th March. On 13th the 185th Brigade Diary states that special patrols were sent out and an artillery programme of bombardment carried through “‘ in view of suspected hostile attacks,” and from the Diaries it is evident that not only was the enemy preparing for his great offensive of 21st, but British divisions in the line had already been informed of the coming attack and were ready prepared for it. Raids were made on the enemy’s trenches and in turn the enemy raided the British positions ; both sides were searching for identifications and information as to each other’s intentions and knowledge of each other’s plans. On the eve of the great German offensive (20th March) the 8th Battalion West Yorkshires was relieved in support (Willerval sector) by the 2, 5th Battalion and moved back into reserve at Ridge Post and neighbourhood ; the 2, 7th West Yorkshires were holding the forward area, viz., the Arleux sub-sector of the line.

After the heavy losses which the 9th West Yorkshires (35th 1917 Brigade, 11th Division) had sustained in the Battle of Poelcappelle or on the gth October, the battalion had proceeded (in Brigade) first Barravion. to Watten and then to Zudrove. At the latter place twenty officers 97# and 396 other ranks, reinforcements, had arrived to fill the depleted ranks of the battalion. On 20th October a move was made to Amettes, thence on 22nd to Noeux-les-Mines, where training was


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4TH Nov.

188 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

proceeded with until 29th, when the West Yorkshires relieved the 6th Border Regiment, as support battalion, one mile north of Lens, on the following day, taking over front-line trenches from the 6th Lincolns. The new line taken over by the 9th Battalion was much appreciated for, from the foregoing narrative of the operations of the gth West Yorkshires, it will be gathered that for some time previously the battalion had spent its tours in the front line either in shell-holes or posts. ‘* The position,” records the Battalion Diary, “ is entirely trenches, a great change for the battalion after having no experience of this kind of line for the past twelve months. There are com- munication trenches everywhere ; one can visit every company by day and there are no advanced posts.” This was the Loos sector, on which during 1917 much work had been expended, but in which no fighting, other than the usual round of trench warfare, had taken place. The battalion had, however, been in the line but a few days when a big raid on the Norman Brickstacks was planned. The Brickstacks lay partly in No Man’s Land and partly in the German front-trench system. Nos. 3 and 4 were in No Man’s Land on the German side and were held by the enemy ; No. 5, also in No Man’s Land, was held by the British. Nos. 1 and 2 were behind the German front-line trenches. The object of the raid was to secure identifications, kill Germans, damage the enemy’s trenches, dug- outs and emplacements and destroy Brickstack No. 4, which was exactly opposite No. 5. The raid was to be carried out in daylight (at 9 a.m. on 10th October) by six officers and 250 N.C.O.’s and men of ““A” and “‘D” Companies of the 9th West Yorkshires. On the relief of the battalion on 4th November, ‘“‘ B” and ‘“‘ C” com- panies had marched back to Cité St. Pierre in reserve, while ‘ A” and ‘“‘ D”’ Companies went to the Transport Lines to prepare for the raid. The two companies were to be divided into five parties, each numbering fifty men under an officer. Captain R. B. Walker was “‘ O.C. Raid.”” The men were to be very lightly equipped, each carrying two bandoliers (100 rounds) ; selected men were to carry Stokes bombs, others were to have mats to throw across the enemy’s barbed-wire entanglements ; wirecutters, bombs and Lewis guns were to be carried, but no form of equipment. At 12 midnight, 9th, roth, a hot meal was given to the raiding party at Les Brebis and, on arrival at Cité St. Pierre, hot tea was served ; sandwiches were also given the men to eat whilst waiting in the trenches for ‘‘ Zero”’ hour to arrive. By 4 a.m. the assembly

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1917 Raid on the Brickstacks 189

of the five raiding parties had been completed. Dawn broke at orn 5-30 a.m. and the prospect was by no means pleasing. During the ?ATTALION. greater part of the night rain had fallen, the front-line trenches were knee-deep in mud and the going across No Man’s Land was bound to be slow and therefore extremely hazardous, especially in daylight. At “ Zero” (9 a.m.) the 11th Divisional Artillery, trench-mortars and machine-guns placed a heavy barrage on the enemy’s trenches and the raid began. The enemy was slow in replying to the barrage and it was not until 9-15 a.m., when the raiding party was already marching across No Man’s Land, that a hostile barrage of 4:2 shell fell on the line of Happy Trench (behind the front-line trenches). By this time the raiders had reached the enemy’s trenches. Very few Germans were found in the front trench. Of these a medical officer and three men were taken prisoner and the remainder killed. A dug-out behind No. 3 Brickstack was bombed. At this stage Lieut. Haslam was killed by a sniper’s bullet and fell very near the enemy’s line. A detachment of sappers, whose object was to charge of gun-cotton under No. 4 Brickstack, suffered heavily before reaching the stack, four of the six men being hit, and in the short time allotted to the task it was impossible to lay the charge. At 9-20 a.m. the signal to return was given, and the raiders began to retire to their own lines. Fifteen minutes later all parties had returned and the wounded were brought in. The casualties were one officer killed (already given) and two officers wounded. In other ranks the battalion lost five killed, thirty-seven wounded and four missing. Many of these casualties were suffered during the retirement. From Hart’s Crater, the rallying point, the raiding parties marched back to Les Brebis, where they were given a hot meal. On the last day of November the 9th West Yorkshires were in Brigade Reserve at Mazingarbe. In December, little of outstanding interest happened. The battalion went back into the line and many excellent patrols were carried out. During one of these Second- Lieut. J. W. Townsend was officially reported missing on the night 15th/16th. The 31st December saw the battalion at Busnettes, 31st Dec. training. January and February, 1918, were spent in the Loos sector. 1918 Much patrol work was carried out and a good deal ‘of work done on the defences, though the two months were passed in com- parative quietude. On the night of r9th/2oth the 9th West York- Shires took over the line east of Mazingarbe, the relief being completed by 12-30 a.m. on the latter date.

Page 202

10TH BaTtaLion, 27TH Dec.






ist Oct,

190 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

On the 27th December, from Bertincourt, the roth West York- shires (Lieut.-Colonel P. R. Simner) of the soth Infantry Brigade, moved up and took over the right sub-sector of the Brigade line north of Flesquiéres. The 17th Division had relieved the 59th Division in the Hindenburg Line, astride the Canal du Nord and round Flesqui¢res on 21st December. But in this area, as in others, there were no attacks of any importance on or by the enemy. The winter months were passed in hard work on the defences and in patrolling No Man’s Land. These patrols became more frequent early in 1918, for there was constant need to exercise the utmost vigilance, especially when it became known that the enemy intended launching a great offensive in March. The Diaries of the 19th West Yorkshires contain little of interest from January to the middle of March, though constant references are made to patrols and labour in the trenches, and the supply of large working parties when out of the front line. On 18th March the battalion relieved the 7th East Yorkshires in the front line, two companies taking over the forward trenches, t.e., ““B” on the right, “A” on the left, with “D” and “C” Companies in right and left support, respectively. Apparently the line held was astride the Canal du Nord, the West Yorkshiremen (on the right) holding Frida, Nugent and Artillery trenches, with the Dorset Regiment on their left and the East Yorkshires in reserve : Battalion Headquarters were in Alban Avenue. Inter-company reliefs took place during the night of 2oth/21st March, “‘ D ”? Com- pany taking over the right and “‘C”’ the left, with in right support and ‘‘ A” in left support. The 11th West Yorkshires, after the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, had been withdrawn from Inverness Copse on Ist October. On 3rd they were moved by motor-bus to the Berthen area where, untill the 8th, the battalion ‘“‘cleaned-up ” and trained. But on gth a move back to the front line was made, and by the night of 13th ‘14th the West Yorkshiremen were once again holding front-line trenches east of Clapham Junction. The 14th was a noisy day, for the enemy barraged the front and support lines, “A” Company losing heavily. Lieut. Fox was killed and another officer wounded, and many N.C.O.’s and men were lost. The battalion was relieved on the 15th, and only one more tour in the front line (from the night of 2oth/21st to night of 22nd/23rd) was spent by the 11th West Yorkshires in France or Flanders, for after the last relief the battalion moved via Zillebeke Bund and Wizernes to Moringhem. At the

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1917 The 11th Battalion goes to Italy I9I

latter place, on 31st October, it was announced on parade that the 31st Ocr. 23rd Division had been selected to go to Italy. On 9th November the battalion entrained at Wizernes in two trains and moved off south and, on the 14th, reached Mantova (Italy), detraining at 6 a.m. 147 Oct. Here, for the time being, it is necessary to leave the 11th West Yorkshires and return to France and Flanders.

After the Battle of Polygon Wood the 3rd Division had been withdrawn from the line, the 12th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel 12TH R. C. Smythe) of the 9th Infantry Brigade, moving to Vlamertinghe. BATTALION. Their tour out of the line was, however, short-lived, for early in October the battalion (in Brigade and Division) entrained for the Somme area, the 12th West Yorkshires arriving at Bapaume on sth 5TH Oct. of the month. From Bapaume the battalion marched to Lechelle, where three days were spent. At 7 a.m. the West Yorkshires (in Brigade) set out for Mory, the 9th Brigade having been ordered to relieve the 186th Brigade of the 62nd Division in the Noreuil sector. The 12th West Yorkshires were moved from Mory to Vaulx in Brigade Reserve. Two tours were spent in the front line of the Noreuil sector during the remainder of October, but they were apparently bare of any incident of importance.

On 18th November the battalion relieved the roth R.W. Fusiliers Nov. in the right sector of the Bullecourt sector, and while in these trenches attacked the enemy on 2oth November, the attack being subsidiary to the major operations on the Cambrai front. Few details are given of this operation, the Battalion Diary containing the following brief narrative : ‘‘ November 20th. 2 a.m. Companies moved into assembly positions preparatory to attack; move completed by 5-30 am. ‘ Zero” 6-20 a.m. At 6-28 a.m. battalion attacked. 7-25 a.m. all objectives taken. Heavy hostile shelling of support and old front line. Thirty-four prisoners captured. Occasional sniping during night. Casualties: Twelve other ranks killed and twenty- seven other ranks wounded. Lieut. F. E. Rayne, Second-Lieut. A. Dixon and Second-Lieut. L. E. Ward, wounded.”

The VIth Corps had been ordered to capture Bovis and Tunnel Trenches and Tunnel Support, the attack to be carried out by the 3rd Division, on the right, and the 16th Division, on the left. The gth Brigade of the 3rd Division was ordered to attack Bovis Trench, and it was apparently part of the trench from U.22.c.6.4. to U.22.c.0.5. that the West Yorkshiremen captured. Until the 26th November

: wo . os 26TH Nov. the battalion hung on to the position gained, consolidating the

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12TH Dec.

17TH Dec.


192 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War I9I7

position, but on that date were relieved and marched back to Camp 5,

Favreuil. In December the 12th West Yorkshires had a severe fight with the enemy. The battalion had begun the relief of the 7th K.S.L.I. on the left sub-sector, Noreuil, at 3 p.m. on 11th. The relief was completed at 11-20 p.m., all companies being in the line. “DD” Company, with two platoons of ‘‘ B” held the Horseshoe Redoubt ; the centre of the line—the Apex—was held by “A”? Company : ‘“C” Company, with two platoons of “ B,” had taken over the left. About 6-35 a.m. on the 12th the enemy opened an intense bombardment of the line, the Apex being heavily trench-mortared. The enemy then attacked in considerable force but was beaten off. Twenty minutes later he again attacked, and succeeded in gaining a footing in the Apex and in London and Pudsey support trenches. ‘““A” and ‘“*D” Companies fought gallantly, though suffering heavy losses, and at nightfall seventy per cent. of their men had become casualties. All day and all night bombing fights and hand-to- hand fighting went on. On 13th the fighting was continued, the enemy pressing hard the remnants of ““D”’ Company. A bombing attack, to be carried out at 3-45 p.m. by the West Yorkshires, was anticipated by the enemy, the latter attacking at 3-43 p.m. During the night of the 13th/14th “‘ Company (the left of the battalion front) and the remnants of “‘ A,” “‘ B”’ and “‘ D”’ Companies, were replaced in the line by the 4th Royal Fusiliers, the West Yorkshires moving back into Brigade Support in Railway Reserve. In this affair, in which the Apex was lost, the 12th West Yorkshires lost one officer (Lieut. T. Vose) killed, three officers wounded, and six officers reported missing. Of the latter, Lieut. W. O. Newall was later reported killed, the other officers were apparently prisoners, also Lieut. A. J. Davies, who is given in the diary as ‘“‘ wounded and missing.” Fifteen other ranks were killed, fifty-six wounded and 106 missing. On the 17th December the battalion, “ tired out and exhausted,”” marched back to Courcelles in Divisional Reserve. The remainder of December, and almost the whole of January, 1918, were spent by the 12th West Yorkshires out of the line, for the battalion had to be reorganised and the large drafts, necessary to make up the depleted ranks, had to be trained. On 30th, however, the battalion again moved forward to the front line, relieving the 4th Royal Fusiliers in the right sub-section extending from Pug Avenue to Pioneer Avenue: the 9th Brigade sector was opposite

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1918 12th Battalion Disbanded 193

Cherisy, in the Heninel sector. Here, however, the story of the 12th West Yorkshires comes to an end, for the battalion was appa- rently disbanded on February 12th, 1918, but no Battalion Diary exists for that month. The only references are contained in the Diaries of the 9th Infantry Brigade Headquarters and of the Adminis- trative Staff, 3rd Division. The first-named records that: “‘ The 12th West Yorkshires moved out of the 3rd Division area,” and the second ‘“‘ 12th West Yorkshires disbanded as a service battalion and left the Division.” After the Third Battle of the Scarpe (3rd-4th May) the 15th, 16th and 18th West Yorkshires of the 9th Infantry Brigade, 31st


15TH, 16TH 18TH

Division, for some months led a comparatively quiet life, spending Barrations.

alternate tours in the front line, support trenches, Brigade Reserve, or in ‘‘rest”’ areas behind the line. The word “ quiet” is, of course, used in the sense that the intervals between the violent bombardments and bloody fighting which always accompanies operations on a large scale, seemed uneventful. But, as everyone knows who served in France or Flanders, trench warfare could be just as exciting and dangerous as a big attack, and that just as much courage and endurance were necessary in patrolling No Man’s Land, or in going out with a “ cutting-out ”’ party, as in “ going over the top ” in line with Brigades and Divisions. And for this reason the long period between the operations of 3rd/4th May, 1917, and the great events of March, 1918, cannot be dismissed without some reference to incidents of particular interest to the three battalions of West Yorkshires in the 31st Division. The terrible gruelling to which the enemy had been subjected during the Arras battles left him only too willing to acquiesce in anything like a quiet life. Both sides had lost very heavily in those costly attacks, and a recurrence of such hard fighting on the Arras front was not probable for many a month to come. But in the meantime the opposing forces were always vigilant, patrols had to be carried out, prisoners secured for

identification purposes, too much agressiveness in the form of sapping out towards the other trenches checked, and the “‘ nibbling ” of

little bits of the line firmly dealt with. For the 1§th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel S. C. Taylor) the

summer of 1917 passed without anything of sufficient outstanding importance to record, but as the days became shorter and summer was merging into autumn, raids on the enemy’s trenches were begun.

On 29th September the first of these raids took place. It was carried 29rn Sept.

out by Lieut. L. L. Binnie, Sergeant H. Thomas and twenty-six O

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194 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

other ranks, the objective being a consolidated shell-hole in the Arleux sector. It was unsuccessful; the night was too light, and it was found impossible to rush without discovery and the risk of many casualties. October and November passed without incident, but the 7th December marked a milestone in the history of the 15th West Yorkshires, for on that date the battalion was amalgamated with the 17th West Yorkshires, the entry in the Diary of the former reading: ‘“‘ On the morning of 7th December, 1917, the proposed amalgamation of the 15th West Yorkshire Regiment with the 17th West Yorkshire Regiment was carried out. The 15th Battalion was then in camp at Le Pendu, near Mont St. Eloy. The 17th Battalion, which had recently arrived from the Ypres sector, was in billets at Acq. At 11-30 a.m. the 17th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment marched over from Acq, headed by the band of the 15th Battalion, to join with the 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. Major J. H. Gill, D.S.O., commanding the 17th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, bade the battalion farewell at Acq. On arrival at Le Pendu Camp the 17th West Yorkshire Regiment was received by the commanding officer, the officers, N.C.O.’s and men of the 15th West Yorkshires, and were welcomed with hearty cheers. The men formed up, and before being posted to their companies were addressed by Lieut.-Colonel S. C. Taylor, D.S.O., who accorded them a hearty welcome on behalf of the 15th West Yorkshires, more especially because they were a battalion recruited in Leeds, which was also the parent city of the 15th Battalion. Free beer was issued to the battalions to celebrate the amalgamation. Seven officers, four sergeants, five corporals and 260 privates of the 17th West Yorkshires were in this way amalgamated with the 15th West York- shires, who were henceforth designated the 15th/17th Battalion. The first officer mentioned between the end of May and the close of 1917 as losing his life, occurs on 27th, when Second-Lieut. G. W. Davidson is recorded as “‘ died of wounds.” In a marquee, pitched in the centre of the camp in Ecurie Wood, the 15th/17th West Yorkshires held their Christmas dinner. Like their comrades of the 15th Battalion, the 16th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. C. Croydon), after the close of the Battles of Arras, had remained on the Arras front, spending the month in trench warfare in the line in either the Gavrelle, Arleux, Oppy or Acheville sectors, relieved by periodical tours in support, reserve and back areas. But there is more “ liveliness’ in the diaries of the 16th Battalion, and at times the enemy’s artillery

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1917 A Patrol Encounter 195

certainly made things very uncomfortable. On one occasion (on 21st July) the battalion was moving up to trenches in front of Ache- a:sr Jury. ville, from the neighbourhood of Neuville St. Waast, when an ‘* H.E.” dropped directly in front of “‘D” Company. Two officers —Second-Lieuts. Buchanan and Robb—were killed outright, to- gether with four other ranks, and forty more men were wounded. At I a.m. on 29th of the same month, Quebec Trench was heavily bombarded, one shell falling outside ‘““ C ” Company’s Headquarters, wounding Second-Lieut. O. L. Paus (who died of his wounds), Second-Lieut. W. F. Cainey, and two other ranks. Thereafter, to the last day of the year, there is nothing of importance in the Battalion Diary. The close of 1917 found the 16th West Yorkshires in the front line in the Arleux sector. At the end of May, after the 18th West Yorkshires (Lieut.- Colonel Carter) had moved back out of the front line to Bray, the BATTation. battalion had lost during the month no less than ten officers and 319 other ranks. On 23rd June, whilst the battalion was in Camp 23ap June. ‘“* H.1.c.”” in the Black Line, the enemy shelled the neighbourhood with a long-range gun. One shell fell on the Orderly Room tent, killing three clerks and wounding Lieut.-Colonel Carter, who had to go to the Casualty Clearing Station. On the 2nd July a patrol fight took place. The 18th West Yorkshires were then in the Gavrelle Trenches. The morning had been quiet, but from 3 p.m. onwards the enemy’s artillery was very active and was duly punished by the Divisional gunners. On the night 2nd/3rd, at 10-30 p.m., 2ND—3rRD Second-Lieut. Staff took out a patrol of eight men and, moving down J¥tY. each side of the road in front of the trench, returned without having met any of the enemy. On returning, however, Lieut. Staff said he had seen Very lights go up on the left of the road, and again went out, taking with him Sergeant Steele and Private Morris with the intention, if possible, of catching the man who was sending up the lights. On getting near the point where the lights had been seen, a machine-gun opened fire and bombs were thrown at Staff and his men. A party of Germans then pounced upon them from behind. Sergeant Steele was wounded by bombs but succeeded in getting back to his trench. Private Morris returned unwounded and reported that the last he had seen of Second-Lieut. Staff was the latter fighting a party of about a dozen Germans. He was afterwards reported ‘‘ missing.” The remainder of July saw no incident of importance. Throughout August the enemy’s artillery seems to have been particularly active; perhaps he feared further

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196 The West Yorkshire in the War 1917

heavy attacks upon the Gavrelle-Oppy-Arleux front, though none were intended. But whenever the German guns became active it was necessary to keep a more than vigilant eye upon his trenches and, as a consequence, patrol work became constant. On the night of 1st/2nd August two patrol parties, each consisting of one officer, two N.C.O.’s and twenty other ranks with a Lewis gun, crossed No Man’s Land and reconnoitred the enemy’s trenches and his wire. No gaps were found in the latter, which signified that no attack was intended. Alli the entanglements were thick and formidable, con- sisting of several rows, each from three to four feet high. On the night of 29th/30th the enemy’s artillery fire was exceedingly heavy, for approximately 1,000 shells of all calibre fell on Battalion Head- quarters, the Quarry, and on the front and support lines. Orders were issued to companies for action in the event of a raid, to which the volume of the hostile shell-fire pointed. On the 30th there is an interesting entry in the Battalion Diary: ‘‘ Three daylight patrols, each two other ranks in sniper’s suits, brought back useful intelligence as to enemy movements.” The night of 30th/31st was quiet after 10 p.m., until the early hours of the 31st, when suddenly, about 2-45 p.m., the enemy put down a heavy barrage on the front and support lines on the left flank of the battalion trenches. Under cover of the barrage two parties of Germans left their trenches and advanced towards the West Yorkshiremen. They were, however, observed, and Lewis-gun fire broke up the attack and sent them scuttling back to their own lines, leaving behind several dead, includ- ing an officer and one wounded man, who was captured. The 18th West Yorkshires also captured from the raiders one light machine- gun, a Bangalore torpedo, three rifles, a gas respirator and a box of machine-gun ammunition. The enemy’s barrage inflicted several casualties on the battalion, one officer (Second-Lieut. R. G. Dalton) and one other rank being killed and eight other ranks wounded. Throughout September, October, November and December, there was little variation from the usual round of trench warfare. Cease- less vigilance and patrol work when in the front line, and the loss of men through hostile artillery fire, work on the defences when in support, and training when back in reserve filled those busy weeks. When the year closed the 18th West Yorkshires were in the Red Line in close support of the 16th Battalion. On the 5th April (the official date of the end of the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line) the 17th West Yorkshires (Lieut.- Colonel H. R. H. Drew) of the 106th Brigade, 35th Division, were at

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1917 The 17th Raid the Enemy 197

Ennemain, the Brigade being then engaged in moving by stages eastwards to take over a sub-sector of the new British front line. On the gth the West Yorkshiremen reached Monchy-Lagache and Tertry, on the roth Vermand, remaining in the latter village until the 14th, when the battalion relieved the 19th D.L.I. in the Pontru sector, then the frontline. Battalion Headquarters were at Bihécourt. Pontru lies between six and seven miles north-west of St. Quentin. Patrol work began immediately, and as identifications were needed, a raid was organised, which took place on the night of 17th April. The strength of the raiding party was three officers and 100 men, covered by another party of two officers and forty men. The trenches raided were situated on the ridge north of Pontru. The covering party first encircled the enemy’s advanced sentries, who retired to a crater. The crater was rushed, but the Germans fled so rapidly that not a prisoner was taken. At 11-53 p.m. the raiding party passed through the covering troops and advanced under a box barrage to the German trenches. The latter were protected by very strong wire entanglements devoid of gaps. Nevertheless, though under heavy machine-gun fire, two platoons of the West Yorkshiremen pressed on and, cutting gaps in the wire, rushed through and jumped into the enemy’s trenches. The latter were held in strength by the enemy, but as the West Yorkshires appeared on the parapet the garrison turned and fied. Rapid fire was opened on the remaining Germans, several of whom fell, whilst others must have been put out of action by the barrage. The raiders were, how- ever, unable to penetrate further into the German positions, as they were prevented from so doing by the box barrage ; identifications could not therefore be collected. The raiding party then returned. In this little affair the 17th Battalion lost eight men wounded and ten missing. Patrol work, work on the defences, which, owing to the British advance, had to be constructed anew, and training when out of the line occupied the battalion until the middle of May, when the 106th Brigade was relieved, the units forming the Brigade march- ing back to billets in Péronne. On the 23rd the 17th West Yorkshires moved back again into the front line, relieving the 20th Middlesex in trenches east of Villers-Guislain, just north of Epéhy. Patrols and raiding parties were now out almost nightly, and many encounters with the enemy took place. On 27th the Germans raided a post held by the battalion and, after throwing bombs which wounded the sentry, dragged him out and hurried him back to their lines. On the following morning, at 7-30, an N.C.O.—Sergeant Watson—


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318T AuG.



198 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

went out alone from an advanced post and crossed No Man’s Land for a distance of 375 yards, where he encountered an enemy post. In this post he shot one German and wounded another who was coming to the wounded man’s assistance. Four more Germans then appeared, and Watson made good his escape. On the 29th May

Capt. E. G. Hadow was killed by a shell. On 7th June Lieut.-Colonel H. R. H. Drew left the battalion to

take over command of the 5th Northants. He was succeeded by Lieut.-Colonel P. S. Hall. It is evident from the diaries that the Germans at this period— the summer of 1917—were well settled in their Hindenburg Line, but the British were engaged in strenuous work, digging new trenches, wiring them, constructing posts, pushing out listening posts, and in every way making themselves secure in the line taken up in front of the enemy’s new position. For the West Yorkshiremen it was a hard summer, but the days and nights spent in work on the defences were later to benefit the troops who held them when the heavy hostile offensive of 1918 began. There is little of outstanding interest in the diaries until 31st August, when the 17th West Yorkshires sustained heavy losses in a small enemy attack launched against the Knoll. At 4-50 a.m. the enemy placed a very heavy trench-mortar and artillery barrage on the Knoll and Gillemont Farm. Under cover of the bombardment the enemy rushed the Knoll, entering the trenches on either flank. The situation was not clear for some time, all communications forward of Battalion Headquarters being severed from the start. The enemy obtained possession of the Knoll almost immediately. At 9 a.m. the Divisional guns were turned on to the Knoll, lifting to a box barrage around it at 9-20 a.m. One company of the 17th West Yorkshires then counter-attacked but was unable to retake the lost ground. In the afternoon patrols, sent up the communication trenches, definitely located enemy posts in the trenches on the summit of the Knoll, but under orders from Divisional Headquarters further attacks, for the time being, were cancelled. The Battalion Diary of the 17th West Yorkshires records that their casualties were: Officers, two killed (names not given) five missing, six wounded (three at duty); other ranks, seven killed, fifty-six wounded, fifty-three missing. On the night of 31st August/1st September the 106th Brigade

was relieved and moved back to the Aizecourt le Bas area. September was a quiet month, and about the middle of October

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1917 The 1§th and 17th Battalions Amalgamated 199

the 35th Division moved north, the 106th Brigade reaching Proven on 16th. Two days later the 106th Brigade relieved the 104th in 161TH Oct. the front-line system opposite Houthulst Forest, the 17th West Yorkshires being then in Brigade Support. The front line was comparatively quiet, though gas shelling was frequent and several casualties were sustained. On the 27th the 106th Brigade was back in Proven, where two days were spent in cleaning-up and refitting. From 18th to 26th (inclusive) the losses of the 17th West Yorkshires were: Two officers wounded, three officers gassed; seven other ranks killed, forty-eight wounded and forty-five gassed. On the 31st the battalion was inspected by the G.O.C., 35th Division, and congratulated on the good work done during the last two tours in the line. On the 14th November the 17th West Yorkshires were inspected 14TH Nov. by the G.O.C., 106th Infantry Brigade, who took leave of the battalion which, on 16th, left the 35th Division and came under orders of the C.E., X1Xth Corps, for work on railways and tramways in the forward area. For several days the battalion worked thus, but it was under orders to move south and join the 31st Division, where it was to be amalgamated with the 15th West Yorkshires. The march south began on 1st December, and on the 5th the battalion reached 187 Dec. Acq, no men having fallen out. On 6th the 17th Battalion was inspected by the G.O.C., 31st Division. On the 7th the band of the 15th West Yorkshires arrived and played the officers and men of the 17th Battalion to their new billets. The transport personnel of the 17th was split up between the 15th, 16th and 18th West Yorkshires. The West Yorkshires with the 31st Division were now the 15th/17th, 16th and 18th Battalions. 1918 The 15th/17th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel S. C. Taylor) spent a 15 ‘177TH comfortless January in the trenches of the Arleux sector or in Lan- 16TH, 18TH caster Camp, Mont St. Eloy. On the sth February five officers and ate ninety other ranks from the 18th West Yorkshires were posted to the 15th/17th Battalion, as the former had been disbanded. The whole of February was spent by the 15th/17th West Yorkshires in billets at Mont St. Eloy, though on the last day of the month a move was made to hutments and billets at Caucourt, where the battalion was in G.H.Q. Reserve. During the period (from Ist to 21st March) the 15th/17th were at Caucourt hard training was carried out, but 15/17TH when the great German offensive of 21st was launched the battalion BATON: was under orders to move, and (in Brigade) marched to Villers 21ST MARCH Brulin on the 22nd, whence it enbussed to Pommiers. En route,

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200 The West Regiment in the War 1918

however, to the latter village orders were changed, and the 15th/17th “‘ debussed ” at Blaireville and immediately prepared to move up into the Bullecourt sector and relieve the 15th Royal Scots. New Year’s Day, 1918, found the 16th West Yorkshires (Lieut.- Colonel A. C. Croydon) still holding a front-line sector, but on the 3rd January it was relieved and moved back to Ecoivres. On 4th Major W. D. Coles, from 8th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, joined the battalion as temporary Second-in-Command. A_ welcome fortnight out of the front line was spent by the battalion in training, but on roth the 16th West Yorkshires relieved the 15th/17th in Brigade Support, Arleux L.1. Sector. After a long spell of frost a rapid thaw had set in and the trenches were now in a deplorable condition, so that large working parties had to be found. Several days were spent in hard work on the defences before the battalion was relieved by an East Yorkshire Battalion and moved back again to billets in Ecuivres. One more tour in the front-line trenches— from 5th to 11th February—was the last the 16th West Yorkshires were destined to carry out, for the battalion had been marked down for ‘‘ disbandment ”’ and, on the very day it moved out of the Arleux sector (11th February) the first party of officers and men was cross- posted to the 15th/17th Battalion. On 12th the battalion moved to Maroeuil where, on 13th, 129 other ranks joined from the 15th/ 17th West Yorkshires. Two days later the 16th Battalion, less the transport left behind at Ecurie, marched to Mont St. Eloy station and entrained for Pernes. On reaching the latter village the battalion marched to Sachin and billeted under instructions from XIIIth Corps. The battalion remained at Sachin under Major Coles, while Lieut.-Colonel Croydon proceeded to Pernes to establish the Headquarters of, and to organise, the 4th Entrenching Battalion (XIIIth Corps), the new designation of the 16th West Yorkshires, which ceased to exist as such from the end of February.? Only one tour in the trenches (Arleux sector) was served by the 18th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel H. Carter) in January, 1918 : it was the last the battalion was destined to put in in the front line. And because it was the last the following description of the line at that period is not uninteresting. ‘‘ Owing to thaw and rain the condition of the trenches became very bad, subsidences taking place and the bottom of the trenches becoming in places two and three feet or more deep in thick, adhesive mud. Communication trenches

1 There are no official diaries of the Entrenching Battalion, and it is impossible to follow the story of the West Yorkshiremen after they lost their identity as fighting battalions.

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1918 The 18th Battalion Disbanded 201

became impassable, and movement had to take place over the top. The posts were consequently isolated during daytime. Visibility was very bad, and there was exceedingly little activity on either side.” Indeed, the strength of the opposing troops (British and German) was spent in trying to keep body and soul together amidst such filthy and abominable surroundings. Relieved on the night of 19th 19TH Jan. January, the battalion moved back to Ecurie Wood Camp, where preliminary orders were received regarding the reduction in the number of infantry battalions per brigade and division. On 27th the 18th West Yorkshires moved to Bray Camp, and orders for the disbandment of the battalion were received on 31st. It is impossible 31st Jan. adequately to express the feelings of both officers and men when these orders became known. On ist February Colonel Carter addressed all officers and men, explaining the reasons for disbanding the battalion, and expressing his appreciation of the manner in which all ranks had worked under him and his sorrow at the drastic order. But the blow was tempered in that when, on the 3rd and 4th February, drafts of officers and men left the 18th West Yorkshires they went to Ist, 2nd, 1/§th, 1/6th, 1/7th, 9th, roth, 15th/17th and 21st battalions of the Regiment. During the next few days officers and men of the battalion were posted to other units and, finally, on the 15th isrTx Fes. Lieut.-Colonel Carter with seven other officers and forty-two other ranks (the last of the battalion), who had been posted to XIIIth Corps Reinforcement Camp, Pernes, left Ecurie which (the last entry in the Battalion Diary states somewhat pathetically) ‘‘ reduced the strength of unit in the field to mil.” Before the 16th and 18th West Yorkshires left the 31st Divison, the following Special Brigade Routine Order! was issued to them : Farewell Order. The Brigade Commander feels sure that Brigadier-General J. D. Ingles, D.S.O., who is now on leave, would wish to express to Lieut.-Colonel H. F. G. Carter, M.C., and Lieut.- Colonel A. C. Croydon, M.C., and all ranks of the 16th and 18th Battalions West Yorkshire Regiment, his deep sense of regret at parting from them as units of the 93rd Brigade. Both these battalions have served in the 93rd Brigade since its formation in May, 1915, and have loyally and devotedly upheld the splendid traditions of their regiment, and have by their good work and efficiency largely contributed to the high reputation of the Brigade. The severance of these battalions from the Brigade is necessary in the interests of the whole Army, but that does not lessen the deep regret

1 Issued by Lieut.-Colonel S. C. Taylor, temporarily commanding g3rd Infantry Brigade.

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1918 7TH FEB.

26TH Fes.




202 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

felt throughout all the remaining ranks of the Brigade. In times of hardship and danger the 16th and 18th Battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment have proved themselves brave, cheerful soldiers and good comrades. To all ranks of these battalions the best wishes of the Brigade are tendered for their success and welfare in the future, and they will never be forgotten.” The 21st West Yorkshires (Pioneers), commanded by Major E. Finn (Lieut.-Colonel Sir E. H. St. C. Clarke, the C.O., having been wounded on roth October) were last heard of digging amidst the mud of Flanders—‘‘ A’? Company at work at Pheasant Farm and “ B” ‘“‘C” and “ D” Companies on the Birmingham-Lange- marck line. But early in November the Battalion received orders to move south to the Arras area where, on oth, “A” Company began work on a tramway along the Cambrai road. ‘‘ Company was set to work to build Nissen huts in Ronville. On 11th the battalion marched into camp in Tilloy Wood. The upkeep of trenches and the training and work on Nissen hut building kept the battalion busy throughout the remainder of November and Decem- ber. Indeed it was not unul the 7th February that the battalion left Tilloy and took over billets in Arras, whence on the 15th “ A,” ‘““B” and ‘“D” Companies moved to St. Laurent Blangy and Stirling Camp, north of the Scarpe, while “‘ C’’ Company went to Les Fosses Farm for work under the C.R.E., 15th Division. From the 17th to 21st February all companies were engaged in digging and wiring the reserve-trench third system on each side of the Scarpe. On the 26th the battalion was reorganised into three companies, its strength then being forty officers and 749 other ranks. On the 11th March the Pioneers moved back to billets in Arras and whilst here were rejoined, on 21st, by Lieut.-Colonel Sir E. Clarke, who had recovered from his wounds and once more assumed command of the battalion. From the Diaries of the 22nd Labour Battalion, West York- shires (Lieut.-Colonel J. S. Stewart) little of interest can be gathered. That the battalion worked hard and well is very evident, but the tasks were uninteresting and apparently they saw less of the fighting than the Pioneers, who more than once were called upon to act as infantrymen. In May the 22nd Battalion (as such) ceased to exist, Nos. 1 and 2 Companies being renamed No 18 Labour Company and Nos. 3 and 4 Companies No. 19 Labour Company. Here their records end though, no doubt, under their new designations they carried out much useful and valuable work.

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Page 217

The Offensive in Picardy ; 21st March—sth April, 1918.

A note on the General Situation on the Evening of 20th March, 1918.

The First Battles of the Somme, 1918; 21st March— 5th April.

The Battle of St. Quentin: 21st—23rd March. The First Battle of Bapaume: 24th—25th March. The Defence of Bucquoy : 26th—31st March. The Battle of Rosiéres : 26th—27th March. The First Battle of Arras, 1918: 28th March. Actions of Villers-Bretonneux : 24th—25th April.

The Offensive in Flanders; 9th—29th April.

THE BATTLES OF THE LYS: 9th—z29th April. The Battle of Hazebrouck : 12th—15th April. The Withdrawal from the Passchendaele Ridge. The Battles of Bailleul and Kemmel Ridge: 13th—19th April. The Second Battle of Kemmel Ridge : 25th—z26th April. The Battle of the Scherpenberg : 29th April.

The Offensive 1n Champagne ; 27th May—6th Fune, 1918. The Battle of the Aisne, 1918: 27th May—é6th June.


Page 219



A Note on the General Situation on the Evening of 2oth March, 1918

T is impossible to read the diaries kept by Battalions, Brigades and Divisions in France in March, 1918, without coming to the conclusion that the Army was on the very eve of great events. Such entries as ‘“‘ Added to a certain apprehension difficult to diagnose there is a general restlessness all round,” point to that queer intuition experienced by all who ever served in the front-line trenches that ‘“‘ something” was about to happen. ‘“‘ The rumours about a coming enemy attack,” said another diarist, “‘ circle thick and fast. Perhaps the reality of things is brought into bolder relief by the fact of the new works and dumps under construction in the reserve system of trenches. Then, too, the Intelligence information, culled from General Headquarters Summaries downwards, points to enemy action at an early date.” The latter quotation is from an entry made in a battalion diary early in March. That the storm clouds were gathering and that there were indications in the preceding month of the coming attack is admirably shown in Sir Douglas Haig’s official despatches: ‘‘ To- wards the middle of February, 1918, it became evident that the enemy was preparing for a big offensive on the Western Front. It was known from various sources that he had been steadily increasing his forces in the Western Theatre since the beginning of November, 1917'. In three and a half months twenty-eight infantry divisions had been transferred from the Eastern Theatre and six infantry divisions from the Italian Theatre. There were reports that further reinforcements were on their way to the West, and it was also known that the enemy had greatly increased his heavy artillery in the Western Theatre during the same period. These reinforcements were more than were necessary for defence and, as they were moved at a time when the distribution of food and fuel to the civil population in Germany was rendered extremely difficult through lack of rolling

' He had employed some of these freshly-arrived divisions from the Eastern Front in the Battle of Cambrai, 1917.


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208 The West Regiment in the War 1918

stock, I concluded that the enemy intended to attack at an early date. Constant air reconnaissances over the enemy’s lines showed that road and rail communications were being improved and ammuni- tion and supply dumps increased along the whole front from Flanders to the Oise. By the end of February, 1918, these preparations had become very marked opposite the front held by the Third and Fifth British Armies, and I considered it probable that the enemy would make his initial effort from the Sensée river southwards. As the 21st March approached it became certain that an attack on this sector was imminent and counter-preparation was carried out nightly by our artillery on the threatened front. By the 21st March the number of German divisions in the Western Theatre had risen to 192, an increase of forty-six since the rst November, 1917.’ The offensives of 1917 had left the Allies weak, the strength of the British Army in particular being at low ebb towards the end of December of that year. The American Armies could not be expected to restore the balance in favour of the Allies, for by March, 1918, they had not arrived in sufficient numbers, nor had they progressed sufficiently in training to take their place in the field. Reinforce- ments from England had fallen off deplorably and, as already stated, in order to keep the bulk of his divisions up to strength, Sir Douglas Haig had been forced to reduce the number of infantry battalions in each division from twelve to nine and even reduce some of his divisions to cadre strength. Towards the end of January, 1918, the British Army had extended its front, and in March occupied 125 miles of the front line, extending from Barisis, south of La Fére, to a point just east of St. Julien, north-west of Ypres. The British line between the Sensée and the Oise had been selected by the enemy on account of its weakness, which General Ludendorff (Chief of the German General Staff) referred to in the following terms: ‘‘ The weakest part was on both sides of St.

Quentin . . . here the attack would strike the enemy’s weakest point, the ground offered no difficulties and it was passable at all seasons . . . The centre of attack seemed to lack a definite limit.

This could be remedied by limiting the main effort in the area between Arras and Péronne, towards the coast. If this blow succeeded the strategic result might indeed be enormous, and we should separate

the bulk of the English Army from the French and crowd it up with its back to the sea. I favoured the centre attack, but I was influenced

by the time factor and by tactical considerations, first amongst them

1 ‘The actual figures from German sources were 193 divisions and three brigades.

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1918 The Michael Attack 209

being the weakness of the enemy. Whether this weakness would

continue I could not know.” On roth March General Ludendorff issued orders for final preparations for the great German offensive to begin. The order for this offensive was under the rubric of “ Michael.” The text of the German order was as follows : ‘““ By His Majesty’s orders— 1. The Michael attack will take place on the 21st.3. The first attack on the enemy’s line is fixed for 9-40 a.m. 2. The first great tactical objective of the Crown Prince Rupprecht’s Army Group! is to cut off the English in the Cambrai Salient and reach the line Croisilles-Bapaume-Péronne. If the attack of the right wing (Seventeenth Army) proceeds favourably this Army is to press on behind Croisilles. The further task of this Army Group is to push forward in the general direction Arras-Albert, keep its left wing on the Somme at Péronne and, intensifying its pressure on the right wing, compel the retirement of the English front facing the Sixth Army? and release further German troops from trench warfare for the general advance. 3. The German Crown Prince’s Army Group? will first gain the line of the Somme, south of Ormignon stream (it flows into the Somme south of Péronne) and the Crozat Canal (west of La Feére). By pushing on rapidly the Eighteenth Army (the right wing of the Crown Prince’s Army Group) is to secure the crossings of the Somme and the Canal.” The principal objective of the Seventeenth German Army was, therefore, the British position opposite the line Croisilles-Mceuvres, and of the Second and Eighteenth German Armies the line from and between Villers-Guislain and La Fére. From the Oise, west of La Fére, northwards to Gouzeaucourt, the Fifth British Army held the line; north again of Gouzeaucourt (the dividing line between the Fifth and Third British Armies) the Third Army continued the line to Gavrelle, just north of the Scarpe ; the First British Army was on the left of the Third Army. The Flesquiéres Salient (called by the Germans the Cambrai Re- entrant), t.e., from Boursies in the north to Villers-Guislain south, was to be “‘ pinched off,” as will be seen by Ludendorff’s orders to the inner flanking divisions of the Second and Seventeenth German

1 From south to north, Seventeenth, Sixth and Fourth German Armies.

* On the right of the Seventeenth Army. 3 From north to south, Eighteenth, Seventh, First and Third German Armies. P

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210 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

Armies. The latter Army, on the eve of the great attack, numbered twenty-eight Divisions: the Second German Army twenty-two Divisions and the Eighteenth German Army twenty-six Divisions, in all seventy-six Divisions. Against this number Sir Douglas Haig had only thirty-four Divisions, two Armies each of four Corps, each Army formed of seventeen Divisions. The balance of man power was, therefore, with the enemy : ‘* For the first time in the whole War,” said von Hindenburg, “‘ the Germans would have the advantage of numbers on one of their

fronts.” On the r9th March Sir Douglas Haig’s Intelligence Department

reported that the final stages of the enemy’s preparations on the Arras-St. Quentin front were approaching completion, and that from information obtained the German offensive would probably be launched on 20th or 21st March, and ‘‘ On our side our dis- positions to meet the expected offensive were as complete as the time and troops available could make them.”! Ludendorff had also reported to the German Kaiser that: ‘“‘ The Army was assembled and was prepared to undertake the biggest task in its history.” On the evening of 20th March the British Division in the front line, from west of La Fére northwards to just east of Vimy, were: Fifth Army: 58th, r8th, 14th, 36th, 30th, 61st, 24th, 66th, 16th, 21st, 9th; Third Army: 47th, 63rd, 17th, 51st, 6th, s9th, 34th, 3rd, 15th, 4th; First Army: 56th, 62nd—the latter were the right flanking Divisions. The 9th and 47th Divisions were the left and right flank Divisions of the Fifth and Third Armies, respectively. There were, of course, Divisions in reserve, but these will be dealt with later as they move forward. At present it 1s only necessary to enumerate the Divisions holding the front line when the great German offensive was launched, and describe the operations of those Divisions of which battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment

formed part.

1 Official despatches.

Page 223


THE FIRST BATTLES OF THE SOMME, 1918 The Battle of St. Quentin, 21st—23rd March

HEN the great German offensive of 21st March opened with the Battle of St. Quentin the West Yorkshire Regiment in France and Flanders consisted of twelve battalions. The 1st Battalion (6th Division) held front- line trenches in the Morchies sector, the 2nd Battalion (8th Division) was out of the line at Wizernes, near Ypres; the 1,/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th (49th Division) were in the Zonnebeke sector, east of Ypres; the 8th, 2,'5th and 2/7th (62nd Division) were north of the Scarpe at Arleux ; the gth (11th Division) in the front line east of Mazingarbe (Loos sector); the roth (147th Division) north of Havrincourt, holding front-line trenches in the Flesquiéres Salient; the 15th/17th (31st Division) were at Chaucourt in training, and the 21st (Pioneers) were billeted in Arras, their Division—the 4th—holding the line east of the town. The 11th West Yorkshires, with the 23rd Division, had gone to Italy. Thus it will be seen that when the storm broke on 21st March only two battalions, the 1st and the roth, were actually in the zone of the enemy’s first onslaughts. But they were in a part of the line upon which extraordinarily heavy pressure was maintained by the enemy, #.e., the northern portion of the Flesquiéres Salient, and the fine defence the West Yorkshiremen and their fellow comrades put up in the face of fearful odds is an everlasting memorial alike to those gallant soldiers who lost their lives and to the survivors of that terrible struggle. On the night of 20th March the roth West Yorkshires (Lieut.- Colonel P. R. Simner) of the soth Brigade, 17th Division, held a BATTALION. line astride the Canal du Nord, north of Havrincourt village. Two 20TH MARES companies— D ”’ on the right, and ‘‘ C”’ on the left, of the Canal held the front-line trenches, with “ B” and “ A” in right and left

support respectively. The 52nd Brigade was on the right of the soth.


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For several days the enemy had plastered not only the front line, but the support and reserve areas, with gas shells ; everywhere the deadly fumes were encountered and casualties were very heavy, the strength of the formations holding the front and support lines being greatly reduced. It was part of the enemy’s plan to weaken the resistance when he made his great attack. The morning of 21st March was cold and misty, a white fog hung over the trenches, so that it was difficult (and in places impossible) to see across No Man’s Land. Shortly before 5 a.m. (some reports state 4-30 a.m. and others 5 a.m.) a bombardment of great intensity was opened by the enemy against practically the whole front held by the Fifth and Third Armies, from the Oise to the Scarpe River. Gas and high-explosive shells from artillery of all calibres and trench-mortars deluged the whole of the British front, support and reserve lines, while road centres and railways as far back as St. Pol were kept under fire from high-velocity guns. For nearly four hours trench-mortar bombs were hurled on the front- line trenches of the roth West Yorkshires, their support and reserve lines being swept by light, medium and heavy shells from almost every kind of gun the enemy possessed; it was a bombardment hitherto unsurpassed in fury. The official despatches state that the German infantry advanced to the attack about 9-45 a.m., but it was in some places earlier and in others later. What was general, how- ever, was the white fog which hung over the battlefield, hiding S.O.S. signals as they were sent up from the outpost lines from the British “O.P.’s”” and blotting out completely all visual communication between the front line and back areas. At about 10 a.m. the hostile barrage lifted off the front and support trenches of the West Yorkshiremen and the enemy advanced to the attack. Apparently the Canal du Nord had been selected by the enemy as a dividing line in his assault, for only the right company (“ D ”) of the roth West Yorks. was attacked immediately. About three hundred Germans advanced against ‘‘ D ” Company, but rifle and machine-gun fire tore gaps in their ranks and they were beaten back without ever reaching the wire entanglements. On the imme- diate right of the West Yorkshires, however, a battalion of the 52nd Brigade, having first suffered very heavily from the hostile barrage, was unable to withstand the onslaught of the grey hordes as they came on, wave after wave, in seemingly endless succession, and fell back, leaving uncovered the right flank of the soth Brigade, 1.e.. the roth West Yorkshires. Having gained a footing in the

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front-line trenches of the 52nd Brigade the enemy then began bombing along the trenches towards the West Yorkshiremen who, in turn, their flank being “‘ in the air,” were forced to evacuate their front line for a distance of about two hundred yards. They had, nevertheless, made a stop at the junction of Barn Street with Hughes Trench. At I p.m. a bombing party was formed and, largely owing to the splendid gallantry of Second-Lieut. H. Dean, the enemy was driven, not only from the whole of that portion of the front line he had captured from the West Yorkshires, but also out of a hundred yards of the front-line trenches which had been lost by the 52nd Brigade. The young officer who was mainly responsible for this successful counter-attack had attacked the enemy over the top at a time when his bombers were held up in a trench; with deadly accuracy he had flung his bombs at the Germans, compelling them to give ground, but alas! he finally was mortally wounded and died of his wounds.! The situation retrieved, the remainder of the day, so far as the roth West Yorkshires were concerned, passed quietly, for it will be remembered the enemy’s plans were to attack north and south of the Flesquiéres Salient and “‘ pinch off ”’ the latter. Late that night the soth Brigade received orders to evacuate the front system and fall back to the line of the outer defences of Hermies and Havrincourt, leaving outposts only in the trenches further forward. These orders do not appear to have reached the 1oth West Yorkshires until 3-30 a.m. on 22nd, for the Battalion Diary states that ‘‘ at 3-30 a.m. on the 22nd the battalion was ordered to evacuate the first system of trenches and take up a position west of the Canal du Nord in K.25. and When daylight broke on 22nd the soth Brigade was disposed as follows: 10th West Yorkshires in West Trench, O.B.L. Avenue and Lurgan Switch (with Battalion Headquarters in Maxwell Avenue), two companies of 7th East Yorkshires in support behind Maxwell Avenue. On the right of the soth Brigade the 52nd held Havrincourt as far as the western bank of the Canal du Nord. On this day (22nd) it was evident that the enemy was pushing his way forward very slowly : against the British troops holding the Flesquiéres Salient he as yet maintained only a steady pressure, awaiting the results of the “‘ pinching off” tactics north and south before he attempted a wholesale advance. But already (by the morning of 22nd) the Germans, north and south of the Salient, had

voter casualties on 21st were Capt. F. J. Reynolds and Second-Lieut H. W. Ramsden wounded,



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failed to accomplish anything in the nature of a complete break- through. Under enormous pressure part of the line had indeed given way, but there was nowhere a debacle, nothing approaching a disordered evacuation such as Ludendorff had confidently expected. A grim and stout defence had met the enemy’s onslaught and his troops, advancing in massed formation singing German songs, even played into action in places by their bands, had provided splendid targets of which every advantage had been taken; the wholesale slaughter of Germans was terrible, was indeed so disastrous to the enemy that he never recovered from his losses incurred in this great and final effort to break through the British front. At 3 p.m. on 22nd orders for a further retirement reached the roth West Yorkshires. By this period there were startling reports of the enemy having got through on both flanks. The West York- shires had built a bombing stop at the junction of O.B.L. Avenue and Slag Avenue and here, with the help of one platoon of the 7th East Yorkshire Regiment, they repelled a Flamenwerfer (liquid fire) attack. This position was held until 3 p.m. on the 23rd when the battalion withdrew, “‘ D” Company forming the rearguard, without loss and, retiring via Ruyaulcourt, Ytres, Bus and Rocquigny, reached O.20.a, t.e., a point on the road running in a north-westerly direction from Rocquigny, and about half-way between Barastre and Le Transloy. Here for a while it is necessary to turn from the records of the roth West Yorkshires to those of the senior battalion of the

Regiment, 1.e., the Ist. When the German offensive began the Flesquiéres Salient was

held, from right to left, by the 47th, 63rd and 17th Divisions ; on the left of the latter was the 51st Division and on the left of the 51st the 6th holding the Morchies sector. The latter was as near as possible opposite the left flank of the attack of the Seventeenth German Army, and with the 51st Division the 6th Division was exposed to the full fury of that tremendous onslaught. The Battalion Diary of the 1st West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. M. Boyall) speaks of that attack as “enormous.” ‘‘ Enormous enemy attack broke at 5 a.m. with intense barrage on all trenches, routes of approach and battery positions. Much gas shelling—front-line companies ‘B’ and ‘D” suffered tremendous casualties from _ barrage. Splendid stand made by whole of 6th Division along reserve line after both flanks had been pressed back and until the evening when a withdrawal was ordered to Vaulx-Morchies line (Corps Defence Line).”” The order for the withdrawal, issued at 3-50 p.m. by

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1918 ** The 1st West Yorkshires are not Beaten” 215

Colonel Boyall, is worthy of a permanent place in the history of the ist West Yorkshire Regiment: ‘‘(i.) On the code word ‘ Piebald’ Battation. being sent you, the following orders will be carried out; (ii.) Each 21st Mancn. platoon holding the flanks and reserve line will leave one section to cover the retirement ; (ili.) The retirement will be by platoons from the flanks at intervals of about 200 yards ; (iv.) The retirement will be on to the Morchies-Vaulx line east of Morchies: (v.) Platoons will be retired in such a formation that they will be capable of instant action ; (vi.) In case of hostile interference the retirement will be continued by platoons from both flanks; (vi.) Machine-gunners and Lewis gunners will fight their posts until the last are away.” The paragraph (viii.) which follows the last, is worthy of the highest traditions of the British Army: ‘“‘(vili.) It is recognised that the situation is a tight one, but the 2nd Durham Light Infantry and the 1st West Yorkshires are not beaten yet and are not going to be.” In the later years of the War it was usual for Battalion Com- manders to submit ‘“‘ Narratives of Operations” in which their battalions had taken part, but during the great German offensive of 1918 (as in the Retreat from Mons in 1914) it was impossible for Commanding Officers to set down the happenings of each day, seeing that in many instances the battalion was constantly on the move or fighting hard. As a consequence the meagre details already quoted from the Battalion Diary of the 1st West Yorkshire Regiment cannot be supplemented, for no more details exist. Only from the Diary of the 18th Infantry Brigade and from the 6th Divisional Diary is it possible to gather any further information of what happened on the 21st March and the following days, and even that information is of general interest and in no way satisfies the desire to know exactly what happened to the gallant 1st West Yorkshires. When the operations began the front held by the 6th Division was 4,500 yards in extent. The three Brigades were in the line, 18th on the right, 71st in the centre, 16th on the left, on approxi- mately equal frontages. The length from the front, or outpost zone to the battle zone, was about 2,000 yards. Of the 18th Infantry Brigade the 1st West Yorkshires were on the right and the 2nd Durham Light Infantry on the left: the 11th Essex Regiment (in reserve) was given an assembly position in a sunken road west of Morchies, though at I a.m. on 21st when the Division sent out a warning to all units to stand to in battle formation at 5-30 a.m., the battalion was digging a new trench east of Lagnicourt. The 51st Division was on the immediate right of the West Yorkshires.

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Each front-line battalion held the line with two companies in the front and support line and two in the reserve line : the disposition of the four companies of West Yorkshires were “ B” and “ D” in the front line, ‘“‘ A” and ‘‘ C”’ in reserve. The terrific hostile bombardment which opened at 5 am. continued with uninterrupted fury for five hours. In addition to the storm of gas and “ H.E. ” shells poured on to every part of the Divisional line, a smoke barrage was put down until 8 a.m. Gas masks had to be worn, which still further added to the difficulties experienced in the front line of penetrating the smoke and fog which hung over No Man’s Land. As already stated, visual communica- tion was impossible, and by 7 a.m. telephonic communication with forward companies ceased, for at that hour the enemy’s barrage increased in intensity. About 7-30 a.m. two gallant runners of 2nd D.L.I. reached 18th Brigade Headquarters, then in a sunken road half-way between Morchies and Beugny. They had succeeded in getting through the enemy’s barrage and reported the front line intact, though casualties were very heavy. The actual assault apparently took place between 8 and 8-30 a.m., at which hour the hostile smoke barrage lifted. On the 6th Divisional front the Germans advanced in long lines extended to two paces and at some fifty yards interval, covered by from ten to twelve such waves, the remainder advancing in artillery formation. It is not until 10-10 a.m. that the 1st West Yorkshires are mentioned in the Brigade Narrative, but up to that period it 1s certain that Colonel Boyall’s battalion, though having lost heavily in the bombardment, was maintaining every yard of ground held by it before the attack began. On the immediate left of the 18th Brigade, however, the first-line companies of the 71st Brigade had been forced back : they “‘ had offered a stout resistance until, finding themselves being surrounded by masses of the enemy, they fell back to the reserve line.” On the right of the 18th Brigade the 153rd Brigade of the 51st Division had also been forced back, that Brigade reporting at 10 a.m. that the enemy in large numbers had broken through its support line. At 10-10 a.m. Colonel Boyall reported that the enemy was advancing in masses through his support line towards Lynx Trench. The latter was in the left company area and it is probable the enemy had crossed the right of the Brigade (and Divisional) boundary, as

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his troops, having driven back the 153rd Brigade, were seen working their way along the high ground to the south of Robin Support and east of the Strand. About 10-30 a.m. the enemy reached Head- quarters dug-out of the 2nd D.L.I., situated at the junction of Leech Avenue and the Reserve Line, but here he was checked and driven back 150 yards up the communication trench and four machine-guns and many boxes of ammunition were taken from him; these guns were used in action against him throughout the day. At 10-30 a.m. two companies of the 11th Essex Regiment (under Major Stockdale') were ordered up to reinforce the West Yorkshire Regiment, whose right was now in danger. By II a.m. the 153rd Brigade, on the right, had been driven out of Louveral and the reserve line at Posts 26, 27 and 28 in J.3.a and b. This left the right flank of the rst West Yorkshires completely “‘ in the air.’ By 11-45 a.m. the 71st Brigade, on the left of the 18th, had been driven out of Lagnicourt. Thus both flanks of the 18th Brigade were now “ in the air’ and exposed to the enemy. Some idea of the desperate situation of the 1st West Yorkshires, 2nd D.L.I. and three companies of the 11th Essex, who had been sent up as reinforcements, may be gathered from the fact that at 12 noon Colonel Boyall sent back an urgent message asking for fifty boxes of small arm ammunition. But owing to the enemy having pushed back both flanks it was impossible to send the ammunition up. “ By 2-30 p.m.” the 18th Brigade Diary states, “‘ the situation was most critical, the 1st West Yorkshire Regiment, 2nd Durham Light Infantry, three companies of the 11th Essex Regiment and one company of 9th Norfolk Regiment, 71st Brigade, being practically surrounded.” An order was received from Divisional Headquarters about this time, stating that the 18th and 71st Brigades should, if possible, hold on to their present positions until dusk, when a strong counter-attack against Louveral was to be made in the hope of telieving the situation. But at 3 p.m. another telephone message was received from Colonel Boyall ; he stated that if reinforcements were not forthcoming the remainder of the Brigade would fight it out to the last in the reserve line, for the situation was hopeless and retirement impossible.? It was at this time that the orders already quoted from were issued, which in the concluding paragraph stated that “the 2nd Durham Light Infantry and the 1st West

' Major C. N. Stockdale belonged to the 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment but was attached to the 11th Essex Regiment, and was serving with them when killed on 21st March.

* Colonel Boyall had been ordered to take the command of all front line troops in the Brigade sector.


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Yorkshires are not beaten yet and are not going to be.” By this time the enemy had brought up more trench-mortars and had established them in the gun positions in J.2.a. and b. (in right rear of the rst West Yorkshires), and under cover of these mortars had worked his way into the Travel Trench, running from Colonel Boyall’s Headquarters to the dump in J.2. central. At the same time hostile shell-fire on the reserve line increased in intensity. How many Officers and men of the West Yorkshires survived at this period it is not possible to say, but there cannot have been many. By 4 p.m. every hope of getting away had been dissipated ; the enemy had worked round the right flank of the Brigade and was in rear of Colonel Boyall’s Headquarters, though a defensive flank had been thrown out by the three companies of the 11th Essex Regiment. On the left of the Brigade the situation was the same. In front the gallant Durhams and West Yorkshiremen still held the enemy, though it was marvellous they did so seeing the overwhelming forces flung against them. The end now seemed at hand. About 4 p.m. Colonel Boyall had telephoned saying that the situation was hopeless ; the enemy was within forty yards of his Headquarters in Travel Trench. ‘‘ This message,” records the Brigade Narrative, ‘‘ was the last news re- ceived from the troops in the battle zone.” But reading on through the Narrative it would seem that news came from somewhere of that last desperate fight. For nearly three hours more, apparently, the gallant survivors of the Brigade held their own, but by 6-50 p.m. all bombs had been used and there was no other course than to fight it out with the enemy in the reserve line. A thick mist then began to fall and at 7-15 p.m. the Commanding Officers of the 2nd D.L.I. and 1st West Yorkshires ordered all troops to withdraw to the Morchies line. The C.O. of the 11th Essex Regiment (Colonel Dumbell), commanding troops in the Morchies area, replied that he could see the Durhams retiring, then came a sound of rifle firing and shouting and the clash of arms and, finally, the mist settled down, blotting out everything from his view. Survivors (the fortunate few who had fought their way through the enemy’s ranks and had reached the Corps line) stated afterwards that directly the withdrawal began the enemy, in great numbers, followed in rear, while violent machine-gun fire from both flanks swept the ground over which the intrepid troops of the 18th Brigade were retiring, thus giving no chance for an organised retirement. By 7-25 p.m. the remnants of the Brigade had reached the

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1918 The Gallant Survivors 219

Corps Line. Their numbers were as follows : 1st West Yorkshires : 1st Two officers, ninety-eight other ranks ; 2nd D.L.I.: Three officers, BATTALION. 128 other ranks; 11th Essex Regiment: Five officers, 140 other ranks—a mere handful ! The remnants of the Brigade occupied the Corps line astride the transport track leading from Morchies village up to the front line sector just evacuated. The Essex Regiment held the right of this track, West York- shires the left, with the Durhams on their left. The Corps line was not cut through the track and this considerably impeded communica- tion between the West Yorkshires and the Essex during the ensuing twenty-four hours.

These dispositions were sull unfinished when the first Germans, following up closely in the dusk, attempted to gain a footing in the line. Two such unsuccessful assaults took place before 8 p.m. During the night a returning leave party, numbering twenty-eight, joined the battalion, carrying sufficient rations to feed the Brigade.

Communication was obtained with advanced Brigade Head- quarters and a considerable amount of ammunition collected from local dumps.

The night passed quietly. German artillery fire (all field guns) started again at about 5 a.m., but fortunately seemed to mistake the parallel sunken road, some 150 yards in rear, for the Corps line.

German infantry assaulted about 6 a.m., but did not reach the trench. Two subsequent attempts were made. A thick fog pre- vented all observation of what was happening in the neighbouring sectors.

The fog lifted at 11 a.m. and it was then found that the Germans had penetrated our left along the southern slope of Lagnicourt ridge to a very considerable depth. By 1 p.m. the enemy had occupied the sunken road (mentioned above) in rear of the position.

The Germans then attacked down the Corps line. At first considerable resistance was put up, but the supply of bombs quickly gave out. The portion of the line held by the West Yorkshires was taken at about 4-30 p.m. After dark, firing gradually died down and the troops were Organised in the Morchies line. During the night 21st/22nd, Divisional Headquarters informed 18th Brigade Headquarters that the rith Cheshire Regiment (75th Brigade, 25th Division), with four machine-guns, would reinforce the Brigade. The 74th Brigade

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had also come up in support of the 153rd Brigade (on the right of 18th) and the troops in front of Morchies.

Events of the 22nd March, so far as the rst West Yorkshires are concerned, were even more obscure. The Battalion Diary of that date records as follows: ‘‘ Fairly quiet night. Enemy counter- attack at 5 a.m. Remnants of the battalion very badly handled again. At night battalion relieved by a battalion of the 41st Division and withdrawn to bivouacs near Favreuil, H.30. Numbers returned : One officer and forty-six other ranks on this night and following three days. At night battalion withdrew to Buchanan Camp, Achiet le Petit.”

The Brigade Diary only mentions the battalion late in the afternoon of the 22nd when, after repulsing two heavy attacks, the remnants of the Durhams and West Yorkshires, with other troops, were called upon to sustain yet one more effort. ‘“* A third attack,” records the Brigade Diary, “‘ drove in the remnants of the 2nd D.L.I. and West Yorkshire Regiments, who had suffered heavily during the enemy attacks.”” By 5 p.m. the remnants of the 2nd D.L.I. and West Yorkshire Regiment, now numbering fifty men all told, were driven through Morchies, the survivors attaching themselves to units of the 74th Infantry Brigade holding the new position in rear of the village.

There is little need to follow the story of this great battle further. The remnants of the 6th Division were relieved on the night 22nd/ 23rd by the 41st Division, the former marching back to Achiet le Petit.

At the conclusion of the 18th Brigade Narrative there is an interesting (though mournful) comparison of the strength of the Brigade on the morning of 21st March, before the German attack was launched, and that on reaching Achiet Le Petit. On the 21st the strength of the 1st West Yorkshires was twenty-four officers and 627 other ranks ; of the 2nd D.L.I. thirty officers and 639 other ranks ; of the 11th Essex Regiment twenty-five officers and $01 other ranks—total seventy-nine officers and 1,767 other ranks. On the morning of 23rd the following troops, who had been through the fighting from the beginning, were all that remained at “ roll call’: rst West Yorkshires, one officer and eighteen other ranks ;' 2nd Battalion D.L.I., two officers and twenty-two other ranks ;

1 A number of other ranks, bringing the total up to forty-six, turned up later: they had attached themselves to other formations.

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1918 Colonel Boyaill a Prisoner 221

11th Essex Regiment, five officers and seventy other ranks ; total strength, eight officers and 110 other ranks. In detail the losses of the rst West Yorkshires were as follows : Lieut-Colonel A. M. Boyall, Major H. A. W. Cole Hamilton and Capt and Adjt. J. F. Wallace wounded and missing; they were captured by the enemy on the 21st. Killed—Second-Lieut. J. F. Whitworth, Lieut. R. A. Charlton, Second-Lieut. H. Salmons (died of wounds in German hands). Wounded—Lieut. A. G. Marshall, Second-Lieuts. J. Fernyhough and C. H. Underwood. Missing (Prisoners of War). Capt. W. C. Newstead, Capt. E. Ambler, Lieut. P. E. Adams, Lieut. J. R. Bee, Second-Lieuts. G. Sergeant, P. D. Stewart, W. H. Wright, J. Littlewood, J. W. Smith, L. W. Metcalfe, F. Hodges, A. E. H. Parrott, F. Bird, H. Salmonds and Capt. S. Smith, R.A.M.C. In other ranks the number killed is given as eight ; wounded, eighteen ; wounded and missing, nine ; and missing, 531. Of the missing officers and other ranks a heavy proportion is known to have been either killed or wounded, but owing to the loss of the entire Battalion Headquarters no record could be made. Thus, so far as the West Yorkshire Regiment was concerned, ended the first of the Battles of the Great German Offensive, .e., The Battle of St. Quentin. Later, when the pressure of the enemy had relaxed and the 6th Division was out of the line, the Divisional Commander, Major- General T. O. Marden, sent the following communication to Brig.- General S. G. Craufurd, commanding 18th Infantry Brigade: the communication is dated 4th April, 1918: ‘‘ I have waited for your official report of the operations of the 21st-22nd March ’18 before writing to congratulate the 1st West Yorkshires, the 2nd D.L.I., the 11th Essex Regiment and the 18th T.M.B. on the splendid determination with which they met the sudden onslaught of the enemy. It was essentially a soldier’s battle, in which units under their com- manders were set to fight without hope of reinforcements against vastly superior numbers of the enemy, supported by an overwhelming artillery. can only feebly express my admiration for the courage and tenacity displayed by all ranks. Their achievement and losses must constitute a record even in the history of the famous regiments to which they belong. They will have the satisfaction of knowing that their sacrifices have not been in vain, since they held up for forty-eight hours the German attack on the front for which they were responsible.”


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222 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

The 21st West Yorkshires (Lieut-Colonel Sir E. Clarke) do not appear to have been involved in the fighting in the Battle of St. Quentin, though their Division (4th) was holding the line east of Arras. The Pioneers marched to Rifle Camp on 22nd. At dawn on 23rd one company of the 21st West Yorkshires was sent forward to occupy reserve trenches in each of the Brigade areas of the Division but later, on receipt of fresh orders, the battalion moved back to Duizans for work on Army lines. During the day Major Finn was severely wounded and four other rank casualties were also suffered.

North of the 4th Division the 62nd Division held the line in the Arleux sector, the 185th Brigade being in the front line when the German offensive began on the 21st. The Brigade Diary for that date records: ‘‘ Opening of German offensive. Heavy barrage of all calibres placed on our front, support and reserve lines at 4-45 a.m. Fire slackened at 6 a.m., but was heavy again from 7 to 8-30 a.m. and died down at 10-30 a.m. No infantry attack followed. Casual- ties 2/7th West Yorkshire Regiment: One other rank wounded ; 2/§th West Yorkshire Regiment : Two other ranks killed.”” On the 22nd the enemy’s artillery was active on the Sugar Factory, Willer- val, and on the Red Line. On 23rd the 62nd Division was relieved, by day, by the 3rd Canadian Division, and all units moved back into camp in the vicinity of Roclincourt and Ecurie. That evening orders were received for the 62nd Division to move into the XVIIth Corps area on the following morning.

Meanwhile, reports of the German offensive had been circulated far and wide, up and down the line, and the 8th Division, amongst other Divisions warned to be ready to move, was placed “‘ at 5 hours’ notice.”” On 22nd the Division entrained, the 2nd West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. E. Lowry) reaching Chaulnes at 10 p.m. The battalion detrained and marched off to Villers Carbonnel, a village some three or four miles south of Péronne. It was 4 a.m. on 23rd before the West Yorkshiremen reached a camp just west of Villers, but two companies were ordered to move forward at once and, after crossing the Somme Canal, occupy a forward position east of Brei in order to cover the retirement of the soth Division. By 7 a.m. these two companies (“‘ A” and “ D”’), under Capt. Warner and Lieut. Tempest were in position digging in; ‘“‘ B” and “‘ C”’ Com- panies moved to positions west of Brei. By 2 p.m. all the transport had crossed the Canal, retiring westwards, and the infantry, gradu- ally falling back, had also reached the Brei bridge where Captain Fox

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1918 German View of the Battle 223

was in charge of the crossing. At 3-15 p.m. the demolition of the 2ND bridge was ordered and by 3-30 it had been completely destroyed. Ba ON The enemy was now in view on the ridge east of the Canal, but was under heavy artillery fire and held up for the time being. On the night of 23rd, the 2nd West Yorkshires took up positions for the defence of the bridge-head from Eterpigny inclusive to the Chateau at Happlincourt. ‘“ A’? Company was on the right, “B” in the centre and “C” on the left; “D” Company was in support. The Battalion Diary does not record the loss of any officers or men on 23rd March. Similarly the 31st Division had also been hurried forward from 15/17TH its rest area, the 15th/17th West Yorkshires, of the 93rd Brigade, BATT AION. taking up a position near Judas Farm, just west of St. Leger, on the sees’ night of 23rd. On the night of 23rd March (when the Battle of St. Quentin ended) the British line from right to left, from the Oise to the Scarpe, ran approximately as follows: Amigny—Viry Noureuil—just west of Cogny—Eaucourt—Golancourt—Eppeville—thence along the line of the western bank of the Somme Canal to a mile north of Biaches —across the Canal and Somme River to east of Cléry—thence to just west of Bus—east of Bertincourt, heading back sharply west- wards, north of the latter village to about a mile east of Haplincourt —thence in a north-westerly direction, just west of Beugny, east of Mory, west of St. Leger (Judas Farm) east of Boyelles, through Henin and St. Martin to Fampoux and Roeux ; north of the latter village to Avion there was no change in the line. Great as the British losses had been, both in men, material and ground in this first battle, nowhere along the whole front had there been a wholesale break-through such as the enemy had hoped for and, indeed, confidently expected. Everywhere along the whole front the British troops had fought most gallantly, though vastly outnumbered, the splendid resistance put up by the 6th Division (as an instance) being typical of the fierce fighting which took place during the first three days of the enemy’s offensive. The official despatches are too full and lengthy to quote, but it is obvious from General Ludendorff said that the German General Staff thought the first of those desperate battles not altogether a success. On the left the Eighteenth German Army had made progress “ as intended,” but on the right the Seventeenth German Army, through fighting in ‘“‘ too dense had lost so heavily on 21st-22nd March that it was already almost exhausted. The Second German

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25TH MarRcH.

224 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

Army (the centre of the German line) had not advanced according to expectations.

The First Battle of Bapaume, 24th—25th March

The official despatches state that ‘‘ South of Péronne the night of 23rd/24th March passed comparatively quietly, but with the dawn powerful attempts were made by the enemy to force the crossings of the Somme, and these attempts were by no means confined to the recognised points of passage. Owing to the dry weather the river and marshes did not constitute a very formidable obstacle to the infantry, while the trees and undergrowth along the valley afforded good cover to the enemy and limited the field of fire of the defenders. In the early morning hostile forces, which had crossed the river at St. Christ and Bethencourt, were attacked and driven back by troops of the 8th Division under command of Major- General W. C. G. Heneker, and of the 2oth Division, but at Pargny the enemy succeeded in maintaining himself on the west bank of the river and the flanks of the 8th Division and 20th Division were no longer in touch.” Unfortunately it is impossible to gather from the Diary of the 2nd West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. E. Lowry) any interesting details of the part taken by that battalion in the operations of 24th, the Diary containing only the following words : ‘‘ Remained in these positions (from Eterpigny inclusive to Chateau Happlincourt) ‘ B’ Company and ‘D’ Company under fairly continuous shell-fire during the day. Relieved by 2nd Middlesex about midnight 24th/25th. After relief withdrew to position on 90 contour W. of Villers Carbonnel.” But at 8 a.m. the next morning (25th) the battalion received a report that the enemy had crossed the bridge at Eterpigny, and orders for a counter-attack were at once issued. At 9-20 a.m. ‘‘ C” and ‘‘ A’ Companies, under Capt. Cropper, moved off for the hill west of Villers Carbonnel to attack the enemy, but about five hundred yards west of Eterpigny the two companies in crossing a ridge came under such heavy rifle and machine-gun fire that the attack was brought to a standstill. All the officers of ‘“C” Company had become casualties and Capt. Warner (“ A” Company) took command and organised the two companies to defend the ridge. “B” and ‘“‘ D”’ Companies moved up in close support. “‘ The position,” records the Diary, ‘“‘ was held against severe odds

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1918 Barastre 225

all day,” but no further details are given. It was, of course, im- 2ND

possible for a C.O. or an Adjutant during the stress of that terribly anxious period to sit down and enter in the Battalion Diary full descriptions of the heavy fighting through which units passed, but from the point of view of history it is regrettable more information is not available. Towards evening of 25th, as troops on the left of the 2nd West Yorkshires were retiring, the battalion was ordered to withdraw from the entire position held, the retirement to begin at 8-15 p.m. This was carried out successfully as far as Estrees and at 2 a.m. on 26th the battalion, having arrived in position at and about Déniécourt (just north of Estrees), formed an outpost line. North of the Somme the enemy’s attacks were still pushed vigorously. On the night of 23rd March the soth Bngade of the 17th Division had arrived in position about half-way between Barastre and Le Transloy. But just before 10 p.m. information was received that the enemy was occupying Little Wood, Lechelle, and Bus, and the Brigade was ordered to take up an outpost line east of Barastre, Dorsets on the right, roth West Yorkshires on the left and 7th East Yorkshires in support. On the morning of 24th at 6-20 a.m. orders were received at Brigade Headquarters to attack and recapture Bus, the 51st Brigade being ordered to move towards Sailly-Saillisel to gain touch with the division on the right. But an hour later these orders were cancelled and the soth Brigade was ordered to take up an outpost line to cover the retirement of the 63rd and 2nd Divisions to the Barastre-Rocquigny defence line. The roth West Yorkshires apparently moved off to take up position south-east of Barastre During the morning an order was received at Battalion Headquarters to withdraw through Beaulencourt to Courcelette. This order was shortly afterwards cancelled, but too late to recall two companies of the battalion who had moved off and had by now lost touch with Battalion Headquarters and the two remaining companies. The remainder of the battalion, under Lieut-Colonel P. R. Simner, received fresh orders : the soth Brigade was to take up a defensive line at Gueudecourt facing south-east. On arrival at the new position reconnaissances showed that the enemy was now on three sides of the Brigade, but the G.O.C. personally led the troops along the only open way, 1.e., back to Eaucourt-l’Abbaye. By this time rations and ammunition had become very scarce. Between Eaucourt and Le Sars touch was gained with troops of the 2nd Division and, in accordance with Q



24TH Marcu.

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Corps Orders, the 5oth Brigade took up a position on the right of the 2nd Division at Destremont Farm. The roth West Yorkshires apparently reached their position in the line at about 3 a.m. on the 25th and it was here that a desperate fight ensued during the day. At 9 a.m. on the 25th March the force at the disposal of the G.O.C., soth Brigade, totalled little more than 300. In this number were included the remains of two companies of 1oth West Yorkshires totalling about 150 all ranks. At 10 a.m. the Germans, using a large number of machine-guns, attacked the position held by this force of some 300 officers and men immediately east of Eaucourt Abbaye. They were repulsed again and again by rifle and Lewis- gun fire, but still came on in ever-increasing numbers. In the end this weight of numbers told and at about 11-30 a.m. the left of the battalion front broke. Fifteen minutes later the line gave way on the right and finally the battalion, by now almost surrounded, was forced to withdraw, fighting hard all the way. During the fighting Lieut.-Colonel P. R. Simner ‘‘ became missing, believed prisoner’’: Capt. L. G. Peters was also at first reported taken prisoner, but afterwards killed. Lieut. F. A. Shur- rock was reported missing, believed wounded : the Battalion Medical Officer—Capt. D. W. Hunter—was killed and Lieuts. W. J. Hartnell and S. Lowden wounded: the casualties amongst other ranks numbered about sixty killed, wounded and missing. During the withdrawal which followed, the remnants of the two companies got split up into two parties. One, consisting of one officer and twenty-eight other ranks, joined a party of seventy other ranks of the 7th East Yorkshires under Lieut.-Colonel W. E. Thomas and a party of fifty other ranks and two officers of the 7th Dorsets, and were attached to the 99th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division. This party spent the night of 25th/26th on the high ground immedi- ately north-west of Beaucourt and on the morning of 26th formed the rearguard of the 2nd Division. Meanwhile the other party, consisting of five officers and about thirty other ranks, reached Beaucourt and spent the night on the high ground south-west of the ruined village, and on the 26th marched back to Henencourt. On the night of 23rd March, as already stated, the 93rd Brigade of the 31st Division had side-stepped south, taking over the sector extending from the Sensée river for 1,300 yards north, the line running just west of the village of St. Leger. The 15th/17th West

Yorkshires were near Judas Farm. The Battalion Diary contains no entry on 24th March and

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1918 The Enemy Roughly Handled 227

only the following meagre details are obtainable from the Diary of 15/17TH the 93rd Brigade: “‘ About 8-30 a.m. the enemy advanced to the Mana. attack on the front of our left battalion. He was completely repulsed by our rifle and machine-gun fire, and none of the enemy entered our trenches so that no prisoners were taken. Many dead were seen lying in front of our wire. Hostile shelling varied in intensity during the day, at times increasing almost to drum fire. About II p.m. the line east of Ervillers was strongly attacked and the enemy succeeded in entering the village. A counter-attack restored the situation. No attack developed on our front but, owing to the heavy hostile fire, our guns opened out on the S.O.S. lines. The casualties during the day had been somewhat heavy, amounting in all to about 170. The greater part of these were caused by shell- The 25th March was apparently without much excitement, for Marcu. the Brigade Diary states: ‘‘ The day passed fairly quietly on the Brigade front. The villages in the rear areas received most of the attention. Owing to the capture of Combles, Les Boeufs and Morval by the enemy our line had to be withdrawn to a line following, roughly, the railway embankment, east of Courcelles le Comte. This was successfully accomplished after dark without loss. Later in the afternoon a further withdrawal to the Ablainzeville-Moyenville line was carried out. The Guards Division was on the left of this Division (31st) and the 42nd Division on the right.” The only comment in the Battalion Diary of the 15th/17th West Yorkshires for 25th March is: “‘ The battalion withdrew by night to Boyelles- Ervillers road.” Meanwhile the 8th, 2/5th and 2/7th Battalions of the Regiment 8Tu, 2/s5TH, forming the 185th Brigade of the 62nd (W.R.) Division, had arrived 2.77% from the Arras area. In accordance with orders received on 23rd the three Infantry Brigades of the 62nd Division had moved, on the morning of 24th, to the following areas: 185th Brigade Agny, 186th Brigade Agnes les Duisans, 187th Brigade Arras. Shortly after midnight on the night 24th/25th Divisional Head- quarters received the following wire from Third Army Headquarters : “62nd Division, less one Brigade (187th still at disposal of XVIIth Corps) will move at once to Ayette, where they will come under the orders of the [Vth Corps aaa 62nd will send a staff officer to [Vth Corps Headquarters Mailly Maillet on receipt of this order.” Brigades were then warned by telephone from Divisional Headquarters and at 2-20 a.m. orders were despatched to all units. At 3 a.m. the 25TH Marcu.

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228 The West Yorkshtre Regiment in the War 1918

Division was on the move along the various roads converging on Ayette. Thus the entry of the 62nd Division into the actual scene of the battle was like that of many other divisions—both hurried and somewhat confused. The head of the 185th Brigade column moved off about 3 a.m. Before leaving Arras all stores and kits were dumped in the town. Through the dark hours of the night the 185th and 186th Brigades of the Division trudged on towards Ayette, hoping to go into the line east of that place, but they were doomed to disappointment for, on reaching the village, the staff officer who had been sent to [Vth Corps Headquarters brought orders that the 62nd Division was to push on immediately to Bucquoy. About I0 a.m. on 25th the vanguard of the 185th Brigade began to arrive in Bucquoy. The roads were in a terrible state of con- gestion and it had been impossible to get along quickly, and as a consequence the Brigade was not concerned in the village until about noon. Corps Headquarters had ordered the men to have a meal and get rested, but the Division was instructed to hold itself in readiness to move at short notice and, as usually happened in such circumstances, orders to move arrived before the men had fed. So, without their dinners, the three battalions of the 185th Brigade marched off to take up their positions, the 8th West York- shires (Lieut.-Colonel A. H. James) on the right, 2/5th West York- shires (Lieut.-Colonel A. R. Waddy) on the left, and the 2/7th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel C. K. James) in support. The position taken up by the 185th Brigade (Brig.-General Viscount Hampden) was between Logeast Wood and Achiet-le-Petit. By 2-30 p.m. all three battalions were digging hard in order to consolidate their positions. So far as could be judged by the G.O.C., 62nd Division (Major- General Sir W. P. Braithwaite) the general situation east of Bucquoy was as follows: the 41st and 25th Divisions were on the line Bief- Villers-Sapignies : the 19th Division La Barque-Avesnes les Bapaume; the 51st Division was in Logeast Wood. About Sapignies and Behagnies the enemy’s pressure was maintained with ever-increasing severity, though all his efforts to break through had been bloodily repulsed and enormous casualties inflicted on him. The situation about Bucquoy is thus referred to by a C.O. of one of the battalions of the 186th Brigade, which arrived after the 185th had reached Bucquoy: ‘‘ If one had any doubts about the seriousness of the situation they were settled here ; the whole area was a mass of guns

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1918 Bucquoy 229

of all types, limbers, ambulances, ammunition and transport and, 8TH, 2/5TH, moving at the rear, limping and worn-out men, many of them ons wounded, of the 41st, 19th, 25th, 42nd and 51st Divisions, seeking 25TH Marcu. their units, too tired from heavy fighting and lack of sleep to have any idea of what was happening in front; no news, no orders, and yet no panic.” By 5 p.m. on 25th the 186th and 185th Brigades of the 62nd Division were in line, defending the village of Achiet-le-Petit, the 42nd Division was on the left, but the right of the 62nd was “ in the air” and there was a wide gap between the inner flanks of the 1Vth Corps, to which the 62nd now belonged, and the Vth Corps, on the right of the IVth. During the early evening those divisions which had been fight- ing all day in front of Achiet-le-Petit gradually withdrew behind the line held by the 62nd and 42nd Divisions, now the IVth Corps front line. The Diary of the 8th West Yorkshires states that a position was “ occupied through the village of Achiet-le-Petit,” while the Diary of 2/5th West Yorkshires records that the battalion (on the left of the 8th Battalion) was in position by 5 p.m., “ B,” “C” and “ D” Companies in the front line and ‘“‘ A’ Company in support. Put posts out on ridge.”” The 2/7th West Yorkshires were occupying a defensive position on the Bucquoy-Achiet-le-Petit road. In these positions the West Yorkshires of the 62nd Divisions awaited the enemy’s attack on the 26th. The 21st West Yorkshires did not enter into action during the 2'sT 24th or 25th, but on these dates were at work in the Army Lines. BATTALION. On the night 25th/26th the Pioneers moved to Rifle Camp, all

companies occupying the reserve trenches.

The Defence of Bucquoy

The official area of the Battle of Rosiéres, according to the Report of the Battles Nomenclature Committee, was “‘ Between the rivers Avre and Somme, east of road Pierrepont-Meziéres-Demoin- Villers Bretonneux-Corbie.” But, as no name or place in the Report has been given to the operations outside that area, though heavy fighting took place in other areas, the Defence of Bucquoy by the 62nd Division is given a separate chapter, as it was in reality part of the operations which took place between 21st March and 5th April

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230 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

under the general heading of the “ First Battles of the Somme The 26th March was in many ways momentous and critical. South of the Somme in the neighbourhood of Nesle the enemy made terrific efforts to drive a wedge and sever the connection between the British and French Armies. North of the Somme the battle was entering upon its final stages and the retirement of the British troops to the Ancre River, followed by great numbers of Germans, who, though obviously tired out, still made hazardous the withdrawal: for the gap between the IVth and Vth Corps had been exploited by the enemy and, but for the supreme gallantry of the British troops, disaster might have happened. Yet, though confusion and disorganisation were evident on all sides, there was never at any time anything approsching panic, though the fighting resembled active rather than a well-ordered battlefield. The enormous number of troops employed by the enemy had produced this effect. On this day also the Governments of France and Great Britain, owing to the immediate danger of the separation of the French and British Armies, had placed the supreme control of the operations of the French and British forces in France and Belgium in the hands of General Foch. From a regimental point of view the 26th March is memorable for the splendid part taken in the defence of Bucquoy by the three battalions of West Yorkshires (2/5th, 2/7th and 8th) of the 62nd (W.R.) Division. As already stated these three battalions of the regiment, forming the 185th Brigade of the 62nd Division, were on the night of 25th/ 26th March holding the left of the Divisional front, defending Achiet-le-Petit, the 185th Brigade being on the right; the 42nd Division was on the left of the 185th Brigade, but the right flank of the 186th was “ in the In the meantime Divisional Headquarters had moved from Bucquoy to Gommecourt and here, about I1 p.m., the Corps Com- mander telephoned to say that, owing to the right of the Corps being exposed, it would be necessary to withdraw next morning, at latest, to the line Puisieux-Bucquoy-Ablainzeville : he also asked General Braithwaite (G.O.C., 62nd Division) whether he would sooner withdraw under cover of darkness or wait until the morning; the former course was adopted as a withdrawal in daylight was con- sidered too difficult. A Staff Officer was therefore sent off to the

1 It is perfectly obvious here that the Report of the Battles Nomenclature Committee needs amendment.

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1918 Dispositions 231

Brigadiers of the 185th and 186th Brigades with orders to withdraw 8TH, 2/sTH, to the above line. But owing to the state of the roads, blocked 5/741 10ns. with the transport and all the impedimenta of moving troops, the 26TH Makcu. darkness of the night and the strangeness of the ground, these orders did not reach the Brigadiers until between 2 and 3 a.m. on 26th. The consequence was that some of the forward companies could not begin their withdrawal until after daylight. Only on the right of the Division, where the gap existed, were the troops hampered in their movements, the enemy following closely in large numbers and subjecting the right of the 186th to heavy machine-gun and rifle fire. On the left, however, the withdrawal proceeded without interference, the 2/5th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. R. Waddy) withdrawing from Achiet-le-Petit under cover of the 2/7th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel C. K. James) who remained on outpost duty. The 2/5th left the Logeast Wood line about § a.m. and, passing through the 2/7th, reached a line of trenches dug on the previous night by the Divisional Pioneers (gth D.L.I.) between the northernmost of the two roads running west from Achiet-le- Petit and the light railway. The battalion disposed three com- panies in the front line—‘ A,” B” and “‘ C” in the order given from right to left: ‘“‘D’’ Company was in close support on the right. “‘A’’ Company threw out two Lewis-gun posts and was assisted by a machine-gun post pushed out on the right flank. The battalion also had the assistance of two guns of the 62nd Battalion M.G.C.: they were placed in ‘‘ B’’ Company’s line, one facing north and flanking the wire, the other facing down the valley towards Achiet-le-Petit. These guns were later put out of action but were replaced by others from the 42nd Division, a machine-gun officer of the latter, with four guns, having retired with the 2/s5th West Yorkshires as they moved back from the Logeast Wood line. The front of the battalion was also strongly wired. The 8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. H. James) had similarly retired through the 2/7th Battalion and had taken up its position on the right of the 2/5th Battalion, between the two roads leading from Achiet-le-Petit to Bucquoy. A section of the 62nd Battalion M.G.C. was attached to the 8th West Yorkshires. After the 2/5th and 8th Battalions had withdrawn the 2/7th moved back into Bucquoy in support of the former battalions. The left battalion of the 186th Brigade (2/7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment) was on the right of the 8th West Yorkshires, but advanced about five hun- dred or six hundred yards. The 2/7th Dukes had not been attacked,

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232 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

but the right battalion of the Brigade (sth Duke of Wellington’s Regiment) were closely engaged with the enemy. Indeed, throughout that day of trial the right flank of the Division was always the point of anxiety.

Shortly before 8 a.m. the enemy opened his attack. In small parties the Germans advanced from Achiet-le-Petit westwards in artillery formation: they were also seen dragging a trench-mortar from Achiet-le-Petit which they very soon brought into action. Hostile shell-fire of considerable intensity was brought to bear on the Divisional front, enfilade machine-gun fire raked the trenches of both the 185th and 186th Brigades, and soon action was joined with the enemy along the whole line. It was not, however, until late afternoon that the West Yorkshires were actually attacked, though all day long the volume of shell-fire on the trenches, and the village of Bucquoy behind them, was very heavy, severing com- munications and inflicting severe casualties. About 5-30 p.m., however, the enemy launched an attack evidently with the intention of capturing the trenches in front of Bucquoy and the village. This attack was completely repulsed by rifle and machine-gun fire and only two Germans succeeded in reaching the trenches of the West York- shires, and they were taken prisoners. Large numbers of German dead were left on the field and hundreds of their wounded were seen crawling back towards their own lines. The Diary of the 8th Battalion contains few particulars of the day’s fighting, though their gallant commanding officer—Lieut.-Colonel A. H. James—was killed early in the day.! Neither are the Diaries of the 2/5 and 2/7th Battalions more illuminating. Yet it should be remembered that not only was the keeping of a diary in these anxious days of March, 1918, difficult, but the attacks of 26th were made chiefly on the right Brigade of the Division, t.e., 186th, the battalions of which saw

very heavy fighting.

During the night of 26th/27th the 2/7th West Yorkshires, plus one Company (‘‘ C’”’) of 2/5th, relieved the 2/5th and 8th

1 The Divisional Commander, General Braithwaite, said of this gallant officer : ‘‘ I would like to say something about Lieut.-Colonel A. H. James of the 8th West Yorkshires, known throughout the Division as ' James VIII.’ in contradistinction to his namesake C K. James who commanded the 7th West Yorkshires and who was known as ‘ James VII." The Division sustained a very great loss in the death of ‘ James VIII ' during this period. He was killed as he would have wished to be killed—in command of his regiment, on the 26th March. His loss was felt not only in his battalion, but in his Brigade and throughout the Division. He had brought his battalion to a high pitch of efficiency. He was a verv gallant, honest, fearless soldier, one one could ill afford to lose.'' From the ‘' History of the 62nd (W.R.) Division.”

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West Yorkshires, the latter battalions moving back to support 8TH, 2/stH,

trenches west of Bucquoy!. On the 27th heavy fighting again took place, but chiefly on the right flank. In the morning, after two hours of intense bombard- ment, the enemy made another determined attack on Bucquoy. In vain he made great efforts to push the devoted troops back, but the Diary of the 2/7th West Yorkshires records with pride that: “‘ The line was not entered in any part.’’ Rifles, Lewis guns and machine- guns co-operated in inflicting enormous casualties on the enemy and he was compelled to withdraw in disorder. On this day the 2/7th had one officer wounded, twenty-four other ranks killed, twenty- four wounded and two missing. Both the 2/5th and 8th Battalions “stood to” practically throughout the 27th, but were not called upon to reinforce the front line.

On the 28th the 186th Brigade was again heavily attacked and the enemy succeeded in occupying Rossignol Wood. But, although the enemy’s guns subjected the 2/7th West Yorkshires to another two hours’ heavy bombardment, he launched no infantry attack against the 185th Infantry Brigade front, and at nightfall detachments of the 125th Brigade (42nd Division) relieved the tred West York- shiremen, and the former Brigade and the 2/5th and 2/7th Battalions moved back to trenches in the neighbourhood of Rettemoy Farm. The 8th West Yorkshires had also been ordered to withdraw to the same trenches, but while the battalion was preparing to move the order was cancelled and fresh orders were received to report to Brigade Headquarters where the battalion was told it was to take part in a counter-attack on Rossignol Wood under the orders of G.O.C., 187th Brigade. In the early hours of 29th (at 2-30 a.m.) the attack took place: it had to be made over ground not previously recon- noitred, or known, but the West Yorkshires succeeded in reaching the northern end of the Wood, where they were held up by heavy machine-gun fire. They had, however, partly achieved their object, which was to form a link between the 186th Brigade and a Brigade of Australian troops on the right of the former. After the attack

was over the 8th Battalion moved back to the Rettemoy Farm trenches.

The 30th and 31st March were days of comparative quietude, for by now the violence of the enemy’s attacks south of Arras had

' On the 26th the casualties of 8th West Yorkshires were ninety all ranks, and of the 2/s5th

Battalion thirty all ranks. Of the former battalion Capt. E. Murgatroyd and Licut. H. Evans were killed.





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234 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

died down: he had gained considerable ground, had suffered enormous casualties, had inflicted heavy casualties on the British and French, but had not achieved his object. On the last day of the month the 62nd Division was relieved by the 37th Division and moved back into the reserve area in the neighbourhood of Pas, Marieux and Authie. The 185th Brigade occupied the Marieux area.

The Battle of Rosiéres, 26th—27th March, 1918

At 2 a.m. on the 26th March the 2nd West Yorkshires had formed an outpost line at, and about, Deniecourt. Here they set to work to construct whatever defences were possible, though it was anticipated that the enemy would soon put in an appearance. About 10 a.m. the battalion received an order to “ withdraw imme- diately ” to Rosiéres, and the Diary makes the startling announce- ment that the “ receipt of this (order) coincided with the arrival of the enemy.” A tough fight ensued but the men fought well and in good order, company by company, the withdrawal beginning from the left, the remnants of the companies got clear of their dangerous positions and reached Rosiéres. Here they hasuly dug in, holding a line up to the railway, with the 2nd Middlesex on their right and the 2nd Field Company, R.E., on their left. Apparently the rc- mainder of the day passed without any abnormal incident happening on the battalion front, and the records state “‘ no action at night.” At nightfall on 26th, however, a very dangerous gap existed between the left of the Fifth Army and the right of the Third Army on the Somme. The former was on the southern bank of the river at Fraissy, whilst the latter was at Cerisy. The enemy was not slow in taking advantage of the opening thus afforded and on the morning of the 27th penetrated the gap, compelling the left of the Fifth Army to fall back again. About 2 p.m. a machine-gun officer arrived at Battalion Head- quarters of the 2nd West Yorkshires and reported that all troops on the left of the battalion were retiring. The sight of troops moving back through Rosiéres confirmed this report and “‘ B”’ Company of the West Yorkshires, then in reserve, and Battalion Headquarters were ordered to move to the railway west of the station. In half-an- hour a forward movement on the flank was in progress. Brigade Headquarters being then north, towards Vauvillers. So far as the 8th Division was concerned the position on the left flank was thus

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1918 Arras Again 235

restored and, although during the evening the enemy’s bombers 2ND attempted to turn the left flank of the 2nd West Yorkshires, they were beaten off and Rositres remained secure for the night of 27th/28th, Marcu. the 5oth Division being in position along the line of the light railway south-east of the village. On the night of 27th March the British line south of the Somme formed a salient from Hamel, just east of Harbinniéres—Rosiéres- Bouchoir-Anvillers. It is a pity that the Diary of the 2nd West Yorkshires is so brief, for it is very evident that the battalion saw hard fighting and most gallantly held the enemy off, adding thereby to the glorious records of the Regiment. Throughout the war the British soldier never

fought better than when in a tight corner.

The First Battle of Arras, 1918: 28th March

On the morning of the 28th between the hours of 7 and 8 severe fighting broke out north of the Somme from Puisieux to the north- east of Arras. The part taken by the 2/5th, 2/7th and 8th West Yorkshires in the 62nd Division has already been described, but there were other battalions of the Regiment engaged, viz., the roth, 15th/17th and On the 26th March the roth West Yorkshires (or rather the 1oTH

: BATTALION. remnants of the battalion) reached Henencourt, where the 17th 36TH MARCH.

Division was concentrated and ordered to reorganise at once. Owing to a false report that the enemy had broken through at Hébuterne the soth Brigade (which at this period consisted of a mixed force under Major Curbin) moved to Senlis. On the 27th the Brigade formed an outpost line in front of the village and during the after- noon General Yatman (the Brigadier) and the troops with him arrived, and the soth Brigade once more assumed its usual formation. The Brigade, since the 25th, had been fighting continuously with the 2nd Division. On the night of 27th/28th the 17th Division relieved the 12th Division from Albert to Aveluy Wood, the 51st Brigade on the right and the soth Brigade on the left. On the morning of 28th the line held by the soth Brigade ran 281TH Marcn. along the high ground west of the Ancre and west of the village of Authuille, the 51st Brigade, on the right, continuing the line as far south as the Albert-Amiens railway. Of the soth Brigade the Dorsets were on the right, the West Yorkshires on the left and the East Yorkshires in support. The enemy by this time was well dug in

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on the reverse slopes of the hill and was using his machine-guns with considerable effect from a brickyard just outside Albert and from buildings on the outskirts of the village. At 12 noon he attacked the Brigade line but rifle and Lewis-gun fire drove him off and he did not venture to advance again that day. On the ridge west of Aveluy there was a rise which was the highest point in the neighbourhood, and the possession of this point by the enemy would have given him observation over a very large area behind the Brigade line. During the night of 28th/29th therefore the roth West Yorkshires secured this hill and dug posts along a sunken road east of it: it will be seen later what happened to these posts. Meanwhile the 15th/17th West Yorkshires (of the 31st Division) had been heavily engaged with the enemy. On the night of 25th March the battalion had withdrawn from its position near Judas Farm (near St. Leger) to the Boyelles-Ervillers road. On the 26th a further withdrawal took place to the Cemetery at Hamelincourt, though the position was swept by heavy artillery and machine-gun fire, causing many casualties. It is here that a very gallant action won for the 15th/17th Battalion the third Victoria Cross gained by the West Yorkshire Regiment in the War. The story ts as follows : London Gazette, dated 7th June, 1918: No. 19/11 Sergeant Albert Mountain, West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds). ‘‘ For most con- spicuous bravery and devotion to duty during an enemy attack, when his company was in an exposed position on a sunken road, having hastily dug themselves in. Owing to the intense artillery fire, they were obliged to vacate the road and fall back. The enemy in the meantime was advancing in mass preceded by an advanced patrol about 100 strong. The situation was critical, and volunteers for a counter-attack were called for. Sergeant Mountain immediately stepped forward, and his party of ten men followed him. He then advanced on the flank with a Lewis gun and brought enfilade fire to bear on the enemy patrol, killing about roo. In the meantime the remainder of the company made a frontal attack, and the entire enemy patrol were cut up and thirty prisoners taken. At this time the enemy main body appeared and the men, who were numerically many times weaker than the enemy, began to waver. Sergeant Mountain rallied and organised his party and formed a defensive position from which to cover the retirement of the rest of the com- pany and the prisoners. With this party of one non-commissioned officer and four men he successfully held at bay 600 of the enemy for

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1918 Sergeant A. Mountain gains V.C. 237

half an hour, eventually retiring and rejoining his company. He !5/17TH then took command of the flank post of the battalion, which was BATTAUON. ‘in the air,’ and held on there for twenty-seven hours until finally surrounded by the enemy. Sergeant Mountain was one of the few who managed to fight their way back. His supreme fearlessness and initiative undoubtedly saved the whole situation.” The next day the withdrawal was continued to a position south- east of Moyenneville where the enemy made a most determined attack. His machine-gun fire here was extraordinarily intense and the 15th/17th again suffered many casualties. So heavy was the fire that the wounded could not be withdrawn. Both flanks of the battalion were “‘ in the air’ and the enemy attacked the West Yorkshires from flank and rear. Only a small number (not given) of men and four officers succeeded in escaping, but the greater part of the battalion, either owing to their wounds or the rapidity of the enemy’s en- circling movement, could not get away and were either killed fighting or captured.! On the 28th the officers, N.C.O.’s and men (totalling four 28TH Marcn. officers and 114 other ranks) who had remained behind when the fighting began, proceeded from Bienvillers to the line and established themselves in the Support Line east of the road from Boiry to Ayette. Here two officers and the men who had escaped during the attack on the 27th March joined the party and the night of 28th was spent in preparing a defensive line. At dawn on 29th this party moved off 29TH Marcu. to the front line and forward posts were held under Lieut. B. Reed. From these posts many casualties were inflicted on the enemy opposite who was engaged in wiring his new line. At last, about

1 The following extract from the ‘' Narrative of Operations of the 31st Division " is the only available story of the gallant fight put up by the 15th/17th West Yorkshires : **On the 27th March instructions were received by the 13th Yorks. and Lancaster Regiment and the 18th D.L.I. to retire to the Purple Line near Adinfer Wood. Owing to an officer of the Brigade Staff becoming a casualty no instructions were received by the 1sth West Yorkshire Regiment, therefore the battalion, finding no one on its flanks, pro- ceeded to take action worthy of the highest traditions of the British Army. It first of all endeavoured to extend north through Moyenneville to our original line and so gain touch with the right of the Guards Division, but in the meantime the enemy, meeting with no opposition, had entered Moyenneville and had established machine-guns which enfiladed our line. A counter-attack was organised, two companies to retake the Ridge and one platoon to retake Moyenneville and to work round behind the enemy's line on the Ridge. I'his counter-attack was entirely successful : a large body of the enemy (said by the prisoners to be one battalion) was driven from the Ridge and as they retired were taken in flank by the party who had moved round N. This cut off their escape to Courcelles and, after suffering very heavy casualties, the remains of this battalion hoisted a white flag and thirty- five prisoners surrendered. It was not found possible to bring back to our lines the very large number of enemy wounded lying in the valley. ** This battalion (15th West Yorkshire Regiment) had covered a front of over 2.000 yards for thirty-six hours and continued to sustain the weight of the enemy’s attacks until Practically the whole battalion was overwhelmed. Only four officers and forty other ranks of those who were found subsequently reached our lines, but this battalion by its gallant action relieved the pressure on our front throughout the whole day and gave the Division ample time to establish its position near Ayette.”

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30TH Marcu.


238 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

12-30 a.m. on the 30th, the battalion was relieved and returned to billets in Bienvillers. Here the roll was called and the following casualties were estimated: one officer died of wounds, two officers wounded and missing, seven officers wounded, nine officers missing : nineteen other ranks killed, seventy-seven wounded and 500 missing. Every commanding officer in the 93rd Brigade of the 31st Division (of which the 15th/17th West Yorkshires formed part) had become a casualty. The 21st West Yorkshires (Pioneers) of the 4th Division, in the reserve trenches at Rifle Camp were heavily shelled, losing sixteen other ranks killed and forty-two wounded. On 28th the battalion was attached to the roth Brigade of the 4th Division, then holding

the Army Line south of the Scarpe. At 6-30 p.m. the Pioneers moved forward in conjunction with two companies of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and a battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (15th Division), taking up a position about one thousand yards in front. Here the 21st Battalion dug in and maintained themselves under heavy fire, losing eight other ranks killed, forty men wounded and two officers and two other ranks gassed. On the 29th the battalion improved the trenches and positions, but were relieved by the Royal Warwicks at night and moved back to Rifle Camp, thence on 30th to dug-outs in St. Laurent Blangy where the gallant Pioneers once more resumed their normal functions. In the meantime, south of the Somme, the enemy continued to press his attacks, though in that area of the battles no Battle Honour is given between 27th March and 4th April. At 9-30 a.m. on 28th, sudden orders were issued to the 2nd West Yorkshires to withdraw from the Rosiéres position to a point east of Caix. None of the enemy could be seen, but the retirement of the battalion was carried out under a moderately heavy barrage, which inflicted numerous casualties on the West Yorkshiremen. By 11-30 a.m. Caix had been reached and companies were engaged in reorganising when the enemy was seen advancing about a mile away. The battalion at once took up defensive positions. About 2 p.m. the flanks fell away and hostile lights were seen in Meziéres. The Germans were now advancing in great strength, but not in massed formation. Heavy shell-fire swept the positions held by the West Yorkshiremen and the wire was cut by hostile trench-mortar bombs. About 5 p.m. the 2nd Middlesex withdrew, though no report of their retirement reached the C.O. of the 2nd West Yorkshires unul 5-30 p.m. At this time

1 No names of officer casualties were obtainable.

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1918 A Fightung Withdrawal 239

the enemy was almost upon the battalion, indeed two Germans were already in the trenches but were shot down. The final hour of trial had come. It may be that some will consider the actual story of that dramatic episode in the History of the Regiment of little value : but it must stand as the battalion’s own narrative of that last gallant effort: ‘“‘ The time to fight our withdrawal had come and defensive flanks were organised. ‘C’” and ‘A’ Companies were ordered to commence withdrawal at once as they were not actually being attacked: the enemy was advancing from the south-east. ‘B’ Company, Headquarters and ‘D’ Company fought well and some of the men were sent out in time to get clear. Many Germans were killed as they were engaged at close range. Many of our men were captured and we had many casualties.” Only those who went through those fierce encounters with the Germans in March, 1918, will be able to read between the lines of the above extract and understand what the battalion went through. The next entry—‘ Battalion was reorganised at Cottenchy under Second- Lieut. Thackray ’—may well read as a continuation of the actual details of the fighting, as if the battalion had merely retired to the next position. But it does not mean that. Cottenchy is between ten and twelve miles west of Caix,and only the remnants of the battalion reached the former village: they were then beyond the reach of the enemy.

On the 29th the remnants of the battalion were sent forward again to help the 2nd Canadian Division establish a line in Moreuil Wood and the Diary pathetically adds: ‘“‘ The drummers were included in this.”

The battalion was again withdrawn on the night 3o0th/31st and given a short rest at Hallies until the rst April.

Between the 23rd and 31st March the 2nd West Yorkshires had suffered in officers and other ranks the following casualties : Killed— Capt. and Adjutant E. P. Cropper and Lieut. C. J. P. Cowry (25th), Second-Lieut. H. Whitley (27th), Lieut. E. Williams and Second- Lieuts. F. Craven and G. N. S. Fox (28th). Wounded—cCapt. J. K. Padd, Capt. J. P. Warner, Lieut. R. C. Richardson, Second- Lieut. H. F. Hoyle (died of wounds 20/4/18), Second-Lieut. F. Birch, Second-Leiut. H. Thackray, Capt. E. S. Fox, Second-Lieuts. J. J. Smith (died of wounds 29/3/18), R. Jacques, E. A. Stephenson, J. W. Brooks, R. A. Mangin. Wounded and prisoner of war—Lieut. C. A. Tempest. Missing—Second-Lieut. W. H. de Voil. Other


29TH Marcu.


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240 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

ranks—thirty-one killed, 178 wounded, 371 missing, four wounded and missing. Total—twenty officers and 584 other ranks. The close of the First Battle of Arras, 1918, on 28th March, which ended in the complete repulse of the enemy all along the front of his attack, witnessed the weakening of the enemy’s offensive which eventually closed on sth April. To return to the morning of 28th March and to the ridge west of Aveluy where the soth Brigade of the 17th Division held the left of the Divisional front, with the 51st Brigade on its right. During the afternoon the roth West Yorkshires having previously, about 12 noon, beaten off an enemy attack, had secured a hill on the ridge and had constructed posts along the sunken road east of it. But at 6 a.m. on 29th these posts were rushed by the enemy who captured and held them, the West Yorkshires suffering fifteen casualties. At 5-30 a.m. on 31st March the East Yorkshires attempted to re- capture the lost position but failed, and at night the roth West Yorkshires were relieved and moved back into reserve at Hennen- court. Four officers had become casualties on 31st: Second-Lieut. W. K. Newton was killed and Capt. A. N. L. Clark, Lieut. A. R. Fretwell and Second-Lieut. E. Clough were wounded.

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VILLERS-BRETONNEUX 24th—25th April, 1918

HE final action (the Battle of the Ancre, 1918) of the First Battles of the Somme, 1918, of the great German offensive in Picardy ended on the 5th April: there was, however, a “subsequent” action—Action of Villers- Bretonneux, 24th-25th April—which is inseparable from the History of the West Yorkshire Regiment, for in this affair the 2nd Battalion again (to use a picturesque military phrase) covered itself with glory. This action is also note- worthy as this was the first occasion on which British and German tanks came into conflict. The Divisions engaged in the Action of Villers-Bretonneux were the 8th, 18th and 58th British and the 4th and 5th Australian. After the terrible gruelling it had received during the opening 2nxp phases of the German offensive the 8th Division had been withdrawn BATTALION. from the line, and on 2nd April the 23rd Infantry Brigade, of which ann the 2nd West Yorkshires formed part, reached Ailly-sur-Somme where reorganisation was begun immediately. The whole Brigade was very weak, the 2nd West Yorkshires numbering but 100 other ranks. On 6th two drafts arrived, one of ninety-eight other ranks from the 10th Yorkshire Regiment (Entrenching Battalion) being described in the Battalion Diary as “‘ a fine lot of men just out of action.” The second draft was of 450 other ranks. For several days officers and drafts of men continued to arrive, though some of them were quite inexperienced, 100 other ranks who joined on gth being described as “‘ eighteen-and-a-half years old, first time in France.” On 11th the Brigade marched to Belloy St. Leonard and on the 12th to Hangest 12TH Station with orders to entrain for St. Roch (Amiens). But the enemy guns were so active, and hostile aeroplanes were dropping bombs in such profusion, that the Brigade was forced to bivouac for the night at the station, and it was not until the next morning that it was possible to entrain. At 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. the Brigade (having left in two trains) reached Dreuil and went into billets at Saleux and Salouel, the West Yorkshires in the latter village. The battalion

R 241

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21st APRIL.


242 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

now had a strength of thirty-five officers and 1,073 other ranks, and there were also eight officers and 183 other ranks at the Rein- forcement Camp. On the 19th, 20th and 21st the West Yorkshires moved to Samon, Blagny Tronville and the Bois de Blagny res- pectively in Brigade Reserve. The 8th Division at this period held the Villers-Bretonneux sector, which not only included the village but a small wood south of it (unrecorded on the maps): the Divisional front line being east of the village. All C.O.’s of battalions of the 23rd Brigade recon- noitred the right Brigade sector on the night of 22nd, the Brigade was to relieve the 24th Brigade on the night 23rd/24th. This relief duly took place and apparently without incident, the 2nd West Yorkshires taking over the right sub-sector, the 2nd Middlesex the left, the former battalion having on its right the 2/4th London Regiment. The 2nd Devons were in Brigade Reserve. The line now held by the West Yorkshires was east of the Monument and just south of Villers-Bretonneux and consisted of platoon posts. “A,” and “‘ B” and C ” Companies (in that order from right to left) occupied the front line and ‘“‘ D ” Company was in support. About 10 p.m. that night warning was received at 23rd Brigade Headquarters that a hostile attack, preceded by a heavy bombard- ment, was expected along the 8th Divisional front about 7 a.m. on the 24th. This warning was conveyed immediately to units, who took the necessary precautions. The general situation at this period may be summed up briefly. The second phase of the Great German Offensive had been launched on the Lys and was drawing to a close ; ground had been lost by the British, but here again the enemy had failed to carry out his intention —that of breaking through the British line, or force it back to the Meanwhile local attacks had from time to time taken place on both sides of the Somme battle front, particularly in the neigh- bourhood of Hangard, where the British line linked up with the French, and about Aveluy Wood. But the attack which developed on 24th April was more serious—a direct thrust towards Amiens. The relief of the 24th Brigade by the 23rd Brigade was com- pleted at about 12-10 a.m. on the morning of 24th, the early part of the night, excepting the harassing fire of the British artillery, being exceptionally quiet. But at 3-30 a.m. the enemy put down a very heavy barrage of mixed gas and high-explosive shell along the whole

1 |Ludendorff said of the Lys Offensive : ‘‘ The result was not satisfactory.”

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1918 German Tanks in Action 243

Divisional front and as far back as Brigade Headquarters. For three 2ND hours this tornado of shell continued, lifting off the Divisional ly ai front line at 6-30 a.m., but remaining on the reserve positions of the Division. The early morning of 24th was very dull and hazy and, aided by the natural mist and the smoke cloud caused by hostile shelling, the enemy’s infantry, which had assembled in small parties, attacked, led by five or six German tanks. Three of these tanks, followed by small parties of Germans, were able to get within one hundred yards of the trenches of the West Yorkshires before they were observed. Heavy rifle and machine-gun fire was open on them but had little effect, and the hostile tanks came right up to the trenches and fired up and down the posts with machine guns, thus taking the British troops in enfilade. The Diary of the 2nd West Yorkshires then states that: ‘“‘ The German infantry occupied the position. ‘D’ Company held their position until the right flank was turned and then withdrew to Battalion Headquarters,” which were in the southern exits of Villers-Bretonneux, just west of the station. The tanks had first penetrated the line between the West Yorkshires and the 2/4th Londoners and had then turned the flanks. No details are available of what happend to the three forward Companies, “A,” “B” and “ C” but apparently they suffered very heavily. Back at Battalion Headquarters Major Ingham organised a further line of defence just south of Villers-Bretonneux Station. This line was held by about eighty men. At 8 a.m. Major Ingham was on his way back through the village to the Advanced Dressing Station when he was hit again and killed. By 8-40 a.m. stragglers had increased the little garrison holding the line of defence to 140, but the right flank was again being turned by the enemy and a further withdrawal was arranged and carried out under Lieut. Kennington to a position between the village and Bois d’Aquenne. But the pressure on the gallant little band under Lieut. Kennington was very heavy for the hostile tanks, after passing the first system, were pushing Straight forward in a north-westerly direction between Villers- Bretonneux and the Bois d’Aquenne. The 2nd Devons (in reserve) were attacked before the C.O. had received information concerning the position in the front line : the two right companies of the battalion and two companies of the rst Worcesters, who were manning the Cachy Switch, successfully maintained their position but the left companies were overwhelmed. The continued pressure of the enemy caused the survivors of the 2nd West Yorkshires to work westwards along the railway and just north of the north-east corner of the

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244 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

Bois de Aquenne ; they gained touch with the 2nd East Lancashires and with the latter formed a defensive flank from the railway to the main road running westwards from the village. But again heavy hostile machine-gun fire was brought to bear on this position and many casualties were suffered, the line being forced back to just north of the railway. It was now 10-30 a.m. and the 2nd West Yorkshires had been practically wiped out. The few men who remained of the battalion had no ammunition and seeing the im- possibility of putting up a further defence Lieut. Kennington wisely brought them back to a reserve line of trenches just astride the north-west exits of the Bois l’?Abbe and west of the Mon du Bois l’Abbe. Here he reported to the O.C., 2nd Worcester Regiment.

Small parties of the enemy had entrenched themselves in the Bois d’Aquenne with machine-guns and trench-mortars. But they could not exploit their success as all exits from the wood were covered by machine-gun and Lewis-gun fire from the Cachy Switch, still held by British troops. Throughout the remainder of the day the position of the 23rd Brigade (or rather the survivors of the Brigade) remained the same. About 5 p.m. information was received that at 10 p.m. a counter- attack was to be launched north and south of Villers-Bretonneux by one British and two Australian Infantry Brigades! with the object of restoring the original front line. At 7-45 p.m. the G.O.C., 23rd Brigade, was ordered to organise his battalions and take up a position by dawn on 25th on the general line beyond the eastern edge of Bois d’Aquenne, linking up the Cachy Switch on the right with the 25th Brigade on the left. These orders were obviously given on the assumption that Villers-Bretonneux would be recaptured by the counter-attack.

The counter-attack was successful and Villers-Bretonneux was retaken by the Australian and British troops. At I a.m. on 25th the battalions of the 23rd Brigade were reorganised, and here for the first time it is possible to get some idea of their losses during the fighting of the previous day, for the Brigade Diary has the following entry: ‘“‘ The battalions, reinforced by one or two officers who had arrived from the Transport Lines, reorganised at the following strengths : 2nd Devonshire Regiment, six officers, 300 other ranks ; 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment, seven officers, eighty-five other ranks ; 2nd Middlesex, three officers, fifty-four other ranks,’’ which gave a

Of the 18th Division.

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1918 Villers- Bretonneux Taken 245

total for the whole Brigade of sixteen officers and 439 other ranks. 2ND

So far as the 2nd West Yorkshires are concerned these figures were approximately correct, for the Diary recorded that the battalion reorganised at “about eighty other ranks with Second-Lieuts. Kennington, Pearson, Garbutt, Gardner, Wiggins and McAlister.”

About 2-30 a.m. patrols from all three battalions were sent forward to reconnoitre the formations held by the enemy in the Bois d’Arquenne, for apparently he still held on to some of his positions in the wood. Second-Lieut. Garbutt of the West York- shires took a patrol out east of the Bois to see if any enemy were left. At 3-30 a.m. this patrol returned and reported “all clear,” and similar patrols from the Devons and Middlesex reported all clear east of the wood. At 4 a.m. the survivors of “‘ A”? Company of the West Yorkshires moved along the road to take up a line east of the wood and west of Villers-Bretonneux, but bumped into a hostile patrol at the bottom of the hill. The West Yorkshiremen and the Germans exchanged shots, and the former found that the enemy was in strength on the railway bridge on the main road and also held a position in the Bois d’Aquenne. The O.C., West Yorkshires, therefore sent off a party to work through the Bois from the south and turn the flanks of the enemy’s position. This turning movement resulted in the complete defeat of the German troops in the Bois, who were surrounded and compelled to surrender, one German officer and forty other ranks giving themselves up to the West Yorkshiremen.! The ground west of Villers-Bretonneux was now reported clear of the enemy and a line was sited round the eastern point of the Bois and south of the Main Villers-Bretonneux-Amiens road. At 11 a.m. the West Yorkshires, with other units of the

Brigade, began the digging of their new line.

At 12 midnight, 27th April, the 2nd West Yorkshires were relieved by an Australian Battalion and moved back to billets in Blangy Tronville, thence on 28th to Querrieu.

Of the number of West Yorkshiremen, officers and men, who came out of the action of Villers-Bretonneux it is impossible to write correctly. The battalion, it will be remembered, was at full strength before the action and, after, the casualties were given as sixteen officers and 404 other ranks. Of the former, Major H. Ingham, Capt. H. Bass and Second-Lieut. L. Crabtree were killed; the

1 The 23rd Brigade Diary gives the captures in this smal! action as two officers and sixty- bree other ranks, six trench mortars and from twenty to thirty machine-guns.



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246 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

wounded were Second-Lieuts. M. J. Wrigley, F. B. Kenworthy and C. R. Swann ; the missing (captured by the enemy) were Lieuts. T. L. Fielder and F. O. Stephens and Second-Lieuts. C. J. Leslie, S. S. L. Jackson, H. Preston, E. St. B. Stuart-Kelso, W. Smith, E. Jowett, K. T. Makin (attached 23rd T.M.B.) and the Battalion M.O. —Lieut. C. E. Maxon, M.O.R.C., U.S. Army.

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The Battles of the Lys

UMMING up the results of the Great German Offensive on the Somme in March and the early days of April, 1918, General Ludendorff said: ‘‘ Strategically we had not achieved what the events of the 23rd, 24th and 25th (of March) had encouraged us to hope for,’’ the enemy’s greatest disappointment being his failure to take Amiens. Neither did his efforts to improve his strategical position, by broadening his front of attack, meet with that measure of success which had been anticipated. The British line about Arras and Lens had held firm: ‘I attached the greatest importance to both these attacks,” said Ludendorff, “‘ to have the high ground in our possession was bound to be decisive in any fighting in the plain of Lys.” But the high ground did not pass into his possession and the northern attack had to be made without it. ‘“‘ The attack of the Seventeenth Army,” admits the Chief of the German General Staff, “‘ on both banks of the Scarpe was a failure.’”” The southern wing of the Sixth German Army was therefore ordered to abandon the attack. The northern wing of the latter Army was then ordered to launch an attack between Armentiéres and the La Bassée Canal, the date for the offensive being fixed for 9th April. Before the 21st March, the date on which the great German offensive was launched on the Somme, Sir Douglas Haig, from “certain preparations which had been carried out,” had foreseen the possibility of a German attack north of the La Bassée Canal, and had made what dispositions he could to meet that attack. But it should be borne in mind that whereas the Germans attacked with fresh divisions, the British line was held by divisions most of which had already been engaged in the southern area of the German offensive. Indeed, at the time the northern attack was launched Sir Douglas Haig had already used forty-six out of his total force of fifty-eight divisions in France and Flanders. Thus he had but twelve fresh divisions for the defence of the area from La Bassée to, and including,

the Ypres Salient, plus exhausted divisions drawn from other parts 247

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248 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

of the line where very heavy fighting had taken place. On the morning of the 9th April the British divisions and Portuguese divisions from north of the La Bassée Canal to the Ypres-Comines Canal were (from right to left in the order given) 55th (Festubert), Portuguese (just north of Neuve Chapelle), goth (east of Bois Grenier), 34th (east of Armentiéres), 25th (just east of Ploegsteert Wood), 19th (east of Wytschaete) and the 9th (astride the Ypres-Comines Canal, just east of Zillebeke). Of these all but the 55th and the Portuguese division had already been engaged further south. The divisions within call were 51st, south of Robecq and the Aire Canal, soth at Neuf Berquin, 29th west of Poperinghe, and the 49th (W.R.) west of Dickebusch. The enemy’s attack of 9th April was launched between the La Bassée Canal at Givenchy and Bois Grenier. The main scheme of the German Staff seems to have been a surprise attack on the Portu- guese division holding the line about Neuve Chapelle which, if successful, would be developed on both flanks. About 7 a.m., hidden again by a thick fog which made observa- tion impossible,’ the Germans attacked the left brigade of the Portuguese division and broke into their trenches. A few minutes later the attack spread north and south. Soon it was evident that the inner flanks of the 55th and goth Divisions, on the right and left of the Portuguese division, respectively, were uncovered and were being seriously attacked. Shortly after 10 a.m. the left of the 55th Division and the right of the goth had been pressed back, the enemy being considerably in rear of these flanks. Both the 51st and soth Divisions had been moved up behind Richebourg St. Vaast and Laventie, but only the Division was able to establish touch with the 55th Division, the enemy being in possession of the right bank of the Lys east of Estaires prevented touch between the soth and goth Divisions. At nightfall, on 9th April, the British line ran approximately from Givenchy through Festubert-Le Cason-Vieille Chapelle, east of Lestrem, bending back sharply north of that place and then running north-east, east of Estaires, along the western banks of the Lys to Sailly sur La Lys-Croix du Bac—whence it curved east to the Rue du Bois, just west of the railway which ran south-east from Armentiéres. As in the battles on the Somme, the Germans had lost very heavily before capturing the ground they held on the night of gth April, the British divisions fighting with splendid gallantry,

‘It was a curious coincidence that in the opening phase of both the southern and northern a: acks of the Great German Offensive of 1918, the enemy's advance was masked by fog.

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1918 The 15/17th in Action 249

holding on to the very last moment and retiring fighting doggedly all the way : they were beaten only by sheer weight of numbers. On the roth the enemy’s attacks on Lestrem and Estaires were renewed, moreover the second phase of the German offensive between Frelinghien and Hill 60 was launched, and before nightfall Armentiéres had been evacuated, the attacks on both flanks having made the re- tention of the town dangerous. At nightfall on this date the British line ran from Givenchy and Festubert—Le Cason—immediately west of Vieille Chapelle and Lestrem—west of Estaires, thence in a north- easterly direction round the northern outskirts of Steenwerck, then back in a south-easterly direction along the Armentiéres railway to Les Trois Tilleuls, whence it turned north-east to Le Bizet, just west of Ploegsteert, through the north-west end of Ploegsteert Wood— immediately west of Messines—thence along the Wytschaete Ridge to Hollebeke. Again on the 11th the enemy attacked along the whole front and made progress, but still the line between Givenchy and the Lawe river held. Between Locon and Estaires and northwards to the Armen- railway, just north of Steenwerck he continued to push west- wards and, though vigorously opposed, slowly gained ground towards Merville, which he entered at evening, the British troops withdrawing behind the small stream just west of the town. Terrible losses had been inflicted on the Germans on this day as they advanced in close formation, but still the gallant defenders were not in sufficient numbers to hold up the weight of the attack. Nieppe and Hill 63 and the positions held about Messines were also evacuated on 11th. On the front south of Armentiéres certain reinforcements (recently arrived from the southern battlefield) had come into action and had even launched a counter-attack, regaining the hamlets of Le Verrier and La Becque. These troops belonged to the 31st Division of which the 1§th/17th West Yorkshires formed part. This is the first mention in the official despatches of a division in which West Yorkshiremen were contained. The 15th/17th West Yorkshires had moved from Bienvillers on 15/17TH 31st March to Gaudiempre and, after remaining there part of the oar Mane a. night, marched (in brigade) to Ivergny ; on the 2nd Apmil the 93rd Brigade moved by bus to the Frevillers area, the West Yorkshires being billeted in Hermin. On the 4th Major C. W. Tilley arrived and assumed command of the battalion. The next day 503 other ranks joined the battalion as reinforcements from England. ‘‘ These were

young soldiers,” relates the Battalion Diary, “‘ but showed their good

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250 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

training in drill. They had not previously been out on active service.” On the 5th also, Major W. D. Coles joined the battalion. The 15§th/17th lost their C.O. on 6th, Lieut.-Colonel S. C. Taylor, who ceased to command the battalion, having been promoted Brig.-General in command of the 93rd Infantry Brigade. On the roth April, about noon, unexpected orders were received at Brigade Headquarters to move by bus as early as possible to the XVth Corps area (north of the La Bassée Canal). Between § and 6 p.m. the Brigade enbussed near Savy on the Arras—St. Pol road and debussed in the Vieux Berquin area very early in the morning of 11th. The 15th/17th West Yorkshires were apparently placed in Brigade Reserve and moved into billets in Merris, resting during the morning. In the counter-attack on La Becque, which took place during the evening of 11th April, the West Yorkshires were in support of the 13th York and Lancaster Regiment and 18th Durham Light Infantry who carried out the attack. Battalion Headquarters were in Noote Boom and companies were out in the road south and east of the village. The Battalion Details and the ro per cent. personnel moved to Borre.

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BOUT 2-10 a.m. on 12th the 93rd Brigade was ordered to extend its left flank, the 92nd Brigade (on the right of 93rd) taking over Fme. du Bois. The Brigade frontage was now nearly three thousand yards, the 15th/17th West Yorkshires were therefore ordered up from support to take over the left of the new line. The battalion reached 'its new position and all four companies were put into the line. About 9 a.m., however, parties of men were seen retiring on the right of the West Yorkshiremen, and, in order to conform to their movement, Lieut.-Colonel Tilley ‘commanding 15th/17th West Yorkshires) withdrew his men and, entrenching, took up a line defending the Rau du Leete. In the meantime the Io per cent. personnel of the battalion, which consisted of four officers and 100 other ranks, which on the night of 11th had moved back to Burre, was (with other units of the Brigade) taken to form part of a composite battalion, the latter being ordered to take up a defensive position in front of Merris. The remainder of the Battalion Details then moved back to Hondeghem. Only three companies of the West Yorkshires fell back to the Rau du Leet, for the fourth company (on the left flank), realising that the right of the battalion on its left would be exposed, kept to its position and formed a defensive flank (from A.10.a.6.2. to A.9.b.7.1). But the enemy was advancing on the right of this company, occupying positions (some farms) which enfiladed the West Yorkshiremen. To ease the situation, therefore, this gallant company made a frontal counter-attack on the farms and captured them, sustaining only a few casualties. Just previous to the counter-attack the same company, by Lewis gun fire, had shot down an enemy aeroplane which fell behind the British lines, the German aviator being hit in no less than twelve places. At 12 noon the position on the right of the 93rd Brigade was exceedingly critical. The position on the Rau du Leete had become untenable and, owing to heavy enfilade machine-gun fire on the right, a further withdrawal to the line of the railway embankment between



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252 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

F.5 central and F.9.c.4.5. was made. Under extreme difficulties the retirement was carried out, the enemy all the while endeavouring to work round the right flank of the West Yorkshires, but about I p.m. the new line was reached, the 15th/17th Battalion being on the right, the 13th York and Lancaster Regiment in the centre and the 18th Durham Light Infantry on the left. How long this new line was going to hold was impossible to say, for the whole ground was swept by violent machine-gun and rifle fire and the enemy came on in great numbers. A stand was made on this line for about an hour and a half and then the enemy again worked round the night flank and threatened to surround the battalions of the 93rd Brigade. It was always the right flank which was the point of danger, and the defensive flank formed by a party of the West Yorkshires put up a splendid resistance, enabling the main body from the other two battalions and some of their own to fall back (about 1-30 p.m.) to the road in front of Meteren. In returning to the latter position they came upon the outpost line of the 33rd Division just east of Meteren (in X.22.d.). The three battalions therefore conformed to this line and placed themselves under the orders of 19th Infantry Brigade Headquarters (33rd Division), from whom they received orders to withdraw through the outpost line to support positions and there reorganise. This was done and the defence of Meteren organised, the West Yorkshires entrenching themselves in a line extending from the high ground south of Meteren round to a point half-way down the road between Meteren and Bailleul. No mention is made in the Battalion Diary of the 15th/17th West Yorkshires of the company which had counter-attacked the enemy and driven him from the farms in A.9.d. and A.10.c., but from the narrative of the operations contained in the Diary of 93rd Brigade Headquarters it is evident that these gallant fellows put up a splendid fight throughout that day of extreme trial. After the counter-attack, which gave them possession of the two farms, the company was ordered to remain in its position to cover the withdrawal of the sth York and Lancaster Regiment on its left. These orders were finely carried out, for the little band of West Yorkshiremen clung to their position all day, and it was not until 10-45 that night that, utterly tired and worn ou: with hard fighting, the remnants of the gallant company withdrew, meeting during the withdrawal with some men of two other companies of West Yorkshiremen. Eventually these men marched back and took up a position near Bailleul Station, covering the town.

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1918 Heavy Casualties in 15/17th Battalion 253

The 13th April appears to have been spent by the 1§th/17th West 15/17TH Yorkshires in their positions between Meteren and Bailleul. In the BATT1!O%.

early hours of 14th the enemy strongly attacked the 19th Infantry Brigade covering Meteren, and in consequence the elements of the g3rd Brigade which were attached to the former Brigade could not be withdrawn. The support trenches held by the survivors of the g3rd_ Brigade were heavily shelled, though few casualties were suffered. One of these, unfortunately, was Lieut.-Colonel C. W. Tilley, commanding 15th/17th West Yorkshires, who was killed by shell-fire on the morning of the 14th. Eventually the elements of the Brigade were got away and the 15th/17th West Yorkshires moved back and took up a line from St. Jans Cappel to Mt. Noire on the evening of 14th. Here the battalion remained during the 15th and 16th, the 93rd Brigade being then at Borre and area. The casualties suffered by the 15th/17th in this battle were very heavy. Three officers were killed (only Lieut.-Colonel Tilley’s name being given), six were wounded and two were missing. In other ranks the battalion lost 23 killed, 153 wounded and 143 missing. On the 15th Major W. D. Coles assumed command of the battalion with the rank of Lieut.-Colonel.



Page 267


IR DOUGLAS HAIG stated in his dispatches that “ in order to free additional British troops for the battle, and to delay the execution of any plans which the enemy might be entertaining for extending the flank of his attack to the north, I approved of putting into execution the scheme for the gradual evacuation of the Ypres Salient. The first stage in this withdrawal had been carried out on the night of 12th/13th April, since which date our positions on the Passchendaele Ridge had been held by outposts only. On the night of 15th/16th April the withdrawal was carried out a stage further, our troops taking up positions along the line of the Steenbeek river and the Westhoek and Wytschaete After the terrible losses the rst West Yorkshires had suffered on ist the 21st and 22nd March, the battalion (in Brigade and Division) had BATTALIon. moved up to the Ypres Salient and on 26th reached Elverdinghe, and on 28th was settled in billets in the Ecke area. Here 372 other ranks and a number of officers joined from the 3rd Entrenching Battalion and Major D. L. Weir (1st Leicester Regiment) arrived and took over command of the battalion. Training and reorganisation began immediately, and on the last day of the month the strength of the battalion was 28 officers and 890 other ranks. The 6th Division then took over a sector of the line east of Ypres, and on 3rd April the Ist Yorkshires moved to the Infantry Barracks, Ypres, in Divisional Reserve. On the oth the battalion relieved the 1/7th West Yorkshire 1: /7Tx Regiment in the Cam sector, the right sub-sector of the 18th Brigade BaTTtation. front opposite Becelaere. From roth to 13th the line was quiet and only four other ranks are reported wounded. On the 14th prepara- :47H tions for the withdrawal were made. On this day a party of Germans attacked the right part of ‘‘ A’? Company and threw bombs, but they 1st withdrew under rifle fire, two of their number being hit. At 4 a.m, BATTALION. on 16th, the battalion having taken over the whole of the 18th Infantry Brigade front, ‘‘B” and ‘“‘ D” Companies withdrew to I.13.c. (near Ypres), passing through “ A ” and “‘ C ’’ Companies, who remained in the Corps Line to act as rear guard to 18th Infantry Brigade. Orders had been issued that the whole British line in the


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256 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

be Salient was to be withdrawn to a line running from the south-western edge of Zillebeke Lake through Hell Fire Corner to French Farm. The withdrawal was not discovered by the enemy until 5-30 p.m., when he advanced cautiously to the Corps Line. He was, however, not allowed to advance easily, for in doing so heavy casualties from machine-gun fire were inflicted on him and he made no further progress. 17th Capt. A. W. Wilkinson was wounded and died next day of his wounds. The 18th and 19th were apparently quiet days, though a good deal of work was done on the latter date on the new trench system. The line of the Brigade now apparently ran north and south just west of Polygon Wood. On the 2oth two companies were moved to Belgian Battery Corner and two to Kruis- straat. In the latter place the battalion spent several days in digging and making secure new trenches. Hostile shell-fire was heavy, and on 25th the battalion’s casualties were two other ranks killed, seven 26TH Aprit. wounded and seventy-three gassed. On the 26th the battalion (less ““ A” Company) was called upon to reinforce a brigade of the 21st Division on La Chapelle Ridge under heavy shell-fire, and remained in this position until 2-30 a.m. on 27th, when the three companies returned to Kruisstraat area. Casualties suffered between the 26th and 27th were two officers (Second-Lieuts. R. L. Mackridge and F. Heslop) and five other ranks killed, two officers and eleven other ranks wounded and eighteen other ranks gassed. On 28th “ A” and “C” Companies moved to Frankton Camp, the former moving up to the Doll’s House Line on 29th, under the O.C., 11th Essex Regiment, while ‘“‘ C ’? Company was sent up to Derby Road Switch Line. Two more other ranks were killed on this day and three officers and eleven other ranks wounded; one of the officers—Second-Lieut. J. H. Shaw—died of his wounds on 1st May. The last day of April still 3oTH Aprit, found the 1st West Yorkshires in the Kruisstraat area. 1/5TH, 1/6TH, The 49th Division had not hitherto been involved in the German 1/7TH offensive. On the 20th March the 146th Brigade held the Zonnebeke BATTALIONS. sector, east of Ypres, the 1/7th West Yorkshires holding the front line, the 1/5th in support and the 1/6th in Brigade Reserve at Hussar Camp. Little happened during the remainder of March until 27th, when the enemy again attempted to raid the 1/6th West Yorkshires, 30TH Marcn. but were driven off without loss to the battalion. On the 30th the 16th Brigade of 6th Division relieved the 146th Brigade, the latter moving into camps south and east of Ypres. But on the following day the Brigade made a reconnaissance of the Polderhoek, Menin Road and Tower Hamlets sectors, preparatory to taking over from the 148th

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1918 The 1/5th and a‘‘ Forlorn Task” 257

Brigade. On Ist April the 146th Brigade took over the above trenches 1/5TH, 1/6TH, from the 148th Brigade. On the 8th a hostile party approached the 7TH ions. 1/6th West Yorkshires but were driven off, leaving a wounded German in their hands. At 4-30 a.m. on 9th, the enemy again attempted to raid the 1/6th Battalion but was again repulsed, the West Yorkshiremen taking one German officer and one other rank prisoner. A third attempt was made on 1/6th at 9-25 p.m. on 13th, but shared no better fate, the enemy leaving two dead and one wounded in the hands of the West Yorkshiremen. On 15th the partial withdrawal from the Ypres 15TH APRIL. Salient began. The first line did not withdraw until dawn. The 146th Brigade left “‘ B” and ‘‘ C” Companies of the 1/5th West Yorkshires (under Major Foxton) to “‘ hold the line till the last.” This withdrawal from ground so hardly won was a bitter pill for the Territorial troops to swallow, and their feelings can well be imagined when it is remembered that half the battalion was being left behind on an apparently forlorn task (supported as they were with nothing but one howitzer and two 18-pounders) on the anmiversary of their embarkation for France. They remained in the Corps Line Posts, seven in number, Battalion Headquarters being at Jackdaw Tunnels. During the morning of 16th dummy carrying parties were marched about the trenches, a sign the front line was still held. At 3-30 p.m. the enemy was seen approaching along the whole Brigade area, and Lewis gun, machine- gun and rifle fire was at once opened on the Germans, who suffered heavy casualties. On this date (16th), after great persistence, the enemy reached the old Polderhoek reserve line. The night of 16th/17th was quiet. On 17th the posts north of the Menin Road 177TH Apri. were heavily trench-mortared and those south of the road were Shelled with ‘‘ whizz-bangs,” but again in advancing the enemy suffered heavy casualties. Similar actions took place on 18th. On the night of 18th/19th two companies of the 1/6th West Yorkshires t.e., “A” and ‘‘ B” Companies and one platoon of “‘ D” (under Major Hornshaw) took over posts in the new Line in front of Hooge, relieving companies of the 1/5th Battalion. The 19th was misty and the enemy reached Glencorse Wood and Fitzclarence Farm, but he again lost heavily. Some of his troops became too venturesome, the reports stating : ‘“‘ Some of the enemy seemed to doubt our powers in the use of the rifle and stood up on pill boxes ; these were duly dealt with.”” There was desultory fighting during the 2oth and 21st, and at midnight 21st/22nd the two companies of 1/6th West York- 21ST/22ND

shires were relieved and moved back to Ypres. APRIL. S

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13th-19th April, 1918

N the meantime the 1/7th West Yorkshires had been engaged 1/7TH heavily with the enemy near Kemmel. This battalion had BATTALION. strangely enough been relieved by the senior battalion of the Regiment (1st West Yorkshires) of the 6th Division on the night of gth/roth April and had marched back to billets in Lankhof Camp. gru/rotu On the roth, the camp coming under shell-fire, the battalion moved APRIL. again by the light railway to Chippewa Camp, but at 9 p.m. that night orders were suddenly received to march at once to Parret Camp, near Kemmel, where the West Yorkshiremen were to come under the orders of the G.O.C., 62nd Infantry Brigade, at whose disposal the battalion had been placed. Hurriedly the men were turned out and, dog-tired as they were, were soon on the road south to their new destination. The long march was carried out splendidly, and by 4 a.m. on 11th all companies of the 1/7th were in billets in Lincoln Camp, about six hundred yards north of Parret Camp. ‘| At 4-54 p.m. the battalion received orders to move immediately east, into the line to form a defensive flank south of Wytschaete, along the Wytschaete-Wulverghem road, while “A” and “B” Companies, with Battalion Headquarters, moved to Regents Dug- outs, some two or three thousand yards in right rear. Early on the morning of 12th (at 2-10 a.m.) ‘‘ A’”’ and “ B,”” however, were also sent forward, and all companies were now located just south-east of Wytschaete. From the Battalion Diary of the 1/7th West Yorkshires it is impossible to gather any details of the fighting, and the only available information is contained in the report made by the Brigadier of the 62nd Brigade to 9th Divisional Headquarters. He said: “‘ I should like to draw attention to the very gallant behaviour of the 1/7th West Yorkshire Regiment, of the 146th Infantry Brigade, and of No. 2

'The Report of the Battles Nomenclature Committee gives two battles, the Battle of ailleal, April, and the First Batlle of Kemmel Ridge, r7th-19oth Apnl. But heavy hghting took place on 16th April, and the areas of the two battles being identical, it is obvious that

was really only one battle ; the two operations have, therefore, been included under one tide.


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260 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

Composite Battalion, 39th Division, who were attached to my Brigade.”” The Brigadier then states that on the critical afternoon of 11th April, when a brigade holding the Messines sector was driven back, leaving the right flank of the 62nd Brigade perilously exposed, the 1/7th West Yorkshires moved up at very short notice from Parret Camp and formed the defensive flank on the Bogart Farm—Pickwood Spur, south-west of Wytschaete, thus filling the gap on the right of the 62nd Brigade. Under very heavy shell-fire, through which the battalion advanced splendidly, the West Yorkshiremen took up their new position. ‘“‘ This steadiness,” states the Brigadier a little further on in his report, “ undoubtedly saved the situation.” From the evening of 11th, until the morning of 16th, the 1/7th held the right sub-sector of the 62nd Brigade front from Bogaert Farm to Scott Farm, and the West Yorkshiremen then extended to Span- broekmolen. About 4-30 a.m. on 16th the enemy put down a very heavy barrage, under cover of which his infantry advanced to the attack. There was a thick ground mist at the time, which deprived the West Yorkshiremen of the full use of their fire power, but they put up a splendid fight. ‘‘ On our extended front they encountered the full force of the enemy attack on the morning of 16th and fought most gallantly until overwhelmed by superior numbers.” There is nothing more to relate, for the next reference to the battalion states that at 8 p.m. on 17th orders were received to move back to Siege Farm, about 1,200 yards north-east of Kemmel, and on the 18th the 1/7th were located in the farm, resting and reorganising, rejoining the 146th Brigade on the same date. Of the casualties suffered by the 1/7th West Yorkshires there are no records, only from the Brigade Diary of 146th Brigade Headquarters is it possible to gather that the battalion had lost very heavily, since only about 180 all ranks rejoined the Brigade when the latter, at 9-30 a.m. on the morning of 19th April, relieved the 62nd Brigade in reserve to the 9th Division, then holding the Wytschaete sector.

Page 273


NE of the most wonderful things in France and Flanders during the critical period of the great German Offensive of March and April, 1918, was the extraordinarily cheerful spirit of the troops. Here and there one heard the croakings of a few pessimists, but the general feeling was optimistic. Many battalions were decimated, reduced to a mere handful, others ceased to exist—the losses were enormous—but still the proud spirit of the British soldier knew no defeat, giving blow for blow when ordered to do so, and retiring to new positions after pro- testing that he could hold on to the old ones. Nearly four years had passed since the Retreat from Mons, but the indomitable pluck of the old Regular Army in that first month of the War was everywhere evident during the various stages of the retreat to rear positions, the result of the German attacks in March and April, 1918. Reduced to a mere skeleton the 1/7th West Yorkshires spent four :/5TH, 1/6TH, or five days (from 19th to 23rd) at Siege Farm, during which the x (7TH Battalion Diary states there was “ nothing to report.” On the 24th, © “"*““1°%*- however, organised as one company, the battalion, less Battalion Headquarters, moved into the Vierstraat line, in reserve to 1/5th and 1/6th West Yorkshires. The 1/s5th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel W. Oddie) had relieved the 1st and 2nd Battalions South Africans, in the front line, north of Wytschaete, on the evening of 21st April, all four companies 21st Apri... (in the order given from right to left—‘‘ A ’’, “ D,”’ “‘ B,” and “ C”’) being put into the front line. The enemy’s guns were active and two trench-mortars continually harassed the troops, but no infantry attacks were made for several days. Casualties, however, were fairly heavy. On 21st four other ranks were wounded, on 22nd Second-Lieut. F. G. Baker and four other ranks were killed and Lieut. B. J. Cussons and twenty-three other ranks wounded. Three other ranks killed and seventeen wounded were the losses on 23rd, and on the 24th Second-Lieut. J. Hudson and three other ranks were wounded. The 1/6th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel W. A. Wistance) from the Support position at Vierstraat, had relieved the 15th D.L.I. in the


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262 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

front line on the left of the 1/5th Battalion on the night of 24th/25th. The 1/6th was on the south-eastern outskirts of the Grand Bois, extending to Onraet Farm and Zero Wood, and had three companies in the front line, 7.e., ““ D,” “ B,” and “ A ” (from night to left) and *C” in support.? The hill upon which the Grand Bois stood was almost as high as Wytschaete and formed the last natural barrier between the Ypres plain and an enemy advance towards Vlamertinghe and Poperinghe ; the other barrier was the Vierstraat Ridge, along which York Road and Cheapside ran almost parallel with one another from Vierstraat to Kemmel. The West Yorkshiremen, therefore, had to defend a position of considerable importance, and on their staunchness great things depended. The 1/6th completed the relief at midnight. About 2-30 a.m. on 25th April a tremendous bombardment was opened by the enemy on the whole of the British positions from Bailleul to Voormezeele, near the Ypres-Comines Canal. At the first roar of the hostile artillery everyone was on the alert, for it was of a terrifying nature and undoubtedly heralded a great attack. The official dispatches speak of this bombardment as “ very violent,” whilst an officer of the 1/6th West Yorkshires said : ‘‘ No one in these sectors had ever heard a bombardment which could be compared with it. Gas shells rained down in thousands, and in a few minutes a thick mist of gas covered the whole forward area. Telephone communica- tions were broken instantly and companies were cut off from battalions and battalions from Brigades Headquarters. .... Under such a bombardment it seemed incredible that any human being in the forward area could survive to check the onrush of the German infantry.”’ For two hours this storm of gas and H.E. shells swept the area where the British troops, crouching in their trenches, or pill boxes, awaited with grim determination the onslaught of the grey hordes which they knew would swarm like locusts over the pock- marked ground when the hostile guns lifted. At 4-30 the enemy’s barrage suddenly lifted and passed on over the Grand Bois. Then followed a few minutes of uncanny silence, though the shells could be heard whistling overhead and burstingin the back areas. From their positions the troops now moved out amongst the shell-holes and waited. The morning was misty. At dawn, fog? hung over the Grand Bois and Vierstraat and it was impossible to see more than a few yards in front ; indeed men lost sight of their

'The various units from right to left were French, Royal Scots,1 /sth West Yorks., 1st East Yorks., 1/6 West Yorks. and a Scottish battalion.—Licut.-Colonel W. Oddie. 2An ordinary ground mist accentuated by smoke shells.

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1918 The Grand Bois 263

comrades on right and left and could only wait with their rifles at 1/5TH, 1/6TH, the “ ready,” till either the fog lifted or the enemy was uponthem. 5 eer About § a.m. the hostile bombardment began again, but chiefly 251TH behind the front line. AA terrific machine-gun fire (much of it in enfilade) now swept the latter, especially along the eastern slopes of the Grand Bois. The enemy’s infantry then advanced. His object was the capture of Kemmel Hill, which he hoped to achieve by a direct assault on the French divisions holding the line from west of Bailleul to south of Wytschaete, combined with an attack on the right of the British line where it joined up with the French, in the hope of turning the right of the former and separating the Allied forces. The British right lay on the Messines-Kemmel road at a point about half-way betwen Kemmel and Wytschaete. Although separate narratives by the O.’sC., 1/ 5th, 1/6th and 1/7th West Yorkshires, are amongst the records concerning the over- whelming attack made on the 146th Infantry Brigade, they are, unfortunately, of a disjointed nature, for the violence of the enemy’s bombardment had cut all communications, and companies and platoons moved here and there, now forming a defensive flank, now making small counter-attacks, getting unavoidably mixed up with other units, so that it is practically impossible to obtain a clear con- ception of exactly what happened. The Bngade Headquarters Diary has this phrase : “‘ No certain news of the front-line companies can be obtained as no man from the front line rejoined his battalion. From evidence at hand, though, it appears that they all fought at their posts and died there.” In such simple statements as these the war diaries bear witness to the glorious valour of the British soldier—‘ they all fought at their posts and died there.”? These men were Territorials, they were not professional soldiers in the true sense, though in training and on the battlefield they had fitted themselves as such ; they have left behind them an undying tradition to be carried on by all young soldiers of their respective battalions—the tradition that for the honour of the Regiment they fought and died where they stood rather than yield. May they never be forgotten. The positions of the three battalions on the morning of 25th April, when the great attack was launched, were briefly as follows : The 1/5th was north-west of Wytschaete, 1/6th north-east of the Bois Grand in Zero Wood! and the 1/7th back in Vierstraat in support.”

1Zero Wood was immediately north of Onraet Wood. 2The ist East Yorkshires were between the 1/5th and 1/6th West Yorkshires.

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264 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

The latter battalion, even before this attack began, could muster such a few officers and men that it had been “ organised as one company.” The 1/5th numbered twenty-two officers and 580 other ranks ; the strength of the 1/6th was unobtainable. The C.O. of the 1/5th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel W. Oddie) stated that he held a line at Wytschaete (north-west of the village) running from Black Cot to North House, inclusive,’ with the Royal Scots on his right and the rst East Yorkshires on his left. After the terrific bombardment to which the battalion’s sub-sector had been subjected at § a.m. the enemy advanced, but was at first held up and easily repulsed. The S.O.S. was sent up, but the smoke and mist hid the signals from Headquarters, though the latter fired the S.O.S. at §-15 a.m. Colonel Oddie’s Headquarters were at the western edge of Bois Grand, and with him were Battalion Headquarters of the 1/6th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel Wistance) and of 1st East Yorkshires. An hour passed, and the C.O. of the 1/6th was getting no informa- uuon of what was happening at Zero Wood. Two runners were then sent out and about 6-40 a.m. these men, terribly exhausted, struggled back with the news that “‘ C’? Company of the 1/6th was fighting a rearguard action at Zero Wood. The C.O., rst East Yorkshires, had not been able to obtain any information concerning his companies and Colonel Oddie then sent his Intelligence Officer—Lieut. Cheesman— to pick up two platoons of “‘ D ’’ Company of the 1/s5th, which had been held in reserve close to Battalion Headquarters. He instructed Lieut. Cheesman to form a defensive flank between Bois Quarant and Grand Bois, and in this way check the enemy advance. This small party did splendid work, they put up a very stout resistance though, in the end, overwhelmed by large numbers of the enemy who forced the gallant West Yorkshiremen back to China Trench,* which ran north and south of the Wytschaete-Vierstraat road. In this tussle Lieut. Cheesman was wounded. About 7 a.m. German troops were seen at the Northern Brick- stacks, south-east of Grand Bois, thus preventing further communica- tion with the front line by means of runners. The enemy had now apparently got behind the right flank of the 1/5th and was pushing north along the valley of the Wytschaetebeek, in rear of Battalion Headquarters. To check this move Colonel Oddie and the O.’sC., 1/6th West Yorks. and 1st East Yorks. evacuated their joint Head- quarters, the former, with Headquarters Staff, the Adjutant and

10n the map the co-ordinates of this line are N.18.d.9.2. to O.19.b.6.8. 20r ‘ Chinese '' Trench.

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1918 “< A Fight toa Finish” 265

Signalling Officer moving into Chinese Trench, and Colonel Wistance and Major Cole of the 1st East Yorkshires taking up a position near the craters at Plateau Farm ; the latter officers with their staffs eventually pushed forward to the rise in Grand Bois, which they held for a while until forced to retire. By 10-15 a.m. the right of Battalion Head- quarters, 1/5th, was seriously threatened as the enemy was moving up from Irish House and behind Vandame Farm in considerable strength. He had also occupied some of the craters in front of Chinese Trench, from which he opened heavy fire on the latter trench. The strength of the Germans now in front of Colonel Oddie forced him to the conclusion that by now (10-15 a.m.) his forward companies had been cut off and either taken prisoner or wiped out: “I came to the conclusion,” he said, ‘‘ that our companies had held the front line for at least four-and-a-half hours against overwhelming odds, but had eventually been completely surrounded and cut off. From messages received from them it is clear that the line was intact up to 7 a.m., and after that it must have been a fight to the finish, for not a man from the front line has rejoined the battalion.” From now onwards the story concerns Colonel Oddie and his mere handful of officers and men of Headquarters Staff. Having covered the withdrawal of the other Headquarters he endeavoured to check the enemy’s advance in the direction of Vierstraat. He sent off a small party of men in the direction of York Road to take up a flank position, and ordered them to get into touch with any troops they met in rear. He then gradually worked back, in touch with and fighting with, the enemy, to the trench (Vierstraat Switch ?) in front of York Road where, about 11 a.m., he obtained touch with a small party of the 1/7th West Yorkshires and, later, with the Scottish Rifles. There was, however, a dangerous gap on the right and, shortly after noon, the enemy had reached Vierstraat. Continually having to protect his right flank, Colonel Oddie and his small party of fifteen men finally dug themselves in near Cheapside, where they were able to check the enemy’s advance towards Vierstraat cross-roads. Attempts were made to get into touch with troops in rear, but it was not until the Brigade Intelligence Officer (Capt. Tempest) discovered this party that a few details were pushed forward about 5 p.m., with which Colonel Oddie established small posts to his right and in this way prevented any further advance by the enemy. Late that night (after 10 p.m.) he was relieved and taken into the reserve trenches north-west of the former. ‘On 26th we remained as part of the garrison in the reserve trenches until 9 p.m., when our party of three officers and


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266 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

twenty-one other ranks (out of twenty-two officers and 580 other ranks in trenches on the morning of 25th April) marched into camp at Ouderdom.””! The 1/6th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel W. A. Wistance) in Zero Wood, east of the Grand Bois, when the hostile bombardment opened, had three companies in the front line, 7.e., ‘‘ D,” ““B”’ and “*A,” from right to left,and “‘C”’ Company in close support. From 4-40 a.m. to §-40 a.m. H.E. shells literally rained on the battalion’s front line and heavy casualties were suffered. At the latter hour the hostile guns lifted and the German infantry advanced to the attack, massed troops advancing on the right. Though sadly depleted, the com- panies of West Yorkshiremen, holding the front line, clung to their positions and held the enemy off, though it was apparent that his heaviest attack was being made further to the right. A very heavy mist hung over the ground at this time, which prevented the 1/6th from seeing that the line on their right had been penetrated and pushed back ; the first intimation that this had happened being the presence of hostile troops working forward from rear of the right flank of the battalion. The alarm was at once given, and gallant efforts were made by officers and men to force their way back, but, being attacked from both sides at once and by superior numbers, few escaped and, after inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, the greater part of the three companies of 1/6th West Yorkshires were killed or wounded. Meanwhile the C.O. (Capt. Saunders, V.C.) of ““C” Company (in support) had got a message through to Battalion Headquarters stating that the enemy had reached and was over- running one of his posts, and that the officer in charge (Second-Lieut. J. Millar) had just reached Company Headquarters with two men, the survivors of the post, the remainder having been killed or wounded. The runner who brought this message stated that as he left C”’ Company Headquarters he saw Capt. Saunders rallying his men from the top of a pill box. Here he was shot in the leg but continued to fire into a party of Germans with his revolver at point-blank range until, exhausted, he fell from the top of the pill box. He was conveyed later to a dressing station, eventually recovering from his wounds. By this time Colonel Wistance had given orders to all the Head- quarters personnel to “‘ stand to”’ ; they were given extra bandoliers and took up position behind a pill box which stood near Headquarters. They formed up in two ranks, the signallers, having destroyed their instruments, being with them. Colonel Wistance then moved his

1Extract from Colonel Oddie's report.

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1918 Lieut.-Colonel Wistance Killed 267

party to a position about two hundred yards in rear of the pill box —Second-Lieut. F. E. Fairbank took the left, Lieut. Maclusky the right and Colonel Wistance, the Adjutant (Capt. W. N. Mossop), the Regimental Sergeant-Major (Sergt.-Major H. Barker) and one runner the centre. Lieut. Maclusky (the Signalling Officer) was then ordered to take six “‘ stout fellows ’’ to the right flank and see if he could observe movement along the Wytschaete Road or in the valley, and where the nearest British troops on the right were situated. Capt. Mossop also went forward to old Battalion Headquarters with two runners ; he apparently sent up two S.O.S. signals, but was never seen to leave this position again. Lieut. Maclusky reported that he saw large numbers of Germans, some extended, others marching along the road in columns of fours. On the left Lieut. Fairbank reported the Vierstraat road clear of the enemy, but the road was being swept by heavy machine-gun fire from the south, indeed the whole valley between Grand Bois and Vierstraat was under a deadly enfilade machine-gun fire. The fog was now clearing and Colonel Wistance moved his Head- quarters party forward again to his old Battalion Headquarters, where he believed a stand could be made. The enemy was, however, advan- cing in force on the right, though Battalion Headquarters’ fire killed a lot of Germans. It was now about 9 a.m. and the Headquarters party had lost pretty heavily, there being but few survivors. The gallant Battalion M.O. (Capt. H. E. Robinson) had been killed a short time previously. His Aid Post had been blown in and he could be of no further use there. Runners were scarce and he volunteered to act as one. He was carrying a message from the C.O. to the Adjutant when he was shot through the head and died instantly. Men were now falling every minute, and there was no time to lose if the remnants were to be got away. Colonel Wistance then gave orders to withdraw to a ridge about 140 yards in rear, remaining behind with Lieut. Fairbank till all Battalion Headquarters had been withdrawn. Before they had gone many yards, however, most of the men were shot down. Capt. W. N. Mossop was wounded and taken prisoner. Regimental Sergt.-Major H. Barker was killed ; he was last seen surrounded by the enemy and emptying his revolver into the Germans till he fell dead. Almost immediately afterwards Lieut.-Colonel Wistance was killed by a machine-gun bullet as he was rejoining the remnants of his men who had reached the ridge ; Lieut.-Fairbank was wounded at the same time and fell into a shell-hole full of water. Finally Lieut. Maclusky, seeing the enemy still advancing on the right, slowly withdrew,


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268 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

sniping all the time, to Chinese Trench, but, finding no formed body of troops there, withdrew still further until he joined a party of Scottish Rifles. Eventually the survivors of the 1/6th Battalion, 1.., Lieut. Maclusky and Second-Lieut. Hesketh with forty-four other ranks, reported at Ouderdom Camp on the night of 26th. Later it was ascertained that the front line companies, “ D,” ‘““B” and “ A,” had put up a splendid fight and, though fired at with machine-guns and rifles, shelled by a field gun almost at point-blank range, and machine-gunned from the air by hostile aeroplanes, the gallant fellows held out all day, holding the Grand Bois until 7-30 p.m., when they were finally overwhelmed—a splendid instance of in- domitable pluck and endurance. Thus ended the Second Battle of Kemmel Ridge and, as the narrative shows, the Territorial troops of the West Yorkshire Regi- ment not only fought most gallantly, adding lustre to the already- proud traditions of the Regiment, but left behind them an example of courage and staunchness, even unto death, which all young soldiers might well bear in mind ; for love of their country and their duty they laid down their lives.

Page 281


HE last effort of the Germans to exploit their successes on the Lys was an attempt, on 29th April, to capture the chain of hills near Kemmel, 1.e., the Scherpenberg Ridge, thus clearing a road across the plain south of Ypres to the sea. Although the 146th Brigade of the 49th Division was not called upon, the West Yorkshire battalions (1/5th, 1/5TH,1/6TH, 1/6th and 1/7th) are entitled to the honours of battle, seeing #7", ions. that all day long they waited to be called upon to join in the fight. The Brigade could, however, only muster about three hundred all told—the survivors of the terrible struggle through which all three battalions had passed—and from a hill near Hoograaf all ranks ““ stood to.”” The stubborn resistance put up by the 21st and 25th Divisions (with attached troops from the 30th and 39th Divisions) and other troops of the 49th Division, robbed the enemy of his objective, and he was bloodily repulsed with the heaviest losses, being repeatedly driven back at the point of the bayonet.


Page 283


ROM the Ist to 6th April the 21st Battalion (Pioneers) 21st was at work constructing trenches for the roth, 11th and BATTALION.

12th Brigades of the 4th Division, east of Arras. Their camp was still at St. Laurent Blangy. The battalion’s Strength at this period was 25 officers and 551 other ranks, but it was continually losing officers and men. On the 5th, Lieut. Richardson and three men of “ Z’’ Company were wounded. On the 6th one man of “‘ X ”? Company was killed and two men wounded. A mustard-gas shell also burst in the entrance of the officers’ mess of ‘“‘ Z’’ Company and five officers (Capt. Dighton, Lieut. Hocklebridge and Second-Lieuts. Foster and Fox, and the Battalion Chaplain—Rev. C. Wright) and one other rank were badly gassed. On the 7th, as the 4th Division was relieved by Canadians, the Pioneers moved by train to Simoncourt and on the 8th to Fosseux. The 12th saw the battalion en route by bus to the scene of the Lys battles, the Pioneers arriving at a point between Lillers and Busnes and bivouacking in fields for the night. The Battle of Hazebrouck was in progress when the 2Ist Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel Sir E. H. St. L. Clarke) moved to camp and billets at the Chateau de Werppe on 14th April. That night all companies were hard at work digging a trench at Les Harrisoirs, following the line of the road. This was the line of the enemy’s barrage, and ‘‘ X ’”? Company had Lieut. Bulmer and thirteen men wounded. The same work was continued on the following day. On the 18th, when the Battle of Béthune was fought, the Pioneers were at work digging new trenches between Hinges and the Canal, and a trench near Les Harrisoirs. On this day Lieut. Metcalfe Smith, of ‘‘ Z’? Company, was wounded and died of wounds ; four other ranks were also wounded. On the way to work a shell burst in the midst of “‘ Y ’” Company, killing three men and wounding nine others. The enemy’s attack on the 4th Division was completely broken up and about 160 prisoners were taken. Under shell-fire almost the whole time, the Pioneers were in the line in the Béthune area until the end of the month—theirs was an unenviable life. During that period the battalion suffered the




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272 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

21ST following casualties : 19th, six men wounded ; 2oth, Lieut. B. Grange BATTALION. and two men killed and eight wounded ; 21st-23rd, five men wounded ; 24th, five men wounded, eight gassed; 25th, one N.C.O. and two men wounded ; 26th, five men killed, twenty-nine wounded and fourteen gassed ; 28th, six men wounded ; 29th, three men wounded ; 30TH On the 30th Battalion Headquarters and “ Y Company moved to farms in La Vallee to erect Nissen huts in the orchards. Such is the record (brief it is true) of the 21st Battalion during the German offensive on the Lys. There are few to sing the praises of the Pioneers, but they were gallant fellows all, and carried out their duties with splendid tenacity and devotion.

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THE BATTLE OF THE AISNE, 1918 27th May—6th June

T had been anticipated by the British General Staff that before the enemy resumed his main offensive on the Arras—Amiens— Mont- didier front, the Lys offensive would be followed by a similar attack on the southern flanks of the Allied Armies, ?.e., on the Aisne. The strength of the British resistance in Flanders had forced the enemy to desist and turn his attention southward, but before he could launch the Aisne offensive he had to rest and train divisions which had been used in the March offensive, and before the end of May these divisions would not be fresh and fit to attack again. In this attack several British divisions, which had been sent down to the Aisne to rest, became involved. They had been sent down at the disposal of Marshal Foch to replace certain French divisions of the Sixth French Army, which had been concentrated behind Amiens. These British divisions were the 8th, 21st, 25th and soth, subsequently reinforced by the 19th Division. “The 8th Division,” said the official despatches, “‘ had been involved south of the Somme in some of the heaviest fighting of the year and had behaved with distinguished gallantry.”” That was during the German offensive in March in which the division had lost heavily ; the drafts which arrived to fill up its ranks were young, and were in no condition to take part in major operations until they had had several weeks’ rest and training. This was especially true of the 2nd West Yorkshires who, as recently as the 24th and 25th April at Villers Bretonneux, had lost 16 officers and 404 other ranks. During the Great War it was strange how Death stalked certain battalions like a greedy monster, for again and again the gallant 2nd West Yorkshires, in many a bloody fight, were all but wiped out; yet again and again they filled up their depleted ranks, ready for the next encounter. On 28th April the 2nd West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. E. E. Lowry) were at Querrieu, whence the battalion moved on Ist May to Boutellerie. The 8th Division was then under orders to move north-west for a training area near Abbeville, but these orders were cancelled, and instead the division was ordered down to the Aisne front for rest and training. Drafts arrived for the West Yorkshires on 2nd May, and on 4th the 23rd Brigade (8th Division), to which T 273



4TH May.

Page 286


11TH May.

12TH May.

274 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

the 2nd Battalion belonged, marched to Saleux and there entrained. Early on the morning of sth the West Yorkshiremen arrived at Fére en Tardenois and detrained at 6-30 a.m., marching, after breakfast, to camp at Bravegny where the 23rd Brigade was con- centrating. In this Camp the battalion (and brigade) remained until the morning of roth May, when a move forward to the front line began by a march of ten miles to Romain. From the latter place the battalion moved to Roucy on 11th. The strength of the battalion was now 26 officers, 679 other ranks, less 12 officers and 86 other ranks ‘‘ away from battalion”’—leaving 14 officers and 593 other ranks with the battalion. On the 12th the 23rd Brigade relieved the 217th R.I. of the 71st French Division in the left sub-sector of the 8th Divisional front, which extended from the River Aisne at Berry au Bac to a point one- and-a-half miles north-north-east of La Ville-aux-Bois. The 2nd Devons went into the front line, the 2nd West Yorkshires were in support with Battalion Headquarters in a quarry, and all companies comfortably settled in dug-outs in Bois des Boches near La Ville-aux- Bois. Several days of quietude, excepting counter-battery work, succeeded the move up into the line. The weather was hot and altogether conditions were not unpleasant, though the enemy was obviously on the alert. A further draft of 107 other ranks joined on 19th, which brought the strength of the West Yorkshires up to 32 officers and 783 other ranks, though only 18 officers and 524 other ranks were with the battalion. On the 2oth the battalion took over the front line from the Devons in front of La Mussette, which was on the Cambrai—Chalon-sur- Marne road. The line taken over by the 8th Division on 12th May lay south of Juvincourt ; it was the furthest point north-east of the Allied line from Rheims to Noyon. All three brigades were in the line, 25th right, 24th centre and 23rd left. Each brigade had one battalion in the front line, one in support and one in reserve ; each front line battalion had three companies in the forward trenches and one in reserve. The front held by the 8th Division was peculiar; it formed a right-angled salient pushed out into the German positions. The northern side was about seven thousand and the eastern side some three thousand yards in length. The Aisne and the Canal ran through Pontavert on the left, the village being roughly six thousand yards in rear of the front line trenches. On the right the flank of the division rested on the Aisne itself at Berry au Bac. The river and the canal

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1918 ‘* Not one yard must be lost”’ 275

then swung forward and, running up along the eastern side of the 2ND salient, formed an obstacle both to the Germans and British and so BATTALION. protected the front line trenches from surprise attacks. North of the Aisne the country in which the forward defences of the division lay was fairly flat and open, with the exception of one wood—the Bois des Boches—in the left sub-sector and a hill called the Bois des Buttes, and was not overlooked by the enemy except from Hill 108, a peculiar formation lying just across the Aisne from Berry au Bac. This hill was held half by the division and half by the enemy and from it it was possible to overlook a considerable portion of the British back areas north of the river. This disadvantage necessitated the erection of a great deal of camouflage in order to screen the rear defensive lines and communication trenches. From Berry au Bac, on the right, to Pontavert, on the left, there were no less than thirty-four bridges across the Aisne and the canal. On the British side of the river the country rose at once to a line of hills which shut out the Aisne valley from the south. The principal feature, south of the Aisne, which concerned the defence of the line generally, was the Gernicourt Hill which overlooked the line of the Aisne and was an important position echeloned behind the right flank. The only remaining important part of the front was the Miette stream which was deep, about twenty feet wide and with very marshy banks. The Miette ran from front to rear, at right-angles to the front, and served as the dividing line between the right and centre brigades ; it was bridged

in thirteen places. There were two lines of defence, the Outpost Zone and the Battle

Zone. In the 23rd Brigade (the left) sub-sector the first line of the Outpost line was Trench Godart on the right and Trench Wilson on the left ; the second line was Trench Van Haellerbrouck on the right and Trench de la Route on the left; the third line was Trench Migault. Of the Battle Zone the front line was the Ouv de Cologne on the right and Bois de la Musette on the left ; the second, Bois de Dantzig ; the third, Trench Boes. On the right of the Trench Boes was the Reduit de Kiel and on the left the Reduit du Bois des Buttes. The 8th Division had received strict orders that ‘“ not one yard of ground must be lost,”’ and this necessitated the trenches being held in strength, the bulk of the infantry of the division being within range of the enemy’s trench-mortars. Each night patrols crossed No Man’s Land with the object of capturing a German prisoner for identification. On the night of 23rd one of two patrols sent out bumped up against a strong German 23rp May.

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27TH May.

276 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

patrol and a fight ensued, during which seven of the enemy were accounted for, one being taken prisoner but afterwards killed in the fighting. Two men of the West Yorkshires were wounded and three were missing. The next night the C.O. and “ C”’ Company went back to billets in Roucy for training preparatory to a raid on the enemy’s trenches. Nothing unusual occurred on 25th, but on the 26th the French obtained definite information from captured Germans that the enemy intended launching a great offensive on the 27th, and immediately preparations were made to meet the attack. Colonel Lowry, with ‘‘ C’”” Company, returned from Roucy and moved up into the support line—Trench Migault, the other three companies being then in the front line. The 2nd Devons were also moved up to trenches in the Bois des Buttes, from Roucy, ready to take up an inter- mediate line as soon as the situation declared itself. The captured Germans, besides giving information concerning the infantry attack, also stated that it would be preceded by a three hours’ intense bombardment, and at I a.m. on 27th the hostile guns opened fire. High-explosive and gas shells rained upon the divisional area, the enemy’s trench-mortars joining in the bombardment. At I a.m., when the enemy’s guns opened fire, there was only a slight ground mist, but from 3 a.m. onwards it was impossible to see more than thirty to forty yards ahead. Again the elements were on the side of the enemy. His tanks could overwhelm the front line troops ere ever they could be dealt with by anti-tank guns of the divisional artillery. During the hostile bombardment the 2nd West Yorkshires, in accordance with orders, evacuated the forward line and withdrew to the Redoubt line, and there awaited the enemy’s attack ; in the hostile bombardment the battalion had already suffered heavy casualties. Apparently the German attack fell first of all on the point of the salient held by the 25th Brigade. The enemy’s tanks first flattened out the wire entanglements and his infantry followed closely. Having practically wiped out two battalions of the brigade after they had put up a magnificent resistance, though almost surrounded, the enemy carried the Miette and attacked the main portion of the 25th Brigade from rear, nearly capturing the Brigadier and his staff. The 24th Brigade, in the centre of the line, suffered almost the same fate as the 25th. The Brigadiers of both the 25th and 24th Brigades had to fight their way back clear of the enemy. On the 23rd Brigade front the Divisional Narrative states that the S.O.S. went up at §-25 a.m., but the Battalion Diary of the 2nd West

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1918 Desperate Position of 2nd Battalion 277

Yorkshires stated that it was 4-30 a.m. when the enemy came over in 2ND

very large numbers and, although at a disadvantage owing to having ,

to wear box respirators ““ we promptly replied with machine-gun and rifle fire and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy, who were temporarily held up.” Nevertheless it was evident that the enemy had penetrated the Redoubt line on the right and left of the battalion and the latter found it necessary to withdraw to the support line. The time was now between § and 6 a.m., the enemy was well past the West Yorkshires on both flanks and threatened to surround the 23rd Brigade as he had done the 24th and 25th Brigades. The remainder of battalions and Brigade Headquarters therefore withdrew to a position south of the Aisne, just above La Platrerie. But the enemy had already crossed the river about Gernicourt and was advancing upon the right flank of the 23rd Brigade so that the latter was again forced to withdraw and took up another position at the base of Roucy Hill. Here the brigade fell in with remnants of the 24th and 25th Brigades and some troops of the 25th Division which had been sent up to strengthen the front line of the 8th Division. Towards night, however, the position had to be evacuated and the survivors of all three brigades and other troops who had attached themselves to the remnants of the 8th Division withdrew down the slopes of Roucy Hill towards Ventelay. The official narratives and diaries contain practically nothing con- cerning the gallant defence put up by the 2nd West Yorkshires, only the Divisional Narrative records in the early stages of the battle “‘ the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment steadfastly held their ground for a considerable time.”” On the night of 27th the line of the 8th Division apparently ran along the tops of the hills separating the Aisne valley from the valley of the Vesle river.


At 6 a.m. on 28th the Brigadier of the 23rd Brigade assumed 28TH May.

command of all troops on the River Vesle from one mile west of Jonchery to one mile east of that place. All available men in the area were collected to form a firing line along the Vesle, the railroad embankment being used to align the men on. By I0 a.m. a strong and fairly well-organised line had been established west and east of Jonchery with bridgeheads strongly guarded. Despite vigorous attacks by the enemy, all of which were repulsed, the position was held until early afternoon. By this period, however, the Germans had crossed the Vesle about two miles west of Jonchery and were pushing on in the direction of Vendeuil. Fighting all the way the line, formed of remnants of the 25th, soth and 8th Divisions, withdrew slowly to the line of heights between Vandeuil and Branscourt. This

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29TH May.

278 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

line was reinforced on the right by French troops, but on the left flank the enemy was continually outflanking and eventually the line was forced back to a position south-east of Branscourt. Here the left flank was strengthened at night by a French regiment advancing from

Savigny. How many officers and men were left of the 2nd West Yorkshires,

or of the 23rd Brigade, by the morning of 29th it is impossible to say ; indeed, even when the diaries of the battalion and the brigade mention ‘“ we ” and “‘ us ” it is almost certain that the plural included troops of other units and formations. So that the story of the grim fighting which took place until the remnants of the 8th Division reached Manteuil loses its individual interest and becomes general. The line taken up on the night of 28th was reorganised and orders were issued on the morning of 29th that it was to be maintained as long as possible. Up to 11 a.m. the line was held intact, a little desultory fighting on either side taking place before that hour. But about Ii a.m. the French troops on the left, who had moved up from Savigny the previous day, began to withdraw and the whole line then fell back to the Plateau Ridge, just north of Treslon, where a position was established on a slightly reverse slope, in conjunction with French troops on the left and troops of the 21st Division and more French troops on the right. This position was not under direct observation excepting from balloons. The enemy had followed very closely but was handled so roughly that he fell back, being obviously puzzled as to the exact position held by the 8th Divisional troops. But in a little while he sent up observation balloons and, aided by aeroplanes, he was able to detect the position on the reverse slopes of the hill. About I p.m. long streams of enemy transport were seen coming along the Jonchery-Savigny road up to the farm which the 8th Division had evacuated. The transport proved to be trench-mortars which, being established near the farm and directed by the balloons, were soon pounding the lines of the harassed British troops. The latter had had no ume in which to dig themselves in and very soon casualties were again heavy. Several times during the afternoon the German infantry attempted to rush the hill, but on each occasion were beaten back with heavy loss. But towards 5 p.m. the British position was getting critical. Thinned out by heavy trench-mortar and artillery fire, the gallant defenders had thrown all their supports into the firing line. By 5-30 p.m. it was evident that a crisis was impending. The enemy had thickened his firing line, he had brought up innumerable machine-guns and his trench-mortar and artillery fire had increased

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1918 The Battalion almost Wtped Out 279

very much in volume. About 5-45 p.m., after whistles had been heard, the German signal for attack, the enemy advanced and » saan Nae delivered a very determined assault against the right flank and the front. “‘ This,” records the Diary of the 23rd Infantry Brigade, ‘* drove us, weakened as we were in numbers, down to the bottom of the valley and barely allowed us sufficient time to reform on the ridge north of Bouleuse, where a battalion of the Wiltshires was in But this position was badly sited, the field of fire being hampered by woods and thickets, which enabled the enemy to follow close on the heels of the British troops. A few hundred reinforcements then arrived, at a critical moment, and drove the enemy back when all seemed lost. From 6 to 9 p.m. the position was desperate but at the latter hour the enemy ceased his attempts and, when darkness fell, the position on the Bouleuse Ridge was secure for the night. So inter- mixed had units become that the line that rested that night on the ridge consisted of troops of 23rd, 24th and 25th Brigades (8th Division) with elements of soth, 21st, 25th and 19th Divisions, as well as some French. On 30th the 19th Division took over the line and the 8th Division 3°TH May. (what was left of it) was collected at Nanteuil. In the three days’ fighting from the 27th to 29th May inclusive, the 2nd West Yorkshires had suffered in killed, wounded and missing no less than 23 officers and 538 other ranks ; the battalion on 25th having had a fighting strength of 33 officers and 760 other ranks and a ration strength of 23 officers and 626 other ranks. It is very evident, therefore, that very few officers and men came out of that terrible battle unscathed. Lieut.-Colonel A. E. E. Lowry had been wounded early in action on 27th. Major F. H. Tounsend was reported missing between 27th and 29th. Capt. H. Bastow was killed on 27th, on which date Capt. C. McAllister was gassed. Lieuts. F. R. Kennington, N. O. Tucker and B. A. Peace were wounded on 27th. The Adjutant (Capt. C. Sandars) and Capt. R. H. L. Dashwood, first reported missing between 27th and 29th, were afterwards reported as killed. Lieut. C. W. Hall was also reported missing between 27th and 29th. Second-Lieut. A. J. Stagg had been killed on 28th; Second-Lieut. A. L. Pearson was wounded on 27th, also Second-Lieut. F. R. Ransome who was “‘ missing.” Between 27th and 29th the following ten officers were reported as missing : Second-Lieuts. W. B. Garrity, R. B. Richardson!’ H. J. Rigby, D. G. Garbutt, R. Mason, V. R.

‘Subsequently reported killed.

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280 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

Scott, H. Wiggins, J. W. Marsden, M. J. Wrigley, and Lieut. T. B. O’Dowd, R.A.M.C.—the Battalion M.O. So weak was the 8th Division that on 1st June, after all the remnants had been collected at Nanteuil, they could only be formed into a Composite Battalion, under the title of 1/8th Battalion ; what proportion of West Yorkshiremen was with this battalion it is impos- sible to say, but it must have been very small. A 2/8th Composite Battalion was formed on 2nd June. These two Composite Battalions were attached to the 7th Brigade, 19th Division, then in the line. On the 6th June, when the Battle of the Aisne, 1918, ended, the survivors of the 2nd West Yorkshires were at Etrechy, where, for the time being, it is necessary to leave them and turn to other parts of the line for great events were about to take place.

Page 293


EVERAL weeks of comparative quietude on the British front which followed the close of the German offensives of March and April, had been of great benefit to the Army. Drafts from England and reinforcements from abroad had arrived, andthe number of Sir Douglas Haig’s effective infantry divisions had risen from forty-five to fifty-two ; in artillery also the Army was stronger than it had ever been. Certain operations, which had as their object the strengthen- ing of the British defensive line and the provision of better positions to fit in with future schemes, were then undertaken. And amongst these was an attack carried out at the end of June, east of Nieppe Forest, which aimed at establishing the main line of resistance further in advance of the wooded ground which was constantly being shelled with gas. The assault was launched at 6 a.m. on 28th by the 5th and 31st Divisions, without preliminary bombardment, and amongst the attacking troops were the 15th/17th West Yorkshires of the 93rd 15/17TH Brigade, 31st Division. BATTALION, After the heavy fighting, in which the 15th/17th Battalion had taken part in April, the West Yorkshires were not called upon to attack the enemy again until the 28th June. The intervening period had been spent either in the front line, west of Meteren, or in support or reserve positions, during which the battalion received reinforce- ments, which were necessary after the exhausting operations of April. The early part of June was spent at La Sablonniére where strenuous training was carried out,'! but on the 15th a move was made to istn June. Hondeghem where, until the 93rd Brigade went into the front line, all units of the Brigade were engaged as working parties or in training. On 2oth the 93rd Brigade took over the La Motte sector, the 20TH June. 15th/17th West Yorkshires taking over the left sub-sector of the front line. On the night of 25th/26th June the battalion was relieved in the line, and proceeded to camp in order to prepare for an attack on La Becque ordered to take place on the 28th. In view of the opera- tions to take place on the latter date a small attack was carried out

'Lieut.-Colonel W. D. Coles, commanding Battalion, wasinvalided to hospital on

Je June; he was succeeded in command of the battahon by Lieut.-Colonel A. Vo Nutt on zoth June.


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282 The West Regiment in the War 1918

on the night of 26th/27th by other troops of the 93rd Brigade, which had for its object the capture and consolidation of Ankle Farm and the Factory Buildings which it was important to secure in order to simplify the larger attack on La Becque. The role assigned to the 93rd Brigade in the coming operation was the capture and consolidation of La Becque Farm and the advance of the line to the Plate Becque stream, joining up with the 92nd Brigade on the mght. This task had been allotted to the 15/17th West Yorkshires, who were also to “ mop-up ” all shell-holes and defended localities on the route to the objectives mentioned above. At 8 p.m. on 27th the battalion (Lieut.-Colonel A. V. Nutt, commanding) moved off from camp and, after picking up special equipment by platoons, were guided to their assembly trenches in the neighbourhood of Lug Farm. The night was very quiet, no diffi- culties were encountered, and all troops were reported in position by 2-30 a.m. on 28th. Upto “ Zero ” hour the assembled troops were not observed by the enemy and were not fired on. The West Yorkshiremen were to attack in the following forma- tion: “‘ C ” Company on the right, “ B ” Company in the centre and two platoons of ‘“‘ D ” Company on the left. “‘ A” Company was in rear of “‘ C,”’ having been detailed to “ mop-up,” and two platoons of D ” were in rear of ““ B’? Company. The advance was to be in two lines of sections in single file. On the left of the West Yorkshires the 18th D.L.I. were to connect that flank of the attack with the Factory, which entailed swinging up the defensive flank (made on the night of 26th/27th in the attack on Ankle Farm and Factory Buildings) to the line of the Plate Becque. At 6 a.m. on 28th the British barrage fell on the enemy’s lines and the assembled troops moved out of their trenches and went forward to the attack. Opposite the nght (‘‘ C’”’) and centre (“ B ””) Com- panies of the West Yorkshires the enemy did not wait to meet the bayonets of the assaulting troops, but bolted. The attackers pressed forward in hot pursuit, but moved too quickly, suffering some casualties from their own barrage. All companies, however, reached their objectives without encountering anything but a half-hearted resistance. On the extreme nght a party of about twenty Germans attempted to make a stand, but they were quickly overcome. In the centre the enclosures of La Becque Farm were reached and, on push- ing through, the attacking troops found machine-gun posts on either flank. These were promptly attacked and captured. Next, another party of Germans attempted to make a stand by the pond, but the

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1918 All Objectives Gained 283

right of “‘ B” Company swung round and, beating down resistance, overpowered the enemy. The concreted buildings and cellars of the farm were found unoccupied. On the left of the attack the two officers leading the attack’ had become casualties after passing Lug Farm, but Sergt. Cherry assumed command and took the attacking troops through to their objective.

All objectives gained, patrols were pushed out beyond the Becque stream; as they came in these patrols destroyed what bridges they could, others being demolished at night by the sappers. The “‘ mopping-up ” company (“A”) advanced in line and, on reaching the German trenches, split up into small parties. The ground in rear of the attacking companies was thoroughly searched and cleared of the enemy. In two places hostile machine-guns were found mounted and their crews preparing to fire into the backs of the West Yorkshires who had gone on ; they were suitably dealt with. In other machine-gun posts white flags, ready to raise, were found. Over thirty-nine prisoners were captured by the “ mopping-up ” company. On the left of the 15th/17th West Yorkshires the 18th D.L.I. also reached all their objectives, establishing touch on both flanks. The officer in charge of the party of Durhams took charge of the left of the West Yorkshires as both their officers had become casualties. For two hours consolidation went on without any molest- ation from the enemy. His guns then opened fire on the new front line, but casualties were not heavy. It is interesting to note that in this attack messages, sent back stating that the objectives had been captured, were carried by war dogs specially trained for the purpose. The whole attack by the 5th and 31st Divisions was completely successful, the German defences west of the Plate Becque stream on a front of 6,000 yards from Pont Tournant to La Becque, being captured with some 450 prisoners. Of the latter the 1§th/17th West Yorkshires took ninety-two. Large numbers of the enemy were killed and wounded. The casualties of the West Yorkshires are given in the Brigade Diary as one officer and 21 other ranks killed, 4 other ranks died of wounds, § officers and 138 other ranks wounded, and one other rank missing—total, 6 officers and 164 other ranks. On the


night of 29th/3o0th the 15th/17th Battalion was relieved and moved 29/307Tn back, two companies to support, and two companies to reserve JUNE.


1Names unobtainable.

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284 The West Regiment in the War 1918

15/17TH Two small attacks, one highly successful, the other abortive, were BATTALION. made by battalions of the West Yorkshires during July ; the first was carried out by the rst Battalion and the latter by the 15th/17th Battalion. Neither of these attacks are mentioned in the official

despatches, though the former is well worthy of mention.

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AY and June and the early part of July, 1918, 1st were uneventful in the history of the 1st West Yorkshires, and it was not until the middle of the latter month that the battalion was called upon to make another attack on the enemy. The 6th Division had relieved the 46th French Division on 27th June, taking over the Dickebusch sector west of Ridge Wood, out of which the French had been driven on the 28th May. Repeated counter-attacks had failed to restore the line, and when the 6th Division took over from the Chasseurs Alpins on 27th June, it was with the determination of regaining at the first opportunity all that had been lost. On the night of 26th/27th June the 18th Infantry Brigade had begun the relief of French troops, the 2nd D.L.I. taking over trenches held by the 13th Chasseurs Alpins on the left of the divisional front. On the following night, 27th/28th, the 1st West Yorkshires relieved 277H/28TH the 47th Chasseurs on the right of the 2nd D.L.I. The brigade front now ran from a point 300 yards east of Kruisstraathoek to the northern end of Ridge Wood. The trenches on the left of the brigade sector were good, but on the right the Germans held the old British front line and the West Yorkshires had a semi-consolidated position on the near side of the crest line. The section of trenches captured by the enemy on the 28th May was approximately 2,000 yards in length and included Elzenwalle Chateau, Liverpool Camp, the Brasserie and practically the whole of Ridge Wood, the British trenches being only on the western fringe of the latter. The ground held by the enemy was favourable for a surprise attack, north in the direction of Ypres and south towards Kemmel, and its recapture was, therefore, important. A surprise attack, or an attack with tanks, appeared to offer the only possible chances of success. But after careful reconnaissance the S.O., Tank Corps, reported the ground unfit for the use of tanks, and a Surprise infantry attack, under cover of a creeping artillery barrage and the fire of Stokes mortars, was then decided upon. On the 5th 285

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286 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

July the 18th Brigade “‘ side-stepped,” the 1st West Yorkshires becoming the left battalion of the brigade, one company, “ C,” taking over from the 11th Essex Regiment. This move increased the battalion front from 200 to 700-900 yards. On the night 8th/gth the battalion was relieved and moved back into Brigade Reserve, where three or four days were spent in the supply of working parties which kept the West Yorkshiremen busy until, on the night of 12th/13th, the battalion (less ““ A’? Company) once again took over the front line trenches north of Ridge Wood from the Durhams and Essex Regiment. The 13th was spent in making final preparations for the attack which had been ordered to take place on the 14th. Through- out the night 13th/14th forward dumps were formed and “ A” Company was brought up into position in the reserve trenches. The attack was to be launched at 6 a.m. on 14th, when it was expected the German day dispositions would have been taken over and the men on night duty would have turned in to rest. The attacking troops were 1st West Yorkshires on the right, 2nd Durham Light Infantry in the centre, and two companies of 1st Middlesex Regiment (belonging to the 33rd Division and attached to the 18th Brigade for this operation) were on the left. Of the West Yorkshire battalion, two companies were to be in the front line, “ C ” (Lieut. Mocatta) on the right and “‘ B ” (Capt. Peberdy) on the left; “ D” (Capt. Rendall) was in support, and “A” (Lieut. Haddock) in reserve. The objectives allotted to the battalion were Liverpool Camp, Ridge Wood and the German trenches immediately east of it. Elzenwalle Chateau was amongst the objective operations of the Durham Light Infantry. At 5-55 the barrage began, the main barrage falling at 6 a.m. when the assaulting waves of troops left their trenches immediately. All ranks had been impressed with the necessity for carrying out the attack quickly to ensure success, and so eager were they to reach the hostile trenches, that in places they outpaced the barrage and incurred

casualties. On the right, “‘ C ” Company of the West Yorkshires encountered

resistance from hostile bombing posts on and near the road running north and south along the eastern exit of Ridge Wood. But the resistance was broken down by bombing and Lewis gun sections out- flanking the posts. Owing to casualties amongst officers and men this company did not reach its objective until 6-30 a.m. ‘*B” Company, on the left, met with comparatively little resistance. A few stick grenades were thrown by the enemy, but he

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1918 A Brilliant Success 287

was evidently surprised and unprepared for the attack. One German

machine-gunner was found trying to get his gun into action though he was minus trousers and boots. At 6-17 a.m. the final objective was

reached and three posts were pushed out 200 yards in front of the line, but subsequently had to be withdrawn owing to casualties sustained from the divisional barrage. The majority of the support company, “ D,”’ were drawn into the fight owing to the casualties sustained by the right company. On the left of the West Yorkshiremen the Durhams and Middle- sex had likewise reached their objectives. The whole attack had gone splendidly and the rst West Yorkshires alone captured three officers and 250 other ranks, beside nine machine-guns and many maps and documents of value.

About 8 a.m. the enemy put down a half-hearted barrage, the eastern edge of Ridge Wood being shelled and trench-mortared, but it was not until much later in the day that the hostile shell-fire increased in intensity and made the carrying-up of rations difficult. The casualties suffered by the 1st West Yorkshires were: Second-Lieuts. G. H. Clarke and R. H. Culshaw and 18 other ranks killed, Lieut. R. A. Edwards wounded (died of wounds later in the day) and 99 other ranks wounded ; 14 other ranks missing. This brilliant affair brought the West Yorkshires, Durhams and Middlesex congratulations from the Army and Corps Commanders, as well as from the G.O.’sC., 6th Division and 18th Brigade, and from other Divisions and Brigades. On the 15th the rst Battalion was relieved and moved back into Divisional Reserve around Gower Buildings, south of Poperinghe.



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on 19th July, 1918

N the roth July the 15th/17th West Yorkshires were 15/177H again in action east of the Forest of Nieppe. It will BATTALION. be remembered that the battalion had taken part in a successful small operation on the night of 26th/ 27th June. The West Yorkshiremen were then re- lieved and moved back to Le Grand Hasard (4th July) for a short rest. This was followed by a period in support, but on the night of 14th/15th the battalion again moved up into the front line, the sub-sector taken over extending south from Gars Brugghe (inclusive) to Le Cornet Perdu, thence to a point about five hundred yards east of L’Epinette. The front line was a series of posts, which, with the exception of the extreme right flank, averaged a distance of from 400-500 yards from and west of the La Becque stream. In the previous operation in June the battalion had pushed its line right up to the stream, west of Vieux Berquin (in German hands) and in the operations which took place on the roth July the West Yorkshiremen had been ordered to advance their line of posts in a similar manner to a line of posts just west of the La Becque, in conformity with the former advance. The attack was carried out at 7 a.m. on the 19th July by “ B” torn Jury. Company on the right and ‘“‘ A” Company on the left. The enemy was more strongly established on the western side of the Becque than had been anticipated and although some of the posts were at first advanced, they subsequently had to be abandoned and the attack made little progress. In this affair the battalion lost seventy-nine other ranks killed, wounded and missing. The battalion was relieved on the night of 22nd/23rd July and marched back to camp at Le Grand Brasard.

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Page 305


The Counter-Attack in Champagne—

The Battles of the Marne, 1918:

The Battle of Tardenois. The Capture of the Montaigne de Bligny.

The Advance in Picardy: The Battle of Amiens.

The Second Battles of the Somme, 1918:

The Battle of Albert. The Second Battle of Bapaume, 1918.

The Second Battles of Arras, 1918:

The Battle of the Scarpe, 1918. The Battle of the Drocourt-Quéant Line.

The Battles of the Hindenberg Line:

The Battle of Havrincourt. The Battle of Epéhy. The Battle of the Canal du Nord. The Attack on the Quadrilateral. The Battle of Cambrai, 1918. The Pursuit to the Selle.

The Final Advance:

I. Flanders. The Battle of Ypres, 1918. II. Artois. III. Picardy. The Battle of the Selle. The Battle of Valenciennes. The Battle of the Sambre.

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THE BATTLES OF THE MARNE: 1918 The Battle of Tardenois: 2o0th-31st July

HE operations on the Marne in 1918 have become 2/STH, famous in the history of the West Yorkshire Regiment, for }\ it was during July of that year that, in pressing the Germans back still further towards the Aisne, the 8th (Territorial) Battalion of the Regiment won the Croix de Guerre (an honour bestowed by the French upon only three British regiments), on the wooded heights of the Montaigne de Bligny. After the terrific fighting at Bucquoy, in which the 2/5th, 2/7th and 8th West Yorkshires were engaged, the 185th Brigade, in division, went out of the line for a short rest, but early in April (6th/7th) returned to the forward trenches again, taking over the right sub- sector of the Bucquoy sector. April was a comparatively quiet month, and towards the end the 62nd Division was again relieved, moving back to the Authie area in Corps Reserve, where, until the 16th May, training was carried out. On this date the division again went into the line, still in the same sector, the 186th Brigade taking over the left, and the 185th, on 17th, taking over the right sub-sectors. A period of active defence had set in following the German offensives on the Somme and the Lys, and gradually the Allies were acquiring new strength after the exhausting fighting of March and April. All up and down the front line minor “ affairs” with the enemy took place, though no attacks on a large scale on, or by the enemy, were made. On 23rd May the 2/7th West Yorkshires carried 23rp May. Out a minor enterprise on an enemy post in the neighbourhood of Bucquoy, but, being outnumbered, were eventually forced to retire. A few days later, on 24th, the enemy attacked a working party of the 8th Battalion, who lost one officer (Lieut. Pepper) and fourteen other ranks missing, and fourteen other ranks wounded. On 25th May (at 2-45 p.m.) the 2/5th West Yorkshires made a daylight raid on a hostile post south-west of Bucquoy, which yielded fourteen German prisoners, two machine-guns and a Granatennerfer, thus wiping out the enemy’s success on the 24th. The same night the Germans attempted to raid the 2/5th, but were repulsed. 295

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296 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

During May casualties, considering there were no large attacks, were heavy. The 2/7th Battalion lost its gallant Commanding Officer (Lieut.-Colonel C. K. James) who was wounded and died on 19th, a very great loss to the battalion, brigade and division. On the Ist June instructions were received at Divisional Headquarters that two more battalions of the division were to be reduced to training cadres. One of these battalions was the 2/7th West Yorkshires, and sore indeed were the hearts of officers and men when it was known that the battalion was practically to disappear from the line of active units. On 15th and 16th June the 2/7th West Yorkshires were reduced to cadre strength, cadres proceeding by rail to Boulogne and the surplus personnel of the battalion to the On 24th June the 62nd Division was relieved and moved back to the Pas area, Authieule, the 185th Brigade being located in Amplier and Terramesnil. A pleasant fortnight was spent out of the line in the Pas area, and then rumours reached the 62nd Division that a move south to some ““unknown destination” was to be made immediately. These rumours were followed by definite orders to the division to begin entrainment on 14th July. Briefly, the circumstances under which the 2/5th and 8th Battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment found themselves en route for the Marne are as follows : The German offensives on the Somme and Lys of March and April, 1918, had been followed by a violent attack on the Allied front, in which (as already shown) the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment (8th Division) sustained very heavy losses, the line of the Allies being pushed back south of the Marne, and when the 62nd Division journeyed south the German front, just north of Rheims and east of Compiégne, formed a huge salient with Chateau Thierry as its centre. The 62nd Division was, with the 51st Division, to be attached to, and fight with, French troops of the Fifth French Army which, in conjunction with the Ninth, Sixth and Tenth French Armies on the left, were to counter-attack the enemy with the intention of “ pinching off ”’ the German salient which bulged into the Allied line. This attack was to take place on the eastern and western extremities of the salient, 1.e., just south-west of Rheims and south-west of Soissons.? The 185th Brigade entrained at Doullens south and, after a long journey via Paris, detrained at Arcis, moving by motor buses to Juvigny-sur-Marne. On 17th July the three battalions of the 185th

2/7th West Yorkshires were replaced in the 185th Brigade by the 1/s5th Devons. 2The official despatches should be studied for fuller details of the Battles of the Marne, 1918

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1918 Marfaux, Chaumuzy and Bligny 297

Brigade were at Plivot, the 186th Brigade occupying Athis and 2/sTH AND Cherviole, and the 187th Brigade Bisseuil and Mareuil. On the 18th § Ons. July General Foch launched his counter-stroke between Chateau 18tu Jury. Thierry and Soissons, and dealt the Germans a surprise blow which at once gained ground. The time was then at hand for a similar attack on the enemy from the eastern side of the salient, and the 62nd and 51st Divisions were ordered to concentrate behind the IInd Italian Corps then holding the line in front of Serniers, St. Imoges and Hautvillers. The 62nd Division marched at § a.m. on 19th and concentrated 19TH Jury. in the following areas: 185th Brigade at St. Imoges, 186th at Germaine and 187th at Ferme d’Ecueil. The attack was ordered to begin at 8 a.m. on 20th July. The 62nd and sist Divisions, on the right and left respectively, were to attack up the valley of the Ardre river, the latter being the dividing line between the two divisions. The 62nd Division was to attack with the 187th Brigade on the right and the 185th Brigade on the left, the former Brigade forming up in front of Courmas and in the Bois de Rheims, and the 185th Brigade on the right in the Bois de Pourcy and around the village of Pourcy. The 8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel N. A. England) were to be the right attacking battalion of the 185th Brigade, and the 2/s5th West Yorkshires (Major R. Stewart, commanding) the left. The 1/5th Devons were the supporting battalion. The objective of the 8th and 2/5th West Yorkshires was the high ground along the line Chaumuzy— Bligny—Aubilly and, on reaching this position, the 1/5th Devons were to “ leap-frog ”’ to the line Sarcy—Le Gros Terme. The latter having been attained, the 186th Brigade was to “ leap-frog”’ the 185th and capture the line Tramery—high ground immediately south of Treslon. The villages of Marfaux and Cuitron were thus in the area to be attacked by the West Yorkshiremen. The valley of the Ardre varied from 2,000 to 3,000 yards in width. Much of it was gently undulating corn land, with the crops ripe for cutting and of sufficient height to afford excellent cover for attacking or defending troops. The villages of Marfaux, Chaumuzy and Bligny lay on the slope to the river, bounded by steep ridges and spurs, thickly wooded on the crests, whilst Cuitron, Espilly and Nappes were perched high up on the sides of the hills. Fighting of a kind vastly different from anything they had previously gone through now faced the West Yorkshiremen, and the 62nd Division generally. It could hardly be called open warfare for the attack would, in places, have to be made

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298 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

through thick forests, and even to take up their assembly positions the attacking troops had to move up through almost impenetrable woods, in which the enemy still lurked. Guerilla warfare was a more appropriate term. Through almost pitch-black forests, often losing their way, stumbling over the branches of fallen trees, and in the thick under- growth the three battalions of the 185th Brigade eventually reached their assembly positions, the 2/5th West Yorkshires and 1/5th Devons round Pourcy and the 8th West Yorkshires in the Bois de Pourcy. Dawn had broken before the attacking troops were in their assembly positions, and from the edge of the Bois de Pourcy the battered village of Marfaux could be seen away on the left flank ; Cuitron lay opposite the centre and the Bois de Petit Champ on the high ground, the southern slope of which was to form the right flank of the 8th West Yorkshires. In front of the latter battalion stretched a golden panorama of cornfields—a wonderful sight in the early morning light. Just before 8 a.m. the 187th Brigade, on the right, and 185th, on the left, reported all ready. The attack was to be made under a creeping barrage put down by French and Italian artillery, to fall 1,000 yards ahead of the forming-up positions of the 62nd Divisional infantry. At 8 a.m. the attack began. Brilliant sunshine flooded the cornfields and countryside generally. On the mght, the 187th Brigade made good progress. Courmas was taken and held, and good positions for continuing the attack on the following day were secured. On the left, the attack of the 185th Brigade does not appear to have made equal progress. The two battalions of West Yorkshires had a most difficult task. Their advance had to be made over a good deal of open ground, literally stuffed with enemy machine-gun posts commanding every approach to Marfaux and Cuitron, both of which stood on high ground. The 8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel N. A. England) attacked with two companies in the front line—‘‘ A” (Capt. G. G. Kinder), on the right, and ‘‘ B” (Capt. J. Appleyard) on the left. ‘“C” Company (Lieut. S. Bellhouse) was in support and “D” (Lieut. H. R. Burrows) in reserve. The attacking companies moved off in artillery formation, but soon came under heavy machine-gun fire. The French and Italian barrage had fallen too far ahead and left untouched the countless hostile machine-gun posts in the intervening space. ‘“‘ Within an hour of ‘ Zero,’”’ records the Battalion Diary, “the attack was

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1918 The 8th Battakon Loses Heavily 299 completely held up.” In front of Marfaux and Cuitron heavy 2/5TH AND

casualties were sustained. Isolated parties of the battalion held on to Br rations. positions they had gained throughout the day, but at nightfall had to 20TH Jury. vacate them. The losses of the 8th West Yorkshires were severe. Capts. G. G. Kinder and J. E. Appleyard, Lieut. T. W. M. Wilkinson, Second-Lieuts. E. H. Shuttleworth, W. H. Dawson, S. H. Bray and T. R. Williams were killed, and Lieut. J. H. Banton and Second- Lieuts. P. B. Wesley and W. Oliver were wounded. In other ranks the 8th lost 43 killed, 199 wounded and 20 missing ; three were reported wounded and missing and 26 were gassed. The battalion was relieved on 21st and moved back to Ecueil Farm. The 2/5th West Yorkshires (Major R. Stewart) shared a similar fate. With ‘“ D ” Company on the right, “‘ A ” on the left, ‘‘ C ” in support and ‘‘ B ”’ in reserve, the battalion advanced at 8 a.m. with Marfaux as its objective. From the volume of hostile machine-gun fire which almost immediately swept the front of the battalion, it was evident that the barrage had failed to do its work. The village and the woods were apparently full of Germans. One wood in particular, on the immediate left of the battalion, and in the area allotted to the 5st Division, was not examined by the latter, with the result that the hostile machine-gunners and riflemen in it were able to enfilade the West Yorkshiremen as they advanced. With great gallantry the battalion managed to reach a position just short of the village but, having suffered heavy casualties, could get no further. Even the support and reserve companies of the battalion could now number only about thirty men each. But the remnants of the 2/5th held on to the line they had gained, strengthened by some of the 1/5th Devons and the sth Hants. (186th Brigade). A message from Brigade Headquarters, stating that the 2/5th West Yorkshires were to be relieved, did not reach the battalion until daylight on 21st, by which time movement was impossible, and the West Yorkshires had to hang on until nightfall when, units of the 186th Brigade taking over the line, the 2/5th withdrew to Pourcy, where it was accommodated in cellars. The 2/5th West Yorkshires lost on 20th July Capt. K. W. Grigson and Second-Lieuts. de Ville, W. B. Schindler and R. Donkersley killed ; Capt. R. F. White, Lieuts. Dickes and Waugh, and Second-Lieuts. Weston, de Lacy, Sawney, Bardsley, Simpson and Walker wounded. Estimated casualties in N.C.O.’s and men were 400 killed, wounded and missing. On the 21st July the 185th Brigade was not actively engaged, the arst Jury. 8th West Yorkshires and the Devons remaining at Ecueil Farm and

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300 The West Yorkshire Regtment in the War 1918

the 2/5th West Yorkshires at Pourcy. The enemy’s shell-fire was heavy on this date and continued throughout the 22nd. On the latter date the 2/5th lost Second-Lieut. E. M. Kermode (a gallant officer who had already won the D.S.O., M.C., and D.C.M.) killed, and Second-Lieut. B. M. Riley wounded. So intense was the shell- fire on Pourcy that at dusk the battalion moved forward to the valley behind the village. The 8th West Yorkshires on this day were reorganised into two companies—No. I consisting of the personnel of “ A” and “B” Companies, and No. 2 the personnel of ‘‘ C ” and “‘ D ” Companies. At 9 p.m. the C.O. received orders to carry out an attack on the Bois de Petit Champ (in conjunction with an attack by the 186th Brigade on Marfaux and Cuitron) on the 23rd. The battalion therefore moved off to take up its assembly positions. At 6 a.m. on 23rd the 8th West Yorkshires were placed under the orders of the G.O.C., 186th Brigade, for the operations on that date. There was no time for reconnaissance, and the troops were led to their assembly positions which were reached without loss. Almost from the outset of the advance at “‘ Zero’ hour (6 a.m.) No. 2 Company, on the left, was held up by machine-gun fire and suffered severe casualties. Within half-an-hour all officers were out of action and command of the company was then taken by Sergt. J. Horne who, with great skill and gallantry, handled his men well, leading them after some stiff fighting to the outside of the wood and establishing a post which afterwards proved of great value. No. 1 Company (on the right) was more fortunate. Advancing in small sections and keeping touch as much as possible, the company cleared the edge of the wood of hostile machine-guns, thereby enabling the 186th Brigade (on the left) to go forward without being enfiladed by murderous machine- gun fire. The results of the day’s operations, so far as the 8th West Yorkshires were concerned, were the capture of the high ground overlooking Marfaux—a most important tactical feature—eighteen prisoners and nine machine-guns. The fight in the wood was most stubborn, large numbers of dead Germans being found afterwards. The 8th West Yorkshires lost in this attack Second-Lieut. F. Abe killed and Second-Lieuts. W. Metcalfe and H. Horton wounded ; seven other ranks were killed, thirty-three wounded and one was missing. On the morning of 24th patrols sent out reported the wood clear of the enemy, and about 1 p.m. the battalion was relieved and moved back to bivouacs in Ecueil Farm.

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1918 Marfaux Captured 301

Marfaux was captured on 23rd and a line established some four 2/5TH AND hundred yards beyond the village. BATTALIONS. In this attack the 2/5th West Yorkshires took no part, remaining in the valley behind Pourcy ; neither on the 24th was the battalion engaged. On the 25th the 8th West Yorkshires moved from Ecueil Farm 25TH Jury. at about 9-30 p.m. and relieved a French battalion in the Bois de Cuitron, becoming support battalion to a battalion of the 51st Division. But with the exception of some shelling the night was quiet. During the night of 26th/27th the 8th were relieved and moved back to the Farm, where a draft of ten officers and 200 men joined, and the battalion reorganised again on a four-company basis. On the 25th the 2/5th West Yorkshires had similarly relieved a French battalion which had been holding a line through, and in front of, Pourcy. In this position the battalion remained throughout the 26th, when six officers and 246 other ranks reported as reinforcements, though reorganisation could not be carried out as orders restricted movement during the day. The 27th was uneventful so far as the 2/5th and 8th West 277 Yorkshires were concerned. The 28th July was destined to become of great importance in the history of the West Yorkshire Regiment, for it was on this day that the 8th Battalion captured the Montaigne de Bligny and, for its gallantry, was awarded the Croix de Guerre, a high honour conferred

by the French on three British regiments only.?

"West Yorkshire, Devon Regiment, and Shropshire Light Infantry; a battery of R.F.A. ‘iso secured this honour.

Page 315


URING the afternoon of the 27th the 186th Brigade 2/sTH anp received orders to move forward to positions north of Chaumuzy, preparatory to an attack being carried out on the 28th, in conjunction with the 185th Brigade, on Bligny and the Montaigne de Bligny. The 186th Brigade was to be on the right and the 185th on the left. Of the latter the 1/5th Devons were to attack on the right and the 8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.- Colonel N. A. England) on the left; the 2/5th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel R. H. Waddy) were to support the 8th Battalion. During the night of 27th/28th the 8th West Yorkshires moved up to their assembly positions on the immediate left of the Chaumuzy- Sarcy road and just clear of the former village ; the 1/5th Devons were on the right with their right on the Ardre; the 2/5th West Yorkshires, the supporting battalion, were in the neighbourhood of Nardi Farm, north of Chaumuzy.! The objectives of the 186th Brigade (on the right) were a line between Bligny and the Arbre de Villers, and Bligny and the trench line west of it. That of the 185th Brigade, the old French line on the Montaigne de Bligny. “* Zero ” hour for the attack was 4-30 a.m. 28th July. At 4 a.m. the troops began to move forward to the attack, but 28Tx Jury. almost immediately ran into the hostile barrage, while heavy machine- gun fire swept the line of advance. The 186th Brigade, though suffering from extreme exhaustion, pushed on gallantly, won all its objectives, captured Bligny and consolidated the old French line. On the left of the 186th Brigade the 185th had also been splendidly successful. The 1/s5th Devons, though met with heavy machine-gun fire, particularly from Bligny, which had not then been captured by the 186th Brigade, but pushing on with dogged determination, reached the line of their objective about 7 a.m. But touch had not been

"The Battalion Diary of the 2/sth says: ‘“‘ Nardi Farm, north of Chaumuzy,”” but the t8sth Brigade Narrative of Operations says : ‘' Padre Farm, east of Chaumuzy.”’


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304 The West Yorksmre Regiment in the War 1918

obtained on the right with the 186th Brigade and ‘‘ A ” Company of the 2/5th West Yorkshires (from support) was sent up to form a defensive flank on the right of the Devons ; this company arrived at 10-30 a.m. and established its position on the right of the Devons, thus protecting the right flank of the latter battalion. Meanwhile the 8th West Yorkshires had advanced on the left of the 1/5th Devons. The battalion went forward in artillery formation, companies being disposed as follows: “‘ D” (Capt. D. P. Reay) on the right, ““C”’ (Capt. N. Muller) on the left, ““ B” (Lieut. H. R. Burrows) behind “ D,”’ and “‘ A ” (Capt. G. M. Hirst) in rear of “‘ C.” “The men went forward in splendid style,” recorded the Battalion Diary. It will be remembered that on the 27th a third party of ten officers and 200 other ranks had arrived as reinforcements, and the battalion had only just been reorganised into four companies of three platoons each before going forward to the attack. Platoon sergeants had mostly to be drawn from young lance-corporals who were quite strangers, while the Lewis gun teams could be given no more than two trained gunners. Amongst the reinforcements were many youngsters just out from England, who had never before been under fire. When these facts are borne in mind it will be conceded that the results of these operations were even more remarkable considering the dis- advantages under which the battalion attacked the enemy. It was still dark when the 8th advanced with only the faintest suggestion of approaching dawn. All went well until the foot of the Montaigne was reached. But by this time dawn had broken. Suddenly the sharp report of a rifle rang out, and then from all sides rifles and machine-guns spluttered and cracked from scores of hidden em- placements on the hillside. There was a check which, however, did not last long, for the West Yorkshires changed their tactics of a steady advance to one of quick rushes by sections. Gradually progress was made and the line crept slowly up the hill. Soon there was hesitation amongst the enemy troops and the West Yorkshires, rushing in with the bayonet, completed the discomfiture of the Germans for, though they gallantly tried to stay the advance of the British troops, they could not do so; eventually they turned and fled, and the whole line of the attacking troops pressed on and drove the enemy from the crest of the hill. As the attack progressed so the usual “‘ clearing ’ operations had to be carried out. Dug-outs were

searched, the wood was “‘ mopped-up ” and, pushing on up through the vines, the attackers reached the line of old disused trenches where a

few lingering Germans were captured.

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1918 Montaigne de Bigny Captured 305

The whole line was then consolidated, 1/5th Devons on the 2/5TH AND right, 8th West Yorkshires on the left, ‘“‘D” and “‘ A’? Companies STH


of the 2/5th West Yorkshires being attached, one to the former 281TH Jury. battalion, the other to the latter, the remaining two companies re- maining in close support.

Thus the Montaigne de Bligny fell to the 8th West Yorkshires after a most gallant fight.!

The battalion losses were Capt. N. Muller killed, three officers wounded and two missing ; in other ranks thirteen killed, ninety- three wounded, nine missing and two gassed. The battalion captured

sixty-nine prisoners and nine machine-guns. The 2/5th West Yorkshires had only three or four casualties.

On the morning of 29th it was reported that the 185th Brigade did not occupy the whole of the Red Line on the Montaigne de Bligny, the enemy being in possession of a strip of trench about 150 yards in length on the top of the Montaigne, from which he obtained good observation. Orders were then issued that this

remaining portion should be captured, and ‘“‘ D”’ Company of the 2/5th West Yorkshires was ordered to carry out the attack. Two platoons were ordered to capture and establish themselves in the old French line, the other two platoons to pass through and gain a position 150 yards north-west, whence observation would be obtain- able in the village of Sarcy. The attack was launched at 7-45 p.m. The first objective was captured, but of the two platoons which passed through and went forward to the second objective nothing more was heard. They appear to have lost direction and been captured. In this small operation Second-Lieut. Colle and six other ranks were killed, Second-Lieut. Jennings and forty-five other ranks were missing, and about twenty men were gassed. The remainder of ‘““D ” Company was relieved during the night by troops of the 51st Division. The 8th Battalion continued to hold the had gained on the 28th, but was similarly relieved after dark on 29th by troops of the 51st Division. The battalion during the day had lost one officer

(Second-Lieut. R. Firth) wounded and missing, two other ranks killed and one wounded.

On relief, both the 2/5th and 8th West Yorkshires moved back to Chaumuzy. On the 30th July the 185th Brigade, at nightfall,

Citation of the Award of the Croix de Guerre to the 8th West Yorkshires is given in full in the Appendices.


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306 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

31st JuLy. bivouacked in the neighbourhood of Eceuil Farm, and on the morning of 31st marched to bivouacs in the woods north of St. Imoges and to the west of Epernay. On the 31st July the 62nd Division entrained and left the Marne and moved north again to an area behind the British line between Amiens and Ypres.

Page 319


HE definite collapse of the ambitious German offensive of 15th July against the French, and the striking success of the Allied counter-offensive south of the Aisne, caused a complete change in the whole military situation. The Germans had made their great and final effort and had failed. When the success of Marshal Foch’s counter- stroke of 18th July was assured, plans were at once prepared for certain local offensives to be carried out as soon as possible. On the British front these were the disengagement of Amiens and the freeing of the Paris—Amiens Railway by an attack on the Albert— Montdidier front. The French and Americans were to free other strategic railways further south and east. The situation along the British front also offered opportunities for certain other schemes, such as the disengagement of Hazebrouck, by the recapture of Kemmel Hill, and an attack in the direction of La Bassée. Subsequently plans were made for attacks to be “‘ pressed in a converging direction towards Meziéres by the French and American Armies, while at the same time the British Armies, attacking towards the line St. Quentin—Cambrai, would strike directly on the vital lateral communications running through Maubeuge to Hirson and Meziéres, by which alone the German forces on the Champagne front could be supplied and maintained.’”’ It was thus obviously vital to the enemy to preserve intact his defences opposite the front St. Quentin—Cambrai, and for this purpose he depended on that great fortified zone—the Hindenburg Line. Briefly, such was the situation along the British front when “* The Advance to Victory ” began, and of which Sir Douglas Haig said in his despatches : ‘“‘ I am convinced that the British attack was the essential part of the general scheme,” and this is borne out by reference to any map of France and Flanders giving the positions of the opposing forces at that period.

‘Official despatches. 307

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308 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

There were in France and Flanders on 8th August, 1918, thirteen battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment. The Ist (6th Division) was holding front line trenches just west of Vierstraat; the 2nd (8th Division) was in camp west of Arras ; the 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th (of the 49th Division) were in the Ypres Salient; the 2/5th, 2/7th and 8th (62nd Division) were in the Pas area ; the 9th (11th Division) in the reserve line of the St. Elie sector; the roth (17th Division) from Herissart was on the march to Bois ]’Abbaye to join the Fourth Army ; the 15th/17th (31st Division) was east of Meteren in front of the Becque stream, and the 21st (Pioneers) of the 4th Division, were at La Vallée, west of Paradis.’

IThe 11th Battalion (23rd Division) was in Italy, and wil] be dealt with in the narrative of the operations on the Italian front.

Page 321

THE ADVANCE IN PICARDY: 8th August—3rd September, 1918

The Battle of Amiens: 8th-11th August, 1918

T 4-20 a.m. on 8th August, massed artillery opened intense 8TH Avuc. fire along the whole front between the Amiens—Roye and the Amiens—Albert roads. The enemy’s batteries were literally crushed by the bombardment, some of which never came into action at all. Under this terrific fire, British infantry and tanks advanced to the assault and the first objectives, the line Demuin—Marcel- cave—Cerisy and almost to Morlancourt, were gained rapidly. A two hours’ halt was followed by a further attack, when the German line was driven still further back. On the morning of the 8th August, battalions of the soth Brigade (17th Division) were occupied in training in the Herissart area, or in route marching, when sudden orders were received for the 17th Division to march southward in the direction of Amiens. The 1oth West Yorkshires set out at 1-30 p.m., and on the road news was 10TH received of the successful Allied attack that morning between Mont- BATTALION. didier and the River Somme. Early in April the roth West Yorkshires (in Brigade) had moved from Hennencourt to the Pernois area, north-west of Amiens, where a busy week, reorganising, refitting and absorbing reinforcements, was spent. About the middle of the month the 17th Division went into the line between Mesnil and Beaumont Hamel. On the evening of 21st the enemy attacked and, after capturing the advanced posts of the roth Derby Regiment, succeeded in taking four of the advanced posts garrisoned by the roth West Yorkshires. A counter- attack was launched on 22nd, but was apparently unsuccessful. On the 23rd the soth Brigade was relieved, the roth West Yorkshires moving back to Forceville. The operations in the line had cost the battalion four officers! and seventy-seven other ranks killed, wounded and missing. May, June and July were uneventful, but on Ist August the battalion carried out a very successful raid on the enemy’s trenches.

J. R. King killed (21/4/18), Second-Lieut. M. Daysh killed (22/4/18), Lieut. F. D. Dams missing, Second-Lieut. S. Moulson wounded.


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310 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

On the 16th July the soth Brigade had relieved the 52nd Brigade in the Bouzincourt sector, just north of Albert. In this sector there was a sunken road some three hundred yards behind the German front line ; this spot was selected for the raid. For a week before the raid the raiding party of West Yorkshires, consisting of four officers and seventy other ranks of ‘‘ D ” Company, under the command of Capt. M. F. Smith, practised the attack over facsimile trenches behind the lines. The raid was carried out at 9-10 p.m. on Ist August, under the usual creeping and stationary artillery and Stokes-mortar barrages. The raiding party remained in the enemy’s lines for twenty minutes, during which some thirty Germans were killed and sixteen taken prisoner, together with one light machine-gun. Two dug-outs were demolished. Six of the prisoners belonged to a German pioneer company, and when interrogated stated that they were actually engaged at the time of the raid in laying charges for the destruction of the dug-outs in the sunken road, in preparation for a withdrawal of the enemy to the eastern bank of the River Ancre. Other extremely valuable information was obtained, and the roth West Yorkshires subsequently received a warm letter of congratulation from Sir John Byng, the Third Army Commander. No casualties were suffered by the raiding party. Two officers had become casualties during the 1st August— Second-Lieut. W. H. Hirst was killed and Second-Lieut. R. G. Jones wounded. On the night of 5th/6th August the battalion (in Brigade) was relieved and marched back to Herissart, and it was from this village that all battalions of the Brigade set out on the march on Amiens at mid-day after the successful Allied attack on the morning of 8th August. The roth West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel G. K. Butt, com- manding) were not, however, engaged with the enemy in the Battle of Amiens. Having reached Bois l’Abbaye on the 8th August the battalion moved to Corbie on 9th where, for two days, orders were awaited. At the close of the battle, the 17th Division, on 12th August, relieved the 3rd Australian Division in the neighbourhood of Proyart, the roth West Yorkshires taking over front line trenches from an Australian battalion. By the night of 12th August the British line had reached the general line of the old Roye—Chaulnes defences, and the enemy had received a hard blow ; indeed, as General Ludendorff said : “ August

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1918 Germany’s Black Day 311

8th was the black day of the German Army’ in the history of this war. This was the worst experience that I had to go through.” There was worse to follow. The results of the Battle of Amiens were far-reaching. The town, and the railway centring upon it, had been disengaged—such were the strategic gains. But perhaps the most important effect was that upon the morale both of the British and German troops. Everywhere along the British front there was enthusiasm and a splendid feeling of confidence—the “‘ will to win ” had come to stay. Everywhere along the German front there was despondency, for the German soldiery, buoyed up by the hope of immediate and decisive victory in the offensives of March, April and July, and constantly assured that the Allied reserves were exhausted, had begun to realise that they had been duped and gulled, and the reaction was deep and


‘In the Battle of Amiens the Allies took nearly 22,000 prisoners and over 400 guns.

Page 325

THE SECOND BATTLES OF THE SOMME, 1918 The Battle of Albert, 1918: 21st-23rd August

HE BATTLE OF AMIENS was followed on 21st August by an attack between Albert and Arras in a south- easterly direction with the idea of turning the line of the Somme, south of Péronne. This was the Battle of Albert, 21st-23rd August.! On the 21st the attack by the Third Army was of a limited nature, the line of the Arras—Albert railway, north of the Ancre, being the objective. The 22nd was used to get guns and troops into position on this front, and to bring forward the left of the Fourth Army between the Somme and the Ancre. The principal attack was delivered on 23rd by the Third Army and those divisions of the Fourth Army which lay north of the Somme, the remaining divisions of the Fourth Army pushing forward south of the river to cover the flank of the main operation. At 4-55 a.m. on 21st the [Vth and VIth Corps of the Third Army attacked on a front of about nine miles north of the Ancre, from Miraumont to Moyenneville, carried the enemy’s defences rapidly and without difficulty reached the general line of the railway on practically the whole front, Achiet-le-Petit, Logeast Wood, Cour- celles and Moyenneville falling into the hands of the assaulting troops. The 21st Division of the Vth Corps assisted by clearing the northern bank of the Ancre about Beaucourt. Early next morning (22nd) Albert was captured and the British line between the Somme and the Ancre was advanced well to the east of the Bray—Albert road. The way was then clear for the main operations on 23rd. Meanwhile, at 8 p.m. on 22nd, the soth Brigade (17th Division), which at noon on 21st had moved into reserve trenches running through Englebelmer and Mailly Maillet, received orders to relieve the 110th Brigade (21st Division), then holding the line of the Ancre north of Hamel, and to be ready to attack on 24th. The relief was carried out under very great difficulties. Only one crossing over the Ancre was possible, and this was well known to

‘Tt will be seen that the battle was still in progress on 24th August; the period of the operations therefore needs extending.


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314 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

the enemy and a target for his guns. The valley was full of gas and the 110th Brigade had only two companies across the river, but in view of the forthcoming attack it was desirable to push one, and if possible two, battalions of the soth Brigade across during the night to establish a strong bridgehead and a “‘ jumping-off ” line up the slopes of the Thiepval Ridge. The Dorsets were across by § a.m. on 23rd, but only after wading through, practically every man being wet up to his waist. It was then too late for the 1oth West Yorkshires to get across Owing to approaching daylight. The Dorsets, across the river, were engaged all day in trench fighting, clearing the old trench system immediately east of the river and making room within the Brigade boundaries for the West Yorkshiremen, who were to cross over as soon as it was dark. The roth Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel W. Gibson commanding) began to cross at 5-30 p.m., ‘‘ A’ Company leading, the men having to pass in single file over the only crossing, shelled heavily all the while. ‘“ D” Company followed “ A,’”’ and the two companies moved into Common Lane, north of Thiepval Wood and south of St. Pierre Divion. “C” and “ B” crossed at 7-30 and 9-30 p.m. respectively, taking up positions in rear of ““D” and‘ A.” At 11-30 p.m. the battalion took up its assembly positions, about three hundred yards west of, and parallel with, Common Lane, for the attack on Thiepval Ridge—‘ A ”’ and “‘ D ”’ in the front line, “ B ” and “‘C”’ in support. The battalion was on the right of the 6th Dorset Regiment, also of the soth Brigade. The attack began at I a.m. on 24th under a heavy barrage, and by 1-55 a.m. the first objective was taken and prisoners began to arrive at Battalion Headquarters. At 3-20 a.m. a message was received from the left front company that the final objective had been reached. This was followed shortly afterwards by a similar message from the right front company, but the right of the battalion was in the air for a distance of some two thousand yards, and the left flank was unprotected excepting for three platoons of the Dorsets. The line at this period ran from north-east to south-west (the Red Line) between the site of Mouquet Farm and the ruins of Thiepval village, and the success of the attack was due largely to the gallantry and initiative of Second-Lieut. J. C. Braithwaite of the roth West Yorkshires. In the advance to the Red Line heavy fighting had taken place, the enemy’s machine-gunners putting up a very stubborn resistance, but in almost every instance the Germans were outflanked from the rear and seven officers, 240 other ranks and eighteen machine-guns

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1918 A Big Haul of Prisoners 315

were captured. This big haul of prisoners was due to the initiative Ban of Lieut. Braithwaite, who led his company through the British 2074 Avo. barrage to a position in rear of the final objective. Here he waited till the barrage lifted and then attacked the enemy from behind whilst the other companies made a frontal attack. This officer’s company alone captured 120 prisoners. ‘‘ This bold leading by Second-Lieut. J. C. Braithwaite,” records the Battalion Diary, ‘“‘ was beyond all praise. He possesses all the qualities of a leader together with instinct for seizing fleeting opportunities and taking full advantage of any enemy Another Company Commander (Second-Lieut. F. Kirk, ‘“‘ D ” Company) also led his men with great dash and deter- mination. This officer had a fight with a German officer, wounding

the latter twice before he surrendered.

By 12 noon the Thiepval Ridge had been reached, and the roth West Yorkshires were in touch with the 7th East Yorkshires on the left, and 38th Division on the right.

At 2 p.m. the advance on Poziéres began and by 4 p.m. it had been captured. This village was out of the soth Brigade area of attack, but the brigade had lost direction somewhat and advanced on the village. Its capture, however, enabled the 38th Division (on the right) to take over three hundred prisoners, though it left a gap on the left between the soth Brigade and the 21st Division. The enemy counter-attacked at Poziéres at 4-30 and, though well supported by his artillery, was driven off with great loss. A second counter-attack was launched at 5-30 a.m., hostile guns of all calibre and trench-mortars covering the enemy’s attack. In view of the open flanks of the West Yorkshires and East Yorkshires, and the volume of the enemy’s fire, which included machine-gun fire from both flanks, a retirement was made to a line of trenches north-west of Poziéres, but at 11 p.m. the enemy withdrew from Poziéres.

The day’s operations had caused the roth Battalion heavy casualties amongst the officers : Lieut.-Colonel Gibson was wounded, but remained at duty; Lieut. F. Frith and Second-Lieuts. J. A. Rhodes and H. S. Thornsby were killed, and Second-Lieuts. E. Cotterill, R. C. Legg, T. H. Goulding and A. J. Thomas were wounded. Lieut. E. Addington was ‘“ missing.” Casualties in other ranks are not given.

At 7-15 a.m. on 25th August orders were received for a continua- tion of the advance, the 32nd Brigade on the right and the 51st

‘He was subsequently awarded the D.S.O.

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316 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

Brigade on the left ; the soth Brigade was to follow in support. But on the 25th! and 26th the roth West Yorkshires were not engaged with the enemy but (in brigade) followed up the advance of the two forward brigades of the 17th Division. At 9 p.m. on the latter date, however, orders were issued personally to the soth Brigade to pass through the §2nd and 51st Brigades and carry on the attack during the night. The 52nd and 51st Brigades were at the time holding a line running north and south between Eaucourt l’Abbaye and Flers.

The first objective allotted to the soth Brigade was Flers, inclusive, to the Factory Corner, and if this position was gained the advance was to be continued on Gueudecourt. It was a particularly black night and the time allowed to get into assembly positions was very short. By 12-30 a.m., however, the roth West Yorkshires, on the right of the Brigade front, were assembled in position ready to advance on Flers: the 6th Dorsets were on the left of the West Yorkshiremen. At I a.m. the attack began, the West Yorkshires first encounter- ing the enemy on the hill west of, and overlooking, Flers. These trenches were cleared without trouble and a few machine-guns were captured. But in the trenches immediately west of Flers, and in the orchards at the southern end of the village, fierce fighting took place, and it was not until 4 a.m. that these positions had been won, the 10th West Yorkshires at that time having two companies east of the village and two just west of it. Second-Lieut. F. Kirk, with one-and- a-half platoons, reached a sunken road seven hundred yards east of Flers, and for two hours held on in the face of violent attacks by the enemy. But in the end, having only six men left, he was forced to retire. About 7-30 a.m. a strong counter-attack, supported by heavy artillery and intense machine-gun fire, was launched by the enemy from the high ground north-east and south-east of Flers and the position east of Flers became untenable. A withdrawal was therefore made to a position west of the village where a strong line was taken up and held throughout the day. That evening the brigade was ordered rest and reorganisation for twenty-four hours. During the day the roth West Yorkshires had captured 140 prisoners and fourteen machine-guns. Second-Lieut. H. Banks was killed and Second-Lieut. B. J. Jaseman wounded, but again other rank casualties are not recorded.

10n 2sth August Second-Liecut. A. B. P. Woodd died of wounds.

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1918 2/5th Battalion Disbanded 317

On the night of 28th/29th the soth Brigade was relieved by the Ban 51st Brigade and moved back to the valley between Martinpuich and Eaucourt |’Abbaye. Between the 22nd and 28th August the roth West Yorkshires had captured 450 prisoners and 32 machine-guns, also transport wagons, horses and trench-mortar stands—a very creditable performance. On the night of 30th/31st the 5oth Brigade moved up to positions 30TH/318T north and north-east of Flers, in Divisional support, relieving the “US 52nd Brigade.’ In the meantime, north of Thiepval, whilst the roth West Yorkshires had been having hard fighting in and about Flers, another battalion of the Regiment—the 8th—of the 62nd Division, had come again into the field. The 62nd Division, after the operations on the Marne in July, arrived in the Third Army area early in August, and on 2Sth relieved the 2nd Division in the front line, Sapignies—Behagnies to just south of Ervillers, whence the line took a turn eastwards round the northern exits of Mory to Mory Copse, the latter inclusive. The 185th Brigade, to which the 8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel N. England) belonged, was in Divisional reserve in the valley west of Courcelles, and it was not until the night 27th/28th August that the brigade took over the left of the Divisional front line, then part of the old Third Army line north of Beugnatre, from the 187th Brigade, the 8th West Yorkshires moving into the Brigade left sub-sector.

The 2/5th West Yorkshires, who had fought so gallantly with 2/5TH the 62nd Division on the Marne, had, in the meantime, been dis- BATTALION. banded. The disbandment took place whilst the division was in the Pas area, the Battalion Diary of 9th August containing the following entry : “ 62nd Divisional letter A/303/67 of 8/8/18 received. The letter confirms the rumour that this battalion is to be disbanded owing to lack of reinforcements. The esprit de corps of the battalion was at a very high standard. The N.C.O.’s and men are to be divided (a) to complete the 8th West Yorkshire Regiment to an establishment of goo, (b) amongst the various Yorkshire regiments in the division. The disposal of the officers is not yet settled . . . At 2-15 the C.O. (Lieut.-Colonel R. H. Waddy) paraded the battalion and told them the sad news.”’ The blow fell most heavily upon the officers, for the majority were to be transferred to other divisions, while the men were to stay with their beloved division. At 11-20 a.m. on 13th August Aug.


‘It will be seen from the foregoing account that the Battle of Albert did not end as the Report of the Battles Nomenclature Committee states, on 23rd August.

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318 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

the gallant 2/5th Battalion, one of the smartest and hardest fighting battalions of the 62nd Division, ceased to exist. It was replaced in the 185th Brigade by the 2,/20th London Regiment from Palestine— the Brigade now consisting of the 8th West Yorkshire Regiment, 1/5th Devon Regiment and 2/20th London Regiment. To return to the 8th Battalion. During the 28th August the 8th West Yorkshires pushed out patrols with the object of keeping touch with the enemy, and cleared Banks Trench, but the enemy were strongly posted in the neighbour- hood and near the Sugar Factory. During the afternoon of 29th VIth Corps Headquarters ordered the 62nd Division to capture the villages of Vaulx-Vraucourt and Vrau- court at dawn on 30th. Time for preparing for the attack was very limited. The division was to attack with the 186th Brigade on the right and the 185th Brigade on the left, the 2/20th London Regiment of the latter, supported by the 8th West Yorkshires, carrying out the assault of that Brigade. ‘“‘ Zero’? hour was § a.m. The frontage of the attack allotted to the 2/20th Londoners was the northern half of Vaulx-Vraucourt, the whole of Vraucourt and a line running directly north as far as Vraucourt Trench. The latter being at right-angles to the line of attack, the 8th West Yorkshires were to deal with this trench and keep down enfilade fire, thus securing the left flank of the advance. ‘‘ A” and ‘“ D ”’ Companies of the battalion were detailed for this task. Banks Trench was cleared and held, but as the left company “ B ” of the Londoners was held up, the West Yorkshiremen were unable to make further progress and the position gained was consolidated after posts had been formed. At 4-I5 p.m. orders were received from VIth Corps Head- quarters if Vaulx-Vraucourt was not captured by the morning of 31st, a fresh attack was to be organised with the object of gaining the whole of the ground east of the village. The village had noz been captured, and therefore another attack was ordered and organised.

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THE SECOND BATTLE OF BAPAUME, 1918, 31st August—3rd September

OTH the 8th and roth Battalions of the Regiment were 8rx engaged in this battle, the former on Ist and the latter on BATTALION. 2nd September. 31st AvG. The 8th Battalion records that on the 31st August nothing of importance occurred throughout the day, though along the front held by the 62nd Division attacks were still going on. During the afternoon, however, orders were received by 185th Brigade to clear Vaulx-Vraucourt of the enemy, ‘‘ Zero ”’ hour for the attack being 6 a.m. on 1st September, the 8th West Yorkshires to carry out the attack. About 4 a.m. on Ist the battalion reached its assembly position— «st Sept. I.7 central—and formed up for the attack. “ D” and ‘‘ C” Com- panies were to clear the village, “A” and “ B” passing through when that operation had been completed—‘ A” to capture Vaulx Trench between the three sunken roads running north-west from the village, ‘‘ B ’’ the high ground running south from Vaulx Trench. If these objectives were gained “‘ C ’? Company was to swing east and come up between “‘ B ” Company on the left and the 186th Brigade on the right. About twenty minutes before ‘‘ Zero” the enemy put down a very heavy barrage on the whole valley south of Vaulx-Vraucourt, searching the ground thoroughly over which the advance was to take place. But although the shells fell with uncanny precision over the line of advance the West Yorkshiremen escaped with only a few casualties, and when at “‘ Zero” hour the Divisional barrage fell on Vaulx-Vraucourt, the two leading companies went forward rapidly and with fine dash. Without much trouble the village was cleared, for the place had become a veritable death-trap. Deep dug-outs and cellars, which had at first sheltered the enemy, were now blocked with fallen debris and rendered quite untenable, so that with nothing to Shield him the enemy was forced to clear out. Clear of the village ‘“‘ A” and “‘ B” Companies made gallant efforts to reach Vaulx Trench, but again a murderous machine- gun fire swept the line of advance and all ‘‘ A’? Company could

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320 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

accomplish was the occupation of a small trench running parallel with Vaulx Trench. At this period the bravest men in the German Armies were the machine-gunners, who held their ground with marvellous tenaciiy ; they fought splendidly, but they were attacked by troops who were not to be denied. “B” and “C” Companies of the West Yorkshires were similarly held up at the eastern exits of Vaulx-Vraucourt, but they had secured a good “‘ jumping-off ”’ position for further attacks, but this was the only tangible result of the attack. At 8 a.m. the line held ran along the eastern outskirts of the village, along the railway line to the trench running parallel with Vaulx Trench. At nightfall a line of posts was established east and north of the village. The battalion lost in the attack on 1st September Second-Lieuts. W. M. Bryson and H. Clidero killed and five officers wounded ; in other ranks the casualties were 18 killed, 87 wounded and 11 missing. At 3-30 a.m. on 2nd, information reached the 8th West Yorkshires that troops of the 187th Brigade were to attack through their line at 5-30 a.m. The West Yorkshires were to occupy Vaulx Trench after it had been cleared by the 187th Brigade. Later, after the attack had taken place, ‘“‘ A’? Company moved up and occupied Vaulx Trench as far as the Noreuil road, but “‘ D” Company could not occupy the length of trench allotted to it as the enemy’s machine-gun fire was still too heavy. Owing to the impor- tance of the position, however, the battalion attacked the enemy and cleared him out of the trench during the afternoon ; a chain of posts was then established round the north-eastern exits of the village. On the night of 2nd/3rd the 2nd Division relieved the 62nd Division and the 185th Brigade was withdrawn to Behagnies and Sapignies. Meanwhile the roth West Yorkshires had again entered into the battlefield. The roth (in Brigade), on the night of 28th/29th, had moved back into Divisional Reserve, to the valley between Martin- puich and Eaucourt l’Abbaye, where for two days the West Yorkshire- men made the most of the brief rest allowed them. On the night of 30th/31st, however, the soth Brigade moved forward again to relieve the 52nd Brigade in positions north and north-east of Flers. On the morning of 1st September the attack was to be resumed along the whole of the Vth Corps front, the 52nd Brigade being the leading Brigade of the 17th Division and the soth in support. The objective for the 1st September was Le Transloy. At 5 a.m. on ist the 52nd Brigade attacked and, finding the village strongly held by the enemy, was unable to reach the Bapaume—

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1918 Rocquigny Taken 321

Péronne road. The attack was to be resumed on the morning of the 10TH ond by the 52nd Brigade, the soth Brigade moving closer up during ®*7™*!0%- the night—the roth West Yorkshires to the high ground west of Le Transloy. The second attack on the village was begun at 5 a.m. on 2nd, and 2np Sept. at 7 a.m. the 21st Division, on the left of the 52nd Brigade (17th Division) were reported to have captured the Sugar Factory north of Le Transloy. The 52nd Brigade had reached the Bapaume—Péronne main road but could get no further. Just south of the Sugar Factory a “‘ pocket’ of the enemy was holding up the advance, and, as all troops of the 52nd Brigade had already been involved in the operations, two companies of the East Yorkshires (soth Brigade) were detailed to mop-up the “ pocket,” which they most gallantly did, capturing a German officer and fifty men with five machine-guns. Soon after mid-day the whole of Le Transloy was captured. At 5 p.m. on the same afternoon orders were received by Brigade Headquarters from Divisional Headquarters that the soth Brigade was to attack Rocquigny, and the time suggested for the attack was 8 p.m. that night. The 7th East Yorkshires were ordered to attack on the right and the roth West Yorkshires on the left, under a heavy barrage. The West Yorkshires received their orders at 6-25 p.m. and moved off to assembly positions which need closer description, as it will be remembered that the battalion, when orders were received for the attack, lay in the valley between Le Transloy and Gueude- court. Rocquigny, the objective of the attack, was protected by an old trench system which ran round the western, southern and eastern exits of the village. In order to avoid this it was decided to attack the village from the north-west. A line of assembly was therefore selected immediately south-east of Villers-au-Flos, the line on which the roth West Yorkshires formed up being described in co-ordinates as ‘* O.13.d.5.0. to that is to say north-west of Rocquigny. At 8 p.m. the barrage opened, and at 8-8 p.m. the attacking infantry began their advance. Rocquigny was found weakly held and, after some hand-to-hand fighting, had been captured by 10 p.m. and patrols pushed out to the trench system east of the village. Twenty- four Germans and two machine-guns were captured by the West Yorkshiremen. On the 3rd the advance was continued, the soth Brigade acting 3rp Sepr.

as advanced guard to the 17th Division. By 3-30 p.m. the leading y

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322 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

battalion had reached the high ground between Ytres and Etricourt, overlooking the Canal du Nord, but hostile machine-gun fire from the eastern banks of the Canal was heavy and a halt was called. At 5 p.m. the forward move continued, and a little later the soth Brigade had reached the line of the railway just west of, and parallel with, the Canal. The Brigade front was held by the 7th East Yorkshires on the right and the roth West Yorkshires on the left. The soth Brigade now halted for the night with outposts along the line of the railway. Thus, so far as the 8th and roth West Yorkshires were concerned, ended the second Battle of Bapaume,


Page 335

THE SECOND BATTLES OF ARRAS, 1918 The Battle of the Scarpe, 1918: 26th-30th August

HE Battles of Amiens and Albert had driven deeply into 2np, orn, the enemy’s front, and by the 25th August his positions AND 218T opposite Arras formed a salient which gave Sir Douglas BATTALIONS, Haig opportunities for launching the third stage of his attack. By driving eastwards from Arras, covered on the left by the Rivers Scarpe and Sensée, the First Army would endeavour to turn the enemy’s positions on the Somme battlefield and cut his system of railway com- munication which ran south-west across their front. In the first of these operations—the Battle of the Scarpe—three battalions of the Regiment, 2nd (8th Division), 9th (11th Division) and the 21st (Pioneers of the 4th Division) were in the battle area, though as will be seen later they were not heavily engaged with the enemy. After the operations in April the 21st Battalion (Pioneers) spent 21sT several months in the La Vallée area, moving on 24th August to BATTALION. Camblain Chatelain, thence on 25th, by rail, to Framecourt, and by march, on 26th, to Camblain l’Abbé. The 27th was a rest day, but on 28th motor buses carried the battalion up to the line east of Monchy, which by this date had been captured. On the 29th all companies were hard at work clearing and repairing the forward roads, one N.C.O. being killed and two men wounded during the day. On the 30th and 31st the work was continued, two more other ranks being wounded on the former date ; Second-Lieut. G. H. Pridmore 31st Aue. was killed and four men wounded on 3Ist. The 8th Division, after the heavy losses it had suffered on the 2ND Marne in May, moved gradually north again to the British front. On BATTALION. gth June the 23rd Brigade Group left Etrechy for Broussy le Grand, where five days were spent. On 14th the Brigade entrained at Broussy for the Heucourt area, arriving on the 15th, the 2nd West Yorkshires billeting at Metigny. On the roth a draft of 616 all ranks joined the battalion, bringing it once more up to strength, or nearly so. Several more moves took place until, on 15th July, the 15TH Jury. 23rd Brigade Group reached the Hautebut area, where training was resumed previous to going into the line. 323

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318T AUG.



324 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

On 18th July warning was received from Divisional Headquarters that the division was to move to the First Army area by train on 19th, the 23rd Brigade being ordered to Mont St. Eloi. On reaching the latter place the Brigade received orders to relieve the 156th Brigade in the Acheville sector on 21st July. The relief duly took place, but it was not until the afternoon of 26th that the 2nd West Yorkshires went into the front line trenches, relieving the 2nd Middlesex in the left sub-sector of the Brigade front. The strength of the battalion was now thirty-two officers and 871 other ranks. Little of importance happened during the latter part of July and the early days of August, the 2nd Battalion being relieved on the 5th of the latter month and moving back to Fraser Camp, where training was carried out until 14th, when the West Yorkshires moved up to Thelus Post in Brigade Reserve. The middle of the month was marked by increased activity on the part of the enemy’s guns, and on 17th Thelus Post was heavily shelled with mustard gas, six officers and twenty-six other ranks of the 2nd West Yorkshires being ** gassed.” On the 19th the West Yorkshires relieved the Middlesex in the front line, Battalion Headquarters being just north of Farbus Station. Active patrolling was carried out each night, but the enemy was still deluging the line with gas shells, and on the night of 23rd/24th no less than ninety casualties were suffered in “‘ B” and “ D” Com- panies ; four more officers were also “ gassed.”” As a result of the successful attack by the Canadians on Monchy on 26th August, the enemy evacuated the Arleux Loop opposite the 23rd Brigade front and the Brigade line was immediately advanced, but the enemy still held on to Britannia Trench, which he defended by bombing parties and machine-guns. Two platoons, each from “A” and ‘‘ Companies of the West Yorkshires, tried to get into Britannia Trench on the night of 28th, but it was too well wired to admit of penetration without artillery bombardment. In this attempt Second-Lieut. B. E. Whiteley was killed. The following evening two platoons from “ B ” Company did succeed in advancing up Oak Alley and establishing a post at Winnipeg Road, but the enemy’s resistance was too strong and it was impossible to get on further. On the 31st the 23rd Brigade was ordered to consolidate its line as no further offensive action was to be taken for the present. The 9th West Yorkshires, who were in the line between Loos and the La Bassée Canal during the great German offensives of March and

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1918 A Difficult Relief 325

April, had passed several comparatively quiet months in this area 9TH before moving down to Arras. Patrol work and raids were the BATTALION. principal activities of the battalion in this sector of the line and the gth West Yorkshires were constantly engaged in this dangerous work, losing several officers and a number of other On 29th August (when the Second Battle of Arras had opened) 25TH Aus. while the 9th West Yorkshires were at Averdoingt (part of the 11th Divisional area, the Division being then out of the line) orders were suddenly received to move by bus to Blangy. On arrival at the latter place teas were taken, and at 6 p.m. the battalion left for the front line. The West Yorkshiremen had to march across country with four guides who lost their way, but about midnight a trench system was struck and occupied, and after a lot of trouble telephonic com- munication was established with the battalion the West Yorkshiremen were to relieve. More guides were obtained and the relief was eventually completed by 6 a.m. on 30th. The troops relieved by the West Yorkshiremen were a mixed battalion of Canadians, Royal Berkshire Hussars and M.G.C., the line taken over being about 1,000 yards east of Pelves ; the position had been captured by the Canadians on the previous afternoon. The battalion’s northern boundary was the River Scarpe. On 31st the oth Battalion pushed out patrols 1,000 yards east, finding no sign of the enemy excepting at Biache, . where Second-Lieut. Brown ran into a trap but managed to escape, and reported two companies of Germans in the electric power

10n oth May Capt. F. H. W. Carnell and Lieut. C. Y. Pease were killed. Lieut. L. H. Buttershaw was kill and Second-Lieut. A. Udalley wounded on 26th June. Lieut. W. F. Humble was wounded on 4th August.

2AUTHOR'S NOTE.—Just as in the Retreat from Mons in 1914, and indeed in the majority of operations throughout the War when the situation and positions of the troops changed rapidly, the diaries of battalions in the line give few details of the fighting. The diaries from the beginning to the end of the Advance to Victory in 1918 are, from the point of view of regimental history, lacking in all those interesting details which commanding officers were able to put into their reports during the periods of static warfare, and throughout the course of the various ‘‘ Group Battles "' or ‘‘ Offensives.’’ Here and there are exceptions, but generally speaking the regimental historian has very little material at his disposal, the official battalion diaries usually describing the action of a battle in a few curt phrases or sentences ; with battalion headquarters continually changing it was impossible for C.O.'s to do more than that.

Page 339


2nd—3rd September, 19:8

OTH the 4th and Divisions (with other divisions of the First Army) were engaged in this battle, which had for its object the turning of the whole of the enemy’s organised positions on a wide front southwards from the Hindenburg Line at Quéant. By the end of August the First Army had gained the high ground east of Cherisy and Haucourt, had captured Eterpigny and cleared the area between the Sensée and Scarpe Rivers, west of Trinquin Brook ; north of the Scarpe, Plouvain was also held. This splendid progress had brought the victorious British troops to within assaulting distance of the powerful trench system running from the Hindenburg Line at Quéant to the Lens defences about Drocourt and, as stated above, if this line was broken the enemy’s positions on a wide front southwards would be turned. On the 2nd September the attack against the Drocourt—Quéant Line was launched ; it was completely successful. The line was broken and the maze of trenches at the junction of that line and the Hindenburg System was stormed, and the enemy thrown into head- long retreat on the whole front south of it. By the 3rd of September the line of the First Army had been pushed forward to a depth of over three miles along the Arras—Cambrai road and had reached the outskirts of Buissy. Cagnicourt, Villers les Cagnicourt and Dury, with 8,000 prisoners and many guns, had been captured. The réle of the 11th Division during the battle of the Drocourt— 9TH Quéant Line was to secure a defensive flank on the left of the Canadian BATTALION. Corps, and to this end the 32nd Brigade was ordered to maintain defensive positions it then held commanding the Trinquis Valley. The 9th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel F. P. Worsley) therefore did not move and, indeed, their diary for the 2nd September has only the following entry : “ Second-Lieut. C. V. Canner wounded,” and for the 3rd September the words “ situations unchanged, two men 3rp Szpr. gassed,”’


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328 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

The story of the battle, from the point of view of the Pioneers of the 4th Division, 21st West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel E. St. C. Clarke) is as follows : “ 2nd September.—Division took part in attack on Drocourt—Queéant Line. ‘ Y’ Company moved up to clear roads following the advance. Cleared the road from Eterpigny to Etaing. ‘ Z’ Company on right cleared round Dury to Casualties : Corporal Cooper, ‘ Y’ killed; Sergeant Kaye, Corporal Tunstall and thirteen men wounded.”’ On the 4th the 4th Division moved out of the line to rest, and the 21st West Yorkshires marched with the r1th Brigade to billets at Hermin, being relieved in the line

by Pioneers of the 1st Division.

Page 341

THE BATTLES OF THE HINDENBURG LINE: 12th September—gth October, 1918

The Battle of Havrincourt, 12th September

Y the night of 3rd September the enemy had retired to positions along the general line of the Canal du Nord from Péronne to Ytres, thence east of Hermies, Inchy en Artois and Ecourt St. Quentin to the Sensée east of Lecluse. On the 4th he began to withdraw from the east bank of the Somme, south of Péronne, and by the night of 8th September was holding the general line Vermand, Epéhy, Havrincourt, thence (northwards) along the eastern bank of the Canal du Nord. The Hindenburg Line had been attacked and broken in the north at its junction with the Drocourt—Queéant line ; it was next to be assaulted in the Havrincourt sector, and if the British attack was successful the enemy would find himself in a still more precarious position. The attack was to be carried out by the [Vth and VIth Corps on a front of about five miles in the Havrincourt sector by the New Zealand, 37th, 62nd and 2nd Divisions, and by the Vth Corps (17th and 38th Divisions) on the right of the VIth Corps. Thus the 8th and the roth West Yorkshires were again in the 8TH AND battle front. From their camp near Sapignies the 8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel N. A. England) with other units of the 185th Brigade, 8tx

moved wa Bapaume to Fremicourt on 10th September, where the BATTALION.

battalion bivouacked. On the rith the Brigadier (Viscount Hampden) of the 185th Brigade, and all C.O.’s reconnoitred the area of Havrincourt Wood, and at 10 p.m. that night the Brigade marched forward to the south-west corner of the wood. The 186th, on the right, and the 187th, on the left, were the attacking brigades of the 62nd Division, the 185th being in reserve. At 5-25 a.m. on 12th September, the 62nd Division attacked the 12TH Sept. village of Havrincourt, the 8th West Yorkshires moving up to assembly positions (in case the battalion was called upon) west of 329

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330 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

Pioneer Valley at 7-30 a.m. But the West Yorkshiremen were not called upon, the attacking brigades of the division having gained all their objectives. At dusk, however, “‘ A’? Company was sent forward to occupy Shropshire Trench and Shropshire Reserve, and ‘‘ D ” Company to Hubert Avenue, both companies establishing posts along these trenches during the night. “B” and “‘C” Companies marched back to huts in the south-west corner of the Wood. The battalion remained in the same positions throughout the 13th Sep- tember, but on 14th ““ B’’ Company was attached to the 2/2o0th London Regiment and “‘ C Company to the 2/4th K.O.Y.L.I. The 2/20th London Regiment had attacked part of the Hin- denburg Line on the morning of 14th. The enemy counter-attacked and penetrated the outpost line formed by the Londoners, and ‘“‘ D”’ Company of the 8th West Yorkshires, who were in support, organised bombing parties, drove the enemy out and restored the line. ‘“C” Company does not appear to have been engaged with the enemy. Both companies, however, suffered a few casualties, and ‘“‘ B” captured eight prisoners while clearing the trench. On the rsth the 3rd Division relieved the 62nd, the latter moving back to reserve positions, and when the second phase of the operations were opened (the Battle of Epéhy) the 8th West Yorkshires were in bivouacs west of Waulx, where the battalion remained, training, until the 25th of the month. The s5oth Brigade, 17th Division, was in reserve at Rocquigny during the Battle of Havrincourt, thus the roth West Yorkshires were not actively engaged. They took part, however, in the second phase of the operations—the Battle of Epéhy, 18th September.

Page 343

THE BATTLE OF EPEHY, 18th September, 1918

N the morning of the 18th September, at 7 a.m., the Third and Fourth Armies attacked on a front of about seventeen miles from Holnon to Gouzeau- court, the First French Army co-operating south of Holnon. The attack was launched in a heavy rain, but ist anp roTH the troops went forward with splendid vigour and BATTALIons. dash, so that practically the whole of the objectives were gained. In this battle, in which the fighting was of a very severe nature, the Ist and 10th West Yorkshires were involved, the former with the 6th Division and the latter with the 17th Division. The 6th Division had moved southwards from the Wizernes area during the Ist, 2nd and 3rd of September, and concentrated in the Heilly—Ribemont—Franvillers area, in G.H.Q. Reserve. The division then became part of the newly-constructed IXth Corps, which had an extraordinarily successful career. The Corps was formed of the rst, 6th, 32nd and 46th Divisions and was commanded by Lieut.-General Sir W. Braithwaite. The 32nd Division had followed the enemy, who was then in retreat, up to the western exits of Holnon Wood, three-and-a-half miles west of St. Quentin, and it was here that the 6th Division took over the line 13th/14th September, the 1st Division on the right and the 34th (French) Division on the left. It was expected that the Germans would stand on the heights which commanded St. Quentin to the west and south, but as to the strength of their resistance little was known, the enemy being then much disorganised. The rst and 6th Divisions, with the French, were ordered to capture this tactical line on 18th September, as a starting point for the attack on the Hindenburg Line, which ran just outside St. Quentin to the canal at Billenglise. The rst West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel D. L. Weir!) moved up 1st into the support line south of Atilly (Holnon Wood sector) on the BATTALion.

_ ILieut.-Colonel D. L. Weir assumed command of the ist Battalion on 29th July, vice Lieut.-Colonel G. Barry Drew, who was evacuated to hospital on 22nd July.


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332 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

night of 13th, and on 15th relieved the 11th Essex Regiment in the first line of the 18th Brigade right sub-sector. The 18th Brigade had been ordered to secure a line well clear of Holnon Wood for the “‘ forming-up ” line on the 18th, and in doing so it had first to clear the edge of the wood and establish posts on the edge and then push forward. The selected forming-up line included Holnon Village on the right, next to the French. The attack, to take place on 18th, was to be carried out by the 16th and 71st Brigades, passing through the 18th Brigade. On the morning of 16th September the 11th Essex Regiment, after an unsuccessful attempt to push forward during the night, attacked under a barrage and captured a line of trenches just clear of the wood, taking in this small operation forty-six prisoners. A simultaneous attack by the 34th (French), 6th and 1st Divisions, in order to secure the starting line for the attack on 18th, was then arranged for the 17th. In this attack the rst West Yorkshires were to be on the right of the 18th Brigade front and the 11th Essex on the left. The attack was launched at 5-30 a.m. on 17th, the rst Division being entirely successful, so eventually was the attack of the 11th Essex on the left of the West Yorkshiremen. The rst West Yorkshires disposed ‘‘ B ” and “‘ D ” Companies in the front line, ‘‘ C” in support and “‘ A” Company in reserve. The line to be captured by the battalion ran from north-east of, and to the eastern exits of, Holnon Village ; the West Yorkshiremen were, therefore, to capture the latter. As soon as the attack started “‘B” and “‘ D” began to lose heavily from machine-gun fire from both flanks. But by 10 a.m. aeroplanes reported that these two companies had gained their objectives and were holding an outpost line east of Holnon. Parties of Germans, however, still held out in the village. One company of the 2nd D.L.I., sent up to “‘ mop-up ” the village, according to the Brigade Narrative, failed, suffering heavy casualties. All day long the position remained obscure, for it was impossible to get into touch in any way with the posts which had been reported by aeroplanes east of the village. Of what happened to the gallant West Yorkshires it is impossible to say, and when on the morning of the 18th September the 71st and 16th Infantry Brigades attacked through the 18th Brigade, the rst Battalion was withdrawn to positions west of Holnon Wood. Casualties suffered by the rst West Yorkshires during the 16th and 17th were as follows : Second-Lieut. H. Scarborough and sixteen

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1918 Losses of 1st Battalion 333

other ranks killed. Wounded: Capts. L. G. Marshall, R. A. Routley 1ST and W. K. Marshall; Second-Lieuts. Cartledge, Taylor, Willey, PA7™U™- Martin, Binns, Andre, Wilcock, Stansfield and 119 other ranks ; missing : Second-Lieut. Sowerby and eighty-six other ranks. It transpired later that the heavy casualties suffered in, and east of, Holnon Village were inflicted by enemy machine-guns and rifles firing from Round Hill, south of Holnon, which had not been cleared by the French, and from a hostile barricade across the Salency Road. In the operations of 18th September the 1st West Yorkshires 18TH Sept. did not take part, but on 19th “‘ A”’ and “ C”’ Companies, in con- junction with the rst Leicesters, on the left, attacked the enemy. The West Yorkshires had a very intricate manceuvre to carry out, having to advance east, then change direction and bomb southwards through Salency. But very little progress was made as the assaulting companies came under intense machine-gun fire, but important posts were established in Holnon and near Salency. During the night 19th/2oth the 1st Battalion was relieved and withdrew to positions previously occupied in the valley south of Atilly. Casualties for the 19th were eleven other ranks killed, one officer and fifty other ranks wounded, and eighteen other ranks missing. In the northern part of the battlefield the 17th Division, with the 21st Division on its right and the 28th Division on its left, attacked eastwards towards Villers Guislain. By the night of 3rd September the forward battalions of the 1oTH soth Brigade (17th Division) had reached the western banks of the BATTALION. Canal du Nord, between Ytres and Etricourt. On the following morning two companies of the roth West Yorkshires crossed the canal and reached the north-eastern edge of Vallulart Wood; the East Yorkshires followed. Gradually the line of the 17th Division was advanced, but the West Yorkshires were not involved in the attacks of 7th and 9th September; the sist and 52nd Brigades assaulted the enemy’s trenches. On the night of 9th the soth Brigade relieved the 52nd Brigade and, after the relief had been completed (at 4-30 a.m. on roth) the East Yorkshiremen held the right and the West Yorkshiremen the left of the Brigade front ; later the Dorsets moved up on the left of the West Yorkshires. On the night of roth/r1th the soth Brigade was relieved by the 10TH/11TH 115th Brigade (38th Division) and moved back to Rocquigny.' SEPT.

10n 4th September Second-Lieut. S. Moulson was killed and Second-Lieut. G. W. Higmor wounded. On Second-Lieut. S. Cork was wounded.

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334 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

After six days’ restin Rocquigny the Brigade again moved forward on 16th and took up assembly positions for the operations which were to begin on 18th. The roth West Yorkshires assembled on the Fins Ridge. The scheme of attack was as follows : The 52nd Brigade was to capture the first objectives—Lowland Trench and Cavalry Trench ; the 5oth Brigade was then to pass through the 52nd and capture the second objective—the sunken road running due south from Gouzeau- court, west of, and parallel with, the railway ; the 51st Brigade was then to pass through the §2nd and soth Brigades and capture the third objective—Somme Alley, Lancashire Trench to the southern outskirts of Villers Guislain. “Zero” hour was §-30 a.m. on 18th. During the night 17th/18th heavy rain had fallen and the ““ going” was not easy. But under a most effective barrage the 52nd Brigade quickly carried the first objective, and the soth Brigade then passed through to capture the second objective. All three battalions of the soth Brigade were in the assaulting line, t.e., 6th Dorsets, on the right; roth West Yorkshires, in the centre; and 7th East Yorkshires on the left. The West Yorkshires went forward with three companies (“‘ A,” “‘ B” and ‘‘ C”’) in the front line; “ D’’ Company was in support. But little opposition was encountered and the line of the sunken road south of Gouzeau- court was taken, the roth West Yorkshires capturing four officers and 315 other ranks, as well as eleven machine-guns and one trench- mortar. The battalion, however, had lost several officers. Capt. M. E. Smith and Second-Lieut. F. A. W. Faulder were killed, Second- Lieut. Reynolds was missing, and Second-Lieuts. Bower, Kirk, Meskinnon and Marsdin were wounded. All battalions having reached their objectives, consolidation began, but at 1-30 p.m. orders were received stating that the soth Brigade would probably be required to attack and capture ‘‘ Quentin Redoubt,” a strong and dominating position on a hill east of Gouzeau- court. These orders were confirmed at 6-30 p.m., and the attack was ordered to take place at 9 p.m. The West Yorkshires and Dorsets moved up to assembly positions which had been selected along the northern edge of Gauche Wood, as the attack was to be in a northerly direction. The attack was launched at 9 p.m., but the West Yorkshires, on the right, were unable to make much progress, being held up by severe machine-gun fire. The Dorsets, however, captured the Redoubt, taking over

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1918 Heavy Bomb Fighting 335

fifty prisoners and six machine-guns, but it was 7 a.m. on 19th before 10TH information was received at Brigade Headquarters of the success of BATTALION. the attack. The division on the left of the 17th had not made progress during the night, and the Dorsets in Quentin Redoubt were therefore isolated. Fighting on 19th September continued around the Redoubt, 19TH Sept. where again and again the enemy was beaten back. Throughout the day the roth West Yorkshires remained in trenches west and south- west of Gauche Wood, two companies (‘‘ A” and “ B’”’) relieving the 5th Dorsets and units of 51st Brigade in Lancashire Trench and Somme Alley. In this position at 4-30 and 6-15 p.m., on 2oth the West Yorkshiremen had to sustain heavy attacks made under cover of a particularly heavy bombardment, and although the enemy used Flammenwerfer and phosphorous bombs he was driven off with great Again on 2Ist at 1.30 a.m. the enemy made desperate 21st Sept. efforts to recapture Lancashire Trench. He succeeded in regaining some 250 yards of his post position, but the West Yorkshiremen counter-attacked and drove him back, regaining 100 yards. For twelve consecutive hours bombing attacks up and down the trench took place, but the gallant Yorkshiremen held their own and the enemy could not eject them. During the night the soth Brigade was relieved and moved back to}Heather Trench and Heather Support, into Divisional Reserve. On 25th September the 17th Division was relieved by the 21st and 25TH Sepr. moved back to Le Mesnil and Rocquigny, in Corps Reserve. There are no other rank casualties in the Diary of the roth West Yorkshires during this battle, but they cannot have been light seeing the heavy fighting in which the battalion was engaged. But the roth had most worthily upheld the traditions of the Regiment, and they had fought most gallantly and with fine tenacity.

1On aoth Lieut. S. G. Isherwood died of wounds.

Page 349

THE BATTLE OF THE CANAL DU NORD: 27th September—iIst October, 1918

HE Battle of the Canal du Nord, which opened at 5-20 a.m. on 27th September, was a difficult operation to carry out. The attack was made by the Third and First Armies on a front of about thirteen miles from Gouzeaucourt to the neighbourhood of Sauchy Lestree, the success of the First Army depending upon the ability of the troops to debouch from the neighbourhood of Moeuvres and secure the crossings over the Canal du Nord in that locality. The northern portion of the Canal was so strongly defended that a direct crossing in the face of the enemy was impracticable. The attacking divisions had, therefore, first to force a passage about Moeuvres, then cross and turn the line of the Canal farther north by a divergent attack developed fan-wise from the point of crossing. It was an extremely difficult operation and, although fiercely resisted, was splendidly carried out by the First Army. The attacks of the First and Third Armies were, however, in the nature of a deception, for the main attack was to be made further south by the Fourth Army from the junction of the French and British Armies north-west of St. Quentin to just south of Villers Guislain. In the Battle of the Canal du Nord the 8th and oth Battalions 8tu anp oTH were engaged, the former of the 185th Brigade, 62nd Division, and BATTALIONS. the latter of the 11th Division, which was at this period attached to the Canadian Corps. The task allotted to the IVth Corps of the Third Army (to which the 62nd Division belonged) was to drive the enemy across the Canal at St. Quentin and de l’Escaut. The first stage of the attack was to be launched by the 3rd Division (right) and Guards Division (left) ; the 62nd Division (right) and 2nd Division (left) were then to leap- frog the 3rd and Guards Divisions respectively. Of the 62nd Division the 187th Brigade was to attack on the right and the 185th Brigade on the left ; the former Brigade to capture Ribecourt (if not

'This operation is referred to as The Battle of Cambrai and Hindenburg Line “in Colonel Boraston’s edition of Earl Haig's despatches.

7 337

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338 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

captured by the oth Brigade, 3rd Division) and pass on, exploiting the success as far as the southern portion of Masniéres ; the latter brigade to pass through the 76th Brigade (3rd Division) east of Flesqui¢res and exploit the success gained by capturing Marcoing and the crossings of the Canal de St. Quentin at that place. At 6-20 a.m. on 27th the 185th Brigade, which had on the night of 26th moved up to assembly positions west of the Canal du Nord, crossed the Canal and followed up the attack of the 76th Brigade (3rd Division). After the latter had captured Flesquiéres the 185th Brigade advanced through the 3rd Divisional troops, the 2/2oth Londons and 1/5th Devons leading. The 8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel N. England) began to cross the Canal at 6-15 a.m., and by 7-30 a.m. were located on the eastern bank awaiting orders to advance. Fierce fighting was going on all along the front, and it was evident that the enemy was clinging tenaciously to his positions. At 8-15 a.m., just as the West Yorkshires began to move off, the enemy’s guns swept the area with heavy shell-fire. Twenty men became casualties, but presently companies moved forward and eventually reached Scull Trench, east of Flesquiéres. Machine- gun fire from the left flank now began to annoy the battalion but did not hold up the advance, though “‘ B ” Company engaged the hostile guns. Pushing on slowly down the network of captured trenches the West Yorkshiremen reached Premy Support, held by the 2/2oth Londons, now part of the 62nd Divisional front line. There now followed a brilliant attempt by the 8th West York- shires to capture Marcoing. “‘ A” Company, which had all along led the advance of the battalion, was the first to leap-frog the Londoners and advance on Marcoing. But “B” and “C” Companies, after leaving Premy Support Trench were drawn off in the direction of Premy Chapel and Nine Wood, whence heavy machine-gun fire was coming. As far as can be ascertained, “‘ A’? Company reached the western outskirts of Marcoing and there took refuge in two sunken roads, north-west and north of the village. Not only had the company advanced in the face of heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, but hostile field guns, firing over open sights, had raked the gallant West Yorkshiremen. The company now numbered about eighteen other ranks all told and, seeing the futility of holding on to their position unless they preferred annihilation, the survivors withdrew. Meanwhile the situation of “ B” and “ C” Companies had

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1918 Splendid Work of N.C.O.’s 339

become obscure. On the left of the West Yorkshiremen the Guards had mot captured Premy Chapel as previously reported, and the attack of the two companies was drawn off in that direction from the true line of advance, which had been given as on Marcoing. “B” and ‘“‘C” had lost all their officers, but the N.C.O.’s splendidly maintained the discipline of the battalion and fine traditions of the Regiment. Their courage and fortitude under desperate circum- stances were inspiring, for the West Yorkshiremen were indeed in a tight corner. The enemy had worked round the left flank of the two companies and, having cut them off in rear, inflicted heavy casualties upon them and captured the survivors. About 4 p.m., as it was impossible to get further on, “‘ D” Company, in reserve, was ordered to consolidate Beet Trench. Touch was now obtained with the Welsh and Grenadier Guards on the left. A strong post, consisting of one officer and thirty other ranks, was established out in front of ‘‘ D ’’ Company’s line, and later in the evening another post was formed about forty yards up Nigger Trench, then partly held by the enemy. Three attempts were made during the night to clear the Germans out of Nigger Trench, the last being successful, When the morning of 28th dawned the 8th West Yorkshires were but a remnant. They had lost eleven officers! and 341 other ranks, and although their captures numbered fifteen field guns, nine machine-guns and many prisoners (one a batch of seventy brought in by a solitary wounded man of ‘‘ C” Company), the plight of the battalion was pitiable. During the day the battalion was reorganised into two companies. But their smallness in numbers did not prevent the West Yorkshires taking their full share of the fighting, for on the 30th they were again at close grips with the enemy. On the 29th the battalion spent the day in cleaning-up and reorganising, but was ordered to move at 2 a.m. on 30th to trenches east of Masniéres, ready to follow an attack by the 1/5th Devons and 2/20th Londons on Seranvillers ; the 8th West Yorkshires were to go through both battalions and capture Wambaix. The attack started at 6-30 a.m. on 30th, but the New Zealanders, on the right of the 62nd Division, did not attack. The consequence was that the Londoners were held up at Rumilly, whilst the Devons, after advancing about eight hundred yards, were similarly brought to a standsull. The West Yorkshiremen were then thrown into the fight. Some heavy fighting now took place, but with dogged

1No names were given in the Diaries.





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340 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

perseverance the battalion forced its way forward and presently parties of Germans began to put their hands up in token of surrender, whilst others withdrew as rapidly as possible. About thirty more prisoners were taken by the 8th Battalion, which pushed on untl brought to a standstill once more in a sunken road owing to heavy machine-gun fire. Eventually the battalion took up a position on the Romilly—Creve- ceur Road, with posts pushed out about 250 yards in front. Here consolidation took place. By this time Second-Lieut. Foster who, the record states, had ‘‘ shown great gallantry and initiative,” was the only company officer left. The 8th West Yorkshires held on to their position until ordered to withdraw to Plaisir Support, to afford room for a fresh attack ordered to take place next morning. In this attack, however, the West Yorkshiremen took no part, and on the rst October the battalion was withdrawn to Havrincourt and went into billets in the village. September had been a month of heavy losses to the battalion ; six officers had been killed, eight wounded and five missing, and other rank casualties were sixty killed, 241 wounded and 126 missing. But the battalion had fought brilliantly, and was congratulated again and again both by Divisional and Corps Commanders. The 11th Division (like the 62nd) was not in the front line at ““ Zero’? on 27th, but had received orders to leap-frog the Ist Canadian Division after the latter had secured the crossings over the Canal du Nord, west of Sains-lez-Marquion. On the eastern banks of the Canal the division was to turn north-east and attack Epinoy and Ojisy-le-Verger, whilst the 1st Canadian Division took Hayne- court, Marquion and Sauchy Lestree. The réle of the 32nd Infantry Brigade (to which the 9th West Yorkshires belonged) was, in the first place, to make good the line of the Canal du Nord as far North as the Arras—Cambrai Road. If all the objectives up to the Yellow Line were captured by the Ist Canadian Division the 32nd Brigade was to advance and capture Epinoy, exploiting success as far as the Brown Line. The 2nd Yorkshire Regiment, supported by the 9th West Yorkshire Regiment, was to Carry out this operation. On the 24th September the 9th West Yorkshires moved by bus to Vis-en-Artois from Averdoing, where training had been carried out. On this day Lieut.-Colonel F. P. Worsley, the C.O., returned to England and Major R. E. M. Cherry assumed command of the battalion. On 25th the West Yorkshires moved to Buissy Switch, where throughout the 26th orders to attack were awaited.

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1918 Epinoy Captured 341

At 5-20 a.m. on 27th the Canadians attacked and, after crossing 9TH

the Canal, changed direction from due east to north-east, and pushing oan Seen

on reached the Blue Line which ran north of the Arras—Cambrai road. At I1 a.m. the 32nd Brigade received final orders to advance. The 9th West Yorkshires left Buissy Switch at 11.37 a.m., but progress to the Canal was slow and hostile machine-gun posts still held the crossings. But these were ‘‘ mopped-up” and the attacking battalions of the 32nd Brigade reached their assembly positions at about 1-20 p.m. As already stated the 2nd Yorkshire Regiment was the leading battalion of the brigade, the 9th West Yorkshires being in support. The West Yorkshires were disposed as follows : ‘“‘ B ’’ Company on the right, “A’”’ on the left, with ““D” and “ C’’ Companies right and left supports respectively. The attack on Epinoy was launched at 3 p.m., and by 6-15 p.m. the 2nd Yorkshires had entered the village and an hour later it was enurely in our hands. A line of posts was then established east and north-east of the village, some of the posts being found by the 9th West Yorkshires. But of the part played by the battalion in the capture of Epinoy there is no record, though a platoon of “A” Company went forward as far as the outskirts of Aubencheul-au-Bac, where about one hundred Germans were encountered. After capturing one straggler the platoon returned. The battalion had captured forty prisoners during the day. The 28th was passed in comparative quietude so far as fighting 28Tx Sept. was concerned. But early in the morning the Transport Officer of the 9th West Yorkshires (Lieut. G. F. J. Jarvis) who, with his party, had been delivering rations, was wounded by a bomb dropped from an enemy aeroplane and died during the day ; a driver was also killed, and several animals. On 29th the gth West Yorkshires again supported the 2nd 29TH Yorkshires in an attack on the line of the railway. But this attack was held up and two platoons of West Yorkshires, who had gone for- ward to assist the Yorkshires, narrowly escaped capture, but got away owing to the gallant action of Capt. N. T. Hartley and Lieut. N. A. Bowker who, with a Lewis gun, kept the Germans at bay until the platoon had reached safety. On the 30th the line was consolidated. Since the 26th the casualties suffered by the 9th West Yorkshires to the end of September were: Major R. E. M. Cherry’ wounded,

1Captain H. A. Gough assumed temporary command of the Battalion.

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342 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

one officer killed, three wounded ; five other ranks killed, forty-nine wounded. On the 1st the 9th West Yorkshires were holding the brigade front line. Work of consolidating the line proceeded, but

the enemy’s guns were active and twenty-one other ranks were wounded.

Splendid progress had been made by the First and Third Armies since the initial attack on 27th September, and the story now turns to the attack by the Fourth Army, though the part played by the Ist West Yorkshires in that great battle was small, the task of the 6th Division being that of covering the flanks of the division on its right.

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FTER relief on the night of 20th/21st September, the 18th 1st Infantry Brigade of the 6th Division remained in BATTALION. Divisional Reserve until the night of 23rd /24th, when once again the Brigade moved up into the front line north-east of Holnon, in order to take part in a big attack to be launched at § a.m. on the 24th. For this attack the 2nd D.L.I. were on the right with orders to attack Salency village: the rst West Yorkshires were in the centre with Salency Chateau and grounds as their objective, and the 11th Essex were on the left with orders to capture the Quad- rilateral—a powerful system of trenches north-east of Holnon. The Ist Leicesters were also attached to the 18th Brigade for the attack. The 16th Brigade was on the left of the 18th Brigade. This attack was undertaken for the purpose of gaining observa- tion over the main Hindenburg Line and for improving the position on the right flank of the IXth Corps, to which the 6th Division belonged. The latter Division was on the right, the rst Division in the centre (west of Fresnoy) and the 46th Division on the left opposite Pontruet and Ste. Helene. The Quadrilateral was a position of unusual strength and, although the artillery preparation was very severe (1,000 heavy shells were fired into it in one day alone), the German garrison stuck like leeches to their defences. No casualties were sustained by the 1st West Yorkshires in moving up to their assembly trenches north-east of Holnon. ‘ B’”’ and ‘“‘D’”’ (a composite company) and ‘‘ A” were the assaulting companies, and ‘‘ C”’ was in support. When dawn broke on the 24th there was a ground mist which, Sepr. combined with smoke, made visibility extremely poor, when, at § a.m., the attack was launched. Some of the platoons lost direction and came early under very heavy machine-gun fire. Four tanks, which had been attached to the Brigade for the operations, were all knocked out by direct hits from field guns before reaching the wire in front of Douai Trench and the Quadrilateral—a great loss. As a

consequence it was 7 a.m. before the right company of the 11th Essex 343

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344 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

forced a way through the wire and established itself in the north-west corner of the Quadrilateral. The left company of the same battalion had fought its way into Douai Trench from the north and then bombed its way down to the northern face of the Quadrilateral, whilst other bombing parties tried to bomb along Douai Trench and clear the western face. But some hard fighting took place before the battalion was able to secure the western face and establish posts in Epicure Valley (the southern side of the Quadrilateral). The Essex were now, however, in a desperate situation. They were decimated by fire from the northern trenches, which were on considerably higher ground, and from those portions of Douai Trench not cap- tured. Both the 2nd D.L.I. and the rst West Yorkshires had been held up in front of Douai Trench (which ran north and south of the Quadrilateral). Two companies of the gallant Durhams did event- ually force their way into Douai Trench, losing heavily in so doing. The survivors pushed on to Salency village, but nothing more was seen of them—not an officer or man was seen again. By mid-day the Durhams and West Yorkshires were practically back in their original forming-up line. Not until 10.30 p.m. that night were the enemy’s positions finally rushed and captured. The rst Leicesters, who had been placed at the disposal of the 18th Brigade, attacked Douai Trench, though the Durhams, with great gallantry, carried the enemy’s defences. The 1st West Yorkshires at the same time rushed the hostile posts in front of them, and by means of vigorous battle patrols, gained the original objective allotted to the battalion. By midnight the whole of the objectives allotted to the 16th and 18th Infantry Brigades had been captured. Some thirty prisoners, including one officer, ten machine-guns and one 77 mm. gun, were captured by the rst West Yorkshires. The battalion had, however, lost three officers killed—Lieuts. J. V. Townsend and W. Haddock, and Second-Lieut. A. Burstall, and two officers wounded ; the losses in other ranks were sixteen killed, fifty wounded and nineteen missing. The captured prisoners admitted that they had looked upon the Quadrilateral as almost impregnable and stated that they had expected to hold it indefinitely. On the 25th the Durhams relieved the 1st West Yorkshires and the latter were withdrawn into Brigade Reserve. The splendid fighting grit of the 6th Division drew congratula- tions from the Army and Corps Commanders—praise well and richly


Page 357

THE BATTLE OF CAMBRAI, 1918: 8th—oth October

N the Battle of Beaurevoir, 3rd-5th October, no battalion of the West Yorkshires was engaged, and it was not until three days later—on 8th—that battalions of the Regiment again came to grips with the enemy. The whole of the main Hindenburg defences had now passed into the hands of the British, and the enemy, to use an expression then in use in France and Flanders, was ‘‘ on the run.”’ But still, here and there, he put up a stout resistance, though it was with his back against the wall. Words cannot give an adequate picture of the tense situation along the Western Front during the early days of October, 1918 ; every officer and man knew that they were on the eve of great things, that the hour of deliverance from four years of torture and misery, that victory for which they had paid in flesh and blood, was at hand. And the Battle of Cambrai, 1918, was almost the last stand made by the beaten enemy, for it was followed by the pursuit to the Selle and the final advance in Flanders, Artois and Picardy, to victory and the ignominious defeat of the Germans. The Battle of Cambrai opened on 8th October, the Third and Fourth British Armies attacking on a front of about seventeen miles from Sequehart to just south of Cambrai ; on the right of the Fourth Army the First French Army attacked as far south as St. Quentin. The right Division of the British front was the 6th, which had just spent four days out of the line, during which troops were rested

and reinforcements absorbed. On the 4th October, the Division 41x Oct.

moved back into the line, the 16th Infantry Brigade on the right, the 71st on the left, and the 18th in Divisional Reserve. The attack of the 6th Division was to be made by the 16th Brigade on the right, 71st on the left, the 18th Brigade remaining in reserve. But the rst West Yorkshires were specially detailed to ‘““mop-up”’ the valley west of Mericourt, including Mannequin Copse, and generally protect the right of the 16th Brigade. As soon as the latter had captured Mericourt, which was to be attacked from the

north, the West Yorkshiremen were to obtain touch on their left with 345


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97TH Oct.

8TH Oct.

346 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

troops of the 16th Brigade, and on the right with the 47th French Division in Fontaine Uterte, and consolidate a defensive line along the ridge between Mericourt and Fontaine Uterte. The position of the 6th Division was rather extraordinary. On the right the French were slightly in rear, whilst on the left the 30th American Division, whose front ran along the eastern outskirts of Montbrehain, was about two thousand yards ahead, connected with the 6th Division by a series of posts along the railway. On the night of 7th October, the 1st West Yorkshires (who on 4th had moved up immediately west of the St. Quentin Canal, near Bellinglise, and then on the 6th to Magny-la-Fosse) marched to assembly positions north of Sequehart. Two companies only (““ A” and ‘‘ C”’) had been detailed to ‘‘ mop-up ” the valley and capture Mannequin Wood, ‘“‘ D”’ Company being in support and “B” in reserve. The position to be attacked by the 6th Division consisted of high rolling downs with deep traverse valleys, affording good cover for supports and forward guns, and on the right a broad longditudinal valley closed by a ridge on which stood the village of Mericourt. It was up this valley that the West Yorkshires were to attack. The attack was launched at 5.30 a.m. on 8th October. Soon after the attack began the XVth French Corps, on the right of the 6th Division, was held up and the 1st West Yorkshires came under heavy enfilade machine-gun fire from their right flank. From Mannequin Wood, also, rifle and machine-gun bullets swept the line of advance and, although gallant efforts were made by the West Yorkshiremen to advance and capture the Wood, the first attempt failed. On the left of the West Yorkshires, troops of the 16th Brigade, who had been ordered to clear the high ground about Beauregard, were to advance in a southerly direction across the front of the West Yorkshires and capture Mericourt and then join up with the battalion. But three whippet tanks which had been allotted to the 16th Brigade were all knocked out. The guns were again turned on to the enemy’s positions. About 3 p.m. the French announced that they had captured Bellicourt Farm, and the 16th Brigade and 1st West Yorkshires made another attempt to reach their objective. This time the attack was completely successful. After a stiff fight the West Yorkshires cleared Mannequin Wood and many prisoners were taken, not only of the German garrison but hostile troops forming up for the purpose of making a counter- attack. The operations finished in the evening, and when darkness

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1918 Captures by the 1st Battalion 347

had fallen the 6th Division, ured but triumphant, held all the ob- !5T jectives allotted to it. The French had pushed on, clearing Fresnoy, 9" the 16th Brigade, after clearing the high ground about Beauregard, had attacked and captured Mericourt, and the line of the 6th Division ran in a northerly direction from the eastern outskirts of Fresnoy. The 1st West Yorkshires had again fought splendidly and had not only captured seven German officers and 249 other ranks, but one field gun, four trench-mortars, four anti-tank rifles and ten heavy and eleven light machine-guns. In casualties the battalion lost Second-Lieut. J. M. Compston killed and three officers wounded ; in other ranks the casualties were twelve killed and sixty-two wounded. On the night of 8th/9th October, the battalion was relieved and withdrew to the neighbourhood of Whistle Copse, just north-west of Sequehart, where the 9th was spent in refitting. The roth West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel W. Gibson) of the rotx seth Brigade, 17th Division, were in reserve during the operations BATTALION, of 8th and 9th October. After a week’s rest at Le Mesnil the Brigade moved forward on 5th October to trenches west of Gouzeaucourt, the 21st Division, then in front of the 17th, holding the front line. When the attack opened on 8th October, the réle of the 17th Division was to follow the 21st Division (which made the initial attack) and be ready to pass through the latter and pursue the enemy. Thus the soth Brigade was not engaged, for the 51st was the leading Brigade of the 17th Division when the latter leap-frogged the 21st Division. On the night of 9th October, the soth Brigade was on the ridge north of Villers-Outrex, about four-and-a-half miles east of the Canal de St. Quentin. Practically no opposition had been met with during the advance on oth. On the left of the general attack the Canadians of the First Army had captured Ramilies and crossed the Scheldt Canal at Pontaire on the 9th October. The 11th Division (attached to the Canadian Corps) does not appear to have been involved in the attack, though in close support. The 9th West Yorkshires, after the capture of Epinoy, were, in conjunction with other units of the 32nd Infantry Brigade, holding that village on 1st October. On the 2nd, orders ist Ocr. were received that the battalion, in conjunction with troops of the 34th Brigade on the night, would attack the enemy. ‘‘ B ”’ Company of the battalion was given the task of capturing the Quarry and establishing posts on the eastern side of the Douai-Cambrai road. The attack took place at 12 midnight, 2nd/3rd October, “ B”’ Company advancing after fifteen minutes’ artillery preparation. The

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9TH OcrT.

348 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

operation was completely successful, the Quarry was captured and the posts pushed out and established on the farther side of the road. The West Yorkshires had ten other ranks wounded. On the 4th the battalion was relieved and withdrew to the Quarry near Marquion in Brigade Reserve. On the 8th October, when the general attack was made, the 32nd Brigade was placed in Divisional Reserve, though the West Yorkshiremen remained in the same position in the Quarry. At II a.m., however, on 9th, 32nd Brigade Headquarters received orders that units of the Brigade were to be ready to move at ‘* half-an-hour’s notice.”” The 9th West Yorkshires moved forward at 2.30 p.m. to gain contact with the retreating enemy at Thun Leveque, but darkness had fallen when the West Yorkshiremen reached the position allotted to them and they were ordered not to attack the enemy. A battalion of Canadians, between Eswars and Thun Leveque, reported the latter village occupied by the enemy. About midnight, however, two platoons of the West Yorkshires pushed forward and succeeded in establishing posts on the far side of

the village.

Page 361

THE PURSUIT TO THE SELLE: gth—12th October, 1918

HE results of the Battle of Cambrai were far-reaching. The enemy’s resistance had temporarily given way and his infantry, becoming disorganised, retired steadily eastwards. Airmen reported that the roads converging on Le Cateau were blocked with troops and transport. By nightfall on gth October, the victorious Briush troops were within two miles of Le Cateau, had captured Bonain and were attack- ing Caudry from the south. Cambrai had already fallen into our hands and our troops were three miles east of the town. The pursuit of the enemy was pressed vigorously by the Fourth, Third and First British Armies. On the roth October, the 6th Division again advanced, the 1sT 18th Infantry Brigade moving up to the area immediately south of Brancourt, the 1st West Yorkshires bivouacking between Brancourt le Grand and Fresnoy le Grand. The Brigade was in support and the West Yorkshires in Brigade Reserve. On the 11th a further advance was made, battalions of the 18th Brigade reaching bivouacs about Bonain, the 1st West Yorkshires and 11th Essex west, and the 2nd D.L.I. east of the town. On the night of r1th/12th the 18th Infantry Brigade relieved the 71st Brigade, the front line then running from the northern edge of the Bois de Riquerval through Guyot Farm to the southern outskirts of Vaux-Andigny. But this line was very much dominated by a minor spur running north for about 1,500 yards from Regincourt. An attack on this spur by the 11th Essex and 2nd D.L.I. failed to secure the whole of the position, the latter battalion capturing only the northern portion of the ridge due east of Guyot Farm. On the 14th the 18th Brigade was relieved by the 71st Brigade, and battalions billeted in the outskirts of Bonain until the evening of 16th October. At 5.20 a.m. on the 9th October, the 51st Brigade of the 17th Division passed through the leading troops of the 21st Division and progressed rapidly. By the leading battalions of the Brigade were through Selvigny and advancing on Montigny. The soth Brigade followed in rear of 51st and none of the excitements of the 349

14TH OcrT.

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10TH Ocr.

350 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

day came to the roth West Yorkshires, who, at 8 a.m., moved to positions in front of Gard Wood, south-east of Selvigny. Here the remainder of the day was spent, and it was not until 8 p.m. that the battalion moved forward again to a point east of Caullery. The Division was now passing through country practically un- touched by the ravages of war. On all sides the troops were wel- comed by crowds of civilians, frantic in their joy at being relieved from four years of bondage. Coffee was given to the troops in the villages, the inhabitants bedecking their houses with flags which must have been hidden during the years of the German occupation. At a conference on the night of 9th it was decided that the soth Brigade would pass through the 51st on the roth and continue the advance, the high ground east of Neuvilly being the final objective allotted to the Brigade. This would mean an advance of 13,000 yards from Montigny. The advance was to begin at 5.20 a.m. Five minutes before “‘ Zero ” on roth, the roth West Yorkshires were ready assembled east of Montugny. They were on the right of the soth Brigade front, the Dorsets being the left battalion. The position of the West Yorkshiremen at this moment was about the centre of the now-historic battlefield of Le Cateau; they were to advance in a north-easterly direction across the very ground upon which the original British Expeditionary Force had fought so splen- didly, though greatly outnumbered in guns and men. By 5.50 a.m. the “ 1st Bound ” had been reached without any resistance from the enemy; the “2nd Bound” was reached at 6.25 a.m. and still no resistance. Up to this point there had been very little hostile shell-fire. But on reaching the “‘ 3rd Bound ” at 7 a.m. the West Yorkshiremen came under artillery fire. South of Inchy the battalion had captured two German field guns. On the left of the battalion the Dorsets were moving over the very ground held by their rst Battalion during the Battle of Le Cateau, in August, 1914. One village, Audencourt, which had been held by the 8th Brigade (3rd Division) during the battle in 1914, still showed signs of the fierce shelling to which the Germans had then subjected it. On continuing the advance east of Inchy the soth Brigade was considerably harassed by shell-fire in direct enfilade from the left flank, but the hostile guns were soon knocked out by direct hits. At about 8 a.m., and just before reaching the high ground between Inchy and Neuvilly, the East Yorkshires, the reserve battalion of the 50th Brigade, passed through the West Yorkshires and Dorsets for the purpose of attacking the latter village. But in crossing the ridge

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1918 Neuvilly 351 overlooking Neuvilly the East Yorkshiremen came under very heavy !°T#

artillery and machine-gun fire from the high ground east of the village BATTALION, and were unable to advance. It was now evident that the enemy intended disputing the line of the River Selle and all battalions were therefore ordered to dig in on the ground occupied until a fresh attack, supported by artillery, could be organised. It was then decided to assault Neuvilly from north and south behind a creeping barrage, the West Yorkshires to attack from the south and the East Yorkshires from the north, each battalion on a two-company frontage. The attack began at 5 p.m., but the inner companies of both battalions were soon held up by heavy machine-gun and rifle fire from the houses on the outskirts of the village. All bridges over the river had been destroyed by the enemy and orchards and hedges strongly wired. The river, having been dammed, had swollen con- siderably. South of the village it was some seven feet deep and in places twenty feet wide. North of the village the water was about fourteen feet wide and four feet deep. Partly by felled trees and partly by wading, some of the East Yorkshires crossed the river about six hundred yards north-west of the village. South of Neuvilly portions of the two right companies of West Yorkshires forced a crossing, but were unable to reach the railway owing to wire and enfilade and frontal machine-gun fire. The West Yorkshiremen had on the right a company of Seaforth Highlanders of the 33rd Division. The latter were withdrawn and the West Yorkshires had also to conform as their flanks were exposed. The two left companies, meanwhile, had been definitely held up in the village. By 7 p.m., the battalion had established itself on a road some two hundred yards west of, and parallel with, the river. The daylight hours of the passed quietly, though the 11TH Oct. enemy sniped every movement amongst the troops on the forward slopes west of the village. The roth West Yorkshires were ordered to push out posts across the river and ‘‘ B’’? Company and three platoons of “ C”’ advanced to do so. The C.O.—Lieut.-Colonel W. Gibson—and Second-Lieut. P. Hart, reconnoitred the river at 6.15 p.m., and crossed on a tree trunk. ‘‘ B ’’ Company was then led forward and began to cross at the same place. Two platoons of ““C,” having also crossed, established a post flanking the village, ““B” Company working forward towards the railway. “B” Company cleared the ground in front of it on a frontage of about seven hundred yards. In doing this three hostile posts were en- countered, in which twenty-three Germans were killed. Two belts

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352 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

of wire were found between the road and the railway, and a further advance without artillery preparation was impossible. Four platoon posts were therefore established on the line of the road, protective flanks being formed at each end of the line. Three platoon posts were also established in support, one hundred yards east of the river. The Sappers now set to work, covered by the West Yorkshiremen, to construct bridges, and before dawn on 12th four had been thrown across the river. The 5oth Brigade, on other troops passing through and taking over the line, was, however, withdrawn on 12th October to the Montigny area. The roth West Yorkshires lost in this operation one officer (Capt. and Adjutant K. S. Rudd) killed, seven officers wounded: and in other ranks 16 killed, 125 wounded and 27 missing. The 9th West Yorkshires who, in Brigade and Division, were fighting with the Canadian Corps north of Cambrai, had on the night 9th/1oth October, established posts on the eastern side of the village of Thon Leveque. At dawn on roth the battalion crossed the canal, occupying Thon Leveque and Thon St. Martin. Two machine-guns and some prisoners were taken during the operation. The Canadians then leap-frogged the West Yorkshires, who withdrew their posts to the western bank of the canal. Two officers and eleven other ranks were wounded on roth. On this day also Lieut.-Colonel R. H. Waddy joined the battalion and assumed command. On the 11th the 32nd Brigade supported the Canadians who were attacking up the eastern bank of the canal de L’Escaut, on Iwuy. During the day the 9th West Yorkshires cleared the western bank of the canal as far as Estrun. The 12th October was comparatively quiet, though one officer—Second-Lieut. L. F. Wells—was killed. At dusk the 11th Division was relieved by a Canadian division, the gth West Yorkshires, with other units of the 32nd Brigade, with- drawing to Raillencourt. When the pursuit to the Selle began on 9th October, the 49th Division also formed part of the Canadian Corps. The Division had spent a fortnight out of the line in Army Reserve in the Maroeuil area, the 146th Brigade in Arras. On the 7th October, the Brigade moved to Hendecourt, the 49th Division having been ordered to relieve the 2nd Canadian Division north-west of Cambrai. At mid-day on 9th, the Brigade received orders to move forward to an area east of the Canal du Nord, crossing the canal at Sains les Marquion, in rear of 147th Brigade. Battalions did not arrive till after dark and bivouacked just west of Raillencourt.

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1918 The Territorials and the Selle 353

On the roth at 2.30 p.m. the 146th Brigade again moved for- 1/5TH, 1/6TH, ward as the Brigadier had been warned that he might be called upon ions. to relieve a Canadian brigade that night in the neighbourhood of Iwuy. That night the 1/7th West Yorkshires bivouacked near Morenchies and the 1/5th and 1/6th West Yorkshires in the neigh- bourhood of Tilloy, north of Cambrai. Orders had been received by the 49th Division to attack the enemy on 11th October. The 147th Brigade was to be on the right and the 146th on the left. The 4th Canadian Brigade had launched an attack north-east of Cambrai during the day and the 49th Division was to continue the operations on the day following, i.e., 11th. The Canadians had reached the high ground south-east of Iwuy, whence the 49th Division was to continue the attack to the high ground north-east of Haspres, east of the River Selle. On the 146th Brigade front the attack was to be launched by the 1/6th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel R. Clough) on the right, the 1/7th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Pinwill) on the left : the 1/5th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel W. Oddie) were in Brigade Reserve, but were to move forward about two thousand yards behind the attack.! During the night of 1oth/11th, the 1/6th West Yorkshires 10/11TH moved forward to their assembly position, the Rieux-Iwuy road, OCTOBER. and by 5 a.m. on 11th the battalion was ready to attack—‘“‘A”’ Company on the right, ‘‘ B ”’ on the left, ‘‘ C ” in support, and ‘‘ D” in reserve. The objectives allotted to the battalion were (i) the station and railway cutting south of Avesnes le Sec, and (11) the village of Haspres—in all an advance of approximately ten thousand yards. The 1/7th West Yorkshires also assembled along the Rieux- Iwuy road, on the left of, and in the same order of companies as, the 1/6th Battalion. The 1/5th Battalion, in Brigade Reserve, was assembled on the Naves road just west of the River d’Erclin. ‘* Zero ” hour for the attack was 9 a.m. East of the Erclin River the high ground had not been captured by the 4th Canadian Brigade, and the attacking troops of the 49th Division were ordered to go forward quickly and, having secured the heights, push on down the slopes as rapidly as possible. A heavy barrage had been ordered for 9 a.m., behind which the troops were to follow closely.

I Battle strength of battalions: 1/sth W. Yorks., 19 officers, 554 other ranks: 1, 6th W. Yorks., 19 officers, 613 other ranks : 1/7th W. Yorks., 21 officers, 634 other ranks.


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354 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

Towards 5 a.m. the enemy’s shell-fire was heavy. The assembly positions were not only under bombardment but the river banks and Naves were plastered with hostile shells. The 1/6th suffered several casualties, including Capt. H. A. Jowett wounded. At 5.30 a.m. the 1/7th observed the enemy taking up position on the high ground about two hundred yards in front of the battalion. The ground on both sides of the river was open and cultivated ; of hedges and ditches there were none on the slopes east of the river, and as the ridge rose gradually from the Iwuy-Rieux road the enemy had an excellent field of fire. That he was in strength on the ridge was evident from the machine-gun fire coming from it. At 9 a.m. the barrage opened. It is described as ‘‘ magnificent.” The whole ridge seemed to disappear rapidly in smoke and bursting shells. The sight was thrilling to the troops as they left their assembly positions and advanced quickly to the attack. The whole British line moved steadily across the Iwuy road, and although the vicious spitting of machine-gun fire began immediately, the men were on the Germans before they had time to hold up the attack ; in several instances the machine-gunners were shot or bayoneted before they could bring their guns into action. Along the whole Brigade front the advance was so steady that the Germans, thoroughly intimidated, came running forward with their hands up while the front waves were yet nearly one hundred yards from them. By 9.20 a.m. the front-line companies of the 1/7th were over the crest of the ridge and prisoners, about three hundred in number, were arriving at Battalion Headquarters. Many light and heavy

machine-guns had also been captured. By 9.30 a.m. the first line had disappeared over the ridge and

the barrage was thundering on towards Avesnes le Sec. At this hour Battalion Headquarters 1/7th had moved up on to the ridge and here, at 9.43 a.m., Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Pinwill was wounded by a machine-gun bullet in the thigh, and carried back. At 9.50 a.m. ‘““C ” Company of the same battalion reported the capture of twelve field guns. About five hundred yards on the eastern side of the ridge a slightly sunken road ran across the front of the advance from Iwuy towards Villers-en-Cauchies. Here the enemy’s resistance stiffened. The road was lined by parties of Germans who kept up a heavy fire, causing heavy casualties, though they did not stay the advance of the West Yorkshiremen. Shortly after 10 a.m. a few men of the

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1918 A Gallant N.C.O. 355

1/6th Battalion had advanced to within a mile of Avesnes le Sec. 1/6TH, On the right of the same battalion hostile field guns firing at point- p 7TH ons. blank range from positions west of Villers-en-Cauchies, were en- countered. With fine pluck Sergeant Ernest Franks (1/6th West Yorkshires), seeing that his platoon was held up by these guns, worked forward with one of his men and dashed at the guns. He and his comrade shot four of the gunners and took the remainder prisoners. The advance was continued to within a few hundred yards of Villers- en-Cauchies and everything appeared to be going according to time

table. Word had been passed back quickly of the success of the attack,

guns were being moved to advanced positions and motor ambulances were arriving at Rieux cross-roads to collect the wounded when suddenly the unexpected happened ! From the direction of Avesnes le Sec observers stationed on the ridge south-east of Iwuy saw men retiring; they were moving back slowly and steadily. And the retirement was spreading along the whole front. The enemy’s artillery fire increased and the ridge was plastered with bursting shells. From the railway embankment near Avesnes intense machine-gun fire swept the ridge like a maelstrom. And the violent machine-gun fire was supported by other hostile machine-guns at closer quarters—from four German tanks of a light and very mobile type. This was the first occasion on which the 1/6th and 17th West Yorkshires had encountered enemy tanks, but they did their best to deal adequately with the steel monsters. But rifle fire was impossible and the few gallant souls who thought to put the machines out of action by concentrated rifle fire were all shot down. Soon the whole line was retiring across the very ridge which had previously been captured. But there is a dour spirit in Yorkshiremen which refuses to accept defeat, and on the western slopes of the ridge the troops rallied. Reinforced by some Canadians who had rallied on the left of the 146th Brigade, and with details from the reserve companies of the 1/s5th Battalion, the 16th and 1/7th again advanced with the determination to recapture the ridge at all costs. In spite of a murderous hail of machine-gun bullets and H.E. shell, the attackers advanced with magnificent ¢lan and the ridge was once more captured : it was a brilliant feat of arms and, although the hostile tanks patrolled (uselessly) in front of Avesnes for nearly an hour, they finally with- drew. By nightfall the 146th Brigade consolidated ground nearly

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1/sTH, 1/6TH


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356 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

» three kilometres in front of the original starting point, and had succeeded in retaining the high ground which the West Yorkshiree men had been ordered to capture “ at all costs.” During the evening the 1/5th West Yorkshires took over the front line from the 1/6th and 1/7th Battalions, and the first stage of the battle was over. The relieved battalions moved back to their Original position on the Iwuy-Rieux road, where strenuous efforts to reorganise the remnants, collect stragglers and estimate casualties occupied several hours. Success had been won, but at what a price! for both the 1/6th and 1/7th were now but skeletons of their former selves. Of the 1/6th Battalion there remained ten officers and 200 other At 10 p.m. orders were received to continue the advance on the 12th, the 1/5th West Yorkshires to carry out the attack, with 1/6th in support and 1/7th in reserve. The night of r1th/12th passed without a great deal of annoyance from the enemy’s artillery, and patrols sent out were unable to gain touch with the enemy. When dawn broke there was a strange still- ness out in front of the 1/5th Battalion. Not a sign of the enemy could be seen ; not a rifle nor a machine-gun bullet was fired and the hostile guns were silent. The objective given to the 1/5th Battalion was the line Avesnes- Villers-en-Cauchies railway. As the sun rose and the ground mist lifted it was obvious that the enemy had retired : the hard fighting of the previous day which had resulted in the loss of the ridge had compelled the enemy to retire, and he had moved back beyond Avesnes to the ridge on the eastern side of the village. The advance was begun by the 1/5th West Yorkshires at 11.15 a.m. and reached the objective at 12.45 p.m. The advance had been under weak artillery fire at first, but about noon the volume of shell- fire increased and Avesnes was placed under a heavy hostile barrage. The village, practically untouched hitherto by shell-fire, very soon assumed the aspect of an inferno ; houses fell like packs of cards and the whole place reeked with gas. But the 1/5th held on to Avesnes and pushed forward patrols on to the high ground overlooking the valley of the Selle River. The battalion was, however, unable to reach the western banks of the Selle, which were held by the enemy,

INeither battalion give details of their casualties, the totals being taken from the Brigade Narrative of the operations. Casualties of the 1/sth Battalion were 2 officers wounded, 8 other ranks killed and 46 wounded.

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1918 The Selle Uncrossed 357

strongly posted. One platoon, however, under Sergeant P. Kavanagh, ! 5TH,1/6TH succeeded in reaching a point on the western bank and there dug in, tons. remaining in this position until the evening of 13th, when it was 131TH Ocr. obliged to retire in conformity with troops on the right and left flanks. The 148th Brigade passed through the line of the 146th at 2 a.m. on 13th, but was soon held up by hostile machine-gun fire. Thus, so far as the three West Yorkshire battalions of the 49th Division were concerned, ended the Advance to the Selle River. The casualties of the 1/5th Battalion on 12th were one officer

wounded, 12 other ranks killed and 29 wounded.

Page 371


I, Flanders : 28th September—18th November The Battles of Ypres, 1918

HE story of the Final Advance to Victory turns first to the Flanders front and to one battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment—the 15th/17th of the 31st Division. On the night of 12th/13th September, the 15th/17th West Yorkshires went into the support trenches of the Nieppe System, and on the following night took over the front line which then consisted of a series of posts along the immediate western side of the Ploegsteert-Messines road. The frontage allotted to the battalion was about three thousand yards. At this period the British line farther south, south of the Arras-Cambrai road, had advanced much further east than the north- ern front, and the latter was therefore ordered to push forward as part of the general strategic plan. Accordingly on 14th, 93rd Brigade Headquarters issued orders to the 1§th/17th West Yorkshires to advance their posts, and during the nights of the 15th! and 16th these were gradually pushed forward until finally, by the 18th, a semi-circle had been formed round the eastern outskirts of the ruined village of Ploegsteert. The establishment of this line of posts was carried out by “D” and ““B” Companies of the 1§th/17th West Yorkshires, on the right and left respectively, the attack taking place at 5.30 a.m. on 18th September. Each company attacked with two platoons, i.e., Nos. 13 and 14 Platoons of “‘D” and Nos. 6 and 5 of “B.” The posts were garrisoned by half platoons. The enemy resisted the advance, but by means of rifle grenades and Lewis-gun fire all objectives were gained and the line of posts (as stated above) was established round the eastern exits of Ploegsteert. In this small affair, carried out with great vigour and dash, the last of its kind by the 15th/17th West Yorkshires, the battalion lost one officer (Lieut. J. Marshall) killed, two other officers wounded and twenty-six other ranks killed or wounded :

1On the night of 1sth September, Licut.-Col. A. V. Nutt took over command of the West Yorkshires from Lieut.-Colonel W. D. Coles.




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360 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

seventeen prisoners (sixteen unwounded and one wounded) were captured and some sixty odd Germans were killed or wounded. Soyer Farm was captured and the Brigade front pushed forward to the line of the Warnavie Becque. One company of the 13th Y. and L. Regiment had also attacked with the West Yorkshires, and altogether the captures totalled fifty unwounded and nine wounded prisoners. The Army Commander and G.O.C. Division wired their congratula- tions to the C.O.’s of both battalions. On the conclusion of this operation the 93rd Brigade was relieved by the 94th and moved back into Divisional Reserve—the 1§th/17th West Yorkshires to a camp south-east of Bailleul. Here, until the 28th September, the Brigade remained training and resting. At 5 p.m. on 28th, however, the Brigadier was informed that the XIXth Corps had just captured Zandvoorde and was moving on Houthen, and the 93rd Brigade was therefore ordered to move towards the Ypres-Comines Canal, between Comines and Houthen. By this move it was hoped to cut off any of the enemy still remaining on the Messines Ridge. The Brigade was to move towards this objective in advanced-guard formation, the starting point being the road junction south of Neuve Eglise. The following quotations from the official despatches will give the general situation in Flanders at this period: “ At 5.30 a.m. on the 28th September, the XIXth and IInd Corps of the Second Army attacked without preliminary bombardment on a front of some four- and-a-half miles south of the Ypres-Zonnebeke road. The 14th, 35th, 29th and 9th Divisions delivered the initial assault, being supported in the later stages of the battle by the 41st Division and the 36th Division. On the left of the IInd Corps the Belgian Army continued the line of attack as far as Dixmude. On both the British and Belgian fronts the attack was a brilliant success. The enemy, who was attempting to hold his position with less than five divisions, was driven rapidly from the whole of the high ground east of Ypres so fiercely contested during the battles of 1917. By the end of the day the British divisions had passed far beyond the farthest limits of the 1917 battles and had reached and captured Kortewilde, Zandvoorde, Kruiseecke and Becelaere. On their left Belgian troops had taken Zonnebeke, Poelcappelle and Schaap Baillie and cleared the enemy from Houthulst Forest. South of the main attack successful minor enterprises by the 31st, 30th and 34th British Divisions carried our line to St. Yves and the outskirts of Messines. Wytschaete was captured, and after sharp fighting our

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1918 Brave German Machine-Gunners 361 troops established themselves along the line of the ridge between !5/17TH

Wytschaete and the canal north of Hollebeke.”’ BATTALION. The loss of these places, many of which had been held by the enemy since the Battles of Ypres, 1914 and 1915, must have cost the Germans many a bitter pang, but the relentless pressure placed upon them by the Allies gave them no choice—they had either to fall back or surrender. The 15th/17th West Yorkshires were ordered to form the Advanced Guard of the 93rd Brigade ; the battalion was to pass the starting point at 9 p.m. that night. The column marched through Neuve Eglise, thence turned east along the Le Rossignol road. All went well until the western slopes of Hill 63 (south of Messines) were reached. Here the Brigade came under heavy and accurate shell-fire, the enemy placing a barrage on the Messines-Armentiéres road. The column halted, Lewis guns were unpacked and the battalion transport sent back. Casualties numbering about twenty-five had already been suffered by the West Yorkshiremen, and before the march was resumed gas masks were donned, as the enemy was using gas shells. At fifty yards interval between platoons the column proceeded to pass through the barrage, and after about an hour the hostile shell-fire slackened. Just east of Le Rossignol the West Yorkshiremen obtained touch with the C.O. of the 11th East Yorkshires (92nd Brigade) and the former were ordered to continue to act as Advanced Guard to the 93rd Brigade until the 11th East Yorkshires were encountered, when the latter were to take over the duties of Advanced Guard. Just north of St. Yven the 11th East Yorkshires were met with, who took over from the West Yorkshires and the advance continued. But in the neighbourhood of Tilleul Farm the enemy’s rearguards were encountered and they had to be overcome before the Advanced Guard could get on. ‘‘ The enemy defensive,” records the Brigade Narrative, ‘‘ consisted entirely of machine-guns, and always placed in concrete ‘ pill boxes.’ His tactics were entirely delaying and as soon as our troops got near him he retired and took up positions further in rear.” Due credit must be given to those German rear- guards, who stuck to their positions with great bravery ; they alone saved the German divisions at many points from capture, by covering their withdrawal; they clung tenaciously to their positions until the last possible movement, and if it was too late for them to withdraw they died fighting their guns. At 4.30 a.m. on 29th the 15th/17th West Yorkshires were 29TH

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362 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

ordered to provide outposts whilst the Brigade halted, as it was impossible to make the operation before daylight. At 11.30 a.m. the advance was again resumed towards the River Douve, the 15th/17th Battalion again leading the column. The Douve was crossed and the Brigade advanced north as far as the Messines-Les Quatre Rois Cabaret road, when the direction was changed to due east. The left of the West Yorkshires reached the road just north of the Cabaret at about 12.45 p.m. There was then distant machine-gun fire from the right. The right of the battalion was, however, held up by hostile posts near the Cabaret. These posts were attacked. Lewis-gun and rifle fire was opened upon them and at 1.20 p.m. the posts were rushed ; eleven prisoners were taken, one was wounded, and two Germans were killed; two machine- guns were captured. The advance was then continued, but further resistance was encountered entailing more fighting, as the result of which several more Germans were captured. At 2.10 p.m.a message was received from Brigade Headquarters that all companies were to remain in their present positions until further orders. All com- panies were then concentrated just south-east of the Cabaret, as the Brigade had been ordered to attack south-east towards the Lys. The troops, however, were too exhausted to do any further fighting that day; they had been marching and fighting for twenty-four hours at least. The attack was therefore postponed until the morning of the 30th at 6 a.m, By 5.45 a.m. on 30th the 15th/17th West Yorkshires were in position for the attack and were assembled along the light railway south of the Cabaret and facing south-east ; the 13th Y. and L. were on their right. The attack began at 6 a.m. without opposition from the enemy, but the advance was slow. Quantities of old wire lay about every- where and the ground was much cut up by shell-fire—shell-holes were numerous. By 7 a.m. the advance had reached a general line east and west of De La Croix Farm, north-west of Warneton. Heavy machine-gun fire from the direction of Warneton and a Sugar Refinery south-west of the village held up the right company (‘‘A’’) of the West Yorkshires. At 11.30 a.m. orders were received to wait until dusk before advancing on the final objectives. By 4.40 p.m. the left company (‘‘C”’) had reached all its objectives and had established a line of posts south-west of Warneton to the western bank of the Lys. When dusk had fallen Company reached its objective on the right of ‘‘ C”’ and similarly established posts.

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1918 Lieut .-Col. A. V. Nutt wounded 363

On 1st October the 13th Y. and L. Regiment took over the whole Brigade front and the 15th/17th West Yorkshires moved back to support positions north of St. Yven. There are no records of casualties in the Diary of the 15th/17th West Yorkshires during these operations, but the Brigade Diary gives three officers killed, nine officers wounded and 190 other ranks killed, wounded and missing ; it is probable that most of these were West Yorkshires. From this date (1st October) forward until Armistice Day the records of the 15th/17th West Yorkshires show a great deal of marching and constant moves from village to village, but very little fighting. The 31st Division followed up the beaten enemy, losing no opportunity of gaining ground or of harassing his retirement. Between the 1st October and 11th November only fifteen other rank casualties, killed and wounded, are mentioned in the Battalion Diary, but on 6th October, Lieut.-Colonel A. V. Nutt was wounded and Major W. Peace assumed temporary command. Lieut.-Colonel G. P. Norton joined the battalion on 21st October and took over command from Major Peace. Until the Armistice came into force the movements of the battalion are briefly as follow: On the 4th into the line near Pont Rouge, but relieved on 6th and marched to Aldershot Camp, near Neuve Eglise, where training was carried out. On 16th, at 8.30 a.m., the battalion again moved forward and that night occupied trenches in the immediate neighbourhood of Grand Hel Farm, south-west of Comines. The 17th witnessed only a short march eastwards, but on 18th a long march brought the 15th/17th to Turcoing, where the inhabitants welcomed the battalion in no uncertain manner. The town was en féte and the delighted townsfolk, freed from German domination, refused to billet men unless they could provide them with beds. But at 8 a.m. the next morning the West Yorkshires were on the road moving forward to Lannoy, where again the civilians accorded the British troops a most enthusiastic welcome. On reaching Lannoy, ‘‘ B’’ Company was detached to Toufflers, while late that night orders were received to move to Nechin on 20th. By 10 a.m. on the latter date the move had been completed, but it was an unlucky day for the battalion, for a small calibre shell fell on the billets occupied by ‘“‘ B”’ and “ C ”’ Companies, with the result that six other ranks were killed and four wounded. Two companies then moved to the Convent and two to the Brewery. On the 24th the 15th/17th moved into the front line at Pecq, a small village on



rst Oct.

20TH OcT.


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364 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

the banks of the Escaut River, east of Roubaix. Here on the 25th October a patrol endeavouring to obtain an identification, or in other words to take a prisoner, was unsuccessful owing to heavy machine- gun fire. On the 26th the battalion was relieved (having suffered two other ranks killed and three wounded during the tour) and companies marched off independently to Mouscron, where billets were found in the College. During the afternoon of 27th the Battalion Band and the Battalion Concert Party (The Owls) gave a concert to the civilian population. A long march of sixteen kilo- metres on 28th took the West Yorkshires north to the Staceghem area, where several days of training were carried out. To Roncq on 1st November, Marcke on 8th, to Orroir (via Swevelghem and Rugge) on 9th, and to Rennaix on roth (where the townsfolk gave the battalion a splendid reception) brings the story of the 15th/17th down to the night before the Armistice. At 9.45 a.m. the battalion marched out of Rennaix accompanied by the cheers of the populace to Rigaud- aye. En route the Armistice came into force. Quietly and without any of those manifestations of mad joy which convulsed the cities and towns and villages throughout Great Britain, France and Belgium, the great end came.

Page 377

THE FINALADVANCE: 2nd October—11th November II. Artois

MONGST the divisions of the First and Fifth British Armies who made the Final Advance in Artois between 2nd October and 11th November, the 8th was indefatigable. Fighting skilfully and con- queringly with that splendid courage which had animated all ranks (though the personnel of the Divi- sion had changed again and again owing to its heavy losses) since its arrival in France in November, 1914, the 8th in those last few weeks of the Great War played their part in overcoming the strongest hostile defences. It was the staunch courage of all units of the Division which forced from the lips of the G.O.C. the exclamation that: ‘‘ The finest man on God’s earth is the British private soldier !” According to the list of Battle Honours of the British Army during the Great War, no operations between 2nd October and rith November, 1918 (other than the capture of Douai on 17th October) were awarded to the First and Fifth Armies; yet the advance between these two dates was a period of hazardous and skilful fighting—the breaking down of the last defence of a beaten and broken enemy who fought with his back to the wall and with the courage of an enraged beast vainly striving to stave off utter defeat. The spirit of the 8th Division is demonstrated in the following paragraph taken from a Brigade Order with the 23rd Infantry Brigade Headquarters Diary for September, 1918; ‘‘ No officer or man will give or repeat the word ‘ Retire.’ Any proved case of this is a Court Martial offence. All ranks must stick it out.” September was spent by the 8th Division in the line south of 2N Lens. The 23rd Infantry Brigade held the Willerval sector, the 2nd West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel A. E. E. Lowry) being in Hills Camp on the 1st of the month. The battalion went again into the front line (Acheville) on the 9th, changing sub-sectors with the 21st Sept. 2nd Middlesex on 21st. One officer (Second-Lieut. H. L. Jackson) was wounded on 13th whilst on patrol, for active patrolling was then

in force all up and down the line. An abortive raid was carried out 365


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366 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

on the enemy’s trenches on the night of 20th. On the 23rd the battalion lost its Commanding Officer. Always diligent in ascertain- ing the position along the front of his battalion and that his officers and men were on the alert, Lieut.-Colonel Lowry was out visiting his outposts when he was killed by a machine-gun bullet. His loss was a great blow to the 2nd Battalion—the keenest sorrow was felt by all ranks. Indeed, so greatly was he liked, and so fine were his qualities as a soldier, that messages of sympathy and regret were received from the G.O.’sC., Army, Corps, Division and Brigade. Major A. T. Champion assumed command of the battalion. On the 26th the West Yorkshires withdrew to the support line and at 12 midnight the 8th and 20th Divisions attacked the enemy, the Devons and Middlesex carrying out the attack from the 23rd Brigade front. On the 28th the battalion again moved back to Hills Camp. The 23rd Brigade relieved the 154th Brigade (51st Division) in the Greencamp Hill sector on rst October, the West Yorkshires relieving a battalion of Highlanders. The 8th Division had ex- tended its front in order to attack the Fresnes-Rouvroy line—a very strong and complicated system of defences north-east of Arras. In this attack the 2nd West Yorkshires were in the centre of the 23rd Brigade front, having the Middlesex on their right and 2nd Devons on their left. The battalion disposed “ D ” Company on the right, “ B ”’ in the centre and ‘‘A”’ on the left: “ C ”? Company was in reserve. The wire in front of the enemy’s trenches was very thick, but the artillery had well pounded the whole system and when, under a magnificent barrage, the troops advanced at 5 a.m. on 2nd October, all objectives were quickly reached. The battalion took a number of prisoners who (so the records state) “‘ all appeared very pleased to be captured.” After the attack, posts were established about Gloster Wood and in Fresnes village. On the 8th the West Yorkshires with- drew to Greenland Hill, occupying their former position. No details of casualties are given, but they are referred to as “ very light.” From Greenland Hill the battalion moved back to Stirling Camp for a day or two, but on the 11th again took over their old positions from Greenland Hill, whilst the 2nd Middlesex and 2nd Division launched another attack (entirely successful) which broke the Dro- court-Quéant line and paved the way for the capture of Douai. Hurried preparations were now made to hit the enemy hard south of the Sensée River whilst he was still holding the Douai

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1918 Douat entered 367

Salient, but he anticipated this attack and withdrew. This with- 2D

drawal was closely followed by the British and on 12th October the 2nd West Yorkshires, as Advanced Guard of the 23rd Infantry Brigade, passed through the 2nd Middlesex in the Drocourt-Quéant line at 10.30 a.m. Very little opposition was encountered until the battalion was about six hundred yards from the Scarpe Deviation, but here very heavy machine-gun and rifle fire swept the front of the advance. The battalion, however, continued to push on until about two hundred yards from the Canal (Scarpe Deviation), the objective, before being held up. Efforts to get on without incurring heavy casualties were impossible, the ground in parts being exceedingly marshy. A line was therefore established at a depth varying from two hundred to three hundred yards from the canal. Patrols were pushed out during the night, some getting as far as the canal bank, where the enemy was found in strength.! Efforts to cross the canal on 13th were unavailing, and during the evening the 2nd West Yorkshires were relieved by the 2nd Devons and withdrew to positions near Vitry (Brigade Headquarters). Eight other ranks had been killed during the tour and one officer and fifty-nine other ranks wounded. The 2nd West Yorkshires were in Brigade Reserve on the Drocourt-Quéant line when, on the night of 16th/17th October, the 2nd Middlesex, by means of temporary bridges, crossed the Canal. After they had established the bridgeheads the West Yorkshiremen moved up to relieve them, pushing on through the “‘ Die Hards ” towards Douai. On the morning of 18th a line was established on the eastern outskirts of the town, which was completely clear of the enemy. One solitary German deserter was found in hiding and surrendered. All the civilians in Douai had been evacuated. The 25th Brigade now passed through the 23rd and the West Yorkshires billeted in the outskirts of Douai. From the latter place the battalion marched to new billets in Cattalet on 20th October, remaining there until 26th when, under sudden orders, they moved by march route to Millon Fosse arriving just before midnight. The following day the West Yorkshiremen moved to St. Amand. Heavy fighting had been going on along the front of the First, Third and Fourth Armies, and the Selle crossings had been won only after a hard struggle. On the afternoon of 30th October the 2nd West Yorkshires moved up again to the battle front, occupying billets in Odomez and in the neighbourhood of the Chateau de Forét.

10n the rath October Lieut.-Colonel D. Grant Dalton relinquished command of tie battalion, Major A. T’, Champion assuming command.


16/17TH Oct.

30TH Oct.

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1st Nov.

368 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

During the night 30th/31st the Devons, who had been holding the outpost line, attempted to cross the River Escaut and the Canal du Nord, and the 2nd West Yorkshires received orders to “ leap-frog ” the Devons as soon as the latter had established bridgeheads across the Canal. The gallant Devons got across the Escaut but could not establish bridgeheads over the Canal du Nord, and later in the day (31st) owing to heavy shell and trench-mortar fire, were compelled to withdraw to the western bank of the river. Here the West Yorkshiremen took over the responsibility for maintaining an out- post line on the western bank of the Escaut, companies being billeted in the neighbourhood of Odomez with patrols pushed out towards the river bank. Throughout the 1st November the battalion held the front line and, with the exception of patrol work, nothing of importance occurred. On the 2nd the 2nd West Yorkshires took over the line on their right held by the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, the left of their front being relieved by a battalion from the 52nd Division. On the 3rd, whilst out on a daylight patrol, Lieut. C. P. Graham was wounded, the last officer casualty from wounds mentioned in the diaries, for on the 4th the West Yorkshiremen were relieved and marched back to billets in and around Bousignies, the line held by the 8th Division having been taken over by the 11th Division. Valenciennes had fallen (on Ist/2nd November), and in the Battle of the Sambre (4th November) the Sambre-Oise Canal had been won and Le Quesnoy captured. Everywhere along the front the enemy was now retiring rapidly, beaten and broken. There were rumours of an Armistice, and with Mons within reach great efforts were made to push on and capture the town before the War ended. On buses, lorries and all sorts of transport, troops were hurried forward to end the War upon the first battlefield of 1914. The 8th Division returned to the line on 8th November, the crowning achieve- ment after four years of warfare by the 2nd West Yorkshires being some hard marching on 9th. The battalion was still at Bousignies on that date, but at 7.30 a.m. paraded and proceeded by march route to Fresnes, via Brilloy, St. Amand and La Croisette. It was 1.30 p.m. before the 2nd Battalion reached its destination, and then only a comparatively short rest was allowed, for at 4.30 p.m. the West Yorkshiremen were again on the road, moving by lorries to Thulin and arriving at the latter place at 3.30 The morning of roth was spent in “ cleaning-up”’ and inspection, then at 3 p.m. the battalion set out on a three hours’

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1918 The End of Four Tortuous Years 369

march across the Mons-Conde Canal to Tertre, arriving in billets at 2ND

6 p.m.


On the morning of 11th, whilst the guns were still firing and the 11TH Nov.

Canadians were attacking Mons, the West Yorkshiremen were engaged in “cleaning and inspection.”’ Then, a little later, the battalion was paraded and the C.O. told all ranks that “ hostilities had ceased at 11.00 hours, an Armistice having been signed.’’ After dinner the battalion again paraded at 2.30 p.m. and marched four kilometres to Douvrain and there billeted, the West Yorkshiremen being received with great manifestations of joy by the villagers. Thus at last the 8th Division had come to the end of four years of tortuous warfare, all ranks working in common cheeriness and devotion to duty from start to finish.


Page 383

THE FINALADVANCE: 17th October—11th November

III. Picardy The Battle of the Selle, 17th—25th October, 1918

HE first battle of the final operations in Picardy was 1ST, 8TH, that of the Selle, and in this action no less than seven TH battalions of the Regiment, 1st (6th Division),! 8th (62nd 21st I Division),? roth (17th Division), 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th BATTALIONs. (49th Division)® and 21st (4th Division)® were either actually engaged with the enemy or in support. On the right the battle opened with an attack by the Fourth Army on a front of about ten miles from Le Cateau south- wards, in conjunction with the First French Army operating west of the Sambre and Oise Canal. The enemy was holding thickly- wooded country east of Bohain, and the line of the Selle River north of it, his infantry being well supported by artillery. Along the front of the 6th Division the Germans, east of the river, had dug a new series of trenches on the high ground, these trenches being strongly wired. A previous frontal attack having failed, the [Xth Corps Commander decided to attack south-east and east instead of north- east, which enabled him to bring heavy enfilade artillery and machine- gun fire on the enemy’s positions. The 6th and 46th Divisions attacked, with the rst Division going through. But in the inital stages of the operations the 1st West Yorkshires were in Brigade Reserve, the 2nd Durham Light Infantry and the 11th Essex being the assaulting battalions. The West Yorkshires had remained in billets in Bohain untl rst the afternoon of 16th October, when the battalion moved forward by BATTALION. march route to about three thousand yards west of Vaux Andigny, moving forward again at 1.30 a.m. on 17th (“ day), close to 171TH Oct. the village in preparation for the attack which was to be launched at 5.30 a.m. The attack was successful, but only “B’” and “D” Companies of the battalion were called upon for “ mopping-up ”’

‘Fourth Army. “Third Army. ; 3First Army. Armies in the order given from right to left.


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20TH OcT.

372 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

duties and to help in the work of consolidating the new line. The whole battalion took over the front line on the morning of 18th, but on the 19th (the rst Division having passed through) the West Yorkshiremen were withdrawn once more to billets in Bohain. On this day (19th), after much severe fighting, the enemy had withdrawn across the Sambre and Oise Canal at practically all points south of Catillon, the British line following the valley of the Riche- mont east and north of Le Cateau. At 2 a.m. on the 20th the line of the Selle River, north of Le Cateau, was attacked by the Third and First Armies. The roth (17th Division) and 8th (62nd Division) Battalions of the Regiment of the Third Army were actively engaged: the 21st Battalion (the hard-worked Pioneers) of the 4th Division of the First Army were working on bridges over the Selle at Saulzoir, and on the roads. From Inchy, where two or three days had been spent in reserve, the 5oth Brigade moved into its assembly positions on the night of 19th October. The Brigade plan of attack was as follows : the 7th East Yorkshires were to cross the Selle south of Neuvilly and the 6th Dorsets north of the river, the two battalions advancing and joining hands on the high ground 1,000 yards east of the village. The 1oth West Yorkshires were to “ mop-up” Neuvilly and the railway line east of it, two companies working from the south and two from the north. *“* Zero” hour was 2 a.m. 20th October. No easy task lay before the Brigade, for the enemy had had ten days in which to reorganise and strengthen his positions. In this period he had erected a great deal more wire and had placed machine- guns in carefully-camouflaged positions, completely covering the bridges which had been thrown across the river, and the places where it was likely the British would attempt to put fresh bridges. West of the Selle Neuvilly (which lay on both sides of the river) had been definitely cleared of the enemy. East of the river the ground rose very steeply in a series of plateaux, each divided from the other by high and almost vertical banks. It was a position ideally suited to defensive tactics, but a stiff proposition for attacking troops. In a heavy rain, which fell all night, the troops assembled in the ‘jumping-off ” line, the East Yorkshires and Dorsets east of the river, with ““B” and ‘‘C” Companies, roth West Yorkshires, in front of the first-named battalion and “A” and ‘“ D ” Companies in rear of the latter battalion, 7.e., south and north of Neuvilly res- pectively.

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1918 Neuvilly Captured 373

Under a heavy and accurate barrage the East Yorkshires and Bon Dorsets advanced at 2 a.m., followed by the West Yorkshiremen. corn The enemy’s reply was also equally severe, and at the very outset telephone wires between Battalion and Brigade Headquarters were cut by hostile shell-fire. With fine dash, and fighting splendidly, the two attacking battalions, in the face of fierce opposition and heavy fire from machine-guns and trench-mortars, interspersed at regular intervals of fifty yards along the railway, reached the first objective by 2.20 a.m. according to time table, and there paused for ten minutes under a protective barrage in order to reorganise for the advance on the second objective. As the East Yorkshires and Dorsets advanced the two companies of West Yorkshires, south and west of Neuvilly, followed them closely on either side of the village. A heavy trench-mortar barrage had been placed on the northern and southern outskirts in order to keep down hostile-machine-gun fire, which in the previous attacks had caused failure. Immediately south of the village there was a small copse, and here for over forty minutes stiff fighting took place, and it was not until Second-Lieut. R. G. Jones worked round and attacked the enemy in rear that the place was cleared. But in the hand-to-hand fighting which took place, Second-Lieut. Jones was killed. No prisoners were taken and the garrison was destroyed. While Second- Lieut. Jones was attacking the copse from one side, Corporal S. Whincup, with two sections, attacked it from the other side. This gallant N.C.O. killed five of the enemy, took fourteen prisoners and two machine-guns. Both the northern and southern outskirts of Neuvilly were strongly held by German machine-guns, and as soon as the trench-mortar barrage ceased and the roth West Yorkshires ad- vanced on the village these hostile guns, which had survived the barrage, opened fire in an attempt to hold up the attack. But the West Yorkshiremen were not to be denied and broke down all opposition. In a single house in the northern portion of the village four German machine-guns were in action. They were rushed by Second-Lieut. Lane’s Company. In a final effort to beat off the attackers one of the enemy machine-gunners hurled his gun from the top storey of the house on to the heads of his assailants. In the centre of the village the enemy surrendered freely. From one cellar thirty-five Germans were extracted. Another party of about one hundred, with their hands above their heads and without waiting

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20TH OcT.


374 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

for an escort, rushed terror-stricken towards the river, bent only upon getting across to the prisoners’ cages as quickly as possible. Immediately east of the village the railway was still full of the enemy, though the Dorsets and East Yorkshires had passed on north and south. These were adequately dealt with by the West Yorkshires, and another gallant N.C.O.—Sergeant C. H. Heap—greatly dis- tinguished himself in the leading of his platoon : he killed four of the enemy and the men of his platoon killed another thirty and took twenty-two prisoners. By 5 a.m. the village was cleared of the enemy and the roth West Yorkshires reorganised and took a central position east of Neuvilly in support of the two attacking battalions, which by this time had gained the second objective. In the latter operation, however, the West Yorkshiremen took no part, though they relieved the Dorsets and East Yorkshires on the Red Line (2nd objective) after the 51st Brigade had passed through (at 4 a.m. on 2Ist) to capture the final objective—Amerval and the high ground east of it. In this action the 10th West Yorkshires captured eighty-four prisoners (in addition to the hundred previously menuoned who were rounded up west of the river), thirty-four machine-guns, six trench- mortars, three German G.S. wagons and two horses. They had also killed about one hundred of the enemy. The battalion’s losses were one officer killed, two wounded, and in other ranks the casualties were thirteen killed, sixty-six wounded and two missing. The ‘‘ History of the soth Infantry Brigade, 1914-1919” states that “‘ the Battle on October 20th was probably the fiercest ever fought by the The Brigade fought splendidly. So did the Germans, the manner in which their dead lay grouped around their machine-guns testifying to the stubbornness of their resistance. North of the 17th Division the 62nd Division, in a well-planned and splendidly-executed enveloping attack on Solesmes, launched at 2 a.m. on 20th October, had gained all its objectives. In the initial attack (on Solesmes itself) the 185th Brigade was not engaged, but carried out the final stages of the operations, #.e., the attack and capture of the high ground north-east of the village and overlooking Romeries. In this attack the 8th West Yorkshires (right) and 2/2oth Londons (left) were the assaulting troops of the Brigade. During the attack on St. Python and Solesmes by the 186th and

187th Brigades the 185th Brigade had moved up to Quievy, where a wait of six-and-a-half hours took place before the advance of the

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1918 Captures by the 8th Battalion 375

Brigade was due to begin. On the capture of the two villages named and the establishment of a line on the eastern outskirts of Solesmes the attacking troops of the 185th Brigade, i.e., 8th West Yorkshires and 2/20th Londons, moved forward, the former via Fontaine au Terte Farm and Briastre Station, the latter through St. Python. Both battalions had to cross over the Selle, but assembly positions, roughly on a north and south line east of Solesmes, were reached without serious loss, the West Yorkshires only losing one officer and four other ranks wounded from hostile shell-fire. At 7 a.m. the barrage for the second phase of the attack fell heavily in front of the 185th Brigade and the troops advanced to the attack. The 8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel N. A. England) advancing on a two-company footing (‘‘ A ” on the right and “ D ” on the left), encountered opposition almost immediately from a Factory on the right front of the battalion, but ‘‘A’’ Company, by a turning movement from the south, cleared the ground east of the Factory, capturing two 77 mm. field guns, two trench-mortars, four light machine-guns and 130 prisoners. This success cleared the way for ‘“‘D” Company, whose objective was the Factory. The latter was captured and ‘‘ D ”’, pushing forward another two hundred yards, established a line of posts. ‘‘ A’’ Company then advanced to a road running north-east from the Factory, and together the two companies then established a line of posts with platoons in support. ““B ” Company, allotted the task of clearing the ground to the west of the railway, suffered heavily from shell-fire, meeting also with stiff opposition from hostile machine-gun fire from the Quarry. But on the left of “‘B” the advance of the London Regiment re- lieved the opposition and the Quarry was captured with forty prisoners. ‘‘ C”’? Company, now in touch with the situation, closely supported the leading companies. By about 10 a.m. the 8th West Yorkshires had established a line of posts on the high ground west of Romeries, where touch was obtained on the left with the 2/20th London Regiment, which had also reached its objective. A counter-attack, launched at 4.15 p.m. against the Londoners on the left of the West Yorkshires, was broken up and the enemy retired in disorder. On the morning of 23rd October, the 3rd Division passed through the 62nd Division to complete the operations. The three West Yorkshire Battalions (1/5th, and 1/7th) of the 146th Brigade (49th Division), though in the battle area, did


23RD Oct.

Page 388

376 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

1/5TH, 1/6TH, not take part in the operations. The 148th Brigade had passed


17TH Oct.


25TH Oct.


23RD Oct.

through the 146th on 13th October and the 1/5th West Yorkshires were withdrawn to the neighbourhood of the Beetroot Factory on the Rieux-Iwuy road, the 1/6th and 1/7th Battalions remaining in the line on the positions they had ‘“‘ dug in.” Very little sleep was obtainable that night owing to the intense cold. On the afternoon of 14th the 146th Brigade relieved the 147th in the right sector of the divisional front. The 1/6th and 1/7th were the leading battalions and moved up west of the Selle River. Attempts made that night to reconnoitre the crossings over the river were unsuccessful. On the 16th the Brigade was once more relieved and withdrawn to billets in Escaudoeuvres on 17th, the 4th Division having relieved the 49th. The 146th Brigade did not go into the front line again until 28th October. The 21st Battalion (Pioneers) of the 4th Division relieved the Pioneers of the 49th Division in Naves on 18th October and through- out the Battle of the Selle were at work on the Naves-Villers, Rieux- Iwuy and Villers-Iwuy roads, the bridges over the Selle at Saulzoin, and clearing the main roads forward from Saulzoir to Verchain. When the battle closed on 25th October the Pioneers were at Haspres. These were strenuous days and the amount of work put in was enormous ; indeed the success of the advance was in no small way due to the splendid tenacity with which the Pioneers and Sappers all up and down the line stuck to their tasks, though shelled unmercifully and suffering many casualties. In the second stage of the battle, which opened on 23rd October, only the 1st West Yorkshires took part. On the night of 20th/21st October, the 6th Division, which had been resting for a day or two after its strenuous fighting on 17th, moved back into the line, relieving the 27th American Division and a part of the 25th Division in the front line from Bazuel to a short way north of Mazinghien in order to take part in the larger operation for the attainment of the required general line running from the Sambre Canal along the edge of the Forét de Mormal to the neighbourhood of Valenciennes. The original front of attack stretched from east of Mazinghien to Maison Blue, north-east of Haussy, a distance of some fifteen miles. The assault was delivered at 1.20 a.m. on the 23rd October by the 1st, 6th, 25th and 18th Divisions of the Fourth Army, the Third and First Armies continuing the line of attack to the Scheldt. The

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1918 A Difficult Advance 377

6th Division attacked with the 18th Infantry Brigade on the right and !5T the 71st Brigade on the left. Of the former Brigade the 2nd Durham Light Infantry were on the right and the rst West Yorkshires on the left.

On the morning of 20th October, the rst West Yorkshires left 20TH Ocr. Bohain in buses and moved up to St. Souplet, arriving at 2 p.m. At 4.30 p.m. the battalion marched up to Arbre de Guise, taking over a portion of the line held by American troops ; the West Yorkshire- men had the Durhams on their right. A slight re-adjustment of the line took place on the night 21st/22nd, the 1st Battalion now having and “‘ B” Companies in the front line, ‘‘ D”’ in support and ““C” in reserve, with the 2nd D.L.I. on the right and 9th Norfolks on the left. The 18th Brigade now held a frontage of some two thousand yards. The type of country over which the attack was to go forward was a sudden change. Instead of open, rolling downs, there was a multiplicity of small fields, divided by thick-set hedges trained on wire, which proved formidable obstacles. In the Bois L’Eveque the enemy had good artillery positions, and along the eastern banks of the Sambre Canal it was evident that he intended putting up a determined fight. Throughout the days preceding the attack the roads, farms and villages were under almost continuous heavy shell- fire, and on the night of 20th/21st the assembly positions were sub- jected to heavy counter-preparation fire in which quantities of gas shells were used. Covered by an artillery barrage and assisted by tanks, the infantry attack was launched at 1.20 a.m. on 23rd October. Tapes had been laid previously to direct the attack and compass bearings care- fully worked out. In spite of a heavy concentration of artillery fire put down by the enemy and the darkness of the morning (there was a moon but it was much obscured) the troops followed up the barrage well. The St. Maurice stream ran from north-west to south-east across the Brigade front, but this was reached and crossed by both the attacking battalions of the 18th Brigade. On the right the Dur- hams, with clearer country before them, progressed more rapidly, though they suffered heavy casualties. On the left the West York- shires found the thick hedges a serious hindrance, for despite the tanks which cleared passages here and there, and the provision of billhooks, the troops were often hung up and in this way lost touch with the barrage, giving the enemy’s machine-guns time to come into action.

Page 390



23RD Oct.

24TH OcT.

26TH Oct.

378 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

At 6.31 a.m. there is a report in the Brigade Diary that the West Yorkshires were still “‘ progressing well ” and had suffered but few casualties ; the Durhams reported they had reached the Red Line (which ran roughly along the western exits of L’Eveque Wood, southwards to just west of Gimbremont), and about two hours later the West Yorkshires reported their position as on the main road at La Planty (on the Catillon-Basufel road), and that they were then pushing forward in conjunction with a tank. They had, however, to form a left defensive flank and they were not in touch with the Norfolks. The barrage had by this time ceased and all further advance was in the form of penetration into any defended locality, aided by local artillery support and machine-gun fire. At 3 p.m. the situation was approximately as follows: the Durhams had reached their objective (the Green Line which ran from, and including, Gibremont Farm northwards round the eastern edges of L’Eveque Wood) and had pushed out posts to Malmaison Farm ; the West Yorkshires had reached the Red Line and were digging in, though contemplating a further advance to the Green Line. This advance was carried out during the night 23rd/24th, and at 8 a.m. on the latter date the battalion reported they were in the Green Line which curled round the western exits of the village of Ors, with the 16th Brigade on their left and the Durhams on their right. The 18th Brigade was now within about five hundred yards of the Sambre Canal. During the night of 24th/25th patrols pushed down to the canal banks found that the enemy’s main forces had evacuated their positions on the western bank, leaving behind only a few isolated machine-gun and snipers’ posts. On the 26th the West Yorkshires again advanced and established themselves 150 yards west of Le Donjon and in the village of Ors. They could get no further owing to the marshy ground, but this advance had the effect of driving the enemy finally to the eastern side of the canal, where he was held. On the night of 28th/29th the battalion was relieved and marched back to St. Souplet and St. Martin, thence to Becquigny. On the night of 30th 31st October, the relief of the 6th Division was com- pleted and all units were billeted in Fresnoy Le Grand and the neighbourhood. In the operations on 23rd the 1st West Yorkshires lost 2 officers (Lieut. R. W. Jackson and Second-Lieut. R. Pearson) killed, 3 officers wounded and 16 other ranks killed, 70 wounded and 16

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1918 Captures by 1st Battalion 379

missing. The battalion captured one officer and 66 other ranks, 3 157 field guns, 2 light and 2 heavy machine-guns and 4 anti-tank rifles. On 24th 2 other ranks were killed and 5 wounded. On 26th Lieut. A. Matthews was killed and one other rank wounded. The latter casualties are the last recorded in the Battalion Diary of the rst West Yorkshires during the War, for the 6th Division went no more into the front line of battle, but remained in billets until the Armistice was declared. News of the great end on 11th November is brief and to the Nov. point in the Battalion Diary: ‘“‘ News arrived that hostilities on the Western Front had ceased at 11 a.m. to-day, and that the Kaiser and Crown Prince had fled to Holland. Stuttgart had declared itself a Republic. News taken very quietly.”

Page 393

THE BATTLE OF VALENCIENNES, Ist—2nd November, 1918

Y the end of October the succession of heavy blows dealt by the British had had a disastrous effect upon the German Armies. In the battle of the Selle twenty-four battalions and two American divisions had captured 20,000 officers and men and 475 guns from thirty-one German divisions. With every fresh attack the enemy experienced the greatest difficulty in replacing his enormous losses in guns, machine-guns and ammunition, whilst his reserves of men were exhausted. With Turkey and Bulgaria beaten and out of the War, and Austria on the verge of collapse, Germany’s military situation had become impossible. But to prevent her shortening her line and prolonging the struggle through the winter was imperative. Moreover, the British Armies were admirably placed to circumvent such a manceuvre. By direct attack upon a vital centre the enemy’s withdrawal would be anticipated and an immediate conclusion forced. The vital centre was the Le Quesnoy-Valenciennes front opposite the First and Third British Armies. At §.1§ a.m. on 1st November, the XVIIth Corps of the Third Army and the XXIInd Corps and the Canadians of the First Army attacked the enemy on a front of about six miles south of Valen- ciennes. The battle last two days and ended in a severe defeat of the enemy. The 49th and 4th Divisions of the XXIInd Corps and the 61st Division of the XVIIth Corps crossed the Rhonelle River, capturing, after a hard struggle, Preseau and Maresches; the Canadians on the left entered Valenciennes and progressed eastwards beyond the town. The 4th Division attacked from the line of the Rhonelle at Artres and took Preseau, but lost the greater part in a very heavy counter-attack. The 21st West Yorkshires, the Pioneers, were, as 21ST usual, hard at work on the roads during the battle. “ X ” and “ Z” BATTALION. Companies, with splendid tenacity, stuck to their task of keeping the roads passable up to and across the river, “‘ Company mean- while maintaining the road Verchain-Querenaing. The first-named


Page 394

21ST BATTALION. ist Nov,


1st Nov.

382 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

company had three killed and five wounded; ‘‘ Z” Second-Lieut. Gill and five men wounded, and ‘‘ Y”’ one man wounded. The roads during the time the Pioneers were working were plastered with shell, and on Artres hostile shell-fire was severe. On the afternoon of the 2nd November the battalion, on relief by the Pioneers of the 11th Division, moved to Saulzoir, continuing their work up to Preseau.

There are none to sing the praises of these gallant fellows ; the despatches seldom mention them. They were not in the “ lime- light ”’ yet no troops carried out their duties with greater faithfulness, or a higher sense of what depended upon their efforts, and the battalion strength at this period—26 officers and 482 other ranks—is an eloquent tribute to their devotion. On the left of the 4th Division, the 49th Division attacked with the 147th Brigade on the right, and 146th on the left. The latter Brigade was very weak in numbers, a fact which should be borne in mind as the Germans in their official publications refer continually to the British divisions at this period being of greater strength than theirown. The 1/5th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel W. Oddie) numbered 16 officers and 453 other ranks; the 1/6th (Lieut.-Colonel F. G. Hornshaw) 15 officers and 226 other ranks ; the 1/7th (Lieut.-Colonel J. A. Foxton) 15 officers and 263 other ranks. Thus the whole Brigade strength was only 46 officers and 942 other ranks. At “‘ Zero” hour the 1/5th Battalion held a line just east of Famars! with the 1/7th in support and the 1/6th back in Maing in Brigade Reserve. “* Zero” hour for the attack was 5.15 a.m. on 1st November, at which hour an accurate and heavy barrage fell on the enemy’s lines. The 1/5th West Yorkshires carried out the first stage of the attack, the crossing of the river, up to time there being very little resistance from the enemy for he was then engaged in relieving troops. The hostile barrage was thin, though it caused considerable casualties among the West Yorkshiremen. Many prisoners were

'Famars is of great historical interest to the West Yorkshire Regiment, for it was here that the ‘‘ Ca Ira,’ the famous Regimental March, was first adopted by the West Yorkshiremen. During the war with revolutionary France in 1793. the Fourteenth Regiment of Foot, t.¢., the West Regiment, had captured the village, and the tradition as to how the famous French quick-step was adopted by a British regiment is thus related in the historical records of the Regiment dealing with that period : ‘' At the Battle of Famars the French attacked so fiercely that the Fourteenth Foot wavered fora moment. The revolutionary forces, in truth, blazed out as a new element in war and everywhere the discipline learned under average drill sergeants was at a loss how to meet it. Colonel Doyle, however, was not at a loss for, dashing to the front. he called out in a loud voice, ‘ Come along. my lads, let's break the scoundrels to their own damned tune. Drummers, strike up ‘Ca The effect was irresistible and the enemy found themselves running away (it was an Irish exploit and a bull is permissible) before they could turn round.”’

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1918 West Yorkshiremen taken for Americans 383

captured in the first stage and the attacking troops pushed on to ! 5TH, 1/6TH, Aulnoye and the sunken road running south from the village. Here also there was little opposition from the enemy and the attack went 1st Nov. like clockwork, well up to time. A German Regimental Commander and other officers, many men, machine-guns and trench-mortars were taken by the West Yorkshires. The third stage of the advance (the advance from the sunken road to the final objective) now began and went according to programme, the right company (‘‘ C’’) of the 1/5th reaching its objective at 8.30 a.m. ‘“‘B” and “A” Companies had to dig in 100 yards behind the objective as the railway was untenable. There was thus a large gap between ‘‘A”’ and ‘‘ B” and “‘ C” and “ D” Companies, and a company of the 1/7th West Yorkshires was sent up to fill the space, but failed to reach it. The 1/6th Battalion was then sent up and by dusk the Brigade line had been pushed forward to the final objective and was being firmly consolidated. At 7 p.m. the situation along the whole front was clear.

Great was the astonishment of the civilian population in Aulnoye when the West Yorkshires entered the village, for the villagers had been told by the Germans that all the English had been killed. The West Yorkshires were asked by the civilians what State in America they came from and were hardly believed when they said they were English. During the night of Ist/2nd November the 148th Brigade relieved the 146th and the latter withdrew to the neighbourhood of Maing. The 1/5th were the heaviest losers in the battle. Second-Lieut. J. G. S. Wilde and 12 other ranks were killed, 3 officers and 121 other ranks were wounded and 20 other ranks were missing. The 1/6th lost one officer and 11 other ranks wounded, one other rank killed and one missing. The casualties of the 1/7th were 5 officers' and 56 other ranks killed, wounded and missing.

On the night of 2nd November, the 49th Division was relieved 2xp Nov. and, after two or three days in the villages near Lieu St. Amand, moved to the Douai area, all three battalions of the West Yorkshires being billeted in Euin Malmaison. About 10 p.m. on 10th, Brigade Headquarters received a wire

from Divisional Headquarters stating that hostilities were to cease at II a.m. on the following morning, 11th, and an officer of the 1 6th

1One officer killed, Second-Lieut. J. Jewitt.

Page 396

384 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918 1/5TH, 1/6TH, Battalion’ thus describes the coming of the end: “ It would be im-

7TH ons. possible to describe the emotions with which men heard of this 11TH Nov. ‘ miracle.’ For some hours the intelligence was barely credible ; it seemed part of a pleasant dream and men were afraid of waking up to the bitter reality of continued war! But on the morning of 11th November all parades were cancelled, men gathered together in groups in the billets and in the village streets and discussed the great

event with madame in the farm kitchen.”’

E. V. Tempest, 1/6th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment.

Page 397


HE capture of Valenciennes forced the beaten enemy to withdraw again, and on the 3rd November he fell back from the Le Quesnoy-Valenciennes line to which the British front was immediately advanced. Sir Douglas Haig was now ready to launch his principal attack. Accordingly orders were issued to attack the enemy on the following morning—4th November. The British front in the Battle of the Sambre extended for a distance of about thirty miles from the Sambre River, north of Oisy to Valenciennes, and included the Fourth, Third and First Armies ; the First French Army, on the immediate right of the Fourth Army, was attacking on the Guise-Oisy front.

In this, the decisive battle of the Great War, three battalions of

the West Yorkshire Regiment took part, 7.e., the 1oth (17th Division), !©T#, 8TH

8th (62nd Division) and 9th (11th Division). The 17th Division attacked from just north of Englefontaine, west of the Forét de Mormal due east through the forest: the 62nd Division was opposite Orsinval and the 11th Division (the right flank division of the First Army) with the 56th Division was west of the Aunelle River, south-east of Valenciennes. After the operations which concluded on 21st October, the roth



West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel W. Gibson) were not engaged with

the enemy until the 4th November. From Neuvilly the soth Brigade moved up to Vendegies on 2nd November, the 17th Division having taken over the front line. In the forthcoming operations the 52nd Brigade was to capture the first objective, the 51st the second and the soth the third; the attack was to be on the “leap-frog’”’ principle. The first objective was a north and south line just east of the village of Futoy, on the western edge of the Forest; the second objective the line of the road running north and south about half- way between the first objective and the Institut Forestier ; the third objective a line running north from the cross-roads just east of the village of Locquignol.

“ was at §.30 a.m., at which hour the 52nd Brigade 4Tn Nov.

attacked the enemy and quickly gained its objective: the 51st cc 385

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7TH Nov.

386 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

Brigade then “‘ leap-frogged ” the 52nd and was equally successful. By 12.30 p.m. the 50th Brigade was formed up just east of the line gained by the ready to attack at ir p.m. The roth West York- shires were on the right, the Dorsets in the centre and the 7th East Yorkshires on the left. The advance was made under an artillery barrage, but it was more dangerous than helpful as the line of the barrage could not be seen in such a forest. All went well unul the West Yorkshires reached the Institut Forestier, a large building at the north-west end of Locquignol. Here stiff fighting occurred and it was 2.30 p.m. before the buildings were cleared and the hostile garrison killed. By 3 p.m. the line of the West Yorkshires ran north and south immediately west of the village. Both the leading companies (‘‘A” on the right, ‘“ B” on the left, with ‘“‘ D ” in support, “‘ C ” in reserve) were subjected to heavy machine-gun fire from the flanks, “‘A’”’ suffering some thirty- five casualties. Locquignol at this period was strongly held by the enemy’s machine-gunners, one of whom was mounted in the church tower. At 5 p.m., therefore, it was decided to wait until dusk before a further attack was made, when an outflanking movement from the north was to be launched. The attack was timed to begin at 10 p.m., but about 7 p.m. Divisional Headquarters stated that a definite line had to be reported at 10 p.m. and no further change was to take place after that hour. The advance of the s5oth Brigade was therefore stopped. But patrols, pushed out in the early morning of 5th, gained the final objective. Soon after 6 a.m. troops of the 2Ist Division passed through the line of the soth Brigade to continue the attack eastwards and after having had breakfast the West Yorkshires and Dorsets moved into billets in Locquignol, the East Yorkshire- men remaining in bivouacs in the forest. In this (the last attack made by the battalion) the roth West Yorkshires took ten prisoners, forty machine-guns and one cable wagon. They lost one officer and thirty-five other ranks wounded, ten other ranks killed and thirty-five missing. The soth Brigade remained in its position throughout the sth and 6th, during which time the 21st Division in front was pushing eastwards. On the 7th the soth Brigade moved from Locquignol to Aymeries, relieving the 110th Brigade east of Bachant at night. No forward move took place on 8th. About midnight (8th/9th) the enemy again began to withdraw and early on the 9th the 52nd Brigade occupied Beaufort with outposts on the high ground east of

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1918 Orsinval and Frasnoy 387

it. At 6.30 a.m. the s5oth Brigade was drawn back to billets, 1.e., et West Yorkshires to Limont-Fontaine, Dorsets to Eclaibes ; the East brn Now. Yorkshires were already in Bachant. In these dispositions the Brigade remained during the roth and 11th. After the operations which resulted in the capture of Solesmes, the 8th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel N. A. England) of the 62nd Division, remained billeted in Quievy unul the 3rd November. On the latter day, however, the battalion once more began to move forward and spent that night at Solesmes before the operations which were to begin on the following morning. The first objective of the Third Army in the Battle of the Sambre was the line Locquignol-Herpignies-Frasnoy, after which the advance was to be pressed to the St. Remy-Pont sur Sambre- Bavai-Montignies-sur-Roc road. The final attack was to be on the line The attack of the VIth Corps was directed on Maubeuge, 62nd Division on the right, Guards Division on the left. Of the 62nd Division two Brigades, 186th on the right, and 187th on the left, were to advance to the Red Line, where they were to halt, the advance being taken up by the 185th Brigade. Thus the 8th West Yorkshires (185th Brigade) did not attack at ‘‘ Zero”? 8TH hour. BATTALION, “* Zero” had been fixed for 5.30 a.m. 4th November, at which 4TH Nov. time the front line of the 62nd Division ran north-west to south- east about half-way between the villages of Ruesnes and Orsinval, the left flank of the Division resting on the road at La Croisette, the right on the Beaudignies-Orsinval road and north-west of Le Quesnoy. Orsinval and Frasnoy were in the area to be attacked by the 62nd Division. Le Quesnoy was to be taken by the New Zealanders on the right of the 62nd Division. The first objective (Red Line) along the Divisional front was the German trenches west of Orsinval and that village ; the second (Green Line) was a north and south line from the western outskirts of Frasnoy to the northern exits of Villereau ; the third a north and south line about mid-way between Frasnoy and Gommegnies. At 10.45 p.m., on 3rd November, the 8th West Yorkshires marched out of Solesmes for Escarmain. An hour before “‘ Zero ”’ the 185th Brigade moved off to take up its assembly positions south- west of Ruesnes, all units being in position at 6.30 a.m. The attack had then begun and everything was going like clockwork ; splendid progress had been made by the leading Brigades.

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5TH Nov.

388 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

At noon the West Yorkshires received orders to push on to La Folie Farm, where further orders were received to follow up in support of the 1/5th Devons and 2/20th Londons, who were to pass through the 187th Brigade and continue the advance. The West Yorkshires reached the farm of La Belle Maison, but as it was considered too late to continue the advance, the battalion bivouacked. Orders had been received that at 6 a.m. on the 5th the 185th Brigade would pass through the 186th and 187th Brigades and press on eastwards. The 1/5th Devons were to attack on the right and the 2/20th Londons on the left: the 8th West Yorkshires were to support the Devons and the 5th K.O.Y.L.I. (187th Brigade) the Londoners. Under a splendid barrage the attack began at 6 o’clock on sth November. The Devons quickly cleared Le Cheval Blanc, La Cavée, Le Grand Sart and Sarlotan, and by 9 a.m. had reached the western edges of the Forét de Mormal ; the Londoners, on the left, had made good progress also. The time had come for the West Yorkshires and K.O.Y.L.I. to leap-frog ’’ the Devons and Londoners. The West Yorkshires had assembled at 5.45 a.m. at the cross- roads of Petit Marais. The morning was cold and the troops were not sorry when, at 7.30, news was received that the attack had gone well and that the enemy was again retiring. A little later, orders were received to extend. The battalion went forward with “A” and ‘““D ” Companies leading and “ B” and ‘‘C” in support. Little Opposition was encountered until the leading companies reached the eastern edge of the Forest and the southern portion of the village of Le Trechon. Here the enemy’s machine-guns caused trouble and it was some time before they were silenced. Patrols were then pushed out towards the River de La Maladerie, but it was evident that without artillery support the advance could not be continued ; the battalion therefore consolidated their position—‘“‘A” and “ D” in front with “ B” and “ C ” in support. The action of the sth is thus partly described by an officer of the 8th West Yorkshires: ‘‘ At last we move on, a mile or so, and stand on a ridge overlooking the village of Gommegnies about three miles away. The plain is well wooded and away on our right lies the Forest of Mormal. Large columns of smoke are rising from various places behind the trees and there we can locate the home- steads of the poor French peasants. After some difficulty in getting across the railway (for the bridge had been mined) we push on 1D artillery formation through several villages in which large German

Page 401

1918 The “ Marsellaise” 389

guns lie fast in the mud, or damaged by our shells. A few civilians, 8TH . very shaken, wave us onward singing the ‘ Marsellaise,’ and giving cnr Now. N- us apples ; my pockets are full. These gifts cannot last for ever, the poor French peasant had had all her cows, etc., taken and the only thing left is a little coffee and a little bread and a few apples, and the Lord knows she gives these away generously enough as long as they

last.” Another advance was ordered for the 6th November at the same

hour, #.e.,6 am. The 185th Brigade was to continue the advance to the high ground east of Obies, where the 186th Brigade was to pass through the Brown Line (the La Chaussée-Quene au Loop road) as the first, and the Hargnies-La Longueville road as the second objective. At Zero” hour the advance began, the 8th West Yorkshires 6ru Nov. again being the right battalion and the 2/2oth Londons the left. Without encountering serious opposition both battalions reached their objectives, and on the high ground east of Obies were leap- frogged by the 186th Brigade, who successfully reached the Brown Line and held it in spite of a heavy counter-attack. Again on the 7th November, the advance was continued. The 185th and 186th Brigades carried on the attack, the Devons and West Yorkshires being attached to the latter Brigade. The attack was launched at 6 a.m., the §th Duke of Wellington’s being on the right, the 1/5th Devons in the centre and the 8th West Yorkshires on the left. But very little opposition was encountered by the attacking battalions, and by 10 a.m. the line of the Hargnise- La Longueville road was reached. On 8th November, the 187th Brigade took over the advance and with other troops the 8th West Yorkshires were withdrawn, the West Yorkshiremen marching back to Mecquignies. In the capture of Maubeuge by the 62nd and Guards Divisions, the 8th West Yorkshires were not engaged ; they had seen their last fight in the Great War, for when the Armistice was signed on 11th November, 11TH Nov. the battalion was in Mont Plaisir—‘‘ The battalion after cleaning up billets was excused duty for the day.” The final operations in which the 9th West Yorkshires (Lieut.- 974;

Colonel R. H. Waddy) were concerned cost that battalion heavy losses.

After the r1th Division had been relieved by the Canadians on 12th October, the 9th West Yorkshires had been withdrawn to Raillencourt, where training took place until 20th, when a move was 2oTH Oct.

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2ND Nov.

4TH Nov.

5TH Nov.

390 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

made (in Brigade) to Thon St. Martin. The 32nd Brigade moved to Haspres on 25th, and it was from this place that the West Yorkshires moved forward to take part in the last battle of the War (The Battle of the Sambre). It had been decided that the 11th Division would attack the enemy on a two-brigade front—32nd Brigade right and 33rd Brigade left; the 9th West Yorkshires to carry out the attack of the former Brigade. On the 2nd November, the 11th Division relieved the 4th Division in the line immediately north-east of Presau. On the morning of 3rd, patrols discovered that the enemy had retired, and the oth West Yorkshires, in conjunction with troops of 33rd Brigade on their left and roth Division on the right, again pushed their line forward. Little opposition was encountered from the enemy’s infantry, though his guns were active. The West Yorkshires dug in on the rising ground east of the railway between Curgies and Jenlain, with the 33rd Brigade on their left. The next morning—4th—the Battle of the Sambre opened. The 9th West Yorkshires advanced at dawn through thickly-wooded country in which hostile machine-guns caused temporary trouble. But this resistance was quickly broken down, the wood was cleared and the River Aunelle crossed. Le Triez was next cleared of the enemy, a few prisoners being taken and many civilians released. The advance was then continued towards Roisin but the 19th Division, on the right of the 11th, was held up and the right flank of the West Yorkshires was thus exposed. As a a retirement was carried out to a sunken road on the outskirts of Le Triez and the road between that village and Eth. It was during this retirement that heavy hostile machine-gun and rifle fire caught the battalion, Causing serious casualties, and hostile shell-fire which continued until dark added still further to the number of killed and wounded. No further advance was possible that day, and when night fell ten officers had been killed or wounded or were missing, and twelve other ranks killed, fifty-seven wounded and forty-one missing. Capt. E. Westcott, M.C., was wounded and died of his wounds. Capt. N. T. Hartley and Second-Lieuts. E. S. Burnley and W. T. Howe were killed. The 9th Battalion, having received orders to resume the attack at §.30 a.m. on sth, advanced at that hour under the barrage to Roisin. Patrols entered the village, but little opposition was encountered, 2 few Germans being captured. Despite the fact that the village was crowded with civilians (whose presence must have been known

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1918 Rations dropped by Aeroplanes 391

to the Germans) Roisin was heavily shelled. About three hundred orn yards east of the village the West Yorkshires dug in and consolidated ont Now. the line and, on being relieved later by the 6th Y. and L. Regiment, returned to Le Triez where billets were occupied. The day’s operations had cost the West Yorkshires a further loss of nine other

ranks killed and thirty-four wounded.

The advance was continued on the 6th, 7th and 8th November, the 9th Battalion being in reserve on all three days. Roisin, Meaurain, Gussignies, Eugmies and Hergies were passed through and, on the 8th, the West Yorkshires were billeted in the latter village, the Brigade front line being then east of Hergies.

On the oth, the West Yorkshires again led the advance of the Nov. 32nd Brigade, the objective being the Mons-Maubeuge Road—a long march. The battalion set out at 7.30 a.m., following close behind the artillery barrage. The advance was made rapidly, no opposition of any kind being met with; the enemy had left behind only a few gallant machine-gunners to hold up the British troops, but they were brushed aside and the West Yorkshires cleared the villages of Le Camp Perdu, Aulnoy and Bettignies, a line being taken up in front of the latter village and the Mons-Maubeuge Road. No rations arrived, for the advance had been so rapid that there had been no ume to get them up. Moreover, most of the roads had been blown up by the enemy and transport was impossible, but aeroplanes dropped a certain amount of bully beef and biscuits which temporarily satisfied the hunger of the troops.

On paper the advance looked easy enough, but it was terribly hard. Nearly 12,000 yards (as the crow flies) was the extent of the ground covered by the West Yorkshires on the 9th November. For days and weeks, nay months almost, they had been fighting, marching and digging. They were nearly dead beat, but Victory shone ahead. It was that which kept them going, that and their indomitable pluck.

On the morning of roth, troops of the 2oth Division took over the positions held by the West Yorkshires, and the latter moved north along the Mons-Maubeuge road to Bois Bourdon.

Orders were received in the early morning of the 11th that the 63rd Division was to pass through, the 34th Brigade being in support. The 32nd Brigade was to proceed to Guisgnies Chaussée, but the move was cancelled—Brigade Headquarters had received notifica-

tion that hostilities were to cease at II a.m.; for the 9th West 11TH Nov. Yorkshires also the War had ended.

Page 404


11TH Nov.

392 The West Regiment in the War 1918

When, on 2nd/3rd November, the 11th Division had relieved the 4th Division, the Pioneers of the latter (21st West Yorkshires) had moved to Saulzoir. Thereafter, untl the 11th, the battalion was at work on the roads and communications, and when the ‘“‘ cease fire ” sounded at 11 o’clock on Armistice Day, “‘ X ”” Company was at Montignies, “‘ Y ” at Erquennes and “‘ Z ” at Onnezies,

Page 405



Page 408


30TH Nov. I917.

1§TH DECc., 1917.

g/10TH FEs., 1918.

396 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1917

The r1th West Yorkshires (Lieut.-Colonel M. G. H. Barker) arrived at Mantova on 14th, and being detrained marched to Rudigo, where the battalion (the first British troops to enter the village) had a great reception from the villagers. Until the morning of the 19th, the West Yorkshires stayed in Rodigo, but on that date the XIVth Corps began to move forward to its allotted position in the Allied Line. The move was carried out in five marches. The first march began on 19th and the West Yorkshires billeted that night at Castellazzo, having marched eighteen-and-a-half miles, each man carrying kit of the average weight—63 Ibs. On the 2oth the bat- talion marched to Tavanara (eleven miles); on the 2Ist to Campagnola (sixteen miles) ; on the 22nd to Sossano (sixteen miles) ; on 23rd to Castagnero (eight miles); on 24th to Grosso (eleven miles) and on the 25th to Gogno (eight miles). At the latter place the battalion billeted throughout the 26th and 27th. On the 28th another march of fifteen miles to Valla, and on 29th to Edifizio, five miles, brought the battalion to a position from which, on 30th, advanced patrols proceeded to reconnoitre the front line. The section of the line allotted to the 69th Brigade (23rd Divi- sion) was the right sub-sector of the Divisional front on the right bank of the Piave River and north of the Montello. The 11th West Yorkshires relieved the 2nd Battalion, 135th Regiment, 7oth Italian Division on 2nd December. The strength of the battalion at this period was 35 officers and 923 other ranks, of whom there were only 8 officers and 194 other ranks who had landed with the original battalion in France on 26th August, I915. The line of trenches taken over on the Piave consisted of a system of well-made trenches but with very little overhead protection against heavy shell-fire. The battalion therefore set to work on the construction of dug-outs and in tunneling. From the 3rd to 15th, the battalion was in the front line, during which period one other rank was killed and four wounded from hostile shell-fire—the first casualties in Italy. January and February, 1918, were quiet months, only one raid (on the night 9th/roth February) being carried out by the West Yorkshires. A fighting patrol, consisting of Second-Lieut. A. J. Ward and ten other ranks, covered by another party of one officer and ten other ranks, raided the enemy’s line across the river and killed six or seven Austrians and returned to the battalion lines without suffering a single casualty.

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1918 Lt.-Col. Barker leaves the Battalion 397

The 23rd Division was relieved on the Montello in March and moved to the Asiago Plateau, where the whole of the Corps front was to be taken over by the Division, though later the 23rd Division was to hold the right sector and the 7th Division the left. The 68th Infantry Brigade moved first and arrived in the Carriola area on 28th March. Two days later the 7oth Infantry Brigade relieved Italian troops in the right sector, the 69th Infantry Brigade moving to the reserve area on the plateau at Granessa, in which village the 11th West Yorkshires billeted on the night of 28th March. On the 29th the battalion marched to Pria Dell Acqua, relieving a battalion of Italians of the 11th Italian Division, in reserve. The 31st saw the West Yorkshiremen in the front line trenches, having relieved the 9th Y. and L. Regiment on the right battalion front of the 23rd Divisional Sector. French troops were on their immediate right. The strength of the 11th West Yorkshires on 31st March was 41 officers and 1,172 other ranks. From ist to roth April, the battalion was in the front line. On the Ist, machine-gun companies were formed into one battalion (23rd Machine-gun Battalion) and to the great regret of the battalion, Lieut.-Colonel M. G. H. Barker left the 11th West Yorkshires to take command of the new formation. Colonel Barker had com- manded the battalion for two years and had led it through all the fierce fighting on the Somme and in the Ypres Salient, and his going was a source of sorrow to all ranks. He commanded the new Machine-gun Battalion only for a few days, for his distinguished service had merited promotion ; on the 12th he left the 23rd Division to take over the command of a brigade in France. Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Hudson succeeded Lieut.-Colonel Barker in the command of the 11th West Yorkshire Regiment. On relief from the front line (on roth April) the West Yorkshiremen moved back, first in reserve and then to Castel Comberto, where training was carried out until 18th May. On 2sth the battalion was back again in the front line, Battalion Headquarters being at Kaber Laba. The close of May witnessed the West Yorkshiremen in the grip of influenza, four officers and fifty-six other ranks being evacuated to hospital. On the roth June the battalion moved back to Granezza, where a final period of training was undergone before the operations which had been planned to take place during the month. Hill fighting formed an important feature of this training, and when the time came for the battalion to move back again into the line, all ranks were extraordinarily fit and ready for the strenuous fighting before them.


28TH MarcH



Page 410





398 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

In the Allied offensive, planned to take place early in June, the main attack on the Asiago front was to be delivered by the French on the right, the 23rd Division in the centre and the 7th Division on the left. ’ The attack to be carried out by the 23rd Division was of a formidable nature. Little difficulty was anticipated in capturing the Austrian forward defences on the Asiago Plateau, but the line of the final objective was on the lofty ridge of Mt. Mosciach, some two thousand feet above the plain overlooking the Val di Portule to the north. Detailed orders concerning the unique nature of the operations to be carried out were issued, but never acted upon, for on the 15th the Austrians launched a heavy attack along the whole Asiago Plateau. In the heavy fighting which took place on that date, however, the r1th West Yorkshires were not engaged. The bat- talion ‘‘ stood to,” but the records state that: ‘‘ The troops of the division met the enemy and inflicted very severe losses upon him, completely defeating his attack. The first attack was so thoroughly beaten off and the losses of the enemy so severe that he has not renewed his attack. During this period (15th) the battalion was * standing to ’ in the battle positions at Granezza.” On the 16th, the West Yorkshires moved into the front line, their first task being to bury the dead and clean up the trenches. Over 220 enemy were buried and amongst the material salved were 212 Austrian rifles. The night of 21st/22nd saw the carrying out of a raid on the enemy’s trenches at Sec, south-east of Asiago. The raiding party, commanded by Capt. L. G. Pitman, consisted of four officers and one hundred other ranks of “‘C”’ and Companies. The Austrian trenches were entered and sharp fighting took place, in which the bayonet was freely used. The enemy garrison was annihilated and no prisoners were taken. The West Yorkshiremen had one officer and seven other ranks wounded. During June, influenza again ravaged the battalion, and six officers and 226 other ranks (mostly suffering from this disease) were evacuated sick to hospital. Casualties were two officers wounded, three other ranks killed and nineteen wounded. Following this fruitless attack by the Austrians there followed a period of about three months, 1.e., from 23rd June to 24th Septem- ber, during which the Division not only strengthened its positions, but incessantly harassed the enemy with artillery fire, the weakened

Page 411

1918 The 11th Raid the Austrians 399

morale of the Austrians being still further shaken by night raids on their positions at irregular intervals. One such raid was carried out by the 11th West Yorkshires on the night of 1st/2nd July. The raiding party was commanded by Capt. R. E. Hobday, and consisted of three officers and 120 other ranks. The raiding parties (four) assembled at Villa Dal Brun. The raid was launched at 1.30 a.m., supported by a splendid barrage which was so accurate that the raiders were able to get right up to the enemy’s wire whilst the 18-pounders were still firing on his front-line trenches. Without difficulty the enemy’s front line was carried on a front- age of 200 yards astride the Sec-Asiago Road. A complete box barrage had been formed round the scene of the raid, and the raiders then got to work. The two centre parties (under Capt. Hobday) attacked a string of dug-outs along the Sec-Asiago Road in rear of the enemy’s front line, whilst the two other parties worked east and west along the line. A considerable number of dug-outs and shelters were found by the centre parties, though only four were found occupied. From these, twenty-five Austrians were taken. The party moving eastwards (under Second-Lieut. Glynne) found two dug-outs in which casualties were inflicted and fifteen more Austrians taken prisoner. The party moving westwards (under Second-Lieut. Frost) found their part of the enemy’s line practically deserted for a distance of 500 yards. Fifteen minutes after ‘‘ Zero”’ hour the raid was reported as successful, and in another fifteen minutes the raiders, bringing with them one officer and forty-two other ranks as prisoners, and a machine-gun at a cost of only one man slightly wounded, were back in the British lines. This raid was a splendid example of what might be accomplished by careful preparation, clear orders and good leadership. This event was followed by a long period of comparative quietude, during which tours in the front line, and training when in the back area, kept the West Yorkshiremen from that inertia often the result of inactivity. For three months there was little doing and it was not until the first great battle of Vittorio Veneto, which opened on 24th October and concluded on 4th November, that there is anything interesting to record concerning the doings of the 11th West Yorkshires. Early in September it appeared unlikely that there would be




Page 412



16TH Oct.

23RD Oct.

400 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

any offensive against the Austrians in the near future, and the British troops in Italy were to be transferred to France. But by the beginning of October, although the transfer had already begun, the Italians decided to attack the enemy across the River Piave, and the Tenth Italian Army, consisting of the XIVth British and the XIth Italian Corps, was placed under Lord Cavan’s command. The XIth Italian Corps was already holding a sector on the Piave extending from Pont di Piave to Palazzon, and the XIVth British Corps was then concentrated in the Treviso area, the concentration being completed on the 16th October. On the latter date the 69th Brigade (23rd Division) held the Salzano area north of Mestre, but on the 18th moved to the Preganziol area just south of Treviso. In this place all units were given bombing practice in the Italian Bombing School, for the operations in view entailed crossing over the river before the attack was made. The 11th West Yorkshires had arrived in billets in Carita on 20th, and from this place, on 21st, they moved up into the front line, relieving a battalion of the 7th Division in the left sub-sector of the line, coming temporarily under the command of that Division. The line held by the 23rd Division ran approximately along the southern bank of the Piave, C. Camarott, C. Pizzi, C. Zeoto, C. Cattarin being in the Divisional boundary. The island of Cosenza was on the right front of the Division. The Piave was in flood at this period. The 7th Division was on the night of the 23rd. Operation Orders issued on 23rd October stated that the 69th Infantry Brigade (23rd Division), in conjunction with the 22nd Infantry Brigade (7th Division) on the right, and the 68th Infantry Brigade on the left, were to force a passage across the Piave, the opera- tions to be in two parts. On the night 23rd/24th, the 7th Division was to capture the Lido, or the Island of Grave di Papodopoli, from which the main operations and advance from the Island to the mainland were to begin. For the first part of the operations the 11th West Yorkshires were to be attached to the 7th Division in order to occupy that portion of the Island which fell within the 23rd Divisional boundary. The preliminary operation, the seizure of the Island by the 7th Division, was entirely successful, and after Lido had been captured D? Company of the 11th West Yorkshires was ferried

1For the operations as a whole—lItalian and British—the official despatches should be studied : also Lieut.-Colonel H. R. Sandiland’s book, ‘‘ The 23rd Division, 1914-1919.

Page 413

1918 Crossing the Piave 401

across the Piave, taking over that portion allotted to the 23rd Division. 11TH The Battalion Observers, under Lieut. C. E. Fortune, accompanied ee ‘* D ” Company and spent the period 24th-26th October in patrolling Ocr. forward towards the northern bank of the Piave, accomplishing very useful work in locating tracks and fords and arranging assembly positions for the remainder of the battalion, which on the night of 26th/27th, crossed by a footbridge to the Island, made by the 18th Pontiers. ‘“* Zero” hour for the attack was 6.45 a.m. on 27th October, 271TH Oct. when the 8th Yorkshire Regiment on the right, and the roth Duke of Wellington’s, on the left, were to advance and attack the enemy on the mainland. “‘ C”’ Company of the 11th West Yorkshires was detailed to deploy between the two attacking battalions for the purpose of maintaining touch. In spite of considerable shelling during the night 26th/27th, the attacking troops successfully formed-up on their assembly positions, the three remaining companies of the West Yorkshires being in rear in Brigade Reserve. At 6.45 a.m., after a preliminary bombardment, the attack was launched. Considerable difficulties were met with before the first objective was reached. Apart from very heavy machine-gun and shell-fire, the further stream of the Piave proved deep and swift and several men were drowned. Nevertheless the attack was pressed with great determination. By 7 p.m. the 8th Yorkshire Regiment had stormed the Bund on a frontage of three hundred yards from Zandonadi westwards, the roth Duke of Wellington’s Regiment had stormed the Bund on a frontage of six hundred yards from C. Polesi eastwards, whilst ‘“‘C”’ Company of the 11th West Yorkshire Regiment (specially detailed for the purpose) had carried that portion of the Bund which lay between the two battalions, the three remaining companies of West Yorkshires closely following the attack and moving forward in Brigade Reserve below the Bund at Zandonadi. During the advance a gap had occurred between the 8th York- shires and the roth Duke of Wellington’s, two platoons of “C” Company and Company Headquarters (11th West Yorkshires) therefore kept in touch with the Yorkshires while the other two maintained touch with the Duke of Wellington’s. There then remained a small sector between Borgo Melanotte and Tezze which the enemy continued to hold. Meanwhile the battalion had reached the Bund at Zandonadi,

but here the West Yorkshiremen found they were not in touch with DD

Page 414


28TH Oct.

402 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

the 7th Division on the right. Capt. L. R. Lawson, therefore, on his own initiative, taking a few men with him, pushed along the Bund and, after several suff fights with the enemy, established communica- tion with the 7th Division and returned and reported his action.

About mid-day the G.O.C., 69th Brigade, ordered “‘A”’ Company, 11th West Yorkshires, to clear that part of the Austrian line between Borgo Melanotte and Tezze which was still holding out. Led by Capt. R. E. Hobday, the company dashed at the Austrians, who were quickly cleared out of their stronghold. ‘““B” and “ D” Companies and Battalion Headquarters were now ordered to take up a defensive position along the road near C. Rizzi. On the night of 27th/28th October, the battalion was disposed as follows : ‘‘A’’ and ‘“ C ” Companies in the front line between the roth Duke of Wellington’s and 8th Yorkshires, two platoons of “‘ B ” Company on the extreme left between 12th D.L.I. and left of roth Duke of Wellington’s ; ‘‘ B” and ‘‘ D” Companies in the second line ; Battalion Headquarters were at C. Faoretti. The fighting of 27th on the front of the XIVth British Corps had resulted in the carrying of the Piave and an advance of over three thousand yards on the further bank. Large numbers of prisoners had been taken and the captures in machine-guns, trench-mortars and other guns were considerable. But the enemy was not to be allowed to settle down on a new line, and orders were issued to attack the enemy again at 12.30 a.m. on 28th. In this attack the 11th West Yorkshires, with the 8th Yorkshires on their right and the 68th Brigade on the left, were to push on towards C. Damian. At about 12 a.m., therefore, the West York- shires passed through the roth Duke of Wellington’s and assembled for the attack. The operations of 28th October were practically one success after another. At 12.30 a.m. the attack was launched and, with the exception of an Austrian machine-gun nest which for a short while held up ‘‘B” Company on the left, the assault proceeded and practically without opposition. By 2.30 p.m., all objectives had been reached and patrols were pushed forward to discover the enemy. ““D ” Company (Capt. L. H. Lawson) captured and cleared Borgo Villa and later Soffratta, taking many prisoners. Finally (during the night 28th ‘29th), Company secured the southern bank of the Monticano, north of Soffratta, in order to enable the battalion

Page 415

1918 Lt.-Col. H. H. Hudson wounded 403

to get across the river quickly on 29th. One hundred Austrians !!TH were taken in this latter affair, but C.S.M. Wray was killed. The BATTt!0%. C.0.—Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Hudson—had been wounded in the leg during the afternoon by a stray machine-gun bullet and was evacuated to hospital. Major C. L. Armstrong then assumed com-

mand of the battalion. At 9.30 a.m. on 29th, orders were received by the 11th West 29TH Ocr.

Yorkshires to continue the advance with “‘ C’” Company as advanced guard, ‘‘ B ” and “ D ”’ Companies in support, and ‘‘A” in reserve. But, finding that the northern bank of the Monticano was very strongly held by machine-gunners and riflemen, Capt. F. E. Douglas was forced to wait on the southern bank until sufficient machine and Lewis guns could be concentrated to cover the crossing. By about 10 a.m. these guns were collected and under their fire some men of Company, under Second-Lieut. C. W. Buck- well, dashed across the river and secured the crossings, capturing a large number of the enemy. Through the breach thus effected, “Cc,” “D” and “B” Companies crossed the stream and the advance continued. The country was close and difficult. With their flank unsupported and the resistance of the enemy stubborn, the West Yorkshiremen found the advance to Borgo di Sopra no easy task and progress was slow. The enemy continually attempted to throw in troops on the flank, and with a wide front and the necessity for having to form defensive flanks back to the river on both the left and right, every available man of the West Yorkshires had been put into the line. It was not, therefore, until two companies of the roth Duke of Wellington’s were sent up to relieve the flanks that the forward movement could be completed. Ultimately, touch with the 9th Y. and L. Regiment, on the right, was obtained at Borgo di Sopra, but after reaching the objective on the left, Capt. Hobday was forced to withdraw his line towards C. Valdoni, the troops on his left being unable to support him. Thus the day ended with the line running from Borgo di Sopra to C. Valdoni and C. Bifis. Early on 30th, the 7oth Brigade took up the advance, passing 20TH Oct. through the 11th West Yorkshires at 9.30 a.m. Thus, so far as the West Yorkshires were concerned, ended the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, later movements of the battalion being merely in the nature of concentrated marches in divisional and corps reserve. Between the 27th and 29th October, the 11th West Yorkshires had captured about one thousand prisoners and four guns. Casualties

Page 416


4TH Nov.

404 The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1918

in the Battalion were two officers (the C.O. and Lieut. A. H. Rutledge) wounded, eleven other ranks killed and fifty-eight wounded. On 31st the battalion was in the Borgo area in Divisional Reserve, moving on Ist November to the Biband area, and on the 2nd to the Porcia area. In the latter place the West Yorkshires were “‘ standing by” when, on 4th, the Armistice with Austria was announced. Thus, for the 11th Battalion also, the War was over.

Page 417


Y strange coincidence, the last shots were fired at Mons, where in August, 1914, the first clash of arms took place between the British and German Armies. Henceforth, for many months, the peace of the battlefields of France ind Flanders was broken only by the sound of spades driven into the once-tortured ground, or the clearing-up parties of soldiers and peasants seeking ever to remove the stains of battle and burying beneath the surface of the brown earth the bloody sights of war. But through all those months when demobilisation of the Territorial and Service Battalions and the posting of Regular Bat- talions took place, it is impossible to follow those who had survived the gigantic struggle. Of the West Yorkshire Regiment, only two battalions marched into Germany with the Army of Occupation—the Ist and 8th (Territorial) Battalions, contained in the 6th and 62nd Divisions respectively. The remaining battalions were gradually sent back to England and, with the exception of the 2nd Battalion, demobilised. Throughout the years of that terrific struggle the Regiment had given of its best, had fought the good fight and won much honour, and, if blood be the price of victory, had paid in full, the pages of this history testifying to it. There are dull portions in the story of this fine Regiment (it could not be otherwise) but there are also many glorious episodes such as soldiers love to read. To the spirit of the troops no finer tribute could be paid than that given in the official despatches :— “Throughout all those years, and amid the hopes or disap- pointments they brought with them, the confidence of our troops in final victory never wavered. Their courage and resolution rose Superior to every test, their cheerfulness never failing however terribie the conditions in which they lived and fought. By the long road they trod with so much faith and with such devoted and self- sacrificing bravery, we have arrived at victory, and to-day they have tucir reward,” No! not quite that. For their reward is immortality, which is not only for to-day nor for to-morrow, but for always. “ They served for Liberty, for Life they died.”


Page 419

Appendix 407

Appendix I.

“LONDON GAZETTE” dated 22nd January, 1916.

No. 1147, Corporal SAMUEL MEEKOSHA, 1/6th Bn. West Yorkshire Regiment, Territorial Force.

For most conspicuous bravery near the YSER, on 19th Novem- ber, 1915.

He was with a platoon of about 20 non-comissioned officers and men, who were holding an isolated trench. During a very heavy bombardment by the enemy, six of the platoon were killed and seven wounded, while all the remainder were more or less buried.

When the senior non-commissioned officers had been either killed or wounded, Corporal Meekosha at once took command, sent a runner for assistance, and, in spite of no less than ten more big shells falling within 20 yards of him, continued to dig out the wounded and buried men in full view of the enemy and at close range from the German trenches. By his promptness and magni- ficent courage and determination he saved at least four lives.

“LONDON GAZETTE” dated 9th September, 1916.

No. 3203, Corporal GEORGE SANDERS, 1/7th Bn. West Yorkshire Regiment, Territorial Force.

For most conspicuous bravery. After an advance into the enemy’s trenches, he found himself isolated with a party of thirty men. He organised his defences, detailed a bombing party, and

impressed on his men that his and their duty was to hold the position at all costs.

Next morning he drove off an attack by the enemy and rescued some prisoners who had fallen into their hands. Later two strong bombing attacks were beaten off. On the following day he was relieved, after showing the greatest courage, determination and good leadership during 36 hours under very trying conditions.

All this time his party was without food and water, having given all their water to the wounded during the first night. After the relieving force was firmly established, he brought his party, nineteen strong, back to our trenches.

Note.— This deed took place

near on 1/7/16.

Page 420

408 Appendix


No. 17/1280, Pte. WILLIAM BOYNTON BUTLER, 17th Bn. West York- shire Regiment (Hunslet, Leeds), attached 106th T.M. Battery.

For most conspicuous bravery when in charge of a Stokes gun in trenches which were being heavily shelled. Suddenly one of the fly-off levers of a Stokes shell came off and fired the shell in the emplacement. Private Butler picked up the shell and jumped to the entrance of the emplacement, which at that moment a party of infantry were passing. He shouted to them to hurry past as the shell was going off, and turning round, placed himself between the party of men and the live shell and so held it till they were out of danger. He then threw the shell on to the parados, and took cover in the bottom of the trench. The shell exploded almost on leaving his hand, greatly damaging the trench. By extreme good luck Private Butler was contused only. Undoubtedly his great presence of mind and disregard of his own life saved the lives of the officer

and men in the emplacement and the party which was passing at the time.


No. 19/11, Sergeant ALBERT MOUNTAIN, 15/17th West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds).

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during an enemy attack, when his company was in an exposed position on a sunken road, having hastily dug themselves in. Owing to the in- tense artillery fire, they were obliged to vacate the road and fall back. The enemy in the meantime was advancing in mass, preceded by an advanced patrol about 200 strong. The situation was critical, and volunteers for a counter-attack were called for. Sergeant Mountain immediately stepped forward, and his party of ten men followed him. He then advanced on the flank with a Lewis gun and brought enfilade fire to bear on the enemy patrol, killing about 100.

Page 421

Appendix 409

In the meantime the remainder of the company made a frontal attack, and the entire enemy patrol was cut up and thirty prisoners taken.

At this time the enemy main body appeared and the men, who were numerically many times weaker than the enemy, began to waver.

Sergeant Mountain rallied and organised his party and formed a defensive position from which to cover the retirement of the rest of the company and the prisoners. With this party of one non- commissioned officer and four men, he successfully held at bay 600 of the enemy for half an hour, eventually retiring and rejoining his company. He then took command of the flank post of the battalion which was ‘‘ in the and held on there for 27 hours until finally sur- rounded by the enemy.

Sergeant Mountain was one of the few who managed to fight their way back.

His supreme fearlessness and initiative undoubtedly saved the whole situation.

Page 422


Appendix II.


Battalion. Ist

2nd sth (T.F.)








1914 to 1918.

Went out to FRANCE with 18th Brigade, Sixth Division, September, 1914.

Went out to FRANCE with 23rd Brigade, Eighth Division, November, 1914.

Went out to FRANCE with 146th Brigade, Forty- ninth Division, April, 1915.

Went out to FRANCE with 185th Brigade, Sixty- second Division, January, 1917; disbanded Aug. 13th, 1918.

Went out to FRANCE with 146th Brigade. Forty- ninth Division, April, 1915. (Absorbed nucleus 2/6th, 1/2/18.) Went out to FRANCE with 185th Brigade, Sixty- second Division, January, 1917; disbanded January, 1918.

Went out to FRANCE with 146th Brigade, Forty- ninth Division, April, 1915.

Went out to FRANCE with 185th Brigade, Sixty- second Division, January, 1917. Reduced to T.C., 16/6/18. Disbanded 19/6/18. Nucleus to 8th and 2/5th Battalions.

Went out to FRANCE with 146th Brigade, Forty- ninth Division, April, 1915 ; transferred to 185th Brigade, Sixty-second Division, February, 1918, absorbing 2/8th Battalion.

Went out to FRANCE with 185th Brigade, Sixty- second Division, January, 1917; absorbed by 1/8th Battalion, February, 1918.

Page 423

Battalion. oth (Service)

roth (Service)

11th (Service)

12th (Service)

15th (Service)



18th 21st

22nd (Labour)

Appendix 4lIl

Went out to DARDANELLES with 32nd Brigade, Eleventh Division, July, 1915. Division moved to EcypT, January, 1916; to FRANCE, July, 1916, absorbed Yorkshire Hussars, September, 1917.

Went out to FRANCE with s5oth Brigade, Seven- teenth Division, July, 1915.

Went out to FRANCE with 69th Brigade, Twenty- third Division, August, 1915 ; Division moved to ITaLy, November, 1917.

Went out to FRANCE with 63rd Brigade, Twenty- first Division, September, 1915. Transferred to gth Brigade, Third Division, 15th November, 1915; disbanded 17th February, 1918.

Went out to Ecypt December, 1915, with 93rd Brigade, Thirty-first Division. Division moved to FRANCE, February, 1916; Battalion absorbed 17th Battalion from 35th Division, 16th November,

1917. Went out to EGypt, December, 1915, with 93rd Brigade, Thirty-first Division ; Division moved to FRANCE, February, 1916 ; disbanded roth February, 1918.

Went out to FRANCE, January, 1916, with 106th Brigade, Thirty-fifth Division; transferred to 93rd Brigade, Thirty-first Division, 14th November, 1917, absorbed with 15th Battalion (q.v.).

As 16th Battalion.

Went out to FRANCE, June, 1916, posted to Fourth Division as Pioneers. (Joined 17/6/16.)

Went out to FRANCE 11th May, 1916. On L. of C. ull 14th May, 1917, then re-designated 18th and 19th Labour Companies.

Page 424

412 Appendix

Appendix III.

V. Armée Etat-Major. Q.C. le 10 Decembre, 1918.

No. 5575/P. Bureau du Personnel.


Le Général Commandant la V. Armée cite 4a l’ordre de |l’Armée.

Le 8 Bataillon du West Yorkshire Regt.

‘** Bataillon d’élite; sous le commandement énergique du Lieutenant-Colonel Norman Ayrton England, a participé brilliament aux durs combats du 20 au 30 Juillet qui ont valu la conquéte de la vallée de l’Ardre. Le 23 Juillet 1918 aprés s’étre frayé un chemin dans les fourrés épais du Bois du Petit Champs, s’est emparé d’une position importante malgré un feu nourri des mitrailleuses ennemies. Le 28 Juillet 1918 dans un brio magnifique, a enlevé la Montagne de Bligny, fortement défendue par des forces ennemies supérieures en nombre, s’y est maintenu malgré les pertes subies, et les efforts désespérés de l’adversaire pour la position.” (Décision G.Q.G. No. 22389 en date du 16 Octobre 1918). Le General Commandant La V. Armée,

GUILLAUMAT. Pour extrait certifié conforme Q.G. le 3 Decembre 1918. Le General Commandant la V. Armée True copy of an C.O. Le chef du Bureau du Personnel official copy. CHAMOUZ. Horatio Mends,

B.G. 10.1.25.

Page 425

Appendix 413 Appendix III.


Vth Army Staff. H.Q., roth December, 1918.

No. Personal Services Department.


The General Officer Commanding the Vth Army mentions in his Army Orders :—

The 8th Battalion the West Yorkshire Regiment.

‘** A most distinguished battalion. Under the energetic command of Lieutenant-Colonel Norman Ayrton England it took a brilliant part in the hard fighting between the 20th and the 30th July which resulted in the capture of the valley of the Ardre. On the 23rd July, 1918, after forcing a way through the thick undergrowth of the Bois du Petit Champs, it carried an important position in the face of sustained fire of enemy machine guns. On the 28th July, 1918, it captured the Montagne de Bligny with magnificent dash though this hill was strongly defended by superior enemy forces, and held it in spite of heavy losses and the determined efforts of the enemy to recapture it.”

(G.H.Q. Decision No. 22389 dated 16th October, 1918). GUILLAUMAT, General Officer Commanding the Vth Army. Certified true copy.

H.Q. 3rd Dec., 1918. By order of the General Officer Commanding the Vth Army.

CHAMOUZ, Chief of the Personal Services Department.

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Page 429

The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.)—Casualttes 417 OFFICERS.

(The Theatre of War is France and Flanders unless otherwise indicated.)

“k" = killed in action.

‘“*d’’ = died of wounds.

“dh.” = died, home.

Note.—Small number before name denotes Battalion.

8 Abé, Frank, 2/Lt.

'p.), k., 23/7/18. 10 Allen, Percivall

ht, Capt. (Tp.), k..

23/4/17. 4 Altoft, George Herbert, 2/Lt., k., 17/7/17. 10 Andrews, arles William, 2/Lt., (Tp.)

k.,33/4/17. ay: 1 Armitage, Francis Arthur William, D.S.O., Major (A/Lt-Col.), k., 22/4/18 (att. ist Hants. egt.). 16 Armitage, Geoffrey Ambler, Capt., (Tp.), k., 27/2/17. 1 Ayrton, John, 2/Lt., d., 29/4/17. Backhouse, Wilham Henry, 2 Lt. (Tp.), k., 13/3/18. 18 Baker, Frederick Gerald, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 17/4/18. 11 Baker, Ward, 2/Lt. (Tp.), d., 21/9/17. 10 Barker, Frederick Ernest, 2/Lt., (Tp.), k., 3 Barlow, Charles Leslie, D.S.O., Lt.-Col. (Brevet), k.. 5/8/18 (att. 1/sth Argyll & Suth. Hldrs.).

1 Bartlett, Ernest Jack, 2/Lt., (Tp.). k., 2 Bartley, ward Hall, Le. (A/Capt.), k.,

31/9/17. 3 Bastow, Frank, Capt., k., 27/5/18. Baxter, F. C., 2/Lt., k., 16/4/18. 9 Beaford, Thomas Armold, 2/Lt., k.. 5/11/18. Bedford, Alan William. 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 20/11/17 (att. 2/6th Ba). Berry, Harry, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 1/11/18. Berry. John Granville, M.C., 2/Lt., k., 16/8/17. Biggar, Wiliam Francis Wilson, 2/Lt., died, 20/10/18. 1 Blackburn, Harry Clement, 2/Lt. (Tp.), killed, 23/3/18 (att. 1/7th Bn). 1S Bisase, Ric ard Morris Stanley, Capt. (Tp.), « 3/5/17. Booth, Frederick Arthur, D.C.M., 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 13/10/18 (att. 1/7th W. Rid.

Regt.). 12 Boot bierbert, 2/Le.(Tp.), d., 3/§/17. Bowran, Robert Orton, 2/Lt., k., 9/10/17 (att. 1/8th) Bradbury. William Rowland, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 7/9/18 (att. roth E. Yorks.). Bray, Sidney Herbert, 2/Lt. (Tp.). k., B Pe OL wiVie ), k., 28/3/18 rooke, Percy, t apt.), k., 28/3/1

Cate, oth 1§ Burbridge, Frederick, 2/Lt (Tp.), d., 28/8/48. 9 Burnley, gemmest Sidney, 2/Lt. (Tp.). k, s/11/18. 4 Buttenshaw, Leonard Horace, Lt., k., 27/6/18. 1/2 Butterworth F.. 2/Lt.. killed. 14/9/18

{and R.A.F.). 9 Carnell, Frederick Harry Wright, M.C., Capt. (Tp.), k., 9/6/18. 11 Cave, Joseph, Temp. 2/Lt., d, 21/9/19. 3 Charlton, Robert Arthur, Lt. k., 21/3/18. Cheesbrough, Harold, Temp. 2/Lt., k., 4/9/18 Gat toth E. Yorks.). 12 Clap . Robert Sydney, Temp 2/Lt., d., 28/9/17.


o we



Clarkson, Amos, M.C., T/Lt., d., 24/10/18 (att 8th Bn.) Clayton, Benjamin Chipchase, M.C., A/Capt. (T/2/Lt.), k., 16/8/17. Clough, Morris, Capt., k., 25/4/18

Cohen, Adolph Broadfield, T/Lt., d.,

22/7/14. Colley, Harry Leonard, M.C., 2/Lt., k., 4/11/18 (att. 2nd Yorks. L.I.). Compston, John Milton, Temp. 2/Lt., k., 8/10/18. Court, Robert Ambrevy, Temp. Capt.. k, 26/4/17 (att. Sth W. Rid. Regt.).

Coyne. Cecil Thomas, Temp. Capt., k., 27/8/17. (Tp.), k.,

Crabtree, 24/4/18. Craven, Frank, 2/Lt., k., 28/3/18. Cropper, Edward Percival, M.C., Lt., k., 25/3/18. Crosland. William Philip, Temp. 2/Lt., k., 16/8/17. Culshaw, Ronald Henry, 2/Lt., k., 14/7/18. Dalton, Richard Gregory, T/2/Lr, k.. 31/8/17. Dashwood, Robin Henry Lyndsay, Lt., A/Capt., k., 27/5/18. Davidson, George Wilson, Temp. 2/Lt., d., 27/12/17. Day, Francis Thomas Pressland, Capt. (Tp.) d., 25/3/18. Day, Oliver, 2/Lt., d., 3/9/17. Daysh, Maunce, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 23/4/18. Dean, Hedley, 2/Lt.(Tp.), k., 21/3/18. De Lacey, John Matthew, 2/Lt., k., 23/9/17 (and R.F.C.. 57 Sqd.). Dimery, George Wentworth, 2/Lt. (Tp.),

died, 4/4/17. Drake, Francis, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 27/3/18 (att. 2/4th K.O.Y.L.1.) T/Capt., k.,

Duckitt, Charles Stanley, wards, Robert Amor, Lt., d., 14/7/18. Elvidge, Jabez Gordon, 2/Lt., k., 17/11/17 (att. 1/ 7th Bn.). Le. (Tp.), k.

Evans, Fredenck Henry, 9/10/17 (att sth Bn.). Evans, Harry, Lt. (Tp.), k., 26/3/18. Farrar, John Fredenck, T/2/Lt., A/Capt., died, 2/11/18. Faulder, Eric Amyas Wareing, 2/Lt., k., 18/9/18. Fernll, Tom Archibald, 2/Lt., k., 16/8/17 (att. 2nd Bn.). Firth, Fred. T Lt., k., 24/8/18 (att. roth Bn.) Fletcher, George Herbert, 2/Lt., k.. 2/6/17

(and R.F.C., 4th Sqd.). Forrest, Henry Dacre, Temp. 2/Lt., k.,

Lawrence, 2/Lt.

7/4/18 (att. sth W. Rid. Regt.). Foster, John wden, Temp. 2/Lt., k., 11/10/18.

Fox, David, Temp. 2/Lt., k., 15/10/17. Fox, Lawrence Anselm Storrs, T/Lt., d.,

Gardner, Willie, Temp. 2/Lt., d., 17/10/19 (att. 1/8th.) Getty, James Houghton, Capt., k., 3/5/17.

Page 430


2 3

tt 21

18 2





18 12

k., 27/8/17

2/Le, d., .. 6 Sqd.). 2/Lt., k., 16/8/17.

Gibson, George Henry, 2/Lt., (att. gth Bn). Gibson, Ivor Grithths, (and R.F.C Gill, Frank Hubert, T, Git. Hugh Goddard, Lt., k., 12. 3/18 (att. REC).

Cull, John Ignatnus, T 2 Lr., k.,

Grange. James Burness, Temp. 2/Lt., 20 4.15. Grav, John, 2/Lt., died, 26/11/18. Greaves, George Harold, Temp. 2/Lt., k., 3/3/17. Green, Allan, Temp. 2° k.. 19/8/87. Green, Geoffrey George Miers, T/2/Lt.,k., 28, 3/18 (att. sth York. Crreen, John James, Hon. Capt. & Qr.-Mr., died, g 12/17. Grell, louis George Neville, Lt., died, 5. 18 Greville, David Onslow, 2/Lt., k., 3/5/17. Griffith, John Herbert, 2. Le. k.. 27/3/18.


, 7/6/17.

Grose, Csuy Charles George, 2 Lt., k., Q 10/1F Haddock, Witham, M.C., 14/9/18. Hadow, Erlan Godfrey, M.C., T/Capt., k., 2g 2007 Hamer, Misunce, T. Lt, k., 2753 18 (att. LALT.).

Hanson, James Arthur, 2/Lt., k., 14/4/18

fatr. Hanson, Norman, M.M., 2/Lt.,d., 1210/18 Hardy, Edgar Leshe, d.. 7/10/18

(att. R-E.) Harns, Reginald Arthur, 2/Lt., (att. gth Bn.).

k., 9/10/17

Hartley, Noel Thomas, M.C. Temp. Capt. © k., 18 (att. oth Bn.) Hawkins, John Henn, Temp. 2°Lt. d.,

8 2/18 (att. Sth Bn ). Hav, Roger Bolton, M.C., Lt., d., 17/7/17 (and R.F.C.. 48 Sad., P-OLW.). Willam, T,2,Lt., d., 28/3/18 Hesketh, John, Temp. 2/Lt., (att. 1/%th Bn.).

k., 14/10/18

Heslop, Fred, Temp. 2/Lt., k., 26/4/18. Hewitt, James Gordon, T/2,Lt., died, rg/r1/18 (ate. 2, 7th Bn.). Hinchliffe, George William, 2/Lt., k. 26/6/18 (att. 93 T.M.B.). Hirst, Wilham Henn, Temp. 2/Lt.. k., 1/8/18 (att. roth Bn.). Hobday, Victor Marland, 2/Lt. T/Capt., k., 7/6 15.

Holland, Ww illiam Rawlinson Garside, M.C., Temp. 2/Lr., d.. 18/9/17 (att. soth TUM. Brv.). Holt, Wilfred, 2/Lt.,k . 3/5/17. Houghton, George, 2/Lt (Tp.), k., 27/8/18 (att Oth Dorsets).

Hoult, Robert Percy, 2/Lt., (Tp.), &., 10/3/17. Howe, Edward, Lt., died, 4/1/17. Hoyle, Fredenck Harold, 2/Lt. (Tp.), d.. 20/4/18. Hucklebridge, Sidney Eames, Lt., died, 7 3°19. Ingham, Horace, M.C., T/Lt., A/Maj, k., 24/4/18. Ingham, Major, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k.. 13/4/18 (att 1/7th Bn.).

Jackson, Robert William, M.C., 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 23/10/18 (att. 16th Bn.).






ro tS



12 to

The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.)—Casualties

Jackson, William Hickin, T/2/Lt., k., 3/5/17. arvis, Charles Edward, T/Lt., k., 18/9/17. ennison, James Leonard, 2/Lt., k., 3/5/19. ewitt, Joseph, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 1/18/18 (att. 1/7th Bn.). Jones. Reginald George, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k 20/10/18. Keevil, Cecil Horace Case, T/Capt.,, k., 3/6/17 (and R.F.C.). Kiddle, Cyril Frank, 2/Lrt., k., 25/4/18 (att.

sth Bn.). King, Gilbert Stewart, T./Capt., k., 3/4/17.

King, John Rose, M.C., Lt. (Tp.), k., /g/18 (art. roth Bn.). Kirk. Leshe Chnstiern, T/Capt. k., Knight, Walter Foster, T/it., k.. 27/2/17 (att. Bn.). Knowles, Harry, M.C., 2/Lt., T/Lt., k., 8/6/17 (att. orth Bn.).

Lachlan, Cecil George, T/2/Lt.,k.. 31/819.

Lamb, John Albert, 2/Lt., k.. 13/10/18 (att. 13th Bn. W. Rid. Reet) Lisle, John Wynne, 2/Lt., k., 3/5/17. Long. Bernard Wilfred, 5! Lt, k., 16/8/17. Long, Cyril Edwin Arnold, Capr., &k., 27/3/18. Lowry, Auriol Ernest Eric, D.S.O., M.C.,

Capt., A, Lt.-Col., k., 23/9/18. Lowry, Cyn! John Patrick, k., 25/3/18. Luck, John Lewis, 2/Lt. (Tp.), d.. 6/9/18

(att. 1/7th Bn.). Lund, Gilbert William, T/2/Lt., k 9/10/17 (att. 1/7th Bn.). Lynch, Denis, T/2/Lt., k., 23/3/18. Macdonald, John Alexander, T/Lr., k.. 30/85/17. Mackay, James Bruce, T/Capt., d., 3/5/17.

Mackridge, Ralf Leslie, k., '26/4/ 18.

(att. 1st Bn.). Mclaren, Richard Juson, Major, d., 2/8/17. Mansfield, Harold Lawnre, 2/Lt., d., 3/5/17. Mangin, Rueben Addison, T/2/Lt., d., 7/5/t Marshall, Donald Ewan, 2/Lt., k., 8/8/17 (and RF C.,185 Marshall, Herbert, k., 13/4/17. Marshall, John, T/Lt., k., 18/9 /18. Matthews, George, Pay. d., 2/7/18 (in German hands) (att. 1/6th Bn.) May, Wiltred John, M.C., T/2/Lt., d., 1/3/17. Meautys, Denzil Hatfield, Lt., d., 7/5/17

(att. 12th Bn.). Metcalfe-Smith, Bertram Cecil, 22/4/18 (att. Bn.). Mettam, Athol Roy, 2/Lt., 217th M.G.C.).


k., 16/8 17 (att.


Millar, James, 2/Lt., d., 25/4/18 (Res., att. 1/6th Bn.). Miller, Charles Wilde, 2/Lt., k., 7 6

Moorhouse, Walter, T/2/Lt., k., 22. 01/17 (att. 2/6th Bn.). . Morant, Gerald Alexander Mackay, M.C., T/Cap t., k., 15/4/18 (att. 2/s5th Morns, Wilham, rt Lrt., d., oe 17. Moulson, Samuel, T/2/Lt., Al ‘g/ 18. Murgatroy 'd, Ellison, D.C. MC /Capt.,

6/ ite. William Osborne, Lt., k.. Newton, Walter Kilshaw, 2/Lt.. a 31/3/18.

Page 431


15 1a


15 10






17 17

The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.)—Casualties

Nuttall, Bric dann. 2/Le., k., 21/3/18 (att. oth M.G Oa’ es, nase Edmund Roseingrave, Lt., I ae Edward, k., 27/9/18. Ostler, Thomas, T/2/Lt., (att. both T.M.B. ). Owens, Charles Arnold, T/Lt., d., 10/1/17 (att. roth Bn.). Padgett, James Philip, T/2/Lt., k., Palmer, Albert Edgar, 2/Lt., k., 27/9/18

att. 8th Bn.). Palmes, John Philip, M.C., Capt., k., 1/8/17 (att. 2nd Bn.). Parker, A. E. 2/Lt., killed, 31/5/18 (and R.A.F.). Parker, John Norman, Temp. 2/Lt., k., 8/9/17 (att. 2/6th Bn.). Parker, John Womersley, T/2/Lt., d., ee 17 (ate. 1/5th Bn.). Parker, William, ‘T'/2/Lt., d., 31/12/17. Parkin, Absalom Sydney, 2/Lt., k., 3/5/17.

Parkin, George Frederic, T/2/Lt., k., o/4/ tt. Pater, Hugh, 2/Lt., killed, 17/4/17 (and R.F.C.). Paul, William, D.S.O., M.C., Lt. (A/Capt.), d., 1/12/17.

Paus, Oscar Lionel, T/2/Lt., d., 29/7/17. Peach, Crugar Stanley, 2/Lt, killed, 24/4/17 (and R.F.C,). Pearce, James, D.C.M., M.M., 2/Lt., died, Peck, Alfred Taylor, 2/Lt., k., 3/5/17. Peters, Lionel Gordon, Capt., k., 25/ Petty, Robert Leach, 2/Lt., k., 31/ (ate. 7th N. Staff. R.). Pighills, John Arthur, 2/Lt.,

/18 /t8

d., 29/5/18

(att. 11th Lanc. Fus.) (in German hands).

Platnauer, Leonard Maurice, 2/Lt., d., 3/5/17. Porter, George Francis Lambert, 2/Lt., (T/Capt.), k., 8/6/17. Price, Hugh, 2/Lt., k., 01/10/18 (att. 1/7th W. Rid. Regt ). Pndmore, Georg e Harry, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k.,

ist Essex Regt.).

31/8/18 (att. k., 27/8/17

Procter, Harry Mettam, 2/Lt., (att. ath Bn.).

Pyne, Enrest Sydney, 2/Lt., d., 12/10/17 (att. oth Bn.). Rayner, Noel Roderick, Lt., k., 27/7/17 and R.F.C., 57 Sqd.). Reed, Bernard, k., 12/4/18 (att. I sth Bn.).

Reed, Bertram, Lt., k.. 12/4/18. Reese, Amold, M.C., 2/Lt., k., 1/8/17.

Reynolds, Percival, 2/Le., k., 19/9/ 18. Richardson, Roger: Brver. 27/5, 18. Robb, John, 2/Lrt. (Tp. aay

Roberts, Birdsell, w/e ES. k., 9/10/17 (Res., att. oth Bn. ). Temp. Lt. (A/Capt.),

Robinson, Charles, k., 14/7/18. Robinson, Donald, Lt. (Tp.), k., 3/5/17.

Robinson, Frank Victor, Lt. (Tp.), k.. 3/5/17. Rogerson, Noel, 2/Lt., k., 28/2/18 (att.

2/sth Rose” Alexander Daniel, 31/8/17.

M.C., 2/Lt., k.,

Rose. ys n Alexander, Capt. (Tp.), k., 9/3/1 Row, Burnett, T/2/Lt., d., 15/4/18

(ate. 1/s5th Bn.) (in German hands).


we & NNW


18 I



h Holt, k., 25/4/18


Royley, Jos 2/Lt.,

(att. 1/5th

Rudd, Kenneth Sutherland, T/Capt., k. 10/10/18. Salmons, Harry, T/2/Lt., d., 1/4/18 (in

German hands). Sanders, Clive, A/Capt., k.. 27/5/18 (att. 2nd Bn.). Sanderson, Wilfred, T'/2/Lt., d., 1§/4/18 (att. 1/7th Bn.). Sankey, Thomas, 2/Lt. (Tp). K. 13/12/ t7. Scarborough, Havdn, 2/Lt., k., 17/9/18. Scholes, Fredk. W., 2/ Lee ey Scott, George Trotter, T/2/Lrt., d., 6/5/19. Senior, George Fairburn, 2/Lt.,k., 17/11/17 (att. 1/7th Bn ).

Shaw, Joshua Harold, 2/Lt., d., 1/5/18 (att. roth Bn.). Shuttleworth, Ernest Hebden, T/2/Lt., k.,

20/7/18 (att. 8th Bn.). Skeet, William Celington, Capt. (Tp.), k..

« 9 4 We . . Sleigh, Wilham Ward, Lt. (Tp.),k , 25/2/17.

Smith, Harold, M.C., Temp. Capt., d., 28/3/18. Smith, John Taylor, Temp. 2/Lt., d., 29/3/18 (att. 2 Bn.) Smith) Matthew, Frederick, M.C., Temp. Capt., k., 18/9/18. Smith, Perey Lloyd, k., 9/8/17. Soames, Gilbert Horsman, Miyor, k., 9/6/19. Sowry, Alfred Allan, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 31/8/17. Stagg, Arthur John, Temp 2 Lt, k.. 27/5/18. Stewart, Alexander James, MC, Lt

(A/ Major). d., 30/4/18 (att. M. G.C, Stockdale, Guy Nelson, M.C , Mayor, en. 21/3/18 (att. 11/Essex). Stott, Phihp Harle, 2/Lr., 1/5th Bn.). Street, Richard, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k (att. M.G.C., 86 Coy.). Studley, Charles Carr, 2/Lt., (att. 1/8 Bn.). Sussex, Reginald Arthur, 2/Lt., d., 20 3°17 (att. 1 York and Lancs. Regt.). Swaby, Sydney Thomas, Temp. Lt., d., 31/8/18 (att. 2/4 K.OW LL). Swift, William, Temp . 2/Lt., k., 11/10/18. (Res. att. 1/7 W. id Re oe

k., 25/4/48 (ate. oo 24/4/17

k., yQ tO 17

Temple, (T/ Lt), k., 10/9/17 (att. 12/ Yorks. Regt.). Temple, Ernest Nelson, Temp. 2/Lt., d., 8/4/18 (att. 27 Bn.). Thomas, Fredenck James, 2/Lt.,_ k., 21/9/17 (att. 11 Thomas, James Shepherd, Temp. 2/Lt..

k., 35/17.

Thompson-MelLaughlin, 19 4/17 (and R.F.C.).

Lee, 2/Lt., died,


Thormsby, Harold Stansfield, Temp. 2 k., 24/8/18. Titley, Anthony Graham, 2/Lt.,k., 14/4/17. Tooke, Bernard, Temp. Capt., k., 3/5/17.

Town, Charles Aubrey, M.C , Temp. Capt., k., 20/9/17. k., 21/4/18 (and

Townson, H. J., 2/Lt., R.A.F.). Tugwell, Oswald) Norman, 2/Lt., d., 22/4/17 (att. + Bn.) Tunnah, Wilham, Temp. 2/Lt., died.

28/4/18 (att. 1/6 Bn.) (in German hands),

Page 432

420 The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.)—Casualties

1/2Turner, F. E., 2/Lt., R.A.F.).

Turner, Francis Ignatius, Temp. killed, 27/9/18 (att. 8 Bn.). Vose, Thomas, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k., 13/12/17

(att. 12 Bn.). 4 Waite, Charles. 2/Lt, d., 28/3/18 (att. 2/8 Bn.). Wakefield, Thomas Butler, k., 8/9/17 (att. 2/6 Bn.). 1 Walon. Percy Jackson, Temp. 2/Lt., k., /t 12 Reginald Frederick William, Temp.

died, 27/9/18 (and 2/Lt.,

Temp. 2/Lt.,

2/Lt., k., 26/9/17. 1s Ward, 2/Lt., k., 28/6/18. 15 Ward, Alec, 2/Lt, k., 28/6/18. 18 Warner, William James, 2/Lt., k., 3/5/17. 9 Wells, Leonard Frank, M.C., 2/Lt., k., 11/10/18. 9 Westcott, Edgar, M.C., Ca t. d., 4/11/18. 4

Weston, ‘King ley Vale, 2/Lt., d., 10/4/18 (att. M.G.

I Wheelton, William, 2/Lt., k., 29/3/18 (att.

Bn.). 2 whe n, George, M.C., 2/Lt., k., 16/8/17. Whitteron, laude, 2/Lt., k., 25/4/18 (att. 1/6 Bn.). 3 Wilkinson, Arthur Wilfred, Caprt., d., 18/4/18. Williams, Aubrey, 2/Lt., k., 25/4/18 (att. 1/6 Bn.) 18 Williams, Eric, Lt., iy /18 (act. 2 Bn.). 11 Wood, Gordon, ie ( t.), d., 9/6/17

Woodcock, Arthur Douglas 2/Lt. (Tp)., 16/8/17 (Res., att. 10 Bn.). Weedd. ‘Alex. Bethune Peter, 2/Lt., d., 25/8/18 (Res., att. 10 Bn.). 9 Woods, Enc Joseph, 2/Lt. (T/Lt.), k., 9/10/17. 12 Wooler, Rupert Basil, Lt., d., 3/5/17. Worrall, Herbert, 2/Lt., k., 25/4/18 fatt. 1/6 Bn.).

1 Wright, Walter Horace, 2/Lt., k., 21/3/18.

sth BATTALION (Territorial).

Airey, Henry William Sache,

Airey, Norman George, 2/Lt. a +) 22/11/17. Annely, Ernest George, 2/Lt., Beech. ‘Norman Wiliam, ee k., 9/10/17. Bell, Joseph, 2/Lt., k., 17/4/17 Black urn, Charles ritchley, Lr. (Act. Capt. ), ka, 25/4/18. Birkbeck, Sidney, Walker, apt. k., 9/10/17. Dale, Alwyn Percy, Major, k., "3 De Ville, Charles 2/Lt., 30/7 /18.

Donkersley, Reynold, M.C., ite ‘k., 20/9/18. Firth, Charles Ronald, 2/Lt., died 9/11/18. Fox, Geoffrey Noel Storrs, 2/Lt., k., 28/3/18. Fretwell, Arthur Richard, Lt., d., 1/4/18. Gibson, Thomas Ernest, 2/Lt., k., 28/11/17. Goddard, Harold, 2/Lt., k., 9/10/17. Hopper, Robert Edward, 2/Lt., 28/4/17. Howe, William Thomas, M. 2/Lrt., k., /1i/1d. Hutchinson, William, 2/Lt., k., 22/01/17. Hutchinson, I Hanley, Lt., d., 1/9 /19.

Kermode, Edgar Marsden, D. SO. M.C. and Bar, D.C.M., 2/Lt.,d., 27/7/18. Knowles, Frank Henry . Cap t., k., 3/5 Leslie, Charles Jose h "2/Lt., Mason, Lance illiam ‘Hare 2/Lt., k.,


Mackay, Donald Paley, Major, k., 9/10/17. Mitchell, Lewis Medcalfe, 2/Lt., k., 11/8/18. Mossop, William Nicholson, M.C., Capt. and Adjt., d., 8/5/18. No James Fitz Gaulfield, 2/Lrt., k., Parsons, Herbert, Lt., k., 14/4/17. Pearson, Reginald, 2/Lt., k., 23/10/18. Phillips, Frederick George, Lt. (Act. Capt.), k..

25/4/18. Potts, William Edgar, 2/Lt., k., 13/4/18. Robinson, Walter, 2/Lt., k., 29/9/18 (Tank Corps). Robinson, Charles Edward, Lt., died, 25/10/18 Schindler, William Barron, 2/Lt., k., 20/7/18 Skirrow, Geoffrey, Lt. (Act. Capt.), k.,

Smith, Herbert Norman, 2/Lt. k., 20/11/17. Step hens, Fred Orlando, Lt., k., 24/4/18.

T rrell, Leonard Collin, 2/Lt., k , 9/10/17. alker, Reginald, Lt., k., 25/4/18. Wallace, udley Whistler, M.C., Lt. k., 9/10/17. Wilde, James Greaves Spencer, d.. 1/11/18,

Wilson, Arnold, 2/Lt., k., 3/5/17. Wright, Harold Reginald, Lh, “4 16/9/18.

6th BATTALION (Territorial).

Ambler, George, Lt.,

Archer, Walter Dasion P, WL. «ke, 25/4/18.

Arenistead, Tom Elsworth, M.C., 2/Lt., k., 3 Barker, Arthur, 2/Lt., k., 9/10/19. Barker, Geotirey, Capt wk, Bickerdike, Robert, Lc. Ca tee 20/11/27. Brown, Gerald Knap ton, Lt. 3/8/47. Booth, John George, 2/ Lt., k., “32/14/19. Buchannan, Alexander, 2/ ‘Lee.

Charlesworth, George, Lt., k., /t

Constantine, Robert Capt., died, _ 4/3/19. Dobson, Reginald Graham, Major, died, 4/1/19 Emsley, John Alfred, Capi . died, Fisher, John Hammond. M.C., 2/Lt., d., 7/9/18.

Fletcher, Edward Stewart, Lt. k., 3/5/17. Hal), John Gilbert, 2/Lt.,

Harnis, Christopher "27Lt., . 27/5 17. Hawkswell, Lewis Bertam, Lt., a 18g 18 (att. R.A.F. ).

Haywood, Philip, 2/Lt., k., 22/11/17 Hepburn, David Laughton Inkster, 2/Lt., 25/4 718. {ackson, Edward, 2/Lt., k.. cLean, Walter, Lt.,d., Muller, Norman, Capt., k., 28/7/18. Pells, Charles Francis Robert, Lre., k., bi


Potterton, Henry, 2/Lt., d., 1 3/12/17. Rhodes, John Arthur, 2/Lt., Kk ., 24/8/18. Scales, V ‘alter Alexander, M.C., Capt., killed, 6/1/18.

Smith, Harold, M.C., Capt., k., 22/13/17. Speight, James Leslie, Lt., d., 9/10/17.

Page 433

The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.)—Casualttes 421

Straker, Herbert, 2/Lt., d., 9/11/18. Whitehead, Alfred Gordon, Lt., k., 29/1/18 Turner, George Corrall, Capt., k., 13/9/17. (and R.F.C.) Ward, Edward, Arthur Hunter, Lt., k., 11/8/17 Wood, James Alexander Scott, 2/Lt., k., (and R.F. C.). 12/6/17. Watson, William Vernon Crowther, 2/Lt., k., I Worth ames William, M.C., 2/Lt. d.

15/10/17. 28/11/17.

7th BATTALION (Leeds Rifles) (Territorial).

Brooke, George Miller, Lt., k., 2544 4/18. ackson, Walter, 2/Lt., k., 9/10/17. Brown, Walter Ravenhill, C., Le, k., mbdin, John Reginald, M.C., Lt., d. 21/11/17. 24/9/18. Campbell, William Archibald, Lt, d., 21/9/17 Eric Charles Allan, Lt.,k.,9/10/17. and R.F.C.). Ling, Godfrey Frank Mackwood, M.C. and Carter, John Taylor, 2/Lt., k., 9/10/17. 2 Bars, Ca t., k., 23/5/18. Dawson, William Healey, 2/Lt., k., 20/7/18. Longbottom, Edward Brooke, Lt., k., 9/10/17. Fender, Edward Henry, Lt. (A/Capt.), k., Parker, James Stanley, Lt., k., 9/10/17. 9/10/17. Rogers, Percy Alexander MacKarness, Lt., k., Garritt, John Crossland, a/Lt. . k., 30/5/18. 9/10/17. Halliday, Balfour, 2/Lt., d., 4/7/17. Swift, John, 2/Lt., k., 22/11/17. Hamilton, Thomas, Lt., 12/5 /t7. Walling, Ernest, M.C., Capt. (A/Major), k., Isherwood, Samuel Guy, Lt., a. 20/ 9/18. 25/4/18. Jackson, Sidney Foster, Lt., k., 9/41/27, Whiteley, Benjamin Enc, 2/Lt., k., 28/8/18

8th BATTALION (Leeds Rifles) (Territorial).

Appleyard, James Eric, M.C., Capt., k., Nevitt, George Rothwell, Capt., k., 28/11/19 20/7/18. Northrop, Harold, 2/Lt., k., 9/10/17. Baker, Arthur Leslie, 2/Lt., k., 9/10/17. Palmer, Harry, 2/Lt., k., 27/5/18. Callaghan, Leslie Wilfred, Cap ts k., 9/10/17. Percival, John Lee, 2/Lt., k., 30/9/18. Chadwick, John Collinge, , 25/3/17. Raistrick, John William, 2/Lt., k., 19/5/17.

Cheetham, Herbert, Le, k., 17. Richardson, Basil James, 2/Lt., k., 9/10/17. Beaman William Albert, Le. died, 4/2/18. Rigby, Arthur eorge, M.C., Capt, k., Charles, Capt., k., 6/4/17. 12/10/17. "Edwin Norris, ite “died, 16/3 /18. Shann, Alan Webster, 2/Lt., k., 27/01/17. Hobson, Andrew John Hay, Lt. k., 30/10/17. Silmon, William Osman de Wel . k., Horner, Karl Christian, 2 ‘te, d., 4/4/17. 28/2/17. Hudson, Robert Arthur, D.S.O., Major, Stead, Charles Brian, M.C., Caprt., d., 28/9/18. A/Lt.-Col., k., 9/10/17. Thornton, Claude Arthur Muir, 2/Lt., k., Hutchinson, George Russell, ait. 27/5/18. Illingworth, "John, M.C., Lt, Waite. Hugh Conyers, 2/Lt., k., 6/4/17. essop, George Edward, Lt., “2 10/4/18. Williams, Thomas Rix, 2/Lt., k., 20/7/13 inder, Geoffrey George, 'M.C., Capt. k., Wilkinson, Enc Fitzwater, M.C., Capt., k.,

20/7/18. 9/10/17. Lupton, Francis Ashford, Major, k., 19/2/17. Wilkinson, Thomas William Musgrave, Lt., Moore, Albert Reginald, 2/Lt., k., 9/10/37. 20/7/18.

Page 434


The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.)\—Casualties


Clark, Charles, 36638, Pte., dh., 5/1/17 Dobson, Albert, 266050, Pte., d. he 26/ 12, ‘18,

Fenton, Joseph, 11200, Pte., d.h., 29/12/17. Hewett, Ernest William, 39472, Prte., d.h., nom Hodgson, George William, 49154, Pte. d.,

13/01/17. ohnsan, William, 242584, Pte., d.h., vavaine, Hyman, 23, Pte., 14/6/17.

Mann. Joseph Edward, 3/101177, C/Sgt., d.h., i 17 Muff, George, 24rsor, Pte., d-h., Rowling, Willie, 200816, Pte., dh, 11/12, 98. Sandilands, John, 10852, Pre., dh, 13/8/18. Williams, Frederick, 18858, Pte., duh 17. Woodhouse, John "Willie, 55706, Pte., d.h., 28/2/18


(The Theatre ot War is France and Flanders unless otherwise indicated).

= killed in action. “a”

Addy, Joseph, 377148, k, ail Agley, Fre erick, gost8, Pre, k., 14/7/18. Allvin, Ernest, 52507, Pte., k., 26/4/ 18, formerly 65347, Durham’ L.1. Anderson, James Mackie,t7107,Pte., k.,21/3/18. Ascough, Herbert Robert, 77580, Pte., d., 25 10/18. Ascroft, Harry, 75404, L/Cpl., d., 23/10 18. Ashton, William) Francis, 15949, L/Cpl., k.. 17/ 1/17. Atkinson, Arthur Sidney, s5589. Pte., k.. 17/9/18, formerly 189377, R.G.A. Atkinson, Edward Ernest, 242308, Pte., d.. 28/4/18. Atkinson, George, 25147, Pte., k., 14/2/18. Audaer, Fred, 25259, Pte., d.. 26/1/17.

Bagnall, Lawrence Parton, 52583, Pte., d., 26/4/18, formerly 268778, West Riding Regt. Bannister, Herbert, 266380, Pre., k., 11/8/18. Barber, Archibald Henry, 64243, Pte., k., 24/9/18. Barfield, Harold Frederick, 29457, Pte., d., 13/2/17. Barker, Arthur, 29560, Pte., d., 20/2/17.

Barker, Harry Watson, 21/3/18. Barker, Sydney, 24410, Pre., k., 2/7/17. Barlow, Frank, 8214, Pte., d., 31/3/17. Barnes, Henry, 21175, Pte., k., 21/3/18. Barnes, Herbert, 59190, Pte., 17/9/18, formerly §/113255, 86th T. Res. Hatt. Barnes, Percy, 28666, Pte., d., 5/ 7 17. Barraclough, James, 6321, L/Cpl., k., 29/4/18 Barrett, Arthur, 3972, Pre., d., 12/8/18. Beanland, Louis, 21236, Pte., k., 14/6/17. Beard, Harry James, 64245, Pte., d., 24/9/18, formerly T.}1/o86721, A.S.C Beasley, Walter, 202636, Pte., K.. Beaumont, Edgar. 579<4, Pte., k.. 18. Beecroft, John Richard: 18/725, Pte., k., 4/2/17. Beedle, Bertie, 81321, Pte., d., 2/11/18, formerly 85731, Nort umberland Bell, John Willie, 3/8616, Pte., k., 21/3/18 Bevan, Joseph, 63087, Pte., k., 19/9/18 Bilson, John, 21423, Pre., ke, 14/7/18

24620, L/Cpl., k.,


Bilton, George, 24004, Pte., k., 21/34/18. Bishop, Reginald George. 62031. Pte... k., 17/9/18. Blackburn, Bertie Maltby, 24418, Pte., k.,


died of wounds.

“dh. = died, home.

Blades, Reginald, so1o4, Pte., k., 24/0/18. Blair, ‘Rueben, 19309, Pte., d., 6/5/18. Blakeman, Thomas, bors, Pre., k., 17 9 18. Blackeney, Joseph Baird, 325232, Pre. k., 147/18, formerly 204307, ath Yorks. Regt. Blaythorne, Charles, 26080, Pre., ko. 25/3/18. dy, Bertie, 64248, Pre., k., 24/9/18. Hoddy, Frank W., 9124, Sgt., k., 21,3. 18. Boden, Richard Thomas, 64429, Pte.. d.. 24/10/18. Bogg, Mark, 8sso0, L/Sgt., d.. 26/1/17. Bolingbroke, Herbert, 20049, Pre., k., 2! 3/18, formerly 22851, Hussars. Rooth, Fred, 40740, Pte.. k., 16/4 17: Booth, Williant, 24547. Pre., k., 3/18. Bounsall, Frederick, §290 Pre. 14/8/18, formerly 30388, North "Lanes. Regt. Bower, Herbert, 18/1485, Pre, k., 17/0/18. Bower, William, 16/1170, A/ Ser. . d., 0/10/98. Bowler, Frederick, 11867, A’Cpl., k., 21/3/18. Bowyer, Vernon, 52495, Pte. k.. 21/3/18, formerly 50350, Roval West Surrey Regt. Boyington, George, 7554, Pte., d., 22/4/17. Bradbury, John, s6912, k., 26/5/18. Bradley, Crowther Spencer, 39835, Pre. k.. 24/ ‘9/18. Bradley, Ebenezer, 81318, Pte., d., 24/10/18, formerly 78721, Northumberland Fusiliers. Bramley, Fred, 30641, Pre., k.. 17/9 18. Brayshaw, Thomas William, 32423. Pte. k.. 11/4/17. Brayshaw, William. 7179, Pte., d-h, 6/7/18. Briggs, Horace Leslie, tee 72. L/ Cpl. k. eT Britton, James Willie, 1§§29, Pte., k., 10/2/17. Broadbear, Frank Harold, 42700, Fte., d..

g/t1/18, formerly tst103, A.S.C. Broadwith, James Arthur, 64250, Pre, k.. 17/0/18.

Brook, Herbert, 64119, Pte., k., 24/9/18. Brook, William, 525821, Pte. k.. 21/3/18, formerly 31068, West Riding Regt. Brook, Willam, 34061, Pte., k., 27/8 17. Brown, Arthur, 40701, Sgt., d., ar/ 5/18, formerly 20731, Durham Lt, MM. Brown, Ernest, 206038, Pte., k., 11/8/18. Brown, Fred, 8177, Pte., kK. Q/2/17. Brown, John, 38685, Cpl., k.. 14/7/18 Brown, Sydney Lancaster, 21/865, Pte, k., Brunning, Milton, 4/8153, Pte., d.. 3/5/18 Brunskill, Joseph ‘pattison 38808, Pte, k.


Page 435

The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.)\—Casualttes

Bryant, John Charles, 52904, Pte., k., 19/9/18, formerly 36389, Loyal North Lancs. Regt. Buchan, John, 20154, L/Col., k., 30/8/17, formerly 13522. 12th Res. Cav. Regt. Bundy, Samuel, 46483, Pre. k., 24/9/17. formerly 161850, Royal Regiment of Arullery. Burdon, Wilham James, s6012, Pre. d., 11/4/18, formerly 22481, 6th Res. Cav. Regt. Burke, ‘Thomas, 4/3317, Pte., kK... 13/3/17. Burn, Reginald John, 64112, Pte., k., 17/9/18. Burlinson, Richard, 235270, Pte., d., 11/5/17. Burnett, John, 205275, Pre., k., 17.9/18 Burns, Robert, 8/9485, Pte., d.h., 22/6/17. Burras, James William, 18768, k., 18/9. 17. ‘Thomas, 7759, Pte., k., 27 5/18, Burtle, William, 266870, Rfn., k., Busfield, George, 18/1412, L/Copl., d., 4,7 17. Butler, John William, 52587, Pte., d.. 17/7/18. formerly 269054, West Riding Regt. Byrne, John Thomas, 56671, Pte., k.. 17/9 18. Bywater, John, 8167, Pre., k., 3/7/17. Calder, John, 4/8592, A/Sgt., k., 23/10/18. Calton, Alfred, 26959, Pte., d.. 26/1/17. Calvert, Arthur, 13021, Pre.. k.. 213/18. Carley, William Harold, Pte.. k..21/3 18 Carr, Thomas, 50467, Pte.. d.. 14 9 17. Carter, Bert, 41864, d.. 6/10 17, formerly 23977, Northumberland Fusihers Cartman, Tom, 28170, d-h., Cartwnght, John, 7590, L/Cpl., k., 28/5/17. Casemore, Roland Sydney, 9103, C.S.M., k., 21/3/18. Castle, Herbert, 64431, Pte., k., 23/10/18, formerly 85680, Northumberland Fusiliers. Catlin, Sidney Victor, 204052, L/Cpl. k., 22/3/18, formerly 015441, 6th Res. Cav. egt. Cauldwell, Robert, 41876, Cpl.. d.. 14/7/18, formerly 31678, Sherwood Foresters. Cawkwell, Albert, 7091, 10/18. Chadwick, Arthur, 21/622, Pte., k., 21/3/18. Chaplin, Frederick, 9033, Cpl., k., 24/1/17. Chapman, Charles, 3/7011, Pte., k.. 21/3/18. Chapman, Jabez. 52338: Pre., k.. 17/9/18. formerly T/308880, A.S.C., (H.T.). Charlton, Robert, 4248s, k., 17/0/18, . formerly 14662, Northumberland Fusihers Chilton, Wilfred, 21669, Pte. d. 23. </17 Christian, Arthur, 181281, Pte.. 4. 15.7 18. Churchyard, Charles, 33094. Pte., d. 2/5/18. Claridge, Harry, 8093, Pte., k., 30/11/17 Clark, Harry, 4/8424, A/Cpl., k.. 276/8/1. Clark Walter, 11231. Pte.. d. 2/2/17. Clarke, John Wilham, 17/1302, Pte., k..21/3/18.

Clarkson, John ‘Townsley, 32988. Pre. d., Clough, Norman Hargreaves, 28250, Pte., k.. 4/10/19

Cloutt, Henry, 34376, Pte. k., 21/3 18. Cobley, Benjamin, 203068, Pte.. k.. 14/7/18 formerly 13997. \Yest Riding Regt. Cockburn, Thomas George, 87759. Pte. k.. 23/10/18. Cockshot, Cyrus, 21 35, Pte., k., 21/3/18. Collins, Patrick, 17180, Pte., d., 19/9/18. Common, John Thompson Hudspeth, 64007, Pte., k., 24/0/18, formerly 30636, East Riding Yorks. Yeomanry. Conkleton, Charlie, Pte., d., 21/10/18. Conlin, John Wilham, 17/307, Pte. dh., 22/4/18 Connell, David. 34622, Pte.. k,. 21/3/18


Cook, Brvan Strickland, 31994, Pte., d.,z7 54/17. Cook, Charhe, 11782, L/Cpl., d.. Cooke, Herbert Sydney, 51940, L,Cpl, k 19/9/18, formerly 157283, LWP, Roo. Cook, Jonn Edward, 3 $8112, I Cpl, d.. 23/9/:8. Cooney, Stephen, 40750. Pre. d.. 29 Cooper, George Noble, 32088, Pre, Cooper, Harry, 33820, Pre. d.. 160 - Cooper, John, 76480, Pte.. d., 25 10 18. Copley, Alfred, 16 1402, Cpi.. zo 4.38 Corne, Henry Chfford, 15524, Pre. k., 25.4 18 Costello, John, 17265, Cpl, G.. s toi Cotterill, Henry, szsqgy, Pre. d., a 4/18. Cowling, Vaux, 32674, Pte .d 7/6 18, 22523. LL.

3 1%. 17

Crabtree. Guy [utster, s6063, Pte., ko, 2:03 «18. Crampton. Thomas, 28949. Ptre.. d.. 22 4°18 Crew. Bentamer, 17 784 Pre, ko. «18. Croit, Albert. s2sq92. d.. g 7 td. Croll, Junner Mackenzie, 16313, Pte, k 22-4 98. Crook, Harry, 1s rs&g, Pte., 26 3/18. Crosslana, Ernest, 18404, Pre. do, rk 4/17. Crowther Willham, 21/601, Pte, k., 21.43/98. Davey. Harokid, 3123. Pre, k.. 24 9°18 tormeriy rq York and Lanes. Rept

Davis, Georges, iSeoo, Pte. b.. 24°90 17. Davison, Mark, 6194. A Cpl., d., 21 6:17. Davison, Norman. Pte, 5 9 15 formerly 23161, 6th Res. Cav. Regt. Daws, Crni Hague, 57388, Pte., k.. 23 10013. Dawson, Joc, 52525, Pte., k., 15. Day, John William, 12189, Sgt., k., 256/17. Deadman, John, 64090 Prte.. k.. 17/9/18. Dearnley, Percy, 38000, Vte., d.. 2, 10/18. Dempster, George, L. Cri. d.. 2c 6 18. formerly P rogsS, Devonport, Freijer:ck Norman. 3. 8725. ite. k., 213/18. Dickinson, George Hardie. 16 go1, Le Cpl. k. 17,9 18, MLM. Dixon, Joseph Wilson, 18 845, Pre.,d. 26 4 18. Dobbs, William Fred, 34133, Pte., d.. 26.4 17. Dobson, George. ga40, Cpl., 17 6 17. MOM. Docksey, John, 238120, Pte, k., formerly 4577, Duke of Wellingion’s Regt. Dodd. John Richard s8004. Pte.. d.. 7/8018, Donald, George Ernest, 60131, Pte, k.. 24.9 15. Downes, Wiliie, 29614, Pte. k.. 21 3

Duffield, Charles, 1s975, Pte., d.. re 6 17 Duffield, Ernest, 17783. Pte, d.. 7 7 17 Dunwell, Tom, 16516, Pre. k.. 21.3518.

Durkin, James, 52523, Pte. k. 21.3 18, formerly 31970. West Riding Regt. Eade, John Wileman, sSogs, k.. 21 2 18, formerly i809s, Leicestershire Regt Famonson, Arthur, 36091, Pte., k., 9 § 18. Ellison, Alfred, 16/855, Pte. 7/7/18. Ellison, Arthur Ralfour, 37740. 21 3/18. Emerson. Thomas Lesl:e Gordon. 325153, Pte., 2°98. Exley. Ernest, ©2662, Pre, 30 18, formerly 268806, West Riding Reet. Farrar, Flarry, 33125, VPte., d., 18 4/17. Farrar, James Thomas. 04105, k., 17 9 18. Farrow, George, s6o74, Mte., 21/3/18. Faulkner, Michael, 22144, Pte., k., Fearnehough, George, 64477, Pte., k.. 23/10/18 Fellows, Albert James, 47082, Pte., d., 21/3/18, Fern. James Congreve, Go602. Pre. k.. 39/7/18. Fielding. Wilham. sov26 1. Cri. k.. 16 a/ig Fisher, Sidnev, 266096, Pte.. k. 24/9/18.

Page 436

424 The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.)—Casualties

Pte., k.,

Fleetwood, William, 52604, Pte., k., 29/4/18. Fletcher, John, 17786, Pte., k., 25110 18. Foggin, Gilbert, 770856, L/Cpl. « 86/2/18. Ford. Charles Henry, te., d., 14/2/17. Forrest, William Leslie, Pte, k., 8/10/18. Foster, Bernard Fred, 64102, Pte., k., 17/9/18 Foster, Herbert, 64264, Pte., drowned,13/10/18. Foster, Robert. 201020, A/Sgt., d., 24/9/18, Fraser, David William, 8162, Pte., Fraser, John Wilham, 60400, 19/9/18. Frear. John William, 63982, Pre., k., 23/10/18 French, William, 6227, Pte., k.. 10/4/17. Frieze, Morris, 35132, Pte., k., 19/9/18. Furniss, James, 19985. Pte., k., 23/10/18. Gash, Fred, so44z, Pte., k., 18:10 18. Gerard, James, 205420, Pte., k.. 23/10/18. Cubbons, Alfred, 3/8423, Pte., d., 24/9/17. Gibson, Charles, k.. 19/9/18 D.C.M. Gibson, Joseph, 37235, Pte., k.,

Fleetwood, George Henry,


d., 13/9/17. L/Cpl, d.,


Gidlow, Wilham ilton, 265798, Pte., k., 24/6/1 Gieshen, Jo in, 3 307459, Pre., k.. 14/7/18. Gilliam, Fredenck, Pre.. k. 8 10/18. Glackin, John, 16/1465, Pte., d., 13/8) ‘18.

Glenn, Daniel, a Cc pi. 31/3/18. Glew, George, 60512, Pte., k., Ps 10/18, formerly 32625, West Riding Regt. Golder, Walter, sg2z4so, Pte., d., 22/5/18, formerly 15752, Lincolnshire Regt. Goodaire, Horace, 21/2, A/Sgt., k., 14/7/18. Goodall, Joseph, 7511, Pte., d., 243/17. Goodger, Frederick Robert, 49553, Pte., k., 14.8 ¢8. Govans, Henry, $7928, k.. 20/t8/t7, formerly 22603. 6th Res. Cav. Regt. Greenwood, Henry, 21/142, Pte., d., 20/7/18. Greenwood, Wilham, s69027, Prte.. k., 9/2/18. formerly 22819, 6th Res. Cav. Regt. srevelle, Henry, 14560, Pre., k.. 4/10/17. Gnffin, James, 34140, Pte., k., 17/1/17. Grisdale, James, 21787, Pte., d., 19/2/17. Haddock, David, 29816, Pte., d.. 26/1/17. Haigh, Mortinton, 28451, Pre., k.. 27/4/17. Hainsworth, Ernest, 64267, Pte., d.h., 20/10/18. Haley Wilfred, 241867, Pte., k., 23/10/18. Hall, Charles, s24o4, Pte., k.. 21/2/18 Hall, Charles, 260087, Pte., k., 77. 18. formerly 1122, East Yorks. Regt. Hall, Edward, Pte, k.. 19/9/18, formerly ating Roval West surrey Regt Hall, Geotve Henry, 18305, A/Cpl., k., 6/7/17. Hall, Walter, $253, 21/3 18. Halstead, Leonard, 21544, Pre, k., 21/3 18. Hamil, Augustne, 59264, Pre., d., 29/4/18. Hammond, Charles, 64386, Pte., k.. 23/10/18. Hanlon, 3 Pre., k., 38/3/17. Hardcastle, Clifford, 238123, Pte. k., 20/11/t7, formerly 46813/4, West Riding Regt. Hardisty, Charles, 242268, Pre. k., 17/9/18. Hargrave, Richard, 8410, Pte., k.. 26/4/17 Hargreaves, Arthur, 240670, Pte, d., 25 9/18. William, 238122, Pre, k.. 213/18, formerly 2912, 2 7th West Riding Regt. Harrison, Albert, 18/736, Pre.. k., Harnson, Walter, 16/1224, Pre, k.., 3 78/18. Hartley, Albert Ludlam, 13732, Pte., d.h., 26/t2/t7. Harwood, Joseph, 36891, Pre., d.. 26°5 17. Hatfield, John Thomas, 31778, Pte., d., 223/18.

Hatton, William, 54409, A/Cpl.. d., 15/9/18 formerly 1651, Cheshire Regt., M. Hawkes, ‘Albert ictor, §2497. Pte., k., 21/3/18 formerly S.S./2031, Hartley, Rich, 13912, L/Cpl. Hawley, Thomas, 2 429» Pte., Haworth, Richard, 4013, Pte., 18/9/18. Heathfield, ohn, 56978, Pte., d., 22/12/17. Heffernan, John, 3/ 646, Sgt., k., 15/8/17. Hellawell, Jack, 52609, Pte. k, 21/3/18, formerly 5567, West Riding Ree et. Herbert, Richard, 3/802 Pte d 7 Hy 18. Heward, James, 29097, Pte, k .k., Hewison, Raymond, 75458, Pte., x5 om

i 17/9/18. * 14/7/18.

Hill, John William, 57412, Pte., d., 10/10/18. Hil), William, 52612, c., d., 1/5/18. Hines, Patrick, 241903, A/Cpl., d., 14/7/18. Hirst, Hildred. és 097, Pre., k., 17/9/18.

Hirst, Wilfred, 52610, Pre., d.. 2/4/18, formerly 268703, West Riding Regt. Hiscoe, Harold, 38063, Pte., d., 27/3/18. Hoare, Jonathan, 77610, Pte., d.. 2/11/18. Hobday, J sgoor, Pre., d., 16/10/18. Hodgson, Art ae 64130, Pre., k., 24/9 18. Hodgson, Henry, 3/9154, Pte., d., 16/4/17 Hodkinson, $1532, A/Cpl., k., 21/3/18, formerly 3/18922, West Riding Regt. Hodson, Wi liam Campbell McDougall, 60678,

Cpl., k., ‘9/18. Holding, Alfre 9” 8486, L/Cpl., k., 21/3/18. Holland, Lazarus, 29461, Pte., k., 30/ 6/17. Hollingworth, George, 2673 Rin. 6/6/18. Holroyd. William, 41628. Pre. di

Hopkins, William Henry, 52992, Pie. 9/8/18.

Horner, Arthur, 64973, Pte., d.h., 16/11, 18. Horsman, Walter, Pre., k., 19/9/18. Hoyle, Ernest, 205452, L/Cpl, k., 14/7/18. Huddleston, James, 19846, Pte., k., 42/17. Hughes, John George, 52279, Pre., d.. 4 8, 18. Hustler, Rueben, 36830, Pte.. d.. 29/5 Arthur §2272, Pte, k 14/7 ‘a

Hutchinson, Harry, 25193. Pte.. k.. 9/8/18. Hutchinson, John Henry. 268326, Pre, k. 4/7/ 18. Ingham, Sutcliffe, 64126, Pte., dh.,

Ingle, Samuel, 48978, Pre., d.. 14/7/18. Ingram, James as Foster, 57995. Pre.. 77018. Inman, Thomas Edward, 57429, Pte. k.. 17/90/18.

Iveson, Harry, 16/920, Pte., k., 17/4/18. Jackson, Albert Edward, 67267, 08 ames, Harry, <6980, Pte..k. 21 3 18, "formerly 22809, 6th Res. Cav. Regt

Jenkinson, ‘Thomas Alfred, 37190, Pte. k. Joseph William, 23609, Pre, k.. Johnson. Joseph Wilham, 25710, Pre, d. Johnson: ‘Thomas Edwin, 33055, Pte. dh. Johneon, I Walter, 63976, Pte. k.. 249 18. formerly 38455, East Yorks. Regt.

jones: Ernest. $969, Pte., k., 21/3/18. ones, John, 40630, Pte., d, 6/4/17, formerly

15635. Sherwood Foresters Leonard, L/Cpl, d.. 87. ones, William Alfr 1870, Pies k., 27-5 17

formerly 43200, Northumberland Fus:here.

ones, Walter, 77599, Pte., 23 ‘10! 18 owett, Joseph, 21/852, Pte., k.. 14/7/18. oy, Walter, 15/1704, Pte., d., 16/4/17 Joyce, George, 43019, Pte. k., 17/4/18.

Page 437

The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.)—Casualties

Kaye, Alfred, 22459, Pte., d., pike Keightley, Thomas, 41971, A/Cpl , 19/9/18. Kennedy, William, 41873, it! 10/17, formerly 33872, Nort usiliers. Kelly, Char es. 8228, Pte., d., 31/10/18. Kelly, John William, 22162, LCL, k., 28/5/17.

Kelly, Thomas, 22045, Pte. d., 29/4/17. Kendall Frederick illiam, 50423, Pte., k., a1/3/1 Kermode, Robert, 16/1441, Pte., d., 15/8/18. King, Bernard 17924, ‘d., 16/6/17. King, George Henry, 24677, Pre. k., 20/1/ 17. Kiph ing, Fred, 19520. t 24/9/17. Kirby, Harry, 639 pl., ., 24/9/18, ormerly 103 va . y Cyclist Kot

Laking, Herbert, RSM. d., 18, DC.M ‘

Lambert, Mark, 41866, A/Cpl., d., 2/1/tg. Lancaster, Bernard, 3/8635, Pte., k., 21/3/18, Landin, Harold, 410 Pre., k., 21/3/18, former] 4286, Yorkshire Regt. Landreth, ., 26/1/17.

arold, 24033. Pte. on James Josep 23 at /10/18, formerly 1830, R , John, $2035 , Pre. 2/7/17, formerly M9 681, Ors Law, 267102, Pte., k., 14/7/18. Lawrence, Fred, 268799, bre k., by 12/17. Lee, Thomas, 268764, Pre., k., 21/3/18. Lee, Tom, 7723, Sgt. k 28/8/17. Lei ghton, George rederick, 12370, Pte., k., /1 Leversidye. Harry, “aol. Pre., k., 21/3/18. Lindill, Tom, 9743, 30/4/18. Linfoot, Fred, 7535, Sat., , 14/7/18. Lisle, James Storey, Pte., d., 28/10/18, formerly , Northumberland Fusiliers. Lister, Harol 16/638, A/Sgt., k ie 78 /7/18. Little, John George, 77605, Pte., /10/18, formerly 8735, West Riding Reet Littlewood, Herbert, 52619, Pte, k., 5/12/17. Lockwood, Arthur, 57278, Pte., ‘d., 23/4/18. Lodge, Herbert, 52616, Pre., k., 17/9/18 formerly 30818), West Riding Regt.

das}, wee , k.

Lodge, James, 200492, Pte., k., 22/10/18. Longstaff, Edward John, 58004, Press 7/9/ 18. Loweock, Charles, 4/7602, Ae “pl. Koy 774 1 Lowes, Arthur Lee, sz291, L/Cpl., k., 9/8/18. Lucas, Harold, 266653, Pre., a 3/7/19. Lund, Joseph, 18590, Pte. » k., 21/3/1 Luntley. Cecil, ‘1670, Pre, k., I 18. L ch ohn, 17900, Pte., k., 16/4/17.

N acdonald, Wilfred, 42987, L/Cpl., A. 10/18, formerly 1658, Army Pay Corp Mack, James, 3/0278, Pre., k., 21/3 718. Manford, Thomas Richard, 42054, Pte., k., 17/9/18.

Mann, Harry, 16379, Pte., k., 18/3/17.

Mann, William Henry, 235275, Pte., k., 24/§/17 formerly 29/1204, Fusiliers. Manning, Charles Augustus, 53729, Pte., k., Markell, {ohn 28929, Pte., k., 26/4/18. Marnes, William Thomas, 41857, k., 21/3/ 18, formerly 18340, 12th Res. Cav. ¢c Marr, James, 32417, A/Cpl., d., 21/10/18. Marsden, Albert Edward, L, Cpl., d., r2/11/18. Martin, John. 3 3/9926, Pte., k., 21/3/18. Massey, Villiam Henry, 59888, Pte., d.,.28/6/18,

formerly 21193, Yorks. Regt


¢, 17/4150, Pte., k., 14/7/18. Moy oseph . Pte., k., 21/3/18. Mercer, oseph, 81339, Prte., k., 8/10/18, formene 5772, Northumberland Fusiliers. Middlemass, James, 7411, Pte., d., 23/10/18.

May, Geo

Milburn, Herbert, 4g6or, Pte. "d. «5 29/7/18 Mills, Arthur, I 300885, Pre., 9/8/18. Mills, George Henry, 64392, Bie? d., 2/11/18, formers 203932, Yorks. Regt. Mitton, Arthur, 27851, Pte., k., 24 /9/18. Mitchell, Alexander, 56939, Pre., k., 3/18, formerly 22585, 6th tes. Cav, Regt. Mitchell, Willie, 16405, Pte., d., 12/4/17 Morrill, Arthur, 3/10102, Sgt., k., 24/9/18.

Mott, John, 5727, Pte., d.h., 19/3/17. Mountain, francis Edward, 24920, Pte., k., ‘g/t

Murrancy, Robert, 81317, Prte., d., Myers, Percival, 32680, Pte. k., 21/3/18.

MeCue, Patrick, 50527, Pte., k., 24/9/18. McCulloch, Thomas, 20293, Pte., d., §/12/17. McDougall, William, 56942, Pte., k., 28/4/18, formerly 22553, Oth Res. Cav. Regt.

McKie, John, 3/9571, Pte., d., 28/3/18 McLaughlan, Thomas, 307305, Pte. d., 19/10/18. McLean, George, 51320, Pte., k, 14/5 18. McLellan, Fred, 43286, Prte., d., 1/6/17, formerly 30869, L. rN McManus w 42696, Pte., k., 21/3/18, formerly DM2/ 228801, A.S.C.

Newell, Brian Colthurst, 52543, Pte., 17/9/18, formerly 31935, West Riding Regt.

Newell, Ernest, 38242, Pte.. k , 24/9/17. Newlands, William, Pte., k., 21. 10/18. Newsham, James Henry, 42607, Pte. d., 12/5/18, formerly 297190, A.S.C. (M.T.). Newsome, Joseph, 21106, Pte., k., 28/5, 17. Newton, Charles, 49769, Pte., d., 9/5/18. Newton, Percy John, 2508, Pre. k., 17/9/18, formerly 41099, Queen’s Royal West Surrey egt. Nichols, Thomas, 17/120, Pte., d., 27/9 18. Nyman, Harry, 10975, Pte., k., 26/1/17. Oakley, Edward Ernest, 325048, A/Cpl., d., 20/6/18. O'Brien, Timothy 40756, L/Cpl., d., 22.6, 17. Oddy, Herbert, 49276, Pte., k., 25/4/18. Oddy, Walter, 33941, d.. 1/7/18. O'Dwyer, Valentine, 64395, Pte., k., 23/10/18, formerly Yorks. Regt. O'Hara, Wilham, 52546, Pte.. k.. 21 3 18, formerly 31941, West Riding Regt. Ohver, William, 237, L/Cp lL, 18, Outhwaite, John William, Bott, te., 7/6/17. Paley, Ralph, 16/1157, Pte.. k., 26/4/18 Parker, Alfred, 260081, Pte., d., 28 6°18, formerly 2351, East Yorks. Regt Parker, John, 57178, Pte, k., 24/9/18, formerly T/36010, A.S.C. Parker, Walker, 52550, Pre.,d.,9/5/18, formerly 31893, West “Riding Regt. Parkin, Clarence, 27719, Pte., d., 20/618. Parkin, George Edward, 48688, Pte., k.14 7/18. Parkin, Harold, 268795, Pte., d., 8/7, 18. Pass, Sydney William, 19/119, Pte., k.,19/ 10°17. Patterson, Henry, 85st, L/Cpl., d., 17 9/18. Peacock, Ernest Villiam, 2 5822, Pre. d., 14/7/18, formerly 3156, Yorks. Hussars.

Peaker, Walter, 42306, Pte., k.. 25/7/18. Pearce, Frank, 49522, Pte., d., 27/9/18. Peel, Arthur, 16/1704, Cpl., k., 14/7/18

Pemberton, Albert, 266179, Pte., k.. 1709/18.

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426 The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.)—Casualties

Perry, Robert James, 47939, Pte., k., 21/3/18,

formerly DM2/ antes. A.S.C. Peters, Edward John, . Pte., k.. 21/3/18, formerly N ‘S.C.

Petrie, Edward Albert, 3/9745, d., 22/3/18.

Phillips, Richard, 3/7731, Pte., k. 21/3/18. Pilling, Leonard, 21 Pte, 14! 7/18. Pitt, Thomas. 46507, Pte., d., 22 7 "18, ormerly

27340, Northumberland Fusiliers. Place, Walter, 96936, Cpl., k., 21/3/18.

Plowes, George Henry, 57448, A/Cpl., k., 15/9/18. Pogotto, Anthony, 25854, Cpl., d., 28/4/18. Porter, Robert, 81295, Pre. k, 8/10/18,

formerly 85688, 4th Res. Northumberland Fusiliers. Posull, Robert William, 43125, Pte., k., 26/8/17.

Powell, Frank, 7514, Pte, d., 4/12) 17. Priestley, Frank, 18/372, Pre.. k., 21/3/18. Proctor, John Whitehead, 16 03s, Pre. d.,

4/5 18, MEM.

Quemby, James Fidell, 43123, Pte., d., 27/6/18,

formerly 1218, East Yorks. Regt. Randall, Joseph Edward, 75459, Pte. k., 8 10 18. Raven, Charlie, 10364, Sgt., k., 19/6/18. Rawlhing, Robert, 33029, Pre., k., 27/5/18. Rawlings, Arthur Edward, 47037, Pte, k., 21, 3, 18, formerly 19658, 1st Res. Cav. Regt. Rawnsley, Irwin, 242613, Pte., k.. 213518

Redmavne, Robert Brown, s2sscs, Pte, k., 14718, formerly 31871, 3rd West Riding Regr. Reed, Arthur Cyn, 14234, L/Cpl, k., 260/117. Reed, John, 56993, Pte., k., 21/3/18, formerly 22479, Res. Cav. Regt. (Dunbar). Reid, Robert. s6go1, Pte., d., «12.17, formerly 2547, 6th Dragoons. Renton, Arthur, 18/1086, L/Set., k., 18. Richardson, Charles Morgan, 9341, Pte, k.,

21-617. Richardson, Ernest, 62841, Pte., d.. 9/10 18. Richardson, Harry, 49763, Pte., k.. 25,9 18. Richardson, James, 4/8126, Pte., k.. 6012/17.

Ridley, James William, 41880, Cpl., k. 21/3/18.

Riley, Allen, 38860, Pte., k., 24/5/17. Riley, James, 7780, A/Cpl., d.. 28/5/17. I Riley, Parce, 6762, Pte., d., Mesopotamia, Q/1t/ 7. Roberts, Arthur, 4/8478, Set, k., 17/9/18. Roberts, Harry, 238127, Pte, k. 21/3/18,

formerly 3923, sth West Riding Regt. Robertson, David, 56036. Pte., d.. 4/12/17. Robertson, Thomas Bowman, 4/7975, Pte., k., 18) 4/07. Robinson, Albert, 20/29, Pte., d., 22/4/18. Robinson, Edwin, 40750, VPte., k., 26/3/18. Robinson, George, co9086, 16/7/18, formerly 23308, 6th Training Res. Battn Robinson, John, 81208, Pte. formerly Northumberland Fusthers.

Robinson, William John. 64006, Pre. k., 24/9/18, formerly 29500, East Riding Yeomanry.

Robson, Edwin, 3/9288, Pte., k., 27/4517.

Rodmell, Wiliam Arthur, s7o008, k.. 147/198. Rogers, Wilham Norman, 56045, Pte., k., 21/3/t8, formerly 2708), Oth Res. Cav. Regt. Rose, Willtam, 57850, Pte., d., 13/4/ Rossington, Arthur, 38482, Pte., 7 5 17

Routledge, John William, 18/739, Sgt, k.,


Rowntree, Arthur, 52502, Cpl., d., 23/10/18. Rudd, Chris, 43018, Pte., d., 7/6/18, formerly 165176, R.F.A.

Rylance, Charles, 24 4782, Pre., d., 8/2/17.

Sanderson, Thomas illiam, 235271, k., ‘U7. Schofield, James, 205545, Pte., d., 26/4/18. Schollar, Onl Godfrey, 21/217, Pte., k.. 1/3/11 Schooler, William, 20328, Pre., d.h., 18/4/18 Scott, Arthur, 17813, Pre., d., 16/4/17. Scott, Thomas, 9672, Pte., d., 3/1/19. Scully, William, 52561, Pre, k., 6/12/17. formerly 31939, 3rd Res. Batt. West

Riding Regt. Scutt, Thomas scorge, 360785, k., 21/3. 18. Seaton James, 3/7940, Pte, k., 21/3/18. Seymour, William Henry, 19302, Pte., d., 26/12/ 17. Sharp, Herbert, $7305, Pre., Sharp, Norman ‘Adam, 18/ 677, Pte., k., Sheard, William Ellory, 75462, 23/10/18. Shepherd, John, 76460, Pte., d., 11/10/18.

k., 19/918. 21/3/18. Pre. k.,

Shillito, ‘Tom, 267366, Pte., k.. Shoesmith, Harry Lister, 16.192, k., 23/10/18. Short, Gilbert, 7887 » Pre., d., 20/11/18. Simcox, William, 351, Pre. k., 23/4/18, _ formerly Jurham LI. George, gotg, L Cpl, d., 1/8 17. Skil Charles Henry, 28 Pte. k.. 7/1 Skinner, Wliham Tidmas, 52558, Pre., k.. 21/3/18, formerly 31901, West Riding Regt. Skinner, William. ¢2498, Pte., k., 26/4/18. formerly S.S.. 4297. A.S.C. Skipper, Horace, 8257, Pte., d., 26/1/17.

Smith, Harry, 40763, Pre., d., 20/2/17. Smith, Harry, 41784, Pte., k., 21/3, 08. Smith, John Robert, 63978, Pte., k., formerly 14321, Durham L..1. Smith, Thomas Edwin, 20436, Pre., d., 22/718 Smith. Thomas, 238125, Pee. d d., 13 Smith, William, 20/ 35, Pte., ke, 21/3/18. Sones, Ernest, 42365, A/ Col k., 17/9/18. Sparkes, William, 9218, Pre., k., 24/9/18 Spink, Ernest, 7361, Pte., d., 28/8) 18. Spowage, Harold, 21/993, Pre, k., 21/3/18. Springthorpe, John Sykes, 37433, Pte, k, 16/4/19 Stalker, Thomas, 20/58, Set. d., 7/6/18. Stansfield, Ww alter, 250096, Pte. : d., 28/8/19. Staples, Gieorge, 20339, Pte., k.. 21,318. Startu Henry, rR, 741, Pre, 01/18, Steer, Herbert John, 56998, Pte., k., 21/9/18. Sreggies, Percy George, 6758, Pre., a. Stevenson, Allan, 16/370, d.. 20/4 15. Stewart, loseph, 235274, Pte., on formerly 3875, 3/5sth Northumberland Fusthers Stuff, John, 242085, Pte., k., 8/10/18. Stirk, Harry Bimier, 34585, Pte, 16/4/07. Stonehouse, Herbert, 280092, Pte, k., 21/3/18. Stones, Arthur, 1§/1929, Pte., k., 16/4/17.

Stott, Allan, 241950, Pte., k., 14/7, 18. Stott, Vincent Ewart, 48774, Pre, k., 27/5/18. Straker, Tom, 52334, Pte., k., 17/9/18. Stringer, Harold, Pte., i 17/9/18. Sturdy, William, 17070, Pte. +f Surr, Harry, 12254 _£/c Ke 289 1s. Swiers, William, 29403 , Pte., ki, 16/4/17.

Swithenbank, Wilfred, Pie. k., 24/5/87.

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The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorks. Regt.;—Casualties

Sykes, Gerald, 53635, Pte., k., 9/2/18. Sykes, George Herbert, 58712, Pte., k., 24/9/18. Taylor, Ernest, §2567, Pte., k., 21/3/18 , for- merly 31771, \ Riding Regt. Taylor, George Walter, 266116, Pte.,k., 8/10/18. Taylor, Herbert, 53743, Pre. k., "$/10/18, formerly 30565, West Riding Regt. Taylor, Victor, 3/8522, Cpl., k.. 27/2/18. Taylor, Walter Robert, SQISS, Pte. k., 11/8/18, formerly M/299176, R.A.S.C. Thompson, Edward Pereival, 15086, Pte., k., 21/3/18. Thompson, John Willham, 7584, Pte., k., 26/8/17. Tindale, Thomas Rickaby, 12634, L. Sgt, k., 21/3/18. Tongue, Joseph, 47100, Pre., k., 21/3 18. Tucker, Wilson, 235277, Pte.. d.. 3/18/17, formerly 3973, Northumberland Fusihers. Turner, Charles, 171107, A/Cpl., k., 21/3/18. Turner, Sidney, 190274, Pte., d., 8/4/18. Turner, Theodore, 8062, Sgt., k., 4/7/17. Turner, ‘Tom, 34161, Pre., d., 23/0/17. Varley, Thomas, 11327, Pte., k., 09/4/17. Vasey, Harry, 242210, Pte., k., 15/4/18. Vine, Charles, Set., k., 27/5/18, for- merly 20553, Hussars, M.M. Voutt, Norman, 526 Pre., k., 14/ formerly 268821, Wrest Riding Waddington” Edward, 24322) Pte., k., 19/0/18. Wade, Walter, 305412, Cpl., k., 30/5/17. Wadsworth, Arnold, 52574, pit. . d., 18/7/18, formerly 31895. West Riding Regt. Wainwright, Wilham, 3.9632, L Cpl. k., 22/3/18. Waite, Percy, 35322, Pte., d., 25/9/17. Walker, Charles, 24074, A Set, k., 21/3/18. Walker, George, 242371, Pte., 4 18/4/18. Walker, Herbert, 9470, wens k., 17/10/18, formerly 7639, East Yorks. "Regt. Walkington, Robert Spink, 33388, Pte, d., 25/6/18. Walter, Maurice, 15/3432, Cpl., d., 21/12/18. Ward, Henrv, 9911, Pte., d., 20/12/18. Ward, Joseph, 240055, Sgt., k.,