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The Fifth Leicestershire - A Record Of The 1/5th Battalion The Leicestershire Regiment, - T.F., During The War, 1914-1919.
by J.D. Hills
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For the rest of March we were constantly on the move, mostly by march route. First, on the 22nd, we marched via Couin and Bus-les-Artois to Bertrancourt, where we found some huts and much mud. One very large "Nissen" hut provided an Officers' Mess, but was completely devoid of all furniture until the Colonel invented some wonderful hanging tables—table tops hung from the ceiling on telephone wires. Here we were joined by 2nd Lieuts. C.C. Craggs, S.R. Mee, and B.G. Bligh, all new-comers. 2nd Lieuts. R.C. Broughton and A. Ramsden had joined a week or two before, so we now had our full complement of Platoon Commanders. Soon afterwards, however, 2nd Lieut. and A/Adjt. C.H. Morris went to the Indian Army, and his place was taken by Lieut. L.H. Pearson. In Bertrancourt we found some German prisoners working, one of whom obviously received the latest news from London quicker than we did, for he told us that as the result of an air raid "London was in bits"! After one night here we marched via Acheux, Lealvillers and Arqueves to Raincheval, where we again stayed one night—a hard frost. The next day we moved on again, passing through Puchevillers, Rubempre and Pierregot to Rainnevillers. The march was made particularly uncomfortable by the number of different Units on the road, marching in all directions, and we had to keep big intervals between Companies.

Rainnevillers was only six kilometres from Amiens, and many officers availed themselves of this opportunity of visiting the town. The mysteries of Charlie's Bar, Godbert's, the Cafe du Cathedral, and other haunts were revealed for the first time, and proved so attractive that two senior officers made a very wet night the excuse for staying in a Hotel. They returned at dawn, but did not realise how early the Colonel rose, and met him at the breakfast table, to be congratulated on their (most unusual) earliness! We stayed here two days, and the G.O.C. came and presented medal ribbons to those who had been awarded decorations at Gommecourt. On the 26th March we "embussed" with the 4th Leicestershires, and were taken through Amiens to Dury, whence we marched a short distance to St. Fuscien, and went into billets. We were still near enough to Amiens for those who wished to "joy ride" into the town.

Two days later, on the 28th March, we marched to Saleux and entrained for the North. Passing through Doullens we arrived at Lillers early the next morning, and marched thence to Laires, twelve miles through the driving rain. We reached billets all wet through. "B" Company followed by a later train, and joined us in billets just after midnight.

We were now in the 2nd Corps, and, before we had time to look round our new billets, the Corps Commander, General Jacob, came and was introduced to all officers, speaking to us in the village school room. After that we looked round our new quarters and found them excellent, so settled down to have, if possible, an enjoyable rest. Marie, of the "Cheval Blanc," provided a room where officers might meet and drink beer, subalterns, of course, champagne, and her name must be added to the long list of Tina's, Bertha's, and others who all over France welcomed the British officer so cordially at their estaminets. Meanwhile, we spent our days training, and particular attention was paid to route marching, in which we were severely handicapped by the bad state of our boots. For some reason there was at the time a shortage of leather, so Serjeant Huddleston, our shoemaker, could do nothing to improve matters, and we had to make the best of a bad job. It was really remarkable on some of the longer marches how few men fell out considering that many had practically no soles to their boots. However, the pleasant billets at Laire amply repaid us for our other troubles, and we were all sorry when on the 13th April, 2nd Lieut. Brooke and the rest of us bade farewell to Marie and marched to Manqueville.

Here we continued training so far as the weather allowed, but a considerable amount of rain rather hampered us. On the 15th we lost Colonel Jones who went to England for three months' rest. With the exception of a few weeks in 1915 he had been with us since the beginning, and there was not an officer or man who did not regret his going. There was never a trench or post which he did not visit, no matter how exposed or how dangerous the approach to it. Moreover, he was never downhearted, and while he was in it, the Battalion Headquarters of the 5th Leicestershire Regiment was known throughout the Division as one of the most cheerful, if not the most cheerful, spot in France. Major Griffiths took temporary command until, on the 23rd, Major Trimble, M.C., of the E. Yorks. Regt. arrived from the 6th Division and took over from him.



CHAPTER X.

LENS.

16th April, 1917. 10th June, 1917.

On the 16th of April we learnt that we were once more to go to trenches, and the same day we moved to Annezin, just outside Bethune. The march will always be remembered on account of the tremendous energy displayed by Captain Shields, who was acting second in command. Just before the start he insisted on the reduction of all officers' kits to their authorised weight, thereby causing much consternation amongst those whose trench kits included gramophones, field boots, and other such articles of modern warfare. However, on arrival at Annezin all such worries were dispersed by the radiant smiles of the ladies at the C.O.'s billet, with whom all the Subaltern Officers, and one or two Captains at once fell in love.

Two days later Major Griffiths and some of the Company Officers went to reconnoitre the area round Bully Grenay and the western outskirts of Lens, which we were told would be our new area. The capture of Vimy by the Canadians a few days before, had made an advance on Lens more possible than it had ever been before, and there were many who thought that the Boche would be compelled to evacuate the town. But the Germans had not yet any intention of doing this. Though the Vimy heights were lost to them, they still held "Hill 70" on the North side, and due West of Lens, near the Souchez river, Fosse 3 and "Hill 65" were naturally strong positions. South of this again, and just the other side of the river, was another small rise, on which stood an electric generating station, another commanding position held by the enemy. Our line ran through the houses of Lievin, across the Lens road, round the Eastern edge of Cite St. Pierre, and through Cite St. Edouard to the slopes of "Hill 70."

The whole neighbourhood was covered with coal mines. Each had its machine buildings, its slag heap, and its rows of miners' cottages, called "Corons," all in perfectly straight lines. The mine complete was known as a "Cite," and a Cite in the case of a large mine, covered a considerable tract of country, and had several hundred cottages. As the mines increased in number or grew in size, these Cites became more and more numerous, until when war began the country was fast becoming one large town. The trenches ran from cellar to cellar, through houses, along roadsides, were very irregular, and mostly short, unconnected and isolated lengths. Streets were the only means of communication, and these could not be used except at night. We were at a great disadvantage in this area. The Boche had but lately occupied the line we were now holding; he knew its whereabouts exactly, knew every corner of it, and could observe it from his heights on both flanks. We on the other hand never quite knew where the Boche was living, had no observation of his front line, and were consequently unable to retaliate as effectively as we should have wished to his trench mortars.

On the 19th of April Lt. Col. J.B.O. Trimble, M.C., arrived and took command, and the same night we marched through Bethune and Noeux les Mines to the "Double Crassier"—a long double slag heap near Loos—where we lived for two days in cellars and dug-outs, in Brigade Reserve. The day after we arrived an attempt was made by the Division on our left to capture "Hill 70." It failed, and during the enemy's retaliatory bombardment our positions were heavily shelled, and five men wounded. The next night we moved back to Maroc and Bully Grenay, where we stayed until the 23rd, when we relieved the 4th Battalion in the front line.

Our new sector was one of the worst we ever held. The front line, "A" Company (Petch), consisted of "Cooper Trench"—an exposed salient in front of Cite St. Pierre, overlooked and shelled from every direction and absolutely unapproachable during daylight, except for those who were willing to crawl. "B" and "C" Companies (Wynne and Moore) were behind in cellars, and "D" (Shields) and Battalion Headquarters still further back in the Cite. On the left could be seen the low slag heap and railway line of St. Pierre coal mine, held by our 1st Battalion, under which the 6th Division a few days previously had lost an entire platoon buried in a collapsed dug-out.

The tour lasted six days, and at the end of the second "D" Company relieved "A" in Cooper trench. It was originally intended to relieve "D" in the same way two nights later, but this was impossible, because we had to take over a new sector of line on the right, where "B" Company now relieved the 4th Lincolnshires, astride the Cite St. Edouard road. The new sector was not so exposed to view, and consequently to shelling as Cooper trench, but had other disadvantages, chief among which was its peculiar shape. A sharp pointed salient ran out along the Cite St. Edouard road, while South of this the line bent back to the right until it reached the outskirts of St. Pierre.

The shelling was very hot throughout the tour, and, at night particularly, there was plenty of machine-gun fire up the streets, which made ration carrying a dangerous job. "D" Company suffered most in casualties, nearly all of which were caused by shell fire on Cooper Trench, where they were unlucky in losing, in addition to some twenty others, Serjeants Williams, Queenborough and Goode, all of whom were wounded. The other Companies had some ten casualties between them.

All this time the enemy were inclined to be nervous after our attack on "Hill 70," and almost every day the columns of smoke in Lens showed us where he was burning houses and stores in case he should be forced to retire. His Infantry remained comparatively inactive in the front line, and when one night 2nd Lieut. Banwell and his platoon of "C" Company raided Cite St. Edouard Church they found no enemy there.

One humorous episode is handed down concerning this otherwise rather grim tour. Battalion Headquarters lived in a very small cellar—mess and office below, clerks and signallers and runners on the stairs. The Boche, the previous occupants, had left a suspicious looking red and black object on one end of the table which we used for meals and work. This took up a large part of our very scanty room, so an R.E. Specialist was called in to examine it. He examined the object, at once condemned the cellar as dangerous, and advised our immediate departure. Cellars were hard to find, we consulted another specialist. His actions are best described in the words of one of those present: "He (R.E.) clears dug-out, or rather dug-out clears itself, and ties string gingerly to object; the string he leads upstairs and along a trench to what he considers is a safe distance. When all is ready the string is pulled. Nothing happens. Suspense—a long pause—two hours—several drinks—R.E. proceeds to examine result lying on floor—an improvised lantern used for photography!"

On the 29th, after a big gas bombardment against the enemy's positions in Cite St. Edouard and St. Theodore, we were relieved by the 4th Battalion, and went into the St. Pierre cellars—in Brigade support. The whole place was under direct observation, and movement by day was impossible, which made our existence very unpleasant. It was while here that we began to realize what a magnificent man was Padre Buck. Nothing worried him, and even Cooper trench formed part of his parish, to be visited each night. In St. Pierre he held a service every evening in one of the cellars, undeterred although on one occasion a shell burst in the doorway, scattering its bits inside, but doing no damage.

On the 3rd of May we again relieved the 4th Battalion and stayed for three days in the Cooper trench sector. We had a quieter time than before, and only lost one killed and nine wounded during the tour. Amongst the latter were L/Cpl. Waterfield and "Pat" Collins the runner, who were both hit by a shell, which burst on the orderly room. Our chief difficulty was the water supply. With the hot weather the demand for water increased, and it all had to be brought to the line in petrol cans. Fortunately the limbers could come as far as Battalion Headquarters, and cans had to be carried forward from there only; even this took many men, and our numbers were by no means large.

At the end of this tour, the Brigade went into Divisional reserve, and we, relieved by the Sherwood Foresters, went back to Fosse 10, near Petit Sains. Here we stayed for six days training, playing games, and, by way of work, wiring a new line of defence. During this time we lost several officers. Capt. Wollaston and Lieut. H.E. Chapman went to Hospital, Lieut. Petch, 2nd Lieuts Clay and Bligh had already gone, and 2nd Lieut. Hepworth left a few days later to join the Indian Army. Captain Shields went on leave and "D" Company was commanded by Captain John Burnett, who, on his return from England, had been sent to the 4th Battalion, but soon worked his way back to us.

It was now our turn to go to the right Brigade sector, previously held by the Staffordshires, and on the 12th May we marched up to Red Mill, between Angres and Lievin. It was a disastrous march, for we were heavily shelled, and lost L/Cpl. Startin and Pte. Norton killed, and three L/Cpls., Ellis, Richardson and Roper, wounded—four of these were "No. 1" Lewis Gunners. Once at Red Mill all was well, and for the next two days we had an enjoyable time. The Mill proved to be a large red-brick Chateau, now sadly knocked about, on the banks of the Souchez river. The weather was bright and warm, so a dam was built, and we soon had an excellent bathing pool, much patronized by all ranks. 2nd Lieut. J.C. Barrett was the star performer, and never left the water, so that those who had nothing better to do used to "go and see the Signalling Officer swim"—it was one of the recognised recreations of the place.

At night we provided carrying and wiring parties, all of which had to go through Lievin, a bad place for shells. The Church stood at a particularly hot corner, and here, on the 11th, 2nd Lieut. T.P. Creed, M.C., was wounded in the head and foot and had to be sent to England, a great loss to "D" Company. We had two killed and nine wounded about the same time, and lost amongst the wounded one of our old soldiers, O'Shaugnessy, the boxer.

On the 15th May we relieved our 4th Battalion in the right sub-sector, staying there for ten days, with a three days' holiday at Red Mill in the middle. We were very weak, and our strength in trenches was barely 450, for in addition to casualties we had to send many away on leave or to courses. Our new sector lay between the Souchez river and the Lens-Lievin road, while across the river were the Canadians. Opposite them and our right flank, was the ridge with the generating station, opposite our centre Fosse 3 and "Hill 65." Fosse 3 had a large group of mine buildings standing on a slag heap, which ran Southwards from "Hill 65," ending above the river with a thirty foot slope. The Western face was the same height, and at its foot on our side was a large lake. The Corons were on the slopes of the Hill and round its base on the Western side. Those at the bottom we held, but the enemy had those on the slopes, and one building in particular, the "L-shaped house," was very strongly fortified. The right Company had its outposts in the cellars and shell-holes round the N. and W. edges of the lake, the centre and left companies had cellars and trenches, through the Cites de Riaumont and du Bois de Lievin, down to the main Lens road. Left Company Headquarters had a beautiful chateau, with a fruit and asparagus garden, known after its first occupant as "John Burnett's Chateau." There were two communication trenches, one each side of the Riaumont Hill: "Assign" on the South, shallow and unsafe in daylight, and "Absalom" on the North. "Hill 65" dominated everything, and gave the Boche a tremendous advantage. We had the Riaumont hill, 500 yards West of our front line, and could use the Bois de Riaumont on its summit as an O.P., but this was always being shelled, and though the view was excellent, one was seldom left in peace long enough to enjoy it. Battalion Headquarters had a strong German concrete dug-out in Lievin, said to have been formerly occupied by Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria.

The enemy confined his activity to his artillery, which hammered our back areas, and his trench mortars, which constantly bombarded our outposts. A row of houses along an absolutely straight street forms a comparatively easy target, and a cellar is no protection against a 240 lbs. Minenwerfer shell. On one occasion the enemy, starting at one end, dropped a shell on every house in turn down one side, smashing each cellar; it was a nerve-racking performance for those who lived in one of the cellars and had to watch the shells coming nearer, knowing that to go into the street meant instant death at the hands of some sniper. The headquarters of No. 15 Platoon had a direct hit, but fortunately 2nd Lieuts. Brooke and Ramsden were both out crawling about somewhere, and the only damage was to their dinner. Every mortar, whose position was known, was given a name and marked on a map, so as to simplify quick retaliation. Captain Burnett spent much time at the telephone demanding the slaughter of "Bear," "Bat," "Pharaoh," "Philis," "Philistine," "Moses," "Aaron," etc. etc.

It was impossible to visit any of the outpost line by day, and those from Battalion Headquarters who wanted to do so had perforce to go at night. Nights were dark; the ground was covered with shell-holes, some of them of great size. Once Major Griffiths, going out with Grogan, his runner, suddenly disappeared from view in an enormous hole which had apparently amalgamated itself with some well or sewer. The Major was almost drowned, but came to the surface in time to hear Grogan say: "You haven't fallen in, have you, sir?" He was fished out and scraped down and went on his way to "John Burnett's Chateau," where he was given warmth and comfort, and whence he eventually returned to Lievin—taking care to rob the asparagus bed before leaving.

Towards the end of the tour the enemy attempted a small raid against our somewhat isolated right post, but was easily driven off by our Lewis guns, and made no other attempts. On the 25th of May the Sherwood Foresters took our place, and we marched out to Marqueffles Farm. The tour had cost us twenty-four casualties, three of whom were killed; we had some narrow escapes in the cellars, and were fortunate not to lose more. "D" Company had had a particularly bad time, and owe much to Serjeant Burbidge, who seemed in his element in the midst of terrific explosions and rocking cellars, and saved many casualties by his calmness.

Marqueffles Farm stands next to Marqueffles coal mine, at the foot of the Northern slopes of the Lorette ridge. The Companies were all billeted in the farm, and the officers in tents outside, while a home-made marquee formed an excellent mess. After our first difficulty, which was to find the place at all in the utter darkness of relief night, we spent a very happy twelve days in beautiful weather. After coal mines and squalid narrow streets, the woods of Lorette, the little village of Bouvigny, and the open country were delightful, for the scenery to the south was all very pleasing. Games of all descriptions were our programme for the first two days, while our chief amusement was to watch the enemy's attempts to hit the observation balloon above us. His shells, fitted with clockwork fuzes, burst very high, and were quite harmless.

But our stay in Marqueffles was not merely a rest, we were there to practice for an attack to be made shortly on Fosse 3. A plan of the Fosse and its trenches was marked out, and each day the assaulting Companies, "B" and "C," practiced their attack over it, until each man knew his task exactly. In addition to this "C" Company were able to scale the Marqueffles slag-heap, and so prepare themselves for Fosse 3, whose 30 feet they would have to climb in the battle. General Kemp had had to go to Hospital with a poisoned foot and Colonel Thorpe, the Divisional Staff Officer, who took his place, came often to watch our practice, making on the last occasion a very encouraging, if somewhat bloodthirsty speech. Through it all we enjoyed ourselves immensely. For a change canteen stores were plentiful, and a generous supply of cigarettes, beer, and other luxuries, did much to raise our spirits. The officers, too, had many pleasant evenings, and, on more than one occasion, the night was disturbed by the old familiar strains of "Come Landlord fill the flowing Bowl," "John Peel," and other classical ditties.

On the 6th of June we moved up to Lievin and took over the line from the 5th Sherwood Foresters. For the first time the officers were clothed exactly as the men. "D" Co. (Burnett) was in front, "A" Co. (Broughton) in support, and "B" and "C" (Wynne and Moore) in the row of houses just west of Riaumont Hill. These had hardly settled down before a shell burst in the doorway of "C" Company Headquarters killing Serjeant Harper, the Lewis Gun N.C.O., and wounding six others, amongst them another Gunner, L/Cpl. Morris. At the same time 2nd Lieut. A.L. Macbeth had to go to Hospital with fever; Capt. Wynne was also far from well, but refused to leave his Company on the eve of the attack.

The final preparations were made on the night of the 7th/8th, when two parties went out to cut wire, 2nd Lieut. Banwell and 2nd Lieut. C.S. Allen. The first party found some thick wire, placed their ammonal tubes and successfully blew several gaps. The others, under 2nd Lieut. Allen, found no uncut wire, so brought their tubes back. Everything was ready by dawn on the 8th, and Zero was ordered for 8-30 p.m. the same day.

For several days the Monmouthshires had been at work deepening "Assign" trench, and had done much, but it was still shallow, and there is no doubt that as "B" and "C" Companies came up it between 5.0 and 6.0 p.m., they were seen from the top of "Hill 65." For as "B" Company passed the group of cottages South of Riaumont Hill, the Boche opened a heavy fire on the trench and dropped a shell right amongst the Company Headquarters. Capt. Wynne was untouched, but his Serjeant-Major, Gore, and his runner, Ghent, both first-class soldiers, were killed by his side. Assembly was complete by 6.0 p.m. and "B," "C," with "D" Co. in close support, waited for Zero in some short lengths of trench, dug amongst the houses at the East end of "Assign" trench. "A" Co., who were to carry ammunition and stores for the attackers, formed up near Battalion Headquarters, in the group of houses half way up the trench. Capt. Wynne, though worn out with fever, and hardly able to stand, still stuck to his Company.



At 8.30 p.m. the barrage opened, and the attack started. Almost the first shell exploded some ammunition dump on the far side of the slag heap, and the whole battle was lit up by the gigantic fire which followed. Against the red glow the black figures of "C" Company could be seen swarming up the slag-heap, clearing the two trenches, "Boot" and "Brick," on its summit, and sweeping on to clean out the dug-outs beyond. There were many Germans on and around the heap, and in a short time between 80 and 100 were killed, nearly all with the bayonet. Serjeant Needham stormed a trench mortar emplacement, himself accounting for most of the crew. Serjeant Roberts, formerly of the Transport, and with his Company for the first time, was much annoyed to find a bayonet through his arm, but did not stop until he had dealt with its owner and any of his friends he could find. Pte. Tookey and many others showed splendid dash, bombing dug-outs, bayonetting stray Huns, and occasionally taking a prisoner or two. But the central figure of the fight was 2nd Lieut. Banwell. Armed with a rifle and bayonet he simply ran amock and slaughtered some eight of the enemy by himself, while their leader he ran to the edge of the slag-heap and kicked over the side into the lake, where he broke his neck and was drowned. Altogether this Company took eight prisoners and destroyed three machine guns and two trench mortars.

Meanwhile the attack on the left had failed. At Zero Captain Wynne led "B" Company from their trenches and advanced towards the "L-shaped" building. They had hardly started before their ranks were swept from end to end with machine gun fire from the houses to their left and front. Capt. Wynne and 2nd Lieut. R.B. Farrer were killed, 2nd Lieut. W.I. Nelson was wounded, and the company had no officers left. Still, under the N.C.O.'s, they tried to push forward, only to meet with more losses. They were compelled to stop, and, under Serjeant Martin, the senior N.C.O. left, began to dig a line a few yards east of their starting trench. Serjeant Passmore, who was acting Serjt.-Major, Serjts. Kemp, Thorpe and Hibbert were all wounded, L/Cpl. Aris and nine others killed, and more than half the Company wounded. For some time Battalion Headquarters knew nothing of this disaster, and it was only when the Signaller L/Cpl. Woolley came back to report, that Col. Trimble heard what had happened. He at once ordered "D" Company to fill the gap, so as to protect the left flank of "C" Company, which he knew must be seriously exposed.

"A" Company, carrying ammunition, had also had their casualties, and 2nd Lieut. Broughton, after being hit more than once, eventually had to leave them. He had been personally organizing most of the parties, and during the battle was everywhere, quite regardless of danger. Consequently, when he went, "A" Company became scattered; parties which had delivered their ammunition did not know where to go; and some of them, a few under Serjeant Putt and Pte. Dakin, wandered into the slag-heap and took part in the battle, helping to kill some of the Boche there. "D" Company lost two killed and ten wounded, for their position, joining the two flanks, was exposed to a considerable amount of enfilade fire. As soon as they had cleared the summit of the slag-heap "C" Company started to consolidate "Boot" and "Brick" trenches, while the most forward of the attackers formed a protective screen. Their position was precarious. They were exposed to heavy fire from the generating station and "Hill 65," while unable to keep a watch on the low ground of the Souchez river valley or East of the slag-heap, where numbers of Boche could assemble unseen. The "L-shaped" building, too, was a thorn in their left flank. Still they were well established, when Col. Thorpe and Captain Wade, the Brigade Major, came round the line and looked at our new positions. They left the slag-heap just before dawn, and a few minutes later, when they were talking to Capt. Moore in his headquarters in the cottages below, a runner came in to announce a big Boche counter-attack. It was still too dark to see much, but our sentries could make out large numbers of men closing in on them from three sides, and fire was opened. The Boche dropped into shell holes, but continued his advance steadily, making use of all available cover. "C" Company, finding their rifles useless and very short of ammunition, waited until they came near enough to start bombing, and then gave them a volley of Mills grenades. But once again we were ruined by the inefficiency of those in rear; the bombs had no detonators. In a few minutes the Company would have been completely surrounded, so slowly and in good order they withdrew, first to the edge of the heap, and then down to the cottages at the bottom. One group of men stayed for an incredibly long time on a ledge partway down the face, but in the end they too had to come away. During the night the Company lost one killed and twenty-eight wounded, five of whom stayed at duty; two others were badly wounded during the counter-attack, were subsequently captured, and died as prisoners in Germany—Privates A. Beck and R. Collins. At the time, the withdrawal from the slag-heap seemed like a defeat, but, had we stayed, our casualties would have been far worse and the result the same; for with daylight, nothing could have lived on the heap, so long as the Generating Station and "Hill 65" remained in German hands.

The night after the battle we were relieved by the 5th Lincolnshires and marched out to Red Mill again for a few days' rest. We were congratulated by the General on the fight, and Captain Moore and "C" Company came in for special praise for their work with the bayonet. Capt. Wynne and 2nd Lieut. Farrer were buried in Bully Grenay, and Lieut. N.C. Marriott took over "B" Company. For the last twenty four hours it had been commanded by Lieut. Petch, who returned from Hospital in the middle of the battle. He now went to "A" Company again, and was promoted Captain. Lieut. Marriott got his Captaincy a few weeks later. Capt. Shields returned from leave and took command of "D" again, while Capt. Burnett went to Headquarters.



CHAPTER XI.

HILL 65.

13th June, 1917. 4th July, 1917.

Those who had hoped for a rest after the battle were disappointed, for, on the 13th of June, we once more went into the line opposite Fosse 3. The enemy seemed to have recovered from our attack on the 8th, and we spent a quiet five days, gaining no ground and suffering practically no casualties. Towards the end of the tour the Canadians gained a footing on the Southern corner of the slag-heap and established a post there, and at the same time took the whole of the Generating Station and the high ground round it. It seemed improbable that the Boche could hold Boot and Brick trenches much longer, so the General brought the 5th Lincolnshires into the line on the evening of the 18th to make a new attack on Fosse 3. This attack was to take the form of a large raid.

Leaving "A" Company (Petch) in close support in Cite des Garennes we went out to Red Mill while the attack took place, and the following day, the 19th, the Lincolnshires sent us down 24 prisoners to guard. Their raid had been a great success, they had cleared the slag-heap and the machine buildings and killed many Boche as well as taken prisoners. As a result of this the Lincolnshires were able to move into Boot and Brick for their outpost line, and here on the 20th we relieved them. Twice during the relief the S.O.S. Signal was fired by our posts in the front line on account of suspected counter-attacks, but our artillery replied so promptly and so efficiently that nothing materialized.

Our second night in the line was disastrous. During this fighting round Lens, any progress made was the result of minor operations, raids and even patrol fights, and there was seldom a large scale battle. It was naturally difficult to keep all units informed of the latest progress, and this difficulty was particularly great in our case, when trying to maintain liaison with the Canadians. The Souchez river was the boundary between the two corps, and made it impossible for us to visit their front line troops. We had therefore to rely on Division and Corps headquarters keeping each other posted as to the latest progress, and on more than one occasion this liaison broke down, and we suffered very heavily.

At dusk on the 21st we received a message, and at once warned all ranks, that the Special Brigade R.E. were going to carry out a gas bombardment of the mine buildings of Fosse 3. Projectors would be fired by a Company operating with the Canadian Corps, from whose front the buildings could be best attacked. The wind was satisfactory, and the buildings were at least 150 yards away from our nearest trenches, so there seemed no need of any special precautions. "C" Company, occupying Boot and Brick trenches, heard the familiar explosion as the projectors went off, and waited to hear them fall in the buildings. Instead, they fell in our trenches, several hundred of them; in a few seconds, and before any warning could be shouted, the trenches were full of phosgene, the deadliest of all gasses. Officers and men worked hard to rouse those resting, and, in particular, 2nd Lieut. Banwell taking no heed for his own safety, went everywhere, rousing, rescuing and helping the badly gassed. But it was too late, and all through the night and next morning casualties were being carried out to Lievin and down the line. 2nd Lieuts. Craggs and Macbeth both went to England, and, almost the last to leave the slag-heap, 2nd Lieut. Banwell. His great strength had enabled him to survive longer than the others, but no constitution could stand all that phosgene, and during the morning he suddenly fainted, and had to be carried down. By the time he reached Lievin he was almost dead, and the Doctors held out no hope of his recovery. However, fed on oxygen and champagne he lasted a week, and then, to everybody's surprise, began to recover. The greatest surprise of all was when this marvellous man refused to go to England, but preferred to remain in Hospital in France until fit enough to rejoin his own Battalion. With the exception of Capt. Moore, who was fortunately on leave at the time, "C" Company was wiped out and temporarily ceased to exist. Twenty-four died from the poison, and in all sixty-two others of the Company went to Hospital. Most of these found their way to England, though one or two, such as Serjt. Needham and L/Cpl. Tookey, both fighting men, preferred to remain and return to us. "D" Company also had their losses, and Serjeant Sullivan and nine others were gassed, ten others wounded. The rest of the Battalion escaped untouched.

The following night the 8th Sherwood Foresters came into the line, and we went back to Marqueffles Farm. Our losses had been heavy and so far we had had practically no reinforcements, so had to reorganise our three remaining Companies with three platoons each instead of four. We were also becoming short of officers, having lost eight and only received one reinforcement—Lieut. R.J.H.F. Watherstone, who came to us from England.

We spent two days resting and cleaning ourselves, and trying to recover from the effects of the battle, before starting on any more serious work. On the Sunday, at Church Parade, General Thwaites came and spoke to us, congratulating us once more on the 8th, and praising especially "C" Company for their bayonet work. He was very angry indeed about the gas disaster and explained the cause. It appeared that the Company carrying out the operation had never been informed of our occupation of the trenches on the slag heap, and that, when they said they were going to bombard the mine buildings, they meant the whole area, including these trenches, which they imagined were still held by the enemy.

The whole Division was now very weak, for the series of small battles during the past six weeks had been expensive. However, the higher authorities considered we were still fit for battle and decided to give us one more show, before sending us to some quiet trenches to recuperate. The objective this time was "Hill 65," "Adjunct," "Adjacent" and "Advance" trenches and the outskirts of the Cite du Moulin—the last of the Cites outside Lens itself. Three Battalions would attack, ourselves on the right, our 4th Battalion in the centre, and the 5th S. Staffordshires on the left. Practice started at once over a flagged course, and our new Brigadier, General F.G.M. Rowley, C.M.G., of the Middlesex Regiment, came to watch us at work. Our formation differed slightly from that used in previous fights, for we gave great prominence to the "Moppers." Several times lately the leading waves of an assault had gone straight to their final objective, consolidated, and then found themselves cut off by parties of the enemy, over whom they had passed during the advance. Now a line of "moppers" was detailed to follow ten yards behind each wave, with orders to mop up everything and leave no living Boche anywhere behind the assaulting troops. In our case "D" Company (Shields) would mop up, "A" and "B" (Petch and Marriott) would make the attack, while two Companies of the 4th Lincolnshires were detailed to assist us with carrying parties.

While we were practising this, on the 25th the troops in the line made further progress, somewhat lightening our task, but not necessitating any alteration in our plans of attack. The battle was ordered for the 28th June, and the previous evening we moved up Assign trench to our assembly positions, Boot and Brick Trenches on the slag heap. We were to relieve partly Lincolnshires and partly Monmouthshires, and for some reason or other there was confusion among the guides. Those detailed for "A" Company wanted to lead them to the right instead of the left of the assaulting frontage, while "B" Company had "A's" guides. Fortunately Capt. Petch was able to catch his platoons in time, and, dismissing the guides, sent each to its correct position. Serjeant Putt, who had started first, he could not warn in time, but fortunately this N.C.O. knew enough of the plans to know that he was being led wrongly, and so retraced his steps and rejoined the rest of his Company on the slag-heap. "A" Company were in position by 10.0 p.m., but the other companies were seriously delayed and wandered about most of the night under guides, who took them the wrong way. To add to the confusion our liaison with the Canadians again broke down, and without any warning the Division on our right suddenly launched an attack. Barrages followed by both sides and the noise continued throughout the night. Long after the attack was over the noise went on, for every few minutes some post would get nervous and send up an S.O.S. signal, immediately calling down a barrage, to which the other side would reply in kind. All this took place on the other side of the Souchez river, but we came in for much shelling, and the relief was not finally complete until 5.0 a.m. At dawn we were all in position. "B" Company (Marriott) was on the right with a frontage from the Souchez river to the Southern edge of the mine buildings; "A" (Petch) was on the left, with the length of the buildings as their frontage; "D" (Shields) assembled under the slag-heap behind them. Zero was ordered for 7.20 p.m.

The original plan had been for the assaulting Companies to leave their assembly trenches a few minutes before Zero, and, moving forward carefully, to form up for the attack a few yards in front. At 7.0 p.m. it was still, of course, bright daylight; the enemy had two observation balloons up, and there were several aeroplanes about. It seemed that any such movement must be noticed. However, fate was on our side, and at 7.13 p.m. a rain storm burst over the country, completely obscuring the view, and by Zero the assaulting troops were lying out ready. They had not been seen.

At 7-20 p.m. the rain stopped, the barrage started, and we went forward. At the same time real and dummy gas attacks were made North of the Lievin-Lens road, and the enemy must have wondered very much where the main attack would be. The result was satisfactory; we met no real barrage and no very heavy machine gun fire, though there was a considerable amount of scattered shooting of both kinds. This did not delay our advance, though 2nd Lieut. Dawes was wounded and had to leave his Company. Our only difficulty was the mine building, through which "A" Company were supposed to advance; this was found to be impenetrable, and Captain Petch had to send half his Company through "B" Company's frontage, and half through the 4th Leicestershires, so as to avoid it. "Adjunct" and "Adjacent" trenches were reached practically without loss, but the enemy did not stay to receive us, and we found them empty. At 7.40 p.m. Yates, the "A" Company runner, reached headquarters with the news of the success of the battle.

"Adjacent" trench was organised as our new outpost line and several strong points were built along it. We also secured the Western end of "Almanac," a communication trench running N.E. alongside the railway. Halfway up this trench a deserted Boche machine gun post would have provided us with an excellent forward post, but unfortunately it was in our defensive barrage line and we were not allowed to occupy it. We had, therefore, to content ourselves with collecting the souvenirs, which included a telephone, and to come away. We had several casualties while consolidating, and lost another officer, 2nd Lieut. M.J.S. Dyson, who was slightly wounded by a stray shell. "B" Company lost Cpl. Baker wounded, and L/Cpl. Snow of "A" was also hit, in addition to two killed and twenty-five others wounded in the Battalion. The scattered shelling became somewhat more concentrated after our arrival, but did not stop our consolidation, which went forward rapidly with only one pause. About 8.0 p.m. there was a terrific rainstorm and everyone stopped work to put on waterproof sheets. The enemy must have done the same, and it was curious to notice how the battle stopped while everybody sheltered, for while the rain lasted there was complete silence, and neither side fired a shot.

Our task the next morning was to discover how far the Boche had retired. The Canadians South of the river had pushed on to the outskirts of Cite St. Antoine, almost in Lens itself, and, with "Hill 65" in our hands, the German positions in the Cite du Moulin were overlooked from everywhere. Patrols were sent forward to investigate, and 2nd Lieut. Brooke, with some of "D" Company, pushed forward up "Almanac" trench as far as the Arras road. Here they caught sight of a Boche patrol, which promptly fled as fast as possible. Except for this, the day passed quietly, as did the following morning.

The afternoon of the 30th, however, was far from quiet, and for several hours our new line was heavily shelled. In addition to the usual field batteries, there was one heavy gun which fired continuously on "A" Company's lines, obtaining a direct hit on Company Headquarters. Capt. Petch and 2nd Lieut. Campbell were both buried but not seriously hurt. Serjt. Ault, the acting Serjeant-Major, Wheeldon and Stevenson, the two runners, all three old soldiers of exceptional ability, were killed. Raven, another runner, was wounded, Downs had already been hit, and was again severely shaken, but both these stayed at duty, while they helped Lilley and Balderstone, who pluckily came along, to dig out those who were buried. In all twenty-eight were wounded, making our casualties for the battle three officers and ninety other ranks. That night the 4th Lincolnshires relieved us, and we went into Brigade reserve, two Companies in Cite des Garennes, the other in Lievin.

A few hours after relieving us the Lincolnshires made another attack, but failed to gain much ground, and met with considerable opposition from the neighbourhood of the Arras road. Their casualties were consequently heavy, and they asked to be relieved again the following night, so we were ordered to go up once more and take over their new line. Guides were to have met us at the "Broken bridge" near "Adjacent" trench, but only those for "A" and "B" Companies arrived, and for several hours Captain Shields waited with "D" Company, not knowing where to take his men. Apparently there had been some further operations, and the Lincolnshires had been shelled, in any case no guides appeared, and it was nearly dawn. At last, Capt. Shields, knowing that in a few minutes he would not have time to reach the front line, even if guides did arrive, gave the order to "about turn," and marched back. This caused considerable discussion at Battalion Headquarters, and Brigade finally decided that Col. Trimble should take over the line with two companies of the 4th Lincolnshires in front in the outpost line, two of our Companies in "Acorn" and "Adjunct," and one Company of ours under the slag-heap. We were all well dug in, and consequently did not lose very heavily when the following day, the 2nd of July, we were shelled continuously for several hours. Our telephone lines were almost all cut, so that messages had to be sent by the runners, whose task was far from pleasant on these occasions. Throughout these two months of fighting in Lens the runners, both Battalion and Company, had proved themselves to be very fine soldiers. We relied on them almost entirely in battle, for telephone wires never lasted long, and pigeons, once released, did not return. But the runners never failed, and what is more were always cheerful. Cheerfully they crawled along some exposed street, or dodged round houses in the Cite St. Pierre, cheerfully they faced "Assign" trench and Lievin corner, and equally cheerfully they crossed the slag-heap, often having to go actually through a barrage to reach their destination. Grogan, Collins, Sullivan, Raven, Kilcoyne and others, always ready and always willing, they would work till they dropped, and the Battalion owes much to their courage and endurance.

The 3rd of July passed quietly, and that night we were relieved by the 25th Canadians and marched to Aix Noulette, where we embussed and went to Monchy Breton for a rest.



CHAPTER XII.

ST. ELIE LEFT.

4th July, 1917. 23rd Nov., 1917.

We stayed for three weeks at Monchy Breton and enjoyed ourselves immensely, with good weather, good billets and plenty of games. The Headquarters lived and messed at M. le Cure's, where they consumed a disgraceful amount of strawberries and cream, while the other officers under Captain Burnett messed together in another house. But the chief feature of this period of rest was the Divisional Rifle meeting, a regular Bisley meeting, which took place at the end of it. It was a triumph for the 5th Leicestershires, for we carried off amongst other trophies the G.O.C.'s Cup. R.S.M. Small, D.C.M., had one "first" and two "seconds," Corporal F.H.J. Spencer, M.M., one "first" and one "second," in the individual competitions, while Serjt. Clancy and Pte. F. Bindley won the assault course and individual "pools." On the second day "A" and "B" Companies each got third place in the Company Assault Course and Snap-shooting Competitions, and "C" was second in the Company "Knock-out" and third in the "running man" competitions. In this last Pte. Pepper won third place in the pool. Finally our officers' team won the revolver shoot. The rifle shooting throughout both days was of a very high order, but the same cannot be said for the revolver work, and we only won this last competition by being not quite so terribly bad as anybody else.

On the 20th of July we received orders to go into action again—this time to a quiet sector near Hulluch—and the following day we moved to Vaudricourt. The C.O. and most of the officers went by motor-'bus through to Philosophe to reconnoitre the new line; the rest of the Battalion set out under Captain Burnett to march. The previous evening had been spent in celebrating our rifle-shooting victories and we felt like anything rather than marching twenty miles under a blazing July sun. Those who took part in it will never forget that march; it was worse than "Luton to Ware" in 1914. Packs seemed heavier than ever before, the hill at Houdain was too much for many, and the beer and white wine of the previous evening proved stronger than march discipline, and many fell out. We finally crawled into Vaudricourt at 4-0 p.m.—tired out.

The following evening our Transport lines and Quartermaster's Stores moved to Labourse and we went into the line, relieving the 2nd York and Lancaster Regiment in the Hulluch right sector. For six days we lived in tunnels, with a front line which consisted of odd isolated posts at the end of each passage. The old front line trench seemed to have disappeared entirely. We were not much worried by the enemy, in fact, except for one trench mortar near Hulluch, called the "Goose," he kept very quiet. At the end of the tour we were relieved by the 4th Battalion and went into billets at Noeux les Mines.

Noeux was not shelled during our stay, so we had a peaceful time, though one officer was somewhat troubled on waking the first morning to find attached to his house the following notice: "THIS CROSS ROADS IS REGISTERED. NO PARTIES TO HALT HERE." We did not stay long, however, for on the 30th July we were suddenly ordered to move to Fouquieres to prepare for a coming raid, and marched there during the afternoon, Battalion Headquarters to the Chateau, Companies to the village. For some reason best known to himself the billeting officer had billeted all officers with the wrong companies, but this was soon rectified, and we were very comfortable.

Our coming raid was to be carried out against the enemy's trenches West of Hulluch on a frontage of 300 yards. The sector chosen was bounded on the North by Hendon and on the South by Hicks Alley, while Herring Alley was in the centre. There were three German lines, and on the left a small extra line between the first and second, which we named Hinckley Trench. The scheme was for two Companies to take and hold the German third line, one Company to mop up behind them, and the fourth Company to follow with some Engineers to demolish dug-outs. One of the forward Companies would have to send a special party to deal with the "Goose" trench mortar. All wire cutting would be done by the Artillery, who were allowed a fortnight for it, so that they might not excite the enemy too much by heavy shooting. During this time we were to detail an officer to stay in the line, watch the shooting, and patrol the gaps at night. We would also practise the attack over a flagged course.

The flagged course was set out very elaborately at Hesdigneul, and not only was each trench shown, but small notice boards denoted the position of every supposed machine gun, trench mortar, or deep dug-out. Practices took place first by day and finally by night, for the raid was to be a night attack, and various lamp signals were arranged to assist the withdrawal. The position of Hulluch village was indicated on the practice ground by a large notice board—HULLUCH—which probably gave any spies there might be in Hesdigneul a very fair idea of what was intended.

Meanwhile, we received various reinforcements. Lieut. G.E. Russell returned, 2nd Lieut. W.M. Cole came from the Artists' Rifles, 2nd Lieuts. R.W. Edge, T.R.L. Gibson, R.B. Rawson, C.P. Shilton, R.W. Sanders, L.W. Mandy, and J.S. Plumer came to us for the first time from England. At the same time a large party of men, arriving at Monchy Breton, had enabled us to reconstitute "C" Company, so that we now had four Companies of three platoons each, and enough officers for two Battalions. Lieut. Pearson went to Hospital and thence to England, and Capt. Wollaston acted Adjutant. The Company Commanders were unchanged.

For the second week of our fortnight we slightly relaxed the vigour of our practices, and devoted more time to musketry, bombing, and training the demolition parties for their work. The officers to take part in the raid were also chosen, and various tasks allotted to the others. Capt. Shields with 2nd Lieut. Cole and "D" Company would make the right attack; Capt. Petch with 2nd Lieut. Gibson and "A" Company, the left. "B" Company (Capt. Marriott and 2nd Lieut. C.S. Allen) would be the supports, and the two demolition parties would be found by "C" Company under 2nd Lieuts. Lowe and Edge. 2nd Lieut. Plumer was detailed to take a party of "D" Company to destroy the "Goose." Lieut. G.E. Russell was "O.C. Searchlight," and various other officers were chosen to count the raiding party when they returned.

Meanwhile, up in trenches the most wonderful work was being done by 2nd Lieut. Brooke and six other ranks of "D" Company—L/Cpl. Clapham, Ptes. Haines, Hanford, Johnson, Mason, and Rolls. This was the party left in the line with the Staffordshires to observe the wire cutting and patrol the gaps. At first, 2nd Lieut. Brooke spent his days with the F.O.O. and confined his patrolling to the hours of darkness, but later he was out in front both day and night. On two occasions he came into contact with the enemy. First, on his very first patrol, he had just reached the enemy's wire, and was trying to find a way through, when the enemy opened a heavy fire at close range. L/Cpl. Clapham was killed, shot through the head, and it was only with the utmost difficulty that the rest of the party escaped with their lives. The second encounter was in daylight. The Staffordshires had reported that they believed the German front line to be unoccupied, so on the 13th August, in the middle of the afternoon, 2nd Lieut. Brooke crossed No Man's Land, passed through the wire and entered the Boche front line. He was just exploring it when a very surprised German came round a corner and saw him. 2nd Lieut. Brooke at once left the trench and took shelter as quickly as possible in a shell hole outside. A perfect shower of bombs and rifle grenades were thrown after him, but he was untouched, and regained our lines without a scratch.

On the 14th August, after a very happy fortnight at Fouquieres, we moved to the huts at Noyelles, where the special stores for the coming raid were issued. At the same time all pay books, badges, identity discs and personal kits were handed in, and to each man was issued a small round cardboard disc with a number on it. The following morning we paraded at 10 a.m., and marched through Vermelles to Lone Trench and Tenth Avenue, where we were to wait until it was time to assemble. On the way, "B" Company had a serious disaster. A shell, intended for one of our batteries West of Vermelles, fell on the Company as they were passing the Mansion House Dump. They were marching in fours and had practically a whole platoon wiped out, for eleven were killed and fourteen wounded. Amongst the killed was Freddie Chambers, self-appointed Company humorist, and one of the best known and most cheerful soldiers in the Battalion.

Our Patrol party was waiting for us in Lone Trench, but their report was far from satisfactory. 2nd Lieut. Brooke declared that there were by no means enough gaps, in fact none at all on the left, and Colonel Trimble asked for the raid to be postponed. Meanwhile, 2nd Lieut. Brooke went off to the front line, where he finally was able to convince the Divisional Intelligence Officer that there were not sufficient gaps, and at the last moment, as the Companies were preparing to move to their assembly positions, the raid was postponed for 24 hours. Accordingly we spent the night in our somewhat cramped surroundings in Lone Trench, and the following day the Artillery continued to cut the wire, this time with better success.

One of the original objects of the raid had been to detract attention from a Canadian attack on "Hill 70" to be made at the same time. This attack we watched from the back of Lone trench, and later in the day were able to give material assistance. The German counter attack came from behind Hulluch, near Wingles, and the troops for it assembled and started their attack in view of our posts. Captain Ellwood and his machine gunners at once got to work and did terrific execution, being chiefly responsible for the failure of the enemy's efforts, and enabling the Canadians to hold the Hill.

So successful was the wire cutting on the 16th, that our patrol reported all ready for the raid, and accordingly we moved at dusk to our assembly positions. One alteration in the plan of attack had to be made at the last minute. It had originally been intended that the attacking platoons, after passing in file through our wire, should spread out in No Man's Land into lines. As the German wire was only cut into gaps and not obliterated, it was now decided that platoons should keep in file until through that belt also, and spread out on entering the front line. Bridges were placed over our front line, all faces were blackened, and by 10-30 p.m. all were ready for Zero, which was to be 10-58 p.m.

The barrage started promptly, and the advance began. The enemy's wire was a little thick on both flanks, but all passed through fairly easily and entered the front line, where, as arranged, each man shouted to show he had arrived. Two enemy were found and killed, but much of the trench was full of wire. The attackers passed on rapidly to the second and third lines, finding the wire thicker in front of each line, but finally reaching their objective and building bombing blocks. It was a dark night, and to avoid losing touch, Captains Petch and Shields had arranged to call each other's names as they went forward. Suddenly Captain Shield's voice stopped with one last cry, and Captain Petch hurrying to the spot found he had been hit by a shell and terribly wounded in both legs. However, his Company reached the third line, and the party under 2nd Lieut. Plumer set out to destroy the Goose.

Meanwhile, the mopping up and demolition continued behind the attack. Several Germans were found and killed in the second line, but on the whole very few enemy were seen, somehow they had managed to escape. Probably there were many tunnels, and in the dark it was quite impossible to tell what was a tunnel entrance and what merely a dug-out. Many of the latter were destroyed by "C" Company, though they lost 2nd Lieut. Lowe, who was slightly wounded, through being too keen to watch the effect of one of his own Mills bombs. Corporal Tunks and Pte. Baker did particularly good work with these demolition parties.

Back at Battalion Headquarters was a listening set, and this managed to overhear the German Company Commander's telephone report to his headquarters. "We are being attacked, ... front line penetrated, ... second line wrecked ... third line entered ... send up two sections." The two sections came in two parts. A strong bombing attack was made up Hicks Alley which was held by our bombing party at the newly built block; at the same time our left was attacked over the open. "A" Company were ready for them, and Lilley, the Lewis Gunner, soon accounted for many and broke up the attack. "D" Company also had some fighting, in which both 2nd Lieut. Cole and Serjeant Growdridge distinguished themselves.

The time finally came for the withdrawal, and the special flare lights were fired. Unfortunately they failed to light, and messages had to be sent at once to the raid area. The enemy were held off while the withdrawal was carried out, and by 2-0 a.m. the 17th the majority of the raiding party had returned. Captain Shields was carried in by C.S.M. Passmore, who very gallantly stayed out some time after the others were all back, but nothing could be found of Capt. Marriott or 2nd Lieut. Plumer and the "Goose" party. Capt. Marriott had been last seen in the second German line, but he had been missed in the withdrawal, and was never seen again. We brought no prisoners and no identifications, though one man brought back a rifle and another some papers from a dug-out. Several of the enemy had undoubtedly been killed, but no one had thought to cut off shoulder straps or search for pay books. At 3-0 a.m. we returned to Noyelles, where we spent the day cleaning and repairing our clothing.

The raid had not been a success. We lost Captain Marriott, 2nd Lieut. Plumer, and seven men missing, whom we never heard of again. Three more men were known to be killed, and three others were afterwards reported prisoners, while no less than fifty-one were wounded. Capt. Shields, the most cheerful, strenuous, and popular of Company Commanders, would never fight again. He reached Chocques hospital with one leg almost blown off and the other badly shattered, and the Doctors decided to amputate the one at once. It is still recorded as a unique feat, that throughout the operation neither the patient's pulse nor temperature altered, thanks to his wonderful constitution. The other leg soon healed, and within a few months he was hopping over fences in England in the best of spirits. "B" Company had lost their second Company Commander in two months. Like his friend Capt. Wynne, Captain Marriott had soon won his way to the hearts of his Company, with whom he rose from Platoon Commander, while in the Mess he was one of the merriest of companions and the friend of all.

There is no doubt that the enemy had been prepared for us. The rapidity with which his barrage started, the partly wired trenches, empty dug-outs and absence of garrison all pointed to this. He probably waited for us at his tunnel entrances, and hurried away as soon as we arrived; the few we found were those who had been too slow in getting away. As far as we ourselves were concerned, we only made one mistake—failing to bring back any identification. Apart from this all ranks had worked well, and we were congratulated by General Thwaites on our efforts.

Five days after the raid we relieved the 4th Leicestershires in a new trench sector, the "St. Elie left," and for nearly three months the Brigade remained in this same part of the line. The sector had its name from a much battered coal mine, the Cite St. Elie, which stood just inside the German lines opposite. About five hundred yards on our right, the Vermelles-Hulluch road crossed No Man's Land, while a similar distance on our left, Fosse 8 and its slag heaps formed the chief feature. All through 1916 active mining operations had been carried out along the whole front, and though there was now a deadlock underground, the craters still remained a bone of contention; each side tried to retain its hold on the near lip. Our right Company held a line of six of these craters, joined together, called "Hairpin" on account of their shape on the aeroplane photographs. The centre Company held another group called Border Redoubt, consisting amongst other things of two enormous craters, the Northern and Southern. Between these two groups lay "Rats' Creek," a short length of trench, 200 yards from the enemy, and without a crater. The left Company held another isolated post—"Russian Sap"—500 yards from the centre and not connected with it by any usable trench. The old front line between Border and Hairpin, via Rats' Creek, a distance of 400 yards, could be used by liaison patrols at night, but was impossible by day.

The various posts in "Hairpin" were connected by an underground tunnel with four exits to the trench, while another with two exits did the same for Border Redoubt. From each of these, a 300-yard tunnel ran Westwards to what had been the old support line, where they were connected underground by another long passage—Feetham Tunnel. A branch of the Border tunnel led to "Rats' Creek." At various points along these tunnels exits were built up to fortified shell holes, occupied by Lewis gun teams; these were our only supports. Down below lived Company Headquarters, the garrison, one or two tunnelling experts and the specialists, stokes mortars, machine gunners and others. It was a dreadful existence. The passages were damp and slippery, the walls covered in evil-looking red and yellow spongey fungus, the roof too low to allow one to walk upright, the ventilation practically non existent, the atmosphere, always bad, became in the early mornings intolerable, all combined to ruin the health of those who had to live there. But not only was one's health ruined, one's "nerves" were seriously impaired, and the tunnels had a bad effect on one's moral. Knowing we could always slip down a staircase to safety, we lost the art of walking on top, we fancied the dangers of the open air much greater than they really were, in every way we got into bad condition.

The entrance to this tunnel system was at the end of our only communication trench, Stansfield Road, a deep well-gridded trench running all the way from Vermelles. Battalion Headquarters lived in it, in a small deep dug-out, 200 yards from the tunnel entrance, and at its junction with the only real fire trench, O.B.1, the reserve line. In this trench the reserve Company lived in a group of dug-outs, near the Dump, called Exeter Castle. The left Company, with one platoon in Russian Sap and the remainder back in O.B.1, alone had no tunnels. But after our first few tours, the system was altered, and the support Company, living in tunnels, provided the Russian Sap garrison. Battalion Headquarters had a private tunnel, part of the mining system, leading to Feetham, which could be used in emergency, but as this was unlit, it was quicker to use the trench. The main tunnel system was lit, or rather supposed to be lit, with electric light. This often failed, and produced of course indescribable chaos.

Although the tunnels had all these disadvantages, it is only fair to say that they reduced our casualties enormously, for during the three months we lost only three officers slightly wounded and eighteen men; of these at least four were hit out on patrol. We also managed to live far more comfortably as regards food than we should otherwise have been able. Elaborate kitchens were built in Stansfield Road, and hot tea, soup, the inevitable stew, biscuit pudding, and other "luxuries," were carried up in hot food containers to the most forward posts. The only difficulty was with Russian Sap, for its approach, Gordon Alley, was in a bad state; but as the garrison was there at night only, they needed nothing more than "midnight tea," and this could be taken to them over the top.

A light railway ran all the way from Sailly Labourse to Vermelles, and thence to the various forward dumps, ours at Exeter Castle. Rations and R.E. material were loaded at Sailly, taken by train to the Mansion House Dump at Vermelles, and then by mule-drawn trucks to the front. The Exeter Dump was lively at times, especially when a machine gunner on Fosse 8 slag heap, popularly known as Ludendorf, was pointing his gun in that direction. But beyond a mule falling on its back into O.B.1, we had no serious troubles, and got our rations every night with great regularity.

The enemy were not very active, although they were reported to be the 6th Bavarians, "Prince Rupprecht's Specials." An occasional patrol was met, and our parties were sometimes bombed, but on the whole the Boche confined his energies to machine gun fire at night, scattered shelling at any time, and heavy trench mortaring, mostly by day. Fortunately there was not much mortaring at night, and what there was we managed to avoid by carefully watching the line of flight, as betrayed by the burning fuse. These heavy mortar shells with their terrific explosion and enormous crater were very terrifying, and few soldiers could face them with the indifference shown to other missiles. One exception was them with the utmost scorn, and used to fire "rapid" with a rifle at them, as they came through the air.

All this time the system of holding the Brigade sector was to have two Battalions in the line, one in Brigade support, and one resting at Fouquieres. Thus, one rested every eighteen days for six days, while one's trench tour was broken by six days in the middle in Brigade support. This last meant Battalion Headquarters and two Companies in Philosophe, the remainder in Curly Crescent, a support trench several hundred yards behind O.B.1. Philosophe was a dirty place, but had the advantage of being much less shelled than the neighbouring Vermelles, and we were not much molested.

Fouquieres was always pleasant. The Chateau and its tennis court and grounds made a delightful Battalion Headquarters, and the Companies had very comfortable billets in the village. We played plenty of football, and were within easy reach of Bethune, at this time a very fashionable town. The 25th Divisional Pierrots occupied the theatre which was packed nightly, and the Club, the "Union Jack" Shop, and other famous establishments, not to mention the "Oyster Shop," provided excellent fare at wonderfully exorbitant prices.

During these three months we received many new officers, some of them staying for a few days before passing on to Tank Corps, Flying Corps, or Machine Gun Corps, others proving themselves worthy of our best traditions. One party in particular, 2nd. Lieuts. F.G. Taylor, H.C. Davies, G.K. Dunlop, and W.R. Todd, provided four who came to stay, a very valuable asset, when so many merely looked in for tea and then went away. Others who came to fight were 2nd Lieuts. W. Norman, A.J. Mace, J.S. Argyle, C.D. Boarland, J.G. Christy, A. Asher, A.M. Edwards, and, later, Lieut. P. Measures, who had been with us in 1916 for a few weeks. Col. Trimble and Capt. Moore each had a month's leave, and Major Griffiths, after commanding during the Colonel's absence, went to Aldershot for a three months' course. Capt. Burnett became 2nd in Command with the acting rank of Major. Capt. Hills, the Adjutant, returned from England and resumed his duties, while Captain Wollaston took charge of "B" Company for a short time, and then went to the Army School, where he stayed as an Instructor and was lost to us. Captain Barrowcliffe came to us for a short time in command of "D" Company, but then went to the Army School, and handed the Company over to Lieut. Brooke, who had been granted an M.C. and three weeks' leave for his Hulluch patrols. 2nd Lieut. Campbell went to Hospital with the results of gas poisoning and had to go to England, whither also went 2nd Lieuts. Rawson and Gibson who were invalided. A great loss to us was our Doctor, Captain Morgan, who had been with us for many months and was now sent to Mesopotamia, and was replaced by a succession of stop-gaps until we finally got the invaluable W.B. Jack. There were changes, too, in the ranks. Most important was the departure of R.S.M. Small, D.C.M., our Serjeant Major since mobilization. He had been unwell for some time and at length had to go to Hospital and home to England. Debarred by his age from taking a Commission, for which he was so well suited, he had rendered three years' very faithful service to the Battalion, untiring alike in action and on the parade ground, and popular with all, officers, N.C.O.'s and men. He was succeeded by C.S.M. H.G. Lovett, formerly of "B" Company, and latterly serving with the 2nd/5th Battalion. At the same time, Serjt. N. Yeabsley, a very capable horseman and horse master, came to us from the 4th Battalion as Transport Serjeant.

This long tour of trench warfare was not entirely devoid of interest, and several little incidents occurred to break the monotony. The first was a big "strafe" on the 25th of August, when for some unknown reason the enemy shelled Stansfield Road very vigorously, and obtained a direct hit on "C" Company Headquarters. Lieuts. Banwell and Edge were occupying the dug-out at the time, and were both shaken, though the former as usual did not take long to recover. Lieut. Edge, however, was sent to the Stores for a time and for some months acted as Transport Officer. On another occasion, 2nd Lieut. Norman was firing rifle grenades from "Hairpin" craters, when he received one in reply, and had to go to England with one or two pieces in him.

Except for these two incidents, all other excitement occurred in No Man's Land, where we had patrols every night in the hopes of catching a Boche. The first to meet the enemy was 2nd Lieut. Mandy, who was almost surrounded by a large party of them just North of Northern crater. He managed to fight his way out, though for a time he lost one of his party, Pte. Brotheridge, who did some fighting on his own and returned to us at dawn. After a time, tired of finding no one, our patrols became more venturesome, and most nights entered the German lines at some point or other. "A" and "C" Companies worked mostly round the Hairpin craters, and Lieuts. Banwell and Russell, 2nd Lieuts. Dunlop and Norman, all explored the enemy's front line. On one occasion Capt. Petch himself accompanied Lieut. Russell and Serjeant Toon to look at the enemy, and for a change found his front line held. They were caught peering over the parapet, and got a warm reception. Both officers were slightly wounded and had to go to England. Meanwhile, Lieut. Banwell took command of "A" Company. He, too, on another occasion explored the same piece of trench and found it empty, nor could he attract any enemy, though he and his party shouted, whistled and made noises of every description.

Border Redoubt and Rats' Creek were the hunting ground of "B" and "D" Companies, and here Lieuts. Ball and Measures more than once nearly captured a Boche post. But the enemy was too alert, and slipped away always down some tunnel or deep dug-out. But the best patrolling was done from Russian Sap, by 2nd Lieut. Cole and his gang from "D" Company, including Serjt. Burbidge, Cpl. Foster, L/Cpl. Haynes, Ptes. Thurman, Oldham and others. They had very bad luck, for on two occasions they lay in wait for the enemy in his own front line and he never came, though he had occupied the post the previous night, and the party, wet through and frozen, had to return empty handed except for a bomb or two.

There was one other unusual occurrence before we left the St. Elie sector. We were visited one day by a local newspaper reporter, Mr. Wilkes of the "Leicester Mail," who came to see us in trenches, and was introduced to the tunnels and all the "grim horrors" of trench warfare. It seemed curious to see a civilian in a grey suit, adorned with a steel helmet and box respirator, wandering about the communication trenches.

On the 14th of November, while in Brigade Support at Philosophe, we were ordered to reconnoitre the "Hill 70" sector, with a view to taking over the line from the Sherwood Foresters. The same day we moved to some particularly cold and uncomfortable huts at Mazingarbe, going to the line the next night. Our route lay along the main Lens road past Fosse III. and Fosse VII., then by tracks past Privet Castle to Railway Alley. This endless communication trench led all the way past the famous Loos Crucifix, still standing, to what had been the front line before the Canadian attack. Thence various other alleys led to the front line. Our new sector was by no means luxurious. There was a front line trench and portions of a reserve line, all rather the worse for wear, while the communication trenches, "Hurrah" and "Humbug" Alleys, were unspeakably filthy. The whole area at the top of the hill was an appalling mess of tangled machinery from Puits 14 bis, battered trenches, the remains of two woods, Bois Hugo and Bois Raze, and shell holes of every size and shape. There was mud and wet chalk everywhere, and a very poor water supply for drinking purposes. What few dug-outs existed were the usual small German front line post's funk holes, and all faced the wrong way. It was a bad place. There was, however, one redeeming feature. From the hill we could see everything, Hulluch, Wingles, Vendin and Cite St. Auguste lay spread out before us; we could see the slightest movement. Behind the hill, Support Companies were out of sight, and those not actually in the front line could almost all wander about on top without fear of being seen. Furthermore, there were no tunnels. We spent all our time working, for there was much to be done. Our chief tasks were clearing out existing trenches and digging new communication trenches where they were wanted. Digging was both difficult, for the ground was sodden, and dangerous on account of the number of "dud" shells and bombs everywhere. Two men of "B" Company were injured by the explosion of a grenade which one of them struck with a shovel, and the next day Captain Moore had a miraculous escape. Clearing the trench outside his Company Headquarters, at the junction of "Horse" and "Hell" Alleys, he put his pick clean through a Mills bomb; fortunately it did not explode. Padre Buck also had a busy time, for there were many unburied dead still lying about. Hearing of one body some sixty yards out in No Man's Land, where it had been found by a patrol, the Padre went out with his orderly, Darby, to bury it. It was a misty morning, and they were unmolested until suddenly the mist lifted and they were seen. Darby was wounded in the head, and they were heavily fired on, but this did not worry the Padre, who brought his orderly back to our lines, and came in without a scratch.

We remained only seven days in this sector, and did not come into contact with the enemy at all at close quarters. A few bombs were thrown in the Bois Hugo trenches, and a raid by the 11th Division on our right caused a considerable amount of retaliation to fall on our heads, but on the whole the enemy was quiet, and we had practically no casualties. There was not time to learn the ground well enough to do any extensive patrolling, though Lieut. Watherstone earned the Divisional Commander's praise for a bold reconnaissance from the Bois Raze. The transport had as bad a time as anyone, bringing rations on the light railway through Loos, which was never a pleasant spot. Once again a mule succeeded in falling into a trench, and it took R.S.M. Lovett and a party of men more than an hour to extricate it.

The 4th Battalion took our places at the end of the tour, and we marched back to Mazingarbe. Our billets had been slightly improved, and Headquarters now had a house in the Boulevard, commonly called "Snobs' Alley." While here a new horse, a large chestnut, which arrived for the Padre, caused considerable commotion in the Regiment. First he bolted with the Padre half-way from Mazingarbe to Labourse, when he finally pulled him up and dismounted. He then refused to move at all, and went down on his knees to Padre Buck, who was most disconcerted, especially when the animal moaned as though truly penitent. The next day the Adjutant tried to ride him, and once more he bolted. This time his career was short, for horse and rider came down on the Mazingarbe cobbled high road, and the Adjutant had to go to Chocques hospital with a broken head, and was away for a week.

During his absence we lost Colonel Trimble, who, much against his will, was ordered to take command of his own Battalion, the 1st East Yorkshires. He had been with us for seven months, and we were all very fond of him and very sorry indeed when he had to go. Worse still, there seemed no chance of Col. Jones returning to us. For six weeks, September and October, he had been close to us in Noeux les Mines, attached to the 1st Battalion, and more than once had come over to see us, but now the 6th Division had moved away and we did not know their whereabouts. The matter was finally settled by the arrival of a new Commanding Officer in the same car which came to fetch Col. Trimble. Lieut. Colonel R.W. Currin, D.S.O., of the York and Lancaster Regiment, had come to take command.



CHAPTER XIII.

CAMBRIN RIGHT.

1st Dec., 1917. 12th April, 1918.

Colonel Currin, our new Commanding Officer, was a South African, a large man of enormous physical strength. He at once terrified us with his language, which can only be described as volcanic, and won our respect by his wonderful fearlessness. Of this last there was no question. In trenches, he would wander about, with his hands in his pockets, often with neither helmet nor gas-bag, and quite heedless of whether or no the enemy could see him. More than once he was shot at, and more than once he had a narrow escape at the hands of some hostile sniper, but this appeared to have no effect on him, and after such an escape he was just as reckless as before. He had withal a kind heart and a great sense of humour.

A few days before his arrival we had moved from Mazingarbe to Drouvin and Vaudricourt, and here we were now warned that on the 1st December General Thwaites would inspect the Brigade in review order. A rehearsal was carried out in a field near Noeux les Mines, a rehearsal so amusing in many ways, that the Colonel loved to tell the story of what he called his first experience with the 5th Battalion: "On approaching the parade ground I sent forward A——, who was acting Adjutant, to find where we were to fall in. My Adjutant was in Hospital as the result of falling off his horse. When I reached the field, I saw an officer galloping about waving his arms, but whether he was signalling to me, or trying to manage his horse I could not tell, so sent Burnett to find out. Burnett's horse promptly stumbled, fell and rolled on him, so I went myself and found the luckless A—— quite incapable of managing his pony. I told him to dismount, while I marched the Battalion into place, but subsequently found he had not done so because he couldn't! Eventually the Serjeant-Major seized him round the waist, someone else led the pony forward, and A—— was left in the Serjeant-Major's arms and lowered to the ground. All this in front of the Brigade drawn up for a ceremonial parade!" The parade itself also had its amusing side, chiefly owing to the ignorance of certain Staff Officers on matters of drill. However, a friendly crump, arriving in the next field, put an end to the proceedings, and we marched home.

After all this bother the actual inspection was cancelled and we went into trenches again instead. Our sector this time was Cambrin, called after the village next North of Vermelles, and the sector immediately on the left of our last—St. Elie. On the morning of the 1st of December we marched to Annequin, on the Beuvry-La Bassee Road, and relieved some Loyal North Lancashires, Worcestershires and Portuguese in the Brigade support positions. The Headquarters and two Companies were in Annequin village, the other two Companies in two groups of dug-outs, "Maison Rouge" and "Factory," about 500 yards East of Cambrin. We only stayed here twenty-four hours and then went into the front line, "Cambrin Right" sub-sector.

Cambrin Right was very like St. Elie Left with the good points left out. The right Company had tunnels but they were not safe, though just as smelly as our old ones. It was the same on the left, while in the centre, there were deep enough tunnels, but they were unconnected with anything and unlit. The front line consisted mostly of craters, a large series of which occupied what had once been the Hohenzollern Redoubt. At intervals along the lips were odd posts, each at the end of a short trench leading back into Northampton trench or the tunnel system. The right group of tunnels, the Savile tunnel, started half-way up Savile Row, a communication trench which had originally run from the Reserve line to Northampton trench, but now stopped at the tunnel entrance. The centre group had no name, started from Northampton trench, and had no proper communication trench. The left group was the "Quarry" tunnel system, starting from the old quarry and running leftwards from the Northern edge of the Hohenzollern craters almost to our posts opposite Mad Point. The left Company had no posts actually on crater lips, though they had one or two craters in No Man's Land. "Quarry" Alley led to the "Quarry" and a newly dug trench ran from this to Northampton near the centre tunnels, but it was in bad condition and seldom used. As a rule, those who wished to visit the centre went through either Savile or Quarry tunnels to get there. One other trench led forward from the Reserve Line, Bart's Alley, but this ended in a large pile of sandbags and one of the Tunnelling Company's private entrances to the mining galleries. Between the Reserve Line and Northampton a few ends of gas piping, sticking out of the ground, showed where our 1915 front line had been, from which we had attacked on the 13th October. The two flank Company Headquarters were in the tunnels, the centre Company in a deep dug-out in Northampton trench. The Reserve Company, with one platoon of each of the front line Companies, lived in the Reserve Line.

The Reserve Line was about the best trench in the sector. It was deep, well traversed, and had many good dug-outs. It also contained our cook-houses and dumps. The light railway from Vermelles, on which came rations and "R.E. material," ran along behind it, so that Company Quartermaster Serjeants could deliver their rations to the reserve platoon of their Company, and there was no fear of a carrying party from another Company "pinching" some of the rum. Westwards from this trench ran three communication trenches, all in good condition, Bart's Alley, Left Boyau and Quarry Alley, all leading to the Vermelles broad gauge railway line, whose hedges concealed Sussex trench. Here, in some very elegant, but not very shell-proof dug-outs, lived Battalion Headquarters. The officers' bedrooms, and the Mess were on one side, the offices on the other. Here, Corporal Lincoln and Pte. Allbright, the Orderly Room clerks, took it in turn to look after the papers, keep the fire alight and generally make a happy home out of a crazy shanty with a wobbly roof and a door facing the Boche. Many would have preferred to go elsewhere in case of shelling, but these two never left their papers, though more than once the roof came perilously near being whisked off by some whizz-bang. Philosopher James Lincoln was particularly imperturbable, as he sat surrounded by pipes and beautifully-sharpened pencils, discussing the weather and the crops with any who chanced to pass by.

Further down this same trench Serjeant Archer and "Buller" Clarke looked after the bombs, not quite such a popular weapon now-a-days, and the Pioneers under Serjeant Waterfield and L/Cpl. Wakefield had their home next door. Here also was Serjeant Wilbur and that very hard working body of men the Signallers, "strafed" by everybody when telephones went wrong, and seldom praised during months and months without a mishap. Then came Serjeant Major Lovett in a small dug-out by himself, and near him Serjeant Bennett and the Regimental Police; the latter in trenches became general handy men, carrying rations, acting as gas sentries, and doing all the odd jobs. Round the corner a large dug-out with two entrances provided the Canteen with a home large enough to contain, when it was procurable, a barrel or two of beer. L/Cpls. Hubbard and Collins and the runners lived wherever they could find an empty shelter, and as usual spent most of their time carrying messages or showing visitors round the lines.

There was one other trench, Railway Alley. This, like its namesake to "Hill 70," was of enormous length. It started at Cambrin, passed the Factory and Factory Dug-outs, and, following the Annequin-Haisnes Railway to its junction with the Vermelles Line, acted as dividing line between the two halves of the Brigade Sector. From the left Battalion Headquarters to the front line, an often much battered part of it, it belonged to the left sector. Our Headquarters had a private trench running to it, "Kensington Walk," deep and completely covered with brushwood by way of camouflage.

In the St. Elie sector we had been three months almost without an incident of any importance; we were only six weeks in Cambrin, and every tour contained some item of interest. We started disastrously. On the night after relief Lieut. Watherston was visiting "B" Company's posts in the centre sector, when a party of the enemy crept up to and suddenly rushed the Lewis Gun Section he had just visited. Lieut. Watherston turned back, drew his revolver, and rushed into the fight, but was himself shot through the head and killed instantaneously. He had fired three shots with his revolver, but was unable to stop the enemy who, having wounded the sentry and blown the N.C.O. off the firestep with a bomb, now escaped, taking the Lewis Gun with them. The N.C.O., Cpl. Watts, got up and gave chase, but lost touch with the enemy amongst the craters, and after being nearly killed himself had to return empty-handed. Our predecessors in the line seemed to have made no effort to wire this part of the line at all, presumably thinking the line of craters a sufficient protection. A few nights later 2nd Lieut. Boarland reconnoitred the whole area with a patrol, and found that not only had the Boche got a well-worn track across No Man's Land between two craters, but close to the raided post had fitted up a small dug-out with a blanket and a coat in it. This would, of course, have been impossible had the previous occupants of the line done any patrolling; we suffered through their gross negligence.

Towards the end of the same tour, the enemy made another very similar attempt against our extreme right pasts held by "A" Company. L/Cpl. Beale and Pte. Foster were with their gun on the parapet, when they were suddenly rushed by three or four of the enemy who had crept close up to them, and were on top of them before they could open fire. L/Cpl. Beale used his fists on a German who seized him round the throat, but was then shot in the chest and fell backwards on the rest of the section who were coming to help. The Germans tried to carry off the gun, but Foster put up a fight, and they dropped it just outside the trench. However, one of them managed to knock Foster on the head, and, before help could arrive, he was carried off as a prisoner. Once again we suffered through the carelessness of our predecessors, for in this case, too, there was no protective barbed wire. We spent every night of the tour wiring hard, but could not of course finish the whole sector in five days.

The tour also contained a very severe Artillery and Trench Mortar bombardment, which seriously damaged our left and centre trenches. But more serious than this was the loss to "B" Company of L/Cpl. J.T. Pawlett, one of the best Lewis Gun N.C.O.'s in the Battalion, who was mortally wounded during the shelling. A few days later we lost another excellent Lewis Gun N.C.O., L/Cpl. Stredder, of "D" Company, who went to England wounded, fortunately not very seriously.

The tour ended on the 8th, and for the next six days we remained in Brigade Support, Annequin, Maison Rouge, and Factory Dug-outs. Even here we were not left in peace, for on two occasions the enemy opened very heavy bombardments against the Cambrin sector. The second occasion, the night of the 12th/13th of December, this was so terrific, and so much gas was used, that we had to "stand to" at midnight, while many messages, "Poison Cambrin" etc., were flying about. The damage to trenches, and more particularly to the tunnels, caused by this bombardment was very great, as we soon learnt when, two nights later, we returned to the line. Savile tunnel was blown in in several places, and the Company Headquarters completely cut off and unusable. The tunnel entrances were shattered, and the whole system so badly damaged as to be almost useless except as dug-outs for the various posts. Quarry tunnel was not so badly damaged, but several of the left posts had been isolated by having the main connecting tunnel blown in behind them. Fortunately the front line trench on the left was still in existence, and could be used instead of the tunnels. Finally, Northampton trench was literally obliterated in the centre, and a famous "island" traverse, no small earth-work, so completely wiped out that we could never afterwards discover its exact whereabouts.

Once more we had bad luck at the start of the tour, for we had only been a few hours in the line when a shell on Quarry Alley caught a small party of men coming down. Signaller Newton and Stretcher Bearer Cooke were killed outright, and Serjeant Woolley, acting Serjeant Signaller while Serjeant Wilbur was away, was wounded and had to go to Hospital. In addition to the wiring we now had the tunnels to dig out, and there was so much work to do that we had to have assistance from Brigade; this took the form of a Brigade Wiring Platoon and a Company of Monmouthshires. On one occasion these two parties, both of course working "on top," saw fit to imagine each other were Boche, and a small fight ensued. Fortunately no one was injured, though one of the Monmouthshires was only saved from a bullet through the head by his steel helmet.

The rest of the tour passed off quickly, and the irrepressible Capt. Brooke and 2nd Lieut. Cole of "D" Company started once more wandering about No Man's Land and the enemy's lines. They did the most incredible things, and gained invaluable information about the enemy, though awkward questions were often asked about the name of the "one other rank" who, according to the patrol reports, accompanied 2nd Lieut. Cole on these expeditions.

Our Christmas "rest" was spent in Beuvry, and here we arrived on the 20th of December at the end of our second tour. Our first duty was to inspect a large draft of 140 N.C.O.'s and men who had come to us while we had been in the line. Most of them came from the 11th (Pioneer) Battalion of the Regiment, and were men of good physique, very well trained, and excellent alike at drill, work, games, and in the line. During the whole time we were in France we never had a better draft than this. Meanwhile, although the enemy were apparently willing to allow us a Christmas rest, and kindly refrained from bombarding our billets, the higher command were not so gracious, and we had much work to do. Ever since the defection of Russia, the Staff had realized the possibility of a German offensive on a large scale, and every effort was being made to organize our defences. With this object, a new "village line" had been built, including Cambrin, Annequin, Vermelles and other villages, and this had now to be wired. Accordingly, on the night of the 22nd/23rd December, the whole Battalion marched up to this line by parties, and worked hard for several hours putting out a "double apron fence." So well had Major Zeller and his Engineers organized the work, and so well did the Battalion work, mainly thanks to the newly arrived Pioneers who were experts, that we did an incredible amount during the night, and received the congratulations of the G.O.C. on our efforts.

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