JOHN HARTLEY

THOMAS BROUGH Private 9210
"A" Company, 17th Battalion
The Manchester Regiment

John Hartley began, as so many others have done, by wondering "What did Granddad do in the Great War?  As John's research progressed, it became obvious that the service record of his Grandfather, Thomas Brough, could not really be separated from the record of his battalion, 17th Machester Regiment. The two became one in this article, which gives details of the service battalion (and his Grandfather of course) from the formation in September, 1914, through the battles of the Somme and 3rd Ypres, right up to the disbandment of the Battalion in July, 1918. An important article which is a very welcome addition to this site.  Tom Morgan


1915

18/01/15 Tom enlisted at Heaton Park, becoming Private 9210, 17th (Service) Battalion, Manchester Regiment. The Battalion had originally been raised on 2/3 September 1914. A fifth company , "E", was now to be raised and Tom was recruited into it. At the time, he was living with his wife, Sarah, who he had married on 31/8/13, at 894 Hollins Road, Hollinwood, Oldham. The occupation on his marriage certificate was Fireman. His parents, John & Helen, were living at 36 Garner Street, Clayton, Manchester. The Battalion's companies were subsequently reduced to four and Tom was transferred to "A" Coy.

21/3/15 The Battalion paraded past in Albert Square, Manchester in front of Lord Kitchener.

24/4/15 Moved to Belton Park, Grantham, for battalion training, musketry and entrenching training.

7/9/15 The Battalion moved to Lark Hill, Salisbury Plain to complete training.

8/11/15 A preliminary party including Major Whitehead, Lt J Sidebotham (Lewis Guns), 2nd Lt Johnson and 109 men crossed from Southampton to Le Havre. The remainder of the Battalion crossed to Boulogne the next day. “A” Company officers were Capt. E Lloyd (officer commanding), Capt. Fearenside, Second Lt W Tonge, Second Lt R Mansergh, Second Lt J Kirkwood.

11/11/15 - 17/11/15 At Domqueur.

18/11/15 Billeted at Bertangles. The Battalion War Diary noted that most of the village was occupied by 180 men of the Royal Flying Corps.

27/11/15 Tom was paid 5 francs.

4/12/15 Tom was paid 5 francs.

7/12/15 At Covin, the Battalion received practical tuition in trench warfare from 143rd Brigade, under most realistic conditions, the camp being in deep mud. The Battalion now formed part of 90th Brigade also comprising the 16th and 18th Battalions and the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers (a regular army battalion).

9/12/15 “A” and “B” companies went into the line at Foncquevillers for the first time and received instruction from the 1/6th Battalion of the Warwickshire Regiment.

12/12/15 Capt. Madden, Officer Commanding “C” Coy, left the Battalion to  undertake a 28 day course at the 3rd Army School of Instruction at Flixecourt. An extract from his orders, attached to the War Diary, states that the chief points to which instruction would be devoted were

(a) Fostering a soldierly spirit, discipline, confidence, initiative and comradeship

Instilling practical instruction in trench warfare

Imparting a working knowledge of field warfare

It concludes that “officers will be allowed to take their servants to the school”.

13/12/15 The Battalion received its first fatal casualty. 2nd Lt R L Johnston, Transport Officer, killed by a shrapnel shell at Bayencourt.

(NOTE: Robert Johnston is buried in Foncquevillers CWGC Military Cemetery. He was 24).

(NOTE: All information regarding deaths, burials or commemorations of soldiers who died has been obtained from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

14/12/15 Billeted at Montrelet over Christmas and New Year, where Tom was paid 10 francs on 22/12/15 and 4/1/16.

1916

THE SOMME - JANUARY - FEBRUARY

6/1/16 The Battalion left billets and marched to Suzanne, which it reached on 9 January. Over the next 6 months, the 16th and 17th would relieve each other every 2 – 4 days.

11/1/16 The War Diary notes that the village of Suzanne was shelled by the  enemy with the loss of one man (8638 Pte. J P Holt), five wounded and six mules killed.

12/1/16 The Battalion relieved the 16th Batt, west of Maricourt Wood, between   2nd Bedfordshires on the right and 17th Kings (Liverpool)on the left.

2nd Lt William Tonge, “A” Coy, was shot through the head by a sniper. The mud was so bad that it was impossible to remove him and he was buried in the trench. His body was not subsequently recovered and identified and his name is inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. He was 21.

16/1/16 The Battalion was based in Maricourt, working on defences until 20 January.

25/1/16 Tom was paid 10 francs.

28/1/16 “A” Coy was ordered to re-inforce the right of the 18th Batt at Royal  Dragon’s Wood, south of Vaux, under the command of Capt. Ford (the War Diary noting that Capt. Lloyd had been wounded that morning and Capt. Fearenside was acting as Town Major of Suzanne).

29/1/16 The War Diary reported that Suzanne was heavily shelled with high explosive lachrymatory shells. “Extremely uncomfortable”. The HQ Mess was hit by a shell.

23/2/16 The War Diary noted that orders were received that during the prevailing weather conditions, reliefs from the line would be carried out every 48 hours. “A” Coy was relieved from Fargny Mill and the rear working area to Suzanne , going into Brigade reserve and providing town guards.

25/2/16 The Battalion was back in the line relieving the 16th Batt in the Z2 subsector. Notification was received that reliefs would now be every 3 days.

29/2/16 From 10am, the enemy shelled Suzanne at 15 minute intervals. About 10 shells fell, killing Privates John Davidson, J Fitzpatrick and Richard Frost and injuring 6 others.

(In addition to the casualties mentioned above, the following soldiers died during January and February: Ptes William Ashworth, John Atkinson, George Bagshawe, R Bradshaw, H Eckersall, Harry Hollingsworth, John McKenna, Thomas Ogden, A Smith, L/Cpl Donald Wolstencroft.)

MARCH - MAY

3/3/16 The War Diary noted that one soldier was killed by a sniper. This will be 9122, Pte Joseph Kirwan, aged 24, who is buried in Cerisy-Gailly Military Cemetery.

6/3/16 Tom was paid 10 francs.

14/3/16 The Battalion was on relief in Suzanne. At about 6pm, the village was shelled at 20 minute intervals, the shells mainly falling round the chateau and on Centre Street. Privates James Barlow, A Gibbons and F Salt were killed. 10 others were wounded. Pte.George Cartlidge, "A" Coy died next day.

17/3/16 Orders were issued for a relief the next day. These noted that

“All trench stores, reserve ammunition, grenades, gum boots and plans of trenches are to be handed over to the incoming unit. Receipts are to be obtained for all stores handed over. Any other stores which are the property of the Battalion, e.g. sniperscopes, are to be taken with the Battalion.”

“Officers mess cart will be at point 104 at 7pm and must be used for mess boxes only. If officers have any other baggage to be transported, they should report amount to Orderly Room by 12 noon and transport will be arranged accordingly.”

18/3/16 The Battalion was relieved by 7th Buffs at 7pm and proceeded across country in light moonlight to Grovetown Camp near Bray. At this point, the Battalion’s strength was 33 officers and 977 Other Ranks.

27/3/16 Tom was paid 10 francs.

29/3/16 The Battalion left Grovetown, with “A” Coy going to Heilly to take over working parties from 89th Brigade.

13/4/16 The Battalion was billeted at St Sauveur until 28 April. Platoon, Company, Battalion and Brigade training was carried out. Special classes were formed to train bombers, Lewis gunners and signallers. There was also training in bayonet fighting and general physical drill.

18/4/16 Tom was paid 15 francs.

1/5/16 The Battalion relived the 8th East Surreys in Y1 subsector, with “A” Coy in Vaux village.

9/5/16 “A” Coy moved to Royal Dragons Wood, under the command of Capt. Ford.

17/5/16 Tom was paid 10 francs.

25/5/16 “A” Coy relieved “B” Coy in Vaux Wood.

JUNE

PREPARATIONS FOR ATTACK

1/6/16 Battalion was relieved by 1st Batt, 37th French Infantry Regiment. The War Diary states that “For several days previously, French artillery and infantry officers had reconnoitred the whole of Y and Z sectors and on the night the Battalion was relieved, several French batteries moved into position in the Maricourt valley. The dividing line between the French and British armies then became a line running approximately North and South through the centre of Maricourt village. The handing over of the sector to the French was carried out without a hitch, all ranks on both sides combining to make things go as smoothly as possible.”

2/6/16 Between midnight and 5am, the Battalion moved out by platoons and  marched to the Bois Celestins, where it camped in huts until 8 June.

During its time here, it provided working parties for 30th Division and XIII Corps - quarrying, unloading barges, making roads, etc.

(Between 1 March and 2 June, the following soldiers died: Ptes James Barlow, George Cartlidge, Harry Copsey, Sgt John Farrow, Ptes Harry Foden, A Gibbons, Percy Green, Ernest Jones, Charles Kerr, Joseph Kirwan, Thomas Marsh, Herbert Mercer, F Salt, Cpl Robert Sturgeon, Pte F Whatmough)

8/6/16 Moved to Bray, still providing working parties, mainly for road making. Tom was paid 10 francs on 8 June.

11/6/16 -  17/6/16 The Battalion moved to Maricourt, where it relived the 19th Batt at 10pm. It took charge of a large dump of stores, which was being accumulated at Napier Redoubt. The War Dairy states that the Battalion was now “In Garrison. Maricourt defences i.e. the west half of Maricourt village, the eastern half now being in the hands of the French. During the period the Battalion was kept hard at work unloading and carrying stores and ammunition and carrying for Tunnelling Coys. On the night of 14 June, the village was bombarded with light and heavy shell and there were 6 casualties.”

Captain George McGowan, 90 Brigade Signals Officer wrote

“The roads leading to the front line were packed from early morning to early morning with transport stretching miles back, bringing ammunition and stores. Working parties were hard at it day and night trench digging, cable burying, laying waterpipes, digging gun pits and dugouts and carrying scores of other fatigues necessary to ensure success.”

18/6/16 The Battalion was relieved and marched to Etineham Camp. After a few hours rest, the march was resumed to the railhead at Heilly. The Battalion then moved by train to the training area at Briquemesnil, where it remained until 28 June.

Captain McGowan wrote (after returning from leave)

“We had a week amongst such turmoil, then we, as a brigade, left the line by train for the training area. There is a large area here, mapped out with trenches, representing no man’s land, the Boche trenches beyond and a plan of the village of Montauban itself, which we are to capture and hold, all to scale as obtained by aerial photographs. Trenches, streets, etc are marked with names that we shall christen them when we get across there and here the Brigade goes en bloc each day, to practice step by step (in accordance with the timetable fixed for the actual day) our part in the big offensive.”

The attack was successfully practised for several days, including, on one occasion, entirely without officers.

22/6/16 Tom was paid 5 francs.

25/6/16 Battalion orders were issued for the forthcoming attack:-

Formation of the attack

At 60 minutes after Zero hour, the Battalion would leave assembly trenches south of Cambridge Copse on a line “with its right on the track running 30 yards west of SapA92 in our own front line, through the west edge of Glatz Redoubt and then due North to Montauban, its left on the line parallel to and 150 yards west of that track.”

Nettoyeurs

Mopping-up operations would be undertaken by 5 platoons of 2nd Batt, Royal Scots Fusiliers, whose duties were to clear the enemy out of communication trenches, dugouts, cellars, etc.

Trench Bridges and Trench Ladders

Bridges and ladders were to be dumped along the assembly trenches. “At 30 minutes, these ladders will be placed in position in the trenches at the rate of 3 per two sections. Prior to the attack, troops should cut steps in the sides of the trenches to facilitate climbing out. 5 minutes before Zero, the Battalion will place trench bridges over the trenches we occupy.”

Stokes Mortar Battery

“2 guns will follow behind the last wave of 17th Manchesters and be at the disposal of the O.C.”

Artillery

At 2 hours after Zero, the artillery barrage was to be directed onto Montauban Southern Trench and Montauban Alley, in front of the village. At 2 hours 26 minutes, the barrage would lift off the village and move north. “If the advance gets ahead of time, infantry must wait where they are until the barrage in front lifts.”

Assault on the Village

“The greatest efforts must be made by Coys to force their way through the village to the strong points and portions of perimeter assigned to them for defence and re-organise and consolidate there as soon as possible. Undue delay in house to house fighting will be fatal to the plans of the Brigade. Fighting in dugouts and cellars must be left to the Nettoyeur platoons. O.C. Coys will issue strict orders that none of their men take upon themselves the role of Nettoyeurs.”

Advanced Detachment

“Two sections and one Lewis gun and an officer will be pushed on by O.C. “A” Coy to Triangle Point. Sub-sections of bombers will also be attached to this party. The duty of this party is to guard Montauban from any enemy attack from the direction of north, north east or east and also to block Montauban Alley from attack from north east.”

Policing

Brigade orders stated that “Trench Police will take all possible steps to turn back stragglers.”

Prisoners

“All prisoners of war will be handed over to 2nd Batt RSF. Escorts should never exceed 10% of prisoners and slightly wounded men will be used for this purpose when possible.”

Equipment

“O.C. Coys will take steps to ensure that rifles, ammunition, grenades, wire cutters, equipment, etc are collected from casualties ……….and sent to the rear or used as required.

Wounded men who are capable of walking must make it a point of honour to get back with their equipment and rifles to the dressing station.”

Signal Flags

“Coy and platoon flags will only be carried by “A” and “B” Coys and will only be waved on reaching the line of Southern Trench (NOTE: to denote their position to artillery). On no account will these flags be stuck in the ground and officers must be very careful that flags are never left behind.”

Water

“All water bottles must be full at the moment of advance from the Assembly trenches. All ranks must be made to realise the necessity of exercising the utmost economy in the use of their drinking water. On arriving in Montauban, officers will ensure no-one uses the wells for drinking purposes until they have been satisfactorily tested.”

29/6/16 About 8pm, 8th Company, 6th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, received orders to relieve troops in the front line in front of Montauban. Leutnant Josef Busl, commanding 3 Platoon, wrote in the official regimental history “On the previous night, I had re-established communications with the front line by means of a patrol and under the heaviest artillery fire”. The situation was no better on the 29th .After receiving provisions in the quarry at Montauban, they moved slowly forward: “The company reached the position about 5.30am after an extremely exhausting march through heavy artillery and machine gun fire. This had been hit by constant fire and the trenches were, in places, demolished, the sniper posts scarcely of any use. The platoon had use of only 3 – 4 dugouts. Although our men were exhausted due to the continuous over exertions and privations, the necessary clear-up started immediately. On the evening of the 30th, another dugout was crushed with the loss of 8 men. As far as rations were concerned, only coffee could be fetched owing to the constant heavy fire.”

30/6/16 2nd Lt Kenneth Callan-Macardle, “B” Coy, wrote

“ Tonight’s the night. Tomorrow is “Der Tag”. Only 4 officers per company are to go over but, although I missed all the wonderful training the other 7 had, still I am to go in with the Company - Oh blessed Adjutant McDonald.. The others have done it over and over again – stormed the trenches, taken Montauban and Glatz a dozen times down at Picquigny – where it is all marked out with flags and shallow trenches, exactly to scale. They know every house (as it was before we bombarded the village with 12-inch shells. They know every yard, where every man is to go and they have passed most of it on to me. Tonight, in the dark, we assemble – brigades and brigades and more and more brigades. Tomorrow in the pale dawn we go over the lid. We, the 17th, will take Montauban.”

At 7.40pm, the Battalion, along with the rest of 90th Brigade, was ordered to its assembly trenches, south of Cambridge Copse, to the north west of Maricourt. Brigade orders had been issued that the march must be carried out in absolute silence and with a distance of 300 yards between companies. The trenches had been dug in two lines on the reverse slope of a slight rise, out of sight of machine gun and rifle fire. The Battalion reached the trenches at about 10pm. Officers were ordered to “impress on all ranks that the use of the word “retire” is absolutely forbidden and, if heard, can only be a ruse of the enemy and must be ignored. Wounded enemy or enemy showing the white flag must be covered with the rifle until their hands are up and it is plain that they have no intention of treachery.”

Lt Callan-MacArdle wrote

“90th Brigade marched out of Eteinham and arrived without a casualty at the assembly trenches in Cambridge Copse about 7 miles away. As we marched out, young Victor Godfrey of the RSF joined me and we went up together. I had only seen him once since those pleasant days at Picquigny in the spring so we had a lot to talk about. He talked a lot about a girl 6 years older than himself whom he wanted to marry.”

“Zero” hour for an attack was to be 7.00 the next morning. 90th Brigade, with 16th Battalion on the left, 17th on the right, the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers in support and 18th Manchesters in reserve, would form part of the second wave. Its objective was to overlap the first wave, which had responsibility for taking the German front line trench, and capture the village of Montauban itself.

Lt Callan-MacArdle wrote

“We had a comfortless night in the assembly trenches for they were very crowded and there was no room to sit down. It was cold and the morning broke with a chill white mist on the ground over which the sun shone turning the white and yellow balls of shrapnel smoke all pink.”

1st JULY 1916 - MONTAUBAN

ADVANCE

“A” & “B” Coys formed the front line. Leaving the assembly trenches in the second wave at 8.30, the advance was at a slow walk, in formation of lines of half platoons in file, over about 3000 yards. In addition to ordinary equipment, each man in the leading companies carried 220 rounds of ammunition in 2 bandoliers, 2 grenades, 4 sandbags, a waterproof sheet and rations for 2 days and an issue of Iron Ration. Bombers also carried a canvas bag containing an additional 10 grenades. The Battalion had also issued some 250 pairs of wirecutters, - most being carried by “A” and “B” Coys.

Each man had a yellow patch and a shiny metal disc sewn to his back so artillery observers could note his position.

For the first 100 yards of the advance, the lie of the land meant that almost no hostile fire was seen. After about quarter of a mile, the C.O. Lt Col. Johnson was wounded and command passed to the adjutant, Major MacDonald. The ground was badly cut up and the going was difficult. The German trenches in front of Montauban had been so battered by artillery that scaling ladders were not required, as the artillery fire had cut wire entanglements. Capt Ford, commanding “A” Coy was killed near the German front line.

2nd Lt Callan-MacArdle wrote

“The German shells littered the battlefield with dead and wounded: all around us and in front, men dropped or staggered about. A yellow mass of Lydite shrapnel would burst high up and a section in two formation would crumple up and be gone. “A” Coy was in front of us, advancing in sections, with about 20 paces between blobs, in perfect order at a slow walk.”
“Next came a carrying party of Scots and then our Company. We were one and quarter miles from Montauban and between us and that heavily wooded village every inch of ground was churned up and pitted with shell holes. It was impossible even to locate the enemy’s front line; his second was an irregular ditch, all craters and newly turned earth.”
“We advanced in artillery formation at a slow walk, guiding our sections so as to avoid those who had already been hit and lay wounded or dead on the battlefield. We could not stop to help as men crawling back smiled ruefully trying to keep back blood, which oozed through their fingers. We would call a cheery word as we went on our way to Montauban.”

Lance Corporal Frederick Heardman, “B” Company, wrote in 1968

“Waiting overnight, inactive, waiting for zero hour was, for me, more unnerving that actually going across no man’s land. There was so much to occupy one’s mind when on the move, in spite of the horrible sights and one’s pals dropping on each side of you. I believe the very feeling that you were still alive as you went on yard by yard (if you had the luck) left no room for the same thoughts of approaching death when low in the front line trench waiting for the word “Go”.

(NOTE: Frederick Heardman recounted his experiences, in 1968, for the book The First Day on the Somme. Some extracts were published. He notes that his rank of Lance Corporal, which he held from 1914 to 1918 was temporary and unpaid! In July 1916, he was Company Storeman in “B” Company.)

There were many casualties from a German machine gun in the direction of Mametz at “The Warren”, but the Battalion passed the Alt Trench (in the German second line) by 9.10. The advance had been so rapid that the infantry had to wait at the Glatz Redoubt for 45 minutes for their own artillery barrage to lift from the north of the village. The German machine gun would be destroyed by 16th Battalion about 9.30.

In unpublished notes for the book "The First Day on the Somme," Private 8524 F J Day, “C” Coy, recounted that about three quarters of the way to Montauban, he was wounded with a bullet through the leg. Unable to walk, he rested in a shell hole for a couple of hours. He then dragged himself to a road where, with the assistance of a French woman, he got to a dressing station.

(NOTE: after the war, Private Day returned to work in the textile industry with his employer Barlow & Jones. In a letter of 28 June 1968 to the author of “The First Day on the Somme”, written from his home at 48 Crossley Road, Burnage, he noted that, at the age of 72, he was still attending Armistice parades and “Old Boys” dinners - although “our ranks are now very thin”.)

Lance Corporal Heardman

“On our way over, when German machine gun fire was dropping our men by the hundred, we came to a sunken road and we halted in it for cover - though it was wrong to do so. The same old zero hour feeling came over me again - time to fear and think of death, of which we had just seen so much. Fortunately our CQMS T.J. Short, who had served his time as a regular with the Coldstream Guards, came along and very quickly did the necessary rallying and urged us on with his great shouts of what I might call “cheerful command”. He was twice the age of most of us if not all and the most heroic.”

Lt Callan-MacArdle wrote

“The ground was so rough and broken with shell holes that when I lay down under our barrage, I found myself ahead of the first line – I had four men left. The 17th had advanced too quickly. We had done it all at the slowest walk and been quite unchecked – so we lay down for forty minutes, under the shells, waiting. Waiting is hard. We were to rush the village at 9:56.

The time came. I was watching “A” Coy to see them rise and the seconds ticked on. I hailed a sergeant and asked him, shouting in his ear, where his officers were. “All gone, Sir”, he shouted back.

I caught a glimpse of young Wain, his face haggard with pain, one leg soaked with blood, smoking a cigarette and pushing himself forward with a stick. His voice was full of sobs and tears of pain and rage. “Get up you …….s. Blast your souls – get up”. I waved to him and he smiled and dropped – he knew it was not absolutely up to him any longer. We of “B” Coy took over, for he was the last of “A” Coy officers and their Sergeant Major was also killed. We were enfiladed from our left (where another battalion had failed to advance) by machine gun and rifle fire.”

Leutnant Busl, of the 6th Bavarians, wrote

“From 5am there was heavy artillery and mortar fire on our positions and again a dugout collapsed. At about 6am, we also thought we detected gas. However, the gas masks could soon be taken off. At shortly after 7am, the infantry attack began. While the enemy made some advances on the flanks, he was held up for a long time by our frontal wire. After I was wounded at 8.30am, Dratz took command of the platoon, assisted by one of the few remaining NCOs, Lob, of the Left Section. He, in particular, was able to keep up lively fire until after 10.15am. In some positions, where the barrage had torn great gaps in the wire, the enemy managed to penetrate. Our men attacked them with hand grenades and eventually succeeded in holding them at bay. However, the platoon stood at breaking point owing to the superior English forces, since, in the meantime, of it’s 6 NCOs and 56 men, about two thirds had fallen.”

TAKING THE VILLAGE

At 10.05, the 17th finally moved on from the Glatz Redoubt. Although the pace was at best a methodical walk, the men were well up with their own barrage. Gradually, succeeding platoons became mixed with those in front and the Brigade’s attack came to resemble one dense mass of soldiers. Major MacDonald’s official report stated that “At 10am approximately, the barrage lifted on to the north end of Montauban and the attack continued. Shells were still falling short of Montauban on our left flank during the advance up the southern slope. By this time, the first four waves had practically amalgamated. At the point when the advance was resumed, the rear waves were held up by a wide trench, which could only be crossed at one or two points, and traffic in the trench was obstructed by a downward flow of prisoners. The result was that the rear waves became intermingled and had to shake out again on emerging from the trench. The general appearance of the Battalion now was two large waves at a distance of 400 yards.”

Lance Corporal Heardman recounted

“So on we went facing the incessant machine gun fire. Our grand artillery had previously well and truly pounded the German front line but had apparently not penetrated all their very deep dug-outs out of which the machine gunners came as we approached and our artillery had ceased fire. Our men were dropping down everywhere. It was all like a bad dream. I well remember coming face to face with a great big German, who had come up unexpectedly out of a shell hole. He had his rifle and bayonet at the ready. So had I, but mine suddenly felt only the size of a small boy’s play gun and my steel helmet shrank to the size of a small tin lid. Then, almost before I had time to realise what was happening, the German threw his rifle and bayonet down, put up his arms and shouted “camerad”. I could hardly believe my eyes. He said “Englisch”. I nodded “Yaa” He pointed over my head and said also “Englisch” again. I nodded and he bolted on towards our supports. They preferred to be captured by British troops.”

The British barrage, which had played on Montauban and the trenches to its south, now lifted to north of the village. A few German survivors were already fleeing.

Within the wreckage of the village, small groups of German troops still remained, but proved unable to bring any concentrated rifle or machine gun fire on the men now advancing on them. By 10.20, the first wave entered the village under Capt. Madden, who had pushed forward from “C” Coy, after most of the officers of the leading companies had fallen. By 10.30. the Battalion had quickly advanced through the village. There was very little fight left in the remaining Germans and around 100 surrendered. Private A A Bell recounted (in the book The First Day on the Somme)

“When I got to the far end of Montauban, I laid down and fired at a retreating gun team who were dragging their gun away by a rope. I remember adjusting my aim for the weight of the bayonet, as taught.”

“A” Coy, captured a German communication trench in an orchard, east of the village, facing Bernafray Wood.

Major MacDonald’s official report of the attack on the village stated

“There was no opposition to the entry. Bombing parties proceeded to clear NORD and TRAIN ALLEY and a communication trench in an orchard. The enemy met with in these places surrendered without opposition and the leading waves pushed through the town. The rear waves, consisting partly of carrying parties arrived in rather an exhausted state, due chiefly to their desire to be “in at the finish”. The town was practically deserted and was completely in ruins. It was almost impossible to trace the run of streets. All enemy met with surrendered immediately. The Coys then proceeded to their allotted places in the previously arranged defence scheme - “A” Coy to north east, “B” Coy to south east, “C” Coy to Strong Point C and “D” Coy to Strong Point B. About 100 of the enemy were seen streaming northwards along the road to Bazentin-Le-Grand. A party of about 40 endeavoured to rally and organised a small counter attack but this attempt was broken up by rapid fire.”

The Battalion then pushed forward through the village and, by late morning, some of “A” Coy had reached their objective as far forward as a position at the northern end of Montauban Alley, known as Triangle Point. This would be the furthest advance in XIII Corps area that day.

Lt Callan-MacArdle wrote

“Inside all was wreck and ruin, a monstrous garbage heap, stinking of dead men and high explosive. Down in deep dugouts, a few of which had survived our heavy shells (for the Hun builds perfect dugouts), cowering men in grey were captured, living with old corpses. A colonel and staff of 6 officers were captured in one, which was fitted with electric light and a push bell. Large parties of Bosch, laughing and dancing like demented things full of mad joy, went streaming back to Maricourt, unguarded, holding their hands up and calling “Mercy, Cammerad”. They had thrown away their equipment and arms and looked utterly demoralised in filthy and stinking grey uniforms. The village was full of the terrors and horrors of war; dying Germans among the brick dust and rubble; horrible wounds and reeking corpses.”

Private 9228 Edmund Conroy, “C” Coy, wrote in 1968 (in unpublished notes for the book The First Day on the Somme)

“Upon entering Montauban, I was told by a wounded officer to take charge of all the barbed wire coming up. He was bleeding rather badly from a head wound. This was close by the well in the centre of the main street. A German soldier was sitting with his back to one of the buildings, alive but one leg off. This is of note because he was still sitting there and alive the next day when I left wounded. About this time, I asked about my brother Lance Corporal Ernest Conroy, “A” Coy, 9143 and was told he had been badly wounded in one of his legs. He afterward was evacuated to England (Notts County War Hospital) and died there. We began to dig in at the corner of Main Street and a road leading in to the German lines. Four of us held this corner until the afternoon of the second of July against the usual counter attacks.”

DIGGING IN

Machine gun fire was opened on the village immediately on the Battalion’s entry and, at midday, the Germans began to shell the village with 15cm and 75mm shells. Adequate trenches were impossible to construct given the soft nature of the soil. Major MacDonald’s official report noted

“Parties were set to work at once to consolidate strong points and the perimeter. The digging of trenches was very difficult owing to the fact that the village was a mass of shell holes and loose crumbling earth. The total inadequacy of trenches, in such a soil, was abundantly proved in the next 48 hours.”

“The pre-arranged line of the east side was found to be untenable as it was commanded by direct enfilade from the high ground south of Bazentin-Le-Grand and a new line was taken up…….Practically no dug-out shelters were available for the men and casualties were heavy from the commencement of the bombardment. The enemy was making accurate observation of the village during the whole of our tenancy of it and his shooting was extraordinarily good. No sooner did a working party commence to work on a new bit of trench, than shells rained down on it.”

Lt Callan-MacArdle wrote

“Immediately, we started to consolidate, working like demons. In a short time, scraps of information were coming in from other companies and particulars of our losses. Vaudrey and Ford killed, Kenworthy wounded, the Colonel last seen in a shell hole with the M.O. in attendance.”

“As there was no available dug-out in B Company’s side (the East) of the village, Humphrey, who took over when Vaudrey was killed, had his HQ in a shell hole.”

“We instructed our men to dig holes for themselves under the parapet of Nord Alley, which was about 8 feet wide, but first they had to make fire steps. The trench became littered with dead and wounded. The dying called for water, but there was none. Those in agony asked pitiably for stretchers, but 8 stretcher-bearers had been killed, three stretchers out of four destroyed and the doctor overwhelmed by work. It was, of course, impossible to spare a sound man to help along a broken one as we were standing to for a counter attack. It came; was repulsed and came again and the regiment was crumbling away.”

In unpublished notes for the book The First Day on the Somme, 8624, Sergeant Donald Forbes Hay recounted, in 1968,

“I was one of the Headquarters bombers, so carried extra Mills bombs to add to my load. How did we hump so much stuff, struggle through barbed wire, jump trenches, etc. After reaching our objective, several of us had to nip into a shell crater in advance of our line. We all wanted our water bottles refilled and I volunteered to see to it, but without success - to escape a shellburst I jumped into a trench, leaving five water bottles on the top. When I climbed out, they were “napoo”, so I scrounged four bottles of soda water in a German dug-out to take back to my pals.”

Private Edmund Conroy recounted

“During the early afternoon, we were shelled with 5.9s. One of these dropped on our position and killed Maurice Roberts, 9218, on my shoulder and wounded and buried me. The other two chaps were unharmed and proceeded to dig me out and carry me to the dressing station where I became unconscious. As I came to again, the sight of the German doctor working over the wounded in the wire beds in the dug-out (awaiting evacuation), my first thoughts were that I had been captured, but when I saw own MO, I felt a little better. Because of the shortage of ambulances, I was told that my best chance was to try to make it back with the walking wounded which I did. I will never forget the motley crowds behind the lines, everybody helping each other.”

(NOTE: Edmund Conroy was born on 31/3/1897. On 11/11/18 he was in Croydon War Hospital with dysentery. After the war, he did not return to his decorator’s job in Manchester, but emigrated to the USA to become a college student. In 1968 he was living at 315 Rock O’ Dundee Road, South Dartmouth, Massachusetts)

THE NIGHT AND THE NEXT DAY

At 9.30pm, the Germans, including 6 Bayerisches Reserve Infanterie-Regiment, launched a counter attack from the position of what is now Quarry Cemetery. They rushed up the slope but, by 10.15, they had been beaten back by rifle and machine gun fire. Heavy German shelling continued throughout the night.

Major MacDonald’s report continued

“At night, when work was able to proceed unobserved, the eastern side of the village was shelled with impartiality and was searched from north to south in a very thorough fashion. Evidently, the most methodical arrangements had been made for rendering the village uninhabitable - special attention being paid to strong points B and C and the middle of the orchard on the east side. Battalion Headquarters were established in a well-constructed dug-out just south of strong point B and a dressing station in a good cellar just in rear. Fortunately, both these shelters withstood the bombardment.”

“Throughout the operations our own artillery support was all that could be desired. Retaliation was almost invariably prompt. At the same time, they failed to silence the enemy batteries, which were causing us such heavy losses. Barrages were always prompt and effective. It was noticeable that when an aeroplane was making observations, the enemy’s artillery fire almost ceased. This gave us two lulls of half an hour each in the course of our tenure of the village. Possibly, if an aeroplane had been kept in continual observation, casualties might have been reduced and hostile batteries might have been located.”

The situation was so precarious that the soldiers “stood to” at their firing positions throughout the night, with their remaining ammunition laid out on the parapet in front of them. They were in great distress through thirst, not having had the opportunity to fill their water bottles since the evening of the 30 June.

Major MacDonald’s official report noted that

“At 3.15am on the 2nd, the detached post in Montauban Alley, near Triangle Point, was attacked and bombed out. They held out until their supply of bombs was exhausted and then endeavoured to retire - only 3 got back, two of whom were wounded.”

“Germans, to the number of 100, then massed on the west side of the Montauban to Bazentin-Le-Grand road , just north of Montauban Alley. One platoon of “C” Coy advanced up under Capt. Madden and took up a position on the road, just east of Valley Trench. Artillery were informed and the enemy suffered heavy casualties from shrapnel and rapid rifle fire. They then dashed into Montauban Alley. The heavies opened on Montauban Alley and the enemy became demoralised and dashed back across the road to the dead ground towards Longueval. They also suffered casualties from the platoon across the road.”

“Some of them remained in Montauban Alley and a bombing party was sent up to bomb them out. This party could not get near enough owing to the barrage by the heavies. The relief of the 16th Manchesters, on the left, interrupted the operations and the Company of Wilts undertook the clearance of Montauban Alley.”

Lt Callan-MacArdle wrote

“We held on in spite of determined counter-attacks. For 60 hours, I had no sleep and all I had eaten was a handful of prunes and two biscuits. Day and night we were shelled by heavy guns, shooting on a known target and their aim was accurate. We lost very heavily. Sproat was killed, blown to pieces and several men were buried in the trench as they were digging. In my platoon, Sgt. Butterworth was killed and four men badly wounded by a shell, reducing our numbers to four men with no NCO. And still I haven’t been touched.”

“All day and all night, the hail of shells continued. In the narrow streets, the shriek, the all-powerful thud and the rending crash went on. We got tired of the shock of their explosions which made us reel and feel dizzy and numbed. We got sick of the reek of high explosive, synonymous with dead and broken men. Our feeling of triumph faded and when the first night and day were gone and the second night began, we were silent and grim and - yes - a little afraid. At least, we had got to longing for a relief, to hating the endless shattering of shells, to receiving news of fresh casualties among our dwindling force with a weary shrug.”

“Of course, we knew Montauban was safe; we would keep Montauban. But every time a pallid runner came down the trench or over the top and handed me a note I wondered was it to say “Lt Humphries is killed, you are in command of the Company.” “The enemy is in Montauban”.”

“Of course, I would not mind taking over the Company if old Humph were just out of action with a cushy wound. I would not mind the Bosch being in Montauban - not if we could get up and hurl him out again. But as I surveyed a very crumbly Company and a very big line to hold, I realised I was very tired and done.”

An entry in a German officer’s diary stated that

“the 6th Bavarian Reserve Regiment, which on the morning of 1 July, was thrown into Montauban, has been completely destroyed. Of 3500 men, only 500 remained and these are, for the most part, men who had not taken part in the battle, plus two regimental officers and a few stragglers who turned up the following day. All the rest are dead wounded or missing. The regimental staff and battalion staff have all been captured in their dugouts.”

Major MacDonald’s report concluded that

“It was found impossible to establish any system of communication north of Battalion HQ, except by runner. Communication with the rear was obtained sometimes by wire, sometimes by visual means and was practically uninterrupted.”

“Nothing was seen of the attached Royal Engineers parties who were detailed to assist in consolidation of strong points. Communication with the Machine Gun Company was not entirely satisfactory. 2 guns were placed in position on the northern perimeter of east orchard under the orders of O.C. machine Gun Company; of the other 2 guns, nothing was seen. A sergeant of the Stokes Mortar Battery reported at Battalion HQ about midday on the 1st and was shown the position (strong point C) to which to take his guns,. He returned to Keep “A” to bring up his guns but nothing further was seen of the party.”

3/7/16 RELIEF

The Battalion was relieved, at 3 am, after 60 hours without sleep, by the 12th Battalion, Royal Scots, and withdrew to Bronfay Farm, Carnoy. Out of 900, 8 officers and 340 other ranks were casualties (of whom, 127 were fatalities).

Lance Corporal Heardman recounted the relief by the Royal Scots “who as good as said “come on lads, get out of it. It’s our town now, you’ve done your whack.” The few of us that were left in our sector ambled back and I am afraid I could not possibly write of the heartbreaking sights that faced us. 30th June 1916 was my 21st birthday.”

Lt Callan-MacArdle wrote

“We were relieved in a hurricane of shells. We trailed out wearily and crossed the battlefield down trenches choked with the dead of ourselves and our enemies – stiff, yellow and stinking – the agony of a violent death in their twisted fingers and drawn faces. There were arms and things on the parapets and in trees. Shell holes with 3 or 4 in them. The dawn came as we reached again the assembly trenches in Cambridge Copse. From there, we looked back at Montauban, the scene of our triumph, where we, the 17th Battalion, temporary soldiers and temporary officers every one that went in, had added another name to the honours on the colours of an old fighting regiment of the line - not the least of the honours on it.”

“A molten sun slid up over a plum coloured wood, on a mauve hill shading down to grey. In a vivid flaming sky, topaz clouds with golden edges floated, the tips of shell-stricken bare trees stood out over a sea of billowing white mist, the morning light was golden. We trudged wearily up the hill but not unhappy. All this world was ever dead to Vaudrey and Kenworthy, Clesham, Sproat, Ford and the other ranks we did not know how many. Vaudrey used to enjoy early morning parades. Clesham loved to hunt back in Africa when the veldt was shimmering with the birth of a day.”

“On the Peronne Road, I met McGregor of the RSF. I asked about Godfrey, Young Victor was killed - his problem of marriage to a woman six years his senior finally settled.”

“In Bellon Wood, on our way to our rendezvous at Bronfray Farm, we got water from the gunners who had moved heavy guns up there. There were already 18-pounders in Montauban.”

Sergeant Forbes Hay was still pinned down in a shell hole. He recounted that “We were there so long that we didn’t know that we had been relieved and when I did find my unit, way back, I was informed that I’d been reported missing.”

Subsequently, the Battalion was relieved to “Happy Valley”, a bivouac camp off the Bray/Albert road. The weather conditions were reported as “vile”, owing to the heavy rain, which flooded the men out of their bivouacs.

Lt Callan-MacArdle wrote

“At Happy Valley, a bivouac was arranged for us and breakfast. We ate enormously, washed the worst of the grime away and slept for hours. Our reception was enthusiastic. The Brigadier has wired General Shay, the Divisional Commander “90th Brigade has taken Montauban in drill formation”. The highest possible praise. We were welcomed and praised and warmly shaken by the hand and the sun kissed away the ravages of our ordeal.”

Capt. Edmund Fearenside was awarded the DSO for his actions during the attack. The citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led two companies of re-enforcements over some 1800 yards of open ground swept by machine gun fire into a village. He rallied his men and organised a further attack. He displayed the greatest coolness and courage.”

Capt. John Madden was also awarded the DSO. His citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry in action. When the leading waves of attack were wavering after losing most of their officers, he pushed forward, rallied the men and led them into the village. Later he organised and led a party which repelled a counter attack.”

(NOTE: The body of 2nd Lt Victor Godfrey, 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers was not subsequently recovered and identified . His name is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. He was aged 20).

2nd Lt Richard Wain, “A” Coy, was promoted to Captain and, on 20/11/17, was attached to “A” Battalion, Royal Tank Corps. He was killed leading his squadron in an action for which he received the Victoria Cross. He was aged 33. His name is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing.

The three Company Commanders killed that day are buried in Dantzig Alley CWGC Cemetary. Reginald Ford, “A” Coy, was 28. Norman Vaudrey, “B” Coy, was 33. His brother died on 2/5/16 serving with the 1st Battalion in Iraq. Stanley Kenworthy, “D” Coy, was aged 32.

Commemorations on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing include Sgt William Butterworth, aged 24, “B” Coy , Lt Callan-MacArdle’s platoon; 2nd Lt Thomas Clesham, aged 34; 9218 Lance Corporal Maurice Roberts, “C” Coy, aged 33 and Lt Gerald Sproat, aged 22. Lt Sproat’s brother, James, was killed on 11 July serving with the 17th Battalion, Kings (Liverpool) Regiment. His name is also inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial.)

4/7/16 In a letter home to his mother, 2nd Lt Alan Holt, “A” Coy, wrote

“This is just to let you know that I am still in the land of the living. By now you will have heard that the regiment has covered itself with glory and captured a most important village. I was kept in reserve with eight other subalterns and the senior major and I am sorry to say that I am now the only officer left in the company. Two others - one of which was my captain - being killed and the other was wounded. But it was a famous victory and I envy those who share the honour of it.

I should be very glad for a few Turkish or Egyptian cigarettes as we have been unable to get anything but Woodbines for some time.

With much love and XXXX from

Alan”

6/7/16 Lt Callan-MacArdle wrote

“We are still in Happy Valley in bivouac. The valley is soaked with rain and sloppy with mud. We are on short rations and have neither bath nor bed. General Shay has wired “Well done, 90th Brigade. You will attack again soon.” We are about 400 strong today - we who went in 800.”

(In the period from the start of the attack on 1 July to 7 July, the following soldiers died: Sgt Percy Amos, Ptes Rowland Atkinson, Tom Barnfield, L/Cpl A Barrett, Ptes L Bayley, Arthur Bennett, L/Cpl Albert Bennett, Cpl Charles Berrisford, L/Cpls Thomas Bickerton, Harold Blount, Ptes George Blundell, James Boardman, L/Sgt James Braznell, Pte Harry Brierley, Sgt George Bruckshaw, Pte Henry Burns, Sgt William Butterworth, Ptes Frank Byrne, Harry Cawley, John Chambers, Joseph Clark, Edwin Clarke, 2nd Lt Thomas Clesham, L/Cpl William Crossley, Ptes Alfred Davis, William Dunn, Charles Eaton, Emrys Edwards, Charles Elliott, Robert Ellis, L/Cpl E Falla, Ptes Edward Fawkes, C Felstead, Ernest Flower, Capt Reginald Ford, Ptes Richard French, William Griffiths, A Hallworth, Abraham Hansell, Frederick Harding, George Hardman, Cpl Sidney Hare, Ptes Albert Harrison, Harry Hayes, James Heywood, Charles Higgins, John Higgins, Walter Hilton, W Hobson, Sgt John Hobson, Pte John Holmes, L/Cpl James Holt, Ptes Alfred Hooley, William Houseman, Joseph Howard, Herbert Howarth, Charles Huntback, Charles Hurst, L/Cpl Frank Jackson, Sgt Mark Jackson, L/Cpl J James, Ptes Arthur Johnson, Cpl Alexander Johnstone, Ptes Lewis Jones, Mathew Kemp, Capt Stanley Kenworthy, Ptes L Kenyon, Bernard Kimber, H Knowlson, William Langshaw, George Lindsay, Stanley Marsden, Sgt Thomas Marsden, Ptes Norman Mendes, Willoughby Mills, L/Cpl C Mitton, Pte Herbert Moores, L/Cpl Leonard Norton, 2nd Lt William Orford, Ptes Richard Owens, J Peat, Thomas Pendlebury, James Pickthall, William Preston, Cpl John Quinn, Ptes Ralph Rain, Norman Ramsden, L/Cpl Albert Remmos, Sgt John Reynolds, Pte James Riley, L/Cpl Maurice Roberts, Ptes Richard Robinson, George Rodger, Drummer Albert Rothwell, Ptes Joseph Rothwell, Reuban Schofield, Walter Scott, William Scott, L/Cpl Tom Sharples, Pte Charles Shaw, Sgt Frederick Sidwell, Pte Harry Simpson, L/Cpl George Smith, Pte John Smith, Lt Gerald Sproat, Sgt Donald Stablefold, Ptes Richard Starkie, Ptes A Tabbron, Peter Taylor, George Thomas, L/Cpl James Thomson, Ptes William Toole, Cyril Trueman, Sgt James Turner, Ptes Leonard Turner, Charles Tweddle, Capt Norman Vaudrey, Ptes Richard Viggers, Percy Wade, Frederic Waldron, Cpl Gilbert Wallwork, Ptes William Walton, J Weilding, Sgt Tom Whatmough, Ptes William Whelan, George Whitehead, Joseph Whitworth, Sgt F Wilkinson, Ptes Stanley Wood, Robert Woolford, George Woolrich, Cpl Arthur Worrall)

TRONES WOOD

8/7/16 At 4:00pm, the Battalion was ordered to assembly trenches at Oxford Copse, Maricourt, with a reduced strength of 20 officers and 434 Other Ranks. In a letter to his parents, dated 12 July, 2nd Lt Alan Holt wrote “ We got half an hour’s notice to move about 2 miles behind the line which we did and spent the night there in the open.”

9/7/16 - 11/7/16 At 1:00am, the troops were ordered forward to communication trenches in the old “no mans land” at the Briqueterie and then to the Glatz Redoubt. The official report noted that the wrong guides had been sent and that, as a consequence, the Battalion had been taken on a long detour. “A” Coy was detailed to link up with a South African Company, holding the western half of a trench from the north east of Bernafray Wood to the north west of Trones Wood. The attack was timed for 3:00am, but the men were greatly hampered by gas shells and the misting of their eyepieces in the damp atmosphere. Consequently, their advance across the ground between Bernafray and Trones Woods took place some 3 hours after it was planned.

Private William Speakman recounted

“We marched to the line during the night and found ourselves in a long communication trench. I reckon it was just before dawn and quite dark when the Germans started to shell us with gas shells. At that time, we had the old gas masks made of grey material with two round pieces of glass to see through, but soon got steamed up and a rubber tube to put in our mouths to breathe. We had the gas mask on quite a long time and, in some cases affected the skin on some of the chaps’ faces. Just before day break, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I was given an enamel cup which I was told to drink. To my surprise, it was rum. This was the first time I had tasted alcohol. The Germans must have sent quite a lot of gas shells because we were all thirsty. But the next thing we heard was the whistle for us to go over the top - it was terrible.”

(Note: William Speakman gave this account for the book The First Day on the Somme, in 1968. It was not published and the description appears to relate more to the events of 9 July and is, therefore, included here.)

For the first 200 yards of the attack, there was no incident. It was now 6:40 and a bright summer morning. The Battalion came under heavy shellfire and, at about 7.15, rushed the enemy trench, which was an irregular shallow trench along the western edge of the wood. The enemy quickly evacuated with some escaping, though many were killed or captured. The official report noted that “on the way up, the Central trench and dug-outs in the wood were carried without difficulty by bombing”. The Battalion passed through Trones Wood, reaching its eastern border at approximately 8:00. Battalion HQ was established in Central Trench. The four companies were deployed along the northern and eastern edges of the wood. The official report states that the Battalion was fired on by hostile artillery fire from the north, north east and east. The strongest fire was from the north and east and was described as “terrific”.

It proved to be impossible to make contact with the South Africans who were believed to be north of the Wood in Longueval Trench. A reconnaissance party looking for them did, however, kill and capture some Germans. The Germans re-inforced and the recce. party retired.

Soon after midday, the Germans organised a systematic shelling of the Wood. The shellfire made movement impossible and, in anticipation of a prolonged wait before relief, the water bottles and rations of the dead were collected. In the centre of the wood, disorientated clusters of men wandered in a dazed confusion among the crashing timber and suffocatingly thick fumes of cordite. Due to the number of casualties, the Battalion could not hold the entire length of the Wood. At around 3pm, there was a counter-attack. The official report states that the O.C. “finding his right flank now in the air (N.B. O.C. 18th Manchesters states that his company had withdrawn) ordered a withdrawal on Bernafray Wood. This was carried out along Trones Alley.”

Unfortunately, one detachment of approximately 40 men, which the order failed to reach, was left in the Wood and was overwhelmed after stout resistance. All were killed or captured.

2nd Lt Kenneth Callan-MacArdle was one of the men killed in the Wood. His body was never identified and his name is inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. He was 26.

The official report continued

“Finding the trench on eastern edge of Bernafray Wood congested, half of the Battalion was sent to Sunken Road - O.C. informed Brigadier that losses had compelled him to withdraw. Fearful shelling on eastern edge of Bernafray Wood. The other half was sent, on initiative of O.C., to Glatz Redoubt, with orders to report to Officer Commanding on the spot.”

The withdrawal was completed by 5pm. At about 5.30, the Commanding Officer of the 17th was injured in the back and leg by a shell burst.

(NOTE: The official report is not signed and the Officer Commanding is not recorded elsewhere. Capt. J Madden is, however, the senior officer reported to be wounded so it is reasonable to assume he was in command.)

At 6pm, orders were received to re-occupy Trones Alley, between Bernafray and Trones Woods and return to Trones Wood. The O.C. sent a message to the Brigade Commander explaining the situation and took no action to comply with the order. At this point, the O.C. ordered Lt Whittall to take command of the Battalion. He went to Brigade HQ to seek clarification, with the result that the orders were cancelled and replaced with orders to collect the whole Battalion at Sunken Road.

The Battalion spent all of 10 July in the sunken lane east of the Briqueterie.

2nd Lt Alan Holt wrote (in the letter home on 12 July)

“We had moved up about a mile and a half over the battlefield of our famous victory of the weekend before and, at dawn, we started to attack the Bois de T….. Well, I cannot tell you all the things that happened in detail. We cleared the Germans out of the wood, taking some prisoners and started to dig ourselves in on the far side, but the shelling was so bad that this became impossible and after spending 8 hours in the wood under intense bombardment, we were forced to withdraw to a new position about 1000 yards back owing to our heavy casualties. Here we spent the night and next day, waiting to give the Boche something if he tried to push through to the south of the wood. Our new position was a road about 10 feet below the level of the fields each side. We dug holes for ourselves in the bank so as to get a little protection from the almost ceaseless hail of shrapnel.”

During the early hours of 11 July, the Battalion was ordered forward to support the 16th and 18th. It only had an effective strength of 100, as numbers had not yet returned from the Glatz Redoubt.

Lt Alan Holt wrote

“At 12 o’clock that night I was ordered to take 50 men forward and occupy a trench 40 yards south of the wood which was then occupied by Germans. It was like it was going to be certain death for every one of us, but we held the trench for three hours before I got a message to retire, which I did, but not without being seen by the enemy, who followed us with a hail of shell. On my way back, I met lines of fresh attacking troops who passed through my line and drove the Germans out again.”

Lt Whittall had also been ordered forward with the remaining 50 troops, to relieve South African infantry in a trench south of Trones Wood. On reaching the trench, he found they had already been relieved, so brought his men back to Advanced Brigade HQ in the Sunken Road.

Sergeant Donald Forbes Hay received multiple gun shot wounds to the head, neck both legs and right foot - a total of 42 separate “foreign bodies.”

(NOTE: Donald Forbes Hay returned to France in 1918 and served as QMS to 7th Light Trench Mortar Battery, 25th Division. He served with a Territorial Searchlight Battery in World War 2. He was 80 on 26 June 1968 and was living at 16 Bedford Avenue, Whalley Range, where he still had a business as a commercial artist.)

A Brigade order to withdraw the Battalion from the front line was issued to Lt Whittall at 2.35am. It read “At 3am, you will withdraw your men to a distance of 200 yards south of the south edge of Trones Wood and lie down in the open. The men will remain there until they get an officer’s order to retire to the Sunken Road. They will then be formed up there and march back to their trench area in Maricourt reporting to the Staff Captain at Chateau Keep.”

The Battalion was then relieved from the action, by 89th Brigade, towards the old British front line trenches near Machine Gun Wood. There had been a loss of 10 officers and 196 other ranks (of whom 40 are fatalities).

In concluding his official report, the O.C. stated that the

“men much shaken by artillery fire. Declare that it was much worse than the attack on Montauban on 1 July. The advanced dressing station had to be withdrawn from Bricqueterie to Glatz Redoubt.”

“During the action, messages were sent by pigeons, asking to silence the hostile artillery. The pigeons, in spite of the bombardment, started off almost at once in right direction. - O.C. Battalion would like to know if they reached their destination.”

Lt Frederick Whittall received a Military Cross for this action. The citation reads “ For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led his company with great dash and, for 24 hours, under heavy shellfire, occupied and improved a line of trenches. On two previous occasions, he had displayed great courage in action.

(Between 9 July and 11 July, the following soldiers died: Pte Walter Ashton, Sgt Gerald Bamford, L/Cpl Thomas Barnett, Ptes William Barrett, John Bennett, Harry Birchall, L/Sgts John Brierley, Stephen Broadmeadow, 2nd Lt Kenneth Callan-Macardle, 2nd Lt Robert Calvert, Cpl Thomas Ellison, Ptes Harold Freeman, John Greenhill, 2nd Lt Malcom Grigg, Ptes Frederick Hassall, Robert Henderson, Thomas Hill, Thomas Hubbard, William Jackson, George Jamieson, Clarence Kelsall, Frank John, John Law, Frank Lear, Sgt Louis Linney, Pte Thomas Prescott, L/Cpl Clifford Rawlinson, Ptes Frank Rule, Leonard Schofield, Frank Smith, Wilfred Smith, John Staley, Arthur Stoddart, Ernest Storer, Albert Taylor, John Tighe, Frederick Walton, Sidney Wilson, Charles Wilton, Wilfrid Wray )

12/7/16 In his letter home written this day, Lt Alan Holt described the attack as going through the biggest experience of his life “I am thankful to say that I am one of the ten remaining officers out of twenty who went into it.” Referring to the troops that relieved the Battalion, he wrote

“I have just learned that they have been counter-attacked and that having inflicted severe losses on the Bosche, they were forced to retire to the line on the south of the wood. We came right back here yesterday and tomorrow we go further back.

The dear old Regiment is now a mere handful, but it has made itself famous. To me now, everything seems like an impossible nightmare.

My thanks for the parcel which was very welcome. Will you please send me my other blanket also a pair of canvas shoes size large seven.

How I wish I had a “Blighty”.

Love and XXXXX to all

from ALAN”

The remaining men of the Battalion further withdrew to Bois Celestins, where it received drafts of 569 NCOs and men. Private A.E. Hall recounted (in the book The First Day on the Somme) “The battalion was then re-organised and brought up to strength from all sources and so ended the era of a battalion composed of the “Clerks and Warehousemen of Manchester”, who so eagerly enlisted early in September 1914. It was never again a “Manchester City Battalion.”

GUILLEMONT

24/7/16 Until 29/7/16, Battalion worked on the preparation of assembly trenches between Bernafray and Trones Wood, in preparation for an attack on Guillemont. Received a further draft of 144 men.

(Between 12 July and 27 July, the following soldiers died: Ptes Cyril Davis, Frank Martin, R Parrott, S Smith)

29/7/16 At about 10pm, the Battalion was ordered to the assembly trenches. between Bernafray and Trones Woods, with the intention of providing support to the 18th Battalion and the 2nd Royal Scots. The 16th Battalion was also in support. Lt Col M Grisewood’s official report states that “There was considerable delay in taking up our positions, several small parties having missed their way owing chiefly to the mist and the darkness of the night and that fact that, at about 11pm, the enemy fired all round the wood a very large number of gas shells, both poison and lachrymatory. This was kept up incessantly till about 4am.”

30/7/16 Lt Col Grisewood’s report continues “At 2.40 am, The Battalion was in position, but nothing had been seen or heard of the 2 Coys of ELSIE who should have been on our left as supports to the attack and it was not until 4 am, just as the attack was beginning, that 2 Machine Guns and 2 Trench Mortars were in position, the remainder having lost their way; after some hours, four other machine guns and three more trench mortars arrived.”

Zero” hour was set for 3:45am and, in spite of dense fog reducing visibility to less than 40 yards, an attack was ordered. “A” and “C” Coys were in the forward assembly trenches awaiting orders. At about 7.15, “A” Coy received orders to re-inforce the attack. They immediately moved forward together with some men of “C” Coy whose platoon had become disorganised. “B” and “D” Coys were then moved forward to the assembly trenches east of Trones Wood.

The officer in command of “A” Coy (not named, but probably Captain Fearenside who has been reported as being in command of “A” and “C” companies in this action) wrote subsequently: -

“ Our orders were that “A” Coy was to support the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers, who were to attack the village. Dawn was just breaking, but there was thick mist everywhere. The Company moved forward in artillery formation, round the south end of Trones Wood until we reached the road. We extended on both sides of the road towards the village – about 1000 yards away. We moved forward until we arrived at a thick barrier of wire, lining the bank of the sunken road, which we found impossible to penetrate. We moved along it to the right until we came to an opening where the Montauban/Guillemont Road cuts through it. We experienced considerable attention from the enemy, rifle fire being opened on us at quite short range. I took a bombing party forward but had not proceeded far when the Germans counter-attacked and caused us to fall back.”

Colonel Grisewood’s report noted that Capt. Fearenside had made

“a gallant attempt to bomb the quarry - a strong point from which heavy machine gun fire was being kept up. This failed. Meanwhile, there was very little cover obtainable; no other troops were in sight with which to co-operate and the men were becoming much shaken. It was decided therefore to retire and what remained of the two companies returned to the line held by the Brigade, running from Arrow Head Copse and some 200 yards east of Trones Wood. here was found “B” and “D” Coys and small parties of the other units of the Brigade.”

“Communication was extremely difficult and could only be obtained by runners. I had only 3 signallers and one instrument with me, the remainder having been wounded or dispersed and missing on our way up.”

“It was not until nearly midday that I could obtain any information of the whereabouts of the various Companies or their progress. I was in touch with ADA by runners but could not obtain communication with any other battalion.”

“As soon as the attack commenced, the enemy put a barrage along the west side of Trones. This was continuous and, at times, intense. Early in the afternoon, I received that portions of all four Companies were in the trenches east of Trones Wood and acting under Col Walsh. During the afternoon, small patrols were sent out to try to get information about MURIEL and ELSIE but without result!!”

“About 10pm, an officer reported that he had been shelled out of the front trench, east of Trones Wood and forced to retire with some 70 - 80 men. Only 12 arrived with him, the rest have disappeared on the way. No touch has been established with any troops on our left and thus it seemed likely that a very considerable gap existed in our line. I collected all available men remaining at HQ and all the men I could find at the Trench Mortar Battery - about 80 in all. They went forward in two parties with three officers and held the line pending the arrival of re-inforcments. By this time, some five machine guns were available and these also were disposed so as to deal with any possibility of the enemy breaking through the line.”

2nd Lt Alan Holt (in a letter to his parents dated 1 August) wrote:-

“At 4am on Sunday morning, we attacked the village of G…….., but unfortunately did not capture it as the Bosche had massed a lot of fresh troops there with the special object of attacking us and winning back some of what he has lost.

I got up to the village in the mist with my men without any casualties but after spending three hours there and losing a lot of men, we were ordered to retire. It was then daylight and the mist had lifted. We had to walk back over 800 yards of open ground and how I got back I don’t know; very few of my men did as we were swept by two machine guns. I got a machine gun bullet through the sole of my foot, another through the holster of my revolver, also a piece of shell which went through the holster and smashed the handle of my revolver on the way. Just as we were leaving the village, I was hit in the back with a small piece of shrapnel, but it is nothing serious and I was able to carry on till the Brigade was relieved on Monday morning. The doctor took the piece out yesterday and I am on duty as usual - more the worse. Some luck, what! We are going back into rest now and it will be some way back as we are going by train.

How I long for a little peace and quiet and to see you all again. Many thanks for your letter, Pa. Please excuse writing as I am doing it on my knee sitting on a box.

Love and XXXXXX

from ALAN”

The Battalion was relieved at 4.30am on 31 July by 9th Battalion, Liverpool Irish Regiment and moved back to Mansell Copse. Casualties that day were 5 officers and 274 other Ranks (of whom 48 were fatalities.)

(Soldiers who died during the previous two days were:Ptes Frank Almond, John Ankers, L/Cpls John Baguley, Walter Beasley, Ptes William Bloor, Thomas Bradley, Sgt Lewis Brownjohn, Ptes Arthur Buckley, Frank Dawson, Harry Fearn, Thomas Finn, Norman Gale, Cpl Walter Gibson, Ptes John Gleave, Walter Goldsborough, Sydney Grundy, Francis Heardman, Harold Hughes, CQMS F Jones, Ptes Fritz Kochy, John Lewis, Sgt H Linfoot, Cpl F Lucas, Ptes William Mason, Daniel Mason, W McEwan, CSM Joseph McMenemy, Pte Thomas McNaboe, 2nd Lt Ralph Miller, Pte Joseph Molloy, L/Cpl E Moores, Pte Thomas Murray, Cpl Bernard Norbury, Ptes John Parkinson, Arthur Philpott, James Power, L/Cpl Frank Robinson, Ptes John Rogan, George Rose, David Sheen, Pte A Sheldon, Sgt W Smith, Ptes M Sugarman, Walter Sykes, Joseph Twynham, Sgt J Upton, Ptes William Welsh, Harry Wilkinson, Patrick Wilson)

AUGUST – SEPTEMBER

2/8/16 The Battalion moved by train to Longpre.

3/8/16 Tom was paid 5 francs.

Around this time, Lt Robert Mansergh was awarded the Military Cross, His citation, dated 26/9/16, reads “When an enemy shell lighted an ammunition store, he and his orderly (Pte A Hall who was awarded the DCM), although they had been knocked over by the explosion, helped to organise a party to remove the ammunition. Continual explosions were taking place around them. Later he assisted to dress and bring in the wounded.”

9/8/16 The Army Commander inspected the Brigade at La Pierriere at 3pm.

Brigade orders issued for the inspection were issued including:-

Brigade will be formed up in the field south of Brigade HQ by 2.30pm today

Brigade will be in close column of Companies

90th Machine Gun Coy and 90th Trench Mortar Battery will be in column of sections, guns will be on parade

DRESS Marching order without packs. Officers will wear Sam Browne belts and carry sticks.

Units will pass through the gate leading on to the parade ground in the following order starting at 1.15pm:-

Brigade Headquarters

2nd Batt Royal Scots Fusiliers

16th Batt Manchester Regiment

17th Batt Manchester Regiment

18th Batt Manchester Regiment

90th Machine Gun Company

90th Trench Mortar Battery

9) Company Commanders will not be mounted.”

11/8/16 The Battalion marched from La Pierriere to Bethune, where it remained for the rest of the month. Tom was paid 10 francs.

12/8/16 90th Brigade commented most adversely to Battalion COs on the march the previous day:-

“1) TURN OUT

Valises were still in many cases badly slung and too full and badly packed. Each unit must without delay settle on a uniform method of packing the valise.

Unauthorised articles such as parcels, packs, etc, were slung on the valise or packed inside it.

The iron ration must be carried with the pack.

- Spoons, forks, etc must not be carried stuck in the puttees. This was particularly noticed in the case of cooks or other detached individuals.

The canteen should either be packed in the valise or carried in some manner uniform throughout the Unit.

Men’s hair must be kept short.

2) MARCH DISCIPLINE

Too many detached parties marching apart from their Units.

Platoon Officers or NCOs who find it necessary to leave their places in the ranks to supervise the march discipline of the men must return to their place as soon as possible.

When platoon commanders pay compliments on the march,words of command must be given in a sufficiently loud voice for every man to hear and comply.

Not more than 5 men shall accompany any vehicle on the march.

3) TRANSPORT

The transport vehicles and animals of the Brigade were  much too heavily laden and packed badly. Covers should not be left hanging loose and rubbing on wheels.

Cookers and water carts carrying unauthorised articles.

Nothing is to be carried on pack animals except ammunition and the waterproof sheet.

The harness of teams requires further attention.

Drivers of vehicles must dismount when word halt is given.

Pack animals must be unloaded during a halt.

Commanding Officers are reminded that neglect of the above mentioned points if allowed to continue will severely affect the marching powers and general efficiency of the Brigade.

The G.O.C., 30th Division was extremely dissatisfied with the condition of the brigade transport at the recent inspection on the 10th inst. The turn out and condition of the animals generally was not satisfactory.

The G.O.C. 30th Division has expressed his intention of holding a further inspection of the Brigade transport in a few days time. It is hoped that each unit will do its best to improve the condition of its transport by that time.

B Ramsden

Captain

Brigade Major

90th Infantry Brigade"

17/8/16 Tom was paid 20 francs.

19/8/16 The War Diary noted that 3 soldiers were killed “by the accidental expression of a rifle grenade”. 5 were wounded, including 2nd Lt Alan Holt. He would re-join the Battalion in March 1917.

(NOTE: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes only one Battalion fatality on 19 August as having died of wounds - 9168 Private A Armstrong who is buried at Chocques Military Cemetery. Listed as fatalities for 18 August and buried at Bethune Town Cemetery are 8857 Pte Robert Shaw and 8930 Pte Joseph Wilcox. This section of the War Diary has not been written contemporaneously and it is reasonable to assume that it is a day out and the accident happened on 18 August)

(NOTE: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes only one Battalion fatality on 19 August as having died of wounds - 9168 Private A Armstrong who is buried at Chocques Military Cemetery. Listed as fatalities for 18 August and buried at Bethune Town Cemetery are 8857 Pte Robert Shaw and 8930 Pte Joseph Wilcox. It is reasonable to assume that the War Diary is a day out and that the accident occurred on 18 August).

22/8/16 Tom was paid 5 francs.

29/8/16 Tom was paid 20 francs.

4/9/16 Tom was paid 5 francs.

8/9/16 Relieved the 16th Battalion in the line at Festubert village. Subsequently, the Battalion was in and out of the trenches until 21 September when it was withdrawn from the front line and marched to billets at Montonvillers, where it remained until 30 September.

Platoon, Company, Battalion and Brigade training was carried out. Battalion classes were held in signalling, bombing, Lewis guns and musketry. During Brigade training, signallers practised communication with aeroplanes. Tom was paid 20 francs on 25/9/16 and 2/10/16.

(During August and September, the following soldiers died: Ptes James Appleyard, A Armstrong, F Crowe, William Culshaw, George Dean, L/Cpls William Hynch, Walter Ovens, Sgt John Porter, Ptes Alfred Roberts, Robert Shaw, Joseph Wilcox, Frank Williams)

OCTOBER

FLERS

11/10/16 The Battalion moved to north of Flers, where it replaced the 2nd Bedfordshires on the left of the Brigade front line. During the late afternoon, Brigade and Battalion orders were issued for an attack the following day.

The strategic intention was for the Fourth British and Sixth French Armies to press forward with an attack. The whole of XV Corps was to attack with 30th Division in the centre; 12th Division on its right and 9th Division of III Corps on the left.

2nd Batt, Royal Scots Fusiliers would be on the right of the Brigade and 17th Manchesters on the left. 18th Manchesters would be in support of both leading battalions and would undertake mopping-up operations as a rapid advance was planned - 16th Manchesters would be in reserve.

“C” and “D” Coys would form the first two waves (each Coy being part of two waves) and attack on a front approximately 400 yards wide (i.e. about 6 foot between each man) and 150 yards between each wave. “A” and “B” Coys would follow.

The assault was planned to take place under cover of machine gun fire from selected positions, Lewis guns which were to be pushed forward providing covering fire and a creeping artillery bombardment. The bombardment would not start until Zero hour so as to give no warning to the enemy.

Major Whitehead’s Battalion order stated that “the greatest care must be taken to keep very low and quiet in the trenches. Bayonets will not be fixed until 2 minutes before Zero, in case there is any error in timing. Men must be ready to fix.”

The first objective, described as “the green line” on a plan is presumed to be the German front line. The second objective, described variously as the “brown” or “blue” line was to be achieved at Zero + 20 minutes, following the creeping barrage. This is presumed to be Bayonet Trench. If possible, units were then to consolidate and press on to capture sections of Lime Trench.

12/10/16 Major Whitehead’s official report to Brigade stated that

“At 2.05pm, the first wave advanced in good order. The enemy immediately opened a heavy machine gun fire on my right flank company, at the same time sending up red rocket signals to his artillery, which was immediately followed by a heavy artillery barrage on our front line and support trenches and Battalion HQ in Gird Trench, cutting our telephone wire in several places and to such an extent that despite every endeavour put forth by my linesman, I was unable to get in touch with you until about 6.30pm".

An NCO (not named) subsequently wrote:-

“Practically no shells dropped either in or in front of our advanced line, but as their artillery barrage commenced, a machine gun barrage was also put up. It was so heavy that I can only compare the sound of bullets striking the parapet to the rattle of a side drum. Our men went over in four waves, but they were at once checked by the machine gun fire and I think none of them got beyond 20 yards from our line. Each wave seemed to be swallowed up in turn as it went over. Only a few wounded got back before dark.”

During the action, all but three of the Battalion’s officers were casualties. Companies were commanded by warrant officers - “A” Coy by CSM Ham.

Major Whitehead’s report continued

“The first, second and third waves of our right flank were mown down as soon as they crossed their parapet and within 50 yards of their front line trench, by enfilade fire. CSM Ham, who went over with the third wave, returned and, on his own initiative, ordered the fourth wave to remain in the front line trenches and garrison same in case of counter-attack.”

“My left flank came under heavy machine gun fire also, but pushed on and succeeded in occupying a shallow enemy trench about 100 yards to the front. There they were held up and all officers being out of action, the men (“D” Coy) joined up with those of the 2nd Bedford regiment.”

“ 'B' Coy, under Capt. Sidebotham, formed the third and fourth wave on the left flank. They suffered few casualties in reaching the enemy front line. This was reported as being little damaged and not very deep. Men could see over it to fire. Capt. Sidebotham was looking over the parados to the enemy second line trench when he was shot through the head. At this point, Lt Dawson took command of the two platoons forming the third wave and entrenched himself.”

“Lt Dawson kept in touch with the 2nd Bedfords and, fearing his right flank was unprotected, I sent him a message to take precautions. He then proceeded to patrol in that direction when he was wounded in the foot and had to retire, but insisted on calling at battalion HQ to report the situation, before proceeding to the Medical Aid Post.”

Lt R Jones, in command of the two “B” Coy platoons in the fourth wave, reached the objective of Bayonet Trench and dug-in. The official report continued

“He placed an 18th Battalion Lewis gun on his left flank and was this point joined by an officer of the 2nd Bedford. With him was an officer and a few men of the 18th Manchesters - all three officers were wounded and had to retire.”

“A party of the enemy, led by one man, doubled out from behind the clump of trees and attempted to counter-attack from our left flank, but were put out of action by the Lewis gun. Sniping was incessant from the front and flanks and left and right rear and all the officers being either killed or our of action, Corporal Webster ordered the party to fall back slowly, which they did under cover of darkness and, apparently, in good order. 10 prisoners were taken (one being an officer), of these two had to be summarily dealt with and I attach receipts for eight.”

About 6.30pm, the 16th Battalion took over the front line trenches, the 17th going into support in Gird Support Trench. By 10.30pm on 15 October, the Battalion had been relieved by 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers.

James Sidebotham’s body was not subsequently recovered and identified and his name is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. He was 25.

The attack was acknowledged to be a failure with the loss of 12 officers and 213 other ranks (of whom 59 were fatalities).

Major Whitehead concluded his report

“While regretting the circumstances which were the cause of the failure to seize and hold our objectives, may I point out that out of 12 Company officers who led men into action, seven were killed and five wounded; that the NCOs found themselves face to face with a situation which has seldom occurred in the whole history of the British Army and for which their short and hurried training rendered them unsuited and unprepared.”

Major Charles MacDonald was awarded a DSO for this action. His citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at a moment when a party of his own battalion and other units were held up by an enemy strong point. He pushed forward and organised a bombing attack but the officer leading it was killed and it failed. Seeing a tank approach, he ran out under fire and got into it, directing the tank toward the strong point. As soon as he had given instructions, he got out again and rejoined his party in the trench under a storm of machine gun fire.”

2nd Lt William Dawson was awarded the Military Cross. His citation, dated 10/1/17, reads “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He displayed great courage and ability in organising the consolidation and defence of the position. Later, although wounded, he reported the situation to Battalion HQ.”

2nd Lt Harry Taylor was awarded the Military Cross, probably for this action. His citation, dated 26/5/17, reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He gallantly led his company against several machine guns and succeeded in putting 6 of them out of action, thereby undoubtably saving his battalion from many casualties. He set a fine example of courage and initiative.” Lt Taylor would eventually be promoted to Captain. He was killed on 22/3/18 and is buried in Savy Cemetery.

22/10/16 At Ribemont, where the Battalion is quartered in huts. The work of re-organising and reforming the companies was carried out.

23/10/16 Tom was paid 40 francs.

26/10/16 The Battalion entrained at Mericourt to Doullens and then marched to billets at Le Souigh and, subsequently, went into Divisional reserve undertaking specialist and company training.

(Soldiers who died during October were: Ptes Frederick Atkins, Thomas Bellinger Sgt Richard Bennison, Ptes Archie Blundell, Percival Bolitho, A Boseley, Arthur Boyling, Capt Macdonald Brown, Ptes Edwin Burrows, Charles Childs, W Clarke, Hubert Craig, John Dickinson, Pte W Dobson, Cpls Leonard Edmondson, G Elliott, L/Sgt Henry Evans, Sgt E Foale, Cpl Cyril Furber, L/Cpl Albert Gardner, Lt Eric Goodwin, Sgt Harry Guthrie, Ptes Albert Hackett, T Haggerty, F Hatton, L/Cpl Hugh Herbert, Ptes Harry Heys, R Heys, Albert Hope, Benjamin Hudson, Robert Jackson, R Jennings, John Jennor, Lloyd Jones, Percy Jones, CSM Robert Jones, 2nd Lt Walter Jones, L/Cpl G King, Pte Joe Knapper, Lt Gerald Levinstein, Ptes Abraham Lovegrove, Thomas Lundy, A Mackie, P Marshall, Horatio Mather, Patrick McGuire, Alec Mitchell, William Moran, John Mort, J Mulligan, W Musgrave, Thomas Needham, W Newland, L/Cpl William Nolan, Ptes James Ormisher, Sidney Page, Sgt Harold Palmer, Ptes Stephen Parsons, Montague Payne, 2nd Lt Dick Pickstone, Pte James Riley, L/Cpl James Roberts, Ptes Arthur Rogers, Fred Rushton, Sgt Thomas Scholes, L/Cpl Robert Settle, Pte Frederick Seymour, Capt James Sidebotham, Ptes Louis Starkie, Ernest Styles, L/Sgt C Taylor, Pte Arthur Thomas, L/Cpl John Tiernan, Ptes Fred Turpin, Moses Valentine, J Wakelin, Cpl Peter Walker, Ptes Wilfred Walker, Harry Wibden, 2nd Lt Harold Wilks)

NOVEMBER – DECEMBER

6/11/16 The Battalion relieved the 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers in the line at Bellacourt, where it stayed until 6/1/17, being in and out of the line every few days. This was described as “a cushy sector”.

Brigade orders for the relief on 6 November had stated:-

“2 At least 300 yard intervals will be kept between platoons and 500 yards between vehicles. No party to exceed 25 men.

3 Everyone, including Transport, to halt 10 minutes to the hour for 10 minutes when out of the trenches, either going up or coming back, unless within a short distance of destination when coming back.

4 Hostile aeroplanes must be remembered and guarded against by halting or getting into concealment.

5 Battalion Commanders will arrange all other details of relief, care should be taken that no Lewis Gun team blocks any platoon coming in.”

When not in the line, the Battalion provided working parties for the Royal Engineers. During November, the Battalion was withdrawn into Divisional reserve to undertake specialist training in Lewis guns and bombing.

Tom was paid 5 francs on 28/11/16, 9/12/16/ 15/12/16 and 10 francs on 18/12/16.

Around this time, Pte C Overton was awarded the DCM. His citation reads “ For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He went out under the most intense fire and succeeded in rescuing a wounded man. He has at all times set a splendid example. Pte Overton subsequently received a commission.”

12/12/16 The Battalion relieved the 2nd Batt, Royal Scots Fusiliers, with “B”,“C” and “D” Coys in the front line and “A” Coy in reserve. The War Diary noted “Trenches found to be in very bad condition owing to snow and rain.”

30/12/16 The War Diary noted “A raiding party consisting of two officers and eighteen other ranks should have left our trenches about midnight on the 29th to attack a German Sap called the Talus, but owing to unforeseen circumstances, the raid had to be cancelled.”

(During November and December, the following soldiers died: Ptes Harry Cookson, John Morrissey, J Muldoon, G Stott)

1917

JANUARY – MARCH

6/1/17 - The Battalion was relieved by 4th Batt, Yorks. and Lancs. Regiment and went into Corps reserve at Sus St Leger. Of particular note from Battalion orders for the relief is the requirement that “the greatest possible care must be taken in handing over stores. If there are any large discrepancies, a Court of Inquiry will be held. Every pair of gum-boots taken into the trenches MUST be brought out and all boots found buried must be salved and immediately returned to store.”

“A” and “B” Coys, under the command of Capt. Fearenside, O.C. “A” Coy, spent the next few weeks engaged on railway work. On 23 January, Capt. Fearenside was confirmed as Second in Command of the Battalion.

Tom was paid 10 francs on 8/1/17, 15 francs on 17/1/17 and 21/1/17, 10 francs on 11/2/17 and 24/2/17

4/3/17 Tom was paid 5 francs. For most of March, the Battalion was billeted at Pommera, generally employed on railway working parties under the supervision of 2 Railway Coy, Royal Engineers.

10/3/17 Tom was paid 20 francs

11/3/17 2nd Lt Alan Holt rejoined the Battalion having recovered from the injuries sustained on 19/8/16.

19/3/17 Tom was paid 5 francs.

20/3/17 The Battalion marched to Agny and relieved 2nd Bedfords in the line at Mercatel. The War Diary noted that “this being a new line, trenches were dug and wiring commenced.”

24/3/17 Until 29 March, working parties were provided each night, digging communication trenches from the support trench to the front line. During early April, the Battalion was billeted in caves at Blairville, providing working parties for the Royal Engineers.

(In the period January to March, the following soldiers died: Ptes George Cooke, W Hampson, James Howard, James Laville, L/Cpl E McCormack, Pte A Madders, L/Cpl H Millyard, Pte R Ramsey)

APRIL

ARRAS

7/4/17 The War Diary reports that 2nd Lts E Rallison, H Hobbs and two Other ranks (Pte Frederick Howard, "A" Coy and Pte F Sims) were killed whilst patrolling near Neuville Mill.

9/4/17 The Battalion was moved forward, as Brigade reserve for an attack on the Hindenberg line of trenches the following day. The Brigade itself was designated as support for 89th Brigade.

Brigade orders concluded “Let everyone know the intention and endeavour to provide a hot meal by dawn. Companies should be so disposed that the attack formation can be rapidly assumed but with this end in view, men should not be disturbed tonight and so lose their rest solely for the purpose of changing the position of platoons.”

In the event, the Battalion was not required to go into action.

18/4/17 The Battalion left St Armand to the Hindenberg system of trenches near Neuville-Vitasse arriving at 4:00am on19/4/17, relieving a battalion of the London Regiment in front of Heninel.

Battalion Operation Order 26 was issued for an attack the next day, noting that 3rd Army would attack with 33rd Division on the right of 30th Division and 50th Division on the left. 90th Brigade would attack with the 2nd Royal Scots on the left and 17th Manchesters on the right. Each battalion would have a frontage of 400 yards.

“4 The Brigade will attack on a 4 platoon formation (two per Battalion) i.e. four waves of two lines each. “B” Coy will be on the left and “D” Coy on the right - “A” Coy supporting “B” and “C” Coy supporting “D”

1st wave B----- B---- D---- D----

2nd wave B---- B---- D---- D----

3rd wave A---- A---- C---- C----

4th wave A---- A---- C---- C----

“Two sections of “moppers up” will be supplied by 16th Battalion and will follow the first wave. The left and right flanks of Coy frontages are already marked by board in the front line trenches - platoon officers will take compass bearings on the first objective.

5 Advance - Maps issued by Brigade show platoon boundaries and line of advance. Company commanders will ensure that the line of advance is explained to and understood by all ranks. Platoon commanders are especially warned to see that the line of direction is not lost in crossing the Sunken Road which runs diagonally across the Battalion front. On no account are the men to be allowed to congregate in this road - they must push on until the final objective is reached.

6 Communication with Flanking Battalions - Platoon commanders operating in flank will see that touch is maintained with the flanking Battalions, more especially when the final objective is reached and the enemy ejected.

7 Tanks Two tanks will assist in the operation but will probably operate with the left Battalion. Platoon officers will ensure that whenever a tank enters their zone, they co-operate unless orders to the contrary are given. A party of men will actually remain with the tank as long as it remains in their zone.

8 Barrage - will open at Zero - and will creep forward at the rate of 100 yards in 4 minutes. Before the barrage lifts, the leading wave will creep forward 40 - 50 yards ahead. Officers will ensure they are on the correct alignment at right angles to the compass bearing ready to go forward and occupy the enemy trenches.

9 The Battalion should enter the following trenches and points at approximately the following times:-

Zero +5 Little Copse

Zero +17 First dug-outs in road

Zero +21 More dug-outs

Zero +29 Sunken Road

Zero +47 Beginning to gain objective

Zero +60 Objective gained

10 The usual precautions will be taken to meet counter-attack - touch with the flanking battalions established and work of consolidation in hand.

13 Prisoners - those captured by the assaulting Battalions will be escorted to the Battalion in support position - under no circumstances will men be sent back from the front line beyond the support position.

16 Contact Aeroplane - distinguishing mark - one black band under starboard lower plane. Each assaulting Battalion will carry one Lucas lamp in addition to ground shutter for use in signalling. Battalion call sign - QMAN.”

(Between 1 April and 22 April, the following soldiers died: Ptes Fred Akers, Albert Cooper, W Copperthwaite, L Harris 2nd Lt Herbert Hobbs, Ptes Frederick Howard, R Lomax, 2nd Lt V Rallison, Ptes Tom Simmonds, Frederick Sims, Herbert Spencer, George Stewart, Richard Vickers, A Whittle, A Williams, Arnold Wood)

23/4/17 At 4:45am, the Battalion moved to attack the German position at Cherisy, east of Heninel and dug in. “A” Coy was under the command of 2nd Lt Alan Holt and 2nd Lt W Palmer. The attack was met with extremely heavy machine gun fire and artillery barrage. The machine guns had been placed in strong concrete shelters, which had withstood the British bombardment.

At 9:00 there was an enemy counter attack which was repulsed.

At 2:00pm, there was a further enemy attack resulting in many casualties and the battalion withdrew at nightfall, with a strength of 260 out of 650. Lt Holt had been wounded and captured. 2nd Lt Palmer and 83 other ranks had been killed.

Walter Palmer’s body was not subsequently identified and his name is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing. He was 19.

The Battalion went into reserve for training.

Several medals were awarded for this action, including 1 DSO (Major J Whitehead), 3 Military Cross (Lt T Cartman, 2nd Lt A Holt, Sgt Major H Coates), 2 DCM (CSM H Bingham, Pte W Flaherty) and 7 MM (Privates 8046 Ackerley “C” Coy, 9313 Farmer “A” Coy, 46461 J Fielden “D” Coy, 47427 J Helsby “C” Coy, 43337 W Spratley “D” Coy, 8818 J Roberts “A” Coy and J Ward “B” Coy).

Capt. Cartman’s citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He showed great coolness and courage in organising the consolidation and defence of the position under heavy fire. Although wounded, he continued to direct operations until compelled to retire.”

Lt Holt’s citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When in the second line of enemy, with only a few men, he succeeded in holding the position. When he was wounded, he encouraged his men to carry on the work and gave directions for the defence before withdrawing.”

RSM Henry Coates’ citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He showed fine leadership whilst in command of a company. Though constantly under heavy shell and machine gun fire, he posted his men in points of vantage.”

CSM Bingham’s citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During operations, he assumed command of his company and carried out his duties with great courage and ability.”

Pte Flaherty’s citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed great promptness and initiative in the newly captured position. He caused a block to be made and brought a machine gun into action against enfilade fire, inflicting a large number of casualties. He set a splendid example.”

(NOTE: Sidney Ackerley was subsequently promoted to Lance Corporal. He was killed on 22/3/18, aged 22. He has no known grave and his name is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial to the Missing)

The Battalion returned to the trenches at Neuville-Vitasse and subsequently went into reserve.

30/4/17 Tom was paid 10 francs.

(Soldiers who had died in the past 7 days were: Cpls Joseph Aiken, A Bailey, Ptes Alfred Baumber, Aaron Bibby, Sgt Fred Bird, Pte Frederick Blair, L/Cpl F Blakeley, Ptes Thomas Booth, Jim Brindley, Thomas Burton, John Carroll, William Chant, Cpl Frank Collinson, Ptes Frederick Cuerden, Joseph Dodson, Sgt John Duff, Ptes Herbert Dwyer, Alfred Edwards, Carl Effert, Joseph Farrell, W Francis, Sgt J Gorner, Ptes Joseph Grange, Bertie Gray, Sgt A Hall, Ptes J Hall, S Hamer, L/Cpl Robert Hargreaves, Ptes John Harris, Harry Harvey, Ernest Hills, Arthur Horne, James Hudspite, Cpl Owen Jones, Ptes H Kelly, Percy Kirkham, Herbert Knight, Louis Ledger, Thomas Loftus, John Lomax, Sgt R Lowe, Ptes Henry McLinden, George McNee, L/Cpl D Morris, Ptes Frederick Okenfull, Francis O'Connor, 2nd Lt Walter Palmer, Pte Charles Parker, L/Cpl Thomas Pedley, Pte James Potkin, Lt Geoffrey Potts, L/Cpl John Prendergast, Cpls P Ramsden, Douglas Ratcliff, Pte Robert Richardson, L/Cpl James Ritchie, Pte V Roberts, L/Cpls Fergus Ronald, Ernest Rostron, Pte Arthur Schofield, L/Cpl Edward Seaborn, Cpl Harry Shaw, Ptes Douglas Simister, Sgt Hubert Smith, Ptes William Stafford, James Stansfield, James Stevens, Alfred Sutton, L/Cpl Alfred Swales, Pte Joseph Taylor, George Thompson, W Thompson, Reginald Thomson, George Tophill, Percy Turner, Sgt Walter Tye, Ptes William Tyldesley, Henry Upton, George Utting, Ernest Vicker, Arthur Ward, John West, Walter Whalley, George Whittingham, L/Cpls A Wilkinson, Charles Wilkinson, Ptes Howell Williams, J Withey, James Wright)

MAY – JUNE

4/5/17 The Battalion undertook training until 11 May, including musketry practice on the range. The RSM undertook proficiency classes for prospective NCOs. There was also range practice including rifle grenade work, bombing, gas drill and attack formations. Classes for training Lewis gunners were organised.

6/5/17 Tom was paid 5 francs.

12/5/17 Brigade was inspected on ceremonial parade by the Corps Commander.

13/5/17 Tom was paid 10 francs.

20/5/17 30th Division was transferred from 3rd Army, XIX Corps to 2nd Army, II Corps. The Battalion undertook a route march to Blangerul and then towards Ypres. Until 6/6/17, the Battalion was billeted at various locations and then moved by train to Poperinghe and then to St Lawrence camp.

Also on this day, the War Diary reports that the War Office official casualty list confirmed that 2nd Lt Malcolm Grigg was now listed as “killed”. He had been listed as “missing” since 9 July 1916. Malcolm Grigg, however, has no known grave and his name is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. He was 22.

25/5/17 Tom was paid 10 francs.

2nd Lt Alan Holt kept a diary during his captivity in Freiburg POW camp. His entry for this day reads:-

“This is the last day of my 21st year. As I dress, I think what a marvel it is that I am still alive to see the end of it and I think of this time last year when we were in Vaux Wood in “pre-Push” days.
Our usual breakfast and my toilet take me till 10 o’clock and I then amuse myself till dinner with my violin. Today we have a fairly good soup, followed by a very liberal quantity of potatoes stewed with somewhat “passé” fish.

After dinner, I read and sleep till 3.30 when I had my afternoon tea - still without milk or sugar and a piece of dry bread. There was no soup left from dinner today, but I received two Campaign biscuits as my share of a box that Fellows brought us. After tea, I practice my fiddle till supper which is rather late as the orderlies had to go to the post-office to bring up some parcels. Wish there was some likelihood of there being one for me. Not much of a supper when it does arrive - sort of thick porridge. Afterwards, I practice my fiddle for the concert on Saturday night and play rounders and then read till bed time at 10pm.”

28/6/17 "D" Coy, under Capt Orr, was detached from the Battalion and attached to 2 Canadian Tunnelling Coy to supply carrying parties at Lille Gate, Ypres. On 30 June, Ptes Alfred Balding, William Bate, George Bostwick and Richard Kirkpatrick were killed during this attachment. All are buried in Ramparts CWGC Cemetery.

30/5/17 Tom was paid 5 francs.

5/6/17 Tom was paid 5 francs.

(NOTE: there is no further information on pay to Tom. At some point during his service, Tom was hospitalised. This could be the reason)

9/6/17 The Battalion was ordered into front line. Until 30/7/17, the Battalion was constantly in and out of the line at various locations and also in reserve and in training.

The War Diary notes that “On the night of 13/14th June, at 1am, a raiding party consisting of 2nd Lt Knowles and 53 other ranks entered enemy lines and took 2 prisoners - our casualties - 3 other ranks slightly wounded.”

Between 15th and 20th June, “B” Coy provided a working party for 2 Canadian Tunnelling Coy. The remainder of the Battalion was “resting, refitting and training (as far as was possible in a forward area) by sections” , according to the War Diary.

Around this time, Pte T Dunn and Pte L Pascoe were awarded the DCM. Their citations read “ For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. These 2 men went out for some 200 yards to a detached post to bring in a wounded man. They dressed and carried the man 700 yards across the open in broad daylight in spite of rifle, machine gun fire and sniping, machine gun fire from an aeroplane and, in the later stages, very heavy shell fire. Had the wounded man been left until night, he would have undoubtedly died. They showed a splendid example of courage and devotion to duty.”

29/6/17 Extract from Alan Holt’s diary “………After supper I get my three letters. What joy. Two from Katie, one from Mother who tells me that I have been promoted to 1st Lt - one of my dreams realised at last.”

JULY - SEPTEMBER

3RD YPRES

1/7/17 Extract from Alan Holt’s diary “Today is the anniversary of the Great Push 1916. My thoughts go back to that scorching Saturday morning when my Regiment covered themselves with glory by capturing Montauban. But it is a very wet day, today……….”

Between 1st and 5th July, “A” and “B” Coys provided working parties for Cable Trench, near Zillebeke. Between 5th July and 17th July, the Battalion was at Nielles-Les-Ardres carrying out training for offensive action. The War Diary notes that a Battalion sports meeting was held on 13th July.

19/7/17 Extract from Alan Holt’s diary

“The most extraordinary thing has happened today. I had four letters, one of which was from Foles congratulating me on winning the Military Cross. I can’t believe it’s true. It has been the dream of my life for the last two years, but I really can’t believe it’s true. I shan’t believe it until I hear confirmation from home. Mother said nothing about it in her letters which were dated 17th and 24th June respectively, but perhaps she has written in between these dates and the letter has not arrived. Foles’ letter was dated 19th. I am in a whirl.”

20/7/17 Extract from Alan Holt’s diary

“Well, I cannot say anything more about today other than I got four letters from different people to the same effect as that of Foles’ which I received yesterday. C’est encore incroyable!”

(NOTE: Lt Alan Thomas Selborne Holt had been commissioned on 28 October 1914. Before that he lived in Hale and had been employed as a solicitor’s articled clerk. At the end of the war, Alan Holt was released from Freiburg Officers’ POW camp and returned to live in Hale. He was born on 26 May 1895 and, in 1968, was living at 37 Chiltern Drive, Hale)

Between 20 July and 24 July, the Battalion was in the Steenvoorde area, where it carried out platoon training, together with training of Lewis Gunners, Bombers and Rifle Grenadiers. The War Diary notes that The Optimists (89th Brigade Concert Party) performed on each of the three nights the Battalion was in the area.

(Since the beginning of May, the following soldiers had died: Ptes H Affleck, Alfred Balding, L/Cpl A Barton, Ptes William Bate, George Bostwick W Coulson, C Dale, F Finlow, Joe Fitton, W Gregory, CSM Sydney Hall, Ptes A Kay, Richard Kirkpatrick, C Lintern, R Palmer, C Read, Herbert Smalley)

23/7/17 Battalion orders were issued for the forthcoming attack. These noted that the intention was for Fifth Army to attack the enemy east and north east of Ypres. II Corps would be on the right of Fifth Army. The attack would involve 24th Division on the right, 30th Division in the centre, supported by 18th Division and 8th Division on the left with 25th Division in support.

For 30th Division, there were three objectives and it was intended that the attack would be made on the “leap-frog” principle, commencing at dawn. The first objective, described as the Blue Line, would be taken by16th and 18th Manchesters, advancing at the rate of 100 yards per 4 minutes. There would then be a halt of 30 minutes at the first objective. 17th Battalion and 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers would then pass through and advance to the Black Line. 53rd Brigade was then intended to pass through and advance to the Green Line.

“A” Coy was intended to form up in front of the Brigade’s attack. Under close cover of the creeping barrage and that of trench mortars, the Company would attack a presumed strong point near Jargon Trench and Clapham Junction. It would then bomb up a trench in the Sunken Road to another strong point, before consolidating.

“B” Coy would attack Jargon Trench. “C” and “D” Coys would leap-frog “A” and “B” to the Black Line in Glencorse Wood where they would consolidate.

30/7/17 Battalion moved into assembly positions in “no mans land”, near Sanctuary Wood. An attack was ordered at 3:50. Battalion strength was approximately 550.

16th and 18th Battalions attained their first objective, respectively described as near Clapham Junction/Surbiton Villas and Stirling Castle. 17th passed through and dug in just short of the second objective of Jargon Trench, which protected the perimeter of Glencorse Wood and Inverness Copse. It was unable to hold this position, due to very heavy machine gun fire holding up the attack. The Battalion withdrew in the early morning of 1 August to the rendezvous area at Zillebeke Promenade. Due to heavy shelling, it was further withdrawn to bivouacs in the Chateau Segard area.

Losses were 19 killed, 112 wounded and 34 missing.

Losses were reported at the time as being 21 killed, 117 wounded and 35 missing.

Medals awarded were 1 MC (Capt. W Orr), 2 DCM (Sgt 8501 F Cowman, Pte 28259 P Duffy) and 4 MM (L/Cpl 47423 W Fearnley, Pte 2271 R Armstrong, Pte 43344 A Hare, Pte 21073 J Murphy)

Sgt Cowman’s citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in getting men forward and organising the firing line under intense artillery and machine gun fire. At a moment when it was necessary to send a report of the situation to Brigade HQ and after 2 members had been killed in attempting to do so, he volunteered and successfully accomplished the task himself, under heavy fire of every description.”

Pte Duffy’s citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in taking charge of a section and rushing an enemy trench, capturing there a machine gun and 5 trench mortars. Although wounded in the leg, he declined to leave the Battalion until it was relieved. He was conspicuous throughout for his pluck and devotion to duty.”

(NOTE: Private P Duffy was subsequently captured. He died on 21 October 1918 and is buried at Niederzwehren Cemetary, Germany which is adjacent to the POW camp)

(Soldiers who died on 31 July were: Ptes Henry Booth, James Cleland, Ebenezer Cornell, James Davidson, William Eaton, R Elliott, James Flack, Hubert French, 2nd Lt Henry Frith, Ptes George Fuller, James Gatley, Harold Herbert, P Hodgson, Albert Holbrook, William Hudson, Cpl Edmund Kane, Ptes Oscar Lamb, Charles Lee, Edward Quirk, Henry Rigby, Hugh Rounding, Albert Rumsby, L/Cpl Harold Smithson, Pte John Southern, Sgt Harry Spurr, Ptes Harold Stratford, William Timms, L/Cpl Samuel Wharmby, Cpl William Norbury, James Wilds, Thomas Willis, A Wilson)

During August and September the Battalion moved around , in and out of the line, mainly providing working parties for the Royal Engineers, when out of the line. This pattern continued for the rest of the year.

During this time, Lance Corporal Jones was awarded the DCM. His citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He volunteered to swim across a river to obtain information and, although he encountered an enemy patrol and a working party, he successfully returned with the information required.”

(Between 1 August and 30 September, the following soldiers died: Ptes R Arnold, W Barnes, J Crane, R Free, H George, W Humphreys, William Jackson, William McCann, William Richardson, P Rigby, John Smith, Harry Storey, T Taylor, Cpl Philip Travis, Pte George Walker)

OCTOBER - DECEMEBER

2/10/17 The Battalion was in Divisional reserve at Vroilandhoek Camp until 18 October. The War Diary noted that the first day was spent at rest and in cleaning up. During the remainder of the time, training was carried out including RSM Proficiency Class, Lewis Gun Class for Subalterns and other ranks. “The usual company training was carried out.”

“Part of each day was devoted to camp improvements - a drying room for each company; a sergeants’ mess for each company. Ablution benches and good latrines were made. Drainage was carried out.”

18/10/17 The Battalion was moved by bus to near Ypres, where it was attached to the Canadian Corps for work on railways, until 31 October.

1/11/17 Until 6th November, the Battalion was at a camp near Kenmel, where physical training, including games, was undertaken. There was also training in bayonet fighting and Lewis Gun classes for officers and men.

From 11 November, the Battalion was in the Stazeele area where facilities for training were described as poor. The War Diary states “Time spent thorough cleaning up - billet and kit inspection. Inter - Coy football matches were played.”

From 14 November until the end of the month, the Battalion continued its training near Steenvoorde. A Lewis gun range and a range for “bullet and bayonet” work were used. The war Diary notes that “Football (both association and rugby) was played in the afternoons.”

The Diary also notes that, on 16 November, 5 soldiers, who were ploughmen, were sent to England.

3/12/17 The Battalion was positioned astride the Menin Road, in the support line, outside Ypres. The Anzacs on the immediate left attacked Polderhoek Chateau and dug in 50 yards ahead of the Chateau. “B” Coy, which was in the centre, just north of the Menin Road, had over 20 consequential casualties from gas.

4/12/17 The Battalion was relieved by route march and light railway to Chippewa camp for training.

12/12/17 The Battalion was back in the line acting as support troops with “A” and “D” Coys at Bodmin Copse, HQ and “B” Coy at Stirling Castle and “C” Coy at Clapham Junction.

14/12/17 The enemy attacked and occupied the line gained by the Anzacs on 3 December, over about a 300 yard frontage. “B” and “C” Coys were sent to re-inforce the 18th Battalion. The War Diary notes that “this was done in daylight without casualties. Jerricho Pill Box and a portion of the trench evacuated by 18th Battalion were occupied by the Companies. “A” Coy was moved up to Stirling Castle.”

15/12/17 HQ, “A” and “D” Coys were moved into the line with “D” Coy on the left of two companies of the 16th Battalion with “A” Coy in support.

.

18/12/17 The Battalion returned to training duties at Chippewa camp. Battalion orders instructed the Quartermaster to arrange for hot food to be issued on arrival at camp. Company commanders were instructed to ensure that “all men, before sleeping, rub their feet and wrap them in sandbags, which will be provided by the Quartermaster. A certificate that this has been done will be rendered to Battalion HQ by 6pm on 19 December.”

The War Diary noted that, on 21 December, a special Christmas entertainment was given by the BLUE BIRDS and there was a Battalion Christmas dinner on 23 December.

24/12/17 The Battalion was back in the line astride the Menin Road, with "A" Coy in the centre, "C" on the right, "D" on the left and "B" in support. The War Diary notes that during this period of duty (until 27/12), the "disposition of posts in the front line were changed. New posts were dug and occupied." There were 7 soldiers killed during this period.

(Between October and December, the following soldiers had died: Ptes J Brunton, Robert Butler, A Chinn, William Crook, L/Cpl James Day, Pte James Entwisle, 2nd Lt Ernest Elwell, Ptes Alwyn Farthing, Harry Grindey, T Lee, John Lusher, E Milverton, Cpl George Murphy, Sgt George Norman, Ptes Edwin Pepworth,Harry Roberts, Richard Silley, L/Cpl G Smith, Ptes Samuel Taylor, Edward Tupman, A Twinn, Lt Philip Ward, Pte Edward Wilkinson, Sgt W Wright, 2nd Lt Kenrick Yorke-Jones)

1918

JANUARY - MARCH

ST QUENTIN

1/1/18 The Battalion was billeted at Swan (or Sivan) Chateau. 100 men per day were provided for working parties in the forward area. The Battalion spent the month here and at other camps, undertaking training of various kinds, including platoon drill, march discipline, guard mounting and general physical training.

28/1/18 In the line at Aurigny Rouy, relieving 29th Dragoons, 5th French Cavalry Division, on the extreme right flank on the line. Matters were so quiet at this period that a chapel was established at HQ. In the front line, men slept in beds left by the French and enjoyed hot meals daily.

6/2/18 The Battalion was re-inforced by 15 officers and 281 other ranks from the now dissolved 19th Battalion.

13/2/18 The Division was inspected by the Commander in Chief.

(During January and February, the following soldiers died: Ptes T Archer, T Juniper, Sgt H Stewart, Pte G Williams)

18/3/18 The Battalion was billeted in Savy Dugouts at Vaux. It is clear from Battalion orders issued around this time that an enemy attack was expected. The Battalion had relieved the 16th Battalion from the line, the orders noting that “ Should the enemy attack while the relief is in progress, all men will at once halt, under cover if possible and await orders from their Company Commander. All men in the line of resistance will man the firebays. As the relief is not completed, the O.C. outgoing will take command; the O.C. incoming placing his men at the disposal of the O.C. outgoing Coy.”

20/3/18 Battalion orders issued stated:-

“1) The Battalion will hold itself in readiness to man Battle Stations at a moment’s notice until further notice. On the order being issued “Man Battle Stations”, Company Commanders will fell in their Companies at Company Alarm Posts and take up the battle positions in the same order practised yesterday. Packs will be carried and stored in trenches by platoons.

3) Each Section, including Lewis Guns sections, will take two blankets per section which are to be kept damp and used as a protection against gas for ammunition and Lewis guns.

4) Blankets will be tightly rolled in bundles of ten, labelled and dropped at each Company Headquarters under charge of the Company Storeman at 6pm.

5) A proportionate amount of picks and shovels will be issued to each Company. On arrival at Battle Stations, men will at once carry out work of deepening the trenches by intensive digging. A few isolated parts in the forward line of posts in the battle Zone have not been joined up by continuous trench. It is important that, as far as possible, the exact area occupied by our troops should remain unknown to the enemy. The trench will be made continuous as soon as possible.

6) All gaps in the wire must be securely closed and properly wired up. Company and Platoon commanders are responsible for this. Wire and pickets for “B”, “D” and “C” Coys will be dropped at “C” Coy’s Redoubt; “A” Coy and HQ at Goodman Redoubt.”

21/3/18 At 4.50am, the Battalion was ordered to man battle positions in the sector south of Etreillers, to the rear of the 16th Battalion. The troops moved up at 5.15am, deploying “D” Coy to the right and “B” Coy to the left. “C” Coy was designated for counter-attack and “A” held in reserve. 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment was on its right flank with the 2nd Bedfordshires on the left.

Throughout the day, the Battalion held Roupy Trench, 1200 yards east of Pommery Chateau. At 3pm, the enemy was sighted in Savy and occupied part of a quarry. By 4pm, the Battalion had to withdraw, due to lack of ammunition, to Muilte Villete, after withstanding heavy machine gun, rifle and artillery fire from short range. At 5.45pm, “B” Coy launched a counter-attack on the quarry, driving out the enemy, taking 31 prisoners and releasing 12 British soldiers held captive.

(Note: Martin Middlebrook, in his book "The Kaiser's Battle", includes an account by Sapper H Hopthrow, 30th Divisional Signal Company, of his capture, while manning a small wireless station in a quarry near Savy, and his subsequent release. It's reasonable to assume that this is the same incident as the counter attack by "B" Coy)

22/3/18 There were further German attacks throughout the day, but the Battalion held firm. At about 4pm, there was a heavy bombardment, followed by an enemy attack, After heavy fighting, “B”, “C” and “D” Coys were surrounded and out of ammunition. Many were taken prisoner. At about 5.15 , the enemy attacked HQ and “A” Coy at Goodman Redoubt, gaining a foothold. By 6.20, the Redoubt had been virtually surrounded and, again, no ammunition was left. Under heavy machine gun and artillery fire, the remaining men were able to retreat and retired to Bunny Hill, where they re-organised. However, due to the enemy closing in on both flanks, a further withdrawal took place.

23/3/18 At 5am, the Battalion marched to Moyencourt and took up a reserve position at Cannoy far. At 9pm, it moved to a defensive position east of Esmery Hallon.

24/3/18 The enemy attacked at 9am. Owing to a withdrawal by the battalions on both flanks, the Manchesters had to fall back, taking up new positions on the canal bank, east of Moyencourt.

25/3/18 The War Diary notes that “Enemy attacks were broken by our rifle and artillery fire and heavy casualties inflicted on him. At 4.15pm, orders were received to withdraw from the canal bank, the enemy then being well round on both flanks.”

26/3/18 The Battalion moved to reserve defences at Fozie. Lt Col Whitehead was admitted to hospital and Capt. R Keefe took command of the Battalion.

27/3/18 The War Diary reports

“The enemy attacked at 12 noon. The front line withdrew through our lines and owing to the withdrawal of battalions on flanks, the Battalion was compelled to withdraw. A position 1000 yards to the rear was then taken up and then under heavy machine gun fire, the line was advanced slightly.”

At 2pm, Capt. Keefe was killed and the adjutant, Capt. J Duncan took command.

(NOTE: Raymond Keefe has no known grave. His name is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial to the Missing. He was 23)

28/3/18 During the morning, the enemy attacked the flanking battalions and attempted to surround the Brigade. At noon, orders were received to the effect that the French had taken over the sector and the Battalion was relieved. It was withdrawn under heavy machine gun and rifle fire and marched to billets at Rouvrel.

Over the previous week, there had been 80 fatalities, most listed as being on 22 March, together with a further 120 casualties known to be wounded and about 290 missing (many of whom would be prisoners).

2nd Lt Norman Heywood was awarded the Military Cross for this action. His citation reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in recent operations. During the 8 days, his battalion was in action, this officer on several occasions displayed the utmost coolness and personal gallantry; the men considerably inspired by his example. He also led a patrol and brought back valuable information regarding the movements and dispositions of the enemy.”

(Soldiers who died during March were: L/Cpl Sidney Ackerley, Pte Charles Attewell, L/Cpl Thomas Barrow, Ptes Harold Beach, Joseph Blackburn, Herbert Bones, Archie Bradley, L/Cpl James Brindle, Sgt Herbert Brown, Ptes W Caldwell, James Clark, Sgt Henry Cliff, Ptes Edward Cullen, John Dillon, Percy Disley, P Dooley, Henry Drake, L/Cpl A Eastwood, Ptes George Elliott, Harold Ellis, John Fallows, L/Cpls J Fletcher, Ptes Sydney Flood, Peter Foster, Robert Gill, Charles Goadby, Sydney Gribbin, Charles Guest, E Hales, W Halliwell, James Hillier, 2nd Lt Charles Hope, Ptes Thomas Hulme, Daniel Hunt, Alfred Hutchinson, A Illingworth, John Jones, Philip Kelly, Joseph Lees, John Lister, Hugh Llewellyn, James Marsden, G Maude, George McDonald, Cpl David McGrath, L/Cpl John McKenzie, Ptes Harry McNeish, Peter Mayoh, Lt Hubert Morgan, Ptes Leonard Muir, Charles Needley, Arthur Nelson, Joseph Nestor, W Norcross, James Pearcey, A Pearson, Tom Powell, William Prescott, George Price, Ida Redfern, CSM A Rhodes, Ptes Thomas Rhodes, Sgt George Rowland, Ptes Henry Schofield, C Selby, Fred Settle, Arthur Siddall, John Skelland, James Slater, Bertram Smith, George Snelson, L/Cpl S Spriggs, Ptes H Stafford, Francis Taylor, Capt Harry Taylor, Pte William Taylor, Cpl G Varah, Ptes Harry Warburton, James Welch, William Willett, A Williams, Cpl F Williamson, Ptes W Wilson, Robert Youd, T Young)

APRIL

4th YPRES

1/4/18 The Battalion was in billets at Estraboef. During the early part of the month, training was carried out and working parties undertaken, mainly moving shells to the forward area.

19/4/18 “A” and “B” Coys were merged to form “C” Coy 16th Manchesters and were subsequently ordered to the front line near Spoil Bank.

25/4/18 The enemy attacked and forced the Battalion south of the Ypres-Comines Canal. The War Diary states that “the composite company, formed from “C” and “D” Coys, counter-attacked and restored the situation on this front. 2nd Lt D H Budenberg was killed whilst gallantly leading the counter attack. The composite Coy, formed by “A” and “B” Coys, under 2nd Lt F Ruddy, formed a defensive flank and this enabled the Battalion to maintain its position

(NOTE: Donald Budenberg, listed as a Captain by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, is buried at Perth Cemetery, Zillebeke. He was 21)

26/4/18 The War Diary reports that “In a thick mist, the enemy broke through the line held by the Battalion left and enveloped “C” and “D” Coys - no officers or men then with those companies has returned.” The remnants of the Battalion were withdrawn after hard fighting to the north bank of the Canal, at Lock 8, suffering heavy casualties during withdrawal. A line was formed near Lock 8 and held. The remnants of the Battalion remained in the line for the next two days of battle.

29/4/18 The Battalion was relieved and withdrawn to Scottish Camp. Survivors of the 16th and 17th Battalions were merged into one Company and attached to 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. This Company proceeded to man trenches near Ouderdam. In the previous few days, there had been 212 casualties.

(During April, the following soldiers died: Cpl Charles Allan, Pte Thomas Atherton, Capt Donald Budenberg, Ptes William Charlesworth, Cpl George Carey, Pte W Coates, CSM William Dickinson, Ptes Frederick Faulkner, Henry Fox, William Gibson, James Hugill, John Jones, W Kenyon, George Kerruish, 2nd Lt George Leach, Pte Charles Maund, L/Cpl Edward McBride, Ptes Robert Morris, Reginald Pearson, Herbert Phillips, 2nd Lt Horace Prentis, Pte Wilfird Salter, L/Cpl Cornelius Scholey, Cpl Fred Stafford, Pte Arthur Tweedale, Stanley Wallen, Alan Waterson, Robert Winterbottom, 2nd Lt Joseph Woollen, Pte Robert Wright.)

(Soldiers who died after 1 May were mainly, but not exclusively, prisoners of war or died from previously received injuries. They were: Ptes Robert Allen, John Austin, L/Cpl Arnold Booth, Cpl Thomas Charnock, Sgt Seth Crook, L/Cpl William Dixon, Ptes W Dixon, J Dodd, P Duffy, 2nd Lt G Dunscombe, Pte R Evans, L/Cpl John Farrelly, Pte Job Firth, L/Cpl John Flockton, Ptes H Foad, Frederick French, George Garft, J Gorner, Cpl F Gosling, Pte Sydney Griffiths, L/Cpl J Heap, Ptes J Hill, Louis Hillebrand, John Hilton, L/Cpl Arthur Hough, Ptes Fred Jessop, Frederick Johnson, A Kay, William Kenny, Henry Lowe, John Nelson, Cpl James Nixon, Ptes John Pugh, William Stocks, Erris Sturgis, Benjamin Turbefield, Duncan Tweddle, William Welton, L/Cpls William Whittle, Pte W Wilkinson, L/Cpl J Williams)

(Of the 716 fatalities recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 414 soldiers have no known grave and are commemorated on Memorials to the Missing).

15/5/18 The Battalion was now effectively disbanded as a fighting unit. By mid-May, troops were already being returned to base in England. A small cadre was formed, of some 60 troops, under the command of Major Fearenside (who would, shortly, be promoted to Lt Col). This cadre, together with the Band, was transferred to billets at Guerville in order to train American troops. Units trained would include 2/140th and 3/140th Infantry Regiments, USNG (35th US Division); 1/132 and 2/132 Regiments, USNG; 123rd Machine Gun Battalion and 3/129th Infantry Regiment, USNG

30/7/18 The final entry in the War Diary reads “Cadre disbanded”

6/3/19 Tom was demobbed

TOM RECEIVED THE WAR MEDAL, VICTORY MEDAL AND THE 1914/15  STAR. THESE AND OTHER OF HIS EFFECTS ARE HELD AT THE TAMESIDE  LOCAL STUDIES LIBRARY, STALYBRIDGE LIBRARY UNDER REFERENCE MR3/17/141

This document has been researched by his grandson, John Hartley during 1999-2001.

PERSONAL NOTE

This document came about after I donated Tom’s medals to the Museum of the Manchesters in Ashton under Lyne. I felt that this was where they belonged - as part of the historical record. Working near to the Museum, I gradually became more interested in “what granddad did in the war”. I never intended that this should become a record of the 17th Manchesters - but it has. Where it has been possible to identify the activities of “A” Company, I have used that in the description, in preference to a wider view.

This article was produced by researching public documents. In quoting from these public sources, I may have inadvertently quoted from the work of other, earlier researchers or failed to acknowledge them. If this is the case, I apologise and will take immediate steps to make correct citations should such omissions be brought to my notice.   JH

To contact the author of this article, email John Hartley

Copyright © John Hartley, February, 2002

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