THE 14TH BRIGADE IN THE LINE IN FLANDERS 59
officers and 54 other ranks joined the Battalion. On November 5th the Battalion marched back to its billets near Vieille Chapelle and completed refitting.
The 14th Brigade again took over a sector of the front line on November 6th, relieving the 8th Brigade near Vieille Chapelle, and the 1st Battn. East Surrey marched at 5.45 p.m. to take over the trenches occupied by the Royal Scots. The relief was effected by midnight without loss, and the Battalion remained in the trenches on this occasion for eight days, being relieved at a late hour in the night of November 14th. While in the front line there was an incessant rifle fire from the Germans and a considerable amount of badly aimed shell fire. A few casualties occurred daily, the total losses during the eight days being 2 killed and 23 wounded.
The 14th Brigade now recommenced its move northwards, and the 1st Battn. East Surrey marched in wet and very cold weather to Meteren a mile west of Bailleul. After only one night's rest the Battalion crossed the frontier into Belgium and took over on November 16th the trenches east of Lindenhoek, near Mt. Kemmel, held by the 133rd Regiment of the 39th French Division. The relief was a difficult one, as the German trenches were from 80 to 100 yards from the French ones, and on slightly higher ground. On November 17th the support trenches of the Battalion were persistently shelled. During the night and early morning of the 18th there was a sharp frost and some snow, after which the weather improved. Shelling continued, causing several casualties, and Major Paterson had a narrow escape, a shell striking one end of his dugout as he left by the other. The 19th and 20th were bitterly cold, with heavy snow on the former date, and the trenches were shelled each day. On the 21st the frost was very hard. The machine-gun section put out of action a German machine gun, this being the sixth time that they had performed the feat.
On November 22nd the support trenches were subjected for three or four hours to a heavy and accurate shell fire which covered the ground around with craters and destroyed the communication trenches. For conspicuous gallantry on this day Cpl. F. Camis was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. When his section had been shelled out of a trench he remained behind under heavy howitzer fire to bandage the wounded. The history of the 23rd was similar, all the Battalion trenches being heavily shelled and several men killed. On this day, however, it is recorded that the British field guns and howitzers fired vigorously and made excellent practice, which greatly cheered the troops.
November 24th ended the tour of trench duty, the Battalion being relieved at midnight by the Dorset Regt., when the companies marched to billets at Dranoutre. The total casualties during the eight-day tour in the trenches were 2nd Lieut. H. Housecroft and 17 other ranks killed and 40 other ranks wounded. 2nd Lieut. Housecroft had been less than a month with the Battalion.
The men were given a late morning on November 25th, and the rest of the day was spent in refitting. Fur jackets were served out and found most comfortable in the severe cold. Several men had suffered from frostbite during the last tour in the trenches. The men were also much pleased by the distribution of a large number of presents sent out by friends of the Battalion in England, and
60 THE BATTALION IN THE TRENCHES
at their request a grateful acknowledgment of the gifts was published in The Times and other newspapers. On November 26th the Battalion rested, and arrangements were made for 200 men at a time to bathe at the lunatic asylum at Bailleul. Next day experiments were made by the staff to ascertain the best method of carrying the considerable amount of warm clothing now in possession of the men, and at dusk on the 28th the Battalion again marched up to the trenches, its position on this occasion being near Wulverghem.
November 29th to December 1st were quiet days, the casualties being 3 men killed and 3 wounded. The Royal Engineers provided some iron loopholes during this period and began much-needed draining operations. At 6 p.m. on December 1st the Battalion was relieved by the Dorset Regt. The night was wet and, the relief being completed about 8 p.m., the companies assembled at Neuve Eglise and thence marched about seven miles west into billets at St. jans Cappel. As a result of trench duty the men could not now do more than 2-i miles in the hour, and did not reach billets until 1.30 a.m. on December 2nd. On this date Lieut.-Colonel Longley, Lieuts. Darwell, Clarke and Roupell, Sergt.-Major Hyson and Q.M.S. Rodgers left for England on seven days' leave, Major Paterson assuming command of the Battalion.
In the afternoon of the 2nd December the Battalion (14 officers and 633 other ranks) paraded for inspection by the Commander-in-Chief, Field-Marshal Sir John French,' who addressed them as follows:-
1st Battn. East Surrey Regt., I am very glad to have the opportunity of addressing you to-day and of thanking you for the work you have done. On the way here I asked your Corps Commander, Sir Horace, what special occasion 1 could mention in which you have distinguished yourselves. ' Whatever you mention, and whatever you say,' he said, ' it will not be too much. They have been splendid throughout.' No regiment could wish for higher praise than this, and I thank you personally for what you have done and the way you have helped me. The 8th Division have had more than their share of the fighting in this campaign. On the terrible retirement after Mons and Le Cateau you had the brunt of the fighting, and immediately after, at the Battle of the Marne, you had to attack the most difficult section of the line, and the attack was brilliantly carried out. Not a week later you were engaged on the Aisne and held the extremely difficult position of Missy, into which an incessant rifle and shellfire was poured from the commanding German position above. Less than a month after this the Regiment was in the thick of the terribly severe fighting round La Bassee. Where you were faced by three if not four times your numbers and experienced some of the fiercest fighting of the War. Lately in the trench fighting you have gallantly defended your lines against the most determined attacks and the most vigorous shelling. In fact, you have crowded into the four months of this campaign enough fighting to fill the battle honours of an Army Corps, and by your conduct throughout you have not only upheld, but greatly added to the fame of a grand old Regi-
THE ATTACK ON WYTSCHAETE 61
ment. In conclusion, as Commander-in-Chief, I wish once more to thank you for your endurance and for the splendid work you have performed and to tell you how glad I am to have this opportunity of being able to tell you so."
On December 3rd the visit of His Majesty the King to the Army in the field took place, and the 1st Battn. East Surrey was represented by one company, which paraded at Brigade Headquarters. His Majesty presented Distinguished Conduct Medals to a number of N.C.O.'s and men whose names have already been recorded, and on the conclusion of the inspection three hearty cheers were given by the troops on parade.
The Battalion marched to Neuve Eglise on December 5th and remained there in Brigade Reserve until the 10th, when, under Lieut.-Colonel Longley, who had rejoined from England, it relieved the Devon Regt. in the trenches at Wulverghem. The period of rest, longer than usual, had considerably improved the health of all ranks.
The first three days in the line were quiet and the casualties were few. 2nd Lieut. R. J. Hillier and 160 N.C.O.'s and men joined the Battalion on the 11th. On the 14th an attack was made on Wytschaete by the 3rd Division and a French Corps on the left of the 5th Division, which supported the attack by its fire. The operations continued on the 15th and 16th and had little success, the attacking troops being unable to move in the deep mud. The enemy's artillery fire became very heavy, and the Battalion lost 11 men killed, Lieut. W. H. M. Simpson mortally wounded and 27 other ranks wounded. For gallantry in repairing the telephone wires under heavy fire on the 16th, Pte. E. W. Peacock was afterwards awarded the D.C.M.
On December 17th the 1st Battn. East Surrey was held in readiness for another demonstration, but its services were not required, and at 9 p.m. it was relieved in the trenches by the Dorset Regt. and marched back to billets at St. jans-Cappel. During this week of trench duty, in addition to the loss of 13 killed and 35 wounded, the number of sick increased considerably owing to very wet and cold weather. The trenches were waterlogged, and enteric fever made its first appearance.
The Battalion remained at St. jans-Cappel in cold and unpleasant weather until the 23rd December. During this period of rest Captain and Quartermaster W. Ford left the Battalion after thirty-one years of valuable service, his place being filled by the promotion of Sergt-Major G. E. Hyson. A draft of 40 rank and file joined on December 21st, and on the 23rd the Battalion marched to Dranoutre, where it was billeted with the D.C.L.I., while the Devon and Manchester Regts. took over trenches from the 13th Brigade.
On Christmas Eve a draft of 108 men joined, and a dry day was employed in cleaning and drying the uncomfortable billets. Christmas Day was very cold and foggy, but the distribution of the cards and gifts sent by their Majesties the King and Queen and by Princess Mary gave great pleasure.
For the next three days companies were employed separately in trench
62 JANUARY, 1915
digging, and in the afternoon of the 29th the Battalion marched up to the trenches and relieved the Devons, who reported that the Germans had made frequent attempts to leave their trenches and fraternize on Christmas Day and were not finally discouraged until one or two had been shot. On December 30th much work was done in draining the trenches, which were deep in water. There was no heavy fire, Yet 3 men were killed and 7 wounded. On the last day of the year there was little fire and no casualties occurred.
The New Year began with a heavy bombardment of the German trenches, to which the enemy's guns presently replied. A large shell fell in a support trench occupied by part of A Company, burying 5 men. Pte. C. Owen and another man proceeded at once to dig these men out, when, a second shell falling near, the second man desisted. Pte. Owen continued digging, and was in the act of dragging out one of the buried men when a third shell killed him. For this act of devoted gallantry Pte. Owen was recommended for reward. Captain D. Wynyard, who had recovered from his wound received at Mons, rejoined and took over the duties of Adjutant.
The Battalion remained in the trenches till the night of January 4th, losing altogether during the tour 11 men killed and 2nd Lieut. C. G. Watson (Royal Berkshire Regt. attd.) and 21 men wounded. The relief was effected without loss, though the Germans opened machine-gun fire on the trenches while it was in progress. The Battalion then marched to billets at Bailleul, arriving there about 1 a.m. on January 5th and remaining until the 9th. Major Paterson went to England on short leave on the 5th, and on the 9th Colonel Longley, who, except for three short periods of extra-regimental duty, had been in the Battalion throughout his service, and had commanded it with high distinction from the beginning of the campaign, left on appointment as Brigadier-General of the 82nd Brigade. He had no time to take farewell of his old regiment before leaving, but sent them the following message at the first opportunity with a request that it might be read out to them on parade and afterwards published in orders:-
Officers, Non-commissioned Officers and Men,
" My orders on the 9th January to join and take command of the 82nd Brigade gave me no time for any leave-taking. I had quite intended coming over to see you while my brigade was in reserve, but that unfortunately has not been possible, so I am writing this message instead.
" You have a record second to none, and I have every confidence in your fully upholding that glorious record and adding to it as the years go by. To do that, however, you must continue the same wholehearted devotion to duty, setting yourselves the same high standard as in the past; and fostering a right spirit of self-sacrifice without which no soldier is worth his salt. Bear these things in mind, and God speed you in your work.
" I wish to express my very sincere thanks to the Battalion staff and to all company officers for the great assistance they have unfailingly given me at all times, likewise to the N.C.O.'s for their co-operation on all occa-
IN THE TRENCHES AT WULVERGHEM 63
sions. As for the men, I have nothing but admiration for the thoroughness they put into all their work, and for their cheeriness however trying that work may be. The sympathy and good feeling that exists between all ranks has been a marked feature in the Battalion for many years, and long may it continue so.
“ My task is taught,
Your swords are wrought,
So forward, though not
Farewell, but 'au revoir."'
“Commanding 82nd Infantry Brigade."
On January 10th the Battalion marched to new billets at Neuve Eglise, and on the following day Major Paterson returned from England and assumed command. On the 13th a draft of 91 men joined, and on the 16th the Battalion relieved the Devon Regt. in the trenches at Wulverghem. The relief began at 6 p.m. in heavy rain and pitch darkness, and was not completed before half past ten.
The 17th January was a quiet day in the line, only one man being wounded; but on the following day the trenches occupied by A Company were shelled and two men were buried by the explosion of two shells which fell close together. Cpl. R. Williams and two other men went to the assistance of the buried men, and while the two men worked in the trench Cpl. Williams jumped up on the parapet to remove the head cover. This he did knowing that earlier in the day a man had been killed on the same spot by a German sniper. He was almost immediately shot through the leg and at the same moment struck by fragments of a shell. For this gallant conduct Cpl. Williams afterwards received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
On January 19th, in consequence of a readjustment of the sector, part of the Battalion was relieved by the West Riding Regt. and the Queen Victoria's Rifles, and Headquarters and two companies marched into billets at Neuve Eglise. On the 20th D Company, which had remained in the trenches, was shelled and had 1 man killed and 6 wounded.
The periods of rest between the tours of duty in the trenches in these early days of the War were of short duration, and on the 21st January the Battalion again moved up to the line and relieved the D.C.L.I. in the trenches just north of the River Douve. The weather was terrible, and, owing to the river having overflowed its banks, men walking to and from the firing line were up to the waist in water. The Commanding Officer was ordered to report if the Battalion could hold the trenches for two complete days. On the 22nd the weather was clear and bright, and the whole flooded country was frozen hard. Company commanders reported that their men, though wet and very cold, wished to " stick out " the two days. The trenches were shelled without effect, but 1 man
64 THE BATTALION IN THE LINE OPPOSITE MESSINES
was killed and 2 wounded by German snipers. On the 23rd several men were found to be suffering from frostbite, and that evening the Battalion was relieved by the Devons and marched into Neuve Eglise. Next day it was complimented in Brigade Orders on its excellent work in the trenches.
On January 25th news was received that the 2nd Battn. East Surrey, which had recently arrived in France, was billeted at Fletre, eight miles west of Neuve Eglise. Greetings were interchanged by message, and on the z6th the Commanding Officer and two other officers rode over to visit the 2nd Battalion.
On January 28th Captain A. Huth (4th Battalion) and a draft of 90 men joined. On the 29th German aeroplanes came over the billets, and in the afternoon two shells fell in them, killing 1 man and wounding 9. In the evening two companies went into the reserve trenches, while the remainder of the Battalion finished the month in billets.
On February 1st the Battalion relieved the D.C.L.I. in A sector opposite Messines. The weather was favourable, the night being fine and dry with slight frost. About daybreak on the 3rd a fire broke out in a farm occupied as Battalion Headquarters. The building was in full view of the Messines Ridge, but by great exertions the fire was extinguished before the German artillery could locate it.
The trenches were shelled on the 4th and German snipers were active, 2 men being killed and 2 wounded. The Battalion was relieved by the Devon Regt. in the evening and marched to billets at Neuve Eglise, where it remained till February 11th, one man being wounded by shell fire, in the village. On the 8th the Battalion was joined by Captain J. C. May, 2nd Lieut. Dymott (Indian Army attd.) and 80 men. February 10th being Sobraon Day, was celebrated by special meals, a football match with the Devons in the afternoon and a concert in the evening.
On February 11th the Battalion relieved the Manchester Regt. in the B sector trenches in front of Messines, and was relieved by the D.C.L.I. on the night of the 15th. During this tour of duty the weather was stormy and wet, and the casualties were 2 killed and 8 wounded. On being relieved the Battalion returned to billets at Neuve Eglise, where it spent the next four days. This village, being close to the line, was subjected to periodical shelling by the enemy, and on this account was not much safer than the trenches. Fortunately for the Battalion, no shelling took place until the last day of its stay, and on the evening of the 19th the Battalion again took over A sector opposite Messines. This tour of trench duty was quiet and only six men were wounded. On the 23rd the Battalion was relieved by the Devons and went back at night into billets at Neuve Eglise.
On February 24th a draft of 50 men joined. On the 26th the following awards to officers and men of the Battalion for conspicuous service up to and including the actions of the River Aisne appeared in Orders:-
Lieut.-Colonel Longley was promoted Brevet Colonel, and Major Tew Brevet Lieut.-Colonel. Captain M. J. Minogue, Lieut. R. A. F. Montanaro and Lieut. and Quartermaster G. E. Hyson received the Military Cross.
PATROL WORK 65
The following were mentioned in despatches:-
Lieut.-Colonel J. R. Longley; Majors H. S. Tew and W. H. Paterson; Captain M. J. Minogue; Lieuts. T. H. Darwell, R. A. F. Montanaro and G. R. P. Roupell; Sergt. W. Parkes; Lce.-Sergt. H. Bousfield;l Lce.-Cpl. G. Bosten; Ptes. A. Quesnel, J. Hudson, J. Burton, Gutsall, H. Ward, W. Glock.
Shortly after noon on February 27th the Germans began shelling the north end of the village, and the Battalion was ordered to evacuate all its billets immediately and clear the village. Before this could be carried out a shell wrecked a house occupied by part of C Company, burying a number of men, of whom 7 were killed and 5 more or less severely wounded. Pte. Gould, who had joined with the last draft, was partially buried, and on being released at once assisted in digging out eight of the buried men. At 4 P.M. the shelling, having apparently ceased, the Battalion was ordered to remove kits from the billets, platoon by platoon. Shelling began again at once, and the men were again ordered to leave the village. At night the Battalion marched to the trenches in sector B and relieved the Manchester Regt. The month ended with snow and a violent storm of wind.
March 1st was a quiet day with no casualties, but on the 2nd the farm occupied by Battalion Headquarters was heavily shelled. Fifty-three shells, of which thirty-six were howitzer shells, fell on or round it, but without causing any casualties. One man was killed in the trenches. March 3rd was again quiet, and the Battalion was relieved at night by the D.C.L.I., A Company moving into billets in Neuve Eglise, and the remaining companies into newly constructed huts about a mile south of that village.
On March 4th the Battalion was busily engaged in making roads and drains. Neuve Eglise was shelled and A Company was moved out of it into huts, having one man wounded. On the 5th Neuve Eglise was again heavily shelled about midday: two shells fell into the Field Ambulance, killing Major Richards, R.A.M.C., and four men, two of whom belonged to the Battalion, while two East Surrey men were wounded. On March 6th Neuve Eglise was heavily shelled all day, and Battalion Headquarters moved into the huts. The 7th was a day of rain with more shelling; at night the Battalion relieved the Manchester Regt. in sector A opposite Messines.
On March 8th there was little sun and a very cold wind, with a hard frost at night. Several officers' patrols went out close to the German lines and threw grenades into their trenches. One man was wounded. March 9th opened fine ,and was a quiet day, with a fall of snow in the afternoon. At night a smart,exploit was performed by a patrol of four men under Lieut. G. R. P. Roupell, accompanied by Lieut. R. A. Abercrombie. The patrol went to a farm about 300 yards from our trenches and occupied by Germans as part of their line. To reach the farm the patrol had to crawl for a considerable distance owing to the Clearness of the night. On arriving close to the farm they remained for some time lying flat and listening to the Germans talking in, and in rear of the farm.
1 Lance-Sergeant Bousfield was appointed 2nd lieutenant in the Regiment on March 14th, 1915.
66 IN THE TRENCHES NEAR MOUNT KEMMEL
Eventually they saw five men leave the farm, and very soon after five men came back. Lieut. Roupell decided that they had seen the relief of a listening post. Presently a flare showed that they were close up against a thick wire entanglement running down to a hedge from the direction of which the relief had come. They crawled down the side of the entanglement to the hedge, and had got to within ten yards of it when they were twice challenged by a German whose head and shoulders could be seen against the sky. As they were prevented by the wire from rushing the post, they opened rapid fire on it with rifles and revolvers. The Germans replied; one of them shrieked out, and two were seen running away towards the farm. As there was no further sign or movement from the post was presumed that the three other Germans had been killed. The patrol then opened out and retired quickly to their trench under heavy fire from the German position. Lieut. Roupell was slightly wounded in the arm, but the remainder of the patrol were untouched.
On March 10th a trench mortar burst in the trench occupied by C Company, wounding one man. The next night the Battalion was relieved by the D.C.L.I. and went into billets at Neuve Eglise, where it remained till the 15th; but in consequence of the exposure of the village to shell fire, the days were passed in fields on the Bailleul road, the companies returning to their billets after dark. In consequence of this sensible though somewhat uncomfortable arrangement no casualties occurred. On March 15th the Battalion marched after dark straight from the fields on the Bailleul road to relieve the Manchester Regt. in sector B trenches before Messines. During this tour of trench duty the weather was mostly fine but dull, the casualties being one man killed and one wounded. Snow fell on the 19th, on which day the Battalion was relieved after dark by the D.C.L.I. and marched to Neuve Eglise. Next day was very fine, and the companies moved into huts west of the Bailleul road.
March 21st was a bright, warm day and Church service was held in the camp. In the afternoon the Commanding Officer, acting adjutant and company commanders went to Kemmel to inspect new trenches to be taken over by the Battalion. On the 23rd Neuve Eglise was shelled and six men employed there were wounded. The Battalion paraded at 5.50 p.m., marched northward to Kemmel and relieved the Wiltshire Regt. and parts of the 4th Battn. Gordon Highlanders and the Suffolk Regt.
On the first day in the new position the trench occupied by A Company was heavily bombarded, 11 men being wounded, and the total casualties during the day were 3 killed and 12 wounded. On the 25th there was little shelling, but a considerable amount of sniping, and at night an organized rifle and machine-gun fire was carried out which silenced the German musketry fire.
On March 27th the Battalion was relieved by the Manchester Regt. and marched to Locre, where it remained for four days in bright and sunny but very cold weather. During the night of the 31st the Battalion relieved the Manchester Regt. in the trenches north-east of Mt. Kemmel. The total casualties during March were 11 men killed and 1 officer and 30 other ranks wounded.
67 CHAPTER V
APRIL TO SEPTEMBER, 1915 THE 1ST BATTALION IN THE DEFENCE OF HILL 60; TWO MONTHS AND A HALF IN THE TRENCHES SOUTH OF HILL 60 DURING THE BATTLES OF YPRES, 1915. ON TRANSFER WITH THE 5th DIVISION TO THE X CORPS, THE BATTALION SERVES TWO MONTHS IN THE LINE BETWEEN MARICOURT AND THE RIVER SOMME.
The first four days of April were passed in the trenches north-east of Mount Kemmel and a good deal of shell and rifle fire was directed on the trenches each day, the casualties being 2nd Lieut. J. Nash (4th Battn. attd.) and 4 men killed and 17 men wounded.
As the 5th Division was now being transferred to another part of the line, the 1st Battn. East Surrey was relieved during the night of the 4th April by the Gordon Highlanders and Royal Scots, and went back to billets at Locre. It marched next morning to hutments cast of Zevecoten, remaining there until the 7th, when it continued its march northward to Ypres, where it remained in Brigade Reserve, being quartered in the cavalry barracks. The town had been heavily shelled during the day, and about 100 casualties had occurred in various regiments. There was more shelling on the 9th April, and the 1st Battn. East Surrey had three men wounded in the streets.
On the 10th April the 2nd Battn. East Surrey marched through Ypres and was heartily cheered by the men of the 1st Battalion, who were lined up in the square near the Cloth Hall. This meeting of the two battalions aroused the greatest interest throughout the East Surrey Regt.
On the following day the 1st Battn. East Surrey took over from the Manchester Regt. the trenches a quarter of a mile south-east of Verbranden Molen and on the opposite side of the Ypres-Comines railway to Hill 6o, which was soon to become the scene of one of the hardest :fights that the Battalion has experienced. While inspecting these trenches during the night of the 13th Brigadier-General F. S. Maude was severely wounded, the casualty being recorded in the Battalion Diary as " a grievous loss to the Brigade." During this tour of trench duty 6 men of the Battalion were killed and 19 wounded; while Captain J. C. May received severe injuries from a fall, which resulted in his being invalided to England. On the 1st the Battalion was relieved by the Manchester Regt. and returned as Brigade Reserve to the cavalry barracks, where it was joined by a draft of 18 men.
On the 18th April, Colonel G. H. Thesiger, who had assumed temporary command of the I1th Brigade, was ordered to send a battalion to reinforce the 13th Brigade at Hill 60. The 1st Battn. East Surrey was selected for this duty, and Battalion Headquarters and A and B Companies moved off at 4 p.m. to a position one mile short of Hill 60, followed two hours later by the remainder
68 THE BATTALION TAKES OVER THE HILL 60 POSITION
of the Battalion. While waiting for orders in this position the Battalion had its first experience of gas and its unpleasant effect on the throat and eyes.
Before proceeding with the narrative it is advisable to give a short description of Hill 60 and the circumstances of its capture by the British. East of Verbranden Molen the ridge which runs south-west from Mount Sorrel to the Bluff is crossed by a deep cutting, in which runs the railway from Ypres to Comines. On the northern edge of the cutting stands Hill 60. which has been described aptly as a pimple near the western crest of the ridge. As will be seen by reference to the sketch map opposite, the 6o-metre contour indicates approximately the base of this pimple. To its position, therefore, rather than to its elevation, is due the value which Hill 60 had for the Germans as an artillery observation post overlooking the lower ground to the west and north-west towards Ypres, which lies some two miles distant and 120 feet below it.
On the 17th April the British front line ran along the road which leads from the hamlet of Zwarteleen round the northern base of the pimple and crosses the railway by the bridge. About 6 p.m. on that date the Royal Engineers exploded the mines which they had driven under the German fire-trenches on the hill, with the result that five craters were formed, occupying practically the whole area, which had once been the summit of the hill. Following on the explosion of the mines, the 1st Battn. Royal West Kent Regt. And 2nd Battn. K.O.S.B., of the 13th Brigade, captured and occupied the German support trenches, which ran round the southern slope of the pimple, a short distance below the crest-line. During the night of the 18th/19th April the 1st Brigade relieved the 13th on both sides of the railway cutting, and the 1st Battn. East Surrey, now attached to the 1st Brigade, took over a portion of the Brigade front, viz. the Hill 60 position, at 5 a.m. on the 19th April.
Before proceeding with the description of the Hill 60 defences it is necessary to indicate the situation and dimensions of the mine-craters referred to in the preceding paragraph, as some of these craters played an important part in the subsequent defence. Three of the craters lay, approximately in a straight line, close to the southern crest-line of the hill and, having regard to the position of an observer on the hill looking southwards towards the new German front line, are referred to hereafter as the left, middle and right craters respectively. The left, or easternmost, crater formed with the middle crater a figure of eight, as their lips intersected at one point where their junction was below ground level. The left crater was about 3o yards in diameter and had a depth of some 20 feet; while the middle crater was of slightly greater dimensions. The right crater, a smaller one, was separated by a few yards from the middle one. Two other smaller craters lay in rear - that is, near the northern crest-line of the hill.
The defences of Hill 60 consisted, roughly speaking, of two lines of trenches both of which started from a point near the railway bridge. The advanced line of trenches ran from the bridge up the slope of the pimple towards the right crater, where a gap existed, beyond which the old German support trenches were held as the British front line and extended as far as the front of the left crater.
70 BOMBARDMENT AND REPAIR WORK
Into these trenches opened two old German communication trenches which crossed No Man's Land from the German front line, one of which continued through the left extremity of the British front line past the left crater into the middle one, while a branch from it ran direct to the left crater. Both the old German communication trenches were " blocked " in No Man's Land at some distance from the British front line, and both branches of the continuation of the left-hand trench were blocked again between the advanced line and the craters.
The left of the British advanced line was thus completely in the air, and the danger to this flank was increased by the existence of the German sap XZ. When the Battalion took over the position, C Company, under Captain A. H. Huth, occupied the whole of the advanced line from the bridge to the left crater.
The other line of trenches followed roughly the road which ran from the bridge round the northern base of the pimple to Zwarteleen. At first A Company, commanded by Lieut. G. R. P. Roupell, occupied the right trenches as far as the communication trench running up to the left crater. D Company, under Lieut. E. G. H. Clarke, was on A's left, and B, under Captain P. C. Wynter, held the left of the Battalion's front as far as the point of junction with the 1st Battn. Cheshire Regt. near Zwarteleen. B Company had three platoons in the front line and one, under 2nd Lieut. O.I. Nares, in the support trench about So yards in rear of its left. At the base of the pimple, opposite the junction of D and B Companies, the ground was pitted with large shell holes; and a little further to the left was the German strong point Z, distant only 2o yards from B Company's right. Further again to the left and at right angles to the general front was the short trench B.C., also held by B Company, with two ruined houses alongside it, which obscured the view into the shell-hole area.
The machine-gun section under Lieut. Darwell had five machine guns, four of which were with B and D Companies sweeping the eastern slopes of the hill, and one with C Company near the bridge. The Bedfords were in support in a line of trenches with dugouts about Larch Wood, which was on the railway some 500 yards in rear of the hill.
Throughout the 19th April, which was spent in clearing the trenches of dead and wounded and in improving the defences, the position was shelled continuously by the Germans, their fire being directed chiefly on the support and communication trenches in rear of the hill. About 5 p.m. the shelling increased to a heavy bombardment of all the trenches by trench mortars and heavy howitzers. It was answered by the British guns and ceased after half an hour, but during that period it had wrought great destruction. No infantry attack followed, and the Battalion commenced at once the task of repairing the damaged defences.
About 10 p.m. an important change took place in the distribution of the two companies on the right, when half of A Company, under Lieut. Roupell, relieved the two platoons of C Company which had originally occupied the old German support trenches on the forward slope of the pimple. Thereafter C Company on the extreme right and A Company on its left had each two platoons in the advanced line and two in support in the trenches along the road.
HEAVY BOMBARDMENT 71
The work of repairing the defences continued throughout the night, and, in spite of the enemy's continuous shelling and bombing, the men worked magnificently, and all damage was made good by dawn of the 20th. Captain Huth, an excellent officer whose death was regretted by the whole Battalion, was killed while superintending the extension of C Company's trench in the advanced line up the slope to the right crater.
The early morning of the 20th, which like the previous day was fine and hot, passed fairly quietly as far as the advanced line was concerned; but in rear of the hill the fire of the enemy's heavy howitzers was very accurate and caused much damage to the parapets. On the left, No. 5 platoon of B Company, under Lieut. A. C. T. Evanson, observed a party of the enemy working on their sap ,at X and tried to bomb them from C, the end of the trench BC, but without success. The end C was then broken down by German field-guns in action just beyond Zwarteleen. It was eventually blocked again by some very brave men ,of No. 6 platoon, under the direction of Sergt. P. Griggs, who subsequently received the D.C.M. and later on was killed in one of the battles of the Somme, 1916. These men saved the trench BC, which otherwise would have remained completely exposed.
The worst thorn in the side of B Company, however, was the strong point at Z, which had been completed by the Germans during the night and was now provided with steel loopholes. Situated as it was only 20 yards from the British trench, B Company suffered severely from its bombers and snipers. Every time one of the East Surrey men looked over the parapets near the strong point a German bullet went into or near his head, and in one place five men in succession were killed in this way while an attempt was being made to bring rifle fire to bear on the above-mentioned German working party at X.
About 11 a.m. a heavy bombardment started on the position generally and again caused great destruction. In places the trenches were obliterated and many men were killed or buried by the explosions. During this bombardment the Commanding Officer, Major W. H. Paterson, with the Adjutant, Captain D. Wynyard, visited D Company's trenches. Captain Wynyard, noticing that some men were helping the wounded in a specially exposed portion of a trench, ran to the spot and moved the men along the trench away from the danger zone. He then returned to the wounded men and attended to them until he was himself killed by a shell. His body and those of the men who were killed with him were at once buried by a party under Lieut. Norton. Major Paterson then returned to the headquarters dugout, which was situated in a communication trench a short distance in rear of C Company, and directed 2nd Lieut. B. K. Dymott, the second machine-gun officer, to take over the duties of adjutant.
About this time the right of B Company and the left of D were being badly raked by shrapnel from the German field-guns in action just beyond Zwarteleen. As the few bridge traverses in these trenches had been knocked down, many men were wounded. They were carried into a dugout, which unluckily was destroyed shortly afterwards by a shell.
Soon after midday the bombardment died down and the weary work of
72 THE INTENSE BOMBARDMENT
repairing the damaged trenches under sporadic shell fire was resumed. Indeed, the bombardments seem to have been regarded by some of the men in the less exposed defences as affording an opportunity for relaxation in the form of card games. About 2.3o p.m. Captain P. C. Wynter, who had received orders to move B Company forward at dusk and relieve A Company in the advanced line beyond the hill, went up to reconnoitre his new position. While so engaged he was wounded in the head and was removed unconscious into a dugout for shelter. This dugout also was destroyed afterwards by a shell, and Captain Wynter was killed.
About 3 p.m. the Germans attempted to advance from their sap near the strong point Z to the shell-hole area in front of B Company's right. Protected as they were by their snipers in the strong point the situation was for a moment full of danger. It was saved, however, by Pte. E. Dwyer, who, instead of putting his head over the parapet, jumped boldly on to it and flung bombs into the strong point. His brave action enabled his comrades to man their parapet and deal with the enemy moving into the shell holes, while D Company also brought a cross-fire to bear on them from the right.
About this time No. 8 platoon was brought up from the support trench as a reinforcement and took up its position in the front line as the left platoon of B Company. Here its commander, 2nd Lieut. 0. I. Nares, found himself, by a curious coincidence, next in the line to his brother, Captain E. P. Nares, who commanded the right company of the Cheshire Regt. of the 1st Brigade.
So far the German activities against the defenders of Hill 60 had been of a preliminary nature, but soon after 4 P.M. their real concerted attempt to re-capture the lost position be an to develop. The first phase of this attack was an intense concentrated bombardment of the whole position by guns of all calibres, including those of field batteries near Zwarteleen and the Caterpillar, those in the latter position firing direct into A Company's trenches in the advanced line.
The bursting of shells was incessant and the noise was deafening. The little hill was covered with flame. smoke and dust, and it was impossible to see more than ten yards in any direction. Many casualties resulted, and the battered trenches became so choked with dead, wounded, debris and mud as to be well nigh impassable. Every telephone line was cut and all communications ceased, internal as well as with sector headquarters and the artillery, so that the support afforded by the British guns was necessarily less effective.
One of the first victims of the bombardment, it would seem, was Major Paterson. A quarter of an hour before it commenced he had sent 2nd Lieut. Dymott to Lieut. Darwell, who was with the machine guns near the junction of B and D Companies, with a message that the last-named officer was to come and take over the adjudant’s duties. After delivering the message 2nd Lieut. Dymott returned to Battalion Headquarters, and Lieut. Darwell followed a few minutes later. On arrival at the headquarters dugout, he found that it had been destroyed by a shell. Major Paterson, the Commanding Officer, was lying near it dead, and 2nd Lieut. Dymott was severely wounded. Of the rest of the Headquarters personnel only the corporal and one man of the signallers were fit for
COMMENCEMENT OF INFANTRY ATTACKS 73
duty. With these two soldiers Lieut. Darwell, seeing the necessity for reinforcements and failing to obtain news of Captain Wynter, the next senior officer, tried to tap the wires in the communication trench alongside the railway in order to get in touch with sector headquarters, but without success. After this failure, Cpl. Harding, of the signallers, made his way there with a message notifying the death of Major Paterson and asking for reinforcements. Another messenger got through to the artillery observation post at the Dump.
Meanwhile in the advanced line the two platoons of A Company, under Lieut. Roupell, had suffered heavy losses and their trenches were much battered. 2nd Lieut. Davis was in command of the ]platoon on the left in front of the left crater, while Lieut. Watson's platoon held the right trench which bent back to join C Company's trench. This bend was badly raked by the German field guns, and when Lieut. G. L. Watson and some twenty men had been killed, Lieut. Roupell sent back orders to Lieut. Abercrombie to bring up his platoon as a reinforcement. Lieut. Abercrombie had literally to cut his way through the remains of Lieut. Watson's platoon, who had all been buried by the explosions which had wrecked their trench. Under the continued fire of the German field guns he lost many men while doing so, but he and the survivors of his platoon behaved most gallantly and kept their trench open, thus providing the only. means of communication to Lieut. Davis's platoon on the left, who had no other exit from their trench.
So far the German infantry had not shown any activity since the commencement of the intense bombardment, and from the statements of German prisoners it would appear that they were withdrawn, during its first phase, from the trenches adjacent to the hill. Soon after 5 p.m., however, the bombardment lifted off the southern and eastern slopes of the hill, and the fire of the German artillery was thereafter directed on to the communication and support trenches as well as on to the remainder of the hill.
Shortly after this lift a strong party of German infantry deployed from the railway cutting near the Caterpillar and advanced across the open in the direction of the right crater. It was quickly stopped and driven back by the concentrated fire of the British artillery, the machine guns of the 1st Battn. Norfolk Regt. on the far side of the cutting and the machine gun in C Company's trench. Cpl. F. W. Adams, who was in charge of the latter machine gun, was at the time single-handed, as during the bombardment both his gunners had been killed, while he himself was severely wounded. He continued nevertheless to fight his gun, though a portion of his jaw had been shot away, for more than half an hour, until, soon after the German infantry attack was dispersed, he was killed by a bullet through the head. For his heroism his name was subsequently submitted by the Battalion for the award of the Victoria Cross.
Simultaneously with this attack two others developed, one against A Company in the advanced line, and the other opposite B and D Companies on the left of the hill. In the attack on A Company parties of bombers crawled up the old German communication trenches, supported by parties of infantry who from time to time attempted to advance by short rushes across the open ground. The
74 THE BEDFORDS REINFORCE
men of A Company, though suffering heavy losses from bombs and rifle fire, put up a very brave defence. Unable to use their long-handled bombs, owing to the narrowness of their trenches, they gallantly picked up the German bombs and hurled them back before they exploded, and each rush of the enemy's infantry was stopped by rifle fire.
The other attack opposite B and D Companies was evidently an attempt to isolate A Company's left in the advanced line by obtaining possession of the left crater and the communication trench leading up to it from D Company's right. Fortunately, a platoon of the latter company, under 2nd Lieut. Norton, had already occupied this communication trench, and the cross-fire of the two companies once more defeated the German attempts to advance through the shell hole area. These attempts were made from the sap XZ after the British trenches opposite Z had been subjected to a heavy enfilade fire from the field batteries beyond Zwarteleen. In the sap itself two machine guns had been installed which commanded the approach to the left crater and A Company's left. It will be seen shortly how, in spite of the new menace, the occupation of the left crater by British reinforcements enabled A Company to continue its marvellous defence of the advanced line.
Meanwhile, in response probably to Lieut. Darwell's appeal for reinforcements, which had been carried to sector headquarters by Cpl. Harding, Major W. Allason, with reinforcements from his battalion, the 1st Bedfords, had ,arrived at the foot of the hill about 5.45 p.m. and at once assumed local command.
At this moment, under stress of heavy casualties, Licut. Roupell called for reinforcements for A Company in the advanced line, and Major Allason sent forward a party of his men, who somehow found their way to and occupied the left crater. The call for help also reached 2nd Lieut. Geary, of C Company, who forthwith collected his platoon and led them forward. Unable, owing to the battered condition of the right communication trench to reach the advanced line by that route, he looked through a gap in the debris, saw the Bedford men in the left crater and, followed by his platoon, rushed across the open to join them. The arrival of this much-needed reinforcement was greeted by the Bedford men with loud cheers.
That the left crater was now one of the enemy's objectives on this flank was evident from the fact that it was not under hostile artillery fire, although shells were pouring into the middle crater. Also the machine guns in the sap took a heavy toll of the reinforcements that came up from time to time. These reinforcements included further parties of the Bedford Regt., 2nd Lieut. Norton with his platoon of D Company, which had previously manned the communication trench, and Lieut. G. W. Kennedy with the last platoon of A Company. As had been the case with 2nd Lieut. Geary, Lieut. Kennedy had been unable to join A Company in the advanced line. The latter officer was shortly afterwards severely wounded in the head, but with great fortitude he stayed on with his men until 2nd Lieut. Geary persuaded him to allow himself to be taken back. 2nd Lieut. T. A. Norton fought gallantly for another half-hour until he was killed by a shot through the head while firing over the lip of the crater. The
THE GERMANS IN A COMPANY'S TRENCH 75
German rifle fire and grenades had caused many casualties in other ranks also, .and the crater was fast filling up with dead and wounded. The latter were being attended to by Capt. G. D. Eccles. R.A.M.C., and his orderly Lce.-Cpl. Fitzgibbons, who subsequently received the Military Medal.
Meanwhile A Company in the advanced line, in spite of very heavy losses, was still holding on most gallantly to its trenches. The enemy's attacks were frequent and never varied in form. On each occasion, after a hail of grenades from the two old communication trenches, the supporting infantry charged across the open, hoping, no doubt, to find the trench deserted or full of dead, but they were always met and stopped by the rapid fire of the few survivors. But A Company was sadly in need of reinforcements. The, intense bombardment and the resulting destruction of all telephone wires had rendered communication between the various groups of the defence a matter of the greatest ,difficulty, and we have seen how the reinforcements intended for A Company had been diverted to the left crater owing to the battered state of the hill.
Fortunately, when darkness came on, soon after seven o'clock, the intensity of the bombardment diminished somewhat and Lieut. Roupell, realizing that without reinforcements he could not continue to hold the position himself, came back from the advanced line to explain the situation. Though wounded in eight places, he made his way to sector headquarters, and there, at 7.30 p.m., he gave a full report to Lieut.-Colonel Griffiths of the Bedford Regt., the sector commander who promised further reinforcements. After having his wounds dressed, Lieut. Roupell gallantly went forward again to resume command of his company in the advanced line.
Meanwhile a dangerous situation had arisen in A Company's portion of the advanced line, when, soon after eight o'clock, the German bombers, crawling forward along the left communication trench, had penetrated into the extreme left of A Company's trench. The fire of 2nd Lieut. Davis's platoon along this trench, which was practically straight with no traverses, prevented the Germans from establishing themselves in it; but they in their turn kept A Company's men back by constant bombing, and the extremity of the trench remained untenable for both sides.
A certain number of Germans managed, however, to slip across into the prolongations of their communication trench which led into the middle and left ,craters respectively. From the communication trench leafing to the middle crater some commenced firing into the backs of the defenders of the left crater, while others advanced in single file along the branch trench leading into it. The latter were shot down at close range as fast as they came on, and finally they abandoned their attempts to capture the crater from this direction and fell back to the junction of the communication trench with the advanced line.
After repelling this attack 2nd Lieut. Geary, who was anxious regarding the situation on his flanks, sent three messengers to Lieut. Clarke to ascertain how D Company was getting on, while he personally made his way across the summit to the advanced line. To anticipate as regards the messengers, no answer came from Lieut. Clarke as no one of them reached him.
76 THE QUEEN VICTORIA'S RIFLES REINFORCE
On reaching A Company's trench, Lieut. Geary was relieved to find there 2nd Lieut. Davis and an officer of the Bedford Regt. with men of both regiments still full of fight and in possession of the greater portion of their trench. A conference of the three officers led to the decision that they must not think of sacrificing the hill until they had made sure that there was no one behind to support them, and 2nd Lieut. Geary left to make further investigation of the situation.
On his way he met Major P. T. Lees, who was bringing forward his battalion, Queen Victoria's Rifles, with orders to recapture the portion of the advanced line reported to be occupied by the Germans. Major Lees, who had not seen the position by daylight, after hearing 2nd Lieut. Geary's account of the situation. arranged for a joint attack by 2nd Lieut. Geary's men and the Q.V.R., on a signal to be given later, with the object of driving the Germans from the left of the advanced line. As events turned out, however, this attack was not needed.
Meanwhile the defenders of the left crater were still holding their own against constant attacks and bombing, and further to the left B and D Companies opened fire whenever the enemy was seen moving in the shell-hole area in front of them, where he made at least three unsuccessful attempts to advance between dark and dawn.
On the hill itself measures were now being taken to repair the damage caused by the bombardment and to strengthen the position. Telephone wires between companies were repaired, and under the direction Of 2nd Lieut. Geary a trench was commenced on the summit of the hill, near the lip of the middle crater and commanding it, by men hastily collected who worked under a pitiless fire. While this work was in progress a German flare light went up and revealed the fact that from a point close to the new trench the Germans at the left extremity of the advanced line were visible. Fire was promptly opened on them, and another position was prepared from which fire was brought to bear along the old communication trench down which they must retire. As the Germans were crowded together with but little cover, they presented a target which it was hard to miss, and they were forced well back into the old communication trench, from which, however, they continued to hurl bombs into the left of the British advanced line. Having completed these arrangements, 2nd Lieut. Geary returned to the left crater, picking up on his way a party of Q.V.R. with ammunition, of which he found the men in the left crater to be in urgent need.
While these events had been taking place on the summit and left of the hill there had been no cessation of the attacks on A Company in the advanced line. That these attacks were still unsuccessful was due to the stubborn pluck of all ranks of the company. C.S.M. Reid rendered valuable service by going back several times after dark to bring up ammunition, and Lieut. Roupell again went back soon after 11 p.m. and brought up a party of the Bedford Regt., a much-needed reinforcement.
After the retirement of the Germans from the left of the advanced line, which took place not long before midnight, the situation became easier and only
THE BATTALION RELIEVED BY THE DEVONS 77
four fresh attacks were delivered against A Company in the next three or four hours. In the left crater. however, the casualties continued to be heavy, and shortly before dawn 2nd Lieut. Geary went back for reinforcements. On his way down the hill he received a severe wound which eventually caused the loss of his left eye.
At dawn on the 7.ist the worn-out men in the trenches were roused with difficulty in expectation of a renewed attack, which mercifully never came, and at 6 a.m. the Hill 60 position, intact as it had been taken over by the 1st Battn. East Surrey on the 19th, was handed on to the 1st Battn. Devon Regt. The relief was not effected without further casualties, and 2nd Lieut. W. A. Davis, who had been with A Company throughout the defence of the advanced line, was amongst the killed.
After relief, the 1st Battn. East Surrey, sadly reduced in numbers and with six officers left out of the twenty-one who had gone into action on the 19th, marched back, under the command of Lieut. Darwell, to billets at Kruisstraat, carrying with them the body of their lamented commander, Major Paterson, which was buried later in the day in the Convent grounds at Ypres. It may be noted here that Major Paterson was promoted to the rank of temporary Lieut.Colonel after his death. He was a soldier of rare merit. Highly courageous, prompt and determined, he was trusted implicitly by his battalion, which would have followed him anywhere, and his unfailing cheerfulness had the happiest influence on those around him.
The casualties in the defence of Hill 60 were as follows
Killed: 7 officers and 16 other ranks.
Wounded: 8 officers and 158 other ranks.
The officers killed were Major W. H. Paterson, Captains P. C. Wynter, A. H. Huth (4th Battn. attd.) and D. Wynyard, Lieut. G. L. Watson (3rd Battn. attd.), and 2nd Lieuts. W. A. Davis and T. A. Norton (both 4th Battn. attd.). Those wounded were Lieuts. G. R. P. Roupell and G. H. Wigston, 2nd Lieuts.
B. H. Geary (4th Battn. attd.), G. W. Kennedy, C. P. Emmett, C. E. Lugard, A. R. Abercrombie (The Queen's attd.) and B. K. Dymott (Indian Army attd.).
On arrival at Ypres, the following telegram was received from Colonel Thesiger, commanding the 14th Brigade, which the Battalion had now rejoined: " Deeply deplore loss of your C.O., so many officers and men, but congratulate the Battalion on the gallant example they have set to all." This struck the right note. The defence of Hill 60 had indeed cost the East Surrey Regt. dearly, and the strain on every man had been great but nobly met. In the words of Brigadier General Northey. who then commanded the 1sth Brigade, " the Bedfords and East Surrey, suffering enormous losses, never budged nor even complained." In a war abounding with glorious deeds the defence of Hill 60 has been regarded as among the finest, and the memory of the 19th to 21st April, 1915, and of those who fell during those grim days and nights will ever be cherished by the Regiment.
On April 22nd the 1st Battn. East Surrey was ordered to Ouderdom to attend a parade for the Commander-in-Chief. Before the Battalion started, Sir
78 THE BATTLES OF YPRES, 1915
Charles Fergusson, the Corps Commander, addressed it, congratulating it on its fine performance, and adding: " It was the most magnificent thing yet in the whole war." In the afternoon at Ouderdom Field-Marshal Sir John French spoke to the Battalion and the other units which had taken part in the fight at Hill 6o on their glorious achievement.
Though the gallant deeds performed by individual officers, N.C.O.'s and men at Hill 60 were many, most of the officers who might have brought them to notice were either dead or in hospital. In course of time, however, those cases that could be verified were reported to the proper authorities and were then recognized by the award of decorations.
Lieut. G. R. P. Roupell, 2nd Lieut. B. H. Geary and Pte. E. Dwyer received the Victoria Cross, and the notification of the awards in the London Gazette recorded their services as already described in these pages. The Military Cross was awarded to Lieuts. T. H. Darwell and E. G. H. Clarke, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal to Company Sergt.-Major A. J. Reid, Sergts. P. Griggs and W. E. Packhard, Cpl. W. H. Harding, Lce.-Cpl. F. S. Martin and Ptes. A. Hotz and F. Grimwood. The following were mentioned in despatches: Major W. H. Paterson, Captain D. Wynyard, Lieuts. Darwell and Clarke, Sergt. Griggs, Cpl. F. W. Adams, Ptes. J. Brown, S. Elliott and Owers. Lieut. Roupell and Ptes. E. Dwyer and G. M. May also received the Russian Cross of St. George.
The capture and defence of Hill 60 are not now officially included in the battles of Ypres, 1915. The first of this series of battles, viz. the Battle of Gravenstafel, was fought on the 22nd and 23rd April, and in commencing it the Germans adopted the hitherto unknown gas attack, which overwhelmed the right division of the French troops holding the line north of Ypres. The whole of the Ypres salient was thus threatened, and on the 23rd April the 1st Battn. East Surrey, amongst other units, was ordered to be ready to move at a moment's notice. On this date Captain R. D. F. Oldman, of the Norfolk Regt., took over temporary command of the Battalion.
On the 24th April the Germans opened the Battle of St. Julien and in the afternoon succeeded in capturing the village of that name, which lies about three miles north-cast of Ypres. At 5.30 P.M. on that day the 1st Battn. East Surrey moved forward into the second line and worked till midnight on a new inner defence line which was being hastily constructed in rear of Ypres.
At two o'clock in the morning of the 25th the Battalion went into billets at Kruisstraathoek, and soon afterwards B Company's billets were shelled and 1 man was killed and 4 wounded. The remainder of the day was spent in bivouac in the fields outside the village; but the shelling all round Ypres was incessant and nine more men were wounded. The Battalion relieved the Manchester Regt. at night in the trenches which it had already occupied earlier in the month on the far side of the railway opposite Hill 60. Here it remained until the night of April 30th, the weather being fine and sunny: it sustained a loss of 7 men killed and 25 wounded, mainly from shell fire, which was continuous and heavy.
During the last two days of the month the Battalion received strong reinforcements by the arrival of Captain E. M. Woulfe-Flanagan with a draft of
IN THE LINE SOUTH OF THE RAILWAY NEAR HILL 60 79
300 men and of 6 subaltern officers. On relief by the Manchesters on April 30th the Battalion marched back to billets in Kruisstraathoek.
May 1st and 2nd were spent in bivouac in a field south-west of Ypres. Drill and training of sappers, bombers and machine gunners was carried out in spite of frequent shelling, which caused a casualty list of fourteen men wounded. On the 4th May half the Battalion, under Captain Woulfe-Flanagan, went up to the trenches south of the railway near Hill 60 and relieved the Norfolk Regt. and 6th Battn. Liverpool Regt.; the remainder of the Battalion, under Captain Oldman, remained in bivouac. On May 5th the two companies in the trenches had gas pumped against them on three occasions, the Germans at the same time opening heavy rifle fire. Respirators were promptly put on and the fire returned. There was further fighting on Hill 60 during the day and much artillery fire on both sides, the casualties numbering 2 killed and 7 wounded, and the half battalion under Captain Oldman was brought up into reserve to Brigade Headquarters. Lieuts. T. H. S. Swanton and R. Streatfeild-James joined from England. These officers had previously served in Flanders with the 2nd Battalion.
May 6th was a fine day and the wind blew towards the enemy. New respirator pads were issued to the half-battalion in the trenches. The half battalion under Captain Oldman returned to its bivouac during the morning, and two officers and sixty-four bombers were formed into a separate tactical unit. Various appliances for combating gas were issued and instructions given for action during gas attacks.
Meanwhile an Order of the Day had been published by G.O.C. II Corps, Lieut.-General Sir Charles Fergusson, confidently calling on the Corps to resist all the efforts of the German Army to break through the British line. This confidence was echoed by Major-General Morland, commanding the 5th Division, and in communicating the call to his brigade General F. S. Maude, who had rejoined from England with his wound still unhealed, wrote the following memorandum, which gave deep satisfaction to every man in the Battalion:-
" In circulating the above for communication to all concerned, the Brigadier-General Commanding expresses his conviction that the Brigade will continue to emulate the proud record which it has already created for itself, a record which has during the past few weeks been enhanced on Hill 6o by the resourcefulness, devotion to duty, cool temerity and endurance of the Devons, and by the magnificent and glorious heroism of the East Surreys. "(Signed) F. S. MAUDE,
Brigadier-General Commanding 14th Infantry Brigade.
"May 7th, 1915."
On May 7th the Headquarters and remainder of the Battalion joined the two companies already in the trenches, and for two and a half months from that date the 1st Battn. East Surrey remained in the line unrelieved,' so few were the troops available for the defence of the Ypres salient. During May the battles
80 THE LINE SOUTH OF THE RAILWAY NEAR HILL 60
of Frezenberg Ridge and Bellewaarde Ridge were fought further to the north, and the German artillery shelled continuously the portion of the line held by the Battalion, its fire being chiefly directed on the battery position and roads in rear, while Ravine Wood close behind the Battalion came in for its full share. Consequently the supply of food and ammunition, though carried out at night, was extremely hazardous, but no serious attacks were made on this portion of the line. The casualties during the period May 10th to 22nd amounted to 3 men killed and 28 wounded, and on the latter date Lieut. J. Newington (3rd Battn. attd.) was also killed. He was the son of Captain Newington, formerly of the 1st Battalion. His death, which was instantaneous, was caused by a stray rifle bullet in the wood.
On the 23rd, a fine and warm day, several changes occurred. The Battalion was ordered to hand over its trenches to the Norfolk Regt. and to take over trenches on its right from the D.C.L.I. The move was effected with some difficulty owing to the reduced accommodation now allotted to the Battalion. On this day Lieut. Darwell was ordered to attend a machine-gun course at St. Omer, and handed over the acting-adjutancy to Lieut. Streatfeild-James.
Between the 23rd and 31st May 7 men were killed and 38 wounded. These constant casualties are thus explained in the Battalion War Diary: " The usual sniping going on. We hope shortly, when loopholes are completed, to cope with this more effectively. At present by day enemy snipers have things a good deal their own way as they are well provided with loopholes." On the 29th, Brevet Lieut.-Colonel H. S. Tew rejoined from England and took over command from Captain Woulfe-Flanagan, who had commanded since Captain Oldman rejoined his own regiment on May 16th. Officers continued to join from England throughout the month, and gradually the gaps caused on Hill 60 were filled.
Although the conclusion of the Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge on the 25th May marked the end of the battles of Ypres, 1915 the Battalion Diary for June tells a similar story to that of May, of unresting vigilance and steady endurance, and also records the daily improvement of the trenches under the experienced eye of Lieut.-Colonel Tew. One day of this month was so like another that to record its events in detail would be monotonous. It seems preferable to mention events of special interest and to conclude with a statement of casualties.
On the 10th June short leave to England was opened to N.C.O.'s and men, but on a very small scale, parties of four being allowed to go home for five days, which included the journeys. On the 11th a small draft of twenty-five men joined the Battalion. On the 22nd three Vickers' guns were issued in place of Maxims. On the 24th General Maude addressed a representative party of the Battalion on the occasion of his vacating command of the 14th Brigade on appointment to the command of a division. Three sides of a small square were formed in the fir wood. General Maude thanked the Battalion for the splendid work it had done. He remarked on the good commanding officers that it had had throughout the campaign, and said that he considered the late Major Paterson the ideal commanding officer that a battalion could wish for.
On June 27th Brigadier-General Compton (from Lieut.-Colonel, Somerset
THE LINE SOUTH OF THE RAILWAY NEAR HILL 60 81
Light Infantry) assumed command of the 14th Brigade, and leave was sanctioned for eight instead of four N.C.O.'s and men. There were then about 100 of all ranks who had been with the Battalion from the first day of the War. On the same day the Battalion was completed with one " smoke-helmet " per man, and the issue of a second helmet was begun.
The weather throughout the month was generally fine and suited to trench work, dry but not too hot. A great deal of work was carried out in strengthening and draining the trenches and in improving the mile and a half of communication trenches in charge of the Battalion. All were inspected by the new Brigadier on the last day of the month.
The casualties during June were: 8 other ranks killed and 2nd Lieut. H. H. E. Massey and 54 other ranks wounded.
The 1st Battn. East Surrey had still more than three weeks of trench duty before it, for it was not until the night of the 24th July that its share in the defence of the Ypres salient came to an end. The record of the first three weeks of the month is somewhat monotonous, as was that of June, but it sets forth a tale of steady and progressive work, of a regular development of war organization, and of an approach to perfection in the construction of the section of field defences held by the Battalion. In this last respect perfection would have been reached much sooner but for the difficulty of obtaining material in adequate quantities. Thus on July 6th the Battalion Diary records that the supply of sandbags was limited to 1000 per battalion per night, work being consequently limited; and on July 12th, when the whole Brigade was engaged in improving its barbed-wire defences, the Battalion required and could have used twenty rolls of wire daily, but could only obtain ten. Time and industry, however, worked wonders, and before the Battalion finally left its section of the defences its trenches had reached a very high standard as regards security from fire, strength in defence, convenience of access and sanitation. The support trenches had been reconstructed much closer to the fire trenches, so that rapid reinforcement was always practicable; loopholes had been provided in abundance; and by the construction of a double line of communication trenches the work of relieving the front companies was greatly facilitated. On July 19th the Diary records: " The Battalion snipers " (most ably trained by 2nd Lieut. R. Hillier, himself a first-rate shot) " are thirty-two in number. and by dint of constant practice are becoming more and more efficient. By firing at the enemy's loopholes they have rendered several useless, and have taught the German snipers behind the loopholes to be very careful. Consequently we are in a fair way to gaining a superiority of fire over the enemy." On the same day the admirable work done by Sergt. Cooper and his Pioneers is recorded. They had produced notice-boards, loopholes, benches, tables, "kniferests, "tripwires, periscopes and many other useful articles, of good workmanship and at wonderful speed. The " knife-rests " were portable barbed-wire obstructions, the framework of which resembled the domestic article so named.
There was, throughout the month, a considerable amount of artillery and rifle fire in the sector, but, owing to the greatly increased security of the trenches
82 THE 5TH DIVISION WITHDRAWN FROM THE LINE
and the superiority of our fire already mentioned, the total casualties were only as follows: Killed or mortally wounded, 7 other ranks; wounded, Brevet Lieut.Colonel H. S. Tew and 38 other ranks.
On July 23rd a notification was received that Brevet Lieut.-Colonel Te had been selected for promotion to Lieut.-Colonel and to command the Battalion in succession to Brigadier-General J. R. Longley, whose period of command expired on June 2oth. The promotion consequently bore date June 21st 1915. General Longley-'s connection with the East Surrey Regt. was thus officially closed, but his memory long dwelt and will dwell with those who serve in it with him and under his command. Throughout his regimental career General Longley had shown himself a soldier of the best stamp. Strict and conscientious in the performance of his duties, cool and highly courageous an enterprising in the field, he had earned the entire confidence of his battalion and a reputation second to none among the commanding officers of the original Expeditionary Force of August, 1914.
The relief of the Battalion, owing to the transfer of the 5th Division t0 the X Corps, after its long tour of duty in the line took place on the night o July 24th, when the 2nd Battn. Royal Scots took over the trenches. The head quarters of the Battalion left the trenches at 12.30 a. m. on the 25th and followed the companies to Reninghelst, distant ten miles.
On arrival at Reninghelst the companies were accommodated in huts for the remainder of the day. The Battalion transport moved on at 4 p.m., and at 7.50 p.m. the Battalion marched via Godewaersvelde to Eecke, distant about 10˝ miles. Eecke was reached about midnight, and the men were soon settled in billets.
The next day was devoted to rest and cleaning up, and at 10 a.m. on the 27th the 14th Brigade was formed up in three sides of a square for inspection by General Sir Herbert Plumer, Commanding the Second Army, whose address is thus recorded in the War Diary of the 1st Battn. East Surrey:-
" The Army Commander said that he had not come there to hold an inspection parade, but rather to say a few words to the Brigade before it left t join the New Army, to which it was being transferred. He was glad to see that the long period during which the men had been engaged in trench warfare had not caused them to forget how to stand still and to handle their arms. Their clothing was against them, and would not have pleased those who were used to Aldershot parades, but those who really knew soldiers were able to judge in spite of clothing, and the Brigade had turned out as it ought to have done.
" The General went on to say that he need not remind his hearers of what they had done in the past, for that would be written in the records which would form the history of the War. Those, however, who were acquainted with th facts knew the part which the 5th Division and the 14th Infantry Brigade ha taken in the early part of the War, and they knew that that part had been a least an arduous one. During the period that the Brigade had been in the sector which it was then leaving it had been occupied with trench warfare rather than with active operations against the enemy, with one or two exceptions, as when
THE 5TH DIVISION TRANSFERRED TO THE SOMME 83
(although not actually employed as a brigade) two of its battalions-the East Surreys and Devons-had been very hotly engaged at Hill 60, and by their efforts had contributed very greatly to the retention of that hill. Since that time the Brigade had continued to be engaged in trench warfare; but trench warfare was not to be rated that dull sort of fighting that some were prone to think it. Comparisons, the General remarked, were odious, but he had no hesitation in saying that as far as the Secon4 Army was concerned, and for that matter as far as the Expeditionary Force was concerned, no brigade had won so high a reputation for trench warfare as had the i4th Brigade under General Maude. . . . While commanding the V Corps he (General Plumer) knew that the line occupied by the Brigade was absolutely safe.
" The Army Commander concluded by saying that the Brigade was going to a new Army (the Third), under General Monro, and to a new Corps (the X), under General Morland, both of whom knew full well the reputation of the Brigade. On those whom he was addressing would fall the responsibility of living up to the reputation which they had made, and of forming the nucleus of the new Army; for they would be the veterans, and the I4th Brigade standard would be the standard which other brigades would emulate. It must and it would be a high one, and if all the other brigades reached it, both the Corps and Army Commanders would have confidence. The General then expressed his sorrow that the Brigade was leaving the Second Army and wished them the best of luck. "
The weather continued fine and sunny. Company parades were ordered for instruction in close order drill. The Battalion Diary records that from two and a half months of trench duty the drill of the men had become rusty, and that recent drafts, though of excellent quality, had not received training up to the peace standard. This was unavoidable, owing to the very short time the men had served at home before being sent out.
The total casualties incurred during the two and a half months' trench duty were 28 killed and 177 wounded. Of these, 8 per cent were wounded by shell fire in the wood, the remaining casualties occurring in the trenches or during reliefs. Most of the men killed were shot in the head by German snipers whilst looking over the parapet.
The Battalion remained at Eecke until, July 31st, on the afternoon of which day it marched to Godewaersvelde and entrained for Corbie. near Amiens. The troop train reached Corbie at 7.30 a.m. on the 1st August, and two hours later the Battalion marched through the town to Daours, distant about four miles. Here it remained in comfortable billets during the 2nd and 3rd, completing clothing arrangements and carrying out various drills. Full advantage was taken of excellent bathing in the River Somme. The climate was found to be considerably warmer than that of Flanders, and shades were provided to give protection from the sun to the back of the head and neck.
During the afternoon of August 4th General Monro, commanding the new Third Army, inspected the 14th Brigade, which at 8 p.m. marched out of Daours,