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Pte.10576 Thomas Baird 2nd. Seaforth Highlanders














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1914 Star and the 1914 1915 Star
thomasbairdmedals.jpg
The British Medal and the Victory Medal

FROM THE RECORDS IN THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES THOMAS BAIRD WAS ENTITLED TO THE ABOVE MEDALS.
UNFORTUNATELY I HAVE NO IDEA IF THEY WERE EVER CLAIMED. OBVIOUSLY I WOULD BE EXTREMELY GRATEFUL IF ANYONE READING THIS SITE HAS ANY INFORMATION ON THERE WHEREABOUTS.

Information on Medal awards for the First World War

For further information concerning this item please visit the following sites.

Another site in connection with this article.

Owing to information recently made public this section should be considered 'under construction' as more information is available.However, never the less ,the information below is correct

Private 10576 Thomas Baird 2nd. Seaforth Highlande
thomas baird 001.jpg
Born Rutherglen 11th. February 1890 .KIA Lesbeoufs 14th. October 1916

Headstone on Grave of Thomas Baird
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Serre Road Cemetery Number 2

Original 1916 Trench Map
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Map References for 14th. Oct. apply to this map

According to the CWGC Thomas Bairds' Body was found in 1932 at the centre of this trench map where the figure 6 appears in 4 to 6.

Here is the Google Map View of modern day
lesbeoufstoday.jpg
Area shown on 1916 Trench Map

The spot is where there is a black oblong shape today.

THE ATTACKS ON DEWDROP TRENCH

 

DURING OCTOBER 1916

 

AND THE CASUALTIES INCURRED

 

 

BY

 

BAIRD FERGUSON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIS ARTICLE IS DEDICATED TO ALL

 

THE OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE FOLLOWING

 

BATTALIONS AND REGIMENTS WHO LOST

 

THEIR LIVES IN FRONT OF DEWDROP AND

 

RAINY TRENCHES DURING THE MONTH OF

 

OCTOBER 1916   

 

2ND.  SEAFORTH HIGHLANDERS

2ND.  ROYAL DUBLIN FUSILIERS

1ST.  MIDDLESEX REGIMENT

        1ST. ROYAL WARWICKSHIRE REGIMENT

               2nd.ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS

EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT

1ST. RIFLE BRIGADE

2nd. ROYAL WELCH FUSILIERS

and various other detachments of the 4th., 10th. And 12 th. Divisions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The family lore brought back from France by a survivor was that my Grandfathers' brother, Thomas Baird, was killed by a sniper whilst trying to retrieve an officers' great coat from no mans' land having been offered 2/6d to get it back.I have since read that to camouflage the horror of the Battle of The Somme , stories were fabricated to allow relatives to have a sanitised impression  of what was going on.

 

In his book ' Scotlands' War Losses' , Duncan Duff stated;

" It is still not known how many Scots died in the war. One well argued estimate put the figure at 110,000 , equivelant to about 10% of the Scottish male population aged between 16 and 50 and probably to about 15% of the total British war dead. The sacrifice was higher in proportionate terms than for any other country in the empire. Thirteen out of fourteen were privates and non-commissioned Officers from the working classes."

 

 

 

 

 

In  February  2004 I  obtained  information  on  Thomas Bairds'  Medal  Card  from  the  Internet  as  follows;

 

Entered into the War Zone on the 23rd. August 1914 and entitled to the following medals, The Victory Medal  and the British Medal G/104 Blo page 592 and the 1914 Star G/1/1 Page 6. Catalogue reference WO/372/1.

From the Battalion War History it would appear that Thomas Bairds' batallion had a very active war.

In a history of the Batallion by Lieutenant Colonel Angus Fairie he records;

"1914

         When th war boke out the 2n. Seaforths were stationed at Shorncliffe. They went to France with 10th. Brigade of the 4th. Division in the British Expeditionary Force. They went into the line at LE CATEAU. They fought with 10th. Brigade in the retreat from MONS, ending in the victory at at the battle of the RIVER MARNE which halted the German advance in early September 1914.

The batallion then took part in the attack on the German held village of METEREN on 10th. Octobr 1914. It was one of the last battles to be fought  before the war developed into trench warfare.

 

 

1915

During April and May of 1915 the 2nd. Seaforths were heavily engaged in the defence of  the YPRES salient against German attacks. On the 25th. April they suffered their first major casualties when they took part in the costly attack on SAINT JULIEN, losing 348 Officers and men killed and wounded.

On the 2nd. May, the battalion had its first experience of poison gas. At the time there was little protection against gas except for an ineffective respirator of impregnated cloth or even a handkerchief, and the batallion lost 24 dead from gas , with 324 sick.

The German attacks between 25th. April and 24th. May 1915 cost the Batallion over 1000 casualties.

 

1915-1916

After the crippling casualties suffered at YPRES, the 2nd. Seaforth were transferred to the quieter sector of the 3RD. ARMY FRONT between ALBERT and ARRAS. Here they took part in minor operations but also had a chance to absorb reinforcements and carry out retraining between periods in the trenches.

On the 1st. July 1916 the British offensive on the RIVER SOMME started, after an artillery bombardment of seven days. The objective of the 2nd. Seaforth was the village of BEAUMONT HAMEL.

By the end of the day the British Army had lost 57,470 casualties, over 20,000 of whom were killed. The 2nd. Seaforth alone lost over 500 killed and wounded.

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME lasted for 4 months  and the total gain was 3 or 4 miles of enemy held ground. The 2nd. Seaforth remained in and out of the line for the entire 4 months.

 

After visiting the grave of Thomas Baird in March 2004 I was intrigued by the fact that his grave was in the last plot to be completed at Serre Road #2 Cemetery. I contacted the CWGC and they informed me that he was only interred there in 1932. His body previously being 'buried' outside Lesbeoufs at Map Ref. 57c.T4.b.8.3.  (see photograph 5). This location is approximately 50 yards from the line of the Seaforth Trench and 250 from the Gun Pit location. The exact reason for his body being in that position are unclear from the Battalion War Diary when wounded and dead  men were brought back from the German Trenches despite the atrocious ground conditions. Possibly the family folk lore was true that he was killed by a sniper after the attack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The extracts taken from the War Diary of the 2nd. Battallion Seaforth Highlanders, have,

to the best of my knowledge, never been published and the only copy is held in Cameron Barracks in Inverness, where I obtained photocopies of the relevant pages from Lieutenant Colonel A.M. Cumming.

 

 

 

 

 

PREFACE TO THE ARTICLE ON DEWDROP TRENCH

 

 

This article began as an attempt to find out the circumstances surrounding the death of  my Great Uncle , Thomas Baird, Private 10576, 2nd. Battalion  Seaforth  Highlanders on the 14th. October 1916.

I had been brought up hearing from his brother and sister in law, my grandparents,  that he had been “ Killed at The Somme “  allegedly being shot by a German sniper while trying to retrieve an officers’ great coat after a failed attack from trenches which were inadequate because they had been  “ dug by wee Welshmen “.

Years passed  and eventually I fell into the trap of Genealogy and began researching my Family Tree . One tangent I went off on was to research the Military side and where else to start than with “Uncle Tam”. After all I knew he had been killed during the Battle of the Somme --- Now where could I find out about that battle?

I bought Martin Middlebrooks’ book titled “The First Day On The Somme” and was almost traumatized by what I read. I honestly had no idea up until then of what had happened in that place.

I was amazed to discover that in the middle of that death and horror, men  wrote official “War Diaries” for their Battalion, there was even one for the 2nd. Seaforths, held in Cameron Barracks in Inverness.

My wife had an uncle killed at Gallipoli serving with the 1/8th. Cameronians and we also discovered the tragic details of the attack in which he and over 400 of his ‘pals’ were killed in their first action in June 1915.

Years passed again and eventually I persuaded my  long suffering wife to accompany me to the Somme ( it was closer than Turkey and my wife also had some relatives buried in war graves in France and Belgium) to visit the grave of Uncle Tam . Another humbling experience for both of us to see  not so much the graves , but the number of cemeteries and the seemingly endless walls of names of those  of whom not enough had remained to be granted a burial. Thousands at the Thiepval Memorial , thousands more on the Menin Gate  even more on the walls surrounding the seemingly endless Cemeteries .

All this is well documented and it is an acknowledgment of my own ignorance that I was not aware of it before I began my research.

Slowly I began to come across the names “Transloy Ridges” and  “Dewdrop Trench” being repeated for several Battalions during October 1916. The number of casualties was mounting and the conditions were repeatedly described as being the very worst experienced during the whole war. Even my ‘mentor ‘ ,Martin Middlebrook, did not mention it in his books. The Battle of the Transloy Ridges around the village of Lesbeoufs was like the tail on the donkey that was the Battle of the Somme.

The men who died there deserved more recognition for their efforts in the mud in which some drowned as they tried to follow orders to attack German positions , the exact locations of which were unclear due to the landscape being more like a seascape, totally devoid of landmarks. In the end it was not the men but the officers who basically said      ‘ enough is enough’ and the killing subsided until the following Spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WAR DIARY

 

1ST. OCTOBER 1916

REF MAP AMIENS 17

 

BILLETS IN MEAULTE   - 2 MILES EAST OF ALBERT

 

We had to supply 200 more men for work in addition to the 400 already employed. What remained of the Battalion marched to LA NEUVILLE 9 near CORBIE), leaving MEAULTE at 9 a.m. We always had to keep to the tracks at the side of the road, so as to leave the roads clear for motor transport. The billets at LA NEUVILLE were very poor. Very crowded and dirty.

 

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES;

2/LIEUT - J.R.MACKINTOSH-WALKER from hospital.

2/LIEUT - N.S. STUART and 2O.R. from LEWIS GUN SCHOOL.

9 O.R. reinforcements joined.

 

 

 

 

2ND to 6TH OCTOBER 1916

 

BILLETS IN LA NEUVILLE NEAR CORBIE. WHICH ARE 10 MILES NORTH OF AMIENS.

 

 

These days were spent in general preparations for the operations which were drawing very near. On the second there was a brigade conference, which was held on the ground beyond the village of FRANVILLERS. C.Os, company adjutants and company commanders attended. It was a wet and horrible day. A scheme was arranged for a practice attack on FRANVILLERS, which was meant to represent the village of LE TRANSLOY, which we were given to understand, would be our objective on or about the 10th.  The idea was that the Division would take over a forward line in front of LE TRANSLOY from the 56th Division on the 8th. They would attack on a front of 3 Battalion and keeping us in reserve.

The 8th Battalion were billeted in FRANVILLERS, and we saw several of them.

On the 3rd. the weather was very bad, and the divisional exercise proposed for that day was postponed. Companies were very busy getting everything-------------

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7TH. OCTOBER 1916

 

SOURCE; PRIVATE ARTHUR DORNAM, 1/12 Bn. LONDON REGIMENT(The Rangers)56th. London Division (TF)

 

 

In the official history of the 7 October attack, the ‘ Rangers’ are accorded this reference;

 

 “Advancing four minutes after zero hour, the 1/12 London failed before DEWDROP TRENCH , northeast of Lesbeoufs, which had been shelled by Stokes mortars as it was too close for artillery bombardment.”

 

LETTER FROM ARTHUR DORNAM; ‘ Our first job was to hold an advanced trench, 50 yards from the Huns for two days, during which time we had no casualties. On the night of the 6th. We moved into a new position and had to dig ourselves in just at dawn – we were under shell fire for 20 minutes after we started so you bet we worked jolly hard.

Later on in the morning word was passed along that we were to go over the top at about 1 o’clock. The bombardment by our guns on the German trenches started. I’ve never heard anything like it, and never want to again – the air seemed full of shells and the Huns replied furiously. They must have had news of the attack for when we went over we were met by a hail of shrapnel and machine gun bullets. I know they were spitting up dirt all round me and although I had several narrow squeaks, I wasn’t hurt.

From what I can learn nearly all my pals were either killed or wounded.

I landed eventually in a shell hole with a german sniper potting at me everytime I moved, so I waited until dark and then crept farther to my left until I found some of our boys in a trench. I acted as stretcher bearer all night and all that were left of us were relieved early on Sunday morning(8th.). ‘C’ company went in 138 strong and 25 came out.”

 

On the following day, the 8th. October, the war poet Sergeant Leslie Coulson was killed whilst serving with the 1/12th. London Regiment during another unsuccessful assault on DEWDROP TRENCH .

Aged 27, his most remembered works are “The Rainbow” and “Who Made the Law “. The latter being a savage indictment of the politicians and military authorities who determined that the war should continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd. Seaforth Highlanders War Diary(contd)

 

OCTOBER 8TH.

MAP REFERENCE F.17.b . Sheet 62D. NN

 

TENTS IN MANSEL CAMP, 1 MILE WEST OF CARNOY AND JUST NORTH OF THE MEAULTE - CARNOY ROAD.

 

A very wet morning. The battalion moved off at 10:30 am. The congestion of traffic was terrific, hence the battalion took four hours to get to Mansel Camp- a distance of not more than four miles. This lies within the old German Lines, and the whole countryside is one mass of trenches and shell holes. The whole brigade spent the night in this camp. Accommodation very cramped. The guns were particularly busy during that night, and having been away from the guns for some time, we all found it somewhat difficult to sleep.

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES;

1 N.C.O. on leave until the 16th

 

 

 

 

 

9th. OCTOBER

MAP REF. T.19d. Sheet 57.e  S.W.

 

SHELL HOLES ON EASTERN OUTSKIRTS OF GUILLEMONT. NORTH OF GUILLEMONT - COMBLES ROAD.

 

 

The battalion left MANSEL CAMP at 7.35a.m. and marched by compass bearing across country to BENAFAY WOOD just EAST of MONTAUBAN. The ground got worse and worse as we got nearer the line. The traffic became more congested and the roads were always packed.

We were allotted a piece of ground between BENAFAY and TRONES WOODS. MAP REFERENCE S.2.g . central- sheet 57.c.S.W. We imagined we would be here for one night at least, so we got what kit and stores we could collect up there and settled down, making what cover we could. There was a system of trenches here which we made good use of. After lunch, we received orders that we were to move up and camp out on the ground at on the EASTERN EDGE OF GUILLEMONT. We thereupon despatched all those who had been selected to stay back as 1st. reinforcements, off to the transport. The transport was in the vicinity of CARNOY- a very bad place with little shelter for anyone.

The battalion moved off by companies at 6 p.m. and marched to our new camping ground.

 

 

 

 

 

GUILLEMONT must have been quite a large sized village in its’ day but now there is not one single stone standing upon another. The village of MONTAUBAN was very much the same. From MONTAUBAN Eastwards, the whole country is one stretch of absolute desolation- a more gloomy sight I have never seen. The ground is just a mass of shell holes, varying from size of Stokes Mortar craters to the size of the crater made by a 15 inch.

We settled down on the outskirts of GUILLEMONT, and the men spent most of the night collecting material, and making dugouts for themselves. It was a very beautiful night but cold. The travelling kitchens came up to a point about T .19.d.2.3. and carriers from each company and Headquarters  lived beside the road there, and brought up hot meals for the men three times a day. Brigade HQ were in dugouts in the QUARRY in T.19.c, where they remained until the 17th.

Meanwhile the WARWICKS and IRISH FUSILIERS had moved up to the line during the evening and had taken over the trenches in front of, or rather South of LESBEOUFS from part of the 56th.Division. The DUBLINS had moved up to a trench line – about ½ a mile South of LESBEOUFS and remained there in Brigade support. We were in Brigade reserve

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES;

2/Lieut T.W. Horne to hospital

6 O.R. R.A.M.S attached.

 

 

10th. OCTOBER

 

We were surrounded on all sides by guns of every calibre and the noise was disquieting to say the least of it. It was a perfect day and very fresh. We drew shovels from the Brigade dump- one per man. Also Mills Grenades No. 5, - ‘P’ bombs (smoke) – Very Lights- and green flares for the attack. These were all issued to companies. There was a short Church of England Service in the evening held in a big shell- hole followed by Holy Communion. Rev. C. Waldegrave officiated.

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES;

3 O.R. attached 10TH. Brigade as runners

 

 

 

 

11th. OCTOBER

 

It was a rather dull day, with the symptoms of rain. There was a colossal bombardment from mid-day onwards.

 

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES;

2/Lieut R. Smith to hospital

 

 

12th. OCTOBER

MAP REF. T.8.D. 9.7–T.9.D. 3.7. SHEET 57c S.W.

 

BATTN H.Q., C AND D COMPANIES IN A SUPPORT TRENCH ½ MILE WEST OF LESBEOUFS

 

It is a very fine day. The FOURTH ARMY renewed the attack on “THE BROWN LINE”- as far as it concerned the 4th. Division this line was the ridge running to the West of the LE TRANSLOY, from which the LE TRANSLOY LINE could be seen, and assaulted at a later date.

The10th. Brigade, went over on the right and the 12th. Brigade went on the left. At the same time the French made an attack on the right of the 10th.Brigade. Zero, or the hour for the attack to start was fixed for 2:5 p.m.. The preliminary bombardment carried on from midday on the 11th. Till Zero hour; at this hour every gun on the front opened fire. The infantry got out of their trenches, lined up in front and went forward in waves. The intense barrage continued until some instruction was brought back by the contact aeroplanes that the objectives had been attained or not, as the case happened to be. One almost thought that the Heavens had opened- the noise was so terrific. The IRISH FUSILIERS had gone over on the left and the WARWICKS on the right. The attack was a failure. The10th. Brigade was held up by some GERMAN MACHINE GUN PITS in T.5.a. (Sheet 57c S.W.)

The casualties were heavy and only a small piece of trench was gained by the WARWICKS on their extreme right. Three companies of the DUBLINS went up in support and during the evening we received orders to move up to the trench recently occupied by those three companies of the DUBLINS with Battalion H.Q. and 2 more companies. We took C and D companies and moved up through GINCHY.  We found the trench and settled down in it. It was quite dry. The night was comparatively quiet. Our wounded were coming down in large numbers.

 

 

EXTRACT FROM WAR DIARY OF 2nd. Battalion ESSEX Regiment;

 

12th. October 1916

FLERS LINE. COW AND MIRROR TRENCH.

Brigade ready for the attack Zero hour 2.5p.m.  German trench DEWDROP caused a check and was finally the cause of a return of assaulting lines to assembly trenches.

Men of the Dukes reaches BROWN LINE but were not seen again. Lancashire Fusiliers were held up by German trench ZENITH. Whole attack was held up by M.G. fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13TH. OCTOBER 1916

MAP REF. 57.c.S.W.

 

TRENCHES EAST OF LESBEOUFS

 

It was a dull day. We heard that we would either relieve the IRISH FUSILIERS in the trenches at night, or else, as the Colonel suggested, make a surprise night attack on DEWDROP TRENCH, one of the German strong points which had held up more than one attack. The C.O. was therefore asked to reconnoitre the ground in view of this attack.

He went out with two Company Officers who were present.The Scout Officer and a few of the more intelligent scouts, and after looking at the ground from a point of vantage, he decided that DEWDROP TRENCH could be taken by a surprise, if the attack was made from a line to the North East of Les Boeufs. The lie of the ground between this line and DEWDROP would help the attack enormously and the Colonel was fully convinced that it would be a success.

However we received orders at 5.30pm to relieve the Irish Fusiliers in the trenches. The other two companies came up from Guillemont and the Battalion relieved the Fusiliers.

The Battalion front stretched from T4b 5.9 to T4d 9.7 . Two companies in the front line and two in support.

A company were in Burnaby Trench ; C company in Foggy Trench; D company in left support in Thistle Trench; B company in right support in Shamrock Trench.

The trenches were in a very bad state - no cover of any kind for officers or men , and the trenches had been very badly blown in. The night was somewhat lively during the relief, but quitened down afterwards.

The 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers  relieved the 1st. Royal Warwicks on our right. The Battalion Headquarters were in OX trench behind the hill West of Les Boeufs, about T9b  5.3 and a half.

 

Arrivals and departures;

 2 other ranks killed , 5 other ranks wounded (3 died of wounds)

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER 14TH. 1916

 

A fine day. About 11a.m. a message came up from the Brigade ordering the Colonel to report to Brigade H.Q. (2 miles away) at 11.30 a.m. . On reaching brigade HQ , the colonel was informed that the battalion had to make a night attack in conjunction with the 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers at 6p.m. that night from a trench which up till then he had never seen, and from a direction entirely different from thatwhich he had reconnoitred on the previous day. He at once realised that he could not get the necessary material, arrange the details of the attack with the O.C. 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers , and get round the trench line heldby the battalion in the time at his disposal. He therefore arranged for the company commanders to meet him at Battalion Headquarters on his return. The colonel got back to Battalion H.Q. about 2.15p.m. and found that two of the company commanders had arrived . The other two arriving about 2.30p.m.  The company commanders were Captain JL.Booth ,A company. ; Captain T.J.E. Gaisford Saint Lawrence  B Company ; Captain Captain J.G. Wood C Company ; Captain W.A. Stirling , D company.

The Colonel went very hurriedly through the scheme for the night attack which was as follows; 4th. Division operation order number 69 detailed  the 10th. Brigade to attack and capture (1) the Gun Pits lying between T5a 4.2 and T5a 3.7 .   (2) Such portions of Rainy and Dewdrop Trenches as were not in our hands. ( Incidentally there were no parts of either of these trenches in our hands).

As was discovered afterwards , the Division, knowing that the Colonel had arranged a scheme of his own for attacking Dewdrop Trench , took it for granted that Dewdrop Trench would be allotted to us as our sole objective and that we would naturally attack it as we had arranged . However the brigade operation order number 78 ran as follows  and by this we had to abide; - "The attack will be carried out by the 2n. Seaforth Highlanders on the left and the 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers on the right. The 2nd. Seaforth Highlanders will attack and consolidate Rainy and Dewdrop Trench , and the North Gun Pits. The 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers will attack, capture and consolidate the South Gun Pits. After the attack , the Seaforths will connect up Dewdrop trench with the North Gun Pits and the Dublins will connect up the Warwickshire trench with the South Gunpits ."

Then various orders of little interest with this one added at the end; "P " bombs , Very Lights, Grenades , Rockets , Flares , sandbags and tools will be issued to the assaulting troops  previous to zero hour ."

Thus there was little time for going minutely into anything . In agreement with the O.C. 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers , zero was postponed until 6.30p.m. .

This was necessitated by the short time available for the company commanders to rejoin their companies in the line , and explain to any extent the plan of attack, a ,matter which was so absolutely essential to attain any hope of success. In addition these large quantities of material had to be drawn from the brigade dumps  which were a little under a mile from even battalion h.q. . The material had to be carried up to the line and distributed on arrival. In addition also , time was necessary to move the Companies opposite their objectives .

The shellfire on our trench line had been considerable throughout the afternoon but we were unaware that the left front attacking company A had suffered 24 casualities from shellfire during the absence of the O.C. of A company at battalion H.Q., and this news only reached Battalion H.Q. about 5.40p.m. .The battalion scouts were immediately sent up to reinforce A company  but they arrived too late , the company having filed off to the left at 6p.m. to attain its better alignment. The company commanders had left Battalion H.Q. about 4.15p.m. and had made their way to their companies (a matter which was not simple in daylight ) as soon as possible. They went hurriedly over the scheme , having little time to point out objectives and alignments before dark.

What stores had arrived were then distributed and the Companies filed off about 6p.m. or soon after to get into position. It was quite dark as the moon had not risen. By zero hour (6.30p.m. ) A Company in one wave as their objective was so wide and C company in two waves were in position opposite their respective objectives . D Company was late and B company were in position, though possibly not so close behind Company C as was intended . "A" and "C" companies moved forward toward their objectives.

 

 

 

 

At 6.38 and a half p.m. , C company wer discovered when they were 100 yards from their objective. The enemy put up a red light and an intense barrage opened on a line about 70 yards in front of the Gun Pits.Captain Wood who was leading his company gave the word to charge and the leading wave rushed the Gun Pits. Captain Wood was shot just before reaching his objective , as well as several others. The waves in the rear were hung up by the barrage and only 2 officers (2n. Lieutenants Cooper and A.J. Brown ) with 9 men got into the Gun Pits. 2nd. Lieutenant Brown was badly wounded , and finally 2nd. Lieutenant Cooper and 5 men were left. The trench was at first full of the enemy , who however seemed almost immediately to disappear. This small party remained in the trench for about 20 minutes , bombing dugouts etcetera. Then however they were compelled to withdraw, as they were being enfiladed from both sides by machine guns and the enemy started a bombing attack from in front. They managed to evacuate the wounded , and 2/Lieut. Brown who had been temporarily stunned , recovered consciousness , and got back.

Meanwhile A company  had got to within 50 yards of Rainy Trench before the red light went up and the attack was discovered. They thereupon rushed Rainy Trench , and killedthe few Germans who were there  They carried on and endeavoured to attain Dewdrop Trench but were driven back on Rainy Trench by very heavy machine gun fire . 2/Lieuts R.P.Agar and J.L. Lawson were both killed on reaching Rainy Trench, and Captain Booths 3rd. subaltern 2/Lieut Irvine was wounded.

D Company were late getting into alignment owing to the disappearance of the O.C. Company (Captain W.R. Stirling), who is believed to have been killed when recconoitering in front of his company , they being under orders to await his return.

Rainy Trench was held for 5 hours by Captain Booth with 30 men and was evacuated by the Colonels order before daylight on the 15th.

Here nothing was gained and our line remained as before . Had the supporting Companies been following up the leading Companies closely as was intended the result might have been different , but considering the circumstances  and the hurry in which everything was arranged there was little prospect of attaining any success unless the leading waves could have got within a very close distance of their objective without being seen.

 

The 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers  whe were to attack the Southern Gun Pits on our right , were unable to leave their trenches . This resulted in the enfilade machine gun fire being able to bear on the North Gun Pits from that side.

The casualities were heavy but we were lucky not to lose more . 2/Lieuts Agar and Lawson were both splendid officers- a great loss to the Battalion and Captain Billy Stirling of Fairburn, well known in Seaforth County , though only 19 years old , had the makings of a great soldier.

Three out of the four Company Sergeant Majors were wounded , but otherwise losss in the NCO's were light . Captain Wood did very well while he lasted and took his company forward over very difficult ground in perfect alignment . He was hit in the head and the body, but after lying out in a shell hole within a few yards of the Gun Pits , he managed to crawl back to our lines . Captain Booth also did excellent work against heavy odds , for his Company lost heavily .

For this action these two officers were afterwards awarded the Military Cross and Sgt. Proctor of A Company was awarded the Military Medal.

 

The casualities for the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders for Saturday 14th. October 1916;

Killed;

          2/Lieut R.P.Agar

          2/Lieut J.N.Lawson

         16 other ranks

Died of Wounds;

          1 other rank

Missing believed killed;

          Captain W.A. Stirling

Wounded;

         Captain J.G. Wood

         2/Lieut A.J. Brown

         2/Lieut T.C.Irvine

         2/Lieut G.T.D.Alexander(remained at duty)

         53 other ranks

Wounded (Shell Shock)

         Lieut. G.G.H. Savery

         2/Lieut J.H. Sandison

        11 other ranks

Missing;

        7 other ranks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have compared the diary casualties with the War Grave Commission figures and they agree completely with regard to the number of killed that day ie. 3 officers and 24 men. Perhaps it is a significant indication of the ferocity of the fighting that of these men, only one Officer and four men have marked graves. The remainder have their names on the Thiepval Memorial at " Pier and Face 15C".

 

MEN OF THE 2ND. BATTALION SEAFORTH HIGHLANDERS

KILLED IN ACTION ON THE 14TH. OCTOBER 1916.

 

This list contains the names of 27 men of whom only 5 have registered graves.

 

NAME                      RANK/NUMBER                           GRAVE

 

 

R.P.Agar     2nd.Lieut. Guards Cemetery Les BoeufsV111.D.3

 

William Aicken      Private 9611   Thiepval Memorial

 

 

John Allan            Private S/43071 Thiepval Memorial

 

 

Thomas Baird       Private 10576  Serre Road 2   XL1.H.7

Son of William Baird of Rutherglen, Lanarkshire.

 

Archibald Barton  Private S/11101  Thiepval Memorial

 

 

Donald Beaton     Private S/43142  Thiepval Memorial

 

 

John Campbell    Corporal 5/6330  Combles Cemetery  1.B.9

 

 

Andrew Casey      Private   S/43146 Thiepval Memorial

 

 

William Forbes    Private  7779     Thiepval Memorial

 

 

F.Hughes M.M.  Corporal 9663 Guards Cemetery V111.D.1

 

John Humphries    Private S/40069  Thiepval Memorial

 

 

John Lawson   2nd.Lieut.            Thiepval Memorial

 

 

Hugh Mackay  Lance Corporal S/40031 Thiepval Memorial

 

Donald Murray   Private   3/7040    Thiepval Memorial

 

Thomas Murray   Private   S/10776   Thiepval Memorial

 

David Newlands  Corporal  S/40035   Thiepval Memorial

 

Alfred Parrott  Private   S/43041   Thiepval Memorial

 

Robert Rendall  Private   S/10803 Serre Road#2 xxxv1.M.16

 

Colin Ridgeway  Private   3/5801    Thiepval Memorial.

Husband of Mary Jane Ridgeway,Stapleford, Nottingham.

 

 

Harry Shimmin  Private    S/11515   Thiepval Memorial

Son of Philip Shimmin, Whitehaven, Cumberland.

 

 

William Aeneas Stirling Captain     Thiepval Memorial

Son of Major Stirling,Fairburn,Muir of Ord,Rossshire.

 

James Stout   Private   S/12438     Thiepval Memorial

Son of Mrs.Betsy Gullion, Shoehall,Guith, Eday,Orkney.

 

 

Harold Swain   Private   S/40058    Thiepval Memorial

Son of William Swain, Bradford Moor,Bradford.

 

 

George Venables Corporal  8090      Thiepval Memorial

Son of FG Venables, Wolverhampton.

 

 

Peter Thomson Wood  Private S/43164 Thiepval Memorial

 

 

Lionel Malcolm Wilson Private S/43054 Thiepval Memorial

 

 

David Burns Wilson   Private  S/43165 Thiepval Memorial 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is very interesting to compare the war diary above to that of the 2nd. Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers who, according to the Seaforths "were unable to leave their trenches".

 

The following is the entry in its entirity from the War Diary of the 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers

.

14th. October 1916

“During the night the Seaforth Highlanders and 50 of our own men were ordered to take the Gunpits on Strongpoint by a bayonet charge.The enemy did not discover the attack until 7 minutes after zero and then opened a very strong M.G. and rifle fire.His barrage came down under half a minute and it was almost impossible to get through it . Some of the Seaforths did get into the Gun Pits but as they were so few they were driven out by an immediate bombing attack.”

 

 

 

At this juncture it may be pertinent to add that nine days later Sergeant Robert Downie , a Scot serving with the 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers won the Victoria Cross in another attack at Lesbeoufs.

 

 

Following Extract from the 2nd. Seaforth War Diary;

 

SUNDAY 15TH.OCTOBER 1916.

The Battalion held Burnaby,Foggy,Shamrock and Thistle Trenches, the garrison of which was reduced to 4 officers and 130 other ranks to save casualties from shellfire. Battalion HQ, Lewis Guns and 4 machine guns of the 10th. Brigade M.G. Company also formed the garrison of trench line. Our first reinforcements who had been left back with the transport, came up during the night and were sent up to the trench line.

We buried all our dead which we were able to get down from in front at a point on the South side of the Ginchy -Lesbeoufs road, just at the top of the sunken road leading down to lesbeoufs. It was a lively day, artillery being active on both sides.

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES:

2/lieut I.B. MOir, servant and two other ranks to lewis gun school.

 

CASUALTIES;

1 man attached to 10th. brigade MG coy. wounded

1 man wounded 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16TH. October 1916;

Situation and garrison the same as the 15th.  A fine day but very cold. We suffered considerably through our own shells firing short.

 

 

CASUALTIES;

2 Men killed;   2 men wounded;    5 men wounded(shell shock)

 

 

17th. OCTOBER 1916

 

 

 

 

A very wet day. We suffered again from our own shells. Had several casualties. The enemy bombarded Thistle and Shamrock Trenches very heavily. It became very wet at night. We were releived by the 1st. East Lancs. The relief began at 5.30pm and was not complete until 02;30 on the 18th.  It was very dark, the ground being at its worst, and altogether it was a most unpleasant evening.

The battalion only just got clear of the trenches in time, as the East Lancs, with the 1st. Rifle Brigade made an attack on Dewdrop at 03 40 am. The conditions however doomed this to be a failure from the start.                                   

 

ARRIVALS- DEPARTURES

8 Men Killed

10 men wounded

2 Men wounded- shell shock

1 man wounded (attached 10th. Company M.G. Corps)

1 Man wounded- remained at duty

2 O.R. rejoined from Lewis Gun School

2/Lieut R. Smith from Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXTRACT FROM WAR DIARY OF 2ND. BATTALION ESSEX REGIMENT

 

18th. October 1916;

Small attack made on our rightat 3.30 a.m. unsuccessful. Our heavies were endeavouring  to shell ZENITH put all their shells into our own front line or behind it.

Casualties  4 to friendly artillery

                  2 O.R. killed

                 16 wounded

                   3 missing

 

 

 

18th OCTOBER 1916

MAP REF. S.28.d Sheet 57.C

CAMP AT BERNAFAY CROSS-ROADS IN THE S.W. CORNER, JUST EAST OF MONTAUBAN

The Battalion marched back to the camp at BERNAFAY CROSS ROADS after the relief. It was quite a good day, considering everything, but of course in the centre of all the traffic. Best of the day was given over to rest and clearing up. Weather was very bad.

 

 

19th. OCTOBER 1916

 

It was a very cold- hard frost. Leather Jerkins were issued to the troops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE DEWDROP TRENCH AREA  October 19th 1916

 

SOURCE; CAPTAIN ALFRED BUNDY , 2ND. MIDDLESEX REGIMENT

 

“ Visited trenches to be taken over and we are to do a “show” . I have never seen such desolation. Mud thin, deep and black, shell holes full of water, corpses all around in every stage of decomposition, some partially devoid of flesh, some swollen and black, some fresh, lying as if in slumber. One bolt upright, a landmark and guide, another bowed as if trying to touch his toes. Our trenches are little nore than joined up shell holes, mostly with 12 inches of water above 12 inches of mud. A sunken road provides the only access under cover and this is almost constantly under shell fire. The casualties on this road are terrible. I had a very narrow escape myself. A 5.9 shell plunged into the mud just in front of me and did not explode- 1000 to 1 chance. I was smothered with slime and had to scrape it out of my eyes to see. Passed several derilict tanks on our way back to Trones wood camp where we have nothing but bivouacs. Weather cold and wet. Sat in deep shell holes for shelter completely and utterly miserable.”

 

 

War Diary of 2nd. Seaforth Highlanders (contd)

20th. OCTOBER 1916

Still bitterly cold- a large working party went out at night to dig or rather fill in old trenches just East of GUILLEMONT. The party had 14 casualties owing to some live bombs or dud shells being struck by a pick or shovel.

ARRIVALS, DEPARTURES AND CASUALTIES;

2/Lieut P.G. Grove, H.R.V. Jameson and servants rejoined from 4th Division School.

13 men wounded (2 of which died of wounds)

41 reinforcements joined.

 

21st. OCTOBER 1916

It was fine but still very cold. A working party of 50 men under an officer went up to the vicinity of LESBEOUFS at night to assist in carrying some Trench Mortar Ammunition.

ARRIVALS, DEPARTURES AND CASUALTIES

1 man on leave until the 29th

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22nd. OCTOBER 1916

Bitter. We had Church Parade in the morning. The Colonel attended a conference of Corps , Divisional and Brigade Commanders in the  morning at the QUARRY- GUILLEMONT. General Lambton came over in the afternoon and said a few words to all the officers on the operations of the next day.

CASUALTIES

3 Men wounded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23rd. OCTOBER 1916

TRENCHES IN THE VICINITY OF LESBEOUFS

 

The 4th Division with the 6th Division on the left and the French on the right made another attempt to reach the line which they had failed to attain on the 12th..

The 12th Brigade was to attack on the left and the 11th Brigade on the right.

The Battalion was attached to the 12th Brigade for this attack, and were held in reserve, with orders to move up in support, and to help the attacking Battalions to hold the final objective either when once attained, or to help in consolidating the first objective, the ridge beyond DEWDROP TRENCH, if that was attained and no further advance could be made.

It was decided at the conference of the previous day that we should not leave our assembly trenches and thus remain on the telephone until some definite news had reached from Brigade H.Q. concerning the attack. This would enable us to move out of our assembly trenches in the best formation considering the circumstances, and would make it more  possible for the Battalion to remain intact, than would be possible  if the Battalion had to move up to the line just in front of LESBEOUFS,  and so run straight into the German barrage , immediately afterwards.

With these orders we left BERNAFAY CAMP at 3 a.m. and moved up via GUILLEMONT AND GINCHY to our assembly trenches on the ridge North of   LESBEOUFS – GINCHY ROAD, and N.W. of LESBEOUFS.

Zero hour for the attack was arranged for 11;30a.m. , however there was a  damp mist in the morning , which resulted in zero hour being postponed until 2;30p.m.. At zero hour the mist had lifted considerably and the attack started with the usual tremendous barrage. At 2:40p.m.we received a message ordering the Battalion to move up to a position in front of LESBEOUFS immediately. This was contrary to all previous arrangements, but being an order we moved immediately. The German barrage was to the right on the LESBEOUFS LINE. The Colonel led the Battalion, followed in the order by Headquarters (signallers and orderlies), B, D, C, A Coys..

We moved right through LESBEOUFS being very fortunate with regard to casualties, considering the fact that the place was being plastered by very heavy shells.

When the head of the column reached the SUNKEN ROAD, running just to the East of the village, two very big shells burst right among us. One of them accounted for every signaller who was with us, killing all except one who was very badly wounded. The Battalion moved into BURNABY, FOGGY AND SHAMROCK TRENCHES. Battalion H.Q. settling down in BURNABY TRENCH. We remained here, sending messages in every direction, to try and ascertain any news we could. However we could hear nothing for definite, and the situation was certainly very vague. We could see our red flares burning on the ridge in front, and at the same time the enemy were sniping at us from very close range. After we had settled down in these trenches, we got a very heavy shelling for two hours. The trench was in a dreadful state, almost non existent in many places. Darkness came on and still no word came in. We decided before long that DEWDROP AND RAINY TRENCHES were still in the enemy’s hands and that the 11th. Brigade on the right had taken the GUN PITS and the ridge just in front. About 3 p.m. the rain came, and it was a very wet night. The enemy were putting there flares right into our trench where they proceeded to burn very brightly for a few seconds. About 10p.m. the Colonel and Adjutant went back through LESBEOUFS TO THE Battalion H.Q.  in the assembly trenches, where the telephone was. On arrival there they found a message, ordering us to take DEWDROP TRENCH at all costs. Following a brief telephone conversation with the Brigadier of the 12th Brigade, it was decided that such an attack would be absolute madness, and could only result in one thing- the annihilation of the Battalion. Surprise would have been quite impossible, considering the enumerable flares and the awful state of the ground, and without surprise, the attack would be futile.

The General then ordered the Colonel to withdraw the Battalion from the trenches. It was then midnight. The casualties of the day are noted below. The Divisional attack had, to all intents and purposes, failed, though some ground had been gained on the right.

 

ARRIVALS DEPARTURES AND CASUALTIES

 

13 KILLED

3 DIED OF WOUNDS

21 WOUNDED

2/Lieut P.C. Grove wounded, remained at duty

 

It was on this day That Sergeant Robert Downie of the 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers won his Victoria Cross.

 

His citation states;

 

" On the 23rd. October 1916 east of Lesbeoufs, when most of the officers had become casualties, Sergeant Downie, utterly regardless of personal danger and under very heavy fire, organised the attack which had been temporarily checked. At the critical moment he rushed forward shouting        " Come on the Dubs" which had an immediate response and the line rushed forward at his call. Sergeant Downie accounted for several of the enemy and in addition captured a machine gun, killing the team. Although wounded early in the fight, he remained with his company, giving valuable assistance while the position was being consolidated."

 

 

EXTRACT FROM WAR DIARY OF 2ND. BATTALION ESSEX REGT.

 

October 23 1916 in Assembly Trenches

Zero hour 11;30a.m.. Zero hour postponed until 2.30p.m. on account of heavy mist. At 2.30p.m. the assaulting troops went over the top were immediately met with heavy M.G. fire. First 4 waves were stopped by German front line (Dewdrop?) these waves were destined for BROWN LINE, an imaginary line 700 yards from our trenches and about 500 yards behind the enemy front line and few crossed the enemy front line.

Second four waves starting from assembly trenches at 2;40p.m. ( destined for GREEN LINE  an imaginary line  about 1200 yards in front of our line) were met with heavy M.G. fire and a light enemy barrage. Of the two companies  forming these lines only about 30 men and 2 lewis guns reached BROWN LINE where they started to dig in. Receiving no support from the flanks and rear and all officers and N.C.Os. having become casualties the remains of this party had to withdraw. By 9p.m. the whole line had withdrawn back to the original assembly trenches. A few men held out in shell holes till early morning 24th.

Casualties;

2/lieuts Lee, Browne and Orford wounded

2/lieut. Waldron missing

17 O.R. killed

72 O.R. wounded

165 O.R. missing

 

 

 

 

 

24TH. OCTOBER 1916

MAP REF M.18d SHEET 62D

 

CAMP AT SANDPITS ¾ miles S.W. of MEAULTE

Owing to casualties and other reasons, the runners to the companies, bearing relief orders, never delivered their messages. The Battalion however withdrew from the trenches about 7a.m. on the 24th   then marched back to BERNAFAY CAMP. It was very, very wet. At BERNAFAY CAMP breakfast was eaten and from there the Battalion proceeded in Lorries to the SANDPIT CAMP near MEAULTE. The men were very done, but after a tot of rum and a good tea, they got down to a very good nights’ rest.

ARRIVALS DEPARTURES AND CASUALTIES

1 man wounded

 

The following is an extract from the diary of a member of the 2nd. Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

October 24th]  It rained all night. The only relief for anyone was by changing the posture of discomfort. And it rained most of the day, which the men spent "making themselves comfortable". Nerves were a bit frayed all round. The gunners objected that our modest fires would give them away, but they had blazing fires of their own. There were minor altercations, yet from time to time someone laughed aloud, a merry laugh.The 33rd Division is relieving the 4th. Since last it was in action the line had been carried forward 3 miles, mostly on a mid-September day when tanks, used for the first time, rolled over everything that did not get out of the way. Since then the German concentration, our lengthening communications, the bad weather conditions and the heavy surface, had all but stopped progress but there was no end to attempts, to attain small objectives by just hurling shells and men pell-mell at them.Before nightfall we were on the road again for a short distance; then our route was over fields by a track that was entered on about half a mile behind Morval. Goldsmith, who was leading, picked up the only guide and raced on, his Company streaming behind him, the others behind it. Touch was lost in the dusk among men and detachments going in and coming out, and no one knew the way. The men were over-laden for the going; on parts of the ill-defined track they sank over their boots at every step. In the sunken road that was our reserve position several exhausted men of the outgoing units had stuck fast; they had to be dug out of the tenacious clay soil. A shell bursting there cost us Roberts, the Aid Post Orderly, and one or two others. Not a few of our weaker brethren were benighted; some were struggling in until noon next day, others were taken into the Ambulance Relay Post and: sent to hospital; but before morning most of the men had got in somehow, weary, mud-caked, wet.The Battalion was disposed on a two-company front in relief of the remains of the 11th Brigade. B Company was on the right, in Slush. They were in touch with the French 125th Regiment, who were in Antelope. The French were extended from behind Sailly-Saillisel. C Company was on B's left, in Frosty; its left was in the air, for there was a considerable gap between it and the 20th R.F. who were in Snow, facing left. A. Company was in Ox Support; and D, in reserve, was in the sunken road in rear.

The front Companies were hampered in getting in, and in working, by dead and wounded of the 11th Brigade; these were everywhere, some two dozen stretcher-cases having been left behind. For the three days we were in the position our bearers worked tirelessly to get these men out; they were helped towards the end by squads of the 5th S.R. The absence of communication trenches restricted the work to the dark hours : nearly half of the men died.

 

As a point of interest, the Rainy/Dewdrop/Gun Pit position was eventually taken by the 1st. Middlesex Regiment, two weeks after Thomas Bairds’ death, on the 28th. October with the loss of 208 casualties. Their battalion war diary entry is very similar to that of the 2nd. Seaforths and was as follows;

 

" On the 23rd. October the Middlesex moved to Trones Wood via Mametz and Montauban. The wood was a mass of broken trees and shell holes and still full of the remains of dead Germans - a ghastly place in which to bivouac.

On the 24th., during a reconnaissance of the line East of Lesbeoufs, Captain J.E. Coughian was killed and Captain G.N.A. Cursons wounded by a shell. On that day the Battalion went into the line East of Lesbeoufs

 

Extract from diary of 2nd. Royal Welch Fusiliers;

[October 25th] By daylight the rudimentary trenches had been deepened enough to give fair cover. The position was seen to be a hollow overlooked by the enemy, to whom situation maps allotted Hazy Trench, Misty Trench, and other apt names. The "trenches" were figments of the Staff imagination, but the names had a colloquial use in pointing the whereabouts of the groups of shell-holes that served the Germans well for concealment and defense. So undefined was the position that at dawn the C.O. and Sapper Officer were just saved from walking over to the enemy round C Company's open flank. Only less adventurous was the C.O.'s visit to the French company on his right. He was looked at with suspicion, and escorted back to his own trench for informal identification.

Our predecessors, who were not well dug-in, and the Germans had indulged each other a good deal except during an attack, or if a patrol blundered into its enemy's lines. Our fellows, having been made to keep warm by digging, fired on anyone who looked out of a shell-hole in daylight. Goldsmith was claiming six Germans in one hole to his own rifle when again a head, the same head, was raised, and a tired voice pleaded, "Don't shoot at me, sir, I'm a wounded Hants" (of the 11th Brigade). The day passed in ever-deferred expectation of doing something. We were to attack with the French, who fixed an hour, postponed it, and then cancelled it. In the afternoon word was sent from behind that a German attack was imminent: nothing happened. Then C Company was warned to do a night stunt: it heard no more about it.

 

 

2nd. Batallion Seaforth Highlanders War Diary.

 

25th - 26th OCTOBER 1916

Being very wet, on the 26th. 240 of the Battalion were bathed at baths near MEAULTE. General cleaning up and kit inspections.

ARRIVALS, DEPARTURES, CASUALTIES;

25TH. Lieut. A. N. Forsyth joined.

2/Lieut J.B. Moir, servant and 2 O.Rs.  from lewis gun school.

2/Lieut N.S. Stuart posted to 6th. Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders.

26th. 2/Lieut W. Aitken posted to Battalion

 

 

Diary of 2nd. Royal Welch Fusiliers;

[October 26th] Half of B Company and all C were withdrawn at 7 o'clock to the support line to let our 6-inch howitzers bombard the nebulous German position at Boritzka and Hazy. This was in preparation for an attack by the French and ourselves later in the day. C had casualties from the bombardment, and found their trench pretty well flattened out on returning to it at dusk. The attack was cancelled.

 

27th. OCTOBER

BILLETS IN CORBIE

 

The Battalion moved to billets in CORBIE, leaving SANDPITS at 10.45 a.m. and reaching CORBIE about 2;30 p.m. . We occupied the same billets  as we had on our previous visit to CORBIE at the end of September.

ARRIVALS , DEPARTURES AND CASUALTIES

1 N.C.O. to course of instruction in transport.

33 reinforcements joined.

1 man from I.O.M. 8th. Corps workshop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extract from a diary of the 2nd. Royal Welch Fusiliers;

[October 27th] Half B and C were again withdrawn to oblige the French: again our trench was flattened out: and again nothing followed. Late in the day the Brigadier came to H.Q. and wished us "good luck" in a partnership with the French tomorrow. Our liaison officers, seated on velvet, may be complaisant to seventy times seven with unreadiness and whims, but our "Poor Bloody Infantry" is kept on tenterhooks by Gallic ways. Meanwhile the Brigadier wants us to use up our sagging energy digging a trench in dead ground. One cause of the 11th Brigade's failures (and later failure) is that the German front is in dead ground to our field-guns, and they have a clearance of only 6 feet 6 inches of the bank into which H.Q. is dug. Local tradition says that a tall French officer, who stood on one of the little heaps of stones that are raked up before plowing, had his head knocked off. "The Count", who retired to the top of the bank, and descended in haste and deshabille, says the clearance, is nothing like 6 feet; but he is not a judge of range or direction. -- In one respect we are fortunate: our Gunner observer is knowledgeable and helpful, unlike the general run of forward observers these days who disclaim being in any sense liaison. -- The Ambulance-bearer work has improved; hitherto it has not taken account of the surface on which stretchers have to be carried: A wounded officer, not of ours, weighing 16 stone, was carried into the Advanced Dressing-station. He told the M.O. that his men were toppers, he would like to kiss them all because they had dropped him only four times. -- At last we had a fine morning, it promised well for the day, but the end was a downpour.

A late warning of relief was very cheering news; the physical conditions were a trial of endurance. Anything I have seen out here yet was picnicking compared with these four days. Until today's downpour it has been horribly raw, with mist or occasional drizzle. The Companies have not been in action or strafed, but food can neither be cooked nor sent up warm; H.Q. has to live on sandwiches made up behind. Taking up rations at night, the Transport found that things were simply bloody. Woe betide the wagon or team that got off the beaten track. Everyone had to be challenged. A single man who loomed up in the darkness replied, "A Doblin Fus'lier, and a bluidy poor spicimin at that." Moldy Williams supplied the daily tonic. Although movement by day was unhealthy he strolled, smiling, over the top each morning to ask the Companies in front if his Sapping Platoon could do anything for them. My part has been one of rather ignominious inactivity. Three of the last four days at Lucheux in bed with influenza, rising only to see the sick, was no preparation for this ordeal. At H.Q., an earthen vault recently cleared of German dead, in a sunken road between Morval and Lesboeufs I shivered in two suits of summer and one suit of winter underclothing; and three pairs of socks in easy boots did not save me from chilblains that made the wearing of boots impossible for two days. How the men, the undeveloped youths, have stood these trenches is beyond my understanding. Contrary to what is usual, H.Q. gets all the shells that are going. The sunken road is a natural target; it has had a fair dose, but the crump on our roof that would bury us has not happened so far. The smoke of our attempts to have a fire may have drawn shelling, besides choking us. The Companies have been almost exempt from shells but for our artillery's shorts.

Relief arrangements, which worked well, had been made with The Cams. before a less simple Brigade scheme arrived. Trouble began after we got out. The lighter-laden officers and the robust carried rifles, Lewis guns, and such of the magazines as had not been "lost". Exhausted men were pulled out of mud from which they could not lift their feet, and hauled over anything they could not jump -- however narrow. One spent youth prayed "Only leave me to die": another, when asked how long he had been mired, said with a wan smile, "Since the beginning of the War."

 

 

Extract from the War Diary of the 1st. Middlesex Regiment  October 28th. 1916

 

The enemy was attacked on the 28th. October, the objective of the brigade being the the German positions in front of Le Transloy, known as Rainy Trench and Dewdrop Trench, and the dug outs and points north east of the latter. Zero Hour was 5.30a.m.

A and C companies led the attack of the 1st. Middlesex, an attack splendidly successful, for by 9.30a.m. the whole objective was in their hands and handed over to a relieving battalion(4th. Suffolk Regt.) that night. That success was dearly bought, for one officer (2nd lieut. C.A.T. Benson) was killed and seven officers (Captain E.W. Shaw, Lieuts. C.R. Smith and H.C.O. Buchanan, and 2nd. Lieuts. R,B. Holman, E. Auckland, R.A. Buckingham, and A.W.C. Hodges) were wounded; 35 other ranks were killed, 136 wounded and 29 were missing- total all ranks 208.

 

Diary of 2nd. Royal Welch Fusiliers;

 

[October 28th] We were all back at Guillemont by 6 a.m., most of the men stone-cold. Our "rest billets" were recognized as having been a village by the household fragments turned up on digging; and there was the human evidence of battle. Wood for cover and firing was most sought. By evening the men had made for themselves shacks, and some were singing. Rum is a great reviver; it was no longer an issue in the Division; it had to be wrung out of the new G.O.C. for today only. His own habits are not ascetic. An occasional shell still falls on the site. If Fritz is better off for quarters behind his front he is having a poorer time under long-range fire, we are sending over so many more shells than we get.

 

 

 

 

2nd . Seaforth Highlanders War Diary(contd)

 

 

28-29th. OCTOBER

 

Fine. The Battalion had baths on the 29th.. The same day the transport moved to ARGOEUVES, where they spent the night, carrying on to LIMEUX on the 30th.

ARRIVALS , DEPARTURS AND CASUALTIES;

28th. 2/Lieut W.G. Fenhoulhet posted to Battalion

29th. 7 new reinforcements joined.

 

 

 

 

 

Extract from a diary of a member of th 2nd. Royal Welch Fusiliers;

[October 29th] Rain and bitter cold. Some men who can stand no more have been sent to hospital. The others are wonderfully cheery. A few short-time working-parties are being found. Our losses for the week are about 60 from all causes, two dozen are gunshot wounds; and we have "done nothing". I was feeling that Roberts was irreplaceable. He was the most deft and knowing dresser I met in the Army in four years. He taught me much that a regimental medical officer must know. There was no spoon-feeding in his method, if method there was; all my resource was drawn out. In all he did he was unruffled and dogged, never more so than when reciting "Gunga Din": during his boy-service these qualities were called "obstinacy " -- so I was told.

The C.O.'s birthday. A cake arrived, and Company Commanders squeezed into H.Q. for dinner. Near the end a Brigade Order required us to detail a Company to reinforce The Cameronians, so Ralph Greaves took A back to Morval. The Cams. and 5th S.R. had been given the part for which B and C Companies were cast, the capture of Hazy. We had reckoned that a surprise rush by one Company might succeed. The battle-piece, a pretentious night scheme handed out by Brigade or Division to a company from each of two battalions, was foredoomed to failure. Men wandering behind the German position were captured in daylight. It was said that each battalion lost nearly the strength of its company -- for nothing. Their enemies helped them to clear some of their wounded -- and saved themselves the heavy carry.

 

 

 

 

[October 30th] Withdrawn to reserve between Trônes and Bernafay Woods: wretched conditions for all: some tents, leaking like sieves, were issued. During heavy showers it looped as if the bellying tarpaulin roof of H.Q.'s crazy shack would release a flood on us. It was more from prudence than sacrifice that--------

 

 

War Diary 2nd. Seaforth Highlanders

30th. OCTOBER 1916

The Battalion left CORBIE in a tactical train at 5;25p.m. and arrived in AIRAINES at 9;45 p.m. . Marched to LIMEUX. Transport arrived at LIMEUX at 5p.m.

 

ARRIVALS DEPARTURES AND CASUALTIES

Capt. H.W. Houldsworth and Capt. T.J.S. Gaisford St. Lawrence on leave.

 

 

 

 

31st OCTOBER 1916

BILLETS IN LIMEUX 7 MILES SOUTH OF ABBEVILLE

The Battalion arrived at LIMEUX at 2;20a.m. it was a very wet night

 

H.W. HOULDSWORTH

Lieut/A/Adjt    2nd. SEAFORTH HIGHLANDERS

                                    

 

At the end of the month there is a page which is headed “ WASTAGE FOR MONTH OF OCTOBER, 1916”.   I wonder if this was an official term or a sign of morale at the time.

 

                                                        OFFICERS                                 OTHER RANKS

                                     Decrease                    Increase                Decrease           Increase

Killed or Missing               3                                                              44

To Hospital  Sick               2                                                              83

To Hospital Wounded #     5                                                         * 137

From Hospital                                                      2                                                      53

Others                                 1                                                                4

Reinforcements                                                    3                                                      92

                                           11                               5                           268                    145

Total                        Decrease of 6                                               Decrease of 123

 

# Includes 2 wounded, Shell Shock

* Includes 19 wounded Shell Shock.

 

 

 

 

 

POSTSCRIPT TO THE CAPTURE OF DEWDROP TRENCH

 

 

Extract from the Personal Account of a member of the 2nd. Royal Welch Fusiliers

 

“ November 4th. 1916;

                                  Daylight is revealing. Any way one goes to Dewdrop Trench is through a shambles. Nowhere have I seen the dead in such numbers on so little space or of so many units. The Middlesex had pushed forward 200 yards where previous attempts- seven it is said- had failed.”

 

 

Whilst researching the assaults on DEWDROP and RAINY TRENCHES during October 1916, I was struck by the obvious low morale portrayed in the “war diaries” of the various battalions involved. Indeed I was  extremely surprised that the 2nd. Seaforth Colonel had gone back to telephone his General and persuade him to abandon the Seaforth assault on DEWDROP TRENCH. Howver it appears that he was not alone in his realistic attitude to the Le Transloy assault.

 

 

Extracts from “ THE KILLING GROUND “ BY TIM TRAVERS

PUBLISHED BY UNWIN HYMAN

DATE 1987

 

“A typical example concerns a brigade of 12 Division, which engaged in the battle for Le Transloy ( 7 – 30 October). The Brigade Major had bitter memories of this battle, which was fought in very poor conditions of rain and mud, and resulted in much loss of life. As a result of inadequate information on the enemy, the poor conditions, and senior commanders’ ignorance of the state and position of their own troops, he declared that the Brigade HQ and downwards knew that success was impossible. Due to ignorance, higher formations frequently ordered attacks to take off from lines which were not held against objectives which could not be located on the ground, and so the artillery programme was inoperable. Generally, the Brigade Major felt the conditions made fighting impossible- there were no landmarks, trenches were blown to pieces, and mud made communication difficult. The higher staff did not find out the real conditions, ignored lower reports, and issued impossible orders- nor were these orders given in sufficient time so that they tended to be verbal only. Hence the troops had no chance, and the Brigade Major concluded that Le TRANSLY was one of the most futile of battles.Would official history conceal the story he wondered.

“On the 5th. November 1916 an attack had been planned for Lord Cavan’s 14th. Corps to assault LE TRANSLOY, but there developed an upper level ‘mutiny’ , headed by Lord Cavan , who on November 3rd. complained that the attack by his Corps, in fact 33 Division, should not go forward, given the exhaustion of his men, and the heavy enfilade fire likely across the lengthy route of the attack. Among other complaints, Cavan courageously wrote;

‘No one who has not visited the front trenches can really know the state of exhaustion to which the men are reduced . The conditions are far worse than in the first battle of Ypres, all my General Officers agree that they are the worst they have ever seen, owing to the enormous distance of the carry of all munitions- such as food, water and ammunition ‘It would appear that this was one of the few instances when commanders had the moral courage to resist an order to attack, and one of the few times in which high level commanders came up to the front to see for themselves . Lord Cavan related how he and Rawlinson had gone beyond the wire early one morning on the 3rd or 4th. Of November and had slogged through the mud for 100 or 150 yards, and had realized that a general advance was impossible.”

 

 

This research was undertaken initially from a personal family viewpoint in an attempt to clarify the actions surrounding the death of Private Thomas Baird.

The facts which emerged from both military and private records revealed what I think is a ‘ forgotten battle’ filed away under “ the Battle of the Somme”.

After 4 months of sending troops to fight against German positions , the High Command of Haig and Rawlinson etc. continued to send their men forward repeatedly against not only the force of the German Army but against the greater force of nature itself as winter set in and the ground became a bogland , over which it was impossible to sustain a successful attack  certainly over the distances which they saw as possible of being covered in the open , uphill , over flooded land dotted with shell holes in full view of German  machine gun positions .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




























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