Tuesday 1 November 2016

Day One Hundred and Twenty Four on the Somme

Wednesday 1st November 1916 From our Correspondent in the Field

Captain Morris and his intrepid men carried out their raid on the German trenches near the ruined watermill north of Quinque Rue(1) and just east of Festubert. The raid began at eight o’clock last night. Captain Morris told me today, by telephone, that the party on the right found very heavy wire and came under machine gun fire from a point in the front line trench and, owing to bomb and rifle fire, were unable to get into the trench. They remained in position and later were able to effect an entry and join the Left Party, which had quickly penetrated the enemy trench and completely surprised a patrol of Germans, killing five and taking three prisoner. It was not found practicable to continue over the open to the support line, owing to the rough nature of the ground.

When a counter-attack appeared imminent a withdrawal was ordered and carried out, covered by Lewis guns, the wounded being first evacuated. The trenches were found empty except for the patrol, and no material was found. Second Lieutenant Wright was wounded with one other rank killed, seventeen wounded and two missing, these were seen helping each other back. Sadly it is probable that they were buried by a Minenwerfer which opened fire at the end of Shetland Trench.

Captain Morris commented that the enemy trenches are very similar to our own - floorboarded and with a low parados (bank at the rear to prevent silhouetting of men looking over the parapet at the front).. Several dug-outs were entered and were very similar to those in our lines. The Salient does not appear to be held, but only patrolled.

The captain added that electric torches fixed to the rifles near the hand grip proved exceedingly useful. The fact that the men had their faces blacked raised the morale of the men enormously.

Early this morning a patrol went out from our lines and searched the whole of the ground over which the raiding party had passed. They failed to find the two missing men. The body of the man killed was recovered

The commanding officer of the battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Allason, told me that the two companies which had been holding that sector were ordered to submit names of men who could be considered fit to take part in the raid. Owing to casualties on the Somme, he said, the choice was very restricted, and arrangements had to be made to give further instruction in live bomb throwing to the majority of those selected.

Enlargements of an aeroplane photo were made and issued to group leaders. The trenches were also staked out on the ground and the attack practised, first by the demonstration method, then by the whole party. This was done twice by day, and when all the groups understood their role, by night also. Thus the raid was very thoroughly planned.

Apparently the raid has been judged a success. Brigadier Turner has been asked by the Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Haking “to convey to Lieutenant Colonel Allason DSO and the officers and men of 1st Bedfordshire Regiment, my appreciation and thanks for the successful raid carried out by them last night. The operation was skilfully planned, and carried out with a fine fighting spirit, and the damage done to the enemy and the capture of the prisoners was most commendable”.

Source: X550/2/5

(1) Now called Rue de Lille (D72)

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