Tuesday 30 May 2017

Another Full Day for the 1st Battalion

Wednesday 30th May 1917

Just because 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, is in billets it does not mean they are idle. They have been finding working parties doing such things as road and railway construction and maintenance. They have also been drilling and practising other aspects of military skill. For example, at two o’clock this afternoon officers and non-commissioned officers have been trained in bayonet fighting. It is true every officer carries a pistol but they all use a rifle too, which is a far more effective weapon, more accurate and with a longer range. It is also more effective at close quarters on account of its bayonet - I know of no officer who still carries a sword into battle. Moreover, using a rifle does not distinguish an officer to the enemy, as using a pistol or a sword does and this means they are less likely to get picked-off by enemy marksmen, to the detriment of the men they lead.

As well as this activity, Lieutenant Hansen and one sergeant per company have spent the day reconnoitring No man’s land and the enemy positions east of Willerval, itself north-east of Arras. Second Lieutenant Everett and two other ranks have been to Wailly, south-west of Arras to see a display by tanks. These weapons are potential war-winners, certainly potential battle-winners, though it is fair to say that their performance is not always equal to their promise as they can be mechanically temperamental and they are difficult to operate - being inside a huge tin box, as hot as a furnace and as loud as a factory is a very disconcerting pastime and leads to officers commanding them becoming disorientated and losing their way. Nevertheless, tank design and the army’s understanding of how best to use them has come on leaps and bounds since they were first used only just over eight months ago and demonstrations like this are designed to help infantry units work out the best ways of co-operating with them to benefit the attack.

To round off  the day there was a football match. The Battalion played 1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, winning by two goals to one.

Source: X550/2/5

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