Friday, 12 May 2017

The Chemical Works and That Accursed Red Patch

Saturday 12th May 1917

Last evening another attack was made on the chemical works at Roeux. 4th Division was slated for this attack, despite being weak in numbers after the shambles of an attack on 3rd May. Out of a theoretical strength of over 12,000 rifles only 2,444 could be put into the field and these were formed into a makeshift brigade and launched into an assault without reserves. They were, however, aided by a barrage of great strength with ten full brigades of artillery joining in. This attack was completely successful, overrunning chemical works, chateau and station and speaks much for the undaunted spirit of the men who made it.

56th (London) Division also carried out an attack last evening. They seem to have achieved complete surprise and in a dashing attack seized the enemy’s front line from south of the road from Arras to Cambrai to north of it.

Today, once more, Bullecourt has received the army’s attentions. Early this morning, around dawn, 91st Brigade of 7th Division went in to try to capture the whole village. The Australian 15th Brigade was to advance and link up with 91st Brigade at the cross-roads north-east of the village and 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division was to take ground round The Crucifix north-west of The Red Patch.

Alas for expectations! Only some of the plan seems to have been achieved. 2nd Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) took its objectives as far as the church but 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, could make no progress in The Red Patch which, as a wag near me was heard to observe is living up to its name. 62nd Division, we have been told, reached The Crucifix, but were then sent tumbling back to their starting positions. The Australians have taken nearly two hundred prisoners but could not quite meet all their objectives though they have made touch with the Queen’s.

Still, tonight the whole of Bullecourt is in British hands except for the accursed Red Patch. It is expected that tonight some of the Australians will be relieved by 58th (2nd/1st London) Division.

Second Lieutenant Shekury [X550/1/81]

Elsewhere the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment were delighted to hear of more well-deserved decorations. Second Lieutenant Cecil Shekury has been awarded the Military Cross and the Military Medal has been awarded to: 9606 Sergeant R Foster (his second); 8883 Sergeant J. Wheeler; 9757 Acting Sergeant A Thorogood; 9297 Lance Sergeant G Gurney; 21055 Corporal T Williams; 19078 Corporal J Hedge; 9873 Private G Harding; 19167 Private C Furr and 9727 Lance Corporal J Brown(1)

Source: X550/3/WD

(1) Shekury would die on 16th April 1918, Gurney on 22nd March 1918 and Hedge on 21st August 1918

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