Friday, 11 August 2017

Twelfth Day of the Third Battle of Ypres

Saturday 11th August 1917

Today has had little action compared with yesterday. Things did not begin well with 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment, relieving the 7th Bedfords in Jargon Trench, contriving to lose a strong-point the Bedfords had taken yesterday. However, they later managed to retake it. To the north 29th Division established posts on the far bank of the Steenbeck, taking Passerele Farm near Langemark.

As I had hoped the commanding officer of 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, Major J H Bridcutt, has spoken with me today, painting a vivid picture of his unit’s attack yesterday. Here is what he told me: “At 3.30 a.m. all companies were formed up for the attack timed for 4.35 a.m. C company on the right, B Company on the left, A Company in close support and D Company in reserve under Caps O. Kingdon, H. Driver DSO, R. O. Clark and J. C. M. Ferguson respectively. The forming up was carried out in an exceedingly steady manner under considerable enemy artillery and machine-gun fire and great credit is due to the company commanders for the cool and deliberate manner in which they handled their companies”.

“At zero hour an intense British barrage opened and the battalion moved forward close under its protection. A full account of the glorious manner in which all ranks carried out their duties will be given later(1) The battalion famous for its fighting spirit in the past eclipsed all former deeds of gallantry; when heavy wire held up the foremost men, those behind stood on lumps of earth and rubbish and fired over the heads of those cutting the wire, seldom have any troops shown such brilliant dash and utter contempt for the Bosch. By 5.13 a.m. Nonne Bosschen Wood was reached and at the same time all the other objectives were occupied. Within an hour, small-arms ammunition Lewis gun drums and other things had been dispatched to the advanced positions and much consolidation had been carried out”.

“Very early in the operations the 11th Royal Fusiliers operating on our right and the Queen’s of 53rd Brigade, operating on their right became adversely involved with a Bosch strong point at the north-west corner of Inverness Copse and the whole attack on our right became confused and fell back. The Fusiliers fell back from their advanced posts on to a line running along the ridge from the south-west corner of Glencorse Wood to Clapham Junction. This change in the situation exposed our right flank and necessitated the partial expenditure of D Company to make a defensive flank which was carried out by Captain Ferguson in a quick and clever manner. Very severe fighting resulted later in the day through the unsatisfactory position in which our troops were placed”.

“About 5.30 p.m. the Bosch showed considerable movement and it became evident that a heavy counter attack was imminent: by 6 p.m. the attack developed and by 7 p.m. the situation was severe, the Bosch attacking in mass and our own artillery shooting desperately short. This condition lasted till 9 p.m. by which time although we had lost connection with our advanced posts the main position was still firmly in our hands and the enemy casualties were extremely heavy. About 8.30 p.m. the 6th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment were sent up to relieve our companies and one company of Norfolks took over the strongpoint at the south-west corner of Glencorse Wood from which the Fusiliers had previously been relieved by us. By 2 a.m. this morning the Regiment had been completely relieved by the Royal Berkshires”.

Source: X550/8/1

(1) see 13th August.

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