Monday, 27 August 2018

Those Blasted Woods Again

Tuesday 27th March 1918

Today has seen a number of attacks along the front. In the south 18th (Eastern) Division of Fourth Army has been renewing its acquaintance with Trones Wood, where it fought so long in 1916. and Bernafay Wood between Montauban and Ginchy. The enemy still held the village of Longueval at the start of the attack and 8th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment suffered many casualties as they struggled to get forward and were eventually pushed from Trones Wood to Bernafay Wood to the west. A few moments ago, however, a counter-attack has once more pushed the enemy from the wood, hopefully for good. The 38th (Welsh) Division has obtained a firm lodging now in the western remains of Longueval. 

Further north 63rd (Royal Naval) Division has once more been attacking Thilloy and Ligny-Thilloy to help the New Zealand complete its encirclement of Bapaume to the south. The 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has been to the fore in today's unsuccessful efforts at Thilloy and Ligny-Thilloy. Your correspondent has just heard from the adjutant with details of the attack, which began about eleven o'clock. The Bedfords were then in a sunken road variously called Chalk Cut or Red Cut as shown on the map above. Preceded by a rolling barrage then men went over the top but not before shells fell into the assembly positions which were thought to come from our own guns firing short. On leaving the sunken road heavy machine gun fire was encountered from the front and the left and especially from the right flank. It had been arranged that 21st Division would attack on the Bedfords' right, but their attack was cancelled at the last moment and so the right flank was exposed to extremely heavy machine gun fire from the high ground.

The line was held up and the positions occupied were then roughly as shown on the map above. No further advance was possible as machine gun fire from Thilloy and the ridges on the right was so heavy. Snipers were very active and claimed many victims.
An hour ago, at six o'clock after an hour's bombardment by heavy artillery and preceded by an 18 pounder barrage the advance was continued again. Just previous to zero a heavy shell fell in the midst of the centre company and did much damage. Despite this, some of C Company on the left entered Thilloy and went right through, with their right on the cross roads shown on the map by an X. The left of the centre company was met again by very heavy machine gun fire from the right and was unable to make much progress and the right company was unable to advance at all owing to the same reason. The enemy had a perfect defensive position which commanded the approach from in front and on the right flank.  

As regards those elements of the left company which passed through Thilloy, the situation is difficult to ascertain. No Officer by this time appears to have been left with the company. The enemy appear to have been surrounding them on the right flank and eventually they withdrew through the village, and back to the sunken road from which the attack had started, which they reached a few moments ago.  

Owing to the formation of the ground the only possible defensive line was then indeed the sunken road from which the battalion had started this morning, with posts pushed out to the edge of la Barque. The line joins up with the 7th Royal Fusiliers on the left. The Battalion hopes to be relieved tonight.  

The commanding officer then came on the blower to make his views known, saying: "I attribute the failure of the attack to the fact that the right flank was exposed as the Division on our right did not advance. It is possible that the first attack would have been held up in any case from machine gun fire from Thilloy, but I feel certain that if other troops had been pressing on our right and so engaging the machine guns on the ridges and neighbourhood, my right company would have been able to get forward at the second attempt. If the request for tanks to co-operate had been granted the task would have been easy and could have been accomplished by one Battalion instead of two".

Source: X550/5/3

No comments:

Post a Comment