Wednesday 31 May 2017

An Example of a Daily Intelligence Summary

Thursday 31st May 1917

The adjutant of 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in a camp behind the lines, reports that this afternoon an enemy aeroplane was observed to attack two of our observation balloons nearby. Occupying these balloons is a dangerous task. The man hangs in a basket beneath the balloon and tries to work out such details as where the enemy artillery is, from muzzle-flashes observed. To do this he has to be at a dizzying height above the ground. He has no way of defending himself and the balloon makes a big target. In this case the two balloons were hit and began to fall to earth. Fortunately the men inside had parachutes, which they deployed successfully and landed unscathed.

Your correspondent thought that readers might appreciate a copy of a daily intelligence report, sent by battalions to brigade headquarters, who then pass on anything of interest, up the line to divisional and corps headquarters to army headquarters. If the information is particularly interesting it makes its way all the way to the headquarters of the British Expeditionary Force in Montreuil-sur-Mer. This example was sent by 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, who are in the front line near Zillebeke, east of Ypres. As will be seen, this specimen divulges no great secrets.

2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment
Daily Intelligence Summary - 31st May, 1917

1. Identifications.

2. Operations
(a) Enemy. Very inactive on the whole.
At 12.5 p.m. enemy fired 4 [x] 5.9 [shells] just outside front line of Right Company, and then lifted on to Support Line. Enemy shelled intermittently throughout the day.

(b) Our Artillery dispersed Bosche working party in I.13.c. at 3.15 p.m.
They fired intermittently during the day.

3. Enemy activity and attitude.
There has been no rifle fire and a Machine Gun which traversed our front line was firing over the heads of men working on the parapet.
The enemy was observed holding trench in front of CROSS Street very strongly at night, as though "Standing to" in anticipation of an attack.

4. Enemy defences
(a) Trenches
Enemy is building up his parapet. A man was seen on the parapet this morning and new planks were seen.
(b) Wire.
(c) O.Ps. [Observation Posts]
(d) M.G's. [Machine Guns]

5. Movement
No movement has been observed.

6. Signals
A few lights were observed to have been fired in advance of main enemy line.

7. Air Activity.

8. Patrols
See Patrol Report

9. Miscellaneous

H. Hargreaves, Lieutenant, for Major
Commanding 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment.

Source: X550/3WD

Roll of Honour - 31st May 1917

Killed in Action

4th Battalion: Battle of Arras: constructing Railway Trench near Gavrelle
  • 22799 Private Percy MASLEN, 25, son of Henry Ormond Maslen of 27 Saint Leonard’s Avenue, Bedford (Arras Memorial)

Died of Wounds

4th Battalion
  • 43239 Private Victor William COTGROVE, 20, ex-2285 Essex Regiment (Cyclist), resided Southend-on-Sea (Southend-on-Sea (Sutton Road) Cemetery)

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

Monday 29 May 2017

Straight to the Front Line

Lieutenant Hobbs [X550/1/81]

Tuesday 29th May 1917

Just after midnight 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, arrived by train at Ypres. They will have no rest, however, as tonight they are to go into the front line in front of the ruins of Zillebeke, south-east of Ypres. Lieutenant W Hobbs has taken over the duties of acting adjutant from Lieutenant L A L Fink.

Meanwhile, 1st Battalion, in billets, has been finding working parties and training. At 4 pm the commanding officer gave a lecture to all officers and non-commissioned officers on their duties. After tea there was a football match in which D Company took on the rest of the Battalion. The day was rounded off nicely by an open-air concert at 7.30.

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/3WD

Roll of Honour - 29th May 1917

Killed in Action

4th Battalion: Battle of Arras: constructing Railway Trench near Gavrelle
  • 16030 Private Harry Edward HASKELL, 24, born Hampstead [London], son of Anna Haskell of 44 Harwood Terrace, Fulham [London] and late Edward Ainsworth Haskell (Arras Memorial)
  • 23521 Acting Sergeant George MONEY, born Maulden, resided Ampthill (Arras Memorial)
  • 20436 Private Walter WILSON, 21, born Long Stanton [Huntingdonshire], son of John and Rosetta of School Lane, Earith [Huntingdonshire] (Arras Memorial)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 19268 Private George MATTHEWS, born Battlesden, resided Milton Bryan (Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel) died a prisoner-of-war


3rd Battalion
  • 21205 Private John METCALF, 34, born Sunderland [Durham], resided Deptford [Durham], son of John and Mary Ann Metcalf, husband of Henrietta A  of 1 Palmer Street, Sunderland (Sunderland (Bishopwearmouth) Cemetery)

Sunday 28 May 2017

News from the Battalions

Monday 28th May 1917

Yesterday, in Palestine, part of 1st/5th Battalion spent Whit Sunday by the sea. A and B Companies marched to the mouth of the Wadi Ghuzze and had an enjoyable time bathing in the Mediterranean. 2nd Battalion are now on their way to the ruins of Ypres by train from billets near Béthune. They will be billeted in the Infantry Barracks in the town with headquarters in the Ramparts

The 1st Battalion are at a concentration camp(1). Part of the battalion were out on working parties whilst the rest paraded for drill and other training from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm. After tea the final of the inter-platoon football match was held, being won by 13 Platoon of D Company.

Lieutenant Blanchard has been admitted to 15th Field Ambulance sick and Second Lieutenant Sharpin has taken over his duties as Transport Officer. The new adjutant is Lieutenant Millais, who has taken over from Second Lieutenant Kingdon, who has gone with five other ranks to XIII Corps Draft Training School where they will act as instructors. Finally the commanding officer, second-in-command and company commanders have attended a lecture at Écoivres on “Patrolling and Self-Defence”.

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/3WD; X550/6/8

(1) simply meaning a camp where a number of units were concentrated, without any sinister meaning.

Roll of Honour - 28th May 1917

Died of Wounds

6th Battalion
  • 33076 Private Mark ROLLINGS, son of Jane Rollings of 14 Victoria Terrace, Eaton Bray (Duisans British Cemetery, Étrun)

Saturday 27 May 2017

Exciting Patrol by 6th Battalion

Sunday 27th May 1917

The 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment are currently in the front line near Guémappe, south-east of Arras. The adjutant informed me this evening: “A strong party was sent out at midnight under Second Lieutenants Cranswick and Wright to obtain a prisoner if possible and to get information about the line of shell holes held by the enemy in the area highlighted on the map above. Before reaching the objective, a covering party was encountered who were protecting a large party of the enemy who were wiring in front of the line of shell holes. Further progress was impossible as our party were considerably outnumbered, but a lively encounter with bombs and rifle grenades took place”.

“Several Germans were killed and the whole enemy party appeared considerably frightened and surprised. Fire was opened all along the line and our party withdrew, all men, except three, regaining our trenches. Casualties were one officer and three men wounded and 3 men killed. The whole operation was conducted with great determination and was highly successful considering the opposition that was met with”(1)

Source: X550/7/1

(1) Those killed were: 39458 Private Herbert J Pollington, aged 20; 15250 Private William F Button, aged 22, of C Company and Harpenden [Hertfordshire] and 32224 Private Joseph Bertie Harding, aged 29, of 16 High Street, Kempston. The bodies of Pollington and Button could not be recovered, as they are commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing. Harding’s body is buried in Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery so either he was brought in all the way from the fight, perhaps he was still alive for a short while, or he was killed close enough to the Bedfords’ lines for his body to be recovered.

Roll of Honour - 27th May 1917

Killed in Action

4th Battalion: Battle of Arras: front line near Gavrelle
  • 204378 Private Henry Robert AUSTIN, 29, husband of Ellen of 4 Salisbury Cottages, Roden Street, Ilford [Essex] (Arras Memorial)

6th Battalion: front line near the River Cojeul
  • 15250 Private William Freeman BUTTON, 22, C Company, born Belgravia [London], resided Wheathampstead [Hertfordshire], son of George Henry and Agnes Button of Old Reasons, Harpenden [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 32224 Private Joseph HARDING, 29, son of Joseph and Ann Harding of 16 High Street, Kempston (Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery, Haucourt)
  • 39458 Private Herbert James POLLINGTON, 20, born Saint Germans [Norfolk], resided Wisbech [Cambridgeshire], son of late John and Rebecca Pollington (Arras Memorial)


3rd Battalion
  • 37093 Private George PAYNE, born and resided Grays [Essex] (Grays New Cemetery)

Friday 26 May 2017

4th Battalion Back in the Line

Saturday 26th May 1917

Last night 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, went back into the front line north of Gavrelle, which place they helped to take back on 23rd April. Their rough position is shown in red on the map above. They have been joined today by two new officers, Lieutenant Webb and Lieutenant Beck from base.

Source: X550/5/6

Roll of Honour - 26th May 1917

Killed in Action

6th Battalion: Battle of Arras: front line near the River Cojeul
  • 43215 Lance Corporal John Robert RUDDICK, 21, ex-1416 Essex Regiment, born Old Ford [London], resided East Ham [Essex], son of John Robert and Ellen Eliza Ruddick of 122 Geere Road, West Ham [Essex] (Arras Memorial)

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 40138 Private John STRINGER MM, 29, ex-28735 Essex Regiment, born Ilford [Essex], resided South Woodford [Essex], husband of J Stringer of 17 High Street, Barkingside [Essex] (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)


6th Battalion
  • 35942 Private Jonas FREEMAN, husband of Annie of Queen’s Head, Hadstock [Essex] (Duisans British Cemetery, Étrun)

Thursday 25 May 2017

Bathing in Sandbags

Friday 25th May 1917

We have more news from the 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment in Palestine. Yesterday they found working parties - a total of 1,740 man hours across the battalion. During the day work continued on improving their bivouacs - one ingenious feature was to make a bath of sandbags, covered with waterproof sheets. In such hot conditions one may readily perceive the pleasure of a cool bath after work and one gallon of precious water was allotted to every three men who were enabled by washing themselves first and their straining off the soapsuds in a straw "trap" to wash their clothes also.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 25th May 1917

Died of Wounds

4th Battalion
  • 23433 Private Walter RISEBERO, 22, son of Reuben and Betsy Risebero of 1 Saint Peter’s Cottages, New Town, Hatfield [Hertfordshire] (Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension)

8th Battalion
  • 15485 Private Albert STACEY, 28, son of Frederick and Mary Jane Stacey of The Cross, Bassingbourn [Cambridgeshire] (Lillers Communal Cemetery)

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Engaging Aircraft

A Roland CII German scout 'plane

Thursday 24th May 1917

The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is in the trenches south-west of Farbus Wood, north-east of Arras. The adjutant tells me that today German aircraft have been a nuisance. They have been flying very low over the front line trenches, presumably taking photographs to give the Germans a clue as to the state of our defences, how many men are in the front line at any one time and other such vital intelligence. The Battalion has tried to bring the aircraft down by firing on them with Lewis Guns but, given that these machines are moving a considerable speed, perhaps as much as one hundred miles per hour if they have finished taking photographs, it will be seen that they are very difficult to hit.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - 24th May 1917

Died of Wounds

4th Battalion
  • 23606 Private Arthur William HOUSDEN, 23, son of Albert William and Lilla Housden of Biggleswade, resided Luton (Étaples Military Cemetery)

6th Battalion
  • 26629 Private John JOBSON, 26, son of William and Eliza Jobson of Sand Street, Soham [Cambridgeshire] (Arras Memorial)

Tuesday 23 May 2017

The Earl of Derby Visits the Front

30th Division Badge

Wednesday 23rd May 1917

It seems that the Secretary of State for War, the Earl of Derby was visiting the Front yesterday. Today he has sent a letter to Major-General W I Williams commanding 30th Division. This formation has as its divisional badge the arms of the Stanley family, of which the earl is, of course a member. This is in recognition of the role the earl played in recruiting many of the battalions of the Manchester Regiment and the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment in the early days of the war. Since December 1915 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has been a part of this division, which is well behind the front line around Bourecq, a few miles north-west of Béthune. The earl’s letter is reproduced below.

"I am sorry that my visit to you yesterday was all too hurried but I am sure that you and your Division generally will realise that I was obliged to hurry back home having been away for four days. I cannot tell you what pleasure it gave me, not only to see the 89th Brigade, but those members from the whole of the Division who have received Honours in the late fighting. I have been associated with the Division from its very beginning and have taken, and do take, the greatest possible interest in its doings and feel as proud as the Division itself must feel when it receives well merited Honours. I shall never forget the satisfaction I felt when in the Somme Battle I received telegrams from Sir Douglas Haig and General Rawlinson congratulating me on the success of the Division, and I am even more proud of the Division now than I was then, when I feel that after continuous fighting they still uphold the splendid reputation they then gained. I fear there is much more fighting in front of us before the end comes, but however much fighting there is and however severe it may be, I have no fear but that the Division will retain the confidence now felt in it by all Commanders and I am certain that you personally will appreciate having under your command such a magnificent lot of Officers and Men”.

“I hope you will keep me informed on your doings and will realise the deep interest I feel in the welfare of all ranks."

Source: X550/3WD

Roll of Honour - 23rd May 1917

Killed in Action

4th Battalion: Battle of Arras: digging a support trench at night
  • 204413 Private Christopher Henry GOUGH, son of C F Gough of 2 Ridgeway Road, Redhill [Surrey] (Albuera Cemetery, Bailleul-sire-Bertholt)

6th Battalion: Battle of Arras: support trenches near the River Cojeul
  • 25189 Private Harry GRUMMITT resided Biggleswade (Arras Memorial)
  • 204255 Private Stanley Victor LAMB, 19, born Lexden [Essex], son of James E and Katherine Lamb of 18 Burlington Road, Colchester [Essex] (Arras Memorial)
  • 204240 Private Charles PAINE, born Ashford [Kent], resided Folkestone [Kent] (Tank Cemetery, Guemappe)
  • 39469 Private Oliver Blake REEVES, 25, ex-5420 Army Pay Corps, son of Henry William and Jane Reeves of 338 High Road, Willesden [Middlesex]  (Tank Cemetery, Guemappe)
  • 37879 Private Stanley Morgan THOMAS, 20, son of W Sidney Thomas of 11 Canadian Avenue, Catford [London] (Arras Memorial)

Monday 22 May 2017

The 1st Battalion in the Front Line

Tuesday 22nd May 1917

At present 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is in the front line south-west of Farbus Wood, north-east of Arras and south of Lens. The adjutant reports that the enemy’s artillery has been concentrating on shooting at our own artillery (called counter-battery fire) and playing on the communication trenches, so that the men in the front line are not bothered by it.

Almost the whole Battalion worked all last night on consolidating the front line, making it proof against enemy attack. The few not working have been out on patrol; no enemy patrols have been seen. A fighting patrol under Second Lieutenant Whitfield found no opportunity for procuring identification of the enemy regiment opposite and reported that the German wire is very thick. Lieutenant Millais has assumed temporary command of B Company and also become officer commanding the front line for the length entrusted to the Battalion, a fair responsibility for a relatively junior officer.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - 22nd May 1917

Killed in Action

6th Battalion: Battle of Arras: support trenches near the River Cojeul, very heavy shelling
  • 204244 Lance Corporal Edwin John CURLE, born Camberwell [London], resided Bow [London] (Tank Cemetery, Guemappe)
  • 29176 Private Arthur Philip GEORGE, 41, born Witton [Norfolk], son of Philip and Anna Maria of Little Plumstead [Norfolk] (Tank Cemetery, Guemappe)
  • 204266 Private Thomas MURRAY, born Birmingham [Warwickshire], resided Leagrave (Tank Cemetery, Guemappe)
  • 28043 Private Percy John PESTELL, 28, son of G Pestell of 11 Saint Mary’s Terrace, Newtown, Huntingdon, husband of Maud of Church Street, Shillington (Tank Cemetery, Guemappe)
  • 33580 Private John Robert WILLFORD, 19, ex-27642 Northamptonshire Regiment, born Northampton, son of G Willford of 81 Cambridge Street, Semilong [Northamptonshire] (Tank Cemetery, Guemappe)

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 27571 Private Henry Harry ROBERTS, born and resided Harpenden [Hertfordshire] (Béthune Town Cemetery)


52nd (Graduated) Battalion
  • TR/9/6057 Private Edward Richard CORKE born and resided Bexhill [Sussex] (Dovercourt (All Saints) churchyard)

Sunday 21 May 2017

Too Hot to Work

The Quartermaster's Office from The History of the Fifth Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA)

Monday 21st May 1917

Your correspondent is able to enjoy regular telegraph time at the moment, meaning he can keep in touch with the only front-line battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment not in France, 1st/5th Battalion which is in Palestine. It transpires that yesterday the Battalion attended church parade at 7.30 a.m. along with 1st/11th Battalion, London Regiment, with Holy Communion for those who wished it at 10.30.

The day seems to have become something of an involuntary, though welcome, holiday. At the moment the battalion is under the orders of the General Officer Commanding 53rd (Welsh) Division. Divisional headquarters had ordered working parties but decided to cancel these. This was because of a phenomenon called the Khamsene - a hot, dusty wind which makes the weather too hot for work.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 21st May 1917

Killed in Action

6th Battalion: Battle of Arras: support trenches near the River Cojeul, heavy enemy shelling
  • 17782 Lance Corporal Jabez William DRAPER, 22, born Wilden, resided Thurleigh, son of Fred and Elizabeth Draper of Bridge End, Carlton (Tank Cemetery, Guemappe)
  • 13821 Corporal George SHARP, 32, born Hitchin [Hertfordshire], husband of Sarah of Glenview, 20 Putters way, Hitchin (Tank Cemetery, Guemappe)

8th Battalion: front line trenches near Hulluch
  • 39634 Private Willie WOODS, husband of C E Woods of 49 Bury Road, Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire] (Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 20739 Private George HAYDEN, 20, son of William and Alice Hayden of Mill Lane, Bassingbourn [Cambridgeshire] (Calais Southern Cemetery)

4th Battalion
  • 43050 Private Raymond Frederick LOOP, ex-1075 Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion, born East Ruston [Norfolk], resided Great Stukeley [Huntingdonshire], son of Thomas Loop of 7 Broadway Avenue, Saint Margaret’s, Twickenham [Surrey] (Duisans British Cemetery, Étrun)

6th Battalion
  • 28277 Private John BREWER, resided Shillington (London Cemetery, Neuville-Vitasse)

Saturday 20 May 2017

Setting Up a New Home

Colonel Brighten and his tent from History of the Fifth Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA)

Sunday 20th May 1917

Yesterday 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, near Gaza in Palestine, had to set up their new bivouacs behind the lines. Their allotted area consists of about 200 yards of a dry gully with four small branches about 40 yards long off it as well as the flat ground between these arms. For the next few days, much sanitary work including the erection of incinerators, latrines, baths and the dugouts will have to be sprayed with fly solution.

The Battalion, with the 1st/11th Battalion, London Regiment (54th (East Anglian) Division), 1st/1st Battalion, Herefordshire Regiment (53rd (Welsh) Division) and 6th Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers (53rd Division) are all in the same area and are placed under the orders of the General Officer Commanding 53rd Division (Major-General Stanley F Mott) in a general reserve, organised for tactical purposes as a composite brigade under the command of the Bedfords’ commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel E W Brighten.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 20th May 1917

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 27831 Corporal Frederick CLARK, 24, son of George and Fanny Clark of High Street, Langford (Duisans British Cemetery, Étrun)

7th Battalion
  • 17559 Private Frederick Cecil ABRAHAMS son of John and Alice Abrahams of Lambeth [London], resided South Lambeth [London] (Mont Huon Military Cemetery, le Tréport)

Friday 19 May 2017

1st/5th Bedfords Relieved

Battalion Headquarters in the Front Line - from The History of the Fifth Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA)

Saturday 19th May 1917

Last night 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment was relieved from the front line near Gaza. By exchange of telegrams, your correspondent was able to learn something of what they had been doing in their tour in support to the front line and in the front line itself in addition to what has been reported in the last few days.

During the whole period the Battalion found working parties. The whole Battalion less necessary specialists worked at communication trenches for three to four hours each night, cutting a considerable length of new trench and openings to allow stretchers to pass, another the long length. The whole battalion was employed for about four hours a day - generally between 7 and 11 a.m. - on erecting terraces and dug-outs and also in building splintered roof verandahs on these terraces which act as protection nfrom artillery to the dug-outs behind.

During the period that the Battalion was in the front line trenches six hours work a day was performed usually from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 7 to 11 p.m. This work consisted chiefly in reconstructing fire bays, levelling parapets and heaped up traverses, widening and deepening the communication ways behind the firestep and constructing deep dugouts and company headquarters.

There has been a considerable amount of sickness and a very large proportion of this is due to slight abrasions got while digging, and at other times, becoming septic. It was found useful for each company headquarters to keep a bottle of iodine and some cotton wool and orders were issued that any man who grazed himself, however slightly, was at once to be iodized.

Meanwhile at Hulluch on the old Loos battlefield 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment’s commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Ampthill has left the battalion and proceeded to General Headquarters for employment under the Director of Labour. The new commanding officer is Major H R McCullagh.

Sources: X550/6/8; X550/9/1

Roll of Honour - 19th May 1917

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: Battle of Arras: front line near Arleux-en-Gohelle
  • 3/7044 Sergeant David SIMPKINS, born and resided Barton-le-Clay (Bois-Carré British Cemetery, Thélus)

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 40233 Private Alfred COOPER, ex-5089 Norfolk Regiment, born and resided Norwich [Norfolk] (Longuenesse (Saint-Omer) Souvenir Cemetery)

Thursday 18 May 2017

An All-Day Patrol

Friday 18th May 1917

Yesterday a detachment 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment carried out an all-day patrol. At 2 a.m. an officer and twenty other ranks made their way surreptitiously to a point 800 yards south-east of the Cactus Hedge, south of Gaza and remained there all day secretly observing the enemy. As opportunity offered they changed their position from time to time, being sniped at every now and then. At dusk many snipers got out of the grass and went for The Garden nearby, as though they rested there during the night. To spend all day under the burning sun in close proximity to the enemy front line takes huge nerve and endurance.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 18th May 1917

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 33785 Private William James Alfred BELL, 35, born Finchley [Middlesex], resided Radlett [Hertfordshire], son of Walter Bell of Barnet [Hertfordshire] (Calais Southern Cemetery)

Wednesday 17 May 2017

End of Operations Around Roeux

Thursday 17th May 1917

I am sorry to report that the attack by Gordon Highlanders of 51st (Highland) Division yesterday to regain ground lost by 17th (Northern) Division was not successful. This was an unfortunate ending to a few days which has seen remarkable success in advancing the line into Roeux, its chemical works, chateau and station and this success is all the more creditable for having been begun by a much reduced and very tired unit - 4th Division. The Germans have not shown any desire to conduct new attacks anywhere today, so it is hoped that the fighting around Arras will die down allowing the army to consolidate its gains.

Out in Palestine yesterday evening 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment sent out a patrol under cover of darkness to select a site suitable as the starting point for an attack by two companies on an area known as The Garden, south of the town, which may take place in the next few days.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 17th May 1917

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: Battle of Arras: front line near Arleux-en-Gohelle
  • 18607 Private John Huckle or Hucklesby BAKER, 34, husband of Elizabeth A of Leighton Road, Toddington (Orchard Dump Cemetery, Arleux-en-Gohelle)
  • 32010 Corporal Reginald Arthur SAWFORD, 21, son of Charles and Charlotte Ellen Sawford of 60 Shortlands Road, Kingston-upon-Thames [Surrey] Watford [Hertfordshire] (Orchard Dump Cemetery, Arleux-en-Gohelle)

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • Temporary Second Lieutenant Sidney Charles TREMEER, 28, son of Charles George and Eleanor Agnes Tremeer of Chiswick [Middlesex] (Mount Huon Military Cemetery, le Treport)

Tuesday 16 May 2017

The Capture of Bullecourt

Wednesday 16th May 1917

This morning another attack was mounted on the remains of the village of Bullecourt, including the infamous Red Patch. I am delighted to report that this was achieved by 174th Brigade of 58th (2nd/1st London) Division at the point of the bayonet. There is a general feeling here that, with the problems in the French army and the end of their offensive that that is the finish of any further offensive operations around Arras, though time will tell.

Early this morning the Germans again attacked the Highlanders in and around Roeux and its chemical works. After some initial success these attacks were halted and then reversed and the ruins of Roeux re-taken. Further north they succeeded in capturing the hard-won chemical works and got as far as 300 yards west of the station. Again, however, the advance was stemmed and a counter-attack drove the enemy back, the remnants of the chemical works again being taken. 17th Division, north of the highlanders has lost ground which it is hoped the highlanders will win back this evening, the attack going in soon after I will finish writing this piece.

We have heard news today from Palestine. Yesterday 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in front of the Turkish defences at Gaza, had a few things to report. A new enemy battery (about 4.2" calibre said the adjutant), began to register and fired five rounds within a radius of 50 yards of the Battalion Headquarters. One shell pitched onto the bank of earth, known locally as a terrace, heaped in front of one of B Company’s bivouacs on which twelve men were having breakfast at the time. The only casualty was a slight scalp wound caused by a piece of earth. The system of terraces has been found highly satisfactory in getting protection from shell fire. Last evening a patrol led by an officer to within 500 yards of a feature known as the Cactus Hedge found three bodies of our men killed in the Second Battle of Gaza a month ago.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 16th May 1917

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: Battle of Arras: front line near Arleux-en-Gohelle
  • 20956 Private Walter SKINNER, 28, born Sandy, son of Walter and Naomi Skinner of Beeston Green (Duisans British Cemetery, Étrun)

Died of Wounds

6th Battalion
  • 33071 Private William Albert Charles PAGE, 19, born Leighton Buzzard, resided Bedford, son of Albert and Annie Page of 73 High Street, Newport Pagnell [Buckinghamshire] (Étaples Military Cemetery)


  • 22220 Private Albert WATLING, 37, born Bow [London], resided Waltham Cross [Hertfordshire], son of Harley and Annie Eliza Watling of Oak House, Enfield Highway [Middlesex], husband of Ethel E Mallpress (ex-Watling) of 1 Ryde Villa, Saint Mary Cray [Kent] (Edinburgh (Comely Bank) Cemetery)

4th Battalion
  • 23749 Private Bertie Edward Malkin JOHNSON, 25, son of H Johnson of The Green, Creaton [Northamptonshire], resided Souldrop (Great Creaton (Saint Michael) churchyard)

Monday 15 May 2017

German Attacks Repulsed

Tuesday 15th May 1917

Today the German Guard made determined attack around Bullecourt. The attacks on 173rd Brigade and 14th Australian Brigade were easily dealt with. 91st Brigade, below strength after recent fighting in Bullecourt lost all that part of the village west of the road to Longatte but managed to keep hold of the eastern portion. Further north the enemy made assault on newly-taken Roeux but were brushed off by the Scots of 51st (Highland) Division.

Following the end of his offensive on the Chemin des Dames and in Champagne General Nivelle has been sacked as the French commander-in-chief and replaced by General Pétain, the hero of Verdun last year. It seems that some, at least, of the rumours about French units refusing to attack are true. It is said that Nivelle had promised a comparatively bloodless offensive but the French have lost as many men as the British and Imperial forces have around Arras, making it a much bloodier attack then foretold. Pétain is not only a hero, and so someone who engenders trust in the average poilu, but a man much happier fighting defensively and it seems that, at the moment, this is all some parts of our ally’s army are capable of doing. On both counts he is clearly the man for the job. This worrying development means that it is unlikely that any further offensive actions of any great extent will take place around Arras; our armies will have to be prepared to counter any German attack designed to exploit perceived weaknesses in our ally’s forces. 

Roll of Honour - 15th May 1917

Died of Wounds

4th Battalion
  • 30829 Private William SCOTNEY, 37, husband of Mary E of High Street, Elton [Northamptonshire] (Duisans British Cemetery, Étrun)


  • 23562 Private Martin BRYAN resided Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire] (Kempston Cemetery)

Sunday 14 May 2017

The Fall of Roeux and a regimental Round-Up

Monday 14th May 1917

Readers will remember that yesterday Brigadier-General Cumming of 91st Brigade was relieved of command because his commanding officer did not like his plan of attack on The Red Patch in Bullecourt. An alternative plan was tried by his replacement, which was unsuccessful. Today Cumming’s original plan was used to attack this beastly place. Ironically, it looked for a while as if this plan might actually work. Then a bomb dump being used by the attackers was blown up by an enemy shell and, lacking sufficient ammunition the attacks petered out with nothing achieved.

Our old friends 51st (Highland) Division are in the field again. Having replaced 4th Division in the line, last night they attacked and took Roeux, which had been abandoned by the enemy.

News has reached us from three of the battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment. Firstly from Palestine: yesterday 1st/5th Battalion remarked on groups of camels seen on the road from Gaza to Beersheba. A nearby brigade of howitzers decided to try their luck, at 6,500 yards range, but their shots fell some 200 yards short.

During the morning a Battalion signaller was mending a line outside a communication trench behind the front line when he was sniped and killed by a Turk some 1,400 yards away(1). At the moment their war seems to be at long range.

The commanding officer of 6th Battalion, Colonel F H Edwards MC has been transferred to Home establishment for three months’ rest. He has been replaced by Lieutenant-Colonel W R Campion, Member of Parliament for Lewes in Sussex(2).

The 8th Battalion, in the front line at Hulluch reports that last night gas was vented along the whole line and sent drifting towards the enemy. Gas bombs were also fired from projectors and then the British artillery bombarded communication trenches to catch men hurrying from the front line with pas poisoning and to the front line expecting an attack. The enemy’s artillery was very feeble in response

Sources: X550/6/8; X550/7/1; X550/9/1

(1) This must have been 200870 Private G Pratt, aged 19, son of Sophia of Pyne Cottages, Chalton near Toddington who is buried at Deir el Belah War Cemetery, twelve miles or so south-west of Gaza.
(2) and later Governor of Western Australia from 1924 to 1931.

Roll of Honour - 14th May 1917

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: battle of Arras: front line near Arleux-en-Gohelle
  • 3/6620 Private Albert Charles SMITH, born and resided Luton (Arras Memorial)

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 13944 Private Noah FAULKNER, 31, son of Frederick and Rosina Faulkner; husband of Edith of Stanford (Mont Huon Military Cemetery, le Treport)

Saturday 13 May 2017

More 4th Division Success

Sunday 13th May 1917

A rare thing has, we understand, happened today. The 91st Brigade has been attacking The Red Patch in Bullecourt and that attack has caused a metaphorical casualty on the General Staff. Major-General T H Shoubridge has replaced Brigadier-General H R Cumming with the commanding officer of 21st Battalion, Manchester Regiment, Colonel W W Norman. This seems to have come about because the major-general disagreed with the brigadier’s plan of attack on The Red Patch. The new brigade commander decided on an attack from the south-west rather than the east as Cumming had planned. No progress has been made.

Another attack has been made today by the 4th Division, in conjunction with 17th (Northern) Division, near Roeux. 4th Division have again been completely successful, whereas the other division’s attack met with mixed success, but nevertheless managed an advance of 600 yards north of the road from Fampoux to Plouvain. In the last two days 4th Division, aided by 17th, has taken around five hundred prisoners we are told. From so small a force, however, a “butcher’s bill” of 28 officers and 511 other ranks is steep.

Yesterday evening 3rd Division attacked the enemy front line near the road from Monchy-l3-Preux to Pelves and 12th (Eastern) Division attacked bstween the Monchy to Pelves and the Monchy to Pelves Mill roads. Neither attack seems to have made much headway.

Elsewhere the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment are to move tonight from being in support into the front line near Arleux. This line is not, in fact, continuous trenches but merely a series of pits which are not connected. This is evidently a hastily-constructed position which will be difficult to defend if the Germans attack.

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/9/1