Saturday 31 March 2018

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday 31st March 1918

Once again today, Easter Sunday, the tired men of the Fifth Army have had respite with no major German attacks. The 2nd Battalion did not linger long by the sea, sadly, in the early hours of this morning they marched to Catigny-Arrest, six or seven miles south of Saint-Valery-sur-Somme where they rested. In conversation with the adjutant, who has finally had time to do some administration, I learned that he reckons the battalion has lost 15 officers and 554 other ranks killed, wounded and missing since 21st March - more than half its strength.

The 6th Battalion moved into the front line today, the transport remaining at Couin. Meanwhile, 7th Battalion came closest to seeing action during the day. At 8.30 this morning they marched to Gentelles, immediately east of Boves and ten miles south-east of Amiens, in support to the front line. About four this afternoon they were marshalled to move off and stem an enemy attack. However, this attack did not materialise and the men are now thankfully moving back to their billets.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/7/1; X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - 31st March 1918

Killed in Action

Bedfordshire Yeomanry
  • 30609 Private Herbert COOPER, born and resided Henlow (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 30942 Private Sidney James HATCHER, born and resided Warboys [Huntingdonshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 30255 Private Ernest Edgar SAWYER, born Johannesburg [South Africa], resided Kensington [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
Died of Wounds

4th Battalion
  • Second Lieutenant Leslie Arthur Walter VINCENT, 22, son of A R Vincent of 21 Cowick Road, Exeter [Devon], died as a prisoner-of-war (Cambrai East Military Cemetery).

Friday 30 March 2018

Catching Breath

Saturday 30th March 1918

Today, once again, the Germans have attacked our Fifth Army and our French allies south of the River Somme. If any did not believe that this great attack was on its last legs, they now will have changed their mind. The attack gained a small amount of ground but it did not have the energy, the force or the cohesion of the attacks of the last ten days.

The 2nd Battalion have left Rouvrel today, marching to Saleux, just south-west of Amiens and then taking the train to the pretty fishing village of Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. They have more than earned a spell by the seaside! The 4th Battalion is at Forceville, just two or three miles north-west of Bouzincourt. It is refitting and reorganising.

The 6th Battalion is now at Couin, only about seven miles north of the 4th Battalion at Forceville. The 7th Battalion has been a Nampcel for a few days but today took buses to Compiegne and then to Amiens. Their final destination was Boves, south-east of Amiens. They are battered and much reduced, but the indomitable 18th Division now stands ready to defend the city of Amiens from any enemy attack.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/5/3; X550/7/1; X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - 30th March 1918

Killed in Action

Bedfordshire Yeomanry
  • 30841 Private Ernest JANEWAY, born and resided Barton-le-Clay (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 31136 Private Cyril Thomas MANN, 21, son of Lizzie Mann of Wardhedges, Flitton (Pozieres Memorial)
Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 30145 Private Cyril Stephen CLARK, 31, son of Stephen William and Alice Edith Clark of Brockley [London], husband of Edith Clara of Mill Lane, Ewell [Surrey] (Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No. 1)
1st/5th Battalion
  • 26726 Private William Charles BRACE, 28, born Walworth [London], resided Hatfield [Hertfordshire], son of William Henry and Priscilla Sarah Brace of 39 Hatfield Road, Watford [Hertfordshire] (Ramleh War Cemetery)
  • 21966 Private William Francis FRY, 19, born Peckham [London], son of William C and Elizabeth Fry of 6 Goldsmith Road, Higham Hill, Walthamstow [Essex] (Ramleh War Cemetery)
  • 47427 Private John RUSSELL, 19, B Company, ex-T4/241357 Amy Service Corps, son of William and Jessie Baxter Russell of 56 Commerce Street, Aberdeen (Ramleh War Cemetery)

Thursday 29 March 2018

Good Friday

Friday 29th March 1918

Today is Good Friday. The enemy advance seems to have petered out altogether. Whether it is a coincidence that this has happened on such a holy day may be a matter for conjecture. Tommy Atkins is just glad that it has.

The 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has remained in billets all day today, resting, though Lieutenant-Colonel Poyntz has been admitted to hospital, sick. There aare many French troops in front of the Bedfords and this afternoon there was an alarm as it was reported that the Germans had seized the village of Moreuil. Fortunately, this news turned out to be fake.

The 4th Battalion has also remained in billets and the adjutant informed me that Private Slough has been awarded the Military Medal for his gallant conduct during the retreat. The 6th Battalion is also in billets, at Toutencourt near the old Somme battlefield.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/5/3; X550/7/1

Roll of Honour - 29th March 1918

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– in billets at Rouvel
  • 48178 Private Arthur ATHERTON, 31, ex-6931 Army Pay Corps, son of Thomas Henry and Ellen Atherton of 2 Woodlands Avenue, Ribbleton[Lancashire], husband of Gladys Maud Whiteside (ex-Atherton) (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 268269 Private Edward George GOVER, 19, A Company, ex-1895 Essex Regiment, son of Arthur George and Katherine Gover of 100 Chesterford Road, Manor Park [Essex] (Roupy Road German Cemetery Memorial in Savy British Cemetery)
  • 17854 Private Charles MITCHELL, 40, born Diddington [Huntingdonshire], resided Kilburn [London], son of Mary Ann Mitchell of Broughton [Huntingdonshire] and late George Mitchell (Pozieres Memorial)
1st/5th Battalion: at Kurnet el Haramiyeh, sniping and shelling
  • 36864 Private Ernest Lawrence MILES, 20, ex-3/31276 East Surrey Regiment, born Corby [Northamptonshire], son of Ernest Edward and Ada Kate  Miles of 17 Kingsley Avenue, Kettering [Northamptonshire] (Ramleh War Cemetery)
  • 21502 Private Charles John SIMPSON, born and resided Offton [Suffolk] (Jerusalem Memorial)
  • 48787 Private Albert Edward SMITH, 19, born Custom House [Essex], son of Albert E and Ada A Smith of 96 First Avenue, Plaistow [Essex] (Ramleh War Cemetery)
Bedfordshire Yeomanry
  • 30128 Corporal Albert Charles CROWSLEY born and resided Kempston (Pozieres Memorial)
  • Lieutenant Walter Owen EDIS, 25, son of Harry and Laura Edis of 42 Connaught Road, Margate [Kent] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 30250 Private Harry Elliott MEADOWS, 32, son of late Harvey and Sarah Meadows of Rushden [Northamptonshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 30365 Private Thomas CARRUTHERS, born Luton, resided Streatley (Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille)
4th Battalion
  • 41817 Private John Alfred DEAR, born Bermondsey [London], resided Croydon [Surrey] (Arras Memorial)
  • 29445 Private Leonard Frederick KEMPSTER, 20, born Berkhamsted [Hertfordshire], resided Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire], son of William T and Elizabeth Kempster of 55 Craven Park Road, Harlesden [Middlesex] (Étaples Military Cemetery)
  • 41923 Private Richard SINKER, 20, ex-256360 Leicestershire Regiment, born Goldenhill [Staffordshire], resided Tunstall [Staffordshire] (Gezaincourt Communal Cemetery Extension)
1st/5th Battalion
  • 14997 Private Frank CAMP, 24, son of Benjamin Camp of Hunsdon [Hertfordshire] (Ramleh War Cemetery)

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Is the Enemy Advance Slowing Down?

Thursday 28th March 1918

At 3.30 this morning the 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment was relieved after its heroic attack yesterday. Grieving for its commanding officer, killed at the moment of triumph and for three officers and twenty seven other ranks also killed, the battalion marched back to Senlis where it went into billets for a shorty sleep, before moving again to Mailly-Maillet, just behind the front line, late this morning. The men are exhausted and the battalion much reduced as, in addition to the glorious dead, 88 men have been wounded and 124 are missing, probably captured.

The 2nd Battalion is still some way to the south. This morning it was still near Arvillers, astride the main road to Amiens, enduring German shelling. The enemy then attacked and got into Arvillers on the right flank and the hamlet of Folies on the left. The enemy was just 100 yards away when the battalion was ordered to withdraw, which it did about 2.30, moving through Moreuil where a halt was called to eat a hasty meal. Then this battered battalion moved a couple of miles further west to Rouvrel, where it has billeted, rejoined by its commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel H S Poyntz who had been serving on 90th Brigade staff. The battalion is now only about a dozen miles south of the vital rail-head of Amiens. It is widely speculated by the press corps that if this city falls the enemy will have succeeded in driving a fatal wedge between our armies and those of our French allies, and there will then be nothing to prevent the Bosches driving north for the vital channel ports of Boulogne and Calais.

However, there is curiously little worry here in Amiens. There is concern, certainly, but we have felt that the enemy advance finally seems to be slowing down, like a railway engine running out of steam. The enemy supply lines from Saint-Quentin and other cities must now be stretched to breaking point. An advance of nearly fifty miles means that their motorised supply will have much further to travel from their dumps of ammunition, food and water and they will, as yet be unable to use the railway, as damage has been deliberately caused to that during the retreat.

There seems to doubt that the German fingers are striving to reach Amiens. As their strength fails and our defences around the city harden, however, there is every hope of slamming those groping fingers in the door. Plenty of fresh units are available, most of which have not seen action since the autumn and as the Americans arrive in numbers every day the Kaiser is delayed before Amiens is another nail in his coffin.

One of the fresh units arriving to help stem the German advance is 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. Today, their adjutant has just informed me, they boarded a train at Caestre, close to Ypres and the Belgian border, leaving it at Mondicourt, just east of Doullens.

The final confirmation that things are beginning to stabilise is that the enemy launched a huge attack against Arras today. It is reckoned that up to a quarter of a million men took part in this attack. The front line here, however, is in a much better state of readiness and its defences much stronger than they were to the south, part of the defence, of course, is the formidable natural obstacle of Vimy Ridge, so gallantly taken by the Canadians in Spring 1917. This attack has been decisively defeated with only minor advances to the south of Arras.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/5/3; X550/7/1

Roll of Honour - 28th March 1918

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– withdrawal to Rouvel following successful German attack
  • 41424 Private Frederick BARNES, born and resided Wymondham [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 40229 Private Edward George CRAFT, 31, ex-5235 Norfolk Regiment, born Aldershot [Hampshire], resided Walsoken [Norfolk], son of Edward Craft of Bedford, husband of Elizabeth of Upton [Huntingdonshire] (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 26572 Private Walter George DILLINGHAM, born Luton, resided Bedford (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 200159 Corporal Frank GARDINER, 22, born Harleston [Norfolk], resided Middleton Saint George [Durham], son of James and Laura Gardiner of Wickham Hall, Bishop’s Stortford [Hertfordshire], husband of Mabel of 20 Holmwood Grove, Harrowgate Hill, Darlington [Durham] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 33412 Corporal Frank GOLDSMITH, 22, ex-41316 Northamptonshire Regiment, born Paddington [London], son of James and Elizabeth Goldsmith of 33 Kember Road, Kensal Green [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 18199 Private William John GREEN, born  Bow Brickhill [Buckinghamshire], resided Cranfield (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 9268 Private William GURDLER, born and resided Rickmansworth [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 20310 Private Frank Haddow PALMER, born Hatfield [Hertfordshire], resided Flitwick (Bouchoir New British Cemetery)
  • 20077 Private Aubrey Lemuel WEBB, born Great Gransden [Huntingdonshire], resided Bedford (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 4/6865 Private William Joseph WING, B Company, born Melbourn [Cambridgeshire] resided Kneesworth [Cambridgeshire] (Bouchoir New British Cemetery)
  • 7020 Private Frank WOODING, 34, born Bedford, husband of Kate of 34 Gladstone Street, Peterborough (Pozieres Memorial)
4th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– relieved from railway line west of Albert
  • 204533 Lance Corporal Charles WOOD, 23, ex-269735 Essex Regiment, born and resided Panfield [Essex], son of Richard and Eliza Wood, husband of late Maud Lydia (Arras Memorial)
1st/5th Battalion: enemy snipers active at Kurnet el Haramiyeh
  • 200402 Lance Corporal Stanley BOON, 22, son of Samuel Boon of 192 Bedford Road, Kempston (Jerusalem Memorial)
7th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– at Saint-Aubin
  • 240193 Private John Alfred RANDALL, 19, ex-5103 Middlesex Regiment, son of J H and E Randall of 2 Castle Terrace, Colney Hatch Lane, Muswell Hill [Middlesex] (Pozieres Memorial)
Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 29272 Private Thomas MITCHELL, 38, born King’s Lynn [Norfolk] resided Snettisham [Norfolk], brother of Ellen M Pooley of 1 Kingsley Cottage, Snettisham (Saint Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Roll of Honour - 27th March 1918

Killed in Action

4th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– attacked a railway west of Albert
  • 203999 Private Aubrey Harry AUSTIN, 23, ex-328776 Cambridgeshire Regiment, son of Harry and Martha Ann Austin of 3 Fox Street, Rothwell [Northamptonshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 10566 Private Alfred Henry BATES, born and resided Chipperfield Common [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 41833 Private Thomas Daniel Richard CARTER, 19, born Great Shelford [Cambridgeshire], son of William and Maria Carter of 91 York Street, Cambridge (Arras Memorial)
  • Acting Lieutenant-Colonel John Stanhope COLLINGS-WELLS VC, DSO, 38, son of Arthur and Caroline Mary Collings-Wells of Brand’s House, Hughenden [Buckinghamshire], born Chorlton [Lancashire], lived Caddington Hall, Markyate [Hertfordshire] (Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery, Albert)
  • 269563 Private Walter Edward CORNELL, 37, ex-4344 Essex Regiment, previously Hertfordshire Regiment, son of William Cornell of Old Hill, Radwinter [Essex] (Arras Memorial)
  • 204462 Private Frederick COSTER, 19, ex-534289 London Regiment, son of Daniel and Jane Mary Coster of 16 Dorset Street, Stepney [London] (Arras Memorial)
  • 17688 Private Edwin COX, 27, ex-339138 Labour Corps, son of late Joseph and Susan Cox of Stevington, husband of Rose Seamarks (ex-Cox, née Pallant) of Court Lane, Stevington (Arras Memorial)
  • 12584 Private Ernest William CROWN, ex-74962 Middlesex Regiment, born and resided Hunstanton [Norfolk] (Arras Memorial)
  • 41606 Private Arthur Charles EDWARDS, born and resided Ipswich [Suffolk] (Arras Memorial)
  • 266301 Private George GINGER, 23, ex-Hertfordshire Regiment, son of Frederick and Martha Ginger of Barracks Cottages, Codicote [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 41914 Private George HOBSON, ex-256355 Leicestershire Yeomanry, born and resided Newcastle-under-Lyme [Staffordshire] (Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery, Albert)
  • 43525 Private Charles HOOPER, 34, ex-23436 Somerset Light Infantry, son of Eliza Hooper of 37 London Street, Kingswood [Somerset] (Arras Memorial)
  • 29711 Private Ernest James JOHNSON, 31, son of Joseph and Hannah Johnson of Sproughton [Suffolk] resided Belstead [Suffolk], husband of Florence Ada of Reading Room Cottage, Sproughton (Arras Memorial)
  • 40280 Private Frederick KIRK, ex-5332 Norfolk Regiment, born Norwich [Norfolk], son of J Kirk of Halfway House, Mendham Road, Harleston Norfolk] (Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension)
  • 13693 Private John KITSON, 27, born Wellington [New Zealand], son of A Kitson of Wanganui [New Zealand] (Arras Memorial)
  • 266753 Private Charles LOVELOCK, born and resided Watford [Hertfordshire] (Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension)
  • Second Lieutenant David Harold MACKLIN, 20, son of Rev Herbert and Marian M Macklin of White Wood Corner, Sandy (Ovillers Military Cemetery)
  • 17301 Private Ernest MORLEY, 21, born and resided Merstham [Surrey], son of Henry Morley of 10 Dukes Road, Tunbridge Wells [Kent] (Arras Memorial)
  • 41610 Private Herbert John MUNT, 20, son of David and Ruth R Munt of 9 Vicarage Road, Ware [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 23538 Private Harry NORRIS, 31, born Berkhamsted [Hertfordshire], resided Hatfield [Hertfordshire], son of M J Norris of 1 Lowestoft Road, Watford [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • Acting Major George Paterson NUNNELEY MC, 36, son of Rev F B Nunneley (Ovillers Military Cemetery)
  • 40011 Private George Victor PEARCE, 21, ex-20060 Suffolk Regiment, son of George Pearce of Redgrave [Suffolk] and late Ellen Pearce (Arras Memorial)
  • 25855 Private Cyril John SALWAY, 23,  born Clapham [London], resided New Barnet [Hertfordshire], son of John and Emma Salway of Chandos, Ballards Lane, Finchley [Middlesex] (Arras Memorial)
  • 41830 Private Harold Percy SHORT, 19, son of Samuel and Mary Ann Short of 69 Southfield Road, Broadwater [Sussex] (Arras Memorial)
  • Temporary Second Lieutenant Oliver Jack SOAMES, 24, son of H Soames, husband of H K Olive Soames of 71 Norwich Road, Ipswich [Suffolk], born Earl Stonham [Suffolk]  (Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery, Albert)
  • 27770 Lance Corporal Ernest John STURGES, 38, son of John and Sarah Ann Sturges of 4 Birch Street, Swindon [Wiltshire], resided New Barnet [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 26544 Private John Edward WADHAMS, 27, born Kingsthorpe [Northamptonshire], son of Harry and Mary Elizabeth Wadhams of  Spratton [Northamptonshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 23187 Private Bertram W WILSON, born and resided Pirton [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 36395 Private Abraham WOLSTENCROFT, born Manchester [Lancashire], resided Catford [London] (Bouchoir New British Cemetery)
  • 30700 Private John WOOD, born and resided Luton (Arras Memorial)
  • 22933 Private Arthur Henry WORBEY, 35,  son of James and Elizabeth Worbey, husband of Maud Keturah of 7 Council Cottages, Willian [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 8479 Private Robert BLIGH, born and resided Hatfield [Hertfordshire], son of Harriet Bligh of 39 Old London Road, Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] (Mont Huon Military Cemetery, le Treport)
  • 33556 Private Arthur Henry ELLIOTT, ex-18708 Northamptonshire Regiment, born and resided Daventry [Northamptonshire] (Saint Souplet British Cemetery)
  • 25528 Private Frederick William HOAR, born and resided Luton (Premont British Cemetery)

1st Battalion
  • 37574 Private George William WESTON, born and resided Cley-next-Sea [Norfolk] (Special memorial in Creola Cemetery)
13th (Transport Worker) Battalion
  • 34597 Private William MACKIE, 44, ex-8498 East Kent Regiment, born Leith [Edinburghshire], resided Whitstable [Kent], son of William and Agatha Mackie, husband of Beatrice of 88 Southwold Road, Upper Clapton [London] (Croydon (Queen’s Road) Cemetery)
53rd (Young Soldier) Battalion
  • TR/9/45460 Private Arthur NORMAN, 18, son of William and Louie Norman of Townwell Lane, Irchester [Northamptonshire] (Irchester (Saint Katherine) Churchyard)

The Battle of Bouzincourt Ridge

The Basilica at Albert [X550/5/1]

Wednesday 27th March 1918

The unthinkable has indeed happened. Overnight Albert was abandoned to the enemy, for the first time in this war. The decision was made that, symbol or no, the town must be given up and the defences moved to the high ground to the east of the town as well as along the west bank of the River Ancre. Thus the ruins tonight will lie under the Kaiser's jackboot. Those we have spoken to here at Amiens, now the nerve centre of the defence against the German attack, are grimly determined that Albert will not languish long under enemy control. 

Yesterday it was decided to place on man in charge of all allied armies on the Western Front - French, British, Belgian and, eventually, American. Being largely a war fought in France this command has been given to a Frenchman - Marshal Foch. He is said to be a cool-headed, intelligent man and acceptable to Field Marshal Haig. This crisis, the most pressing since the early days of 1914 and the German thrust towards Paris, will certainly test his nerve and abilities to the utmost. 

Looking at the battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment currently engaged, I have been able to contact each of them. 2nd Battalion came under attack again this morning, and began a fighting withdrawal just after midday. They held the line of a road from Arvillers to Folies and were able to stop any further German attacks in their tracks and remain in this same position this evening.

The 7th Battalion marched to Saint-Aubin this afternoon and form a reserve to 58th Division. The adjutant quoted a letter he had received from General Brecard of 1st Dismounted Cavalry Division, with whom the battalion has been working:  "During the Operations of the 24th/25th March, the 18th Division with two Brigades of Artillery, commanded by General Lee has been put under my orders".

"With regard to this, I wish to bring to your notice the splendid attitude and the brilliant bearing of the 54th Brigade and the 8th and 83rd Artillery Brigades".

"I wish to bear testimony to the perfect "camaraderie" which those General Officers and their units placed under their commands have never ceased to show, as also to the superb bearing of their troops".

"It is thanks to their splendid and dogged defence that I have been able to free on my right a situation often difficult, especially at the time of retirement on to the South Bank of the Oise on the night of 25th/26th March."

Today's main news, however, concerns the 4th Battalion, part of 63rd (Royal Naval) Division. The news is both grave and glorious. The battalion was at Bouzincourt Ridge, overlooking Albert as the town was ceded to the enemy overnight. At 7.30 this morning they attacked the railway line here, to slow the German advance. Your correspondent managed to speak with one of the senior officers - Captain FT Spicer who reported as follows: "At 6.30 pm yesterday orders were received to move at once in advance guard formation to Bouzincourt, which was reached at 8 pm. During the evening the enemy, attacking in mass formation, had gained Albert and had obtained a footing in Aveluy Wood. Small parties of the enemy had advanced on Bouzincourt but had been driven back just before we arrived".

"At midnight we moved from the village onto the high ground to the east, preparatory to an attack".

"About 7.30 a.m., in conjunction with troops on the right and left, we attacked, drove the Germans off the high ground and regained the Albert-Arras railway near Aveluy".

"At first all went well. The Germans were driven back down the Ancre valley to the railway, where for a long time the fighting was confused. After desperate fighting, during which the bayonet was freely used, the railway was reached in several places, and by bombing outwards the whole of the railway was made good".

"Meanwhile large parties of Germans debouched from Albert and counter-attacked the right flank. The arrival of some machine guns, however, saved the situation and forced the Germans to retire back into the town".

"Throughout the afternoon and evening strong counter-attacks under cover of a heavy artillery and trench mortar fire (the enemy was very quick in bringing up trench mortars) were made. These attacks followed rapidly one after the other and were only repulsed after the most bitter fighting. The enemy suffered heavily from our rifle and machine gun fire".

"During one of these attacks a trench mortar bomb fell and exploded in the shell hole from which Lieutenant-Colonel Collings-Wells was directing the operation".

This attack has come at great cost. Your correspondent spoke yesterday to the battalion's commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Collings-Wells. Tonight he lies in earth, killed just as Captain Spicer relates. Major Nunneley, Second Lieutenant Macklin and Second Lieutenant Soames were also killed. Captain Plumbly is now in command of the battalion(1)

This evening has come a surprise statement. At five o'clock General Sir Hubert Gough was relieved of command of Fifth Army and will be replaced by Sir Henry Rawlinson tomorrow. This great German offensive has been aimed largely at Fifth Army and it seems as if Sir Hubert has paid the price for its success so far. Ironically, many officers to whom my colleagues and I have spoken feel that the capture of Albert will be about the limit of this advance. The enemy is not moving so quickly as he did a few days ago, nor getting so far. His troops are obviously tired, their supplies stretched and their momentum appears to be slowing. let us hope so.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/5/1; X550/5/3; X550/8/1

(1) The action took place just south of Bouzaincourt Ridge Cemetery, where today some of the battalion, including Collings-Wells and Soames lie buried. On 23rd April The London Gazette carried the following citation for a posthumous Victoria Cross awarded to John Stanhope Collings-Wells: "For most conspicuous bravery, skilful leading and handling of his battalion in very critical situations during a withdrawal. When the rearguard was almost surrounded and in great danger of being captured, Lieutenant Colonel Collings-Wells, realising the situation, called for volunteers to remain behind and hold up the enemy whilst the remainder of the rearguard withdrew, and with his small body of volunteers held them up for one and half hours until they had expended every round of ammunition. During this time he moved freely amongst his men guiding and encouraging them, and by his great courage undoubtedly saved the situation. On a subsequent occasion, when his battalion was ordered to carry out a counter-attack, he showed the greatest bravery. Knowing that his men were extremely tired after six days' fighting, he placed himself in front and led the attack, and even when twice wounded refused to leave them but continued to lead and encourage his men until he was killed at the moment of gaining their objective. The successful results of the operations were, without doubt, due to the undaunted courage exhibited by this officer."

Monday 26 March 2018

Roll of Honour - 26th March 1918

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– move forward from Arvillers
  • 23116 Private Frederick BIRD, born and resided Walthamstow [Essex] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 15181 Private James Ernest SPENCER, 27, son of James Henry and Annie Spencer of 11 Musley Lane, Ware [Hertfordshire], resided Ware, husband of Constance Louisa Afford (ex-Spencer) of The Cottage, Westlea [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
4th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– relieved then sent as advance guard to Bouzincourt
  • Acting Captain Arthur Charles INGRAM, 23, attached 4th East Lancashire Regiment, 23, son of Charles and Elizabeth Ingram of The Lodge, Latchmere Road, Kingston-on-Thames [Surrey] (Arras Memorial)
  • 29714 Lance Corporal Harry KIDMAN, born Leytonstone [Essex], resided Chesterton [Cambridgeshire] (Arras Memorial)
Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 290208 Sergeant William COLBERT, born Offord Cluny [Huntingdonshire] resided Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire] (Saint Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen)

Albert in Danger

The situation this evening - the original front line is shown in black and the enemy gains in red

Tuesday 26th March 1918

Well, it seems as if the 2nd Bedfords did have the best of luck I wished them last evening. Falling back through Moyencourt they reached Solente where, glory of glories, they found buses awaiting them. These carried them to Roye-Eglise and, after a short rest on to Arvillers where they spent the rest of the night.

About noon today they moved forward from Arvillers taking up a position along the road from Bouchoir to Rouvroy.-en-Santerre. Here they have remained, untroubled by any further enemy advance, though the Germans could be seen passing through the hamlet of le Quesnoy about a mile in front of them.

Meanwhile, 4th Battalion are still in old haunts, familiar from the winter spent on the Somme battlefield. They have been in Aveluy Wood, north of Albert, before marching to Englebelmer. Just as I spoke with Lieutenant-Colonel Collings-Wells new orders were received to advance to Bouzincourt. The unthinkable may be at hand, Albert, the railhead and hub around which all those titanic struggles of 1916 raged, is under grave threat of falling to the enemy. Albert has come to symbolise our commitment to this struggle, almost as much as Ypres. The famous golden virgin atop the basilica has been at a supine angle since October 1915, half way to falling from the tower, but never quite doing so. It is prophesied in the army that when it falls the war will end and the side that shoots it down will lose(1)

Eleswhere the 7th Battalion, after its victory at Baboeuf yesterday has been galled by having to give up its prize. The enemy was in the rear of its left flank and had nearly reached the beautiful cathedral city of Noyon. So, grumbling incessantly, the men evacuated Baboeuf early this morning and retired across the River Oise, marching eight miles before billeting for the day. Mid-afternoon saw them on the march again, reaching the village of Nampcel, and then Mesnil where they have halted for the night.

In a wire the commanding officer has sent me the casualties to date, as far as they are known:

(a) Officers
1 Killed (Second Lieutenant W O P Winmill)
4 Wounded (Captain W W Colley, Second Lieutenant R S Heard, Second Lieutenant N C E Cockburn, Second Lieutenant C H Pierce)
1 Wounded and Missing (Second Lieutenant R A Stiles)
1 Missing (Second Lieutenant R W Coutts)(2)

(b) Other Ranks
Killed: 22
Wounded: 140
Wounded and Missing: 4
Missing: 99

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/5/3; X550/8/1

(1) It was finally dislodged and brought crashing down by British shells in April - so much for the prophecy.
(2) Westropp Orbell Peyton Winmill, educated at Bedford School, was killed on 23rd March and has no known grave, being commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial

Sunday 25 March 2018

Roll of Honour - 25th March 1918

Killed in Action

3rd Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– 4th Battalion advance to High Wood, fighting until ammunition expended then falling back to Thiepval
  • Second Lieutenant Arthur HAYES, 21, attached B Company, 4th Battalion, son of W F and Anne Hayes of 115 Torriano Avenue, Kentish Town (London) (Arras Memorial)
4th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– advance to High Wood, fighting until ammunition expended then falling back to Thiepval
  • 40567 Private William Henry BOWTLE, ex-26282 Norfolk Regiment, born and resided Wethersfield [Essex] (Arras Memorial)
  • 40626 Private Albert CARTER, ex-45190 Suffolk Regiment, born and resided Radwell [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 40108 Private Albert DEXTER, ex-3804 Essex Regiment, born Rugby [Warwickshire], resided Daventry [Northamptonshire], son of Joseph and Harriet Dexter (Arras Memorial)
  • Temporary Second Lieutenant Robert Charles FYNN, son of W W Fynn (London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval)
  • 41733 Private Harry KITSON, ex-48123, South Staffordshire Regiment, born and resided Brighouse [Yorkshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 23677 Private Albert LEES, 26, born Edmonton [Middlesex], resided Enfield Highway [Middlesex], son of G Lees of 28 Elmhurst Road, Enfield Wash [Middlesex] (Arras Memorial)
  • 41713 Private Lewis Bodfish MERRILL, born Harrington [Northamptonshire], resided Rothwell [Northamptonshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 41171 Private Albert Edward SMITH, ex-202949 Northamptonshire Regiment, born Upton [Northamptonshire], resided Northampton (Arras Memorial)
  • 3/7524 Private Alfred SURMAN, 21, born London, resided Walton [Buckinghamshire], son of Henry Surman of 76 Richmond Road, Wimbledon [Surrey] (Arras Memorial)
  • 4/5914 Regimental Sergeant Major William Thomas THEOBALD MC, 39, born Somersham [Huntingdonshire], husband of Louisa of 12 Sayer Street, Huntingdon (Arras Memorial)
  • 204164 Private Cyril Humphrey THOMPSON, 21, ex-996 Bedfordshire Yeomanry, son of Alfred and Mary Thompson of 76 Knox Road, Wellingborough [Northamptonshire] (Delville Road Cemetery, Longueval)
7th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– retirement through Crepigny, and Grandû followed by successful counter-attack at Baboeuf.
  • 17561 Private Frank BENTLEY, born Henham [Essex], resided Broxted [Essex] (Pozieres Memorial)
Died of Wounds

4th Battalion
  • 23603 Private Edward George LAWRENCE, 20, son of Harry and Eliza Lawrence of 63 Eversholt Road, Ridgmont (Saint Hilaire Cemetery, Frevent)

A Spirited Counter-Attack

The situation this evening - the original front line is shown in black and the enemy gains in red

Monday 25th March 1918

Readers will recall that last evening my conversation with Captain Colley of 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, was cut short by enemy action. It was with some relief this evening that I learned that it was no more than an attack on the nearby French at Guivry, driving them back, which exposed the Bedfords' left flank. At three o'clock this morning the battalion was given orders to retire to Crepigny, which was successfully carried out, the enemy being about two miles in the rear of the left flank.

At 10 a.m. they fell back again to Mont du Grandrû to safeguard the left flank. At noon the Bedfords were heavily shelled by French artillery and machine guns and forced to retire to the high ground west of Grandrû. As the adjutant remarked, the French evidently find it hard to distinguish khaki from field grey.

At three o'clock this afternoon the battalion received orders to march to Varesnes to take up a position south of the River Oise. These orders were countermanded while en-route and new orders received to counter-attack the village of Babouef. The adjutant simply stated that this counter-attack was successful and village retaken, several prisoners being taken and many enemy killed.

As may be imagined, your correspondent was not going to let it go at this. Pressed for more details the adjutant revealed that as the retirement to Varesnes began a gap of over a miles was opened up between the French 1st Dismounted Cavalry Division on the high ground north of Béhéricourt and 53rd Brigade on the railway line south of Baboeuf. This gap was occupied by some French artillery firing towards Babouef, with no infantry in front to protect them. So Brigadier-General Sadleir-Jackson commanding 54th Brigade, decided to attack and take the village to protect these valuable guns.

The attack went in a five o'clock this evening. The attackers were 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, on the left immediately south of the wood east of Béhéricourt and the 11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers with their right flank on the railway line from Noyon to Chauny. Both battalions were very tired after four days' continual movement and action and the strain of the retreat and both were about half-strength. These are not ideal conditions for an attack. Nevertheless, the adjutant sensed that above all his men wanted to get back at the enemy for the misery they have caused and that their anger and frustration would trump their weariness. So it proved. Though defended by machine guns the village was quickly taken, and half an hour ago the place was being consolidated. Ten machine guns were captured and 230 of the enemy killed or taken prisoner. The Royal Fusiliers were even weaker than the Bedfords in numbers, but they managed to take the ground south of the village with help from the 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment.

One oddity mentioned by the adjutant was a young cow. This poor creature was in the main street of Baboeuf, nevertheless it advanced with the Bedfords, though always in front of them and ended the battle quite unscathed.What a gallant little action! If these last few days had ever given rise to doubt none can doubt now the fighting spirit of Tommy Atkins.

On the old Somme battlefield, 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment (63rd (Royal Naval) Division and 483rd Field Company, Royal Engineers (2nd Division) have both been in action. 4th Bedfords took a stand at the shattered remnants of that old killing ground, High Wood. Their commanding officer briefly related that they fought to the last but, all their ammunition gone, they were obliged to withdraw to another place familiar from 1916, Thiepval, on its commanding ridge, which fell to the 7th Bedfords on 27th September 1916.

The Royal Engineers were at Auchonvillers, behind the British lines in July 1916, by noon. The sappers assisted in the defence of Auchonvillers, holding the left portion of the village, 5th Field Company holding the right, with 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment holding the preimeter in old trenches. In the event no attack was made and the engineers are to retire to Bertrancourt tonight.

2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment spent most of the day at Buverchy watching the enemy massing for an attack. Our guns did not let this go unhampered, the commanding officer told me. But the enemy gunners were also busy, shelling the two bridges over the canal and the village of Moyencourt. About an hour ago they broke through the French, on the Bedfords' right forcing the Bedfords to retire through Moyencourt. What will happen next is very uncertain and your correspondent wishes the men the best of luck.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/5/3; X550/8/1; WW1/WD3

Saturday 24 March 2018

Roll of Honour - 24th March 1918

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– withdrawal through Esmery-Hallon to Buverchy Bridge
  • 29668 Private William James BASS, born Biscot, resided Luton (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 21754 Private Ernest CAVALLO, 19, born Marylebone [London], son of Paul and Mary Cavallo of 23 Churchill Road, Willesden Green [Middlesex] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 9278 Private John ECCLES, 32, born Clawthorpe [Westmoreland], resided Steeple Morden [Cambridgeshire], son of late John and Elizabeth Eccles (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 18625 Private Herbert Sidney HUMPHRIES, born Papworth Everard [Cambridgeshire], resided Tempsford (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 43382 Private Charles ROGERS, 24, ex-16289 Northamptonshire Regiment, born  Holmer [Herefordshire], resided Hereford, son of Charles and Sarah Rose Rogers of School House, Gentleshaw [Staffordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 201515 Private Frederick RUFFETT, born Northall [Buckinghamshire], resided Eaton Bray (Pozieres Memorial)
4th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– rearguard falling back through Barastre, Beaulencourt and Bazentin-le-Petit to Courcelette
  • 41669 Private Henry AVERY, 18, son of Henry and Emily Avery of 10 Garden Place, High Street, Wandsworth [London] (Arras Memorial)
  • 33240 Private Roy Reginald GOMER, 21, son of R and J E Gomer of 24 Albert Road, Colchester [Essex] (Arras Memorial)
  • 19272 Acting Sergeant Harry GURNEY, 37, son of Elizabeth Gurney of Tingrith (Arras Memorial)
  • 26538 Private George Joseph HARRISON, born Belgrave [Leicestershire], resided Rushden [Northamptonshire] (Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont)
  • 30484 Private Albert Townshend HART, 38, son of late George and Mary Hart, resided 46 Tonning Street, Lowestoft [Suffolk] (Arras Memorial)
  • 41248 Private Charles MADGWICK, 25, ex-37879 Suffolk Regiment, son of C Madgwick of 10 Crescent Road, Worthing [Sussex] (Arras Memorial)
  • Captain Noel Charles Frederick NIXON, attached 4th Battalion (Arras Memorial)
  • 45890 Private James SHARMAN, 19, ex-13243 Dorset Regiment, born Ilford [Essex], son of I W and A Sharman of 35 Bridge Street, Barking [Essex] (Arras Memorial)
  • 204052 Lance Corporal William WICKENS, 27, ex-240927 East Surrey Regiment, son of A S Wickens, husband of Eleanor Louise of The Cottage, Stonehurst, Five Ashes [Sussex], resided Kingston-on-Thames [Surrey] (Arras Memorial)
7th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– at Caillouël
  • 10660 Private Frederick James COLES, 32, son of Harriet Coles of 20 London Road, Hertford Heath and late F J Coles (Pozieres Memorial)
Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 41426 Private Charles Edward HOWARD, 19, son of G Howard of 54 Bull Close Road, Norwich [Norfolk] (Roye New British Cemetery)

Bapaume and Peronne Fall

The situation this evening - the original front line is shown in black and the enemy gains in red

Sunday 24th March 1918

It has become clear tonight that the towns of Peronne and Bapaume have fallen to the German offensive. While serious, this may in the end help our cause. With each new town taken, each mile advanced the enemy resources become more stretched, their lines of communication and supply grow longer and more difficult to maintain. They will also have the difficult task of making any headway over the blasted desolation which is the old Somme battlefield, scoured by shell holes and lacking and roads or buildings.

A few moments conversation with the adjutant of 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment revealed that this morning they withdrew to a Royal Engineers dump north of Ytres, under heavy machine gun fire, and then on through Barastre, Beaulencourt to Bazentin-le-Petit and finally to Courcelette, on the old Somme battlefield.

The 2nd Battalion, meanwhile took up a position between the villages of Verlaines and Villette, south-west of Ham at one o'clock this morning, in support of 2nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, who were covering the withdrawal of 89th Brigade. Both their flanks were attacked by the enemy and forced the battalion to withdraw towards Esmery-Hallon. At this village they came under heavy machine gun fire from the right flank and they withdrew further to a canal. Their brigade, 90th, holds the west bank of this canal between Lannoy Farm Ridge and Buverchy Bridge

Meanwhile, 7th Battalion, according to their adjutant Captain Colley marched back to Caillouël in the early hours of this morning, taking up a position in a wood, north of the village, with B and D Companies in front and A Company in reserve. The French in front of the battalion were steadily pushed back by the enemy during the day. My conversation on the telephone with Captain Colley was cut shirt as deafening explosions were heard and he hastily abandoned the blower to see what was happening.

Yesterday the six platoons of details of the 7th Battalion were involved for a third day in fighting around Rouez Camp. We understand that they finally fell back on the village of Villequier-Aumont yesterday evening.

Finally, we have heard from 483rd Field Company, Royal Engineers. This unit is none other than our old friends, the Bedford based 1st East Anglian Field Company, Royal Engineers, attached to 2nd Division. Evidently they have been in the same area as 4th Bedfords. The commanding officer inforrmed me on the blower that they had been at Beaulencourt working on defences, but in the face of the enemy attack they moved back to the shattered remains of Longueval, where 1st Bedfords toiled for so long in 1916, and then to la Boisselle. He noted, laconically, that there was "great congestion at the crossroads". On reaching la Boisselle the engineers were ordered to dig in and hold a line between Ligny Thilloy and the devastation that was once High Wood. Work consisted of digging posts and marking the line with salved duckboards from the old Somme trenches. Sufficient infantry having been collected on this line, it is hoped that the sappers will be withdrawn at dawn to Miraumont whither the transport has already moved.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/5/3; X550/8/1; WW1/WD3

Friday 23 March 2018

Roll of Honour - 23rd March 1918

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: First Battle of the Somme 1918: some details became casualties in the defence of Ham
  • 43578 Private Frank Percy GEORGE, born and resided Northampton (Savy British Cemetery)
  • 19064 Acting Sergeant John GOODSON, born Gorleston-on-Sea [Norfolk], husband of Mabel of 20 Reginald Street, Luton (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 13437 Acting Lance Corporal Victor HOWES, 25, son of John Robert and Annie Marie Howes of 28 Temple Close, Orchard Lane, Huntingdon (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 20476 Private Leonard James SAWFORD, born Riseley, resided Sharnbrook (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 32179 Private John William WARD, born Nassington [Northamptonshire], resided Harefield [Middlesex] (Pozieres Memorial)
4th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918: second line defence at Havrincourt Wood
  • 31242 Private John DESBOROUGH, born Tyttenhanger Green [Hertfordshire], resided London Colney [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 40548 Private Percy Charles HUCKLE, born and resided Wrestlingworth, husband of Gertrude Annie of Sparrick Lane, Westbury Leigh [Wiltshire] (Arras Memorial)
  • 19334 Private Robert ROGERS, born Furneaux Pelham [Hertfordshire], resided Braughing [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)  
  • 41643 Private Thomas SEARL, 19, son of Thomas James and Emily Searl of 17 Cemetery Road, Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire] (Arras Memorial)
6th Battalion: in support near Ypres
  • 41516 Private Edward Jesse BATES, 19, son of Jesse and Louisa of Queen Victoria, Wrestlingworth (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 46974 Sergeant Albert Bertie FLOREY, born South Lopham [Norfolk], resided Stansted [Essex] (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 28459 Private Bertie Augustus SECKER, born and resided Reepham [Norfolk] (Tyne Cot Memorial)
7th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918– Germans take Faillouël, heavy fighting at Rouez Camp
  • 33776 Sergeant William BUCKINGHAM, 28, son of Charles and Annie Buckingham of 29 Buxton Road, Luton (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 14852 Lance Corporal John William BULL, born and resided Camberwell [Surrey] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 30911 Private Tom CHARLISH, 26, son of Joseph and Clara Elizabeth Charlish of Saint Quinton Cottages, Saxlingham [Norfolk], resided Bishop’s Stortford [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 29985 Private John ETHERIDGE, 32, born Strumpshaw [Norfolk], husband of Margaret of 55 Lingwood [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 29215 Private Edward FUTTER, born and resided Burnham Thorpe [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 40736 Private Frederick JACKSON born and resided Boston [Lincolnshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41555 Private Clarence Allen KENDALL, 19, born Daventry [Northamptonshire], son of Daniel and Elizabeth Kendall of 5 Burford Road, Brentford [Middlesex] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 200570 Private Herbert Charles KENDALL, 34, son of George Thomas Clarke Kendall and Martha Annie Kendall of Kettering [Northamptonshire], husband of Ellen Elizabeth of Leighton Buzzard (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41363 Private Sidney KING, born and resided Ruislip [Middlesex] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41366 Private George MANNING, born Vauxhall [London], resided Twickenham [Middlesex] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 13722 Sergeant John Henry MORRIS, born Paddington [London], resided Fulham [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 43321 Corporal William MORTIMER, 33, son of William and Clara Mortimer of Bury [Lancashire], husband of Mary of 20 Palace Street, Bury (Chauny Communal Cemetery Extension)
  • 43330 Private Joseph PETHERS, ex-18586 Royal Fusiliers, born and resided Acton [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 20360 Private Thomas RICHARDS, 23, son of W Richards of 5 Tower Court, Bedford (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 15138 Corporal Arthur SEABROOK, 21, B Company, son of Charles and Clara Seabrook of 128 Cravells Road, Harpenden [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 40775 Private Cecil SMITH, 20, son of W Smith of Auburn Road, Blaby [Leicestershire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 33842 Corporal Oscar George WALE, 23, son of Alma and Eliza Wale of The Avenue, Sandy, (Pozieres Memorial)
Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 7819 Lance Sergeant John Mason McKilloy STEWART, 27, born Glasgow, son of Robert Russell Stewart and Annie Baxter (ex-Stewart) of 36 Dents Road, Bedford (Roye New British Cemetery)
7th Battalion
  • 25366 Lance Corporal Leonard HANDSCOMB, 23, born Kempston, son of George and Ellen Handscomb of 11 Prebend Street, Bedford (Noyon New British Cemetery)