The Grenadier Guards in the Great War of 1914-1918, Vol. 3 of 3 by Ponsonby









4th Batt. Feb. 1918.
On February 12 the 4th Battalion left the Guards Division, and was played out by the drums of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions Grenadier Guards, the pipers of the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, and the band of the Irish Guards. Brigadier-General Lord Henry Seymour watched the Battalion march by, and congratulated Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher on its smart appearance.

Thus the newly formed 4th Guards Brigade joined the Thirty-First Division. On the 14th Major-General Sir Charles Fergusson, Commanding the Thirteenth Corps, inspected the Battalion, and expressed himself very pleased with its appearance on parade. On the 17th the Battalion relieved the Durham Light Infantry in the line near Arleux Loop, and was subjected to a slight shelling. This was the new Brigade’s first tour in the trenches, and the 4th Battalion was the first of the three Battalions to go into the front line. The line taken over was an example of the new system of holding the front in depth. The Brigade frontage, 2000 yards in[2] length, was held by one Battalion, and constituted the outpost line. Held very lightly by posts at long intervals, it was supported some 1000 yards in rear by a trench, known as the Arleux Loop, South and North, where the Battalion Headquarters were situated together with one company in reserve. Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher was aware that the arrival of a fresh Battalion in the line was likely to be observed by the enemy, and that therefore a raid was highly probable. If any confirmation of this theory was required it had already been supplied by a prisoner, who had been captured before the relief, and had stated that the enemy suspected the presence of the Guards Division, and intended shortly to make a raid to confirm the fact. Nothing, however, was observed either to indicate the exact time or the locality; in fact, everything seemed normal, and the officer commanding the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards went round the posts with Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher in the usual way in order to make the necessary arrangements for the relief the next morning.

From the evidence of the single surviving prisoner, who was captured, it was clear that the Germans had planned and rehearsed every detail of the coming raid with great thoroughness. Practice trenches, made from aeroplane photographs, had been dug in Beaumont, and the raiders were minutely trained in their duties. All the men who were to take part in the raid had been withdrawn from the line for three weeks, and had been well fed and cared for. They were the pick of the 469th German Infantry[3] Regiment, and had been selected on account of their physique and proved courage. Their equipment was of high quality, with every detail carefully thought out; it consisted of a short, light rifle of 1917 pattern with a leather sling, a trench dagger, an automatic pistol, wire-cutters, a watch, and a canvas bag for carrying stick-bombs.

The raid, which had been planned by the Regimental Staff of the 469th Regiment, was carried out in two sections, each consisting of 1 officer and 28 other ranks, in all about 60. At 8 P.M. a concentrated bombardment was put down by the enemy from Oak Post on the left to Tommy Post on the right, and the bombardment was so intense that portions of our trenches were completely obliterated. An S.O.S. signal went up some way to the left of Oak Post, and our barrage came down with great promptitude opposite that part of the line; thus valuable time was lost in having it transferred to where the raid was actually taking place.

Shortly after the enemy’s barrage was put down, the men in No. 8 Post saw a strong party of Germans advancing down Brandy Trench from Tee Trench, and a fierce fight commenced. Seeing they were greatly outnumbered, our men slowly closed in on No. 7 Post. After the bombardment began, Captain Benson at No. 2 Company Headquarters sent Second Lieutenant Wrixon to ascertain what was happening, and this officer, after passing through the enemy’s barrage, came up just as No. 8 Post was joining No. 7. He at once took charge of both posts, and[4] concentrated his men in Beer Trench, which he determined to hold to the last. He now had 2 N.C.O.’s and 12 men to oppose to the raiding party. The Germans on reaching Brandy Trench split up into two parties; one party continued to bomb up the trench while another, which comprised the majority, rushed across the open towards Beer Trench, with the obvious intention of cutting off these posts. Private Fletcher, No. 1 of the Lewis-gun team in No. 7 Post, saw them coming, and at once turned his gun on them. Several dropped, and the remainder fled, carrying their wounded with them. No sooner was this party disposed of than Lieutenant Wrixon saw a fresh group of men, advancing stealthily down the trench in front of him. Instead of waiting for them, he determined to attack them, and advancing down the trench he shot the first man he met dead with his revolver. His next opponent at once flung a bomb at him, which burst within a few feet, only slightly wounding him. Private Coles, who was just behind him, shot the man dead with his rifle at point-blank range. Then a bugle was blown, and the raiders disappeared. During this fight the Germans attempted an old ruse by calling out in perfect English: “Take off your gas respirators and return to your support line.” Some of the men repeated these instructions under the impression they came from one of their officers, but Second Lieutenant Wrixon yelled at the men, and countermanded the spurious order.

At the commencement of the fight, when No. 8 Post was falling back on No. 7, Private Taylor,[5] who had been sent back to No. 8 Post to fetch some bombs, which had been left behind, ran straight into the arms of a party of Germans, and was taken prisoner. He was ordered on pain of death to lead the Germans to No. 14 Post, and feigned to be willing to do so, when the raiders suddenly changed their minds, and told him to lead them back to their own lines. He at once acquiesced, but instead of doing so, led them to the strongest post in our line. When he knew he was within a few yards of Nos. 7 and 8 Posts, he shouted a warning to the garrison, and threw himself on the ground. His warning was heard by his comrades, who at once hurled bombs in the direction of his voice, and the Germans fled, abandoning their prisoner. Unfortunately, one of our bombs wounded Private Taylor, but he was finally rescued by Private Cunliffe, a stretcher-bearer who had already behaved with great gallantry, bringing in the wounded under heavy shell-fire.

Meanwhile a totally distinct fight took place at Nos. 13 and 14 Posts, generally known as Alton Post, where there was a machine-gun protected by a bombing-post, under Lieutenant W. B. Ball. It happened that a party of Royal Engineers, under an officer, was working at the machine-gun dug-out that night. The machine-gun itself was knocked out by the first few shells of the barrage, and a small party of Germans immediately afterwards emerged from the darkness, and rushed at the post. Corporal Horan, who was in charge of the bombing-post, disabled three of them with well-directed bombs, but one very tall German,[6] followed by some more, broke through, and proceeded to throw bombs down the dug-out. It was all done in a moment, and the officer of the Royal Engineers, who was in the dug-out, having just escaped the first bomb, ran round to another exit, when he narrowly missed a second one, before he got out into the open. Meanwhile, Private Moore, a Grenadier attached to the Royal Engineers, closed with the leading German, and was stabbed to death. Corporal Horan then came up, and shot the tall German dead. Presumably the leaders of the party had all been accounted for, as the remainder turned and disappeared into the darkness.

It is difficult to estimate with any accuracy the enemy’s casualties, since there is no doubt they were able to carry away most of their wounded and even their dead. It is only possible, therefore, to state the actual number of dead and wounded left in our lines. These were: 2 killed and 5 wounded, 4 of whom subsequently died. The casualties in the Grenadiers were: 2 killed, 2 died of wounds, and 5 wounded. It was a distinctly unfortunate raid for the Germans, who had taken infinite pains to make it a success; yet not only had they suffered heavy loss, but they had failed to obtain an identification of any kind either in the nature of a prisoner or a bit of equipment. With 2 officers and nearly 60 men, they imagined they would make short work of 12 men under one officer, but they had the misfortune to meet some tough fighters, who were anxious to come to close quarters with them.


Brigadier-General Lord Ardee two days later received the following message:

The Corps Commander requests that you will convey to the officers and men of the 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards his high appreciation of the gallant and successful resistance put up by the garrison of Arleux Post on the night of February 19-20. He wishes also to congratulate the Thirty-first Division on having completely repulsed for the fourth time in succession during the last two months determined and elaborately prepared attempts to penetrate their lines.

On the 21st the 4th Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards, and retired to Ecurie Camp for four days’ rest, after which it returned to the front trenches. On the 23rd the sad news of the death of Lieutenant Ludlow was received. He had been universally popular as Quartermaster of the Battalion, and had only just retired to take up an appointment at Chelsea Hospital, when he was killed by a bomb dropped by a German aeroplane during a raid on London.

4th Batt. March 1918.
On March 21 the 4th Battalion was in billets in the Cheiers-Guestreville-Bethencourt area, and the Brigade as part of the Thirty-first Division was in General Headquarters Reserve, when an order arrived, warning all Battalions to be ready to move the next morning. At 10 a.m. the 4th Battalion started off in buses, and with the rest of the Brigade moved via St. Pol and Doulens to Blairville. It was now to take part in ten strenuous days’ fighting, digging, and marching, in open warfare of the kind associated with the retreat from Mons in 1914, and to forgo the comparative comforts of an established trench[8] line. The following officers took part in these operations:

Lieut.-Colonel W. S. Pilcher, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Capt. C. R. Gerard, D.S.O. Adjutant.
Capt. M. Chapman, M.C. Intelligence Officer.
Capt. I. H. Ingelby Quartermaster.
Lieut. G. W. Selby-Lowndes Transport Officer.
Lieut. G. R. Green Attached to B.H.Q.
Capt. H. H. Sloane-Stanley, M.C. No. 1 Company.
Lieut. C. E. Irby, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. E. H. Tuckwell, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. J. Gilbey  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. B. Osborne Replaced Lieut. Tuckwell on the 26th.
Lieut. G. C. Burt Replaced 2nd Lieut. Gilbey on the 23rd.
Capt. C. E. Benson, D.S.O. No. 2 Company.
Lieut. R. H. Rolfe.  ”  ”
Lieut. R. L. Murray-Lawes  ”  ”
Lieut, the Hon. C. C. S. Rodney Replaced Lieut. Murray-Lawes on the 26th.
Lieut. T. T. Pryce, M.C. Replaced Captain Benson on the 25th.
Lieut. F. C. Lyon No. 3 Company.
Lieut. M. D. Thomas  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. J. Dawson-Greene  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. J. Macdonald (To Hospital on the 25th.)
Capt. G. C. Sloane-Stanley Replaced Lieut. Lyon on the 26th.
Lieut. T. W. Minchin, D.S.O. No. 4 Company.
Lieut. N. R. Abbey  ”  ”
Lieut. J. E. Greenwood  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. D. Richardson  ”  ”
Capt. N. Grellier, M.C., R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
Mar. 23.Mar. 24.
During the early morning shells were heard passing over at a great height, and as the Battalion went through St. Pol it was clear that the enemy had begun a systematic bombardment of the[9] back areas, and was paying particular attention to that town. Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher, who had gone on ahead with Lord Ardee, sent back word for the buses to proceed through Blairville to the cross-roads west of Boisleux-au-Mont. There he summoned the Company Commanders, and explained the situation to them. From where they were the men could see a large fire burning on the sky-line, and this proved to be the canteen at Boisleux-au-Mont, which was destroyed together with many thousand pounds’ worth of food in order to prevent these stores falling into the hands of the Germans. Whether these drastic measures were necessary seems doubtful, since the enemy did not reach this place till four days later. Guided by Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher, the 4th Battalion moved through Hamelincourt to a ravine east of the Ervillers-Boyelles road, where it arrived on the morning of the 23rd. The line occupied by the 4th Guards Brigade ran through Judas Farm, to the east of Ervillers; St. Leger was in the hands of the Germans. The 4th Battalion and the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards held the front line, while the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards was in support. During the morning the news reached the Battalion that the enemy had broken through at Mory, and that the right flank of the Brigade was in danger; this was contradicted later. An order issued to the Battalion to feel its right, and take over ground occupied by the Fortieth Division was never carried out, as the troops on the right refused to move, stating that they had received no orders. Then commenced a most harassing[10] shelling of our trenches by our own guns, which every effort on the part of the Commanding Officer failed to stop. Both British and German shells fell on our trenches and caused many casualties, including Second Lieutenant Gilbey, who was wounded. Nor was the shelling the only annoyance: the men in the front trench were constantly employed in repelling attacks, and fired off no less than 80,000 cartridges, inflicting continual losses on the advancing enemy. The fighting went on intermittently all day, and, although the enemy continually attacked the Brigade front, he was unable to make the slightest impression on the line. That night Lord Ardee issued definite orders for the whole Brigade to “side step” 1000 yards to the right, in order to close any gaps that might exist near Mory. When the order was carried out the next morning, the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards found no troops on its right, and was in a precarious position. During the whole day constant rumours of trouble on the right succeeded each other, and in the evening the news arrived that the Fortieth Division had suffered so severely that it had been relieved by the Forty-second Division. Still the line remained intact, and the German attacks only resulted in masses of their men being killed. The constant strain on our men was, however, beginning to tell, and all ranks were glad when darkness came down, and the attacks ceased. A curious order was issued warning the men against spies dressed as British officers, who were spreading false reports, with the object of hastening our retirement.


4th Batt. Mar. 25, 1918Mar. 26.
During the morning of the 25th the Companies were warned of a possible retirement under cover of darkness, and about noon it became certain that the line had given way on the right, for men from various units began coming back from the direction of Mory, followed by platoons led by officers; and at 1 P.M. Captain Chapman, who went with the Commanding Officers of the Coldstream and Irish Guards to reconnoitre, reported Germans coming over the ridge on the right in large numbers. This information was at once passed on to Lord Ardee, who gave orders to evacuate the line and fall back north-west of Courcelles. The situation when the order for retirement arrived was extremely difficult, for not only had the right given way entirely, but the enemy was advancing in some force directly against the Battalion Headquarters of the Grenadiers and Coldstream, and there seemed nothing to prevent their penetrating to the rear of the two Battalions. Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher immediately withdrew Nos. 2 and 3 Companies under Captain Benson and Lieutenant Lyon, and placed them on the high ground behind Battalion Headquarters, whence they would be instantly available for a counter-attack in case of emergency. All the time the shelling continued, and the retirement had to be carried out with the enemy unpleasantly close. While the order was being executed Captain Benson was wounded, and was in danger of being left behind, but was gallantly rescued and carried back by Sergeant Marsh. Indeed the evacuation of all the wounded of the 4th Guards[12] Brigade was a notably fine piece of work. No wounded man was left to fall into the enemy’s hands, although the medical officers of the Coldstream and Irish Guards and the sick-sergeant of the Grenadiers remained behind, after their Battalions had retired, and the enemy was within a few hundred yards of their aid-posts. Whether our artillery was imperfectly informed as to the movements of the infantry in front, or whether they gave the enemy credit for more rapidity than they possessed, is not clear, but an unfortunate incident occurred which completely prevented a counter-attack being made, when there was an opportunity of inflicting a severe blow on the advancing enemy. A Company of Coldstream had been formed up for a counter-attack, when, without any warning, our heavy artillery poured shells on their Battalion Headquarters, where they were assembling, causing a number of casualties. Although there was constant shelling, the enemy seemed unwilling to come to close quarters with the 4th Guards Brigade, and consequently when it became dark the position remained unchanged, save for a strong defensive flank drawn back on the right. That night the Companies were warned to assemble at Battalion Headquarters, but when once more our heavy artillery began to shell that particular spot, runners were despatched to alter the point of assembly. Captain O’Brien, Irish Guards, was wounded by a shell, and shortly afterwards Second Lieutenant Dawson-Greene was hit by another at the assembly point, and died of the wounds he received some days later. The Battalion formed[13] up in the sunken road to the rear of Battalion Headquarters, and marched off to the Crucifix at Moyenneville, which it reached at 1 A.M. the next morning. Immediately it arrived, it dug a new line of trenches east of the village, and the men were supplied with hot food from the cookers which had been sent up. All the time the German artillery continued to shell Moyenneville without inflicting any casualties. At 4.30 A.M. the Battalion received orders to retire to Ayette, and to hand over its positions to the troops in front of it. Two hours later it moved back through Ayette to Douchy-les-Ayette, where the Battalion Headquarters were established. At noon an order arrived from Lord Ardee, assigning to the Battalion the special rôle of occupying and fortifying Quesnoy Farm, and two hours later it took up its new position. No. 3 Company, under Captain G. C. Sloane-Stanley, on the left; No. 4, under Lieutenant Minchin, in the centre; and No. 1, under Captain H. H. Sloane-Stanley, on the right, dug in east of the farm, while No. 2, under Lieutenant T. Pryce, remained in support behind the trench. The men were dead beat, having worked and fought unceasingly for the last three days, and it was a great relief to all ranks when the night passed quietly. An alarming message of undoubted German origin was received, stating that the enemy had broken through at Hebuterne with armoured motors, but this was subsequently refuted.

Mar. 27.March 28-31.
Early in the morning of the 27th it was reported that the 93rd Brigade was retiring on[14] the left, and this information was at once passed on to the Brigade Headquarters; at first it was thought best to support this Brigade, and an order to that effect was issued. This was, however, cancelled later, and Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher was instructed to send one Company to each of the other two Battalions of the Brigade. Captain G. C. Sloane-Stanley and Lieutenant T. Pryce went off at once with Nos. 1 and 2 Companies, and did not come under the orders of the 4th Battalion again until the night of relief. In the meantime the enemy determined to take advantage of the retirement of the 93rd Brigade, and commenced to mass two battalions near the aerodrome outside Ayette. This tempting target was not lost on our artillery, but, in order that it might catch as large a number of the enemy as possible, it waited until the movement was nearly completed. Then with a deafening noise all available guns concentrated their fire on this spot, with the result that the most of the force was annihilated, and the survivors fled in disorder. It was as fine a bit of shooting as any one could wish to see, and the results astonished even the gunners themselves. Nos. 1 and 2 Companies, which had gone up to the front line, were able, in spite of the cold and wet, to dig and wire a formidable system of trenches. On the 28th Nos. 3 and 4 Companies moved to the left, and occupied a line that had been dug by the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards. The following three days passed quietly, and on the night of the 31st the Battalion was relieved by the 16th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers,[15] and marched back to Bienvillers. The total casualties incurred during the ten days’ operations were: 4 officers wounded, and among the other ranks 9 killed, 1 died of wounds, 58 wounded, and 7 missing.



Diary of the War

The Germans, finding that their advance was being brought to a standstill in the direction of Amiens, turned their attention farther north, and determined to threaten the Channel ports. On April 9 they began a concentrated attack with nine divisions on the British and Portuguese front between Armentières and La Bassée, and the fighting spread to Messines. Bailleul and Wulverghem, amongst other places, fell, and the Germans reached the Forest of Nieppe. Here they were checked, and at the end of April the German effort had spent itself, although Marshal Foch had been obliged to expend much of his reserve. The Germans had suffered enormous losses, and, though the German people rejoiced at the gain of territory, those who knew the true state of affairs were alarmed at the extravagant expenditure of men.

At the end of May Ludendorff determined to go straight for Paris, and with twenty-five divisions overwhelmed the French between Soissons and Rheims. This German onslaught continued[17] with varying success until it reached Château-Thierry. The stubborn resistance of the French made any farther advance impossible, and, although the battle still raged on a gigantic front, the Germans had to abandon their intention of striking at Paris.

In April Naval raids on Zeebrugge and Ostend were made, and two ships filled with concrete were successfully sunk at the entrance of the Bruges Canal, while an obsolete submarine and two other ships were blown up off the Mole at Ostend.

In Italy the Austrians began offensive operations on a large scale, and crossed the Piave River, but the Italians, by a series of counterattacks, regained the lost ground, and by the end of June had driven back the Austrians with heavy loss across the river.

1st Batt.
The 1st Battalion
Roll of Officers
Lieut.-Colonel Viscount Gort, D.S.O., M.V.O., M.C. Commanding Officer.
Major C. H. Greville, D.S.O. Second in Command.
Capt. R. D. Lawford, M.C. Adjutant.
Lieut. R. F. W. Echlin Transport Officer.
2nd Lieut. E. G. Hawkesworth Intelligence Officer.
Capt. J. Teece, M.C. Quartermaster.
Capt. P. Malcolm King’s Company.
Lieut. J. A. Lloyd  ”  ”
Lieut. L. G. Byng, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. Ames  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. D. Neale  ”  ”
Capt. A. T. G. Rhodes No. 2 Company.
Lieut. A. A. Moller, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. P. G. Simmons, M.C.[18]  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. S. J. Hargreaves  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. O. W. D. Smith  ”  ”
Capt. O. F. Stein, D.S.O. No. 3 Company.
Lieut. A. S. Chambers  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. W. A. Fleet  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. L. Webber  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. E. I. Holmes  ”  ”
Capt. R. Wolrige-Gordon, M.C. No. 4 Company.
Lieut. J. F. Tindal-Atkinson  ”  ”
Lieut. the Hon. P. P. Cary  ”  ”
Lieut. H. B. Vernon  ”  ”
Lieut. R. C. Bruce  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. E. A. A. Fitz-G. Hamilton  ”  ”
Lieut. W. B. Evans, U.S.M.O.R.C. Medical Officer.
After the very strenuous days at the end of March, when the German attacks were successfully repelled, the 1st Battalion remained in the front line for two days, but whether the enemy considered it wiser to try some other parts of the line, or whether they were merely waiting for reinforcements, they showed very little signs of life. A heavy bombardment, directed against the Canadians on the left, which was vigorously responded to, seemed to indicate an attack in that direction, but by the time the 1st Battalion was relieved no move on the part of the enemy had taken place. After two days’ rest at Blaireville the 1st Battalion returned to the trenches at Boisleux-au-Mont, where the line was singularly quiet. Early on the 5th a desultory bombardment commenced on our front line, but only with shells of light calibre. Later the railway station came under fire from the heavy guns, but by 9 A.M. all was quiet again, and no more shells were sent over by the enemy[19] that day. Although infinite trouble had been taken to conceal Battalion Headquarters, a big flight of hostile aeroplanes flying low was able to locate it, and the enemy made some very accurate shooting. On the 8th the enemy began a gas bombardment, and obtained several direct hits on the entrance to the Battalion Headquarters dug-out and on two Lewis-gun posts. A new gas containing ether, which gave off little or no smell, was used by the enemy, and accounted for a large number of the Battalion Staff. After two more days’ rest at Blaireville, the 1st Battalion returned to the trenches, where, although the shelling was light, the enemy’s aircraft was very active, often flying low and firing into the trenches. Patrols were sent out along the whole frontage on the night of the 11th, and one under Second Lieutenant R. Holmes and Sergeant Brown failed to return. Little, however, was seen of the enemy, although a wiring party was encountered once, and another time the Germans could be heard demolishing a hut near the main Arras—Bapaume road. The next day the enemy occasionally fired with the Minenwerfer, but there was no shelling to speak of. In the evening Lieutenant R. Holmes and his patrol returned, having been cut off on the previous night by very strong parties of the enemy. Finding they were unable to regain our lines, they hid in shell-holes throughout the day, and took advantage of the darkness when night came to get back. On the 14th, when the usual patrols went out, Second Lieutenant W. Fleet took out a strong party to visit a German[20] machine-gun post, which had come under the observation of a patrol on the previous night. Approaching it with caution, he found that it was unoccupied, but a German rifle, which he brought back, seemed to show that the enemy had been there lately. Four escaped British prisoners, who had been captured on the 21st, re-entered our lines near the sunken road; they belonged to the Sixth Division. The 1st Battalion went for ten days’ rest to Barly until the 24th, when they marched to Bienvillers-au-Bois on their way to the trenches. Lieutenant Tindal-Atkinson and Second Lieutenant Paget-Cooke, who had just arrived to join the Battalion, were wounded by a shell that fell in No. 4 Company Mess. On the night of the 27th the 1st Battalion returned to the front line of trenches, but the Germans were singularly inactive except for occasional bursts of shell-fire. The patrols that were sent out failed to encounter any German parties, but one discovered that Calcutta Trench had been recently occupied by the enemy. Signs of its recent occupation were found in the shape of fresh bombs, rifles, etc., and a corporal’s greatcoat proved that the occupants had belonged to the 453rd Regiment. Traces of German occupation could be seen all over the ground, but the most recent was the line of newly dug posts about 80 yards west of the Ablainzeville—Ayette road. The enemy evidently occupied an advanced picket line, as individual heads could be seen on the low ground, and the rapidity with which his light machine-guns and snipers opened fire from various[21] points confirmed this surmise. On the 29th the enemy still remained inactive, and never engaged any targets which offered themselves. In the evening snipers were sent out from our lines to positions, where they could observe and engage any movement on the part of the enemy, who could be seen advancing in groups of two to occupy shell-slits. Parties were dribbled forward by the King’s and No. 2 Companies, and told to occupy any empty enemy-slits, to check any advance of the enemy. These moves and countermoves continued up to 9 p.m., when Lord Gort decided to withdraw all the advanced posts, and patrols continued to reconnoitre throughout the night.

The enemy’s attitude during May was purely defensive, and except for two half-hearted raids he showed no inclination to come west of the line of the Ablainzeville—Ayette road. The Germans apparently were occupying an outpost line from Ablainzeville to Ayette, with a shell-hole line in rear and a line of resistance again behind that, and the situation depended very much on what was going on in other parts of the line: if the enemy succeeded in driving back the troops to the north and south, a retirement would become necessary, even without any movement of the hostile troops in front.

During the whole month the 1st Battalion remained either in the front trenches or in reserve. When in the trenches one and a half Companies held the front line, and one and a half Companies were in support, with one Company in reserve. On the days they became the Reserve Battalion,[22] they were simply targets for the German artillery; every day there were casualties, and the number of men killed, wounded, and gassed amounted to a good many during the month. On some days the enemy activity was very slight, and on others the shelling would become intense. Patrols under officers were sent out every night, and the information gained varied. Occasionally bodies of Germans would be reported, moving about and talking, but when no attack developed such movements ceased to have any significance. The back areas were shelled with gas-shells daily, and so it happened that the casualties, when the Battalion was in reserve, were often greater than when it was in the front line. On the 17th the area occupied by the 1st Battalion was subjected to a severe bombing by aircraft; Second Lieutenant W. A. Fleet and Second Lieutenant G. E. A. A. Fitz-George Hamilton were killed, and Second Lieutenant S. J. Hargreaves and Second Lieutenant G. D. Neale were seriously wounded. The two latter never recovered from the wounds they received, and died the next day. The loss of these four keen young officers was deeply felt by the whole Battalion. At the same time Sergeant Robshaw and Lance-Sergeant Nicholson, the Lewis-gun instructors, were wounded and buried by the walls of a house, which were blown in by a bomb on the top of them. On the 20th the Cojeul Valley was bombarded with gas-shells, and Captain O. Stein, Second Lieutenant R. Holmes, and Second Lieutenant C. Brutton were gassed. A few days of rain and mist were welcomed by[23] every one, since it made observation impossible, and therefore the enemy’s artillery had to content itself with a small amount of inaccurate shelling. On the 24th Second Lieutenant O. W. D. Smith was seriously wounded by a shell. On the 28th a German propaganda balloon was shot down near Quesnoy Farm; it contained copies of the Gazette des Ardennes, a French newspaper, edited by the Germans. Although enemy transport activity could be often distinctly heard, the impending offensive never developed.

Much the same programme was followed at the beginning of June, and without any definite movement the enemy continued to bombard both the front trenches and the back area. On the 5th the Germans were located by a patrol, working on the road, and Stokes mortars were turned on to them, with the result that Véry lights went up in quick succession, no doubt an appeal for assistance. The guns on both sides were continually busy both day and night, and a great many shells of various sorts must have been fired. On the 8th the Battalion retired for a rest to Barly, where it remained until the end of the month.

2nd Batt.
The 2nd Battalion
Roll of Officers
Lieut.-Colonel G. E. C. Rasch, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Major the Hon. W. R. Bailey, D.S.O. Second in Command.
Capt. A. H. Penn Adjutant.
Lieut. R. G. Briscoe, M.C. Assistant Adjutant.[24]
Hon. Capt. W. E. Acraman, M.C., D.C.M. Quartermaster.
Lieut. G. G. M. Vereker, M.C. Transport Officer.
Capt. F. A. M. Browning, D.S.O. No. 1 Company.
Lieut. A. W. Acland, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. the Hon. H. F. P. Lubbock  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. J. S. Carter  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. F. Lawrence  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. C. M. Bevan  ”  ”
Capt. O. Martin Smith No. 2 Company.
Lieut. R. H. R. Palmer  ”  ”
Lieut. W. H. S. Dent  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. A. Fitch  ”  ”
Lieut. A. C. Knollys  ”  ”
Lieut. S. T. S. Clarke, M.C. No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. H. White  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. the Hon. S. A. S. Montagu  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. T. Sharpe  ”  ”
Capt. G. C. Fitz-H. Harcourt-Vernon, D.S.O. No. 4 Company.
Lieut. R. A. W. Bicknell, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. F. H. J. Drummond, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. F. P. Loftus  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. P. V. Pelly  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. J. A. Paton  ”  ”
Capt. the Rev. and Hon. C. F. Lyttelton Chaplain.
Lieut. L. J. Early Medical Officer.
On the night of April 3 the Thirty-second Division captured Ayette, which considerably eased the situation on the right flank of the Guards Division. The 2nd Battalion went up into the line, and found the trenches very wet. On the 4th, during a heavy shelling, which was entirely directed against No. 1 Company on the right, Lieutenant the Hon. H. F. P. Lubbock was killed by a shell which pitched in the trench.

This was a great loss to the Battalion, for[25] he was an officer of sound judgment, who did not know what fear was. Corporal Teague, M.M., was killed at the same time, and 6 men were wounded. The 7th and 8th were spent in a camp behind Blaireville and Heudecourt, when Lieutenant F. H. J. Drummond and Second Lieutenant G. F. Lawrence joined. After two more days in the trenches the 2nd Battalion retired to Saulty, where they remained training till the 24th. On the 14th Second Lieutenant J. A. Paton and Second Lieutenant C. A. Fitch arrived from the Reinforcement Battalion, and on the 20th Second Lieutenant C. Gwyer joined.

On the 24th the 2nd Battalion proceeded in buses to Bienvillers-au-Bois, to relieve the 15th Battalion Highland Light Infantry, in reserve west of Douchy-les-Ayette. Two companies were billeted in the old German line just west of Monchy-au-Bois, and the remainder were in trenches between Douchy-les-Ayette and Monchy. The following day the Battalion moved up into the front line on the eastern outskirts of Ayette, and found everything very quiet. The explanation seemed to be that the Germans were thinning out their troops in this district, in order to increase their forces available for the thrust forward north on the night of the 29th. Second Lieutenant C. A. Fitch, who had gone out with a patrol to reconnoitre the German lines, was wounded in the head and right arm by a bomb thrown from a German post.

The same routine was carried out all during May: five days in the front line with inter-company relief, followed by two days in[26] reserve at Monchy-au-Bois. On the 4th an American Company Commander and three N.C.O.’s were attached to the 2nd Battalion under instruction. In order to ensure that the junior officers were proficient in technical subjects, special lectures were given by Officers from different branches of the service, and were attended by Officers and N.C.O.’s of the Battalion when it was in reserve. On the 11th Lieutenant J. C. Cornforth arrived, and on the 19th Lieutenant C. A. Gordon and Lieutenant H. A. Finch joined the Battalion. On the 22nd, during a heavy bombardment which was directed on the front line, Lieutenant A. W. Acland, M.C., was wounded, and almost every day there were casualties amongst other ranks. The exact spot the enemy would select for their next thrust was naturally not known, and a determined attack was expected daily, but except for intense shelling the enemy showed no signs of life. On the 27th the shelling increased, and the enemy aircraft became very active, with the result that there were 9 men killed and 8 wounded.

The first week in June was spent by the 2nd Battalion in the front line, where the shells continued to fall with monotonous regularity. On the 3rd Lieutenant R. M. Oliver joined the Battalion. On the 6th, after a relief, rendered difficult by the enemy’s barrage, which had been put down on the tracks leading to the trenches, the 2nd Battalion proceeded to Saulty, where they were billeted in the village and the Château grounds. There they remained till the end of the month, training, carrying out tactical schemes,[27] and learning the latest developments in bombing. Colonel Rasch organised a platoon competition in the following: bomb-throwing, rifle-bombing, message-carrying by platoon runners, stretcher-bearer competitions, bayonet-fighting, Lewis-gunnery, musketry, tactical scheme and drill. The tactical scheme was judged by the two other Commanding Officers in the Brigade, and the drill by the three Regimental Sergeant-Majors. No. 7 Platoon, under Lieutenant Palmer, was the winner; No. 16 Platoon, under Sergeant Taylor, second; and No. 4 Platoon, under Second Lieutenant Bevan, third. At the Divisional Horse Show, which took place on the 22nd, the 2nd Battalion won Major-General Feilding’s Cup, and Lieutenant G. Vereker, the Transport Officer, was congratulated on his horses having proved themselves the best in the Division. On the 23rd Lieutenant N. McK. Jesper, Lieutenant L. St. L. Hermon-Hodge, and Second Lieutenant F. J. Langley rejoined the Battalion, and in the absence of Colonel Rasch, who had gone temporarily to command the Brigade, Captain Harcourt-Vernon took over the command of the Battalion. On the 29th a Guard of Honour for H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, under the command of Captain Browning, went in buses to the Third Army Headquarters at Hesdin, where their smart appearance created a great impression. Onlookers refused to believe that the men had just come out of the line, and maintained that they had been sent out from England for the purpose. The following day, the Army Commander, General Sir Julian Byng, in a message addressed to the[28] Division, expressed the satisfaction at their smart appearance, and added that their turn-out and bearing, their marching and handling of arms, were beyond all criticism.

3rd Batt.
The 3rd Battalion
Roll of Officers
Lieut.-Colonel A. F. A. N. Thorne, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Major R. H. V. Cavendish, M.V.O. Second in Command.
Capt. the Hon. A. G. Agar-Robartes, M.C. Adjutant.
Lieut. E. G. A. Fitzgerald, D.S.O. Assistant Adjutant.
Lieut. F. J. Heasman Transport Officer.
Capt. G. H. Wall Quartermaster.
Capt. A. F. R. Wiggins No. 1 Company.
Lieut. A. G. Elliott  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. L. F. Boughey  ”  ”
Capt. G. A. I. Dury, M.C. No. 2 Company.
Lieut. A. H. S. Adair  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. W. A. Pembroke  ”  ”
Lieut. E. N. de Geijer No. 3 Company.
Lieut. G. W. Godman  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. W. B. Ball  ”  ”
Capt. C. H. Bedford No. 4 Company.
Lieut. H. St. J. Williams  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. E. J. Bunbury  ”  ”
Capt. Ffoulkes, R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. S. Phillimore, M.C. Chaplain.
The 3rd Battalion spent the whole month of April either in the trenches, with three Companies in the front line, or in reserve. On the 7th Lieutenant E. G. A. Fitzgerald was wounded, and on the 8th the following officers joined the Battalion: Lieutenant F. A. Magnay, Second Lieutenant R. K. Henderson, Lieutenant C. Clifton Brown, and Second Lieutenant[29] H. W. Sanderson. The days spent in the front trenches were remarkably quiet, but as the ground on which these trenches were dug was overlooked by the enemy, very little work could be done except wiring, and this at night. On the 14th the Battalion, having “embussed” at Ransart, proceeded via Beaumetz-les-Loges to Lakerlière and Larbret, where it was billeted. On the 17th drafts reached the Battalion with the following officers: Second Lieutenant E. L. F. Clough-Taylor, Second Lieutenant R. Delacombe, Second Lieutenant W. B. L. Manley, Second Lieutenant H. J. Gibbon, and Second Lieutenant R. C. G. de Reuter. The days spent in billets were taken up with training, but as the men had to remain ready to move at one hour’s notice in the morning and three hours’ notice in the afternoon, it was impossible for Companies to go far. An attack from the enemy was expected on the 21st, and additional precautions were taken, but the Battalion was not called upon to go up into the front line. Major Lord Lascelles was appointed Second in Command vice Major Cavendish, and as Lieut.-Colonel Thorne had to take temporary command of the Brigade, he had at once to command the Battalion. Companies were now organised into three platoons with the headquarters of a fourth or depot platoon, to which all details were attached, when the Battalion went into action. On the 24th Lieut.-Colonel Thorne returned to the Battalion, and took it up into the front line the following day. On the 27th the front posts were subjected to an unusually heavy shelling, during which[30] Second Lieutenant C. L. F. Boughey was wounded, and there were 6 killed and 5 wounded among other ranks. On the following day the Battalion retired into Brigade Reserve, where it remained till the end of the month.

During the first week in May the Battalion remained in the line, with an inter-company relief, Major Lord Lascelles taking turns with Lieut.-Colonel Thorne. On the 3rd Second Lieutenant R. P. Papillon and Lieutenant the Hon. M. H. E. C. Towneley-Bertie joined. Officers’ patrols were sent out every night and in the early morning, to lie out and listen for any hostile movement. After three days’ rest the Battalion returned to the trenches, and came in for much shelling. Our artillery carried out nightly a harassing fire on the enemy’s tracks, roads, and possible assembly areas, and this naturally brought down considerable retaliation. Lieutenant the Hon. M. H. E. C. Towneley-Bertie was wounded, and among other ranks there were 10 killed and 14 wounded. Another tour of duty in the front line from the 20th to the 24th caused 2 killed and 25 wounded among other ranks. On the 26th Captain G. F. R. Hirst, Lieutenant E. R. M. Fryer, M.C., and Second Lieutenant J. Chapman joined the Battalion. On the 28th the Battalion returned to the front trenches, and again came in for a harassing fire. Inter-company reliefs were carried out, and the work was concentrated on shelters and the deepening of lateral communication trenches.

The Battalion remained in the front line until June 3, and was constantly bombarded[31] with Blue Cross gas-shells. On the 2nd Lieutenant G. M. Cornish, M.C., joined. After four days spent in reserve the Battalion retired to La Baseque, where the men were either billeted in the farms, or placed in tents and shelters in the wood. There they remained until the end of the month, training and practising tactical schemes.


APRIL 1-14, 1918

The 4th Battalion

4th Batt. April 1-14, 1918.
In April 1918 it fell to the lot of the 4th Guards Brigade to take part in some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

Ludendorff had opened a concentrated attack with nine divisions on the line north of La Bassée, and General von Quast, who commanded the German forces, had penetrated the portion of the line held by the Portuguese, and gained a considerable amount of ground. Reinforced by General von Arnim’s infantry, he pushed on in the hope of gaining the Channel ports, or, at the least, of cutting the British communications. The German masses were pressing forward, and the general situation became more and more critical.

The attack commenced on April 9, and the Fifteenth Corps, under Lieut.-General Sir J. P. du Cane, which had been driven back, was holding the line between Merville and Vieux Berquin, south-east of Hazebrouck. Although the troops in Merville held fast, the enemy broke through at Robermetz, and, after capturing Neuf Berquin, moved down the road to Vierhoek.


Such was the state of affairs, when the 4th Guards Brigade was sent for to restore the line. After having “debussed” at Strazeele, it marched towards Vieux Berquin on the evening of April 11. Next day Brigadier-General the Hon. L. J. P. Butler received orders to attack Vierhoek, Pont Rondin, and Les Puresbecques, but before he could make much headway, was himself in turn vigorously engaged by the enemy. Reinforcements were being hurried up from several quarters, but everything depended on whether the line would hold. If the Australian Division, which was being sent up from the rear, could have time to detrain and take up good positions, the German rush would be checked. But should the enemy break through far enough to dislocate this arrangement, matters would become serious.

Realising the gravity of the crisis, General de Lisle, commanding the Fifteenth Corps, issued an order that no retirement must be made without an order in writing, signed by a responsible officer, who must be prepared to justify his action before a court-martial. Every inch of ground was to be disputed, and every company was told to stand firm until reinforcements could arrive.

The roll of officers of the 4th Battalion at the beginning of April was as follows:

Lieut.-Colonel W. S. Pilcher, D.S.O. Commanding Battalion.
Major C. F. A. Walker, M.C. Second in Command.
Capt. C. R. Gerard, D.S.O. Adjutant.
Capt. M. Chapman, M.C. Intelligence Officer.
Capt. I. H. Ingleby Act.-Quartermaster.
Lieut. G. W. Selby-Lowndes Transport Officer.[34]
Capt. H. H. Sloane-Stanley, M.C. No. 1 Company.
Lieut. C. E. Irby, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. E. H. Tuckwell, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. G. C. Burt  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. B. Osborne  ”  ”
Lieut. T. T. Pryce, M.C. No. 2 Company.
Lieut. the Hon. C. C. S. Rodney  ”  ”
Lieut. R. H. Rolfe  ”  ”
Lieut. R. L. Murray-Lawes  ”  ”
Capt. G. C. Sloane-Stanley No. 3 Company.
Lieut. F. C. Lyon  ”  ”
Lieut. the Hon. A. H. L. Hardinge, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. M. D. Thomas  ”  ”
Lieut. T. W. Minchin, D.S.O. No. 4 Company.
Lieut. N. R. Abbey  ”  ”
Lieut. G. R. Green  ”  ”
Lieut. J. E. Greenwood  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. D. Richardson  ”  ”
Capt. N. Grellier, M.C., R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
The Battalion was in billets at Villers Brulin on April 10, when Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher received orders to move up in omnibuses to Strazeele Station via St. Pol. According to instructions it should have started “embussing” at 11.30 that night, but owing to some mistake the buses were twelve hours late, and all ranks spent the night and half the next day waiting by the roadside. It was impossible to cook any proper breakfasts, and too cold to sleep, so that when at last a start was made the men were already tired out. Then for twelve hours they jolted along in the buses, terribly cramped and without any opportunity for real rest. When it arrived at its destination next day, the Battalion marched to a field near Le Paradis, where Brigadier-General Butler held a conference. There were[35] to be two battalions in the front line and one in reserve; on the right was the 3rd Battalion Coldstream which was to take up a position from L’Epinette to Le Cornet Perdu. The 4th Battalion Grenadiers would be on the left, and the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards in reserve.

April 12.
Marching off at once, the whole force reached its position about dawn on the 12th. So promptly was the movement carried out that there was no time to issue rations, and the food had to follow on later in limbers. There was also a considerable shortage of tools, with the result that when daylight came the men were still very inadequately dug-in. In the 4th Battalion, No. 1 Company, under Captain H. Sloane-Stanley, was on the right, No. 4, under Lieutenant Green, in the centre, and No. 2, under Captain Pryce, on the left, with No. 3, under Lieutenant Nash, in support. As soon as it was light the enemy opened a heavy fire along the whole front with field-guns, while they swept with their lighter field-guns and machine-guns all places where they detected any movement. Battalion Headquarters seemed to come in for special attention, and, whenever any one went in or out, it was the signal for a shower of shells to fall round the spot.

An order came to Brigadier-General Butler to secure the line from the College to Vieux Moulin with his brigade, and to prevent any movements along the Merville—Neuf Berquin road. He accordingly went up to Battalion Headquarters, and ordered an advance at 11 A.M. At the same time he sent up two companies of the Irish Guards to advance in échelon behind the right[36] flank, in the hope of getting in touch with the Fiftieth Division. In the 4th Battalion Captain H. Sloane-Stanley was told to push forward two platoons to seize Vierhoek, and Captain Pryce to occupy Pont Rondin with a similar force.

The following were the officers who took part in the operations from April 12 to 14:

Lieut.-Colonel W. S. Pilcher, D.S.O. Commanding Battalion.
Capt. C. R. Gerard, D.S.O. Adjutant.
Capt. M. Chapman, M.C. Intelligence Officer.
Lieut. N. R. Abbey Attached B.H.Q.
Capt. H. H. Sloane-Stanley, M.C. No. 1 Company.
2nd Lieut. H. Stratford  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. B. Osborne  ”  ”
Capt. T. T. Pryce, M.C. No. 2 Company.
Lieut. the Hon. C. C. S. Rodney  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. P. Philipps  ”  ”
Lieut. C. S. Nash, M.C. No. 3 Company.
Lieut. M. D. Thomas  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. P. H. Cox  ”  ”
Lieut. G. R. Green No. 4 Company.
2nd Lieut. J. E. Greenwood  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. W. Sich  ”  ”
Capt. N. Grellier, M.C., R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
The attack started at 11 a.m., but the Coldstream encountered such strenuous opposition that they were unable to advance more than 100 yards. Nor could No. 1 Company of the 4th Battalion Grenadiers make much headway towards Vierhoek, owing to the intense and accurate machine-gun and artillery fire, which swept the only road over the stream; and it suffered severely in its attempts to carry out the orders. Second Lieutenant Osborne, however,[37] had managed to push on about 200 yards with his platoon when he was wounded. But No. 2 Company made a most skilful advance towards Pont Rondin, led by Captain Pryce himself.

In the houses down the road, by which the Grenadiers had to come, the Germans were posted with light machine-guns, and before any progress could be made these houses had to be cleared. Slowly and systematically, No. 2 Company worked from house to house, and silenced the machine-guns. Thirty Germans were killed in this way—Captain Pryce alone accounted for seven—and were found afterwards in the houses or near by. Two machine-guns were taken, as well as a couple of prisoners.

During the whole operation, this company was under heavy fire, not only from machine-guns but also from a battery of field-guns, which was firing with open sights from a position some 300 yards down the road. It was a remarkably fine performance, and was watched with intense interest from Battalion Headquarters, which were some 200 yards in rear of the centre of the line, in a position from which the commanding officer could see most of the trenches occupied by his battalion. Lieutenant Nash, who had brought up one platoon to support No. 2 Company, was on his way back when his hand was carried away by a shell, and the command of No. 3 Company devolved on Lieutenant M. D. Thomas.

About 3 P.M. the situation of the 4th Guards Brigade became very critical. On the right the Coldstream reported that there was no sign of the Fiftieth Division, which should have been on[38] their right flank, and at the same time Captain Pryce sent back word that his left flank was in the air, and that Germans could be seen 1000 yards in rear of his company. He added that he was being engaged by trench mortars and field-guns, which were firing at him with open sights from the exposed flank.

Affairs on the right were improved by the arrival of a company of the Irish Guards, which, without orders, undertook a counter-attack in conjunction with a company of the Coldstream. But, having no troops to send up on the left flank, Brigadier-General Butler decided that that portion of the line must be withdrawn. Accordingly, Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher ordered Captain Pryce to fall back, but even then there was a large gap between his company and the troops on the left flank, of which the Germans took advantage. Having reached the position indicated, Captain Pryce held on to it in spite of several determined attacks by the enemy. Colonel Pilcher, accompanied by the Adjutant, Captain Gerard, visited the left of the line about 4.30 P.M. He found No. 2 Company rather scattered, as it had been compelled to form a defensive flank. Meanwhile, after an intense artillery preparation, the enemy attacked No. 1 and No. 4 Companies, and was driven back with severe losses.

All day the Battalion Headquarters were severely shelled by two German field-guns and also by trench mortars. The farm they occupied was set on fire, and both Captain M. Chapman, who had distinguished himself on many occasions[39] as intelligence officer, and Lieutenant N. R. Abbey, who was attached to Battalion Headquarters, were killed by shells. A good many valuable men, who had served on Battalion Headquarters for a long time, were killed or wounded during the day. The farm was full of cows and horses, which had to be turned loose when the farm caught fire, and several casualties took place on this account. The Headquarters were afterwards moved to the garden of the farm. To some extent the fire was kept down by the skilful and gallant conduct of Lieutenant Lewis of the 152nd Brigade R.F.A., who exposed himself continually to get direct observation, while his guns undoubtedly inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing Germans.

At the close of the day, the front of the 4th Battalion remained intact, but the cost of holding this line against repeated assaults had necessarily been very heavy. No. 2 Company lost 80 men and 1 officer out of 120 who went into action, and No. 4 Company lost 70 per cent of its strength and all the officers. The total casualties in the Battalion were 250, including 8 officers. On the other hand, the enemy lost so heavily that the ground in front of the Battalion was strewn with their dead; in some places there were heaps of bodies piled up in front of the trenches. Some idea of the fierceness of the fighting may be gathered from the fact that during the day the 4th Battalion alone fired off no less than 70,000 rounds of ammunition.

In view of the situation on both flanks, Brigadier-General Butler gave orders on the[40] night of the 12th that the Brigade was to take up a new line. For this the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards was to have its right resting on Pont Tournant, with the 3rd Battalion Coldstream in the centre, and the 4th Battalion Grenadiers on the left, in touch with the 12th Battalion K.O.Y.L.I., which was to join up with the troops of the Twenty-ninth Division. In response to General Butler’s request that the line held by his brigade might be contracted, the Fifth Division was ordered to take over the line as far as L’Epinette inclusive.

As soon as this relief was completed, the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards and one company of the Coldstream were withdrawn into Brigade Reserve, and the 210th Field Company R.E. went up, to help the 4th Battalion Grenadiers dig the new line. To replace some of the losses in the Battalion, Captain Minchin, Lieutenant Lyon, and Lieutenant Burt were sent up, and Lieutenant Murray-Lawes went to Battalion Headquarters. Colonel Pilcher’s orders were to delay the enemy at all costs, so as to give the Australian Division time to detrain and come up to that part of the line.

The new Battalion frontage was 1800 yards long; the country was absolutely flat, with not a single hedge to mask the trenches, and the line was held by companies in isolated posts. So heavily had the Battalion suffered in the fighting on the 12th that it had only 9 officers and 180 other ranks left—that is to say, one man to every ten yards of front.

As the Battalion Headquarters had been[41] destroyed, Colonel Pilcher assembled the newly-arrived officers at the Irish Guards Headquarters, and explained to them that the new line was to be dug east of the Vieux Berquin—Neuf Berquin road, so that the village of La Couronne and the cross-roads south of it might be protected. When Captain Minchin reached the leading companies, Captain Pryce told him the men were so dead beat that he thought they were quite incapable of digging a new line, and the Adjutant of the K.O.Y.L.I. said his men were in much the same condition. When this was reported to Colonel Pilcher, he went up himself to explain how things stood. He could find no trace of the machine-guns from the Thirty-first Division, which should have been there. The Germans were so close that they could be heard talking quite distinctly. He found Captain Pryce, who was quite worn out from want of sleep, and made it clear that the orders must be carried out, as it was absolutely essential to alter the position of the trenches. The plans had been changed, and the line the Battalion was now to occupy lay between La Couronne and the burnt farm, that had been the Battalion Headquarters.

The men were awakened with difficulty, and led to the new position, where, exhausted as they were, they were set to dig themselves in. Having satisfied himself that the orders were understood, Colonel Pilcher went in search of Captain Minchin, but failed to find him in the dark. The field company of R.E., that was to have been sent up to help, did not appear, and as there were only 14 men left in No. 4 Company,[42] and 30 in No. 2, a continuous line of trenches was out of the question. Captain Minchin, therefore, ordered them to dig rifle-pits, capable of holding three or four men at intervals, and even so there were gaps of considerable length between companies. So utterly weary were the men that it was not at all easy to make them understand what had to be done, and naturally the darkness did not help to simplify matters. No. 1 Company, under Captain H. Sloane-Stanley, had gone too far to the right, and instead of being up to the burnt farm was some 200 yards away. This made it necessary to post a strong sentry group, where it could guard the gap.

It was nearly dawn before the digging was finished; one man in each bay then took turns to watch while the other three slept. One source of constant anxiety to the officers was the ammunition, which had not been sent up. Just before dawn Lieutenant Lyon received a message that it had been dumped near La Couronne, but as it was then getting light he could not send men for it. Captain Pryce, however, succeeded in getting five boxes before daylight.

April 13.
Fog hung thickly round during the early morning of the 13th, and it was found that the Germans had taken advantage of it to work up machine-guns close to our line. Their first attack occurred at 6.30, and was directed against the 3rd Battalion Coldstream. With the aid of a tank, the enemy forced his way between the left and centre companies of the Coldstream, but was soon ejected. A company of the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards went up later to strengthen [43]that part of the line. At 9.15 Colonel Pilcher found that strong German attacks were developing all down the line, and sent orders round to the companies that they must hold on to their line at all costs, and fight to the end. This message was duly acknowledged by all officers commanding companies.

4th Battalion at La Couronne

Position on April 13, 1918.

As soon as the mist cleared away, the Germans opened fire with their machine-guns and swept the parapet with bullets. When the light improved, they brought up more machine-guns, and were able to enfilade the trenches. Under cover of this fire they crawled forward by ones and twos, and established sniping posts in some unfinished trenches not 150 yards off. The Brigade-Major came up to Battalion Headquarters, to confirm the report that the troops on the left had retired, and that the left was entirely in the air. He had also heard that the enemy had penetrated the centre of the Brigade. Colonel Pilcher and the Brigade-Major went down the road to within some 150 yards of La Couronne, where they met Private Bagshaw (afterwards killed), who was runner to No. 4 Company, and who reported that the centre was still intact. After going up close to the front line to verify this statement, the Brigade-Major returned to inform the Brigadier of what he had ascertained.

Captain Minchin meanwhile reported the precarious condition of affairs in front, and was told in reply that a company of Irish Guards and a platoon of Coldstream would be sent to his assistance, but these reinforcements never arrived. At one time the Germans seemed to be con[44]templating a determined attack; they stood up and advanced in extended order, in the hope of finding a gap and penetrating the line, but the steady fire poured on them by the 4th Battalion soon changed their minds, and sent them back to cover. About 12.30 P.M. the 12th Pioneer Battalion of the K.O.Y.L.I. at La Couronne was completely blown out of its trenches by the enemy’s trench mortars. When the men of that battalion found that the troops on their left had been pushed back, and that the Germans were working round in rear of them, they had no choice but to retire. This placed the left flank of the 4th Battalion in the air.

Captain Pryce sent back an urgent message saying that the Germans were in Vieux Berquin and La Couronne, and that another column, estimated at two battalions, was advancing from Bleu. Up to that point, he added, he had managed to beat off the enemy, and there was a large number of their dead in front of his trenches, but he was not strong enough to resist much longer the repeated assaults of so large a force. As soon as this message reached General Butler, he sent up the company of Irish Guards, which had already been promised, but it never got to Captain Pryce, for by now the Germans had wedged themselves in some force between him and his hopes of relief. Advancing north of the road leading to La Couronne, the reinforcing company was met by large numbers of Germans coming from La Becque. It fought on till it was completely cut off, and only one sergeant and six men escaped.


An attempt was made to alter the position of a Lewis-gun belonging to No. 2 Company, but the moment they moved the N.C.O. and the men with it were fired on, and the gun was disabled. Finding that all attempts to retrieve the gun were useless, Second Lieutenant Philipps, who was in charge of the party, decided to rejoin Captain Pryce, but was hit in the hip by a machine-gun bullet just as he reached the trench.

Their turning of the left flank allowed the Germans to creep round in rear of the Battalion, but they had not gone far before they were engaged by the Battalion Headquarters, as well as the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Headquarters, who offered a most determined resistance. This final effort kept them successfully at bay until the arrival of the Australian Division put a final and effective stop to any farther movements on their part.

There remains the epic story of Captain Pryce. One last message was received from him—that his company was surrounded and his men shooting to front and to rear, standing back to back in the trenches to meet the encircling enemy at all points.

Of what happened afterwards, an outline at any rate was gathered from a corporal of the company, who escaped from Vieux Berquin the following night. Reduced now to only thirty men, the gallant little band fought on all that day. Without a pause they fired at their advancing foes, steadily, calmly, with the same rapidity and deadly aim that caused the Germans in the Mons retreat to mistake our “contemptible”[46] riflemen for machine-guns. The enemy was puzzled. They could not for a moment believe that such a stout resistance could be put up by anything but a formidable force, and dared not make the attempt to come to close quarters.

By the evening the defenders were practically at the end of their tether. Only eighteen out of the thirty were left, and they had used up every scrap of ammunition. The Germans were in Verte Rue, and the beleaguered band could see the field-grey uniforms advancing towards Bois d’Aval. It was now 8.15. Suddenly Captain Pryce perceived a new move against him. A party of the enemy had made up their minds to test the strength of their obstinate opponents; they pressed forward, and got to within 80 yards of the stubbornly-held trenches. The position seemed hopeless, but not for a moment did he flinch. Though the last cartridge had been fired, the men still had their bayonets, and he ordered them to charge.

Straight at the advancing enemy he rushed at the head of his handful of men. The Germans were completely taken aback. They dared not fire, for fear of hitting their own men, who were now in rear of the Grenadiers’ desperately defended position, and retired. Thereupon Captain Pryce decided to take his men back to the trench again.

But by now the enemy had seen. They had realised the almost incredible weakness of the hitherto unknown force, that had so long successfully kept them at bay. And, restored to confidence, they came on once more. Once more[47] Captain Pryce led the tattered remnant of his company—that now numbered only fourteen—to the charge, and when last seen they were still fighting fearlessly and doggedly against overwhelming odds.

In all the glorious record of the Grenadiers there has been no story more splendid than this. It was a Homeric combat—two battalions held up (and the advance of a whole enemy division thus delayed) by a few determined men. Of the losses they inflicted on their overwhelmingly superior foe, some idea was gathered by Lieutenant Burt, who when taken prisoner afterwards was shown by a German officer the heaps of enemy dead in front of the British trenches. If ever a niche were earned in the Temple of Fame it was by these brave men and their brave leader—who, having already won a bar to his Military Cross, was awarded the Victoria Cross for this crowning act of gallantry.

Meanwhile, No. 1 and No. 4 Companies, who had been enfiladed all day, had lost all their officers. Captain H. Sloane-Stanley had been killed and Captain Minchin wounded in three places, though he just managed to crawl back afterwards, being fired at all the way. In No. 3 Company Lieutenant Lyon was killed, and subsequently the whole company was surrounded and taken prisoners. The survivors of No. 1 and No. 4 Companies held on till night, although by then the Germans were in rear of them, and finally managed to get back to the Australians. The Headquarters of the Battalion took up a position in the evening just south of the Forêt[48] de Nieppe, in prolongation of the Australian line. Although the line had been saved, the whole Brigade had been cut to pieces. The Coldstream and Irish Guards had suffered the same fate as the Grenadiers, and few of them got back to the Australian line.

By April 14 the 4th Battalion had been three days and three nights fighting and digging without any rest, while of the nineteen officers who went into action only two were left. The casualties were:

Capt. H. H. Sloane-Stanley. Killed.
Capt. M. Chapman  ”
Capt. T. T. Pryce, V.C., M.C.  ”
Lieut. N. R. Abbey  ”
Lieut. F. C. Lyon  ”
Lieut. C. S. Nash Wounded.
Lieut. G. R. Green  ”
2nd Lieut. J. E. Greenwood  ”
Lieut. G. C. Burt Wounded and missing.
2nd Lieut. H. Stratford (died of wounds)  ”  ”
Lieut. the Hon. C. C. S. Rodney  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. P. Philipps  ”  ”
Lieut. M. D. Thomas  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. W. Sich  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. P. H. Cox  ”  ”
The total casualties amongst other ranks were 504, or 90 per cent of the strength of the Battalion.

In the Brigade the casualties amounted to 39 officers and 1244 other ranks.

The following message was sent by Lieut.-General Sir H. de B. de Lisle, the Corps Commander, to General Sir H. S. Horne, commanding the First Army:



XV. Corps No. 608/13/70.
Dated 23-4-1918.

Second Army

I forward the attached narrative of the action of the 4th Guards Brigade during the operations of the 11th to 14th April 1918, for the information of the Army Commander.

An account of the operations of the Corps as a whole is being prepared, but this record of the glorious stand against overwhelming odds made by the 4th Guards Brigade is of exceptional interest.

The history of the British Army can record nothing finer than the story of the action of the 4th Guards Brigade on the 12th and 13th April 1918.

The troops of the 29th and 31st Divisions by their stout defence covered the detrainment of the First Australian Division and saved Hazebrouck.

(Signed)  Beauvoir de Lisle,
Lieut.-General Commanding XV. Corps.

XV. Corps.

Copy to 31st Division.



Forwarded for your information.

(Signed)  W. H. Annesley, Lieut.-Colonel,
24-4-18.A.A. and Q.M.G., 31st Division.

General Sir H. S. Horne, commanding the First Army, telegraphed as follows to the Commander of the Fifteenth Corps:

I wish to express my appreciation of the great bravery and endurance with which all ranks have[50] fought and held out (during the last five days) against overwhelming numbers.

It has been necessary to call for great exertions and more must still be asked for, but I am quite confident that at this critical period, when the existence of the British Army is at stake, all ranks of the First Army will do their best.

(Signed)  H. S. Horne, General,
Commanding First Army.

Sir Douglas Haig in his Despatch of October 21 describes the fighting as follows:

Next day (April 12) the enemy followed up his attacks with great vigour, and the troops of the Twenty-ninth and Thirty-first Divisions, now greatly reduced in strength by the severe fighting already experienced, and strung out over a front of nearly 10,000 yards east of the Forêt de Nieppe, were once more tried to the utmost. Behind them the First Australian Division, under the command of Major-General Sir H. B. Walker, K.C.B., D.S.O., was in process of detraining, and the troops were told that the line was to be held at all costs until the detrainment could be completed.

During the morning, which was very foggy, several determined attacks, in which a German armoured car came into action against the 4th Guards Brigade on the southern portion of our line, were repulsed with great loss to the enemy. After the failure of these assaults, he brought up field-guns to point-blank range, and in the northern sector, with their aid, gained Vieux Berquin. Everywhere except at Vieux Berquin the enemy’s advance was held up all day by desperate fighting, in which our advanced posts displayed the greatest gallantry, maintaining their ground when entirely surrounded, men standing back to back in the trenches and shooting to front and rear.

Emery Walker. ph. sc.

Brigadier-General C. R. Champion de Crespigny D.S.O.

In the afternoon the enemy made a further deter[51]mined effort, and by sheer weight of numbers forced his way through the gaps in our depleted line, the surviving garrisons of our posts fighting where they stood to the last with bullet and bayonet. The heroic resistance of these troops, however, had given the leading Brigade of the First Australian Division time to reach and organise their appointed line east of the Forêt de Nieppe. These now took up the fight, and the way to Hazebrouck was definitely closed.

The performance of all the troops engaged in this most gallant stand, and especially that of the 4th Guards Brigade, on whose front of some 4000 yards the heaviest attacks fell, is worthy of the highest praise. No more brilliant exploit has taken place since the opening of the enemy’s offensive, though gallant actions have been without number.

The action of these troops, and indeed of all the Divisions engaged in the fighting in the Lys Valley, is the more noteworthy because, as already pointed out, practically the whole of them had been brought straight out of the Somme battlefield, where they had suffered severely and had been subjected to a great strain. All these Divisions, without adequate rest and filled with young reinforcements, which they had had no time to assimilate, were again hurriedly thrown into the fight, and in spite of the great disadvantages under which they laboured, succeeded in holding up the advance of greatly superior forces of fresh troops. Such an accomplishment reflects the greatest credit on the youth of Great Britain, as well as upon those responsible for the training of young soldiers sent out from home at this time.

Lieutenant C. Kerr of the 8th Battalion Australian Infantry afterwards reported that, when the Australian Division was establishing a line of defence for the troops in front to fall back upon, isolated parties from the front arrived.[52] Sergeant E. Shaw of the 4th Battalion on reaching that line, collected all the men he could, and inquired where he should take up a position; but Lieutenant Kerr, who knew what hard fighting the Battalion had been through, offered to send these men back to his Battalion Headquarters. Sergeant Shaw, however, asked permission to stay in the line with his men until he received instructions to join his battalion. A position behind the hedge near Seclin Farm was allotted to these men, and there they stayed until the 15th, when they received orders to join their battalion.

Lieutenant Kerr added in his report:

The men of my company and battalion are full of admiration for the manner in which the Guards fought. We watched the fighting in the village and farms whilst consolidating new line. The moral effect on our troops of the stubborn resistance offered by these troops in denying ground to the enemy, the orderly withdrawal to our line, and the refusal of this sergeant to leave the line when offered the choice of comfortable quarters, was excellent.



The 4th Battalion

4th Batt. April 1918.
Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher brought the remnants of the 4th Battalion out of the line on the 15th, and after halting for a few hours at Grand Sec Bois, arrived at Borre. The billets into which the Battalion went, were between Hazebrouck and Borre, and the men were glad to get a rest after their hard fighting. Captain the Hon. F. E. Needham arrived, and took over command of No. 1 Company, and Second Lieutenant P. G. S. Gregson-Ellis, who joined at the same time, was posted to No. 2 Company. The Battalion was now so weak in numbers that Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher organised it into two companies of three platoons each. Being in reserve it was still in the area of operations, and on the 16th, while the Germans were shelling the back areas, one shell fell in one of the billets, killing three men, and wounding five more, including Company Sergeant-Major Pettit. On the 16th the Battalion marched to La Kreule, moving on the next day into billets at La Halte. Brigadier-General Butler found that these sadly depleted battalions were[54] difficult to work with, since at any time his Brigade might be called upon to take over a portion of the line, and a battalion of six platoons would be expected to hold trenches, occupied by a battalion up to full strength. He therefore determined to make a composite battalion of the 4th Battalion Grenadiers and the 3rd Battalion Coldstream, and to place it under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher, with Major Gillilan as Second in Command. In all the history of the two regiments this had never been done before; not even at the first battle of Ypres, where battalions of each regiment had been decimated, had any amalgamation been attempted. This composite battalion now took over from the 5th Battalion of the 2nd Australian Regiment the billets in Le-Tir-Anglais, and was placed in support. During a severe shelling on the 20th Second Lieutenant R. D. Richardson was severely wounded, and died four days later. On the 22nd the composite battalion relieved the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the front line, and came in for a heavy bombardment of gas and high-explosive shells from the enemy’s artillery, during which Lieutenant R. Rolfe was killed. After three days in the trenches the composite battalion moved back into support, and now that drafts of men had been sent up to both battalions, it was split up again into two. The officers of the 4th Battalion were:

Lieut.-Colonel W. S. Pilcher, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Capt. C. R. Gerard Adjutant.
Lieut. R. L. Murray-Lawes Intelligence Officer.
Capt. the Hon. F. E. Needham No. 1 Company.[55]
Lieut. E.H. Tuckwell  ”  ”
Lieut. C.E. Irby No. 2 Company.
2nd Lieut. P.G.S. Gregson-Ellis  ”  ”
On the 27th the Battalion proceeded to Hondeghem, where Lieutenant A. A. Morris and Second Lieutenant the Hon. S. E. Marsham joined.

At the beginning of May the 4th Guards Brigade was transferred from the Second to the Third Army, and was placed directly under the orders of General Headquarters. On the 21st it marched via Wandicourt to Saulty, where it remained until the end of the month.

The following officers arrived during May: Lieutenant M. P. B. Wrixon, M.C., Second Lieutenant H. V. Gillett, Lieutenant J. E. Greenwood, Lieutenant R. P. le Poer Trench.

The Battalion remained at Saulty until the 11th, when it moved to La Cauchie, where Captain J. H. C. Simpson and Lieutenant H. G. Wiggins joined. On the 30th, after church parade, Field-Marshal His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught visited the Battalion.

Roll of Officers in July
Lieut.-Colonel W. S. Pilcher, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Major C. F. A. Walker, M.C. Second in Command.
Capt. C. R. Gerard, D.S.O. Adjutant.
Capt. I. H. Ingleby Act.-Quartermaster.
Lieut. G. W. Selby-Lowndes Transport Officer.
Lieut. R. L. Murray-Lawes Intelligence Officer.
Capt. the Hon. F. E. Needham No. 1 Double Compy.
Capt. J. H. C. Simpson  ”  ”
Lieut. R. P. le Poer Trench, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. H. G. Wiggins, M.C.[56]  ”  ”
Lieut. M. P. B. Wrixon, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. J. E. Greenwood  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. the Hon. S. E. Marsham  ”  ”
Capt. the Hon. A. H. L. Hardinge, M.C. No. 2 Double Compy.
Lieut. E. W. Nairn  ”  ”
Lieut. C. E. Irby, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. F. Alington  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. P. G. S. Gregson-Ellis  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. H. V. Gillett  ”  ”
Capt. N. Grellier, M.C., R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. E. Best Chaplain.
At the beginning of July the Battalion went to Criel Plage. On the 20th the third anniversary of the formation of the Battalion was duly celebrated by a football match between the two half battalions, and a Sergeants’ dinner and concert, which Brigadier-General Butler attended.

During August the Battalion remained at Criel Plage employed in training and fatigue work. Lieutenant C. C. Cubitt joined.

At the beginning of September Captain R. Wolrige-Gordon joined, and on the 25th the Battalion proceeded to Hiermont, where it was placed under the orders of the Cavalry Corps, as mobile infantry to be moved by motor transport. On the 27th it moved to Rorcourt, and two days later to Bray-sur-Somme, where it occupied a camp which had formerly been used for German prisoners. On the 30th Lieutenant B. Layton, Second Lieutenant A. G. Snelling, and Second Lieutenant W. R. Wearne arrived.

Roll of Officers at the Beginning of October
Lieut.-Colonel W. S. Pilcher, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Capt. C. R. Gerard, D.S.O. Adjutant.
Capt. I. H. Ingleby Act.-Quartermaster.[57]
Lieut. G. W. Selby-Lowndes Transport Officer.
Lieut. R. L. Murray-Lawes Intelligence Officer.
Capt. R. Wolrige-Gordon, M.C. No. 1 Double Compy.
Lieut. B. C. Layton  ”  ”
Lieut. M. P. B. Wrixon, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. J. E. Greenwood  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. P. G. S. Gregson-Ellis  ”  ”
Capt. the Hon. A. H. L. Hardinge, M.C. No. 2 Double Compy.
Capt. E. W. Nairn  ”  ”
Lieut. H. G. Wiggins, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. E. Irby, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. W. R. Wearne  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. H. V. Gillett  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. G. Snelling  ”  ”
Capt. N. Grellier, M.C., R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. E. Best Chaplain.
On October 3 the Battalion moved to Frise, and on the 8th to Pœuilly. Its movements now depended on the Cavalry Corps, but as there was no scope for the latter, since the country was enclosed and full of barbed wire, its rôle was to march in the wake of the divisions, which were driving the Germans in front of them. In order to be at hand if wanted it was necessary to keep well up, and so the column was constantly under shell-fire. On leaving Pœuilly the Battalion marched to Bellenglise, moving on the following day to Montbrehain, where the British lines advancing and the Germans retiring could be plainly seen. On the 9th Major J. S. Hughes, M.C., arrived and took up his duties as Second in Command. The march was continued through Brancourt to Premont, where the main road was completely blocked, as the retreating Germans had blown down the church, through Montigny to Gouy, where the Battalion remained[58] for three days. The men had an opportunity of seeing Lesbœufs and Morval, which had played so great a part in the battle of the Somme in 1916, and also the Grenadiers’ Memorial erected there. On the 21st Second Lieutenant M. C. St. J. Hornby joined. On the 26th the 4th Guards Brigade left the Cavalry Corps and received orders to join the Guards Division. For the time being the Battalion was sent to its old billets in Criel, where Lieutenant R. D. Leigh-Pemberton, M.C., and Second Lieutenant O. Scott Russell joined, and there it remained until the Armistice was signed on November 11.



Diary of the War

After some successes on a small scale by the French at St. Pierre Aigle, and by the Americans at Château-Thierry, the Germans launched their third and last offensive on a fifty-mile front in the direction of Rheims, and penetrated the line to a depth of two to three miles. Thirty German divisions took part in this battle, and the fighting was very severe. On July 18 Marshal Foch began his brilliant counter-stroke on a twenty-seven-mile front from Fontenoy to Belleau, and drove the Germans back over the Marne, capturing a large number of prisoners. Although in full retreat, the Germans continued to offer a stubborn resistance, and counter-attacked all along the line.

In August Sir Douglas Haig struck with the Fourth Army under Sir Henry Rawlinson, and succeeded in inflicting a crushing defeat on the Germans and capturing 22,000 prisoners. Hardly had the enemy recovered from this blow, when the Third Army under Sir Julian Byng advanced[60] on a nine-mile front, and recovered a large portion of the ground that had been lost in the spring.

In Italy the Austrians were completely defeated by the Italians, who took a large number of prisoners and guns, and the whole Piave Delta was cleared. These successes were quickly followed up until the Austrians were in full retreat.

In Albania the Allied Forces made considerable progress and compelled the Austrians to retire.

In Palestine the British positions covering the passages of the Jordan and the north of Jericho were attacked by the Turks.

Operations from August 21 to 28
Divisional Account

After Rawlinson’s success on the Somme Byng was ordered to advance, recover the Arras—Albert railway, and generally to hustle the Germans, who were now falling slowly back. This was to be the prelude to the main operation.

The attack on August 21 was planned and carried out at exceedingly short notice, and was completely successful. The subsequent daily attacks, executed in pursuance of the policy laid down by higher authority, gave the enemy no rest and no opportunity of organising a new line of resistance, but they rendered the task of coordination with the division on the flanks almost impossible. By the time the position of the advanced troops of the Guards Division at the end of the day’s fighting had been ascertained (probably not before 4 A.M.), there was usually[61] only just time to plan and issue orders for the next day’s operations. It seldom happened that the situation and intention of the flank divisions could be ascertained before orders were issued, with the result that each division had to work independently.

Aug. 21.
The Guards Division was at that time in the Sixth Corps, which had been ordered to capture the Ablainzeville—Moyenneville spur on the morning of the 21st. The attack was carried out by the Second Division on the right, followed by the Third Division and 2nd Guards Brigade from the Guards Division on the left, with the 5th Infantry Brigade from the Second Division in reserve.

In the 2nd Guards Brigade (Sergison-Brooke) the attack was carried out by the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards and 1st Battalion Scots Guards, with the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards in reserve. When the first objectives had been secured the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards was pushed through, and captured the line of the railway. The attack was supported by seven brigades of field artillery and heavy guns under Colonel Phipps. One company of the 4th Battalion Guards Machine Gun Regiment was attached, and sixteen tanks (Mark IV.) were to co-operate.

The 1st Guards Brigade (with Gort temporarily in command) was ordered to advance towards the railway, and be prepared to occupy Hamel Switch in the event of the leading brigade finding it unoccupied. There was very thick mist in the early morning, and the contact patrols were unable to work, but the enemy had[62] expected this attack, and had withdrawn all his guns, leaving only a very small garrison in the forward area. Moyenneville was secured without difficulty, while the Second Division captured Courcelles. On reaching the railway the resistance stiffened; and when General Sergison-Brooke reported that all the tanks appeared to have been drawn away south-east, and that there were none operating on the front of the Brigade, Major-General Feilding warned him that no advance beyond the railway must be attempted without them. In the meantime the Third Division on the right had some stiff fighting on the railway, and the Fifty-ninth Division on the left made some progress towards Boisieux St. Marc. Gort’s Brigade reached the quarries on the other side of the railway in the afternoon, and found there was heavy hostile shelling from the north of Courcelles. That night the patrols entered Hamelincourt Trench, and early the next morning the Germans counter-attacked, but failed to eject the companies which were occupying Hamel Works.

Aug. 22.
On the 22nd orders were issued for a farther advance the next day. Brigadier-General Sergison-Brooke, in command of the 2nd Guards Brigade, was instructed to advance. On his left the Third and Fifty-sixth Divisions would operate, and on his right the Second Division would capture Gomiecourt. The enemy was to be pressed continuously in order to conform to the attack by British and French troops elsewhere. On the 23rd the enemy shelled Boiry with gas and high-explosive shells, but did not offer any[63] serious resistance. Sergison-Brooke’s 2nd Guards Brigade met with little opposition, and gained all their objectives along Hamelincourt Trench, capturing Hamel Mound. Orders were then sent to Brigadier-General Sergison-Brooke to advance on the line Judas Farm—St. Leger Mill, while Brigadier-General Follett was told to move up the 3rd Guards Brigade, and be prepared to relieve the 2nd Guards Brigade in the evening. Meanwhile the Second Division had captured Ervillers.

The great feature of the day’s fighting was the advance of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, which had been placed at the disposal of General Sergison-Brooke. After a long approach march, this Battalion, advancing with both flanks exposed, passed through Sergison-Brooke’s Brigade, and seized the key-position south-west of St. Leger. The capture of this position enabled the divisions on both flanks to advance the following day with little loss.

Aug. 23.
That night when the 3rd Guards Brigade relieved the 2nd, the Guards Division had reached the line running through Mory Switch as far as Judas Trench, thence to Judas Farm, and on to Boyelles Reserve, where it was in touch with the Fifty-sixth Division.

The next morning—the 24th—the 3rd Guards Brigade continued the pursuit of the Germans, and was ordered to advance on St. Leger, which was not to be entered by the battalions engaged in the attack, as the battalion in reserve would be responsible for the “mopping up” of the town. This advance was successfully accom[64]plished, but after St. Leger had been secured, it was found impossible to make any further progress until Mory Copse was cleared. The Second Division was accordingly ordered to take and hold Mory Copse, while the 3rd Guards Brigade was to push forward at once, and conform to the general advance. As soon as Mory and Mory Copse had been secured, the Second Division advanced on Behagnies and Sapignies.

Aug. 25.
The attack continued on the 25th, and the Guards Division advanced towards Ecouste and Longatte via Bank’s Trench and Bank’s Reserve, while the Fifty-sixth Division tried to gain the Hindenburg support line. The occupation of Behagnies and part of Sapignies was successfully accomplished by the Second Division on the right. Follett’s 3rd Guards Brigade advanced supported by tanks, but these were quickly put out of action by the anti-tank rifles of the Germans. Considerable resistance was met with in Leger Wood, and there was heavy hostile machine-gun fire from Croisilles. The 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards made a wonderfully fine advance on the right of the Brigade, but was strongly counter-attacked and suffered heavy casualties. The Sixty-second Division was unable to capture Mory on account of the division on its right being held up; later in the evening it succeeded in reaching Camouflage Copse. That night De Crespigny’s 1st Guards Brigade relieved the 3rd Guards Brigade.

The following day orders for a further attack were issued. The advance was to be continued by the Sixty-second, Fifty-sixth, and Guards[65] Divisions, the latter directed on high ground north and south of Ecouste and Longatte, while the Fifty-sixth Division was to envelop Croisilles, moving down the Hindenburg line. The advance was not to be pressed if strong resistance was encountered. The 1st Guards Brigade was to advance under barrage in a line from Croisilles Copse to the Crucifix, and the heavy artillery was to concentrate on Sensee Valley.

Aug. 27.
Early on the 27th the Sixty-second Division captured Bank’s Trench, and De Crespigny’s Brigade reached Burnhill Trench. Here the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards was held up by heavy machine-gun fire, while the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards was counter-attacked from both flanks, and driven back to the line of Leger Reserve—Bank’s Trench. The Fifty-sixth Division was also in difficulties, and could make no headway against the machine-gun fire from Croisilles. The situation as regards the Guards Division was as follows: On the right the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards was in touch with the Sixty-second Division on the ridge south-west of L’Homme Mort, the line then reaching a sunken road leading to St. Leger. There were some men in Bank’s Trench, but there were also isolated parties of the enemy still there, which made reorganisation impossible until dark. Major-General Feilding sent orders to Brigadier-General de Crespigny to reorganise the battalions in front, and to endeavour to secure the line from Bank’s Trench to Leger Reserve. If it was found that the Germans had withdrawn, the 76th Brigade was to pass through the 1st Guards[66] Brigade and follow them up. During the night Bank’s Trench was cleared of Germans, and 150 prisoners were taken.

On the 28th De Crespigny’s Brigade was holding a line along Mory Switch—Bank’s Trench and St. Leger Reserve, and the enemy was reported to have withdrawn to Longatte support. At mid-day the Fifty-sixth Division captured Croisilles, and continued its advance towards Bullecourt. The whole of Bank’s Trench up to the Mory—Ecoust road had now fallen into the hands of De Crespigny’s Brigade, and patrols had been sent out some way in front. During the day the Germans withdrew towards Ecoust and Bullecourt, followed by our patrols. Orders were given for this brigade to be relieved by the 76th Infantry Brigade, and to retire to the area between the Arras—Bapaume road and the Arras—Albert railway.

The total number of prisoners taken by the Division from the 21st to the 29th was 30 officers, and 1479 other ranks.

The casualties were: Killed, 28 officers, 278 other ranks; wounded, 58 officers, 1675 other ranks; missing, 3 officers, 239 other ranks.

1st. Batt.
The 1st Battalion
July and August

Roll of Officers
Lieut.-Colonel Viscount Gort, D.S.O., M.V.O., M.C. Commanding Officer.
Major the Hon. W. R. Bailey, D.S.O. Second in Command.
Capt. R. D. Lawford, M.C. Adjutant.[67]
2nd Lieut. E. G. Hawkesworth Intelligence Officer.
Lieut. R. F. W. Echlin Transport Officer.
Capt. J. Teece, M.C. Quartermaster.
Capt. P. Malcolm King’s Company.
Lieut. J. A. Lloyd  ”  ”
Lieut. L. G. Byng, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. G. Buchanan  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. O. Rocke  ”  ”
Capt. A. T. G. Rhodes No. 2 Company.
Lieut. G. Hughes  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. J. L. Campbell  ”  ”
Capt. A. A. Moller, M.C. No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. A. Grant  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. A. J. Warner  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. L. F. A. d’Erlanger  ”  ”
Capt. R. Wolrige-Gordon, M.C. No. 4 Company.
Lieut. the Hon. P. P. Cary  ”  ”
Lieut. H. B. Vernon  ”  ”
Lieut. B. H. Jones  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. L. Webber  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. M. Brown  ”  ”
Lieut. W. B. Evans, U.S.A.M.O.R.C. Medical Officer.
After six days spent at Barly, the 1st Battalion marched to Bavincourt, where it entrained for Blaireville. On arrival the men were provided with tea and cigarettes by the Thirty-second Division, and the Battalion took over trench shelters from the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment, whose Adjutant was Captain Kaye, formerly a sergeant in the King’s Company, and whose Second in Command was Major Marshall, late Irish Guards. On the 10th the Battalion relieved the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, which was the battalion in support, and some high-velocity shells fell in its area, wounding three men. On the 14th the Battalion moved up to the front line, which had become very[68] slippery owing to the heavy rainstorms, and the ground was so deep in mud in some places that the relief was not completed till 2 A.M. The enemy was quiet on the whole, but some movement was observed round Boyelles. The following day the Germans showed an inclination to push machine-guns forward on the south side of the railway in order to get close to our lines. Hostile aircraft was more active, but was kept well in hand, and in the evening two German aeroplanes were brought down near Hamelincourt. On the 19th the Battalion was relieved, and retired to the reserve line trenches. The period spent in reserve was uneventful, but on the 27th, when the Battalion had moved up in support, the Germans carried out a concentrated gas bombardment of the area Boisleux-au-Mont village and station, and eight men in No. 4 Company were gassed. On the 30th Second Lieutenant J. L. Campbell, Company Sergeant-Major Frost, and two men were wounded during some severe shelling. The former recovered, but Sergeant-Major Frost succumbed to the wounds he had received, and died that evening. On the 31st six platoons from the 320th Regiment of the American Army, in addition to the Second in Command and the Lewis-gun officer, were attached to the Battalion. The enemy’s artillery that evening showed an increased activity, and put down a destructive barrage which lasted for three hours.

From the 1st to the 6th of August the 1st Battalion was in the front line at Boisleux-au-Mont, where, except for intermittent shelling,[69] everything was unusually quiet. During one of the periods of shelling Lieutenant G. Hughes was severely wounded, and died in the evening. There were 2 men killed and 11 wounded, in addition to two of the American troops. On the 6th the Battalion returned to the reserve trenches at Blaireville, where it remained until the 15th. In the absence of Brigadier-General de Crespigny, Lord Gort assumed temporary command of the 1st Guards Brigade, and Major Bailey commanded the Battalion. On the 21st Sergison-Brooke’s Brigade attacked in a thick mist on the right of the 3rd Guards Brigade, and the Germans put down a heavy barrage of shells and Minenwerfer on the trenches occupied by the 1st Battalion. The mist rendered smoke-bombs useless, and a patrol was sent out to get touch with the enemy, who was expected to retire. Lieutenant Hawkesworth with nine men entered Marc trench supported by a platoon from No. 3 Company, and captured two Germans; a strong party of the enemy which tried to recapture them, was beaten off with several men killed. On the 22nd the Battalion was relieved, and proceeded to Boiry St. Martin.

Aug. 23.
In accordance with General Follett’s order, the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and 1st Battalion Welsh Guards moved to the low ground east of Ayette, while the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards was ordered to send an officer to Brigade Headquarters. Lieutenant Hawkesworth, who was selected for this duty, sent back word that the Battalion was to be ready to march at once. At 12.50 P.M. Major Bailey received orders to move[70] up his Battalion to the east of Moyenneville, and to report to Sergison-Brooke’s Brigade as soon as he arrived there. Accordingly the Battalion marched off, and reached its destination about 3.15 P.M. There was no time to issue written orders, and General Sergison-Brooke was able to explain only verbally to Major Bailey the objective of the Battalion. Having summoned his Company Commanders, Major Bailey informed them of the general situation. The 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards and 1st Battalion Scots Guards were holding the general line of Hamerville trench and also Hamel trench, while the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards was established on the high ground about Judas Farm. The situation on the right, however, was not clear, and no troops of the Second Division had been seen east of Ervillers. The 1st Battalion was therefore to move forward as soon as possible, gain touch with the Second Division about Ervillers, and in conjunction with it, capture Mory Switch.

List of Officers who took part in these Operations
Major the Hon. W. R. Bailey, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Lieut. J. A. Lloyd Acting Adjutant.
Lieut. E. G. Hawkesworth Intelligence Officer.
Captain P. Malcolm King’s Company.
Captain the Hon. P. P. Cary  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. Cruttenden  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. O. Rocke.  ”  ”
Lieut. H. B. Vernon No. 2 Company.
Lieut. A. A. Morris  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. J. E. Conant[71]  ”  ”
Captain A. S. Chambers No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. G. S. Lamont  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. A. J. Warner  ”  ”
Captain R. Wolrige-Gordon, M.C. No. 4 Company.
Lieut. L. G. Byng, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. E. Barber  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. L. Webber  ”  ”
Capt. W. B. Evans, U.S.A.M.O.R.C. Medical Officer.
At 4.10 p.m. the Battalion advanced in approach march formation with the King’s Company under Captain Cary on the right, and No. 2 Company under Lieutenant H. B. Vernon on the left, with No. 3 Company under Captain Chambers in support and No. 4 Company under Lieutenant Byng in reserve. The frontage occupied by the Battalion was 1000 yards, with strong patrols preceding the two leading companies at a distance of 300 yards. On reaching the line of the Ervillers—Hamelincourt road, the leading companies came under a light field-gun barrage and long-range machine-gun fire, which forced them to deploy, and the support company conformed as soon as it arrived at the same place. Captain Chambers then moved his company to a position écheloned in rear of the King’s Company, so as to be in a position to protect the right flank. When the leading companies reached the neighbourhood of Jewel trench, the Germans offered a certain amount of resistance, which caused a momentary check, but the threat of an outflanking movement by No. 3 Company broke down their defence, and they fled, pursued by Lewis-gun and rifle fire, leaving fifty men who were taken prisoners.

No. 4 Company was moved to a position[72] on the high ground on the right to cover that flank, and was given orders to be prepared to move across the front of Ervillers, if a hostile counter-attack developed in that direction. The other three companies swept on to the next objective, which was carried without a further check. The three leading companies then proceeded forward to capture the final objective, and the defence of the enemy broke down, as soon as he saw that the victorious advance of the Battalion could not be stopped. By 5.45 P.M. the position was completely in the hands of the Battalion, many prisoners being taken, numbers of whom rushed forward with their hands up as soon as the leading companies appeared over the ridge. After the final objective had been secured, No. 4 Company returned to its proper position in reserve, its place on the right being taken by a sub-section of machine-guns. At dusk the Battalion was distributed as follows: No. 3 Company in Mory Switch trench as far as Hally Avenue (exclusive), No. 2 Company conformed from Hally Avenue (inclusive) to Judas trench, while the King’s Company formed a refused right flank in shell-slits about Iscariot Work, and No. 4 Company was in reserve in Jewel trench.

Considering the extent of ground that had been covered and the rapidity with which the objective had been secured, the casualties were not heavy: Lieutenant Rocke, who had been with the leading platoon of the King’s Company, was killed, and Captain Cary in the King’s Company and Lieutenant Conant of No. 2 Com[73]pany were wounded. The casualties amongst other ranks amounted to about forty.

Aug. 24.
At 4 A.M. Major Bailey received orders to continue the attack, and summoned a conference of Company Commanders. He explained to them that the Battalion was to advance at 7 A.M. on a front of 1000 yards and écheloned in depth. No. 4 Company was to lead the attack on a front of 500 yards, with the left flank on Hally Avenue; No. 3 Company écheloned at a distance of 250 yards on their right, No. 2 Company in support, covering the centre at a distance of 250 yards behind the left of No. 3 Company, and the King’s Company in reserve.

The three leading companies were formed up by daylight in Mory Switch trench, but the King’s Company remained in its position near Iscariot Work. The wire in front of Mory was too thick to cut before daylight, and the men were told to work their way through the gaps as best they could. As soon as the attack started, some thirty prisoners were taken; they were in positions outside the wire, and surrendered without firing a shot. A shrapnel barrage had been put down by our artillery, but it was placed too far in advance to be of any real assistance, and as the attack developed the Germans opened an intense machine-gun fire from Mory Copse and Hally Copse. It soon became evident that, until some advance was made on the right, there was no possibility of the attack succeeding, and even if it did succeed there seemed little prospect of the 1st Battalion retaining the position it had gained, unless the Second Division could keep[74] pace with them. Nothing could be done but to wait until the situation on the right developed, and the difficulty of the position was increased by the fact that all communication with the leading companies was cut off for the remainder of the day. During the morning Germans could be seen dribbling forward small parties to Mory Copse, and the sniping and machine-gun fire from this direction became more intense. At 10.45 the Second Division made an attempt to come up on the right, but was immediately checked and suffered considerably.

The casualties in the 1st Battalion were naturally heavy. Second Lieutenant G. E. Barber was killed, and Lieutenant L. G. Byng, M.C., was so severely wounded that he died that evening. Major Bailey, Captain Chambers, Lieutenant Vernon, Second Lieutenant Warner, and Second Lieutenant Webber were wounded, and amongst the other ranks there were 150 casualties.

Lord Gort, who had been temporarily commanding the 1st Guards Brigade, returned to the Battalion that evening, and Captain Wolrige-Gordon, M.C., came up to take over command of No. 4 Company, while Lieutenant Hawkesworth left Battalion Headquarters to command No. 3 Company. On learning that the Brigade was to continue the attack on the following day with the assistance of eight tanks, Lord Gort went round the line at dusk, and decided that, as the King’s and No. 3 Companies had suffered fewest casualties, they should undertake the attack. He therefore gave orders for these two[75] companies to withdraw for the night, and get as much rest as they could in Mory Switch, while No. 2 and 4 Companies should supply the outposts; and he impressed on the officers commanding these companies, that in view of the attack the next day the men should be spared as much as possible, and that defensive measures for the night should be undertaken mainly by patrols.

Aug. 25.
After consultation with the officers commanding the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, and the tanks, Lord Gort returned to his Battalion Headquarters, and summoned the Company Commanders—Second Lieutenant Cruttenden, King’s Company; Lieutenant A. A. Morris, No. 2 Company; Lieutenant Hawkesworth, No. 3 Company; and Captain Wolrige-Gordon, No. 4 Company. The details of the attack were explained, and orders were issued. The total fighting strength of the Battalion was only 212 with 7 officers, including the Battalion Headquarters Staff.

In order to increase the number of officers, Captain Malcolm was sent up to join the King’s Company. He received this order only at 10 P.M. the night before, and the distance he had to go made it most improbable that he could reach the Battalion before the attack started. But his determination to lead the King’s Company into action helped him to overcome all difficulties. By dint of riding and walking all night over appalling country, without any guide, he managed to find the Battalion in time.

At 4.30 A.M. the attack started. A very thick[76] mist covered the ground, which made it difficult for the tanks to find their way. Lieutenant Hawkesworth started off with No. 3 Company supported by one tank, but when he reached the neighbourhood of Bank’s Trench the tank broke down, and when the fog lifted he found he had only forty men quite unsupported. Unfortunately, at this moment he was badly wounded, and therefore ordered his men, who were without an officer, to fall back on to Mory Switch.

The King’s and No. 4 Companies moved up Mory Switch supported by one tank, while another worked on the southern flank. The fog was still thick, and as the first tank advanced it was suddenly engaged at very close range by a stray machine-gun post. Armour-piercing bullets were used, and the engine and water jacket were penetrated. It was therefore necessary to find the other tank, which could be heard working in the fog, and after an unsuccessful attempt to get it going in the right direction, it eventually succeeded in moving forward at 8.30 A.M., supported by the King’s Company and a platoon of No. 4 Company. But soon afterwards the fog lifted, and the tank was immediately put out of action. Germans in bodies of fifty and one hundred could be seen standing about in Bank’s Trench, but as the King’s Company and a platoon of No. 3 Company were close by, Lord Gort did not give the order to engage these hostile parties with machine-gun fire, until he could ascertain if they were prisoners surrendering or not. After a lapse of five minutes fire was opened on them, and they disappeared into[77] their trenches. Meanwhile the enemy opened a very heavy and concentrated machine-gun fire on Mory Switch, and engaged the disabled tank with a field-gun. Lord Gort having been called back to Battalion Headquarters to speak to the Brigadier on the telephone with reference to the attack of the Sixty-second Division, which was timed to begin at 9 A.M., ordered Captain Wolrige-Gordon to hold on to Mory Switch and Camouflage Copse. But the enfilade machine-gun fire made this impossible, more especially as the right flank was quite unsupported, and the three companies had to withdraw from Mory Switch to the north-west of Mory.

At 4 P.M. after a severe bombardment the Germans developed a counter-attack, which was met by the Sixty-second Division, and driven back. Battalions of this division returned to the attack, and regained some ground, while the 1st Battalion reoccupied Mory Switch. Lord Gort told the captain of the leading company of the battalion from the Sixty-second Division that he was prepared to push on to the sunken road, if his company would co-operate, but the Company Commander replied that the right flank of his battalion was entirely unsupported, and that therefore any further advance was out of the question. The Sixty-second Division was subsequently withdrawn to the line from which they started, but the 1st Battalion was able to maintain its position and to clear Hally Copse of the enemy. That night it withdrew to Boiry St. Martin, and was relieved by the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards.


Captain Malcolm and Second Lieutenant Cruttenden were reported missing, and Lieutenant Hawkesworth was wounded. The total number of casualties during the three days’ fighting was 13 officers and 258 other ranks, out of 18 officers and 489 other ranks who were engaged in the operations. 250 prisoners, 1 field-gun, and 20 machine-guns, in addition to several trench mortars, were captured by the Battalion.

In a letter which Brigadier-General G. B. S. Follett, commanding the 3rd Guards Brigade, wrote to Sir Henry Streatfeild, the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the Regiment, he said:

As you have probably heard by now, we attacked on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th August—that is, this Brigade. The 1st Battalion Grenadiers gave the finest exhibition that has ever been made in this war. At 3 P.M. on the 23rd they were sent up to protect the right flank of the 2nd Brigade and take the heights south of St. Leger. There was just time to issue verbal orders and to collect the Company Commanders for a conference. Starting about 3.45 P.M. they had taken all objectives before 6 P.M.—that is, advancing 5000 yards from their starting point! Having been very highly trained by Gort during the past month or two, they proceeded to put their training into practice, with the result that it was a wonderful success. Commanded by Bailey (Gort was with the 1st Guards Brigade), they were magnificently manœuvred by their company and platoon commanders, moving in great depth on a very wide extension. They captured 197 prisoners, 15 machine-guns and several trench mortars, and killed a lot. Their casualties were 2 officers and 50 O.R. I say again, the finest attack in open warfare that has ever been made. During the night 23-24 they even did a relief, and we were up against the junction of two fresh divisions in great[79] strength, with the result that no great advance was made and many losses.

Aug. 26-31.
After remaining for twenty-four hours at Boiry St. Martin, the Battalion marched to Berles-au-Bois, where it occupied shelters in a bank. Lieutenant E. B. Shelley and twenty-five men joined, in addition to a large draft from the 4th Battalion under Captain Simpson, and the following days were spent in reorganising the companies.

The 2nd Battalion
Roll of Officers
Lieut.-Colonel G. E. C. Rasch, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Capt. G. C. FitzH. Harcourt-Vernon, D.S.O. Second in Command.
Capt. A. H. Penn, M.C. Adjutant.
Lieut. R. G. Briscoe, M.C. Assistant Adjutant.
2nd Lieut. S. C. K. George Intelligence Officer.
Lieut. G. G. M. Vereker, M.C. Transport Officer.
Capt. the Hon. W. E. Acraman, M.C., D.C.M. Quartermaster.
2nd Lieut. J. S. Carter Bombing Officer.
2nd Lieut. H. B. G. Morgan Lewis-Gun Officer.
Capt. F. A. M. Browning, D.S.O. No. 1 Company.
Lieut. S. T. S. Clarke, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. L. St. L. Hermon-Hodge  ”  ”
Lieut. G. F. Lawrence  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. C. M. Bevan  ”  ”
Capt. O. Martin Smith No. 2 Company.
Lieut. R. H. R. Palmer  ”  ”
Lieut. W. H. S. Dent  ”  ”
Capt. J. C. Cornforth, M.C. No. 3 Company.
Lieut. R. M. Oliver  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. H. White  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. F. J. Langley  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. the Hon. S. A. S. Montagu[80]  ”  ”
Lieut. F. H. J. Drummond, M.C. No. 4 Company.
Lieut. F. P. Loftus  ”  ”
Lieut. N. McK. Jesper  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. P. V. Pelly  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. J. A. Paton  ”  ”
Capt. the Rev. Hon. C. F. Lyttelton Chaplain.
Capt. J. L. Early, U.S.A.M.O.R.C. Medical Officer.
The 2nd Battalion, which had been training during the first few days in July at Saulty, proceeded by train on the 5th to Ransart, where tea was provided for the men by the Thirty-second Division. Guides from the Royal Scots led the Battalion to the position which it was to take up as reserve battalion of the brigade 500 yards east of Ransart. The Guards Division was occupying a sector of the line with its right joining the Second Division between Ayette and Moyenneville, and its left joining the Canadian Corps on the outskirts of Boisieux St. Marc. While in reserve, companies carried out training round the outskirts of Ransart, and scouting and patrolling by day were practised. In order to accustom the men to night-work they wore darkened glasses, which produced much the same effect as night. On the 11th the Battalion moved up into support, and relieved the 1st Battalion Irish Guards near the outskirts of Hendecourt. A place was found for a cricket-ground in a sheltered valley, and two matches were played with composition balls and bats made by the pioneers. From the 17th to the 23rd the Battalion went up into the front line, which had been formerly held by isolated posts, but which was now a continuous trench. The weather was fine[81] and the casualties were not heavy, although there was usually a certain amount of shelling in the early morning. From the 24th to the 28th the Battalion returned to the reserve trenches at Ransart, when Lieutenant T. A. Combe, Lieutenant M. H. Ponsonby, Second Lieutenant A. P. J. M. P. de Lisle, and Second Lieutenant D. L. King joined the Battalion. During the days in reserve an increasing stream of American officers were attached to the 1st Guards Brigade for instruction, and the following amusing messages show the excellent relations that existed between the officers of the two armies:

From:—Guards Division Q.

To:—Transport Officer, 1st Guards Brigade.

Draw 6 bottles of Whisky from Divisional Soldiers Club and deliver to Brigade H.Q. for American Officers attached.

From G.O.C. 1st Guards Brigade.

To:—Guards Division Q.

On behalf of all officers of the American Army attached to the Brigade under my command, I wish to express my deepest thanks for the courteous present of whisky foreshadowed in your message. I am requested to add that these officers accept this gift as a proof of the solidarity of the union existing between the American and British nations, which will endure until the whisky runs out.

C. R. C. de Crespigny,


While the Battalion was in support at Hendecourt, Captain A. H. Penn, M.C., resigned the[82] adjutancy, much to the regret of all ranks, and was succeeded by Captain R. G. Briscoe, M.C. On August 4 the Battalion went up into the front line in front of Boiry St. Martin, and on August 5 six platoons of Americans who were to be initiated in the mysteries of trench warfare were attached for four days. The enemy was, however, not very active, and there was but little shelling. From the 10th to the 16th the Battalion remained in reserve at Ransart, where Lieutenant G. F. Lawrence took on the duties of Intelligence Officer from Second Lieutenant S. C. K. George, who was invalided home with dysentery. On the 18th the Battalion relieved the 320th American Regiment in the front line, where again the enemy was fairly quiet. Two advanced posts were established some 500 yards from the line, and the nights were spent in active patrolling to prevent the enemy occupying the dead ground in front of Moyenneville, which was to become the forming-up area for the attack on the 21st.

After three days spent in the reserve, the Battalion moved up into very inadequate trench accommodation in Boiry St. Martin. These trenches were now the reserve line, and out of range of enemy artillery owing to the advance on the 21st.

Aug. 25.
On the afternoon of the 25th the Battalion marched off to relieve a battalion in the 3rd Guards Brigade. A three hours’ uncomfortable halt was made in a field at Hamelincourt, and as the ground had been well covered with gas, the companies had to move about to escape the drifting fumes. Respirators had to be worn,[83] which rendered the eating of the evening meal no easy matter.

The relief in the front line of St. Leger was carried out without a hitch, although complicated by the fact that the Battalion was taking over a wide and sketchy front from the remnants of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards and the 1st Battalion Scots Guards. During the night Second Lieutenant H. A. Finch and eight men went out as a patrol to get in touch with the enemy and never returned. Second Lieutenant Finch was found killed 1000 yards in front of the line, when the Battalion advanced, which showed how thoroughly he had carried out his instructions.

August 26 was a very quiet day, with occasional shelling around Mory Trench. Judging by the extent to which he fired his machine-guns after dark, the enemy seemed very apprehensive. The following officers took part in the operations on August 26-28:

Lieut.-Colonel G. E. C. Rasch, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Lieut. R. G. Briscoe, M.C. Adjutant.
Lieut. G. F. Lawrence Intelligence Officer.
Lieut. M. H. Ponsonby No. 1 Company.
Lieut. N. McK. Jesper  ”  ”
Lieut. C. C. T. Giles  ”  ”
Capt. O. Martin Smith No. 2 Company.
Lieut. C. Gwyer  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. P. J. M. P. de Lisle  ”  ”
Capt. J. C. Cornforth, M.C. No. 3 Company.
Lieut. H. White  ”  ”
Lieut. R. M. Oliver  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. F. J. Langley  ”  ”
Lieut. H. B. G. Morgan No. 4 Company.
2nd Lieut. J. A. Paton  ”  ”
1st Lieut. E. L. Major (U.S.A. Army) Medical Officer.

Aug. 26.
At midnight on the 26th a conference held at Battalion Headquarters was attended by all Company Commanders, at which Lieut.-Colonel Rasch explained the general situation and the objectives of the advance for the following day as far as they were known.

Definite orders were not received until 1.30 A.M. on the morning of the 27th. The instructions the Battalion received were to push forward at zero hour (7 A.M.), with the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards on its left, and the Sixty-second Division on its right, and to secure the enemy’s trenches in and south of Ecoust and Longatte. Before dawn the Battalion was to be reorganised and disposed in battle formation. No. 3 Company under Captain J. C. Cornforth, M.C., extended along the whole Battalion frontage of 1500 yards, along the road in No Man’s Land, running from Mory Copse to St. Leger. No. 2 Company under Captain O. M. Smith in left support lay concealed until zero in Hally Copse. No. 4 Company under Lieutenant Morgan was in right support in Mory Copse, and No. 1 Company under Lieutenant M. Ponsonby in reserve, with Battalion Headquarters in Mory Trench.

There were three points in these orders which caused a little uneasiness. In the first place, a very short space of time before dawn was allowed to re-dispose the Battalion, although fortunately strong patrols had been sent out earlier in the night to secure the Mory Copse—St. Leger road. In the second place, dawn being at 4.30 A.M. and zero at 7 A.M., No. 3 Company would be in an exposed position during daylight at some points[85] within fifty yards of the enemy. It was a clear night, and even in the darkness this company got into difficulties, for while they were forming up, they were observed by the enemy, who spent the rest of the night sweeping the ground and putting up innumerable lights, probably thinking it was a patrol. Fortunately there were a number of large felled tree-trunks along the road, which enabled this Company to escape detection from ground observation, and from the low-flying aeroplanes, which continually patrolled No Man’s Land at dawn. In the third place, although Bank’s Trench was known to be held all along the whole front, the barrage table showed that on the left of the Battalion the barrage would open a considerable distance behind the trench, probably owing to the proximity of our front troops to the enemy position.

The reorganisation and forming up of the Battalion were successfully carried out before dawn. Unfortunately, while No. 1 Company was moving across the open to take up its position in reserve, a shell fell in the centre of No. 1 Platoon, mortally wounding Lieutenant M. Ponsonby, and causing casualties to the whole platoon, with the exception of three other ranks. Lieutenant Jesper took command of the remaining three platoons, and brought them to their allotted positions.

Aug. 27.
At zero hour (7 A.M.) the field-gun barrage came down on a line about 300 yards in front of No. 3 Company, creeping forward at the rate of 100 yards every two minutes. As soon as our troops moved off from their forming-up positions[86] to close up to the barrage, the enemy covered his front with a deadly and accurate screen of bullets, fired from numerous carefully-sighted machine-guns, which were so well protected that our field-gun barrage had little or no effect upon them. In consequence we suffered heavy casualties from the very outset. On the left the troops of the leading company were mown down as soon as they got on to their feet, and were unable to advance. The right of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards had also suffered severely, and was unable to push forward.

As No. 2 Company, under Captain O. Martin Smith, debouched from Hally Copse, it was caught by the machine-gun fire, and nearly cut to pieces before it could extend from artillery formation. Captain O. Martin Smith made a determined effort to reinforce the left of No. 3 Company, and push forward the advance, but long before his Company reached the front troops it had suffered over 50 per cent casualties. Captain O. Martin Smith and Lieutenant de Lisle were wounded, and Lieutenant Gwyer, who was pluckily pushing forward in spite of the storm of bullets, was killed. Captain O. Martin Smith ordered his Company to lie down in the open, while the N.C.O.’s collected the men who were nearest to them, and eventually got in close support of No. 3 Company. As, however, the enemy was entrenched on the top of the rise, 200 yards in front, the slightest movement attracted a torrent of lead. This made it impossible to get communication in any direction or to collect the wounded, who had to remain in[87] the open on the fire-swept ground until dark. Lieutenant R. M. Oliver, who had been in charge of the left platoon of No. 3 Company, had been killed earlier, so the left half of the Battalion was now without an officer.

In the centre, during the first 200 yards, the machine-gun fire, although equally intense, was slightly less accurate; but on nearing the St. Leger—Homme Mort road Captain Cornforth found it swept by a practically impassable hail of machine-gun bullets, fired from three directions—the Homme Mort on the south, Bank’s Trench on the east, and outskirts of St. Leger on the north. This last enemy position was off the Battalion frontage, and the troops opposite it had been held up. The only method of relieving this pressure on the left was to push on at all costs in our centre and right.

Lieut.-Colonel Rasch sent up No. 1 Company to reinforce the thinned ranks of No. 3, and to help in the capture of Homme Mort and the rushing of Bank’s Trench. While going up this Company came under heavy fire, and Lieutenant Jesper and Lieutenant Giles were both wounded. Captain Cornforth therefore took over command of this Company in addition to his own.

With these reinforcements Lieutenant White and Second Lieutenant Langley led their platoons forward against the machine-gun nest at Homme Mort, but in advancing up the slope they were met with an increasing volume of accurate fire, and both the officers were mortally wounded before the position was reached. These platoons, however, with an inspired dash and determination[88] took the position after a hard fight. Twenty prisoners were captured, in spite of the fact that, in the short rush up to the position, these platoons had been practically decimated.

At the same time Captain Cornforth decided to rush Bank’s Trench, although the road was still swept by enfilade fire from the left, and by frontal fire from the trench itself. A party of men was sent over the road to cover the advance, but few succeeded in crossing it. Captain Cornforth thereupon collected a small number of men, led them across the road, and by short rushes succeeded with three other men in gaining Bank’s Trench. Here fortunately they found a large supply of German hand-grenades, which they quickly detonated, and by this means succeeded in clearing the trench for 500 yards northwards, knocking out six German machine-guns and taking 40 men prisoners. Several other men soon succeeded in joining them, and this party, which eventually numbered one officer and 25 men, found that they were completely isolated. No other troops could be located on their flanks, and the ground was being swept by machine-gun fire from Bank’s Copse in the front, from the high ground on the right, and from the outskirts of St. Leger on the left. It was impossible to advance farther, and the rest of the day was spent in resisting the efforts of the Germans to turn them out, and in endeavouring to gain communication on the flanks.

Lieutenant Morgan with No. 4 Company was more successful. At zero he advanced along Mory Switch and the southern end of Bank’s[89] Trench, eventually establishing a position in Vraucourt Trench. The lie of the land and the cover afforded by the trenches enabled this Company to keep up with the barrage, and to avoid coming under the intense fire that the remainder of the Battalion had experienced. During the advance this Company captured a German Battalion Commander and 180 men—a remarkably fine performance. Lieutenant Morgan led his Company forward with such dash that they succeeded in penetrating the enemy’s position to a depth of 2000 yards. However, it was soon clear that they were completely isolated, as they were being fired at from all directions. When it was dark Lieutenant Morgan decided that it would be unwise to remain in such an advanced position, since neither the Sixty-second Division on his right nor our own troops on his left showed any signs of coming into line with him, and he consequently withdrew his Company until he was in touch with troops on his flanks.

Aug. 28.
During the night the enemy retired from our front, and in the morning the remnants of the Battalion were reorganised, and continued the advance over the original frontage for about 1700 yards to a marked-out trench called Bank’s Reserve. Here some machine-guns were encountered, but a good and continuous line was established with connection on both flanks.

This line was handed over to the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders on the night of the 28th-29th, and the Battalion marched back to the trenches east of Hamelincourt. The only officers left with the Battalion were Lieut.-Colonel Rasch,[90] Captain Cornforth, Captain Briscoe, and Lieutenant Morgan. The total casualties were 12 officers and 278 other ranks. Amongst the officers the casualties were as follows:

Lieut. G. F. Lawrence Killed.
Lieut. R. M. Oliver  ”
Lieut. C. Gwyer  ”
Lieut. H. White  ”
2nd Lieut. F. J. Langley  ”
2nd Lieut. H. A. Finch  ”
Lieut. M. H. Ponsonby Died of wounds.
Capt. O. Martin Smith Wounded.
Lieut. N. McK. Jesper  ”
Lieut. C. C. T. Giles  ”
2nd Lieut. J. A. Paton  ”
2nd Lieut. A. P. J. M. P. de Lisle  ”
In a message, which Major-General Feilding afterwards sent to Brigadier-General de Crespigny, he said: “All Battalions of the 1st Guards Brigade discharged their duty splendidly. The attack delivered by the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards and 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards on August 27 not only inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and brought in large numbers of prisoners, but also compelled him next day to relax his hold on the high ground south of Croisilles.”

The 3rd Battalion
Roll of Officers
Lieut.-Colonel A. F. A. N. Thorne, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Major Viscount Lascelles, D.S.O. Second in Command.
Capt. the Hon. A. G. Agar-Robartes, M.C. Adjutant.
Lieut. E. G. A. Fitzgerald, D.S.O. Assistant Adjutant.[91]
Lieut. E. N. de Geijer Intelligence Officer.
Capt. F. J. Heasman, M.C. Transport Officer.
Capt. G. H. Wall Quartermaster.
Capt. A. F. R. Wiggins No. 1 Company.
Lieut. G. M. Cornish, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. A. G. Elliott  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. E. L. F. Clough-Taylor  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. Delacombe  ”  ”
Capt. G. A. I. Dury, M.C. No. 2 Company.
Lieut. C. C. Carstairs, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. A. H. S. Adair  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. W. B. L. Manley  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. R. Gunther  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. J. Chapman  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. K. Henderson  ”  ”
Capt. N. C. Tufnell No. 3 Company.
Lieut. E. R. M. Fryer, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. C. C. Brown  ”  ”
Lieut. G. W. Godman  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. H. J. Gibbon  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. D. Cooper  ”  ”
Capt. G. F. R. Hirst No. 4 Company.
Lieut. C. H. Bedford  ”  ”
Lieut. R. G. West  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. E. J. Bunbury  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. P. Papillon  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. C. G. de Reuter  ”  ”
Capt. R. Anderson, R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. S. Phillimore, M.C. Chaplain.
The first week in July was spent by the 3rd Battalion at Labazeque, and on the 7th it proceeded to Ransart, where it relieved the 10th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the right sector of the front occupied by the Guards Division.

Two companies were placed in the front line with one company in support and one in reserve, and officers’ patrols were sent out every night[92] from dusk to dawn, but there was no movement on the part of the enemy. On the 10th the Battalion moved back into support, and on the 15th into Divisional Reserve, where it remained for three days. From the 19th to the 24th the Battalion went up again into the front trenches, where the work consisted of improving the line by laying down duckboards and digging sumps and latrines. Fifteen officers, 30 sergeants, and 55 corporals from the American Army were attached to the Battalion, and were distributed between the four companies and Battalion Headquarters. Lieutenant S. G. Fairbairn, Second Lieutenant H. P. Gordon, and Second Lieutenant S. Calvocoressi arrived during this tour of duty in the trenches, and on the 25th the Battalion retired into support, where more officers and men of the American Army were attached for instruction. On the 30th the Battalion moved back into Divisional Reserve.

After four days in reserve the Battalion went up into the front line near Adinfer, where it remained for a week carrying out inter-company relief. In this part of the line patrols were sent out every night, and a company from the 320th Regiment of the United States Army, which accompanied the Battalion, supplied a certain number of men for this purpose. On the 6th Second Lieutenant R. P. Papillon when out on patrol duty, encountered a German patrol in Observation Trench, and after severely wounding one of the enemy, succeeded in bringing back an identification mark. The Higher Command, however, required further information, and accord[93]ingly a special patrol was sent out on the night of the 10th. Captain Churchill, whose great experience in all kinds of incursions into the enemy’s line rendered him eminently fitted for the task, was sent from the Brigade Headquarters, to take charge of the party, which consisted of Second Lieutenant de Reuter and seven men. A covering-party composed of thirteen men, under the command of Sergeant Birtles, accompanied the raiders. Hardly had the patrol started, when a shell fell among them, wounding one man, who had to be carried back to the trenches. Following the German outpost line, which consisted of small adjacent rifle-pits, but which showed no sign of frequent occupation, the patrol came on the German wire. This formidable obstacle consisted of barbed wire in concertina shape, staked to the ground, with strands running through it. After a careful search a gap was found, and through this the patrol went. After following the track for about forty yards a German sentry was seen. The patrol stood still, and the sentry walked away unconscious of its presence. Soon afterwards some more of the enemy were seen moving round to the left of the track. They were evidently suspicious, as they only whispered. Three of them came crawling slowly towards the patrol. In dead silence the patrol waited, but the Germans turned back, and apparently reported all clear, for thirty to forty more Germans appeared, and stood up close together. They came to within thirty yards of the patrol, when Lieutenant de Reuter gave the order “rapid fire.” Several of them were seen[94] to fall. It was now merely a question whether the Germans would attempt to capture the patrol or not, but they contented themselves with firing and throwing a few bombs, while Véry lights were sent up. Captain Churchill therefore retired unmolested through the wire, having only had one man wounded.

On the 10th Second Lieutenant de Geijer and twenty other ranks raided a German post under an artillery barrage. At 3.15 A.M. a Stokes mortar barrage supplemented the artillery bombardment, and the raiding party in two groups, under Second Lieutenant de Geijer and Sergeant Butler respectively, rushed the enemy’s post. The Germans had, however, abandoned the post just before the raid took place, and the last two were seen to run from it, as the raiders started. Much valuable information was gained, as the Germans left everything behind, but, with the exception of Lieutenant de Geijer who was slightly wounded, there were no casualties.

On the 11th the Battalion was relieved by the 1st Battalion Coldstream, and went into support, moving on four days later to billets in Saulty, where it remained until the 20th.

On the 20th the Battalion “debussed” between Blaireville and Heudecourt, and took up its assembly positions east and south-east of Boiry.

The orders General Sergison-Brooke received were to attack Moyenneville in conjunction with the Second and Third Divisions on the right. In the operation orders which he issued the capture of the first two objectives was to be carried out by the 1st Battalion Scots Guards on the right,[95] and by the 1st Battalion Coldstream on the left. The 3rd Battalion Grenadiers was then to pass through, and secure the third objective. Eight tanks would co-operate in front of each Battalion.

The following officers of the 3rd Battalion took part in these operations:

Lieut.-Colonel A. F. A. N. Thorne, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Lieut. E. N. de Geijer Intelligence Officer.
Capt. E. R. M. Fryer, M.C. No. 1 Company.
Lieut. C. C. Carstairs, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. R. Delacombe  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. E. L. F. Clough-Taylor  ”  ”
Lieut. A. H. S. Adair No. 2 Company.
Lieut. S. G. Fairbairn  ”  ”
Lieut. J. Chapman  ”  ”
Capt. N. C. Tufnell No. 3 Company.
Lieut. C. Clifton Brown  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. D. Cooper  ”  ”
Capt. G. F. R. Hirst No. 4 Company.
Lieut. R. G. West  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. C. G. de Reuter  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. P. Papillon  ”  ”
Lieut. Graff, U.S.A.M.O.R.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. S. Phillimore, M.C. Chaplain.
Aug. 21.
There was a thick mist in the morning, so thick that it was impossible to see more than a few yards ahead. On the one hand this favoured the attackers; on the other there was always the risk of the Battalion losing its way and never reaching the enemy’s lines. In spite of everything, however, the leading Battalions eventually succeeded in securing the first two objectives.

The 3rd Battalion had breakfasted, water-bottles had been refilled, and the companies were beginning to get ready for the advance, when[96] this blanket of fog came down. At zero hour, 4.53 a.m., the barrage opened up and the attack began. Captain Smith, who commanded C Company 15th Battalion Tank Corps (Mark V. Star Tanks), arrived at Battalion Headquarters, and reported that his tanks had been delayed by gas in Coseul Valley, so that they would not be able to advance with the Battalion as arranged, but that they would endeavour to overtake it on the second objective. The Battalion started off with No. 3 Company under Captain Tufnell on the right, No. 4 under Captain Hirst on the left, No. 2 under Lieutenant Adair in support, and No. 1 under Captain Fryer in reserve. The fog was as thick as ever, and the smoke shells in the barrage increased its density. Keeping direction by compass was tedious and difficult, since it necessitated the removal of the steel helmet and box respirator, and even then it was far from accurate. To add to the difficulties, there were several pockets of German machine-gunners, which had been missed by the 1st Battalion Scots Guards in their advance, and which suddenly loomed out in the mist often in rear of the Battalion as it advanced. No. 12 Platoon captured two machine-gun posts in the first objective, and the markers under Lieutenant de Geijer, the Intelligence Officer, found German machine-gunners still holding out to the west of the second objective, in the area where the Battalion should have formed up. The 1st Battalion Scots Guards had captured the right and left of the second objective, but owing to the fog the centre was still in the hands of the Germans.


The 1st Battalion Scots Guards, on finding out what had happened, soon cleared out these Germans with the aid of No. 1 Company (the Reserve Company).

By 6 A.M. the Battalion Headquarters had reached its destination, namely, the two trees between the first and second objectives, but was unable to get in touch with any of the companies. Tanks were moving about in the fog, and the Lewis guns were engaging the German machine-guns at close quarters, and were firing indiscriminately into the fog. To give an example of how confusing the situation was, the Battalion Headquarters was charged from the front by two platoons of the Scots Guards, who mistook it in the fog for a German machine-gun post.

By 7.30 No. 2 Company, under Lieutenant Adair, had gone through the junction of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards and 1st Battalion Coldstream, and was advancing on its objective, which was the valley between the railway and Moyenneville. A little later Captain Tufnell and Captain Hirst reported that Nos. 9 and 12 Platoons of No. 3 Company and all No. 4 Company were near Moyblain Trench, having completely lost their way. No. 11 Platoon had also lost its bearings, and after moving round in a semicircle, was discovered heading towards the rear instead of towards the front.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Duff Cooper, with No. 10 Platoon, having entirely lost touch with the remainder of the company, had wandered too far to the south, and after pushing on in what[98] he thought was the right direction for three hours, found himself in the outskirts of Courcelles. There he met a platoon of the 7th Battalion K.S.L.I., which had also lost its way, and, knowing that the Halte on the railway was the eventual objective, he determined to make for it. Together these two platoons started off, and as they were clearing the dug-outs on the road, they fell in with a tank which suddenly appeared out of the fog. With its assistance they attacked and captured the railway on each side of the Halte, where a German aid-post was placed. There is no doubt that these two isolated platoons were the only units that succeeded in reaching the third objective for some hours, on the whole front of the two Northern Divisions.

When Lieut.-Colonel Thorne received a message from Lieutenant Duff Cooper, saying that the Halte had been taken, he sent up No. 1 Company under Captain Fryer to the assistance of this isolated platoon, and in order to save time directed No. 2 Company to advance on the objective originally assigned to No. 4. Lieutenant Forbes with two machine-guns was sent up to co-operate with No. 1 Company, and Lieutenant Hulme with two more to assist No. 2 Company. No barrage could be arranged for this attack, and it was impossible to obtain any assistance from the tanks, which were now returning to their rallying positions, since they were all suffering from engine trouble or the lack of petrol.

At 10 A.M. the fog began to lift, but Captain[99] Fryer had by this time brought up Nos. 1 and 2 Platoons to the assistance of No. 10 Platoon. Captain Fryer and Lieutenant Duff Cooper made a most valuable reconnaissance of the railway north of the Halte under heavy fire, and on returning decided at once to attack the German posts they had discovered. No. 10 Platoon started off, and supported by Nos. 1 and 2 Platoons succeeded in capturing the whole of the objectives allotted to No. 3 Company. This attack was carried out with great dash, but Lieutenant Delacombe and Second Lieutenant Clough-Taylor were wounded.

Nos. 7 and 8 Platoons of No. 2 Company had in the meantime commenced their advance on the railway cutting, but soon found that they were exposed to heavy enfilade fire from the railway north of the Halte. They made but little headway at first, but, when the attack of No. 10 Platoon lifted the enemy’s fire off them, they pushed forward, and rushed the railway and hollow ground to the east of it, capturing 5 machine-guns and 60 prisoners, and gaining touch with the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards on the left and No. 1 Company on the right.

No. 3 Company now moved up into support of No. 1, and four machine-guns were placed in Magazine Trench as barrage guns. No. 6 Platoon made a farther advance, and seized the hollow east of the railway and west of Hameau North, where 10 machine-guns and 60 prisoners were captured. Nos. 3 and 8 Platoons advanced to the east of the railway, and completed the capture of the whole objective allotted to the Battalion. Although twelve hours behind the[100] scheduled time, Lieut.-Colonel Thorne was able to report that the task of the Battalion had been successfully carried out.

The leading of No. 10 Platoon and Nos. 1 and 2 Companies was particularly fine, and the response made by the men was beyond all praise. The fact that in spite of the fog each platoon managed to get to its own place was entirely due to the persistence with which Platoon Commanders advanced whenever opportunity offered, and to the determination on the part of the men to reach the enemy. After the fog lifted the attack was carried out steadily and relentlessly across ground swept by shell-fire and machine-guns, and succeeded in spite of the lack of an artillery barrage or tanks.

After dark, ammunition, water and rations were sent up by pack animals, and all the platoons rejoined their companies. Reconnoitring patrols under Lieutenant Clifton Brown and Lieutenant West were sent out to locate the new German line, and discovered that the enemy was holding the line of the sunken road about half a mile east of the railway. The Germans were apparently in some strength, and very much on the look-out.

Photographed by the Mendoza Galleries    Emery Walker ph. sc.

Brigadier-General B. N. Sergison-Brooke D.S.O.

Aug. 22.
The next morning a heavy hostile barrage came down on the whole position occupied by the Battalion, and the outposts could see the enemy advancing in three waves. The S.O.S. signal at once went up. Immediately our artillery put down a magnificent and accurate barrage, and the companies in front opened a concentrated fire with Lewis guns and rifles on the advancing [101]enemy. The German counter-attack stood no chance at all, and completely crumbled away; only in one place did the Germans succeed in gaining a footing, and that was on the right, where they captured a trench. When the attack utterly failed, this party of Germans had to withdraw with heavy loss.

The following German orders that were subsequently taken from a prisoner give the details of this counter-attack. It will be seen that they advanced in some strength, and it is all the more remarkable that this carefully planned attack should have been repulsed by only two companies of the 3rd Battalion.

234 Div.Div. H.Q.,Abt. la. 2802.21-8-18.
Divisional Order
1. According to information received from the Army we have repulsed 4½ English Divisions to-day. The enemy has been beaten and he knows it.

The enemy has reached the Achiet le Grand Boisleux Railway. New artillery positions have been located, large enemy concentrations and movement observed.

2. XVIII. Corps will retake the old main line of resistance.

For this operation the 234 Div.—under the orders of the 40th Div.—will attack with the 2nd Guards Res. Div.—under the orders of the 6th Bav. Res. Div.—on its left.

3. The infantry will be divided into three attacking groups under the command of Col. Reichart (Comdr. 88 Inf. Bde.).


Right attacking group.Major v. Kluefer.
181 I.R.
3rd Bn. 452 I.R.
3 Batteries, 32 F.A.R.
Res. Pion. Coy. 55.
Centre attacking group.Major v. Pape.
104 I.R.
451 I.R. less 2nd Bn.
3 Batteries 32 F.A.R.
3 Coy. Pion. Bn. 22.
Left attacking group.Capt. Heine.
1st and 3rd Bns. 453 I.R.
2nd Bn. 452 I.R.
359 Pion. Coy.
360 Pion. Coy.
Objective:—  Moyenneville—Aerodrome ridge.

4. The 21st Res. Div. will detail one Bn. to support the attack on Moyenneville. 88 Inf. Bde. will establish liaison with this Bn. Zero hour on the whole front of attack will be 5.45 A.M. (German time).

5. 134 I.R. with three Batteries F.A.R. 32 as Divisional Reserve will be held in readiness N.E. of Mory.

6. Col. v. Bibra (Comdr. 234 Inf. Bde.) with the battalions formerly in support (1st Bn. 452 I.R., 3rd Bn. 451 I.R., 2nd Bn. 453 I.R.) will hold the artillery defensive position. These Battalions will remain as “safety garrison” and will hold the line at all costs in the event of a hostile counter-attack.

7. Duties of the Artillery:

X-15 to X. Burst of fire on the enemy front line on the Railway embankment.

X. Heavy bombardment on Moyenneville and Courcelles. Lift on to the line Eastern outskirts Moyenneville Eastern outskirts Courcelles, continue heavy bombardment on Moyenneville and Courcelles.


X plus 20. Lift to the line Eastern outskirts Moyenneville—Western outskirts of Courcelles.

X plus 40. Lift to the line W. of the Moyenneville—Ablainzeville Road.

X plus 60. Lift to the trench which extends from Moyenneville across Aerodrome ridge towards the S. (former main line of resistance).
X  ”   5.45 a.m.
Three Batteries F.A.R. 501 and Foot Art. Bn. 401 have occupied positions E. of Ervillers.

11. Div. H. Q…. Queant.

v. Stumpff,

G.O.C., 234 Div.



Diary of the War

Sept. 1918.
The German retreat still continued, and the Allies gained ground all along the line. The salient at St. Mihiel was carried by the American Army, and the Hindenburg line was captured by the British. A combined attack of the British and Belgian troops under the command of King Albert succeeded beyond all expectation, and the British Fleet was able to join in and bombard the coast. An Austrian offer to enter into Peace negotiations was published, and at the same time the Germans made overtures to the Belgians, but the Allied conference at Versailles refused even to consider either of these proposals.

In Macedonia the Allied Forces inflicted a defeat on the Bulgarians, who retreated on a front of nearly 100 miles, and on September 25 the Bulgarian Government applied for an unconditional armistice.

In Palestine General Allenby commenced a series of attacks on the Turks between Rafat and the sea, and on the 30th Damascus was taken.


Divisional Account
During September Marshal Foch followed up his successes all along the line, and the Germans were forced to abandon position after position. Ludendorff, however, always imagined that the Siegfried line was impregnable, and that if the German Army succeeded in getting back there intact, there was no reason why this position should not be held during the winter.

To the British Army was assigned the difficult task of piercing this impregnable line and rendering it untenable, but many doubts were expressed as to whether this was feasible. Sir Douglas Haig, however, was convinced that it could be done, and directed the First and Third Armies to open the attack in the direction of Cambrai, in the hopes that after they had advanced it would be possible for the Fourth Army to pierce the strongest part of the line farther south.

After the operations at the end of August the Guards Division had only five days’ rest before it was again put into the line. On September 2 the Canadian Corps had broken the Drocourt—Queant Switch, whilst on the Sixth Corps front the Third Division had, after very heavy fighting, made ground in the neighbourhood of Noreuil and Lagnicourt. The Guards Division moved up from the Ransart area, and was ordered to continue the attack the following day. The position of the advanced troops of the Third Division was so uncertain that it was decided to form up for the attack, along the railway line just east of Noreuil, some distance in rear of the[106] line which the Third Division claimed to have reached, the troops of this Division being then withdrawn. This necessitated the sacrifice of a certain amount of ground won by the Third Division at a heavy cost, but it ensured a straight jumping-off line, and enormously simplified the task of the artillery. (This procedure was repeated on October 9, and on each occasion was fully justified by results.)

After a long and tiring march from their rest areas, Sergison-Brooke’s and Follett’s Brigades formed up on the right and left respectively, with De Crespigny’s Brigade in reserve south of St. Leger. The attack started under a very good barrage at 5.20 A.M. Reports soon showed that the enemy had withdrawn during the night, and the advance continued without opposition until the old British front line, just short of the Hindenburg line, was reached. By this time the troops were utterly exhausted, having covered since noon the previous day some twenty miles, in full fighting kit and over hilly country.

During the course of the advance a number of prisoners and guns were captured, but the most noticeable feature on the ground which was recovered was the enormous number of the enemy’s dead horses which littered and often blocked the roads: eloquent testimony of the work of our aeroplanes and long-range guns, but entailing heavy and unpleasant fatigue work for our tired troops.

On September 4 Follett’s Brigade was ordered to push forward, and form an advance-guard for the rest of the Division, but it found that the[107] Germans were holding the Hindenburg line in some force. This prevented any ground being gained, and the line soon stabilised along the Army front.

The principal features of the operations that took place between September 5 and 26 were:

(a) Some fine trench fighting, by which the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Lord Gort, reached the line of the Canal du Nord.

(b) The heavy and continuous fighting for the village of Mœuvres farther north, during which it changed hands several times before being finally captured and held by the Fifty-second Division.

(c) The heavy gas-shelling, with which the Germans searched all possible assembly positions every night in evident fear of an attack, and which, but for the improved gas discipline, would have caused heavy casualties.

During this period the troops had the satisfaction of seeing two huge German bombing ‘planes brought down in flames, on successive nights by our night-flying scouts, working in conjunction with the reorganised searchlight system.

On September 11 Major-General Feilding left to take command of the London District on the retirement of Lieut.-General Sir Francis Lloyd, who had held that command with conspicuous success during the war. For four years Sir Francis Lloyd had occupied one of the most responsible and difficult positions in the Army, and had dealt, especially in the initial stages of the war, with innumerable problems requiring consummate skill, judgment, and tact.


There were several generals who were eligible to succeed Major-General Feilding in command of the Guards Division; all of them had fought consistently for four years, and had been proved and tempered in the furnace of war. The choice of the Commander-in-Chief fell upon Major-General T. G. Matheson, C.B., an officer of exceptional ability, who was reputed to be one of the best Divisional Commanders in the British Army.

On September 25 the orders for the forthcoming attacks were issued. The Guards Division was to attack and capture the ridge running east from Flesquières to Premy Chapel. On the right the Third Division would attack and capture the village of Flesquières, and on the left the Fifty-second Division would capture the Hindenburg line west of the Canal du Nord, after which the Sixty-third Division would pass through, and swinging right-handed would take the Hindenburg support line and the villages of Graincourt and Anneux. In the event of this operation being completely successful, further objectives were given, including Marcoing for the Third Division, Nine Wood and the outskirts of Noyelles for the Guards Division, Cantaing and Fontaine-Notre-Dame for the Fifty-seventh Division, which was to pass through the Sixty-third Division. The Sixty-second and Second Divisions were to be prepared to pass through the Third and Guards Divisions respectively, and capture Rumilly and the high ground east of the Canal de l’Escaut. In the Guards Division Sergison-Brooke’s Brigade was to take the first objective (the Hindenburg[109] support line) and form a defensive flank to the left during the next advance, until Graincourt had been secured by the Fifty-second and Sixty-third Divisions.

De Crespigny’s Brigade would then pass through and capture the trench-system north-west, north, and north-east of Flesquières, moving on afterwards to the spur running from Flesquières to Cantaing with a view to capturing the batteries in that area and turning the Graincourt line. This advance was to synchronise with the attack by Follett’s Brigade, but was not to be pressed against strong resistance.

Follett’s Brigade was to pass through De Crespigny’s Brigade, and to capture the third objective, including the high ground round Premy Chapel. Detailed orders for a farther advance were given in the event of no great resistance being encountered.

The attack would be supported by six brigades R.H.A., heavy artillery, and three machine-gun companies.

The assembly was rendered unusually difficult by reason of the exceptionally large number of troops that had to be accommodated, by the necessity of avoiding gas areas, and by the extreme darkness of the night. The 1st Battalion Scots Guards also suffered from a barrage, which the enemy put down on their assembly trench just before zero. The attack started at 5.20 A.M., and at once met with a check on the left, where the 1st Battalion Coldstream was held up by a machine-gun hidden under a fallen bridge. By the time this obstacle had been[110] overcome the barrage was lost, and this Battalion suffered heavy casualties before reaching its objective, particularly near Mammoth cross-roads, but the remainder of the Brigade reached the first objective with very slight loss.

The advance to the second objective was a very difficult operation. It was known that the Sixty-third Division could not reach Graincourt from the north for another two hours, and General de Crespigny had therefore to hold back his left, and push forward along Shingler Trench with his right. In the meantime Graincourt and the trenches south of it were kept under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire, in order to prevent, as far as possible, the Germans enfilading the troops advancing farther south. Flesquières was captured in conjunction with the Third Division, but the beetroot factory to the east of it held out, so that it was impossible for Follett’s Brigade to get through in time to follow their barrage.

The Fifty-second and Sixty-third Divisions on the left had been held up, which prevented De Crespigny’s Brigade from advancing, and the left flank of the Guards Division was therefore very much extended, and exposed to cross fire from the left. General Follett, who had come up with General de Crespigny to see how the battle developed, before his Brigade came into action, was killed by this cross fire. His death was mourned by the whole Division, for there was no braver man in the Army, and indeed it was a serious loss to his Brigade just as it was going into action. Major-General Matheson sent orders that Lieut.-Colonel Lord Gort was to take com[111]mand of the Brigade, but that pending his arrival General de Crespigny was to command both Brigades.

At this stage the battle might easily have died down, as the time-table was out of gear; the attack on the left had apparently failed, and the Germans in Graincourt village and Graincourt line were giving a great deal of trouble with their cross fire. Fortunately, however, a Commander of great enterprise and determination in Lord Gort was in the line, and before long the 1st Battalion Grenadiers, supported by the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, had pushed out along the ridge east of Flesquières, and established itself only just short of Premy Chapel, while the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, together with units of De Crespigny’s Brigade, formed a defensive flank along Shingler and Silver Trenches.

Not long after, the Sixty-third Division, having organised a new attack, pushed down the Hindenburg support line, and the Germans began to pour out of Graincourt; as they streamed away, horse, foot, and gun, towards Cantaing, they were caught in flank by rifle, machine-gun, and artillery fire from the Guards Division, and suffered heavily. The 2nd Battalion Grenadiers at once pushed forward and captured Orival Wood, taking some guns, and driving the remaining batteries away.

The Second Division was ordered to pass through and pursue the retreating enemy, but dusk fell before it reached the front line, and all it could do was to take over the line occupied by the advanced troops of the Guards Division,[112] which was withdrawn during the night to the area east and west of the Canal du Nord.

On September 27 the casualties in the Guards Division were 40 officers and 1200 other ranks. The total number of prisoners taken by the Division was 25 officers and 703 other ranks, in addition to 10 field-guns.

The 1st Battalion
1st Batt.
On September 2 the Battalion proceeded to the area about Homme Mort, and halted for dinner near Moyenneville. In the afternoon the whole Brigade concentrated in Maida Vale, and Lord Gort rode forward with the Company Commanders towards Longatte, in view of an attack the following day. The orders for the attack were issued that night, and early the next morning the Battalion proceeded to Noreuil, where they went into old German dug-outs. The Germans had retired to the Hindenburg line, and a general advance on Bourlon and Mœuvres was ordered (on the whole Corps front). The 1st Battalion marched to a position west of Lagnicourt, where they remained for the night. A farther advance was made the next day, and on the 5th it reached Louverval Wood, where a week was spent training and practising open warfare.

On the 11th the Battalion moved up into the front line, but the relief was only effected by the infiltration of the companies through troops of the 50th Infantry Brigade. This Brigade, having made an attack that evening, had failed to secure its objective, and the relief was conse[113]quently not an easy one. Lord Gort and Captain Simpson spent the night reconnoitring the trenches in the outer zone of the Hindenburg line, in constant danger of being caught by the Germans, and the information they gained enabled the Battalion to establish itself by dawn the next morning in the objective, which the 5th Infantry Brigade had intended to secure the night before. At dawn a bombing attack was made up Brown Trench, and the line of Alban Avenue was secured. A barrage, supporting the attack on Havrincourt, was put down on the whole front, and soon brought retaliation from the enemy. Near the sunken trench in Alban Avenue a shell burst, killing Lieutenant E. B. Shelley, and wounding Second Lieutenant Payne severely and Captain Simpson slightly. In addition to the shelling, the enemy’s machine-guns were very active, enfilading Alban Avenue. In the afternoon the 225th German Infantry Regiment carried out a bombing attack on Beatty and Babs posts, but was repulsed with several killed and wounded, leaving two machine-guns in our hands. Throughout the day the enemy maintained a heavy harassing fire, and in the evening again attempted a bombing attack on Beatty and Babs posts, but with the same result. The following day the shelling decreased considerably, and inter-company relief was carried out. First Lieutenant W. B. Evans, U.S.A.M.O.R.C., and Captain the Rev. J. O. Venables, in addition to 27 other ranks, were gassed on the 13th, and every day there were a number of men killed, wounded, and gassed.


On the 15th the following letter from Brigadier-General W. S. Osborn, 5th Infantry Brigade, was received by Brigadier-General Follett:

The 5th Infantry Brigade much appreciates the support given them on their left by the 1st Batt. Grenadier Guards in Beatty Post and Alban Trench. The counter-attack repulsed by Grenadier Guardsmen would have fallen on their weakened Companies. A captured map showed the Hun main line running down Hunt Avenue with outposts in Slag Avenue, and the counter-attack was evidently made to gain this resistance line. Will you please thank Colonel Lord Gort from me on behalf of the 5th I.B.

The week preceding the attack on Premy Chapel was uneventful, and on the 25th Major-General Matheson explained the details of the operations. Captain Lawford was appointed to the Staff of the Fourth Army, and Captain Lovell, M.C., took over the duties of Adjutant.

Attack on Premy Chapel

September 27th. 1918

Emery Walker Ltd.

The Attack on Premy Chapel
Sept. 26.
On the evening of the 26th the Battalion left its billets about a mile north-west of the village of Lagnicourt, and marched with its full battle equipment, accompanied by Lewis guns, limbers, field-kitchens, and water-carts, along the Lagnicourt—Doignies road, to its bivouacs about 1500 yards west of Louverval Wood. The strength of the Battalion was 15 officers and 395 other ranks actually going into action.

The officers who took part in the attack were:

Lieut.-Colonel Viscount Gort, D.S.O., M.V.O., M.C. Commanding Officer.
Capt. W. H. Lovell, M.C. Adjutant.[115]
2nd Lieut. J. C. Blunt Intelligence Officer.
Lieut. A. M. Brown King’s Company.
Lieut. C. G. Kennaway  ”  ”
Capt. J. S. Carter No. 2 Company.
Lieut. A. A. Morris  ”  ”
Lieut. L. C. Jesper  ”  ”
Capt. J. H. C. Simpson No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. L. F. A. d’Erlanger  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. S. Lamont  ”  ”
Lieut. B. H. Jones No. 4 Company.
2nd Lieut. D. H. Clarke  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. Grant  ”  ”
Capt. W. Lindsay, R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. C. Venables Chaplain.
Lieut. R. W. F. Echlin was acting Brigade Transport Officer, and Lieut. R. G. Buchanan as Quartermaster.

Lord Gort issued the following operation orders:

The Battalion will attack Premy Chapel hill tomorrow the 27th, with the object of securing the line of the sunken road.

The attack will be made in conjunction with the 2/20th London Regiment, who will be advancing on Marcoing, and the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, who will be attacking Leech Trench.

The strong patrols of the Battalion will debouch for the attack from the line of the sunken road at zero + 4 hours 20 minutes so as to cross the brown line (Beet Trench) at zero +4 hours and 30 minutes. Approach march orders have been issued separately.

The Battalion will attack with No. 2 Company on right and No. 4 Company on left in front line, preceded at a distance of 300 yards by strong patrols.

Dividing line between the two leading Companies in the attack will be T of Beet Trench to A in Log Avenue, all inclusive to No. 4 Company.


No. 3 Company will be in support écheloned behind No. 4 Company at a distance of 500 yards in readiness to make a flank attack on Premy Hill from the north should it be found necessary.

The King’s Company will be in Battalion Reserve and will follow No. 3 Company at a distance of 500 yards until the neighbourhood of Premy Trench is reached, when it will occupy suitable shell-holes and trenches.

Two Stokes mortars, each with 50 rounds, will move immediately in rear of and under the command of the O.C. No. 3 Company.

One section machine-guns will follow in rear of the King’s Company and will be prepared to assist a flank attack on Premy from the north with covering fire and to assist the consolidation of Premy Hill by guns placed in the Graincourt line.

Corps heavy artillery will bombard Premy Hill until zero + 5 hours, when the guns will lift on to Nine Wood for half an hour and then cease firing.

The remainder of the orders contained detailed instructions for the action of the Battalion, if the attack on the right and left proved successful.

Sept. 27.
It was very dark when the Battalion started on its march, and the artillery on both sides was very quiet. The order of march was No. 2 Company under Captain Carter, No. 4 under Lieutenant Jones, No. 3 under Captain Simpson, and the King’s Company under Lieutenant Brown, while Lord Gort, accompanied by Captain Lovell, the Adjutant, and some orderlies, walked at the head of the Battalion. On reaching the Bapaume—Cambrai road a halt was made to wait for zero hour, 5.20 A.M., at which time the Battalion was to advance towards Flesquières. At zero hour the advance began across country[117] to Demicourt. There was at first very little shelling, but as the Battalion neared the Canal du Nord the shells began to fall more rapidly. There was no water in the Canal, and by means of short ladders placed against the banks the crossing was effected 100 yards north of Lock Seven, with only a dozen casualties, including Lieutenant Jesper, who was wounded as he reached the near bank. Lord Gort went back to Lock Seven to confer with the officer commanding the tanks which were to support the Battalion, and was unable to find him; it was ascertained later that he had been wounded. The Battalion had to be in position east of Flesquières at 9.20 A.M., and Lord Gort therefore continued the advance without further delay. The ground over which it was necessary to pass was undulating, and was swept by the enemy’s fire, but the skilful manner in which Lord Gort conducted this advance accounted for the small number of casualties the Battalion sustained. The situation did not look very promising, for the Germans were still holding Graincourt some 4000 yards to the left rear. The 2nd Battalion was unable to advance on Orival Wood, which should have been taken before the 1st Battalion started, and the Third Division, through which the 1st Battalion had to advance, had failed to carry Beet Trench. On nearing Flesquières, the enemy’s machine-gun fire from the direction of Graincourt became very heavy, and Captain Carter was killed, being hit in the head. On reaching Flesquières Lord Gort took the leading companies round the northern[118] edge of the village, threading a way through the houses, as the machine-gun fire was heavy from the left flank. Two enemy batteries were still in action in the neighbourhood of Beet Trench, and the Germans were also holding the Beetroot Factory and Beet Trench very strongly with infantry and machine-guns. No sign of any troops on the left could be seen, and tanks, which were to co-operate, had not yet arrived. Lord Gort himself took the leading platoons of the two leading companies into position for assault, and while doing so was slightly wounded over the left eye. While the patrol platoon of No. 2 Company was crawling forward to locate the exact position of the enemy, Second Lieutenant Clarke, with the patrol platoon of No. 4 Company, worked round the left flank of the enemy, captured Beetroot Factory, and took the garrison prisoners. It was a skilful and daring manœuvre, as the platoon was fired at from both flanks, and suffered heavily. One tank now arrived, and Lord Gort at once decided to push on towards Premy Chapel, in spite of the fact that no corresponding advance seemed to have been begun on either flank.

Second Lieutenant Clarke, who had returned with his prisoners, was now ordered to take a platoon from No. 3 Company in support, and again work round the left flank in order to attack Beet Trench from the rear. Lord Gort went across the open to a tank, that was working behind the sunken road, and showed the Commander where to cross, and in what direction to advance; but when it neared Beet Trench the[119] tank was put out of action by direct artillery fire. It was now found that the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, which should have been advancing on the left flank, was not in position, nor was the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards able to advance on Orival Wood. On the right the situation was better, for the Sixty-third Division was reported to be making good progress. The 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, which was in Brigade Reserve, undertook to come up and protect the left flank. All the time there were several hostile air balloons up directing the fire on the tank, and a German aeroplane had signalled the presence of troops in the sunken road, which immediately became a target for the enemy’s artillery. One shell burst close to Lord Gort, wounding him severely in the arm, but although an artery had been cut and he lost a great deal of blood, he refused to go back to the dressing-station, and asked Captain Lindsay to bind his arm up temporarily.

His wound, however, proved more serious than he thought, and Captain Simpson took over command of the Battalion. Somewhat later Lord Gort insisted on starting off again to join the leading companies, but on reaching Beet Trench he collapsed from loss of blood.

Meanwhile the platoon of No. 3 Company under Second Lieutenant Clarke had succeeded in their turning movement, captured a German machine-gun post, and, in spite of being fired on by our tank, worked round to the east of Beet Trench. Two hundred Germans were driven into the sunken road, and forced to surrender,[120] while two batteries of field howitzers and six machine-guns were captured.

The two leading companies continued their advance and No. 3 Company moved forward in their support in échelon to their left flank, while the King’s Company moved up to the sunken road in reserve. The enemy was now shelling the neighbourhood of Beet Trench, and sweeping the whole ground with machine-gun fire. No. 2 Company reached Labour Trench, leaving two platoons in support in Premy Trench, but in the face of point-blank artillery fire from Nine Wood was unable to advance any farther. Lieutenant A. A. Morris, who was the only officer left with the company, was killed while advancing with the leading platoons. Second Lieutenant A. Grant in No. 4 Company was killed about the same time, while Lieutenant B. Jones was wounded.

The enemy was holding Marcoing on the right flank and a spur by Leech Alley on the left, so that the whole attack had become wedge-shaped, and, while no advance was taking place on either flank, the 1st Battalion continued to drive this wedge into the enemy’s lines. But however successful or daring a manœuvre like this may be, its ultimate success depends on the knowledge when to stop. In answer to a message sent by Captain Simpson, Brigadier-General de Crespigny said that any farther advance was not to be attempted in the face of such heavy fire, until the left flank had been secured by the advance of fresh troops through Graincourt. Captain Simpson decided to establish the main line of resistance in Beet Trench, with a line of outposts[121] pushed well in front, to act as a screen for the advance of the Second Division, which was known to be advancing. Accordingly No. 2 Company was withdrawn to Premy Support Trench, No. 3 to the gun-pit and Beetroot Factory, and the King’s and No. 4 Companies to Beet Trench, with outposts some 300 yards in front. This manœuvre was carried out under heavy fire, but was executed with such steadiness that the casualties were few. The men, however, seemed disappointed that they could not push farther on. The Adjutant, Captain Lovell, was hit by a machine-gun bullet whilst accompanying Captain Simpson, who had gone up to superintend the movement.

The Germans appear to have been thoroughly mystified by this attack throughout the whole operation, and to have imagined that the advance might eventually develop into a turning movement, threatening their line of retreat. When the Second Division came up at 2.30, they found the enemy retreating everywhere before them. As soon as the advance had been begun by this Division, the 1st Battalion was withdrawn to an area west of the Canal.

The extraordinary success achieved by the Battalion during this attack was entirely due to the courage, endurance, and determination of Lord Gort, who was awarded the V.C. for his conspicuous bravery. He was able by his example and the reckless exposure of his own life to infuse into all ranks an indomitable determination to reach the objective, no matter what the cost might be. He had himself brought the Battalion[122] to a very high state of efficiency, and there is little doubt that with a less highly trained battalion such an attack might have ended disastrously.

The casualties incurred during this attack were: Killed, Captain J. S. Carter, Lieutenant A. A. Morris, and Second Lieutenant A. Grant; wounded, Lieut.-Colonel Lord Gort, Captain W. H. Lovell, Lieutenant B. H. Jones, Lieutenant A. M. Brown, Second Lieutenant J. C. Blunt, Second Lieutenant L. C. Jesper; and amongst other ranks there were 35 killed and 24 wounded.

The last days in September were spent by the Battalion reorganising and re-fitting in bivouacs west of Canal du Nord, when the following officers arrived: Captain P. M. Spence, M.C., Lieutenant C. G. Kennaway, Lieutenant R. S. Challands, Lieutenant A. M. Brown, Second Lieutenant M. G. Farquharson, Second Lieutenant E. A. D. Bliss, Second Lieutenant N. P. Andrews, Second Lieutenant J. C. Blunt, and Second Lieutenant R. B. Osborne.

The 2nd Battalion
2nd Batt.
During the first week in September the Battalion near Adinfer was training and reorganising, after the heavy losses incurred in the operations at the end of August. From the 7th to 11th the Battalion, under Major Harcourt-Vernon, went up into the front line, where it came in for much shelling, especially from gas-shells, and, although the troops on each flank carried out offensive operations, it was not called upon to attack. After ten days spent out of the line,[123] during which Second Lieutenant K. B. Bibby and Second Lieutenant E. M. Neill joined, the Battalion moved up to Llama Post.

The following officers took part in the operations on September 27:

Major G. C. FitzH. Harcourt-Vernon, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Capt. R. G. Briscoe, M.C. Adjutant.
2nd Lieut. the Hon. S. E. Marsham Intelligence Officer.
Capt. L. St. L. Hermon-Hodge No. 1 Company.
2nd Lieut. R. C. M. Bevan  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. E. M. Neill  ”  ”
Lieut. W. H. S. Dent No. 2 Company.
2nd Lieut. D. L. King  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. K. B. Bibby  ”  ”
Lieut. R. H. R. Palmer No. 3 Company.
Lieut. T. A. Combe  ”  ”
Lieut. R. T. Sharpe  ”  ”
Capt. F. H. J. Drummond, M.C. No. 4 Company.
Lieut. C. C. Cubitt  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. P. V. Pelly  ”  ”
Lieut. E. L. Major (U.S. Army) Medical Officer.
Sept. 27.
During the night rain fell, and the tracks were, in consequence, very slippery. This, added to the fact that some of the bridges which had been put across the trenches on the previous day had been broken, caused some delay, and prevented the pack animals, which were following the companies with hot food containers, from keeping up with the Battalion; they were consequently sent round by road, but failed to arrive before the companies left their assembly positions. The enemy’s artillery was exceptionally quiet during the march, and only a few shells fell in Boursies, as the Battalion passed[124] through. Walsh Trench and Walsh Support were reached at 4.30 A.M.

The general plan of attack was as follows: Sergison-Brooke’s Brigade was to take the first objective, which was the Hindenburg support line between Graincourt and Flesquières. The 1st Battalion Irish Guards was then to pass through and take the second objective, which was the old British front line of December 1917 to March 1918, just north of Flesquières. The 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards was to follow the Irish Guards, and pass through them in order to exploit any success gained towards Orival Wood and Graincourt, while Follett’s Brigade on the right would push on towards Nine Wood.

The Battalion moved off at zero plus one hour from its assembly position, in the normal approach formation with No. 1 Company under Captain Hermon-Hodge, and No. 2 under Lieutenant Dent in the front line, and Nos. 3 and 4 Companies under Lieutenant Palmer and Captain Drummond in support. The ridge west of the Canal du Nord was being heavily shelled, but the Battalion passed over it with few casualties, and crossed the Canal itself easily enough with the aid of ladders on each bank. Any advance through the intricate labyrinth of trenches in the Hindenburg line was by no means a simple matter, especially under fire, and the instructions Major Harcourt-Vernon received were to bring up the Battalion to Soap Trench and Ship Trench in the Hindenburg support line, and then to advance to the forming-up area. The Battalion was unable to leave the Hindenburg[125] support line until 8.20 A.M., partly on account of No. 4 Company having lost direction, and being engaged by machine-gun fire from the left, and partly on account of Summer Lane not having been completely cleared of the enemy. In order to deal with this machine-gun nest in Summer Lane, Major Harcourt-Vernon despatched one platoon under Second Lieutenant Pelly with orders to clear the Germans out. Second Lieutenant Pelly successfully carried out his orders, and not only chased the Germans away, but also took eight prisoners. The advance was then continued, but a heavy fire from the direction of Graincourt and Knave Trench caused many casualties, and Second Lieutenant Pelly was wounded. The mopping up had not been very thorough, and some casualties occurred from snipers’ bullets from the rear.

The Third Division had taken Flesquières, but the Sixty-third Division had failed to occupy Graincourt, with the result that the Germans were able to enfilade the troops advancing to Flesquières. When the Battalion advanced to the Beetroot Factory, two batteries of field-guns fired at them with open sights, and machine-guns from Graincourt swept the ground over which they had to pass. On reaching the Beetroot Factory, the Company Commanders at once sent out patrols to make good the ground towards Orival Wood, and silence the batteries and machine-guns, which were causing the casualties, but the volume and accuracy of the enemy’s fire prevented them from making much headway. Lieutenant Combe and Lieutenant Bevan were[126] wounded, whilst trying to push forward with patrols, and there seemed no prospect of advancing until Graincourt had been captured.

In the afternoon the situation underwent a change owing to Lord Gort’s daring advance with the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards. This had the effect of moving the whole German line. Graincourt was at last taken, and an advance on Orival Wood was begun. About 4.30 the Second Division began to arrive, and in conjunction with the King’s Regiment advanced from Flesquières. This enabled the 2nd Battalion to push through Orival Wood, although it was unable to debouch from its north edge. Lieutenant Sharpe was wounded during this advance. The Battalion succeeded in capturing seven field-guns and three howitzers, in addition to some forty prisoners. Later in the evening the Fifty-seventh Division attempted to attack down the Graincourt—Marcoing Road, and met with little success.

The Battalion was withdrawn at 3 o’clock the next morning, and returned to a camp on the west of the Canal. The casualties were not heavy. The Battalion lost 9 men killed, 86 wounded, and 2 missing, in addition to the 4 officers already mentioned as having been wounded.

The 3rd Battalion
3rd Batt.
On the 24th the Battalion moved back to Ransart, and reorganised the companies which had suffered. Lieutenant J. A. Inglis-Jones joined on the 31st. Lieut.-Colonel Thorne left[127] to take over command of the Ninth Corps School, and was succeeded by Major Viscount Lascelles.

On September 1 a warning order was received that the Brigade would take part in an attack, and the following morning the Battalion marched to Hamelincourt. Under the impression that it would stay there for the night, Lord Lascelles gave the men orders to collect material in the ruins of the village, bivouac, and cook their dinners; but bivouacking took rather longer than was expected, and just when dinners were cooked, orders were received for the Battalion to move at once to L’Homme Mort, near St. Leger. The result was that the men had a hurried meal. At a Brigade conference that was held, verbal orders for the attack were issued, and it was decided that, rather than risk finding pockets of Germans within the forming-up positions, it would be safer to ignore the advance made that morning, and form up on ground that had been in our possession for several days.

At 1 A.M. the leading company started for the assembly positions, and although the guide twice lost his way it arrived at the destination at 3 A.M. An hour later Lord Lascelles went round the positions and could find no trace of the other three companies. At 5.5 A.M., the hour at which the Battalion was to advance, they arrived, having been on the march for four hours, owing to inefficient guides.

The Germans had meanwhile decided not to wait for the attack and had already retired when the Battalion commenced to advance, so that there was no fighting. When No. 1 and No. 2[128] Companies, under Captain Fryer and Captain Dury, reached the final objective, it was merely a matter of rounding up a certain number of deserters. Lord Lascelles, on going up to the leading companies, found a stretch of undulating country in front with no sign of the enemy, and ordered an advance to the next ridge, at the same time directing No. 3 Company, under Lieutenant Cornish in support, and No. 4 Company, under Captain Hirst in reserve, to move forward as far as the position already occupied by the leading companies. This sweeping advance with no apparent opposition somewhat confused the leading companies, which were accustomed during the long period of trench warfare to short advances with definite objectives.

The fatigue of the men was beginning to tell, and this last advance was a distinct effort, but by two o’clock in the afternoon the leading companies had consolidated the position in Boursies. There were no casualties, although the enemy put up a few shells over the Battalion, as it topped the ridge 500 yards west of the village. During the afternoon the German artillery became very busy, and interfered a good deal with the patrols, but otherwise caused little or no damage. The men had been on the move since dawn the day before, and were consequently exhausted, but the Germans made no attempt to counter-attack, and it was therefore possible to get some rest.

At 5 o’clock the following morning the 3rd Guards Brigade passed through the Battalion, which was withdrawn to watch the exposed right flank. The visibility was good, and a few[129] sentries were all that were required, while the remainder of the Battalion obtained some rest. On the 5th the Battalion relieved the Welsh Guards in the front line, and Lord Lascelles decided to move the Battalion Headquarters farther forward, and to hand over what had been the Welsh Guards Headquarters to the Medical Officer for an aid-post. Nos. 3 and 4 Companies were placed in the front line, with Nos. 1 and 2 in support. The right of the Battalion was not in touch with any troops, there being a gap of some 500 yards, and this was accounted for by the fact that the ground was covered with wire of the old Hindenburg line and of the old British line facing it. This wire was almost impenetrable laterally, and was at right angles to the line held by the Battalion. The enemy was in considerable strength in front, and held some 400 yards west of the Canal du Nord as an outpost line in the old maze of trenches, with a strong defensive position behind the Canal. The ground sloped down to the Canal, and the farther the Battalion advanced, the more they were overlooked from the opposite slope; but the necessity of gaining touch with the 1st Battalion King’s Royal Rifles made an advance necessary. The line of resistance, about 600 yards behind the front line, which the Battalion received instructions to dig, was nearly finished, when the enemy put a concentrated gas bombardment on the valley, where the Company Headquarters of the two companies in support were placed. For an hour the Germans bombarded the valley with sneezing-gas shells, and all the officers and men[130] kept on their masks, but when the gas bombardment appeared to cease and was succeeded by one of H.E. shells, every one incautiously took off his mask. This new bombardment proved to be one of mustard gas. By the time this was realised every one was being sick, and all the officers and N.C.O.’s were casualties. Lord Lascelles came up from Battalion Headquarters to see what had happened, and met Captain Dury being led away blind. There were 61 men in No. 1 Company and 30 men in No. 2 who had been gassed, in addition to the following officers: Second Lieutenant S. Calvocoressi, Captain G. Dury, Second Lieutenant W. B. L. Manley, Lieutenant H. P. Gordon, and Second Lieutenant R. K. Henderson.

In the meantime Lieutenant Cornish, commanding No. 3 Company, had received orders from Lord Lascelles to close the gap on his right, and after reconnoitring the situation had established a liaison post with the King’s Royal Rifles at Joan Post. When darkness came he managed to send out more men, and added two fresh posts south of Goat Trench; but the ground to be covered was over 500 yards, and the difficulty was that the line from the right of the Battalion to the left of the King’s Royal Rifles ran diagonally over a crest, and not parallel to it. Lines of very thick and strong wire ran in irregular lines, and in various directions. What therefore seemed fairly simple by daylight was extremely difficult in the dark, since no patrol could keep direction on account of the wire. A compass was useless, owing to the wire, and there were no land[131]marks. Lord Lascelles, who was not at all happy about his right flank, ordered Lieutenant Cornish to double his liaison post, and to put up a Véry light perpendicular at dusk from his post on the left of the gap, so that a detachment from the liaison post could work towards it.

These measures, although far from satisfactory, were the best that could be done in the circumstances, and Lieutenant Cornish was afterwards highly commended for the energy and resource which he showed in dealing with an admittedly difficult situation.

On the 8th the Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Battalion Grenadiers, and retired to some trenches in Dunhelm Avenue. From the 8th to the 15th the whole of the 2nd Brigade went into reserve positions near Lagnicourt, where no incidents of any importance occurred. As a draft was shortly expected, the companies were not equalised in strength, but it was Nos. 1 and 2 Companies that had suffered most, and, as the other two companies would have to lead the attack at the end of the month, there was no objection to the half-assimilated draft being in reserve.

On the 20th the Battalion was warned that it would shortly have to take part in the attack on the Canal du Nord, and that it would relieve the 1st Battalion Scots Guards on the night of the 21st. A piece of ground was at once selected for practice purposes, and the enemy’s trenches and salient features were taped out on it, while the Royal Engineers constructed a model of the area to be attacked. The expected draft arrived[132] just in time to take part in the rehearsal, and was absorbed in Nos. 1 and 2 Companies. The following day after a Company Commanders’ conference, the details of the attack were carefully explained by the Commanding Officer, Lord Lascelles, who had attended a conference at Brigade Headquarters. No. 3 Company and one platoon of No. 4 were to attack Slag Heap; the remainder of No. 4 Company would be in support; No. 2 Company would remain where it was in the front line, and No. 1 would be in Brigade Reserve. Thus all four companies were to be more or less in the front line, but No. 4 Company, under Lieutenant Bunbury, was the one most likely to come into touch with the enemy. During the relief No. 4 Company was raided, but the Welsh Guards had not yet left the line, and the enemy consequently received a very warm reception. The possibility of an attack on that part of the line had already occurred to Lieutenant Bunbury, as a similar raid had been attempted two days before, and the ground being a regular rabbit-warren of disused trenches made it extremely difficult to guard against a surprise; but he kept his company constantly on the alert, and was ready for the Germans when they came.

On the 25th a heavy barrage descended on the whole front line, and all wires became disconnected. The enemy raided the position of the line occupied by No. 4 Company, and managed to get into trenches at an unoccupied spot, but were ejected by a patrol. There were a few casualties from the barrage, but no men missing.[133] On the following day detailed orders for the attack were issued, and the Battalion proceeded to the assembly position.

List of Officers who took Part in the Operations on September 27
Lieut.-Colonel the Viscount Lascelles, D.S.O Commanding Officer.
Capt. E. G. A. Fitzgerald, D.S.O. Adjutant.
2nd Lieut. R. C. G. de Reuter Intelligence Officer.
Capt. E. R. M. Fryer, M.C. No. 1 Company.
Lieut. C. C. Carstairs, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. F. S. V. Donnison  ”  ”
Capt. A. H. S. Adair, M.C. No. 2 Company.
Lieut. S. G. Fairbairn, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. C. B. Hollins  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. J. Chapman  ”  ”
Lieut. E. N. de Geijer, M.C. No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. H. J. Gibbon, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. D. Cooper, D.S.O.  ”  ”
Lieut. E. J. Bunbury, M.C. No. 4 Company.
2nd Lieut. R. P. Papillon  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. R. Gunther, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. H. I’B. Smith  ”  ”
Lieut. Graff, U.S.A.M.O.R.C. Medical Officer.
Sept. 27.
The attack of the Battalion was at right angles to the main attack, which was somewhat confusing; but, as the Battalion was holding a salient, it was necessary to have the right half Battalion facing east, one company facing north, and one company (in échelon) facing east. There was still a pocket of Germans on the left between the Battalion and the Canal, but the ground was heavily wired and quite impassable. It was therefore necessary to attack northward, and as there were many lines of trenches and much wire, the attack had to be organised in small parties,[134] working over the top of the ground but parallel with the trenches, so that the wire might be crossed by entering the trenches. Each party was in charge of an officer or a specially selected non-commissioned officer, and although there was undoubtedly a risk of losing many first-rate men, this decision was justified by the fact that, in spite of the maze of trenches, none of the parties failed to reach their objectives.

No. 3 Company, under Lieutenant de Geijer, reached Slag Heap, and got touch with the 1st Battalion Coldstream. An aid-post was established there, and parties began to move up Donkey and Dog Trench, when the Coldstream reported that they were suffering heavy casualties from their left flank. Instructions were at once sent by Lord Lascelles to keep down the machine-gun fire referred to, but the Battalion was itself subjected to a heavy fire from two machine-guns, which swept most of the ground crossed by carrying parties, and caused casualties among unsuspecting troops in rear. Two Stokes mortars were ordered up, but as soon as the Germans saw them coming into position they retired. Lance-Corporal Watson crossed the Canal with Private Parry in order to silence another machine-gun (probably the gun which was harassing the Coldstream), and succeeded in capturing not only the gun but an officer and seven men near Kangaroo Trench. Second Lieutenant Gibbon with three men took half a dozen prisoners, and sent them back down a trench. As the last German disappeared round the traverse, he treacherously drew a bomb from his pocket and[135] threw it at Second Lieutenant Gibbon and his men, who had just enough time to run round another traverse. No. 3 Company took 83 prisoners, including the wounded, and 23 machine-guns, and their casualties were not heavy, for they only had 12 men wounded and 2 missing. In the evening verbal orders were received to move back to Doignies.



Diary of the War

Oct. 1918.
In France the German retirement continued, and the British Army made considerable progress, while the French were equally successful in hastening the retreat of the enemy near St. Quentin and later at Soissons. King Albert’s attack threatened to cut off part of the German Army in Belgium, and in order to prevent this, the Germans were forced to retire precipitately, leaving behind them vast stores of war material. Ostend, Lille, and Douai were evacuated, and Sir Roger Keyes, who commanded what was known as the Dover Patrol, landed on the Belgian coast. The German intention appears to have been to retire from Belgium as speedily as possible, and in so doing to avoid any large number of men being surrounded.

In Italy the Austrians were in full retreat, and on the 27th sued for Peace.

In Palestine General Allenby, after a series of brilliant operations, succeeded in cutting off the main portion of the Turkish Army on the Tigris, with the result that Turkey asked for an Armistice.


The Guards Division
In October the Germans found the retirement more and more difficult. During September they had lost a quarter of a million prisoners and an immense number of guns, and their original intention of making a determined stand on one of their deeply fortified lines had long since been abandoned. The Allied Armies were pressing them back all along the line, and the continual retirement was beginning to affect the spirit of the Army. After the Siegfried line had been broken through, Sir Douglas Haig commenced operations on a seventeen-mile front from Cambrai to Sequehart with the Third and Fourth Armies, and the Sixth Corps, in which the Guards Division was, advanced to the south of Cambrai.

On October 6 Major-General Matheson received a warning order to be prepared to move to Havrincourt, but this move was postponed later for twenty-four hours. The Guards Division was in support of the Second and Third Divisions, and in the event of little opposition being encountered was to pass through and continue the advance on La Henières and Igniel-dit-les-Frisettes, but as the Germans offered a stubborn resistance the Guards Division did not go into the line until the next day.

All sorts of wild rumours were about, and as there seemed every danger of the enemy making use of them to gain time, Major-General Matheson issued the following order:

(1) Rumours are current that the German Government intends to propose a suspension of hostilities,[138] with a view to the discussion of Peace terms. It is possible that attempts at fraternisation may in consequence be made by German troops in the line.

(2) The German Army is hard pressed and the German High Command needs time to carry out its present withdrawal without heavy loss in men and material. German Peace talk is therefore circulated in order to relax our pressure, gain time for the withdrawal, and prepare for a long defensive campaign next year.

(3) All our troops will be warned against paying any attention to rumours of this kind. They are intended not to shorten the war but to save the German Army from the consequences of defeat this year and to preserve its strength for the defence of German soil next year. Any attempts made by the enemy to fraternise in the field will also be disregarded absolutely.

It is our intention to beat the enemy as fast as we can, not to allow him to recover his strength.

On the morning of October 9 De Crespigny’s Brigade on the right, and Sergison-Brooke’s Brigade on the left, passed through the Third and Second Divisions, and attacked under a barrage.

It was expected that the Caudry—Cambrai railway, running diagonally across the line of advance, with its steep embankments and deep cuttings, would form a serious obstacle, and special steps were taken to bring enfilade artillery and machine-gun fire to bear on it, till the infantry was within assaulting distance. It was soon found, however, that the enemy had withdrawn during the night, and it was not till late in the afternoon that the German advanced troops were again located, holding a line of[139] trenches west of Boistrancourt and east of Igniel-dit-les-Frisettes. A night operation to capture Boistrancourt revealed the farther withdrawal of the enemy.

On the 10th De Crespigny’s and Sergison-Brooke’s Brigades followed up the enemy, and after some skirmishing with his rear-guards, took up an outpost line west of Quevy and St. Hilaire, with detached posts east of those villages.

On the morning of the 11th the 3rd Guards Brigade, which was now under the command of Brigadier-General Heywood, passed through the outposts, and was soon engaged with the German rear-guards, which were now fighting stubbornly.

The next few days were spent in clearing the enemy from the west bank of the River Selle, after which there was a pause to allow time for the reconstruction of the railways in rear. The most difficult problem of this period was the evacuation of the civil population from the villages on the banks of the Selle, which were occupied by both our own and the enemy’s troops. The evacuation was carried out by night with scarcely a casualty.

On the 20th the Guards Division took part in a general attack, launched with the object of driving the enemy from his new positions, east of the River Selle. The attack, which started at 1 A.M., was carried out by De Crespigny’s Brigade on the right, and Heywood’s Brigade on the left. The Sixty-second Division was to clear Solesmes of the enemy on the right of the Guards Division, and the Nineteenth Division was to capture Haussy on the left. A great deal[140] of the success of this attack depended on whether the River Selle was held in any strength, but the Germans never attempted to dispute the passage, and both Brigades passed over with little loss. The first objective was secured without difficulty, but when the advance to the second objective commenced, a good deal of opposition was encountered, especially on the left, where the Nineteenth Division had been held up after capturing Haussy. The resistance was so stubborn that at one time artillery preparation was contemplated; but when the Sixty-second Division advanced towards Romeries, the Guards Division was able to secure the second objective, and even push out patrols as far as the River Harpies.

During the afternoon the Germans put down on the new positions an artillery concentration, which many officers present considered to have been the heaviest they had experienced since the battle of the Somme; our troops were, however, so well dug in that hardly any casualties were inflicted. On the night of the 22nd the Division was relieved by the Second Division, which continued the attack the following day.

The remainder of the month was spent in rest, which was, however, much interfered with by the constant change of quarters, necessitated by the withdrawal of the enemy.

The 1st Battalion
1st Batt.
At the beginning of October Major the Hon. W. R. Bailey arrived, and took command of the Battalion. On the 7th orders were received to[141] proceed to Havrincourt, where the Guards Division was to be in reserve during an attack by the Second and Third Divisions. The attack proved successful, and on the evening of the 8th the Battalion moved to Marcoing, where it was bivouacked in some old trenches. On the 9th the 1st and 2nd Guards Brigade attacked, and the 3rd Guards Brigade was in Divisional Reserve. The Battalion marched by platoons at 100 yards intervals to Seranvillers via Masnières and Crevecour. The next day it moved on to Cattenières, and Major Bailey, accompanied by the Company Commanders, rode on to Bévillers to reconnoitre.

List of Officers who took Part in the Operations in October
Major the Hon. W. R. Bailey, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Lieut. J. A. Lloyd Acting Adjutant.
2nd Lieut. J. C. Blunt Intelligence Officer.
Capt. P. M. Spence, M.C. King’s Company.
2nd Lieut. D. H. Clarke  ”  ”
Lieut. C. G. Kennaway No. 2 Company.
2nd Lieut. R. B. Osborne  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. M. G. Farquharson  ”  ”
Capt. J. H. C. Simpson No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. N. P. Andrews  ”  ”
Lieut. E. A. D. Bliss No. 4 Company.
2nd Lieut. C. B. Hall  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. S. Challands  ”  ”
Capt. W. Lindsay, R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. C. Venables Chaplain.


October 11-14, 1918

Emery Walker Ltd.

Oct. 11.
On the 11th the Battalion moved off at 1 A.M., and reached the rendezvous just east of Bévillers at 4 A.M. It was a very dark night, drizzling with rain, and the marching was difficult owing to the mine craters, with which the enemy had[142] endeavoured to destroy the road, transport wagons constantly falling in, and delaying the march. The Battalion had been allotted a front of about 2000 yards, which was covered by the King’s Company under Captain Spence on the right, and No. 2 Company under Lieutenant Kennaway on the left, each with two platoons in the front line acting as fighting patrols, and two platoons in the second line with the Company Commanders. No. 3 Company under Captain Simpson was in support, and No. 4 under Lieutenant Bliss in Brigade Reserve. The country was quite open with no cover at all, and consisted of grass and stubble fields. The gently undulating ground was particularly favourable to the Germans, who were past-masters in the art of fighting rear-guard actions. At 5 A.M. the advance began. The first bound was to the railway east of the village of Quiévy, but no halt was made here, as it was found that the advanced troops of the 1st Guards Brigade had pushed farther on during the night. When the leading patrols reached the high ground immediately east of Quiévy, they were met by heavy machine-gun fire from the orchard north of Fontaine-au-terre Farm, and were enfiladed by numerous machine-guns along the St. Vaast—Solesmes road. The leading companies deployed here. The King’s and No. 2 Companies, covered by their own fire, continued to advance by rushes, and captured the orchard, from which the Germans hastily retired. Captain Simpson halted No. 3 Company on the high ground west of the farm, while south of the farm touch was gained with the 2nd Bat[143]talion Auckland Regiment from the New Zealand Division. The machine-gun fire from the left flank, where the Scots Guards were checked, continued to be very severe, and completely held up No. 2 Company. Captain Spence decided to push forward with the King’s Company to try and outflank the enemy’s posts, and sent forward one platoon down the slope. Although this had the desired effect, and the German infantry retired, they left their machine-guns, which kept up a sweeping fire along the crest, and prevented the Scots Guards from advancing. It was thought that, if a demonstration was made straight towards them, it might perhaps force them to retire, but when No. 2 Company attempted this the German machine-guns never moved. Meanwhile the King’s Company, with that dogged determination which has characterised all its movements during the war, drove away the Germans from the spur of the hill south of Solesmes, and working round in the area occupied by the New Zealand Division, pushed forward, and gained the spur itself. The ground over which the King’s Company passed, consisted of a deep and broad valley quite devoid of cover, and the slightest movement could be observed from the opposite slope, where German field-guns and machine-guns were posted. The manner in which Captain Spence directed his company and surmounted all the difficulties, was specially mentioned by Lieut.-Colonel Bailey, and this advance undoubtedly made a considerable difference to the centre of the Guards Division. But the forward position, which the King’s Company[144] had gained, was by no means easy to retain, for the men were subjected to a heavy machine-gun fire from the north, whilst the enemy’s 5·9 guns registered on them. These men remained unable to move a muscle until dark, when they dug themselves in. No. 3 Company was moved up to an orchard in close support, and, as there seemed no reasonable prospect of success during daylight without heavy loss, it was not pushed up into the attack. The German machine-guns were wonderfully well placed, commanding the flat plateaus on the top of the ridges, with no possibility of their being approached under cover, and our artillery was unable to help, as it was practically impossible to locate these machine-gun nests. The men were anxious to push on, and had to be restrained. All this time the shelling was heavy but promiscuous, and several men were hit by fragments. Captain Simpson, Second Lieutenant Clarke, and Second Lieutenant Osborne were wounded in this way, but the Battalion was really very fortunate in not having suffered more than it did. Although patrols were sent out during the night, they were unable to get very far on account of the enemy’s machine-guns, which had evidently been pushed forward to hinder reconnaissance.

Oct. 12.
The next morning it was found that the Germans had retired, and that the machine-guns had all been withdrawn, the emplacements being full of empty cartridge cases. Except for some shelling the morning proved uneventful, and in the afternoon the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and 1st Battalion Welsh Guards were ordered to[145] attack on the left. Two platoons from No. 2 Company of the 1st Battalion were ordered to co-operate with them and guard their right flank. The advance was successfully carried out with little opposition, although the German artillery put down a heavy barrage on the west line. The company runners in this fight behaved with great gallantry, and throughout the day carried their lives in their hands, continually running great risks. Posts were ordered to be pushed down to the railway, and small reconnoitring patrols were sent out as soon as it was dark. Except at the commencement of the operations the Battalion saw few Germans, and the men realised they were fighting a very cleverly hidden enemy. Each machine-gun nest had to be located, and shot out in turn. During that night the King’s Company was relieved by No. 4, and No. 3 by No. 2. Lieutenant Challands, who took over command of No. 3 Company, was knocked out temporarily by the bursting of a shell during the relief. The Battalion was the only one in the Division to reach its objective, and this was entirely due to the dash displayed by both officers and men in this entirely new form of open warfare.

The 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and 1st Battalion Welsh Guards advanced up to the same line, held by the 1st Battalion Grenadiers. The rest of the day was very trying for all troops in the forward area on account of the continual shelling, as the Germans had excellent observation, and were very accurate in their shooting. The line from Solesmes to St. Python was very strongly held, and the two posts on the right held by the[146] Battalion were in dangerous proximity to the enemy. One of these was rushed by a party of eighty Germans under cover of an intense Minenwerfer barrage, and only one man escaped. In the evening the Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards, and marched by companies to Quiévy. The casualties during the three days’ operations were 3 officers wounded, and of other ranks 11 were killed, 3 died of wounds, 45 wounded and 17 missing.

The next day Major Bailey received the following message from Brigadier-General C. P. Heywood, Commanding the 3rd Guards Brigade:

I should like to put on record my appreciation of the good work done by you and your Battalion during the past three days. I was particularly impressed with the initiative and determined action of the King’s Company in pushing forward on the afternoon of the 11th to the advanced position in D 12 central.

On the 15th Major-General T. G. Matheson, Commanding the Guards Division, addressed the following message to Brigadier-General Heywood:

I wish to congratulate the Brigadier and all ranks of the 3rd Guards Brigade on the manner in which they carried out the task assigned to them from October 11th to 14th.

The advance of the 1st Batt. Grenadier Guards towards Solesmes and of the 2nd Batt. Scots Guards to St. Python were carried out with very much gallantry and produced very valuable results in securing us command of the crossings of the River Selle. The hard fighting of the 1st Batt. Welsh Guards on the left flank contributed largely to the success of the other two Battalions.


I am much pleased with the performance of the Brigade and should like my appreciation to be conveyed to all ranks.

Two days, the 14th and 15th, were spent at Quiévy cleaning up and reorganising, but on the evening of the second day the enemy bombarded the billeting area with 8-inch shells, when two men were killed and nine were wounded. On the 17th the Battalion marched to Carmières, where Major Bailey attended a Brigade conference. On the 19th the Battalion marched by companies with intervals of 200 yards to St. Vaast, and sheltered in houses and cellars until 10.15 P.M., when they moved up to the assembly area, directed by guides from the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards.

List of Officers who took Part in the Operations October 20-22
Major the Hon. W. R. Bailey, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
2nd Lieut. J. C. Blunt Acting Adjutant.
Lieut. R. F. W. Echlin Transport Officer.
Lieut. R. G. Buchanan Act.-Quartermaster.
Capt. P. M. Spence, M.C. King’s Company.
Lieut. A. M. Brown  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. L. E. G. Wall  ”  ”
Lieut. C. G. Kennaway No. 2 Company.
2nd Lieut. R. B. Osborne  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. M. G. Farquharson  ”  ”
Capt. J. H. C. Simpson No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. G. S. Lamont  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. L. F. A. d’Erlanger  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. N. P. Andrews  ”  ”
Lieut. A. E. D. Bliss No. 4 Company.
Lieut. R. S. Challands  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. B. Hall  ”  ”
Capt. W. Lindsay, R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. C. Venables Chaplain.

The night was dark and it was pouring with rain, when the Battalion formed up along the line of railway between Haussy and St. Vaast. It is impossible adequately to describe the absolute wretchedness of forming up on a pitch-dark night in pouring rain. An operation seemed hopeless, and was only possible by giving careful instructions to every single man in the Battalion. Plenty of time was allowed to prepare for this fight, but the Battalion was only just ready when the time came to advance. No. 4 Company, under Lieutenant Bliss, was on the left; No. 3 Company, under Lieutenant Challands, in the centre; and No. 2 Company, under Lieutenant Kennaway, on the right. Touch was obtained with the 8th Battalion Gloucester Regiment in the Nineteenth Division on the left, and with the Irish Guards on the right. The Royal Engineeers had arranged to lay tapes from the railway to the eight temporary bridges, which they had put over the River Selle, but these tapes were not laid until shortly before zero hour, and one tape did not lead to a bridge, with the result that the platoon which followed it had to wade across the river.

Oct. 20.
From the very start everything went well, and the barrage moved with perfect precision. Chasing the Germans in the dark in this way was not without excitement, as no one knew whether they would remain and fight, or retire as soon as they were threatened. It was a great relief to Major Bailey to find that the enemy had no intention of disputing the crossing of the river, as this would have entailed the loss of[149] a number of men at the start. As it was, the Battalion proceeded in artillery formation as far as the Haussy—Solesmes road, passing over five or six lines of rifle-pits wonderfully well made in concrete. When the creeping barrage began to move forward, the Battalion moved with it, but there was little or no opposition, and the objective was gained according to scheduled time. The few prisoners that were captured said that the garrisons of their posts had fled as soon as the barrage began. Direction was admirably kept, and the men advanced close up to the barrage, in spite of the heavy plough on the side of the hill on which they had to advance. The 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and 1st Battalion Welsh Guards then came through, and continued the advance. In the evening the German artillery put down a very heavy barrage on the railway, shifting it later to the road, and then covering the objective and the reverse slope of the hill, but in spite of the shelling the casualties were not heavy.

Oct. 21.
The shelling continued all the next day, but the 3rd Guards Brigade was not required. In the evening the Battalion took over the whole Brigade front from the Scots Guards and Welsh Guards; the King’s and No. 3 Companies were placed in the outpost line; and Nos. 2 and 4 Companies took over the main line of resistance on the high ground east of the Solesmes—Vendegies road.

Oct. 22.
The line of the Solesmes road was shelled all day, but the Battalion was very lucky, although No. 4 Company was rather seriously gassed.[150] Lieutenant E. A. D. Bliss and Second Lieutenant C. B. Hall and ten men were all gassed. In the evening the Highland Light Infantry relieved the Battalion, which marched back to billets in St. Vaast. These operations on the whole had been easy, as the Germans had put up very little resistance, but the rain and mud had made everything very miserable, and the men were soaked to the skin before the attack commenced.

In all the villages round about civilians emerged from cellars, having hidden there for five days in order to avoid being evacuated by the Germans. Among the German prisoners, who had been captured during the advance, were several regimental commanders of the true Prussian type, with florid faces and bristling moustaches. They presented a sorry spectacle in the cages, and seemed to feel their position acutely.

Langfier Ltd photographers        Emery Walker ph. sc.

Brigadier-General Lord Henry Seymour, D.S.O.

On the 23rd the following special order was issued:

The Commanding Officer congratulates all ranks on the way in which the attack of the 20th was carried out. The difficulties of a night attack are always great, but in this case they were almost entirely eliminated by the obvious care with which the officers and N.C.O.’s had made their preparations and explained the scheme of attack to their men. No one lost direction, and the orders given out beforehand were carried out almost to the letter.

The conditions have been very bad, but as always you have made the best of things and have kept up the Grenadier tradition of invariable cheerfulness under hardships. You are now out for a short time to reorganise and refit. In a day’s time the Battalion will [151]be as keen and smart as it was before, and I am confident that that spirit which has carried you through this attack so well will be as good and keen in any other operation which you may be called upon to perform in future.

I congratulate all ranks, and I sympathise with you for not having found more Germans to kill, which would have made up in some small degree for all the worry and anxiety of the preliminary preparations.

(Signed)  W. R. Bailey, Lt.-Col.

Commanding 1st Batt. Gren. Gds.

While the Second Division continued the attack, the 3rd Guards Brigade remained in billets in St. Vaast. On the 25th Lieutenant H. Freeman-Greene and Lieutenant W. A. Pembroke joined the Battalion.

The 2nd Battalion
2nd Batt.
After the operations at the end of September the Battalion bivouacked close to the village of Demicourt for ten days’ training. Meanwhile Lieut.-Colonel Rasch, having been appointed to command the 1st Provisional Battalion at Aldershot, left for England, and Major C. F. A. Walker, M.C., took over the 2nd Battalion.

The following officers took part in the fighting on October 9:

Major C. F. A. Walker, M.C. Commanding Officer.
Capt. R. G. Briscoe, M.C. Adjutant.
Lieut. W. H. S. Dent. Intelligence Officer.
Lieut. L. Holbech, M.C. No. 1 Company.
Lieut. C. L. F. Boughey  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. E. M. Neill  ”  ”
Capt. G. B. Wilson No. 2 Company.[152]
2nd Lieut. D. L. King  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. J. N. Adams  ”  ”
Capt. J. C. Cornforth, M.C. No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. K. B. Bibby  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. E. G. Harcourt-Vernon  ”  ”
Lieut. R. H. R. Palmer No. 4 Company.
Lieut. C. C. Cubitt  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. B. R. Osborne  ”  ”
Lieut. E. L. Coffin Medical Officer.
During the night of the 7th the Battalion moved into some trenches near Marcoing, and next morning it crossed the St. Quentin Canal at Masnières. The canal was being shelled at the time, but the Battalion escaped without any casualties. Orders were now received for the Battalion to take part in an attack, the first objective being the La Targette—Forenville road, and the second the railway running north-east of Wambaix. In view of the possibility of the enemy being forced to retire, the instructions were that the leading companies were to push on in the general direction of Cattenières.

Oct. 9.
Zero was 6 o’clock on the morning of October 9, and the assembly area for the 1st Guards Brigade was on the line of old German trenches, south-west of Seranvillers. Taking up its position on the left of the line, the Battalion had the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards on its right, with the 1st Battalion Irish Guards in reserve. In conjunction with this force, the 2nd Guards Brigade was to advance on the left and the New Zealand Division on the right, and the boundary between the two leading battalions was the main road through Seranvillers and Wambaix.

It had been arranged for the barrage to descend[153] on the first objective, and so the 2nd Battalion Grenadiers and 2nd Battalion Coldstream were able to start moving slowly forward ten minutes before zero hour. No. 3 Company of the Battalion, under Captain Cornforth, was on the right and No. 4 Company, under Lieutenant Palmer, on the left, while No. 2 Company, under Captain Wilson, was in support, and No. 1 Company, under Lieutenant Holbech, in reserve. The foremost companies advanced in waves, and the supports and reserves in artillery formation, preceded by strong patrols, Captain Wilson’s company being responsible for clearing the village of Seranvillers. Two howitzers, a field-gun, several machine-guns, and a few prisoners were captured without any real opposition, and the Battalion pushed on very rapidly to within a short distance of Cattenières, where the patrols were sent ahead through the village.

But as soon as they emerged from Cattenières, and came on to the ridge to the north they were held up by heavy machine-gun fire from the wood surrounding the factory at Ignies-le-Petit. There was a considerable stretch of open ground in front of the wood, and progress became very difficult. Lieutenant Palmer, commanding No. 4 Company, ordered Second Lieutenant Osborne to try and advance with his platoon on the left in order to enfilade the enemy in the south-east corner of the wood. A certain amount of ground was gained by sectional rushes under extremely heavy machine-gun fire, but the complete lack of “dead” ground made real success impossible, and Major Walker decided to postpone any farther[154] move until it could be made under cover of darkness.

A wonderfully gallant piece of work during this part of the fighting was done by No. 16796 Private Edgar Holmes, and won for him the Victoria Cross, which unfortunately he did not live to receive. He was acting as a stretcher-bearer, and calmly and fearlessly went on with his errands of mercy to the wounded under a withering machine-gun fire. He succeeded in getting two men in, and, quite regardless of the intense fire at close range, was attending to a third when he was himself hit in the stomach. He did not falter for a moment, and, paying no attention to his own wound, went forward once more to rescue yet another of the fallen. He had covered thirty yards in the direction of the enemy when he was hit again, this time fatally.

At 1 A.M. on October 10 Major Walker brought up the support and reserve companies, and directed them to attack the wood and factory at Ignies-le-Petit. They rushed the factory, encountering little resistance, and then took up a line and dug in on the farther edge of the wood, beyond the main road. The whole advance was a complete success, and the casualties of the Battalion were only one man killed and 12 wounded. Four hours after the attack began, the 1st Battalion Irish Guards passed through the Battalion, and went in pursuit of the retreating Germans.

For the week that followed the Battalion was in Brigade Reserve, and moved slowly forward through Fresnoy Farm, Bévillers, Quiévy,[155] Boussières to St. Hilaire, when it prepared for the forthcoming attack.

In the operations on the 20th the officers engaged were:

Major C. F. A. Walker, M.C. Commanding Officer.
Lieut. S. T. S. Clarke, M.C. Adjutant.
2nd Lieut. A. F. Alington Intelligence Officer.
Lieut. L. Holbech, M.C. No. 1 Company.
Lieut. C. L. F. Boughey  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. E. M. Neill  ”  ”
Capt. G. B. Wilson No. 2 Company.
2nd Lieut. D. L. King  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. J. N. Adams  ”  ”
Capt. L. St. L. Hermon-Hodge No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. K. B. Bibby  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. E. G. Harcourt-Vernon  ”  ”
Lieut. H. B. G. Morgan, M.C. No. 4 Company.
Lieut. C. C. Cubitt  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. B. R. Osborne  ”  ”
Lieut. E. L. Coffin Medical Officer.
This attack was only part of a very extensive movement on the whole of the Third Army front. The Sixty-first Division was ordered to advance on the right of the Guards Division, and the Nineteenth Division, under Major-General Jefferies, on the left. Acting as the leading battalion on the right of the Guards Division, the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards had the Valenciennes—Solesmes road as its first objective, and, for its second, a line about a quarter of a mile west of the villages of Vertain and Romeries. The capture of Solesmes, which was known to be full of civilians, and strongly held by the enemy, was entrusted to the Sixty-first Division, while the Guards Division was to push[156] right on to its final objective. This gave the Battalion the delicate and dangerous task of advancing the whole way with an exposed flank. Two other features added to the difficulty of the manœuvre. The long distance to the final objective had to be traversed under cover of darkness, and before it could reach the outskirts of Solesmes, known as St. Python, the Battalion had to cross the River Selle.

Oct. 19.
Leaving St. Hilaire at 9.30 P.M. on the 19th inst., the Battalion followed the 1st Battalion Irish Guards until it reached its assembly position, which was the railway running from Haussy to Solesmes. No. 1 Company under Lieutenant Holbech was on the right, No. 2 Company on the left under Captain Wilson, No. 3 under Captain Hermon-Hodge in support, and No. 4 under Lieutenant Morgan in reserve. A drizzling rain fell incessantly, and though the moon was full it was a very dark night.

Oct. 20.
At zero hour, 2 A.M., under a heavy and very effective barrage, the Battalion advanced to the river in artillery formation, guided by tapes. Very indifferent bridges had been erected by the Royal Engineers and the Pioneer Battalion of the Coldstream Guards, and it was no easy matter getting all the men across in single file on two extremely narrow planks. However, there were very few casualties, and the leading companies deployed into waves, and went forward, followed by the supports and reserves in artillery formation. Very soon after the start No. 1 Company got to St. Python, but as it was entering it came under heavy machine-gun fire from the houses.[157] Some useful bombing work was carried out at this juncture, especially by No. 1 platoon, led by Corporal Hunter. As the barrage was moving forward, Lieutenant Holbech decided to leave one platoon to complete the capture of St. Python, supported by No. 3 Company, while the rest of the leading companies went on to their first objective, which they reached almost to schedule time. About 50 prisoners and several machine-guns were captured in this stage of the attack.

There was an hour’s halt at this point, in the course of which the remaining platoon of No. 1 Company joined up with the leading troops. It had been uphill work all the way, with a good deal of wire to get through, and it had been found necessary to constitute No. 3 Company a defensive flank. Just before another move was due, a party of the enemy was seen on the right rear of the Battalion, firing lights towards Solesmes. One platoon under Lieutenant Holbech wheeled about, and charged it from the rear, “getting home” with the bayonet and capturing several machine-guns.

The final objective was reached soon after 4 o’clock. But the Germans were inclined to hold on to their positions, and all the way the two leading companies met with resistance. This was partly owing to machine-gun fire from the right flank, as up to this time Solesmes had not yet been cleared by the Sixty-first Division. On the line of the final objective No. 1 Company took a field-gun with its garrison of one officer and 25 men—which brought the total captures[158] of the Battalion in the attack up to 200 prisoners, two field-guns, and a large number of machine-guns and trench mortars.

By daylight the leading companies had consolidated their line of outposts, and in order to protect the right rear of the Battalion, No. 3 Company dug in in échelon to the right flank, with No. 4 Company in rear of it. About 9 A.M. the Sixty-first Division continued its advance from Solesmes, and came up into line with the Battalion. Soon after dawn heavy enemy machine-gun fire had been brought to bear upon the leading companies, and continued for several hours, while the German artillery, which up to this time had taken little part in the operations, began to assert itself, and shells of every sort fell round the battalion. Lieutenant E. M. Neill, who had been conspicuous for his work and bravery during the advance, was wounded by shell-fire, and the total casualties were one officer and 52 other ranks. On the evening of the 22nd the Battalion was relieved by the 24th Royal Fusiliers, and marched back to St. Vaast, where it “embussed” for Carnières. There it remained until the end of the month, when it moved on to St. Hilaire, proceeding the following day to Capelle.

The 3rd Battalion
3rd Batt.
In the first week in October the Battalion remained at Doignies, where during a practice attack a barrage from a smoke rifle grenade was tried, and on the 8th moved to Premy Chapel. An attack was being made by the Sixty-second[159] Division, and the Battalion, which was not called upon, moved on later to Masnières. Cambrai could be seen in the distance burning fiercely throughout the night.

On the 9th the orders were not received until the Battalion was in its assembly position.

The following officers took part in these operations:

Lieut.-Colonel the Viscount Lascelles, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Capt. E. G. A. Fitzgerald, D.S.O. Adjutant.
Lieut. R. C. G. de Reuter Intelligence Officer.
Capt. E. R. M. Fryer, M.C. No. 1 Company.
Lieut. K. A. Campbell, D.S.O.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. R. Gunther, M.C.  ”  ”
Capt. A. H. S. Adair, M.C. No. 2 Company.
Lieut. S. G. Fairbairn, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. C. B. Hollins  ”  ”
Lieut. F. Anson, M.C. No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. H. J. Gibbon, M.C.  ”  ”
Capt. E. J. Bunbury, M.C. No. 4 Company.
2nd Lieut. A. E. F. F. Strangways-Rogers  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. H. I’B. Smith  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. R. P. Papillon  ”  ”
Capt. J. H. Graff, U.S.A.M.O.R.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. S. Phillimore, M.C. Chaplain.
Oct. 9.
In the early part of the attack one of our guns appears to have been badly laid, with the result that it continued to shoot short, causing several casualties among the leading companies of the Battalion. This was particularly irritating, since only a short time before these companies had been mistaken for the enemy, and had been fired at by one of our own aeroplanes. The first objective was taken by 6.30, and no Germans were[160] encountered, the only casualties being caused by our barrage.

The Battalion started off with No. 1 Company under Captain Fryer on the right, No. 2 under Captain Adair on the left, No. 3 under Lieutenant Anson in support, and No. 4 under Captain Bunbury in reserve. As there seemed every possibility of the Germans retiring rapidly, the scheme of attack was ambitious, with a large extent of ground to be covered. The first objective was a trench running from Niergnies to Seranvillers; the second objective the road running from Cambrai to La Targette; and after that there were four “bounds,” ending up with the Cambrai—Beauvois road. There was no sign of the enemy, not even any hostile shelling at first, and no difficulty was experienced in securing the objectives. In the second bound, Wambaix Copse, which might possibly have been held by the enemy, was also taken without opposition. At 10.30 the capture of Estourmel was effected, and still the enemy had shown no sign of fighting. Lord Lascelles decided that the dinners should be eaten now, and as the 1st Guards Brigade had not come up there was plenty of time for the men to dine before resuming the advance. It was not until the Battalion reached the Cambrai—Beauvois road and Igniel-dit-les-Frisettes that the enemy’s resistance stiffened, and it suffered casualties. Captain Adair with No. 2 Company occupied Igniel, but reported that casualties were occurring from machine-gun fire on his right, and from the enemy’s heavy guns at long range. This village was in a clump[161] of trees on the crest of a hill on the farther side of the Cambrai—Beauvois road, and was approached by a sunken road, on each side of which the ground rose in a gentle slope, and formed an ideal position for machine-guns. Captain Adair advanced up the sunken road, and as soon as his company appeared on the hill it was subjected to a harassing machine-gun fire. He at first ordered his men to dig themselves in, but later he decided to move up into Igniel-dit-les-Frisettes. When No. 2 Company moved into the trees and buildings, it was so heavily shelled that Lord Lascelles, who had come up to see how the situation was developing, told him his men would be safer out in the open. There seems little doubt that the German ammunition was already deteriorating, for when their shells burst the pieces did not scatter so well as before. But for this the casualties would certainly have been very heavy, and in all probability it would have been found necessary to retire from the hill altogether. At 4.30 P.M. Lord Lascelles received instructions to support a cavalry patrol of the Oxfordshire Hussars, which had been sent out through the 1st Battalion Coldstream on the left. He was surprised at this message, for he knew that no cavalry patrol could possibly go out in the face of this machine-gun fire, and when the officer commanding the patrol appeared at the Battalion Headquarters to say that it had been unable to go forward at all, he was able to disregard the order, and send in a report asking for confirmation of his action. In the evening orders were received to establish an outpost line[162] with two companies over the Cambrai—Beauvois road, with two companies in support near Estourmel. That night a warning order was received for a farther advance the next morning, and the Battalion Headquarters moved up to Grand Chanfemel.

Oct. 10.
The next morning the 1st Battalion Scots Guards passed through the outpost line, and continued the advance by bounds, while the Battalion moved forward in support. No. 3 Company on the right, under Lieutenant Anson, and No. 4, under Captain Bunbury, formed the support, with the other two companies in reserve. In the afternoon the Scots Guards were held up west of St. Hilaire, and were ordered to establish an outpost line for the night. Nos. 3 and 4 Companies were placed under the orders of the Officer Commanding the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, while two companies of the 1st Battalion Coldstream were sent up to take their place.

On the 11th the 1st Guards Brigade passed through the outpost line, and continued the advance, while the Battalion went into very comfortable billets in St. Hilaire, where the German baths were used. On the 13th the 2nd Guards Brigade passed through with the 3rd Battalion Grenadiers on the right, the 1st Battalion Coldstream on the left, and the 1st Battalion Scots Guards in reserve. These Battalions were ordered to be at immediate notice to move in case the 3rd Guards Brigade, which was crossing the Selle River, should require assistance, but the warning orders were later cancelled; and that night the Battalion relieved the 2nd Battalion[163] Scots Guards in the front line along the Selle River. Second Lieutenant Gunther with a patrol of eight men crossed the river, and surprised a German whom he gagged and brought back. He reported that the enemy seemed in a sleepy and disorganised state, and Lord Lascelles accordingly asked for permission to push a company across the river that night, but was told instead to establish a bridgehead on the following night north of St. Python.

The erection of a bridgehead so near to so many houses was a matter of some difficulty, since it was obvious that the crossing could not be held if the enemy occupied houses within 300 yards of it. Lord Lascelles therefore ordered Lieutenant H. I’B. Smith to occupy the nearest house to the bridgehead and Lieutenant F. Donnison to search the four or five houses near it and make sure they were empty. Second Lieutenant Smith had no difficulty in occupying the house, but found that the walls on the enemy’s side were so full of large holes that the house was untenable. Lieutenant Donnison moved forward to reconnoitre but ran into the Germans in some force in the streets beyond, and was forced by machine-gun fire and bombs to fall back on Lieutenant Smith’s party, leaving behind two men who were too badly wounded to move.

The alternatives open to Lord Lascelles were first, to hold the bridge with trenches dug practically on it, but this was dismissed as being strategically unsound; secondly, to dig trenches beyond the bridge, which was difficult, because[164] the men would have to be on the top of the river bank, and overlooked by the houses 300 yards away; thirdly, to occupy one house and strongly fortify it. This seemed at first to be the best solution of the difficulty, but when Second Lieutenant Smith and Second Lieutenant Donnison, who had behaved with great gallantry and coolness, reported that it was impossible to hold the nearest house, and that all the neighbouring houses would have to be cleared of the enemy, Lord Lascelles came to the conclusion that this would involve him in endless operations in the town. He therefore decided to have the bridgehead dug in on the banks of the river.

Captain Bunbury, who commanded No. 4 Company, from which the two platoons had been sent to secure the houses on the farther side of the river, was placed in a difficult position. He brought up the remainder of his company, and held a quarter of the village of St. Python, the houses on the other side of the stream being held entirely by the Germans. It was impossible to get to him in daylight, and by night all the streets were swept with machine-gun fire. He handled his men under circumstances of exceptional difficulty with some skill during the days he was there. Throughout these operations some five hundred civilians lived in the cellars and performed many acts of kindness to the men of the Battalion who visited them. It was impossible for them to move out of their retreat without being shot at. One little girl, eleven years old, quite unconscious of the danger she [165]ran, walked out in the streets in broad daylight, and was brutally shot by a German; at great risk one of the men of the Battalion went out and carried her back, but she died.


October 20th, 1918

Emery Walker Ltd.

This was the beginning of the period when the Germans seemed to spare all the buildings, and to concentrate their fire chiefly on the exits from villages.

On the 16th the enemy was reported to be massing men on the St. Python—Haussy road, and our artillery shelled the area indicated for two hours, but no counter-attack developed. The following day the Battalion was relieved, and went into billets at St. Vaast. On the 20th the 1st and 3rd Guards Brigades attacked, and captured the high ground east of Solesmes and St. Python, but the 2nd Guards Brigade was not wanted. On the 22nd the whole of the Guards Division was taken out of the line for a week’s rest.



Diary of the War

Nov. 1918.
The Versailles Conference opened. A mutiny among the German sailors at Kiel broke out, and had far-reaching effects. In France the Allied Armies continued to press forward, and the German retreat became more rapid. In reply to overtures made by the Germans, the Allies replied that if Germany wished for an armistice she must apply to General Foch, in the usual military form, for the conditions under which an armistice would be granted. On the 8th the German Envoys were received by General Foch, and were given the conditions drawn up by the Allies. A revolution broke out in Berlin, and the abdication of the Kaiser was announced. On the 11th the Armistice was signed.

At the beginning of November Austria surrendered unconditionally.

The Guards Division
The Guards Division.
The advance in November, culminating in the capture of Maubeuge, was so rapid, the extent of ground covered in so short a time so great,[167] and the number of prisoners and guns taken so large, that there was little doubt that an Armistice on any conditions was the only thing that could save the German army from absolute disaster.

The Guards Division moved up on the 2nd from Escarmain towards Villers Pol. The objectives or bounds were no longer measured in yards but in miles, and the ambitious programme produced by the Divisional Staff would have been considered beyond the bounds of possibility, even six months before.

It was known that the Germans must now stand and fight, if they were to gain time for the withdrawal of their armies elsewhere, and a final attack was ordered for November 4 in order to break through their resistance, and complete the victory of the Allied Armies. Preparations for the attack were somewhat disorganised by a partial withdrawal of the enemy during the afternoon of the 3rd.

General Sergison-Brooke and General de Crespigny felt their way forward, and Villers Pol was occupied during the night, but it was impossible to notify the artillery of the exact position of the leading companies by the time the attacks started on the 4th, and in order to allow a margin of safety the barrage had to start some way east of the village, with the result that some of our troops never caught it. Up to mid-day the Germans fought very stubbornly, but they were everywhere driven back, and by the evening Preux-au-Sart was in our hands, an advance of nearly four miles. So fierce had been the fighting that the losses on both sides[168] were exceptionally heavy, the Germans in particular leaving a large number of dead upon the ground.

During the two following days Heywood’s Brigade drove back the enemy’s rear-guards another five miles, and patrols of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards entered Bavai, an important town, and the junction of no less than eleven roads. Bavai was not on the front allotted to the Guards Division, but during the whole of this advance the line on the left of the Division was very much thrown back, which caused great inconvenience, since it enabled the enemy to enfilade the troops from the north, for the Germans were now prodigal in the expenditure of shells, which they knew they could never carry away with them. The troops billeted in villages in rear suffered considerably, and as the left flank of the Division was thrown back the back areas were all within easy range from the north. In particular the village of Amfroipret was heavily punished, and General Heywood was severely wounded by a shell, which exploded in his headquarters just west of that village. Once more the 3rd Guards Brigade was without a commander. Brigadier-General Campbell, V.C., was sent for to take command, and in the meantime the Brigade was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Stirling, Scots Guards.

On the 7th Sergison-Brooke’s Brigade, passing through the 3rd Guards Brigade, continued to drive the enemy back, but the following day the advance was checked owing to enfilade fire from the north. That afternoon a German[169] orderly carrying an important message was captured. The message was at once sent by special despatch rider to Divisional Headquarters, and on being translated proved to be an urgent order to the rear-guard commander, telling him to hold on to his present position at all costs, and cover the withdrawal of the main body to a line east of Maubeuge. The resistance of the rear-guard, the message added, must be such as to gain time for the consolidation of this new line and thus save the rest of the army. General Matheson at once ordered General Sergison-Brooke to push forward his reserve Battalion (the 3rd Battalion Grenadiers) directly it was dark, with instructions to force its way through the enemy’s rear-guard and straight on down the road to Maubeuge.

The 3rd Battalion Grenadiers moved forward at 10 P.M., and reached the citadel of Maubeuge at 2 A.M., but it was just too late to cut off the enemy’s rear-guard. De Crespigny’s Brigade was ordered to consolidate a line on the high ground east of the city; this was many miles east of any point reached by the remainder of the British Army. With the capture of Maubeuge the advance of the Guards Division ended, and at 11 A.M. on the 11th the Armistice was signed.

The final rapid advance had been made under circumstances of exceptional difficulty, since the systematic destruction of the railways by the Germans had necessitated the supply of ammunition and rations being brought up by road. The country was closely intersected by streams, and as all road bridges were destroyed, it was neces[170]sary to erect temporary bridges with deviations through the fields leading to them, while the original bridges were being repaired. Constant rain and the continuous stream of transport soon turned these deviations into a quagmire, through which the horses, often up to their bellies in mud, had to pull their heavy load: only the persistent determination of the transport officers and men to get through at all hazards, and the fine condition of the horses made the task of supplying the troops possible.

Even then these efforts would have been of no avail, but for the work of the Royal Engineers in repairing the innumerable bridges to carry lorry traffic: day and night, without rest and with scarcely time for food, they worked, and never failed to do what was asked of them.

But the finest part of the advance, without which victory could not have been enforced in 1918, was the dash and courage of the infantry in face of the insidious knowledge that peace was within sight. Every officer and man who went into those attacks in November knew that it might be the last engagement of the war, and that if he avoided unnecessary risk he would probably get through safely; if he took it, he might be throwing away his life on the last day of the war. That knowledge had not the smallest effect upon the conduct of the troops, and the attack on November 4 was carried out with a dash and reckless courage that had never been surpassed in the war.

The result cannot be over-estimated: instead of a half-hearted Armistice with the Germans[171] still under the impression they were, as far as the army was concerned, virtually the victors, the last attacks had shown them that it was merely a matter of estimating how far their defeat had been completed, and had made them understand that their safest course lay in bringing about an Armistice as speedily as possible, to save the reputation of their army.

The 1st Battalion
1st Batt.
After ten days’ rest spent in billets at St. Vaast the Battalion went in pursuit of the retreating Germans, and marched to Escarmain, which was being shelled by the enemy. On the 4th the 1st and 2nd Guards Brigades attacked, while the 3rd Guards Brigade was in Divisional Reserve. The Battalion moved by companies at 200-yards intervals to Mortre Farm, where it bivouacked in the orchard, moving on again in the afternoon to Villers Pol. Here orders were received that the Battalion was to go through the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards and to continue the advance.

List of Officers who took part in the Operations from November 4 to 7

Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. W. R. Bailey, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Major C. H. Greville, D.S.O. Second in Command.
Lieut. J. A. Lloyd Acting Adjutant.
2nd Lieut. J. C. Blunt Intelligence Officer.
Capt. J. Teece, M.C. Quartermaster.
Capt. P. M. Spence, M.C. King’s Company.
Lieut. R. G. Buchanan[172]  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. D. Anderson  ”  ”
Lieut. C. G. Kennaway No. 2 Company.
2nd Lieut. M. G. Farquharson  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. S. Lamont, D.S.O.  ”  ”
Lieut. R. S. Challands No. 3 Company.
Lieut. W. A. Pembroke  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. N. P. Andrews  ”  ”
Lieut. H. Freeman-Greene No. 4 Company.
2nd Lieut. L. F. A. d’Erlanger  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. C. A. Fitch  ”  ”
Capt. W. Lindsay, R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. C. Venables Chaplain.
Nov. 5.
At 2.15 A.M. the Battalion moved out from Villers Pol with intervals of thirty yards between platoons, and marched to La Buvette cross-roads, where a halt was made, and the Lewis guns were taken off the limbers. Directed by two guides from the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, the Battalion made its way across country to a bridge, where a long halt was made to find the Headquarters of the 3rd Battalion Grenadiers—no easy matter in the dark. The Battalion eventually managed to get into position close behind the front line posts. No. 2 Company, under Lieutenant Kennaway, was on the right and in touch with the 2/20th London Regiment from the Sixty-second Division; No. 3 Company, under Lieutenant Challands, on the left in touch with the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards; No. 4 Company, under Lieutenant Freeman-Greene, was in support; and the King’s Company, under Captain Spence, was in reserve.

At 6 A.M. the advance began. Rain fell and continued intermittently during the three days’ operations. The advance was much hampered,[173] especially in the initial stages, by a creeping barrage put down by the Sixty-second Division, without any warning having been given to the Battalion. The going was very heavy, and the very enclosed country, intersected by thick hedges and wire fences, made it difficult for the companies to keep their directions. Little opposition was encountered, until the leading platoons reached Amfroipret, when one German officer and five men were taken prisoners in the village. Immediately east of the village and in the wooded country south of the railway, the Battalion began to encounter the enemy’s rear-guard, but after driving it in some way the advance came to a standstill about the line of the road from Bout la Haut to Cambron Farm. The extraordinary difficulty of locating a hidden enemy in such an enclosed country made the advance hazardous, and the Germans appeared to be holding very strongly with machine-guns a line some five hundred yards east of this road. Lieutenant Kennaway, with No. 2 Company, attempted to secure the cross-roads in front of him, and failed to make any headway against the enemy’s machine-guns. During this gallant attempt Lieutenant Lamont, who was with the leading platoon, was killed, in addition to many men.

The situation was not without anxiety, for on neither flank could any British troops be seen. It looked as if the Battalion had been going on too fast for the rest of the line, and Lieutenant-Colonel Bailey decided to wait until the situation on the right developed. No. 2 Company accord[174]ingly dug in where it was, and the King’s Company was moved to Cambron Farm to fill up the gap there was between the right of the line and the Sixty-second Division. The situation on the left required some adjustment, for the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards had been apparently held up, and No. 3 Company had to be responsible for that flank of the Battalion. About mid-day a company of the Scots Guards came up through the village, and occupied Bermeries without opposition, making the left flank once more secure. This enabled No. 4 Company to push forward through the orchards and drive out an enemy’s post, but again the enemy’s machine-guns prevented any farther advance. The difficulties in this action were that, when once a company or platoon had been sent off anywhere, it could not be found again owing to the enclosed nature of the country. No communication between the various parties was possible, and the operations therefore developed into small isolated parties fighting independently of each other. The Germans began to shell the village with heavy shell during the afternoon, and the front line posts were fired on at close range by field artillery. During the evening No. 3 Company took over the outpost line from No. 4 Company, which was withdrawn to cellars in the eastern end of the village.

Lieut.-Colonel Bailey received orders for a farther advance next day, and the King’s and No. 2 Companies were to secure the cross-roads, if possible during the night. It was, however, so dark, and the enemy was in so great strength,[175] that the operation was not attempted that night. Brigadier-General Heywood, commanding the 3rd Guards Brigade, was wounded in the evening, and the command devolved upon Lieut.-Colonel Stirling, commanding the 2nd Scots Guards.

Nov. 6.
It poured with rain all night. The Battalion formed up south of the railway on the line of the forward posts, with the King’s Company, under Captain Spence, on the right; No. 4 Company, under Lieutenant Freeman-Greene, on the left; No. 3 Company, under Lieutenant Challands, in support (their position north of the railway being taken over by the Welsh Guards), and No. 2 Company, under Lieutenant Kennaway, in reserve. The King’s Company and No. 2 Company were ordered to make good the line of the Bavai—Queve-au-loup road, where Nos. 2 and 3 Companies would advance through them, and secure the last two objectives. The King’s and No. 4 Companies were comparatively fresh, as they had had some hours’ rest in barns and cellars during the night, but Nos. 2 and 3 Companies were soaked through by the rain, and tired out after a hard day constantly on the move and a night spent in digging in on the outpost line. At 6 A.M. the advance began, and was again most difficult, on account of the enclosed country. The Battalion met no opposition until it reached some high ground, when the leading platoons came under a very heavy machine-gun fire from the far side of the valley, and a harassing fire from field-guns. No. 4 Company was temporarily checked, but the King’s Company, under cover of the houses and hedges along the Mecquignies[176] road, seized the crossing over the river, and worked up till it got in touch with a company from the Sixty-second Division on the right. This advance through houses was well carried out, and the Lewis gunners performed wonders in getting their guns into houses. One party of German machine-gunners was shot down in the church tower. No. 3 Company was halted on the road, and No. 2 Company in reserve moved up to the cross-roads at Bavisiaux. The grounds of Mecquignies Château were strongly held by machine-guns, but after a sharp fight the King’s Company drove out the enemy and seized the Château. In this fighting Second Lieutenant A. D. Anderson was killed, while gallantly leading his men to the attack. Lieutenant Freeman-Greene, seeing the King’s Company advance up the farther slope, at once began to push on with No. 4 Company, and in spite of a hail of machine-gun bullets reached the line of the river with little loss, and gained touch with the left of the King’s Company. After this the fighting became very promiscuous, and platoons became scattered among the orchards and fields of the Château. Touch was established with the Welsh Guards, who had been temporarily checked in Buvigny, and who were now moving on, and the enemy seemed to be retiring all along the line. Lieut.-Colonel Bailey was ordered to push on and try and seize the line on the Bavai road before night, and he accordingly moved up No. 2 Company to the Château grounds. The King’s and No. 4 Companies had in the meantime made good the high ground north of the Château,[177] driving out some advanced posts of the enemy. No. 3 Company was ordered to move through Mecquignies village and to seize the orchards north-east of the village. This it succeeded in doing, meeting with little opposition. The King’s and No. 4 Companies at once prolonged the line to the left, and pushed out patrols to the east. This line was consolidated, and as the night was very dark no farther advance was considered advisable.

The 466th German Regiment which opposed the advance fought extremely well, and was cleverly handled by its commander, who thoroughly understood how to fight a rear-guard action. The wet weather and the mud made these operations peculiarly trying to men who had had little training in close country fighting, but the discipline in the Battalion was so good that each platoon, however isolated, could be relied on to act intelligently. The scenes in the various villages were most touching, for the civilians who emerged from cellars and underground dug-outs all acclaimed the men as their deliverers, and were highly excited in their joy.

Nov. 7.
Early on the 7th the 1st Battalion Scots Guards advanced through the Battalion, which was withdrawn to Amfroipret. Lieut.-Colonel Bailey issued the following message to the Company Commanders:

Please let all ranks know that I consider the advance on the 5th and 6th to have been carried out excellently in spite of very heavy going and the difficulties of keeping direction. On the 5th Nos. 2 and 3 Companies, though they had little fighting, had a thoroughly[178] miserable and uncomfortable time, which as usual was borne with the greatest cheerfulness. The King’s Company and No. 4 Company were better off, as they got a few hours’ rest under cover.

On the 6th, in spite of very heavy machine-gun fire from front and flank and most difficult country, the King’s Company and No. 4 pushed ahead and drove in the rear troops of the enemy, thus making good the passage of the river Du Moulin de Bavai. The greatest credit is due not only to the fine fighting powers of the men but also to the good leading and forethought of the leaders.

The two days’ fighting were unsatisfactory as far as the killing of Germans was concerned, and the conditions miserable from the start to finish, but the Battalion, as always, went quicker and farther than any other Battalion in the Brigade, and the distance you went undoubtedly helped the 24th Division by threatening the communications of the enemy, holding the ground north-west of Bavai, and causing them to retire. You have well kept up the traditions of the Regiment and maintained the Grenadier spirit—the most magnificent in the world. I congratulate officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, and I know that you will never fail.

W. R. Bailey, Lieut.-Colonel,

Commanding 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.

On the 9th the Battalion marched to La Longueville, and the 1st Guards Brigade entered Maubeuge. On the following day it reached Douzies, where the news arrived that the Armistice had been signed. On the morning of the 11th the Battalion paraded, and the Commanding Officer read out the official telegram declaring the Armistice to be in force.


November 1-11, 1918

Emery Walker Ltd.


2nd Batt.
The 2nd Battalion
In the fighting on November 4 the following officers took part:

Lieut.-Colonel C. F. A. Walker, M.C. Commanding Officer.
Capt. R. G. Briscoe, M.C. Adjutant.
Lieut. L. Holbech, M.C. Intelligence Officer.
Capt. L. St. L. Hermon-Hodge No. 1 Company.
2nd Lieut. D. L. King  ”  ”
Lieut. W. H. S. Dent No. 2 Company.
2nd Lieut. C. J. N. Adams  ”  ”
Lieut. R. H. R. Palmer No. 3 Company.
2nd Lieut. K. B. Bibby  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. E. G. Harcourt-Vernon  ”  ”
Lieut. C. C. Cubitt No. 4 Company.
2nd Lieut. B. R. Osborne  ”  ”
Lieut. E. L. Coffin Medical Officer.
Nov. 4.
The Battalion marched from Capelle through La Croisette and Villers Pol to its assembly area, which was a line 100 yards east of the Jenlain—Le Quesnoy road. Villers Pol was being heavily shelled at the time, and a good number of casualties resulted. Lieut.-Colonel Walker was ordered to advance in support of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards, until the capture of the first objective, the Fresnay—Wargnies-le-Petit road, had been completed, then to pass through and secure the second objective, a line some 3000 yards farther east. Zero hour was fixed for 7.20 a.m. The rain ceased early, but a very heavy mist hung low over the ground and made it impossible for troops to see more than 200 yards ahead. No. 4 Company, under Lieutenant Cubitt, was on the left of the line; No. 3 Company, under Lieutenant Palmer, on the right; No. 2 Company, under Lieutenant Dent, in support;[180] and No. 1 Company, under Captain Hermon-Hodge, in reserve.

The 2nd Guards Brigade under Brigadier-General Sergison-Brooke went forward on the right of the Battalion. Owing to mist the Coldstream lost their direction, and proceeded at a right incline. Seeing troops ahead moving along close to the barrage, the foremost companies of the Battalion imagined that they were Coldstream Guards making for the first objective. It was only discovered later that these were really the Germans in retirement. As No. 4 Company passed over the high ground near the wood south-west of Wargnies-le-Petit, the mist suddenly lifted, and they came under heavy machine-gun fire from the north. Lieutenant Cubitt was wounded, and the company had a considerable number of casualties. Second Lieutenant Osborne, who now took command, led two platoons a bit farther by short rushes, but was eventually stopped by a sweeping machine-gun fire, which made farther progress impossible. German field-guns were also firing at a short range, and the Battalion lost a good many men. Lieutenant Osborne therefore took it upon himself to make a personal reconnaissance of the enemy’s positions, and see whether there was not a better line of advance. With almost reckless gallantry he went out, and carefully examined the German line, but the result of his scrutiny was never known, as he was shot through the heart by a machine-gun bullet on the way back. As No. 4 Company was now without an officer, Sergeant E. Carter took command.


Nov. 5.
Meanwhile No. 3 Company under Lieutenant Palmer had made its way through the southern part of the wood near Wargnies-le-Petit. On leaving the wood along the eastern edge, they came under machine-gun and rifle fire from the enemy, who was barely 200 yards away. Lieutenant Palmer advanced by short rushes, and not only took the position, but captured or killed the whole garrison. It was found impossible to proceed, and the company dug in a line of outposts. During this attack the field-guns of the Guards Divisional Artillery were brought up at a gallop to within a very short distance behind the leading troops—a daring and difficult achievement that is worthy of record. As soon as these guns opened fire on the village of Wargnies-le-Petit, the companies on the left were able to continue their progress. Touch was then gained with the 3rd Grenadier Guards on the right, and with the Forty-second Division on the left. Nothing more could be done that afternoon, and the Battalion consolidated its position. Early on the morning of the 5th the 1st Battalion Irish Guards passed through, and pursued the retreating Germans, who had fallen back during the night. The Battalion moved up into billets in Wargnies-le-Petit, and reorganised. Owing to casualties among officers and men, Nos. 3 and 4 Companies were amalgamated into a composite company under Lieutenant Palmer.

Nov. 7.
Two days later the Battalion moved on to Bavai. On the 9th it was in Brigade Reserve, and supported the 2nd Guards Brigade in the advance on Maubeuge. No. 1 Company was[182] in support of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards, and No. 2 Company in support of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, taking the main Bavai—Maubeuge road as the centre of the Brigade frontage. The composite company followed in support, ready to form a defensive flank in either direction. There was no opposition, and at 5.30 the Battalion entered Douzies, and occupied the high ground east of Maubeuge. The 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards consolidated the outpost line, with No. 1 Company forming a Brigade defensive flank. The remainder of the Battalion was billeted at Port Allont. On entering Maubeuge the troops had a great reception from the civilians in the town.

On the 11th the cryptic news arrived:

Hostilities will cease at 11 A.M. to-day.

The Armistice had been proclaimed.

The 3rd Battalion
3rd Batt.
On November 2 the Battalion left St. Python, where it had been billeted, and moved up to Capelle.

The following officers in the 3rd Battalion took part in the operations from November 4 to 9:

Lieut.-Colonel the Viscount Lascelles, D.S.O. Commanding Officer.
Lieut. G. M. Cornish, M.C. Adjutant.
2nd Lieut. R. C. G. de Reuter Intelligence Officer.
Lieut. K. A. Campbell, D.S.O. No. 1 Company.
Lieut. C. C. Carstairs  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. G. R. Gunther  ”  ”
Capt. A. H. S. Adair, M.C.[183] No. 2 Company.
Lieut. S. G. Fairbairn, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. A. E. F. F. Strangways-Rogers  ”  ”
Capt. E. N. de Geijer, M.C. No. 3 Company.
Lieut. F. Anson, M.C.  ”  ”
2nd Lieut. H. J. Gibbon, M.C.  ”  ”
Lieut. E. J. Bunbury, M.C. No. 4 Company.
Lieut. G. W. Godman  ”  ”
Capt. J. Lawson, R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.
Capt. the Rev. S. Phillimore Chaplain.
The Battalion moved off early to bivouac at Capelle. After slipping and stumbling along a greasy chalk track, the companies reached their positions, and were told to dig in. This order was easier to give than to execute, for the men had only their light entrenching tools, which were ill suited for excavating a flinty chalk ground. A few shells came over to enliven the proceedings, but otherwise the day passed quietly. On the following day orders were received for an attack by the Guards Division, and battle stores were drawn.

Nov. 4.
On the 4th the Battalion started to take up its assembly positions in rear of La Flaque Wood, and was much hampered on the approach march by the crowded state of the roads and the congestion of traffic. On reaching Villers Pol, it was forced to halt, as the bridge across the Rhonelle had been destroyed, and the stream had to be crossed by a single plank. During the crossing a few high-explosive and gas shells were sent over, and the men had to put on their masks. Owing to the dense fog the Company Commanders experienced some difficulty in finding the way to the assembly positions, but fortunately they had been provided with the[184] large-scale aeroplane reconnaissance maps, and were able to go unerringly by the shortest route. The attack was led by the 1st Battalion Coldstream, which had the 1st Guards Brigade (2nd Battalion Coldstream) on their left. The Battalion was to pass through the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, whilst the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards was to pass similarly through the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards, and to continue the attack across a gully and on to the villages and woods beyond. On the way No. 2 Company had some casualties from shell-fire.

Though somewhat late on account of the fog, the Battalion started off with No. 1 Company (under Lieutenant Campbell) on the right, and No. 2 Company (under Captain Adair) on the left, and advanced through Flaque Wood. Passing through the leading Battalions they found the 2nd Battalion Coldstream had occupied the frontage of the 2nd Guards Brigade, and throughout the day (as indeed throughout the whole advance) units were apt to incline to the right, owing to the fact that the enemy retirement was north-east, and the enemy units gave way more readily opposite our right flank.

Lord Lascelles had issued orders that he would move Battalion Headquarters to a sunken road, on the edge of the gully, two hours after the leading companies were timed to pass that spot. The approach of this road was shelled by a field-gun at short range, but fortunately the arable ground, on which the shells fell, was so soft that one of them bursting in the middle of Battalion Headquarters caused no casualties.


On arriving at the road, the leading companies did not advance beyond it, but at this moment the enemy were seen removing their gun, and a patrol from each company was hurried forward, down the gully, whilst Lewis guns were set to fire over their heads at the retiring gun.

On the far side of the gully an abandoned 5·9 was taken over by No. 1 Company, and on reaching the crest of the hill an enemy trench was found defended by machine-guns. Whilst reconnoitring to organise his attack, Captain Adair was wounded in the leg.

In the meanwhile the Sixty-second Division (on the right) had got well forward, and the right of No. 1 Company was able to push on whilst the left of No. 1 Company and the whole of No. 2 Company were held up. Second Lieutenant A. E. F. F. Strangways-Rogers, reconnoitring along the hedgerows on the right of No. 2 Company, was fatally wounded.

Lieutenant Campbell then organised an attack with his right platoon, under a barrage of smoke-bombs, which, though they were badly handled and burst innocuously in the air, so astonished the enemy that he abandoned the key to his position, and withdrew down his trench to a position in rear.

Farther on were some thick-set hedges, admirably adapted for a rear-guard action, and on reaching them Lieutenant Carstairs found there was only one gap sufficiently large to let one man through at a time. He led the way, followed by his platoon, and immediately came under fire from the left flank. While[186] trying to locate the enemy, he was severely wounded, and as there were no stretcher-bearers available he had to lie where he was. Lieutenant Campbell on hearing this came up, and seeing that the men were lying bunched up together, ordered Lieutenant Gunther to straighten out the line, while he went to get a platoon to reinforce his right flank. The Germans were unpleasantly close, but their exact position had not yet been located. Lieutenant Gunther, having carried out his orders, went out to where Lieutenant Carstairs was lying on the ground, and was shot through the head.

Meanwhile the left of No. 2 Company was not in touch with the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, and the enemy was trying to creep round that flank into the gully. Fortunately Lieut.-Colonel R. Bingham with a section of the Guards Machine Gun Regiment was there, and had managed by skilful sniping to hold them back. Lord Lascelles decided to bring up No. 3 Company under Captain de Geijer to protect that flank, and ordered the two leading companies to take advantage of the delay to eat their rations.

During this delay the enemy opposite No. 2 Company, finding their southern flank had been driven in, retired off the hill, and evacuated the greater part of the village of Preux, which lay below. As soon as his flank was secure, Captain Adair sent a platoon, under Lieutenant Fairbairn, forward, and this platoon occupied the northern end of the village without resistance. In No. 4 Company Lieutenant Godman was wounded.

The enemy still held a trench in front of the[187] southern end of the village, but an attack launched by Lieutenant Campbell drove them out of a position, which was really untenable when the houses in their rear were held by us. They abandoned their machine-guns and their equipment.

There remained only a few detached houses at the southern end of the village, with a trench in front of them, to complete the capture of the line east of Preux, from which the following day’s attack was to start. This position was approached down an open slope, and the attacking party was driven back, Lieutenant Campbell (the only officer left in No. 1 Company), Sergeant Bennett, Sergeant Stevenson, and Sergeant Valerio being wounded.

Lieutenant Campbell remained with his company, and organised a fresh attack to take place at dusk, but left the execution of it to Company Sergeant-Major Marks, who carried it out with great skill and resource. He captured the trench but not the houses, and consolidated his position.

Lord Lascelles ordered the attack on the houses to be postponed until 10 P.M., when it would be dark. This was accomplished without difficulty, and the jumping-off line for the next day’s attack was completed. During the night Lieutenant F. Anson was sent to take command of No. 1 Company.

The casualties among stretcher-bearers had been particularly heavy, but Captain S. Phillimore did the work of four men in attending to the wounded and relieving the medical officer[188] of some of his work, which owing to the shortage of stretcher-bearers was scattered all over the field.

Captain Adair and Lieutenant Campbell were afterwards specially mentioned by the Commanding Officer in his report of the operations, not only on account of the skill and courage they displayed in handling their companies, but also for their tenacity and courage in carrying on their duties for some hours after they were wounded.

Nov. 5.
On the 5th the 3rd Guards Brigade passed through, and continued the advance, while the Battalion remained behind at Preux, and was employed on salvage work.

Nov. 7.
On the 7th the Battalion was placed, at the last moment, on the left of the attack, but, owing to the state of the roads, it did not reach the line from which it was to start for the attack, until twenty minutes after the other Battalions had started. The enemy had, however, retired, and the objectives were occupied without opposition. Since the area allotted to the Battalion was in the Twenty-fourth Divisional Area, the Battalion was relieved by the 9th Battalion East Surrey Regiment, and went into support to the 2nd Guards Brigade at Audignies.

On the 8th the 2nd Guards Brigade was again ordered to continue the attack. The Battalion, being in support, moved off at 6 A.M., but was forced to halt west of Longueville, where the bridge had been demolished. After a bridge had been constructed by the Battalion the limbers were pushed across at once, and the companies[189] crossed without difficulty. Billets in Malgarni were taken, until the news arrived that no farther move forward was likely that day, when the Battalion moved up north into Longueville. From despatches captured from the Germans it was known that a general retirement had been ordered that night, and the Brigadier asked Lord Lascelles whether his Battalion was fresh enough to attempt the capture of Maubeuge that night. He answered that it was, and the Battalion was ordered to advance along the main Maubeuge road. It was a very dark night; and a straight high road, often above the level of the surrounding fields, where the enemy might still be lurking, was not the best route to take, but as rapidity was the main point, Lord Lascelles moved the Battalion in advance-guard formation straight down the road, instructing the companies to occupy the ditches on either side of the road if attacked.

Although hampered by mine craters, the Battalion reached Maubeuge at 4 A.M., and occupied the town and citadel. It met no opposition, but three German officers and 35 men were taken prisoners. So rapid was our advance that Lieutenant Bunbury sent a platoon to capture a German field-gun still in action. This platoon got within 150 yards of the gun before it was taken away at a gallop. The only civilian Lord Lascelles was able to find above ground in Maubeuge was a priest, who told him that the enemy had all retired a few hours before the Grenadiers arrived, which confirmed the information extracted from the German[190] despatches. The inhabitants came out in the morning, and welcomed the Battalion with the greatest enthusiasm.

On the 11th the cessation of hostilities was announced, and the Battalion attended a thanksgiving service.



The Guards Division 1918.
After an impressive thanksgiving service at Maubeuge, the march into Germany began, and the Guards Division moved by stages to Cologne. The weather broke, and on several days the men were soaked before they reached their billets in the evening. At first the advent of the British troops was hailed with enthusiasm by the inhabitants of the towns and villages, and the people on whom the men were billeted vied with each other to make things as comfortable as possible for their visitors. Flowers were thrown at the men, speeches were made, and cheering crowds of peasants greeted the Battalions as they arrived, but as the march continued, and they reached the Flemish part of Belgium this good feeling changed to one of apathy, bordering at times on incivility. The people of this district had been untouched by the war, and regarded the mass of troops who swarmed into their houses as an intolerable affliction.

When the British troops arrived at the frontier of Germany, they supposed that the march would[192] be continued through a hostile population, but so far was this from the truth, that the people of Germany cringed before the British soldier, and seemed only surprised at the considerate manner in which they were being treated. Whether the Germans expected to be as brutally treated as the Belgians had been by their own soldiers, or whether they were under the impression that their conduct would in some way affect the peace terms it is difficult to say; but the fact remains that the British troops received nothing but kindness at the hands of the inhabitants. In some of the towns that were passed through, the inhabitants did not appear to grasp the fact that they belonged to a conquered nation, and that the best they could do was to remove their hats respectfully, as the Commanding Officers rode past at the head of their Battalions, but the escorts had much pleasure in teaching them manners, by knocking off their hats and caps as they passed.

The routes taken by the four Battalions were as follows:

1st Batt.
The 1st Battalion
Nov. 18. Left Maubeuge.
To Villers Sire Nicole.
” 19.  ”  Binche.
” 20.  ”  Marchienne-au-Pont.
” 24.  ”  Châtelet.
” 25.  ”  Fosse.
” 28.  ”  Naninne.
” 29.  ”  Sur Huy.
Dec. 5.  ”  Modave.
” 6.  ”  Ocquier.
” 10.  ”  Grimonster.
” 11.  ”  Lierneux.
” 12.  ”  Rodt.[193]
” 13.  ”  Büllingen.
” 14.  ”  Oberhausen.
” 15.  ”  Sötenich.
” 16.  ”  Schwerfen.
” 17.  ”  Lechenich.
” 18.  ”  Efferen.
” 20.  ”  Cologne.
2nd Batt.
The 2nd Battalion
Nov. 18. Left Maubeuge.
To Estinne-au-Mont.
” 19.  ”  Anderlues.
” 20.  ”  Montignies-sur-Sambre.
” 24.  ”  Bambois.
” 28.  ”  Assesse.
Dec. 5.  ”  Verlée.
” 6.  ”  Aisne.
” 7.  ”  Arbrefontaine.
” 11.  ”  Born.
” 12.  ”  Mürringen.
” 13.  ”  Oberhausen.
” 15.  ”  Sinzenich.
” 16.  ”  Lechenich.
” 17.  ”  Efferen.
” 18.  ”  Widdersdorf.
” 20.  ”  Ehrenfeld (Cologne).
3rd Batt.
The 3rd Battalion
Nov. 18. Left Maubeuge.
To Rouvcroy.
” 19.  ”  Mont St. Geneviève.
” 20.  ”  Charleroi.
” 24.  ”  Presles.
” 25.  ”  Lesves.
” 28.  ”  Maillen.
Dec. 5.  ”  Havelange
” 6.  ”  Barvaux.
” 7.  ”  Werbomont.
” 10.  ”  Wanne.[194]
” 12.  ”  Deidenburg.
” 13.  ”  Nidrum.
” 14.  ”  Weywertz.
” 15.  ”  Ehrenfeld (by train).
4th Batt.
The 4th Battalion
Nov. 17. Joined Guards Division.
” 19. To Binche.
” 20.  ”  Marchienne-au-Pont.
” 24.  ”  Châtelet.
” 25.  ”  Sart St. Laurent.
” 28.  ”  Dave.
” 29.  ”  Brionsart.
Dec. 5.  ”  Pont de Bonne (Modave).
” 6.  ”  Houmart.
” 10.  ”  Ferrières.
” 11.  ”  Lierneux.
” 12.  ”  Blanche Fontaine.
” 13.  ”  Büllingen.
” 14.  ”  Blumenthal.
” 15.  ”  Scheven.
” 16.  ”  Kommern.
” 17.  ”  Friesheim.
” 18.  ”  Efferen.
” 20.  ”  Kriel (Cologne).
The Guards Division.
Cologne, it was feared, might be difficult to manage, for, although the country people had submissively borne the mass of British troops inflicted upon them, it seemed probable that the inhabitants of a large town like Cologne would resent the occupation. The disorderly elements might take advantage of the arrival of troops, belonging to their most hated enemy, to make a hostile demonstration, and even to shoot. But here again a surprise awaited our men, for the greater portion of the inhabitants hailed the Battalions, as the only means of escape from[195] anarchy. The British military authorities found that the population readily submitted to the most stringent measures, that were considered necessary for the maintenance of order.

The life at Cologne was on the whole pleasant, but after a short time monotonous. After the novelty of playing the part of conquerors in a German town had worn off, the men naturally wished to go home. The only event that is worth chronicling was the arrival of the colours of each Battalion in January. Colour parties consisting of picked officers and N.C.O.’s were despatched to London to bring them out: in the 1st Battalion Lieutenant J. A. Lloyd and Second Lieutenant M. G. Farquharson, M.C.; in the 2nd Battalion Lieutenant W. H. S. Dent, M.C., and Lieutenant L. Holbech, D.S.O., M.C.; and in the 3rd Battalion Lieutenant K. A. Campbell, D.S.O., and Second Lieutenant E. L. F. Clough-Taylor.

The 4th Battalion, having been specially raised during the war, had no colours, and was presented with a Union Colour by Major H.R.H. The Prince of Wales. The ceremony took place on the 14th of January, and in presenting the colour His Royal Highness said:

Colonel Pilcher, Officers, Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Men of the 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards—The King, the Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment, has commanded me to entrust to your safe-keeping this colour which His Majesty has presented to you in recognition of your gallantry. Less than three months after your formation you were fighting at Loos. At once you showed how completely[196] you had absorbed the great traditions of the First or Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards. You added fresh laurels to your record in the great attacks of the Guards Division in the battle of the Somme in September 1916. In the advance on Passchendaele in 1917, and later in the year at Cambrai, you still further enhanced your fighting reputation. Your historic stand in front of Hazebrouck in April last year earned your Battalion its second V.C., and was largely responsible for checking the enemy’s advance. It is a special pleasure to me to hand you this colour in the hour of victory, having like yourselves the honour of serving in this our great regiment. May it be a perpetual reminder to you of the honour you have won for yourselves and for the whole regiment in this war.

Colonel Pilcher replied as follows:

Your Royal Highness—On behalf of the Officers, Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Men of the 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards, I beg to thank you for the generous words you have addressed to the Battalion under my command in presenting this colour, the gift of His Majesty, the Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment.

This gracious mark of His Majesty’s recognition of the services of the Battalion during the war is most deeply appreciated by all ranks who are in Your Royal Highness’s presence amongst us here to-day on enemy soil—a memorable symbol of the completeness of the victory of our arms.

In thanking Your Royal Highness for coming here to-day, may I request you to beg His Majesty the King, the Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment, to accept the grateful and loyal thanks of the 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards.

In February orders for the Guards Division to return home were received, and one by one the[197] Battalions went to Dunkirk, where they embarked for England. The 2nd Battalion was the first to reach London, and its reception by the crowd, assembled to welcome the men home, was most enthusiastic.

On March 22 all the Battalions had a great ovation when they marched past the King at Buckingham Palace, and afterwards went on to the Mansion House. Though it was a bitterly cold day, thousands of people thronged the streets, and filled the windows and house-tops to cheer the men as they passed. Demobilised officers and men in plain clothes followed their battalions, and all the wounded who were able to march joined the procession, while lorries were provided for those who had lost a leg or who were too badly wounded to march. Even the blind joined in, and marched with men to guide them. The Household Cavalry came first, and were followed by the Battalions of the Guards Division, headed by Lieut.-General the Earl of Cavan and his Staff. Amongst them rode the Prince of Wales, who was greeted with the greatest enthusiasm as he passed. Major-General Feilding and his Staff also rode past, in addition to many Brigadier-Generals, who had commanded one of the Guards Brigades, while officers, who had been in command of the Battalion at any period during the war, rode alongside the officer actually in command.

Representatives of the Artillery with guns, the Engineers with pontoons, the Army Medical Corps, and Army Service Corps, who had been attached to the Guards Division in France, all[198] took part in the procession. In the City the crowds were, if possible, denser and more enthusiastic than in the West End, and the scene at the Guildhall was a sight that no one will forget. After marching through the City the procession returned to the West End, and some battalions went to barracks, while others, not quartered in London, proceeded to the railway station.

After the march every man was handed the following message from the King, bearing a facsimile of His Majesty’s signature:

Buckingham Palace.

Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Men of the Guards Division—It is with pride and satisfaction that I take the Salute of the Guards Division on this memorable occasion of their triumphal march through London, and on the same spot where Queen Victoria in July 1856 welcomed back three battalions of Guards from the Crimea.

The Guards Division, first formed in 1915, practically served in every sector in the Western Front, and my visits to the British Armies in the field gave me opportunities of seeing the battle grounds on which it has made so great and enduring a name.

The Division, which commenced its brilliant career at Loos, took a prominent part in 1916 in the hard fighting on the Somme, when on two occasions three Battalions of the same regiment were in the line together.

At the third battle of Ypres the Division responded to the call of its Commander by capturing all allotted objectives in three separate attacks.

The fighting round Cambrai, and the historical counter-attack which broke up a dangerous German thrust at Gouzeaucourt, will ever be remembered.

During the critical days of 1918 an heroic resistance[199] was offered to the vigorous assaults of an enemy numerically stronger and elated by success, while during our subsequent rapid advance the efforts of the Division were crowned by the capture of Maubeuge, the flag of which is carried on parade to-day, a grateful tribute from its citizens.

Nor do I forget the other Arms which enabled the three Brigades of Guards for the first time in the history of the British Army to fight as a Division. The Guards Division Royal Artillery, composed of the 74th and 75th Brigades of Field Artillery; the Guards Division Royal Engineers, formed of the 55th, 75th, and 76th Field Companies; the 3rd, 4th, and 9th Field Ambulances, constituting the Guards Division Field Ambulance, and the Guards Division Train and Supply Column.

All these, inspired by the best traditions of their respective regiments and corps, fostered the invincible spirit and dogged determination of a Division which knew no defeat.

Now, after three and a half years of close co-operation in the field, through the ever-changing fortunes of war, the units of the Guards Division are about to separate.

As your Colonel-in-Chief I wish to thank you one and all for faithful and devoted services, and to bid you God-speed. May you ever retain the same mutual feelings of true comradeship which animated and ennobled the life of the Guards Division.

(Signed)  GEORGE R.I.

March 22, 1919.



Entrenching Battalion. 1915-18.
The enormous amount of spade work, required for the long and intricate network of trenches, rendered some measures necessary for supplementing the work, usually done by the fighting forces; and thus entrenching battalions were formed, composed of drafts for the front, awaiting absorption in their respective units; but the system of detaching men from Battalions of Guards and sending them to fill any vacancies that might occur in one of the entrenching battalions was not at all satisfactory. In the first place, to allow men on arrival in France at once to go to an entrenching battalion, where the discipline was more lax, and the habits and customs different from those which obtained in the regiments of Guards was a measure hardly calculated to improve them as fighting men. And in the second place, it was contrary to the regulations for men of the Guards to be commanded by any but their own officers.

Frederic Robinson. Camberley. photographer        Emery Walker ph. sc.

Brigadier-General A.F.A.N. Thorne, D.S.O.

The idea of forming a Guards Entrenching Battalion seems to have come from certain [201]officers at the base. Shortly before the arrival of the new battalions of the Guards in France, rumours were afloat that an entrenching battalion for the Guards Division was about to be formed. Captain Viscount Lascelles wrote a letter to the effect that a platoon from the reinforcements of every battalion of Guards was to be diverted to an entrenching battalion. The platoon from the 2nd Battalion Grenadiers had already been told off, and was to be commanded by an officer of the Connaught Rangers, while the Battalion itself was to be placed under a cavalry captain. Captain Viscount Lascelles deplored the fact that there was no one of sufficient seniority at the base, to combat these proposals, and thought the whole matter should be referred to the Lieutenant-Colonel rather than let it lapse, on the judgment of half a dozen ensigns at the base.

Nothing, however, appears to have been done until November, when a Guards Entrenching Battalion was formed, and Major E. C. Ellice, Grenadier Guards, was sent out to take command. He arrived at Chipilly on the Somme, about five miles from Bray, on December 1, 1915, and took over the Battalion from Major Clutterbuck, who had been temporarily in command. The Battalion consisted of 230 Grenadiers, 300 Coldstream, 250 Scots Guards, and 200 Irish Guards, with 40 tunnellers from the Royal Engineers.

Major Ellice, having made the acquaintance of his new Battalion, appointed Lieutenant Ian Bullough, Coldstream Guards, to be Adjutant, while Captain Jones, who had hitherto occupied that post, became Quartermaster. The Battalion[202] was divided up into four companies: No. 1 Company Grenadiers under Captain M. Lloyd, No. 2 Coldstream under Lieutenant Viand, No. 3 Scots Guards under Lieutenant Maitland, and No. 4 Irish Guards under Lieutenant Hanbury. The billets in which the men lived were not only uncomfortable but also extremely inconvenient, being sometimes over a mile apart, and so cramped were the men for room that pigsties even were made use of to house them: it was therefore with pleasure that Major Ellice received instructions to move the men to Wood Camp, which was no paradise, but still preferable to the pigsties, and much nearer the trenches. An old stone quarry, worked by a gang of twelve quarry-men under a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, provided the material for draining the camp and improving the roads. Water carts were obtained to provide sufficient water for cooking parties, and fatigue parties were sent every evening to draw water for other purposes from the Somme.

The great advantage of an entrenching battalion was quickly seen by the rest of the Army, since the battalions that came out of the front line were relieved of working during their rest. It had formerly been the custom for resting battalions to dig reserve lines, but now this duty was taken over by the entrenching battalion. All reserve trenches were made by it; emplacements for field-guns, howitzers, and machine-guns constructed, brushwood cut for revetting, roads repaired, carrying parties for all materials necessary for trench warfare supplied.

The staff of the Battalion was kept as per[203]manent as possible, but the Battalion itself was used as a stepping-stone from the base battalion to the Battalions in the front line. The training the officers received was invaluable, as it accustomed them to shell-fire. One or two shells invariably fell near the working-parties; sometimes as many as thirty to forty shells would explode in the neighbourhood. This showed the officers that the effect was local, unless the shell happened to strike a hard surface. It gave them confidence, and they gradually became used to unaimed shell-fire.

At the end of December 1915 Captain Bullough was ordered to join his Battalion, and Captain M. K. A. Lloyd, Grenadier Guards, succeeded him as Adjutant.

In January 1916 the Entrenching Battalion was employed on the second-line trenches, and in constructing gun emplacements for the artillery. This latter duty involved technical knowledge on the part of the officers, who had to work from plans supplied to them by the gunners. About this time it was found that the Amiens—Somme Canal afforded better means of transport for rations and road-making material than the lorries, which had hitherto been used for that purpose; and it was necessary to make a light railway across some marshy ground between Bray road and the Canal. The Entrenching Battalion was employed in making 3000 fascines for this purpose, and the men became so expert at their work that there was keen competition between the various companies as to which should turn out the most fascines.


In April 1916 preparations for the offensive operations on the Somme were begun, and the Entrenching Battalion played a great part during this battle, which lasted six months. The Guards Division was not employed in the initial stages of the battle, and it was therefore not until July that the Entrenching Battalion moved up to the vicinity of Fricourt, to take over the forward roads in the battle area. The constant shelling, combined with the heavy traffic, made it peculiarly difficult to keep the roads in sufficiently good repair for constant use, but in spite of all difficulties the roads were kept open all the time, and this was entirely due to the ability and energy of the officers and the efficiency and discipline of the men. Throughout the year the duties of the Entrenching Battalion were many and various, and at times the work was very heavy, but it was always cheerfully undertaken, because the men prided themselves on being part of the Guards Division, and knew that more than the average amount of work done by the other entrenching battalions was expected from them.

In January 1917 the Battalion was employed in strengthening the defences of Ginchy and Combles, and in the successful operations against the Germans early that year it participated in the various works, on which all arms were engaged. In April it was encamped for some months in the neighbourhood of Havrincourt Wood, and was employed in preparations for the offensive in the direction of Cambrai, which, however, did not take place till November. In June the Battalion made a farther move to Roisel, where for some months[205] it was busily employed in digging a line of trenches some nine miles long, from Epeley to within three miles of St. Quentin. The strength of the Battalion had now risen to over 2000 men. The work on these trenches was very interesting, as it was in sight of the Hindenburg line, and although works of some importance were undertaken, Major Ellice and his Entrenching Battalion were given complete charge of this area.

Although the Guards Entrenching Battalion had constantly worked in the forward areas, the other entrenching battalions had been employed mostly in rear on work which could as easily have been done by labour battalions or Chinese, and they had consequently diminished in strength. In September 1917 the attention of the military authorities was directed to these entrenching battalions, with the result that it was decided to disband them. General Feilding asked that the Guards Entrenching Battalion might be maintained, but this was not considered possible. In October the final disbandment took place.



Reserve Battalion. 1914-18.
The Reserve Battalion, originally known as the 4th Battalion, sprang into existence at the School of Mines at the London University at Kensington as soon as war was declared in 1914. Within five days one thousand seven hundred reservists had arrived from all parts of England and Wales, and retired officers appeared on the scene, whether they belonged to the Reserve or not. This mass of men had to be converted into a disciplined Battalion, non-commissioned officers appointed, and the whole machinery of a battalion created. Yet so smoothly did the mobilisation work that within a few days every man was fully equipped, and companies were drilling in the Park, with N.C.O.’s shouting out their drill as if they had never been away.

Lieut.-Colonel G. D. White was appointed Commanding Officer, Major G. W. Duberly Second-in-Command, Captain E. N. E. M. Vaughan, Adjutant, and Lieutenant J. C. Rolinson, Quartermaster.

The whole conditions of service were now different. Instead of the usual apathy on the part of the men to learn anything new, they now[207] eagerly seized every occasion to acquire knowledge. The Army was no longer a profession, where a man could reduce to a science the practice of doing the least possible amount of work without getting into trouble. It was now a matter of life and death. The latest developments of modern warfare had to be learnt quickly, and the men, who were already seasoned soldiers, set to work with a will to learn from officers and N.C.O.’s at first as ignorant as themselves, the new drill and the latest method of attack and defence. By the time the Reserve Battalion moved to Chelsea Barracks, about three weeks later, it had already become a serviceable body of men. A large number of N.C.O.’s and old soldiers, mostly “D” section reserve, were selected and sent as instructors to train the new battalions of “Kitchener’s Army.” Nearly all proved excellent instructors, and many privates rose almost at once to be sergeants and even warrant officers. In the early days of the war the National Guard and Volunteers did not exist, and consequently the duty of finding guards to protect the reservoirs, electric power stations, and other vulnerable points, devolved on the regular troops in London. The number of small guards all over London was so great that it took the field officer, whose duty it was to visit them, over five hours in a motor to go his rounds. About October 1914 the majority of these guards were taken over by the Special Home Service Units.

Soon the heavy casualties incurred by the battalions in France made the sending of large drafts necessary, and the Reserve Battalion began[208] to change completely, with new officers and new men constantly arriving from Caterham. The number of men in the Battalion became so great that there were two thousand five hundred men in barracks, and the problem of accommodation was a very difficult one. Early in 1915, Aylwin huts were erected at Burton’s Court, which somewhat relieved the pressure. On the formation of the Welsh Guards in February 1915, five officers and six hundred and thirty-four other ranks were transferred to this new regiment, and in July of the same year, when it was decided to form another battalion of the Grenadier Guards from the Reserve Battalion, the latter automatically became the 5th Battalion.

The officers at that time were as follows:

In Command—

Lieut.-Colonel G. D. White

Du Plat Taylor, G. P.

Stewart, E. O.
Ellice, E. C.
Macdonald, G. G.
Taylor, E. R.
Halford, C. H.
Webster, Sir A. F. W. E., Bart.
Lethbridge, Sir W. P. C., Bart.
Coventry, St. J. H.
Glyn, A. St. L.
Loftus, D. F.
Vaughan, E. N. E. M.
Lygon, Hon. R., M.V.O.
Cary, Hon. L. P.
Needham, Hon. F. E.

Stewart, W. A. L.
Harcourt-Vernon, G. C. FitzH.
Cecil, A. W. J.
Ward, E. S.
Stanhope, Hon. R. P.
Pearson-Gregory, P. J. S.
Kenyon-Slaney, R. O. R.
Sitwell, F. O. S.
Williams, M.
Graham, H. A. R.
Duckworth-King, Sir G. H. J., Bart.
St. Aubyn, F. C.
Mildmay, A. S. L. St. J.
Westmacott, G. R.
Cary, Hon. P. P.
Parker-Jervis, T.[209]
Rumbold, H. C. L.
Eyre, J. B.
Asquith, R.
Walker, P. M.
Second Lieutenants—

Llewelyn, H.
Loftus, F. P.
Crosland, C.
Yorke, Hon. A. E. F.
Charteris, Hon. I. A.
Sloane-Stanley, G. C.
Sloane-Stanley, H. H.
Miller, E. E.
Combe, T. A.
Parker, R. W.
Chapman, M.
North, J. B.
Farquhar, R.
Joicey-Cecil, J. F. J.
Bonham-Carter, F. G.
Manners, the Hon. F. H.
Alexander, H.
Gordon-Lennox, V. C. H.
Irvine, A. F.
Nairn, E. W.
Kendall, R. Y. T.
Worsley, J. F.
Hopley, F. J. V. B.
Benyon, J. W. A.

Hon. L. P. Cary.

Rolinson, J.
In February 1916 Lieut.-Colonel G. D. White left to take up a Staff appointment in France, and was succeeded by Lieut.-Colonel G. C. Hamilton, D.S.O. From January 1916 until the end of the war, the Battalion was organised on a nine-company basis in the following manner: the first four companies were composed of recruits who were being trained to feed the Battalions at the front. No. 5 Company consisted of men employed on various duties, and the remaining four companies, six to nine, comprised sick and wounded men from France.

On May 29, 1916, Lieut.-General Sir Francis Lloyd, commanding the London Districts, inspected the Battalion, and expressed himself much pleased with its appearance on parade. General Sir George Higginson also paid a visit to the Battalion that year, and both officers and men much appreciated this attention from a veteran[210] Grenadier, who had fought in the Crimean War. In September a duty, somewhat out of the ordinary routine, was assigned to the Reserve Battalion. During an air raid over London, one of the German Zeppelins was brought down in flames in Essex, and the Battalion was ordered to provide a guard over what was left of it during the two following days. In December Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton was given command of the 4th Battalion in France, and was succeeded by Lieut.-Colonel Lord Francis Montagu-Douglas-Scott, D.S.O.

Nothing of interest occurred until 1918, when, owing to the large numbers of men who joined in consequence of the protected trades being brought under the Military Enlistment Act, a Provisional Battalion was formed at Tadworth. This Battalion, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Maitland, D.S.O., proceeded to Aldershot four companies strong, leaving behind two companies under Captain Lord Forbes. A month later Lieut.-Colonel Maitland was succeeded by Lieut.-Colonel G. E. C. Rasch. Throughout the war the Reserve Battalion found the public duties in London, and on several occasions provided guards of honour, notably at the funeral of Field-Marshal Earl Roberts at St. Paul’s Cathedral on November 19, 1914.

Field training was carried out by one company at a time at Basildon Park, lent by Captain J. A. Morrison, during the autumn of 1914, and at Bovingdon Green Camp, Marlow, during the summer of 1915, and after that at Tadworth Camp. In addition, there were specialist courses: bombing at Southfields and Godstone, Musketry[211] at Rainham and Hythe, Machine Gun courses and Gas Instruction at Chelsea.

The arduous and somewhat thankless task of continually training men as quickly as possible, to feed the battalions in France, was successfully carried on during the four years of the war, and letters from the four Commanding Officers bear ample testimony to the efficiency of the Battalion organisation. The greater part of the work fell on the Commanding Officer, Adjutant, and the senior Captains, whose untiring efforts will ever be gratefully remembered by the regiment. Day in and day out, during four long years, these officers strived to maintain with each draft the high standard of the regiment, and this result could not have been effected without the invaluable assistance of the warrant officers and sergeants.



The Band. 1914-18.
In the first year of the war it does not appear to have occurred to any one that the Battalions at the front would wish to have a band, but when the Guards Division was formed in 1915 the lack of music was much felt, and it was decided that the regimental bands of the five Guards Regiments should be sent out in turn. The Grenadier Guards Band was naturally sent out for the first tour of duty at the front, and was therefore fortunate enough to earn the distinction of being the only band that received the 1914-1915 Star. It embarked on October 22, with Captain A. Williams in command, and proceeded to France. While in mid-Channel, the ship on which it crossed over collided with a four-masted Norwegian vessel, and sank her. A thorough search was made in the darkness for any survivors, and eventually nine of the Norwegian crew were picked up. The British ship itself was badly damaged, and for some hours there was great uncertainty whether it would ever reach port, but it eventually arrived at Havre some six hours overdue.


On arrival the band at once proceeded to Harfleur, which it reached in time to play the National Anthem, when the King, on one of his periodical visits, inspected the Guards depot. Later it moved up to Sailly-la-Bourse, and was warmly welcomed by all ranks of the Guards Division. Captain Williams at once set to work to organise concerts, and to make arrangements to play at each Battalion Headquarters. Two and even three performances were given daily, and visits were paid to the troops in rest billets and in the clearing stations. The people of Paris, anxious to take advantage of the presence of this famous band in France, invited Captain Williams to give a concert at the Hippodrome in aid of the French Red Cross. This proved to be a remarkably successful performance, and a sum of no less than £650 was raised. In January 1916 the band was relieved by the Coldstream band, and returned to London.

A second tour of duty in France was undertaken in 1917, when the Guards Division was on the Somme, and three months were spent at Mericourt l’Abbé.

A third visit to the front took place in August 1918, just at the time when the German last effort had spent itself, and the Allied Armies were making a general advance. On the night of August 21, when the Guards Division was commencing its advance, the Germans bombed the whole area in which it was throughout the entire night. Among the many casualties were three Grenadier bandsmen, and although none of their wounds proved fatal, the solo[214] clarinettist, a very fine musician, lost his arm, and thereby his livelihood.

In July 1918 the band attended the French Fêtes in Paris, and remained there for the celebration of the Belgian Independence. This function took place in the grounds at Versailles, and was attended by the principal bands of Great Britain, France, America, and Belgium. On another occasion in August 1918 the band played in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris in aid of the American Red Cross Society.



Regimental Funds and Associations.
“Grenadiers look after themselves” has become an accepted axiom not only in war but also in peace time. A short time before the commencement of the war the Old Comrades Association was instituted under the auspices of Colonel Scott-Kerr, who commanded the Regiment at that time, and its object was to ensure that no Grenadier after he had left the Regiment was ever in want. This Association proved a great success, and although two years’ service was a necessary qualification for membership, the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men who joined soon rose to a considerable number.

Another tradition in the Regiment was that those who remained behind should look after those who went to fight. In the South African war especially the custom of sending out comforts to the Battalions in the field was brought to a pitch of perfection, and during the two years that campaign lasted the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were well provided for. When the war broke out in 1914, the first care of the regimental authorities was to see that the men in the Expeditionary Force wanted for nothing, and also that[216] their families were adequately provided for. Colonel Gordon-Gilmour, who was temporarily in command of the Regiment in August 1914, came to the conclusion that the mass of routine work was as much as the Regimental Orderly Room could cope with, and that if a Comforts Fund was to be a success, it would be necessary to invoke the aid of an old officer. He therefore asked Major-General Sir Reginald Thynne (an old Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion) to undertake the arduous task. At that time all existing organisations were being strained to their utmost to cope with the vast numbers of men who were flocking to the army.

As soon as Sir Reginald Thynne grasped the immensity of the task he had undertaken, he sent round an appeal to all officers past and present, and raised a substantial sum for the initial expenses. Two funds were started: the Comforts Fund and the Families Relief Fund. The former was entirely for men at the front, and was managed by Sir Reginald Thynne himself. The latter was under the direction of Sir Reginald Thynne as Treasurer and Colonel C. Rowley as Secretary until November 1915, when Lieut.-Colonel Viscount Colville became Treasurer and Mrs. Stucley, Secretary. In September 1914 a small Committee, consisting of the wives of officers and presided over by Lady Florence Streatfeild, was formed, and the whole organisation was put on a thoroughly business-like footing, but the number of men who joined the Regiment increased with such rapidity that it was found necessary to enlarge the Committee.


The following ladies eventually formed the Committee:

Lady Ardee, the Hon. Mrs. Wilfred Smith, Mrs. Fisher-Rowe, the Hon. Mrs. Corry (who resigned later on account of illness), the Hon. Mrs. Dalrymple-White, the Hon. Mrs. Earle (who resigned later and went to Switzerland to join her husband), Mrs. Montgomerie, the Hon. Mrs. G. Legh, Mrs. Ricardo, Viscountess St. Cyres, Lady Helen Seymour, Mrs. Barrington-Kennett, Mrs. St. Leger Glyn, and Mrs. Stucley.

When the Committee first started it was decided to look after families only on the married roll, leaving the others to be dealt with by the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association, to which the Regiment sent a subscription of £100; but it was found that families were so well provided for by Separation Allowances, that it was only in special cases that assistance was needed. The Committee, therefore, undertook to assist special cases, whether they were married people on the strength or not. The ladies of the Committee kept in constant touch with each family either by correspondence or by personal visit, and by degrees they were able to ensure that every case was looked after.

When the cold weather arrived, the needs of the men at the front became of paramount importance, and the wives of officers, non-commissioned officers, and men set to work to make warm mittens and hand-made socks, the wool being provided to a great extent by the Comforts Fund.

Owing to certain officers contributing large[218] sums to the Comforts Fund, which had already been generously supported by the officers, Sir Reginald Thynne was able to send, in addition to what are called comforts, newspapers, tobacco, and cigarettes every fortnight, as well as footballs, boxing-gloves, and other things that the men love. Colonel Streatfeild also decided to supplement the appliances supplied by the War Office, and sanctioned the supply by the fund of such articles as trench periscopes, telephones, and bicycles for orderlies. Later, gramophones were provided, and when Christmas came Sir Reginald Thynne was able to send a plum-pudding to each man at the front. This necessitated 2000 plum-puddings being sent in 1914, and 4000 in 1915 and 1916, in addition to a certain number to the Grenadiers on the Brigade and Divisional Staffs. During the last two years of the war, the supply of plum-puddings for all the Expeditionary Forces was undertaken by the Director-General of Voluntary Organisations.

Prisoners of War Fund
Early in the war the problem of how to deal with the Prisoners of War had to be faced, and Sir Reginald Thynne, having organised the Comforts Fund, now turned his attention to this at the request of Colonel Streatfeild. The Grenadiers were fortunate in having far fewer prisoners than other regiments, but the fact that there were men of the Regiment at the mercy of a country, which had proved itself capable of the most dastardly cruelty, was enough to warrant[219] energetic steps being taken at once to ensure that the men in Germany should not starve.

Major-General Sir Reginald Thynne set to work to devise some organisation by which parcels of food would reach the prisoners regularly, and a Prisoners of War Fund, to which many old officers of the Regiment contributed, was started, and in the initial stages was partly financed by the Comforts Fund.

In the first place it was decided to send all men in Germany a good parcel of food and some tobacco every fortnight, but this was not enough, and a system was started by which many prisoners of war of the Regiment were “adopted” by a lady belonging to the Regiment, a wife, a mother, or a sister of an officer. The adopter was asked to undertake the despatch of a parcel once a fortnight, so that with the parcels from the Fund each prisoner received weekly a sufficient supply of food. This worked admirably, but the labour involved was necessarily heavy, since the men were constantly moved from one place to another.

By an arrangement with the American Embassy in Berlin a complete refit of outer and under clothing was sent to each prisoner by Colonel Streatfeild, but these were not provided by the Prisoners of War Fund.

This method of supplying food to the prisoners in Germany was not altogether satisfactory. In the first place, men in good regiments were much better looked after than those who belonged to regiments where there was no organisation for the care of prisoners; and in the second place,[220] it was open to abuse. Some men, for instance, wrote to various people in England and obtained by this means more parcels than they could possibly want. One prisoner managed by diligent writing to obtain as many as fifty parcels. The difficulty of getting food into Germany increased as the war went on, and it was soon found that the whole problem had become too big for voluntary effort. Accordingly in October 1916 a Central Prisoners of War Committee was formed under the auspices of the Government, and the supply of regular food was officially taken in hand with the aid of the American Embassy in Berlin. This did not entail the abolition of the various regimental funds, but it ensured every prisoner being provided with an adequate amount of food. After this the packets of food were sent with a Red Cross label, provided by the authorities, and no parcel could be sent, unless it had been packed by the Central Committee, or under their authority, as they were responsible that the parcels contained nothing that contravened the regulations. No prisoner was allowed to receive parcels from more than one authorised organisation.

The following memorandum was issued for the guidance of the prisoners’ relations and friends:

System of sending Parcels to Grenadier Prisoners of War in Germany
1. No parcels either of food, tobacco, tea, or clothing can now be sent by private individuals to these prisoners, nor should monetary assistance be given to any agency[221] except our own. Books can be sent to them only through authorised publishers, such as Mudie’s, W. H. Smith, and Bumpus. Gramophones, boxing-gloves, and a few other such articles can sometimes be sent by special request through the Central Prisoners of War Committee, 4 Thurloe Place, S.W.7.

We cannot accept parcels from individuals to be forwarded to prisoners, but only subscriptions to our funds.

2. Details of parcels are as follows:

(1) Assorted food parcels (weight under 11 lbs. gross) are sent three times per fortnight to each prisoner at the cost of £6: 15s. per man per quarter, or £2: 5s. per parcel per quarter. Each parcel contains 1 cake of soap, and frequently other necessaries applied for by the men.

(2) 1 lb. of tea (in a separate parcel) is sent out per month to each man, costing 1s. 8d. per month, duty free.

(3) 250 cigarettes or ½ lb. of tobacco, as preferred, is sent to each man (in a separate parcel) costing 3s. 8d. per month, duty free.

(4) A separate supply of bread or biscuits, according to season, is sent to the Camps by the Central Prisoners of War Committee, and each man should receive 4 lbs. per week. In future we shall have to pay for this, and it will cost us 8s. per man per month (based on 7s. 6d. per four weeks).

(5) A complete outfit of clothing is sent out to each man twice yearly.

3. We classify our subscribers as follows:

(a) Adopters, who subscribe for parcels to specified and named men, paying £2: 5s. per quarter for each fortnightly parcel. In some cases an adopter pays £4: 10s. for two, or £6: 15s. for three fortnightly parcels all sent to the same man; in other cases an adopter takes over two men or three men, or more, and pays[222] for one or more fortnightly parcels each. The names of the senders cannot, owing to shortage of labour, be written on parcels, and the subscriber writes to the prisoner to let him know what is being done for him.

(b) Friends or relations, who subscribe monthly, or occasionally, for the tea, tobacco, or bread, at the prices above quoted, or pay 7s. occasionally when they wish to provide for one of the regular parcels.

(c) Givers of donations, of various amounts to be used as we think best.

N.B.—It is possible for relations of prisoners by applying to the Regimental Orderly Room to get allotments made to them out of the prisoner’s pay, in order to enable them to subscribe to us. This can only be done when a prisoner writes to say he wishes it, and defines the amount of the allotment.

These instructions were altered several times, and new rules and conditions were added. Soon after the official system came into force, there was an unfortunate hitch about the bread. The Central Prisoners of War Committee, which had undertaken the supply, found that the arrangements they had made for its manufacture and despatch from Copenhagen were anything but satisfactory; complaints from the prisoners showed that the system was not working well. Steps were at once taken by the Central Prisoners of War Committee to rectify the fault, and afterwards the supply was carried out satisfactorily from Copenhagen and Berne.

One prisoner, who wished to inform his friends of the true state of affairs, and who feared his remarks would not pass the Censor, wrote on a postcard, “1 Corinthians iv. 11.” The German Censor’s biblical knowledge was fortunately weak,[223] and he allowed the card to go. The text referred to was:

Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place.

Early in 1917 the relatives of the men in Germany began to hear more frequently from them, and to learn how badly some of them were being treated. Thus a considerable correspondence grew up with these anxious people, as well as with the prisoners themselves, and General Thynne had to ask the Lieutenant-Colonel to give him some help. Lieutenant Bernard Samuelson, who was at that time incapacitated for active service by wounds, therefore joined in the work; in July of that year, General Thynne requiring a short holiday, Lieutenant A. O. Whitehead (also wounded) helped; and when General Thynne returned, and Lieutenant Samuelson, who had rendered most able assistance, had rejoined for active duty, Lieutenant Whitehead continued to work with General Thynne. Being a business man with more than common capacity and experience, Mr. Whitehead’s assistance and powers of organisation were invaluable, for the clerical work and correspondence had become considerable, and he devoted himself to the work with the greatest zeal and interest.

In the autumn of 1917 it became very difficult to procure the necessary supplies of provisions; in fact, some essential articles were absolutely unobtainable. It was, therefore, decided to ask[224] the Central Prisoners of War Committee to pack and despatch the parcels, which they were able to do, as they had very large contracts for supplies; and this they continued to do with most satisfactory results until the cessation of hostilities, November 11, 1918.

During 1918 the number of prisoners greatly increased, principally because the 4th Battalion had been surrounded by the enemy, when under orders to hold the position at all costs near Merville, and, whilst losing heavily in casualties, had had over 250 men captured. The other Battalions lost some men captured during the fighting in August and September, thus bringing the total up to 475, including 27 men interned in Holland, and 6 in Switzerland, besides several badly wounded men repatriated, 3 who died in captivity, and 2 who escaped.

Hospital Visiting Committee

President—Colonel Sir Henry Streatfeild, K.C.V.O., C.B., C.M.G.

Secretary—Mrs. H. St. L. Stucley.

Assisted by the ladies of the Regiment.

The members of this Committee visited the sick and wounded men of the Regiment in hospitals in the London district every week, taking them cigarettes, books, and other comforts. The good work done by this Committee cannot be too highly valued. The patients appreciated the kindly sympathy of the Regiment conveyed by the ladies, and looked forward to the weekly visit.

826 men were visited in the London hospitals, and the work of the Committee was extended to provincial hospitals when visitors were available.


Sergeants Past and Present Club

President—Mr. J. Hingley.

Hon. Treasurer—Mr. A. Haskell.

Hon. Secretary—Supt. Clerk W. Fawcett, M.B.E.

The Club has been inactive during the war, but was revived on the return of the Battalions from France. Many old members maintained their connection with the Club, and the total number of members is now 230.

Old Comrades Association

President—Lieut.-Col. Lord F. G. Montagu-Douglas-Scott, D.S.O.

Hon. Treasurer and Secretary—Lieut.-Col. W. Garton, O.B.E., 87 Merton Hall Road, Wimbledon, S.W.19.

This Association numbered 4000 members. All Old Comrades who required help were assisted from Regimental Funds, in the manner most suitable to the needs of the applicants. The annual meeting of the Association was held at Chelsea Barracks on March 29, 1919.

H.R.H. the Prince of Wales was present, and a large number of members attended.

A Dinner was given at the close of the meeting by the Officer Commanding 5th (Reserve) Battalion.

Relief and Charitable Work carried out at Regimental Headquarters
Discharged Men

A letter was sent to all discharged men, offering assistance and giving information regarding the Guards Employment Society.

Discharged men were encouraged to communicate with Regimental Headquarters in all their troubles, and help was always given in one form or another.


Many letters and applications were received, and all were sympathetically replied to and assisted where necessary.

Memorial Fund

This Fund was founded in 1915 by sums of money given by relatives to perpetuate the memory of Officers who have been killed in action or died of wounds.

Various sums have been given to this Fund by relatives of deceased Officers, and, in addition, the late Major-General Hon. W. S. D. Home and Captain T. F. J. N. Thorne each bequeathed £1000 to the Fund. A total of £18,000 was invested in addition to the sum of £2100 placed at the disposal of the Lieut.-Colonel, the interest of which was paid to this Fund.

All money received was invested, and only the interest is used in relieving distress amongst the widows, wives, and children, and assisting discharged N.C.O.’s and men.

Roehampton Hospital Beds Endowment

An appeal was made in 1916 to Officers, past and present, to enable Grenadier Guards Beds to be endowed in Queen Mary’s Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital, Roehampton, where limbless men receive special treatment, are fitted with artificial limbs, and taught how to use them.

A sum sufficient to endow eight beds for two years was obtained, and sufficient donations have been received since to enable the Lieut.-Colonel to renew the endowment of two beds for four years.

Star and Garter Hospital

In June 1918, a room at the Star and Garter Hospital at Richmond was endowed by G. H. Windeler, Esq., the father of the late Second Lieutenant H. W. Windeler, the necessary funds having been subscribed by the Boston friends of that officer and of the late Second[227] Lieutenant Hartley, Coldstream Guards, and Mr. Farnsworth, French Foreign Legion. The room was named after these officers. Nomination to the occupation of the room was in the hands of the Officers Commanding Grenadier Guards and Coldstream Guards, the right to nominate to run alternately, commencing with the Grenadier Guards.

Holiday Homes

By the generosity of an Officer of the Regiment and his wife, a number of the wives and children of warrant and non-commissioned officers and men were sent to the seaside for a holiday every year. These holidays began first in 1918, and have been greatly appreciated.


Appendix I.
Officers. Other Ranks.
Killed. Wounded. Killed. Wounded.
Grenadier Guards 203 242 4,508 6,939
Coldstream Guards 168 328 3,510 9,061
Scots Guards 107 149 2,072 4,002
Irish Guards 115 199 2,234 5,540
Welsh Guards. 34 55 822 1,700
Guards M.G. Regiment 21 47 187 2,090
Total 648 1,020 13,333 29,332


Appendix II.
During 1915 the whole Regiment was much perturbed by the official use of the word “grenadier” as applied to men in all regiments who were being trained to throw bombs. This expression began to creep into official documents in April, and about this time a memorandum was published by General Headquarters on the training and employment of “grenadiers.” In June the Army Council addressed a circular letter to officers commanding battalions, by which authority was given for the training of a detachment in each battalion, consisting of one officer, two sergeants, and 56 other ranks, as “grenadiers.” Badges for “regimental and battalion grenadiers” were described in some additional paragraphs to the Dress Regulations, which were issued in Army Orders in October.

Eventually Colonel H. Streatfeild decided to take up the matter officially, and on November 29 sent the following letter to Major-General Lord Cavan, commanding the Guards Division:

“I respectfully beg to bring to your notice, and to strongly protest against, what I consider is an usurpation of the rights and privileges of the Regiment under my command, by the establishment of ‘Grenadiers’ to all battalions of the Army by Army Order of the 11th October 1915, and would venture to suggest that the name of ‘Grenadiers’ given to Regimental Bomb Throwers be altered to ‘Bombers.’


“In the London Gazette of 29th July 1815 the First Regiment of Foot Guards had bestowed upon it the title of ‘First or Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards’ in commemoration of their having defeated the Grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard at the Battle of Waterloo.

“This distinction the Regiment has proudly borne for the past 100 years, and it is a source of regret to all ranks that at this period, when there are four battalions of the Regiment upon Active Service, this title, which was granted exclusively to the Grenadier Guards as a reward for services in the Field, should in any way be invalidated.”

On receipt of Colonel Streatfeild’s protest, Lord Cavan wrote to General Headquarters:

“I beg with great deference to raise a question of privilege. The word and title Grenadier is now seen in all official documents to denote a man who throws a bomb. This title was given to the First Guards for service rendered at Waterloo, and they are naturally jealous of the honour.”

“In conversation the word bomber is general, but if this is not sufficiently dignified for official documents I most respectfully suggest that ‘bomb thrower’ be the recognised title.”

To this the Adjutant-General at General Headquarters in France sent the following reply:

“The term bomb is officially confined to projectiles fired from trench mortars or dropped from aeroplanes. Projectiles thrown by hand are ‘grenades.’

“The G.O.C. Guards Division is in error in supposing that the Grenadier Guards are the only Regiment in which the word grenadier forms part of the title of the Regiment.

“It would appear that the term Grenadiers is merely an unofficial abbreviation of Grenadier Guards, and[232] does not appear in any official documents in relation to that Regiment.

“The Grenade fired proper is the badge of many Regiments, and it would seem that a claim to the sole use of the title ‘Grenadier’ has as little foundation as one to be the only wearers of the Grenade badge.

“It would seem that Modern Warfare has necessitated a partial return to the Grenadier Companies of former days which it is believed existed without any prejudice to the rights of the Grenadier Guards.”

Lord Cavan, however, could not let the matter rest there, and again wrote to the Adjutant-General on December 22, meeting the arguments put forward by him. He said:

“I beg respectfully to reply to the remarks of the A.G.

“In Para. 2. He says the G.O.C. Guards Division is in error in supposing that the Grenadier Guards are the only Regiment in which the word ‘grenadier’ forms part of the title of the Regiment. The G.O.C. Guards Division never made this supposition, and is perfectly aware that the Indian Army contains the 101st Grenadier and the 102nd King Edward’s Own Grenadiers, and there are also some Colonial Grenadiers, but he is not aware that any British Regiment has the word grenadier as part of its title except the First Guards.

“Reference Para. 4. No claim to be the only wearers of a Grenade Badge was made, but the title Grenadiers was officially given in the London Gazette of July 1815 to the First Guards in commemoration of their having defeated the Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard at Waterloo.

“The title of Grenadier Company is of course of ancient origin and was almost universal. If resuscitated it would be welcome and would solve the problem; if a report stated that ‘the Grenadier Company of the —— Battalion then attacked’ no objection would be[233] raised, but if the report was worded ‘the Grenadiers then advanced,’ I consider it not only an infringement of privileges but misleading to future historians.

“Had the weapon been the carbine or carabine or the Fusil the same confusion would have arisen with the Carabineers or Fusiliers.

“It is in no carping spirit that this letter is written, but I most respectfully beg to emphasise my point that the title ‘Grenadiers’ was a battle honour given to the First Guards and as such should be respected.”

Finding it impossible to get any redress in France, Colonel Streatfeild in January 1916 appealed to the King, as Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment, and His Majesty promised to look into the question. Nothing was done till March, and then at last, in deference to the King’s expressed wish, the Army Council decided that in future the word “Bomber” should be used instead of “Grenadier.” The decision was embodied in the following Order:

War Office,

28th March 1916.

673. Bombers.

The term “Grenadier” will no longer be applied to men trained or employed in the use of hand-grenades.

Such men will in future be designated “Bombers.”

121/7862 (A.G. 1).

By Command of the Army Council,

(Signed)  R. H. BRADE.