1916

 

The following text is taken from the War Diary of the 23rd Service Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. In order to provide some context – and further detail in places – I have interspersed extracts from Lieutenant-Colonel H.M. Davson’s The History of the 35th Division in the Great War (hereafter ‘History of the 35th Division), James Walter Sandilands’ A Lancashire Brigade in France (‘Lancashire Brigade’) and the overlapping War Diaries of other battalions (when they happened to be based in the same location or involved in the same operation). The text in bold font below is transcribed from the original script of the War Diary. Extracts from other sources are in italics.

WAR DIARY

Place: PARKHOUSE, SALISBURY
Date: 23/01/16
Summary of events and information: Battalion received orders for embarkation.

Date: 28/01/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. Transport embarked for France.

Place: FOLKESTONE
Date: 29/01/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. embarked for France; returned to FOLKESTONE on account of mines after 2 hours on board.

Date: 30/01/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. Re-embarked and arrived at BOULOGNE. Weather cold, dull & misty.

Place: BOULOGNE
Date: 30/01/16
Summary of events and information: Entrained at Gare Central. Detrained at BLUNDEQUES [Blendecques], Nr ST OMER. Reached billets at QUIESTEDE.

Place: QUIESTEDE
Date: 01/02/16 – 10/02/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. work special applications to Bombing & Automatic gun fire.

Date: 11/02/16
Summary of events and information: Inspected by Earl Kitchener. Very wet & cold.

History of the 35th Division: ‘On the 11th, the whole division was inspected by Lord Kitchener and the G.O.C. XI Corps. It rained all day, but the parade was successful, and Lord Kitchener expressed his satisfaction at the turn-out and appearance of the “Bantams”. 

Thereafter the division continued its training. The weather was very bad – alternately snow and rain – but this did not damp the ardour of the troops.’ 

Date: 12/02/16
Summary of events and information: Brigade Bombing School commenced.

Date: 13/02/16
Summary of events and information: Became General Reserve.

Date: 14/02/16 – 17/02/16
Summary of events and information: Lectures from Corps Commander & others. Miscellaneous subjects.

Date: 18/02/16
Summary of events and information: Marched & billeted at BOESEGHEM.

Date: 19/02/16
Summary of events and information: Marched & billeted at CALONNE sur LYS.

February, 1916 – RICHEBOURG

A Lancashire Brigade in France relates: ‘The 35th Division was posted to the Eleventh Corps, and arrangements were made for it be attached for instruction to the 38th (Welsh) Division, so that all might learn the latest methods of making war before the Division was given a sector of the line to hold on its own. The 38th Division was holding the Richebourg sector of the line.’

Date: 20/02/16
Summary of events and information: Marched to LE TOURET. The men’s overseas boots in very bad condition. Many men unable to march in consequence.
Reference Ordinance Map BETHUNE (Combined sheet) Edition 6, 1:40,000.

X Coy proceeded in trenches for instruction with 13th Welsh Regt. who occupied Sector S.15.b.d. Y Coy proceeded in trenches for instruction with 14th Welsh Regt. who occupied Sectors S.10.e to S.15.b. Our battalion was attached to 114th Inf. Brigade.

A footnote in the History of the 35th Division records: ‘In the orders for these moves there is a recurring paragraph: – “Two sandbags per man for filling and placing on the fire-step will be provided… Parapets are not to be lowered.”’ 

On the same theme, A Lancashire Brigade in France records: ‘Considerable difficulties were encountered when the Bantams first arrived in the trenches, as firesteps were, of course, too low for them. It was a common sight at this time to see a large Welshman standing on the firestep with the Bantam he was teaching perched on a pile of sandbags beside him. 

It was also reported that the enemy were heard “crowing” at “Stand to” the morning after we had arrived for instruction, but the accuracy of this statement was never verified.’

Place: RICHEBOURG St VAAST
Date: 20/02/16 to 24/02/16
Summary of events and information: X and Y Coy still in trenches occupied on night of 20/2/16 / 21/2/16. Enemy quiet particularly artillery. Own artillery much more active than theirs. On the 23/2/16 enemy threw several trench mortar bombs into sector where No. 9 Platoon Y Coy was. They made a considerable noise; only 1 man 14th Welsh slightly wounded & very slight damage.

History of the 35th Division: ‘For the next ten days trench training was proceeded with. Companies and battalions relieved one another in the front line until all had had experience. All accounts describe the weather as very trying, snow and rain alternating with cold winds, and once or twice a note is made of the bad boots provided and the insufficiency of gas helmets.’

Date: 24/02/16
Summary of events and information: Z Coy attached to 15th Welsh relieved Y Coy in the trenches & W Coy attached to 10th Welsh relieved X Coy.

Date: 25/02/16 to 26/02/16
Summary of events and information: Enemy quiet. Weather cold; snow fell during time the Batt. was in the trenches.

Date: 27/02/16
Summary of events and information: W & Z Coys came out of the trenches in the early morning and the battalion marched and billeted at LA PANNERIE. Our casualties were one officer, 2/Lt Wm. Reid, killed whilst on patrol & 5 men wounded (1 seriously).

Place: LA PANNERIE
Date: 28/02/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. Internal Economy.

[Signed off by] R. P. Smith Lt Col, 23rd Manch Regt.

Place: CALONNE (Bethune)
Date: 01/03/16
Summary of events and information: The Batt. left La Pannerie & moved into billets here. The men were fitted out with fur coats & water proof capes.

calonne

Place: CALONNE (Bethune)
Date: 03/03/16
Summary of events and information: 2nd Lieut. Durandean was badly wounded & two men seriously & one man slightly wounded at bombing practice by a defective bomb.

March, 1916 – NEUVE CHAPELLE 

History of the 35th Division: ‘The time had now come when the division was to take its place in the line as a complete unit. The portion of the British line which it was to hold at various points for the next four months, was that between Laventie on the north of Festubert, west to La Bassée. 

 Like most of the Flanders Plain, it is low-lying and damp – in fact it is one of the wettest parts of Flanders. The whole country is intersected with wet ditches, and in the winter the water is so near the surface that it is impossible to dig down to gain cover which therefore had to be obtained by means of parapets… 

On March 7th the 35th Division took over a portion of the trenches from the 19th Division, the 104th Brigade relieving the 58th Brigade in the sector Quinque Rue to Plum Street, east of Festubert.’

neuve chapelle0001

Place: AREA H (Bethune)
Date: 07/03/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. moved here & took over from the 9th Welsh trenches S 21.1 inclusive to S 16.3 inclusive (view Bde. Trench Map Area H.36. S.W.3.) also Tube support trench & CHOCOLATE, DEAD COW & ROPE KEEP posts. The 17th Lanc. Fus. were on our Left and the 11th South Wales Bords. on our Right. The night was very bad with snow & wind, but notwithstanding the relief was completed in two hours. For the jouney from Calonne, the Div. train supplied G.S. waggons for the transport of mens packs. Fur coats, waterproofs, great-coats & equipment were carried by men.*

(*This was not successful, the weight being too much for the Bantams & the straps not suitable for comfortable adjustment).

Date: 08/03/16
Summary of events and information: PRINCES ROAD was heavily shelled & communication between the Batt. H. 2. & front line was interrupted for three hours. One man was wounded by a Whizz-bang.

Date: 09/03/16
Summary of events and information: The front line parapet was blown in in several places by H.E. Snipers in the COUR d’AVOUÉ were very troublesome. One man badly wounded by rifle fire. Men suffered from want of fuel.

Date: 10/03/16
Summary of events and information: Twenty six aeroplanes passed overhead to raid enemy territory.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Snipers persistent… the searchlight in enemy’s lines causes a great deal of inconvenience to our working parties. Much work was done, e.g. repairing parapets, strengthening wires and draining trenches.’]

Date: 12/03/16
Summary of events and information: One man was wounded.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Slight shelling by enemy…snipers very active especially at night’.]

Date: 13/03/16
Summary of events and information: One man was killed & one man wounded by Whizz bangs. One man was wounded by a sniper.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Enemy particularly active… State of ground very muddy’. ]

Date: 14/03/16
Summary of events and information: The front line was shelled and one man wounded.

Date: 15/03/16
Summary of events and information: At 7.30 P.M. the Batt. was relieved by the 18th Lanc. Fus., & moved into Reserve billets in the KINGS ROAD area.** Lieut. Watson was wounded during the relief by a stray bullet.
(**The Batt. was heavily used for working parties whilst in this area.)

Date: 18/03/16
Summary of events and information: A Batt. billet was shelled & six men slightly wounded. The billet was vacated.

Date: 21/03/16
Summary of events and information: One man of a working party was killed & one man slightly wounded.

History of the 35th Division: ‘On the 25th the division side-shipped to the north-east. That day the 104th Brigade was relieved in the Quinque Rue-Plum Street sector by the 58th Brigade, 19th Division… 

The weather was execrable! A cold wind accompanied by sleet, snow, and much mud made the change of position very disagreeable.’

Place: PARADIS (Bethune)
Date: 25/03/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to billets here. Packs (including great-coats) were carried by transport.***
(***This arrangement was satisfactory.)

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus.: ‘The G.O.C. 35th Division lectured to the C.O.s, Adjutants and Coy Commanders of the 104th Brigade at the school, PARADIS’. ]

Place: SAILLY (BELGIUM-FRANCE)
Date: 28/03/16
Summary of events and information: Moved into billets at SAILLY-SUR-LA-LYS (view Map BELGIUM-FRANCE. Sheet 36).

NOTE. During our stay in the trenches (Mar. 7th to Mar. 13th, as above) ROPE communication trench to the front line was completed & daylight relief made possible. Previously relieving necessarily took place at night across the open.

[Signed off by] A. Rose, Lt. (Intelligence Officer)
R. P. Smith, Lieutenant Colonel, Commanding 23rd Service Batt Manchester Regt.

History of the 35th Division: ‘The month of April was chiefly remarkable for a considerable increase in artillery fire both on our part and on that of the enemy.’

Place: SAILLY (Sheet 36)
Date: 01/04/16
Summary of events and information: The G.O.C. Div. inspected the Batt. and highly complimented the C.O. on the turn out. A draft of 2 officers and 20 men joined for duty.

Place: AREA M (Sheet 36)
Date: 04/04/16
Summary of events and information: The Batt. moved from SAILLY and took over from the 19th Batt. Dur. Light Inf. Trenches N 10.1 inclusive to N 10.5 inclusive (view Bde. Trench Map Area M. Sheet 36). The 17th Lancs. Fus. Were on our right and the 16th Roy.  Scots on our left.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Enemy very quiet’. ]

Date: 05/04/16
Summary of events and information: One man killed at “Stand to”, and one man slightly wounded by rifle fire.

Date: 06/04/16
Summary of events and information: One sniper seriously wounded & 3 men slightly wounded. One man wounded by Trench Mortar.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Enemy’s snipers active’. ]

Date: 07/04/16
Summary of events and information: Twelve patrols of 1 officer & 2 or 3 men were sent out on the night of 6th/7th for instructional purposes. They remained out one hour each. Lt. Rose, 2nd Lt. Fitzgerald & 1 man were slightly wounded by smashed periscopes. One man was shell-shocked.

Date: 08/04/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. was relieved by 18th Lanc. Fus. And moved into Support Billets. Sniper wounded on the 6th April died.

Date: 11/04/16
Summary of events and information: Six Zeppelins passed overhead, flying in a southerly direction. Billets were shelled and two burnt down.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Great artillery activity by both sides’. ]

Date: 12/04/16
Summary of events and information: Relieved the 18th Lancs. Fus. On our left was the 3rd Batt. 1st Bde. Australians and on our Right 17th Lancs. Fus. Six officers and twenty four N.C.O.s of 1st Batt. 1st Bde. Aust. came in for instruction. Two men were slightly injured owing to the collapse of a Dug-out.

A Lancashire Brigade in France relates that towards the end of May [?] Australian divisions began to arrive in France from Gallipoli. Some of them were attached to the 35th Division in order to ‘receive instruction in trench warfare as carried out in France.

Date: 15/04/16
Summary of events and information: A coy. of the 2nd Batt. 1st Bde. Aust. came in for instruction. 2 men were injured by shrapnel.

Date: 16/04/16
Summary of events and information: Capt. Dixon slightly wounded and 1 man seriously & 2 men slightly wounded by Rifle Grenades. One sentry killed by chance shot. Batt. was relieved by 18th Lancs. Fus. & moved back to Support Billets.

Place: NEUF BERQUIN (Sheet 36.A)
Date: 19/04/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. was relieved by 1st Batt 1st Bde. Aust. and moved into Rest Billets at NEUF BERQUIN. Wounded man died.

History of the 35th Division: ‘On the 19th the 104th Brigade was relieved by the 1st Australian Divison and moved in two marches to divisional reserve at Vielle Chapelle, an old village with a quaint old church.’

Place: FOSSE (Sheet 36.A)
Date: 20/04/16
Summary of events and information: Moved into Rest Billets at FOSSE, where the Batt. was inspected by the G.O.C. Bde.

Place: AREA I (Sheets 36.S.W. 1 & 5)
Date: 28/04/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to NEUVE CHAPELLE (BETHUNE Comb. Sheet) & took over from the 18th High. Light Inf. Trenches S.10.4 inclusive to S.5.2 inclusive (Bde. Trench Map Area I). The 17th Lanc. Fus. Were on our Left and the 16th Cheshires on our Right. One man was badly wounded on patrol.

[Signed off by] Lt. A. Rose (Intelligence Officer)
J. F. Bannatyne Major Comdg.

Place: NEUVE CHAPELLE
Date: 01/05/16
Summary of events and information: A bombing party of 3 officers and 18 other ranks successfully bombed the enemy trenches on the night of the 1st/2nd. Two men were slightly wounded.

History of the 35th Division: ‘On May 1st a strong patrol of the 23/Manchester advanced to the enemy wire at Les Brulot and bombed a machine gun on the parapet. It accomplished its task successfully, and returned with only two men wounded, and, following on this, experiments were made in wire cutting with trench mortars brought close up to the front line the result was very effective and the gaps were kept open by machine-gun fire.’ 

A footnote adds: ‘During the night the enemy put up a yellow board in No Man’s Land announcing the fall of Kut-al-Amara, and the loss of 15,000 prisoners.’  (The siege of the British-Indian garrison in the town of Kut, 100 miles south of Baghdad, by the Ottoman Army ended on the 29th of April 1916. The garrison surrendered after a siege of 147 days. Around 13,000 Allied soldiers survived to be made prisoners.)

Place: CROIX BARBEE
Date: 02/05/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. was relieved by the 20th L. Fs. and moved into Support Bullets. A sniper was wounded at a loophole.

[War Diary of 20th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Relieved the 23rd Manchester Regt. in front line trenches. RIGHT subsection of the SECTION of the LINE NEUVE CHAPELLE.’

Date: 03/05/16
Summary of events and information: The G.O.C. Bde. Personally conveyed the congratulations of the G.O.C. Div. to the officers, N.C.O.s and men concerned on the success of the raid of May 1st/2nd.

Place: NEUVE CHAPELLE
Date: 06/05/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. returned to trenches S.10.4 inclusive to S.5.2 inclusive, taking over from the 20th L. Fs. The 16th Cheshire were on our right and the 17th L. Fs. on our left.

History of the 35th Division: ‘Considerable artillery and trench mortar bombardment of various points on the enemy’s front line now took place, and were continued as long as the division occupied the sector. Generally, small infantry raids followed, and on two occasions raids on a larger scale.’

Date: 08/05/16
Summary of events and information: Two men of a raiding party of 1 officer and 16 men were killed and 9 wounded, close to the enemy wire, in an unsuccessful attempt to enter the enemy trenches. Major Bannatyne was badly wounded and 7 men were killed and 15 wounded by shell fire. One man was killed by rifle fire and 5 men were shell-shocked.

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: ‘23rd Manchesters carried out a small raid. We were heavily shelled in retaliation.’] 

History of the 35th Division: ‘A small raid on the part of the 23/Manchester then took place, but it came under hostile artillery fire. The raiding party reached the enemy front line, but suffered several casualties, all of whom were, however, brought in. The retaliation was very severe, and the battalion lost 8 killed and 15 wounded, including Major Bannatyne, who died of wounds some days later.’

Date: 10/05/16
Summary of events and information: The G.O.C. Div. in person heartily congratulated all concerned for their behaviour on the night of the raid 8th/9th when bringing in the casualties. The Batt. was relieved by the 20th L. Fs. and again occupied support Billets at CROIX BARBEE. A man wounded on the 8th died this day.

Place: CROIX BARBEE
Date: 11/05/16
Summary of events and information: One man was slightly wounded.

Place: FOSSE
Date: 14/05/16
Summary of events and information: The Batt. was relieved by the 15th Notts and Derby and moved into Rest Billets. Major Bannatyne died of his wounds.

Date: 16/05/16
Summary of events and information: Major Bannatyne was buried at MERVILLE.

Date: 19/05/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. was inspected and highly complimented by the G.O.C. XIth Corps.

Place: FERME DU BOIS
Date: 22/05/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. moved from FOSSE and took over the right sub-section from the 18th H.L.I. The 1st Herts were on our right and the 18th L. Fs. on our left.

Date: 23/05/16
Summary of events and information: One man was killed by rifle fire and one man slightly wounded.

Date: 25/05/16
Summary of events and information: 2nd Lt. Fitzgerald was accidentally wounded by a very light pistol. One man was slightly wounded.

Place: LA TOURET
Date: 26/05/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. was relieved by the 20th L. Fs. and moved to Support Billets at LA TOURET and KINGS RD.

Date: 27/05/16
Summary of events and information: One man of a working party was wounded by rifle fire.

Date: 28/05/16
Summary of events and information: Major E. L. Maxwell assumed command of the Battn.

History of the 35th Division: ‘Major E. L. Maxwell, promoted from the division took command on this day of the 23/Manchester vice Lieut.-Colonel Smith, who returned to England.’ 

A Lancashire Brigade in France details that Maxwell had previously been a cavalry officer in India.

Place: FERME DU BOIS
Date: 29/05/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. relieved the 20th L. Fs. and again took over the right sub-section, having the 17th West Yorks on our right and the 18th L. Fs. on our left.

Date: 30/05/16
Summary of events and information: Two men were shell-shocked and 2 men seriously and 2 men slightly wounded by shell fire.

The following image of the Ferme du Bois section is taken from the War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus.:

Ferme du Bois

Date: 31/05/16
Summary of events and information: One man slightly wounded by rifle fire.

Note: Four other ranks awarded the MILITARY MEDAL  for their good work on the raid on 8th May.

22745 Sgt. A. Hare
22144 Cpl. J. O’Connor
28512 Pte. A. Lee
21626 Pte. W. Townley

[Signed off by] A. Rose, Lt. (Int. Off.)
E. L. Maxwell
Major Commanding 23rd Service Batt. Manchester Regt.

Place: LA TOURET (BETHUNE)
Date: 01/06/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. was relieved by the 20th L. Fs. & returned to support billets at LA TOURET and KINGS RD. One man of a working party was killed, one seriously wounded (since died) & another man wounded by M.G. fire. One man was wounded on the way out of the trenches.

Date: 05/06/16
Summary of events and information: A Coy. of the 2/7th Worcesters was attached for instruction.

Date: 06/06/16
Summary of events and information: Moved from LA TOURET and took over right sub-section of the FERME DU BOIS section from the 20th L. Fs. The 17th West Yorks were on our right and the 18th L. Fs. on our left.

Date: 08/06/16
Summary of events and information: A Coy. of 2/6th Gloucesters came in for instruction, relieving the 2/7th Worcesters. Two men were wounded by a rifle grenade.

Date: 09/06/16
Summary of events and information: One man was slightly wounded by rifle rife.

Date: 10/06/16
Summary of events and information: We supported with heavy rifle & M.G. fire a raid by the 18th L. Fs. on our left. Our parapet was severely damaged by enemy artillery retaliation, but was immediately repaired. We were complimented by the G.O.C. for this work. 2nd Lt. Cook was slightly wounded & 3 men were slightly wounded by shell fire.

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Attempted raid on enemy trenches at 12.45 a.m. on the 11th. During the day preparations were made and a telephone laid into no man’s land. Raid failed owing to fact of shells bursting in no man’s land.’]

Date: 12/06/16
Summary of events and information: Were relieved by the 20th L. Fs. and returned to support billets at LA TOURET and KINGS RD.

A Lancashire Brigade in France relates that, with preparations for operations on the Somme now being undertaken, there had been a plan for a diversionary operation along the 11th Corps’ front. ‘The Eleventh Corps was required to create a demonstration, with a view to drawing the enemy reserves from the main theatre after the commencement of the Somme battle on July 1st… In this operation the Brigade was to attack the “Boar’s Head” in conjunction with an attack by the 5th Australian Division and the 61st Division further north towards the Aubers Ridge. Preparations for this operation were undertaken. Enormous dumps of ammunition and stores of all sorts were made in the trenches, and Russian saps across No Man’s Land were commenced. But about the middle of June it was decided to withdraw the Division to rest, and the operation was handed over to a relieving Brigade of the 39th Division.’

‘By the middle of June rumours had reached the troops that a British attack on a large scale in the neighbourhood of Albert was imminent… there was a good deal of speculation as to what was in store for the Brigade.’

Place: LONG CORNET (BETHUNE)
Date: 16/06/16
Summary of events and information: Moved into Reserve billets at LONG CORNET.

Place: ANNEZIN (BETHUNE)
Date: 16/06/16
Summary of events and information: Moved into Rest billets at ANNEZIN.

Date: 23/06/16
Summary of events and information: The G.O.C. 1st Army, at CHOCQUES, presented the Military Medal (ribbon only) to 22745 Sergt. Hare, 22144 Cpt. O’Connor, 28512 Pte. Lee & 21626 Pte. Townley for great gallantry and devotion to duty on the night of the raid of May 8th.

Date: 24/06/16
Summary of events and information: At the 104th Bde. competitions held here the Batt. won two 1sts & three 2nds out of six events.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus. records that during this period the 104th Bde had inspections, parades, a horse show, tug-of-war, football and cricket matches and a visit to ‘the Swimming Baths’. On the 27th June there was a Brigade Route March.] 

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘We were billeted in and about Bethune, where a most successful Brigade Horse Show was held, and altogether we had a very good time.’

[Signed off by] A. Rose, Lt.
E. L. Maxwell, Major Commanding 23rd Service Batt. Manchester Regt.

July, 1916  – THE SOMME 

History of the 35th Division: ‘On the night of July 2nd/3rd the infantry brigades entrained for the Third Army Area, the 104th Brigade at Fouquereuil for Boquemaison… the division was now allotted to the VIII Corps (Sir A.G. Hunter-Weston).’

The following map is taken from the History of the 35th Division:

Somme

Place: NEUVILLETTE (LENS)
Date: 02/07/16
Summary of events and information: The Batt. moved to NEUVILLETTE to form part of General Goughs striking forces.

[War Diary of 20th Lancs. Fus.: days at Neuvillette are occupied with cleaning, inspections and training.]

Date: 06/07/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to huts at BUS-LE-ARTOIS.

[War Diary of 20th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Heavy rain fell throughout the greater part of the day.’]

Place: LEALVILLERS
Date: 09/07/16
Summary of events and information: Moved into billets at LEALVILLERS.

History of the 35th Division: ‘The brigades were under orders to move into the battle area, but on the 10th these orders were cancelled and the division marched to the south.’ 

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘We were told that we should be here [Lealvillers] for about a week, but we had no sooner settled down in billets than we were ordered out again, and put into motor-buses in the middle of the night. The whole Brigade was transported to Bouzincourt and marched thence to Aveluy Wood.’

Place: AVELUY WOOD
Date: 10/07/16
Summary of events and information: Were transported by motor-lorries to BOUZINCOURT and from there marched on to AVELUY WOOD, occupying assembly trenches at S.E. corner of wood.

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Heavy bombardment all day. We bivouacked inside wood along some old concentration trenches.’] 

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: 11/07/16 ‘Bombardment still continuous.’]

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: 12/07/16 ‘Bombardment intense. AVELUY WOOD shelled 12.30 p.m.’] 

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘During the next few days we were bivouacked in Aveluy Wood, where we were kept in a state of constant suspense in readiness to attack Ovillers la Boiselle, where two or three divisions had already been broken up.’

Place: HAPPY VALLEY
Date: 13/07/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to MORLANCOURT and later moved on to HAPPY VALLEY and bivouacked.

scan0001

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus.:  ‘Here the attack was practiced.’] 

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: 14/07/16 ‘Bombardment  continuous.’]

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: 15/07/16 ‘Bombardment  continuous. Expect every minute to be moved up.’] 

[War Diary of 20th Lancs. Fus. records that in Happy Valley all units are under orders to move at very short notice.]

A footnote to the History of the 35th Division details: ‘There were two Happy Valleys. The one referred to here, and to which further references occur, was situated a mile north of Bray and was an infantry rest area… the title was euphemistic.’ Amidst the units bivouacking and waiting to move forwards, Happy Valley was full of ‘serried ranks of guns’.

happy valley

Image of Happy Valley from the MINISTRY OF INFORMATION FIRST WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION (‘Transport lines and camps in Happy Valley, near Albert, July 1916. (In foreground, shoeing a horse).’)

Place: TALUS BOISE[*]
Date: 18/07/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to BILLON WOOD and later to TALUS BOISE and bivouacked.

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: 19/07/16 ‘Arrived TALUS BOISE 3 a.m. and bivouacked in field next to wood. Occasional shelling.’] 

[History of the 35th Division describes Talus Boisé as ‘a long strip of wood in low ground a mile northwest of Maricourt’. In A Lancashire Brigade in France it is recalled as a locality ‘where shells of all natures and sizes used to rain down at frequent intervals’.] 

History of the 35th Division: ‘When the 35th Division arrived in the area the British Army had advanced two miles northwards from Maricourt, and, after severe fighting, had gained possession of Trones Wood, Bernafay Wood, and Montauban. The French Army on the right had pushed forward a similar distance to the east and north-east, and the junction of the two armies was near Maltz Horn Farm, half a mile south of Trones Wood. Two ruined villages, Guillemont and Ginchy, lay on the right flank of the British advance, and father to the south lay Falfemont Farm… all these points were strongly fortified by the enemy.’

On the 19th the Brigade received orders that they were to ‘capture the enemy trenches from Maltz Horn Farm to Arrowhead Copse, about 1,000 yards of trenches, on the next day (20th). The French were also to attack. Some difficulty was experienced in getting orders through to battalions which were well in advance of brigade headquarters and subjected to continuous shell fire.’

‘Observed artillery fire on the trenches near Maltz Horn was impossible and the front was too long to be attacked by one battalion. It was, therefore, decided to attack in two points: one near Maltz Horn Farm and the other near Arrowhead Copse, and it was hoped that, having entered the enemy’s lines, the storming parties would be able to bomb along the trench and affect a junction. The artillery could only bombard the visible part of the line and then lift and form a barrage round the south-western edge of Guillemont and down the valley to Angle Wood. It was an arrangement that left much to be desired, but time was short and satisfactory observation stations almost impossible to find.’ 

The 15/Sherwood Foresters, who had been in the trenches opposite, were originally chosen to make the attack, but, after they had been badly shaken by shelling and gas on the 19th, only two companies were in a fit state to attack. The 104th Brigade were therefore ordered to supply supporting troops. Two companies of the 23rd Manchesters were ordered up. They reached Brigade HQ, Stanley’s Hole (‘an evil-smelling dug-out about 400 yards south-west of Maricourt’), at 3 a.m.

The following panorama is taken from the History of the 35th Division:

Somme panorama

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘At very short notice on July 20th the 105th Brigade attacked Maltz Horn Farm. At still shorter notice, without even being given time to digest or issue orders, the 23rd Manchesters were sent up to help them.’

Date: 20/07/16
Summary of events and information: W and C coys moved to BRICQUETERIE[*] and later on to our new position in front of MALTZ HORN FARM (Sheet 62.C.N.W.) held by 105th Bde. supporting them in an attack made upon the German line at 5. A.M. This was unsuccessful. Y and Z coys with H.Q and Lewis gun detachments received instructions to join the 1st two coys before MALTZ HORN FARM and at 11.30 A.M., in conjunction with the French on our right, attack the enemy trenches. They were not able to arrive in time & the assault had started. Officers & men went over with no clear idea of their direction or objective, & meeting with very heavy artillery, M.G. and rifle fire, ultimately retired to the position of assault. The Batt. remained in to hold the line & at 9 P.M. were relieved by the 18th Lanc. Fus. Major Maxwell fell in the attack. He was the first over and was later reported missing, believed killed. Capts. Rothband & Gosling were killed, Maj. Grimshaw shell-shocked & Capt. Cooper, Lt. Wilson & 2nd Lts. Hamer, Simpson & Tye wounded (2nd Lt. Tye died on the 21st). 28 other ranks were killed, 98 wounded, 9 shell-shocked & 13 missing. The Batt., after relief, moved back to TALUS BOISE.

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Moved up into front line. Took over south-western half of TRONES WOOD and also MALTZ HORN FARM TRENCH. Finished trench connecting with French on our right. Arrived 9 p.m..’] 

[History of the 35th Division: Briqueterie was ‘a disused brickwork occupying a commanding position’.] 

The History of the 35th Division recounts the failure of the attack by the 15/Sherwood Foresters: ‘The attack commenced at 5 a.m., which as it turned out, was too late, as the rising sun illuminated the troops as they advanced on their objectives. The right company reached its objective but was driven out by machine gun and rifle fire and fell back on its original trench, now occupied by a company of the 23/Manchester. The left company were even more unfortunate, as, when they topped the ridge, they came under a devastating fire and dug themselves into shell holes. The survivors dribbled back by degrees on to the line held by the 23/Manchester.

‘As the right of the attack near Maltz Horn Farm was at the junction with the French, who were attacking simultaneously and had made progress, it was important that headway should be made, and the two companies of the 23/Manchester already in the line were ordered to advance, two other companies being sent up in support. The Field Artillery drew in the barrage close behind the enemy front line whilst the heavy guns bombarded the trench south of Arrowhead Copse – the original right objective. 

‘The attack was launched at 10.45 a.m. The second two companies of 23/Manchester had only arrived a quarter of an hour previously and one was ordered to follow the attack and the other to hold the trench. An intense hostile bombardment lasted all this time. The assaulting waves again reached what remained of the enemy trench, but there was no cover there, and as they were swept by machine-gun fire they were compelled to return. 

‘Word of a counter attack from the east of Guillemont was now received from the French. The troops were not in a fit state to contend with this. The 15/Sherwood Foresters had been four days in the line and had been shelled and gassed the whole time, the 23/Manchester had made a very trying forced march followed by an unsuccessful and costly assault, and the front trench was broken in many places. The officers worked hard to rally the exhausted troops and put the line in a state of defence and Colonel Gordon sent for reinforcements and also sent up the S.O.S. 

‘Fortunately no counter-attack took place and the front line was eventually re-occupied and linked up with the French. 

‘The losses were heavy. The 15/Sherwood Foresters lost 10 officers killed and 9 wounded. 39 other ranks killed, 146 wounded, and 36 missing. The 23/Manchester lost 9 officers, including the commanding officer, and 162 other ranks… 

‘The next day General Magnan, of the French 153rd Division, wrote a letter to General Pinney in which he said that the advance of the 23/Manchester had been noted by several of his observing posts (from a flank). The advance was made as if on parade, but the position being on the forward slope of the hill gave the battalion no chance of holding it. General Pinney in his reply congratulated the French general on the success of his own advance. The French right flank had advanced about 2,500 yards.’ 

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘It was in this costly attack that the Commanding Officer of the 23rd Manchesters, Lieut.-Colonel E. L. Maxwell was killed. How he actually met his death has never transpired. He was last seen leading his men in the gallant manner to be expected of one of such a distinguished group of soldier brothers.’ Major L. M. Stevens, formerly second-in-command of the 18th Lancs. Fus., now took over command of the 23rd Manchesters.

Date: 21/07/16
Summary of events and information: Lt. Beard was shell-shocked & 1 man killed & 4 wounded by shrapnel.

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Heavy bombardment  all day.’]

Date: 22/07/16
Summary of events and information: Lt. Willey was shell-shocked & 3 men killed & 5 wounded.

Date: 23/07/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to front line TRONES WOOD – MALTZ HORN FARM relieving the 17th L. Fs. The 20th L. Fs. were on our left and the French on our right. 3 men were killed, ten wounded & 7 shell-shocked.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus. records that the position was being ‘heavily shelled throughout the day’.] 

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Intense bombardment .’]

trones wood

Image of Trones Wood from MINISTRY OF INFORMATION FIRST WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION (‘View in Trones Wood, 10th August 1916.’)

trones wood2

Image of Trones Wood from MINISTRY OF INFORMATION FIRST WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION (‘German observation post in Trones Wood, 10th August 1916.’)

Date: 24/07/16

Summary of events and information: 2 men were killed, 38 wounded and 7 shell-shocked on this day.

History of the 35th Division: ‘The 23/Manchester and the 20/Lancashire Fusiliers then held a line from Maltz Horn Farm to the north end of Trones Wood. At 9.20 p.m. the artillery F.O.O. at advanced headquarters reported heavy shelling in front of these two battalions, and a few minutes later the S.O.S. was sent up by the 23/Manchester which reported heavy shelling a considerable casualties, and the artillery put down a barrage. All communications were cut. Reinforcements were sent up from the 18/Lancashire Fusiliers but the shell fire gradually subsided and no attack developed. 

‘The probable reason for the shelling was the move of the 20/Lancashire Fusiliers to reinforce the right of the 3rd Division, which, being under observation, was probably interpreted by the enemy as an attack. It is possible that the artillery barrage broke up an enemy attack, as troops had been reported massing behind Ginchy. The German wireless communiqué mentioned the fact that “an impending British attack from Trones Wood had been broken up on July 24th”.

Date: 25/07/16
Summary of events and information: Batt. was relieved by the 18th L. Fs. and returned to TALUS BOISE. 2nd Lt. Cook was shell-shocked, 7 men were killed, 25 wounded, 3 shell-shocked & 1 missing.

Date: 26/07/16
Summary of events and information: the Batt. moved to Div. reserve at F17.C.5.1 & bivouacked.

The following order is copied from the War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.:

Letter

Date: 29/07/16
Summary of events and information: The Batt. was lent to the 90th Bde. to provide working & carrying parties to support an attack made by them upon GUILLEMONT. The Bde. entered GUILLEMONT and our parties succeeded in dumping S.A.A. and bombs in the village. Later, when the attackers were forced back from the village, our parties again successfully supplied the line. At a still later hour the Bde. retired to our original position & here our parties assisted to man the trenches. The G.O.C. 30th Div. expressed his great appreciation of the work done on this occasion. 5 men were killed, 30 wounded, 4 gassed & 11 missing.

History of the 35th Division: ‘The 104th Brigade, after performing various subsidiary duties to the troops holding the line, were also withdrawn on the 31st and marched to Morlancourt.’

Date: 31/07/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to HAPPY VALLEY.

guillemont

(Above: Guillemont – all that remained of the village at the end of the war).

[Signed off by] A. Rose, Lt.

Place: Happy Valley (Somme)
Date: 01/08/16
Summary of events and information: Remained at Happy Valley.

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: Minden Day parade… Inspected by G.O.C. 104th Brigade, who made short speech.’]

Place: Sailly-Le-Sec
Date: 02/08/16
Summary of events and information: Marched to Sailly-Le-Sec from Happy Valley, and billeted there until Aug 5th. Received small drafts. The men of whom were generally of bad physique.

History of the 35th Division: ‘On the 5th the brigade moved by train from Mericourt-sur-Somme to Salleux and marched to rest billets in the area of Molliens Vidame, ten miles west of Amiens.’ The brigade was now ‘supposed to enjoy a well-earned rest, but the work of reorganising the new drafts (which contained many men of very poor physique), and making them fit to go into the line demanded a considerable amount of attention from the officers concerned, and left little time for rest or recreation…’ 

There was much criticism of the new recruits who were filling the gaps in the ranks. According to the History of the 35th Division, the Brigade Commander complained that the class of men being brought in were ‘no longer “bantams” proper, but either half-grown lads or degenerates.’ Many were said to be men ‘who had previously been rejected by the commanders, and who were unfitted, both morally and physically, to take their places in the fighting ranks of the British Army… Their retention appeared likely to endanger the moral of the whole division.’

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘We were taken back to reorganise in the Corbie area, where the men had a splendid time bathing in the river’. At Brigade HQ ‘we used to sit at our ease in the garden close to the Church at Sailly le Sec… From Corbie we moved further back to Molliens-Vidame, behind Amiens, a most delightful area, but we all suspected that this was too good to last.’

Place: Camps-en-Amienois
Date: 05/08/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to Camps-en-Amienois. Entrained at Maricourt, detrained Saleux and marched from Saleux to Camps-en-Amienois, about 12 miles. 

Place: Sailly-le-Sec
Date: 10/08/16
Summary of events and information: March from Camps-en-Amienois to Airaines. Entrain at Airaines, detrain Corbie and march to Sailly-le-Sec, where the battalion was again billeted.

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘On August 9th we received orders to go back for our second dose of the Somme. We moved back to the Corbie area, and, curiously enough, took over practically the same bit of front as we had held before. The front line itself had been advanced a thousand yards or so, but Guillemont and Ginchy were still holding out.’

Place: Happy Valley
Date: 15/08/16
Summary of events and information: Move back to Happy Valley by route march.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus details the 104th Bde. going through exercises for an attack.]

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: ‘In tents. Very wet afternoon.’]

Place: Talus Boise
Date: 18/08/16
Summary of events and information: March to Talus Boise.

History of the 35th Division relates that the 104th Brigade was moved up to Talus Boise in anticipation of an attack on Maltz Horn Ravine by the XIV Corps.

Place: Trenches
Date: 19/08/16
Summary of events and information: March up to Trenches. Hold extreme right of British Line, with the French on our right. Relieved 3 Battalions of the 76th Bde.

History of the 35th Division:  ‘That position taken over by the 23/Manchester was in very bad condition. The parapet was very badly damaged and the relieved battalion, which apparently had suffered heavily, had had no opportunity of evacuating or burying their dead. The Manchesters, however, ignored these imperfections, and on the 20th were able to dig a trench in advance of the line, which they named Bantam Trench, and also to link up an isolated work with the original front line.’ 

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘Conditions were much the same as before, and the shelling was very severe… Lonely Trench, Gordon Alley and Cockran Alley will always be remembered by the 104th Brigade. It was almost impossible to walk down any of these without treading on the dead bodies of our men or on those of the enemy.’

Date: 20/08/16
Summary of events and information: Trench bad and some had only just been capture same afternoon (relief completed 3 A.M.). During night 20/21 dug new trench in advance of our line (“Bantam Trench”), and joined up recently captured Trench (“Lonely Trench”) with Front Line (“Gordon Trench”).

Date: 21/08/16
Summary of events and information: Raided German dug-outs, and captured a machine gun. No casualties to raiding party. Continued work started previous night. Many dead to be buried. All trenches in filthy state and place beginning to smell very badly.

History of the 35th Division: ‘During the afternoon Lieutenant Rose from Brigade Headquarters had been sent to reconnoitre the right of our line with a view to a possible advance in that direction. Having proceeded beyond the advanced post this officer entered a dug-out inhabited by a German speaking through a telephone. The German turned and addressed the officer, who, being unarmed and alone, promptly withdrew and returned to our line. Arrangements were immediately made for a raid on this spot, and, after nightfall, Lieutenant Rose, accompanied by forty men, returned to the neighbourhood, bombed all the dug-outs which were there and brought back the machine-gun and a certain amount of equipment.’

Date: 22/08/16
Summary of events and information: Relieved on night 22/23; 1 coy by 18th Lanc. Fus.  and remaining 3 coys by 19th D.L.I. Relief completed about 3 A.M. Returned to CITADEL.

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: ‘From reports of previous battalion’s patrols consider Germans to be at least 400 yards away.’]

Place: Citadel
Date: 23/08/16
Summary of events and information: Rested at Citadel.

Place: Trenches
Date: 24/08/16
Summary of events and information: Relieved 18th Lanc. Fus. on night of 24/25th. Relief completed about 5 A.M. 17th Lanc. Fus. on our right. 106th Bde. on our left. 3 coys in front line and 1 in support.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus. notes that the battalion was occupying TALUS trench.]

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Shelling of all our trenches commenced at 7 p.m. and continued while relief was being carried out.’]

Date: 25/08/16
Summary of events and information: Carried up rations, ammunition & water for 17th Lanc. Fus. to Angle Wood, who had moved forward in conjunction with French attack on Maurepas. (Support Coy used for this work). 

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus. records that the attack was launched at 5.45 p.m.  A company moved forward 300 yards, in conjunction with an advance from the French lines. ‘On this new alignment the Battalion dug in and a new trench was established after a few hours steady work carried out under heavy hostile artillery fire.’ 

The following plans are taken from the War Diary of the 17th Lancs. Fus.:

Angle Wood 1

Angle Wood 2

Date: 26/08/16
Summary of events and information: Commenced to dig trench to connect up with new position of 17th Lancs. Fus. on our right, to about Angle Wood.

Place: CITADEL
Date: 27/08/16
Summary of events and information: Relieved by 1st Royal West Kents on night of 26/27th, of 14th Bde., 5th Divn. Relief completed about 6 A.M. Relieving coys lost their way & missed our guides. Returned to CITADEL.

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: 28/07/16 ‘Heavy rain during night.’]

[War Diary of 18th Lancs. Fus.: 29/07/16 ‘Very wet afternoon and violent thunderstorms.’]

Place: Heilly
Date: 30/08/16
Summary of events and information: March to Heilly in pouring rain. Entrained here & moved to Candas (detraining stn.)

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus. details that the 104th Bde moved as a whole. ‘Almost throughout the march heavy rain fell. On the whole roads were good taking into consideration the weather.’]

Place: Neuvilette [Neuvillette]
Date: 31/08/16
Summary of events and information: March to Neuvilette, where we billeted for the night.

Our casualties during This Tour in The Trenches were 4 off. & 82 other ranks, nearly all from shell fire.

[Signed off by] G. W. Miller, Lt. att. 23rd Manchester Regt.
L. M. Stevens, Major Comdg. 23rd Manchester Regt.

History of the 35th Division: ‘The period of the Battle of the Somme cannot be considered to have been either a happy or successful time for the infantry of the division. The serious losses suffered at the commencement, whilst battalions were either engaged in digging trenches or serving under other commands, had an undesirable effect upon all ranks, and, when the opportunity finally came to act as a division and carry out attacks, which a month previously would no doubt have been crowned with success, the men who would have executed the orders were no longer there, and those who had taken their places were in many cases unfitted for the work which they were called upon to perform.’ 

September, 1916  – ARRAS 

History of the 35th Division: ‘The new period covers a continuous service of three months in the trenches… the enemy holding the line were, like the 35th Division, resting from exhaustive efforts on the Somme, and, in addition, were apparently short of artillery, or, at least, of ammunition with which to supply it. The main feature of the fighting was the great increase in numbers and efficiency of trench mortars which for some months were to take the chief part in the system of trench warfare.’ 

‘The 104th Brigade relieved the 2nd Brigade in “I” Sector, which extended roughly from a point south of the Cambrai Road, one mile east-south-east of Arras, to the banks of the Scarpe at Blagny.’

Blagny

Watercolour of ‘Blangy on the Scarpe, Arras’ by David A Baxter.

The following map is taken from the History of the 35th Division:

Arras map

Place: GRAND ROLLECOURT
Date: 01/09/16
Summary of events and information: Moved from NEUVILLETTE to GRAND ROLLECOURT.[*]

[*History of the 35th Division names it as Grand Rullecourt.]

Place: WANQUETIN
Date: 02/09/16
Summary of events and information: Moved by motor to WANQUETIN and occupied huts.

Place: ARRAS
Date: 03/09/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to ARRAS and relieved the 12th North. Fus. in Reserve Billets.

Date: 10/09/16
Summary of events and information: Relieved the 20th L. Fs. In the I Left sub-sector (ARRAS. 51 N.W.3.) The 17th L. Fs. were on our right and the 105th Bde. on our left.

History of the 35th Division: ‘As soon as the division had entered the line, after having raised the fire-steps to enable the “Bantams” to fire over the parapet, they set to work to revet and improve the trenches which they had taken over, and which, although in good order, did not fulfil all requirements. Owing to incessant work, and in spite of heavy trench mortar bombardments of the front line, these trenches in the Arras sector eventually became a model of what trenches should be. In a short time they were not only cleaned, revetted, and fully duck-boarded, but, by making use of the waterpower of the Scarpe, battalion headquarters etc., were eventually lit by electric light. It must be acknowledged that the soil of Arras lent itself to good trench-making, and similar results might not have been obtained in certain other portions of the line without a prodigious amount of labour.’ 

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘The sector itself had been very lightly held, and consisted of a number of saps from 100 yards to 200 yards long, which had previously been communication trenches between the support line and front line; the latter line had been wired up to prevent through passage from one sap to another, and the sap heads were held by posts.’ 

‘Work was ordered on a most extensive scale, with a view to cleaning up the old front line and improving the trench system…’ 

‘Trench discipline was now brought to a state of great efficiency. Voluminous orders were drawn up on the subject, and the notice boards of all sizes and shapes which were everywhere erected made one wonder at times if a war was really still in progress.’

Date: 14/09/16
Summary of events and information: One man was wounded.

Date: 15/09/16
Summary of events and information: A transport man was killed by a fall of earth. One man was killed & two wounded by an Aerial Torpedo. On the night of 15/16th 2nd Lt. Abraham and a party of men successfully entered the enemy sap south of the railway. Bombs were exchanged but no identification was secured, a steel helmet & a few stick bombs only being brought away.

[War Diary of 20th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Raid by 23rd MANCHR REGT. resulted in CEMETARY being lightly shelled by L.H.V.’]

Date: 16/09/16
Summary of events and information: Were relieved by the 20th L. Fs. and returned to Reserve billets in ARRAS. One man was wounded.

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘Battalions out of the line lived in the most comfortable conditions in the town of Arras, while the Headquarters of Battalions in the line, and even of some of the Companies, were accommodated in houses in a reasonable state of repair.’ 

‘The men of one of the reserve Companies were billeted in houses in the Douai Road – houses which actually contained pianos! Newspapers only one day old were delivered to them every morning by a little Frenchman, who, it is rumoured, was ultimately killed by a shell. Another reserve Company used to live in trenches and dug-outs in the cemetery. Here, it will be remembered, the reserve rations and water were housed in someone’s family vault. The cemetery defences were very well constructed, and the surroundings did not appear to depress anyone unduly…. 

‘Brigade Headquarters were located in a splendid house in Arras, fitted with electric light, where a sumptuous dining-room was furnished with luxurious chairs and sofas….’ 

‘Blagny itself was always a source of interest to strangers. The front line ran through a collection of derelict houses and factories in a way which made it most difficult for anyone to follow except those who were well acquainted with it.’

scan0003

(Above: Blagny. The sender of this postcard has added the note: “This used to be a village of 1800 inhabitants??”)

Date: 17/09/16 – 21/09/16
Summary of events and information: Furnished working parties daily for the R.E. 28647 Pte J. H. Carmont was awarded the Military Medal.

Date: 22/09/16
Summary of events and information: Moved up to the line & took over from the 20th L. Fs. the I Left sub-sector. The 17th L. Fs. were on our right & the 105th Bde. on our left.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus.: ‘Enemy absolutely passive. He is distinctly nervous and appears anxious to avoid combat in any form… The enemy is extremely careful in expenditure of Artillery ammunition and it is the exception for his Artillery to fire. He appears to be very short of guns and ammunition opposite this front.’]

Date: 25/09/16
Summary of events and information: Two men were accidentally wounded by a Rifle Grenade.

Date: 26/09/16
Summary of events and information: Two men were wounded.

Date: 27/09/16
Summary of events and information: One man was wounded.

Date: 28/09/16
Summary of events and information: One man was killed & two wounded.

Date: 30/09/16
Summary of events and information: Lt. M. H. Rose was awarded the Military Cross.

[Signed off by] A. Rose, Lt.
L. M. Stevens, Lieutenant Colonel Commanding 23rd Service Batt. Manchester Regt.

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘The line was very quiet when we first took over – a most pleasing change from the Somme. But within a week or two a great craze came into fashion for seeing who could get off the greatest number of “Stokes”, 2-in mortar shells, and rifle grenades in a day, with the natural result that by the end of October there were moments when the front line could be distinctly breezy.’

Place: ARRAS
Date: 04/10/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to the line and took over the I Left sub sector from the 20th L. Fs.. The 17th L. Fs. were on our Right and the 105th Bde. on our Left. Relief completed without incident.

Date: 06/10/16
Summary of events and information: One man was killed & one wounded.

History of the 35th Division: ‘At 6.45 p.m. on the 8th, the division was ordered to discharge gas at 8.45 p.m. This was done. Artillery and trench mortars co-operated.’  At 10.45 p.m. patrols went out from the 23rd Manchesters, but ‘the enemy was on alert and no information was obtained except that the gas was heavy in the enemy’s trenches and some of our own men suffered slightly from its effect. Subsequent information from prisoners revealed the fact that twenty-five of the enemy were gassed, and that most of them died from the effects.’

Date: 08/10/16 – 09/10/16
Summary of events and information: On the night of the 8th/9th gas was discharged from our front, & two hours later three strong patrols attempted to enter the German trenches. The enemy lines were found to be strongly manned, & the parties were bombed back. Two men were killed by a shell, & three wounded. 33 men suffered from the effects of the gas which remained in our trenches after the discharge.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus. details that gas was discharged along the 35th Division’s front. ‘Gas was discharged with good results…A strong patrol was sent out from our sector 2 hours after Zero to obtain if possible an identification and to investigate the effects of the gas on the enemy. The flotation  occasioned considerable confusion in the enemy lines; a great deal of excited shouting was heard and red & green rockets were fired apparently for barrage hostile retaliation which was however distinctly weak and apparently feeble. The reconnoitring patrol discovered that the enemy front line was strongly held 2 hours after the discharge, and that all gaps which had been cut in his wire were covered by Machine Guns and Bombing parties, rendering entry into his line a matter of considerable difficulty.’] 

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘On two occasions we had gas cylinders put in on our front, which were the cause of a considerable amount of anxiety, as on the second occasion they were in position for weeks before the wind was favourable for the discharge. The words “Duncan and Jack, Rubber and Gravel”, which meant that the gas wound be or would not be discharged, became a perfect nightmare, as they used to come through three or four times in the same night.’

Date: 10/10/16
Summary of events and information: Were relieved by the 20th L/ Fs. & returned to reserve billets in ARRAS.

Date: 11/10/16
Summary of events and information: One man was wounded.

Date: 16/10/16
Summary of events and information: Moved up to the line & took over the I Left sub sector from the 20th L. Fs. The 18th L. Fs. were on our Right & the 105th Bde. on our Left.

Date: 17/10/16
Summary of events and information: Three men were wounded.

Date: 20/10/16 – 21/10/16
Summary of events and information: An attempt to obtain an identification was not successful. A party succeeded in getting through a gap at G 30 b. 11. 7. and reached the enemy parapet. They were then challenged and bombs were exchanged. 2 Lt. Hinds & his responsible N.C.O. were wounded & two men were killed. The party, being disorganised, was forced to return. 2nd Lt. Broadhead was wounded on this day, also one other man.

History of the 35th Division details that the Manchesters entered the enemy lines ‘through a gap in the wire opposite Infantry Road.’

Arras map detail

History of the 35th Division: ‘The weather now became very bad and the damage done to our trenches by weather and bombs considerable. It was apparent that work on the supposed Hindenberg Line which could be seen on the high ground about four miles to the north-east was increasing in intensity and rumours were heard that the Germans shortly intended to retire.’ 

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘Several raids were attempted by the Brigade, but with no success. Both our own and the enemy’s wire were very thick, which rendered an operation of this sort very difficult.’

Date: 21/10/16
Summary of events and information: Two men were wounded.

Date: 22/10/16
Summary of events and information: Were relieved by the 20th L. Fs. and returned to Div. reserve in ARRAS. One man wounded.

Date: 26/10/16
Summary of events and information: We relieved the 20th L. Fs. in the I Left sub sector. The 18th L. Fs. were on our right and the 105th Bde. on our left.

Date: 27/10/16
Summary of events and information: Gas cylinders were put into the front line trenches. One man was wounded.

Date: 28/10/16
Summary of events and information: One man was killed & one wounded.

Date: 30/10/16
Summary of events and information: Were relieved by the 20th L. Fs. and occupied Reserve Billets in ARRAS – going into Divisional Reserve.

[War Diary of 17th Lancs. Fus. notes that weather was very wet during this stint.]

[Signed off by] A. Rose, Lt.
L. M. Stevens, Lieutenant Colonel Commanding 23rd Service Batt. Manchester Regt.

Place: ARRAS
Date: 05/11/16
Summary of events and information: Relieved the 20th Lancashire Fusiliers in 1 left sub-sector. The 18th Lancashire Fusiliers were on our right and the 105th Brigade on our left. The enemy bombed his own wire. North of the railway, 3 Germans, very young men, were continually looking over the top of the enemy BLANGY sap. We fired heavily upon an enemy aeroplane flying low.

Date: 06/11/16
Summary of events and information: At dusk six men were seen to commence digging and carrying H. 28. C. Several other Germans were seen in their support lines. One man was wounded.

Date: 07/11/16
Summary of events and information: Our trenches were very badly damaged by heavy rain. Several small enemy parties were seen throwing earth from the enemy line.

Date: 08/11/16
Summary of events and information: The enemy shelled us for about 2 hours, with only slight damage. 1 man was killed and one wounded. Men were again observed at H. 28. C. Numerous enemy aeroplanes flew over our lines.

Date: 09/11/16
Summary of events and information: Two men were wounded by rifle grenades.

Date: 11/11/16
Summary of events and information: We were relieved by 20th Lancashire Fusiliers and returned to reserve billets in ARRAS. One man was killed by a sniper in BLANGY.

Date: 13/11/16
Summary of events and information: One man was killed while on working party.

Date: 17/11/16
Summary of events and information: Relieved 20th Lancashire Fusiliers in the 1 left sub-sector. The 18th Lancashire Fusiliers were on our right and the 105th Bde on our left.

Date: 18/11/16
Summary of events and information: A box loop-hole and snipers plate at G24d.10.45 were blown away by our stokes guns. We also made good use of rifle grenades. ISLAND POST was evacuated, but patrolled 3 times at night. The enemy fired numerous Trench Mortars and rifle grenades with slight damage. A large enemy party working at G24a.5½.2 were scattered by our artillery fire.

Date: 19/11/16
Summary of events and information: We fired a large number of rifle grenades at enemy saps and our artillery and Trench Mortars heavily shelled the enemy lines by the railway. German retaliation caused slight damage. Five men and a horseman were seen at H28c. Enemy Machine Gun fire was considerable.

Date: 20/11/16
Summary of events and information: Two men were wounded by enemy Trench Mortars. At dusk about 50 men were seen lined up behind the trees opposite our right company. Our Lewis Guns played along the trees at intervals during the night.

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘About November 20th, the enemy began to trench-mortar our line very heavily near the head of Iceland Street, and kept it up for several days until the whole place was knocked to pieces.’

Date: 21/11/16
Summary of events and information: The weather was very misty. Our Stokes guns and rifle grenades fired heavily upon the enemy saps and front line by the railway, and upon BLANGY. A heavy German Trench Mortar smashed in a bay of our front line. Men were seen in BLANGY carrying wire and stakes and were fired upon by our snipers. Two of our men were wounded.

Date: 22/11/16
Summary of events and information: 92 rifle grenades were fired by us at enemy saps and front line near BLANGY. About 20 trees on the BLANGY-TILLOY road were cut down in the night by the enemy.

Date: 23/11/16
Summary of events and information: We were relieved by the 20th Lancashire Fusiliers and returned to Reserve Billets in ARRAS.

Date: 26/11/16
Summary of events and information: Gas was discharged against the enemy from 1 left sub-sector at 2.35 a.m. Practically no enemy retaliation.

History of the 35th Division: ‘During the discharge our artillery fired on the enemy support lines and communications about 1,000 yards behind the front.’

Date: 29/11/16
Summary of events and information: Relieved 20th Lancashire Fusiliers in 1 left sub-sector. 18th Lancashire Fus. were on our right, and 105th Bde on our left.

Date: 30/11/16
Summary of events and information: Misty day and enemy quiet except for a few Trench Mortars which damaged our sap near the railway.

[Signed off by]
W. Rennison Maj. For Lieutenant Colonel Commanding 23rd Service Batt. Manchester Regt.

Place: ARRAS
Date: 02/12/16
Summary of events and information: One man on a working party was wounded.

Date: 04/12/16
Summary of events and information: The Battn. was relieved by the 7th Seaforth Highlanders in the I Left sub-sector, and was conveyed by motor buses from ARRAS to WANQUETIN, and there billeted, resting three days. One man was wounded.

Place: WANQUETIN
Date: 08/12/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to ARRAS and occupied billets, being attached to the 9th Div. for work on the trenches and approaches. This work continued until the 27th.

December, 1916  – “DE-BANTAMIZATION” 

A Lancashire Brigade in France: ‘About this time it had become evident that the drafts arriving for the Division, instead of being Bantams in the sense that they were small but well-developed men, were small and undersized through various physical disabilities. It was decided then to change the character of the Division and to draft full-sized men into it.’ 

‘In order to do this, endless parades used to take place, at which Commanders and medical officers of all ranks used to inspect the men. Everyone in turn used either to poke the man in the back, pinch his legs, or look down his mouth with a view to ascertaining whether he was fit or not to be a soldier.’ 

‘We who had served with the old original Bantams used to feel very sorry for them. It is a matter of common knowledge within the Division that until the Armistice in 1918, we never attacked without one of the old original Bantams distinguishing himself, and there has never been a medal parade in this Brigade without one at least of them being present.’ 

‘It must be admitted, however, that the conception of a Bantam Division was faulty; it was easy enough to pick men to start with, but it was impossible to replace them. There was obviously a disadvantage, too, in having none but small men, as it was only natural that they could not carry the weight that a bigger man could.’

The History of the 35th Division details that on the 8th December the G.O.C. 35th Division again reported ‘low physical and moral standard of some of the infantry’. Several days of physical inspections followed.

Place: ARRAS
Date: 11/12/16
Summary of events and information: 171 other ranks, of average height and over, 95 of them Yeomen, were drafted to the Battn.

Date: 18/12/16
Summary of events and information: The Corps Commander inspected the Battn. and marked down 166 as unfit.

History of the 35th Division: ‘Soon after Christmas frost set in, and it became more severe as the month advanced. Heavy snow fell at intervals which made life in general unpleasant for all concerned, especially for those who had to dig in unyielding ground. The weather lasted until well into February and the thaw, when it did come, was worse than the frost.’

Place: BEAUFORT
Date: 28/12/16
Summary of events and information: Moved to BEAUFORT for training purposes, but found a party of 112 for work on the railway at BAVINCOURT and 62 for work on the railway at WANQUETIN.

[Signed off by] L. M. Stevens, Lieutenant Colonel Commanding 23rd Service Batt. Manchester Regt.

[To continue on to 1917, please click on the link at the top of this page]

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