4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - 1916
After the Gallipoli campaign the 4th Battalion were ordered to proceed to France. Before the end of March, the 4th Battalion of the Regiment had landed in France. As we have told, the 29th Division had been ordered to the Western Front after the evacuation of Gallipoli; and the 4th Worcestershire had embarked at Alexandria on March 5th, on board the transport "Transylvania".
The 4th Battalion embarking in the "Transylvania" at Alexandria and steamed to France - 15th March 1916
After an uneventful voyage of four days, the Battalion disembarked at Marseilles on the morning of 20th March 1916. All that day officers and men worked hard at unloading the transport; and not until after dark was the Battalion ready to entrain. A long train journey ended at Pont Remy in the early hours of March 23rd. The companies marched six miles to billets at Hancourt, where the Battalion lay for a week, finding the Spring rain of Picardy miserably cold after the heat of Egypt.
The officers who embarked for France were:— Major E. T. J. Kerans (Commanding), Capts. A. E. Stokes-Roberts, A. W. Brocks, R. C. Wynter, T. C. Hambling, Lts. C. Felix (Adjutant), F. G. V. Beard, J. A. Smithin, 2/Lts. S. Bannister, L. L. Goold, G. W. Field, E. P. Daw, D. C. Dingley, A. V. Johnson, A. E. Tooze, E. N. Perham, R. H. New, F. C. T. Woodhead, S. S. Harris, L. A. Bruton, L. A. W. Knight, Lt..& Q.M. H. C. Butler, Capt. N. H. W. Saw R.A.M.C, and 8 officers attached from other regiments.
Other officers who joined the Battalion in France were:— Lieuts. R. C. Broughton, E. H. Stroud, G. W. Field, A, Ramsden. B. M. Storey, J. Scott, L. L. Gould and E. P. Daw.
On the last day of March 1916, the 88th Brigade moved eastward to the neighbourhood of Doullens (On the night of July 29th/30th 1916 the 4th Battalion moved forward by train to Ypres), and for three days the 4th Worcestershire lay at Bonneville. Then on April 4th the Brigade marched forward in fine cold weather, sixteen miles through Breuval and Beauquesne to Louvencourt. On the way Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston, now once more commanding the VIIIth Corps, saw the Battalion pass, and complimented Major Kerans on the appearance of the troops.
Then the 29th Division took over the line facing Beaumont Hamel. The 88th Brigade lay in Divisional Reserve at Louvencourt training hard, until April 11th; then the Brigade moved forward and on April 11th (Battalion Diary gives 12th) the 4th Worcestershire marched in pouring rain to Mailly Maillet. In depressing weather the Battalion worked on defences behind the lines during the ensuing week: then on April 18th the 4th Worcestershire went into the trenches at Mary Redan, a sharp salient in the Line south of Beaumont Hamel. The trenches were in none too good condition, and much work in bad weather was necessary to improve the defences. The Battalion were to remain in trenches facing Beaumont Hamel or in billets behind the line until the end of June.
From 18th to 23rd April, 4 men were killed by minenwerfer striking dugouts.
From the 28th April to 3rd May, the 4th Battalion were at billets at Engelbelmer.
2/Lieut. Trevor Colin Hambling went missing on the 5th May 1916 and it was later confirmed that he was taken prisoner by the Germans.
From the 8th to 10th May, the 4th Battalion were at billets at Acheux Wood and on 10th May they moved to billets at Mailly Maillet where an unfortunate accident took place on the 13th May, when a Mills bomb exploded during practice, killing 2 and wounding 18. On the same day (13th May), Captain H. J. P. Parker joined as Quartermaster.
The battalion moved back to billets at Engelbelmer on the 18th May and stayed there until the 28th May.
Between May 28th and 7th June, 11 men were killed and 2/Lieut. R. H. New and 29 other ranks were wounded (most of these casualties were caused on the night of 3rd/4th June by German bombardment during a raid carried out by other troops further to the left - against "Hawthorn Redoubt").
On the 7th June the battalion moved in to billets at Louvencourt and a week later on the 15th June moved back to billets at Engelbelmer where they stayed until the 23rd June before moving back to billets at Louvencourt and stayed until the 30th. When out of the line the companies were busily engaged on works for the forthcoming offensive.
4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment Men resting at Louvencourt, 28th June 1916 (IWM Q718)
(note the wire cutters attached to their rifles)
4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment Men resting at Louvencourt, 28th June 1916 (IWM Q719)
THE BATTLES OF THE SOMME
The general plan of the great attack was to break through the enemy's positions in the valley of the Ancre between La Boisselle and Serre, and then to roll up the German defences to the northward by a rapid turning movement carried out by fresh troops brought up from reserve. The main attack was to be made by the IIIrd, Xth and VIIth Corps of the Fourth Army. To assist the main attacks, subsidiary attacks were to be made, on the southern flank by the XIIIth and XVth Corps of the Fourth Army, on the northern flank by the VIIth Corps of the Third Army. When the enemy's lines had been broken the turning movement to the northward was to be made under the direction of a fresh staff ready for the purpose, designated, for the time being, "The Reserve
Army" under General Sir Hubert Gough.
On June 24th the preliminary bombardment was commenced. All along the line the British batteries opened a heavy fire, carefully directed on successive points of the German line. In order to increase the demoralizing effects of the bombardment, and to identify the German units holding the line, a number of raids were carried out during the last days of June. Of these raids, one near Hebuterne was entrusted to the 1/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, and was carried out on the evening of June 28th; but unbroken enemy wire prevented success.
The first days of the bombardment were fine and hot, although occasional small thunderstorms competed with the crash of the guns: then the weather broke, and rain fell heavily, causing the date of the attack to be postponed at the last minute from June 28th to July 1st. The postponement brought no better weather, and dawn of the 30th found the rolling country of Picardy still shrouded in drizzling rain; but it would have needed more than rain to damp the enthusiasm of the troops; and the 4th Battalion Diary recorded that all ranks were "going about singing, and as cheerful as could be." In the afternoon the sky cleared and, as dusk fell, the move forward to the assembly positions was begun. All along the twenty mile front from Hannescamps to the River Somme long columns of British troops were on the move; and that night four Battalions of the Regiment were marching forward from their billets through darkness lit by continuous gun-flashes towards the soaring flares and bursting shells which marked the battle line.
The 4th Battalion marched at 7 p.m. from Louvencourt to Acheux Wood; where hot tea and rum were issued. At 11 p.m. the march forward was resumed. Through Mailly Maillet, the Battalion marched to Auchonvillers. Then, amid terrific gun-fire which lit up the whole sky, the companies filed into communication trenches and worked their way forward to their allotted position in the assembly trenches. The dispositions were not completed until 3 a.m. Then, crouching in the trenches under a heavy bombardment, the platoons of the 4th Worcestershire waited for the dawn.
4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment men marching towards trenches at Acheux on the 28th June 1916 (IWM Q716)
4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment men marching towards trenches at Acheux on the 28th June 1916 (IWM Q717)
THE BATTLE OF ALBERT (1916)
This is the official name given to the whole of the first phase of the Somme offensive—from July 1st to July 13th.
The morning of the 1st July 1916 dawned calm and clear. The fire of the British artillery had slackened a little before the dawn, but at 6 a.m. the guns broke out all along the line in a furious bombardment. For over an hour shells rained upon the German position: then, at 7-30 a.m., all along the line the British battalions advanced to the attack.
THE ATTACK ON BEAUMONT HAMEL
On the front of the 29th Division the moment of attack was heralded by the explosion of a great mine under a German entrenchment known as "Hawthorn Redoubt." The earth all around shook with the concussion. Then, amid an inferno of gun-fire, the 86th and 87th Brigades attacked.
The troops of the 88th Brigade, crouching under cover in the reserve trenches, heard through the thunder of the artillery another intermittent note: the dry stammer of machine-gun fire. That ominous sound did not cease, and it told the listeners clearly enough that the German resistance was not broken. At 9 a.m. came word that the battalions of the 88th Brigade would advance. The Newfoundland and Essex Regiments went first, filing forward up the communication trenches to the front line. The listeners in rear heard the machine-gun fire rise to greater intensity; and presently wounded Newfoundlanders brought news that the attack had failed.
At 11.30 a.m. came orders for the 4th Worcestershire to advance. Immediately in front of their position the enemy had put down a barrage of heavy shells between the British front and reserve lines, and through that curtain of explosions the Battalion had to pass. The platoons filed forward as best they could, along smashed communication trenches choked with wounded men. Before the front line was reached a hundred (6 officers [Lts. R. C. Wynter and L. T. H. Leyland, 2/Lts. J. S. Wesson, A. E. Allsopp, K. Mossman and J. Scott] and 96 other ranks.) of the Battalion had been killed or wounded. The front trenches themselves were found to be in but little better case, everywhere broken down and under a heavy bombardment. Under cover of the shattered parapets were crouching some survivors of the regiments which had led the way—South Wales Borderers, Border Regiment and Newfoundlanders—while out on the open slope in front lay thickly strewn the remainder of the officers and men of those brave battalions. Everywhere shells were bursting, and the unconquered German machine-guns swept the wrecked trenches with their fire. Under that fire the Worcestershire made preparations for attack; but at 1 p.m. came counter-orders. The attack on Beaumont Hamel had failed completely, and it was anticipated that the enemy would probably make a counter-attack; the 4th Worcestershire and 2nd Hampshire, the only battalions of the 29th Division still in fighting trim, must hold the line at all costs. The Battalion extended its front to the left and prepared for defence; "everyone worked hard in repairing the broken trenches under most trying conditions (Battalion Diary)."
At 4 p.m. came orders that next morning the Battalion would attack the opposing salient in the German line (at the western end of "Y Ravine"). Grimly preparations were made, though there seemed little hope of success. Late that night (11.45 p.m.) came word that the attack was cancelled.
By that time it was known that all three Divisions of the VIIth Corps had failed in their attack, with crushing loss of life. All that could be done was to repair the shattered trenches and succour the hundreds of wounded lying between the lines. All night long rescue parties were in "No Man's Land," bringing back wounded men.
Dawn found one Worcestershire lad tending a stricken comrade close to the enemy's line. The mist which had shielded him suddenly lifted, and showed the German trench only a few yards away. The enemy levelled their rifles, but were checked by an officer, who stood up and shouted in English: "You must not stop there with that man. If you want to come in, come along: or else go back to your own trenches." The lad answered, "I'll go back to my own trenches, sir"; and trudged back unhurt. Two stretcher-bearers went out, protected by their red-cross armbands, and brought the wounded man back to the British lines (The incident is recorded in the Battalion Diary. The enemy were the 121st [Wurtemberg] Regiment).
The 4th Worcestershire remained in position facing Beaumont Hamel, since the opening day of the battle. Any idea of renewing attack in that sector had been abandoned, and the activities of the Battalion were restricted to the repair of the defences and the clearing of the battle-field. The latter was a difficult, dangerous and unpleasant task; but it had to be done, and the 4th Worcestershire and 1st Essex were the only battalions of the 29th Division
still capable of serious work; so no relief was possible and for thirteen long days and nights the 4th Battalion laboured on the trenches and in the open ground beyond. At first the task was complicated by heavy rain: later the weather cleared and by July 6th the Battalion Diary recorded a visible
improvement. The enemy's artillery was active and the German snipers were on the alert. Casualties were frequent and between the 2nd and the 14th of July the Battalion lost 70 of all ranks. On the night of July 13th/14th a small raid attempted by a party of the 4th Battalion from Mary Redan against the
opposing trenches did not succeed, for the intensity of the enemy's fire made advance impossible. The casualties over this period were; July 2nd and 3rd, 27 killed and wounded. On July 4th, Lieut. F. G. V. Beard was killed by sniper, and 1 killed, 21 wounded. July 6th to 13th, 6 killed, 14 wounded.
During that time the 4th Worcestershire had been moving back out of the battle area. The very heavy losses which the 29th Division had suffered on the 1st of July made it necessary for the Division to be withdrawn to a quieter area to absorb reinforcements ; and orders for the relief of the 29th Division by the 25th Division were issued on July 22nd. Before that date, however, the 4th Worcestershire had been drawn back into reserve. On July 14th, after an uncomfortable day of "demonstrations" and heavy shell-fire during the great attack further south, the Battalion was relieved by the Newfoundland Regiment and marched back to a reserve camp in Mailly Wood. There the companies lay for two days, resting and cleaning up. On July 17th the 88th Brigade
was drawn back into Divisional Reserve. The 4th Worcestershire marched westward into huts in Acheux Wood, where the Battalion remained (e) until the Division moved back to rest. On the night of July 17th/18th a small raiding party from the 4th Battalion was sent up to make another raid from Mary Redan. That attempt failed, but the failure was redeemed by the bravery of two subalterns, 2/Lts. R. C. Broughton and J. Tyree, who entered the enemy's trench. Casualties, one man missing. Then, on July 23rd the 88th Brigade marched westward through Louvencourt, Marieux and Beauquesne to billets at Beauval.
By that time it had been decided that the 29th Division should be sent to Flanders. On July 27th the 4th Worcestershire marched from Beauval to Candas; where, shortly after midday, the Battalion entrained for the north.
The 4th Worcestershire, after quitting the Somme area, had moved by train to Poperinghe. The Battalion detrained at that town towards dusk on July 27th and marched to good billets in two convents near the Cathedral. For two days the Battalion remained in Poperinghe: then on the night of July 29th/30th the 4th Worcestershire moved forward by train to Ypres, and were quartered in the ruined city, two companies being accommodated in the ramparts.
After dark on the following night (July 30th) the Battalion moved forward to the line. Through the Menin Gate and up the Menin Road the companies tramped, past "Hell Fire Corner" to "Birr Cross Roads." There the platoons were led to the left, and filed (relieving a battalion of the York and Lancaster) into the trenches on the slope of Bellewaerde Ridge between the Menin Road and the Roulers Railway, the trenches captured in June 1915. There, on the very ground on which the 3rd Battalion had then suffered so severely, the 4th Battalion carried on an active trench warfare for ten days, sniping, bombing and labouring, encouraged and inspired by the ever-active Divisional Commander, General de Lisle. 2/Lieut. S. S. Harris had been wounded on August 2nd. On August 8th the premature explosion of a bomb wounded Captain I. T. Pritchard and Lieut. G. T. Bennett. On August 9th the 4th Worcestershire were relieved, by the Newfoundland Regiment, and after ten days in Brigade Reserve at Ypres, were carried back by train to camp in Divisional Reserve by Vlamertinghe. On August 31st the Battalion moved into Ypres and on September 8th again marched up the Menin Road through a very damp and misty night to the Bellewaerde trenches (relieving the Newfoundland Regiment). For some days a normal activity was maintained, while arrangements were made for a raid on the opposing German line.
The raid was carried out on the night of September 15th. After a preliminary bombardment, the raiding party, 3 officers and 30 men under Lieut. H. E. Wyatt, crept out from the left of the Battalion's trenches and made for a small salient in the enemy's line just south of the Roulers Railway. In the confusion caused by darkness and heavy shell-fire the party disintegrated. On the left Lieut. Wyatt and five men entered the German trench. A fierce little fight ensued in the course of which the subaltern was shot in the stomach. The opposing enemy were driven into their dugouts, which were effectively bombed, and the little party then withdrew across the railway. They returned through the trenches on the left held by the 2nd Hampshire and were heavily fired
upon; but eventually they reached safety bringing back with them one prisoner, the only survivor out of 4 captured, and the wounded subaltern.
Further to the right the remainder of the raiding party had been held up by unbroken wire and, after a sharp bombing fight, had to fall back. By 1.30 a.m. all were safely back in the trenches and the night passed without further incident, though for some time the enemy kept up a heavy bombardment. Four of the raiders were wounded, including Lieut. Wyatt, who was awarded the M.C., Privates C. Edkins and W. H. Dean were awarded the M.M.
Two days passed quietly, and then on September 18th came the German retaliation. About 8 a.m. on a morning of heavy driving rain, an intense bombardment was opened. For some three hours heavy shells struck everywhere, smashing and levelling the defences. Dispositions were made to meet an attack, but no attack developed. "The men were very much disappointed because the Germans did not attack," records the Battalion Diary, "a glorious chance for killing Germans if they had." The shell-fire evidently had failed to affect the spirit of the troops. After midday the shelling died down and all ranks set to work in heavy rain to repair the damage; which was very considerable (4th Battalion casualties during that bombardment were 10 killed, 11 wounded, one missing). By nightfall most of it had been repaired. The 4th Battalion was relieved, by the 2nd Royal Fusiliers, and marched back down the Menin Road, through Ypres to camp at Vlamertinghe.
4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment men resting by the road side after the fighting near Aveluy - September 1916) (IWM Q1459)
Once more, on September 28th, the Battalion went forward into the Salient, and took over the same line of trenches. For a day or two the weather was fine and the work uneventful, that tour being chiefly memorable for the awe-inspiring spectacle, on October 1st, of two German observation balloons being brought down in flames by a British aeroplane. Then the weather broke, and persistent heavy rain made everything difficult. On October 3rd the enemy exploded a small mine; but it was 100 yards short of the parapet and there were no casualties. The enemy's artillery woke to renewed life and from both sides of the Salient shells plunged into the flanks of the Battalion's position; but no serious casualties had resulted when on the evening of October 5th the Battalion was relieved. A battalion (5th King's) of the 55th Division took over the trenches, and the 4th Worcestershire moved back through Ypres. There they learnt that their stay in the Salient was ended and that the 29th Division was returning to the battlegrounds of Picardy. A quiet day in camp (7th) was occupied in cleaning up, and then, on the afternoon of October 8th, the 4th Worcestershire entrained at Houpoutre for the Somme.
Map showing the road the 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment took near Aveluy (September 1916)
4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment men (September 1916)
THE TRANSLOY RIDGES
During September the British Fourth Army had gained the crest of the big ridge which runs from the Albert-Bapaume Road on the left past High Wood to Morval on the right. In October the troops of the Fourth Army were fighting their way forward down the slopes towards the enemy's last prepared defences around Le Transloy and Bapaume. On the right flank Gueudecourt had been stormed on September 26th. Beyond Gueudecourt a low ridge lies between that village and Le Transloy; and that ridge was the principal objective of the fighting in the ensuing three weeks. Further to the-west, on the left flank of the Fourth Army, a conspicuous mound, the Butte de Warlencourt, was the most noticeable tactical feature in front of the British line.
The last days of September were marked by heavy rain, which became even heavier and more continuous during the first days of October. The countless shell-holes became slimy pools; the churned soil of the Somme ridges melted into knee-deep mud, which made movement more and more difficult.
Up into that most depressing of battlefields came the 4th Battalion of the Regiment; later the 1st Battalion, then the 1/7th and 1/8th Battalions and finally the 2nd Battalion also came into the struggle for the Transloy Ridges.
Worcestershire, after moving down from Flanders, detrained at Longueau Station near Amiens at dawn on October 8th. The troops ate breakfast and then marched through soaking rain to Corbie, where the 88th Brigade found excellent billets. "Two Regiments of French Infantry marched through Corbie in the afternoon. Everyone noticed what a smart and well built lot they looked, also clean. Our men very soon made friends with the French soldiers." (Battalion Diary). The Battalion was then temporarily commanded by Major J. P. S. Maitland.
A quiet day followed in Brigade reserve: then on October 10th the Battalion marched forward to the sound of the guns and after a toilsome journey reached camp near Pommiers Redoubt before dark. All around them the British batteries kept up a continuous fire throughout the night.
Next morning (October 11th) the Battalion moved on and advanced into the reserve trenches on the crest of the main ridge north of Delville Wood—the old German Switch-Line. From that reserve position on the following afternoon (October 12th) the Battalion watched a great attack delivered along the whole front of the Fourth Army. From Morval on their right round to Le Sars on their left, the whole front line was obscured by the smoke and fumes of bursting shells; and all along the line the laden infantry struggled forward through the mud. But at nightfall there was little good to report. Ground had been gained in places but no definite success had been achieved. That night the Battalion found several parties to take up ammunition to the front line, and while supervising that duty 2/Lieut. L. A. Gray was killed by a shell and 12 of his men were wounded.
The 4th Battalion remained in position until the following evening (October 13th); then in misty weather and amid continuous gun-fire, the 4th Worcestershire ploughed forward through the mud and relieved the 1st Essex on the ground over which they had fought on the previous day.
One company of the Battalion, with six Lewis-guns, was in the firing line on the outskirts of Gueudecourt. Close behind them another company held the Sunken Road running west from the village. The other two companies were in reserve in "Goat Trench." Battalion Headquarters was in "Pilgrim's Way."
Dawn of October 14th brought a heavy bombardment, which continued throughout that day, while all ranks worked hard to improve the position. That night an officer's patrol discovered a group of abandoned German gunpits close in front of the line. The patrol was fired upon and had to withdraw before definite information about them could be ascertained.
Another day of heavy shelling followed, during which the Brigade on the right made an unsuccessful local attack. Orders were received that the Battalion was to take part in a renewed attack to break the German line.
The Brigadier (General Cayley) came up to the Battalion and discussed the forthcoming attack. When darkness on October 15th fell a storming party crept forward from our trenches, rushed the gunpits, drove out a few enemy snipers who had been holding them, and hastily prepared the captured positions for defence. In one of the gunpits a deep dugout was discovered, and in it were found four helpless wounded men, three British and one German. They had lain there since the previous attack, five days before.
Meanwhile arrangements were being made for the impending battle. To permit a preliminary rest, the two front companies of the Worcestershire were relieved by platoons of the Essex and were withdrawn to join the other two companies in "Gird Trench" and "Goat Trench."
October 17th was bitterly cold. Final details for the attack were settled; then all took as much rest as was possible amid the continuous gun-fire. At 8 p.m. heavy rain came down and through the rain the Worcestershire companies moved forward to the front line.
In the attack on October 12th, part of a German trench known as "Hilt Trench" had been captured and linked up with our line. The remainder of "Hilt Trench" was still in the enemy's hands, as also was " Bayonet Trench " which continued the enemy's line to the west. Behind "Hilt Trench," "Grease Trench" constituted the next enemy line in front of the 88th Brigade.
The task allotted to the Brigade was two-fold. On the left flank one company of the 4th Worcestershire was to secure the yet uncaptured portion of "Hilt Trench" and to co-operate with the 35th Brigade which, further to the left, was to attack "Bayonet Trench." On the rest of the Brigade front the remainder of the 4th Worcestershire, together with the 2nd Hampshire, were to attack and capture "Grease Trench." On their right the 71st Brigade would continue the line of the attack by capturing "Mild Trench."
At 3.40 a.m. on October 18th the British artillery opened a devastating fire. All along the line the British battalions, soaked to the skin but still eager, clambered out of their trenches and advanced through mud and rain against the enemy.
On the front of the 4th Worcestershire, the attack on the uncaptured portion of "Hilt Trench" was made by 'X' Company, three platoons attacking from the gunpits and one platoon from the end of the portion of the trench already captured. That attack, though gallantly made, failed at first-before unbroken wire, but Captain D'A. G. St. C. Roberts at once reorganised his company and again attacked. Eventually 'X' Company were successful, and the enemy were driven out of the remainder of "Hilt Trench." The attack of the 35th Brigade against "Bayonet Trench" had failed: but 'X' Company established a block at their end of "Bayonet Trench" and held it stubbornly against all counter-attacks. Captain D'A. Roberts was awarded the M.C. for this action.
Meanwhile the other three companies of the 4th Worcestershire, with the 2nd Hampshire on their right, had pushed forward, following the creeping barrage from "Hilt Trench" to "Grease Trench." As the barrage lifted off the trench the attacking platoons charged in and made short work of the defenders. Then parties previously detailed (one of those parties was led by Sergt. [Acting C.S.M.] C. Hackett, who pushed on with great courage and captured several prisoners. He was awarded the D.C.M. and subsequently was selected for a commission ) advanced, headed by Captain T. F. V. Matthews to the sunken road behind the trench. As had been expected, the sunken road was found to be full of enemy dugouts, which were swiftly bombed into surrender and demolished: after which Captain Matthews and his men returned with their prisoners, to "Grease Trench." At the western end of "Grease Trench" a German strongpoint at the Five Cross Roads resisted successfully, but with that exception the whole of the trench, had been captured by the Worcestershire
and Hampshire. More than two hundred prisoners had been taken. Captain Matthews was awarded the M.C. for his actions.
Further to the right the left flank of the 71st Brigade had been successful in securing a portion of "Mild Trench" and in linking up with the Hampshire. On the remainder of the front of that Brigade-no success had been gained.
The attack was over before it was really light. The Worcestershire platoons made such cover as was possible and held their gains throughout the day under a very heavy bombardment. Twice the enemy were seen forming up for a counter-attack, but each time they were stopped dead by rapid fire. The rain beat down steadily, and the condition of the trenches grew hourly worse and worse; men sank to their hips in the mud, and only with great difficulty could they be lugged out. Night fell and it became possible to reckon losses: about 140 in all, including 13 officers. 3 officers (2/Lieut. C. G. Durant, 2/Lieut. G. C. Scott and Capt. F. P. Daw) and 16 other ranks killed. 9 officers (Captains L. A. W. Knight, Lieut. H. L. Grogan, Lieut. A. Ramsden, 2/Lieuts. D. S. Milward, R. E. Wilson, D. N. Monks, J. L. Hull, H. F. C. Colman, H. F. C. Donnell) and 80 other ranks wounded. 1 officer (2/Lieut. J. Overbury) and 30 other ranks missing.
The night of October 18th/19th was a most anxious one. The position of the Battalion, with its left flank in the air, was very dangerous. But no German counter-attack developed and the position gained was safely held.
Dawn of October 19th broke through driving rain. Expecting a counter-attack, the officers and men of the 4th Worcestershire crouched in their waterlogged defences, soaked, worn-out, but still full of fight . Corporal H. Masters had taken command of his platoon in the initial attack when his officer was hit. Although wounded himself, Corporal Masters refused to leave his men and remained at his post showing great courage until the 4th Battalion was relieved. He was awarded the D.C.M. for his gallantry. The enemy however were in equally bad plight and made no effort to regain their lost ground.
During the day arrangements were made for the relief of the attacking troops. The 4th Worcestershire and 2nd Hampshire were to be relieved by the South Wales Borderers and Inniskillings of the 87th Brigade, while on their right the positions of the front-line battalions of the 71st Brigade were to be taken over by the 1st Worcestershire and 1st Sherwood Foresters of the 8th Division.
Hours passed but the relief was not completed. Rain and the enemy's shells had almost obliterated the main communication trench, "Cocoa Alley," and the South Wales Borderers and InnisMllings were finding the greatest difficulty in making their way down to the firing line. Not till 1.30 a.m. did their first platoons arrive ; then came a long delay. By that time the enemy were pounding "Cocoa Alley" with an intense fire of heavy shells, and the Borderers losses were serious. Not one of their companies was actually in its allotted position before daylight, and as the light spread the withdrawal of the 4th Worcestershire became an increasingly dangerous operation. The men had to be sent back in driblets, four or five at a time, making their way as best they could across the mud. At Battalion Headquarters in "Pilgrims Way" they were collected into larger bodies and given directions as to their way to a camp near Bernafay Wood, five miles back. At that rendezvous the Battalion was gradually collected, and the weary sodden men were cheered by hot tea and rum. Not till 1.30 a.m. in the following night (October 20th/21st) did the last party reach camp. During the'relief the Battalion suffered some 60 casualties including 2/Lt. J. M. Aldana wounded.
October 21st was spent in cleaning up. The weather was bitterly cold and the men had but little shelter: but a certain amount of dry clothing was obtained and issued, and the troops faced the misery of the cold with that same splendid courage as they had shown under the enemy's fire.
During the night of October 29th/30th the 4th Battalion was relieved by newly-arrived Australian troops, and returned to Bernafay Camp during the early hours of morning. By 8.30 a.m. the last platoon had arrived, and two hours later, in pouring rain, the Battalion set out for a camp further back, near Pommiers Redoubt. The distance was only two miles, but so bad was the going that the last platoon did not reach the new camp till 2.30 p.m.
From Pommiers Camp the Battalion marched back on October 31st by Mametz,, Fricourt and Meaulte to billets at Ville-sous-Corbie. There, together with the other battalions of the 88th Brigade, the 4th Worcestershire rested and trained during the ensuing fortnight. During that period, Major J. P. S. Maitland, one of the outstanding figures of the Battalion, was invalided home, thus closing his service in the field. In spite of his advanced years, Major Maitland had endured all privations with fine spirit, and his loss was greatly regretted by all ranks.
After their fortnight of rest and training at Ville-sous-Corbie the 4th Worcestershire, with the other battalions of the 88th Brigade had marched northwards on November 15th, back into the battle area again. After resting the night of November 15th/16th at Sandpits Camp and the following night at La Briqueterie, the 4th Worcestershire moved forward, to the line, passed the 1st Worcestershire at Flers and relieved the 2nd East Lancashire in "Fall," "Autumn" and "Winter" trenches. Thenceforward until the middle of December the 4th Worcestershire remained either in those trenches (4th Battalion in front line during November 17th to 22nd, November 27th to 30th, December 5th to 7th and December 9th to 10th) or in shelters or camps (Huts at Carnoy or canvas camp at Bernafay Wood) close behind on the devastated battle-field. The fighting died down and no event of great importance occurred, but the hardships suffered were severe (g). At last on December 11th the 88th Brigade was relieved and moved right back to rest at Molliens
Vidame. During the period November 16th to December 4th Worcestershire suffered 3 wounded.