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22nd Bn Royal Fusiliers April 1917
BATTALION WAR DIARY FOR
22nd (SERVICE) BATTALION ROYAL FUSILIERS
Operations in the Battle of Arras, and near Oppy Wood
The 22nd (Service) Battalion (Kensington) Royal Fusiliers was raised on 11th September 1914. It moved to Roffey Camp in Horsham, Sussex, in October 1914 and then to Clipstone Camp (near Mansfield) in June 1915 to join and serve with the 99th Brigade, which was a part of 33rd Division. In August 1915 the battalion moved to Tidworth and finally to France, landing in Boulogne in November 1915. On 25th November 1915, the 99th Brigade joined the 2nd Division. In April 1917 the battalion was commanded by Lt Col R Barnett Barker D.S.O. It's battalion war diary (WO/95/1372) was compiled by Capt C R Stone M.C. (Adjutant), who subsequently wrote a battalion history.
1 April 1917
The Battalion was in billets at FIEFS, Brigade H.Qs. being at TANGRY
2 April 1917
Lt Col R BARNETT BARKER DSO resumed command of the Battalion at FIEFS on return from commanding 99th I.B. (temporarily)
3 April 1917
The Battalion remained at FIEFS. 2/Lt D W WRIGHT this day rejoined from hospital and 2/Lt S F JEFFCOAT joined for duty. 2/Lt F W PALMER was awarded the V.C. in the London Gazette of this date.
4 April 1917
The Battalion remained at FIEFS.
5 April 1917
Capt. T H EVANS was awarded the M.C., L/Cpl F G MILES the D.C.M. and L/Cpl FAHEY the M.M.. 2/Lt W H SKINNER returned from a course on Aeroplane Contacts with Infantry.
6 April 1917
The Battalion remained at FIEFS. 2/Lt GIBBONS returned from a course on Lewis Guns at LE TOUQUET.
7 April 1917
The Battalion marched from FIEFS to LA THIEULOYE. 2/Lt E C HUDSON rejoined from hospital.
8 April 1917
The Battalion remained at LA THIEULOYE. A party of 6 officers and about 50 other ranks under Capt MARTIN M.C., proceeded to Corps Training (?) at ROBECQ. Capt J B SCOTT returned from hospital, 2/Lt STEVENSON from a bombing course. Rev. E P St JOHN, CF, left the Battalion this day, having volunteered for service in MESOPOTAMIA.
9 April 1917
The Battalion remained at LA THIEULOYE.
10 April 1917
The Battalion marched to ‘C’ Camp and ‘Y’ hutments in 11 c and d near MAROEUIL.
11 April 1917
The Brigade moved forward in the afternoon, and the Battalion relieved the 1/6 GORDON HIGHLANDERS in the old German front support and reserve lines in A 30 a and b.
12 April 1917
The Battalion remained in the old German trenches.
13 April 1917
The Battalion moved in the morning to B20 a and b, and in the night 13/14th relieved the 1/KRRC in (the) front line opposite GAVRELLES, having the BEDFORDS (63rd DIV) on the right and 1/R.BERKS on the left.
14 April 1917
The Battalion was relieved during the night 14/15th by the 7/R.FUS, and proceeded to (the) old German lines at A30 a and b.
15 April 1917
The Battalion remained in trenches.
16 April 1917 Ditto
17 April 1917
The Battalion marched to billets at BRAY.
18 April 1917
The Battalion remained in billets at BRAY.
19 April 1917
The Battalion remained in billets at BRAY. Major E R ORME assumed duties of Town Mayor of BRAY, and Major J DUFF those of Divisional Water Officer
20 April 1917
The Battalion remained in billets at BRAY. 2/Lt PIMM admitted to hospital.
21 April 1917
The Battalion remained in billets at BRAY.
22 April 1917
The Battalion remained in billets at BRAY.
23 April 1917
The Battalion remained in billets at BRAY. A draft of 24 Other Ranks received, 2/Lt F CARTER temporarily attached to 99th Trench Mortar Battery.
24 April 1917
The Battalion left BRAY and marched to dug outs and bivouacs near ECURIE in A27a.
25 April 1917
On the night on the 25/26th the Battalion took over the front line from The 1/KINGS LIVERPOOL REGT, D Coy in front, B Coy in support, remnants of A and C Coys (under Capt. KELLY) in reserve.
26 April 1917
The line was in B18 and 17 opposite OPPY WOOD. The 1/R BERKS were on the left, and a battalion of the RMLI on our right. During the days the front line was evacuated in order to allow the heavy artillery cut wire.
27 April 1917
On the night of 26/27 the front trenches for 400 yards north of the RAILWAY in B24a were taken over by 1/RMLI. Some of D Coy were withdrawn to the vicinity of Bn H.Qs.in RAILWAY CUTTING B.20.c.7.7
On the 27th the front line was again cleared for cutting/ On the night of 27/28th the Battalion was relieved in the front line, the 17/MIDDLESEX coming into battle positions in front of the line. The 1/KINGS LIVERPOOL took over Bn H.Qs. in RAILWAY CUTTING and Bn H.Qs. moved to a gun pit at B.20.a.3.6, the Companies going on relief to GIN TRENCH and KLEEMANS STELLUNG. Bn H.Qs. were at DEUTSCHER HOUSE.
28 April 1917
During the day the Battalion remained in reserve, the 5th and 6th Infantry Brigades having attacked the German positions at 4.25am The four Companies were amalgamated, B and C Companies under Major GREGG M.C., A and D Companies under Captain T H EVANS M.C. They were equipped with battle stores. In the afternoon 3 officers and 150 other ranks of the 1st Bn KRRC were attached to the Battalion (the diary notes this figure as 150, but later, and more correctly 50 men).
The progress of the events of this and the following day are in the Narrative of Operations Attached. (see below for narrative by Lt Col Barnett Barker D.S.O.) On the night of the 28/29th the Battalion moved to battle positions, Bn. HQs being in the support trench at about A17C9?.
The following officers went into action. Lt Col R BARNETT BARKER DSO commanding, Major W J PHYTHIAN ADAMS MC, 2nd in command, Capt CR STONE MC, adjutant, 2/Lt E C HUDSON, signalling officer, Right front company, Major R C GREGG MC, Capt D N de WET, 2/Lts F M PERRATON, F STEVENSON, J STEEL and S F JEFFCOAT. Left front Company Capt T H EVANS MC, 2/Lts H PARKS, M E WARDLEY, F W PALMER VC and R SAWORD. MO Capt C N COAD (?) RAMC. Capt J E T KELLY was in charge of a 1st Bn KRRC carrying party, and 2/Lts H A HOLMES and J W CARR were in charge of stragglers posts (?) under APM 2nd Division.
The weather was extremely fine but the visibility on the morning of the 29th was not good.
30 April 1917
During the night of 29/30th the Battalion was relieved by the 11th EAST YORKS REGT in the line and returned to the RAILWAY CUTTING and GIN TRENCH.
The casualties, as far as ascertained, during the action were as follows: Killed, 2nd Lt M E WARDLEY, Wounded Major R H GREGG, Capt T H EVANS, Capt D N de WET, 2nd Lt E C HUDSON,; missing 2nd Lts R SAWORD, F M PERRATON, F STEVENSON. 2nd Lt S F JEFFCOAT was mortally wounded and died on 30th. OR (other ranks) 19 killed, 48 wounded, 30 wounded and unaccounted for, 46 unaccounted for and 19 more or less seriously gassed. The enemy bombarded us with gas shells on the night of 29/30th. Only Head Quarters Officers and 40 men marched out of the action.
22nd (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.
Narrative of attack on German Line south of OPPY WOOD.
(by Lt Col R Barnett Barker, Officer Comanding)ORDERS – PRELIMINARIES TO ATTACK
- There was a Brigade conference on this impending attack at Brigade Headquarters on April 28th about 3.30pm. I did not reach my rear Bn H.Qs after the conference till 7.30pm.
- I took down verbal orders pending the written Operational Orders. These were to the effect (a) that my Bn. had to pass the starting point – MAISON DE LA COTE – at about 9pm., (b) I had to take over the sector occupied by the ESSEX REGT and (c) ZERO would be at 3 am.
- As My Company H.Q.s in the rear were somewhat scattered it took some time to collect my Officers. I had sufficient time, however, to make them thoroughly acquainted with all details of the attack. I attach (No1) a copy of the Bn. Operational Orders – time did not allow any detailed orders.
- Fortunately I had kept my men in battle order for the last 10 days, viz: each man carrying 3 bombs, sandbags and filled water bottle, but owing to some misunderstanding with Brigade Transport about rations, I was unable to obtain the next days rations. The men, therefore, left with only emergency rations and water in bottles.
- The men had just done 3 days in the front line and had only reached their rear positions at 4.30 am that morning. They were therefore tired.
- They passed the starting point almost at the time ordered and reached their battle positions at 2 am.
- A schedule as to where I might find dumps and their contents was given to me by Brigade. Only one dump was within reach. On arrival at my Battle H.Qs and NCO was sent to examine the contents of this dump. It was found mostly blown up and contained no water and a few boxes of bombs and 5 boxes of S.A.A (small arms ammunition).
- 50 men of the 1/KRRC who had been carrying the night and day before for the 6th Brigade were given to me to act as carriers. I left these men behind my rear Bn. H.Q.s to bring up rations – they apparently lost their way and did not appear on the scene again until 3pm the next day.
- 50 men of the 60th (?) who had also been carrying for the 6th Brigade were attached to me to form a defensive flank on my right as no touch had been made with the 63rd Division for 4 days and their exact position was not known.
- I received about 10.15pm a message stating that ZERO hour would be at 4am and not 3 am. I at once dispatched runners to my Company Commanders. This message reached them as they were forming up in battle position.
- On arrival at my battle H.Qs. at 3am Lieut-Col MARTIN, ESSEX REGT, informed me (a) that there were no bombs, tools, SAA etc in any of the trenches (b) that the dump at RAILWAY TRUCK had been heavily called on the day previous, and (c) that the GERMAN WIRE ON THE FRONT OF THE SECTOR I HAD TO ATTACK HAD BEEN BADLY CUT AND IN FACT WAS NOT CUT AT ALL ON THE PORTION FACING MY RIGHT COMPANY. On the receipt of this information I at once informed Brigade H.Qs. and my 2 Company Commanders (see R.B.B 22, 23, 24, (1) (2) (3). I made suggestions to the Coy. Commanders as to how to meet the difficulty and to confer together if time allowed.
1. As my Battalion was only of the strength of 2 Companies, they were formed up in waves, covering (the) whole front, with 50 men of the 1/KRRC on (the) right to form a defensive flank. A company of 23rd R. Fus. (B Company) was given (to) me as a reserve to share with 1st R. BERKS. This was placed at our battle H.Qs.
2. The waves were formed up in perfect order and went forward directly the barrage opened, led by the subaltern officers. They were at once hung up by the wire in the dark - By the time gaps had been formed, the barrage had lifted off the German trenches. They were thus left exposed to rifle and machine gun fire, and also bombs while looking for gaps and endeavouring to cut the wire. I will now describe the movements of the right Coy. throughout the fight and then describe the movements of the left Coy. (D Coy.).
3. B Coy. managed with difficulty to get through the first row of German wire. By the time they reached the second row the barrage had lifted – the second row was found (to be) impenetrable. S/Lt J STEELE had the whole of his platoon shot down and he and one man managed to get into a shell hole in the wire and remained there all day. Major R H GREGG and all other officers except 2/Lt JEFFCOAT became casualties together with most of the men.
2/Lt JEFFCOAT and Acting Sergeant Major HOGAN managed to find a gap on the extreme right. They, with a platoon jumped into the German line and captured it with a few prisoners. 2/Lt JEFFCOAT bombed down to the right to try and get in touch with the 63rd Division. A/C. S.M. HOGAN bombed up to the left to try and get in touch with my D Coy. The fighting was very desperate and 2/Lt JEFFCOAT informed me that no quarter was asked or given and many Germans were killed. He succeeded in bombing down to within a point 100 yards of the railway (vis: 400 yards outside Divisional area). There, he obtained touch with the BEDFORD REGT. A/C S.M. HOGAN meanwhile worked up about 100 yards to the left. There he established a block.
Word was brought to him that 2/Lt JEFFCOAT was in trouble, dealing with a heavy counter attack , so he went down to assist him. On his return to the left, he found it had also been heavily counter attacked and driven in. All the bombs having been exhausted, the survivors, about 15 in number had retired to the O.B.L. He at once went after them and organised them for an immediate counter attack. He also wrote me a message describing the situation. 2/Lt JEFFCOAT, finding his rear (left) unprotected, placed a stop, and sent a message to me, giving me the situation.
4. LEFT COMPANY (D)
The right platoon of this company found the wire uncut and so were all shot, 2/Lt PALMER V.C. being the only survivor – He found a shell hole in the wire in which he lay all day. Platoons 14 and 15 appear to have suffered a similar fate and 2/Lt PARKS found himself against impenetrable wire with only 3 Lewis Gunners. He therefore returned to O.B.L. and took up a position there. No. 13 platoon side slipped to the left, meeting with heavy opposition – on (the) right they formed a block – on (the) left they joined up with (the) R.BERKS. I left this platoon under Lieut-Col HARRIS, DSO R.BERKS and they shared the fortunes of the Royal Berks.
5. The 50 men of the 1/KRRC dug a defensive flank of posts on (the) right flank and garrisoned it. Parties of them got intermingled with the front line fighters and were of the greatest assistance.
6. I AM OF (THE) OPPINION that the men who had established themselves in the German Line could have maintained their position there till I could reinforce them, if proper dumps had been formed and all administrative arrangements been made in perfect order previous to the attack – they only carried three bombs each and the ordinary supply for bombers. The fighting was of a desperate character and the bombs quickly gave out. The Lewis Gunners crawled out of the trenches and used their guns as sprays and were shot accordingly.
7. Owing to all Officers becoming casualties, I could get no information from the front line at 6am. I sent up my Intelligence Officer – 2/Lt HUDSON – to report on (the) situation. He sent back word at once, and also that bombs must be sent up – he himself became a casualty, - the message reached me at 7am. I at once sent up half (of) A Coy. 23rd. R.FUS. under Capt TAYLOR with orders to garrison O.B.L. and take the situation in hand. – I sent with him all the bombs I could find. On arrival at O.B.L. he was in time to prevent A/C.S.M. HOGAN (from) wasting men’s lives by making a fruitless attack across “No Mans Land. He reported to me at once on the situation as far as he could ascertain it – I sent him S.10 (4). Feeling anxious about the O.B.L. I sent up Capt TAYLOR, 1 platoon of 23rd. R. FUS and a Lewis Gun.
8. At 9.15am Col.HARRIS informed me that the 1st R BERKS and my platoon were driven back to O.B.L.
9. AT 9.30 (?) am I RECEIVED A MESSAGE FROM 2nd Lieut. JEFFCOAT STATING THAT
(a) HE WAS IN TOUCH WITH BEDFORDS
(b) THAT I COULD DRIBBLE MEN UP TO HIM VIA THE RAILWAY and
(c) THAT IF I SENT HIM REINFORCEMENTS AND PLENTY OF BOMBS, HE COULD ATTACK AGAIN AND PROBABLY CAPTURE THE LINE.
10. I SENT HIM R.B.B.27 (5) I ALSO SENT CAPT TAYLOR HOLDING THE O.B.L., R.B.B.28 (6)
11. I ALSO SENT FOR Capt. BOWYER, 23rd ROYAL FUSILIERS AND GAVE HIM VERBAL INSTRUCTIONS (7)
12. At 10am Capt. BOWYER and about 100 men of the 23rd. R. FUS. Well supplied with bombs which had in meanwhile been sent me by the 99th I.R., started up the railway – they reached the German Line with practically no casualties. Capt. BOWYER at once started operations and he bombed up (the) trench in (the) following order, 23rd R.FUS, 63rd Division consisting of 7th Bn R. FUS, BEDFORDS, H.A.C.. The operation was entirely successful and he established himself firmly at B.12.d.6.7 (?), vis about 900 yards south of OPPY WOOD. He did not proceed past this point, although convinced that he could do so, as he thought the BERKS might be bombing down to meet him. Also fearing strong counter attack he wished to keep a large supply of bombs. In the meanwhile, I sent up to him every bomb I could lay my hands on, and also several boxes to Capt TAYLOR in the O.B.L. to get across “No Man’s Land” to him. The supply now arriving from 99th I.B. was ample. Also water and SAA strated to arrive, both of which were badly needed.
13. AT ABOUT 10.25am the O.C. BEDFORDS arrived at my Bn. H.Qs. and gave me the situation on the left. This coincided exactly with 2/Lt JEFFCOAT’s report. HE AGREED TO WORK EVERYTHING IN CONJUNCTION WITH ME AND WE WORKED MOST HARMONIOUSLY TOGETHER.
14. At 10.25am Lt-Col HARRIS informed me that a report (unreliable) had reached him that the Germans were attacking in force against the O.B.L. and might drive a gap between 1st R BERKS and my left. I therefore kept back 6 Lewis Guns of 23rd ROYAL FUSILIERS and 1 platoon and also phoned 99th I.B. to ask for reinforcements. This report was afterwards found to be false. Capt TAYLOR, 23rd R. FUS in O.B.L., during the morning sent his patrols across “No Man’s Land” and kept in touch with Capt. BOWYER’s attack. The information he sent me was of the greatest value and his patrols must have acted with great gallantry, as the O.B.L. and “No Man’s Land” were swept with machine gun and rifle fire from OPPY WOOD.
15. AT 3.15pm THE 99th I.B. INFORMED ME THAT OPPY WOOD AND VILLAGE WERE REPORTED TO BE IN THE PROCESS OF EVACUATION BY (THE) ENEMY. I AT ONCE SENT OUT TO CAPTS. BOWYE AND TAYLOR MY R.B.B.30 and 31.
16. I asked O.C. BEDFORDS to come to my H.Qs. (as previously agreed) to confer. We agreed that he should push out patrols to practise trenches (B13 C and D) and keep in touch with my right and in the event of being able to advance that he should capture (the) practise trenches. We also sent for (the) Brigade M.G. Officer and instructed him to train his guns on (the) practise ground and sweep (the) approaches south of the village.
17. I then telephoned to Brigade what my future arrangements would be, which were entirely dependent on patrol reports. They were (a) that Capts. BOWYER and TAYLOR would push on with their remnants of troops and occupy any good positions south and east of (the) village, (b0 that I would push up the EAST YORKS behind and in support of them and (c) when touch was once more obtained with the enemy, I would relieve them with the EAST YORKS and drw them back into reserve.
18. At 5.30(?)pm I received a patrol report from Capt. BOWYER to the effect (a) THAT ENEMY WERE HOLDING A TRENCH JUST WEST OF THE SUNKEN ROAD, (b) THAT THERE WERE SEVERAL HOSTILE POSTS PROTECTED BY WIRE – HE ADDED THAT THE TRENCH SEEMED TO BE A COMMUNICATION TRENCH RUNNING IN A HALF CIRCLE STARTING FROM OPPY LINE AND JOINING UP AT SUNKEN ROAD. (c) THE OPPY WOOD PATROL REPORTED “ENEMY STILL IN OCCUPATION, ABOUT 200 OF THEM BEING SEEN PROCEEDING FROM SUNKEN ROAD TO WOOD”
19. It was reported to me during the day that our second objective did not exist as it had been completely obliterated by our artillery. 20. I AM OF OPINION
(a) that our failure to take the first objective in the first place was simply owing to the wire not being cut and the difficulty in finding the few gaps in the dark.
(b) that in spite of (the) above, men of the 22nd R FUS. Who got into (their) first objective, would have cleared it and maintained themselves there, if bombs had been available. The fight was simply a bombing fight as it was in trenches – rifle fire and bayonets were useless.
(c) the supply of bombs and SAA when once they began to arrive from 99th I.B. was ample, and that had more time been allowed us to properly organise dumps and carrying parties, the attack could not have failed.
(d) the enemy were guardsmen and fought magnificently. The losses on both sides were therefore about equal.
(e) Their counter attackers appeared to be splendidly trained and organised and had unlimited bombs,
(f) our barrage of 6 mins did not allow sufficient time for men to advance over 150 yards and get through two belts of wire. The barrage had lifted before our men reached the second belt. 21. I wish to place on record the splendid gallantry of 2/Lt JEFFCOAT (mortally wounded. It was entirely owing to the excellent report he sent (to) me on the situation that I was able to push up the 23rd R FUS and so capture practically the whole of the objective given me.
The O.C. BEDFORD REGT gave me most excellent advise and assistance and our co-operation together was everything that could be desired.
I cannot speak too highly of the most valuable services of Capt. BOWYER and Capt. TAYLOR, 23rd R.FUS. The success of our counter attack and the gaining of or objectives was greatly due to their excellent leadership and gallantry. The information they gave me, placed me in a position to give them the assistance they required. It would be impossible to say enough about all the Officers and me of the 23rd R. FUS. Who came under my command. They were ready, eager and prepared to move at a moment’s notice, quickly understood their orders and carried them out to perfection.
Notes on Casualties/Mentioned Men
Jeffcoat, Stanley Ferns 2/Lt, aged ? Roclincourt Mil Cem (DoW) (apparently reccommended for a V.C. for his action on 29th April 1917, but actualy awarded a Mentioned in Despatches)
Perraton, Frank Mayvour 2/Lt, aged 20, M.C. Arras Memorial, Bay 3(KiA)
Saword, Ralph 2/Lt, aged 26 Arras Memorial, Bay 3(KiA)
Stevenson, Frederick 2/Lt, aged ? Arras Memorial, Bay3 (KiA)
Wardley, Miles Edward 2/Lt, aged 28 Arras Memoral, Bay 3(KiA)
Carr, James Walter, Lt, aged 25, DoW 16/11/1918 whilst attached to 99th Trench Mortar Battery. M.C. D.C.M. MiD. Brookwood Mil Cem (UK)
Brown J Pte, G/6436, age ? Orchard Dump Cemetery
Cole, Charles Victor Pte, G/41291, age 38 Orchard Dump Cemetery
Woolford S A Pte, 2121, age ? Orchard Dump Cemetery
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Keyword tags: 1917 22nd Bn Royal Fusiliers 2nd Division 99th Brigade April Battle of Arras Oppy Wood
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