1st Battalion War Diary, April 1917

    1st Border Regiment War Diary Transcriptions (1915-1918)
The National Archives WO/95/4311 & WO/95/2305    
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
FIEFFS 1.4.17
Btn marched to BOISBERGUE.
Marched to LUCHEUX.
LUCHEUX 3.4.17
Training. Wood fighting. Attack on strong Point. Open warfare.
" 4.4.17
Training as above. All kits cut down to 35lbs & dumped here.
" 5.4.17
Marched to LIENCOURT.
Training in morning and afterwards marched to GRAND RULLECOURT.
7.4.17 *
Training in morning and afterwards marched to GRAND RULLECOURT. LIEUT P. NEW, 2LTS A. CAMPBELL, A.J.F. DANIELS, T.L.P GAMON & T.N. MORRIS to temp (???) Depôt, St POL.
Marched to BAVINCOURT.
Hail snow rain and wind. Men allowed to stay in huts. Offensive started at ARRAS.
" 10.4.17
As above. Good news, 10,000 prisoners and about 100 guns. 2Lt J. WHIGHAM rejoined from TMB. Lt COL MORRIS, D.S.O. sick to F.A!
" 11.4.17
About the same weather. Nothing done except issued with battle stores. MAJOR A.J. ELLIS, D.S.O. joined from ENGLAND.
" 12.4.17 9.30am
Marched to DAINVILLE where we had dinner on the roadside. Then on to ARRAS, two hours rest then on to MAISON ROUGE near FEUCHY CHAPAL (leaving 10 percent officers and ORs behind) where we relieved 7th NORFOLKS, 9th Bde. Captured country and no accommodation except shell holes. Very muddy & cold. 2 LIEUT. A.H. CRAINE to F.A.
Casualties week ending 7thinst.
        Sick to HOSP. 7        66 ORs joined from BASE
        From HOSP. 3
Relieved 7th KSLI in BROWN LINE (old BOSCHE TRENCHES). Fairly comfortable. Near ORANGE HILL, about 2 miles E. of MONCHY and between latter place and GUEMAPPE. Saw where cavalry had taken it in the neck.
"BROWN LINE" 14.4.17
Our Right about 400yds S. of main ARRAS-CAMBRAI Rd. A/C.S.M CRONE & A/C.Q.M.S killed in their dug-out by shell during night. A great loss.
3 pm
Ordered to "stand to" & be ready to reinforce 86th BDE on our own firing line 2nd S.W.Bs. Bosche put tremendously heavy barrage on and behind MONCHY and drove the 1st ESSEX and NEWFOUNDLANDS back to WOOD E. of MONCHY. Barrage stopped about 400 yds from our trenches.
6 pm
All quiet again. Stood down. Were not wanted.
8 - 4am
Digging [?] trench.
" 15.4.17 8 pm
Whole Btn digging [?] trench N side of ARRAS-CAMBRAI RD from BROWN LINE to skirting LA FOSSÉ and LA BERGERE FARMS.
" 16.4.17
As above.
* Casualties week ending 14thinst.
        SICK to F.A. – 16        40 O.R.s to Coys Depôt
        FROM F.A. – 1
" 17.4.17
To firing line, relieved 2nd S.W.Bs.
" 18.4.17
Improving firing line. One platoon of "B" Coy under 2Lt G.C.A. COX attempted to take a BOCHE strong point about 250 yds from our line. Unsuccessful owing to the fact that it was not known exactly the position an on arrival was found to be held strongly with MGs. 2 Lieut. COX wounded & 5 ORS.
Relieved by 2 HANTS, 88nd Bde on left, 6/7th R. SCOTS FUS. 45th BDE in centre & 6th CAMERON H. 44th BDE. on right. To ARRAS [?] 2 LIEUT COWARD & LIEUT MILLS wounded in ARRAS by shell (4am 20th).
Casualties week ending 19th inst.
WOUNDED 2 LIEUTS G.C.A COX (severe) / H.M WOOLF (slight) / H. COWARD ([?]) / LIEUT C. MILLS (slight)
Died of WOUNDS 2
Sick to HOSP. 16
From HOSP. Nil
ARRAS 20.4.17
Battalion moved into SCHRAMM BARRACKS as billets. The 10% details moving out of 89 Brigade Details Camp to the WEST of ARRAS. Reorganisation to replace casualties sustained in the previous tour of trench duty was carried out.
ARRAS 21.4.17
The Battalion completed all arrangements for moving out to the attack. Rifle grenadiers were ordered to dispense with their rifle grenades chiefly the NEWTON PIPPIN variety as many of these had "weathered" badly during the few days they had been carried - rods had become bent. The grenades generally unserviceable.
ARRAS 22.4.17
The Battalion was ordered to stand by ready to move out & take up a position in the line preparatory to an assault tomorrow morning.
ARRAS 22.4.17 21.00
The 1st Battalion The Border Regiment, under command of Lt Col A.J. ELLIS D.S.O. paraded in ARRAS and marched to a point on the ARRAS-CAMBRAI road 600 yards WEST of FEUCHY CHAPEL crossroads. At this point companies were met by guides & conducted at 10 minute intervals to the crucifix at N.6b.93 (NW entrance to village of MONCY-LE-PREUX). At this point platoon guides were met and platoons proceeded at ? minutes intervals to their jumping off place. The jumping off place was the line O.1.d.5.7 to O.1.b.5.5 that is a line about 30 yards WEST of our front line fire trench, up to the sunken road. Companies were formed up in the following order D.A.B.C in practically a continuous line, and Battalion Headquarters was originally established in the shallow trench at O.1.b.3.5.
23.4.17 2.30
All companies reported that they were in position. The task of getting the battalion through MONCHY-LE-PREUX village & into position was a difficult and dangerous one as the village was being pretty heavily shelled the whole time and, owing to the relief of other battalions proceeding at the same time MONCHY LE PREUX was very much congested with troops, pack animals, etc, and the arrangements for [?] between companies & platoons consequently broke down. Casualties were, however, small, only one officer (2Lieut V. BLOMFIELD) and about a dozen men being wounded. Meanwhile the adjutant (LT. R.G. CULLIS had been sent to look for a more suitable place
for Battalion Headquarters, and reported about 3 AM that he had discovered a deep hollow in the CHATEAU WOOD about O.1.b.2.5 where the Regimental Aid Post had already been established, the EAST slope of the hollow affording pretty good cover from direct shellfire.
Battalion Headquarters were accordingly moved to this place.
Trenches 23.4.17 04.45
C and D Companies moved forward following the South Wales Borders attack, in accordance with orders, and A & B companies occupied the old firing line. In going forward, these companies lost very heavily from our own barrage which was terribly short. Immediately the attack was launched the enemy put down a barrage on a line WEST of ARROW-HEAD COPSE and another following the line of the EAST edge of MONCHY LE PREUX village.
A report was received from Lt. Col RAIKES commanding the 2nd South Wales Borders to the effect that his [?] and reserve companies were digging in, and that he could see our men in ARROW HEAD COPSE. Owing to the heavy smoke from the barrage the situation could not be clearly ascertained.
A report was received from o/c B Company (Capt. J.W. EWBANK M.C.) to the effect that from confirmation obtained from wounded men, orderlies and observers, the South Wales Borders has gained their objective and were making strong points on it, and that our losses from our own and the enemy’s barrage reported severe.
CAPT. EWBANK reported that C and D companies had established themselves in the German front line. S.O.S flares had been sent up on our left at 06.16 and considerable machine gun fire was coming from that flank and he had accordingly pushed out a Lewis gun section to O1b54 to protect the left flank.
Lt Col RAIKES reported a gap in his line on his left occupied by Germans from about I.32.C.1.2 to O.2.a.3.9 from which line our own men were being rather heavily sniped.
Instructions from 87th Brigade received to place one company at the disposal of Lt. Col RAIKES in the event of the enemy [?] to him his left flank. Another was consequently sent to CAPT EWBANK to send a Bombing party to ARROW HEAD COPSE to work up the German trench to the sunken road and to clear it of the enemy.
LIEUT. COL. RAIKES reported German trench still strongly held from I.32.c.3.0 to I.31 [?] with a strong point about I.31.d.4.7 the garrison being estimated at about sixty or seventy, and also that he had sent off his left company to clear up the situation. This information was communicated to 87th Brigade immediately by telephone.
Message from the 87th Brigade was received stating that the 17th Division had been unable to advance and that therefore the South Wales Borderers left flank was in the air. In the event of the second phase taking place The Border Regiment was not to attempt to enter the BOIS DU SART, but to dig in on the WEST side of it.
Report received from B Company that the bombing party sent out to ARROW HEAD COPSE under command of 2LIEUT. F.S. LAYARD had returned with the following information. The enemy trench from about I.32.c.4.0 up to the sunken road was non-existent. The patrol, however, made its way over the open up to the sunken road, and here discovered the enemy about eighty strong, entrenched from I.32.c.23 to I.31.d.5.8. On discovering this 2LIEUT LAYARD returned to ARROW HEAD COPSE and obtained a Lewis gun which he took up toward the sunken road and got it into a position from which he could enfilade the enemy trench. In this he was successful and inflicted several casualties upon the enemy. His whereabouts by this time were located by the enemy & he came under heavy machine gun fire, suffering from casualties. He thereupon withdrew his party & submitted the above report to his Company Commander.
Message received from 87th Brigade saying "you will not advance for second phase." According to programme companies were due to move at 11.33 to get up and ?? the barrage by zero + 7 hours and the only means of communication was by runner. Luckily the messenger got through in safely to B Company at 11.30 and CAPT EWBANK was able to get the order through to the remaining companies in time to stop them.
Report was received from LIEUT. JOHNSON – o/c D Company saying that he was dug in on the right rear of the South Wales Borderers at about 0.2.a.7.5 and for a distance of 200 yards SOUTH of this point with C Company prolonging his left in a northerly direction towards the sunken road and with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers and Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on his right flank. He also reported that 2 LIEUT. R.S. POOLEY (attached from 3rd Royal Scots Fusiliers) had been killed by shell fire about 02.00. From shortly after zero till about 10.00 the enemy kept his barrage down almost continually on the ARROW HEAD COPSE line and on the edge of MONCHY LE PREUX though it continually varied in intensity.
About 08.00 it became evident that Battalion Headquarters was taken in enfilade by a battery firing apparently from somewhere in THE PELVES valley.
About 09.00 a big shell landed within a few yards of the telephone and did a lot of damage. The Regimental Sergeant Major, the Scout Sergeant, a signaller and two scouts were killed outright. The adjutant (LT CULLIS) and several other ranks of the headquarter company wounded.
At about 11.30 another shell pitched [?] on top of the funk hole in which the Commanding Officer and other headquarter officers were sitting, completely burying them, and wounded a number. Headquarters were then moved into a machine gun trench just on the EAST edge of the hollow, and CAPT EWBANK sent for from the firing line to take over the command of the Battalion as the Commanding Officer was temporarily knocked out.
12.00 to 20.00
During this period there was no appreciable change in the situation, and the intensity of the enemy’s barrage slackened off somewhat.
About 13.00 Headquarters were moved back to the CHATEAU dugout at O.1.c.7.8 and, after dusk, to the big dug out at 0.1.c.3.8. As the situation on the left flank was by no means satisfactory orders were sent to CAPT EWBANK to move forward at dusk and establish a defensive flank parallel to the sunken road. This he did with two platoons of his company leaving the remaining platoon in the old front line as reserve.
As soon as this was accomplished CAPT EWBANK submitted a rough report of his disposition & followed it with a detailed report & sketch which was received at Battalion Headquarters about midday. From this report the Commanding Officer was able to put in the reposition of the various companies in a situation report map and forwarded it to Brigade Headquarters. A similar map is attached here to showing the portions of adjacent regiments.
Night of 23/24 /4/17
An attempt was made to relieve the Regiment this night but as the Commanding Officer of the relieving Battalion only reached Brigade Headquarters at about 03.30 24.4.17 it was out of the question and was postponed till the following night. The night was fairly quiet and only intermittent shelling went on and there was no change in the situation on the battalion front.
24/4/17 04.00 to 24.00
Both [?] remained very quiet and there was very little shelling indeed and no infantry activity reported. The ground between the firing line and MONCHY LE PREUX was thoroughly well sniped the whole day and the movement of more than a couple men at once saw machine gun fire from the Northern side of the sunken road
A message was received from the Officer Commanding 9th Northumberland Fusiliers fixing the line held by him as from 0.1.b.8.10 across HARNESS LANE about I.3.1.c.7.5 to I.31.c.3.4 locating the enemy in position from I.3.2..2.3 to I31.d.4.10.
Orders for relief received from 87th Brigade. A company in the old firing line to be relieved by the 7th Kings Shropshire Light Infantry and B. C. and D companies by the 8th Kings Own (Royal Lancasters.). There was considerable difficult & delay in carrying out this relief owing to guides being ordered to go first to LES FOSSES FARM and then to H34 [?central], at neither of which places were they required.
25/4/17 02.00  03.00
The relief of A Company was completed by 02.00 and of B and C Companies by 03.00 but owing to operations recommencing on the left flank at 03.30 it was found impossible to carry out the relief of D Company as the enemy at once put down his barrage. Orders were therefore sent to O.C. "D" Company to remain in the trenches till the following night, when the company was duly relieved and rejoined the Battalion at
26/4/17 04.00
DUISANS at 04.00 on the 26th inst.
The total casualties for the action were 2 officers killed (2Lieut. G.F. KEMP and 2Lieut. R.S. POOLEY) and 4 wounded (CAPT. W.B WAMSLEY. R.A.M.C. CAPT B.H. SPEAR-MORGAN. 2 LIEUT V BLOOMFIELD and LIEUT and ADJUTANT R.G. CULLIS).
Other Ranks
        Killed 22.[2]
        Wounded 107.
        Missing 21.
        Total 150.
Throughout the action intercommunication which was carried out almost entirely by runners (telephone to Brigade although repaired 3 times only lasted about ten minutes each time) was distinctly good. The devotion to duty displayed by the men carrying messages was magnificent, and though casualties amongst them were heavy there was never the slightest delay or hesitation on the part of the survivors to go out again repeatedly with fresh messages.
ARRAS 25/4/17 3-6 AM
A.B.C Coys and Battalion headquarters were relieved, and moved back into ARRAS from the trenches where they had consolidated their positions at the end of their advance of the 23/24th arriving at hours between 3 & 6 Am & were billeted in the SCHRAM BARRACKS. D Coy were unable to be relieved & remained in trenches.
Capt. A.W. Sutcliffe M.C was appointed acting Adjutant [?] Lieut R.G. Cullis (wounded).
The Battalion moved by motor busses to DUISANS, going to No4 camp. (Nissen huts) arriving about 5.30 PM – RSM WINDLER reported late tonight, from England
DUISANS 26.4.17
DUISANS. D Company rejoined the battalion having been relieved the previous night (25/26th) about 11 PM arriving ARRAS about 1 AM & being sent on immediately by motor busses – The Battalion paraded about midday.
Marched to NOYELLETTE. Into Nissen huts again.
SAULTY 27/4/17 10.45 AM
Paraded at 10.45 AM & marched to SAULTY. Here the men were fairly comfortably billeted in barns, many having wire beds but the officers accommodation was [?] in most cases, and what was given was disgusting. Practically the whole village being occupied by British civilian railway workmen & engineers, labour battalions and other non-combatants. A little coercion however ameliorated the situation slightly.
SAULTY 28/4/17
2LT R.G. TELFER to hospital with sprained ankle (field ambulance). The day was devoted to cleaning up & refitting as far as possible after the recent action.
3 PM
The [?] left behind at ST POL rejoined about 3PM including 2Lt CAMPBELL, 2LT P. NEW, LT DANIELLI, 2LT MORRIS, 2LT GAMON and 77 other ranks. 2LT OXLEY and 2LT DUNLOP reported for duty, from England. Casualties for the week ending 28/4/17 Other Ranks to Field Ambulance 24. From Field Ambulance 3.
29.4.17 10.30 PM
Church parade in the Chateau Wood. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and ourselves being present. The Brigadier & Brigade Major also attended.
30/4/17 8.30 - 12.45
Training was carried out, specialist classes in bombing, rifle [?] Lewis gunning, signalling & scouting. Whole companies did musketry &
2 - 4 PM
close order drill. The CO inspected the kits of the Battalion in the afternoon
6.30 AM
The Medial Officer inspected the feet of the entire battalion.
1/5/17 8.30 AM
The Battalion marched to WANQUETIN into billets.
The Battalion devoted the day to completing fighting kit, drawing up extra SAA, bombs, etc. & reorganising platoons for action in the near future.
2.5.17 5.30 PM
Battalion paraded & marched to ARRAS.

Entries initialled in the margin by the authors.
From 1 – 19th author is likely to be Adjutant LT R.G CULLIS.
From 20th onwards author is likely to be a/Adjutant CAPTAIN A.W. SUTCLIFFE.

References / notes

  • National Archives Catalogue Reference: WO/95/2305/1
  • The transcription above is available under the National Archives Open Government Licence for public sector information.
  • War diary transcribed by Hugh Fulton
  1. The CWGC lists 11 soldiers from 1st Border Regiment who were killed between 14-19 April 1917 in France:
    14/4/1917. Company Serjeant Major 8157 Robert Crone MM ["G" Coy]; Serjeants 8339 EE Barrett, and 20503 W Whitehead; Lance Corporal 13728 Joseph Scott; Private 32508 WG Maddock.
    17/4/1917 Private 202541 John Hamilton Hampson.
    19/4/1917. Serjeant 17766 Joseph Sharples; Privates 24619 Alfred Thomas Emmerson, 20430 JW Cavanagh, 202426 John Robert Lord, and 32507 George Edward Claridge.
  2. The CWGC lists 52 officers & soldiers from 1st Border Regiment who were killed between 20-30 April 1917 in France:
    20/4/1917. Lieutenant Henry Coward; Private 26905 H Fowden
    21/4/1917. Private 19126 Stephen Doran
    23/4/1917. Lieutenant Godwin Francis Kemp; Regimental Serjeant Major 8334 Frank Le-Boutilier Allbeury DCM; Serjeant 9765 Frederik Harman; Lance Serjeant 9760 Arthur Reginald Cain MM [C Coy]; Corporal 6296 Ernest Albert Beeson; Lance Corporals 7839 Arthur Bangart, 10557 William James Crawford, 21300 William Wakefield Turner, 23646 William Morley, 22773 William Howard Nichol, and,11820 Thomas Molyneux; Privates 33865 Joseph Harold Earnshaw, 15131 William Edmondson, 14012 John Johnston, 32495 Charles Knight Russell, 32294 James Santry, 33876 Booth Shaw, 26275 James Shaw, 33877 Charles Sheard, 20348 Robert Shelton, 33665 William Sparrow, 2024 Harry Stringer, 33909 John Harold Segar, 21947 William Lowther, 26733 Joseph Mcconnell, 240143 William Mckee, 24796 J Earl, 240817 Joseph Graham, 33443 William Andrews, 23484 Thomas Daniel Bowness, 11728 John Edwin Bunting, 25387 James Campbell, 33704 Arthur Church, 21714 Robert Dewhurst, 241037 Frank Dockerty, 21833 John James Woof, 202333 Thomas Wakerley, 8609 Thomas Mansfield, 4827 Joseph Law, and, 27987 Thomas John Higgins.
    24/04/1917. Privates 14748 Joseph Carr, 8408 J Newcombe MM, and, 33756 W Neighbour.
    25/04/1917. Privates 33742 Frederick Lambert, and 30092 A Ashburner.
    27/04/1917. Lance Corporal 19790 JT Phinn.
    28/04/1917. Private 19810 J Knott MM.
    30/04/1917. Company Serjeant Major 6568 Joseph Mattinson; Private 26304 J Paterson.
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