1st Battalion War Diary, September 1916
| 1st Border Regiment War Diary Transcriptions (1915-1918)|
The National Archives WO/95/4311 & WO/95/2305
|Place||Date||Hour||Summary of Events|
|Very wet and conditions bad.|
|Gas alarm none on our front, but well away to the S.|
Casualties week-ending 2-9-16.
|HONOURS & AWARDS.|
CAPT. J.G. HEYDER
|Machine gun fire troublesome on the ST. JEAN RO, 7 casualties.|
|More casualties from above but not in this battalion.|
|Arranged retaliation for above with 4th Divisional Artillery.|
|Enemy M.G. opened [illegible] [illegible] retaliated with 96 rds H.E. + shrapnel on sap leads, front line, support line and communication trenches. Nothing more heard from M.G.|
|Relieved. Back to “A” Camp, BRANDHOEK.|
|2nd LIEUT. LYALL, F.G. rejoined from 29th Divl. Course.|
|2nd LIEUT. COX, G.C.A., and LIEUT. NEW, P., to 29th Divl. Course.|
|2nd LIEUT. McDONALD, G.H.S., to sniping course, MONT DES CATS.|
Casualties week-ending 9-9-16.
|CAPT. H BUNTING to course at 2nd Army School.|
|LIEUT. W.F.H. CHAMBERS took over command of “D” Company from 2nd LIEUT. CAMPBELL with effect from forenoon. Shelled in camp. Very little damage done. 1 man wounded.|
2nd LIEUTS. B.H. SPEAR-MORGAN, and H. PALMER took over command of “A” +”C” Companies respectively, during the absence of CAPT. H. BUNTING + CAPT. CARGILL on courses.
|2nd LIEUT. A. CAMPBELL transferred to “D” Company.|
|2nd LIEUT. G.H.S. McDONALD rejoined from sniping course. CAPT. C. RUSSELL, R.A.M.C. attached temporarily as M.O.|
Casualties week-ending 16.9.16
|CAPT. J.W. EWBANK to VIII Corps Training School as Officer Comdg. Composite Company.|
CAPT. G.B.CARGILL to VIII Corps Senior Officers Course.
|Relieved 2nd S.W.B.s.|
|2nd LIEUT. A CAMPBELL granted leave to ENGLAND.|
2nd LIEUT. M.A.E. ASHBY Btn. from Base.
|2nd LIEUT F.A. PRESCOTT struck off strength on being accepted as a probationer to R.F.C.|
Casualties week-ending 23.9.16.
|Relieved 2nd S.W.B.s in left subsection.|
2nd LIEUT R.M. WOOLF rejoined from TRENCH MORTAR COURSE.
|2nd LIEUT W.S.M.RUXTON wounded by shell.|
|LIEUT. P. NEW and 2nd LIEUT. G.C.A. COX rejoined from 29th Divl.|
School. CAPT. E.C. CLEGG joined Btn. and took over command of “C” Coy.
|2nd LIEUTS. A.M. CLARKE & G.F. KEMP, to course at 29th Divl. School.|
|LIEUT. + Q-M[? - E or B] F.WHYBROW joined BTN.|
Relieved by 2nd S.W.Bs.
|RAIDING PARTY [see report below] under LIEUT. W. de H. ROBINSON, + 2nd LIEUTS G.C.A. COX + V. BLOMFIELD, and composed of 35 N.C.O.s. & men, entered the GERMAN trenches, killing about 8 and bringing back 8 prisoners, 4 of whom were wounded. Our casualties were 2 slightly wounded. The whole raid was executed exactly as at the dress rehearsal, and the conduct of all concerned was absolutely great, and elicited a special wire of congratulation from the Corps Commander, LIEUT–GENERAL SIR AYLMER HUNTER-WESTON, K.C.B., D.S.O. This is the most successful raid yet accomplished by the VIII Corps.|
|Returned to our line.|
Casualties week-ending 30th Sept. 1916.
Report on Raid made by 1st Border Regiment on night 30th Sept. 1916.
The Covering Party consisting of a sergeant and 6 riflemen to guard the left flank, a Sergeant and 7 men with Lewis Gun to guard right flank, were posted at about 7.45 p.m. in the nearer line of trees opposite WIELYJE SALIENT. At 8.10 p.m. the raiding party began to leave our trench and were all position in “NO MANS LAND” as arranged by 8.15 p.m.
During the first 15 minutes of the bombardment the party worked forward to the line of big trees without mishap, and crossed to the line of willows in front of enemy trench by 8.50 p.m. During the second stage of the advance one lance-corporal sustained a slight wound in the hand from a fragment of one of our shells.
At 8.50 p.m. the O.C. Raid left the head of our column by the willows and went forward to reconnoitre the wire. There were a great many enemy flare lights, but there was no firing from the enemy front line and it is probable that enemy were on the flanks or in the support trenches. The wire proved to have been very successfully knocked about by Trench Mortar fire but some inner belts of wire remained too high for easy passage. Accordingly wire-cutters were tried, but this method seemed slow, and at 8.55 p.m. the O.C. returned to party to begin advance through wire prepared to use bangalore torpedoes for any considerable obstructions near parapet. On a roll of a concertina wire which remained little damaged in the line of advance, 3 bangalore torpedoes were tried. The fitting of the torpedoes in concertina wire turned out to be quite simple and was well done. Each of the torpedoes failed, however, to detonate owing to the dampness of fuzes. They had evidently been injured in the journey across “NO MANS LAND”, as the Very light cases used to protect them had come off.
The O.C. Raid then noticed an easy gap which had been blown in the wire to the right, and the party trampled down what was left of the wire, and made a rush for the parapet. All arrangements worked as they had been planned, the point of entry being only a matter of yards away from that intended. The Right and Left Blocking Parties both experienced some bombing from enemy on flanks. The trench on right of point of entry had been rather badly blown in by our Artillery, and a group of men protected by the blockage sent up Very lights, and brought rifle fire and bombs to bear on right blocking party, from trench in rear of our right. Our bombers retaliated with evident effect, as the enemy party retreated and the sending up of Very lights ceased.
The right searching party found in the main communication trench for some 30 yards to the right of the point of entry, 2 dugouts under the parapet. These were securely built, but small, and had merely wooden frames. They were carpeted with straw. In one of these a man was found who was made prisoner. The right communication trench was badly knocked about, and the large dugout shown in the aerial photo, was entirely demolished.
Several dead or unconscious bodies were found in the barbed wire in front of this sector, and several of the enemy who retreated down the communication trenches were fired on and chased, one at least was killed.
Left Blocking Party
This party got into position opposite the left communication trench noticed in the aerial photo. The enemy threw a large number of bombs at them, but without effect. Our men replied vigorously throwing almost all the bombs they had kept the enemy on the flank at bay, even if they did no further damage. Four dugouts were found in this section of trench and produced 6 prisoners. The dugouts were of the same pattern as these noted above and all under the parapet. Two of the enemy were killed, one shot and one bayoneted.
All prisoners (8 in number) seemed unwilling to surrender themselves but were obviously frightened.
The trenches were slightly deeper and wider than our front line, they had no trench boards but a good wooden fire step. The revetting was for the most part, wooden trellis-work. The floor of the trench was covered with straw. A considerable quantity of bombs, equipment, clothing and papers were found. A large bell for Gas Alarm was found on the parapet at point of entry, and the trench seemed liberally supplied with long-handled bombs. About 25% of the men seen in the trench wore metal helmets. Uniforms and equipment were in very good state of repair, and everything was noticeably clean and tidy.
The Sap search party
A recent reconnaissance of the Boche front line by daylight had led us to suppose that this sap was now very little used, and would not produce anything of interest. This was confirmed in fact, and the junction of the sap and the trench had been so blown in by our shells as to be hardly recognizable. Accordingly the sap party which had been sent to search it returned to the main party for working the front line trench.
Letter sent to General
- I had a long talk the other day with the Officer who commanded the Raiding Party of the Border Regt. which carried out the recent successful raid in the Salient. From the conversation I made the attached notes which I thought you would like to see.
- Yours sincerely,
General Notes on the recent raid carried out in the Salient
Raiding party consisted of approximately - 3 Officers and about 40 other ranks, and worked in co-operation with our Artillery and Trench Mortar Batteries. The section of the German line selected about 100 yards in length, was clearly understood. The Raiding Party was to enter in the centre of this length of trench, and search literally to definite limits.
O.C. Raiding Party made the necessary arrangements, and obtained the material etc., which was roughly - a tape about 400 yards long, wire-cutters, Bangalore torpedo, revolvers for the Blocking Party, a stretcher, Hand bells, Field Telephones, Lewis gun, supply of grenades, and Bludgeons.
O.C. had made a preliminary reconnaissance, and the Raiding party had been practised over the ground by means of patrols some days beforehand.
There were two good landmarks between our trench and the Germans’, in the form of a line of trees about midway between the two lines, and a line of willow trees about 70 yards from the enemy’s line.
8.15 p.m…….O.C. Party moved out followed by remainder in formation shown on attached diagram.
8.30 p.m…….Our Artillery began bombardment of the enemy front line assisted by Trench Mortars.
8.45 p.m…….Raiding Party had crossed the first line of trees.
8.50 p.m…….Halted at willows – last line of trees before enemy trenches.
8.55 p.m…….Bombardment lifted to second line of trenches, and the party started through the wire.
Previous to moving a COVERING PARTY had been told off, consisting of 2 N.C.Os. and 12 men with 1 Lewis Gun, and they had received instructions how to act in case of emergency.
O.C. remained in central position.
BLOCKING PARTY, organised into Right and Left parties, moved along the parapets and established ‘blocks’ opposite communication trenches. These were BOMBERS, BAYONET MEN, THROWERS & CARRIERS.
SEARCH PARTY, organised into Right and Left parties each under and Officer, began searching the dugouts and trenches. These were Infantry armed with Rifles, Bayonets, and Bludgeons.
STRETCHER BEARERS remained in central position.
TELEPHONES were ready to open up communication with Battalion Headquarters.
AFTER A PERIOD OF 8 MINUTES - BOTH BELLS RUNG – and the parties assembled in the O.C. Raiding party, and the prisoners, following in the rear of a guide, were marched back to our lines.
There was no Machine gun fire from the German line, and movement was made impossible by the barrage put up, on the Right and Left flanks of the raid, on the support trenches in rear.
Lessons from the Raid
- Forethought and careful preliminary arrangements clearly explained to everyone by O.C. i/c Raid – was the chief factor of success.
- Essential to rehearse the part EACH man has to play – many times beforehand – and ensure that he can explain every other mans job in the party.
- Raiding parties must be familiar with the ground – this is ensured by sending them out on patrols a few days beforehand.
- The Officer Commanding Party must confer with O.C. Artillery covering the raid area, and watches must be synchronised.
- Fixing, priming, and detonating of Bangalore torpedo require very careful arranging, and on no account during the advance across ‘No Man’s Land’ must the fuse be allowed to get wet. This is of great importance.
- Raiding Party must be in such close proximity to the enemy’s front line that they can, without any loss of time, rush straight into the trenches immediately after the barrage lifts – a few seconds delay would enable the Germans to man their defences and bring machine guns into action.
References / notes
- National Archives Catalogue Reference: WO/95/2305
- The transcription above is available under the National Archives Open Government Licence for public sector information.
- South Wales Borderers
- Machine Gun Company
- Medical Officer