2nd Battalion War Diary, October 1917

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    2nd Border Regiment War Diary Transcriptions (1915-1918)
The National Archives WO/95/1655 & WO/95/1656    
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Place Date Hour Summary of Events
Reference Maps: Sheet 27 and 28.
1/10/17
The Battalion marched from camp near RENINGHELST to camp near DICKEBUSCH arriving about 7.30pm
2/10/17
The Battalion marched to dugouts on Western side of ZILLEBEKE LAKE.
3/10/17
The Battalion remained at ZILLEBEKE LAKE till 10.30pm when it moved up to assemble for the attack. The role of the Battalion was to leapfrog the 8th Devon Regt on the RED LINE and to take the blue line from J.13.a.35.95. to J.6.c.2.6 and to mop up the ground between the RED and BLUE lines covered by the front companies. A and B were the attacking companies. C Coy "moppers up" and D Coy in reserve.
4/10/17
The tape was laid out in two lines parallel to the objectives and at 130 yards distant immediately behind the mound at J.10a7.8. By 3.0am the whole Battn was reported in position on the tape. The enemy who seemed to have had his suspicions aroused rained shells on to area behind the mound. It was therefore decided to close up behind the 8th Devon Regt which was formed up 200* in front [* meaning yards]. The Mound was directly in the line of advance and the ground on the far side was little better than a bog on the left side of which was barbed wire – The result was that the troops got much disorganised before the start of the attack.

At zero 6.0am the Battn moved forward with the 2nd GORDONS and 22nd MANCHESTERS on the flanks. The intention was that having assumed normal formation, the Battn attacking the 2nd objective should stop 400* inside No Man’s Land. The Battns however were completely mixed up and the whole line consisting of Gordons, Devons, Manchesters and Borders went forward to the first objectives as it was impossible to try and withdraw troops from the advancing line. Mopping up was undertaken automatically and the gaps left by the moppers up easily filled up. On arrival at the 1st objective the officers withdrew men of the Battn about 100 yds in rear and reorganised them into platoons. As soon as reorganised the line moved forward close to the barrage, the barrage was so accurate and the line so well defined that the men could go up to it quite comfortably, and the difficultly was not in keeping them up too it, but in keeping them back from getting into it.

At 9.40am, the final objectives were reported taken and consolidation in progress. About 40 men under 2nd Lt. LITTLE had had to move to the left to get into trench with 2nd Gordons on the left. About 80 men under 2 Lieut ABRAMS had kept touch with B Coy on the left. A portion of B Coy had got on the right of A Company. A gap appeared between 2nd Lt. ARGLES Company and 2 Lt. ABRAMS company. This was filled by a platoon of D Company under 2nd Lt. J. HARDING.[1] The frontage held by the Battalion at this time was the entire frontage allotted to the Brigade with the exception of 100* on the right which was held by the 22nd Manchester Regt. The line extended from J.5.b.25.30. to J.6.c.35.10. Consolidation in depth now seemed somewhat difficult owing to the extended frontage. The first step taken was for certain officers to take over certain portions of the line and to reorganise within their frontage.

The line was practically held in four subsections:
(1) 2 Lieut. LITTLE on the left from J.5.b.25.30 on the left slope of the valley to J.5.b.25.05.
(2) 2 Lieut. ABRAMS in touch with him on the left and extending to J.5.a.70.90. (some men of D Coy on the right of 2nd Lieut. ABRAMS Company were apparently absorbed into it).
(3) There was a gap between 2 Lieut. ABRAM’s right and
(4) 2nd Lieut. ARGLES left at J.5.d.95.80.

Some men of D Company had also been absorbed into 2nd Lieut. ARGLES Company which held the BLUE LINE down to J.6.c.35.10. Each of these Officers collected men of various companies together preparatory to further organisation. Thus 2nd Lieut. ABRAMS collected the men of 22nd Manchester Regt and put out a post on his extreme right in order to get nearer in touch with 2 Lieut. ARGLES and to get the men nearer their own Battn. Next to him he had a part of D Company, then A Company and then B Company on the left. Touch was obtained between the Companies, but the gap between A Coy and C Coy still remained although each had put out post on its extreme flank. About 40 men of D Company were in the trenches in the neighbourhood of JAY COTTAGE.

5/10/17
During the night 4th/5th Oct the reorganisation continued and companies exchanged men getting A Coy all together and C Coy all together. A Coy extended slightly to the right and C Company slightly to the left in order to get nearer into touch but on the morning of the 5th there was still an appreciable gap. During the day some officers came up from Transport and were sent up to Coys. Captain D.A. DEMPSTER was ordered to collect men of B Coy from the various Coys and to fill the gap between A & C Coys. By this time the enemy had got his artillery on to the front line and snipers were also active. Communications with C Coy by day was almost impossible.

During the night 5th/6th a post of B Coy was established between C and A Coys and touch was gained along the whole line. Reorganisation was much hampered by the frequent SOS barrages which had to be put down and which caused a great deal of retaliatory shelling by the enemy.

During the night the Australian Brigade on the left had been ordered to relieve the 2nd Gordon Hdrs in the position of the line north of crossroads J5.d.10.95. but on the morning of the 6th inst it was found that two Coys of that Regiment had not been relieved nor had 2nd Lieut. LITTLE's platoons which were also North of the crossroads at J.5.d.10.95. A liaison officer was sent to the HQ of the Australian Battn with a request that the 2 remaining Coy of the 2nd Gordon Hdrs and 2nd Lieut. LITTLE's platoons should be relieved by them. This however they were unable to do, as they had not sufficient men.

In the meantime the front held by the battalion had been divided into 4 subsections. On the left the portion held by 2nd Lieut. LITTLE known as "L" subsector, next on his right from J.5.b.41. to J.5.d.7.8. B subsector was held by 2nd Lieut. ABRAM with A Company. In the centre down from J.5.d.7.8. to J.6.c. 24. B subsector held by a small party of B Company under 2nd Lieut. HARRISON and 1 platoon of D Company under 2ndLieut. PAYNTER.[2] On the right from J.6.c.24 to J.6c.40 "C" subsector was held by Captain D.B. DEMPSTER who had now been sent to C Company. D Company were in support in the trenches in the vicinity of JAY COTTAGE. The intention was to relieve 2nd Lieut. PAYNTER’s party by 2nd Lieut LITTLE’s platoons as soon as the latter was relieved by the Australians. The platoon of D Company so released was to take up a position South of JAY TRENCH and East of the road joining JAY and JUDGE cottages.

6/10/17
By the evening of the 6th it had become clear that the two companies of 2nd Gordons and 2 Lieut. LITTLE were not going to be relieved by the Australians. Further a message from 20th Brigade showed that the relief of the two companies of the Gordons was imperative as they were to become counter attack Battalion. It was therefore decided that they must be relieved by 2 Lieut. HARRISON’s party and the remainder of D Company. The term 2 coys of Gordon Highlanders was rather misleading, as when arrangements were made for their relief it was found that they had been so reduced in numbers that the relief was effected by 2nd Lieut. HARRISON with 12 men.

Touch was gained with the Australian Battalion on the left and it was hoped that by extending 2 Lieut. LITTLE’s sector to the left and asking the Australians to extend slightly to the right the line could possibly be consolidated. It was found however that the company of the Australian Battalion which was on the left of 2nd Lieut. HARRISON consisted only of 1 officer and 24 men. It was therefore arranged that each party should send patrols across from post to post during the night. Another platoon of D Coy had to be used to replace 2nd Lt. HARRISON’s party on the left of "B" subsector. This relief was somewhat tardily completed owing to the fact that the officer who was sent to make the arrangements for the relief with the Company Commander of the right Company 2nd Gordon Highlanders was mortally wounded while making his arrangements [presumably 2nd Lt. HARDING] and afterwards a heavy barrage delayed it. Relief was completed a 6.45am.

7/10/17
On the night 7th/8th the Battalion was relieved by 20 Manchester Regt. The relief was again rather protracted, the Manchesters arriving with 3 companies instead of 2 and there was consequently slight delay in issuing new orders and obtaining guides. The relief was complete at 11.30pm but the report which was received from OC D Coy included the relief of both front line and support platoons. This was not realised and the relief of the two front line platoons was awaited until dawn when it was discovered that they had already been relieved.
8/10/17
After relief the Battn moved to dugouts on the Western side of ZILLEBEKE LAKE.
9/10/17
The 2nd Queens Regt relieved the Battn which marched to camp near DICKEBUSCH.
10/10/17
The Battn marched to CANORA camp in the WESTOUTRE area, arriving about 7.30pm.
11/10/17 to
22/10/17
The Battn remained in CANORA Camp and carried out training under Battalion arrangements.
23/10/17
The Battn marched to camp near VIERSTRART arriving about 4pm.
24/10/17
The Battn moved from camp at 4.0pm and proceeded via HEDGE ST and DUNBARTON LAKES to the front area South of the MENIN ROAD, relieving the 16th and 17th Sherwood Foresters on a line running from J.21.b.30.12 on the MENIN ROAD to J.21.c.9.7 opposite LEWIS HOUSE. C Coy occupied the front part of this line with D Coy in close support. A and B Coys occupied a line about 350 yds in rear. Battn Hdqrs were established among some pill boxes at J.21.a.5.1. Intermittent shelling of front posts with light shells occurred throughout the night, with heavy shelling of Bn HQ area from 10pm to 3am.
25/10/17
At 6.16am and 6.20am small parties of enemy were seen attempting to enter LEWIS HOUSE. Lewis Gun and rifle fire inflicted some casualties and the parties disappeared. The enemy were fairly quiet throughout the day. The absence of machine gun and rifle fire on our front was especially noticeable. The enemy shelled intermittently all areas around pill boxes, including Battn Hqrs.
26/10/17
The Battn was ordered to attack and hold a line joining the points J.22.c.70.48 (in GHELUVELT village) and J.22.c.10.05 known as the RED LINE. The attack was part of an operation to be carried out by the 20th

INFANTRY BRIGADE. The 8th DEVON Regt and the 2nd QUEENS were attacking simultaneously on the left and right respectively. After the objective had been captured the 2nd GORDON HDRS were to leapfrog and establish a blue line parallel to the RED LINE and about 500 yards forward in advance of it.

The attack was carried out under a creeping barrage timed to start at 5.40am and to reach the objective at 6.36am. The Battn advanced in normal formation, C Coy on right, D Coy on the left, B Coy moppers up and A Coy in support. The Battn formed up in two parallel tapes at 60 Yards distance. The front tape joined the points J.21.b.40.08 and J.21c.85.71.

At 5.40am the Battn advanced over very marshy ground through which the men were only just able to move. C Coy on the right advanced into the valley in J.21.a. where they got stuck in the mud up to the waist and were almost entirely wiped out. Captain DEMPSTER was killed[3] and 2nd Lieut. STEPHEN[4] was wounded. Machine Gun fire was opened from LEWIS HOUSE on the right the pepper boxes on the left at J.21.d.7.9. as soon as our barrage opened.

D Coy on the left finding that the ground was impassable to their immediate front moved over towards the MENIN ROAD. Practically the whole company was wiped out by machine gun fire in an attempt to take the pepper boxes. The rear platoons of B Company which had also moved to the left were the next to come up against the pepper boxes with the same result as before. An attack was made from the crater but with no better success. Capt. J. MOORE[5] and 2nd Lieut. INKPEN[6] were killed in this attempt and more of B & D Coys were casualties. A Company now came up and proceeded to attack the pepperboxes. One of these was taken and a machine gun captured but the remaining three covered by fire from LEWIS HOUSE defied all attempts to take them. Capt. J.W. LITTLE collected the remains of B & D Coys and a few DEVONS, and advanced along the line of the road. Leaving the remains of A Company to attempt to take or keep down the pepper boxes Capt. LITTLE took his party forward to within 150 yards of GHELUVELT where he took up a line of shell holes. The DEVONS on the left appeared to have got well forward. On the right the 2nd QUEENS had not been able to take LEWIS HOUSE.

A number of men had gone away to the left of the road and a few had gone to the right amongst the QUEENS. The reason for the former was that it was impossible to move along the original line of advance and consequently the men had to move to the left to the narrow belt of ground on the right of the road. This belt was covered by the machine guns in the pepper boxes which were just on the right of the road and was swept by machine gun fire from LEWIS HOUSE. The natural tendency therefore was to get on the left of the road, and, in fact for the line to get on at all, it was bound to go to the North of the road.

At 7am a handful of men were visible in GHELUVELT village at and about the ruins of the CHURCH.

By 10am it was apparent that the original objective could not be reached with the small number of men left. On the right the 2nd Queens were establishing a line on the original tape. On the left the situation of the DEVONS was not clear. The DEVONS appeared to have got forward and to be holding roughly the line on the Railway. A miscellaneous body of men were holding a defensive flank from the point where the railway joined the road to about J.21.b.5.1 From that point to TOWER HAMLETS there was a gap. It was therefore decided to collect as many men of the Battn as possible and to put out posts along the original line of posts to connect up between the defensive flank ending at J.21.b.5.1 as far to the right as possible. By this time there were only about 40 men of the Battn left out of the attacking companies. The remainder were either casualties or had gone to the left and become mixed up with the DEVONS. The GORDON HIGHLANDERS were apparently North of the road and South of LEWIS HOUSE.

It was reported that a large number had gone North of the road and were amongst the Devons. They could not be found however and few men came out of the line with the DEVONS when the Brigade was relieved. The few men that had been collected to hold the line Southof the road were holding from the road to a point J.21.d.2.9. South of this was a gap at TOWER HAMLETS and this gap remained until the Battalion was relieved at 11.15pm by 1st R. WELCH FUSILIERS and proceeded to tent shelters at the Western end of ZILLEBEKE LAKE.

27/10/17
The Battalion was conveyed by motor transport to camp at BLARINGHEM.
28/10/17
The Battalion moved to billets between BLARINGHEM and RENESCURE.
29/10/17
The Battalion remained in billets and reorganised.
30/10/17 &
31/10/17
Training was carried out under Battn arrangements.

Casualties for month:

4-7th October:-
Officers: killed 2, wounded 11, missing 1.
OR: killed 39, wounded 195, missing 18.

26th October:-
Officers: killed 5, wounded 2, missing 1.
OR killed 6, wounded 174, missing 126.

1st October:
Officers: killed 1[7], wounded 1.

33 Other ranks were evacuated sick during the month.

The following reinforcements joined during the month:
2 Lieuts. R.K. Longmire, W.J. Atkinson, M. Tomlinson, J. Bald on 22/10/17
2 Lieuts. S.F. Hawkins, A.E. Wilson, H. DAVIDSON, F.L. Samut, M.J. Melville on 30/10/17
2 Lieuts. J.H. Graham, S. Forbes-Robertson, W.G.F. Jones, A.C. Adey, R. Kirk on 30/10/17.

4 OR on 4th      3 OR on 10th      4 OR on 13th      2 OR on 14th       2 OR on 16th      3 OR on 17th      
37 OR on18th      3 OR on 20th      31 OR on 21st      23 OR on 22nd      158 OR on 30/10/17      4 OR on 31/10/17.

[signed] G.O. Ramsbottom, Major
Commdg 2nd Bn The Border Regt.

References / notes[edit]

  • National Archives Catalogue Reference: WO/95/1655
  • The transcription above is available under the National Archives Open Government Licence for public sector information.
  • War diary transcribed by P. Bramham.
  1. Joesph Harding (2nd Lieut.) Died 06/10/1917. Age: 21. 3rd Border Regiment (attd. 2nd Border Regiment). Commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Son of Joseph Harding, of Moat St., Brampton, Cumberland, and the late Mary Ann Harding.
  2. Reginald Paynter (2nd Lieut.) Died 26/10/1917 Age: 34. D Company, 2nd Border Regiment. Commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Son of the late John Paynter and of Mrs. Paynter of 20, Onslow Gardens, Muswell Hill, London; husband of Florence Paynter, of "Roscrea," Holden Rd., Woodside Park, London.
  3. David Burns Dempster, MC (Captain) Age: 22 Commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Son of Robert and Cecilia Dempster of "Carresden," George St., Dumfries.
  4. James Anderson Stephen (2nd Lieut.) Died 28/10/1917 Age: 27. Buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. Husband of D.M. Stephen of "St. Elmo," Beckford Rd., Cowes, Isle of Wight.
  5. John Moore (captain) 3rd Border Regiment (attd. 2nd Border Regiment). Commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
  6. Wilfred Inkpen (2nd Lieut.) Commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
  7. Edward Randall Chetham-Strode (Captain) Age: 26 3rd Border Regiment (attd. 2nd Border Regiment). Commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Elder son of Dr. and Mrs. Chelham-Strode of 60, Wimpole St., London; husband of Adeline Chetham-Strode of 21, Hyde Gardens, Eastbourne.