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Letter to Rev. R.M. Laporte Payne 10 Oct 1918

Letter to Rev. R.M. Laporte Payne 10 Oct 1918

 

CHH/PW.

Headed notepaper

Administrative Headquarters

AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCES

130, Horseferry Road

LONDON S.W. 1

Replied 11/10/18 giving facts.

 

To

The Rev Laporte Payne

Christ Church Vicarage

  1. Finchley, N. In reply quote A.C. 2367/13/29. 10th October 1918.

 

Re 26711 PTE McFARLANE, J. 14th Bn.

 

Dear Sir,

 

With reference to your letter of the 23rd ult. I have to inform you that the above mentioned soldier has been arrested and has admitted obtaining the sum of £1 from you, and also to being indebted to Mrs Roberts as stated in your letter.

 

He is being tried by D.C.M. on charges of absence and of obtaining money by valueless cheques.

 

I would be glad if you would say whether you wish to include obtaining the sum of £1 as a charge against him. The soldier states that he will pay you as soon as the money which he is expecting from Australia arrives.

 

Yours faithfully

  1. H***** Major

for Brig-General

Commandant.

Report on Operations 2nd Tank Brigade 5 October 1918

O.C. Signal Company R.E. 2nd Tank Bde.

SECRET                                                                                             COPY NO 37

 

2ND TANK BRIGADE

 

REPORT ON OPERATIONS

 

27TH SEPTEMBER, 1918

 

CONTENTS

 

  1. General Plan.
  2. Preliminary Preparations.
  3. Approach Marches.
  4. Rallying Points.
  5. Casualties : Personnel. Casualties : Tanks
  6. Anti-Tank Defence.
  7. A.F. Co-operation.
  8. Lessons & Suggestions.

 

2nd TANK BRIGADE:     REPORT ON OPERATIONS;   27th September 1918

 

Reference Maps :  Sheets 57.c.NE & SE., and 57.b. NW.

GENERAL PLAN.

  1. The 2nd Tank Brigade, consisted of 15th Tank Battalion, No 1 G.C. Company, No 2 Tank Supply Company, and a Composite Company of 8 Mark IV Top Towing Gear Tanks.

(i). 15th Tank Battalion was allotted to Corps as under:-

VI Corps,       Two Companies,

XVII Corps   One Company.

(ii) Corps sub-allotted Tanks as under:-

VI Corps (3rd Division, Two Coys (“A” & “C”) less One Section of 4 Tanks. (Guards Division, One Section (“C” Company 4 Tanks.

XVII Corps (63rd Division, Two Sections, (6Tanks.)  “B” Company.

(52nd Division, One Section, (4 Tanks).  “B” Company.

(iii). Tanks of No. 1 G. C. Company and No. 2 Tank Supply Company were allotted to Corps as under:-

VI Corps.  (9 Tanks of No. 1 G.C. Company,

(9 Tanks of No. 2 Tank Supply Company.

XVII Corps. 9 Tanks of No 2 Tank Supply Company.

(iv). Five Supply Tanks were allotted to 15th Tank Battalion, (4 from No. 1 Tank Supply Coy. and One from No 2 Tank Supply Coy.)

(v). The Composite Company of 8 Mark IV Top Towing Gear Tanks (attached to No 1 G.C. Company) remained in Third Army Reserve at H.21.b.0.3.

 

The General Schemes of VI and XVII Corps were as under:-

XVII Corps. (a) Capture of RED Objective, by the 52nd Division on the Right, and the 63rd Division on the Left; Dividing Line – MOEUVRES-GRAINCOURT Road (inclusive to 52nd Division).  This Attack was to be carried out in two Phases –

 First Phase. Capture of CANAL DU NORD as far South as E.26..b.7.6., and the trench running through E.27.b., E.28.a.,E.22.d. and E.23.a.

Second Phase. Capture of remainder of RED Objective.  The 52nd and 63rd Divisions were timed to start the second phase at ZERO plus 180 minutes.

(b). Capture of BROWN Objective by 63rd Division.  This included the capture of the Villages of GRAINCOURT and ANNEUX.  The troops detailed for the capture of GRAINCOURT were to start of the commencement of the Second Phase, – (see above) – and go right through.  The Barrage was timed to lift off the South Eastern corner of GRANDCOURT at ZERO plus 270 minutes.

(c). Capture of BLUE Objective. The 57th Division was ordered to pass through the 63rd Division on the BROWN Objective at approximately ZERO plus 300 minutes for the capture of CANTAING & FONTAINE.  The 57th Division was also ordered to keep one Brigade in hand for the purpose of exploiting its advance as far as the CANAL D’ESCAUT and of securing the Crossings.

VI CORPS

(a). The3rd Division, with the exception of its extreme Right and the Guards Division, were to attack together at ZERO Hour, and were  to advance under a creeping barrage to capture the First Objective, (RED).  (Pace of barrage – 100 yards in 4 minutes)

The Guards Division were to be prepared to maintain a defensive flank to the North up to the First Objective, until the XVII Corps had joined up and cleared the trenches to the North.

(b). At ZERO plus 110 minutes, 3rd Division, with the exception of its extreme Right and the Guards Division, were timed to advance to the BROWN DOTTED Objective, which included the capture of FLESQUIERES and the trenches in its vicinity, (Pace of barrage – 100 yards in 4 minutes)

(c). At ZERO plus 180 minutes, 3rd Division and the Guards Division were to advance to the capture of the BROWN Objective.  The 42nd Division (IV Corps), was also to advance in conjunction with the Right of the 3rd Division.

The BROWN LINE East of FLESQUIERES, was timed to be reached at ZERO plus 210 minutes.

The Left of the Guards Division was to capture the BROWN Objective when the 63rd Division (XVII Corps), had taken GRAINCOURT.

(d). At ZERO plus 270 minutes, the 3rd and Guards Divisions were ordered to be prepared to advance to exploit to the BLUE DOTTED LINE, capturing RIBECOURT,PREMY CHAPEL and the GRAINCOURT Line.

(e). The 62nd and 2nd Divisions would them move forward from their Assembly Positions behind the 3rd and Guards Divisions respectively as the advance progressed, so as to be in position either-

(i). To complete the capture of the BROWN LINE should the leading Divisions not have succeeded,

(ii) To take up the advance from the BROWN LINE should the leading Divisions not have advanced beyond this Line, or

(iii) To pass through the leading Divisions on the BLUE DOTTED LINE to capture the BLUE Objective, and afterwards to exploit success to the GREEN DOTTED LINE.

For this purpose, not less than one complete Brigade was ordered to be kept in hand by the Divisional Commanders concerned.

  1. A Map showing the various Objectives and Areas of Tank Action is attached, (See Map “A”). Not with this archive.
  2. The action of each Tank Company is dealt with in the succeeding pages.

 

 

PRELIMINARY PREPARATIONS.

The General Plan of projected Tank Operations was stated by G.S.O. 1, Tank Corps, at a Conference of Tank Brigade Commanders, held at 2nd Tank Brigade Headquarters, COUTURELLE CHATEAU, on morning of September 19th 1918.

I was informed that this Brigade would not take part in the Battle, with the exception of 15th Tank Battalion (Mark V and Mark V Star) which would be placed under the Command of 1st Tank Brigade.  I accordingly detached 15th Tank Battalion to 1st Tank Brigade.

On 23rd September I was notified that this Brigade would take over 15th Tank Battalion again, and that I would be responsible for all Tank Operations on VI and XVII Corps fronts.

I therefore got into immediate touch with the G.Os. C., VI and XVII Corps, also visiting Third Army Headquarters and G.O.C. 1st Tank Brigade.

I instructed my Staff to render every assistance to the 15th Tank Battalion in the preparations for the Battle.

2nd Tank Brigade Headquarters opened at GOMIECOURT, (A.23.d.central) on morning of September 25th.

 

RECONNAISSANCE.

  1. Preparations.

The time for preparations being short, reconnaissance for these Operations had to take a very general form.

R.O’s were relieved by Section Commanders and Assistant R.O’s of most of the reconnaissance connected with Approach Marches, and were thus enabled to concentrate on the Forward Area.

The Area can be looked on as a simple one; the Country retains a good deal of its peace-time appearance, landmarks are plentiful, features like BOURLON WOOD being unmistakeable general guides to direction. Some R.O’s, Tank and Section Commanders were already familiar with the Area, having taken part in the First Battle of CAMBRAI in November 1917.

 

During the reconnaissance for Approach Marches, Tank and Section Commanders had ample opportunity to see something of the enemy country in advance, and they were all familiar with their Objectives in advance.  One O.R. was employed on “Z” day in an O.P., and was able to send back useful information about the progress of the Attack.

 

  1. Issues of Maps, Photos etc.

Maps were issued in adequate quantities on 1.20,000, 1/40,000 and 1/100,000 scales. The 1/20,000, 57.c.NE., New Edition, was received on “Y” Day.  The 1/20,000 Sheet was used as the Battle Map.  Barrage Maps were obtained from Corps to allow of an issue of one to each Tank and Section Commander.

Photographs. 12th and 13th Squadrons were visited, and very useful oblique photographs were obtained, covering the sectors of each Company.  In addition there were the photographs used in the First Battle of Cambrai.  No fault can be found with the supply of oblique photos.  Battalion and Coy. R.O’s should not issue to their Tank Commanders photographs which do not concern their Area, but should select one or two good photographs taking in the necessary Objectives, and Landmarks, for each Tank Commander.  There were several excellent mosaics of the CANAL DU NORD, a particularly useful one being obtained from 13th Squadron on “X” Day.  Landmark sketches, Notes on the Canals and Country ahead, as well as Obstacle Maps showing Sunken roads etc., were supplied by 2nd Tank Brigade.  Locations of all derelict tanks in the Area were given to 15th Tank Battn. before operations, and Tank Commanders marked them on their Maps.

 

CANAL DU NORD.

This was expected to be a serious, if not insuperable, Obstacle.  Fortunately only one Company of the 2nd Tank Brigade had to cross it in action, the others crossing at the tunnel during Approach Marches.  From photographs and other information, the most likely crossings were selected, and named “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” and “E”.  Those were discussed by Company concerned, 15th Tank Battalion, and 2nd Tank Brigade H.Q., and finally settled on.  XVII Corps and Divisions were informed of the location of these Crossings, and all Tank Commanders concerned were made acquainted with them.  The Crossings selected for the Northern Sections were all satisfactory, but Tanks were able to cross with comparative ease between “A” and “B” Crossings.  The Canal was passable in many places as the walls had fallen in or been broken by shell-fire, and it was not the Obstacle expected.

It is worthy of note that the Germans, with the exception of one Landmine at “A” Crossing, had not turned the Canal into a more serious Obstacle on this Brigade front, probably because they are not yet fully conversant with the capabilities of Heavy Tanks. There was a case of attempted Tank Obstacle construction in incomplete portions of the Canal, North of 2nd Tank Brigade Front.  This described in Notes issued 1st Tank Brigade.

 

GENERAL.

 

Tank Commanders on the whole maintained direction well. The avoidance of sky-lines still leaves something to be desired.  There were again several cases of Tanks being knocked out through unduly exposing themselves on the sky-line.  The importance of this matter cannot be too often or too strongly impressed on all Officers.

There were one or two cases of ditching, principally due to the numerous trenches.

 

 

REPORT on OPERATIONS: “A” COMPANY 15th Tank Battn. (Major ALLEN)

27th September 1918

 

  1. “A” Company, 15th Tank Battalion, (8 Mark V and Mark V Star Tanks) was ordered to work with 3rd Division, VI Corps.

The orders given to O.C “A” Company were (i) to assist the Infantry in capturing RED LINE, ( between HAVRINCOURT and FLESQUIERES) and (ii) to assist in the capture of the BROWN LINE ( 1,000 yards East of FLESQUIERES).

 

  1. APPROACH MARCHES.

All Tanks reached Starting Points, but the Approach March was rendered difficult by congestion of traffic, ammunition dumps, light railways and our own batteries, and heavy hostile gas and H.E. shelling Yorkshire Bank.

  1. ACTION OF TANKS.

No 1 Section, (3 Tanks), No. 2 Section, (3 Tanks), and No 4 Section, (2 Tanks), Total – 8 Mark V Star Tanks, started at ZERO from K.27.a.

Nos 1 and 4 Sections proceeded down PUTNEY AVENUE with no 2 Section on their left.  Two Tanks became ditched in Sunken Road K.22.c., but were ultimately unditched with the aid of 40 German prisoners.  6 Tanks reached FLESQUIERES and East of the Village.

The 6 Tanks went forward, passing the Infantry 200 yards West of first Objective. SILHEM CHAPEL and WOOD SWITCH (first Objective), were packed with enemy infantry who were in great confusion, unable to move one way or the other.  All Tank guns were brought to bear on them and great losses were inflicted, case shot being fired at point-blank range.

In the HINDENBURG Support Line in K.16.d., a number of Germans were seen standing on the fire steps, firing at our advancing infantry. One tank took these by surprise from the rear with the result that our infantry occupied the trench.

The Tanks then proceeded slightly beyond the First Objective, finally coming back under cover of the Ridge to prepare for the advance on to the Second Objective.

Ten minutes later the Tanks left the First Objective, accompanies by the Infantry towards FLESQUIERES. Some enemy machine-guns and infantry were mopped up en route.  In FLESQUIERES there was heavy fighting and many of the enemy were killed coming out of the houses, all Tanks again having excellent targets.  One Tank of No 1 Section was knocked out by a direct hit in FLESQUIERES.

The remainder of the Tanks then continued the advance to the BROWN LINE, 1,000 yards East of FLESQUIERES, preceding the Infantry, who co-operated very well the whole time. In K.24.b., and L.19.c. our Infantry were held up by hostile machine-guns.  Tanks went forward and silenced a number of these in SCULL SUPPORT and KAISER TRENCH, whereupon the advance continued.

On the BROWN LINE, magnificent enemy targets were seen and they were engaged by all tanks with Hotchkiss and 6-pounder case-shot. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy, which has since been confirmed by the numbers of dead in this area.  One tank then proceeded 250 yards East of the BROWN Line.  One Tank received a direct hit at L.13.c.8.8., and another became out of action at L.13.c.7.4. with mechanical trouble.  The remaining tanks rallied.

All Tank Commanders were much impressed with the way in which our Infantry attacked, and the rapidity with which they advanced. They co-operated extremely well with the Tanks, indicating targets, and seizing the opportunities created by tanks.

The good mutual co-operation between Tanks and Infantry undoubtedly contributed largely to the success of this operation. O.C. “A” Company reports that the machine-gun fire from KAISER TRENCH and SCULL SUPPORT was intense, and without the assistance of Tanks it would have been difficult to gain a footing there.

3rd Division reached BROWN LINE up to time, and alone took over 2,500 prisoners, besides killing and wounding very large numbers of the enemy.

The following letter was received at 2nd Tank Brigade Headquarters, from Major-General C.J. DEVERELL, C.B., Commanding 3rd DIVISION.

 

General Staff, 3rd Divn. GS. 1804

“To G.O.C. 2nd TANK BRIGADE

 

All ranks, 3rd DIVISION, are united in their admiration of the work done yesterday by the two Companies (“A” and “C”) of the 15th Battalion, Tank Corps, co-operating with the Division.

They played a great part in the success gained, and their gallantry and determination to assist us to their utmost was much appreciated by all ranks of the Division.

 

(Sgd) C.J. DEVERELL

Major-General

Comdg. 3rd DIVISION

28th September 1918

 

 

REPORT ON OPERATIONS: “B” COMPANY, 15th Tank Battn.

 

ALLOTMENT OF TANKS.

52nd Division:              4 Tanks (Capt. Forster’s Section).

XVII CORPS

63rd Division:               6 Tanks ( Capt Hutton’s Section)

(Capt. Gibson’s Section)

 

PLAN of OPERATIONS for TANKS.

  1. The main role of the 4 Tanks allotted to 52nd Division was to assist the Infantry in capturing the HINDENBURG LINE (West of the CANAL DU NORD) in E.26.b. & d., K.2.b., to junction with VI Corps (Guards Division). After these trenches had been cleaned up, the Tanks were to endeavour to cross the Canal near the CAMBRAI Road, and assist in the further advance.
  1. The 6 Tanks allotted to the 63rd Division were required to operate as follows:- 4 to cross the Canal as soon as possible after ZERO, and assist the Infantry in capturing the HINDENBURG Support Line. The other two Tanks (under Captain Gibson) were to go forward with the ANSON Battalion from TADPOLE COPSE and assist in the Second Phase of the Operations.

 

APPROACH MARCH.

The Approach March was successfully carried out, but crews were much inconvenienced by hostile gas shelling in the neighbourhood of MOEUVRES.  Some of the men were affected by this, & several cases of vomiting and sickness occurred.

 

ACTION.

  1. Section with 52nd One Tank developed serious mechanical trouble during the Approach March, and could not start.  Three Tanks started from E.25. at Z plus 5 minutes.  They first of all assisted in dealing with wire and portions of trench in E.26.a.  They then turned right and proceeded down the HINDENBURG LINE, returning repeatedly to maintain touch with the Infantry, of whom they got ahead on several occasions.  Considerable opposition was met with in this Sector the whole time.  All three Tanks got right down the HINDENBURG LINE as far as the CAMBRAI Road, and one crossed it five times.  Enemy machine-guns were very active from all directions, but particularly so from SPOIL BANK in E.23.c.  Field guns and shell-fire generally directed against Tanks was heavy, and one Tank received a direct hit early on in the morning, wounding the Tank Commander and all his crew, but he carried on the action until only he and one of his crew were fit to stand, when the Tank received another direct hit and became out of action.  Both the remaining Tanks were put out of action in the HINDENBURG LINE in E.25.d., one receiving three direct hits and the other two.  Of three Officers and 23 Other Ranks who went into action with these three Tanks, one was killed and19 wounded, some slightly.  Although these Tanks all finally became casualties, they reached the most important of their Objectives first, and inflicted severe damage on the enemy.  One Tank succeeded in establishing touch between 52nd and Guards Division South of CAMBRAI Road.
  2. Action of 6 Tanks with 63rd The Four Tanks of “B” Company allotted to 63rd Division specially for the First Objective all started from SAND LANE South of MOEUVRES, intending to pick up the Infantry near the Canal in B.15.c.  One Tank caught fire in Sunken Road in E.20.c. and was completely burnt out.  Of the remaining 3, two started at ZERO, and immediately proceeded towards the Canal Crossing “B”, B.15.c.2.4.  They saw none of our Infantry, but were heavily machine-gunned by the enemy.  They then turned towards MOEUVRES to look for the Infantry, who were then advancing from there.  Having gained touch with these, they then went straight for the Canal ahead of the Infantry, and crossed it between “A” and “B” Crossings in E.15.c.  They saw a Tank of the 7th Tank Battalion blown up in “A” Crossing.  When they reached the Eastern side of the Canal they were well ahead of the Infantry and were fired upon heavily by hostile machine-guns.  The splash was particularly bad inside the Tanks.  They then went up and down LYNX TRENCH as arranged, firing their guns at hostile machine-gunners and who were on top of the parapet and in the open.  Many machine-guns and crews were dealt with and 6-pounders were used most effectively against these.  One machine-gun and its crew were run over and squashed.  On the whole the German machine-gunners in this part put up a good fight.  The furthest point reached by these Tanks was E.22.b.  Both Tanks later developed mechanical trouble one autovac and one gear.  these defects could not be remedied and necessitated the Tank periodically halting.  On returning to Rally one got a direct hit and became out of action.  At 7 a.m. one of these Tank Commanders sent a pigeon message from well East of the Canal regarding his gear trouble, which was received at 2nd Tank Brigade H.Q.  The remaining Tank of this Section proceeded North East of SAND LANE to pick up its Infantry East of MOEUVRES as arranged, but at E.20.b.3.0. it caught fire in the Sunken Road.  This delayed the advance of this Tank, but as soon as the fire was got under control and extinguished, it proceeded towards “C” Crossing and while looking for it became badly ditched in LOCK STREET TRENCH.  This Tank was therefore unable to cross the Canal, but both the Tank Commander (Lieut. THOROUGHGOOD) and his crew got out of the Tank with their machine-guns and helped to support the advance of the Infantry by their fire.  The Tank Commander reports that he and his crew assisted by one Corporal (Corporal CLARKE) and one other rank of the 1/7th Scottish Rifles (52nd Div.) to capture 35 Germans who were holding out near Lock No. 5.
  3. The two Tanks (Capt. GIBSON’S Section) who had to participate in the attack towards GRAINCOURT and ANNEUX, arrived at their Starting Point (TADPOLE COPSE) at 4-20 a.m. where they were unable to find the Infantry with whom they were to advance. At ZERO plus 15 the Section Commander decided to send his Tanks on along the pre-arranged route in spite of the fact that he could not find the Infantry, hoping to pick up these somewhere on route.  The Tanks were delayed in reaching the Canal, by the numerous trenches they had to cross, and did not arrive there until 6-45 a.m.  Here they found both “A” and “B” Crossings blocked; the former by 7th Battalion Tank which had struck a land-mine and was out of action; the latter by Artillery who were passing through.  The Section Commander decided that it was necessary to tow the disabled tank of the 7th out of the way.  This was done, resulting in further delay.  Touch with the Infantry not having been established, the Section Commander ordered the two tanks to proceed down LYNX TRENCH, mopping up any enemy who might be there, and then to rally at the Advanced Rallying Point in E.27., where they were to await orders.  He then returned to MOEUVRES, where his Company Commander was, to obtain his instructions regarding these two tanks.  These having been obtained, he returned to his two tanks, which in the meantime, having encountered no enemy, had reached the Rallying Point, where they were approached by the G.S.O. 3 of the 63rd Division, who asked if they could assist in mopping up the trenches at the junction of KANGAROO TRENCH and the HINDENBURG SUPPORT.  This was agreed to, and at 2-15 p.m. they went over accompanied by Infantry, who were led by a Lieut-Colonel.  The enemy ran away from behind the HINDENBURG SUPPORT LINE in E.28., fired on by a Tank Hotchkiss and 6-pounder, also by the Guards Div. from the Right Flank.

Our Infantry occupied their Objective and pushed on beyond it, towards ANNEUX and GRAINCOURT.

The G.S.O. 3, 63rd Division, who had followed up the Attack, then thanked the Tank Section Commander, (Captain GIBSON), for the good work these two Tanks had done.

At this point Tanks had only a little petrol left.

About 4-30 p.m. the G.S.O 3 63rd Division, brought up a Brigadier-General (Brigade not ascertained) who asked if Tanks could go forward with his Brigade, who were then about to resume the advance.  He was informed that they had very little petrol left, but would go on if he (the Brigadier-Genl.) would accept responsibility for Tanks being stranded right forward without petrol.  The Brigadier-General agreed to this, and said he wanted to get his Brigade on to the MARQUION Line.

The 2 Tanks went forward and picked up the Infantry in E.29.c. (North of GRAINCOURT). From this point they preceded the Infantry and passed through between ANNEUX and GRAINCOURT, encountering practically no opposition.

About F.26.c. Tanks came under a lot of machine-gun fire from the direction of FONTAINE-NOTRE-DAME. Both Tanks were turned broadside on and fire was brought to bear on the German machine-guns in order to support the Infantry advancing on the left.  Parties of the enemy who were seen coming over the crest towards the MARQUION Line were engaged by all Tank guns which could be brought to bear.  The enemy ran away and many casualties were caused.

Soon after this some heavy shells, believed to have been fired from trench mortars, fell very close to the Tanks. These two Tanks reached a point about 1,000 yards from CANTAING before completing their work.

Petrol was then almost finished, crews were much exhausted, having left the final lying-up place about 12 midnight, 26/27th September.  The work required of the Tanks was completed, so they were withdrawn to a point well East of the Canal, where they had to remain, as the petrol had entirely given out.

Some petrol was later obtained, from a casualty tank of the same Company, and these two tanks returned to Rallying Point on September 28th.

The following telegram was received from G.O.C. 63rd Division on the evening of 27th:-

“Most grateful for splendid assistance given this Division by “B” Company’s two Tanks to-day under Captain GIBSON.

 

 

 

REPORT ON OPERATIONS: “C” Company, 15th Tank Battalion.

(7 Mark V Tanks).                   Major SKEGGS.

 

“C” Company left HAVRINCOURT at 1 a.m. on 27th Sept., following in rear of “A” Company.

The Approach March was a difficult one, owing to several sunken roads and battery positions having to be crossed.  Heavy shelling was encountered in K.32.b., where one Officer and 3 Other Ranks were killed.  One Tank got ditched in K.27.a. owing to inability to swing due to the failure of the epicyclics.

This Tank took three quarters of an hour to get out, and took considerable time to catch up the Infantry.

The role of “C” Company, (7 Tanks), was as follows:-

(a). One Section (4 Tanks) under Captain MANSFIELD, was detailed to operate with the Guards Division with the following orders:- (a) Rendez-vous in Sunken road K.9.d. by ZERO plus 1 hr. (b) Section Commander to meet O.C. 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, at Lock No. 7, K.9.c., and will advance under his orders to assist in the capture of PREMY CHAPEL.

(c) Should the advance of the leading troops of the 1st Guards Brigade be held up during the Approach March of the 3rd Guards Brigade to the BROWN LINE, O.C. 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards will send Section of Tanks forward to assist in overcoming opposition and give them a place of rendez-vous where they will meet him afterwards.

(d) If possible, however, the Section will be left fresh for the attack on PREMY CHAPEL.

 

  • One Section of 3 Tanks (Captain McKERSIE) was ordered to support the Attack of the 3rd Division on to the Northern edge of FLESQUIERES Village, in conjunction with the two Tanks of “A” Company of the same Battalion, but not to become more deeply involved than necessary, as the Section would subsequently be required to assist the Guards in their Attack on PREMY CHAPEL.

ACTION.

 

Captain McKERSIE’S SECTION, (with 3rd Division), co-operated with the Tanks of “A” Company in the capture of FLESQUIERES Village, dealing particularly with the Northern end.

One Tank Commander with some men of the 1st Battalion Gordons, (3rd Division), reached the BROWN LINE, doing great execution en route, and was also responsible for running over and squashing several machine-guns with their crews.  This Tank received a direct hit in L.13.b.,and was knocked out.

Of the other two Tanks of this Section, one became badly ditched early in the attack, and the other was hit and had mechanical trouble on the West side of FLESQUIERES, but subsequently rallied late in the afternoon.  There were therefore no Tanks of this Section left to continue the advance towards PREMY CHAPEL with the Guards Division.

 

Captain MANSFIELD’S SECTION, (with Guards Division).

Captain MANSFIELD was unfortunately killed before reporting to O.C. 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards at Lock No 7.

The Section was then ordered by Major SKEGGS to assemble about K.18.a.9.0., to await the arrival of the Grenadier Guards.

Whilst waiting here, an appeal for assistance was received from a Company Commander of the 1st Gordons, (3rd Division).  The Acting Section Commander responded without waiting for orders, and proceeded to assist in cleaning up of FLESQUIERES, performing excellent work and having good targets.  One Tank reached the BEETROOT FACTORY in L.13.c where particular execution was inflicted on the enemy.

All 4 Tanks having completed their tasks, they rallied North of FLESQUIERES, ready to advance with the Guards Division as detailed in orders.

 

O.C. “C” Company (Major SKEGGS), met Lieut-Colonel Viscount GORT, Commanding 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, at the pre-arranged Rendez-vous and preceded with him through the Village of FLESQUIERES to arrange details of the Attack upon PREMY CHAPEL.  These having been decided upon, the 4 Tanks were ordered by Major SKEGGS to proceed round the Northern edge of the Village to pick up the Infantry in L.13.c. and L.19.a.

All 4 Tanks reached the vicinity of the BEETROOT FACTORY in L.13.c., where they came under heavy Artillery fire. A 77 mm, field gun is reported to have opened direct fire on them from ORIVAL WOOD.

One Tank proceeded down the Sunken Road towards PREMY CHAPEL, and received several direct hits in L.13.d.

Three of these four Tanks were knocked out by Artillery fire in the BEETROOT FACTORY Area, and most of the Crews were wounded. The fourth was damaged but eventually rallied.

Of the 7 Tanks of this Company which started, 4 were completely knocked out, one was ditched, one had mechanical trouble, and one rallied. Two of the above subsequently rallied on 28th September.

Tank Commanders in this Company were also unanimous in their praise of the gallantry of the infantry.

 

CONDITIONS.

 

Conditions were distinctly favourable.  The weather, although somewhat uncertain prior to “Z” Day, was fine and clear on “Z” day itself.  There was heavy rain on Y/Z night, which however ceased at 3 a.m.

The ground was dry and surface provided good going.  The most serious Obstacles were the CANAL DU NORD, the numerous Sunken roads, and the wide trenches of the HINDENBURG LINE and Support Line.  Most of the main Obstacles were located in advance.

 

APPROACH MARCHES.

These took place as follows:-

“A” & “C” Coys.   Sep.22nd. BEHAGNIES to VELU WOOD, 12.000 yards.

15th Tank Bn.         24th/25th. VELU WOOD to HAVRINCOURT WOOD, P.12.b., 6,000 yards.

15th Tank Bn.        26th/27th. HAVRINGCOURT WOOD, P.12.b., to Starting Points, K.26.b. and K.27.a., 4,000 yards.

“B” Company,       Sept. 22nd. BEHAGNIES to LAGNICOURT 10,000 yards.

15th Tank Bn.         24th/25th.  LAGNICOURT to South of QUEANT, D.14., 3,000 yards.

26th/27th   S. of QUEANT, D.14, to Starting Point, E.25, South of MOEUVRES, 5,500 yards.

Considerable gas shelling and traffic congestion were experienced in the latter stages of Approach Marches, but apart from this, they took place without incident.

 

RALLYING POINTS.

These were selected as far forward as possible, consistent with safety, and were as follows:-

“A” Company,                        CHAPEL WOOD, K.23.c.

“B” Company,                        E.27.b.7.6.

“C” Company             K.15.b.5.4.

K.18.a. Advanced R.P. for Section to operate with Guards Division towards PREMY CHAPEL.

On “Z” morning and afternoon, Rallying Points were visited by myself and other members of my Staff, and the position as regards fitness of Tanks and Crews, and their experiences, ascertained.

 

COMMUNICATIONS.

Communications were maintained by the following means:-

(a). Telephone and telegraph.

(b). Wireless

(c). D.R’s.

(d). Pigeons.

(e). Aeroplanes.

(f). Runners.

 

  • TELEPHONE and TELEGRAPH.

The practice, emphasised in former Reports, of maintaining direct communication between Brigade H.Q. and Units was necessarily somewhat modified owing to the short space of time available for construction and the distances involved.

Some Units were therefore put on to the nearest Divisional or Corps Exchange and were then available through VI Corps.

Brigade was in direct telephonic communication with VI Corps, 1st Tank Brigade, 2nd Tank Supply Coy., and all the necessary formations through VI Corps.

VI Corps was unable to allot a line for the exclusive telephone use of Brigade to 15th Battalion, but a direct sounder circuit was arranged, which proved most useful.

15th Battalion was in direct telephonic communication with 3rd Division.  “B” Coy. detached, was in direct telephonic communication with 63rd Division.

 

Wireless proved most useful and a number of messages were received both at Brigade H.Q. and 15th Battalion H.Q. by this means.

A Wireless Station was erected at 15th Battalion Advanced H.Q. (J.29.a.1.0.) with one set working back to Brigade H.Q. on one wavelength and another working forward to sets in “B” Coy. and “C” Coy. (in a Tank) on another wavelength.  As the Sounder Circuit gave trouble for some hours during the early part of the day, messages were sent between Brigade and Battln. By Wireless.

At ZERO, Communication between “C” Company and Battalion was obtained. The set was then moved to K.15.d.8.9., whence several messages were transmitted.

“B” Company’s set was erected at D.24.a.central under difficult circumstances owing to hostile shelling and communication was established about three-quarters of an hour after ZERO. Not much use was made of this Set during the battle, but it proved valuable during the afternoon of September 27th.

It seems doubtful whether a Set remaining at Company H.Q. is of real value. It should have a tank available to take it forward to a Rallying Point.

 

(c). DESPATCH RIDERS.

Two D.Rs were allotted to 15th Battalion for use under Battalion arrangements.

Two or three runs a day were made from Brigade to all Units.

 

(d). PIGEONS.

16 Pigeons were available from XVII Corps Loft at GOUY for “B” Company.

15th Battalion (“A” & “C” Coys.) were allotted 24 pigeons from VI Corps Loft at BARLY.

They were very useful. Messages took about 1 ½ hours to reach Brigade Headquarters, and were repeated to Advanced H.Q. 15th Tank Battalion.

The standard of messages received from Tank Commanders was well above the average.

 

CASUALTIES

UNIT                   Date           Killed   Died of wounds         Wounded        Missing

  1. O.R.   O.  O.R.                  O.  O.R.          O.  O.R.

15th Tank Battn.   27 Sept.      2   12        1    –                         6   47              0     1

No 1 G.C. Coy     27 Sept.      –     2         –    –                        –      2               –     –

2nd Tank Bde.      26 Sept.     –      –         –     –                         –     1               –      –

Signal Coy.

 

TOTAL….                 …      2    14       1  0                           6   50               0   1

 

 

2ND TANK BRIGADE

 

TANK STATE.           24.9.18 to 29.9.18

See attached spreadsheet.

 

ANTI-TANK DEFENCES.

Named it their order of danger to Tanks, the enemy Anti-tank Defence measures encountered were as follows:-

 

  1. Field and Heavy Guns.

It was particularly noticeable that heavy guns were specially detailed for use against Tanks, directed by capable observers.

Field guns frequently used battery fire, the shells arriving almost simultaneously, indicating that the whole battery was firing on the target.

 

  1. Machine-guns.

German machine-gunners were active against tanks, principally from close quarters. There were not many cases of penetration, but splash was unusually prevalent.

 

  1. Trench Mortars.

There was every indication that trench mortars were being used against tanks.

 

  1. Pits.

Large numbers of pits had been dug in the Area, dimensions 5’ x 12’ x 20’. Some of them were wired over, prepared for camouflage.

 

  1. Land-mines.

No Tanks of 15th Tank Battalion were put out of action by these, but one of 7th Battalion’s tanks encountered one at “A” Crossing, CANAL DU NORD.

Other Land-mines have been discovered in the Area, and a full description of these will follow.

 

  1. Anti-tank rifles.

A number of these were found but they were not used to any extent, nor did they do material damage.

No new enemy Anti-tank measure was brought to light in the course of these operations, so far as has at present been ascertained.

 

R.A.F. CO-OPERATION.

  1. No 8 Squadron and No 73 Squadron, R.A.F., co-operated with 2nd Tank Brigade during Operations on September 27th.
  2. A number of messages were dropped on Battalion and Company Headquarters during the Battle, while fresh Machines leaving the Aerodrome dropped consolidated Reports of information gained by the previous patrol, on 2nd Tank Brigade Headquarters.

This system worked well.

The large number of derelict Tanks from the First Battle of CAMBRAI made the spotting of Tanks actually engaged in this Operation somewhat difficult.

  1. Companies must again realise that they will not get messages unless they lay their ground strips out properly.
  2. It is suggested that in future operations Flight Commanders responsible for Tank protection should visit the Tank Companies with which they are co-operating prior to “Z” Day, when the action of Tanks could be discussed with reference to special help required from aeroplanes on particular bits of ground.
  3. The arrangements which were made for Tank Commanders to put out Red Ground Flares when fired on by Anti-tank guns though sound in principle, did not on this occasion work out in practice. Several cases occurred of Tank Commanders using these Flares North East of FLESQUIERES while being heavily shelled.  No Aeroplanes were flying at the time and no action resulted.

 

 

SUGGESTIONS AND LESSONS LEARNED.

 

  1. The success of the operations of 15th Tank Battalion with 3rd Division proved the value of previous training with Infantry.

15th Battalion had carried out training with the 8th, 9th and 76th Infantry Brigades (3rd Division) on 13th and 14th September.

One Company from each Battalion of each Brigade acted as a Demonstration Company, whilst the remainder of each Brigade watched the operations.

3 Complete Sections of Tanks, working in relays, were employed, thus enabling the training to be continuous.

  1. The value of a Wireless Set carried in a Tank was clearly demonstrated.
  2. Instructions were issued that Company and Section Commanders would keep a reserve of pigeons for sending back information gained at Rallying Points and in the course of the Battle. As a result of this, valuable information as to the number of Tanks rallied and fit was received at Brigade Headquarters at an early hour.
  3. It is suggested that a white arrow disc be provided on each Tank to be used in conjunction with the red flares to indicate to aeroplanes the direction of fire from anti-tank guns.
  4. Tank Commanders considered that the proportion of smoke in their barrage, viz:- 1/6th and 1/10th, was insufficient to screen their Tanks. The clearness of the atmosphere, and the breeze, no doubt partly accounted for this.
  5. In the event of Tanks detailed for special work failing for some reason to find their infantry at the Starting Point, it is the duty of these Tanks to proceed in the pre-arranged direction until they gain touch with their infantry or with the enemy.
  6. Battalions should always make arrangements for the provision of hot meals at Rallying Points for crews coming out of action.
  7. The green and white flag (signal to “Come on”) should only be used in cases where our infantry have been held up and the Tanks have been sent forward to deal with some particular point. These signals should not be used when the attack is proceeding satisfactorily.
  8. In forwarding the following suggestion from 15th Tank Battn., I am of the opinion that every case must be judged on its merits and that no hard and fast rule regarding the position of Rallying points should be laid down. The advantages claimed by O.C. 15th Battalion for the final point of deployment as the final Rallying point are indisputable, if other conditions admit.

Tactical. In regard to the settlement of the Rallying Point at the final conclusion of Tank operations, I am of the opinion that unless the advance is very considerable, and the strength of the Battalion permits of the provision of an adequate number of spare crews, so as to enable complete reliefs to be effected, the R.P. is best fixed at the final point of deployment.  In the event of a further call being made on the Tanks, any advantages that may accrue from having the R.P. further forward so as to shorten the next approach march, are fully out-weighed by the greater promptitude with which the processes of rest and re-organisation may be undertaken in an atmosphere comparatively free, not only from hostile shelling and gas, but also from the noise and general disturbance due to the close proximity of our own guns.  Communications, moreover, on which the promptitude and efficiency of the work of re-organisation largely depend, must of necessity be unreliable to a more forward R.P., in that the roads and tracks for a period succeeding operations are frequently passable by day only with difficulty, and after dark, if passable at all, only with great delay and uncertainty.

 

  1. SUPPLY TANKS.

If possible, when tanks are going to work with the Infantry, an infantry Officer should be attached to the Tanks for a period of, say, 4 days before ZERO, in order that he can keep the Tank Commanders informed of the probable movements and requirements of the infantry.

In the case of the 62nd Division, this was done, and was found very useful.

 

G.M.F. Sacks

Lieut.-Colonel

Commanding 2nd Tank Brigade

 

H.Q. 2nd Tank Brigade,

5th October 1918

Letter from Tom Hammond 5th October 1918

MEMORANDUM

 

All communications to Grosvenor Street.

Tel 140

Telegrams: “Neckwear,” Macclesfield

Neckwear Ltd

Grosvenor Street and

Prestbury Road Mills

Macclesfield

5th Oct 1918

 

Dear Ted & Mary

We are all very sorry to have Willie’s letter this morning about George being wounded.  I may say that we are all very anxious to hear how he is going on & we sincerely hope that he will soon get better.  You know that we all feel that it will upset you very much.  & in fact both Sarah & myself & Elsie feel that he is one of ourselves.  So that we can enter into your feelings.  Don’t get downhearted.  So many of the wounded get better so quickly.  With me being in touch with the wounded in the hospitals it is remarkable how soon they get well again.  Gunshot wounds are not as bad as shell wounds.  However let us know when you hear anything.  Shall be pleased to see Willie.

I also enclose £20-0-0 for Gladys’ fee.

With love to all from all

Tom

War Diary of 9th CANADIAN ARTILLERY BRIGADE September 1918

WAR DIARY Of 9th CANADIAN ARTILLERY BRIGADE

 

From SEPTEMBER 1st – To SEPTEMBER 30 1918

 

PACK HORSE DUGOUT NEAR BOIRY

 

  • Brigade remained in their present position, the day passing fairly quietly, with the exception of the heavy harassing fire on REMY, 70 RIDGE, LONG WOOD.  Teed, 36th Battery, was killed by shell fire at the Battery position along with two 36th. N.C.O.s.

 

  • 3rdD.A. O.O. No 3 was issued today giving details of the attack on the DROCOURT QUEANT Line tomorrow.  Lieut. Philpott, 33rd. Battery, detailed as F.O.O., Lieut. Devine, 45th Battery, Brigade O.P. and Lieut. McKay 31st Battery Liaison Officer to the Kings Own 1st Btn.  The day passed fairly quietly.  At about 9 o clock, during a heavy burst of harassing fire by the enemy in the vicinity of Hqrs. a pack horse with 8 rounds of 18 pdr.        Ammunition broke loose from a passing column and fell tail formost down to the bottom of Hqrs dugout.  After considerable difficulty, he was picqueted in the passage-way for the night.

 

  • At 5 o’clock our barrage opened up.  Reports on the progress soon came in from Brigade O.P. and L.O.  The attack appeared to be going favourably.  On the completion of the barrage, Brigade ceased firing and remained in Divisional Reserve.  Philpott was wounded before leaving Brigade O.P., but carried on, and succeeded in laying a wire to CHALK PITS in BOIRY where he established Brigade Forward O.P.  Being wounded however a second time he was relieved by Lieut. Smith of 33rd. Battery.  Signaller CLIMO of the 36th Battery took charge of the party and continued to send information back until Lieut. Smith arrived.  During the afternoon the enemy shell fire practically ceased.  Lieut. Smith made a reconnaissance forward, and succeeded in entering the Lecluse ahead of the Infantry captured 11 prisoners.  Lieut. R.V. MacCaulay 45th Battery, who had been detailed with a party to put in action enemy’s guns when captured, succeeded in reaching the DROCOURT QUEANT Line shortly after the Infantry, located 2 7.7cm guns, but was unable to fire them owing to the objections of the Infantry.

 

PACK HORSE DUGOUT NR BOIRY

 

  • Day passed fairly quietly with the exception of considerable amount of shell fire from the North where enemy enfiladed our positions using H.V. guns. During the afternoon the Brigade was relieved by the R.F.A., the Brigade remaining in their position in Corps Reserve.

 

5.9.18                       The weather continued fine and bright, the enemy harassing our Battery Areas with long range H.V. guns.  Instructions were issued today with reference to the relief of the 8th Army Field Arty. Brigade by our Brigade.  At 3.00 p.m. the Batteries pulled out independently and moved forward to the vicinity of ST. SERVINS FARM, the relief being completed about 6.00 p.m.  Instructions were issued today giving details of the relief of the 3rd Brigade C.F.A. by our Brigade, the relief to take place tomorrow.

 

ST SERVINS FARM

6.9.18                      During the night it rained very hard causing considerable inconvenience and discomfort to the troops    clearing up during the day; the day passing quietly with occasional bursts of fire in the vicinity of ST SERVINS FARM.  A reconnaissance was made of the forward area, and at dusk the 9th Brigade moved forward, coming into action in the vicinity of BRIOCHE FARM, the relief being completed about 9 oclock.  Hqrs were located in an German gun position at P.34.B25.80.

 

  • The Brigade spent the day familiarizing themselves with the front, working on gun positions, the enemy shelling light and scattered over the Battery Areas.  The attitude of the enemy appears to be fairly quiet and nervous.

 

  • The weather continues fair, although the visibility has not been very good on account of m The enemy’s artillery activity has been fairly quiet during the day, with the exception of a burst of fire on our forward area at dusk, to which the batteries of the Brigade retaliated.  Our heavies shot down the steeple of OISY LE VERGER Church this afternoon at 5.00 p.m.  Enemy shows considerable aerial activity on this front with a particular dislike for our observation balloon in the vicinity of ST SERVINS FARM, which was shot down in flames today at 6.15 a.m. Shortly afterwards one of our balloons was observed to break loose and drift rapidly over the enemy’s lines, the two observers leaping out, one falling in our lines and the other in the enemy’s lines.

 

ST SERVINS FARM

  • Fair weather today. Enemy continues quiet, his artillery activity being confined to a scattered shelling in the forward areas. Little or no movement was observed on this front owing to the location of our O.P.s and the difficult nature of the ground.  8 E.A.s were over our lines today.  Our guns carried on a harassing fire throughout the day with our forward sections, which have been located at 31st Battery about 1500 yards in front of their Battery position near the CAMBRAI ROAD: 33rd Battery in the CHALK PITS North of SAUDEMONT: 45th Battery East of RUMAUCOURT, 36th Battery on the South Western edge of ECOURT ST QUINTIN.  The 31st, 33rd and 45th Batteries manned enemy’s guns, firing same from the following locations:- 31st – 7.7.c.m. gun at Q.26.b.05.35 33rd Battery 7.7 c.m gun at P.29.d.90.60. 45th Battery 10 C.M. gun at P.29.b.50.90., 2242 rounds of 7.7 and 272 rounds of 10 c.m. being fired during our tour in the line.

at towns in enemy’s lines beyond the range of our Field guns

 

PACK HORSE DUGOUT NR BOIRY

 

10.9.18                     Fair today, Enemy’s artillery continuing active in harassing our forward areas.  A considerable amount of movement was reported by our O.P.s today on the CAMBRAI DOUAI Road.  Enemy’s aerial activity continues to be above normal, many E.A.s crossing our lines today.

 

  • The visibility today has not been so good and the enemy’s shelling has been below normal, probably due to this fact. Only 5 E.A.s were observed today.

 

  • Fair weather again today.  Enemy’s artillery more active than usual all day, putting down many concentrated area shoots in the forward areas.  Considerable amount of movement has been observed again today, some of which was engaged by our forward sections.

 

  • Visibility very good today. Forward areas were harassed with light calibre guns. A great deal of movement is still being reported in the enemy’s rear country beyond the range of our guns.  A. activity continues above normal, many planes crossing our lines during the day, one of which shot down one of our balloons at ST SERVINS FARM.  Last night our Infantry were attacked by a hostile bombing raid and forced to withdraw from our post in the BRICK KILN (see detail of raid in L.O.s. report).

 

PACK HORSE DUGOUT NR BOIRY

 

14.9.18                     New Forward Bde. O.P. established on hill sloping toward Canal in front of SAUCHY-CAUCHY.  Enemy artillery on Forward Areas all day active.  Our Artillery very active.  Visibility being good, our heavies executed several aeroplane shoots.  Aerial activity very great.  Enemy planes crossed our lines constantly and succeeded in bringing down three of our balloons in the morning and three in the afternoon.  Enemy appeared very nervous, as though he were anticipating an attack by us.  Our Infty retook the post in the BRICK KILN.

 

  • Visibility fair.  Enemy shelled various portions of our forward area with bursts of fire and paid special attention to the CAMBRAI Road.  Enemy succeeded in reoccupying the BRICK Kiln West of Canal bank opposite SAUCHY CAUCHY, and Brigade Batteries were called upon to put on a shoot as a result.  One burst of fire from the enemy at 1615 induced our Infantry to put up S.O.S. Signals and for 20 minutes the Brigade fired on the S.O.S.  1stM.R. Battalion were relieved by 5th C.M.R. Battalion which Brigade, 9th C.F.A. continue to support.

 

  • Enemy attitude still continued to be nervous and he did considerable scattered shelling.  Our guns very active during the whole 24 hours.  At 6.45 p.m. a heavy barrage opened on the Right of our front seemingly about a mile South.  Our front continues quiet.  Enemy aircraft showed great activity all day.

 

  • Enemy attitude rather more quiet than yesterday. His planes were active as usual and as many as 14 of his balloons were counted from the O.P.  Our 4.5 Hows co-operated with the heavies in a gas shoot on Q.30.b,c & d at 7.30 p.m., and in all fired 150 rounds.

 

  • Both our artillery and enemy artillery active throughout the day. The enemy still continued his scattered and nervous shelling.  At night he was subjected to a heavy bombardment by our heavies and our Field guns.  The Infantry reported considerable short shooting during the period of the bom  This was investigated by the L.O., who found that no more that 8 or 10 rounds had fallen short and that these were heavies.  No casualties occurred.

 

PACK HORSE DUGOUT NR BOIRY

 

  • Our guns active all day.  At dusk both the 5thM.Rs. and the 9th Brigade were relieved by Imperials. i.e. All except the 33rd Battery which remained for the night under the tactical control of the 10th Brigade CFA.  Batteries of the 281st Brigade RFA relieved the other batteries of the 9th Brigade taking over the Zone, O.P. and Liaison duties, maps etc.  Brigade H.Q. (with the exception of the C.O.) and the three Batteries relieved, withdrew to the wagon lines West of VIS-EN-ARTOIS.

 

  • O. Bde forward area at 10 a.m.

At dusk 33rd Battery came out of action and withdrew to its wagon line West of VIS EN ARTOIS.

 

  • All day spent quietly by Brigade at wagon lines.  In the evening order was received from 3rdD.A. that Brigade would move next morning to AGNY Area.

ACHICOURT

 

22.9.18                     By 9.00 a.m. Brigade was on the move and trekked via NEUVILLE-VITASSE and BEAURAINS to ACHICOURT.  Brigade H.Q. billeted in a dilapidated house in the village and Batteries in the open fields between ACHICOURT and AGNY.  That afternoon C.O. Brigade was informed that 3rd C.D.A. would be used shortly to support an attack to capture BOURLON WOOD and advance towards CAMBRAI.  The C.O. rode forward accompanied by the R.O. to reconnoitre area where 9th Batteries were to take up positions in the vicinity of INCHY-EN-ARTOIS to carry forward a barrage in support of 4th Canadian Division Battalions which were to attack.

 

23.9.18                     Starting at 6.00 a.m. from AGNY by bus, 2 officers from each Battery and the R.O. went forward to reconnoitre positions.  Area allotted was in vicinity of North end of INCHY.  At the time our outpost line ran just in front of the West half of the area allotted.  Enemy was shelling the village heavily at the time.  Positions were picked out in what seemed to be the most advantageous spots, 31st and 45th Batteries choosing spots between INCHY and the Canal which could only be viewed at the time by crawling along under cover of hedges in front of our outposts.  33rd and 36th chose positions close together in an enclosure surrounded by a brick wall at extreme Northern Corner of Village.

 

ACHICOURT

 

  • The day occupied in consultations between C.O. and Battery Commanders and general preparations for the coming offensive. Enemy aircraft flew on several occasions during the day over our rear areas.  One of these in the afternoon dropped three bombs in ACHICOURT and AGNY.  Orders received late that night that Brigade would move before dawn to wagon lines lately vacated in vicinity of VIS-EN-ARTOIS.  Detail of Major MacKINNON as LO in the show with the Infantry Brigade was cancelled.

 

  • By 3.30 am the whole Brigade was on the move and proceeded to the VIS-EN-ARTOIS wagon lines.  At Noon order was received to move to other wagon lines in vicinity of QUEANT.  O. Brigade went ahead at 3 oclock and H.Q. and Batteries followed independently, as per instructions, at dusk.  New wagon lines located close, beside New 3rd C.D.A.C. Dump just established on Light Railway between NOREUIL and QUEANT.

 

  • All day occupied in preparations. Major MacKINNON detailed once again as L.O. with 12thI.B.  18-pdr Batteries ordered to take up positions at dusk in vicinity of PRONVILLE to cover an S.O.S. line until Zero hour the following morning.  By dusk these batteries were on the road and were in action and laid on S.O.S. near Northern edge of PRONVILLE by 7.00 pm.  Hqrs 9th C.F.A. moved up to a dugout West of

INCHY                                INCHY at D.6.a.5.25 (Sheet 57C) at 6.00 PM.  Two hours before Zero.  36th Battery was waiting in the assembly area allotted close beside the 18-pdr Battery positions and where likewise limbers and wagons of the 18-pdr Batteries were in readiness.

 

INCHY EN ARTIOS

  • The initial barrage in support of 4th Canadian Division opened at 0520. At about one hour after Zero, the 9th Brigade Batteries moved forward from the vicinity of PRONVILLE to take up their positions at INCHY and carry forward the barrage.  They advanced at the gallop through very heavy enemy shell fire which was falling at the time both in the rear of the Village and in the village itself.  By 0816 the hour at which they were to start firing they were in position with lines laid and ammunition to hand.  The further supply of ammunition during the three hours of firing was greatly facilitated by the excellent work which the 3rdD.A.C. had done, prior to that, in establishing a forward dump in INCHY.  Our barrage supported the 12th Brigade which had gone through.  Directly after the barrage was completed, reconnaissances were made and the Batteries, with the exception of the 33rd Battery which came under the tactical control of the 10th brigade, were moved forward to the vicinity of QUARRY WOOD, our Infantry by that time having captured the Village of BOURLON and most of BOURLON WOOD.  The 7th C.I.B. went through the 12th C.I.B. at this time.  In these new positions the Batteries did considerable firing during the afternoon both on S.O.S. and various targets given to them by the Infantry.  At about 1530 orders were received to make a further forward move.  Reconnaissances were made and at dusk, Brigade H.Q. was moved to BOURLON, and Batteries, including 33rd Battery which came back at that time under control of the 9th Brigade, to the same vicinity, in order to be able to cover another attack of the 3rd Division Infantry.

Lieut O’Grady and Lieut McCarter were F.O.O.s during the above operations.  In the late afternoon Lieut McCarter was unfortunately killed by a M.G. bullet.  Lieut Jones was wounded in the head and evacuated.  Captain Scott was wounded slightly and remained on duty.  In all among O.R.s there were 19 casualties, 1 killed and 18 wounded.  Capt McKAYE the Bde chaplain was likewise wounded.

 

BOURLON

28.9.18                     At 6.00 a.m. the barrage opened and a further advance was made by our Infantry who were eventually held up at the MARCOING Line in front of ST. OLLE.  Orders were received by Batteries to reconnoitre positions further forward.  This was done but it was found that they could not move up as far as had been anticipated.  The 33rd and 36th moved up a short distance, the others being already far enough forward.  Another barrage was fired at 3.00 p.m.  Lieut Harris replaced Lieut McCarter as F.O.O. and Lieut O’Grady remained with him.  Various targets were engaged on the request of Major MacKinnon who remained L.O. with the 7th C.I.B.  Casualties today 2 O.R.s wounded.

 

 

 

BOURLON

  • Just before midnight 28th /29th Batteries were ordered to move to position just West of ST. OLLE to be prepared to fire a barrage at 0600.  Reconnaissance was made by Lieut. Devine, and as a result a new area in F.4 Sheet 57C was allotted.  Here, they had only very little flash cover from CAMBRAI and were in full view from the left.  They pulled in before dawn without a hitch and were ready before 6.00 a.m., this in spite of scattered shelling of the whole area and more especially of the road of approach from the top of the crest.  Long after day-break their ammunition wagons passed to and fro at the gallop between the crest and the guns in full view of the enemy for about 1200 yards, occasionally sniped at by enemy Field guns.  The barrage opened at 8.00 a.m. and lasted till 9.45 a.m.  Enemy shelling of the area was heavy throughout.  The Brigade M.O. Capt. Blakeley was wounded while attending to three wounded 45th Battery Gunners.  In addition the 45th had one gun knocked out and the 31st  The 42nd Battalion advancing towards the Railway in S.20.d Sheet 51A suffered heavily by machine gun fire, likewise the 49th Battalion and the 9th C.I.B.  Eventually positions were consolidated in vicinity of DOUAI-CAMBRAI Road.  The Village of ST. OLLE was not captured till the afternoon.  The enemy fought all day very hard to retain the approaches to CAMBRAI.  All day big fires could be seen blazing in the city itself.  Total casualties in Bde today 9 wounded.

Lieut Doiron acted as F.O.O. during the day.  Lt-Col Ralston relieved Major MacKinnon as L.O. with the       7th C.I.B.

 

  • At 6.00 a.m. the Batteries commenced to fire on a barrage to support our Infantry in an advance towards RAM The troops on the Left of the Division met with strong opposition and were not able to establish a line beyond the Railway passing through S.14 (Sheet 51A); consequently the 3rd Division could not advance beyond TILLOY.  During the morning the C.O. Brigade reconnoitred positions for the Batteries in the vicinity of RAILLENCOURT and SAILLY and at dusk batteries moved their guns to that vicinity.  Brigade H.Q. moved at dusk likewise to the QUARRY in SAILLY, where good quarters had been found in an old German dugout.  By 7.30 p.m. telephone communications had been established between Hqrs.; and Batteries and to the 7th C.I.B.  H.Q. where Lt-Col Ralston remained as L.O.

 

Fred Coghlan

Lieut-Colonel

Commanding 9th Canadian Artillery Brigade

War Diary of 20 Siege Battery for September 1918

WAR DIARY

WAR DIARY of 20 Siege Battery for September 1918

 

Place       Date    Hour                                                Summary of Events and Information

In the field 1st                        3  2 gun positions occupied – LABOURSE near NOEUX-LES-MINES & VERQUIGIEUL.  Attack at extreme range for Mk. VI Hows.

2nd                          2 guns from NOEUX-LES-MINES position to position behind mine build up at PHILOSOPHE.

3rd                          1 gun from  VERQUIGIVEUL position to PHILOSOPHE & and 1 to LABOURSE, reducing Battery 2 – 3 gun. Sections.

8th                          3 guns from PHILOSOPHE position to former R.F.A. position in front of LES BREBIS FOSSE.

9th                          3 guns from LABOURSE to position in LE PREUL march beside Canal basin.

14th                        3 guns from LE PREUL march to ANNEQUIN (position N.E. corner of CITE).

16th                        ANNEQUIN position shelled by 5.9” gun – 30 rds No casualties.  O.K. on B.C. post (pill box) Ys on No 2 Gun.

15th                        150 rounds in CANTELEUX Farm & neighbouring trenches in support of 55th Div.  Observation from NEW BRIGHTON.

16th                        80 rounds in  CANTELEUX Farm & neighbouring trenches in support of 55th Div.  Observation from NEW BRIGHTON.

20th                        150 rounds on Distillery E. of Railway Triangle in LA BASSEE Canal by request of 55 Divn Observation from ”CRATERS” (RFA) O.P.

26th                        100 rounds in PIANO HOUSE & STRASBOURG TRENCH (N.W. of VIOLAINES) by request of 55 Divn Observation from BOOTLE (RFA) O.P. (in VIOLAINES Trench).

28th                        *** lodging in Officers mess Billet, MINX, & woman from neighbouring house attacked, wounded & nearly murdered by latter’s jealous husband with a razor.  Capt HANHART & Lt. E.O. DAVIS, armed respectively with a cricket bat & a poker interviewed murderer & numerous assistants in neighbouring estaminet.  Murderer invited them to share a bottle of vin blanc.  Finding all in order & civilians of neighbourhood content with situation officers retired & finished dinner.  Fate of assailant & assistant unknown.

General Summary for September

Personnel  Officers Lt. H.E. WEEKS attached to No 9 F.S.Co as O/c I Corps Ranging Section.

Lt. W.F. FOX posted to Battery & to remain attached to I Corps H.A. as a/Staff Captain.

Casualties Nil

Attachments 2 OR R.E. attached for report as to whether suitable for commission in R.G.A.

Tactical     Positions occupied during month 7

Rounds fired (approx) Counter Battery 4840 Other firing 1200 Total 6040

C.B destructive shoots Successful 24.  Results during ranging 40 K 89% 230 Z

Unsuccessful 3

Other shooting 3 Bombardments at request of 55th Division, harassing fire & registration.

Materiel     1 New Carriage & New Piece (Mk VI) received during month.

(CB Shoots – ANNEQUIN Section chiefly in SALOME Group, PHILOSOPHE Section on WINGLES-VENDININ Sector)

 

 

OCTOBER 1918

OCTOBER 1918

Hundred Days Offensive

By the end of September 1918, the Germans had been forced back beyond the Hindenburg Line and territories gained in 1914. During the retreat the Germans were forced to abandon increasingly large amounts of heavy equipment and supplies, further reducing their morale and capacity to resist. In Belgium the Battle of Courtrai saw Belgian, British and French forces pursuing the Germans until winter rains stopped movement in early October 1918. Following the rain the offensive for the Battle of Courtrai began early morning of the 14th October 1918 with an attack on the Lys river at Comines aimed northward to Dixmude. With a creeping barrage there was little resistance from the German infantry. By the 17th October 1918, Thourout, Ostend, Lille and Douai had been recaptured, with Bruges and Zeebrugge falling on the 19th October 1918. The neutral Dutch border was reached on the 20th October 1918.

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In northern France the Allied and German armies sustained many casualties during the actions in “Pursuit to the Selle” beginning on the 9th October 1918. This was followed by the Battle of Mont-D’Origny on the 15th October 1918. Further rear-guard actions by the Germans at the Selle from the 17th to 26th October 1918, and the Battle of Lys and Escaut was fought on the 20th October 1918. The Battle of Serre was also fought on the 20th October 1918. The Germans had been forced to retreat from the Meuse-Argonne region in the south to the Dutch border in the north.

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The Second Battle of Cambrai was fought during the latter part of the Hindenburg Line Offensive between British and German troops, from the 8th to 10th October 1918. This took place in and around the French town of Cambrai. Three separate German lines spanning 6,400 mts. (7,000 yds.) were held by two divisions and supported by approximately 150 guns. The rapid Allied general advance caused the weakened German defensive line to collapse. The German defenders were unprepared for the attack by 324 tanks, closely supported by infantry and aircraft. On the 8th October 1918, the 2nd Canadian Division entered Cambrai and encountered sporadic and light resistance. However, they rapidly pressed northward leaving the ”mopping up” of the town to the 3rd Canadian Division following closely behind. When the 3rd Division entered the town on the 10th October 1918, they found it deserted. Although the capture of Cambrai was achieved sooner than expected, German resistance northeast of the town stiffened, slowing the advance and forcing the Canadian Corps to dig in on the Hindenburg Line.

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During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge was fought between the 3rd to 27th October 1918 in the Champagne area of France, northeast of Reims. The U.S. Army’s 2nd and 36th Infantry Divisions opposed Imperial German Army’s 200th and 213th divisions. On the morning of the 3rd October 1918 French and American artillery opened fire and by 8.15 a.m. the Americans were on the hill leading to the ridge. Within three hours they had seized the crest and for seven days they held out against German counter-attacks before advancing northward. From the 10th October 1918, no further advance was made until the 27th October 1918 when the American army assembled in the Suippes-Somme-Suippes area and established headquarters at Corde-en-Barrois. Here the American army HQ stayed until the signing of the armistice.

Also during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive the Americans launched a series of costly assaults that finally broke through the German defences at the Battle of Montfaucon between the 14th to 17th October 1918. The U.S. forces finally cleared the Argonne Forest by the end of October 1918. The French who fought alongside the Americans on their left flank reached the Aisne River. It was in this action that Sergeant Alvin York became one of the most decorated United States Army soldiers of the Great War for leading an attack on a German machine-gun nest. His patrol took 35 machine-guns, killing at least twenty five enemy soldiers and capturing one hundred and thirty two men. York was awarded the Medal of Honor by the Americans and further honours by France, Italy and Montenegro.

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Italian Front

On the Italian Front, the Third Battle of Monte Grappa began on the 24th October 1918, as part of the final Italian Offensive of the war. Control over Monte Grappa, which covered the left flank of the Italian Piave front, was contested between the armies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy. The Italians had been forced to retreat during the Battle of Caporetta but halted the Austrian Offensive on the Piave River in late 1917. The Italian Chief of General Staff, General Luigi Cadorna, had ordered fortified defences constructed on the Monte Grappa summit which stabilized the Italian front along the Piave River. The Third Battle of Monte Grappa began when nine Italian divisions attacked the Austrian positions. The Austrians committed all their reserves to increase their force from nine to fifteen divisions but after Czechoslovakia declared independence from the Empire, the war-weary Austrian army began a general retreat from the 29th October 1918.

The Battle of Vittorio Veneto was fought from the 24th October to 4th November 1918 along the Piave River. The Tenth Italian Army, consisting of two Italian and two English divisions, were able to create a small but significant break in the Austrian lines. The turning point of the battle was on the 27th October 1918 when the decision was taken to exploit this breakthrough. The Austrians counter-attack failed on the 28th October 1918 and the Austro-Hungarian high command ordered a general retreat on the 29th October 1918 and organised an armistice commission to contact the Italians. Meanwhile the Italian army exploited the breakthrough and advanced on, and reached, the city of Vittorio Veneto on the 30th October 1918. The Italian troops reached Trento and Trieste on the 3rd November 1918 and the armistice was signed at 3.20 pm to become effective 24 hours later at 3.00 pm on the 4th November 1918.

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Mesopotamia, the Middle East and the Caucasus

The final action fought on the Mesopotamian Front, the Battle of Sharqat, saw the British army secure control of the Mosul oilfields north of Baghdad. The British government had ordered the remaining Turkish influence in the region to be removed as much as possible prior to the anticipated Turkish armistice. The Anglo- Indian force left Baghdad on the 23rd October 1918 and within two days it had covered 120 km (75 miles) and expected to engage the Turkish army. However, the Turks had retreated a further 100 km (62.5 miles) to Sharqat and the British attacked on the 29th October 1918.  Within a day, on the 30th October 1918, the Turks surrendered despite the fact their lines had not been breached by the Anglo-Indian forces. Mosul was peacefully occupied by the Indian Cavalry Division following the Battle of Sharqat, which was last battle in Mesopotamia.

 

Following the capture of Damascus, by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) and Lawrence’s Arab forces, the Central Powers were collapsing and the EEF was required to push on to Aleppo, 320 km (200 miles) to the north. After a brief period of consolidation, the advance continued and Aleppo fell on the 26th October 1918. Four days later the Turkish signed the Armistice of Mudrus on the 30th October 1918.

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In the Caucasus, military operations were halted when the Turkish-Ottoman Empire signed the Armistice of Mudros on the 30th October 1918. Following the defeat of the British-Armenian-White Russian forces at the Battle of Baku on the 14th September 1918, the Turkish Empire held the territory until the armistice. On the 27th August 1918, Germany had provided financial assistance to the Russian Bolshevik government to stop the Turkish Army of Islam in return for guaranteed access to Baku’s oil. However, a severe political crisis in Germany rendered the Caucasus expedition abortive. On the 21st October 1918, the German government ordered the withdrawal of all troops from the region denying support to the Turkish-Azerbaijani coalition. The Turks surrendered to the Allies and signed the Armistice on the 30th October 1918. The war with Turkey was over.

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Over four years the campaign in the Middle East had sucked in nearly 1,200,000 men from all over the British Empire. With over 5,000 lost in battle and over 500,000 through disease, what was achieved is difficult to understand. If the intention was to knock Turkey out of the war, the EEF had failed as the Turks surrendered only a few weeks before the Germans. Could the forces on the Western Front have been better served if the resources not been diverted to the Middle East, Mesopotamia and Salonika?

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Other Theatres

On the 4th October 1918, in Bulgaria, Tsar Ferdinand I abdicated in favour of his son Boris III. Following the signing of the Bulgarian armistice with the Allies, Ferdinand’s abdication was an attempt to save the Bulgarian throne. However, in 1946 the Kingdom of Bulgaria was succeeded by the People’s Republic of Bulgaria ending the Bulgarian monarchy.

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At the age of 55 years old the Reverend Theodore Bailey Hardy died of wounds on the 18th October 1918. He was Temporary Chaplain to the Forces and attached to the 8th Battalion the Lincolnshire Regiment. After being recommended for a VC in April 1918, he was presented with the Victoria Cross by King George V at Frohen-le-Grand, near Doullens, on 9th August 1918. There seems to have been no vanity streak in Reverend Hardy’s make-up and he was not hungry for medals. When told he had won the VC he said “I really must protest”. Reverend Hardy would habitually cover the array of ribbons on his chest with his arm so as to hide his embarrassment. The King was so impressed with Reverend Hardy that on 17th September 1918 he was appointed Chaplain to His Majesty. The King hoped that he would be able to persuade Reverend Hardy away from the dangers of the front line but even at over 50 years of age he refused all offers to leave “the boys”. Late 1918 finally found the Germans being pushed back and by early October the 8th Lincolns were approaching the river Selle. They managed to establish a crossing and the familiar voice of the chaplain could be heard moving through the ranks.  Suddenly a burst of machine gun fire shattered the night air and the cry went up for stretcher bearers. The chaplain was hit in the thigh but at first it was considered not too serious and he was taken to Rouen. Sadly his condition deteriorated, pneumonia set in, and the gallant padre passed away on the 18th October 1918. Theodore Bailey Hardy was laid to rest in St. Sever cemetery in Rouen. A short memorial service was conducted by the corps chaplain Reverend Hales, and the service was well attended by officers and men of all units. There were other men of the cloth who lived exemplary lives at the front, but the respect and affection earned by Reverend Hardy was unique. If any single Briton deserved to be remembered for their unselfish humanity during that savage war the tiny, self-effacing Reverend Theodore Hardy, VC, DSO, MC, must surely be a candidate.

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On the 20th October 1918, German Admiral Reinhardt Scheer, Naval Supreme Commander, ordered all his navy’s U-boat submarines to return to their German bases. This was after the final German torpedo was fired in the Irish Sea sinking a British merchant ship. Unrestricted submarine warfare was first introduced early in 1915 when Germany declared the area around the British Isles a war zone.  Germany hoped the naval warfare could win the war despite the deadlock on the battlefields, but with Germany on the retreat, an armistice was the logical solution.  When the German submarines returned to their home base, the entire  Belgian coast was firmly under Allied control.

On the 29th October 1918, Admiral Scheer planned for a final fleet action against the British Grand Fleet. Scheer intended to inflict as much damage as possible on the British navy in order to retain a better negotiating position for Germany just prior to the armistice. However, many war-weary sailors felt the operation would disrupt the peace process and prolong the war. When the order was given to sail from Wilhelmshaven, sailors on several battleships mutinied. The unrest ultimately forced Scheer to cancel the operation.

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After confrontation between Wilhelm Groener and Erich Ludendorff, who was Quartermaster General of the German Army, Groener was appointed as Ludendorff’s successor on 29th October 1918. Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, as Supreme Commander of the German Army, had dismissed Ludendorff, who had been his deputy. The dismissal was for the decline of the German military machine and the threat of social unrest and possible revolution amongst the civilian population. Groener started to prepare the withdrawal and demobilisation of the army, and also was in favour of accepting the Allies armistice terms.

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In the final year of the Great War the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was suffering from an internal crisis caused by unrest amongst its numerous Slavic populations. The Proclamation for the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, was a short-lived entity formed on the 29th October 1918 by the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs residing in what was the southernmost parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although not internationally recognised this was the first indication of a Yugoslav State and was founded on the Slavic ideology. A month after it was proclaimed, the State joined the Kingdom of Serbia to form the Kingdom of Serbia, Croats and Slovenes.

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Timetable October 1918

Timetable October 1918

Hundred Days Offensive

14th to 19th Oct                      Battle of Courtrai

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15th Oct                                     Battle of Mont-D’Origny

17th to 26th Oct                        Battle of the Selle

20th Oct                                     Battle of Lys and Escaut

20th Oct                                   Battle of Serre

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Battle for the Hindenburg Line

8th to 10th Oct                           Second Battle of Cambrai

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Meuse-Argonne Offensive

3rd to 27th Oct                           Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge

14th to 17th Oct                         Battle of Montfaucon

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Italian Front

24th to 28th Oct                          Third Battle of Monte Grappa

24th Oct to 4th Nov                     Battle of Vittorio Veneto

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Mesopotamia, the Middle East and the Caucasus

23rd to 30th Oct                          Battle of Sharqat

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26th Oct                                     Battle of Aleppo

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30th Oct                                   The Turkish Empire signs the Armistice of Mudros

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October                                    The aftermath of the Middle Eastern Campaign

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Other Theatres

4th Oct                                     Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria abdicated

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18th Oct                                   Reverend Theodore Hardy VC died of wounds

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20th Oct                                    Germany suspends submarine warfare

29th Oct                                     Mutiny of Germany’s war-weary sailors

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29th Oct                                     Groener replaces Ludendorff as Hindenburg’s deputy

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29th Oct                                     State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs proclaimed

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