War Diary of 9th Canadian Artillery Brigade October 1917

CONFIDENTIAL

 

WAR DIARY Of 9th CANADIAN ARTILLERY BRIGADE

 

From October 1st 1917 – To October 31st 1917

 

 

FIELD

Oct 2nd to Oct 5th        During this period the 31st 18-pdr Battery and the 36th Howitzer Battery were in the line in front of MERICOURT and the Headquarters and 33rd and 45th 18-pdr Batteries were in rest at Wagon Lines near CAMBLAIN L’ABBE, with two batteries of the 10th Brigade C.F.A. attached, also in rest.

 

5.10.17            Operation Order 108 was issued postponing all preparation for the Operation with reference to the taking of MERICOURT.  Our two Batteries in the line are to be relieved tonight.

 

6.10.17 to 9.10.17    In anticipation of a move to another area the brigade was very busy in completing their equipment.  Two concerts were given in the evening for the benefit of the men of the batteries who had been in action, one by a Y.M.C.A. Concert Party and the other by the 3rd Canadian Division Concert Party.  These were immensely enjoyed by the men.

 

9.10.17         Operation Order No 109 was issued referring to the vacation of our present Wagon Lines and the march to new Wagon Lines at ESTREE CAUCHIE.  The weather was fair and the march made in good time and all batteries were settled down with good standings for the horses and good billets for the men, before dark.

ESTREE CAUCHIE

10.10.17 to 12.10.17   The Brigade remained at rest in ESTREE CAUCHIE completing their equipment and discarding surplus equipment, owing to the impending march to the 2nd Army Area near YPRES.  On the 12th October Operation Order No 110 was issued with reference to this march which was to start at 7.30 A.M. on the 13th instant.

 

VENDIN les BETHUNE

  • It rained hard during the night and also in the morning as the batteries pulled out and as this kept up until about 1.00PM, nearly every man was soaking wet and arrived in the afternoon at our first stop in VENDIN-les-BETHUNE in a cold and miserable condition.

Operation Order No 110-2 was here issued referring to the continuation of the march on the next day, leaving at 7.30AM.

 

Near MORBECK

14.10.17  The Brigade pulled out on time and as the weather had cleared up the march was made under better conditions and the men became more cheerful.  A stop was made about noon at ST VENANT to water the horses and feed the men after which we proceeded to billets near MOREBECK.  All the horses had to stand in open fields and as there was very little shelter for the men, tents had to be put up.  Operation Order 110-3 was issued here referring to the continuation of the march on the next day.

 

GODEWAERSVELDE

15.10.17           The Brigade pulled out at 8.30AM and the weather was fine.  A stop was made at about noon at ST SYLVESTER to enable the horses to be watered and fed and at 2.00PM the march was continued to the area of GODEWAERSVELDE.  The horses were all in the open fields but the men had good billets and were quite comfortable.  Operation Order No 110-4 was issued here referring to the continuation of the March to WATOU tomorrow morning.

 

16.10.17            The Brigade pulled out at 9.00AM.  the weather was fine and we arrived at WATOU about noon.  The horses were again in open fields but most of the men managed to find billets in barns and houses and were fairly comfortable.  Operation Order No 110-5 was here issued referring to the continuation of the march tomorrow to the VLAMERTINGHE Area.

 

17.10.17            The Brigade pulled out at 11. AM while passing POPERINGHE we met Colonel Carscallen the C.O. and Major Massie returning from leave in PARIS.  We reached our new Wagon Lines about 3.00PM and found there was no cover for either horses or men so tents had to be erected for the men.

 

 

18.10.17 to 20.10.17         The Brigade remained at rest, the batteries getting further equipment such as ration packs and pack-saddles, water carriers, etc and some of the officers going forward to look over the new gun positions.  On October 20th Operation Order 111 was issued referring to the relief by the 9th Brigade of the 108th A.F.A. Brigade R.F.A. which is to be completed by 8.00 AM October 21st 1917.

C.29.c.17.30

21.10.17                Our batteries relieved the batteries of the 108th A.F.A. in the early morning and found the battery position a sea of mud and many guns hopelessly mired, while the roads leading into the battery positions were completely blocked with over-turned guns, wagons, dead horses and mules and other supplies.  Operation order 112 was issued today with reference to a readjustment of zones.  Operation Order 113 was also issued with reference to a barrage to be put on by our batteries.

 

22.10.17                 Our batteries started to move their guns forward, amid the worst conditions as to weather and mud that has ever been experienced by this brigade in FRANCE.  In many cases it took from 50 to 100 men and 12 horses to pull out one gun.  Operation Order 113-1 was issued with reference to further barrages to be put on by our batteries.  The day was very foggy and owing to the mucky ground the batteries had much difficulty in establishing O.Ps and very little intelligence was received.  During the night the enemy heavily shelled our Battery positions and aeroplanes also dropped about 25 bombs near them.

 

23.10.17                  Operation Order No 113-2 was issued with reference to further Preparatory Barrages by our batteries.  The visibility throughout the day was very poor but one of our F.O.Os reported that one of our Heavy shells dropped very close to a Hun pill-box and about 20 men were seen to run from it to the rear.  One of these men, who was wounded, wandered towards our front line and was brought in by our infantry.  We expended about 1000 rounds during the day.  Enemy shelling was below normal.

 

  • Operation Order No 114 was issued with reference to the first stage of the capture of PASSCHENDAELE to take place on the morning of the 26th

The visibility was good throughout the day and many enemy aeroplanes were observed, some of them flying very low and sweeping our forward trenches with machine gun fire. Ten GOTHAS flew across our lines and flew around the rear areas dropping many bombs.  Several enemy balloons were also up in the morning.  We fired about 1200 rounds during the day.  Enemy artillery was very active, mainly on our communication roads, firing about 700 rounds mostly 5.9s.

 

 

 

25.10.17                   Visibility was fair but there was an extremely high wind and enemy planes and guns were not so active.  We fired about 1800 rounds.

 

26.10.17                   It rained very heavily during the night and was raining when the attack on PASSCHENDAELE started at 5.40AM.  The enemy artillery opened up one minute after our Zero Hour and during the morning his artillery fire was very heavy.  Owing to the flooded and impassable state of the ground our Attacking Infantry found it almost impossible to move and their Machine Guns became clogged with mud.  Very heavy machine gun fire was encountered from enemy pill-boxes and as our men could not move with rapidity to outflank these, heavy casualties were sustained and the attack was held up about the middle objective.  In the afternoon by continuous hand to hand fighting we established a strong line which included a row of pill-boxes on BELLEVUE HEIGHTS and the enemy have been unable to dislodge us from this line.  Owing to the rain and poor visibility there was no aerial work done.  Special reports are attached from this Brigade and from Lieuts Manning and Livingstone, Brigade F.O.O. and Battalion Liaison Officer, respectively.

 

27.10.17                   The visibility was good today and seven enemy balloons were observed on our front.  Enemy planes were also very active during the morning and at about 10.00AM nine enemy planes flew round WIELTJE Area dropping many bombs.  The activity of enemy artillery was below normal today.  Our own batteries fired about 2000 rounds in the 24 hours.  Operation Order No 115 was issued today referring to the new preparatory barrages and harassing fire.

 

28.10.17                    The day was dull and visibility poor.  Three enemy balloons were observed at daybreak but descended in a short time.  Enemy aeroplane activity was below normal, but at 11.AM 12 GOTHAS flew around the area from WIELTJE to YPRES and dropped many bombs on the roads, inflicting some casualties.  Enemy artillery was more active today putting heavy barrages on the main roads.  Our artillery fired about 1500 rounds during the 24 hours.

 

 

29.10.17                    The visibility was poor in the morning but got better in the afternoon.  No enemy balloons were observed today but a large number of enemy planes crossed our line and flew around the rear areas, without, however, dropping any bombs.  Enemy artillery was very active again during the day barraging GRAFENSTAVEL and ZONNEBEKE Roads with 4.1s and “Whizz-bangs” until dark.  The enemy appeared very nervous during the night and sent up a large number of many coloured flares.  Operation Order 116 was issued today with reference to the next attack tomorrow morning on the PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE.

 

30.10.17                    Our attack on the BELLEVUE RIDGE immediately in front of the main PASCHENDAELE RIDGE took place at 5.50AM.  The weather was fair but the smoke obscured the vision to a great extent.  Our infantry appeared to get away to a good start.  The enemy barrage in retaliation came down promptly a minute and a half after our Zero hour and consisted mainly of 5.9s and 4.1s.  Inside of 5 minutes it had become very intense.  By 6.30AM the infantry were reported to be making good progress and keeping well up to the barrage, and small parties of the enemy could be seen running to the rear.  About 7.00AM it appeared that our infantry had met with very heavy machine gun fire and were being held up.  A large M.G. emplacement concealed in FRIESLAND COPSE appeared to be heavily manned with machine guns and our men were obliged to work around the flanks and sustained many casualties in doing so.  At 8.00AM the infantry appeared to be going very well except in the centre of the Divisional front where large pill-boxes were holding up the advance, and the barrage at this point had got ahead of the men.  The footing was very heavy and in many cases men had to stop to pull their comrades out of the mire.  By 12 noon it was apparent that the infantry had reached their objectives except in the centre of the attack which was still held up by strong pill-boxes heavily manned with machine guns.  The situation became much quieter in the afternoon until 4.50pm when an S.O.S was sent in and all batteries opened up at once.  This, however, was soon broken up by artillery and machine gun fire.  Special reports are attached from Brigade Headquarters, Lieut MacGillivray F.O.O. 33rd Battery, Lieut A.B. Manning F.O.O. 36th Battery and Lieut A. Livingstone, Brigade Liaison Officer.

 

Place       Date    Hour                                                Summary of Events and Information

 

31.10.17                  The day was cloudy with poor visibility.  There were no enemy balloons today observed and only several odd enemy aeroplanes.  Three S.O.S. signals were sent up during the early morning at 4.05AM, 5.30AM and 5.40AM.  Apparently there were two counter-attacks on different fronts but these were effectively broken up.  Another S.O.S. was sent up at 5.40 in the afternoon but this counter-attack was also broken up and our infantry still hold all positions taken in the attack.  Operation Order No 117 was issued today referring to further preparatory barrages and harassing fire.

 

 

Lieut Col.

Comdg 9th Canadian Artillery Brigade.

 

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