1 East York’s R Report 4 January 1916
This Reconnaissance was made with the object of finding a way into the enemy’s line with a view to a “silent” raid.
1st E. York R.
Report of Reconnaissance in front of trenches 81 – 83.
Monday 31st Jan[Dec] 1916[?15]. Lt Huntriss left trench 83 No M.G. emplacement at 10 p.m. with two Corporals and followed the line of Willows & on reaching the last one proceeded towards the Salient C.23.c.8.7. a ditch was crossed which could easily be jumped and then a dry ditch. The patrol then passed through a wire fence some distance from the enemy’s trenches & then proceeded directly for the enemy’s trenches about C.23.c.8½.6½. Here, when lights were sent up, knife rests could be seen in front of enemy’s parapet but no weak point was noticed. On returning the patrol crossed a sap which appeared to be grown over & disused & knowing this was not the way they came by they re-crossed it & proceeded towards what they thought to be their starting point. This was found to be a mistake on shots being fired at them which at first was thought to come from trench 84. This was discovered to be wrong on the TREES in front of LE HALLOTS FARM being noticed. A left handed direction was taken which brought the party into the L’AVENTURE – FRELINGHIEN RD &then they returned still being fired at. Even if a weak point had been discovered it would not be a possible to guarantee leaving a party there owing to its great distance from our lines.
Another party consisting of 2Lt Green & Sergt Barnes left trench 81 bay 15 & crossed the stream in front by bridge C.29.a.3½.5½. & proceeded Northwards for about 30X & then S.E. to enemy’s wire about C.29.A.6¼.5¼. There they discovered what was thought to be a very suitable gap for the enterprise, the wire being badly damaged & very low as far as it was possible to see. Two sentries were heard talking just to the left & somebody was walking up & down the footboards. The party then returned.
Another party went out from Trench 82 under L.Cpl Kelly & proceeded to enemy’s wire C.29.A.8.7. but failed to find any suitable place.
Tuesday 1st Jan 1916. A party went out under Lt Huntriss to confirm the information gained by Lt. Green on the previous night & proceeded by the same route. The wire was reached & a weak spot noticed. Many “Crows feet” were parked which were intended to stick in one’s knees. A gap was found & apparently the same sentry post was noticed but on this occasion the sentries fired into the wire. This was again thought to be a suitable place. The position was kept under observation by listening posts of 1 N.C.O. & 5 men until 5 a.m. but no movement was seen.
A party under Lt. Green set out from M.G. emplacement in Trench 83 with a view of reconnoitring the ground about C.23.c.9.4. but owing to the great distance & the dense mist the party lost their bearings & after great difficulty returned. The ground is very unsuitable for night operations owing to the lack of landmarks.
Wed 2nd Jan 1916. The enemy’s wire was observed through glasses throughout the day & the conclusion arrived at was that the wire about C.29.A.6 ¼.5 ¼. was the weakest.
A party under Lt. Huntriss left trench 81 with a view to making sure of the former & also of penetrating the wire if possible. On getting about 50X from the enemy’s wire it was discovered that [a] wiring parties were working on a frontage of about 150X. At the same time sniping was very brisk about the gap & on to the ground in front. A covering party in front of wire was suspected & it was hoped to take a prisoner but on closer investigation the firing was found to be coming from the trench.
The party returned about 11 p.m. & a M.G. was turned on the wiring party.
It was then ordered that a party should go an hour later in order to investigate the gap & see if possible whether it had been closed. When the party arrived within about 50X of the enemy’s wire a great deal of sniping took place the bullets hitting the ground in front of the wire. The party however continued to within what was thought to be 5X of the gap. The sentry fired into the gap & the *** & a piece of the wire pierced the forehead of Sergt Baines who was slightly wounded. Not being able to ascertain the nature of the wound the party returned.
In addition the party heard a great deal of movement in this sector & sniping on the ground in front from all sections. Men were running about & a lot of extra talking took place. The sentry posts were about 4 times as numerous as previously. The conclusion is that the enemy are suddenly very much alert or else a relief has taken place.
3rd Jan 1916. A patrol consisting of Lts Huntress, Green & 2 Corpls & 6 men went out from Bay 30 of trench 82 & proceeded to bridge in willows at & from thence towards the German trenches at ?
The wire was found to be strong & formed of large Knife rests. The patrol then returned & proceeded to work along to the right about 100X & then again to within about 20X of the German wire. Here again large Knife rests were noticed but a gap was seen between 2 of them which was subsequently found to be *** up. The patrol was out from 10.30 p.m. to 1.40 a.m.
A strong patrol consisting of 2 N.C.O.s & 10 men went out from trench 81 in search of a white flag with orders to watch it carefully & to attack any party they saw. The flag was not discovered.
Wed 4th Jan 1916. During the day the German lines were carefully observed through glasses & a position located at — where the knife rests appeared either to cease or to be hidden by a rise in the ground. The ground behind this appeared to be free from wire except some trip wires on the parapet. Some distance behind the German front line could clearly be seen a large earthwork which is supposed to be a M.G. emplacement & which commands the front of the German parapet.
It was decided to investigate this position & at the same time to search the willows for a German Listening post.
The patrol consisted of Lt. Huntress, 2 N.C.O.s & 2men & supported in rear about 20X by Lt Green, 1 N.C.O. & 6 men. The party left trench 82 bay 30 at 10.30 p.m. & proceeded to bridge at —- & thence to 6 ft along the whole line of willows but no listening post was discovered. They then worked towards the German lines at —– & a working party was heard putting out wire.
Lt Huntriss’ party crawled as near as possible without detection, followed by support at 20X distance. Both parties could hear the working party talking & one man was thought to be working towards the party with a coil of wire & it was hoped that he would get close enough to the patrol to be captured. As this did not occur Lt. Huntriss sent to supports for 3 men & decided to approach near enough to rush the party. When three men arrived delay was caused through one of our men coughing & he had to be sent back & replaced. When this was done the word was given to go forward but they rather suddenly seeing three men walk along the wire from the left from the working & the whole disappeared over their parapet.
Suspicions that the party would be relieved & also that the party of 3 might be a listening post relieving, the patrol waited about ½ hour on hearing or seeing nothing returned.
The patrol was out from 10.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. The patrol had some difficulty in getting back & although carefully warned the 15th D.L.I fired on them.