276 Bde R.F.A. NARRATIVE OF ACTION 31/7/17.
3.50 a.m. The Barrage started well synchronised and was carried through until
6.5 p.m. when all batteries ceased fire.
The gun teams and wagons reached the assembly positions at 4.5 a.m. and moved out again at 5.15 a.m. They were all at their respective gun positions at 5.45 a.m.
5.50 a.m. Brigade Headquarters left the RAMPARTS and proceeded to
6.45 a.m. This was the time at which the first battery (C/276) moved forward from
its original battle position down No 6 Track. Before it arrived at LIVERPOOL TRENCH it was found that the track forward from there to ADMIRALS ROAD had been very heavily shelled, and was temporarily impassable.
With reference to the track, a party of 50 men under the Regimental Sergeant Major had moved forward at Zero to repair and level up any holes or obstructions.
There was, however, a considerable amount of shelling on the track for several hours, sometimes heavy and sometimes light. This resulted in craters being constantly formed which added greatly to the difficulty of getting both the battery in and teams out.
7 a.m. Further reconnaissance had been made and the batteries which had been halted west of LIVERPOOL TRENCH were ordered to advance forward into action.
7.35 a.m. First message timed 7.35 am received from F.O.O. stated “Infantry are
advancing with slight resistance”.
Tanks are doing good work. Hostile barrage feeble.
Battalion Headquarters will be in CALL RESERVE, C.23.c.5.9.”
This message raised first doubt as to the capture of the Black Line which should have been in our hands at 6.5 a.m.
8.35 a.m. All 18 pdr batteries had arrived at their positions but were not yet in
Communication had broken down with Division.
Information in possession from runners that there had been trouble in taking CAPRICORN, and in a message to 55th D.A. timed 8.55 a.m. there is a statement “I do not know if the Black Line is taken”.
9.33 a.m. Information passed to all batteries “Our Infantry has been held up at CAPRICORN and BANK FARM. Whether Black Line is held is not yet clear. Urgently require message that you are in action and firing on barrage lines.
9.55 a.m. All 18 pdr batteries and 3 4.5” Hows in action registered and ready to
10.2 a.m. Fire opened and maintained throughout the two hours laid down before the advance to the Green Line and its consolidation without difficulty and without calling for any special comment.
11.30 a.m. Immediately on arrival at ADMIRALS ROAD steps had been taken to improve the road from ADMIRALS ROAD into the WIELTJE – GRAVENSTAFEL ROAD – German prisoners were made use of for this – and at this hour it was reported to be just passable.
A forward road reconnaissance reported that the WIELTJE – GRAVENSTAFEL ROAD up to the German front line was passable, but through the front line system it was quite impassible. The Divisional R.E. Officer in charge of roads in this area was seen, and he stated he was in charge up to the German front line.
Communication having been re-established with Division, R.A. were informed of the necessity of organised repair of the WIELTJE – GRAVENSTAFEL ROAD East of the German front line.
11.41 a.m. All batteries warned that further forward advance would not be by Brigade but by batteries, no battery moving until the previous one had arrived at its position and reported in action. Gun teams and wagons of loading battery ordered up to original battery position.
Leading battery ordered to await definite information of the capture of the Green Line before leaving present position.
12.35 p.m. R.A. informed that forward telephone station was established in CALL SUPPORT and not at RAT FARM and that all four batteries were firing.
12.25 p.m. Message received that our Infantry were held up from C.18.b.2.2. (FORTUIN) to C.18.a.6.5. (Left Flank of Divisional Zone).
1 p.m. Following message from F.O.O. timed 1 p.m. by runner “Attack on Green Line has every appearance of complete success, many prisoners, 3 Field Guns, 4 Machine guns captured. Fairly heavy shelling along line HINDOO COT – SOMME – APPLE VILLA”.
1 p.m. Several messages received from batteries’ forward observing stations through their batteries verbally quoting reports from prisoners and giving their own views of the state of affairs, and information also received verbally from Infantry – the situation as to the Green Line not clear.
1.11 p.m. The following telegram sent to R.A. “Until situation clear as to exact position of most forward troops Batteries will stand fast on S.O.S. line”.
Verbally by telephone R.A. that all batteries reported road east of German front line absolutely impassable. Informed that this portion of the work of preparing the road of advance was in the hands of Corps R.E.
1 pm to Representation made that Heavy Artillery should be warned not to
3 p.m. advance to positions now occupied by Divisional Artillery Batteries until definite information received that they had vacated their positions and moved forward.
2.10 p.m. It was now clear from own information and verbally from information received by Infantry that no further advance of Batteries was possible at the moment. Instructions sent to Brigades covering left half of Divisional Front to fire slow rate on protective barrage lines, searching 500 yds in depth.
3 p.m. Message from F.O.O. – “Enemy is massing on Left flank and counter attack expected. Be prepared to open fire any moment. Infantry are not in touch with Division on left”.
Untimed message, probably by telephone, from O.P. on Hill 35 to SOMME and on to RAT, and on to RAT, thence by wireless from RAT to unknown receiving station – “GREEN LINE has been captured all right but is still uncertain on left.”
4 p.m. Information from Infantry that we held the Right Boundary of GREEN LINE, thence along ZONNEBEKE – WINNEPEG ROAD to D.13 b central, thence line of gun positions S.W. of SCHULER FARM, thence due west to BORDER HOUSE. Elements of IMPUTE and IMPOSE are ahead of this line, but touch lost with them at this moment through Left Division being held up.
Communication with R.A. had now entirely ceased.
Sent instructions to all Brigades to bring back protective barrage to the line Right Flank of Green Objective – NILE – WINNEPEG.
4.55 p.m. At this time it was clear that the North Lancs had retired, that a very heavy Counter attack had been delivered from the direction of WURST FARM, and that the left protective flank which the 2/5th Lancs Fusiliers had endeavoured to form from SCHULER FARM to BORDER HOUSE had been driven in.
With absence of communication with R.A., following order issued to all Brigades:- “New S.O.S. Line will run 300 yds beyond the line running from D.14.c.7.0. to BORDER HOUSE, C.18.b.0.8. Brigades will cover that portion of this new S.O.S. line between their longitudinal boundary.
How Battery S.O.S. Lines will conform to this line by firing on suitable objects indicated in How barrage map issued with attack orders.”
Untimed wireless message from F.O.O. at RAT FARM received from unknown receiving station – “Hostile Infantry are not in possession of GALLIPOLI RIDGE”.
5.15 p.m. Following message from F.O.O. – “Infantry holding Black Line state enemy is holding dotted Green Line and GALLIPOLI RIDGE and have posts 100 yds in advance. This cancels last message. This verbal message from Infantry established the fact that we were in the Black Line, and with no definitely known posts in advance. It was considered imperative to protect Black Line and accordingly following message sent 5.47 p.m. to all Brigades “New S.O.S. Line 300 yds beyond original Black Line. Open with S.O.S. fire and continue with one rd per gun per minute if consistent with your ammunition supply.”
7.11 p.m. Communication reopened with 55th D.A.
Thereafter the barrage line of the Divisional Artillery was placed so as to protect the Black Line, and until the Infantry were relieved by the 36th Division, a constant night harassing fire was kept up from the S.O.S. Line right back to the GRAVENSTAFEL SWITCH, and also by day, varying in its intensity according to the weather and visibility, rising to 1000 rds an hour for 18 successive hours and dropping to 100 rds an hour when the area could easily be covered by rifles and machine guns.
This was of course, in addition to various calls for S.O.S. which were required to break up enemy counter attacks.
Liaison was maintained with the Battalions in the line the whole time, and in addition to battery O.P’s a Brigade O.P. also was maintained.
Points for consideration in future operations for attack from a permanent Trench System.
1. Brigade Headquarters.
When Batteries will move forward at a certain time in the day, Brigade Headquarters should move to its advanced station, from which it will control the batteries in their first advanced position, not later than “Y” day.
There seems no reason to retain Brigade Headquarters at its old station, as no control is possible at Zero nor during the moving barrage. An Officer might be left at old Brigade Headquarters to receive messages and report movement and compliance with orders.
Provided Brigade Headquarters is at its advanced station, it is then ready to organise with its signal section, communication between Brigade and Batteries while these are on the move, and control them immediately they come into action.
2. Accommodation for Brigade Headquarters.
Forward Stations of Infantry and Artillery Brigades are usually selected on the basis of accommodation available. It appears that where there is considerable accommodation the Divisional Staff holds the view that the Infantry Brigade requires the following rooms:-
G.O.C. Telephone room.
Clerks Office. Accommodation for men.
While the Artillery Brigade is given two rooms only.
This meant that one room was packed with men, and the other was the office of the Brigade Commander, Adjutant, Orderly Officer, and Signal Officer, the mess, cookhouse, telephone room, and the sleeping accommodation, a situation of affairs which made careful and quiet handling of the situation an impossibility.
It requires to be laid down that the Liaison Officer with the Infantry Brigadier conducting the attack must be a senior Artillery Officer with authority to act in the event of communication breaking down. The point to remember is that communication forward may fail, and that all information will come back by runner. In fact, except under the most favourable circumstances, one may count on the information being by runner, and that being so, the Infantry Brigadier’s office and the Artillery Brigade who get F.O.O’s reports, is the centre of information.
This senior Liaison Officer must be freed from the command of his Brigade. He will require one officer, two clerks and signalling personnel for the system of the Group he commands. I found, as a fact, it was necessary in the exceptional circumstances of this battle, to organise on the day, two groups. Instructions went to one senior officer for the whole Right Group, but the Left Group was run by messages to Brigade “A”, Brigade “B”, and four messages to all batteries of Brigade “C”. the labour was altogether than could be carried out by any one man for longer than a very short period.
4. Extra tactical Officer on Brigade Staff.
It is recognised that this in theory is the Adjutant’s work, but in practice it is my opinion that the Adjutant’s services can be fully used on the administrative side in such matters as ammunition, casualties, reinforcements, and material, and the other officer now suggested would be available as “G” Officer in the drafting of the orders decided upon by the Brigade Commander, the supervision required to see that orders are received, the coordination of the information, and those odd jobs which are placed on a Brigade Commander prohibiting him from giving that time to thought and consideration of the position which are necessary to the proper handling of a number of batteries which may be anything from 4 upwards.
5. Forward Communication in Battle.
It must be primarily realised that the Divisional forward communications are for intelligence only, and are not available for batteries. Brigades must be responsible for their own lines to batteries. Batteries must be responsible for their own O.P. wires. They cannot be allowed a call on the Divisional System.
As to the bury system, there may be a controversy as to whether a 6 feet of [or] 6 inch bury is the better. In the one case it may stand more shelling, but if cut, takes up to 48 hours to remedy; in the latter, it is more vulnerable, but can be found and repaired quicker. But the outstanding failure of the buried system is this – the installation of a large number of test stations and exchanges into which the wires come.
I find as a fact that these stations are left in the hands of N.C.O. Signallers, and any officer going into the station, and treating his messages as all officers do treat their messages, as being of the most vital importance, feels himself at liberty to adjust wires from terminal to terminal. When wires are allotted, and the station completed, the terminal board should be locked to prevent switching over of wires and running loops and there must be an officer at each testing station with a thorough knowledge of the entire Divisional System, with power to prevent meddling with the wires by any officer, no matter how senior.
(sgd) T.E. Topping Lt Colonel
276 Bde R.F.A.
1. THE MAKING OF TRACKS.
(a) The labour of throwing down and bridging a large trench is underestimated.
(b) The track should be wide enough for two vehicles to pass.
(c) Any belts of wire through which the track passes should be cleared for at least 12 feet on each side of the track. This will allow traffic to pass a shell hole in the centre of the track where the old belt of wire crossed it.
From experience on the SOMME and in the third battle of YPRES it might be assumed that the supply of ammunition within the Division, that is from ammunition column to wagon lines or forward dump, and thence forward by wagons or pack animals, can be kept in excess of any demand by the guns experienced so far. On July 31st, batteries fired 4000 rounds.
It is a mistake to send reinforcements two days before the battle. Reinforcements for Howitzer Batteries should consist of Howitzer gunners. 18 pdr gunners were sent to Howitzer batteries on July 29th. The question of reinforcements for batteries and Infantry are on a totally different plane. Batteries must be kept up to strength or they cannot work. All batteries should be brought absolutely up to strength at least one week before the battle. Arrangements must be made for an immediate supply of reinforcements to replace casualties in battle.
Casualties on 31st July were not replaced till 2nd August.
4. Arrangements required for replacing ammunition wagons and water carts. A water cart knocked out on 31st July has not yet been replaced. (August 8th ).
5. FORTRESS RATIONS.
These were issued in anticipation of advancing beyond the German line and handed to all the men at the gun positions. It was anticipated that delivery to these forward positions might be difficult. This is admitted and the Fortress Ration is sufficient to carry on with, but when the second advance did not take place it is wrong for the supply not to augment the Fortress Ration when they had the opportunity of doing so. They issued to wagon lines but not to gun positions. In the event, under the most unfavourable circumstances, food was short.
The present method of replacing damaged pieces or broken gun carriages requires amending and expediting. The present method is as follows in the case of a broken piece. The gun is sent to I.O.M. I.O.M. wires battery concerned that gun condemned and to indent. Battery indents on D.A.D.O.S. D.A.D.O.S. wires battery to draw from a certain park. Battery issues order to wagon lines to collect piece and deliver to I.O.M. I.O.M. fixes piece on carriage and wires battery to collect. Battery collects. Bearing in mind the long distances between the battery positions and wagon lines which have always to be covered by runner or mounted orderly, and the many hours it frequently takes to deliver, the present method requires revision.
Before the battle all horses should be shod.
NARRATIVE OF ACTION 31/7/17.
A/276 Bty. R.F.A.
Fire opened at 3.50 a.m. according to programme, careful synchronisation of watches enabling all batteries to commence within a second or so of each other. Fire in the first (original) position ceased at 6.5 a.m. the programme having been carried through without incident; no hostile fire was noticed closer than 300 yds.
No difficulty was experienced in getting guns out of their pits.
Gun teams and wagons reached the Assembly position at 4.5 a.m. At 5.15 a.m. the gun limbers moved out in the order A. B, C & D Batteries at the walk. On arrival at the junction of the Track (No 1) and the Railway at H.12.b., it was found that a heavy battery was being shelled out at I.1.c.01.10. and in view of this, the direct route was taken to the BRIELEN ROAD and all vehicles got safely past at the trot, and arrived at the gun positions at 5.45 a.m.
At 6.45 a.m. C Battery drew out of its position to No 6 Track, followed by B Battery, A Battery and shortly afterwards by D Battery. On arrival at LIVERPOOL TRENCH it was found that the track had been rendered impassable by hostile shell fire and the whole Brigade was obliged to halt while men were sent on to repair it. After about 20 minutes delay, the advance was continued, but was again held up by the condition of the track at DURHAM TRENCH. This delay proved the most critical period of the advance, as the shelling on and around the track became particularly heavy, several men and horses being hit. Eventually B Battery got through to their position, followed by A and C. A Battery, however, only got up 5 guns at this period, the remaining gun having had its team knocked out and being passed by D Battery before a fresh team could be got to it, and this gun was then held up for a considerable time before it could be taken into action, D Battery having to halt while a passage was forced through barbed wire and over a trench.
At this period, some trouble was caused by the arrival of the pack horses of one of the batteries which had been forced to come forward by heavy shell fire on the track behind.
The B.C. with necessary staff advanced from original position at 6.30 a.m. reconnoitred route to be taken by battery, selected gun platforms and O.P., and made preparations for obtaining line of fire.
The method of obtaining the line in the second (WIELTJE) position was by Director (No 4) in front of Battery, but alternative methods were arranged for as a check in case observation should not be possible owing to mist or smoke.
A wire was run out to the O.P. in the enemy old front line, a distance of 700 yds. The guns having been brought into action, the line of fire was obtained as already explained, a few shots were fired on the selected reference points, and some small correction made.
The first supply of ammunition for the WIELTJE position came from 6 dumps of 50 per sub-section (total 300 per gun) previously placed in suitable positions and camouflaged.
Very little damage had been done to these dumps by hostile fire.
The barrage ordered for 10.10 a.m. to 12.10 p.m. was fired without difficulty.
Throughout the whole advance from the wagon line to the first position, and from the first position to the second position, the moral of all ranks was excellent, notwithstanding casualties to men horses and vehicles. The conduct of the gun detachments in action left nothing to be desired, and in this connection it should be stated that the guns in the second position were without cover of any kind, enemy shelling was heavy continuous and close.
In accordance with orders, the previous night, firing harassing programme was continued to ZERO hour, but from ZERO minus 1 hour with one gun only, and this gun ceased fire at ZERO hour. Throughout both barrages, 5 guns fired continuously, the sixth standing by to replace temporary casualties. This worked well.
Subject to the following observations, I consider that all arrangements made in accordance with higher authority and subordinate battery arrangements proved quite satisfactory.
1. It would have been better to have advanced by Batteries (instead of as a Brigade) with a 15 minute interval between batteries. This would have enabled the Battery following to have been warned of any check to the one in front, before coming over the crest.
2. Two tracks should be provided, one for vehicles going up, one for those returning.
3. The tracks should be at least wide enough to allow two vehicles to pass each other.
4. Pack transport should not be allowed on the road used by the batteries to advance.
5. Barbed wire and other obstacles should be cleared for at least a yard on each side of the track.
6. 20 yds distance between vehicles is absolutely necessary.
The most important lesson which the day’s operations provided was this – that in spite of immobile conditions of semi-siege warfare, and a life lived under cover of shell proof dugouts and gun-pits, the personnel of units can now be depended upon to advance under shell fire and to carry out a barrage in the open under shell fire in good style and without confusion.
(sgd) C.C. Furness, Major
Cmdg A/276 Battery R.F.A.
NARRATIVE OF ACTION 31/7/17.
Everything worked according to programme up to Zero plus 2 hours 15 minutes at which time the battery advanced.
A barrage was put on SALVATION CORNER through which teams had to advance to get to the guns. this was accomplished without casualties.
During the advance it was necessary to halt the guns in the neighbourhood of LA BRIQUE on account of a fairly heavy barrage which was put down between CONGREVE WALK and ADMIRALS ROAD. During this time a party under an officer was engaged at ADMIRALS ROAD in preparing the gun platforms. The guns eventually got into action and were all registered by Z plus 4 hours 30 minutes. In view of the block encountered on the track owing to mud and the congestion of teams outgoing and incoming on ADMIRALS ROAD the time taken is quite satisfactory.
The O.P. presented no difficulties, one being established in the old German front line immediately in front of the guns, from which a good view of the operations would have been obtained had visibility been better.
At about Zero plus 5 hours the enemy commenced to shell the Battery Position with such accuracy as to denote that he almost certainly knew where the guns were, having probably discovered this by setting alight the ammunition which had been dumped there several days previously. He continued to shell very heavily during the barrage on the attack for the Green Line until about Z plus 6 hours 40 mins. 50% of the personnel at the guns were casualties, but all the guns remained in action.
At Z plus 10 hours the route to advance a second time had been reconnoitred and pronounced impossible, the road over the German front line system being quite unrecognisable, and under continuous shell fire.
An advanced position was found, however, and as the Infantry situation at the moment appeared satisfactory, it might have been occupied had the route been more favourable. In the light of after events if this had occurred, the guns would almost certainly have been stranded within 300 yds of the enemy Infantry.
When it was definitely ascertained that our Infantry were holding the Black Line and that the guns would not again advance, the Battery position was moved 200 yds to the rear to avoid the shelling which was still going on intermittently on the old position, and a protective barrage was put down from this place in front of the Black Line.
(sgd) A.C. Swindells, Captain
Cmdg B/276 Battery R.F.A.
The following general facts forced themselves upon ones mind:-
1. The absence of enemy shelling for the first hour and a half.
2. The intensity and accuracy of the barrage which was then put down on the roads and tracks.
3. The blocking of advancing batteries on the tracks and consequent casualties through the tracks not being completed.
4. The extremely accurate and efficient counter battery work put up by the enemy on the new battery positions.
5. The presence of one or two enemy aeroplanes at a low altitude over the guns on two occasions.
6. The absence of any A.A. fire.
7. The uncertainty of the situation of the most advanced Infantry on the Green Line due of course to the low visibility, and consequent impossibility of aeroplane work and visual signalling.
NARRATIVE OF ACTION C/276 BATTERY
The morning was dull.
The battery opened fire at 3.50 a.m. and continued firing until 6.5 a.m. when the guns were hauled out of the pits, limbered up and removed forward.
During this period, few shells fell in the neighbourhood of the battery. At 5 a.m. the B.C. and R.O. went forward with a view to definitely fixing the position of each gun to get lines of fire out and establish an O.P. so that no delay should take place when the guns came up. LA BRIQUE was being heavily shelled at this time probably with a view to stopping movement forward by these roads.
Soon after getting over LIVERPOOL TRENCH, a heavy 5.9” and 4.2” barrage was met. This barrage was kept on for a considerable time. At 6 a.m. an order was sent back by runner ordering the battery which was due to advance at 6.5 a.m. to halt between LA BRIQUE & ST JEAN, this being repeated to other batteries in rear as it was considered impossible to get the guns through the barrage without very considerable loss. Whilst the battery was advancing, LA BRIQUE was still under heavy shell fire, but the guns came through without a casualty. The barrage in front of LIVERPOOL TRENCH eventually about 6.45 a.m. crept back, and the battery was ordered forward.
No difficulty was experienced in getting over LIVERPOOL TRENCH. The gunners who had been sent forward at Zero Hour to fill in shell holes on the track having levelled the track off. It was understood that the R.E. would fill in all trenches and cut the wire, but this had apparently not been done. The battery was held up two or three times by wire, a sufficiently wide track not being cut.
The greatest difficulty was experienced before reaching BILGE TRENCH, and round the trench the track being in a very bad state chiefly due to shell holes.
During the move forward, the track was shelled heavily.
Slight casualties occurred during this period, 6 men and 12 horses becoming casualties.
All ranks behaved with the utmost coolness. The driving was splendid, and no risk was too great for the drivers to take.
The line and position for each gun having been previously laid out the guns were quickly in action, and were ready to fire for a barrage if necessary.
Communication having been previously established with the O.P. previous to the guns arriving, registration was immediately carried out. The line was laid out by compass and No 4 Director, and this method was most satisfactory, as the correction from the line laid out and the registered line was just under 1 deg – at barrage range equal to 30 yds – this was reasonably accurate, taking into consideration the difficulty in absolutely fixing the gun position and the Zero point.
During the whole day, the guns were under shell fire, but at no time deliberately shelled, casualties occurring throughout the day.
1. Track should be completed as near as possible the night previous, and is essentially an R.E. Job. It requires a large party where trenches have to be crossed, as the labour entailed in filling in a trench is much underestimated. The party sent forward by the Brigade were unable to do the job they were intended for i.e. fill shell holes – owing to the R.E. failing. The track should be made wider and the wire where the track runs through it is cleared well on each side. The battery was held up several times during its advance, and all available gunners turned on to filling holes etc. This not only put the battery in a dangerous position of being wiped out, but also uses up the energy of the gunners too much.
2. More protection from aircraft is necessary. This was particularly noticed during the afternoon.
3. Visual signalling was found most useful, the O.P. never being out of communication the whole day with the battery as visual duplicated the telephone.
4. Pack horses were kept going the whole day, and this was the only possible means of carrying ammunition, saving endless labour by bringing it right up to the guns.
5. No gun was at any time out of action during the whole fight except for its rest period. Special attention was paid to see that each gun had a regular definite period of rest for cooling and cleaning out. Over 4000 rds were fired between 3.5 a.m. and 8 p.m. 31/7/17.
6. Water. brought up in petrol tins by pack horses – most satisfactory.
7. Rations. Issue of Fortress rations was unnecessary, as ordinary rations could easily have been brought up by pack.
8. Ammunition Supply. Forward dumps were priceless.
NARRATIVE OF ACTION 31/7/17.
The battery commenced operations at 12 midnight 30 – 31/7/17 by heavy bombardment of two hostile batteries by gas shell.
No deliberate retaliation by the enemy.
At 3.50 a.m. (Zero hour) guns switched on the barrage lines for the attack.
At 4.30 a.m. the R.O. was sent forward to the advanced position with signallers and director man with orders to site each gun and lay out lines of fire by magnetic bearing, checked by a switch from a known visible point.
At 8 a.m. the barrage being well under way I went forward with two signallers with a view to supervising work at the advanced position and establishing an O.P. in the neighbourhood of CALL RESERVE. I left two officers at the guns.
They and also all Nos 1 had reconnoitred the track for advance except for the last portion of it in the E side of ENGLISH FARM.
I went forward by No 6 Track. After passing LA BRIQUE about 5.10 a.m., the enemy put a fairly heavy 5.9” barrage along the LA BRIQUE ROAD.
About 200 yds W of BILGE TRENCH I found the R.O’s party held up by a barrage.
I sent back a message to the officer at the guns notifying him of the barrage and telling him the leading battery would probably be held up by it. He must therefore get in touch with all three batteries in front and find out when they were advancing to avoid a big block in the track; that he must use his own discretion as to the time of advance, but use every effect to have the battery in action at the advance position by 10.10 a.m. (Zero plus 6 hrs 20 mins)
About 6 a.m. the barrage lifted on to LIVERPOOL TRENCH.
I went forward leaving the R.O. and the advanced position, to CALL SUPPORT. From there I established visual communication with the R.O. Visibility was bad, but I could just pick up the Zero Point (WURSTFARM)
Teams and limbers arrived at the LOCK GATES position without difficulty. The enemy bombarding a heavy battery position at I.1.c.25.37. made it necessary for them to come past at a fast trot, but they suffered no damage.
At 6.5 a.m. guns were withdrawn and limbered up and an officer was sent forward to find out if the leading battery had got through the barrage. A party of men was also sent forward to repair the track.
At 7 a.m. information was received that the barrage was less severe and the battery in front was advancing. The battery then moved off along No 6 Track 100 yds between guns at a trot to point C.27b.3.2. where there was a block owing to the leading batteries being held up by a barrage.
About 8.30 a.m. the track in front was clear and the advance continued to point C.28.a.50.83. This advance was interfered with by some pack horses which had gone forward with the guns of one of the leading batteries.
Difficulty was then experienced in getting the guns from the track on to the actual battery positions. A revetted trench with some barbed wire running along it had to be crossed and there were innumerable shell holes.
No action had been taken to have this obstacle removed. It was understood approaches to positions would be made good by R.E. at Zero Hour. To help them, all spare numbers had been sent to report to the R.S.M. Nothing had been done here by the R.E. and owing to some misunderstanding about the rendezvous the spare numbers had not turned up until too late to do all the work required.
This took away any men I might have called on until the guns came up.
A certain amount of work – as much as possible – was done by the R.O’s party and all gunners put on as soon as the guns arrived.
Two guns were got across and were being man-handled into position when a shell burst between them temporarily laying out both detachments.
By this time I was in telephone communication from the O.P. When this was reported to me I left the O.P. and came down to the Battery Positions.
Three guns were got into action by 9.45 a.m. and the remainder an hour later.
The limbers returned to the LOCK GATES where a temporary wagon line was established pending instructions for a further advance.
At 12.30 p.m. I went forward to reconnoitre for advanced position in the neighbourhood of RAT FARM and BRIDGE HOUSE. I found the road WIELTJE – SPREE FARM quite impassable for any wheeled traffic from the enemy front line to BOESSAERT FM, and reported it to Brigade. The enemy was barraging this road, and also the WIELTJE – ST JULIEN Road.
I selected a possible position at C.24.a.0.5.
I looked round RAT FARM and BRIDGE HOUSE.
Both were enormously strong points, and undamaged by our Artillery Fire.
I noticed the same thing in the enemy front line system.
The Vundas were nonexistent, but nearly all his strong points dugouts were quite undamaged by artillery fire.
The remainder of the day was marked by no particular incident.
The area round about the battery was shelled intermittently but no damage was done.
1. Position. Not enough care was taken in selecting the positions. It was good enough for the advance as planned in fine weather. It should have been occupied at most for 6 hours – and was occupied for 6 days in the rain. This possibility should have been borne in mind more in the original reconnaissance.
2. Track. Not a sufficiently accurate reconnaissance was carried out and no action taken to ensure that the necessary repairs would be done. When told the R.E. would make it good, I took no further action. The exact coordinates of the position had already been sent in. if a careful report had been sent in by me showing just what work was required to make the approach good, much delay and difficulty could probably have been avoided.
(a) Forward dumps such as ENGLISH FARM are invaluable, but I think should be left for an emergency and not necessarily drawn on at once. I could get ammunition up more quickly and with far less strain on men and horses, by wagon from further back than by pack from ENGLISH FARM. But in case roads were closed, ENGLISH FARM was always available by pack.
(b) Weather protection such as 60 pdr cartridge boxes should be provided whenever possible for storing charges. Corrugated iron or tarpaulins are not nearly so good. I used them and lost 400 charges at least through damp.
4. Camouflage. From CALL SUPPORT looking down on to ADMIRALS ROAD, guns with ordinary netting camouflage in supports over them showed up far more conspicuously than guns with no camouflage at all. This is probably not so from the air owing to the straight lines of a gun.
But it seemed to me that a gun well camouflaged by painting, with no cover over it, would be more inconspicuous than anything.
1. There was surprisingly little barraging of main roads by the enemy. I brought ammunition up always by the ST JEAN – GRAVENSTAFEL Road and suffered no casualties and ran into no barrages on it.
2. On the morning of Zero Day an E.A. flying flew very low over our front line, and right over Battery positions. None of our aircraft were in sight, and not an A.A. fired. This frequently happened afterwards.