53 Infantry Brigade Narrative of Operations 26 August 1917
Ref. Map. HOOGE. 1/10.000.
53rd Inf Bde No. C 703
53RD INFANTRY BRIGADE NARRATIVE
OF OPERATIONS 9TH TO 18TH AUG. 17
9th August. 1. At 12 noon 9th August, the 53rd Infantry Bde was disposed as follows:-
Bde. H.Q. )
8th Norf. R. ) CANAL RESERVE CAMP.
53rd T.M.B. )
8th Suff. R. NEW DICKEBUSCH CAMP.
10th Essex R. ) DICKEBUSCH HUTS.
53rd M.G. Coy. )
6th R. Berks. R. CHATEAU SEGARD.
Aug 10th 2. At 3.39 p.m. the 53rd Inf. Bde received orders to relieve the 54th Inf. Bde. And the 55th Inf. Bde. (less 2 Cos. 7th R.W. Kent R. in CRAB CRAWL) in the line on the night 10/11th August.
Orders were immediately issued for :-the 10th Essex R. to take over the line from J.19.b.9.9. to J.13.d.9.9. (YPRES-MENIN Rd. inclusive) from 7th Queens R.
The 8th Norf R. to take over the line from J.13.d.9.9. (YPRES-MENIN Rd. inclusive) to J.14.a.5.6. from 11th R. Fus. and 7th Bedford R.
The 6th R. Berks R. to take over the line from J.14.a.5.6. – J.14.a.8.4. – J.14.b.4.5. – J.8.c.7.3. from 7th Bedford R.
8th Suff. R. and 53rd T.M.B. to move to CHATEAU SEGARD Area.
53rd M.G.C. 3 Secs. employed on barrage fire on the 10th., to move back to DICKEBUSCH HUTS to refit. 1 Sec to move up early on morning of 11th to take over from 54th M.G.C. in left Sector of the line.
C.Os., Coy. Commanders and Advanced Parties of 8th Norf. R. and 6th R. Berks. R. moved forward at once, and reported at H.Q. 54th Inf. Bde. In RIDGE ST.
Similar details of 10th Essex R. reported at H.Q. 55th Inf. Bde. At DORMY HOUSE.
At 7 p.m. H.Q. 53rd Inf. Bde arrived at H.Q. 54th Inf. Bde. At this moment the S.O.S. Signal was sent up in front and the enemy were reported to be counter-attacking GLENCOURSE WOOD which was held by the 7th Bedford R.
G.O.C. 53rd Inf. Bde. At once placed 8th Norf. R. and 6th R. Berks. R. who had arrived in the RITZ ST Area, under the orders of G.O.C. 54th Inf. Bde. Who ordered 1 Coy of each Bn to move forward to re-inforce 7th Bedford R. and 11th R. Fus.: these 2 Coys were shortly afterwards re-inforced by 2 more (1 from 8th Norf. R. and 1 from 6th R. Berks. R.)
Information regarding the situation on the 54th Inf. Bde. Front was not very definite.
H.Q. 53rd Inf. Bde. Then proceeded to H.Q. 55th Inf. Bde. At DORMY HOUSE.
Aug 11th. 3. At 12.11, 11th Aug a message was received from 6th R. Berks. R. timed at 9.40 p.m. 10th Aug stating that the situation was somewhat obscure on their front but that our troops were still holding JARGON TR. and S.P. J.14.a.8.8.
At 4.20 a.m. a message from 8th Suff. R. timed at 3.15 a.m. was received stating that the Bn had arrived in RITZ ST Area.
At 8.31 a.m. a report timed at 2.15 a.m. was received from 6th R. Berks R. stating they had relieved relief 7th Bedford R. on the line of JARGON TR (J.14.a.5.5. to J.8.c.4.2.).
At 8.54 a.m. a message received timed 8.20 a.m. from 8th Norf. R. stating relief was complete: a further message timed at 3.15 a.m. was received at 7.1 a.m. stating relief was complete at 2.30 a.m.
At 6.34 a.m. a message by runner from the 8th Norf. R. timed at 5.50 a.m., reported S.P. J.14.a.3.3. had been re-captured by the enemy.
Orders were immediately issued by Bde for a counter-attack on this S.P.
At 7.35 a.m. message timed at 6.55 a.m. was received from 10th Essex R. reporting relief complete 6 a.m.
At about 9 a.m. the Brigade Major returned from the front with the news that the S.P. at J.14.a.3.3. had been retaken by the 8th Norf. R., and the line re-established.
The following is a brief account of the loss of the S.P at J.14.a.3.3. and its re-capture by the 8th Norf. R.
At about 4.15 a.m. the enemy opener a light barrage on the front line which had just been taken over by this Battalion. At 4.30 a.m. the barrage became intense and the enemy delivered a strong counter-attack. Shortly after this attack developed, the O.C. 11th R. Fus who had remained at Bn H.Q., received a report that the enemy had penetrated our line just S. of the S.P. J.14.a.3.3. which was held by elements of his battalion and the 7th Bedford R., who had not been relieved owing to the darkness. The S.O.S. signal had been sent up at 4.55 a.m. and Lieut. Col. FERGUSON D.S.O. O/C 8th Norf. R., had thereforeupon ordered 1 Company to be prepared to counter-attack immediately. A message was just then received from the Sergeant Commanding the Right Platoon of the Company holding the line W. of J.14.a.3.3. stating that his right flank had been pushed back, but that the left of the Coy was still holding on. The O.C. 8th Norf. R. having reconnoitred the position, found that the enemy were in possession of the S.P. and had brought 4 M.Gs into action and were in considerable strength. He therefore issued orders for 1 Coy to attack from the direction of SURBITON VILLAS, and 1 Coy to move up towards CLAPHAM JUNCTION and strike the enemy on his left flank. The attack to be carried out under cover of fire from Lewis Guns and snipers. The 6th R. Berks R. also were to assist in the attack by covering fire from the North.
This counter-attack was launched at 5.25 a.m,. and the position was again in our hands at 6 a.m. together with 9 prisoners, 2 of our M.Gs, and some of our troops who had been captured by the enemy were retaken.
This attack was carried out over a distance of some 600 yards of very rough and shell torn ground, the whole of which is dominated by this S.P. at J.14.a.3.3.
Captain J.D. CROSTHWAITE, Brigade Major, was an eye witness of the attack which he describes as having been carried out in a most daring and gallant manner. It was carried out without any artillery preparation and entirely on the initiative of the Commanders on the spot. The assaulting troops advanced by rushes under the cover of fire from Lewis Guns and rifles. The enemy losses were heavy: I myself saw a considerable number of dead Huns when I visited the S.P. afterwards.
I desire to record my appreciation of the able manner in which Lieut. Col. H.. de L. FERGUSON, D.S.O. O.C. 8th Norf R. handled the situation, and the splendid manner in which the assault was carried out. The leadership of the Officers and N.C.Os and the gallantry of all ranks in the assaulting Coys was worthy of the highest praise.
Unfortunately both Company Commanders of these Coys were hit, Captain W. BUNTING, M.C. being killed and Captain F.J. MORGAN, D.S.O. being severely wounded.
At 9.30 a.m. the Brigade Commander went forward to see C.Os, returning at 12.30 p.m.
At 10.15 a.m. orders were issued for the 10th Essex R., 8th Norf. R. and 6th R. Berks R. to attack at 4.25 a.m. on the 12th and capture the line:- J.14.c.10.05. – J.14,c.45. – J.14.c.67. – J.14.c.86. –J.14.b.0.1. – J.14.b.2.3.- J.14.b.28. – J.8.c.62.
At 1.25 p.m. message timed 12.15 p.m. from 8th Norf. R., stated S.P. J.14.a.3.3. re-captured at 6 a.m. Bn has 3 Coys in line from J.13.d.8.9. to J.14.a.45.55. 1 Coy about SURBITON VILLAS.
Divisional Commander visited Brigade H.Q. about 1.30 p.m. and left about 3.30 p.m.
1.30 p.m. 8th Suff. R. ordered to attack to-morrow morning instead of 8th Norf. R. who had lost heavily especially in Officers.
At 8.15 p.m. report timed 7.30 p.m. received from 8th Norf. R. stated that enemy counter-attack failed but that our artillery were slow in responding to S.O.S. Signals.
DORMY HOUSE and RITZ ST. Area heavily shelled from about 4 p.m. till about 7 p.m.
At 11.30 p.m. Gas Cylinders were discharged by us into the CHATEAU HERENTHAGE Area.
Heavy thundershowers during the early part of the night.
Aug 12th. 4. At 4.25 a.m. our barrage opened. It was a perfect morning and the light just right.
About 4.45 a.m. Lieut. Col. CLARKE Artillery Liaison Officer, reported he had just received a message from his F.O.O. stating “CIVIC Order No 93 cancelled”. Nothing was known about this at Brigade H.Q. and no such order had been issued by Brigade.
At 5.45 a.m. a message from 8th Suff R. timed 4.45 a.m. was received stating that assaulting Coys had lost their way and had failed to form up, and attack had therefore been cancelled. A Visual message to this effect had been despatched at 3.25 a.m. but had not reached Brigade.
The following is briefly the narrative of the movements of the two assaulting Coys of the 8th Suff R. who failed to reach the position of assembly.
Early in the afternoon of the 11th Aug Coy Commanders and guides from these Coys proceeded forward to reconnoitre.
The Coys were to have moved up at 5 p.m.
As the enemy shelled the RITZ ST Area heavily all the afternoon, Col HILL decided to move the Coys up later in order to avoid casualties. About 7 p.m. as these Coys were starting off, an enemy aeroplane came over flying low over SANCTUARY WOOD, and seeing some artillery horses in the Wood, dropped lights whereupon the enemy opened a heavy barrage on the Valley. In order to avoid this, the Coys moved towards HOOGE instead of going through the Wood. It was dark by the time they reached the YPRES- MENIN Road and they lost their way and failed to meet the guides who were waiting to take them up to the position of assembly.
The road is unrecognisable as a road at the point where they struck it, and they got into CHATEAU WOOD. It was not until daylight that they were able to find out their position.
5. At 6.50 a.m. Division asked whether it would be possible to carry out the attack in the afternoon. Brigade Commander replied “No” as it would not be possible to form up unobserved, but that Brigade were prepared to carry it out on the morning of the 13th , although the troops would be very tired by them.
At 11 a.m. Brigade ordered 8th Suff R. to relieve 8th Norf R. in the line on the night 12/13th .
At 12 noon Division ordered 7th Bedford R. to be placed under orders of 53rd Inf Bde and 7th R.W. Kents to be withdrawn.
At 1.5 p.m. Division ordered the attack proposed for morning of 13th to be cancelled.
At 1.15 p.m. orders received that 169th Inf Bde were to take over 53rd Inf Bde front between SURBITON VILLAS – BLACK WATCH CORNER Road (inclusive) and the Road running from HOOGE CHATEAU, along the Northern edge of GLENCOURSE WOOD (exclusive), held by 8th Norf R. and 6th R. Berks R. on night 12/13th.
During the night 12/13th , 2 Coys 7th Bedford R. relieved 2 Coys 7th R.W. Kent R. in CRAB CRAWL. H.Q. and 2 Coys 7th Bedford R. moved up to RAILWAY DUGOUTS.
Aug 13th. About 7 p.m. 12th , Major NOSWORTHY, 11nd Corps, came into Brigade H.Q. and informed the Brigade Commander that the Brigade would be required to attack on the 16th: the latter pointed out that the Brigade was not fresh enough to carry out an attack of this nature and make a really good job of it without some rest.
9th and 16th Bns London R. relieved 8th Norf R. and 6th R. Berks R. in the line during the night: relief completed by 6 a.m. 13th Aug.
Aug 13th. The Brigade Commander went up to reconnoitre the line.
S.P. J.14.a.3.3. was wired by the 79th Field Coy R.E. during the night.
Information from Division stated that Brigade would probably not be required to attack but only to hold the line.
At 10 a.m. the Brigade came under orders of 56th Division.
At 12 noon the Divisional Commander 56th Division, held a Conference at HALFWAY HOUSE, at which the operations ordered for the 16th were discussed. The Brigade Commander pointed out that 53rd Inf Bde were not fresh and that Battalions were not fit to carry out the attack except on a small scale. It was decided that the 7th Bedford R. should carry out the attack on the enemy S.P. at the N.W. corner of INVERNESS COPSE, and that the 8th Norf R. should attack S. of GLENCOURSE WOOD, and form a line of S.Ps from the N.W. corner of INVERNESS COPSE to J.15.a.1.2.
Brigade Commander saw O.C. 8th Norf. R. in the afternoon, and the latter informed him that owing to the heavy losses sustained by the Bn in Officers and N.C.Os he did not feel that his Bn would be fit to carry out the operation.
Aug 14th 7. During the night 13th/14th DORMY HOUSE and vicinity was heavily shelled: gas shells were also sent over and between 1.30 a.m. and 5 a.m. it was impossible to do any work in the Brigade H.Q. dug-out. 8th Norf. R. had 7 casualties amongst Officers during the night, a gas shell having penetrated and burst in a dugout occupied by these Officers.
B.G.G.S. IInd Corps visited Brigade Commander and the latter gave his opinion that the Bns of the 53rd Inf Bde were not fresh enough to carry out an attack.
The Brigade Commander attended a Conference held by Divisional Commander 56th Division at 10 a.m. at HALFWAY HOUSE.
Brigade Commander reported state of 8th Norf. R. and that he did not know how fit the 12th Middlesex R. (54th Inf Bde) was, but that this latter Battalion was very tired when it went out of the line.
It was then decided to place the 1/4th London R. under orders of the 53rd Inf Bde as well as the 12th Middlesex R.
The O.C. 1/4th London R. (Lt. Col. Campbell) was wounded on his way up in the afternoon to see Brigade Commander.
7th Bedford R. relieved 10th Essex R. in the Right Subsector, and 6th R. Berks R. relieved 8th Suff R. in the Left Subsector.
4.5” Hows bombarded N.W. corner of INVERNESS COPSE. About 15 Huns bolted from the concrete emplacement, but the emplacement itself was not destroyed.
Disposition of 53rd Inf Bde 12 mn 14th /15th Aug.
Right subsector ) 7th Bedford R.
J.19.d.9.9. to J.14.a.3.2. )
Left Subsector. ) 6th R. Berks R.
J.14.a.3.2. to J.13.d.9.8. )
8th Suff R. RAILWAY DUGOUTS.
10th Essex R. CRAB CRAWL.
8th Norf. R. CRAB CRAWL.
12th Middlesex R. RAILWAY DUGOUTS.
1/4th London R. CHATEAU SEGARD.
Aug 15th. 8. At 3 a.m. gas was discharged from projectors into INVERNESS COPSE.
Orders for the attack to-morrow were issued at 4.30 a.m.
At 6 a.m. 56th Division was asked to arrange for the destruction of the concrete emplacement in INVERNESS COPSE by H.A. Shoot arranged from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. This shoot did not take place.
Brigade Commander saw Officers Commanding 12th Middlesex R. and 1/4th London R., and explained the plan of operations.
1/4th London R. moved from RAILWAY DUGOUTS to Assembly Position.
Aug 16th. 9. Position of Bde at Zero Hour is as shown in para: 3 53rd Inf Bde Warning Order dated 14.8.17 (B.O. 223).
There was intense artillery activity N. of YPRES at 4.15 a.m. Our guns in the DORMY HOUSE Area were also active.
At 4.45 a.m. our barrage opened: the conditions and light were favourable.
At 6.2 a.m. 7th Bedford R. report (timed 5.40 a.m.) that their attack on the N.W. corner of INVERNESS COPSE had failed.
The assaulting Coy formed up N. and S. of JASPER LANE with its centre about J.14.c.25.55. Our shrapnel barrage is reported to have been good, but that immediately the Coy commenced to advance to close up to the shrapnel barrage, our 4.5” Hows opened short and inflicted so many casualties that the attack was broken up. The Officers of the Coy who were not casualties are positive that the shells which did the damage were not 18-pdr shells, and they state that the shells came from directly in rear of them. As the target allotted to the 4.5” Hows was at its most Western point at least 200 yards from the objective of this Coy, it seems almost impossible that it was caught in our barrage. I am inclined to think the shells were enemy 4.2” How fired from the ZANDVOORDE Group. The result however was the failure of the attack.
At 6.7 a.m. report from 1/4th London R. timed 5.30 a.m. stated that no reports from assaulting Coys had been received, but that wounded report S.P. 4 (J.14.c.65.85) was in our possession. Enemy barrage not heavy. A later message timed 5.35 a.m. (received 6.16 a.m.) stated that S.P. 4 was occupied by us and that the Bn had sustained rather heavy casualties leaving assembly area.
At 6.20 a.m. 7th Bedford R. were ordered to organise a fresh attack on the N.W. corner of INVERNESS COPSE.
The O.C. 7th Bedford R. had done so before he received the Bde Order, and reported at 6 a.m. (Received 8.3 a.m.) that the 2nd attack had failed and that he was too weak to carry out a further attempt.
At 7.50 a.m. a message timed 6.30 a.m. from 1/4th London R. stated that the Bn had gained the Brigade 2nd Objective (from J.14.d.9.2. to J.14.a.95.35.) and were in touch with 1/9th London R.
At 6.40 a.m. the Reserve Coy 12th Middlesex R. was moved forward from CRAB CRAWL to JACKDAW RESERVE.
At 7.50 a.m. 56th Division reported attack of 1/4th London R. appears to have failed. A message was therefore sent at 7.55 a.m. to 1/4th London R. ordering it to reorganise and send 1 Coy (or 2 if Companies were weak) round through GLENCOURSE WOOD to about S.P.s 10 and 11, and to attack S.P.s 5 and 6 by moving South from the Wood.
12th Middlesex were ordered to move 1 Coy to TUNNEL at CLAPHAM JUNCTION and 1 Coy to JACKDAW RESERVE.
At 8.35 a.m. 6th R. Berks R. were ordered to be prepared to support 7th Bedford R. with 2 Coys if required, as the latter Battalion was very weak.
At 9 a.m., a message from 1/4th London R. timed 8 a.m. stated “1 Officer and about 35 O.R. holding first Objective. Post 4 held by 15 men. 2nd Objective is roughly held and Post 5.”
At 9.5 a.m. however, Captain J.D. CROSTHWAITE, Brigade Major, reported from personal reconnaissance that the 1/4th London R. did not hold either the 1st or 2nd Objectives as reported by them, but that the assault had failed and they were crowded in JAP AVENUE and about J.14.a.3.2. That he had ordered them to reorganise and to push patrols out through GLENCOURSE WOOD to ascertain whether any of our troops were still on the line of JARGON TR. (J.14.d.2.9. to J.14.a.9.4.)
At 9 a.m. the situation on the Brigade front was as follows:-
7th Bedford R. and 6th R. Berks R. holding our original front line.
1/4th London R. in JAP AVENUE and about J.14.a.3.2.
12th Middlesex R:-1 Coy attached to 1/4th London R. 1 Coy CLAPHAM JUNCTION TUNNEL. 1 Coy about JACKDAW RESERVE. 1 Coy about JAM SUPPORT.
8th Norf. R. 2 Coys CRAB CRAWL. 2 Coys RAILWAY DUGOUTS.
At 9.25 a.m. 1/4th London R. was ordered to consolidate and hold the line gained, and to endeavour to gain S.P. 6 (J.14.d.3.9.) and to re-inforce S.P.s 4 and 5 if they were held by us.
At 9.45 a.m. Brigade Major again reported definitely that S.P.s 4 and 5 were not held by the 1/4th London R.
It was then evident that no further attack would have any chance of success unless carried out by a fresh Battalion. Orders were therefore issued at 10.15 a.m. for the 1/4th London R. to re-organise and reform about CLAPHAM JUNCTION, and for the 12th Middlesex R. to cover the re-organisation and relieve the 1/4th London R.
Reconnaissances made during the morning, ascertained that the N.W. corner of INVERNESS COPSE and S.P. 4 (J.14.c.6.8.) were strongly held by enemy with machine guns.
At 4.25 p.m. the following order was issued:-
1. “53rd Inf Bde will make no further attack to-day.
2. The ground gained will be consolidated, and 1/4th London R. before handing over the line, will endeavour to push down JARGON DRIVE and make good point J.14.a.6.1.
They will get touch with 169th Inf Bde who are establishing a Post at J.14.a.6.2.
They will then by means of small shell hole posts, join up JAP AVENUE with JASPER LANE to the South at J.14.c.2.6. and JARGON DRIVE at J.14.a.5.1. to the North.
3. 79th Field Coy. R.E. will construct “T” heads to the Saps in JAP AVENUE and JARGON DRIVE and wire them to-night, 12th Middlesex R. will provide covering party”.
During the day the 1/4th London R. was re-organised and partly relieved by the 12th Middlesex R. The relief of the advanced troops could not be carried till after dark: it was however, completed by 10.50 p.m., and the 1/4th London R. withdrew to CRAB CRAWL.
12th Middlesex R. also relieved 6th R. Berks. R. at 11.5 p.m.
At 8.55 p.m. 169th Inf Bde on the Left, reported they had lost Posts at J.14.a.9.3. and J.14.b.1.4. and were back in their original line.
The Brigade Major went forward again at 9 p.m. and remained in the advanced trenches all night assisting in the task of re-organising the line.
The Brigade Commander went forward as soon as it was light on the 17th. He ordered O.C. 12th Middlesex R. to thin out the troops in JAP AVENUE, to push a Post down JARGON DRIVE, and establish a line across between JAP AVENUE and JARGON DRIVE by means of posts in shell holes.
The enemy were fairly quiet during the 17th: there was the usual artillery activity on our back areas.
On the night 17th/18th Aug the Bde was relieved by the 41st Inf Bde and at 7.30 a.m. 18th Aug G.O.C. 41st Inf Bde assumed command of the line.
Commanding 53rd Infantry Brigade.
Aug 26th 1917.