Account of 56 Division Operations September & October 1916.
No OG 58
ACCOUNT OF OPERATIONS CARRIED OUT BY 56th DIVISION
DURING SEPTEMBER and OCTOBER, 1916.
1. On the 23rd August the 56th Division arrived in the St. RIQUIER Training area and remained there until September 3rd, when the Division moved partly by road and partly by rail to CORBIE.
During the stay of the Division at S. RIQUIER information was received that the Division would take part in offensive operations in co-operation with the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps, and each Brigade had an opportunity of practicing with the Tanks during its stay at S. RIQUIER.
On the arrival of the Division at CORBIE orders were received for the Division to proceed at once to the forward area with a view to going into the line to relieve the 5th Division on the extreme right of the British front.
On the afternoon of the 5th September the 168th Infantry Brigade proceeded to MARICOURT SIDING and came under the orders of the 5th Division, the remainder of the Division moving up to the CITADEL and HAPPY VALLEY.
Divisional Headquarters opened at the FORKED TREE (L.2.b.0.9.) at 10 a.m. on 6th September.
On the night 6th/7th the 56th Division relieved the 5th Division in the line in accordance with 56th Divisional Order No. 31. Divisional Headquarters was established at BILLON FARM on the morning of the 7th September.
2. On the 6th September a Warning Order was received from the XIVth Corps that it was intended to renew the offensive with the 16th and 56th Divisions on the line T.27.b.3½.4 ½. – 141.7 East of GINCHY. This operation was to be carried in co-operation with the XVth Corps, and was originally intended to take place on the 8th but was postponed to the 9th September.
3. In view of the offensive operations mentioned in the preceding paragraph, 56th Divisional Order No 33 was issued ordering the attack to be carried out by the 169th Infantry Brigade on the right and the 168th Infantry Brigade on the left with the 167th Infantry Brigade in Divisional Reserve.
The 169th Infantry Brigade assembled in LEUZE WOOD and the 168th Infantry Brigade in assembly trenches that were dug just South of LEUZE WOOD – GINCHY ROAD. The hour for the assault was fixed for 4.45 p.m. By 6.0 p.m. the 168th Infantry Brigade were reported to have reached all their objectives also the left battalion (Q.V.R.) of the 169th Infantry Brigade.
The situation as regards the 5th Londons (L.R.B.) on the extreme right was obscure. Information was also received that the left Brigade of the 16th Division had reached its final objective East of GINCHY, but that the right brigade had not made progress and was approximately on the line of the road from T.29.a.1.4. T.20.c.1.5. to T.20.d.3.2. where they connected up with our own troops. It was also reported that there was a fair number of Germans still about T.20 central.
The 169th Infantry Brigade was instructed to clear up the situation on its right flank by putting in its reserve battalion if necessary, and the 168th Infantry Brigade was ordered to put in its reserve battalions from about the Northern corner of LEUZE WOOD on a North Westerly direction so as to surround the Germans in T.20 central by joining up with the left brigade of the 16th Division along the GINCHY – 141.7 road.
In order to carry this out the 168th Brigade ordered the Kensingtons to reinforce the Rangers and the London Scottish to move forward on their left to the line of the GINCHY – 141.7 road.
4. 10th SEPTEMBER. Reports were received during the morning that the left brigade had occupied all its final objectives and that consolidation was proceeding; also that the London Scottish had succeeded in reaching GINCHY – 141.7 and were extending Westward so as to obtain touch with the Guards who had relieved the 16th Division and were supposed to be in position in trenches due East of GINCHY.
The day was misty and no confirmation of our situation could be obtained from the air. The London Scottish reported that they had failed to obtain touch with the Guards about T.14.c. On the right of the divisional front from the Q.W.R’s carried out an attack at 7.0 a.m. with the object of gaining the QUADRILATERAL due East of LEUZE WOOD but this attack failed.
5. On the evening of the 10/11th, arrangements were made for the 167th Infantry Brigade to take over the line held by the 168th Infantry Brigade, and a composite brigade of the 5th Division relieved the 169th Infantry Brigade on the Southern half of the 56th Divisional front. During the morning of the 11th, , reports were received that our troops holding the QUADRILATERAL had been driven out previous to the relief taking place, and that the Northern extremity of our line now rested at T.21.a.4.8.. It also transpired that the London Scottish were not holding the line of the GINCHY-141.7 road but that they had on the previous day apparently lost direction in the mist and were occupying the trench facing North East in T.21.a. This situation was definitely confirmed by air reconnaissance during the afternoon which showed that the QUADRILATERAL in T.15.c. was in German hands. The 167th Bde made several attempts to gain a footing in the QUADRILATERAL but met with no success, chiefly owing to machine gun fire from T.20.b.
As the efforts to surround the Germans in T.20 had not proved successful, Corps decided that an attack against the enemy in this neighbourhood would be carried out as a separate operation by the 6th Division on the 13th instant, and the front held by the Division was consequently altered in accordance with 56th Divnl Order No 35. This operation however, did not meet with success. On the night of the 13/14th the Composite Brigade of the 5th Division was relieved by the 169th Infantry Brigade.
6. Orders were now received from the Corps that the main offensive would be renewed on the 15th instant, and that the main task of the 56th Division on the right would be the clearing of BOULEAUX WOOD and the formation of a protective flank covering all the lines of advance from COMBLES and the valleys running N.E. from COMBLES. The capture of MORVAL and LESBOEUFS was to be undertaken by the 6th and Guards Divisions.
7. Orders and instructions for the attack on the 15th instant were contained in 56th Divisional Orders No 37 and 38 which included instructions for the use of tanks, three of which were allotted to this Division. The 169th Infantry Brigade were again formed up on the right with the 167th Brigade on the left and the 168th Brigade in the rear, with orders to pass through 167th Brigade and to secure the right flank of the 6th Division in its attack on MORVAL. The attack was fixed for 5.50 am. and was carried out according to time-table. As regards the three tanks allotted to the Division, the male tank broke down on its way to the point of assembly owing to engine trouble, and this tank never came into action. One female tank rendezvoused at the S.W. corner of LEUZE WOOD and got as far as T.27.b.4.7., but was unable to proceed any further. The third tank cruised about the Northern side of BOULEAUX WOOD, but finally stuck at T.21.b.2.2.
The attack of the 169th Infantry Brigade failed to make much progress, and the bombing attacks of the 167th Infantry Brigade on the same objective were also held up. The attack of the 167th Infantry Brigade was successful as regards its first objective, but the 7th Middlesex, who were ordered to advance to the second objective were held up in BOULEAUX WOOD by hostile machine gun fire.
All efforts to make further ground were without avail. About 8.30 am. reports from out patrols indicated that the attack of the Division on our left was not progressing favourably. Consequently, orders were sent to the 168th Infantry Brigade that they would not keep to the time-table issued with Divisional Orders, but would await instructions from Divisional H.Q. before attempting to pass through 167th Brigade.
The situation on the evening of the 15th September was, therefore, that the 169th Brigade had only obtained a portion of their objective. They had progressed up the LOOP TRENCH as far as T.27.b.8.8., and they were in possession of the COMBLES TRENCH from LEUZE WOOD down as far as the track at T.27.b.4.4.
The 168th Infantry Brigade were holding the main German line running through BOULEAUX WOOD from T.21.b.2.2. to T.21.d.2.7., and had joined up with the 6th Division on our left on the LEUZE WOOD –MORVAL track at T.21.d.8.8.
The 167th Brigade had pushed forward posts into MIDDLE COPSE at T.21.b.2.8.
8. 16th SEPTEMBER. Was spent in consolidating our present position, and beyond a few isolated bombing attacks, no attack on any large scale was carried out to gain further ground.
Owing to the considerable success attained by the Fourth and Reserve Armies on the 15th instant, further attacks were carried out by the Guards Division and by the XVth Corps against LES BOEUFS and GUEUDECOURT. Attacks were timed to start at 9.25 am.
9. 17th SEPTEMBER. Instructions were received from the Corps that minor operations were to be carried out on the following day with a view to obtaining a satisfactory line for a further advance in the near future. The 56th Division were to capture the line T.21.b.7.3. – MIDDLE COPSE, where touch was to be obtained with the 6th Division. This attack was to be carried out at 5.50 am. on the 18th instant. The objectives of the 56th Division were allotted as follows. 169th Infantry Brigade to complete the capture of the QUADRILATERAL East of LEUZE WOOD. General direction of attack, S.W. to N.E. the 167th Infantry Brigade were to make good the S.E. face of BOULEAUX WOOD up to T.21.b.7.3., and secure a line thence to MIDDLE COPSE inclusive. The general direction of attack was to be from W. to E. the 4th Londons and the 14th London Scottish were attached to the 167th Infantry Brigade for this operation.
Rain started to fall on the evening of the 17th instant, so that the whole country very soon became a mass of mud, and progress over the ground near LEUZE WOOD, which was badly pitted with “crump” holes, became a matter of extreme difficulty.
The result was, that by 5.50 am., the time arranged for the attack, the troops of the left (167th ) Brigade attack had failed to reach their rendezvous. This attack, accordingly never materialised. The right (169th Brigade) attack was carried out under an artillery barrage but it again failed to make good its objectives. The attack was not renewed. The attack of the 6th Division on the QUADRILATERAL was completely successful.
On the evening of the 18th, the 167th Brigade was relieved by the 168th Brigade, while the 169th Brigade continued to hold its present front with orders to consolidate the ground gained and to push down the COMBLES Trench.
A Warning Order had now been received from the XIVth Corps that the general offensive would again be resumed on the 21st September, and that the task of the 56th Division was again to form a protective flank on the line from the N.E. Corner of BOULEAUX WOOD to the Southern end of MORVAL. With this object in view the ground in the vicinity of MIDDLE COPSE was reconnoitred, and instructions were issued for a trench to be dug on the night 19/20th running from the tramline at T.15.d.8.7. through MIDDLE COPSE on to BEEF TRENCH in the vicinity of the Tank at T.21.b.2.2. This trench was successfully dug by the 1/5th Cheshire Regiment and was occupied by troops of the 168th Infantry Brigade on the 20th instant, and on the night of the 20/21st strong points at T.16.c.1.8., T.15.d.9.4., and T.15.d.8.2 were connected up, and this system of trenches was used as assembly trenches for the next offensive.
Information was now received from the Corps that the attack arranged for the 21st inst. had been put off until the 22nd; it was again postponed until the 23rd, and finally postponed until the 25th September.
During this time the Division was busily employed in consolidating the line. On the 23rd instant, a change in the weather occurred and the ground rapidly dried in the fine weather that ensued.
Orders for the attack on the 25th September were issued in 56th Divisional Order No 43, which also contained instructions for the employment of two tanks, and instructions to the Special Brigade R.E., who had orders to create a smoke barrage across the Northern end of BOULEAUX WOOD.
On the 25th September, the task allotted to the 56th Division was the capture of the trench running from the Northern corner of BOULEAUX WOOD up to the tram line at T.16.c.4.6., and the construction of a strong post at the Northern extremity of BOULEAUX WOOD. This was carried out successfully by two battalions of the 168th Infantry Brigade – London Scottish on the left, 4th Londons on the right, who were assembled in RANGER and GROPI Trenches.
The assault of the 168th Brigade was timed seven minutes after zero to allow the troops on our left to come up into line, as we occupied trenches well in advance of the Division on our left. The Royal Fusiliers on the right and the London Scottish on the left advanced to their objectives close under a most efficient enfilade artillery barrage. The Royal Fusiliers reached their objective and cleared the Northern end of BOULEAUX WOOD without great opposition, but they killed a number of Germans who were occupying shell craters on the Western side of the Wood. This battalion suffered from snipers in the Southern part of the Wood, while they were establishing and consolidating the two strong points allotted to them. The London Scottish captured their objective the first German trench running N.E. from the end Corner of BOULEAUX WOOD without much opposition. The Germans were very strongly posted in the railway embankment N. of this trench, and for some time a hot bombing fight took place here. The left assaulting company put out of action and captured four hostile machine guns, but in spite of this suffered losses from the enemy posted in the embankments. This was finally cleared by 1.30 pm. and 80 prisoners were taken and sent back. Meanwhile, the leading company of London Scottish found the trench objective to have a poor field of fire, and also observed Germans driven out of BOULEAUX WOOD by the Royal Fusiliers withdrawing to a second trench running N.E. from the Eastern corner of BOULEAUX WOOD. This was captured, being cleared with the bayonet.
At a low estimate 150 Germans were killed in these operations a certain number escaped in the direction of COMBLES.
Eight prisoners were taken with four machine guns and five medium Minnenwerfer.
The strong points ordered to be made were sited further S.E. to conform with the greater extent of ground captured.
At 5.50 pm. the 2/1st Field Company R.E. and “C” Company 5th Cheshire Regiment were ordered forward to consolidate the ground won. Each section R.E. and each platoon of the pioneers had a definite job allotted to it, and the details of stores required had been worked out, and forward dumps had been formed at BILLON COPSE and at North GROPI Trench.
Touch was obtained with the 5th Division on our left after the embankment was cleared at 1.30 p.m., the 5th Division having exactly obtained the objectives allotted to them. The forward trench captured by the London Scottish was of great value in that it commanded a good view of the valley between MORVAL and COMBLES. Patrols were ordered to move Eastwards but could not at first be pushed far forward owing to our barrage in this valley, but in spite of the barrage our patrols moved several hundred yards East and cleared some dug-outs and captured a few more prisoners.
The Lewis Guns were invaluable in these operations as the dugouts and caves in the embankment were cleared by bombs, the Lewis Guns obtained many good targets as the Germans strived to escape eastwards.
At 10.40 p.m. orders were issued for the blocking of the COMBLES – MORVAL Road to prevent the exit of the garrison of COMBLES. One Officer, 40 O.R. and two Lewis Guns of the London Scottish were moved South along the tram line and established themselves at T.22. Central before dawn. Other posts were established to support them. At dawn our patrols moved down to COMBLES and met French patrols in T.22.d. coming from the Town. From this time on touch was maintained with the French North of COMBLES, and with the 5th Division in the MORVAL – LESBOEUFS Trench line.
10. 26th SEPTEMBER.
During the night of the 25/26th information was received from the French that the enemy proposed to evacuate COMBLES during the night. Brigades were directed to keep constant pressure on the enemy wherever they were in touch, and to patrol actively towards COMBLES from the S.W. N.W. and N. 168th Brigade was directed to block the roads leading from COMBLES towards MORVAL. A heavy barrage was placed across the valley N.E. of COMBLES and the French were asked to continue the barrage to the South, in their own barrage area.
The events of the night can be traced from the following:-
at 12.30 a.m. the enemy was working his end of LOOP TRENCH.
at 3.0 a.m. his bombing blocks opposite our right Bde were still active.
at 2.55 a.m. the enemy evacuated his post behind the derelict tank at T.21.b.2.1. and the 1st Londons had established a post there.
at 3.0 am. patrols from our centre brigade entered the ORCHARDS West of COMBLES.
at 5.30 am. The London Rifle Brigade who had worked down COMBLES TRENCH, obtained touch with the French on the railway.
at 7.0 am. the French occupied the portion of COMBLES south of the railway.
at 7.20 am. reports were received that BOULEAUX WOOD was clear of the enemy.
at 8.0 am. reports were received at 167th Brigade H.Q. that our patrols were in touch with the French along the railway through COMBLES.
It is thought that the bulk of the garrison of COMBLES escaped by the trench running through T.29.a. and b. and N. of FREGICOURT which was not in French hands until early on the 26th. A few small parties who tried to break away north were shot and dispersed by the posts of the London Scottish about T.22. central.
The trophies found in COMBLES were very few –
3 small Minnenwerfer
1 large do.
Large quantities of rifles, grenades and ammunition were abandoned there by the enemy.
Progress was made throughout the 26th by all Brigades and the situation on the evening of the 26th was that the 168th and 169th Brigades kept touch with the 5th Division at about T.16.d.9.9. and were holding the line of the road from that point through T.22.d.9.2. Two Companies of the Rangers were situated in SUNKEN ROAD between T.22.b.9.0. and T.22.d.9.0. ready to seize MUTTON TRENCH which runs through T.17.c. and d. as soon as that trench had been dealt with by Tanks. The situation in this trench was that the French were reported at T.23.c.8.6. and that the 5th Division were as far down as T.17.c.8.6. This trench in between, which was strongly wired on its Western side, was strongly held by the Germans.
Instructions were issued for two Tanks to proceed to MORVAL on the afternoon of the 26th with orders to work down in front of MUTTON TRENCH and destroy the wire, and the Rangers who were in SUNKEN ROAD were to occupy the trench, as soon as the Tanks were seen to have accomplished their object. One tank, however, stuck at the southern corner of MORVAL and the second tank stuck near the tram line in T.16.c. so the attack of the Rangers from the SUNKEN ROAD never materialised.
On the 27th inst., another three tanks were allotted to the 20th Division for the purpose of clearing up the situation as regards MUTTON TRENCH. This task was, therefore, handed over to the 20th Division and the 56th Division took no further part.
On the evening of the 27/28th the whole of the front was taken over by troops of the 1st and 2nd French Divisions and the 56th Division withdrew to the MEAULTE – SAND PITS and TREUX area.
11. On the morning of the 29th September, Brigades were disposed as follows:-
167th Inf. Bde In the area of SAND PITS & MORLANCOURT.
168th “ “ “ “ “ VILLE-sur-ANCRE & MORLANCOURT.
169th “ “ “ “ “ MEAULTE.
Divnl. Hdqrs BILLON COPSE
There was a conference of Brigadiers and Commanding Officers at H.Q. 169th Inf. Bde. MEAULTE during the morning.
In the afternoon, the preliminary moves as detailed in 56th Divisional Order No. 48 were carried out, the 167th and 169th Brigades moving up into the forward area.
A warning order had been received from the XIVth Corps stating that the Fourth Army would renew the attack on the line LE TRANSLOY – THILLOY – WARLENCOURT – FAUCOURT on or about October 10th, and to enable this to be carried out successfully it was necessary to gain by the 5th October, certain tactical points from which observation of the enemy’s main positions could be obtained.
During the afternoon Divisional Order No. 48 was issued for the relief on the night of the 30/1st October of the 6th and Guards Divisions in the Sector E. of LESBOEUFS.
12. On the 30th September moves detailed in Divisional Order No. 49 were carried out, and at 6.0 pm. Divnl Hdqrs closed at BILLON COPSE and opened at A.10.b.3.8. on the MARICOURT – BRIQUETERIE Road.
On the night of the 30/1st relief was carried out as ordered without incident, and on the morning of the 1st October Brigades were disposed as follows:-
169th Inf. Bde. holding the right subsector, with H.Q. at GUILLEMONT QUARRY.
167th “ “ holding the left subsector, with H.Q. GUILLEMONT STATION.
168th “ “ in reserve in the area TRONES WOOD – BERNAFAY
WOOD, with two battalions at the CITADEL and the Brigade H.Q. at the BRIQUETERIE.
At 7.0 am., with a view to co-operating with operations further N., a heavy bombardment of the LE TRANSLOY line and other selected points commenced and lasted until 3.15 pm. when the XIVth Corps opened an intense barrage on the enemy’s defences on its front. Under cover of this barrage patrols were pushed out with a view to establishing themselves on a line running approximately parallel to the Divisional front at a distance varying from 500 to 300 yards from it.
The patrols left our trenches and advanced apparently without difficulty. It was not until the evening that the left battalion of the left brigade reported all objectives gained and parties digging in. The right battalion of the left brigade reported RAINY TRENCH occupied by one platoon with posts pushed forward to the Crest – The report about the posts was not correct. The position of the patrols of the right brigade was obscure because although the patrols got forward, it was definitely reported by airmen that the trenches in T.5.c. central were strongly held by the enemy. A further air report showed our occupation of RAINY TRENCH doubtful, but subsequent events proved that it was undoubtedly in our possession.
13. During the night 1/2nd the 169th Infantry Brigade dug a trench parallel to and E. of FOGGY TRENCH, but it was some days before its position could be accurately determined owing to lack of aeroplane photographs.
14. On the morning of the 2nd October, 167th Brigade reported that they were uncertain as to whether RAINY TRENCH was held by them, but they had joined up a line of posts from N.34.b.0.9. to N.34.d.3.3.
During the night 2nd/3rd the right brigade took over 500 yards of the front line from the left brigade so that on the morning of the 3rd the Divisional front was held by 2 Battalions of the right brigade and 1 Battalion of the left brigade. This move was preparatory to relieving the 169th Brigade by the 168th during the night of the 3rd/4th the intention being to reduce the left brigade to a one battalion front in order to avoid the necessity for relief.
15. 3rd October. By this time it had been ascertained definitely that we were in occupation of RAINY TRENCH, and that DEWDROP immediately East of it was strongly held by the enemy.
During the night 3rd/4th the relief of the 169th Brigade by the 168th Brigade was carried out. Before the relief took place, the London Rifle Brigade seized and occupied at 8.30 pm. the length of isolated trench T.5.c. afterwards known as GERMAN TRENCH. This was connected up the same night by a communication trench to the trench immediately West of it (MUGGY TRENCH), and thence to our front line at FOGGY TRENCH.
16. 4th October. GINCHY and the area immediately North of it were frequently shelled throughout the day. A flight of 5 Hostile Aeroplanes over our lines preceded the commencement of the shelling.
On account of the extremely wet weather the renewal of the attack which had been arranged to take place on the 5th was definitely postponed for 48 hours.
17. 5th October. – was uneventful except for the usual shelling of our trench system and valleys to the West of LESBOEUFS.
18. 6th October. – intermittent shelling of our front line trenches by the enemy with occasional heavy bursts of 77 mm. fire. No enemy movement was observed but his snipers were active throughout the day. During the evening, a flight of four enemy aeroplanes reconnoitred over LE TRANSLLOY LESBOEUFS and MORVAL, and were fired on by our anti-aircraft guns and infantry.
From the 1st up to this date a considerable amount of digging had been done by our troops, so as to make a connected trench system which was necessary for launching the attack due to take place on the 7th. This work was greatly impeded by the wet weather which also prevented the taking of aeroplane photographs. Consequently it was exceedingly difficult to obtain correct information as to the position of our own troops and those of the enemy. It was known that the latter was occupying a number of short lengths of trench and gun pits between his main line in front of LE TRANSLOY and our own front system. Reports received from patrols indicated that the whole of RAINBOW and SPECTRUM TRENCHES were wired through; this was contradicted by a special aeroplane reconnaissance. The only definite positions known to be held by the enemy were RAINBOW, SPECTRUM, DEWDROP, Gun Pits in T.5.a. and HAZY TRENCH. It was suspected that DEWDROP and SPECTRUM had been connected by a trench.
The wet weather made living conditions extremely bad, this added to the length of time the troops had been engaged in offensive operations, and the hostile shelling had considerably lowered the fighting efficiency of the Division.
During the night 6th/7th the Divisional front had been readjusted to allow of two battalions of 167th Brigade and three battalions of 168th Brigade being in the front line.
19. 7th October. – shewed improved weather conditions. The task of the 56th Division in the attack which was to take place at 1.45 pm. was divided into two portions, the first objective was the capture of the Southern portion of RAINBOW TRENCH, SPECTRUM, DEWDROP, and HAZY TRENCHES; the second was to push forward a further 500 yards and establish a line within assaulting distance of the enemy’s main TRANSLOY line. This second position was to be strengthened by numerous strong points, communication was to be obtained with the 20th Division on the left, and our right flank slightly advanced to gain and keep touch with the 56th French Division on the right.
A heavy bombardment of the enemy’s position was maintained throughout the morning; this was not to be increased before zero hour for fear of disclosing our intention to attack. The assault under cover of a standing and creeping barrage was so arranged that troops which were farthest away from their objectives started at Zero hour and the remainder at varying times according to the distances to be covered so that all assaulting waves should reach their first objectives simultaneously along the Divisional front. This expedient was necessary owing to the fact that it had been impossible to construct a continuous line parallel to that held by the enemy, and a barrage conforming exactly to our irregular line of departure trenches would have been dangerous.
The first reports received showed that the infantry went forward well, and it was shortly afterwards reported that they had gained their first objective. However, this later proved to be incorrect. The left battalion of the left brigade (7th Middlesex Regt.) having reached its first objective and occupied it after some minutes of hand to hand fighting in which they succeeded in capturing a number of prisoners (70 odd). The right battalion (1st London Regt.) of the left brigade was not so successful although it was repeatedly reported that it had taken SPECTRUM trench. Actually the left company of the 1st London Regt reached its objective in SPECTRUM, bombed up to the left, where it obtained touch with the 7th Middlesex Regiment. Several Germans were killed and a machine gun captured. The right brigade were reported as having captured all their first objectives and at 2.15 pm. observers reported seeing troops move forward to their final objective. The first definite information received was from an aeroplane report at 4.3 pm. which stated that the situation at HAZY TRENCH was doubtful but it was thought that this trench was in our hands. The enemy could be seen in occupation of the gun pits at T.5.a.4.7. The attack on DEWDROP and SPECTRUM TRENCHES had failed, but we had gained and were holding RAINBOW TRENCH. The observer stated that owing to the strong wind that was blowing he was unable to vouch for the accuracy of his report. Shortly afterwards the right brigade reported that the advance of their left battalion was being held up by two machine guns in the gun pits T.5.a.4.7. Reserve companies were pushed forward with a view to assisting the advance, but they in their turn failed to dislodge the enemy from this point. Up to nightfall, no further definite information was received. At 6.45 pm. the following orders were issued: – Right Brigade (i) to push out a company from RAINBOW TRENCH and establish a strong point at N.35.a.3.9. and round up the enemy occupying SPECTRUM and connect up with a post which was reported to have reached N.35.a. central. (ii) to dig a trench 200 yards W. of SPECTRUM from which a further attack could be launched if necessary. One battalion from the reserve brigade (169th Infantry Brigade) was placed at the disposal of the 167th Brigade. 168th Brigade was to ascertain whether or not DEWDROP was held by the enemy. (I) If found empty it was to be occupied and posts established to connect between N.35.a. central and HAZY TRENCH. The battalion from the reserve brigade which had been sent up earlier could be used for this purpose. (II) If DEWDROP was held by the enemy a new trench was to be dug 200 yards to the West to admit of bombardment should a new attack be launched. The organisation of a fresh attack was to depend on the reports received from the 168th Brigade as to whether DEWDROP was held by the Germans.
On receipt of information as to the position of the right flank of the 20th Division our left brigade was ordered to obtain touch with it about the Southern end of MISTY TRENCH.
About 7.30 pm. a report was received that we had a footing in the Northern end of SPECTRUM TRENCH where a machine gun had been captured and further progress was being made by bombing.
At 9.10 pm. a message was received stating that the French on our right had fallen back to their line of departure, that the right battalion of the right brigade had been counter-attacked and forced to withdraw from HAZY TRENCH, and the gun pits in T.5.a. central to the trenches from which they had delivered their assault in the morning. By this hour it was definitely ascertained that the Germans were in occupation of DEWDROP.
20. On receipt of instructions from Corps Headquarters orders were issued for the attack to be renewed on HAZY, DEWDROP and that portion of SPECTRUM not in our hands on the morning of the 8th . The night which was comparatively quiet was spent in digging the necessary trenches and re-organising troops for the attack on the forthcoming day.
Owing to our proximity to the objective it was necessary to withdraw from the Northern end of SPECTRUM TRENCH and from RAINY TRENCH so as to allow of the bombardment of SPECTRUM and DEWDROP Trenches.
21. To enable the attack to be carried out, two battalions of the reserve brigade were placed at the disposal of 168th Brigade and one battalion at the disposal of 167th Brigade. These were to be employed either for carrying out the attack or for assisting in the digging of the necessary trenches. As it was unavoidable that the order should be issued very late at night, great difficulty was experienced in getting the troops into position and it was not until daylight that the last battalion reached its assembly trenches. Arrangements for the bombardment and the artillery support were similar to those of the previous day except as regards the barrage. On the 7th RAINY TRENCH was occupied by our troops, and the barrage on DEWDROP was provided by Stokes Mortars. On the 8th in order to allow the artillery barrage to reach DEWDROP, RAINY TRENCH had to be evacuated. Several adjustments of the barrage had to be made, as many batteries owing to the short range were unable to clear LESBOEUFS and hit DEWDROP TRENCH. This readjustment of lines of fire may have been responsible for the thinness of the barrage on the 8th. The assaulting troops, however, left their assembly trenches at Zero hour irrespective of the distances from their objectives. The bombardment by the heavy artillery was not successful, chiefly owing to the difficulty of observation caused by the weather conditions, and many shells were reported to be falling very short. Shortly after Zero a report from an F.O.O. stated that our infantry were advancing along our whole front and that the enemy could be seen leaving their trenches and running back over the rise. This, however, was not the case and at 3.55 pm. a message was received from the left brigade which stated that their attack had been held up by heavy German barrage and machine gun fire and had definitely failed. On the other hand, the left battalion of the right brigade were reported to be progressing favourably. No definite reports were received as to progress of the right and centre battalions of the right brigade until later in the afternoon when a report was received from a wounded officer of the battalion on the extreme right that he had seen his company go through the gun pits in T.5.a. central and enter HAZY TRENCH. At this time reports from wounded tended to show that the extreme right had got to its final objective. No definite news, however, was to hand as regards DEWDROP TRENCH until a message was received that the situation of the right battalion as discovered by the personal reconnaissance of the Commanding Officer was as follows:- His battalion were digging in just West of HAZY TRENCH which was held by the Germans. His left was in touch with the centre battalion about T.5.a.5.9. and his right at T.5.a.7.3. The centre battalion appeared to be East of DEWDROP. The position of the French on the right was unknown.
22. 9th October. At 12.10 am. the O.C. of the centre battalion returned from personal reconnaissance and reported that DEWDROP and RAINY TRENCHES were held by the enemy and that his battalion was back at its departure line having been heavily counter-attacked at dusk from the direction of DEWDROP. It was also ascertained that the same counter-attack succeeded in dislodging the right battalion which appeared to have been digging in in prolongation of RAINY TRENCH, in a Southerly direction, bringing back with them 17 prisoners and a machine gun.
On the morning of the 9th the situation was that with the exception of our gains in SPECTRUM trench, we were back in our departure line, RAINY TRENCH apparently having been occupied by the enemy during our bombardment of the 8th.
During the early hours of the morning 167th Brigade had succeeded in digging a continuation of WINDY TRENCH for several hundred yards in a S.E. direction thus forming a more or less continuous line along the Divisional front.
23. During the night of the 9th/10th the Division was relieved in the line by the 4th Division and withdrawn to the back area.
Commanding 56th Division.
Head Qrs. 56th Divn.
29th October, 1916.