Eagle Trench

Eagle Trench

On the 6th August the 20th Division took over the right Divisional Sector of the 14th Corps from the 38th Division.

The task before the division was to capture LANGEMARCK village and a portion of the enemy’s GHELUVELT – LANGEMARCK line beyond the village. Before proceeding with the attack on Langemarck it was necessary to obtain the mastery of the STEENBEEK which was held by the enemy. This stream was liable to sudden floods and its steep banks presented a considerable obstacle. In addition to this there were many concrete blockhouses at intervals along the eastern bank of the river, the largest one constructed in the ruins of a house called AU BON GITE formed more or less the key of the position, and commanded all the approaches to the river from one side. The 59th Bde. which was holding the line, with the 60th and 61st Brigades in support and reserve was to carry out this operation, but the two latter Brigades took no active part in the fighting. The first attempt was made on the 11th August and was unsuccessful, the enemy having discovered the concentration and opened a heavy fire on our troops as they were assembling. The second attempt on the 14th August, made be the 10th and 11th Rifle Brigades was more successful and a line was established 200 yards east of the stream, but the Au Bon Gite still held out. At one period, it was captured and a number of the enemy were killed, but our men were again driven out after heavy fighting by a counter attack from a N.E. direction. The crossings of the Steenbeek had however been made good and it was now possible to arrange for the main concentration to take place east of the stream. The two Battalions engaged in the above operation carried out the attack with great gallantry; The attack was made over boggy ground across a stream which was too wide to jump and bridges had to be carried and put into position; all this was done under fire and it is safe to say that had the crossings not been sieged the main attack in Langemarck would have been a far more dangerous undertaking and in all probability would have failed.

The 59th Brigade had suffered heavily and on the night of the 14/15 it was relieved by the 60th and 61st Brigades in order from the right. On the night of the 15/16 these two Brigades were deployed into their battle positions east of the Steenbeek. It was a pitch dark night, the ground over which the troops had to move was very boggy and the concentration had to take place close under Au Bon Gite whose Garrison at any moment might give the alarm and so prevent the deployment taking place. So silently was this carried out and without a vestige of confusion that the enemy heard or saw nothing to arouse their suspicion, but they kept up Machine Gun fire from Au Bon Gite most of the night, making the assembly still more difficult. This was one of the most difficult operations the two Brigades had ever been asked to carry out and it reflects the greater credit on all ranks. The attack commenced at 4.45 a.m., Au Bon Gite being rushed by two companies of the 11th Rifle Brigade, under Captain Slade who displayed great courage and coolness, which had been left in position the previous night. Covered by a heavy artillery barrage the attacking waves moved forward, the chief centres of resistance being REITRES FARM on the left of the 61st Brigade and LANGEMARCK itself with the houses to the east of the village, all of which concealed many machine guns.

The Chateau grounds had been reduced to a swamp by the recent rains and the advance of the infantry on the left was greatly impeded. The whole country east of the Steenbeek for a great distance was a swampy crater field.

Banbury’s 61st Brigade which had never been known to fail to take its objection [objective], captured the village and established a line beyond it. The 12th King’s Liverpool & 7th Somerset, D.C.L.I. and K.O.Y.L.I. were the heroes of this exploit and in spite of bog and bullets fought gloriously. On the right the attack of the 60th Brigade went through without a hitch, in spite of considerable resistance, the 12/King’s Royal Rifles being on the left in touch with the King’s Liverpool while the 6th Shropshire, L.I. were on their right, and the 6th Oxford and Bucks cleared up numerous pill boxes near to Steenbeek.

The German Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battn. 261 R.I.R. was captured in Langemarck; other prisoners captured during the day numbered about 20 Officers and 400 other ranks; captured trophies included a section of 4.2” Howitzers, one 7.7. M.M. gun and 20 or 30 machine guns; many more machine guns – trench mortars were buried in the debris. The number of enemy killed and wounded is difficult to estimate, but it was known that two Battalions were almost annihilated in addition to others which suffered heavily. From captured documents it would appear that during the 16th August the enemy’s forces on the 20th Division Front were greatly disorganised; prisoners were captured from no less than five divisions on the front where normally there would only have been two divisions. On the night of the 17/18th the 38th Division relieved the 20th Division, and the latter was withdrawn to refit and reorganise.

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CAPTURE OF EAGLE TRENCH.

On the 11th September the 20th Division took over the right Divisional Sector of the XIV Corps front from the 38th Division. The 51st Division (XVII Corps) was on the right and the Guards Division on the left. The next task of the 20th Division was to capture EAGLE and KANGAROO and BEAR trenches and included ’T GOED TER VESTEN FARM; the guards Division had for their objective a line between the SCHEIRBOOM – KORTEBEER road and the LANGEMARCK – STADEN railway. The attack of the 20th Division was carried out by the 60th Brigade on the right and 59th Brigade on the left. The 61st Brigade was in Divisional reserve on the canal. Prepatory to the infantry attack the artillery kept up a hurricane bombardment of the enemy’s positions for 24 hours.

It was known that EAGLE trench was strongly held; it was full of concrete machine gun emplacements and dugouts and was well sited for field of fire. Although it had been shelled by heavy calibre guns some days before, many of the dugouts were not injured and it was felt that it would be a tough fight before it could be captured. Arrangements were made to discharge 300 oil drums from projectors on to the portion of Eagle trench near the cemetery shortly before the assault. The assaulting waves attacked at 5.40 a.m. on the 20th September. Reports shewed that the advance had not been everywhere successful; the right of the 59th Brigade and the left of the 60th Brigade had been held up by the enemy in Eagle Trench; the right had been advanced a little, but the enemy in Eagle house and Louis farm were holding them up. On the left, Bear trench had been reached. An order was issued to renew the attack at 6.30 p.m. In the meantime the attackers in front of Eagle trench had to find what little cover they could and were being exposed to heavy fire from hostile artillery the whole day. The 60th Brigade at 8.0 p.m. gained the trenches round Eagle House and captured about 70 prisoners. By 9.0 p.m. our whole line had been advanced and a portion of Eagle trench had been captured. By midnight the 59th Brigade had got their objective with their right flank refused. Early on the 21st September a contact aeroplane reported Germans holding the northern portion of Eagle trench. A third attack was ordered to take place at 5.30 a.m. on the 22nd September. The men all this time had been under heavy artillery and machine gun fire and were unable to move out of the muddy holes in which they were trying to get shelter, but they were as eager as ever to come to close grips with the enemy.
Tanks were to co-operate with this attack, but owing to the terrible state of the roads they were unable to reach this rendezvous, and the attack had to be postponed. During the 22nd the situation remained the same and a fresh attack was ordered for the 23rd. It was felt that unless we could take Eagle Trench at once, the Germans would bring up fresh troops for counter attack which if successful would necessitate the whole operation being carried out again with great loss of life.
At 7.0 a.m. on the 23rd September the attack was to be tried again and Eagle trench to be assaulted from the west and south; this was to be preceded by a heavy bombardment with Stokes mortars. At 6.25 a.m. on the 23rd the enemy attacked our Posts near Louis farm and the cemetery; they were driven back by machine gun fire and 23 prisoners captured. Soon after this our attack began; it was carried out by detachments of the 12 K.R.R. and 10 R Bde. The Stokes bombardment was most effective and under a rifle grenade barrage our assaulting infantry rushed in from the south. While the enemy in Eagle trench were fighting the rifle men, the 10th R. Bde. came in from the west and captured the rest of this trench; we captured about 100 prisoners and many machine guns. Most of the prisoners belonged to picked troops of the 208 Division, who said that they had been ordered to attack that morning, assisted by detachments of the 185 Infantry Regiment; our attack on the 23rd September forestalled it and thanks to this success the German counter attack failed completely. Both the 185 Infantry Regiment and the Storm troops of the 208 Division had suffered heavily and the 3rd Battalion of the latter was almost wiped out.

The 20th Division was relieved on the 28th September by the 4th Division.

The capture of Eagle Trench was a splendid performance; the men were exposed to heavy firing for the best part of 4 days; the ground was wet and muddy and there was very little cover. In spite of this the 59th Brigade (Hyslop) and 60th Brigade (Butter [Butler]) managed to bring to a successful issue the task which was set them, in the face of determined resistance by picked enemy troops. The 20th Division received the Congratulations of the Army and Corps Commanders.

29th Divisional Artillery – Location Statement 22-9-17

SECRET. Copy No. 4

29th Divisional Artillery – Location Statement 22-9-17.
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Reference Map sheet 28.

H.Q. 29th Divisional Artillery J Camp (A.8.b.1.5.)

15th Brigade R.H.A. B.11.a.7.7.

“B” Battery R.H.A. B.6.c.5.6.
“L” Battery R.H.A. B.6.a.2.2.
Warwick Bty R.H.A. B.6.a.3.3.
460th Battery R.F.A. B.6.d.4.1.
Wagon Lines B.7.b.4.7. to A.12.b.0.5.

11th Brigade R.F.A. C.1.d.45.75.

83rd Battery R.F.A. C.1.b.1.1.
84th Battery R.F.A. C.1.d.45.82.
85th Battery R.F.A. C.1.b.3.0.
D/11 Battery R.F.A. C.7.a.9.7.
Wagon Lines A.12.a.3.2. to A.11.b.7.7.

17th Brigade R.F.A. B.12.b.5.3.

13th Battery R.F.A. B.6.d.38.71.
26th Battery R.F.A. B.6.d.90.50.
92nd Battery R.F.A. C.7.a.92.98.
D/17 Battery R.F.A. C.1.c.8.7.
Wagon Lines B.7.b.4.4. to A.12.b.6.4.

11th Brigade Ammn Column A.5.d.00.80.8.0.

Guards D.A.C. B.1.c.5.5.

29th D.A.C. A.12.a.5.5.

29th Div Trench Mortars STAFFORD CAMP.
Signature unreadable
Captain R.A.
Brigade Major 29th Divisional Arty.
22-9-17

Copy No 1 – 29th Div G. 10 – 15th Bde R.H.A.
2 – 29th Div Q. 11 – 17th Bde R.F.A.
3 – 29th Div Signals 12 – 29th D.A.C.
4 – C.R.A. 13 – Guards D.A.C.
5 – B.M. 14 – 29th D.T.M.O.
6 – Staff Captain 15 – XIV Corps H.A.
7 – Reconnaissance Officer 16 – Right Artillery
8 – R.A. XIV Corps 17 – 9th Squadron R.F.C.
9 – 11th Bde R.F.A.

29th Divisional Artillery – September 1917.

Appendix VI – H.Q. 29th Divisional Artillery – September 1917.

SECRET.

Left Artillery Location Statement 1st October 1917.
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H.Q., 29th Divisional Artillery – “J” CAMP (A.8.b.1.5.) Sheet 28.

RIGHT GROUP (Lt. Col. Maxwell D.S.O.) WOOD HOUSE – C.2.a.30.65. Sheet 28.
11th Brigade R.F.A.
83rd Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. U.26.d.1.8.
84th Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. U.26.c.8.7.
85th Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. U.26.a.2.1.
D/11th Battery R.F.A….. …. …. U.25.d.8.8.
Wagon Lines …. …. …. A.12.a.3.2. & A.11.b.7.7.

15th Brigade R.H.A. …. …. …. C.1.d.45.75.

“B” Battery R.H.A. …. …. …. C.1.b.1.1.
“L” Battery R.H.A. …. …. …. C.1.d.45.82.
Warwick Bty R.H.A. …. …. …. C.1.b.3.0.
460th Bty R.F.A. …. …. …. C.7.a.7.7.
Wagon Lines. …. …. …. B.7.b.4.7. & A.12.b.0.5.

A/65 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. U.28.a.55.35.
D/65 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. U.28.a.00.77.

LEFT GROUP. (Lt. Col. Bethell) B.11.a.7.7.
75th Brigade R.F.A.
A/75 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. B.6.c.5.6.
B/75 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. B.6.a.2.2.
C/75 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. B.6.a.3.3.
D/75 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. B.6.d.4.1.

17th Brigade R.F.A. B.12.b.5.3.

13th Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. B.6.d.38.71.
26th Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. B.6.d.90.50.
92nd Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. C.7.a.92.98.
D/17 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. C.1.c.8.7.
Wagon Lines …. …. …. B.7.b.4.4. & A.12.b.6.4.

74th Brigade R.F.A. U.25.d.1.5.

A/74 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. C.1.a.45.50.
B/74 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. C.1.b.35.30.
C/74 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. C.1.a.75.25.
D/74 Battery R.F.A. …. …. …. C.1.c.40.25.

11th Brigade A.C. …. …. …. A.5.d.0.8.
Guards D.A.C. …. …. …. B.1.c.5.5.

29th D.A.C. …. …. …. A.12.a.8.2.

29th Divl Trench Mortars …. …. Stafford Camp. A.12.b.6.9.
Signature unreadable
Captain R.A.
Staff Captain, 29th Divisional Artillery.

29th Divisional Artillery – September 1917.

Appendix IV – H.Q. 29th Divisional Artillery – September 1917.

29th Divisional Artillery.
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Strength on 1st & 30th September 1917.

1st September 30th September.
Officers O.R. Officers O.R.
H.Q. 4 16 4 16
15th Bde. R.H.A. 32 745 38 755
17th Bde R.F.A. 36 774 37 723
29th D.A.C. 20 685 21 654
Trench Mortars 10 127 9 115

Reinforcements received:-
2 Officers – 266 Other Ranks.

Casualties.

Officers.
Killed:- Nil.
Wounded:- 2/Lt. R.WALKER 92nd Bty. 19-9-17.
2/Lt. C.R. BRADSHAW “B” R.H.A. 20-9-17.
2/Lt. F.W.L. PARKINSON 460 Bty. 20-9-17
Capt. A.E. HAYNES M.C. D/17Bty. 27-9-17
(Gas) 2/Lt. R.J. CAZEAUX 13th Bty. 29-9-17
“ Lt. Col. A.W. MURRAY DSO 17 Bde 30-9-17

Other Ranks. Killed Wounded
15th Bde R.H.A. 3 14
17th Bde R.F.A. 12 44
29th D.A.C. 5 22
Trench Mortars. – 2
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Total 20 82
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29th Divisional Artillery – September 1917.

Appendix V. – H.Q. 29th Divisional Artillery – September 1917.

29th DIVISIONAL ARTILLERY

List if Immediate Awards made to N.C.Os. and Men during Sept 1917

Unit No. Rank & Name Action

“B” Battery R.H.A. 49124 Corporal About 12.45 a.m. on the night of the John William 22nd/23rd August, 8 light horse teams
JEFFORD. arrived at the Battery positions to move the guns forward. While the guns were being limbered up a heavy barrage of gas shell was opened on the Battery position. Orders were at once given to get all the horses away as shells were dropping amongst the teams. Corporal JEFFORD was hit by a piece of shell in the face, which smashed his box respirator. In spite of his wound and the fact that he had no gas mask he continued to cheer on his drivers and got the teams unhooked and away. He continued to cheer on his drivers and got the teams unhooked and away. He refused to go to the Dressing Station until all the horses were clear and even then only when given a direct order to do so. I consider that by his coolness and courage Corporal JEFFORD materially helped to get the horses away without casualties.

Awarded Military Medal

29th DIV ARTY. September 1917

H.Q. 29th Div Arty
September 1917
WAR DIARY

Of

H.Q. 29th DIV ARTY. September 1917

VOLUME 30

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information

On 1st September Brigadier General G.H.A. WHITE C.M.G., D.S.O., handed over command of the 29th D.A. to Brigadier General E.H. STEVENSON D.S.O., General WHITE going as C.R.A. to 30th Division on exchange with General STEVENSON.
On September 1st, 15th Brigade R.H.A. and 17th Brigade R.F.A. moved from their Wagon Lines to the PROVEN Area, marching on September 2nd to rest billets at POLINCOVE near AUDRICQ, where they were joined by H.Q. 29th D.A. on September 5th. 29th D.A.C. remained in the line assisting Left Artillery (XIVth Corps) in the supply of ammunition and material in the construction of forward positions in the Valley of the STEENBEEK. In addition to parties from the D.A.C., each Battery left behind an Officer with a party of men to push on the work on these forward positions as their early occupation for the support of a further advance was anticipated. On 10th September 13th Battery (17th Bde. R.F.A.) marched from rest to HERZEELE and on 11th September to the neighbourhood of ELVERDINGHE where it came under the orders of RIGHT ARTILLERY (XIVth Corps). On September 14th and 15th the remaining units of 15th Brigade R.H.A. and 17th Brigade R.F.A. marched back to their old Wagon Lines near ELVERDINGHE billeting at HERZEELE on the night 14th/15th September.
On the night 16th/17th September batteries went into action under the orders of LEFT ARTILLERY (XIVth Corps). H.Q., 29th D.A. returned to “J” Camp on September 16th.
At 6 p.m. on 21st September C.R.A. 29th Division took over command of LEFT ARTILLERY (XIVth Corps) from C.R.A. Guards Division, the relief of the Infantry of Guards Division by the Infantry of 29th Division being completed on the morning of September 22nd.
LEFT ARTILLERY at this time consisted of:-
Left Group Right Group
74th Brigade R.F.A.) 11th Army Bde. R.F.A.
75th Brigade R.F.A.) Guards D.A. 17th Brigade R.F.A.)
(13th Bty. Rejoined 17th Bde. on Sept. 22nd ) 15th Brigade R.H.A.) 29th D.A.
On September 22nd/23rd 74th and 75th Brigades R.F.A. withdrew from the line to rest in the back areas, LEFT ARTILLERY (XIVth Corps) then consisted of 11th Army Bde. R.F.A., 15th Bde. R.H.A. & 17th Bde. R.F.A. each of which dealt direct with 29th D.A.H.Q.
On September 26th artillery action was taken in support of an attack by troops on our right, the Infantry on our front taking no part.

Appendices as under are attached:-

Appendix I – Orders for the march of 15th Brigade R.H.A. and 17th Brigade R.F.A. to and from rest area at POLINCOVE.
Appendix II – Orders for artillery action on September 26th.
Appendix III – Various Orders and Instructions issued by 29th D.A. during September.
Appendix IV – Strength at beginning and end of month, giving casualties and drafts received.
Appendix V – Honours and Awards received.
Appendix VI – Location statements for September.

NOTE: – Special maps of this area were appended to War Diary for August.

Signature unreadable.
Captain R.A.
Brigade Major, 29th Divisional Artillery

29 September 1917

Eagle Trench

On the 6th August the 20th Division took over the right Divisional Sector of the 14th Corps from the 38th Division.

The task before the division was to capture LANGEMARCK village and a portion of the enemy’s GHELUVELT – LANGEMARCK line beyond the village. Before proceeding with the attack on Langemarck it was necessary to obtain the mastery of the STEENBEEK which was held by the enemy. This stream was liable to sudden floods and its steep banks presented a considerable obstacle. In addition to this there were many concrete blockhouses at intervals along the eastern bank of the river, the largest one constructed in the ruins of a house called AU BON GITE formed more or less the key of the position, and commanded all the approaches to the river from one side. The 59th Bde. which was holding the line, with the 60th and 61st Brigades in support and reserve was to carry out this operation, but the two latter Brigades took no active part in the fighting. The first attempt was made on the 11th August and was unsuccessful, the enemy having discovered the concentration and opened a heavy fire on our troops as they were assembling. The second attempt on the 14th August, made be the 10th and 11th Rifle Brigades was more successful and a line was established 200 yards east of the stream, but the Au Bon Gite still held out. At one period, it was captured and a number of the enemy were killed, but our men were again driven out after heavy fighting by a counter attack from a N.E. direction. The crossings of the Steenbeek had however been made good and it was now possible to arrange for the main concentration to take place east of the stream. The two Battalions engaged in the above operation carried out the attack with great gallantry; The attack was made over boggy ground across a stream which was too wide to jump and bridges had to be carried and put into position; all this was done under fire and it is safe to say that had the crossings not been sieged the main attack in Langemarck would have been a far more dangerous undertaking and in all probability would have failed.

The 59th Brigade had suffered heavily and on the night of the 14/15 it was relieved by the 60th and 61st Brigades in order from the right. On the night of the 15/16 these two Brigades were deployed into their battle positions east of the Steenbeek. It was a pitch dark night, the ground over which the troops had to move was very boggy and the concentration had to take place close under Au Bon Gite whose Garrison at any moment might give the alarm and so prevent the deployment taking place. So silently was this carried out and without a vestige of confusion that the enemy heard or saw nothing to arouse their suspicion, but they kept up Machine Gun fire from Au Bon Gite most of the night, making the assembly still more difficult. This was one of the most difficult operations the two Brigades had ever been asked to carry out and it reflects the greater credit on all ranks. The attack commenced at 4.45 a.m., Au Bon Gite being rushed by two companies of the 11th Rifle Brigade, under Captain Slade who displayed great courage and coolness, which had been left in position the previous night. Covered by a heavy artillery barrage the attacking waves moved forward, the chief centres of resistance being REITRES FARM on the left of the 61st Brigade and LANGEMARCK itself with the houses to the east of the village, all of which concealed many machine guns.

The Chateau grounds had been reduced to a swamp by the recent rains and the advance of the infantry on the left was greatly impeded. The whole country east of the Steenbeek for a great distance was a swampy crater field.

Banbury’s 61st Brigade which had never been known to fail to take its objection [objective], captured the village and established a line beyond it. The 12th King’s Liverpool & 7th Somerset, D.C.L.I. and K.O.Y.L.I. were the heroes of this exploit and in spite of bog and bullets fought gloriously. On the right the attack of the 60th Brigade went through without a hitch, in spite of considerable resistance, the 12/King’s Royal Rifles being on the left in touch with the King’s Liverpool while the 6th Shropshire, L.I. were on their right, and the 6th Oxford and Bucks cleared up numerous pill boxes near to Steenbeek.

The German Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battn. 261 R.I.R. was captured in Langemarck; other prisoners captured during the day numbered about 20 Officers and 400 other ranks; captured trophies included a section of 4.2” Howitzers, one 7.7. M.M. gun and 20 or 30 machine guns; many more machine guns – trench mortars were buried in the debris. The number of enemy killed and wounded is difficult to estimate, but it was known that two Battalions were almost annihilated in addition to others which suffered heavily. From captured documents it would appear that during the 16th August the enemy’s forces on the 20th Division Front were greatly disorganised; prisoners were captured from no less than five divisions on the front where normally there would only have been two divisions. On the night of the 17/18th the 38th Division relieved the 20th Division, and the latter was withdrawn to refit and reorganise.

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

CAPTURE OF EAGLE TRENCH.

On the 11th September the 20th Division took over the right Divisional Sector of the XIV Corps front from the 38th Division. The 51st Division (XVII Corps) was on the right and the Guards Division on the left. The next task of the 20th Division was to capture EAGLE and KANGAROO and BEAR trenches and included ’T GOED TER VESTEN FARM; the guards Division had for their objective a line between the SCHEIRBOOM – KORTEBEER road and the LANGEMARCK – STADEN railway. The attack of the 20th Division was carried out by the 60th Brigade on the right and 59th Brigade on the left. The 61st Brigade was in Divisional reserve on the canal. Prepatory to the infantry attack the artillery kept up a hurricane bombardment of the enemy’s positions for 24 hours.

It was known that EAGLE trench was strongly held; it was full of concrete machine gun emplacements and dugouts and was well sited for field of fire. Although it had been shelled by heavy calibre guns some days before, many of the dugouts were not injured and it was felt that it would be a tough fight before it could be captured. Arrangements were made to discharge 300 oil drums from projectors on to the portion of Eagle trench near the cemetery shortly before the assault. The assaulting waves attacked at 5.40 a.m. on the 20th September. Reports shewed that the advance had not been everywhere successful; the right of the 59th Brigade and the left of the 60th Brigade had been held up by the enemy in Eagle Trench; the right had been advanced a little, but the enemy in Eagle house and Louis farm were holding them up. On the left, Bear trench had been reached. An order was issued to renew the attack at 6.30 p.m. In the meantime the attackers in front of Eagle trench had to find what little cover they could and were being exposed to heavy fire from hostile artillery the whole day. The 60th Brigade at 8.0 p.m. gained the trenches round Eagle House and captured about 70 prisoners. By 9.0 p.m. our whole line had been advanced and a portion of Eagle trench had been captured. By midnight the 59th Brigade had got their objective with their right flank refused. Early on the 21st September a contact aeroplane reported Germans holding the northern portion of Eagle trench. A third attack was ordered to take place at 5.30 a.m. on the 22nd September. The men all this time had been under heavy artillery and machine gun fire and were unable to move out of the muddy holes in which they were trying to get shelter, but they were as eager as ever to come to close grips with the enemy.
Tanks were to co-operate with this attack, but owing to the terrible state of the roads they were unable to reach this rendezvous, and the attack had to be postponed. During the 22nd the situation remained the same and a fresh attack was ordered for the 23rd. It was felt that unless we could take Eagle Trench at once, the Germans would bring up fresh troops for counter attack which if successful would necessitate the whole operation being carried out again with great loss of life.
At 7.0 a.m. on the 23rd September the attack was to be tried again and Eagle trench to be assaulted from the west and south; this was to be preceded by a heavy bombardment with Stokes mortars. At 6.25 a.m. on the 23rd the enemy attacked our Posts near Louis farm and the cemetery; they were driven back by machine gun fire and 23 prisoners captured. Soon after this our attack began; it was carried out by detachments of the 12 K.R.R. and 10 R Bde. The Stokes bombardment was most effective and under a rifle grenade barrage our assaulting infantry rushed in from the south. While the enemy in Eagle trench were fighting the rifle men, the 10th R. Bde. came in from the west and captured the rest of this trench; we captured about 100 prisoners and many machine guns. Most of the prisoners belonged to picked troops of the 208 Division, who said that they had been ordered to attack that morning, assisted by detachments of the 185 Infantry Regiment; our attack on the 23rd September forestalled it and thanks to this success the German counter attack failed completely. Both the 185 Infantry Regiment and the Storm troops of the 208 Division had suffered heavily and the 3rd Battalion of the latter was almost wiped out.

The 20th Division was relieved on the 28th September by the 4th Division.

The capture of Eagle Trench was a splendid performance; the men were exposed to heavy firing for the best part of 4 days; the ground was wet and muddy and there was very little cover. In spite of this the 59th Brigade (Hyslop) and 60th Brigade (Butter [Butler]) managed to bring to a successful issue the task which was set them, in the face of determined resistance by picked enemy troops. The 20th Division received the Congratulations of the Army and Corps Commanders.

Certificate of P. Lister 28 September 1917

Headed notepaper of
Under Government Control.
On Admiralty, War Office, and Crown Agents’ Lists.
The Parsons Motor Co., Ltd.,
Engineers
Town Quay Works, SOUTHAMPTON.
28th September 1917.
Our Ref. PES/R.

To whom it may concern.
—————————————–
This is to certify that Lance Cpl P. Lister, Regt. No. 28407, R.E. who has been temporarily released to this Company for important War Work, has our permission to travel to-day the 28th inst., to 30th inst.
Signed P.E. Stamp.
Works Superintendent.
THE PARSONS MOTOR CO: LTD:

29th Divisional Artillery Order No. 25. 27 September 1917

Copy No 24
29th Divisional Artillery Order No. 25.
Secret.
27th September 1917.

In continuation of 29th Divisional Artillery Order No. 24 dated 26-9-17.

1. The 29th Division extend their front to the South on 28th September, on which day a Battalion of 86th Infantry Brigade will take over the line from U.17.c.75.25. to U.23.b.45.40. from 20th Division.
The command of the new portion of the line passes to G.O.C. 29th Division as soon as the above relief is completed on 28th September.

2. Attached map shows in yellow the new southern boundary of 29th Division.

3. 29th Divisional Artillery will be responsible for the artillery support of the Infantry holding the new line from 6 pm September 28th.

4. A. At 6 pm. September 28th 91st Brigade R.F.A. will come under the orders of 29th Divisional Artillery for tactical purposes. 91st Brigade will revert to the command of RIGHT ARTILLERY as soon as Guards D.A. are in the line and 11th and 15th Brigades have completed registration on their new S.O.S Lines.
Dispositions of 91st Brigade R.F.A. are as under –
H.Q., 91Brigade R.F.A. – C.19.a.00.30.
A/91Bty R.F.A. – C.8.b.09.17.
B/91 “ “ – C.8.d.10.40.
C/91 “ “ – C.8.a.80.23.
D/91 “ “ – C.8.a.83.83.

B. A/65 465 D/65 505 (18-pdr) batteries move into action on the nights 28th/29th, 29th/30th September and 30th Sept/1st October. On coming into action they will come under the orders of O.C., 15th Brigade R.H.A.

5. ZONES. Until the 91st Brigade R.F.A. reverts to the command of RIGHT ARTILLERY the Divisional front will be divided into four Sectors, “W”, “X”, “Y” & “Z” as under, for all artillery purposes.

Sector “W”. U.24.a.0.8. to V.13.a.1.9. to U.12.c.9.2. to U.17.d.25.65.
18-pdr S.O.S. Line – U.24.a.0.8. – U.17.d.73.32. – U.17.d.25.65.
4.5” Hows. S.O.S. Tasks –
1 Section – U.18.c.25.50. – 106 Fuzes.
2 Sections – U.18.c.95.52. – U.18.c.80.80. 106 Fuzes.

Sector “X”. U.17.d.25.65. – U.12.c.9.2. – U.11.d.7.7. – U.16.d.6.6.
18-pdr S.O.S. Line – U.17.d.25.65. – U.16.d.6.6.
4.5” How S.O.S. Tasks –
1Section. – Search Railway from U.17.b.80.10. – U.18.a.35.60. 106 Fuzes.
1Section – Search LEOPARD AVENUE from U.17.a.5.3. to U.17.a.8.8.
106 Fuzes.
1 Section – Search from Cross road at U.17.a.05.25. to U.17.a.45.76.
106 Fuzes.
Sector “Y” U.16.d.6.6. – U.11.d.7.7. – U.11.a.6.1. to U.16.c.5.9.
18-pdr S.O.S. Line – Along BROENBEEK from U.16.d.6.6. to U.16.c.5.9.
4.5” How S.O.S. Tasks –
2 Sections – Search from U.16. central to U.16.b.35.55. 106 Fuzes.
1 Section – Search from U.16.a.32.10. to U.16.a.15.20. 106 Fuzes.

Sector “Z” U.16.c.5.9. – U.11.a.6.1. – U.10.b.60.55. to U.15.b.4.5.
18-pdr S.O.S. Line – Along BROENBEEK from U.16.c.5.9. – U.15.b.4.5.
4.5” How S.O.S. Tasks –
1 Section – Search from U.16.a.32.10. – to Cemetery U.16.a.60.50.
106 Fuzes.
2 Sections – Search area from NEY COPSE at U.15.b.70.50 –
U.15.b.55.60. to the N.E. up to and including track U.15.b.80.70. 106 Fuzes.
These sectors are allotted as under –
Period
Sector “W”
Sector “X”
Sector “Y”
Sector “Z”
From Till
6pm Sep/28
1pm Oct 1st
4pm Oct 1st
12noon Oct 2nd 1pm Oct 1st
4pm Oct 1st
12noon Oct 2nd
91st Bde revert to Right Arty 91 Bde RFA
91 “ “

91 “ “

91 “ “

11 Bde RFA
11 “ “

15 Bde RHA
74 “ RFA 17Bde RFA
17 “ “

17 “ “

17 “ “ 15Bde RHA
75 Bde RFA.
75 “ “

75 “ “

B. When the 91st Brigade R.F.A. revert to the command of RIGHT ARTILLERY the Divisional front will be divided into two Sectors for all artillery purposes.
These Sectors will be as under –
RIGHT GROUP SECTOR. Allotted to Right Group (composition as shown in para 2 of 29th Divisional Artillery Order No. 24 dated 26-9-17)
Area U.24.a.0.8. – V.13.a.1.9. – U.12.c.9.2. – U.17.d.25.65.
18-pdr S.O.S. Line U.24.a.0.8. – U.17.d.73.32. – U.17.d.25.65.

LEFT GROUP SECTOR. Allotted to Left Group (composition as shown in para 2 of 29th Divisional Artillery Order No. 24 dated 26-9-17)
Area U.17.d.25.65. – U.12.c.9.2. – U.10.b.60.55. U.15.b.4.5.
18-pdr S.O.S. Line – U.17.d.25.65. to U.16.d.6.6. – thence along BROENBEEK to U.14. U.15.b.4.5.

6. GROUPS. RIGHT & LEFT GROUP HEADQUARTERS will not commence to operate as GROUP H.Q. (as detailed in para 2 of 29th D.A. Order No. 24 dated 23-9-17.) until the 91st Brigade R.F.A. reverts to the command of RIGHT ARTILLERY, but all orders etc for Brigade will be sent to RIGHT & LEFT GROUP H.Q. for distribution after 4 p.m. September 28th.

7. REGISTRATION. A. 11th Brigade R.F.A. will commence to register the guns in their present positions at once on the S.O.S. Line and area opposite the new front referred to in para 1 of this Order. 15th Brigade R.H.A. will complete this registration immediately on taking over these positions from 11th Brigade R.F.A. on October 1st.
15th Brigade R.H.A. will report by wire to this office the completion of the registration of the S.O.S. line in the new area by “B”, “L” and Warwick batteries.

B. On October 2nd 11th Brigade R.F.A. will commence registration of their batteries in their new positions on the S.O.S. Line and area opposite the new front referred to in para 1 of this Order.
11th Brigade R.F.A. will report by wire to this office the completion of the registration of the S.O.S. Line in this new area.

C. 15th Brigade R.H.A. will arrange for A/65 and B/65 batteries to register on the S.O.S. Line and area opposite the new front referred to in para 1 of this Order as soon as possible, commencing October 2nd.

8. A. Except when special orders are issued from this office 18-pdr batteries of
11th Brigade R.F.A. will only fire from the forward positions in square U.26. for necessary registration and in case of S.O.S.
B. Except when special orders are issued from this office A/65 and D/65
batteries R.F.A. will only open fire for necessary registration. They will not open fire for S.O.S unless special orders are issued from this office.
C. Whilst A/65, D/65 batteries and the 18-pdr batteries of 11th Brigade R.F.A.
from their new positions are registering Os.C. 11th and 15th Brigades must arrange for other batteries in Left Artillery to fire so that enemy sound ranging detachments will not be able to take a record of the forward guns. Os.C. 11th and 15th Brigades will arrange this co-operation direct with Os.C. other Brigades in Left Artillery who must give all possible assistance.

9. LIAISON.
A. The present arrangement regarding a senior liaison officer with Infantry
Brigade H.Q. will be continued until the 91st Brigade R.F.A. reverts to the command of RIGHT ARTILLERY. Fresh orders will be issued as necessary regarding the detailing of this officer after this time.
B. (i). From night September 28th/29th until the 91st Brigade R.F.A. reverts to the command of RIGHT ARTILLERY Artillery Liaison Officers detailed as below will remain at Battalion Headquarters nightly from dusk to 8 a.m.
With Right Battalion in the line (H.Q. U.23.c.1.2.) Officer from 11th Brigade R.F.A.
With Centre Battalion in the line (H.Q. U.22.c.05.15.) Officer from 15th Brigade R.H.A.
With Left Battalion in the line (H.Q. U.21.a.65.25.) Officer from 17th Brigade R.F.A.
(ii) When 91st Brigade R.F.A. reverts to the command of RIGHT ARTILLERY these officers will be detailed as below:-
With Right Battalion in the line – RIGHT GROUP.
With Centre and Left Battalions in the line – LEFT GROUP.

10. COMMUNICATIONS. Instructions regarding communications will be issued to Officer i/c 29th D.A. Signals direct to Group and Brigade Signal Officers.

It will be necessary for 15th Brigade R.H.A. to keep an officer from A/65 or D/65 batteries and runners from A/65 and D/65 batteries at 15th Brigade H.Q. in order to maintain communication with these batteries when telephone lines are broken.

11. ACKNOWLEDGE by wire.

Signature unreadable
Captain R.A.
Brigade Major, 29th Divl. Artillery.
Copies 1 11th Bde R.F.A.
2 15th “ R.H.A.
3 17th “ R.F.A.
4 74th “ “
5 75th “ “
6 Guards D.A.
7 29 D.A.C.
8 Guards D.A.C.
9 R.A. XIV Corps.
10 H.A. XIV Corps.
11 Col Budgen.
12 Capt Vuaflart.
13 Right Arty.
14 29th Divn ‘G’
15 86th Inf Bde.
16 87th “ “
17 88th “ “
18 91st Bde. R.F.A.
19 A/65 Bty “
20 D/65 “ “
21 Sigs. 29th D.A.
22 “ 29th Division.

20th Division 6 August to 25th September 1917,

A manuscript document reporting 20th Division 6 August to 25th September 1917, I think.

On the 6th August the 20th Division took over the right Divisional Sector of the 14th Corps from the 38 Division.
The task before the Division was the capture of Langemarck village and a portion of the enemy’s GHELUVELT – LANGEMARCK Line beyond the village. Before proceeding with the attack on Langemarck it was necessary to obtain the mastery of the STEENBEEK which was held by the enemy. This stream was liable to sudden floods and its steep banks presented a considerable obstacle. In addition to this there were many concrete blockhouses at intervals along the eastern bank of the river, the largest one constructed in the ruins of a house called AU BON GITE formed more or less the key of the position, and commanded all the approaches to the river from our side. The 59th Bde., which was holding the line, with the 60th & 61st Brigades in support and reserve was to carry out this operation, but the two latter Brigades took no active part in the fighting. The first attempt was made on the 11th August and was unsuccessful, the enemy having discovered the concentration & opened a heavy fire on our troops as they were assembling. The second attempt on 14th August made by the 10th and 11th Rifle Brigade was more successful and a line was established 200 yards east of the stream, but Au Bon Gite still held out. At one period it was captured and a number of the enemy after heavy fighting were killed, but our men were again driven out by a counter attack from a N.E. direction. The crossing of the Steenbeek had however been made good and it was now possible to arrange for the main concentration to take place east of the stream. The two battalions engaged in the above operation carried out the attack with great gallantry; the attack was made over boggy ground across a stream which was too wide to jump and bridges had to be carried & put into position; all this was done under fire and it is safe to say that had the crossing not been seized the main attack in Langemarck would have been a far more dangerous undertaking and in all probability would have failed.
The 59th Brigade had suffered heavily and in the night of the 14/15 it was relieved by the 60th & 61st Brigades in order from the right. On the night of the 15/16 these two Brigades were deployed into their battle positions east of the Steenbeek. It was a pitch dark night, the ground over which the troops had to move was very boggy and the concentration had to take place close under Au Bon Gite whose garrison at any moment might give the alarm and so prevent the deployment taking place. So silently was this carried out & without a vestige of confusion that the enemy heard and saw nothing to arouse their suspicion, but they kept up machine gun fire from Au Bon Gite most of the night, making the assembly still more difficult. This was one of the most difficult operations the two Brigades had ever been asked to carry out & it reflects the greatest credit on all ranks. The attack commenced at 4.45 am, Au Bon Gite being rushed by two companies of the 11th R.B. under Captain Slade who displayed great courage & coolness which had been left in position the previous night. Covered by a heavy artillery barrage the attacking waves moved forward, the chief centres of resistance being REITRES FARM on the left of the 61st Bde. and LANGEMARCK itself with the houses to the east of the village all of which concealed many machine guns. The chateau grounds had been reduced to a swamp by the recent rains and the advance of the infantry on the left was greatly impeded; the whole country east of the Steenbeek for a great distance was a swampy crater field. Banbury’s 61st Brigade which had never been known to fail to take its objective, captured the village & established a line beyond it. The 12th King’s Liverpool & 7 Somerset, D.C.L.I., & K.O.Y.L.I. were the levers of this exploit and in spite of bog and bullets fought gloriously.
On the right the attack of the 60th Brigade went through without a hitch in spite of considerable resistance, the 12/King’s Royal Rifles being on the left in touch with the King’s Liverpool while the 6th Shropshire L.I. were on their right, & the 6th Oxford & Bucks cleared up numerous pill boxes near the Steenbeek. The German Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battn. 261 R.I.R. was captured in Langemarck; other prisoners captured during the day numbered about 20 officers and 400 other ranks, captured trophies included a section of 4.2 howitzers, ** 7.7 m.m. gun, and 20 or 30 machine guns, many more machine guns trench mortars were buried in the debris. The number of enemy killed and wounded is difficult to estimate but it was known that two battalions were almost annihilated in addition to others which suffered heavily. From captured documents it would appear that during the 16 August the enemy’s forces on the 20 Division front were greatly disorganised; prisoners were captured from no less than five divisions on the front, where normally there would only have been two divisions.
On the night of the 17/18 the 38 Division relieved the 20 Division, & the latter was withdrawn to refit and reorganize.

Capture of EAGLE TRENCH.
On the 11th September the 20th Division took over the right Divisional Sector of the XIV Corps front from the 38th Division. The 51st Division (XVII Corps) was on the right and the Guards Division on the left. The next task of the 20th Division was to capture EAGLE and KANGAROO and BEAR trenches & included ‘t GOED TER VESTEN FARM; the Guards Division had for their objective a line between the SCHREIBOOM – KORTEBEEKE road and the LANGAMARCK – STADEN railway. The attack of the 20th Division was carried out by the 60th Brigade on the right and 59th Brigade on the left. The 61st Brigade was in Divisional reserve on the Canal.
Preparatory to the infantry attack the artillery kept up a hurricane bombardment of the enemy positions for 24 hours.
It was known that Eagle trench was strongly held; it was full of concrete machine gun emplacements & dugouts & was well sited for field of fire. Although it had been shelled by heavy calibre guns some days before, many of the dugouts were not injured and it was felt that it would be a tough fight before it could be captured. Arrangements were made to discharge 300 oil drums from projectors on to the portion of Eagle trench near the cemetery shortly before the assault. The assaulting waves attacked at 5.40 am on the 20th September. Reports showed that the advance had not been everywhere successful; the right of the 59th Brigade & the left of the 60th Brigade had been held up by the enemy in Eagle trench; the right had advanced a little, but the enemy in Eagle house & Louis farm were holding them up. On the left Bear trench had been reached.
An order was issued to renew the attack at 6.30 pm. In the meantime the attackers in front of Eagle trench had to find what little cover they could & were being exposed to heavy fire from hostile artillery the whole day. The 60th Brigade at 8 pm gained the trenches round Eagle House & captured about 70 prisoners. By 9 pm our whole line had been advanced & a portion of Eagle trench had been captured.
By midnight the 59th Brigade had got their objective with their right flank refused. Early on the 21st Sept a contact aeroplane reported Germans holding the northern portion of Eagle trench. A third attack was ordered to take place at 5.30 am on the 22nd Sept. The men all this time had been under heavy artillery & machine gun fire & were unable to move out of the muddy holes in which they were trying to get shelter, but they were as eager as ever to come to close grips with the enemy.
Tanks were to co-operate with this attack, but owing to the terrible state of the roads they were unable to reach their rendezvous, & the attack had to be postponed. During the 22nd the situation remained the same & a fresh attack was ordered for the 23rd. It was felt that unless we could take Eagle trench at once the Germans would bring up fresh troops for counter attack which if successful would necessitate the whole operation being carried out again with great loss of life. At 7 am on the 23rd Sept the attack was to be tried again & Eagle trench to be assaulted from the west & south; this was to be preceded by a heavy bombardment with Stokes mortars. At 6.25 am on the 23rd the enemy attacked our posts near Louis farm & the Cemetery; they were driven back by machine gun fire & 23 prisoners captured. Soon after this our attack began; it was carried out by detachments of the 12 K.R.R. and 10 R.B. The Stokes bombardment was most effective & under a rifle grenade barrage our assaulting infantry rushed in from the south. While the enemy in Eagle trench were fighting the rifle men, the 10 R.B. came in from the west and captured the rest of this trench. We captured about 100 prisoners & many machine guns. Most of the prisoners belonged to picked troops of the 208 Division who said that they had been ordered to attack that morning assisted by detachments of the 185 Infantry regiment; an attack on the 23 Sept forestalled it & thanks to this success the German counter attack failed completely.
Both the 185 Infantry Regiment and the Storm troops of the 208 Division had suffered heavily and the third battalion of the latter was almost wiped out.
The 20th Division was relieved on the 28 September by the 4th Division.
The capture of Eagle trench was a splendid performance; the men were exposed to heavy firing for the best part of 4 days; the ground was wet & muddy & there was very little cover; in spite of this the 59 Brigade (Hyslop) and 60th Brigade (Butler) managed to bring to a successful issue the task which was set them in the face of determined resistance by picked enemy troops. The 20th Division received the congratulations of the Army & Corps Commander.