Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade

Part 2.—The New Zealand Rifle Brigade into the Gap

page 275

Part 2.—The New Zealand Rifle Brigade into the Gap.

From Ypres to Amiens—March to Hedauville—1st Battalion to the Englebelmar-Auchonvillers Bidge—First contact with the Germans—Composite Brigades of the New Zealand Division— Canterbury troops pass through the 1st Battalion—1st Auckland and the 2nd Battalion prolong the line to the left—2nd Wellington and the 3rd Battalion fill the remaining gap from Euston to Hebuterne, March 27th—Congratulations.

We may return now to follow the movements of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, which, in common with other Brigades in the Division, had received orders to concentrate and prepare to move at three hours' notice.

In connection with the general scheme of defence prepared months before to meet the expected German thrust, arrangements had been made with the First and Second Army commanders for the formation, from the troops under their command, of a special force of reserve Divisions for action as required. The New Zealand Division, then with the Second Army and in reserve at Ypres, was immediately available, and, with other troops, was therefore called upon for this service.

General Fulton being away on leave, Lieut.-Col. A. E. Stewart, from the New Zealand Entrenching Group, assumed command of the Brigade on March 22nd; and during the 24th and 25th, units entrained at Houpoutre Siding, near Poperinghe, and left for the Third Array Area.*

We were the first Brigade to move, Brigade Headquarters and the four units travelling by five different trains. The first of these, after a journey of sixteen hours, arrived at Amiens at 5 a.m. on the 25th, the others following at intervals of about four hours. The point of detrainment had been fixed for Corbie, some ten miles east of Amiens and two and a half due north of Villers Bretonneux. Divisional Headquarters had already reached Corbie, but owing to the rapid changes in the situation our immediate destination had been altered while we were en route. The 4th Battalion, indeed, because of the

* As an interesting instance of imperturbability, it may be mentioned that on March 23rd, the date on which the orders were issued for this move, General Russell held at his headquarters the first conference in connection with the proposed educational scheme for the Division.

page 276bombing of the railway about Amiens, was not able to get further forward than Hangest, twelve miles to the west, which was reached after midnight.

Each unit on detraining got into fighting kit and dumped overcoats and all surplus gear. Ammunition on the man was made up to 220 rounds, that for the Lewis guns, which were now withdrawn from the limbers, up to the carrying capacity of the men of the sections, and the troops stood by waiting for the motor transport.

The first-line transport without delay went forward by road, with instructions to keep north and west of the River Ancre; and at 10 a.m., on orders from Division, Brigade Headquarters and advance parties from units proceeded by lorries to Buire, fifteen miles north-east of Amiens, arriving there at 3 p.m.

After a weary wait of nearly twelve hours the lorries arrived for the 1st Battalion, the first unit to be served, and by 8.30 p.m. on the 25th the eonvoy started off along the Albert Road for Buire. On arrival at Pont Noyelles, however, some six miles from Amiens, the battalion had to de-bus and complete the journey on foot, the lorries, which had been engaged on urgent work all day elsewhere, being under orders to return for the other units in succession.

The march proceeded satisfactorily until, on nearing Buire, the battalion was met by a staff car and received written orders to change direction and move on to Hedauville, six miles north-west of Albert. The men were already tired owing to the long sleepless railway journey, followed by the twelve hours' stand-to at Amiens, and an addition to the length of the march was not at all cheering. Turning off the Albert Road, the battalion passed through Lavieville, Miillencourt and Senlis, and reached Hedauville shortly before 4 a.m. Except in the vicinity of Senlis the roads were good. The marching was excellent, there being only two casualties just before arrival at the destination. Night-marching with the aid of only a small-scale map is somewhat trying, and as, in anticipation of the provision of motor conveyance, all transport had been sent on ahead, there were neither horses nor bicycles available for use in marking down in good time the correct turnings in the road. Fortunately neither hitch nor delay occurred.

page 277

Fires in the direction of Albert were visible throughout the march. There were practically no signs of panic or evacuation anywhere, and no troops were seen excepting the personnel of an aerodrome making preparations for departure, and a few individual soldiers sleeping by the roadside.

The 2nd Battalion, less "A" Company, engaged on entraining duty, reached Pont Noyelles by motor lorries at 2 a.m. on the 26th. Having been apprised in good time of their correct destination they were able to make their march by a shorter route, and, leaving Pont Noyelles at 2.30 a.m., arrived at Hedauville, via Franvillers, Baizieux and Warloy, at 7 a.m.

The 3rd Battalion, less "C" Company, which was coming to Amiens by a later train, commenced the march, from Pont Noyelles at 10 a.m. on the 26th. By this time there was a great deal of movement through Amiens and along; the roads, streams of refugees moving back and bodies of troops marching in both directions. Hedauville was reached at 3 p.m.

The 4th Battalion marched from Hangest and passing throngh Amiens, bivouacked on the Albert Road till 8 p.m. on the 26th, when they were taken to Hedauville by lorry.

In the meantime Divisional Headquarters had moved from Corbie to Hedauville, where it was established at 1.30 a.m. on the 26th. Shortly after midnight 25th/26th, Brigade Headquarters received preliminary instructions from Division to the effect that the position was obscure; that from information received it would appear a five-mile gap existed in the line from Hamel to Puisieux-au-Mont; and that the Divisional Commander intended to occupy the gap, with the 2nd Brigade on the right and the 1st Brigade on the left. Brigade Headquarters, with details and such transport as had arrived, set out for Hedauville forthwith.

On the arrival of the 1st Battalion it was warned by Division to be ready to move off again at 6 a.m. on a further two hours' march for active operations. The Brigadier and the Brigade Major presently reached Hedauville and at 6 a.m. orders were issued to the 1st Battalion to advance through Mailly Maillet, establish an outpost line on the Englebehner-Auchonvillers Ridge, gain touch with the 12th Division. Vth Corps, at Bnglebelmer, and cover the deployment of the 2nd and 1st New Zealand Infantry Brigades, which were to advance page 278against Hamel and Serre. The line thus laid down for the battalion was nearly three miles in length, covered Englebelmer, Mailly Maillet and Auchonvillers, and had its left on the Serre Road, about 500 yards east of the Colincamps Road junction. Personal reconnaissance showed the proposed position to be good, with a fair amount of artillery in the valley in front of Mailly Maillet and in the vicinity of Englebelmer. "C" and "D" Companies (Captains K. R. J. Saxon and W. J. King) were detailed to establish the line of posts, "B" (Capt. G. P. O'Shannassy) to find advanced and flank guards for the march, to act as screen during the placing of the posts, and then to withdraw through the line into support. "A" Company (Major H. S. N. Robinson) was held in reserve.

Advanced Brigade Headquarters were established in Mailly Maillet by 9 a.m. Soon after that hour the 1st Battalion passed through the outskirts of the village, and at 11 a.m. the advanced troops gained touch with the enemy 500 yards east of Auchonvillers, where hostile patrols were engaged and driven back by Lewis gun and rifle fire. The left flank of the screen met the enemy in considerable force near the Sugar Factory and at once engaged him with the object of pushing him back beyond the position laid down for the left of the outpost line. Sharp fighting ensued and the advance of the Germans was temporarily stayed. The strength of the enemy was, however, rapidly increasing, and our men began to feel the pressure.

Meanwhile the two outpost companies moved steadily forward towards their allotted positions. The right company established its posts with little difficulty by 11 a.m. and immediately pushed out patrols, one of which went forward a distance of two miles to Aveluy Wood and the railway on the bank of the Ancre. These patrols found that the villages of Martinsart and Mesnil were in possession of troops of the 12th Division, and that troops of the 2nd Division were astride the Auchonvillers-Hamel Road. The left company's right and centre platoons established their posts without serious opposition, but the left flank platoon, joining that of the screen, became hotly engaged at 11.45 a.m. with a superior enemy force, which had by this time been considerably augmented. Fully 300 Germans were now in position across the Serre Road from page 279Euston on the north to Kilometre Lane on the south, and fresh troops could be seen marching rapidly westwards from Serre. Ugly rushes down the old trenches leading from the strong position in the sunken road became more and more frequent. Shouting "Give it up, Anzac; we are all around you!" the Germans closed in on the left platoon and almost succeeded in cutting it off, but 2nd Lieut. H. A. Mackenzie, who was now for the first time in action, handled his men with great dash and skill. A few moments sufficed to take in the situation. Without delay suitable positions were selected; one by one the leading sections were steadily withdrawn to the stronger line, each in turn affording covering fire for the remainder, a local defensive flank was formed, and the enemy temporarily held. In this the work of the section-leaders was admirably done. Rifleman C. A. Tucker commanded his section with great ability throughout, and when a Lewis gun team became casualties, he took over the gun himself. One rush he stopped within twenty yards of his position, and altogether he and his section accounted for 90 Germans. One of his men, Rifleman A. L. Sturmey, assisted with the gun, and in the interval plied his rifle so successfully as to have to his credit fourteen of the enemy, including two officers. The fearlessness displayed by the German leaders evoked the unbounded admiration of our men. Possibly they were unduly flushed with the victories of the past few days, for they repeatedly dashed forward with what appeared to be the utmost foolhardiness, and it was clear that a realization of the fact that they were now striking at a line practically immovable had not yet dawned upon their minds. An acknowledgment that the ability of Ms opponents had at least in some respects been underrated came all too late from one of the German officers, who, fatally struck by a rifle bullet at close range, cried out as he clutched at his breast, "The blighters can shoot, anyhow!"

Although the position was saved for the moment, the danger to the flank became increasingly imminent. Machine-gun fire from the north, already severe, now became alarmingly heavy. Capt. King personally took over immediate control at this threatened point. The pressure becoming rapidly stronger, reinforcements were asked for, and in response two platoons from the reserve company were sent up at about 12.30 page 280p.m. These were followed by two Lewis gun teams from battalion headquarters' reserve sent up in ration limbers at the gallop. With the fresh troops and remnants of British sections, Capt. King bent his flank back and secured a firmly- established line in the form of a quarter-circle from Apple Tree Hill to the eastern outskirts of Auchonvillers. While the defensive flank was being formed, the enemy made a determined rush that again threatened to envelop the outer platoon, but this move was effectively countered by the fine work of the covering section under Corporal D. Osborne. Excellent support was also rendered by Lieut. R. H. Buchanan of the Canterbury Machine Gun Company, who with two guns reported at this time for duty with the battalion and took up a position covering the left flank. At 2 p.m., on account of continued pressure from the north, the whole of the support company, as well as the remaining two platoons of the reserve company, were also sent in to prolong the refused flank towards Colineamps. Between 3 and 4 p.m. the two Canterbury Battalions, advancing to the attack, passed through our line.

Shelling, which commenced at midday on the Serre Road behind Apple Tree Hill, and on Auchonvillers and the valley in rear, increased during the afternoon, but was never very heavy. The- British artillery found in position in the valley in the morning were withdrawn from the forward area later in the day.

The casualties sustained by the 1st Battalion up to 2.30 p.m. were one officer wounded, nine other ranks killed and 34 wounded.

Having detailed the work of the 1st Battalion in establishing an outpost line, we now turn to the operations of the two Brigades, the deployment of which this outpost line was designed to cover.

Units from different Brigades had been arriving at Hedauville together or at shortintervals, and the urgency of the position rendered it necessary to make up composite Brigades for immediate action. Thus the 2nd N.Z. Infantry Brigade became "A" Brigade, and the 1/N.Z.R.B. came under the orders of that Brigade at 4 p.m. Similarly the 1st N.Z. Infantry Brigade became "B" Brigrde, and the 2/N.Z.R.B. was allotted to it.

page 281

At 12 noon on the 26th, General Young's "A" Brigade, which at that time consisted of the 2nd Brigade (less 1st and 2nd Otago Battalions) with one Machine Gun Company, moved out from Hedauville followed later by "B" Brigade, which was simply the Headquarters of the 1st Brigade, the 1st Auckland Battalion and the 2nd Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (less one company), together with one Machine Gun Company.

At 2.15 p.m. the troops of "A" Brigade, with 1st Canterbury on the right and 2nd Canterbury on the left, deployed out of Mailly Maillet and moved towards their objective. They passed through the line established by the 1/N.Z.R.B., pushed the Germans before them, and took up a position from the high ground overlooking Hamel on the right, to a point about 1,000 yards north-east of Auchonvillers on the left. This line was about 3,000 yards in advance of the 1/N.Z.R.B. outpost line on the right, but not more than 500 yards forward on the left, and lay along what had been the old British front line before the Somme offensive of 1916. The left flank of "A" Brigade met with considerable oppositon, the enemy strongly holding One Tree Hill, and it was decided to wait till "B" Brigade had come up on the left before pushing that flank forward.

At 4 p.m. the 1/N.Z.R.B. came under General Young's orders and was held in support to "A" Brigade. The original disposition was resumed, the two forward companies remaining in place and the others returning to their support and reserve positions. Lieut.-Col. A. E. Stewart thereupon returned to Hedauville to superintend the formation of a third composite Brigade.

General Melvill's "B" Brigade followed "A" Brigade in conformity with the scheme agreed upon. On reaching Mailly Maillet, however, reports were received that the enemy was in Colincamps and this necessitated an alteration in the plans and entailed a delay until 4.30 p.m., at which hour the attack in this quarter was launched. It was a very small assaulting force, consisting, it will be remembered, of only two battalions, each with sections from a machine-gun company attached; but the men, although long since dog-tired, were in high spirits It was hoped that penetration would be made as far as Serre, page 282which lay some three and a half miles north-east of Mailly Maillet. The 1st Auckland Battalion advanced on the right, and the 2/N.Z.R.B. (Major J. Pow) on the left, the road to Serre giving the direction and forming the dividing line between battalions. For the provision of a reserve, reliance was placed on the expected early arrival of 2nd Auckland, still on the way up from Amiens.

A section of the distant Serheb Road, leading north-west from Serre to Hebuterne, was the objective for our 2nd Battalion. Of this unit, "C" Company (Lieut. W. J. Organ), on the right, and "D" Company (Capt. G. A. Mills), on the left, comprised the leading line, while "B" Company (Capt. H. M. Keesing) was detailed to form a defensive flank on the left and conform generally to the movements of the main attack. "A"; Company was away at Amiens on detraining duty.

The advance in extended order from the vicinity of the railway station on the north of Mailly Maillet proceeded rapidly and steadily until the Sugar Factory, standing near the junction of the Colincamps Road with that from Serre, was reached by the right of "C" Company. Up till this time no direct opposition had been met with, though a considerable number of casualties had been caused by machine-gun fire coming from the high ground topped by a hedge and lying away on the left front. Dense smoke from a burning munition dump at the bend in the Colincamps Road, north of the Factory, had concealed the advancing platoons from frontal view, but on emerging from this, 2nd Lieut. F. W. Parry's men of the 9th platoon at once came under heavy fire from three machine-guns placed about the Serre Road, one being in a trench across the road itself, and the others in saps running parallel to and on each side of the road. It was evident that the enemy was holding strongly the one important highway from Puisieux and Serre.

On the opening of this machine-gun fire, Parry led his men forward at the double to the cover afforded by the farther bank of the road lying directly across their front and about 150 yards east of the Sugar Factory. This led northward to Euston Junction and Hebuterne, and was a continuation of that sunken road from the shelter of which the enemy had so heavily attacked the left flank of the 1st Battalion earlier in page 283the day. As soon as the other leading platoon, under the command of Sergt. G. F. Webster, had joined up on the left, the advance was continued by sections to the next vantage-point, an old trench lying across the front. During this rush Lance-Corporal R. Ellmers and Rifleman E. H. Dodd went still further forward, passing along the sap running by the northern side of the Serre Road, where they attacked the crew of one of the machine-guns already referred to, and captured the gun. The remainder of the Germans in this section of the sap, some 40 strong, dashed across the Serre Road to the parallel sap on the south side.

The position here was now somewhat difficult, for, having its own troubles about the sunken road, the flank company of 1st Auckland was some distance back, and Parry's right was "in the air." To meet this emergency he pushed the whole of his platoon into the sap by the road, thus forming a defensive flank facing south, and opened a sniping duel with the enemy on the other side. Sergeant Webster now worked his platoon forward along another sap running parallel to Parry's, thus temporarily breaking connection with "D" Company on the left. The gap, however, was presently made good, for Webster's men fought their way into a cross trench facing east and joined up with Parry's left; and the remaining two platoons, under 2nd Lieuts. C. R. Cameron and E. R. Nutter, that had formed the company's support and reserve, cleared a series of old trenches and prolonged the line from Webster's left across to Euston Junction, where the right of "D" Company now rested.

The progress of "D" and "B" Companies had not on the whole been so successful. The line of advance of the former was crossed diagonally by a road, a railway, and a series of old but well-marked trenches, and, as is well known, troops moving across country along such a line tend to lose direction. Such, indeed, happened in the case of the platoons of this company, those on the left trending more and more to the northward, whereas the intention was that they should swing round to the east. The line was thus extended beyond its proper limits, and the advance, instead of continuing rapidly, was unduly retarded. Then, too, doubtless owing to the paucity of information regarding the enemy in the immediate vicinity of page 284Colincamps, the company forming the defensive flank on the left was more careful than proved to be necessary in its investigation of the area in and about that village, and this also had an appreciable effect in delaying the general movement. These two companies ultimately reached the line of trench along the side of the road running back from Euston towards Colincamps and Sailly-au-Bois.

At about 7 p.m. the left flank of 1st Auckland's line was carried forward some 300 yards and connection gained with our 2nd Battalion's right. Some slight improvements were made in our own line, which finally ran eastwards along the Serre Road to within about 300 yards of Jeremiah Hedge, thence northwards for a similar distance, and bent back in a north-westerly direction towards Euston and so on along the road already referred to. The expected junction with the 4th Australian Brigade, which had been ordered to fill the gap between Hebuterne and Colincamps that day, was not yet made.

Before nightfall the salient formed by "C" Company of the 2nd Battalion at the Serre Road was twice attacked by the enemy, but in each case his attempt failed under our steady fire. Later in the evening a motor-car came down the road from Serre and stopped at some little distance from the bend where our forward post, garrisoned by Webster and three men, was placed. An officer got out and walked quickly, and apparently all unsuspecting, towards our line. All four rifles were trained upon him, and as he failed to respond to the usual challenge he was shot dead. The driver executed an astonishing turn on the road and made off before he could be dealt with.

It is officially reported that fourteen of the new light tanks, known as "whippets," now for the first time in action, participated in this afternoon's advance and did good service on the left flank. This reference is probably to some activity about Colincamps and Hebuterne earlier in the day, for though one had rendered some assistance to the 1st Battalion on the Serre Road they took no part in the 2nd Battalion's attack. During the next two or three days Lewis-gun teams from the tanks were attached to certain of the New Zealand battalions holding the line.

page 285

Our 2nd Battalion was relieved by 2nd Auckland before daybreak on the following morning, the 27th, and went back to Courcelles-au-Bois, just behind Colincamps.

Meanwhile the remaining Brigade, under the command of Lieut.-Col. A. E. Stewart, had been concentrating at Hedauville as a reserve, and finally comprised Headquarters of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, the 3rd Battalion N.Z.R.B., 2nd Wellington and 2nd Otago Battalions, and the Wellington Machine Gun Company. It was decided to push the reserve Brigade into the gap on the left, but as the troops, some of whom had marched by road from Hangest, a distance of 27 miles, were too exhausted to move at once, their departure from Hedauville was delayed for some hours.

Our 4th Battalion arrived at 10 p.m., but for the time being it was held in Hedauville to form part of a new Divisional reserve being constituted as units came up. 1st Wellington and 1st Otago subsequently joined this last reserve, as did also the Engineers. Pioneers, Trench Mortar Batteries, etc.

Just before midnight on the 26th, Lieut.-Col. A. E. Stewart's composite Brigade of three battalions received orders to move via Mailly Maillet to Colincamps and occupy a line along the Auchonvillers-Hebuterne Road between the 1st N.Z. Infantry Brigade ("B" Brigade) and the right of the 62nd Division. The 4th Australian Brigade (temporarily attached to the 62nd Division) was reported to be holding the line round the south-eastern outskirts of Hebuterne, and, as the left of "B" Brigade was at Euston, the position to be attacked was some 2,500 yards in length.

The move from Hedauville commenced at 1 a.m. on the 27th. The night was fine and cool, with moonlight so brilliant that by its aid maps could be read with considerable ease. For some time the column was accompanied by a huge German bombing-aeroplane flying comparatively low and clearly visible to our men; but, probably because of the exhaustion of its supply of bombs and machine-gun ammunition, the troops on the march were not molested. There had been no time for the issue of detailed orders for the operation in hand. Before marching out from Hedauville the battalion commanders were allotted their respective tasks by the Brigadier, and the necessary tactical plans were elaborated and communicated to page 286company commanders at the regulation clock-hour halts by the road-side. In a similar manner the details were worked out by company commanders with their junior officers, who, in their turn, marching in the midst of their platoons, explained the nature of the enterprise to the men and mapped out the duties of the different sections. How well the adaptability of all ranks proved itself in the face of these novel methods, and in spite of lack of information regarding this unknown country and the position and strength of the enemy to be encountered, will be shown in the sequel.

As the column emerged from Mailly Maillet the 2nd Otago Battalion pushed out advanced and flank guards, and when the main body reached Colincamps, where Brigade Headquarters were now established, the same unit formed a temporary outpost line east and north-east of that village. While this screen got into position the two attacking battalions broke up into artillery formation about the scattered buildings. By this time the moon was setting, and in order to take full advantage of the poor visibility during the hour remaining before the dawn, the 3rd Battalion (Lieut.-Col. Puttick) was held only some fifteen minutes in Colincamps. Moving with all speed these troops took the road leading directly north-east towards Hebuterne, "D" Company (Capt. H. C. Mettle) leading, followed by "A" and "B" (Captains F. E. Greenish and H. W. Slater) at suitable intervals. Each company found its own flank guards, the first providing in addition an advanced guard of one platoon.

The refused right flank of the Australians curved round Hebuterne to a point some 800 yards south-west of the village, and the instructions issued to "D" Company provided that as soon as the advanced guard should gain touch with the Australians the company was to halt, turn to the right, and advance eastwards in attack formation. "A" Company was to act similarly, prolonging the attack to the right, while "B" was to form a support line in a defensive position 100 yards east of the road and covering the whole battalion section.

Save that, owing to ground mist, "A" Company overstepped its turning-point, an error that was speedily rectified, the operation was carried out with clock-like precision. Advancing in perfect order against machine-gun and rifle fire of page 287moderate intensity, "D" Company pushed forward to its objective some 600 yards distant, its left being secured by a defensive flank formed by two Lewis gun sections facing north. The breaking dawn gave sufficient light for rapid movement, and in six minutes the company gained the crest of the ridge. Both flanks were immediately extended, the northern to gain touch with the true right of the Australians at Hebuterne, and the southern to assist "A" Company, whose leading lines were at the moment 400 yards short of their goal. By 6.45 a.m. the whole of the battalion sector of the objective was in our hands.

Numerically the enemy was greatly superior to the attacking troops, but on the whole the fighting was not severe. Here and there, however, local encounters were sufficiently sharp. Lance-Corporal J. N. O'Donnell's section was at one time entirely surrounded by the enemy and called upon to surrender. The lance-corporal's silent reply was some busy personal work with the bayonet, and he and his men speedily cleared up the situation. Another lance-corporal, B. T. Smith, being troubled by a sniper, set out to stalk him, but unexpectedly he came upon a machine-gun enfilading the trench. Enlisting the support of one other man he rushed and killed the crew and captured the gun. W. G. Bowers, also a lance-corporal, experienced a similar surprise, for, pushing down an enemy sap to secure two wounded Germans as prisoners, he ran against a party of twelve of the enemy, all hale and hearty. He was fired at and wounded, but, rushing boldly forward, he attacked the dozen single-handed and succeeded in capturing two and driving off the remainder.

The determining factors in the successful issue of the operation were the rapidity and regularity with which it had been conducted. That the enemy had been completely taken by surprise was evidenced by the weak resistance offered, the disorderliness of his retreat, and the great quantity of equipment and tools left scattered about the whole front.

In the meantime the 2nd Wellington Battalion, whose objective lay on the right of that of our 3rd Battalion, moved out of Colincamps in an easterly direction, and coming under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire from the hedge west of La Signy Farm, was held back for some time. The right, how-page 288ever, eventually got forward into touch with 2nd Auckland at Euston, and the left had secured its objective before our own right company was up; but the centre was delayed and had to dig in on a line of posts 300 yards west of the Hebuterne Road.

Thus, by 9 a.m. on March 27th, the great five-mile gap was closed. The enemy, as we shall see, continued for many days his efforts to sweep away the obstacles in his path, but although beyond both our flanks he made some slight gains, such as the capture of Hamel* on the south and Rossignol Wood on the north, and on our own front succeeded in temporarily enlarging his small salient from the line of the Hebuterne Road, his advance was definitely held up. The following message received from General Harper, commanding the IVth Corps, is indicative of the fact that the situation was now regarded as eminently satisfactory:—

"The Corps Commander congratulates the 42nd, 62nd, and New Zealand Divisions and the 4th Australian Brigade on their magnificent behaviour during the last few days' fighting. Numerous heavy attacks by the enemy have been completely repulsed with heavy loss and the capture of prisoners and machine-guns. He heartily thanks the troops for their courage and endurance, and is confident that they will continue to hold the line against all attacks."

* Owing to the extreme length of the line held by the New Zealanders, Hamel had been handed over to the Division on our right.