The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Chapter XIII. The Beginning of the Advance to Victory
Chapter XIII. The Beginning of the Advance to Victory.
German spring offensive temporarily at a standstill at the end of April—Strength of opposing forces—Policy of- active defence and preparation—1st and 4th Battalions attack at Hebuterne, July 15th—General Stewart wounded—German report on the fight—German appreciation of the New Zealand Division—2nd Brigade take Rossignol Wood—To reserve about Couin—Back to the line, northern sector—Enemy raid—American troops—Patrols and raids—To reserve.
By the end of April, 1918, as we have seen, the German spring offensive had been brought to a standstill on both the Somme and the Lys fronts. Everywhere the enemy had failed definitely to break the British line or to sever our army from that of the French, but he had stretched the resources of the Allies almost to the breaking-point. On the British front there remained only forty-five infantry Divisions available for operations; most of these had been much reduced in establishment, and all were urgently in need of rest. The French reserves were required behind their positions south of the Somme and north of the Lys; and the American forces, though rapidly increasing in number and efficiency, were still far from being able to affect the situation very materially. On the other hand it was known that the Germans now held no fewer than seventy-five Divisions in reserve on the Western Front. The War Office, it is true, took immediate steps to pour into France all available reinforcements then in England, as well as bodies of our troops serving in other theatres; but to accomplish these movements, and to complete the necessary training, equipment, assimilation and acclimatization, precious time was required.
In view of the position of the Allies as compared with that of the enemy, it was decided that we must be content with a policy of active defence until August at the earliest, by which time it was expected that we should have tided over the necessary period required for that growth of the American Armies and assimilation of our own reinforcements which page 328would enable us to regain the initiative and pass to the offensive.
During this interval spent on the defensive, every opportunity was taken to rest and train Divisions; and, while their strength and efficiency were being restored, to execute, with ever-increasing frequency and scope, such minor operations as would maintain the fighting spirit of the troops, and at the same time effect local improvements in the line in readiness for the day when the Allied Armies could once more attack in strength.
One of such operations was that carried out east and south-east of Hebuterne by the 1st and 4th Battalions of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on July 15th, following on the silent advance made by the 2nd Battalion ten days previously.
The objective for the 1st Battalion was Fusilier Trench,* which ran roughly parallel to the front line recently improved by the 2nd Battalion. The taking of this involved an advance to a depth of from 100 to 200 yards on a frontage of over 1,000 yards.
It was arranged that, as a preliminary to the attack, an unostentatious artillery shoot should be carried out for some three or four days along the whole Divisional front to conceal wire-cutting and the destruction of enemy posts. During this period, both by day and by night, patrols worked with great boldness and persistence, exploring thoroughly the intervening stretch of No Man's Land with its numerous old saps, marking down with exactness the location of posts, and noting the progress of wire-cutting by the artillery. The information so obtained, especially that brought in by Sergt. A. J. Cunningham, who on the night of 14th/15th July closely inspected the whole of the objective, was of material value, both in the preparation of the plans and in the execution of the assault.
Two companies, "A" (Lieut. R. J. Grant) and "B" (Capt. G. P. O'Shannassy), were detailed for the attack, each to go over with a strength of not more than three officers and 100 other ranks.
* This is shown on some maps as Lier Trench.
Independent observers from various points reported that the attack, excellently led, was carried out in fine order and with great dash. The artillery support was perfect; the wire entanglements were well-broken, the barrage clearly defined, and the front and right flank securely covered. On the left flank, about the 16 Poplars, where the objective was too close to our front line for safe artillery work, a rifle-grenade barrage was put down with good effect. Twenty-four prisoners and ten machine-guns were captured, and 28 enemy dead were counted in or near the objective. Our own casualties were one officer and fourteen men slightly wounded.
While the mopping-up and consolidation were in progress, patrols were sent down the numerous saps leading forward from the captured trench, and the enemy was followed up so rapidly that very little resistance was encountered. The patrol led by Sergeant W. Bray came in contact with a party of Germans, five of whom were killed and the remainder driven back. Another, under Rifleman B. Radcliffe, fell upon a group attempting to re-organize; these broke and ran, but Radcliffe, giving chase, succeeded in bayoneting two.page 330
As a result of the activities of the various patrols, both companies pushed forward a further distance of from 200 to 500 yards beyond their original objective. Ford Trench, now occupied by "B" Company, was an old British front-line trench running north and south; while "A" Company's new front was part of Jena Trench, running roughly at right angles to Ford, and facing the south; and by this second advance the length of trench held by the two companies was increased from 1,000 to 1,500 yards. As soon as consolidation had progressed sufficiently, patrols went out again. Those from the left company discovered that the country on their front was clear to a depth of about 200 yards, the Germans now occupying part of their old front line as it existed prior to the first Somme battle. The men of "A" Company, on the right, found themselves not so favourably situated, for it was ascertained that the continuation of Jena Trench, from the right post westward to the 42nd Division's front line at the Quarries, was strongly held by the enemy. The right flank was thus "in the air;" and as this part of Jena Trench was beyond our Divisional boundary, a consultation was held with the commanding officer of the 5th East Lancashires, the regiment holding the line there, with a view to concerted action by bombing parties, which would work inwards and clear the trench. This course was accordingly arranged and put into execution; but as from neither end could any impression be made on the strong-points encountered, it was decided to hold over further action till daylight. The indomitable Sergeant McMurray, who had displayed such conspicuous ability in the trenches near La Signy Farm during the previous April, was mortally wounded while leading in one of the fierce bombing-fights in Jena Trench.
The renewed attempt was timed for 4.30 a.m., but at 3 a.m. the, enemy commenced a heavy bombardment of our forward posts, and half an hour later counter-attacked in strength and with great determination. The two posts on the right were forced back along the saps towards Fusilier, and the Germans regained some 200 yards of Jena, capturing one of our men who had been disabled by a bomb while covering the withdrawal of his party.page 331
"A" Company, however, had done too well to endure this slight Bet-back for long. The Stokes mortars were brought into requisition. After a short bombardment, the garrison of the withdrawn right posts moved down and engaged the enemy from the front; and while his attention was so held, another party, led by 2nd Lieut. W. Henning, worked along Jena and attacked him from the flank. A sharp fight ensued, but eventually the lost territory was regained. Pursuing the enemy still further, Henning and his men attacked the German post beyond our flank, accounting for a number of the enemy and capturing a machine-gun. Thus by 4.30 a.m. our posts were restored and an additional length of trench was added to the former gains.
In the meantime the remainder of Jena was being dealt with. Owing to the great length of our new line, this task had been entrusted to "C" Company (Capt. K. R. J. Saxon), then in support in the old front line. Taking up the running from "A" Company's right, a section under Lieut. M. A. Stedman fought their way westward for a distance of 250 yards until held up by a strong post from which machine-gun fire was directed along the trench. Here a double block was established, and by 6 a.m. the stretch of trench gained had been consolidated. Once more the Stokes mortars were called upon for support, and, after a few rounds on the machine-gun post, the latter was rushed by Capt. Saxon and five of his men. This was the last point at which the enemy made any determined resistance, for, as Capt. Saxon and his party of five pressed rapidly along the trench, the few remaining Germans scuttled off down the saps. By noon the whole was clear, and soon afterwards the consolidation of the line was complete and a portion handed over to the Bast Lancashires.
Shortly after noon on the 17th, the garrison of one of the posts covering a sap leading out into No Man's Land saw to their astonishment one of our own men crawling slowly towards the line. He proved to be the wounded prisoner captared by the Germans on the previous morning. He had been taken to a dug-out in Jean Bart Trench with several of their own wounded. Here he was carefully attended to, but the enemy during the night vacated that locality, leaving him behind. Acting on the information thus obtained, our patrols page 332at once extended their field of observations, and presently ascertained that the enemy's main line was now fully 500 yards distant from Jena, with only a few posts slightly in advance of that line.
In the subsidiary operations on the morning of the 16th, our casualties numbered three killed and ten wounded. Two machine-guns were captured and twenty of the enemy killed.
The operation carried out by the 4th Battalion coincident with that of the 1st Battalion at 4 p.m. on July 15th, consisted of a bombing attack almost at right-angles to the advance of the latter.
Running out eastward from the right of the battalion sector was a spur similar to that along which the 2nd Battalion had advanced the line on the 5th. From this the Germans overlooked the greater part of our forward positions to the northwards, and the object of the attack was to displace the enemy from the commanding ground and establish our own front line there. The actual objective was not a broad one, not much more than 400 yards, in fact, but the advantage to be gained was ample in the meantime, for it would enable us to threaten from the flank the enemy's front line running northwards along the lower ground towards Rossignol Wood. The old German front and support lines extending along the south-western face of the original Gommecourt salient, and now used by the 4th Battalion as communication trenches, have already been referred to. These continued across No Man's Land into the present German lines, and, bending southwards, formed the enemy's new position facing the 1st Battalion's left company when the latter drove him out of Fusilier and Ford on this same evening. These two trenches were known as Nameless Trench and Nameless Support. Still another sap, Snuff Alley, ran out from our front line, roughly parallel to the others, and a trench intersecting the three formed that part of the German line to be assaulted.
The 4th Battalion men were well acquainted with the ground over which they were to advance, for most of them had patrolled it. Lance-Corporal J. Sillifant, in particular, knew every inch of it up to within twenty yards of the objective, and, in addition, could state exactly where the enemy's page 333posts were situated. He had, by the way, added sniping to his other duties, and during the past four days had accounted for ten of the enemy, a score that he was to increase considerably this afternoon.
The attack was carried out by two platoons and two sections of "A" Company. No. 4, platoon, under 2nd Lieut. C. H. Adams, bombed up Nameless Trench; No. 3 platoon, under 2nd Lieut. W. Skelton, similarly dealt with Nameless Support; while two sections of No. 1 platoon, under Sergeant A. J. Officer, attacked along Snuff Alley.
The operation was entirely successful, though strong resistance was met with at all three points attacked. At two of these the destruction or capture of the garrisons followed swiftly, but at the third our men were temporarily held up till Corporal A. Corbett, dashing through the barrage of the longer-ranged German bombs, got to close quarters with his bayonet and disorganized the garrison. His section followed up and completed the capture of the position, which was found to contain no fewer than four machine-guns. Covering-patrols were pushed down the saps while the new line, now 100 yards beyond the original objective, was consolidated in readiness to meet a counter-attack. The enemy, however, had been so badly hit that he made no attempt to regain his lost positions. Eight prisoners and seven machine-guns were captured, while our own losses were two men killed and six wounded.
During the night the 4th Battalion attacked again with the object of pushing forward another 300 yards and establishing posts in that part of Owl Trench lying between Nameless and Nameless Support.
For the task of carrying out this second advance a platoon of "C" Company, under 2nd Lieut. R. Whitefield, was detailed. The plans were quickly made, and at 1.20 a.m. the commander led a party, consisting of half his men, down Nameless Support. Little opposition was encountered until the junction with Owl Trench was reached. Here the enemy held a strong bombing-post, and there ensued a stiff contest for its possession, but the Germans were eventually driven along the trench to the left, and blocks were established to hinder his return. The enemy made three counter-attacks on the post from Nameless Support, and one from Owl Trench, before the morning page 334dawned, but all were repulsed. The second party, under Sergeant Hamilton, operated along Nameless Trench, and, some fifty yards from our line, came in contact with the Germans, who, after a brisk exchange of bombs, retreated. Pressing on towards Owl Trench, Hamilton's men came to a post similar to that which was engaging the attention of the left party. It was an awkward point, and the Germans, holding in strength, put up a good fight, but these also were pushed out. While blocks were being established, the enemy counter-attacked from a flank, but failed to make any impression upon the stranger within his gates. He tried again, however, this time endeavouring to reach the post by bombing up Nameless Trench, but meeting with no better success from this quarter, be finally gave up the attempt. Thus the platoon's mission was accomplished. The actual capture of the two posts occupied only some forty minutes, and the attack and consolidation cost no more than five men wounded. The trophies included one machine-gun and two trench mortars.
These combined operations of the two battalions were, within their scope, probably the most successful hitherto carried out by the Brigade. They were brilliantly executed, and individual instances of initiative and daring were unusually numerous and striking, awards for gallantry being granted to no fewer than three officers and thirteen other ranks. Our men had entered upon the engagements fully confident in their ability to carry them through, and the success, exceeding as it did all expectations, engendered a high elation which not even the pouring rain, the muddy trenches, and the abominable filth of the German quarters could dampen. Those who had not been privileged to participate were equally affected. The mopping-up of the first objective had not been fully completed before the carrying-parties were on their way forward with wiring-material, and other parties were at work on the communication-trenches leading towards the captured positions. Hot tea and stew were delivered to the forward posts before dark; and company commanders in their reports specially stressed the fact that throughout the following days the rations never failed to reach the men, though in many exposed places the carriers had to worm their way through the mud, flat on their faces, dragging the food-containers after them.page 335
There was cheeriness everywhere, arising from the feeling that what had been done was but an earnest of still better developments yet to come. Unfortunately, General Stewart, while inspecting the new front line on the morning of the 17th, was wounded by a sniper.*
Lieut.-Col. Austin assumed command of the Brigade pending the arrival of Brigadier-General H. Hart, C.M.G., D.S.O., from England, on the 22nd.
The following extracts, taken from a copy of a captured German intelligence summary, refer to the operations described above. The exaggeration in the strength of our attacking parties will be noted. In the translation, our own names are given to the trenches referred to in the original:—
"Intelligence Summary no. 1, of the 28th Reserve Division. "Period 14/7/18 to 17/7/18.
"Enemy Infantry.—On the 15/7/18, at 4 p.m., the enemy infantry attacked in strength of 800 to 1,200 men, penetrating into the north sector of the Div. (6th Coy.) after very heavy artillery fire. They penetrated our outpost line in several places, and established themselves in it.
"During the night the enemy, bringing up fresh forces, penetrated the 'D' Coy. Sector of 119th R.I.R. and broke through 'A' Coy. in Fusilier Trench, to the main line of resistance. In the sector of 180 I.R. he attempted repeatedly to roll up the northern flank from the point of penetration. He was repulsed after heavy fighting. He only succeeded in entering the southern flank of 'B' Coy. in Nameless Trench and Nameless Support.
"We counter-attacked at 3 a.m. on 16/7/18 with the 7th and 8th Coys, and remnants of 1st and 2nd Coys. 119 R.I.R., and succeeded in clearing the sector of 'B' Coy. in Jena Avenue. The enemy still held the sector of 'A' Coy. in the eastern half of Jena.
"At 4.30 a.m., after heavy artillery and trench-mortar fire, the enemy renewed his attack with overwhelming forces. After heavy fighting he succeeded in again penetrating Jenapage 336
* General Stewart was the fourth of our Brigadiers to become a casualty, two having been killed and two wounded. He did not return to the Brigade, but on his recovery was appointed to the command of Sling Camp, remaining in control there from September 27th, 1918, until April 4th of the following year.
Avenue and into the positions of 'B' Coy. in that trench. The southern half of 119 R.I.R. sector was slightly withdrawn on account of the seriously-threatened flank.
"The attempts of the enemy to advance further on the evening of the 16th were repulsed.
"On the 17/7/18, at noon, an attack on the 'C' Coy. Sector of 180 I.R. was repulsed.
"119th R.I.R. took several English prisoners during the counter-attack on the sector of 'C' Coy., who, however, again fell into the hands of the enemy through their strong counter-attack. According to statements of the Englishmen, and the title N.Z.R.B. on the shoulder-strap, they belonged to a battalion of New Zealand Rifles. The southern flank of the New Zealand Division, therefore, extends further south than we had hitherto assumed.
"Enemy artillery activity was normal on the 14th and morning of the 15th. It rose occasionally to great intensity in the evening of the 15th and night of 15th/16th in connection with enemy attacks. At noon and in the afternoon of the 16th heavy crashes fell on the sector of 180 I.R. and 119 R.I.R., overlapping on to the sector of the northern flank division. During the night of 16th/17th harassing fire increased.
"Our artillery engaged two enemy batteries with aeroplane observation, and, on observing the flares of the infantry, put down barrage and destructive fire in front of the threatened sectors. We also liberally bombarded the portions of our outpost zone occupied by the enemy.……
"Our light and medium trench mortars fired on the enemy trenches and on barrage fire during the enemy attacks.
"Enemy aircraft were very active over our front line during the fighting, and over the roads and villages in our back areas. The enemy dropped a large number of bombs……"
The same intelligence summary contains the following information concerning the New Zealand Division:—
"Particulars of the New Zealand Division.
"Commander: Sir Andrew Russell.
"Order of Battle—Infantry. 3rd N.Z. Rifle Bde. 2nd N.Z. Inf. Bde. 1st N.Z. Inf. Bde. I/N.Z. Rifles. I/Canterbury Regt. I/Auckland Regt. II/N.Z. Rifles. II/Canterbury Regt. II/Auckland Regt. III/N.Z. Rifles. I/Otago Regt. I/Wellington Regt. IV/N.Z. Rifles. II/Otago Regt. II/Wellington Regt.
"The companies appear, in addition, to carry special names, e.g., those of II/Wellington Regiment are Taranaki, West Coast. Hawke's Bay, Ruahine. The existence of a Fourth Brigade is possible.
"Machine-Guns: New Zealand Machine Gun Bn. consists of 4 companies, each of 16 Vickers guns. 5 light machine-guns [Lewis guns] have recently been identified with infantry companies, but their number has probably since been increased; an attempt is made to train all men in the use of the light machine-gun.
"Field Artillery: 1st and 2nd Brigades.
"Pioneers: 1st and 2nd Field Companies (Field Coys Royal Engineers).
"Working Battalion: 1st Bn. N. Z. Pioneers (Maoris).
"Entrenching Battalion: I, II, III. This is a sort of convalescent unit which is employed mostly behind the front and frequently outside the Divisional Area.
"History: The Division was in rest in the St. Omer area at the end of March, 1918, and was transferred south and put into the rearguard battle west of Bapaume. It remained in the Colincamps Sector continuously until the 10th of June, and then went into rest (probably in the area north of Pas). The losses during the period in line were at times not inconsiderable. Since the 10th of July the Division has been in line in the Hebuterne sector.
"Reinforcements: White New Zealanders.
"The Battalion of N.Z. Pioneers is composed of natives (Maoris), who are a light brown people of the Polynesian race. The infantry reinforcements are chiefly drafted to the Entrenching Battalions and drawn from these as required by the fighting troops.
"Losses incurred during the last period in line were made up quickly by small parties drawn from this unit. The company fighting strength is estimated at about 150 men.
"In New Zealand a limited system of compulsory service has been introduced. The reinforcements consist almost entirely of young, strong men.
"Badges and Equipment: In addition to the steel helmet, a khaki-coloured hat with coloured bands is worn, that of the infantry being khaki and red, the artillery dark purple and red, the Pioneer Companies khaki and blue-black, A.S.C. khaki and white. Shoulder straps have a flap of the same colour. On the collar of the coat there are brass letters; those of the 1st and 2nd Brigades have N.Z.R., the Rifle Brigadepage 338
N.Z.R.B., the Pioneer Companies N.Z.E. Coloured cloth badges are carried on the back (possibly on both arms?) and on the hat band.
[Note.—A complete illustration with colours of the patches of all the regiments follows here. All these are correct with the exception of 1st Canterbury and 1st Otago, which apparently were unknown. A footnote adds that the patches of the 1st and 3rd Brigades had not been confirmed for a long time.]
Appreciation of the Division.
"A particularly good assault Division. Its characteristic is a very strongly developed individual self-confidence or enterprise typical of the colonial Englishman, and a specially-pronounced hatred of the Germans…
"(Sgd.) Walther, Colonel.
"Distribution to Companies and Batteries."
Similar minor operations were carried out by the 2nd Brigade in the sector just north of us, where for some time fighting-patrols and raiding-parties had been feeling the strength of the enemy defences of Rossignol Wood. The Wood was found to be strong in wire, "pill-boxes" and machine-guns, but on the evening of the 15th July, following on our own advance in front of the village, troops of the 1st and 2nd Canterbury Battalions attacked and gained a footing in the north-western projection. Four nights later the enemy relinquished his hold on the Wood, and at daylight on the morning of the 20th, 2nd Otago, now in line in this sector, advanced through it and dug in beyond its eastern edge. The 1st Brigade battalions which had relieved us in our advanced sector on the night of the 17th immediately followed suit, and in their turn moved forward, 1st Auckland on the left capturing the remainder of Owl Trench and gaining touch with 2nd Otago at the Wood, and 2nd Wellington pushing on from Jena to Chasseur Hedge beyond Jean Bart. Further gains were made on the 24th, when Hawke Trench was captured. Beyond our right, again, the troops of the 42nd Division had improved their position by capturing La Signy Farm on the 16th.
On relief by the 1st Brigade on July 17th, we moved back to Divisional reserve, with headquarters at Couin and the 1st Battalion in the neighbouring Wood. The 2nd Battalion took page 339over a section of the Chateau cle la Haie Switch, while the 3rd occupied bivouacs and billets at Rossignol Farm, and the 4th the Coigneux billets.
Our period of eight days in reserve passed pleasantly enough. The quarters on the whole were good, the canvas camps in particular being an agreeable change from the "cubby-holes" and dug-outs of the front line trenches. Practically the only drawback was the uncomfortable proximity of our heavy batteries, which drew a considerable amount of fire from the enemy's long-range guns. German 'planes occasionally bombed the area, but only once succeeded in causing damage, a bomb dropped on Couin Wood wounding the Brigade bandmaster, Lieut. P. E. Cole, and six men. The usual working-parties were supplied by battalions, but as these were engaged no farther forward than Chateau de la Haie Switch, where they were employed excavating deep dug-outs for the platoons of the garrison, no great hardship was felt. During the long evenings, too, we had the pleasure of listening to open-air performances given by the Divisional Pierrots, who set up their temporary stage in the Wood.
The Brigade returned to the line on the night of July 25th/26th, relieving the 2nd Brigade in the left sector, east of Rossignol Wood, with headquarters in a dug-out just south of Fouquevillers. The 3rd Battalion took over the right subsector from 2nd Otago, and the 2nd Battalion the left from 1st Otago. The 1st Battalion went to support, relieving 2nd Canterbury, and the 4th took over the reserve position from 1st Canterbury.
During the relief, the enemy attempted to raid the trenches held by 2nd Otago. The attack, made by three companies, was driven off, leaving 30 prisoners in our hands. The prisoners gave it as their opinion that the three assaulting companies had been completely destroyed.
The heavy rains of the 25th and 26th had a very bad effect on the recently-captured trenches, which soon became knee-deep in mud and water. The conditions, which were little better than those at Passchendaele, made the labours of working and carrying parties extremely arduous. For the Americans, two platoons of whom were attached to each battalion in the line for experience, this introduction to trench-life was some-page 340what unfortunate. The Americans, however, adapted themselves with admirable readiness to the novel conditions, made light of the discomforts, and ceaselessly voiced their one desire "to get at the Hun and on with the war."
Lieut.-Col. Beere returned from leave and resumed command of the 4th Battalion on July 21st. It having been decided that the Details' Camp of each Brigade should be commanded when possible by a battalion commander, Lieut.-Col. Austin took over our camp at Marieux from Major Murphy on July 25th. Major Shepherd thereupon assumed temporary command of the 1st Battalion.
On July 22nd, the 2nd Battalion band was detached for duty with the IVth Corps School for a fortnight.
The casualties for the month of July were:—
On the night of 2nd/3rd August the 1st and 4th Battalions relieved the 3rd and 2nd in the front line, the two latter units going to support and reserve respectively.
The enemy artillery bombardment of the area, and especially of Rossignol Wood, continued steadily day by day, frequently rising to great intensity, and this was supplemented by trench mortar activity on our front trenches.
At 2.30 in the afternoon of August 7th, a remarkable raid was carried out by 2nd Lieut. J. A. McL. Roy, intelligence officer, and Rifleman A. H. Perry, both of the 1st Battalion. The enemy was known to be holding a post close to our line south-east of Rossignol Wood, and, after a few rounds from our Stokes mortar, the little party of two slipped down an old communication-trench and came upon a German listening-post. In the side of the enemy's trench was a dug-out with an oil-sheet hanging over the entrance. The lifting of this revealed within two Germans, who made a considerable outcry when they found a revolver within a foot of their faces. On being signalled to come out they did so with alacrity, and were taken back to our lines. Deciding that more prisoners might possibly be obtainable, Lieut. Roy and his companion went across again, and, pushing further down the enemy trench, came to page 341a fork with Germans in both branches. On one side two were seen with a machine-gun which they were making ready to fire. These, on being rushed, immediately threw up their hands, and were promptly escorted to our lines. Once again the gallant pair returned to the German trench, and, after some difficulty, secured and brought back the machine-gun. No casualties were suffered on our side. A German officer who attempted to bomb the raiding-party from a flank was shot through the head by a sergeant in our front trench.
On the same date a night patrol of one officer and four men from the 4th Battalion was suddenly confronted by a party of thirty of the enemy, who opened fire. The patrol took cover and, under instructions from their officer, the men made their way back individually to our lines. As the officer failed to return, Corporal R. T. Corsbie and Rifleman C. V. Murray went back into No Man's Land to search for him. He was at last discovered lying in a shell-hole severely wounded. Thinking they were safe from observation, the two rescuers raised their unconscious officer with the object of carrying him back. Unfortunately, however, the loud groans of the sufferer brought the enemy again upon the scene. These were now engaged single-handed by Rifleman Murray, who with bombs and rifle-fire kept them at bay whilst the corporal bound up the officer's wounds. Seizing a favourable moment they rapidly withdrew, bringing their officer with them, thus not only saving his life but preventing the enemy from gaining identifications.
On the evening of August 10th we were relieved in the line by the 1st Brigade, going back to reserve in our old quarters about Couin and in the Chateau de la Haie Switch. Here we spent a brief but enjoyable period of rest. The weather now was fine and warm, and the calls for working-parties being less exacting than usual, recreational and general training went on with little interruption.
On August 16th, Major A. H Carrington temporarily took over the duties of Brigade Major, vice Major Bremner, evacuated sick.