The Maoris in the Great War
Chapter XVI. — The Summer of 1918—Western Front
The Summer of 1918—Western Front.
Early in the month of May, work was rearranged amongst the Companies. A Company took on all work at Hebuterne, chiefly cleaning out, and making firesteps, duck-walks in the Hebuterne Switch, and clearing the houses, trees and grass in front to give a fair field of fire, building machine-gun emplacements, wiring strong points, cleaning out Woman Street and communication trench through Fort Hugh to Fort Hector, and cleaning out Cross Street. Nearly all the material was salvaged on the spot, and practically all the duck-walks put in were made in Hebuterne.
A Company also put in four 50-foot drives into the banks at their billets. Cross cuts connected these up in pairs, and sufficient shelter was provided for the Company in case of shelling. These tunnels were afterwards taken over as Brigade Headquarters.
B Company assisted by a platoon from C Company, dug Hay Avenue connecting up Beer Trench with Rum Trench and Hebuterne Switch. This was a standard size trench, fire-stepped for all-round defence and joined the northern face of Fort Herod. The completed trench was 1,500 yards long. It was referred to afterwards in another Division's Orders as an example of how a communication trench should be dug and camouflaged.
C Company took charge of all wiring between Colincamps and Hebuterne. D Company did a lot of wiring. On May 11th they dumped some exposed wiring at One Tree Hill and in front of the Sugar Refinery and suffered only two slight casualties. At Fort Bertha this Company did the best hidden trench work that had yet been carried out by the Battalion.
The enemy's artillery activity during the month was rather below normal, though he was quite spiteful in regard to certain spots, such as the Sugar Refinery and the neighbourhood of Courcelles, and developed an unpleasant habit of throwing over crashes, a concentration of a number of guns on a particular page 140 point for about a minute. These crashes came without warning; they were a mixture of shrapnel and H.E. from guns of all calibres up to 8-inch. “The weather,” reported Lieut.-Col. Saxby, “has on the whole been fine, with a few wet days in the middle of the month, and it was rather surprising that with so much in his favour he developed no infantry attacks on our front. Still, he was busy elsewhere, and probably knew as well as we did the stack of troops we had behind us.”
All the work was carried out in the morning, leaving the afternoon free, and football and even tennis were played, “weapons” for which were supplied by the Y.M.C.A.
Influenza resulted in a good deal of sickness, but casualties were extremely light; only three men were wounded during the month of May.
In the early part of June, trench work was pushed ahead to finish the job and it was nearly all done when the sector was handed over to the Northumberland Fusiliers. The Battalion had done over 40 miles of wire fencing since coming into the sector, making a formidable obstacle. On June 7th, the New Zealand Division was relieved by the British 42nd Division, and the Northumberland Fusiliers (Pioneers) took over the Maoris' work and camp. The Battalion then took over the camp at Coigneux, vacated by the relief. A good deal of work was done here when orders were received to shift to a camping area nearer Souastre. Here, after dragging over an appalling quantity of salvaged iron, timber and other rubbish the Maoris were soon dug-in again. On the 21st, the Battalion was on the move again, and spent the rest of the month in an excellent camp at the Bois de Warinmort. On the 29th, the Maoris were inspected by Mr Massey, Sir Joseph Ward and General Richardson. Altogether it was an easy month. Casualties, only two wounded. Major Ennis returned from hospital on the 19th.
The Battalion's strength on June 30th was 972 of all ranks.
The advance extended the Pioneers' work, adding 500 yards or more to each of the communication trenches, besides necessitating the wiring of the Forbes-Faith-Welcome-Cod Trench line.page 142
For the month the casualties were light—one killed (a shell splinter), and seven wounded. There had been 93 cases evacuated, mostly influenza, but about 40 of these returned to the Battalion during the month.
The Battalion had an allotment of ten men per fortnight at the Divisional Lewis Gun School, and most of them came back with excellent reports. Every advantage was also taken of the chance to send officers and men to the Corps and Army Schools, particularly the Musketry Schools. Arrangements were being made to get a sufficient number of men trained as cooks, in the interests of economy and better feeding.page break