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With the Machine Gunners in France and Palestine

Chapter VIII — Gravenstafel and Passchendaele — Period 4th October, 1917, to 23rd October, 1917

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Chapter VIII
Gravenstafel and Passchendaele
Period 4th October, 1917, to 23rd October, 1917

The British Armies round Ypres had been steadily pushing forward since the attack had opened on 31st July, although the operations towards the end of September had yielded small results at a heavy cost. The summer was now on the wane, and the prosecution of the offensive became urgent. The formidable Passchendaele Ridge still lay ahead of our troops, and to help bring it nearer the attack of the 4th October was delivered.

The New Zealand Division was given a front of 2000 yards on which to attack, finishing on a line approximately 1000 yards away. The advance meant the capture of the crest of Gravenstafel ridge and establishing a line well down its forward slope.

The attack was divided into two phases, the first phase being the advance to and capture of a line called the "Red line," just beyond the Village of Gravenstafel, and the second phase the advance to and capture of a line called the "Blue line," about 500 yards east of Gravenstafel.1

The 1st Brigade and 4th Brigade were detailed for the attack, with the 2nd Brigade as Divisional Reserve. The 3rd (Rifle) Brigade was at this time detached from the Division. Owing to the wide Divisional front, the two assaulting Brigades attacked alongside each other, and both employed two battalions for the first and the final objectives. The five Companies of the Corps were all employed, the 2nd, 3rd and Divisional Companies and one section of the 1st and 4th Companies were detailed for barrage work, and the remaining sections of the 1st and 4th Companies became attached to their respective brigades to move forward with the attack, so that they could assist in the consolidation.

Major Hardie had the machine gun programme prepared, and the necessary orders issued at about 3 p.m. on 2nd Octo-

1 See Gravenstafel Map facing page 100.

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. Fortunately the weather was fine, and the enemy shelling very mild, which enabled the officers to reconnoitre the positions that had been selected for the barrage groups. The infantry supplied a large number of carriers, and with the help of these and the almost superhuman efforts of the various company transports the huge supply of ammunition required for the attack was taken forward during the night of the 2nd/3rd. The whole of this ammunition was carefully concealed before dawn, and remained intact until it was moved forward to the gun positions the following night.

The barrage guns were divided into three groups called "A" group under Captain L. C. Chaytor, twenty guns; "B" group under Capt. J. B. Parks, twenty guns; and "C" group under Major J, H. Luxford, twenty guns. "A" group and "B" group were given the task of providing the machine gun barrage for the first phase and the stationary barrage after the Red line was captured. "C" group had the task of covering the second phase, which meant that its barrage position had to be pushed as far forward as possible before Zero. The chart opposite the next page illustrates the whole Divisional machine gun scheme.

The groups moved forward after dusk, and quickly reached the selected positions, which had been thoroughly reconnoitred; each gun position had been marked and firing posts laid out. By midnight all the groups had dug their gun emplacements, had their ammunition up, belts filled and guns mounted and laid ready for the Zero hour, six hours later.

Major Luxford, commanding "C" group, inspected his positions a short while before dusk on the evening of the 3rd October, and observed that the line he had selected, running from Fokker Farm along in front of the Zonnebeke Road showed the effects of recent heavy enemy shelling, indicating that the enemy had chosen the spot for barrage purposes.

He decided to change his position, moving it forward 200 yards, almost to the lines from which the infantry would attack. This change of position entailed an immense amount of work; the whole of the firing tables that had been carefully worked out and checked had to be done over afresh in a congested pillbox. However, the section officers worked with a will, and by midnight all the necessary changes had been completed.

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The drizzling rain that fell after midnight, and the bleak cold made the long waiting hours drag wearily and uncomfortably away. Fortunately, the enemy was not active, only occasional bursts of high explosive disturbing the quiet night.

While Lieut. W. Moore, of the 3rd Company, was visiting his gun teams, about 2 a.m., he was severely wounded, and subsequently succumbed to his injuries.

The Companies, however, suffered exceedingly few casualties throughout the night.

Zero arrived at 6 a.m., and ten minutes later the "A" and "B" groups opened, increasing range at the slow rate of one hundred yards in six minutes. The swampy nature of the ground made the infantry movement very slow, and in anticipation of this the protective barrages only advanced at half the normal rate.

The guns of "A" and "B" groups maintained their rate of fire until 8.10 a.m., at which time the battalions were ready to move forward to the final objective. As "A" and "B" groups ceased, "C" group opened and maintained rapid fire, lifting gradually until a range of 400 yards beyond the Blue line was reached, when the fire became stationary. At 9.10 a.m. "C" group ceased, but remained laid ready to open directly the S.O.S. was seen. By this time eight guns from "A" group and the whole of "B" group were moved forward to take up positions to cover the Blue line. The remaining twelve guns of "A" group were kept in their original positions, passing to Divisional Reserve. At 9 a.m. the "A" and "B" groups had completed their move forward and established their new positions, and had guns mounted and laid in readiness to deal with any enemy attack against the Blue line. The three groups were now co-ordinately arranged to cover the whole Divisional front. There were three S.O.S. calls on the 4th, and three during the early hours of the morning of the 5th, which were instantly responded to, and won high praise from the infantry.

During the night the pack transport brought forward heavy supplies of ammunition, which gave each gun a reserve of 6000 rounds by dawn on the morning of the 5th.

The expenditure during the twenty-four hours had been very heavy, nearly 600,000 rounds having been fired by the page break
Machine Gun Scheme, Gravenstafel,4th October, 1917

Machine Gun Scheme, Gravenstafel,4th October, 1917

page break page 89sixty guns. Major J. H. Luxford was dangerously wounded when visiting the guns of "C" group just after they opened fire at 8.10 a.m., and Lieut W. R. Proffitt was killed at the same time. The other casualties were extremely light. Had however "C" group taken up the position originally selected its casualties would have been heavy, and it would probably have been unable to carry out its task. A heavy well-placed barrage came down on the position about 5.30 a.m., and continued practically the whole morning. The few casualties suffered by "C" group were caused by short shells.

The barrage guns were relieved by dawn on the morning of the 6th October, and were soon "embussed" for calmer regions.

The 4th Company (less the section detailed for barrage work) had actively supported the 4th Brigade. On 2nd October it moved into the line to relieve the 2nd Company, unfortunately suffering casualties during the relief. Lieut. T. Brewer was wounded, two other ranks killed, and nine wounded. In view of the closeness of the renewal of the offensive it was considered inadvisable to take over the whole of the forward gun positions. Only two gun positions in two strong points on the flanks of Hill 37 were occupied, and the main machine gun defence was provided by the establishment of a ten-gun indirect S.O.S. barrage group. None of these guns were, however, called upon.

To support the 4th Brigade attack, Capt. Inglis detailed one section under 2nd Lieut. Forsdick and one section under 2nd Lieut. D. O. Williams to the two battalions that were to capture the final objective. The remaining section was retained as Brigade Reserve.

The sections assembled with the reserve companies of the respective battalions to which they were attached at 1 a.m. on the morning of the 4th October, and spent the remainder of the night in shell holes without incident. During the enemy shelling that preceded Zero hour a shell landed amongst a gun team of 2nd Lieut. Williams's section, rendering the whole team casualties. At Zero the two sections advanced with the reserve companies of the final objective battalions, the gun teams moving in single file, without loss. The softness of the ground localised the burst of the H.E. shells, and undoubtedly page 90saved many lives. The crossing of the Hannebeeke was very arduous for the gunners, and it was indeed fortunate that the barrage halted for some time to cover the crossing, for the gunners had to make several trips to get the whole of their gear across.

The two sections passed beyond the newly won Red line and re-formed behind the protective barrage preparatory to advancing to the Blue line; on resuming the advance the sections suffered a number of casualties from the heavy machine gun and rifle fire to which they were exposed. 2nd Lieut. Forsdick was wounded before the Blue line was reached, but Sergt. Mintrom took command of the section, which he handled with great ability and gallantry, subsequently being awarded the M.M. for his conduct. The sections passed beyond the Blue line and quickly dug emplacements for the guns. By 10 a.m. the guns were mounted and were busily engaged against the hostile fire coming from the direction of Belle Vue. A number of enemy infantry were observed several times, giving the gunners easy targets. The work of these sections was of great value, especially in silencing the enemy machine guns near Belle Vue. By gaining the superiority of fire they saved the infantry many casualties and facilitated its movement. The guns were placed to bring a strong belt of grazing fire in front of Blue line, and laid on these positions during the night 4th/5th October, being called upon to fire four times.

The 4th Company was relieved on the 6th October, and the 1st Company on the 7th, and both companies went back to rest and were rejoined by the sections that had been detached for barrage work. It is unfortunate that it is impossible to give details of the action of the two sections of the 1st Company that went forward with the 1st Brigade, but the records are too meagre to give a sufficient clue to enable the writer to even conjecture what took place. It may be a good reminder to those who read this history and who may serve in "The Next Great War," if the 1st Company's report of its doings on the memorable 4th October is set out in extenso. It will help them to remember that official histories cannot do justice to gallant acts, or even with accuracy recount happenings, unless the commanders' reports and diaries con-page 91tain at least a bare outline of what took place. The 1st Company's report, as appears in its official War Diary, is as follows:—

"4th October. Attacked 6 a.m. with success; casualties 25 per cent. Counter-attacks defeated."

However, it is to be hoped that the very excellent work the 1st Company at all times performed and the gallant conduct of its officers and men will not be depreciated on account of the rigid economy of War Diary paper that was exercised during the month of October, 1917.

Fortunately it is possible to record the splendid work performed by Sergt. L. P. Magee, the 1st Company's transport sergeant, on 4th October. Magee was placed in charge of the various carrying parties which Capt. Hayter decided should get supplies of ammunition, water and rations to the forward gun positions as quickly as possible after the objectives were gained. This was rather a novel idea, but a sound one; if successful it would avoid the fatiguing and wasteful employment of men from the gun teams continually to go back for necessary supplies. Magee had everything, required loaded on to pack mules, which were brought to the front line just before Zero. The mules got their loads forward behind the last waves of the attacking infantry, and with very few casualties succeeded in reaching the Red line (first objective) shortly after the gun teams. Later a more forward dump was established, from which Magee sent supplies by carriers up to the Blue line (final objective). Ten thousand rounds of ammunition were delivered to each gun position during the day. Magee's work was probably the best of its kind performed in the Corps; it was specially mentioned by General Melvill (commanding 1st Brigade), and was recognised by an award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The Companies were not to enjoy their rest for long, and by the 11th October they were again in readiness to take part in the disastrous operation of the 12th—the one operation in France in which the New Zealand Division failed to accomplish its task.

The Divisional Company was the first to return to the forward zone, arriving at St. Jean just before midday on 10th October. Arrangements were immediately made to relieve page 92the 199th Company,1 who were in the line near Abraham Heights. Forward Headquarters was established at Kansas House, and the relief was completed before midnight. One gun section was badly shelled about midnight, and 2nd Lieut. P. J. Clark was killed. Clark had been granted his commission in the field, and had served in the Corps continuously since its inception. As a sergeant he had performed very sterling work, especially in the Armentieres sector and in the Battle of the Somme.

The other Companies came back to the forward zone on the 10th and 11th October. The 2nd Company relieved the 148th Company in the line, fortunately accomplishing the relief without casualties.

The Machine Gun Companies shared with the other units of the Division in the inconveniences and hardships of the hasty and imperfect preparations that preceded the ill-fated attack on Belle Vue Spur.

In the first instance it was decided that the Divisional objective should be a line well beyond the village of Pass-chendaele; the orders for this attack, including the machine gun scheme, were all completed on 10th October. The Division on the left subsequently considered it impossible to advance sufficiently to protect the Divisional flank—causing a complete modification of the plans that had been made. New orders were feverishly prepared and issued. After the completion of the second set of orders the Division on the right found or considered it could not carry out its original task, which meant another modification of our plans.

It was not until 2 p.m. on the 11th October that Major Hardie was able to complete his orders for the machine gun scheme—being the third set of orders he had been forced to prepare. Thus barely thirteen hours were left to the Company Commanders to get ready for the operation.

The 1st, 4th and the Divisional Companies were retained for barrage work, and the 2nd and 3rd Companies were allotted to their respective Brigades for consolidation purposes. Capt. R. B. Caws had by this time taken over the

1 The Divisional Company really relieved two British Companies, but owing to the heavy casualties they had suffered only eight gun teams were left instead of thirty-two.,

page 93command of the 3rd Company, in place of Major J. H. Luxford, who was wounded on the 4th October.

The officers of the barrage groups made the necessary reconnaisance of their positions, and throughout the 11th October the transport officers and drivers worked with indefatigable energy to get forward the ammunition required for the operation. The fiendish weather had performed its devilish task to perfection; the shell-torn areas that lay between the front, and the roads that had been pushed forward had become a seething mass of almost liquid mud. Wheeled transport was quite impossible, which necessitated the use of pack horses. In spite of all difficulties the transport did its job as it always did, and there was no shortage of ammunition during the following day.

The work of the barrage guns was much the same as on the 4th, covering the first phase, then moving forward to new positions to cover the second and third phases, from which they could place a protective barrage in front of the final objective. Only thirty-eight guns were used for the barrage, being divided into three groups—namely, "A" group under Capt. L. C. Chaytor (twelve guns of the Divisional Company), "B" group under Capt. L. M. Inglis (fourteen guns of the 4th Company), and "C" group under Capt. C. G. Hayter (twelve guns of the 1st Company).

"A" and "B" groups were to open fire at Zero, but, owing to the fact that the 4th Company had been hurried up to the line from Eecke on the 11th, leaving insufficient time to prepare the gun positions and get up the necessary ammunition, it was decided to cancel "B" group from the first phase. "A" group was therefore left by itself to cover the first phase, while "B" and "C" groups advanced behind the 2nd and 3rd Brigades as they moved forward to the attack until the groups reached positions from which they could cover the second and third phases, and put up the protective barrage in front of the final objective after it was captured.

"A" group opened fire six minutes after Zero, and continued until 8.25 a.m., at which time it ceased, and at once advanced to its next position and fired its second barrage.

Lieut. A. B. Fordyce then went forward to make a reconnaissance of the position, and found that the objectives had not been taken; he very soon became wounded in the jaw; but page 94notwithstanding this fact he continued with great determination to ascertain the correct situation, and under heavy fire he visited Waterloo and the Battalion Commander there. When he had obtained full information as to the correct situation he returned to his Company and advised against the further forward movement of the guns. After this, although his wound required attention, he very commendably reported to the D.M.G.O., and gave him the first correct information as to the adverse situation that had been obtainable that morning. This was passed on to Division. Lieut Fordyce, for his fortitude and good work, was recommended for a decoration.

The transport officer of the Divisional Company (Lieut. Knowles) had brought forward seventeen pack mules with ammunition, and at 6.25 a.m. commenced to get it to Waterloo, a point beyond Gravenstafel, to establish a dump. Knowles got most of the ammunition dumped at the proper place, six mules being killed and two men wounded. The drivers behaved with great gallantry during the perilous journey, part of which was under direct machine gun fire. Private Lorgelly was wounded on his way forward, but carried on, also taking charge of another mule whose driver was badly wounded. Lorgelly reached the dump and discharged the loads of both mules, and not until he had taken them back to safety did he have his wound attended to.

It became apparent that all was not well in front, so Capt. Chaytor decided to send a party forward to investigate, before moving the group to the third position. He had not by this time received Fordyce's report. 2nd Lieuts. Ciochetto and E. G. Stubbs, with Sergt. G. Fisher accordingly undertook the investigation, returning with the information that the attack had not reached the Red line, and the situation was obscure. These officers carried out a dangerous and difficult task, and were able to confirm all that Fordyce had by this time reported. Ciochetto was badly gassed while making this reconnaissance.

In view of the situation which had arisen, Capt. Chaytor cancelled his orders to move the group to the third position, and decided to stick where he was, with the guns laid to open on a line beyond the first objective. This decision proved a very wise one, and undoubtedly saved many useless casualties that would have occurred in moving forward. As it was the guns page 95were able to assist a great deal more from their original positions than from any other. In the afternoon it was decided to renew the attack, but this decision was abandoned, and "A" group was withdrawn. Lieut. R. E. Bibby was seriously wounded in the morning.

"B" and "C" groups reached their positions about two hours after Zero, and opened fire, but soon observed that the attack was sticking at the Red line, and remained laid on S.O.S. lines. "B" group withdrew from its position on the morning of 13th, and returned to Kansas Camp, to which place the 4th Company's cookers had been brought, welcoming the tired gunners with a hot meal at 9 a.m.

"C" group was very active throughout the afternoon of the 12th, and also through the night. This group (all of the 1st Company) suffered 65 casualties on the 12th, including Lieut. Tansey. In spite of the heavy casualties, all the guns remained in the line until the 16th, when they were withdrawn. Although no casualties were suffered on the last two days, the gunners were completely exhausted. The terrible conditions under which they had to stick to their posts for four days and nights, and the nerve-wracking experience of the 12th, left the remnants of the 1st Company broken and worn out. Perhaps the most graphic illustration of the condition of the Company is contained in the entry in the War Diary for 17th October. Reference has been previously made to the fact that it was impossible to give details of the action of the 1st Company on the 4th October owing to the meagre report the O.C. made of it. The report of the 17th October is really much more meagre; it contains two words, but those words mean much; they are, "Company slept."

The work of Sergt. W. Woods (1st Company) during the 12th October is worthy of special mention. When the line was held up opposite Belle Vue Spur he made a personal reconnaissance to ascertain what had happened to the guns of his Company that had gone forward with the attacking infantry. He located six guns, the officers in command of which had been either killed or wounded. Woods, with a keen appreciation of the situation, realised that these guns should dig in and engage the enemy guns that were causing such frightful casualties among the infantry. He organised the page 96guns accordingly, and took command of two, which he kept in action, in spite of the heavy fire they were exposed to.

The work of this n.c.o. was recognised by an award of the D.C.M., and he was soon afterwards promoted to commissioned rank.1 The only 1st Company officers that came out of the line were Capt. Hayter (O.C.) and Lieuts. S. C. Beasly and J. Flanagan. The two last-named officers had carried on under very trying conditions, and by their bravery and devotion to duty had set a splendid example to the men they commanded. Both were awarded Military Crosses. The highest praise is due to Capt. Hayter for the manner in which he maintained his Company, during this period, in a state of efficiency, in spite of almost insuperable difficulties.

The 3rd Company attached four guns to each of the two battalions that attacked, four guns were kept as Brigade reserve and four guns remained behind at the transport lines. The eight guns were moved forward at Zero, and when the infantry were held up in front of the first objective they were brought into action. One gun was knocked out of action, but a reserve gun soon took its place. During the afternoon the guns were fired frequently against the machine guns on Belle Vue Spur. In spite of the heavy casualties that the infantry was suffering, and especially the carriers attached to the guns, the sections miraculously escaped with four casualties—two killed and two wounded. Later in the afternoon defensive positions were prepared, and the guns were placed in them, remaining until relieved at 9 p.m. on the 14th.

Twelve guns of the 2nd Company went forward with the reserve companies of the Battalion of the 2nd Brigade, suffering heavy casualties. 2nd Lieut. P. Mclntyre was killed and 2nd Lieut. Black wounded. Mclntyre was a Main Body man, who was wounded on Gallipoli. He returned to New Zealand and was employed as a machine gun instructor for some time, later being given a commission and returning to the front. One section was practically wiped out, but the remaining guns were got forward, and helped the infantry when they were held up. Defensive positions were maintained until the 14th, when the Company was relieved by the 4th Company.

1 Woods was known throughout the Corps as "the walking tank," owing to the tremendous loads he was able to carry.

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T/Capt. A. R. Curtis, M.C. and Bar.

T/Capt. A. R. Curtis, M.C. and Bar.

Major J. W. D. McKnight.

Major J. W. D. McKnight.

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Sergt. S. L. Emerson, D.C.M.

Sergt. S. L. Emerson, D.C.M.

Major A. C. Himrian.

Major A. C. Himrian.

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The Companies made various reliefs until 22nd October, when the Division left the Ypres sector to recuperate and rest.

A very graphic description of the action of the 4th Company preceding and during the attack of 12th October and the holding of the line afterwards appears in the following letter, written by Capt. Inglis:—

"The Company was in billets at Eecke on 11th October. The Company had been warned to hold itself in readiness to move with the 4th Brigade to a position in Divisional reserve on the 11th October, but on the morning of that day orders were received for the personnel to entrain at Cæstre in the afternoon, while the transport was to march by road to positions between Ypres and Wieltje, and the Company was required to advance with the attacking Brigades on the following morning. No operation orders were available through the 4th Brigade, but I was to receive them from the Divisional M.G. Officer. The transport was thereupon ordered to march at once, while Lieut. L. A. Hill, a groom and myself proceeded by road as fast as possible to report to Major Hardie and do any necessary reconnaissance, leaving the Company to follow (under Capt. C. S. Geddis) by train. The position was so obscure that we were unable to obtain final orders till late in the afternoon, when I set to work to fix my gun positions, get out company operation orders and work out the shooting (three creeping barrages from successive positions) and sent Hill and the groom back to meet the Company (detraining at Vlamertinghe) and the transport to guide them to X Camp. The transport arrived first, so that we were able to have a hot meal ready for the men, who turned up just shortly before dark. Orders were communicated to the sections by candle and torch light.

"In the afternoon, 3rd Otago Battalion of our own Brigade arrived at Wieltje, and Lieut.-Col. Colquhoun, when I made application to him, at once detailed a platoon to assist us as carriers. This was essential, for the whole of the transport was required to get bulk ammunition forward during the night for our use next day, and the guns and gear, with ammunition and water for the first barrage had to be carried by hand up No. 5 track and then over several hundred yards of deep liquid mud to the assembly position near Calgary Grange. page 98Owing to the pitch blackness of the night and the difficulty of locating positions once off the duckwalk track, I pushed on ahead of the Company with Lieut Hill and two men per section (to act as guides to their guns) to locate and tape off the assembly position. On fixing the assembly position I decided that a safer course than to allow each guide to lead his section over the indescribable 700 yards from the end of the duckwalk, would be to form a chain of guides back to that point. This was done. After a considerable wait on the position I began to get anxious as to what had become of the Company, as there was no sign of their arrival, and the enemy's artillery was becoming decidedly active. Leaving Hill to pick them up if they should arrive in the meantime, I retraced my steps down the chain of guides to the end of the duckwalk track and was dismayed to find there was no sign of my first guide (Private Robertshawe). I discovered from a carrying party that the Company had come up nearly an hour before, and that Robertshawe had led them off into the sea of mud. In the darkness they had missed the next connecting file, about fifty yards away. After a long and fruitless search I returned to find Hill still alone, and Zero hour very close, being only able to trust that my section officers, having full orders, must have taken up approximate assembly positions, and that we would pick the guns up after Zero during the advance. The sections, after a nightmare labouring through deep mud with heavy loads, had actually taken up a position somewhat nearer Korek than the intended one, and Hill and myself joined them on the first barrage position after the attack commenced.

"In the meantime, the transport had been performing their allotted tasks of getting up 140,000 rounds of bulk ammunition to Gravenstafel Crossroads. To use the limbers was impossible, as the only available road was blocked with traffic and debris. Lieut. E. D. McRae, the ever resourceful transport officer, 'found' thirty-eight pack-saddles, and turned his men and animals to with a will. Under his personal direction the apparently impossible task of getting up the whole of the necessary S.A.A. was performed. The attack commenced as the last rounds were being dumped at Gravenstafel.

"A drizzle had set in during the night, and the conditions page 99at the commencement of the attack were enough to discourage the stoutest hearts. The men, already exhausted by their efforts of the night (when on their way up they had dragged themselves and their heavy loads of guns and ammunition through deep mud in pitch darkness and under continual shell fire) now moved forward as soon as the artillery opened, toiling and splashing through the horrible morass of the Stroombeek up to the opposite slope to their barrage position ahead of Krönprinz Farm. The crossing of this valley was effected under a storm of hostile shell fire, and the mud was largely responsible for the lightness of casualties at this stage, for the projectiles buried themselves before exploding. At the conclusion of the barrage, German machine gun bullets were still coming thick over the low crest by Yetta Houses, and a reconnaissance disclosed the fact that the attack was held up far short of the position from which the Company's second barrage was to be fired. The guns were therefore dug in in one line along the crest of the spur just south of Yetta Houses, where they remained, ready to make a further advance or deal with any counter-attack which might develop. Just after 3 p.m. fire was opened on a counter-attack on the left of the divisional sector, but no S.O.S. was asked for during the night. The rain had now set in steadily, and the conditions were appalling. The greatest difficulty was experienced in keeping the belts fit for firing, and the guns and ammunition from sinking in the mud. The plight of the wounded was particularly pitiful. Sergt. C. B. Stewart and Corp. Collins took parties back to dumps and brought up supplies of bulk ammunition sufficient for any emergency. Much of the work of these parties was carried out ploughing slowly through heavy mud, with their loads under direct machine gun fire.

"The attack being finally abandoned, and the appalling weather conditions restricting infantry activity on either side, the Company was withdrawn in the late afternoon of the 13th to reserve positions with the remainder of the 4th Brigade, and on the following day again moved up to take over the forward machine gun defence of the whole divisional sector, continuing in these positions until the New Zealand Division was relieved. Most of the work during this time consisted of maintaining defensive positions in holes in the mud under page 100frequent heavy shell fire and under weather conditions that imposed excessive and continuous hardship on the personnel.

"The casualties were heavy. 2nd Lieuts. Williams, Carswell and Farrell were gassed (shells), and unfitted for further service, 2nd Lieut. P. Howden, who had joined the Company shortly before it left Le Bizet sector, died of his injuries. A conscientious officer, he had rapidly learnt the lessons of active service, and was at the time of his death a valued and trusted leader. Sergt. A. H. McKane, who was severely gassed, was a n.c.o. of repeatedly proved courage, and possessing fine qualities of leadership.

"Sergt. Allan North, M.M., was perhaps the most outstanding example of unselfish devotion to duty, continuing cheerfulness and contempt of danger during the whole of the period. The section to which he belonged (under the command of 2nd Lieut. L. A. Hill) was in probably the most trying position in the sector—near Marsh Bottom—and was subjected for a week to almost continuous shelling, without adequate shelter from either fire or weather. North's bearing and spirit were spoken of in terms of the highest admiration, both by his officer and by the men of the section.

"On the final relief of the Company the men were completely exhausted. I followed the tail of the Company down the duckwalk track, armed with two water bottles of rum, which I used to revive numbers who had fallen out on the way back to X Camp, where a night's sleep (punctuated by aeroplane bombs), good hot food, and a general clean up prepared them for the next stage of their journey back to a well-earned rest in billets far behind the line."

The attack of the 12th October, so full of glorious gallantry by the infantry, was not one in which the Companies of the Corps were able to achieve results. The gunners, however, suffered with the infantry, in the awful toll that darkened so many homes in far-off New Zealand.

Although for once the New Zealanders failed to accomplish their allotted tasks, no praise is too great for the gallant troops who only failed to accomplish the impossible.

The Companies entrained on 23rd October, and were soon moving away from the battle area to rest and reorganise in the peaceful country near Boulogne.

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From the N.Z. Official War History, Vol. III Gravenstafel

From the N.Z. Official War History, Vol. III Gravenstafel