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Official History of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. in the Great War 1914-1918

The Regiment Relieved

page 109

The Regiment Relieved.

The Regiment was now clear of the line for a definite period, after three months' occupation of the sector lying east of Armentieres. It was the Regiment's first sector on the Western Front, and its tenure had provided a drastic introduction to methods of trench-to-trench warfare where both sides were very much in earnest. The period spent at Armentieres was remarkable for the strenuous conditions it imposed on the garrison. Enemy artillery bombardments were of great frequency, and at times of considerable intensity; and over and above the formidable list of casualties which this involved, it also meant that there was an insistent demand for fatigue parties at all hours of the day or night for repairing damaged trenches, From the point of view of the infantry the Armentieres period was a very hard and exacting one.

On coming out of the line, particularly after a tour that had been unduly prolonged, the most gratifying aspect of the change-over was the opportunity afforded of obtaining a hot tub at the Divisional Baths established at Pont de Nieppe. There; with the aid of liberal supplies of hot water and soap, it was possible to get rid of the fifth and vermin of the trenches, followed by an issue of clean underclothing, all of which produced a feeling of such delightful invigoration and freshness as to make the miseries and hardships of the preceding few weeks seem almost worth while.

The Regiment was now committed to a period of rest and training which was to prepare it for its approaching participation in the operations of the great offensive of the Somme, Immediately on coming out of the line it departed for the South, and after a journey by road and rail extending over several days, reached the localities of Citernes and Airaines, south-east of Abbeville. On arrival no time was lost in settling down to business. The Regiment was definitely committed to an early participation in the Somme Battle, and bearing in mind this fact, special attention was directed to practice in attack operations and in trench consolidation; while for the officers there were in addition frequent conferences and discussions in relation to the most recently evolved offensive tactics.

page 110

On August 25th Lieut.-Colonel A. Moore, D.S.O., relinquished command of the 2nd Battalion of Otago in order to rejoin his Regiment, the Dublin Fusiliers, and two days later Major G. S. Smith, D.S.O., was appointed to the command of the Battalion.

The programme of training mapped out for the Regiment aimed at producing an all-round high state of fighting efficiency, and of fitness of mind as well as of body; and when on September 2nd the Division broke camp and headed for the area of the Somme, it was calculated that everyone was in perfect fighting trim.

It was decided that the journey to the new sphere of operations should be relieved by frequent and regular halts, during which training was continued. The route of march brought the Regiment into and along the valley of the Somme River, and though the weather on occasions was showery, being late summer, the journey on the whole was pleasant because of the changing scene, and from a military point of view highly beneficial. There were some stiff marches en route, but the high standard of mental and physical fitness attained during the course of training operations was reflected in the comparatively airy manner in which these tasks were approached and carried out.