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

The 3rd Battalion

The 3rd Battalion.

At the beginning of 1917, the steadily accumulating strength of New Zealand Forces in the United Kingdom, comprised of reinforcements from the Dominion and of men who had been evacuated from hospital after service on the Peninsula or in France, led to the formation and establishment in the Field of an infantry Brigade additional to the three which the New Zealand Division then embraced.

The inception of this, the 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade, dated from March 15th, 1917. Its formation was determined in London, where a staff was assembled, and appointments made to the commands of the units of which it consisted. These included the 3rd Battalions of the Otago, Canterbury, Wellington, and Auckland Regiments. The Brigade command was given to Lieut.-Colonel H. E. Hart, D.S.O. In the selection of commanding officers for the various Battalions, command of the 3rd Battalion of Otago Regiment was given to Major D. Colquhoun, with promotion to the rank of Lieut.-Colonel. Previous to this Major Colquhoun had for a considerable period occupied the position of Second-in-Command of the 1st Battalion, and was a well-known and highly popular officer of the Otago Regiment.

On March 26th the Brigade staff and commanding officers proceeded to Cod ford; on March 24th the 3rd Battalion of Otago Regiment came into being. The Brigadier-General then arrived and took over command as G.O.C. Troops, Codford Area. On the same day a draft of 570 n.c.o.'s and men were transferred from the Command Depot to the new Brigade; on March 30th a draft of 66 officers and 870 other ranks arrived from the New Zealand Infantry Reserve Group, Sling Camp; on April 3rd, 19 officers and 737 other ranks; and on April 24th a final draft of 925 other ranks, page 245 drawn mainly from the 20th, 21st, and 22nd Reinforcements. Among the officers and non-commissioned officers of the new Battalion of the Regiment were many soldiers of proved ability, who had been specially selected and sent across from France in order to furnish the required stiffening; and these, with the large number of "old hands" included, provided a very valuable leavening

The 3rd Battalion of the Regiment now had a strength of 20 officers and 580 other ranks. Major J. B. McClymont was appointed Second-in-Command to Lieut.-Colonel Colquhoun, and the Company Commanders at that date were Captains F. K. Waring, M. H. R. Jones, M. Watt, and K. S. Caldwell, with Lieut. D. S. Chisholm as Adjutant.

With a view to expediting and ensuring that the training of the Battalion was on sound lines, officers and non-commissioned officers were despatched to various schools of instruction in the United Kingdom; while the services of special instructors from the Command Schools at Hayling Island and Alder shot were secured for training in musketry, and in Lewis and Vickers guns. With the preliminary work of organisation and equipment completed, training operations were carried on at high pressure.

On April 30th, as a unit of the 4th Brigade, the Battalion marched from Codford to Sling Camp, near Bulford, to participate in a review by His Majesty the King of the New Zealand Forces in England. The march proved a rather exhausting experience for unseasoned troops, owing to the excessive heat and the long distance travelled. The Review was held on the Bulford Fields on the following day, and was a pronounced success, His Majesty the King, in a special message, expressing his appreciation of the apparance displayed by all ranks. At the close of the review General Sir Ian Hamilton briefly addressed the troops. This was his first renewal. of acquaintance with the New Zealand since the Gallipoli Campaign, and it was natural that he should receive an ovation marked by extraordinary warmth. The Hon. W. F. Massey and Sir Joseph Ward, then on a visit to England, also delivered brief addresses. The return journey to Codford was commenced early on the morning of May 2nd, when the Battalion was strengthened by the addition of several officers and about 300 men from Sling Camp.

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Training was continued under excellent weather conditions, and the standard of efficiency appreciably advanced. On May 10th the 4th Brigade was inspected by Field-Marshal Viscount French, who expressed himself as confident that the troops would uphold the best traditions of the New Zealand Division.

On May 25th orders were received for the 4th Infantry Brigade to move over-seas. In the early hours of the morning of May 28th, the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment, at a strength of 35 officers and 928 other ranks, entrained at Codford, and commenced the first stage of its journey to the Western Front. The whole unit had detrained at Southampton Docks by 12 noon, and at 6 p.m. departed by transport for France. Le Havre was reached in the early hours of the following morning after an uneventful passage. Disembarkation was effected and the Battalion marched to the Rest Camp. There it remained until May 31st, when it entrained and proceeded to Bailleul, which was reached on June 1st. The Battalion went under canvas, and on the following day was inspected by General Sir H. Gough and Lieut. - General Sir A. J. Godley.

The new Battalion of the Regiment had arrived in France in time to witness the launching; of the great Messines Battle, and although its participation in this operation was not active, it nevertheless played an important role in rear. In accordance with operation orders the 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade was to be held in Corps reserve, and was to carry out specified tasks under the direction of the C.E., 2nd Anzac Corps. In this connection, the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment was to be employed on the repair and reconstruction of the Wulverghem-Messines Road, following immediately upon the attack launched on the morning of June 7th, and was to work under the orders of the O.C. 3rd Tunnelling Company, Canadian Engineers. Previously, five officers and 135 other ranks had been detached for traffic control duties in the Corps area, while during the several days prior to the Messines Battle working parties were being supplied for various undertakings. At this stage the enemy's long range guns were periodically shelling the town of Bailleul; but the Battalion camp escaped damage.

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On June 6th all working parties were withdrawn prior to moving forward, and on the following morning, when the Second Army launched its great attack against the Messines Ridge, the Battalion sat quietly by waiting until midday, when it moved off, and at 4.15 p.m. reached and bivouacked near Boyle's Farm, on the Wulverghem-Messines Road and immediately in rear of our old front line. The available strength was now divided into three shifts, and at 5.30 p.m. the first section commenced the task of putting the Messines-Wulverghem highway, so long in disuse, in a state of repair. Without interruption, save when it was necessary to shelter during periods of enemy shelling, this work was advanced with great vigour until the 10th, when parties were withdrawn and marched back to Bailleul.