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

Return to the Line

Return to the Line.

Orders were now received for the 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade to relieve the reserve Brigade of the 49th Division in the Saint Jean sector, command of which passed from that Division to the New Zealand Division at 10 a.m. on October 11th. The Battalion accordingly set out for the forward area, and on detraining at Ypres, marched to the locality of the old British and German front line systems. On October 12th, the day of the tragic attack launched against the Bellevue Spur by the 2nd and 3rd Brigades, the Battalion first occupied positions in the area of Capricorn Keep and Spree Farm, and later moved up into support on the western slopes of Abraham Heights. At this point heavy gas shelling was experienced. Following upon the Passchendaele operations large parties were supplied for stretcher-bearing.

In compliance with orders for the relief of troops of the 3rd (Rifle) Brigade in the line, the Battalion moved up during the evening of the 14th and took over advanced positions held by the 3rd Brigade after the Passchendaele attack, extending approximately from the Cemetery on the left to Peter Pan on the right. The front line Companies were 8th and 10th, with the remaining two Companies disposed over the support and reserve positions, and with Battalion Headquarters established at Kronprinz Farm. It was impossible to accommodate the Battalion in the positions held by the 3rd Brigade, which had been seriously reduced in strength as a result of the Passchendaele attack, it being found necessary to extend the line some distance to the right towards the sector held by the South African Brigade, There was inconsiderable artillery fire during the night, but on the following day the enemy disclosed activity which increased until the whole of the forward area was swept by an obviously largely augmented artillery strength; while low-flying enemy aeroplanes persistently harassed the trench garrisons. Meantime our own heavy artillery had proceeded with the bombardment of the block house system page 260 of the Bellevue Spur. Thus conditions were far from settled, and continued so until the night of the 17th, when the Battalion was relieved and moved back into support on the western slopes of Abraham Heights.

The next move was to reserve positions in the old British and German front line area, where a certain amount of rest was assured. Early on the morning of October 22nd the Battalion proceeded to the Ypres entraining station, and from there by rail to Wizernes, which was reached at midday. From this point the Battalion marched to comfortable billets at Haut Loquin, Rougemont, and Reberques. On October 22nd command of the sector held by the New Zealand Division had passed to the 3rd Canadian Division, and by October 25th the whole of the Division was back in training areas. On the 26th it was announced that Lieut.-Colonel Colquhoun, Commanding the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment, had been awarded the D.S.O. in recognition of the splendid success which his command had achieved in the operations of October 4th.

The opening days of November saw the Battalion still out of the line. The weather at this stage was anything but favourable, but not bad enough to interrupt a prescribed programme of recreation and route marches. On November 6th the Battalion, with transport complete, was inspected by Brigadier-General Hart, Commanding the 4th Infantry Brigade, and at the close of the inspection medal ribands in connection with awards for gallantry in the field were presented to several men. The period of rest and training came to a close on November 11th, when the Battalion moved by road and train to Brewery Camp, near Dickebusch. A halt was made there until the 16th, when the reserve quota proceeded to the details camp, and the Battalion marched out of Brewery Camp to Zillebeke Bund dug-outs. From this point large parties were detailed for carrying material from Birr Cross Roads to Brigade Headquarters at the Butte, at the northern extremity of Polygone Wood.

Orders had previously been issued for the relief by the New Zealand Division of the 21st Division on the front extending from the Reutelbeek on the right to Noordemdhoek on the left, east of Polygone Wood, and accordingly the 4th Infantry Brigade on the night of November 14th-15th page 261 relieved that Division in the left sub-sector. On November 21st the Battalion moved into the line in relief of Wellington troops on the right of the Brigade sector. The two front line Companies were 4th and 8th from right to left, with 10th Company in support, and 14th Company held in reserve for counter-attacking purposes. Heavy rain fell all night and considerable work was required to effect drainage of the trenches. There was intermittent enemy shelling throughout the 22nd and the 23rd, and on the latter date our artillery carried out a test barrage, followed by harassing fire, the enemy retaliating over our back areas during the night. The weather now improved slightly, the resulting increased visibility producing considerable aerial activity on both sides.

On the morning of November 24th our artillery resumed its programme of harassing fire, drawing a vigorous reply from the enemy over our front and support lines. Artillery duels of more or less violence continued at intervals throughout the day, and casualties were much above the normal. The following day was appreciably quieter, although our own artillery subjected the enemy to brief concentrated "shoots." This performance was repeated on the 26th, and on this occasion the response was heavy indeed, the front line, the Menin Road, and Hooge Crater receiving considerable attention. On the same day an inter-company relief was effected, and in addition a portion of the right sub-sector held by the 3rd (Rifle) Brigade was taken over by the Battalion. On the 27th our artillery delivered concentrated fire over the area of Polderhoek Chateau, this being repeated with increasing intensity over the succeeding days, apparently with considerable damage to the enemy defences and the infliction of many casualties. The last day of the month was one of constant and furious artillery duelling, commencing with a heavy barrage which was put down in response to an S.O.S. signal sent up on the right, followed by an intense bombardment of the enemy defences over the whole of the Divisional front. On December 1st the Battalion was relieved in the line and journeyed back to Mic-Mac Camp, where comparative rest was enjoyed in Divisional reserve over the succeeding fortnight.

At midday on December 15th the Battalion left camp and marched to Ouderdom, proceeding thence by light railway page 262 to Hellfire Corner, and in compliance with an order for the relief by the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Brigade, took over support positions in the Polygone Wood sector. Just prior to this Major McClymont had proceeded to the 2nd Battalion; Major K. S. Caldwell, who had for some time commanded 8th Company, being appointed Second-in-Command. On the 22nd Otago moved into the front line in the sector opposite Cameron Covert. The weather was now bitterly cold, and hard frosts alternated with falls of snow. Intense artillery activity continued, and Christmas Day, with the Battalion in the line, was no exception to this order of things. The unusual enemy movement observed at various points along the Divisional front and north and south of there, and the appearance of the S.O.S. signal as a warning of attempted enemy attacks, led to frequent intense bursts of artillery fire from our side, invariably provoking retaliation from the enemy; it was not until the Battalion had been relieved on December 27th and moved back as support battalion to the Brigade in he that a return to settled conditions followed. At 11 o'clock, British time, on the night of December 31st, our artillery saluted the New Year, and incidentally the enemy, by firing salvoes of one, nine, one and eight rounds in succession.

As from January 1st, 1918, the Regiment came under the XXII. Corps, the II. Anzac Corps being now no longer in existence. At the same time the II. Australian Corps was formed, and the New Zealand Division was merged into the XXII. Corps.

On the night of January 2nd the Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Brigade in the Cameron Covert, or Becelaere sector. The 10th Company and one platoon of 4th Company occupied the front line; 14th Company was in support, and 4th and 8th Companies were in reserve. This period in the line did not witness very great activity, save for intermittent shelling. On relief the Battalion moved back to Birr Cross Roads and there entrained for Howe Camp, which was reached shortly after midnight. The weather was still exceedingly cold, and there were several rather heavy snowfalls. From Howe Camp the inevitable working parties were supplied. The Battalion remained there until January 17th, when Companies moved independently to Belgian page 263 Chateau Camp, in accordance with the relief of the 1st Brigade as the Corps Working Brigade.

A successful reunion of officers of the 4th Infantry Brigade was held it Poperinghe on February 2nd, and at this function the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment was well represented.