Official History of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. in the Great War 1914-1918
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.page 246
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.page 247
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.
On June 9th preliminary orders were issued for the 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade to take over the front held by two battalions (Royal North Lancashire troops) of the 57th Division during the night 10th- 11th June, the 4th Brigade to come under the command of the G.O.C. 3rd Australian Division. The 3rd Battalions of Auckland and Canterbury Regiments were to occupy the line from right to left, with the 3rd Battalion of Wellington in support; while the 3rd Battalion of Otago was to find all Corps working parties. The sector to be taken over by the 4th Infantry Brigade on this, the first occasion of its holding a part of the line on the Western Front, extended from the River Lys on the south to Westminster Avenue on the north, and was immediately south of Messines.
On June 12th it was discovered that the enemy had retired from his forward system of trenches along the Brigade front. The line thus vacated was occupied without opposition, and incidentally the trenches were found to be in a much better state of repair than our own. Further slight advances followed; and on the night of June 13th-14th the front occupied by the 4th Brigade was materially shortened as a result of the New Zealand Division extending its sector to the south, and the 2nd and 3rd Brigades taking over the line as far south as the Warnave River. This left page 248 the 4th Brigade holding a front from the Warnave River to the Lys.
In the meantime, the 3rd Battalion of Otago had met all requirements of Corps in the matter of working parties. These were maintained until the 18th, when the relief of parties was commenced and the Battalion concentrated in its area at Bailleul in readiness to move. Camp was struck on the morning of the 19th, and the Battalion set out for Brune Gaye. On the following day company commanders reconnoitred the Le Bizet sector, lying between the Lys and the Warnave, which the Battalion was to occupy in the course of the next few days.
On the night of the 22nd-23rd June the Battalion carried out the ordered relief, and thus entered into possession of front line trenches for the first time. This was in relief of the 3rd Battalion of Wellington, and the change-over was successfully accomplished by 2 a.m. on the 23rd, although the road approaches were under shell fire as the Lewis gun limbers were moving up.
The Le Bizet sector lay to the south of the Bois de Ploegsteert, with Armentieres still further to the south. The main geographical and tactical feature of the sector was the River Lys, which ran practically parallel to the front and separated the German defences from ours. The Lys was from 20 to 30 yards broad, normally six or seven feet deep, and liable to flood on its western bank. To a certain extent its presence modified some of the conditions of trench warfare, and security of our position and complete check of the enemy depended largely on active patrolling. The forward area of the sector was low-lying and in several places water-logged. Across the river, to where the enemy had retired only since the Battle of Messines, were the villages of Frelinghien on the right and Deulemont on the left, both strongly held by the enemy.
On the afternoon of June 26th a small patrol which was operating along the river bank from a point near Frelinghien bridge, was fired upon by the enemy from the opposite side. The n.c.o. in charge of the patrol was severely wounded in the thigh, whereupon Pte. E. Grieve, who accompanied him, proceeded to assist him to a place of safety. He persisted in his task until it was accomplished, although it was necessary to cover a considerable distance, the enemy meanwhile firing heavily on the retreating party. For this worthy action, Pte. Grieve was recommended and awarded the Military Medal.
The Battalion was relieved in the Line on June 30th by the 3rd Battalion of Canterbury, having acquitted itself creditably in the line, and having effected a great deal in the way of trench improvements. By way of familiar rising the Battalion to some extent with general conditions of the line, and in view of the fact that it was to take over a front line sector for the first time, the work carried out immediately prior to and during the Messines operations had certainly proved of great value.
On being relieved the Battalion proceeded to billets at Les Trois Tilleuls, near Pont de Nieppe, and there embarked on a programme of training. At this period enemy night-flying aeroplanes were active and frequently dropped bombs over the billeting area.
On July 16th the Battalion moved up to Brune Gaye, and from there supplied all working parties for the line. On the 24th the Battalion returned to the line; 10th, 8th, and 14th Companies occupying the front system, and 4th Company being in reserve. This was the sector which the Battalion had previously occupied, and it was noticeable that a still further improvement had been effected in the state of the defences.
In order to assist in the operations of the Second Army, which in turn were designed to further the offensive of the Fifth Army set down for July 31st, orders were issued at this stage for the maintenance of increased activity in the page 250 patrolling of No Man's Land, and the display of special interest in the River Lys; also for digging short fire trenches which might suggest the construction of posts to cover a projected crossing of the Lys. All this was given effect to; and as part of the harassing and disturbing programme to which the enemy was subjected, increased artillery fire of a suggestive nature was maintained; while small forward posts, commanding and threatening the bridges over the Lys, were established by the Battalion on our left. Furthermore, at midnight on July 30th, a special company of Royal Engineers carried out a heavy gas projector bombardment of Frelinghien. The enemy gas alarm was sounded, but there was no retaliation, and the actual damage occasioned was not known. By these and other means the threatened area of attack in what was known as the Third Battle of Ypres was increased.
On August 1st the Battalion was relieved in the line and returned to billets. Owing to the bad weather conditions and the discomfort of the billets, improved accommodation had to be sought at Pont de Nieppe. The Battalion returned to the line on August 9th. The weather, previously unsettled, had now improved, and there was a corresponding increase in artillery activity on both sides. Our back areas shared in these attentions pf the enemy, and as a consequence the Divisional baths at Pont de Nieppe were forced to close and many of the civilians found it desirable to leave the area. During the course of the shelling of the front line the enemy discharged a number of mustard-gas shells over the centre company's sector, presumably by way of retaliation for a light trench mortar bombardment of his machine gun positions in Frelinghien on the previous evening.
On August 16th the artillery in immediate support fired 5,000 rounds, mainly gas shells, in connection with operations being conducted further north, the enemy retaliating on our lines with heavier shelling than usual. On the 17th the Battalion was relieved and went back to billets for the periodical rest. A good deal of constructive work had been accomplished during the tour; while the increase in artillery activity was exemplified by the fact that the casualties amounted to four killed and 10 wounded. At this stage the civilian population was ordered to leave Pont de Nieppe owing to the continued enemy shelling.page 251
A warning order was now issued that at an early date the 4th Brigade would be relieved entirely in the sector then occupied; but the projected move was subsequently postponed, and a week later the Battalion was again in the line. On this occasion portion of the sector on the left was taken over by the 3rd Battalion of Canterbury Regiment, and the reduced frontage was held by 4th and 8th Companies, with 10th Company in support, and 14th Company in reserve. The continuance of fine weather led to considerable aerial activity over the forward and rear zones. The relief of the New Zealand Division along this front was carried out on August 27th by the 8th Division, but the 4th Infantry Brigade remained in the line and temporarily came under the command of the latter Division. On the closing day of the month the Battalion was relieved by troops of the 2nd Middlesex Regiment, and moved back to hutments and tents at Canteen Corner.
On September 1st the Battalion transport left Nieppe by road for the new Brigade area at Henneveux, and on the following day companies entrained at Steenwerck, and proceeded to Wizernes, detraining there and continuing the journey by road and motor-lorries to the Surques area. On the following day a move was made to Cremarest, where the Battalion finally settled down in billets, the transport arriving the same evening after a trek of three days. The Battalion was now committed to a complete course of training, the value of which was enhanced by the peaceful nature of the surroundings. The weather was he and warm, and training was continued without interruption. Particular attention was paid to attack practice in view of pending operations. There was an inspection by General Sir A. H. Russell, who was accompanied by Sir Thomas Mackenzie. The period of training, which was valuable in both a military and physical sense, terminated with a Brigade practice attack in the presence of General Godley.
On September 25th the Battalion set out for the Lumbres area. The Eecke area was reached two days later, and from this point a party of officers made a reconnaissance of the line east of Ypres. The Battalion had covered a considerable distance by road, and while the comparative ease with which the march was accomplished, notwithstanding the warmth page 252 of the weather, proved the effectiveness of training operations, the two days rest which followed were greatly appreciated. The march was continued to a point two miles west of Poperinghe, where the Battalion entered Forth Camp.
Orders were now received to move to the Ypres North area and the old British and German front line systems, Saint Jean sector. Less transport and cookers, Companies moved out at noon on October 1st, travelling by road and then by 'bus to Vlamertinghe, thence winding slowly in the evening light through the desolation of stricken Ypres, and finally reaching and bivouacking over the appointed area.
The first stage of the Allied attack in the Third Battle of Ypres, launched on the morning of July 31st, extended over a front of 15 miles, from the River Lys opposite Deulemont (at which point the 3rd Battalion of Otago was then holding the line) northwards to beyond Steenstraat; but the heaviest weight was thrown against the enemy by the Fifth Army on a front of about seven and a-half miles from the Zillebeke-Zandvoorde Road on the south to Boesinghe in the north, east and north-east of Ypres. At the close of the first day's fighting between these two points, the enemy's foremost system of defence south of Westhoek (east of Ypres) had been carried; north of this point the enemy's second line had also been captured as far as St, Julien; and north of that again the attacking troops held the line of the Steenbeek to the point of junction with the French. Stormy weather now broke over the battle area, desperate conditions of rain and mud preventing any serious development of the offensive for several days. On August 16th the second attack was launched east and north-east of Ypres.
On the left of the British attack, practically the whole of that part of the Langemarck-Gheluvelt line, which formed the final objective, was gained; but in the centre and on the right the main enemy resistance was encountered, and, save for a few small gains, the situation south of St. Julien at the close of the day was unchanged. Minor operations followed, but owing to the state of the ground it was September 20th before the third main attack, planned to penetrate to page 253 an average depth of approximately 1,000 yards, could be launched On this occasion the left of the Second Army was extended northwards, and the assault upon the whole of the high ground which was crossed by the Menin Road entrusted to it. The attack of the Second Army penetrated to Veldhoek, and to the western side of Polygone Wood; while to the north the Fifth Army, operating on both sides of the Ypres-Roulers Railway, reached the points of its objective along the kngemarek-Gheluvelt Line.
Persistent and heavy counter-attacks were now delivered by the enemy, but on September 26th the advance was renewed by the two Armies north and south of the Menin Road. The outcome of this attack was that the whole of Polygone Wood was cleared, the village of Zonnebeke was captured, and numerous strong-points north and south of the Wieltje-Gravenstafel Road wrested from the enemy. Again the enemy was not slow to deliver a series of determined counter-attacks. On the morning of October 4th the British reassumed the offensive, the selected front of the principal attack, which was directed against the main line of the ridge east of Zonnebeke, extending from the Menin Road northwards for a distance of about seven miles. It was at this stage of the protracted series of operations conducted during the closing months of 1917 against the deep enemy defences east and north-east of Ypres, that the 3rd Battalion of Otago Regiment was committed to its first offensive action.
The two Armies concerned in this operation were, as before, the Second and the Fifth; and along the Second Army front the attack was to be delivered with two divisions disposed side by side; the 3rd Australian Division on the right and the New Zealand Division on the left, with the 48th Division of the Fifth Army on our immediate left. The task of the New Zealand Division was entrusted to the 1st and 4th Infantry Brigades, each attacking on a two battalion frontage. The 4th Brigade, disposed on the right of the Divisional front, was committed to an advance of approximately 1,700 yards, with a frontage of 800 yards; the operation also including the capture of the village of Gravenstafel, and a small subsidiary spur running in a north-westerly direction from the main Passchendaele Ridge, known as the Abraham Heights. The first of the two objectives into which page 254 the advance was divided was approximately on the line Boethoek-Gravenstafel-Abraham Heights Spur, which was to be captured by the 3rd Battalions of Otago and Auckland Regiments, from left to right; while the second or final objective, the capture of which was allotted to the 3rd Battalions of Wellington and Canterbury in the same order, extended across the northern edge of Berlin Wood. Special mopping-up parties were to be detailed by each of the assaulting Battalions, and in the case of Otago Battalion these were to deal with Otto Farm and Wimbledon, and the dug-outs in that locality.
The attack programme provided for five barrages to take the infantry forward, to break up counter-attacks, and to protect the infantry when on their objectives; these being constituted as follows:—(a) 18-pounder creeping barrage under which the infantry advanced; (b) 18-pounder and 4.5in. howitzer; (c) machine gun; (d) 6in. howitzer; (e) 60-pounder and 8in. and 9.2in. howitzer. The depth effected by these barrages was over 1,000 yards, and in addition to the above, the super-heavy guns and howitzers were to engage special points of enemy defence. Arrangements were made for a total of 64 machine guns to barrage the Divisional front; and exclusive of heavy guns and heavy and medium howitzers, the attack was to be supported by 180 18-pounders and 60 4.5in. howitzers. After the capture of the first objective there was to be a halt of one hour and a-half before the 3rd Battalions of Wellington and Canterbury Regiments moved forward to the capture of the second or final objective.
The 3rd Battalion of the Regiment, quartered in the area of the old British and German front lines, completed all details of equipment during the day of October 2nd, and Company officers visited the front line and made a reconnaissance of the country. On the same evening the Battalion moved forward and took over the front line from the 1st Battalion of Otago, which had been in occupation since the morning of September 30th, relief being completed by 10 p.m. Otago troops on the left and Auckland troops on the right were now holding the 4th Brigade front, each on a two-company frontage escheloned to a depth of 500 yards, the remaining two companies escheloned to a further depth of 600 yards. The 10th Company occupied the front line below page 255 the Abraham Heights, and two platoons from 4th and 14th Companies were established at the Kansas Cross Roads, with the remainder of the strength on the slope behind, and 8th Company at a point known as Gallipoli, to the right rear. The 3rd Battalions of Canterbury and Wellington were located in the old British and German front line systems and in the Ypres north area to the rear. The weather was still holding fine, but the general devastation of the Ypres area, the countless shell-holes and the yielding mud accentuated the difficulties of transport and movement. During the day of October 3rd two trial barrages were put down by the supporting artillery. On the occasion of the first, at 7.30 a.m., there were several short bursts; on the second occasion, at 1.45 p.m., further "shorts" fell on the support line.
On the night of October 3rd the. positions of assembly for the attack, from 200 to 300 yards in rear of the existing front line, were arranged and taped out by Captain M. Watt (14th Company) and Captain N. H. Arden (4th Company), as also were the approaches for a distance of 300 yards.
Zero hour was 6 am. on October 4th. Rain fell overnight and the morning broke cheerless and drizzly, with the sky heavily overcast. The early stages of the night had passed fairly quietly, save for intermittent shelling, but after midnight enemy artillery fire gradually increased in intensity, until at about half an hour before zero it assumed the fierceness of barrage fire and extended heavily to the south. This, it was subsequently learned, was the preliminary to an attack in force which the enemy was about to launch in an endeavour to regain the positions wrested from him during the British attacks of September 26th, and which our own attack but briefly anticipated. An hour and a-half before zero all companies had reached their assembly positions, and under increasingly heavy shell fire awaited the moment of attack. The two front line Companies selected for the assault were, from right to left—-4th, commanded by Captain N. H. Arden, and 14th, commanded by Captain M. Watt; 8th Company, commanded by Captain E. H. Sharp, was detailed for mopping-up purposes, and in that capacity was to assist the leading Companies; whilst 10th Company, commanded by Captain C. M. Littlejohn, constituted the Battalion reserve. Fifteen minutes Wore zero hour the troops of 10th Company who page 256 had been holding the forward line were withdrawn and rejoined their Company in reserve.
At 6 a.m. our artillery broke out in thunderous concert with the enemy's guns, and moving behind a splendid barrage the Battalion advanced to the assault. The attack, once hunched, moved forward without check until the main enemy resistance was encountered, consisting of "pill-boxes," machine gun emplacements, and fortified shell-holes along the slopes of Abraham Heights. The locality of Otto Farm, the first enemy stronghold, fell to the determined attack of one section of 8th Company, and yielded 33 prisoners. Forward of this point the quagmire of the Hanebeek rendered progress exceedingly difficult, many of the attacking troops sinking almost to their thighs in the slime and filth. Van Meulen Farm and dug-outs constituted one of the main defensive points of the ridge, and with strongly emplaced machine guns and a considerable garrison, offered a resistance which eventually broke before a determined attack organised and personally led by Captain N. H, Arden, resulting in the capture of over 50 prisoners and machine guns. On the objective being gained, Captain Arden, who had been wounded early in the advance, went forward to determine the most suitable line for consolidation, and was there grievously wounded, dying. a few moments after he had given his instructions. In the death of Captain Arden the Regiment lost a brave and capable officer. Command of 4th Company was now taken over by Lieut. M. Rohan.
Four minutes after zero hour enemy machine guns opened fire on the line of Kansas Cross Roads-Douchy Farm, and three minutes later an artillery barrage to meet our attack fell along the same line, causing considerable casualties among the 3rd Battalion of Wellington. Otago troops thus escaped the enemy's retahatory barrage; but as the attack advanced came under the fire of machine guns emplaced along the ridge. Despite this fire and the resistance which the several strongholds offered, all objectives were speedily gained. The proximity of enemy localities at certain points had necessitated the advance being carried a further distance ahead. The battered ruins of Gravenstafel Village, standing on the crest of the ridge and strongly held by the enemy, confronted 14th Company, and it was essential that they page 257 should be cleared. Considerable opposition was encountered in the course of this operation; but it was overcome, and Captain Watt then withdrew his Company to the defined line of consolidation, which was approximately 100 yards down the reverse side of the slope. The Battalion now dug in under the continued fire of the enemy, and connected up with the 3rd Battalion of Auckland on the right and with troops of the 1st Infantry Brigade on the left. On the left flank of the Battalion, one platoon of 14th Company consolidated about 70 yards in advance of the remainder of the Company, joining up with troops of the 1st Battalion of Wellington. The right of 14th Company rested on the Gravenstafel Road, while the right flank of 4th Company was about 40 yards in advance of the line taken up by the 3rd Battalion of Auckland. Between the left flank and the Gravenstafel Road a gap of about 150 yards was bridged by a trench constructed by the attached mopping-up parties.
On the capture of the first objective, the 3rd Battalions of Wellington and Canterbury passed through the line held by Otago and Auckland troops, and forming up under the protective barrage waited until it lifted again at zero plus 130 minutes. Immediately on gaining the Abraham Heights spur a considerable volume of machine gun fire was encountered from the main ridge. At 9.30 a.m. the final objective of the attack was reached by these two Battalions, and touch established with the 10th Australian Brigade on the right; but it was not until later that a junction was effected with the left Battalion. Strong enemy opposition was met with at several points; and when the work of consolidation was commenced it was seriously hampered by machine gun and rifle fire from "pill-boxes" In the direction of Waterfields and from the main Passchendaele Ridge.
The New Zealand Division had on this day achieved a remarkable success. It had gained all its objectives, and captured 1,160 Prisoners (covering four enemy divisions) and a considerable number of machine gum. The 3rd Battalion of Otago Regiment, as its share in the operation, had also achieved substantial and decisive success, which was the more remarkable by reason of being the Battalion's first offensive effort. The Battalion's casualties total six officers and approximately 150 other ranks; on the other page 258 side of the scale, the captures included over 250 prisoners and eight machine guns. The sodden and yielding nature of the ground, while seriously impeding advance, had certainly minimised casualties from shell fire, the shells generally burying themselves well below the surface before bursting. The majority of the casualties sustained were due to machine gun fire. Sergt. D. Sterritt's worthy performance in taking charge of his platoon, though wounded, and consolidating under heavy shell fire was rewarded with the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The attack apparently left the enemy thoroughly disorganised; the only counter-attack threatened having been destroyed at the outset of its assembly near Kronprinz Farm, on the left of the Divisional front.
The ground gained as a result of these operations now afforded excellent observation on to the northern end of the Passchendaele Ridge.
Intermittent though somewhat scattered enemy shelling continued until 4 a.m. on the 5th, when it abated considerably and the situation remained normal over the day. Consolidation of the ground gained and improvement of communications were vigorously prosecuted, and when the time arrived on the night of October 5th-6th for relief of the Battalion by troops of the West Riding Regiment, of the 49th Division, all work was well advanced. Across the Divisional front, two practically continuous trenches had been dug, the construction of communication trenches was well in hand, and duck-board and mule tracks had been pushed forward from the old lines. The single road forward leading to Gravenstafel, which fed the Division for all purposes, was in a bad condition from shelling, which seriously retarded the forward transport of guns and material.
Command of the new Saint Jean sector passed from the New Zealand Division to the 49th Division on October 6th.
On being relieved on the night of October 5th-6th the Battalion trekked back to point of bivouac near Goldfish Chateau. On the 6th the Battalion marched to Vlamertinghe, and from that point proceeded in 'buses to Steenvorde. From there a cold and miserable journey was continued to Eecke, which was reached at 2 a.m. on the 7th, and billets secured in the town. Opportunity was taken by the Commanding page 259 Officer, Lieut.-Colonel Colquhoun, to address all ranks and compliment them on the splendid work accomplished during the course of the operations just concluded.
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.
The Battalion Disbands.
The time was now approaching when the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment was to cease to exist as such, under orders of the G.O.C., N.Z.E.F.; a decision arrived at in consequence of the impracticability of maintaining four New Zealand Brigades in the Field at the required strength with the reinforcements coming to hand. On February 7th the 4th Brigade terminated its existence as an infantry unit of the Division, and came to be known as the New Zealand Works Group, Headquarters then being at Hoograaf. Thus the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment, the foundations of which were laid in England in March, 1917, brought to a close its comparatively short though highly effective career as an active infantry unit of the Regiment and of the New Zealand Division on the Western Front.
From the reinforcements thus made available, and from those passed as trained by the New Zealand Reinforcement Wing at Abeele, temporary units, representative of each Battalion, were formed for work under Corps. Lieut.-Colonel Colquhoun now proceeded to the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment, remaining there for a period of two months, and then leaving for New Zealand on a tour of duty. Shortly afterwards the four Works Battalions were reorganised into three Battalions corresponding to the three Brigades of the New Zealand Division, and this arrangement was given effect to at midnight on February 20th. The name "New Zealand Works Group" was altered to that of "New Zealand Entrenching Group," and the three Battalions were similarly known as Entrenching Battalions—1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Drafts were to be forwarded periodically to the Division from the Entrenching Group, such drafts to be assembled at the New Zealand Reinforcement Camp for completion of equipment and for necessary training prior to going forward.page 264
The gradual absorption of officers and non-commissioned officers of the 4th Brigade into the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Brigades followed, and 200 other ranks were almost immediately transferred to the two active Battalions of Otago Regiment.
At midnight on February 20th, 1918, all rolls of the 3rd Battalion of Otago Regiment were closed; and approximately 600 other ranks transferred to the New Zealand Entrenching Group.