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



On being relieved in the line at Rossignol Wood on July 25th the Regiment marched back to reserve, the 1st Battalion to Couin Wood, and the 2nd Battalion to Rossignol Farm, above Coigneux village. These positions were maintained until, in the opening days of August, the 2nd Infantry Brigade relieved the 1st Infantry Brigade in the right subsector of the Divisional front, which extended between Gommecourt and Hebuterne.

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The Regiment now moved into new positions. The 1st Battalion was disposed along the valley between Sailly-au-Bois and the Chateau de la Haie, and in the eastern edge of the village itself; the 2nd Battalion in support trenches at Hebuterne village.

At this stage the Regiment received a complement of selected troops, about 100 to each Battalion, from the American Expeditionary Force; these being merged into the different Companies with a view to obtaining a knowledge of the line and its conditions under the guidance of experienced troops.

For several days the activities of the Regiment were confined to trench construction and improvement; while the 1st Battalion, by reason of being further back from the line, found it convenient to carry out modified training. On August 7th Major Hargest assumed command of the 1st Battalion on Lieut.-Colonel Charters proceeding to the United Kingdom on leave.

On the night of August 10th-11th the 1st Battalion relieved the 2nd Battalion of Canterbury in the line to the east of Gommecourt as the left front line Battalion of the right Brigade. The two forward Companies were 14th and 8th from right to left, with 4th Company in support and 10th Company in reserve. A Composite Company, formed of men surplus to the establishment consequent upon the additional strength given to the Battalion by the inclusion of 100 Americans, took up its quarters in Patricia trench, in Gommecourt Park, and was made responsible for the major portion of the work carried out in the front line area.

The new sector extended across the front of Hebuterne and the southern extremity of Gommecourt, and was immediately south of the sector at Rossignol Wood previously occupied. From the slopes of the high ground of the front line back to Battalion Headquarters in Gommecourt Park there was still remarkable evidence of the grim and protracted struggles which were waged round the Gommecourt salient during the Somme Offensive of 1916—trees riven and blasted by shell fire, derelict tanks, the ground pitted with great shell-holes, densities of heaped-up wire entanglements, wooden crosses, and even trenches still lined with grinning skulls and bones and the litter of broken paraphernalia of page 324 war. And perhaps more remarkable still, as exemplifying the almost impregnable nature of the defences of the salient, were the maze of deep trenches still undestroyed, the belts of wire still intact, the iron-plated machine gun loop-holes which commanded every approach, and the scores of dugouts of extraordinary depth and size.