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

Turn of the Tide

Turn of the Tide.

While the Regiment was thus temporarily retired from the scene of active operations, in which it had played such a leading part, preparations were being speedily advanced for the launching of a great offensive movement. The Third Army had been ordered to press back the enemy towards Bapaume without delay, and to make every endeavour to prevent his destroying the system of road and railway communications in rear. In compliance with this order, the 37th Division was to attack and capture the high ground east of Bucquoy and Ablainzeville, further north; and following upon this operation, the 5th Division and the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division were to be ready to push forward to the line Irles-Bihucourt. The New Zealand and 42nd Divisions were to co-operate in the first phase with artillery and machine gun fire, at the same time advancing their fronts to a general line extending along the eastern edge of Puisieux-au-Mont and the high ground to the immediate south; and in the second phase by advancing to conform with the 5th Division to the general line extending along the western side of Miraumont. The attack was to contain all the elements of surprise; every effort being made in assembling troops to maintain secrecy.

A readjustment of the New Zealand Divisional sector completed on the night of August 19th-20th, resulted in the 3rd (Rifle) Brigade holding the Divisional front, with the 1st Infantry Brigade in support; the 2nd Infantry Brigade being concentrated in reserve positions. In accordance with this readjustment, the 2nd Battalion of Otago had on the evening of the 18th moved into the Chateau de la Haie switch, northeast of Sailly-au-Bois, and on the 19th the 1st Battalion moved from Rossignol Farm to a bivouac camp on the northern outskirts of St. Leger. On the 20th the Regiment was fitted and equipped as for battle, and at an early hour on the follow-page 330ing morning, in compliance with concentration orders affecting the 2nd Infantry Brigade, the 1st Battalion moved forward to Bayencourt and bivouacked in the orchards in the outskirts; while the 2nd Battalion had moved across overnight to the eastern edge of Sailly-au-Bois.

Lieut.-Colonel W. S. Pennycook arrived from the United Kingdom on, August 20th, and took over command of the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment; Lieut.-Colonel J. B. McClymont proceeding to England on duty.