The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914 - 1919
Chapter XXVI. — A Well Deserved Spell
A Well Deserved Spell.
Le Verrier — St. Marie Capelle—Cassell— Sports at Doulieu— Hawke's Bay (2nd Battalion) go Back Early to Train for La Basseville—Kortepyp Camp —Back to the Trenches—3rd Battalion at Brune Gaye—A Brush with Enemy Patrols in Le Touquet Sector.
On the 30th June, the 1st Battalion marched to billets in Le Verrier Area, and there it remained until the 19th July. Platoon and company training was carried out, and, on two different days, all companies carried out two courses of musketry on a 25 yards range. During this period of training also, the 1st Battalion was inspected by Major General Russell.
On the 29th, an advance party from the 2nd Battalion had marched to Steenwerek, and entrained for Hazebrouck. On arrival there, it marched to St. Marie Capelle, about four miles from Hazebrouck. The 2nd Battalion itself followed in the afternoon by the same route, arriving at its new billets at 9.30 p.m., alter a pleasant day's journey.
Nor was Cassel without its compensations. Never had one seen so many red tabs before. All were of the staff. They ranged from white haired Generals, down to dapper young Staff Lieutenants. Why, we had hardly been at St. Marie Capelle a day, before His Majesty the King himself was at Cassell! There were shops: there were tramcars: there was La Belle Sauvage Inn—alas, for officers only.
During this period of rest and training, divisional swimming sports were held, one of the 2nd Battalion's representatives, Pte. E. W. Cobledick (Hawkes Bay Company) winning the second prize in the 100 yards race. On the following day, a Divisional Gymkhana was held at Doulieu. Pte. E. W. Cobledick won the 880 yards race and the three miles cross country steeplechase, while Wellington-West Coast Company's (2nd Battalion) Tug-of-war team pulled into the final; but were then beaten by a very heavy Maori team from the Pioneer Battalion.
Towards the end of its stay at St. Marie Capelle, the 2nd Battalion held a platoon tournament, to which it invited the Mayor and all the villagers. The invitation was circulated by a notice in the church porch, and the whole village came. We gave them coffee and cakes, and all seemed thoroughly to enjoy themselves.
Lieut.-Col. Cunningham had assumed temporary command of the First Brigade on the 4th July, when Brigadier-General Melvill went on leave to England, and, upon the hitler's return, his own leave became due, so that Major Weston remained in command of 2nd Battalion.page 186
Shortly before the 2nd Battalion moved back to the line, on the 12th July, the Hawkes Bay Company (Capt. W. H. McLean) was sent forward by motor lorries to Kortepyp Camp to train for a special operation that involved the capture of the village of La Basse Ville. The rest of the 2nd Battalion did not leave St. Marie Chapelle until the 18th July, when they moved to Kortepyp Camp in two trips of twenty motor lorries. By that time Hawkes Bay Company was already in hard training for its "stunt."
During the evening of the following day, the 2nd Battalion moved into the trenches opposite La Basse Ville, relieving parts of 51st and 52nd Battalions of the 4th Australian Division, with battalion headquarters at St Yves Post Office. Hawkes Bay remained at Kortepyp to continue its special training.
On the same day, the 1st Battalion (now under the command of Major H. Holderness, Lieut.-Col. Cook being on leave), marched to Hill 63, and relieved 1st Auckland in brigade reserve, being camped in the dugouts and tunnels round Red Lodge, and from there supplying large working parties daily. Hill 63 was subjected to periodical shelling by the enemy, and a few casualties occurred almost daily, either at Red Lodge or on the working parties. At night, the area was bombarded with gas shells to the great discomfort of working parties passing through Ploegsteert Wood and round Hyde Park Corner.
On the 8th July, the 3rd Battalion had moved from Nieppe to Brune Gaye, and for the next week, was called upon tn supply working parties for the New Zealand Engineers. On the 16th July, it took over the front line trenches in the Le Touquet Sector from 3rd Auckland, and, that night, Taranaki Company's advanced posts had a brush with a German patrol, eleven strong. One wounded German was taken prisoner, while we had two wounded. On the following night. Sergeant Pennefather and his patrol (Hawkes Bay Company), saw some Germans proceeding along the river Lys in a boat: whereupon they threw six bombs, and fired their rifles into the boat, causing it to page 187capsize. There is little else to chronicle during this spell in the trenches, save much artillery activity on both sides.
On the 24th, our 3rd Battalion was relieved by 3rd Otago, and moved to billets in brigade reserve at Oosthove Ferme and Pontceau where a large number of reinforcements joined up. Here the battalion remained until the 1st August, some companies being employed on working parties under the New Zealand Engineers, while others carried on with training.