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The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914 - 1919

Chapter XXXII

page 226

Chapter XXXII.

After Belle Vue—Holding the Line—Gravenstafel —Waterloo Road—Otto Farm—Relief by the Canadians.

Owing to the non-success of the attack made by the 2nd and 3rd Brigades on Belle Vue Spur on the 12th October, it was decided that the 1st Brigade should now take over and hold the line until the relief of the II. Anzac Corps by the Canadians was complete. Accordingly, on the 15th, 1st and 2nd Wellington both marched to Goldfish Chateau, and bivouaced there overnight.

Next day, the 1st. Battalion moved up, relieving 1st Otago in support at Pommern Castle, where it remained until the 19th. The area was heavily shelled on several occasions, Lieuts. E. L. Malone and A. J. Nimmo being amongst those wounded. On the 16th, the 2nd Battalion moved forward via Salvation Corner and No. 5 Track to the old German Support Line, North of Wieltje—Spree Farm Road, with headquarters at Call Farm.

On the following day, the 2nd Battalion moved forward to a line from Banks Farm to Pommern Castle. On the 19th October, 1st Wellington took over the front line from 3rd Canterbury in the right sub-sector of the Divisional front, with battalion headquarters at Waterloo Farm, while 2nd Wellington moved forward and relieved 3rd Auckland in support to 1st Wellington. The 2nd Battalion's line was now approximately Korek-Gravenstafel-Abraham Heights with battalion headquarters at Otto Farm.

On the night of the 20th, the 3rd Battalion was relieved by 1st Auckland, and moved back to near Spree Farm—a very tedious and tiring journey owing to the mud.

On the 21st October, the 3rd Battalion was relieved late in the afternoon by the 1st Battalion Canadian Mounted page 227Rifles. The relief was carried out under heavy shell fire; but, fortunately, the casualties were light. On being relieved, the 3rd Battalion moved back to a camp near St. Jean cross roads. Here we were able to get baths, and were issued with extra winter clothing.

The 1st Battalion in the front line faced Belle Vue Spur, with the 2nd Battalion behind it in support. The position was in full view of the enemy and movement was kept down to a minimum to avoid drawing fire. The whole area was continuously shelled and the men suffered great discomfort from cold and wet, though, fortunately not much more rain fell. There was an almost complete lack of machine-gun and rifle fire, and very few flares were seen. Rations were packed to a point just short of Gravenstafel cross-roads, and the 2nd Battalion did its cooking at Abraham Heights. Patrolling was actively carried out by the 1st Battalion, particularly to ascertain the damage done to the enemy wire, and to reconnoitre the crossings of the Ravebeke.

One afternoon, one of our long range guns made an attempt to demolish the pill-boxes on the crest of Belle Vue Spur, and a remarkably accurate shoot it was too. After the first shot, the pill-box was quickly vacated, and Germans could be seen scurrying across the sky-line. Then, when one of our shells hit the concrete blockhouse fair and square, the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer. A little later, a figure could be seen slowly wending its way down the spur towards us, and a poor shell-shocked German walked right into Auckland's lines.

Early in the evening of the 23rd October, both 1st and 2nd Battalions were relieved by the Canadians, the 1st Battalion by the 43rd Battalion Canadian Infantry, while the 58th Battalion Canadian Infantry took over from the 2nd Battalion. The relief of the 1st Battalion went through very quickly and was completed by 8 p.m.; but, just before it was completed, the whole of Company Headquarters of Taranaki Company (1st Battalion), were either killed or wounded. The Canadians had actually taken over and Taranaki headquarters were about to leave when a huge shell burst right in the shell page 228hole which had been serving as headquarters. Capt. J. Keir and Lt. S. Paul were killed outright, also the sergt.-major and two of our runners, while two Canadian officers and four of their men were killed. It was indeed bad luck. Capt. Keir did not live to know that he had been awarded the Military Cross he had so well earned a few days before.

On relief the 1st Battalion moved back into support, with headquarters at Pommern Castle, and remained there until the following day, when it was relieved by the 50th Battalion Canadian Infantry and then moved back to a camp near St. Jean. Here Lieut. Clark and several others were wounded by aeroplane bombs.

The 2nd Battalion, on being relieved at Gravenstafel, had moved right back to a camp between Dead End and Salvation Corner, a hot meal, and a very welcome one indeed, and a ration of rum being supplied at Cal. Trench. Second Battalion headquarters were near St. Jean. The camp near Salvation Corner comprised some huts and a number of bell tents and as many as twenty men occupied one tent. Here we lay for the day and night of the 24th, many having a good look round Ypres itself., or rather what was left of it, taking advantage of an opportunity which had not hitherto presented itself.