1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment
Battalion Diary Precis and Extract
January was spend in and out of the lines in regular tours around Heudicourt still in the same sector as December. February was a similar story with training being carried out at Moislains when not in the Line at Leiramont, both just south west of Epehy. During the beginning of March it was the the same story although this changed very quickly after the 15th March with the enemy spring offensive in full swing then battalion were forced into withdrawl after withdrawal, their final retirement, and most noted defence, was that of Chapel Hill. At the end of March they were pulled back into Bourdan sur somme, west of Amiens and billeted for the night.
April 1st started with the Battalion being moved from the cap at 12 noon and then entrained at Hengest at 1.30pm for a slow journey to Pezelhoek and then by bus to Ramilies Camp at Kemmel arriving at 3am (2nd April) after 14 hours of travelling.
After a couple of days out of the line the battalion went back into the trenches on the 4th April near Kemmel, the front line being between Wall farm and Wambeke. On their third day in the trenches a draft of 90 other ranks was received.
The next night there was some shelling on the line between Kemmel and Wytschaete and on that night, 7th April, the Battalion came back out of the line and back to Ramillies Camp at Kemmel.
On the 8th April the companies were reorganised and the new draft of 90 men were posted to the companies. Albert was previously in C company and it is assumed that being a private he started with he company. The next day the Battalion was drilled and received specialist training in signalling, Lewis gunnery and first aid training, before being taken by light railway on the 10th April to Otaga Camp.
At Zillebeke Lake the Battalion revlieved the 1st East Yorks. At 8.30pm the C.O. received a summons to brigade HQ at Bedford Hose and was informed that the Battalion was to move at once to Maida Camp and come under the orders of 64th Infantry Brigade.
On the 11th the Battalion was ordered to Lincoln Camp and that in the early morning hey would make an attack. His planned operation was cancelled at 11.30pm and the Battalion went back into support for the 62nd Brigade at Regent Dugout south of the Kemmel-Wytscaete Road.
The 12th saw the Battalion prepare to take over the front line by making reconnaissance, preparing stores etc. in the afternoon the enemy made an unsuccessful attention to take Wulverghem and the Battalion watched this from their position. At 9pm the relief of the front line commenced and this was completed at 11.40pm.
The Battalion Diary notes that the period of the 12th to the 19th was best described by reproducing the official account of the operation, sent by Brigadier general G H Gater DSO, commanding 2nd Infantry Brigade to the next higher command.
On the evening of the 12th 13th of April, the 1st Lincolnshire Regiment relieved the 12/13th Northumberland Fusiliers in the Wytschaete sector. The battalion was responsible for holding the line from Bogaert Farm exclusive on the right to Stanyzer Cabaret cross roads inclusive on the left, which line was extended on the night of the 15th and 16th to Scott farm. From that date until the attack on the Monday the 16th the Battalion was subjected to a very heavy and continuous bombardment which was made all the more trying for the men owing to the lack of shelter. Between the evening of 12/13 and the 15th 16th casualties amounted to 2 officers and 80 other ranks. The battalion only went into the line with 12 offices including Battalion H.Q., so that the strain on these few officers was tremendous. In spite of this the fighting spirit of all ranks was maintained at the highest level.
On the afternoon of the 13th the enemy shelled the village very heavily but owing to the vigilance of the Vickers and Lewis guns no infantry attack took place.
At 4:30 am on the morning of the 16th the enemy put down a terrific bombardment on our front line on the village and on all approaches. The bombardment lasted without any lull till 5:30 am, when it was lifted on the front of the left and centre battalions, but kept on the 1st Lincolnshire Regiment for 10 minutes longer. Under cover of dense fog the enemy attacked on the flanks of the battalion and succeeded in breaking our line just north of the Stanyzer Cabaret crossroads and at Peckham. Strong parts of the enemy then wheeled inwards and attacked both flanks of the battalion, the frontal attack does not appear to have been pressed.
Owing to the dense fog and bombardment it was impossible to get a clear idea of the situation and the companies did not know they were attacked until the enemy appeared at close quarters. Fighting under every disadvantage as the fog denied them the full use of Lewis guns and rifles it made it impossible to locate the enemy, the battalion stood firm and fought it out to the last. No officer, platoon post or individual surrendered and the fighting was prolonged until 6:30 am. Ample evidence of this is provided by the commanding officer and Battalion HQ, who made a last stand at the crossroads and did not leave there until 7 am. They, a mere handful of men, withdrew slowly fighting all the way through Wytschaete Wood.
The withdrawal was covered by the adjutant, Captain Mokellar, with revolver and bombs firing into the enemy at close quarters. This enabled the commanding officer Major Gush to get away his wounded and the commanding officer of the 12/13th Northumberland Fusiliers, who was also wounded.
The splendid behaviour of the Battalion undoubtably saved the situation by breaking the full force of the attack enabling a defensive flank to be formed covering, the 54th Brigade from North House to Black Cot and the reserve Battalion to be pushed up to the line Vandalge farm – Lagaghe Farm so as to prevent a further breakthrough.
The hard fighting left the enemy disorganised and unable to consolidate and materially assisted the counter-attack delivered in the evening.
The battalion Diary for the 17th reports that “after having been relieved, in the position taken up after the enemy attack Wytschaete, by a composite battalion consisting of Seaforth’s, Gloucesters and Sussex Regiments the Battalion, now only five officers and 82 of the ranks strong, withdrew to Siege Farm North-West of Kemmel. Whilst in this position 21 stragglers who would become attached to other units during the fighting re-joined the battalion, making the total number of other ranks 103.