11 April 1917 - diary entry

At 1.38 am on the 11th, an order was received from Brigade HQ for commanding officers to assemble at Bde HQ at 2.30 am. At the conference, orders were issued for the relief of the 10th Brigade, the movement of the 10th Brigade to its position of assembly and the orders for an attack to be made by the 10th, 11th and 12th Brigade of the 4th Division. O.C. Coprs were ordered to assemble at D Coy HQ in the BROWN LINE and await the arrival of the Commanding Officer. At 5.30 am at D Coy HQ, the orders were issued to the OC Co and the Battalion by the South African Brigade of the 9th Division. [scheme of attack omitted from transcript].

The substance of the 10th Brigade orders was afterwards embodied in a Bn order. This being written as opportunity offered, during halts on the way up to the portion of asssembly for the attack. It was issued in an incomplete state to enable OC Corps to convey the orders for the attack to their platoons and scouts and commanders and to give the general orders and instructions for the attack to their men. They had to be done during the move from the Brown line to the point of assembly, there being no other opportunity of doing so. Further orders were issued when the Bn reached the ground north of the ATHIES-FAMPOUX road in H. 16 E, these verbal orders were in confirmation of the issued orders, at D coy HQ on the brown line and had reference to the position to be taken up by Bn HQ in the HYDERABAD REDOUBT. 1st Aid Post, Runners, Action of carrying parties and other details of the attack. The advance of the Bn up to this point had been quite uneventful, but the presence overhead of an enemy aeroplane now made it necessary to proceed with caution. Fortunately, the enemy aircraft was engaged by an aeroplane of ours, and the Bn was enabled to continue their advance into FAMPOUX. The Bn was closed up in columns of route and advanced up the Sunken road, leading to the HYDERABAD REDOUBT. The way up the road we were told on 3 occasions that it was impossible to proceed without being seen, and coming under machine gun fire, but a study of the map and ground revealed no alternative route which would be out of sight of the enemy and we were due at our point of assembly at 11 am. On reaching H 17 b 69, battalion HQ came under machine gun fire and we passed into the trench which leads from this point to the HYDERABAD REDOUBT on the west side of the GAVRELLE road. Orders were issued to the OC C Coy to get his Coy on their alignment under cover of the road bank and to extend to the left on his correct frontage before zero hour (12 noon). B Coy (left attacking Coy) were next passed into the trench in rear of Bn HQ and were followed by A Coy (Centre attacking coy). The machine gun fire at this time was considerable but harmless as the coys were under cover of the trench, but the enemy shellfire on th eroad and entrance to the trench was accurate and a huisance. D coy (carrying Coy) was passed into the communication trench running back from the road to the cross roads at H17 a 89. Owing to the narrowness of the trench and the shellfire it took the remainder of the time before zero hour to get the coys distributed on the correct frontages, the left coy (B) having great difficulty owing to the wire surrounding the HYDERABAD REDOUBT and the machine gun fire on the road.
At zero - 3 minutes all was now in order and when zero came, the coys advanced into the barrage. They were immediately subjected to intense machine gun fire and a barrage was put down on the line of the road and on the Redoubt. The line was a little bunched and on the right and left but it eased off and became a good line before reaching the artillery barrage. Their barrage was very weake but whatever its strength had been and would have been of little assistance until it had reached the area from which the machine gun fire was coming i.e. the general line I. 13 central to I. 7 a 19 and the ground on the enemy's rear of that line. The situation the sighting of the enemy's machine guns beyond the barrage area is invisible and unknown portions was responsible mainly for the failure of the attack, as it had been responsible for the failure of many attacks during hte later stages of teh battle of the SOMME. Until some system of dealing with tis problem is devised the enemy will continue to cause heavy casualties among attacking infantry.

A further operation order was handed on the western outskirts of FAMPOUX at 10.35 am, altering the time the Household Bn and the Warwicks were to pass the 1st objective of the 10th brigade to Zero + 40 minutes and after the Bn attack had passed into the valley out of sight the coy of the Household Bn moved out of the trench on the W side of the road running through the HYDERABAD REDOUBT and formed a 2nd wave at a considerable interval.
The heavy machinegun fire maintained by the enemy made it impossible to obtain information on the course of the action but it required no report to realise that a simple wave of 400 men who had to advance an average distance of 1600 yards with a Bn front of 1100 yards could not obtain their objective in face of such machine gun and rifle fire.

Action taken by me is adequately represented by the two reports sent by me by runner to 10th Bde HQ and the general line H18 b 25 to H12 d 29 as having been attained by the Bn is approximately correct. Isolated parties reached I 7 c to I 13 a were unable to maintain their positions and the enemy were seen to be removing some wounded men of the Bn from these areas at a later period. Of the loss afflicted by the Bn on the enemy I am able to claim 1 officer and about 25 men killed basing my calculations on those killed by the unwounded men of the 3 attacking coys as these total loss 15% of the number who took part in the attack. The loss inflicted on the enemy has been considerably higher. The officer killed belong to 93rd Regiment of Infantry and 1 prisoner of that regiment was also taken. The total losses sustained by the Battalion were 12 officers and 363 otrher ranks, out of a total ofo 12 officers and 420 other ranks who took part in the attack. I leave these losses to speak for the gallantry of all ranks.

Under cover of darkness, 2 officer patrols were sent out to endeavour to get in touch with the enemy and to form a screen to enable the wounded to be recovered. These patrols reached the general line H12 central to H 18 b 1b but were unable to advance further owing to the fire of the enemy. Under cover of their screen a large number of wounded were recovered and a line of 4 posts were established, two of which were Lewis gun posts. These posts were 150 yards apart and the left post was in touch right post of Somerset Light Infantry.

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