T.E. Sandall, History of the 5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (1922)


The Beginning of the Great Advance

On July 9th the Battalion relieved the 1/6th North Staffordshire Regiment in Brigade support in the Gorre sector, and on the 13th the 1/4th Leicestershire Regiment in the left sub-sector, A and B Companies in the line, C in support, and D in reserve. On the 17th Battalion Headquarters and the left Company (B) were rather heavily shelled and an inter-company relief was effected in the evening. On the 18th Lieut. Pearson carried out a very good daylight patrol, and on the 19th 2nd Lieut. Girdler and 2nd Lieut. Giles carried out similar patrols and all three officers were complimented on their work by the G.O.C. 46th Division. The weather was showery during the tour, which was quiet until the 21st, when the enemy retaliated for the recent increase in our harrassing fire by shelling Gorre heavily. In the evening we were relieved by the 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, and returned to the former billets in Divisional Reserve, the officers taking the opportunity to reconnoitre the rear defences of the 3rd Division near Chocques. The Brigade sports were held on the afternoon of the 25th, when the Battalion took first prize for the best Transport turn-out, and was second in the total number of points obtained from each event. On the 26th the Battalion attended a demonstration to show the effects of controlled fire with "tracer" bullets at Hesdigneul, and a platoon of B Company repeated the demonstration with excellent results.


We relieved the 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment in Brigade support at Gorre on the 27th, which was very quiet until the afternoon of the 30th, when the right Company (A) was rather heavily shelled, and on July 31st we relieved the 1/5th Leicestershire Regiment in the Gorre left sector at 11.30 p.m., C and D Companies in the line, A in support, and B in reserve, until an inter-company relief on August 4th. Captain J. S. Nichols, Lieuts. P. W. Halliday and H. Bamber, and 2nd Lieut. A. R. W. Skipp with 6 Warrant Officers, 16 N.C.O.'s and 9 Other Ranks joined from the 2/5th Battalion. On August 6th Lieut. I. C. A. Perrott, M.C., carried out an excellent daylight patrol with two scouts, Privates J. Bell and W. Howard, penetrating 200 yards in the rear of the enemy front line in an endeavour to obtain an identification, which was urgently required. An enemy shelter was found with six men asleep, identifications were obtained, and the patrol withdrew, leaving a bomb in the dug-out, which did not explode. Meanwhile the patrol had been observed and parties of the enemy were seen advancing on both flanks, but covered by Lieut. Perrott and Private Howard, Private Bell again went forward to the dug-out and placed a bomb which exploded. By skilful leadership, use of ground, and covering fire, the patrol succeeded in reaching our lines without casualty, having obtained a valuable identification and information as to how the enemy held his line. Both the men were awarded the Military Medal.

On August 8th Battalion Headquarters was shelled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and finally had to move to a place of greater security. During the afternoon a daylight patrol of three men under Sergt. S. Jackson penetrated the enemy line and obtained valuable information; unfortunately they were observed by the enemy before reaching their [p169] objective, one man was seriously wounded, and a considerable number of the enemy were seen advancing on the N.C.O. acting as the point of the patrol. Sergt. Jackson, realising that an attempt at rescue would probably result in the whole patrol being captured and the importance of getting back with the information obtained, by means of skilful leadership and use of covering fire, succeeded in getting the rest of the patrol back to our lines. Private A. Woods, when his comrade was wounded, having bound him up, maintained his position and held the enemy at bay with rifle fire, until the wounded man had reached a place of safety, thus by his courage and resource preventing the latter being captured. Both Sergt. Jackson and Private Woods were awarded the Military Medal.

On the evening of August 8th the Battalion was relieved by the 1/6th Sherwood Foresters, and went back to Divisional reserve, carrying out training as usual and providing large working parties at night for digging a cable trench near Essarts. On the 13th Captain J. C. Urquhart and Lieut. Dennis joined and next day we relieved the 1/6th Sherwood Foresters in the Gorre left sub-sector, C and D Companies being in the front line, A Company in support, and B Company in reserve in the Liverpool line, Battalion Headquarters being in Loisne Chateau. From 3.45 a.m. to 5.15 a.m. the whole area was heavily shelled but no Infantry action followed; similar artillery activity occurred at intervals during the 17th.

On August 18th at 4 a.m., the enemy blew up an old British "Pill Box" just behind his front line, and also several shelters and dug-outs in the vicinity, and set fire to several houses in the Rue Du Bois. In view of these signs of impending retirement, patrols were sent out to investigate, but found the [p170] enemy very alert and occupying his normal positions. At night the usual inter-company relief took place. On the 19th patrols found the enemy still occupying his normal positions, but during the morning of August 20th he was seen retiring on our left. In consequence, patrols were again sent out and by noon had occupied the enemy's front line, and several farms S. of the Rue Du Bois. Platoons were at once sent forward to occupy these positions, and push on to the Rue Du Bois, which had been laid down as the first objective of our advance. On the left B Company encountered some opposition from machine guns and snipers during the day, but were able to occupy their allotted positions in the evening and gain touch with the Battalion on their left. A Company on the right were held up, as the Battalion on our right did not move until midnight of August 20th-21st. They were heavily gas-shelled, and suffered a considerable number of casualties, so C Company were sent up with orders to advance through them and push on at once to Rue du Bois, which they successfully carried out, encountering little opposition so that by 5 a.m. on August 21st the whole Battalion were on their line, and in touch with the Battalions on both flanks from 200 to 500 yards from the enemy's advanced positions. During the day the 1/4th Leicestershire Regiment took over the whole Brigade front, and on relief our companies were distributed A in Loisne, D in the Liverpool line, C in Gorre Farm, and B in Le Quesnoy Keep. The area was shelled at intervals during the next four days, a few casualties being sustained each day, and on the 26th the Battalion was relieved, Headquarters and three Companies moving to Verquin, one Company, D, being left in Le Quesnoy Keep under the orders of the B.G.C. Left Brigade. From August 27th the Battalion [p171] carried out four hours training daily, with musketry on the Hesdigneul range, until September 1st, when we relieved the 1/6th Sherwood Foresters in the out-post line near Cailloux Keep, A and D Companies in the out-post line, and B and C in support in the old British front line, with Battalion Headquarters at Loisne Chateau.

September 2nd passed quietly, and early in the morning of the 3rd we attempted to push our line forward in accordance with the scheme of operations for the 46th Division to conform with the movement of the 19th Division, which attacked on our left. The advance of the left Company was held up by enemy strong points, and very little progress was made, as the Division on our right was not moving forward. Patrols attempted to drive the enemy out on the left during the day, and failed, and an inter-company relief was arranged at dark, B and C Companies advancing and passing through A and D to establish a line if possible along Princes Road. As soon as D Company on the left passed through the front line they were met by rifle and machine gun fire from Rum Post and Path Post, and checked. The left platoon under 2nd Lieut. A. G. Black, who lead it most skilfully, worked round to the flank and rear of Rum Post. Corporal J. Manchester in command of the Lewis gun team, ordered two men to cover him with its fire, while he and the remainder of the team rushed the post with the bayonet; four of the enemy were bayoneted, Corporal Manchester himself killing the officer in charge, and the remainder of the enemy garrison between 20 and 30 fled, leaving the machine gun in our hands. The platoon then pushed forward, capturing four prisoners and clearing snipers out of the houses in Rue du Bois. The capture of this strong point enabled the whole line to advance, although there was some [p172] resistance on the right flank from a machine gun, which was overcome and captured. At 11.50 p.m. news was received that the Division on our right had advanced, and occupied Indian Village, while the Battalion on our left had also moved forward, and occupied posts in advance of our left flank, so that our line could be pushed forward, and during the night the Battalion occupied its objective on Princes Road. Second Lieut. Black was awarded the M.C. for his personal gallantry in command of the left platoon and Corporal Manchester, who showed conspicuous courage and resource, the D.C.M.

In accordance with orders our line was slightly withdrawn to the line Haystack Post-Path Post in order to form a good jumping off line for the 1/5th Leicestershire Regiment, who were to attack at dawn on the 4th, their objective being the old British front line. The attack was a complete success, the 1/5th Leicestershire Regiment passing through our line, and gaining their objective, and the 139th Brigade on our left and the 55th Division on our right were equally successful. As soon as the assaulting troops had passed through our line the Battalion, in accordance with Brigade orders, issued the previous evening, was reorganised, and followed the 1/5th Leicestershire Regiment, acting as "moppers up" and keeping in close touch. The enemy resistance was slight and his artillery very little in evidence, and our casualties during the day were nil. During September 4th and 5th we maintained our position, the enemy shelling the forward area with light, and the rear position with heavy, shells, but again we suffered no casualties.

On the evening of September 5th the 138th Brigade was relieved by units of the 19th Division, the Battalion moving back at 8.30 p.m. to the usual billets at Verquin, which we occupied till September [p173] 11th, the Companies after the first day, which as usual was devoted to cleaning and interior economy, being at the disposal of the Company Commanders for training. On the afternoon of the 11th all preparations were completed for a movement by train, and during the night the move was carried out without any difficulty, our destination being Ribemont near Amiens. Although the village had suffered a good deal from shell fire, good billets, to our surprise and satisfaction, were available. The weather which had been fine for the last fortnight now broke, and the next few days were wet or showery. Companies were at the disposal of Company Commanders in the morning, and in the afternoons inter-platoon football and tug-of-war competitions were held, the finals being on September 17th, when No. 16 won the football, and No. 7 the tug-of-war. On two days the attack with ball ammunition was practised by platoons, in conjunction with Stokes trench mortars.

This short rest ended on September 19th, when the Battalion left Ribemont by 'bus shortly before midnight, and arrived at Tertry, ten miles west of St. Quintin, at 6.15 a.m. on the 20th. The 46th Division was being concentrated in the area, preparatory to the attack on the Hindenburg Line, which took place on September 29th. This operation was a magnificent success, and was recognised to be one of the most brilliant feats of arms performed during the war. It is only possible in this history to record the part played by the Battalion, but the story of the Division as a whole, with a complete account of the battle, has been graphically described in Major Priestley 's book, Breaking the Hindenburg Line (the story of the 46th Division).