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


The Hohenzollern Redoubt

Leaving Hesdigneul at 4.30 p.m. on October 12th, we marched through Bethune and Sailly-la-Bourse to a field beyond the latter, where we rested till dusk, and then resumed the march to Vermelles, where we were met by the guides detailed to lead us to the trenches in which we were to relieve the Irish Guards. At Vermelles each Company halted and were served out with the tools and bombs to be carried in the attack next day. The bombs were served out packed in sandbags under superintendence of the Divisional Bomb Officer, and were naturally accepted by the Company Commanders as serviceable stores, but on arrival in trenches, when distributed to the men, much of the load carried from Vermelles proved utterly useless consisting of rifle grenades without rods, and old bombs of all patterns, and the result was a shortage of bombs after the attack at a time of urgent need, which had most serious consequences. The night was very dark, the position of course entirely strange to the Battalion, and the guides appeared more uncertain of their way than usual, so that the relief was very slow, but was ultimately accomplished at 2 a.m. The disposition of the Battalion was four half Companies with Battalion Headquarters in the front line and four half Companies in the support line, 50 yards in rear. Excepting the necessary sentries all ranks were instructed to get as much rest as possible, but the order was more honoured in the [p47] breach than in the observance, particularly by the Officers and N.C.O.'s who were hard at work practically the whole night. After stand-to at dawn on October 13th, the Battalion devoted itself to a good breakfast, and the morning was spent in organizing the details of the attack. At noon the preliminary bombardment began, probably the heaviest and most concentrated artillery attack by the British Army up to that date, as had been promised by the Corps Commander; the enemy retaliation was not very severe, but a good many casualties were caused owing to the necessarily crowded condition of the trenches. The wind being favourable, gas cylinders having been previously installed in the front line, a gas cloud was discharged towards the enemy trenches at 1.45 p.m., but a certain number of casualties were sustained in our own front line, as the wind was gusty and occasionally drove back the cloud into portions of our own trenches. Zero hour was 2 p.m., when the Battalion left the trenches, and advanced "over the top" on the enemy position.

It is not possible or desirable in a Battalion History to give the details of the whole operation, but it must be explained that the attack of the 46th Division on October 13th, 1915, was planned with two brigades in the front line, the 137th (Staffordshire) Brigade on the right and the 138th (Lincoln and Leicester) Brigade on the left with the 139th (Sherwood Foresters) Brigade in support. In the 138th Brigade two Battalions were in the front line, the 1/4th Leicestershire on the right, the 1/5th Lincolnshire on the left, with 1/4th Lincolnshire in support, and 1/5th Leicestershire in reserve. Each of the leading Battalions advanced in four waves, each Company moving in lines of platoons, the two leading platoons of each Company starting from the [p48] front line, and the two rear platoons from the support line. The distribution of the Companies in the Battalion was A, B, C, D from right to left, with Battalion Headquarters in the centre, and the first objective was the Fosse Trench in the German Line about 400 yards behind the W. face of the Hohenzollern Redoubt, which consisted of an oval work about 200 yards by 150, pushed forward from the Fosse Trench, and joined to it by several communication trenches; the Redoubt was situated on slightly rising ground, which dipped again behind towards the Fosse Trench, and was the only part of our objective actually visible from our own trenches.

When the artillery lifted at 2 p.m.—it must be remembered that this was long before the idea of the "creeping barrage"—the infantry of the Division advanced most gallantly to the attack. The wire in front of the Redoubt was well cut, and the Battalion swept over the W. and E. faces with few casualties but on advancing over the open ground in front of the Fosse trench came under such heavy rifle and machine gun fire from the front and from both flanks, that the lines melted away, and further advance became impossible; although numerous isolated parties maintained themselves in shell holes at various points until dusk, the line as a whole was compelled to retire to the E face of the Hohenzollern Redoubt, which was con-solidated for defence. The 1/4th Leicestershire Regiment on our right were in the same situation, exposed to very heavy frontal and enfilade rifle and machine gun fire, as the Brigade on our right was unable to advance owing to uncut wire, and the German position at Mad Point on our left was a nest of machine guns which our artillery were unable to silence. All ranks behaved most gallantly, but [p49] the very heavy casualties in Officers and N.C.O.'s deprived the men of leadership, just at the time it was most needed, with the result that a certain amount of crowding took place, causing additional casualties. The Machine Gun Section under Captain R. E. Madge took three guns forward with the Battalion, but two were quickly disabled, and only one came into action, the team under Sergeant Drewery establishing themselves in an excellent position in a communication trench some distance beyond the W. face of the Redoubt. Only two belt boxes reached the gun, but by collecting ammunition from casualties, it was kept in action until towards evening, when Sergeant Drewery, finding his team completely isolated, retired down the trench to the W. face of the Redoubt. For their gallantry on this occasion, Sergeant Drewery was awarded the D.C.M., and Private Percy Coulson, who actually worked the gun, the Military Medal.

As soon as the attack was definitely checked and the enemy realised that the Hohenzollern Redoubt was occupied and being consolidated by us with the assistance of the 1/4th Lincolnshire Regiment, who had advanced with us and the 1st Monmouthshire Regiment, the Divisional Pioneer Battalion who came up for the purpose, a very heavy bombardment was directed on the E face until the whole trench was practically obliterated, when the survivors retreated to the W face, and held it through the night in spite of numerous enemy counter-attacks. At 8 a.m., in the morning of October 14th, the Battalion, now reduced to a skeleton, under Captain Madge, the only unwounded officer, was relieved, and withdrawn to the second line trenches, where they rested for the day, and in the evening withdrew still further to the Lancashire trenches in front of Vermelles.


The casualties were extremely heavy; of 23 officers who went into action, 11 were killed and 11 wounded, of whom one subsequently died of wounds; 285 other ranks were reported killed or missing, and 175 wounded. Owing to the fact that the Commanding Officer was wounded, the Adjutant, the 2nd-in-Command, and three Company Commanders killed, and the other Company Commander wounded, and every Officer, with the exception of the Machine Gun Officer, became a casualty, it will be readily understood that great difficulty has been experienced in obtaining an accurate and reliable account of what actually happened. The most conspicuous of the N.C.O.'s who took command when their officers became casualties, was Corporal Leadbeater, who took charge of a post in N. Face, and when unable to advance further up the trench by bombing, built a barricade and consolidated the trench. During the night of the 13th, he held the post by bombing, and the following day acted as a stretcher-bearer, regardless of personal danger. For his gallantry on this occasion he was awarded a bar to his D.C.M., won in the Ypres salient on September 30th. Another N.C.O. who showed great initiative and resource was Sergeant Arthur Campbell, who did excellent work in collecting and leading men who had become scattered; he was subsequently awarded the Military Medal.

Of the many gallant deeds performed, and the numerous instances of courage, resource, and devotion to duty, few were ever recorded, owing to the very heavy casualties among the officers, and the consequent absence of official reports. The Military Medal was awarded to Private C. A. Hocknall for devotion to duty in remaining in a shell hole in the open under heavy shell and machine gun fire by a wounded officer, whom he subse [p51] quently brought back at dark to our lines. Sergeant W. E. Hamp and Lance-Corporal A. C. Ingamells also distinguished themselves, showing great personal gallantry and were awarded the Military Medal. The following officers, for gallant and distinguished conduct in the field, were Mentioned in Despatches, published in the London Gazette on January 14th, 1916: Lieut.-Col. T. E. Sandall, Major H. I. Robinson (killed) and Captain and Adjutant V. de Hoghton (killed). Lieut.-Col. T. E. Sandall was gazetted C.M.G. in the New Year Honours List.

The following Divisional Order was issued on October 15th:

The G.O.C. wishes to convey to the Division his deep appreciation of their most gallant conduct on the 13th inst. The attack was carried out with great bravery and dash, and it was no fault of the infantry that the objective of the attack was not reached. The Corps Commander has desired the G.O.C. to convey to all ranks his admiration for the manner in which the attack was carried out.

The G.O.C. deplores the loss of so many gallant officers and men, whose names will be inscribed on the Roll of Honour. He is confident that every man in the Division will be ever ready to act in the same gallant manner, when called upon to do so.

On the evening of October 15th, the remnant of the Battalion under Captain Madge, left the trenches, where they had rested for 24 hours, and proceeded to Vermelles, whence they were conveyed by 'bus back to their old billets at Hesdigneul.

The attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt was a feat of arms of which the Battalion will be ever proud, but the enormous number of casualties [p52] practically destroyed it for the time being as a fighting unit. The survivors for a short period were shaken and depressed and all organization was destroyed, but the task of rebuilding the Battalion on its old lines and traditions was begun at once, and carried through ultimately with entire success.

The loss in officers however was irreparable, as the following casualty list shows: it bears eloquent testimony to the gallant leading of the Battalion in attack. Killed in action: Major H. I. Robinson, Captain and Adjutant V. de Hoghton. Captains H. S. Scorer, H. W. Nicholson, G. H. J. Sowter, Lieut. W. L. Hartley, 2nd Lieuts. P. K. Brown, E. E. Early, J. A. B. Jollye, C. B. Shrewsbury, T. Wright. Died of wounds: 2nd Lieut. J. Blunt. Wounded: Lieut.-Colonel T. E. Sandall, Major H. G. Wilson, Lieuts. B. C. Hall, C. F. W. Haseldine, F. L. Jones, H. D. Mountain, J. S. Nichols, D. F. Underwood, 2nd Lieuts. R. L. Hett, W. H. G. Smyth.

One officer only, Captain R. E. Madge, who did excellent work with his machine gun section, and was subsequently mentioned in despatches, was left to bring the Battalion out of action.