A month in the life of 9th (service) Battalion Sherwood Foresters, October 1st to October 31st 1917. Including the Battle of Broodseinde.
October 1st – Houltkerque 8-30 am
Battalion moves off to new camp. C.O. proceeds by bus to visit trenches
Remarks – 0.0.48 App.D
October 1st Siege Camp 12.30 pm. B20 d.7.6 (sheet 28 NW Belgium)
Arrive Siege Camp by bus. Major S.H. Piper proceeded to England on Senior Officers Course.
October 2nd – Siege Camp – 2am – B 20 d 7 6 Sheet 28 NW Belgium.
Trench equipment issued. Packs etc dumped, in general getting ready – App A
Poelcappele 1/10,000. Batt proceeds by Coy to relieve 32nd Bde in left sector of 11th Divn front as per Relief Table . O.O No 49, A + B Coys in front line, D, Coy Cane Post, C Coy Canal Bank – Apendix D
HQ – Dog Houses V 29 B 9. 3 ( Cane Post C.9.a ) – appendix H
October 2nd – Poelcappele – 9.40 pm – Relief Complete
October 3rd – 5 am – Poelcappele – Enemy put down on line Dog House – Bulow Fm fairly heavy barrage. Final arrangements for attack made during day.
6.30 pm – Capt J Crutchlow MC, Lieut Bowyer, & Scouts put out tape for Battalion to form up on.
October 4th – Poelcappele – 1 am – Battalion moves to form up on tape for attack as per O O No 50 – App D.
Boundary on left adjusted with S.L.I & on right with 7th S Staffs.
(note from me – S.L.I. – Somerset Light Infantry)
October 4th – Poelcappele – 4.52 am – Batt formed up. Brigade informed. Batt HQs established at Pheasant Fm – App H
6am – Zero – app A & B
Attack proceeds – see narrative of events. Rations sent up by line party to Coys. Were rather short on arrival.
(At this point I will put in the narrative of the battle by the Commanding officer 9th Sherwoods. On completion of the war diary I will put in the Battle plans etc.)
9th Service battalion The Sherwood Foresters.
Narrative of Events During Recent operations.
On the morning of October 4th,. The battalion was forming up for attack on ‘A’ and ‘B’ lines by 4.50 a.m. The forming up was carried out without incident – a strongish breeze was blowing and a slight drizzle prevailed.
The battalion was formed to attack the two objectives on a three platoon front, as under :-
For first Objective :
LEFT – “A” Company in two waves of two platoons each.
RIGHT- Two Platoons of “B” Company in two waves of one platoon each.
For Second Objective :-
LEFT – “D” Company in same formation as above.
RIGHT – Two platoons of “B” Company in same formation as above.
The Reserve Company, formed up in artillery formation about U. 30, a. 1. 4.
Platoons of first waves were formed in two lines of sections in file with a screen 20 yards in front of section columns.
Platoons of second waves were formed up as above but without the screen of scouts.
At 5.30 a.m. the enemy began to shell the area between PHEASANT FARM and SNIPE HOUSE causing considerable casualties to the Reserve Company.
The guns opened exactly at 6 a.m. and leading Companies at once moved close up to the barrage.
No serious opposition was encountered on the way to the first objective and by 7.18 a.m. “B” Company on the RIGHT had reported capture of 1st. objective and that the company was in touch on both flanks.
During the advance other first objective all four platoons closed up to barrage in one wave and kept if anything rather two (his spelling) close to the barrage.. The company experienced difficulty in keeping direction partly owing to the darkness and partly to the fact that the troops on our RIGHT inclined away rather to the right. The Company Officers found great difficulty in rectifying this.
On the LEFT of the Company Front, the enemy were cleared out of some consolidated shell holes after slight resistance. The Company reached the first objective right on top of the barrage – the two half companies were sorted out with little difficulty. Two fortified shell holes were found on the objective each holding a Machine Gun ; the enemy ran back taking the locks with him. ( These two machine were claimed by an officer of the Somerset L.I. whose company had straggled along behind our attacking Companies. There was no officer of the Battalion present at the time and the N.C.O. in charge gave up the guns)
The two platoons for the second objective moved up to the protective barrage whilst the other two consolidated.
Meanwhile, “A” Company on the LEFT moved forward. 2/Lieut J Adamson M.C., the Acting Company Sergeant Major, and two platoon sergeants were hit. This Company also experienced slight loss of direction, but as the light became stronger it was rectified. On topping the rise the Company came under Machine gun fire and a number of men were hit. Men could not see the barrage owing to the wet ground and a number tried to get near H.E. bursting on the ground ; this caused some casualties.
Three machine guns were met in shell holes ; in two cases the enemy picked up the gun and ran back with it.
After the first quarter of an hour rifles began to jam with mud and wet, otherwise more of the retiring enemy would have been killed.
The enemy seemed disinclined to surrender but ran back before the advancing troops got to within 20 yards, in nearly all cases leaving their rifles behind them.
There was no fighting at close quarters.
Very good use was made of captured machine guns and our own Lewis guns against the retiring enemy.
The Company noticed that the enemy had a trick of lying quiet while our troops passed over, after which they would get up and surrender to the stretcher bearers.
The Company reached its objective and found the large concrete emplacement at V 19 a. 5.1. It was found to be occupied with 2 machine guns on top and two on the flanks outside. Corporal Greaves accompanied by Sergeant Terry, seeing that there was no time to deal with in (?it) in any other way, rushed forward and threw a bomb inside. Five men inside surrendered but in the rush 20 others ran back. Four machine guns were in this emplacement. Posts were pushed out under the protective barrage.
On the barrage moving forward, the two rear platoons of “B” Company on the RIGHT move din good formation and direction was easily kept. Two fortified shell holes were found with a machine gun in each ; the enemy ran back taking the locks with him.
The final objective now being taken, the half company quickly dug in under fire of snipers and machine guns. Communication was established with a Tank at V. 19. b. 6.2. and S.A.A. and Lewis Gun Panniers fetched over to the Company position in the front line.
On the Left of the second advance, “D” Company, which had followed up “A” Company, to the first objective, moved forward to the second and whilst waiting under the protective barrage a number of casualties were caused by Machine Gun Fire from FERDAN HOUSE. By the time the barrage lifted there was only one officer left with the Company.
FERDAN HOUSE was found to be occupied by one machine gun team and a Trench Mortar Battery ; these were all either killed or captured.
On reaching the final objective posts were put out and touch established with the Somerset L.I. and “B” Company. Captain J. F. Mc.Cormack was killed putting out the front line posts. C.S.M Betesta established Company Headquarters at FERDAN HOUSE and sent patrols up to the protective barrage.
Shortly after 1p.m. the Somerset L.I. on our LEFT retired about 400 yards and were followed up by a line of Germans and some snipers who fired across our positions. During this period, Sergeant Carlisle of “D” Company organized small groups of two different regiments from the Brigade on our left and eventually succeeded in establishing touch on the flank. He also brought two captured machine guns and two Lewis guns to bear on this attack. During this period, “D” Company’s posts were not moved, but later when the Somerset L.I. came up again the three posts on the LEFT were withdrawn about 100 yards in order to keep in touch.
2/Lieut : W.J. Trenaman was sent from “B” Company to take command of “D” Company. On his being wounded later in the afternoon, Lieutenant R. V. Bowyer was sent up from Battalion Headquarters to take over command.
About 3 p.m. it was reported that a shell had burst in “B” Company’s Headquarters severely wounding Capt. E.W. Grimadale. Also about the same time came across the news that Captain N.G. Smith commanding “A” Company was wounded. Capt J. Critchlow then went up to replace him.
Nothing further of mark followed. During the night an enemy patrol about 6 strong was destroyed by our Lewis Gun and rifle fire.
No effort was made by the enemy to counter attack on our own front line and beyond placing a continuous barrage on the line between ROSE DOUSE (should be HOUSE) and DOG HOUSES no activity was shown by him.
It had been hoped to move Battalion Headquarters to ROSE HOUSE, but this place was found to be nothing but a heap of ruins, and as the only available accommodation was urgently required for Companies, no attempt was made to move forward of PHEASANT FARM.
Early in this action, the Reserve Company, which had at first become scattered in shell holes owing to the enemy barrage, moved up to the ROSE HOUSE line and kept in closest touch with the front Companies.
By 8 a.m. messages were being received from a Signal Station at ROSE HOUSE, and by 8 a.m. communication with the front line Companies had also been established.
Lt.Col W. B. THORNTON, D.S.O.
7th October 1917. Lieutenant Colonel. Commanding 9th. Bn. The Sherwood Foresters.
Message form –
I am at V.19. b. 2.4
I am at V.19. b.2.4. and am consolidating.
Am held up at V. 19. b.2.4. H G. at V 19. h. 8.6.
I am in touch with Shropshires on left
I am not in touch in – ?????
Hostile ????? active V 19. h. 8.6.
Time – 10 am
Date 4 Oct 1917.
Platoon ( crossed out) Now Section
Company 33rd G Coy.
Signed (possibly ) G N Mc Kiever.
Also has Wounded in heart at ?
Very Badly Wounded reported to D Holt.
Summary of Casualties.
Effective Strength, 1st Oct , 1917 38 995
Drafts joined 7 141
Total 45 1136
Casualties 15 234
Effective strength Oct, 31st 1917 30 902
Casualties O. OR
Killed 3 38
Wounded 8 181
Missing 1 9
Evacuated 3 6
(Struck off Strength)
Officers Killed – Capt. J.F. Mc Cormack, Lieut. O. St. M. Jones, 2/Lt. E.D Smith
Oct. 4. 1917.
Officers Wounded – 2/Lt. Thurburn, Lt Kingdon, 2/Lt Gallimore, Capt N G Smith, 2/Lt, J Adamson, 2/Lt. Trenaman, Capt. C E Scott, Capt. E. W. Grimsdale.
Oct. 4 1917.
Officers Missing – 2/Lt W. W. Odell ( Records show him as killed and on memorial, unknown grave)
Evacuated – Major A.E. Scothern, Major S. H. Piper, 2/Lt Pickard
Struck off strength.
Officers Joined – 2/Lts. Hudson, Archer, Cooper, Schur, Francis, White and Smith
24 and 25 October 1917.
Officers on leave – Lt. Col. W.B. Thornton , D.S.O.. Capt. J.C. Critchlow.
Return to War Diary
Place – Pheasant Farm –
5th October 1917 – AM – All objectives held. Enemy barrages Pheasant Farm line pretty heavily ( App B)
4pm All arrangements for relief completed. Orders issued for relief by 6 ‘ Border R (App 7)
8pm Night very dark but calm moon comes up which greatly assists guides.
9-30pm – All guides sent off to their various companies. Batt on relief proceeds to CANE POST Area ( C 9 a) Bn HQs
Cane Post. (app H)
6th October 1917 – Cane Post C.9.a Pilkem spec ed
2 am – Arrive in New area by 2 am, Capt Harding at H Q to meet us. (app H)
4 am – Bn remains in Cane Post area. Reserve of officers from Transport Lines come up. Fairly comfortable considering everything. Rains rather heavily.
7th October 1917 – Cane post C.9.a Pilckem Spec Ed.
8am – Billeting Party under Lieut Harwood proceeds to Eperlecques Area.
1pm – Possibility of Battalion going back to hold line notified B M 196 (app 7)
7pm – Relief decided. 8th Duke of Wellington’s come up to relief us. (app 7)
Transport sent up from L G Magazines and 1st Line Transport proceed to new area.
8th October 1917 – 1-30 am – Relief Complete. Batt on relief proceeds to Siege Camp.
Siege Camp – 4 am – Battalion all in Siege Camp.
Siege camp – 10 am – Battalion less 1st Line Transport entrain at Dirty Bucket Siding A 30 b. ref sheet 28 NW Belgium for Watten
5-30 pm – Arrive Watten Stn and Emburs for Tournehem ( Ref. Sheet 5 A Hazebrouck)
Tournehem – 9-30pm – all Coys reported in billets.
Tournehem until 19th October 1917.
9th October 1917 – Coys at disposal of O.C. Coys for cleaning up, inspections etc.
10 th October 1917 – Ditto and Recreational Training.
11th October 1917 – 4-30 pm – Training. Echelon A & B and reinforcements arrive.
12th October 1917 – Training.
13th October 1917 – Training. A & D Coys firing on Lewis Gun Range. Baths
6pm – Bn Concert held in B Coys billet.
14th October 1917 – Sunday. Voluntary Services – Rest – Football
15th October 1917 –Training – Lecture by Commandant 5th Army Musketry School to all Officers and Senior NCOs – Recreational Training.
16th October 1917 – Training – Route March and Musketry – Recreational Training. 2/Lt H. V. Smith reports his arrival.
17 th October 1917 – Training – Range Practices.
18th October 1917- Training – Billeting party proceed to new area (app C)
19th October 1917 – Cleaning and packing up – Capt J Crutchlow proceeds on leave.
12-30 pm – Battn parades and proceeds to Watten as per ).) No 51A (App D & C)
3-30pm – Aririve at Watten and entrain. Leave XVIII Corps 5th Army.
4pm – Train departs – Join I Corps 1st Army
7-30pm – Arrive LILLERS – Proceed to Billets at AMES (app D& C)
AMES – 9pm – Bn reported in Billets at AMES
AMES – 20 October 1917 – 9-30am – Bn Proceeds to new billets in VAUDRICORT – sheet 36 B K.4.
VAUDRICOURT – 3-30pm Bn arrives in New billets in VAUDRICOURT.
21 October 1917 – VAUDRICOURT – AM – Pack Up. 2/Lt Gunson and 20. Ors proceed to Les Brebis on working party (00.52)
2 pm – Battalion proceeds to new billets in MAZINGARBE. Sheet 36 B L. 23. (app D & C)
MAZINGARBE – 21st 4pm – Battalion arrive in new billets at MAZINGARBE
MAZINGARBE 22 October 1917 – AM – O’Cs Coys and Capt Harding reconnoiter Trenches in Bde reserve and arrange relief.
5 pm – Batt relieves 7th S. Staffs in Bde reserve in front of Loos (00 53)
Sheets 36 c SW & NW. Squares G36 + M^ (app D & C)
France sheet 36c NW. G 36d. 6.5. 8-40am – Relief complete & Coys disposed as under A Coy – Loos Brewery + C Coy – Quarry M.6 a. B +D Coy in MOUSE + MARTYR Trenches. Bn HQ G36. d. 6.5
23 October 1917 – 6-44pm – Detail for working parties received for night of 23/24 th Oct. C.O. proceeds on leave.
24 th October 1917 – 7 pm – 2/Lt Hudson reports his arrival. Usual working parties at night on NETLEY, NORMAN and CATAPULT Tns (trenches) at night,
25th October 1917 – 7 pm – 2/ Lieuts ARCHER, SCHUR, COOPER, White, FRANCIS report arrival.
25th – to 29th – Working parties totaling 400 O/Rs found every night. 28th Party under 2/Lt Hill proceed to Les Brebis. (app)
29th October 1917 – 12 noon – Arrangements for relief by 8th Duke of Wellington made (00-54 D)
29th – 9-30 pm – Relief complete. All Coys work until about 11pm and then proceed to MEROC where they embus for NOEUX Les MINES.
30th October 1917 – 2am – Buses proceed.
3-30 am Buses arrive NOEUX Les MINES.
NOEUX Les MINES sheet 36 B France L12 and K18.
AM – Cleaning up and inspections.
31 October 1917- AM – Cleaning up and inspections. PM – Recreational Training.
So ends a month in the life of the 9th (Service) Battalion The Sherwood Foresters.
The 33rd Infantry Brigade Instructions for the Battle of Poelcappelle are to be seen under a separate heading.