Saturday, 11 November 2017

The night was fine

On the night of 29th/30th October 1917, Captain C.H. Carruthers and 2nd Lieutenants Schutze and Beale lead a party of 60 men on a raid on German trenches. All were from ‘A’ Company, 2/6th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. The night was fine, the moon being exceptionally bright.

The objects of the raid were straight forward:

(a) To kill the enemy and take prisoners
(b) To destroy dugouts and emplacements
(c) To obtain identifications

British and German trenches east of Arras from a November 1917 map. 
The square is where the raid of 30 October 1917 took place.

Detail map from the raid report showing the line taken between British and German trenches;
the British front-line trenches are those on the left.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Coolness and Courage

183rd Infantry Brigade Order No. 151, dated 23 October 1917 was for ‘A’ Company of 2/6th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment to “raid the enemy’s trenches”. The objects of the raid were:

(a) To kill the enemy and take prisoners
(b) To destroy dugouts and emplacements
(c) To obtain identifications

The trenches in question were located close to the French village of Fampoux, east of Arras. The battalion had spent October at Hull Camp, St. Nicholas, near Arras and in support and front line trenches.

Key map for trench raid of 29/30 October 1917 

Trench detail
Specific orders for the raid were written by Captain C.H. Carruthers, the Officer Commanding ‘A’ Company. Carruthers was to lead the raid, with 2nd Lieutenant Schutze and Beale, and 60 other ranks.

The orders identified six parties with specific targets (provided by co-ordinates) within the German trenches. Some were to destroy dugouts, while others were to form stop gaps and protection. A parapet party was to cover retirement of all parties and “do anything possible to facilitate their exit.” Two Lewis guns with two men manning each gun accompanied the parapet part to deal with any enemy movement overland.

Dress for all parties was – “Rifles and 30 rounds in right-hand pocket. Two bombs per man. Additional bombs in bomb buckets. Wire-cutters and electric torches and P. bombs (No.27) will also be carried by parties concerned.”

‘D’ company were to be utilised to place a tape from point of exit in the British lines to point of entry in the enemy lines.

The raid commenced at 3 a.m. after a three minute intense bombardment.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Cadet Class, Cairo

T.B. Minshall,
Langley Park, Norfolk
Thomas Minshall, of Northwich, Cheshire, enlisted with Cheshire Yeomanry at Chester, on 27 August 1914. The Cheshire, Denbighshire and Shropshire Yeomanry constituted the Welsh Border Mounted Brigade. In September the Brigade was posted to Norwich to join the 1st Mounted Division, the division being formed in August for the purpose of home defence.

The period September 1914 to March 1916 was spent on the Norfolk Coast. On 3 March 1916 Cheshire Yeomanry sailed from Devonport, arriving at Alexandria, Egypt, on 14 March 1916. The regiment comprised 25 officers and 451 men.

During his time in the UK, and later in Egypt, Thomas gained the following promotions:

- Appointed Lance Corporal - 17 February 1915
- Appointed Corporal - 21 February 1916
- Appointed Lance Sergeant - 22 October 1916

Through 1916 the regiment took part in operations against the Senussi, and in the Baharia Expedition. At the end of the year Cheshire Yeomanry learnt it was to be formed into an infantry battalion.

As the establishment of an infantry battalion was so much greater than that of a cavalry regiment it was necessary for some amalgamations. On 1 March 1917 Shropshire Yeomanry arrived from Sherira at Helmieh Camp, Zietoun, near Cairo. The following day Cheshire Yeomanry arrived at the camp from Alamein. Here the regiments amalgamated to form 10th (Shropshire & Cheshire Yeomanry) Bn. King's Shropshire Light Infantry.

Monday, 18 September 2017

A fateful transfer...

In March 1916 the 13th (Forest of Dean) Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment were posted to northern France. A few weeks later William Britton, of Bristol, completed his basic training and was posted to the 13th. He likely joined the Battalion in France, as a member of 'D' Company, with a draft of men arriving in May. By November 1916 the 13th Battalion were in the Ypres area in Belgium, where they remained throughout 1917.

The 2/6th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment were west of Arras in July 1917, but at the end of the month moved to northern France. From here, in mid-August, they moved to the Ypres area where time was spent in training. Mid-September they were once again on the move; heading back to northern France first, and a day of rest, then on 18 September they entrained at Cassel station bound for Arras.

It is probable that when both the 13th Battalion and 2/6th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment were in close proximity near Ypres, August-September 1917, that William Britton transferred from D Company 13th Battalion to A Company 2/6th Battalion.

Trench map from November 1917.
British trenches (blue) / German trenches (red)
'Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland'

On arrival at Arras the 2/6th Battalion marched approximately 7 miles west to billets in Simencourt. Having rested and completed a few days training they marched to Hull Camp, at St. Nicholas, near Arras. In the latter part of September, they were working in the support trenches under the Royal Engineers; then on 30 September the Battalion forward to the front line trenches, relieving the 2/4 Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. Following a few quiet days they in turn were relieved and returned to Hull Camp. There followed another period of rest and training, before returning to support trenches as working parties, then back to front line trenches on 22 October.