Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Ernest William Abbott (of Luddenham)
b. Q4, 1896
d. 1st May 1917. Aged 21 years.
Lance Corporal, L/10279
6th Battalion, East Kent (The Buffs) Regiment
Remembered with Honour
Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun
Plot 2, Row Q, Grave 13
Died of Wounds
Ernest Walter Abbott was the youngest of nine children born to Henry and Sarah Abbott. His parents and grandparents were themselves from the Dover area - Ringwould, near Kingsdown (Dover) and Buckland (near Dover). Not to be confused with our parish of Lynsted with Kingsdown! Sarah was a native of Elmsted, towards Ashford. Once married, the family moved to Dunkirk and then Chilham [Park House] to raise five girls (Ellen M, Emma, Ada, Alice E, and Francis Annie) and four boys (John Henry, Frederick, William and Ernest) - all the boys served overseas. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, gives Ernest's maternal address as 4, Mersham St., Ashford, Kent for the purposes of returning his effects. However, the link with Luddenham was made in the 1911 census - Ernest was living with his widowed mother and one brother in "Yellow Cabbage", Luddenham, where he was working as a Farm Field Worker employed by Ashley Stevens (Luddenham Court).
Medal records tell us that Ernest began his service in the 8th Battalion, The Buffs. Curiously, the same record tells us he was a "Private" awarded the Victory and British War Medals. The award of 14-15 Star also suggested he was a Private. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record his rank as Lance-Corporal; further reinforced in a local newspaper report.
Without further military records, we must turn to the Obituary found in The Faversham and North East Kent News of 26th May 1917: "LANCE COPORAL E.W. ABBOTT, THE BUFFS. Sympathy will be felt for Mrs. Abbott, a widow residing at 1, Garden Place, Tanners Street, in the troubles that have successively fallen upon her in recent months. All of her four sons patriotically joined up for service in the war. In September last one of them, Private John Henry, Royal West Kent Regiment, was reported missing. Nothing has since been heard of him, and now there has come the news that the youngest son, Lance-Corporal Ernest Walter Abbott, of The Buffs, had died of wounds in hospital in France. He was 20 years of age; the one reported missing was 31. They were both formerly in the employ of Mr. Ashley Stevens, Luddenham Court Farm. The younger one had spent two Christmasses at the front. The two other sons serving are Private William Charles Abbott, The Buffs, who has been wounded twice and is now in France again, and Sergeant Frederick George Abbott, The Buffs, who is at present en route for German East Africa. In addition to the loss, or the feared loss, of her two sons, Mrs Abbottt has also lost a daughter within the last year, while her son-in-law, Private J. Weller, Royal West Kent Regiment, has been badly wounded and is at present in Lees Court hospital. Besides her sons Mrs Abbott has twelve nephes serving in H.M. Forces."
It was his mother who paid to add an inscription to Ernest's headstone - "Thy Will Be Done", perhaps referencing the Lord's Prayer.
Ernest was awarded:-
British War Medal
The 6th Battalion, EKR was part of the 37th Infantry Brigade, itself a part of the 12th Division.
We know from his War Gratuity payment to his mother of £15 10s that Ernest enlisted at the outbreak of war in August/September 1914. That probably places him at first in the 3rd (Training) Battalion rather than the 9th (Training) Battalion that had been formed in October that year. His 1914-15 Star award tells us that he disembarked in France on 22nd December, 1915.
Originally joining the 8th Battalion EKR, The Buffs, it does appear that Ernest served overseas in the 6th Battalion. The record shows that Ernest Walter Abbott "Died of Wounds" on 1st May 1917, so the timing of Ernest's mortal injury is not certain. However, there was a significant planned assault on German trenches between 9th-12th April to the east of Arras. This does not exclude the possibility that the injury took place outside the "main event". We are not helped by the failure of daily reports in this Diary to record "Other Rank" casualties.
In the months and weeks leading up to 1st May 1917, the 6th Battalion (The Buffs) moved out of Trenches at BEAUMETZ on 17th December 1916. From here they marched into billets at SOMBRIN to rest and then engaged in training during frosty weather (parades under Company arrangements, physical drill, close order drill, musketry, bombing parties).
On 17th January 1917, the 6th/Buffs and 6th/Royal West Kents left SOMBRIN in buses, on their way to ARRAS that evening. The 6th/Buffs relieved the 10th Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders to form the Reserve. With frost, cold and snow, the Battalion formed working and carrying parties over the following days until, on 18th January they relieved the Queens in the Front Line in “I” Sector. In these trenches, 6th/Buffs experienced artillery exchanges and bitter snow.
This process of Trench relief between the 6th/Buffs and 6th Queens continued into February until 7th February when they were relieved out of the Trenches by the 11th Middlesex Regiment. They returned to ARRAS as before, this time moving into the Reserve. From ARRAS, on 11th February, 6th/Buffs were relieved by 2 Companies of the 11th Battalion, Royal Welch (sic) Fusiliers (3rd Division). 6th/Buffs marched out of ARRAS to billets in MONTENESCOURT where the Battalion was awarded the MEDAILLE MILITAIRE for their earlier actions. At Montenescourt, they entered a period of training that extended to include their move (16th February) to NOYELLETTE. Here the soldiers undertook further running drills, close order drills, and "organisation before an attack". On 23rd February, 6th/Buffs moved again for new billets – IZEL-LEZ-HAMEAU and more tactical training. On 3rd March, 6th/Buffs marched again to new billets in the huts of TALAVERA CAMP, AGNES-LES-DUISANS.
On 10th March, 6th/Buffs provided working parties in ARRAS to work under the orders of 38th Infantry Brigade. This continued through March, suffering the occasional periods of heavy enemy shelling of the town. They were relieved back to AGNEZ, IZEL, LATTRE, and St QUENTIN before another stint of providing working parties in ARRAS while artillery fired into the town but without loss to 30th March.
“31st March: ARRAS: At 10 a.m. all Officers Commanding Companies and officers taking part in the offensive, were shown over the CAVES, before the Battalion went in in the afternoon.
At 4.45 p.m. the Battalion entered the CAVES (at PORTE de FER after the 6th Royal West Kents) and were in (LIVERPOOL, CHESTER, CHATHAM, BELFAST, GLASGOW, PORT RUSH, EDINBURGH) by 5.40 p.m. The Battalion started to leave at 7.45 p.m. and were all through the BROAD WALK exit by 9.10 p.m.
Working parties found as for 30.3.17 and also party of 3 officers, 6 N.C.O.s and 126 Other Ranks for carrying LIVENS projectors from Q.29.b.2.3. (RUE des TROIS EGLISES). Some shelling at intervals during the day.”
[* Livens Projectors were simple mortars used for projecting large canisters of gas or flammable liquid – Commons image below]
Field State: Fighting Strength: 46 Officers; 1033 O.R.s; 12 riding horses, 42 draught horses.
[Signed Capt. M. Page for Lieut. Colonel, Commanding 6th The Buffs]”
1st – 4th April: ARRAS: Working Parties, over-flying both sides, fine weather.
5th – 6th April: British bombardments with German replies.
7th April: 6.00 a.m: Artillery practices a creeping barrage over German positions. 5.0 p.m. reports received that the Germans were retiring and British forces made ready to carry the trenches at short notice, only to find the Enemy were alert and prevented a British move – a few prisoners taken. At 10.30 p.m. “a bombardment with LIVENS Projectors was opened on the enemy strong points.” No result given.
8th April: ARRAS: artillery bombardment of German positions continued, with retaliation all day. Trench ladders and bridges brought up to forward positions.
“9th April: Zero Day. The Battalion was all formed up in Reserve Trench, duplicate reserve to BROAD WALK by 3.30 a.m. At Zero hour, 5.30 a.m. our artillery and Machine Guns opened an intense fire on the German lines, and at the same time the Battalion left the trenches, moving to the attack in artillery formation in support to the 6th Battalion, The Queens. 6th Royal West Kent Regiment was in support on the left to the 7th Battalion Royal East Surrey Regiment. On the right was the 13th Battalion KINGS (LIVERPOOL) Regiment. 3rd Division Battalion boundaries in crossing our front line was (ARRAS Trench Map): South: G.30.c.8.1½; North: G.30.c.9.6. The Battalion moved forward as under:- “C” Company on the right; “D” Company on the left; “A” Company + 1½ platoon “B” Company right support; “B” Company less 1½ platoons in left support; + Battalion H.Q.
After passing through the 6th Queens, the 1st objective – the BLACK LINE (HAVANT LANE – HORNSEA Trench – Road at H.81.a.6.7. was quickly captured by the Battalion without much loss. A two hours bombardment of the enemy’s second system – the BLUE LINE – followed and the advance was resumed as the barrage lifted forward. More opposition was encountered than before, snipers and Machine Guns being active on both flanks. After some stiff hand to hand fighting, “D” Company were able to get round to the flank and by rifle grenading concealed machine guns, pushed forward in shell holes, captured HOULETTE WORK, their objective on the BLUE LINE. “C” Company on the right were troubled by enfilade Machine Gun fire operating from the right flank from the ruins near ESTAMINET CORNER. By means of Lewis Gun fire, and rifle grenading their wire however eventually silenced, and the company was able to proceed. The Blue Line was then consolidated + Lewis Guns pushed forward and strong points dug. At 2.18 p.m. the 35th Infantry Brigade passed through this Battalion final objective. [change in writer] Casualties of the Battalion were – officers killed 2/Lt/Captain R.G.A. Money, 2/Lt T.W. BUSS. Wounded – Captain H.R. GORDON, 2/Lt N. WILKS, 2/Lt C.F. GOOD, 2/Lt FIGGIS, 2/Lt THORNLEY, W.H. SQUIRE, 2/Lt T.A. BALDWIN. [O.Rs. not recorded]
10th April: In The Field: The Blue Line was consolidated, “C” Company on the right, “D” Company on left, “A” & “B” Companies in HAUCOURT and HENGIST TRENCH. An attack was made on the BROWN LINE by the 37th Division & 35th Infantry Brigade which proved successful. MONCHY also being taken. The Cavalry went up but received rather severe handling with shrapnel and Machine Gun fire. 37th Infantry Brigade was held in reserve in readiness to move but was not required. The Enemy were very quiet in this Battalion Sector except for a little aerial activity.
11th April: In The Field: The morning was spent in clearing the Battlefield, forming dumps for tools etc. and burying dead. At Midday orders were received that the Battalion was to move forward into support in shell holes in FEUCHY CHAPEL, but about 3 p.m. orders were sent countermanding this. The Battalion then moved forward to a point on the Brown Line just below ORANGE HILL, where the remainder of the Brigade rendezvous, while waiting here for orders the position was somewhat heavily shelled with 8” and 5.9” and some casualties inflicted. About 8 p.m., the Brigade was informed that it would have to relieve the 37th Division and part of a Cavalry Brigade before MONCHY owing to the difficulty of reconnoitring the position through no guides being available for this Battalion, it was day light before a move could have been made. As no relief was possible in day time the 6th Battalion The Queens who had guides and the 6th Royal West Kents went up into the line, the 6th Buffs and 7th East Surrey Regiment remaining in support in the Brown Line. Brigade H.Q. was in the same place. Snow fell heavily all the afternoon and evening.
12th April: In the Field: Fine day. Battalion stood-to, in readiness to proceed to MONCHY, as a German counter-attack was expected, some shelling during the day but no casualties. The Battalion was relieved by a Battalion of the 29th Division at 10 p.m. and marched back along the CAMBRAI ROAD to the CAVES in ARRAS arriving at 2.30 a.m.
13th to 23rd April: ARRAS to MONTENESCOURT to SAULTY. Billets, refitting, baths. Very wet. Firing ranges. Training.
24th April: Battalion marched from SAULTY at 8.30 a.m. via BARLY – FOSSEUX – HAUTEVILLE to billets at NOYELLETTE.
25th April: Battalion marched from NOYELLETTE at 8.30 a.m. via HABAROQ – AGNEZ-by-DUISANS to billet in DUISANS.
26th April: Battalion Marched from DUISANS to billets in ARRAS where they remained in training until 29th April.
[At this time the fighting strength was 40 officers, 979 Other Ranks; 11 riding horses, 41 draught horses.]
“30th April: Battalion moved into the line taking over trenches from 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment.
1st May: MONCHY: Relief of 7th NORFOLKs completed by 1.15 a.m. The following officers were in command of Companies. “A” Company – 2/Lt WILLIAMS; “B” Company – Lieut (Acting Captain) McDERMOTT; “C” Company – Lieut. (A/Capt) KITCHIN; “D” Company – 2/Lt MORLEY. Battalion H.Q. was situated at the corner of MONCHY WOOD (O.1.a.9.8). The line taken over was between HARNESS and BIT LANE. The day was fairly quiet except for some shelling on ROEUX. After dark, the 7th Battalion East Surrey took over the trenches occupied by us and the Battalion moved into positions in shell holes. “A” Company on the right, supported by “C” Company; “B” Company on the left, supported by “D” Company.
2nd May [inferred – break is absent in original text] Orders were received for a general attack in the morning by 1st, 3rd and 5th Armies. The Battalion was allotted the following objectives:- (1) DEVILS TRENCH; (2) KEELING COPSE. The 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment were on the left, 13th Kings Liverpool Regiment on the Right, 2 Companies 6th Royal West Kent Regiment in support, and 6th Queens in Reserve. Zero hour was ordered for 3.45 a.m. 2/Lt WILLIAMS was wounded during the evening and 2/Lt WARNINGTON came up from the ‘details’ camp to take over command of “A” Company.
[Note: "2nd May" is not noted in the narrative, above. So, the date inserted is inferred by me as the ‘best fit’ with evidence available] [O.R. Casualties not mentioned]
1st April: Enemy artillery fired a few rounds into Arras in the morning. Our heavies fired on strong points. 37th Infantry Brigade Instructions N.5 issued. Conference at Brigade H.Q., all Companies present, final arrangements for coming offensive discussed.
2nd April: Situation normal. A lot of snow fell during the day. Amendments to Brigade Instructions No.1 issued.
3rd April: Enemy fairly quiet. Our heavies fired on enemy’s wire with new sensitive fuse, which appeared to cut the wire well. 37th Infantry Brigade order No.121 issued. Moves completed in accordance with first paragraph of O.O. 121.
4th April: ARRAS Advance Brigade H.Q. (G.29.c.8.9): 6.15 am: Gas drums from projectors fired. Practically no retaliation. 6.30 a.m.: Our bombardment commenced. 7 a.m.: A straggling party of Germans, about 50 strong left their third system of trenches at H.28.C and proceeded eastward over the ridge. 11 a.m.: Amendment to O.O. 121 (B.M. 41) issued. 3.45 p.m.: Instructions received from Corps through the Division that at least one raid was to take place every 24 hours. 7.55 p.m.: 36th Infantry Brigade took over the left portion of 12 sub-sectors.
Brigade Operation Order No. 1221 issued. 11.30 p.m.: Enemy placed a fairly heavy barrage on INK trench and IDIOT Street.
5th April: 3.30 a.m.: Our patrol went out with the object of securing an identification and of examining enemy wire. Patrol returned, no identification could be obtained.
7 a.m.: Practice barrage put down, which brought very little Enemy retaliation. Heavy artillery fired on Enemy’s wire and front system of trenches. Fairly quiet morning.
4.0 p.m.: Informed by Division that Zero was postponed by 24 hours. Enemy retaliated feebly to our bombardment.
8.30 p.m.: ½ Battalion 6th Queens and 7th Battalion East Surrey in right subsector.
6th April: 3.30 a.m. Patrols from 6th Queens and 7th East Surrey Regiment had to return owing to the bright moonlight, no information was obtained.
5.15 p.m.: Brigade Operation Order No.123 ordering small raid by 6th Queens.
12 midnight: Brigade Operation order No.124 ordering raid by 7th East Surrey Regiment issued.
7th April: 1.30 a.m.: Report received from O.C. 6th Queens saying that he had failed to obtain an identification. The patrol reported that the wire and trenches were very knocked about, and did not give any difficulty. A fairly strong German patrol was met and a bout of fighting ensued. One party ran out of bombs and had to return. Appendix to Brigade Order No.122 issued.
11.45 a.m.: Corps commander came down to see the Brigadier.
4.25 p.m.: O.C. 7th East Surrey Regiment and O.C. 6th Queens attended Conference at Brigade H.Q. with reference to raid tonight. Major CONWAY GORDON, G.S.O. II, arrived and explained the instructions received from Corps, to the effect that 12th & 3rd Divisions were to send forward 4 patrols each, to ascertain in what strength the Enemy was holding his line, also to secure an identification.
6.0 p.m.: 37th Infantry Brigade order No.125 issued.
8.15 p.m.: Enemy put very heavy barrage on our Support Lines. The East Surrey patrol moving forward to position of assembly was caught in this barrage, and by the time they were collected it was too late to send them forward. Consequently only one patrol (a Platoon in strength) went over at Zero. Patrol reports from O.C.’s units concurred and remarks by B.G.C. are attached. Our bombardment continued according to the programme. A little retaliation by 4.2’s and 5.9 howitzers.
9th April: Advanced Brigade H.Q. (G.29.c.8.9): 2.30 p.m.: Hour of Zero notified to units.
Morning Report. Fairly heavy shelling of our lines by 4.2 and 5.9. Evening was quiet.
5.30 p.m.: Units commenced to move to battle stations in accordance with Table appendix to 37th Infantry Brigade Order No. 122.
1.30 p.m.: 6th R.W. Kent Regiment passed starting point in caves for assembly positions.
2.30 p.m.: 6th Buffs passed starting point in caves for assembly positions.
3.30 p.m.: The whole Brigade in assembly position. The Brigadier saw each Battalion pass the starting point. The men were very cheery and confident.
Owing to the excellent dugout, cave, and cellar accommodation provided there were very few casualties during our bombardment which lasted for 5 days. The 7th E.Surrey Regt. Were in the line 6 days and suffered no casualties during that time.
[Society Note: The Report times are 'out of synch' and appear to reflect different “aspects” or phases.]
5.0 a.m.: Snowing, with some sleet, making the ground in a very bad state, also very trying for the Supporting Battalions in their assembly trenches.
5.30 a.m.: ZERO HOUR: The artillery barrage lifted off the Enemy’s first line trench at Zero +4, our troops entered as it lifted.
5.43 a.m.: 6th Queens report enemy sending up Red lights from 3rd and 4th German lines.
5.51 a.m.: A wounded East Surrey Lewis Gunner reports his unit as being in German Support line, having met very little rifle or machine gun fire.
5.55 a.m.: Wounded report the 6th Buffs have passed through 6th Queens.
5.59 a.m.: Prisoners of 38th & R. sent down.
6.7 a.m.: A F.O.O. (Forward Observation Officer) reports our troops in the Black Line and are advancing well.
6.10 a.m.: Brigade Report centre states our Signallers are operating in 2nd German Line.
6.18: O.C. 37th Machine Gun Corps ordered to send forward 2 guns to the Black Line.
O.C. 87th H.O.C. Royal Engineers ordered to send parties forward to construct 2 strong points in Black Line.
6.26 a.m.: Fifty German prisoners sent down, carrying wounded.
6.50 a.m.: Power Buzzer [phone line] sent forward through Sap W.14.
7.12 a.m.: Brigade Report centre ‘phones that shelling in front is very light, some shells going over into ARRAS.
7.30 a.m.: 6th Royal West Kents H.Q. moved forward to INK STREET.
8.4 a.m.: 7th East Surrey Regt. Report Black Line being consolidated, casualties not yet known, but appear to be slight.
8.19 a.m.: 7th E. Surrey Regt. & 6th Queens H.Q. moved forward to GILLINGHAM TRENCH.
8.25 a.m.: “A” Company 5th Northamptonshires Regiment (Pioneers) sent forward to dig Communication trenches from Old British line to Old German Front Line.
8.30 a.m.:F.O.O. reports 6th Buffs seen in HAUCOURT trench firing towards TILLOY.
8.45 a.m.: 6th R.W.Kent Reg. H.Q. moved forward to GLENGARRY trench.
8.50 a.m.: F.O.O. report our troops in HANGEST TRENCH.
8.54 a.m.: F.O.O. reports Infantry occupy HANGEST trench and are consolidating.
8.55 a.m.: Infantry waving flags from H.31.b.16. Red flares seen at H.25.d.30. A large number of prisoners coming back.
9.15 a.m.: F.O.O. reports parties of our troops held up in front of HANGEST TRENCH. Germans reported to be “standing to” in FEUCHY CHAPEL.
9.30 a.m.: Lovat Scouts [specialist sniper unit] sent forward.
10.30 a.m.: O.C. 6th Buffs reports he has gained his objective, but Germans still in trench between HOULETTE WORK and CAMBRAI ROAD, he is bombing down towards the road. He reports HOULETTE WORK was well garrisoned, 105 prisoners being sent back.
10.50 a.m.: The situation as far as can be ascertained is as follows:-
2 Companies 6th R.W. Kent Regiment in HAMEL WORK and HENLY LANE.
1 Company 6th R.W.K Regt. held up in front of HANGEST TRENCH.
1 Company 6th R.W.K Regt. in HOTTE WORK.
This Battalion has lost touch with 36th Infantry Brigade on the left, who are reported in HABARCQ TRENCH, and are bombing down to gain touch with 6th R.W. Kent Regt.
6th Buffs in HOULETTE WORK and bombing down to gain touch with 3rd Division on the right.
10.55 a.m.: 6th R.W.Kent Regt. Ordered to move the 2 Companies from HAMAL WORK up HENLEY LANE and Envelop HOLT Works. He has seen our men in HANGEST TRENCH.
12.20 p.m.: Instructions received from the Division to form a Divisional reserve.
12.25 p.m.: Orders issued to 6th Queens and 7th E. Surrey Regt. To send forward 250 men each to ‘RELIEF HOUSE’ as a Divisional Reserve.
12.35 p.m.: 35th Infantry Brigade passed through 6th R.W. Kent Regt. and 6th Buffs on the Blue Line.
3 p.m.: The Brigade being reorganized, disposed as follows:-
6th Royal West Kent Regiment. Southern part of HOLT WORK, HUTTE WORK, with advanced posts on Observation Ridge. In touch with 36th Infantry Brigade on the left.
6th Buffs. HOULETTE WORK, in touch with 6th Buffs on left and 3rd infantry Brigade on the right. Advanced posts on Observation Ridge.
7th E. Surrey Regiment & 6th Queens: GLASGOW and HOVE TRENCH.
The captured trenches are being consolidated, 2 strong points being constructed in each line.
7.30 p.m.: The strength of the Brigade is roughly. 6th Queens 100 actually with Battalion and 250 detached as Divisional Reserve. 6th Buffs 350. 7th E.Surrey Regt. 150 and 200 detached as Divisional Reserve. 6th R.West Kent Regt. 520. The Division notified of the above by telephone.
9 p.m.: Information received that the 2 Companies of 6th Queens acting as Divisional Reserve had been ordered to reinforce 7th Suffolk Regt. (35th Inf. Brigade) and had been heavily involved in FEUCHY CHAPEL.
10.17 a.m.: Units ordered to be prepared to move at short notice.
1.50 p.m.: Orders received from Division to move off at once and relieve 111th Infantry Brigade who were holding a line 500 yards East of MONCHY LE PREUX.
2.5 p.m.: B.M. 35, ordering units to move off at once, issued.
4.30 p.m.: Very heavy snow storm, and very cold.
5 p.m.: Units arrived at Rendezvous just behind the BROWN Line. The Enemy had a very heavy barrage through which the units had to move, 6th Buffs had a few casualties.
7.30 p.m.: 6th R.W.Kent Regt. And 6th Queens sent forward to relieve units of 111th Infantry Brigade holding the line.
9 p.m.: Brigadier General CHALONER arrived to arrange details of relief, as it now appears we have to relieve both 111th Infantry Brigade and 112th Brigade, he was very late having lost his way in the snow storm.
General CHALONER took Colonel COPE, D.S.O., 6th Buffs, and Adjutant 7th E. Surrey Regt. Back to his Headquarters to reconnoitre the route before the two Battalions moved up. The blinding snow made it almost impossible to find the way about.
1 p.m.: COL. COPE and Adjutant 7th E. Surrey Regt. Returned saying that it was impossible to take their Battalions up and get the relief complete before daylight. It was therefore decided to have 6th Buffs and 7th E. Surrey Regt. In the Brown Line for the night and to complete the relief the following night.
1.30 p.m.: Message received from COL. DAWSON commanding 6th R.West Kent Regt. Stating that the line was just on the outskirts of MONCHY running from O.1.b.00.15 to O.1.c.9.1. He states that there were no troops of 37th Division East of MONCHY and that the line was held entirely by Cavalry (Essex Yeomanry, 10th Hussars, 8th Machine Gun Squadron) which he relieved. The troops on his left are absolutely worn out, and have no rations. He is not in touch with 36th Infantry Brigade on the right.
BROWN LINE: 4.40 a.m.: A message received from Col. DAWSON stating he is holding the line as follows:- O.1.b.15.15., O.1.d.20.85., O.1.d.15.50., O.1.d.3.3., O.1.d.20.15., O.1.c.8.1., O.1.c.5.2., O.1.c.2.1., N.6.d.9.1. with 2 Companies 6th R.West Kent Regt. On left, 2 Companies 6th Queens, 1 Company R. Sussex Regt., 2 Companies 6th Queens. As he is not in touch with 36th Infantry Brigade on the right he has refused his flank. He states there are a few oddments of 111th Infantry Brigade on his left otherwise the brunt of the fighting has been borne entirely by the Cavalry.
5 a.m.: Very quiet night, no hostile shelling.
9.30 a.m.: Col. DAWSON reports that the Enemy has been observed moving in the following copses - O.2.a.7.3. and O.2.b.3.7. Two hostile aeroplanes have been flying very low over our lines.
2.30 p.m.: 9th Division G.6.7s (?) received, stating that troops on our right and left were attacking at 5 p.m. and if successful the Brigade would conform.
5.30 p.m.: The attacks on our flanks were not successful. Col. HAY telephoned that the Division would be relieved by 29th Division tonight.
8.10 p.m.: Orders for relief issued
9 p.m.: Col. DAWSON reports a great number of wounded officers and O.R. of Cavalry in cellars at MONCHY. The Division notified accordingly. Two bearer companies sent down to evacuate them.
13th April: ARRAS: 2.10 a.m.: Relief complete. The Brigade moved to caves and dugouts.
14th – 23rd April: Marched to HUMBERCOURT – cleaning up, training.
24th April: Moved to DUISANS and then (25th) ARRAS.
28th April: 4.25 a.m.: The 35th Infantry Brigade attacked with 36th Brigade in support in Railway Triangle, 37th Infantry Brigade was in Reserve.
30th April: 1.30 am: Amendment to 37th Brigade Order No. 128.
8 p.m.: Move Commenced in accordance with Order No. 128.
Appendix 16: Casualties 9th – 13th April, 1917
|7th East Surrey's||3||34||2||134||1||11|
|6th R.W. Kents||1||30||7||124||-||10|
|37th Machine Gun Company||-||-||-||2||-||-|
|Summary of 37th Infantry Brigade Casualties from midnight 30th April/1st May 1917 to 6 p.m. 6/5/17|
|7th East Surrey Regiment||3||19||3||99||5||86||11*||204|
|6th R.W. Kent Regiment||1||24||4||90||7||122||12||236|
|37th Machine Gun Company||-||1||1||11||-||-||1||12|
|*1 at duty ** 1 died of wounds.|
The two and half months hard work expended on the preparation for the Battle was amply justified by the results. In no instance was a single man lost in the dugouts and caves during the Bombardment prior to the Battle of this War. An additional benefit conferred by our deep cover was that the men started the action both morally and physically fresh.
On the night of the 8th/9th the filing out of the caves to the Battle positions was accomplished up to time and without a hitch.
The general principle aimed at was to form up the two leading Battalions, 6th Battalion The Queen’s on the Right and the 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment on the left as near as possible to the enemy front line in No Man’s Land, and to bring through the two supporting Battalions 6th Battalion The Buffs on the Right and 6th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment on the left, as quickly as possible in order to avoid the probable German Artillery Barrage directed on to our Front system.
April 9th the Battle commenced by the Stokes Mortars firing on the German Saps at 5.28 a.m. (2 minutes before Zero). By Zero, at 5.30 a.m., the 6th Battalion The Queen’s and 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment were waiting in No Man’s Land ready to rush into the German front line.
The advance up to the BLACK LINE was conducted on the leapfrogging principle, i.e., by the rear waves passing through the leading waves. This was successfully accomplished according to the time table.
The enemy appeared to be completely taken by surprise and those who did not readily surrender were bayonetted or bombed in their dugouts.
The most noticeable features of this advance were the results of our counter-battery work which practically silenced the enemy’s Artillery, and the excellence of the creeping Barrage which enabled the Infantry to push on unhampered by Machine Gun and Rifle fire.
The narrow entrances of the German dugouts proved a great disadvantage to the enemy and prevented his coming up in time to oppose our Infantry in force. The number of dead Germans in the trenches of this system was considerable; no signs, however, could be found of any having been gassed; each corpse bore marks of shell or bayonet wounds. There was an ample supply of food, soda water and tobacco in many of the dugouts.
The advance on to the BLUE LINE.
After the two hours halt on the Black Line the 6th Battalions The Buffs on the Right and the 6th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment on the Left were in position to advance to the Blue Line. In this advance more opposition was met with and at times the attack was temporarily checked by hostile Machine Gun fire.
By 8.50 a.m. our troops were reported to be occupying HANGEST TRENCH, though from subsequent reports it was evident they had not succeeded at once in clearing it. At 9.15 a.m. isolated parties of the enemy in this trench were still holding on to their position, but this resistance was gradually subdued by a series of local fights, the Rifle Grenade proving of great value. From reports received it appears that at about this stage the 6th Bn. R.W. Kent Regiment and Royal Fusiliers became somewhat mixed up, each Battalion having lost its true direction.
At 10.30 a.m. 6th Battalion, The Buffs, reported having gained their objective. At this stage a German Machine Gun was successfully engaged near HOULETTE WORK; it was attacked with Rifle Grenades, and when the entire team and some other men, making a total of fifteen, bolted, they were all killed by our Lewis Guns. The enemy at this period, however, still held parts of the trench between HOULETTE WORK and CAMBRAI ROAD; these were subsequently subdued by Bombers. In the Capture of HOULETTE WORK 105 Germans were taken prisoners. Meanwhile the 6th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment had not finished clearing up the situation on their front.
Machine Guns and parties of the enemy were still holding out in HOLT WORK. HAMEL WORK had been gained, as were also parts of HENLEY LANE. I accordingly issued orders for two Companies to move from HAMEL WORK up HENLEY LANE, in co-operation with the 36th Infantry Brigade who ordered an advance down HABARCQ. This had the effect of enveloping HOLT WORK and the enemy speedily surrendered.
The enemy at this period was thoroughly beaten all along our front and the few isolated parties who were attempting further resistance were promptly put out of action by the advance of the 35th Infantry Brigade, over a hundred walking out with their hands up to meet the Norfolk Regiment.
The position having been cleared, the work of consolidation was immediately proceeded with, the 87th Field Company, R.E., arriving to form two Strong Points near OBSERVATION RIDGE. An outpost line was established in advance.
At 12 noon I received orders from the Division to form a Reserve at RELIEF HOUSE. I accordingly collected 250 men each from the 6th Battalion The Queens and 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment.
On the afternoon of the 9th instant, I re-organised my Brigade, 6th Battalion The Queens and 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment.
With the exception of 250 men of the 6th Battalion The Queens, sent up to reinforce the 35th Brigade who had passed through to attack the Brown Line, by Brigade took no further important part in the Operations on the 9th instant.
To sum up briefly, the day’s Operation had consisted of an advance in depth of other a thousand yards into the enemy’s lines; this had entailed the capture of eight lines of trenches and Strong Points. Unfortunately no check had been kept as to the number of prisoners taken. Ten machine guns and 77mm Anti-Tank gun were captured; in addition the gun detachment of the enemy Artillery in front of the Blue Line were shot down; the majority of these batteries were found deserted by the 35th Infantry Brigade when they advanced to the Brown Line
Our casualties were slight, Battalions varying from 150 to 200. The casualties inflicted on the enemy were exceptionally severe.
No event of any importance happened on the night of 9th/10th. Certain of the enemy dugouts blew up and this necessitated my having to put all German dugouts out of bounds for my troops; this proved a great hardship on the men who were forced to sleep out in the snow and in consequence they obtained little rest after their hard day’s fighting.
The morning of April 10th was spent in clearing the Battlefield and in burying the dead.
I received orders for my Brigade to be ready to move forward at short notice, but we were not called upon.
Heavy snowstorms again fell and the troops were sorely tried by the exposure to which they were subjected.
At 1.50 p.m. I received orders to relieve the 111th Brigade in MONCHY LE PREUX. Being ignorant of their dispositions I ordered the Brigade to move up at once to a rendezvous west of the Brown Line just North of the FEUCHY CHAPELLE – MONCHY ROAD, and there to await orders. I went up to find the 111th Infantry Brigade Headquarters in order to obtain the necessary information. I arrived at 5 p.m. after being directed to several wrong places. MONCHY was being very heavily shelled. I here discovered a new order directing me to relieve both the 11th and the 112th Brigades.
The situation was extremely vague and the only information I could obtain was that parties of the 111th Brigade, the Essex Yeomanry and the 10th Hussars were holding the Eastern edge of MONCHY and were in touch with the Brigade holding a line from the Southeast corner of the Village to LA BERGERE on the CAMBRAI ROAD.
Nothing was known of the dispositions of troops to the North of the Village, nor was it known if the British occupied the wood immediately North and adjacent to the Village. Major-General WILLIAMS appeared at this juncture and ordered Brigadier-General CHALONER, Commanding the 112th Brigade, to come and hand over his dispositions to me in order that I might relieve his Brigade. By this time the snow was falling so thick that it was impossible to see more than a few yards ahead. Brigadier-General CHALONER lost his way and did not arrive till 9 p.m.
In the meantime I sent off the 6th Battalion The Queen’s and the 6th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment to take up and hold a line on the East and Southeast of the Village ordering them to relive whatever troops they could find on this line, my intention being to continue the line Northwards on the Eastern edge of the MONCHY Wood with the 6th Battalion The Buffs and 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment continuing the line in a North-westerly direction and so relieving the 112th Brigade. General CHALONER was unable to give me very definite information as to the position of his troops, and it was agreed that he should take Officers of the 6th Battalion The Buffs and 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment to his Headquarters to shew them the way, and guides should meet them there. Owing to the blinding snow and lack of any definite land marks the Officers did not return till 1.30 a.m. They informed me it would be impossible to get the Battalions there under three hours, which meant that they would have no time to relieve before dawn.
I accordingly telephoned to the 37th Divisional Headquarters and explained the situation. I was therefore ordered not to relieve the 112th Infantry Brigade as they considered a daylight relief too risky an operation owing to the intense shell and Machine Gun fire directed on this portion of the line.
The result of not being able to relieve the 112th Brigade made me feel anxious as to the true state of affairs in MONCHY WOOD to the North and Northwest since, to the best of my belief, we were out of touch with troops on this flank, nor was I even certain that the wood was held by the British. I was unable to weaken my line on the Eastern edge of MONCHY as I was informed of the enemy’s evident desire to regain possession of this Village. I accordingly ordered the Officer Commanding the 6th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment to patrol the wood frequently, to report on the situation there and to establish a strong post at Northeast corner if he found the wood held in insufficient strength. The wood was discovered to be held by Cavalry Posts and the Officer Commanding 6th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment informed me he could only spare a small garrison at the expense of weakening the Village eastern defences, but that he was ready to support the Cavalry if they were attacked from this direction.
Information was sent in that the enemy’s main line appeared to be some 1,200 yards to the East of MONCHY covered by strong posts of Snipers and Machine Guns in positions varying from 300 to 500 yards distance from our own line.
MONCHY itself formed a very marked salient, the line to the North running back to a point just South of FAMPOUX on the SCARPE RIVER, that to the South to LA BERGERE on the CAMBRAI ROAD. Our whole position was being very heavily shelled and Machine Guns opened fire the moment they discerned any movement of troops.
On the afternoon of the 13th instant I received orders to the effect that the 15th Division on my Left and the 3rd Division on my Right were going to push forward in order to straighten out the salient at MONCHY, and in the event of their success to push forward and occupy, if possible, the high ground immediately East of the Village; these attacks were unsuccessful; I did not therefore alter my dispositions.
At 4.30 p.m. orders were received that we were to be relieved by the 88th Infantry Brigade. Beyond there being very heavy shell fire directed on the Village throughout the day and at intervals during the night, no further event of importance took place.
The relief was reported complete by 3 a.m. the 13th instant; two Companies of the 6th Battalion The Queen’s, however, were unfortunately left out through an error of the Newfoundland Regiment in not taking over far enough to the South of the Village, their Commanding Officer reporting that he had completed the relief. These two Companies rejoined my Brigade in ARRAS at 2 p.m.
During the entire operations the troops displayed the utmost gallantry. The severity of the weather was most trying and although exhausted and worn out each Battalion continued to carry out its orders promptly and in a manner deserving of the highest praise. I hope at any early date to bring before your notice the names of Officers and Other Ranks who specially distinguished themselves during these operations.
April 16th, 1917. Brigadier General, Commanding 37th Infantry Brigade.
1st May: TRENCHES. Brigade HQ at H.34.b.05.50: 12.30 a.m.: Relief complete. G.O.C. 37th Infantry Brigade assumed command of the line.
Brigade Dispositions are as follows:-
6th Buffs holding front line from I.31.d.6.9. to I.32.c.2.1.
7th East Surrey Regiment in Valley in H.36.a.
6th R.W. Regt in ORANGE LINE
6th Queen’s in BROWN LINE
87th HO Company Royal Engineers in BROWN LINE
“D” Company, 5th Northants in BROWN LINE
37th T.M. Battery in BROWN LINE
37th Machine Gun Company in BROWN LINE. 2 in front line. Remaining guns in valley in H.36.a. forming a defensive barrage.
4.a.m.: Enemy put up a very heavy barrage in retaliation to our practice barrage.
Morning Report. Intermittent artillery fire throughout the night from the Enemy. His snipers and machine guns were very active.
Evening Report. Enemy very active with artillery and Machine Guns.
2nd May: TRENCHES: 12.30 a.m.: Enemy opened a very heavy barrage. Which necessitated troops out working being withdrawn.
2.45 a.m.: The moves ordered in BM20 were completed.
Morning report. Enemy fired on BIT LANE and HARNESS LANE throughout the night.
Enemy Machine Guns and snipers very active, the least movement being fired upon.
Evening Report. Enemy snipers and Machine Guns very active.
Brigadier visited Commanding Officers in afternoon.
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William Charles Abbott, Ernest's brother, has only got records surviving for his return for one year into the Corps of Military Foot Police at the Central London Recruiting Depot, Whitehall, on 12th September 1919. He served in this roll until 11th September 1920 when his home address is registered as 7 Rose Lane, St. Andrews, Fife. On this occasion he was no longer in The Buffs, so could have been sent to Scotland to meet needs there. He appears as married to Mary Philp on 21st August 1919 at Chelsea. This surviving record places William as having earlier served in The Buffs for 7 years, first enlisting around 1912. However, he did not disembark to France until 21st May 1915 in the 2nd Battalion, The Buffs, as part of the Military Foot Police, Military Provost Staff. This qualified him for the 1914-15 Star.
His occupation in peacetime was as an electrician. Physically, he stood at 5 feet 11½ inches, weighing 168 pounds, with a chest measurement of 39-42 inches. His complexion was "sallow", eyes grey, and fair hair. He bore a wound scar to his right elbow.