First World War Project
Frank MILLS (of Doddington & Wychling)
b. Q4, 1884
Private, Service Number 15593
Locally, Frank Mills is memorialised in both Wychling and Doddington. Further afield, he is also memorialised in Yalding, the historic home for several generations of the Mills family. Frank was born in Yalding in the final quarter [October/November/December] of 1884, one of four generations born there since George Mills, born 1792.
There was an apparent departure from this association with Yalding when Frank's father, Alfred, married Sarah Sawyers at St Mary Magdalene Parish Church in Woolwich, Kent on 28th June 1864. However, at the time of their marriage, Alfred was serving as a farrier/Gunner in the Royal Horse Artillery. The Artillery Barracks were close by and Sarah's family lived off Woolwich Common. They then returned to Yalding.
When Frank Mills joined the Royal Horse Artillery, he was following in the footsteps of his father and his brother, Alfred. His older brother's story can be read at the end of this page.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission reveals that Frank's wife, Phoebe Lillian (née Kyte/Kite), paid for the inscription "with Christ, which is far better" on his headstone. In the scant military records, their home address was given as "Rosemount", Wychling; her parent's home was at Temple Farm, Doddington.
The Faversham and North East Kent News of 26th May 1917 records Franks death: "PRIVATE FRANK MILLS, WEST KENTS. Private Frank Mills, of the Royal West Kent Regiment, who was killed in action on 10th April, was a married man, 31 years of age, and leaves a wife and one child living at Rose Mount, Old Lenham Road, Wychling. Deceased was a gardener in the employ of General Jeffreys at Doddington Place before he joined up in June last year. He had been at the front since January."
The East Kent Gazette of 16th June carried this Obituary: "DODDINGTON. KILLED IN ACTION.- Private Frank Mills, of the Royal West Kent Regiment, who was killed in action on April 10th, was a married man. He leaves a widow and one child, living at Rose Mount, Old Lenham Road, Wychling. The deceased, who was 31, was a gardener in the employ of General Jeffreys, at Doddington Place, before he joined up in June last year. He had been at the Front since January. Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Pullen, of Pitstock Cottage, Doddington have lost their only son, Rifle Brigade, who is reported to have been killed in action on May 4th. Employed at Palace Farm, Doddington, he joined up about the middle of 1915, and had been at the Front for about eight months. He was shot by a sniper. He was twenty-two years of age, and stood fully six feet in height. At Palace Farm he had proved himself a trustworthy worker, and letters from his officers state that he was a good soldier, and was liked by everyone. He was an excellent shot. Much sympathy is felt for the bereaved parents."
In 1901, Frank was employed as a Market Gardening Assistant (Rotherfield, Sussex) and in 1911, he is confirmed as a "Domestic Gardener" in Doddington where he met Pheobe. As his sole legatee, Phoebe received Frank's effects amounting to £5 14s. 1d. The War Gratuity payment of £3 confirms that he enlisted within the 12 months prior to his death [See Appendix 2]. The Company Commander narratives suggest that Frank may have been in Company "D", which suffered from sniping.
He was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory medals. [See Appendix 1]
War Gratuity calculations suggest that Frank Mills might have enlisted at or soon after April 1916. The newspaper extract (above) tells us he enlisted in June 1916 and arrived in France during January 1917. As the Somme Offensive took place (while Frank was in early training) he would have heard how desperate the need was for new drafts of men. The 1st Battalion, Queens Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment formed part of the 13th Brigade of the 5th Division. During the Battle of the Somme, the Battalion was in Trenches East of WAILLY, South West of ARRAS.
At the close of The Somme, Frank's Battalion faces action in the theatre around BETHUNE in "Trenches Givenchy Right" and "in the line at FESTUBERT LEFT Sub-section". Relieved back (6km) to billets at GORRE/BEUVRY on the outskirts of BETHUNE. This cycle repeats until the Battalion takes part in a raid on 10th February 1917. The War Diary includes a fascinating account illustrating all the steps that lead up to the idea of "a raid". That account has been transcribed as an artefact below. The Company Commanders' narratives may indicate the place of Frank's death, serving in "D" Company - either near the cross-roads or in the new trench by the HQ.
November/December 1916 - in the Field
We pick up Frank's story again after the Battle of the Somme closed on 18th November. During November 1916, Frank's Battalion served in Trenches in "Givenchy Right" Sector with relief back to GORRE (BETHUNE). Hostilities continued through artillery and trench mortar exchanges and limited daily casualties.
"26th November: TRENCHES GIVENCHY RIGHT: The enemy shelled BETHUNE in the morning, we retaliated by 2 intense bombardments of the enemy's front line, from 1 to 1.15pm and from 2.15 to 2.30pm. Our Trench mortars also fired about 1,000 rounds. The enemy's reply was weak except with his Trench Mortars which were active. Weather Fine."
27th: Relieved back to Gorre, Bethune.
2nd to 9th December: Relieved the 2nd Battalion, K.O.S.B. in the line at FESTUBERT LEFT Sub-Section.
When relieved back to GORRE men were assigned to work with the Royal Engineers. Trenches were under sporadic tit-for-tat exchanges of artillery.
15th: FESTUBERT LEFT as above. Relieving 2/KOSB. Some casualties from snipers. Mostly calm. Dull wet and blustery weather.
22nd Relieved by the 8th East Lancs Regiment and 1 Company of the 10th N. Lancs Regiment of the 112th Brigade of the 37th Division.
24th: "D" Company went to dig in front line system. An organised shoot by T.M.s and Artillery to spend our Christmastime commenced at 12 noon, this was done to prevent any efforts being made by either side to fraternise on Christmas day. In the afternoon a Hun aeroplane came in very low indeed.
25th: Christmas Day. Opened as far as possible as a holiday.
29th: Relieved to billets at BEUVRY – the GORRE billets having been taken over by 1st DCLI (of the 95th Brigade)
Throughout this period, BETHUNE continued to attract fire.
14th – 20th January 1917: Relieved 1/Devons in the GIVENCHY RIGHT sub-sector. The German artillery fired heavy shells on this sector causing some disruption and casualties from this time onwards until relieved back to GORRE.
Frank joined his Battalion in January 1917 as the Regiment was reorganising and replenishing its men and equipment ahead of the Battle of Arras that opened on 9th April 1917. A day into the attack, Frank was killed.
From around a month before his death, the picture doesn't change much until:
"13th March: GORRE to BETHUNE: The Brigade was relived in the line by the 197th Infantry Brigade. The Battalion was relieved by the 2/6th Lancashire Fusiliers. Relief was reported complete at 4.20 p.m. On relief the Battalion marched to billets at the ORPHANAGE, BETHUNE. Companies marched off independently when relieved. The Battalion was reported "settled in billets" at 6.15 p.m. Part of 35 O.R. who had new "on command" (guest control) rejoined the Battalion.
14th March: BETHUNE to AUCHEL: At 9.55 a.m. the Battery marched from BETHUNE. The Commanding Officer and O.C. Companies rode ahead of the Battalion to reconnoitre training grounds. The Battalion marched to the Brigade Starting Point about ½-mile West of ANNEZIN and thence through LA BEUVRIERE, LAPUGNOY, and MARLES-LES-MINES to AUCHEL where the Battalion arrived about 1.45 p.m. and went into billets. The Transport marched independently from GORRE. On arrival Major Lynch White and the staff of the Training Company (under Captain Sawers) rejoined the Battalion. The 13th Infantry Brigade was distributed between MARLES-LES-MINES and AUCHEL, both mining villages. The V Division, on its arrival in the new area, left the XI Corps and came into the Canadian Corps.
17th March: AUCHEL: All companies started training. The Commanding Officer (with B.G.C. and Battalion C.O.s of Brigade) went to see trenches at NEUVILLE-ST. VAAST.
18th March: Companies training. "A" & "B" to special training ground in morning. "C" & "D" in afternoon. Draft of 20 O.R. joined. 2nd Lieut LOVELACE and 7 O.R. proceeded to Division School.
19th March: Training continued. "A" & "C" Companies went to special training ground. C.O. and certain officer went to LILLERS to see model of German trenches.
20th March: Training continued. "B" & "D" Companies went to special training ground. 2nd BRETT, MC, admitted to Field Ambulance.
21st March: Training continue. "A" & "C" Companies went to special training ground.
22nd March: A good deal of snow on the ground in the morning. More fell during the day, but quickly went. "B" and "D" Companies went out to the special training ground. Orders received at night that Battalion must be prepared to dump surplus stores and kit at very short notice.
23rd March: "A" & "C" Companies went out to special training ground. 2nd Lts F.CORKE, A.ROGERS and H.J. LANCASTER joined for duty.
24th March: "B" & "D" Companies went out to special training ground. Draft of 25 OR joined. At 11 p.m. summer time came into force.
25th March: "B" & "D" Companies went out to special training ground at BOIS des DAMES. Six officers and NCOs from "A" Company, six from "C" Company and 3 from HQ went by motor lorry to MONT ST. ELOY, and thence to NEUVILLE ST. VAAST to reconnoitre trenches.
26th March: A wet day. Companies did not go out to training grounds. A party from "B" & "D" Companies and HQ should have gone to MONT ST.ELOY, but this was at the last moment cancelled. In explanation of "special training ground", there are four training grounds around AUCHEL and MARLES-les-MINES and these are allotted to Battalions daily by Brigade.
27th March: An unpleasant day with some short falls of snow. B&D Companies went out to special training ground.
28th March: "B" & "D" Companies went out to special training ground – A party from "B" & "D" Companies and HQ went by bus to MONT ST.ELOY and thence to see trenches at NEUVILLE ST. VAAST.
29th March: A very wet day and Companies did not go out to special training ground. In the afternoon the Commanding Officer held a meeting of officers and went through the plan of operations the Battalion is to take part in – 2nd Lt W.I. NURSE joined for duty.
30th March: Some rain. "B" & "D" Companies went out to special training ground at BOIS des DAMES (Trenches had now been taped out at this place).
31st March: All Companies remained in AUCHEL for training. Draft of 4 O.R. joined.
During the period spent in AUCHEL the Battalion was re-organised in the new system (each platoon a self-contained unit with its proportion of riflemen, rifle-bombers, bombers and Lewis Gunners) and training was carried out on these lines.
In view of future operations each Company trained as 3 platoons.
1st April: AUCHEL: 2nd Lieut HARRISON and the C.Q.M.S.'s left AUCHEL about 7 a.m. and proceeded to the BOIS D'OLHAIN as an advanced filleting party. The day was opened as a "day of rest".
2nd April: AUCHEL to BOIS d'OLHAIN: The Battalion left AUCHEL by Companies about 9.45 to 10 a.m. and marched to Battalion starting point at cross roads just West of MARLES-LES-MINES. Thence the Battalion marched to Brigade starting point at BOIS des DAMES and then through BRUAY, HOUDAIN, REBREUVE and OLHAIN to BOIS d' OLHAIN, where it went into camp under canvas. A good camping ground in good health, the wood not being thick. There had been snow on the ground in the morning but the weather held out during the march although it was very windy and boisterous. A few minutes after arrival in camp, a heavy snow storm started and lasted for an hour or two, and the ground was well covered. The Commanding Officer did not accompany the Battalion in the march but went ahead with the B.G.C. to reconnoitre training grounds.
3rd April: Snow during the night which lasted throughout the morning. In the afternoon the Battalion proceeded to the taped trenches in the vicinity of ESTREE-CAUCHIE and practiced the attack. Lt. H.U.S. NISBET rejoined the Battalion. Major LYNCH WHITE DSO, 2nd Lts CATHCART, ROGERS, and HARRIS, CSM SEALE and 22 O.R. proceeded to the BOIS de ALLEUX (near MONT St. ELOY) as an advanced party. The party consisted of representatives of HQ and each Company they had to reconnoitre trenches, etc.
4th April: Battalion went out to the taped trenches in the morning – More snow fell during the morning.
5th April: A bright sunny spring day. The Battalion left camp at 9 a.m. and took part in a practice attack by the whole Brigade on the taped trenches. Back to camp about 3 p.m.
6th April: BOIS d' OLHAIN: Fine in morning, but very wet in afternoon and evening. Battalion again took part in practice on taped trenches, leaving camp at 9.30 a.m. and networking about 2 p.m. 2/Lt LOVELACE and all personnel from Divisional School rejoined Battalion.
7th April: BOIS d' OLHAIN: Snow on the ground in the morning and a cold threatening day. The Battalion was under orders to move early in the afternoon to a Wood South of VILLERS-AU-BOIS (vide M2 attached) but owing to the bad weather (the Battalion would have had to bivouac in the open on night of 7/8th if it had moved) the move was postponed. A quiet day was spent in Camp. Personnel from Army School rejoined except Lieut McCLENACHAN who had been admitted to Field Ambulance. The Company Q.M.S.'s went forward to the wood near VILLERS-AU-BOIS as a billeting party.
8th April: BOIS d' OLHAIN to NEUVILLE St. VAAST: Battalion marched to bivouac near VILLERS AU BOIS. Companies marched at 100 yards distance, the leading Company arriving at Brigade Starting point (road junction S.W. of VERDREL near S.E. Corner of BOIS d'OLAIN) at 7am. Here there was some delay owing to Battalion in front not being clear. The Battalion marched through ESTREE-CAUCHIE and CAMBLAIN-L'ABBE to a field near VILLERS AU BOIS, where it bivouacked arriving about 10.15 a.m. Soon after 12 noon the Battalion was moved into an adjoining wood to avoid aeroplane observation. After dinners the men were fitted out with bombs, rifle grenades, etc. At 9.30 p.m. the Battalion marched off by companies at 100 yards distance to a starting point at MONT St. ELOY. This was mostly in difficult and muddy trenches. From the starting point the march was continued by platoons at 100 yards distance to NEUVILLE St. VAAST. Where the Battalion went into assembly trenches in Parallel VIII and SAPPERS HOUSE (a large dug-out). The march was very trying as the roads were bad and the men very heavily loaded, and the companies were not in position till 3 a.m., 9th inst.
The circumstances of the death of Frank Mills during a Raid on German positions
9th March: VIMY RIDGE: Tea and rum were issued on arrival. "Dumped" officers and other ranks have then left behind (except that some acted as guides to the trenches) and the Battalion went into action with a strength of 20 officers and 655 Other Ranks.
(As shewn in attached orders (M4), the 13th Infantry Brigade was lent to the 2nd Canadian Division for the attack on the VIMY RIDGE. Of the 2nd Canadian Division two brigade (4th on right, 5th on left) were to take the first two objectives, and then the 6th Brigade on right and 13th Infantry Brigade on left were to pass through and capture further objectives. Exact objectives, and distribution of attack of 13th Infantry Brigade, and boundaries of brigades and battalions are given in the attached orders and maps. The 1st Canadian Division was on the right of the 2nd Division and the 3rd Canadian Division on the left.)
VIMY RIDGE: Zero hour was fixed at 5.30 a.m., and at this hour the attack by the Canadians commenced. At 7.30 a.m. the Battalion left its assembly trenches and formed up in front. At this time there was a fairly heavy snow storm. There was very little hostile artillery fire: whet there was consisted of 4.2" but these caused practically no casualties. By 8.15 a.m. the Battalion, moving forward in artillery formation in 3 waves, had reached the second position of assembly, which was the German Front and Support line trenches. Here the "Tanks" which were to accompany the attack, had stuck in the mud and were being shelled by the enemy, and so the Battalion was moved straight forward to the position of deployment without halting. The position of deployment which was in the LILLE ROAD, was reached about 9 a.m. The advance from position of assembly had been over ground completely devastated by our artillery fire. It was pitted with deep shell craters, and owing to the rain and snow was extremely difficult to get access, but, in spite of this, the Battalion was well closed up and in position for the attack in good time. On arrival at the LILLE ROAD, the enemy appeared to be putting a fairly heavy barrage on the front of the assembly trenches, which the Battalion had left. While waiting at position of deployment, the enemy's position was reconnoitred and the objectives pointed out to Companies and at 9.29 a.m., the first wave of the attack advanced from the LILLE ROAD. On getting close to our barrage the waves halted, watches of officers compared and all ranks informed when our barrage would clear the objective. Our barrage cleared THELUS TRENCH, which was our first objective, the trench was seized and about 30 prisoners taken, patrols from the first two companies (C and D) bring immediately pushed out to follow up our barrage and to clear trenches up to TELEGRAPH WEG. As soon as our barrage permitted one platoon (N.B. Companies went into action, organised as 3 platoons only) of "D" Company seized cross roads in B.1.C.30.85 and at the same time one company ("B"), which had halted between the LILLE road and the first objective advanced on the left of COUNTS WOOD and seized and cleared GOULOT WOOD up to the BLUE LINE (vide maps attached) – Goulot WOOD was occupied by small bodies of the enemy with one machine gun at least (probably captured by 2/KOSB who were on the left), but these did not wait, and by the time our infantry arrived were seen retiring across the open between FARBUS and VIMY, our Lewis guns immediately opened fire on these, but the range was a long one. The BLUE LINE was completely in our possession by 11 a.m. When the Reserve Company ("A"), which had halted between the LILLE ROAD and THELUS TRENCH was sent forward to take over the right portion of GOULOT WOOD. As soon as our barrage allowed, the 2 Companies in GOULET WOOD pushed forward patrols to the BROWN LINE, which was reached without opposition; but the enemy, who had brought some guns into action in the open, on the East of the Railway, having seen these advance, shelled them heavily, causing a certain number of casualties. They were, therefore, withdrawn under cover, and pushed out again under cover of darkness to the BROWN LINE, which was consolidated. It was found that by day the whole country in front of GOULOT WOOD could be commanded right up to the railway from the Western edge of the wood, and the garrison was therefore kept in good dug-outs, which were found in the gun-pits, until pushed out to the BROWN LINE just before dark. An advanced post consisting of one officer and 8 other ranks by day, and 1 officer and 20 other ranks and 2 Lewis guns by night, was established at the junction of hedge and road in B.1.b.55.15, and got in touch with the advanced post furnished by 29th Canadian Infantry Battalion at cross-roads B.1.d.95.95. When the Battalion was relieved (by the 18th Canadian Infantry Battalion on the right of 10th/11th – see further on) the position captured was handed over intact with advanced posts on the road running from cross-roads T.25.c.35.45 to cross roads B.1.d.65.95. Platoon posts being on the Brown Line with Company reserves in the GOULOT WOOD, it had not been possible in the time, owing to the difficulty in getting tools forward after the position had been captured, for all these to dig in, and this was explained to the relieving Battalion. The wood was held in this manner by 2 companies ("A" on right; "B" on left), with 2 companies ("C" on right; "D" on left) in Battalion Reserve in THELUS TRENCH, one company in Battalion Reserve ("C") being moved up that night in close support just behind GOULOT WOOD. The whole attack proceeded without a hitch and all ranks behaved exactly as if carrying out a practice scheme. This was possible owing to the splendid shooting of the artillery covering the advance and the accuracy of the lifting barrage. 9 Guns of various descriptions were discovered in GOULOT WOOD. These were abandoned by the enemy just before the arrival of the attacking troops. Two rounds were fired from these guns at point blank range, but the Grenade section of one of the attacking platoons fired rifle grenades at them whilst the remainder charged, and the German artillerymen bolted and were dealt with by our Lewis Guns as they crossed the open ground below the wood. One limber which had evidently been bringing up ammunition was seen galloping away from the bottom of the wood.
On the night of the 9th/10th, rations were brought up on pack animals (officers' chargers being partly used). The going was very bad and improvised bridges had to be made over the old German trenches consequently although the party started at 9pm on the 9th from VILLERS AU BOIS, Battalion HQ (a large German dug-out in the RED OBJECTIVE, called CRAMER HOUSE) was not needed till about 6 a.m. on the 10th.
10th April: VIMY RIDGE: The party also came under shell fire and 1 man was wounded, 2 animals killed, and 2 wounded. The 10th inst. passed without any incident of great importance except that reports were constantly received that the enemy was coming forward into VIMY, and our first companies were able to inform the artillery of several good targets. There was a good deal of sniping from VIMY. At 8.30 p.m. the 18th Canadian Infantry Regiment began to arrive by companies and the relief of the Battalion commenced.
During the engagement the casualties in the battalion amounted to:-
KILLED (not including "died of wounds" shortly afterwards in C.C.S.): 1 officer (Lt F.C. HYDE); 13 O.R. (including Sgt ROGERS of the Stretcher Bearers, who had been with Battalion a very long time).
WOUNDED: 1 officer (2/Lt LEWIS-BARNED) and 111 Other Ranks.
MISSING: 12 Other Ranks.
On being relieved, the 13th Infantry Brigade ceased to be lent to the 2nd Canadian Division, and rejoined the 5th Division.
11th April: VIMY RIDGE: Although relief commenced at 8.30 p.m. on the 10th, it was not reported complete till 3.46 a.m. on the 11th, as one Company of the 18th Canadian Regiment relieved a company of another Canadian Battalion, and was some time before this Company could be found and the mistake rectified. It was well past 4 a.m. before "D" Company got clear. Companies marched independently to a point near LA TARGETTE, where tea and rum was issued, and then into camp at VILLERS AU BOIS, the last Company not arriving till after 8 a.m. About 3 p.m. order came that the Battalion was to move to GOVY SERVINS, and the Battalion moved off by Companies at 5 p.m. The march was on a bad and traffic congested road, and through a heavy snow storm. On arrival the men were billeted in a chateau – beds, but rather close quarters. Other arrangements were lacking or bad. One hut of medium proportions for all officers, and the Transport out in the open on the snow covered ground (eventually huts were got for the personnel).
12th April: Heavy snow during the night. A quiet day in billets.
13th April: A quiet day in billets. Orders received that the 5th Division was going into the line, and that the 13th Infantry Brigade became Divisional Reserve.
Franks' oldest brother, Arthur, was a driver in the Royal Horse Artillery. Their father, Alfred had also served with the RFA as a farrier.
Arthur attested 23rd April 1902 at Maidstone for 8 years extended to 10 years. He was discharged four months before the outbreak of the First World War. Records show he was 5 feet 4¼ inches tall, weighed 120 lbs, 34 Chest (2"), Fresh complexion, blue eyes, brown eyes. He was Posted at Home on 13.6.02; Granted his first G.C. Badge 16-11-03 and his second G.C. Badge 16-11-07. Served in South Africa from 1907 until he was posted to Army Reserve 23-04-10. Discharged 1st period 22-04-1914.
Kin in 1902: Father Fredrick (sic); mother Sarah; Brother Frank; Brother Edward (sic, probably Edwin) all living at 8 Acton Place, Yalding, Kent at the time.
He did suffer some minor injuries. 1st January 1904, wound to left hand (not serious). What appears to be a concussion described as "Confused - severe - incised," dressed R. Hospital H.S. Soudan, 14th March to 4th April 1910. On 16th April to 4th May 1907 - he is recorded as suffering from Syphilis.
Soon after, on 21st September 1907 - he was posted abroad, joining the H.M.T. "Cawdor Castle" bound for Pretoria, South Africa on 22nd October 1907.
DISCHARGED 1st Period - 22nd April 1914.
"Battalion raided the German Trenches. Before going into the details of this raid it would be well to state the preliminary arrangements.
On Jan 13th, the BGC ordered the Commanding Officer to do a raid on the GIVENCHY front, the probable date being given as Jan 31st [it was postponed to the present date after consultation with Corps Commander]. It was decided that the raid should be carried out by day-light without any previous bombardment; the whole attack to take place at zero in order to take the enemy by surprise. On evening of the same day the Commanding Officer called a conference of Company Commanders, explained the general idea of the raid, and detailed "A" & "B" Companies to carry it out. During the next tour in the trenches (Jan 14th-20th) fronts were allotted to each Company and it was decided that each Company should attack in three parties as, during the reconnaissance of craters that now took place, it was found that there were 3 places in each Company front where the craters could be crossed [There were over 50 craters on the whole front]. The leaders of the parties were selected and made responsible for finding their way across the craters which they did by patrolling by night and observing by day. The medium T.M.'s [Trench Mortars] also started to cut wire during their daily bombardment of enemy trenches; this was carried on up to the day of the raid, some important wire being actually cut on the morning of the raid. During the period in Reserve Jan 20th – 26th the raiding Companies were especially trained in bayonet fighting, running, (particularly over rough ground), cutting and getting through wire and given fuller instruction with bombs and rifle grenades. They were also practised in attacking, getting over and rushing trenches, and a point was made that parties, as far as possible, should arrive at the far end together. Definite objectives and frontages were allotted to each party and maps of these given to each party commander together with a copy of the scheme and orders. During the tour in the trenches, Jan 26th – Feb 1st the reconnaissance was continued and all arrangements made as final as possible. While the Battalion was in close support (1st-6th) "A" Company was billeted at Windy Corner and "B" at the Tuning Fork. Both Companies trained at GORRE daily; "A" Company having their dinners there. Trenches were taped out by Companies to represent enemy trenches and parties practised over them. When the Battalion went into trenches on Feb 6th, "A" and "B" Companies went into the front line for the first 24 hours to have a final look round and were then relieved by "C" & "D". On Feb 9th "A" & "B" Companies equipped their men. On the morning of the raid "C" & "D" were clear of the front line by 12 noon and "A" & "B" were in position ready to start at 2 p.m., the interval when the front line was unoccupied was utilized by the 4.5" howitzers and medium Trench Mortars to some close shooting. Copies of the general scheme and orders are attached but the following points may be noted here.
(i) Something over 100 body shields were used and doubtless saved many slight wounds;
(ii) Each man carried 6 Mills Bombs in carriers specially made by Lt & Quarter Master THORNE these proved a great success. Each man also had a bandolier of S.A.A.;
(iii) Each party carried 2 P(udding) bombs and 2 specially prepared trench mortar bombs;
(iv) Small black and yellow flags for attachment to the top of the rifle were issued so that the position of parties in the trenches could be easily seen;
(v) Box respirators were not carried (partly because of its bulk and partly because it was not wished that the Germans should get any samples) but each man had a P.H.Q. helmet in case the enemy put up a poison shell barrage;
(vi) All identification marks were removed;
(vii) Two parties of miners went over to reconnoitre enemy shafts and do what damage they could in the time;
(viii) Several new batteries of 18 pounders of 4.5 Howitzers were brought in. Each new battery was paired with an old battery and in order not to give away its position, registered on the lines of the old battery; this was done with much success;
(ix) The Corps Artillery carried out counter battery work for a few days previous, and for an hour or so before the raid with the hope of keeping the enemy gunners from their guns when the raid started;
(x) The R.E. put in shelters for advanced Company HQ in C & T Saps; advanced Battalion HQ were in an R.E. miners dug-out in the support line;
(xi) The ADMS sent 3 M.O.'s and 36 stretcher bearers to assist. 2 M.O.'s had an advanced dressing station each in line shafts close behind each Company front and 2 were in the usual Battalion Dressing Station at HERTS REDOUBT;
(xii) Aeroplanes co-operated, dropped bombs behind the enemy line, and also took a photograph of the attack;
(xiii) A wireless station was installed in HERTS REDOUBT, and "power luggers" placed in Battalion HQs, C Sap and HERTS REDOUBT;
(xiv) A battery of 4" Stokes Mortars were brought into make a smoke barrage if required; it was used and was fairly useful.
The party leaders were "A" Company [Commanded by Capt. W.R.COBB] 2.Lts D.A. BRETT and L.A. HARRIS and Sgt DONHOU. "B" Company [Commanded by Capt. J.J. SCOTT M.C.] 2/Lts B.C.B. JAGGER & H.E. FRY and Sgt LINES.]
The morning was exceptionally quiet: so much so that it seemed possible that the enemy might have heard of the raid (possibly from the prisoner they took on the 8th inst.) and were waiting for it. However, about 12 noon he sent over four 4.2", but that was practically all his activity. Zero hour was 3 p.m. Punctually the guns opened and the Companies went over, as arranged, in 3 parties each, with 2 waves to each party.
Detailed reports by Company and party commanders are attached. The following is roughly what happened. It was found that the wire had been well cut, and there was no difficulty in getting to the enemy trenches. There was very little resistance. The enemy saps presented no difficulties and Germans, where found, were killed or captured. The result of getting through easily was that our men, who moved with the utmost dash and keenness, went too quietly and ran into our barrage. The enemy support line was penetrated and all objectives were gained. The enemy trenches were found to be in a wretched state. The party that went furthest was commanded by Sergt LINES and this party must have inflicted very heavy casualties; unfortunately Sergt LINES received a wound from which he soon died. Many dug-outs were bombed and Germans were killed to the estimated number of 150. The miners blew in 4 mine shafts. The withdrawal took place sooner than was anticipated. "B" Company having done all that could be done, started to withdraw soon after 3.30pm and "A" Company, thinking they had missed the signal rockets, followed suit. We took prisoners – 1 officer and 26 O.R. (this is believed to be the number, but there may have been more) and belonging to the 264th Regiment. Our casualties amounted to 11 killed, 54 wounded (nearly all slight) 3 wounded and missing and 2 missing. Among the killed were 4 Sergts viz LINES, AVERY, TOOMBS, and WAKEMAN (wounded and missing). Our Artillery barrage was excellent, but there is no doubt that, although no fault of the gunners, many of our casualties were caused by men running into our own barrage. We also suffered some casualties after the raiding parties returned to our trenches. The counter battery work presumably was good, as it was 23 minutes before the enemy sent back any organised retaliation, and even then it is stated that it was odd guns and batteries not normally firing on this front. About 8 pm one of our enfilade batteries fired and the enemy apparently got "wind up": he retaliated and sent up red rockets (our SOS call). Result: A good deal of shooting on both sides. About 9pm a deserter from the enemy came over. A Saxon of the 264th Regiment."
The situation reported on 10th April 1917
(box shows place of Frank's burial - killed at cross-road or new trench)
Battalion Head Quarters
Battalion Head Quarters were in SAPPERS HOUSE while the Battalion was in the assembly trenches. When the Battalion went forward to the LILLE ROAD. Battalion HQ went to CRAMER HOUSE (a dug-out in the RED OBJECTIVE) and remained there till Battalion was relieved.
The following officers went into action:-
Lt.Col. Buchanan-Dunlop, D.S.O. Commanding
Major H.A. Waring, Adjutant.
Lt. Nislet. Liaison Officer with 29th Canadian Regiment.
2/Lt Sutherland, Signalling Officer.
2/Lt Harrison (Formed O.P. and report centre)
Capt. Baines, M.C. Medical Officer.
The following officers were "dumped":-
Major Lynch White, DSO, 2nd in Command
Captain J. Sawyers.
The Regiment Sgt Major remained at SAPPERS HOUSE in NEUVILLE St. VAAST and formed an intermediate station between Battalion HQ and the Transport Lines.
Narrative by O.C. "A" Company
[9th] The Company reached the LILLE ROAD with one casualty. When the attack on THELUS TRENCH commenced, the Company followed "C" Company at 200 yards distance, No.1 platoon (2nd Lt MONYPENNY) being with the second wave of "C" Company. The Company halted in a sunken road between the LILLE ROAD and THELUS TRENCH. At 11.15am hearing that there was no opposition, the Company moved forward to GOULOT WOOD by the cross roads in B.1.C.30.85 and got in touch with the 29th Canadians on the right. The only casualties in this move were 4 men wounded. I then formed the Company up to clear GOULOT WOOD. This was done without opposition, and in the wood we found 9 guns (4 field guns, 4 howitzers, and one 90mm) and a large quantity of ammunition. I could see some 50 to 60 of the enemy withdrawing in considerable haste (No.1 platoon had rejoined the Company as we passed THELUS TRENCH). All 3 platoons now dug-in along the western edge of GOULOT WOOD. This is about 2.30 p.m. About 3 p.m. No.2 platoon (Sgt JOYCE) was sent forward to the eastern edge of wood, but was badly shelled by 5.9's and withdrawn (2 killed, 8 wounded). Some difficulty was experienced in getting in touch with "B" Company on the left, but this was satisfactorily established by 5 p.m.
At 6 p.m. enemy were clearly stopped by our artillery fire. During the night, "C" Company came up in support and one platoon was kept in "A" Company trenches.
[10th] As soon as this was done (about 1.30 a.m. on the 10th) No.1 and 3 platoons under 2/Lt CORKE were sent forward beyond the wood to dig trenches on the BROWN OBJECTIVE. This party was temporarily withdrawn owing to a fake alarm that the enemy was attacking, but immediately returned.
During the morning of the 10th, the Company was in position on the western edge of the wood, and subjected to a good deal of shelling and machine gun fire. "C" Company's platoon returned at day break.
At 11.5 a.m. enemy were again observed advancing along the road T.26.a.10.7 to 5.10, estimated at 600.
A message was telephoned back and artillery got onto them with good effects.
At 3.30 p.m., 1 officer and 98 men (under 2/Lt MONYPENNY) went forward to make a strong point where the hedge joins the road about B.1.b.60.05. This he successfully did, but was shelled a good deal. At 5 p.m. he was reinforced by 12 further men.
Except for considerable shelling, the night passed quietly up to about 12 midnight when the Company was relieved.
The following officers went into action with the Company:-
2/Lts PRESS, CORKE, MONYPENNY, and NURSE. C.S.M. COOK was also present.
The following officers were "dumped":-
Captain COBB, M.C., 2/Lts BRETT, M.C. and HARRIS.
Narrative by O.C. "B" Company
[9th] The Company reached the LILLE ROAD with 5 or 6 casualties, which mostly happened just before leaving Parallel VIII. "D" Company left the LILLE ROAD to attack at 9.29 a.m. and "B" Company followed at 200 yards distance and halted in sunken road in A.5.b. and A.6.a. The sunken road had been badly battered by shell fire.
At about 10 a.m. I went forward to "D" Company in THELUS TRENCH and, finding that everything was going well, I sent back a runner to order the Company to advance at 10.15 a.m. We moved round the Northern edge of COUNTS WOOD, and at this spot had to wait about 5 minutes for the barrage to lift. No.7 and 5 platoons (2/Lt GRAY and Sgt SWINYARD) then entered GOULOT WOOD getting there about 10.45 a.m. and passing through 2/KOSB. 2nd Lt. MOLONY was also with this party. They cleared the wood without opposition as far as the gun pits and a few prisoners were captured; many casualties were also inflicted on the retreating enemy. At 11.15 a.m. No.8 platoon (2/Lt DARLOW), which had accompanied the second wave of "D" Company in the first assault, were ordered to move up to GOULOT WOOD, a message having been received from No.5 platoon that they were not in touch on either flank. Touch was eventually gained, and it was found that the 2/KOSB had gone too far to their left. As soon as the line was adjusted and touched gained, No.7 platoon were withdrawn to a trench in rear of the wood.
As soon as the wood had been captured, a trench in the western edge of the wood was consolidated, and in the late afternoon posts were pushed out to the eastern edge of the wood. During this time the Company suffered but little from enemy shell fire. The position now was 2 platoons in GOULOT WOOD, and one just in rear. About 4.45 p.m. bodies of the enemy in extended order were seen advancing towards the direction of VIMY, and were fired on at long range by our Lewis guns. Limbers were also seen moving up to the enemy batteries, and these were successfully engaged by our artillery. At 6 p.m. some enemy were seen advancing, but they were caught by our artillery.
[10th] During the night of the 9th/10th, two Stokes guns took up positions in our rear and at daybreak registered. The night was quiet and there were no signs of enemy infantry in front of us.
The Company remained in the same positions on the 10th and nothing of importance occurred; practically no shelling, but sniping, which increased as time went on, from VIMY.
The Company was relieved about 9.30 p.m. on the 10th.
On the night of the 10th orders were received to dig in on the BROWN LINE; this work was commenced and handed over to the relieving Company.
During the attack Company H.Q. had been in THELUS TRENCH but were afterwards moved to an artillery dug-out in GOULOT WOOD. Just on the Western edge of GOULOT WOOD we found several concrete gun-pits which had not been used, and were not in all cases completed.
On the evening of the 10th, I went forward with 2/Lt DARLOW to the BROWN LINE to start the digging. On my return (I had 3 others with me) I suddenly discovered a fourth. I found it was a Sergeant of the 63rd German Battery, who had joined the party and was accompanying us.
The following officers went into action with the Company:-
2/Lt JENKINSON, MOLONY, DARLOW and GRAY. C.S.M. HAIZELDEN was also present.
The following officers were "dumped":-
Captain SCOTT, M.C., 2nd/Lts FRY and ROGERS.
Narrative by O.C. "C" Company
[9th] The Company reached the LILLE road with one casualty, a man slightly wounded. At 9.29 a.m., 9th inst., the Company moved forward and halted for 3 minutes at the RED OBJECTIVE and then moved forward again with "D" Company on the left, and the 29th Canadians on the right. We were able to keep close up to the barrage and only had a few casualties and were punctual to the time-table. One first objective (THELUS TRENCH) had been obliterated and was only shell-holes with the wire completely broken. I saw no Germans dead, or alive, but had seen some leaving the trench when I was at the LILLE ROAD. As soon as the trench was taken, No.9 platoon (2/Lt WARD) proceeded up the remains of the trench leading to TELEGRAPHER WEG (known in the Battalion as BELLMAN TRENCH). No opposition was met, and touch was finally obtained with "D" Company in an isolated trench to the left. No.9 platoon dug itself in just behind the crest, the remainder of the company remaining in THELUS TRENCH. The reported under-ground quarry near the Mill was explored on the morning of the 10th and proved to be a very capacious place. The part I saw was capable of holding two Battalions, and I could not explore the portion running towards THELUS. It had been knocked in except where strutted. There were notice boards, naming the various parts and giving directions, but there were no signs of very recent occupation. The Mill was completely demolished and could not be located.
The day of the 9th was spent in this position with practically no shelling.
[10th] About 1 a.m. on the early morning of the 10th, I receive orders from the Commanding Officer to reinforce "A" Company. I gave orders for the platoons to move and myself went forward to consult with the O.C. "A" Company. As the situation was then quiet, I left No.10 Platoon and 2 Lewis guns just in rear of GOULOT WOOD, and the remainder were placed in shell holes just in rear of the crest of the hill. About 5 a.m. the Company resumed its original position. The day of the 10th was quiet except for an occasional shell, but sniping became more active as the day went on.
The Company was relieved about 9 p.m.
The following officers went into action with the Company:-
Captain BELLMAN, 2/Lts WARD, WINN, and LANCASTER.
The following officers were "dumped":-
Lt. JOEL, 2/Lts FAUNTHORPE, and LOVELACE.
Sgt A. SMITH acted as C.S.M., via C.S.M. SEALE, who was "dumped".
[9th] The Company had one casualty before reaching the LILLE ROAD.
Here the company was organised into lines and waves, and formed up on the far side of the road. At 9.29 a.m. the Company advanced with the left hand man of the front line marching on the North corner of COUNTS WOOD (found to be only a few stumps). The first line closed well up to the barrage and when within assaulting distance of THELUS TRENCH, waves were closed up as the going was very heavy. There were 3 casualties from our own barrage. THELUS TRENCH was found to be practically obliterated except for 3 dug-outs, which were cleared, about 30 prisoners (including an officer) being taken. What remained of COUNTS WOOD was searched by a section and reported clear in less than a minute. This was all carried out punctually to the time-table. The remaining 3 sections of No.15 platoon were led forward by Lt HYDE to three isolated trenches which were their objectives (these trenches were familiarly known in the Battalion as the "blobs", as their exact nature could not be discovered from aeroplane photographs). These were unoccupied, and were evidently the commencement of some elaborate underground work. Meantime, as there was so little resistance, I ordered No.14 Platoon (2nd Lt. LEWIS-BARNED) to follow up as closely as possible. Lt HYDE, who had actually crossed the TELEGRAPHER WEG, returned and placed 2 Sections of No.14 Platoon in the open about 80 yards West of the second "Hob" to cover the advance of the remainder of No.14 platoon on the cross-roads B.1.c.30.85, and to overcome any resistance from enemy gunners left in the gun-pits in the vicinity. In spite of our barrage, the enemy had fixed 2 rounds at point blank range at Lt HYDE's party and were sniping, though not with great accuracy. The covering party opened fire with rifles and rifle grenades and drove the enemy out, 8 or 10 being seen to leave very hurriedly. At HYDE then collected his men and led them to the cross roads. Here he left 2/Lt LEWIS-BARNED in command and the latter selected a place to dig-in some 50 yards in rear, as the fringe of the wood at this point was being heavily shelled at the time. During this time I was in THELUS TRENCH with No.13 platoon, and with some difficulty had got into touch with the R.O.S.B. on the left. I sent a message to Lt HYDE to return to me with a report, as he himself had gone further than ordered. As he was returning, he was killed. A short time previous to this, 2nd Lt LEWIS –BARNED was wounded.
The rest of the 9th inst was spent in this position, viz:- Company HQ and No.13 platoon in THELUS TRENCH, No.15 and part of No.14 in the "blobs", 2 sections of no14 in the vicinity of the cross-road.
[10th] The Company, occupying more or less marked positions, was shelled fairly continuously. In the "blobs" there were no casualties, but the sections by the cross-roads suffered a good many. THELUS TRENCH was also shelled and at dawn on the 10th, I withdrew the section at the cross roads and the platoon in THELUS TRENCH and placed them all in a new trench near CRAMER HOUSE (Battalion HQ), keeping a small post in each "blob" and THELUS TRENCH.
Nothing further of importance occurred until the Company was relieved after 3.30 a.m. on the morning of the 11th; the relief was late owing to a mistake by the relieving company. During the 10th THELUS TRENCH and the "blobs" were continuously sniped from the direction of VIMY.
The following officers went into action:-
Captain WILBERFORCE, Lt HYDE, 2/Lt LEWIS-BARNED.
The following officer was "dumped":-
2nd/Lt CATHCART. Sergeant KIRTON acted as C.S.M., vice C.S.M. KING, who was dumped.
[Signed Wilberforce, Captain. Commanding "D" Company]