18th Battalion War Diary Entry for April 9, 1917

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At Zero hour, vis 5.30 a.m., the advance was made. Simultaneously with the opening up of the Artillery Barrage the Battalion left the “Jumping-off” trenches and attacked the German front lines. Very little opposition was met with whilst capturing the first line system of trenches. The enemy barraged “No-man’s-land” for about 15 minutes, after which his Artillery fire became very indiscriminate. The support line was captured without any difficulty and the Battalion Objective (black), a line of trench from A.11.1.70.31/2. To A.11.45.75., finally reached. At 6.05 a.m. a message was received at Bn. H.Q. saying that the Black Objective had been captured and was in the act of being consolidated.

The casualties up to this point had been very slight, considering the magnitude of the operations. Major C.C. Gwyn, on of the most popular and efficient of Officers was killed by a M.G. bullet, about 100 yards from the objective and Lieut. W.J. McLean was also killed while leading his men across “No-man’s-land”. After the death of Major Gwyn, Lieut. P. Jerdan[i] assumed Command of “B” Company, and did splendid work in consolidation and reorganization, as also did Lieut. D.A.G. Parsons[ii] who Commanded “A” Company.

An act of conspicuous gallantry[iii] performed by Sergt. E.E. Sifton of “C” Company. A M.G. was holding up his Company and doing considerable damage. Sergt. Sifton, single-handed, attacked the Gun crew and bayoneted every man, but was unhappily shot by a dying Boche.

At 10.50 a.m. a message was received from Major W.J. Gander, now senior Officer of the line reporting that the consolidation of the objective and reorganization of the Battalion was complete. Telephone communication from the Report Center, which was established in the PELSENKELLER WEG, to Bn. H.Q. and Brigade, was successfully maintained throughout. A tunnel with a 4’ gallery was dug beforehand, with an exit in the PHILIP CRATER, within 20 yards of the German front line, and telephone lines laid to this point before Zero [hour].

Lieut’s W.H. Lewis and V.M. Eastwood secured much valuable information, and established an advanced Bn. H.Q.’s at A.10.b.85.35.

Major K.H. McCrimmon finally established Bn. H.Q.;s at A.11.d.1.8. and performed most efficient work in handling all information and superintending the process of reorganization.

Several large straw-stacks were discovered just ahead of the Black Objective and were found to have been the means of hiding concrete M.G. emplacements. The night of 9/10th being spent in the Black Objective and funk-holes being the only shelter, the straw was a great help to the men in making their shelters comfortable. The approximate casualties for the whole operation were:- 2 Offices killed (already mentioned). Lieuts. W.G. Worth, S.C. Kirkland, C.E. Tuck, W.K. Rooney (Wounded). 40 O.R.’s killed and 120 wounded.[iv]

[i] Lt. Jerdan was to earn the Military Cross for this action: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He assumed command of the company, and led them with great coolness and initiative. He single-handed bombed a rifle grenade battery which was holding up one of the platoons, and forced them to surrender. Source: Supplement to the Edinburgh Gazette, July 1917, page 1429.

[ii] Lt. D.A.G. Parsons was to earn the Military Cross for this action: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led it company with great courage and success. His splendid example in the face of stubborn resistance largely assisted in the capture of the objective. The London Gazette Publication date:17 July 1917 Supplement: 30188 Page: 7258.

[iii] Lance-Sergeant Sifton was to earn the Victory Cross for this action.

[iv] Thus 42 men of the battalion are estimated to be K.I.A. that day with 124 wounded. The casualty rate was 28% for April 9, 1917.

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