War Diary Summary: May 1917

Having come off the success of the Vimy attack in early April the Battalion moved into Divisional Reserve April 16 and was then moved to a rest camp on April 26. At this camp the were rested and refitted, and though the War Diary makes no note of it, the Battalion must have been making up for some of its combat losses with replacements. At the time of the Vimy attack the Battalion was down to approximately 600 effectives and with 64 men killed in action or wounded in action with the requisite number wounded (typically a 1:3 ratio) the effective fighting force of the Battalion may be a low as 400 men.

On the night of April 5/6 the Battalion relived the 24th Battalion in the WILLERAVAL sector and suffered through “very heavy shell-fire” during the 6th and 7th.

The 1st Canadian Division had successfully taken Fresnoy-en-Gohelle with an attack on April 28, 1917 and then a follow engagement on May 3, 1917. A German counter-attack on that sector was of some concern to the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade as the 19th Battalion was at some risk during this attack. Corporal Randall[i] was instrumental in maintaining communications between 19th Battalion and Brigade Headquarters. He was to earn a Military Medal for his work on May 7 and 8, 1917 as a runner.

May 6, 7, 8 and 9, 1917 were four days of heavy casualties, these four days accounting for twenty-two men killed or wounded in action, accounting for 52% of the total casualties in May 1917.

The War Diary also noted that the use of tear-gas and gas-shells by the Germans as a means to interdict the supplying of food and other supplies was very effective but through the efforts of Captain G.W.F. Hodgins, the men of the 18th never were for want of food.

A respite from front-line duty April 13 to 19 allowed for rest and refit and the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade was inspected by General Sir Julian Byng and he commented very positively on the smartness and cleanliness of the men given the challenges they had experiences in the last month.

The Battalion War Diary indicates all is effectively quiet until the early morning of May 28, 1917, when a German raid engaged the 18th Battalion and was repulsed.[ii]

After that day, the Battalion was relieved on May 29, 1917 and moved to Brigade Support and allocated into working parties, helping the Canadian Engineers working on Canada Trench.

May 1917 was with cost. Forty-two soldiers of the 18th Battalion lives were lost during that month.

[i] Yet to be determined to whom this refers.

[ii] For a more detailed analysis of this raid see this post.

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