War Diary of the 18th Battalion: August 1917

Confidential
War Diary

of

18th CANADIAN BATTALION – 2nd CANADIAN DIVISION

FROM 1st August to 31st August 1917

Volume 24

With appendicis 6 – 13

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
Map reference, 36B Edition 6, 1/40,000.      
BOVIGNY 1st. R.19.central. 1   18th. Canadian Battalion at BOVIGNY village in billets, the Brigade being in Divisional Reserve.

 

Owing to heavy rain, the Battalion did no training to-day. 5 o.rs attached to Divisional Burial party.

BOVIGNY 1st. R.19.central. 2   No training carried out to-day owing to heavy rain.

 

2 o.rs returned from hospital.

BOVIGNY 1st. R.19.central. 3   Heavy rain again prevented any training. Lieuts. M.R. Sloan, R.R. Hartry, J.N. Mowbray, and G.J. Spencer arrived as reinforcements.
BOVIGNY 1st. R.19.central.

 

 

Map Sheet 36c: See O.O. #B attached.

4   Battalion Pay parades. The G.O.C. 2nd. Canadian Division paid the Battalion a visit in the morning. Battalion proceeded to the line in the afternoon. The 4th. Canadian Infantry Brigade relieved the 6th. Canadian Infantry Brigade in the LAURENT sector.

 

The 18th. Canadian Battalion relieved the 26th. Canadian Battalion in Brigade support (CITE ST PIERRE) M.16.b.55.25. No casualties going in and relief was completed at 11.05 p.m.

 

Lieut. J.D. Parsons and 2 o.rs admitted to hospital (sick).

As yesterday 5   Quiet day for the Battalion.

 

The Battalion furnished carrying parties of 350 men for carrying for Trench Mortar Batteries to their gun positions. Casualties numbering 1 o.r. killed[i] and 3 o.rs Wounded.

As yesterday 6   Battalion still furnishing Carrying parties for T.M. Bys.

 

Nothing unusual to report.

 

Major H.D. Dunnett returned from hospital.

As yesterday 7   Battalion again furnishing carrying parties for T.M. Bys.
LAURENT SECTOR relief

 

See O.O. (7) attached

8   18th Battalion relieved the 19th Canadian Battalion in the Right Sub-sector, the line was held by a series of outposts from M.18b.6.5, N13.a.8Q95. to N7b.15.20 and N.7.c.95.80. with H. Qrs at N.7.c.0.7.

 

“B” coy in command of Capt. D.A.G. Parsons took the line of Outposts. “A” coy, in command of Lieut. J. McAmmond went in support at M.11.d and M.12.c.

 

“C” and “D” coys remained in Brigade support. Relief was completed with anything unusual happening.

 

Capt. G.H.F. Hodgins returned from course. 4 o.rs rejoined from hospital.

MAP Sheet 36 C. See O.O. (8) attached 9   In conjunction with the 20th and 21st Canadian Battalions the 18th Battalion raided the Enemy front line trenches.

 

The whole raiding party was under the command of Lieut-Col. L.E. Jones, O.C. 18th Canadian Battalion. The frontage raided by the 18th Battalion was the German front line from N.13.b.1.4 to N.7.d.70.15.

 

Zero hour for the raid was 4.15 a.m. Artillery support was very good.

 

Although no prisoners were captured many casualties were inflicted upon the enemy, and very valuable information as regards to enemy trenches, wire and dug-outs was obtained.

 

Our parties penetrated a distance of 100 yds into the German lines, our casualties being 4 o.r. Killed and 24 o.r. slightly wounded. All wounded were returned safely to our lines.

 

The German barrage was very scattered. Our raiding party consisted of 35 men of “C” Coy under Lieut. H.[B]. Johnson and 65 men of “D” Coy under Lieut. D. Northcombe and Lieut. G.J. Spencer.

 

Lieut. Spencer and 7 o.rs., one of whom was wounded, were unable to get back to our lines owing to daylight, remained in a demolished cellar throughout the day. Lieut. Spencer and one man found their way in, in the early part of the night and assisted by Lieut. T.R. Dougall they searched the whole area during the night but were unable to re-located the cellar in which the remaining 5 o.rs were.

 

Upon the return of Lieut. Dougall and party a report came from the 4th Brigade H.Qrs that these missing men came in and hard reported to another Regimental Aid post.

Night of 9/10   The 4th Brigade was relieved in the LAURENT sector by the 6th Brigade. “A” & “B” coys were relieved by the 27th. Canadian Battalion, and “C” & “D” coys, in Brigade support, were relieved by the 31st. Canadian Battalion. Relief was completed at 3.30 a.m.

 

The Battalion moved to billets at BOVIGNY village and the 4th. Brigade came into Divisional reserve.

 

On roll-call at BOVIGNY village it was found that the 5 men who had been left in NO MAN’S LAND had not returned as reported by the Brigade, so a party under LIEUT. DOUGALL again went up to search for them.

 

The party found the cellar in which these men had been but the men were not there. On returning, the search party reported at the Right Coy H. Qrs of the 27th Canadian Battalion where the missing men were located, having found their own way in. Total casualties as above stated.

 

Nothing to report today.

BOVIGNY village 11   Battalion resting and having Bathing parades.

 

Lieut. J. McAmmond proceeded on Leave.

BOVIGNY village 12   Battalion resting and having Clothing parades.

 

Lieut. J.H. Warburton arrived as reinforcement.

BOVIGNY village 13   Church parade postponed yesterday was held to-day. Capt. C.G. Lawrence our new Chaplain, officiating.

 

Lieuts. W. Hampton[ii], H.C. Duff and G.N. Tucker arrived as reinforcements. Lieut. D.M. Northcombe and 6 o.rs admitted to hospital (sick)

Night of

 

Front Line

 

Relief MAP Sheet 36 C.

See O.O. 9 attached.

13/14   The 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade relieved part of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade and took over their frontage.

 

The 18th Battalion, less “A” and “B” coys, relieved part of the 27th Battalion and took a line of outposts from M.18.b.6.5 to N.7.d.15.20. Battalion H.Qrs were at N.7.c.0.[7]. Relief was complete at 2.30 a.m.

 

Code word upon completion being “Your 144 received at…”

Outposts Line 14   Enemy artillery showed no unusual activity during to-day. 20 o.rs arrived as reinforcements. 6 o.rs attached to 4th T.M. By.
Night of 14/15   “C” and “D” Coys moved into their assembly positions along the outpost line. “A” & “B” Coys came into support. “A” coy with one platoon at N.7.c.1.4. and two platoons at approximately M.12.b.3.0.

 

At 4.25 a.m. the 18th Battalion in conjunction with other Units of the 1st, and 2nd Canadian Divisions attacked the enemy lines from N.13.a.9.6. to N.7.70.15. the object being to capture and consolidate the enemy support line (CHICORY TRENCH) from N.14.a.05.55. to N.13.b.60.0. thence Westerly to N.13.b.05.35. The attack was entirely successful and 26 minutes after zero hour (4.25 a.m.) we occupied our objectives, capturing some 65 prisoners (165 P.I.R.).

 

Lieuts. C.H. Biscoe and L.A. Bissell being wounded just as we reached the enemy front lines.

 

On the right by arrangement with the 21st Canadian Battalion we held CHICORY TRENCH up to N.14.c.15.65. and on the left pushed our posts forward to N.13.b.0.15. and controlled the railway cutting. Consolidation was rapidly proceeded with. At. 2.30 p.m. the enemy made a very strong bombing attack on the left of our Battalion and the right of the 21st Battalion and succeeded in entering a portion of our newly won trenches. During this enemy counter attack Lieut. A.A. McLean was killed. He had gathered a few men together and was leading up the LENS-BETHUNE road to give what assistance he could and was shot by an enemy sniper and instantly killed.

  15   As soon as the attack had gone forward, Lieut. T.R. Dougall and some men of the Scout Section started forward to make a reconnaissance patrol and to exploit success, they were held up for an hour by an enemy plane firing on them from immediately overhead. When the patrol reached the captured enemy position, it went forward approximately 300 yds from our newly won position.

 

Lieut. DOUGALL returned with some valuable information as to the enemy position and defences, as well as a complete Minewerfer [minenwerfer] crew of 20 men as prisoners.

 

Three platoons of the support Coys were sent up to reinforce “D” Coy. Lieut. J.M. Fisher with great judgement and coolness, prepared his counter attack in conjunction with the 21st Battalion.

 

The counter attack was launched at 5 p.m. with the assistance of the artillery and the lost trenches were easily regained. 10 prisoners were captured.

 

A/Capt. M. Dunsford.

 

This officer very gallantly led his men to the attack, and, although severely wounded shortly after entering the enemy front line trenches, he continued to encourage his men by his personal example. By his intimate knowledge of the situation he was able, although incapacitated himself, to direct his men until the objective was reached, refusing to be carried out until the more serious cases had been evacuated.

 

Lieut. G.G. Brachin  [Brackin] arrived as reinforcement.

Night of 15th   Upon Captain Dunsford being wounded, Lieut. H.B. Johnson took over command of the company. At night there were not attacks or counter-attacks, but enemy artillery was exceptionally heavy on all parts of our sector.
  16   About noon Lieut. Dougall, L.Sgt. C.E. Routley and 19 o.rs crossed the railway cutting at N.13.b.2.2 and went forward along COTTON TRENCH to N.13.b.5.0 where there were fired upon from ALOOF TRENCH and they could see that ALOOF trench was heavily held by the enemy. Turing about they went Westward along COTTON trench to N.13.c.70.95 where they again encountered an enemy party from the South, turning about again they found that an enemy party from ALOOF trench had followed them and they were practically surrounded.

 

Lieut. Dougall then sent up his artillery signals and under cover of this fire succeeded in returning to our lines with only one casualty. There was no unusual activity during the remainder of the day.

Evening 16th   The 18th Battalion was ordered to attack the enemy trenches between the LENS-GRENAY Railway and LENS-ST PIERRE Railway in conjunction with the 4th Canadian Division, the Objective being ALOOF TRENCH and thence to connect this trench to CHICORY TRENCH on the left. Two platoons of “A” coy where detailed for this attack, with one platoon of “B” coy in support, as this part of the font had not been reconnoitered except by Lieut. Dougall, a reconnoitering patrol consisting of Lieuts. Dougall, MacDonald, and Sloan, and 4 N.C.Os, where sent out to gain knowledge of Jumping Off point. They covered all the ground necessary.

 

On their way back a bomb was thrown into the party which killed Lieut. MacDonald and wounded Lieut. Sloan[iii].

 

On Lieut. Dougall’s report regarding the conditions of the ground it was decided to vary the attack, to push across the Railway cutting from the trenches at N.12.b.0.15 and N.13.b.2.2 immediately [after] the artillery barrage lifted.

 

The later plan was sanctioned by the Brigade, Zero hour was set for 4.35 a.m.

  17   In the early hours of the morning the assaulting platoons were taken forward and it was while giving assistance to the Officers in the placing of their men, Lieut. DOUGALL was mortally wounded by an enemy 5.9 shell. However the attack went forward at the proper time, and occupied COTTON TRENCH from N.13.c.95.90 – N.13.central and N.13.b.4.1 but owing to heavy shell fire and the withdrawal of  troops on our right, a certain amount of disorganization followed.

 

At 5 a.m. Capt. J.S. Bell, Adjt, went forward and succeeded in re-organizing the parties and established posts at N.13.c.85.80 – N.13.c.95.90 – N.13.central and N.13.b.4.1. and AMULET TRENCH was found to be untenable.

 

He sent up further supplies of bombs and left Capt. D.A.G. PARSONS in charge. The position was completely secured by 7.30 a.m.. While this operation was in progress, Lieut. W.H. Fenton and a small party went out of our post at N.13.b.60.35 and entered the Railway cutting and searched the houses in the vincinity in the front of our lines. He found that the enemy were working very diligently and building ALOOF TRENCH to the left, to connect with CINNIBAR TRENCH. This was reported to the artillery, who took action.

 

During the day enemy artillery kept up its usual fire on our trenches. From 2 to 4 p.m. our forward posts reported the enemy assembling in houses on either side of the LENS-BETHUNE road from N.13.b.9.2 to Crossroads N.14.c.4.8 and in CHICORY trench.

 

This was reported to our Artillery who took very effective action. At 4.00 p.m. a small part of the enemy estimated at 15 men, attempted to raid our posts at N.13.b.65.40 but were driven off without casualties to us. The remainder of the day and evening was fairly quiet. Lieut. H.E.F. Ralph admitted to hospital, sick.

  18   At 12.00 midnight 17th-18th, a heavy enemy barrage opened on the whole Brigade front. Our Artillery replied immediately to an S.O.S. call from our left. No enemy attack was delivered on our front, although some grenades were thrown.

 

At 2.00 a.m. a similar occurrence happened. It is quite certain that the enemy intended to attack both of these times but his formations were broken up by our Artillery.

 

At 4.15 a.m. the enemy again opened a heavy barrage on the whole brigade front and succeeded in pushing forward some men into the front trenches on the left of the Brigade, these being immediately ejected.

 

No attack occurred on our immediate front. During the day, nothing of importance occurred beyond the usual desultory shelling.

Night 18th/19th   The 18th Battalion was relieved by the 50th Canadian Battalion taking over the frontage from the LENS-GRENAY Railway to the LENS-BETHUNE Road, and the 27th Canadian Battalion from LENS-BETHUNE Road to our left boundary.

 

The relief was completed at 3.45 a.m. and the Battalion proceeded to billets at BULLY-GRENAY, the Brigade being in Divisional Reserve.

 

23 o.rs arrived as reinforcements, 8 o.rs returned from hospital.

BULLY-GRENAY. 19   The Battalion resting today and having bathing parades.

 

LIEUT. T.R. DOUGALL Died of Wounds at No. 6 C.C.S. Barlin, and was buried at the Military Cemetery there. His courage and energy had been a source of pride in the Battalion and his work had been of the greatest value, not only to the Battalion, but also to Brigade and Division.

 

4 O.R’s admitted to hospital, sick.

  20   No work carried out as Battalion was resting after a strenuous tour. 28 O.Rs arrived as reinforcements and 10 O.Rs returned from hospital.
MOVE

See O.O. #11 attached

21 9.30 The Battalion left BULLY-GRENAY at9.30 a.m. and proceeded to BOUVIGNY HUTS going in Corps Reserve. On the road “D”coy sustained 52 casualties, 23 of which were fatal, by the bursting of an enemy shell (high velocity). This bringing our casualties to approximately 220 during the tour.

 

Lieut. W. Hampton and 4 O.Rs admitted to hospital.

      Map Reference Sheet 36b. Edition 6, 1/40,000

See O.O. #12 attached.

MOVE 22   The Battalion moved to LE PENDU HUTS at W.30.b.central, near VILLERS AU BOIS. Lieut. V.M. Eastwood proceeded on leave.
LE PENDU HUTS 23   Company and platoon inspections. Specialist training, as Lewis gunners, Bombers and Rifle-grenadiers. In the afternoon recreational gams as Football, Baseball etc.

 

Lieut. D.R. Oliver arrived as reinforcement.

LE PENDU HUTS 24 a.m.

 

 

p.m.

Company inspections of rifles and equipment. Close Order drill and specialist training.

 

Recreational games. 19 O.Rs rejoined the Battalion from C.E. fatigue.

LE PENDU HUTS 25 a.m.

 

 

p.m.

“A” coy proceeded to Rifle ranges at MAISNAL BOUCHES for musketry.

 

“B” & “C” coys went to the ranges.

 

5 O.Rs returned from hospital.

LE PENDU HUTS

 

Syllabus #13 attached

26 10 a.m.

 

p.m.

Brigade parade for Divine Service. “D” coy and H.Q. Units to ranges for Musketry.

 

Recreational games.

 

3 O.Rs admitted to hospital (sick).

LE PENDU HUTS 27   The Battalion together with the rest of the 4th Brigade was inspected by Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig K.T., G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.I.E., Commander and Chief of British Armies in France, who warmly complimented the Battalion both on its good work in the recent operation and its appearance on parade.

 

3 O.Rs admitted to hospital (sick).

LE PENDU HUTS 28 a.m.

 

p.m.

Company parades and instruction of Specialists.

 

Recreational games.

 

4 O.Rs returned from hospital.

LE PENDU HUTS 29 a.m.

 

 

p.m.

Specialized training of Bombers, Lewis gunners, and Rifle grenadiers.

 

Recreational games.

 

Lieut. J.H. Warburton attached to 4th Trench Mortar By.

LE PENDU HUTS 30 a.m.

 

 

3.30 p.m.

Company inspections and training of Specialists. Recreational games in the afternoon.

 

A conference of all Officers of the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade was held a Brigade H.Qrs to discuss recent operations.

 

7 O.Rs reported to hospital (sick).

LE PENDU HUTS 31 a.m.

 

 

1.30 p.m.

Company Parades and Training per syllabus attached.

 

Battalion moved from LE PENDU HUTS to VILLERS HUTS.

 

A/Capt. T.H.O. Rayward and Lieut’s R.C. Sheridan, J. Morgan, J.C. Spence arrived as reinforcements.

 

96 O.Rs arrived as reinforcements.

 

[i] Private A.E. Rennie, reg. no. 643994.

[ii] Lieutenant William Hampton was an original member of the 18th Battalion, attesting at Galt [now Cambridge], Ontario on October 25, 1914 with a regimental number of 53923. He was promoted through the ranks to Corporal and then assigned to officers training at Bexhill.

[iii] The death of Lieutenant MacDonald and the wounding of Lieutenant Sloan was due to friendly action. A soldier of “C” Company threw a grenade which resulted in this. This appears to be the first document case of friendly fire in the War Diary’s documentation. Source: “Summary Report of Hill 70 Action August 14 to 18, 1917”. 18th Battalion Canadian War Diary. August 1917.

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