The 15th Sherwood Foresters
This section of the Long, Long Trail will be helpful for anyone wishing to find out about the day to day activities of the army.
This extract covers the entire period 1 January 1917 - April 1919.
Spent whole month in billets at Dainville . Activities at this time included rest, training, inspections, assimilation of new drafts, and providing working parties. [Notes: The Battalion is at this time under the command of Lt-Col W. Crellin, who has been with the Battalion throughout and has been promoted to the rank at the age of 24].
During this month, the Battalion moved as part of the relocation of the Division to an area south of the River Somme. Geographically, this is the Plain of Santerre. It is flat arable land and largely featureless, save for being dotted with villages. The move initially took the Battalion south-west, to some villages lying north and west of Amiens, before the move into the Somme area on 18th February. This is not the area in which the BEF fought the 1916 Battle of the Somme, which is to the north of the river, but had been in occupation by the French Army. The move of the Division followed an agreement for the British to extend its line.
1: Remained at Dainville, until 5th
6: Moved to Villers l’Hopital
7: Moved to Candas
8: Moved to St Vaast en Chaussee
9: Remained at St Vaast, carrying out a Company reorganisation, and Platoon training, until 17th
18: March to Flesselles, then by train to Marcelcave, then march to Wiencourt
19: In billets in Wiencourt
20: March to Caix, then into huts at Camp des Ballons
21: Moved to take over front line from French battalion in Chilly sector. Entered Deux Cimetieres Communication Trench at 4.30pm, only to find it impassable because of mud. Did not complete relief until 11.30am the next day.
22: With no revetments and no duckboards, the trenches were a morass. Movement had to be by going over the top. Much work to do.
24: Two front line Companies moved back into reserve at Tranchee du Paris
25: Clearing trenches, until 28th.
During February and March 1917, the German Army made a strategic withdrawal of several miles on the Somme front, to a newly prepared and immensely strong set of positions known to the British as the Hindenburg Line. After cautious initial probing, the BEF followed up, crossing ground deliberately devastated by the enemy. The 35th Division began to advance in mid-March, and after approaching the new line, dug in to create an entirely new position. Behind the lines, the BEF worked feverishly to restore captured railway lines and roads, to supply the new positions. Much hard labour was involved.
1: Relieved the 14th Glos in the Chilly sector
2: In the trenches, until 3rd
4: Relieved by 17th Lancs Fusiliers, and moved to billets in Vrely
5: Moved to Camp des Ballons, remaining until 12th
13: Marched to Rosieres; remained until 17th, providing many working parties
17: Relieved the 14th Glos in the Chilly sector
18: Ordered to advance to occupy the German front and support lines. 2pm ordered to continue to advance to Vieux Boche and Hyencourt le Petit
19: Withdrawn to Vermandovillers for salvage work
21: Marched to Rosieres for work on Rosieres-Chaulnes railway line; remained on this activity until 31st, moving to Morlemont on 28th for work on Nesle-Ham line.
During this month, the Battalion moved into unfamiliar positions in the Saint-Quentin area.
1: Continuing to work on Ham-Nesle railway line, until 11th
12: March to Tertry
13: In reserve, providing working parties for road repair, until 15th
16: Brigade relief of 104 Brigade. Bn relieved 17 Lancs Fusiliers, in a wood at Mon de Garde; digging defensive line at the southern end of Fresnoy le Petit , until 20th
21: Moved into outpost line, north of Gricourt. Bn HQ placed in quarry at M27c1.5; remained until 25th; no incidents
26: Relieved; placed to work on a defensive line, until 30th
30: 11pm Relieved by 19 Durham LI, moved into billets at Tertry
1: Remained in billets, until 7th
8: Relieved 19 DLI in outpost line
9: An attack was carried out at 4.30pm by four Platoons, to drive the enemy out of positions at Les Trois Sauvage . Reported successful.
10: Strengthening new posts in positions captured yesterday; remained until 12th
12: Relieved by 14 Glos, and moved into support. Provided working parties, until 15th
15: Carried out a raid on Les Trois Sauvage to destroy strong points and take prisoners. Made good progress initially but held up on thick wire east of the Farm itself. 40 casualties.
17: Relieved 14 Glos in outpost line
19: Relieved by 1st Bn, 72nd regiment of 87th French Territorial Division. Heavy shelling during relief but no casualties. Moved to Tertry.
19: Rest and refit, until 23rd
23: March to Peronne, remaining in billets until 25th
25: March to Templeux-la-Fosse, remaining on Company and Battalion training until 2nd June. On 28th, 400 men were guests of 1st Bn Sherwood Foresters, who were encamped at Aizecourt le Haut.
2: Relieved the 17th West Yorks in support trenches at Villers-Guislain; remained in position until 10th, providing working parties.
10: relieved the 14th Glos in front line trenches. Continued to work on trenches. No incidents except as shown below, until 18th.
14: A wounded prisoner captured and identified.
18: Relieved by the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers, and marched to camp north-west of Heudecourt. Remained here, engaged in training, sports activities, concerts etc, until 26th.
26: Moved to relieve the 19th DLI in Brigade Reserve in trenches in Gauche Wood sector. Provided working parties until 30th.
30: Moved by Decauville (light, narrow-gauge) railway from Heudecourt, to camp at Villers-Faucon. Remained here until 6th July.
6: Two Companies relieved same of the (dismounted) 16th Lancers in Sunken Road and Heythorp Post.
7: Remainder of Battalion moved to Cruciform Post, Catelet Post, Bird Cage, Quarries, Bird Post and Grafton Post. (These names reflect the changing tactics of defence on the Western Front. The continuous, thickly-manned, trench line was being abandoned in favour of a more elastic defence based on strong points arranged to give covering fire to each other, arranged in depth).
8: Provided covering parties for Brigade working parties. Did same for several days, until 13th.
13: Enemy attempted to raid the Bird Cage. There was very heavy artillery fire on the Sunken Road and the Quarries. 23 casualties among Other Ranks. 1 enemy dead found on our wire.
14: Day spent repairing damage.
15: Relieved by the 20th Lancashire Fusiliers, and moved via Villers-Faucon to Aizecourt la Bas. Remained in billets here resting, training and in sports activities until 23rd.
23: Relieved the 18th Highland LI in C2 subsector (near Lempire). Remained here until 1st August without incident.
Much of the time spent at camp in the early part of this month was spent in training and preparation for an attack planned to knock out a dangerous position in the German lines, called The Knoll.
1: Relieved by the 17th Royal Scots in the Lempire sector, and moved to camp at Aizecourt. Remained there until 17th.
17: Moved via Longasvesnes and Villers-Faucon to near St Emilie. Camped at 62cE23a and b.
18: Moved to assembly position for an attack on the Knoll, moving via Ronssoy-Lempire-Tombois Farm road, to Fleeceall Post and Fag Lane trenches to the Old Barrier on the Sunken Road. [It is fascinating to note that the trench map 62cNE2-4A-Epehy, which covers this area in detail, shows all of these posts. German trenches facing the Battalion were given the names Crellin Avenue and Cochran Avenue, the CO and 2-I-C of the Battalion at this time. A small redoubt on the Knoll position was given the name Smissen Post, after the attached Chaplain].
19: A successful attack. Began at 4am and took trenches, consolidated the positions gained and built a bombing block. Casualties 25 killed, 53 wounded, 2 died of wounds and 5 missing.
20: Relieved by the 14th Glos, moved to St Emilie. Remained for three days.
24: Relieved the 15th Cheshires at the Knoll. Very heavy enemy shelling, when they attacked at Gillemont Farm. Casualties 19 killed, 44 wounded. Relieved during the night and moved back to St Emilie, where remained until 27th.
27: Moved to Aizecourt, stayed until 1st September. On 31st August, inspected by GOC Corps.
1: Relieved the 17th Royal Scots in the Lempire sector, remaining in front line trenches until 6th.
6: Relieved by the 15th Cheshires, moved into shelters and billets in Lempire and Sand Bag Alley (trench). Stayed here providing working parties, until 11th.
11: Relieved by the 20th Lancashire Fusiliers, moved to billets in Villers-Faucon. Remained for a week, undergoing training, rest and refit and sports activities.
18: Relieved the 17th West Yorks in Heythorp and Cruciform Posts, and Priel Bank. Reported as a quiet time in these front-line posts.
26: Relieved by the 16th Cheshires, moved into support posts.
30: Relieved by “D” Battalion, 166th Brigade, and moved to Aizecourt. (This reference to D Battalion is unclear; it was not a normal designation).
During this month, the 35th Division left the Somme area for the first time since they arrived in France. The BEF had launched a very large offensive in Flanders on 31st July 1917; a strategic initiative to break through the German lines in front of Ypres, and to achieve re-capture of the Belgian ports and coast. This offensive soon ran into difficulties. The worst summer weather in Flanders for decades turned much of the Ypres area to deep mud, and the infantry ran into an unsuspected deep array of enemy concrete pillboxes holding machine gun posts. This unfortunate offensive, which was never to break through the enemy, has long been known as the Battle of Passchendaele, after a village at the extreme extent of the British advance, which was captured in November. In October, it was the turn of 35th Division to move into this appalling affair.
1: Moved by motor transport to Peronne. Stayed until 3rd.
3: Entrained at midnight for XVII Corps area, and detrained at Arras at 4.30am on the 4th, moving into billets at Warlus. Reorganised and rested here for several days.
13: Entrained at Arras station at 12.54pm, detraining at Cassel at 8.30pm and into billets at Arneke.
15: Entrained at Arneke at noon, detraining at Proven at 2.30pm and moved into D4 Camp.
16: Entrained at proven at noon, detrained at Elverdinge. Relieved the 1st Scots Guards in Rugby Camp. Battalion transport near Woesten. Whilst a Rugby Camp, provided working parties for preparing new forward gun positions. Officers carried out reconnaissance of positions south of Houthulst Forest.
20: 5pm moved to Gouvy Farm near Boesinge.
21: Moved to assembly positions as support to 105 Brigade, who are to be part of a general attack on 22nd.
22: Operations south of Houthulst. Casualties Officers 1 killed, 1 wounded and 1 missing; Other Ranks 15 killed, 160 missing and 20 missing.
24: Relieved by the 19th DLI, moved to Larry Camp near Elverdinge. Remained for rest and refit until 29th.
29: Relieved the 5th Border in the Right sector of the Divisional Front.
30: 4am. Very heavy artillery fire on ground immediately behind our front line. 6am Our snipers hit several enemy seen running about in the wood east of Marechal House. Our casualties today 1 officer and 4 OR killed, 1 officer and 14 OR wounded.
31: Quiet with occasional bursts of shellfire on Battalion HQ. From 4.30pm, the enemy sent over constant streams of gas shells on our back areas.
1: Relieved by Highland LI, and suffered casualties from shellfire on tracks as we withdrew. Moved by train to Dykes Camp. Remained until 5th.
5: Moved to proven, and into Paddington Camp. Remained for several days. Visited by the Army Commander (Lt-General Plumer, GOC 2nd Army).
15: Moved to Brake Camp, in Divisional Reserve. Remained for several days. Major-General commanding Division presented medal ribbons on the 23rd.
24: Relieved the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers in Brigade Support. HQ and two Companies in Kempton Park, others in Varna House and Canal Bank. During this tour of operations, casualties were 12 OR wounded.
28: Moved at night by train to Siege Camp. Remained for several days.
9: Moved to Le Nouveau Monde.
11: Moved to School Camp, Poperinge. Remained here until 9th January 1918.
30: W Company moved to Pigeon Camp owing to an outbreak of diptheria.
31: Battalion to delousing.
The locations referred to this month are generally German concrete pillboxes and shelters, captured during the advance in October-November.
9: Moved by road to Proven, then rail to Elverdinge and into Whitemill Camp.
16: Relieved the 17th Lancashire Fusiliers in the Left Support position of the Brigade front, with Battalion HQ at Pig and Whistle. Spent days until 20th improving the position and wiring. Casualties Major McClelland killed, 2/Lt G. Hopkinson killed. Capt K. Morell took command of the Battalion.
20: Relieved 14th Glos in Left Front. Battalion HQ in Souvenir House. Spent the next days improving the position, and putting new wire in front of Requenten Farm. On 24th, an incendiary shell entered Ferdan House pill box, killing 2/Lts S Price MC and A Hogan, and 2 OR. Relieved by 17th Lancashire Fusiliers and moved back to Irish Farm.
24: At rest. Remained until 1st February. Carried out refit, absorbed new draft, baths, foot treatment, etc.
Unfortunately the War Diary for this month was not filed, or has been lost. The Division remained in the northern part of the Ypres Salient.
On March 21st, the enemy launched the largest offensive of the wear, on the Somme front. Known as the Kaiserschlacht, it was designed to destroy the over-stretched British Fifth Army, split the British and French Armies apart and then “roll up” the BEF from the south. The overwhelming attack caused initial chaos and loss, breaking deep into the area south of the Somme held by Fifth Army (including the ground occupied by the 35th Division in early 1917). Many Divisions were hurried to the area, to make a fighting stand.
1: relieved and moved to Huddlestone Camp, Langemarck. Stayed until 9th, providing working parties.
9: Moved to Chauny Farm Camp, in GHQ Reserve. Spent two weeks training and refitting.
23: Moved at 9am by train from Roesbrugge, arriving at Mericourt (on the Somme) at 9.30pm. then marched immediately to Maricourt, arriving 6am on 24th.
24: Noon. Ordered to counterattack. Moved forward and held the advancing enemy, with 15th Cheshires on the right. There was no touch with any troops on the left. The enemy went round this way, outflanking the two front Companies, who had very few survivors. At 6pm, ordered to withdraw to fresh positions on the Curlu-Maurepas road.
25: Troops on either flank retired under heavy shellfire. Battalion forced to comply and moved to a defensive line in front of Maricourt. At 8.30pm, with the enemy again outflanking our left, relieved by 18th Lancashire Fusiliers. Moved by parties to a position east of the Bray-Albert road.
26: A similar day. Moved to position west of the River Ancre in front of Buire.
27: No incidents today. Relieved at 4pm, moved to support position in quarry behind Buire.
28: Quiet. Relieved 19th Durham LI. No incidents for next days.
31: Relieved by Australians, and moved to billets at La Houssoye. Total Battalion loss since 24th is now 12 officers and 458 Other Ranks. Remained in place, providing working parties, until 4th.
4: Moved to billets at La Neuville.
6: Moved to Herissart.
7: Moved to Hedauville.
8: 9.15pm relieved two Companies of the London Regiment in support in Right sector of Divisional front at Bouzincourt. Received large draft of 350 men.
11: Relieved the 15th Cheshires in front line. Worked on improving positions. Remained here until 15th.
15: To Hedauville. Bath. Village shelled and troops moved out temporarily, without loss.
17: Relieved the 17th Lancs Fusiliers in front line. Patrols find enemy in strength. Remained until 21st. Casualties 1 officer and 8 OR.
22: Attacked with 15th Cheshire, 19th DLI and 38th (Welsh) Division on the right. Objective the Ride from W4b4.7 to the Junction at W4c85.40. Attack began well but was held on wire. Casualties 5 officers and 112 OR.
23: Relieved and moved to Hedauville. Remained, providing working parties, until 26th.
26: Moved to Bouzincourt. Same.
1: Moved to billets in Herrissart.
11: Moved to forward area, supplied working parties.
15: Relieved by 4th North Staffords and moved back to Herrissart.
20: Moved to forward area, supplied working parties.
1: Relieved 4th North Staffords in front line.
5: Relieved by 4th North Staffords, moved to camp at Forceville.
9: Relieved 4th North Staffords in front line.
12: Relieved by 4th North Staffords, moved to camp at Forceville.
16: Relieved by 7th Norfolks, moved to billets in Puchevillers. Stayed fro training, refit, had Field Days etc.
30: Preparing to move by train from Candas.
In this month the Division was moved back to Flanders.
1: Moved by train, to Wizernes.
2: Marched to Arques.
4: Marched to Beauvoorde Wood.
5: Relieved French troops in reserve position at Kemmel.
9: Relieved 4th North Staffords in support. 4 casualties on working parties.
13: Relieved 4th North Staffords in front line. 36 casualties on working parties.
17: Relieved by 17th Cheshires, moved into reserve billets.
21: Relieved 4th North Staffords in support.
25: Relieved 4th North Staffords in front line.
29: Relieved by Cheshires, moved into reserve position west of Boeschepe.
1: At rest, at St Sylvestre-Cappel.
2: Marched to Whinfield Camp, on the Poperinge-Watou road.
4: Relieved part of the 120th US Regiment in the left subsector of Canal sector SE of Ypres. Marched from Whinfield Camp to Blue Grass Siding on the Poperinge-Proven road, then moved by metre-gauge railway to Yale Siding.
8: Relieved and moved to Lawrence Camp.
12: Relieved the 17th Royal Scots in the Canal sector. Carried out intense patrolling.
15: Brigade carried out a minor operation with 104 Bde on the left. Complete success. Outpost line advanced 1000 yards. Included the capture and consolidation of Spoil Bank and Road Junction by this Battalion. Took 7 prisoners. Remained in front line until 19th.
19: Relieved by 6th Wiltshire, and returned to Blue Grass Siding. Remained until 22nd.
22: Moved by motor transport and march, to front occupied by 18th Highland LI. Left School Camp at 7pm and moved by lorry to White Mill near Vlamertinge, and from there marched to the line.
23: Relieved by 15th Cheshires and returned to School Camp. Stayed until 26th.
26: Moved to relief of 15th Cheshires.
27: Completed assembly for operations on a large scale, about midnight.
28: Attack commenced at 5.30am, supported by good artillery barrage. Everything went according to arrangement, the enemy showing little or no resistance and surrendering freely. All objectives reached by 8.30am. Shortly after assault began, rain started to fall and continued heavily until dusk. During the afternoon the 41st Division continued the attack, through our positions. The night 28/29th was quiet.
29: At 4.30am, orders were received to continue the attack. The battalion assembled at 5.30am in Battle Wood and moved off at 8.30am. The battalion was now in Brigade Reserve. The Battalion moved forward to position in rear of the attack and remained during the afternoon. At 2.45pm, orders were received to attack the village of Zandvoorde in conjunction with 4th North Staffords, the 15th Cheshire having failed to advance during the morning. W and Y Companies moved forward at 2.55pm to the attack and encountered heavy machine-gun fire at long range. The village was taken and the attack progressed. Positions were finally taken up on the northern side of Tenbrielen. Weather good until evening when rain commenced and continued throughout the night.
30: 106th Infantry Brigade continued the attack at dawn, occupying our frontage. At 6.30am Z and X Companies moved forward and the battalion assembled at Devoorstraat Cabaret and from there moved forward to the reserve position on the northern outskirts of Tenbrielen.
1: Relieved from position on northern outskirts of Tenbrielen, to camp at 28J30c5.5.
6: Moved into front line, relieving 34th Division.
7: In front line. Lt-Col W.A.W. Crellin DSO wounded. Relieved by 18th Highland LI, and moved to billets at Dolls House.
8: Lt-Col Crellin died of wounds at No 10 Casualty Clearing Station (Lijssenthoek, near Poperinge).
11: Moved to forward area at Halden House.
14: Large scale operations continue. Battalion assembled on the Viet wegen road at 0300, behind the Cheshires. Advanced with little opposition, in dense mist. Resistance stronger near Cabin Copse.
15: 4th N Staffords continued the advance, through our positions.
16: Withdrawn to billets at Tamil farm.
18: To forward area, to support 104 Brigade attacking Marcke.
19: A patrol sent into Courtrai, finds it evacuated by enemy.
21: To billets in Courtrai.
26: To billets in reserve, in Esscher and at Lock No 6, east of Sweveghem.
Gradually pushing forward into villages across the River Scheldt.
10: At 1900, news was received that Germany had signed an Armistice and hostilities would cease at 100 the following day.
12: To billets at Marie-Louise.
12: To billets at Nukerke.
30: After a march of several days, into billets at Steenvoorde.
Unfortunately the War Diary for this month was not filed, or has been lost.
1: Between 1st and 27th, 8 officers and 229 OR were demobilised.
28: Ordered to proceed to Calais, to quell a riot (of troops eager to return home). 16 officers and 300 OR were moved by motor transport, arrived at Beaumarais Camp at 2100.
29: Relieved 4th North Staffords on picket duty over the canal, facing No 6 Leave Camp East. Held bridgeheads to prevent rioters leaving camp.
30: Disturbance quelled at 1100. Remained on picket duty until 1900.
28: Strength now down to 24 officers and 208 men.
March 1: another 10 officers and 40 men demobilised.
March 14: Paraded to have Regimental Colours presented. Lt R. Meates received them from the Divisional CO, Major-Gene. Marindin.
March 25: Moved by rail to St-Omer, and marched to Monnecove.
April 22nd: Final party leaves Dunkirk for Southampton, at 0500.
This is an extract from the battalion war diary which is held at the National Archives in piece WO95/2488.