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Webmatters : War Diary: 9th (S) Bn Royal Irish Rifles -- 1st July 1916
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War Diary

9th (S) Bn Royal Irish Rifles


Narrative

12 noon

Information not having come through from the front, two Intelligence Scouts were sent out to report on the situation but these men never returned.

12.30 pm

Right Company and men from several Battalions retired to line C6 – C7 – C8 – B14, this line was consolidated so as to form a defensive flank.

The line B16 – B14 – B13 – and 100 yards South of CRUCIFIX was at this time being consolidated by mixed troops under Major Gaffikin, Major Peacock, 9th Inniskilling Fusiliers, was also in the vicinity. Left Company had not dug in between ‘C’ and ‘D’ line but at this time had taken up a position between C9 and B16 (inclusive). This position proved to be a very bad one as the field of fire towards ‘D’ line was interrupted by large mounds of excavated earth thrown up from the trench and on the East side of it; it was also badly enfiladed from D10 – D11 by machine gun fire.

12.50 pm

Major Gaffikin sent for Captain Montgomery and they jointly surveyed the line in process of consolidation; they also inspected the line B14 – B15 – B17 – B18 – and 200 yards north towards C11.

The line C11 – C12 was found to be in the process of consolidation by our troops.

It became apparent that THIEPVAL, not having been taken, was the crux of the situation; a report to this effect was received at Battalion Hd. Qrs. By a runner.

1.30 pm

Runner arrived from Major Gaffikin asking for grenades and SAA [Small Arms Ammunition];
these were sent up to B17.

1.45 pm

A runner was despatched to Battalion Hd. Qrs. By Major Gaffikin stating that his Right flank was in the air and that his left flank almost so, but this runner was wounded and delivered the message late at night.

2 pm

The two remaining Company Commanders (Major Gaffikin and Captain Montgomery came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to give orders to hang on to what they had got and to send back for a large supply of grenades and SAA.

The chief difficulty and this period and onwards was that runners could not get through, telephonic communication was cut and visual communication was impossible.

2.45 pm

The first signs of the enemy advancing in small bodies at wide intervals observed. Two men were seen to jump into a trench and immediately afterwards wave a white rectangular board, white on the enemy side and of a neutral tint facing us which they then planted on the parados.

This suspicious movement was reported by three different runners to Battalion Hd. Qrs. But none of the messages got through.

3.15 pm

A patrol under 2/Lieut. Campbell previously detailed by Captain Montgomery to reconnoitre down to the trench at B12 returned, and reported having got almost to B12 from which place the Germans were seen firing on the firestep towards THIEPVAL WOOD; rapid fire was opened on these men and this had the effect of causing some confusion and consternation as the burst of fire was one of surprise.

3.45 pm

Some sand bags were observed being thrown up by the enemy at B16; very heavy bombing had been heard from this direction just previous to this; it was evident that they were endeavouring to make a barricade. Fire was immediately opened on this point by our sentries at barricade at B14. This was the beginning of the German bombing counter-attack, well planned and standing out as an example of what can be done in the attack by mutual support. At a point 70 yards east of B14 we had established a blocking post in the line B14 – C8; this point was forced mainly due to the Germans out throwing our men with hand grenades.

It is important to remember that a block of 50 yards at least is required to stop enemy bombing parties armed with hand grenades and it appears that our bombers were out ranged, possibly owing to many of the men throwing their grenades instead of bowling them, they thus got easily tired.

At this juncture a catapult did good work and demonstrated the usefulness of this weapon; without which no Company should be without as a portion of its equipment and I am sure if the men were taught to look after the catapult in the same way as they look after their Lewis gun great good would come out of it.

4 pm

During this period and onwards the Lewis guns and gun teams came into their own and proved that they are a most useful weapon in attack as well as defence, especially in trench fighting of this description.

Whatever the men dropped they hung on to their magazines. Magazines were refilled in both ‘A’ and ‘B’ lines under arrangements which had been made by Captain Montgomery.

4.15 pm

To return to the actual trench fighting, the enemy was prevented from adding to his barricade at B16 for some time owing to the action of the Lewis gun team but subsequently this Lewis gun was knocked out, and the barricade was rebuilt very cleverly a little further away by throwing the bags round a corner. Immediately this was seen 2/Lieut. Smeeth was sent with 4 men over out barricade at B14 with orders to go up the trench and bomb the enemy away from their sand bags and hold the corner; a small party being told off to support him.

This party went forward most gallantly and got about half way down the trench when they themselves were bombed most unexpectedly either from a dug-out or recess, or some such place. 2/Lieut. Smeeth and one man were wounded but brought in and the whole re-crossed our barricade.

4.30 pm

The enemy now started a long burst of machine gun fire from B16 down the trench to B14 and drilled a hole through our sand bags killing a Lewis gunner and destroying the loophole. This long burst of fire appears to have been the signal for a determined attack from North, South and East, the whole converging on B14.

It was at this point that the news came to hand that about 15 minutes previous Lieut. Saunderson 107th Brigade Machine Gun Company and his party had been wiped out, fighting hard to the end at C7. He had previously, with a very few men, reconnoitred down MOUQUET SWITCH to a point between C4 and C2, which he reported clear as far as he got.

At this point 2/Lieut. Harding Battalion Intelligence Officer, had proceeded alone to the front line to make a personal reconnaissance as news was not coming in either often or quick enough and it was impossible at this time to tell in any way accurately at Battalion Hd. Qrs. What was going on.

2/Lieut. Harding returned about 4.15 pm and said that German bombing attacks were going on, that he had seen Major Gaffikin and Captain Montgomery but that, providing the supply of hand grenades kept up, the situation should not become critical, but he pointed out that machine gun fire from THIEPVAL had made the position which was being held by the Battalion an impossible one; he proceeded to Brigade Hd. Qrs. To personally report.

Lieut. Finlay Battalion Bombing Officer, at this stage collected odd men together and sent them up to the ‘B’ line by the less exposed route, though somewhat longer, under command of Sergeant Cully, the provost sergeant, who was the most dependable NCO I could put my hand on at the time; shortly after this Lieut. Finlay was himself wounded by shrapnel. These grenades were dumped at B17 and Sergeant Cully reported afterwards.

The buried cable at Brigade Hd. Qrs. Was cut but I was in hopes that the report which 2/Lieut. Harding would be able to give would elucidate the situation better than I could ever write second hand.

4.45 pm

B14 was forced after fierce fighting; this post was held by 10 men from ‘A’ Company but none returned.

6 pm

No news was coming through from the front, so 15 men belonging to the Battalion and Stokes Battery were sent up under Rifleman Martin (CO’s orderly) each man carrying 10 bandoliers of SAA but for some unknown reason they were turned off their objective by a Major of another Corps.

6.30 pm

Trench mortars were very active from THIEPVAL at this period and the front line trench was also shelled, I surmised that the enemy were preventing the arrival of reinforcements.

2/Lieut. Harding returned from Brigade Hd. Qrs. And informed me that two companies 4th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment were on their way up to reinforce the front line; but I had previously been informed by Brigade that reinforcements were coming up and this information had been sent on to the senior officer present in the firing line, by three different runners, but as a matter of fact Captain Montgomery did not receive this message till 9 pm.

7 pm

2/Lieut. Harding again went up to the firing line with orders to intercept the two companies 4th West Yorks and guide them to the best place. Captain Montgomery states that he never saw these men but 2/Lieut. Harding actually put them into ‘B’ line, it is quite possible however that they may have been missed but they

9.40 pm

2/Lieut. Harding returned at 9.40 pm and although he stated that heavy grenade fighting was in progress he did not convey the impression that the men were in any way at their last gasp, but
however he emphasised the importance of sending up water and ammunition to ‘B’ line as soon as possible and for this purpose Lieut. Garner organised a carrying party of 20 men which he took charge of himself and conducted to ‘B’ line by the less exposed way; as the water had to be got from SPEYSIDE it never got further than ‘A’ line but 10,000 rounds got to B17.

2/Lieut. Harding brought back word that Major Gaffikin had been hit and that Captain Montgomery was in command.

At this time 2/Lieut. Harding turned in to have a sleep having arranged to guide me up to the ‘B’ line after dark.

At about this time four reinforcing columns of Germans were seen by Captain Montgomery from B15 advancing from the direction of FARM DE MOUQUET, Lewis guns were turned on them and they scattered and loss was inflicted thereby.

The German bombing parties were now converging steadily on to B15 and the men were very much fatigued, so much so in fact that in many instances they were unable to do anything.

At B15 2/Lieut. Campbell was hit by a hand grenade where he died.

Reinforcement officers were sent up to the senior officer present at the front and of these 2/Lieut. Richardson was killed in ‘B’ line and Lieut. Hone, who had taken a small party to endeavour to bomb from B15 to B14, had not been since seen.

9.45 pm

Somebody on the left shouted at this time “They are on us from the left” and the men remaining in ‘B’ line got into ‘A’ line. Major Peacock 9th Inniskilling Fusiliers, and Captain Montgomery of the Battalion under my command, were at the time consulting together, the former shouted to the latter pointing to the right “Try and rally those men there”; Captain Montgomery did succeed in rallying a few remnants but the men were absolutely done and had they stayed there would have been useless for defence so they returned to our lines.

Captain Montgomery reported to me at 10 pm in a state of collapse, I sent him on down to Brigade and he was evacuated, the wound on his head was not so serious as at first thought, his life undoubtedly being saved by his steel helmet, he was labelled for England, but rallying, prevailed on the medical officer to allow him to return to the Battalion where he arrived on the night of the 3rd July.

10.30 pm

Nothing now remained to be done save to organise the defence of our own fire trench which was done.

7th July 1916

P Crozier
Lieut Colonel
Commdg 9th Bn Royal Irish Rifles