Posted 06 March 2012 - 10:58 AM
Sergeant 8820/200418 Smith served as a Lance Corporal and Sergeant in "B" and "C" Companies.
He was wounded to hospital on 14 March 1917 with a slight wound (after a raid) and ToE on 20 March 1917. (I think this is taken off their strength).
His battalion marched nearly five miles from Souastre to their starting lines at Biez Wood and reached them only one hour before the attack. Although exhausted the battalion was immediately formed up for the attack which commenced at 1am. The order of the Companies for the attack was “A” on the right, “C” in the centre and “D” on the left. Almost immediately they were hit by machine gun fire that caused numerous casualties. The German wire was, by and large, uncut by the preliminary barrage and any gaps that were found caused a bunching up of troops who were immediately cut down. The battalion retired at 6.30am to a trench system between Biez Wood and Square Wood with 160 casualties for no gain.
The War Diary, in part, records,
“13/14 March 1917 - The battalion paraded at Souastre at 6pm and proceeded to Fonquevillers reaching Rossignol Wood at about 10pm. The south east corner of Biez Wood was reached about 12 midnight. The barrage was put on the front line German trench. At 1am the battalion advanced to the attack in waves.
The Radfehrer Graben proved to be a bad obstacle. All lines reached the German wire, and there was practically no casualties. The barrage was very satisfactory - there were no shorts and it was effective. At this point the whole was checked by German wire. At no point was it possible to penetrate to the German positions without cutting. Behind Radfehrer Graben the wire was swept by cross fire from machine guns. A large number of casualties were caused by officers and NCOs looking for gaps in this area. These machine guns were reported firing from behind the parades from the flanks, men having to bunch to get through the gaps in the outer wire, or gaps cut in the second belt. One gap in the third belt of wire, which runs up to the German parapet, was gut by one of our Lewis guns. Another Lewis guns got onto the German parapet and engaged 2 machine guns firing from our right flank somewhere in Radfehrer Graben behind the front line. One gun was silenced entirely and another temporarily ceased fire.
Small parties of men succeeded in obtaining a foothold in the German trench, but this took some considerable time owing to lack of touch being kept, they were forced back by advancing Germans and lack of support.
I can give no information regarding the second line, although the Company Commander is known to have advanced in that direction but no one came back.
The centre company found 1st and 2nd belts of wire fairly well cut. Second Lieutenant Frost and about 30 men gained a foothold in German trench. All the officers (except Second Lieutenant Frost) and 13 NCOs were knocked out by bomb and machine gun fire. Second Lieutenant Frost reorganised the company in a sunken road and remained at this point for about 2 hours when recalled by men at daybreak.
The left company advanced on its objective. No gaps were found but a bulk of the company got into the trench without opposition. They were recalled by me at dawn.
14 March 1917 - The battalion was relieved by the 1/6th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment and proceeded to billets in Souastre.”