Posted 15 December 2006 - 01:48 pm
For those interested the details of the action in which James what killed, it is posted below:
1 / 4th Black Watch.
In Command of the Battalion.
Lieutenant Colonel H. Walker, C.M.G. T.D.
Major Rogers, R.A.M.C.
Captain N.C. Walker.
No.1 Platoon…………….. Captain R. McIntyre.
No.2 Platoon…………….. Sergeant Naismith.
Sergeant T. Cameron.
No.3 Platoon…………….. Lieut. L.A. Wilson
No.4 Platoon…………….. 2nd Lieut. A.B. Watson
No.7 Platoon…………….. Captain P.F. Duncan.
No.2 Platoon…………….. 2nd Lieut. R.C.Cunningham
No.3 Platoon…………….. 2nd Lieut. J. Bruce.
No.4 Platoon…………….. Sergt. J. Petrie.
Captain O.S. Moodie.
No.9 Platoon…………….. 2nd Lieut. T.C. Williamson.
No.10 Platoon…………….. Sergt. Dawson.
No.11 Platoon…………….. Lieut. S.H. Watson
No.12 Platoon…………….. Lieut. S. Steven.
Captain O.S. Moodie.
No.13 Platoon…………….. Captain C.A. Air.
No.14 Platoon…………….. Lieut. B.S. Sturrock.
No.15 Platoon…………….. 2nd Lieut. C. Methven.
No.16 Platoon…………….. Sergt. Douglas.
Attached to the Brigade Bombers: 2nd Lieut. F. Anderson.
Acting Liaison Officer with Lt.Col. Wauchope….Lieut. J.L. Pullar.
In charge of Machine Guns. Lieut. Stewart.
Total Strength of Battalion:
Rifles about………. 450.
Battalion losses during the action in Killed, Wounded, and Missing.
Rifles about……….. 240.
NOTE: As there was only one Officer who returned unwounded from the fight, the following description is largely taken from information written down by various Sergeants in each Company.
Wounded Officers at home may be able to furnish more news, and may find some of the news incorrect.
1 / 4th Black Watch.
Saturday 25th September 1915.
The Battalion left Billets at PONT DU HEM at 6 o’clock on the evening of the 24th. It reached its positioning the trenches between 8 and 9 o’clock that night.
The positions of the Companies were as follows:-
C and D Companies were in the front line with C Company on the right and D Company on the left.
These two Companies occupied about three hundred yards of front.
On the left of D Company was (69th) Punjabis Battalion while on C Company’s right was 2/8th Gurkha Battalion.
About thirty yards to the rear of the front line was our OLD SUPPORT line occupied by B Company.
Four communication trenches led from this line up to the firing line.
About thirty to forty yards behind this line was the new SUPPORT line occupied by A Company.
Some rain fell on the night of the 24/25th and B Company had little shelter in the OLD SUPPORT line. The men had a day’s ration on them, in addition to the IRON RATION. Some of the Officers partook of a small meal about 3 a.m. on the morning of the 25th. There was a slight drizzling rain about this time and hardly any wind. The rain stopped in a short time and there was practically no movement of wind, but perhaps puff or two blowing towards the German lines.
At about 4 a.m. it was decided that GAS would be used in the attack and arrangements were made accordingly.
At 5.40 a.m. The SUPPORTS adjusted their gas helmets and stood ready to move up the communication trenches to the firing line.
At 5.45 a.m. A British MINE was successfully exploded under the German front line opposite the left flank of our Brigade. The explosion occurred about half a mile from the position occupied by our Battalion. The ground shook and an unpleasant quivering sensation was felt by us.
At 5.50 a.m. THE SIGNAL FOR THE ATTACK TO COMMENCE WAS GIVEN. All our guns simultaneously opened a terrific bombardment on the enemy position. Our GAS was turned on at the same time and smoke candles were lighted which emitted great clouds of coloured smoke. There was a very thick mist lying low on the ground and this, combined with smoke from smoke balls, candles and the bursting of enemy shells, made it impossible to see more than a few yards in the front of our parapet.
At 5.55 a.m. C and D Companies prepared to mount our parapet and after doing so they were lined up ready for THE CHARGE
At 6 a.m. THE ADVANCE TOOK PLACE
B Company then moved into our Front line and immediately mounted the Parapet.
A Company then moved up and also mounted the Parapet. This Company had to carry spades, picks and other stores to make good the ground gained.
MAJOR TARLETON was hit while standing on the top of the parapet encouraging the men to go forward. The Colonel and Staff then mounted the parapet and crossed over to the German lines. It was in this crossing that MAJOR TOSH was hit, not far from the German Front Line. Sergt. Petrie carried him towards our lines on his back, but unfortunately the Major was again hit by a piece of shell and mortally wounded.
C and D Companies had made a grand advance and the enemy were evidently taken by surprise. The enemy had made a comparatively small reply to our terrific ten minute bombardment, but he did not take very long to bring up his very heavy artillery.
It ought to have been mentioned before that this attack on the 25th was preceded by at least a week’s slow bombardment, and an intense bombardment for the four days preceding the attack by our artillery, both Heavy and Field Guns. The Field guns breaking the enemy’s BARBED WIRE or rather blowing stakes and barbed wire into the air. The heavy guns knocking the trenches about and thoroughly demoralizing the enemy. An Officer of B Company who was in our Front Line about four days before the attack, witnessed a piece of German barbed wire dropping into our Line. The lines were fully two hundred and fifty yards apart. This was part of the result of one of our HEAVIES landing a particularly good one on the German wire.
C and D Companies had little difficulty in taking the enemy’s front line. The losses in men were comparatively light, but it was before this line that Captain Walker, Lieut. S. Steven, Lieut. S.H. Watson fell, and Captain Campbell was wounded. Captain P.F. DUNCAN was slightly hindered in getting his men from the OLD SUPPORT line, owing to a block in the inspection trench (immediately behind front line). He stood on the top of our parapet to waved to his men of B Company to follow him. He had hardly got them over when he fell with both legs broken. 2nd Lieut. Bruce of B Company was wounded even before he reached our own Front Line.
2nd Lieut. F. ANDERSON was killed by a shell in our own lines. He was second in Command of the Brigade Bombers and was being held in reserve. The watchword which we got from high authority that day was PUSH ON. C and D Companies did not waste time after the enemy’s first line had been taken at the point of the bayonet.
The Germans surrendered in Batches and small parties of them with hands up and pale faces were quickly sent back to our lines. Sometimes in charge of two of our men, sometimes two grinning Gurkhas looking very proud taking their batch of eight prisoners across.
For the most part the prisoners were young men, well built, but very anxious for mercy. Sometimes and elder hand was amongst, and he looked sulky and did not seem so much put about at his situation as the younger men were.
Some of our BOMBERS did good work, bombing along the enemy’s front line, searching the Dug-outs with bombs in case of lurking foes being passed over.
Some of B Company made up on C and D Companies after the first line had been taken and just OVER THIS LINE 2nd Lieut. R. C. Cunningham found Capt Moodie and Captain Air leading their men towards the next line of German Trenches. It was still very misty and direction was difficult to follow. Often some forms would loom out of the mist and then they would turn out to be some of our Indian troops.
When our Advance commenced, or just after, our guns increased their range a bit and our shells were falling nicely in front of us. It was impossible to make any observation by aeroplane, or otherwise, to start with. It can be judged what an extraordinarily difficult task was set our gunners. They rose to the occasion magnificently and lengthened their range. VERY FEW CASUALTIES came from our own guns. Our Field Guns especially did wonderful work all morning. We were well over the second line of enemy trenches and under the command of Lieut. Stewart.
Just about 6.30 a.m. the enemy were sending over some very heavy shrapnel shells which were bursting between our OWN and THEIR front line. Their shelling was very accurate and clever. Practically a SCREEN OF SHRAPNEL was separating us from any SUPPORT coming up. They had not taken long to get their very heavy artillery into action against us.
A small party got too much to the left and were held up along with some Indian Troops by the famous MOULIN DE PIETRE. This was full of snipers who took good cover amongst the fallen bricks. Some reorganizing of our troops took place in a trench just about 40 yards short of the MILL and the men had a breather. Steps were taken to try and fortify this trench. Several of our men pulled their pipes out while in this trench and had a draw.
On the right our Battalion reached the furthest advanced point which was reached that day. At least four, if not five, lines of enemy trenches were crossed here.
The Advance had taken place very quickly and we had certainly remembered the Watch Word PUSH on. The whole of the enemy’s first position in fact was crossed on our right. A Company moved up in support of B Company and crossed the enemy’s second line of trenches.
Lieut. L.A. Wilson, 2nd Lieut. A.B. Watson were both wounded and Captain McIntyre was left alone to carry on the company.
Colonel Walker came up with this Company and the Colonel gave orders to Sergt. Addison of A Company to bring as many men as he could find from the left to the right. Many of the men had gone too far to the left in the thick mist. A German communication trench was occupied by part of A Company and the Colonel issued orders for firing steps to be cut and the trench put into a state of defence. Captain McIntyre was then wounded but carried on the Company for about two hours afterwards. On his command part of A Company lined a hedge and dug a trench in support of the advanced Companies. D and C Companies after taking the German first position (ABOUT FIVE LINES OF TRENCHES) advanced over ground towards the second position and then started to dig themselves in.
The Officers in charge of this advanced post were :–
Captain C. Coupar.
2nd Lieutenant Williamson.
Owing to our rapid advance some Germans had escaped our search and were lurking in the rear of these advanced Companies. One by one the Officers were WOUNDED by six snipers firing at them from the rear. These six men were taken prisoners. At last Captain Air was the only officer left unhurt at this post. Both Captain Air and Captain Moodie sent back REPEATED messages for reinforcements and ammunition.
A Subaltern along with about thirty men of the 2nd Batt. Black Watch came up and gave assistance BUT SUPPORT IN QUANTITY NEVER CAME.
Many of the mens’ rifles had become unworkable owing to clogging with mud, and the bombs were finished. The enemy advanced in great masses and bombed our advanced position.
Captain Air after holding out as long as possible gave orders to his few men to retire. Immediately afterwards CAPTAIN AIR was wounded.
Earlier in the day telephonic communication was attempted to be established between our own and the German front line, by running a wire over the open, but the wire got broken. Sometime about ten o’clock the Colonel, realising the seriousness of our position and certainly expecting the enemy to counterattack, came back HIMSELF to ask for reinforcements. All his staff were out of action, also the Battalion Sergt. Major Charles. COLONEL WALKER. It was while crossing the open between the German and our Front Line that the Colonel fell, mortally wounded. A retiral took place along the whole line of our Brigade and by about and by about 11.30 a.m. the remnant of the Battalion was back, in our own Front Line. For the remainder of that day the enemy kept up a tremendous rifle and machine gun fire on our parapet and shelled our Front Line with very heavy shells.
IT HAD BEEN A GRAND ADVANCE BUT AT GREAT COST.
We had forced the enemy to turn many of his heaviest pieces against us, and forced him to bring up very large reserves. Attacks were made at other parts of the line that day and the enemy’s reserves had to be drawn off.
It ought to be noted that the enemy’s barbed in front of their First Line had practically ceased to exist opposite us, which shows the superb work our Gunners.
F I N I S.