Posted 18 January 2008 - 08:30 pm
In Cheerful Sacrifice, page 119 f. you find this:
“The most woried man in the whole of the 56th London Division that morning was B-company`s Sergeant-Major Eddie Warren of the 12th Londons (Rangers). Knee-deep in icy mud in their jumping-off trench, known as Deodar Lane, they were waiting to attack the village of Neuville-Vitasse which lay just over a half a mile ahead. It was not the daylight zero hour of 7.45 a.m. that worried him; the Rangers had gone over in daylight before, at Gommecourt on 1 July, 1916. What nagged him was that the barbed wire in front of Pine Lane, a strong-held German trench, had not been cut. During the night, while the Rangers assembled for the attack, he had met his old pal Charlie Clark, the Sergeant-Major of A-company in the trench to their right; it was Charlie who had told him that the wire was completely uncut.
Pine Lane lay between the Rangers and the northernend of Neuville-Vitasse and A and B-companies were going in first. Colonel Baycliffe knew the wire wasn`t uncut,as did General Hull, who even told Snow, the Corps Commander. The artillery was supposed to cut it but they hadn´t. During the night a patrol had gone out under Second-Lieutenant Baron, who reported:
The wir was found to consist of two belts of very thick wire about breast high with iron stakes, and had been practically untouched by our shell fire, except in one ore two places where shells had burst in the wire without damagine itmsufficiently to make it less of an obstacle.
Sergeant-Major Warren knew in advance what would happen:
At 7.45 a.m. we went over and executed our attack in perfect order – like a drill in Hyde Park. Our ladswere mostly from Paddington and Kilburn and they were smoking and chattering away to each other in great spirits. I expect they thought it was the beginning of the end. Well, we got right up to the wire and everyone went quiet … The machine gun opened up from point-black range (?) and a dozen or so went down in the first burst. We all got down in the grass and a few of the boys ran along the wire looking for the gap, but they were shot down. A-company on the right copped it the worst. Some of the boys threw themselves flat into the wire to act as a human bridge, but they were shot to bits – it was heartbreaking. I`d like to know why the attack was not cancelled when the General knew the wire was uncut.
As for Sergeant-Major Eddie Warren of the Rangers, he got through the day without a scrath, but he had found his pal Charlie Clark lying dead in a bloody tangle of young bodies in the German wire. The following day Brigadier-General Loch gave his permission for one officer anf fifty-seven other ranks of the Rangers, all killed on the wire at Pine Lane, to be burried side by siede in their old jumping-off trench, just to the right of the Beaurains-Neuville road. Charlie Clark was placed at the head of his men.
Well, I found his grave. Here is a pic of it, made at London Cemetery Neuville-Vitasse.