Posted 05 March 2008 - 01:15 pm
Still a work in progress so apologies in advance:
From: ADMS 56th (London) Division war diary
NA reference:WO 95/2938
"March 28th, 1918
About 4am, the enemy opened a heavy bombardment on our front and rear defences- the front line system, the RED line, the summit of the ridge, BAILLEUL, and all roads as far back as the ARRAS-BAILLEUL road were heavily barraged. The RAILWAY CUTTING received particular attention, also the area around MAISON de la COTE, both with HE and Gas shells. CHANTECLER Advanced Dressing Station was bombarded with 4.8” [R.V] shells but no material damage was caused.
About 7am the enemy launched an infantry attack in overwhelming strength, the attack being from OPPY southwards. Our troops in front line were, from left to right, 4th Bn London Regiment, 16th Bn London Regiment (QWR) and 5th Bn London Regiment (LRB) These troops put up a most tenacious defence, but after some three hours fierce hand to hand fighting they were ordered to fall back on the RED line. The Battalion Headquarters with the remnants of the Battalions accomplished this, but in each case the Medical Officer with his staff and attached RAMC bearers, were taken prisoners in their Aid Posts. It appears as if the Battalions failed to keep sufficiently in touch with their Medical Officers.
Further attacks were launched on the RED line during the day, the last being completely repulsed about 5.30 pm.
After about 8 am, a continuous barrage of heavy shrapnel only was maintained on the roads, only an occasional HE shell falling near the ARRAS-BAILLEUL road.
About 10.30 am, the DADMS, proceeded to CHANTECLER ADS and found all working smoothly and evacuation along the ARRAS road to ST CATHERINE proceeding normally in spite of the heavy shrapnel barrage. This shrapnel did not appear to be doing any particular harm. Walking wounded were then reaching CHANTECLER ADS via TOWY TRACK.
In the meantime the ADMS, had established his office, under orders of Division, at AGNIERES. He has visited ST CATHERINE Main Dressing Station and was rejoined at Advanced Divisional Headquarters by DADMS. The DADMS, remained at ST CATHERINE MDS as advanced report centre, whilst the ADMS, returned to his office and got into touch with the DDMS Corps. He arranged for 10 lorries for walking wounded to report to Main Dressing Station, with 6 extra MAC cars. 40 extra bearers were also sent up to OC bearers at CHANTECLER.
About 6 pm, ADMS visited Main Dressing Station ST CATHERINE and found evacuation proceeding satisfactorily. Steps were taken to replace casualties in Regiments and increase staff at MDS, by employing Medical Officers of Divisional Ammunition Column, Divl. Royal Engineers, and one Artillery Brigade. Extra bearers were sent to TUNNEL DUMP and to CHANTECLER about 8 pm.
The shelling of the RAILWAY CUTTING was so heavy and continuous that it was found impossible to get cases away from the CUTTING ADS. This state of things continued until about 5 pm, when fire slackened and the CUTTING was evacuated by hand carriage to CHANTECLER ADS- the railway line being broken in several places. During the preliminary bombardment, Mustard Oil Gas was used in CUTTING, but later the gas seemed to have been of some less noxious variety.
The ARRAS- GAVRELLE road was heavily barraged during the preliminary bombardment, but during the morning this slackened and cars evacuating POIN DU JOUR Advanced Dressing Station were able to proceed to and from ST CATHERINE MDS via ST NICHOLAS during the remainder of the day, in spite of the shrapnel barrage maintained.
The alternative route of evacuation by the POINT DU JOUR- CHANTECLER plank road became impracticable owing to the destruction of the road by shell fire.
At 1.20 pm, Major WALLACE MC was killed by a shell at POINT DU JOUR ADS and Lieut. HALL carried on alone until joined by the Medical officer of the 2nd Bn London Regiment. In the evening Major FERGUSSON went to POINT DU JOUR to take Major WALLACE’s place, and Lieut. HALL proceeded to the 16th Bn London Regiment (QWR) to replace Lieut, RHETT (MORC) missing.
By the evening the fight was over and the shelling had died down. During the night all Advanced Dressing Stations were rapidly cleared, and the wounded from Heavy Artillery positions around MAISON de le COTE got away. The area round ST CATHERINE Main Dressing Station was heavily bombarded by 9.2” [H.V] shells, but the building did not receive a direct hit, although splinters and debris often fell in the court-yard, and no casualties occurred here. The cross roads near the church at ANZIN also received several direct hits, but this did not interfere with the evacuation to Casualty Clearing Station by Motor Ambulance Convoy cars.
During the whole day and the following night, touch was maintained between the DADMS at ST CATHERINE MDS and the ADMS at AGNIERIES, by means of messages sent by cyclist or by returning ambulance cars.
TUNNEL DUMP ADS kept in touch with the ADMS direct by wires sent through the Headquarters 168th Infantry Brigade, and the other ADSs by means of messages sent through the DADMS at ST CATHERINE.
Casualties sustained by Medical Services during the day were:
Officers 1 killed Other ranks 1 killed
3 missing 3 wounded
Casaulties passed through ST CATHERINE MDS were:
56th Division: Officers 9 Gassed: Officers 1
Other ranks. 247 Other ranks. 56
Other divisions Officers 6 Gassed
and formations Other ranks 131 Other ranks 17
Canadian Field Ambulance passed though 116 cases (other ranks) of 56th Division.
The Regimental Aid Posts should not be so far forward in defence as in offence, and should as far as possible be placed in a communication trench, this means easy evacuation of wounded, and when taken to Regimental Aid Post are on the road back. I am convinced that many cases could have been got back if they had been so placed, also Medical Officers and personnel would not have been lost.
In a defensive action, routes of evacuation should be numerous and cross roads, cutting s, railways and dumps should be avoided.
Tracks for wheeled stretchers and carrying should be marked out and well known.
It has been frequently observed that walking wounded come back by the same route they marched up by. If it is desired that they come back by any other route, the points of diversion should be clearly marked by sign posts. The sign boards at these positions should be large and placed low down, painted green, with the lettering in red or white."