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War Diary, 1/18th London Regiment – March/April 1915

March 9th – England.
By train, route to Southampton – 1st Train ‘B’ and ‘D’ Coys, with half transport – 2nd Train ‘A’ and ‘C’ Coys with half transport. Battalion left Southampton in 4 ships – Queen Alexandra (538 men) – Copenhagen (2 officers, 60 R & F) – Trafford Hall (Transport, officers and 200 R & F) – Viper (5 officers and 250 R & F). Strength 29 officers, 1048 R & F. Uneventful voyage. Rations used on train.


March 10th – Havre.
Bttn disembarked at Le Havre at various hours and ready on quay at 930am except party on Trafford Hall, which proceeded to camp in a separate party. Battalion arrived No 2 Camp Havre (distance 5 miles) at 12 noon. Inspection by Camp Commandant and issue of warm comforts to troops. Rations issued to last till midnight on 11th March. Mess cart issued what…. transport up to strength.


March 11th.
745am – Battalion paraded in Camp and marched to Le Havre station. Arrived 830am.
1 officer (Lt Rich) and 48 R & F left behind as 1st Reinforcement and sent to No 18 Camp Harfleur by …route.
1155am – Battalion left Havre, men 36 in each truck.


March 12th.
Battalion detrained at Bavinchove and marched to billet in and around Winnezeele.
Trying march and men fatigued due to new boots, lack of sleep in train and being unaccustomed to paved roads.
‘D’ Coy disengaged at Ryveldt and billeted there, ‘C’ Coy disengaged at Le Temple and billeted there. Headquarters and ‘A’ and ‘B’ Coys to billets at Winnezeele. Billets at Le Temple and Ryveldt, men in barns. Water from good wells but water scarce. Billets at Winnezeele scattered around, chiefly in barns. Billeting carried out by Baron de Gunzberg.


March 13th – Winnezeele.
Rest day – men’s feet not nearly as bad as expected, 46 paraded with sore feet but nothing serious.


March 14th – Winnezeele.
Companies carried out Musketry instruction and Bayonet fighting after church parade – heavy firing heard from direction of Ypres – 5 cases of diarrheoa.


March 15th – Winnezeele.
Musketry Instruction and Night Training in neighbourhood of billets.


March 16th – Winnezeele.
Musketry Instruction and Night Training. Firing heard during afternoon from direction of Ypres.


March 17th – Winnezeele.
Route March, Orders received that the Battalion “to hold itself” in readiness to move tomorrow. Transport left by march route by 7pm with orders to billet at Hazebrouck.


March 18th.
Battalion left billets at 830am and proceeded by march route to a point on the Cassel – Steenvoorde Road where it boarded 45 motor buses and proceeded at 10am to a point on the Hazebrouck – Aire road, 1 mile north east of Steenbecque, where it dismounted from the buses and proceeded by march route to St Venant arriving there at 3pm.
Went in to billets on the St Venant – Aire road. Very scattered and a great deal of time was wasted in settling in billets due to no map having been previously prepared. Water – good. Billets (all large barns) very comfortable and inhabitants extremely hospitable. Transport joined up at 230pm – horses very done after practically an all night march.


March 19th – St Venant/Burbure.
830am – Proceeded by route march to Burbure via Lillers – Allouagne, arriving at 215pm. Went into billets there. Water good, Billets fairly comfortable and concentrated. Battalion HQ situated at EstamInet Branley Blondel very suitable, combining an Officers’ Mess and Orderly Room – horses all under cover.


March 20th – Burbure.
Inspection of Battalion by Commanding Officer – 30 cases of sore feet reported by Medical Officer. Training area – poor – most under cultivation.


March 21st – Burbure.
Church Parade. Hostile aeroplane observed over Lillers – two bombs drooped. Battalion arrangements made re notifying and dealing with approach of hostile aeroplane.


March 22nd – Burbure.
Musketry Instruction and Bayonet fighting.
230 pm – Inspection of Battalion by Field Marshal Sir John French.


March 23rd – Burbure.
Musketry Instruction and Bayonet Fighting and Digging.


March 24th – Burbure.
Field Training under Company Arrangements.


March 25th – Burbure.
Field Training under Company Arrangements.


March 26th – Burbure.
Field Training. Recruits musketry at Labauvriere – only one target per Battalion.
40 recruits fired 10 rounds each. Platoons to No 4 mine Raimbert at intervals for hot baths.


March 27th – Burbure.
Musketry Instruction and Bayonet Fighting. Recruits musketry continued at Labauvriere.
All recruits who had only fired at their Recruits course completed 10 rounds.


March 28th – Burbure.
Church Parade. Musketry Instruction after parade.
Lt Col Concannon and two other officers with 3 NCOs went up to Neuve Chapelle and were attached to 1st Bttn South Wales Borderers for instruction in trench work.


March 29th – Burbure.
Musketry and Bayonet fighting and Running parade. Short service by the Bishop of London. Another party left for trenches for instruction (3 officers, 4 NCOs). First party returned.


March 30th – Burbure.

Digging instruction. Officers carried out Revolver practice. Another party (5 officers, 4 NCOs) proceeded to trenches. Second party returned.


March 31st – Burbure.
Digging instruction. Another party for trenches (3 NCOs). 3rd party returned.


April 1st – Burbure.
Course of Sniping commenced. Snipers fired 10 rounds per man on Labauvriere range.
Battalion carried out digging instructions. Another party (4 officers, 3 NCOs) left for instruction with South Wales Borderers. Previous party returned. 4 men admitted to hospital.


April 2nd – Burbure.
Digging and Lectures. 6 officers and 4 NCOs left for instruction with Gloucestershire Regiment – previous party returned. Divine Service at 330pm.


April 3rd – Burbure.
4 officers and 4 NCOs left for instruction with Gloucestershire Regiment.


April 4th – Burbure.
Church Parade – previous party returned.


April 5th – Burbure.
Temporary Grenadier Company formed for instruction under Lieut Mann. Order received that no further parties were to proceed for instruction. Orders received that the Battalion would move to Bethune on the 7th April and be accommodated at The Orphanage and be attached for instruction to 6th Infantry Brigade.


April 6th – Burbure.
Company Training and judging distance during morning and early afternoons.


April 7th – Bethune.
Battalion paraded at 1030am and left for Bethune at 1110am after a short inspection by GOC 5th London Infantry Brigade – distance about 10 miles via Allouagne and Chuques. Inspection en route by General Officer Commanding 1st Corp. Arrived Bethune 245pm and took over quarters in the Orphanage. Quarters not particularly clean – one Company accommodated on each floor – the building has been somewhat knocked about – very little glass in the windows. Commanding Officer and Adjutant proceeded to HQ 6th Brigade to which the Battalion is attached and received detailed orders for the instruction to be carried out over the next 8 days.
Briefly – one coy at Bethune, one coy proceeds daily from Bethune to trenches as working party, one coy billets at Annequin and supplies working parties as required – one coy has two platoons in firing line and remaining platoon is in support at Harley Street. Battalion to be attached to No 1 A Section immediately north of the Bethune – La Bassee road around the village of Cuinchy. These companies change now every 48 hours and the platoon in the front line changes over every 24 hours – thus, every platoon in eight days will complete 24 hours in the front line.


April 8th – Bethune.
‘A’ Coy paraded at 715am and moved via Beuvry – Annequin to Harley Street and proceeded into the trenches leaving 2 platoons at Harley Street. Battalion attached to 1 KRR.
‘B’ Coy paraded at 730am and moved via same route and carried out digging under supervision of East Anglian Coy RE. This company suffered two casualties (2 Riflemen slightly wounded) by shellfire about 300 yards west of 6th Brigade HQ on the La Bassee road. This coy returned to billets at Annequin after work was finished.
‘C’ Coy paraded at 745am and moved via same route, reporting to OC 11th Field Company RE for work.
‘D’ Coy remained at Bethune.
Men all extremely cheerful and in excellent spirits and behaved very well indeed during the shellfire on the road. OC ‘A’ Coy reported a quiet night in the trenches. No hitch in arrangement about the provision of fuel, water and rations to the detailed companies.


April 9th – Bethune.
Companies carried out same procedure except that the platoons of ‘A’ Coy in firing line were relieved by the two platoons in support. All communication by telephone carried out through HQ, 2nd Division whose HQ is at Bethune. No casualties.


April 10th – Bethune.
‘A’ Coy returned to Bethune at 1230pm, having been relieved by ‘B’ Coy. ‘C’ Coy relieved ‘B’ Coy at Annequin and ‘D’ Coy proceeded to work with the RE. French blew up German trench about 200 yards south of the La Bassee and this brought on heavy shell and rifle fire. No casualties suffered by the Battalion. ‘A’ Coy had hot baths provided regimentally on their return to Bethune.


April 11th – Bethune.
Same procedure except that the platoons of ‘B’ Coy in the firing line were relieved by the two platoons in support. No casualties. Order received from 6th Brigade at 11pm that the Battalion was to have breakfast tomorrow at 530am and to remain in readiness for a sudden move until 730am.


April 12th – Bethune.
‘C’ Coy: Take over firing line and support from ‘B’ Coy. ‘B’ Coy returned to billets at Bethune.
‘D’ Coy to Annequin. Two men wounded.


April 13th /14th – Bethune.
Orders received to take over Section A2 from 5th Battalion, Liverpool Regiment at 3pm. One company in firing line, one in support at Cuinchy support point.
Took over the line – ‘A’ Coy in firing line. ‘B’ Coy in support. Trenches shallow with high breastworks with the brick stacks in rear. Attached reports forwarded to 6th Brigade during day and following night. All quiet except for a few bombs fired by the German units over fire trenches, which were only 80 yards from the enemy’s line. Casualties – one man wounded.
Heavy shelling of ground about 300 yards west of Cuinchy … about 2pm due to our own artillery firing on Germans with latter replying. Own artillery appeared to be registering.
Relieved by the 20th London Regiment at 330pm. ‘D’ Coy, which had been in with the South Staffordshire Regiment in A1, came out at 12 noon – C Company have returned from its instruction on the 13th, the whole battalion was concentrated again in the Orphanage Bethune by 630pm today.


April 15th – Bethune.
Company Drill and General Clean up.


April 16th – Bethune.
Company Training.


April 17th – Bethune.
Company Training.


April 18th – Bethune.
Rest Day.


April 19th – Bethune.
Battalion paraded at 11am and proceeded by march route to Gorre with orders to take over billets there from the Worcestershire Regiment and to take over C2 subsection from HLI on April 23rd. Good billets with excellent water supply – Battalion under orders of 5th Brigade. Brigade HQ Loisne – two working parties of 100 men each found. One man wounded.


April 20th – Gorre.
Company Drill during morning. Two working parties of 100 men each paraded – 1st Relief HQ C2 8pm. 2nd Relief 1130pm for work under RE. Found 1st Relief by ‘A’ Coy – 2nd Relief by ‘D’ Coy.


April 21st – Gorre.

Company training and same working parties found at same hours by ‘B’ and ‘C’ Coys.


April 22nd – Gorre.
Company training.


April 23rd – Gorre.
Battalion take over Sector C2 from HLI at 1010pm. First coy arriving 530pm.
Coys distributed as follows: ‘A’ Coy C2 (B) front line – ‘B’ Coy Reserve – ‘C’ Coy C2 (A) front line – ‘D’ Coy support to Festubert village. One casualty, shrapnel wound, during relief. Situation all quiet. Battalion went in rationed for 2 days – very good plan as Coys in support and Reserve supplied water etc to front line companies.


April 24th – Gorre.
All quiet. At 11pm, message received that Germans had blown up a mine on our right in Givenchy sector and that 4th Brigade expected an attack and required our fire support. C2A stood to arms until 2pm. Much work done in improving parapet and building fire steps. One sergeant wounded severely – bullet wound jaw.


April 25th – Gorre.
Desultory shell fire all day. Battalion relieved by 20th London Regiment at 1030pm.


April 26th – Gorre.
Rest Day.


April 27th – Gorre.
Company Drill during morning. Battalion again took over C2 from 20th London Regiment at 1015pm.


April 28th – Festubert.
Desultory shell fire during day but little reply by the Germans – little night firing – continuation in work of ….the parapet and during night 27/28 building up gap between C2A and C2B.


April 29th – Festubert.
Nothing of importance occurred – Battalion relieved by 20th London Regiment at 1030pm. Two men slightly wounded (both bullet wounds).


April 30th – Festubert.
Rest day – Reconnoitre route from Essars to rendezvous in event of Battalion to be required to reinforce front line as Divisional Reserve. Found two working parties of 100 men each for C2B – one man killed – bullet wound in stomach.