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War Diary, 1/18th London Regiment – May 1915

May 1st – Gorre/Festubert.
Steady drill during morning. Took over section C2 from 20th Battalion. First Coy, taking over 830pm – relief complete 1015pm. Now rationed for 48 hours. One man killed in Section C2 B about 1130pm – shot through head while on look out.


May 2nd – Festubert.
1 man wounded, 1 man killed.


May 3rd – Festubert.
All quiet.


May 4th – Festubert.
All quiet. 2 men killed.


May 5th – Gorre.
Battalion relieved in C2 by Battalion, London Regiment from 4th London Infantry Brigade. Proceeded to billets in Gorre.


May 6th – La Beuvriere.
Battalion left for Le Beuvriere 2pm by companies – very hot day and a very tiring march.


May 7th – La Beuvriere.
Rest Day.


May 8th – La Beuvriere.
Left La Beuvriere 12 midnight on sudden order and proceeded to rendezvous at Les Glaugmes in Brigade area.


May 9th – Les Glaugmes.
The 18th Battalion arrived at Brigade Rendezvous Les Glaugmes, west of Le Touret at 0340 am and stood by, as part of the first Corps Reserve. (Notification had been received the night previously that the British would open a heavy bombardment at 5am, supplemented to a bombardment by the French Artillery during the previous 30 hours. At 2pm, the bombardment by the British was resumed for 40 minutes as a prelude to an assault by the 1st Division and Indian Corps in the neighbourhood of Neuve Chapelle and the Bois de Biez. Simultaneously, the French Corps are assaulting south east of La Bassee in the neighbourhood of Loos and Carency.
Information was received that German Machine Guns are apparently firing through the bottom of breastworks at 945pm. The Brigade made a move eastwards to a point in the Rue De Bois about 500 yards west of Le Touret to stand by in the 2nd Divisional Reserve.


May 10th – Facons.
At 330pm, the 5th London Brigade (now known as the 141st Brigade of the 47th Division) moved to billets at Les Facons, west of Le Touret. At 5pm, the billeting areas were readjusted and the 18th Battalion went into the billets in the Rue du Bois, about 450 yards west of Le Touret. Battalion Headquarters at the Estaminet, Le Plus. At 1130pm, the Battalion received orders to clear out of billets before 7am the next day and to go into a bivouac on the north side of the Rue Du Bois about 450 yards west of Le Touret.


May 11th – Le Touret.

In bivouac all day. At 910pm, a working party of 60 proceeded Richebourg St Vaast towards Rue Du Bois.


May 12th – Le Touret.
Brigade proceeded via Essars to Bethune – this Battalion into billets around Cemetery.


May 13th – Bethune.
Battalion rested Bethune – orders received at 630pm to proceed by march route at once to Givenchy (via south side of Canal) to relieve Scots Guards in section B2.


May 14th – Givenchy.
Section B2 held as follows – ‘C’ Coy right front line – ‘A’ Coy + 2 sections ‘D’ Coy left hand line – ‘B’ Coy in Reserve Dugouts – ‘D’ Coy (less 2 sections) as follows – 1 platoon in Keep – 1 platoon + 1 section – Gunners Siding – two sections . HQ Dugouts – 3 sections. Mairie Redoubt – 4 MGs in firing line / 2 over for 20th London Regiment) – trenches left in excellent condition.


May 15th – Givenchy.
‘C’ Coy relieved Guards Division. ‘A’ by ‘B’. Confidential order received regarding an attack by Indian Corps, 7th and 2nd Divisions – 47th Division as pivot at Givenchy to hold on.


May 16th – Givenchy.
Assault of 2nd and 7th Division commenced 315am in attack …… north east of Festubert. Our artillery bombardment initiative – enemy reply considerable and usual shelling of Keep and neighbourhood. 2 Lieut Houston wounded and two other ranks at Keep.


May 17th – Givenchy.
Enveloping movement and assaults by the Division on our left continued – left of the line being seen now half right to enable an echelon movement to the ….out and towards Violaine. At 410pm, orders were received by the Battalion to prepare to assault the enemy’s trenches…in part of B2 subsector. Full dispositions were arranged – ‘A’ Coy assaulting Coy in readiness in front line trenches – Coy in support (C Coy) still holding the Keep and Mairie Redoubt – remainder of Company to support the advance – assault was on to take place until 19th London on our left had reached enemy’s trenches – at 730pm, orders received from Brigade that assault would not take place. About 9pm, the enemy exploded a mine on our left front following it up with rifle fire – the mine exploded only about 30 yards in front of their own line and the enemy did not assault. Heavy artillery fire from enemy occurred throughout night. Keep was …by two direct hits. The assault of the Battalion units have been ……by the fact that neither our own nor the enemy’s wire was cut. (A complimentary message on the work of the Brigade during the past few days was received from GOC, 47th Division).


May 18th – Givenchy.
Offensive movement on our left continues but K5 not yet in our hands.


May 19th – Givenchy/Le Preol.
….Were distinguished by the volume of the enemy bombardment of B2.
Battalion relieved in B2 by 20 London Regiment – relief completed about 1pm. Battalion to billets at Le Preol.


May 20th – Le Preol.
In billets at Le Preol. Coy commanders reconnoitred line B3. Working party 400 men found for B3 at 8pm. Another working party same shift 12 midnight.


May 21st – Le Preol.
Inspection of damaged rifles caused by dirt collected in chamber on bulged barrels due to neglect in trenches. Two working parties sent up 7pm and 845pm to B3. Parties returned 3am.


May 22nd – Le Preol.
Still in billets Le Preol. Battalion ordered to be held in readiness at 7am to move at moment’s notice – later the order was amended that the Battalion was to be in readiness to move at half an hour’s notice to reinforce front line. Conference of Commanding Officers at Brigade Office 10am to discuss an attack shortly to be made (on 23rd). Lt Col Concannon commanding the Battalion left for 5th Hospital Field Ambulance on Medical Officers’ Certificate. Command of Battalion passed to Major Healy.


May 23rd – Givenchy.
18th Battalion, London Regiment to relieve 20 Battalion London Regiment in Section in B2 in trenches at Givenchy Les La Bassee – ‘A’ and ‘C’ Companies and 2 sections of ‘B’ Coy in front line. ‘B’ Coy less 2 sections in Keep and strongpoints (Mairie Redoubt and Gunner Siding) and in HQ dug outs. ‘D’ Coy in reserve (Harley St). Relief completed at 7pm. In the absence on sick leave of Lieut Col Concannon DSO, the command of the 18 Battalion is assumed by the second in command Major HM Healy TD (The Battalion MO, D Spooner, slightly wounded in the shoulder by a fragment of light explosive shell. Church parade at Le Preoul for RCs at 1030am. Chaplain Father Flynn from Beuvry.


May 24th –Givenchy.
Inspection of trenches section B2 Givenchy Les La Bassee by Brigadier General GC Nugent at 7pm. The Battalion (22 London) on our left belongs to the 142nd Brigade but is temporarily (while on the defensive) under Brigadier GC Nugent commanding the 141st Brigade. Information received in the fornoon to the effect that the Canadian Division had captured work K5. Heavy artillery fire by the enemy throughout the day.


May 25th – Givenchy.
The 47th Division (London) and the Canadian Division made a vigorous assault on the enemy’s trench and breastwork line east of Givenchy Les La Bassee. The 141st Infantry Brigade was ordered to continue and hold this line as follows: 17th Battalion on the right (resting on the canal) Section B1. !8th Battalion Section B2. 19th Battalion in reserve in Gunner Siding. 20th Battalion in reserve at Le Preoul. The 142nd Infantry Brigade on our left to assault the enemy’s trenches at 630pm. The assaulting Battalions being the 23rd and 24th Londons. The Canadian Division to assault at 9pm. The 21st and 22nd Londons in reserve in Sidbury. The assault by the 23rd and 24th Battalion on our left quickly succeeded. The 18th Battalion, meanwhile, keeping up a hot covering fire (Second Lieut Maginn acted very well as observing officer, on the left of our line, Second Lieut Steele, although suffering from a bullet wound in the forehead stuck to his duty in the advanced trenches for several hours before reporting to the first aid station. A very heavy artillery fire was poured in by the enemy throughout the evening and night. The first aid dressing station and HQ mess of the 18th Battalion was practically destroyed by shell fire. One of the servants (Ryan) and the orderly room clerk (Cpl Wimsett being wounded. Messages received up to midnight from the 141st Brigade Office informed that the 142nd Infantry Brigade and the Canadian Division had made substantial progress in occupying enemy trenches. Messages received from Major General Barter expressing his appreciation of the conduct of troops under his command.


May 26th – Givenchy.
Violent attacks and counter attacks occurred on our left in the early hours. The 24th Battalion appears to have gained a position in which they are badly enfiladed by the enemy. The 18th Battalion ordered to give all possible support by covering fire. The enemy’s artillery fire has been very heavy. Many breaches have been made in our communication trenches and the Keep has been badly holed. Casualties on our left (24th and 23rd London) appears to be very heavy. Our own casualties not very serious (Major Healy slightly wounded in head by shell fire. Three Riflemen killed and 11 wounded. A sapper of the RE was killed in the Keep). The outcome of the day’s operations appear to be some trenches gained on our left at a very heavy cost. A quit night. All necessary repairs to the Keep and to the communication trenches was immediately carried out.


May 27th – Givenchy.
The following special order of the day by the 47th London Division reads as follows:
In the Field – 27th May 1915.
The GOC wishes to express to the Brigadier General and all ranks of the 142nd Infantry Brigade as well as the other units of the Division which cooperated with it, his great appreciation of their behaviour during the operations of the 25th and 26th May. They may be sure that the news of their achievement, which was worthy of veteran regular troops, will be received with pride at home. Major General Barter has also much gratification in recording the following message from Lt General Sir Charles Munro KCB – My best congratulations to my old comrades of the 2nd (London) Division in their success.
Signed C Barter, Major General, Commanding 47th (London) Division.
The section of the enemy trenches captured on our left by the 23rd and 24th London battalions is commanded by higher ground (known as the Orchard, still in occupation by the enemy and has been heavily shelled and bombed. In the night of 27th/28th May, the 24th Battalion was relieved by the 20th London Battalion. C Coy (18 Battalion) relieved ‘B’ Coy in the firing line.


May 28th – Givenchy.
The 20th Battalion asked the 18th Battalion for assistance in repelling the enemy’s bombing attack. The 18th Battalion sent a bombing detachment at once and good work was done. French mortars and rifle grenades were also used by the 18th to help the 20th Battalion (An inspection of the tactical situation was made by General Nugent during the morning. The following special order of the day by the 141st Infantry Brigade reads as follows:
In the Field 27/5/15.
The Brigadier has much pleasure in announcing to the Brigade that Major General Barter commanding the 47th (London) Division personally congratulates him on the work of the Brigade during the recent operations. The GCO was especially desirous that all ranks of the Brigade should be made aware of this great appreciation of all they did and the way they did it. The Brigadier wishes to add that he is proud of having the honour of commanding them.
Signed George C Nugent, Brigadier General, Commanding 141st Infantry Brigade.


May 29th – Givenchy.
The position occupied by the 20th Battalion on our left has given cause for considerable anxiety. It is commanded by the enemy positions on higher ground and has been persistently bombed and shelled. The bombing party of the 18th has been lent to the 20th Battalion (‘C’ Company) in the firing line of Section B2 and has employed rifle grenades and trench mortars to harass the enemy, also relieve the pressure on the 20th Battalion. In the afternoon, the 20th Battalion was relieved by the 19th Battalion and therefore the enemy resumed the bombing tactics. The 18th Battalion communicated with the 19th Battalion (London) RFA and requested then to put a heavy fire into the enemy positions and so silence his trench mortars (Second Lieut Orr slightly wounded while acting as observing officer in the front trench). The position on our left was reported to the Brigade Office with the result that late in the evening there arrived the Divisional Trench Mortar (Vickers ½’) batteries for action next morning. ‘A’ Coy relieved ‘C’ Coy in the trenches on the left of our line and ‘B’ Coy relieved ‘D’ Coy on the right of our line.


May 30th – Givenchy.
The enemy was very active throughout the night 29/30th May. Evidently apprehensive of attack, he is very strongly wired in opposite our trench in Section 132 and was throwing bombs into his own wire. The position (133) on the left of our line is still occupied by the 19th Battalion and we have continued to afford them to them the assistance of our bombing party (Lieut Colonel Hurbock, 19th Battalion, has expressed in a letter to the OC 18th Battalion his thanks for the assistance so rendered. Rfn Shipley 18th Battalion was killed while acting as bomber in the trench occupied by the 19th Battalion. Later on, CQMS Dillon A Coy, 18th Battalion, was killed in the trench while making some enquiries regarding Shipley. The enemy has kept up a heavy shell fire on our position all day. The Keep suffered some direct hits (with the result that two riflemen of the Garrison were wounded, one ending fatally). Frequent communication by telephone was opened today with the 22nd Battalion (TF) Howitzer Brigade and as our request, they rendered valuable service by shelling the enemy position opposite the left of Section B2 (2/Lieut Maginn was wounded by shrapnel in the head. Later in the evening, Lieut Col Mitchell, Canadian Staff Officer, called with the object of reconnoitring our line, as a preliminary of the Canadian Division taking on the night of 1st/2nd June). Very persistent sniping throughout the day. The position of a sniper has apparently been located and efforts will be made to bomb him out. The Regimental Sergeant Major of the 19th Battalion reports that the sniper is so well built in and protected with sandbags that he is practically immune from rifle fire so long as he keeps well back in his den. He is reported to have several loopholes (arranged from wire) from which to fire.


May 31st – Givenchy.
No change in the tactical situation. Several officers of the Canadian Division called at HQ 18th Battalion (London) Regiment at 7am to reconnoitre the position of Section B2 (Givenchy Les La Bassee) from the Rhino (exclusive) to the Duck’s Bill (inclusive) where they are going to take over on the 1st June 1915. The position of the line B2 west of the shrine (inclusive) will be taken over today by the 7th Division. At an early hour this morning, Brigade General Nugent was killed by a stray rifle shot while inspecting work in progress at Sidbury Mound. Funeral at Bethune cemetery at 530pm. Two officers and six men to attend from each battalion in the 141st Infantry Brigade. The funeral was attended by Generals Monro, Barter, Cuthbert and Willoughby. Late in the evening, the late CQMS Dillon was buried in the ground. Attached to the reserve billets in the Pont Fix Rd.