8th Battn Seaforth Highlanders War Diary

REPORT ON OPERATIONS FROM 21ST APRIL 1917 TO 29TH APRIL 1917.

Ref 1:10,000 VIS EN ARTOIS Sheet 51 B. S.W. 2. Edition 4.a.

April 21st. At 7-30 p.m. the battalion marched from billets in ARRAS to the front line, relievening a portion of 8/10th Gordon Hrs from about N.17.d.9.0. to about N.17.b.6.2. B,D, and C Coys in the front line from right to left in the order named, A Coy in Reserve in the MARLIERE CAVE N.17.d.1.1. Battalion Headquarters in MARLIERE CAVE. Relief was completed at 11-30 p.m. Weather – fine, Night – cold.

April 22nd. Our artillery was very active, but on the battalion front the enemy confined his attention to shelling the neighbourhood of MARLIERE CAVE and its approaches. Weather – fine, Observation – good, Night – cold.

April 23rd. ZERO hour having been fixed for 4-45 a.m. the assaulting companies commenced to move their “jumping off positions” at 2-15 a.m. One platoon “A” Coy (to advance up the COJEUL river valley South of GUEMAPPE) and “B” Coy moved to bank running from N.18.c.4½ to 2.6. “D” and “C” Coys moved into two lines of trenches which had been previously dug 40 and 80 yards respectively in front of the front line. “A” Coy less one platoon moved into front line vacated by “B” Coy South of LA BERGERE – MARLIERE Road.

All were in position and ready for the assault at 4.0 a.m. The attack commenced at 4-45 a.m. At 5-5 a.m. O.C. “B” Coy (right Coy) reported his advance was held up about 300 yards W. of GUEMAPPE by heavy Machine Gun fire and the Coy on his left (D Coy) was also unable to make any progress. Both companies had suffered heavy casualties and only one officer was left. Later it was ascertained that “C” Coy on the left of the line was also checked and had lost all its officers. “A” Coy (Reserve) had moved to the bank in N.18.c. as soon as the assaulting troops had cleared it and at 5-15 a.m. one platoon was ordered to reinforce “B” Coy. This platoon was only able to advance a short distance East of the bank owing to the heavy machine gun fire.

At 6-55 a.m. B and D Coys had made some progress towards the village and could be seen digging in shell-holes about 200 yards West of the buildings.

Hostile machine gun fire from S. and S.E. had greatly diminished which indicated that the right Division were progressing. Machine gun fire was still heavy from N. and N.E.

At 7-30 a.m. the enemy holding up the advance on the left began to show signs of giving way and some seen going back afforded targets for our Lewis guns and riflemen. This result was brought about by troops on our left having made some progress and being able to bring enfilade fire on to some of the enemy positions. A combined advance by “C” Company, a portion of the 9th Black Watch and 7th Cameron Hrs on our left, broke the enemy resistence and some 30 or 40 prisoners were taken. This cleared the way for the advance of the whole line and at 9-5 a.m. the assaulting companies were through the village and commencing to consolidate on the East side.

No resistence was met in GUEMAPPE which the enemy had entirely evacuated.

At 9-15 a.m. the remaining two platoons of “A” Coy were ordered forward to assist in the consolidation and Battalion Headquarters moved from the MARILERE CAVE to the bank in N.18.c.

At 10-15 a.m. O.C. “A” Coy reported that “A”, “B”, and “D” Companies were East of the village reorganizing and attempting to consolidate. Enemy shell-fire was heavy and there was considerable machine gun and rifle fire from about O.13.b.4.4. (probably TANK TRENCH) O.C. “C” Coy was to the N. and clear of the village. Beside himself there was only one other officer and amongst his men there was also Black Watch and Cameron Highrs. Very soon after this, from observation from Battalion Headquarters considerable movement of our troops westwards on high ground South of River COJEUL was seen and the enemy artillery fire on the ridge became intense. Heavy machine gun fire also commenced to sweep the open ground between GUEMAPPE and the bank in N.18.c.

At 11-0 a.m. parties of the Battalion with men of the 9th Black Watch and 7th Cameron Highrs began to reach the bank from the village, and later O.C. “A” Coy reached Bttn Headquarters wounded. This officer reported that the position East of GUEMAPPE had become untenable owing to the evident withdrawal of our troops from the high ground S. of the COJEUL.

Practically no consolidation had been possible E. of GUEMAPPE in the time, and that the battalion with a portion of the Black Watch just North of the Village were slowly withdrawing on the Bank and enemy trenches in N.18.b and a.

At 1 p.m. what remained of the battalion was holding the Bank in N.18.c and an officer who withdrew with the last party through GUEMAPPE reported that none of the battalion were E. of the village and as far as he could ascertain, none were in the village.

The Division on our right were now holding a front line in N.24.b and d., south of the COJEUL.

At 6-o p.m. the attack by our troops was renewed on the battalions right and left, the village of GUEMAPPE being heavily bombarded. The battalion furnished a platoon to move up the COJEUL VALLEY to East end of the village and before dark this platoon was in touch with the Division on our right and troops of 46th Brigade in O.13.c on the left.

The battalion remained entrenched behind the bank during the night it’s strength being 5 officers and 138 other ranks. Weather – fine, Observation – good, Night very cold.

April 24th. At dawn patrols were sent through GUEMAPPE to search the village. These returned about 7-0 a.m. and reported village quite clear of the enemy and no wounded could be found. During the day the area immediately W. of the Bank was subjected to continual enemy shelling but the bank furnished excellent cover and no damage was done.

From 10 p.m. to 3-30 a.m. 25th April the whole battalion was employed in digging a traversed fire trench from about N.18.c.9.2. to 9.9. Weather fine.

April 25th. By this time some more men had been collected from other units of the Brigade and the total strength at the bank now amounted to 5 Officers and 190 other ranks. During the afternoon orders were received that 44th Infantry Brigade would relieve 46th Infantry Brigade on evening 25/26th in the front line. The battalion was to be in support in a trench known as TANK TRENCH about 0.13.c

At 10 p.m. the battalion moved to TANK TRENCH and Battalion HQRS to the trench dug the evening before at N.18.c.9.3.

Weather – fine, Observation – good, Night – cold.

April 26th. Enemy artillery active in back areas, but battalion were little troubled by shell-fire. Battalion Hqrs moved to a cellar in N.E. corner of GUEMAPPE.

At about 3 p.m. orders were received that at 10-30 p.m. 9th Black Watch and 7th Cameron Hrs would attack and capture the spur in 0.14.c. and farm in 0.14.a. and that the battalion would support the 7th Cameron Hrs and at ZERO move forward to occupy the front line vacated by the 7th Cameron Hrs. At ZERO two companies of the battalion moved forward as ordered, but the farm not being captured, these companies withdrew to TANK TRENCH just before dawn on 27 Apl. Weather fine, dull with cold wind.

April 27th. At dawn, at mid-day and again at 8-o p.m. the enemy heavily bombarded the line occupied by the battalion. During the early morning enemy machine guns were very active and no movement in the open was possible as far W. as GUEMAPPE. Some casualties were caused, but the spirit of the men remained excellent.

About 3 p.m. orders were received that the battalion would relive (sic) the 7th Cameron Hrs in the front line at dark. This was carried out and relief was completed at 12 midnight. Battalion Hqrs moved at 6-0 p.m. to MARLIERE CAVE.

Weather – fine, Observation – bad, warmer.

April 28th. Some shelling of the front line but quiet day on the whole.

3rd London Regiment of 56th Division relieved the battalion in the line. The relief was completed at 12-20 a.m. on 29th and battalion marched to billets in ARRAS.

During the foregoing operations the battalion sustained the following casualties: -

Killed.

Officers. 5.

Other ranks. 85.

Wounded.

Officers. 10.

Other ranks. 203.

Missing.

Officers. –

Other Ranks. 16.

Total Officers. 15.

Other Ranks. 304.

  • Public Record Office – War Diaries 8th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders 1917 – 1919 (WO 95/1940)