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1st/5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders

Battalion War Diary November 1916


Place  Date                Diary

1st Nov

The weather continued good till nightfall when a rainstorm again broke over the camp. Practically the whole Battalion was employed in working parties.



2nd Nov

At 8 a.m. the Battalion proceeded to take over [illegible] of 7th GORDONS in FORCEVILLE.  These orders were cancelled at 11 a.m during the course of the relief , and the Battalion returned to MAILLY WOOD.  The following working parties paraded during the day:- 2 officers and 150 other ranks at 11 a.m. ; 2 parties of 1 officer and 50 other ranks at 9.30 a.m. to carry ammunition; 1 officer and 40 O.R. to construct dugouts and trench [illegible]. A party of 2 officers and 50 O.R. to repair trenches.  Rain fell heavily during the forenoon.



3rd Nov

Four officers and 200 O.R. were employed during the forenoon making dugouts in ST JOHN'S ROAD and TIPPERARY.  The remainder of the Battalion were engaged in improving the conditions of the Camp and cleaning the roads.  The day was fine and bright.



4th Nov

The weather continued good.  Working parties of 5 officers and 345 other ranks paraded during the course of the day for cleaning trenches and constructing dugouts.  2/LT W W LAIRD in charge of one of these parties was killed by a shell near STOCKTON DUMP.



5th Nov

A trench working parties party of 2 officers and 50 other ranks, with two parties of 1 officer and 60 other ranks each, paraded during the day.  The Battalion moved from MAILLY WOOD to LEALVILLERS in the afternoon, the first platoon of 'C' Company leaving at 1 p.m.  The relief was completed at 4 p.m.



6th Nov

At 8 a.m 2 officers and 120 other ranks were employed cleaning roads around LEALVILLERS, working till 5 p.m.  A similar party of 60 O.R. worked under the TOWN MAJOR.  The Lewis Gun and bombing sections paraded independently. Weather still unsettled with frequent showers.



7th Nov

Rain fell the whole day.  Road cleaning parties of 2 officers and 138 other ranks worked on the ACHEUX and VARENNES roads.  The remainder of the Battalion attended the baths in parties of 25 per half-hour.  2/LT A.S. MILNE proceeded on leave.



8th Nov

Road cleaning parties paraded as per yesterday.  The day was still wet.  The remainder of the Battalion paraded during the forenoon and afternoon under Company arrangements, practising musketry and bayonet fighting.  Bombing and Lewis Gun sections paraded independently.



9th Nov

The morning was calm and bright, consequently there was much aircraft activity.  In addition to the daily working parties for cleaning roads, a party of 1 officer and 40 men paraded at 7 a.m. for making water troughs at VARENNES.  The Commanding Officer proceeded on leave at 5 a.m. to U.K.



10th Nov

The same working parties were employed cleaning roads and making trench boards.  From 10 a.m. to 12 noon the remainder of the Battalion practised the attack on ground south of ACHEUX ROAD.  At 1 p.m. another party of 2 officers and 100 other ranks paraded for work at VARENNES.  The weather remained good and the condition of the ground improved considerably.



11th Nov

1 Officer and 40 men paraded at 8 a.m. for work at water troughs at VARENNES.  During the afternoon the Battalion moved from LEALVILLERS  into tents and bivouacs at MAILLY WOOD WEST, 'D' Coy leaving at 2 p.m. At night 2/LTS JOHNSTONE, SYKES, WRIGHT and FERGUSON reconnoitred overland routes.

12th Nov
Y day

Divine Service was held at 11.30am. During the afternoon final preparations were made for the attack. At 8.30 pm OO no 157 was issued, and at 10pm no. 7 platoon of ‘A’ Coy moved off marching via MAILLY CHURCH and AUCHONVILLERS STATION overland to positions prearranged in assembly trenches C, D, and B Coys following by platoon at 20 yard interval.  The Battalion, which was in support, was lined up preparatory to the attack along ESSEX ST.,  FETHARD  ST., BROOK ST., and BOND ST., in the following order from right to left - A, C, D, B. Battalion took up its position in ‘forming up’ trenches at 12.30 on Y/Z night. Objective the yellow line – FRANKFORT TRENCH.



13th Nov
Z day


Zero hour 5.45 am 13th Nov – ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies were detailed to pass right on to the ‘green line’ STATION ROAD, and from there commence the attack on the ‘yellow line’. ‘A’ and ‘B’ companies were to remain in the front line German line awaiting orders to reinforce.

Development of Operation.  On reaching the front line German trench, C and D companies passed right over the second German line where they found the trench strongly occupied by the enemy.  After a good deal of hard fighting, they, together with men of the 6th BLACK WATCH and the 7th GORDON HIGHRS, succeeded in clearing this line and capturing a large number of prisoners.  They then pressed forward by bombing up the communication trenches until the third German line was reached, when only one officer of the two companies was left.   After fierce hand to hand fighting they however partly cleared this line in conjunction with the 6th B.W. and 7th G.H, and the 4th GORDON HIGHRS coming up later helped to complete the work.  Meantime the barrage had passed beyond the ‘yellow line’, but on account of the opposition detailed above, the two leading companies were unable to follow it up.  At this juncture (about 2 p.m.) the 4th G.H. came forward and passed through, carrying several of our men with them to the 4th or ‘green line’ which ultimately fell. [Illegible] platoons [illegible] were detailed to dash up Y RAVINE as the 4th G.H. were passing over and this they successfully carried out. ‘A’ Coy, which had lost all its officers before the first German line was reached was forced to deploy to the flank, and in the fog lost direction and got mixed up with the 63rd Division [Royal Naval Division] with whom they pressed forward. One platoon of this company detached from the rest proceeded up the RAVINE where they suffered very heavily.  ‘B’ Coy found itself held up in front of the German front line owing to the fact that the leading Battalions of the Brigade were unable to [illegible] a sufficient number of men to clear up this line.  It should be mentioned at this point that on account of the fog, observation was impossible; almost all the runners were killed or wounded, and these two factors made it extremely difficult for Battalion Headquarters to secure definite information as to the progress of the attack. About 10.00 a.m. 2/LT G A NAIRN volunteered to go out and obtain definite information as to the condition of matters in the front German line which was reported to be still occupied by parties of the enemy.  He found that at two particular points the enemy were still holding their front line.  At one of these points the 7th G.H. were endeavoring to clear the trench. At the other point the enemy were not being tackled. So 2/LT ANDERSON was detailed to attack this party on the flanks and in the rear.  This operation was successful and we captured 119 prisoners and a machine gun.  After all four lines had been captured, instructions were received that the Battalion would man and consolidate the 3rd German line.  This order was duly carried out.  About 9.30 p.m. Battalion Headquarters moved forward and was established in the 3rd German line.



14th Nov
Z + 1 day

The Battalion moved forward in the morning to the 4th German line.  Posts were established in conjunction with the 4th G.H., the Battalion finding touch on the left with the latter and on the right with the 188th Brigade.  The men were withdrawn to dugouts in Y RAVINE in the afternoon.



15th Nov
Z + 2 day

The day was spent consolidating the line along with the 4th G.H.  The Battalion was relieved by the 9th ROYAL SCOTS, and moved back to MAILLY WOOD CAMP (WEST) via CARLISLE trench, arriving in camp about 9 p.m.
Resumé of Operation:- The operations in the main were eminently successful.  The losses were small in comparison with the ground gained and the number of prisoners taken.  The Battalion casualties were approximately 6 officers killed and 8 wounded, and 60 other ranks killed, 130 wounded and 45 missing.  It is definitely known that 305 prisoners were taken by the Battalion, and probably many more were brought in.  The original objective of ‘C’ and ‘D’ Coys was the Southern half of FRANKFORT TRANCH but these instructions were cancelled.   The weather was dull and foggy throughout, but the mist on the whole assisted rather than hindered the operation.  6 Officers and 133 other ranks remained with the transport from 13th to 15th.



16th Nov

The day was cold and wet.  The Battalion rested during the day.

17th Nov

Snow fell during the night 16/17th and the weather was cold and raw, with frequent showers.  Companies spent the day cleaning the camp and their own equipment.



18th Nov

The weather continued bad, rain falling practically the whole day.  At 7 a.m. a burial party of 30 O.Rs paraded under 2/LT FINLAYSON, also a party of 8 at 9.30 a.m. under 2/LT MCLEOD.  During the afternoon the Battalion moved from LAILLY WOOD CAMP to ARQUEVES, moving off at 1.15 p.m. and arriving in ARQUEVES at 4 p.m.  LIEUT JACK with advance party took over billets during the afternoon.



19th Nov

The Battalion attended Divine Service at 10 a.m.  The day was dull but dry.  At 7 p.m. a draft of 245 O.R. joined the Battalion from the 9th (left half) Entrenching Battalion. Leave began again today.



20th Nov

The draft paraded at 9.30 a.m. for medical inspection.  At 12.15 p.m. the Brigadier- General addressed all officers and men who took part in the attack.  The afternoon was spent by the companies in cleaning and improving billets.



21st Nov

A party of 3 officers and 130 O.R. paraded at 6.30 a.m. for work on roads at ACHEUX.  Companies paraded from 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and from 2-4 p.m. under company arrangements.  Special attention was paid to the training of the new draft.  Special parades were held under specialist officers.  At 2 p.m. the Commanding Officer delivered a lecture to all officers on map-reading.



22nd Nov

The Battalion moved today from ARQUEVES into huts at PUCHEVILLERS, arriving at 12.30 p.m.  The afternoon was spent in cleaning up the camp which was in a filthy condition.  Weather cold but dry.



23rd Nov

The draft were fitted with Box Respirators from 9 to 10 a.m.  Parades were held under Company arrangements from 9.30 to 12.30 p.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. Most of the men were employed making roads through the mud, and cleaning the camp generally.  Lectures were delivered to the draft on trench [illegible].  The Lewis Gun and Bombing officers spent the day reorganizing their respective sections.



24th Nov

The Battalion moved today from PUCHEVILLERS to HEDAUVILLE.  Companies in order ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ marched via TOUTENCOURT and HARPONVILLE, ‘A’ Coy moving off at at 7.30 a.m.  Rain fell practically the whole day.  The afternoon was spent in organizing  Bombing and Lewis Gun sections, and in improving billets and cleaning roads in company areas.



A working party of 1 officer and 100 O.R. paraded at 7 a.m. for road cleaning at LEALVILLERS.  Weather still bad – roads in a wretched condition.  A party of 1 officer and 40 O.R. was supplied to TOWN MAJOR for the purpose of improving the roads.  During the forenoon the box respirators of new draft were tested at the gas tasting room in the village. CAPTAIN LYALL and LIEUT WEST proceeded by bus at 4.45 a.m. to POZIERES to reconnoiter the position of the Battalion to be relieved in the line.  Specialist parades were held in the afternoon with specialist officers.  2/LT THOMSON, appointed sniping and intelligence officer, organized a sniping section, and supervised sniping practice from 3-4 p.m.


Huts near OVILLERS

26th Nov

The Battalion moved today from HEDAUVILLE into huts at OVILLERS, via BOUZINCOURT and AVELUY, leaving at 6.30 a.m. and arriving at 9.15 a.m.  At 11 a.m. the Commanding Officer met all Company officers commanders and discussed plans and made preparations for taking over the line.  Companies were employed making roads through the camp.  Bombing and sniping sections paraded from 2 – 3 p.m.  The Battalion paraded at 3.30 p.m. for Divine Service. 



Today the Battalion moved from huts near OVILLERS into FABECK and GUNNER DUGOUTS west of COURCELETTE.  An advance party under MAJOR MCDONALD, consisting of one officer per Company, one man per platoon, Signalling, Intelligence and Bombing officers reconnoitred the position during the forenoon and afternoon.  The leading platoons moved off at 4.40 p.m. and the relief was completed at 7.15 p.m.  The day was misty and the roads well nigh impassable.



In the early morning the ground was covered with hoar frost.  Working parties were organized to make the new dugouts and to improve the old.  Two officers and four NCOs reconnoitered 10TH STREET in the morning.  The following parties paraded during the day: 1 officer and 20 men at 4.14 p.m.; 4 officers and 200 O.R. supplied to R.E. at 4.45 p.m.; 2 officers and 100 O.R. for carrying trench boards to front line.  At 1 p.m. a few enemy 5.9. shells landed in the vicinity of the dugouts  without doing any damage.  At 7 p.m. 1 officer and 40 O.R. paraded for work on 10TH STREET.



The Commanding Officer met Company Commanders in the morning and discussed the scheme of Defence Action to be taken when ‘Gas Alert’ is ordered, or an enemy gas attack made, and the general consolidation of the sector.  Overland routes were made from Battalion Headquarters to the Medical Aid Post and to Company Headquarters.



During the forenoon, the Commanding Officer and one officer per Company reconnoitered the part of the line to be held.  In the evening the Battalion relieved the 6th BLACK WATCH in the line.  Platoons moved off at 4 p.m. at 200 yard interval.  The relief was completed at 10 p.m. without incident.  Companies taking up positions in order ‘D’, ‘C’, ‘B’, ‘A’ from right to left.  The day was misty.


Casualty Lists for November 1916

Roll of Officers, Warrant Officers, NCOs and Men who did not go into action on 13th November

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Carolyn Morrisey