During the night of March 21/22nd, we did experience a real touch of the offensive in the shape of a big raid on the right Company, the most vulnerable portion of the line on the whole Brigade front. This front, which was held by A Company was of enormous length, extending from Railway Craters on the right to Munster Parade on the left, a distance of about 600 yards.
Three platoons (about 60 all told) held the outpost line in small posts of four or five men, each under a N.C.O., the fourth platoon being held in support as a counterattacking platoon in Old Boots Trench at the West end of Munster Tunnel. The latter was about 400 yards behind the outpost line, and was also occupied by the support Company, and contained the right Company Headquarters. The orders laid down were that in case of attack the platoon detailed for the task was to counter-attack either through the tunnel (quite impossible if the enemy obtained a footing in the trench at the tunnel mouth) or over the top.
Shortly after midnight, the enemy put down an intense barrage of trench mortars, wing bombs, and shells of all calibres, along the whole of the Brigade front and support lines, forward communication trenches, Battalion Headquarters, the Village Line, and extending even to roads, villages, and batteries far behind the line. Telephone wires were broken immediately, but the “S.O.S.” was sent by signal rocket and power buzzer, and our artillery and machine guns replied at once. There had been no preliminary bombardment or warning of any kind.
The enemy entered our trenches directly behind his barrage from the cover of the craters on the right, between our right post and the left Company of the 138th Brigade, who were on our right, also near Dundee Walk in the centre, and just North of Munster Tunnel on the left. Such wire as had been put up by the few men who were usually available was swept away by the hurricane bombardment, which prevented movement of any kind, either to or from the front or support lines.
Two runners were wounded whilst attempting to take messages between Company Headquarters and Munster Tunnel, a distance of 50 yards. The posts in the front line were unable, owing to their small numbers, to offer any prolonged resistance, or on account of the distance between them, to assist neighbouring posts.
The front line entrance to Munster Tunnel was held by us the whole time, and an attempt to blow it in, which was one of the main objects of the raid, was frustrated, 2nd Lieut. Hartle being wounded by a hand grenade. That the garrison of the outpost line withstood the onslaught to their utmost there is no doubt, and to this the pools of blood and reeking bayonets of some of the rifles found afterwards in the trench, bore convincing testimony.
After the enemy’s withdrawal, one unwounded and one seriously wounded German were left in our hands, the former having apparently become detached from his party, and being discovered later in front of our trench with a sheet of newspaper fluttering from his rifle.
The thoroughness with which the Boche trained for this raid was proved from the prisoners’ statements and documents, which afterwards came into our hands. For six weeks the raiding party, consisting of about 250 men, had been training over an exact replica of our trenches, constructed with the help of an aeroplane photograph. The training had also included the teaching of several words of English. The work of the raiders was extraordinary, and our own men in the front line testified to the remarkable dexterity with which they removed their casualties. This is the more wonderful inasmuch as they had to penetrate our barrages, in order to regain their trench, and there is no doubt that in doing so they lost heavily.
Our casualties amounted to three other ranks killed, including a very gallant N.C.O., Corpl. Tyne, 26 other ranks missing, and one Officer (Hartle), and ten other ranks wounded. We should like to pay tribute to the excellent work done by the Signallers, who as usual worked their hardest, to try and keep their lines in order, in spite of the heavy shelling. L.-Corpl. Parry’s efforts to repair the broken lines back from one of the front Companies, were especially praiseworthy.
The wounded Officer was Elias William Hartle from near Crich – see here
The men killed were:-
307131 Pte Sidney Samuel Ives who lived at Walworth in Surrey and left Charlotte and a young son Sidney George who was born in 1916.
305752 Cpl Harold Tyne DCM was from Southwell and arrived in France in May 1915. See here.
305625 Pte John Thompson. Son of B. Thompson of Mansfield; husband of Rhoda Thompson of Heathfield, Cale Green, Stockport. John arrived in France in August 1915.
The men taken prisoner were:-