Friday, 3 July 2009

11th Middlesex - 12th May 1917

As I wrote the other day, Pte Alfred Wade of the 11th Middlesex Regiment was presumed killed in action on 12th May 1917, his commanding officer and his best friend both writing to Frances Wade to offer condolences.

Following an appeal on the Great War Forum, a forum member has sent me the relevant diary extracts from the 11th Middlesex war diary and I have transcribed the entry for 12th May 1917, below. At the time, the battalion was in trenches near Arras.

From the War Diary of the 11th Middlesex Regiment, WO 95 / 1856

12th May 1917

Relief complete 2.30am. There were no casualties. Our dispositions were as follows: ‘A’ Coy on the right in CHAIN trench from BIT lane to the junction of HALBERD & RIFLE trench. ‘B’ Coy in RIFLE trench form the junction to HARNESS Lane. ‘C’ Coy in HALBERD trench, and in the forward piece of RIFLE trench. ‘D’ Coy in trench between MUSKET trench and ORANGE lane, also on each side of the junction CURB lane and RIFLE trench. On our left the 6th Queen’s, 37th Bde, on our right King’s Own [sic] Liverpool Regt, 3rd Division.

During the night a man of the Royal West Kents was brought in by ‘C’ Coy having been in No-Man’s Land since May 3rd. 2nd Lt A A KEOGH[1] and 2 O[ther] Ranks killed [by] shell fire H[eavy] B[attery] at 7.30am, just to the right of the junction CURB lane and RIFLE trench. Coys laid low and rested all day. Enemy very quiet. At 6pm the attack was carried out as per attached Operations Orders, a similar operation being carried out on our right and left. The attack failed to reach its objective, being held up by heavy enemy machine gun and rifle fire from DEVILS trench.

The situation for a long time was obscure, and when eventually [it] cleared up at about 7.30pm it was discovered that we were occupying ARROW trench on our right, and a line of shell-holes level with it, on our left, both our flanks being in the air. Information obtained at this point stated that the Queens had gained their objective, but no information could be obtained from our right. Immediately 2nd Lt WILKINS was sent out with his platoon and an extra Lewis gun to form a defensive flank on our right parallel to [reference] from BIT lane. This was successfully carried out with a few casualties, at about 8pm. Information was obtained that the King’s Own Liverpools [sic] had gained their objective so it was determined to carry DEVILS trench at all costs. Our casualties in officers up to this point were 2nd Lt GODFREY, 2nd Lt MORRISON, 2nd Lt TOWGOOD killed & 2nd Lt GARDENER wounded[2].

At this period, Lt PROCTER, who had already gained very valuable information, was sent forward to OC ‘B’ Coy for him to re-inforce with 2 platoons on the left, take DEVILS trench, and get in touch with the Queens. He found that 2nd Lt REGAN had already decided with the forward artillery observation officer to reinforce Captain ANDERSON on the right with 2 platoons, after a preliminary bombardment at 9.30pm.

Lt PROCTER arranged with 2nd Lt REGAN and the FAOO that the attack should take place at 9.45pm , the 2 platoons reinforcing on the left as ordered. The attack was held up, meeting with the same resistance as before, after getting within 40ft of the trench. Arrangements were being made with the King’s Own Liverpools [sic] to get in touch with our right, by bombing down DEVILS trench, when definite information was received, that both our left and our right had failed to reach their objective. ‘C’ Coy was ordered to withdraw, Lieut PROCTER being put in command, together with the 2 platoons of ‘B’ Coy.


[1] 2nd Lt Alfred Alexander Keogh is buried at Feuchy British Cemetery; grave ref II.E.5
[2] 2nd Lt Herbert Arthur Godfrey (12th May 1917), 2nd Lt Robert Vernon Morrison (13th May 1917) and 2nd Lt Arthur Cecil Carden Towgood (13th May 1917) are all commemorated on Bay 7 of the Arras memorial.

The 11th Middlesex tried again, unsuccessfully, the following day. Casualties for this second attack were recorded as 6 officers killed and 1 wounded; 26 Other Ranks killed, 66 wounded and 20 missing believed killed.

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