Extract from war diary of 9th Bn, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment
At a quarter past twelve a message came from Brigade stating Zero hour to be 5.40 am – this was communicated to Coy Commanders immediately. In spite of the darkness and the rain, which soon soaked the mens clothes through, the Battn was all assembled and H.Q. established in IMPERFECT COPSE by 1-45 A.M without casualty. The Battn was to attack in two waves of two lines each and the four lines all formed up close behind one another. There was no cover or protection for the lines of assembled troops, who had to lie out in the open, and unfortunately no Rum was issued. However, silence was maintained and no movement made, the troops lying there confident and quiet. The following is a list of Officers who went into action with the Battn:-
Headquarters Lt Col J.A. SOUTHEY Commanding, 2LT D. GREVILLE acting Adjutant, LT J.R. MALLALIEU Signal Officer, 2LT A.C.W. BENETT DAMPIER, intelligence Officer, and attached Capt. L. ROSE M.C. 5th S.W.B.
“A” Coy Capt H.E. QUAYLE M.C. commanding, 2/Lts’ F. FULLER, PLATT, attached 2LT DAVIES R.W.F.
“B” Coy Capt R.D. TONGE Commanding, 2/Lts’ N. SCARRATT, and J.H. McKEEVER
“C” “ “ J.G. WOOD Commanding, 2/Lts’ A.D. ELSTUB, N. SUTHERLAND M.C. and F.L. WALSH
“B” Coy Major W.H.JONES Commanding, 2Lts’ H. COLVIN, T.H. TEARE and 2Lt BUCK R.W.F. attached.
The strength of the Battn going into action was 20 Officers 556 other ranks except for the normal activity of our Artillery and machine guns the night passed quite quietly until 5.40 am, when our Artillery and machine gun barrage opened and the troops advanced to the attack:- the four lines moving forward at once to clear the enemy barrage, which came down within a few minutes of Zero hour. Once clear of our front line, the lines corrected their distances and experienced no difficulty from the enemy artillery, but hostile machine gun fire was very heavy, coming from the front and flank, especially from the direction of HOLLEBE CHAETAU [sic].
Other than this no opposition was met with, JERROCKS FARM, PIONEER HOUSE, and the intermediate objective, all being easily carried according to Schedule time, only slight casualties were sustained and many (GERMANS) were killed & captured.
Major W.H. JONES and Capt R D TONGE MC were wounded by machine gun bullets before the capture of the intermediate objective. The consolidation of the GREEN LINE was immediately carried out. As they had now gone beyond the crest of the ridge, the Battn was now in full view of the enemy, who started to make full use of his machine guns and brought rather disconcerting enfilade fire to bear on our troops both while digging in and on their subsequent advance. This was the cause of the greater of the Battns casualties. Capt J.G. WOOD was wounded soon after the arrival of [at] the intermediate objective. [sic]
The advance on the final objective commenced at 6.44 am and more resistance was met with. On the left “A” Coy under Capt H.E. QUAYLE experienced difficulty with machine guns on the ridge in front about MAY FARM, but on receiving a reinforcing platoon from “B” Coy captured POTSDAM FARM and all their final objectives and established touch with the Worcesters on their left. On the right matters were more obscure and more difficult. The WELCH REGT the attacking troops on our right flank suffered heavy casualties and were help up by HESSIAN WOOD. 2Lt. H. COLVIN who had taken over “D” Coy on Major W.H. JONES becoming a casualty, took two platoons with him and went to their assistance the remainder of “D” Coy had to go up to reinforce “C” Coy of our Battn who had sustained about 50 casualties and were held up by SNIDERS POST on their extreme right. [sic]
With this assistance the final objective was taken on the Battn front by Schedule time, but touch was not established on the right flank as HESSIAN WOOD was not cleared until after 7.30 AM. Then it was found necessary to withdraw to the NORTHERN edge of this wood on account of the swamp it proved to be, to conform with this, 2Lt H. COLVIN who had been mainly personally responsible for the clearing of HESSIAN WOOD and had now returned and taken over command of “C” & “D” Coy, with 2Lt F.L. WALSH to assist him, withdrew his right flank and the line of final objective consolidated by the Battn ran from 50 yards N of the N.E corner of HESSIAN WOOD to POTSDAM FARM. The estimated casualties of the Battn were returned as 200. This proved however to be too great. Officer casualties during the advance from the intermediate line were:- wounded:- 2Lt A.D. ELSTUB; 2Lt J.H. TEARE; 2Lt J.H. McKEEVER, last named died later in the day from his wounds. Consolidation was pushed on with all speed and a double line of posts prepared. Wire had been carried up by a Battn carrying party under the direction of Sgt WILSON who was performing the duties of R.S.M. This wire was put out protecting the line of posts. Intermittent shelling was kept up by the enemy on our new positions and especially on Battn H.Q in IMPERFECT COPSE. The posts were subjected all day to continual sniping and heavy machine gun fire, but no further casualties were sustained. A party of R.E.’s under an Officer had reported to Battn about 6.30 AM to go forward beyond the final objective and blow up enemy dugouts likely to cause Battn trouble. Owing to the strength of the enemy in these Shelters this was impossible.
At dusk both sides put up artillery barrages – these lasted until 8.30 PM, from which time until 4 AM the situation was very quiet. Wire was again carried up and the consolidation and organisation of the position completed. Water and rations were also brought and distributed to the men before dawn.