The Charles Laughton pages ...7th Service Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment.
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(whereabouts from August 1918 to disbandment in June 1919)
To put into context the draft of men from the 2/1st Huntingdonshire Cyclists sent to France in August 1918, I will give some background information. First a brief explanation about the origins of the 7th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment, then a résumé of the manpower fluctuations in that unit from January to July 1918, then a full transcription of the War Diary from August to November 1918. Finally, a résumé of the whereabouts of the battalion from December 1918 to its disbandment in June 1919.
The excerpts from the War Diary of the 7th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment, WO 95/2218 (The National Archives -PRO), and the 73rd Field Ambulance, WO 95/2202 (The National Archives -PRO) are reproduced here by kind permission of the National Archives, Public Record Office, Kew, London, UK.
The 7th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment was one of the many "Service" battalions raised at the beginning of the war at the prompting of Lord Kitchener. It became known as "The Mobbs' own" because one of the first men to volunteer was Edgar Mobbs, a well-known Rugby player. Mobbs enlisted as a private but eventually became Lieutenant Colonel in the Battalion. Mobbs was killed in action on the 29th of July 1917, in the course of an attack in Shrewsbury Forest. Mobbs' charisma and appeal led to many men from Northampton rushing to join the new battalion, including a good number of sportsmen.
After training in England, the Battalion was ordered to be sent to France on the 28th August 1915, to be part of the 73rd Brigade, 24th Division, where it remained to the end of the war. The Battalion would take part in a large number of actions, among them the Battles of Loos, Hooge, Guillemont, Vimy Ridge, Messines, Battlewood, Pilkem Ridge, Cambrai and Mabeuge.
Due to the casualties suffered by the Battalion, by the beginning of 1918 the unit no longer was composed mainly by Kitchener volunteers: as in most units in the front, conscripts had been steadily replacing the casualties, such as the draft of young soldiers from the 2/1st Huntingdonshire Cyclists.
After the heavy fighting during the massive German Spring Offensive of March 1918, the Battalion was reinforced by a draft of 386 OR's and 3 officers on April 11th, and a further 33 OR's and 5 officers on April 19th. The number of casualties is not recorded in the war diary, but, from the number of men in the drafts it is evident that they must have been many.
The war diary records no further drafts to the date of its disbandment. This makes it difficult to place the moment at which the men from the 2/1st Huntingdonshire Cyclists joined the Battalion, but this draft ultimately happened as men from this draft were demobilized as soldiers of the 7th Bn. Northamptonshire Regt., and at least three of them have so far been spotted in the Weekly Casualty List as soldiers of the Northamptonshire Regiment, the earlier entry found being for October 12th 1918. Since these men left the UK on the beginning of August, it can be deduced that they joined the unit at a date in between, even though there is no mention of a draft in the Battalion's war diary.
It is quite likely that further drafts existed but went unrecorded (in the same way that the number of casualties of March 21st 1918 and the following days are not given). To give an example of a similar omission, the War Diary of the 7th Northamptonshires records heavy fighting taking place on November 4th 1918, but only two officers and an undetermined "number of casualties" are noted: we can't determine how many OR's were wounded there, but 13 rankers of the battalion died on that day, according to "Soldiers Died in the Great War".
The diary of the 73rd Field Ambulance in the rear, in charge of the wounded men of the three battalions of the 73rd Brigade, records 360 cases received on that same day (we bear in mind that, logically, the Field Ambulance must have recorded only the wounded cases) and no doubt some of these casualties were from the 7th Northamptonshires. It is quite likely that the Battalion received reinforcements after April 1918, but that these were not recorded by the officer in charge of the diary.
From January to July 1918 the Battalion's war diary records the following casualties:
- Missing: 2 OR's
- Killed: 1 Officer and 21 OR's
- Wounded: 53 OR's
Apart from that, there were 290 cases of influenza (dubbed "Pyrexia" by the army).
Animal casualties consisted of 5 horses and 3 mules killed, and 3 horses wounded
Incidentally, men joining the 7th Northamptonshires in the summer of 1918 found its soldiers wearing shorts from the beginning of July onwards (if you're curious as how they might have looked, there is a 1917 picture of 7th Northamptonshires wearing shorts in this link.
7th Service battalion Northamptonshire Regiment - War Diary for the month of August 1918.
August 1st 1918 - Hill 70 sector:
Enemy fairly quiet - our aircraft fairly active
August 2nd 1918 - Hill 70 sector:
Slight hostile shelling in the morning, and at intervals after dusk.
August 3rd 1918 - Hill 70 sector:
Quiet day - Slight hostile shelling at intervals after dusk.
August 4th 1918 - Hill 70 sector:
Quiet day - Battalion relieved by 9th Bn Royal Sussex Regt. (73rd Brigade, 24th Division) during night. Good relief.
August 5th 1918 - Les Brebis:
Day spent in cleaning up generally. Companies allotted baths.
August 6th 1918 - Les Brebis:
Parades under company arrangements. NCO's classes under RSM. During an organised "Nail Hunt" Cosy etc picked up 130 1/2 lbs of nails in half an hour. Working party of 36 OR's found.
August 7th 1918 - Les Brebis:
Training - the battalion carries out a scheme in the vicinity of Marqueffles Farm. Companies afterwards carried out firing practice on the range. Working Party of 36 OR's found.
August 8th 1918 - Les Brebis:
Battalion again carry out firing practice on the Marqueffles range. Usual working party found.
August 9th 1918 - Les Brebis:
480 OR's of the Battalion conveyed to the Divisional Show in lorries. Battalion succeeded in winning first prize in HD horse class, and first in OR "VC" race. Usual working party found.
August 10th 1918 - Les Brebis:
Inspection of box respirators by Brigade Gas Officer. baths allotted to Cosy etc. During the night enemy aircraft dropped a very large bomb (probably an aerial torpedo) on a billet occupied by 3rd RB's causing several casualties, and wrecking several of our billets in the vicinity. Usual working party found.
Appendix note: Capt B. Wright, MC, O. C. B Coy, and Lieut Hobbs succeeded in finding three men who were buried after three and a half hours search. One was dead, one badly wounded, and the other badly shaken.
August 11th 1918 - Les Brebis:
Battalion relieved by the 13th Middlesex Regt. (73rd Brigade, 24th Division) on left (puts 14 bus sector) . Relief was complete by 11.45 pm
Disposition as follows: D Coy: Puts 14 bus - C Coy: 1st support - A Coy: 2nd Support - B Coy: Reserve Coy.
August 12th 1918 - Hill 70 sector:
Enemy fairly quiet. A fair amount or movement observed during the day mostly in H. 26 and 27.
August 13th 1918 - Hill 70 sector:
Hostile artillery - Pratts Dump, New Cut, and Loos received attention at intervals during the night. 30 aerial darts on Humbug. 50 aerial darts on Hull, 5 aerial darts on Puts 40. Our planes active over enemy lines. Usual amount of movement seen during day, mostly in H. 21, 22 and 26.
August 14th 1918 - Hill 70 sector:
Usual amount of "Mad Minutes" Straffes at intervals on Loos, New Cut and OGM1 during the night. Quiet day.
August 15th 1918 - Hill 70 sector:
Usual shelling at intervals on OG1, Hull and Horse Alley, and Loos during the night. One EA crossed our front during the day at about 3,000 ft.
August 16th 1918 - Hill 70 sector:
Quiet day. More EA arrtilery
August 17th 1918 - Hill 70 sector:
Normal day. Usual shelling at night at Loos, Hull, Humbug, New Cut, Puts 14 Bus.
Said a Sub, to one of his friends,
As she shewed him her latest from Venns,
³Though they look most inviting
They¹re not so exciting
As the outskirts and undies of Lens²
(it is thought there may be tunnels in Lens)
September 23rd 1918 Lens Sector
Battalion in Support Apart from working parties, Companies at disposal of Company Commanders Drums up from Transport.
September 24th 1918 Lens Sector
Training under Company arrangements in accordance with programme issued by CO.
September 25th 1918 Lens Sector
Training by companies in accordance with programme: Battalion football team played a team from 13th Middlesex Regt. (73rd Brigade, 24th Division) At Marqueffles result 2-1 in favour of the Middlesex.
September 26th 1918 Lens Sector
Training carried out as per programme under Company arrangements NCOs instruction in map reading very quiet.
September 27th 1918 Lens Sector
Training carried as for 26th. Our guns carried out a shoot in early morning in conjunction with dummy figures. No retaliation.
September 28th 1918 Lens Sector
Training carried on under Company arrangements.
September 29th 1918 Lens Sector
Inspection of fighting order and equipment by CO. Equipment arranged, 2 companies leather and 2 webbing. Representatives of the battalions of the 58th Division came up to reconnoitre.
September 30th 1918 Lens Sector
Battalion relieved by Battalions of the 58th Div as follows: Bn HQ and C Coy by 10th (2/10th) London Regt. (175th Brigade, 58th Division) A, B and C Cosy by 12th London Regt. (175th Brigade, 58th Division). After relief Battalion marched to Coupigny Huts.
7th Service battalion Northamptonshire Regiment - War Diary for the month of October 1918.
October 1st 1918 - Hersin-Coupigny
Battalion entrained at Hersin-Coupigny at 1 pm and detrained at Mondicourt at 9.20 pm and marched to billets at Grouches.
October 2nd 1918 Grouches
Training under Company arrangements.
October 3rd 1918 Grouches
Training under Company arrangements.
October 4th 1918 Grouches
Training under Company arrangements.
October 5th 1918 Grouches
Transport moved by march route to Moeuvres, halting for the night 5/6th at Boisleux au Mont.
October 6th 1918 Grouches
Battalion proceeded by train to Hermies where they detrained. Battalion marched to camp just East of Moeuvres, where they bivouacked (sic) for the night 6/7th (very cold night with frost in the morning). 24th Division was now in support to 63rd Division, and were told to be in readiness to pass through and follow the enemy if he withdrew.
October 7th 1918 Moeuvres
Battalion struck camp about 14.00 hrs and marched to area SW of Caintaing, where they relieved the 190th Brigade (63rd Div). Battalion was settled in bivouacs by 19.00 hrs.
October 8th 1918 Caintaing
63rd Division, having attacked and captured Niergnies, 72nd IB moved forward to Roumilly; the 73rd Bed being concentrated just East of Canal de St. Quentin. Battalion bivouacked (sic) for the night, with orders to be ready to move at 2 hours notice. Camp had settled down by 17.00 hrs. A few 5.9 shells fell in close proximity of the camp. 1 OR wounded. Orders received about midnight that 73rd Bed were to keep in close touch.
October 9th 1918 Awoingt
Camp was struck about 05.00 hrs. Battalion moved off at 06.15 hrs. Order of march, 9th Royal Sussex Regiment (73rd Brigade, 24th Division), 7th Northamptonshire Regt., 13th Middlesex Regt. (73rd Brigade, 24th Division) Information received that 72nd IB attack had met with no opposition, and that they had pushed on to Railway East of Awoingt. 73rd Bed followed 72nd Bed keeping close touch. At 13.00 hrs the Battalion had reached a point just NW of Awoingt. At 14.00 hrs the Battalion were ordered to reconnoitre ground towards the sugar factory, and to concentrate just beyond ready to attack village of Cagnoncles. A troop of the 6th Dragoon Guards (4th Cavalry Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division) went forward to reconnoitre high ground between Cagnoncles and the Canadians, who were on our left. By 17.00 hrs., after overcoming intense MG opposition the Battalion had captured all the high ground overlooking the village.
Order of attack: D Coy (Capt. Pearson MC)- Left Front;= B Coy (Capt. B. Wright MC) Right Front; C Coy (2/Lieut W. W. Boal) Left Support; A Coy (Capt Williamson MC) Support. Having taken the high ground on his, Capt Pearson went personally with a strong patrol to reconnoitre the village and failed to return. 2/Lieut Boal, whilst moving forward with Support Company, was mortally wounded by a shell. 2/Lieut Cutting and 2/Lieut Clements were both killed whilst leading their men forward. 2/Lieut Cook and 2/Lieut Osborn were wounded. The village, being too strongly held chiefly with machine guns, which were continuously sweeping the ridge and slope leading to the village, it was decided to dig in and wait for artillery to give the necessary support. Battalion scouts, who had been operating in front during the day, were sent forward to get in touch with Canadians on the left. This was done. Information received that 2/Lieut Boal had died of wounds. Casualties: 4 Officers killed, 2 officers wounded, 85 OR's killed and wounded.
October 10th 1918 Cagnoncles
At 05.30 hrs after artillery barrage, Battalion advanced on Cagnoncles capturing 11 prisoners, 13 machine guns and several H and LTMs. Opposition weak. The battalion continued to advance meeting with no opposition. At 08.30 hrs Battalion scouts reported village of Rieux to be apparently evacuated. 2/Lieut. Harrison went forward with patrol, arriving on far side of village about 09.00 hrs. Cavalry and cyclist patrols passed through shortly afterwards. At 10.00 13th Middlesex Regt (73rd Brigade, 24th Division) passed through Battalion, which now became Support.
October 11th 1918 Rieux
At 03.00 hrs orders were received for the Battalion to remain in its present position, in deep cutting W of Rieux. Lt Col Hingley MC commanding 13th Middlesex Regt (73rd Brigade, 24th Division) seriously wounded. Battalion moved into billets in Rieux.
October 12th 1918 Rieux
Day spent in sleep, cleaning up and reorganisation.
October 13th 1918 Rieux
November 2nd 1918 Haussy
Battalion moved from the Village of Haussy into billets at Bermerain arriving there at 5.30 pm
November 3rd 1918 Bermerain
Company Commanders left early in the morning to reconnoitre forward area. Stores were issued and Companies moved off at 4 pm to a position of assembly West of Sepmeries and then bivouacked for the night. A few shells fell into the village and a long the road.
November 4th 1918 Bermerain
B and D Companies were detailed as support to the 9th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment (73rd Brigade, 24th Division) who were to attack along the whole Brigade front from a line which had been established West of the Enlain-Villers Pol Road. Capt. A. Elliman was in command of D Company and supported right flank and Capt. B. Wright the left flank. These two Companies moved off at 3 am, crossed the river Rhonelle by bridges which had been put into position by A Company the night previous, and took their position by early morning. A and C companies remained in the positions occupied the previous night until 6 am and then moved to the rear of the general line of advance. The barrage commenced at 6 am and the Companies moved forward. D Company was caught in the Hun counter-barrage and a number of casualties were caused. The remainder were led onward and in time formed part of the front line. By 8 am they were on the high ground in front of Wargniers-le-Petit. Capt A. Elliman and 2/Lieut J. W. Tetley had both become casualties (wounded). B Company successfully eluded the counter-barrage on the left (N) flank and succeeded in establishing themselves in a position which dominated the small bridge over the river Aunelle. This bridge carried the main Enlain-Bavay Road which separated Wargniers-le-Grand and Wargniers-le-Petit and by concentrated Lewis Gun and rifle fire and by forward patrols they managed to keep it whole. The enemy was shelling the sunken roads and were sweeping the ridge with machine gun fire. The position, having become stationary, it was decided to relieve the pressure by outflanking both villages from the north. The 13th Bn Middlesex Regiment (73rd Brigade, 24th Division) was allotted Wargniers-le-Grand and the 7th Northamptonshire Regiment, Wargniers-le-Petit.
14.30 hours- A and C Companies were detailed for this duty. They were to cross by keeping their left on the main road and push through the village and then onward to the high ground East of it. C Company formed the front line under 2/Lieut. C. Pike and A Company under Capt. G. A. Williamson were in support. Machine gun fire was met with but overcome by grenades and rifle fire and both Companies established themselves well forward of the village. B Company now became support and D Company having been withdrawn from the front line went into reserve. The enemy began to shell the outskirts and roads leading to the villages which were inhabited by a fair number of French civilians. 50 prisoners were taken during operations.
This morning the 17th Infantry Brigade passed through out positions and continued the advance and the Battalion moved into billets in Wargniers-le-Petit.
Companies reorganised and rested.
Battalion received orders to be ready to move forward and march through La Bois Crette, St. Waast-la-Vallee and on to billets in Bavay arriving there at 6 pm. Transport overcame difficulty of bad roads and brought rations up same night.
Battalion now became Support Battalion to 9th East Surrey Regt (72nd Infantry Brigade-24th Division). And moved to La Louvion; then onward to Le Longeville. At 4 pm, D Company armed with bill-hooks etc. Went off to clear a track through the Bois de Longueville in a NE direction from the West side to the East side leading on to the road to La Berliere. Orders were received that the advance would be continued in the morning, the 73rd Infantry Brigade taking over a 3000 yards front. The Battalion being allotted 1000 yards North of left flank of 72nd Infantry Brigade.- The 17th IB being in Support the Division taking over the Corps front.
A Company was detailed as advance guard with C Company in Support. Battalion moved off at 5.45 am. Scouts went forward and found Les Guelaros clear of the enemy and joined hands with the Royal West Kents who came into the village from the Southern end. A Company went forward meeting with no opposition, passing through Le Floricamp and to the high ground beyond Mairieux. The Battalion scouts were well to the front the whole time and, in conjunction with the Cyclists and Cavalry, did some good work. An outpost line was established by picqueting the roads leading to Mairieux, the forward Company having withdrawn to the West of it. A Platoon held the Rue d¹en Bas A Company held the Fort des Sart and B Company in Le Floricamp, D Company in Reserve at Roteleux farm where Battalion Headquarters was established. The enemy shelled the roads just West of Mairieux during the night and C company had one man killed.
The Battalion was relieved by a Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, 20th Division about mid-day and went into billets at Le Raguelle near Feignies.
Battalion moved off at 6.50 am and marched to
billets in Louvignies-Bavay area arriving at 10 am.
News of an Armistice was received on the way.
Re-organisation of Companies. Kit inspections and shoemakers inspection etc.
Cleaning up, etc. Inspection of Lewis Guns.
Inspections of A and D Companies by Commanding Officer
Battalion inspected by Brigadier General Commanding 73rd Infantry Brigade.
Inspection of B and C Companies by Commanding Officer. Training etc. Under Company arrangements.
Battalion moved by march route to Wargnies-le-Grand.
Battalion moved by march route to the Denain area and was accommodated in billets for the night.
Battalion moved by march route to Aubericourt .
Parades, inspections, etc. under Company arrangements.
Commanding Officer and Medical Officer inspect billets. Parades under Coy arrangements.
Parades, training, under Company arrangements.
Divine services, etc.
Battalion moved by march route to Rumegies area and was accommodated in billets for the night.
Battalion moved by march route to Mouchin area; the whole Battalion being billeted in an old brewery.
Parades under Company arrangements.
Battalion paraded for drill under the Commanding Officer.
Parades etc under Company arrangements.
November 30th 1918Parade etc under Company arrangements.
|The data on this page has very kindly been provided by Gloria Porter - many thanks to her and to all those mentioned for permission to use their information and research. Where possible all credit has been given to them and the original source quoted. © Gloria Porter.