Orvillers Post

Attack on Orvillers Post 18 Aug 1916

On 16 August the Battalion relieved the 6th Glosters in the trenches.  A&B Companies were in the trenches in 'ORVILLERS village' an d the HQ.  C&D Companies were in 'ORVILLERS post'.

The detailed orders are in Brigade Order 81. The 5th, 6th and 7th Battalions were to be involved. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd objectives are shown on the map together with the specific objective for the 1/5th
'The Infantry advance will be in waves, the first wave capturing, consolidating, & reforming of the line of the first objective, whilst succeeding waves push on to the second objective. From the second objective, 6th Btn will secure the third objective, whilst all Bns will maintain touch with the enemy, pushing forward & establishing themselves as far (if possible) as the line R.32.D.20 X.2.a.79, X.2.a.29

They were supported by heavy artillery fire, machine guns and smoke discharges. Assaulting troops were told to move as light as possible with 120 rounds S.A.A. 2 Mills bombs and 2 sandbags per man. They were to wear distinguishing white badges on the back, presumably to avoid being shot by their own men. Yellow screens and red flares were to be set off to mark the forward positions reached. No maps, orders or letters were to be carried by anyone and officers were to dress, as like the men as possible.

The Commander sent round a memo to the troops to encourage them.
1. The bombardment by our heavy guns and heavy trench mortars has now been more or less continuous on the enemy in X.2.a for over a week.
During the last 48 hours this bombardment has been particularly severe. No portion of our own line has ever experienced such continuous and concentrated bombardment by such heavy shells.

2. The German garrison of this area has probably been without relief for about a week: enduring this bombardment, being constantly threatened by real night attacks from the East (not mere feints) and probably short of water and food as all their communications have been kept under consistent gun and machine gun fire.
It is just possible that the garrison was relieved last night: in which case they must have had a long night march, must have suffered severely on the way and must now be very tired and short of sleep.
All recent captured letters confirm the supposition that continuous fighting and shortness of food is affecting, generally, the morale of the German troops.

3. While crossing No Man's Land our infantry may come under a certain amount of rather distant rifle or machine gun fire from the front or half-front (our flanks are quite secure): but badly aimed fire because of the smoke and dust which will be caused by our own barrage and because all likely places are being dealth with.
Those who are slow about crossing No Man's Land may come under a hostile artillery barrage: but this is unlikely to open in less than five minutes after Zero. Our counter batteries are ready to deal with this artillery and their observation posts are also being dealt with as far as possible.

4. Once across No Mans Land and into the 1st objectives the fight must become mostly a hand to hand one. Our barrages will continue to keep the ring but in any case neither the enemy' artillery nor his machine guns can fire into the ring without just as much chance of shooting his own men as shooting our's.
In this hand to hand fight our troops will be comparatively well fed, fit and fresh. These three advantages plus the advantage of each man meaning business and knowing what he means to do (while the enemy will be in confusion, all getting and giving different orders) and plus the acknowledged superiority of our own men in hand to hand fighting (when they get the chance) should make the final result this afternoon a forgone conclusion.

5. Though the actual capture of the position may prove quite an easy task all ranks must remember that the German trenches will have been very badly knocked about: and that unless consolidation work is throroughly during the night the captured positions will be uncomfortable and unhealthy tomorrow.

The war diary records:
The Battn attacked as in 143 Bde OO No 81 Orders issued to OC Coys verbally. The attack was successful. A Coy took first objective, B Coy plus two platoons of C took the second - D coy formed the garrison and the trenches 28-37 and C coy less two platoons formed a carrying party. The "jumping off" place was 28-88 - ladders were placed on ??? of 17th. 18th. and dumps formed at 28 and 88. Battn HQS were near Point 05 and advanced HQ at pt 67. At night a coy of the 1/8 R War R took over from 28-37 and C and D coys went forward to assist A and B Coys.

On the following day they readjusted their line and on 20th August they were relieved in the Trenches.

During the 3 days two officers and 16 other ranks had been killed whilst 3 officers and 99 other ranks were injured. Five ORs were missing.
This represents nearly more than a fifth of the Battalion who were killed or wounded in this operation.

Soldiers who died lists the following for the remainder of August and September.

18 Aug 14 men killed in action
19 Aug 13 men killed in action
20 Aug 2 men died of wounds
22 Aug 2 men died of wounds
  3 men killed in action
24 Aug 1 man died of wounds
  1 man killed in action
27 Aug 1 man died of wounds
6 Sep 1 man died of wounds

During September the Battalion were away from the front line trenches and gradually moved north back to where their Division, the 48th South Midland was still located and the position they had been at the start of the Battle of the Somme between Serre and Hebuterne.

>> Hebuterne