25th Feb 1917: Nine 22nd Bn killed attacking Malt Trench; Sgt Harwood awarded French Croix de Guerre

Many enemy could be seen in the vicinity of Malt Trench outside of Warlencourt and with resistance being encountered on the left of the I Anzac Corps front held by the 2nd Division, Gellibrand, in temporary command of the Division, decided on a determined advance and to take Malt Trench which was the enemy’s most important defence on this part of the front. The 18th Battalion of the 5th Brigade was met with fire from several machine guns and casualties were heavy. Snipers were active including against the stretcher-bearers and wounded. The 6th Brigade was quickly summoned to attack with little preparation and attacked with two companies each of the 21st and 22nd Battalions. The two companies of the 22nd Battalion were led by Lieut. Bazeley (C Company) and Captain Cull (D Company) who had earlier audaciously reconnoitred the position during the day, noting that the German wire had not been cut. He was informed however that there would be no artillery support to cut the wire and that the attack must proceed at all costs at once. Scouts were sent out to discover passages through the wire. As C and D Companies reached the top of the hill outside of Warlencourt some fifty yards from the entanglements, Germans in their trench opened fire with machine-guns and rifles. Cull ordered his men to lie in shell-holes and wait for reports from the scouts, but when no report came, he gave the order to charge. His impetus carried him over the first stake but he got entangled in the second where his hip was shattered by a bomb. Lieutenant Corne and Private Martin tried to extricate him, but Corne was hit and killed. Twenty of the men found an opening in the entanglement and under the leadership of Sgt Harwood entered an unoccupied portion of Malt Trench but were shortly afterwards driven out by machine gun fire. Captain Cull and french-croix-de-guerreseveral of his men were captured and made prisoner of war. At dawn in Little Wood a patrol from C Company was engaged and a stray bullet detonated a box of bombs being brought forward causing 16 casualties killed and wounded, including L-Cpl Kruger, DCM. Several were also wounded by booby traps left by the enemy. In all 50% of the men engaged in the failed attack of the 25th/26th February became casualties, including nine men from the 22nd Battalion killed. During this action four men from the battalion were awarded for their gallantry including the wounded 2151 Sgt Harwood who was awarded the French Croix de Guerre (picture right), and 2346 temporary Sgt McCormack of the 5th/22nd the Military Medal.

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