18th Aug 1918: 22nd Bn suffer two-thirds casualties in hopeless Herleville attack

McCartin - P04109.001The woefully under-strength Australian 6th Brigade attack at Herleville, with the three companies of the 22nd Battalion, B on the left, A in the centre and D on the right, was met by heavy artillery and machine gun fire from the outset. Despite this D Company captured their objective. Advancing over open country D Company lost twelve men of its original thirty before reaching it, with the survivors holding on until assistance arrived later in the morning. D Company commanding officer, Lieut. McCartin, MC, (photograph right) was twice wounded in the attack but continued to the objective. When he found the crucifix on his left still strongly held by the enemy he made his way across the open and past the strong-point to the headquarters of the support C Company where he was again seriously wounded in the face as communication was made with Lt-Col. Wiltshire’s Battalion HQ. McCartin was told to return to the rear, but instead he attempted to return to his men whereupon he was killed by a shell. McCartin, initially a Private and one of the original Anzac men, was one of the most popular officers and held in high regard by all that he came in contact with.

Ellis - DA10177A Company in the centre had been faring badly. They were only twenty-four in all, in five small sections, at about seventy yards interval when they commenced a bombing fight with the Germans in the trench beyond. Lieut.’s Fulton and Evans were both wounded and command fell to Lieut. Smith, MM. It was not until ten of the twenty-four had been killed or wounded and no more bombs were left that the impossible was abandoned and the little party withdrew to a communication trench by the crucifix. Amongst those killed from this company was Sgt Ellis (photograph right) who set a magnificent example to his men urging them on, throwing bombs and fighting desperately until he was killed. Lieut. Woods of the 7th Machine Gun Company rushed forward to help A Company that he was attached to, establishing his gun in full view of the enemy and did wonders working his gun until a bomb landed too close and in the attempt to throw it back it exploded inflicting wounds that he would succumb to back at the Casualty Clearing Station.

Bregenzer - DA09106On the extreme left B Company suffered severely. Under the command of Lieut. Westaway the thirty-three men set off under heavy artillery and machine gun fire, suffering many casualties before reaching their objective. The survivors joined forces in a large shell hole within fifty yards of the enemy and opened fire with a Lewis gun and rifle grenades. The gun was soon knocked out of action by a bomb and the grenades expended. Sgt Bregenzer, DCM, (photograph right) jumped into the open calling for the Germans to surrender but he was killed immediately. Neither the flares nor the SOS signal sent up for artillery support were responded to and the enemy worked closer firing a machine gun and grenades into the now defenceless garrison of the shell-hole. Lieut. Westaway and several men were killed and most of the rest wounded before being surrounded and taken prisoner. [Read the letters and notes from Lieut. Mallinson on his account in the shell hole, being taken prisoner, and the exchange of letters between Mallinson and Lieut-Col. Wiltshire on the futility of the attack].

The task set for the men that day was a hopeless cause, and many a brave man gallantly lost their lives. Of the ninety men who took part in the attack, nineteen were killed, and a further forty-one wounded, or taken prisonerFifteen men from the Battalion were awarded for their bravery that day. With the British 32nd Division within Monash’s Corps replacing the 2nd Division that evening, all that was left of the 22nd Battalion, some seventy fighting men in all, were relieved by the 2nd Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, some 670 strong. When the 22nd Battalion came out of the line, there were only nine members of B Company.

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