31st March 1917: Brigade church parade. 85 other ranks reinforcements joined the Battalion.
28th March 1917: Parades were resumed and Battalion drill was performed over shell-holes, roads and barbed-wire entanglements.
27th March 1917: The 22nd Battalion was relieved from Bapaume and rejoined the Brigade in Mametz Wood and its huts and placed in Divisional Reserve. Bathing and training commenced.
26th March 1917: Early in the morning 22nd Battalion B and C Companies moved into Bapaume and took over from 20th Battalion, and to billet in the Town Hall. However upon arrival the Town Hall (photograph right) had been destroyed the previous day by a clockwork mine, so the two companies were given the task of shovelling the Town Hall off the road and looking for survivors. A similar mine entirely destroyed the dugout system on the edge of Bapaume that was used by the 6th and 7th Brigades as their headquarters, though fortunately when the mine went off most of the 7th Brigade staff had advanced to Vaulx-Vraucourt. Orders were given that dugouts and houses left intact by the enemy must not be used by staff or troops. Meanwhile the rest of the 6th Brigade was relieved and moved into hut shelters at Mametz Wood.
25th March 1917: Church parade followed by road work. 31 other ranks reported from 2nd ADBD, Etaples.
19th March 1917: The 22nd Battalion was relieved by the 25th Battalion of the 7th Brigade in support and moved to Malt Support tented camp.
17th March 1917: As the 23rd Battalion entered Bapaume, the 22nd Battalion was to the left of the town and in front of Grevillers, before moving to Ravine Gully.
13th March 1917: Brigade ordered to move forward and take up positions along the Warlencourt Road, with the 22nd Battalion to occupy positions in Le Barque village and Malt Trench.
10th March 1917: The 22nd Battalion was relieved by the 21st Battalion and marched out to Bazentin Camp. The camp was reached by 2am, but within six hours the Battalion was ordered to head back to the front and began retracing their steps of just a few hours before! Eaucourt, l’Abbaye and Le Barque were the first places to be garrisoned on reaching the advanced lines again, and daily progress was made on the heels of the retreating Germans.
9th March 1917: A forward line was laid out about 200 yards from the enemy line. Patrols reported enemy wire 15 to 20 feet in depth, and Machine Guns active. The vicinity around Brigade HQ was shelled heavily between 1 – 2 am.
8th March 1917: The 22nd Battalion relieved the 23rd Battalion in Malt Trench (A & C Coys), Malt Support (B Coy) and Layton Lane and outposts. Throughout his retirement the German’s policy was to man selected strong posts and hold them with machine gun crews. These crews were often scattered along a continuous trench, all protected by wire and were very difficult to locate. Patrolling was dangerous and it was in this manner that Lieut Massie (photograph right) went missing in front of the then uncaptured Grevillers line, and was later reported killed in action having been taken behind German lines.
5th March 1917: Carrying to line and moved forward to Le Barque Trench.
3rd March 1917: Carrying supplies forward and then moved to Hexham Road, Gird Trench and Gird Support.
2nd March 1917: At 4pm the 22nd Battalion began to move forward to Seven Elms, Flers Line and Eaucourt Abbaye in support as the 6th Brigade began the relief of the 5th Brigade.
1st March 1917: Close order drill plus training of Bombers, Lewis Gunners and Signallers at Shelter Wood.
26th February 1917: The 22nd Battalion was relieved by the 24th under the cover of fog. By noon the remnants of the Battalion had concentrated back at Shelter Wood Camp where it remained until the rest of the month, resting and receiving the next draft of reinforcements. During this last tour of front line duty the battalion had suffered some sixty casualties.
25th February 1917: On the eve of the Battalion’s relief, orders were received to issue ammunition and bombs in preparation to send out strong patrols for an advance along with the 21st Battalion to occupy Gallwitz Trench. Without the usual accompanying bombardment the night was eerily quiet and the fog made it difficult to navigate, and this was for the Battalion the first example of advancing under what would be termed ‘peaceful penetration’. The right hand companies of the 22nd faced with thick uncut wire entanglements sent back for duck-boards to lay across it. No enemy was encountered and they were ordered to complete their night’s task by reconnoitring and encircling with posts the ruined village of Warlencourt. Although the enemy was light in numbers, there were still casualties.
During the day there was no shelling and the weather was fine. Many enemy could be seen in the vicinity of Malt Trench 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 several 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.
24th February 1917: Before dawn patrols were active and sighted an enemy fighting patrol of 20. Noted that there was an absence of flares during the early hours and no enemy shelling. Lieut-Col Davis received command of the Battalion, with Major Wiltshire second in command. That evening telephone message from HQ that the enemy was suspected of evacuating Mauramont and Serres.
23rd February 1917: A quiet day. At dark a patrol left our lines and bombed the post where Cpl Wittner was killed and recovered his body.
21st February 1917: The 22nd Battalion marched out to relieve the 23rd Battalion in the Firing Line, and despite the deep mud that impeded the progress, the relief was completed by 3.15am. Except for scattered shelling the night was quiet. The first patrols found No-Man’s land quiet but just after dawn Cpl Wittner lost direction and was killed by a bomb thrown from a German post that he had stumbled across.
20th February 1917: A wet day. 364 pairs of gumboots arrived and were issued to the men.
18th February 1917: Capt CEW Bean, Official War Correspondent visited the battalion. The men, scattered around in tents and leaky bivouacs were most uncomfortable.
17th February 1917: The refreshed and clean battalion moved to Villa camp in Divisional Reserve, though the journey was slow owing to heavy traffic of troops and vehicles on the road. Promotions were made in the ranks to NCO’s (see 5th Reinforcements).
16th February 1917: In the third week of February the thaw commenced. As the month was dragging to an end the snow melted, and the forward area was a semi-frozen sea where movement was difficult, and every shell-hole a trap for the stumbler. At Shelter Wood the battalion had baths and spent time cleaning up, but mud and slush everywhere. In the evening concerts and card parties were held.
14th February 1917: Having arrived back at Shelter Wood, the Battalion Commanding Officer inspected and addressed 110 new reinforcements.
13th February 1917: Routine shelling during the day followed by enemy snipers becoming active in the evening, until they were stopped by our artillery. Later that evening the battalion was relieved by the 26th Battalion and commenced the long march back to Shelter Wood Camp. By dawn stragglers were still arriving.
10th February 1917: Away to the right the AIF 1st Division conducted a raid on The Maze. The 6th Brigade assisted by firing their Machine Guns and Stokes Mortars to create a diversion (see accompanying brigade report, right). The Germans responded with a bombardment in retaliation and four men from the Battalion – Ptes Kavanagh, Matson, Biber and Jago – were killed in action, making this the worst day for the 22nd Battalion since Mouquet Farm in August 1916. In addition another 10 other ranks were wounded, including L-Cpl Batton, MM, of the 5th/22nd. The weather continued to be fine but intensely cold.
9th February 1917: At 4pm began the relief of the 23rd Battalion in the Firing Line, with a frontage of ¾ mile. In spite of considerable machine gun fire on approaches the relief was completed by 9.30pm without incident. Patrols sent out and located several enemy posts, some by presence of coughing. The enemy front line was a deep continuous trench heavily wired with listening posts in front or in the wire.
7th February 1917: A further move was made to rough scattered bivouacs and sunken roads just east of the ruined village of Martinpuich, the headquarters of the Battalion occupying dugouts at the foot of seven prominent trees known as Seven Elms.
6th February 1917: The 22nd Battalion moved to Divisional Reserve in Villa Camp near Martinpuich.
4th February 1917: Company commanders went forward and reconnoitred their sectors to the left of the Butte de Warlencourt and in front of Le Sars. The Battalion right was at the Albert-Bapaume road.
1st February 1917: The morning was devoted to gas drill and foot rubbing. Companies fell in outside their huts in battle order wearing steel helmets and carrying two blankets fastened to their belts. Hats and puttees were dumped with the QM, and sandbags were worn as gaiters instead of the puttees. At 4pm the move was made by road to Shelter Wood Camp, replacing the 17th Battalion. The 22nd Battalion was heading to the Le Sars sector, facing the famous Butte de Warlencourt. The land was gripped in an iron frost, and the shell-pitted region was now a field of ice many feet thick, which men dug out with picks. It was so cold that moistened hair froze as it was brushed, and bread had to be thawed by the fire before it could be cut. The icy temperatures were also agonising on the feet and fingers, but the prospect of the thaw and return to the terrible mud of Flers and Ginchy was worse.
29th January 1917: At the end of January the Battalion moved to Becourt Wood Camp near Fricourt via Meaulte with a fighting strength of 25 Officers and 668 other ranks. For the next two days the battalion trained specialists and raiders, together with medical inspection and foot washing.
25th January 1917: For three days the Battalion had drill and attack practice on high ground south of Ribemont. Capt Bunning, Lieut.’s Alderson, Woolf and Corne and 2nd Lieut. Smith reported back to the unit from 2nd ADBD.
23rd January 1917: The 22nd Battalion was inspected on parade by Maj-Gen Sir NM Smyth, VC, (pictured right) soon to be commanding the AIF 2nd Division. Smyth replaced General Legge who having fallen ill with the flu was relieved of his command and returned to Australia.
18th January 1917: The Battalion entrained at Quarry for Mericourt and marched to Ribemont for ten days, and the rest in the village revived many a man. The socks and comforts provided by the Battalion’s many good friends in Australia did much to ease the hardships.
17th January 1917: Prisoner captured from 29th Ersatz Infantry Regiment, lost while on patrol. That night the Battalion was relieved by 31st Battalion and returned direct to ‘B’ Camp Trones Wood.
16th January 1917: The start of the long frost which lasted for six weeks, with the freezing temperatures causing problems to keep a footing on the earth and duckboards. Arranged and carried out Stokes mortar bombardment of suspected enemy post with good results, but brought heavy bombardment in retaliation. The 25th Battalion to the right sent up an SOS and the whole Divisional artillery came into action, with normal conditions again after an hour.
15th January 1917: Captured a prisoner from the 361st Regiment. He was a stretcher-bearer who was attending to an officer shot by our snipers.
14th January 1917: Relieved the 21st Battalion in the Firing Line
12th January 1917: Battalion relieved the 23rd Battalion in support at Needle Trench
6th January 1917: Battalion relieved by 23rd Battalion and returned to Brigade reserve at ‘B’ Camp at Trones Wood. During this time 35 other ranks reported in from 2nd ADBD, Etaples. 2nd Lieutenant Corne was promoted to Lieutenant.
5th January 1917: One hour of intense bombardment of enemy trenches in front of the battalion line carried out by all available guns. Results appeared good, and enemy retaliation moderate. Relieved by 24th Battalion and moved to Needle Trench in support.
3rd January 1917: Patrols reconnoitred enemy lines and located advance posts by the sound of heavy coughing. Bombing parties bombed these posts. Our snipers claim a bag of five. The length of front line held by the Battalion is approximately 1200 yards, and the front line is impassable in places. Garrison of 480 All Ranks.
2nd January 1917: The Battalion relieved left company of 21st Battalion in Spring and Spectrum trenches in the Firing Line, and took over new line from 6th Dorset Regiment, British 51st Brigade. This new sector was found to be in an extremely bad condition filled with mud and water. Enemy snipers very active and causing much annoyance amongst the men.
1st January 1917: The 22nd Battalion relieved 23rd Battalion as support in Needle Trench in area of Trones Wood with a fighting strength of 23 Officers and 747 other ranks. Divisional artillery ushered in 1917 by firing many tons of shells on the German lines.
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FIRST WORLD WAR TIMELINE