22nd July 1918: The Germans put over a barrage of gas-shells even more intense than that the Battalion suffered in the Aubigny system. From 10pm till early morning on the 23rd thousands of yellow-cross gas-shells fell in the ruins and the gas was blown back over the ration dumps and the Battalion Headquarters. Elaborate precautions enabled the casualties to be kept to about fifty. The other battalions in the Brigade and all units in the vicinity of Villers-Bretonneux suffered much more heavily. At this time most of the other casualties resulted from machine-gun fire, though every afternoon the left company sector was intensely bombarded. It was a stray bullet which killed Lieut. Swanton at his post.
19th July 1918: The Battalion relieved the 25th Battalion in the firing line east of Villers-Bretonneux, with the 23rd Battalion on the right and 5th Brigade on the left. By day the line was quiet, but at night there was much sniper and machine-gun fire as the flatness of the countryside made indirect fire dangerous for the any man moving overland.
17th July 1918: A heavy thunderstorm was followed by a bright sunny day and although box-respirators were worn for hours and the immediate locality evacuated, the gas hung around for days.
16th July 1918: At 11.30pm the Germans commenced a barrage of the Aubigny system and neighbouring area with gas-shells. Within three hours the enemy threw over 7,000 shells completely saturating the area with mustard-gas. The men wore their SBR for a considerable period of time and the affected area was evacuated, and shell holes filled in. In spite of the precautions taken, the intensity of the bombardment and the sultry nature of the weather causing the gas to hang about, it was apparent that the casualties were going to be numerous. At the end of 72 hours when the last of the men had been evacuated it was found that the battalion had lost 200 members including the officers commanding A & B companies. Both companies had been severely depleted that the decision was taken to amalgamate them, with Lieut. Abercrombie, MC, taking command. For his action that night in helping to minimise casualties Lieut. Anderson (photograph above, far right middle row) was Mentioned in Dispatches.
13th July 1918: A fine day saw aircraft active throughout the day, with observation balloons brought down on both sides.
10th July 1918: The 22nd Battalion was temporarily attached to the 7th Brigade and continued on cable burying under the supervision of Capt. Rodda, MC.
9th July 1918: A number of gas shells fell on the Aubigny Line but as the Battalion was out on cable burying duties there were no casualties.
7th July 1918: Following the relief of the 6th Brigade by the 5th, the 22nd Battalion moved back to the Aubigny system. As the Aubigny system had not been occupied for quite some time much work was needed working on the defences and trench shelters.
5th July 1918: Following the attack at Hamel, three officers and 100 men from the 22nd Battalion dug a communication trench from the old front line to the newly captured positions. The heavy enemy artillery fire resulted in twenty per cent casualties.
4th July 1918: With the successful attack at Hamel the 22nd Battalion moved forward to the Villers Line system.
2nd July 1918: The Hon W.M. Hughes and Sir Joseph Cook, accompanied by the Corps and Divisional Commanders, inspected a special parade at Lamotte and addressed the troops. That night the 22nd relieved the 20th Battalion in reserve close to the front line.
28th June 1918: The Battalion began its move to the Villers-Bretonneux sector, starting with a march to Glisy and divisional reserve trenches near the village, occupying trenches between the railway line and the Amiens Road. Accommodation was very poor. The arduous and fatiguing work of digging and burying signal cables became tiresome in the extreme.
23rd June 1918: The Battalion had its first inspection by Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash, the new Corps Commander, when he presented decorations and ribands, with a stirring speech outlining the heavy work yet to be done. Meanwhile a Field General Courts Martial for the 6th Brigade was convened under the Presidency of Major Matthews of the 22nd Battalion. The charged included four men from the Battalion of which two were from the 5th/22nd.
21st June 1918: Reconnaissance of the Villers-Bretonneux area was made by one officer per company and HQ staff. Training as per syllabus for the men. Both villages were at this time receiving a good deal of artillery fire, but this did not prevent frequent cricket matches in the chateau grounds, where also a Sports Meeting was held, ‘C’ Company winning the championship
17th June 1918: Troops bathed and given clean set of underclothing.
15th June 1918: The sector was handed over to the 59th Battalion of the AIF 5th Division and the 22nd Battalion established itself under trench shelters in the La Houssoye system, between Querrieu and the village from which the trenches took their name.
13th June 1918: At around 2am and under covering fire from artillery and machine guns, Livens Gas Projectors were fired over the enemy lines in the direction of Morlancourt.
11th June 1918: Enemy artillery was active, with about 250 Green Cross gas shells (pulmonary agent designed to impede the ability to breathe) fired between 1.45 & 3am, with Pte Rogan killed in action.
10th June 1918: A large dusk raid led by the 7th Brigade with the 6th Brigade in support together with supporting artillery was designed to gain additional territory on the ridge between Sailly-Laurette and Morlancourt. The 6th Brigade’s task was allocated to the 22nd Battalion on the northern flank of the raid. The demonstrations by the Australian infantry and artillery on both of the flanks of the 7th Brigade’s attack were so effective that they succeeded in causing the Germans to believe that the front of the assault was much wider than was actually the case. Under the northern extension of an accurate artillery and Light Trench Mortar barrage, the 22nd Battalion party raided the Germans on the spur between Ville-sur-Ancre and Morlancourt. Led by Lieut. Harricks (photograph above right) the 22nd Battalion raiders fought hard without suffering a casualty, killing thirty of the enemy and bringing back six prisoners and a machine gun. For this dashing operation Lieut. Harricks received the Military Cross, and five other raiders – L-Cpl Harris, Sgt Nicholls, L-Cpl Russell, L-Cpl Strawhorn and Pte Watson – were also decorated with the Military Medal.
9th June 1918: Following a successful raiding patrol against an enemy post, Lieut. Lennon was killed re-entering the Battalion lines along with Sgt Tyler and Pte Bunworth and with a further six men wounded. [Watch the ‘Macarthur: uncovering stories of sacrifice’ video that follows the family of Pte Bunworth in this quest]. During the raid Sgt Strachan of the 5th/22nd was awarded the DCM before bringing back his badly wounded officer and one prisoner despite being wounded. At 10.30pm a further gas projectile attack was performed on the northern end of Morlancourt using 200 projectors.
8th June 1918: A Livens Gas Projectile attack was carried out at 1am following artillery and trench mortar fire on to enemy front line.
7th June 1918: The weather continued to be good and work remained plentiful, with digging of new trenches. It was during one of these digging parties that an accident happened. The body of a dead soldier was unearthed but the pick unfortunately penetrated the clothing containing a bomb, whereupon the pin was pulled out exploding the bomb killing Sgt Smith and wounding Lieut. Braithwaite, MC (photograph of the 22nd Battalion Gallipoli Sergeants with Sgt Smith sitting front row, far right. This photograph was taken just a week before Sgt Smith was killed). Later that day the Battalion replaced the 21st Battalion in the firing line and commenced an eight-day tour of duty.
4th June 1918: Fatigue parties worked at night installing Livens Gas Projectiles for a forthcoming bombardment.
3rd June 1918: Fatigue parties at night digging trenches forward.
31st May 1918: After the ten days at Franvillers the men were in a good and recovered state for a return forward where during the night they relieved the 28th Battalion in front of Mericourt occupying the Treux, Ballarat and Bendigo support trenches. The relief was completed without incident at 12.30am.
30th May 1918: While at Franvillers the official photographer arrived and many photographs were taken for official records, including the four Company group photographs below [visit the AWM website for the originals]. One such group photograph was that of the 22nd Battalion band (right) with Lieut-Col. Wiltshire. Later in the day 5893 Pte Riddell (back row, 2nd right) and 1749 Pte Westmore (third row, far right) were collecting water when the Germans fired a number of high explosive shells into the village. Both men were hit, but Pte Riddell died shortly after from his wounds, just hours after this photograph was taken.
26th May 1918: A change-over in the nucleus personnel.
23rd May 1918: As the Battalion rested at Franvillers, promotions were given on account of the losses experienced during the Ville-sur-Ancre attack. These included three men from the 5th Reinforcements, 2455 Cpl Ware appointed Lance Sergeant, 2398 Cpl Strachan (photograph right) appointed Lance Sergeant, 2393 Pte Seccull promoted to Lance Corporal.
20th May 1918: By dawn the whole position had been dug in and strongly held, and the 2nd Pioneers had dug a communication trench from the Little Caterpillar to the new front line, 200 yards beyond Big Caterpillar. So successful was the whole operation and so important to High Command that on the following day General Birdwood visited Battalion HQ in the line to convey personally his thanks and appreciation. At about 11.30pm the Battalion was relieved in the front line by the 28th Battalion and moved back to Franvillers. The Battalion Band played the victors home along the Amiens-Albert Road, and for some hours stragglers were still coming in guarding and dragging the captured trophies from the battlefield. Here in fine weather the Battalion stayed for 10 days re-organising and conducting fatigues, but as the German artillery was targeting the village the men had to dig-in in trenches on the outskirts. Most of the men were required each night for fatigue parties, while the trophies obtained during the attack dispatched back to the Australian War Museums.
19th May 1918: The battle for Ville-sur-Ancre was very much a 22nd Battalion battle, as it was the only complete unit involved in the attack. Ville-sur-Ancre was essential to the German for the defence of Morlancourt, and the village was the first to be regained by the Allies after the end of the Spring Offensive.
Shortly after midnight all four companies were in position ready to attack, B, A, C & D from left to right, in two waves. Never before had the 22nd Battalion attacked over so large a frontage (1,500 yards) with so few men, with 15 to 20 yards separating each man in the same wave on the JOT. Zero hour was set for 2am when an intense creeping barrage fell on the German line, and by the time the German artillery replied it was directed mostly at targets in the back areas. The attackers followed so closely upon the barrage that they effectively surprised and captured the occupants of the enemy outpost line who were not able to put up much resistance. The first wave consisted of a line of skirmishers to search the ground, the second to mop up small posts and Machine Gun positions as the advance progressed. Where there was resistance, such as a machine gun on the left, Lieut. Westaway’s platoon dropped to the ground, its Lewis gunners blazing away firing from the hip as they made for the post.
On the outskirts of the village and opposite the Battalion’s left flank was a cemetery and a crucifix, both strongly held by the enemy. These positions were attacked by a party under Lieut. Madden, Military Cross, and captured straight away along with several machine-guns. In the ‘Big Caterpillar’ (photograph left) the resistance was serious and heavy hand to hand fighting took place. Already short in numbers, by the time the sunken road had been reached the attackers had suffered heavy casualties. In front the defenders were numerous and capable of a strenuous resistance, plus the men were being sniped at from the rear. Sgt Ruthven seeing Capt. Hunter his company commander severely wounded and the seriousness of the situation took control as follows: As the leading wave approached its objective it was subjected to heavy fire from an enemy machine-gun at close range. Without hesitation he at once sprang out, threw a bomb which landed beside the post, and rushed the position, bayoneting one of the crew and capturing the gun. He then encountered some of the enemy coming out of a shelter. He wounded two, captured six others in the same position, and handed them over to an escort from the leading wave, which had now reached the objective. Sgt. Ruthven then reorganised the men in his vicinity and established a post in the second objective. Observing enemy movement in a sunken road nearby, he, without hesitation and armed only with a revolver, went over the open alone and rushed the position, shooting two enemy who refused to come out of their dug-outs. He then single-handed mopped up this post and captured the whole of the garrison, amounting in all to thirty-two, and kept them until assistance arrived to escort them back to our lines. During the remainder of the day this gallant non-commissioned officer set a splendid example of leadership, moving up and down his position under fire, supervising consolidation and encouraging his men. Throughout the whole operation he showed the most magnificent courage and determination, inspiring everyone by his fine fighting spirit, his remarkable courage, and his dashing action.
For this action William ‘Rusty’ Ruthven (photograph left) was awarded the Victoria Cross, the first to be awarded to any member of the 6th Brigade during the war, and what would be the only recipient within the 22nd Battalion.
Farther down the slope where the Big Caterpillar was deeper another German machine gun was encountered and was put out of action by Lieut. Abercrombie, Military Cross, a well-known cricketer with a good arm, throwing a Mills bomb to good effect. Major Dooley, Commanding Officer of ‘C’ Company was wounded early in the attack and command passed to Capt. Sparrow. Machine Gun fire was encountered from the embankment, but Cpl Binns, MM, did fine work firing his Lewis Gun from the hip and putting the enemy gun crew out of action, and along with CSM Werrett, DCM, and some others were responsible for collecting 28 prisoners from the Big Caterpillar sunken road (photograph below), many of whom had been sleeping with their boots and equipment off in niches or funk holes cut into the bank and covered with English waterproof sheets captured previously during the Spring Offensive. Within half an hour of Zero hour success signals could be observed from all objectives except those on the left flank where B Company could not go forward to their final objective owing to a portion of the barrage falling short, the barrage itself accounting for a number of casualties. When it ceased the company advanced and the whole Battalion dug in on the crest of the slope overlooking Morlancourt. At 2.50am ‘C’ Company had established touch with the flank companies, and within minutes success flares were observed at ‘D’ and ‘A’ Companies. Prisoners, many exhibiting low morale, began to arrive at 3.15am. Over 200 prisoners and many machine-guns were captured by the 22nd Battalion during the morning, of which many ended up back in Australia at the AWM museum (photograph right).
Casualties amongst the Battalion’s 523 officers and other ranks that took part in the attack were heavy with 30 men killed or missing in action including 2nd Lieut. Bowden, and of the 165 men wounded Major Dooley, MC, Capt. Hunter, Lieut. Southwell and Lieut. Bourke were all incapacitated from further service in France.
18th May 1918: The plan adopted for the Ville-sur-Ancre operation was to attack and seize the high ground to the south of the village and so force the enemy to evacuate. The 22nd Battalion were given a frontage of three-quarters of a mile to attack, and to penetrate for a depth of a similar amount. The village itself was to be cleared and consolidated by companies of the 21st & 23rd Battalions. The 18th Battalion of the 5th Brigade would provide protection on the right flank. The objective included two sunken roads – known as ‘Big Caterpillar’ and ‘Little Caterpillar’ – strongly held by the enemy and guarded by a series of outposts manned by machine-gunners. After capturing these objectives the Battalion was to link up with a Company of the 24th Battalion east of the village and thus allow parties of the other two battalions to mop it up.
Two guides per Platoon met the Companies at the position of the assembly and guided them to the JOT. As the men began to move forward shortly before midnight ‘A’ Company suffered fifteen casualties from a single stray shell. Secrecy was paramount to the success of the operation, with bayonets not to be fixed until zero hour and entrenching tools tied to scabbards.
17th May 1918: During the night the JOT was pegged out by the 6th Field Company engineers under the command of Lieut. Gillespie, assisted by Lieut. Thewlis (photograph below, front row second left), in readiness for the Ville-sur-Ancre attack scheduled for twenty-four hours later.
16th May 1918: A glorious day. Morale was high and everyone was in high spirits as they read, played or slept in the sun. In the neighbouring village of Treux RSM Cadwell (photographed front row, far right) found an emaciated kid. This little goat was adopted by the Transport Section and after being bottled fed thrived well. ‘Bill’ accompanied the Battalion in all its subsequent movements along the front, and as the Battalion mascot made numerous appearances before the Official Photographer.[Photograph courtesy of Jennie Marshall and the Lieut. Harricks collection]
14th May 1918: In the early hours a raiding party from D Company attempted to attack a German strongpoint but were caught in a hail of machine gun bullets killing four of the raiders – Sgt Smeeton, Pte Atkins, Pte Arrow, Pte Lorrigan – and wounding others. Meanwhile word was now getting around that the Battalion was to be involved in a major stunt at Ville-sur-Ancre. As a preliminary the 22nd Battalion along with the 24th Battalion were relieved by the 21st and 23rd Battalions and went into support at Ribemont where the men bathed and rested.
13th May 1918: A conference was held at Brigade HQ at Heilly on the proposed attack at Ville-sur-Ancre with the objective of straightening the line and capturing the village. The Germans were now using phosgene and mustard gas shells plus machine-guns to a large effect, but while attacking the 5th Brigade on the 22nd Battalions right they suffered a crushing defeat. Practically the whole of the attacking force was either captured or killed.
12th May 1918: A party under Lieut. Greene was tasked with occupying a new position in front of the line when it was attacked by a strong enemy fighting party. One man was badly wounded and with the Germans encircling their position Lieut. Greene, Military Cross, supported by L-Cpl Kennett, Military Medal, engaged the enemy successfully reaching and carrying the wounded man back to the rest of the patrol (see Medals & Awards, Morlancourt for all citations)
11th May 1918: On the night of the 10th May a patrol of ten under Lieut. HHM Wall pushed out in the dark along the bottom of the spur south-west of Ville-sur-Ancre to the Little Caterpillar sunken road. On nearing the German post there, Wall dropped six of his men to cover him and crept ahead with the rest. As he lay watching at a point from which the German machine guns at the sunken road and a listening post ahead of them could be made out, one of the men in the rear party coughed and shortly afterwards a patrol came out from the German lines in that direction. As it approached, Wall ordered it to halt and then as the Germans were clearly going to fight, fired. Two Germans were hit and a third captured, and the remainder ran off, chased with bombs. Wall brought back his three prisoners of the 357th I.R., 199th Division, without loss to his party. Lieut. Wall (photographed above middle row, third from left, with other officers in the 6th Battalion) distinguished himself greatly in patrol work for which he was awarded the Military Cross. The 18th Battalion were now in position on the right.
10th May 1918: The forward positions for both sides were a series of outposts and every night some portion of the AIF line was pushed forward through what became known behind the line as ‘peaceful penetration’. On the night of the 10th May the posts of ‘C’ Company were pushed forward without opposition in front of Marrett Wood. The 22nd Battalion took no small part in this novel warfare and the Australian Corps for nearly four months sustained, unaided, its offensive work while the rest of the British Army re-organised.
9th May 1918: The 22nd Battalion left Querrieu at 3.30pm and relieved the 39th Battalion in the front line before Ville-sur-Ancre and Morlancourt, arriving at 1.50am on the following morning. There was some hostile shelling during the relief, with the 35th Battalion (9th Brigade) on the right and the 24th Battalion (6th Brigade) on the left.
8th May 1918: The Battalion practiced an attack with imaginary tanks. A celebration was later held of the third anniversary of the Battalion’s departure from Australia. After dinner a concert organised by L-Cpl Herz was enjoyed by those that were able to cram themselves into the semi-demolished barn that acted as the theatre.
5th May 1918: AIF Commanding Officers Generals Birdwood (I Anzac Corps), Smythe, VC, (2nd Division) and Paton (6th Brigade), were present at the Brigade church parade held in the picturesque grounds of Querrieu Chateau (photograph right). General Birdwood addressed the troops with regard to the work yet ahead in the German Spring Offensive and presented ribands and medals.
2nd May 1918: The route march was resumed in the morning through Contay, Beaucourt, Montigny, Behencourt and Pont Noyelles arriving at Querrieu at 3.15pm where the men billeted in the village. The 6th Brigade was held here in readiness to counter-attack should the Germans break through on the Villers-Bretonneux front. Over the next two days officers reconnoitred the forward area while the men carried out physical drills, gas drill with lectures, and bayonet fighting. Bathing in the nearby river was much appreciated by everyone.
1st May 1918: The 22nd Battalion was relieved by the 21st London Regiment and moved into Brigade Reserve at Warloy with 35 officers and 683 other ranks with the Unit.
27th April 1918: The Battalion rested and bathed during the day.
26th April 1918: The 22nd Battalion was relieved by the 21st Battalion and returned to the Support Line at Lavieville.
24th April 1918: The front line tours were marked by a number of patrol encounters, in one of which Lieut. Barker – of the Gallipoli contingent and a prominent footballer – was killed. For his gallantry during the patrol and bringing back his officer 3969 Sgt Waxman received the Military Medal.
22nd April 1918: The 22nd Battalion returned to the front line, relieving the 21st Battalion, with the 24th on the left and 28th (7th Brigade) on the right.
18th April 1918: The Battalion was relieved by the 21st Battalion and returned to the Support Line surrounding Lavieville where the following day they had rain, sun, hail and snow. [German map showing the area and plan of attack]
15th April 1918: While out on patrol Lieut. Armstrong was wounded and 2nd Lieut. Sutherland was wounded a few days later. A skillful German sniper opposite the Battalion’s right caused many casualties during this tour in the front line. He specifically devoted his talent against the 22nd Battalion’s Sergeants, six of whom were made casualty including Sgt Aspinall and Sgt Corry who were killed in action, before he himself was dealt with.
14th April 1918: The 22nd Battalion returned to the front line, relieving the 21st Battalion, with the 24th on the left and 26th on the right.
13th April 1918: As a result of the German advance, there were no facilities for bathing or changing underclothing. Nearby deserted houses, many of which were being systematically destroyed by shell fire were raided and tubs for bathing salvaged, plus any clean underclothing that was found taken, including women’s!
11th April 1918: The 22nd Battalion was involved in working parties, improving trenches, erecting wire entanglements, under some hostile shelling of the area.
10th April 1918: The Battalion was relieved by the 21st Battalion and returned to the Support Line surrounding Lavieville. Thus began a period of rotation with its sister battalion from the 6th Brigade until the end of the month. The expected attack never came, but tension was high and the strain severe. During this time much digging and wiring was done.
9th April 1918: A feature of this Lavieville sector was the constant artillery strafing of Pioneer Trench and the Albert-Amiens Road. The bombardments used to come in short violent bursts and it would soon sever all signal wires running to the forward positions. It was in re-establishing communications that Lieut. McCartin (photograph right) was wounded, and his excellent work recognised by the award of a Military Cross.
8th April 1918: Heavy rain fell practically all day but the men with little shelter in the outpost line were more concerned by the action of enemy snipers firing from Dernancourt. The 22nd Battalion responded with Sgt Thurlow and Pte Wilson being the most deadly snipers within 6th Brigade, who totalled 57 certain hits during the April tour of the front line. On the 8th April Sgt Thurlow was awarded the Military Medal for gaining ascendency over the enemy despite being heavily sniped at himself. Later in the day ‘A’ Company relieved ‘C’ Company in the outposts.
7th April 1918: After a stormy night, accompanied by barrages from both sides, the Battalion had taken over very a large section of the front overlooking Dernancourt and its railway embankment (photograph right) and to the left Albert, with the Virgin Mary statue still leaning precariously. The previous day the relieved battalions of the 12th Brigade had just beaten off a major German attack. An enemy attack was expected daily, with the men in the basic outposts, and practically no trenches, enduring the poor weather as well as the shell fire and offensive patrolling. The orders were simple: “There will be no withdrawal. Every bit of ground will be fought for.” On the left of the 22nd were the 23rd Battalion, and on the right the 26th of 7th Brigade.
6th April 1918: Early in the day the Battalion, now in fighting kit, was taken by bus to La Houssoye on the main Albert-Amiens road and after a march through Franvillers halted at St. Lawrence Farm and where orders were received that it would that night relieve the combined 46th & 47th Battalions in the front line near Dernancourt, effecting the relief by 10.30pm. The nucleus personnel moved to Allonville. The strength of the battalion was 41 Officers and 784 other ranks as they moved back to the front line.
5th April 1918: The 22nd Battalion detrained at 5.15am at St. Roch Station, Amiens, and marched 11kms to the village of Bertangles packed with troops, arriving there about 11am. ‘A’ Company was left temporarily behind at St. Roch to assist in the detraining process, while the other three companies enjoyed a fairly good rest in the afternoon. By the time the Battalion returned to the Somme, Albert and the villages to the east including Pozieres and Bullecourt now lay in German hands and its forces were now placing artillery fire and danger on the pivotal city of Amiens. Amiens was now deserted except for a few scattered groups of civilians passing and making for the railway station, its streets now littered with debris and tangled wire. For the men of the Twenty-Second their morale was high, exalted by the emergency and by his knowledge of the seriousness of the situation.
4th April 1918: Marching through heavy rain and wind the 22nd Battalion reached the village of Godwaersvelde, where at 4pm a train was waiting to convey the Battalion to Amiens and the Somme once more. Within five days of their departure news had come through that the Germans had captured the Warneton sector [the second phase of the German Spring Offensive, Georgette]. At first many thought that this was not possible on account of the intricate barbed–wire defences that had been installed there by the Australian Corps throughout the winter. Major Dooley, who for many days and nights had supervised at much personal risk the construction took it personally and led the call for vengeance against the Hun!
3rd April 1918: The men rested and took the opportunity to bath at St. Jan Chappelle and at Berthen. The first edition of the Battalion’s newspaper, the ‘Twenty-Second’s Echo – Random Shots from the Red and Purple Diamonds’, was circulated, and was greatly appreciated from the outset, appearing every two weeks until the unit’s demobilisation, with Sgt Blatchford as the editor. The printing press was a gift from one of the eminent London Fleet Street printers William Haddon of John Haddon & Co, and the company also provided assistance in the start-up. A welcome and generous donation was received by Mrs Craig, wife of the former Medical Officer Major Craig now invalided back to Australia following his wounding at Broodseinde six months previous.
2nd April 1918: The men rested and spent the time cleaning equipment in preparation for the move to the Somme. At 4.40pm motor buses were boarded at Neuve Eglise and the 22nd Battalion moved to billets at Berthen, about nine kilometres from Bailleul. From the big hill outside Berthen (Mont Kemmel, photographed) a last view for the men of the 22nd was obtainable of Ypres and the Flanders battlefields.
1st April 1918: The 22nd Battalion was relieved and by dawn the last of the platoons was in Shankill Camp near Neuve Eglise.
31st March 1918: At 1am a planned large scale gas attack using 4 inch Stokes Mortars and Livens Projectors took place, but the barrage put down was weak. However with clear skies observation was good and continuous streams of gassed Germans could be seen carried out of Warneton. [Photograph of Captain William Livens, DSO, MC, next to a Livens Projector, a simple mortar-like weapon that could throw large drums filled with inflammable or toxic chemicals. In World War I, the Livens Projector became the standard means of delivering gas attacks and it remained in the arsenal of the British army until the early years of the Second World War.
By now word had reached the battalion that tremendous German offensive had been launched on the Somme, and that within a few days all the old battlefields that had been won at such a heavy cost were now in German hands. A move south was expected and at 10.30pm the 10th Cheshire Battalion (25th Division) that had been fighting on the Somme in the German Offensive arrived to effect the relief.
28th March 1918: Enemy 5.9 Howitzer Batteries were very active, apparently searching for the new 9.45 ‘flying pig’ mortars that were now in place and having been active in retaliation to the minenwerfers. [Photograph of a 9.45 in the village of Longueval – courtesy of Passion & Compassion 1914-1918]
26th March 1918: During the night of 26th/27th March an encounter took place between a patrol from the 22nd Battalion and an enemy party. The Germans put down a barrage on our posts killing one officer and four other ranks. 2nd Lieut. Parsons died of his wounds, which he bore very bravely. His chief consideration, being carried from the line, was that the stretcher-bearers should not unduly distress themselves on his account. [See letter from Capt. Braithwaite, MC]
25th March 1918: During an active night patrol and having met a strong German force, under heavy fire 117 Cpl Binns (photograph right, ‘C’ Coy) and 6862 Pte McKenzie brought their Lewis Guns into effective use enabling the patrol to withdraw, earning them both the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry.
24th March 1918: Owing to the German Offensive all training schools and leave were cancelled. However the enemy opposite in the Warneton Sector had become quiet, with a cessation in shelling and flares.
23rd March 1918: The 22nd Battalion once again took up position in the front line posts as previously, relieving the 21st Battalion, and where the gigantic ‘minnies’ were even more active than on the previous tour causing a number of casualties. Major Dooley became Commanding Officer at La Basse Ville and Lieut. Braithwaite took over his ‘C’ Company.
22nd March 1918: With the start on the previous morning of the German Spring Offensive on the Somme to the south, enemy artillery and raiding was active across the whole front. Owing to the 24th Battalion losing 150 men to gas shells the previous day the 22nd Battalion had extra work on strengthening the line, with nine officers and 250 men working at night. The men from the 22nd were too subject to these gas shells which caused a number of casualties.
16th March 1918: A fatigue party of 5 officers and 125 men under Lieut. Braithwaite reported to 21st Battalion at La Basse Ville for work on defences. 180 men bathed at Red Lodge and received clean clothes. Defence building & wiring fatigues and bathing continued while the battalion was in support.
15th March 1918: The 22nd Battalion was relieved by the 21st Battalion at 9pm who two nights later were raided by the Germans after a heavy Minnenwerfer barrage. The Battalion spent the next eight days in reserve with B, C, & D Companies at the Catacombs and A Coy plus Battalion HQ at Red Lodge, though every night spent working around the front line posts. The accommodation at the Catacombs ‘underground city’ was very comfortable and offered a good nights rest. [Photograph of the area where the Catacombs were located, with Hill 63 in the background]
14th March 1918: Rained during the night but little damage was done to the trenches and the water drained away. An enemy balloon broke away but was shot down by a British airman as it crossed our lines. Photograph of a German soldier jumping from his observation balloon, a procedure German observers took when their balloon was attacked by Allied aircraft.
13th March 1918: Enemy trench mortars active but were effectively silenced by our 18-pounders.
11th March 1918: With the increased artillery activity continuing the Australian 18-pounders were active on the enemy front and support lines, with retaliation by the enemy Trench Mortars.
9th March 1918: Artillery activity on both sides increased towards and during the night, with one officer, 2nd Lieut. Robbins of the 5th/22nd having only just returned with his commission from the Officers Cadet Battalion in England – and having lost his brother also with the Battalion at Pozieres – killed in action along with three other ranks.
8th March 1918: With the 18th Battalion on the right flank and the 24th Battalion on the left the 22nd Battalion took up their position in the front line in front of Warneton and La Basse Ville, with the River Lys protecting the right flank. The line was held by a series of posts: two Companies occupying the front, one in support and the fourth in reserve. Patrols were active.
7th March 1918: The 22nd Battalion moved from Kortepyp Camp and entrained at Romarin Siding on the Light Railway train at 5.30pm. During the night the 22nd relieved the 38th Battalion in the front line, back again in the La Basse Ville area.
6th March 1918: Reveille was sounded at 2.30am for the return to the front and by 5am the Battalion was at Lottinghem and then entrained for Steenwerck. The night was once again spent in Kortepyp Camp. A party of 1 officer and 3 NCO’s per company proceeded to the front line for reconnaissance.
27th February 1918: Sports took place during the battalion’s time at Selles. In a 6th Brigade football tournament held during the month the 22nd Battalion reached the final, defeated as usual by the 24th Battalion. A Divisional Platoon competition for shooting and bayonet fighting was won by X Platoon of C Company under Lieut Gorman, MC. The excellent Lewis gun work by L-Cpl Binns, MM & Bar, significantly helped in their winning.
1st February 1918: Musketry and accuracy of fire was to become a focus and feature of training during the period at Selles. The Battalion completed its 1,000th day of active service abroad since its embarkation on 8th May 1915.
30th January 1918: After detraining at Lottinghem in the early hours and marching for six kilometres, the 22nd Battalion arrived at Selles, about 20km from Boulogne. Disappointingly there was no sign of a village but just widely scattered huts of differing quality. For the Battalion this was the furthest that they had been from the front line since their arrival in France two years earlier, offering ample opportunity for leave to Boulogne, and here they remained until 6th March. The strength of the Battalion at the end of the month was 48 officers and 879 other ranks.
27th January 1918: After resting for a week following their relief, the 22nd Battalion moved on a foggy day with bad visibility by route march to the Shankill huts near Neuve Eglise. The camp was scattered but the accommodation good. Physical drill, inspection and cleaning of equipment were the order of the day. Everyone was looking forward to a long promised month near the coast.
26th January 1918: General Birdwood visited and spoke to groups of men on work improving the camp.
23rd January 1918: The 22nd Battalion attended a concert given by the ‘Red Diamonds’, the 6th Brigade Troupe in the Cinema Hall at Romarin.
21st January 1918: The 22nd Battalion was relieved by the 21st Battalion and went into Romarin Camp where dry clothing, socks, fires and a hot meal were waiting for the men. For the next week working parties were supplied as per the works schedule.
18th January 1918: During this period patrols were very active, frequently bringing in prisoners. Close to one of the 22nd Battalion posts a German patrol was encountered by a party under the command of 342 CSM Carter who shot the German officer and on inspection was carrying some very useful maps on trenches and troop dispositions. For this action CSM Carter [front row, third from the left, in photograph of 22nd Battalion Gallipoli Sergeants] was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal [click on link to read the citation].
15th January 1918: Snow turned to rain and the frozen ground began to thaw. The communication trenches were in a bad way – the revetment gave way and the trench became full of mud and water, the duckboards broke loose and floated away. Shelters in the support line and in the posts were crushed in and flooded out. Gumboots were issued. Rations carried by the reserve company to the right company took six hours as opposed to the previous one hour when the ground was frozen. The water and mud in many cases was up to the men’s waists. The Germans were in even worse situation as the River Lys had flooded and they were on lower ground. Both sides were busy pumping out, repairing and draining. The tour of duty was performed under conditions the like of which the Battalion had not known since Flers and Ginchy.
13th January 1918: The 22nd Battalion moved into the front line, with the 19th Battalion on the right flank and 24th Battalion on left, at La Basse Ville facing the town of Warneton, in an area with a very bad reputation owing to the number and size of ‘minnies’ employed by the Germans. The line was held by a system of posts, ‘B’ & ‘D’ Companies in the firing line, ‘A’ in support and ‘C’ in reserve. The ground was frozen hard, and snow a few inches deep lay on the ground.
12th January 1918: The 22nd Battalion moved to Romarin and then via Light Railway to a system of dug-outs called the Catacombs just behind Ploegsteert Wood. These catacombs were an underground dug-out city, large enough to comfortably house a couple of thousand men, consisting of great timbered drives and tunnels into the side of Hill 63. In galleries driven at right-angles off the main passages, long rows of wooden bunks were erected. The place was electrically lighted and though the atmosphere was a little stuffy, troops fresh from the line were very appreciative of the solid comfort of a good dry bed. [Photograph of the 6th Brigade in the Catacombs].
11th January 1918: Inspection of Box Respirators followed by gas drill. Orders received to relieve the 25th Battalion in the front line.
8th January 1918: Heavy fall of snow during the day, approximately 3 inches deep. ‘C’ Company tasked with laying duckboards, and a detachment of men from other platoons on cable laying duties. 150 men went to baths during the morning, who then worked on reveting the huts.
7th January 1918: Lecture on night operations including defence of strong points garrisoned by a platoon.
6th January 1918: Church parade held. A special day of prayer by Kings Proclamation.
2nd January 1918: Weather was very cold and ground frozen. ‘D’ Company and 2 platoons of ‘C’ Company employed on Corps defence under Capt Kennedy & Lieut. Gorman, plus continued salvage work, stores and corduroy road construction.
1st January 1918: Fatigues – 200 men employed on salvage in Ploegsteert Wood under direction from Major Dooley, MC.; 100 men loading & unloading stores at Romarin Siding; and 33 men constructing corduroy road for Balloon section.