29th Jul 1917: 22nd Bn reaches Campagne in northern France

In the early hours the 22nd Battalion reached the village of Arques near St. Omer. A further march of two miles brought it to the village of Campagne around which the Battalion found home in scattered billets for the next six weeks where training continued. It was near this spot that the Battalion had billeted on its arrival from Egypt and Renescure and Roquetoire was accessible for those that deemed to venture out after long daily route marches. Paris leave also became more general. Maj-Gen Paton took over command of the 6th Brigade.

15th Apr 1917: Germans mount failed attack at Lagnicourt; 22nd Bn Lewis Gunners support defenders.

Before dawn the Germans mounted an attack on the whole front of the AIF 1st Division and the right company of the AIF 2nd Division in front of Lagnicourt. Due to the broad nature of the frontage, the Australians had to defend their isolated posts beating back the attackers by Lewis gun fire and by bombs when the attackers drew near to their positions. As with Bullecourt ammunition was becoming a major issue and messengers shot down as they attempted to make the journey back to the rear, often by German snipers that managed to encircle and then enfilade their positions. German infiltration also meant that the forward field artillery batteries were being threatened and orders were given to withdraw their breech blocks and dial sights and
retire. The guns of all four batteries of the 2nd Brigade were abandoned followed shortly by three batteries of the 1st Brigade. By 5.30am the Germans had penetrated a mile and a half behind what was the Australian forward positions at the start of the day. However with daylight the task of the defenders became easier and were able to pour relentless Lewis gun and rifle fire from the rear defensive positions into the now faltering Germans, now caught between the defensive barrage falling to their rear and the advancing Australians.

Lagnicourt - E04577.JPGIn defeating this attack the I Anzac Corps had suffered 1,010 casualties of which approximately 300 were taken prisoner. The Germans suffered 2,313 casualties, and despite having been temporarily in possession of 36 artillery pieces, 31 were back in Australian operation that afternoon (photograph showing one of the destroyed guns). The attack was a failure, particularly as the Germans threw four times the amount attackers against the thinly spread 4,000 Australians holding the line, and did not disrupt the preparations for the next Allied attack at Bullecourt. For the Allies it also demonstrated the virtues of defence in depth.

The village and the attack lay beyond the right flank of the 22nd Battalion but in range of the Lewis gunners, including L/Cpl 1187 Tourrier who estimated that his gun accounted for 40 Germans and became ‘the envy of the battalion gunners’. A party of one officer and eleven other ranks attempted a raid on one of the Battalion’s posts and were all killed, and for his work 2nd Lieut. F.Gawler received a Military Cross. Sentry 5111 Pte Winter was shot dead by the raiders, and Major JS Dooley, MC was wounded.

26th Mar 1917: 22nd Bn moves into Bapaume & escapes Town Hall mine explosion

Bapaume 2 - E00419.JPGEarly 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.

20th Mar 1917: HS Asturias sunk with loss of 35 lives

hmhs_asturiasNot long after the resumption of the German announcement of unrestricted submarine warfare against shipping deemed to be supporting the Allied war effort, after landing 1,000 wounded at Avonmouth in the Bristol Channel, the Asturias was attacked by German submarine off the south Devon coast and struck by a torpedo which blew off her stern, killing 35 of her crew. The Captain of U20 which sank the Asturias was Capitanleutnant Walther Schweiger, who two years before had been in command of the U-Boat which sank the Lusitania. She was able to be beached near Bolt Head but her damage was so extensive that she was declared a total loss. However her hulk was put to use as a floating ammunition store at Plymouth for the rest of the war.

10th Mar 1917: 22nd Bn relieved, but within hours heads back to front

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.