14th Apr 1918: British line stabilised in front of Hazebrouck

The first attack on the AIF 1st Division’s new front line at Hazebrouck was made shortly after midnight when a Company of Germans came marching up. Holding their fire until they were within twenty yards they were met with withering fire and the attacking survivors panicked and fled. At daylight more Germans were seen massing and marching forward for an attack. The seven brigades of the Royal Field Artillery covering the Australians effectively scattered the attackers, and the Lewis gunners and machine-gunners had rich targets albeit at long ranges of a half mile and more. The waves that got closer were met by rifle fire from the forward posts. With the exception of two posts of the 8th Battalion which were destroyed nowhere else did the Germans reach the Australian posts. Along with the 5th British Division, the Australians had completely stabilised the front between Hazebrouck and St.Venant, and furthermore the British First Army to the south had thrust back the Germans. For the Germans attacking from Merris, the battle of the 14th April was their third day in which they had come against a stubborn defence and the stress was beginning to take its toll, and with this set-back the offensive was suspended to the south and west of Armentieres.

Meanwhile on the Somme the 22nd Battalion returned to the front line at Dernancourt, relieving the 21st Battalion

26th Feb 1917: 22nd Bn relieved and returns to Shelter Wood Camp

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.

24th Feb 1917: Probing following reports of German withdrawal

Following reports from British V Corps that the Germans had abandoned their forward trenches, I Anzac Corps along with British II Corps were ordered that night to probe into enemy forward positions. From their discoveries and prisoners taken it became apparent that the Germans had made a massive change in their strategic plans and what was being observed was the voluntary abandonment by the Germans of their great salient between Arras and the Aisne.

21st Feb 1917: 22nd Bn returns to the Firing Line

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.

16th Feb 1917: Thaw commences and a return to the mud

In the third week of February the thaw commenced. Within days the communication trenches had returned to a quagmire hindering the supply of bombs to the front for further attacks.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 22nd Battalion had baths and spent time cleaning up, but mud and slush was everywhere. In the evening concerts and card parties were held.

15th Feb 1917: I Anzac Corps transferred to British 5th Army

The I Anzac Corps was transferred from the British Fourth Army to the Fifth Army (formerly Reserve Army) under the command of General Sir Hubert Gough. Meanwhile back in England and following the agreement by the Australian Government to form a 6th infantry division, the creation of a new brigade, the 16th, was begun consisting mostly of men having recovered from their wounds or sickness.

11th Feb 1917: Wearing down operations on the Somme now in full swing

At midnight the 46th Battalion launched an assault covered by a shower of rifle-grenades and captured 150 yards of enemy trench. The small wearing down operations on the Somme were now in full swing, and three days later the 46th launch another attack and capture a further 25 yards.