At 7-15pm. on 30th June 1916, the evening before the attack, the Battalion commenced to move from Warnimont Wood. At 9pm. a halt was made just west of Courcelles when tea was provided for the men. At 10-40pm. the Battn. moved on and the leading Company entered Northern Avenue Trench at 12 midnight. Owing to the very slow progress made by the Battalion in front, Pylon Trench was not reached till 2am. Wagram at 2-35am. and Rolland at 3-5am.
The whole Battalion was in position in assembly trenches, without casualty, at 4-30am. as follows:-
"A" Company under Capt. Roos with 2[nd] Lieuts. Hirst, Anderson, Kell, (and including detachment of Machine Gun Corps with two Vickers Guns), in file in front end of Nairne Trench & along Traffic trench from Nairne Trench to John Copse, where the leading man of the Company connected with left flank of first wave of 12th Bn. York & Lancaster Regt.
Duty:- To proceed in file across "No Man's Land" immediately following assaulting waves. To consolidate and hold German Trench K30a4085 to K23a7510 and to construct and hold strong points A and B along that line.
"B" Company under Capt. Houston. Two platoons (Lieut. Forsdike and 2[nd] Lt. Strong) in Copse Trench.
"C" Company under Capt. Edmeades, with 2nd Lts. Johnson & Holmes in Rolland Trench.
Headquarters:- in Rolland, C.O., 2nd Command, Adjutant, Signalling Officer and Bombing Officer.
Before the Attack
Zero had been fixed for 7-30am. At 5-20am. report was received from O.C. Clearing Party in Copse Trench that they were being heavily shelled but had sustained no casualties.
5-50am. O.C. Russian Sap party reported all correct.
7-10am. 2nd in Command under orders from C.O. proceeded to front line to see A & B Companies out, and to report progress to Battn. Hd. Qrs.
From time of assembly until Zero, assembly trenches particularly from Rob Roy to Fire Trench were very heavily shelled by the Germans.
Just before Zero the condition of the front trenches was as follows:-
Casualties before Zero. On the left flank particularly between Nairne and John Copse, it is estimated that 30% of the assaulting, consolidating and clearing parties became casualties before reaching our parapet. The majority of these were caused by shell fire, from direction of positions opposite 48th Divn. from which point traffic & fire trenches could be enfiladed. Many casualties were also caused by M.G. and rifle fire to which A and B Companies were much exposed owing to levelling of Nairne, etc.
At ten minutes before Zero a smoke screen from candles and bombs was started from the front line trenches immediately to the left of Nairne. The wind was from the West and had a speed of some two miles per hour. The smoke screen made rather slow progress across "No Man's Land" but volume & direction were good.
At the first sign of smoke machine gun & rifle fire was opened by the Germans in the trenches opposite 48th Division. This fire rapidly increased in intensity, and by Zero several machine guns appeared to be in position there. At 10 minutes after Zero "A" Company were clear of Nairne, but the two platoons of "B" Company (Russian Sap party) were held up in the most exposed part of Nairne by a block in front. Information was received that the block was due to orders having been passed back for the men to proceed at three paces interval.
If this had been adhered to, the two platoons of "B" Coy. would have been held up in the most exposed portion of Nairne under heavy fire, for some time, and would undoubtedly have suffered casualties amounting almost to annihilation. There was also a great risk that in the broken state of the trenches the suggested intervals would have resulted in men losing touch with those in front, and throwing out all those behind them. Orders were therefore given that the men must push on as quickly as possible and without intervals, to the Russian Sap, and Capt Houston worked his way past the men to see the order carried out. As a result the file commenced to move at a fair pace at 7-52am. and at 7-58am. Nairne was clear of our men.
At 8-5am. no man of the two Companies, not a casualty, was in sight between Nairne & John Copse, though some may have been hidden by parts of the Traffic Trench & Fire trench still intact.
Despite our intensive bombardment, several enemy snipers were in position almost immediately after Zero, and many casualties were caused, particularly in Nairne, from their fire.
Just before 8-10am. a line of men got over the parapet and advanced in quick time across "No Man's Land". It was thought they formed part of the first wave of second bound. Owing to the higher ground in front of John Copse it was not possible from exposed positions of Nairne, to see beyond the seventh man from left of this line. The men advanced in good dressing to middle of our wire, when they came apparently under Machine Gun fire and commenced to fall. No man of those on the left got further than a yard or two beyond our wire. Four had commenced to crawl back when a shell burst in the middle of them. No report or message of any sort was received back from A or B Companies once they had left Nairne. From reports by wounded men who had got back from "No Man's Land", very great casualties were sustained by A and B Coys. while crossing toward the German wire, on the left flank of attack. As estimated earlier possibly less than 70% were able to leave our parapet and of these it would appear that barely 20% were able to reach the German front line. A portion of "A" Coy. undoubtedly reached the commencement of their objective, while some of the "B" Coy. clearing party including Lieut. Forsdike were seen to enter the first German trench.
While A and B Companies were endeavouring to carry out their allotted tasks as above, the movements of the two Reserve Companies were as follows:-
At 9-30am. an Officer of the Russian Sap party, Lieut. Lowinsky, returned badly wounded and reported that all Officers with that party were "knocked out", and that two new platoons must be sent.
At 11-50am., information was received by runner that the 12th Bn. York & Lancaster Regiment had removed their Head Qrs. from John Copse. It was understood that they had gone forward and in accordance with previous arrangements, the Bn. Hd. Qrs. of this Battalion proceeded to move from Rolland to John Copse.
No further movements were made by this Battalion in connection with the attack all subsequent operations being in reference to the holding of our trenches.
The following were the casualties sustained by the Battalion during these operations.
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