On the night of 5th/6th March 1917, the 11th Bn. East Lancashire Regt. (Accrington Pals) took over the front line slightly east of Puisieux-au-Mont. The battalion held two lines of isolated posts, with supports and reserves in Orchard Alley, Gudgeon Trench and the Wundt Werk.
Three nights later, a patrol of 20 other ranks under the command of 2/Lt. Frederic Wild went out to reconnoitre a suspected enemy machine gun emplacement and to determine the strength of the enemy holding Bucquoy Trench. An account of the events that followed was given by Wild in January 1919:
"During the night of the 7/8 March 1917, I took out a patrol of 20 other ranks from ORCHARD TRENCH (near PUISIEUX AU MONT), to ascertain how, and in what strength the enemy held BUCQUOY TRENCH and to endeavour to find a gap in the wire in front of it.
When close to the wire I went ahead with corporal BAMBER and lance-corporal KEWLEY to reconnoitre it. We almost crawled into a working party in the wire and had to lie quiet for several minutes. Two of the working party looked towards us several times; then they all went back through the wire, and on our endeavouring to creep away back to the remainder singly we were challenged and fired upon. At the same time 2 men came through the wire and intercepted me. I got away by shooting the first with my revolver. The second fled. I emptied my revolver at him but missed. I ran back to the remainder of the patrol and found them commencing to scatter. By this time very heavy machine gun and rifle fire had been opened upon us. I tried to rally the patrol, but had hardly commenced when I was hit in the thigh. I called for help & took cover with lance-corporal KEWLEY and several men who came back to me. Daylight broke before any attempt to get away could be made. Numerous parties of Germans spent the intervening time searching the ground, but apparently missed us.
The following evening we attempted to get back. Very heavy machine gun and rifle fire was opened at once, killing one man and wounding lance-corporal KEWLEY very severely. We again took cover, and when the fire died down I sent the remainder, who were unwounded, off individually, resolving to take my chance with the lance-corporal. Early the following morning a German patrol found us and took us in."
|Left and above: Page 1 and Page 2 of Wild's statement regarding the circumstances which led to his capture by the enemy.|
Seventeen of the men were able to get back to safety; the other four were recorded in the battalion war diary as missing. 2/Lt. Frederic Wild and L/Cpl. Herbert Kewley - both wounded - were taken prisoner. Pte. James Knowles and Pte. Frank Myers - both from Accrington - lost their lives; neither has a known grave (both are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial).
© Andrew C Jackson 2003.
Compiled from TNA documents WO95/2366 and WO339/45628.