|born: 1894, Folkestone, Kent
enlisted: 6th Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
rank: Private G/9144
died: 3rd May 1917 Battle of the Scarpe, 4th Phase of the Arras Offensive
Commemorated on the Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France and Folkestone War Memorial
In the spring of 1917 Sir Douglas Haig decided upon a battle of artillery around Vimy Ridge and arras. The German Army had transformed the villages of Acheville, Arleux and Oppy into fortresses. The three villages were built on a series of foothills that lay below Vimy Ridge. The Canadians, in their keynote victory, captured Vimy Ridge, and now the British artillery could pound the three villages from the ridge. The Canadians then added to Vimy be capturing Arleux and Fresnoy. In this they were supported by the 37th Brigade which included the 6th Battalion, the Buffs.
The Prussian commander at Oppy continued to defend his position despite being surrounded by British artillery and infantry, and in the hours before sawn on 3rd May, the British troops attacked Oppy through the woods.
Forty men from the East Kent regiment went out on the nocturnal offensive, and in the darkness they lost their direction. They went far beyond the rest of their line and settled in a small copse, more than half a mile beyond their comrades. Being well out in the middle of enemy territory, they decided to do as much damage as they could. Their rifle and machine gun fire was mistaken by the German troops for the work of a German supporting force. Shrapnel fell everywhere, and casualties succumbed.
Throughout the night and all through the next day the men from Kent held on to the copse. When evening came their ammunition was running low, and they resolved to cut their way back to their line. But between them lay scattered posts and two German trenches. They evaded the posts, and screened by the dusk, reached the first trench without being detected. But in the trench a German officer saw enough of the Kents uniforms to detect them. he called on them to surrender. In reply one of the Kentishmen shot the officer, and the whole trench sprang to life. Fierce fighting ensued and the Buffs disengaged themselves, and amid bombs and bullets sprinted to the second trench, which by good luck was deep and narrow, so they leapt over it.
The remnants now had to cross the zone of fire. In the first group two officers and thirteen men came in unwounded, and throughout the night a few wounded stragglers came back. In all twenty of the original forty men got back.
|Last update : 1st May 2007|