9th Battalion War Diary - October to December, 1916

CAMBRAI 1st Battalion moved from position in the open South of CAMBRAI at 2.30 a.m. to West Side of LA FOLIE WOOD. No shelter or accommodation & being very wet night, stood about until daylight. On arrival men were served with porridge & tea & rum. In daylight, fires were lighted and men got clothes dried as well as possible. Shelters were dug & men got to sleep after breakfast. Remainder of day spent in getting up bivouacs & digging shelters. C.O. & Coy Commanders & I.O. reconnoitred the CANAL BANK & trenches of the MARCOING LINE, which we were detailed to hold in the event of a counter attack. H.Q. established in wood. Slight shelling of area.
LA FOLIE WOOD DISTRICT 2nd Moved battalion to area East of FONTAINE & clear of the wood. Men engaged all day digging shelter pits to sleep in. Before moving in the morning one shell burst in our vicinity wounding 7 men (1 since died). Enemy aircraft over at night & bombed vicinity of wood. Capt. ATKINSON's body recovered and sent back for burial.
3rd Men employed on Lewis Gun training &c. & Salving. LA FOLIE WOOD shelled intermittently day & night. Our camp had shells on it at night but no casualties. Very cold at night. Enemy aircraft bombed district at night, many casualties in S. LANCS who were alongside the wood.
4th Slight shelling in A.M.
11 a.m. - Wood being shelled, 1 fell at entrance of Battalion H.Q., hitting two runners. 2/Lt. KNEALE went away to the transport lines sick & Lt HILL came up to take over his work as Intelligence Officer. About 2 p.m. the Brigadier and Brigade Major were both wounded by a shell which came through entrance to the dugout and exploded into room. Both wounded in the head & feared serious. Colonel MAITLAND (Grenadier Guards) took over acting Brigadier. Orders received to relieve the KING'S OWN R L R in PROVILLE. Relief carried out in early evening quite successfully.
5th During night & early morning fair amount of shelling of village. "C" Coy in front dug in, remainder in houses with positions in streets & "A" Coy in trenches on S. Side with 1 Coy of MUNSTERS. Acting Brigadier came round with C.O. in the morning and altered some of the positions. Very little shelling during the day but good deal of M.T. Mortars on "C" Coy.
6th PROVILLE & LA FOLIE WOOD shelled intermittently during day with Trench Mortars on the forward parts. One fell on a "C" Coy post killing 5 men. About 7.30 p.m. ration party from B.H.Q. was caught by shell fire, four men being wounded. B.G.C. 171 Bde & C.R.E. 57th Divn both wounded by the Canal Bank. Late in the evening had orders that we were to be relieved by 2/7 K.L.R.
S.W. of CAMBRAI 7th Battalion relieved by 2/7 K.L.R. & we proceeded to A.25.c. & d. (viz about 2500yda S.W. of CAMBRAI) & took over Support position from 7th H.L.I. Fairly quiet night. During day men improved fire positions & shelters. Coy areas extended. Brigadier came round sector. Fires burning in CAMBRAI.
8th "B" Coy moved into fresh positions forward and positions further improved. Great quantities of Salvage collected & formed into dumps. Failry quiet during day but considerable shelling at night. 3 men of "D" Coy hit (1 killed, 2 wounded) 1 man of "A" Coy hit by M.G. bullet. S. LANCS & R.M.F. straightened out their line, swinging up on the right in conjunction with the 170 Bde who pushed forward and obtained position facing North in A.3.b & A.4.a. forming a defensive flank. The 63rd Divn at the same time pushing through in Easterly direction to objective E. of NIERGNES. All objectives taken. Visited S.LANCS with Coy Commanders preparatory to relieving them. During night slight shelling. Fires burning in CAMBRAI.
9th Enemy evacuated CAMBRAI during night and early morning. At 1.30 a.m. barrage put down for CANADIANS who attacked N of town & again at 5 a.m. Again at 5.15 a.m. barrage for 24th Divn who attacked through 170 Infy Bde & 63rd Divn. They had a successful drive to LE CATEAU. Canadian patrols in CAMBRAI early in morning. Later R.M.F. & S. LANCS had patrols into town, also 170 Bde. Our men engaged in Salving and burying the dead. Lt NELSON's and 7 other ranks bodies found & buried near PARIS COPSE (killed on 30th Septr).
6 p.m. - Received orders that Battalion would withdraw this night to bivouac S.W. of FONTAINE. Moved out at 8.30. On arrival there found bivouac ground unsuitable so got leave to proceed to our old area of CANTAING TRENCHES - arrived in at 1 a.m.
CANTAING TRENCHES, ANNEUX 10th Quiet day spent here. Brigadier called at 10.30. Men quite comfortable and happy.
11th Orders received to move later in day. Marched out at 3 p.m. South of HINDENBURG. S. of INCHY and W. of BOURSIES. Drew 10 tents and 15 bivouac sheets.
NEAR INCHY 12th Marched off at 2.15 to place of entraining East of HERMIES. Tea served to men which was ready for them on arrival by advance party. Train 2 hours late. Trucks only. Travelled all night. Very cold.
DOUVRIN 13th Arrived at BETHUNE at 10 a.m. Marched off to DOUVRIN. Breakfasts on arrival. Raining & cold. Men in huts and billets fairly good. Brigadier called at 2.30 & brought news that we move tomorrow.
14th Received move orders in early morning. Battalion paraded and marched off at 8.20 a.m. Embussed at VAUDRICOURT. Proceeded via BETHUNE, VIELLE CHAPELLE to Pt DU HEM (1ΒΌ miles S.E. of LAVENTIE). After debussing battalion moved off by road march at 12.15 via S. of LAVENTIE, FROMELLES to LE MAISNIL. Took over from the 21st LONDON, 140 Brigade as Right Battalion in Support - The four Companies were in trenches, near Headquarters which was at CARTIER FARM. Enemy still holding line of railway about 2500 yds East. Quiet night. Division now in the 5th Army (General BIRDWOOD) 11th Corps (Lt Genl HAKING).
15th In preparation for Battn relieving the 17th LONDON - right front Bn of 141 Brigade, C.O., I.O. & 4 Coy Cmdrs proceeded to RADINGHEM at 9.30 a.m. On arrival had news that enemy had retired from railway on our front & also on right. Patrols out to ESCOBECQUES. Division on right established forward to SANTES.
10.30 a.m. - Order received our relief postponed 24 hours. Returned to LE MAISNIL. Brigadier meanwhile had called and given Adjutant particulars regarding the battalion & Brigade picketing LILLE when City cleared. Quiet night. Few H.V. shells in vicinity of "C" Coy but no damage. Weather wet & heavy. Going very muddy.
16th Received instructions to Stand fast but prepared to move forward at half hours notice. Had conference with Company Commanders at 9.30 to discuss the advance on LILLE & picketing the city. We remained at LE MAISNIL this day & night. S. LANCS ordered forward to the railway. R.M. FUSILIERS to RADINGHEM. 142 Brigade advance continued on our front in conjunction with 59th Divn (Left) & 74th Divn (Right). Held up at HAUBOURDIN by M.G. fire. C.O. attended Conference at 4.30 at Bde H.Q. at RADINGHEM concerning advance & picketing LILLE. Heavy damp weather. Rain.
LE MAISNIL - LILLE 17th 12.25 p.m. - Received orders to advance. Battalion assembled and moved off. Coys to HELLENES, B.H.Q. to VERTBALLOT & then proceeded & joined Coys. News being received on the way (2.55 pm.) from Brigadier that the R.M.F. reported all country ahead and canal round LILLE clear of enemy. Battalion pushed on & arrived at Canal at 4.55 p.m. An ever increasing crowd of inhabitants (mostly women) most enthusiastically welcomed the battalion from arrival on outskirts of the City. All bridges had been blown up but the one at PONT CANTELEU was just fit for crossing in single file. The crowd here was very dense & the battalion was held up in getting across. Companies proceeded to their various areas & pickets were posted guarding all crossings over Moat and Canal from CANON D'OR on the North to PONTE D'ARRAS on the South. All were in position by 7.30 p.m. & reports on the state of the bridges made & sent to Brigade by 9.30. All bridges over the Moat were blown up except PONT DE LA POSTE. Most of them could with more or less difficulty be crossed on foot. Battalion H.Q. established in the AVENUE DE DUNKIRQUE in a chateau which had been occupied by the enemy. This as many others had been shamefully damaged and private property wantonly destroyed before leaving. One enemy prisoner was taken at PONT BETHUNE. He had escaped from prison and had been hiding. No one allowed in the City without a pass signed by APM, 11th Corps.
LILLE 18th Pickets had a very busy time owing to the people not realising they could not go to & from the City. Many were in great difficulty as though living outside they were in the habit of going in on certain days to draw rations. All pickets well fixed up with billets adjacent. French Mission entered the City at 7.30 a.m.
9.30 p.m. - C.O. sent for to Brigade to arrange for Guard of Honour to M. CLEMENCAU who was visiting the City the following morning.
19th Guard of Honour under Lt. FISHER paraded at 7 a.m. Sec. Lts RIGBY & WHYMARK & 100 Other ranks. Guard accompanied by band of the 2/4 S. LANCS in position at PONT DE CANTELEU at 8.45 a.m. M. CLEMENCAU arrived at 9 a.m. - He expressed his great appreciation of the Guard. The Divisional Commander congratulated the C.O. on the excellent turnout of the Guard. Later the Guard with the S. LANCS band marched through the City where it took up position opposite Mayor's House & until after M. CLEMENCAU's departure from there. Great enthusiasm in the City which was fully decorated with flags. "B" & "C" Coys played a football match in p.m. on the Athletic Ground.
20th Men not actually employed on pickets employed on training.
4.30 p.m. - Received orders that we proceed forward tomorrow to ASCQ. S. LANCS to take over all pickets from us tonight. This was done commencing at 11 p.m. & at 3.30 a.m. all reported relieved.
LILLE - ASCQ 21st 7.30 a.m. - Battalion (less "A" Coy) paraded & passed starting point PONT CANTELEU at 7.45. Marched through LILLE, "A" Coy joining on at PONT DE LA POSTES. Dull morning & raining. Proceeded through City to Eastern Side and out by the PONT LOUIS XIV, through HELLEMES & to ASCQ arriving at 10.15. All settled into very good billets. Inhabitants most obliging. Borrowed tubs and heated water, whole battalion was bathed in the afternoon & clothes ironed.
ASCQ - WILLEMS 22nd Brigade ordered to move into WILLEMS area. Passed starting point at 10.15 a.m. Route - CHERENG, SIN, Battalion billeted in LA BREURE (France) & TREQUIERRE (Belgium) in barns, with "A" Coy & B.H.Q. Coy in Boche dugouts. Very wet morning. Fires made after dinner and men dried their clothes. Enemy shelled BLANDAIN & near our "B" & "C" Coys during night but no damage.
WILLEMS 23rd Remained here. Morning spent in training and removing shells, and other enemy stores from the dug outs. Great quantities of bombs, signal lights &c. found, also Granatanwerfers & bombs with which demonstration was given to all ranks & taught how to use. In afternoon C.O., I.O., & Coy Commanders proceeded to FROYENNES to reconnoitre preparatory to taking over front line from 2/7th KING'S.
WILLEMS - FROYENNE 24th Ordered to relieve 2/7th KING'S today. Moved off at 2 p.m. along railway met by guides at FROYENNE. Relief completed by 7.30. "A" Coy in Right Front, "C" Coy Left Front, "B" Coy Support, "C" Coy Reserve (sic). Three patrols out during night up to Canal. Capt. MARSHALL (R.E.) & Lt BUTLER (R.E.) accompanied each one of these. All patrols reconnoitred River & Canal to locate best places to place bridges for crossings in preparation for advance. Enemy patrol encountered on No. 1 patrol but it retired across river. Canal has deep banks. Enemy M.G. posts fairly close up and active. At 2 a.m. some 40ft bridging arrived from 505 Co. R.E. Fair amount of shelling during night in bursts.
FROYENNE 25th Decided to stiffen up right flank which was covered by the 74th Divn. Brought up 1 platoon of Support Coy & 1 M.G. in position to cover the country behind the 74th posts. Posts on the right front Coy also altered & readjusted: Major C. BIGGS (19th KING'S) reported for duty. He had already been notified as attached for duty with the battalion. Considerable shelling in bursts during night. M.G. fairly active. 3 Patrols out. Several inhabitants still living in village even up among the front line.
26th 11.30 a.m. - Two men arrived back to H.Q. of Right front platoon wounded. O.C. Coy in order to control the Country between the railway & canal had placed a Lewis Gun post on the railway before dawn in a crater on the embankment. The story given by the two wounded men was very incoherent, but they stated another man had been wounded. A patrol was sent out to obtain news but without success & it was assumed post had moved position. After dark successive patrols were sent out to search. It was not until just before dawn that the Platoon Commanders patrol found the Lewis Gun & Magazines, two rifles & one steel helmet, but no further trace of the men (viz. 3).
Intermittent shelling, rather more violent on village and roads during early evening & throughout the night.
27th 7 a.m. - Brigadier called after having been round left front Coy. "C" Coy had relieved "D" Coy here during the night. Patrols out all night on whol front up to the canal. More bridging material arrived. S.LANCS advance party to reconnoitre preparatory to taking over next day arrived. At 4 p.m. carried out a shoot on house occupied by enemy and trench adjacent opposite our "B" Coy front. M.G. known to fire from this house & enemy had been seen going in and out during day. 40 rounds by 1 M.T. Mortar were fired, 3 direct hits on house. L.T.M. fired on sunken road adjacent occupied by enemy post. 18 pdrs fired bursts of shrapnel & H.E. while T.M. shoot was going on, also 1 M.G. and 1 L.G. fired to cut off enemy trying to get away. Damage done to house. Cries of wounded were heard. At dusk - 5.25 p.m. under cover of L.T.M. party from "B" Coy pushed forward to enter house and trench to obtain identification & deal with any enemy found. When half way across, a very light was put up by enemy and M.G. fire brought onto party. Party took cover but M.G. fire was persistently maintained and at 6 p.m. party withdrew. All got back without casualty. Considerable enemy shelling during evening & night on roads and around village. M.G. quiet until 4.30 a.m. then active for a while. Whole front patrolled throughout night.
28th Quiet day. 4.30 p.m. relieving battalion 2/4 S. LANCS began to arrive. Relief complete by 7 p.m. Battalion marched back by Coys as relieved to billets at CORNET. Enemy shelled crossroads S of Railway in FROYENNES but no casualties.
CORNET 29th Whole battalion very comfortable in excellent billets. Now battalion in reserve. Morning & afternoon spent in cleaning up & overhaul. In afternoon C.O., I.O. & Coy Cmdrs went forward to support line to reconnoitre assembly position, lines of advance &c. Major BIGGS ordered to proceed & report for duty to 1st R.M.F.
30th Battalion ordered to move back to HELLEMMES - LILLE. Billeting parties sent forward early morning. Relieved by 21st LONDON REGT at 4 p.m.. Battalion marched to billets at HELLEMMES. The Battalion arrived in HELLEMMES at 20.30 hrs and marched into billets which consisted of a large factory, every man being supplied with a bed. The officers were billeted in private houses in the vicinity.
31st The morning was spent in cleaning up billets and vicinity thereof, afterwards the men had the remainder of the day for rest. The C.O., Adjt. & Coy Cmdrs reconnoitred the training areas which were to be used by the battalion during the tour in this area.
Orders were received from Bde Hqrs that 4 hours per day would be devoted to training &c. and the remainder of the day for recreation and organised games. The area was found to be very extensive and most adaptable for Ceremonial Drill & Tactical Schemes. Also, every facility was found for Rifle and Lewis Gun firing & Rifle Grenade firing.
1st The Battalion commenced their training this day, the following programme being carried out:- One Coy on the Rifle Range & Lewis Gun range. Remainder of Battn practising Handling of Arms, Platoon Drill &c. and Ceremonial Drill.
2nd Training as for previous day was again carried out.
3rd Divine Service took place in the billets occupied by this Battn. The first floor of the factory was so spacious that it was decided to hold the Brigade Service, there being sufficient accommodation for the whole of the Brigade Personnel.
4th to 6th The usual training was carried out on each of these days.
7th The usual inspections and training again took place. During the morning the Brigade Commander inspected the Battalion, in full marching order.
8th & 9th The training was again carried out.
10th Divine Service was again held on the first floor of the factory. The whole of the Brigade personnel attending as previously.
11th The usual training was carried out. On the morning of the 11th official news was received that an armistice had been signed, duration of which was 36 days. Before marching off from the Parade Ground the C.O. addressed all ranks, informing them of this historical event.
12th The usual training was again carried out.
13th An inspection took place, in full marching order, by the G.O.C. Division. The inspection was followed by a ceremonial march past. On the night of the 13th inst, the reality of the Armistice was shown by the returning of British Prisoners of War from the German lines. A picquet was immediately posted on the main road outside Bn Hqrs and on arrival of these men they were escorted into a billet which had been prepared for them. Fires were burning and every man was supplied with a bed. A hot meal also with Tea and a Rum ration was served to them as they arrived. By midnight about 80 men had arrived. Many of the men arrived in an exhausted condition, after having marched 40/50 kilos. It was a stirring sight to see these men, who represented many different regiments. Many were the stirring and pitiful stories related by these repatriated men of Britain, of the harsh and cruel treatment which they received during their period of captivity.
14th The usual training was again carried out. Orders were received during the morning, that the returned Prisoners of War should be forwarded to the XI Corps Reception Camp.
Lt. Colonel S.C. BALL proceeded on leave. Lt. Colonel D'O.B DAWSON of the 2nd Bn S.L.R. reported for duty and took over command of the Battalion.
15th The Battalion carried out an "Advance Guard" Tactical Scheme.
17th Major BIGGS MC of the 19th Liverpool Regt reported for duty as Second-in-Command. Regimental Institutes were commenced also Messes for Serjts & Cpls & a Bn Men's Mess was instituted. This scheme met with great success. A recreation room was also made, which proved most popular and several Battn Concerts & Dances were held.
18th The usual training was carried out.
19th The Battalion took part in a Cross Country run against the 2/4 S.L.R. It was decided that a medal should be provided by the 9th K.L.R. if the winner of the race proved to be a 2/4 S.L.R. man & vice versa. After a well contested race, the winner proved to be Pte HALLORAN, J. of "B" Coy of this Battalion.
20th/21st The usual training was carried out.
22nd The Battalion carried out a route march.
23rd The usual training was again carried out.
24th Divine Service, in the factory, was again held, the whole of the Brigade personnel taking part.
25th Educational Classes were commenced under the supervision of the Educational Officer, Lieut. H.J. SPARGO. The following subjects were taken:- Tailoring; Joinering; Simple reading & writing lessons; Geography, Shorthand; French.
On the morning of assembly, a large number of the Battn availed themselves of this unique opportunity of improving their knowledge of simple subjects which will undoubtedly prove beneficial to them on their returning to their civilian occupations.
26th A draft of 40 other ranks arrived to join this Battalion. The general appearance & fitness of these men was very satisfactory. The usual training was again carried out.
28th & 29th The usual training, also Educational Classes were again carried out.
30th The Battalion carried out a route march. During this period the leave allotment of the Battalion has been fairly good. During the current month a Divisional Football Competition has been held, this Battalion finishing up with three successive victories. There has also been an officers Football Competition, this Battalion's Team having won 2 matches out of 2 played, and is now eligible to play in the semi-final.
Comdg. 9th Bn The King's.
HELLEMMES [?.6.d.50.10 Sheet 36.S] DECEMBER
1st Brigade Divine Service was held in factory occupied by this unit.
2nd Training as follows, was carried out on ground allotted this unit; musketry, Advance Guards, B.F. & P.T., Close Order Drill, Handling of Arms, etc. & Educational Training for one hour each morning.
3rd The Battalion moved by route march to CARVIN, en route for new billeting area, i.e. ETRUN.
CARVIN [L. (LENS 11)] 4th The Battalion moved from CARVIN, arriving in new area ETRUN, about 15.30 hours. The distance covered on this day was roughly 21 miles; the noteworthy feature of the march being - not a single man fell out on line of march, which reflected great credit on those responsible for the training of the Battalion.
ETRUN 5th The morning was spent in cleaning up of billets, etc., afterwards, the remainder of the day was placed at the disposal of the men for their own recreation.
[3.I.30.85. (LENS 11)] 6th The usual training was carried out.
7th The Battalion was inspected in Full Marching Order, by the Commanding Officer, Lieut. Col. MAITLAND, D.S.O.
8th Divine Service (Voluntary)
[3.I.30.80. (LENS 11)] 9th The Battalion movd from billets in ETRUN to "E" Block, "Y" Hutments, ARRAS-SAINTPOL ROAD. Battalion Hdqrs being established at 3.I.30.80. (LENS 11).
"Y" HUTMENTS 10th The usual training was carried out.
11th A route march was contemplated, but owing to the inclement weather postponement was necessary.
12th The usual training was carried out.
13th The usual training was carried out. The initial intimation of demobilization was received from Brigade, our instructions being to dispatch to the United Kingdom 4 miners for demobilization. This allotment was the forerunner of many to come.
14th The Battalion was inspected in Full Marching Order by the Brig. Genl. "B" Coy being declared the smartest turned out Coy, their reward being a holiday on the following Thursday & a trip to DOULLENS by motor lorry. A further 12 miners were despatched to England on this day for demobilization.
15th Divine Service was held.
16th The usual training was carried out.
17th The usual training was carried out.
18th A route march had to be postponed on this day owing to inclement weather.
19th The usual training was carried out.
20th The usual training was carried out.
21st The Battalion was inspected by the Commanding Officer, (Lieut. Col. MAITLAND, D.S.O.).
22nd Divine Service was held. One miner was despatched to England for demobilization.
23rd The usual training was carried out.
24th The usual training was carried out.
25th Christmas Day. Divine Service was held at 11.00 hrs. Dinner was served to the Battalion at 18.00 hours. The menu consisted of:- Roast Pork - Roast Beef - Vegetables - Apple Sauce - Plum Pudding - DESSERT:- Nuts - Apples - Rum Punch & Beer. The arrangements for this festivity were excellently carried out, & the fare provided was greatly relished & appreciated by the men.
26th A Battalion run was organised, taking place at 11.00 hours. Every available man was on this parade. At 18.00 hours the Sergeants held their Christmas Dinner, also men who were on employ on Xmas Day were also provided with the special Xmas fare. In the evening the Officers held their Xmas festivity.
27th A route march ordered for this day was reluctantly postponed, owing to inclement weather. Lieut. Colonel F.M. DREW D.S.O. reported for duty with this Battalion.
28th Lieut. Colonel F.M. DREW D.S.O. resumed command of the Battalion, vice Lieut. Colonel MAITLAND, who proceeded to command 2nd GUARDS Battalion.
29th Divine Service was held.
30th The usual training was carried out. Major C.W. BIGGS, M.C. proceeded to 1st Army Staging Camp as 2nd-in-Command.
31st The usual training was carried out.
The fighting strength of the Battalion on the 31st was 37 Officers, 688 O. Ranks.
Lieut Colonel
Commanding 9th Bn The King's L'pool Regt T.F.
In the Field