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0500hrs, 95 years ago today


Jim Hastings
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Remembering the 47 men of 2nd Bn. The Royal Sussex Regt. who gave their lives on the 24th September 1918 in an attack on the German positions on the high ground north of Gricourt.

The Battalion, already diminished in numbers following actions during the advance made since 2nd September, and particularly 18th September, formed up by 0400hrs with ‘A’ Coy on the right under Captain Roberts MC and ‘C’ Coy on the left under T/Captain Sunderland. Both Coys had two platoons ‘up’, with two platoons 100 yds behind, over a total frontage of 400 yds. A severely depleted ‘D’ Coy (Captain Mason MC) supplied a supporting platoon to each Coy and ‘B’ Coy (Lt. Gardener) was held in Reserve. The attack was supported by a section of ‘B’ Coy 1st MGC, 2 trench mortars (2nd T.M.Bty) and 2 tanks.

Zero was at 0500hrs and the Bn advanced behind a creeping barrage, the leading Coys meeting stiff opposition in the enemy trenches and occupied sunken roads. But their objective was taken, along with many prisoners. However, 46th Div, attacking further North, had failed to take Pontruet, the knock-on effect being that the Northants on the 2nd Sussex left were left exposed and were forced to retire. Their retirement in turn left ‘C’ Coy exposed and they became subject to heavy German artillery and MG fire and suffered greatly. It was during this time that Capt. Sunderland presumably lost his life, although initially he was reported as missing. ‘C’ Coy were forced to retire, which left ‘A’ Coy exposed in turn. Platoons from ‘D’ and ‘B’ Coys formed flanking supports, but the situation was critical.

At 1120hrs an estimated 400 German soldiers were seen advancing to counterattack ‘A’ Coy, which was estimated at this time to have had only 80 men, all ranks. Roberts ordered his men to open fire and under this the attackers were seen to waiver about 50yds from the ‘A’ Coy positions. Seeing this, Roberts ordered his men to fix bayonets and charge the remaining enemy. This routed the Germans and 40 prisoners were taken, the fleeing enemy harassed by artillery fire. At some point during the action Roberts was wounded.

2nd Sussex held their gains, 2nd KRRC retaking the Northants objectives on the left and 3rd Brigade coming up on the right. ‘B’ Coy took over the Bn positions and the remnants of ‘A’ and ‘C’ Coy formed a composite Coy with the already undermanned ‘D’ Coy, all under Captain Mason. When pulled out of the line to Brigade Reserve at Vermand on night 28th/29th the Bn formed into three Coys.

2nd Sussex took over 400 prisoners in the action, and the mixed units identified from their number are perhaps indicative of the state of the German army at the time – they included 261st, 262nd and 263rd RIR; 51st IR; 12th MG; 7th Jaegers, and 10th Bavarian Bearers.

2nd Sussex lost a Coy OC, Sunderland, and 4 platoon commanders, including Lt Wright, from Tenterden, who had won the MC at High Wood in August 1916. Two other Coy OCs had been wounded (Gardener and Roberts), along with 5 platoon commanders. CSM Oakley, a Regular old sweat, from Hastings had also fallen, along with six SNCOs and six JNCOs. 117 Other Ranks were wounded and, initially, 39 reported as missing, although as always some of these were later confirmed as having fallen.

One of the fallen was SD/283 L/Cpl. Frederick Baldock, a groom from Rotherfield who enlisted in Uckfield as one of the first of ‘Lowther’s Lambs’ on 7th September 1914, was wounded with 11th Sussex at Beaucourt Ridge on 3rd September 1916 and joined 2nd Sussex 31st March 1918.

Many of the fallen are buried at Bellicourt British Cemetery and Berthaucourt Communal Cemetery, Pontau; or are remembered, like Lt Wright, on the Vis-En-Artois Memorial.

RIP

Thank you for reading, Jim

(Details taken from 2nd Sussex War Diary WO/95/1269; Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919 and CWGC)

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Not forgotten :poppy:

TILTMAN, EDWARD. Private G/5528, is commemorated on the Rye War Memorial and included in the Rye RBL revised Roll of Honour, due out next year.

CWGC lists 50 casualties on that day, presumably some of those Missing or Wounded to make up the number from that you quoted, Jum

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Thank you Kevin

I did come across a discrepancy between the WD listings of officer casualties and the SDGW, basically the one that SDGW listed as having DOW on the 26th actually was killed on the 24th and the one it listed as killed on the day the WD listed as wounded.

Always willing to learn, usually with CWGC I've gone through every man's entry to determine Bn (e.g. I believe some 7th and 8th Sussex fell on that date too), is there a quicker way of narrowing it down?

Looking to prepare a similar thing for Loos for tomorrow, a man from my village falling in that battle

Thanks again

Jim

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I thought you knew about Geoff's Search Engine, http://www.hut-six.co.uk/cgi-bin/search1421.php Jim?

The CWGC site has vastly improved so it's almost comparable, now each site has it's little advantages over the other.

On Ancestry you can use the location alone for Searches, especially military with DoB 1890 +/- 10, using same location for Birth, Marriage, Lived or Death

That sometimes turns up surprising links, and you can then cross reference against 1911 Census just in case a sibling also fell without being recorded as from that location.

Good luck!

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Thanks Kevin,

I have been such a numpty, I've had my head so far into SDGW and the Census's and then cross referencing to CWGC afterwards that I forgot Geoff''s Search Engine (I am now thumping forehead with palm of hand!!)

That is all very useful as I'm thinking of looking into the local villages and the GW, starting with my boy's school

Lots to look into tonight

Thanks again, appreciate it, Jim

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Not forgotten :poppy:

TILTMAN, EDWARD. Private G/5528, is commemorated on the Rye War Memorial and included in the Rye RBL revised Roll of Honour, due out next year.

CWGC lists 50 casualties on that day, presumably some of those Missing or Wounded to make up the number from that you quoted, Jum

Yes Kevin, just checked and the 3 man discrepancy are from the Missing

Thanks again

Jim

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Don't beat yourself up! There are no doubt wrinkles you have learnt that would have me beating my head on the desk too!

Although we are about to depart for a couple of months in Oz with family, if you PM me with the locations, school etc, I'll see if we can share some of the work before the weekend...?

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What an absolute star Kevin, thank you, will PM you, I would not like to encroach on too much of your time, and I'm only covering a very small area to start with and radiating from there

Thanks for all your guidance

Jim

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Nice work gentlemen and well remembered; the Southdowns posse come through again.

Pete.

post-101238-0-36734500-1380042505_thumb.

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Thank you Pete,

Sadly tomorrow we will be remembering over three times that number for 2nd Sussex, and even sadder that many such posts or thoughts for other units and the men in them will be made tomorrow too.

None must be forgotten :poppy:

Cheers Jim

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