Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

PJS

"Miety Wood", 3rd Battle of the Aisne 1918

Recommended Posts

PJS

Hi All,

 

I have a very specific question about a location in the 3rd Battle of the Aisne, (which started on May 27 1918).  My Grandfather was in A company of the 1st Sherwood Foresters and was captured sometime during the 1st day. I have his International Red Cross papers and the location is listed as "Miety Wood". I also found two other Sherwood Foresters listed by the IRC as being taken prisoner at "Miety Wood" on that day.  Unfortunately, the Internet seems to have never heard of such a place and I can find no such place listed on any map, including the 1918 trench maps that I have found.

 

The Sherwood Foresters were in reserve that day and were ordered up from Roucy to La Pecherie Bridge at 4:30am. The La Pecherie is between Pontavert and Berry au Bac, just north of the village of Gernicourt and the Bois de Gernicourt. The Miette Valley (and Miette stream) runs to the east of La Pecherie and my current theory is that "Miety Wood" may really be "Miette Wood" but again I can find no such place.

 

The exact location is interesting to me because I am very curious to try to understand and piece together his movements on that day especially whether or not he made it across the Aisne. 

 

If anyone has any comments, suggestions or any other input that might help me find the location of "Miety Wood" I would very much appreciate it. Below is a map of the general area from 1918 to help put things into context.

 

Map-Pontavert.png.c94a0df5d8f8733556198254d1ca712b.png

 

Thank You

Edited by PJS
typo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
German IR 169

Hi, John Rieth here.  

 

     I think I may be able to help you out, at least this portion of the battle from the German perspective.   I have studied this very sector of the Third Battle of the Aisne extensively for the recently published 2nd edition of my book, Imperial Germany's Iron Regiment of the First World War, History of Infantry Regiment 169.    (My interest in the regiment was inspired by my grandfather, Albert Rieth, was a veteran of IR 169 from 1912 until his wounding in Flanders in January 1915.  He immigrated to the US in 1926.)  The second edition, published in October 2017, goes into significant detail of the German attack through the British 50th Division lines near Juvincourt, and then through the assault across the Aisne and beyond.  One of my primary sources was from the memoirs of Leutnant Otto Lais, who was second-in-command of IR 169's 2nd Machine Gun Company in this battle.   IR 169 was one of several German regiments in  Corps von Schmettow that employed storm troop tactics in the assault through the British trenches, participated in the famed destruction of 2nd Battalion, Devonshires in the Bois des Buttes, and continued to the Aisne, where they then massed for the river assault between Pontavert and the la Pecherie.   Lais' account goes into great detail into the fighting around la Pecherie (which was an active field medical station, manned by just captured British medical personnel)  and how his MG company went into action and supported the hasty attack across the river.  

 

     The German ground attack launched at 0440 hrs, and most German units were at the northern bank of the Aisne by 0900 hrs.   Also, the Supplement to the War Diary for the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment, written by veteran Sidney Rogerson, describes the 24th Brigade command post, in the opening moments of the ground attack, reporting "German troops advancing up the Miette stream close to Brigade HQs.  Cannot hold out without reinforcements."    This suggests to me that this communication led to the advance of the 1st Sherwood Foresters into the action that resulted in his capture.   If his unit made it across the la Pecherie bridge at 0630, this would have been shortly before the point where German formations stormed towards the river.  The British were able to blow up the la Pecherie Bridge, cutting off lines of retreat for those not making it over.   Lais' account speaks of the many British troops captured between the trenches and the river, writing of "large groups of British prisoners awaiting evacuation to the rear.  The faces of the POWs reflected amazement as endless formations of German infantry and artillery followed behind the storm troop units."  

 

    The maps I used for resources do not show a Miette Wood, by I think it safe to say he was captured in the general vicinity a few hundred meters or so north between the river and the le Pecherie bridge (which is depicted in the map in my book).    So, in sum, it would appear your grandfather's unit made across the Aisne moments before being swept upon by the enormous wave of German storm troop formations striking towards the river.   These poor men were placed in a hopeless situation and your grandfather was very fortunate to have been taken as a POW.  

 

     Coincidentally, I have just written an excerpt of this chapter of my book that depicts this action that should be included in the next edition of the WFA 'Stand To!  journal.  The article will feature the map in noted above.   You can find out more about my book, which is available on Amazon (be sure look for the second edition) at www.ironregiment169.com.   Also, I have file that contains the  Supplement to the War Diary for the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment that I will be happy to email to you if send me a note to my WFA message address.

 

     I look forward to seeing other responses to this thread, given my own continued interest in this subject.

 

Best Regards and Good Luck!

 

John Rieth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PJS

John,

Thank you so very much for your comprehensive reply. More than I could have ever expected. I had already found your book and read a fascinating excerpt that details that day from the German perspective. It's on my list of several books to purchase and read properly.

 

One of the things that I found particularly interesting in your book was the reference to the use of a new and more lethal form of gas that many of the allied gas masks could not fully protect from. The Bois de Gernicourt was marked as receiving some of these gas shells. Although my Grandfather was captured "unwounded" he suffered the rest of his life from chronic bronchitis and emphysema and everyone in the family knew that he had been "gassed" in the war. He would have passed through the Bois de Gernicourt on his way to La Pecherie (Battalion Diary contains a narrative that says that they "marched towards La Pecherie Bridge via the Concevreux-Cormicy Rd and the Bois de Gernicourt") and I wonder if this day was also the day that he was "gassed".

 

If he was part of the group of Sherwood Foresters that fell back from the canal to the NW of the Bois de Gernicourt and defended it until around noon, as the narrative indicates some did, then the gas may have been a factor. However, if he really did make it to La Pecherie and was captured in the woods there then he would have been captured earlier and perhaps been less affected by the gas. Pure speculation of course ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
German IR 169

Thanks for your kind words on the book.    Yes, the Germans certainly made heavy use of gas in their Feurewalze barrage that preceded the ground attack.   The artillery barrage began at 0200 hrs with intensive fire of high explosive rounds that was followed by a 10 minute barrage of gas shells, including those you referenced that could compromise British masks.    The Germans targeted rear command posts and artillery positions with the special gas munitions.   So, there was plenty of gas throughout the targeted area to result in many full and partial gas casualty victims.   With the special gas rounds targeting the Gernicourt Woods, fired at some time between 0200 - 0440 hrs, it is well possible he was exposed to these fumes when his unit passed by the forest on the way to the La Pecherie Bridge.   In my book, Otto Lais provides us a very grim description of a British artillery battery in the Gernicourt Woods that had massacred by these gas munitions.  

 

I have attached the map of the 50th Division defenses which show the bridges around La Pecherie, and some light woods to the east bank of the la Miette Creek.  Given the rapid advance of German forces, I have to assume they were at least well into British lines by the time your grandfather's company made it up to the bridge.   Given all the fighting in that sector for the previous three years, it is likely the woods were quite sparse, so perhaps the term Miette Woods was somewhat generic for that general area, rather than a specific, actual segment of a more defined segment of proper woods.   I also reviewed the google earth map on the map page of my www.ironregiment169.com website (which marks all significant locations of IR 169's history).   If you take a look, you will see that the modern wooded area reflects the general outline of the below map.  The google earth map does show a more distinct wooded area a half mile NE of La Pecherie, but no telling what that would have looked like in 1918.   Anyway, if his unit crossed over the bridge around 0630, I can't image they made it too far before getting overrun by the German advance.   If he was part of the force that tried to defend the canal, they would have met the same fate, only a few hours later.    Those British troops able to retreat from north bank of the Aisne in this sector after the bridges were blown would have to have swum across the Aisne to escape capture. 

 

It will be interesting to see if other members have additional locating information.

 

Best Regards, John

 

5a9af8adbdff1_Map19AttackontheBoisdesButtesnocaption.jpg.f8e25e8a8de99b0bcda4cade0e94d305.jpg  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Colin W Taylor

PJS,

 

I'd presume that it is 'Miette' Wood and that he was captured in one of the wooded areas along the southern end of the stream/valley of that name.  In the absence of a named wood or town it was recorded as Miette Wood bit transcribed phonetically as 'Miety'.  

 

An Aisne or Sherwood Forester expert might know more.

 

Regards

 

Colin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
David_Blanchard

Hello,

 

Were there any other locations that Sherwoods were taken Pow as given by IRC - it might be worth having a look as it narrow down the geographical locale of where the Sherwoods were when they were overran. My Great Uncle was taken Pow at Pontavert- he wrote this down in his New Testsment / Red Cross says Berry au Bac.

 

regards

David 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PJS

Hi David,

 

My Grandfather, Pvt Arthur Slater, A Company, has an IRC PA Number of 31632. Below are the other 1/Sherwood Foresters that I found so far. Yesterday, I tried to find the IRC record for Capt. Acton Pratt of the 1/Worcesters because I saw in your book that he organized a defense at La Pecherie. I found an IRC cover page but no detailed listing with capture location (obviously, I was hoping for Miety Wood or something similar).

 

So, we have 3x 1/Sherwood Pvts captured in Miety Wood, (all from different units), a couple of Staff Sgts at Berry au Bac and then Hill 108 (presumably as the survivors fell back) and Roucy (as they fell back further). Then we have an A Company outlier at Juvincourt! 

 

Percy Weldon                  Miety Wood

307460, Pvt, HQ

PA# 31634

 

Christopher Geo Zabel   Miety Wood

108909, Pvt, D Company

PA# 31635

 

Harold Kirk                       Berry au Bac

17579, Sgt, HQ

PA# 31625

 

Thomas Margett             Berry au Bac

7195, Sgt, HQ

PA# 31627

 

Fred Martin                      Hill 108

A Company

PA# 31627

 

Edward Tomlinson         Roucy

205469, L/Cpl, C Company

PA# 31634

 

Walter Baker                    Juvincourt

Pvt, A Company

PA# 31618

 

I have looked at about 100 IRC pages so far.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
David_Blanchard

See the replies on Aisne Chemin des Dames thread - Miety Wood found!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HelenaCDLHS
On 3/3/2018 at 20:01, German IR 169 said:

This is a great map, John. May I ask its source and permission to use it in a non-for-profit profile I'm writing about Corporal George Clayton 1st Sherwood Foresters killed in action on that day? I've found 'The History of the 1st & 2nd Sherwood Foresters' by Col. HC Wylly C B quite good on the account of the events but he admits to there being a lack of detail in the war dairy as many of the officers were killed. The book is in various Nottinghamshire Local Studies libraries. There's an excellent dissertation (from 2010) on the 8th Division here: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/599/1/thomas10PhD.pdf  The Foresters' Roll of Honour on that day is sobering: http://www.the-sherwood-foresters.co.uk/day by day/1918/day_by_day_may_1918.html 

On 3/3/2018 at 20:01, German IR 169 said:

 

5a9af8adbdff1_Map19AttackontheBoisdesButtesnocaption.jpg.f8e25e8a8de99b0bcda4cade0e94d305.jpg  

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
David_Blanchard

The map is from the History of the 8 Division by Boraston and Bax it will be long out of copyright 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HelenaCDLHS
On 3/3/2018 at 20:01, German IR 169 said:

Thanks for your kind words on the book.    Yes, the Germans certainly made heavy use of gas in their Feurewalze barrage that preceded the ground attack.   The artillery barrage began at 0200 hrs with intensive fire of high explosive rounds that was followed by a 10 minute barrage of gas shells, including those you referenced that could compromise British masks.    The Germans targeted rear command posts and artillery positions with the special gas munitions.   So, there was plenty of gas throughout the targeted area to result in many full and partial gas casualty victims.   With the special gas rounds targeting the Gernicourt Woods, fired at some time between 0200 - 0440 hrs, it is well possible he was exposed to these fumes when his unit passed by the forest on the way to the La Pecherie Bridge.   In my book, Otto Lais provides us a very grim description of a British artillery battery in the Gernicourt Woods that had massacred by these gas munitions.  

 

I have attached the map of the 50th Division defenses which show the bridges around La Pecherie, and some light woods to the east bank of the la Miette Creek.  Given the rapid advance of German forces, I have to assume they were at least well into British lines by the time your grandfather's company made it up to the bridge.   Given all the fighting in that sector for the previous three years, it is likely the woods were quite sparse, so perhaps the term Miette Woods was somewhat generic for that general area, rather than a specific, actual segment of a more defined segment of proper woods.   I also reviewed the google earth map on the map page of my www.ironregiment169.com website (which marks all significant locations of IR 169's history).   If you take a look, you will see that the modern wooded area reflects the general outline of the below map.  The google earth map does show a more distinct wooded area a half mile NE of La Pecherie, but no telling what that would have looked like in 1918.   Anyway, if his unit crossed over the bridge around 0630, I can't image they made it too far before getting overrun by the German advance.   If he was part of the force that tried to defend the canal, they would have met the same fate, only a few hours later.    Those British troops able to retreat from north bank of the Aisne in this sector after the bridges were blown would have to have swum across the Aisne to escape capture. 

 

It will be interesting to see if other members have additional locating information.

 

Best Regards, John

 

5a9af8adbdff1_Map19AttackontheBoisdesButtesnocaption.jpg.f8e25e8a8de99b0bcda4cade0e94d305.jpg  

 

4 minutes ago, David_Blanchard said:

The map is from the History of the 8 Division by Boraston and Bax it will be long out of copyright 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HelenaCDLHS

Thanks David. That's good to know - I always like to check. Copyright is such a tricky issue these days. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
German IR 169

David, thanks for checking in with a response to the source question.  

 

Helena,   As noted in my original post, the Supplement to the War Diary for the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment, written by 50th Division veteran Sidney Rogerson, is also an excellent account of this battle.  I have it in a word document and would be pleased to send it to you an an email if you reach out on the forum message link.     I would also enjoy reading your profile on Corporal Clayton when you complete it.   

 

Regards, John Rieth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PJS

The information in 1st and 2nd Battalions the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) in the Great War, by H. C. Wylly, appears to be taken directly from the war diary of the Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff.

 

I have transcribed just about everything I can find about the 1st Sherwoods that day (morning at least) and I am more than happy to provide it if would help you. Some of it is below:

1st Sherwoods Battalion War Diary (May 11th – 27th):

May 11th PC VERDUN (2203 – 29845):      Btn HQ moved from ROUCY at 9pm to relieve 4th Btn 221st Reg Inf France as Support Battalion JUVINCOURT Section. Relief complete by 2am on 12th inst.  1st Wors  Regt in Front Line, 2nd Northants Regt in Rserve at BOUVANCOURT.  A & D Coys. Attached to 25th Inf Bde near BERRY AU BAC.

 

May 12th              Raining almost all day. Quiet. Capt. W WESTON came up at night to take charge of letters A & D Coy.

May 13th              Quiet. During the evening there was heavy shelling on our right, South of the River AISNE.

May 14th              Very Quiet. C Coy with 2 Platoons moved from CP TULIPE to CP ROSE changing w/ 2 platoons of 1/Worcesters Regt. [Front Line]

May 15th              Quiet. Very hot sun. Enemy shelled BOIS DES BOCHES during the evening.

May 16th              Quiet. Officers of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regt reconnoitered the line previous to taking over. Maj EDWARDS reported to Battalion.

 

May 17th GC HENRY (2215-2997):  The Battn moved up to relieve the 1st Worcestershire Regt in the Front Line being relieved in Support by 2nd Northamptonshire Regt. Relief not complete till 3:45am on 18th.  C Coy on Right, D in Centre, B on Left with A in Support. 25th Btn on our right (2nd E Lancs Regt), 23rd Bde on left (2nd Devons).

 

May 18th              Quiet day. Very hot.

May 19th              Divisional Commander visits the lines in the morning.

May 20th              Very quiet. Heat continued.

May 21st              Very quiet. Patrols have been out from each front Coy all night, every night in this sector.

May 22nd             Quiet. Officers of 2nd Northants Regt reconnoitered the line – which they are to take over from us. Enemy artillery rather active during night.

May 23rd              Weather thundery. Some rain in afternoon. Order received for relief on 24th

 

May 24th              Much cooler & dull.  Battalion relieved in Front Line by 2nd Northants.  Arrived VENTELAY early morning May 25th

May 25th              VENTELAY.  Regiment reached reserve billets in the early morning. Remainder of day spent in cleaning up

May 26th              Sunday Services. In the afternoon received warning of likely enemy attack. 9:20pm Btn moved up to ROUCY.

 

ROUCY May 27th, 1am: Enemy barrage opened, VENTELAY neighbourhood & transport lines gassed. About 4:30am Battalion ordered forward to AISNE line.  Retiring fight to MONTAGNE de GUYENCOURT.  Casualties heavy & details ordered, under 2nd Lt Greaves, to move up to VENTELAY about 9:30pm. Transport moved to wood S. of MONTIGNY [SUR VESLE] & about later 11:30pm to VANDEUIL.

 

[The above shows that the 1st Sherwoods had dome a complete rotation of the forward positions by the 27th] 

 

CO’s Narrative:  

At 4:30am [on May 27th] the battalion was ordered forward to the AISNE line and from this time until June the battalion suffered some of the most severest casualties, fighting a rearguard action against troops which overwhelmingly outnumbered them at all points and forced the line back to MONTAGNE de GUYENCOURT, heights near JONCHERY and high ground N. of TRESLON.

 

[The War Diary contains a narrative for the 27th May and it is reproduced below showing that it took the Battalion 45 minutes to march from ROUCY to the AISNE at La Pecherie bridge.]

 

May 27th Narrative:

The Sherwood Forresters left Roucy at 6:15am and marched towards La Pecherie Bridge via the Concevreux-Cormicy Rd and the Bois de Gernicourt. Platoon marched at 200 distance.

 

There was very little hostile shelling until the road just into the Bois de Gernicourt but here the enemy were heavily shelling the road running through the wood towards the canal. The Battalion suffered a considerable number of casualties, one platoon being wiped out by two 5-9s which fell on the road in the middle of them, a certain number of gun limbers were knocked out on this road.

 

On reaching the North edge of the wood a man of the 24th Infantry Brigade was met who told us that the enemy were just coming down to the river.  The commanding officer and the leading platoon pushed forward out of the wood and started to make their way to the canal. At the same time, the enemy put down a barrage along the line of the canal 300ft South of it consisting of HE and gas shells which caused a thick haze all along the canal.

 

The platoon was checked by a thick wall of wire and by the shelling and only five men reached the canal with the CO. The enemy, in large number, were advancing towards the river from the direction of Butte aux Vents and reached the edge of the canal on the North side of the river as we reached the canal and offered machine gun fire on our troops as they came down the ridge between the canal and the Bois de Gernicourt.  The enemy appeared to be very thick on the ground and were advancing in groups of about 25 men each with intervals and distances of about 100ft. As they reached the edge of the canal they lined up and moved to either flank looking for crossings.

 

A sapper was found near the bridge over the river and he demolished the bridge a few moments after we arrived (i.e. about 7am).

 

A post was then formed on the South bank of the canal covering the demolished bridge over the river and the undamaged bridge over the canal and the CO then went back to take up a position on the ridge just behind (between the canal and the Bois de Gernicourt).

 

Intermittent rifle and MG fire went on but the enemy made no attempt to cross the canal.

 

About an hour later, (8am), an officer and 12 men arrived, sent by the OC Sherwoods to strengthen the canal post and I moved off in the direction of Gernicourt. There was no garrison in Ouvrage Ouest, or in the trench between there to send, and Gernicourt (supposed to be manned by a French MG company).

 

Small parties of our men (25th Infantry Brigade) could be seen along the North bank of the canal immediately North of Gernicourt.

 

I made my way back to the Bois de Gernicourt and on the way a Machine Gun opened fire from the high ground just S.E. of Pontavert Bridge, South of the Canal.

 

The enemy must have crossed near Pontavert and by occupying the high ground enfiladed the position just taken up by the Sherwoods.  I gather that the Sherwoods then fell back to the West edge of the Bois de Gernicourt and held on here till 12 noon. The machine guns of the 8th Btn which came up behind the Sherwoods went into position on this line.

 

On reaching PC Division I found the place unoccupied and when we got to the West edge of the wood we saw a party of about 20 Germans at the SW corner of the Bois de Gernicourt moving towards the Concevreux-Cormicy Rd.  We hurried back to warn a French Machine Gun detachment in the SW corner of the wood but just before we reached them they ran out into the open, were fired on by the party of Germans, and surrendered.

 

We moved back through the wood to the Concevreux-Cormicy Rd and found a large number of stragglers moving from the wood towards Bouffignereux. A post was formed on the Bouffignereux road 200ft from the Concevreux-Cormicy Rd and fire was opened on the small party of Germans.  About 1/2hr later the party retired towards the high ground near Pontavert bridge, probably forced to do this by the Sherwoods who formed a defensive flank facing West at the NW corner of the Bois de Gernicourt.

 

Two aid posts were doing a lot of work at the South end of the Bois de Gernicourt (one 1/C of the MO Sherwood Foresters) and motor ambulances were leaving from these two posts all the time I was there.

 

Gunners who we met in the wood stated that all the guns North of the river had been lost and a large number destroyed by enemy shell fire.

 

As I came back through Roucy parties of the enemy could be seen moving from Pontavert, in the direction of Concevreux across our left flank, and parties of our own troops, 25th Division and 8th Division Lewis gun School were moving onto the Boufignereux - Roucy Line.

 

At about 4 pm I visited Bouffignereux and our line then came along the North edge of the village, thence westwards along the North edge of the wood which lies just South of the railway from Bouffignereux to Roucy.  The enemy were advancing in small parties all along the front and were being held up by Lewis guns and rifle fire about 400 ft in front of our line. 

 

Large bodies of the enemy could be seen collecting in the woods along the South bank of the canal.

 

From reports it appears that the Sherwoods in the Bois de Gernicourt and the garrison of Gernicourt defences held out till 12 noon and then fell back onto Hill 180.

 

Military Operations France And Belgium 1918 Vol-III, by Macmillan And Co Ltd London

https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.210685/2015.210685.Military-Operations_djvu.txt 

 

24th Brigade (Br.-General R. Haig), with the 2/Northamptonshire in the Forward Zone, the 1 /Worcestershire and the remaining company of the 22/Durham L.I. in the Battle Zone, and the 1/Sherwood Foresters behind the Green Line, in divisional reserve;

 

The 24th Brigade (Br.-General R. Haig), holding the centre of the 8th Division, had, like the 23rd, three companies in the front line. These belonged to the 2 /Northamptonshire and were on the forward slopes of the ridge, with the valley of the Miette forming their right boundary. Heavily attacked at 3.40 a.m., they fell back gradually on to the Battle Zone. Here the 1 /Worcestershire was in position, and, with the survivors of the Northamptonshire, made a fine defence until, towards 5 a.m., the enemy began attacking this line in force. At first he was beaten back ; but weight of numbers once more told and the flank was turned by an advance down the Miette valley. Finally the defence was overwhelmed, Lieut.-Colonel C. G. Buckle, commanding the Northamptonshire, and Major J. B. F. Cartland, commanding the Worcestershire, both being killed. By 6 a.m. the two front battalions of the brigade had been destroyed. The headquarters, situated nearly half a mile behind the Battle Zone, were attacked with hand grenades about this time and the staff had to fight their way out. They could obtain no support, for the third battalion, the 1/Sherwood Foresters, was in divisional reserve.

 

About 5 a.m. orders were sent by the 8th Division for the 1/Sherwood Foresters and 8 machine guns to move up from divisional reserve at Roucy to the Bois de Gernicourt, on the left of the Gernicourt defences. These troops reached the north edge of the Bois de Gernicourt about 7 a.m., in time to see all the bridges over the Aisne canal in this sector, except one, blown up. They were thus able to take up a position which prevented the enemy from crossing the Aisne canal, and whence they could gain touch on the right with the troops holding Gernicourt. The only bridge left intact being under heavy fire, the Germans were held up on this front for some hours. Meanwhile, other Germans, after taking Berry au Bac, having discovered a practicable crossing west of that place, advanced on the wood south-east of Gernicourt. A right defensive flank facing east was formed to stop them, and here also the attack was checked for a considerable time. On the other flank, the enemy, who had crossed the Aisne and the canal between the Bois de Gernicourt and Pontavert, apparently by a temporary bridge, was able to enfilade the Sherwood Foresters with machine guns. A left defensive flank was therefore formed at the north-west corner of the Bois de Gernicourt, facing west. Pressure on both flanks continued, and about 1 p.m., when nearly surrounded, the survivors of the Sherwood Foresters and the garrison of the Gernicourt defences retired to the Green Line, though the guns of the 110th Brigade R.F.A. (25th Division), and a French “groupe”, besides a number of heavy guns, had to be abandoned.

 

[This map is from the war diary of the Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff. and appears to me to be the original map which the one you posted was derived from (minus my additions).]

8th-Div-Positions-27-May-1918-II.PNG.999fa98aa19bbe7de652ee72a100a96a.PNG

 

Needless to say, you should also read John's book and David's book if you haven't already.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Alison Cotton

I found this thread a few days ago whilst travelling through France, searching for traces of my great uncle Cris Cotton (1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters), who died aged 18 on the 27th May 1918. Thanks to the information and map above I was able to visit Roucy, Pontavert, Gernicourt, and finally to find the precise spot where the bridge at La Pecherie used to be, and to look across the field at the Bois de Gernicourt where the men emerged that day. This was extraordinary and poignant walk through an obscure bit of landscape, where locals seemed to have no idea of what went on there. I could post photos if anyone is interested.

 

I then attempted to find his name on the Soissons Memorial, but experienced the same problem described by Old Sweats in a post two years ago: namely that the memorial is fenced off and we could not gain access as it was a Sunday when they don't answer the phone. We could not see the names from outside the fence. This was so disappointing! I will be back.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PJS
On 29/10/2018 at 09:43, Alison Cotton said:

I found this thread a few days ago whilst travelling through France, searching for traces of my great uncle Cris Cotton (1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters), who died aged 18 on the 27th May 1918. Thanks to the information and map above I was able to visit Roucy, Pontavert, Gernicourt, and finally to find the precise spot where the bridge at La Pecherie used to be, and to look across the field at the Bois de Gernicourt where the men emerged that day. This was extraordinary and poignant walk through an obscure bit of landscape, where locals seemed to have no idea of what went on there. I could post photos if anyone is interested.

 

I then attempted to find his name on the Soissons Memorial, but experienced the same problem described by Old Sweats in a post two years ago: namely that the memorial is fenced off and we could not gain access as it was a Sunday when they don't answer the phone. We could not see the names from outside the fence. This was so disappointing! I will be back.

 

Hi Alison,

 

Welcome to the forum.  Yes, I would be interested to see your photos if you would like to post them. 

 

You may also be interested in this thread (https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/259393-start-german-spring-offensive/?do=findComment&comment=2644395) which has a day-by-day posting of the 1/Sherwoods war diary and other events that lead up to May 27th. Your great uncle is listed as killed in action in one of the posts - I'm assuming that he was L/Cpl Cris Cotton 95924.

 

Peter

Edited by PJS
Corrected "Cris"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Alison Cotton

Thank you Peter, that’s fascinating, if rather complicated. Yes he was Lance Corporal Cris (without an ‘h’) Cotton 95924. My Grandfather’s older brother who was rarely talked about, has no descendants to remember him, no grave, and hardly a photograph to prove he existed. I believe his name also appears on the Critch Tower near where he lived in Derbyshire. It meant a lot to find out where he fought, or died running out of a wood towards a canal, or whatever happened.

 

The first photo was taken at the point where a track from Gernicourt woods (visible in the distance) met the canal, and would have connected via a bridge to the Pecherie. The second photo is of the bridge at Pontavert. The third is looking towards Gernicourt.

0C78C895-7F22-4E96-8BB0-63E19D69FB81.jpeg

15C6077E-B1A9-45B4-B3DF-43117462E9AE.jpeg

22390BDE-E020-4EC8-8A77-60122584FBB0.jpeg

4E92703E-F899-416C-A569-FAF1690A0713.jpeg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PJS

Alison,

 

Nice photos. Thanks for posting them. Hope you make it back to the Soissons Memorial one day.

 

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Karl Price

I've read this thread with interest.  My great grandfather was with the 8th Borders and I have been looking at the 27-28th May when the regiment effectively ceased to exist after being cut off just South of Roucy.  Does anyone have any information on this unit at all as there is a scarcity of detail and his service records were destroyed in the WW2 bombing raids.  For info he was captured, I believe on the 27-28th May, never made it to a POW camp and was therefore never listed as a POW, but was used on work gangs in Northern France and Belgium.  He was in a sort of camp in one of the Namur forts on Armistice Day and walked for 3 days back to Mons, before being cleaned up and sent home.  He walked in the door in late November/early December to the astonishment of a family who thought he was dead.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Acknown

Karl,

Welcome to the Forum. If you have Ancestry, the War Diary of 8th Borders for May 18: click hereWhat was you grandfather's name?

Acknown

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Karl Price

Hi Acknown

 

I have the War Diary for the Borders and it makes an interesting read.  I was wondering if there is any more information surrounding the Regiment on that day, I have several books on the battle, but they are briefly mentioned as being placed as a blocking force at the end of the first day and once surrounded attempted to fight their way out.  The vast majority of the Regiment was KIA, wounded and/or captured.

 

My grandfather was Robert William Turner, originally joined the Royal West Kents in 1915, but on arrival at The Bullring was transferred to the 8th Borders and remained with them until captured in 1918.

 

Cheers

 

Karl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Acknown

Karl,

I'm afraid that that's all I have, but let's hope that a Borders expert emerges. I presume that you have trawled Ancestry or some such for his records (MIC etc). Do you have his Red Cross POW card? It's here: https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/3598153/3/2/

Good luck!

Acknown

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Karl Price

Thanks I'll keep digging.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PJS
On 29/10/2018 at 09:43, Alison Cotton said:

I found this thread a few days ago whilst travelling through France, searching for traces of my great uncle Cris Cotton (1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters), who died aged 18 on the 27th May 1918. Thanks to the information and map above I was able to visit Roucy, Pontavert, Gernicourt, and finally to find the precise spot where the bridge at La Pecherie used to be, and to look across the field at the Bois de Gernicourt where the men emerged that day. This was extraordinary and poignant walk through an obscure bit of landscape, where locals seemed to have no idea of what went on there. I could post photos if anyone is interested.

 

I then attempted to find his name on the Soissons Memorial, but experienced the same problem described by Old Sweats in a post two years ago: namely that the memorial is fenced off and we could not gain access as it was a Sunday when they don't answer the phone. We could not see the names from outside the fence. This was so disappointing! I will be back.

 

I recently did some digging on the 1/Sherwoods during the months leading up to their experiences on the Aisne and I found that Lance Corporal Cris Burrows Cotton (95924) was part of a draft of 141 young men who joined the 1/Sherwoods on April 9, 1918.

 

All 141 appear to have been 18 years old and had identical service histories. Drafted into the Army Reserve, for the duration of the war, approximately 3 months before their 18th birthday and assigned to the 7th Reserve Battalion Notts and Derby Regiment, based in Ripon, where they underwent basic training. After a few months training they were sent to France disembarking at Boulogne on 3 April, 1918. There they were all assigned to the 1st Battalion Notts and Derby Regiment, joining the Battalion on 9 April, 1918; each of them given a new five digit service number in the range 95807 – 95970.

 

Within 10 days of joining the 1/Sherwoods they found themselves in the front line at Villers-Bretonneux with the 8th Division. They fought for 8 days and nights and by the end of the battle the 1/Sherwoods had lost 234 men killed, wounded or missing. Somehow, none of the men Killed in Action were from this draft of 141 - which I would say is something of a minor miracle. 

 

A month later, on May 27, seven 18 year olds from the draft of 141 were killed in action (all of them born in July 1989) and at least eight more were taken prisoner.
 

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...