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Remembered Today:

7th South Staffordshire Regt., 27 July 1917

Paul Chapman

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Good morning,


I have been attempting, without success, to locate a transcript of the War Diary for 7th South Staffordshire Regt., 27 July 1917.

I appreciate this is the date on which Thomas Barratt was killed and, for his actions, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross but, although more than noteworthy, my interest lies with the battalion's casualties buried in La Belle Alliance Cemetery.


If anyone can assist with this it would be most appreciated.

Thank you.  


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Hello Paul


The War Diary reference is here:

WO 95/1816 7 Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment 1916 July - 1919 May  

It can be downloaded from the Kew website, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk for £3.50. If you have access to Ancestry you may be able to get it free.


War Diaries rarely mention individuals by name other than officers, but numbers of casualties each day are nearly always given, and the location of the unit, with a short description of its activities, is given on each day.


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Thank you Ron. I have the N & M Digital Disc, but - (and I daresay the copy at Kew will be same, same - it's quite a lengthy entry, incredibly difficult to read (the hand-writing is a bit hit and miss to say the least), and the copy is very poor. However, with much perseverance, a bit of lateral thought, and the better part of three hours. For your interest, and that of any other members:-


War Diary : 7th South Staffordshire Regt.:


“27 July 1917: At 1.25 p.m. a wire was received to the effect that aeroplanes reported the enemy was retiring, and that there were no ????? in force on the west side of the Steenbeek. No action was to be taken until confirmatory reports arrived. The Battalion holding front line ???? were to be in readiness to push forward contact patrols to locate the enemy positions and, if possible, make ground. Patrols were not to fight for ground. But, it was decided, if the order to advance was given, to send out fire patrols each consisting of 1 Officer, 25 OR, and a Lewis-gun team. Each preceded by their scouts.

At about 4.30 p.m., confirmation of the above report having been received, the order came for patrols to go out. Zero hour being 5 p.m.

Owing to signalling communication being broken the message did not reach Coy. H.Q. in sufficient time. Patrols went out between 5.30 pm. and 6.30 pm.

Disposition of Patrols:- (1) Right Hand Patrol - Lieut. H. Forrest - to move out from our right post and work, by way of Civilisation Farm, and get in touch with 6th Lincs Regt. at Kultur Farm, and send a strong reconnoitring patrol to Racecourse Farm. (2) No. 2 Patrol - 2nd Lieut. R.D. Higgs - to go via No Man’s Cottage to Muller Cottage and get in touch with patros on right and left. (3) No.3 Patrol - 2nd Lieut. E.R. Rich - to work his way to Below Farm. (4) No.4 Patrol - 2nd Lieut. E.L. Instone - to work his way to Hindenburg Farm via Kluck Cottage. (5) No.5 Patrol - 2nd Lieut. C.L. Montgomery - to proceed by way of Krupp and Essen Farms to Chemins Est., where he was to get in touch with Welch Regt., and then push on to No.23 Contour.

At 5.30 p.m. Nos. 4 and 5 Patrols left our trenches. The enemy at once sent up two rockets, one breaking into two red lights; the other into two green. The patrols were early troubled by one or two snipers left in shell-holes. As the order was to locate the enemy’s position without involving the patrols in action, the officers in charge pushed on, driving the snipers back. As they gained the enemy front line the snipers, who had grown more numerous, broke; many were shot, mostly by Pte. T. Barratt who was one of the scout - section. From this point the two patrols came under heavier fire and, in order to get back, had to bring gun, rifle and rifle-grenade fire to bear on the enemy. A German officer was shot but the man carrying his papers was taken later on in the afternoon. The enemy had evidently meant to allow the patrols to push on too far to be able to get back, and harass the withdrawal all the way, coming back into his front line. The withdrawal was successfully accomplished by section rushes supported by covering fire. Pte Barratt again did excellent work with his rifle and but for him casualties probably would have been much heavier. As it was, these two patrols (4 and 5) suffered heavily. 2nd Lieut. E.L. Istone, wounded and missing with the stretcher-bearers who went to get him in; 8 killed, 6 wounded, 7 missing.

Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Patrols did not get out until 6 p.m. Again the enemy sent up rockets, but did not molest the patrol to any great extent. No.3 Patrol got beyond the enemy second line which was in a wet and troublesome state but, before reaching Below Farm, came up against an enemy S.P. about 50 strong. Again, the enemy meant to harass our withdrawal, but our Lewis-gun inflicted no less than 20 casualties. The patrol got back safely but 2nd Lieut. E.R. Rich was wounded; 1 man killed, and 5 men wounded. This patrol also captured one prisoner who later stated strict orders had been given to him in concealment from aeroplanes. To ???? out of first and second lines, and man shell-holes. Acting on his experience on the withdrawal from the Somme and Ancre battlefields, the enemy evidently hoped to inflict great casualties on our contact patrols; or possibly our patrols got out before the move was completed, so reinforcements were hurriedly sent up to the small garrisons. This would explain why a Guards Brigade was able to advance nearly 1,000 yards without retaliation, about 1 mile north of us, while the Manchester, Lincoln, and Welch were all held up.

On our extreme right Nos. 1 and 2 Patrols came under fire rather earlier; some enemy even being in the front line who withheld their fire until we were within 50 yards of them. Good covering fire enabled that patrol get back with only 4 casualties. No.2 Patrol had to be last, darkness fell as they withdrew.    

About 6.30 p.m. Machine-Gun, 77 cm. and 10 cm. fire opened on our front-line and communication trenches, but their fire was not very accurate and they failed to prevent our patrols from getting back. At 7 p.m. their fire ceased, but a very heavy barrage was opened on both our front and support lines at 8 p.m. and continued until 9.30 p.m. It was preceded by a smoke screen.

Casualties - 2nd Lieut. CW Marshall killed by shell-fire before the patrol action commenced.

On Patrol - 2nd Lieut. ER Rich wounded; 2nd Lieut. EL Instone wounded and missing.

Other Ranks - 21 killed, 18 wounded, 2 wounded and missing, 13 missing.”

Afterword: “This was a difficult operation; well carried out, although casualties were heavy the enemy also suffered considerably. Unlike ourselves, he was supported by gun-fire. The operation showed that flying reconnaissance is not too reliable, but it is difficult to see how the mistake could have been avoided or what different action could have been taken on receipt of the information. As the guns were going to fire a practice barrage on the 28th. in a Chinese Attack, perhaps the patrols might have been given the cover of fire over in greater strength, but they might have been counter-attacked before they had cleared the situation. If tanks had been close up, and had co-operated in line, they would have been invaluable. The need for really skilled scouts was again apparent. One section acted with grand bearing, but they were unable to warn the patrols they were covering of the enemy’s presence in force.”

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Thank you for your input. Sorry about the delay getting back to this: Been a bit preoccupied with putting some tour stuff together. Tied the above transcript, which took ages, together with a Major's account of his approach toward La Belle Alliance / Divisional Collecting Post in with details of Barrat VC. All in all a really good piece of work: Even if I say so myself. Also got it all down in sections for inclusion in the Ypres Salient Books. 

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