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Remembered Today:

Keeps, Brigade reserve and rest houses

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The soldier I’m interested in, Pte William John Dunn, B Coy, 14th (Swansea) Battalion, Welsh Regiment, died of wounds on 9th February 1916 and where the 14th WR battalion war diary mentions just one fatality on that day.


The battalion diary also states they had been at "rest billets" until 8 February, after which they went into “brigade reserve” at Richebourg. The diary of the 114th brigade, which had relieved the 113th brigade in the right sector, additionally describes the 14th WR from 8 February as in both “left reserve billets” (having replaced the 16th Royal Welsh Fusiliers) and in "billets and keeps", specifically at posts named ‘Dogs’, ‘Hens’, ‘Edward’ and ‘Landsdowne’. This continued until 12 February, when the 14th WR went into front line trenches, relieving the 15th WR.


Question 1: If billets are living quarters, what are “keeps”? (I can’t find much on Google, except as part of a castle.)


Questions 2 & 3: The posts occupied by the 14th WR before 12 February ('Dogs’, ‘Hens’, ‘Edward’ and ‘Lansdowne’) are shown on trench maps to be on the east and south of Windy Corner and there appear to be no trenches at these posts.

- Am I therefore correct in thinking that being in ‘brigade reserve’ and ‘reserve billets’ is completely different from being in reserve trenches/‘close reserve’?

- If so, what was the main danger to life when a battalion was part of the ‘brigade reserve’/‘reserve billets’?


Question 4: The 38th Division diary (Headquarters General staff) for 9 February describes the shelling, at 3.30pm, of two “rest houses” at the right sector, left battalion, causing 2 casualties. The 114th brigade, which occupied the right sector, noted in their diary, as per above, that the 14th WR were posted in the left reserve billet and also that the 15th WR were posted at the ‘left subsector’. The 15th WR diary also mentions 12 whizz bangs on No 4 rest house, with ‘one killed and 2 wounded’. I therefore suspect the casualties did not include Pte. Dunn of the 14th and it was Pte W J Williams, 21072 of the 15th, who also died on 9 February and was buried at the nearby Saint Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-l'Avoue, who is more likely to be one of the causalities mentioned by the 39th Division.  But to be sure of this, can anyone let me know if battalions in reserve used rest houses or were these only used for front line troops?


Many thanks, Eliz

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A keep was a strongpoint, usually defended by a company plus, integrated with the defensive arcs of other keeps.  They were in the Forward Zone and capable of all round defence?  To find out more about a good example, look for the Defence of Travecy Keep?  I’d love to ramble on, as usual for ages about this but I’ve a meeting!

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