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stiletto_33853

Cherisy, May 3rd, 1917

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stiletto_33853

On May 3rd the 14th Division attacked with two brigades - each with two battalions in the front line. The 41st Brigade on the right had the 8th RB on the right and the 8th KRRC on the left; in the 42nd Brigade the 5th Oxs & Bucks L.I. on the right and the 9th RB on the left. On the right of the 14th Division was the 55th Brigade of the 18th Division and on its left the London Rifle Brigade - 169th Brigade, 56th Division.

The 7th RB was to support the attack when ordered.

Points of departure, for the 8th RB, from the front line trench running north and south through a point some seven hundred and fifty yards north west of Cherisy; for the 9th RB from a taped line further north but five hundred yards nearer to the enemy lines.

Of objectives there were two:- First, a line running north eastwards along the road from St. Michaels Statue for fifteen hundred yards to within two hundred yards of Triangle Wood: thence northwards across the western face of the wood.

Second:, a line running north and south one thousand yards east of St. Michaels Statue. This for the 8th RB, entailed crossing the River Sensee.

Zero hour was 3.45 a.m.

Owing to its jumping off place being nearer the enemy, the 9th RB was not to advance until eighteen minutes later.

At 2.45 a.m. the 8th RB was disposed with "B" and "D" Companies in the front line each in two waves: "C" Company was in support and "A" Company in reserve.

At 3.45 a.m. the assaulting companies moved forward in the dark. The barrage, which was excellent, showed up well, the flashes indicating the direction. The first obstacle, known as Narrow Trench and about five hundred yards from the start, was found to be lightly held.

At 4.20 a.m. "D" Company reported Cherisy on its right and at 4.35 that it had passed the village. At 5 a.m. the same company reported that troops on the right were being held up and that it was consolidating a position on the left of St. Michael's Statue (i.e. on the first objective) At 5.30 a.m. the left company - "B" - reported that it was also consolidating on the first objective but doubted being able to push on owing to machine gun fire from the high ground on the left and left rear.

As the situation in Cherisy (18th Division area) was unclear, a patrol was sent into the village and it reported the presence of some enemy dead but none alive.

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stiletto_33853

May 3rd

post-1871-1178149436.jpg

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stiletto_33853

At 6.40 a.m. "B" Company reported that it and "D" Company together with about a company of the East Surrey Regiment (18th Division) had crossed the River Sensee and were digging in about six hundred yards beyond St. Michael's Statue. "B" Company's left was in the air and it was suffering from heavy machine gun fire from Triangle Wood "C" Company was digging in near St. Michaels Statue.

For the next three or four hours the situation remained unaltered, two companies attempting to consolidate the line reached and one the first objective. Both positions were exposed to heavy machine gun fire from the left (Triangle Wood) and "C" Company was also being shelled.

In fact a heavy bombardment was maintained by the enemy throughout the day upon the whole divisional area as far back as brigade H.Q., the 7th RB suffering heavily from its effects.

On recepit of a report from the O.C. Middlesex Regiment (on the right of the East Surrey Regiment) that there was a large gap east and south of Cherisy, "A" Company was ordered to be ready to form the inevitable defensive flank towards the village. At 11 a.m. orders were received from Brigade H.Q. for re-inforcements to be sent up to the front line, but before "A" Company had moved off word was brought that men were falling back all along the line. The withdrawal appears to have begun on the right of the 14th Division and had the effect of leaving the right of the 8th RB in the air. This fact, combined with the appearance of a strong enemy force advancing from the direction of Vis-en-Artois, thus threatening to encircle the advanced companies from their left rear, and also an advance by the enemy from the front, led to the withdrawal of the line. The movement was carried out quietly; one attempt was made to stand in Narrow Trench, but eventually the whole line was back in its original trenches.

Casualties were:- 2nd Lieutenant G.C. Dalgoutte and M.H. House were killed; P.H. Wooding and V.B. Nicol wounded, and W.H. Blades, H.B. Oakley and F.W.C. Reed wounded and missing. Among the ranks thirteen had been killed, seventy five wounded, twenty one wounded and missing, and eighty missing. A total of seven officers and one hundred and eighty-nine other ranks.

At 1 a.m. on the 4th the 8th RB were relieved by the 7th KRRC and moved to the neighbourhood of the Harp.

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stiletto_33853

St. Michaels Statue

post-1871-1178151115.jpg

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stiletto_33853

Blue Line (1st objective) from St. Michaels Statue to Triangle Wood

post-1871-1178151260.jpg

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stiletto_33853

Cherisy from near St. Michael's Statue

post-1871-1178151950.jpg

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stiletto_33853

The forming up line and objective of the 9th RB have already been described.

At the appointed hour - 4.03 - May 3rd, companies were disposed as follows:- In the first wave "A" Company, with one platoon of "B" Company, were on the right and "C" Company with one platoon of "D" Company on the left. In the second wave were three platoons of "B" Company on the right and three of "D" Company on the left.

Battalion H.Q. was in a trench south of the Guemappe and of the River Cojeul.

The attack started punctually, but from that moment no report was ever received from the companies in the first wave; communication after daylight was impossible and eight runners from these companies became casualties.

The right of the first wave evidently bore too much to the right and struck a new German trench which was wired and held by the enemy, but by 4.25 had passed beyond it, leaving some moppers up. All the eight officers of the first wave appear to have become casualties very early in the day - some being wounded several times - yet, despite heavy losses from enfilade machine gun fire, the line carried on, but few men, if any, ever reached the trenches which were their objective. Of N.C.O.'s in the two leading companies only seven returned.

The second wave went over in line and kept its direction but, owing to the light then being better, came under machine gun fire sooner than the first wave and also came upon machine gun positions which had been established after the passage of the first wave, or missed by it in the dark.

This second wave was finally held up after advancing some five hundred yards and dug in in a line of shell holes. As soon as the enemy discovered this the line was subjected to a bombardment of vane bombs and egg bombs while machine guns prevented any movement, the vane bombs outranging the rifle grenades with which it was sought to silence the machine guns.

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stiletto_33853

Officers drawing of an M.G. Post in Triangle Wood

post-1871-1178154813.jpg

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stiletto_33853

Thus the advance was hung up, machine gun fire, which was continuous from both flanks, having proved the chief obstruction. The only messages received were from two detached platoons commanded by 2nd Lieutenant Daubeny and Serjeant Everett respectively, who both stated that advance was impossible and asked if they were to withdraw at dusk. They also stated that it was apparent that the high ground on the left, north of the Arras-Cambrai road and the Cojeul, was not in our possession and that they could see our troops on the left hung up one thousand yards short of their first objective and that they themselves were in our own barrage. A sufficiently depressing situation. Incidentally previous instructions had been given to "D" Company to communicate hourly by Lucas lamp with the London Rifle Brigade at an arranged point. Communication was duly established at this point, but with the enemy, who was in occupation, not the L.R.B.

Later orders were received to recall the Battalion, but these two platoons were the only ones with which it was possible to get touch.

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stiletto_33853

About 9.30 p.m. news was received that one company was still out and holding a line of shell holes and a strong point which it had made. Two patrols were sent to recall this company but they were unable to find it, though they came in contact with enemy posts and brought back six men of the Battalion from shell holes.

That night as much of the Battalion as could be found came out of the line and moved back to trenches north of Wancourt. But, the next night - the 4th/5th - a message was received from 2nd Lieutenant H.C. Round asking for S.A.A., rifle grenades and water; this officer, with twelve men, had organized and held a strong point since 5.15 a.m. on the 3rd. He and his party were recalled by the O.C. 5th Bn. Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, who were then holding the line, but he refused to withdraw until parties had been sent out to bring in the wounded. Next night again Rifleman Aitkins made his way back from the shell-hole where he had been guarding two wounded men, one of whom he brought back.

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stiletto_33853

Casualties for the 9th RB were:- Officers wounded - Captains A.D. McKinstry and C.F.C. Letts, Lieutenants J.P. Day, S.H. Russell, 2nd Lieutenants W.L. Cooper, S. Bates, C.J. Dowson: Wounded and missing, Lieutenant R.H. Plater, 2nd Lieutenants G.E.A. Wade, A.J. Statham, W.H. Howatt and W.C. Wheatley, with two hundred and fifty seven other ranks casualties in killed, wounded and missing.

So ends a disastrous day.

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stiletto_33853

8th RB

post-1871-1178156837.jpg

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steve fuller

Good write up Andy. Spooky looking at the photos, especially as I was standing on pretty much the same spot the year before! Had a good rummage around the statue and found all sorts of bits; you can certainly tell a British MGC position was set up there!

And just to the right of your chaps were the good old 18th Division who assaulted to the south of the village. A group of 12th Middx got into the village itself and congregated in the open barn by the crossroads, only to be machine gunned, bombed and bayonetted almost to extinction.

Their Brigade chums in the 7th Beds assaulted the Fontaine Wood sector to their south and suffered their first check of te entire war when they came across the deep belts of uncut wire opposite the wood. As a result they laid up in front of it all day and, other than a fresh attempt to break through early evening, made no further progress. 13 of the 22 Officers who went forward were casualties as well as over 250 men, which was more than when they took the Schwaben redoubt Sept 1916 and not far off their casualty list from 1-7-1916. The Officers who died can be seen here http://www.bedfordregiment.org.uk/7thbtnofficersdied.html

Well remembered squire :)

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stiletto_33853

Thanks Steve,

The Cherisy area is a good area to look over, as you know. Interesting that 2nd Lieutenant M.H. House from the 8th R.B. is in today's Daily Telegraph "In Memorium" section, good to see that he is not forgotten.

Andy

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stiletto_33853

3rd May

post-1871-1178195596.jpg

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stiletto_33853

3rd May

post-1871-1178196053.jpg

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stiletto_33853

3rd May

post-1871-1178196523.jpg

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Desmond7

Loads of detail, brilliant maps and pics. I would have expected nothing less.

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stiletto_33853

Hi Des,

Thanks, been working on the 8th & 9th at Cherisy of late, still needs a bit of tweaking with a little bit from the after action reports to be entered somewhere along the line.

One of the areas we went to visit on the Arras trip of a couple of months ago.

Andy

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stiletto_33853

Old thread but I am continually updating the information as it comes to hand.

You can see Triangle Wood in this aerial, bottom right.

Andy

post-1871-1208372066.jpg

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stiletto_33853

Remembering these men of the 14th Division on the 3rd May.

Andy

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JustinWilley

I find starkness of the 8th Bn typewriten casualty list extraordinary - just imagine the thoughts of the clerk typing name after name after name. It is quite horrifying.

Justin Willey

Remembering these men of the 14th Division on the 3rd May.

Andy

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zeptrader

Hi Just joined this wonderful forum, erm Ive been doing some research into my great grandfathers involment in the Battle of Arras 1917, I have found from the National Archives copies of diaries written by the battalion commander. My Great grandfather was part of the 7th battalion the rifle brigade and based in Arras, well Ronville caves to be exact, these diaries confim this, Ive not gone throught all of them yet as the writing is a little dull, but one diary dated 1st may 31st may includes a battle that her died in. At the end there is typed list of names of the dead from 7th Bt - 26 OR, 27 wounded and 9 shellshock.

I will post copies of these, including the battle report from the 7th bn perspective soon.

I now know where my Great grandfather died, Jonathan Rowe S/26127 (Rifleman) died 3rd may 1917.

Just a wonderfull collection of pictures.

Colin

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ackimzey

Welcome, Colin. I know you will enjoy this forum, there's a wealth of knowledge available here. You might want to re-post this under the catagory "Soldiers". This is an old thread in the topic "Anniversery" and I suspect you post would be more widely read in "Soldiers". I am a real novice when it comes to WWI, but I've had "heaps of help" with all the questions I've posted.

Enjoy!

Ann

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adrianmartin59

Hi Andy

I am relatively new to the forum and keep finding all sorts of information.

I was looking for other Battalion positions for the Cherisy battle on 3rd May 1917 and come across your information on the Rifle Brigade.

The map you posted in 2007, did you create the map yourself? or is it part of a larger image?

My interest is in the 54th Brigade who were further south of your map, in particular my G Grandfather was in the 11th Royal Fusiliers and he won th MM while retreating from (I assume) Cherisy.

I am preparing a bit of a document for the family history and wondered if you have any info?

Best regards

Adrian Martin

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