102nd Bn Tac Sign102 Bn Gif102nd Bn Tac SignBC COAT OF ARMS 1906102nd Bn Tac Sign102 Bn Gif102nd Bn Tac Sign
The Story of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion
From BC to Baisieux by Sgt Leonard McLeod Gould HQ 102nd Canadians WW1


  From Ecoivres to Berneville-Night Marching to the South-The Dawn of "The Day"-Battle of Amiens-Rosieres-A Record Train Journey-Ready for the Hindenburg Switch

NOT until the small hours of the morning did the tail end of the Battalion reach Village Camp, Ecoivres, as the relieving Battalion, being ignorant of conditions in the Oppy sector, required considerable instruction before taking over the new positions; moreover, the Hun airmen were unwontedly active and successful with the bombing machines, harassing the outgoing troops considerably and inflicting seven casualties in "A' Coy. But by 10.00 a.m. on Aug. 1st everyone had returned and rested and was in a position to appreciate the baths and clean underwear which had been arranged for the Battalion, with the prophetic warning attached that it might be some time before another such opportunity occurred. In the afternoon we fell in and marched ten miles to Berneville; it was strange to see how the brief respite of barely three weeks which had elapsed since the severe training at Conteville, coupled with the days of enforced inactivity which trench warfare entails, reacted on the men; three weeks before they could tackle an eighteen-mile march with field manoeuvres thrown in; now a little ten-mile march in heavy order was an effort, and swollen feet and blisters accounted for a large number of stragglers. But this was merely a temporary reaction, and a couple of days of open life served to put everybody literally "on their feet" again. Berneville was quite a serviceable little place and the camp was good though recent rain had made it very muddy; an open-air swimming tank was in evidence, but at the time of our arrival the weather was unpropitious for bathing, and we left after a two-night stay.

The departure was marked by a degree of secrecy hitherto unknown in the Corps. This was the occasion when representatives of Canadian units were deliberately sent north with the express intention of hoodwinking the Hun; every effort was being made to instill a belief amongst the country people that the Canadian Corps was going to Belgium again, and it is well known that this information was transmitted through various sources to the enemy, who was in consequence the more astounded when we appeared in his midst five days later near Amiens.

The orders laid down for march discipline to be observed during the forthcoming series of marches were exceedingly strict; absolutely no straggling was to be countenanced, and each unit was to have a rear-guard marching at the pace of its weakest member to bring up all who fell out from the main body. Every effort was to be made by day to keep the troops under cover, and every precaution was to be taken which might ensure the movement of the Corps being kept as secret as possible. On the evening of the 3rd we marched a mile or so down the road where 'buses were drawn up to convey us to our unknown destination, for we were proceeding under sealed orders; for nine hours we drove through an unknown country, the general direction being south, though it was evident that the route had been chosen with the deliberate intention of confusing any spies, as it kept on diverging to different points of the compass. On the way we passed several units from the American Expeditionary Force, who gave us a rousing welcome and showered cigarettes on us as we drove through their lines. At 5.30 am, on the 4th our 'buses stopped and we descended to find ourselves in the middle of Nowhere, just a crossroads with not a house in sight. Though August, it was bitterly cold at that hour of the morning, and we had been sitting cramped and chilled throughout a long night's drive; we stood about and cursed the war whilst the sealed orders were opened and maps consulted, with the result that we took the cross-road to the right and marched five miles to the hamlet of Fresnes-Tilloluy, where we had breakfast and turned in out of sight, remaining under cover all day. In this village we left all packs and officers' bed-rolls, little dreaming that it would be three weeks before we saw them again, and then at 9:30 p.m. we fell in for the first of the series of night marches which were destined to bring us to the Amiens front.

It was extraordinarily dark for the time of year; there was no moon, and a great part of our way lay along roads heavily shrouded with trees which allowed not a glimmer of starlight to penetrate. Our route led us back over the ground covered the same morning, and over a small part of the ground which we had traversed in the 'buses, a fact which aroused much resentment amongst the "footsloggers." Soldiers, as a class, detest marching, and anything which can possibly be construed as unnecessary distance always excites their bitterest criticism, but in the present case some Battalion had to be selected for the extra miles, as all the Brigade units could not be billeted together, and the 102nd, as was usually the case, being the junior Battalion, was chosen as the "goat." At 2.00 am, we reached Metigny, where it rained most of the day; a good thing, as it kept the men hidden and laid the dust; besides, we were quite willing to sleep, anyway. At 9.00 p.m we fell in again ready to move off, but for some reason unknown were kept standing around for an hour before we actually set out on what was officially stated to be a 21-mile march; 25 miles was more probably the distance covered, and covered as it was in battle order with empty haversacks and yawning stomachs it    seemed like 30. It is not easy to understand why some provision was not made for a bite to eat on these long night marches. When battalions marched by day a stop was always made for lunch, and sandwiches or their equivalent were invariably carried in the haversack; why the darkness should have been presumed to counteract hunger is a mystery. As the dawn broke we found that we were traversing a very beautiful part of the country, more open and billowy than that around Conteville, which was softer in its aspect, and very different in character from that to which we had for so long been accustomed in Flanders and the northern portion of France. The villages were more widely scattered, but larger and more prosperous in their appearance. The term "La Belle France" had long been a joke amongst those of the Canadians who had never seen anything of it save for the shell-shocked areas of the Somme and Vimy: now the expression took on a new meaning, and the men were loud in their admiration of the country through which they were marching. Our destination on this occasion was Creuse, which proved to be a fair-sized settlement almost worthy of being called a town, and which we reached at 9.00 am, on the 6th. The Battalion had shown up well on this extra long march; there were some sore feet, but nothing which a few hours' rest would not mend. A more serious trouble, however, stared us in the face; we were confronted with a shortage in tobacco and matches, a shortage which lasted without much alleviation throughout the whole month.

At Creuse we rested until 8.45 p.m., when once more we set out, this time for Boves Wood, an extensive wood on a hill which served as a concentration point for 50,000 men and 25,000 horses immediately before the great push of August 8th. Owing to the incompetency of our guides we took a wrong turn in the dark, and the subsequent retracing of our steps took us through deep mud and darkened woods, which not only added mileage but considerable discomfort to our labours. The main roads we found to be crowded with French troops, mostly Transport and Artillery. To our way of thinking the Transport waggons of the French Army are grossly overloaded and disgracefully shabby in appearance; they remind the spectator irresistibly of the average third-rate travelling circus; the horses also look in wretched condition and excite ridicule at first sight. But they do most certainly "deliver the goods," and the way in which they cover the ground and get through with the job they have on hand ends by exciting a very genuine admiration. It was not until 4:30 a.m. on the 7th that we eventually reached the Chateau in Boves Wood which was our halting-place; there were no billets, but the ground was soft, if wet, and there was abundance of undergrowth with which to make comfortable bedding; our orders were to lie well hidden, and we were well content to do so. The undergrowth was so dense and the over-head cover so luxuriant that it was easy to understand that the wood sheltered the numbers above mentioned. What would not the Hun have given to know that well within his artillery range so formidable a force was already massed to give him the first of those deadly blows which were to result in three months in the signing of the Armistice! During the course of the day a meeting of all Officers and N.C.O.'s in charge of Sections was held and every detail of the next day's offensive was elaborately explained and every position in our own area of operations carefully pointed out on the map. By 10.00 p.m., when the Battalion fell in for the last time before the battle began, every man had a clear and distinct idea of what his own particular job would be and of what part we were playing in the general scheme of operations. And so, under the command of Lieut.Col. Lister, we marched off in the gathering dusk through Boves town and across the Luce River to take up our position in the First Assembly Point behind Gentelles Wood.

This wood, standing on the top of an eminence, acted as an excellent screen, and here all the Brigade units assembled by midnight and settled down to take what rest was possible before the barrage started at 4.20 a.m. on the 8th. It was a cold night and the ground was wet with dew, consequently the issue of rum which was served out at dawn was doubly welcome. It may here be stated that during the whole of our stay with the Fourth Army under General Rawlinson, to which the Corps was attached for this offensive, our creature comforts were better looked after than in any other Army, and during our service in France we had experience of all save the Fifth. At 4.20 am, to the dot a terrific barrage opened, eclipsing anything we had yet heard; this same expression will be found in accounts of the succeeding battles up to the time of the Armistice, as the Allies increased the ferocity of their opening barrages with each successive push. Ahead of us was the 7th Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division, through whom we were to pass at a later stage, and with the opening of the barrage they moved forward to the attack. There was a white mist hanging low which was greatly in favour of the attacking forces, but as the sun came up this quickly disappeared. An hour later it was our turn to move forward in closer support. Our way led through fields of ripening corn, past innumerable batteries of every calibre, across the swamps of the Luce, through orchards and then along the side of the Amiens-Roye Road, where we saw the first-fruits of the battle in the shape of large bodies of Hun prisoners being marched to the rear, and a number of our own walking wounded. The latter seemed to be intoxicated with success; the Hun had been caught entirely by surprise; if he had thought of the Canadians at all he had thought of them as preparing an offensive up north. He certainly had the surprise of his life on August 8th. Our second Assembly Point was reached at 9.30 a.m., and here we received orders to halt until 12.10 p.m., when we moved forward again in Artillery formation in lines of platoons to our Jumping-off place, where our own share in the attack was to commence. Up to this point we sustained no casualties.

Connecting on the right with the 54th and on the left with the 78th, we now passed through the 7th Brigade and plunged forward. Our first objective was a sunken road, which was taken by "B" and "D" Coys. without serious difficulty by 3.00 p.m. The second was a more serious matter, being the forward edge of Beaucourt Wood in our front. "A" and "C" Coys. now passed through the other two and pressed on, but encountered very severe opposition, consisting of heavy machine gun fire from the wood on our immediate front, machine gun fire from a wood on our left flank, which was exposed owing to the 78th having fallen behind our advance, and long-distance machine gun and trench mortar fire from the right flank of Beaucourt Wood: this flank was to have been protected by two tanks attached for that purpose, but they had been unable to keep up with our rapid advance, and it was not until two tanks attached to the 54th had come round to our assistance that "A" Coy., on the right, was able to make further progress, which it did by section rushes and then, when within fifty yards of the woods, charging and capturing the place by storm. In this Operation we were greatly helped by the 54th on the right, who outflanked the wood and diverted much of the enemy's fire. After gaining the edge of the wood there was still hard work ahead of "A" Coy., as the ends of the wood were very strongly held; "D" Coy. was consequently brought up as reinforcement and the wood was eventually cleared, but on reaching the forward edge our men again came under very heavy machine gun fire, this time from a trench lying in the open on the brow of the opposite hill and from another sunken road. At this juncture two whippet tanks gave us great assistance, enabling us to engage the enemy hand-to-hand, when we inflicted further heavy casualties and captured from 50 to 60 prisoners, though being subjected all the time to machine gun and trench mortar fire from still another wood. In the meantime "C" Coy. on the left had been encountering very strong opposition from a system of trenches held by the enemy in force; the 78th was still behind the line of advance, its nearest unit to us being one platoon which had lost its Battalion and was following us tip about 400 yards distant; consequently "C" Coy. had to overcome this opposition without assistance, which was not as originally laid down in the programme. The feat was done, however, with several resultant prisoners, and thereafter the opposition manifestly weakened, the enemy retiring in some disorder to other trenches in the open, from which he was successively ejected, the only serious opposition coming from three or four determined machine gun crews, all of whom were eventually either killed or captured. "C" Coy, reached its final objective at 4.35 p.m. The
Battalion was now ensconced in the position it had set out to capture and protective posts were immediately put out, but these could not go very far forward owing to the heavy fire which the enemy was maintaining on our positions from the high ground in front, and our left flank was still exposed; consequently the latter was withdrawn a little as a protective flank until the arrival of the 78th shortly afterwards.

During the course of this operation we captured 159 prisoners, 4 light trench mortars, 2 granatenwerfers, 5 heavy machine guns. 5 light machine guns. The trophies were all carefully tagged and left in accordance with instructions for shipment to Ordnance, but, as usually happened in the case of spoils of war, half of them were stolen by succeeding battalions. Captured trophies gave more trouble and were worth less than anything else; they were provocative of much dishonesty, every battalion naturally desiring to furnish ocular proof of its prowess, and they were the cause of much disappointment to home towns, where the authorities would he warned of the pending arrival of trophies which never reached their destination. Our own casualties on August 8th were as follows: Lieuts, J. L. Lloyd, J. K. Dawson C. T. Peers, and 20 Other Ranks killed or died of wounds; Lieuts. E. R. Niblett, F. S. Chagnon and 88 Other Ranks wounded.
The Company Commanders on this day were Capt. I. C. R. Atkin, M.C., Capt. J. A. Mann, Major W. McL. Walwyn, and Lieut. V. C. Brimacombe, commanding "A,"B," "C" and "D" Coys. respectively.

After the capture of the final objective Headquarters was established in this wood, where a well-appointed German camp was found; all sorts of supplies were in evidence, beer, food, including good cake, and a German Field Ambulance full of their wounded and well stocked with hospital supplies. Some enemy bombardment was sustained throughout the night, but no damage was done. Meantime the 75th
had passed through us, and the 87th had their Headquarters with ours; on the morning of the 9th they continued the attack and captured their objectives, leaving us in Brigade Reserve, That night we moved Headquarters further up towards the front to another wood, proceeding still farther forward on the 10th to the last of a series of woods  bordering on a wide open expanse traversed by good roads all leading eastwards towards the enemy positions. These roads were continuously crowded with transport of all kinds, interspersed with which were numerous batteries and large-bodies of cavalry, all going forward in pursuit of the Hun, On the 13th we took over the Front Line from the 85th and 38th Bns., remaining one night, when we returned to the last mentioned wood on relief by the 22nd Bn. Plans for another offensive were on foot, but these were subsequently cancelled, and we were glad of the opportunity to reorganize and absorb drafts of reinforcements which arrived during this period. On the 17th, Brigade Reserve was established at Rosieres, whither we moved. Here we had a good chance to see something of the German method behind his own lines. Ten days before Rosieres had been well within his Reserve area and had been used as an internment camp and a base of supplies. Here also was an enormous salvage dump, piled high in a well organized system, with captured munitions and looted plunder.

    A standard gauge railway ran through the camp, and when we arrived German engines were already busy hauling out for our own use    salvaged cars. On the 20th we moved up to the Front Line again, relieving the 87th, and it was during this tour that Lieut. H. J. Goodyear met with his death whilst in charge of a night patrol sent out to connect with the Australians on our left. This was our last tour of duty on the Amiens front, as we were relieved on the night of the 24th by the 1st Bn. 88th R.I. (French). This was the first occasion on which the Battalion had handed over direct to a French unit, and the differences between their organization and ours were very obvious. The relieving Battalion was formed of a magnificent body of men, who once again dispelled the utterly erroneous but always preconceived notion that the French infantryman is a man of small stature. We returned to our Base camp in the early morning of the 25th, rested all day, and at 6.00 p.m. marched off to Bois de Blangny,    making a small detour to get baths on the way. This bath was a nightmare; it was situated in a wood, and the men had to undress in the open, line up naked with their dirty clothes in their arms, exchange their clothing, line up again, and then find cold water only. Incidentally there were not enough clothes to go round, and a thunderstorm broke out in the middle of the operation. It was a pitch-dark night and a broken road to follow, full of shell-holes, as the Adjutant's horse found, and very muddy, but we eventually reached Bois de Blangny at 3.30 a.m. on the 26th and remained there one night, lying out under the trees. Here we found our packs, which had been left three weeks before at Fresnes-Tilloluy. On the following day we marched off to Longeau, about three miles distant, where we entrained for an unknown destination.

The journey on which we were now embarked is well worthy of mention. It was made on scheduled time. Punctually to the minute the train pulled Out at 2.18 a.m. on the morning of the 28th. Twelve hours later we detrained at Acq, in the old Vimy area; here we were told that 'buses would be found ready and waiting for us up the road; and the 'buses were actually there and ready to take us, as soon as we had boarded them, to our old camp at Berneville, which we had occupied before starting out on the historic round trip to Amiens and back. In the words of the Diary: "The move from Longeau to Berneville was planned, detailed and executed admirably; there was no waiting and no confusion; a marked contrast to most."

(Body)

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Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 

Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Images The Author The VC Uncle Bob 29th Battalion Links

BATTLE HONOURS

"SOMME, 1916", "Ancre Heights", "Ancre, 1916", "ARRAS, 1917, 18", "VIMY, 1917", "Hill 70", ", 1917", "PASSCHENDAELE", "AMIENS", "Scarpe, 1918", "Drocourt-Queant", "HINDENBURG LINE", "CANAL du NORD", "VALENCIENNES", "France and Flanders, 1916-18".

Be sure and visit the 102nd Battalion`s Sister Unit - the 54th Kootenay Battalion

Visit the 21st Battalion from Eastern Ontario

In Memory of LEONARD MUNROE, Lance Corporal, 634116, 21st Bn., Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regt.), who died on, Saturday, 3rd November 1917. Age 22. Son of Peter Munroe and his wife Ellen McDermid, of Maxville, Ontario, resting at PASSCHENDAELE NEW BRITISH CEMETERY, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, Grave Reference, IX. E. 11., all Canada in Khaki  pictures courtesy of Leonard Munroe' s descendant Maj Don MacLean, Canadian Armed Forces.