The Wartime Memories Project - The Great War - Day by Day
1st October 1918On this day:
- Keeping forward momentum 16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.
From the initial advance of the Army the roads were jammed with traffic and on the night of 30th September a Captain Walker is quoted as follows regarding the Zonnebeke Road
“I had never previously realised the number and variety of vehicles which move in support of three Divisions; indeed I think this road fed only the 9th and 36th Divisions (Note: This supposition is correct). There were limbers by the scores with rations; there were GS wagons with forage for the battalion transports forward; there were R.E. wagons, mess carts, guns and ammunition; there were lorries stuck in shell holes in the road and the cause of most of the trouble. On every bit of ground bordering the road were French cavalrymen. The surface and the language were equally bad and there was mud everywhere. I had to wind my way through these troubles for several miles. During my journey there was practically no movement of traffic”
Little wonder that from the 1st October the Pioneers were tasked with this very road from Zonnebeke to Becleare as the road had been bombed around midnight by a single Gotha aircraft. The Battalion also had to send 60 men to help as stretcher bearers for 108th Field Ambulance Brigade.
On the 4th October No.2 Company worked on the road from Beclaere southwards and on the night 4/5th 1 and 3 Companies wired about 1200 yards of front line trenches. They were shelled as they left the work and Lt. Dunwoody was killed with 4 other ranks wounded.
This is an account by one of the participants in the above operation:
“We were in bivouacs – a big tarpaulin – and a dozen of us were sleeping in this place. This night we went up to the front line – there were no trenches really – the Germans were retreating and I suppose were where our fellows had dug in, I think, in the dark --- I remember I drew iron stakes (screw pickets) and some fellow had got barbed wire: and we went along to some place in the dark, we didn’t know where we were. And they must have lined us up, and --- I must have screwed my stakes in. It seemed to be quiet and I was standing there and no one was coming near me – I was expecting fellows to come up with barbed wire you know --- and I was all alone there, nobody about, and I started to move sideways to get in touch with someone – quite dark of course – and I saw movement and I stooped down and here was Second Lieutenant Dunwoody down in a hole and I heard him say ‘Who shot Corporal Smith?’ and I discovered there was a lance corporal standing there and he told me that some fellow had got wounded – he’d been shot in the leg and they didn’t think he could carry on ---“
“--- Now there was a wee wayside cottage there, facing onto the road, which seemed to be parallel to where we were putting our wire up and I remember finding another hole and getting down into it. I could see the gable end of this cottage and all our fellows standing there and moving about and while I was sitting there this old machine gun opened up and was hitting the side of the roof of this cottage and I could feel the tiles coming down on the top of my head. However I was alright and I was watching these fellows and they moved on to the road: so I got up and followed them and got on to the road, and they were moving away. I don’t remember speaking to anyone but I was moving too: and suddenly the Germans, who must have had the area nicely targeted, shelled it like anything, and – there was no cover – there were no ditches or anything – there was just the stony country road. I remember throwing myself down flat on the field trying to squeeze myself into the earth. Stuff was flying all over, bits of shrapnel whizzing around, and some fellow got hit and he was shouting out and crying like anything. It eventually stopped and we all got up. I remember that --- we decided he (the wounded man) had been wounded in the face, and I was peering in the dark trying to see what his face looked like and some fellow came along and snapped ‘Leave him alone’ – must have been all nerves and excited. However we must have pulled ourselves together and moved off so we got back to our bivouac place and got in and settled down – twelve of us like sardines – and somebody stuck their head in under this tarp(aulin) and said ‘Boys, Dunwoody has been killed’. And the poor fellow – a piece of shrapnel had just hit him in the head and we didn’t know. He was a nice big, boy-scout type of fellow. Just two other fellows had been wounded, the one who had been shot in the leg and the other who had been hit in the face.”
Transport moved to Potijze that same night to be nearer advancing work areas.
No. 2 Company continued on the 5th October while 1 and 2 Companies rested after the overnight work. The next night both companies had to send 50 men to help bringing ammunition forward to the Front. 1 NCO was killed and 2 men wounded.
All companies were back on road works from 6th to 12th October with the road from Beclaere to Dadizele becoming very important to maintaining the now rapid advances. The paved road was made good as far as Terhand.
On the night of 12/13th parties from each company staked out lines for the next infantry attack and the following night the whole Battalion along with 122 field company R.E. were employed in digging a 3 foot deep by 2 ½ foot wide jumping off trench. Enemy machine gun fire caused two men wounded, one of which died later from his wounds. These trenches were occupied at 0200 on the 14th by 107 Brigade on the right and 109 Brigade on the left ready for the attack which commenced at 0535.
The Division attack was directed towards the town of Heule and the Pioneers were involved in several moves to keep up with them and clear/repair roads.
On the 16th and 17th the Battalion had to undertake the gruesome task of burials. It had to work its way from the Ledeghem – Menin railway line through the area which had been fought over, burying British and German dead in temporary graves for later internment in official war cemeteries. On the 17th October two members of the band were wounded at the billets by an aircraft bomb.
On the 19/20th October the 9th Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers crossed the river Lys and a bridgehead was formed served by a pontoon bridge, a trellis bridge and a good permanent footbridge. No. 2 company remained on road works while 1and 3 companies moved up to help the Royal Engineers with bridge building operations. This work was so important that they were occupied in this role for the next 4 days.
The programme was:
22nd Oct. 1 and 3 Companies Bridging, HQ and 2 Company. Bathed and changed clothes also preparing clothes for the other companies.
- 23rd Oct. 1 and 2 Companies Bridging, 3 Company on roadworks, HQ transport and QM stores relocated.
- 24th Oct. 1 Company Assist RE bridging, 2 and 3 Companies Roads repairs.
- 25th Oct. 1 and 3 Companies Repairing roads, 3 Company Approaches to bridges.
- 26th Oct. work as on 25th continued.
The 27th October was spent in cleaning gear and equipment with no work being done that day as the 36th Division were to be relieved after dusk that evening. Although they did not know it at the time they had fought their last battle in the war. At 1130 on the 28th October the 16th Battalion moved to Landelede outside the operational area and next day to Mouscron, close to Tourcoing but still in Belgium. The following day was devoted to a general clean up.
Although the 36th Division had unknowingly finished its war, the Pioneers were still in great demand for their engineering expertise and were allocated for a third and final time to Railways.
On the 31st October No.1 Company was cleaning and repairing damaged track and the other two companies were on similar work in nearby locations.
October finished a month of great achievement for all in road maintenance, bridging and forward movement.
1st October Officers 37 ORs 1020
31st October Officers 35 ORs 961
October 1918 Casualties:
Officers Killed or died from wounds 1 Wounded 3
Other Ranks Killed nil Wounded 12
Daily Activity 9th Btn. (North Irish Horse) the Royal Irish Fusiliers report "The 2nd Royal Irish Rifles relieved the Battalion in the line south of Hill 41. On relief the Battalion moved into Divisional Reserve in K.14.a. One Officer and fifteen Other Ranks casualties were incurred during relief. Remainder of day spent in checking casualty lists, deficiencies, etc."
Taking up new forward positions 59th Heavy Artillery Brigade report "October 1st: Brigade HQs were established on the Broodseinde Ridge and reconnaisance made for new forward positions for batteries.
October 2nd: 37th SB moved forward to a position near Waterdamhoek.
October 3rd: 350th SB moved forward to a position near Waterdamhoek.
October 4th: 335th SB moved forward to a position near Waterdamhoek."
Ongoing Action 10th Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment
left Houthem at 0910 and got to the camp off the cross roads at 1330, Remained here until 1600 and were heavily shelled during this period. The whole Brigade then marched to America Camp (?) through Tenebrielen and were in full view of the Boche who was only 1500 yds away in Comines. Heavy barrage was put down by the enemy, which caused a certain amount of casualties. The Battalion rested at America Camp for the night.
Coastal Defence In October 1918 49 Coy RGA was stationed at Lonehort Fort, Bere Island, Southern Ireland as part of the coastal defences protecting the entrance to the English Channel from German submarines.
Oct 1918 On the Move
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