The last fight.
12th Oct., 1918. 11th Nov., 1918.
The following day—the 12th of October—our hopes of the long expected rest were still further raised by the news that General Rowley was going to England on leave, for we all knew that he would never be absent if there were any prospect of a fight, and we accordingly began at once to make ourselves comfortable. Fuel was plentiful, and baths were soon fitted in “C” Company’s factory, while in another part of the same building we found and used an excellent concert room. R.S.M. Lovett also went on leave, taking with him to Loughborough one or two small battle trophies, including our Headquarter flag, which had seen so much fighting during the past few weeks. Many of “B” Company’s gassed men now returned, and these, with a large draft of N.C.O.’s and men, proved a welcome reinforcement, but we still had very few officers. The new draft was composed mostly of young soldiers who had not seen service before, but fortunately this did not matter, as we still had a number of our experienced junior N.C.O.’s left, and some “new blood” was useful.
Meanwhile the Staffordshires stayed in the line, and, as by the 13th there was no prospect of their being relieved, we were not surprised on the 14th to receive some more battle orders, and consign our rest hopes, like their predecessors, to an early grave. It appeared that all frontal attacks on Riquerval Wood had proved disastrous, and, although the 6th Division on the left had reached the outskirts of Vaux Andigny, our Divisional front was still the same as we had left it on the 11th. The new attack, to take place on the 17th, would therefore be directed against the North West flank of the wood, and would be made by ourselves and the 139th Brigade, while the Staffordshires made a frontal display. The French, on the right, were making a similar movement, and there would be a general attack North of us. It was hoped that by the end of the day, or before if possible, the French and ourselves would meet on the East side of the woods at Mennevret, and so cut off any Germans who remained on the Staffordshires’ front. The actual objective for the Brigade was the same Regnicourt road up which the Left half Battalion had advanced on the 11th; this was to be taken by the other two Battalions, while we were kept in reserve near Vaux Andigny.
The usual reconnaissances were carried out on the 15th, and the following morning the customary distribution of bombs, flares, rockets and other warlike paraphernalia took place. This was done with great regularity before every battle, and yet on reaching an objective we could never find the required rockets. The men carrying them seemed invariably to become casualties. It was the same with equipment and other necessaries—we started the day with everything and ended with nothing.