Here we continued training so far as the weather allowed, but a considerable amount of rain rather hampered us. On the 15th we lost Colonel Jones who went to England for three months’ rest. With the exception of a few weeks in 1915 he had been with us since the beginning, and there was not an officer or man who did not regret his going. There was never a trench or post which he did not visit, no matter how exposed or how dangerous the approach to it. Moreover, he was never downhearted, and while he was in it, the Battalion Headquarters of the 5th Leicestershire Regiment was known throughout the Division as one of the most cheerful, if not the most cheerful, spot in France. Major Griffiths took temporary command until, on the 23rd, Major Trimble, M.C., of the E. Yorks. Regt. arrived from the 6th Division and took over from him.
16th April, 1917. 10th June, 1917.
On the 16th of April we learnt that we were once more to go to trenches, and the same day we moved to Annezin, just outside Bethune. The march will always be remembered on account of the tremendous energy displayed by Captain Shields, who was acting second in command. Just before the start he insisted on the reduction of all officers’ kits to their authorised weight, thereby causing much consternation amongst those whose trench kits included gramophones, field boots, and other such articles of modern warfare. However, on arrival at Annezin all such worries were dispersed by the radiant smiles of the ladies at the C.O.’s billet, with whom all the Subaltern Officers, and one or two Captains at once fell in love.
Two days later Major Griffiths and some of the Company Officers went to reconnoitre the area round Bully Grenay and the western outskirts of Lens, which we were told would be our new area. The capture of Vimy by the Canadians a few days before, had made an advance on Lens more possible than it had ever been before, and there were many who thought that the Boche would be compelled to evacuate the town. But the Germans had not yet any intention of doing this. Though the Vimy heights were lost to them, they still held “Hill 70” on the North side, and due West of Lens, near the Souchez river, Fosse 3 and “Hill 65” were naturally strong positions. South of this again, and just the other side of the river, was another small rise, on which stood an electric generating station, another commanding position held by the enemy. Our line ran through the houses of Lievin, across the Lens road, round the Eastern edge of Cite St. Pierre, and through Cite St. Edouard to the slopes of “Hill 70.”