By 4.00 am, ‘Z’ Company was reported to be on the other side and in their assembly area south of Knights Bridge. Shortly before 4.30 am, ‘W’ and ‘X’ Company’s moved off but whilst they were in the canal itself, the enemy launched a heavy barrage, causing casualties to these two Company’s in the bed of the canal and on the far bank, but by zero hour (5.20 am) they were both in position alongside ‘Z’ company awaiting the order to advance.
The two other battalions in the Brigade; 1st Gordon Highlanders and 8th King’s Own Royal Lancaster’s (K.O.R.L.) moved off first. ‘Y’ Company was to follow the K.O.R.L. in the south, and shadow them onto their objective which was the village of Ribecourt, whilst ‘Z’ Company in the north, were to follow the Gordon’s and head towards the village of Flesquieres. ‘W’ Company remained in reserve “ready to assist the attack on any part of the Brigade front”. They were to establish a position if possible, in Ravine Avenue, which ran between Havrincourt and Ribecourt, north to Flesquieres.
Considerable fighting was experienced by both ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ Company’s before they got to the Red line (mid-way between the old Hindenburg Line and the Hindenburg Support Line) and the K.O.R.L.s started to become fragmented.
Seeing that a large gap was developing in his sector, the commander of ‘Y’ Company; Lieutenant Cook, decided to split from the K.O.R.L.s and veer right south of the railway towards Ribecourt. “He therefore on his own initiative” wrote the C.O. “moved his company south if the railway and filled this gap and fought his way forward under the barrage to the western outskirts of Ribercourt. He advanced conjointly with a Company of the Royal Fusiliers which had lost all its officers and was very ably commanded by its C.S.M. These two company’s overcame heavy resistance all the way taking many prisoners and established themselves on the brown line, south of the railway”.
‘Z’ Company under Lieutenant Teverson, were up close to the barrage and were by now fighting their way through Flesquiers village and had reached Ravine Avenue Trench on the east of the village where they were halted by heavy enemy fire from Station Avenue Trench about 100 yard in front of them.
‘X’ Company, under the command of Captain Lummis, could by now see that ‘Y’ Company were heading off to fill the gap, and they moved northwards up behind the K.O.R.L.s who were heading towards Flesquieres.
Heavy fighting was encountered around the Hindenburg Support Line (south of the village), but reaching Ravine Avenue, they paused to re-group before digging in just beyond it. Behind them, ‘W’ Company were in the southern end of Ravine Avenue between ‘Z’ in the north and ‘Y’ Company in the south. As the majority of his Battalion were far in front of him, the C.O. Lieutenant-Colonel G.C. Carpenter (above), moved Battalion HQ forward to the crossroads at the west of Flesquieres following the route of ‘Z’ Company’s advance.
“At this time the Battalion was very mixed up” wrote Carpenter “but W. X. and Z Coys. were soon located although I could get no news of Y. Coy. At this time the enemy were still in Scull Support and Station Avenue and Flesquieres-Ribecourt road and vicinity was under M.G. and artillery fire. I then ordered Z. Coy. to clear Skull Support and station Avenue and try and get in touch with the Guards in Beet Trench”.
Carpenter believed that ‘Y’ Company were still complete and with the K.O.R.L.s out in front, but it was not until their C.O. appeared at Battalion HQ, that he learnt how scattered they were. Carpenter then issued verbal orders to him that he was consolidate his company in Station Avenue Trench. Battalion HQ was moved once more in the afternoon, to a new position at the crossroads west of Flesquieres.
Late in the afternoon, orders were received at Battalion HQ to move forward and consolidate Kaiser Support Trench with two Company’s and keep the other two back in Ravine Avenue. Later that evening, the Gordons relieved ‘Z’ Company out in front at 7.30pm.
Carpenter wrote later “It is difficult to estimate captures but several hundred prisoners were taken, one field battery and about 50 M.G. The material however is not inclusive to this Battalion owing to the mix up of units. The attack was carried out with very great dash and determination by all ranks who all pressed on irrespective of who they were with after they had lost their platoons. I am forwarding a list of recommendations for gallantry, but I wish to give special prominence to the very fine leadership and initiative shown by 2nd Lieut. Cook, Captain Lummis and 2nd Lieut. Teverson. I think these three Coys. played a very large part in the capture of the Brown Line. They were quite out of my command from zero and had to act entirely on their own”.
Image courtesy: The Adam Park Project (www.adamparkproject.com)
Welcome to our online 'blog' charting the history of the many Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the part they played in the Great War.
Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
Keep checking back to see how the Great War is progressing for the men of the Suffolk Regiment.