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1/8th Battalion the Sherwood Foresters in the Great War

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1/8th Battalion the Sherwood Foresters in the Great War
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Author(s): W. C. C. Weetman
Date Published: 2011/06
Page Count: 260
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-584-1
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-583-4

A British territorial battalion during the First World War

The Sherwood Foresters were described before the outbreak of the Great War as part of the ‘best territorial brigade in the kingdom.’ These were part time soldiers mainly from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and, of course, they derived their regimental name from the great forest of Sherwood, legendary haunt of Robin Hood. The magnitude of the 1914-18 war demanded a huge and steady supply of manpower from Britain and its colonies and so the attrition of the early period of the war made the mobilisation of the Territorial Force inevitable. Thus it was that these amateur soldiers, together with others who had volunteered, were destined to fight their war on the Western Front and in the author of this book they had an able chronicler to record their services. Most regimental histories of this period include a list of engagements which reads like a history of the war and this book is no exception; here are the Salient, the Hohenzollern Redoubt, Vimy Ridge and the Somme together with descriptions of the regiment’s achievements at Gommecourt, Bellacourt, Lens, St. Elie, Hill 70, Gorre, Essars and other iconic engagements. It was not until the last bullet had been fired that the men who survived marched home again.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

At 1 p.m. the greenish yellow clouds of smoke and chlorine gas (known for some time as the Auxiliary) discharged from cylinders in our front line began to roll towards the enemy lines, the breeze being exactly right both in strength and direction, and we became happier still at the thought of paying the Germans back in their own coin. During the whole of our bombardment we could hear very little reply from the German guns, though from time to time we could see a few “woolly bears” and other shell-bursts, at odd points about the forward trenches. Probably they were saving most of their fire for the actual assault, and except for a stray machine gun bullet or two, we ourselves were in no kind of danger. One of those, however, which must have dropped at a steep angle, slightly wounded Regimental Sergt-Major Mounteney, who was standing in the trench with the officers of battalion headquarters. He had only rejoined from England a few days before, and was our first casualty in the attack.<br>
At 1.50 p.m. the gas discharge ceased, but the smoke was continued until 2.0 p.m., when our guns “lifted” from the enemy front line, and the 137th and 138th Brigades began the assault. As the smoke cleared away, we could get a fair view of a portion of the attacking troops (Staffords) on the right as they went steadily, and apparently in excellent order over the top, but, almost at the same time we heard with surprise and dismay, the somewhat slow tap-tap of numbers of those enemy machine guns, which were to have been so completely silenced by our bombardment! We watched the Staffords for a few moments until they disappeared from view.<br>
Then followed a period of anxious waiting, and the only information we got was to the effect that the 138th Brigade on the left had practically gained their portion of the redoubt.<br>
Soon after 3 o’clock, we received orders to move forward, and began to proceed by way of Inverness Trench, Bomb Alley and Left Boyau to Reserve Trench. Movement was very slow, owing to the congestion of the traffic, and the narrowness of the trenches, and took a long time to complete. There we were destined to remain for several hours, and suffered a few casualties from shell fire, apparently directed at the junctions of the trench with Central and Right Boyaux. We were now nominally at the disposal of general officer commanding 137th Brigade, but never received any orders from him, and eventually drifted to the command of general officer commanding 138th Brigade.
Traffic became more and more congested by the stream of wounded which was now pouring down Central Boyau and Barts Alley, and by carrying parties and supports endeavouring to get along the reserve trench up to the redoubt.<br>
Soon we began to gather scraps of information from those who were coming down, and to realise that things were going far from well. The usual answer was “Don’t ask me, all I know is it’s Hell up there!” It was now getting too dark to see, and we could only gather that at any rate we were holding the West Face and having a pretty bad time in doing so; also that our Grenadiers attached to the 138th Brigade, had suffered heavily. Sergeant G. F. Foster was carried down dying from wounds in the body, and Hemingway was reported to be dangerously wounded, if not already dead. <br>
Things had not gone well. As we learned afterwards the attack of the Staffords on the right had been held up almost immediately by machine gun fire, and very little ground had been made. On the left, the Lincolns and Leicesters at first were more fortunate, and reaching West Face with comparatively few casualties, began to make their way up to Fosse Trench. But the further they advanced, the more heavy became their losses, until eventually the advance came to a standstill, the furthest point reached being about 100 yards from Fosse Trench. From these more advanced positions they were gradually forced back, until only the West Face was in our hands. It is abundantly clear that the effect of our bombardment did not come up to expectations, and that many machine guns were untouched, and, worst of all, that the Dump, on which “heavy shell need not be wasted, as it could be made untenable by either side,” proved to be a miniature Gibraltar, honeycombed with shafts and galleries leading to concealed machine gun emplacements. Small wonder that little ground could be made or held in the face of such defences.
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