2nd Portsmouth Pals – The story of a raid: Ploegsteert, June 1916

English: War cross in a Commonwealth War Grave...

Image via Wikipedia

The 15th Bn Hampshire Regiment, 2nd Portsmouth Pals, had entered the front line on the Western Front on 30th May 1916. They had gone into the front line at Ploegsteert Wood, a relatively quiet sector to the south of the Ypres Salient that was often used to ‘blood’ new arrivals in Flanders.

The 31st was a quiet day, with A, B and C Companies in the front line and support trenches and D Company in Reserve. No casualties were suffered. The next day Battalion HQ was shelled with 59 High Explosive rounds – the orderly room was demolished – and eight casualties were suffered. One man was killed, 2 accidentally injured, one returned to duty and three wounded.

Private Andrew Baillie, 20 and from Buckland, was killed on the 1st and is buried in Rifle House Cemetery. The next couple of days were relatively quiet, with several men wounded but none killed. On 5th June the Battalion was relieved by the 21st Kings Royal Rifle Corps at 5am, and went into billets at Creslow. The Battalion’s time out of the line was relatively quiet, but on 7th June A Companies billets at Touquet Berthe were shelled, and a barn destroyed, as well as nearby Royal Engineers supply dumps. Miraculously no casualties were suffered.

The Battalion went back into the line on 11th June, relieving the 21st KRRC at 5am in the same Ploegsteert Wood trenches. That evening two patrols were sent out from A and B Companies. Patrols were put out for the next couple of nights. On 14th June a patrol from B Company went out for 24 hours into no-mans-land. Pte Harris 18479 and Cpl Hopkins 20768 brought in a bad of three bombs (grenades) and saw several enemy patrols near Hampshire Trench. More patrols went out over the next couple of nights, and there were also several gas alarms. Several men were killed by enemy bombardment on 17th June, none of them being from Portsmouth.

On 18th June the Battalion was relieved by the 21st Bn KRRC, retiring to billets at Creslow. The men were congratulated by the Commanding Officer for their work on the night of 17/18 June. Later in the day a gas alarm was sounded, but no gas was present over the Battalion’s area. Although the Battalion was technically in reserve, patrols were still being sent out most nights. On the 21st the Battalion went back into the line relieving 21/KRRC, and the next couple of days in the front line were relatively quiet, with the usual patrols being sent out. On the 28th artillery fire from both sides became heavy. Private William Stephenson, aged 17 and from Twyford Avenue in Stamshaw, was killed and is buried in Ballieul Nord Cemetery. The next day Private L. Marshall, of Milton, was killed and is buried in Berks Cemetery Extension.

A major raid was planned on 30 June. Artillery began firing at 0730 and continued until 1700. The enemy wire was succesfully cut. At 2115 a preliminary bombardment began, ceasing at 2145. At 2200 gas was discharged. Then at 2201 artillery recommenced, before smoke was discharged at 2202. The smoke was turned off at 2215, and the raiding party started at 2223. Five minutes later the artillery lifted, and the raiding party advanced. The raiding party reached the enemys trenches at 2243 – after what must have been an agonising 15 minutes in no mans land. The artillery finally ceased at 2253, and later in the evening a second discharge of gas was made at 0125.

The raiding party was formed of three groups. No 1 was under Sergeant Green, No 2 under Lieutenant James and No 3 under Lieutenant Gates. No 1 group reached the enemy lines and threw in grenades, before returning as per the programme. No 2 group lost Lieutenant James wounded, and his second in command was gassed. No 3 group reached the enemy trenches, but had some difficulty in getting through the wire and returned. The raiding party was delayed in reach the enemy lines due to gas in no mans land which did not clear, resulting in the party having to don cumbersome gas masks. Sergeant Green was killed, Corporal Knight died of wounds and Private William Penfold (21, Fratton) later died of the effects of gas. Six men were gassed and wounded. In total 9 men were killed during the day, 28 men were wounded and two died of wounds. Three Portsmouth men died on the 30th – Private Edward Sansom (40, Stamshaw), Private E.H.W. Judd and Private William Fenfold (21, Fratton). All three are buried in Berks Cemetery, near Ploegsteer Wood. A number of men were recommended for awards.

Enemy retaliation was heavy. Lieutenant Gates, Corporal Murden and Private Parris returned into no mans land and recovered Sergeant Green’s body from about halfway across. The party was congratulated by the commander of 41st Division, Major-General Lawford. The objective of the raid had been achieved – to keep the enemy pinned down, and prevent them from sending reinforcements elsewhere. The next day the Battle of the Somme would commence further South. The raid by the Portsmouth Pals was obviously intended to pin down Germans along the western front. I would expect that it was replicated all along the line.

Raids and patrols were often insisted upon by Generals in order to foster an offensive spirit in troops, particularly those who had newly arrived on the front. The 2nd Portsmouth Pals were learning quickly, and a lot safer than their fellow Pals who were to suffer grievously on the first day of the Somme.

About these ads

25 Comments

Filed under Army, Pompey Pals, portsmouth heroes, western front, World War One

25 responses to “2nd Portsmouth Pals – The story of a raid: Ploegsteert, June 1916

  1. I’ve heard of many a unit that managed to grab a long length of German wire, then chopped it into small bits and sent it back with faked nightly raid reports, just to avoid the silliness of the night-time trench raids.
    And the saddest thing I ever learned was that the first casualty you listed would have been classified under “wastage”. “Wastage” – the expected loss of over 100 men a day to various causes such as snipers and artillery, even during periods of calm.
    Can you imagine being the person, having to report to the parents that their son died as “wastage”?

    • James Daly

      The more I’ve looked into it, I think just as many men were killed by agreggating losses in the average ‘quiet’ days as were killed in the better known offensives. Think of it like this – if 100 men are lost in one day on say the Somme or at Ypres, it seems horrific. But if say 2 men are lost a day during a 50 day stretch in a quiet sectory, by sniping, bombardment or illness, it’s the same losses. And Battalion’s rarely went ‘over the top’ – the 2nd Portsmouth Pals went over twice on the Somme, then a couple of times at third Ypres. Trench Warfare in general took a heavy toll on manpower, without there actually being much fighting.

      As for raids, I do tend to subscribe to the view that generals ordered raids in order to ‘ginger up’ inexperienced and fresh troops. It is not too difficult to imagine that a regular Major-General would assume that a bunch of lads from Portsmouth, none with military experience, would need a bit of a boot up the arse to get them fit for fighting. Hence why units were often put somewhere quiet Ploegsteert to blood in gradually. Perhaps fortunately for both the Portsmouth Pals Battalions, they were in two of the most junior Divisions in the New Army and were not considered ready to take part in the first day of the Somme, unlike many of the other Pals from up north. This probably helped perpetuate the myth that all Pals Battalions are from working class northern towns and cities.

  2. This design is spectacular! You obviously know how to keep
    a reader amused. Between your wit and your
    videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Excellent job.

    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how
    you presented it. Too cool!

  3. Arnold beautifully essayed the type of Gordy Brewer out to get
    vengeance for the death of his family. So it just is sensible that Mel Brooks
    creating a parody about Star Wars wouldbe platinum.

  4. You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation but I in finding
    this matter to be really one thing which I feel I’d never understand.

    It seems too complicated and very wide for me. I am looking forward to your subsequent post, I’ll attempt to get the
    dangle of it!

  5. We stumbled over here from a different web page and thought I may as well
    check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you.
    Look forward to going overr your web page repeatedly.

  6. I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but good topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.

    Thanks for wonderful info I was looking for this info for my mission.

  7. Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really
    make my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your theme.

    Many thanks

  8. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this write-up and also the rest of the
    website is also really good.

  9. We also did a Friday evening family-fun time around the themes
    of the movie. Shutter is absolutely the scariest movie I’ve ever
    seen – bar-none and is a British ghost movie. The first came out in 1989
    and the second came out in 2004.

  10. Most bettors try to stay away from betting on this because you will have the
    least amount off opportunity to winning betting on the field becase very rarely an unknown will win.
    This online betting game used to operate like
    any other sport bets. com, I often wonder if people
    like me in the United States are able to bet online at all.

  11. Transporting cans and bottles of polish from the factory to a warehouse and then to the store burns fossil fuel and
    increases carbon dioxide emissions. What is
    more, wood chipper is commonly utilized in materials planning part
    in the production approach. After using all of this vinegar, you are going to want to
    get the smell out.

  12. I’m curious to find out what blog platform
    you are utilizing? I’m experiencing some minor security issues with my latest site and I would like to find something more secure.
    Do you have any solutions?

  13. What’s up to every one, the contents present at this site are actually awesome for people knowledge,
    well, keep up the nice work fellows.

  14. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to assert that I
    get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I will be
    subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.

  15. The bottom-line is Tesla certainly bridged the gap between science
    and spirit; whether he acknowledged this or not. You
    can serve eggs by boiling for about 30 minutes and then cool and crush them,
    along with the shell. 4J Studios have released some videos
    that showcase some of the changes that we can
    expect to see on the update for Minecraft: Xbox 360.

  16. Introducing The Alien Warp Submitter. Five Day Blast to people actually interested in
    what you are selling. Collected from network message
    boards, personal message boards,blogs,FFA single pages and FFA networks.
    Purchase today and you’ll Receive a Contact-Email to 500,000 UNIQUE Prospects, the ION Marketing System and Premium Classified Access.
    Today you can purchase this package for just *$12.95 be aware this offer
    will end anytime.

  17. Google’s tablet programs look great on both programs.
    Once more, Apple is planning another generation of its smartphone, the iphone-5.
    As an example, you have established a gesture for the sport “Fruit Ninja”.

  18. What you said was very reasonable. But, think on this, what if you added a little information?
    I am not saying your content isn’t solid, however suppose you added a post title to maybe grab folk’s attention?
    I mean 2nd Portsmouth Pals – The story of a raid: Ploegsteert, June
    1916 | Daly History Blog is a little boring. You could look at Yahoo’s front page
    and see how they create post headlines to get people to click.
    You might add a related video or a picture or two to get readers
    interested about what you’ve written. In my
    opinion, it might bring your blog a little bit more interesting.

  19. While you can still be in vogue and dress to kill, you can attract the men around you with your striking personality as easily as you
    can if you were a “no 10″. Know what drives him crazy (in a good way) and use that
    to your advantage. These people have experience in this field and will not
    harm the bats.

  20. The primary materials is still using plastic dove on the front and a rubberized plastic
    on the back. Needless to say, WeChat will ask you to approve any individuals before they can send you a message.

  21. All the different patterns duringlaser engraving,

  22. Wonderful website. Lots of useful information here.
    I am sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious.

    And of course, thanks in your sweat!

    – cliquez ici
    – cliquez ici
    – cliquez ici
    – cliquez ici
    – cliquez ici
    – cliquez ici

  23. Somebody necessarily help to make significantly posts I would state.

    This is the very first time I frequented your web page and up to now?
    I surprised with the research you made to make this actual put up extraordinary.
    Magnificent activity!

  24. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote
    the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some
    pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this
    is excellent blog. An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s