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BATTLE OF EAUCOURT L'ABBAYE., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLIII, Issue 14150, 18 November 1916
BATTLE OF EAUCOURT L'ABBAYE.
FEARFUL GERMAN LOSSES.- . A general advafte'e wasi made yesterday on a front, of about three miles aorth of Courcelette, Martinpuich, and Flers, to the outskirts of Le Sars aaid _o the north' of Eaucourt" l'Abbaye .(writes Mr Philip Gibbs on October 3). Fighting! began at : 3.30 m the afternoon, md continued all night with heavy 'lierman counter attacks from* the north. I'o-clay there can be, I think, no great progress made, because the weather is '.ioav dead against us, haAring broken up jadly, so that the battlefields are lost n mist v and observation is made ,im.possible for the artillery and ai_* ser*ice. ... .■*'.... Out there m crater .land and beyond t our men have : 'gone beyond the: 3dge of the tumbled. earth- to thefbeginling of fields still grooving something tatter than Weeds), the infantry on obth sides, are fighting; at close quarters- m bombing attacks . for bits of trench still held by the enemy, and digging m for coVer . until they get a . 'bance of another pouncse. forward. Tlie ■haracter of the present fighting is .Aieird and full of queer surprises. It is iot eary to find 1 any . definite -plan m 'lie enemy's mind or to establish the line ipon which he is ready to give battle. Here and there, as to the n6rth of Cour■relette, our'- men push forAvard as patrols md find a thin Avail of men against them which crumbles and breaks before them. \At other places not far -away, as m .he German trenches before Le Srh*s and Eaucourt l'Abbaye, the. v .ground is -strongly held, croAvded Avith men as -hough the enemy had determined to i'efend this line at all cost' and m 4iymgth. ■■*■ FURIOUS COUNTER-ATTACKS. ' I Avas inclined to .believe.- until, this norning that the Germans were .vith-; drawing to a ' new * line, 'leaving, .-behind jnly a thin screen of men >vit.hf machine■jun outposts to fight rearguard actions is a covering to. the retreat. Tliere aa-ve been many signs ' lately that thit 4:as the eiiemy's i.lan, forced upon him ':>y hard- necessity.. But suddenly he has rjome back, - .counter-attacking, muovh nore boldly and resolutely than during recent days, and the prisoners I paw -thisnorning -doAvn from Eaucourt l'Abbaye lad orders to hold the iground at all laxards, and denied that there Avas any dea of falling back willingly -as. part of . general plan., It avas noticoble, too. :hat yesterday:. the.;,, German artillery ,bar'age was increasingy A'iolent, as thpiigh, ■hey had' -brought new batteries against isi, and closer to -iis rather than drawing further aSva'y. All that is ; piizzling-^-to me: ■ • " v . ■' . Doubtless the riddle .has , been read. by iur experts,, and it .is., possible that there s a gradual , Avithdra wai. masked ,by iharp counter, blows ,to oheclc . the quickness of our advance. Indee^ tha V-.-i-' forced upon the enemy J-iy us, Avhether | he is plai_ningw> .take a, new line of deirence or only yielding the. -ground' step I -ly step undier '-force -majeure."- .Bacic he is going, and -his counter-attacks have aot yet stopped the moving tide that' is •oiling over his earth-works. ( v '•.;• !; He seems- 1 -to- haye known what was i Aoming yesterday,, for -, Bhortly atfter, 3J_»SO ; vhen our men letft... their., trenches for! the open . ground,- his artillery opened fire upon them • and the support trencher tyith a, savage intensity. It Avas toe late to che<ck our men at the parapets. They Avent over * and > away.* ■■'' Sohie ■<■ of .hem AV-sre men who have fought -in sevjral of the great battles— men "blooded" 'or "varnished," as "the, French say) 'm | he fierce- fighting of c early days., Others-* svere iicav men, felloAvs fresh ..from. Blighty, like one Avho spoke to me tO--*lay, and unused to tlie scream of shelli*' and the terrors of the battlefield. .'-It' made no' differeiico-^vho they wor« — • veterans of Yprps or Loos, or innocents; from training-camps on; the safer sideiof; •(he Channel. They, went- over the enemy it that quick r(.noAV and then breaking into, tlie double), iw-hich is 'the. r ay mon "charge.". A tribute to the' fieAv lads Avas spokeai ,by somo of the ''old boys" m this, grim : school of ours to-day. "They didn't look i*ound to get .ciared — and there Avas enough lo scare f hom?-^but just went' on, '..breathing hard, with their eyes on firo, and keen to get ahead 1 . Lots of 'em dropped -with; the best of us. There Avas no kind of difference. ' .
"Into tho first Lviicli and on to tlie second — that was what was m thenheads; and nothing, could have stopped them except a bullet m the wrong place." * "Ay, that's so. They were jast fine." "And 1 was one of 'em," _.aid a lad just out of Eaucourt l'Abbaye. "Out last 'luesday, I was." He grinned at his recent arrival into the midst of blue hell, and confessed to a feeling of home sickness.' He had seen enough of war-already, and "pretty quick too," as he remarked. . AT THE FIRST GOAL. Well, the new "draft" had gone as fast as the others. Tliey had to go something like 800 yards to Hheir first goal m front of Eaucourt l'Abbaye, which was a part- of tlie German third line trench. Behind that, another 200 yards on, was a, second trench, built hurriedly since July 1, m oase of accidents. It was the '"accident", which now arrived. . . . . Tliat 800 yards was a long stretch of open country to cross, especially when swept by machine-gun fire. There wasa gully or little bit of a valley running across the Martinpuich-Eaucpurt road, and ■ German machine-guns had emplacements m the side of it covering this field of fire. They chattered horribly as onr men swept past, and the swish of j bullets slashed the ground. -■ v . NeaiJ. to Eaucourt l'Abbay& — the ruins I Of 'some old monastic buildings, , where jonce a chapel stood ringing the Ahgelua across quiet efilds whesre •monks' gathered m the harvest to fill great barns inside their' high, 'walls — the ground was thick with what our men described as "red cabbages," but/ what must have b?en, I think, sugar-beet. The men kicked.the m ; as they trampled. .oi» wards the enemy, using the roots as footballs. It was <a; queer kind, of game ;to play on the "iway to • a trenchv full pfenemies, under showers.. of- shrapnel ajid through the. .-patter of machine-gun bullets.. * "It kept us from worrying,"" said one of the beetroot players. "A little bit of- sport helps one wonder-fully." ■'".'■ " .'There! were not many • Germans left alive m -either-' the first "or -second* trench defending the old monastery. •• it i was heaped* with corpses, killed by. our bombardrtieht, which lasted from seven m the morning until this ' hour, of .. the afteiyioon. A few inachiiie-gun gunners there, who had b^en firing; upon our i-fteri until tliey. werp within a yard* 'or two, held up thciir hands. * It *was rather •late. Others ran back to the ' secondtrench, and then, if tlrey had the ''hide to g/^t as ' far, disappeared into the lTiins behind. Some \yeve tall mcii belongnig to the 6th Bavarian Division, fresh from Lille, which they have been holding since September, • 1914-^j -tnd that. is. the- last. diyisio,n to. be put into the battle of "tne 1 Somme. ,v- .; . ... X XX, y , v ,i . ,;X small Englishjad saj;ssome of them were- giants. Tliey loojeed enormously big to him, m those moments of excitement. '"There was one big whopper," he aays, '"7ft higih, I should say; by the 'glance I had of him. Why, he could have eaten j me for breakfast, and then gone htngry-'-! . . . .But he ran like a whippet on Bank Holiday. I didn't get a!" chancel to close with him." . GOOD i WORK: BY THE TANKS. '.Tt was- the experience of men not- only here outside Eaucourt l'Abbaye, but right on the left outside Le Sars, where the double line of trenches, was also taken. The Germans, did not extend up to our men. They ran as soon as their bayonets showed-, close-, ;;:-.= .. -. ; -> . : . * v : : r:.' 7 There was an unknown bit of ground on the riglit bf the advance to Eaucourt l'Abbaye which caused otir men some casualties, until it was straightened out by two Tanks. Straightened- out is -the right Arord for an operation which flattened a. stretch of barbc*d. -yrire .at ■vyhich. our. guns could not get and rolled • down sandpag defences/and. laid"]ow the teams of machine-giun crews. •' . I don't know the : name *of the Tank which did most damage. I have an idea it was' dear old Daphne; whom I met on the ji'oads the other dajt holding up the British Army for an hour because she had a stitch- in. her «ide,'. or 'something. But it may have been. Delphine.. or. Delysia, two ugly sislers who go to the ball on dark, nights and join m the dance of death. A friend of mine coming back last night -.met out of these" creatures on the battlefield. , He was aware of a sudden darkness before him, and of a great breathing, and of a monstrous' form moving slowly. It gave him quite a shock, though his nerves are/* good. Whatever, the name, the Tank barged through and made a May for the infantry to follow. ' Patrols pushed out at night into Eaucourt and around it on- the northwestern side, where, wb : have dug m. Into Le Sars also went patrol parties,: moving up through the broken streets of that long, straggling village, which is now* only. i rubbish heaps and .empty shells and great pita m the old roadways. Latei* m the night the enemy brought ap reserves, and oiir patrols withdrew before them. There was heavy fighting along the trenches Avhere our men had established themselves', and to-day the enemy*is .still m a tVedge with a. bottleaetek dowK. through Eaucourt and to the. east of. the Martinpuich Road. • They also seem to. .'be strong mLe Sars anil hi a little quadrilateral redoubt 'just- to bbc right of it below a deep cutting. All through tho night therej.were bombing attacks and counter-attacks., quietening down to-day because of the, heavy rain and. the quagmire on .- both- si_.es. SHOT BY THEIR OWN SHRAPNEL. .'The prisoners^ from Eauco!uCt, Sfeeined' tp me- not. so big as they -were described bjy* the lad who .'. «aw one., "seven foot high." Rather,, they seemed to me less good m physique than most of the men who haye 'lieeiL fighting against lis* on. the Somme. They looked miserable, wet ahd dirty, as they huddled, under some trees before being taken to the snug ouarters where they will find many of their f.ellow-cotaitrymen, cheerful and glad to be out or the battle-line. No wonder they were.glad.. I. heard, some fear-; fjil things, to-day about .their • looses- • nqt only m the - trenches, but, behind their lines. For a*. I, have already .described ;in'- previous* messages,' the-. 'enemy, is losing heavily under our fire on the way up to the trenches or to that crater-land whare no trenches are left.; ■'-■- One German Btretaher-bearer says that oja. September 30 his company waa 190 strong.. /• Since then it has, had. • 130: casualties, made up of seventeen- dead, forty buried, and seventy-three .^vounded.. Some of the companies.. of- this 6th Bavarian Division from Lille have lost 75 per cent, of their strength since coming into the line. They cry out against the .mas'' and blame their commanders, their, air service, and aftmory for the awful .tate m which they find themselves. ■j In the diaryof an pfi-cer of the 180 th Regiment (tho_w who defended Thiepval) there is a reference made to the Germans shrapnellinfjj their own trenches, and one sentence is underlined to give it special emphasis.: ■ '■ . x ■'< ■■< - '-'•■'■.' •;' ' "In view of the perfectly lamentable, shooting of ■ our own artillery our patrols areoalled m." Furthei* left than Le Sarsi, m the neighborhood of the Regina, Trench, wliich Avas lost by us lait night,' 'there. Has been \*ery stout fighting oii the part of thei enemy, due perljahs to the presence -of; a German, Naval Brigade of tlle'i 2nd Naval • Division, who have . '< : come' 1 fresh to the battle-line and are putting up a strong defence...,. ...... , ________________________■■■■■■■
BATTLE OF EAUCOURT L'ABBAYE., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLIII, Issue 14150, 18 November 1916
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