British position on the Western Front overrun

A British 6 inch gun being demonstrated on the Western Front

A British 6 inch gun being demonstrated on the Western Front

Further extracts from the diary of Captain Twomey from 58 Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, on attachment to the French Artillery for a week:

No need to be called this morning. The gun in the village fired three minutes intense at 6.45a.m. and a few desultory rounds after that. We started to count and got as far as sixty but it was too fast. They must have fired over 100 rounds. Later we heard the reason. One of our forward infantry posts on the edge of a wood was wiped right out. The Bosche started it off with some H.E. in the branches over their heads, from a six inch mortar battery and a battery of smaller guns (this information is from the fragments picked up). Then the concentration lifted 100 yds.and a Bosche patrol who had been cutting the wire in front of the post during the first concentration rushed the post and apparently took them all prisoner. When our people got to the post they found two British dead, one wounded, and one dead Bosche. Sixteen had been taken prisoner. The French batteries had put down their S.O.S. concentrations in a very few seconds in answer to a telephone call from the neighbouring international post, but there was some mistake about the actual lines they fired owing to a new line they had laid from that post to the Battery Cd. Post the previous day and a mix up of code words so the S.O.S. was not very effective.

The following German newsreel was released on March 13th and may relate to the same incident:

Later Captain Twomey met British infantry in the trenches:

On our way up to the OP we passed two British posts and had a chat to them. We were struck by the ineffectiveness of their defences; both the lack of digging and protection they have provided for themselves and the imbecile way the posts had been sited. A few miles back in the Maginot Line is a perfect example of the ABD of defence laid out in a system of mutually supporting posts with cross fire – no post firing to its immediate front but firing across the fronts of the posts on either flank. Most of our posts are sited so that they see very little and that to the front only and no post can support another. Most of them are sited in woods where shells bursting in the branches do ten times the damage. They seem to be afraid of going and digging themselves in properly on reverse slopes. They are too lazy to dig and they get a sense of false security like ostriches in woods.

Half the fault lies in the system of each battallion only getting 6 days in the line. They only want to keep quiet for that time and hope they will get away with it for that time and then get relieved, and they are dammed if they are going to do all that digging for another Regiment. The French in contrast never sit down on their bottoms, they are continually going on and on improving their positions. I said to one of the soldiers in the posts words to the effect that their protection seemed very inadequate and that if I had to spend nights there I would spend every minute of my spare time shovelling muck up against it – but there is no persuading chaps of that mentality. However the disaster of this morning has taught them something and there is some talk amongst them of reorganizing their posts and while we were at the OP an Infantry Officer came round and had a go at them and when we left we noticed a new work going up, or the beginnings of it.

The Infantry Officers of the Bn HQ live in the next house to us but they never make any advances to us, ask us in for a drink, or even pass the time of day, I don’t think they see a yard beyond their noses and would probably not know we are here except for the fact that Col. Lambert and the Commandant go in there every evening at 6p.m. for a so called conference but nothing very illuminating seems to transpire and the Commandant gets a bit browned off when they wont take his advise, then something like this morning happens.

See TNA WO 217/7

Wargunner has much more on the 58 Medium Regiment and a full transcript of Captain Twomey’s Diary, together with images of the area described as it is today. See Captain Twomeys first day With the French Artillery.

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