The First World War
War Diary of The Royal Canadian Regiment

Transcription by Captain Michael O'Leary, The RCR.



7TH, 8TH, and 9TH October 1916.

At about noon on the 7TH October 1916 whilst bivouacked on Tara Hill, and engaged in a general cleaning up after a strenuous tour in the front line, from which we had been relieved only the morning previous, the Royal Canadian Regiment received orders from the 7TH Canadian Infantry Brigade to relieve part of the 49TH Battalion (R.H.C.), the first platoon to arrive at KAYS DUMP, at 3.00 p.m., the remainder following at 800 yards distance. Sharp at 3.00 p.m. our first platoon arrived at KAYS DUMP where they were to receive shovels, picks and sand bags, only to find that it was being heavily shelled, and that there was an enemy barrage on the ridge immediately in front. On hearing this, the Brigade ordered us to remain on the road some distance from KAYS DUMP until dusk. At about 4.30 p.m. after having been completely outfitted with tools etc. and two days rations and water, the Regiment being moving up to the relief. The Hun appeared to be on the alert, for he was still shelling the area through which we had to pass quite heavily. Following the tramway part of the way, then trekking off to the left, and winding through a maze of shell holes and craters, the Companies finally arrived in their respective positions and duly took over, with the loss of only two men. The Regiment was distributed as follows "A" Company right resting on the WEST MIRAUMONT ROAD, "C" Company on the left of "A" Company. "D" Company on the left of "C" Company with its left at about R.23.b.2.1. and garrisoning KENORA TRENCH with its bombing post. "B" Company was in support in SUDBURY TRENCH. During the night we were subjected to considerable hostile artillery fire, and a little machine gun fire. We suffered few casualties. As soon as the relief was complete, patrols from all of the front line Companies were sent out into "NO-MANS-LAND" to reconnoitre the enemy wire, and report on it as a Military obstacle. The result of this patrol was a report to the effect that although there were numerous gaps in the wire, through which groups of men could pass, it still formed a Military obstacle. Both Company Officers and patrols thoroughly reconnoitred the tape which had been placed in front of the "Jumping off Trench" (Vancouver), and reported it well sites. Between 4 a.m. and 4.30 a.m. on the 8TH October, the Battalion was aligned along the tape, distributed in three lines, 6 platoons (2 per Co.) in the first wave, and thre platoons (1 per Co.) in the second and third waves. At 4.50 a.m. (zero hour) an intense shrapnel barrage went down near the objective, lifting after several minutes, and, crawling, our men were able to keep very close under it, sustaining no casualties from it. Then the crucial moment came, the time to clinch with the enemy. With a rush, before he had time to man his machine guns and parapet, they leapt into the trench, putting him to flight. Owing to the wire not being sufficiently cut, great difficulty was experienced by some groups of our men in "A" Company and "C" Company in getting at them, but in spite of all, they gained the desired end. Part of "D" Company (Left Co.) however were held up by the wire and intense machine gun fire at the junction of KENORA and REGINA TRENCHES. "A" and "C" Companies, and the part of "D" Company who had got in, immediately set about their allotted tasks, bombing dug-outs, collecting prisoners, and consolidating, following which parties were sent out about 50 yards in front of REGINA TRENCH to make good positions to cover the work being done in the trench. While this was going on in the centre, "A" Company under Lieut. Penniman was performing a most difficult move, i.e. changing front to the left to form a defensive left flank to the troops operating on our right. The enemy machine gun fire and sniping had now become most intense. They were putting up a stubborn resistance. In the face of this "A" Company with the Battalion Bombers, bombed down the WEST MIRAUMONT ROAD for about 150 yards, where seeing that the troops on their right had not advanced with them, they put in a block and commenced consolidating their line. A bombing post with two Lewis Guns was placed at the block where they did most effective work silencing the enemies [sic] machine guns and snipers. By this time, the Battalion on our left not having gained their objective, we were being fired upon from both flanks, and from the front. On the left, Major Wood was going up and down among his men encouraging them, directing the collecting, and division of prisoners, and consolidating. Capt. Sapte and Lieut. Dickson were leading a party of bombers who were bombing to the left, where, according to their orders, they would meet the left battalion bombing our way. It was while doing this hat Lieut. Dickson got wounded. A cylindrical stick from the next bay passing over Capt. Sapte's head hit Mr. Dickson full in the face, knocking him down, and severely wounding him in the head, neck, shoulders and chest. Before he was able to recover himself, another lit on his leg fracturing it just above the knee, and perforating it from hip to toes. Being thus wounded, he with great difficulty pulled himself out of the trench, rolling over the parapet and through the wire into a shell hole, where he lay until night fell. Capt. Sapte was last seen still bombing the enemy on the left flank although, according to reports, was hounded in the head. Supplies of bombs apparently began to run short, for soon the enemy began rolling up our left flank by a strong bombing attack, supported by a withering, flanking machine gun fire from a strongpoint about the junction of KENORA and REGINA TRENCHES. It was about this time that Major Wood was twice hit in the leg and foot collecting another party of bombers to resist this attack. On the right, in the meantime, "A" Company repelled a counter attack from the left of WEST MIRAUMONT ROAD, but were again strongly attacked by bombers down the road. Being entirely surrounded with no hope of support, they in good order executed a retirement - which necessitated again changing front this time back into line to REGINA TRENCH, a very difficult movement. Here the two Companies held on with nothing on either flank, and little artillery support until about 9 o'clock.

With the few that remained after repelling at least three counter attacks, and from report, possibly four, we retired into shell holes and down the WEST MIRAUMONT ROAD having held for approximately four hours the enemy's trench and an area in advance of it to a depth varying from 50 to 150 yards unsupported and unprotected.

We come now to work done by our Support (B) Co. As soon as the three attacking Companies commenced their advance, controlled by Major Hodson from the "Jumping off Trench" "B" Company advanced to Vancouver trench (Jumping off Trench) and manned it, holding themselves in readiness to go forward to the support of the other three Companies. Under a gruelling enemy barrage Lewis and Colt Gunners were placed in position. Supplies of ammunition, bombs etc. were brought up and in every way preparation was made to assist their comrades in front.

At about 6.30 a.m. a message from Lieut. Dwyer ("A" Co.) was received by Major Hodson asking for reinforcements together with a sketch showing the position of "A" Co. at that hour. This, with other valuable information which had been collected by Major Hodson, he forwarded to battalion Headquarters stating that owing to the intense artillery and machine gun fire, and accurate sniping, it was impracticable to send any part of his men forward. At short intervals he sent into Battalion headquarters clear and concise reports as to the situation, at the same time continually moving about the trench encouraging the men, supervising the work and making suggestions to snipers and machine gunners on tactical points. At about 9 a.m. just after he was sending in the report to headquarters that the small remnants were retiring from REGINA TRENCH he received a nasty wound in the head, the fragment of shell passing right through his helmet. Before allowing himself to be taken back however, he handed over to Lieut. Thompson, telling him all that he knew regarding the situation. Lieut. Thompson immediately began reorganizing the handful of men left in the trench, placing Colt and Lewis Gus at the most advantageous points for defence, and distributing his garrison as he thought best. By actual count he had 81 O.R. under his command, holding the trench from the WEST MIRAUMONT ROAD to a point about R.23.b.2.1. including the garrison of KENORA TRENCH. His efforts were ceaseless to make the most possible use of the men he had. Beginning at about 10 a.m. the Germans threw rifle grenades into our bombing post in KENORA TRENCH, from the junction of KENORA and REGINA TRENCHES, until finally silenced by retaliation by two sections of bombers from the P.P.C.L.I. sent up from Support.

During all this time beginning at about 7 a.m. there was a stream of wounded always on the way to the Regimental Aid Post. Most excellent work was done throughout by the Stretcher bearers in collecting, dressing, and evacuating wounded from the front line.

Regimental Runners made innumerable trips to the front line, both during the preparations for the attack, and during and after the attack. On their return trip they were very frequently carried back wounded, the whole thing being done under most adverse conditions, as walking was difficult, and the enemy's fire - artillery machine guns and snipers was effective.

At dusk three parties were sent out in "NO-MAN'S-LAND" to collect wounded and bury dead. On their return they reported that all our wounded had been carried in, and all our dead buried.

We were relieved at about 10 p.m. by the 42ND Battalion (R.H.C.), and we proceeded to the SUGAR TRENCH.

On the 9TH October, at 4 p.m. the Regiment approximately 140 strong, moved back to bivouacs on TARA HILL.

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