War Diaries – 21st Bn. CEF

21st Bn, CEF-Monday, August 26, 1918

In accordance with 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade, O.O. 264 the Battalion assembled for the attack at Tillgy and Hun trenches. Zero hour had been notified for 3.00a.m. The Battalion was in position at 2.15a.m. and Brigade was notified at 2.30am. We advanced with the Canadian Battalion on our left and the 27th Canadian Battalion, of the 6th Canadian Infrantry Brigade was on our right. The 18th Canadian Battalion advanced in support of our unit. The objectives set for the 21st Battalion were. First, Orca Trench, Section Southern Advance North of Cojeul River. The personnel of the Battalion who participated in the operation was 23 Officers and 693 Other Ranks. The officers were Lt.-Col. H.K. Pense, D.S.O., M.C., Commanding: Capt L Fraser, acting adjutant; Capt. H. Black, Medical Officer L Lieut. R.A. Stewart, Intelligence Officer: Lieut. W. Currie. H.O., Scout Officer, Capt. R.J. Ranison, Caplain: Capt. F. McPhun and Lieut. N. Nicholson: “1” Company — Lieuts. A.W. May, M.C., A Cockeran, D.S.O., G.A. Phillips, C.A. Granger: “B” Company –Capt W.j. MacCrimmon, Lieuts.P.H. Wills, P.G. Hall, A.M. Scott: “C” Company — Lieuts H.T. Danne, M.C., D.M. Curry, S.T. Crocksm W,C, Trollers M.M.L “D” Company — Lieuts. F.R. Ullen, O. of St.S D. Bowell, M.M., W.M Mackay, F.C. Johnston. Commencing shortly after 8.00 o’clock on the evening of the 25th a light rain fell and continued in intervals during the early part of the night. But this did not interfere to any extent with the assembly of the Companies in their respective positions, and spirits were high when the sky cleared before 2.00 o’clock and a bright moon gave plenty of sufficient light for the advance which was to commence at 3.00a.m. It was necessary to cut loose and clear any broken wire in front of our assembly positions. This was accomplished without attracting the enemy’s attention. The artillery and machine gun barrage which opened promptly at the zero hour was followed up by our companies -“C’ on the right, “D” in the centre, “B” on the left with “A” Company in support. Both of this assaulting companies advanced with two platoons in the front line, with the third platoons in close support. The support company moved in artillery formation. No. 5 Section, “B” Company of the Battalion Tank Corps were ordered to co-operate with the Battalion in the operation. But, owing to the difficulty of the three tanks moving into advanced positions in the moonlight, they advanced in support of the 15th Canadian Battalion. Two Stoker guns, of the 10th Trench Mortar Batter, moved forward with our support company. The Battalion kept in direction well, guided chiefly by compass and closely followed the barrage which was reported satisfactory. The enemy’s artillery did not respond until 3.11 a.m. This afforded the Battalion time to get well clear of the assembly area and across “No Man’s Land”. Our Companies encountered little hostile resistance until Nova Scotia Trench was reached. Here some of the Germans, chiefly machine gunners, made a stand, but only a temporary foe for the advance of our own was not held up. The machine gun nests were dealt with by rifle grenades, and then rushed. Few of the enemy opposed. Our advance continues unbroken to Orca Trench (1st Objective) and then to the second and final objective (Southern Avenue) which was occupied. At this point the enemy also attempted to make a stand and a sharp fight ensued. On the left “B” Company vigorously dealt with twenty German gunners who operated three field guns after we had advanced into Southern Avenue. These German artillerymen were killed by the Lewis Gunners of “E” Company. The final objective having been captured, we re-organized and prepared for a possible hostile counter-attack. The personnel of Battalion Headquarters, who had been located in View Trench, advanced at zero plus 50 minutes, and established a new Headquarters in Nova Scotia Trench. Our report centre was establish at NN.16.B.70.90. At 4.00pm this was occupied as our Battalion Headquarters. Immediately after Battalion Headquarters had been established in Nova Scotia Trench, Capt. F. McPhun and Lieuts. R. A. Stewart and W. Currie moved forward to Southern Avenue to obtain information and make a report upon the situation. Shortly after noon the C.O. visited the Companies in Southern Avenue. From mid-day and during the afternoon and evening they were subjected to considerable hostile artillery fire, resulting in some casualties, among the wounded Cap M.J. MacCrimmon and Lieut. Wills, Scott and Cockerman. During the day our casualties totaled – Officers. Wounded 9: Other Ranks, killed 12. wounded 53, missing 69. The officers wounded during the actual advance were Lieuts. A.W.May,M.C., V.R.Ullman, O.R. Trollope, F.U. Johnstone, W.H. MacKay and Capt. H. Black *At duty). During the night rations were delivered in rear of our front line.  At 4.00a.m. on the morning of the 26th our ammunition echelon and pack section assembled, with similar details of the other Battalions of our Brigade, on Wailly-Acnicounte Road, 400 yards South of the R in Agnicourt. At about 7.00a.m. on zero day our rear details move to Agnicourt. During the afternoon Guemappe was taken by the 16th Battalion.


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Image: Canadians advancing through swamps near River Sensee. Advance East of Arras. August, 1918, Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

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