If Ye Break Faith

This blog is dedicated to the promotion of educating about the Canadian experience of World War One. To discover who we are as a nation in the 21st Century, we must understand our past.

Monday, 19 December 2016

There Will Be No Football

“The following from Canadian Corps:- ‘The Corps Commander wishes to congratulate Commanding Officer and all other ranks of 25th Battalion on their very successful raid last night.’”

-Telegram rec’d from 5 Canadian Infantry Brigade 25 Dec. 1916

The group of one hundred men moving, cautiously deliberate across the waste of No-man’s Land not quite three hours into Christmas Day 1916 were certainly not part of any goodwill tour.  “Friendly international football matches were now so much as reaching mythical.  Having happened, two years ago, time had gone to see the final exit of many who shook hands in the ’14 truce as to push it into being beyond living memory.”[1]

In command of this raid was Captain William Archibald Cameron, who seemed keen to the enterprise.  “Bill Cameron was aching to get a go at him (the enemy),” Lieutenant R. Lewis would later write in his informal history of the 25th (Nova Scotia Rifles) Battalion, “so he picked 80 men (Lewis has this wrong, it was 100) and four officers….The time appointed was Xmas morning.”[2]

With artillery instructed to lay down a “box barrage”- a shellfire enclosure of the immediate area- captain Cameron’s men, divided into four groups were to enter the German Front Line across a 350 yard frontage.  Their mandate was typical: “To destroy or capture all Machine Guns and documents possible, and to kill or capture all occupants of the trench.”[3]

The Canadians were going to be here in this area for the foreseeable future.  It was, then, of critical importance to upcoming operations to know precisely who was occupying the line opposite; and what their potential fighting quality was.  Only a few days prior, along 1st Canadian Division’s front, a chance encounter between opposing patrols with the 15th (48th Highlander) Battalion and the Germans had netted a single prisoner.  The man taken “was head of patrol and lost his sense of direction and was rounded up by our chaps.” His unit’s morale was assessed as “very, very good,” and he is recorded as having heard rumours “that the Kaiser has offered peace because neither side can break through and there’s little use going on with useless slaughter.”[4] Perhaps the only real complaint this Soldat had was about the food he and his comrades had in the trenches.  Though, being dissatisfied with rations is hardly out of the ordinary for any soldier, in any army, past or present.

Much like the raid of the 58th Battalion ten days before (see Improvise andOvercome) Captain
Cameron had Bangalore torpedoes at the disposal of his entry teams to clear the wire.  Christmas Eve day had been overcast, with showers[5]but this had cleared overnight and the raiding party was faced with the full brightness of a new moon.  “When they went to put the torpedoes underneath the wire,” Lt. Lewis continues, “they found it impossible as it was too bright.”[6]  Captain Cameron consulted with his officers and the decision was reached to storm the wire at the same moment the box barrage commenced.  When it did, “the four parties simultaneously charged the enemy trenches.  Little difficulty was experienced in getting through the wire except by the right centre party, who managed to force their way through a quantity of loose and tangled wire.”[7]

It was all over very quickly.  The parties on the right entered trenches in poor condition, and unoccupied.  On the left, “the trenches were much better, revetted and boarded.  Seven prisoners were taken here and brought back to our lines.”[8]  In all, Captain Cameron’s men spent five minutes in the German trenches, rounding up prisoners and bombing any dugouts they found; “they were able to completely clear the objective of the enemy.  Half an hour after zero hour, everything was normal again.”  A great part of the raid’s success was due to the efficiency and precision of the artillery’s barrage.  The shelling worked perfectly in isolating the raid’s target area.  German retaliation to the barrage was weak- with some medium calibre counter fire, trench mortars, rifle grenades and machine guns.  None of this was effective and mostly short-lived.  “Both Rifle Grenades and Machine Guns ceased firing a few minutes after the operation started, being apparently put out of action by our artillery fire.”[9]

Estimates calculated the raid had caused the enemy twenty casualties, aside from the prisoners taken; for a return of seven raiders slightly wounded and one, Sergeant G.B. Ingham, killed.  George Ingham leaves a lot unanswered in his death.  Specifically that up to the 12th of November, around the time of his promotion to Sergeant, he had been serving under an assumed name.  Stranger still is that he had at first enlisted under his legal name, George Bernard Ingham and subsequently enlisted again under the false name of Nelson Page.  The Ingham’s are a family of minor prominence in upstate New York; Sgt. Ingham’s father would become mayor of Briarcliff Manor in the late 1930’s.  There also exists a bizarre literary connection as a writer named John Hall Ingham and another named Nelson Page- Sgt. Ingham’s alias- were contemporaries in American literature in the late 19th Century.  I have not been able to deduce the reasons for Sergeant Ingham’s subterfuge beyond speculation, but I hope to uncover the mystery. 

Despite the losses, the raid was a triumph.  Taking seven prisoners and making detailed observations on the condition and equipping of German trenches elicited praise from both the General Officers Commanding the Canadian Corps and First Army, to which the Corps was attached.  Captain Cameron would be awarded the Military Cross “For conspicuous gallantry in action.  He led a raid against the enemy with marked gallantry, inflicting many casualties and capturing seven prisoners.”[10]

For those on the front during the second Christmas of the war, it was just another day of business as usual.

Want to help make Christmas “merry and bright” for an aspiring writer?  You could do worse, I imagine, than to order a copy of my novel, set in the Canadian trenches at Vimy Ridge. 
 “Killing is a Sin” is available through Amazon and by request through book retailers world wide.

Merry Christmas to you all, and all the best for the New Year.
Regular Posts of “If Ye Break Faith” will resume January 2 2017

[1] Harvie, Christopher J. “Killing is a Sin: A Novel of the First World War” Independent, 2016, pg. 221
[2] Lewis, R., Lt. “Over the Top With the 25th” HH Marshal, Limited, 1918, pg. 49
[3] Operations Order No. 27, 25th (Nova Scotia Rifles) Battalion, December 21, 1916
[4] “Examination of Prisoner belonging to 16th Bav. R.I.R.” Made by 3 Canadian Infantry Brigade HQ, 17 December 1916
[5] War Diary entry, 2 Canadian Division, 24 December 1916
[6] Lewis, R., Lt., ibid.
[7] Walker, A.L., Capt., “Report on Raid Carried out by the 25th Canadian Battalion on the night of 24th/25th December 1916”
[8] Walker, A.L., Capt., ibid.
[9] Walker, A.L., Capt., ibid.
[10] Supplement to the London Gazette No. 29940, 13 February 1917, pg. 1545

Monday, 12 December 2016

Improvise and Overcome

“I regret to report that Lieut. Shortt, one Sergeant and one private are missing.”-
Maj. G.H. Cassels, A/OC 58th Battalion, 
11 Dec. 1916

"Trench Raid" oil on wood, by Todd Sullivan 2013
In the early evening of 10 December 1916, a raiding party of forty men, under Lieutenant Allen Shortt “successfully formed up in ‘NO MAN’S LAND’ without the attention of the enemy being attracted.”[1]  These men, selected from the four companies of the 58th (Central Ontario) Battalion had spent the prior three days intensely rehearsing for this scheme.  Organised into six Parties- ‘E’ through ‘J’- the raid was to move under cover of night, and effect entry of the German Front Line Trench at two points.  Their task was brutally simple:

“From information received, there is an enemy bombing and sentry post at the junction of the Front Line and enemy communication trench…and a large enemy dugout at or near the junction which is known to be occupied….A party from the 58th Canadian Infantry Battalion will raid portions of the Front Line Trench…for the purpose of capturing prisoners, obtaining identification and inflicting casualties upon the enemy.”[2]  These orders made it explicit that the known dugout was to be destroyed.  The plan called for Parties ‘E’ through ‘H’ to enter through an existing gap in the wire on the left edge of the raid area, while ‘I’ and ‘J’ would get in via a hole in the wire they were to blow by using a device called an “ammonal tube.”  The ingenious thing about these tubes was that they could be fastened together to create charges of substantial length and had a narrow diameter.  They were just the thing for threading under barbed wire, the high explosives directed upward could clear out
any tangle.  They were sometimes known; and would become more widely known as “BangaloreTorpedoes.”  Dividing the raiding parties into two groups in this way would enable them to take the front line from two directions simultaneously.

At exactly 6.35 pm, the tube was detonated, chewing through the German wire and clearing a path which allowed Parties ‘I’ and ‘J’ to “pass through the wire with freedom.”[3] The explosion also acted as a signal to the other parties to storm the trench, while prearranged artillery and trench mortar fire was dropped onto the German support trenches, isolating the raid area.  Parties ‘E’, ‘G’ and ‘J’ were to move along the trenches to establish blocking positions, ‘F’ would hold the left point of entry- which would also be the sole exit point- while ‘H’ and ‘I’ were to get on with the task at hand; the destruction of the bombing post and dugouts.

As it was- as so often happens in war- things didn’t go to plan.  On the left, there was little trouble and the bulk of the raid stormed the German trench and took up their positions.  An enemy sentry was
shot dead, and a grenade exploding caused some confusion, but the men from ‘E’ through ‘H’ were little phased and went about their task just as it had been rehearsed.  Parties ‘I’ and ‘J’, in the meantime, had indeed cleared out the wire with the ammonal tube, but found the trench they took to be a “blind.”  In this sense, it’s the same as a blind alley; a dead end, not connected to anything.  Worse, the gap between this trench and the line proper was heavily wired.  Going overland to meet the rest of the raid would be tricky.  Even that option was rendered moot as the blind trench was immediately taken under fire by machine guns to the left and right. 

In the actual trench, the raid’s commander, Lt. Shortt, had noted the absence of Parties ‘I’ and ‘J’ which left his right flank exposed.  Lance Corporal Simms, in charge of Party ‘E’- assigned to move and set up a blocking post  on the left edge would later state “At the point of entry we saw three Germans, one of whom I shot.  Mr. Shortt appeared to follow the other two, who went to the right along the front line.”

“I was rear man of L/Cpl Simms’ party,” Private Keel would corroborate, “as I dropped down into the trench, I saw Lieut. Shortt a few yards to the right.  He appeared to be covering our party as he had his revolver drawn and pointing to the right.”  Lt. Shortt, a former student from New York City, married and only just twenty years old, was not seen after that.

“I’m inclined to think,” Major Cassels, in temporary command of the 58th Battalion would write in his report to his superiors at 9 Canadian Infantry Brigade, “that when the right parties did not appear…Lieut. Shortt and possibly the Sergeant moved along the front line to the south with a view to protecting the parties up the communication trenches, and must have been put out of action in that part of the front.”  The sergeant mentioned was Thomas Brazier.  He’d only had his third stripe for a month, a promotion gained from having voluntarily reduced to the ranks in order to transfer from the 19th Battalion to serve with his elder brother George in the 58th.  Both Lt. Shortt and Sgt. Brazier would later be reported as ‘found dead’ through diplomatic channels in January, and their names are listed on the Vimy Memorial as their gravesites are unknown.

Despite the setbacks and the loss of the only officer present, the men carried on with their tasks, or, as with Parties ‘I’ and ‘J’, improvised from the situation as it had developed.  Acting Sergeant Fitton, the ranking man in the blind trench held his men in position and had them bomb the enemy front line from where they were, despite exposure to the machine gun fire.  These bombs managed to effectively silence the MG to their left, and it’s believed a trench mortar struck the emplacement to the right.  Sgt. Fitton withdrew his men after twenty minutes and not having any bombs remaining.

Once the absence of the men of Party ‘I’ was noted, Sergeant Lamb of party ‘H’ took on the job of the absent party as well as that of his own.  He took his men down a sap running off the communication trench.  “This sap was found to slope upwards so that at its end, where a machine gun emplacement was found, its bottom was level with the parapets of the front line.  On entering the sap one of the enemy fired two shots with a revolver at the party and was immediately hit in the face with a Mills Grenade which knocked him down the entrance to a deep dugout.  A five pound package of guncotton was thrown down after him and duly exploded…no doubt wrecking the dugout and causing casualties.” [4]

These incidences were proof that empowering Non-Commissioned men with greater responsibility and more latitude was a wise investment. Both Sergeant Lamb and A/Sgt. Fitton would be awarded the Military Medal for their prescience during the raid.  Sgt. Lamb would be elevated to the rank of Captain, further recognised for gallantry with the Military Cross in August 1918. A/Sgt Fitton, unfortunately would die of wounds in April, 1917.

Also singled out for praise during the night by Major Cassels was Major Dougall Carmichael, who had command of a covering party on the left periphery of the raid.  Not only did he personally take a supply of bombs right over to the enemy Front Line Trench, but after the raiders had returned, he, with L/Cpl Webster “went over to the enemy’s front line and endeavoured to carry out a mortally wounded man…but was unable to lift him out of the trench.  This was a most gallant and fearless act.”  Major Carmichael and L/Cpl Webster had attempted to rescue the third man reported missing, Private Patrick Nigh. He had been struck by the grenade which had been thrown at the raid as they made entry. Shrapnel had hit him in the face and legs, and in the ensuing action he was mistaken for dead and left behind as the raid retired. It was initially believed that his wounds were fatal.  Later patrols to attempt to locate the missing men found no trace of the three.

After some initial confusion, it would be reported that despite the loss of an eye and a seriously wounded right leg, Pte. Nigh was alive: a prisoner in a German military hospital.  He would later be repatriated with other wounded prisoners to England in the spring of 1918.

By December of 1916, the entire Canadian corps was now all together at a little stretch of land in France they would be calling home for the next five months.  Facing them was the grandest topographical feature in the vicinity, occupied by the Germans, intricately fortified over a period of years and denied any attempt at eviction.  Come spring, it would be the Corps' job to do what had, so far, proved well on impossible.  "They were going to go up there, that bloody ridge in the middle distance.  It grew lazily upward from its surrounding until it crested above the landscape; intimidatingly darker than the night sky framing it like a bas relief." It is within these months leading up to and including the famed Canadian capture of Vimy Ridge in which my novel "Killing is a Sin" is set. The book is available through Amazon and by request at major book retailers worldwide.

[1] Cassels, George H., Major, “Report” from 58th Battalion to 9 Canadian Infantry Brigade, 11 December 1916
[2] 58th Canadian Infantry Battalion Operations Order No. 34
[3] Cassels, George H., Major, ibid.
[4] Cassels, George H., Major, ibid.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Their Glory Shall Not Be Blotted Out

“The tour just ended has been characterised by considerable Enemy artillery activity”
- War Diary 12 Canadian Infantry Brigade 19 Jun 17

What had begun as a search to find information on one soldier unfolded to reveal a story forever connecting three individuals.

As a sample set, the three were, by most measurements, a representation of the average Canadian soldier on the Western Front.  None of the three had been born in Canada; which was certainly not unusual.  Kirby Bourson Hunt was from Bona Vista Newfoundland, then a Dominion separate from Canada; Thomas Culbert was Belfast born and George Holland came from Worsley, England.  They aged between twenty and twenty-seven years old and ranged in height from 5’3” to 5’11”- both in age and stature they were outstandingly average.  They were ordinary men, all three private soldiers who neither had conspicuous merit nor detraction applied to their service.  As best as can be told, the three men, Holland, Culbert and Hunt had never met or were known to one another, they had all served in different battalions and had been in France for different lengths of time.

Thomas Culbert was posted to the 38th Battalion on 6 December, 1916 and George Holland reported to the 78th Battalion two days before Christmas.  These two men came to 4th Canadian Division units to reinforce losses taken in the waning phase of the Somme campaign.  There was a great need to make up numbers from casualties taken, as the long training and organisational effort for the spring offensives-for Vimy Ridge- was about to begin.  Urgency to get men proficient in their trade is evident in Culbert’s posting to a Lewis Gun Course not two weeks after joining his unit.  Hunt, the last of these three to come to the front was taken on strength with the 47th Battalion in May of 1917, in his own turn a reinforcement for the casualties taken in the battle for which Holland and Culbert had been brought over for.

However, only Holland was present with his unit at Vimy, Culbert had been wounded in February; and it is at this point where I began.

Thomas Culbert
Thomas Culbert is a direct relative of a fellow I went to school with.  This friend had posted newspaper clippings regarding Culbert over Remembrance Week.  From the Toronto Star, it began “Pte. Thomas Culbert, who in February last was severely wounded in the right thigh is to-day reported to have died of his injuries.”[1]  He had died on the 24th of June, and was buried in France.  This struck me as out of the ordinary.  Worded in this way, the clipping made it appear as though his death in June was directly resulting from his wounding in February.  It seemed a terribly lengthy time to linger from a leg wound, and that Culbert was buried in France raised more questions.  Mainly, why hadn’t he been evacuated to England as was most usually the case for convalescence?  Circumstances as they seemed were not impossible, just incredibly unlikely.  It was not much more than a hunch which motivated me, and once I opened Culbert’s service records, my hunch was confirmed. 

He was indeed wounded in February.  His file states “GSW (Gun Shot Wound) Rt. Thigh, slight”[2] on his admission to hospital on 26 February.  The 38th Battalion War Diary provided the context: “At 5.30 pm a raid on German trenches was made by five officers and 85 other ranks….Results 38 Bn.: 1. Thirty-three dead Huns were counted.  2. Six dug-outs were bombed.  3. Estimated that the enemy sustained at least forty other casualties besides the above dead. 4. Enemy’s wire practically nil. Trenches in bad condition….Our casualties- 4 killed, 27 wounded.”[3]

Culbert recovered from this wound, returning to his unit on the 13th of April, just missing the opening phase of Vimy Ridge.  Discovering this only solved part of the mystery; in that he didn’t linger for four months.  His death, however, was listed as “died of wounds” which meant there was a period of time in which he suffered injuries before passing.  Consulting the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records and comparing those with reports from 12 Canadian Infantry Brigade (to which the 38th Battalion belonged) made the situation clearer.  Colonel Nicholson’s official history notes that this period, from the end of the first phase of the Battle of Messines was one in which Haig, planning for a resumed offensive had instructed his subordinate commands to “ ‘hold the enemy to his ground, and prevent his moving troops elsewhere’.”[4]

George Holland
The lines were being stabilised, and strengthened in preparation for the next forward move.  Artillery fire was intense on both sides. On the 18th of June, German artillery was “considerably above normal….Shortly before mdt. In response to flares sent up…approx. 175 shells were fired.”[5] The majority of these fell amongst the positions held by the 38th Battalion. Pte. George Holland, his 78th Battalion out of the line, was that evening part of a working party sent forward which got caught in this heavy fire. “Following casualties amongst party furnished by ‘D’ Coy; Killed 2, 874700 Pte. Holland, 625235 Pte. Miller, buried same time….4 wounded (slightly) all by HTMB (Heavy Trench Mortar Bomb).”[6]  12 Brigade’s diary records these casualties of the 78th, and two men wounded from the 38th.  All of the wounded would have been brought through the Regimental Aid Post, just behind the trench line, and thence to the Advance Dressing Station, which was just on the eastern periphery of Givenchy.  From the ADS men would either be treated and discharged, or transported to a Main Dressing Station or other hospital facilities further rearward.  In extreme cases, those men not expected to survive were made comfortable where they were rather than subject them to unnecessary movement.  Thomas Culbert, married father of two, never made it beyond the ADS, although death came a slow, terrible six days later.

Kirby B Hunt
On the 20th of June, 12 Brigade was replaced in line by 10 Canadian Infantry Brigade, whose battalions now took up the job of fixing the enemy in place.  It was a few days later, overnight between 25/26 June that the 47th Battalion conducted a minor operation against lightly held German trenches and a sweep of the village of La Coulotte.  “Patrols were pushed through the village of LA COULOTTE as far south to the LENS-ARRAS ROAD, and found the Southern part of the village still strongly occupied.”[7] The patrol from the 47th retired to friendly lines, but not before suffering casualties of two dead and fourteen wounded. One of those killed was Kirby Hunt.  He had been at the front just over five weeks.  His body was brought to the ADS, as were the bodies of Holland and Miller from their temporary grave along the support line.

Holland, Culbert and Hunt were interred in a group plot at a place called Sumach Cemetery.[8]  Group burials were not uncommon, and great effort was taken to ensure these burials were identifiable. Only later- mostly through a tremendous post-war program- would the men be exhumed and placed in single graves within established grounds and marked with proper headstones.

Except, in this case, Sumach Cemetery was destroyed in later fighting to such an extent that when La Chaudière Cemetery was being constructed after the war, those initially buried at Sumach could not be individually distinguished.  These men are commemorated at La Chaudière by a special memorial.  The three; Holland, Culbert and Hunt, men who didn’t know each other, ordinary average men, will now pass eternity together, with so many of their comrades, marked by a stone which offers the promise “Their Glory Shall Not Be Blotted Out.”

[1] Toronto Star, 05 July 1917
[2] MFW 54 “Casualty Form- Active Service” re. 775036, Pte. Culbert, Thomas
[3] War Diary Entry, 38th Battalion, 22 February 1917
[4] Nicholson, GW, Col. “Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War” Queen’s Printer, Ottawa 1962 pg. 282
[5] 12 Canadian Infantry Brigade War Diary, June 1917 Appendix 1 “Intelligence Summary No. 128”
[6] War Diary Entry, 78th Battalion, 18 June 1917
[7] War Diary Entry, 47th Battalion, 25 June 1917

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Men of Character and Courage

“I need gentlemen of character and courage to inspire these men to their duty as soldiers. I need smart men who can make the right decisions regardless of circumstance. Do I have one of these men standing before me, Lieutenant?”

-Lt. Col B.A. Sinclair, “Killing is a Sin” Ch. V

There would be nobody on their right flank; they were the end of the line.  This objective was the extreme right edge of the advance.  At the opposite end, the company from the 102nd Battalion was fortunate in that they would be moving forward to secure the left flank with positions already held.  Not so for the men of ‘B’ Company, 46th Battalion.  Their fate had placed them here- needing to take this stretch of Regina Trench at a point most likely to attract strong counter-attacks and hold it- orders were to hold at all cost[1]- while ‘D’ Company moved up and worked to extend the captured trench back to existing Canadian lines.

A staggering majority of ‘B’ Company’s compliment had never gone into battle before, and that included two of the three officers who had been selected to lead it.  The company’s other officers, some NCO’s and ordinary soldiers had been purposefully held back- “left out of battle” was the phrase- in order to preserve structure should the attack prove disastrously costly.  For the men going forward, they would have to have implicit trust, bordering on faith, in leadership that knew not much more than what they did about what to expect.  Lieutenants Lowe, Dewar and Copp were placed in a position of enormous responsibility.  They had to complete the task given to ‘B’ Company in such a way as to be worthy of their men’s blind trust with the knowledge that any failure would weigh heavier upon them than anyone else.  All of this was theirs to take upon, without any greater understanding of what to expect then had the men they were meant to lead.
The opening quote, taken from Chapter V of my novel “Killing is a Sin” describes in fiction the actual dilemma facing Battalion commanders such as Colonel Sinclair would face in reality.  Building an army from near nothing would be one accomplishment for Canada.  Finding “men of character and courage” to lead it would be another.  For our posterity, it is fortunate that such men- men such as Lowe, Dewar and Copp- were present to fill this need.

Each of the three officers with ‘B’ Company on the night of the attack had at least some pre-war experience.  Lowe and Copp with two and three years in the Active Militia respectively.  Dewar, a Scot by birth had been five years with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

Lt. Dewar had been with the CEF the longest.  He’d joined as a private soldier at the outset of war and shipped out with the First Contingent in October, 1914.  Illness, in particular a hernia, delayed his deployment to France.  He would remain in England, assigned to training depots and accelerating through non-commissioned appointments; becoming a Company Sergeant-Major a short while before being granted a commission and an assignment to active duty with the 46th Battalion prior to its embarkation to France in September 1916.  Although Lt. Dewar was the longest serving, his commission came later than Lt. Lowe’s, who would be placed in command of ‘B’ Company.  Perhaps this longevity in service was the consideration to place Dewar with the responsibility of establishing ‘B’ Company’s forward blocking post.

What ‘B’ Company had been asked to accomplish was quite daring.  It was a night attack, with the company spaced in four waves of a platoon each.  The men would have to cross no-man’s land undetected by the enemy and as close as possible to the covering barrage.  That they were able to accomplish this, a complex manoeuvre with precise coordination with artillery they could neither see nor communicate with directly with having made all preparations to do so within the seven hours between final orders and Zero-hour bears a good deal of reflection.  Even if things were to go without a hitch, such an endeavour’s chance of success was reliant completely on the officers leading the attack, the NCO’s marshalling the men and the level of proficiency attained by the rank and file in all the moments which had brought them all to this point.

As it was, not everything went without a hitch.  It is, in fact, when things don’t go to plan that real leadership is tested.  When the barrage lifted at nine minutes past Zero[2] “it was not concentrated over a sufficiently narrow area to allow of the attacking party of entering the objective.”[3]  Jumping off right then put the men to risk of falling under their own barrage; while waiting a further five minutes[4] gave the Germans defending Regina Trench that much time to recover and prepare to receive the attack.  Having the men wait was one thing; hesitating in making a decision in either case was another thing altogether.

“They therefore waited for the next lift,” it was later reported, and as expected this delay worked in favour of the defenders.  “Parties of the enemy put up a strong resistance.”[5]

Lt. Lowe’s presence was later praised by his C.O. Lt. Col Dawson as being instrumental to the success of this part of the attack.  Lowe “so animated his men,” Dawson would write, that the position captured “was quickly placed in a state of defence.”  Lowe’s constancy throughout the unfolding day “displayed a magnificent spirit of bravery and coolness under fire.”[6] Lt. Lowe would be awarded the Military Cross for his efforts.[7]

Lt. Dewar, the ex-Borderer quickly established his outpost as consolidation began, and prudently shifted it closer to the trench lines when it was apparent that artillery fire was dropping too short.  Dewar himself caught a piece of shrapnel and was shortly afterward evacuated.  He would not return to the front, remaining with a training unit in England after convalescing from his wound.  Lt. Lowe would also be taken out of the line the following month, due to chronic appendicitis. 

By year’s end, only Lt. Copp remained of the three ‘B’ Company officers who went forward on that night.  He would be wounded the following spring in the weeks after Vimy Ridge; but not before earning the Military Cross himself.  “In spite of heavy fire,” his citation reads, “he supervised the establishment of posts, and later seized advanced ground which he held with great determination.”[8]  Like Lt. Dewar, Copp would not return to action after recovering.

Lowe, however, would come back to the 46th Battalion, his appendix no longer a concern, sporting his MC and a deserving promotion to Captain in time to take part in operations at Vimy.  Captain Lowe continued to display the qualities which inspired those he led to follow him.  That August, “Captain Lowe and a bombing party raided an enemy M.G. emplacement…and succeeded in securing 14 prisoners.”[9]  His conspicuous leadership was, ironically, his undoing.  The Battalion’s War Diary concludes on 22 August 1917 with the entry “Captain Lowe was sniped during this raid.”

[1] 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade Operations Order No. 22 10 November 1916
[2] Operations Order No. 22
[3] 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade “Report on Operations 10/11 November” War Diary, November 1916 Appendix C1
[4] Operations Order No. 22
[5] “Report on Operations 10/11 November”
[6] Dawson, H.J. Lt. Col, “A No. 120 ‘Recommendations’” to OC 10 CIB 14 November 1916
[7] Supplement to the London Gazette No. 29898 9 January 1917 pg. 465
[8] Supplement to the London Gazette No. 30234, 14 August 1917 pg. 8392
[9] War Diary Entry, 46th Battalion, 22 August 1917