London 1918, the Armistice and Regimental histories

1/4th Battalion in the Second Battle of Ypres, 1915

4TH Battalion, The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) in the Great War 1914 - 1919


THE 1/4TH BATTALION IN THE SECOND BATTLE OF YPRES, 1915

Since the exhaustion of the enemy's drive towards Ypres in November 1914, the Ypres area had not been the scene of any important operations, although from time to time fierce struggles had raged here and there for the possession of points of minor tactical importance. Early in April 1915 the British lines had been extended slightly northward, and a sector had been taken over from the French troops on the left. On the 22nd of that month the line from Steenstraate (near the Yser Canal) as far as the Poelcapelle Road east of Langemarck was held by a Moroccan Division of the French Army. Thence the line took a south-easterly turn towards the Passchendaele-Becelaere Road and was occupied by the Canadian Division. On the right of the Canadians, British divisions held the trenches which ran east of Zonnebeeke in the direction of Hooge.

On the afternoon of the 22nd the French lines were subjected to a heavy bombardment, following which at about 5 p.m. our aeroplanes reported that they had seen thick clouds of yellow smoke issuing from the German trenches between Langemarck and Bixschoote. These arose, as is now well known, from poison gas, of which the effect was so terrible as to render the troops exposed to it practically incapable of action. The smoke and fumes at first hid everything from sight, and hundreds of men were immediately incapacitated. Within an hour the whole position had to be abandoned with the loss of fifty guns. This horrible and unlooked-for attack was so overpowering in its moral effect that our gallant allies were unable to combat it, and being totally unprovided with means of defence against so diabolical a contrivance, were forced — as indeed any troops would probably have been under the like conditions— to abandon their position without offering resistance. The confusion and moral effect were doubtless increased by the fact that the trenches thus attacked were occupied by Africans whose firm belief in the supernatural rendered it so much the more difficult for them to withstand this assault.

The immediate result of this gas attack was that the left flank of the Canadian Division was in the air and was in imminent danger of being entirely cut off. But the Canadians stuck to their positions with magnificent tenacity and during the night repulsed numerous German attacks. In the disorganisation following the gas attack the Germans had succeeded in establishing themselves on the west side of the Yser Canal at Lizerne, thus threatening to drive a wedge between the Canadians on the right and the French and Belgian troops on the left.

By 10 o'clock the next morning the position, though by no means re-established, was slightly easier, touch being definitely ensured between the Canadians' left and the French right, about 800 yards east of the Canal ; but in order to effect this junction so great an extension of the British lines had been necessary that no reserves were available for counter-attack. The enemy's artillery fire was severe all day and the situation was rendered exceptionally difficult by the loss of so many allied guns in the gas attack.

It was arranged between Sir John French and General Foch, who was in command of the French Army on our left, that the latter should make immediate arrangements for the recapture of the original French Line, and for this purpose it was necessary for the British to maintain their present position without further retirement ; but it was clear that the British troops could not be allowed to remain in the precarious position held by them during the last twenty-four hours unless the French attack were delivered within a reasonable time. In the meantime such reinforcements as were immediately available from neighbouring Corps were being rushed up into Ypres to strengthen the temporary line between ourselves and the French.

On the 24th a heavy German attack breached our lines at St Julien. This might have initiated an extremely critical situation but for a powerful counter-attack organised and launched by Brig. -Gen. Hull (afterwards G.O.C. 56th Division), who, with his own Brigade and parts of battalions belonging to six different divisions all new to the ground, was successful in stemming the tide of the enemy's advance, although attempts to recapture St Julien were repulsed.

Early in the morning of the 25th the left flank of the Canadian division was driven back after two days' magnificent fighting, and by the evening the allied line north of Ypres ran practically east and west from the neighbourhood of Boesinghe on the Canal to the south outskirts of St Julien. The general tendency of this line was to bow inwards towards Ypres. The seriousness of the threat to the whole British position east of Ypres is obvious. It was now possible for the enemy to shell any point in our lines from both sides of the salient, while his positions being about two miles farther to the south than they had been prior to the gas attack of the 22nd, he was able to keep the arterial road from Ypres to Zonnebeeke under continuous and heavy shell fire from guns of all calibres.

During the whole time considerable confusion was created by the alteration of areas caused by the sudden relinquishment of the forward positions ; and by the fact that fresh troops on arrival in the Ypres area had at once to be absorbed into the firing line to prevent the enemy from exploiting his initial success. This confusion was heightened by our lack of artillery, which was inadequate to keep down the heavy German fire, and our casualties were in consequence continuously heavy. Ypres was itself kept under very heavy shell fire which vastly increased the difficulty of maintaining supplies of munitions and food.

The Lahore Division was ordered on the 23rd April to move to the Ypres area, and on the morning of the 24th orders were received by the l/4th Londons that the contemplated relief of the Dehra Dun Brigade on the La Bassee Road would not take place and that the Battalion would be ready to move — possibly by train — at 1.30 p.m. By 2 p.m. the Battalion had joined in the Ferozepore Brigade column followed by the first line transport. In ignorance of its destination, and quite unaware of the bitter struggle then going on at Ypres, the Battalion expected to entrain at Merville, and a great many packs were filled with eatables and comforts for a long train journey.

However, when Merville, Indian Corps railhead, was passed it became evident that whatever journey was before the column would be made on foot. The march was an exceedingly trying one and was made under " forced " conditions. The roads were in a bad state after the winter rains, and a good deal of opening out in the column was inevitable, so that the five-minute halts which took place each hour were mostly spent in " closing up." Hour after hour the column moved on under the burden of full marching order, now over uneven pave, now in deep ruts and thick mud. Merville, Vieux Berquin, Strazeele, were passed in succession. Daylight gave place to dusk and dusk to darkness but still the column struggled forward. From all battalions stragglers now began to line the sides of the road, unable after the physically weakening experience of trench life to keep up the pace. At last about 10.30 p.m. a long halt was made just outside Godewaersvelde, a small village at the foot of the Mont des Cats. Here a rest of some forty minutes was obtained on the roadside while double lines of guns, ammunition columns, and transport blocked the road.

Finally at about 10.45 p.m. the Battalion moved forward into Godewaersvelde, but the village was packed with troops, and the companies, therefore, had to content themselves with such shelter as could be found beneath the parked lorries in the streets.

But the end of the march was not yet. After a hasty breakfast the Battalion was again on parade before 6 o'clock on the morning of the 25th, and once more joining the Brigade Column struggled up the steep hill at Boescheppe, at the top of which another delay was caused by a cross-current of vehicular traffic. The distress of the troops was now so evident that orders were received to lighten packs, and garments of all sorts, principally gifts of knitted garments sent out from ladies in England, were left by the roadside. Through Westoutre and Reninghelst the column marched on to Ouderdom, where it arrived at about 2.30 p.m. with orders to billet in huts. Most of the huts were already fully occupied and the greater part of the l/4th Londons were compelled to bivouac in the fields adjoining. Ouderdom is about seven miles south-west of Ypres, and the object of the forced march was at last clear. Some little idea of the storm raging in the salient could be gathered from the bivouacs, as throughout the afternoon and night the air vibrated with the continuous thunder of artillery in which the rapid and sharp rafales of the French " seventy-fives " away to the north were plainly distinguishable.

Shortly after midnight orders were received that the Division would be pushed into the firing line that day the 26th April, and at dawn the Battalion was once more formed up. Shovels and picks were issued alternately to all the troops for the purpose of digging themselves into such positions as they might be able to gain, and to each platoon was issued a yellow flag for signalling its location to the artillery. In these early days of the War no arrangements were made for the formation of a " battle surplus," and consequently the whole available strength of officers and men prepared to move forward. Packs were now stacked to relieve the troops of superfluous weight, and at 4.30 a.m. the companies began to move off at five minutes' intervals.

The exhaustion of the men made progress inevitably slow. The roads traversed were fortunately not receiving much attention from the enemy's artillery, though a steady bombardment of Ypres with shells of the heaviest calibre was proceeding. By about 9.30 a.m. the Battalion was concentrated in a field adjoining Outskirt Farm at La Brique, where it proceeded to dig itself into assembly trenches.

Meanwhile the Jullundur Brigade had concentrated farther to the east, between St Jean and Wieltje, while the Sirhind Brigade in Divisional Reserve had moved round the south of Ypres to a position north-west of Potizje.

The l/4th Londons' position during the hours of waiting in the morning was behind the crest of the spur which runs westward from St Jean, past La Brique towards the Canal, and though out of view from the German trenches was undoubtedly located by the enemy's Taubes, whose reconnaissances over our lines were entirely unmolested. This, combined with the close proximity of the Battalion's position to several British and French batteries, brought it a fair share of German shrapnel during the morning, the shelling being from both the north and south sides of the salient. Happily but few casualties were sustained.

Below the hillside on which the Battalion lay concealed and distant something more than half a mile the gaunt ruins of Ypres stood out clearly in the morning sunlight, the fast-crumbling tower of its wonderful Cloth Hall still erect, a silent witness of the tragedy which was being enacted. All the morning shells were falling into the town, a steady and merciless bombardment without the least cessation or abatement. From the centre of the town dense columns of black smoke rose continuously, and the crash of explosions and the clatter of falling debris followed each other without respite. The cross-roads at which the St Jean road left the town were in particular a target for the German heavy guns. All the morning the 50th (Northumberland) Division T.F. was moving from Ypres along this road to St Julien, and as each platoon passed the fatal crossroad at the double a heavy shell fell close by thinning the ranks. It seemed to every spectator of this horrible yet fascinating sight that the German artillery lire must surely be directed from some point within the British lines.

# It has been thought couvenient in the account of this action to designate buildings and other topographical features by the names by which they afterwards became generally known, though they were not in every case so named in April 1915. At 12.40 p.m. the Brigade received orders to prepare to take part in a divisional attack in conjunction with the French in a due northerly direction, with the object of relieving the pressure on the left of St Julien and of endeavouring to push the enemy back. With this attack the 50th Division would co-operate on the right of the Lahore Division in an attempt to recapture St Julien itself.

The Ferozepore Brigade's frontage was on the right of Boundary Road (the Ypres-Langemarck Road) and extended as far as English Farm, beyond which the Jullundur Brigade was responsible as far as Wieltje Farm on the extreme right, and the general line of assembly was on the forward slope of the spur some 600 yards north of La Brique.

The Brigade's advance was led by the Connaught Rangers on the left, the 57th Rifles in the centre, with the 129th Baluchis on the right. The l/4th Londons were to follow the Connaughts, while the 9th Bhopals remained in reserve in La Brique.

At 2 o'clock the attack was launched under a heavy bombardment from all available British and French batteries, but such was the shortage of ammunition that this support died down for lack of supplies in about five minutes, after which the German batteries were free to search intensively the whole area of the Brigade advance, causing a good many casualties in the assaulting columns.

From the line of assembly the ground subsided gently to a shallow depression running across the direction of advance, beyond which, at a distance of some 1000 yards from the crest on the La Brique side, the hill swelled to a second skyline which impeded further view. Just below the crest of the further spur an unfenced lane. Buffs Road, followed the contour running eastwards from Boundary Road. None of this land was intersected by trenches, the Allied trenches being several miles ahead and to the rear of the German positions.

The l/4th Londons moved from their position of waiting at about 2.30 p.m., and shaking out into four lines of platoons in file with B Company (Moore) on the left, and A (Duncan -Teape) on the right of the front line, followed by D (Saunders) and C (Clark). The German shrapnel was now searching both slopes of the spur pretty severely and men began to drop, but the Battalion steadily breasted the rise from which it could overlook the shallow valley towards Buffs Road. The sight which met their eyes defies description. The valley was covered with a ragged crowd of agonised and nerve-racked men, both Moroccans and Indians, who, having thrown down their arms and everything which could impede them, were streaming back from the front trenches suffering the tortures of poison gas. It was a revolting sight. The attack had clearly failed and our leading troops were broken and in retirement. But the men of the l/4th Londons were splendid. Without wavering for a single instant they trudged steadily forward, though indeed almost completely exhausted, maintaining the intervals and distances between platoons with the precision of the parade ground. Never was there a more striking example of the results of training and discipline. The " attack in open warfare " which had been so roundly cursed by one and all in the days of training at Blendecques had indeed so sunk into the minds of everyone that instinctively the troops remembering only their orders to " follow the Connaughts at all costs " carried out under the most trying ordeal the lessons which had been drilled into them.

The Battalion continued to advance as far as Buffs Road, where a halt, believed at first to be temporary, was called. No trench line existed here but the ditch on the near side of the road had been widened. This was already filled with the remains of the 2nd K.O.S.B. (who had been fighting continuously since the action at Hill 60 on the 17th April, and were now reduced to under 100 all ranks) and by the reserve company of the Connaughts. The majority of the Battalion were, therefore, unable to obtain shelter in the ditch, and the digging of a fresh line some fifteen yards in rear was at once put in hand.

Early in the advance Moore (B Coy.) was hit in the foot and his company was taken over by Grimwade. Considering the severity of the enemy's shrapnel fire the advance was made with surprisingly few casualties, and although owing to the massing of the whole Battalion on one line of narrow frontage some intermingling of platoons on halting was inevitable, this was rapidly set to rights with little difficulty. The enemy's bombardment soon died away considerably, though for a while he maintained a steady machine-gun fire sweeping the crest of the ridge ahead of Buffs Road.

The troops leading the attack had moved forward steadily at zero hour and had pushed over the crest line in front of Buffs Road descending the further slope towards Turco Farm. The front German trench north of the Farm was reached and occupied, but before the position was properly established dense yellow clouds of poison gas issued from the enemy lines and, being gently wafted by the breeze, bore down on our defenceless troops. Under the horror of this ordeal the greater part of the line broke and a general retirement ensued which affected most severely the French and Indian Battalions, as already described. About 100 of the Connaughts and the Manchesters (Sirhind Brigade), however, managed to cling gallantly to their ground under Major Deacon, though they were shortly afterwards ejected by a strong enemy counter-attack which followed the gas cloud. They eventually succeeded in consolidating a line in the immediate vicinity of Turco Farm.

Shortly after the l/4th Londons were established on Buffs Road Lieut. -Col. Botterill became a casualty, and Major L. T. Burnett assumed command of the Battalion. It was decided by Major Burnett that the overcrowding of the Buffs Road alignment was so great and wasteful of fire power, quite half the Battalion being unable to get into position to use their rifles, that a redisposition of his forces was desirable, and accordingly C and D companies withdrew to a position in support some 300 yards in rear of Buffs Road, where they dug themselves in.

During this time the Regimental Aid Post under Lieut. Hurd, R.A.M.C, was established at Irish Farm and the Battalion stretcher-bearers under Corporal Fulford worked with great coolness in evacuating the wounded under heavy fire.

At about 4.30 p.m. orders were received that the reserve company of the Connaughts was to push forward and reinforce their two leading companies, supported by the l/4th Londons. But, after consultation with Major Burnett, Major Hamilton of the Connaughts decided that the severity of the enemy's fire was so great that there was no reasonable probability of achieving a result commensurate with the inevitable loss of life, and the orders for the projected advance were cancelled. An attempt to reinforce the advanced troops was, however, actually made at about 7.30 p.m. by the 15th Sikhs and the l/4th Gurkhas of the Sirhind Brigade, supported by the 9th Bhopals. This advance was carried out in good order, the Indians passing through the l/4th Londons and disappearing over the ridge in front under a veritable hail of fire ; but although touch was obtained with the leading companies of the Connaughts, the position of the German trenches could not be ascertained in the gathering darkness, and Lieut. -Col. Hills, who was in charge of the operation, decided to dig in on the position gained.

In conjunction with Bhopals' attempt an attack was also delivered by the Turcos of the French Brigade Moroccaine, who passed over the l/4th Londons' trench in the gathering dusk. They were met in the crest line by a frightful machine-gun fire under which they advanced steadily, suffering heavy losses. A young French officer in charge of these Africans filled all who saw him with the deepest admiration of his coolness. Smoking a cigarette and lightly swinging a small rattan cane, he stood up on the sky line with his loose blue cloak thrown negligently over his shoulders, directing the advance of his men with all the indifference to danger of which his wonderful nation is capable. None of these gallant fellows were seen again.

During the whole of the 26th very good work was done by 2/Lieut. A. D. Coates, who was employed as liaison officer between Brigade Headquarters and the advanced troops. This gallant young officer succeeded several times in passing through the enemy's barrage and was the means of providing Headquarters with valuable information as to the course of events at Turco Farm.

Meanwhile the l/4th Londons remained in readiness for action on Buffs Road, which was shelled heavily at intervals, especially at about 6 p.m., when the German shrapnel caused a great many casualties. The enemy's fire, however, died down after the evening advance by the Indians had been checked. The night was particularly quiet, and Sergt. -Major Harris at La Brique was able to get rations up to the Battalion and issue them.

The 27th April broke grey and cold and the morning was misty. During the early hours the enemy's artillery was remarkably inactive and the work of strengthening the Battalion's position was proceeded with without molestation by the Germans. The signs of battle were few indeed and it seemed almost impossible to realise the critical position of the British troops. The sense of detachment from the serious events of the preceding afternoon was enhanced by the unbroken state of the countryside in the immediate neighbourhood and the presence of several cows, which by some marvellous chance had escaped the enemy's shells and continued to graze lazily in the field in rear of the Battalion's position, as they had done during the battle on the previous afternoon.

The lull, however, was only the calm which proverbially precedes the storm, for about noon the enemy's guns opened with intense violence on the British positions and the l/4th Londons received their full share of these hostile attentions. Fortunately, however, its position behind the crest secured it from heavy loss.

During this bombardment Major Burnett was ordered to report to Brigade Headquarters, where he received orders for an attack to take place in half an hour's time. When he got back to the Battalion under ten minutes were left in which to explain the orders to his company commanders and to make all preparations. The Battalion was to execute a further advance in a north-easterly direction on to Oblong Farm, which was given as the objective. In order to reach the assembly position, it was necessary for the Battalion to move about 200 yards to the right flank in order to come up on the right of the Sirhind Brigade, who, in the early hours of the morning, had relieved the most advanced troops of the Ferozepore Brigade.

The hurried nature of the attack precluded any possibility of reconnaissance of the ground by the officers and allowed no time for the explanation of the work on hand to the rank and file. The position of the German trenches was unknown and the difficulties and obstacles which might be met with during the advance were entirely undisclosed.

The movement of the Battalion toward its position of assembly for this unpromising enterprise was carried out steadily although with considerable loss. The British and Canadian artillery, which were co-operating in giving support to the attack, were again lamentably short of ammunition, so that an intense bombardment of some five minutes left them unable to render further assistance. Thus as the Battalion in moving to its flank came near the crest of the spur behind which it had hitherto been concealed from direct observation by the enemy, it became a very clear target for the hostile artillery, and the German guns being no longer harassed by our artillery, were able to pour a devastating fire upon the companies.

The actual " jumping-off " position was the ditch on the south side of Buffs Road which, at this point, was bordered by a hedge. The Battalion advanced in two lines of two companies in open order, each company formed in three waves, and the leading companies were C (Clark) on the left and D (Saunders) on the right, followed respectively by B (Grimwade) and A (Dunean-Teape). In order to ensure that the waves in each company should move forward together, it was necessary to collect the whole of each wave in the ditch before it moved ; and this could only be effected by " feeding " the men along the ditch in single file, from the western end of the Battalion's frontage, the hedge in rear being impenetrable. The result of this slow progress was that the remainder of the Battalion waiting its turn to go into the ditch was compelled to wait on the hill, under a high explosive and shrapnel fire which was both intense and accurate. The result needs no description, but under this very trying ordeal the Battalion was perfectly steady, each platoon grouped together and waiting its order to move with the greatest nonchalance.

Before following the actual advance of the l/4th Londons it will be convenient to explain the object and scope of the operation of which it formed part.

During the morning arrangements had been made for the Lahore Division to co-operate in an attack which was projected by the French Brigade Morcccaine. The general direction of the French attack was to be along the Ypres-Langemarck Road, as on the previous day, and the Lahore Division was to take all possible advantage of the French advance to gain ground, but without committing itself to the attack before the French troops had secured its left flank. The Lahore Division's attack was to conform to the French movement but on the east side of the Langemarck Road ; the Sirhind Brigade occupying the left of the Divisional front next the French with the Ferozepore Brigade on its right.

The objective of the latter was, as already stated, Oblong Farm, a moated farmstead some 1700 yards from starting-point, the attack being led by the l/4th Londons on the left and the 9th Bhopals on the right. The Connaughts followed in support at a distance of 400 yards, while the 57th Rifles and the 129th Baluchis, both of which regiments had been seriously weakened in the action of the 26th, were in reserve.

At 12.30 p.m. the leading waves of the two assaulting battalions moved forward under a continued heavy shell and machine-gun fire. The ground over which the advance was to be made was for the first 700 yards an unenclosed plateau which afforded the enemy good observation of our movements, and then sloping gently downwards to a somewhat more enclosed depression rose beyond it once more towards the objective. The objective itself was not visible from starting-point, and it appears probable that in consequence of the very hurried preparations for the attack, its position was not fully appreciated by all concerned and thus it was not recognised. However this may be, it is certain that the general direction of the attack after crossing Admirals Road became diverted too much towards the north and thus some encroachment was made on the frontage for which the Sirhind Brigade was responsible. This was probably accentuated by the fact that the position selected as starting-point lay at an acute angle to the direction of advance, so that a change of direction was necessary during the advance itself — always an operation of great difficulty.

As far as Admirals Road cover was non-existent. On topping the crest of the hill the Battalion came under an exceedingly severe rifle and machine-gun lire, and losses were consequently heavy. The succeeding waves, however, pushed on steadily as far as the near edge of the depression described above, in the vicinity of Hampshire Farm, when it became clearly impossible to get down the forward slope of the valley under the raking fire of the enemy, without incurring frightful losses. Half the leading companies were already hit, as were also Saunders, fatally wounded, Grimwade, Stedman, Leonard, and Coates. It was, therefore, decided by Major Burnett to hold the line gained and there to reorganise the Battalion pending the arrival of reinforcements, when it might be possible to carry the line forward.

A small part of C Company under Clark and of B Company under Giles, however, were successful in gaining the bottom of the valley, but finding himself isolated and further advance impossible without support, Clark, who assumed command of the composite party, took up a position to the right of Canadian Farm, where the men dug themselves in with their entrenching tools and hung on gallantly under a murderous fire. Splendid service was rendered by two N.C.O.'s of this party. Sergeant A. C. Ehren and Lanee-Corporal C. Badham, both of B Company, who passed through the barrage three times unscathed with messages between Captain Clark and Battalion Headquarters.

Excellent work was also done by the Machine-Gun Section under 2/Lieuts. Walker and Pyper, who skilfully brought their guns into action on the left of Hampshire Farm and assisted in no small measure to keep down the hostile rifle fire from the enemy trenches on the further side of the valley. Their position, however, was shortly afterwards discovered, evidently by a Taube, which continued its reconnaissance over our lines without let or hindrance, and the section came under heavy shell fire and was forced to fall back on the main position, with Walker dangerously wounded, Sergt. Phillips killed, and several other casualties.

At about 2.30 p.m. the enemy's artillery fire abated considerably, but by that time the advance of the whole Division had been definitely checked on an alignment generally corresponding with that occupied by the l/4th Londons, and reports were received that the French also had failed to gain their objectives.

Later in the evening the French attempted to renew their offensive, but once more were met with clouds of poison gas which definitely broke up their attack, and a report having been received from Col. Savy, the French Commander, that his losses were so heavy as to preclude all further attempts, orders were received that the Brigade would consolidate its position.

During the evening before dusk the Ferozepore Brigade was again subjected to violent shelling, which inflicted considerable loss on all battalions. During this later bombardment Lieut. Coffin was buried by a high explosive shell.

After darkness fell the l/4th Londons were withdrawn from their advanced line to Brigade Reserve in rear of Cross Roads Farm where they set about digging fresh trenches. The Connaughts and the Bhopals withdrew to the line of Admirals Road near Cross Roads Farm, in which Brigade Headquarters were now established, while the Rifles and Baluchis took up a position to the rear.

The night passed without incident and with very little shelling, and the opportunity was taken to collect the wounded whom it had been impossible to evacuate under the heavy fire of the afternoon. 2/Lieut. E. Giles, who from many volunteers was selected for this work, set a splendid example of devotion to duty and worked hard throughout the night in endeavouring to relieve the sufferings of his men.

The day's losses had been heavy and the gain of ground nil, but the bearing of the Battalion under somewhat disheartening circumstances had been worthy of the highest traditions of regular troops. Something, however, had been achieved as, in spite of his use of poison gas, the enemy was no nearer Ypres and our line, though strained almost to breaking point, was still holding. It appears indeed that the gallant front shown by the Lahore Division was successful in deceiving the Germans as to the extent of our resources, and deterred him from pressing the advantages he had already gained.

The casualties of the afternoon of the 27th April were in officers :

Capt. O. R. Saunders and 2/Lieut. A. D. Coates, killed ; Lieut. P. B. K. Stedman, died of wounds ; Capt. F. G. Grimwade, Lieuts. F. A. Coffin and D. J. Leonard, and 2/Lieut. T. I. Walker, wounded ; and in N.C.O.'s and men, 32 killed (including C. S. M. Chennels), 132 wounded, and 13 missing.

During the 28th the l/4th Londons remained in position in rear of Cross Roads Farm, and beyond a good deal of shelling in which gas shell was freely used by the enemy the day passed without important incident. Luckily the bombardment this day was not very costly to the Battalion or, indeed, to the Brigade as a whole. The Lahore Division was transferred from V Corps to a special counter-attack force then formed under command of Gen. Plumer, and it was arranged that the Sirhind and Ferozepore Brigades should be prepared to co-operate with an attack contemplated by the French who were still on our left flank, making such advance as might be justified by the results achieved by our Allies. The French attack, however, did not materialise in consequence of the very heavy losses of the preceding two days and our Allies confined themselves to artillery action.

During the evening the enemy turned a large number of guns on to St Jean and in a few hours the work of destruction, already far advanced, was almost completed. In the darkness the church was clearly visible in flames, the windows being lit up by the conflagration within : before morning the tower had fallen, the roof had collapsed, and nothing but smouldering ruins remained.

The 29th April found the Ferozepore Brigade still holding its trenches and orders were again issued to it to be prepared to co-operate with the French. But during the morning definite orders were received that the French attack was postponed, the assault of the enemy positions being a more formidable proposition than could be tackled by the Allied troops in their then exhausted and numerically weak condition.

The German bombardment continued throughout the 29th, and the Battalion remained inactive beyond the further strengthening of its trenches. It did, however, have the satisfaction of seeing a Taube brought down close to its lines by our anti-aircraft guns.

Before daybreak on the 30th, the Ferozepore Brigade was relieved and marched out of the salient, the l/4th Londons proceeding by way of Buffs Road and La Brique to hutments at Ouderdom. While passing through La Brique the Battalion was met by a reinforcement of about fifty N.C.O.'s and men from the 3/4th Battalion in England, conducted by Major E. H. Stillwell. Accompanying this draft were 2/Lieuts. L. G. Rix and B. Rivers Smith.

The roads out of the salient were being very heavily shelled during the relief, the cross roads at Vlamertinghe being in particular accurately bombarded with heavy shrapnel. But Major Burnett was able to save a great many casualties by varying the route of some platoons.

At about 7.30 a.m. on the same morning the Ferozepore Brigade moved from the hutments to bivouacs close by to avoid the effects of the continuous shelling to which the concentration camp was subjected, but returned to the huts at night. The day was spent in rest and re-organisation. The Battalion was undoubtedly a little shaken after its rough handling and very seriously reduced in strength. Over 600 rifles had left Ouderdom on the morning of the 26th, but at the roll call which took place on return on the 30th only 235 names were answered, apart from the newly arrived draft which had not been in action.

The following awards were made for services rendered :

Capt. W. G. Clark, D.S.O. ; Sergt. A. C. Ehren, D.C.M. ; L/Corp]. Colomb, D.C.M. ; Corpl. Fulford, Mddaille Militaire de France.

In this, its first serious action, the l/4th Battalion had firmly established its reputation by its remarkable steadiness under unprecedented circumstances, and, though the price paid was heavy, it had the satisfaction of having contributed materially to the undying glory of the British defence of Ypres.

At 7.45 p.m. on the 1st May, the concentration of the Division being now complete, the Ferozepore Brigade marched from Ouderdom via Reninghelst, Westoutre, to Meteren, arriving there at 12.30 a.m. on the 2nd. A rest was made here until the afternoon when the route was resumed, Doulieu being reached about 10 p.m. The march was completed the following evening, when at about 7 p.m. the Brigade returned to its former billets in the Paradis area.