In January, 1917 the Newfoundland Regiment found itself again in the trenches running astride the road to Le Transloy. The Newfoundlanders were in support of the 87th Brigade; the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the Border Regiment were to stage a surprise attack. C Company was tasked to bring forward supplies forward to help consolidate the captured positions and to provide stretcher bearers for the wounded.
At 5:30 AM on the 27th of January the Allied artillery opened fire signaling the commencement of the battle. The Newfoundland Regiment joined the foray by concentrating their trench mortars on the enemy positions. Company Sergeant Major Cyril Gardner earned a bar to his previously won DCM at Gueudecourt by single handedly capturing 72 German prisoners. The prisoners would have been killed enroute through British lines except for the intervention of Gardner. In gratitude and possibly impressed by Gardner’s cool daring, a captured German officer pinned his Iron Cross on Gardner. As well, Lt. Bert Holloway, the Intelligence Officer, was Mentioned in Dispatches for going forward and contacting the Borderers’ left flank, followed by prowling around about a mile in the German’s rear, bringing home six prisoners.
(Extracted from Pilgrimage, with the kind persmission of David Parsons. Note: ‘bombs’ and ‘bombing’ refer to Mills bombs, known now as grenades.)
The Newfoundlanders bivouacked at Coisy from Feb. 6 to Feb. 17, 1917. As a change from road repairs and fatigues, they were cutting wood at Allonville and Heilly. On Feb. 17, a twenty four mile march was made in the rain along muddy paths called roads, to Sailly-Saillisel – “Silly Sally” as it was known to the troops. On the way they passed the familiar places of Meaulte, Carnoy, to Bourleux Wood (between Guillemont and Combles). On Feb. 23, they relieved the Lancaster Fusiliers in the front line north of Sailly-Saillisel. This three day stint was accompanied by heavy enemy shelling and gas. By the time they withdrew to Hardecourt on Feb.25, there had been four fatal casualties, nine wounded and three gassed.
The Regiment moved up on Feb. 27 as reserve to the 86th Brigade for an attack on the trenches in front of Sailly-Saillisel.
The attack gained their first objective Potsdam Trench but not the final objective of Palz Trench. Counter attacks resulted in a partial withdrawal but they managed to hold onto a 250 yard stretch of Palz Trench. This was held by the Royal Fusiliers, Dublin Fusiliers, and Lancaster Fusiliers, and was sealed at either end by well defended blocks.
After midnight, March 1, the Newfoundlanders entered Cane Alley to Cheese Trench relieving the Lancaster Fusiliers. B Company went to a blocked off section of Palz Trench, with A and D Companies in Potsdam Trench. A Company took over the old firing line. March 2 was relatively quiet and the troops were able to improve the defences of the trench. At daybreak, March 3, the Germans began shelling the trenches. Then came a determined effort to break through the blocks at either end of the section of Palz Trench held by the Newfoundlanders. This was held off by bombing and machine gun fire. Shortly after, on the right flank, the Germans advanced across No Mans Land in large numbers. Skirmishers came towards the communication trench between Potsdam and Palz trenches. A steady stream of bombs and machine gun fire held them at bay until an artillery barrage was called down on the attackers, isolating them and preventing reinforcements from coming up to join them.
The troops began to consolidate the trenches and pushed the Germans back establishing a block forty yards further down the trench. All the enemy were driven out of the trenches they had occupied during the attack.
Late on March 3 the Regiment was relieved by the Lancaster Fusiliers. This had been two days of bitter fighting but the Newfoundlanders had more than held their own against heavy and sustained enemy attacks. On March 5, they withdrew to Divisional Reserve at Meaulte for a two-week period of rest, recuperation, and training. At this time, the Regimental Band came from the Ayr Depot to entertain the 1st Battalion. The presence of the band enlivened the concert on St. Patrick’s Day. On March 19, the Regiment returned to their old billets at Camps-en-Amienois for training for the next offensive.
The losses to the Regiment from Feb. 26 to March 3 were heavy; forty-four wounded and twenty-seven fatal casualties, including three officers.
|Military Cross||Lt. G. Byrne|
|Distinguished Conduct Medal||LCpl. M. Picco|
|Military Medal||Pte J. Lewis|