October 12, 1916 – GUEUDECOURT
^^^ The Caribou at Guedecourt - you'll notice the remnants of the105 year old Hilt Trench has been preserved and can be seen at the foot of the Memorial
After the tragic events of July 1st, 1916 at Beaumont Hamel, the remnants of the Newfoundland Regiment were sent to “a quieter front” near Ypres, Belgium, for a period of re-building.
They arrived at Poperinge by train on July 30th and went into the brigade reserve on the East side of the town. Here, they were stationed on both sides of the moat surrounding the town just outside Menin Gate.
Here, they worked on the re-building of fortifications and conducted night raids.
By October (just 3 months later) they had received sufficient new drafts from Newfoundland to be brought back up to a strength of about 800. Governor Davidson informed General Haig that “The losses in the Field have stimulated recruiting.” This was such a significant fact that Mr. Bonar Law, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies stated that “a larger number of men in proportion to its population had enlisted in Newfoundland than from any other part of the Empire.”
These new recruits were described by the Governor as “exceptionally high in physique, character and aptitude for war.”
And, whereas all men had previously signed on for not more than one year, this time they were committed “for the duration of the war.”
On October 8th, they were immediately sent back to France.
They took the train from Poperinge and settled into “the Line” near Gueudecourt, the next day. (Note that The Battle of the Somme was still in progress after almost four months of fighting)
On October 12th, 1916, they made a phenomenally successful attack at Gueudecourt, routing the enemy and capturing The German Hilt trench.
At 2AM, they fixed bayonets and went over the top with A and B Companies in the lead, followed by D and C Companies.
Capt Donnelly, who had earned a Military Cross at Caribou Hill in Gallipoli, was killed just as he reached the enemy trenches.
Hand-to-hand fighting followed, and in less than 30 minutes. Hilt Trench was “owned” by the Newfoundlanders.
The attacks continued for the next three weeks until the Regiment successfully occupied Grease Trench – one of the original major objectives. (The Caribou Memorial is located here.)
Despite their significant losses, many considered this an appropriate pay-back for the losses at Beaumont Hamel.
Throughout the remainder of 1916, The Newfoundlanders manned the Front Lines at Le Boeufs and Le Transloy.
They also “celebrated” their second Christmas away from home.
In February 1917, they took over the front lines at Sailly-Saillisel, which they called “Silly-Sally.” Here the Germans mounted a ferocious attack but, so proficient had the Newfoundlanders become by now that they not only fended off the attack, but they also captured some enemy trenches as well.
Padre Nangle wrote “Silly, Silly, Sal. …they got into our trench… and our boys not only drove them back they captured sixty yards of the enemy trench.”
By mid-March, they were entitled to some well-deserved rest and recuperation, including some Leave for those who had served a minimum of six months at the Front.
Most of these went to London and their exploits there are legendary. Some went to Poperinge and settled into Talbot House (TOC H) which will be featured in a future blog.
By mid-March of 1917, the Newfoundlanders began their march to the outskirts of Arras which was to give its name to the Battles that followed.
More specifically, they would suffer many casualties, and gain much glory, as they attacked at Monchy le Preux...
OMM. CD. BA. LTh. BD. DD.
Archdeacon Gerald Peddle was ordained a Priest of the Anglican Church of Canada in 1969. Now retired from active ministry, he has served parishes in Newfoundland and Labrador, Québec, Ontario and the Arctic. He has also served as a Chaplain to the Canadian Armed Forces. His final appointment, in the rank of Brigadier General, was as the Chaplain General at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. For the next six years, he provided specialist ministry to both National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada. In total, he has served more than 51 years in active ministry.
Gerry currently serves as the Chairman of the Board for Beechwood, Canada's National Military Cemetery in Ottawa. He has also served as an International Guide, specializing in Battlefield Tours for several years.
The Caribou Tour to Gallipoli