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Narrative of Lieut-Col. H.A. Colt, DSO, MC
(12th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment)

20th November 1915-26th September 1918

12th Battalion Officers on going to France, 21st November 1915

Col. M. Archer-shee, DSO, MP
Major W.A.R. Blennerhassett
Capt. J.K. Likeman (Adjutant)
Quartermaster Lieut. Lane
Machine Gun Officer, 2nd Lieut. Shewell
Medical Officer, Lieut. Jones (RAMC)
RSM Healy

"A" Coy.
O.C. Capt. H.A. Colt
2 i/c Capt. Fowler
Lieuts. W.W. Parr, Gurney, J.H. Allen, Hosegood
Sergt-Major Townsend

"B" Coy.
O.C. Major C.B. Lee Warner
2 i/c Capt. Robinson
Lieuts. Gedye, Fitzmaurice, R.J. Fitzgerald, G.R.A. Beckett
Sergt-Major Rimmel

"C" Coy.
O.C. Major F. Wilson Fox
2 i/c Capt. E.B. Burris
Lieuts. Ryder, Lloyd, Barrington, T.A. Wilmot
Sergt-Major Healy

"D" Coy.
O.C. Capt. T.A. Allison
2 i/c Capt. H.E.V. Sants
Lieuts. Cooper, Lambert, Webb, Taylor
Sergt-Major Wilkins

On the morning of the 20th November 1915 the transport under Major W.A.R. Blennnerhassett, moved off; their route lay through Southampton and Havre. Captain Clifford left the Battalion to act as Second in Command to the 16th Warwicks. At midnight that night we fell in, each man carrying one or more blankets, and marched from our camp at Codford to Wylie Station where we entrained to the dismal tune of "Keep the home fires burning." No time previously had the writer been fond of this piece of music, since that time he has positively loathed it.

It was a bright moonlight night but cold. So we started on the "great adventure" for which we had been so carefully trained. Some of us were never to return, others to come home wounded while a few were destined to remain out till the Battalion was disbanded. Very few of us had any correct notion as to what exactly things would be like at the Front. We had several things in our favour, to wit: our men were volunteers and of splendid physique and moral, we had been in training for 13 months and during that time had come out top of the Division in shooting on the range; we knew that we could rely on each other to the death and last but not least we knew that those at home would be looked after by the Comforts Committee.

The time in the train passed by and at about 11.00am we arrived at Folkestone Harbour. Here we embarked and had our first struggle with the life-belt. That afternoon we disembarked at Boulogne and to the strains of "Le Sambre et La Meuse" somewhat indifferently performed by the Band, marched to the Rest Camp on the top of the hill. The night of the 21st was spent in tents and very cold it was. Some of the Officers went into the town to dine. It is related that one or two officers were so pleased with the cuisine that they went through the Table D'Hote a second time. Next afternoon we went for a short route march. That night - or rather early next morning, 22nd - we entrained at Boulogne. About 7.00 am we detrained and for the first time experienced the pleasure that we were so often to have again of marching back alongside the railway line for two or three miles. This was not, however, the end of our journey as we had another five or six miles before we arrived at our destination. It was abominable going, as it had been freezing, while snow was piled up by the side of the road.

About 11.00 am we reached Buisny L'Abbe - a small village not far from Abbeville. Here we spent a quiet and uneventful time. Lack of familiarity with local conditions was responsible for the breaking of the village pump. Buisny L'Abbe was about as miserable a village as any we were billeted in. On Sunday the 28th November 1915 we marched to Etoile and the next day to Bertangles. It was very cold at this time and no one wanted to sit long in the field on which we had our dinners on our way. We stopped at Bertangles a couple of days.

On 1st December we marched to La Roussoie and next day to Sailly Lorette. The latter place was very crowded as some Warwicks were there too. The next day "A" and "B" Companies marched to Suzanne. "C" and "D" Companies remaining at Sailly Lorette. On our way we had to cross the crest of a hill in artillery formation - as it was in the view of the Bosche. Here we were very crowded, as we were an addition to the normal garrison and there were quite a lot of civilians in the village.

The following day the Officers and CSM's went into the trenches in front of Marricourt - "A" Company to the 1st East Surreys and "B" Coy. to the Inniskilling Fusiliers. The following day the Companies went in for instruction, remaining there some three days.

Now Marricourt was a salient. The trenches here were the worst we ever encountered in the way of mud. Just before we came out there had been a week or two of hard frost. Then had come a thaw, and the trenches began to fall in. On top of this came the rain - the result was thick, sticky mud of real Somme clay, which meant that to go into the trenches one had to plough through two and half miles of a gluey composition that reached well over the knees. Nor would any description of Maricourt be complete that did not mention the rats. These beastly rodents simply swarmed; in a very short time all the packs and haversacks had hole bitten into them.

"A" and "B" Coys. came out to rest in Suzanne, while "C" and "D" Coys. went into the trenches. These last two companies had some casualties, by a shelter collapsing etc. When they in turn came out of the line, the Battalion was adjudged fit for Active Service. At this time we severed all connection with the 32nd Division and became part of the 5th Division. The 12th Gloucesters only remained in the Brigade. The 1st East Surreys, the 1st DCLI and the 1st Devons becoming with our Battalion the new 95th Brigade.

Nothing of much importance occured during our stay in this sector. We did two days in the line, two days out at Suzanne, two days in the line, etc. As daylight reliefs were impossible, we did not a great deal of rest this way. In fact life seemed to consist of picking up gum boots wet with mud (both outside and inside) from a roadside dump and handing them in for the use of the incoming unit.

A certain amount of sniping went on but without much success on either side. The first man killed in "A" Coy. - Denning by name - was shot through the head; but it was at night and I think a fluke on the part of the Bosche. We also tried to worry the Bosche with a Bomb-Thrower - this, however, usually led to immediate retaliation. In one of these efforts, for example, Bosche dismounted the Bomb-Thrower and killed, amongst others, a man called James, also of "B" Company. It was very noticeable the first men killed had each one brother serving in the Company. The Bosche attempted two or three small bombing raids on us while we were in this sector. He had no success with us, however, though he did kill one man and capture another of one of the other Regiments in our Brigade. One of these raids was attempted in the place where our trench ran back (between No.12 & 13 trenches); here we had a post in the open by a bush.

Xmas Day was spent in the trenches; a change for the men of the Battalion, most of us had never been spent Xmas away from their homes. It was a quiet day, though one man was somewhat mysteriously wounded in the evening, presumably by a Bosche patrol.

The trenches occupied by us fell into three groups: 1. Nos. 10 & 12 trenches. 2. Nos. 14 & 15 trenches. 3. Nos. 16, 17, & 18 trenches.

No.10 trench ran down to an arm of the River. In rear was an old water-mill (beyond it was a rather nasty detached post). This was used as a Company Headquarters and also as a Pigeon Station.
No.13 trench was the only trench free from mud, it was on a bit of a hill. In the dead ground in rear, the Company Cooks performed (and got shelled if they made too much smoke).
No.15 resembled a hand with outstreched fingers - it was really a glorified "sap".
Nos. 16, 17, and 18 were not remarkable for anything much, bar that the last named touched the Maricourt-Peronne road.
Battalion HQ were in a dip about a mile in rear.