Capture of Stuff Redoubt 27th September – 10th October 1916.
On 27th September 1916 two battalions in particular were involved in the capture of the southern face of Stuff Redoubt, the 6th battalion Yorkshire regiment (The Green Howards) and 9th battalion West Yorkshire
Regiment. At 10:45am the West Yorkshires were ordered to move up in support of the 34th Brigade and occupy the trenches around the recently captured Mouquet Farm, at 11:30 the Green Howards were also ordered to move up in support, on the left of the West Yorkshires. By 2pm the lead battalions of the West York’s had reached a small quarry 300 yards Southwest of Mouquet Farm At 2.30 orders were received that zero hour was 3pm and they were to attack the line Point 99 to Point 97, Hessian Trench, to their right of Point 99 they would be in touch with the Canadians, and on the left the Green Howards who would attack from point 97 along Stuff Redoubt. The barrage would commence at 3pm and would lift beyond the objective at 3:08, assembly positions was the line of Zollern Trench. By 2:55pm the attacking formation of B & C coy. of the Green Howards were in position in Zollern Trench, five minutes later at 3pm they received a message that the attack was postponed by 1 hour. Unfortunately, this message did not reach the West York’s who commenced their attack from High Trench, the battalion came under heavy M.G Fire, a great mass of barbed wire around Zollern Redoubt misled the West York’s, they lost direction and instead of reaching Hessian trench they arrived and captured the southern face of Stuff redoubt at around point 55 at 3:15.
At 4pm the Green Howards advanced, they attacked and captured points 91 to 45 and arrived at Stuff redoubt to find the West York’s holding it. Blocks were established between 55 and 87, and 45 and 18. As both battalions were now mixed the senior officer Captain Archibald Cecil Thomas White took command. Over the next four days Captain White and this composite battalion of West York’s and Green Howards defended the southern Face as well as try and capture the southern face.
At dawn on the 28th they tried to capture point 38 to 87 but this failed. The trench line point 97 to 99 was still in German hands, at 6pm the 8th West Riding regiment were ordered to attack, the composite battalion in Stuff Redoubt were ordered to co-operate with this attack to capture Hessian Trench by advancing along the trench line and capture points 87 and 97. The West Riding regiment failed to reach their assembly position in time and the attack was postponed, the garrison in Stuff redoubt did not receive this notification and attacked at 6pm, they did capture the two points but short of bombs and no support to the right they had to fall back to their original positions. On the 29th orders were again received to attack the northern face; this assault was carried out and positions captured but could not be held owing to a shortage of ammunition and bombs. At 12 noon the 6th York’s and Lancashire Regiment were ordered to attack and consolidate Hessian Trench to a point on the right of Stuff Redoubt and again at the same time the composite battalion in the redoubt were to attack and hold points 87 and 97. This attack was partially successful, Hessian trench was taken but owing still to a lack of ammunition and bombs points 87 and 97 had to be given up, touch was lost between the composite battalion in the redoubt and the York’s and Lancs in Hessian trench. At 4pm the following day the 30th, another attack was attempted by the garrison in the redoubt and the York’s and Lancs in Hessian, this attack was successful and the whole line was joined up and consolidated. On the evening of the 30th the composite battalion in the redoubt was relieved by the 10th battalion Cheshire Regiment.
The Green Howards casualties during the four days were 15 officers and 381 other ranks, for the West York’s of the four companies that had attacked and occupied the redoubt on the 27th, only 1 officer and 24 other ranks answered roll call on the morning of 1st October.
For his leadership of the composite battalion in the redoubt Captain Archibald White was awarded the Victoria Cross.
His citation states: For four days and nights by skilful disposition he held the position under heavy fire of all kinds and against several counterattacks. Although short of supplies and ammunition, his determination never wavered and when the enemy attacked in greatly superior numbers and almost ejected our troops from the redoubt, he personally led a counterattack which finally cleared the enemy out of the southern and western faces.
During the morning of 30 September two officers per company, the signalling and bombing officers of the 10th Cheshire’s formed an advanced party, with the objective of seeing as much of the line as possible. At 5:30pm B and D Company proceeded up to the line and relieved the composite battalion, B company held the line west of point 45 where there was a block through 55, 87 and 97. D company held point 45 to 91. A and C companies were near to the battalion HQ. Supporting the Cheshire’s, the 1st battalion Wiltshire Regiment took up positions in Joseph Trench, Danube Trench and Constance Trench.
At 5pm 1 October orders were issued to the Cheshire’s to make an attack on the north face of the redoubt, this was to be carried out the next day, D coy. moved up manning points 45 round to point 97. During the morning of the 2nd detailed orders were issued and preparations were made for the attack, zero hour was fixed for 3:30pm, however the weather was bad, with heavy rain and poor visibility, at 3:20pm the Cheshire’s received a message to say the attack was postponed. For the following seven days the Cheshire’s moved in and out of the line waiting for the weather to improve, on the 6th the plan for the attack was flagged out in the valley south of Mouquet farm and the afternoon was spent practising. During the afternoon of the 7 the weather had cleared slightly, zero hour was fixed for 12:50pm on the 8th but again the weather closed in and the attack cancelled, the Cheshire’s were pulled back from the front, during the night of the 8 orders were verbally issued that the attack was to take place on the 9th.
9th October 1916 the battalion moved back into the line and were in position by 10am, a hot meal was issued to the men at 11am. The battalion HQ was established 50 yards south of point 45, zero hour fixed for 12:35pm. During the morning heavy artillery bombarded the German communication trenches near to point 18, at 12:35 field artillery opened an intense barrage in front of points 18 to 80. B Coy. formed up in No Man’s land and advanced immediately, in three waves. A few Germans started to fire, but the advance was rapid, and the Cheshire’s were in the trench between 18 and 58 before they could man it in strength and fortunately before they could bring a machine gun into action which was captured undamaged. A bombing party advancing down Stump Road from point 97 to 80 also met little resistance. By 1pm the Cheshire’s had advanced over the first objective and reached a point 150 yards north from point 18 where they made double blocks. At point 80 where the German HQ dugouts had been, the bombing party had advanced 100 yards further down Stump Road and a block was formed. Unfortunately, here all communications with the artillery were cut and the block came under fire from their own artillery, twice the block was destroyed and twice rebuilt, eventually it had to be evacuated and a barricade was made at point 80. On the left at the blocks along the communication lines 150 yards north of point 18 and 38 the Germans counterattacked, and a stiff bombing fight ensued, for a while the Cheshire’s held their own but after suffering numerous casualties they had to give ground to 100 yards in front of point 18 and 70 yards in front of point 38. During all this period the Germans were shelling the southern side of the redoubt and Hessian trench making it difficult to get supplies of ammunition and bombs up to the front. At 4:30pm German artillery began to put a severe barrage on point 80, at 5pm they counterattacked up Stump Road, but this attack was repulsed. At 6pm they tried again but were stopped by British artillery fire, by 7pm the situation became quieter except for intermittent shelling on point 80.
The following day, the 10th Cheshire’s were relieved by the 8th battalion Loyal North Lancashire regiment. The redoubt was held.
The 10th battalion casualties for the 9th were 8 officers wounded, with 24 other ranks killed, 87 wounded and 26 missing.
The 10th Cheshires would make one final visit to the redoubt before leaving the Somme area, on the 18th they were along the line of Hessian Trench and then on 21st October they garrisoned the redoubt as attacks were made to capture Regina Trench.