The Story of a Great Grandfather’s Military Career – Part 3

If you’re looking for Part 1 of this story, go here. If you’re looking for Part 2 of this story, go here.

We left Stanley in Part 2 as he was yet again in the thick of the action, this is what happened next…

3. The bulk of our men were held up approximately on a line 150 yards East of COUNTY CROSS ROADS, but a party of 1 Officer & 6 men, the remains of a platoon, pushed on as far as V.26.b.40 15. Another small party under a sergeant got into the enclosure about OXFORD HOUSES and fortified a shell hole at V.26.b.25.40. Another party under a sergeant dug in at about V.26.b.b.05.50. No advance appeared to be made on our left at all and so “C” Company found a defensive flank facing North with three posts and one Lewis Gun post.

4. The Machine Gun in the Cemetery was silenced almost at once by the 6th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment and a number of Germans retiring North East of the Cemetery came under Lewis Gun and rifle fire and suffered casualties.  There was a lot of movement during the day between the MEBUS at V.26.b.60.35 and the enemy post at V.26.b.60.25. This was always fired at and numerous casualties were caused, as was proved by the large number of stretcher parties about that point on the 10th inst. A lot of movement around OXFORD HOUSES was kept under fire.

The two Machine Guns in the breastwork about V.26.b.33. 45 were dealt with by rifle grenades and during the morning some of the enemy doubled round to the back of OXFORD HOUSES with the guns and returned later with a light Machine Gun.

The Machine Gun at V.26.b.97 60 was also dealt with by rifle grenades and unfortunately no Number 23 grenades were available on the spot and Number 20s had rather too long a range to fire accurately at that short distance.

5. What actually happened during the 5 p.m. attack will no doubt be dealt with by O.C. 1/8th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. I have seen none of the officers and men who took part in it but my own men report that the Worcesters went through our line well up to the barrage, which came down just in front of our main line but was right on top of the advanced posts mentioned in para 3 – these fortunately sustained no casualties, though several blind shells landed very near them. The party in OXFORD HOUSES enclosure report that they were 50 yards in front of the barrage. It was this barrage which made the Officer and N.C.Os Commanding Companies in the line decide to retire and consolidate after dark 100 yards in rear of their present positions. This was carried out and it was that rearline that was handed over to the Camerons.

6. Very few messages were received back from the line after the attack, owing chiefly to the fact that most of the Officers became casualties and also that the heavy and accurate sniping made movement very difficult.

This also greatly hindered the collection of casualties, the Germans sniped a great deal at our stretcher bearers on the 9th inst. On the 10th, however, they were left alone probably because large enemy stretcher parties were out collecting their wounded under the Red Cross Flag.

7. The chief lessons learnt with regard to the barrage; 4 minutes before the first lift was not sufficient; with the ground in its present condition, 10 or even 15 minutes would not be too much to allow the infantry to get well up to it.

The 100 yards lift was too much; after it had “jumped” away from the infantry for the first time it was never caught up again. It also failed to deal effectively with enemy snipers and machine gunners who were situated between the first and second lifts; if it is practicable the 50 yards lift is much better.

In my opinion, the reason why we failed to take our objectives were:-

(a) The exhaustion of the men, most of whom had been tramping over the heavy ground for the greater part of the night.
(b) The sodden condition of the ground.
(c) That the barrage was lost after the first lift and never again caught up.

 A.L.W. NEWTH, Major. Commanding 1/4th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment.

48th Division was then moved into reserve near Arras and on 8th November 48th Division was ordered for the Italian Front, leaving by train on 24th November and arriving in Italy shortly afterwards.  Between 24th December 1917 and 22nd January 1918 1/4th Gloucesters were training at Bressanvido, and on 10th January Battalion Orders recorded 22582 Private Stanley Drinkwater, “C” Company, as being awarded Class II Proficiency Pay at 3d a day, backdated to 28th June 1917.

They arrived at the front line on 28th February 1918, taking up position in the Montello sector before moving to the Asiago Plateau sector in March. 1/4th Battalion reached Granezza in the southern Alpine foothills on 21st April and remained mostly in reserve during the Austrian summer offensive. The Battalion was much more involved in allied offensive operations that autumn with a very successful raid on 23rd/24th October, taking 229 prisoners.  The Battalion War Diary recorded:-

REPORT ON RAID CARRIED OUT BY THE 1/4TH BATTALION GLOUCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT ON AVE, NIGHT OF 23RD/24TH OCTOBER 1918. – NARRATIVE.

Assembly was carried out without a hitch and the head of the Battalion passed the gap on the SAN SISTO at the time laid down. The taped line was followed without difficulty. Crossing the picquet line white armbands were removed and 50 yards were covered on hands on knees. Forming up was complete at Z minus 1 ¼ hours. Covering party of Oxfords and Bucks L.I. withdrew at Z minus 1 hour and were replaced by our own men who were recalled at Z minus 15 minutes. At Z minus 20 minutes enemy put down a barrage considerably on our right and a few shells fell in the vicinity of front line behind us.  At zero the whole Battalion moved forward over the crest and reached the enemy wire before the barrage lifted. At zero plus 4 minutes barrage lifted from enemy front line and Battalion entered. Several prisoners were captured in front of the wire just E of the AVE road. Battalion Headquarters proceeded direct to RED REDOUBT which was unoccupied. Within two minutes Signal communication was established with advanced Brigade Report Centre.

The scheme of the raid comprised three separate Company operations which were exactly carried out.

“C” Company. LEFT – Met with M.G. fire and resistance from enemy front trench opposite AVE. This was soon overcome and a machine gun captured. Wire here new but not very thick. Coy. then attacked its further objectives.  A few of the enemy were captured in the front line towards  SILVEONAR  and 20 men running away towards T. GHELPAC were machine gunned. Majority of prisoners obtained in MAXIM dugouts, 7 of which were set on fire. These are connected by tunnels and have each two entrances. Two machine guns were also captured here. Total captures of this Company were 3 M.Gs and about 50 prisoners.

“B” Company. CENTRE – Captured several enemy in shell holes in front of wire – found wire poor – passed straight to objectives. Quarry is apparently a H.Q. of some kind. A large red signal lamp was burning and there is considerable accommodation. 20 prisoners captured here. REDOUBT has many dugouts and had a large garrison who showed fight until outflanked from the rear. 30-40 prisoners taken here. V shaped trench was empty. Total captures:- 60 prisoners, 3 M.Gs.

“A” Company. RIGHT – Went straight to their objectives and cleared the LOWE dugouts right up to those at the S.M. MADDALENA X roads. About 100 prisoners and 2 M.Gs were obtained from there.

“D” Company. 2 platoons attacked and occupied front line from AVE to LONE TREE HOUSE, the remainder provided a flank guard and a Battalion reserve. This Company captured 15 prisoners and 2 M.Gs.

Battalion Headquarters remained throughout the raid at REED REDOUBT. Runner communication was maintained with Companies and Signal communication with Brigade through the whole period in the enemy line.

Withdrawal was effected at Zero plus 50 minutes, area then being reported entirely clear of enemy. Companies returned directly across GUARDINALTI ridge and met with no casualties while doing so. All troops except Battalion Headquarters had re-entered our picquet line at Zero plus 70 minutes. Battalion Headquarters returned at Zero plus 2 ½ hours, having sheltered in a gunpit on AVE SPUR. Enemy barrage did not come down on his front line till after our departure. On Picquet Line and front line it was fairly heavy. It increased on Picquet Line after our guns ceased firing and continued till Zero plus 2 ¼ hours.

The valley in front of SILVER posts received special attention, also the W end of GUARDINALTI ridge and the village itself.

Total casualties:- 1 killed, 3 wounded (remained at duty), 1 Jugo-Slav killed.

Fierce fighting for the possession of the village of Bosco led to initial success for 1/4th Battalion on 1st November before they were driven out by an Austrian counter-attack. However, successful attacks by the remainder of 48th Division mean that 144th Brigade with 1/4th Gloucesters was soon able to advance again until hostilities with Austria-Hungary ceased on 4th November 1918. Battalion Orders of 20th November 1918 show Stanley Drinkwater, still a Private, but by now with “A” Company, as having rejoined the battalion after 14 days leave in England on 3rd November, meaning that he missed out on 1/4th Gloucesters’ last battle. The battalion was then stationed in Cornedo where it was gradually reduced in strength, with the last men finally arriving in England on 31st March 1919.

Stanley Drinkwater seems to have returned to England and re-enlisted as a Regular, leaving for India with 2nd Gloucesters later in 1919. In 1920 his service number was changed to 5172511. He was entitled to the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

I started this journey looking for a little more information on the man who I’d never met. I did know that he was a Regimental Sergeant Major but knew nothing of the information recorded above. I’ve since found out that he actually retired from the British Army as a Major but know very little about his latter career. I am however going to look in to it further and commission the museum to dig a little deeper in to the latter part of my Great Grandfather’s military career as there are things which my Grandmother has mentioned which may be true and very interesting.

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