The Manchester Regiment 1899 - 1958

12th Battalion The Manchester Regiment – War Diary


Transcribed by Myles Francis, to whom we are grateful

Items in square brackets are my annotations (Chris)

July 1915

[Battalion comprised 30 officers and 975 rank and file]
Entrained at Winchester for Service with Expeditionary Force in France.
12MN Embarked at FOLKESTONE

2am Disembarked at BOULOGNE and proceeded to OSTROHOVE Large Rest Camp.
8pm Left BOULOGNE by troop train and arrived at ARQUES 4am 17th July and marched to billets at WIZERNES.

Proceeded by march route to HAZEBROUCK and bivouaced outside Cathedral.

Proceeded by March route to GODESWAERSVELDE to billets.

Proceeded by March route to OUDERDOM and joined 2nd Army commanded by Lt Gn Sir H.C.O. PLUMER K.C.B.
Posted to V Corp by Lt Gn Sir A.H.H. ALLENBY K.C.B.

Attached for instruction in trench warfare to LIVERPOOL SCOTTISH (TF) and set platoons into trenches for instruction. Here we met the 2nd BTN MANCHESTER REG under command of Major H.R. WESTON.

In trenches for instruction of officers and men (4 days).

Proceeded by march route to White Chateau 3 miles west of HOOGE and bivouaced 48 hours.

August 1915

Relieved 1st Battalion Royal Scots Fussiliers. Relief completed by 3AM of the 2nd inst without incident.

Quiet day.

Quiet day but for a few whiz bangs.

Rather quiet with a little artillery activity.

Quiet day.

Our artillery more active than usual. Enemy shelled us with whiz bangs doing little damage.

The Battalion began digging a V shaped ditch for barricade in front of our barbed wire and assembly posts near SNIPERS BARN. No attempt made by enemy to intefere. Hear that new troops have taken over enemy trenches.

Very quiet day.

2.15am Our artillery opened heavy bombardment on our sectors directed on a frontage of 500 yards. Ordered to cause diversion while 6th Division attacked at HOOGE. Reports from Patrols were that the enemy were seen leaving trenches on our front and making for BOIS QUARANTE.
9am Heard the attack by 6th Division was successful.

Quiet day.

Very quiet day.

Normal. Small amount of shelling on both sides.

Quiet day.

Quiet with the exception of a few heavy shells which fell well behind the reserve trenches.

Quiet day; Some artillery activity in afternoon on both sides. Heavy rifle and machine gun fire during the night.

Enemy fired rifle grenades on trench No 5.

Very quiet day. Were relieved by the 9th Bn Duke of Wellington Regt. Relief commenced at 8.0pm but did not complete until 4.30am of the 18th inst owing to furious bombardment by the enemy.

At Canada Huts rest camp 1 mile West of DICKIEBUSCH. Two companys went to RENINGHELST for a bath.

In rest camp.

In rest camp.

Went to Brigade Reserve dug-outs about ½ mile WEST of the LA BRASSERIE. Coys left at half hour intervals commencing at 2.15pm.

Battalion found all digging parties also working parties for the whole time while in reserve.

In Brigade Reserve.

In Brigade Reserve.

In Brigade Reserve. Relieved the 9th Bn Duke of Wellington Rgt in the trenches. Commenced relief at 4pm completed by 9pm without incident.

Quiet day.

Enemy whiz banged our front line. Also a little artillery activity.

Our artillery rather more active than usual.

Exceptionally quiet day. Continued V shaped trench in front of out line.

Quiet day. Continued work on ditch in front of our line.

Quiet day. Enemy dropped a few shells around Battalion Headquarters, one dropping on a 1st Aid Dressing Station.

September 1915

Enemy rather more active, throwing Rifle Grenades in our front line. Again shelled Battalion Headquarters but only damaged trenches.

Our artillery rather active. Enemy again threw rifle grenades on out front line.

Quiet and very wet. Continued work on V ditch in front of our lines.

Usual quiet day. Very wet. Our Artillery very active at night. A draft of 15 men to B Company and 15 men to D Coy proceeded into trenches.

Relieved from the trenches by 9th DofW Regt. Relief completed by 8.15pm. Went into rest camp at La CLYTTE

In rest camp at La CLYTTE

[In rest camp during 7th , 8th, and 9th]

Relieved the 9th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers in Reserve at RIDGEWOOD. Completed relief by 9pm.

[In Reserve during the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th]

Relieved the 9th Battalion DofW Rgt in trenches. Relief commenced 1.30pm completed 8pm.

Quiet day. Aeroplane brought down by hostile fire; landed near our depot at La CLYTTE. Aeroplane slightly damaged, but neither Pilot or Observer injured.

Quiet day.

Quiet day.

Quiet day. Enemy threw Trench Mortars and Rifle Grenades into our trench wounding the Commanding Officer Lieut-Col E.J. Harrison CB DSO in the leg by a splinter from a Trench Mortar.

9am The enemy fired a few Rifle Grenades and followed them up with about 25 Trench Mortars.
11.30am The enemy commenced again and this continued intermittently during the day until our Batteris came to our assistance. Some of the projectiles apparently were Aerial Torpedos judging by peculiar noise made in passage and the force of explosion.

Quiet day. Our patrols report that all was quiet with the exception of small parties working at their parapets. The enemys chief occupation seems to be lobbing bombs just over their parapets. We never meet any patrols of theirs.

Very quiet during the morning and early afternoon.
4pm Our artillery commenced a bombardment which did great damage to the enemys front line and support trenches. The bombardment lasted 1 hour. About 6pm the enemy commenced to whiz bang our support trench but the damage was practically nil.

4.45pm An enemy aeroplane travelled from EAST to WEST but did not come as far as their front line of trenches. It then dropped a red light and travelled back. Shortly afterwards it appeared again on exactly the same course, but this time dropped a green light. It appeared to be disecting again a long way back.

Fairly quiet day. During yesterday scarcely a shot was fired from the enemys lines and very few during the night; the enemy have been throwing bombs from their trenches to just in frony of their wire. Our artillery bombarded to enemys front line trenches with good results this lasted from 4pm to 5pm.

4am Our artillery bombarded the enemys lines for 1 hour. Enemy reported to have retired to their second line of trenches after our dummy attack.

Very quiet day.

Very quiet day.

Enemy threw a few rifle grenades into our trenches which were ineffective. Relieved by 9th Bt DofW Rgt completed by 6.30pm. Went into rest camp at LA CLYTTE. Very wet night.

In Corps Reserve. A and B Coys bathed at baths at LA CLYTTE. C and D Coys Physical Training and Route March. Very Wet.

[Selected entries follow – mainly to give place names]
Left GODEWAERSVELDE. March to G.17 A8.7 2 miles W by SW of Vlamestright to Reserve

Proceeded to trenches at I24 D1.1 10 miles distant.

Conditions in the trenches beyond description. Men working almost waist deep in mud and water.

Reserve at OUDERDOM

Rest camp at BUSSEBOOM

In Reserve near YPRES

In Rest Camp at BUSSEBOOM

In billets at ARMENTIERES

[Return to continuous entries]
May 1916

A quiet day. The Battn was relieved by the 7th Bn EAST YORKS and marched back to billets in ARMENTIERES.

Battalion rested.
Hostile shelling of an area just SOUTH of NIEPPE was directed by two German aeroplanes, which were seen flying over our lines at about 5.0pm. German Shrapnel Shells burst over our Transport lines, wounding 7 mules and 2 horses.

4 to 7/5/1916
Battalion in Divisional Reserve and found various working parties.

The Battalion proceeded to trenches and relieved the 7th Bn EAST YORKS. Relief completed at 10pm without incident.

A quiet day. The enemy put about 12 Light Shrapnel Shells into HOUPLINES between 5am and 6am.

8.0am Hostile Artillery opened on EDMEADS FARM and trench 85. About 50 high explosive 6inch shells fell in this area, the farm was much damaged and a small breach made in our front line parapet.
9.15am Eight Light Shrapnel Shells were fired into HOUPLINES where our reserve lay, but did no damage. Our snipers accounted for two of the enemy during the day.

A quiet day. An enemy working party was noticed by our observers at 4.0am in rear of LES 4 HALLOTS FARM. Two machine guns were turned on this party which consisted of about 20 men, with good results.
4.15pm The enemy shot down one of our aeroplanes; it fell behind our lines. A party of one officer and 20 men of the 2nd Bn OTAGO REGT NEW ZEALAND EXPED FORCE reached HOUPLINES in the afternoon and were billeted with our reserve Company.

During the morning, the enemny displayed considerable artillery activity in the neighbourhood of PONT BALLOT, the ORCHARD, HOUPLINES, and the Subsidiary Line. On our guns retaliating, the enemy stopped. The afternoon was very quiet. The party of the 2nd Otago Bn inspected the trenches.

Quiet day. The officers of the 2nd Bn OTAGO REGT were taken around the trenches preparatory to taking over.

Quiet day. The Battalion was relieved during the night 14/15th by the 2nd Bn OTAGO REGT N.Z. and proceeded into billets in ARMENTIERES.

The Battalion left ARMENTIERES at 11:30pm and marched to ESTAIRES. Dress full marching order.

4.0am The Battalion reached ESTAIRES and went into billets.
1.30pm The Battalion left its billets at ESTAIRES and proceeded by route march to MORBEQUE arriving there at 7.0pm. The Battalion was billeted in farms near the town.

The Battalion rested.

7am The Battalion left billets and proceeded by march route to WARDRECQUE arriving at 12noon.

6.15am The Battalion left billets and proceeded by march route to the training area ZUDAUSQUES arriving 12.0 noon.

20 and 21/5/1916
Battalion rested.

Battalion commenced training. Company and Extended Order Drill Practice at the assault trenches. Marching by compass at night. All Specialists training under Specialist Officers.

Training continued as per programme of May 22nd

Battalion practised on the Range; also practised assault on trenches.

Battalion practised in marching in Artillery Formation and assault on trenches.

Battalion trained in Company Drill in the morning. At night the Battalion marched out and from a given point marched back by compass, A large percentage of the Battalion inoculated with anti-paratyphoid.

Training till noon in Company Drill, Night March, and advancing in Artillery Formation at night.

Battalion rested (Sunday)

Battalion exercised in Musketry during the morning and practised the attack during the afternoon.

The Battalion was practised in the attack under Brigade arrangements.

The 52nd Infantry Brigade assembled in the Divisional Training Area at 10am and carried out an attack on an imaginary enemy entrenched on a ridge North of DIFQUES.

June 1916

9.15am The Battalion took part in a Divisional Route March.

The day was devoted to training under Battalion arrangements.

The Batallion took part in a Brigade Field Day.

Sunday Church Parade

The Battalion took part in a Brigade Field Day.

The day was devoted to training under Battalion arrangements.

The Battalion was practisde in the assault on trenches.

Trained under Battalion arrangements. Major A. Dickson left the Battalion to take command of the 10th Bn West Yorks. Major G.S.W Rusbridger 1st Duke of Wellington joined the Battalion as 2nd in Command.

Trained under Battalion arrangements.

11 and 12/6/1916
The Battalion left its billets at 11.0pm and marched to St.Omer where it entrained. Troop train left St.Omer at 3.10am and arrived at Amiens at 12 noon. The Battalion then marched to Poulainville arriving there at 3.0pm.

Trained under Battalion arrangements.

Twenty NCOs and men were sent to represent the Battalion at a Memorial Service to the late Lord Kitchener. The Senior Officers of the Battalion were present at the Service which was held at the 51st Brigade H.Q. near Allonville.

B Company, the Battalion Bombers and a platoon of C Coy were inspected by the Brigade General 52nd Bde during the morning. The Battalion went on a Route March in the afternoon.

16 and 17/6/1916
Training under Battalion arrangements.

Sunday Church Parade

The Battalion practised Dump and Carrying Party under Brigade arrangements.

Training under Battalion arrangements. The C.O. and four senior Offices, under Brigade arrangements visited the trenches at Fricourt.

21 and 22/6/1916
Training under Brigade arrangements.

Two more Officers visited the trenches between Fricourt and Albert.

The Battalion was practised in word fighting on the Bois De Mai near Allonville.

The Battalion went for a 12 mile route march. A party of Officers visited the trenches near Fricourt.

The G.O.C. delivered a short address prior to the Battalion taking part in the pending operations. The Battalion together with the rest of the Brigade were practised in night marching (following a lamp).

Trained under Battalion arrangements.

The Battalion left its billets at Poulainville at 12 noon and marched to HEILLY, arriving there at 4.30pm and went under canvas in the adjoining wood.

Orders for the Battalion to move to Bois des Tailles were cancelled.

At HEILLY. The Battalion went for a route march in full marching order.

7.30pm The Battalion left its billets at HEILLY and proceeded by road to Bois Des Tailles.

July 1916

At Bois Des Tailles. Here the Battalion completed its equipment in accordance with Table A.

Batallion paraded at 6.0am and marched to Morlancourt, arriving there at 8.0am. Batallion standing to under ¼ hours notice (in close billets). Joined Bn 2nd Lts N.H. Blythe & T.T. Botton.

17th Division takes up the attack towards Railway Copse and Bottom Wood. 52nd Brigade Units ready to move at half an hours notice. Battalion sent reconnoitring parties towards and over the German front line. Battalion left Morlancourt to relieve 21st Division in line N of Fricourt.

Relief completed by 6.0am. Night 4/5th Battn moved in support of attack by 10th Lancs Fusiliers and 9th Northumberland Fus on Quadrangle Trench. Objective reached and held by assaulting Bn.

Battalion moved back to Lozenge Wood during the morning. At night we supplied a working party to dig assembly trenches on line X22-a-3.4 – X22 central facing N.E. Major G.S.W. Rusbridger in charge. Half company with Major H.F. Browell and the whole of C Coy with Capt. H. McKean. 2nd Lieut. H.J. Rathbone was wounded.


Battalion remained in Lozenge Wood until 8.0pm when ordered to assemble in Fricourt Wood as Brigade Reserve and remained there until 3.30am when orders were received to relieve 9th Northumberland Fus. in Quadrangle Trench and to send an Officer to Brigade HdQrs for Orders. Lieut. N.G. Crawhall was sent.

Battalion arrived at Railway Copse at 6.30am and were distributed in trenches on ridge under hedge 800yards N of Copse which they reached under heavy fire and with some loss. 7.25am Lieut. N.G. Crawhall arrived with orders that we were to assault Quadrangle Support at 8.0am, the 9th Northumberland Fus and 9th West Riding Regt having failed. There being no time to issue written orders, the C.O. (Lieut. Col E.G. Harrison) and Adjutant (Capt. B. DuVal) went up to hedge to organise attack. Attack launched at 7.50am from Ridge to go over 9th Bn Northumberland Fus in Quadrangle Trench. Organisation D and B Coy leading, C Coy support, A Coy Reserve, Battn Bombers held by H.Q. About 10.0am news came of complete failure of attack under barrage and enfilade M.G. Fire. At 2.30pm the C.O. was ordered to go up and organise attack with all available troops in Quadrangle Trench and was wounded on his way up. The Adjutant sent orders to O.C. 9th North. Fus and advised 52nd Brigade. Battalion relieved by 51st Bde at 7.30pm. The following casualties occurred. Lieut. Col. E.G. Harrison CB DSO Wounded. Major G.S.W. Rusbridger wounded. Major H.F. Browell wounded. Capt. H. McKean killed. Capt. E.R. Thompson wounded. Capt. J.H. Betts killed. Lieut. H. Bate wounded & missing. Lieut. N.G. Crawhall wounded & missing. 2nd Lt. E. Kingsley wounded & missing BK. 2nd Lt. F. Latimer killed. 2nd Lt. J. Adams wounded. 2nd Lt. J.S. Greenwood killed. 2nd Lt. A.B. King killed. 2nd Lt. C.J. Alderton killed. 2nd Lt E.F. Smith killed, and 539 O.R.
Night 7/8th Battn returned to Meaulte.

Major P.M. Magnay joined & took over command of Battalion. Battn moved by march route to VILLE.

A period of re-organisation and refitting commences.

Battn entrain at Mericourt and proceed to AILLY – thence to beillets at OISSY.

Reorganisation etc. A Draft of 66 O.R. joined Battn on 14/7/16. Capt W.M. Benotn rejoins Battn for duty.

Battn proceed by march route to LONG. 23 O.R. joined Battn today.

Reorganisation etc. 18th inst. 2nd Lts F.A. Pickles & F.B. Fairham and 220 O.R. joined Battn.

A Draft of 172 O.R. joins Battn today.

Lieut. A.J.C. Sington, 2nd Lt. W.T. Johnston, 2nd Lt. E.M. Tuke, 2nd Lt. S.G. Turner and 100 O.R. joined Battn today.

Capt E.R. Thompson rejoined Battn.

The adjutant (Capt B. DuVal) admitted to hospital. Lieut. F. Tower takes over duties of acting adjutant.

Battn moved to Bivouac in valley about 4 Kilos S W of Albert.

Battn form part of XV Corps Reserve and training is restricted by the necessity of remaining close to Bivouacs.

August 1916

[Entry at end of month:]

Casulties for Month:
Capt. W.M. BENTON Wounded (Since died of wounds)
2nd Lieut. W.R.O. MOULTON Killed
2nd Lieut. F.F.BOLTON Wounded
2nd Lieut. N.H. BLYTHE Missing
2nd Lieut. R.W. WEST Wounded
OR 169 Killed, Wounded or missing.

1 Captain
3 2nd Lieuts
28 Other Ranks.

Extract from History of the 17th Northern Division

“The 52nd Brigade attacked with the 12th Manchesters on the right and the 9th West Riding (Duke of Wellingtons) on the left. The 23rd Division was to attack at the same time on the left, and the 38th on the right was to endeavour to clear Mametz Wood. The 23rd gained some ground, but the 38th was held up before reaching even the edge of the wood. The 17th Division had thus an all but impossible task. It had to cross an open glacis, nearly a quarter of a mile wide, in broad daylight under a cross fire from the position in front and from the margin of the wood. To add to its difficulties our barrage was not as well directed as usual, and numbers of casualties in the advance resulted from it. The machine gun fire from Mametz Wood was deadly. The Manchesters were its special target for some time, and their loss amounted to 16 officers and some 600 men.”