Captain Fearenside, “Under Fire”


(Best read in conjunction with the 17th Battalion’s account of the Battle for Guillemont)


On the 30th July, as the 17th Battalion took part in the assault on the village of Guillemont, Captain Fearenside found himself in command of A Company astride the Montauban-Guillemont road. The Company Commander, Lieutenant Ralph Miller, had been killed in the march up to the position and a signal sent back to the Battalion headquarters describes Captain Fearenside’s situation at 12.20 am.


OC “Kitty” (The Battalion nickname)

“Lt Miller killed, 2Lt Owen rather gassed. 2Lt Holt does not appear to have turned up yet, but almost all of the Company is present in so far as can be ascertained. I cannot check them owing to the heavy shelling. We lost touch a good deal on the way up. Numbers of gas shells are coming over. Can you get a stretcher up for Lt Owen ?. I cannot get hold of mine”.


By 1.10 am, the situation had worsened.



OC “Kitty”


“Confirming my E F(?) . Miller killed, Owen gassed, Holt (with 1 section) still missing. Stretcher badly needed for Owen. I don’t know where any bearers are. Have been along trench to some extent- it takes time and morale of Men is very fair, but the continued stream of gas and other shells is having a rather weakening effect”














3.45 am





“Lt Holt has reported with about 30 Men who are mixed, with B and some of D (Companies). Will reorganise as soon as it is light”.

















5.50 am



OC “Kitty”


“ Have advanced to certain trenches which appear to me too much south and too little east of Trones. Reconnaissance forward has so far produced no others. Will try again. These are very shallow. Owing to mist, orientation is very difficult. I seem to be 100 yds due south of Trones. No knowledge of happenings in front”.












9.25 am



OC “Kitty”


“Situation both on right and left in Guillemont obscure. Appears to be some withdrawal on right at present. Cannot advance northward owing to enfiladed rifle and machine gun fire from quarry, which should be shelled. Have my Men, at present in Park Lane (SW), but it is not a good place. No room in the trenches, now full of Ada and some Muriel (Other Battalion nicknames). Artillery support much needed. No news from Company to our east”.