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South Wales Borderers

 

REGIMENT’S NOBLE RECORD

 

CHINA &. GALLIPOLI, EGYPT AND

BELGIUM FRONT.

 

 All the world knows of the valuable work done by the 2nd South Wales Borderers at the taking of Tsing-Tan (China), and of their splendid sacrifices in Gallipoli. What is not so well known is the part the battalion afterwards played in France, the necessity of keeping the enemy in ignorance as much as possible having prevented the public identification of units till long after any particular event.

 

Col. J.Young, D.S.O., the present commandant of the 24th Regimental Area with headquarters at. Brecon. was the senior major of the battalion in China, and took over the command in Gallipoli when Col, Casson was made a brigadier-general. His official term of command of the battalion does not expire until November next, but after leading his men in   … for a considerable part of 1916 the state of his health made it necessary that he should be transferred to home service, and he handed over -the command to Acting-Col. Geoffrey Raikes, who had already led the 2nd in one important engagement whilst his superior officer was on sick leave.

 

After the evacuation of Gallipoli the 2nd South Wales Borders spent about two months digging out entrenchment in the Suez Canal. In April, 1916, they were sent with the rest of the famous 29th Division to France. They were put in the line opposite Beaumont, Hamel and when the great battle of the Somme opened at -the beginning of July attacked on the Anere and they lost very heavily, both in officers and men coming out only about 150 strong. The battalion proved its courage and endurance by heavy losses on numerous occasions in France and was on several times practically reformed.  After the July offensive the remnants were sent to Ypres to ‘lick their wounds’ and whilst, in August, had their first taste of gas.  Monotony on the Ypres sector was prevented by frequent raids. On October 7, the 2nd went back to the Somme area.   Marching up to the trenches from Fricourt through Bernapy woods at night they had to struggle through an appalling sea of mud, which made trench and shell holes veritable death traps.  Many men got stuck and had to be left, direction was lost and when dawn broke the line had not been reached.  The Bosche caught them under heavy barrage and the casualties were serious, mud and the evening being responsible for the fact that only a small proportion of the total marching strength got into line.  This was near Guedecourt and Guedecourt Wood and thereabouts.  One battalion stayed until the next year, Col Young bidding them goodbye in the November. 

 

In January 1917 the 2nd battalion had a very successful raid bringing back a good many prisoners.  Two young officers won the M.C. for it, but both were killed afterwards.  At the beginning of April the battalion was transferred to Arras and on the 23rd went into the attack there. Again, they were faced with desperate situation. Objectives on either side of them were not being reached, they were left with exposed flanks  and lost nine officers((eight killed) and over 250 men.  The Worcesters, on their right suffered even more.  Going back to Ypres the battalion. … with the Guards on July 31, when the latter made their attack but here the casualties were comparatively light.

 

Save for constant raids, things were now quieter for several months but in November, the men of 2nd battalion were in the thick of fighting again. At the taking of Llangemarck, losing seven officers including the adjutant and two company commanders and a great many men.  The Borderers did a fine lot of work here.  Reaching there objective with a dash and consolidating the way for the French on their left, who could not get through  until this was done.  The battalion afterwards had a creditable part in the Passchendaele show.

 

A DESPERATE STAND

 

April, 1918, brought the 2nd into the hottest of water again. The Germans had begun their great offensive: there was weak place at Armentieres (Neuf Berquin) and the ever-enduring Borderers were rushed down, straight from 30 days duty in the northern line. They went into their new position on the evening of the 10th, and were fighting hard to hold back the Germans at the most important point (new defences were being prepared behind) until the night of April 11-12.  They did what was asked of them, but practically the whole of battalion became casualties.  Col. Raikes was left with 76 men and not one officer - excepting the padre, who got out with a wounded officer on his back - 21 officers and 4000 men being ‘put out’.  Still the 2nd carried on.  The Colonel got a few men from other units and made up a scratch team and the 2nd South Wales  ….

 

 

 My father, Dr John Lewis, was captured at Armentieres and was made prisoner of war.

There is no more in the cutting.  Date and source unknown.

 

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