Regina Trench

The 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment

21st – 23rd October 1916 

regina-trench

An Official History map of the Battle of the Ancre Heights which started on 21st October 1916. The aspect of Regina Trench for the 8th Norfolks can be seen with the 53rd Brigade facing the German 73rd Landwehr Regiment.

It seems fitting that the battalion that had been there on the first day of the Somme should be the last battalion I write about in that campaign. The 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment had been in and out of the trenches since their action on 5th October 1916 and had been employed in trench digging.

But on 21st October 1916 it was again asked to participate in an action with 10th Battalion Essex Regiment and the 11th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. They were given the task of capturing Regina Trench. This was so named because it had been captured for a time by the 5th Canadian Brigade on 1st October 1916 and further attempts were made to capture it by the 1st and 3rd Canadian Divisions on 8th October 1916. On the 21st October 1916 an attempt would again be made by the 18th (Eastern) and the 4th Canadian Divisions.

Regina Trench is described as thus in the Norfolk Regiment History,

‘This was a long trench running from the sunken road to Grandcourt, some 1,100 yards east of the Schwaben Redoubt, eastwards as far as the Courcelette-Miraumont road, a length of about 3,000 yards.’

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John Bertie Harris seated who was the son of Mr. J. Harris of 28 Providence Street in King’s Lynn. John was 22 when he was killed in action on 21st October 1916 and has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

The objective of this action was to capture Regina Trench from a point 150 yards west of the Miraumont road where strong points would be made at the junction of Courcelette Trench, Twenty-Three Road and Left Trench. ‘C’ Company was given the task of capturing the point west of Miraumont and ‘B’ Company would attempt to capture Left Trench. ‘D’ Company would follow in support and help to consolidate any gains. ‘A’ Company would remain in reserve.

Both of the lead companies formed up in Hessian Trench and Zero Hour was at 12.06 p.m. and within 6 minutes the Norfolks were in Regina Trench. The response from the enemy was mixed. The Germans facing ‘C’ Company surrendered but ‘B’ Company met with strong resistance and those met were either killed or captured. Captain F. J. Morgan led ‘B’ Company and fought his way through using bombs. Whilst advancing he found a waterproof sheet which led to an entrance to a dugout. The Norfolk history stating,

‘On each step sat a couple of Germans, their backs to the entrance. When Captain Morgan called them to come out, they came unarmed. When the Norfolk and Essex were in full possession of Regina, a dozen Germans who had lost themselves descended into the trench, not knowing it had changed hands. They did not seem unduly depressed when they found themselves prisoners.’ 

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The trench map from the 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment war diary showing the ground over which they would assault on 21st October 1916.

The attack was put into two phases and the second phase started at 2 p.m. whereby ‘D’ Company occupied Regina Trench and ‘A’ went to Hessian Trench to assist ‘D’ Company if required. At 6 p.m. all three of the attacking companies were in Regina Trench and ‘A’ Company went to Vancouver Trench.

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Regina Trench in the present day. Image courtesy of Nick Stone.

The battalion had to withstand heavy German bombardments and took part in occupying Regina Trench throughout the night remaining there until 23rd October 1916. At 11 p.m. the battalion was relieved by the 11th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and they moved back to Albert. However, even though this assault had been successful, Regina Trench in its entirety was not finally cleared until 11th November 1916 by the 4th Canadian Division .

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William Frederick Vincent who served in ‘C’ Company in the 8th Norfolks. William was the son of Frederick George and Mary Ann Vincent of Aylsham Road in North Walsham. William was 23 when he was killed in action on 21st October 1916 and is now buried in Regina Trench Cemetery.

During this action the battalion lost a total of 140 officers and men killed, wounded or missing and this came from a total of 558 officers and men who had started the attack. This shows that, even though the battalion received drafts from the time it went to France in July 1915, it had lost over half of its complement of 1,031 officers and men killed, wounded or captured.

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The grave of Ernest Henry Sutton in Delville Wood Cemetery. Ernest was 23 when he was killed in action on 21st October 1916 and was the son of Ernest and the late Esther Sutton of Great Cressingham.

They had fought at Montauban, Delville Wood, Thiepval, the Schwaben Redoubt and finally Regina Trench. The Norfolk Regiment history notes that in this period the battalion had won 1 D.S.O., 6 M.C.’s, 6 D.C.M’s, 31 M.M.’s and 37 Parchment Certificates. In total, between 1st July 1916 and 23rd July 1916, they had lost 336 men killed who now lie in the cemeteries on the Somme. Of all the battalions on the Somme these losses would have an impact in 1917 and we will look at that in the New Year.

 

 

 

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