During July 1916 the Battalion was in and out of the breastworks between Fauquissart and Neuve Chapelle. When the 184th Infantry Brigade went back to rest the Battalion had billets on the outskirts of Merville, a friendly little town, since levelled in ruins; and, when reserve to the Brigade, in Laventie.
Quarter was neither given nor asked, and unlucky was the too venturesome Austrian regiment that penetrated the Serbian lines the first few days without sufficient support. "The 184th Regiment," said one of the soldiers' letters, which were published in the Austrian papers, "went into a valley and was never seen again."
Such was the tactical situation when the 184th Infantry Brigade relieved the French in the Ablaincourt sector. The Berks, who first held the left subsector, had an uneventful tour. Trenches taken over from the French were usually quiet at first owing to the different methods employed by us and our allies in the conduct of trench-warfare.
On March 26 we see the 184th Brigade held in reserve near Mezières, to be suddenly moved at midnight of March 27/28 by lorries. The lorries made towards Amiens, and it appeared that the battered relics of the Brigade were being withdrawn. The belief was disappointed.
The 184th Brigade had been warned to carry out an 'enterprise' against the enemy. During the morning of April 26 I was sent for by the Colonel. I found Headquarters in their new position, an oblong greenhouse over whose frame, destitute of glass, was stretched a large 'trench shelter. They had passed a shell-ridden night. Bennett just now had narrowly eluded a 5.9.
On the same day of which I was last speaking March 24 the 184th Brigade, minus those Oxfords who were in action with the 20th Division, though sadly wasted in numbers, formed up again to make a stand. Colonel Wetherall, the acting Brigadier, had received orders to hold the line of the Canal east and south east of Nesle.
On June 25 it was time for the 184th Infantry Brigade to move out of the line to Ham and Linghem, two villages south-east and south of Aire. The relief took place, but at the last minute it was decided that the 182nd Brigade was so depleted by the epidemic that it was necessary for the 2/4th Oxfords to remain at La Pierrière to assist them in holding the line.
The 61st Division was left holding a line of snow-bound trenches between Gonnelieu and La Vacquerie, consisting of fragments both of the Hindenburg Line, the old German front line, and our own as it stood before the Cambrai battle opened. Except in the 184th Brigade the casualties suffered by the Division during the heavy German counter-attacks had been heavier than those at Ypres.
An attack by the 184th Brigade upon the Wick salient was planned, but somewhat too openly discussed and practised to deceive, I fancy, even the participating infantry into the belief that it was really to take place. Upon the demolished German trenches many raids were made.
As in the March retreat of 1917, the 184th Brigade had no immediate share in following up the enemy as he retired. The Oxfords had withdrawn on August 14 to Spresiano Camp, in the forest, and waited without eagerness to be ordered forward to the new devastated area.