We stayed at Souastre until the 11th March, and then moved up once more to the line, taking over 2,600 yards of frontage from the la Brayelle Road to the Hannescamps-Monchy Road.
The men were accommodated in a hut camp built round a large parade and sports ground. As a result of easy training, plenty of recreation and fine weather, the moral of the men reached a very high level. Second Phase. On the 15th June the Battalion returned to hold the line which it had helped to gain in April. Leaving Souastre, it marched to support at a camp near Henin-sur-Cojeul.
B Company, as we have seen, did extraordinarily well under his command. The following N.C.O.'s were promoted to commissioned rank at Souastre for bravery and good conduct in the field: Sergts. Wickens, Ross, Turner, Rogers, Cawley and Crust. The two latter gained command of B and A Companies respectively during 1918. These appointments were most gratifying to officers and men of the Battalion.
For the rest of May we stayed at Souastre, occasionally visiting the line with working parties, or on tours of inspection, but for the most part working in the Foncquevillers plain, where battery positions without number were being built. By the end of the month we learnt the meaning of all these preparations.
That evening the Boche retired, and the 4th Battalion entered Gommecourt. At this point we lost Captain J.W. Tomson, who had been far from well for some time, and now went to England with fever. He had never missed a day's work for two years. Lieut. D.B. Petch took his place in command of "A" Company. The German withdrawal was very slow, and we spent the next day having baths in Souastre.
Souastre was not a bad place to rest, for it was shelled only very occasionally with long-range guns. Kirsopp came to see me and he brought a motor-car. He wished to reconnoitre a 'battle O.P., i.e. a place in the back area from which to observe enemy shelling of the forward areas or enemy attacks on our line.
The enemy seemed to be really on the move at last, and we were all looking forward to seeing some new country, but on the 20th the weather broke, there was another fall of snow, and we were not sorry to be ordered back to Souastre, where we went into the huts for two nights. For the rest of March we were constantly on the move, mostly by march route.
In any case he would have been out of the fight, for the authorities had at last realized the madness of sending a whole Battalion into action, and to avoid a repetition of the post-Hohenzollern difficulties, every Battalion was ordered to leave behind, at Souastre, the 2nd in Command and a proportion of officers, N.C.O.'s and specialists.
For the last time we passed the villages, which we had come to know so intimately in the past two months during rest from the trenches. There was Souastre, where one had spent pleasant evenings at the Divisional Theatre; St.
However, the Boche still hung on to his line, and on the evening of the 26th and at dawn the following morning our patrols still found him there. 2nd Lieuts. Banwell and Beardmore and Serjt. Growdridge were constantly out, waiting for a chance to enter his lines, but the chance never came, and, on the 27th, we were relieved by the 4th Battalion, and returned to Souastre.