James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Fatal errors

On 24 October, 19th Division having been allotted a different front in the same area, the battalion took over new trenches. In the next week the enemy were active with sniping, rifle grenades and bombs. The latter damaged the trenches, as did the incessant rain which flooded them. The regiment moved into billets near Festubert on 31 October before returning to the trenches where in places the water was above knee height; there had been about four inches of rain in a week. Unusually, on Sunday, 7 November 1915, it was decided the relief should take place in daylight but, as the CO records in the diary, "owing to disagreement between myself and Lt. Col. Dauntesey, commanding 9th Cheshires [the battalion they were relieving] as to times and manner of relief, things did not work out as smoothly as I might have wished. There had been a thick mist for some mornings back and on the morning of 7th it appeared as if the same conditions would prevail. C and D companies were due to start at 10 and 10.30 a.m. respectively but owing to orders being issued late there was some delay. Before D Company (which started very late) had reached the firing trenches the mist had lifted."

D Company had been instructed to take over the right of the line by the most direct route and two platoons, the first led by Vernon Owen set off along 'Pioneer Trench'. The CO wrote, "I had not been informed however of the impassable condition of the upper portion of this trench; it would have been better to have gone by the more circuitous route by Shetland trench." Between 2 and 3 p.m. they found they could advance no further, some of Vernon’s men were bogged down in the mud, unable to move. The relief, which was already late, was thus being delayed still further so Vernon rashly decided to climb over the wall to see if his platoon could proceed under cover outside the communication trench. A bullet struck his thigh, shattering the bone.