James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Attack on 'The Knoll'

In August much of the training was aimed specifically at a major attack on an enemy stronghold, “The Knoll”, east of Lempire. It included practice attacks on a mock-up of the trenches. At 3.20 a.m. on 19 August all companies were in position and at 4.06 a.m. the two assaulting companies, had reached within 50 yards of their own barrage – such a barrage was designed to land just ahead of the advancing troops. A minute later, when the barrage ceased, they rushed forward and gained their objective, occupying a German trench in order to provide cover for one flank while the main attack took place. Z Company brought up the rear, each man carrying small arms ammunition, water, wire bombs and picks or shovels as well as their normal equipment. As dawn broke the two advance companies withdrew through the other two companies. Two men of the 15th Battalion attacked ten Germans, killing three and capturing two, together with 3 trench mortars; the others Germans fled. At 6 a.m. there was an attempted counter-attack and later the Knoll was heavily shelled. At 5 p.m. the Germans appeared to attempt to rescue their trench mortars; three of them were killed and the rest sought shelter in a dugout.

A German advance along a trench called ‘Lone Tree’ during the evening had been anticipated. The men of the Battalion opened fire with Lewis Guns and rifles when the Germans came within 60 yards. This, together with an artillery barrage, caused heavy enemy losses and forced a withdrawal. A subsequent attack was similarly beaten off, as was another attack on the morning of the 20th. Meanwhile, heavy shelling was periodically pounding the Allied forces on the Knoll prompting further SOSs.

Allied shelling and machine gun fire managed to contain a threatened counter-offensive from the Macquincourt Valley but at 7.45 p.m. there was a further heavy bombardment of the Knoll and yet another SOS produced a responding 25-minute spell of intermittent Allied shelling and machine gun fire. The cacophony of sound can only be imagined. During the night the Regiment was relieved and returned to St Emile. On 22nd August they in turn relieved a battalion on the Knoll and set to work under heavy enemy shelling to reinforce the trenches and to lay wire. Relieved again they had another day’s rest before forming stretcher parties to collect the dead and injured from the field and to work on the trenches. The Battalion losses were 2 officers and 27 ORs killed, an officer and 96 ORs wounded and 7 missing. The following day the men were briefly attached to 106th (Inf.) Brigade for carrying parties and work parties before being relieved, returning to Aizecourt-le-Bas two days later.