Sunday, June 15, 2014

25442 Pte N Wigston, 4th Worcestershire Regiment

25442 Private N Wigston was a patient at Beechland House in 1916. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

Pte N Wigston (25442)
4th Batt Worcestershire Regt
88th Brigade 29th Division

Wounded in left leg at Guerdecourt
October 18th 1916

Private Wigston shares this page with entries from 1366 Lance-Corporal Ernest Ladd of the 5th East Kent Regiment and 22782 Lance-Corporal Ernest Fairbrother of the 10th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

The 29th Division first landed at Gallipoli (and suffered 34,000 casualties during its time there). It sailed for France in March 1916 and received such a blow on 1st July that it was incapacitated from further action until October 1916 by which time fresh reinforcements had been absorbed.

By the time that Private Wigston was wounded, the 88th Brigade which was part of the 29th Division, was attached to the 12th (Eastern) Division. In The Somme - The Day by Day Account author Chris McCarthy gives the following information for 18th October 1916 when Private Wigston was wounded:

Wednesday 18th October [1916] XV Corps 12th Division

The Division assaulted Grease Trench on its right with 2nd Hampshires and 4th Worcesters (88 Brigade), and the south-eastern end of Bayonet Trench with 9th Essex (35 Brigade). The Hampshires captured Grease Trench and gave support to 9th Norfolks (6th Division) beyond the Gueudecourt-Beulencourt road, and the Worcesters were just as successful; they blocked Hilt Trench to protect their flank. The 9th Essex made little progress: their left company entered Bayonet Trench at a point where there was no wire, but they were bombed out from the flanks.

In The Story of the 29th Division by Captain Stair Gillon (Nelson 1925), the following information is given about the 18th October attack:

On the 18th October the brigade was again taken for an attack from their captured trenches in front of Guerdecourt.

The other two battalions of the Brigade were, this time, engaged, 2nd Hampshires on the right (under Colonel Middleton) and 4th Worcesters on left (under Colonel E T J Kerans). The attack was equally successful, all objectives being gained and held, in spite, again, of the failure of troops on the flanks. Zero hour was 3:40am and the rain was pouring down, making the ground nearly impassable.
Part of the Hampshires furthest objective was found to be a trench which was only partially completed and very shallow, and not yet occupied. However, they surprised a working party of the enemy and accounted for them by death and capture.

The troops on their right failing to come on, the Hants took an extra 300 yards of trench for them and consolidated and held it. The Worcestershires had some lively hand-to-hand scrapping, and took pretty heavy toll of the enemy. Their left flank being in the air owing to the failure of the other troops, they had to make a defensive flank back to our regained starting point, which they successfully held and beat off various local counter-attacks.

A yarn, which I believe to be true, as it was told to me the day after the battle, illustrates the German character well, and also the coolness of our men. A private of the Worcestershires was told off to take back on his own eight German prisoners. He went off quietly but when he got about half way back he met a strongish party of Germans who had not been mopped up. He wasn’t put out at all, and started to fire on them, and got his prisoners to load spare rifles for him, of which there were several lying about, so that he could keep up rapid fire! The prisoners carried out his order like lambs, one of them also being instructed to roll a cigarette for the firer, which was also done. The German party was finally routed and the soldier brought his eight prisoners in safely.

… the bag of prisoners in the second attack was about 150 and many more slain.

The 88th Brigade had previously attacked Guerdecourt on 12th October with the 1st Essex and 1st Royal Newfoundland Regiment to the fore when “all trenches captured were held” and around 130 prisoners taken with many more killed.

Sources and Acknowledgements

• The Story of the 29th Division by Captain Stair Gillon; Nelson 1925
• The Somme - The Day by Day Account - Chris McCarthy

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