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A very successful trench raid

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Here's a pair of medals I bought a while ago, they are named to Sgt. Joseph Heyes of the 2/5 Manchester Regiment who was killed during the unit's first ever trench raid. The 2/5 suffered only 9 casualties during the raid.

Casualties were taken by machine gun fire when leaving the trench. Joseph Heyes was quite possibly one of the men killed in the first minute of the raid by German machine guns firing aimlessly through the smoke cloud laid down by No.4 special Company R.E. from areas off to the right known as The Dump and Madagascar Alley.

The reason for suggesting he was killed at the start is because his body was recovered and buried just a few hundred metres behind the line. Privates William Toulmin, Herbert Whitaker and William Jones are also buried in Cambin whereas the other 5 casualties of that evening – Pte. Charles Dodd, Henry Elliot, Charles Gleave, Charles Stanley Griffiths and Sgt. James Lomax are remembered on the Loos Memorial.

The photocopy newpaper clip from the Wigan Observer is dated 30th June 1917 and tells that Joseph from Platt Bridge, Wigan was a Colliery Fireman who worked at the Mains Colliery Bamfurlong, he was 33 at the time of his death and had been in France only three months.

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Trench map corrected to November 1917, quite a few months after Sgt. Heyes' death. However, there had been no change that I can see to the lines occupied by the British and Germans.

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The raid took place in the evening of 8.6.17, the following extracts come from the 2/5 battalion diary.

The Plan

The operation referred to in the 199th Infantry Brigade Operation order No. 24 will take place on the evening of June 8th 1917 at an hour to be notified later to all concerned.

The 2/5 Manchester Regiment will attack enemy trenches as under on a time table.

Enemy front line – referred to as first objective or front line.

Enemy support line – referred to as 2nd objective or green line

Enemy reserve line – referred to as 3rd objective or red line

Yellow line is for artillery purposes only.

Timetable for the attack:

Enemy front line to be occupied by support Coy. and moppers up at zero + 5 minutes, they will remain until all other lines have returned to our trenches.

Green line to be reached at zero + 7

Red line to be reached at zero + 18

Six R.E. Sappers with a supply of mobile charges from the 432nd Field Coy. will be among the moppers up to deal with tunnels and deep dug outs. Telephone lines to be destroyed and instruments to be brought back.

Return to our lines will be timed to commence at 0 + 40 minutes, the complete operation being timed at zero + 60 minutes.

The 2/5 Manchesters will form up for attack by 0 – 40 minutes on day of attack as follows:

The 2 companies that are going over will move up via Railway Alley into the front line with their mopping and blocking parties.

The support Coy. will be in Munster Tunnel until 2 Coys. have gone over, they will then occupy front line. The remaining platoon will be in Back Street where it joins Railway Alley.

Trenches to be kept clear for exclusive use of 2/5 Manchester Regt. on day of operation from 0 – 40 onwards.

Railway Alley and Boyeau 2 up trench only.

Boyeau 6 and Dundee Walk down trench only.

Regimental Police will be posted to keep these trenches clear and regulate traffic.


Only a few prisoners are required and they should be sent back at once under a special escort to Brigade HQ.

Identifications or portions should be brought back of all German dead found in trenches.

On completion the 2/5 Companies engaged will return straight back to Noyelles.

Watches to be synchronised at Brigade HQ at 12 noon and again at 5pm on 8th instant. An officer from all units taking part should attend with a watch.

Edited by Tony
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Time table:

Zero – 5 Intense barrage on enemy front line.

Zero + 1 Barrage on front line creeps to green line arriving there at zero + 3

Zero + 2 Infantry due hostile front line

Zero + 3 Frontal fire batteries lift to red line

Zero + 5 Oblique and infilade batteries switch to yellow line

Zero + 7 Oblique and infilade batteries switch to red line.

Zero + 7 Infantry due green line

Zero + 12 Frontal fire batteries ( less named guns) to Les Briques line.

Zero + 16 Oblique batteries lift to Les Briques line. Frontal firing batteries to standing barrage on flanks.

Zero + 17 Enfilade batteries switch to Les Briques line.

Zero + 18 Infantry due red line (reserve trench)

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Below is a scan showing the equipment to be carried by each man. The moppers up have a larger selection of weapons for use against the enemy.

30 wire cutters were distributed amongst the attackers, attached to the men by a cord to prevent loss. I'm not sure if the reason for attaching them by cord was because they were expensive, issued by the CQMS in person, hard to come by or just easy to lose.

The order was later changed to them being given to all men involved in the attack.

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This actual summery of events will give an idea of what happened during a raid, no doubt similar whether carried out by British, French or Germans.

At 8.25pm artillery, T.M.'s and M.G.'s open to time, all guns accurate.

8.30pm First wave formed behind wire parallel to objective and moved off to time, screened by most effective smoke cloud to south. This cloud blotted out Dump and Madagascar Village though a few casualties were inflicted by machine guns from that direction.

Sgt. Heyes was quite possibly killed by these MGs

8.31pm Guns lifted off German front line. 1st wave rushed over first objective and formed up close under barrage leaving behind moppers-up found by A and B Companies. These moppers-up accounted for 7 Germans found in the open in addition to 2 bayoneted by 1st wave passing over.

8.33pm Barrage crept onto green line on which it paused for 4 minutes.

During this period a German machine gun team of about 7 came out with hands up from Madagascar Village on extreme right. This party was engaged by right blocking party who accounted for 3 of them. 2 others were hit but got away. Another party of 5 Germans jumped up from a shell hole and ran into our left flank barrage. They were fired at and 2 hit.

8.38pm Barrage lifted off green line, 1st wave again passed over leaving moppers-up. 4 Germans found in open and killed near northern flank. Another party of an officer and 5 men also emerged from a dug out about centre of green line without equipment. The officer and 3 men were killed, 2 escaped down a tunnel. Moppers up then blocked entrances to all tunnels till arrival of sappers with mobile charges. Barrage at same time crept onto red line, closely followed by first wave. This wave arrived at final objective exactly to time at 8.48.

Between 8.38 and 8.48 the second and third waves dealt with several parties of Germans emerging from tunnel dug outs in 1st and 2nd objectives, collecting 14 prisoners in all, 9 of whom showed fight on the way back and were bayoneted.

5 prisoners only were brought in of whom 4 were wounded. 1 prisoner tried to throw a bomb into No. 2 sap on arrival in our lines and was consequently shot.

1st and 2nd objectives were both good fire trenches about 9 feet deep and full of tunnel dugouts. 13 of these were blown up with mobile charges by the sappers, who could easily have used far more than those they took over, one of which failed to explode.

1st and 2nd objectives are evidently connected by tunnels with several exits in both trenches. At the exit of one of these trenches a rifle rack containing about a dozen rifles was found.

During the withdrawal at 9.03pm a party of 11 Germans emerged from this exit without equipment. They tried to show fight but most were killed, 3 or 4 escaping down the tunnel. At southern end of 2nd objective a new German light machine gun was found but was dropped and never recovered.

Meanwhile1st wave had reached final objective. This trench is reported as a deep communication trench containing some dug outs which were bombed.

7 Germans were found and killed and two other parties of about 6 each ran away into our forward barrage. 4 were knocked over by rifle fire from one party and 2 from the other.

A minenwerfer was found in this trench and temporarily disabled with bombs; no mobile charges available. The gun team of 8 Germans were all lying dead round the gun, evidently killed by artillery fire. On the return journey 15 dead Germans were counted between objectives, evidently caught in our barrage fire while trying to run away.


The withdrawal commenced 7 minutes before time as all parties reported no more damage to do.

Before withdrawing a thorough search was made of all dug outs. Lack of sufficient mobile charges handicapped work of destruction, but those for which no charges were available were dealt with by phosphorous and Mills bombs.

Parties report many dug outs occupied. Talking heard from inside but damage unknown, though probably heavy.

All parties report Germans showed very little fight.


Attacking waves found some difficulty in keeping direction chiefly because of dust kicked up by our bombardment and the tendency of troops to slip off towards smoke barrage on right. The trees at Les Briques on northern flank helped considerably to keep direction.

Smoke cloud

The value of the smoke cloud cannot be over estimated. It obscured the Dump at Madagascar Village preventing accurate German machine gun fire and in addition drew nearly all hostile retaliation.

Machine gun fire from the north about Railway Craters was considered possible. In consequence a small party of 1 officer and 8 men including one sapper were detailed at zero + 7 to tackle the two suspected German M.G's. On arrival this party found trenches badly knocked about. Two dug outs were found both of which contained Germans, a mobile charge was blown in each. One man ran out just as charge exploded and was bayoneted.

Action of Germans

Germans kept on sending up golden rain and various coloured rockets which did not appear to serve any useful purpose and it wasn't until 9.45pm that any effective fire was brought to bear on the area of operations.

Old Boots and Sussex trenches rather knocked about but no serious damage.

After return to our lines box barrage taken off and guns concentrated on Les Briques line to give the impression that our attack would be pressed further.

The action of the artillery was excellent throughout and worked exactly to programme. The excellence of the barrage will result in increased confidence of infantry in artillery in future operations.

The party of R.E. Attached proved of the greatest service, carrying out their duties in a most servicable and systematic manner.


At about 9.10pm the line back to Brigade H.Q. Was broken by shell fire but visual signalling was at once established and messages were received very quickly and satisfactorily from our station in fosse 9.

Messages were also received by pigeons.


According to statements made by prisoners, it appears that our attack came as a complete surprise to the enemy. If these reports are to be believed their tunnels contained after our attacks had passed over, at least 70 to 80 men, so if all these tunnels were P bombed and the entrances blown in by mobile charges, it is reasonable to suppose good results were obtained.

Enemy casualties

On a moderate estimate enemy casualties should have amounted to about 100 but these do not include casualties caused by mobile charges in dug outs which cannot be definitely included.

Casualty Report

Officers killed 0

Other ranks killed 5

Officers wounded 1

Other ranks wounded 45 mostly slight

Officers missing 0

Officers missing, reeported wounded 0

Other ranks missing 4

Other ranks missing, reported wounded 1

Signed and dated 9.6.17

Five NCO's were recommended for immidiate rewards for displaying conspicious gallantry during the raid.


Edited by Tony
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