At 0530 on April 14, the Newfoundland Regiment began its advance behind a creeping barrageA creeping barrage involved placing a curtain of artillery shells in front of the advancing troops. This "curtain of fire" provided cover to the men as they moved forward. At regular intervals, the shelling moved forward, allowing the soldiers to catch up. More. Although some men were lost to enemy machine-gun fire, the Regiment soon reached its first objective — Shrapnel Trench. Troops found this deserted and proceeded to Infantry Hill. By 0730, with both of their objectives taken, the Newfoundland and Essex Regiments began to secure their positions.
Creeping Barrage Map
Each line on the map represents the next movement of the troops. The troops were expected to move approximately 100 metres every two minutes.
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At about 0800, the Germans began a strong counterattack. It soon became apparent that the Germans had used an elastic defenceThe tactic of lightly manning front positions and holding back most troops for a counter offensive.. With the Essex and Newfoundland Regiments in a salientA salient is a piece of land exposed on three sides to the opposing force making it difficult to protect., the Germans were able to attack them on three sides. Soon the Germans were able to move in behind the two Regiments and "pinchA "pincer movement" is a military attack by two coordinated forces that close in on an enemy position from different directions." them off from the village of Monchy-le-Preux. After fierce fighting, most of the Essex and Newfoundland men were either captured or killed.
Back at Battalion Headquarters in Monchy-le-Preux, commanders were having trouble determining what was happening on the battlefield. To help clarify the situation, the Newfoundland Regiment's Colonel Forbes-Robertson sent a soldier to investigate. The soldier soon returned with news — it appeared that all of the Regiment's men were either wounded or dead and that 200 to 300 Germans were advancing on the village.
Diary Exerpt: Anthony James Stacey (#466)
Anthony James Stacey Regt.#466
Image courtesy of Stacey family
I had just settled down when the attack started. Shells began to fly. A basement was our headquarters with about twenty steps leading up to the yard and there were small long windows at ground level which gave light. These windows soon became blocked with falling brick caused by German shells. Time went on. There was no word from the outside as Monchy was receiving a furious bombardment. At 9:00 a.m. there was still no word as to how the attack was progressing. Our CO, Forbes-Robertson, told me to go out to see if there was anything I could see or find out. I went out on the main road and saw an Essex sergeant passing. He was wounded in the leg and on his way back. I asked him to come and see our CO. He refused at first but then he followed me into headquarters. The CO asked him about the advance. He said that the two regiments, Newfoundland and Essex, were surrounded. Captain Keegan went out to investigate and his report was not very pleasant. Forbes said "Stand to". Up the stairs he went, grabbing a rifle and bandolier from a dead man. The rest followed him.
Thus began the second story of the Newfoundland Regiment at Monchy-le-Preux. Colonel Forbes-Robertson immediately gathered every available man, approximately twenty, to head off the German attack. Scavenging weapons and ammunition from dead and wounded soldiers, this small group of men braved enemy fire in an attempt to reach a well-banked hedge at the edge of town. Only nine of the men actually made it, and they were later joined by one soldier from the Essex Regiment.
The men reached the edge of the village at 1050 and immediately began firing on the advancing enemy. Their shooting was so rapid and accurate that it successfully repelled the German attack — shooting down waves of advancing German soldiers in the open field. Additionally, the soldiers targeted German scouts in an effort to keep the enemy ignorant of the size of the force opposing them. The British Official History of the battle records that for the next four hours, those ten men "represented all that stood between the Germans and Monchy, one of the most vital positions on the whole battlefield."
The Heroes of Monchy
The Heroes of Monchy
Back (l-r) Cpl. A.S. Rose, Sgt. W. Pitcher, Lt.-Col. J. Forbes-Robertson, Lieut. K.J. Keegan, Sgt. C. Parsons, Sgt. J. R. Waterfield.
Front (l-r) Pte. F. Curran, Cpl. J.H. Hillier, Pte. J. Hounsell
The Rooms Provincial Archives VA 36-38.1
By 1400, enemy fire subsided. Colonel Forbes-Robertson sent one of the men back to seek reinforcements, which they received at 1445. Together they continued to hold off the enemy until they were finally relieved at 2000.