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Since the last post, the men of the 1st Hampshire regiment (1st Hants) have continued advancing on the Germans who have now been retiring. The 1st Hants war diary states that on the 8th September 1914 “The Battle of Marne commenced”. This I believe is most likely for them as the official dates for this battle are 5th – 12th Sept 1914.
The map above shows the positions on the 9th September 1914.
9th September – Advanced to CHATEAU VENTEIL Rifle Bde was pushed forward towards the river and became engaged with German Infantry & Machine Guns posted in LA FERTE. Hampshire’s & E. Lancs. took up position on high ground at CHATEAU VENTEIL to cover advance of R.B. while our guns shelled LA-FERTE and the enemy on the N. bank of the river. The skilful placing of German Machine Guns prevented our Infantry advancing till late in the day at dusk the R.E. where able to begin bridging the river close to the site of the stone bridge destroyed by the enemy while the 11th Inftry Bde proceeded to cross in small boats in order to cover the bridge [?] HAMPSHIRE RGT began crossing at 9 p.m. and were all over by 2 a.m. while the R.B. effected a crossing near REIL. The 11th Bde less 1st R.B. and 1st S.L.I. (this Bn held in present on N. bank of river) forward up on Northern bank of river and prepared to advance. (1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment – War Diary (1914) – WO 95/1495/1)
During this crossing the 1st Hants lost 2 men who accidentally drowned whilst crossing. On the same day the second batch of needed reinforcements arrived to join the Battalion. The Battalion continued to advance for the next few days with no opposition encountered and on further casualties. On the 12th September the Battalion began to dig in at La Montagne Farm, Bucy-Le-Long, France.
12th September – … The advance was made without opposition and the high ground N. of BUCY-LE-LONG occupied. Hampshire Regt occupying a position about LA MONTAGNE FARM. Reconnaissance showed that the enemy were entrenched about 1500 yds to our front & during the afternoon we were heavily shelled without however much effect at dusk we began digging ourselves in and making a further reconnaissance of the enemies position no rations could be got up to the men during this day. (1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment – War Diary (1914) – WO 95/1495/1)
This photo from The History Press Blog shows the style of trench used in the early days of the Great War.
It is this type of trench that Frederick DAY, Sidney GUNNELL, James PIKE & Edwin PIKE of St Mary Bourne would have found themselves in during the Battle of Aisne whilst they were based at La Montagne Farm. The trenches are very shallow so the troops in them are still visible the whole trench is open to the weather with no area at all protected.
Between the 13th and 17th September the war diary reports that they were “were more or less continually under artillery fire & wet weather made the conditions in the Trenches very trying”. During this period, 11 other ranks were killed, 2 Officers and 54 other ranks wounded, the cause was Artillery Fire in all cases.
The 1st Hants continued to occupy the same position for the rest of the month, and the diary entry for the 19th-24th September is as follows:-
Same position occupied, weather fine practically unmolested by the enemy. The position was daily improved, and is now one of great strength, at night our outposts are within ear shot of the German Sentries, supplies are plentiful& regular clothes & equipment have been provided & with the exception of Boots the Bn has practically had a refit.
Certainly this entry gives the impression that things are much better for the men, and on both the 20th and 23rd September the 3rd & 4th batch of reinforcements arrived to boost the battalion’s strength. Amongst these reinforcements was the last of our “Old Contemptibles” to go out to the front, Walter SIMS who no doubt caught up with his friends from St Mary Bourne as soon as he could.
The Battalion stayed were they were until the 5th October 1914 improving defences and being unmolested by the enemy.
The Home Front
Back home in St Mary Bourne, life was carrying on as normal as possible little other than Harvest Festivals is reported for St Mary Bourne in the local paper.
The Salvation Army and Wesleyan Methodists and Primitive Methodists held their Harvest Festivals the 2nd and 3rd week of September. Further Harvest Festivals were held in Stoke, Dunley & St Peter’s Church in the last week of September. Each week the local paper The Andover Advertiser reported on them, the report from the paper of the 2nd October 1914 is below.
1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment – War Diary (1914) – WO 95/1495/1. “http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/.” Aug-Dec 1914. The National Archives. PDF. 10 May 2014.