Below is my transcription of the 1st Hants War Diary for the month of December 1914. In addition to the diary there are a few extracts from the book “Good Old Somersets. An ‘Old Contemptible’ Battalion in 1914”. The Christmas truce of 1914 is briefly mentioned in this post but more information will be posted soon regarding this.
1st to 18th Dec
During this period there was practically no fighting. The Bn was employed in improving their trenches, owing to the heavy rain the trench has become flooded and pumps were provided & worked constantly night & day. The trench required to be re built every night owing to the rain. The Coy in the breastworks were employed in carrying material to the front trench for building purposes.
Picture from “Good Old Somerset’s”
The Coy at PLOEGSTEERT rested, for 24 hours but were available for any extra working parties which may be required. Major FR Hicks & Capt. The Hon LC Ralf rejoined from England and Major FR Hicks took over command of the Bn from Major GH Parker. Baths were arranged by the 4th Div for Coys at NIEPPE where each Coy bathed & had a complete change of clothing. Capt. B.B [????] took over the duties of Acting Adjutant from the 1st of December.
Casualties:- Killed 11 Wounded 27
[Note in margin] With a draft of 260 on 22nd November, but, this number being too large to absorb at once, Major Hicks remained with the bulk of them at ROMARIN for a time.
Extract’s from “Good Old Somerset’s”
Orders were received that the 11th Bde were to attack and capture the bight in the line. The Divnl and Heavy Artillery were ordered to heavily shell the enemy’s position until the moment of attack, and then lengthen their range.
The Rifle Brigade and the Somerset L.I. were to lead the attack at 2.30 pm assisted by the Hants, on their right.
The disposition of the Bn was as follows.
C Coy in the main trench. Remainder of D Coy in the front breastwork with one platoon ready to advance on right rear of R. B. to fill up the gap at the N end of our main trench and entrench there. C & D Coys were under the command of Major Parker. A Coy occupied the 2nd line breastwork. B Coy occupied a line of dug outs on west edge of PLOEGSTEERT WOOD.
19th Dec contd
The Artillery opened fire at 9am making very good practice on the enemy’s trenches. Towards noon their shells began to fall short and eventually landed in our own trenches.
The Rifle Brigade moved forward to the attack at 2.30 pm but were held up by machine gun fire. One platoon D Coy reinforced the R.B. but were unable to make further progress. We succeeded in gaining some ground, but owing to the state of the weather, this was found to be untenable. We captured some defended houses and succeeded in making good the EASTERN edge of PLOEGSTEERT WOOD. Major Parker was killed in the main trench whilst directing machine gun fire.
Casualties:- Killed Major GH Parker – 15 Other Ranks
Wounded Lieut AFCV Prendergast – 25 Other Ranks
[Note in margin] This attack was really stopped by shrapnel from our own guns.
Extract for 19th Dec and map from “Good Old Somerset’s”
20th to 31st Dec
During this period nothing of importance occurred. The main trench is still flooded and the Coy in occupation having to work night and day pumping & baling out the water.
All casualties during this period caused by snipers.
The houses at LE GHEER have been placed in a state of defence and are garrisoned each day.
Killed 4 Other Ranks
Wounded Lieut D Bay & 6 Other Ranks
Admissions to hospital during month 179 Other Ranks
Discharges from Hospital 79 Other Ranks
[Note in margin] On Xmas Day an informal truce began with the 133rd Saxons, XIX Corps opposite us & continued till the New Year.
NOTE: There is a lot of information about the attack on the Birdcage in which the 1st Hants and the Somerset Light Infantry took part in the book “The Good Old Somersets”.
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.
Gillard, Brian, ed. Good Old Somersets. An ‘Old Contemptible’ Battalion in 1914. Leicester: Matador, 2004. Google Books.