The Plugstreet Archaeological Project
3rd Btn. Worcestershire Regiment
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3rd Btn. Worcestershire Regiment served with 25th Division, II Anzac Corps near the Kruisstraat mines, during the 1917 Battle of Messines.
The 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment was mobilized at Tidworth on the evening of the 4th of August 1914 and proceeded to France with 3rd Division, sailing from Southampton on the S.S. Bosnian, landing at Rouen on 16th August 1914. They saw action at Mons, Le Cateau, the Marne, the Aisne and La Basse.
In October 1914 they saw action in Flanders being involved in fierce fighting at the Battle of Armentieres between 13th October and 2nd November, which led into the First Battle of Ypres, the action which resulted in the front line settling in the possitions they would remain until The Battle of Messines in June 1917
In early November 1914, the 3rd Worcesters were attached to the 4th Division and alonside the 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers defended the sector of Ploegstreet Wood to St Yves against a German attack of six infantry and two Jadger Battalions. There was severe shelling of the line from 2.30 am and the 3rd Worcesters were driven from the trenches to the relative shelter of the wood. Around 7.30am a large mob of German soliders broke through the Worcester's line and entered Ploegsteert Wood. Sixty enemy soldiers were killed by the 1st Hampshires in the wood and a counter attack was carried out by two companies of the 3rd Worcesters and one from the 1st Irish Fusiliers and 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers. Further counter attacks were made by the two compaies of the 2nd Inskillings and the 1st East Lancashires, expelling the enemy from the wood, leaving the only German gain as a group of houses around White Estaminet just North of Le Gheer, in the area of the Birdcage.
The 3rd Worcesters were transferred with 7th Brigade to 25th Division in October 1915.
They saw action at Vimy Ridge during the German attack in Spring 1916 and after a period of rest near St Pol moved to The Somme, taking over the front line near La Boisselle from 12th (Eastern) Division who had taken part in the infamous attack om July 1st. Over the following week the 25th Division suffered heavy casualties in the Ovillers area until they were relieved by the 48th (South Midland) Division on the night of the 16th July. On the 23rd July the 25th Division took over a sector of the line north of the River Ancre until the 14th August. On the 3rd of September the Division supported the 4th Australian Division in their attack on Mouquet Farm. On 9th October 1916 the 25th Division were in the line on the south bank of the River Ancre, near St Pierre-Divion and captured the northern face of 'Stuff Redoubt' in a major attack.
The 25th Division arrived in the Ploegsteert Sector at the end of October 1916.
On June 3rd the 3rd Worcesters arrived at the camp at Ravelsberg where final preparations were made for the battle.
On the 6th of June, after dark the Battalion moved up to their attack position opposite Nutmeg Avenue, and by 9.30 were in place occupying four lines newly dug assembly trenches behind the front line. British Artillery fired continously through out the night to cover the sound of so many men moving forward ready for the attack.
In the early hours of 7th of June 1917, the men of the 3rd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment took up their positions as part of the 7th Brigade in the front line on the left of the 25th Division's sector, just to the south of the Wulverghem to Wytschaete road, with the 74th Brigade on the right and the 75th in support behind them.
At 3.10am, the appointed hour of the attack, a ripple of massive explosions shook the ground as 19 mines exploded along the 9 mile ridge. To the right of the 3rd Worcesters the German line at Ontario Farm was shattered, to the left, Kruisstraat Farm was blown up and beyond it Spanbroek Mill vanished in flames.
The men of the 3rd Worcesters advanced swiftly, through the dust capturing the enemy forward positions without resistane. B and C companies, who had led the attack, dug in whilst A and D companies continued towards the second objective, Bell Farm. Here the advance was checked by German machine gunners, but after a bitter but short hand to hand engagement, 40 prisoners were taken. A further sixty German soldiers were captured in deep dugouts beneath the ruins of the farm. After some confusion in the dust and darkness, C and D companies were ordered to advance and join the 1st Wiltshires in taking the final objective 'October Support' beside the St Eloi to Messines road near Huns Farm and Middle Farm.
Despite the sucess of the attack, losses amongst the 3rd Worcesters numbered 10 officers and 230 men, killed wounded or missing.
The 3rd Worcesters were relieved on the night of the 11th of June and marched back to bivouac near Wulverghem. After a few days rest in reserve, the battalion went into a suppport position near Messines and was engaged in salvage work on the battlefield until the 22nd of June when they returned to the camp at to Ravelsberg and then on to to Swartenbrouck for a period of training and rest.
The 2th Division went on to take part in the next offensive, the Battle of Passendaele. Where they were involved in heavy fighting from the attack on the 31st of July until the Division was withdrawn on the 9th of September.
In early October 1917, the 25th Division took over the Givenchy Sector and were involved in familiarising Portugese troops with trench warefare and at the beginning of December they entrained for Bullecourt.
In early 1918 the brigades of the 25th Division were in support at the Battle of St Quentin, the 7th Brigade being at Fremicourt, before the German's forced them back during the First Battle of Bapaume at the end of March. The 25th Division suffered heavy losses and was relieved on the Somme battlefields on the 26th of March.
On the 9th of April 1918, the 25th Division were in the front line near Ploegsteert when the German Spring Offensive was launched (The Battle of the Lys). They suffered badly in heavy fighting around Hill 63 and by the 12th of April the men of the 25th Division were involved in holding a new defensive front line in front of Dranoutre and Kemmel. The following day they were fighting a defence on the high ground East of Bailleul, but by the 15th the high ground and the town of Bailleul were in enemy hands and they withdrw through Boeschepe on the 16th.
After only four days rest at Abeele, the 25th Division joined an attack by French troops (who had lost the key position of Kemmel Hill the previous day) In thick fog following a night of heavy rain, the 25th Division, captured the railway line but were force to withdraw to a narrow sector along the Le Clytte to Kemmel road. The Division were withdrawn on the 4th of May and moved back west of Poperinge.
Ordered to a quiet sector south of the Aisne, the Division expected to rescouperate, but by the end of the month were again facing a heavy German attack in the Battle of the Aisne. Large casualty numbers were suffered as the Germans broke through.
In June 1918 the much depleated 25th Division was broken up and the 3rd Worcesters were transferred to 57th Brigade, 19th (Western) Division with whom they took part in the final advance in Picardy.
3rd Btn. Worcestershire Regiment
at The Battle of Messines.
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