The Battalion to which I was attached went over the lid several times during the latter part of 1916 and the most famous was that of the Leipzig redoubt in August 1916 when the lst/4th Gloucesters became famous. Several units had had a go at it but were unable to hold the place. We decided to have a shot in the afternoon at 6 p.m. with a creeping Barrage of the Corps Artillery.
An amusing incident happened to me just before Zero. A staff officer and a satellite came up to my dug-out and asked me what arrangements I had made for the evacuation of my wounded. I told him that I hadn't made any and that I should wait and see. He asked to see the Trench Map and on being shown it made a remark: "Aren't there any communication trenches between the Boche front line and yours to get the wounded back?" While I was trying to get my breath, the Barrage started with a terrific row and I couldn't see him and his friend for dust.
Our fellows went over with Major Shellard and Captain Wookey and caught the Boche at their supper. They drove off the enemy, captured 127 prisoners and held the line against a counter-attack and consolidated their position. We had 127 casualties. The enemy's regiment was the 28th - the same as the Gloustershire Regiment. We had to thank the Medical Officer of the Wilts. and Worcesters and of another division on our left for their help in getting away several of our stretcher cases.
A great many walking wounded came through me and when these had eased down, I went forward with Skinner and found Gilbert Castle, whose company was in support, playing bridge. I got a guide from him and went ahead. Going round a traverse I ran slap into 11 Boche with a machine gun. They immediately surrendered - luckily - what was I to do with eleven prisoners? I turned about, whistled them to follow me, put Skinner with his rifle and bayonet in the rear and begged to report to the O.C., Colonel Dobbin, that I had captured eleven prisoners and a machine gun. He then rattled off, "What the devil are you doing capturing prisoners? Damn well get on with your own job! Have a drink?"
We were relieved early next morning and when we got back to Billets I found my leave warrant had arrived. Waiting only to shave, I lorry-jumped to Calais, got a boat immediately and was home in time for dinner and to explain to the people that I had just come from Thiepval.
I got that machine gun home later. I got a Boche prisoner to remove the stock and put the rest of the gun in a caddy bag, stuck some clubs in and a tennis-racket, covered it with a sand bag and lumped it home. I nearly got caught by a Landing Officer who made a facetious remark that it looked as though I was carrying a machine gun in my bag. I gave him a knowing look and a long drawn, 'ah-h-h' and passed on. Ye Gods! At first, I thought he meant it.
It was about this time that the Territorial Gloucesters earned their black badge. The Officers of the three Battalions met and decided that at last they had won it and the wearing of the black badge has continued to this day. One of the Battalions had actually fought back to back in the trenches - some firing over the parapet and some over the parados.