History Of Mareham-Le-Fen

First World War

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Attack on Preux-Aux-Bois
November 4th 1918

This article which covers a battle which included men from Mareham-le-fen
is based on a report from a senior officer

This was the last big concerted movement of the war in which the First, Third and Fourth Armies took part.
General Morland's plan for the XIII Corps was divided into three phases,
First Phase: The 25th Division, on the 18th Division's south, was to force the crossing of the Sambre-Et-Oise Canal and operate on the southern bank, while the 50th and 1 Divisions, operating north of the canal, were to attack on the south and north side:of their respective sectors and capture Preux-Aux-Bois by an enveloping movement.
The Brigade plan was that the Northamptons (less one company) were to make initial attack, their task being to seize the high ground north of the village.
We were to follow, forming up north of the village, with one company of the 11th Royal Fusiliers on the right and one company of Northamptons on the left, were to attack in a south direction.
The 11th Royal Fusiliers were to hold the existing front line west of Preux keep the enemy amused with Lewis guns, rifles and rifle grenades, in the hope deceiving him as to the real point of attack.
The attack was a daylight attack, starting at 6.15 a.m. The weather was clear early, about 6.30 a.m. a thick fog came down, which did not clear till about 9 a.m.
The Northamptons made a spirited attack and cleared the whole of the area over which the Battalion had to advance
Our companies duly reached the forming-up line, and at 8.7 a.m. the heavy shrapnel barrage came down and at 8.11 a.m. began to move southwards.
It was described by all ranks as thick and accurate.
The outer flanks were held up, but our two right companies (C, under Captain R L V Deake, MC, followed by D, under 2/Lt W Pennington) made good progress, assisted by three tanks.
The enemy were fighting well in the orchards, but the thick hedges were either broken down by the tanks or cut down by the billhooks which the men were carrying and thus, by a series of small flanking movements conceived on the spur of the moment and ably carried out by the junior leaders, the village was won.
By about 9.30 a.m. D Company had reached the church, the tall spire of which soared above the surrounding trees, and gained touch with the 2nd Munster. Fusiliers, 50th Division.
They then proceeded to mop up. Meanwhile, on the left A Company, under Lt A F Aldridge, had almost at once been held up by a machine-gun, which caused them to lose the barrage.
Two attempts were made by a tank to deal with this nest. but without success.
Lt W J Holbrook, MC, however, led two platoons round to the west of the nest, and after a spirited struggle cleared the cemetery.
This enabled the two right platoons of B Company to move forward and clear the main street as far as the cross roads. After this Lt H B Lang led a small party and finally mopped up a troublesome machine-gun.
The rest of A and B Companies worked round the original nest by the east, and finally this machine-gun team, seeing themselves outflanked and attacked in rear, gave in.
By 12 noon the village was clear and fit for other troops to pass through. Our captures included 300 prisoners, 20 machine-guns, 3 heavy trench mortars and 1 anti-tank rifle, besides much other material.
Our casualties were: killed 2/Lt S H Abbott and 7 men.
Wounded 2/Lts W Ashton, MC, W Pennington, S A G Hill and 33 other ranks;
and 3 men missing.
At least one of the wounded soldiers was from Marham-le-fen and was to later die of his wounds his story is told here
A Mareham-le-fen Soldier

On the following pages There are

A description of the unimaginable dangers and conditions of a Soldier who survived

The philosophy and story's told by another Soldier who survived

Recollections by villagers of some of the WW1 soldiers together with my own of those I knew