Published By Ben Hillidge
Ypres Salient. 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. July 1916
During the first half of June 1916 the 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry were operating in the Ypres Salient They spent the time either on tours in the line or on working parties, On the 23 June they began a seven day tour in the front line. Their sector was very active with British guns wire cutting and enemy guns retaliating. Between the 24 -28 June casualties were 8 KIA and 32 wounded. Over the night of the 29/30 the battalion also carried out a raid on the enemy trenches as reconnaissance and intelligence, with casualties of 3 KIA and 12 wounded.
More aggressive action was planned for the next day, 1 July – this was part of diversionary action in conjunction with the First Day of the Somme Offensive. Over the previous days the battalion had helped bring gas cylinders up to the line. At 2.45am on the 1 July the gas was discharged. The cloud got away well and travelled towards the enemy lines, its progress marked by flares going up from the enemy lines. After about 6 minutes the enemy artillery opened up as reprisal with a 4.2 battery from behind Bellewaarde Lake and a 5.9 battery from behind Kitchener Wood. The shelling fell on both front and support lines and also on the Bn HQ. The firing became very intense with HE and gas shells enfilading the trenches from the north and south. At 3.15am British guns opened up in retaliation. The engagement continued for about half an hour and then the enemy abruptly stopped. The remainder of the day things fell quiet. That evening, at 9.30pm the battalion was relieved by the 6 Bn Oxford Bucks and went into billets – 3 companies at Ypres and one at Vlamertinghe. Casualties were 2 officers KIA (Capt M Boddington (CWGC) and Capt FT Burrough (CWGC), 9 ORs KIA and 9 wounded.
The battalion spent the next few days on working parties. One of their tasks was to carry out the discharged gas cylinders. They were also employed on trench repairs and on wiring. They went back into the line on the 8 July, relieving the 6 Bn Oxfords. & Bucks. The next day was quiet. On the 10 July the brigade to the left of the battalion released a gas cloud prior to carrying out a raid on the enemy. The Germans were altered and, anticipating an attack, began shelling the British front line and communication trenches. The shelling at first was heavy but decreased when the enemy realised that the attack was not coming from the KSLI sector. During the shelling the battalion had 2 officers wounded, Captain DJ Macleod and Lieutenant DG Smith (KIA 16 August 1917 – CWGC), and one other rank killed. The battalion was relieved on the night of 11 July and moved back to Camp C between Vlamertinghe and Poperinghe.
The battalion spent the 12 and 13 July in camp. The time was spent cleaning equipment, arms, uniforms and other kit after their time in the front line. Baths were also laid on for the men, as well as haircuts, there was also physical exercise and drill. Late on the evening of the 13 July orders were received to prepare to move off. By 3.00am on the 14 July the order to move was confirmed and the battalion marched to Poperinghe. Here they were to take a train to Steenwerk and then onward to the Armentières sector. As they were entraining the enemy laid down a bombardment on Poperinghe, one OR was killed and 2 wounded.
At Armentieres the 6 Bn KSLI was billeted at Fleurbaix relieving the 54 Bn ANZACs. The battalion would stay in this sector for the rest of the month and would then move further south to the play their part in the ongoing Somme Offensive.
GOOGLE MAPS centres on Poperinghe railway sation.
References and Sources WAR DIARY 6 Bn KSLI. History KSLI.
B&O 1916. Ypres. 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. July 1916.