Published By Ben Hillidge
Elveringhe. 5 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. January – February 1916.
Between November 1915 and February 1916 5 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry had remained in the Ypres salient. The winter weather had set in. Conditions were bad. Water logged ground and flooded trenches, cold, wet, snow and mud combined to make it a difficult time. The battalion struggled through the usual routine of rest, working parties and duty in the front line. Tours in the trenches were reduced to four days with rest periods spent in huts at Brandhoek. For Christmas they moved into billets at Houtkerque and then returned to Brandhoek for New Year and remained until 7 January. During this time the battalion was inspected by the C in C, Sir Douglas Haig, who sat in on the gas demonstration and training. New drafts of men also arrived from England.
On 8 January it was back into the trenches, this time near to Elverdinghe in the north sector of the Ypres Salient around Malakoff, Saragossa and Pollissier farms near to the shallow rise of Pilckem Ridge; here they would spend the rest of January, February and into March The battalion was deployed with 2 companies in the trenches and the other 2 in the reserve areas, they alternated each day. The sector was relatively quiet although the enemy frequently traversed the parapets with machine gun fire and there was also occasional aerial bombing. Between 8 – 31 January casualties were 16 ORs KIA and 22 wounded and 1 officer KIA and 1 wounded. Amongst the wounded was Private 11308, Richard Davies – likely hit between 21 & 23 January when 9 ORs were wounded.
During the first weeks of February the routine of ‘1 day in and 1 day out’ continued with 2 companies in the front line and 2 in the rear. On 1 February there was sporadic shelling and a bombardment by enemy trench mortars. There was also an exchange of bombing. On 2 February the enemy laid down a heavy bombardment on the KSLI position causing casualties of ORs 7 KIA and 13 wounded – amongst those KIA were Private 6953 Percy Phillips, Private 18247 David Williams and Private 10763, Bertie Annum. The battalion remained at Elveringhe until 11 February when the sector was taken over by 20 (Light) Division which included 6 Bn KSLI – coincidentally the 6 Bn relieved the 5 Bn in the trenches – during the change over many friends in each battalion reacquainted themselves and caught up on news. (see Ypres. La Belle Alliance. 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. February – April 1916). During the relief there was a raid by the enemy, the attack was driven off by bombs and machine gun fire – casualties during the relieve were 10 ORs KIA and 17 wounded. Three machine gunners also went missing but caught up with the rest of the battalion about 3 days later still with their Lewis machine gun. The 5 Bn KSLI then went back to billets at Wormhoult and, at the end of the month moved to Sombrin.
GOOGLE MAPS centres on location of La Belle Alliance.
References and Sources WAR DIARY 5 Bn KSLI. Regimental History KSLI.
B&O 1916. Ypres. Elveringhe. 5 Bn KSLI. Jan – Feb 1916