Published By Ben Hillidge
Ploegsteert Wood. 13 Bn Cheshire Regiment. 1 February 1917.
The 13 Bn Cheshire Regiment, also called the Wirral Pals, had seen action at Thiepval during the Somme offensive. In November 1916 they moved up to Ploegsteert where they spent the winter. After the intense fighting on the Somme it was back to the routine of trench life with rotating tours between the front, support lines and back in reserve. Time was spent variously manning the front line and on working parties. There were the usual bouts of artillery exchanges raiding parties, gas alerts and all the other hazards and dangers of the trenches. On the 1 February the battalion was in the front line trenches near to Rifle House, a post in Ploegsteert Wood. The enemy had been active shelling artillery positions behind the front line but at 5.30pm a heavy bombardment began on the battalion’s sector with ‘minenwerfer’, a type of heavy mortar. During the bombardment a number of SOS rockets were sent up further down the line. These were used, as the name suggests, to call for assistance in the event of an enemy raid or similar emergency. The battalion responded by sending a detachment down the trench as reinforcements. As it turned out, the Germans had fired the rockets as a deception. The bombardment lasted just over an hour and was followed by machine gun and rifle fire which went on for the rest of the evening and into the night. There was also a gas alert. During the action, in addition to Private Edwards, the battalion lost 4 other ranks. All 5 are buried next to one another in Berks Cemetery Extension, Ploegsteert.
GOOGLE MAPS – Satellite view centred on CWGC Rifle House Cemetery nearby to the site of Rifle House of which no trace now exists.
References and Sources WAR DIARY 13 Bn Ches. Rgt.
B&O 1917. Armentieres. Ploegsteert Wood. 13 Bn Cheshire Regiment. 1 February 1917.