' Stockport Soldiers who died 1914 - 1918 - Battle Report
Advances south of Soissons
Date: 23 29 July 1918
Regiment: 1/4th and 1/7th Battalions, Cheshire Regiment

The Battalions arrived from Palestine in June and it seemed that its experience there would make it ideally suited to the open warfare that had replaced the stagnation of the trenches. The Regimental History notes, however, that they had no experience of gas. "So, they were slow to recognise gas shelling. This caused casualties which troops accustomed to gas would have avoided."

Orders were received on 21 July to move to the front line, then at Parcy Tigny, some 7 miles south of the French town of Soissons. These were quickly followed by orders that the Battalions would attack from Parcy Tigny on the 23rd. The 34th Divisional History records "In the most favourable circumstances, this would have been difficult for any troops. But, for a newly constituted Division, composed of troops which had not yet been in action in France and which had just completed a trying move by rail, bus and march route, it was a severe test. The country was entirely new. There was no time for reconnaissance. There were no organised trench systems on either side. The enemy's positions were never more than approximately known till they had been captured."

The Regimental History says that "the country was looking at its best. The battlefield was a stretch of ripe corn, surrounded by glorious forests." The advance was planned to begin 20 minutes after a rocket signal, but the order did not reach the signal station until late and, even when the rocket was fired, it was not visible to the troops. However, orders managed to be conveyed by telephone and radio. The intention was that the 7th Battalion would capture Reungny Wood and the 4th Battalion would overlap them and secure the village of Hartennes.

The 7th Battalion started its attack but it was hard going. The standing corn meant that the Lewis guns (light machine guns) had to be fired from the hip. However, an advance of some 1200 yards was made under heavy machine gun fire, but the objective was not captured. The Cheshires dug in for the night but suffered severe casualties from shell machine gun and gas. During the day, Benjamin Chappell (1/7th Battalion) was killed. It was probably here that Edward Edwards (1/4th Battalion) was affected by gas - he died in hospital four days later.

On the 24th, a further advance was made but casualties were suffered from the "friendly fire" of British artillery shells falling short. The next day was spent undertaking small patrols to harass the enemy. The Cheshires were relieved from the front line on the night of 27/28th but were held as reserve troops for a further advance on the 29th.

The main attack had stalled by about 10.45am and the Cheshires were ordered forward. It was about 2.30pm before the attack started with the objective of capturing the hamlet of Grand Rozoy. Shelling was heavy and there were accurate German snipers placed in Grand Rozoy. Sometime during the day, William Donbavand was killed. He has no known grave so may well have taken a direct hit from a shell. At some point in the previous days, Jack Longson had been severely wounded and died in hospital in Rouen on the 29th.

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