First World War Project
Leslie Jack FIELD (of Newnham)
b. July 1895
2nd Lieutenant, Service Number N/K
"IN EVER LOVING MEMORY OF A DEVOTED SON AND BROTHER"
Leslie was born to Albert and Rosanna (née Andrews) Field who came originally from villages to the south-east of Ashford. Sadly, on 4th October 1905, Leslie's mother died at the age of 33 in Chartham Insane Asylum not long after giving birth to her last child. In her relatively short life, Rosanna bore nine children of which seven survived. By 1911, Albert removed his family from Smeeth (South-East of Ashford) to work as a cowman, living in Mill House Cottages, Mill Lane, Newnham, Kent. At the same time, Leslie was employed as a footman in Wiveton Hall, Norfolk, the household of retired Lieutenant-Colonel, Francis Watson-Kennedy. One might idly speculate that this employment effected Leslie's early decision to enlist into the 5th Lancers (Royal Irish) rather than a Kent Battalion?
There was early realisation that cavalry units were of limited use in the BEF and many of them were "dismounted" to become foot-soldiers after suitable retraining. This may plausibly explain why Leslie found himself "attached" to the "8th Battalion, Royal Berkshires".
After the War, his father was living in Stone Cottage, Hogben Hill, Selling, Faversham, Kent. The CWGC records as a "native of Newnham, Kent." However, he and his family have their roots closer to Ashford.
His "Record of Effects" concludes pay owed to his family of £21 10s. but mysteriously omits a sum for War Gratuity. [See Appendix 2]
He was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War and Victory medals. [See Appendix 1]
Military Experience of Leslie Jack Field
The few records available confirm that Leslie served in the France and Flanders Theatre from 18th October 1915. This suggests that he enlisted as a private at or close to the outbreak of war. His Record of Effects indicates that he joined in August 1914, so he was at Home for over a year in the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion - initially at Reading then Portsmouth. It is plausible to suppose that Leslie landed in France in either the 1st or 2nd Battalion (his promotion record is ambiguous on this point).
We know that he achieved his rank of paid 2nd Lieut on 29th May 1918; at that time he was attached to either the 1st or 2nd Battalion, Royal Berkshires. As so often happened, promotion was accompanied by reallocation to another Battalion in greater need of NCOs and this may account for his attachment to the 8th.
An inspection of the War Diary for the 8th Battalion reveals that Leslie did not in fact join this Battalion in his new rank until some time in August 1918. It emerges also that Leslie Field was injured on 28th August, probably during a relief operation. The War Diary reads:
27th August 1918: 6.30 a.m.: The heavies opened an intense bombardment on the Southern portion of TRONES WOOD and continued for half an hour. Field gun also co-operated and in particular a forward section of B.82, which had previously registered on the forward enemy post, put in a most accurate shoot and materially contributed to the success of the operation.
6.50 a.m.: Two guns of the 53rd Trench Mortar Battery opened an intensive fire on the western edge of the Wood and M.G.'s played upon it from the Northern slopes. Some captured M.G.s were turned to advantage by "C" Company at the same time and covering rifle fire given from their positions.
6.55 a.m.: The attacking companies – "D" Company Essex on the right, One Platoon of "C" Company Essex in the centre and "B" Company of this Battalion on the left, crept from the position close up to the bombardment.
7.00 a.m.: All the fire was turned to the left, but so eager were the men that they were in amongst it before the shells had stopped bursting, taking the enemy completely by surprise. Practically all of these on the edge of the Wood were shot or bayonetted and our troops pushed on into the undergrowth with great dash, surprising the supports demoralising them and proceeding without delay to the Eastern edge of the Wood, where posts were organised with great promptitude and the gains consolidated. "D" Company of this Battalion formed a flank on the left through the centre of the Wood and the 7th Royal West Kents came up on the right and continued the line to BERNAFAY WOOD. The whole operation was complete within an hour. 3 Officers and 70 O.R. were taken prisoners, about 50 of the enemy killed and some 20 Machine Guns captured.
One post was manned with 2 heavy and 7 light Machine Guns. The unit opposed was identified as the Battalion II Guards Regiment (Francis Joseph).
Enemy posts still maintained their hold in the ground beyond the Wood and in the northern portion, but were rendered largely innocuous by the command of the ground captured and the night passed quietly without enemy reaction.
28th August: 12 Midnight: Battalion was relieved by 2nd Battalion Bedford Regiment, 54th Brigade and moved.
The nature of his injury is not known. Leslie was not to return to his Battalion until 23rd October, a matter of only a few days before he lost his life. Again, the War Diary sets the scene:
23rd October: 02.20: Battalion moved forward keeping direction by the right flank of "D" Company which was resting on the wood running from K.35.b.7.6 – EVILLERS WOOD FARM – L.20 central. Considerable difficulty was experienced in keeping touch although the moon, which was full, had risen by this time.
Casualties, so far, had been negligible.
The first opposition was met at RICHEMONT RIVER, where a strong machine gun nest held up the left of the left Company (B). These guns had been missed by the 1st attack. O.C. "B" Company, 2nd Lt. J. GRANT, was killed here and most of his Company H.Q. became casualties. On the right a little sniping from 3 Bosche who had previously surrendered caused slight trouble.
The Battalion moved on behind the leading Battalion to just short of the 1st objective, the sunken road in L.14.c. L.20.a and d, where the 10th Essex were found to be definitely held up by very heavy machine gun fire from this road. Numerous attempts were made to rush this position both by the Essex and "C" Company without success. In addition heavy machine gun fire was coming from L'EVEQUE WOOD and the right was also held up.
Battalion H.Q. had by this time, moved to about L.19.c.0.0.
The position remained unchanged until dawn.
As soon as it was light enough, it became evident that the attack on the left Brigade front was going well and the enemy in the sunken road. Apparently becoming uneasy, especially when Tanks were seen moving on the far ridge to their flank, began to retire.
Captain M. WYKES, M.C. who had gone forward from Battalion H.Q. to reconnoitre appreciating the situation moved the leading companies forward and the sunken road was rushed without much opposition. Over 30 Light and Heavy M.G'. were taken in the road.
The advance was then continued as far as the 2nd objective which was taken about 08.30 hours. Owing to the fact that "B" Company had been held up at RICHEMONT ROVER it became necessary to reinforce the line on the 2nd objective. "A" Company was therefore moved up.
Company dispositions were as follows. "C" Company from FAYT FARM inclusive to L.9.d. central with "A" Company on their right and elements of "B" and "D" along the road at L.16.a.2.5, where touch was gained with the left Battalion (1st WORCESTERS), 25th Division.
The 55th Brigade were soon after passing through and Machine Gun fire was shortly afterwards heard from the direction of BOUSIES.
Companies reorganized. "B" Company was concentrated in the practice trenches in L.14.c. Battalion H.Q. were established at L.14.c.8.3.
These positions were maintained during the night 23rd/24th October.
The Battalion's capture in Field Guns was 11. Machine Guns over (20) definitely collected.
24th October: Battalion remained in its position on the 2nd Objective until at 17.00 Orders were received that the Brigade would take over from the 54th Brigade who were still fighting for the 3rd Objective on the Left of the Divisional Front.
Battalion took over from 6th Battalion NORTHANTS Regiment.
The situation was very obscure and relief was rendered very difficult by the fact that 54th Brigade was undertaking a minor operation with the view of making good the 3rd Objective, and that the operation had commenced before relief orders arrived.
In consequence of this the Battalion concentrated at the H.Q. 6th Northants, BOUSIES WOOD FARM, and companies there awaited their guide.
During the morning LIEUT. COLONEL N.B. HUDSON, M.C., who was wounded on 8th August last, arrived and took over command of the Battalion from MAJOR A.F.S. NORTHCOTE who proceeded to re-join 7th R.W. Kent Regiment.
25th October: Relief was eventually completed at 02.00 hours. Companies took over as follows:-
"B" Company on the left in shell slits in orchards from F.12.a.7.8 – F.12.a.8.5.
"C" Company in the centre in touch with "B" Company on the left and a Company of CAMERONS on right at F.12.a.8.2.
"D" Company on the right from the sunken road running through F.11.b and F.12.a, south to F.12.c.8.8.
"A" Company were in reserve in slits around BOUSIES WOOD FARM.
On the right flank of the Battalion there was a gap between "D" Company and the 10th Essex Regiment partially filled by a Company 4th KINGS LIVERPOOLS at F.12.c.0.0.
The CAMERONS and LIVERPOOLS were troops of the 33rd Division which Division was forming a defensive flank before 54th Brigade had made good the ground.
These positions were maintained and active patrolling was carried out until dusk 25.10.18.
In the meantime orders were received that the 53rd Brigade would, in co-operation with the attack of the33rd Division, attack the high ground known as MT. CARMEL, 10th ESSEX forming the right of the attack, 8th ROYAL BERKS and 2 companies the ROYAL WEST KENTS the left, the latter two companies being under the orders of the Commanding Officer 8th ROYAL BERKS.
26th October: 00.01 hours: Assembly complete. Companies left their positions, the front line being vacated. The assembly was made on the line F.12.a.8.5 – F.12.c.5.4. Companies as follows:- "D" on the right, "C" in the centre, "B" on the left, "A" Company in reserve, the two companies of the 7th R.W. Kents forming up, immediately in rear of, and slightly echeloned, to the Battalion.
Objectives. The Battalion objectives and barrage line were as shown on attached map.
The two companies 7th R.W. Kents were ordered, 1 Company to establish a series of posts along the stream from about A.8.a.3.4 as far as road junction at L.2.a.0.1, at which point touch was to be obtained with the other company, which was acting as liaison company between the two Armies and was following in rear of the attack of the 35th Division.
01.00 hours: Zero hour. Barrage opened and companies advance, meeting immediate opposition from advanced machine gun posts of the enemy. The night was extremely dark and owing to the nature of the country progress and the keeping of direction was extremely difficult. The first strong opposition was met on the ENGLEFONTAINE – ROBERSART Road which was strongly held by Machine Guns and the right of the attack was held up.
In the meantime the left company had pushed through, 2 platoons of "B" Company reaching their objective at 01.40 hours but after incurring heavy casualties were obliged to withdraw to the sunken road running from A.7.b.8.4 – A.13.b.7.1 at about A.7.d.8.8 where they were in touch with elements of "C" Company who had been held up there. The right flank was still back on the road.
26th October: 03.00: About this time the Commanding Officer went forward and finding this situation adopted a policy of penetration by active patrolling and the line of the sunken road was eventually made good and touch with the ESSEX obtained on the right near the junctions of the main and sunken roads at A.13.b.7.1.
The enemy retaliation was unusually heavy, guns of heavy calibre being joined on especially on the high ground in F.18.a. Enfilade fire from the right caused particular annoyance.
The company of the 7th Royal West Kents on the left of the Battalion had kept touch and were now holding positions on the left flank of "B" Company and in touch with that company slightly in front of the Main Road. They had not however gained touch with their other company. This latter company "C" had made remarkable progress and were on their objective – the cross-roads L.2.a.0.1 at which point they had arrived in front of the 33rd Division encountering and overcoming severe enemy opposition.
Touch between the two companies was later gained through troops of the 33rd Division who were in positions on the main road.
Battalion H.Q. were then established at Road junction F.11.b.2.5.
During the day LT. COLONEL N.B. HUDSON, M.C. was slightly wounded, which necessitated his going to a C.C.S. on 28th when CAPT. G.W.H. NICOLSON M.C., assumed command of the Battalion.
27th/28th October: The above positions were maintained until the right, when the Battalion was relieved by 7th R.W. Kents Regiment and came in Brigade reserve. Companies were in slits around BOUSIES WOOD FARM. Battalion H.Q. were in BOUSIES WOOD FARM. Relief was complete at 21.30 hours, 27th October.
28th October: Battalion remained in Brigade Reserve until night of 29th when the 55th Brigade relieved 53rd Brigade, 7th QUEENS Regiment relieving this Battalion. Relief was complete at 17.10 hours.
29th October: 17.10: Battalion moved to EPINETTE FARM and became part of the Brigade in reserve with orders to man the right sector of the Divisional Main line of resistance in case of an attack.
30th October: Remained at EPINETTE FARM where the day was spent in re-organisation and re-equipping as far as possible.
31st October: 17.45: Battalion moved out of the Farm and proceeded to the Line in relief 7th BUFFS Regiment, 55th Brigade, in the Left Sector of the Divisional Front.
Dispositions of companies were as follows:- Right Front – "C" Company Left Front; "A" Company; Support – "B"; Reserve "D"; Battalion H.Q. – BOUSIES WOOD FARM.
94 O.R.s joined Battalion during October, in addition to the undermentioned Officers.
2ND LIEUTS. J. LONG, G.F. PARROTT, J.W. PATE and W.A.Mc.CONNELL. 2nd LIEUT L.J. FIELD rejoined from Base.
Casualties sustained in officers were:-
KILLED IN ACTION: 2nd Lt. N.H.G. BLACKBURN, M.C. 23.10.18; 2nd LIEUT. J. GRANT, M.C. 23.10.18.
WOUNDED: 2nd LIEUT. F.W. BENNY, 23.10.18.; 2nd W.DEANS, 23.10.18; 2nd LIEUT. W.A. McCONNELL, 23.10.18.
CAPTAIN W.H. FERGUSON, M.C. (R.A.M.C att), 23.10.18.
Circumstances of the death of Leslie Jack Field
The War Diary entries for 3rd/4th November are revealing:
1st/2nd November: Battalion was disposed as shown hereunder as on 3.11.18.
3rd November: In accordance with order issued by Brigade the Battalions assembled for the attack.
Prior to the assembly the Battalion was holding the front line astride the main ENGLEFONTAINE – LANDRECIES road in A.13."b" and "d" with Battalion H.Q. at BOUSIES WOOD FARM. "A" Company were on the left and "C2 Company on the right with "B" and "D" Companies in support and reserve respectively in the orchards in A.13.b.
The Battalion was relieved at dusk, "A" Company by the 6th NORTHANTS and "C" Company by the 11th ROYAL FUSILIERS. On relief of these two companies the Battalion moved to their assembly positions – "B" and "D" Companies moving without relief.
21.00 hours: The relief was successfully carried out and by 21.00 hours the position of the Battalion was as follows: "A" Company in shell slits in orchard immediately South of the road at about F.12.c.75.95, with "B" Company in slits 100 yards West. "C" Company were in slits North of the same road at about F.12.a.9.2 with "D2 Company on their left. "D" Company were in touch with the 13th ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS on their left. Battalion H.Q. were with the 10th ESSEX REGIMENT in the cellar of PETIT PLANTY, at A.7.d.0.4.
The objective of the Battalion was to take the RED LINE (the road running from the Cross roads in A.10 exclusive, to the Cross roads at A.17.a.75.85) clearing that part of MORMAL FOREST that lay East of the village of HECQ.
The first objective (the RED DOTTED line) from the D of ROUTE D'HECQ to the P of MON FRERE DE PREUX was to be captured by the 7th ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT and the 54th BRIGADE, while the Battalion with the 13th ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS (38th Division) on the left and the 10th ESSEX REGIMENT on the right were to go through and capture the 2nd objective.
3rd/4th November: The night passed off quietly, except that at 05.30 hours hostile retaliation for the 3rd Army barrage fell on "C" and "D" Companies causing 4 casualties (2 killed and 2 wounded.)
06.15 hours: At this time the barrage for the attack on the first objective opened. The hostile retaliation was weak and scattered and caused no casualties to the Battalion.
07.35 hours: The Battalion with the 10th ESSEX on the right moved forward to form up on the RED DOTTED LINE to attack the RED LINE, passing through the 7th ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT and the 54th Brigade. The Battalion moved off in the following order – "A" Company, "B" Company (who had the furthest distance to go), "C" Company and "D" Company. The Battalion moved in this order until they reached the road junction in HECQ at A.14.b.2.9.
At this point "A" and "B" Companies were to move to their forming up positions along the North edge of the orchard in A.14.b South down track in A.15.a, along track North of the stream in A.15.c to their positions at A.15.d.15.25, while "C" Company followed by "D" Company, were to follow the line of the ROUTE D'HECQ to their positions at A.9.d.50.60
From the assembly positions to the road junction in HECQ at A.14.b.2.9 the enemy shelling was negligible and the companies were enabled to keep together, thus the difficulties of control of artillery formation were not encountered.
From this point (road junction in HECQ) the operation as far as this Battalion was concerned, was divided into two parts – "A" Company being ordered to work along South Eastern edge of MORMAL FOREST up to the right of the RED LINE, followed by "B" Company who were ordered to form posts at the South ends of the tracks through the wood, "C" Company being ordered to work along the North edge of the FOREST to the left of the objective followed by "D" Company who were ordered to form posts at the North end of the rides through the FOREST and to keep liaison with the 38th Division on the left. While this was in progress, a heavy barrage (6" and 4.5's) played in the FOREST itself "C" Company followed by "D" Company then continued working up from the road junction to their second assembly position which they reached at 08.30 hours. During this process they were subjected to a certain amount of Machine Gun fire from machine guns that had not been mopped up, and from a hostile post which they successfully worked round and put to flight.
09.07: The barrage moved on from the RED DOTTED LINE at the rate of 100 yards in 6 minutes. "C" Company followed along the line of the ROUTE D'HECQ behind the 18 pounder barrage of the 5th Corps and the 6" and 4.5's barrage of the 13th Corps, which overlapped along this line. No opposition was met for the first 400 yards when some opposition was met from the left. This was effectively dealt with and the company moved on until they reached the stream at A.10.a.8.0 when the enemy blew up the bridge and wounded a few men of the leading platoon. On reaching the high ground at about A.10.b.0.3 the company came under point blank range of field guns from the wood on their left front. In spite of this they most gallantly pushed on and reached their final objective at 10.37, after having rushed a strong enemy post by the building at A.10.b.9.2. In rushing this post 2nd Lieut. L.J. Field was killed and five other ranks wounded. The Company Commander, 2nd Lieut. F.J. Powell, DCM, MM, sent a message back at this junction to say that he had reached his objective, that both his flanks were in the air and that he intended to stay where he was. The determination on his part and that of his men very materially assisted the 38th Division on his left and "A" Company on his right to reach their objectives, although it was not until three hours later that his left flank, and five hours later that his right flank was secured.
"D" Company had meanwhile followed up and established posts at the North end of the rides at A.9.d.8.7, A.10.c.4.9 and A.10 central, the last named post eventually obtaining liaison with the 38th Division on its left, as ordered. The casualties of this Company were only four men wounded. They succeeded in working into the wood when the barrage lifted and killed or captured the occupants of two hostile posts.
"A" Company, followed by "B" Company, came into difficulties almost immediately they left the Cross roads at A.14.b.2.9. The 54th Brigade, whose task was to clear the ground where this Battalion and the 10th ESSEX REGIMENT were to form up, had partially failed. The result was the "A" Company became subjected to machine gun fire from the bank of the stream in A.15.c. As there was still 50 minutes before the barrage moved on from the RED DOTTED LINE, the O.C. "A" Company, CAPTAIN T.K. PICKARD, M.C., determined to halt his company and sent forward a patrol to discover the situation. The situation found to be that the 2nd BEDFORDS and the 10th ESSEX were held up by the enemy in the Farm at A.21.b.2.7 and in the S.W. corner of the Wood. The enemy had carried out a local and temporarily successful counter-attack. Time being now short, and the barrage being now lost, the Company Commander determined to fight his way to his second assembly position (the "P" in MON FRERE DE PREUX) and thence to his final objective on the RED LINE. The next three hours (11.00 to 14.00) were spent in working round hostile machine guns, in rushing posts and in neutralising the enemy's fire, which was considerable.
The casualties of "A" Company during this period were comparatively heavy and the behaviours of section commanders and individual private soldiers was from every point of view beyond praise.
14.00 hours: By this time, "A" Company had cleared their assembly position and began working up the South Eastern edge of the FOREST in conjunction with the 10th ESSEX REGIMENT. The fire from the open country on their right flank was such that the company worked up 20 yards inside the Wood with scouts out in front. At about 14.30 the 7th QUEENS were met at the cross track at A.16.b.45.30. They had come diagonally through the FOREST. With them "A" Company worked its way up, without much opposition to its final objective, which it reached at 15.05.
Touch was obtained on the RED LINE with "C" Company on the left and the 10th ESSEX on the right, and the Company immediately began to consolidate while the 55th Brigade went through to the next objective.
"B" Company had followed behind "A" Company but had not been involved in the fighting, and establish posts at A.16.a.5.8, A.16.b.2.1, A.16.b.4.3 and A.17.a.1.5.
Patrols from this company worked through the wood and touch was obtained with all the posts of "D" Company North of the Wood.
15.05 hours: The situation was "C" and "A" Companies on the RED LINE in touch on both flanks. The Wood was also picketed along its North and South sides and declared cleared of the enemy.
When it was reported that "C" Company had reached its objective and that "A" Company, to order it with "B" Company to withdraw and take its objective via the ROUTE D'HECQ and the West corner of the Wood. When the order arrived however, the situation had cleared, and "A" Company's progress had been such that it was decided to allow the company to continue according to plan.
Two Vickers Guns of the 18th Machine Gun Battalion were attached to "A" and "C" Companies. These guns proved of the utmost service and their help in neutralising hostile machine guns and in holding the final objective, invaluable.
Three Tanks were to have operated with "C" Company and one with "A" Company. Unfortunately, owing to enemy action, these were, without exception, unable to function.
Battalion Headquarter moved on two occasions, first at 09.07 from PETIT PLANTY to cellar at about A.8.c.7.7 and thence at 12.00 to cellar at A.8.b.9.0. The 55th Brigade having gone through on the evening of 4-11-18 the Battalion remained in the above dispositions until .....
5th November: 16.00 hours: When it was withdrawn into billets in the village of HECQ.