The Great War started for my Great Uncle Harry Pike upon enlistment into the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers at Newport in 1914. Subsequently, he was posted to the Rugby in January 1915. On 17 March 1915 he embarked from Avonmouth to Egypt & from there to Gallipoli.
There, he landed in chaotic conditions in broad daylight on open beaches defended by barbed wire covered at close range by rifles & machine guns, on Cape Helles 25/4/15. Somehow securing the beachhead from Johnny Turk, Harry & the Battalion took part in the capture of Sedd el Bahr (26/4/15), the 1st Battle of Krithia (28/4/15), Eski Hissarlik (1-2 May 1915), 2nd Battle of Krithia (6-8/5/15), 3rd Battle of Krithia (4/6/15), Gully Ravine (28/6-2/7 1915), Krithia Vineyard (6-13/8/15), Battle of Scimitar Hill (21/8/15), covering the Evacuation of Suvla (19-20/12) before being evacuated himself from Helles 11/1/16 & returning to Egypt.
Over the 10 months at Gallipoli, the The Battalion lost its Commander & 26 men killed/missing with 42 wounded. It is more than possible that Harry would have met his Brother George there, who was serving with the Gloucestershire Yeomanry & present at Gallipoli from 19/8/15 ,(in action at Chocolate Hill, Green Hill & Hill 112) until himself being evacuated to Mudros 31/10/15.
From Egypt Harry was sent to France as part of 29th Div, landing there 15 March 1916 & served in France & Flanders from then on .
During his time in trenches, the 29th Div took part during 1916 in the doomed Somme offensive (Battle of Albert 1-13/7 )attacking the impregnable position at Beaumont Hamel, where the present day Newfoundland Memorial Park is located. They were in 87th Brigade 29th Division, many men being Gallipoli veterans. The attack was launched against the head of Y Ravine, aiming to capture Station Road 700 yards away in the bottom of the Ravine. The 2nd SWB’s formed the left flank of the brigade attack (which was in the centre of the Divisional assault), and they were the first attacking unit. The Hawthorn redoubt mine was blown about 800 yards to their left , and they began to move out into and through the British wire. However, Hun guns opened up as they reached the edge of the wire and shrapnel shells landed amongst them. Heavily loaded, and walking steadily downhill towards an enemy who could see them clearly, they suffered heavy casualties. The very few who got as far as the enemy wire were gunned down. Within 20 minutes the battalion had been effectively wiped out. Darkness enabled some wounded to be rescued and for other survivors, including Harry, to crawl back from shellholes. The 2nd SWBs lost 15 out of 21 officers engaged, and 384 out of 578 other Ranks engaged (235 being killed or missing). Somehow Harry emerged again physically unscathed. Involvement in the Battle of Le Transloy 1-18/10 followed, but here his luck began to run out with subsequent admissions to hospital as per the FPCs (April 1917 at the Battle of the Scarpe.)
102 years ago he wrote to his Mother a rather nonchalant note which gave no sign as to the strain he must have felt, with no evident end in sight to the appalling slaughter.
But for Harry, 1917, & further unimaginable horrors of trench warfare were to yet to come.
© DJM 2018