Finsbury Rifles

Away from the Western Front: 12th – 29th September, 1917.

Reciprocal shelling, night patrols and anti-gas training

British Small box respirator ww1

The Small Box Respirator was the most advanced and successful anti-gas equipment used by the British and Dominion forces during the First World War. Introduced in 1916, it became standard issue during 1917. The respirator consisted of a face mask with glass eye-pieces connected to a metal ‘small box’ filter (containing  active charcoal and granules) via a flexible hose. Its practical design meant it could be put on and used very quickly in case of a gas attack.

General Murray had obtained permission to deploy gas to increase the striking power of the EEF  in early 1917. However, there were many misgivings about this amongst officers and men. Gas shells were fired quite ineffectively against the enemy during the disastrous second battle for Gaza. As part of the intensive training that followed  this defeat, ‘gas schools’ were set up to train soldiers to cope with gas attacks. The EEF feared  that it was  likely that Germany might provide the Ottoman forces with gas shells of their own and prepared accordingly.

Date 12/9/17

Usual working parties employed on general improvement work. Instructional Demonstration in the Small Box respirator given at H.Q of 54th Divs attended by the C.O.M.O. and 2 Coy Comdrs and 2 cos per company. Slight enemy shelling during the morning. No damage to our line.

Location LEES HILL Date 13 to 15/9/17

Bn engaged on general improvement of front line trenches. Working parties from 1/10 LONDONS engaged (0700-1000) and (1900-2200) on widening and deepening Communication and Traffic Trenches. Usual Night Patrols. Reciprocal Shelling morning and evening, no casualties or damage sustained by us.

Date: 16/9/17

Celebration of Holy Communion at Regtl Aid Post by Chaplain at 0930. No work performed. Front Line quiet during day. Our artillery very active between 2200 and 2300.

Date: 17/9/17

Work on Trench Improvements, small working party from 1/10 LONDONS assisting. Heavy Turkish Shelling of our Front Line. Slight damage to Trenches and wire cut in several places. 4 men wounded of this bn.

Date: 18/9/17

Quiet Day, slight reciprocal Shelling in Evening. Work as usual on Trench Improvements.

Date: 19 to 20/9/17

Work on Trenches, widening and deepening. Line quiet. Usual night Patrol work.

Date: 21/9/17

Continuance of Trench improvement work. Slight reciprocal Shelling at intervals during day. Lieut Sander wick commended by G.O.C. for good Patrol work in neighbourhood of MIDDLESEX HILL. Party heavily fired on by Turks. Lieut Sanderwick slightly wounded, also one rifleman, otherwise Patrol returned to our lines intact. Sergt RALPH recommended for reward for good work performed and coolness displayed on this occasion. CAPT L.M. JONES reported from Hospital. CAPT F.J.F.H. HEILGERS to Hospital. Orders received for relief of this Bn by 1/4 NORTHANTS, this Bn taking over area vacated by 1/5 BEDFORDS who relieve 1/4 NORTHANTS in Redoubt Line.

Date: 22/9/17

Work as usual improving Trenches and communication. Usual Night Patrol work. Slight reciprocal shelling during the day.

Date: 23/9/17

Celebration of Holy Communion in Regt Aid Post by Chaplain at 0930. No work performed. Draft of 26 of Ranks reported from Egyptian BASE DEPOT. Orders for relief cancelled.

Date: 24 to 25/9/17

Work on Trenches and communications as usual. Usual light Patrols. Slight reciprocal shelling morning and evening.

Date: 26/9/17

Work on Trenches and communications as usual. Our artillery active during day. Turkish Positions on Outpost Hill heavily Bombarded early morning of 26/27th (0345) by our artillery. Turkish retaliation during our bombardment and for a short while afterwards caused us no damage and inflicted no casualties.

Date: 27/9/17

Bn: engaged on Trench improvement work. Usual Nightly Routine Patrols. Comdr in Chief awarded MILITARY MEDAL to 450005 Sgt S.C.RALPH for coolness and gallantry on patrol night 21/22nd  Sept 1917.

Date: 28/9/17

Bn engaged on Trench improvement work. Usual patrols. Orders received for relief of 1/5 A and S HIGHLANDERS, (relief by 1/4 Northants cancelled).

Date: 29/9/17

Bn engaged preparing to leave LEES HILL. Relief effected by 1300 and Bn proceeded to temporary bivouac area to await nightfall before moving across Kurd and BORDER VALLEYs to new bivouac area on the LEFT of the coastal section. 1/11 LONDON relieved the 1/8 HANTS.

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