Monday At 10:30 last night we stood to and fired 10 rds at R.R. & then the night passed quiet until exactly at 6 this a.m. when Fritz opened up & so did we, my it was fierce & its [sic] the worse straff [sic] we have passed thru yet. We lost our Major being the only casualty it lightened about 7:30 & then all was quiet
[added at the top of the page]: The day passed fairly quiet the weather was wet and misty. Very dark out tonight
The Divisional War Diary is just as brief as Percy: “Major V.J. Kent OC 55th Battery was killed during the bombardment. There were no other casualties and no damage was done to Bty positions. The remainder of the day was quiet.” (1)
The Battery Historian tells the story:
On the morning of March 4th at six o’clock a tremendous roll of artillery from the enemy lines startled everyone. Gas and H. E. began to fall in great quantity on Lievin and areas well back of the trenches. It looked as though his offensive had really begun. All the telephone communications were soon cut, and it was impossible to lay wire under such severe shelling. Although we had received no firing orders from Brigade, Major Kent began an S. O. S. barrage without hesitation. After some time, the enemy’s fire on the forward area slackened, though he still continued to pound the battery locations. The Major, unwilling to expose his men unnecessarily, and always anxious on their behalf, went from pit to pit, seeing that each crew left for the control pit, a deep and bombproof dug-out. Just as the last man went in an N. C. O. called to the Major, “You’d better come down, sir,” to which the Major replied, “Oh, I’ll be all right.” A moment later he was killed by a shell which detonated in the trench beside him. (2)
“My it was fierce,” says Percy. “Everyone thought that the spring offensive had begun,” says Joseph Clearihue, over at the 51st (Howitzer) Battery. (3) Archie Wills (58th (Howitzer Battery), 14th Brigade notes that “Fritz came over in large numbers with pack and three-days rations, evidently expecting to get through. But he was out of luck. Our artillery cut up the raiders and many were left in the wire. He put a heavy barrage on our artillery and mixed up sneezing gas which made things disagreeable. One major was killed in 55. This was Fritz’s second attempt to get through but was frustrated both times.” (4)
(1) War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. Vol. 14: 5. March 4, 1918. Library and Archives of Canada.
(2) MacArthur, D.C. The History of the Fifty-Fifth Battery, CFA. 1919. 28-29. The photograph is part of the frontispiece to this book.
(3) Clearihue, Joseph B. Diary. Transcript. March 4, 1918. Joseph Badenoch Clearihue fonds, University of Victoria Archives.
(4) Wills, Archie. Diary. Vol. 6. March 4, 1918. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
Copyright 2018. See “More about this project.”