HISTORIAN Steve Berridge, pictured right, is transcribing the war diary and regimental chronicle of the 2nd Ox and Bucks Light Infantry.

It is a huge task and Mr Berridge, a volunteer at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock, has some way to go before he completes it.

The 51-year-old is a former corporal in the Royal Green Jackets and was one of the volunteers who greeted Princess Anne at the opening of the Woodstock museum in September.

Mr Berridge’s interest in the history of the regiment was sparked when he began researching the life story of his great-grandfather, Corporal George Berridge, who served in the 1st Buckingham Battalion during the First World War’s Battle of the Somme.

Banbury Cake:

A cross that was erected by Lt Col Davies in memory of those who died at Ypres

This latest section of the diary focuses on the arrival of the battalion at Ypres and the bloody conflict that ensued. And Mr Berridge’s latest research has included a discovery about one of the commanders of the 2nd Battalion.

He said: “In the third battle of Ypres in the autumn of 1917, Henry Davies, who had commanded the 2nd Battalion Ox and Bucks in 1914, was now a Major-General in command of the 11th Division.

“After the 1917 battle General Davies visited the sites of his earlier action and found that the countryside was now completely different.

Banbury Cake:

“The General managed to find the site of his 1914 headquarters and the area behind it near the road where some of the battalion’s dead had been buried in 1914.

“He had the Royal Engineers of the 11th Division make a wooden memorial cross bearing the inscription, ‘In Memory of 5 officers, 70 NCOs and men, 52nd Light Infantry, Killed in Action, 21st to 23rd October 1914, some of whom are buried near this spot’.

“The memorial was placed in position on the road on October 17, 1917, and remained there until after the war, when the bodies were exhumed and moved to the Poelcappelle British Cemetery where the cross was also placed.”

DIARY

October 15, 1914 – Fismes to Hazebrouck by train, then via road to Morbecque, via Amiens, Boulogne and Calais.

The whole 5th Brigade was assembled here by the morning of the 16th.

  • October 17, 1914 – Morbecque to Godeswaersvelde, 11 miles north-west.
  • October 19, 1914 – Godeswaersvelde Poperinghe, five miles north-east.
  • October 20, 1914 – Poperinghe to Pilkem, seven miles north-east.

B, C and D company in front line, A Company in reserve in a farm.

Steady rain at night.

  • October 21, 1914 – Attack towards Poelcappelle.

Orders received in the early morning that the 5th Brigade would rendezvous at 6.30am at the road junction half a mile north of St Julien.

Soon came under rifle and machine gun fire.

Banbury Cake:

The advance went on quickly and steadily, though slightly delayed by the difficulty of getting through thick hedges quickly.

A good many casualties soon began to occur, chiefly from fire from a ridge on the left front on the north bank of the Haanixbeck in front of the 1st Division.

  • October 22, 1914 – On the Haanixbeck A quiet morning, but in the afternoon the trenches and the farm were shelled and the farm was set on fire and burnt down.

At 5.30pm, just at dusk an attack was made on the part of our trenches near the St Julien to Poelcappelle road by about a battalion.

The attack was repulsed, the leading Germans getting within 25 yards of the trenches.

From our trenches 70 Germans were counted lying dead.

  • October 23, 1914 – On the Haanixbeck A good deal of shelling, and at times some infantry and machine gun fire from the German trenches.

In the afternoon the shelling increased.

At 5.20pm an infantry attack was made on the same part of the trenches as on the previous day by a considerably larger force which came on in thick lines.

The leading Germans again got to within 25 yards of our trenches, but they then turned and ran, retiring behind a hedge about 150 yards off. Here there was much shouting but no further attack was made.

The French who relieved us here during the night reported officially that 740 dead Germans were counted near the trenches the next morning. Deducting the 70 killed the night before, this leaves 670 killed on this night.

  • October 24, 1914 – Haanixbeck to Halte, east of Ypres – five miles south and thence eastward to crossroads beyond Gheluvelt and back to Veldhoek – 13 miles in all.

After being relieved by the French, left about 1am and marched via St Julien and St Jean to the Halte, one mile east of Ypres, arriving at 5am.

  • October 25, 1914 – Veldhoek trenches in eastern edge of Polygone Wood, two miles north-east.

Rejoined the 5th Brigade. Relieved with C and D Company’s The Scots Guards in trenches in north-east corner of Polygone Wood.

Some shelling and a little rifle fire, but no casualties.

  • October 26, 1914 – Into Divisional Reserve between Veldhoek and Eksternest.

About 1pm the brigade received orders to go back into Divisional Reserve.

Returned to bivouack in wood. Able to make tea for the first time since the 20th.

  • October 28, 1914 – north-east corner of Polygone Wood.

Some big high explosive shells did us some damage when we first arrived here, but the shelling soon ceased.

Casualties: Killed=1, Wounded=2nd Lieutenant M ff R WINGFIELD and 17 men. Total=19.

  • October 30, 1914 – North-west corner of Polygone Wood to near Zwarteleen, one mile west of Kelin Zillebeke, four miles soth-west.
  • October 31, 1914 – Woods near Klein Zillebeke A and B Companies were heavily shelled in the morning but owing to having dug good trenches did not suffer.