December 1917 found the 18th Battalion in the Acheville Sector. The general level of activity for the Battalion was a marked change from the hell of Passchendaele and the war diary gives the impression that both the Canadian and German units in this sector had hunkered down for December and were not overly interested in engaging in active operations. The 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade characterized the activing as “Situation – quiet” on December 3, 4, and 5 and the general level of activity regarding shelling and patrolling was so passive compared to active operations that the number of wounded recorded by the 18th Battalion War Diary was three other ranks and no soldiers died that month.
However, that did not mean that the Battalion was static. It did particpate in at least one battle patrol and the report indicates that nothing of real note occured. A curious fact is that the patrol was organized on the night of December 3 and 4 which had a “waning moon” or roughly 74% of the moon was lit by the sun. The 4th C.I.B. war diary indicated the weather was “fine” and “frosty all day.” Why there was a patrol with a moon in such as aspect is counter-intuitive to implementation of patrols where it would be beneficial not to have a moon, or at least, weather that was not favourable to being detected by the enemy. Perhaps the aggressiveness of the patrol was mitigated by the expectation of the moon being problematic and preventing the soldiers in being in active contact with the Germans. There was also a low probability of meeting a corresponding German battle patrol if there patrol doctrine discouraged patrols in “No Man’s Land” during nights with moon-light.
The Battle Report relates:
At 10.30 pm the night of the 3rd a battle patrol consisting of 3 NCO’s + 17 OR’s left TOTNES trench at T.24.60.75 + proceeded SSE, but owing to the brightness of the moon, were unable to proceed any distance. Sixteen of the party (including LG[iii]) where then placed in several large shell homes whilst 2 NCO’s + 2 ORS’s made short trips along frontage. Pounding was heard in enemy lines at approximately T24.d.20.85, otherwise everything was quiet. A box of DONNERTTE, about 10 lbs. was found and brought in at [illegible] am (approx.) T.24.c.95.80.
9.40 AM GABION
[i] Code name for Commanding Officer, 18th Battalion, Lt.-Col. L.E. Jones.
[ii] Code name for 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade, possible the Officer Commanding.
[iii] Lewis Gun.
The patrol was not engaged with the enemy and returned with a box of “DONNERTTE”, possibly explosives, to its lines. If the box was explosives one would think the soldiers would have left it as that would be a box that would be a candidate for booby-trapping. It appears that the report did not spell the word correctly as it is spelled as “donnerite”.as it is spelled as “donnerite”.as it is spelled as “donnerite”.
All twenty men returned safe and were able to enjoy Christmas Dinner twenty-one days later.