Early in 1917 the 46th Division were still in Gommecourt. The Germans began their withdrawal to the Hindenberg Line and the 1/6th were involved in harassing them as they withdrew. On the 1st July the 1/6th South Staffs were involved in an attack at Lieven near Loos, which was basically street fighting as the British attempted to capture Lieven. 27 men of the 1/6th were killed.
Fred was given his first leave from 8th to 18th July 1917 and again from 17th February to 3rd March 1918. On his return from leave the 46th Division were in the Noeux-les-Mines area and on 21st March 1918 the Germans began their final attempt to win the war before the might of the American Army made their defeat inevitable. This was known as the German Spring Offensive. The 46th Division was still in the same area, to the north of Lens and the major advances made by the Germans began just south of the 46th Division so Fred missed the worst of this assault.
Fred was wounded by gas on 2nd May 1918 and was treated by the North Midland Field Ambulance which was a mobile front line medical unit (not a vehicle), under the command of the 46th Division and the St John’s Ambulance Brigade whose job it was to get the men fit enough to rejoin their units.
29th September 1918 is sometimes referred to as “the day the Staffords won the war”. This was the day the North Staffs first broke the Hindenburg Line by taking the Riqueval Bridge across the St Quentin Canal. Many men crossed the canal itself using temporary bridges and flotation jackets from cross-channel vessels. They then advanced and on 3rd October the 1/6th South Staffs were involved in the Battle of Remicourt. During this battle it is believed that this was when Fred won his Military Medal, although like many men involved in this war he would not speak to his family of his experiences during this time.
On 3 October 1918 Fred received a gunshot wound which can be any form of bullet wound, but most were from machine guns. He was evacuated to the 12th Casualty Clearing Station at Tincourt (10 miles west of Ramicourt) and on 6th October he was evacuated to England, his war was over. He was treated at the Albert Hall Military Hospital in Nottingham and recovered from his injuries. He was given leave from 23rd to 29th November, after which he was sent to No.2 Command Depot in Ripon for rehabilitative training of soldiers too fit for convalescent camp but not yet fit enough to return to their unit.
During his time in hospital in Nottingham, Fred met his future wife, Kate Fox. They subsequently married and set up house in Wolverhampton where they had three daughters and lived a very happy life. He was a very gentle man and very quiet but like many others he did his duty when told to no matter what was asked of them and he was lucky to survive.
In 27th December Fred was discharged from the Command Depot been described as “in perfect health”. He was demobbed on 25th January 1919 with a report of perfect conduct during his three years service.
Details of the battles mentioned have been given to me by members of the Western Front Association for which I am very grateful.