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Arras Memorial, France Arras Memorial, France
First Name: William Charles Last Name: GREENSLADE
Date of Death: 21/05/1916 Lived/Born In: Shepherd's Bush
Rank: Private Unit: London7
Memorial Site: Arras Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-19

9 Porten Road, West Kensington

On 19th May, 1916, 47th Division sidestepped to the south and took over the Berthental and Carency sector of the Vimy Ridge, just to the north of Arras. 7th London and 8th London of 140 Brigade moved into the trenches here just after a mine had been blown by the the British. In the subsequent infantry attack they had secured a tenuous hold on the new crater area, but by the time 140 Brigade arrived on the scene these gains had been lost to an enemy counter attack. The Germans had retaliated with an onslaught of large trench mortars or Minenwerfers, known to the British soldier as “minnies” and had largely destroyed the front line trenches. There was no respite on the following day, 20th May. The “minnies kept on coming and the casualties kept on rising. But the full force of the German army was not felt until the next day, 21st May, 1916. The trench mortars continued to batter the British line until midday and then, at 3pm, after a lull, there began an intense artillery bombardment of the front from Royal Avenue to Momber and Love craters, the positions held by 7th London and 8th London.  This bombardment not only covered the front but all the back positions too including billeting villages 7 to 8 miles in the rear.  All agreed that never before had such a ferocious artillery barrage been seen.  The enemy had 80 batteries with unlimited ammunition, firing on just a 1800 yard front and the shelling continued for 4 hours with 70,000 shells being fired.  The smoke and dust mixed with the tear gas shells caused so much confusion that the British artillery were unaware of the infantry assault which the Germans  launched at 7.45pm at which time the German artillery lifted and a mine was fired at the head of Royal Avenue.  A minute later the German infantry attacked but they were not seen until they were half way across no-man’s land, advancing in lines at 3 yard intervals with other lines behind carrying wire, timber and machine guns.   140 Brigade sector was soon in their hands and the enemy pushed on, nearly running into their own barrage but capturing most of the survivors of the forward companies of 7th London and 8th London, and dealing with others in a series of  hand to hand clashes.  Short of ammunition and with communications down, the British artillery could do little to help.  Survivors took refuge in the road at the bottom of the Zouave Valley and so desperate was the situation that sappers from the Royal Engineers were sent to man the trenches on the western side of the valley. The casualties sustained by 7th London during this battle were very high and included William Greenslade who was killed in action. 

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