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Bray Military Cemetery, Somme Bray Military Cemetery, Somme
First Name: Walter Guy Last Name: DONALDSON
Date of Death: 25/04/1917 Lived/Born In: Borough
Rank: Private Unit: East Surrey13
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Bray Military Cemetery, Somme


During February and March, 1917, the Germans made a strategic withdrawal to a new and very strong line running from Arras to Soissons. By doing this they eliminated two large salients and greatly reduced the number of troops needed to man the new defences. As they pulled back to the Hindenburg Line (Siegfriedstellung) they adopted a ‘scorched earth’ policy, systematically destroying everything in their path so as to leave nothing behind that would assist the enemy. Railways and roads were dug up, wells poisoned and even trees chopped down. Mines and booby traps were set to further hinder the British and French troops who followed up behind them until they reached the new formidable defences where one again trench warfare was established.

40th Division were among those who moved into the territory vacated by the Germans and on 18th April, 1917, 13th East Surrey of 120 Brigade moved into the front line in Gouzeaucort Wood, which, rather than a continuous trench system was a series of isolated outposts.. On 24th April they were ordered to attack and capture the village of Villers-Plouich while at the same time 14th Argylle & Sutherland Highlanders attacked the nearby village of Beaucamp. The attack was launched at 4.15am behind a creeping artillery barrage and seven minutes later, the first line of enemy trenches were captured without meeting too much opposition. They then began their advance on Villers-Plouich but before they reached the village they had to deal with considerable resistance from enemy strong posts and machine-gun emplacements. These were finally overcome by the Lewis gun teams and some daring attacks by the battalion bombers. Once in Villers-Plouich they divided into three groups. The group on the right met some fierce resistance but battled their way through to their objective, a ravine to the south of the village. The centre party went through the left of the village to some high ground just beyond it while the third group stormed an enemy strongpoint on the Villers-Plouich to Beaucamp sunken road which they captured after a sharp fight, taking 100 prisoners. Progress here came to a halt because 14th Argylle & Sutherland Highlanders had been forced to withdraw from Beaucamp after initially capturing it. 13th East Surrey now began consolidating Villers-Plouich but when, at 6.40am, the Germans opened up a very heavy artillery barrage, they withdrew to available cover to the east to the village. A little later and supported by 14th Highland Light Infantry another advance was made and the village was re-occupied. 13th East Surrey remained in these positions for the rest of the day while the enemy continued to pound them with their artillery. The next day they were relieved and moved back to Equancourt. Although they had inflicted considerable damage on the enemy, 13th East Surrey had also sustained many casualties, nearly 200 in total. One of these was Walter Donaldson who died of wounds on 25th April

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