The march was most satisfactory, until the crossing Le Bizet-Ploegsteert Road, where shrapnel made a deviation necessary. The march continued O.K. to Maison 75, where a long delay occurred owing to a Company of Infantry having become lost, whom it was necessary to get on to the right road. On arrival at wood entrance gas alarms and warnings were received, and shortly afterwards it was found that the enemy was shelling heavily with gas shell. The bombardment increased to "exceptionally heavy" and became practically "intense". Going up Haymarket Trench in Gas masks the noise of shells and oppression of gas became very trying to all. Our difficulties were added to by
a block with more than a company of Infantry, who, by becoming disorganised, were entirely blocking passage. The wood was intensely dark at the time. The Company was halted and Officers went forward to attempt to ease the block. After nearly an hour of sending ungassed men on, and putting gassed men out of the trench, the Company was able to continue and assembled in Drain Trench just after Zero to await orders from G.O.C. 9th Brigade. We had a good many gas casualties, but none from wounds, which was rather remarkable considering the intensity of the shelling.
The opening of the action by mine explosions and drum fire was very impressive and almost beyond description.
When orders were received from Brigade, "If you consider advisable, commence work". [In margin – 3 Platoons in all] Two
Platoons parties went out, one to the left trench and one to right trench. On arrival in Ontario Av. the left Platoon halted behind very heavy shelling, and an Officer went across to Sherbourne Av. to see if it was possible to get up that way. The enemy fire on these Avenues and on the site of our new trenches was at barrage rates and, after discussion, it was decided, that owing to small number of men available it would be better to start later. The Platoon on the right trench went out and commenced work, but having heavy casualties immediately were also withdrawn. Sergt. Hynes was killed at the head of Ontario Av. – it being almost impossible to get through the fire at that time. At 2 p.m., Officers again reconnoitred the left trench and decided, as the fire was still very concentrated at this point, to wait till night when the work could be completed.
A redistribution of work owing to the 9th Field Coy being unable to work on strong points, gave 'B' Coy. the right trench for a great distance towards new Support Line, and also the continuation of 'Sap' near St. Yves, towards the new front line. The Company worked all night, completing the right trench across No-mans-land, and St. Yves Sap to new front line. Next day work was continued on the right trench and clearing up old German trench towards new front line. The Company remained in the forward area for
72 65 hours and was considerably troubled by gas and 'H.E.' in the wood, and to a great extent on the work. The Company was relieved on the night of 10/6/17 by 'C' Coy, having dug and cleaned up about 75 yards of trench. Total casualties were about 47. Cpl. Irvine awarded Military Medal. The Company worked for some days more at intervals on further trench work, of which a large amount was got through.
The Company was transferred from work in the Ploegsteert Sector, to the improvement of communications between the new support and front line opposite Messines, also mule track towards the support line. This work was carried out for 18 days. The work was difficult, drainage being a hard problem and all work had to be done at night. Enemy shell fire was very heavy, and destroyed much of the work when done. The men were badly in need of a rest.
Lieut Pyke went to Training Battalion, and Lieuts. Barnden, Corin and Foote joined the Company.
The Company then came on to Tramway Construction for a further period of 21 days. This work was also night work. The main job was on the South line through Petit Douve, up round Subsidiary Line towards Septieme Barn, and good progress was made up to the time when work was shifted to a temporary track to the North of Messines, in connection with the impending operations in the 3rd battle of Ypres on 31/7/17. Material was difficult to obtain for this track and a good many casualties occurred.