October 12, 2022
K. A. Boehmer

Heather’s Raiders

The War Diary for the Okanagan’s 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles (2CMR) made special mention of nocturnal action on November 20/21, 1916, in front of Vimy Ridge. Nine men out of…...
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The War Diary for the Okanagan’s 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles (2CMR) made special mention of nocturnal action on November 20/21, 1916, in front of Vimy Ridge. Nine men out of 49 were recommended decorations for their daring and efficient work that night, and the unit received congratulatory messages from the General-Officer-Commanding (G.O.C.) Canadian Corps, Lieutenant-General Julian Byng and G.O.C. 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Major-General L. J. Lipsett.

2nd Canadian Mounted Rifle tunic with 8th Brigade and 3rd Division shoulder patches
BCD-U-1306

According to the 2CMR War Diary for November 20/21, 1916:

“At 11:30 pm Nov. 20 the raiding party from this Battalion consisting of 2 officers and over 40 men, carried out a most successful raid on the German Front Line Trench. The party was composed as follows:
Lieut. F.A. Heather O.C of party
Lieut. C.F.K. Douglas in charge of Bombing
22 Battalion Bombers
13 men from ‘D’ Company
6 Battalion Scouts
4 Stretcher Bearers
2 Signallers (sic)
All of the above volunteered.

At 11:30 pm, the party under Lt. Heather and Lt. Douglas, took up position in Sap 22. After a preparatory Artillery and Stokes Gun bombardment of the enemy line a rush was made, and the party entered the German Trench at A.23.a and although meeting with considerable resistance bombed many dugouts full of the enemy on a frontage of about 150 yards. Several Germans attempting to escape to the rear were caught by our Machine Gun fire. Heavy casualties were undoubtedly inflicted on the enemy. Considering the opposition met with, especially on our left our casualties are slight, being 1 N.C.O Killed and 10 men Wounded (mostly slightly). In particular one of the bombing squads, six in number, having reached their objective in the trench found themselves attacked by a shower of bombs from a German bombing sap immediately behind their front trench. Corpl. H.G. Manning, the remainder of the squad being wounded, attacked this enemy post single handed, covered by a wounded man, Pte. T.N. Armit (whose left arm was shattered) and successfully disposed of the occupants.

One prisoner was brought back to our Lines. He belonged to the 2nd Battalion 51st R.I.R. 12th Reserve Div., 6th Reserve Corps, and states that he is Silesian. A most important identification was thus secured. The enemy Artillery responded only slightly to our preliminary Barrage on Point A.23.a their machine gun and rifle retaliation was also very weak. The Raid was skillfully planned and carried out in the most successful manner.

Clearing dugouts near Amiens, August 1918

Six (6) Germans were counted killed in the trench and judging from the number of bombs thrown into the six dug-outs, and the cries and groans proceeding from them a goodly number must have been killed and numbered. At the time that the raid was in operation, a false attack on the enemy trenches was made from the crates to the East of the LILLE ROAD under Lieutenant Wilson, by a party selected from ‘C’ Company. A large number of Mills Rifle Grenades were fired into the trenches and casualties were undoubtedly inflicted.

Rifle Grenade Practice at Shorncliffe, England, 1917

The Nominal Roll of those whose names are being submitted for Honours & Awards for their conduct during the Raid is as follows:
Lieut. F.A. Heather recommended for Military Cross
Lieut. C.F.K. Douglas recommended for Military Cross
107256 Lance Cpl G.W. Graham recommended for D.C.M
107425 Corporal. H.C. Manning recommended for D.C.M.
107065 Private T.N. Armit recommended for D.C.M.
2056 Lance Cpl A.J. Castle recommended for Military Medal
435524 Private J. Edwards recommended for Military Medal
107428 Private G.S. Maxwell recommended for Military Medal
126363 Private A.O. Stevenson recommended for Military Medal
Signed G.C. Johnston Major” 1

The D.C.M., Distinguished Conduct Medal, was issued to Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men who have performed service of a distinctly gallant and distinguished nature in action in the field. All received their recommended medals except for L/Cpl Graham, who received a Military Medal.

L>R Military Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Medal 2 > 4

Johnston later said, “During the first tour in November these officers and men went out on patrol nightly to familiarize themselves with No Man’s Land, especially in the direction in which it was decided to raid. On that night, guided by Scout L/Cpl G.W. Graham, the raiders, with blackened faces and hands, stole across No Man’s Land and, at a given signal, threw their mats on the wire, and led by their officers, rushed the German trench. The bombing squads, turning left and right, worked their way to the objectives set for them, overcoming a stubborn resistance as they went and bombing dugouts from which the Huns were firing from. This was the first of many successful raids put on by Canadians in the Vimy Ridge Sector.” 5

To learn more about Lieutenant Frederick Ambler Heather MC, MM click here.

Sources

1] War Diaries – 2nd Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles 1915/09/01 to 1917/12/31 sheet 14 LAC RG9 III D 3 https://recherche-collection-search.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/home/record?app=FonAndCol&IdNumber=1883304&q=9-52%20WAR%20DIARIES%202nd%20Canadian%20Mounted%20Rifles 
2] https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/medals-decorations/details/45 
3] https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/medals-decorations/details/49 
4] https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/medals-decorations/details/53 
5] 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles (30th BC Horse) in France and Flanders, Lt Col G. Chalmers Johnston DSO MC, Ch. 5 Pgs. 36/7 OMM-B-3640 
6] LAC M.126 https://recherche-collection-search.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/home/record?app=FonAndCol&IdNumber=3404519&q=rifle%20grenade%20practice%20m.126 
7] LAC O.2996 https://recherche-collection-search.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/home/record?app=FonAndCol&IdNumber=3395610&q=clearing%20dugouts%20O.2996 

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This website is run and managed by the Okanagan Military Museum, part of the Kelowna Museums Society. The Okanagan Military Museum Society [OMMS] formed in 1987 and opened the Okanagan Military Museum on November 11, 1999.

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