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Captain’s orders

First World War Audio Archive

We were on the, what they called the Oppy Wood front at that particular time. This happened shortly after the battle of Vimy.

Hill 62 Memorial Belgium.

And there was a 1000 yards of no man’s land, which is rather exceptional in that time, in war time, especially trench warfare. So we had to hold that line by a system of patrols which went out

Courtrai Memorial Belgium.

at night time and patrolled back and forth during the evening. On this particular night, my own particular platoon, which is 13 platoon of “D” company of the 46th and under command of Lieutenant Coates. And myself and 23 men, we went out and

Le Quesnel Memorial Belgium.

we were going to carry on our usual patrol, crossed over the front. We’d only gone out about three, four hundred yards when the German patrol spotted us and threw some bombs at us and of course demoralized us to a certain extent. So we discontinued our patrol and come back in and reported

Gueudecourt Memorial France.

to company headquarters. Our company commander at that time was Captain W. W. Kennedy from Winnipeg. Of course, he became quite excited that we got jumped and immediately started to lay plans for to retaliate. And the following evening

Dury Memorial France.

we all assembled again and went out under the captain’s command and made for the German patrol, which we knew were coming in along a zig zag communication trench that still extended out into no man’s land. So we lay, had

Monchy Memorial France.

this planned out that Corporal Smith would take five, four men and himself and walk out a hundred yards and then forward a hundred yards. Corporal Coates or Lieutenant Coates, rather, would take four men out to the right and work forward 100 yards.

Passchendaele Memorial Belgium.

I’d take four men and be on the right hand side of the trench and the captain would have four men on the left. And the idea being that the Germans, naturally, would be coming down in the trench, and as soon as he was spotted, nobody was to fire until the captain fired first. That was the strict orders.

Masnières memorial France.

“Nobody’s to fire until I do.” That’s the orders from the captain Anyway, we got out and we were laying on the side, on a shell hole just on the one side, and the captain’s party was opposite of us. The others had gone out. We just got nicely and it was

Bourion Wood Memorial France.

just getting dark and we were right down low and we could see up against the skyline. And I counted seven patrol, or seven in a patrol coming towards us. Well, there’s only five in our own patrol. This must be the German patrol, which proved it right. And this Jack Kempner was laying right beside me

Courcelette Memorial France.

and they were coming. He says, “What are you going to do, what are you going to do?” I said, “You heard what the Captain said, ‘No firing until I do’. That’s the orders. But," I said, “I’ll tell you one thing.” They were walking up on our side of the trench, but they weren’t in the trench. They were up on top walking along and they were bound to walk right up to us.

Beaumont-Hamel Memorial France.

So I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I’ll do.” There is chalk stone, you know, chalk subsoil in that part of France. We’d chuck a chalk flop out. I said, “He, the first, their leader would have to step around that chalk stone there. As soon as

St. Julien Memorial Belgium.

the leader steps around that chalk stone, I’ll shoot him, you shoot two, you fellas back there throw your bombs whether the Captain fires or not. I’m not going to let them walk up on us." We set up quite a pow-wow there for a few minutes and the captain’s party threw over bombs and we annihilated them

Canadian National Vimy Memorial France.

pretty well, although half of them got away on us. Actually, the rest were all dead. We only took in one that was alive. We left the rest of them there and we got some information from him.

Mr. MacLeod describes a retaliatory ambush on No Man’s Land in which the C.O.’s orders are overruled by Mr. MacLeod, and a German patrol is neutralized by his section’s pre-emptive attack.

James Neil MacLeod

James Neil MacLeod was born on November 12, 1899. Left school to enlist in Sherbrooke, Quebec, on December 10, 1915. Mr. MacLeod was a member of the 117th Battalion in Canada and England, joining the 24th Battalion for his tour of duty in Europe. He participated in many major battles: Arras, Vimy, Amiens, Somme and Michael Offensive. He was wounded in the elbow August 27, 1918. After his discharge, Mr. MacLeod lived in Quebec, moved to New York state to work for the New York Central Railroad. Married Mae R. Mulvaney in 1927. Mr. MacLeod died June 8, 1981.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
James Neil MacLeod
War, Conflict or Mission:
First World War
Oppy Wood
117th Battalion

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce


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