My Father Frederic Birch served on the Western Front 1916 to 1918.
He served in the Divisional machine Gun Company formed on 18th December 1916. It crossed to France in February 1917 and Dad went to the Ploegsteert Wood sector of the front in Belgium. It was facing Messines . After taking part in the capture of Messines, Dad was involved in fighting near La Basseville, near Messines. Then took part in the Passchendaele battle, near what is today Leper. After that it was deployed in the nearby Polygon wood sector. Dad spent a month at rest camps in the vicinity of Rouen and Boulogne in France in May - June 1917.
Dad was in hospital for six weeks at Etaples in France with a period at Camiers. Afterwards he was posted to 3 Entrenching Battalion and then (Divisional) Employment Company. He took part in the advance in August -November that culminated in the capture of Le Quesnoy just before the Armistice. By 22 December 1918 he was back in the UK.
There is an account of the machine gunners on line at www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH1-Mach.html it is confusing it uses the Divisional Machine Company for what my father's record was initially listed as the 4th Company. During 1917 the Divisional Company is referred to as the 5th Company , and this is reflected in Dad's service records. In fact he was in the same company the whole time (except when away in the rest camp)- the divisional or 5th (Divisional) machine Gun Company.
Mum passed away in November last year and we could not get to the western front till she had gone and finally this year in June we made the trip to all the places that dad was at .
For us it was the most memorial and emotional Fredric Birch trip we have had so much history so many lives lost 2,500 cemeteries in France and Belgium with approx 4 to 5 thousand graves in each one. Such a great loss of men and until you go these places and see the conditions they went thru you have no idea. My father next spoke a lot about the war very much and I can see why. He was affected by the war with a terrible cough he could not get rid of and deaf in one ear due to the machine guns and had a break down over the trauma of the war. I guess he was one of the lucky ones to come home. Frederic passed away 22nd February 1972 and buried at the RSA cemetery in Matamata.
In February this year we interned mums ashes there as well with him.