During this year’s battlefield’s tour with Jeremy Banning we went back to the area around the Wancourt tower above the river Cojeul. I had a vivid memory from a previous occasion of Jeremy reading Second Lieutenant Sidney Greenfield’s account of part of the battle of Arras and the capture of the tower.
This October as one of our party was not able to walk very far I had the chance to go up the hill on my own, reading Sidney’s report as I did so.
Extract from memoir byMajor SR Greenfield MC – 05/8/1
The lane which he will have had to follow to get to the tower is still as it was with the bank alongside, although the cubby holes are no longer there.
On my walk I was accompanied by thrushes and blackbirds flitting through the hedge and feasting on the hawthorn rather than the shell barrage which Greenfield endured. There is no sign of the tower, just a crossing of the ways on the high ground commanding the surrounding land and an excellent position.
Greenfield writes of his return journey from the tower,
"I have always been convinced that here I saw the most ghastly sights of my life. Lying against the bank was just the torso of a man. Head, arms and legs had been blown off I have often tried to persuade myself that this was just my imagination and that it was really a bundle of khaki clothing but I was quite sure at the time. The situation was a critical one and there was no time to think about anything apart from getting through. My concern was to keep alive and get on before the next shell exploded."
|View from Wancourt Ridge
Greenfield survived the war. He had been underage (17 years) when he'd enlisted in September 1914. He was badly wounded during the battle of Passchendaele in October 1917 and was visited by his parents in France before he was able to return home.