UNDERWOOD, William Alexander

1st World War
Date of Birth
Date Attested
Attested at
Wroxeter, Ontario
Original Unit
Regimental Number
Date of Death
Age at Death
21 years 1 month
Biographical Summary

DIVISIONAL UNIT:         4th Canadian Infantry Division
                                             12th Infantry Brigade
                                             38th Battalion - Ottawa
                                             Canadian Infantry Corps
SERVICE NO:                   654683
RESIDENCE:                    Gorrie – Ontario 
DATE OF BIRTH:            July 18, 1897
                                             Howick Township – County of Huron - Ontario
DATE OF DEATH:           September 2, 1918               21 years     1 month
CEMETERY:                     Dury Mill British Cemetery – Dury –
                                             Pas de Calais – France
                                             I     D     29
FATHER:                           Mr. William Underwood – Wroxeter - Ontario 
Occupation:                        Farmer                                  Religion:     Presbyterian
Enlistment:                         Wroxeter – March 24, 1916 – 161st Huron Battalion
Enlistment Age:                 19 years     8 months

Private Underwood and the 161st Battalion sailed from Canada and arrived in Liverpool on November 11, 1916.
Late in December of 1916 he was Taken on Strength with the 38th Battalion and went overseas. He joined his unit in the field on February 8, 1917.
On April 9, 1917 during the attack on Vimy Ridge Private Underwood was wounded but was able to rejoin his unit on May 8, 1917.
The task of the Battalion in the upcoming advance on the Drocourt-Queant Line was to capture the Sunken Road running from Villers les Cagnicourt to Dury. At zero +3 hours the 78th Battalion on the right and the 11th Infantry Brigade on the left were to pass through and go on to the second objective. At this point the 38th & 72nd Battalions were to leap-frog the 78th and capture the objective west of the Canal du Nord.
At zero + 3 minutes the infantry began their advance by following the rolling barrage and met little opposition and the first objective being the Drocourt-Queant Line was taken. The support tanks did not arrive until the Battalion had cut through the majority of the enemy wire.
As they advanced they met enemy strongpoints and these were dealt with by rifle grenades.
“A & B” Companies were right/left advance with “C & D” Companies in support right/left support. After “C & D” Companies leap-frogged through they were met with very heavy enemy machine gun fire and shell fire but took their first objective being the last Drocourt Line. As they pushed forward to the crest of the hill they met enemy machine-gun fire from Dury, the windmill on the left, from different enemy strong points in their front and from the right where the woods of the village Chateau were located. Casualties were very heavy.
At this point the advance was ahead of the Battalion on the right so “C” Company extended itself to the Cambrai Road and arrived at their objective on a 800 yards front. Now, enemy machine guns were pouring their fire over the ridge and the Battalion found little protection. After eliminating the enemy in the Sunken Road the Battalion was able to enter this objective. They were not able to hold because of the enemy mortar and the Battalion was forced to seek cover in shell holes and other protection just in rear.
The 78th Battalion & 11th Brigade arrived on time but the enemy machine gun fire and his artillery prevented them from passing through at zero + 3 hours.
“A & B” Companies then moved forward to reinforce. They were not able to reach the right of the front for “C” Company. It was observed that enemy troops could be seen entering nearby buildings and the trench mortars were tasked with eliminating this threat. In a few moments the enemy was retreating from these positions.
There was now serious congestion at the front because advancing was not possible and there was very little cover. At about 5 pm the 11th Brigade was into the Sunken Road and at this point the 38th had to withdraw for reorganization.
This advance cost the lives of 59 men while 183 men were wounded and 27 men were missing.