Backs to the Wall-The Royal Marines – March 1918
This year has been the year of 80th Anniversaries as we remember the events of 1918. For me 1918 is probably the most fascinating of all years, from my studies of local casualties it is also the most deadly of all years. The army of 1918 in my opinion has had a bad press, the events of March are often brought up, but the events of August to November forgotten. It’s the events of March and early April that I intend to discuss with reference to the Royal Marines of the Royal Naval Division. I have often held the belief that the Army is given an extremely bad press for the events of March, but a more learned look tells you a completely different story, and the reality is very different. It is the time of much unheralded heroism, the time where the true quality came through. The experiences of the Royal Marines is typical of many units, and its them I will be concentrating on, sometimes bringing in other RND units. The story of late March 1918 is a very complex one to describe for a whole division as each battalion within it had it’s own story , trials and tribulations on which a whole book could be written.
In March 1918 the RND was in the Flesquieres Salient to the south west of Cambrai. It had been sent to this sector in response to the German counter attack at Cambrai, this counter attack actually resulted in the RND not going back to Ypres for a second tour. As the name suggests the Flesquieres salient is precisely that, it bulged into German lines, the size of it enabled three divisions to deploy, the RND were on a 3 brigade front, with one battalion in the front line , and the others deployed behind. Since the collapse of Russia the Germans had been moving more divisions to the Western Front, with the Americans due in significant numbers later in the year any chance of winning the war lay in striking early and knocking out the French and the British armies. This thought wasn’t lost on the British either, they knew it had to come. The Germans started their preparations in early March by launching gas attacks over a prolonged period of time, units were subjected to days of gas shells with the aim of gradually wearing down the morale and numbers of the British troops. The RND were victims of this too, in mid march, Drake and Hawke battalions lost over half their strength over several days of constant gas shelling. Examination of the 149th Field Ambulance admission book reveals that March 14th to 17th the field ambulance was full of gas cases . The Marines had suffered quite a number of casualties but nowhere near the level of Hawke and Drake. So when March 21st came the Division was short on numbers and quite run down.
The Germans Strike
In the Early hours of 21st March On the 188th Brigade front, 1RM were in the front line, 2RM were in the reserve line and Anson were in support. At 4.45 AM the waiting was over, a ferocious barrage hit the lines of Marines, the shells were Phosgene Gas ones which formed a great fog which filled Grand ravine, this continued for 4 hours before switching to high explosive. The Artillery Batteries behind the Marines positions were systematically engaged and barraged. As regards to infantry attack, not much materialised on the 188th Brigade front, other parts of the RND were attacked but fought off their attackers. The 17th Division to the north of the RND were attacked and driven back slightly, to the south the 47th Div were also slightly driven back but the RND who were in the centre of the Flesquieres salient held their ground. I will comment on this further on in the article.
Whilst the flank Divisions to the side of the RND and parts of the RND were severely shelled and attacked , the Marines were not put under severe pressure at all and had very minor losses from artillery fire. The order came to 1RM to retire through 2RM which is what they did at nightfall, leaving 2RM in the front line holding the old support line. Various accounts from survivors of this time speak of the lack of vision caused by the gas, which was causing more of a annoyance than casualties, and severe fighting on each flank. So a momentous day drew to a close, the Marines were left wondering what that day would bring, Surgeon Peirce-Gould summed up the attitude that prevailed ” The Commanding officer (Lt .Col Farquarson) appears distinctly unnerved”.
The enemy were slow to pursue but did in the early hours of the morning. The morning of the 22nd arrived with heavy shelling of 2 RM in the front line, the day was misty and the visibility poor. The shelling combined with gas and the mist made visibility poor and hampered the co -ordination of the battalions., Lt.Col Farquarson was out of touch with his two front line companies. An alert went up that the Germans were attacking on 2 RM’s left, Farquarson immediately ordered one of his reserve companies to go to assist. He also decided to take his headquarters with it. What happened next is best described by Surgeon Peirce-Gould “An alarm was given that the hun was over on our left. The Commanding Officer promptly summoned Headquarters company and started leading them over the Brown line to the left where he thought the attack was coming. Morning misty and visibility poor. After crossing Bapaume -Havrincourt road and getting into the Brown line again we came into heavy shell fire; passed poor Collier and Witting Killed, and on through a devilish fire to reach Williams. I got separated from the CO but heard his whereabouts and ran into a cabouche to find him. With a shock I came upon him there lying badly hit, pale collapsed, and in great pain. Left arm badly smashed close to the shoulder- a second wound in the buttocks”. The CO was got away but died from his wounds two days later, Farquarson was one of the early members of the Marine battalions who served on Gallipoli and the Ancre. This left a command vacuum as “RM’s second in command, Major Coode was also wounded , so Lt Cmr Coote from Anson was bought over to take command. During the afternoon the shelling increased and an attack was made on Havrincourt which was repulsed. Orders were received that the Marine battalions were to fall back to a position called St.Huberts cross in Havrincourt Wood during the night as the enemy was making gains on each flank. Reports also began to come in that on the right the Germans had got in behind them. It was beginning to appear that the RND along with 17th and 47th Divisions may be caught in a pincer movement. As a consequence early on the morning of the 23rd the Marines were ordered to withdraw again to a prepared position in front of Bertincourt, this withdraw was started at 11am. Surgeon Peirce-Gould explains ” It was a strange scene, columns of men all retiring through the wood and across the open country, forming wonderful targets but for some reason absolutely unmolested!. The Battle seems so far away from us and our only trouble was the heat of the day”. On arrival at these positions the two RM battalions manned the positions side by side with 1RM on the Right and 2 RM on the left. Although these positions were prepared, the trenches were only three feet deep and broken in places and minus barbed wire!!!. At this point I find a difference in opinion as to the state of the defences, Blumberg states as I quoted earlier that there was no wire etc yet Peirce-Gould states the following “Line was well dug and excellently wired and everyone felt confident of holding it” . So I leave you to make your mind up!. The 17th and 47th Divisions on each side also withdrew to positions each side of the RND. The Marines position was in front of a railway bank, both marine battalions put two companies in the front line and kept the other two on and behind the bank. There was no sign of the Germans at first but later there was severe fighting on the left at Velue, and the Germans were reported to have taken that. Rumours were also coming in that Bus on the right had been taken, these rumours were taken so seriously that 2RM put a company out with Hood to act as a defensive flank.. The morning of the 24th started with a bang. I have read two versions of the events that happened next, both fairly conflicting indicating a large amount of confusion. At around 5AM the enemy put down a large barrage of HE ,smoke and shrapnel onto the front line and followed it up with an infantry attack, they managed to get in the right hand side of 2RM and infiltrated up. The whole of the RND were in a perilous position and were ordered to withdraw to Rocquigny. This was difficult as the two front line companies of the Marine battalions were embroiled in a battle that they couldn’t disengage from and were effectively cut off. A box barrage stopped reinforcement from assisting. There was a very real danger of losing the whole of each marine battalion but the two supporting companies of each got away. I said that this story has to sides, Peirce-Gould who was the MO of 2RM was in the supporting line when this happened, his version was ” All was quiet around us and I had just finished a welcome cup of tea with Proffitt when without warning “SOS” went up from front line at 7.55 am B.Company (in reserve) dashed up to the top of the embankment and fire started, while I hurried back to Regimental Aid Post. In less than a minute there were cries of “Cease fire”- “Boche is coming in with his hands up”. This seemed incredible and a minute later Perry passed me shouting ” Boche is in our front line -A and 2 companies have surrendered, run for your life” He goes on to say that they legged it as fast as they could dropping packs etc. The whole of the front line in this area fell back, the Marines fell back to a line of the Rocquigny- Villers au Flos road where the two remnants of battalions were re organised. The Divisional machine guns came up and rendered much assistance and the line seemed stable and defensible, a tank attack was put in which caused many casualties to the Germans, unfortunately most tanks ran out of petrol and were lost. By early afternoon it was decided to withdraw to Martinpuich which was 6 miles away as all touch had been lost with all units on the right and left. The withdraw started at 3PM with the 188th Brigade in column together providing flank guard for the division with 190th Brigade and 189th Brigade in between. The line of Bezatin Le Petit- Martinpuich was reached and the two Marine battalions went into support with Anson in front. Thus ended the 24th March. The following day broke with 2RM supporting Anson with 1RM in reserve at Martinpuich . It became known soon however that the RND as a whole were entirely on their own with no unit on either flank, so were in a vulnerable position. It was decided locally by senior officers, as was often the case in these troubled days, to withdraw back to the Thiepval Heights and hopefully come alongside some other units to enable some sort of defence. 188th Brigade withdrew to Courcelette amid many rumours of the enemy being behind or to the side of them in the absence of friendly troops , there was much confusion. From Courcelette, it was decided to withdraw the whole Division to Thiepval and defend the Thiepval heights. Therefore in 4 days the Division had retreated across the whole length of the old Somme Battlefield leaving behind land that had taken 4 months and many lives to capture. The Division as a whole retreated slowly towards Thiepval as the exact position of the enemy wasn’t known and Thiepval was reached in the late afternoon. It was decided that 188th Brigade would hold the Thiepval Ridge and 189th and 190th Brigades would cross the Ancre and go into support. From these heights it is possible to see clearly the battlefield of 13th November 1916 which was ½ mile away, and the graves of their mates in Ancre British Cemetery that had been established in 1917. What were the feelings of the Matelots and Marines who had fought there? . There was sporadic firefights during the late evening and early night, one of which claimed the life of Lt.Col Kirkpatrick of Anson Battalion who was badly wounded in the abdomen and died from his wounds. In the early hours of the morning of the 26th March the order came through that 188th Brigade were to withdraw across the Ancre and take up positions behind the railway on a line roughly from Aveluy to Mesnil. This position was defensible, on high ground and behind the small natural barrier of the Ancre. There were other units nearby to make an organised defence. The Brigade crossed the Ancre with 1RM forming the rearguard and was completed by 6AM, the bridges were blown behind. The Germans though were following up closely and attacked 1RM and made some headway but in the end were repulsed, but at some cost to 1RM. At this point the Brigades had been reduced by 5 days of fighting to the size of a battalion, battalions were about 150 strong- the size of a company. In 188th Brigade 2 of the 3 Commanding Officers of the Battalions had been killed at the head of their troops, in 190th Brigade, another CO had been killed at the head of his troops and in the process was awarded the VC. . The moral of the troops was reported to be good, although the men were tired, all of this quite understandable. At some point the men knew that they had to stand and fight, they had now reached this point. They were in a great defensive position, there were divisions either side, 47th Div to the south, 2nd Div to the north. 1 RM was just to the east of Mesnil, and 2RM were in support to the west of Mesnil., 188th Brigade were in the middle of the Division, 189th were on their left, 190th on their right. The Germans attacked either side of the RND to try and bypass them in their strong position but were repulsed, a German officer captured by 2RM carried orders that stated the Englebelmer Ridge (To the North of the RND) must be captured at all costs. All of the Enemies efforts were thwarted. Help in the form of 12th Division arrived behind the RND, they had been rushed down from Armentieres. The 12th Division relieved the RND during the day, at 7pm 1RM and 2RM were relieved and ordered to go to Englebelmer. The Marines had only just arrived there when rumours started to fly about the Germans having taken Mailly Maillet, and they had orders to about turn and go to Martinsart to act as support to 12th Div. This caused much disappointment and resentment but the order was complied with and Martinsart was reached at midnight. The Marines had done a large circular detour, the sort of thing that’s really appreciated when men had been fighting for 6 days and are very tired. Surgeon Peirce-Gould reports on the events on arrival at Martinsart “We arrived at midnight and were billeted in the square, where two terrible things happened; (1) an agitated platoon commander came running in with a story that boche had broken through into Aveluy Wood, and was close to the village in force-his own company surrounded-(2) a few minutes later a high explosive and high velocity shell burst right in the middle of one of our companies- a horrible scene followed, shrieks and groans, men scattering etc” the casualties to 2RM from this was 5 killed 18 wounded, as regards to point 1 Pierce-Gould explains how that was dealt with “We turned into our billets frightfully tired, for a short time, but in vain-within ½ an hour the battalion was ordered out and with our Commandant in Command, a joint mob of 20 RMLI and Anson dashed off, literally shouting with joy to drive back the hun”- this mob in fact turned out the Germans from a footing in Aveluy wood, restored the line, took 12 prisoners and 5 machine guns!!!!. The Battalion then turned in, Pierce-Gould also mentioned that there was a great deal of resentment about the Battalions being dragged back to Martinsart, and stated that it was because 12th Div were “Morally Bankrupt” , but after that event in Aveluy Wood it seems that he may have had a valid point. Now into the 27th March, the Royal Marines were at the disposal of 37th Brigade. An interesting event took place which nowadays would cause headlines, I found it interesting as I have an interest in the Buffs of which their 6th Battalion were in 12th Div and the RND. There were rumours that the Germans on the road between Martinsart (Where 188th Brigade were) and Mesnil (Where the 6th Buffs were). The Brigade staff of 37th Brigade 12th Div asked Anson to clear the road, stating basically all in front of them was hostile, what happened next was an extraordinary friendly fire incident which is best described by the Buffs regimental history “Then came a report that Mesnil had fallen to the Germans, and that Anson Battalion of the Royal Naval Division was ordered to counter attack the village from Martinsart, advancing astride the road engaging the enemy wherever met.” It transpired that the enemy had been driven off, but nobody had told Anson ! “When the Naval Battalion therefore arrived on the scene, eager for blood, it attacked the Buffs headquarters , who defended the post with usual resolution, so that for quite a while a lively fight between the two raged, each under the impression that the other was German, until the mistake was discovered” . To me this illustrated several things which I will go into detail with later, but the main thing is the confusion, a Brigade ordered a unit to attack a position held by that Brigades troops, clearly information of the highest order wasn’t available, or perhaps Pierce-Goulds “Moral Bankruptcy” theory extends to the capabilities of a unit that arrived fresh, I will let you decide. There were other attacks in the area which were driven off and the line held. The Marines were notified that they were to be relieved that evening by 2nd Div. This relief took place late evening and the 2 Marine battalions withdrew to Forceville for the first proper rest after retreating from the Flesquieres salient. The Battalions now were at roughly 150 men each, they were able to rest and clean up. The Marines stayed in Forceville until 1st April, on the 2nd they moved to Tootencourt and thence to Englebelmer where they set up camp. On the night of 3rd , 190th Brigade of the RND relieved 2nd Div , and the 188th Brigade went into reserve for them. This was to start an interesting chain of events.
AVELUY WOOD- The Royal Marines fight back
On the 4th April both Marine battalions received some officer reinforcements but no other rank reinforcements. These officers came from the Royal West Kent and The Middlesex Regiments, This bought the strength of the battalions to the following level:
- 1RM 14 Officers 267 other ranks
2 RM 15 officers 318 other ranks
this compares to the more usual level of 26 officers and 750 other ranks., but the morale was good, compared with the fresh 12th Div which seemed be a bit shaky. The front line in the wood ran roughly behind the railway which ran on a line North to South, at the edge of the wood the line was drawn in a little, keeping to the high ground. The line itself was mainly unfortified posts and the proximity of the enemy made it impossible to improve them really or get secondary lines in for in depth defence. The wood itself was still as wood rather than stumps and match wood, and was heavily overgrown (and still is!!!!), so the line was really quite defensible. It was also criss crossed with rides which are still visible today in exactly the same place. On the 5th the Germans started shelling the back areas around Englebelmer with gas and attacked the 7th R.F in the front line , they made some temporary gains but were ejected by counter attacks. The events of what happened next are extremely complicated, I have tried to follow them on a map but there is much contradiction in map references etc , that I have taken all sources and worked out the most likely scenario.
188th Brigade suffered the worst casualty rate in the period 21st March to end 6th April . Within 188th Brigade the two Royal Marine Battalions suffered most. Conversely the two other brigades within the RND suffered severely prior to 21st March primarily due to gas wounds and were much weakened anyway.
The Casualties for the Royal Marines in this period:
1 RM: 34 KIA 151 Wounded 436 Missing ( I have grouped officers and OR’s together)
2 RM: 64 KIA 208 Wounded 200 Missing ( I have grouped officers and OR’s together)
The missing basically translate to POW’s , mainly I think from that one action at Bertincourt, service papers examined of men taken POW in that period all seem to give that action as the point of capture. It is not difficult to see that the battalions at the end of this period were just over 100 OR’s in strength. Those killed lie in cemeteries all along the path back and in the rear areas.
Arras Memorial to the Missing: Many are listed on this memorial alongside their comrades missing after Gavrelle. After the war it was decided to put the missing of the 3rd Army on the Arras memorial
Aveluy Wood (Lancashire Dump) Cemetery: This lies on the slope from the Aveluy – Hamel Road down to the railway, this area was fought over on the 5th and 6th April. You will find RND casualties from this period here in a pleasant setting.
Mesnil Communal Cemetery Extension: This sits to the West of Aveluy wood and contains casualties of the fighting in this period, it contains many RND men plus 12th Div men.
Dernacourt Communal Cemetery Extension: This cemetery is in the rear area to the slight south west of Albert. It is a beautiful cemetery and in it are RND casualties of this period who presumably died of their wounds in field hospitals clustered around Albert. Buried in this Cemetery is Lt.Col Farquarson , Commanding officer of 2RM.
Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery: I have added this because Lt.Col Collings-Wells VC commanding officer of the 4th Beds is buried here. This is an isolated cemetery if ever there was one, the track leading up to it seems to go on for miles but the views you get of the April 1918 battlefield make it worth while, take a compass and map to orientate yourself.
The events of March 1918 are very much a touchy subject for many Regiments of the British Army, some units made their reputation with heroic stands, others were reported to have run away. From my research I conclude that many units fought hard and well against an enemy that were well trained and experienced. German accounts I have read speak of high casualties in this time and accounts from units involved in the fighting speak of inflicting high casualties, although that can be misleading. So how did the reputation of the RND and the Royal Marines stand up to this period. On the face of it, on the 21st March they held their ground and retreated in good order , but it is not as simple as that. Firstly the Germans didn’t really attack them hard, they were in the middle of the salient, like being in the bottom of a bag, so the Germans went for the flanks and tried to trap the whole of the Corps in it. They made a demonstration in front of the RND which basically fixed them in place. The RND was a Division of fine reputation, one of the Storming Divisions, so in it’s attitude it would stand and fight, this nearly brought it down. The Flesquieres Salient was never intended to be held. In December 1917, Haig decided that the Flesquieres salient and the one at Passchendaele were to be defended against raids only, ie like Welsh Ridge on New Years eve 1917. In the event of a serious attack the salient was to be abandoned and the troops retreat to the neck of the salient and defend that. The conclusion was obvious, once the main German attack had gone in the RND and other units had to retreat quickly, any standing and fighting would be fatal, they were very nearly not quick enough away and an excellent rearguard action by the 17th Division saved them. The retreat was then characterised by retreat to certain positions usually at the orders of a local high ranking officer as no co-ordinated defence orders seemed to be forthcoming. On arrival at new locations ie the one near Martinpuich it was often found that the unit was on its own with nothing on either side therefore making it entirely possible to be outflanked and captured. The Divisions were falling back basically until they could find a good line to defend with help either side, until then it was rearguard stuff which on the whole the Royal Marines did very well. The Germans tactics in advance were excellent. The attack at Bertincourt was well carried out, the use of a box barrage isolating the front-line units and infiltration into the front line led to the loss of two companies of each of the RM battalions. The mention in Pierce- Gould’s account that the Germans were reported coming in with hands up is intriguing. Was this a stunt to allow infiltration to take place, or was this report just a rumour, we shall never know. The real mettle of the Royal Marines I feel was shown at Aveluy Wood, a unit vastly under strength took part in a planned counter attack that took out a good enemy and kicked them out of their positions, they had taken part in several little counters over the day’s before but when the popular history or perception of it, gives the impression that the British Army dropped it’s bundle and ran, these facts put the story right.
What was the morale like during this time of basically falling back with the Germans snapping at the heels. There are several clues and accounts that scotches the popular belief that the Army ran panic stricken, although there were area’s where this did happen. With the Royal Marines and RND in general the Morale seemed high, despite the losses and crossing of land that they had fought for in 1916. Pierce-Gould’s account gives several clues, firstly on the day itself, reference to the CO being distinctly unnerved. The description of the relief by the 12th Div and walking back to billets, having a shell land in their midst and on arrival be directed back to support a unit that was fresh but apparently incapable. Such events on troops with fragile morale would have cracked at that point, but on hearing that there were Germans about, “Whooped with Joy” and tore into them. The diary I suppose could be accused of being biased as few units ever give a bad account of themselves so I have found other accounts. The Buffs unit history on the Blue on Blue incident describes Anson being hungry for blood, hardly the description of a unit cowering in fear. The other totally unbiased accounts comes from Australian sources, the Australians were not noted for their compliments or liking of many British troops but the following two accounts give a flavour of the time. Capt A.L.Butler who was attached to a tunnelling company in the Flesquieres salient behind the RND who withdrew with them states ” There was never any rout of the troops, so far as he knew. They were simply tired and too dead to offer any resistance. He had heard how, when the Germans got up, our men got up too, and the two lines would stroll along at a distance from one another, trailing it’s arms, the Germans as tired as our men. Someone would take a shot. Then both sides would fall and shoot at one another for a bit then on again”. Capt H.Wilkins , official photographer of the AIF noted the 5th Corps troops retiring down the Albert-Bapaume road, the RND would have been amongst them, ” Down the road came long lines of guns. There was no disorder….Just two or three guns firing. The British infantry was retiring down the Bapaume road in excellent order- tired, but not routed. The officers said they did not know where they were intended to go. They were without orders except to retire to some position further back….There were great numbers of men bivouacked on the reverse slopes of the hills. On speaking to the men. A few said-”oh he [the German] can have this country as far as I’m concerned”-but only two or three. The majority seemed to be anxious to get to some place where they could get a rest then turn on to him. The one object they all had ahead of them was some place where they could get behind a line-perhaps of other troops -and rest… Our 71st Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, at Savy, said two interesting things-first, that the roads behind the German front were just as crowded with traffic as those behind our front…..Second, that the Germans were camped in very great numbers in the country around Bapaume. Around Bapaume there were very many German dead lying”. This last piece gives an excellent overall assessment of the later half of the retreat back to the Ancre.
I have quoted much on the retreat from Surgeon Lieutenant Peirce-Gould’s diary which can be found in the PRO, it is an excellent contemporary account which was written presumably in the time the RM battalions were at rest in Forceville at the end of March, 6 weeks later he would be dead, killed by a shell splinter outside a dugout during a raid in which he was waiting to tend the wounded. The Diary is at times at odds with the official version, but is uncensored, and contemporary, and must be taken seriously, and I’d advise anyone who has the opportunity to read it.
The line was now stabilised and on 11th April Douglas Haig issued his famous Backs to the Wall order of the Day:
” Three weeks ago the enemy began his terrific attacks against us on a 50 mile front. His objectives were to separate us from the French, to take the channel ports and destroy the British Army.
In spite of throwing already 106 Divisions into the battle and enduring the most reckless sacrifice of human life , he has as yet made little progress towards his goals.
We owe this to the determined fighting and self sacrifice of our troops. Words fail me to express the admiration which I feel for the splendid resistance offered by all ranks of our army under the most trying of circumstances.
Many amongst us are tired. To those I would say that victory will belong to the side which holds out the longest. The French Army is moving rapidly and in great force to our support.
There is no other course open to us but to fight it out! Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall, and believing in the true justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end. The Safety of our homes and the freedom of mankind alike depend upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment”
As one cynical Private put it “What bloody wall”, but the line had been held in the RND sector, the line was stabilised there at Aveluy Wood by sheer guts and determination of all units. With their backs to the wall, they had stuck it out, and weathered the storm. Were they defeated?, a definition of when an enemy is defeated as I understand it is when he hasn’t the will to fight on, to bring this situation about you must inflict, violence /casualties on him or take his land so that he loses the will to fight. With some units , a few casualties would cause their will to go, but with the RND as a whole, the will to fight was still there despite the loss of men and land-They were not beaten in March 1918.
HONOURS AND AWARDS TO THE ROYAL MARINES.
Distinguished Service Order.
Clutterbuck, N.S. Major (Act Lt.Col) RMLI 2RM
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when he handled his battalion in a most skilful manner during a successful counter attack, when the whole of the lost ground was regained. He personally led the attack which was organised with great promptitude.
Fletcher, E.K. Major (Act Lt.Col) RMLI 1RM
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when, by personal reconnaissance which proved to be invalueble, he discovered that a gap had been made in the right flank of his battalion, and he dealt with the situation promptly; and again on the following morning, when he led a successful counter attack, which regained all lost ground.
Bailey C.H 2nd Lieutenant – Aveluy Wood.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. After his company commander has been killed he displayed great courage and initiative in clearing up a most difficult situation under heavy machine gun fire. Next day he led his platoon forward in a successful counter attack and consolidated his position under heavy fire.
Buckley T Lieutenant – Aveluy Wood
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Being entrusted with the work of demolishing stores during the withdrawal, he blew up large ammunition dumps at great personal risk and fires stores and buildings. He accomplished this work under heavy fire, being amongst the last the ground on each occasion.
Campbell .R.H. Captain – Aveluy Wood
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During an enemy attack he filed a gap in the line. He stopped stragglers from other units, and finally formed a defensive flank with the unit on his right, under heavy machine gun fire. Next morning he led his company forward in a successful counter attack, and consolidated his position under heavy artillery fire.
Eliot F.G Captain – March Retreat.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in handling his transport with great ability and in controlling the supply of ammunition , rations, water and stores, often under fire, yet always delivering the supplies to the troops in the immediate presence of the enemy and extricating his vehicles in the midst of confusion and congestion with the utmost skill and courage. It was in great measure due to his efforts that the withdrawal was carried out so successfully.
Middleton. J.W. Lieutenant -March Retreat
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He performed the duties of transport officer with great ability, never failing to bring the transport up and thus ensuring regular supplies. On more than one occasion, although in close contact with the enemy and at great risk, he came through with rations and also with ammunition.
Proffitt F.A. Lieutenant – Aveluy Wood
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. After the enemy had broken through on the flanks and had captured the front line, he continued with his company to offer a stubborn resistance, and, although quite isolated, held the position until he finally withdrew in good order, closely pressed by the enemy. Later , he rendered the most valuable assistance and was largely responsible for the success of the counter attack.
West R.H.P Captain – March Retreat and Martinsart.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while performing the duties of adjutant to his battalion. Although suffering acutely from gas poisoning, he performed his duties with great ability, and it was largely due to him that the battalion was enabled to withdraw in good order when instructed to do so.
Wharf. J.G. Act Captain -March Retreat.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in commanding a company with marked ability. Although gassed, he set a fine example to his men throughout operations, on one occasion engaging the enemy and finally withdrawing his company with great skill under very adverse circumstances.
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Cpl H.Sadd PO 973-s-.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while in command of the battalion runner, when he did excellent work, especially on one occasion when he organised the runners and carried several messages through very heavy shell fire.
Sgt T.Smith PLY16562
For marked gallantry and devotion to duty. In a suprise counter attack at Aveluy Wood, on 6th April 1918, he went forward with his officer and lewis gun, and enabled thirty prisoners and five machine guns to be captured. Later, inspite of heavy machine gun fire, he rushed forward, and was instrumental in killing a large number of the enemy.
Pte.W.Artis PO17741, Pte E.T.Bell CH16167, Pte G.W.Bell PLY1068-s-, Cpl E.Beresford PO652-s-,
A/Sjt J.Carter PLY144-s-, Pte F.Cooper PO1155-s-, Sjt W.D.Croke PLY13042, Cpl W.H.Gardner PLY839-s-
Pte. A.S.Green PO16832, Pte .J.Grimshaw PLY17539, Sjt. G.H.Hastings PLY 884-s- , A/Cpl E.V.Holden PO17738 L.Cpl E.Holway Ply 1093-s-, Cpl G.Ingram PO1099-s-, Pte T.Jones PLY 159-s-, A/Sjt j.Kissock PLY11929, Cpl I Larter PLY827-s-, A/Sjt G.J.McCormack PLY13941, A/Sjt H.S.McCullough PLY15342,
Pte P.Marshall PO1500-s-, L/Cpl A.Meese PO182-s-, A/L.Sjt G.W.Parkes CH19537, Pte J.Partridge PO1779,
L/Cpl F.G.Penny PO18637, A/CSM T.W.Read PO12388, A/Sjt j.C.Robson PO12514,
Cpl F.Shuttleworth CH1047-s-, Pte. E.Smith PLY2450-s-, A/Col.Sjt G.Smith PO13153
Pte. J.Tomlinson PO1222-s-, A/Sjt H.Trussler PO17183, A/CSM W.J.Waters PO8519,
A/Sjt D.O.West PO12883, A/Cpl F.B.Wilson PO1161-s-
It is a sad aside but L/CPl Penny was to die in WW2 when serving on an armed merchant ship, it was sunk and he with several others took to their boats, he was one of the company who dies from exposure/ dehydration.
-A version of this article will appear in the MArch 1999 edition of RND.