Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Lance-Corporal Edward Arthur March

Introduction
Gunter, R B N
Durrant, C M
Weston, C G
Kelly, K G
Armitage, G J
Durrant, H M L
Hargreaves, J P
March, G
Dukes, W
Fowler, R
Westerman, H
Kirk, J C
Wiggins, T A
Telford, G
Harper, J W
Alexander, H W
Mason, T F
Wilkinson, W
Brown, C
Adkin, J
Barton, F
Hobman, A
Webster, A E
March, E A
Miller, G
Hannan, E
Utley, G
Walker, F
Bygrave, E W
Chapman, E
Varley, N W
Bowen, F J
Byrom, F
Backhouse, S
Dalby, M
Crossland, A
Crossley, J S
Dean, R
Frost, A E
Hodgson, F H
Holt, J
Hood, W H
Hill, W
Kitchen, T
Linfoot, E
Metcalfe, J C
Marsden, J
Pawson, W
Precious, G
Scutt, T G
Shields,P
Wiggins, J
Walker, E
Wood, A
Young, T
Pratt, W
Taylor, H
Dawson, G W
Lister, J
Binge, T
Atack, G
Durham, E F
Precious, G R
Wheelhouse Smith, W
Backhouse, H
Swann, J W
Burnsides, G A
Coles, W
Kelly, H W
Miles, J G
Tapsell, K
Acknowledgements
Dardanelles

235097
4th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment
Died Friday 12th April 1918

Cemetery : Le Grand Beaumart British Cemetery, Steenwerck, Nord, France
Grave Reference or Panel Number : II.D.8


Son of John Edward and Charlotte March, High Street, Wetherby.

Edward Arthur March was born at Wetherby in 1898 to parents John Edward, a Brewers Labourer in the employ of the Wharfedale Brewery, Market Place, and Charlotte March, a native of Wighill, near Tadcaster; the family residing in Riverside Cottage, near to the present day Tennis Courts. In the 1911 Census, Arthur, as Edward is now recorded, is residing with his parents in the Market Place, his father having changed vocation to that of a self employed Coal Dealer. At the time of Edward's death, a newspaper article states that the family residence was at premises located in the High Street, but unfortunately no actual number is recorded.

Prior to the outbreak of the War, Edward was employed as a Postman at Keighley. His employment to this position is recorded in the 1918 British Postal Service Appointment Book as January 1918. It is unclear as to the period when Edward relocated to Keighley, but as attestation took place at Wetherby, one would expect that this took place after his initial enlistment.

Of the March family after the outbreak of the War,  surviving newspaper articles from the period provide an insight into their lives during the conflict. One younger brother had also enlisted, John Joseph. (Authors note: There are three entries in the Medal Index Card recording one John J. March but the following entry follows a pattern that would seem to fit with his age on enlistment, presumably about 18 years. Private John J. March, West Yorkshire Regiment, 59480, then allocated the number 5/112579 in the Training Reserve. This suggests that John served in a 'Young Soldier Battalion,' and, therefore, was not able to serve overseas until after the age of 18+. Eventually John would serve with the Seaforth Highlanders, 32484, battalion unknown.

The War was also fought on the home front in a civilian capacity. A newspaper article from the autumn of 1917 records that Charlotte March had volunteered for work in a munitions factory. Unfortunately this article records Charlotte's appearance before the Leeds West Riding Petty Sessions for the possession of matches in the factory to which she pleaded guilty. The defendant admitted that she had the box of matches at Wetherby Station to give her a light and that she had taken them into the factory. Authors note. Presumably the train station at Linton Road and this suggests a journey by rail to Leeds, one would surmise to Barnbow Munitions Factory located at Cross Gates. In her defense Charlotte told the Session that there was a lot of sickness at home. The Chairman stated that they were very sorry for her but that it was the duty of the law that she must be fined. It was declared that Charlotte earned an average wage of £1.15 Shillings per week and the Chairman in mitigation said that her case was not as bad as some that had come before the court. Even so, Charlotte was fined the sum of £3. Money no doubt that the family could ill afford to lose.

Attestation

Edward attested for service at Wetherby in December 1915 whilst the 'Derby Scheme' was still in operation and assigned 'Class 1' or 'Group 1' status consisting of single 18 year old males.
Mobilised in May 1916, he was initially posted to the Regimental Depot of the West Yorkshire Regiment at York but was almost immediately transferred to the 2/4th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. Issued with the serial number 202261, it would appear that Edward was part of a large draft of men from the West Yorkshire's to the Lincolnshire Regiment during this period.

Service With The 2/4th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment

The 2/4th Lincolnshire Regiment, a Second Line Territorial battalion were formed at Lincoln in September 1914. The battalion were contained in the 177th Brigade of the 59th (2nd North Midland) Division and contained the following units:

2/5th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment

2/4th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment

2/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment

In April 1916, the division was sent to Ireland to help quell the Irish Rebellion, returning to England in January 1917. The following month, the division was posted to France embarking at Southampton and disembarking at Le Havre on the 22/23rd February 1917.
Edward's service with the regiment is ambiguous but it would seem that he spent the remainder of 1916 at the Regimental Depot located at Lichfield, Staffordshire, until being posted overseas with the division in 1917.

Operations On The Western Front

During 1917, the division was involved in the German retirement to the 'Siegfried Stellung,' a system of trenches, fortified by concrete positions and heavy belts of barbed wire that stretched from Arras in the north and ended near to the River Aisne, north of Reims. The decision by the enemy to withdraw to this defensive system, known to the British as the 'Hindenburg Line,' was due to a number of factors. One catalyst as to this course of action was the number of casualties and ground lost during the Somme offensive, it was therefore deemed that holding on to the positions that remained would be a vast drain on manpower and materiel.  Consequently the withdrawal commenced on the 25th February 1917.
During the retreat, the enemy employed a scorched earth policydestroying lines of communication etc., adding to this, the advancing troops were frequently met with a series of stubborn rearguard actions. From the 14th March to the 5th April, the 2/4th Lincs. suffered 13 Other Ranks killed or died of wounds in the pursuit of the enemy. (Source: Soldiers Died In The Great War CD Rom, Naval & Military Press).
The Battle of Arras, the first major offensive of the new year was launched on the 9th April with initial success. The 59th Division however did not participate in this action and remained holding front line positions in the Cambrai sector or at rest near Bapaume.

Third Ypres

On the 31st July, the Allies launched their second major offensive of the War known as the Third Battle of Ypres. In September, the division were sent north to the Salient relieving units in the front line on the 23rd/24th September. On the 26th September, the division were to mount offensive operations during the Battle of Polygon Wood which commenced at 5.30 a.m. after a two hour bombardment of enemy positions. Attached to the Fifth Army for the attack, with the Second Army assaulting positions to the south, the battalion and the division sustained heavy casualties during the proceeding days. Owing to this, the division were relieved on the 29th September by the New Zealand Division, the battle finally drawing to a close on the 3rd October.

Cambrai

The 59th Division, after being withdrawn from the mud of the Flanders battlefields, moved south to the Lens Sector where the 177th Brigade relieved units of the 3rd Canadian Brigade. Here, the division remained until early November when they were relieved by Canadian units and withdrawn for training for the forth coming Cambrai offensive.
Moving south, the division were to be held in reserve for the offensive, and, if the attack proved to be successful, they were to be sent forward to exploit any success.
At 6.20 a.m. on the morning of the 20th November, the Cambrai offensive began on an attack frontage of 11,000 yards.
Initially, the offensive, with the use of tanks en masse provided stunning results, but, as the battle wore on, the tenacity and determination of the enemy to hold and regain ground lost resulted in Haig ordering the offensive to cease on the 27th November.
On Friday the 30th November, the enemy struck launching a massive counter-attack striking westwards. The 59th Division which had moved into the front line area on the 28th, were holding positions in the vicinity of Bourlon Wood with the 177th Brigade at Flesquieres. Although not subject to the main thrust of the enemy attack, men of the 2/5th North Staffs. of the 176th Brigade, with the support of guns of the Guards and 51st Divisional Artilleries, successfully repelled enemy counter-attacks from the direction of Fontaine but heavy casualties were sustained by the brigade.
On the 4th December, the division withdrew to Flesquires and its defences whilst the 2/4th Lincolns and the 2/7th Sherwood Forresters covered this retreat from positions at Cantaing.
Consolidating positions won, and enduring further counter attacks by the enemy in the proceeding days, the offensive finally came to a halt on the 7th December.
On the 23rd December, the 59th Division were finally relieved from the Cambrai front, their positions being taken over by units of the 17th (Northern) Division.
The remainder of the year and the month of January, 1918, were spent at rest and in training, the division being billeted in villages west of Arras.

Absorbed by the 1/4th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment

As the new year dawned, a fundamental reorganisation of the British Army was about to take place. Due to a shortage of men available for military service, it was found that replacing losses to existing units on the Western Front was proving to be impossible. Two solutions to this problem were put forward. One, the  reduction of the number of divisions deployed on the Front, or secondly, the reforming of the number of battalions that constituted an Infantry Brigade. The latter option, to restructure brigades from four battalions to three was to be the solution implemented. This reorganisation and economisation of manpower was to fall exclusively on units of the New Army and second-line Territorials, no Regular or first-line Territorial battalions were to be affected. Consequently, on the 10th January, 115 battalions were disbanded and the men used to bring existing units up to strength. However, it was deemed that 38 battalions were to escape complete disbandment and were to be amalgamated with other units, as a consequence, the 2/4th amalgamated with the 1/4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment on the 31st January 1918.
It would appear that Edward, on amalgamation of the battalions, proved to be superflous to requirements, therefore he, and a number of men were drafted to the 4th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, 29th Division.

4th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment

The 4th Battalion, Worcesters, (a battalion of the Regular Army), formed part of the 88th Brigade, 29th Division, the division being formed in England between January - March 1915. At the outbreak of the war, the battalion was recalled from Burma to England where it landed at Avonmouth in February 1915.
After a period of concentration, in England, the Division embarked for the Dardanelles in March 1915, sailing via Malta to Alexandria, Egypt.

Gallipoli

In early April, the Division embarked for Mudros and was eventually landed on the peninsula at Cape Helles on the 25th April, 1915. Involved in many costly actions resulting in over 700 casualties, the battalion, in Division, were eventually evacuated from the Dardanelles to Egypt in January 1916. In preparation for the Allied offensive of 1916 on the Western Front, the battalion sailed to France, landing at Marseilles on the 20th March.

Operations On The Western Front

On the 1st July 1916, the Division were engaged in the attack on Beaumont Hamel during the Somme offensive suffering heavy casualties, in particular, the 1st Battalion of the Newfoundland Regiment, 88th Brigade. Forced to advance from support trenches due to the front line being full of dead and wounded from a previous advance, the battalion was cut to pieces by enemy machine-gun and rifle fire. The 4th Worcesters, ordered to continue the advance around midday, also found that their 'jumping off' positions were in disarray due to the dead, wounded and the effects of a heavy enemy bombardment. The order to attack was postponed around 1 o'clock, thus sparing the battalion and what remained of the brigade further casualties.

In October, the Division was involved in action near Gueudecourt in a series of attacks known as the Battle of the Le Transloy Ridges. As the Allied offensive ground to a halt in November, the mud and rain impeding progress, it would be April 1917 before the British and Commonwealth forces regained the initiative. This would take place on the battlefields of Arras, Ypres and Cambrai.
On April 9th, 1917, the Battle of Arras commenced. In this offensive, the division were most notably involved in the defence of Monchy-le-Preux on the 14th of the month. The battle and its subsequent actions finally drew to a close on the 16th June, and, in terms of casualties to the Allies, had proved to be more costly than the previous years offensive on the Somme.
The division took part in numerous actions during Third Ypres, beginning with the Battle of Langemark 16th-18th August and lastly, in operations at the Battle of Poelcapelle on the 9th October.
The last of offensive of 1917 at Cambrai commenced on the 20th November in which the division were most notably involved in the crossing of the St. Quentin Canal and the penetration of the 'Masnieres-Beaurevoir Line.' During the course of the fighting, the 4th Worcesters lost their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Strangways Linton.

The German Spring Offensives: 'Kaiserschlacht'

In November 1917, Erich Ludendorff had begun to plan a German offensive that he believed would destroy the Allies ability to prosecute and continue the War. Following the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 in Russia, newly released divisions were sent to the Western Front in preparation for the forthcoming offensive planned to take place in the following spring.
Ludendorff believed that the Allied offensives of 1917 had so weakened the Allies, in particular the British Expeditionary Force, that a series of concentrated attacks with superior forces would force British back to their logistic supply bases located on the channel coast. Once the British forces were defeated, attacks would then be mounted against the French Army and American forces and upon their annihilation, Paris would be occupied.
German forces would assault with Three Armies on an attack frontage of fifty miles. The front would stretch from just south of Arras to the north, and to the south,  on the Oise River, south of St. Quentin. Innovative tactics were to be employed by the infantry, in particular the use of 'Stosstruppen,' well trained, lightly equipped assault troops or 'Stormtroopers.' Penetrating the first line of defence and supported by engineers to clear any remaining barbed wire, they would 'punch' a hole in the line allowing the main force continue the advance.
The offensive, codenamed 'Operation Michael,' was to be supported by a massive concentration of artillery of over 6000 pieces of all calibres. This intense barrage, supported also by over 3500 trench mortars, was about to be unleashed on the British Fifth and Third Armies commanded by Gough and Byng respectively.
The offensive, launched in the early morning of the 21st March, was finally brought to a standstill at Villers-Bretonneux, east of Amiens after sixteen days of heavy and protracted fighting. Initially gaining spectacular successes, the failure to capture Arras and then Amiens and to divide the French and British Armies, forced Ludendorff to abandon 'Operation Michael' on the 5th April.

The Battles Of The Lys

In November 1917, a number of offensive options were discussed by the German General Staff of which one was the possibility of an attack on British and Belgian forces in the Ypres Salient.
Ludendorff envisaged that a strike north of the La Bassee Canal through Hazebrouck with its strategically important rail network, would smash opposing forces in the constraints of the Salient. Pushing on towards the coast, a myriad of essential logistical bases and communication centres, so vital to the prosecution of the War, would fall prey to the advancing German Army. If accomplished, a decisive victory would be achieved, one that could possibly bring the war on the Western Front to an end.
The plan, originally conceived and code-named 'Operation George,' would consist of a spearhead thrust through Armentieres, coinciding with a series of subsidiary attacks on the Ypres Salient.
However, losses in men and materiel incurred by the 'Michael' operations had forced Ludendorff to scale down the size of the proposed offensive and consequently the strategy and initial objectives were modified. 'Operation Georgette,' as the offensive was now code-named, would be launched in two phases. On the 9th April, the German 6th Army under the command of General Ferdinand von Quast would first attack British forces holding the line between the Givenchy and Armentieres sectors. The advance would then continue along the valley of the River Lys with the strategically important town of Hazebrouck being the objective. The second phase would then continue on the 10th April with the German 4th Army, under the command of General Friedrich Sixt von Armin, assaulting positions held by the British Second Army under the command of General Sir Herbert Plumer. This advance would then continue towards Messines and its associated ridge driving back British forces as the assault progressed.
As regards Allied intelligence to a possible German offensive to be launched north of the La Basee Canal, the deployment of men and materiel had been observed as had the preparations for the 'Michael' by increased aerial reconnaissance.
The deployment of British units from Flanders to counter the offensive in the south had also weakened Haigs positions in the north. If Ludendorff was to continue the momentum of his advance, the southern offensive having stalled at the gates of Amiens, he would have to take the initiative without delay.
 
The Ypres Salient
 
The 29th Division had remained in the Ypres Sector at the conclusion of the Third Battle of Ypres alternating between reserve and tours of duty in the front line. As the German Army launched Kaiserschlacht to the south during the previous day, on the 22nd March the 4th Battalion, Worcesters, 88th Infantry Brigade, set forth from Poperinghe to commence a relief of the 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers, 87th Infantry Brigade, in the Left Sub-Sector of the Divisional Line to the west of Passchendaele. Prior to the commencement of this relief, three companies had been conveyed to Spree Farm, located to the south of St. Julien by train, whilst one company proceeded to Wieltje. With the relief being completed at 11.50 p.m., the battalion was disposed as follows:
 
"Z" Company   Front Line   Holding Posts 10 - 19 Inclusive
"W" Company   Support     Wallemolen    (V.28.c.6.4.) & Inch Houses (V.27.0.0.)
"X" Company   Kronprinz Farm
"Y" Company   English Farm 
Battalion Headquarters   Pill-Box 83   (D.4.a.9.4.)
 
With the relief being completed by 11.50 p.m., the enemy must have observed the relief in progress as artillery and machine-gun fire opened up at 12.30 a.m. on tracks to the front line positions. Thankfully, this proved to be too late to cause any casualties to the incoming battalion but this fire directed on the positions remained fairly active throughout the course of the day resulting in the wounding of Second-Lieutenant Geoffrey Gaskell Royal at Inch Houses and one Other Rank of "X" Company.
"Z" Company, holding the front line immediately set about improving their positions strengthening the barbed wire defences in front of all Posts 10 - 19 and the building up both the parados and parapet, rear and front of the trench respectively. To assist in the task one officer and 50 Other Ranks of "W" Company were detailed to carry Royal Engineer material, presumably sand bags and timber from an R.E. Dump from Bellevue - Goudberg, two journeys being accomplished throughout the course of the day. In addition to this, one company were tasked with carrying rations and R.E. material to "Z" and "W" Companies whilst another company set to work on the Divisional Line. (Authors note: Companies not recorded in the War Diary).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

westofpasschendaele.jpg
Trench Map Extract, Passchendaele, Dated 24/10/17

As work continued on improving the trench system on the 24th, it would appear that the enemy had either observed activity near the location of Battalion Headquarters, or the pill-box itself, easily distinguished, in a desolate landscape pounded by artillery. The War Diary describes the days events as regards enemy activity; "artillery and M.G. not so active," but this apparent lull in the enemy's activities resulted in the deaths of Second-Lieutenant Robert Stanley Thomas, Corporal George F. Coton, 31130, and Privates George E. Millin, 8882, and Isiah Cooper, 21639, the latter soldier, a veteran of the Dardanelles campaign.
As the situation deterioated in the south with the German Army heading towards Arras and Amiens it is not surprising that on this date orders were issued that all leave was to cancelled.
 
Work continued on the front line positions in the days that followed but there was now a significant increase in enemy artillery activity. As events began to unfold to the south, all officers and N.C.O.'s returned to the battalion from courses of instruction. During the 25th, one Other Rank, Lance-Corporal Leslie W. Percox, 39664, was killed, whilst another was wounded. The artillery increased in intensity during the morning of the 26th falling on Bellevue and the location of the Battalion Headquarters. The War Diary alludes to the fact that this barrage may have been interpreted as a precursor to an infantry advance or enemy raid as the latter records that an S.O.S. barrage was put down as "W" Company relieved "Z" Company in the front line, the latter company withdrawing to English Farm. As a consequence of this rotation, "X" Company moved into the Support Line at Wallemolen with "Y" Company moving into support at Kronprinz Farm respectively. Casualties sustained during the day amounted to Second-Lieutenant L. Mason and 2 Other Ranks wounded.
 
With enemy artillery fire gaining in ferocity, and a further O/R wounded on the 27th instant, it is of interest at this juncture to examine the actual composition of the battalion at this stage of the War. The Worcester's had begun, as had all county regiments, to lose its regional identity as the conflict ground on, i.e., men who had enlisted from the county of which the regiment derived its title were either killed or wounded or even drafted to other regiments of the British Army. An example of this, though a microcosm in the 'make up' of the battalion is no better illustrated that that recorded in the War Diary dated 27th March 1918. On this day, 44 Other Ranks rejoined from The 'Divisional Wing,' transfers from the Army Service Corps. This term, 'Divisional Wing' may refer to a training establishment formed under the auspices of the 29th Division however records do confirm that of drafts to the battalion on this date, 10 Other Ranks were received however their origin is unclear.
 
Rain now set in on the 28th as the enemy artillery continued its programme of harassment firing once again on Battalion Headquarters and known tracks into the area resulting in the wounding of one man. This pattern continued as the month concluded fortunately with no further casualties being sustained.
 
On the 1st April the battalion once again rotated in the line with "X" Company moving into the front line, "Y" Company located at Wallemolen and Inch Houses, whilst "Z" Company moved into support at Kronprinz Farm. "W" Company proceeded into reserve at English Camp whilst Battalion Headquarters remained stationary at Pill-Box 83.
 
On this tour in the front line, "X" Company erected an apron wire fence in front of Posts 10 - 14 as work also continued on improving the posts and the trenches. "Y" Company also furnished one officer and fifty Other Ranks for a carrying party for Royal Engineer material, this being carried from Bellevue - Goudberg. "Z" Company were also utilised as a carrying party to provide both companies with engineer material and rations whilst "W" Company, far from being aloud to remain at rest, had to provide men for four hours work on the Divisional Line. A further party was also formed from details at English Camp to carry forward small arms ammunition from Mosselmarkt.
 
With improvements continuing to the trench system, a new entrance was also constructed to the front line company's headquarters and the duckboard tracks that led to the front repaired, no doubt suffering the effects of the attentions of enemy artillery.
Inter-company reliefs commenced during the night of the 2nd/3rd April. Under the cover of darkness, "X" Company being relieved by "Y" Company in the front line, the former moving back to English Camp. "Z" Company now proceeded to positions between Wallemolen - Inch Houses whilst "W" Company moved to Kronprinz Farm, this relief being carried out without incident. Early in the evening of the 3rd however, enemy artillery once again continued to bombard the front line, duckboard tracks, Battalion Headquarters and positions around Wallemolen.
 
Gathering intelligence as to the strength of the enemy's positions and, if possible, the identity of the opposing German units themselves, the 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, 88th Infantry Brigade, were making preparations for a raid that would take place on the 4th. During the day, the enemy's artillery remained reasonably inactive in comparison to the British guns, who, no doubt performing a 'feint' as to maintain an element of surprise, shelled the German front line. The objective of the raiding party was a small cluster of cottages, or what remained of them, which were fortified and recorded in the War Diary of the Worcesters as Teall Cotts. Authors note: Possibly a typo error and should be recorded as Veal Cottages located about 500 yards north-west of Goudberg Copse. Aided by the what was recorded as a dark night, the party penetrated the German front line and proceeded to the objective which was found to be unoccupied. No further details are recorded in the Worcester's diary.
 
The 5th April dawned wet as the men continued their labours. Artillery activity was minimal until a solitary enemy shell made a direct hit on the Headquarters of "Z" Company located at Wallemolen fortunately causing no casualties. If the raiding party of the previous night had not secured a prisoner, fortuitously one German soldier, having lost his way in the desolation of No Man's Land, wandered into the line held by "Y" Company and was taken prisoner. Remarkably, another two of the enemy were captured by "Y" Company on the 7th as they stumbled through the morass opposite Number 15 Post. Carrying wire to their front line, the two enemy soldiers had simply lost their way.
 
Activity was not only confined to that of terra nova as during the day British aircraft flying at low altitude swept over the German positions attracting the attentions of enemy machine-gun fire. Artillery fire was desultory however once again a few shells fell around Battalion Headquarters located at Pill-Box 83. An inter-company relief commenced also on this date with "Z" Company now moving into the front line, "W" Company moving to Wallemolen, "X" Company to Kronprinz Farm and "Y" Company to English Camp.
 
To the south, a heavy German bombardment had commenced on the front held by First Army under the command of General Henry Horne. Between Givenchy and Armentieres, the German Sixth Army under the command General Ferdinand von Quast was poised to strike. The hammer blow was about to commence.

Relief

After a tour of duty in the line that had lasted for eighteen days the 4th Battalion, Worcester's, made preparations for a relief. To this end the incoming battalion, the 23rd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, 123rd Infantry Brigade, 41st Division, stationed one officer with each company throughout the night of the 8th April.
 
During the early hours of the morning the enemy was alert and possibly aware that a relief was about to commence as he bombarded both the front line and tracks to the rear for a period of one hour, this being responded to by the commencement of a British barrage. Although the exact time of the commencement of the relief is not recorded although later entries in the War Diary suggest during the night 9th/10th, all details and transport proceeded from Soulsby Camp located at Brandhoek to the east of Poperinghe to School Camp at St. Jans ter Biezen located to the west. Here they were joined by the remainder of the battalion at 6 a.m. on the morning of the 10th. With the prospect of a few days rest and the cleaning up of men and equipment, orders were suddenly received within a matter of hours to prepare to move to an unknown destination, preliminary orders that had been received for the battalion to move south to Arras at 4 p.m. on the 10 instant subsequently being cancelled due to the developing situation in the south.

The Enemy Attacks

For a narrative of events as to the commencement of the German offensive, the Author will now quote from Sir Douglas Haig's despatches, albeit in an abridged format. The original publication can be viewed in the Fifth Supplement To The London Gazette, dated Friday, 18th October, 1918. Despatch dated Monday, 21st October, 1918.
 
At dawn on the 9th April and under cover of fog, an intense artillery barrage erupted along a section of the First Armies front between Givenchy and Bois Grenier. At Neuve Chappelle the line was held by the 2nd Portuguese Division who at about 7 a.m. bore the brunt of an enemy infantry assault which broke on their left brigade and succeeded in breaking into their trenches. With many of the Portguese suffering from the effects of gas that had been used liberally during the barrage, the attack spread north and south to the flanks of the 55th (West Lancashire), and that of the 40th Divisions, south and north of the Portuguese respectively. In accordance with pre-arranged instructions should an attack develop, both the 51st (Highland) Division and that of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division were hurried forward to take up positions behind Richebourg St. Vaast and Laventie, their deployment being covered by the 1st King Edward's Horse and the 11th Cyclist Battalion.
 
On the right flank of the 40th Division, enemy forces had succeeded in penetrating the positions held by the right flank battalion of the division continuing to exploit this advance northwards along the Rue de Petillon and the Rue de Bois, in the Laventie Sector. Despite a resolute defence that delayed the advance of the enemy the latter had, by mid morning, advanced some distance behind the headquarters of the right flank battalion of the 40th Division to Rouge de Bout however at this juncture the right flank battalion of the 40th Division were still managing to maintain a foothold at Petillon to the east of Laventie. With mounting pressure being exerted on the front and the flank of the 40th Division, it was only a matter of time before the division had to relinquish ground and form a defensive line facing southwards between Bois Grenier, Fleurbaix and Sailly-sur-la- Lys, east to west respectively, the right flank brigade of the division in particular suffering heavy casualties as the assault pressed onwards.
The sector held by the 55th Division felt the full weight of an enemy advance along the whole of its frontage. The Outpost Line, designed to break the impetus of any attack, was overcome during the mid morning by the enemy in the vicinity held by the left brigade of the division. The Main Line Of Resistance, i.e. the second line of defence behind these forward positions remained intact however allowing the formation of a defensive flank extending northwards between Festubert to a point just south of Le Touret where touch was eventually established later with units of the 51st Division.
 
As the day wore on, the enemy attempted on numerous occasions to break through the positions held by the 55th Division. It is a testament to the determination of these men that they managed quell any successful penetrations in the line that were made. Even when advanced posts at times were surrounded, any attempts by the enemy to escalate and develop his attack were quickly dealt with by a series of determined counter-attacks that resulted in the capture of over 750 prisoners.
To the north of the 55th Division, as previously stated the 2nd Portuguese Division at Neuve Chapelle had virtually ceased to exist as an effective fighting force resulting in the the enemy making a rapid advance northwards from the vicinity of Le Touret. Such was his progress that the rear defence system could barely be garrisoned in time however a holding action by the 1st King Edward's Horse and the 11th Cyclist Battalion who occupied positions at La Couture, Vieille-Chapelle and Huit Maisons enabled both the 50th and the 51st Divisions to deploy east of the River Lawe between Le Touret and Estaires.
 
It was soon ascertained that the enemy had advanced as far as the east of Estaires and that they now occupied a position on the right bank of the river driving in effect a wedge between the 50th and 40th Divisions. Under increasing pressure by enemy forces the right flank of the 40th Division was therefore pushed back to the River Lys forcing a tactical withdrawal acoss the river at Bac St. Maur, located to the north-east of Sailly-sur-la-Lys, during the early afternoon. Of the remainder of the 40th Division, these units were reinforced by men of the 34th Division and both established themselves in a defensive position covering any intended advance by the enemy. To this end a line was formed between Fort Rompu to the south-west of Erquinghem on the southern bank of the River Lys, and the old front line positions located to the north-east of Bois Grenier, covering any attempts by the enemy to advance on Armentieres.
 
The line was held but did not constitute a ready prepared defensive position as the enemy made numerous attempts to break through but forward units of the 40th Division, namely the 12th Suffolks, 121st Infantry Division, stood fast at Fleurbaix until early evening despite being subjected to assaults directed from three sides.
 
To the south-west the 50th and 51st Divisions had become engaged in a number of protracted actions east of the River Lawe during the afternoon. With the enemy pressing forward in his attempts to capture the bridgeheads over the Rivers Lawe and Lys both British divisions were gradually forced back upon these vital river crossings. German artillery units were now brought forward and began to bombard points in attempt to force crossings of the rivers at Estaires and Pont Riqueul to the south of the latter. His attempts were successful at these two points but the infantry assaults were driven off by determined counter-attacks at these natural barriers resulting that by the end of the days actions bridgeheads were still held by British forces as far as to the east of Sailly-sur-la-Lys.
 
A tactical withdrawal was then conducted under the cover of darkness by British troops from Estaires and positions to the south to the left bank of the Rivers Lawe and Lys after severe enemy contact at Pont Riqueul.
Bridges across both rivers had been destroyed by demolition however in some cases this act had not completely resulted in defying the enemy of some opportunity to attempt a crossing.

Bac St. Maur: The River Lys Is Crossed

The crossing of the River Lys was eventually completed by the enemy at Bac St. Maur to the north-east of Sailly-sur-la-Lys. As the 40th Division retired across the river at this location pursued by the advancing German infantry, the bridge was destroyed. During mid afternoon however small parties of the enemy under cover of machine-gun fire had managed to cross the river due to the construction of an emergency bridge possibly built by his Pionier (Pioneer) units. The enemy now began to push forward more infantry units through this breach and as their numbers began to increase an advance northwards succeeded in reaching Croix-du-Bac to the north of Bac St. Maur during the evening. It was during the early hours of the night that the enemy were counter-attacked by an infantry brigade of the 25th Division, this attack succeeding in pushing back the enemy's forces however the village was not completely cleared of his forces.
With a foothold gained to the north of the river, the enemy now began to increase in numbers. It was now a question of where they could be dealt, if possible, a stopping blow.

Further attacks had now developed during the early morning of the 10th April as the enemy, under the cover of his artillery, attempted to cross the River Lys at Estaires and also force a crossing of the Lawe at Lestrem to the south-west. His attempts at both locations were successful but were met by strong counter-attacks by the 50th Division.
At Estaires the German infantry had succeeded in entering the town where fighting degenerated into that of an urban nature. Despite a tenatious defence by machine-guns located in the upper floors of houses that accounted for many of the enemy, these pockets of British resistance were subjected to the fire of German artillery and were consequently eliminated.
Despite stubborn resistance throughout the course of the evening, German infantry eventually forced their way into the town once again whereupon the 50th Division under cover of darkness retired to prepared defensive positions located to the north and west of Estaires.


The Worcester's Join Battle

East of Estaires German infantry with artillery support had crossed the River Lys and such was the pressure exerted by his ever increasing forces in this sector, the line was retired to a position north of Steenwerck during the evening of the 10th April, the latter town falling into the hands of the enemy on this date.
 
During the morning however, the second German 'thrust' had commenced, when von Armin's 4th Army, proceeded by a heavy artillery barrage, began its offensive against Plumer's Second Army between Messines and Frelinghien located to the south of the River Deule, north-east of Armentieres. The Outpost Lines of the 25th Division and that of the 19th, bore the brunt of the enemy's advance, north of Armentieres and east of Messines respectively. These positions were overun allowing the enemy to advance, as in the Kaiserschlacht offensive, fortuitously, under the cover of a mist that hid his movements along the valley of the Warnave River located to the south of Ploegsteert Wood and village and that of the Douve south of Messines. Thus moving along the flanks of these positions in the British line, by midday both Messines had fallen and Ploegsteert village and the south-east corner of its associated wood had fallen into the hands of the enemy. To the north of the latter the German advance had extended as far as the northern bank of the Ypres-Comines Canal where forward positions as far as Hollebeke had been taken resulting in the British retirement of the line to the elevated ground of the Wytschaete Ridge.
In the course of the afternoon, Messines was retaken by the South African Brigade of the 9th (Scottish) Division and later during the night the 9th Division also cleared Wytschaete of parties of the enemy.
 
la Creche
 
We must at this juncture now turn our attention to that of the 88th Infantry Brigade, operating independently of the remainder of the 29th Division, and in particular the movement southwards by the 4th Battalion, Worcesters.
No sooner had the battalion began to settle at School Camp that orders arrived to proceed to embus for an "unknown destination." The 10 % Detail, i.e. a cadre or nucleus of men were left behind at Road Camp located at St. Jans ter Biezen, should the battalion suffer significant losses in forth coming operations. Of Edward and the men of the Worcester's, the battalion embussed on a fleet of old London Omnibuses, seconded for service with the Army at 2 p.m. on the afternoon of the 10th April. Journeying southwards towards Abeele, at Steenvoorde the battalion headed south down the main road towards Bailleul and onwards towards Armentieres.
 
On passing through Bailleul the convoy was met by the Staff Captain (name unfortunately not recorded in the War Diary) that stopped the latter from proceeding any further. It soon became obvious as to why. The Staff Captain informed Lieutenant-Colonel Bowcher Campbell Senhouse Clarke, Officer Commanding 4th Worcester's who was also in command of the convoy, that everybody was in full retreat and what lay between them now was just a steady stream of stragglers and refugees and the advancing enemy. As Colonel Clarke was in conversation, this human tide consisting of Portuguese soldiers, civilians fleeing their homes, and men seperated from their units, amidst guns, transport and wounded, trudged wearily past in the direction of Bailleul. Such was the chaos of the situation, the only map to hand was that in the possession of the Staff Captain, that Colonel Clarke immediately issued orders for the convoy to disembark their transport with the latter being sent back to the rear. Finding themselves in the vicinity of la Creche, to the south-east of Bailleul and dependant on just this one map, intelligence as to the location of the enemy provided by the Staff Captain prompted the Colonel into immediate action. The convoy consisting of the 2nd Hampshire's, 1/2nd Monmouths, Divisional Pioneers, and that of 4th Worcester's respectively, would seize the village and its railway station, and the railway embankment to the south.
Edward and his comrades of the Worcester's, now readied themselves for action, the three battalions now being placed at the disposal of the 25th Division.

 



 

lacreche.jpg
la Creche Village And Station

Advance On la Creche 
 
The objective of the attack was, as the War Diary records, "pointed out on the ground as far as possible." The 4th Worcester's would advance straight towards their objective i.e. the village and the station, whilst the 2nd Hampshire's would deploy on their left flank and advance in conjunction with the latter so as to adopt a position covering the high ground between la Creche and the Bailleul-Armentieres Road to the north. The 1/2nd Monmouths were to be placed in reserve to be utilised as and if the need arose.
 
It was ascertained that the enemy were advancing through positions held by the 25th Division towards the village and along the line of the railway embankment in considerable strength. The advance of the Worcester's commenced towards the village however there is no record of any contact with the enemy at this point recorded in the War Diary. However, a narrative of events attached to the diary and written by Captain Joseph Eric Thorneloe, late Adjutant, records that the battalion "were soon heavily engaged."
 
Continuing the advance through la Creche towards the Station a position was established south of the village covering the approaches from Steenwerck and also those to the south-east. Enduring enemy artillery and machine-gun fire which was described as "very active," the battalion had chosen its dispositions well. As the German infantry advanced down the railway embankment in a column of 'fours,' the Worcester's opened fire with their Lewis guns and rifles and this advance was rapidly dispersed.
 
Losses to the enemy had been substantial assisted by a fortuitous arrival of additional forces. As the 4th Worcester's advanced, a party of retiring men to the south, i.e., the right flank of the latter battalion, was observed and determined to be British. This band of men were in fact the remnants of the 3rd Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment, 74th Infantry Brigade of the 25th Division, under the command of Major Robert Francis Traill.
 
After consultation with Major Traill, Colonel Clarke organised a defence of his right flank utilising the men of Traill's battalion. Although any chronological sequence is lacking in both the diary and that of the narrative, the fighting for the Station one would assume was an intense action, the latter changing hands on at least three occasions. Despite further attempts to wrest control of the Station, or at least the vicinity of the latter place by the enemy, these attacks were beaten off as both battalions of the Worcester's consolidated their positions during the night and began to send out patrols to gather any intelligence as to the enemy's intentions.

Backs To The Wall

To the south the situation had worsened in the Armentieres sector during the course of the day. Arnim's Fourth Army advance north of Armentieres had left the garrison holding the town, namely the 34th Division, in a precarious position. The reserves of the division had been drawn into protecting its southern flank against the attacks made by von Quast's Sixth Army, however the front occupied by the 34th had as yet not been subjected to an attack by German forces. With the success of the German advance to the north of the town, this flank had now become dangerously exposed so it was therefore decided to conduct a tactical withdrawal of the 34th Division to prepared defences located on the left bank of the River Lys. Prior to the retirement which was commenced about midday, all stores and material that had to be left behind were destroyed so as not to fall into the hands of the enemy. All bridges were subjected to demolition and despite the retirement being followed closely by the advancing enemy infantry, the retirement was successfully completed by about 9.30 p.m.

It was on the morning of the 11th April that the enemy recommenced his attacks along the length of the front resulting in further successful advances. From Givenchy, situated to the west of La Bassee, and the line as far as the banks of the River Lawe, positions were held despite repeated attempts to breakthrough the British positions.
 
It was in the vicinity of la Fosse north of Vielle-Chapelle though that the enemy attempted to exploit a footing gained during the previous evening on the west bank of the River Lawe. From la Fosse to Lestrem south of Estaires the advance was continued westwards despite attempts to stem the tide of the German infantry.
 
At Estaires that the right flank of the British 5th Division became heavily engaged with superior numbers of the enemy as they continued their successful advances south of the River Lys. The 5th Division, a Regular Army Division, had been heavily engaged from the commencement of the German spring offensives. Exhausted and depleted in numbers, it is a testament to their courage that they stemmed the tide of the advance during the morning. As the enemy infantry pressed forward, advancing in close formation, they were subjected to a maelstrom of rifle and machine-gun fire that accounted for a great number of their ranks. Despite this temporary success and faced with overwhelming odds, it was inevitable that as the British line fell back, lines became overextended ultimately resulting in gaps in the line that were exploited to the full by the German infantry. As the latter continued to advance westwards pressing the British back towards Merville to the south-east of the vast Foret de Nieppe, to the north of Merville the enemy had advanced as far as Neuf-Berquin located to the north-west of Estaires.
 
Pushing his forces along the north bank of the Lys Canal, it was now that German forces entered Merville. With little reinforcements as yet available, the line in this sector was retired to the natural defences of a small stream located to the west of the town, the La Bourre.

To the south of Armentieres the remainder of the front witnessed heavy fighting that resulted in some progress by the enemy. However, reinforcements were now being hurried forward and it was into this sector that the 31st Division arrived after previously fighting a costly action at Moyenneville to the south of Arras in late March.
A counter-attack took place by both the 18th Battalion, Durham light Infantry and the 13th Battalion, Yorks. & Lancs. (Barnsley "Pals") in an attempt to link up with the 40th Division to the east of the Foret de Nieppe. This attack was successful and the hamlets of la Becque and le Verrier to the west and south-west of Steenwerk fell into British hands, touch also being gained with the 74th Infantry Brigade, 40th Division.

To the north of Armentieres at about midday the enemy launched a series of attacks in strength towards Nieppe to the north-east of Steenwerck and to the north of Ploegsteert at Neuve Eglise.
It was during the afternoon of the 11th that the enemy launched an attack to once again seize the village of Messines of which he succeeded despite fierce resistance. His forces were however prevented from any further advance in this sector as this was checked and subjected to a counter-attack by the South African Brigade of the 9th (Scottish) Division. To the south of Hollebeke this division had also been heavily engaged during the morning but had managed to hold its positions against determined efforts by enemy forces to continue their advance westwards.

At Nieppe, the positions held by the 34th Division were subjected to a determined attack during the morning. This attack was held but due to the enemy's successful advance in the Ploegsteert sector, the division was at risk of being outflanked and the position was now untenable. As a consequence, the division was ordered to retire to the vicinity of Pont d'Achelles on the Baillieul-Armentieres Road to the west of Nieppe during the early part of the night.
A further retirement was also ordered of troops between Pont d'Achelles and Wytschaete to the north to positions one thousand yards east of Neuve Eglise and Wulvergem respectively in an attempt to shorten the length of front that in turn would maximise available manpower. However, this was not without a price as this forced the abandonment of positions held around the now occupied town of Messines and that of the strategically high ground of Hill 63 to the north-west of Ploegsteert Wood.
 
Despite a tenacious defence, the enemy could not be prevented from entering Merville to the south-east of the Foret de Nieppe however the ability to maintain positions at Givenchy and Festubert had bought Haig time as reinforcements were beginning to arrive. In this southern sector of the line to the east of Bethune the situation was stable but the threat of a breakthrough by the enemy still remained a distinct possibility as valuable time was needed to complete the disposition of newly arrived units in the battle area.

It was on this day, the 11th April 1918, that Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army issued his now famous 'Special Order Of The Day' more commonly refered to as the "Backs-To-The-Wall" order.

orderoftheday2.jpg
Special Order Of The Day: Source 'Twenty Years After' Vol. II

To ALL RANKS OF THE BRITISH ARMY IN FRANCE AND FLANDERS.

Three weeks ago to-day the enemy began his terrible attacks against us on a fifty-mile front. His objects are to seperate 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 circumstances.

Many amongst us now 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 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.


Friday 12th April, 1918: The Death Of Lance-Corporal Edward Arthur March


During the 11th April, the 4th Worcester's still held their positions at la Creche with their sister battalion, the 3rd Worcester's holding their right flank, and the 2nd Hampshire's their left respectively. The situation described in the War Diary was "obscure," such was the nature of the fighting that ensued on either flank of the position.
 
Both the diary and the narrative attached by Captain Thorneloe, unfortunately do not include any specific details of the days events as they unfolded. The latter however, although lacking in chronology, states that the situation remained fairly quiet albeit that at intervals, the battalion was subjected to sporadic heavy shelling by enemy artillery and occasional raids by enemy infantry as they endeavoured to penetrate the line.
 
Improvement of the position was still the main objective of the day despite the activities of the enemy and to this end, at 2.30 a.m. (Authors note: Once again due to a lack of chronology it is unclear if this passage refers to the night of the 10th/11th or that of the following night 11th/12th), "Y" Company? moved forward and occupied Steenwerke Railway Station, thus as the diary records, "making the line more tenable."
 
It may have been a relatively 'quiet' day as regards casualties sustained by the 4th Worcester's, 2 Other Ranks, but for the battalions holding the left and right flanks respectively, these were numerous.
An analysis of both Soldiers Died In The Great War and the Commonwealth War Graves Database indicates that the 2nd Hampshire's suffered 27 Other Ranks, Killed, 1 O/R Died of Wounds, whilst the 3rd Worcester's suffered 14 Other Ranks Killed, 2 O/R's Died of Wounds, and 1 O/R, Died.
(Authors note: Search criteria of both the above search engines however uncovers various anomalies, in particular, that as regards the 3rd Worcester's).
 
The situation was, as the War Diary records, "obscure," but it would appear that there was an attempt by the enemy to outflank the position. If this succeeded, his advance would result in the fall of the vital railhead town of Bailleul. It was now a question of how long the 88th Infantry Brigade could hold on.

It was in the south that the enemy first struck before dawn on the morning of the 12th April.
In the vicinity of Riez-du-Vinage and Pacault located to the south-west of Calonne-sur-la-Lys units of von Quast's Sixth Army broke through the left centre of positions held by the 51st (Highland) Division. With the situation critical, two batteries of the 255th Brigade, R.F.A., 1st/1st Highland Brigade, 51st Divisional Artillery commanded by Captain (Acting Major) Lessel Murray Davidson and Lieutenant (Acting Major) Frederick Chater Jack M.C. respectively, seized the initiative.
 
As enemy infantry pressed forward in an attempt to force a crossing of the La Bassee Canal, both of the batteries left a gun in position at a distance of just 500 yards from the Canal as they retired. Along with a party of gunners who held the river crossing with rifles, these guns were brought into action with such effect that the advance was dealt a stopping blow.

On the right flank of the 51st Division at Locon to the south, the 3rd Division now faced an advance superior in numbers. Although forced to retire a short distance and facing overwhelming odds heavy casualties were inflicted on the advancing enemy.
To the left of the Highlanders, the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division now came into action in the vicinity of the River Clarence. Both the 3rd and the 61st Divisions had suffered a trying time in the previous three weeks and the men were depleted in numbers and suffering exhaustion. It is a testament to their determination that they stood their ground at all, the enemy advance finally being checked in this sector of the line.
 
To the north of Merville the situation now became critical. The enemy now proceeded to advance in strength on a frontage south of the Estaires-Vieux Berquin to the east of the Foret de Nieppe to the vicinity of Steenwerck to the north-east. On the front south of Vieux Berquin to la Becque due east, the 29th Division, minus 88th Infantry Brigade respectively, and two brigades of the 31st Division, came under heavy attacks during the morning. Despite a fierce resistance by units of both divisions the enemy pressed forward exploiting a gap in the line as the British retired under increasing pressure. As a consequence, Outtersteene and then Merris to the south-west of Bailleul fell into the hands of the enemy.

To the south of la Creche, the 88th Infantry Brigade still held on to their positions. At some stage during the day, possibly during the early morning, the postion was subjected to a tremendous bombardment by enemy artillery causing numerous casualties. His infantry was also observed on the brigade's front as advanced posts consisting of mere shell holes suffered increasingly from the effects of enemy shell fire.
It was during the course of this bombardment that one of these forward posts was hit seriously wounding Second-Lieutenant Charles Hunter Gorrie. This had a demoralising effect on the men who were also occupying the position who, in what Thorneloe's words included in his narrative records, "in the heat of the moment evacuated the shell hole."
Observing the retirement of these men, and realising how critical the situation was if the position was to be abandoned, the battalion Intelligence Officer Lieutenant Sidney James Rye gathered the men together and urged them back to the position under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire. Without loss the position was secured once again whereupon Lieutenant Rye picked up the wounded officer and carried him back to safety whilst running a gauntlet of heavy machine-gun fire. For this selfless act of which Gorrie was saved, Lieutenant Rye was awarded the Military Cross, citation dated 16th September 1918.
Despite the heavy barrage and attempts by the enemy to breakthrough, the position was held at a cost until the 4th Worcester's were finally withdrawn from the line just after midnight on the 13th April
to a position located on the Mont de Lille, east of the town of Bailleul.

An analysis of both Soldiers Died In The Great War and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Database for casualties incurred on the 12th April 1918 contains many anomalies, in particular, casualty figures appertaining to the 1/2nd Monmouths. For those included in a search parameter of the latter battalion, the CWGC record men designated as 2nd Battalion but whose parent units are recorded as either 3rd, 4th or even men of the South Wale's Borderer's if results are cross-referenced from SDGW. Therefore, the following casualties sustained by this battalion on the 12th April 1918 are not approximate.

2nd Hampshire's    1 Officer, 10 Other Ranks Killed or Died of Wounds
3rd Worcester's                   10 Other Ranks Killed or Died of Wounds
4th Worcesters      1 Officer, Died of Wounds, 12 Other Ranks Killed
1/2nd Monmouths, Possibly in excess of 70 Other Ranks

The vast majority of men who were killed on the 12th April at la Creche unfortunately could not be identified after the end of hostilities, therefore, these men are now commemorated on the panels of the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium.
Of the 4th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, just two men who fell on this day have known burials; C.S.M. Ernest Henry Knight, a native of Cheltenham, and Edward Arthur March. Both men are now buried in Le Grand Beaumart British Cemetery, Steenwerck.

Le Grand Beaumart British Cemetery, Steenwerck, Nord, France 

Plot 1 Rows A-D form the original basis of the cemetery where burials were performed between April and October 1918 by fighting units and field ambulances. This original plot consisted of just 55 graves, but the number of burials was increased after the Armistice when graves from the areas of Steenwerck, Nieppe and Armentieres were concentrated into the cemetery. Of these burials, 116 men of the Commonwealth who were originally buried at Steenwerck German Cemetery, a large burial ground located on the Steenwerck -Trois Arbres Road, were concentrated here, possibly, Edward being amongst their number.
The cemetery now contains 553 burials and commemorations of men who fell in the Great War, 108 of the burials being unidentified. Special memorials erected in the cemetery commemorate 12 casualties known to be buried here and also those of 3 soldiers, buried in the cemetery in April 1918, whose graves were unfortunately destroyed by shell fire. In addition to these, 8 other special memorials exist to men who were known to have originally been buried in the German cemetery at Steenwerck whose graves could not be identified.

EAMARCHWEBSITE.JPG