First Battle of the Somme, 1918

This action is variously referred to as the Second Battle of the Somme, the First Battle of the Somme 1918 and also known as the Battle of Saint-Quentin, (March 21–April 5, 1918).

Order of Battle

5th Army
XIX Corps
8th Division

Summary of Events

Early in the morning of March 21, 1918 the Germans attacked the allied lines during the opening of Operation Michael of the Spring Offensive. As the Germans pushed forward the 8th Division was moved from Flanders to the SOMME to do what it could to stem the tide. The 1/Sherwoods dug in on the West bank of the SOMME and defended the bridge at St. Christ on the evening of March 23rd. The next few days saw the 1/Sherwoods engaged in dogged resistance, followed by ordered withdrawal and then finally counter-attack. By the end of the engagement the 8th Division had fulfilled its duties but had suffered significant casualties.

The map below shows the front line positions (at 6am in blue and 6pm in red) each day during the battle. The Germans pushed Eastwards towards Amiens from the top right of the map to the bottom left.

1st Battle of the Somme, 1918
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March 22, 1918

The Battalion took up a defensive position on the river SOMME at ST. CHRISTE BRIOST.  There were no reported deaths this day.

1st Battle of the Somme, 1918
March 23 -26

March 23, 1918

The Battalion was holding a line along the river, the centre of the line being at the village of ST. CHRISTE BRIOST. At 9pm the Germans attempted to cross the partially blown bridge.  By 10pm they had a foothold on the other side but were unable to progress due to the stubborn resistance of the 1/Sherwoods.

During the fighting at least 7 men lost their lives:

Rank No Forenames Surname
Pte 96655 CEDRIC NORMAN BUNN
Pte 32369 HARRY HARPER
Pte 102115 HENRY J. MEESE
Pte 102113 HAROLD METCALF
Pte 102122 FRANK NORMANTON
Pte 307291 ALBERT ROGERS
Pte 70758 ARTHUR STOKES

March 24, 1918

A counter-attack against the Germans began shortly after midnight on the 23rd pushing the Germans back over the bridge. The C.O., Lt. Col. WATSON, was killed by Machine Gun fire (Lt. Col. R. F. MOORE took command). In the evening of March 24th the Germans attempted raids against two posts of the 1/Sherwoods but were, in both cases, beaten back with several of them killed or captured.

At least three other men were killed in action:

Rank No Forenames Surname
Pte 306549 JOHN FREDERICK HUNT
L/Cpl 43601 A WATERLAND
Pte 306763 JAMES WING

March 25, 1918

Soon after dawn the Battalion on the right of the 1/Sherwoods was ordered to withdraw leaving their flank open.  However it was not until 4pm that the 1/Sherwoods received their orders to withdraw and by this time they were partially surrounded by enemy troops. Nevertheless, they fought their way out, bringing all their wounded with them, and rejoined the Brigade at MISERY. After some reorganization the Battalion then took up a position at ESTREES under the provisional orders of the 23rd Infantry Brigade.

At least 9 men were killed in action this day:

Rank No Forenames Surname
Pte 2992 RICHARD THOMPSON
Pte 100064 ARTHUR E. EVERITT
Pte 80022 ARTHUR WOODWARD
Sjt 266580 HARRY BATTISON
Pte 97350 JOSEPH DAVISON
Pte 31333 FREDERICK HALL
Cpl 67108 JOHN WILLIAM HAMES
Pte 85889 HERBERT NEWTON
2/Lt. GEOFFREY STAMPER

March 26, 1918

At 3am, under orders, the Battalion withdrew to VERMANDOVILLERS. Here orders were received to march to a position S.W. of LIHONS under orders of the 25th Brigade, which was completed by Noon.  About 4 hours later, orders were again received to withdraw to ROSIERES EN SANTERRE as Support Battalion. The night was spent at ROSIERES EN SANTERRE.

1st Battle of the Somme 1918 (March 26)
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Despite the ordered withdrawal, this was a bad day for the Battalion with at least 36 men losing their lives:

Rank No Forenames Surname
Pte 203228 JAMES HENRY DOBSON
Pte 97879 WILLIAM ALLISON
Pte 97369 HAROLD REGINALD BLOW
Pte 202960 THOMAS HENRY BOYDEN
Pte 82988 HAROLD BULLIMAN
Pte 72688 OWEN STANLEY BURCHELL
Pte 93801 FREDERICK COLCLOUGH
Pte 306917 B COX
Pte 100100 CHARLES DONALDSON
Pte 97390 HARRY SIMPSON ELLIOTT
Pte 93562 CHARLES GREENWOOD ELLIS
Pte 83530 JOSEPH EVANS
Pte 97410 WILLIAM FINNEY
Pte 71954 STEPHEN GREENER
Cpl 204852 ARTHUR GUISE
Pte 100070 JOHN G. H. GUY
Pte 24519 W HARRISON
Pte 242296 FRED LAZENBY
L/Cpl 235039 NORMAN VICTOR LEWIS
Pte 72666 GEORGE MEESON
Pte 18853 CLARENCE MIDDLETON
L/Cpl 32382 GEORGE MILLS
L/Cpl 307157 HENRY MOYNIHAN
Pte 72644 EDWARD G. B. PELL
Pte 97429 ALFRED PLATT
Pte 96326 ERNEST POWELL
Cpl 80036 GEORGE RICHARDSON
Cpl 5080 WILLIAM RUDGE
Pte 22055 GEORGE TASKER
Pte 202514 ERNEST JACKSON THORPE
L/Cpl 31842 WILLIAM WALL
Pte 18246 GEO ROBERT WALLEN
Pte 266609 WILLIAM HENRY WHITBY
L/Sjt 15717 THOMAS WILD
Pte 19667 J WILSON
L/Sjt 6523 FREDERICK CHARLES RIDLER

March 27, 1918

At 7am, the Battalion took up a position in support of the front line at VRELY. At 2pm orders were received to take part in a counter attack on HARBONNIERES which was successful and the Battalion then took up a position East of HARBONNIERES.

The following men lost their lives that day:

Rank No Forenames Surname
Pte 27482 WILLIAM SMITH KNAPP
Pte 204720 P PEARSON
Pte 70024 WALTER PEARSON
Pte 235173 W PEDLEY

March 28, 1918

At 4am the Battalion withdrew, under orders, to a position West of ROSIERES EN SANTERRE. Germans pushed on both flanks all day and around 4pm the Battalion withdrew through CAIX and BEAUCOURT EN SANTERRE to MOREUIL and then to billets in JUMMEL.

1st Battle of the Somme, 1918 - 28 March
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The following men lost their lives that day:

Rank No Forenames Surname
Pte 100065 GEORGE EDWIN FOREMAN
Pte 97384 R HANDY
L/Cpl 7810 CHARLES WHARMBY

29 March – 2 April, 1918

The Battalion spent the day of the 29th March resting and recuperating in reserve billets.  At 7pm on March 30th the Battalion took up a position on the front line NW of MOREUIL. From this point on, until they were relieved on April 2nd, they remained holding the line N.W. of MOREUIL.

The following men lost their lives during the final days.

Rank No Forenames Surname
Pte 100078 CHARLES WILLIAM LINES
Pte 97929 JAMES WILLIAM ROSCAMP
Pte 269864 A O FOSTER
Pte 71776 HORACE BUGBY
Pte 11580 JAMES ROBEY

By the time the battle was over the 1/Sherwoods had fulfilled their duty but paid a heavy price. Fully 379 Officers and men were officially listed as killed, wounded or missing.

GALLANTRY

Sergeant William Russon (12276) was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Sjt. William Russon, DCM

The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel R. F. Moore, MC was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the following Officers received the Military Cross (Capt. WESTON receiving a Bar to his existing M.C.).

Rank Forename MI Surname Honour
Capt. WILLIAM WESTON Bar to M.C.
2/Lieut. WILLIAM LESLIE GREEN M.C.
2/Lieut. HAROLD EMBLEM* M.C.
2/Lieut. ALFRED OLIVER JACKSON M.C.

* 2/Lieut. HAROLD EMBLEM was subsequently killed in action on April 23, 1918.

And the following men of the 1/Sherwoods were awarded the Military Medal for their gallantry during the operations west of the SOMME during the period of March 22, 1918 to April 2, 1918.

Rank Service No Forename MI Surname
CSM 9291 ALFRED B LEIVERS
Sgt 5810 OLIVER CLARKE
L/Cpl 4938 GEORGE H BULLARD
Pte 12388 ROBERT H HARRISON
Pte 28823 JACK CHAPMAN
Pte 26139 WILLIAM F PETERS
Pte 19955 WILLIAM SPOONER
Pte 18681 ERNEST DODSLEY
Pte 13426 WILLIAM H DARROLL

REFERENCES

Divisional narrative from the 8th Division War Diary: Divisional Headquarters, 8th Division, Piece 1678/1-3: Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff (1918 Jan – Jun).

Narrative
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History of the Great War, Military Operations France And Belgium 1918 Vol-I, BRIGADIER-GENERAL SIR JAMES E. EDMONDS.