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
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
Despite the ordered withdrawal, this was a bad day for the Battalion with at least 36 men losing their lives:
|Pte||100070||JOHN G. H.||GUY|
|Pte||72644||EDWARD G. B.||PELL|
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:
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.
The following men lost their lives that day:
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.
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.
Sergeant William Russon (12276) was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
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.).
|Capt.||WILLIAM||WESTON||Bar to 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.
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).
History of the Great War, Military Operations France And Belgium 1918 Vol-I, BRIGADIER-GENERAL SIR JAMES E. EDMONDS.