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21st March 1918 - The Great War, Day by Day - The Wartime Memories Project

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The Wartime Memories Project - The Great War - Day by Day



21st March 1918

On this day:


  •    The 21st Machine Gun Btn was in Epehy at the time of the Kaiserschlact. My Grandfather (originally in the 62nd Machine Gun company) was captured there on that date

  • German Offensive 1918   16th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles - Pioneers.

    All the recent work of the Pioneers was to no avail as the decisive enemy attack launched on the 21st March overran the flanks of the 36th Division leaving the continued defence of their positions both untenable and pointless. A disorganised retreat to the old 1916 defensive lines took place over a ten day period. The 36th division retained its cohesion in the retreat which was very difficult over open and exposed areas in full view of the enemy. The recent infantry training which the pioneers had received now came to their assistance as they were attached to the 9th Bn. Royal Irish Fusiliers and fought beside them in defensive positions during the retreat. They eventually reached safety and were evacuated to Gamaches on the Normandy coast.

    The severity of battalion losses are shown by the end of March statistics Battalion strength – March 1918.

    1st Mar Officers 43 Other ranks 819 31st Mar Officers 20 Other ranks 449 Showing a loss of 23 officers and 370 other ranks. These figures include a total of 9 officers and 150 men missing at the Jeanne d’Arc Redoubts with, presumably many captured. It is also known that a further 9 officers and 28 men were killed leaving a total of 5 officers and 192 men who fell during the retreat.

    • March Casualties.
    • Killed Officers 1 Other ranks 25
    • Died from wounds Officers 1 Other ranks 2
    • Wounded Officers 7 Other ranks (not reported)
    • Missing Officers 10 Other ranks 150
    • Balance unaccounted Officers 4 Other ranks 193
    • Overall Officers 23 Other ranks 370

    Summary of Battalion Activity from 21st to 31st March 1918.

    The Battalion was divided into two groups during the fighting retreat. Group A under the command of Major WJ Allen. Group B under the command of Captain J maxwell. In 10 days – a total of 240 hours the men in A Group had been involved for at least 112 hours in activities demanding intense physical effort and emotional stress. The figure for B Group was 114 hours.

    The following is an account of the daily activities during the retreat from 21 – 31 March showing how intense the activity was at times. Over 10 days in a total of 240 hrs:

    Group A 112 hours actively involved. Group B 114 hours actively involved.

    16 Bn Royal Irish Rifles(P) in 1918 Retreat - Details as follows:

    Date HoursLocation Function
    Mar21 3NW Gd Seracourt Move to RV
    1RV Move St Simon
    4 Working there
    21/22 1St Simon Move Ollezy(night)
    Mar22 1Ollezy Move to Estouilly
    9Move to EaucourtSommette and Work
    Mar23 12Eau-Sommette Fighting with 9RIrF
    23/24 6Sommette to VilleselveFighting withdrawal
    Mar24 22Villeselve Fighting
    24/25 4Villeselve via Guiscard Move by night to Bealieu
    Mar25 5Beaulieu via Avricourt Move to Warsy
    Mar26 1Warsy
    9Erches-Bouchoir Move into trenches
    Mar27 8Erches-Bouchoir Fighting in trenches
    4Arvillers A Group position
    15Arvillers B Group position
    4Arvillers – Sourdon Move A Group
    28Mar 1Arvillers Fighting B Group
    4Arvillers – Sourdon Move B Group
    10Coullemelle Move and work A Group
    Mar29 1Sourdon – Chaussoy Move B Group
    Mar30 8Saleux via Velennes Move A Group
    8 Move B Group

    The Battalion arrived in Gamaches on the Normandy coast by the 31st March and were in a very sorry state after all their constructive efforts followed by the devastating German attack and the hardship endured physically in the subsequent retreat together with the emotional stress of witnessing the loss of so many friends and colleagues.

    Yet more reverses were to be encountered further testing the resolve of the 16th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers) before the long path to peace in late 1918.

  • Start of German Offensive.   At 2am. 9th Btn. (North Irish Horse) Royal Irish Fusiliers report "Intensive enemy barrage opened on our positions, for a depth of from 4 to 6 kilometres."

    At 0600 enemy attacked and Battalion moved to Brigade Headquarters just east of village.

    • 2nd Lieutenant Prenter and four Other Ranks killed.
    • 2nd Lieutenant Perkins and 16 Platoon missing.
    • Part of 2 Platoons of A Company missing.


  • German attack expected.   106th Coy RE at Vaux Headquarters where Sappers sleep, make dugouts and repair trenches while waiting for the Germans to attack, this was to be the last German Offensive involving the sappers, each man had 100 rounds of ammunition. At 6am the Germans attacked for 4 hours without much success and were chased off by the Sappers

  • 9th Divisional Train ASC at Nurlu   9th Divisional Train ASC is at Nurlu

  • German Spring Offensive   The start of the German Spring Offensive and a continuous series of defensive retreat movements are made by 42nd Siege Battery RGA in the face of German Advances:
    • Templeux la Fosse
    • Bussu
    • Peronne
    • Mount St Quentin
    • Bouchavesnes
    • Clery
    • Maricourt
    • Bray
    • Corbie
    • Lavieville

    Candas, west of Amiens, saw the end of the retreat and the Battery managed to make it into Abbeyville to get kitted out.

    Querrieu - Dispatch rider Bombardier Law's Triumph motor cycle was reported missing (taken by the Australians?)

    The Germans broke through to advance on Corbie but were repelled by the Australians.

  • 12th Field Coy RE at Monchy   12th Field Company Royal Engineers are at Monchy.

  • 34th Division over run   On 21st March 1918, the great German spring offensive overran the positions of 34th Division at Croisilles on the River Sensee, causing many losses.

  • 21st Mar 1918 6th Dorsets hold the line

  • 21st Mar 1918 Germans Launch Attack

  • 21st Mar 1918 Enemy Attack

  •    18th DLI Brigade ceremonial parade us held on the ground at Tinques.

  • 21st Mar 1918 Machine Gun Post lost

  • 21st Mar 1918 Concert

  • 18th Field Ambulance overrun by enemy   The 18th Field Ambulance was based at the ADS in Lagnicourt Marcel where it was overrun by the German Spring offensive shortly after 9.00 am





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Want to know more?


There are:15 articles tagged with this date available in our Library

  These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Great War.




Remembering those who died this day.

  • Pte. Matthew Allen. Royal Dublin Fusiliers 1st Btn. Read their Story.
  • Spr. William John Anderson. Royal Engineers 12th Fld. Coy. Read their Story.
  • Cpl. George Ansell. Royal London Fusiliers 1st Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Charles Joseph Aspley. Manchester Regiment 16th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Henry Charles Barrett. Essex Rgt. 11th Btn.
  • Sgt. George Batwell. Royal Dublin Fusiliers 2nd Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Thomas Behan. Royal Dublin Fusiliers 2nd Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Thomas Belford.
  • Sjt. Thomas Dean Besford. Durham Light Infantry 2nd Battalion Read their Story.
  • Drvr. Frederick James Blake. Royal Field Artillery 173 Brigade, A  Bty. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Daniel Bown. Loyal North Lancs 9th Battalion
  • 2nd Lt. Richard Gardiner Brewster. Royal Irish Regiment 7th (South Irish Horse) Battalion Read their Story.
  • Pte. Benjamin Brian. North Staffordshire Regiment North Staffo 2nd/6th Btn.
  • L/Cpl. James Broderick. Royal Dublin Fusiliers 10th Btn. Read their Story.
  • A/Sgt. John Brown. Royal Dublin Fusiliers 2nd Btn.
  • Rflmn. John Burns. Royal Irish Rifles 1st Battalion
  • Pte. James Cavanagh. Durham Light Infantry 2nd Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Albert Henry Choules. Wiltshire Regiment 2nd Batallion Read their Story.
  • Drvr. Charles Joseph Crossley. Royal Field Artillery 173 Brigade, A  Bty. Read their Story.
  • L/Cpl. Charles Dance. Durham Light Infantry 2nd Btn. Read their Story.
  • 2nd Lt. Edmund De Wind. VC Royal Irish Rifles 15th Battalion
  • 2nd Lt. Edmund DeWind. VC Royal Irish Rifles 15th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Lt.Col. John Henry Stephen Dimmer. VC, MC King's Royal Rifle Corps att. 2nd/4th Bn. Royal Berkshire Regiment Read their Story.
  • Pte. Albert Edward Duffield. Army Service Corps Read their Story.
  • Drvr. Goudie Easdale. Royal Field Artillery 173 Brigade, A  Bty. Read their Story.
  • Wheeler S. Easthoe. Royal Field Artillery 173 Brigade, A Bty. Read their Story.
  • Lt Col. Wilfrith Elstob. VC, DSO, MC Manchester Regiment 16th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Drvr. Jonah Flack. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, A  Bty Read their Story.
  • Pte. Peter Fox. Northumberland Fusiliers 25th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion Read their Story.
  • Cpl. Frank George Bausor Freeman. Royal Field Artillery 173 Brigade, A  Bty. Read their Story.
  • Pte. William Furnival. North Staffordshire Rgt. 2nd/5th Btn.
  • Pte. William Gawthorpe. Machine Gun Corps 34th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Rflmn. Samuel Singleton Gray. Royal Irish Rifles 15th Battalion Read their Story.
  • Drvr. Thomas William Green. Royal Field Artillery 173 Brigade, A  Bty. Read their Story.
  • Sgt. Cyril James Greenwood. Royal Field Artillery 82nd Brigade, C Battery Read their Story.
  • Pte. Charles Grieves. Manchester Regiment 9th Battalion Read their Story.
  • L/Cpl. James Hannan. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 2nd Btn. Read their Story.
  • Drvr. George William Harris. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, A Bty Read their Story.
  • Pte. Edwin Harrison. Royal Army Medical Corps 111th Field Ambulance Read their Story.
  • Pte. Eli James Heald. Manchester Regiment 2nd/6th Btn. Read their Story.
  • L/Cpl. Joseph Henderson. Rifle Brigade 8th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Ernest William Horton. Royal Army Medical Corps. 8th Field Ambulance Read their Story.
  • Cpt. John Reginald Houghton. London Regiment 1st Battalion
  • Pte. Barclay Johnstone. Gordon Highlanders 9th Btn.
  • Drvr. William Kelsey. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, A Bty Read their Story.
  • Drvr. John Kimmins. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, A  Bty Read their Story.
  • Pte. John Kirk. 15th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Herbert Larke. Lancashire Fusiliers 2/8th Btn Read their Story.
  • Private Norman Little. Royal Munster Fusiliers 1st Battalion Read their Story.
  • L/Sgt. Matthew Lyons. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 2nd Btn.
  • Sgt/Mjr. Thomas Maguire. MM. North Staffordshire Regiment 2nd/5th Battalion Read their Story.
  • L/Cpl. William James Mansfield. Essex Regiment 11th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Gnr. Stanley Mason. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, C Bty Read their Story.
  • Drvr. Walter Maxwell. MM Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, B Bty Read their Story.
  • Rflmn. William James McClements. Royal Irish Rifles 1st Btn.
  • L/Cpl. Edwin McCullum. Royal Warwickshire Regiment 10th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. James Richard McGahan. Durham Light Infantry 2nd Battalion Read their Story.
  • Drvr. Charles John Merrett. MM Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, B Bty Read their Story.
  • Drvr. Walter Midgley. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, A Bty Read their Story.
  • Rfmn. Walter Mills. Kings Royal Rifle Corps. 7th Btn.
  • Pte. Michael Moore. Royal Dublin Fusiliers 2nd Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. George Andrew Muir. Durham Light Infantry 2nd Btn. Read their Story.
  • Rflmn. Richard Mussen. Royal Irish Rifles 1st Battalion
  • Rflm. James Alfred Noble. Rifle Brigade 7th Battalion Read their Story.
  • Pte Sidney Platt. Read their Story.
  • Gnr. George Prudence. 262nd Siege Bty.
  • Pte. C. T. Pyle. Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby) 2nd/7th Bn. Read their Story.
  • Drvr. Alfred George Roberts. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, C Bty Read their Story.
  • Drvr. George Robertson. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, A  Bty Read their Story.
  • Pte. James Shelmerdine. MM Manchester Regiment 9th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. John Edward Simons. North Staffordshire Regiment 2/6th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Stanley Smale. Royal Engineers 12th Field Coy. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Edward Spinks. Northumberland Fusiliers 24th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion Read their Story.
  • Rfm. James Starrett. Royal Irish Rifles 12th Btn. Read their Story.
  • Pte. Albert Edward Stenton. North Staffordshire Regiment 2nd/6th Battalion Read their Story.
  • CSM. Alfred Bailey Swallow. Royal Engineers 470th Field Coy. Read their Story.
  • C.S.M Alfred Bailey Swallow. Royal Engineers 470th Field Company
  • 2nd Lt. Matthew Arnold Thompson. Northumberland Fusiliers 3rd btn. attd. 12th btn.
  • Sgt. Harry Alexander Tranter. Sherwood Foresters 1/7th Battalion Read their Story.
  • Pte. Andrew Turnbull. Royal Scots Fusiliers 2nd Batalion Read their Story.
  • Bmbdr. George Walter Victor Walker. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, B Bty Read their Story.
  • Pte. William George Welch. East Lancashire Regiment 1st Battalion Read their Story.
  • Pte. Nathan Williams. Machine Gun Corps 58 Coy. Read their Story.
  • Drvr. Andrew Willox. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, A  Bty Read their Story.
  • Pte. Ernest Wood. Machine Gun Corps 40th Company
  • L/Cpl. Reuben Wood. Essex Regiment 11th Btn Read their Story.
  • Gnr. John Edward Woodfine. Royal Field Artillery 173rd Brigade, D Bty Read their Story.
  • Rfmn. William Workman. MM. Royal Irish Rifles 12th Btn. Read their Story.

    Add a name to this list.


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