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