Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Is the Enemy Advance Slowing Down?

Thursday 28th March 1918

At 3.30 this morning the 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment was relieved after its heroic attack yesterday. Grieving for its commanding officer, killed at the moment of triumph and for three officers and twenty seven other ranks also killed, the battalion marched back to Senlis where it went into billets for a shorty sleep, before moving again to Mailly-Maillet, just behind the front line, late this morning. The men are exhausted and the battalion much reduced as, in addition to the glorious dead, 88 men have been wounded and 124 are missing, probably captured.

The 2nd Battalion is still some way to the south. This morning it was still near Arvillers, astride the main road to Amiens, enduring German shelling. The enemy then attacked and got into Arvillers on the right flank and the hamlet of Folies on the left. The enemy was just 100 yards away when the battalion was ordered to withdraw, which it did about 2.30, moving through Moreuil where a halt was called to eat a hasty meal. Then this battered battalion moved a couple of miles further west to Rouvrel, where it has billeted, rejoined by its commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel H S Poyntz who had been serving on 90th Brigade staff. The battalion is now only about a dozen miles south of the vital rail-head of Amiens. It is widely speculated by the press corps that if this city falls the enemy will have succeeded in driving a fatal wedge between our armies and those of our French allies, and there will then be nothing to prevent the Bosches driving north for the vital channel ports of Boulogne and Calais.

However, there is curiously little worry here in Amiens. There is concern, certainly, but we have felt that the enemy advance finally seems to be slowing down, like a railway engine running out of steam. The enemy supply lines from Saint-Quentin and other cities must now be stretched to breaking point. An advance of nearly fifty miles means that their motorised supply will have much further to travel from their dumps of ammunition, food and water and they will, as yet be unable to use the railway, as damage has been deliberately caused to that during the retreat.

There seems to doubt that the German fingers are striving to reach Amiens. As their strength fails and our defences around the city harden, however, there is every hope of slamming those groping fingers in the door. Plenty of fresh units are available, most of which have not seen action since the autumn and as the Americans arrive in numbers every day the Kaiser is delayed before Amiens is another nail in his coffin.

One of the fresh units arriving to help stem the German advance is 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. Today, their adjutant has just informed me, they boarded a train at Caestre, close to Ypres and the Belgian border, leaving it at Mondicourt, just east of Doullens.

The final confirmation that things are beginning to stabilise is that the enemy launched a huge attack against Arras today. It is reckoned that up to a quarter of a million men took part in this attack. The front line here, however, is in a much better state of readiness and its defences much stronger than they were to the south, part of the defence, of course, is the formidable natural obstacle of Vimy Ridge, so gallantly taken by the Canadians in Spring 1917. This attack has been decisively defeated with only minor advances to the south of Arras.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/5/3; X550/7/1

No comments:

Post a Comment