Monday, 9 April 2018

Fighting at Estaires

Tuesday 9th April 1918

Today at dawn the Germans attacked in strength near Estaires. By great ill-fortune the brunt of their attack fell on the 2nd Portuguese Division. Portugal is this country's oldest ally and in 1916 declared war on Germany. The Portuguese Expeditionary Force, a corps consisting of two divisions arrived in France early last year and has acquitted itself quite well. Sadly, because replacing losses is difficult, the Portuguese units are below strength, particularly as regards officers and this means that their effectiveness is reduced. We understand that the Portuguese troops attacked by the Germans today were due to be replaced in the line during the day, making the attack on them doubly unfortunate.

We believe that the Portuguese troops have been forced to fall back towards Estaires, their positions overrun, but not before fighting bravely and causing the enemy a good number of casualties(1). Immediately to their north are the bantams of 40th Division, men of five feet three and less. They, too, have been forced to fall back, in their case to the north. South of the Portuguese, around Festubert, is 55th (West Lancashire) Division and they were able to fight off the German attack and have given very little ground.

So this evening it seems as if the enemy has made a breach about nine miles wide (shown in yellow on the map above). It is understood that they are now almost into Estaires. Reserve units are rushing to stem this advance and tomorrow will tell us how they fare. Atthis stage, however, there seems every hope that this attack will meet with less success than the attack commenced on 21st March.

(1) The Pork and Beans, as the British nicknamed them, lost about 7,000 men in this attack, about a third of their strength.

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