Der Kaiserschlacht
The German Spring Offensive, March 1918

49th Inf. Bde., 16th Irish Division
WAR DIARY, 21-31 March 1918

With thanks to Yves Buffetaut for this information.
Place Date Time Summary of Events
St Emilie 21 March 4.30 a.m. Intense hostile bombardment opened on main battle positions, support lines, St EMILIE, VILLIERS FAUCON & as far back as MARQUAIX. Mainly gas shell on forward lines and Brig. H.Q.
. . 4.35 a.m. All wires were cut. Communication by visual & pigeon impossible owing to dense mist. No S.O.S. signals were given.
. . 7.a.m. Right battalion (South Irish Horse) reported by runner "All Coys in battle position by 5.a.m. All lines "diss" but up to then Coys reported O.K."
. . 9.45 Barrage on RED LINE ceased. Left bn. (2 Roy.Irish Regt) H.Q. attacked.
. . 10.a.m. Attack on Left Bn H.Q. repulsed. Roy. Irish in ROSE Trench attacked from both flanks and rear. They resisted all attacks until 1.30 p.m. when ammunition gave out.
. . 11.30 Bn. H.Q. 7/8th R. Inniskillings F. in position at F.21.C.3.g. fired on by M.G.s from N.E. & S.
. . 12 noon H.Q Inniskillings took up position astride St. EMELIE-RONSSOY Rd.
. . 11.50 South Irish Horse report enemy in BASSE ROULOGNE SOUTH.
. . 12 noon B Coy. Inniskillings reported they were holding posts, 8,9,& 11 RONSSOY DEFENCES but being fired on from both flanks.
. . 12.20 p.m. Enemy at F.20.d.b.3 & F.20.d.8.5 with M.G.s
. . 1.10 p.m. Enemy in RAFERIE
. . 1.15 Enemy in ESCLAINVILLIERS Wood in considerable numbers.
. . 1.30 Enemy outflanked ROSE Tr. Remainder of 2nd Roy. Irish withdrew to IRISH Tr.
. . 1.40 48th Inf. Bde report having withdrawn to BROWN Line.
. . 1.45 1st Roy. Munsters ordered to hold BROWN Line
. . 1.55 p.m. 6th Connaught Rangers ordered to hold BROWN Line.
. . 2.15 Enemy barrage on BROWN Line astride the road.
2nd Roy. Irish Regt. cleared a hostile M.G. & team out of S. end of IRISH Trench.
. . 2.20 1st Roy. Munster Fus. & 6th Conn. Rangers ordered to counter attack and retake RONSSOY & RAPERIE.
. . 2.30 Remnants of 2 Roy. Irish Regt. retired from RONSSOY. Fired on by M.G.s from flank at 300 yds range
. . 3.30 Divl. order received to cancel counter-attack. Munsters stopped in time but Conn. Rangers were already attacking.
. . 3.30 p.m. Brig. Major 47 Inf Bde. arrived to take over.
VILLERS-FAUCON . 9 p.m. 49th Brig. H.Q. established VILLERS-FAUCON E.22.b.1.1
Present known strength. H.Q. 5 off. Regtl. off. 2 O.R. 50 - 1 off & 40 O.R. in BROWN Line under 47 Inf. Bde.
TINCOURT 22 March 3.a.m. Brig. H.Q. received orders to withdraw to TINCOURT arriving there(J.17.b.) at 5.a.m.
. . 9.a.m. 2 Coys (including drafts and stragglers) organised under Major M.C.C. Harrison R.Irish Regt took up position in support of Green Line. Transport moved to BUSSU
. . 1.15 p.m. Brig.H.Q. established J.11.C.1.g. Low flying E.A. active otherwise quiet day. Enemy shleed TINCOURT.
. . 7.p.m. 49 Inf Brig. consists of 2 Composite Coys under Major Harrison & 17th Entrenching Battalion.
. . 4.p.m to
12 midnight
Battalions of 39th DIV. took up positions in support of GREEN Line.
. 23 March 7.30 a.m. In accordance with orders received, withdrawal of 49th Brig. commenced, covered by 47th Brigade.
. . 10.a.m. Took up position in KARKOS Tr. covering withdrawal of 47th Brig.
. . 10.40 Brig. H.Q. at I.24.c.0.5.
. 11.a.m. Took up positions S. of BOIS de FLACQUES, 47th Brig. on our right, 39th Div. on left.
. . 11.15 Transport moved from BUSSU to CLERY
. . 1.p.m. 39th Div. on left withdrew. Enemy close up in left flank
. . 1.p.m. Provisional instructions received that in case of forced retirement 47th & 49th Brigades were to move via St. DENIS & reform W. of BIACHES on Divl. Reserve. - 17th Entrenching Bn to cover crossing of River on high ground W. of PERONNE on E. side of River.
. . 1.30 Right flank of Brigade also "in the air".
. 5.30 p.m. Brigade had crossed river via LA CHAPELETTE bridge. Positions taken up on high ground W. of BIACHES
. . 8.p.m. Divl. Commdr. ordered move of Brigade to CAPPY area. Arrived about 11 p.m.
. 24 March 2.30.a.m. Ordered to move across river to point N. side of BRAY-CAPPY road 1 mile W. of CAPPY.
. . 10.45 a.n. Brigade reorganised into 3 Battns., 2nd Roy. Irish Regt., 7th(S.I.H.) R. Ir. Regt. & 7/8th R. Inniskilling Fus. of about 150 men each.
. . 5.p.m. Divl. Commdr. ordered Brigade to move via BRAY & ETINEHEM towards & across Canal at MERICOURT.
. 8.p.m. Brig. H.Q. & 2 Roy. Irish Regt. at K.29.c.9.1 guarding canal crossings. 7/8 R. Inniskilling Fus on right across river in touch with 47 Inf. Bde at MORCOURT
7(S.I.H.) R. Ir. Regt. on left in touch with 48th Bde on PROYART-FROISSY road
. 25 March 4.40.a.m. 16th & 39th Div. transferred to XIX Corps.
. . 3.45.p.m. Order received that 16th Div. was to guard SOMME River & CANAL from attack from N.
. . 4.30.p.m. Brigade concentrated on MERICOURT-CHUIGNOLLES road and marched to CHUIGNOLLES
7/8 R. Inniskillings held the line with posts from L.21.b.5.6 ti L.28.C.7.2 & patrolled to L.36.A.7.9 & L.33.C.0.8
2 R. Irish Regt & 7(S.I.H.) R. Irish Regt. in support in R.4.B & d.
. 26 March 12.5 a.m. Message add-d to Lt. Col. VESEY R.E. from VIIth Corps, timed 8.p.m. 25tg comes into our possession odering all bridges over SOMME CANAL to be destroyed at once.
. . 1.10.p.m. Boundary between III Army & XIX Corps in River SOMME(inclusive to III Army)
. . 2.21 a.m. C.R.E. VIIth Corps orders N.C.O. i/c Section 157 Coy. R.E. at FROISSY Bridge to blow the two bridges at ECLUSE at 6.a.m.
. . 2.40.a.m. Div. orders all crossings to be held so long as 39th Div. remains E. of them. To keep touch with left Battn. of 39th Div. & as latter falls back to concentrate at MORCOURT.
. . 8.20.a.m. Div. orders that, in case of withdrawal of XIX Corps to ROUVROY-FROISSY line, 16th Div. will hold from R.21.C to FROISSY. 39th Div. on right. VII Corps on left(N. of SOMME). 49th Brig. to hold frpm R.4.C.0.0. to FROISSY. 47th & 48th Bdes. on right and centre respectively. 49th Brig. to occupy allotted section when withdrawal commences.
. . 9.55.a.m. Div. reports withdrawal of XIX Corps begins.
Brig. H.Q. provisionally fixed at Q.12 central
. . 11.15.a.m. 116 Brigade reports "withdrawal of 117 & 118 Brigades. Enemy not coming fast but enemy cavalry reported through to our right."
Q.12 Cent. . . 2.30.p.m Brig. H.Q. Q.12 Central.
2 Roy. Ir. Regt. R4.C.3.0 to L.34.C.5.2 7(S.I.H.) R. Ir. Regt L.34.C.5.2 to L.33.b.5.5
7/8 Roy. Inniskilling Fus. about R.3.d.1.5.
. . 4.p.m. Enemy on high ground L.34.b.cent. attacking our advanced posts W. of FROISSY-PILLER.
Enemy reported on N. bank of SOMME.
. . 5.p.m. Large numbers of enemy about R.5.b & continual movement N. to S.
. . 5.40.p.m. Large numbers of enemy at L.34.b.1.9 & L.28.d.0.2. Enemy cavlary were reported later in L.34.a. No cavalry attack materialised & as trench mortars were fully used later on this flank, it is presumed that the animals seen were pack animals carrying T.M.s
. . 6.15 to
Our left flank enfiladed from N. bank of SOMME & also heavily attacked frontally. Our line was finally reorganised in old French trenches 3000 yds. E. of MERICOURT with 2 Roy. Irish on right, Inniskillings on left, 1 Coy. 11 Hants. in centre & 7(S.I.H) Roy. Ir. Regt in support.
. 27 March 7.20.a.m. Enemy formed up in R.5,11 & 17
. . 10.a.m. Enemy attacked in force. Held off frontally but managed to get along our left flank by the valley. Inniskillings on left heavily trench mortared.
. . 10.a.m. A Field Coy. R.E. sent up to hold high ground N. by E. of MERICOURT .
. . 12.45.p.m. Division on right commences withdrawing. Large numbers of men, unorganised, moving W. along AMIENS Road. Enemy M.G.s very active in rear of our right flank.
. . 1.30.p.m. 48th Inf. Brig. H.Q. moved to Q.22.a. establishing a defensive flank to cover withdrawal.
. . 2.5.p.m. Orders issued to withdraw to MORCOURT Line. Retirement to begin on left, covered by unit on right. Field Coy. R.E. to cover withdrawal of remainder and then itself withdraw.
. . 3.30.p.m. Site of MORCOURT Line heavily enfiladed by M.G.s from CERISY - from ridge S. of CERISY.B
Enemy artillery then enfilading position from N. of River.
Enemy in force advancing in force from CERISY
MORCOURT Line untenable. Withdrawal continued to LAMETTE-en-SANTERRE
. . 5.p.m. Brigade reformed in LA MITTE & placed in position in line N. of LA MITTE
. . 6.30.p.m. At request of ???? Section(CAREY'S Force) Brigade was withdrawn from line to make room for American troops. Brigade moved to FOUILLOY & AUBIGNY to billets.
28 March 8.a.m. Brigade moved back to HAMEL & together with 47th & 48th Brigades, 155,156,157 Coys R.E. & 11th Hants Pioneers formed support to CAREY's FORCE in HAMEL-MARCELCAVE line.
47th,48th,49th Brig. H.Q. in CHATEAU in HAMEL
. . 2 p.m. Remnants of 16th Div. temporarily organised into one Brigade under Brig. Gen. F.W. Ramsay.C.M.G. D.S.O. Capt H.L. Bowen, 49th Brig. to act as Brig.Major to composite Brigade.
. . 4.p.m. Brig.General P. Leveson-Gowen C.M.G. D.S.O., & Major Crothers sent to 112th Field Ambulance
Capt. Attwood, a/Staff Capt 49Inf. Bde., sent to PETIT BLANGY crossroads with transport to organise supplies for composite Bde.
. . 4.30.p.m. HAMEL heavily shelled
AUBIGNY 29 March . Drafts for 16th Div., men returning from leave & stragglers being collected & re-equipped at AUBIGNY under Lt.-Col Moore, 1st Dublin Fus.- 130 men refused to carry wire up to the line.
. 30 March . Brig.General P. Leveson-Gowen C.M.G. D.S.O., & Major Crothers returned from Fd. Ambulance.
49 Brig. H.Q. established at AUBIGNY School House
HAMEL-MARCELCAVE line heavily shelled by enemy.
Composite Brigade ordered up to counter-attack. Enemy repulsed with heavy casualities.
Strength at AUBIGNY:
- Brig. H.Q. ............. 3 off. ..30 O.R. 49 Inf. Bde.
- 2 R.Ir Regt..............1 off... 31 O.R.
- 7(S.I.H.)R. Ir. Regt.. 1 off. .34 O.R.
- 7/8 R. Innis. Fus. ... . nil ..... 86 O.R.
. 31 March. 11.a.m. 130 O.R. paraded & marched off i/c of A.P.M.(Assistant Provost Marshal)
The 49th Infantry Brigade lost 234 men killed in the period of the above Table. It is known that before the German attack, the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment had a strength of 18 officers and 514 men. Figures for the other two battalions of the Brigade are not known, but were probably comparable. The fate of the 130 men who, on 29th March, refused to carry wire up to the line is not yet known, apart from their being marched off by the A.P.M.

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