Saturday, March 17, 2012

War Diary -13th Battalion King's (Liverpool) Regiment 28/03/1918

Battalion War Diary 13th Battalion the King's (Liverpool) Regiment
This is the Battalion diary for 22-31 March 1918 with a transcript of the narrative for the 28th March, the day that William Noll was killed. He is not mentioned in the diary.
(images from National Archives)

28th March

At 4:30 am the enemy put down an intense barrage on the whole of our sector.  The Trench Mortar barrage on the front line was more intense than anything previously experienced. The RESERVE LINE was barraged with field guns and heavies. Under cover of this barrage the enemy launched a terrific attack with masses of troops. In spite of the intensity of the bombardment the front line stood firm and poured a devastating fire into the enemy whose attack was beaten off with colossal casualties to the attackers.

The value of this steadfastness against tremendous odds cannot be estimated – it gave the enemy his first check at a point where he was to be subsequently checked throughout the day. The enemy came back again in a second attack with even greater numbers. The Battalion on our right were pressed back and the enemy poured in behind “C and “D” companies from the right flank. What happened on the left flank is not known. All that is known is that these two companies, attacked on all sides, mounted the parapet and fought to the finish on the ground on which they stood.

Under cover of the barrage the enemy came on up the hill to the reserve lines. Owing to the nature of the ground, he could not be observed along most of the battalion front until nearly on our wire. The barrage lifted and in dense waves the Germans swept onto our lines, it was the beginning of a fierce battle which lasted until 2pm.

            The courage, coolness and endurance of the garrison were beyond praise. Every rifle and Lewis Gun brought  a tremendous volume of fire to bear on the approaching masses.

            In spite of his losses the enemy continued to push on until the thin line remaining could go no further and turned down the slope. Our men mounted the parapet to keep him under fire as long as they could keep him in sight.

            The first attack on the first line had been beaten off and our line was everywhere intact.

            On the right we were in touch with the 7th Bn K.S.L.I. and on the left with the 1st Bn NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS. Our Bn HQ on the road (N.26.c.0.8) was also the Bn HQ of the 1st Bn NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS and their HQ also garrisoned the trench in this vicinity.

            The road- through which a trench had been dug the night before – was held by a L.G. and a Rifle Grenade Post. All communication by wire was lost from the commencement of the action. Communication was however kept by lamp with the Brigade and by this means some field guns were brought to cover our front on the EASTERN side of the Menin Road.

            The enemy now resumed his barrage on our position by firing green lights. An intense barrage came down for 10 or 15 minutes. As soon as it lifted the enemy immediately came on to another attack, this also was repulsed with heavy loss to the enemy. Our flank and our left flank was becoming exposed. Twice again the enemy fell back, each time bringing down the barrage on our position with green lights and pushing on his attack as soon as it lifted. About midday the enemy’s fourth attack penetrated on our right. A block was immediately made and maintained about 150 yards from the Road on the SOUTHERN side approximately N.25.d.7.4.               A defensive flank was put out about N.25. Central and a few men lined the banks of the NEUVILLE VITASSE ROAD to guard our rear as far as was possible. During the morning one company of the 4th Bn ROYAL FUSILIERS had come up to reinforce and was distributed with two platoons on the SW side of the MENIN ROAD, and two platoons, and two platoons near the ST. MARTIN-SUR-COJEUL ROAD in N.25.a.

            From midday onwards only about 500 of 600 yards of the reserve line remained in our hands, the troops on both flanks having fallen back some hundreds of yards. It was evident that when the next hostile attack came the position would inevitably be surrounded and would hold out no longer. However it was decided to hold on, though the Brigade message informed us that no reinforcements were available. At 2pm a message from Brigade instructed us to rendezvous in N.24. central if withdrawal became necessary. Withdrawal to support of the 4th Bn ROYAL FUSILIERS in the GREEN LINE was then decided upon and orders were issued for an immediate withdrawal. It commenced at 3.30 pm, the movement from the front line being covered by small posts and blocks and the defensive flank on the right remaining in position until all the garrison of the reserve Line had moved off to the SW of NEUVILLE VITASSE ROAD by the SUGAR FACTORY. The enemy moving forward for another attach severely harassed the withdrawal and it was only by great gallantry and initiative by individuals that the enemy was warded off until the line was clear.

By 5pm all troops had passed through the GREEN LINE with all wounded evacuated and without anyone being cut off. The Battalion re-organised under cover of the ridge in N.24.Central and at dusk moved back into Brigade Reserve and occupied trenches in M.22.c.

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