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Remembered Today:

19th Entrenching Battalion


corisande
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I am interested in the 19th Entrenching Battalion because it was the last repose of the 10th Royal Dublin Fusiliers after their disbandment in Feb 1918. Can any Forum members add to this information that I have accumulated (I have read Forlorn Hope by Sean Connolly, which does touch on them). This Entrenching Battalion (I understand what an entrenching battalion was) was only in existence from mid Feb 1918 to early May 1918, and was involved in the retreat during the German Operation Michael to the east Amiens in March 1918. The Entrenching Battalions are very hard to research!

10th Battalion, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers had joined 48 Brigade 3 June 1917, left 13 February 1918. They officially disbanded two days later

  • 10 Officers and 200 men went to 1st Battalion RDF

10 Officers and 200 men went to 2nd Battalion RDF

Balance 450 men from 10th RDF went to 19th Entrenching battalion

200 men from 7th Leinsters also went to 19th Entrenching Battalion

The 19th Entrenching Battalion was located at St Christ. south of Peronne, where it assisted Canadian railway engineers to construct vitals railway links to the front. The 19th Entrenching Battalion then fought during the Operation Michael Attack in March 1918.

st-quinten-map.jpg

You can plot their progress from March 22 to March 28 on this map using the information below (The 1st and 2nd Battalions RDF followed the straight line of retreat from Epehy to Le Hamel)

21st March 1918

On the afternoon of 21st March the 19th Entrenching Battalion were moved by lorry along the congested roads from St Christ to Vraignes-en-Vermandois.

22nd March 1918

Having got to Vraignes-en-Vermandois, they were moved east to Vermand, reaching it at 1am and they took up a defensive position in front of the village. In the afternoon large numbers of Germans advanced, and the defenders inflicted heavy losses on the Germans. However the Germans decided to bypass the village, and at this point half the Battalion was withdrawn and the other half assigned to 24 Division. The battalion came under fire on the Vermand to Brie road during the day.

23 March 1918

19th Entrenching Battalion moved to Devise and arrived to dig in at 10am. Retreating British troops passed through their line, and eventually the Germans arrived, across open country, and preceded by machine gunners. The Germans found a gap in the line left by retreating British troops, and as they risked being surrounded the 19th Entrenching Battalion withdrew to St Christ, and on back to Pressoir

26 March 1918

RDF Capt Robert Boyd was in charge of C Company 19th Entrenching Battalion, which was now at Hattencourt. He was the only captain in the line here and was in charge of 4 companies, who were ordered to dig a trench 50 yards east of the town at 2am. They had just finished digging in when the Germans attacked at 6.30am.

Capt Boyd was ordered to hold the line at all costs, but at 7.15am was ordered to withdraw and join 16th (Irish) Division. 2 of his 4 companies had got away when Capt Boyd was knocked unconscious by shrapnel and taken prisoner.

27th March 1918

At 9am the 19th Entrenching Battalion counter-attacked and took back the village of Rouvroy-en-Santerre. But the Germans counter-attacked them and forced them back into old trenches just outside the village, with heavy casualties. There were a lot of enemy partols during the night, and they also had the misfortune to be shelled by British artillery after dark.

28 March 1918

No information available. I leave them in a village that was soon overrun by the Germans

At the end of this action 19th Entrenching Battalion joined 16th Division 4 April 1918.

19th Entrenching Battalion disbanded 5 May 1918. Its troops went to 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

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On 3 April 1918 19 EB was ordered to pass its men to the 24th Division. The CO objected, stating that they would prefer an Irish Division. Hence it was absorbed by 16th Division.

Charles M

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Thanks Charles, with this lot every little bit helps

You don't know who the CO was do you?

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OK, thanks, I didn't think you would have it - these Entrenching Battalions are very hard to research

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The Official History, France & Belgium 1918 vol1, has three mentions of the 19th EB in the index: pp 213 283 & 347

22nd March 1918

Having got to Vraignes-en-Vermandois, they were moved east to Vermand, reaching it at 1am and they took up a defensive position in front of the village. In the afternoon large numbers of Germans advanced, and the defenders inflicted heavy losses on the Germans. However the Germans decided to bypass the village, and at this point half the Battalion was withdrawn and the other half assigned to 24 Division. The battalion came under fire on the Vermand to Brie road during the day.

p213 says that 19th EB together with 15th EB was in XIX Corps (Fifth Army). "... the 19th marching to Vermand -2 miles south-west of Maissemy - where it arrived at 1.45pm on 22nd ..." {date/time double checked - did they mean a.m.?}

p283 (still referring to 22nd March) says "11th Hussars, 13/Middlesex (73rd Brigade) and 19th Entrenching Battalion covered the retirement. They fought a continuous rear-guard action, but the last parties did not leave their position until about 2 P.M., after the engineers had blown up three bridges over the Omignon ..."

p282 refers to this withdrawal begining at twelve noon.

23 March 1918

19th Entrenching Battalion moved to Devise and arrived to dig in at 10am. Retreating British troops passed through their line, and eventually the Germans arrived, across open country, and preceded by machine gunners. The Germans found a gap in the line left by retreating British troops, and as they risked being surrounded the 19th Entrenching Battalion withdrew to St Christ, and on back to Pressoir

p347 (23 March 1918) starting p346 "... Although the ground to be crossed was bare and flat, and the rear-guard battalions suffered from machine-gun and field-gun fire, all the troops passed through the Molignaux-Devise line, half-way to the river, by midday, and then three battalions attached to the 72nd Bde holding it as a rear-guard were ordered to withdraw.1 They were only just in time ; for the enemy, working round the open right flank, reached the Somme south of Pargny almost as soon as they did and opened fire on them, although the Cavalry Brigade and two companies of the 1/Worcestershire (8th Division) had advanced across the river to Falvy to cover the withdrawal. ...

1. These units were the 24th Divisional Depot Battalion, the 19th Entrenching Battalion and 2 of the 3 companies of the 12/Sherwood Foresters (Pioneers)."

(Anyone know about the 4th EB in February 1918? The War Diary was not in the box last time I was at TNA)

HTH

David

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Thanks for all that extra information.

Certainly 1.45 am would look more logical if the last parties left at 2pm and they had been fighting before that.

What you have also given me is the units 19th EB was fighting alongside, and I can now try and see what their War Diaries can tell me about their movements

Good luck with 4th Entrenching Battalion, they seem to have a lot more entries in Google than 19th EB !

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>><<

Good luck with 4th Entrenching Battalion, they seem to have a lot more entries in Google than 19th EB !

Scuttles off to Google, thinking "I'm sure I've checked here ..."

14 mentions

- 2 to my own websites

- 1 to a previous thread I raised

- 10 to the Canadian 4th Entrenching Battalion (a different unit)

- 1 to the British 4th Entrenching Battalion at an earlier time.

Still foiled!

David

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Sorry about that I didn't dig deeper that Googling.

I put "4th Entrenching Battalion" into Google and got 383 for "4th Entrenching Battalion"

I see what you mean because rather strangely , going to the bottom of the page they only have a handful!

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Funny how one can pick up snippets. Putting together a list in 2nd Battalion history with London Gazette, I now know that:-

London Gazette of 13 Sep 1918 records MC awarded to T/Capt William Maunsell Calwell (10th RDF attached to 19th Entrenching Battalion). Capt Calwell died 27th April 1967

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during lengthy operations. Finding his right flank in danger of being surrounded by the enemy, he, on his own initiative, took command of half a battalion, and, with great coolness, issued orders to cover the retreat of the threatened flank, being exposed the whole time to heavy shell, machine-gun,, and rifle fire. Later, he showed marked ability in withdrawing the battalion, which was in great danger of being cut off.. Throughout the whole operations he set a fine example of courage, and inspired all ranks with confidence by his powers of leadership.

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  • 4 years later...

19th EB war diary is at TNA, have it and can share as was also interested in the 10RDF ending up in 1RMF issue

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