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22nd Entrenching Battalion - 30th March 1918?


Anneca
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I would be grateful if anyone could tell me the whereabouts of the 22nd Entrenching Bn. on 30th March 1918. I think they may have been in the area of Guerbigny/Arvillers, retreating from the German offensive at that time. Does anyone have any information or access to a War Diary that would confirm their position and what was happening on that date?

Thank you in anticipation, Anne

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Thank you for your response Chris. I had already read your link on Entrenching Battalions and the 22nd digging a defensive line from Rainecourt to Rosieres which is excellent information. As there is no mention of the movements of the 22nd Bn. on 30th March in particular, I wondered if there is anything recorded about them in War Diaries or other sources on that date.

Thank you again for taking the time to reply - much appreciated.

Regards, Anne

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  • 3 months later...

Hello all,

Couple of points:

@ Anne: No.22 Entrenching Battalion was, in effect, attached to the rump of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division as infantry at the end of March 1918. On 28 March the unit, being the last reserve of the division, was literally plucked from dinner to mount a hasty counter-attack against some Germans who themselves had turned up unannounced in the division's left rear. The attack was remarkably successful and a much-surprised enemy beat a hasty retreat. This took place somewhere about Caix which is about five miles north of Arvillers. I don't know if that's close enough for you to count as 'in the area' but in terms of what was going on at the time it's pretty much a direct hit! I doubt they would have come any closer than that as the line was moving backwards and 50th Division ended up SW of there that night mixed up with 8th, 24th and 30th Division units. You may be interested to know that the latter two divisions had held the line Guerbigny-Arvillers that morning. Sorry, can't help with 30 March but they would have been west and behind French lines by then.

 

Cheers,

Simon

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Hello all,

Couple of points:

@ Anne: No.22 Entrenching Battalion was, in effect, attached to the rump of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division as infantry at the end of March 1918. On 28 March the unit, being the last reserve of the division, was literally plucked from dinner to mount a hasty counter-attack against some Germans who themselves had turned up unannounced in the division's left rear. The attack was remarkably successful and a much-surprised enemy beat a hasty retreat. This took place somewhere about Caix which is about five miles north of Arvillers. I don't know if that's close enough for you to count as 'in the area' but in terms of what was going on at the time it's pretty much a direct hit! I doubt they would have come any closer than that as the line was moving backwards and 50th Division ended up SW of there that night mixed up with 8th, 24th and 30th Division units. You may be interested to know that the latter two divisions had held the line Guerbigny-Arvillers that morning. Sorry, can't help with 30 March but they would have been west and behind French lines by then.

Cheers,

Simon

Thank you for this information Simon. I have been trying to trace the last movements of a man in 11th/13th Rifles who was officially listed as KIA on 30th March. I have read several books and other accounts but the detail therein is conflicting. I am now of the opinion that he could well have been killed not on 30th but on 27th, 28th or 29th March and not accounted for until 30th. My reasoning for this is:

Most of the Ulster Division arrived in their new lines around 02.00 on 26th March. By mid-morning the Germans were just 3 ½ miles away, already making their first contact and meeting with resistance. The 36th (Ulster) Division were occupying the remains of the old French trenches from 1916 but the Germans began to reach the line in greater strength and by 13.00 a huge battle was in progress. As the Division had no artillery to support them it was only a matter of time before the Germans brought forward their own and at dusk they commenced bombardment followed by a concentrated infantry attack. At dawn on 27th they attacked again. The 108th Brigade bore the full brunt of the German attack, having failed to receive an order to withdraw, until after 11.00 when they were virtually annihilated and finally overrun.

The remnants of the 108th Brigade then joined the 107th and 109th Brigades and continued to fall back towards Arvillers where they held the line until finally relieved by the French on the morning of 28th March. It could have been on this date, later in the day when, (in your words) “the unit [22nd Entrenching Bn.] was literally plucked from dinner to mount a hasty counter-attack against some Germans who themselves had turned up unannounced in the Division’s rear” that he was killed.

The Division spent the night of 29th March in the open in cold and wet before they were entrained on the morning of 30th March at Saleux, south of Amiens, and moved north to the area of Gamaches on the Channel coast for reorganization. It is a puzzle to me that he is listed as killed on 30th as they were on the train to the Channel coast on that date. I shall probably never know, but I do appreciate and thank you for your post Simon, which has given me more of an insight into the events at that time. Wherever and whenever he died, I do know he was initially buried in a temporary or trench cemetery and eventually moved to his final resting place in Rosieres Communal Cemetery Extension.

Regards, Anne

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Hi Anne,

I think it's worth adding a couple of other observations which may help further.

First, the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division near Arvillers on 28 March were only a small detachment, literally a few men. The bulk of the division, reduced by about a half of its infantry strength between 21 and 27 March, were already out of the line on 28 March and billeted south of Amiens. This small detachment rejoined the division on 28 March at rest.

Second, in operational and tactical terms No.22 Entrenching Battalion had no link with the 36th (Ulster) Division though it was, of course, formed almost entirely of the officers and men of the disbanded 11/13 Royal Irish Rifles. Trying to match the location of your man to what was happening with his old parent division is a red herring, I fear.

We know that 22nd E Bn were under direct command of the GOC 50th Division's infantry on 28 March. After that, unfortunately there is no reference to them that I know of (yet!), but I am searching for information as their story is important to me, also. I have no doubt they remained in the field and took part in some or all of the actions of 29 March to 5 April. Their final story as a unit is, like your man's, tied to the story of the Battle of the Avre. My recommendation is that you look at anything you can find on that little-known battle and the units and formations which took part; who knows what you may turn up?!

Can you say who you are researching? I will certainly let you know if I find anything and someone else here may have information of direct relevance.

Cheers and good luck!

Simon

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Hi Simon

Thank you for taking an interest. I have been searching for some time for information about the 22nd Entrenching Battalion with little success, and assumed if I kept with the 11th/13th RIR and the 36th (Ulster) Division this would be the nearest I could get regarding locations and events during this period. I had also assumed, mistakenly, that as the 22nd Entrenching Battalion was made up from the officers and men of the disbanded 11th/13th RIR, it was somehow connected with the 36th (Ulster) Division. I will do as you suggest and look at any information I can find about the Battle of the Avre - occasionally it is amazing what can materialize as a result of a snippet of information.

The man I have been researching is Pte. Francis J Hanna who enlisted in the 5th Bn. RIR in 1899, Army No. 2954 and fought in the 2nd Anglo Boer War until his unit was disembodied in 1902. He re-enlisted in the RIR in 1914, this time in the 11th Bn. Army No. 628. Unfortunately his service record must have been destroyed during WW2.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge Simon.

Regards, Anne

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Anne,

Ok, I will add Francis to my watch list; he certainly brought a wealth of military experience with him to 1918, didn't he. Old-school warrior. Please update this thread as you move forward, if you have time. Chris's site, which you're already familiar with, will help you identify which corps, brigades, battalions and ancillary units to research. In addition to the Ulster Division, these are the infantry and divisions I would personally focus on (should keep you out of mischief for a while!):

Rosiéres to the Avre

8th Division

50th (Northumbrian) Division

20th (Light) Division

24th Division

30th Division

Best of luck.

Cheers,

Simon

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Thank you for this Simon, I would prefer to say this will keep me "busy" for a while?! Yes, I reckon Francis was an old school warrior, not only to get through the Anglo Boer War but to live and fight again for so long in the Great War right up until March 1918 when he was killed in the German Offensive - must have been a man of steel I think, and only 5ft 3 when he enlisted at the age of 17 in 1899.

Better get my head down and get some reading done. Thank you again Simon for your interest and your help.

Regards, Anne

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Hi,

You said that "I am now of the opinion that he could well have been killed not on 30th but on 27th, 28th or 29th March and not accounted for until 30th."

This is entirely probable. The fighting over this period was so fluid and severe that records were only consolidated when the Bns were out of the line. In the case of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, with one or two exceptions, casualties are listed as killed in action on 29 March, by which time the Bn had been out of the line for over 24 hours. Their actual date of death is between 21 and 27 March.

Good luck,

Nick

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Hi,

You said that "I am now of the opinion that he could well have been killed not on 30th but on 27th, 28th or 29th March and not accounted for until 30th."

This is entirely probable. The fighting over this period was so fluid and severe that records were only consolidated when the Bns were out of the line. In the case of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, with one or two exceptions, casualties are listed as killed in action on 29 March, by which time the Bn had been out of the line for over 24 hours. Their actual date of death is between 21 and 27 March.

Good luck,

Nick

You have just confirmed what I suspected Nick. I thought it would have been impossible to determine the actual date of death as there were so many lying wounded and dying after so much onslaught over several days. I expect the date of 30th had to be recorded after all those remaining had eventually been accounted for. Many thanks.

Anne

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