From 21-31 March 1918, 11 DLI was caught up in the events of the German Offensive, Operation Michael, also known from the Allied point of view as the March Retreat. The events are covered in my book, The 11th Durham Light Infantry: In Their Own Names, and have previously been covered on this blog under the heading ‘War Diary’, and I will not repeat them here.
At the end of these traumatic events, 11 DLI ceased to exist in the form in which it had been founded, though it was reconstituted with fresh recruits and transfers from other disbanded units, as well as recovered sick and wounded. There remained a core of the original Durham men who made it through the whole war, but they were a reducing minority.
During the Retreat, on 27 March 1918, in front of the village of Arvillers, my grandfather Sergeant Thomas Bashforth was fatally wounded. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial to the Missing of the Somme 1918, though I have long tried to locate an unknown grave that might be his.
In maintaining this weblog until the centenary of his death, I have fulfilled my own wish to honour him and his comrades in this way, and with the book. The two reasons I have outlined above are enough to justify my decision to ‘mothball’ the site. There will be no further posts in future, though I will remain open to questions and enquiries for as long as I physically can.
Therein lies the third and most compelling reason to stop now. I was diagnosed with inoperative pancreatic cancer in October 2017 after a long series of investigations. During the week of the centenary of the March Retreat, instead of being in France tracing the final days of my grandfather, I was in hospital recovering from a near fatal secondary cancer. As I recovered I followed the book day by day until 27 March, from which point I decided this is over now. Life has new and different priorities for me.
So, it is over and out to all the readers, other descendants of 11 DLI men, and people who have shown such an interest in the stories I have tried to recount of the men of 11 DLI and their families. I hope these few years of effort have done them justice.