The first three weeks of March 1918 were relatively uneventful, but a storm was brewing and rumours gathered pace, at least at HQ and officer level. It is not recorded as to how far this filtered down among the other ranks.
Most of the time 11 DLI was working on the Ham-Noyon railway line, but from 14 March one Company was detached to work under the command of the Royal Engineers on the ‘Green Line’ trench system, with their place on the railway work taken over by infantry men from 12 King’s Liverpool Regiment. All of this work was intended as part of the rear guard preparations for any eventual attack. It was well recognised that the trench system in front of St Quentin was woefully inadequate, consisting of a long, over-stretched line of small fortifications loosely linked. There would be no time, in fact, to remedy this obvious weak point.
On 20 March, 20th Division was ordered to be ready to move at one hour’s notice. B Company 20 Battalion Machine Gun Corps were sent to Ham to be affiliated with 60 Brigade. 11 Rifle Brigade were moved to Cognolles. An order was issued for the formation of a Battalion from Divisional reinforcements. The rumours were proving to be well-founded and a German attack was regarded as imminent.
At 05.09 a.m. XVIII Corps issued the order to ‘man battle stations’. The Germans had launched ‘Operation Michael’, the German Spring Offensive of 1918. What follows will be a day by day account of how 11 DLI was caught up in these events.