26 March 1918

At dawn on Tuesday 26 March, the remnants of A and B Companies were at Roye, where Captain Jee’s men joined them at one in the morning. The handful of survivors from D Company had been in the vicinity since the previous day, but had not yet made contact with their other comrades. The planned retreat, organised with the French reinforcements, took effect but was to prove very difficult because of the speed of the German advance. Flanking cover provided by the 61st Brigade allowed the Division only just enough time to make its march along the road from Royes to Le Quesnel. In the process, 7 DCLI virtually sacrificed itself holding the German advance at Le Quesnoy. By the time the Division reached Le Quesnel at noon, the Germans had already got patrols onto the main Amiens road near Damery. Communication with the French towards Roye was now broken, and the gap had to be plugged by the 36th and 30th Divisions, who had been brought back into the line after a brief respite.

On arrival at Le Quesnel everyone from 20th Division was directed to creating new defences just to the east of the village, in order to make a supporting line for the 30th Division, who were now holding the line between Bouchoir and Rouvroy. The exhausted 11 DLI were the backbone of the diggers, though any trenches were fairly rudimentary in the circumstances. During the day, Captain Jee carried out reconnaissance between Erches and Bouchoir, just behind Le Quesnoy. At 6.30 pm, the 20th Division was replaced by the 61st Division and ordered forward to provide an immediate line of defence behind the 30th Division. The 11 DLI Pioneers dug defences at Arvillers, just to the rear of the 30th Division, in the area previously surveyed by Captain Jee. At 7.30 in the evening they were finally joined by Lieutenant Cooper and the four survivors of D Company.

The separate company accounts in the battalion diary cease from this time on, indicating that the battalion was operating as one unit. By this time any distinction between companies, battalions, divisions and regiments was academic. Their numerical strength bore no resemblance to normality. Contemporary photographs of the 20th Division during this period show them forming lines mixed up completely with French units.

There were four privates killed on this day, all commemorated on the memorial to the missing at Pozières. These were Ernest Brydon, Henry Fox (aged 20 from Sherburn), Ernest Hope (aged 19 from Wakefield) and Robert Lomas. But there was much more yet to come.


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