27 March 1918

By early Wednesday morning, 60th Brigade held the right at Arvillers, 59th Brigade held the centre at Folies and the 61st were on the left at Beaufort. The Divisional Reinforcement Battalion remained at Le Quesnel. Now effectively part of 60th Brigade, 11 DLI held a line of trenches south and east of Arvillers, which they had dug the previous day, and formed the extreme right of the British forces second line. To their left were 12 KRRC, then 6 KSLI, with 12 RB holding the village behind, assisted by 60th Trench Mortar Battalion who were now equipped with rifles. The main French forces were a long way to the right, covering the valley of the River Avre in a wooded dip out of sight of 11 DLI, at least 1200 yards away.

A few miles ahead of the 20th Division, the Germans launched artillery attacks on Erches to the front and Bouchoir to the left. Erches was captured by 10.40 and Bouchoir by 12.30. The 20th Division helped pull together the groups of men streaming back along the main Amiens road and re-organised the defences across it to hold the German advance. The Germans were advancing to right, left and in front and 11 DLI was in danger of being over-run. Men from 12 RB were sent out from the village to extend the line to the right of the DLI and plug the gap between them and the French, though the distance involved rendered the task hopeless.

During these actions, an advanced post of 11 DLI came under intense fire. The entries in the battalion war diary for 27-28 March overlap and are rather confused. More clarity can be obtained from the war diary of 12 RB, who had a clear view from the village. As the DLI came under fire, there was commotion around their positions and it appeared that they were about to abandon their posts. Men of 12 RB were about to be sent to reinforce them, but before they did so the problem was resolved and the DLI settled again.

At some point during this day my grandfather, Sergeant Thomas Bashforth, was killed and most probably in this incident. Many years after the war, my father was decorating a house in Darlington owned by a former soldier called Towers. Towers recognized his name and recounted how my grandfather had been wounded, and he had tried to carry him back to the village over his shoulders. However a second bullet killed my grandfather, passing through and becoming lodged in Towers’s back where it remained for the rest of his life. This chance encounter seems to fit the incident described in the diary of 12 RB. Sergeant Bashforth’s body was not identified after the war, probably one of many roughly tumbled into trenches and ditches, as makeshift graves. He is commemorated on the memorial at Pozières. Close by, at Bouchoir, there is a British concentration cemetery, which could conceivably contain his remains.

By the end of the day chances of survival were running out. The battalion as a whole did not amount to much more than a full company strength, around 200 men. There was yet more action, more courageous effort still to come before 11 DLI was finally pulled from the line. Of the deaths that day five are commemorated at Pozières: Frederick Atkinson, Sergeant Thomas Bashforth, Lance Corporal James Brown (C Company), Fred Schofield and Robert Snowball. Private Snowball had, ironically, been charged with absence earlier in the month and sentenced to eighty-four days FP1, a sentence he never served. Private Bertie Handisides from West Hartlepool is buried at Caix. Private George Redpath died in the rear at Namps-au-val, from wounds received on an earlier day.

 

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