28 March 1918

Wednesday had witnessed a dogged attempt to keep the remnants of the battalion together in an exposed position, under heavy fire from ahead and with their flanks exposed. The Durhams were exhausted, but not defeated. As the following days would prove, they remained able to play their part in finally bringing the German advance to a grinding halt and deny them their objective, the city of Amiens only a few miles away.

On Thursday 28 March, the Division was due to be relieved by French forces. Before dawn, the 59th and 61st Brigades marched out along the Amiens road to a wood south-east of Démuin, which they reached at mid-day. However, at 8 am, before the 60th Brigade, including 11 DLI, could be replaced, they came under a heavy barrage, followed by a fierce attack on their whole line. The advanced platoon of 11 DLI was heavily shelled and its Lewis guns put out of action. The enemy were massing in woods on the right flank and the Durhams turned their defences to meet the threat. In danger of being surrounded, the Brigade was ordered to retire, which they did under heavy shell and machine-gun fire. The mixed unit of 12 RB and Trench Mortar men were pushed to the right to plug any gap and help cover the retirement. The Brigadier General commended the courage of the Durhams in their efforts to hold back the German attack.

By 3 pm, the DLI were at Fresnoy, from where they marched further to the rear to occupy a wood north-west of Mézières. They stayed there all night, sheltering from the rain. Captain Sear had been hit by machine gun fire, a bullet perforating the left lung close to the heart and coming out through his left shoulder blade. Coughing up blood, he was moved back to hospital at Rouen. Coincidentally, Captain R. L. S. Pemberton returned to the battalion at the same time and took command. Pemberton had been on extended leave since 19 February and had missed the terrors of the previous days. He was fresh and ready for action and had already experienced leadership in the conditions of a defensive retreat, winning the MC at Cambrai.

Five deaths from this day are commemorated at Pozières: Arthur Busby, Thomas Hall, Reuben Harland, Allan Hill and John Lowerson. Private W. Amour died in hospital at Rouen from wounds received earlier in the retreat and is buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension.


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