31 March 1918

Easter Day witnessed a similar pattern of events to the day before. The lines came under heavy artillery bombardment. Both flanks were turned so the Division fell back to just south of the river Luce by late afternoon.

Captain Pemberton organised 11 DLI on a hill south-east of Thennes. The Germans attacked almost immediately, but were repulsed. The remnants of 6 KSLI and 11 DLI joined cavalry in a counter-attack and by 8 pm, aided by artillery fire from the divisional command post on higher ground at Domart, they had secured the flanks. Captain Endean was wounded by a shell splinter in the upper thigh, inches from the spine. Sergeant Thomas Bonney was killed and is buried at Moreuil Communal Cemetery. Lance Corporal John Yates was also killed and is commemorated at Pozières.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hayes arrived back during the morning and to find what was left of his battalion. Unable to contact Pemberton, Hayes chose not to interfere with his command and instead took over a mixed party of men from other 20th Division units, remaining with them until they were relieved a couple of days later. The final remnants of 11 DLI were pulled out of the line the next day.

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4 thoughts on “31 March 1918

  1. Hi Martin – thank you for making these posts I think they are incredible. I am researching my wife’s Great Grandfather who served with the Durham Light Infantry and died of wounds on 5 April 1918. He is buried in Etretat Churchyard in the Commonwealth War Graves Extension (which my wife
    and I visited in 2008 on the 90th anniversary of hs death) – I seem to remember there is an historical account of/plaque summarising the German offensive in Spring 1918 which leads us to believe he and others buried there were involved in this. I don’t know his Battalion but I think it may have been the 11th (Pioneers?) as he was 46 when he died and our family believe he was working in the local pits here in Newcastle at the outbreak of WW1. There are family references passed down by his daughter (my wife’s Grandmother) about the impact his experiences had on him during a period of leave back home in Newcastle and (we expect) the reality of knowing what he had to return to.

    • Thanks for the compliments Malcolm. I presume, since you don’t mention, that the guy in question was Pte 12934 Edward Collins, who fits the date and place of burial that you give. He was almost certainly a miner, as he originated from Barnsley – a lot of men moved with their families from South Yorkshire to the pits of Durham and Northumberland, where there was increasing amounts of work, while the Barnsley pits had been going for many decades by this time.

  2. https://flic.kr/p/pJ5d1Z … Grandma always recalled Tommy Bonney on Remembrance Day because he was “killed on Armistice Day”, researching Durham Light Infantry archives, the last entry showed him as killed in action on 31 March 1918.
    With all the centenary publicity, on Armistice Day 2014, I finally return to the story and join the dots that this was the last counter attack mounted by 11 DLI to help maintain the line at Thennes in the wake of the German assault. The following day, the remnants of the battalion were pulled out. So that the basis of the family story is that Tommy came within 24 hours of surviving the war having served at the front since September 1914.
    The other mystery in this postcard was his words “I have never been so downhearted in my life” I now think that he wrote this after his older brother William was killed in action 20 September 1917.

    The family photos I have from this period are at:

    FW: [14/14]Attached Image "World War One" British soldiers  Thomas Bonney,  "Durham Light Infantry", "First World War"

    Many thanks Martin for all your work in bringing this history together.

    • Good to hear from you again and to see all the wonderful photographs and cards up on flickr. Especially good to hear from you today, 11 November, when we 11 DLI ancestors tend to have our thoughts turned to the past. Trying to decipher family memories from back then can be a treacherous occupation, as I know from my own family stories. It may be that your Grandma just thought of the last year of the war or maybe there was some piece of correspondence from the War Office that arrived around Armistice Day – I tried to recheck the service records on line to see if there was a list of correspondence (which sometimes provides clues), but half the papers for Tommy seem to have disappeared since I did the original research. We just have to make the most of what we are told and try to understand it emotionally as well as ‘factually’. My Gran always said that my father was ‘a Territorial in camp in Scarborough at the outbreak of WW2 just like his father in WW1’. But Granddad was never a Territorial. He did sign up as a volunteer at the end of August 1914 and so he was in camp in early September, just like my Dad was in 1939 when he was called up as a Territorial. Neither of them were in Scarborough however! She had good reason to conflate all these into a story that made sense to her since, in 1942, she got a letter from the War Office to say that my Dad was ‘missing’ – just like she had got in the Spring of 1918, when in fact my Granddad had been killed. She would have feared the worst, but as it turned out, Dad had been taken prisoner (he later escaped).

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