During the ‘cruellest month’, to quote the poet, 11 DLI spent much of the time filling holes. Based around Bus, Ytres, Le Transloy and Metz, there was much work to be done making damaged roads passable as the Germans slowly retreated under successive attacks. It was part of a cleverly scheduled retreat using attrition and booby traps while a new defensive line was built – the Hindenburg Line. As they retreated, the Germans exploded mines under the roads and it was this constant need to keep roads passable that occupied the Pioneers for most of the month.
The next objective in this sector was Metz-en-Couture. Being close to the front lines, the Pioneers were ordered to wear gas masks at all times – which must have made working particularly hard. It was hard enough anyhow – repairing roads, filling mine craters and shell holes, improving drainage ditches, clearing wreckage and clearing villages (what was left of them). It was tricky work, with booby traps to be looked out for. Finally, at the end of the month work was begun on constructing a new ‘line of resistance’ – essentially a series of reserve trenches.
The comings and goings of various officers are recorded by name. On 6 April, for example, ‘Lt Padley (recently commissioned from the ranks) proceeded on 10 days’ leave to England.’ This was Herbert Padley, formerly Pte 11368 York and Lancaster Regiment, commissioned into 11 th DLI as Lieutenant on 2 April 1917. He survived the war, applying for his medals in 1921. [Not confirmed, but this was probably Herbert Padley who in 1911, aged 21, lived with his parents in Shiregreen, Sheffield. He worked as a clerk and shorthand typist for a steel works.]
Proximity to the front line was illustrated on 15 April, when the Officers’ Mess Room and B Company Mess and Signal Office were blown up by enemy shelling. Four men were killed and four more wounded. The dead were Privates Joseph Lindsay, Richard Stott, John Graham and William Harold Short, all buried at Lebucquiere Communal Cemetery.