Whilst 11th Suffolk were pushed back beyond Henin Hill, 12th Suffolk were immediately rushed from their rear areas to support the line in this sector.
At the Germans relentlessly attacked the front line along the entire sector, 12th Suffolk were brought up from Hendicourt to the front line east of Arras. No sooner had they arrived, when the unit of the left flank started to give way. Worried that he would shortly be surrounded, the C.O., Lieutenant-Colonel Eardley-Wilmot, took a platoon forward from the front line into No-Mans-Land to try and establish a forward position to cover his left flank.
“There was very heavy ground mist and the enemy snipers had taken up good positions and sniped the C.O. and the artillery Liaison Officer who was with him killing them both. There were also several casualties amongst the men. The Adjutant Captain A.M. Cross MC there took command”.
Men were now falling to the enemy machine gun fire that raked the front line and also to their own artillery which was indiscriminately giving down with no great degree of accuracy along the front line.
Around 2.00pm, the enemy attacked in great number son the left flank of the Battalion’s frontage. “We could get no definite information as to the situation” wrote the War Diary “and later found he was massing on our own front. We opened L.G. and Rifle fire upon them and got good results from the artillery. The casualties were heavy here”.
Valiantly the Battalion held on but by 5.00pm, with the heavy enemy machine gun fire, the casualties were mounting. On the right, the enemy had been successful in forcing back the Battalion on the right so that 12th found themselves on their own taking fire from both flanks as well as from directly in front.
“A heavy enemy artillery barrage was put down on the Mort Homme Road and a little later we were attacked in force. We sent up the S.O.S. signal and held him off, and our artillery put down a good barrage. By this time both our flanks were ‘in the air’. The enemy gained the trench on our right and left, and our forward Coys were ordered to fall back on the Army line. The message was delivered but rain apart, it arrived too late as no officer or OR of either of the 3 Coys returned”.
The confused situation was not aided by men returning in disarray on the Battalion’s flanks. Around 7.00pm, elements of Battalion HQ and C Company came back to the Army line. The Adjutant, now wounded, decided to re-establish Battalion HQ on the line near Mory Copse.
By 9.00pm, the Second-in-Command had arrived and assumed command from the wounded Adjutant. He had been out in front and reported that the enemy were pushing forward in strength along the Mory-Ecoust Road and had already reached L’Abbaye, about 200 yards from Mory. In desperation a party was sent out to block the road at the junction there where a party from the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders were position.
At around 9.10pm, elements of 20th Middlesex came up to form a defensive line between Mory Copse and the sunken road to the south west, back to the crossroads at L’Abbaye. A salient of 12t Suffolk now held out in the centre along the Army Line, even though the enemy were on both its flanks. 2/4th Leicester’s to the north were lost touch with, though a Suffolk machine gun held-on on the left, keeping the enemy at bay.
At 11.00pm, “the enemy attacked but we held him on our front. He worked round on our right, through Mory and up into the sunken road also around Mory Copse behind us on the left” wrote the War Diary. Seeing the situation was desperate, a withdrawal was now ordered. Attack after attack came in the darkness and a withdraw was accomplished back to the sunken lane from their frontal positions.
“Under very heavy MG and rifle fire from the front and both flanks this move was accomplished and a trench running at right angles to the sunken road occupied and troops then faced both flanks”. At 1.00am, it was reported that all touch had been lost with the other units on the flanks, though the enemy’s fire had died down. “Under cover of darkness – across country towards Ervillers then left to Ervillers-Mory Road extended and advanced towards Mory with the right on the road.
Welcome to our online 'blog' charting the history of the many Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the part they played in the Great War.
Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
Keep checking back to see how the Great War is progressing for the men of the Suffolk Regiment.