Published By John Davies
South of River Aisne. 25 Bn Machine Gun Corps. 27-39 May 1918
Operation Blücher-Yorck, the third phase in the Kaiser Offensive, began early in the morning of 27 April 1918. During the previous evening the 25 Bn Machine Gun Corps moved from billets at Hourges, near Reims, into the forward area and proceeded to their operating areas, A Coy to Guyencourt, B Coy to Muscourt and C Coy to Ventelay, D Coy in reserve at Romain. From here they gave machine gun fire to cover the area from Maizy along the road to Cormicy on the southern side of the River Aisne. At Maizy too they covered the bridge over the River.
Following a hurricane bombardment the enemy infantry advanced. Over the next 2 days the Germans would smash through the British and French lines. On 25 Bn MGC front the enemy was first engaged at 8.30am advancing from the direction of Concevreux and Bouffignereux. The guns opened up – B Coy, under the command of Second Lieutenant WL Johnstone did ‘great execution at the (Maizy) bridge’ but about mid day were forced back to Muscourt. At this time too the reserve company was deployed.
In the late afternoon a strong enemy attack came against the Muscourt Romain Road, this was completely wiped out at point blank range by the concentrated fire of 7 MGs. To the right however the enemy managed to get into the wood land at Guyencourt and was able to snipe at the positions of A & C Coys causing casualties. As the enemy pushed forward and the British retreated A & C Coy became isolated. At Roucy A Coy HQ was surrounded and taken prisoner. By late evening, with the enemy well established, a retirement was ordered and the battalion moved back to the high ground north of Montigny sur Vesle.
Very early on the morning of 28 April the enemy attacked again and drove the whole line back to the River Vesle where positions were taken up at about 9.30am. During this attack 4 guns under Second Lieutenant RJ Coleman fought to the last – none of his party returned, the last heard of the lieutenant was that he had been wounded in the hip but was still encouraging his gun crews. The battalion was now on the southern back of the River Vesle near to Jonchery. Here they held out for another 2 ½ hours before being forced back again, this time to a line between Branscourt and Serzy. The battalion now had only 4 serviceable guns. Over the 29 April no attacks came in the battalion sector but to the south the enemy had broken through and, early on 30 April had turned the flank forcing another withdrawal. By the 1 June the battalion was at Corribert.
Casualties were- KIA Officers 5 KIA, ORs 10: wounded 10 Officers (1 DoW), 120 ORs: and missing 5 Officers and 108 OR. Also lost were 59 MGs.
GOOGLE MAPS Satellite view centres on Muscourt, River Aisne to the north at Maizy.
References and Sources WAR DIARY – 25Bn MGC
B&O 1918 KO, Blucher-Yorck. South of River Aisne. 25 Bn MGC. 27-30 May 1918.