Published By Ben Hillidge
Somme. Metz-en-Coutere. 1/4 (Denbighshire) Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 21-25 March 1918
Metz-en-Coutere. 21-22 March 1918.
The 1/4 (Denbighshire) Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers were pioneer troops attached to 47 (London) Division – their main function was the construction of trenches and defences in the forward area rather than as fighting troops. The battalion had spent the days before Operation Michael in billets at Léchelle on the Somme and south east of Bapaume. On the opening day of the offensive, 21 March, they were ordered forward to occupy the village of Metz-en-Coutere (Map A) – mid way between Cambrai and Peronne.. The village was in the support area about 8-10kms behind the battle front. The battalion was dispersed with A Coy in the southern part of the village with B Coy on their left up to the Metz – Trescault Road, C Coy was in reserve in dug outs in the village. They set to improve the defences and dig themselves in and await orders. Although there was much shelling, casualties were light with 1 officer – Second Lieutenant JW Roberts (CWGC) from Llanfylin – and ORs, 1 KIA and 3 wounded.
By early next morning, 22 March, the withdrawal from the forward area had been competed. The enemy continued their offensive against the quickly reformed British lines. At 1.30pm the battalion was ordered to move to a new position on Dessart Ridge (Map B) along the road to Gouzeaucourt and centred on the Cemetery (Map C), A Coy to the right, B Coy to the left and C Coy in support. The move had been completed by 3.00pm and they set to work improving the defences. By late afternoon reports came that the enemy had broken through 9 Division to the south. Consequently preparations were made to also withdraw 47 Division. Casualties for the day were 1 officer and 7 ORs wounded and 6 ORs KIA.
Orders for the 47 Division to withdraw came at 6.30am on 23 March. 140 & 142 Brigades would retire first whilst 141 Brigade would cover the retreat. At 8.30am the 1/4 Bn RWF moved back a short distance to a point about 900 yards north of Fins. At this time too a party from the battalion, under Major Marshall, lost touch and was diverted to Neuville, here they formed a defence flank battalion. This soon became untenable and they withdrew to positions near to Vallulart Wood (Map D), The main body of the battalion moved back through Bus Rocquigny and to Le Transloy. Marshall’s party retired that night and would rejoin the battalion on 25 March. Casualties were second Lieutenant H Quicke and 3 ORs KIA. 3 officers (Captain CB Christopherson, Captain PR Foulkes-Roberts and Lieutenant EF Chettle) and 231 ORs wounded or missing
High Wood and Bazentin. 24 March
The hurried retreat continued on 24 March. The main body of the battalion left Le Transloy in the late afternoon and just the before the village was shelled and the enemy came on. They retreated back across the old battlefields of the Somme and onto the Albert-Bapaume Road arriving there in an exhausted condition. After a short halt they moved again and took up positions between High Wood and Bazentin le Grand. Casualties were 14 ORs wounded and 1 Officer (Lieutenant OP Blake) and 3 ORs taken prisoner.
By 25 March the battalion was holding a line between High Wood and Bazentin on the old Somme battleground. At about 2.30pm they retreated further to a new position about 800 yards east of Contalmaison. At this time Major Marshall returned and took over command. Casualties for the day were Captain Minshall, died of wounds, ORs, 2 missing, 5 wounded and 1 taken prisoner.
GOOGLE MAPS Metz-en-Coutere
1/4 Bn RWF, 21-25 March 1918. (National Archives)
6 April 1918
DETAILS TO COME
References & Sources WAR DIARY Ancestry 1 /4 Bn RWF.
B&O 1918. Kaiser Offensive. Operation Michael. Somme. 1/4 Bn RWF. 21-25 March 1918.