Published By Ben Hillidge
Somme. Noreuil. 1 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 21-22 March 1918
The 1 Bn KSLI was near to Quéant in the northern sector of the Kaiser Offensive front. They were in the trenches at Noreuil – 2 platoons from A,B & C Coys in the front line, behind, in Leeds and Bradford Reserve Trenches, were the other platoons with D Coy in support. The Kaiser Offensive, Operation Michael began at 5.00am 21 March 1917 with a heavy bombardment of gas and HE shells which fell on the front line and communication trenches. Both A and B Coys in the forward lines were shelled causing casualties but they held out. Communication with the forward area broke down at about 7.30am and nothing was heard until 8.00am when runners reported that the enemy had broken through on the left and right of the battalion and were in Noreuil and Langicourt. The runners also reported that the KSLI men were being forced back. The battalion HQ staff went forward to discover what was happening. The CO, Colonel Smith found D Company, the battalion reserves, already engaged, there was no news of A, B Companies nor of C Company in support. By 10am the situation was failing and a withdrawal was ordered. They retreated in the gap between the 2 villages aiming for Dunelm Avenue and the way back to Vaulx Trench (Haig Line). As they made their way they came under enfilade fire from Noreuil and Langicourt and they had to fight their way out, few were successful with many killed or missing. The remnants of the battalion – 55 in total- re grouped in Vaulx that evening where a defensive line was formed of mixed battalions.
The next day the enemy offensive continued. The enemy broke through at Bois de Vaulx. All available men were formed up in a defensive line in Vaulx Trench. The assault was held but to the left the enemy was fighting its way into Vaulx. At 2.30pm men were seen falling back to the south of the Baupame Road to the battalions right . The enemy was now occupying Vaulx and was advancing, again, threatening to cut the British off. Another withdrawal was ordered and the remains of the battalion fell back to the GHQ Line in the rear of Vraucourt. They remained here until 23 March when they were relieved and went into the reserve lines at Achiet le Grand. Casualties were 21 officers and 492 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.
Taken prisoner 21 March 1918 – Private 11488 Harry Wright, 1 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, DoW 5 April 1918, Cologne Southern Cemetery
GOOGLE MAPS Satellite view, centres on Noreuil.
References and Sources WAR DIARY 1 Bn KSLI. Regimental History KSLI.
B&O 1918. Kaiser Offensive. Operation Michael. Noreuil. 1 Bn KSLI. 21-22 March 1918.