18th (Service) Battalion (3rd City) the Manchester Regiment
Part 3: The Battle of Arras, the Ypres Salient and the end of the Battalion
1st January 1917.
The Battalion was still in Brigade reserve at Bailleuval.
The Secretary of state for war, Earl of Derby inspected the battalion.
Battalion marched to Sus. St. Leger and remained there training until the end of the month.
February was a quiet month and the Battalion moved to Doullens, Halloy and Beaurepaire Farm on the Arras-Doullens Road.
The Battalion moved to Pommern
Marched to Monchiet and relieved the 18th Kings Liverpool’s in Brigade reserve
To Agny to relieve the 20th Kings Liverpool’s in the outpost line at
Neuville-Vitasse. The line was advanced about 500 yards the following day.
The tour lasted until the 29th and was particularly trying on account of the very severe frosts, snow and heavy rain to which the men were exposed without cover of any sort.
The Battalion was relieved by the 18th Kings Liverpool’s and marched to Basseux where it rested for the next few days.
The battalion relieved the 2nd Royal Scots in Brigade reserve in Madeleine Redoubt, west of Mercatel.
The battalion moved to trenches east of Ficheux.
The Battalion receives orders to occupy the old outpost line south of Mercatel.
A and C Companies were sent forward to reinforce the 19th Manchester’s in the line
The Battalion were ordered to cross the Cojeul River and move forward to the Hindenburg line.
At 9.00am 2 platoons of A company were ordered to join a company of the 16th Manchester’s and bomb their way along the line. The situation had changed from the previous day and the operation was cancelled. At 10.00am the Battalion, now under command of the 89th Brigade moved to the Hindenburg Line in the vicinity of Panther trench and was in position by 4.30pm. A minor bombing operation was undertaken by 2 platoons of D Company under 2Lt’s Truswell and Lindsay. Their objective was to bomb along an unmarked trench and if possible reach Nepal trench. The party moved off at 5.15pm and initially made some progress but owing to almost blizzard conditions and darkness the men withdrew.
The Commanding officer issued orders for the companies to be ready to move off and bomb down the Hindenburg line. A reconnaissance party went out and reported that the operation was likely to be difficult due to the state of the trenches. The men had also suffered greatly due to the cold and wet.
At 9.00am A company were the first away. Led by 2Lt Shirley, the men crossed the river under a barrage provided by the rifle grenadiers and the Lewis gun section. Advancing in the open, they reached the front line at Heninel trench. The sentry was killed by 2lt Shirley and 100yds further down the trench a number of enemy were attacked with bombs. The men continued to bomb their way along the trench and formed a block. 2Lt Shirley then sent back for more bombs and reinforcements. A party of about 30 Germans appeared in the trench and the Lewis gun team under 2Lt Lawrence inflicted a number of casualties and broke up the attack. C company under 2Lt Westphal were having a similar time and also had to contend with snipers. A platoon under 2Lt Smart was dispatched to deal with the danger. This was achieved and 2Lt Smart rejoined the company.
2Lt Westphal then established contact with 2Lt Shirley and resupplied him with bombs and ammunition. The reinforcements from C and D companies arrived and, as the opposition grew weaker the objective was taken.
Altogether, over 1,700 yards of trench were captured.
The Battalion was relieved at 6.00pm by the 20th Royal Fusiliers and marched to billets at Basseux.
The battalion was back in the line, relieving the 3rd London Regiment in the trenches North West of Neuville-Vitasse.
The Battalion was warned of an impending attack and at 11.00pm on the 22nd they moved off to the assembly positions in the vicinity of Heninel arriving at 3.00am.
At 9.30am C Company was ordered to reinforce the 16th Manchester’s and the remaining 3 companies moved to the old British front line. At 11.00am A and D Companies were called on to reinforce and came under command of the 16th Manchester’s and remained until 3.00pm. The other 3 battalion’s of the Brigade withdrew and the 18th took over the section of the line.
At 4.40pm the 18th in conjunction with the 19th Battalion were ordered to attack the blue line and at 6.00pm the advance towards the distant objective began. The leading wave of men kept close to the artillery barrage as they advanced and had hardly left the line when the enemy machine guns opened up from the front and both flanks.
The advance faltered due to a number of Officer Casualties but, after reorganisation, continued.
Led by Lt Watson and 2Lt Lawrence, the only officers remaining the Battalion reached the objective at 8.00pm. Almost immediately the two officers were wounded and the men, less than 100 strong were left to the direction of the NCO’s. Fierce fighting continued until around 9.00pm when the men, exhausted, out of bombs and ammunition were forced to withdraw. Between 9.30pm and midnight about 53 men, from all companies reached the old front line and the line was secured. Every Company Commander who took part in the attack became a casualty, although a few made it back to the lines.
The Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment and returned to the trenches South East of Neuville-Vitasse which they had previously occupied.
The casualties for the above actions were:
15 Officers and 346 other Ranks Killed, Wounded and missing.
The officers killed in the operation were:
2Lt’s Adshead, Gill, Eminton, Westphal, Wyatt, Duncan, Taylor, Doughty and Shirley.
The battalion marched to Arras, entrained for St Pol and marched to Billets in Croisette arriving on the 28th. Here it remained training, reorganising and refitting.
A draft of 148 men was received today and the Battalion marched to billets at Le Quesnoy. It spent the rest the rest of the month training and on the 31st moved to Lumbres.
The Battalion marched to Toronto camp at Brandhoek and remained there until the 14th when it relieved the 17th Manchester’s in the Hooge sector.
A patrol of 10 men led by 2Lt Smart reconnoitred no mans land with a view to constructing a forward trench. The nature of the ground and the thick undergrowth made the digging difficult but by the 3rd night a depth of 4ft had been achieved.
About 4.00am a hostile patrol attempted to enter the line but they were beaten back by rifle fire. Captain Cunliffe (The O.C of A Company) led a party of men over the parapet and took 4 prisoners including the NCO in charge. At 10.30pm the Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment and on completion, marched to Micmac camp.
22nd The Battalion moved to Nordanesques where it spent the rest of the month resting, training and providing work parties.
A draft of 141 men joined the Battalion.
The battalion moved to Dickebusch Huts.
During the first few days of the month the men were engaged on work and carrying parties or digging assembly trenches.
The divisional horse and band show was held at Nordanesques.
The Battalion left for Chateau Segard and arrived at 1.30am the next morning and provided work and carrying parties for the next few days.
The battalion relieved the 19th Kings Liverpool’s in the line. During the 29th and 30th the companies remained in the trenches and on the night of the 30th assembled in no mans land in readiness for the attack the next morning.
3rd Battle of Ypres
After the successful actions of the 7th June at Messines ridge it had been decided that a push across the Passchendaele ridge might cut through the German supply lines and on towards the Belgian coast. This would deny the enemy use of the Ports and U-Boat bases on the Flemish coast.
The 18th Battalion had been given the task of advancing through Sanctuary wood and capturing its final objective of the Blue line, east of Stirling Castle. Stirling castle was the remains of an old chateau which had been turned in to a fortified position surrounded by thick belts of barbed wire.
At 3.50am the 18th left their assembly trenches and advanced through Sanctuary wood. The resistance was strong and the artillery fire was heavy but the men pressed on and by 5.30am had secured their objective. The men tried to improve their positions and spent the rest of the day repulsing enemy counter attacks. Heavy rain began to fall at mid-day and continued for over 24 hours. The men suffered greatly in the deluge, none more so than the injured lying in the old no mans land. The stretcher bearers worked like Trojans bringing in the wounded. The conditions underfoot meant that it sometimes took 6 men to carry 1 stretcher.
Losses for the above actions were:
3 officers and 377 Men Killed, Wounded or Missing.
The men were still holding the positions east of Sanctuary wood that they had captured the previous day and at 11.00am they were relieved and reached Chateau Segard at 6.00pm.
The Battalion was moved by lorry to the area east of Steenvoorde.
The Battalion moved to frontier camp east of Berthen and was inspected on the 15th by the Commander of the 2nd Army, General Sir Herbert Plumer.
The Battalion left the Berthen district and moved to Parrain Farm camp in Divisional reserve.
The Battalion relieved the 16th Manchester’s in Brigade reserve in the Messines area.
The month of September was spent in and out of the trenches, providing work parties and hut building under the Royal Engineers.
The Commanding Officer, Lt Col Lembcke was admitted to hospital and Major T.J Kelly M.C assumed command.
The Battalion marched to Vroilandhoek camp where it remained for 3 days.
Major H.C.W Theobald assumes command. At 5.00pm the Battalion relieved the 19th Manchester’s in the front line at Kilo farm.
The battalion was relieved by the 2nd Royal Scots and went in to support.
The Battalion moved by bus to St Jean camp in the Ypres area where it remained until the 24th supplying work and carrying parties for the Canadians.
The Battalion was relieved by the 17th Sherwood Foresters and marched to Swan Chateau where it remained supplying work parties.
The Battalion relieved the 2nd Bedfordshire’s in the Polderhoek sector of the front line. At 2.00am on the 14th a message was received from Brigade HQ that the enemy was preparing an attack on the Battalion’s sector. The troops in the line were stood to and at 6.00am the attack began accompanied by a heavy trench mortar and artillery barrage. The German troops appeared on the wire some 30 to 50yards away and tried to bomb their way towards and along the trenches, but were beaten off. About 10.00am the battalion was reinforced by 2 companies of the 17th Manchester’s-about 70 in number- and between 4 and 5pm 2 companies of the 2nd Royal Scots also reinforced. About 8.00pm a counter attack took place and, although the enemy put up stiff resistance they were beaten back.
Bombing blocks were established and the battles continued all of the day. In the early hours of the 15th the men, greatly exhausted were replaced at the bombing blocks by the 2nd Royal Scots. At 8.00am the enemy had established themselves in shell holes only 20 yards in front of the front line. They were held at bay until the supply of bombs ran out and the men then fell back to the support trenches. It was decided that this position was to be evacuated and the line was established in a stronger position 100 yards to the rear.
Losses in the above actions were:
1 Officer and 119 Other ranks Killed, Wounded or Missing.
At 8.00pm the Battalion were relieved by the 2nd Royal Scots and the 18th moved back to Forester camp where they remained until the 16th.
18th – 21st
The Battalion were training and supplying work parties.
Christmas services were held and the rest of the day was treated as a holiday. Special Christmas dinners were provided for the men and a concert was given by the “Blue Birds”-the divisional concert troupe.
The Battalion relieved the 2nd Royal Scots in Brigade Reserve in Torr Top Tunnels.
The Battalion relieved the 17th Manchester’s astride the Menin road and remained there until the 30th.
The battalion was relieved by the 17th Kings Liverpool’s and marched back to Forrester camp.
1st January 1918
The battalion were still at Forrester camp training and re-fitting.
The Battalion entrained for billets at Ebblinghem.
Moved to Nesle arriving on the 14th. Whilst training here, a draft of 98 men joined.
The Battalion made a number of moves until the 29th when it relieved the 15th French Cavalry Regiment in the trenches in the Foret d’Epinios remaining here until the 9th February.
The Battalion were relieved by the 6th London Regiment and they marched back to billets at Chauny.
The Battalion marched to billets at Golancourt.
The Battalion marched to billets at Lanquevoisin.
The end of the Battalion.
The tremendous casualty list in the 1917 fighting had made some reorganisation of the Army necessary and it had been decided to adopt the German formation of 3 Battalions to a Brigade and 9 to a Division. The 18th Battalion were the most junior of the 90th Brigade and it fell to their lot to be disbanded.
On the 19th February amalgamation with the 17th Entrenching Battalion took place at Haute Allaines.
The 18th Battalion Manchester Regiment was no more, but the memory of the men and of the part they played will not die, and their colours bear silent witness for all time to the sacrifices which they made.
The surviving members of the Battalion were sent as drafts to other Regiments.
On the 1st July 1920 the Colours of the Pals Battalions were consecrated at the Regimental Depot in Ashton-Under-Lyne.
At noon the colours were paraded in Albert square, Manchester and paraded to the Cathedral followed by a large representative contingent of old members of the Battalion where they were delivered into the keeping of the Dean of the chapter, to be preserved with those of the other City Battalions.
The total Casualties for the 18th Battalion were
37 Officers and 654 Men Killed.
Of the survivors of the original pals few remained. Those that survived the disbandment were sent to other Regiments. Some died and are recorded in their new Battalions statistics.
Many of the pals were injured and were medically discharged, never returning to the Battalion.
The battalion were awarded the following honours:
1 Victoria Cross
2 Distinguished Service Orders
15 Military Crosses
11 Distinguished Conduct Medals
26 Military Medals
2 Meritorious Service Medals
1 Belgian Croix de Guerre to 10088 Sergeant Norman Banks.
The idea behind the inception of the “Pals” Battalions was originally a genuine attempt to recruit men who would fight along side each other and form a strong bond amongst the men. The problem was the men died together too. After the huge losses of the 1st July the idea was quickly dropped as few streets or workplaces were left unaffected.
After the war, the men formed Old Comrade Associations and continued to meet for many years and in 1966 a few remaining survivors made a final pilgrimage to the battlefields.
On 7th September 1993 a Blue plaque was unveiled at the gates of Heaton Park to commemorate the “Pals” early days at the park.
9871, Lance Corporal Joseph Henry Henshall, 3 Platoon, A Company, 18th (Service) (3rd City) Battalion the Manchester Regiment,
Killed in Action 28th August 1918 at Ligny-Thilloy serving with 1/5th Battalion Manchester Regiment.
Buried in Warlencourt British War Graves Cemetery.