Title - Accrington Pals | The Road to Armistice
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Armistice at Hoylake, 40k

Convalescing servicemen celebrating the Armistice at Hoylake. 15997 Pte. Arthur Robinson (11th and 1/5th Bns. East Lancs. Regt.) is fifth from left on the back row. Photograph by kind courtesy of Robert and Tony Robinson.


After the successful attack at Ploegsteert Wood on 28th September 1918, the 11th East Lancashire Regt. (Accrington Pals) was withdrawn to the old British front line on the night of 29th/30th. By dusk on 11th November, following the cessation of hostilities at 11am that morning, the battalion had pushed a further 43 miles (70km) eastwards to the River Dender at Geraardsbergen. The story of the final advance is told through the battalion's war diary (PRO document WO95/23581 [the Dutch-language equivalent of each placename is given in parenthesis].


HILL 63
PLOEGSTEERT
1/3.10.18

The battalion remained in Brigade support on Hill 63 with X, Y and Z Companies in large dugouts at Hyde Park Corner and W Company at Petit Monque Farm. Salvage and carrying parties were supplied.

 

3/4.10.18

The battalion relieved the 11th E. York Regt in C1 subsector (PLOEGSTEERT) with headquarters at the Convent. X, Y and Z Coys were in the front line and W Coy in support. The day and night were spent in patrolling the West bank of the LYS [Leie] and in attempts to cross. 2/Lieut RICHARDS succeeded in getting across a broken bridge in daylight and patrolling some distance on the east side.2 By night enemy machine guns prevented patrols from getting across and the enemy were obviously in considerable strength of machine guns on the west of the river.

 

NEUVE EGLISE
4/5.10.18

The battalion was relieved by the 15th W. York Regt and proceeded to camp at T.10.b.0.1. (near NEUVE EGLISE [Nieuwkerke]).

 

BAILLEUL
6.10.18

The 92nd Bde. moved into Divisional Reserve and the battalion proceeded to camp at S.23.a.3.5. (near BAILLEUL) taking over from the 12th R. Scotch Fusiliers.

 

6-12.10.18

The battalion carried out daily training. A 30 yards range was constructed near the camp for rifle & Lewis gun practice - Lieut Conway assumed command of W Coy on joining the battalion on the 8th inst.

 

PLOEGSTEERT
12/13.10.18

The battalion relieved the 12th Norfolk Regt in C1 subsector (PLOEGSTEERT) moving to HYDE PARK CORNER by light railway. W and Z Coys were in the front line and X and Y Coys in support - with battalion headquarters in LANCASHIRE SUPPORT FARM. An enemy withdrawal was expected and the LYS [Leie] was extensively patrolled and efforts made to cross and form bridgeheads.

 

13/14.10.18

W Coy withdrew into support, Z Company taking over the whole of the battalion frontage less 500 yards on the left which was taken over by the 10th E. York Regt. Patrols of Z Coy met considerable opposition, the enemy having strong machine gun posts at or near all bridges - Valuable information of the condition of bridges & the banks of the river and the position of enemy posts was obtained -

 

14/15.10.18

Patrolling continued but the enemy was still in strength on the East bank of the river - Enemy shelling continued which had been severe on company and battalion headquarters diminished and had practically ceased by 0900 on the 14th inst but throughout the night machine guns were active.

 

15.10.18

The orders in event of enemy withdrawal were that an advance should be made in two bounds, W and Z Coys making the first advance to a line East of FRELINGHIEN-DOULEMONT [Deulemont] and X and Y Coys passing through them to a line near the QUESNOY-COMMINES [Comines] railway. On the night of the 15/16th inst the enemy was very quiet and patrols formed bridgeheads on the west bank of the LYS [Leie] at PONT ROUGE and a swing bridge 500 yards further south.

 

16.10.18

The river was crossed by rafts. When these bridgeheads were established companies crossed the river and W and Z Coy obtained the first objective without opposition. X Coy passed through to the second objective on the left and W Coy on the right. The line near the QUESNOY-COMMINES [Comines] railway was established and W Coy were ordered to hold the line, X, Y and Z Coys being in support - Battalion headquarters moved to PONT ROUGE on the 16th inst and later to the ore Factory in QUESNOY - Rations were brought as far as the LYS [Leie] by limber and by pack mule across a foot bridge up to companies.

 

QUESNOY
17.10.18

The Brigade continued its advance, the battalion coming into Brigade support - The river DEULE which runs Eastward from the LYS [Leie] was crossed by duck board bridge which the battalion repaired by the use of large floats found near the bridge - The crossing was single file - All other bridges had been completely destroyed - The battalion then marched to an area in E10, E22 and E28a, companies being billeted in farms. The Brigade outpost line formed by the 10th E. York R was about 1000 yards east of this area - The same day Orders were received to move to BONDUES. This move was completed by 10pm. Battalion headquarters were at the Chateau du LASSERRE -

 

18.10.18

The battalion formed the advance guard of the Brigade advancing through TURCOING - The enemy had been reported clear of TURCOING but was thought to be considerably east of it. The C Battery 170 Bde R.F.A. and C Coy 31 Machine Gun Battalion were with the battalion under the command of Major L. H. Lewis D.S.O. M.C. The battalion left BONDUES at 5am and passed through the outpost line of the 10th E. York. Regt., W Coy formed the vanguard - No opposition was encountered in TOURCOING - The town was full of civilians who met the battalion with great enthusiasm. East of the town W, X, and Y companies advanced to their objectives (Z Company being in support) but met opposition east of WATTRELOS - The enemy began to shell WATTRELOS using some gas shells and there was considerable machine gun fire. Enemy resistance was gradually overcome and all companies attained their objectives - Battalion headquarters moved to the MAIRE WATTRELOS [Mairie Wattrelos] - Some prisoners were captured. The line established ran from HERSEAUX through A12 central to the canal in A29d and touch was maintained with flank units.

 

19.10.18

The 11th E York Regt formed the advance guard of the Brigade passing through the 11 E Lan. Regt in the morning of the 19th and the battalion withdrew to billets between TURCOING and WATTRELOS.

 

TOURCOING
19-25.10.18

The Brigade came into Divisional support on the 20th and the battalion remained at TURCOING. The inhabitants continued to show their appreciation of their relief from enemy control - Company and platoon training was carried out until the 25th when the Division was ordered to proceed north to relieve the 9th Division.

 

25.10.18

The battalion proceeded by road to CUERNE [Kuurne]. The Corps Commander expressed his great satisfaction with the turn out and discipline of the battalion on the march.

 

26.10.18

The battalion relieved the Scottish Rifles and R Scotch [Scots] Fusiliers in the line in the INGOYGHEM [Ingooigem] sector, W and Z Coys in the front line and X and Y Coys in support - The enemy was in great strength in machine guns and was very active in artillery fire - especially every morning from 4am to 7am. A large proportion of gas shells was used. Belgian civilians remained in their farms in many cases in the shelled area. The line of posts was advanced about 700 yards but the enemy maintained strong machine gun fire.

 

29-31.10.18

The battalion was relieved by the 12th R Scots Fusiliers and proceeded to billets in HARLEBEKE [Harelbeke].

Reinforcements during month:-
6 Offrs. 185 O.R.
Casualties
Killed 5 O.R.
Wounded 2 Offrs 2 Lt R. L. Moody T.F., 2 Lt M. T. Washbrook T.F., 57 O.R.

Map, 20k

HARLEBEKE
1.11.18

The battalion had moved from HARLEBEKE [Harelbeke] to billets near INGOYGHEM [Ingooigem] following up the advance of the 94th Brigade on the 31st inst, and cleared the battlefield capturing several prisoners & bringing in a considerable amount of material including 10 machine guns. The battalion moved back to billets at HARLEBEKE [Harelbeke] -

 

HALLVIN
3.11.18

The battalion moved to billets in HALLVIN -

 

KLOOSTERHOEK
7.11.18

The battalion moved to billets near KLOOSTERHOEK3 in close support to the 12th Yeo Bn. Norfolk Regt. W Company moved forward by night through the 12th Yeo Bn Norfolk Regt. and crossed the DEN RYT GRACTH CANAL at RUGEE with the object of establishing posts on the west bank of the ESCAUT [Schelde] - The condition of the ground was very bad and there was considerable hostile fire - Posts were established on the East bank of the DEN RYT GRACTH canal.

 

AVELGHEM
8/9.11.18

The battalion relieved the 12th Yeo Bn. Norfolk Regt at AVELGHEM [Avelgem], X Coy. on the right, Y Coy on the left, and Z Coy in support at BOSCH. Battalion headquarters were at DRIESCH. W Company carried out a successful minor operation under the support of artillery, machine guns, and trench mortars. They established a line of posts on the west bank of the ESCAUT [Schelde] -

 

L'ESCAUT
9.11.18

The 31st Division ordered an advance from the line of the railway running through P.11 Central - P.5.d - P.6.a - P.36.d - The battalion held the line of the railway. Information was received that the enemy were retiring and an attempt was made to cross the ESCAUT [Schelde] by the girders of a broken bridge. This was successful without opposition. Y Company crossed at RUGGE, X Coy by rafts at ESCANAFFLES - These companies advanced to the MT. de LENCLUS which was occupied by noon - The battalion received orders to halt and allow the 11th Bn E. Yorkshire Regt. to take up the advance - This battalion passed through and the 11th Bn E. Lancashire Regt. came into support in billets at AMOUGIES.

 

AMOUGIES
10.11.18

The brigade continued the advance, the 11th Bn E. Lancashire Regt. being in support - By night the brigade had reached a line on the high ground east of MONT de RHOOES and the 11th Bn E. Lancashire Regt. was billeted in QUESNAU -

 

QUESNAU
11.11.18

In the early morning orders were received with the information that the enemy had accepted the terms on which the Allied governments were prepared to grant an armistice and that hostilities would cease at 1100 hours - The battalion was ordered to take up a line of examining posts east of GEOFFEDINGE [Goeferdinge] with orders to allow no one to proceed further east and no one to come from the enemy's lines. Exceptions were allowed in the case of French troops and certain civilians. These posts were established by midnight4 -

 

Officers at Geraardsbergen (Grammont), 45k

Officers of the 11th Bn., East Lancashire Regt. at Geraardsbergen (Grammont) on 11th November 1918. Capt. John Shire Duff M.C. and Bar is standing in the centre at the front (on the Padre's left); Capt. Spencer Richard Fleischer D.S.O., M.C. is standing second from the right at the front. Photograph by kind courtesy of Jane Maclean.

Notes

  1. Crown copyright: The National Archives. This document may be copied and downloaded for personal and research use only. You must apply to The National Archives for permission for any other use. [back]
  2. For this daring reconnaissance, 2/Lt. George Pennington Richards and 15767 Sgt. Harry Pursglove were respectively awarded the Military Cross and the Distinguished Conduct Medal. [back]
  3. Kloosterhoek, a tiny hamlet 1½ miles (2½km) north-west of Avelgem. [back]
  4. According to 24799 Percy Crabtree, quoted in William Turner's "Accrington Pals Trail", the battalion was billeted at Bosstraat on the night of 10th/11th November. At 11am on the 11th, the battalion was still west of Everbeek. Shortly afterwards, the march eastwards was resumed, the battalion reaching the River Dender at Geraardsbergen before being withdrawn to the village of Goeferdinge. The regimental history also has the battalion at Bostraat on the night before the Armistice. [back]

    William Turner's "Accrington Pals Trail" is published by Pen & Sword Books 1998, ISBN 0850526361.

Email: andrew.jackson@btinternet.com

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