London Irish Rifles Association

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1918 - The final few months.

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May and June 1918 were spent in an out of the line south west of Albert. There was some enemy artillery and 2/Lieut Downes and twelve other ranks were killed during these two months. In June, each London Irish company had the pleasure of training a platoon of American soldiers in the line.On August 1st, the enemy withdrew east of the River Ancre and London Irish patrols were able to enter Albert during daylight. By 9th August, after many London Irish patrol attacks, few Germans remained in Albert.

A photograph exists in the Imperial War Museum of Lieut Colonel Neely and a patrol in front of the ruined cathedral.  A successful French offensive in July 1918 led to a British advance in August and the 47th Division became involved on August 22nd between Albert and the Somme. Some London Irish platoons advanced into the Happy Valley and succeeded in capturing 3 officers and 103 other ranks. The enemy counter attacked and recovered some ground but Colonel Neely led 50 men on 23rd August quietly behind the enemy and in a completely successful movement, they captured two officers, 65 other ranks and seven machine guns. The battalion remained in opposed positions all day on the 24th and suffered heavy shell fire, and were relieved the next day. Casualties had been severe, 34 other ranks killed and 7 officers and 170 other ranks wounded.

The advance continued on the 30th August to Maurepas and the next day at 530am towards Rancourt. Machine gun fire was heavy and the London Irish lost Captain Curling. Lieut Jones and twenty other ranks killed.

The London Irish moved forward again on 5th September across the Canal du Nord with orders to assault the village of Lieramont the next day, which was successful. On 10th September, the battalion left the Somme by train – forever. The days of trench warfare was over.    

After the summer battles on the Somme, the London Irish moved back to Raimbert with good billets known from a previous stay. Rumours of a change of front were current with Italy the favourite, but on the 3rd October, the battalion was back in the line south west of Laventie. They immediately advanced due east against a retreating enemy although opposition from machine guns and snipers caused casualties. A steady advance continued and on 28th October, the Battalion entered Lille as part of the 47th Division accompanying General Birdwood, commanding the 5th Army. From there, the London Irish crossed the L’Escault canal to reconnoitre. The enemy continued to withdraw but the battalion fired their last shot on 7th November as other units took up the pursuit. Unfortunately 2/Lieut Baxter was killed on this day.

When hostilities ceased, the battalion took part in the picqueting of the town of Tournai, then worked on the damaged Lille to Brussels railway for a few days.