To the Last Man
Maj. Harrison Johnston took command. He recalled (To the Last Man, Spring 1918, Lyn MacDonald, p 249-250) how he was ordered to hold a frontage of about 1000 yards with the 150 men left under his command.
.... We got patrols out in front, and mounted our Lewis-guns in good positions and so on. Night had fallen now, and there was a strong hoar frost. I had no overcoat and felt the cold, but I had to walk up and down my line to keep the lads awake. If I sat down I slept too. ……. We lost fourteen officers and over 300 men in that day’s work, and we could see there was more coming, but everybody was splendid.
In the morning, 25 March, we were shelled heavily from dawn. At first we thought we were getting a few shorts from our own heavies, but it became evident very soon that the shells were Boche and that he was getting the range of our position accurately. Casualties increased, and it soon became evident that we could not stay. Our W Company, who had missed the previous days fighting, had come up to reinforce us during the night [they had remained to unload the train]. I therefore sent Milne with his whole company to take up a position on a high ridge and cover the retirement of the rest of the troops.
The retirement was orderly and our men were easily rallied outside the village of Maricourt. I am very sorry to say that these remarks do not apply to all units, and I was roped in to assist some staff officers in stopping the rot and making men return and reinforce our new position. Revolvers had to be produced, and it was extremely difficult to hold the mob.
The new position was a strong one, with a splendid field of fire. The enemy followed up quickly, and it was strange to see him moving up and occupying the position we had left. I saw some Boche approaching a hut I’d had my breakfast in. ….. We got a few Boche during the day, but they did not make a definite attack on our new position. At about 9 p.m. that night a Boche patrol of two officers and sixteen men met one of our patrols who were just going out. Our patrol was only half their strength, but our fellows killed nine and captured two of the other fellows.