36th (Ulster) Division turns to block German Spring Offensive

Tue, 03/26/1918 - Wed, 03/27/1918
Route of 36th (Ulster) Division during Retreat of March 1918.
Route of 36th (Ulster) Division during Retreat of March 1918.

Following the successful German attacks on St Quentin on 21-24 March 1918, the British withdrew westwards and the French southwards with the result that a gap appeared in the Allied line on the morning of 26 March.

The only formations available to close this gap were the tired, battered and depleted 30th Division and the 36th (Ulster) Division. The 36th (Ulster) Division turned and attempted to take up a line from the River Avre, at L'Echelle St Aurin, to the Roye road north of Andechy. The right of the line was to be held by 109 Brigade, the left by 108 Brigade with 107 Brigade in reserve.
IWM Q24043
In 107 Brigade, the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles, together with the remnants of the 2nd Battalion and the 15th Battalion, tried to form a blocking position near Erches but the enemy broke through flanking units on the right and captured two other villages. The 2nd Battalion adjusted its position to cover the 1st Battalion's exposed right flank. At 0530 hours the next morning a ration party bringing food to the men of the 2nd Battalion entered the village of Erches in error; though charged by an enemy cavalry patrol, it escaped and successfully delivered its rations to the hungry Battalion.

Above left, a Private of the Royal Irish Rifles taken prisoner by the Germans:
© IWM (Q 24043).