Lys Offensive - What They Wrote

"On April 9th, the anniversary of the great crisis at Arras, our stormtroopers rose from their muddy trenches on the Lys front from Armentieres to La Bassee. Of course they were not disposed in great waves, but mostly in small detachments and diminutive columns which waded through the morass which had been upheaved by shells and mines, and either picked their way towards the enemy lines between deep shell-holes filled with water or took the firm cause-ways. Under the protection of our artillery and trench mortar fire, they succeeded in getting forward quickly in spite of all the natural and artificial obstacles, although apparently neither the English nor the Portugese, who had been sandwiched in amongst them, believed it possible. Most of the Portugese left the battlefield in wild flight, and once and for all retired from the fighting in favour of the allies.

It must be admitted that our exploitation of the surprise and the Potugese failure met with the most serious obstacles in the nature of the ground. It was only with the greatest difficultythat a few ammunition wagons were brought forward behind the infantry. Yet the Lys was reached by the evening and even crossed at one point. … the next day … depite the fact that the enemy evacuated Armentieres progress became slower, it soon came to a stop on our left wing, while our attack in the direction of Hazebrouck was slowly being paralysed."
- German Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg

"Thus the first troops of the 34th Division to enter the general engagement were those who, almost up to that very moment, had formed the corps reserve, a rare tactical anomaly. Terrific fighting followed. On the 10th April the 11th Suffolks, having formed a defensive flank, beat off attack after attack. Twice the Germans broke through, but on one occasion the breach was closed by Captain Rodwell and his company, assisted by Major Wright.

At 3:20 p.m. Liut.-Colonel Tuck received orders to withdraw behind the Lys. Speaking on the telephone, the officer commanding the battalion next on the left, which was still in the front line, explained that he could not possibly get clear in less that two hours. Colonel Tuck replied that in these circumstances he would do his best to hold on until five o'clock. He did so; and though the casualties in those two hours were heavy, this noble imposition helped materially to save two brigades.

Thus without intermission the struggle continued. On the 14th Brig General R.C.Gore, C.B., C.M.G., who had commanded the 101st Brigade since it's arrival in France, was killed in action. He was succeeded by Brig General W.J.Woodcock, D.S.O. The next day the 59th Division having been overwhelmed, the 11th Battalion once more became part of the front line. On the night of the 17th-18th the Battalion was relieved, moving at first into reserve trenches and three days later back to Boeschepe."
- The Suffolk Regiment official history

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