Battle of the Lys (Hazebrouck)
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Situation at noon on 12th April 1918, 18k

By noon on the 12th, the situation had deteriorated still further as a result of confusion over where 92nd Brigade should make a stand; the 11th East Yorkshires - expected to extend the brigade line to the left along the Rau du Leet - continued to fall back as far as Merris where they eventually joined a composite battalion formed from brigade details. The yawning gap left between 92nd and 93rd Brigades made the line of the Rau du Leet completely untenable. As 93rd Brigade pulled back to the railway line east of Outtersteene, the 10th East Yorkshires swung around their left to face east. Orders received by the composite battalion of 92nd Brigade at 1.15pm to fill in the line along the railway between the left flank of the 10th East Yorkshires and 93rd Brigade were soon countermanded as it became clear that the enemy were already across the railway and in possession of Outtersteene. As machine gun fire swept over their exposed position along the railway line, the remnants of 93rd Brigade were now in danger of being enveloped from the right and were compelled to withdraw northwards.

Situation at 3pm on 12th April 1918, 17k

With the 10th East Yorkshires also in danger of being outflanked, 92nd Brigade was forced to withdraw at around 3.30pm. The East Lancashires - having earlier swung around their right so as to make contact with 29th Division - were now ordered back to form a line extending north-west from Labis Farm as far as the railway.

Right: Pte. James Wolfenden, killed in action with the 11th East Lancashires on 12th April 1918; James has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial. Photograph courtesy of Annelie Smith.

James Wolfenden

John Shire Duff For a time, "W" Company (Capt. John Duff) and "Z" Company (Capt. Spencer Fleischer) were left isolated as the runner carrying the orders to withdraw failed to reach them; fortunately a second runner, Pte. Charles Nutt, evaded the forward patrols of the enemy and succeeded in reaching the two companies before it was too late. Under exceptionally heavy fire, both officers successfully led their companies back to safety. Capt. Duff - wounded in the arm - was later evacuated due to loss of blood.

Left: John (Jack) Shire Duff. Photograph courtesy of Jane Maclean.

Charles Edwin Nutt M.M. Click to read transcript

Above left: 31542 Pte. Charles Edwin Nutt M.M., in the uniform of the Cheshire Regiment with which he had served previously. Charles was killed in action on 17th May 1918 and lies buried in Caestre Military Cemetery; Above right: The citation for the award of the Military Medal to Charles Nutt; the date on the citation should read 12th April 1918. [Transcript] Images courtesy of Charles' great-niece, Christine Rawson and her daughter, Pennie Cowley.

The brigade front was extended north of the railway by the 10th East Yorkshires and by the composite battalion, which by now was dug in west of Merris.

Situation at dusk on 12th April 1918, 15k

By 7pm the new line had been established, with forward posts held on the east edge of Celery Copse (Bois de Merris) by the East Lancashires and to the east of Merris by a company of a composite battalion formed from 93rd Brigade. The exhausted battalions took advantage of a relatively quiet night to strengthen their positions.

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