On night 21/22 The Battalion went into trenches across the SERRE SUCERIE Road.
On the 24th three officer patrols under Sec: Lieut's E. G. BIRBECK, C. HEATHER and G. H. TOMKINSON reconnoitred the whole German front line system of trenches between the triangle forward by the SERRE-SUCERIE Road and the SERHEB Road. They approached the outskirts of SERRE but were unable to enter owing to our own hostile artillery bombardment. This reconnaisance established the fact that the enemy had made a retirement. The results of the reconnaisance are contained in the accompanying report (Statement A).
During the afternoon a strong advanced post was established in the abandoned lines under Sec: Lieut: C. HEATHER with the view of capturing hostile patrols. On 25th in accordance with 91st Infantry Brigade Operation Order No. 63 of 24th February (copy attached marked B) the Battalion advanced on SERRE. Zero hour was fixed for 5 a.m. Owing to the late arrival of orders, Battalion Orders (see statement C) were not issued until 3 a.m. at which hour Company Commanders left Battalion Headquarters. Owing to the extensive front held by the Battalion, the very bad condition of the ground which was a mass of shell hole pools and mud and the darkness of the night the advance did not start until 6.35 a.m.
The Battalion advanced in the following formation:-
A & C. Companies front line. A Company to move through SERRE with C. Company on its right.
B. & D. Companies less 2 platoons Battalion Reserve. 2 Platoons D. Company were detailed to follow in rear of A. Company and clear dugouts in SERRE.
The 1st Battalion South Staffords co-operated on the right flank and were throughout the day in touch with C. Company. A telephone message received from 91st Infantry Brigade about 3.30 a.m. stated that the 19th Division would co-operate on the left flank. It appears that the 2/8th Gloucesters of that Division should have come up but though several patrols were sent out to search for them and obtain contact no sign of them was seen until 1.7. p.m. when C. Company of that Battalion arrived on the scene and was sent forward to RHINE Trench by Sec: Lieut: H. C. ELLIS (21st Manchesters). The officer commanding the Company however stated his objective was the SERHEB ROAD to which he retired. Late in the evening a Battalion of the NORTH STAFFORD Regiment 19th Division however came up.
The advance as above arranged for the 21st Battalion Manchester Regiment was carried out in a satisfactory manner and all objectives attained. C. Company reached its first objective on WING TRENCH at 9.10 a.m. without opposition. A. Company came under hostile artillery fire when in the centre of SERRE and in addition met with some slight resistance from a small but compact body of the enemy posted in the northern portion of the village from which they opened rifle and machine gun fire.
By 10.10 a.m. however, A. Company attained its final objective and came up on the left of C. Company across the SERRE-PUISIEUX Road. The absence of the 19th Division on the left flank left that flank exposed. B. Company was therefore sent forward to form a defensive flank beyond the Northern outskirts of SERRE. Two platoons of this Company plus the two platoons of D. Company (mopping up parties) already in the village formed a central reserve.
During the evening the Battalion was relieved by the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers and marched back to billets in MAILLY-MAILLET when it arrived at about 10.0 p.m.
The casualties were 1 Private killed and 5 other ranks wounded.
Five German prisoners were taken of these 3 were sent back under escort to MAILLY-MAILLET. Two others wounded were sent back through the South Staffords down WAGGON ROAD.
Owing to the extra-ordinary conditions of the ground the concentration and night march back to billets considerable physical endurance was demanded of the men and this was borne in a remarkably satisfactory manner no man except the casualties failing to return to billets.
A copy of reports received is attached and marked "D".
W. W. Norman
Colonel, Commanding 21st Bn. Mchr. Regt.
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