WWI Military Service Of Robert McRae Lockhart Regimental Number 134162 Royal Engineers

From D the patrol leader saw that the British held Saulcourt but it did not appear that the town was occupied in force. He noted that British outposts were stationed directly east of the town but did not appear to extend far to the southeast since he could locate no enemy near D. Having satisfied himself on these points he then moved his patrol to the small wood atE, taking great pains to avoid hostile observation. From E he saw only small British detachments along the southeast edge of Saulcourt but 600 yards west of the town he saw strong hostile forces digging in. Their south flank did not extend far beyond Saulcourt. The patrol leader immediately led his patrol back to the regiment. It had been gone two hours. The leader reported that Saulcourt was held by a British outpost that the mainline of resistance was 600 yards in rear and that there seemed to abe gap in the British defenses south of the town. Based on this report the division to which the 229th belonged attacked without delay making its main effort on the south. The attack succeeded with slight losses. March 23 The Coy moved at 4.30am and arrived at CLERY-SUR-SOMME at 2pm and camped. All stores for demolitions were overhanded to aRE officer of 39 th Divn for immediate use. Order received from CRE that all able bodied men less brakesmen were to report to Major Marsden R.E. of 126 Field Coy R.E. for duty. Order received from CRE about 3.30pm requiring 97 th 98 th and 126 th Field Coys toRE be amalgamated into 1 Coy to be known as 21 st Divn Coy R.E. Lacking reserves Goughs line soon gave way and by the evening of 23 March the Germans had advanced 19 kilometres (12 miles). Even after sunrise mist smoke and thick swathes of fog cloaked many sectors of the battlefront and obstructed the defenders observation and obscured their SOS signals. The British had only 28 divisions in the area that was attacked. Ludendorff had assembled 76 divisions to make the attack. At 9.40am following a further short intense barrage of the British forward lines the great mass of German infantry led by elite storm troops raced forward. Hidden from British machine-guns by fog and smoke they quickly overran the shocked troops of the outpost lines and pressed on picking their way round centres of resistance seeking always to move forward. “At 10am the barrage appeared to lift and the sentry shouted down the dugout that the enemy were in on our flanks and behind us. Iran up the dugout steps and already found the trench full of Germans. They were behind us and coming across our flanks… with the signallers and servants Sergeant Major and the wounded we surrendered. The Bosche were not at all rough and took us over without any roughness.” By late morning progress slowed as the attackers encountered stiffer fire of the British ‘redoubts and fortified positions of the ‘Battle Zone. But the overwhelming numbers could not beheld and from the south of Fifth Armys front came alarming reports of serious German breakthroughs. The British were forced out of their front line along most of the front and the Germans even broke through the second line of defence. The southern position worsened in the afternoon as it became clear that here the Fifth Army's Divisions (who were bearing the brunt of the attack) had suffered severe losses. By evening General Gough fearing the worst decided on a limited withdrawal during the night and issued orders to this effect just before 10pm. Sources: ?Soldiers Died in the Great War? Dalkeith Advertiser 1918
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