19th Entrenching Battalion

St Quentin retreat

Entrenching battalions were mainly formed in February 1918 from the surplus of men left after the break-up of many infantry battalions . Their purpose was to hold reinforcements close to the front lines until units were out of the trenches and could receive them. The men in the Entrenching Battalions worked under direction of the Royal Engineers, usually repairing roads and improving defences. Men were all regarded as fit and ready to replace losses in fighting units at any time. The Entrenching Battalions all ceased to exist after May 1918.

1. The soldiers retained their own cap badges.
2. They were not necessarily posted back to battalions of their own regiments.

10th Battalion, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers had left 48 Brigade on 13 February 1918, and were officially disbanded two days later

The 19th Entrenching Battalion was located at St Christ, south of Peronne, where it assisted Canadien railway engineers to construct railway links to the front. The 19th Entrenching Battalion then fought during the Operatopn Michael Attack in March 1918.

21st March 1918

On the afternoon of 21st March the 19th Entrenching Battalion were moved by lorry along the congested roads from St Christ to Vraignes-en-Vermandois.

22nd March 1918

Having got to Vraignes-en-Vermandois, they were moved east to Vermand, reaching it at 1am and they took up a defensive position in front of the village. In the afternoon large numbers of Germans advanced, and the defenders inflicted heavy losses on the Germans. However the Germans decided to bypass the village, and at this point half the Battalion was withdrawn and the other half assigned to 24 Division. The battalion came under fire on the Vermand to Brie road during the day.

The Official History, France & Belgium 1918 has them marching to Vermand, where the battalion arrived at 1.45pm on 22nd. I think this should read 1.45am within the context of the retreat.

11th Hussars, 13/Middlesex (73rd Brigade) and 19th Entrenching Battalion covered the retirement. They fought a continuous rear-guard action, but the last parties did not leave their position until about 2pm., after the engineers had blown up three bridges over the Omignon ... "

23 March

19th Entrenching Battalion moved to Devise and arrived to dig in at 10am. Retreating British troops passed through their line, and eventually the Germans arrived, across open country, and preceeded by machine gunners. The Germans found a gap in the line left by retreating British troops, and as they risked being surrounded the 19th Entrenching Battalion withdrew to St Christ, and on back to Pressoir

The Official History, France & Belgium 1918 " ... Although the ground to be crossed was bare and flat, and the rear-guard battalions suffered from machine-gun and field-gun fire, all the troops passed through the Molignaux-Devise line, half-way to the river, by midday, and then three battalions attached to the 72nd Bde holding it as a rear-guard were ordered to withdraw. These units were the 24th Divisional Depot Battalion, the 19th Entrenching Battalion and 2 of the 3 companies of the 12/Sherwood Foresters (Pioneers). 1 They were only just in time ; for the enemy, working round the open right flank, reached the Somme south of Pargny almost as soon as they did and opened fire on them, although the Cavalry Brigade and two companies of the 1/Worcestershire (8th Division) had advanced across the river to Falvy to cover the withdrawal. ... " .

Name Leeburn, Hugh
Rank Private - Service No. 29474
Regiment "C" Company, 19th Entrenching Battalion, 10th Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Birth details  
Dates/Info Hugh was resident in Dublin and was gardener on the Duke of Leipsley's Estate, his parents resided at 63 Henderson Avenue, Cavehill Road, Belfast
Where buried MIA 23rd March 1918 -

26 March 1918

RDF Capt Robert Boyd was in charge of C Company 19th Entrenching Battalion, which was by now at Hattencourt. He was the only captain in the line here and was in charge of 4 companies, who were ordered to dig in 50 yards east of the town at 2am. They had just finished digging in when the Germans attacked at 6.30am.

Capt Boyd was ordered to hold the line at all costs, but at 7.15am was ordered to withdraw and join 16th (Irish) Division. 2 of his 4 companies had got away when Capt Boyd was knocked unconcious by shrapnel and taken prisoner.

27th March 1918

At 9am the 19th Entrenching Battalion counter-attacked and took back the village of Rouvroy-en-Santerre. But the Germans counter-attacked them and forced them back into old trenches just outside the village, with heavy casualties. There encountered a lot of enemy patrols during the night, and they also had the misfortune to be shelled by British artillery after dark.

28 March 1918

No information available

London Gazette of 13 Sep 1918 records MC awarded to T/Capt William Maunsell Calwell (10th RDF attached to 19th Entrenching Battalion). Capt Calwell died 27th April 1967 For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during lengthy operations. Finding his right flank in danger of being surrounded by the enemy, he, on his own initiative, took command of half a battalion, and, with great coolness, issued orders to cover the retreat of the threatened flank, being exposed the whole time to heavy shell, machine-gun,, and rifle fire. Later, he showed marked ability in withdrawing the battalion, which was in great danger of being cut off. Throughout the whole operations he set a fine example of courage, and inspired all ranks with confidence by his powers of leadership. He had been Gazetted Lt with effect from 4 Nov 1916

On 3 April 1918 19 Entrenching Battalion was ordered to pass its men to the 24th Division. The CO objected, stating that they would prefer an Irish Division. Hence it was absorbed by 16th Division, which it joined 4 April 1918.

Records show 3 men of 10th Battalion RDF were killed in action on 4th April

19th Entrenching Battalion disbanded 5 May 1918. Its troops went to 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers

Battalions in Royal Dublin Fusiliers