Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
The First Battle of Morlancourt
France, 28 - 30 March 1918
First Morlancourt, an action on 28-30 March 1918 which took place largely in parallel with the fight at Dernancourt (q.v.) which lay less than three kilometres to the north. It was into the triangular peninsula between the River Ancre in the north and the River Somme in the south-upon which the right flank of the British Third Army and the left of the Fifth were respectively anchored - that the 3rd Australian Division under Major-General Sir John Monash was sent on 27 March. The positions initially occupied by Monash's troops, running from Méricourt to Sailly-le-Sec, lay about three kilometres behind those held by flanking formations, so shortly before noon the next day he was ordered to move forward about 2,000 metres to occupy the ridge-line overlooking Morlancourt from the west and thereby considerably straighten the line.
Advancing after 4.30 p.m.-the 10th Brigade on the left and 11th on the right - the 3rd Division enjoyed little support from artillery since few guns were yet in range. When strong resistance began to be encountered on the bare steep slopes from enemy machine-guns and artillery, progress was slowed and on the left eventually stopped after only 500 metres. Monash ordered the march to be resumed after dark, by which time a light drizzle was falling. The advance became stalled by Germans holding a copse in the centre, and on the extreme right troops sent to secure the village of Sailly-Laurette beside the Somme stumbled into an ambush by enemy outposts containing six or seven machine-guns and nearly 100 men were lost. All up, the day's activity had cost some 300 casualties.
Giving up hopes of an advance without effective artillery support, Monash ordered his batteries to take up new positions during
the remaining hours of darkness. The guns proceeded to hammer the obstacles encountered in the centre during 29 March, forcing the enemy to abandon these posts, and the Australian line began digging in on the forward slope of the spur-lines it now occupied. The 11th Brigade, holding the southern portion of the division's front, was forced to defend its ground when attacked at noon on 30 March by a fresh enemy division. The initial German deployment was stopped at heavy cost to the attacking troops, as was a second attempt two hours later and a third made about 4 p.m. The 11th Brigade easily held its positions, sustaining about 150 casualties. The enemy loss was several times that number, though nothing like some estimates which ran to 3,000-4,000 killed.
Australians on the ridge behind Morlancourt
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 139.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean (1937) The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Main German Offensive, 1918, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Citation: The First Battle of Morlancourt, France, 28 - 30 March 1918, Outline