Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
The Second Battle of Dernancourt
France, 5 April 1918
Second Dernancourt, took place on 5 April 1918 as a result of the renewed German offensive, in the same area as the first battle of this name. Following the successful defence along the River Ancre on 28 March, the British 35th Division's positions between Buire and Dernancourt had been taken over by the Australian 13th Brigade (Brig.-General William Glasgow), which came into line beside the 12th Brigade (Brig.-General John Gellibrand) holding between Dernancourt and Albert. Thus the bulk of the 4th Australian Division commanded by Major General Ewen Sinclair-Maclagan was here employed, the 4th Brigade still required to assist in the defence of Hébuterne (q.v.) fifteen kilometres to the north.
Soon after daylight, German artillery and mortar fire began falling on the 12th Brigade's forward posts along the railway line north of the river as well as supporting positions on a bare hill further back. Under cover of morning mist enemy infantry then succeeded in penetrating the Australian line, using a railway bridge just west of Dernancourt (where the fronts of the two brigades joined) to get behind the outposts lining the railway embankment. The breakthrough on the 12th Brigade's right flank extended as far as the support line and enabled the Germans, by bringing forward a field-gun, to threaten the brigade's left flank to the north. Faced with being enveloped otherwise, the 48th Battalion holding the northern part of the line pulled back shortly after noon. Although half surrounded, the unit ably and calmly extricated itself in a fighting withdrawal.
At 5.15 p.m. the reserves of both brigades launched a spirited counter-attack from behind the hill. Although the troops met intense fire as they advanced over the crest, they drove the Germans part of the way back down the hillside before being forced to halt. At this point, the action effectively ended. The under-strength 4th Division had just faced the strongest attack mounted against Australians in the war-an assault by two and a half German divisions. It had suffered 1,230 casualties, but inflicted between 1,300-1,600 upon the enemy. Arriving from Flanders on 7-8 April, the 2nd Australian Division took over the Dernancourt positions and relieved the 4th Division.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 141.
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 Second Battle of Dernancourt, France, 5 April 1918, Outline