MONDAY, APRIL 17th

I made an eloquent appeal for Allen’s leave and he got it all right. Rain all night has taken the sting out of the air, and it’s a soft spring-like day, but moist and everything ‘lifty.’ The raid S.E. [south-east] of A_____ [Albert] was into 1st R.I.R. [1st Royal Irish Rifles] trenches, and they lost about 200, I learn, including some prisoners. It was the S. Wales Borderers [2nd Battalion, The South Wales Borderers] at Mary_____ [Mary Redan], casualties 86, so far as I can judge, seven 2nd Lieuts. wounded. A very intensive bombardment which flattened out the trench line. We go in, as I thought, Thursday.

The Lurgan handkerchiefs and candles have now come. Ricardo’s lot, not satisfied with their beating on Saturday, have challenged to play again today on their ground, and are sending over for the team. Find the old ladies can provide delicious fresh eggs. People seem to think the leave will re-open on 25th, which looks as if the Easter traffic theory was correct. I am sending Vanston, the new Capt. from 4th Battalion, to Army School for a month. Johnny Cook [sic] was very smiling; tell his father.


Footnote

The early part of this letter appears to be a clarification of a question posed by Blacker’s wife. The first raid referred to (which, in fact, occurred a mile north-east of Albert) was against 1st Royal Irish Rifles. It took place after a heavy gas and explosive barrage that began at 6.55 p.m. on 11 April. A forty-strong German raiding party then attacked resulting in 10 killed, 39 wounded and 28 missing, with most of the latter being captured. Although criticised for allowing the enemy such success, a later German account praised the Battalion’s defence and attributed the raiders’ success to the scale of the gas attack. For more detail see: Taylor, J W. (2002). The 1st Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War. Dublin: Four Courts Press. pp 71-73. 

The artillery barrage and raid on the position held by 2nd Battalion, The South Wales Borderers at Mary Redan, north-west of the sector held by 36th (Ulster) Division, took place at 9.00 p.m. on 6 April. Following a major barrage (estimates put the number of shells at over 8,000), which caused many casualties and destroyed trenches, dugouts and communication lines, the enemy attacked and took a number of prisoners. The attack was repulsed by a bombing party and at 10.30 p.m. the attackers withdrew. The barrage and raid resulted in 29 men killed, 36 wounded and 18 missing.

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