The 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment
23rd April 1917
After Vimy Ridge was captured by the Canadians on 9th April 1917, other units took over and by the 13th April the 5th Division relieved them and took over what had been taken. Hostilities were resumed here on 23rd April 1916 when the 15th Brigade were ordered to capture German positions in front of La Coulotte. The war diary records that the specific objectives for the 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment were Cyril Trench to the Lens-Railway line.
Zero Hour was at 4.45 a.m. and the infantry followed with the 1/Norfolks leading the way. The war diary notes that their battalion strength was 24 officers and 743 other ranks. To the right if the 15th Brigade was the 52nd Canadian Battalion. “A” and “C” Company lead the advance and “B” and “D” Company followed up in support. As the Norfolks got to the German trenches the enemy began to surrender but came under heavy fire from machine guns hidden in the railway cutting.
Both of the rear companies came up against uncut wire but the 1/Bedfords found a way in and began to bomb along the trench. Both the lead Norfolk companies got elements into the trench who also began bombing and they captured 4 machine guns.
‘The party of A & D Coy by bombing along the German front line captured 4 MGs and bombed 5 or 6 dugouts but were held up about T.1.D.7.8. by a German strong-point and could make no further progress. The 4 M.G.s captures were afterwards destroyed by a rifle grenade into the lock when it was found we could not withdraw them.’
From the war diary of the 1st Battalion
Other parties also got forward and into the second trench but came under fire from enfilading fire even though this trench was poorly manned. This is where Captain Frederick Magnay was killed and in a letter to his parents his C.O. stated,
‘He was killed when most gallantly leading his company into the German second line against heavy machine gun and shell fire. He was an officer of very great ability and promise, and had endeared himself to all ranks, his loss is very deeply felt.’
Frederick had been with the battalion since 1915 and 2nd Ypres.
The Norfolks came under artillery fire from 10 a.m. onward which lasted until 10 p.m. Eventually the rear companies were withdrawn to their original outposts. Failure here was put down to uncut wire.
This is confirmed in the war diary which notes,
‘I account for the failure of the attack to the uncut wire, even if only the artillery had cut two or three gaps in the wire where we could have got in the Germans would have surrendered, as on our reaching the wire, the occupants of the German front-line all held up their hands.’
Losses for the battalion were 7 officers killed and 8 wounded and 220 other ranks killed or wounded. This can be conformed as 64 killed, most of whom have no know grave and are commemorated on the Arras Memorial.