La Coulotte

The 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment 

23rd April 1917

La Coulotte

La Coulotte on a trench map. The 1st Battalion were given the task of capturing trenches between grid 1 and 2. Their first objective, Cyril Trench to the Lens-Arras railway line, can be seen.

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.


Captain John Christopher Frederick Magnay was born at Drayton on 30th December 1896 and was the son of the late Frederick and Annie Magnay. He was killed in action at La Coulotte on 23rd April 1917 and has no known grave being commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

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.  

Fernvil James Loveday 23 Apr17

Private 22798 Fernival Loveday who was killed in action on 23rd April 1917. He was 21 and the son of James and Amelia Loveday of Forncett St Peter. Fernival has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

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

La Coulotte MD

Part of the area in front of La Coulotte where the 1st Battalion advanced on 23rd April 1917. This area is where Cyril Trench was positioned.

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.

Richard Charles Howlett 23 Apr 17

Private 23600 Richard Howlett was born at Broome on 13th November 1896. He was educated at St. Mark’s and Thorpe Hamlet schools and was 20 when he died and was the son of John Thomas Howlett and Susanna Maria Howlett of Railway House Carrow Road in Norwich. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.





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