Monchy-le-Preux was one of the keys to the northern end of the Hindenburg Line.  Standing upon a spur of ground below the southern bank of the River Scarpe, it dominated the five miles of ground due east of the city of Arras.

 

The 8thEast Lancs and the 37th Division were part of VI Corps, within Third Army.  The Division was once more in reserve, its objective being to pass through the leading divisions, which were to attack on 9 April, and capture Monchy-le-Preux and the Green Line.  The battalion was in the field until 11 April, losing many casualties, yet contributing to the capture of Monchy-le-Preux.  The attack was supported by tanks and one of the last cavalry attacks in history.

                     

 

British cavalry and tanks on the battlefield in front of Monchy.

 

37th Division was transferred back to the trenches on 22 April. This time, they took up positions roughly three miles due north of Monchy-le-Preux and a mile south of Gavrelle.  They were opposite Greenland Hill, the capture of which was the Division’s objective.   About a mile due south of the East Lancashire positions, was the village of Roeux.  Gavrelle, Roeux and Greenland Hill, on the northern side of the River Scarpe, were all in German hands. Between 23 and 28 April, 8th East Lancs supported the attack on Greenland Hill.  The attacks failed because of enfilading fire from the 'Chemical Works' position in Roeux. 

 

 

 

The bold dark line is Hook Trench, the 'block' at its southern end marks the position where some of the 8th East Lancs began the assault.  The rest of the battalion 'jumped' off from Hill Trench, the next trench west of Hook.

 

 

On the night of 30-31 May, the unit having returned to Monchy, attempted to take hold of Hook Trench.  This night attack was at first successful, with the Lancastrians bombing their way through the block erected by the Germans in Tool Trench.  However, early in the morning of the 31st, the Germans counter attacked, pinching out the foothold gained by the battalion, which was forced to withdraw.  CSM James Fleming from Atherton won the DCM in covering the withdrawal.  The citation reads:

'For conspicuous gallentry to and devotion to duty during an attack upon enemy trenches.  He led his company with great courage and when finally a withdrawal was ordered he remained till the last to see that it was properly carried out.  he was three times wounded' 

Fleming would be awarded the Military Cross with the 11th East Lancs in June 1918.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17378

Lance-Sergeant

     'Jack' Barker

 

The 8th East Lancashire spent much of the early part of 1917 in the Loos sector.  A grim part of the line in an industrial landscape, dotted with slag heaps and mine workngs.

 

 

 

The last man to die, before the battalion left the Loos area for a prolonged period of training, was Lance-Sergeant Jack Barker, from Barnton in Cheshire.  At the outbreak of war he was employed in the production of glue with the Weaver Refining Company.

 

When in mid November 1914 the East Lancashires were once again recruiting in nearby Northwich, Jack went with his friend Fred Norrey to join up.  Fred, who lived four doors away from the Barkers, was also twenty three.   He had attended the same school and worked as a farm labourer. 

 

When the harvest was gathered in, the two hoped that they were going to join their many Barnton friends who had been recruited for the 7thEast Lancs.  Almost two platoons were formed from the local Brunner Mond chemical works in early September 1914.  It was not to be. 

 

Jack Barker was promoted to Lance-Corporal in early 1916, full corporal soon after the attack at Pozières and Lance-Sergeant after the assault on the Redan Ridge.  He went on leave early in 1917, bathing in the tin bath in the back yard on his arrival home, while his mother removed his lousy and filthy kit.  His commanding officer took up the story in a letter to his parents:

 

'It was on the night of February 27th that I took your son to erect wire entanglements.  We had just reached the place where we were to do the work, when a machine gun opened fire, and most unfortunately a bullet struck your son just below the heart.  The stretcher bearers were on the spot, but could do little for him.' 

 

He is buried in the Maroc British Cemetery, at Grenay, the last in a row of 8th Battalion soldiers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8th East Lancs

Dedicated to the men of the 8th (Service) Battalion,

East Lancashire Regiment in the Great War.