Alfred Leonard MUIR
Rank: Private
Number: 12158
Unit: 17th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 22 March 1918
Cemetery: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France

Alfred was born in Manchester and enlisted there in the autumn of 1914, although he is recorded as living in Portslade, Sussex. He joined No. 12 Platoon "C" Company, 19th Manchesters - the fourth of the City's Pals Battalions.

He probably served with that unit until the Battalion was disbanded in February 1918. He will have seen action with them including on 1 July 1916 - the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when "C" Company was one of the leading battalions in the attack. Later in the month, on 23 July, the Battalion was involved in the attack on the village of Guillemont. They left their trenches at 3.40am in the face of heavy enemy fire.  "C" Company managed to enter the village but found itself effectively cut off as other units had been unable to make progress. Alfred will have been one of the few to escape. He will have also seen action at Arras and Passchendaele.

On 21 March 1918, the 17th Battalion was entrenched in defensive positions outside the village of Savy, near St Quentin. These positions were in what was known as the "battle zone", some two miles behind the front line and where any major enemy attack was expected to be stopped. At dawn, the Germans launched what was their first major offensive since the beginning of the war. They punched through the front line decimating the 16th Manchesters. By mid-afternoon, the enemy had reached the positions being held by Alfred and his Pals.

The next day, there were further German attacks, but the Battalion held firm. At about 4pm, there was a heavy bombardment, followed by an enemy attack. After heavy fighting, "B", "C" and "D" Companies were surrounded and out of ammunition. Many were taken prisoner. At about 5.15, the enemy attacked Battalion HQ and "A" Company at Goodman Redoubt, gaining a foothold. By 6.20, the Redoubt had been virtually surrounded and, again, no ammunition was left. Under heavy machine gun and artillery fire, the remaining men were able to retreat and retired to Bunny Hill, where they re-organised. However, due to the enemy closing in on both flanks, a further withdrawal took place.

Alfred was one of 73 members of the battalion who had been killed on 22 March. In the wholesale retreat that took place over the following days, the British lost all of the territory gained in the previous two years. It was impossible to make proper arrangements for the burial of the dead and many, like Alfred, have no known grave.

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