Albert SMITH
Rank: Private
Number: 36576
Unit: A Company, 11th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 27 March 1918
Age: 21
Cemetery: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France

Albert had been born in Manchester, the son of Robert and Annie. The family had moved to 29 Ernest Street, Cheadle, from where Albert had travelled to Stockport to enlist.

On 21 March 1918, the German Army launched a massive offensive against the British lines near the town of St Quentin. They had overwhelming numbers, of the order of 5:1, and over the coming days would drive the British back many miles. The activities of the 11th South Lancashires during the week are chronicled in detail by its commanding officer, Colonel Fenn, in the Battalion's War Diary.

The Battalion had been ordered to withdraw as soon as it became clear that an attack was imminent. This took place during the early morning of the 21st. By 3pm, the strength of the German attack was becoming clear and a further withdrawal was ordered. By 7.30pm, the Colonel was advised that the battalion was to be responsible for its own defence - effectively, they were on their own.  They withdrew further to a place known as Aviation Wood and dug in to prepare to be attacked and remained here throughout the 22nd.

Early on the morning of the 23rd, enemy machine gun fire could be heard and units withdrawing said that the whole British line was retreating. No orders were received so the Colonel withdrew the battalion still further. Later in the morning, he was ordered by a General to bring the Battalion back and reoccupy some half-dug trenches along a canal bank. This he did, but was unable to make any contact with units on the right or left of the position. During the afternoon, the enemy was seen, advancing on both sides of them. The South Lancashires again withdrew and were able to make contact with remnants of other units and, together they formed a defensive position on a railway line.

By early morning the next day, then enemy started to shell these positions and, again, troops were advancing on both sides, almost surrounding half the Battalion. They were only able to withdraw in relative safety because of the bravery of a small group of machine gunners who fought a rear guard action until they were killed or captured. Throughout the morning, Albert and his mates would have had to continually fight rear guard actions. By 1pm, the Battalion was withdrawn to reserve positions, where the men would have relative safety for the next two days. By now, they had withdrawn some 50 kilometres.

On the 27th, the enemy also reached this position and some units were again withdrawing. Colonel Fenn requested support on his left as the enemy had placed snipers there and could shoot into the Lancashires' positions. Instead, he received orders to also withdraw. They withdrew in conjunction with a neighbouring unit, each giving the other covering fire. At the rendezvous point, Colonel Fenn was met by a Colonel on horseback who told him the order to withdraw have been a mistake. The South Lancs. then went forward again with other units to occupy an old trench. They would hold this position until the following afternoon when they would again be compelled to retreat.

The Stockport Advertiser in its edition of 3 January 1919 carried a message from the family asking if any returning prisoners of war had news of Albert. However, he had not been taken prisoner, but his body was never found and identified and he is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial to the Missing.

   
           
   
     
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