The Australian Official History.

An extract from “The Australian Official History Of The Great War” for the 12th April.

The 29th Division and elements of the 31st this day fell back across the flats through Bleu, south of Outtersteene, to Vieux Berquin, Lieutenant-Colonel Forbes-Robertson of the 1st Border Regiment (an officer of outstanding energy and devotion) holding out during most of the day in the farmhouses at Bleu with the remnant of his and of another battalion, 150 men in all. He personally superintended the whole of his force, visiting farm after farm, giving orders and ascertaining the position on his flanks. At dusk he carried out the retirement to Vieux Berquin – the unpretentious village which together with Neuf Berquin, three miles south, and the poor hamlets connecting them, straggles beside the level road almost from Mont de Merris, on the spur in front of Hazebrouck, to Estaires on the Lys. In Vieux Berquin Forbes-Robertson found no one north of him, but south of him, in that village (“ the first cheering news that we had had for two clays ” ) , was the northern flank of the Irish Guards.

The 4th Guards Brigade had marched south from Strazeele in the small hours of April 12th, and, as a first step, had taken position between la Couronne, on the road from Vieux to Neuf Berquin, and L’Epinette Farm, two miles to the south-west, about two miles north of Merville.

At 11 o’clock Brigadier-General Butler was ordered to push his brigade forward beyond the little river Plate Becque to two hamlets; Pont Rondin and Vierhouck-half-a-mile or more ahead, where the 50th Division was supposed to be, and also to les Puresbecques, a mile from Herville. His two forward regiments, 3rd Coldstream and 4th Grenadier advanced with patrols ahead, but found no British troops anywhere. Instead, they were met with intense fire, and a gap opened between them. On the left the Grenadiers got into Pont Rondin, but from there could see Germans moving 1,000 yards behind their left flank. All day confused, independent fighting occurred among the scattered farmhouses, and by nightfall the brigade seems to have been forced back to the line occupied in the morning. The pioneer battalion of the 31st Division, the 12th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, some way to his left, north-east of la Couronne, had been placed under General Butler’s orders. It had to fling back a flank as the 29th Division retired. Many of the troops seem to have known that they were fighting to gain time and enable the Australians to come up.