The 10th Essex at the battle of Irles in March 1917

Ruined houses in Irles, March 1917. Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

Ruined houses in Irles, March 1917. Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum - Credit: IWM

In the early months of 1917 the 10th Essex Regiment was active in the northern part of the extensive Somme battlefield.

In February, the enemy had begun withdrawing from parts of this region, and British forces occupied a number of villages without opposition.

The 10th Essex waited to see if the Germans would withdraw from the village of Irles, but by March 1 it was clear they would not give it up without a fight, probably because it lay on a spur of higher ground which gave them a significant advantage.

Resurrection Trench ran along the entire west side of Irles, and the 10th Essex occupied a part of it on the night of March 6.

On the eighth the Germans attacked throughout the day and drove them southwards down the trench.

It was imperative to remove the Germans from this trench by March 9 so it could be used for the general attack on Irles fixed for dawn on the 10th March.

At 2am Germans troops were spotted north west of Resurrection Trench and ‘B’ and ‘C’ companies of the 10th Essex drove them back with bombs and rifle fire.

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The 10th then controlled the trench ready for the general attack on Irles.

At 5.14am on March 10 ‘A’ and ‘D’ Companies attacked the village from the north end of the trench with other regiments attacking from positions on every side of the village.

An effective barrage protected the troops as they rushed the village.

In half an hour the village was wrested from the Germans, 60 of whom were killed and almost as many captured. British forces now controlled a new front line.

Two young men from Redbridge died during this action. Private Arthur Frederick Pankhurst of 29 Newbury Terrace, Ilford was born in 1897. He is the son of Julia Ellen née Crouch and Sylvan Aaron Pankhurst, a metropolitan police constable.

The other was Private Albert Andrews of Newbury Park born in 1887. He is the son of Ann née Chandler and Thomas Andrews, a farm labourer.

We commend the brave actions of these men who gave their lives in this significant conflict.