Thanks to Mr Paul Greenwood, who wrote and gave us this text
No Divisional history has been written for the 21st Division, and this account, such as it is, has been gathered from individual recollections both at personal and at battalion level.
In common with the other divisions of the IXth British Corps, the 21st had been badly mauled in the March and April attacks, and had been sent with them to recuperate in the Aisne sector.
This sector had been quiet for some time, and conditions, especially compared with those of the Somme and the Lys, were unbelievably pleasant. Because of the state of the Division, the line was thinly held, and was not too well sited for defence, though the trenches were deep and the dug-outs well built
The Divisional sector was extended, and troops from the Leicester Regiment made up one of its three Brigades (the 110th). The Commander of one battalion, rather than spending the whole day touring his front, hit upon the expedient of riding along the lines on a donkey. Military discipline suffered something of a set-back when the animal, tugged and pushed across a plank bridge at one point, panicked and fell into the water complete with rider.
That was the end of that particular experiment. Indeed there would have been no time to repeat it in any case, for two captured Germans gave unwilling information there would be an offensive within 36 hours, preceded by a heavy bombardment of HE and gas.
The attack came on May 27th. A stream, a canal and woods divided the forward and rear elements on the Divisional front, preventing any mobility in defence. The canal, however, did form an obstacle to the attackers after the forward positions were overwhelmed (in most cases within minutes of the start of the offensive)
The 8th battalion of Leicester's were more fortunate than most in that two well-sited French 75s helped the defence throughout the day. Bt dusk the 110th Brigade HQ had ordered the 8th battalion to withdraw, who broke contact with the Germans and pulled back, only to find that the enemy had broken through on the left and were again in contact with the retreating troops, more than five miles behind the original front.
In the confusion, somehow darkness gave cover for fitful sleep and the retreat was resumed before daybreak.
Sometimes persistently attacked by enemy aircraft, and at one point coming under "friendly fire", the troops crossed the Marne some days later. By that time the Division had lost so many men that only one brigade could be formed from the remnants of the various battalions. For some few days, under the command of the French, a sector round Dormans was held, then the Division was pulled back to refit.
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