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Arras Memorial, France Arras Memorial, France
First Name: Alfred Lawler Last Name: BARBER
Date of Death: 24/05/1916 Lived/Born In: Lewisham
Rank: Private Unit: London20
Memorial Site: Arras Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-26

17 Tyrwhitt Road, Brockley

On 19th May, 1916, 47th Division sidestepped to the south and took over the Berthental and Carency sector of the Vimy Ridge, just to the north of Arras. Their arrival here coincided with a German onslaught against these positions which for the first 2 days took the form of a barrage of large trench mortars or Minenwerfers, known to the British soldier as “minnies”. But the full force of the German army was not felt until the next day, 21st May, 1916. The trench mortars continued to batter the British line until midday and then, at 3pm, after a lull, there began an intense artillery bombardment of the front from Royal Avenue to Momber and Love craters, the positions held by 7th London and 8th London of 140 Brigade. For 50 yards to their left the trenches, held by 20th London of 141 Brigade were also bombarded.  This bombardment not only covered the front but all the back positions too, including billeting villages 7 to 8 miles back.  All agreed that never before had such a ferocious artillery barrage been seen.  The enemy had 80 batteries with unlimited ammunition, firing on just a 1800 yard front and the agony continued for 4 hours with 70,000 shells being fired.  The smoke and dust mixed with the tear gas shells caused so much confusion that the British artillery were unaware of the infantry assault which the Germans  launched at 7.45pm when the German artillery lifted and a mine was fired at the head of Royal Avenue.  A minute later the German infantry attacked but they were not seen until they were half way across no-man’s land, advancing in lines at 3 yard intervals with other lines behind carrying wire, timber and machine guns. The trenches held by 140 Brigade was soon in their hands. The attack on 20th London of  141 Brigade was not so dramatic and although some of the outposts that formed the front and part of the support line were lost, 20th London managed to form a defensive flank along communication trenches. However they had to endure a continual bombardment for 8 hours whilst they consolidated these new positions and sustained many casualties while doing so.

Until relieved on 25th May, 20th London remained in and near to these these positions, often under fire and making what efforts they could to recapture some of the ground lost on 21st May. But with the front and support lines to their right being completely in enemy hands, their position was precarious and little progress was made in this respect. The casualty list continued to climb and one name added to it was Alfred Barber who was killed in action on 24th May.

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