- Name: Ernest Frederick BEAL
- D.O.B: 27th January, 1883
- D.O.A: 22nd March, 1918
- D.O.D: 22nd March, 1918
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Temporary Second Lieutenant, 13th Battalion Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment), 121st Brigade, 40th Division
East of Bapaume, France 21-23 March 1918
21-23 March 1918
The First World War 1918
On 21 March 1918 the Germans launched their Spring offensive against the section of Front manned by British Third and Fifth Armies running from Roeux on the River Scarpe east of Arras in the north to the River Oise west of La Fère in the south, as the crow flies a distance of about 50 miles, but over double that on the ground. 6th Corps held the British Line south of Arras. From the previous evening, German troops had begun probing British positions at this point. 13th Battalion Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) were in the line from St-Léger, just east of the road south from Arras to Bapaume, along the road south to Mory. It was here on the morning of 21 March 1918 that Temporary Second Lieutenant E F Beal gallantly repelled a German incursion, helping to stabilize the situation until he was killed. However, German pressure was relentless and the British were pushed back. As the enemy advanced steadily towards Bapaume, 1st Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment was moved to the north of Frémicourt, a village east of Bapaume and just south of the Cambrai road. 4th Corps was trying to hold a line between Vaulx and Morchies to the north of the road. It was for his gallantry in the fighting which followed that Acting Captain R F J Hayward was awarded the VC. The surviving Wiltshires, three officers and 54 NCOs and men, were gathered at Bihucourt, north-west of Bapaume, on 24 March. Hayward had been evacuated with the other wounded the night before. When the German offensive had opened on the 21st, 8th Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment mounted an unsuccessful counter-attack at Doignies to try and contain the enemy advance south of the Bapaume-Cambrai road. They were then withdrawn west to Vélu Wood. By the 23rd, the German advance had reached this point and the Glosters, together with 10th Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment (see Temporary Captain J R Gribble VC below), was ordered to cover the further withdrawal of British forces. It was in these actions that Temporary Captain M A James distinguished himself. Bapaume itself was abandoned to the Germans.
For most conspicuous bravery and determined leading when in command of a company detailed to occupy a certain section of trench. When the company was established, it was found that a considerable gap of about 400 yards existed between the left flank of the company and the neighbouring unit, and that this gap was strongly held by the enemy. It was of vital importance that the gap should be cleared, but no troops were then available. Organising a small party of less than a dozen men, he led them against the enemy. On reaching an enemy machine gun, 2nd Lt. Beal immediately sprang forward, and with his revolver killed the team and captured the gun. Continuing along the trench he encountered and dealt with another machine gun in the same manner, and in all captured four enemy guns, and inflicted severe casualties. Later in the evening, when a wounded man had been left in the open under heavy enemy fire, he, regardless of danger, walked up close to an enemy machine gun and brought in the wounded man on his back. 2nd Lt. Beal was killed by a shell on the following morning.