Personal info

  • Name: Allan Ebenezer KER
  • D.O.B: 5th March, 1883
  • D.O.A: 21st March, 1918
  • D.O.D: 12th September, 1958
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion The Gordon Highlanders, attached 61st Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, 2nd Division
View On Interactive Map

Near St Quentin, France 21 March 1918

21 March 1918

More details about:
The First World War 1918 

On 21 March 1918, the first day of the German Spring offensive (see above), there was heavy fighting around the German held town of St Quentin, about twenty-five miles south-east of the VC actions near Bapaume. 8th Battalion The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regimentwas in the British Line at Le Verguier, about seven miles north-west of St Quentin. The German advance surrounded the village on three sides but, such was the strength of the resistance, it was not until the following day that they secured the village itself. It was here that Lance Corporal J W Sayer displayed great bravery in its defence. Four miles southwest of Le Verguier was Marteville. East of here and north-west of St Quentin 61st Division was in the line. Second Lieutenant J C Buchan, attached 1/8th Battalion (TF) Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, fought gallantly all day but his position was eventually overrun. In the same sector Lieutenant A E Ker and his men of 61st Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, though in a hopeless position, kept a significant force of the enemy engaged for three hours before they were forced to surrender. South of here the Front was manned by 30th Division. 16th Battalion The Manchester Regiment was in the line, a couple of miles due west of St Quentin, between the villages of Francilly-Selency and Savy. Just south of Francilly lay Manchester Hill with its Redoubt. As elsewhere, the forward positions were quickly overrun by the German advance and Manchester Redoubt was surrounded. However, Temporary Lieutenant Colonel W Elstob inspired his men to carry on resisting the enemy until he was killed during the final German assault at about 3.30pm. His last message to HQ was ‘Goodbye’. To the south-west of St Quentin 36th (Ulster) Division was in the line. When its forward positions were captured Second Lieutenant E de Wind, 15th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles, held out until 6pm at Racecourse Redoubt, on the St Quentin-Chauny railway, near Grugies, two miles south of St Quentin. The thirty or so men left in the garrison were taken prisoner soon after de Wind was killed. Five or so miles to the south, 18th Division was in the line west of the Oise Canal around Vendeuil. 10th Battalion The Essex Regiment was left holding on to positions at Caponne Farm and Moulin Farm, supported by two artillery batteries from 83rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, C and D, commanded by Captain Haybittel and Lieutenant Ellis. At 8pm Captain Haybittel ordered C Battery to withdraw. Gunner C E Stone was one in a party of six men detailed to provide protective cover. Haybittel and Ellis were both awarded the DSO for their actions. Along most of the front, the German offensive had swept over British positions and in the south the Germans had advanced as far as the Crozat Canal, which linked the Oise to the Somme.

Citation

 For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. On the 21st March, 1918, near St. Quentin, after a very heavy bombardment, the enemy penetrated our line, and the flank of the 61st Division became exposed. Lieutenant Ker with one Vickers gun succeeded in engaging the enemy’s infantry, approaching under cover of dead ground, and held up the attack, inflicting many casualties. He then sent back word to his Battalion Headquarters that he had determined to stop with his Sergeant and several men who had been badly wounded and fight until a counter-attack could be launched to relieve him. Just as ammunition failed his party were attacked from behind by the enemy with bombs, machine guns, and with the bayonet. Several bayonet attacks were delivered, but each time they were repulsed by Lieutenant Ker and his companions with their revolvers, the Vickers gun having by this time been destroyed. The wounded were collected into a small shelter, and it was decided to defend them to the last and to hold up the enemy as long as possible. In one of the many hand-to-hand encounters a German rifle and bayonet and a small supply of ammunition was secured, and subsequently used with good effect against the enemy. Although Lieutenant Ker was very exhausted from want of food and gas poisoning and from the supreme exertions he had made during ten hours of the most severe bombardment, fighting, and attending to the wounded, he refused to surrender until all his ammunition was exhausted and his position was rushed by large numbers of the enemy. His behaviour throughout the day was absolutely cool and fearless, and by his determination he was materially instrumental in engaging and holding up for three hours more than 500 of the enemy. 

Fourth Supplement to The London Gazette of 2 September 1919. 4 September 1919, Numb. 31536, p. 11205

Copyright © 2020 VC and GC Association. All Rights Reserved. Created by Glide.Design