As the Centenary unfolds, a range of newspaper and other records will appear here to give an idea of how the war was revealed at home primarily focused on Kent for our purposes .... fairly random. If you have other snippets to share, please let us know using the dedicated email account:
The war was still very much at stalemate across the Western Front. The Allies determined to break the German hold over Passchedaele (Passendale) standing over the beleaguered Ypres (Ieper). This phase of the war proved enormously costly to the Allies and their soldiers drawn from across the globe. It was not long before news of this ill-fated struggle emerged in local press.
The largest losses borne by Creekside parishes fell initially not to Lynsted Parish - thankfully spared - but to all the other parts of the Creekside Cluster across the period of the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres). - from 31st July to 10th November 1917.
On September 10 in the neighbourhood of Villeret, south of the Bapaume-Cambrai road, Northumberland troops extended their gains. They took another 400 years of German trench. During the day British aeroplanes bombed two enemy aerodromes near Cambrai and rest billets near Douai, and during the night dropped bombs on an aerodrome and search-lights near Courtrai. On September 11 heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy in British raids, 281 bombs being dropped on various targets. Among the objectives were two aerodromes south of Lille and two aerodromes and a large ammunition dump in the vicinity of Roulers. At night 89 bombs were dropped on railway stations and other objectives in the Courtrai area, making a total weight of over six tons during the twenty-four hours. Six miles to the north of Ypres the enemy attacked the British positions at Langemarck on a front of over a mile on September 13. The attack was preceded by a heavy bombardment. After fierce fighting the attack was repulsed with severe losses to the enemy. On the same day 80 bombs were dropped by British aeroplanes on the enemy’s billets east of Lens. On September 15 London troops took a strong point north of Inverness Copse. On September 16 from a height of 100 feet British airmen engaged 2,000 German infantry, who were scattered by machine gun fire. The Army and Navy Gazette reported on 22nd September.
Reported in The Army and Navy Gazette of 6th October: During September heavy fighting again took place south of the Ypres-Menin road. The enemy fought with great determination, but without success, to regain possession of the Tower Hamlets Ridge. In the course of the day three strong counter-attacks north of Tower Hamlets were completely repulsed by Durham troops. Repeated hostile attacks made further south compelled our, advanced troops to fall back slightly from part of the ground gained on September 21 in this area. The whole of the positions captured by the British were made secure on September 20. At dawn on September 23 an attack delivered by German storm troops north-east of Langemarck was completely repulsed, leaving 25 prisoners in our hand. English Rifle regiments then attacked in turn, and after sharp fighting captured a further potion of the German defence system in this neighbourhood with a number of prisoners. Under cover of the thick mist the enemy launched a powerful counter-attack at dawn on September 25th against the British positions on the ridge east of Ypres, between Tower Hamlets and Polygon Wood. At two points the enemy succeeded in penetrating the British lines for short distances on narrow fronts. Fierce fighting continued during the morning, and at midday the enemy launched another heavy counter-attack. In spite of his efforts, the enemy was unable to make further progress, and early in the afternoon the British counter-attacks drove his troops from positions into which they had entered. Sir Douglas Haig won another great success on September 26. Early in the morning the British advanced on a six-mile front east of Ypres from Tower Hamlets Ridge to a point east of Sr. Julian. The ground was bitterly contested, and a series of heavy counter-attacks still continued at certain points at night. On the south the capture of the Tower Hamlets spur was completed. To the north of this the British were obstinately resisted, and only accomplished their task towards the close of the day. The main attack, in the centre – the clearing of Polygon Wood and the capture of the enemy trenches to the east of it – was carried out successfully by Australians. On their left English, Scottish and Welsh battalions went forward to the depth of nearly a mile and stormed Zonnebeke, and the British success was completed by an advance of North Midland and London Territorials towards Paschendaele. Over 1,000 German prisoners were taken, while the enemy’s losses, both in the British attack and in his counter-attacks were again heavy. All the positions east of Ypres which the British set out to take on September 26 were taken, and been held. Before the day closed seven powerful counter-attacks, the heaviest being north of the Ypres-Menin road and near Gravenstafel, were repulsed with heavy losses to the enemy. The Germans lost over 1,600 prisoners, including 48 officers. Our casualties were light. The report from British headquarters on September 30 announced the defeat of three determined German attacks in the Ypres region. During September 24-29 British airmen shot down 55 German aeroplanes and drove down 17 others. Twenty-four British machines did not return.
During 1917, through the competing navies, there continued the desire to disrupt and strangle supplies to fighting forces and demoralise home populations. 1917 saw significant losses of shipping that included civilian and hospital shipping following the earlier German implementation of a policy of "unrestricted submarine warfare". The German strategy made significant hardship for the civilian population at home. On 4th September, a German submarine bombarded Scarborough.
In the air
Having begun the war as a bit of a novelty, aircraft were by this time an essential weapon and intelligence resource. The number of crew needed increased and recruitment responded across the Empire. On the 2nd September, the Germans mounted their first aeroplane raid on England by moonlight by more than one aeroplane. On 4th September, a German attack in force on London at night.
Airmen from South Africa. Reported in the Army and Navy Gazette of 1st September 1917. "Almost from the start of the war there have been South Africans in the R.F.C., and they quickly proved their quality. Consequently Major A.N. Miller sent out to South Africa on a recruiting mission, which was so successful that he had 2,000 applications. Of these he could only nominate 400. Being picked men they gave as good an account of themselves as the 100 of their fellow South Africans already in the R.F.C., and so Major Miller is about to pay a second visit to the Union. This time he will be accompanied by Lieutenant Bagshaw, R.F.C., who is himself a native of the Cape Colony, and two aeroplanes, with which he will tour the country, giving flying exhibitions in pursuit of his mission. The scale on which he is to work may be gathered from the fact that he is given a free hand in obtaining cadets – at any rate where numbers are concerned – and he hopes to recruit 1,000 during his projected six months’ tour. South Africans are desirable recruits for the R.F.C., because the conditions of their life make for physical fitness and for the development of the hunter’s most valuable qualities, which are also essential to a good flyer. Many of the gold and diamond fields are equally valuable on the mechanical side of aeronautics."
Reported the following week in the Army and Navy Gazette:
THE AERIAL COMBAT - At the commencement of the war the question of fighting in the air was purely a matter of theory; many even of those who had carefully watched the evolution of both airship and aeroplane were of the decided opinion that the only object of the use of aircraft was to observe the enemy’s movements and dispositions and furnish reports to the responsible authorities with the least possible delay. They went so far as to say that it was the duty of an airman to avoid all unnecessary risk of losing his life or his machine by anti-aircraft fire in an aerial duel. They argued that unless be returned with the information he had been sent out to get, the whole object of his training and mission would be nullified, his own side would suffer by the loss of a trained observer and a valuable machine, and the enemy would be correspondingly the gainer.
It soon became obvious, however, that to prevent the enemy airmen from obtaining information was quite as important as to effect a successful reconnaissance, that in the air as on the ground information could not be got by either side without fighting for it, and that to allow the opposing artillery-spotters to carry out their work of observation unmolested resulted in lamentable loss of life from the enemy’s fire, besides having a demoralising effect on one’s own infantry. The bitter criticisms of the German infantry on their Air Service at times which have come to light are a proof of this, if any were wanted.
Then came the question of weapons. Curiously enough the Lewis gun did not come into immediate use, although it was fairly well known to the few who were interested in the military aspects of aeronautics for some time before the war and had been tentatively experimented with. Rifles of light weight, carbines, revolvers and automatic pistols were the usual weapons, but the improvements in detail of aircraft and the intense desire of the airmen to achieve better results for their own side soon brought machine-guns into play, more especially the synchronised weapon firing through the propeller, and aerial fighting began to develop into an accomplishment which had to be super-added to the essentials of airmanship, if an aviator was to act otherwise than in flying a machine for artillery observation, photography or bomb-dropping accompanied by an escort.
The aerial combat, whether in the form of duel or melee, now requires good marksmanship of a specialised kind, in addition to extraordinary skill and boldness in handling an aeroplane, and the latter must be designed for the purpose in order to have any chance of success. To send men up to fight without specialised training and in any but the best and most suitable machines for the purpose up to date, in the light of our present knowledge and experience, is a conscious, deliberate and useless sacrifice of life. As regards the comparative value of airmanship and marksmanship in overhead fighting, the position of affairs now is that, owing to the short range at which firing takes place, the ability to manoeuvre for position, the skill required in so controlling the aeroplane as to present as bad a target as possible to an adversary, and the quickness of decision and combative attributes generally necessary in fighting at close quarters are as important as fine marksmanship, judging distance, and the qualities generally which make for good shooting.
In future, however, it seems likely, with increased practice and special training, it will be possible to bring machine-guns and automatic or semi-automatic guns of larger calibre into action at much longer ranges with equal chance of hitting even such an indifferent mark as the vital parts of an aeroplane by successive bursts of fire, and then the value of good shooting will be paramount.”
THE NUMBER OF MILITARY COURTS ON PRISONERS OF WAR AND CIVILIANS, RECEIVED BY THE JUDGE-ADVOCATE-GENERAL, FROM 4TH AUGUST, 1914, TO 31ST MARCH, 1920, AMOUNTS TO 4,449, MADE UP AS FOLLOWS:-
|Period||Prisoners of war||Civilians||Total|
|4th August, 1914, to 30th September, 1914||-||-||-|
|1st October, 1914, to 30th September, 1915||92||126||218|
|1st October, 1915, to 30th September, 1916||173||134||307|
|1st October, 1916, to 30th September, 1917||283||137||420|
|1st October, 1917, to 30th September, 1918||1,245||151||1,396|
|1st October, 1918, to 30th September, 1919||1,480||52||1,532|
|1st October, 1919, to 30th September, 1920||569||7||576|
The results and percentages of these Trials are as follows:-
|Partially not confirmed||7||0.16|
Reported in the Army and Navy Gazette of 1st September. "FARM TRAINING FOR EX-SERVICE MEN
The Church Army is offering a three month’s course of training at its 750 acre farm in Essex, with the object of enabling men honourably discharged from either of the Services, partially disabled or otherwise, to earn their living as workers on the land. Even in cases where men do not intend to take up such work as a livelihood, a time spent on the land cannot fail to be beneficial to the, especially perhaps in the case of men suffering from shell-shock or nervous disorders. The Church Army’s man in charge of the farm is himself a practical farmer, and has had many years’ experience, with considerable success, in the training of men and lads on the farm fro emigration. Board, lodging, washing, &c, are provided during training and wages paid. While, of course, not pretending to turn men out as finished agriculturists in three months, the Church Army claims that men completing the course will able at once to take situations on farms at reasonable wages. We wish the scheme every success, both as a benefit tto the men who have done their duty to King and country, and as a method of helping forward the national food supply."
Reported in the Dundee Courier of 5th September 1917
THIRD SUCCESSIVE AIR RAID. GERMAN AIRMEN DROP BOMBS IN LONDON AREA. Considerable Number of Machines Take Part in Last Night’s Attack.
The field-Marshall Commanding-in-Chief Home Forces issued the following communique this morning:-
Enemy aeroplanes in considerable numbers crossed the South-East Coast shortly before 11 p.m. [4th September] and dropped bombs at a number of places.
Some of the machines reached the London district, where bombs were dropped shortly before midnight.
No reports of casualties or damage have been received as yet.
[Note.- This is the third successive aeroplane raid this week.)
NAVAL BARRACKS AT CHATHAM. BOMBED BY GERMAN AIRMEN. 107 Men Killed and 86 Injured.
Lord French yesterday issued the following report on Monday night’s raid by German aeroplanes:-
Last night’s raid was carried out by about six enemy aeroplanes, which proceeded up the south bank of the Thames estuary as far as Chatham.
Bombs were dropped on the Isle of Thanet and in the Sheerness-Chatham area between 10.40 and 11.30.
There were no army casualties. The civilian casualties reported at present are:- Killed, 1; injured, 6.
The material damage was slight.
Our machines went up, and anti-aircraft guns came into action, but without result.
The Admiralty announces:- In the course of the air raid last night the following casualties were caused to naval ratings:-
Note.- The number of persons killed in Monday night’s raid is second only to the total of deaths in the aeroplane raid on London on June 13 last, when 157 persons were killed. The total number of casualties – killed and injured – has only been exceeded on three occasions – the raid on Dover and Folkestone on May 25; the raid on London already referred to; and the recent raid on London on July 7, when four enemy machines were brought down.
COOLNESS OF OUR NAVYMEN. Bomb Drops on Sleeping Quarters.
The Press Association Chatham correspondent says:- The Sheerness-Chatham area was visited by hostile aircraft, presumably Gotha aeroplanes, about 11.30 on Monday night [3rd September].
Eight or ten bombs were dropped. One fell on a portion of the naval barracks, which was fitted with hammocks for sleeping.
One hundred and seven bluejackets were killed and 86 wounded, and it is feared some of the latter will not recover.
Two bombs which fell on open ground made large craters, but did no damage.
Another fell on a private residence. The occupant, Mr George Charles Longley, a local draper’s manager, had just gone out, leaving indoors his wife, who was writing a letter, his daughter, and niece. When he returned his house was non-existent, having been completely demolished by a bomb. Firemen searched among the debris, and rescued two young ladies bleeding from cuts on their faces, but apparently not seriously injured. Mrs Longley could not at first be found, and it was not until the wreckage had been removed that her body was recovered about 11.30 yesterday morning.
Another bomb wrecked a builder’s premises. A lad named Rose was injured in the leg by shrapnel, and two or three other persons received slight injuries. Hundreds of windows were broken in the Chatham area. No warning of the approach of the raider was given, and no one appears to have seen it. The droning of its engine, however, was distinctly heard.
The raid was assisted by a singular coincidence. Monday night had been selected for anti-aircraft practice, and because of that policemen were actually going through the streets advising people not to be alarmed when they heard the guns firing at the very moment the raider began his attack.
One explosion was much louder than all others, and this is believed to have been caused by the bomb that hit the barracks. The raid lasted only a few minutes.
Was It a Zepp?
A correspondent in another area says:- About 11 o’clock on Monday night the throbbing of an aircraft engine was distinctly heard. It is not known whether it proceeded from a Zeppelin or a Gotha aeroplane, but owing to the fact that the noise could be heard for at least ten minutes before the machine arrived and ten minutes after it passed over, it is possible that the vessel was an airship. It passed over the district as though making for a neighbouring coast town. No bombs were dropped on arrival, and about an hour afterwards the visitor was heard returning, making for North Foreland. A searchlight was turned on, but in the very bright moonlight it was impossible to discern anything by its aid.
Just before leaving the coast two bombs were dropped. One fell upon an empty house, and the other fell in the open. No personal injuries are reported. The roof of a school was seriously damaged, and consequently children did not assemble yesterday.
The funeral of the sailors takes place on Friday. Notwithstanding the appalling situation, the men in the barrack behaved with the greatest coolness, as though on the deck of their ship under normal conditions.
Immediate steps were taken to remove the wounded to hospital, and subsequently the bodies of the dead were removed to the mortuary.
The subject of the raid was mentioned last night at a meeting of Gillingham Town Council, when the Town Clerk stated that he understood that the omission to give warning was due to some telephone blunder.
Private, Stephen ROGERS, 1024057, 75th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (1st Central Ontario Regiment) (of Oare)
Reported in the Army and Navy Gazette of 8th September: "THE FLEETS – North Sea
A hostile submarine appeared off Scarborough about 6.15 p.m. on September 1 and fired 30 rounds, of which about half fell on land. Three persons were killed and five injured. Material damage was slight.
Enemy aeroplanes in considerable numbers crossed the South-East Coast shortly before 11 p.m. on September 1 and dropped bombs at a number of places. Some of the machines reached the London district, where forty bombs were dropped shortly before midnight. The total casualties reported are: Killed, 11; injured, 62. One enemy machine is reported to have been brought down in the sea off Sheerness.
On September 3 a raid was carried out by about six enemy aeroplanes, which proceeded up the south bank of the Thames Estuary as far as Chatham. Bombs were dropped in the Isle of Thanet and in the Sheerness-Chatham area between 10.10 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. There were no Army casualties; civilian casualties were: Killed, 1; injured, 6. Material damage was slight. British machines went up and anti-aircraft guns came into action, but without result. In the course of the raid the following casualties were caused to naval ratings: killed: Killed, 107; wounded, 86.
An enemy aeroplane crossed the East Kent coast at about 11.15 pm on September 2 and raided Dover. Seven bombs were dropped, killing one man and injuring slightly four women and two children.
The Admiralty reported that our light forces operating off the coast of Jutland on September 1 destroyed fur enemy mine-sweeping vessels.
A bombing raid by the Royal Naval Air Service was carried out on August 31 on Ghistelles aerodrome, about five miles south-east of Ostend. Several hits were made on the sheds in the south-west corner of the aerodrome, in which vicinity a fire was started. Bombs were also seen to explode on the adjoining Ostend-Thourout railway line. Many tons of explosives were dropped. All machines returned safely."
The Army and Navy Gazette of 6th October reported: English Channel.- The following are accounts of the shelling of torpedoed seamen while in open boats:-
"The schooner Jane Williamson, of Arklow, encountered a small German submarine off the coast of Cornwall at 4 o’clock in the afternoon of September 10. The submarine opened fire, shelling the schooner until she sank. Meanwhile her crew had taken to their boat, but the submarine, after sinking the schooner, turned her gun on the open boat. The shipwrecked crew were picked up a British trawler at 8 o’clock next morning. The master, the mate, and one seaman had been badly wounded, and the remaining three members of the crew lay dead at the bottom of the boat.
On September 11, at 6.45 a.m., the schooner William, of Dublin, was attacked by a “U” boat. After the schooner had been sunk by gunfire, her crew were fired on with shrapnel, one man being wounded."
Dover Express reported on Friday 14th September: "Among the thirty-seven officers included in the first batch of wounded prisoners of war from Switzerland who arrived in London on Tuesday [11th September], was Captain W.D. Johnson, of the 8th Battalion The Buffs, who was taken prisoner in October, 1915. Among the 362 men were Sergeant A. Bodiem, 2nd Burrs, Private H.J. Davidson, 8th Buffs, and Private H. Chandler, 8th Buffs."
Private, Frederick BACK, 613066, 1/19th (County of London) Battalion (St Pancras) (of Teynham)
The significance of this battle is put in context in a lengthy article from which this introduction is extracted. Gloucester Journal reported on 1st October 1927. TYNE COT MEMORIAL. The Empire’s Tribute to 35,000 “Missing” Men. ITS SIGNIFICANCE LOCALLY.
The presence of the King of the Belgians, coupled with the publicity and the impressive ceremonial which attended the unveiling of the Menin Gate Memorial to those 56,000 soldiers of the Empire who fell in the Ypres Salient between 13th August, 1914, and 15th August, 1917, and have no known graves, has somewhat overshadowed the importance of the complemental memorial at Tyne Cot Cemetery, on Passchendaele Ridge, to their 35,000 comrades-in-arms who laid down their lives under similar condition in the Salient between the commencement of the Battle of Passchendaele on the night of 15-16 August, 1917, and the end of the war. Nevertheless, to many districts and their local regiments the latter is as equally significant, and to some of even greater significance, inasmuch as it bears more names of their fallen; whilst the period covers the most desperate offensive fighting of the British Armies in Belgium, as Ypres itself represents their most stubborn resistance.
Percy Albert WILDISH, 57170, 9th Battalion Welch Regiment [Formerly, No. G/8674 9th Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)] (of Teynham)
26th September to 3rd October: Battle of Polygon Wood (Ypres)