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:
In February there were no losses in Kingsdown and Creekside Parishes. Winters were recognised by both sides as 'no go' so far as major trench warfare was concerned and certainly not for mobile fighting - that was left until March.
However, local raids continued, aeroplane activities abounded, aerial bombing and strafing as well as artillery duels kept each side in check. However, the Allies knew that German formations that had been liberated from the Russian Front, following the Russian Revolution, were finding their way to the Western Front. The Allies took this time to plan and prepare defensive lines and improved communication. The Allies continued to hope that the American military leaders could be persuaded fully to commit their forces to the Allied cause. The Americans were resisting any integration of military leadership. This process evolved through the winter months until March 21st 1918, when the dam broke and the Germans launched their 'final throw' with the Spring Offensive.
During the night of February 1-2 a party of Liverpool troops successfully raided the enemy’s trenches south-east of Armentières and brought back prisoners. West Riding troops carried out a successful daylight raid on February 2 south-east of Monchy-le-Preux and captured a few prisoners.
Aviation. British aeroplanes on January 28 carried out a large amount of work in conjunction with British artillery, and photographed the enemy’s distant aerodromes and lines of defence. During the day they dropped 400 bombs on various objectives, including Roulers, Menin, and an aerodrome near Tournai. Air fighting was continuous throughout the day, and resulted in two hostile machines being shot down and six others being driven down out of control. Three British machines are missing. During the night of January 28-29 British aeroplanes dropped over six and a half tons of bombs on the enemy’s billets, railway stations and trains, and two night-flying aerodromes near Ghent and Tournai. All the British machines returned from these bombing raids. On January 29 several reconnaissances of the enemy’s back areas were carried out. A great many photographs were taken. The enemy’s scouts were active east of the line, and made many attacks upon our machines. Eight hostile aeroplanes were brought down in air fighting and four others were driven down out of control. Three British aeroplanes were missing. Throughout the night of January 29-30 the enemy dropped bombs on our forward areas. On January 30 several long-distance reconnaissances were carried out by British aeroplanes. A hostile aerodrome south of Ghent, a large ammunition dump east of Roulers, and the railway sidings at Courtrai were heavily bombed by the British, and the enemy’s troops (sic) transport and batteries in action were fired at from the air. In air fighting four hostile machines were brought down and four others driven out of control. Another hostile machine was shot down by anti-aircraft gunfire. No British aeroplanes were missing. During the night of January 30-31 a few bombs were dropped by the enemy in the British forward areas. Nearly four tons of bombs were dropped by the British during February 2 on various targets, including the railway station and sidings at Valenciennes. Five hostile machines were brought down in air fighting and five others were driven down out of control. One British aeroplane was missing. On the night of February 2-3 the enemy’s aerodromes and billets were bombed by British machines.
Western Front. All the way from the Meuse to the sea the air services of the Allies and of the Germans have been showing a remarkable development of activity, seeing we are still so early in the season. In all the varieties of their work, bombing, spotting for artillery, reconnoitring, machine gun fire on columns marching and on convoys, photography, all parties have been using every suitable day and night to harry the enemy. Our communiqués seldom mention the German air raids on and immediately behind the front, but it must not be supposed that we have had a monopoly of damaging railway stations and aerodromes, or of disturbing billets, or of exploding ammunition dumps, or even of fusillading columns and convoys with aeroplane machine guns. Our troops have had their share of these exasperating attacks, but they know that their comrades in the air have been avenging them amply; and it is a far better revenge in every way than long-distance raids on open towns, as such. A definite goal like a munition works at Treves or a poison gas factory in Baden – that is quite another thing. But it is better to eliminate from among our enemies half a dozen soldiers at Courtrai than to make a mixed bag of a score of heads of men, women and children at Karlsruhe.
From the great activity just referred to we can pretend to no inference as to the date, even the approximate date, of the real opening of the 1918 campaign. Infantry raids have also been numerous on both sides, and so have, but to a less degree, bursts of really severe artillery fire. Of this latter activity the biggest manifestation has appeared on the Verdun front, between the Meuse and the Woevre. There is always, we may be sure, some reason in such phenomena; it is not likely the Germans fire off 50,000 shells in an hour on a five-mile front just because they happen to have that number spare. Sometimes bombardment of the kind may be done, followed or not immediately by a strong but "partial" attack of infantry, for the purpose of keeping enemy reserves in that neighbourhood, even of attracting reserves from other parts or from the interior. But when this is the aim we expect a consequential offensive by the enemy elsewhere, unless, indeed, we are at the time attacking elsewhere, and the enemy desires to check our attack by diversion. There was no appearance of this in the recent Verdun affair, which lasted several days in a desultory but fierce sort of way. Another possibility is one which has certainly happened more than once on our side, and is just as likely to happen to the Germans. Information is collected by the Staff through spies, prisoners, air service, captured documents, deserters, enemy newspapers. Being collated and studied by a skilled Intelligence Department in the field, it points (suppose) to the enemy being in the act of a large rearrangement of his forces in some sector. This may be a substantial exchange of divisions, or a large regrouping of the guns in new positions, or a real weakening of that sector by the removal, under urgent need elsewhere, of some of the best elements of troops and guns. Such information might easily lead, on our side as well as on the enemy’s. to a sudden effort where, under normal conditions, nothing would at that time have been done. According to a French officer, there is reason to believe that the recent German effort north of Verdun arose in this way. If this is so, nothing can be gleaned from it of the probable sector the German Command will select for the offensive, if the offensive is to come.
Some say that, if it is to come, it will appear in four places at once. A French writer chooses Lombartzde, Ypres, Lens, Alsace, but it is surely certain that some one sector, or at most two, will be the scene of the real thing.
A strong party of the enemy attempted to raid a British post on the morning of February 4 north of Havrincourt, but were met by machine-gun fire and driven off with heavy loss. Shortly before dawn another hostile raiding party rushed a British post south of Armentières. At night the British carried out successful raids south of Fleurbaix and in the neighbourhood of the Ypres-Standen Railway. On February 6 a number of prisoners were brought in by patrols on different parts of the front, and at night Liverpool troops carried out a successful raid east of Armentières., capturing several prisoners. Early on February 7 the British raided a German post south-east of Quéant, killing or taking prisoner several of the garrison. A hostile raiding party which attempted to approach the British lines west of La Bassée was successfully repulsed.
Successful raids were carried out by the British on the night of February 18 in three different sectors of the British front. Southeast of Épehy Irish troops entered the enemy’s trenches in the neighbourhood of Gillemont Farm and brought back a few prisoners. Another successful raid in which prisoners were captured by the British was carried out by Canadian troops south of Lens. Further north Lancashire, Border, and Yorkshire troops raided the German positions in the southern portion of Houthulst Forest on a wide front. A large number of the enemy were killed and 27 prisoners were captured by the British, whose casualties were slight. New Zealand troops carried out a successful raid early in the morning of February 21 east of Polygon Wood and captured a few prisoners. A successful raid was carried out on the night of February 22 by Scottish troops in the neighbourhood of Monchy-le-Preux, when the British captured a few prisoners. A hostile raid attempted early in the morning of February 23 against the British positions at hill 70 was repulsed with loss to the enemy. A raid attempted by the enemy on the night of February 23 in the neighbourhood of Broodseinde was repulsed, when 15 prisoners, including an officer, were captured by the British.
Aviation. On February 16, 14 enemy machines were brought down and seven others were driven down out of control. British anti-aircraft guns shot down two other hostile machines, one of them being a large one which was engaged in bombing and carried four men. This latter machine fell in the British lines and its four occupants were taken prisoners. Another German aeroplane, making the seventeenth accounted for during the day, in addition to those driven down out of control, landed near a British aerodrome, and its occupants were also taken prisoners. Five British aeroplanes were missing. During the night of February 16-17 British aeroplanes bombed hostile aerodromes in the neighbourhood of Ghent, Tournai, and Laon. The railway station at Conflans, 15 miles west of Metz, was also bombed. All the British machines returned. There was severe fighting in the air from February 17 to February 24, and raids were carried out south of Ghent, west of Tournai; at Conflans, west of Metz; at Treves, on the Moselle; at Thionville; north of Douai; near Courtrai; north-east of Lille; south-east of Cambrai; at Primäsens, in Germany; south-east of Le Cateau, and in the valley of the River Lys. The objectives were aerodromes, ammunition dumps, steel works or railway stations. In air fighting 40 hostile machines were brought down and 115 were driven down, while 13 British machines were missing.
From February 24 to March 2 there were many raids on either side. The following are the more important:
A successful raid, in which several casualties were inflicted on the enemy without loss to the British, was carried out on February 26 by Canadian troops at Lens. English troops carried out a successful raid on February 27 against the enemy’s trenches on Greenland Hill, north of the Scarpe River, capturing some prisoners. English and Scottish troops penetrated the enemy’s defences to a depth of 1,200 yards in the southern portion of Houthulst Forest and brought back a few prisoners and three machine-guns. In the month of February, 1918, the British captured 312 prisoners, including 16 officers, and also 20 machine-guns and one flammenwerfer. Raids were attempted by the enemy during the night of March 1 at several points. Two hostile raiding parties succeeded in entering the British lines in the St. Quentin sector. The British lost a few men. In a third raid attempted by the enemy in the neighbourhood of Hargicourt a few of his troops also succeeded in reaching the British trenches, where they were all killed or captured. After a heavy bombardment carried out on a front of 3,000 yards from Neuve Chapelle northwards a strong hostile raiding party attacked and entered the Portuguese foremost trenches. The enemy was promptly ejected by a counter-attack, which restored the situation.
Aviation. On February 25 British night bombing squadrons dropped a total of over 1,200 bombs in the course of the night. The targets chiefly attacked wee the aerodromes south of Ghent and west of Tournai used by the enemy’s night flying machines and other aerodromes in the neighbourhood of Courtrai. Hostile billets round Douai and east of St. Quentin were also heavily bombed, over 350 bombs being dropped in the latter area. All the British machines returned. On February 26 fighting in the air was severe, and many combats took place between the enemy’s scouts and our reconnaissance, bombing and fighting machines. During the night of February 26-27 over half a ton of bombs were dropped by the British on barracks and railway stations at Treves, four bursts being observed on furnaces in the gasworks and eight in the railway station. On the same night nearly one and a half tons of bombs were dropped on a hostile aerodrome near Metz, good bursts being observed in the hangars and hutments. All our machines returned safely, though fire from anti-aircraft guns and machine-guns was considerable.
The competing navies continued to disrupt and strangle supplies to fighting forces, demoralise and starve home populations. Submarines were evolving as instruments of war. We have recorded the loss [5th February] of the S.S. Tuscania as this was the first and only loss of U.S. troops under British protection.
15th February: Third German destroyer raid in Straits of Dover (night 15th/16th).
16th February: Dover shelled by German submarine.
26th February: British hospital ship "Glenart Castle" sunk by submarine in the Bristol Channel.
- none noted
- see "At Sea" above.
|Date||Locality||Civilian Casualties||Sailors and Soldiers|
|16th December 1914||Hartlepool, Scarborough* and Whitby||49||39||39||127||167||178||222||567||10||25|
|16th August 1915||Cumberland coast||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|25th April 1916||Yarmouth and Lowestoft||1||1||1||3||8||6||3||17||1||2|
|11th July 1916||Seaham Harbour||-||1||-||1||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|25th-26th January 1917||Southwold||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|25th-26th February 1917||Margate and Broadstairs||-||1||2||3||-||-||1||1||-||-|
|17th-18th March 1917||Ramsgate and Broadstairs||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|20th-21st April 1917||Dover and neighbourhood||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|26th-27th April 1917||Ramsgate, Broadstairs, &c.||1||1||-||2||1||2||-||3||-||-|
|4th September 1917||Scarborough||1||1||-||2||2||4||-||6||1||-|
|14th January 1918||Yarmouth||3||1||-||4||1||3||1||5||2||1|
|15th-16th February 1918||Dover||-||-||1||1||1||1||3||5||-||2|
Totals for warships
* In the case of 135 persons injured at Scarborough, the relative proportions of men, women and children are not known exactly. The best available estimate has been given.
On 5th February 1918, British S.S. "Tuscania," carrying United States troops, sunk by submarine off Irish coast. (The only loss sustained by U.S. transports when under British naval escort.)
Reported in the Daily Record of 8th February: "THE TORPEDOED TUSCANIA. America receives her first serious casualty list along with the news that the Tuscania, which was carrying United States troops, has been torpedoed off the Irish coast. Nearly two hundred men, eager for the part that they had been marked out to play under General Pershing, have been drowned, and, though bereft of the war honours which they coveted, their homeland will reverently regard them as having made the great sacrifice for the Cause which America has made her own.
The grief of our Allies can but strengthen their resolve; it cannot diminish their hopes of seeing their might in full action in the Field, since the Tuscania casualties, however deplorable, bear an absolutely negligible ratio to the vast number of troops, now occupying a section of the French line, who have been transferred across the Atlantic, despite the U-boats and their boast that if the united States Expeditionary Force landed to the extent of a few battalions it would be lucky.
On 9th February, the Western Daily Press reported more detail first published by the Admiralty: SAVED, 2,235; MISSING, 166. 126 BODIES RECOVERED. "The Secretary of the Admiralty communicates the following:-
The revised figures of the saved from the Tuscania show:-
UNITED STATES TROOPS.
Naval ratings ....2
Total saved ... 2,235
Survivors to the number of 148 were landed at a point in Scotland. Of these, 134 were United States military ranks, including seven officers, 10 crew, and three passengers.
One hundred and twenty-six bodies have been recovered, and are being buried.
These numbers may be revised again.
THE HEAVY LIST
A young officer stated: "When the smash occurred I ran on deck, gathering my men as best I could. The scene was indescribable. All was darkness, except for an electric torch here and there. The order to man the lifeboats had already been given, and men were working at the davits. There was great confusion for a time, and not everyone kept his head, but when the electric accumulators were again got to work and a bunch of flares lit the deck things soon settled down orderly. Many boats were useless owing to the heavy list of the sinking vessel. In one case a boat with 70 men aboard was being lowered when the blocks on the davits jammed at one end. As the other block worked all right all the men were thrown into the water.
"All had lifebelts on, the order for three days past having been to keep all lifebelts at hand. At first we were naturally agitated, because we had read of the ships going down in a few minutes, but we soon saw that the Tuscania was going down slowly, while the megaphones gave reassuring news that destroyers were at hand. The lifeboats continued to take off troops until the destroyers arrived. A few minutes after we left the Tuscania, a torpedo passed just ahead of her. We could see its track. The work of the destroyers was magnificent. It could not have been better. They were constantly in danger of being torpedoed while clearing the lifeboats. They carried on, however, and when they saw that they could save no more life they left the scene. It was thought well to make for different ports, and here I am among people who have overwhelmed us with kindness."
A narrative [9th February] from the Army and Navy Gazette turned attention to the plight of those men who had collapsed under the strain of their experiences.
"Of all the sad cases of men who have suffered in and through the war, none have aroused more real sympathy than those of the soldiers who have come home with shattered nerves. When we first began to hear of the number and degree of these cases and in some measure to realise the full extent of the injury which they had experienced, our sympathies were made keener on learning how little seemed to be known about the proper treatment of men suffering from shattered nerves, and we must all have felt horrified and ashamed at learning that in the first instance these men had been relegated to asylums. There was naturally a great outcry; it was stated, and the truth of the statement was acknowledged, that the proper treatment of such cases was not to be found in asylums, and since then much has been done to bring these men back to health again by better methods than at first obtained and amidst more congenial surroundings than had originally been regarded as requisite. The matter has now been carried further, and an appeal has lately appeared in the papers for the support of what is called “the Country Host Scheme for Nerve-Shattered Pensioners.”
Under this scheme the treatment of men is continued who have been discharged from hospital because no more could be done for them. They are boarded out in the country away from the noise of towns, the stir of great hospitals, and from the air raid area, and work is found for them on a farm or in a garden. Already many patients of this kind have resided with “Country Hosts,” and all have made excellent progress. More “hosts” are wanted for the nerve-shattered men who have done so much for us, and those willing to exercise this most useful form of hospitality or desiring further information should apply to the Hon. Secretary, Country Host Institution, 13, South Eaton Place, S.W.1."
Army Notes from the Army and Navy Gazette of 16th February: "Before Action. For many days past there have been indications that the enemy has been massing great numbers of troops and very many guns of large calibre against the Allies on the Western Front; reports reach us of vainglorious speeches attributed to German Commanders as to what they are about to do, and by what date their objects will have been achieved; everywhere along our front raids have been conducted with the object of gaining intelligence about the dispositions of the British, the French and the Belgians, and of testing the strength of the defence at all points; and there seems no doubt that so soon as the weather shows some signs of permanent improvement the Germans will stake everything upon one huge and desperate effort to obtain a final decision somewhere in the West. We have received many warnings as to the numbers by which such an offensive may be pressed, and many disparaging remarks have been made in quarters hitherto believed to be well informed as to the insufficiency of our numbers by which it may be opposed; but we believe that the peoples of the Allied nations may await the issue when the new great battle is joined with the same calmness, with equal confidence in the result, as do our splendid soldiers who look out from their entrenchments and await the final onset of Germany’s embattled manhood. The German Army has made more than one effort in the past to break the line upon the Western Front, and the attempts were made when we were infinitely less able to withstand them, to all appearance, than we are now. We beat back the Germans at the Second Battle of Ypres, and the French repelled them at Verdun. Since then we have made many attacks, have won back great areas of ground, almost everywhere do we now hold the heights, and the morale of our men is as high as ever, while they ask nothing better than that the German may play his last stake. We may believe, too, that we shall not be content to stand merely on the defensive, but that we have a leader who says, with Dr. Johnson, "Attack is the reaction. I never think I have hit hard unless it rebounds."
Enemy aircraft, writes a Dover correspondent, were in the district on Saturday night [16th February], and 14 bombs are reported to have been dropped, practically all falling on open ground.
Some of these bombs were dropped evidently without any idea of direction, the machine being in difficulties and the pilot having to drop all his load with the utmost speed in order to lighten the craft, which had been under heavy gunfire, to enable her to rise to a greater height. All the bombs fell in a small field. The engine of the machine which dropped the bombs had been heard very distinctly for some little time previously, and as the sound stopped almost immediately people in the district are strongly of opinion that the machine fell into the Channel.
A great many people also state that one of the enemy was struck by gunfire while passing over the cliffs was seen to catch fire, and descend rapidly in the Channel. There was loud cheering at this spectacle. From several eye-witnesses who saw the affair from various points, I learn that two searchlights from different angles picked up the aeroplane and held it, whilst it was heavily shelled, with the result stated. The guns were served splendidly on each occasion.
The raid occurred between 10 o’clock and half-past. The night was beautifully clear.
On Sunday night six or seven enemy aeroplanes came over, but again only one succeeded in penetrating into London. The first raider passed the Isle of Thanet about 9.45 and proceeded up the Thames Estuary in London, crossing the capital from south-east to north-west. Bombs were dropped in various districts. The remaining raiders, which attempted to reach London from the north-east, across Essex, or from the east, along the line of the River Thames, were all turned back. The casualties were:- Killed – 13 men, 3 women; total 16. Injured – 27 men, 10 women; total 37.
Reported by the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, on 23rd February: "Stephen Watson Hall, formerly landlord of the Red Lion Inn, Milsted, near Sittingbourne, applied for his discharge in bankruptcy, at the Rochester County Court on Wednesday [20th February]. The application was granted, but the discharge was suspended for the minimum of two years."
Reported by the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, on 23rd February: "The 2s. 8d. FLAT RATE. The Ministry of Food issued an order on Thursday night [21st February] dealing with the distribution of tea throughout the United Kingdom at a flat maximum retail price of 2s. 8d. a lb. under the new scheme. The tea, which is bought on Government account in India and Ceylon, is to be known as National Control Tea.
The first allotment of National Control Tea to the wholesale market will be made on February 18th, but as the clearing, bonding, blending, packing, and distribution of tea to retailers takes considerable time, it is expected that several weeks will elapse before every retailer has National Control Tea for sale.
Traders are to be allowed a reasonable time in which to dispose of their stocks of other teas at the prices allowed by the existing Tea (Provisional Prices) Orders, 1917. The time limit expires in England and Wales on March 18th, in Scotland on April 1st, and in Ireland on such date as the Feed Control Committee for Ireland may fix, subject to the directions of the Good Controller."
Reported by the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, on 23rd February: SHEERNESS MOTORIST ORDERED TO PAY DAMAGES FOR A COLLISION.
At the Faversham County Court on Friday [22nd February] before his Honour Judge Shortt, W.H. Sadler, assistant civil engineer in Sheerness Dockyard, was sued by Ernest Hills, grocer, Newnham, for £7 15s. 9d., damage to a trap and some eggs caused through a collision owing to defendant’s negligence. Mr. A.K. Mowll appeared for plaintiff, and Mr. Blome Jones represented the defendant.
Mr. Mowll, in opening his case mentioned that the claim was made up of two items, £5 15s. 9d. for the repair of the trap and £2 for the eggs which were spoilt. The facts were that on May 5th 1917, plaintiff’s daughter was driving, after picking up some eggs at Hockley, down a steep hill, and when within ten yards of the bottom of the road the motor car that defendant was driving came along in the opposite direction. Defendant tried to pass when he ought not to have done so and as a result the car struck the off wheel of the trap, knocking plaintiff’s daughter out as well as the eggs. He (Mr. Mowll) submitted that having regard to the fact that at the place of the accident the road was only 9ft. 8 inches wide, and the cart was 5ft. 8 inches wide, there must have been negligence on the part of defendant in not waiting till the girl got to the bottom of the road. On June 4th last year he (Mr Mowll) wrote to defendant, but received no reply, and as plaintiff could not get any satisfaction he brought those proceedings.
Plaintiff in the witness box admitted that he settled the account for the repairs to the trap by contra account and did not actually pay anything.
Gladys Mary Hills plaintiff’s daughter, stated that she had had four years’ experience of driving and it was a very quiet horse. She walked the horse down the hill. There was not room to pass and the car hit the spokes of the cart. She was thrown out and the eggs were smashed. She took the number of the car.
Cross-examined she said she first saw the car when it struck the cart. The car was not stopped 50 yards away; it was moving when it struck the cart. Her horse was under full control.
William Hargrave, photographer, Preston Street, stated that he took the photographs produced of the scene as reconstructed by Miss Hills.
Cross-examined he said two vehicles could not pass at the spot. If the car was stationary and the cart came on a collision was inevitable.
Defendant stated that he had his wife and daughter with him. He first saw the cart when it turned the corner at the top of the hill 400 yards away. He slowed down and stopped. The cart was then 50 yards away, but no attempt was made to stop it.
Cross-examined – He received the letter on June 4th, but did not answer it as he thought it was an attempt to extort money. He denied that he did not come to a stand-still until he struck the cart. He got out of the car and assisted Miss Hills up. He also lifted the cart up. He told her at the time that it was her fault through not stopping.
His Honour said it was a question whether defendant stopped in time. According to the evidence if he had stopped a little lower down, the road would have been wide enough for both to pass, but he went on and neither could pass in safety. Defendant said he stopped 50 yards away from the trap and therefore he must have seen it coming along, and could have backed into a wider space. By not doing so he was guilty of negligence, and there would be judgment for plaintiff for the amount claimed.