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 January there was only one loss in Creekside, from the Parish of Lynsted - Robert Stewart Clark, injured at Louverval on the Cambrai front, but died in Exeter Hospital. The winter months were broadly quiet for all combatants, although local raids continued, aeroplanes abounded, artillery duels kept each side in check. However, this seasonal break also saw a German transfer of numerous Brigades from the Eastern Front following the Russian Revolution and the cessation of hostilities there. The significance of this transfer was not lost on the Allies, who also took this time to plan and prepare defensive lines and improve communication. The Allies hoped that the American military leaders could be persuaded fully to commit their forces to the cause. 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. With so little happening on the ground, attention was given to the many aerial sorties now that aircraft were increasingly sophisticated, able to fly higher and faster and able to carry heavier payloads.
At dawn on January 5 (the day Robert Stewart/Stuart Clark died in hospital at Exeter) a strong local attack was made by the enemy against the British positions in the Hindenburg line east of Bullecourt. A small party of the enemy succeeded in occupying a sap in advance of the British front trenches. On the remainder of the front the enemy's attack was repulsed with loss before reaching the British positions. The British in the evening successfully attacked and recaptured the sap which the enemy had occupied during the morning east of Bullecourt. In aerial fighting from December 31 to January 6 seventeen hostile machines were brought down, six were driven down, and one was shot down. Eleven British machines were missing.
On January 8 in the morning bye enemy by a local attack, supported by flammenwerfer, succeeded in gaining a footing in the British trenches east of Bullecourt. A counter-attack delivered by British troops was completely successful in restoring the line. Eighteen of the enemy were captured. Early on January 10 British troops successfully raided at three different points the enemy's trenches south-east of Ypres, inflicting many casualties and capturing a few prisoners and two machine guns. On January 12 British troops successfully raided the enemy's trenches east of Loos capturing a few prisoners. On the same date three hostile raids against British trenches south of Lens were repulsed. An enemy raid attempted under cover of a heavy artillery barrage during the night east of Monchy was repulsed by rifle and machine-gun fire.
Aviation – On January 6 much successful work was accomplished by British aeroplanes in co-operation with artillery. A large number of photographs were taken, and 12,000 rounds were fired from machine-guns at hostile troops, transport, and other targets. Nearly three tons of bombs were dropped by our aeroplanes on different objectives. A number of fights took place in the air. On January 7 British machines dropped bombs on Roulers and Courtrai railway stations. On January 9 there was much activity in the air. A great deal of artillery work was accomplished and many photographs were taken. Bombs were dropped on the enemy's billets and hutments, and hostile troops in the trenches were repeatedly attacked with machine-gun fire from a low altitude. On January 10 British aeroplanes carried out a considerable amount of successful artillery work in spite of unfavourable weather. Ground targets were engaged with machine-gun fire, and nearly two tons of bombs were dropped on an ammunition depot in the vicinity of Courtrai and on other targets. On January 13 many bombs were dropped on the enemy's billets and hutments and several thousands of rounds fired into his trenches. From January 6 to 13 ten enemy machines were brought down and five were driven down. Seven British aeroplanes were missing.
On land there has been little of interest to record beyond affairs of outposts and small raids. On January 16 the British carried out a successful raid north of St. Quentin, and on the same date the enemy made several unsuccessful attempts to raid British trenches near Neuve Chapelle and south of Lens.
Aviation – On January 13 there was much useful work done in the air. The fine weather enabled photographic and artillery work to be carried out all day. Bombing and attacks with machine-gun fire from low altitudes were carried out incessantly, over 400 bombs being dropped on an ammunition dump near Roulers and on hostile billets, hutments and railway junctions. In combats seven hostile machines were brought down and three others were driven down out of control. British anti-aircraft fire forced another hostile machine to land intact behind our lines, the pilot being captured. Three British machines were missing. During the night British flying machines dropped bombs on Roulers and Menin; all machines returned safely. On January 14 British squadrons carried out a successful raid into Germany in daylight, their objective being the railway station and munition factories at Karlsruhe. One and a quarter tons of bombs were dropped with excellent results. All British machines returned safely. During the night of January 14-15 a raid was made on the steel works at Thionville, where a ton of bombs was dropped. A further half-ton of bombs was dropped on two railway junctions in the neighbourhood of Metz. All British machines returned. On January 18 three hostile machines were brought down by British aeroplanes and one by infantry, while another was driven down out of control by anti-aircraft gunfire. One British machine was missing. On January 19 over 300 bombs were dropped on miscellaneous targets, including a large ammunition dump near Courtrai, and several thousands of rounds fired at the enemy in their trenches by British low-flying aeroplanes. Five hostile machines were brought down and three driven down out of control. Four British machines were missing.
A small party of the enemy which endeavoured to approach the British positions early on January 23 west of Villers Guislain was dispersed by fire. Another hostile party succeeded in entering the British trenches north-west of La Bassée, but was ejected, leaving prisoners in the hands of the British. Later in the morning the enemy raided a British sap west of La Bassée.
Aviation. On January 20 good visibility enabled British aeroplanes to observe for the artillery all day and to take many photographs in the enemy's forward area. One hostile machine was brought down. All British machines returned. On January 21, at night, over 200 bombs were dropped on aerodromes in the neighbourhood of Courtrai and on the enemy's billets at Roulers and Rumbeke. Raids were also carried out into Germany, two tons of bombs being dropped on the steel works at Thionville, on the large railway sidings at Bensdorf (30 miles south-east of Metz), and on Arnaville railway junction just south of Metz. One British machine was unaccounted for. On January 22 nearly 400 bombs were dropped by the British on the enemy's billets at Roulers and Menin, on a large ammunition dump near Courtrai, and on other targets in the enemy's forward areas. Seven of the enemy's machines were brought down in air fighting and two others were driven down out of control. A hostile observation balloon was brought down in flames. Two British machines were missing. During the night of January 23-24 hostile aerodromes in the neighbourhood of Courtrai were again bombed by British machines, as well as an aerodrome north of Ghent, used by the enemy's night flying aeroplanes. All British aeroplanes returned. On January 24 over 300 bombs were dropped on Courtrai, Ledeghem, and Douai railway stations, on a hostile aerodrome near Courtrai, and on the enemy's billets west of Cambrai. In air fighting seven hostile machines were brought down and five others driven down out of control. Two British machines were missing. At night British machines bombed a German aerodrome north-east of Ghent, as well as other aerodromes near Courtrai and hostile billets round Roulers. In spite of a thick ground mist which rose after the British machines had left their aerodromes, all returned safely. Bombs were dropped on the factories of Mannheim on the Rhine, and also on the docks and on the town. The barracks and railway station of Treves, the steel works at Thionville, and the railway station at Saarbrucken and Overbillig, south-west of Treves, were also attacked. One British machine failed to return. On January 25 the railway sidings at Courtrai and the enemy's billets at Roulers were bombed, as well as other targets. Ten hostile aeroplanes were brought down and six others driven down out of control. One British machine was missing. Five of the enemy's large aerodromes in the neighbourhood of Ghent were bombed, and also billets in the vicinity of Douai. Over 160 bombs were dropped on a new hostile aerodrome west of Tournai. All British machines returned. On January 26 one hostile aeroplane was shot down by anti-aircraft gunfire. On January 27 the railway station and communications at Treves were successfully bombed by British machines, all of which returned safely.
The land fighting last week consisted of affairs of posts and small raids. Under cover of the thick fog the enemy raided a British post on January 31 in the neighbourhood of the Ypres-Staden railway. A few British troops were missing. Another hostile party which attempted at night to approach the British positions west of Gheluvelt was beaten off after fighting. During the month of January the British have captured 171 prisoners, including four officers, and also seven machine-guns and three trench mortars.
The competing navies continued to disrupt and strangle supplies to fighting forces, demoralise and starve home populations. Submarines were evolving as instruments of war.
“On January 14 Yarmouth was bombarded for the third time. A week later came a report from Aegean which seemed like an echo from the distant days at the beginning of the war. Early on the morning of January 20 the Goeben and Breslau passed down the Dardanelles to attack two British monitors lying in harbour at Imbros. The destroyers Lizard and Tigress engaged the enemy and hampered him by smoke screens, but they could do little against such antagonists. The monitors were soon sunk, but the Breslau immediately afterwards ran into a minefield and was destroyed. The Goeben was attacked by British aeroplanes, and in attempting to retreat also struck a mine. Four Turkish destroyers came down to her support but were driven up the Straits again by Lizard and Tigress. The Goeben, listing heavily, was run ashore in the Narrows, and the airmen had hopes of destroying her, but she was eventually patched up and brought back to Constantinople."
There is a lull on all the battle fronts. In spite of the the readjustments in Italy and Palestine the weather has imposed a sort of armistice on the combatants.
There is not much war in progress," writes Mr. Philip Gibbs, "except in the air, where on both sides planes are out trying to get photographs of the enemy lines, because, though the snow hides some things, it tells many secrets where it has melted above the dug-outs, and where tracks of feet go up to certain places, and where guns have been hidden by artful camouflage. War has called a truce because of the snow, except for bursts of artillery fire on both sides, as a demonstration of the mighty power of destruction which is waiting there on our side and theirs for the call to battle when the Spring comes." [From "The War in January 1918"]
The 14th January attack on Great Yarmouth, as locally reported, giving the German claims and Admiralty response is reproduced below.
British Captures and Losses in all theatres of war in 1917.
|Western Theatre||73,131||531||27,200 (approx)||166|
FORMATION AND GROWTH OF THE TANK CORPS
The “Tanks,” mainly with the object of keeping their existence a secret, originally formed part of the Machine-Gun Corps, under the title of “Machine-Gun Corps, Heavy Section.”
There is no specific date on which the formation took definite shape, but it was about 6th March, 1916.
The “Tanks” continued to form part of the Machine-Gun Corps until 27th July, 1917, when the Tank Corps was created by Royal Warrant.
Early in 1916 a Training Centre was established at Elveden. The first six Tank units were formed at Bisley and later moved to Elveden. The Tank unit at this time was the Company and it was not until the end of 1916 that the Corps was reorganized into battalions.
The first four Tank companies went to France in August, 1916, and were first used in action on the Somme on 15th September, 1916.
When it was realized that more Tank units would be required in France in 1917, more accommodation than was available at Elveden became necessary, and eventually the large Infantry camp at Bovington, Wool, in the county of Dorset, was selected as the future home of the Tanks in England. To this camp, in November, 1916, came the remaining one and a half companies of Tanks, one half company having been sent out to Egypt to assist in the operations in Palestine.
Intensive training commenced and five battalions and a Depot Battalion were formed.
At the same time the four companies in France expanded, with the aid of seasoned officers and men transferred from other units, into four battalions. These four battalions were concentrated in what afterwards became the Tank Corps Area, around the village of Bermicourt, some 5 or 6 miles from St. Pol.
From this time onwards, all units required were raised in England, and after about four months’ training were sent over to France. In this way four battalions were raised in the late spring of 1917, five more during the late summer and autumn and eight more during the winter of 1917-18. The last eight battalions, however, never went to France, as the Armistice was signed before they were ready.
Since the Armistice, the Tank battalions raised during the war have been slowly disbanded,, and of the two battalions (17th and 19th) that remained, the 19th was disbanded on 31st, and the 17th converted into the 5th Armoured Car Company.
"The New Year, 1918, was saluted by the British in the West with a tornado of fire directed against the German positions. The change of feeling from that which had existed earlier in the war is worthy of note; it marked the grim determination of the troops to fight the war out to the bitter end, a determination which left no room for even a momentary suspension of hostilities to usher in the New Year. The fire, however, was no splenetic outburst of pointless wrath, without definite aim, but was thrown against points carefully selected and no less carefully registered to ensure a due effect. The heavy guns sounded midnight with twelve simultaneous discharges of all pieces, one for each stroke of the clock, while the field batteries fired salvoes in the same manner. While the “heavies” used high-explosive shell the lighter guns swept the enemy’s trenches and the ground behind with shrapnel. The volume of fire was immense and naturally provoked some reply from the Germans, but nothing compared to what we had given the, and a good deal of their fire was in the shape of a protecting barrage in case our heavy artillery discharges portended an attack by the British infantry. But after a time, when nothing of the kind took place, the artillery fire gradually died down and then stopped altogether. The German report, after describing a mythical raid, which was, of course, duly repulsed, and noting an increase of British artillery fire at midnight, adds that there was nothing new to report from any theatre of war." [Source: Times History of the War, v.17]
Private, Robert Stewart CLARK, 245352, 2nd (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment, 17th Royal Fusiliers (of Lynsted)
Reported on 5th January 1918 - "A little while back we mentioned that Flight Sub-Lieut. V.G. Austen, R.N.A.S. (son of Mr. and Mrs. George Austen, of Teynham), was a prisoner of war in Germany (he had previously been reported missing). It seems that since last July, when he was captured, he has been in hospital at Cassel. He is now sufficiently recovered to be transferred to an officers’ camp at Halzminden. It appears he had a miraculous escape from death. He was over the German lines in his aeroplane during a terrific thunderstorm, and mainly owing to these conditions his machine was brought down by anti-aircraft guns, in flames and out of control. The machine dropped some 4,000 feet and Flight Sub-Lieut. Austen sustained severe burns, and concussion. He is only 18 years of age, but a most capable and dauntless pilot."
Reported in the Diss Express of 11th January: "His Majesty's Hospital Ship "Rewa" was torpedoed and sunk in the Bristol Channel about midnight on January 4th on her way home from Gibraltar.
All wounded were safely transferred to patrol vessels, and there were only three casualties among her crew, three Lascars being missing.
She was displaying all lights and markings required by the Hague Convention, and she was not, and had not been, within the so-called barred zone as delimited in the statement issued by the German Government."
Reported in the Yarmouth Independent of 26th January 1918:
"THIRD BOMBARDMENT OF YARMOUTH. THE GERMAN STORY. OUR ADMIRALTY’S ANSWER. VICAR’S REFERENCE. FUNERAL OF VICTIMS. MEMORIAL SERVICE.
The report of the bombardment of Yarmouth is fantastic. This is the story:-
On January 14th-15th light German naval forces undertook a raid through the southern part of the North Sea. They encountered neither enemy warships nor mercantile vessels, in spite of the fact that they advanced to the north of the mouth of the Thames, close to the English coast. There they subjected the important port establishments from close ranges, and under good conditions of visibility, effective artillery fire, over 300 shots being discharged.
(The Secretary of the British Admiralty makes the following announcement:- With reference to the above German wireless containing a glowing reference to the operations of their light naval forces on the night of the 14th inst., the actual facts are as follows: On the night of January 14th the town of Yarmouth, which is situated nearly 100 miles north of the mouth of the Thames, was subjected to bombardment from the seas. This bombardment in pitch dark lasted about five minutes, when the enemy craft withdrew. It resulted in the death of four persons and the wounding of eight others. Careful investigations has proved that approximately fifty small shells only fell in or near the town during the period, and that no other shells fell on any other part of our coast during that night.)
ARCHDEACON LISLE CARR ON THE RAID.
At the Parish Church on Sunday evening the Vicar, Archdeacon Lisle Carr, who preached, referred, after his sermon, to some happenings of the previous week in Yarmouth, especially the bombardment, and to previous attacks from sea and air. We should be, he earnestly said, very thankful that in all these no more than four persons belonging to the town lost their lives, and so little damage was done. By request of the Vicar, the congregation stood and recited the General Thanksgiving, including a special clause relating to Yarmouth.
MEMORIAL SERVICE AT MARINERS’ INSTITUTE.
A touching special service in memory of the two seamen, John Simpson and Thomas Prigent, who were victims of the explosion of a shell on a ship in the harbour, was held at the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society’s Institute, South Quay, on Sunday afternoon. Mr. Walker, of Withernsea, near Hull, owner of the vessel was present, and brought with him all the survivors of the crew who were able to attend. Mr. E.O. Billett, the Society’s local superintendent and missionary conducted the service, in which Mr. H.E. Barker, Organising Secretary for the Society in East Anglia, took part, and Mr. Walker have an impressive address. Mr. Billett also spoke in very sympathetic terms. Alderman T.W. Swindell, Chairman of the local Committee, and Miss Hate Burton, a member of the Committee, were present. Mr. Walker preached to a large congregation at the Institute on Sunday evening.
The funeral of Simpson has taken place at Middlesborough and that of Prigent at Hull, Mr. Billett, who has greatly interested himself in the matter, wired money to Middlesborough to enable Simpson’s father to come to Yarmouth in connection with the removal of the body of his son, Prigent’s wife also came. Both were, while here, guests of the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society, and were given railway tickets for the journey home.
Another seaman, who was injured in the shoulder by shrapnel and is in the Hospital, is progressing favourably.
An incident in October 1917 raised important questions about the legality of using aeroplanes for dropping propaganda pamphlets. On the 17th October a reconnaissance and photographic patrol of Bristol Fighters of No.11 Squadron became involved in a fight with ten enemy aircraft over Cambrai. Two of the Bristols were shot down, and the enemy discovered in one of them, piloted by Second Lieutenant E. Scholtz with Second Lieutenant H.C. Wookey as his observer, military propaganda documents, printed in German, descriptive of the happy lot of a German prisoner in British hands and designed to create a 'will to desert'. The two officers were taken to the German Second Army head-quarters at Le Cateau and there informed that the German Government had notified the Allies in April 1917 that the dropping of pamphlets was considered illegal and that airmen found guilty of the practice would be liable to the death penalty.
The officers were tried by a German Court Martial on the 1st of December 1917. The prosecutor asked for the death penalty for Second Lieutenant Wookey and for ten years' hard labour for Second Lieutenant Scholtz. The officers were found guilty, and each sentenced to ten years; penal servitude, the sentences being announced by German wireless on the 27th of January 1918 when it was stated that they had been passed 'on account of dropping enemy proclamations, in accordance with orders issued based on para 58, sub. Para.9 and with para. 160 of the Manual of Military Law.' [Source: "The War in The Air" by H.A. Jones]