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Despatches from the Front ...

- 20th July 1918 - Account of the changed balance of power on the Western Front. Preparations to meet the German Offensive and the Allied withdrawal and the fight to a standstill that followed. The great defensive battles on the Somme and Lys Rivers.

All Despatches transcribed by the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society

Imperial War Museum War Partnership logoFirst World War - Home Front News & Snippets.....
July 1918

World War 1 soldier at rest

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:
Parish Records Contact Address


German Drives between March and June 1918The end game.

The German Spring Offensive was still progressing with a fourth German offensive between June 9th and 13th. The battle-lines had spread across a wider front than originally anticipated by the Allies and the reinforced German forces were driving hard against the Allies. The German Army had employed lightly equipped "attack troops" for rapid deployment and swift progress. This worked well until the supply-lines became over-stretched and losses became too severe to sustain.

As July arrived the Allied preparations in defensive training continued to take a toll on German attacks.

July continued to be bleak, even if the theatre had shifted. The momentum was with Germany.

Thankfully, for our Cluster of Parishes, there were no fatalities during July.

"The Army and Navy Gazette" summarised events on the British (Western) Front.

Western Front reported on 13th July

Western (British) Front. On July 2, after a heavy bombardment north-west of Albert, the enemy attacked and recaptured the greater part of the ground taken by the British in a minor operation on the evening of June 30. On July 4 the British carried out a successful operation between Villers Bretonneux and the Somme. The village of Hamel was captured, and the British line advanced to an average depth of 2,000 yards. The operations were carried out by Australian troops, assisted by American infantry, supported by tanks. The British also gained possession of the woods of Vaire and Hamel, as well as the village of Hamel. In conjunction with this operation an attack by Australian troops east of Ville-sur-Ancre was completely successful, and the British line was advanced 500 yards on a front of 1,200 yards. The prisoners captured by the British in these operations exceeded 1,500, including 40 officers; also over 100 machine-guns and a number of trench mortars were taken. A hostile counter-attack against the British new position east of Hamel at night was easily repulsed, a few prisoners being left with the British. On July 5 Australian troops advanced their line north-east of Villers Bretonneux on a front of 2,000 yards. On July 7 Australian troops advanced their line slightly on a front of 3,000 yards astride the Somme, capturing several prisoners. The enemy’s trenches were also entered east of Hazebrouck by Australian troops, a few prisoners being brought back.

Western (French) Front. On July 1 west of Chateau-Thierry a local operation executed by the French in conjunction with American troops improved the French positions on the front at Vaux-Hill 204. The village of Vaux and the heights to the west of it were captured by American troops. The number of prisoners taken in the course of this action exceeded 300, including five officers. Between the Oise and the Aisne on July 2 the French carried out a local operation north of the Moulin-sous-Touvent, when they captured the enemy positions on a front of nearly two miles and a depth of about half a mile, with 457 prisoners and 30 machine guns. West of Chateau-Thierry a hostile counter-attack in the region of Vaux failed. On July 3, north of Montdidier and between Montdidier and the Oise, and on the right bank of the Meuse the French made several raids and brought back prisoners. Between the Oise and the Aisne the French in the evening attacked the enemy lines west of Autreches on a front of a mile and a quarter, and made an advance of about half a mile. Later a new attack launched in the same region between Autreches and Moulin-sous-Touvent at the time when the enemy was preparing to counter-attack enabled the French to gain further ground. The total advance of the French, which extended on a front of three miles, reached at some points 1,500 yards in depth. The number of unwounded prisoners taken in the course of these actions was 1,066, including 18 officers. South of the Aisne the French on the morning of July 8 attacked the enemy positions at the approaches to the Reuz Forest, in the region to the north-west of Longpont, on a front of nearly two miles. The French advanced about 1,500 yards, and captured the Chavigny Farm and the ridges north and south of the farm. The number of unwounded prisoners taken was 347, including four officers.

Western Front reported on 20th July

Western (British) Front. On July 8 London troops carried out a successful raid east of Arras, capturing a few prisoners and a machine-gun. On July 9 the British advanced their line a short distance by a successful operation in the neighbourhood of Merris and captured some prisoners and nine machine-guns and two trench mortars. More prisoners were brought in during the day by British patrols on different parts of the front. On July 10 the British carried out successful raids, in which they captured 120 prisoners and ten machine-guns, in the neighbourhood of Merris and Festubert. The British positions east of Villers-Bretonneux were slightly improved during the night. A few prisoners were captured by the British north-east of Ypres without casualties. On July 11 Australian troops entered the German lines in the neighbourhood of Merris, penetrating to a considerable depth, and brought back over 70 prisoners and a number of machine-guns. A few prisoners were also taken by British patrols on other parts of the front. The British carried out a successful raid during the afternoon north-east of Merris. At night Welsh troops raided the German trenches in the vicinity of Hamel and captured 16 prisoners and a machine-gun, in addition to destroying many dugouts and inflicting casualties on the enemy. Successful raids were also carried out by the British near Meteren. Prisoners were taken by the British in these engagements, and also in patrol encounters in the neighbourhood of Gavrelle and in the Kemmel sector.

On July 12 English and Australian troops again carried out successful minor enterprises in the neighbourhood of Vieux Berquin and Merris, capturing 96 prisoners and a few machine-guns. The British casualties in the operations of the past two days in this sector were exceptionally light. During the night a party of English troops raided the German trenches north of Hamel and brought back 22 prisoners. By a local operation carried out on July 13 the British advanced their line east of Dickebusch Lake and captured 260 prisoners. The British operation on the morning of July 14 in the Dickebusch sector was undertaken on a front of about 2,000 yards in the neighbourhood of Ridge Wood, to capture a position of some local importance, possession of which had been frequently disputed since the enemy advance of April 25. The British attack appears to have taken the enemy by surprise and was completely successful. All objectives were gained and 328 prisoners were captured, in addition to a number of machine-guns and other material. The British casualties were light. During the night the British improved their positions slightly south of Villers Bretonneux and captured a few prisoners. Prisoners were also taken in a successful raid carried out by English troops in the neighbourhood of Ayette. In the morning of July 15 the British again advanced their line slightly in the neighbourhood of Villers-Bretonneux and drove off a party of the enemy which attacked a British post.

Western (French) Front. Between Montdidier and the Oise the French carried out, early in the morning of July 9, a local operation to the west of Autheuil, on a front of nearly two and a half miles. The French, supported by tanks, penetrated into the enemy’s lines, carried the Porte Farm and the Des Loges Farm, and advanced at certain points for over a mile. An enemy counter-attack on the Des Loges Farm was repulsed, the French holding all their gains. The number of prisoners captured amounted to 530, with 30 machine-guns. On July 10 the French gained possession of the village of Corcy and the railway station, and the Chateau of the farm of St. Paul, with about 50 prisoners. On July 12 the French carried out an attack on a front of over three miles, between Castel and the north of Mailly-Raineval, attaining all their objectives. The French captured the village of Castel, the Anchin Farm, and a number of strongly-organised spinneys, and made an advance in some places to a depth of about one and a quarter mile, capturing more than 500 prisoners. During the night, between Montdidier and the Oise, the French moved forward their advanced posts about 600 yards in the region of Porte Farm and carried out several raids north of the Avre, in the region of the Oise on the Marne, and in Champagne, capturing 600 prisoners and 80 machine-guns. In the morning of July 13 the French carried out a local attack to the north and south of Longpont. They advanced their positions towards the east, and in spite of the enemy’s resistance crossed the Savieres near the Catifet Farm, taking about 30 prisoners. Early in the morning of July 15, after a violent artillery preparation, the enemy attacked from Chateau Thierry to the Main de Massiges, on a front of about 50 miles. The battle continued throughout the day on both sides of Rheims with severity. To the west of Rheims there were struggles in the region of Reuilly-Courthiezy-Vassy, to the south of the Marne, which the enemy succeeded in crossing at some points between Fossoy and Dormans. A counter-attack by American troops drove back to the north bank some enemy detachments which had reached the southern bank to the west of Fossoy. Between Dormans and Rheims the Franco-Italian troops firmly held the line Chatillon-sur-Marne – Cuchery – Marfaux-Builly. To the east of Rheims the enemy attack which extended from Sillery to the Main de Massignes, was successfully opposed. The enemy renewed his efforts against Prunay and Les Marquises, in the regions to the north of Prosnes and Souain, and in spite of repeated attacks was not able to make a breach in the French line. West of Rheims on July 16 the enemy was held on most of the front, the Franco-American troops putting up a splendid defence south of the Marne. To the east of Rheims the enemy failed to make any real impression against the French. The enemy report the taking of the French first lines on the first day, but admit the situation remained practically unchanged on the second day.

The French captured 1,000 prisoners, but the enemy claim 13,000. While the enemy losses have been extremely heavy those of the French have been comparatively light.

Western Front reported on 27th July

Western (British) Front.- In the morning of July 16 the enemy attacked and succeeded in entering two new posts established by the British in the neighbourhood of Hebuterne. He was immediately counter-attacked and driven out by the British, who captured a few prisoners. Australian troops carried out a successful local enterprise early on the night of July 17 in the neighbourhood of Villers-Bretonneux, advancing their line south-east of the village on a front of over a mile. Two field guns were captured in the course of the operation, together with some machine-guns and a number of prisoners. By a successful minor operation carried out by the British in the morning of July 19 in the Bailleul sector Scottish troops captured the village of Meren, gaining all their objectives. As the result of these operations the British line in the Meteren sector was advanced on a front of about 4,000 yards, and both the village of Meteren and the group of buildings to the south-west of it, known as Le Waton, were occupied by the British. The enemy offered considerable resistance on the extreme left of the attack, but at other points the British objectives were gained without great difficulty. In these operations the British captured 453 prisoners, 10 trench mortars, and 50 machine-guns. Under cover of this operation Australian troops pushed their line forward a short distance south of Meteren. Further north English troops advanced on a front of about a mile south of Hebuterne after sharp fighting. Under the pressure of the British the enemy was on July 20 compelled to withdraw from Rossignol Wood, between Hebuterne and Bucquoy, thus leaving this important local feature in the hands of the British. Further ground was made by the British on July 21 south-east of Hebuterne, and a hostile bombing attack in this neighbourhood was repulsed. On July 22 the British line was advanced slightly south of Hebuterne and south of Merris and Meteren. Hostile artillery showed considerable activity on July 24 in the Ypres sector.

Western Front reported on 3rd August

Western (British) Front. On July 22 the British line was advanced slightly south of Hebuterne and south of Merris and Meteren, and the positions in the Hamel sector, north of Albert, improved. On July 24 the British line was advanced slightly south of Rossignol Wood in the Hebuterne sector, and some prisoners were captured. On July 25 the enemy attacked the new British positions in the Hebuterne sector under cover of a heavy barrage. His troops were driven off and 30 prisoners were captured. A strong local attack was launched by the enemy against the line recently gained by the British at Meteren. After sharp fighting the attack was repulsed. On July 26 a few prisoners were captured by the British in the course of the enemy’s unsuccessful attack upon the British positions at Meteren. On July 28 Australian troops carried out a successful local operation in the Morlancourt sector, and captured 143 prisoners and 36 machine-guns. Two lines of hostile trenches on a front of over two miles astride the Bray-Corbie road were attacked and captured, together with over 100 prisoners and a number of machine-guns. All the British objectives were gained and three local counter-attacks beaten off. The Australians on July 30 captured the village of Merris with 169 prisoners, a number of trench mortars and machine guns. The enemy artillery was active on July 31 south-west of Albert and also east of Robecq and in other sectors.

At Sea

The competing navies continued to disrupt and strangle supplies to fighting forces, demoralise and starve home populations. Submarines were evolving as effective instruments of war. Many air attacks on Britain were reported as "naval" actions.

In the air

Aeroplane Week - drive to win over opinion to buy War Bonds. Towns encouraged to fund raise so that new aircraft could be launched (with the town's name). See below, 12th July.

Statistics

 


Missing - Lucerne Street Casualty Private Arnold Brooker of The Plough Inn

Reported in the Faversham and North East Kent News of 6th July 1918: "LOCAL WAR ITEMS - Private Arnold Brooker, Machine Gun Section, younger son of Mr A Brooker, of The Plough Inn, Lucerne Street, has been reported missing since May 27th. An officer who has written, however, says it is not improbable he is a prisoner. Hope is therefore entertained that news may yet be heard of him. Private Brooker, who completed his 22nd year just recently, joined up in the West Kents when he was eighteen years of age. He went to the front more than three years ago, and with the exception of two visits home, had been in the thick of the fighting ever since and had been once wounded. Mr Brooker’s elder son, George, is a leading seaman in the Navy in which he has served over 7 years, and one of the daughters, Miss Grace Brooker, is serving in the W.A.A.C. [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps] in which she has risen to Section Leader. She is at present in Wiltshire. The husband of another daughter is also in the Navy, so that the family, like many others, is intimately connected with the war.
[Society Note: Enlisted into West Kents before joining the Machine Gun Corps. Entered France on 1st June 1915 - Medal Card]"


12th July: But an aeroplane with your community's name on it - War Bonds and Certificates

National War Bonds Advertisement carried in the Dover Express and East Kent News of 12th July:

Send the Huns a bomb from EASTRY.

All this week, men, women and children – your own friends and neighbours and fellow-citizens – have been hurrying to lend their money to their country, and thus help the men who are fighting from them. Join the throng of patriotic investors. Share in the success of Aeroplane Week.
By closing time to-night hundreds and thousands of pounds will have been lent towards the grand total which Eastry means to invest this week in National War Bonds and War Savings Certificates.

Eastry’s own AEROPLANE

That is to be the prize of success – the name of "Eastry" on Our Aeroplane – the name that will remind our Kent lads at the Front how Eastry lent its money to help them.
Draw your savings and invest to-day. The Huns will feel the power of your money when the Aeroplane "Eastry" comes swooping down to spray their massed ranks with death from its machine-gun; or when the drone of its engines and the crash of its bombs resound through the cities beyond the Rhine.
Don’t delay. The end of Aeroplane Week will soon be here. No sum can be too large. But do not think that your help is not required even if you can only lend a few pounds or shillings. Every sixpence counts.


18th July - French Counterstroke to German Flank

Reported in the Army and Navy Gazette on 27th July, the news served to alleviate the stream of bad news for the Allies:-

"Service Notes – The Counterstroke
In the brilliant counterstroke delivered on the 18th inst. And continued successfully to the present date against the most vulnerable flank of the salient which the Germans had driven into the Western Front, we have justification for believing that General Foch has quickly and completely changed the situation and has wholly shattered the prospects of the vast German offensive. There is a tendency to declare that morally and materially the French have won and important victory which has already changed the whole aspect of affairs, that it marks the turn of the tide – even the end of the war, and that to-day the successful issue of the great struggle is almost within our grasp. We must not, under not, under the glamour of the substantial results which General Foch has already obtained, lose our sense of proportion. We see from what has already resulted that the French General, whom it has been the aim of the German papers to belittle and disparage, selected the right moment to assume the offensive with strong forces which the enemy had declared he did not, could not, possess; it is clear that he has already at least caused the German commanders serious embarrassment and has compelled their precipitate withdrawal from positions which it had cost them serious loss to arrive at; he has forced them to call upon their reserves to an extent which has certainly caused them serious inconvenience; but it is as yet too early, even a week after the counterstroke began to be delivered, to say what the material results of the French riposte are likely to be. Let us then not be unduly elated, and let us again take counsel from the example of the French, who know how to rejoice in the good news without attempting to exaggerate its importance."


27th July - Shirkers - the refuge of Ireland

The Army and Navy Gazette of 27th July expressed disapproval of "shirkers" able to duck service:-
"Shirkers
We are just entering upon the fifth year of the world-war, and yet our pride in the achievement of the Empire is lessened by the consciousness that we still have in our midst an appalling number of shirkers who during the past four years have successfully and shamelessly evaded the acceptance of their obligations. Thus every harvest time since the war began has witnessed the arrival in the United Kingdom of hefty young labourers from Ireland who, strong in their immunity from conscription, offer their services to English employers; while at the same time there has been a constant stream of large volume of fugitives to Ireland from this country – many of them friendly aliens and a very large percentage Englishmen – who cross to Ireland for no other purpose than to escape military service, and who, up to the present time, seem to have been permitted to reside unmolested on the further side of the Irish Channel. From time to time, usually in response to inconveniently persistent questions in Parliament, we have been assured that steps were being taken to deal with these very burning scandals, but it is not noticeable that the cross-currents here alluded to have appreciably diminished in volume. It is now announced that any Irishmen of military age in the future coming over to this country will be liable to be taken for military service, subject to certain exemptions, and that the shirkers who have fled to Ireland from the United Kingdom are incontinently to be rounded up. Since these last have already enjoyed a long period of immunity, it is to be hoped that no latitude whatever will now be allowed them, but that when captured they mat at once be handed over to the military authorities.


New Kent coalfield seam at Chislet opened up.

Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of Saturday 27 July 1918 reported:-
THE KENT COALFIELD – CHISLET COLLIERY – THE NEW SEAM – EQUAL TO THE FINEST WELSH COAL.
The Kentish Observer of yesterday: Sinking in the South Pit to the new seam (already reached in the North Pit) is now proceeding apace, and meanwhile the work of opening up the seam is being pushed forward with all possible speed. It is hoped that the winding of coal will begin in about ten days’ time. As stated in The Kentish Observer last week, the seam is between 6ft and 7ft thick – practically a 7ft seam; and it is located at a level considerably nearer the surface than was originally estimated, and from 1,450 to 1,500 ft higher than the best seams in other parts of the Kent Coalfield. The seam passed through before reaching this one is a 5ft seam, as stated in this journal on June 13th. In all nine workable seams of splendid coal have been uncovered, and it is estimated that the total quantity of coal at Chislet, based on the boring results, is about 48ft in vertical thickness. This bears out the information which was given in The Kentish Observer in regard to the Chislet area at the time of the formation of the colliery company in 1913. It is not proposed to sink to any of the lower seams, as the prize that was being sought has been found. It is peculiarly gratifying to this journal to know that every prediction we made as to the splendid prospects of the Chislet area has been realised. Even those who a few years ago were inclined to be sceptical in regard to Chislet are bound to admit now that they were mistaken and that The Kentish Observer was fully justified in taking an optimistic view. We stated last week that experts who had examined samples of the new scam pronounced it to be equal to the best South Wales coal. Since then we have invited the opinion of other well-known coal factors who have seen samples. They, too, state that the coal is all that The Kentish Observer said of it – that a more beautiful coal never came out of the Welsh coalfields,, and that it is the finest coal that has yet been proved in the Kent Coalfield. The splendid seam that was reached at a depth of 3,007 ft in the Kent Coal Concessions experimental boring at Snowdown, was up to this discovery at Chislet considered the best road in the Kent area.
.........It may be added that in regard to the sinking the application of the cementation process with other means suggested by knowledge gained from experience in pit sinking, has been attended with complete success, no water having been encountered in either shaft. Both shafts are perfectly dry, and there have been no stoppages from trouble of any sort. Chislet Colliery is a striking illustration of what can be done by thorough methods and good management, and will no doubt be an example to those who may have to do with future colliery construction in Kent.