First World War Project
Home News - May 1915
While the Western Front had largely "stabilised" from January 1915 to the end of 1916, the new front through the Dardanelles Straits on the Gallipoli Peninsula turned inexorably into a costly error of judgement. The Allied attack on Gallipoli was insufficiently planned and resourced so very quickly fell foul of "mission creep". Transforming from a proposed 'gunboat diplomacy' through the Dardanelles Straits to 'boots on the ground' on the Gallipoli Peninsula against a formidably well prepared and entrenched Turkish fighting force. Our Commonwealth forces, alongside several British formations soon found themselves horribly exposed and vulnerable to huge loss of life.
Fighting in Western Europe was characterised by the continuation of the Second Battle of Ypres (opened on 22nd May), with its introduction of poisonous/corrosive gas as a weapon. On 9th May the Allied Spring Offensive began with the Second Battle of Artois, Battle of Aubers Ridge (9th) and Battle of Festubert (15th - 25th May). Further south, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary in May.
Casualties within the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice continued through May with the loss of three men from Teynham Parish (one was naval, HMS Goliath) and one from Lynsted with Kingsdown Parish (HMS Irene).
The important injection of manpower through recruitment to Kitchener's New Army (the Territorial formations) was now increasingly expanded by the arrival of Commonwealth soldiers.
The ill-fated attack on Turkey gained an increasingly critical public debate through this and subsequent months after initial optimism. It became clear that progress against a strong Turkish army and their defensive positions would require significant increases in men, that could not be found and armed/supplied. You can read the Official Despatch, written early in May, that covers the conditions faced by Allied/Commonwealth forces on land and sea.
George Abraham HALL (of Teynham), Killed in Action, aged 31 years
† - Eleventh Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 3rd May, Grafenstafel, Belgium
Leonard TERRY (of Teynham), Killed in Action, aged 28 years
German view of Kitchener's Army - surprisingly complementary
|The Times of 7th May 1915|
ENEMY'S PRAISE OF OUR TROOPS. – "THE NEW ENGLISH." (From our Correspondent.). NEW YORK, 6th May.
A WONDERFUL FEAT.
Let me tell you of one thing I saw. It was the most wonderful deed I have ever heard of on any field. I think it was the West Kent Regiment. They charged across the open field against us. Our fire was as though we had played a stream of bullets upon them. As they came across that open space, cheering and waving their rifles, I could see the men stumbling and falling forward on their faces and dropping sidewise. Gaps opened in the line, so that I can remember seeing the landscape behind them. But they always closed.
The Buffs Losses described by Soldiers
|South Eastern Gazette of 11th May 1915|
|EAST KENTS AT YPRES. HOW THEY SUPPORTED THE CANADIANS. 300 LEFT OUT OF 1,000.
The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) covered themselves with glory in the battle north of Ypres last week. According to one account "they saved the Canadian line from a great disaster.
The above paragraph appeared in the "South Eastern Gazette" last Tuesday, and a letter sent by a non-commissioned officer of the Regiment (2nd Battalion) to friends in Maidstone proves its correctness. The Battalion suffered great losses. "I must say I am very lucky," says the writer, whose brother was wounded, "for we have had it about as hot as one could wish for. We were just on 1,000 strong when I wrote you last, and now we cannot muster 300, so you will guess what it has been like. We have had just twenty-three days of it, and now we are back for a rest, and to make up our strength."
Dealing with events on April 23rd the writer goes on: "We had been out all the night before, and were returning, almost waling in our sleep, when we had orders to reinforce the Canadians. It was then daylight, but, of course, we had to go. We had not marched far before we came under heavy rifle fire, just enough to wake us up. That was in the road, and my brother was the first to go down. He shouted "Oh, oh!" and fell. It seemed hard not be able to attend to him, but, of course, when advancing no one except stretcher bearers must stop. However, I fancy he was soon picked up and got away. After that our men began to drop all round, so we extended and took cover behind a hedge. But we were no good there; it was a case of getting right on. We had about another thousand yards to go, over almost flat ground, and we did it in short rushes. Oh, what a hailstorm we had when we started to advance! I can tell you it's a sensation you don't want every day. I managed to reach the trench safely, and I shall never forget the sight when I looked back over the ground we had covered."
For four days the Battalion remained in the trench they had been sent to occupy, and one Company, the writer states, came away only nine men strong. Then the East Kents were moved to another position, and here they lost all but sixteen men of another Company. "No doubt," the writer continues, "you will guess where we were by reading the papers ...... You can take it from me that the Canadians are all that the papers say of them; but they might just mention the Regiments that helped to save the Germans breaking through; it was a near thing. You should have seen the poor Frenchmen that retired when the Germans used poisonous gases. It played our eyes up where we were. What were left of us came away pretty nearly done up; what with very little to eat and not much sleep, I can tell you it is very trying to the nerves and system. My opinion is that it will be a long job yet. We have got a hard nut to crack, but we must keep at it till we've done the job properly."
I have seen some terrible artillery duels and shelling," the writer further states, "but the things I dislike most are those awful trench mortars used by the Germans; it's all up with the men and the trench if they get the proper range. If you keep a careful watch you can see them coming both night and day, and when the explode the report is deafening ....... We are in the middle of a wood at present. Every place for miles has been either shelled or burned down. It has been an awful sight at places to see the poor women and children running for their lives.
Alleged local suicide attempt, or a prank against her brother?
|East Kent Gazette of 11th May 1915|
ALLEGED ATTEMPTED SUICIDE.
|Kent Messenger of 3rd July 1915|
|East Kent Quarter Sessions. Emmeline Ada Barling, aged 46, a music hall artiste, was indicted for attempting to commit suicide by taking salts of lemon at Lynsted on April 29th. Mr. Gibson appeared for the prosecution, and prisoner pleaded not guilty.
Lord Harris, in summing up the evidence, said it must be equally distressing to the jury, as it was to himself, to find a member of a family of such old standing and so respected in the neighbourhood of Sittingbourne in such a position. Of course they must not allow any feelings of sympathy to govern their decision, but he pointed out that prisoner was very emphatic in her statement that she did not take the poison.
The jury found her not guilty.
† - Twelfth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 13th May, Dardenelles (off Turkish coast)
Stephen CHAMP (of Teynham, Barrow Green), Killed in Action, aged 40 years
WOMEN'S WAR WORK.
|The Times of 21 May 1915|
INCREASE IN NUMBER OF REGISTRATIONS. - A HUNDRED SHIP CLEANERS. The latest available figures of women who have registered for war service at the different labour exchanges, up to May 14, is 65,700. There has been a steady average increase of 5,000 a week.
An unfolding story of the place of Womens' War Work is being developed through a dedicated page of miscellaneous observations and statistics (for those who like that kind of thing!). That record has been inspired by the sad story of the death of Alice Post in 1916 (through TNT poisoning).
Another Zeppelin over Kent
|The Times of 18th May 1915|
THE ZEPPELIN RAID IN KENT.- LITTLE DAMAGE DONE. – INVADER BOMBED OFF NIEUPORT. A measure of retaliation has overtaken the Zeppelin which, as stated in our later editions yesterday, passed over Kent coast towns early yesterday morning [17th May] and dropped a number of bombs on Ramsgate.
p8. BRITISH BOMBS ON A ZEPPELIN - CHASE OF RAMSGATE RAIDER.
p5. BOMBS ON RAMSGATE.- FOUR PEOPLE INJURED. (From our Special Correspondent..) RAMSGATE, MAY 17.
Opposite the Bull and George Hotel there is one of Messrs. David Greig's provision shops. The glass was blown in from all the windows here and the children of the manager, Mr. Banell, woke to find their beds covered with splinters, but they were unhurt. Another bomb fell on a ship called the Imperial Bazaar near the front, and damaged the roof, walls and stock, and in Cavendish-street a number of windows were broken. In the harbour, too, there was slight damage to shipping.
Italy declares war on Austria - 23rd May 1915
Italian Government orders general mobilization followed on the 24th May by Italian forces crossing the Austrian border. On 27th May, British squadron joins Italian Fleet in the Adriatic.
† - Thirteenth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 27th May, Sheerness
Arthur Harold HUGHES (of Lynsted), Killed in catastrophic explosion, aged 30 years
27th May - Winston Churchill Resigns - following intense criticism of the Dardanelles/Gallipoli
At his time Winston Churchill was the First Lord of the Admiralty. The catastrophic loss of men arose out of 'mission creep' from what was originally planned as a broadly navy-based bombardment of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The engagement of large numbers of troops without armament to support them lay Churchill open to attack.
On 15th May, the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher, resigned too.
28th May: New Admiralty chiefs appointed.
Mr. Balfour, First Lord; Admiral Sir H. Jackson, First Sea Lord.