First World War Project

Home News - December 1917

In December there were losses from the Parishes of Lynsted, Newnham, Oare and Luddenham. The battles for December included the German counter-attacks at Cambrai before the Battle closed on 3rd December. This was the last major engagement on the Western (British) Front until the crisis of the German Offensive began on 21st March 1918.

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

On December 5 on the Cambrai battle front, two minor attacks attempted by the enemy in the neighbourhood of Gonnelieu were successfully repulsed. In the afternoon an attack delivered by the enemy in this area in considerable force was repulsed after severe fighting. Hostile infantry advancing to the attack in the neighbourhood of Bourlon Wood and Mœuvres were broken up by British artillery. On December in the area south of Bourlon Wood minor hostile attacks were repulsed with severe loss to the enemy. A successful local operation was carried out by the British at dawn on December 7 north of La Vacquerie. The trenches constituting the British objectives were captured, and a considerable improvement effected in the British line at this point. On the Cambrai battle front some local fighting took place on December 8 east of Boursies. On December 5 and 6 raids into Germany were carried out by British aeroplanes, Zweibrucken and Saarbrucken being bombed. All British machines returned safely. In aerial fighting in the battle front areas from December 2 to 9, ten German machines were brought down, ten were driven down, and one was shot down by artillery. Fifteen British machines were missing.

On December 12 the enemy delivered a strong local attack on a front of about a mile east of Bullecourt. On the right of the position the enemy succeeded in entering a short length of the British front trench which formed a salient and had been demolished by the bombardment preceding the attack. At all other points the attack was repulsed with heavy loss to the enemy. Accounts of the fighting in the neighbourhood of Bullecourt show that two attacks were made by the enemy at dawn after heavy artillery preparation. The first of these attacks was delivered from the north against the British positions in the Hindenburg Line immediately east of Bullecourt, and the other on a wider front from the east and north-east against the angle formed by the British trench lines south of Riencourt-les-Cagnicourt. Both these attacks were repulsed with heavy loss to the enemy. Shortly afterwards another attack was made on the latter front, and parties of the enemy penetrated our obliterated trenches at the apex of the angle in the British lines. The few Germans who reached our trenches at other points were killed or taken prisoners. Local fighting took place on December 14 south-east of Polygon Wood, where, shortly before dawn, the enemy attacked the British positions in the neighbourhood of Polderhoek Chateau. The attack was repulsed, except at one point, where the enemy succeeded in entering the British front trench for about 300 yards. Local fighting recommenced in the neighbourhood of Polderhoek Chateau, in which the British regained a considerable part of the trench into which the enemy had penetrated. The enemy made another local attack east of Bullecourt, but was repulsed. On December 15 the British carried out a successful raid north of the village, in which they captured prisoners and destroyed the enemy's dug-outs.

From December 15 to 21 there was nothing of special interest to report. On December 22, under cover of a heavy artillery barrage, the enemy made a local attack against the British positions in the neighbourhood of the Ypres-Staden railway and succeeded in driving in the British advance posts a short distance on a front of about 700 yards. Following upon the activity of his artillery north-east of Ypres the enemy on December 29 carried out a local attack against the British positions in the neighbourhood of the Ypres-Staden railway, but the attack was completely repulsed. At dawn on December 30 powerful local attacks were made by the enemy on a total front of over two miles against the British positions on the spur known as Welsh Ridge, south of Cambrai. In the centre the enemy was repulsed, but on the right, north of La Vacquerie, and on the left, south of Marcoing, his troops succeeded in effecting a lodgement in two small salients in the British lines. The enemy was ejected from a portion of these positions, and some prisoners were captured. In aerial fighting in the battle area from December 10 to 29, 44 German machines were brought down, 18 were driven down, and eight were shot down. Eleven British machines were missing.

On December 31 the enemy renewed his attack against Welsh Ridge on a front of about 1,200 yards, south of Marcoing. On the southern portion of the attack his troops, with the assistance of liquid fire, succeeded temporarily in forcing their way into a British trench. Later in the day they were driven out by a counter-attack. On the remainder of the front the attack was completely repulsed. The number of German prisoners taken by the British during the month of December is 1,018, including 12 officers. In the same period the British also captured four guns, three trench mortars, and 103 machine-guns.

[The Battle of Cambrai was not as successful as at first appeared! The powerful German counter-attacks also proved very costly to the British forces]

At Sea

During 1917, through the competing navies, there continued the desire to disrupt and strangle supplies to fighting forces, demoralise and starve 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".

Underwater craft, as employed by German in war, constitute the greatest menace with which this country has ever been confronted, a fact difficult for us to realise, because the submarine is the most potent weapon of the weaker Power T SEA. Even more difficult for us to realise is the enemy's callousness to any consideration whatsoever but his own interests. Only for the operation of our natural attitude of mind in these particular we should have done more by now to combat this sea pest: we might have mastered it. But in looking back a year our effort is seen in perspective, which gives ground for hope, and not for pessimism. If we miscalculated the possibilities of the submarine for harming us Germany miscalculated its possibilities for striking us in a vital spot. Before this time last year she had used the weapon without general reference to civilised usages, but with a few important reservations. Then, on finding that the British Navy had frustrated her ultimate design, she threw aside every remaining scruple and adopted the idea of unrestricted warfare, which began on February 1 last. The very fact that she thus threw a challenge to the whole world, which she must have known would bring the United States into the war, was proof that the submarine, as she had used or misused it, had not fulfilled her expectations.
Her disappointment must be more bitter in December, 1917, than it was in December, 1916. For she cannot go any further in "frightfulness." England was not starved into submission so as to deter America from joining the Allies, is not now, and is more grimly determined than ever to continue the conflict. But the final reckoning of Germany for her defiance of sea law in the employment of the submarine has yet to come. She has ranged against herself all the maritime Powers, who intend that retribution shall follow her long into the peace era. To her, in short, the submarine weapon is acting as a boomerang by forging against her a yet more terrible weapon in an economic offensive. To win in the war she is reducing the world's tonnage and resources in food and raw materials. When the lean years of peace come she will be the last to be served and on the most onerous conditions. Finally, she is reaching the maximum of her output in submarines without bringing England to her knees. Therefore she has sold her soul as a sea Power in vain. This country, on the other hand, has proved her fitness to hold the trident of the seas. She has still to arrive at the maximum of her output both in merchant-men and anti-submarine craft, and every month finds her better organised for the purpose. Finally, the submarine menace, by forcing us to review our policy, is leading us to develop our own resources in such a way that we shall be stronger, not weaker, after the war." [Reported in Army and Navy Gazette of 29th December 1917]

In the air

The following is the official report of a raid by about 25 enemy aeroplanes, which took place early in the morning of December 6:-

"The first group of raiders came in over Kent at 1.30 a.m. and dropped bombs at various places on and near the coast. A second group made the land shortly after 3 a.m., the various machines proceeding up the Thames and some distance into Kent. Both the above groups appeared to have carried out preliminary attacks with the object of drawing gunfire and exhausting the defences, for it was not until an hour later that the most serious attack developed. Between 4 and 4.30 a.m. two groups of enemy machines crossed the East Coast and three groups the Kent Coast, proceeding to London on converging courses. Their tactical plan seems to have been to deliver five simultaneous attacks on the capital from North-East, East, and South West. The whole of one group, however, was turned back by gunfire, and of the others not more than five or six machines penetrated into London. One of two explosive and a large number of incendiary bombs were dropped in various districts at about 5 a.m. Two of the raiders fell victim to our defences, in each case their crew of three men being captured alive. A number of fires occurred in London, but all were speedily got under control by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.
The casualties in and outside London were seven killed and 22 injured."

[Note: From the 22nd December issue of the Army and Navy Gazette, a new Section appears reporting on the newly unified air force.]

Attacks on Britain.

As above.



Guns Lost

Before the battle of the Marne the records of our losses are incomplete. During the retreat from Mons many guns were abandoned, most of them probably in a damaged condition, but it cannot be definitely stated whether they were actually recovered by the enemy. The actual number of guns missing was as follows:

13-pounder 7
18-pounder 68
4.5-inch howitzer 1
60-pounder 4
Total 80

Between the battle of the Marne and  December, 1917, the only guns known to have been captured by the enemy were 4-4.7-inch guns belonging to the 2nd London Heavy Battery, which were lost during the second battle of Ypres, in May, 1915.

Guns lost between 2nd and 17th of December, 1917

13-pounder A.A. 2
18-pounder 96
60-pounder 7
4.5-inch howitzers 15
6-inch howitzers, 30 cwt. 4
6-inch howitzers, 26 cwt. 44
9.2-inch howitzers 4



Guns lost between 20th March and 7th July, 1918:-

13-pounder Royal Horse Artillery R.H.A. 4
13-pounder Anti Aircraft A.A. 4
18-pounder Quick Firing Q.F. 524
60-pounder Breech Loading B.L. 63
6-inch guns 9
4.5-inch howitzer 154
6-inch howitzer 147
8-inch howitzer 39
9.2-inch howitzer 31
12-inch howitzer 6



Grand Total: 1,237

Women expanded roles in Naval Service - Press Notice

Army and Navy Gazette of 8th December 1917

WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICEThe Admiralty have approved of the employment of women on various duties on shore hitherto performed by naval ratings, and have decided to establish a Women's Royal Naval Service for this purpose. The members will wear a distinctive uniform and the Service will be confined to women employed on definite duties directly connected with the Royal Navy. It is not intended for the present to include those serving in the Admiralty Departments or the Royal Dockyards or other civil establishments under the Admiralty.

At the request of the Board Dame Katharine Furse, G.B.E., has accepted the position of Director of the Women's Royal Naval Service, and will be responsible, under the Second Sea Lord, for its administration and organisation, including the control of the members when off duty and the care of their general welfare.

A further announcement will be made shortly as to the mode of recruitment for the Women's Royal Naval Service and as to the branches of it for which immediate entries are required, and no applications or enquiries should be made until the announcement has been issued.

† - Ninety Seventh Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 2nd December 1917.

Private, Sydney Arthur WATTS (of Lynsted), Killed in Action aged 22
Theatre: France and Flanders
Memorial: Cambrai Memorial, Louverval
Serving In: "D" Company, 1st Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). Died during the relief of his Battalion, which retired back to Deadman's Corner, taking on a number of casualties.

† - Ninety Eighth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 2nd December 1917.

Sub-Lieutenant, Observer, Harry ODLE (of Newnham), Killed in Action aged 22
Theatre: Dardanelles, Eastern Mediterranean
Memorial: East Mudros Military Cemetery, Greece
Serving In: H.M.S. "Ark Royal", Royal Naval Air Service. Drowned.

† - Ninety Ninth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 9th November 1917.

Private, Arthur PHILPOT (of Oare), Died of Wounds aged 39
Theatre: France and Flanders
Memorial: Fins New British Cemetery, Sorel-Le-Grande, Somme
Serving In: 1st Battalion, South African Infantry (Cape of Good Hope Regiment). Died of Wounds, in trenches between 6th & 9th November

Teynham Floral Tributes in Remembrance

Faversham and North East Kent News of 15th December 1917
Week by week a simple but beautiful tribute is paid to the memory of Teynham Men who have given their lives for their country. Beneath the roll of honour in the parish church recording their names - there are now seventeen of them - there is a shelf for vases of flowers, and the mothers of those whose names are commemorated are taking it in turn to keep the vases filled.

Childrens' collections

Faversham and North East Kent News of 15th December 1917
Doddington school children are to be commended for their efforts to "do their bit." Together they collected recently two and a half tons of chestnuts which were stored by General Jeffreys until they were sent for. Since the summer holiday, too, the girls have been busy with their needles and have knitted one hundred pairs of mittens and thirty girdles. They had previously sent over two hundred pairs of socks to the War Hospital Supply Depot at Sittingbourne. Several of them have had letters of appreciation from sailors and soldiers.

War Charities in Kent

Faversham and North East Kent News of 15th December 1917
From the proceeds of a very successful whist drive held at Doddington £5 has been given to the Kentish Prisoners of War Fund, £5 to the Comforts of Kent Regiments Fund, and the balance, nearly £5, goes in support of those soldiers who have been "adopted" by the people of Doddington.
Thistledown collected by Graveney and Goodnestone children was made up into cushions and sold. This and the sale of other handwork has enabled the children to give £1 2s 0d to the Kentish Prisoners of War Fund.

† - One Hundredth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 18th November 1917.

Private, Thomas Henry HARRIS (of Luddenham/Oare), Died of Wounds aged 27
Theatre: France and Flanders
Memorial: Étaples Military Cemetery
Serving In: 1/19th (County of London) Battalion (St. Pancras), London Regiment. Died of Wounds, possible shell shrapnel, but more likely from intense German Gas attack on Bourlon Wood, Battle of Cambrai.

Sheep-worrying dogs on Teynham Farmer's land

East Kent Gazette of 25th December 1917
HEAVY DAMAGES FOR SHEEP WORRYING.- At the Faversham County Court, on Friday in last week [21st December], Colonel J.F. Honeyball, farmer, Teynham, sued William Godden, of Newnham, and T.E. Sandy, of Boughton-under-Blean, for £8 each, the value of sheep killed by their dogs. Sandy had paid his portion into Court. Mr. E.C. Harris, Sittingbourne, appeared for the plaintiff. It appeared that the dogs got into Norton Park on July 31st, and worried the sheep, with the result that five were afterwards found dead and three others so injured that they had to be slaughtered. Godden said he had not any dog, but he admitted that there was one belonging to his son, who was now in the Navy, and the dog was kept at his house. His honour Judge Shortt said it had been laid down over and over again that the person who harboured a dog was liable. Judgment was entered for plaintiff in each case.

Local awards of the Military Medal - Harry Bensted of Devon Villas, Greenstreet; Private George Wiles of Claxfield, Greenstreet

Faversham and North East Kent News reported of 22nd December 1917
WAR HONOURS – Among those to whom the Military Medal has recently been awarded are Private Harry Bensted, only son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Bensted, of Devon Villas, Greenstreet; Private George Wiles, son of Mr. and Mrs Walter Wiles, of Claxfield, Greenstreet; and Corporal E J Jennings, son of Mr and Mrs Jennings, of Broomfield, Throwley.

Faversham and North East Kent News of 29th December 1917
Last week we mentioned two Greenstreet men who had been awarded the Military Medal, namely, Private Harry Bensted, of Devon Villas, and Private George Wiles, of Claxfield. We have since heard that another man belonging to that district has gained the medal, namely Private Arthur Rickwood, son of Mrs. Samuel Rickwood, of Greenstreet.
Private Rickwood, who is in the Royal West Kent Regiment, is the youngest of five brothers who are all serving their country. He has been two and a half years in the Army and for seventeen months has been in France. He has now gone to Italy. The medal is awarded him for his gallantry and devotion to duty from the 20th to 23rd September last, when he carried many urgent messages through very heavy barrages both to the front line and Brigade Headquarters, with absolute disregard for personal safety.
Private Bensted gets the decoration for great gallantry and devotion to duty in laying and repairing wires under heavy shell fire. He joined the Buffs early in the war and saw service at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, and was there at the evacuation. He was then transferred to Egypt and lately has seen much service in Palestine.
Private Wiles joined the East Kent Yeomanry in 1914 and is now attached to the Buffs. He, too, was in Gallipoli and was afterwards taken ill with malaria and typhoid, and eventually sent to England for treatment. Later on he found his way back to Egypt in time for the Palestine campaign. He has been granted the Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty while acting as stretcher bearer for many hours under heavy shell fire.

In Memoriam: for lost brother of Greenstreet woman

East Kent Gazette of 21st December 1918
VIDION. In loving and sweetest memory of Corporal Charles Vidion, 16th Lancers, who was killed in action, 23rd December, 1917, the beloved brother of Mrs. Harris, West End, Greenstreet, and Mr. Vidion, 89, William Street, Sittingbourne.
A loving brother, true and kind,
A beautiful memory left behind;
There is a link death cannot sever.
Love and remembrance last for ever.

Teynham Airman (RNAS) survives being shot down - now a prisoner of war

East Kent Gazette reported of 25th December 1917
A MARVELOUS ESCAPE.- Flight Sub-Lieut. V.G. Austen, of the Royal Naval Air Service, whose home is at Teynham, has been in hospital at Cassel, Germany, since last July, when he was taken prisoner. He is now sufficiently recovered to be transferred to an officers' camp at Holzminden. The young officer had a miraculous escape from death. He was over the German lines in his aeroplane during a terrific thunderstorm, and mainly through this his machine was brought down by anti-aircraft guns, in flames, and out of control. The machine dropped some 4,000ft., and Flight Sub-Lieut. Austen sustained severe burns and concussion. He is a most capable and dauntless pilot, and one of our youngest airmen, being only 18 years of age.

Faversham and North East Kent News of 16th November 1916
FLIGHT OFFICER'S WONDERFUL ESCAPE. 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.

Volunteer Firemen honour Captain Ferris at Christmas Meeting

East Kent Gazette reported of 30th December 1917
GREENSTREET. FIRE BRIGADE PRESENTATION.- The members of the Teynham and Lynsted Fire Brigade held their second annual Christmas meeting at the Fire Station, on Christmas morning, there being present: - Chief Officer Ferris, Second Officer Dalton, Hon. Lieut. S. Freeman, Engineer Spicer, Fireman Lacey, Leeds, Ruck, Bunting, Wilkins, and Burton. Captain Ferris reported that the Brigade Fund was in a sound condition, and that a cheque for one guinea had been forwarded to the National Fire Brigades' Union Widows' and Orphans; Fund, being the amount collected at the Fire Station during the year, thus making a total of £14/4/0 subscribed from Teynham and Lynsted during 1917. Taking into consideration the population and the great calls there are for many this is a contribution to be proud of. The Brigade had been called to two fires during the year, and seventeen drills had been held, at which there had been good attendances, besides air-raid calls. Hon. Lieut, Freeman then presented to Captain Ferris a handsome set of carvers, with the following greeting: "To Captain A. E. Ferris, with the compliments of the season and best wishes for the coming year, from the men of the Teynham and Lynsted Fire Brigade." Lieut. Freeman said he was very pleased to have the honour of making the presentation, and said he hoped that Captain Ferris would live to wear the carvers out. Captain Ferris thanked the members of the Brigade for the present they had given him, and said he was glad to know that what he had done was appreciated by them. He always had fire brigade work at heart, and it was a pleasure to him to do what he could for the Brigade. He hoped the time would soon come when they would be in uniform. A "whip round" in aid of the Widows' and Orphans; Fund realised 10/6. Which will be carried forward to next year's account.

Teynham Tribunal Cases for exemption

East Kent Gazette of 25th December 1917
TRIBUNAL CASES.- At the Faversham Rural Tribunal last week, there were several Teynham, applied for leave to appeal again as he was a smallholder, and on the last occasion the Tribunal only considered his position as a small shopkeeper. As he ought to have joined up on November 13th, the application was refused. A local lady applied for the exemption of her son, aged 17, as he was entirely engaged on farm work and had two brothers in the Army. The National Service Representative said he believed the son now held a voucher from the Kent War Agricultural Committee. It appeared that Mr. Berry had told the son he need not appear before the Tribunal, but the members thought he should not have done this, and adjourned the case for the son's attendance. A London oyster merchant again appealed for his manager, aged 33, at the oyster fishery, South Deep, Conyer, Teynham. A letter was read from a doctor stating that applicant was in Scotland recovering from an operation, having had his right leg amputated. The Clerk was instructed to inform applicant that unless someone appeared in support of the application the case would be dismissed.

† - Hundred and First Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 27th November 1917.

Private, Thomas Henry JONES (of Luddenham), Killed in Action aged 23
Theatre: France and Flanders
Memorial: Brookwood Military Cemetery, Woking, Surrey
Serving In: 11th (Service) Battalion (Lewisham),
Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment). Died of Sickness, probably Tuberculosis that was endemic in the intimate environment of the trenches.

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