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 late March 1918, the anticipated German Spring Offensive opened up. But it happened across a wider front than anticipated and with a ferocity only made possible by the renewal of German forces from multiple Brigades released from fighting on the Russian Front. Following the Russian Revolution, the Russian forces could not be relied upon (nor supported nor directed effectively). German employed "attack troops" who were only lightly encumbered, enabling significant progress and consolidation by German troops in support. The relentless German progress proved also to expose a weakness in supply-lines that contributed to their eventual undoing.
The winter months of Allied defensive training helped stem the tide in due course, but in April, the enormity of the German Offensive became apparent with the opening up of a second Front around Lys.
April continued to be bleak, even if the theatre had changed. The momentum was with Germany through these early weeks.
INCIDENTS DURING THE OFFENSIVE. [13th April, Army and Navy Gazette]
On open sector the enemy used eight divisions on a front of about 10,000 yards, the British being outnumbered by four to one, while in another area the odds were nine of the enemy to one of British.
The enemy brought up a number of long-range guns from which shell was fired at a distance of 28 miles behind the British lines.
At St. Quentin six enemy divisions were opposed to one British division, yet the attack was checked until night, when the enemy was as much exhausted as the British.
The British, when it was found necessary to retire, withdrew in each instance as if they were on manoeuvres, so orderly was the movement.
The British only fell back when, having fired every available round of ammunition, they had nothing left to fight with. The demand for ammunition was greater than the supply, the ammunition carriers not being able to keep pace with the guns.
The German report says that the German losses generally kept within normal limits, though at some of the most vital points they were heavier. The number of slightly wounded was estimated at from 60 to 70 percent.
The case of a British division sent up from billets well west of Amiens, which never halted until it came in contact on the Somme, is related by Mr. Percival Phillips, the war correspondent. "Then," said an officer who was with them, "in about two seconds the first brigade had deployed and was at it, and it killed an amazing number of Germans that evening." He said something about the spirit of the men which should be realised at home. "They have got their tails right over their backs," he continued, quoting the popular Army slang for top-notch morale. "You would have imagined that they had been eating raw beef for six months. This moment they are laying out on the hills simply bursting to get at the beggars. Last evening two companies of Germans tried the usual pushing process, hoping to drive them in. ‘Let them alone for a minute,' said one of their commanders, ‘give them a little time.' Then our machine-guns barked and one company was simply laid flat. It was over in half a minute. The other company, further on the right, paused irresolutely. Some of our men near them thought at first that it was a ration party that had lost its way, until someone said, ‘Why, they're Fritzes. Let the blighters have it,' and they, too, were laid low with a rush." Slaughter like this goes on steadily. Near Auchonvillers between five and six hundred German corpses were piled up in front of our defences at the end of an attack that never reached the trenches
At the opening of the present enemy offensive the Canadians on March 22 carried out a projector gas bombardment against the enemy positions between Lens and hill 70. At 11 p.m., says Mr. W.A. Willison, Canadian correspondent at the Front, over 5,00 drums of lethal gas were simultaneously released from projectors, and were hurled into the enemy territory from the outskirts of Lens, and northwards to Cite St. Auguste and the Bois de Dix-Huit. Favouring winds carried the poisonous clouds to the enemy's reserves, and assembly areas. The whole of the Front was lit up with enemy flares, dimly seen through the heavy mist, while the men in the Canadian liens could hear the enemy's gas alarms and cries of distress from the hostile trenches. The Canadian artillery for a few minutes bombarded the enemy positions with high explosive. Caught by the Canadian gas and the artillery the enemy's casualties must have been very heavy, for the effectiveness of the Canadian smaller gas operations has been proved by the evidence of prisoners. On this occasion the bombardment was three times greater than anything of its kind ever attempted by the Canadians on the Western Front, and much greater than anything ever launched by the enemy.
All through the first day the guns of the Canadian Horse Artillery swept gaps in the thick advancing hordes of Hun storm troops, says Mr Roland Hill, the war correspondent. "Sometimes before they limbered up to take a new position they were firing point-blank on the Germans, mowing lines in each succeeding wave," said a Canadian officer. "Sometimes the attackers would divide and sweep by us, and we would find we were actually in front of our own infantry, but not for long did that sheer weight of human flesh stay in our rear. Fighting sometimes outnumbered by 10 to 1, some Irish troops around us with bayonets and bombs came flinging back into the fray until the infantry line was again securely in front of us. These men were wonderful, and never for a minute looked as if they could be beaten."
Western (British) Front
Operation Michael was declared 'ended' by Ludendorff in his message of 5th April; the German momentum ground to a halt in early summer.
13th April Edition reported:-
In the neighbourhood of Moreuil and Hangard on April 1 the British gained ground by successful counter-attacks. In the area between the Avre and the Luce Rivers the British captured 50 prisoners and thirteen machine guns. A successful local enterprise carried out in the neighbourhood of Hebuterne resulted in the capture of 73 prisoners and three machine guns. At dawn on April 2 a determined attack was made by a strong party of the enemy against the British positions in the neighbourhood of Fampoux, but it was repulsed after sharp fighting. In a successful local operation at night in the neighbourhood of Ayette the British captured 192 prisoners and three machine-guns. After heavy artillery preparation the enemy launched a strong attack on the morning of April 4 on the whole front between the Somme and the Avre Rivers. On the right and centre of the British line the attacking German infantry were repulsed, but on the left the weight of the assault succeeded in pressing back the British a short distance in the neighbourhood of the village of Hamel, on the south bank of the Somme. Between the Luce River and the Somme heavy fighting continued during the afternoon and evening until a late hour. The enemy employed strong forces, and delivered repeated assaults on the British positions. These attacks were beaten off, but the British were pressed back a short distance to positions east of Villers-Brettonneux. The fighting on this part of the front was of a very severe and persistent nature. On the battle front which lies between the River Somme and the neighbourhood of Bucquoy the British on April 5 carried out a successful attack in the neighbourhood of Hebuterns and took some 200 prisoners and a few machine-guns. At least ten German divisions were engaged in the enemy's unsuccessful attacks north of the Somme, and fighting was very severe on many parts of this front as far north as Bucquoy. Counter-attacks were carried out by the British on April 6 successfully re-establishing the British former positions in Aveluy Wood and resulted in the capture of over 120 prisoners and several machine-guns. [Note: This was the action that cost Joseph Henry Ray (Teynham) his life] By a successful minor operation carried out by the British early on April 7 south of the River Somme the British improved their position, but the operation led to sharp local fighting, during which the enemy strongly counter-attacked in an attempt to regain his former positions. In the result the British took over 140 prisoners and several machine-guns. The British advanced their line slightly during the night on the south bank of the River Somme, east of Vaire-sous-Corbie.
20th April Edition Reports:- [the Second German Drive around the Lys]
The British and Portuguese holding the line from La Bassée Canal to the neighbourhood of Armentieres were attacked by strong hostile forces on April 9. Favoured by a thick mist, the enemy forced his way into the Allies' positions in the neighbourhood of Neuve Chapelle, Fauquissart, and La Cordonnerie Farm. After fighting throughout the day, the enemy succeeded in forcing back the Portuguese and British on the line of the River Lys between Estaires and Bac St. Maur. Richebourg St. Vaast and Laventie were taken by the enemy, and south of Armentieres he succeeded in establishing himself on the left bank of the Lys River at certain points east of Estaires and in the neighbourhood of Bac St. Maur. The enemy crossed the Lawe at Lestrem, but was counter-attacked by the British and driven back across the river. Armentieres, which was full of gas, was evacuated by the British. On the front north of La Bassée Canal fierce fighting continued during the night. The British were holding the line of the Rivers Lawe and Lys, and were heavily engaged with the enemy at the river crossings at Estaires and Bac St. Maur. On the southern flank of the attack Givenchy, into which the enemy at one time had forced his way, was recaptured later in the day by the 55th Division, which took 750 prisoners.
In the morning of April 10 the enemy launched an attack in strength against the British positions between the Lys River and Armentieres and the Ypres-Comines Canal. Heavy fighting took place in this sector throughout the day as well as north of la Bassée Canal. North of Armentieres the enemy's assaults pressed the British back to the line of the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge and Ploegsteert. On April 11 continuous assaults were delivered by the enemy in the region of the River Lawe between Loisne and Lestrem. In this fighting the 51st Division beat off incessant attacks, and by vigorous counter-attacks recaptured positions into which the enemy had forced his way. Heavy fighting took place at Estaires and between that place and Steenwerck. In this sector also the enemy succeeded in pushing back the British line to north of these places. North of Armentieres, in the neighbourhood of Ploegsteert Wood, the enemy made some progress. Further north an attack by the enemy against the British lines in the neighbourhood of Merville and Neuf Berquin, in both of which localities the enemy continued his pressure, finally capturing Merville. The enemy, in the neighbourhood of Ploegsteert, succeeded in pressing the British back to the neighbourhood of Neuve Eglise to new positions. Strong pressure was maintained by the enemy all through April 12 south and south-west of Bailleul. The British were pushed back slowly in continuous fighting to positions in the neighbourhood of the Bailleul railway, where they heavily engaged the enemy. Heavy fighting developed in the evening in the neighbourhood of Neuve Eglise and Wulverghem. The British advanced their line slightly in the neighbourhood of Festubart and secured a few prisoners. At night a strong hostile attack was launched against the British positions east of Locon, where the enemy succeeded in entering the British lines at certain points, but was driven out again. A second attack by the enemy later in the night in the same locality was beaten off. At night the enemy also attacked west of Merville and was repulsed. As the result of the fighting in the neighbourhood of Neuve Eglise the enemy succeeded after a prolonged struggle in forcing his way into the village.
In the morning of April 13 he was vigorously counter-attacked by the British and driven out, leaving a number of prisoners, including a Battalion Commander, in the hands of the British. At night the enemy again attacked at Neuve Eglise for the fourth time during the day, and was once more repulsed. In the course of the night fighting was renewed about Neuve Eglise, and on the morning of April 14 the enemy recommenced his attacks in the neighbourhood of Bailleul. At the close of many hours of obstinate fighting about Neuve Église the British remained in possession of the village. The attack commenced by the enemy early in the morning in the neighbourhood of Bailleul was repulsed by the British, and another hostile attack which developed later in the morning in the neighbourhood of Merris was equally unsuccessful. Severe fighting continued all day around Neuve Église, and after beating off numerous attacks the British were in the end compelled to withdraw a second time from the village. In the course of the day no less than seven attacks were delivered by the enemy in the Merville sector, all of which were repulsed. South-west of Bailleul parties of the enemy in the Merville sector, all of which were repulsed. South-west of Bailleul parties of the enemy succeeded temporarily in penetrating the British positions, but were driven out and the British line restored. A successful minor operation was carried out by the British east of Robecq, when they took 150 prisoners. The enemy launched a heavy attack against the British positions between Bailleul and Neuve Église on April 15. The assault was delivered by three picked German divisions, which had not been previously engaged in the battle, an which succeeded, after a fierce and bitter struggle, in carrying the high ground south-east and east of Bailleul known as Mont de Lille, and the Ravelsberg. Our troops on this front fell back to new positions to the north of Bailleul and Wulverghem, and later Bailleul fell into the enemy's hands. On April 16 fresh German attacks developed in the neighbourhood of Wytschaete. The enemy also attacked south-west of Vieux Berquin, but was repulsed. A number of prisoners were taken by the British during the night in a successful minor enterprise south-east of Robecq.
Western (British) Front reported on 27th April 1918
In the evening of April 16 the British delivered a successful counter-attack in the neighbourhood of Wytschaete and also at Méteren, where the situation was restored, the village remaining in the hands of the British. Throughout the afternoon and evening repeated hostile attacks north of Bailleul were successfully repulsed. Bodies of German infantry advancing in close formation were caught by the British fire at short range, and a few prisoners were secured. The enemy also endeavoured to develop an attack east of Robecq, but his advance was broken up by the fire of the British artillery. In consequence of the progress made by the enemy on the Lys front the British holding forward positions east of Ypres withdrew to a new line without interference by the enemy. On the battle front south of Arras the parties of German infantry who had entered the British trenches opposite Boyelles were driven out in the afternoon and the line in this locality was completely restored. On April 17 hostile bombardments were opened on the whole of the Lys battle front, and from the Forêt de Nieppe to Wytschaete were followed by infantry attacks, all of which were successfully repulsed with severe loss to the enemy. On this date the French were co-operating with the British on this front. Hostile artillery exhibited great activity on the portion of the front from Givenchy to the east of Robecq, and also on the British positions between Locon and Robecq. South-east of Kemmel Hill hostile infantry attacked in three waves, and at one point pressed back our line slightly. The situation, however, was restored by a counter-attack. Later in the morning further attacks developed against the British positions south of Kemmel and were also repulsed. In the Bailleul sector the enemy attacked three times, and in each instance suffered a revers. In the evening the whole of the British front was reported intact.
There was severe fighting again on April 18 on the greater part of the Lys front. From La Bassée Canal at Givenchy to the Lys River east of St. Venant strong hostile attacks were made, all of which were repulsed. The losses inflicted on the attacking hostile infantry by the British fire were again reported to have been extremely heavy, and over 200 prisoners were taken by British troops. The struggle was particularly fierce in the neighbourhood of Givenchy, where the enemy made determined efforts, without success, to retrieve his previous failures. Later in the morning further attacks developed against the British positions south of Kemmel, and were repulsed. Hostile attacks launched by the enemy south of Kemmel during the evening were broken up by the British artillery and machine-gun fire. The fighting at Givenchy, as on other parts of the front, ended in the complete repulse of the enemy, who is known to have suffered heavy casualties caused by the British artillery prior to the opening of his attacks, and his losses in the course of day's fighting were equally severe. On April 19 the British artillery effectively engaged hostile troops and transport moving along roads behind the battle front. During the night a successful counter-attack by the 1st Division threw the enemy out of poins in the British advanced defences around Givenchy and Festubert, gained by him on April 18 at the cost of heavy losses. The British gained all objectives and the position here was re-established.
On April 20 the British advanced their line slightly and captured 37 prisoners. The enemy made an attempt to advance north-east of Ypres, but was stopped by the British artillery. Local fighting took place to the advantage of the British on April 21 in the neighbourhood of Robecq, where the enemy was successfully ejected from some of his advanced posts. Hostile artillery was showing great activity in this area. In the night a strong local attack, accompanied by heavy shelling, was made by the enemy against British positions in the neighbourhood of Mesnil (north of Albert). After sharp fighting, in the course of which the enemy succeeded in capturing a British advanced post, the attack was repulsed. The British positions slightly improved during the night in the Villers Bretonneux, Albert, and Robecq sectors. The enemy's shelling was directed chiefly against the British positions astride the Somme and the Ancre Rivers, in the lens sector, in the neighbourhood of Festubert, and in the Forêt de Nieppe. North-west of Festubert, on April 22, the enemy succeeded in capturing an advanced position, which had already changed hands several times during the heavy fighting. As the result of another successful minor operation carried out in the Robecq sector the British advanced their line slightly and captured 68 prisoners. Bodies of hostile infantry assembling in the neighbourhood were engaged by the British artillery. The enemy on April 24 launched heavy infantry attacks, which were delivered east of Amiens - in the Albert sector, north of the Somme, and between the Somme and Avre. North of the Somme and north of Albert the enemy made no progress, but south of the river the enemy stormed Villers-Bretonneux, ten miles from Amiens, round which fighting was still proceeding. East of Robecq a German attack failed and 84 prisoners were taken.
Western (British) Front reported on 5th May
On April 24 the enemy delivered a strong attack, without success, against the British new positions east of Robecq, leaving 84 prisoners in the hands of the British. [Note: William John Matcham (Oare) died this day to the east of Robecq in the Baquerolles Farm Sector] Also prisoners were secured by the British in successful minor enterprises east of the Forêt de Nieppe and in the neighbourhood of Méteren. Heavy fighting took place throughout the night of April 24-25 in and around Villers-Bretonneux. The British regained ground by counter-attacks, and took a number of prisoners. North of the Billers-Bretonneux-St. Quentin road the enemy three times attacked the British positions, and on each occasion was repulsed with loss. During this fighting the enemy made use of a few tanks. South of the Somme successful counter-attacks launched by Australian and English troops at night against the positions previously gained by the enemy in and around Villers-Bretonneux carried the British line forward to within a short distance of the British former front, and resulted in the capture of over 600 prisoners and holding the village. The enemy's attack in the morning on this front was made by at least four divisions. The numbers of German dead found in the positions recaptured by the British show that the enemy's losses were very heavy. In the morning of April 25 the enemy renewed his attacks in the neighbourhood of Bailleul and on the British positions farther east, and fighting continued in this sector on a wide front. The French and British positions from north of Bailleul to east of Wytschaete were heavily attacked all day. Fighting of great severity took place on the whole of this front, and particularly in the neighbourhood of Dranoutre, Kemmel, and Vierstraat. In the course of repeated attacks and counter-attacks the Allied troops were compelled to withdraw. On the Bailleul-Hollebeke front, after severe fighting lasting throughout the day against greatly superior forces, the Allied troops were compelled to give ground, and the enemy obtained a footing on Kemmel Hill. Fighting continued in the neighbourhood of Dranoutre-Kemmel and Vierstraat. The enemy finally gained possession of Dranoutre and Kemmel Hill, and the village. The enemy's attack was made in great strength by nine German divisions. The British carried out a successful minor operation during the night west of Merville, and captured 50 prisoners and three machine-guns. North of the Lys the battle continued fiercely on the whole front from the neighbourhood of Dranoutre to the Ypres-Commines canal.
In the afternoon of April 26 the enemy renewed his attacks, directing his assaults with particular insistence against the Allied positions from Locre to La Clytte, and astride the Ypres-Comines canal. In the neighbourhood of la Clytte and Scherpenberg all the enemy's attacks were held, but after severe fighting, in the course of which a series of determined attacks were repulsed with heavy loss to his troops, he succeeded in pressing the British line back in the direction of Locre. On both sides of the Ypres-Comines canal the enemy also made some progress. The French and British attacked the enemy's positions south of the Somme, in the neighbourhood of Hangard and Hangard Wood, and carried their line forward at certain points by heavy fighting. On the whole front north of the Lys River the fighting was very severe, the enemy making repeated and determined attempts to develop the advantage gained by him on the previous day. After some hours of fluctuating battle the advance of the enemy was held at all points and he suffered heavy casualties in the course of his man unsuccessful attacks. The enemy's assaults on the French positions from Locre to La Clytte were pressed with extreme violence, and after three attacks had been beaten off with great loss to him his troops succeeded at the fourth attempt in carrying the village of Locre. Later in the day the French counter-attacked and drove the enemy out, regaining possession of the village. At other points all the enemy's attacks were repulsed. Fierce fighting took place also north of Kemmel Village and in the neighbourhood of Voormezeele, which after a prolonged struggle remained in the hands of the British. In the afternoon the enemy again heavily attacked the British positions at Ridge Wood, south-west of Voormezeele, and was completely repulsed. Some hundreds of prisoners were captured by the British in this fighting. Local fighting took place on the Lys battle front, in the neighbourhood of Givenchy, as the result of which 40 prisoners were captured by the British. South of the Somme fighting continued during the afternoon and evening, to the advantage of the Allied troops, in the Hangard-Fillers-Bretonneux sector. The British line was again advance at certain points, and a hostile attack with tanks early I the afternoon was broken up by British fire and failed to develop. The number of prisoners captured by the British in this area was over 900.
Bodies of hostile infantry assembling east of Billers-Bretonneux on April 27 were effectively engaged by the British artillery. In the afternoon a hostile attack developed in the neighbourhood of Voormezeele. The enemy succeeded in capturing the village, but was driven out early in the night by a British counter-attack. At a later hour the enemy again attacked in this locality. A hostile attack which was made in the neighbourhood of Locre on April 28 was successfully repulsed.
By a successful enterprise carried out by the British at night the post in the neighbourhood of Festubert captured by the enemy on April 26-27 was retaken by the British together with over 50 prisoners. A heavy bombardment with high explosives and gas shell was opened by the enemy on April 29 on the whole front from Méteren to Voormezeele. Following a bombardment of great intensity, the French and British positions from the neighbourhood of Méteren to Zillebeke Lake were violently attacked in the morning by large hostile forces. Attacks were made also upon the Belgian positions north of Ypres. Fighting of great severity developed rapidly on the whole Allied front. The 25th, 49th, and 21st British Divisions completely repulsed every attempt made by the enemy to enter the British positions and, despite a constant succession of determined attacks in great strength, the line was maintained intact. The enemy's losses were very heavy. The French positions on the hills about Scherpenberg and Mont Rouge were also heavily attacked and the enemy repulsed. At points where the enemy infantry succeeded in penetrating a short distance into the French positions they were driven out by counter-attacks from the greater part of the ground of which they had temporarily gained possession. On the Belgian front also enemy attacks were repulsed after sharp fighting, in which severe casualties were inflicted on the enemy. Fighting was still continuing at certain points along the Allied battle fronts. Successful counter-attacks carried out by French troops in the afternoon and evening drove the enemy from the remainder of the ground gained by him earlier in the day in the neighbourhood of Locre, and a number of prisoners were taken. The whole of the village was in the hands of the Allies. After the heavy repulse inflicted on the enemy the night passed comparatively quietly on the northern battle front. The British advanced their line slightly during the night east of Villers-Bretonneux.
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.
April 6th Army and Navy Gazette reported:- A SPLENDID RECORD
It was in March, 1911, that leave was given for the first time to officers of the Navy and Marines to undergo training as aviators in heavier-than-air machines. The end of that year may be said to have seen the birth of the Royal Naval Air Service, although the Force was not known by that name until within about six weeks of the outbreak of war. It is noteworthy that the first Commandant of the Central Flying School was Captain Godfrey M. Paine, Royal Navy, who has not, as a member of the Air Council, been made a Major-General, all the officers of the Air Force being given Army titles. At the same time that the Central Flying School was established on Salisbury Plain the aerodrome of the naval wing at Eastchurch and the Air Department at the Admiralty, under Captain Murray F. Sueter, were also constituted. The development of the Naval Air Service then proceeded very rapidly, under the fostering care of Mr. Winston Churchill. Moreover, this was accomplished In the face of the indifference with which the arm was regarded by some in high quarters. To do justice to the work performed by the R.N.A.S. a volume would be required. Like the great institution from which it sprung, its ubiquity has been one of its most prominent characteristics. Its record of duty admirably performed, and its splendid achievements will, in the days to come, make one of the finest chapters in the history of the war.
As part of the preparation for an expected Spring Offensive, Britain undertook a series of limited Raids on German positions. Once the German offensive began, there was an increased flow of prisoners alongside the brutal losses inflicted on both sides.
1914 to end 1916
1918 - German Offensive to 5th August
1918 - 100-Days Allied Offensive from 6th August to the Close of the War
Reported widely in the first week of April. We transcribe the account found in the Western Gazette of 5th April 1918.
KING GEORGE IN FRANCE. TALK WITH MEN BACK FROM THE BATTLEFIELD. WOUNDED MEN'S WELCOME. "ARE WE DOWNHEARTED?" ASKS HIS MAJESTY. HOW THE SOLDIERS REPLIED.
WAR CORRESPONDENTS' HEADQUARTERS, FRANCE, SUNDAY.
The King has been spending a crowded fifty hours in France, during which time he has moved freely among the troops which took part in resisting the first bull-rush of the German offensive.
At 9.30 on Thursday morning the King left Victoria, attended by Lord Stamfordham and Colonel Clive Wigram. Embarking in a destroyer, he experienced a very rough-and-tumble passage. On arrival in France his Majesty was met by Sir Derek Keppel.
After a simple lunch, a start was made for a little town in northern France. Here various staff officers and corps commanders were presented. Continuing their journey, the Royal party came quite by accident upon a resting division - one of those which had so distinguished themselves in the bitter fighting.
Descending from his car, the King spent a considerable time in chatting with officers and men and hearing about their adventures.
A SCOTTISH WELCOME.
The following morning the King was early astir, and his first visit was to the headquarters of Sir Douglas Haig.
The next place of call was the headquarters of the Royal Air Service, where the King heard at first hand of the wonderful feats of our flying men and inspected various machines.
The little procession then made its way along by-roads off the main routes of communication to where troops were likely to be resting, and came upon a famous Scottish regiment.
When it really dawned upon the canny intelligence of the Scots that the central figure of the little red-hatted group was indeed the King, they literally "made the welkin ring."
His Majesty shook hands with the officers and talked with many of the men.
Motoring along a road, the next halt was abreast of a labour Battalion, which was resting after a six miles' march.
The King moved down the Companies, talking freely, and giving the men the latest news from the battle front.
They asked him many questions with frank familiarity, which greatly pleased him.
Later in the afternoon the King came upon a mass of resting men, who, spying his car, made a rush and surrounded it.
The King descended, and laughingly asked, "Who are you?" "We are the _______," came the reply.
"Oh, we all know the ____________," replied the King thereby calling down a thunderous roar.
But when, in departing, his Majesty cried out, "Are we downhearted?" such an enthusiastic uproar broke loose that the cattle peaceful grazing half a mile off stopped munching and raised their heads.
"PUT IT RIGHT THERE."
The King also spent some time among the wounded. He first visited two hospital trains, which were taking their suffering freights en route for base hospital.
"Are you much hurt?" he asked of one clay-caked, bandage-swathed Worcester man. "Not much, sir. Just good enough for a blighty," answered the soldier with an expansive smile.
But His Majesty found most merriment in the greeting of a strapping soldier, obviously born in the colonies, who leaned forward in his seat as the King opened the door, looking critically at him for a moment, then, painfully extending his hand, said, "I've often heard of you. Put it right there!"
The deeply human side of the King came out in the solicitude and compassion as he moved softly among the wounded at a clearing station.
"This will buck the boys up more than anything I can think of," said one man, with a tremor in his voice.
"PROUD OF THE RACE"
The King in a letter to Sir Douglas Haig, says: "My short visit to the battle front gave me an exceptional opportunity of seeing you and some of your generals engaged in the fierce battle still raging, and I thus obtained personal testimony to the indomitable courage and unflinching tenacity with which my splendid troops have withstood the supreme effort of the greater part of the enemy's fighting power.
With these experiences, short, but vivid, I feel that the whole Empire will join with me in expressing the gratitude due to you and your army for the skilful, unswerving manner in which his formidable attack has been, and continues to be, dealt with.
"Though for the moment our troops have been obliged by sheer weight of numbers to give some ground, the impression left on my mind is that no army could be in better heart.
Any one privileged to share these experiences would feel with me proud of the British race and of that unconquerable spirit which will, please God, bring us through our present trials.
We at home must ensure that the man-power is adequately maintained, and that our workers – en and women – will continue nobly to meet the demands for all the necessities of war. Thus may you be relieved from any anxiety as to the means by which, with the support of our faithful and brave Allies, your heroic army shall justify that inspiring determination which I found permeated all ranks."
The following are the distances between places on the battle-front and important centres:-
|Albert to Amiens||18|
|Albert to Calais||75|
|Bray to Amiens||20|
|Chaulnes to Amiens||23|
|Noyen to Compiegne||15|
|Noyen to Paris||52|
|River Oise to Soissons||15|
Lance Corporal, Joseph Henry RAY, G/17547, 7th Battalion - Royal Sussex Regiment (of Teynham)
On 9th April, 1918, the Secretary of the War Office issued the following notice:- "As a mark of Her Majesty's appreciation of the good services rendered by the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps both at Home and Abroad since its inauguration, and especially of the distinction which it has earned in France by its work for the Army during the recent fighting on the Western front, Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to assume the position and title of Commandant-in-Chief of the Corps, which in future will bear the name of Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps."
Women were first officially employed with the Army under special authority, dated 3rd August, 1915, given to the Cookery Section of the Women's Legion, and subsequently by Army Council Instruction 441 of 26th February, 1916, when members of the Women's Legion were engaged in various household duties in convalescent hospitals and as instructresses at military schools of cookery. By further instruction, authority was extended to officers' messes, &c., and ultimately to army formation generally, and by Army Council Instruction 221 of 7 February 1917, to women drivers &c., under the Motor Transport Section of the Women's Legion.
Four hostile airships crossed our East Coast on the night of April 12 and proceeded to attack certain Eastern and Midland districts. Two of them penetrated a few miles inland. Of the other two, one reached the Midlands and the other nearly reached the north-West Coast. The raiders were travelling at a great height and showed no inclination to attempt to penetrate defended areas. Most of the bombs were dropped in the open country, and apart from the demolition of four houses at on place the damage so far reported is inconsiderable. The casualties were as follows:- Killed, 2 men, 2 women, 1 child; total, 5. Injured - 8 men, 6 women, 1 child; total, 15.
The East Kent Gazette of 13th April 1918 carried the following: "ROLL OF HONOUR – WIGG – March 27th, at sea, through H.M.S. __________ striking a mine, Thomas Wigg, 1st Class Stoker, R.N., the beloved husband of Mrs Wigg, of the Laurels, Greenstreet, in his 31st year. From his sorrowing Wife, Father, Mother, Brothers and sister."
At the time of the report, the ship was not named as this detail would aid the enemy - it was H.M.S. Kale.
The East Kent Gazette of 13th April 1918 reported - TEYNHAM MAN WINS MILITARY MEDAL – Driver Charles Barrett, of the Army Service Corps, who in peace time was employed by Mr. W. Roper Dixon, has been awarded the Military Medal. Mrs Barrett, the wife, who lives at Teynham Street, has just received information of the fact from the Commanding Officer of Driver Barrett's Company, in which the officer says:- "Barrett is one of my very best men." He adds that the medal was granted for gallantry and devotion to duty. On one occasion he continued to take his waggon up to the line in very heavy shell fire, quite regardless of his own personal safety, and by this means a part of the line was kept supplied. The officer adds:- "We are very fond of him and we hope that he will live to meet you again after the war, and that you may have many happy years together." Driver Barrett has been serving in France for two years and three months. He is a son of Mrs. Nash of Bapchild, by her first marriage.
The Faversham and North East Kent News of 20th April 1918 also reported this distinguished bravery:
"WAR HONOURS. MILITARY MEDAL FOR TEYNHAM MAN
The Military Medal has been awarded to Driver Charles Barrett, of the Army Service Corps, who before the war was in the employ of Mr W Roper Dixon, and whose wife is residing at Teynham. An announcement of the award was received recently by Mrs Barrett from the Commanding Officer of Driver Barrett's Company. The officer stated that Driver Barrett was one of his very best men, and that the medal was awarded him for gallantry and devotion to duty. On one occasion he continued to take his waggon up to the line in very heavy shell fire, quite regardless of his own personal safety, and by this means a part of the line was kept supplied. The officer adds:- We are very fond of him and we hope that he will live to meet you again after the war, and that you may have many happy years together." Driver Barrett has been serving in France for two years and three months."
Note: Our attention was first drawn to this man by descendant Kevin Barrett who used to live in Lynsted village.
The East Kent Gazette reported on 20th April 1918: "THE "CALL UP." OCCUPATIONAL EXEMPTIONS TO BE WITHDRAWN.
The Minister of National Service has, under the power conferred upon him by the Military Service Act, 1918, made an Order withdrawing exemptions from military service held wholly or partly on occupational grounds by certain men of various ages employed in a large number of occupations, who are in medical Categories A, B1, and C1, or Medical Grades 1 and 2, or who have not been medically examined.
The Order, states the official announcement, is far reaching in its effect, and came into force on Tuesday. It provides that the exemptions of the men concerned are withdrawn as from April 24th next, after which date the men will be called up for military service.
The current regulations provide that applications for renewal of exemptions withdrawn by the Order (which can be made on authorized personal grounds only) may be lodged within seven days of withdrawal, i.e., in the case by May 1st.
A decertified man has no right to apply for renewal of exemption on occupational grounds, nor has his employer any right to make such an application on his behalf.
A limited discretion has been given to each Director of National Service in the regions into which Great Britain is divided to suspend the calling up of a decertified man who is employed on Government contract for urgent war supplies. Applications for this suspension must be made before April 24th on a special form, and suspension will only be granted under exceptional conditions. Penalties are provided under the Defence of the Realm Regulations for any false or misleading representations.
Particulars of the large number of trades and occupations affected by the Order, the manner in which applications may be made in respect of men on Government contracts, and the addresses to which such applications should e sent, are to be fully set out in the notes appended to the Order.
Every man holding an exemption on occupational grounds, and every employer of such men, should take steps to become acquainted with the terms of the Order. Copies of the Order are available for inspection at any of the National Service Offices and at the Employment Exchanges before the end of this week, and arrangements are being made under which official copies published by the Stationery Office will be on sale through newsagents and bookstalls by the beginning of next week.
The Order does not affect the calling up of coalminers, port transport workers, or holder of Protection Certificates under the Schedule of Protected Occupations."
Private, William John MATCHAM, 35498, 2/5th Btn, Gloucestershire Regiment (of Oare)
The East Kent Gazette of 27th April 1918 carried the following item: "ROLL OF HONOUR. CHEESEMAN- March 28th, 1918, killed in action, in France, Ernest, the beloved husband of Elizabeth Cheeseman, of Barrow Green, Teynham aged 37 years. From his loving Wife and Children.
GAMBELL – In loving Memory of our beloved son, who gave his life for his country on March 21st 1918, in his 21st year.
Could we have clasped his dying hand,
And heard his last farewell,
It would not have been so hard to part
With our boy we loved so well.
For he died for his king and country,
With the bravest of the brave,
Now all we have is his dear photo,
Since he found a hero's Grave.
From Mum, Dad, and Brothers.
RAY.- April 7th, 1918, killed in France, Lance Corporal Joseph H. Ray, of the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles (attached Royal Sussex). Youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. William G. Ray, of Mount Pleasant, Greenstreet, aged 21 years."
On 27th April 1918, the East Kent Gazette reported on changes to maximum age for conscription.
THE NEW MILITARY AGES. PROPOSED PROCEDURE. The Minister of National Service has issued the following notice:-
The passing of the Military Service (No.2) Act, 1918, renders liable for military service men who are above the previous military age. These men have not yet had any opportunity of applying to the Tribunals for exemption or of obtaining any protection from recruitment appropriate to their occupations.
Before any men who have hitherto been above the military age limit are actually called up, public notices will be issued and will indicate the procedure to be followed. It is, therefore not necessary for such men to take any immediate action. It is intended that a summons for medical examination should be issued to these men before any summons for military service is issued, and that the time for making an application to a Tribunal, for exemption should be after the date of the medical examination. In the meantime, men newly liable for military service will remain in civil life.
Certain voluntarily attested men, who have hitherto been allowed to remain in civil life because they were in fact above the former military age, will be regarded as if they were men whose liability for service has now arisen for the first time.