First World War Project

Home News - September 1916

Stabilised Front in Europe 1914/1915

The Western Front continued largely "stabilised" from January 1915 to the end of 1916. But assaults continued to take their toll on our local men; mostly on the Western Front. Of course, we are now in the full swing of the Allied Offensive on the Somme and this month we had several casualties across Kingsdown and Creekside.

Seven Kingsdown and Creekside men died during September. We have included William James Ralph as he had a firm association with Luddenham. However, he is not remembered on the Luddenham Memorial, but he is remembered in Memorial Services locally. He was killed in action only eleven days after arriving in France, probably through machine gun enfilading.

The Battle of The Somme continued to drag on with significant casualties but without significant change to the front line. Significant actions included the Battles of Ypres that stretched through August into September and beyond. Within the Somme theatre, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15th-22nd September) proved costly to our communities. Other battles of note include, Guillemont, Delville Wood and Pozières (from 6th); Ginchy (9th); Morval (25th-28th); and Thiepval Ridge (26th-28th).

On 1st September, Russian and British Governments conclude the "Sykes-Picot" agreement as to the eventual partition of Asia Minor - this agreement had major costly repercussions into the modern political map of the Middle East.

Actions continued in other theatres include: Surrender of Dar es Salaam (German East Africa) to British Forces (4th September); German and Bulgarian forces took Silistra (Dobrudja) (10th September); seventh battle of Isonzo (14th-18th); and actions around Greece.

Fighting in the air was marked over the night, 2nd/3rd September, when 14 German airships attacked the East Coast, Midlands and London. The 15th September saw the first aeroplane co-operation with tanks instituted by the British Air Force at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. The German airships returned on 24th September to attack the East Coast and London, leading to significant loss of life from bombing - of the 170 deaths most were civilians. "L.32" was destroyed by aeroplane at Billericay, "L.33" was brought down by gunfire in Essex overnight (23rd/24th).

The Battle of Verdun continued but eased as German resources had to be redirected to the Somme Campaign. The Second Offensive Battle of Verdun renewed fighting from 20th August.


The machinery for the detailed monthly compilation of Military Statistics did not take place until later in 1916 (October) after the intervention of Lloyd George (then Secretary of State for War). Statistics up until then were somewhat haphazardly recorded. However, the War Office bound together those War Statistics in March 1922 adding available data for earlier months.

Percentages of the Strength by Arms of the Total Strength in September, 1916, and June, 1918, of the Regular and Territorial Forces in France. (Non-commissioned officers and men only.)

  Percentages (%)
September, 1916 June, 1918
Cavalry 2.5 1.30
Royal Artillery 18.5 18.17
Royal Engineers 9.5 7.66
Royal Flying Corps 1.1 -
Infantry 42.9 32.88
Army Service Corps 10.9 10.09
Royal Army Medical Corps 4.1 3.53
Machine-Gun Corps - 3.63
Tanks - 0.80
Other troops 10.5 21.94*
  100.0 100.0

Medical support

The increased numbers of injured men saw a corresponding increase in the Royal Army Medical Corps. In August 1914, the RAMC consisted of 1,047 Officers and 16,331 Other Ranks. By August 1916, the numbers stood at 12,300 Officers (including 300 dental surgeons) and 111,776 Other Ranks. By the close of hostilities in 1918, the overall numbers had increased but not by such a margin - 13,035 Officers (831 dental surgeons) and 131,361 Other Ranks.

Nursing: The effective strength of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Services (Q.A.I.M.N.S.) including the Reserve was: August 1914 = 463 trained, nil untrained or partially trained; August 1916 - 6,864 trained nurses, 3,580 untrained or partially trained. By far the largest numbers of Q.A.I.M.N.S. were found at Home and in France. The strength off the Territorial Force Nursing Services (T.F.N.S.) was: August 1914 = 2,783 Trained, nil untrained or partially trained; August 1916 = 4,491 Trained, 2,785 untrained or partially trained. These nurses were heavily represented at Home (60%).

For the mules and horses, there was a comparable significant increase in the RAVC Establishment: August 1914 Establishment stood at 197 Officers and 322 Other Ranks; August 1916 saw 1,170 Officers in this Veterinary Corps supported by 17,346 Other Ranks. There continued to be very heavy dependance on mules/horses for transport, supply and manoeuvring guns and lumbers.

The Royal Army Ordnance Corps (R.A.O.C.) grew over the same period from 251 Officer and 2,272 Other Ranks to 1,413 Officers and 23,058 Other Ranks. A fair measure of the consumption of all supplies in the stand-off in the European Theatre.

Aeroplane Statistics

123 pilots graduated at the Central Flying School between 18th June, 1916, and 29th September, 1916, and 829 graduated at other stations.
About 200 pilots were on the waiting list on 12th June, 1916, and the same number on 29th September.
The number of officers serving overseas on 31st May, 1916, was 1,161, and the number at home was 1,457. On 29th September, 1916, 1,639 were serving overseas and 3,528 at home, and there were at home and abroad 42,482 other ranks.
On 29th September, 1916, there were 64 Service Squadrons and 33 Reserve Squadrons already formed, and three Service Squadrons and 20 Reserve Squadrons forming.

The emergence of Tank warfare

August 1916 saw the first four Tank Companies arrive in France. Although their first use in The Somme took place on 15th September.

-- Despatches covering the Casualty Deaths --

France and Flanders - Written 23rd December 1916 (General Haig)

Airship squadron assault on London, East Coast and Midlands

The 2nd September saw a German raid by fourteen airships (greatest number to attack simultaneously) on London and other parts of England. Airship "S.L.-11" destroyed by aeroplane at Cuffley (night 2nd /3rd).

Portsmouth Evening News (amongst many) of 4th September 1916
The greatest Zeppelin raid of the war took place during the late hours of Saturday night and the early hours of yesterday morning.
Thirteen Zeppelins raided the East Coast of England, the outskirts of London, and certain industrial centres in the Midlands, and the raid lasted from 10.30 p.m. until after 3 a.m. It proved to be nothing but a great fiasco, and ended in a blazing Zeppelin crashing to the ground near Enfield just after 2 a.m.
The spectacle of the Zeppelin falling in flames was visible for a distance of forty miles, and lit up the whole sky. In an instant hundreds of thousands of voices burst into a great cheer - triumphant, elated, defiant - that echoed and re-echoed across a vast area. In all history there has never been such a cheer. The sound of it will certainly reach Berlin.
The dead commander of the wrecked airship was found with one hand still grasping the steering-wheel.
Most of the raiders appeared to have lost their way over the Eastern counties and discharged their bombs harmlessly in fields or in the sea. Only three were able to approach the outskirts of London.
The total of casualties and damage done by the raiders was out of all proportion to the effort made by the enemy. Two persons were killed and 13 injured.
To whom the fine achievement of bringing the raider down belongs is not mentioned officially, but one story says that a British airman fought the Zeppelin in the clouds and brought it down in flames. No bombs were dropped on London.
Germany's new war loan opens to-day. It has received a poor advertisement.

[Note: Later it was concluded there had been fourteen airships; the failure of the attack was credited to the policy of "obscuration of lights" in homes and vehicles]

† - Thirty-ninth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 9th September 1916.

Private, Thomas William BEER (of Lynsted), Killed in Action aged 19 years
Theatre: France and Flanders
Memorial: Caterpillar Valley Cemetery. Grave Ref: XVI.A.1
Serving in: 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment [previously #3240 East Kent Yeomanry]
Died while attacking German trenches in High Wood, Longueval.

† - Fortieth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 11th September 1916.

Private, William James RALPH (of Luddenham, not on the Memorial but remembered in local services), Killed in Action aged 30 years
Theatre: France and Flanders
Memorial: Serre Road Cemetery, No.2; Grave Ref: XXXVI. D. 15.
Serving in: 1st Battalion, Queens Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment.
Died during German bombardments of Dublin Trench, Leuze Wood.

† - Forty-first Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 12th September 1916.

Private, William Percy FOSTER (of Oare), Killed in Action aged 23 years
Theatre: France and Flanders
Memorial: Abbeville Communal Cemetery, Plot 6, Row "H", No.6
Serving in: 1st Battalion, Queens Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment
Died of Wounds (probably due to machine gun enfilading)

† - Forty-second Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 15th September 1916.

Lance Corporal, Frederick Thomas HOLLANDS (of Lynsted), Killed in Action aged 27 years
Theatre: France and Flanders
Memorial: Thiepval Memorial, Somme.
Serving in: 1st Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
Died in trenches N.E. of Leuze Wood

Canadian Soldiers gassed in Shornecliffe bathrooms

Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of Saturday, 16th September 1916
At the inquest on Friday on two Canadian soldiers, Private William Everett, of the Army Medical Corps, and Private George Edward Philips, of the Ordnance Corps, who were found dead in separate bathrooms at Shorncliffe Military Hospital, it was stated that in both cases the geysers fitted up were oil burners converted into gas burners. There was no ventilating shaft to carry off the fumes, but the orders were that the windows were always to be kept open, and in both cases they were found to be closed.
The medical evidence showed that Phillips died from asphyxia, but that Everett might have died from syncope [fainting and collapse].
In returning a verdict of Death from Misadventure the jury added a rider to the effect that the geysers as fixed were dangerous.

Local Lynsted man arrives to fight as Australian

Faversham and North East Kent News of 16th September 1916
Reginald French, elder son of Mr. and Mrs. James French, of Greenstreet, who went out to Australia about seven years ago, has this week arrived in England with a contingent of the Australian Expeditionary Force, which he joined some time back. Mr. and Mrs. French's younger son, James, is also serving in H.M. Forces.
[Reginald French was killed in 1918]

† - Forty-third Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 17th September 1916.

Private, John Henry ABBOTT (of Luddenham), Killed in Action aged 21 years
Memorial: Thiepval Memorial, Somme.
Theatre: France and Flanders
Serving in: 10th Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
Died during the Battle of Flers, in Switch Trench.

Great Air Raid on 24th September

Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of 30th September 1916

About a dozen German airships raided London and the Eastern, South-eastern, and East Midland counties on Saturday night. Two were brought down, on in flames. The crew of this one were all destroyed. The crew of the other set fire to their craft and then surrendered.
The damage in the provinces was slight, except in one town in the East Midlands, where two persons were killed and 11 injured. In London the casualties were heavy, with 28 killed - including three children - and 99 injured, of whom 17 were children. Both of the airships destroyed were large craft of a new pattern.
The earlier communiqués were followed at 5.20 p.m. on Sunday by the following:-
Latest reports show that probably not more than twelve airships participated in last night's air raid.
Police reports from the provinces indicate that the damage doe by raiding airships was slight.
At one town in the East Midlands, however, a number of bombs were dropped, and it is regretted that two persons were killed and eleven injured. It is feared that two more bodies are buried under some ruins in this town. Some damage was caused at the railway station and about a dozen houses and shops were wrecked or damaged, an a chapel and a storehouse were set on fire.
With this exception, no other casualties have been reported outside the metropolitan area, and although a large number of bombs were dropped promiscuously over the districts visited by the airships, the material damage is insignificant. A great number of bombs fell in the sea or in open places.
In the metropolitan area seventeen men, eight women and three children were killed, forty-five men, thirty-seven women and seventeen children being injured.
A considerable number of small dwelling-houses an shops were demolished or damaged and a number of fires were caused. Two factories sustained injury, some empty railway trucks were destroyed and the permanent way was slightly damaged in two places.
No reports have been received of any military damage.
Messages received from correspondents at various points between London and the Essex coast report that, to the great delight of thousands of watchers, one of the raiding airships was brought down in flames in Essex about 1 o'clock on Sunday morning. The sound of anti-aircraft guns and the dropping of bombs had brought the people from their houses to various points of vantage, and they watched the airship as it proceeded eastwards held for a long time by the concentrated searchlights, with shells bursting all round it in such apparently close proximity that it was felt certain hits must have been scored. While they were watching there was a sudden flash, then a huge flare shot up, and in a few seconds the airship descended slowly until it resolved itself into a huge ball of fire, and held in the rays of the searchlights it gradually fell to earth.
Referring to the second Zeppelin a correspondent says:- About 1.30 on Sunday morning an enemy airship, which had been hovering over the fields apparently suffering from engine trouble, and possibly from the attentions of anti-aircraft guns, descended in a field near a cottage occupied by a farm labourer. The crew said to have numbered twenty-one, got out. A special constable promptly appeared upon the scene, and in the words of a local rustic, "He took up the whole of 'em." a cyclist also acting as escort.
In an interview, the labourer said about 1.30 the vessel descended in a field near the back of his cottage. The crew got out, and then followed an explosion. "It didn't hurt any of us, but it smashed the front windows of my house and those of my neighbours," said the man. "Then all that blessed crew came to my cottage and started knocking at the door. I never answered, and i heard the commander cursing. He spoke English and said something about 'the _____ house.'" Asked if the German said "Kamerad," he replied, "I don't know what else he said, but I put my wife and three children in a back room, and myself scarce, too.

The fall of the burning Zeppelin was watched by tens of thousands of people over a very wide area. It was greeted by a roar of fierce and exultant cheering, which sprang forth spontaneously. Even persons standing and gazing by themselves in lonely places cheered triumphantly. The joy was fiercest in the districts over which the raiders had just passed dropping death promiscuously.
The descent of the other Zeppelin was almost unobserved. He came down in a lone, open field, near a labourer's cottage - whether crippled by gun-fire or disabled by engine trouble is not yet stated. Her crew got out and an attempt was made to blow up the ship, for a loud explosion followed and the envelope of the Zeppelin was destroyed. This appears to have done no more damage than to singe the hair off the back of the labourer's dog.

The descent in a sheet of flame of the Zeppelin that fell in the southern part of Essex was witnessed by watchers on St. Thomas's Hill, Canterbury, as well as at Borstal Hill, near Whitstable, and on the promenade at Tankerton. The sight is described as one of much grandeur.

In Canterbury the fact that there was an air raid was notified about 9.35 by the lowering of the electric light. The firing of the anti-aircraft guns in the north-west was distinctly heard at various points in Canterbury and in the neighbourhood. The "all clear" signal was received about 3.5 a.m.

† - Forty-fourth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 26th September 1916.

Captain, Gerard Prideux SELBY (of Teynham) Killed in Action aged 25 years
Memorial: Orvillers Military Memorial, Ovillers la Boisselle, Somme
Theatre: France and Flanders
Serving in: R.A.M.C. - Attached to the 9th (Service) Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
Died in 'no man's land' tending to injured colleagues.

† - Forty-fifth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 26th September 1916.

Private, Henry SMITH (of Teynham)Killed in Action aged 25 years
Memorial: Vimy (Canadian) Memorial
Theatre: France and Flanders
Serving in: 29th (Vancouver) Battalion, British Columbian Regiment, Canadian Infantry Expeditionary Force
Died during an attack or counter-attack at Courcelette

Greenstreet Man Wounded

Faversham and North East Kent News of 30th September 1916
Lieut. R.L. Whittle, London Regiment, son of Mr. R.A. Whittle, of Greenstreet, was wounded on the 15th inst. He is now in hospital at Cambridge, and, we are pleased to hear, making satisfactory progress. Lieut Whittle joined the Army in the early days of the war. He had for some time been engaged at Messrs. Peter Robinson's, the well-known drapery firm of Oxford Street, London.

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