First World War Project

Home News - March 1917

The Western Front arrangements of fighting strength 1916 to 1917A change of theatre map (right), even if no great change in front lines! This map shows the major formations confronting each other over the Western Front in the run up to April 1917 (click map for enlarged image). Immediately following the Close of The Somme, military formations were reorganised, men entered into training in more flexible formations. However, assaults and attrition continued to take their toll on our local men; mostly on the Western Front. There followed "the Somme winter" from October 1916 to February 1917. 1917 proved very costly to our communities; more so than the Somme. Both sides were exhausted and depleted by the Battle of the Somme; both sides had to live in the partially destroyed trenches in the bitter cold and (when thawed) knee-deep mud. What followed was a period of relative quiet but for a few limited actions and losses. The suffering would have been known about at home simply through the return of soldiers injured or on leave.

The German retreat from the Somme to the Hindenberg Line" began during March (from 14th through to 5th April).

The 'game changer' waiting in the wings was the declining reliability and effectiveness of the impoverished and ill-equiped Russian Army as well as the groundswell of popular opposition to the instruments of the Russian state.  On 12th March, the Russian Revolution began. 13th March, Prince Golitsin, Russian Premier, and General Byelyaev, Russian Minister for War, removed from office by Revolutionary party. On 14th March, the new Provisional Government was proclaimed in Russia and the next day (15th) Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia, abdicated. On 16th, mutiny broke out in the Russian Baltic Fleet. With that decline in Russian structure and forces, through to June 1917, Germany was increasingly able to move some of its own military machine to its Western Front. As this story-line unfolded, the Allies also prepared themselves for an 'end game' to the War.

The 'game changer' during 1917 was the German implementation of their 31st January declaration on 1st February leading to a policy of "unrestricted submarine warfare". Norway forbade all submarines from entering their territorial waters on the same day.

America gets even closer to joining forces with the Allies. On 3rd February, the USA took the long-awaited severance of diplomatic relations with Germany. On 25th February, a German submarine sank the British S.S. "Laconia" and this proved the final straw for the USA. On 26th February, President Wilson asked Congress for power to arm merchant ships. On 27th February, President Wilson states that he considers sinking of "Laconia" the "overt act" for which he was waiting to justify American involvement - however, the Declaration of War did not happen until 6th April 1917. The position was escallated, on 28th February, when Germany made proposals to the Mexican Government for an alliance against the USA (published in the American Press).

In the absence of large engagements on the Western Front in Europe, the focus fell elsewhere. At sea, mines and submarines choked off some supplies but not all. Aircraft used for range-finding, surveying of trenches, bombing continued to grow - on 1st March, 1917, the number of military aeroplanes in existence was 1,614 abroad and 2,799 at home. On 16th March there took place an action between German raider "Leopard" and HM.S. "Achilles" and Armed Boarding Steamer "Dundee"; "Leopard was sunk. The following day (17th) German airship "L.39" destroyed at Compiegne when returning from raid on England. On 18th, there was a German destroyer raid on Ramsgate and Broadstairs. On 19th, French battleship "Danton" was sunk by torpedo in the Mediterranean. On 21st, British hospital ship "Asturias" torpedoed off Start Point, 8 miles off the Devon Coast, in spite of displaying the Red Cross and using the correct identification lights. Soon after, 30th March, British hospital ship "Gloucester Castle" was torpedoed between Havre and Southampton, but towed in.

On the political front, on 20th March, the first meeting of the British Imperial War Conference took place. On 30th March, secret proposals were also made by the Emperor of Austria to the French President (M. Poincare) to open conversations with a view to peace.


"Remounts" - Riding Horses

The number of riding horses purchased in United Kingdom from the date of mobilization to 31st December, 1918, is as follows:-

1st, Mobilization period (5th August, 1914, to 16th August, 1914, inclusive) 49,131
2nd, Completion of mobilization period to 31st March, 1915 57,271
3rd, 1st April, 1915, to 31st March, 1916 21,337
4th, 1st April, 1916, to 31st March, 1917 20,583
5th, 1st April, 1917, to 31st March, 1918 10,646
6th, 1st April, 1918, to 31st December, 1918 15,697

Royal Airforce in March 1917 Statistical summary

† - Fifty Sixth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 7th March 1917.

Private, Henry Mercer CHAPMAN (of Newnham), Killed in Action aged 20 years
Theatre: France and Flanders
Memorial: Fouquescourt British Cemetery, Plot 1, Row BB, Grave 6. Concentrated from Belloy-en-Santerre C.C.
Serving in: 2nd Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers. Died during a flawed Relieving action by 2nd Welch Regiment.

8th March: Count Zeppelin dies

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917) was born in Konstanz, Baden on 8 April 1838 and was the first large-scale builder of the rigid dirigibles which eventually became synonymous with his name.....Learn more from website.

Local support for our Prisoners of War - letter of appreciation

Faversham and North East Kent News of 10th March 1917
PRISONERS OF WAR. At Newnham and Doddington the local work of sending parcels to men belonging to those two parishes who are prisoners of war is still being carried on.
Lance-Corporal Henry Farbridge, Royal West Kents, one of the prisoners, writes a letter of thanks for the parcels sent and says:- "I have work on the land here and it is doing me a lot of good, after spending nearly two years in camp. My wound is getting quite strong now and does not trouble me. I am in good health and spirits…..

March was important for the practical engagement of women in overseas theaters.

Formation and Growth of Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps. The decision to inaugurate the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps led (13th March) to the first batch of women (mostly original members of the Women's Legion) being enrolled and provided with Identification Certificates prior to departure for France, on 4th April, under Army Council Instruction 537 of 28th March, 1917.

† - Fifty Seventh Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 15th March 1917.

Gunner, Daniel Thomas BAKER (of Luddenham), Killed in Action aged 25 years.
Theatre: France and Flanders
Memorial: Faubourg D'Amiens Cemetery, Arras, Plot 3, Row G, Grave 22
Serving in: 109th Battery, Royal Field Artillery (RFA), 281st Brigade, 56th Division. His death is described in War Diaries - "Registration of all batteries and building of battery positions, 109th Battery 4 men killed and 2 wounded in their position near the STATION ARRAS."

East Kent Tribunals - Relief from Conscription

Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of 17th March 1917
EAST KENT APPEAL TRIBUNAL.- MR. KNOWLES GRANTED SIX MONTHS' EXEMPTION.- John Knowles, 24, married, head man on fruit farm with over 1,000 trees, was appealed for by his father, Mr. Edward Knowles, of Uplees, Faversham and Lynsted, the local tribunal having withdrawn conditional exemption. The appeal was allowed, and local tribunal to grant six months exemption conditional on his remaining in present occupation in market gardening.

The Death of William Feakins reported

Faversham and North East Kent News of 24th March 1917
ROLL OF HONOUR. Mr and Mrs H. Feakins, of Four Oaks, have lost their eldest son, William Henry Feakins, Middlesex Regiment, who was killed in action on the 3rd February. In a letter of condolence to the parents Sergeant Williams, the deceased's platoon sergeant, speaks very highly of him. He says: Your son often impressed me with his soldierly qualities. He was very popular among the boys of the platoon, and we all feel his loss. He was considered by all a good soldier." The deceased, who was killed instantaneously, was23 years of age.

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