First World War Project
Home News - September 1918
The End Game - the One Hundred Day Allied Offensive Presses the Advantage
The German Army's situation was desperate. Their Spring Offensive had shown early success but at an enormous cost in soldiers and resources, married to an inability to feed those surviving soldiers. The battle-lines had stretched to breaking-point for the German troops. The conditions at the Front were the result of a failed attempt to 'break through' Allied lines using lightly equipped "attack troops" for rapid deployment and swift progress. That progress had also swollen the German casualty list.
The accounts transcribed from The Army and Navy Gazette (below) grow in length with each passing week as the Allied attack progressed at unfamiliar rates that needed more words to express. Those accounts found themselves replicated in newspapers throughout the Allied countries.
"The Army and Navy Gazette" summarised events on the British (Western) Front.
Western (British) Front reported on 7 September 1918
On September 2 the enemy was heavily defeated in his prepared defences of the Drocourt-Quéant system, with the result that he retired along practically the whole battle front. South of the Canadians, English, Scottish, and naval troops of the 17th Corps, under command of Lieut.-Gen. Sir Charles Fergusson, performed no less a gallant and arduous task in storming the junction of the Drocourt-Quéant and Hindenburg systems. The Tank Corps assisted materially in the success of these operations. The Drocourt-Quéant lines had been perfected by the enemy during the past 18 months, and provided a most formidable obstacle, furnished with every device of modern engineering. The enemy had reinforced his defences here to such a degree that on a front of 8,000 yards no less than eleven German divisions were identified.
The progress of the British on the battle front between Péronne and the Sensee River was continued on September 3. Large number of the enemy retiring in close formation over the ridge north-west of Équancourt were engaged by our batteries over open sights. In his hurried retreat quantities of stores and material of all kinds were abandoned by the enemy. As a result of our operation south of the Lys River the British took Richebourg-St. Vaast and established themselves on the line of the La Bassee road between that place and Estaires, which they captured. The British posts were pushed forward slightly in the western outskirts of Lens and east and north of Givenchy-les- La Bassee. On September 4 the British forced the passage of the Tortille River and Canal du Nord on a wide front north of Moislains. They also entered Mœuvres from the north, where fighting was taking place among the old Hindenburg Line defences. During September 2-5 the British have taken over 16,000 prisoners and over 100 guns.
On August 29 the British re-established themselves in the positions on Greenland Hill. In spite of the destruction of the bridges the British crossed the Somme both south and west of Péronne
The British on August 30 entered Riencourt-lez-Bapaume and Bancourt, where they were actively engaged with the enemy throughout the day. The British captured Frémicourt and Vaulx-Vraucourt, and reached the western outskirts of Beugny. At Bullecourt and Hendecourt hostile counter-attacks compelled the British to fall back to the western outskirts of these villages, where the enemy's attack was repulsed. The enemy's defences between Hendecourt and Haucourt were captured, together with the latter village and several hundred prisoners. The British carried out a successful operation north of the Arras-Cambrai road, the captured an important strong point known as St. Servins Farm and the village of Éterpigny, on the east bank of the Sensee River. By a daring and brilliantly executed night operation Australian troops seized the hill and village of Mont St. Quentin, north of Péronne, thereby gaining possession of an important tactical feature commanding Péronne and the angle of the Somme River. In the same operation the village of Feuillaucourt was captured, and over 1,500 prisoners were taken.
On August 31 the British captured Marrieres Wood and the high ground to the east and north of it. Hostile Counter-attacks launched against the Australian and English troops were in each case successfully repulsed. The enemy withdrew from the Lys salient and yielded withdrew from the Lys salient and yielded without a blow positions of high tactical importance. The British regained possession of Kemmel hill and reached the general line Voormezeele-Lindenhoek-La Creche-Doulieu. The enemy immediately counter-attacked the British new positions at Mont St. Quentin, and was repulsed on each occasion.
On September 1 the Australians continued their advance in conjunction with the English troops on their left. At an early hour the Australians stormed the German positions west and north of Péronne, and pressing on while fierce fighting was still taking place among the ruined streets and buildings, carried the eastern suburbs of the town. Australian troops, who held Péronne, Flamicourt, and St. Denis, made progress on the spurs east and north-east of Mont St. Quentin. On the left of the Australians, London troops, attacking south-east of Combles, took Bouchavesnes and Rancourt, with the high ground overlooking these villages, and reached the western outskirts of St. Pierre Vaast Wood. In the course of this successful attack, the British captured over two thousand prisoners and some guns. The British drove the enemy from the high ground at Morval and captured Beaulencourt and the ridge east of Bancourt and Frémicourt A counter-attack launched by the enemy against new positions gained by Canadian troops north of Hendecourt was repulsed. Welsh and Eastern Counties troops captured Sailly Saillisel and Saillisel after heavy fighting while Riencourt-les-Cagnicourt and the German position south of the village were captured by English and Scottish troops. [Péronne was retaken by British Forces]
On September 2 Canadian and English troops, accompanied by tanks, attacked astride the Arras-Cambrai road and carried on a wide front that portion of the powerfully organised defensive system known as the Drocourt-Quéant line which lies south of the River Scarpe. The enemy was holding his trenches in strength and opposed a determined resistance to the British advance. On the whole front of the assault this resistance was broken, with great loss to the enemy. Canadian troops took Dury, Villers-les-Cagnicourt, and Cagnicourt, and made progress beyond those places. On their left English troops fought their way forward through the German defences north east of Éterpigny On the right of the attack English and Scottish troops pressed forward beyond Riencourt-les-Cagnicourt in the direction of Quéant, and captured many strongly fortified positions, including the village of Noreuil. East and south-east of Péronne repeated German counter-attacks were beaten off by Australian troops with heavy loss to the enemy. About 10,--- prisoners were captured during the course of the day. On the Lys front the British continued to gain ground in close touch with the enemy.
During August, 1918, the British captured 57,318 prisoners, including 1,283 officers, 657 German guns, including 150 heavy guns, and 5,750 machine-guns and over a thousand trench-mortars. Amongst other captures are three trains and nine locomotives, and numerous complete ammunition and engineer dumps continuing many hundred thousand rounds of gun and trench-mortar ammunition, as well as small arms ammunition, and immense quantities of war material of every description.
Western (British) Front reported on 14 September 1918
[Battles of the Hindenburgh Line began on 12th September; lasting through to the 9th of October]
On September 12 the British attacked across the Canal du Nord, north of Havrincourt, and captured the village, also a section of the Hindenburg Line between the village and the canal. North of the Bapaume-Cambrai road the British captured Mœuvres and took some 1,000 prisoners.
On the Lys front the enemy attacked on Sept. 5 in the sector north of Hill 63 and was repulsed after sharp fighting. The British forced the crossings of the Somme south of Péronne in the face of the vigorous resistance of the enemy's rear-guards on the east bank of the river. The villages of St. Christ, Brie, and Le Mesnil-Bruntel were captured with a number of prisoners, and pressing forward astride the Amiens-St. Quentin road the British reached Athies and Mons-en-Chaussée. East of Péronne the British took Doingt and made important progress on the high ground between Péronne and Nurlu. They held Bussu and were close to Templeux, la Fosse, Nurlu, and Équancourt, on which line sharp fighting took place. As the result of continued progress the British at night were established in portions of the old German front line east of Neuve Chapelle and in the old British front line in the Fauquissart sector. By a successful attack carried out in the evening the British line was advanced north-west of Armentières, several prisoners being captured. On the southern portion of the battle front the British continued to be in close touch with the French Army on the right. South of Péronne of Sept. 6 the British were nearly seven miles east of the Somme River, and were advancing on the general line Monchy-Lagache-Vraignes-Tincourt, all of which places were in their hands. The resistance of the enemy's covering troops who attempted to delay the British advance was rapidly overcome, and a number of prisoners taken. South of the Cologne River, on the high ground about Nurlu, the enemy contested the British advance with great stubbornness. Sharp fighting took place about this village and around Équancourt in the valley to the north of it. Finally, both villages were captured by the British.
On the whole front south of Havrincourt the German retreat continued on Sept. 7 under the close and constant pressure of the British. North of Havrincourt the British captured a strong point known as the Spoil Heap, taking a number of prisoners. By nightfall the British had taken Ville-Eveque and Ste. Emilie, and had gained possession of the greater part of Havringcourt Wood. On the southern portion of the battle front the British on Sept. 8 entered the area of the defensive systems constructed by them prior to the German March offensive. The enemy offered increased resistance among these prepared defences, and sharp fighting took place at a number of points. The British pressed forward, and gained ground in the direction of Vermand, Hesbecourt, and Épehy. Early on the morning of Sept. 9 advanced detachments of English and New Zealand troops attacked and carried the German positions on the high ground between Peiziere and Favrincourt Wood. After sharp fighting, in the course of which a heavy hostile counter-attack was repulsed with loss, the British gained the old British trench lines on the ridge overlooking Gouzeaucourt and captured the wood of that name. On the left of the attack the British successfully advance their line in the eastern portions of Havrincourt Wood. In the evening the enemy launched a second counter-attack against the British positions west of Gouzeaucourt, but was completely repulsed. Progress was made by the British north-east of Neuve Chapelle and west and north of Armentières
On Sept. 10 the British advanced their line in the direction of Attilly and Vermand. Again the enemy strongly attacked the British positions on the ridge west of Gouzeaucourt. Sharp fighting followed, as the result of which the attack was completely beaten off except at one point, where a British post remained in the enemy's possession. Local fighting took place in the neighbourhood of Mœuvres and at Ecourt St. Quentin, and in the former case an attack by a strong party of the enemy succeeded in entering the trenches, but was repulsed by a counter-attack. At Ecourt St. Quentin also the enemy was repulsed after stiff fighting. The British carried out a successful local operation early on Sept. 11 north of Épehy., advancing their line in this locality and capturing a number of prisoners. An attack attempted by the enemy in the afternoon upon a British post west of Gouzeaucourt was repulsed.
The number of prisoners captured by the British during the first week of September exceeds 19,000. Stacks of coal and road metal which have passed into British possession, together with quantities of other war material, is evidence that the enemy intended to remain in occupation of the Somme battlefields during the winter months and of the hurried nature of the retreat that has been forced upon him.
Since the commencement of the British offensive on Aug. 8, 465 enemy machines have been brought down and exactly 200 have been driven down out of control by British airmen. The above figures are exclusive of the considerable number brought down by gun fire from the ground.
[The French forces showed equivalent success during the same period.]
Western (British) Front reported on 28 September 1918
On Sept. 18 the Third and Fourth British Armies attacked with complete success on a front of about 16 miles from Holnon to the neighbourhood of Gouzeaucourt. On the whole of this front the British carried the enemy's positions by assault. Sweeping over the old British trench systems of March, 1918, the British reached and captured the outer defences of the Hindenburg line in wide sectors. On the British right divisions composed of English and Scottish troops captured Fresnoy-le-Petit, Berthaucourt and Pontru, meeting with and overcoming strong hostile resistance, particularly on the extreme right of our attack. In the right centre two Australian divisions captured the villages of Le Verguier, Villeret and Hargicourt. Pushing forward, the British established themselves in the old German advanced positions west and south-west of Bellicourt, having penetrated the enemy's defences to a depth of three miles. In the left centre the British captured Templeaux-le-Guerard, Ronsoy, Épehy and Pezieres. North of Pezieres the 21st Division attacked over the northern portion of the sector defended by it with so much gallantry on March 21 and 22. Having captured its old front trenches, together with the strong point known as Vaucellette Farm, and beaten off a hostile counter-attack, it pushed forward more than a mile beyond this line, capturing several hundred prisoners and a German battery complete with teams in the course of its advance. On the left of the British attack English and Welsh troops carried the remainder of the high ground south of Villers-Guislain, and capturing Gauche Wood. Over 10,000 prisoners and 60 guns were captured by the British in the course of these successful operations.
Fighting took place on Sept. 19 in the sector east of Épehy, and also in the neighbourhood of Gouzeaucourt, where the British gained ground north of Gauche Wood. On the remainder of the battlefront only local engagements are reported.
On Sept. 12 the British gained possession of Holnon Wood, and further north the British line was advanced to the east of the village of Jeancourt, which was captured. During the evening strong hostile forces, assisted by a squadron of low-flying aeroplanes, attacked the British new positions at Havrincourt, and were repulsed with great loss. Opposite Mœuvres hostile infantry assembling for counter-attack were observed, and subjected to heavy and accurate fire by artillery. The hostile attack which developed subsequently was completely unsuccessful, the few Germans who reached the British positions being killed or taken prisoners. South-west of La Bassée the British gained possession of Fosse VIII de Bethune and of the slag heap adjoining it. This slag heap, known as "The Dump," forms an important local feature, giving wide observation over the surrounding country. To the north of it the British held the enemy trench lines immediately west of Auchy-lez-La-Bassée, and were pressing forward into the village. The number of prisoners captured by the British in the operations carried out by the Third Army with complete success in the Trescault-Havrincourt sector numbered over 1,500.
As the result of the progress made by the British on Sept. 13 north-west of St. Quentin, the British line was established east of the villages of Behecourt and Jeancourt. Within 24 hours the enemy made several determined, but unsuccessful, attempts to recover the positions recently captured by the British in the neighbourhood of Gouzeaucourt and Havrincourt. A strong hostile attack, in which the enemy employed flammenwerfer, was repulsed with heavy loss south of Gouzeaucourt. At Havrincourt the enemy attacked in force under cover of a heavy artillery bombardment and penetrated the eastern portion of the village. After hard fighting the enemy was driven out and the British positions restored. North of Havrincourt the British made a slight advance between the village and the canal. In the evening the enemy attacked east of Trescault, and gained a footing in the British trenches, but was driven out immediately, leaving a number of dead. During the night a strong bombing attack, in which liquid fire was employed, was made against the British positions north-west of Gouzeaucourt. After forcing our advanced posts to withdraw the attack was successfully beaten off. Local fighting took place in the Mœuvres sector without material change in the situation. During the night the enemy attacked south of Mœuvres and was repulsed. New posts were established by the British during the night along the west bank of the Canal du Nord, in the neighbourhood of Sauchy Cauchy and opposite Oisy le Verger. In La Bassée sector the British occupied Auchy-lèz-La Bassée.
A hostile raid was successfully repulsed early on Sept. 14 in the Gouzeaucourt sector. In the Havrincourt sector the British pushed forward and established new posts in the trench lines east and north of the village. Local fighting took place on both sides of La Bassée Canal, but the British made progress and took some prisoners. Hostile artillery was active with gas shell in the neighbourhood of Neuve Chapelle and a raid was attempted in this sector by the enemy, who was driven off. North-west of St. Quentin the British made further progress and also south and north of Holnon Wood. Local hostile attacks were repulsed in the Trescault and La Bassee sectors. Hostile artillery was active during the night in the Roisel, Mœuvres, Marquian, and Givenchy sectors, and there was gas shell north-west of Armentières By a successful minor operation carried out early on Sept. 15 the British captured Maissemy, north-west of St. Quentin, together with the trench system to the south-east and east of the village and 100 prisoners and some machine-guns. During the night the British carried out a successful minor operation astride the Ypres-Comines Canal, advancing their line on a front of over two miles and capturing a number of prisoners and machine-guns. On the battle front encounters with hostile raiding parties and patrols took place in the neighbourhood of Mœuvres and near Gavrelle. New British posts were established in the vicinity of Sauchy Cauchy and Oppy.
On Sept. 16, in the neighbourhood of Ploegsteert and east of Ypres the British line advanced slightly. New posts were established by the British on Sept. 17 north-east of Neuve Chapelle and in the neighbourhood of Ploegsteert.
[Similar progress was made on the American and French fronts]
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. Many air attacks on Britain were reported as "naval" actions.
The 16th September saw the sinking of H.M.S. "Glatton" in Dover Harbour from internal ignition. See below.
In the air
Aeroplanes had truly come of age - able to carry large payloads, travel further, increased robustness, carrying more potent firepower.
Reported in the Army and Navy Gazette of 14th September
WORK OF OUR NAVAL AIRMEN
The Admiralty announces that during the period August 26 – September 1, Royal Air Force contingents working with the navy have carried out successful bombing raids over Ostend-Zeebrugge. Large fires were started, two direct hits obtained on an anti-aircraft battery and many bursts in the docks. In home waters anti-submarine, reconnaissance and offensive patrols have been maintained. In engagements with enemy machines two were destroyed and another driven down out of control. All our machines returned safely. In the Aegean a constant reconnaissance of the Dardanelles has been maintained. Constantinople was bombed on the night of August 25-26. The Aerodrome at Galata and the seaplane base at Gallipoli at Chanak were also heavily bombed by British machines in cooperation with a Greek unit. Constantinople was again bombed on the night of August 27-28 with good results. The attack was directed against the arsenal and dockyard on the Galata-Pera side; the War Office and barracks adjoining on the Stambul side. One of our machines failed to return.
From September 1 to September 7 work was considerably hampered by unsuitable weather conditions. Submarine shelters and workshops at Bruges Docks were attacked on four occasions, direct hits being obtained. Ostend Docks and the Coastal Motor-Boat Depot at Blankenberghe were also attacked with good results, and a large fire was started. Enemy mine-sweepers were also harassed with bombs and machine-gun fire. Over 14 tons of bombs were dropped by day bombing squadrons, one machine failing to return. In engagements with hostile aircraft 10 machines were brought down and nine driven down out of control. Three of our machines are missing. In home-waters anti-submarine and convoy patrols have been maintained, submarines have been sighted and attacked, and enemy mines located and destroyed.
Reported in the Army and Navy Gazette of 14th November
IN THE AIR
The Headquarters of the R.A.F. Independent Force in France report that on Sept. 12-13, in conjunction with the attack of the American First Army, the railways at Metz-Sablon an Courcelles were heavily bombed by the British with good results. Metz station, searchlights and transport were attacked with machine-gun fire. On Sept. 13 in favourable weather operations were continued against Metz-Sablon, other railway junctions and enemy transport on the battle-front. One hostile machine was destroyed. Two British machines were missing. Nearly a ton of bombs was dropped on the railways at Arnaville and Metz-Sablon during the day. Two enemy aircraft were shot down out of control. On the night of Sept. 13-14 attacks were carried out on the railway at Courcelles, but, owing to the weather, results were difficult to observe. The railways at Metz-Sablon and Ehrang and Bühl aerodrome were attacked on Sept. 14 with good results. Three direct hits were obtained on the railway at Ehrang and on a shed on Bühl aerodrome. Nearly 6½ tons of bombs were dropped during the day and night. One British machine was missing. Two further attacks were made on Metz-Sablon in the afternoon and many direct hits were obtained on the railway triangle, on the workshops, the gasworks and the barracks. Boulay aerodrome was also attacked with good results.
During the night of Sept. 14-15 heavy attacks were kept up on Metz-Sablon, Courcelles, Ebrang, Saarbrucken, Kaiserstlautern and the aerodromes at Frescaty and Boulay. Many direct hits were obtained on the railways especially at Metz-Sablon and Courcelles, and several fires were caused at Metz, Kaiserslautern, Saarbrucken station, and Frescaty aerodrome. Three British machines failed to return.
The French report that several squadrons of enemy aeroplanes visited the Paris district shortly after midnight on Sept. 16. They were chased by French outposts and an intense barrage was put up, another means of defence were also brought into action. Several bombs were dropped, and there were some victims, and some material damage was also done. In the course of the raid an enemy bombing aeroplane was brought down by anti-aircraft guns. The bodies of an officer and two men constituting the crew have been found. About four o'clock a second warning was given, but the raiders did not reach the Paris district. A second, raider which was brought down by anti-aircraft guns, fell in the forest of Compiegne.
The German Main Headquarters report that by way of reprisal for the continued bombing of German towns, 22 tons of bombs were dropped on Paris during the early morning of Sept. 16 by German bombing squadrons.
|Nature||Rounds||Weight in tons|
|18-pr (Q.F.)||134,256 rounds|
|4.5-inch howitzers||48,412 rounds|
|Nature||Number of Rounds||Cost of Ammunition (£)|
|13-pr. gun, R.H.A.||6,231||19,200|
|A.A. guns - 13-pr., 9-cwt||4,877||15,850|
|A.A. guns - 3-inch, 20-cwt||185||500|
Lynsted man thought dead is alive in Hospital
|Faversham and North East Kent News of 21st September 1918|
|Sergeant A E Larkins, another Lynsted man, who is now in hospital at Manchester had a remarkable escape from death. After the attack on the Hindenburg switch line on August 31st he was reported "missing, believed killed." It appears he was blown up and badly gassed. But owing to the good work of the RAMC he was picked up and taken down to the dressing station, and a few days since he was brought over to England.|
† - Hundred and Twentieth Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 3rd September 1918.
Sergeant, Alfred ("Alf") Henry FEAVER, M.M. (of Teynham), Killed in Action aged 34
American forces land (4th September) at Murmansk to join Allied Expeditionary Forces.
At the time of the Allied Offensive in Europe, the eastern front adjacent to Finland was the scene of fighting alongside the Russians that routed the German forces. Many actions were led by the White Finns. Battle was joined along the Vologda railway.
† - Hundred and Twenty First Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 5th September 1918.
Lance Sergeant, Edward James Victor WHITE (of Teynham), Killed in Action aged 20
Prime Minister reviews Artillery provision in the early War Years
Our Army was deplorably equipped for this war, said the Prime Minister at Manchester on September 12. "We had practically no heavy guns. We had a fair quantity of light artillery, but of shot and shell there was only starvation allowance. The enemy rained destruction on our gallant troops with mocking impunity. Our troops could neither silence the guns nor retaliate on their murderous assailants, an nothing but the most dauntless courage, the most amazing endurance displayed by any soldiers in the history of the world, enabled them to hold their water-logged trenches through the winter of 1914 and the spring of 1915."
Haig writes a Special Order of the Day to troops on the Allied Advance
SIR D. HAIG ON THE ALLIED ADVANCE
The following Special Order of the Day by Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig has been issued to the troops in France (reported 14th September 1918):-
"One month has now passed since the British Armies, having successfully withstood all attacks of the enemy, once more took the offensive in their turn. In that short space of time, by a series of brilliant and skilfully executed actions, our troops have repeatedly defeated the same German Armies whose vastly superior numbers compelled our retreat last spring. What has happened on the British front has happened also on the front of our Allies.
Less than six months after the launching of the great German offensive which was to have cut the Allied Front in two, the Allied Armies are everywhere today advancing victoriously side by side over the same battlefields on which, by the courage and steadfastness of their defence, they broke the enemy's assaults. Yet more has been done. Already was have pressed beyond our old battle lines of 1917, and have made a wide breach in the enemy's strongest defences.
In this glorious accomplishment all ranks of all arms and services of the British Armies in France have borne their part in the most worthy and honourable manner. The capture of 75,000 prisoners and 750 guns in the course of four weeks' fighting speaks for the magnitude of your effort and the magnificence of your achievement.
My thanks are due to all ranks of the fighting forces for their indomitable spirit in defence and their boldness in attack, to all Commanders and their Staff officers, under whose able direction such great results have been attained, and also to all those whose unsparing labours behind the actual fighting line have contributed essentially to our common success.
To have commanded this splendid Army, which at a time of grave crisis has so nobly done its duty, fills me with pride. We have passed through many dark days together. Please God these never will return. The enemy has now spent his effort, and I rely confidently upon each one of you to run to full advantage the opportunity which your skill, courage, and resolution have created."
German Government make definite peace offer to Belgium
The German Government was busy on all fronts trying to negotiate a settlement of hostilities rather than be faced with summary defeat and humiliation. An overture to this end was made to Belgium on 14th September.
Sergeant A.E. Larkins, P.O.W., returns home to Lynsted
|East Kent Gazette of 14th September 1918|
|LYNSTED MAN'S MARVELOUS ESCAPE. Sergeant A.E. Larkins, of Bogle, Lynsted, has had a marvellous escape from death. After the attack on the Hindenburg Switch line, on August 31st, he was reported "missing believed killed". It transpired that he was blown up and badly gassed. But owing to the good work of the R.A.M.C. he was picked up and taken down to the dressing station, and since then he has been conveyed to England. The gallant sergeant is now in the 2nd Western General Hospital Manchester, where his Lynsted friends will be glad to learn that he is doing as well as can be expected.|
|Dover Express of 29th November 1918|
|THE LOSS OF H.M.S. 'GLATTON'. The destruction of H.M. monitor "Glatton," at Dover, on September 9th [sic], which at the time was only announced in very general terms, was probably the most alarming of all the occurrences at Dover during the war, although it certainly has plenty of competitors with other nerve-wracking events. The "Glatton" was the second of a new type of monitor to arrive at Dover, and only reached Dover on the previous Wednesday. The vessel was lying at a barge at the Eastern Entrance of the Harbour, some 500 yards from the shore. A large number of men had left her for the evening leave. Lying at the adjoining buoy was a steamer filled with munitions. At 6.20 a.m. those on the Sea Front saw great yellow flames suddenly belch out of the midships of the vessel, reaching a height three times as high as its masts, surmounted by a hood of white smoke, obviously an explosion of cordite. The report that followed was a roar rather than an actual report. As the flame died away the white smoke pall, some 600ft up in the air, slowly floated away eastward. A little debris fell on the Dockyard, but none at all on the Sea Front. In a moment the decks of every ship filled with men were looking at the "Glatton". Amidships where the explosion occurred could be seen little flames licking round the topworks. A few men ran along the deck towards the stern, where a boat was tied. For a moment nothing was done; then every ship dropped its boats into the water, but again there was a pause. No one knew if another tremendous explosion would follow. The munitions ship at once commenced to get out of its dangerous neighbourhood. Then, after a pause of about four minutes, every boat from the big assembly of warships in the harbour commenced to pull towards the ship, steam launches also rushing to its aid. By this time the fire in the vessel amidships began to grow, and when the boats got alongside the flames were quite fierce. All the boats made for the stern, and in less than ten minutes after the first explosion there must have been 100 boats clustered astern of the monitor, and from the shore one could see injured men being carried along the decks to the boats. The "Lady Brassey" and a dockyard tender went alongside the vessel and commenced to play on the flames, but soon dense black smoke belched out of the vessel, showing that its oil fuel was alight. The roar of the explosion, a noise the like of which had never before been heard in Dover, drew crowds of people to the Sea Front. The danger of further explosions was the topic of everyone's conversation, but no one sought shelter. The first of the injured men were brought to the Naval Pier; some were able to walk to the shore end, but they were dreadfully burnt and their clothing torn to pieces. At first there were no ambulance to meet them, but afterwards Naval ambulance came up, and the men were taken to the Sixth Flotilla sick bay. Others were taken to the various boats in the harbour, including the hospital yacht "Liberty." Some twenty minutes after the explosion occurred, Vice-Admiral Keyes, who was out of Dover at the time, arrived in a motor car and he at full speed ran down the Naval Pier to take over control of the matter. As he ran down the Pier he met the first lot of wounded men being led along the pier. At once precautions were taken to prevent people on the Sea Front being injured. The police were informed of the danger of further explosions from the burning ship, and they tried to clear the Sea Front of its dense crowd. It was a hopeless task, but soon detachments of troops from the garrison arrived, with rifles and bayonets, steel helmets and gas masks, and the Sea Front was cleared. The ship continued to blaze and belch forth great clouds of black smoke, and the boats having taken off everyone who could be found - there were many gallant rescues - drew away, and when it was seen that it was hopeless to try and extinguish the flames the tugs withdrew. All vessels were moved to the western part of the harbour, and the "Glatton" was left alone, a mass of flames, at the eastern end of the harbour. A monitor is not a vessel that can be easily sunk, and, although it is understood that one of her chief magazines aft was flooded, the forward one could not be, nor could the valves that would flood the ship be opened. The Mayor was communicated with by the Admiral, and it was decided to sound the air raid siren to try and clear the streets, there being a moon at the time, which would help in making the people get into safety. The sounding of the syren was ordered to wait whilst an attempt was made to sink the ship by a torpedo. A "P" boat, at ten minutes to eight, fired the first torpedo, and this was followed by two more. As they exploded at a selected and vulnerable part of the ship, the fire was driven up through the vessel's funnels, and burnt more fiercely than ever. Crowds watched the scene from the Western heights hill, where they were in comparative safety. At length the vessel began to heel over on her port side, and at ten minutes past eight sank, to the relief of all concerned, and Dover was saved from an explosion which would have blown down, at least, all the buildings on the Sea Front. The vessel has since lain on her side in the harbour, and is visible at any time except at high water. The remains of many of those who lost their lives are still on board, and no attempt so far has been made to salvage the vessel.|
[Note: It wasn't until 1926 that the ship was raised for salvage at a cost of around £10,000 to £12,000 reported at that time.]
† - Hundred and Twenty Second Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 19th September 1918.
Lance Corporal, Frederick HAWKES (of Luddenham), Killed in Action aged 24
DCM for Lynsted man - Ernest George Seagers
|Faversham and North East Kent News of 21st September 1918|
|For meritorious work under heavy shell fire in Mesopotamia the Distinguished Conduct Medal has been awarded Ernest George Seagers, sick berth steward, Royal Navy, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs Seagers, of Lynsted.|
† - Hundred and Twenty Third Loss in the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice - 24th September 1918.
Private , Sidney PHILPOT (of Teynham), Killed in Action aged 29