Thursday, 22 March 2018

Roll of Honour - 22nd March 1918

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: billets at Castagnola
  • Lieutenant Westropp Orbell Peyton WINMILL, 23, son of George Winmill and Frances Ada McNab (ex-Winmill), husband of Myfanewy, educated at Bedford School and Sandhurst, also served as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps (Pozières Memorial)
2nd Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918: fighting retreat to Verlaines, many captured
  • 41322 Private Frederick George BASSETT, 19, son of Thomas Henry and Emily Bassett of 18 Garlands Road, Redhill [Surrey] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 12280 Private Benjamin BLACKMAN born Hampstead [London], son of J Blackman of 37 Northwood Street, Kilburn [London] (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 16499 Lance Corporal Arthur Henry BREWSTER, born and resided Hoddesdon [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 39695 Private Wilfred Stubbs CAMM, ex-M2/266672 Army Service Corps, born Quorn [Leicestershire], resided Syston [Leicestershire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 16529 Private Cyril CARLEY, born Ringmer [Sussex], resided Swanborough [Buckinghamshire] (Savy British Cemetery)
  • 28863 Private Sidney David CHELLIS, 31, born and resided Great Yarmouth [Norfolk], brother of E C G Chellis of Great Yarmouth (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 21907 Private William CHRISTIANSEN, 19, born and resided Marylebone [London], son of Anton and Mary Christiansen of 107 Lady Margaret Road, Tufnell Park [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 37507 Private Albert CODLING, 35, C Company, son of William and Jane Codling of Stibbard [Norfolk], born and resided Stibbard; husband of Louisa Ellen Codling of Great Ryburgh [Norfolk] (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 40234 Private Ernest Edward COOPER, 34, ex-5334 Norfolk Regiment, born and resided Norwich [Norfolk], son of Charles and Hannah Cooper of 173 Rupert Street, South Heigham [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41425 Private Thomas Henry COUCH, 19, son of J and A Couch of 44 Westwood Street, Peterborough (Bouchoir New British Cemetery)
  • 290482 Private Edward Potter COVENEY, 22, son of Emily Manser Coveney of 2 Arthur’s Place, Dover [Kent] (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 29011 Private Arthur CRISP, born Watlington [Norfolk], resided Gaywood [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41335 Private Lenard CRITTENDEN, born Wouldham [Kent], resided Cobham [Kent] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 3/7337 Private Frank Edward CUTTS, 22, son of James Cutts of 27 King’s Road,  Wood Green [Middlesex] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 9827 Acting Corporal Arthur DEAN, 25, son of Ellen E Gowlett of Wantz Cottage, Romford Road, Dagenham [Essex], resided Romford [Essex] (Savy British Cemetery)
  • 16881 Private Richard Cade ELLIOTT, 27, son of Albert and Maria Jane Elliott of Alconbury [Huntingdonshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 33600 Private Sidney FELKS, born and resided Luton (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 19789 Sergeant Sidney FENSOME, 28, son of Samuel and Ellen Fensome of Ramridge End Lane, Stopsley (Savy British Cemetery)
  • 28871 Private Walter FLATT, 36, born Methwold [Norfolk], son of William and Frances Ellen Flatt of Gooderstone [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 9973 Private Robert Albert FRANKLIN, born and resided Greenwich [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 9297 Acting Sergeant George GURNEY MM, born and resided Biggleswade (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41352 Private Harry HALL, 19, born Hornsey [Middlesex], resided Feltham [Middlesex], son of Frederick and Mary Ann Hall of 428 Campbell Avenue, East Burnaby [British Columbia] (Roupy Road German Cemetery Memorial, Savy British Cemetery)
  • 26875 Acting Corporal Stanley Charles HILLEN, born Snape [Suffolk], resided Ipswich [Suffolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 267785 Private Albert HUME, ex-10634 Royal Sussex Regiment, ex-Hertfordshire Regiment, born Fulham [London], son of Mary Hume of 16 Althorp Road, Battersea [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 31802 Private John James JOHNSON, 34, ex-22524 Suffolk Regiment, born Lambeth [London], husband of Catherine Maud of 11 Hethpool Street, Paddington [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 23245 Private Arthur Ernest KENNELL, 24, born Dean, son of Thomas and Annie Kennell of Yelden (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 27587 Private John LAVENDER, born and resided Houghton [Huntingdonshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 7995 Sergeant William Albert LEACH, 30, born Aldershot [Hampshire], son of George and Annie Leach of the Clifton Arms, Dunstable (Savy British Cemetery)
  • 10436 Private Alfred Ernest LEELAND, born Poplar [London], resided Mill Hill [Middlesex] (Savy British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 13384 Private William Richard LOFTY, 25, son of W Lofty of 1 King’s Cottages, Moorhall, Harefield [Middlesex] (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 26426 Private Victor Albert LOUGO, born Walpole [Suffolk], resided Blyford [Suffolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 40549 Private Ernest LOVELL, born and resided Thurleigh (Savy British Cemetery)
  • 240863 Private Alfred MAT(T)HEWS, ex-38098 King’s (Liverpool) Regiment,  husband of A L Mat(t)hews of 46 Clyde Street, Lower Broughton Road, Salford [Lancashire] Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 28441 Private Frederick William MEEKS, 28, son of William Henry and Minnie Meeks of Clifton, husband of Edith Hannah of New Road, Clifton (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 14524 Lance Corporal Alfred MERRY, born and resided Stoke Bardolph [Nottinghamshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 43176 Private George Frederick NUNN, 20, ex-1952 Essex Regiment, son of Charles William and Rosa Adelaide Nunn of 20 Huntsworth Terrace, Lisson Grove, Marylebone [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 33189 Private William Charles PARKER, 28, born Wold Newton [Lincolnshire], son of John Houghton Parker and Elizabeth Ann Parker of Wilby [Northamptonshire], husband of Edith of Glebe Cottage, Wilby (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 25820 Private Charles PHILLIPS, 23, born Cambridge, resided Colchester [Essex], son of George and Amelia Phillips (Savy British Cemetery)
  • 240980 Private Reginald Geoffrey POLE, ex-24123 Manchester Regiment, born Dorking [Surrey], resided Manchester [Lancashire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 31813 Private Charles RAYNER, 21, ex-23235 Suffolk Regiment, son of W Plummer of and late Mrs W Plummer of Fressingfield [Suffolk] (Savy British Cemetery)
  • 202057 Private William Gerrish RUGG, born and resided Bristol (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 12958 Private Harry Edward SHEPHERD, 22, son of Ada Shepherd of Stapleford [Hertfordshire] and late William Shepherd (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 9435 Private Charles STANTON, born Hinxworth [Hertfordshire], resided Hornsey [Middlesex] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 21391 Private Robert Edward STEWARD, 33, B Company, ex-2896 Royal Field Artillery, born Thorpe [Norfolk] husband of Elizabeth Emma of 6 Inkerman Terrace, Bishopgate, Norwich [Norfolk]., son of Robert Samuel Steward of 4 Lollard’s Pit, Rodary Road, Norwich (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 48703 Private Charles STEWART, born Harlesden [Middlesex], resided Hammersmith [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 17583 Private Ernest TAYLOR, born Failsworth [Lancashire], husband of A Taylor of 11 Scott Street, Ashton Road, Oldham [Lancashire] (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 21843 Private Jack TAYLOR, 18, ex-M/301789 Army Service Corps, son of Charles William and Alice Taylor of 3 Marsh Lane, Cheltenham [Gloucestershire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 9406 Sergeant Harry TOMLIN, 29, B Company, born Bovingdon [Hertfordshire], son of William Tomlin of 49a Ellesmere Road, Great Berkhampsted [Hertfordshire], husband of Elizabeth of 51 Castle Street, Berkhamstead (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 29740 Private William Henry TURNER, born and resided Fordham [Cambridgeshire] (Savy British Cemetery)
  • 2518 Private William VALLANCE, born Marylebone [London], resided Canvey Island [Essex] (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 17692 Lance Corporal Arthur Joseph WORRALL, born and resided Cople (Savy British Cemetery)
5th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918, attached 4th Battalion
  • Lieutenant William Stanley DAVIS, 22, attached 4th Battalion, son of Dr William and Mary Rosina Davis of 7 The Embankment, Bedford (Arras Memorial)

4th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918: second line defence at Havrincourt Wood
  • 10977 Private Daniel GRAVES, born and resided Liverpool [Lancashire] (Pozieres Memorial)
7th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918: fighting at la Montagne Bridge and Rouez Camp
  • 19437 Private William BASS, born Ramsey [Huntingdonshire], resided Bury [Huntingdonshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 15840 Private Herbert BRACE, born and resided Croxton [Cambridgeshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 33750 Private Martin Henry BUTTERWORTH, 22, born New Fletton [Peterborough], son of E Butterworth of 11 Princes Road, Old Fletton [Huntingdonshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 40227 Private John Sydney BUTTLE, ex-5113 Norfolk Regiment, born Bawdswell [Norfolk], resided Rockland Saint Peter [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 15041 Private George Henry CHRISTMAS, 29, C Company, born Finsbury Park [Middlesex], son of George and Elizabeth Christmas of 6 Litchfield Terrace, Saint Margaret’s, Ware [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 27517 Private George Lancaster CUTTS Stanstead Abbotts [Hertfordshire] Hoddesdon [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 19705 Private Edward George DENTON, 25, ex-7959 Lancers, son of T G Denton of 43 Priory Street, Bedford  (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 30925 Private Harold William GEORGE, born Enfield [Middlesex], resided Southend-on-Sea [Essex] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 19173 Corporal William Charles GOBBY, born Harlington, resided Chalton (Toddington) (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 29989 Private Charles HARPER, 30, son of George and Emma Harper of Wellingham [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41588 Private Alfred Arthur HENRY, 19, born Bermondsey [London], son of George and Emily Henry of Stokesby [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 204480 Private William Edward HIMPETT, 31, born Sittingbourne [Kent], resided Thundersley [Essex], son of A Himpett of 7 Poole’s Lane, Hull Bridge, Hockley [Essex], husband of L Westhorp (ex-Himpett), 8 Albert Square, Southend-on-Sea [Essex] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 40754 Private Robert MAGGS, ex-36314 South Staffordshire Regiment, born and resided Wolverhampton [Staffordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 21602 Private Sidney Charlesworth MITCHELL, 19, C Company, ex-3193 Northern Cyclist Battalion, son of Jonathan and Ellen Ann Mitchell of Shotley Bridge [Durham] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 19754 Private James MORTIMER, 34, born Blackfriars [London], resided Camden Town [London], son of William Thomas and Emily Mortimer, husband of Jane Matilda of 3 Prebend Place, Great College Street, Camden Town [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 23762 Private Victor George Thomas PERKINS, 20, born Richmond [Surrey], son of Tom and Mary Elizabeth Perkins of Three Horse Shoes, Leverstock Green [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41377 Private Frank Ernest PIDGEON, born Edmonton [Middlesex], resided Stotfold (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 15196 Acting Lance Sergeant William Edward George POOLE, 22, born Bermondsey [London] resided Southwark [London], son of William and Esther Ruth Poole of 7 Three Oak Lane, Tooley Street, London (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 16616 Private Ernest Daniel POULTER, born Baldock [Hertfordshire], resided Welwyn [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41380 Private George Henry PRATT, 19, ex-202437 Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment ) son of John Bradford Pratt and Georgina Pratt of 7 Carmen Street, Poplar [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41382 Private Sydney Oscar RAWSON born Brixton [London], resided Norbury [Surrey] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 203733 Private Frederick Henry REYNOLDS, born and resided  Royston [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 14827 Sergeant Charles George RUGMAN Medaille Militaire (Belgium), 24, born Bristol, son of C W Rugman of 1 Donington Villas, Eastfield Road, Westbury-on-Trym [Bristol] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 21612 Private Fred SAXTON, ex-M/321280 Army Service Corps, born and resided Nottingham (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41298 Private William Henry VAUGHAN, ex-39583 Northamptonshire Regiment, born Paddington [London], resided Willesden [Middlesex] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 290441 Private Sidney WHITEHEAD, 19, son of James Claudius and Elizabeth Whitehead of 4 John Street, Gravesend [Kent] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41541 Private Albert CLAUDE WOODWARD, born and resided Luton (Pozieres Memorial)
Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 18713 Private John THOMPSON resided Houghton Regis (Ham British Cemetery, Muille-Villette)

The German Onslaught Continues

The situation this evening - the black line is the original front line and German gains are shown in red

Friday 22nd March 1918

This evening the situation at the front is still confused, as the enemy has made further advances during the day, as the hastily prepared sketch map above shows. It seems they have made progress in a continuous line from La Fère in the south nearly to Arras in the north. The ground our men had held south-west of Flesquières, separating the two enemy advances has been taken, though not without a stiff fight. The next targets seem to be the town of Bapaume, Peronne and Ham.

The two Bedfordshire Regiment battalions in the thick of the fighting are both towards the southern end of the battlefield, indeed, the 7th Battalion, part of 18th (Eastern) Division seems to be at the southernmost end. Again, your correspondent has been lucky to snatch a few moments conversation with officers of each battalion.

The 2nd Battalion began the day between the villages of Savy and Étreillers. Early this morning the enemy worked around C Company's position, in the front line, from a sunken road which was just in front of the British wire. Both A and C Companies were heavily shelled all day until they were attacked about two o'clock this afternoon by overwhelming numbers. C Company's position fell and, regrettably, it seems that some men were taken prisoner, so loathe were they to fall back from positions they had been ordered to hold. B Company which had been sent up as reinforcements hung on, with A Company, to their position until surrounded by a sea of Germans. The adjutant simply remarked, in a tired voice: "They fought very well and only a few got back". At five o'clock this afternoon the order was received to withdraw and the operation was undertaken at once. However, this manoeuvre, never an easy one in warfare, was made still more hazardous by the fact that it was made over open country under heavy machine gun and artillery fire. The Battalion is due to fall back to the village of Verlaines south-west of Ham.

The 7th Battalion began the morning south-east of Jussy at Montagne, highlighted on the map above. The 1st Bedfords fought at Jussy in the early Autumn of 1914. Today the 7th Battalion were tasked with defending Royal Engineers as they blew up the railway bridge over the Crozat Canal. However, this bridge resisted all attempts to destroy it as the right amount of explosive was lacking. About 5.45 this evening the enemy attacked this bridge in force. C Company, on the left flank, was forced back by heavy machine gun fire and the enemy crossed the bridge. C Company then helped two companies of 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment to restore the situation and the adjutant breathlessly told me they were in hopes of throwing the enemy back across the bridge(1).

Clearly, then, the enemy's advance is not unstoppable and he is not having things all his own way. Over the next few days all here are in hopes that the usual problems of communications between headquarters and the advancing troops together with the enemy's weariness and our increasingly solid defence will prove this success short-lived(2).

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/8/1

(1) This was achieved by 7.30 pm.
(2) In fact the offensive would go on rapidly before reaching its limit on 5th April.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Roll of Honour - 21st March 1918

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918: between Savy and Étreiller
  • 41318 Private John William ANDERSON, 19, son of Thomas and Ada E Anderson of Holt’s Lane, Hilgay [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 27711 Private George BAXTER, born and resided Abbotts Ripton [Huntingdonshire] (Savy British Cemetery)
  • 15663 Private Herbert Charles BROWN, 31, son of Arthur Vindem and Emily Brown of Vicarage Road,  Stanstead Abbots [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 23107 Private Charles CLARKE, 30, A Company, born and resided Woburn, son of Henry and Ann Clarke, husband of Mabel Nellie (née Crute) of Duke Street, Aspley Guise (Pozieres Memorial)  
  • 26412 Private Ernest CLAYDON, born Steeple Bumpstead [Essex], son of Harry and Maria Claydon of Chippenham [Cambridgeshire], husband of Florence Mary of Chippenham Park (Roupy Road German Cemetery Memorial, Savy British Cemetery)
  • 266209 Private Charles DAY, 21, ex-Hertfordshire Regiment, son of Amos George and Annie Day of Ridge Hill, Barnet [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41099 Private Sydney Arthur HAYES, 36, ex-265568 Suffolk Regiment, born Ipswich [Suffolk], resided Lowestoft [Suffolk]; son of William Gunstone and Ellen Heather Hayes, husband of Lea Eugenie of High View, Thorpe Saint Andrew’s [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 21352 Private Albert George KELLER or KELTER, 20,  ex-2834 Royal Field Artillery, born Catton [Norfolk], son of Arthur and Sarah E Keller or Kelter of 4 Swallow Terrace, East Dereham [Norfolk] Savy British Cemetery)
  • 47828 Private Alfred Joseph LAST, 19, ex-48467 Suffolk Regiment, of 49 Cox Lane, Ipswich [Suffolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 21880 Private Augustus Frederick MITCHELL, born Ratcliff [London], resided Limehouse [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41601 Private Henry James Edward NEWBURY, born Hampstead [London], son of J Newbury of 51 Railway Road, Teddington [Middlesex] (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 41317 Lance Corporal Walter George PAYN, 19, son of Walter and Ellen Payn of 48 Godstone Road, Whyteleaf [Surrey] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 29254 Private William PAYNE, born Tilney All Saints [Norfolk], resided Tilney Saint Lawrence [Norfolk] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 8344 Private Harold PHILLIPS, born Luton, resided Leighton Buzzard (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 19016 Acting Sergeant Albert PORTER, 24, son of William and Elizabeth of 38 Yew Tree Terrace, Ewerby [Lincolnshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 33209 Private Bertie Alfred PULFER, born Stanton [Suffolk], resided Walsham-le-Willows [Suffolk], husband of M A Pulfer of Highfield, Fulbourn [Cambridgeshire] (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 16579 Sergeant Frederick SANSUM, born and resided Wistow [Huntingdonshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 4/6477 Acting Sergeant Herbert SMITH, 26, son of George and Lilla Smith of Silver Street, Ashwell [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41652 Private William George SWAIN, born Acton [Middlesex], son of R E Swain of 15 Newells Cottages, Hayes Bridge, Southall [Middlesex] (Chapelle British Cemetery, Holnon)
  • 29631 Private Francis Albert THOMAS, 32, born Dartford [Kent], husband of Frances Elizabeth of Coboro, Dickinson Avenue, Croxley Green [Hertfordshire] (Pozieres Memorial)
4th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918: second line defences near Ribecourt-la-Tour
  • 41842 Private Alfred Walter POLLARD, 19, born Leavenheath [Suffolk], son of M A Pollard of The White Horse, Stoke-by-Nayland [Suffolk] (Arras Memorial)
6th Battalion: Menin Road trenches
  • 23133 Private James HAMMENT, 31, son of Mary Ann Hamment of  40 Feet Bridge, Ramsey [Huntingdonshire] (Tyne Cot Memorial)
  • 32184 Private Walter John WILSON, 21, son of Sarah Wilson of Church End, Edlesborough [Buckinghamshire] (Hooge Crater Cemetery)
7th Battalion: First Battles of the Somme 1918: retreat from Rouez Camp to Crozat Canal
  • 43584 Private Allen William PIKE, ex-5641 Middlesex Regiment, born Cowes [Isle of Wight], resided Chelsea [London] (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 41663 Private Frederick TAYLOR, born and resided Ickwell (Pozieres Memorial)
Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 33398 Corporal Charles George BARTHOLOMEW, 22, ex-24398 Northamptonshire Regiment, born Hackney [London], resided Wood Green [Middlesex], son of William Alfred and Ada Bartholomew (Ham British Cemetery, Muille-Villette)
  • 30612 Private Joseph KING, born and resided Leighton Buzzard (Pozieres Memorial)
  • 33671 Private Frederick William WESTON, 20, ex-2399 Bedfordshire Yeomanry, son of Joseph William and Florence Weston of 98 Mill Road, Kettering [Northamptonshire] (Ham British Cemetery, Muille-Villette)
6th Battalion
  • 29818 Private Walter Herbert BERRY, 35, son of W Berry of New Town, Hatfield [Hertfordshire], husband of B Berry of New Town, Hatfield (Nine Elms British Cemetery)

Massive German Attack Gains Ground

The situation this evening - the black line is the original front line and German gains are shown in red

Thursday 21st March 1918

This evening your correspondent is writing his dispatch from the town of Roye, listening to artillery which at times seems far-off at others all too close. The enemy has launched his assault, predicted by many, and, as one of my colleagues observed around noon today: "All H*ll has broken loose".

This morning our little cadre of correspondents was in the village of Jussy, where we had spent the night. I was preparing to go forward to spend some time with the 2nd and 7th Battalions of our local regiment who are, by chance, close to one another in the line. I was awoken by a tremendous noise and, turning on the light and looking at my watch I saw it was 4.35. The enemy had unleashed a terrific bombardment and at that moment seemed to be throwing every shell he had from every gun he had ever made directly at yours truly. In truth the shells were landing some miles in front of the village but it seemed, though the army hastened us out of the village onto buses towards the rear, that we spent an eternity in that unhappy place. For the first time in this war I have some small inkling of what our boys in the front line must feel, but I was safe in the rear and they had to endure this tornado of steel in nothing more than hastily dug ditches.

This evening the situation is very confused but it looks as if the enemy's assault stretched some 40 miles from the town of la Fère in the south to Cambrai in the north. The sketch map above shows that we think they have broken through our defences in a small area between Epéhy and Arras and in a much longer line from the aforementioned la Fère northwards to Epéhy. This means that in some places they have managed to advance for some miles. 

The 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has, I understand, been in reserve near Cambrai and witnessed the enemy breakthrough there, without taking part in the fighting. By great good fortune I have managed to snatch a few words with the commanders of both the 2nd and 7th Battalions on very crackly lines I feared may break at any time. 

The 2nd Battalion stood about six this morning, between Savy and Étreillers. When the enemy broke through the forward zone this morning, they ran into A and C Companies and managed to outflank A Company on the right, B Company going up to stabilise the position at dusk this evening. The enemy, once ensconced, however, were in too strong a position and in too great numbers to be dislodged, either side of the road from Savy to Étreillers. The battalion expects to have to fall back tonight.

The position of the 7th battalion is more complicated. Various details have been detached for duty at Rouez Camp. It is understood they have been formed into a makeshift company of six platoons. The remainder of the battalion was about half a mile away at Noureuil - directly west of la Fère. About 10.50 orders were received to move in buses to Haute Tombelle Wood which was reached at noon. at 3 pm the bulk of the battalion was ordered to occupy a trench known as Montescourt Switch as brigade reserve and as I spoke with the commanding officer they were in the middle of so doing. 

Why has the enemy broken through our defences so far and so fast? It is a question many are asking here. Many of the answers seem to revolve around the weakened state of the army and the poor defences. Because of the losses in 1916 and 1917 and the fact that new recruits are not being sent fast enough from England the army is a around three-quarters strength. The battles at Ypres and Cambrai last autumn were particularly costly for us. A division should consist of three brigades each of four battalions - twelve battalion in all. However, as readers have seen, some battalions, such as the 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, have been disbanded and sent as reinforcements elsewhere. This means that brigades have been reduced from four battalions to three. So a division now consist of nine battalions instead of twelve. In the case of the 2nd Bedfords, their brigade, 90th, lost 17th Battalion, Manchester regiment in February and the 7th Battalion's "home", 54th Brigade, saw the disbandment of the 12th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment at the same time. 

In its weakened state, the army has been forced to take over more of the front line than before from the French, who are in a bad way, their casualties exceeding our own by a good (or bad) margin. Much of this line in the area of the current enemy attack had only sketchy defences and much work was required to bring them up to standard, work which was still a long way from complete this morning.

If our army is stretched and weakened, the enemy is strengthened and emboldened. Having knocked Russia out of the war last year huge numbers of soldiers, flushed with victory have been released to take part in this offensive and it is thought that our men are considerably outnumbered. The enemy have also been using new tactics. They have sent forward lightly equipped men in small units designed to find weaknesses in the line and infiltrate it, drawing the attention of the defenders and disrupting them, making them easier for the main assault to overwhelm(1).These troops have gone in very quickly immediately after tremendous but very brief bombardments, catching our men as they emerge from cover. The enemy has been further aided by the weather this morning, the air being still and the battlefields covered in a dense mist, masking the movements of the approaching troops.

The timing of this attack has, to some extent, been forced upon the Bosches. They have had to wait until the weather is likely to be favourable, and the ground firm, in order to move their artillery up briskly, something which was impossible for our army in the quagmire around Ypres last year. They are also facing something of a ticking time-bomb as estimates suggest that by the end of May there will be a quarter of a million fresh American troops in France, just raring for a crack at the enemy; so the Germans' advantage in numbers will not last long. They evidently hope to knock us out of the war before the Americans arrive. 

So tonight our army is fighting a massive defensive battle, the like of which it has not had to fight since the great German thrust at Ypres in Spring 1915. The enemy may have gained ground but, knowing as your correspondent does, the resilience, patience and tenacity of Tommy Atkins, his friends Jock, taffy and Mick and his cousins from the colonies he has no doubt that this attack will be stopped.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/5/3; X550/8/1

(1) These were the famed storm troops.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Leaving Danger?

Wednesday 20th March 1918

At three o’clock this afternoon the 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment received a warning to prepare for an enemy attack. There have been rumours for some days about a major enemy offensive, probably in the region of Sroueaint-Quentin, which is where the battalion finds itself, specifically at Rouez Camp, west of Tergnier. As I write this they are waiting for the order to make a move forward to positions reconnoitred in the last week or so and falling in what is named the battle zone, an area behind the front line where it is expected that the enemy’s attack can be contained and defeated.

The adjutant mentioned to be on the blower that Captain R O Clark has left the Battalion today for a six month tour of duty in England. Many of the officers and men of the Battalion wish they were accompanying him.

Source: X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - 20th March 1918

Killed in Action

6th Battalion: Menin Road trenches
  • 204242 Private Albert BEESLEY, 23, son of Thomas and Mary Ann Beesley of 103 Saint Andrew’s Road, Semilong,  Northampton (Hooge Crater Cemetery)
  • 31977 Private Herbert HANCOCK, born Easthampstead [Berkshire], resided Ware [Hertfordshire] (Hooge Crater Cemetery)
Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 30005 Lance Corporal Horace REED, 33, son of William and E Reed of  Ashwicken [Norfolk], husband of Annie of Parker’s Cottages, Dersingham [Norfolk] (Noyon New British Cemetery)
  • 201921 Lance Corporal Ernest TURVEY, 30, husband of A Turvey of  101 Princes Street, Dunstable (Noyon New British Cemetery)

1st Battalion
  • 36516 Private James PAYNE, 28, ex 8161 Cambridgeshire Regiment, born and resided Yetminster [Dorset], husband of Kate Bessie of Helfield, Evershot [Dorset] (Yetminster (Saint Andrew) Churchyard)
7th Battalion
  • 290288 Private George Frederick DEWBERRY, born and resided Wood Walton [Huntingdonshire] Chauny Communal Cemetery Extension)

Monday, 19 March 2018


Tuesday 19th March 1918

Yesterday 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment at Mejdel Yaba had a number of guests. The Battalion has listening posts in advance of the front line and two Turkish soldiers approached rather too close to one of these. When they were fired on, the two gave themselves up. Also during the day two Arabs were found straying close to the lines and were also captured. All four men have been sent to Brigade Headquarters.

Source: X550/6/8