GWL 3rd April 1916

…………..The first course ends today;  taking everything all round I think it has gone well.  What other think  cannot tell.  There is no news.  The usual rumours running about, but what they all mean nobody knows.  France seems rather lively now, I think it is going to be a pretty strenuous year  there.  Give my love to everybody at home.  Arthur has come back”.

With the onset of spring activity in France was increasing.  From Sir Douglas Haig’s First Despatch:

6.On the 27th March our troops made an attack with the object of straightening out the line at St. Eloi, and cutting away the small German salient which encroached on the semicircle of our line in the Ypres salient to a depth of about 100 yards over a front of some 600 yards. The operation was begun by the firing of six very large mines; the charge was so heavy that the explosion was felt in towns several miles behind the lines, and large numbers of the enemy were killed. Half a minute after the explosion our infantry attack was launched aiming at the German Second Line. The right attack met with little opposition, and captured its assigned objective; but the left attack was not so successful, and a gap was left in possession of the Germans, through which they entered one of the craters. The following’ days were spent by both sides in heavy bombardment and in unsuccessful attacks, intended on our part to capture the remaining trenches, and on the part of the Germans to drive us from the positions we had occupied. In the very early morning of April 3rd we succeeded in recapturing the crater and the trenches still held by the enemy, thereby securing the whole of our original objective. We had, moreover, captured five officers and 195 men in the first attack on March 27th, and five officers and 80 men in the attack on April 3rd. The work of consolidating our new position, however, proved extremely difficult, owing to the wet soil, heavy shelling and mine explosions; though pumps were brought up and efforts at draining were. instituted, the result achieved was comparatively small. By dint of much heavy work the Brigade holding these trenches succeeded in reducing the water in the trenches by 2 feet by the morning of the 5th. This state of affairs could not, even so, be regarded as satisfactory; and during the 5th the enemy’s bombardment increased in intensity, and the new trenches practically ceased to exist.

On the morning of the 6th the enemy attacked with one battalion supported by another; he penetrated our new line, and gained the two westernmost craters. It is difficult to follow in detail the fighting of the next three weeks, which consisted in repeated attacks by both sides on more or less isolated mine craters, the trench lines having been destroyed by shell fire. Great efforts were made to maintain communication with the garrisons of these advanced posts, and with considerable success. But there were periods of uncertainty, and some misconception as to the state of affairs arose. On the 11th it was reported to me that we had recaptured all that remained of the position won by us on the 27th March and 3rd April. This report, probably due to old craters having been mistaken for new ones, was subsequently found to be incorrect. The new craters, being exposed to the enemy’s view and to the full weight of his artillery fire, have proved untenable, and at the present time our troops are occupying trenches roughly in the general line which was held by them before the 27th.

Arthur was aboard HMS Raglan, an Abercrombie class Monitor built specifically for shore bombardment.  She was built by Harland and Wolff and launched in 1915.

300px-HMS_Raglan_(1915)

HMS Raglan

{next post 7th April}

 

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