GWL 2nd April 1918

“The situation in France seems rather obscure.  The French keep talking about a place called ARVILLERS which according to our communiques is about 5 miles behind the Boche line.  After a whole afternoons steady thought, knowing nothing about it, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot see how this battle, however it ends, is going to end the war.  Having a cold in my head I am feeling a bit of a pessimist…..

“The snow has gone now and the various streams in the vicinity have got normal again.  There are days when we are completely cut off from everything.  I had a wire from Peter the other day, asking for Gloucester badges & buttons.  I suppose that means he has transferred – a very good thing.”

On April 1st the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Services of Great Britain were merged to form the Royal Air Force.

.formation of the raf

{next post 5th April}

GWL 31st March 1918

“………Things seem to be steadying up in France again, don’t they?  All the same it must have been a big blow to both sides.  Perhaps there is more to come.

“The snow is clearing away gradually, heaven be praised.  Thank goodness my old mules have not been clipped out yet.  How extraordinarily uncomfortable for Paris, being shelled at a range of 65 miles!  He really is an infernally clever devil, that Boche.  I should think that ring would be awfully pretty.”

The Germans introduced the “Paris Gun” to their armamentarium on March 21st 1918, with 21 shells being fired on Paris from a distance of 75 miles.  The gun was mounted on rail tracks and placed in a wooded hillside near Crepy. The campaign lasted 5 months and 250 people were killed with many more injured.  The Germans destroyed all the guns before they could be captured.

paris gun

The Paris Gun

{next post 2nd April}

GWL 20th March 1918

“Still lovely weather.  Your letters have come up to 3rd March.  We have a most peculiar hen here.  She lays an egg every other day in the boot rack in the officers mess – Seeing her there this morning I, very unwisely put my head down to enquire if there was an egg and received a very strenuous peck in the left eye.  Luckily it did not exactly land in my eye, but it was a near thing.  So rejoicing that I had not been blinded, I “smote” the hen and withdrew.

“Our M.O. has been shifted from here & has gone to an ambulance train.  He came to tea the other night.  Full of his new show.  It has suddenly started to blow like the devil.”

The 21st March saw the start of the German Spring Offensive with Operation Michael or the 1st Battle of the Somme 1918.  The action lasted 15 days.  General Luddendorf aimed to split the French and British lines forcing the BEF back to the sea.  The Germans had amassed substantial armaments in preparation and the artillery barrage on the first day consisted of 3,500,000 shells one of the largest of the entire war.  Elite ‘Stormtrooper” or Stoßtruppen had been formed to advance quickly and in small units to infiltrate the Allied lines.  The Germans managed to advance up to 40 miles in places but at aa huge cost to the new elite inits and the reserve troops and supply lines were unable to keep up with the advance.  The Allied forces were by now being reinforced with US troops who were able to relieve the exhausted French and Commonwealth forces.  The German advance therefore ground to a halt by early April.  Casualties were huge on both sides with more than 500,000 men killed, wounded or captured.  The offensive marked the turning point in the war.

Somme-1918_battlefield_copy

{next post 31st March}

 

GWL 18th March 1918

“Your letters have come up to the 1st march.  You must not send me any more parcels.  Hukum hai.  Also, Madam, your luncheon interval is meant for luncheon.  I don’t want to discourage you in your work but there are limits.  You cannot possibly work hard all day on a glass of water & a caraway seed at tiffin.  Your Frenchman, (vive l’entente), has no right to your luncheon intervals.  Another cat hunt last night.  This time the very devil of a white cat.  We caught him in the hut alright.  He was as wild as a hawk & charged about all over the place.  Alas, he made a leap at a window, broke the glass and escaped!  Still lovely weather.  All the spring flowers are out.  You can hardly walk on the hills round here, without treading on them, but they soon fade.  The latest arrival is the purple anemone.  The summer really seems to be beginning now.  The stream that runs past the camp is full of life.  No malarial mosquitos yet but all sorts of other ones.

“It rather looks as if there might be another cat hunt to-night! There is one wandering round now.  What an extraordinarily graceful thing a cat is.”

The Allies issue a note refusing to recognise the peace treaty between the Russian and German governments.

{next post 20th March}

GWL 16th March 1918

“Glorious weather.  Really quite hot.  However there is generally a slight frost at night so the spuds are not doing quite as well as they should.  Now that you are on rations you really must not send me any more parcels in the food line.  I cannot get it out of my head that in all probability you need the things you send me more than I do.  Don’t think I don’t love the things you send me, I do.  But you must not send any more.  Everybody seems to be talking about a German offensive in the West, don’t they? Personally I cannot see what he can hope to gain by it.  Of course he may have some new form of frightfulness up his sleeve.  I should have thought here or Italy was much more likely.  After all if he does win a few miles in France it will not matter much.  A big success against us here or in Italy would make the Mediterranean quite impossible for us.  Mr Garvin & other enlightened gentlemen would remark that it was another example of our bungling diplomacy and that the war was now lengthened indefinitely.  One trembles to think what these gentlemen will do when the war is over.  Of course if the Irish Question should happen to be settled as well they would die.  When will the man arise who has the courage to use against that people the only weapon they respect.”

Mr Garvin was editor of The Observer newspaper.  Compulsory rationing was introduced in stages between December 1917 and February 1918.

{Next post 18th March}

GWL 13th March 1918

“I have just been to a most wonderful pantomime.  The whole thing done by privates.  The singing was really top hole; most of the things from Merry England and Tom Jones.  They say, however, that it is not as good as last year’s show.

“I am sure you are quite right in what you do about the air raids.  Personally if I lived in 17 C.G., I should sap down from the coal cellar under the road so that I had 30 feet of earth and road on top and then make an emergency exit in the garden opposite.  Personally I don’t like being in a house when I am being shelled unless the house is very strong and the stuff they are sending over is small.  I hate to think of you being shot at.

“The mosquito campaign is beginning again.  To be quite honest I am rather dreading this summer.  I have got my chevrons up!  One red & 3 blues with another blue to come up on 16 Sept.”

Taking advantage of political turbulence in Russia German Forces started moving into Ukraine capturing Odessa on this day.

{next post 16th March}

GWL 11th March 1918

“My week end was quite a success & I feel about 10 years younger.  Although the lad I was dining with, had just had a tooth out we had a very pleasant evening & much amusing company.  It was rather late when we got to bed.  To-day came your letter with the poem in it.  Gorgeous weather again.  All the spring flowers are coming up, also a potato or so.  The only chance of getting anything out of the garden lies in its …..?……before summer begins.”

The first meeting of the Allied Maritime Transport Council, set up to co-ordinate Allied shipping, took place.

{next post 13th March}

The First World War seen through the letters of George Power