Sunday, 22 July 2018

What Took the Americans so Long?

Monday 22nd July 1918

The 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is currently in Egypt, resting and training. One of their diversions yesterday was a talk by a local resident Mr Charles Whitelaw entitled "Why America was late coming into the War". 

The adjutant said that Mr Whitelaw's explanation included the following points: many Americans are of German descent; many others are Irish with a deep-seated hatred of this country; the tiny size of the pre-war American army which was just a home defence force; a natural desire to keep out of a conflict which is hugely costly in lives; the fact that Europe is a long way away and the perception that what takes place there is of little relevance to most Americans and the fact that the US saw the opportunity to sell armaments and other material to combatants (mainly the allies) for a profit. 

The USA was gradually sucked into the war by such incidents as the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-Boat resulting in many American deaths, the German atrocities in Belgium and the fact that the president, Woodrow Wilson has, all along, favoured the allied cause. The infamous Zimmerman Telegram suggesting a German-Mexican alliance leading to a Mexican invasion of America was, according to Mr Whitelaw, merely the last straw.

The adjutant described himself as unable to comment on whether Mr Whitelaw's views were accurate. He merely commented ruefully that they were unlikely to see any American troops in Palestine.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 22nd July 1918

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Blooding the Americans

Sunday 21st July 1918

Since  Thursday a major offensive has been underway to the south. General Foch, the French commander-in-chief has launched an attack with 24 divisions, including two American divisions(1). The offensive is along the River Marne, scene of such bitter fighting in 1914 and where the German offensive was halted just short of Paris. 

Since then a corps of Italian troops has also been involved, which was roughly handled in its attack, but it has been replaced by two British divisions, 62nd (West Riding) and our old friends 51st (Highland) Division, whose initial base was in Bedford.

Yesterday the enemy began to fall back under the attacks of this army of four nations. This is the first serious retrograde movement the enemy has been forced to make since his triumphant Spring Offensive. Let us hope it is not his last(2).

(1) 92nd and 93rd Divisions. Both of these were"colored" divisions. US formations were segregated and both these divisions were manned by African Americans

(2) After 20th July German defences stiffened and renewed allied attacks were costly and without significant gain until; 1st August when a Franco-British attack advanced five miles during the day. German counterattacks on 6th August caused the offensive to peter out, but the British and Imperial troops at Amiens were then ready to launch their own attack which would see the beginning of the great allied advance which would end in the Armistice of 11th November.

Roll of Honour - 21st July 1918

Friday, 20 July 2018

1st Bedfords' Attack and Raid

Saturday 20th July 1918

At midnight last night the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in the front line north-west of Merville, undertook an attack and raid. Your correspondent was somewhat surprised at this nomenclature, after all what is the difference? The difference was explained by the adjutant. The attack was designed to drive the enemy back from the positions he held whilst the simultaneous raid was designed to seize prisoners.

On asking the adjutant the result of both operations he was quite candid. "It was a complete failure", in other words, no prisoners were taken. The attack, on the other hand, was quite a success. The enemy trenches, marked in purple on the map shown above, lay on the other side of a stream called the Platebecque but the enemy had manned the line of the stream and the aim of the attack was to drive him back to his own trenches, which was carried out. In part the success of the attack was the undoing of the raid, because the Germans bolted from their position along the stream so quickly that there was no time to take prisoners.

During this action the adjutant reckoned that the Bedfords lost lone officer killed and one wounded, three other ranks killed, two missing, believed killed, and ten wounded.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - 20th July 1918

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Dog Fights

Friday 19th July 1918

1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is in the front line near Merville. The adjutant has mentioned, casually, that they are "pulling a stunt" tonight and that things are quite tense as the men prepare themselves mentally to go into action. Some of this tension was dissipated earlier in the day as enemy aircraft have been quite active and a number of "dog-fights" developed over the front line. In two separate incidents enemy machines were brought down by our fighters. One exploded in flames, so presumably the engine was hit by bullets and the fuel ignited. The other crashed somewhere behind its own lines.

Sources: X550/2/5