Monday 11 December 2017

Italy Bound

Tuesday 11th December 1917

The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment are off on holiday! At least that is how the adjutant wryly described their current mission to me on the blower this afternoon. Their parent unit, 5th Division, is one of five British divisions being sent from the Western Front to Italy, some have already gone, others are on the way now. This British force will be commanded by General Plumer, who has, reluctantly it is understood, handed over command of Second Army at Ypres to Sir Henry Rawlinson.The British divisions will be formed into two Corps, they comprise 5th, 7th, 23rd, 41st and 48th (South Midland) Divisions. Six French divisions are also being sent to Italy.

The reason for sending over 130,000 allied soldiers from France and Flanders is that Italy is in crisis. The Austrians, bolstered by German troops no longer needed to fight the Russians following that country’s collapse into anarchy, launched an attack at Caporetto on 24th October. In a battle which lasted until early November they smashed the Italian 2nd Army and threatened Venice. Fortunately the Italians managed to stabilise the front but they are dreadfully weakened in what a military friend of mine calls the 3 Ms - material, morale and men. It is hoped that the British and French troops will provide the sort of help to the Italians that the Germans did for the Austrians - well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened units around which the Italians can rebuild their strength.

Today the 1st Bedfords went to Anvin and have boarded trains for their long journey south. They are, in fact, on two separate trains. The first, commanded by the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel P R Worrall consists of B Company and D Company. Major Chirnside commands the second train containing A Company and C Company. The transport and quartermaster’s stores have been divided equally between the two trains. They are expected to arrive at their destination on Sunday.

In far-off Palestine we understand that General Sir Edmund Allenby has made his official entry into Jerusalem. Unwilling for any comparison with his Saviour he chose to walk rather than ride in triumph.

Source: X550/2/5

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