Sunday 30 September 2018

After the Lord Mayor's Show

Monday 30th September

As often happens in this war, following the spectacular success yesterday, today has been a much quieter day, with smaller operations being carried on all the way from Ypres southwards. At the Saint-Quentin Canal, after the stunning success by 46th (North Midland) Division yesterday, the enemy has everywhere retired to the east bank which they are continuing to defend stoutly. To the south the French have attempted a crossing of the canal themselves, without success.

Otherwise the actions of today can be exemplified by the three battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment remaining on the Western Front. The 1st Battalion, which has been in action at Beaucamps moved forward during the day as the enemy retired. 2nd Battalion were ordered to proceed from Ronssoy to Vendhuile to act as moppers-up for an attack but the attack was unsuccessful so they themselves had to attack and clear the village.

4th Battalion was in action on the outskirts of Cambrai. They are in the two squares marked 26 and 27 on the map below. They have been ordered to take the strongpoint named the Faubourg de Paris.

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/3/wd; X550/5/3

Roll of Honour - 30th September 1918

Damascus Falls

Wednesday 2nd October 1918

As things are a little quieter in France and Belgium today it is opportune to report that Damascus fell to British and Imperial troops yesterday(1). I was able to speak to the adjutant of the 1st/5th Bedfords, who are in the vicinity of Haifa, after a nine mile march yesterday morning. They are on a beach to the west of the town near an old Franciscan convent. The town is out of bounds to all ranks. It is the adjutant's opinion that the Turks cannot last much longer and must soon sue for peace.

Source: X550/6/8

(1) Now the capital of Syria

Saturday 29 September 2018

Stunning Success at the Saint-Quentin Canal

Sunday 29th September 1918

We have heard that 46th (North Midland) Division has, today, achieved something truly remarkable. This body of troops, which spent part of its time in Luton before going over to France, has not had a good reputation since its failure to make progress on the first day of the Battle of the Somme resulted in the sacking of its commanding officer, major-General Montagu-Stuart Wortley. Today that bad reputation has been wiped away. The division was given the task of crossing the Saint-Quentin Canal in small boats. The canal is thirty-five feet wide and defended by belts of barbed wire both on the banks and in the water. Nevertheless, the men of 137th Brigade not only crossed but stormed the enemy trenches, scattering them. The bridge at Riqueval has been seized intact and the village of Belleglise captured. 32nd Division then advanced through the victorious Midlanders and drove the enemy still further back. The much vaunted Hindenburg Line, our enemy's greatest hope for continuing the war, has been breached.

On their left the Americans of 27th and 30th Divisions - men from New York and from North and South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. 27th Division has struggled but 30th Division has done better and the Australians, advancing through the Americans have carried on an advance which has taken Bellicourt. 

Further north Third Army has continued its attacks with the redoubtable Kiwis being particularly successful. Advances have been made all along the line and The Canadians, we hear, are only a mile from the town of Cambrai. 

In the far north operations have continued around Ypres. Messines, Terhand and Dadizeele have all fallen. Everywhere our foe seems to be in retreat. 

In all of this advance on a very broad front the Bedfordshire Regiment has played its part. The 1st Battalion has made progress at minimal cost and 2nd Battalion has returned to the fray at Ronssoy, once more, fighting in Ronssoy Wood.

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - 29th September 1918

Friday 28 September 2018

The Fight Goes On

Saturday 28th September 1918

Today the attack by First and Third Armies continued. 57th and 63rd Divisions penetrated the German defences on the line from Marcoing to Cantaing and took the third objective from yesterday. 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment was still in support after its success yesterday and moved forward to a position near Cantaing in the area marked by a cross on the map above. Yesterday's casualties were one officer and twelve other ranks killed, seven officers and 61 other ranks wounded. Pushing on, the divisions crossed the Schelde Canal and captured Marcoing. Further north the Canadian 3rd Division took Fontaine-Notre-Dame and the left wing of First Army is now level with the left wing of Fourth Army. Today the 1st Bedfords found to their delight that the enemy had evacuated the village of Beaucamps and, in common with other units, moved forward through the ruins.

Further north still a major offensive began today in the shellscape around Ypres. The Belgians and our Second Army, as ever the main axis was the road from Ypres to Menin. Amazingly it has taken just one day for the Belgians to seize Passcehndaele and its ridge, which took our armies four months of the summer and autumn last year. British divisions have managed equally impressive advances - up to five miles. Messines and Wytschaete have been abandoned by the enemy, we understand. All this simply underlines how the allied armies continue to learn new tactics whilst the enemy falters.

Roll of Honour - 28th September 1918

Thursday 27 September 2018

The Bedfords in Action Again

Friday 27th September 1918

Two of the three battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment on the Western Front have been in action today as today has been another all-out effort by First and Third Armies. The Canadians, on the left flank have attacked Bourlon on the old Cambrai battlefield from last November and December and word has just reached us that Bourlon has, indeed, fallen. 11th Division and 56th Division have also captured a number of villages. At its greatest extent the advance has been five miles today.

South of this the battlefield is riven with countless old trenches and gives much better defensive possibilities. Thus 52nd Division has struggled and halted its advance west of Anneux. 63rd (Royal Naval) Division includes the 4th Bedfords. It passed through 52nd Division and attacked Anneux and Graincourt. The Bedfords, like the other attacking troops today had to cross the Canal du Nord (a dry ditch, in effect as the canal was still being built when the war started). They succeeded in this and captured their objective and are now in the position shown above, just west of Graincourt (see the map above) where they are acting as support. The rest of the division finally managed to take the two villages, the second objective, early this evening. 57th Division should now be passing through to attack the third objective, though darkness is falling.

To the south Guards Division, 3rd Division and 62nd Division have all taken ruined villages and have mostly taken their second objectives. 5th Division made an attack south-east of Cambrai towards Villers-Plouich. the 1st Bedfords' objective is shown on the map below and they took it by lunchtime. This afternoon, however, a strong attack caused the battalion to withdraw to the sunken road and evacuate Beaucamps - 2 officers and 19 other ranks have been killed, 6 officers and 96 other ranks wounded, including Captain Riddell, the adjutant. Twenty men are missing tonight.

The only sad note has been the attack by the American 106th Regiment. The Australian general Monash, in command of IX Corps decided to push these troops into a position overlooking the Saint-Quentin Canal but, unfortunately he underestimated the strength of the defences and the Americans could make to headway. So once again, the offensive has not been entirely successful but he who expects all objectives to be gained in this war lives in a fool's paradise and very significant gains have been made, gains which, only three months ago would have been hailed as miraculous. 

Yesterday, well to the south the French and the Americans opened an attack either side of the Argonne Forest. The Americans did well, advancing between two and four miles, though the French did not manage so great an advance progress has been satisfactory and we hear that Montfaucon, at 1,200 feet above sea-level, has fallen to the Americans today. This is very different country to Picardie and Flanders, being hilly and bedecked with thick forest, so any advance is made with great effort.

Almost everywhere on the Western Front the allies are moving forward.

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/5/3

Roll of Honour - 27th September 1918

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Amman Falls

Thursday 26th September 1918

Yesterday in Palestine the advance begun with such success on 19th September notched up another success yesterday with the capture of the important town of Amman(1). We have just heard that this morning the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, general Sir Edmund Allenby issued the following communique: "I desire to convey to all ranks and all arms of the Force under my command, my admiration and thanks for their great deeds of the past week, and my appreciation of their gallantry and determination, which have resulted in the total destruction of the VIIth and VIIIth Turkish Armies opposed to us. Such a complete victory has seldom been known in all the history of war."

(1) Now capital of Jordan.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

A Move from Ronssoy

Wednesday 25th September 1918

Today 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has put some distance between itself and Ronssoy. It has moved back to Nurlu, south-west of Bapaume for training and a well-earned rest.

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - 25th September 1918

Monday 24 September 2018

Yellow Devils Move

Tuesday 24th September 1918

Yesterday 1st/5th Battalion in Pelstine moved to the village of Hableh(1). The brigade is being concentrated for future actions.

(1) Still a Palestinian settlement on the West Bank

Roll of Honour - 24th September 1918

Sunday 23 September 2018

Operations Around Ronssoy End

Monday 23rd September 1918

This evening the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, will bid a none too fond farewell to Ronssoy as they will be relieved by 7th Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment of the same division. The fighting has been protracted and made the point that, as the allies reach the defensive position of the Hindenburg Line enemy resistance will stiffen. Once the line is broken it is the firm opinion of everyone out here that the end of the war will quickly follow.

Yesterday in Palestine the 1st/5th Battalion continued its salvage work following the great success that has become known as the Battle of Megiddo, coincidentally, scene of a great victory for the Egyptian pharaoh Tuthmosis III 3,375 years ago. Large dumps of ammunition have been found and a party has proceeded to Wadi Ikba to bury the dead they have found.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/6/8


Saturday 22 September 2018

Fighting Continues Around Ronssoy

Sunday 22nd September 1918

Today, for the fifth consecutive day the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has been in action around the village of Ronssoy, south-west of Cambrai. This evening the adjutant told me on the telephone that so far the battalion has suffered one officer and 48 other ranks killed, one officer and eleven other ranks missing and eleven officers and 175 other ranks wounded, in addition one officer and two other ranks have died of their wounds - a total of exactly 250 officers and men, roughly a quarter of the battalion's strength.

In Palestine 1st/5th Battalion has begun salvage work following the successful breakthrough of the enemy line on the adge of the Plain of Sharon. They have also been engaged in looking for and recovering the bodies of the dead of both sides.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 22nd September 1918

Friday 21 September 2018

Nazareth Falls

Saturday 21st September 1918

Yesterday the great advance continued in Palestine. Perhaps the most memorable thing about yesterday is that Our Lord's boyhood home, Nazareth is once more in Christian hands, having fallen to British and Indian horsemen of 5th Cavalry Division. The 1st/5th Bedfords, having reached all their objectives on 19th had an easier day yesterday and pitched their bivouacs. In a wire the adjutant noted, no doubt with relief that "men allowed to take off boots. Everything quiet".

Here on the Western Front the 2nd Bedfords have again been in action around Ronssoy, south-west of Cambrai. Sadly we we have to report that Lieutenant W G Samuels was killed today and that Lieutenant S G Hague died of wounds. 

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 21st September 1918

Thursday 20 September 2018

Breakthrough in Palestine

Friday 20th September 1918

As promised yesterday, your correspondent has been assiduous in discovering more about the fighting in Palestine. It seems as if general Allenby unleashed a massive attack on Turkish lines stretching for a point south of Jericho all the way to the sea. Indeed, it is on the coastal flank that the greatest success has taken place. A complete breakthrough has been made, with Turkish units reeling and the desert Mounted Corps exploiting the gap to range deep into enemy territory with, it seems, no unbroken enemy in front of them.

I have been able to speak on the telephone with the adjutant of 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, part of 54th (East Anglian) Division. They were shelled by the enemy just before the attack began, but received no damage. Casualties were suffered as they began their attack just before dawn and Turkish artillery fire increased. After a while of moving north the battalion struck east, as planned and reached its final objective about mid-afternoon. What most struck the adjutant, however, was not Turkish resistance, but the heat and the going: "the men were considerably exhausted and suffering from thirst, as day had been very hot and ground difficult". he was able to report with satisfaction: "large quantities of stores and material found left behind by Turks".

The advance will now, no doubt, continue. It seems as if this may be the defining blow in this conflict as the Turks seem to have no reserves to stem our advance along the coast. We may look back on the events of yesterday as being as significant for Palestine as the great victory on 8th August was for France.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 20th September 1918

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Huge Offensive Under Way in Palestine

Thursday 19th September 1918

Today 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has again been involved in operations around Ronssoy, south-west of Cambrai. This is just a part of wider operations as divisions north and south of the Australian Corps aim to straighten the line. 

Greater operations are, we understand, underway in Palestine. Allied guns opened up a bombardment of Turkish positions in the Plain of Sharon, well to the north of Jerusalem. The battlefront extends from a point just south of Jericho all the way to the coast. Things, at this great distance are, as yet, unclear and we hope to make a full report tomorrow. Certainly, the 1st/5th Bedfords are in action.

Source: X550/3/wd; X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 19th September 1918

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Attacks from Saint-Quentin to Cambrai

Wednesday 18th September 1918

Today attacks took place against enemy outposts to their defensive fortifications known as the Hindenburg Line. There was no preliminary bombardment and only a few tanks were used as this precious commodity is being saved for the attack on the main position. It was raining heavily this morning as the troops left their trenches. 

The extreme right of the attack, west of Saint-Quentin, was supposed to receive support from French troops on our right but they seemed to make little effort, meaning that 6th Division came under fire from their right flank as well as from in front and could make little headway, momentarily taking the village of Fresnoy but being unable to hold it. 1st Division on their left could also make little progress on the right of its attack but further north took its first and second objectives. The Australians achieved their first three objectives and now overlook the Saint-Quentin Canal. Early reports suggest they have taken around 4,000 prisoners.

III Corps had the most difficult task of the day, attacking the villages of Ronssoy, Lempire, Epehy and Peiziere south-west of Cambrai. 74th (Yeomanry) Division, which came to the Western Front in May from Palestine and took their objectives. 18th (Eastern) Division attacked Ronssoy took Ronssoy, aided by three tanks and with 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment in the action. They were frustrated, however, in taking their second objective. 12th (Eastern) and 58th (2nd/1st London) Divisions attacked Epehy and Peiziere respectively and both have fallen, though it is understood that 12th Division has suffered heavy casualties. Both divisions, having taken the villages, could get no further towards their first objectives due to the strength of the opposition.

So today has been one of reasonable progress though by no means the great success that had been hoped.

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - 18th September 1918

Monday 17 September 2018

More Attacks Pending

Tuesday 17th September 1918

This evening the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment are moving up to the front line where they expect to take part in operations against the village of Ronssoy, south-west of Cambrai tomorrow. Other units and other divisions are also quietly getting into place as the darkness falls. Tomorrow will be another major effort.

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - 17th September 1918

Sunday 16 September 2018

On the Move

Monday 16th September 1918

After the disbandment of three of its battalions earlier this year, the Bedfordshire Regiment has now just three battalions on the Western Front - 1st, 2nd and 4th. Two of these have been on the move today as the generals move their pieces on the board that is the battlefront, preparing for the great assault on the Hindenburg Line.

2nd Battalion boarded a fleet of buses this morning at Leuze Wood on the old Somme battlefield and are this evening in a wood west of Aizecourt-le-Bas, south-west of Cambrai and a mile or two short of the Hindenburg Line. They expect to be in action in a few days.Meanwhile 4th Battalion marched to Saint-Leger south-east of Arras.

Source: X550/3wd; X550/5/3

Saturday 15 September 2018

A Pause Before a Storm

Sunday 15th September 1918

Here on the Western Front the British and Imperial troops are in a state of expectation. They know they will soon have to attack the German defences of the Hindenburg Line. These defences are very strong and any attack is likely to be prolonged and bloody. But, set against this, is the fact that large parts of the German army are nowhere near as determined as they were even a few months ago. In addition, a breakthrough of these defences will lead the army into the green fields beyond the desolation of the front line and one feels that the end will then be very near. 

Roll of Honour - 15th September 1918

Friday 14 September 2018

Cat and Mouse on Bureid Ridge

Saturday 14th September 1918

In all the excitement of the American success at Saint-Mihiel, your correspondent was remiss in not reporting the latest information from Palestine. The 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has been patrolling, probing the enemy defences at Bureid Ridge. On 12th, an enemy patrol was encountered by one of ours and the Bedfords tried to surround it, stealthily creeping around both flanks, hidden by rocks, scrub and folds in the ground. Frustratingly, something gave away the intention and the Turks made a hasty withdrawal.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 14th September 1918

Thursday 13 September 2018

American Offensive Ends

Friday 13th September 1918

So successful has the Franco-American attack been at Saint-Mihiel, south-east of Verdun, that tonight it is over, all objectives achieved. As mentioned yesterday this will be a huge psychological blow to the enemy, as it is evident that the Americans, though callow, are spirited and aggressive. Their huge numbers alone suggested to all that the Germans were likely to lose the war; the fact that they have not only numbers but fighting quality means that defeat is now certain. The enemy had held this salient, or narrow area of land thrust into the allied lines, at Saint-Mihiel for almost exactly four years, since the heady days of their initial successes in this war. Now they have lost it.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

American Success at Saint-Mihiel

Thursday 12th September 1918

Today has seen a whole series of attacks made by the British Expeditionary Force, the Americans and the French. The British IV, V and VI Corps of 3rd Army have all been in action and have taken the villages of Havrincourt and Trescault, a few miles south-west of Cambrai. Despite Sir Douglas Haig's remarks of yesterday the enemy has fought tenaciously today and has launched a series of counter-attacks this evening, all of which have been beaten off and the army has made an advance of about a mile on a five mile front.

Further south the Americans, just after midnight, launched a powerful attack at Saint-Mihiel, south-east of Verdun, a German position they have held continuously since September 1914. The Americans, followed by the French, took all their objectives by this afternoon and are said to have captured a further 16,000 prisoners and more than 400 guns. This triumph has shown the enemy that this new army can achieve anything to which it sets its mind and must surely be the last nail in the coffin of German militarism.

Roll of Honour - 12th September 1918

Tuesday 11 September 2018

The Beginning of the End

Wednesday 11th September 1918

Over the last few days the enemy has been retiring before the allied armies to their prepared positions they call the Hindenburg Line. Looking back over the last four weeks the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force, Sir Douglas Haig has stated that the British and Empire forces have captured 77,000 prisoners and 800 guns(1). This is an average of around 2,750 prisoners and 28 guns per day. these are astounding numbers in the context of what has preceded in the four years of this war. 

These figures underline that the enemy our troops face today is not the same resourceful, tenacious enemy faced at Neuve-Chapelle, Hooge, Loos, the Somme, Arras, Passchendaele and Cambrai. Or, at least, some of them still are but many are not. Sir Douglas went on to say that many of the prisoners refused to obey their officers and NCOs, that discipline in the army is going and that the German officer "is not what he was". He has said that it seems to him that we are now at the beginning of the end. We all fervently hope so.

(1) at an interview with the Secretary for War, Lord Milner. 

Roll of Honour - 11th September 1918

Monday 10 September 2018

Killed by Our Own Artillery

Tuesday 10th September 1918

In the early hours of yesterday morning, 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, having just arrived in the front line in Palestine sent out a patrol of the Bureid Ridge. Whilst the patrol was out, for some reason our artillery opened up a bombardment of the ridge. Sergeant P Brown was wounded and Lieutenant D Spurgeon was killed. A patrol sent out yesterday night, which remained out until dawn this morning was, sadly, unable to find the officer's body.

Source: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 10th September 1918

Sunday 9 September 2018

On the Move

Monday 9th September 1918

Today 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment took the train from Boyelles and have ended the day near the Belgian border at Bailleulmont. In Palestine yesterday the commanding officer and company commanders left for the front line near Mejdel Yaba(1) where they will took over from 1st/5th Battalion, Essex Regiment just before midnight.

Sources: X550/5/3; X550/6/8

(1) Now the Israeli settlement of Rosh HaAyin.

Saturday 8 September 2018

Honours and Sports

Sunday 8th September 1918

The 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment remains at its camp just east of the ruins of Guillemont, training. Today Military Medals have been awarded to Segreant E T Blake, Private F Dunton and Private F G Ashby, with Sergeant D Fynn receiving a bar to his Military Medal. The 4th Battalion, after a few years days in the front line at Inchy-en-Artois west of Cambrai have gone back to Boyelles. 

In Palestine yesterday the 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment took part in the heats for the Brigade Tournament in the morning and the tournament itself in the afternoon. The battalion was second to 11th Battalion, London Regiment overall and won the following events: the tug of war; the company cross-country race; the relay race and the long jump for officers.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/5/3; X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 8th September 1918

Friday 7 September 2018

Heigh Ho the Wind and the Rain

Saturday 7th September 1918

Autumn seems to have comer a little early to the Western Front. We have been enduring driving rain for the last day or two and particularly rough winds. Tommy Atkins has been enduring it with his usual stoicism. The main complaint has been that the winds will force Channel shipping to stay in port, which will delay the mail from home.

In far-off Palestine things are no doubt warmer and drier. The 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has been training and also practising for a tournament organised by the Brigadier. Events include the usual athletic favourites such as the hundred yards dash, the 440 yards and the high jump.

Source: X550/6/8

Thursday 6 September 2018

4th Battalion in the Front Line

Friday 6th September 1918

For the last three days 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has been in the front line near Inchy-en-Artois around three miles west of Cambrai. Three other ranks were wounded on Wednesday, two yesterday and thirteen today. Yesterday 42 other ranks arrived as reinforcements. 

Source: X550/5/3

Roll of Honour - 6th September 1918

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Training at Guillemont

Thursday 5th September 1918

The 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is at a place they know all too well - Guillemont, a village they attacked at the end of July 1916. Little of Guillemont remains and so the men are camped around the place marked X on the map above. They have been here since the first of the month and are acting as Divisional Reserve, during which they are training.

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - 5th September 1918

Tuesday 4 September 2018


Wednesday 4th September 1918

After their great advance yesterday the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment were relieved overnight. They marched back to Lebucquiere, east of Bapaume, where they have camped. Total casualties yesterday amounted to nine men wounded.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - 4th September 1918

Monday 3 September 2018

No Enemy to Attack

Tuesday 3rd September 1918

This morning the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment were preparing themselves to attack the enemy east of Bapaume only the find, on reaching their objective that the enemy had abandoned it and withdrawn. The attacking companies, B and D then advanced about four miles until they came in contact with the enemy, when they then dug in.

This seems to suggest that the enemy have done as they did in March 1917 when they withdrew to their Hindenburg Line. If that is the case there may be a lull in the advance as commanders prepare to attack this highly defended position.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - 3rd September 1918

Sunday 2 September 2018

Peronne Falls

Monday 2nd September 1918

More advances have taken place today. Most importantly, perhaps, the Australian Corps has taken the town of Peronne. 5th Division has been one of the attacking formations. 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, forms part of 15th Brigade in this division and acted as reserve for this attack east of Fremicourt. Nevertheless, it suffered ninety-four casualties, killed and wounded.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - 2nd September 1918

Saturday 1 September 2018

More Advances

Sunday 1st September 1918

Today three divisions to the north of the Somme - in descending order north to south - 42nd, New Zealand and 5th Divisions have made some progress east, the gallant Kiwis, once again, in the lead. On the Somme itself key progress has been made. 38th (Welsh) Division has taken Morval and 18th (Eastern) Division has take the eastern portion of Saint-Vaast Wood. Last night and this morning the Australian Corps crossed the River Somme and drove on Peronne, taking Mont-Saint-Quentin and ending up just west of the town - in German hands since 1914. Everywhere our armies are on the march towards what looks increasingly like a final victory

Roll of Honour - 1st September 1918