H E Witty Jan 16

H.E. WITTY

18th SIEGE BATTERY R.G.A.

  1. Section

 

1st January 1916.  Saturday.  OFF DAY.  Very wet – played footer in morning.  Reading ‘Les contes des collines’ and writing afternoon and evening.  Letter from R.  ANS.

Gormley’s court martial **holder before Major for shooting a dog in camp – got off with a rep.

 

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January 1916

On the 1st Jan 1916, the British introduced a new weapon against the German U-boat, the depth charge. Herbert Taylor, of the Royal Navy’s torpedo school HMS Vernon based near Portsmouth had experimented with and perfected the first workable depth charge. Shaped like an oil barrel and filled with TNT, the depth charge exploded at a preset depth. Over 16,000 depth charges were released by the end of the war, sinking 38 U-boats and helping to destroy 141 more.

 

Before the Great War Germany, like most European countries, had a number of colonies in Africa. Each colony was surrounded by allied territories effectively starving the Germans of supplies. Cameroon, sited on the west coast of Africa was a German colony consisting of mountains, plateaus, dense jungle and swamps. On the 1st Jan 1916 British and French forces advance and reach Yaonde, after combatting skilful defence together with tropical rain. The Allied forces numbered approximately 25,000 but poor planning and lack of intelligence hindered their progress. The German opposition comprised approximately 5,000 troops, who used cunning tactics to hinder the allied advance. The allies’ final aim was to reach the last German stronghold of Mora, in the north of Cameroon.

 

By late 1915 the British army had lost approximately 60,000 officers and many more other ranks. On the 6th Jan 1916, the British Government introduced the Military Service Bill providing for the conscription of single men aged 18-41 to join the British armed forces. Britain had declared war on Germany in 1914 with a regular army of 100,000 men and approximately 125,000 Territorial Forces. Britain’s Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, requested young men to volunteer for the armed forces. With heavy casualties already sustained, the Military Service Act was passed into law on the 27th Jan 1916. Conscription was the only solution to maintaining the supply of forces necessary for the British army to win the war. The law became effective from 10th Feb 1916, despite Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s reluctant submission of the act.

 

The final evacuation of Helles at Gallipoli on the 8th and 9th Jan 1916 was effected     with no loss of life. Previously the evacuation of Suvla Bay and Anzac Cove, in Dec 1915, had been a brilliant success and achieved without any casualties.

The Gallipoli campaign overall was a complete disaster and the two evacuations were the only successes. Overall allied casualties numbered over 200,000 with many deaths from disease. The number of Turkish deaths is not clear but over 200,000 is     generally accepted.

 

Admiral Hugo von Pohl was exceedingly cautious, not wanting to risk the German navy against the vastly superior British navy. Reinhard Scheer joined the German navy as officer cadet, and progressed through the ranks reaching the position of commander of the 11 Battle Squadron of the High Seas, at the outbreak of the Great War. On the 24th Jan 1916 Scheer was promoted to Admiral, and given the command of the High Seas Fleet, after the Kaiser dismissed von Pohl because of ill health, coupled with his cautiousness.

 

During the first years of the Great War Paris suffered very little damage to its streets and buildings, but on the 29th Jan 1916 a German Zeppelin dropped 19 bombs onto the house on 34 rue du Borrego. The owner, sous-brigadier (Lance Corporal) Bidault was killed, one of 54 people who lost their lives. A special funeral was held for them at Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix.

 

In January 1916, The American President, Woodrow Wilson, sent his Chief Foreign Policy advisor, Colonel Edward M House, to Europe to attempt to negotiate peace terms. The negotiations failed to reach an agreement, ending Wilson’s hopes the war would end. The outcome would be the inevitable inclusion of American involvement mainly due to the loss of American lives in the submarine incidents in the Atlantic.

 

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                         THE BALKANS

 

Flora Sandes was an English lady who had travelled to Serbia as an auxiliary nurse at the outbreak of the Great War. At the beginning of the Serbian retreat, during the autumn of 1915, she had enlisted as a private soldier in the Serbian army. Due to her many British contacts, she was able to obtain supplies for troops in her regiment. Her reward for this was promotion to Corporal on the 1st Jan 1916.

 

On the 6th Jan 1916 the Montenegrin army had entrenched themselves around the village of Mojkovac. The intention of the battle was to allow a general retreat to Corfu. The Austro/Hungarian forces attacked the village with a heavy bombardment but the assault was unsuccessful, the Austro/Hungarian forces suffering heavy casualties. The Austro/Hungarian forces followed up with a second attack on the Montenegrin positions on the 7th Jan 1916. Despite having a stronger, larger and better-equipped army, Austro/Hungary again failed, with both sides having suffered heavy losses. The result being the abandonment of the Austro/Hungarian positions in Mojkovac.

 

From the 8th Jan 1916 the Austro/Hungarian army continued pushing their offensives south and gradually overcame Montenegrin forces until on the 16th Jan 1916 Montenegro capitulated and sought surrender terms.

 

On the 11th Jan 1916, France occupied the Greek Island of Corfu, and the first of the retreating Serbian troops began to land on Corfu on 15th Jan 1916.

 

On the 25th Jan 1916, the entire army of Montenegro surrendered and laid down their weapons.

 

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      The Caucasus and Middle East Campaign

 

Three new Indian divisions commanded by British Major-General Aylmer were despatched on 4th Jan 1916, to relieve the besieged British forces at Kut-al-Amara. En-route, the Turkish army blocked Aylmer’s forces at the Battle of Sheikh Sa’ad. After two days fighting, without any success, Aylmer’s forces attacked the Turkish defences only to discover the Turkish trenches were unoccupied. Despite this, Aylmer’s forces were not able to relieve Kut-al-Amara.

 

Russia had declared war on the Ottoman Empire in Nov 1914. Their two armies fought along their border.  A mixture of assaults and defeats resulted in stalemate.

10-18th Jan 1916, the Russians achieved total surprise by defeating the Ottoman forces at the Battle of Koprukoy. Russia continued attacking to the south into the Ottoman Empire, heading for Erzerum.

 

The Battle of Wadi occurred on the 13th Jan 1916, being the unsuccessful attempt to relieve the beleaguered forces of Sir Charles Townsend then under siege by the Ottoman Sixth Army at Kut-al-Amara. General Fenton Aylmer was ordered to launch an attack against Ottoman defensive positions on the banks of the Wadi River. The Wadi was a steep valley with a stream running into the River Tigris. The attack was generally considered to be a failure, although Fenton managed to capture the Wadi, it cost him 1,600 men.

 

After the setbacks at the Wadi, Aylmer was ordered, on 21st Jan 1916, once again to attempt to break through the Ottoman lines. Aylmer’s relief force, now reduced to about 10,000 men, continued its movement up the Tigris until it encountered 30,000 men of the Ottoman army at the Hanna defile 30 miles downriver of Kut-al-Amara. After a short bombardment the British forces charged the Ottoman lines. In an advance across 600 yards of flooded no-man’s land, the British sustained 2700 casualties. Well prepared Ottoman positions, notably well-sited machine gun nests, forced the British to abandon the assault and withdraw the relief force to the base of Ali Gharbi. The night after the attack was freezing and, with medical care practically non-existent, many wounded British troops suffered unnecessarily. Morale for both the relief and the besieged forces at Kut-al-Amara plummeted, after the failure to secure the breakthrough.

 

F Hammond letter 30 Dec 15

Written on an opened out brown envelope.

 

30.12.15

 

Dear F & M

I am in the pink.  We can only hear the wind howling at night now.  We had a very good Xmas.  I went down to our HQ and spent the night there we had a good feed and plenty of everything to drink including cigars so I didn’t do so bad.  I hope you enjoyed yourself as well as I did.  We are now looking forward to the New Year and of course all being well the Scotch always keep it up.  I shan’t be home in time to let it in this year but I hope this time next year we shall all be together to let it in.  I went for a bath tonight and spent a couple of hours at solo whist afterwards in an estaminet so we don’t spend a bad time when in rest.  How did Geo & Will look?  I hope Mar & Dad are keeping well and that Gladys is going strong.

I got some tobacco & cigs from Willie the other day.  A 1lb tin so I have put it on the table and the lads all come along with their pipes.  I had the misfortune to lose my washing a few weeks ago a shell dropped in the garden and blew it to na’ pue otherwise Il na yen a plus.  There is a cinema a few yds away but I have not had time to visit it yet too busy at Xmas.  I wish you all prosperity in the New Year hoping that all are well.  I will now fini

Yours Burgy

How’s alias Turk

 

F Hammond letter 24 Dec 15

24.12.15

 

Dear Pa & Mar

Just a line to let you know I am OK.  I suppose you will have got the pc I sent.  I am glad to say I am in the best of health.  We came out of action a day or two ago and are now out of the noise and din of the guns for a few weeks without old Fritz gets too troublesome.  As no doubt you are aware they tried to do it on us with gas and now gas shells and all the stuff they could devise but we were prepared and when Fritzs came over he was soon quietened.  I must say it was the hottest time we have had yet but all the lads in our lot are merry and bright.  We are billeted in a village not far from where we first stayed last May prior to our first smell of powder.  Allcock and I paid a visit to the latter place the other night and we fairly cemented the occasion.  It’s nice to get back to where they speak French as I can’t understand the Flemish patois at all except they say Yar Yar for yes.  Well I hope you all have a good time this Xmas.  I am going to try to have a good day tomorrow so don’t think Burgy is having a bad time of course I could go on a bit of turkey & sausages very nicely but still it won’t trouble me much if you send me a parcel anytime.  I shouldn’t object to a few sausages as we never see them out here.  You will see I got the parcel from Mount Tabor Church OK so I will enclose a little note in this envelope.  I also got your parcel OK.  I couldn’t count more than 8 whole mince pies but I didn’t waste any it was Tra Bon of course I had to spread it round a bit as all the boys sample each other’s parcels.  I think this is all at present.  I suppose Geo has heard the tale of a sentry halting a man at night saying “Halt who goes there?”  “Chaplain” Sentry “Pass Charlie”.

Well I hope you all the very best wishes and prosperity in the New Year.

Luck and love to all.

 

Burgy

If Willie is called up don’t let him forget to mention the (fact) that he is an operator and at which office he came from.

 

Please post the letter to Mr. Taylor

F Hammond letter 12 Dec 15

10.12.15

In biro On return from 1st leave from Ypres

 

Dear Mar & Pa

Just a line to let you know I am OK.  I didn’t tell you any details of my passage back well it wasn’t at all bad in fact it was very nice.  I caught the train from Vic OK but our train was too late the boat having just left earlier that anticipated so I spent the night in Folkestone and quite enjoyed myself.  I caught an early boat across and managed to have a good look round the place on that side before leaving by train.  So you see Gussie got another night in a bed.  Bow wow.  I have practically got rid of the cold I had. The weather here has been very wet.  I don’t think we have had a fine day since I returned.  Your up to the eyes in mud but it’s surprising how you get used to it.  I am on night work in fact day and night as Alcock is on leave now and I have to work extra – Well it’s just 3 am raining and you can hear the boys singing as they are being relieved and marching to rest Billets.  You should see some of them their best girls wouldn’t know them and I am sure Jack would have them all in mush for not shaving.  It is mostly artillery duels round here and the trenches on both sides are in a nice mess especially after they have been bombarded with High Explosive Some life.  I feel like a magnate now I have a War Loan.  Some finance eh!  I wouldn’t mind a photo of Jack if they are small but I don’t want a big thing no extra kit for Burgy.  As you say Geo will probably send that special lice killer après la guerre.  Hope Gladys enjoyed herself at the old girls meeting.  Were they really old Gladys?  About Miss Sewell’s age Eh!  I just had a rest then while I has a straffe.  I will leave you to guess what that is.  My Battery is na pue so am looking forward to refill don’t forget that shaving tackle someday.  I was parleying with a Belgian soldat last night he is going to get me a ring.  Aluminium sent over by the Boches and made into a ring by a Belgian soldat so there.  I believe we shall be out of action by Xmas in rest so that will be OK if it comes off.  I hope Gladys pulls her exam off this time if she does I must bring a bottle of Sham back with me next time.  I wonder if Turk likes being called Billy.  I suppose he would lick your hand if you called him Kaiser Bill.  Ah oui.  I am afraid he is not getting a proper training without me did I tell you when I was over I took him in the Crown and while walking down I missed him but eventually found him in the doorway of the Dog.  I think he was getting to know me.  I am sure Miss Sewell would be astounded when you showed her that bit of glass.  Eh some souvenir Eh.  Well I will now stop as I hear as there’s a war on.  Hoping you are all well and have a good time at Xmas & that Ma has got rid of her cold.

Yours Billy’s master

Burgy

 

December 1915

On the 3rd December, General Joffre was appointed Commander-Chief of the French armies. He had promoted from Chief General Staff, a post he had held since 28th July 1911.

 

In Mesopotamia on the 3rd December, the British forces reached Kut, after retreating from Ctesiphon. By the 5th December, Kut had been placed in a state of defence and the siege of Kut began on 7th December. The army of the Ottoman Empire besieged the British and British Indian forces.

 

On Gallipoli on the 8th December, regional Commander-in–Chief, Sir Charles Monro recommended a general retreat from Suvla and Anzac Bays. Lord Kitchener gave confirmation to Monro’s recommendation.

 

On the Italian front, the Forth Battle of Isonzo ended on the 10th December.

 

On the 15th December Sir John French stood down as Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France.

 

The Evacuation of Suvla and Anzac Bays in the Gallipoli Peninsular on the 19th December and all forces were completed evacuated on the 20th December.

 

On the 19th December, Sir Douglas Haig succeeded Sir John French as Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France.

 

On the 23rd December, Roland Leighton died of wounds in a field hospital near Louvencourt. He was shot through the stomach by a sniper. He was due to go home on leave to marry his fiancée, Vera Brittain. Whilst waiting in a hotel on the south coast of England she was expecting a call from Leighton to say he was in the country. The call she received was from his mother to say he had died. Vera Brittain survived the war, eventually married, and had two children, one of whom is Shirley Williams, a peer of the Liberal Democrat Party.

G G Hammond letter Nov 15

P/e G.G. Hammond No 3143

2/7th Bat Mc/r Regt

D Comp. 15 platoon

Crowbro’ Sussex

Saturday

Dear Father & Mother

What do you think of the glorious news?  I am delighted.  I was beginning to give up all hope but on Tuesday I thought I would try again.  I was very fortunate in seeing the Adjutant just as he was going to see the Colonel and he said if I cared to wait he would mention my application to him.  After I had waited about an hour I was called in and then the Colonel asked me several questions, where was I educated, what was my father – manager of the Pru in S’port, what I was in civilian life – student for D & C, if I had any private income, I said I should be funded by my father – the Colonel said I must be able to fund at least 50£ per annum.  Well Dad I think you will be able to manage that between you.  Willis will contribute something and I think that one of the family ought to be in the scheme.  It does not do for me to lay the law down about this matter as it all depends on you, but I am just wiring you all particulars.  I think it would be a good idea to approach Mr. Kemp if the thing comes off.  Will resume after answering these questions the Colonel said I could have my application forms, but the Adj could not give them to me at the time as there had been some alterations and they were expecting a new set from the War Office.  However he said he I should have them **, immediately they came I am a bit annoyed at the delay but can only carry on until they come.

I shan’t be sorry to get a commission as I have been picked out to be a grenadier being one of the bravest, coolest and most courageous men in the ranks – bow wow.  From what I can see of it, it is a most dangerous game and is known down here as the Suicide Club.  They only give them 24 to live at the front.  It is our duty to precede an attacking party and clear the enemy’s trenches with bombs, we have had several experiments with Gun Cotton, you would be surprised at the destruction made by the exploding of 1lb of Gun Cotton.

For our experience we had 1lb of Gun Cotton round the trunk of a tree about 10” in diam.  After the explosion the tree was a minus quantity.  There is a great risk of being killed by one of your own bombs as you hold until it is almost time for it to go off so the enemy won’t have any chance of throwing them back.  I shall have to see the Brigadier when I have filled my forms in and then it all rests with him.  I am very keen now.  Old Gus seems to be having a lively time of it with the lice, 50 of our chaps have been “chatty” through sleeping in an old (***) barn whilst on guard.  I don’t think it is worth while coming over to Sport as the only leave we get is 1 pm Sat until Sunday night & the fare is 18/9.  I would give any to be at home for about a week, it is a bit too bad to give me the menu of the dinner when I have to fight for my skilly.  The food is not much better, one day the whole Bat turned out on the parade ground as we had no tea- not a crumb – things looked very bad, but the S.M. promised them some so everything passed off.  I have written home for some food but don’t get any.  The cake Ma sent went in a meal.  Don’t send any tinned meat I get enough of it, Ma I could sit down and polish off the Sunday’s dinner for the whole family and then feel hungry.

It is awful in this hut, the windows have not been put in since the fire and it has rained in torrents this last 3 days.  Consequently the floor is all wet.  I could have had a pass for London this weekend but I think I will go next week if I can manage it.  I might see Will.  Has Gladys passed her exam.  I hope she dose well.  I am expecting my tin this week and will send a pc if it doesn’t come before Tuesday.  I have to buy a lot of my food.

I am sorry Gladys is not coming back to London with Uncle Will, it is not all that expensive and I should have a chance of seeing her.  Well I shall have to conclude now as a chap is going to the village so he can post this, if I miss him it will be Sunday night before there is a collection.  Have you sent for a birth certificate.  I think it would be advisable under the circumstances as everything seems satisfactory.  I will let Gladys swank me down Wellington Rd if it comes off.

Love George