Message form to Muriel 1 May 1917

Message form to Muriel


To M. Cross Benchfield, Church End, Finchley London N 3.


Best wishes.


A.A. Laporte Payne Lieut R.F.A.

Censor cachet Passed Field Censor 4072.



A.A. Laporte Payne



175 Brigade R & A HdQrs.

Letter to Muriel 1 May 1917

Letter to Muriel 1 May 1917



May 1st 1917

Dearest mine,

Thank you so very much for your lovely letter of April 27th which has just arrived.  I am afraid mine of the 28th will not have arrived to-day.  Please forgive.  The fault of the delay in the post is nor in England.  It is this end.  The army postmen and the Field Post Office send on letters when they think they will and not otherwise.  Knowing you would not hear from me to-day I tried to send a wire but there is some beastly new procedure and ‘Signals’ refused to take it.  I should have had to send it into the censor at a town some way away and then send it by the French civilian telegraphs – and now it is too late.  So please forgive darling.


We are in the line again and working hard. It is quite like the Somme again – firing all day & night.  I spent the morning going round battery positions and in the afternoon at the O.Ps.

Today has been glorious, the weather is just perfect – a fitting day for your birthday. I wish I could have been with you.  Just think of the delight of having you alone in a punt somewhere on the Thames.  That is something to look forward to isn’t it?


How did the concert go off? I shall want to hear all about it in your next letter.

I am so sorry to hear about Mrs Lowe’s burst boiler. She must get it mended soon so that Mrs Cross can visit her.  It will do Mrs Cross a lot of good to have a change and a rest.


Thank you so much for the cigarettes you sent me. Now please young lady you must not send me any more cigarettes.  They are getting much too expensive and it will do me a lot of good to go without.  You have been much too kind and however nice it may be for me to receive them I think you ought to stop, don’t you?


How are you keeping? Fit and well I hope and enjoying this beautiful weather.  It is a pity isn’t it that in such weather we have to be out here trying to murder one another.  It is quite a July day to day and I got horribly hot and tired tramping round this morning in a tin hat and a box respirator hanging round my neck and field glasses on the other side.


How is Mrs Cross? I suppose Mr. Cross is still away up north and having a quiet time.


Have you been riding lately? I have given my horse a rest the last 3 days as she was very tired after that midnight journey.


Our new headquarters are not bad and the wagon lines are quite close only about 15 minutes walk away.

I must close now, darling, but I will try and write a proper letter to you tomorrow.

With all my love darling

And many kisses



WAR DIARY Of 2/6th Sherwood Foresters from February 1917 – To April 1917

WAR DIARY Of 2/6th Sherwood Foresters from February 1917 – To April 1917



Place       Date    Hour                                                Summary of Events and Information



25/2/17               Bn marches out of Camp.

26/2/17 FOVANT                  Bn entrains and proceeds to FOLKESTONE.

Crosses from FOLKESTONE to BOULOGNE.  Spends night in ST MARTIN Camp.

28/2/17 BOULOGNE            Entrain at BOULOGNE & proceeds to SALEUX (pres d’AMIENS) detraining there & marching to PONT DE METZ.  Night spent in Billets.

1/3/17 PONT DE METZ        Bn marches via AMIENS to GLISY.  Night spent in billets.

9.30 p.m    Bn marches via AMIENS to GLISY.  Night in billets.

2/3/17 GLISY                         Bn marches via VILLERS-BRETENNEAUX to WARFUSEE-ABNACOURT.  In billets.


3/3/17 WARFUSEE-ABNACOURT.           In Billets.

2.3.17 to 9.3.17                       In billets.

9.3.17                 12.30 pm     Bn marches to FOUCAUCORT.


9.3.17 to 15.3.17             Bn in billets.

16.3.17         7.15 pm.     Bn marches to BERNY. N.32.d.8.2 (Map Sheet 62C S.W.) and is attached to 176th Infy Bde, and takes up position in reserve line.

BERNY   16.3.17 to 19.3.17 In reserve line at BERNY.

19.3.17 9.0 am.      Bn marches to CIZANCOURT via MAZANCOURT and MISERY.

19.3.17 3.0 pm.     Two Companies cross river SOMME and take up positions in Notre Dame Trench (Map Sheet 62C S.W.) U.16.c.4.9. to U.16.a.3.9 and Sauterville Alley U.15.d.2.3 to U.16.c.4.9.

CIZANCOURT 20.3.17 6.0 pm.        One Company moves to Outpost position in FOURQUES as support to Cavalry.

22.3.17 9.0 am.  Outpost Company withdrawn.  Bn marches via VILLIERS-CARBONEL to P.C. NANGY on ESTREES-VILLIERS-CARBONEL Road.

P.C. NANGY 26.3.17 1.0 pm.           Bn marches to BRIE and occupies Bridgehead defences.  Bn. H.Q. at O.28.c. (Map Sheet 62C S.W.)

BRIE   27.3.17  2.0 pm.         Bn marches to VRAIGNES.  Bn. H.Q. at Q.19.b.7.3.5.

VRAIGNES 28.3.17 7.0 pm. Two Companies take up outpost position and dig in on line covering Q.4.a.6.1., K.33.d.5.1., Q.22.b.6.9.

29.3.17 7.0 pm. Two Companies out digging support trenches on line to posts at P22.b.9.9 and Q.17.c.4.5.

VRAIGNES 31.3.17 2.30 am.          Battn left for BERNES and occupied Quarry at Q.4.a.4.2.

BERNES         1/4/17 2.0 pm.            Battn launched attack from ridge Q.4 central and attacked in waves, came under heavy hostile shell fire but carried village of VENDLELES successfully.  Line pushed forward, and captured TEANCOURT.  10 Prisoners captured Battn then took up position from R.1.c.8.5. to R.1.d.2.5.

VENDELLES 1.4.17 11.30 pm.        Two Coys with Battn H.Q. were relieved and returned to BERNES.  Remaining two Coys went in support to 2/8th Bn. Sherwood Foresters in trenches R.1.d.2.5 to R.1.d.9.1, but rejoined Battn at BERNES at 1.0 noon 2.4.17.

BERNES         3.4.17 7.30 am.           A and B Coys went in support of 2/5th Sherwood Foresters to VENDELLES returning at 11.0 pm from same date.

BERNES         4.4.17 8.0 pm C and D Coys went to VENDELLES and dug posts along line from L.27.c.2.2. to L.33.b.2.1. returning at 1.0 am 5.5.17.

BERNES         6.4.17 9.0 pm Battalion marched to R.9.b.4.5. in support of 2/8th Sherwood Foresters who attacked enemy positions S.E. of LE VERCUIER.

HANCOURT  7.4.17 3.30 pm          Battn withdrawn to HANCOURT into billets.

HANCOURT 16.4.17 12.30 pm       Inspection of Battn by Major General C.F. Romer C.B. C.M.G. Comdg 59th Division.

HANCOURT   17.4.17 12.30 pm      Brig Gen F.W. Stansfield Comdg 178th Infantry Brigade presented Meritorious Service Cards to  Sgt W. Smith, Pte A. King and Pte Rillyald.

HANCOURT   19.4.17 2.0 pm         Battn marched to L.3.c.7.8. and took over the front line from 2/5th Lincolnshire Regt.

ROISEL          22.4.17          Battn was relieved by 2/7th Sherwood Foresters and marched to ROISEL in reserve.

ROISEL             27.4.17 1.0 am         Battn marched to HARGICOURT ROAD from L.11.b.0.5 to L.11.b.5.0. to deploy for an attack on QUARRIES and COLOGNE FARM (L.6.c.4.6.)

The attack was launched at 3.55 am and the QUARRIES were eventually captured and a line consolidated EAST of the QUARRIES from L.5.d.9.5. to L.11.b.9.9. Seven prisoners and 1 Machine Gun were captured.



9th Canadian Artillery Brigade for the month of APRIL, 1917







9th CANADIAN ARTILLERY BRIGADE for the month of APRIL, 1917


NOTE: O.O.61 is not attached as this number was skipped in numbering O.Os.




FRANCE Sh 51c N.E.



VIMY 36c S.W. 1/10,000

ROCLINCOURT 51b N.W. 1/10,000

FRANCE 51c N.E. 1/20,000


April 1st 1917 11 p.m. Although visibility is very low our batteries carried on with their wire cutting tasks.  Considerable wire was blown up but destruction on the whole was below normal.

The 4.5” Howitzers did a great deal of damage to SWISCHEN STELLUNG – both to the trench itself and the wire defences in front of it.

Our F.O.Os report enemy trenches in bad condition.


April 2nd 1917             We continued throughout the day with wire cutting.  Enemy shelling has been extremely light.

At 7.00 a.m. we put on a trial or practice barrage.  Intelligence Officer 3rd C.D.A. reported it very good,- bursts low and barrage well placed and uniform.

O.O. 57 issued today orders a systematic and periodical bombardment of VIMY, PETIT VIMY and LE CHAUDIERE.  Only two of our 18-pdrs and one 4.5” Howitzer Battery are to take part in this operation.


April 3rd1917               The enemy is apparently adopting a policy of “WATCHFUL WAITING” as outside of aerial activity his visible activities have been nil of late.  His shelling has dropped considerably below normal.  Meanwhile we are expending every effort in the speedy      destruction of his wire while the Heavy Artillery is constantly pounding his roads and defences.  The once well constructed and well defined SWISCHEN STELLUNG trench has been reduced to an irregular mass of shell craters and piled earth.


April 4th 1917              In spite of the severe handicap poor visibility affords to successful wire cutting operations, our batteries succeeded in doing a great deal of this today.  On our section of FLAPPER and SWISCHEN STELLUNG Trenches the Infantry report that the wire still remaining would not impede them in the event of an advance.

The raid carried out by 52nd Battalion on our front at 4.a.m. this morning was quite successful.  The Infantry remained in the enemy trenches for ten minutes and withdrew without casualties.  The Raiding Party succeeded in capturing one prisoner.  Our support was reported as excellent.  A letter of thanks from Lieut. Col. W.B. EVANS, Comdg. 52nd Canadian Battalion has been received and is attached hereto.

O.O. 59 issued today gives the following information:-

On Z day the Canadian Corps will attack and Capture VIMY RIDGE.  The details of the Artillery Support are to be issued later.  In the meantime we are to devote ourselves to thoroughly cutting the enemy wire

defences by day and by night we are to keep under fire points engaged by the Heavy Artillery during the day in order to prevent repairs.

O.O. No 60 was issued tonight.  The 43rd Canadian Battalion is to carry out three simultaneous raids on the enemy’s trenches tomorrow.  Our Group is to co-operate with Groups on our Left in giving Artillery Support.


April 5th 1917              At 2.00 p.m. today the 43rd Battalion carried out three simultaneous raids.  Two of these were quite successful but the Left Flank party were badly cut up.  Our support for the right flank was reported as very satisfactory.


April 6th 1917              Another rehearsal of our barrage for the VIMY RIDGE attack was put on this afternoon.  All necessary adjustment between flanks of both groups and battery barrages have now been made and the barrage is well placed and should be very successful.

The enemy slightly retaliated while our Barrage was in progress but ceased as soon as our barrage was over.


April 7th 1917              Enemy aeroplanes very active throughout the day; one of them brought down one of our observation balloons but occupants escaped by means of parachutes.

The enemy put a large number of Lethal and lachamatory shells in the neighbourhood of our Headquarters tonight.


April 8th 1917              Enemy artillery unusually active today. NEUVILLE ST. VAAST was heavily shelled with all calibres.

One of our Scout machines was brought down today behind the German lines.




April 9th 1917              THE ATTACK AND CAPTURE OF VIMY RIDGE

5.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (Detailed report attached as Appendix “A”)

5.30 p.m. to 10 p.m.  Situation is now quite normal.  Our heavies are pounding VIMY, PETIT VIMY and FLOWER TRENCHS.

Note: Attached hereto is a report on the attack from Lieut. J.R. Jamieson who was Group Forward Observation Officer – Appendix ”B”.  Also map of the barrage – Appendix ”C”.


April 10th 1917            A bombardment was carried out at 6.45 a.m. today on enemy trenches from S.29.b.4.8. to S.23.d.9.2.  This is a new partly dug trench which the enemy were holding with a garrison of fifty men.  Our shoot had the desired effect as the Infantry sent out a patrol shortly afterwards and found the trench deserted.

NOTE: Attached hereto are letters regarding our part in this affair – APPENDIX”D”.

At 10.20 a.m. in the neighbourhood of two hundred of the enemy were seen advancing in open order in T.14.c. and T.20.a. When they reached the vicinity of VIMY STATION they were badly cut up by the  Heavy Artillery.

Throughout the day our Observation Officers reported Infantry massing in various places. Those within range were effectively dealt with by out 18-pdrs and 4.5 how. Batteries: those further back were engaged, at our request by Heavy Artillery and heavy casualties inflicted.

Addenda The 45th Bty moved tonight to a forward position in A.2.a.


April 11th 1917            The enemy artillery has at last apparently recovered from his hasty retirement and is in action again.  For the first time since our capture of the RIDGE, he has shown aggressiveness.  For two hours this afternoon our front line in S.29.b. S.23.c. and S.23.d. was heavily shelled with 77mm 4.1 and 5.9s.  For this shelling we vigorously retaliated on BLOATER and FLOWER TRENCHES.

A number of hostile batteries were located by our F.O.Os today and promptly reported to the Counter Battery Group who took them on and in two instances obtained direct hits.

Addenda The 32nd & 33rd Btys moved to advanced positions in A.2.c tonight.


April 12th 1917            The enemy are now holding the line FLIT and FLICKER FLOWER TRENCHES – PETIT VIMY, thence along  FILLIP and eastern side of BOIS DE LA FOLIE.

O.O. 62 issued today orders us to take part in the artillery support for the attack and capture of the above line.

Visibility has been extremely poor today, and observation of movement in back areas has been impossible. On the whole today has been most quiet.


April 13th 1917            Enemy has withdrawn from VIMY.  By 11 o’clock this morning our Infantry were holding it and by afternoon our men were seen in the vicinity of VIMY STATION.  At present everyone is engaged in the pleasant pastime of “FIND THE HUN”.  Reports have been coming in all day that he has been seen in large numbers in various places, but usually ten minutes later another report comes in stating that our patrols are at those points.  There is however, no doubt but that the enemy is now well back towards AVION.

Our line tonight would appear to be roughly LE CHAUDIERE – VIMY RAILWAY STATION and thence southerly along the railway.


April 14th 1917            The enemy today shelled his old stronghold VIMY.

All Battery Commanders go forward today reconnoitring forward positions in VIMY and its environs.

The 33rd Battery has been ordered to move into its forward position tonight.  The remaining batteries will probably go forward tomorrow night.

Our Zone on our own trenches is now T.8. central, to T.1.d.0.0.  As this outranges our guns we are laid on a “Resistance Line” which runs from VIMY STATION thence along VIMY DEFENCES and thence to LA CHAUDIERE.


April 15th 1917            The Enemy Heavy Artillery has been most active.  Particular attention was paid to VIMY RIDGE.  There was however, a marked absence of shelling by the smaller calibre.

O.O. 63 issued today gives the new zone boundaries as follows.

RIGHT T.19. central – T.14. Central – N.34.d.0.0.

LEFT    S.24.d.7.9. – T.8. central – T.3.b.4.0.

The 32nd Battery did not get its last gun into position until noon today.  The roads were knee deep in mud and jammed with traffic; often there were no roads at all but a series of shell craters.  At times the horses belly deep in mud were unable to make any progress except with the aid of several detachments manning wheels and drag ropes.  On several stretches of the shell-torn road the guns travelled on their sides as often as they did on their wheels, but nevertheless the battery arrived in position with no casualties either to personnel or equipment.

The 45th Battery moves forward tonight to their advanced positions.


April 16th 1917            The enemy artillery devoted itself throughout the day to barraging LENS – ARRAS ROAD.

Numerous fires were reported in enemy’s villages throughout the day.  Two large fires were observed in LA COULLETE and AVION.

The 4th Battery moved into its advanced position today.  Although they left their old battery position late last night it was impossible to get the guns up any sooner owing to encountering the same conditions as did the 32nd Battery.


April 17th 1917            Brigade Headquarters moved forward today and we are now occupying an evacuated enemy dugout.

PETIT VIMY             So hasty was his retreat that postcards were left on the walls and a full set of cooking utensils was left behind.

The 43rd and 36th Howitzer Batteries moved into their advanced positions today.


April 18th 1917            Visibility was extremely poor today and our F.O.Os were unable to make any observations of interest.

The 33rd Battery has been ordered to come into position on night of 18/19th.  The 39th Battery which is now attached to this Group has received similar orders.


April 19th 1917            The 33rd and 39th Batteries have now moved into position and our Group is now complete.  Batteries are carrying on with registration.


April 20th 1917            Enemy artillery was markedly active today.  Throughout forenoon and greater part of afternoon he systematically bombarded VIMY and PETIT VIMY.  Our batteries are all now registered on important points and have been busily engaged all day in re-checking registration and registering new points.


April 21st 1917            During last night numerous fires were reported burning in LENS.  Enemy artillery again active, paying particular attention to our main roads.


April 22nd 1917           O.O. 64 issued today gives the following information:

  1. The 5th British Division which is on our Left will carry out an attack on the German line from T.2.c.. to SOUCHEZ RIVER.
  2. The 36th and 43rd Howitzer Batteries will aid this attack by bombarding houses in rear of enemy lines.
  3. Our 18-pdr batteries will carry out a feint attack which will take the form of a creeping barrage.

Both our own and enemy’s artillery very active throughout the day.


April 23rd1917           Enemy early this morning shelled VIMY and the vicinity with a large number of gas shells.  An enemy plane shot down two of our balloons this morning.


April 24th 1917            The enemy again today intermittently shelled VIMY and the vicinity with Gas.  Our batteries have been active all day with registration and firing at targets of opportunity.



April 25th 1917            O.O. 65 issued today gives information as follows:-

  1. The Canadian Corps has been ordered to capture and consolidate the enemy position ARLEUX-EN-GOHELLE and FRESNOY to ACHEVILLE all inclusive.

The XIII Corps on our right will be attacking GREVELLE and OPPY in conjunction with the above operation

  1. The Canadian Corps attack will be carried out by the 1st and 2nd
  2. We will co-operate by barrage on our front which will more or less in the nature of a Feint.
  3. Trial barrages will be put on by the batteries on the 26th and 27th On the former date the hour will be 5 a.m. and on the latter 12 noon.

Enemy artillery fire today has been below normal. His aerial activity has also been much less than usual.


26.4.17                        Our practice barrage was carried out successfully this morning and enemy retaliation very weak.  VIMY, PETIT VIMY and LE CHAUDIERE were fired on as usual by the enemy and he is making a nightly practice of shelling the vicinity of our battery positions with gas.


27.4.17                        The second of our practice barrages was carried out today and the enemy retaliated by shelling the vicinity of LE CHAUDIERE.

Enemy planes were very active today and succeeded in bringing down several of ours.

O.O. 66 issued today.  The operation ordered in O.O. 65 will now be carried out in two stages instead of one concentrated attack.  At Zero hour this Group will establish a barrage in support of a simulated attack Zero hour will be 4.25 a.m. April 28th.


28.4.17                        Upon our barrage opening this morning enemy threw up many red and green rockets and in response to these his artillery immediately counter-barraged.

A large fire was observed this morning in MERICOURT.


29.4.17                        The enemy heavily shelled VIMY today and systematically searched for battery positions.  In the evening he put on a concentrated gas shell attack.  Practically the entire of VIMY was affected.

O.O. 67 issued tonight orders a barrage tomorrow morning at 4.15 a.m. on similar lines to that carried out yesterday morning.



30.4.17                        The barrage ordered by O.O. 67 was carried out this morning despite the handicap of a long period of gas shelling which took place from 4 hours previous to the operation until practically zero hour.

Enemy heavy artillery has been unusually quiet today.

Even VIMY which he usually fires upon every day was left untouched.

O.O. 68 issued tonight orders a similar barrage to that carried out this morning.




H.G. Carscallen

Lieut Col.

Comdg. 9th Brigade C.F.A.



May 1917


May 1917

Western Front

Over Douai in France on 7th May 1917, English fighter pilot ace Captain Albert Ball VC was killed in action. In poor weather conditions he had been involved in a dogfight against Lothar von Richthofen, brother of the German Red Baron. Ball had pursued von Richthofen apparently puncturing his fuel tank and forced him to land. It would appear Ball had become disorientated during combat and he crashed his aircraft and was killed. For some time he was listed as missing but at the end of May 1917 the Germans dropped a message over the British lines to say they had buried Albert Ball with full military honours at   Annoeullin Communal Cemetery in France. Ball was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross on the 21st July 1917 which was presented to his family. Albert Ball had gained his pilot’s wings in January 1916 and in 17 months he had amassed 44 confirmed “kills” with another 25 unconfirmed. During that period he was awarded three Distinguished Service Orders (DSO) and the Military Cross. He was also awarded the Légion d’honneur by France together with the Order of St. George (4th Class) by Russia. But perhaps the greatest tribute of all to the 21 year Albert Ball came from his greatest opponent Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, who simply described him as “by far the best English flying man”.

Following the failure of the Nivelle Offensive to break through the German defences the French army began to refuse to follow orders for any further attacks on the 3rd May 1917. Unbeknown to the Germans morale in the French Army had received a body blow after the failed offensive. Coupled with news about the Russian Revolution and that it would take time for the Americans to start arriving, the French army began to mutiny. The French 2nd Division was the first to begin the mutiny when the troops arrived at the battlefield drunk and without weapons. The mutiny soon spread through the army. The men were mostly veterans who were demanding an end to the offensive. They believed the attacks they were being ordered to make were futile because the military authorities were inattentive to the slaughter and the realities of modern warfare. The offensive was suspended on the 9th May 1917. General Robert Nivelle was replaced as commander, on the 15th May 1917, by General Phillipe Pétain. Nivelle then disappeared from the world stage. History has not judged him very kindly. During the month of May 1917 over half the Divisions of the French Army were involved in the mutiny and a record number of 27,000 French soldiers deserted. Pétain restored morale by talking to the men, promising no more suicidal attacks, rest for exhausted units, home leave and moderate discipline. Fortunately the mutinies were kept secret from the Germans. From here on the French were not the driving force and the British took over the main offensive. On 15th May 1917, when Pétain took over from Nivelle as commander-in-chief, Ferdinand Foch became the Allied Supreme Commander. He remained in the position of chief of all staff until the end of the war.

The Third Battle of the Scarpe was an offensive by the British army along a 14 mile frontage from Bullecourt in the south to Fresnoy in the north. This action was part of the Battle of Arras and was fought on the 3rd – 4th May 1917. The decision to launch the attack at 3.45 am. In the darkness was contentious. There were two waves of attacking troops behind a creeping barrage of artillery fire. German artillery and machine gun fire caused heavy casualties to the first wave and few reached the German trenches at the Hindenburg Line. The second wave advanced in daylight and they faced machine guns sooner than the first wave. The attacking forces were compelled to withdraw on the 4th May 1917 owing to the dominance of the German artillery and machine gun fire. This disastrous day marked the beginning of the end of the Battle of Arras.

The Second Battle of Bullecourt was launched on the 3rd May 1917 after the French army had called for a renewed British offensive. The French assault on the Chemin des Dames ridge during the Nivelle Offensive had been a complete failure. Eight successive waves of infantry by the Australians of the 1st Anzacs began their attack at 3.45 am, alongside the British 62nd Brigade, supported by artillery fire. The Australians broke through the partially destroyed German barked wire, passing fallen comrades still lying dead in the mud from the previous month’s attack. Before they actually reached the German barbed wire, the 62nd Brigade was cut to pieces by machine gun fire and was forced to withdraw. By withdrawing they halted the advance of the following waves of infantry and by the day’s end no further gain had been attained. In the following days the Australians had strengthened their positions and gained a hold around Bullecourt by the 7th May 1917. In the following days, British and Australian forces were bombarded by continual artillery shells and in some cases, flamethrowers. Over the next few days sporadic fighting broke out until all action ceased on the 15th May 1917. The tragic events at the two Battles of Bullecourt contributed to the awakening of the Australian nation.

The Arras offensive was called off on the 16th May 1917. The British and French high command agreed there should be a series of limited offensives over the following months. In view of the French weaknesses with mutinies in their army, British commander-in-chief General Sir Douglas Haig sought an offensive in Flanders. Having received support from the military authorities Haig gave the order to proceed with the long–planned attack on Messines Ridge at the southern end of the Ypres salient.


Various Campaigns

America declared war on Germany, however, she was no better prepared for war than Britain was in 1914, as she only had a regular army of 145,000 men. The U.S. navy was slightly more prepared and on the 2nd May 1917 a flotilla of 6 destroyers arrived at Queenstown, (Cobh), Ireland, helping to patrol the waters around Britain. Within weeks a further 12 destroyers were dispatched for patrol, proving to be an effective strategy against German submarines.

The American General John Pershing was appointed to command the American Expeditionary Force on the 10th May 1917. He was the natural choice of the American military authorities and was given command because of his service in Cuba, the Philippines and Mexico. He was determined that the fresh U.S. forces were not to be used as re-enforcements for the war-weary British and French armies, but would remain an independent fighting force. By the end of May Pershing had left New York for France with only a small force, very few guns and ammunition and would be very dependent on the Allies for supplies. But America had committed herself to the war in Europe.

On the 18th May 1917, the USA passed the “Selective Service Act”. When the USA declared war on Germany there was an initial flood of volunteers to join the military. There were insufficient numbers who volunteered and it became apparent to the military authorities that conscription would be necessary. A “selective draft” policy was brought in and eventually 11 million men were registered but of these only 4 million were called for service.

On the 5th May 1917, Australian Prime Minister William (Billy) Hughes won an enlarged majority in the Australian general election. Hughes was an Englishman who immigrated, aged 22 years, to Australia in 1884. He became involved in politics and succeeded Prime Minister Andrew Fisher on the 27th October 1915. Committing himself to a vigorous “win-the-was” policy he proved to be a tireless wartime Prime Minister. He travelled to London in early 1916 to represent Australia in the U.K. war cabinet meetings, and gave assurances he would boost military recruitment in Australia. Upon returning to Australia his attempt to increase recruitment was met with opposition. He resigned as the Labour Party Prime Minister on the 14th November 1916. The Governor-General R.C. Munro-Ferguson recommissioned him to form a minority government. The new National Labour Party, with the support of the former Liberal opposition. The two parties merged to form The National Party and won the general election of 5th May 1917.

On the Italian Front the Tenth Battle of Isonzo was launched on the 12th May 1917 along the Italian/Austria-Hungarian border. The Italians had mixed fortunes by securing most of mountains barring the way to the Bainsizza Plateau. They did lose some of their gains to the Austria-Hungary counter-attack in the area around Konstanjevic on the Carso on 6th June 1917. During the winter of 1916-1917 the Allies agreed to synchronize their offenses in the spring. The Italian offensive was to be launched at the same time as the Arras and Nivelle offensives on the Western Front. However, the lateness of the spring made it impossible for the Italians to meet the schedule. Italy was the first of the Allies to feel the after-effects of the Russian February Revolution. Austria-Hungarian troops had been transferred from the Eastern Front, thereby convincing the Italian high command to maintain the initiative for the remainder of 1917.

On the 25th May 1917, the Germans carried out a massed air raid on targets in Southern England deploying 23 Gotha heavy bomber aircraft. The raid caused even more concern to the civilian population than did the earlier airship raids. This was because the only two bombers that reached their targets did more damage than any of the Zeppelin raids that proceeded it. A total of 95 people were killed and 192 wounded including soldiers and civilians. The German High Command had lost faith in the costly Zeppelin campaign, which overall had wreaked only limited structural damage on Great Britain. Accordingly, the Zeppelin air ships operations were almost entirely superseded by bomber aircraft.


The Eastern Front

Alexander Fyodorvich Kerensky was a 36 year old Russian lawyer and politician who became the Russian Minster of War on the 16th May 1917. He was a dominant figure in the newly formed socialist-liberal coalition government. He was appointed after the conservative member of the Provisional Government, Alexander Guchov, was forced to resign as Minister of War. It was the Bolsheviks who forced the resignation and they also forced Pavel Milyukov to resign as Foreign minister on the 5th May 1917. Kerensky toured the Eastern Front where he made a series of speeches appealing to the troops to keep fighting. Also during May 1917, Kerensky was persuaded by Maria Bochkareva, known as Yashka, to form a “Women’s Battalion of Death”. Yashka had joined the 25th Reserve Battalion of the Russian army during 1914, and gained the respect of the regiment with her bravery. Kerensky agreed to the Women’s Battalion especially to shame the menfolk to continue the fight. He argued that: “There is no Russian Front. There is only one united Allied Front”. In the meantime Kerensky announced there would be a new offensive. He had appointed General Alexei Brusilov as Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army to prepare for the forthcoming offensive. However, there were demonstrations against Kerensky in Petrograd, which were encouraged by the Bolsheviks who favoured peace negotiations.

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The Balkans

The Allied Spring Offensive on the Macedonian Front was designed to break the deadlock of the Bulgarian defences. The attack on Crna Bend was set for the 5th May 1917 with the allied forces up against well-fortified Bulgarian and German units. The allied artillery bombardment began and lasted all day with mixed results. The Bulgarians were defending the plains and shelter for the infantry was not adequate, whereas the Germans had occupied the rugged terrain in the hills providing excellent shelter for the infantry. The day for the main allied attack was scheduled for the 9th May 1917 but the 4 day bombardment did not cause severe damage to the defence system. At 6.30 am the Italian, French and Russian infantry climbed out of their trenches and advanced against the Bulgarian and German positions along an 11-kilmetre long line. The Italians managed to capture a Bulgarian trench that had been evacuated. With a rapid counter-attack the Bulgarians recaptured the trench. The French did not fare any better than the Italians as they too were forced into retreat. After some success the Russian infantry were forced back and the Central Powers of Bulgaria and Germany had regained their defensive line at Crna Bend and achieved a decisive victory. The Allied forces were not able to defeat the Central Powers who held on to the Crna Bend until the end of the war in 1918.



The Great War – May 1917

The Great War – May 1917

Western Front

7th May                        British fighter pilot Albert Ball VC Killed in action

3rd May                      French mutinies begin

9th May                         Nivelle Offensive ends

15th May                       Philippe Pétain replaces Robert Nivelle in the French army

15th May                     Foch succeeds Pétain as Chief of General Staff

3rd/4th May                 Third Battle of the Scarpe

3rd/15th May              Second Battle of Bullecourt

16th May                     Arras offensive ended


Various Campaigns

2nd May                         1st USA destroyer flotilla arrived in Ireland

10th May                    Pershing appointed to take command of the American Expeditionary Force

18th May                      Compulsory Service Act in USA

5th May                       Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes wins enlarged majority

12th May                       Tenth Battle of Isonzo

25th May                       Massed German air raid on SE England


The Eastern Front

16th May                      Kerensky becomes Russian war minister.

May                               Kerensky persuaded to accept the Women’s Battalion of Death

May                             General Brusilov appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army


The Balkans

5th to 9th May              Second Battle of the Crna Bend