War Diary of AA Laporte Payne 1 November 1917

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne

 

EXTRACTED FROM.

 

Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda

Correspondence

—————–

 

1st November 1917

 

NOVEMBER THE FIRST, 1917.

Brigade Headquarters.

I have been reading the Times Literary Supplement and Gilbert Frankau’s “Woman of the Horizon”, but the latter was not a book I think worth while.

 

We have been shelled out of our Headquarters and have had to move. It was getting a bit too hot, especially at night.  We are trying to settle down in our new quarters, a barn; but it is very cold.  No fires are allowed at all, as the smoke would certainly be seen.  However the Adjutant returns in a day or two, and I go back to my battery’s gun-line.  I think it is about time, as I am tired of indoor work.

 

The Colonel is in a very bad temper to-day. He was late for an appointment with the General.

 

The Boche seems to be having it all his own way in Italy.  I suppose we shall have to stop the rot.  I wonder what soldiering would be like in Italy.

 

Advertisements

War Diary of 9th Canadian Artillery Brigade October 1917

CONFIDENTIAL

 

WAR DIARY Of 9th CANADIAN ARTILLERY BRIGADE

 

From October 1st 1917 – To October 31st 1917

 

 

FIELD

Oct 2nd to Oct 5th        During this period the 31st 18-pdr Battery and the 36th Howitzer Battery were in the line in front of MERICOURT and the Headquarters and 33rd and 45th 18-pdr Batteries were in rest at Wagon Lines near CAMBLAIN L’ABBE, with two batteries of the 10th Brigade C.F.A. attached, also in rest.

 

5.10.17            Operation Order 108 was issued postponing all preparation for the Operation with reference to the taking of MERICOURT.  Our two Batteries in the line are to be relieved tonight.

 

6.10.17 to 9.10.17    In anticipation of a move to another area the brigade was very busy in completing their equipment.  Two concerts were given in the evening for the benefit of the men of the batteries who had been in action, one by a Y.M.C.A. Concert Party and the other by the 3rd Canadian Division Concert Party.  These were immensely enjoyed by the men.

 

9.10.17         Operation Order No 109 was issued referring to the vacation of our present Wagon Lines and the march to new Wagon Lines at ESTREE CAUCHIE.  The weather was fair and the march made in good time and all batteries were settled down with good standings for the horses and good billets for the men, before dark.

ESTREE CAUCHIE

10.10.17 to 12.10.17   The Brigade remained at rest in ESTREE CAUCHIE completing their equipment and discarding surplus equipment, owing to the impending march to the 2nd Army Area near YPRES.  On the 12th October Operation Order No 110 was issued with reference to this march which was to start at 7.30 A.M. on the 13th instant.

 

VENDIN les BETHUNE

  • It rained hard during the night and also in the morning as the batteries pulled out and as this kept up until about 1.00PM, nearly every man was soaking wet and arrived in the afternoon at our first stop in VENDIN-les-BETHUNE in a cold and miserable condition.

Operation Order No 110-2 was here issued referring to the continuation of the march on the next day, leaving at 7.30AM.

 

Near MORBECK

14.10.17  The Brigade pulled out on time and as the weather had cleared up the march was made under better conditions and the men became more cheerful.  A stop was made about noon at ST VENANT to water the horses and feed the men after which we proceeded to billets near MOREBECK.  All the horses had to stand in open fields and as there was very little shelter for the men, tents had to be put up.  Operation Order 110-3 was issued here referring to the continuation of the march on the next day.

 

GODEWAERSVELDE

15.10.17           The Brigade pulled out at 8.30AM and the weather was fine.  A stop was made at about noon at ST SYLVESTER to enable the horses to be watered and fed and at 2.00PM the march was continued to the area of GODEWAERSVELDE.  The horses were all in the open fields but the men had good billets and were quite comfortable.  Operation Order No 110-4 was issued here referring to the continuation of the March to WATOU tomorrow morning.

 

16.10.17            The Brigade pulled out at 9.00AM.  the weather was fine and we arrived at WATOU about noon.  The horses were again in open fields but most of the men managed to find billets in barns and houses and were fairly comfortable.  Operation Order No 110-5 was here issued referring to the continuation of the march tomorrow to the VLAMERTINGHE Area.

 

17.10.17            The Brigade pulled out at 11. AM while passing POPERINGHE we met Colonel Carscallen the C.O. and Major Massie returning from leave in PARIS.  We reached our new Wagon Lines about 3.00PM and found there was no cover for either horses or men so tents had to be erected for the men.

 

 

18.10.17 to 20.10.17         The Brigade remained at rest, the batteries getting further equipment such as ration packs and pack-saddles, water carriers, etc and some of the officers going forward to look over the new gun positions.  On October 20th Operation Order 111 was issued referring to the relief by the 9th Brigade of the 108th A.F.A. Brigade R.F.A. which is to be completed by 8.00 AM October 21st 1917.

C.29.c.17.30

21.10.17                Our batteries relieved the batteries of the 108th A.F.A. in the early morning and found the battery position a sea of mud and many guns hopelessly mired, while the roads leading into the battery positions were completely blocked with over-turned guns, wagons, dead horses and mules and other supplies.  Operation order 112 was issued today with reference to a readjustment of zones.  Operation Order 113 was also issued with reference to a barrage to be put on by our batteries.

 

22.10.17                 Our batteries started to move their guns forward, amid the worst conditions as to weather and mud that has ever been experienced by this brigade in FRANCE.  In many cases it took from 50 to 100 men and 12 horses to pull out one gun.  Operation Order 113-1 was issued with reference to further barrages to be put on by our batteries.  The day was very foggy and owing to the mucky ground the batteries had much difficulty in establishing O.Ps and very little intelligence was received.  During the night the enemy heavily shelled our Battery positions and aeroplanes also dropped about 25 bombs near them.

 

23.10.17                  Operation Order No 113-2 was issued with reference to further Preparatory Barrages by our batteries.  The visibility throughout the day was very poor but one of our F.O.Os reported that one of our Heavy shells dropped very close to a Hun pill-box and about 20 men were seen to run from it to the rear.  One of these men, who was wounded, wandered towards our front line and was brought in by our infantry.  We expended about 1000 rounds during the day.  Enemy shelling was below normal.

 

  • Operation Order No 114 was issued with reference to the first stage of the capture of PASSCHENDAELE to take place on the morning of the 26th

The visibility was good throughout the day and many enemy aeroplanes were observed, some of them flying very low and sweeping our forward trenches with machine gun fire. Ten GOTHAS flew across our lines and flew around the rear areas dropping many bombs.  Several enemy balloons were also up in the morning.  We fired about 1200 rounds during the day.  Enemy artillery was very active, mainly on our communication roads, firing about 700 rounds mostly 5.9s.

 

 

 

25.10.17                   Visibility was fair but there was an extremely high wind and enemy planes and guns were not so active.  We fired about 1800 rounds.

 

26.10.17                   It rained very heavily during the night and was raining when the attack on PASSCHENDAELE started at 5.40AM.  The enemy artillery opened up one minute after our Zero Hour and during the morning his artillery fire was very heavy.  Owing to the flooded and impassable state of the ground our Attacking Infantry found it almost impossible to move and their Machine Guns became clogged with mud.  Very heavy machine gun fire was encountered from enemy pill-boxes and as our men could not move with rapidity to outflank these, heavy casualties were sustained and the attack was held up about the middle objective.  In the afternoon by continuous hand to hand fighting we established a strong line which included a row of pill-boxes on BELLEVUE HEIGHTS and the enemy have been unable to dislodge us from this line.  Owing to the rain and poor visibility there was no aerial work done.  Special reports are attached from this Brigade and from Lieuts Manning and Livingstone, Brigade F.O.O. and Battalion Liaison Officer, respectively.

 

27.10.17                   The visibility was good today and seven enemy balloons were observed on our front.  Enemy planes were also very active during the morning and at about 10.00AM nine enemy planes flew round WIELTJE Area dropping many bombs.  The activity of enemy artillery was below normal today.  Our own batteries fired about 2000 rounds in the 24 hours.  Operation Order No 115 was issued today referring to the new preparatory barrages and harassing fire.

 

28.10.17                    The day was dull and visibility poor.  Three enemy balloons were observed at daybreak but descended in a short time.  Enemy aeroplane activity was below normal, but at 11.AM 12 GOTHAS flew around the area from WIELTJE to YPRES and dropped many bombs on the roads, inflicting some casualties.  Enemy artillery was more active today putting heavy barrages on the main roads.  Our artillery fired about 1500 rounds during the 24 hours.

 

 

29.10.17                    The visibility was poor in the morning but got better in the afternoon.  No enemy balloons were observed today but a large number of enemy planes crossed our line and flew around the rear areas, without, however, dropping any bombs.  Enemy artillery was very active again during the day barraging GRAFENSTAVEL and ZONNEBEKE Roads with 4.1s and “Whizz-bangs” until dark.  The enemy appeared very nervous during the night and sent up a large number of many coloured flares.  Operation Order 116 was issued today with reference to the next attack tomorrow morning on the PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE.

 

30.10.17                    Our attack on the BELLEVUE RIDGE immediately in front of the main PASCHENDAELE RIDGE took place at 5.50AM.  The weather was fair but the smoke obscured the vision to a great extent.  Our infantry appeared to get away to a good start.  The enemy barrage in retaliation came down promptly a minute and a half after our Zero hour and consisted mainly of 5.9s and 4.1s.  Inside of 5 minutes it had become very intense.  By 6.30AM the infantry were reported to be making good progress and keeping well up to the barrage, and small parties of the enemy could be seen running to the rear.  About 7.00AM it appeared that our infantry had met with very heavy machine gun fire and were being held up.  A large M.G. emplacement concealed in FRIESLAND COPSE appeared to be heavily manned with machine guns and our men were obliged to work around the flanks and sustained many casualties in doing so.  At 8.00AM the infantry appeared to be going very well except in the centre of the Divisional front where large pill-boxes were holding up the advance, and the barrage at this point had got ahead of the men.  The footing was very heavy and in many cases men had to stop to pull their comrades out of the mire.  By 12 noon it was apparent that the infantry had reached their objectives except in the centre of the attack which was still held up by strong pill-boxes heavily manned with machine guns.  The situation became much quieter in the afternoon until 4.50pm when an S.O.S was sent in and all batteries opened up at once.  This, however, was soon broken up by artillery and machine gun fire.  Special reports are attached from Brigade Headquarters, Lieut MacGillivray F.O.O. 33rd Battery, Lieut A.B. Manning F.O.O. 36th Battery and Lieut A. Livingstone, Brigade Liaison Officer.

 

Place       Date    Hour                                                Summary of Events and Information

 

31.10.17                  The day was cloudy with poor visibility.  There were no enemy balloons today observed and only several odd enemy aeroplanes.  Three S.O.S. signals were sent up during the early morning at 4.05AM, 5.30AM and 5.40AM.  Apparently there were two counter-attacks on different fronts but these were effectively broken up.  Another S.O.S. was sent up at 5.40 in the afternoon but this counter-attack was also broken up and our infantry still hold all positions taken in the attack.  Operation Order No 117 was issued today referring to further preparatory barrages and harassing fire.

 

 

Lieut Col.

Comdg 9th Canadian Artillery Brigade.

 

War Diary of 2/6th Sherwood Foresters October 1917

WAR DIARY Of 2/6th Sherwood Foresters

 

For October 1917

 

 

Place       Date    Hour                                                Summary of Events and Information

 

Fighting Strength  23 Officers  739 Other Ranks

WIELTJE   1/10/17  4 pm.                  Relieved in Old British Front Line, WIELTJE, and marched to Camp, VLAMERTINGHE, H.9.b.4.5. (Sheet 28).  2nd Army.

VLAMERTINGHE 2/10/17  8.5 am.            Entrained VALMERTINGHE, Station.  Proceeded by rail to THIENNES.  Marched to BOESEGHAM, where the Battalion was billeted (Ref Map HAZEBROUCK 5A).  in the 1st Army.

BOESEGHAM 3/10/17  11.0 am.     Battn inspected on parade by G.O.C. 178th Infantry Brigade.

4/10/17                    Training carried out.  Close order drill etc.

BOESEGHAM 5/10/17  9.45 am.     Battn proceeded by bus to S.E. of THEROUANNE, from which point proceeded by march route to COYECQUE.  Billets were occupied.

COYECQUE     6/10/17 to 9/10/17   Training carried out.  Additional  Specialists training also commenced Specialists Training.

COYECQUE 10/10/17  8.30 am.      Marched to FIEFS.  Battalion billeted in CHATEAU.

FIEFS             11/10/17  9.0 am.        Marched to TANGRY.  Bn It’s 2’s & 3 Coys billeted in TANGRY, remaining Coy billeted in SAINES-les-PERNES.

TANGRY       12/10/17  9.0am         Left TANGRY at 9.0 am & proceeded by march route to BARLIN.

BARLIN         13/10/17  9.0 am.       Left BARLIN at 9 am. And proceeded by march route to GOUY SERVINS.  Arrived 1.0 pm.  Battn billeted in Chateau.

COVY SERVINS 14/10/17               Training of Battn carried out.  Training of additional

20/10/17                Specialists renewed.  Bde in Divisional Reserve.

21/10/17  5 pm.      Battn entrained on Lt. Rly. GOUY-SERVINS.  Detrained at AVION and relieved 2/4th Bn. Lincolnshire Regt. in front line.

AVION               22/10/17                  Occupied front line  N.25.b.50.20. to N.33.c.10.90. (Sheet LENS CANAL 3rd Edition) Battalion H.Q. at LA COULETTE.

25/10/17                  Draft of 66 O.R. arrived from 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters.

26/10/17                  Enemy raid on advanced right front repulsed.  One enemy killed brought in.  our casualties 3 slightly wounded.

29/10/17                 Battalion moved to support line.  Battn H.Q. established at S.6 central (Sheet LENS CANAL 3rd Edition)

 

Total Casualties 3 Killed 11 Wounded

Fighting Strength 25 31 Officers 774 810 Other Ranks.

 

Major

Cdg. 2/6th Battalion

The Sherwood Foresters

 

November 1917

November 1917

Passchendaele

 

The Second Battle of Passchendaele began on 26th October 1917 with the first of three separate attacks. After Crest Farm had been captured on the 30th October 1917, the battle continued after a seven-day pause. Three rainless days from the 3rd to 5th November 1917 eased preparations for the next stage. The First and Second Canadian Divisions began the assault on the morning of the 6th November 1917. In fewer than three hours, many units reached their final objectives and Passchendaele was captured. The Canadian Corps launched a final assault on the 10th November 1917, and gained control of the remaining high ground north of the village near Hill 52, this then established the final line for the winter, which brought the Battle of Passchendaele to an end. At the end of the Battle of Passchendaele, from July to November 1917, the total combined casualties were approximately 500,000. After the fighting was over, General Kiggel, who was Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig’s chief of staff, saw the battlefield below the Passchendaele Ridge for the first time.  There have been disputed rumours that he broke down in tears and making the comment “Good God, did we send men to fight in that?”  How true that statement was will never really be known, but coupled with the line from the poem “Memorial Tablet” by Siegfried Sassoon it sums up the battle.

“I died in hell – they called it Passchendaele”

————————————————-

Western Front

The Battle of Cambrai began at dawn on the 20th November 1917. Rather than a preliminary bombardment to support the infantry attack, a shortened barrage was employed. Pre-registration of over 1000 guns provided the necessary surprise attack. To protect the infantry as they advanced, tanks were used to crush through the barbed wire. However, despite efforts to preserve secrecy, the Germans had received sufficient intelligence to be on moderate alert. An attack with the assistance of tanks was anticipated on Havrincourt. The British attack consisted of six infantry divisions and five cavalry divisions. On the unbroken ground nine tank battalions amounting to 496 tanks assisted the infantry against two German divisions. The plan had been proposed in May 1917, and was designed to trap the German troops between the River Sensee and the Canal du Nord. The cavalry would seize the St. Quinten Canal crossings, then exploit north-east with the objective being the high ground around Bourlon Wood. On first day the British penetrated 5 miles along a 6 mile front. The reduced November daylight hours and blown canal bridges stopped any further advance, and the 51st (Highland) Division was held up at Flesquieres village. The village was taken the following day. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig visited the battlefield on the 21st November 1917 and thought the attack to be “feeble and uncoordinated”. He allowed the attack to continue on Bourlon Wood, after his intelligence officers told him the Germans would not be able to reinforce the area for 48 hours. British GHQ intelligence had failed to piece together the warnings they had received that the German counter-attack would be forthcoming. The British captured the wood on 23rd November 1917, but German counter-attacks had begun and re-took the Bourlon Ridge. Using new sturmtruppen (Stormtrooper) tactics the Germans had made their first counter offensive against the British since 1914. The final British effort was on the 27th November 1917 by the 62nd Division aided by 30 tanks. Early success was soon reversed by a German counter-attack. The British were forced onto the defensive on the 28th November 1917, after having achieved a 9 mile wide by 4 mile deep salient along the crest of the ridge. The battle continued into December 1917.

—————————————————

Other Theatres

At the Battle of Caporetto, having received the order to retreat on the 30th October 1917, the Italians took four days full days to cross the Tagliamento River. By this time the German and Austro-Hungarian armies were following closely on their heels. By the 2nd November 1917, a German division had established a bridgehead on the Tagliamento. About this time, however, the rapid success of the attack caught up with them. The German and Austro-Hungarian supply lines were stretched to breaking point and consequently they were unable to launch another attack to isolate part of the Italian army against the Adriatic. Chief of Staff General Luigi Cadorna was able retreat further and by the 10th November 1917 had established a position on the Piave River and Mount Grappa. Caporetto was called “the greatest defeat in Italian military history” and Italian losses were enormous. There were 10,000 killed, 30,000 wounded and 265,000 taken prisoners. Morale was so low among the Italian troops that most of these surrendered willingly. A vast quantity of Italian stores and equipment was lost including artillery pieces, machine guns and mortars. In contrast, the Austro-Hungarians and Germans only sustained 70,000 casualties. Between 5th-7th November 1917, the allied powers held a conference at Rapallo in Italy to form a Versailles based Supreme War Council. In the wake of the severe Italian setback at Caporetto fresh aid was promised to the Italians. The Supreme War Cabinet at Versailles was planned to co-ordinate allied policies and actions. Following the defeat at Caporetto, Italy’s allies Britain and France sent eleven divisions to reinforce the Italian front, and insisted on General Cadorna’s dismissal for a less stubborn commander. Cadorna was known to have maintained poor relations with the other generals of his staff and was detested by his troops as being too harsh. Cadorna had been directing the battle 20 miles (32 km) behind the front and retreated another 100 miles (160 km) with the Italian Army retreating. Cadorna was forced to resign on the 8th November 1917, and replaced by Armando Diaz, as Chief of General staff by the new Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuelle Orlando. Italy accepted a more cautious military strategy, and Diaz concentrated his efforts on rebuilding his shattered forces. The First Battle of the Piave was fought between the 10th November 1917 and 25th December 1917. The Austro-Hungarian army, supported by German units, tried to bring about the final collapse of Italy. The offensive was repulsed, marking a turning point in the Great War on the Italian front. After the Caporetto defeat on the 24th October 1917, the Italian army retreated to the Tagliamento line. Paolo Botelli’s government collapsed and Botelli was replaced as Prime Minister by Vittorio Emmanuelle Orlando. The new prime minister met with the French and British prime ministers, Paul Painlevé and David Lloyd George in the new Allied Supreme War Council at Rapallo on the 5th to 7th November 1917 and Peschiera on the 8th November 1917 to discuss contingency plans to prevent a general collapse on the Italian front. On the 5th November 1917 the Italian army withdrew from the Tagliamento to the Piave River. The Italian position appeared desperate. The Italians had only thirty three Divisions which represented approximately 50% of the available fighting forces and they were to defend the Piave line against fifty Austro-Hungarian and German divisions supported by 4,500 guns. Painlevé and Lloyd George dispatched reinforcements of eleven divisions in total. As Allied reinforcements reached the Italian front they realised that the situation was serious, but not desperate. Italian pride had been badly shaken, but Italian soldiers seemed determined to redeem themselves. The First Battle of the Piave was staged over two phases, with the first phase being from the 10th – 26th November 1917. General Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, Austrian chief of staff, tried to take Monte Grappa on the 11th November 1917 and break through the Piave line before it was reinforced by Allied units. The Grappa was a naturally strong defensive position, and the Italians managed to hold their positions by mounting determined counter-attacks in freezing winds and dry snow conditions. On the 22nd November 1917, the German Sturmtruppen (assault troops) took the Monte Tomba, but the offensive had lost steam by then. The Battles for the Piave and Monte Grappa continued into December 1917.

On the 9th November 1917, German Lieutenant Erwin Rommel was awarded Germany’s highest award, the order of Pour le Mérit, for his actions at Caporetto The medal known as the ”Blue Max” was awarded for leading his battalion against the 1st Italian Infantry Division and capturing 10,000 Italian troops.

…………..

On the 2nd November 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, expressing the British government’s support for a Jewish “National Home” in Palestine. The support for the Zionist movement emerged from the government’s concern surrounding the direction of the Great War. By mid-1917 Britain and France were in a stalemate with Germany on The Western Front. The Gallipoli campaign in the Dardanelles had failed spectacularly.  On the Eastern Front, the fate of Russia was uncertain as the early spring revolution had toppled Czar Nicholas II. The provisional government was struggling to maintain the country’s war effort against Germany and Austro/Hungary. The USA had just entered the war on the Allied side, but it would not be until 1918 that sizable American forces would arrive in Europe. Against this backdrop, the government of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George made the decision to publically support Zionism. The motives behind this were various. Britain’s leaders hoped that a formal declaration in favour of Zionism would help gain Jewish support for the Allies in neutral countries, the United States and especially in Russia. Lloyd George had come to see British dominance in Palestine as an essential post-war goal. The establishment of a Zionist state in Palestine would accomplish a land bridge between Egypt and India.

…………..

“The Tiger”, Paul Painlevé resigned as French Prime Minister on the 13th November1917 and was succeeded by Georges Clemenceau. On the 7th September 1917, Painlevé was asked to form a government, and was forced to deal with weighty issues. These issues included the Russian Revolution, the American entry into the war, the failure of the Nivelle Offensive, quelling the French mutinies and relations with the British. He was also a leading voice at the Rapallo Conference, in Italy, that anticipated a unified Allied command. He proposed Ferdinand Foch as the French representative. On his return to Paris he was defeated and on the 13th November 1917 he resigned. Clemenceau was appointed Prime Minister at one of the darkest hours of the French war effort during the Great War. He discouraged internal disagreement and called for peace from his senior politicians, as victory seemed to be elusive. There was little activity on the Western Front as the Allies appeared to be waiting for American support to arrive. Simultaneously, Italy was on the defensive and Russia had virtually stopped fighting. In France, the government had to deal with increasing demonstrations against the war, a scarcity of resources and the air raids causing damage to Paris as well as undermining the morale of its citizens. It was also believed that many politicians secretly wanted peace.

The Second Battle of Heligoland Bight, in the North Sea, was an inconclusive naval engagement between British and German squadrons on the 17th November 1917. A strong force of cruisers under Vice Admiral Trevelyan Napier was sent to attack German minesweepers, which were clearing a channel through British minefields in the Heligoland Bight. The intentions of the German force had been revealed by British Naval Intelligence, allowing the British to mount an ambush. The German sweepers were escorted by a group of cruisers and torpedo-boats under Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter. The action began at 7.30 a.m., roughly 65 nautical miles west of Sylt, when “HMS Courageous” sighted the enemy, and opened fire at 7.37 a.m. In order to cover the withdrawal of his minesweepers, von Reuter, with four light cruisers and eight destroyers, engaged the Royal Navy units. The battle developed into a stern chase as the German forces, skilfully using smoke-screens, withdrew south-east at speed, under fire from the pursuing British ships. Both sides were hampered in their manoeuvres by the presence of naval minefields. The British ships gave up the chase about 9.30 a.m. as they reached the edge of the known minefields. At about the same time the light cruisers came under fire from two German Kaiser-class battleships, which had come up in support of von Reuter’s ships. “HMS Caledon” was struck by one shell which did minimal damage. Able Seaman John Henry Carless of “HMS Caledon” won a posthumous Victoria Cross for bravery while manning his gun despite being mortally wounded.  Shortly after the British forces withdrew. At the end of the battle the British had one light cruiser damaged and the Germans had one light cruiser damaged and one minesweeper sunk.

……………..

In the East African Campaign, the German army had withdrawn its forces from German East Africa on the 18th October 1917. The Germans had defeated the British at the Battle of Mahiwa and ran very short of supplies. To find supplies the Germans decided to invade Portuguese East Africa to the south and supply themselves with captured materials.  Germany had declared war on Portugal on the 9th March 1916, and therefore felt justified with the invasion of Portuguese East Africa in hopes of acquiring sufficient supplies to continue the war. The German commander, General Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck made plans to attack the Portuguese garrison across the river at Ngomano. The Portuguese force was a native contingent led by European officers under Joao Teixeira Pinto, a veteran with experience of fighting in Africa. When the Portuguese began arriving at Ngomano on the 20th November 1917, Pinto had at his disposal 900 troops with six machine-guns and large supplies but his inexperienced force was no match for von Lettow-Vorbeck’s troops, which crossed the river with between 1,500 and 2,000 veterans as well as a large number of porters. At 07.00 a.m. on the 25th November 1917, the Battle of Ngomano began when the Portuguese garrison at Ngomano received word from a British intelligence officer that an attack was about to commence. Having been forewarned the Portuguese commander had been able to begin preparations for assault. However, he had planned on receiving frontal assault and when the force came under attack from the rear he was completely surprised. The Portuguese attempted to entrench themselves in rifle pits. The Germans had discarded most of their artillery and machine-guns due to lack of ammunition. Despite the chronic ammunition shortage von Lettow-Vorbeck was able to move four machine-guns up close to the rifle pits. The inexperience of the Portuguese proved to be their downfall. German casualties were extremely light. Taking heavy casualties, having lost their commanding officer, and finding themselves hopelessly outnumbered, the Portuguese finally surrendered. The Portuguese had suffered a massive defeat and by failing to prevent von Lettow-Vorbeck’s force from crossing the Rovuma allowed him to continue his campaign until the end of the war. With the captured Portuguese equipment the Germans managed to completely resupply their force. Von Lettow-Vorbeck armed his troops with Portuguese and British weapons after having abandoned and destroyed German weaponry for which he had no ammunition.

 

Eastern Front

On the 6th-7th November 1917 the Vladimir Lenin led Bolsheviks launched a second Russian revolution of the year. In the Julian calendar the revolution took place on 24th -25th October, which is why the event is also referred to as the October Revolution. In the aftermath of the February Revolution, power was shared between the weak provisional government and the Petrograd Soviet. Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky’s government in Petrograd had almost no support in the city, even though Kerensky had distributed arms to the Petrograd workers. Only one small force, a subdivision of the 2nd company of the First Petrograd Women’s Battalion, known as the Women’s Death Battalion, was willing to fight for the government against the Bolsheviks, but this force was overwhelmed by the numerically superior pro-Bolshevik forces, defeated and captured. It took fewer than 20 hours for the Bolsheviks to seize the government. Kerensky escaped the Bolsheviks and fled the country and eventually arrived in France. He never went back to Russia again. After the bloodless coup d’état in Petrograd, Lenin formed a new government and he became the virtual dictator of the first Marxist state in the world.

————————————————–

Middle East

Following the capture of Beersheba on the 31st October 1917, the way was open to Jerusalem for the British forces. The Turkish defenders began to retreat from Gaza toward Jaffa along the coast in order to re-establish a new defensive line. A series of battles were successfully fought. The Battle of Tel el Khuweilfe was fought between the 1st and 6th November 1917, with the Turkish forces having to retreat further. A British cavalry charge at the Battle of Sharia on the 7th November 1917, a second cavalry charge at the Battle of Huj on the 8th November 1917 and the Battle of Mughar Ridge on the 13th November 1917, constituted a grave setback for the Turkish army and the Ottoman Empire. The charge at Huj was claimed to be one of the last British cavalry charges during the Great War. The Turkish forces suffered another defeat on the 14th November 1917 at the Battle of Ayan Kara, which enabled the British to occupy Jaffa on the 16th November 1917. In the meantime, the Turkish commander, German General Erich von Falkenhaym, moved his Headquarters from Jerusalem to Neblus on the 14th November 1917. The Turkish army withdrew into the Judean Hills. The British advance toward Jerusalem began on the 17th November 1917, the same day as the Battle of Nebi Samwil started. The advancing British infantry was blocked at Biddu by Turkish forces entrenched on the height of Nebi Samwil, dominating Jerusalem and its defences. This hill, the traditional tomb of the Prophet Samuel, was taken by the British on the 24th November 1917. Several counter–attacks by Turkish forces failed during the following days but they had fought the British infantry to a standstill. The British suffered well over 2,000 casualties, and there are no estimates of Turkish casualties, but the vital road link from Jerusalem to Nablus was still in Turkish hands. On the 24th November 1917, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) commander, General Edmond Allenby, ordered the relief of the infantry and cavalry divisions involved. In order to move such large formations a pause was unavoidable and further attacks were discontinued but von Falkenhaym and his Turkish Army took notice of the temporary cessation of hostilities. During the latter part of November 1917, the Turkish forces counter-attacked over various fronts which resulted in virtual stalemate. In the meantime the main British forces advanced along the Jaffa-Jerusalem road during a pause in the winter rains, which allowed the supporting artillery to move up.  The Battle for Jerusalem continued into December 1917.

Passchendaele

 

The Second Battle of Passchendaele began on 26th October 1917 with the first of three separate attacks. After Crest Farm had been captured on the 30th October 1917, the battle continued after a seven-day pause. Three rainless days from the 3rd to 5th November 1917 eased preparations for the next stage. The First and Second Canadian Divisions began the assault on the morning of the 6th November 1917. In fewer than three hours, many units reached their final objectives and Passchendaele was captured. The Canadian Corps launched a final assault on the 10th November 1917, and gained control of the remaining high ground north of the village near Hill 52, this then established the final line for the winter, which brought the Battle of Passchendaele to an end. At the end of the Battle of Passchendaele, from July to November 1917, the total combined casualties were approximately 500,000. After the fighting was over, General Kiggel, who was Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig’s chief of staff, saw the battlefield below the Passchendaele Ridge for the first time.  There have been disputed rumours that he broke down in tears and making the comment “Good God, did we send men to fight in that?”  How true that statement was will never really be known, but coupled with the line from the poem “Memorial Tablet” by Siegfried Sassoon it sums up the battle.

“I died in hell – they called it Passchendaele”

————————————————-

Western Front

The Battle of Cambrai began at dawn on the 20th November 1917. Rather than a preliminary bombardment to support the infantry attack, a shortened barrage was employed. Pre-registration of over 1000 guns provided the necessary surprise attack. To protect the infantry as they advanced, tanks were used to crush through the barbed wire. However, despite efforts to preserve secrecy, the Germans had received sufficient intelligence to be on moderate alert. An attack with the assistance of tanks was anticipated on Havrincourt. The British attack consisted of six infantry divisions and five cavalry divisions. On the unbroken ground nine tank battalions amounting to 496 tanks assisted the infantry against two German divisions. The plan had been proposed in May 1917, and was designed to trap the German troops between the River Sensee and the Canal du Nord. The cavalry would seize the St. Quinten Canal crossings, then exploit north-east with the objective being the high ground around Bourlon Wood. On first day the British penetrated 5 miles along a 6 mile front. The reduced November daylight hours and blown canal bridges stopped any further advance, and the 51st (Highland) Division was held up at Flesquieres village. The village was taken the following day. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig visited the battlefield on the 21st November 1917 and thought the attack to be “feeble and uncoordinated”. He allowed the attack to continue on Bourlon Wood, after his intelligence officers told him the Germans would not be able to reinforce the area for 48 hours. British GHQ intelligence had failed to piece together the warnings they had received that the German counter-attack would be forthcoming. The British captured the wood on 23rd November 1917, but German counter-attacks had begun and re-took the Bourlon Ridge. Using new sturmtruppen (Stormtrooper) tactics the Germans had made their first counter offensive against the British since 1914. The final British effort was on the 27th November 1917 by the 62nd Division aided by 30 tanks. Early success was soon reversed by a German counter-attack. The British were forced onto the defensive on the 28th November 1917, after having achieved a 9 mile wide by 4 mile deep salient along the crest of the ridge. The battle continued into December 1917.

—————————————————

Other Theatres

At the Battle of Caporetto, having received the order to retreat on the 30th October 1917, the Italians took four days full days to cross the Tagliamento River. By this time the German and Austro-Hungarian armies were following closely on their heels. By the 2nd November 1917, a German division had established a bridgehead on the Tagliamento. About this time, however, the rapid success of the attack caught up with them. The German and Austro-Hungarian supply lines were stretched to breaking point and consequently they were unable to launch another attack to isolate part of the Italian army against the Adriatic. Chief of Staff General Luigi Cadorna was able retreat further and by the 10th November 1917 had established a position on the Piave River and Mount Grappa. Caporetto was called “the greatest defeat in Italian military history” and Italian losses were enormous. There were 10,000 killed, 30,000 wounded and 265,000 taken prisoners. Morale was so low among the Italian troops that most of these surrendered willingly. A vast quantity of Italian stores and equipment was lost including artillery pieces, machine guns and mortars. In contrast, the Austro-Hungarians and Germans only sustained 70,000 casualties. Between 5th-7th November 1917, the allied powers held a conference at Rapallo in Italy to form a Versailles based Supreme War Council. In the wake of the severe Italian setback at Caporetto fresh aid was promised to the Italians. The Supreme War Cabinet at Versailles was planned to co-ordinate allied policies and actions. Following the defeat at Caporetto, Italy’s allies Britain and France sent eleven divisions to reinforce the Italian front, and insisted on General Cadorna’s dismissal for a less stubborn commander. Cadorna was known to have maintained poor relations with the other generals of his staff and was detested by his troops as being too harsh. Cadorna had been directing the battle 20 miles (32 km) behind the front and retreated another 100 miles (160 km) with the Italian Army retreating. Cadorna was forced to resign on the 8th November 1917, and replaced by Armando Diaz, as Chief of General staff by the new Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuelle Orlando. Italy accepted a more cautious military strategy, and Diaz concentrated his efforts on rebuilding his shattered forces. The First Battle of the Piave was fought between the 10th November 1917 and 25th December 1917. The Austro-Hungarian army, supported by German units, tried to bring about the final collapse of Italy. The offensive was repulsed, marking a turning point in the Great War on the Italian front. After the Caporetto defeat on the 24th October 1917, the Italian army retreated to the Tagliamento line. Paolo Botelli’s government collapsed and Botelli was replaced as Prime Minister by Vittorio Emmanuelle Orlando. The new prime minister met with the French and British prime ministers, Paul Painlevé and David Lloyd George in the new Allied Supreme War Council at Rapallo on the 5th to 7th November 1917 and Peschiera on the 8th November 1917 to discuss contingency plans to prevent a general collapse on the Italian front. On the 5th November 1917 the Italian army withdrew from the Tagliamento to the Piave River. The Italian position appeared desperate. The Italians had only thirty three Divisions which represented approximately 50% of the available fighting forces and they were to defend the Piave line against fifty Austro-Hungarian and German divisions supported by 4,500 guns. Painlevé and Lloyd George dispatched reinforcements of eleven divisions in total. As Allied reinforcements reached the Italian front they realised that the situation was serious, but not desperate. Italian pride had been badly shaken, but Italian soldiers seemed determined to redeem themselves. The First Battle of the Piave was staged over two phases, with the first phase being from the 10th – 26th November 1917. General Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, Austrian chief of staff, tried to take Monte Grappa on the 11th November 1917 and break through the Piave line before it was reinforced by Allied units. The Grappa was a naturally strong defensive position, and the Italians managed to hold their positions by mounting determined counter-attacks in freezing winds and dry snow conditions. On the 22nd November 1917, the German Sturmtruppen (assault troops) took the Monte Tomba, but the offensive had lost steam by then. The Battles for the Piave and Monte Grappa continued into December 1917.

On the 9th November 1917, German Lieutenant Erwin Rommel was awarded Germany’s highest award, the order of Pour le Mérit, for his actions at Caporetto The medal known as the ”Blue Max” was awarded for leading his battalion against the 1st Italian Infantry Division and capturing 10,000 Italian troops.

…………..

On the 2nd November 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, expressing the British government’s support for a Jewish “National Home” in Palestine. The support for the Zionist movement emerged from the government’s concern surrounding the direction of the Great War. By mid-1917 Britain and France were in a stalemate with Germany on The Western Front. The Gallipoli campaign in the Dardanelles had failed spectacularly.  On the Eastern Front, the fate of Russia was uncertain as the early spring revolution had toppled Czar Nicholas II. The provisional government was struggling to maintain the country’s war effort against Germany and Austro/Hungary. The USA had just entered the war on the Allied side, but it would not be until 1918 that sizable American forces would arrive in Europe. Against this backdrop, the government of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George made the decision to publically support Zionism. The motives behind this were various. Britain’s leaders hoped that a formal declaration in favour of Zionism would help gain Jewish support for the Allies in neutral countries, the United States and especially in Russia. Lloyd George had come to see British dominance in Palestine as an essential post-war goal. The establishment of a Zionist state in Palestine would accomplish a land bridge between Egypt and India.

…………..

“The Tiger”, Paul Painlevé resigned as French Prime Minister on the 13th November1917 and was succeeded by Georges Clemenceau. On the 7th September 1917, Painlevé was asked to form a government, and was forced to deal with weighty issues. These issues included the Russian Revolution, the American entry into the war, the failure of the Nivelle Offensive, quelling the French mutinies and relations with the British. He was also a leading voice at the Rapallo Conference, in Italy, that anticipated a unified Allied command. He proposed Ferdinand Foch as the French representative. On his return to Paris he was defeated and on the 13th November 1917 he resigned. Clemenceau was appointed Prime Minister at one of the darkest hours of the French war effort during the Great War. He discouraged internal disagreement and called for peace from his senior politicians, as victory seemed to be elusive. There was little activity on the Western Front as the Allies appeared to be waiting for American support to arrive. Simultaneously, Italy was on the defensive and Russia had virtually stopped fighting. In France, the government had to deal with increasing demonstrations against the war, a scarcity of resources and the air raids causing damage to Paris as well as undermining the morale of its citizens. It was also believed that many politicians secretly wanted peace.

The Second Battle of Heligoland Bight, in the North Sea, was an inconclusive naval engagement between British and German squadrons on the 17th November 1917. A strong force of cruisers under Vice Admiral Trevelyan Napier was sent to attack German minesweepers, which were clearing a channel through British minefields in the Heligoland Bight. The intentions of the German force had been revealed by British Naval Intelligence, allowing the British to mount an ambush. The German sweepers were escorted by a group of cruisers and torpedo-boats under Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter. The action began at 7.30 a.m., roughly 65 nautical miles west of Sylt, when “HMS Courageous” sighted the enemy, and opened fire at 7.37 a.m. In order to cover the withdrawal of his minesweepers, von Reuter, with four light cruisers and eight destroyers, engaged the Royal Navy units. The battle developed into a stern chase as the German forces, skilfully using smoke-screens, withdrew south-east at speed, under fire from the pursuing British ships. Both sides were hampered in their manoeuvres by the presence of naval minefields. The British ships gave up the chase about 9.30 a.m. as they reached the edge of the known minefields. At about the same time the light cruisers came under fire from two German Kaiser-class battleships, which had come up in support of von Reuter’s ships. “HMS Caledon” was struck by one shell which did minimal damage. Able Seaman John Henry Carless of “HMS Caledon” won a posthumous Victoria Cross for bravery while manning his gun despite being mortally wounded.  Shortly after the British forces withdrew. At the end of the battle the British had one light cruiser damaged and the Germans had one light cruiser damaged and one minesweeper sunk.

……………..

In the East African Campaign, the German army had withdrawn its forces from German East Africa on the 18th October 1917. The Germans had defeated the British at the Battle of Mahiwa and ran very short of supplies. To find supplies the Germans decided to invade Portuguese East Africa to the south and supply themselves with captured materials.  Germany had declared war on Portugal on the 9th March 1916, and therefore felt justified with the invasion of Portuguese East Africa in hopes of acquiring sufficient supplies to continue the war. The German commander, General Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck made plans to attack the Portuguese garrison across the river at Ngomano. The Portuguese force was a native contingent led by European officers under Joao Teixeira Pinto, a veteran with experience of fighting in Africa. When the Portuguese began arriving at Ngomano on the 20th November 1917, Pinto had at his disposal 900 troops with six machine-guns and large supplies but his inexperienced force was no match for von Lettow-Vorbeck’s troops, which crossed the river with between 1,500 and 2,000 veterans as well as a large number of porters. At 07.00 a.m. on the 25th November 1917, the Battle of Ngomano began when the Portuguese garrison at Ngomano received word from a British intelligence officer that an attack was about to commence. Having been forewarned the Portuguese commander had been able to begin preparations for assault. However, he had planned on receiving frontal assault and when the force came under attack from the rear he was completely surprised. The Portuguese attempted to entrench themselves in rifle pits. The Germans had discarded most of their artillery and machine-guns due to lack of ammunition. Despite the chronic ammunition shortage von Lettow-Vorbeck was able to move four machine-guns up close to the rifle pits. The inexperience of the Portuguese proved to be their downfall. German casualties were extremely light. Taking heavy casualties, having lost their commanding officer, and finding themselves hopelessly outnumbered, the Portuguese finally surrendered. The Portuguese had suffered a massive defeat and by failing to prevent von Lettow-Vorbeck’s force from crossing the Rovuma allowed him to continue his campaign until the end of the war. With the captured Portuguese equipment the Germans managed to completely resupply their force. Von Lettow-Vorbeck armed his troops with Portuguese and British weapons after having abandoned and destroyed German weaponry for which he had no ammunition.

 

Eastern Front

On the 6th-7th November 1917 the Vladimir Lenin led Bolsheviks launched a second Russian revolution of the year. In the Julian calendar the revolution took place on 24th -25th October, which is why the event is also referred to as the October Revolution. In the aftermath of the February Revolution, power was shared between the weak provisional government and the Petrograd Soviet. Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky’s government in Petrograd had almost no support in the city, even though Kerensky had distributed arms to the Petrograd workers. Only one small force, a subdivision of the 2nd company of the First Petrograd Women’s Battalion, known as the Women’s Death Battalion, was willing to fight for the government against the Bolsheviks, but this force was overwhelmed by the numerically superior pro-Bolshevik forces, defeated and captured. It took fewer than 20 hours for the Bolsheviks to seize the government. Kerensky escaped the Bolsheviks and fled the country and eventually arrived in France. He never went back to Russia again. After the bloodless coup d’état in Petrograd, Lenin formed a new government and he became the virtual dictator of the first Marxist state in the world.

————————————————–

Middle East

Following the capture of Beersheba on the 31st October 1917, the way was open to Jerusalem for the British forces. The Turkish defenders began to retreat from Gaza toward Jaffa along the coast in order to re-establish a new defensive line. A series of battles were successfully fought. The Battle of Tel el Khuweilfe was fought between the 1st and 6th November 1917, with the Turkish forces having to retreat further. A British cavalry charge at the Battle of Sharia on the 7th November 1917, a second cavalry charge at the Battle of Huj on the 8th November 1917 and the Battle of Mughar Ridge on the 13th November 1917, constituted a grave setback for the Turkish army and the Ottoman Empire. The charge at Huj was claimed to be one of the last British cavalry charges during the Great War. The Turkish forces suffered another defeat on the 14th November 1917 at the Battle of Ayan Kara, which enabled the British to occupy Jaffa on the 16th November 1917. In the meantime, the Turkish commander, German General Erich von Falkenhaym, moved his Headquarters from Jerusalem to Neblus on the 14th November 1917. The Turkish army withdrew into the Judean Hills. The British advance toward Jerusalem began on the 17th November 1917, the same day as the Battle of Nebi Samwil started. The advancing British infantry was blocked at Biddu by Turkish forces entrenched on the height of Nebi Samwil, dominating Jerusalem and its defences. This hill, the traditional tomb of the Prophet Samuel, was taken by the British on the 24th November 1917. Several counter–attacks by Turkish forces failed during the following days but they had fought the British infantry to a standstill. The British suffered well over 2,000 casualties, and there are no estimates of Turkish casualties, but the vital road link from Jerusalem to Nablus was still in Turkish hands. On the 24th November 1917, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) commander, General Edmond Allenby, ordered the relief of the infantry and cavalry divisions involved. In order to move such large formations a pause was unavoidable and further attacks were discontinued but von Falkenhaym and his Turkish Army took notice of the temporary cessation of hostilities. During the latter part of November 1917, the Turkish forces counter-attacked over various fronts which resulted in virtual stalemate. In the meantime the main British forces advanced along the Jaffa-Jerusalem road during a pause in the winter rains, which allowed the supporting artillery to move up.  The Battle for Jerusalem continued into December 1917.

The Great War –November 1917

 

The Great War –November 1917

Passchendaele

1st -10th Nov                      Second Battle of Passchendaele

——————————————

Western Front

20th Nov                               Battle of Cambrai

——————————————

Other Theatres

1st -10th Nov                       The Battle of Caporetto

5th Nov                              The Allies agreed to a Supreme War council at Versailles

8th Nov                             Diaz replaces Cadorna as Chief of Staff of the Italian Army

9th Nov                              First Battle of the Piave

11th Nov                              First Battle of Monte Grappa

2nd Nov                              Balfour Declaration for the Jewish “National Home” in Palestine

13th Nov                              French PM Painlevé replaced by Clemenceau

17th Nov                             Second Battle of Heligoland Bight

25th Nov                            Battle of Ngomano

————————————

Eastern Front

 

6th/7th Nov                         The Russian October Revolution began

————————————

Middle East

1st-6th Nov                          Battle of Tel el Khuweilfe

6th -7th Nov                         Turkish forces retreat to Jerusalem

7th Nov                                Charge at Sharia

8th Nov                               Charge at Huj

13th Nov                              Battle of Mughar Ridge

14th Nov                              Battle of Yun Kara

16th Nov                                British forces occupy Jaffa

17th Nov                               Beginning of the Battle for Jerusalem

17th-24th Nov                      Battle of Nebi Samwil

————————————