NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 15. 6 June 1918

K.J. Bunting Capt.

Issued down to Divisions

(for distribution down to Battalions)




27th OF MAY.

  1. Indications of the Attack.
  2. The enemy was very successful in concealing his preparations for the attack. Hostile artillery was exceptionally quiet during the fortnight preceding the attack, and there was an almost entire absence of gas shelling. There was little aerial registration and very little aerial and wireless activity of any kind; aeroplane photographs, the latest of which were taken on the 23rd of May, disclosed few new ammunition dumps and no new gun positions. In this connection, however, it must be remembered that the whole front was covered with old gun positions and that about three weeks previous to the attack some of these were reoccupied by the enemy. Except for the reoccupation of these positions, there were no indications of the attack until the 24th and 25th of May, when abnormal lorry and train movement was noticed in the back areas behind the enemy’s lines. In the late afternoon of the 26th of May, whole battalions were seen on the march in the forward areas. The enemy made no attempt to conceal the movements of these troops and did not reply when they were shelled.
  3. Hostile Artillery Preparation.
  4. During the night of the 26th-27th of May, as it was evident that the enemy intended to attack, harassing fire was carried out by the heavy and field artillery on the enemy’s roads and approaches. The tracks, however, were numerous and the country very open, so that it is unlikely that the enemy experienced much interference in his approach. There was no artillery retaliation, and the enemy’s bombardment opened with a crash at 1 a.m. on the 27th of May without any previous preparation. The bombardment is described as the heaviest there has been during the recent offensive. Our front line system of trenches was bombarded mainly, if not entirely, by trench mortars. Instantaneous fuzes were used and the wire, which is described as particularly strong, was destroyed. The shelling of our batteries was very accurate. The bombarded zone included practically the whole of our battery positions. Gas was not used in the front system, but was freely employed for counter-battery work and in every suitable locality in rear. The gas employed was chiefly, if not solely, “blue cross”. Its effects were felt as far back as the Valley of the Vesle.
  5. The Attack.
  6. The infantry attack is believed to have begun at about 4.30 a.m. It was preceded by a very heavy barrage, extending to a depth of about 400 yards, which appears not to have been a regular creeping barrage, but to have been moved from zone to zone at some distance in front of the assaulting troops. The enemy throughout the fighting adopted his usual tactics of working round the flanks. On the British front, at any rate, the enemy appears to have little made use of tanks. It is reported that a few tanks worked along the valley of the Miette and thence up to La-Ville-au-Bois, but their co-operation was no real factor in the success of the attack in this sector. From the beginning of the battle the enemy had a great superiority in the air, and he was exceedingly quick in getting forward his balloons. A balloon was working from Juvincourt before 11 a.m.   Another feature of the advance was the rapidity with which the enemy succeeded in bringing up his light trench mortars. They were drawn by horses and got into action more quickly, and were of greater use, than the field artillery which also accompanied the infantry in the advance.
  7. Lessons.
  8. There was nothing new in the enemy’s tactics, but the success which he again obtained emphasizes more strongly than ever the following points:-
  1. The outpost system must be lightly held. It is useless to expose to the preliminary bombardment a single man more than is absolutely necessary.
  2. It is none the less essential to organize some form of forward or outpost system, otherwise the enemy will simply destroy the main defensive battle line by his preliminary bombardment, and will then overwhelm such elements as remain by the strength of his infantry attack.
  3. Reserves should not be sent up piecemeal as reinforcements to troops holding the line, but must be used as distinct units with definite tasks.
  4. It is essential that a mobile reserve of guns should be retained.
  5. Little registration was reported during the period immediately preceding the attack. In this connection, however, it must be remembered that registration can always be done unobtrusively when the light is unfavourable for ground or aerial observation, or when the wind makes sound ranging difficult. There is also a general tendency not to report a few apparently aimless rounds which do not cause any inconvenience. The importance of reporting all shelling, especially on quiet days, cannot, therefore, be too much emphasized.

6th of June, 1918.



Printed in France by Army Printing and Stationary Services.                                                                                          PRESS A-6/18.

Letter to Miss Dillon 6 June 1918

H.M. Government

Embossed notepaper

c/o British Embassy




My dearest Lillie & Anna,

I shall be up all night to-night, so this is a good opportunity to write to my dear folks at home. (Meine Lieben in der Heimat)

Well at present I am at Brindisi, right down near the heel of the boot.  It is a fascinating old place and takes one back to the early middle ages with all the primitiveness of those times. (it swarms with fleas, ants & mosquitoes.  The women walk about carrying huge jars of water, like Rachel & Rebecca used to take to the well.) It was a great *** leaving Rome, but I hope to return there any time to stay, and I shall appreciate more than ever then and never want to live any other place afterwards. Rome is at the same time primeval, medieval and modern, and sometimes one cannot help feeling it is more modern than anything else.  I loved every moment of the day there, and one of my greatest joys was to drive about in a Vettura and watch movements of the people.  The Sognoras are so graziose and the signores tanto cortesi.  I am already Italanissimo my self and cannot imagine I am a native of a more northern clime.  At Brindisi it is almost tropical, but I have not found the heat very intense yet.  For instance I only put on my drill uniform today for the first time.  I bathed in the blue blue Adriatic today and walked for miles along the shore admiring the flowers and plants.  There are enormous cactus trees everywhere and wild flowers of every kind and colour.  I wish you could see them.

There is a frightful shortage of water here, and one misses the facilities for washing, but that does not matter so long as one has the sea to bathe in.

Lord Monk-Breton has written to the Admiralty to ask them to have me promoted to Captain, so that’s that but it may be some time before it comes through.  I shall let you know at once as soon as I hear the result.  Until then I remain Lieutenant.

He is a splendid man to have as one’s C.O. and he would do anything to help one.  The question of pay &c has not been fixed yet.  It takes a long time to get a reply to one’s letters from here to England so we have just to wait patiently.

I had a great day in Paris on the way out, and the whole journey was simply wonderful.  I am thrilled with the joy of the whole thing.  My stay in Rome was of course simply enchanting, and it will be still better when I return.

I would not mind being here a month or two to collect my thoughts until every thing is made straight, but then I want to live in Rome for ere after.

Now I must stop as otherwise the letter would be too heavy.

Write soon please and tell me all about yourselves, your cars and everything that interests you.

Write c/o British Embassy Rome, always, and the letters will be forwarded to me no matter where I am.

Did you get my card from Turin and my letter from Rome?  There will be more to tell you in my next letter.  Write about once a week please just to tell me you are all right.

By the way you forgot to give me the Bystander you brought at the station.  If you care to send it I should be very glad to have it as we never see an English paper or journal here.

With best love to you two & Kathleen                      from  Willie