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War Diary of AA Laporte Payne November 1917

War Diary of AA Laporte Payne

EXTRACTED FROM.

Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
Correspondence
—————–

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.

R.P. November 11, 1917.
Queen’s Hotel,
Westcliff-on-Sea.
The above is my address. I arrived here this afternoon and am sharing a room with the Colonel.

We are here on a Senior Officers’ Course.

November 11, 1917.
Queen’s Hotel
Westcliff-on-Sea.
The above is my address! I arrived safely this evening and am sharing a room with the Colonel!!

SECRET.
175th (Army) Brigade, R.F.A. S/1085.
1. The Brigade (Less C Battery) will be withdrawn to their Wagon Lines on the night 15/16th inst., when they will come under the orders of G.O.C.R.A., XVth Corps.
2. The responsibility for the Artillery Defence of the Front at present covered by E Group will be taken over at 4.30 p.m. on the 15th inst by O.C. B Group.
3. The necessary adjustments of S.O.S. Lines are given in the 42nd D.A. Instructions No. 29, attached hereto.
4. Move to Wagon Lines at GHYVELDE will be commenced directly darkness sets in.
5. Acknowledge.

14/11/17
Captain,
Adjutant, 175th Bde. R.F.A.

(The Brigade left the 42nd Division and their zones were covered by spreading the zones covered by Sykes Group and the remainder of E Group (400th Battery and B/210 Battery, and E Group came under the command of O.C. B. Group)

R.P. November 16, 1917.
B.E.F.

Yesterday I arrived safe and sound, but completely disgruntled, and found everything as I expected. The Major is still away sick, and being in command I shall be responsible for the move. You can guess where to.

Things are in a great mess, but no doubt they will straighten out in time.

On the boat coming over I met Sidney Swann and Ted Collins and also two of our subalterns returning, having been recalled also. I met Reg at the Officers’ Club in Boulogne, and dined with him and Swann and Collins. I saw him again the next morning.

I managed to get a car to take me all the way to the wagon lines, so I was very lucky.

That night we had a Brigade dinner and I was vice chairman, and had to make a speech.

I am so sorry I had to leave so early. Thank you for getting up to see me off. I hope you were not very tired.

The course served me well as I was able to see you all before I go far away where no leave can be expected for a long while.

November 16, 1917.
Yesterday I arrived quite safely here, and found everything in a great commotion, as I expected. The import of the wire which brought the Colonel and myself back here was as I thought. So now you know where we are bound. Everything is upside down. The course at Shoeburyness which should have given us six weeks at home, just enabled up to get two days in England. Well! The best laid plans of mice and men…. And we are but mice now.

I had two hours in Folkestone. On board I met Sidney Swann, the Cambridge, now a chaplain, and Ted Collins, a very old friend from Bath, who is in the Cavalry, also two of our subalterns in the same plight as the Colonel and myself.

At Boulogne I met Reg, at the Club, and he, and Swann, Collins and I had dinner together. That night I stayed in Boulogne, and in the morning got a lift in a car with our two subalterns to the wagon lines. That night we had a Brigade dinner. I had to make a speech! Jock Amour toasted the ladies. Very appropriate, wasn’t it?

As the Major seems to be permanently sick, and is still away, I am again in command of the Battery, and short-handed. It involves a great deal of work when we have a long move. Having had a pleasant stay in Blighty snatched away in that fashion, I am a bit disgruntled, not unnaturally.

You will have to procure some very different maps now if you still take an interest in our movements. The Colonel is very pleased with the move and himself. He thinks he is going to win “great honour and glory” where we are going. I doubt it. we shall probably find ourselves in a horrible mess.

Well! Well! Au Revoir.

SECRET.
175th ARMY BRIGADE R.F.A. ORDER No 1.
1. The Brigade will entrain at LOON-PLAGE for MODANE.
3. Units will be at the entraining station 3 hours prior to the time fixed for departure.
7. Distance to LOON-PLAGE from here is 15 miles.
8. SUPPLIES. 14 days supplies will be in lorries at LOON-PLAGE on the morning of the 18th inst. Units will send one officer, one N.C.O., and a small party to meet the Adjutant at that hour and that place for the purpose of dividing the supplies.
10. Headquarters will leave the wagon line at GHYVELDE at 4 p.m. on the 17th inst.

16.11.17.
BRIGADE ORDERS.
POSTING Captain W.V. Greetham, 15th Hussars, is posted to the 175th Brigade, R.F.A. as Advisor in Horsemastership with effect from todays date.
2/Lieut. H. Griffiths C/175 Bde. R.F.A. is posted to B/175, Bde. R.F.A. with effect from todays date.

A, Battery 175th Brigade, R.F.A.

ENTRAINING STATE.

Two Sections One Section TOTALS
Train No Train No
232 235

Officers… 4. 2. 6.
Other Ranks… 121. 64. 185.
Horses..
Light draught.. )113. 57. 123.
Riders ) 47.
Heavy Draught 4. 2. 6.

TOTAL HORSES.. 176.

Guns 18pdr. Q.F.
with Limbers 4. 2. 6.
Ammunition Wagons 8. 4. 12.
Wagons G.S…. 3. 1. 4.
Water Cart 1. -. 1.
Mess Cart 1. 1.
Total Vehicles 24.

17, November 1917

SECRET

MOVE OF THE 175th BRIGADE ARMY FIELD ARTILLERY, R.F.A.
Entraining Station, Loon-Plage.

TRAIN Serial Nos. UNIT. Time of Date.
No. Departure.
1. B.40. Headquarters
B.43a. 1/3 How. Battery 11-45 18th Nov.
2. B.43. 2/3 How. Battery 17-45 do
3. B.41. 2/3 A. Battery 23-45 do
4. B41a. 1/3 AB 5-45 19th Nov
B42a. 1/3 BB
5. B42. 2/3 BB 11-45 do
6. ½ Brigade Amm. Col. 17-45 do
7. do 23-45 do

Acting Traffic Officer
COAST AREA
TRAFFIC OFFICE
MALO
16th Nov. 1917

(The whole Brigade want via VINTIMILLE with the exception of Train No. 3 2/3, A. Battery.)

Region Esercito Italiano

COMANDO MILITARE ITALIANO
Modane.

Foglio di viaggio per servizio.
Il Cpitano dell’Esercito Inglese A.A.L. Payne, con 4 Ufficiali e 121 soldati deve viaggiare il giorno 21-11-17, da Modane a Piacenza.

Modane, li 21-11-17

Il Capitano
Comandante Militare di Stazione

(Ufficio Carabinieri Reali Modane.)

ROUTE TO ITALY.

Train No. 232.
Marche A.N. 24.

LOON-PLAGE Entrained. Night 18/19th November 1917 via Calais.
HAZEBROUCK
AMIENS
LONGEAU Halte Repas
CHATEAU THIERRY
EPERNAY
CHALONS-SUR-MARNE at 7.30, p.m.
VITRY-LE-FRANCOIS (Along the valley of the Marne.)
CHAUMONT
GRAY
BOURG.
AMBERIEU.
CHAMBERY.
SAINT PIERRE d’ALBIGNY (Ascend the valley of the Isere.)
MODANE Mont Cenis Tunnel (Eight miles long nearly.)
South end of tunnel, Bardonnecchia, the first Italian Station.
Best views on the left.

ROUTE in ITALY.

Down the valley of the Dora Riparia
Chiomonte. Through the wild and narrow Le Gorgie.
Susa on left the town of Susa with Roman Arch.
BUSSOLENO Junction for Susa.
Borgone. Pass over the Dora.
Condove.
S. Ambrogio
TURIN
PIACENZA.
MANTOVA
ISOLA DELLA SCALA. Arrived on the evening of the 22nd November 1917.

Nov 24th 1917 rode into Verona lunched and bought a Baedeker visited the Arena of Diocletian.

R.P. Post cards.

F.S.P.C. 21, 11, 17
do 21,11,17, Post mark “Louhans a Dijon” 21,11,17
P.P.C. Torino. 21,11,17
P.P.C. Mantova Dated Nov. 22, 1917. Post mark, “Comando del Presidio di Mantova”

FIELD SERVICE POST CARDS.
Nov. 20, 1917. Postmark “LOUHANS A DIJON
Nov. 21, 1917. DO “MODANE GARE”

P.C. from Turin.
P.C. from Mantova

R.P. November 25, 1917.
No letters from home have yet reached us yet, and are not likely to do so yet. I hear there are forty bags of mail for us somewhere.

It has been all very interesting, in spite of a rather wearisome journey of some days out here. I want to give you some news, but I do not know how this letter is going as we are not allowed to post in civilian post boxes and the Field Service Post has not been established yet.

I have already visited Verona, which was most interesting, and hope to see many more such places before we return to England.

It is very cold here, and the last two days have been of the typical English November weather, dull cold and foggy.

November 25, 1917.
B.E.F. ITALY.
It seems years and years since I left England, and I don’t suppose we shall get any post for a long time. I hear that there are forty mail bags for us somewhere, but they have not turned up yet. I do not know how this letter is going as the Field Service Post has not been established here for us yet, and we are not allowed to use the civilian post. Everything has to be very secret.

We had a most interesting journey, especially in the Alps. It is cold, and we have had several dull and misty days, but the others have been beautiful.

Our battery’s horses travelled exceptionally well, I am glad to say. My mare is quote alright.

I am still in command of the battery. The men have been splendid and we have had no trouble. We lost very little on the way.

MARCH.

From Isola della Scala.

Villafontana.
Oppeano
ALBAREDO d’ADIGE (The 7th Div. at Cologna.)
ARCOLE 26th November 1917 to December 2nd 1917.
The scene of the battles of 15/17th Nov. 1796 between the Austrians and the French under Bonaparte.
Visited the village of Soave in the hills, a medieval fortified town in excellent preservation.
Veronella
Cologna Veneta.

An appreciation of the situation from point of view affecting 64th Inf. Bde

Loose in p 56.

SECRET

B.M. 577

 

AN APPRECIATION OF THE SITUATION FROM POINT OF VIEW AFFECTING 64TH INF. BDE.

 

  1. The two recent successes during September drove the enemy back from elaborately prepared positions running approximately North and South through HOOGE and GLENCORSE Wood respectively. The German line now rests on the main PASCHENDAAL ridge. For the defence of their previous positions the Germans were able to assemble troops for the attack in a comparatively safe area east of the PASCHENDAAL ridge. This assembly place still exists for them (so far as this brigade is concerned it is to northwards of BECELAERE), but it is no longer a safe position.       The eastern slope of the ridge where counter-attacking troops would have to form up will be within our standing barrage when we have occupied our second objective, and will be in view of our advanced posts.

 

  1. The morale of the German troops cannot be otherwise than badly affected by their recent adverses. They have seen themselves driven back on both occasions when we attacked and they have seen their counter-attacks smashed and the limited successes which have occasionally attended these counter-attacks have been invariably nullified shortly afterwards.       Troops coming up to replace shattered divisions have heard their comrades’ stories, and recent voluntary surrenders have shown the effect of these on newly arrived regiments.

 

  1. The objective of the Brigade is the extreme left (Southend) of the high ground of the German position. From the starting off point, the ground falls till it reaches POLYGONE BEEK. The ground on either side of this is marshy and churned up by shells.       The beek is narrow but has water in it. Unless however, there is heavy rain the ground is passable at a slow rate.       The fact that Germans have been able to counter-attack across this ground proves this. On the right boundary of the **** advance, the road which crosses the beek will probably assist matters. On the east of the beek, the ground rises fairly steeply up to the top of the ridge which is reached on the first objective.

The advance to the second objective is on the top of the ridge. The chief obstacle to this advance are the village of REUTEL and the line of block-houses running northwards from east end of village.

As this is the left of the German line on the ridge top, we must expect that its defences will have been carefully and strongly prepared, and success will, to a great extent, depend upon the assaulting troops keeping right up to the tail of the barrage.

The strong points in the POEZELHOEK Valley are likely to be well equipped with machine guns, which may harass our advance from the right flank.  Special artillery arrangements have been made to deal with this matter.

 

  1. As regards counter-attacks.

The troops which capture the first objective may expect immediate counter-attacks by local reserves from REUTEL unless these have been shattered by our barrage fire. The supporting companies should be able to deal easily with such attacks if the front line has failed to do so.

The troops on the first objective must also be prepared to deal with a larger counter-attack coming from direct east. This attack should however, be completely broken up by our barrage fire.

On the second objective troops must be prepared for immediate counter-attacks on a large scale. The German main reserves are probably dug in on the slopes North of BECELAERE and in position to advance at once.  Our advanced posts should be able to give due warning of such an attack, which must be dealt with by rifles and machine guns.  The standing artillery barrage will also in this case help to break up the attack.

Later on – possibly at dawn on day after our attack – organised counter-attacks on a large scale must be expected. By this time our positions will have been further consolidated and troops re-organised and readier to beat off attacks.

 

  1. The plan for the attack is based on an attack in depth. The narrow front (250 yards) allotted to the Brigade permits of this. One battalion attacks and occupies first objective, and a second battalion assisted by one company of support battalion attacks and consolidates second objective. Two more companies of the support battalion move up to positions of readiness east of POLYGONE BEEK and the remaining company holds our original front line. The reserve battalion remains in position behind.

The battalions have been detailed for their special jobs but each battalion must be prepared to carry out any of the allotted tasks. The difficulties of communications make it more than ever essential that commanders on the spot must act on their own initiative to meet any situation which may arise.  This applies to platoon, company and battalions commanders equally.  Whenever any unit moves and acts contrary to its ordered actions, the commander must take care to pass back information of what he has done to his immediate superior and other commanders affected by the change in dispositions.

 

  1. The Brigade enters the battle at a late stage and is faced with the difficulties necessarily attendant to such conditions as regards preparation of trenches and dumps etc., and forming up for the attack. But such difficulties are far from being insuperable and in no way tend to mar success. The morale of all ranks is high. We go into the battle with the will to win. On either flank we have first class divisions. The Germans in front are fully conscious of, and affected by their constant reverses and retirements.

There is therefore, every reason for all ranks to feel confident and determined to add one more chapter to the great record of our Brigade and Division.

 

H.R. Headlam

Brigadier General

Commanding 64th Inf. Bde.

1.10.17

18 Da

APPENDIX “C”

 

APPROXIMATE allotment of ammunition for various tasks.

 

N.B. This table is worked out for one gun of a wire cutting battery.

——————————————————————————————————-

DAY            TASK                                              18-prs         4.5”             T.M.

Hows             2”   240 mm

——————————————————————————————————

 

“U” day     Wire cutting 18-prs at rate                200

Of 200 rounds per gun.

&

U/V Night   Approaches & Communications

at night, about 2 Batts: per

Group, to consist of about               100              50

12 salvoes per hour.

N.B. Night from 8 PM to 5 AM.

 

18-prs preventing repair of wire.        20

——————————————————————————————————-

TOTAL          320           50

——————————————————————————————————-

Wire cutting.                                    200                                  100

 

O.Ps, Machine Gun

emplacements,                                                  100

Communication trenches.

“V” Day

&          Concentration of fire,

V/W Night   Right Group                                    10                10

 

Approaches & communications

at night.                                            100               50

 

Gas barrage if required.                      50              30

 

Preventing repair of wire

and trenches.                                      20

——————————————————————————————————-

TOTAL                380             190               100

——————————————————————————————————-

 

 

——————————————————————————————————-

DAY           TASK                                              18-prs         4.5”                T.M.

Hows             2”   240 mm

——————————————————————————————————

 

Wire cutting.                                   200                                  100

 

O.Ps, Machine Guns

Communication trenches.                                100                              30

“W” Day

&          Concentration of fire,

W/X Night   Left Group                                         10                10

 

Approaches & communications

at night.                                            100               50

 

Preventing repair of wire

and trenches.                                       30                10

 

Gas barrage if not fired on

Previous night.

——————————————————————————————————-

TOTAL                340             170               100           30

——————————————————————————————————-

 

 

Wire cutting.                                     200                                  40

 

O.Ps, Machine guns,

Trenches, etc.                                                    100                 40           30

“X” Day

&          Concentration of fire,

X/Y Night   one battery per Group                        10                10

 

Approaches & communications

at night.                                             100               50

 

Preventing repair of wire

and trenches.                                       30                10

 

Gas barrage if not fired on

Previous night.

——————————————————————————————————-

TOTAL                340             170               80           30

——————————————————————————————————-

 

——————————————————————————————————-

DAY           TASK                                              18-prs        4.5”                T.M.

Hows            2”   240 mm

——————————————————————————————————

Wire cutting.                                     200                                30

 

O.Ps, Machine Guns

trenches etc.                                                    100               30           30

“Y” Day

&          Concentration of fire,

Y/Z Night   Centre Group                                    10                10

 

Approaches & communications

at night.                                            100               50

 

Preventing repair of wire

and trenches.                                       40                20              30

 

——————————————————————————————————-

TOTAL                350             180               90           30

——————————————————————————————————-

 

 

“Z” Day       65 minute bombardment

up to             (at about 3 rounds per

assault           gun per minute (18-pr))                  200             125               30          10

——————————————————————————————————-

TOTAL                200             125                30           10

 

 

TOTALS per Gun previous to Assault.

 

 

18-prs         4.5”                T.M.

Hows                2”   240 mm

——————————————————————————————————

 

“U” Day &U /V Night                                          320                 50

“V” Day & V/W Night                                         380                190            100

”W” Day & W/X Night                                        340                170            100         30

”X” Day & X/Y Night                                          340                170              80         30

”Y” Day & Y/Z Night                                          350                180              90         30

”Z” up to assault                                                  200              125              30         10

——————————————————————————————————-

TOTAL               1930                 885           400       100

 

Rough estimate of expenditure from 0.00 to 2.30 and remainder of “Z” day and night.

 

During assault at rate of approximately

3 rounds per gun per minute 18-pr and                 500                  250

2 rounds per gun in minute for 4.5”

How:

 

For barrages, special undertakings etc.                 500                 250

——————————————————————————————————-

TOTAL                                                                 1000               500

Total up to 0.00 time.                                            2000             1000             430      100

——————————————————————————————————-

GRAND TOTAL                                                 3000              1500            430      100

=============================================================

 

(8) The above alterations will affect Appendix “C” slightly, Group Commanders should consequently consider these slight alterations:-

“V”. Concentration of Right Group should now be considered under “X” day expenditure, whereas the expenditure allowed for concentration on “X” day may now be cancelled.

 

An additional expenditure of 15 rounds of 18-pr and 10 rounds of 4.5” per gun should be added to “W”, “X” and “Y” days for intense bombardment in support of discharge of gas.

First Battle of the Marne

 

 

 

The retreat from Mons, by both the French Army and the British Expeditionary Force ended at the River Marne, approximately 30 miles from Paris.   Faced with a counter-attack along the Marne, the Germans slowed down their advance. The French Military Governor of Paris, General Joseph Gallieni, secured overall command of the B.E.F., after consulting with Lord Kitchener. Gallieni had six thousand French reserve infantry troops transported to the battle by approximately six hundred Paris taxicabs.                 Battle commenced at noon on the 5th September, when the French 6th Army stumbled on the advance guard of the German 1st Army.

 

The British avoided joining the battle until the commander of the German 1st Army, General Alexander von Kluck, made a tactical error on the 9th September 1914. Von Kluck ordered his forces to pursue and over-run the French 6th Army, retreating to the Marne. A 50km gap opened up between the German 1st and 2nd Armies, and the Allied forces quickly attacked the open flanks of both German armies. The combined French 5th Army and the B.E.F. exploited this tactical error.

 

Upon learning about this error, the German Chief of General Staff Helmuth von Moltke suffered a nervous breakdown. His subordinates assumed command of the 1st and 2nd Armies, ordering them to withdraw to the Aisne River.

 

The German retreat, between the 9th to 13th September, effectively caused the abandonment of the Schlieffen Plan. The Schlieffen Plan was designed to by-pass the Allied armies and enter Paris, ensuring France would sue for peace, allowing the German army to concentrate on the Eastern War with Russia. The aftermath of the battle, despite all the enormous efforts by the German forces, had come to nothing.

 

.The Allies were now pursuing the retreating Germans, and forced both sides to dig trenches on the banks of the river Aisne, which was to be the next major engagement

 

 

—————————————————————–.

 

 

                                                                  EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE GREAT WAR

The Franco-Prussian War, of 1871, ended with the defeat of France, who was forced to hand over her Eastern provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. This war was the prelude to a period of hostility in Europe that was to last until the end of the Second World War in 1945. In the European summer of 1914, two great European alliances found themselves in a state of fury against each other. The initial main protagonists were Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the one side, and France, the British Empire and Russia on the other. Against the backdrop of plumed and helmeted Emperors and Generals, both sides possessed, by way of machine guns and high explosive artillery, weapons of terrible destruction. The origins of this war lay in the complicated cocktail of greed, fears, prejudices and misunderstandings of the early 1900’s. In 1914, Europe was still widely perceived as the financial, cultural and political centre of the world. The major European powers, however, were engaged in an arms race. Each was trying to acquire colonial possessions in the under-developed world.

In the late 19th Century, Bismarck had forged modern Germany out of a collection of smaller nation states and in doing so had upset the balance of power in Europe. Using her strengthening industrial power, she had built up both an army and navy of formidable size and capability. The two former players, France and Russia, concerned at Germany’s intentions formed a defensive alliance in 1894. Great Britain, alarmed at the German navy’s potential threat to the British domination of the world’s shipping routes aligned herself with France, whose fear of German aggression was nourished by her yearning for the return of the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. Russia, with its population of 125 million had a vast resource of manpower and massive landmasses, but she lacked the technological skills and an industrialised state. In 1879, Germany and Austria-Hungary had signed the dual alliance to help each other should the other be attacked.

Within this background of alliances stood two faltering empires, the glories of the Turkish Empire, now widely recognised as the sick man of Europe, were already only a memory. The Austro-Hungarian Empire consisted of a ramshackle collection of states in the South of Europe. Austria-Hungary was particularly suspicious of the independent country of Serbia, who she saw as the effective leader of an international Slav terrorist movement. This was fermenting unrest between the 23 million Serbs living in the Empires’ territory. By 1914, the tensions in Europe had reached a dangerous level and, the very alliances, formed to protect the peace, now sucked the great nations of Europe into war.

Now we must turn to the Balkans. The Turkish Empire was disintegrating, and Russia confronted Austria-Hungary, the ally of Germany, the other power seeking to move into her area of interest. Here in this cauldron, with their different nationalities, religions, and languages, an incident in a city called Sarajevo set alight the tinderbox and the world went to war. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the nephew and heir of Emperor Franz Joseph who had ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire since 1848. Ferdinand had chosen the 28th June 1914 to visit Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, and a part of his uncles’ empire. In Sarajevo that day, several young revolutionaries had come for assassinating the Archduke. One of these, a 19-year-old tuberculoid student called Gavrillo Principp was sitting in a café when the Archdukes’ car took a wrong turning and had to reverse back past him. Principp, seizing this historic opportunity fired two shots at 5 yards range, killing both the Archduke and his wife Sophie. These two fatal shots were the opening salvo of the Great War.

                                                 THE EVE OF WAR 

In 1879, Germany and Austria-Hungary had signed a dual alliance to help each other should either be attacked. In 1894 France, Russia and Great Britain signed the triple alliance in the event of war with Germany.

On the 28th June, Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in the city of Sarajevo.

All the combatant powers saw military action as the natural extension of diplomacy. With the exception of Great Britain, all the major European powers had large conscripted armies. A spirit of fierce nationalism and xenophobia was abroad. Events now took on a momentum of their own. Austria-Hungary took the pretext to punish Serbia for her assumed prediction to terrorism. She obtained Germany’s assurance that she would support her if attacked by Russia, whose inclination was to come to the aid of any fellow Slav country that was threatened. On the 23rd July, Austria-Hungary delivered a ten-point ultimatum to Serbia, whom she assumed would find unacceptable. Serbia was given only two days to reply and much to general surprise accepted eight of the points and asked the remaining two to be referred to the Court Of The Haig for arbitration.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey suggested that the issue could be resolved at the conference table, but his mediation proposals were only given halfhearted support by Berlin and not taken up by Vienna. France and Russia, as well as Germany and Austria-Hungary, now tried to convince Grey to declare Britain’s position if a European war were to result from the crisis. Both sides hoped their hand would be strengthened with a clear declaration that it would either fight on the side of the Entente or remain neutral. However, Britain, preoccupied with the Irish question, refused until the very end of July to commit to its allies. In the crucial last days of July, Britain’s decision makers were torn between the fear of either Germany or Russia winning a war on the continent. It would have had grave consequences for Britain if Russia had managed to win without Britain’s support. However, if Germany had won, Britain would have faced a Germany-dominated Europe. Grey was placed in a quandary until Serbia had responded to the ultimatum.

This conciliatory reply, by Serbia, found no favour with Austria-Hungary, who began to mobilise her armies. On the 28th July Austria- Hungary declared war on Serbia and started to shell Belgrade. On 31st July, Russia began to mobilise, on the same day, Germany, desperate to act before the full effect of Russian involvement became operational, demanded that Russia recall her troops. At the same time, Germany asked France what she would do in the event of a German/Russian war. Frances’ reply was to mobilise her reservists on the 1st August. The German fighting machine had already begun to move. On the 2nd August, she over-ran Luxemburg. The Kaiser had asked the Belgian King for permission to send his troops through Belgium into France. The king refused. Ignoring this Royal refusal, German troops crossed the frontier into Belgium on the 4th August, and on the same day Great Britain, who had guaranteed Belgium neutrality, declared war on Germany. The general expectation on both sides was the war would be over by Christmas. There were, however, to be very nearly five Christmas Days before these Christian nations were to end their mutual slaughter.

The Germans, fearful of having to fight a war on both her Eastern and Western fronts had   planned to deliver a massive right hook through Belgium into the heart of France to Paris, and knock France out of the war before Russia could mobilise her forces. The way would then be clear for Germany to turn her full attention to the Eastern Front with Russia. The French also had a plan, just the one that Germany had hoped they would make. It involved a predictable advance into Alsace and Lorraine, where the Germans intended to hold the French while they encircled them from the North.

The British Expeditionary Force had landed and concentrated in France by the 13th August. It numbered a mere 100,000 men, a fraction of the 1.5 million troops launched into France by the Germans, and the 2 million French soldiers who the British fought alongside. British troops numbered less than the 117,000 troops in the Belgian army.

At the time the British, alone among the great European powers had no conscripted armies. Although she had the most powerful navy in the world, her regular army numbered less than 250,000 men plus about 480,000 reservists and territorials. As the war developed, she had to undertake the Herculean task of expanding the army, the weapons and supplies to meet the vast military commitment of the Great War.

                                           

Welcome to the New Bay Museum Website

 

 

The old website, http://www.the-bay-museum.co.uk, is soon to be replaced by this new site which will feature regular updates and new content, from past and upcoming events, to pictures and videos, and even historical information. As soon as the old website is taken offline, this current one at thebaymuseum.wordpress.com will take on the previous http://www.the-bay-museum.co.uk web address.