22 Feb to On leave with Maz to Brighton – met Goodall (tennis player) on train.
1 March 1918
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
22 Feb to On leave with Maz to Brighton – met Goodall (tennis player) on train.
1 March 1918
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
War Diary of AA Laporte Payne Feb 1918
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
February 2, 1918. Rome. Today we visited the Coliseum and other places in the vicinity.
Feb 1 1918.
We go to Rome, I think, tomorrow. (CP)
Rome Feb 2, 1918.
The Catacombe di Santa Domitilla (CP)
Rome Feb 3, 1918
Il Colosseo Arco di Costantino (CP)
Feb 4, 1918
View from the Cupola of St Peter’s (CP)
Feb 4. 1918
Today we crawled to the top of St. Peters and afterwards visited the Vatican. (CP)
Feb 10 1918
Antico Caffe Greco. Via Condotte founded 1760
(Sent by Field Post Office, and mutilated)
Two others, both stamped 15th Feb, and mutilated. I have returned. Feb 14th 1918.
Sunday February 3, 1918.
Grand Hotel, Rome.
We have been having a great time down here in the south. Amour came with me. The weather has been perfect, and except for travelling conditions delightful.
We left a week ago, and travelled by our horses and motor lorry to Padua, whence we took train to Rome. We secured a luxurious wagon-lit compartment for two which Jock and I shared. We slept comfortably in bed. The train started from Padua leaving about 8.45 p.m. and arriving in Rome at 11.30, the next morning. Changing trains we went straight on to Naples, which we reached at 6.30 p.m. In the evening we sampled an Italian Music Hall; but we did not care for it at all, much too loud and vulgar. Are these the descendants of the ancient Romans, renowned for their “gravitas” and “pietas”? The following day we shopped, visited the National Gardens, via the Via Roma, and the Opera, returning for lunch on the balcony of the Bertolini Hotel, high up on the hill overlooking the Bay of Naples. After desiring so long to visit these famous places, it is strange to be here and in these circumstances. I wonder what an old legionary legate would have said to and of us if we had met him.
But the next day was the DAY. I at last realised my great desire to visit Pompeii. We determined to do as much as we could in the short time at our disposal. Our first step was to obtain a guide, whom we kept for four days. He was quite a pleasant chap, but did not appear to know much except how to get to places, for most of his information was of the nature of fairy stories. I am sure poor old Jock Amour was very bored as I dragged him all over the place to see what I wanted. Certainly I made him and myself very tired; but it was worth it, every bit.
I had been interested in Pompeii for many years, and my Father had sent me a great tome of six hundred pages, al about the excavations, which I just had time to read before I left for the south. So I knew pretty well what I wanted to see, and certainly more than our guide who soon gave up talking in disgust when I kept on referring to my book and notes. However he knew the names of places and how to get there, which was all I wanted. At times he talked the most amazing rubbish, and I could appreciate the sort of stuff tourists were fed on.
A cab took us to the Electric Station from our hotel on the hill, and the train to a place called Torre Annunziata, a filthy picturesque village built on the larva amid orange trees and vineyards. Another vehicle took us to the excavations themselves. First of all we visited the Amphitheatre and other places nearby which had been covered by the eruption of A.D. 79.
Then we had lunch at the Hotel du Suisse. We began our exploration about 1 p.m. and finished about 5 p.m. It was much too short, and rather apt to give me mental indigestion.
There is so much to see. The Forum, the Temples of Venus, Apollo, Jupiter, Mercury, and to me of special interest, of Isis. Then to the Large and Small Theatres, the Barracks of the Gladiators, the Old and New Baths, and the houses known as of Apollo, Citharoedus, Siricus, Marcus Lucretius, Vetii, Labyrinth, Faun, the Tragic Poet, Pansa, and several others, finishing up with the Villa of Diomedes outside the Herculaneum Gate in the Street of Tombs. So we did not waste our short time. I hope I shall be able to revisit the place some day.
We returned very tired and had dinner at Gambrinos on our way up to the hotel.
The next day we spent in Naples, visiting the Royal Palace, the Picture Gallery, the church of Santa Chiara, and the Cathedral, which has a shrine and the blood of the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro, who is supposed to have been martyred under Diocletian. This man’s blood boils whenever anything is about to happen. The credulity of some people is amazing. I wonder if it foretold the war. We also visited the delightful little chapel of Sansevero.
In the afternoon the Museum occupied our attention. From some of the things I saw there I can quite believe that the present inhabitants of this district are the descendants of the people who inhabited Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum; but they were not of the race of the old Roman. They are descendants of Greeks, Asiatics and slaves. A cosmopolitan crowd with all the vices. The Pompeian collection is wonderful, and also the Farnese collection of statues and bronzes, containing the Farnese Hercules, and the Bull. Again there was far too much to see. However the gods may perchance favour me with another visit one day.
We climbed Vesuvius to the crater, choked in the sulphur smoke, saw flames and boiling lava, and returned. A whole day’s hard work; but well spent.
On our last day in Naples we visited Bagnoli, Pozzuoli or Puteoli, where St Paul landed, and saw the extinct volcano at Solfatara. Thence we went to the Greek amphitheatre, and the ruins of the so-called Serapeum or Macellum. Then we went on to Lake Avernus, which was regarded by the ancients as the entrance to the infernal regions. And so by Baiae back to our hotel. That night we left by the 11.15 p.m. train, and have just arrived in that city at 8 a.m.
At the Bertolini in Naples one night a bishop came in to dine. When I saw him I recognised my old tutor at Cambridge, Dr. Knight, now Bishop of Gibraltar. He has given me several introductions to people in Rome, one to Archdeacon Sissons, but I do not think we shall use them as we have so little time.
R.P February 15, 1918
Italian Expeditionary Force
It is over a month since I received any letters from home. That was the only pleasure my return from the south gave me, for we have had a delightful time in Rome and Naples. Our leave of two weeks is all over, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It has seen the fulfilment of a long desire, and renewed my interest in those places.
We arrived in Rome on a Sunday morning nearly a fortnight ago, and that day we spent fairly quietly as we were tired after our night journey from Naples.
The following day we started in earnest to see the sights. We visited the Coliseum, the Forum, and took a cab to see the Appian Way. On the way we went into the catacombs and then the church of St. Paul outside the walls, the Thermae of Caracalla; St Peter’s and the Vatican filled the next day, where we saw the collection of antiquities, the Egyptian Museum, and the Borgia apartments. On the day after we completed the Vatican so far as we could, visiting the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Stanza and the Picture Gallery.
The Palatine and Capitoline, together with the Pantheon and many churches were visited the following day. The churches I like best were S. Clemente with the ancient of Mithras recently excavated below ground, and S. Maria in Cosmedin. In S. Maria sopra Minerva I met a priest who was an Oxford man and a lately “verted” C. of E. clergyman, who was most interesting. With him in his seminary there is a man named Poskitt, who was at Corpus Christi when I was up at Cambridge. He is also now a Roman Catholic. I cannot understand how these men can do it, and my amazement is not lessened by my visit to Rome.
The Ghetto, other churches, museums, baths filled up our time on two other days. We managed to get a day’s trip to Tivoli and Hadrian’s Villa, and another to the Alban Mountains and the Largo di Nemi.
I made use of Bishop Knight’s introduction and called on Archdeacon and Mrs. Sissons, who were most kind. He spent an afternoon with me to show me several places, and he gave me a lot of most interesting information about Rome and its inhabitants. Mrs. Sissons took me to the artists’ quarter where we had tea in one of the studios there. I met a sculptor, by name Signore Sciortino, who is the Director of the British Academy of Arts in Rome. He has won fire international competitions, and has recently created a statue of Christ, which has been put up in Malta to commemorate the Eucharistic Council held there some time ago. He was particularly kind to us, and through him I met another sculptor, Toti, and also a painter, Guidi, whose studios I visited. We also met several Italian, Russian and American people. It was Sciortino who arranged the most delightful trip to the Alban Mountains and Lakes.
We left Rome by the night train, and it took us four days to get to our batteries which had in the mean time moved. Now we are back at work again, and instead of spring like weather we have snow, ice, wind and dull days.
When we were at Vesuvius I had hoped to go up on a pony, but the war had done away with them all, so we had to go up by the tram.
The Boche is a great nuisance about here bombing quite a lot. Especially about Padua and to the north of that place.
February 15 1918
Italian Expeditionary Force
Back again! The change from the delightful weather of Naples and Rome with their blue skies and spring warmth to the cold, dull wintry weather of the north is too too horrible. I have hardly enjoyed a trip more. The contrast in conditions of living and circumstances heightened what for me would in any case be one of the great events of my life, seeing Naples and Rome. Now it is all over and we are back in the cold north and war area.
We arrived in the city of Augustus and the pope on a Sunday morning. After a bath, a shave, a change and breakfast, we wandered into the Borghese (Villa) and the Gardens of the Pincio. The following day we visited the Coliseum, the Forum, the Catacombs, the Via Appia, and some churches. St. Peter’s and the Vatican fully occupied our time the next day, spending some of it in the collection of antiquities and the picture gallery.
We revisited the Vatican the next morning to see the Sistine Chapel, and the Raphael Stanza.
All the following day we spent in the Forum and on the Palatine, where we met a very distinguished American Admiral. Then on to the Capitoline, the Pantheon and a large number of churches. The most interesting, for me, were S. Clementi, with its recently excavated ancient temple of Mithras, three stories under the medieval church, and S. MARIA in Cosmedin.
That night we went to the Opera to hear Puccini’s La Boheme, after dinner in the restaurant Ulpia, the walls of which were built by Trajan nearly 2000 years ago.
There followed excursions to Tivoli, and Hadrian’s Villa, to the Alban Hills, the Largo di Nemi. and other places in the vicinity.
After all I used my introduction to Archdeacon Sissons and his wife which Dr Knight had given me. I had lunch with them one day, and spent an afternoon with him visiting a few of the out of the way places. On another afternoon Mrs. Sissons took me to call on an artist in the artists’ quarter the Via Margutta. There I met a number of Italian, French, Russian, American and English people, among them one, Sig. Sciortino, a sculptor and director of the British Academy of Arts in Rome. He was particularly kind and three of us spent many interesting days at his studio and at the Caffe Greco in the Via Condotti. He took us to see several artists, among them Toti, a sculptor, and Guidi, a painter, in their studios. He and his friends also arranged several excursions for us, one of them for a whole day into the Alban Hills. Twelve of us went, and we spent a most enjoyable time. One man was an Irish artist and another an American Captain. We went by electric train most of the way and then walked, and not by car as we did to Tivoli, as no ladies are allowed to travel by car in Rome without special permission. We got back about 7 p.m. and this trip concluded our visit to Rome, for we left that night at 9 p.m.
We spent four days finding our Brigade, which had moved in the meantime in our absence.
The Caffe Greco is a most interesting place. It is the rendez-vous of the artists of Rome. It is the custom for a leading artist to appropriate a corner of the Café and his circle of pupils and admirers, and there to gather together of an evening. In the picture which I sent Sciortino is sitting at the back. It was taken some years ago. He still sits in the same place, and on several occasions we joined him there.
He sculpted a figure of Christ, which was erected in Malta to commemorate the Eucharistic Conference held in that place by the Roman Church some time ago. He has won an international competition five times, and has done a lot of work in Russia.
Altogether it has been a delightful time, and we do not appreciate returning to the line once more.
February 24 1918
Italian Expeditionary Force.
It is a perfect evening, warm and fine, with a lovely sunset. The cold weather has departed at last, not to return, I hope, till next year.
I have just returned after a few day’s absence, not on leave this time, but on duty. I may be away again shortly.
Thank you for the Times Literary Supplement and the Nineteenth Century. I have just read John Masefield’s “The old Front Line”. It gives a good account of the particular part of the line we took in July, 1916. I read the Quest from cover to cover.
Warfare in Italy is very different from warfare in France, but it is still war. The novelty makes it very interesting. I don’t know how long it will last. Not long I am sure.
I am sick to death of reading the English papers now. Cannot the politicians stop squabbling, and get on with the war? I hope you are not starving yet. We are not, and the doctor is very bored as he gets no patients to kill or cure.
Raids over London still continue I see. I hope you are all safe.
The Colonel has again asked me to go to Headquarters as Adjutant. I half promised to do so when I left to go to a battery, and although he recommended me for promotion, he does not want me to go elsewhere and still thinks I am willing to go as his adjutant. I am unwilling to offend the old boy, and to insist on remaining with a battery or going elsewhere on promotion. Last night I had to go to dinner with him, but I managed to keep away from the subject. It is bound to crop up again soon, and I really don’t know what to say to him.
R.P. February 25 1918.
I have been away from the battery for a few days on duty. And I may be away for a few days again soon.
The weather is now beautiful with perfect warm days and light nights with wonderful sunsets. I am thoroughly enjoying this truly Italian weather.
I am in a hole. The Colonel thinks I am willing to go to Headquarters as Adjutant. I half promised to do so when I went to a Battery, and although he recommended me for promotion in this Brigade, he has refused to do so to go elsewhere. I do not want to go to an office again if I can help it, but I do not want to offend the old boy. What am I to do? I had dinner with him last night, but I managed to keep him away from the subject. I see I have got my Captaincy alright. It has been a long time coming through. It went in last September.
My kit is accumulating in a horrible way with books, clothes saddlery and what not. I must have a clearance soon.
5th DIVISIONAL ARTILLERY No HBM/283/15/3. SECRET.
5th DIVISIONAL ARTILLER INSTRUCTIONS No 1.
Teams of 41st Divisional Artillery will be accommodated in 5th Divisional Artillery Wagon Lines.
(Formations involved XL Corps, 5th, 7th, 41st, 48th Divisions)
A/175, Bde. On 28th February, 1918, six guns from Rest TO Wagon Lines 120th Battery near OFF ELECTTRICA O.46.15.
To be taken into action on night 28/1st by teams 5th Divisional Artillery, under orders of Group Commanders.
175th Brigade teams return to their own Wagon Lines.
Headquarters 175th Brigade TO Wagon Lines H.Q. 76th Brigade LA FORNACE. To move to Battle H.Q. under arrangements of Right Group.
175th (Army) Brigade R.F.A S/1301
March to the 5th D.A. Area on the 28th FEBRUARY 1918.
Route and Time of starting:-
A/175, ISTRANA-POSTIOMA-Cse. STRETTE
B/175, ISTRANA-SOVERNIGO-CASTAGNOLE-C. VICENTINI-PONZANO-C.CAUTORTA-CCAMPAGNA.
D/175, route as for C/175
Dear F & M
Just a line or two to say I am jogging along merry and bright and thanks to Par’s quick response I am in a flourishing condition once more. We have been having a very nice time after a rather rough wintry spell and I feel in the pink. Some of George’s lot passed thro our village a few days ago and I found they were only about 2 villages away. So the next day I got leave to visit him and set off over the hills on a cycle full of excitement in the hopes of seeing him. Eventually I arrived at my destination wet with drizzle but as it was just noon I dropped into an estaminet and took of a little liquid refreshment before digging him out. Well I landed at the Orderly Room and found to my dismay the bounder had been admitted to hospital the day before suffering from a cold or chill. So you can tell how I felt after my exertions. It would seem destined that we should not meet out here still I will have another try before long if I get a chance. Anyway I searched round to see if I could find anyone I knew and ultimately spent the day with Charlie Higgins. So I was a little recompensed for my trouble. I spent a nice time with him. He was quite surprised to see me in fact he couldn’t recognise me for some time. As you know I have lost a lot of surplus weight these last 3 years. He looked quite an old sweat and keeps his buttons bright & shiny. Well how are you all going along hope you are keeping well. The spring is showing signs round here and the weather has been delightful. Well I think this is all at present remember me to all enquiring friends. Yes I thanked the Mr Taborites. Well cheerho
Dear old dad,
I am downright sorry to hear you have been seedy. Do take care of yourself. I hope you are all right again now. The first news of it came from Tutbury.
Many thanks for your letter dad & the enclosures. One was a bill & the other was a letter from old “John” Doc in America. It was good to hear from him. He was serving out here for a time then went home to a job.
Apparently when America came into the war he joined the army again. But his father had a stroke of paralysis & left his mother penniless. So Doc was honourably discharged, & has got a berth with a firm of attorneys in Wisconsin. He says he will be in at the death though, & if any one will look after 2 invalids for him he will come now. He was a good fellow. Doc, & I should like to see him again some time.
It was diplomatic of you to get a word in with the Chairman dad. I shall have to rely on now to get me a job somehow & somewhere, but it doesn’t look as though I shall be wanting it yet awhile – worse luck.
I hope you enjoyed your trip up North & that it has set you up again. Where did you get to?
I hope all is well at home.
Very best love to all.
Your loving son
FIELD SERVICE POST CARD
Postmarked FIELD POST OFFICE 25 7 MR 18
To T. Smith, 24 Palmerston Rd, Bowes Park, London N22 England.
I am quite well
Letter follows at first opportunity
I have received no letter from you for a long time.
Signature only. A. Smith. Date Feb 26th 18
103 Downham Road
My dear Ted, Mary & Gladys
I am just writing you a line or two hoping this letter will find you in the best of health. I have had an attack of Bronchitis & have not done any work for over a fortnight. I kept getting fresh cold nearly every week. I kept going on until I could not go any longer. The Air Raid on Jan 28 gave me such a shock that I could not get over it. I got another cold & then Bronc followed. I am glad to say that I did not take any more cold through the raids a week ago. I am hoping to start work tomorrow or Wednesday. I have not been able to get any meat for the last 6 weeks but on Sat I got a bit of leg of beef through writing a P.C to the butchers that I had registered with & telling him I wanted it for beef tea. I wonder how we shall go on. I should not mind if we were could get good bread & butter. Our B is so dry & a ¼ of butter is nothing for a week. I think I got run down through not having sufficient nourishment. Well I hope things will be better soon. We must do our part in trying to win the war. We have not to face terrible things that our dear boys have to face at the front. The Kaiser must think that he is going to win since he can do what he likes with Russia.
Hoping Fred & George are still alright & that you are all well in health with love to all
P.S. I think Frank joins up this week.
Feb 22nd 18
My Dear Father
How are you getting on in good old Blighty? I hope they have not stopped your meat & sugar supply altogether if they do I can imagine you living on bully beef &c. Thank you for the Sunday Pictorial it is the only paper I have seen since I left home.
We are still in the same place, & not having a bad time except for the weather being very cold it wants a bit of facing at 7 A.M. but there is no chance of getting the sack so it has to be done. I notice it takes letters about six days to reach us here as we are much further inland.
I had a letter from Charlie, he told me that Albert came to see you on the Sunday that I went back.
Well I think I must finish now Dad as there is very little news to tell you.
The money you gave me is very useful you bet I have had some good feeds since I have been here also champagne &c I still have about £1 left so I am alright for the present.
I am glad to hear old Fritz has not paid you any night visits lately.
I hope you are in the best of health glad to say I am A1.
With much love from
P.S. How is Mr & Mrs Warman & Lilian I hope quite well remember me to them also Miss Dimond.
Letter to Rev. R.M. Laporte Payne 14 Feb 1918
West End Hotel
All letters &c
C/O Messrs Thos Cook & Son
Dear Mr. Payne,
Again I have to trouble you by asking you to pass on the enclosed cheque for two quarters pew rent to the proper authority as I have not the address. I am still unable to obtain a passport for Mrs Burton. In some ways we are better off in India than we should be in England but all the same we are looking forward to our return home. We propose to spend two months in South Coorg in a few weeks time on a Coffee Estate. Except for seeing the great number of troops in Bangalore & high prices, one would not know there was a great war in progress.
We are fortunate in having a church (St. Marks) with services we like here & two very ernest clergymen. Trusting that Mrs Payne yourself & family are well & with kindest regards in which Mrs Burton unites
Yours very sincerely
F.W. LANCHESTER’S MEMORANDA Copy No 5.
AMERICAN COMMITTEE OF ENGINEERS IN LONDON
Organised with approval of His Excellency the American Ambassador
who has recommended its services to the United States Government in
connection with the conduct of the War.
Honorary Secretary Chairman
Telephone No 6050 London Wall
Cablegrams “Olenek, London”
Office of the Honorary Secretary
6, COPTHALL AVENUE
LONDON E.C. 2.
19th February 1918
The two attached Memoranda, just completed by Mr. F.W. Lanchester * one of our members, and Hon. Aeronautical Advisor to our Committee, form a technical report covering many questions connected with the execution of a proposed air-attack on German War Industries, more especially the German Pig Iron production.
The general and detailed character of the objective and its importance were described in the recent Report by our member, Mr. H.A. Titcomb, (“Germany’s Iron Industry and the War, from point of view of Air Attack”, Dec. 14th 1917); and the present Memoranda by Mr. Lanchester present a further analysis of the whole subject of our air offensive as it appears to an eminent British Engineer possessing exceptional knowledge of the matter in hand.
The War data available to civilians are necessarily incomplete. Bearing this in mind, the Report and Memoranda may both be of interest to the Allied Authorities in several suggestive directions, and hence have been presented by the American Committee of Engineers in London, in the hope that they may be of use.
* Member Inst. Civil Engrs., Member Inst. Mech. Engrs. Member Advisory Committee of Aeronautics (to the British Government), etc.
AMERICAN COMMITTEE OF ENGINEERS IN LONDON
CONCERNING THE COMMITTEE REPORT ON “GERMANY’S IRON INDUSTRY AND THE WAR”.
F.W. Lanchester, M. Inst. C.E.
If the Iron supply of Germany is as dependant upon the Ironworks of the districts – Lorraine, Saar and Westphalia – as we have every reason to suppose and as stated in the main Report anything in the nature of an attack on these districts, whether from the air or otherwise, is certain to be countered by the enemy by every means in his power.
We have seen evidence of the actual importance which the German High Command attach to the Lorraine Iron Mines and Iron Works in the tremendous effort made in 1916 to drive back the French before Verdun; there appears to be no question to-day but that the Verdun offensive was based on an endeavour to increase the security of the (annexed) Lorraine Iron district. We have seen that the offensive in question followed the Secret Memorial addressed to the Imperial German Chancellor, a copy of which is given in Appendix E. page 39, of Mr. H.A. Titcomb’s Report. The vigour with which that offensive was pushed, and at such an enormous cost to the enemy, is adequately explained by its relation to the Lorraine Iron Mines and Iron Works; no alternative explanation of a convincing character has ever been offered.
It has already been stated that we must not look upon the bare bombing force calculated as necessary, on the present available experience, as in any sense adequate; in view of the vital character of the menace, the enemy will defend himself in the Lorraine districts to the last extremity. Under these conditions the force both of bombing aeroplanes and fighting aeroplanes for their defence (and for attack on enemy defending squadrons) may be expected to absorb the greater part of the aeronautical resources both of the Allies and concurrently those of the enemy; as the strength of the attack is increased, the strength of the defence will inevitably increase so long as such is in the power of the enemy. Thus, in an attack on the Lorraine Iron fields we have a means of nailing the enemy’s air resources definitely to one fixed point, and, if we are strong enough to crush him by weight of numbers and equipment. From this point of view a large scale and thoroughly prepared attack on the Lorraine Iron Works and Fields offers attractive prospects, quite apart from the question of its direct ultimate consequences. The district may be made into a veritable moloch for the enemy’s services where no guerrilla or elusive tactics will avail him. Beyond this, with the Lorraine district the pivot and centre of concentration of our air forces and those of the enemy, there would appear to be no doubt that intensified military operations in the area in question will follow as a matter of logic.
Intense bombing and air fighting behind the enemy lines would seriously hamper him in holding those lines. It would be easy for the powerful air forces locally at our disposal to interfere seriously, if not vitally with his transport and supplies without neglect of their other duties.
When the weather is unfavourable to long distance enterprises the squadrons normally so occupied could be assigned work of this character. Thus a time might well be anticipated when the holding of his lines and positions would become so weakened as to fall an easy prey to our military organisation of those of our Allies (which ever may be holding the positions vis-à-vis to those in question). If this anticipation should be realised the question of the Iron Mines and Works in Lorraine might turn out eventually to be the whole pivot point of the Allied strategy, for since the loss of the mine areas to the enemy, equally with their destruction, would be fatal to his capacity to carry on the war, he will need to throw division after division into the defence of the district in question, however difficult that defence – owing to air attack – may have become.
In brief, it would appear possible that by concentrating an attack, firstly from the air and later in the field, against the Lorraine district, all power of initiative may be finally taken out of the hands of the enemy and the future of the War be made to depend upon the attack and defence of the one particular area involved. It is worthy of remark on this point that part of the Lorraine Iron fields are virtually, though not actually, within a salient – St Mihiel – held by the enemy between Nancy and Verdun, and, from the point of view of field operations, the advantage, broadly speaking, certainly does not lie with the enemy.
In introducing the broad military aspect of attack on Lorraine apart from or additional to the wider strategical side of the question, rather than to lay down any dogmatic opinion on a really military subject. It is however, undoubtedly true that if you can attack an enemy at a point that is vital to him which at all costs he is bound to defend, so long as the attack be maintained (apart from its success or otherwise) the enemy initiative is gone and a plan of campaign is forced upon him which is not of his own choosing.
Not the least difficulty in connection with a concentrated bombing attack, such as proposed, is the question of Aerodromes. There is no doubt that we are getting generally to that critical point when the difficulty of creating and maintaining the necessary accommodation in the way of Aerodromes is becoming as important – and perhaps more crucial – than the question of manufacturing machines and providing personnel.
An Aerodrome that is overworked becomes a danger, not only as due to the risk of collisions in the air between machines leaving and machines alighting etc. but also as due to crashes on the ground itself, due to the obstruction caused by too many machines or too much “business”. This difficulty, already known to have arisen in a general way, is certain to be encountered to an accentuated degree when air attack on a large scale is concentrated in a circumscribed area. It can only be met by due preparation in advance. Beyond the general difficulties and dangers of congestion in the ordinary sense the danger from enemy counter raids is unquestionably greater when the number of aerodromes is scarcely sufficient for the duty in hand than would be the case were it possible to have, say, twice as many Aerodromes as necessary.
Beyond the above and as bearing on it, so far as my knowledge goes, the difference between an Aerodrome and a Flight Ground has not been sufficiently insisted upon and differentiated in the past. I should be inclined to define a Flight Ground as a prepared ground with bomb-proof underground magazines for ammunition, bombs, petrol, stores etc., but not provided with sheds or repair facilities. Such grounds should be of ample area and should constitute jumping off points at which raiding or fighting machines based on Aerodromes possibly some 50 or 100 miles in the rear should rendezvous for supplies and final instructions. I believe that it would be fatal to attempt to establish fully equipped Aerodromes sufficiently near to the lines to deal with a bombing problem such as that under consideration. The base Aerodromes with their sheds, repair staffs, etc., should be anything from 100 to 150 miles in the rear, out of any easy range of enemy counter raids. From the present point of view it is a fact to be reckoned with that the country in which the necessary Flight Grounds would need to be established is of a mountainous or at least hilly character, and consequently the Aerodrome and Flight Ground question will undoubtedly be a difficulty.
The historic Flight Ground and Aerodrome of Chalons is itself almost too near to the enemy lines to be considered safe as an Aerodrome I have not the advantage of knowing how the ground is used at the present time, but if it were made a base of operations for the purpose of attacking the Lorraine Iron fields, nothing is more sure than that it in turn would be bombed out of existence by counter raids on the part of the enemy, it being only some 25 to 30 miles distant from his lines.
Granted, however, that a system of base Aerodromes and Local Flight Grounds be adopted, sites for the base Aerodromes are not likely to prove a serious difficulty, inasmuch as there may be as far back as Paris, Melun, Troyes or even beyond; thus the choice of suitable sites is a wide one.
The selection of Flight Grounds, on the other hand, within easy range of the objective will be a question of serious difficulty. They require to be sufficiently numerous in order that the enemy may not know from what direction attack may be expected, and so that if one be put out of action by hostile bombing, there will still remain many others to carry on. The danger of locating a main depot, with repair sheds and stores containing such valuable adjuncts as spare engines, essential fittings etc., within easy reach of hostile raids has been well exemplified by the disaster which overtook the Dunkirk Aerodrome some six months ago.
The importance of providing Flight Grounds within easy reach of the objective is great, but its importance must not be over-rated. It can be measured in terms of bomb capacity. Thus, from Verdun itself as the crow flies, to the principal iron works in (annexed) Lorraine is a matter of some 35 miles, so that a 50 mile flight – out and home 100 miles – would suffice, if the point of departure were situated within some ten or fifteen miles of the enemy lines. An additional 50 miles however – making the out and home flight 200 miles – would provide a far larger choice of site for the Flight Ground, at the expense of say 150-lbs weight of bomb capacity. Evidently the matter is one of a balance of advantages. In my opinion, however, in view of the need of finding Flight Grounds numerically adequate it is not possible to regard the iron works district of (annexed) Lorraine as less than 100 flight (out-and-home 200 miles) as a basis on which to specify the capacity of the machine.
Generally speaking for the purpose of bombing squadrons (except where the longest possible distances are to be reached) it is of little advantage to chose an Aerodrome or Flight Ground too close to the enemy’s lines, since a bombing machine loaded makes altitude but slowly, and some 40 or 50 miles flight is desirable before coming within range of enemy artillery or near the home of his fighting squadrons.
TYPES OF MACHINE DESIRABLE.
In the present Memorandum I do not intend to say much on the question of types of machine to be adopted, this being a matter for the Department of Aircraft Production of the Air Ministry and the Manufacturing resources of the country. There are, however, one or two suggestions I am prepared to offer in a tentative spirit.
It is agreed I believe as very desirable to carry out a large proportion of the work by daylight. The risks are admittedly greater, but night work is rarely satisfactory where the objective is definite and the need for accurately locating the vulnerable point is paramount. Under these conditions it is I think, important to avoid an entire uniformity in the machines adopted, since once the identity of a machine is definitely ascertained and recognised by the enemy, its range can be determined with approximate exactitude from its wing span and other known dimensions which may happen to present itself favourably to an enemy battery. If two or three different types of machine can be used, it ought, in my opinion, to be seriously considered whether such machines cannot be made sufficiently alike for their difference to be indistinguishable; as for example if of the same design but differing only in point of size and span. In this way the range of every flight or squadron and in some case of every individual machine would have to be determined by one of the well-known triangulation methods before the enemy can range his guns on it satisfactorily, involving a delay which might well make all the difference between the enemy anti-aircraft fire being effective and deadly, and otherwise.
Beyond the above, it is quite evident that squadrons intended for the raiding of the Lorraine districts would be quite unsuited for raiding the Westphalia district where the distance to be flown in some 200 or 250 miles in the least – out and home 400 to 500 miles. There would be nothing however to prevent bombing squadrons designed for attacking Westphalian Iron Works from being employed against the Lorraine fields when the climatic circumstances were against their intended work. The longer distance machines also would of course be of value for surprise visits to other less distant objectives and so it would be desirable in preparing any programme to increase the proportion of long distance machines over what might be theoretically necessary, and beyond what would be considered merely prudent from the point of view of the greater losses to be anticipated in distant raiding.
We must not lose sight of the fact when we consider raiding Westphalia, as apart from raiding Lorraine, that the distance to be covered is at least as great and possibly 50 miles greater than that at present covered by the Gothas when raiding London. When we bear in mind that we to-day have come to regard London as reasonably safe from daylight attack, and that the actual flying over British territory only amounts to, say , 70 miles, we must be sanguine indeed to think that we can successfully raid Westphalia from the present front by daylight when the whole distance of 200 miles and more will have to be flown over hostile territory, a large amount of which is definitely in the War zone. unless our aircraft, both as to men and machines, is immeasurably superior to that of the enemy we must be prepared to admit that the Westphalian venture will only be possible, without great loss, by night.
It is worthy of note that in connection with the Lorraine Iron Works, the proximity to Verdun is so great that on clear nights it will be possible to locate positions with approximate accuracy by appropriate guiding lights, which of course need only be exhibited at stated pre-arranged times. The impression, however, of those conversant with the nature of the target presented by an Iron Works is that even in the face of considerable losses it would pay to attack by day where the distance is short.
In connection with the proposals under discussion it may be remarked that in view of the close relationship between the iron fields of Lorraine, where the valuable are “minette” is produced and the iron works in other parts of Germany which are dependant upon the supply of same, the incidental bombing of railways and railway junctions etc in the districts in question, apart from the attack on shaft head works, might go far to disorganise the enemy’s supplies and the production of pig-iron.
In dwelling almost entirely in the present Memorandum on the subject of bombing iron works it is not my intention for a moment to belittle the suggestion put forward in the main Report as to the bombing of specialised factories and works of other kinds. The main point of the present Memorandum is to establish as a fact that of the two great objectives striking at the root of the German pig-iron industry, first and foremost comes Iron Works, and second the shaft head works of the mines, but I think it may be fully counted that the diversion of resources for the destruction of some of the specialised German Factories, such as for example, the Akkumulator Factory at Hagen (page 44 of the main Report) situated some few miles south of the Westphalian Coal fields, or as has been suggested elsewhere (not in the present Report) the Bosch Magneto Works, might be singled out for destruction. An attendant advantage of studying and selecting certain subsidiary objectives of this character will be that it will complicate the problem of defence on the part of the enemy, inasmuch as an attack apparently directed to some main objective, for example to the Westphalian Works, might prove at the last minute to be actually an attack on the said Akkumulator Factory at Hagen. The uncertainty thus introduced as to the objective would be no less valuable as increasing the difficulties of the defence than as regards the direct results that might be achieved.
It is always to be borne in mind that whatever the fundamental advantages or disadvantages may be, an attack on a factory producing a finished product, is of more immediate effect in hampering the enemy than an attack on raw material. Consequently, however important the latter may be, as exemplified in the main Report and as insisted on in the present Memorandum, the attack on specialised works, especially where the product of same is unique and of an essential character, is not a matter to be neglected.
I feel by no means certain that full justice has been done, in the forgoing estimate, to the power of the enemy to interfere with our proposed air offensive. I cannot but believe that owing to the vital importance to the enemy of the interests that it is proposed to attack, he will concentrate anti-aircraft artillery of every calibre in unprecedented numbers in defence, and beyond this, that ultimately every fighting squadron he can put up, will be put up to interfere with our operations. Under these conditions two facts assert themselves;
Firstly, we must look for many failures to get home, that is to say, attacks beaten off. We know that when the enemy attempts to raid London, every night, many of his attacks are reported as beaten off. Admittedly the measures we have taken to protect London are considerable, but we have no reason to suppose that the measures Germany will take to defend her iron works will be in any sense less, they will probably, if we give her time to act, be greater. We must therefore allow for the possibility of raids being beaten off – the question is what percentage is necessary? If we begin to attack with insufficient forces and insufficient preparation, the enemy resistance will grow pari passu with the intensity of our successive attacks and so we may find the defence growing greater with our increasing force, rather than less. Our true policy should clearly be to do nothing to stimulate enemy resistance until we are fully prepared for a powerful if not decisive stroke.
Supposing that Germany had never attacked London by air to this day, but had expanded her resources, which have been so far frittered away, in preparing a thorough going large scale offensive; no one can pretend that our defences in such a case would have been in any way effective, and London would have been more or less at the mercy of enemy squadrons. We can see the mistake the enemy has made in developing our powers of resistance by small scale attacks; I think it is important that in the venture under discussion we do not imitate the enemy in this respect. Already there have been one or two half-hearted raids of the kind in question. I am strongly of the opinion that until we are ready to do the job thoroughly such raids should be discontinued. They can only serve to develop the powers of the enemy resistance.
But, in spite of everything we can do, the time may come when the successful raid may prove to be the exception and the raid beaten off become the rule, and it would seem to me prudent to provide a programme at least twice as big as that proposed in the earlier part of this Memorandum on this account alone, together with the necessary base Aerodromes and subsidiary Aerodromes or Flight Grounds for handling the numbers in question.
But there is another point of view that appears to suggest that the numbers on the basis of bare necessity are an under estimate. It had been suggested on data – assumed data it is true but not improbable – that the losses will amount to some 40 raiding machines per week. Now we must remember that this will mean a loss of personnel, if not as great, at least of the same order of magnitude, and that it is possible to demand of any body of men a rate of mortality above a certain figure without detriment to efficiency. It is quite true that in great emergency men may fight even to the last man and face nearly certain death, but when it comes to a service in which the conditions are such as would give each man an average of four weeks life, it will be admitted that the country would be demanding more than is reasonable or conducive to obtaining effective service.
It would seem therefore, that from the point of view of personnel alone the numbers will have to be increased very considerably above the bare minimum calculated, and I am inclined to think that a service such as that suggested could not be properly maintained, if it is necessary that it should be permanently maintained, on less than a personnel of some 1,000 or 2,000 pilots, probably involving a total of some 15,000 or 20,000 men.
It is of course unnecessary that operations should be delayed until there is a full establishment of the magnitude above indicated I believe in fact that a start could be made effectively on the basis of the figures given in my earlier Memorandum, but as above pointed out, whatever the figure is that is agreed upon as necessary to strike with full force at the outset, that figure should be reached by due preparation and on no account should any half-hearted blow be permitted which would only serve to acquaint the enemy with what was in contemplation.
I wish to say once and for all, that my own figures have been arrived at on a knowledge which is very imperfect in comparison with that at the disposal of those on whom the responsibility of calculations of this kind would actually rest. The experience on which the actual figures have been based has never been published, and is I believe only available to the military and naval authorities and the Air Ministry. I do not therefore put my figures forward as more than an indication and expression of personal opinion on such general knowledge as I possess. I also express no opinion as to whether the command of the bombing squadrons should be in the hands of the military or naval authorities, or whether it should be organised directly under the Air Ministry; the only comment that I see any reason to make on this point is, that the operation of attacking the enemy’s sources of raw material is not one with regard to which either the military of naval authorities are supposed to have special information or knowledge. As far as I know neither in the profession of soldiering or the sea is there anything in the curriculum which ensures a man knowing a blast furnace from a church steeple, or an iron works from a goods yard. In these circumstances, if the work is to be undertaken effectively, those carrying it out will require to be specially instructed and trained, and whether or not it is done by one of the older services, or whether direct by a specially appointed air force, appears to be a matter of military convenience and expediency.
It would appear to me that there should be no more difficulty in carrying out the work in question by a special air force directly under the Air Ministry than in carrying it out by a naval air force under the Admiralty, except that such Force does not yet exist and would presumably take time to organise; but, as against either the one or the other, the argument that it would be better placed in the hands of the military authorities as being in the military zone would have equal, and not inconsiderable, weight. The point on which I insist in the present paragraph is that the work is of a special character for which men thoroughly acquainted with the anatomy of an Iron Works or factory will require to be engaged, and the actual pilots entrusted with the work will require to go through a short course of special instruction. On questions of high policy or Service responsibility I purposely express no opinion.
(Sgd) F.W. Lanchester.
Copy No 5.