Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
24 January 1917 Played in “From Ann” at B Coy Hq.
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
24 January 1917 Played in “From Ann” at B Coy Hq.
ROYAL FLYING CORPS COMMUNIQUE. – No 123.
During the period under review, 15th to 21st January (inclusive), we have claimed officially nine E.A. brought down and four driven down out of control. Six of our machines are missing.
Approximately 11 tons of bombs were dropped and 34,112 rounds fired at ground targets.
The weather generally throughout the week was adverse to flying.
January 15th. – Heavy rain during the day prevented any flying, except two test and practice flights taking place.
41st Wing. – On the 14th one machine of No 55 Squadron attempted photography, but was forced to return owing to heavy banks of clouds and thick mist. No plates were exposed.
On the night 14th/15th instant, 11 machines of No 100 Squadron left to bomb the steel works at Diedenhofen (Thionville) in Germany. Six 230-lb, 29 25-lb. and two phosphorus bombs were dropped on the objective with good results; two 112-lb. and 12 25-lb. bombs were dropped on the railway junction two miles south-east of Metz, and one 230-lb., two 25-lb. and one phosphorus bombs were dropped on Ebingen Railway Junction, while 1,680 rounds were fired at searchlights and trains in the railway stations. Anti-aircraft fire was heavy, but very inaccurate, and the searchlight barrages were considerable. All machines returned.
January 16th. – High wind and rain all day made flying practically impossible.
2nd-Lieut McLeod and Lieut Hammond, No 2 Squadron (1st Brigade), attempted an artillery patrol. They fired 225 rounds at an anti-aircraft gun and a group of men near La Bassee, and dropped two 20-lb. bombs on La Bassee.
A machine of the 2nd Brigade fired 300 rounds at a party of the enemy.
January 17th. – Low clouds, rain and mist made operations impossible.
41st Wing. – On the night of the 16th/17th, six machines of No 100 Squadron left the ground to attack the railway and factory at Diedhofen. Owing to a thick mist, four machines were forced to return; the remaining two crossed the lines. The weather conditions rapidly deteriorated. One machine dropped one 230-lb. and two 25-lb. bombs on the large railway sidings at Bernsdorf; the other machine dropped one 230-lb. and one 25-lb. bombs on lights at Orny and one 25-lb bomb on a searchlight near Vigny. All results were obscured.
January 18th. – In spite of mist and rain-storms, a certain amount of flying was done. A total number of 13 successful reconnaissances were carried out – nine by the 5th Brigade. Forty-two hostile batteries were successfully engaged for destruction, and one neutralized: three gun-pits were destroyed, 22 damaged, 35 explosions and 16 fires caused. Fifty-five zone calls were sent down. Out of the total of batteries successfully engaged for destruction 22 were by the 2nd Brigade.
Sixty-nine photographs were taken, 115 bombs dropped and 7,791 rounds fired as follows:-
1st Brigade. – Corps Wing dropped 48 25-lb. bombs; 10th Wing fired 1,370 rounds; No 4a Squadron fired 100 rounds, and No 43 Squadron fired 400 rounds into a procession where many casualties were caused.
2nd Brigade. – Took 40 photographs, dropped 29 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,910 rounds.
3rd Brigade. Took 11 photographs, dropped 26 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,890 rounds.
5th Brigade. Eighteen photographs were taken; No 8 Squadron dropped four 25-lb. bombs and fired 721 rounds; No 35 Squadron dropped eight 25-lb. bombs and fired 900 rounds, and No 52 Squadron fired 500 rounds.
Enemy Aircraft. 2nd-Lieut A.E. Wylie, No 65 Squadron, shot down one E.A. near Westroosebeke.
Major R. Maxwell, No 54 Squadron, fired a burst at 70 yards at an enemy scout, which turned over, the right bottom wing came partly away and the E.A. went down in a steep spiral.
2nd-Lieut G. Clapham, of the same Squadron, attacked an Albatross Scout and fired a burst at point blank range. The E.A. went down in flames.
One E.A. was brought down near Lens by infantry.
Miscellaneous. – Capt. J. Medcalf, No 43 Squadron, whilst on patrol, lost his way in the clouds, and coming down found himself in the vicinity of Douai. He saw a party of infantry 500 strong marching through a village, and fired at them from a low altitude. They all scattered and left several casualties on the road. Capt Medcalf reports that he glided down to 500 feet and intended to land on an aerodrome, because he saw there an R.E.8 and two A.W.’s standing on the ground. Hostile machine-gun fire was opened on him. He noticed that the R.E. 8 and the A.W.’s were camouflaged blue and green and had no national markings of any kind.
Lieut McCall and Lieut Farrington, No 13 Squadron, ranged the 78th Siege Battery on hostile batteries. Seventy-nine observations were given and two direct hits were obtained on gun-pits, in one case a large explosion being caused.
Capt. Solomon and Lieut Morgan, No 15 Squadron, gave 53 observations for the 48th Siege Battery on hostile batteries, and three gun-pits were badly damaged and one set on fire.
January 19th. – The weather was fine all day and the sky was covered with high clouds. The visibility was good.
Nineteen reconnaissances were carried out; 10 of these were by machines of the 5th Brigade, including eight by No 52 Squadron.
Ninety hostile batteries were successfully engaged for destruction and six were neutralized; 16 gun-pits were destroyed, 44 damaged, 52 explosions and 26 fires caused. One hundred and forty-seven zone calls were sent down.
Eight hundred and seventy photographs were taken, 317 bombs dropped and 14,458 rounds fired at ground targets as follows:-
1st Brigade. – 187 photographs. 1st Wing dropped 69 25-lb. bombs and fired 380 rounds, and 10th Wing fired 2,450 rounds.
2nd Brigade. – 263 photographs. 2nd Wing dropped 61 25-lb. bombs; No 57 Squadron dropped 68 25-lb. bombs on Heule Ammunition Dump, and 3rd Squadron A.F.C. fired 2,400 rounds. 2,110 rounds were fired by other Squadrons.
3rd Brigade. – 221 photographs were taken, 73 25-lb. bombs dropped and 2,826 rounds fired.
5th Brigade. – 195 photographs. No 8 Squadron dropped 22 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,652 rounds; No 35 Squadron dropped 24 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,140 rounds, and No 52 Squadron fired 1,500 rounds.
Enemy Aircraft. – Enemy aircraft were active, especially in the neighbourhood of Lens. Capt. J.L. Trollope, No 43 Squadron, while on offensive patrol over Vitry, shot down one D.F.W., which was seen to crash.
Lieut. G. McElroy, No 40 Squadron, shot down out of control an Albatross Scout, and 2nd-Lieut W. Harrison, of the same Squadron, shot down a D.F.W. out of control.
Flight Commander Price, Naval Squadron No 8, observed three Albatross Scouts near Vitry. He dived and attacked one of these and fired 300 rounds. The E.A. fell over sideways and fell vertically.
In a general engagement between Naval Squadron No 8 and 14 Albatross Scouts, Flight Sub-Lieut Johnstone attacked one E.A. and followed it down to 8,000 feet, firing all the while. The E.A. was observed to fall completely out of control. Flight Sub-Lieut Dennett fired a good burst at another E.A. at very close range, and it went down completely out of control. Flight Lieut. Jordan fired a burst of 50 rounds into an E.A. which turned on its side and spun. Flight Sub-Lieuts Dennett and Johnstone followed this machine down, each firing 250 rounds, and the E.A. went down out of control.
2nd-Lieut. F. Hobson, No 70 Squadron, dived at an E.A. two-seater, which went down out of control and then burst into flames. 2nd-Lieut. G. Howsam, of the same squadron, attacked an enemy two-seater which had been pointed out to him by anti-aircraft fire. He fired a burst and the E.A. went down out of control.
2nd-Lieut. Jones and Lieut Phelps, No 20 Squadron, dived at an Albatross Scout, and after firing 50 rounds brought it down out of control.
Capt. Harrison and Lieut. Noel, No 20 Squadron, saw four E.A. and dived on one and fired 20 rounds after which the E.A. went down out of control.
Sergt E. Clayton and 2nd-Lieut. L. Sloot, No 57 Squadron, when returning from a bomb raid were attacked over Roulers by six Albatross Scouts. The observer fired 200 rounds, and one E.A. went down in a vertical dive for 8,000 feet.
Capt. R. Hilton and Lieut A. Clayton, No 9 Squadron, were attacked by six E.A. two of which dived on the R.E.8. the observer opened fire at 100 yards and the leading E.A. was seen to loose a wing and crash; the other E.A. was driven off after 150 rounds were fired.
A patrol of four machines of No 54 Squadron engaged seven Albatross Scouts, and Capt. K. Shelton dived on two of them and followed them down to 500 feet. One of these fell out of control and was later seen to be crashed on the ground by two other pilots of the same patrol.
January 20th. – Although the sky was covered with clouds, the visibility was good, and a lot of artillery work was carried out.
Seventeen reconnaissances were carried out, 12 of which were by machines of the 5th Brigade.
Seventy-two hostile batteries were successfully engaged for destruction and 12 neutralized with aeroplane observation; five gun-pits were destroyed, 30 damaged, 18 explosions and 18 fires caused. One hundred and fifty-four zone calls were sent down.
Three hundred and twenty-three photographs were taken, 222 bombs dropped and 10,572 rounds fired at ground targets as follows:-
1st Brigade. –. Fifty-six photographs. 1st Wing dropped 55 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,150 rounds, and 10th Wing fired 2,050 rounds.
2nd Brigade. – Nine photographs were taken, 36 25-lb. bombs dropped and 1,040 rounds fired.
3rd Brigade. – Sixty photographs were taken, 76 25-lb. bombs dropped and 2,682 rounds fired.
5th Brigade. – One hundred and ninety-eight photographs. 15th Wing dropped 55 25-lb. bombs, No 8 Squadron fired 830 rounds, No 35 Squadron 250 rounds, No 52 Squadron 870 rounds and No 84 Squadron 700 rounds.
Enemy aircraft activity was slight all day.
Capt. J.B. McCudden, No 56 Squadron, brought down one enemy machine.
On the 19th, eight targets were registered by balloons of the 2nd Brigade, four of the targets being hostile batteries.
January 21st. – Low clouds and rain prevented much flying being done.
Six reconnaissances were carried out, one by 2nd Brigade, two by the 3rd Brigade, and three by the 5th Brigade.
Twenty-two hostile batteries were successfully engaged for destruction with aeroplane observation and five neutralized; 15 gun-pits were damaged, 26 explosions and seven fires caused. Seventy-five zone calls sent down.
One hundred and forty bombs were dropped and 9.086 rounds fired at ground targets as follows:-
1st Brigade. – 43 25-lb bombs were dropped;1st Wing fired 3,600 rounds, and No 4a Squadron 100 rounds.
2nd Brigade. – 2nd Wing dropped 39 25-lb. bombs; 2,455 rounds were fired.
3rd Brigade. – Dropped 29 25-lb. bombs and fired 1,150 rounds.
5th Brigade. – No 8 Squadron dropped 16 25-lb bombs and fired 591 rounds; No 35 Squadron dropped four 25-lb. bombs and fired 500 rounds; No 48 Squadron dropped nine 25-lb. bombs; No 52 Squadron fired 500 rounds and No 54 Squadron 100 rounds.
Enemy aircraft activity was slight all day, a few indecisive combats taking place.
2nd-Lieut Churchman and Lieut Lewis, No 10 Squadron, obtained many O.K.s on a hostile battery. During this shoot, a hostile battery was seen firing and a switch was given on to it and the hostile battery was silenced.
Lieut Douglas and Lieut Senior, No 15 Squadron, made many observations and three O.K.s were obtained. Direct hits were obtained on two pits and the whole position badly damaged. During the same flight, seven active hostile batteries were reported by zone calls.
41st Wing. – On the night of the 21st/22nd, 17 machines of No 100 Squadron started to bomb the steel works at Thionville and Bernsdorf railway sidings. Twelve machines crossed the line and dropped bombs as follows:-
Four 230-lb., 12 25-lb. and one phosphorus bombs on Thionville; five 230-lb., 16 25-lb., and two phosphorus bombs on Bernsdorf, and two 230-lb., and eight 25-lb. bombs on various targets. 1,520 rounds were fired at searchlights, trains and factory lights.
One machine of Naval Squadron No 16 dropped 12 112-lb. bombs on the railway junction at Arnaville, south of Metz.
23rd January, 1918
L.A.K. BUTT, Captain,
Printing Section, Depot F.S.C. R.E. G.H.Q. 655x/3,000/1-18
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
12 January 1917 On special dental leave to Colchester.
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
9 January 1918 Attended Drive Lodge Woodbridge with Mr BARTON the
Warden at Hollesley College. Lord Shaftesbury present. Replied for Visitors recited Essex ballads.
Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries
4 January 1918 Found large piece of amber.
“Representation of the People Act 1918” (Votes of Women)
Parliament signed the “Representation of the People Act 1918” on the 6th February 1918, giving women partial voting rights. The act gave women of property over the age of 30 the right to vote. The whole of society had changed, and the war had provided the first real opportunity for women to take on traditional male jobs. Partly the years of suffrage before the war, and the sterling work the women had achieved during the war, saw the reformation of the electoral system in Great Britain and Ireland. It was a major start in women being granted the right to vote, but not all women were eligible. When the “Parliament (Qualification for Women) Act 1918” became law, women were allowed to become MP’s for the first time. However, in 1928 the vote was extended to all women over the age 21.
Brigade Diary, Personal Diary, Operation Orders, Note Books, Memoranda
January 2 1918
I have just received an enormous and beautifully packed box of delicious eatables. The contents enabled us suitably to celebrate the New Year. They also helped us to escape an embarrassing difficulty in providing for an unexpected guest, who arrived twenty-four hours before he was invited to dinner, due to his mistake, and when our larder was sadly diminished. The timely arrival of the parcel turned the horrible possibility of a dismal failure to provide suitable hospitality into a great success of triumphant courses of tinned chicken and fruits. The relief to the Mess President and Secretary enabled them to enjoy a very merry evening. The excellent cake and cigarettes were also a god-send.
It is very cold here now, and many are sick. And the Colonel is not in a good temper. He has some one worrying him.
There is more news about us in the papers now. It amuses me the way our authorities pretend the Boche does not know all about us.
Our battery organised an officers’ jumping competition the other day open to all comers. It was won by one of our battery’s subalterns on a mare that won at Aldershot, and an Infantry Captain on his own hunter was second. My bay mare knocked her knee against the top bar of one of the jumps and now has a fat leg.
Some one said “If this is war, to hell with peace”. But I, being an Asquithian, replied “Wait and see.” The relief from Flanders inclines some of us to be unduly optimistic. I do not know which is worse to be drowned in mud or to be frozen to an icicle. Fighting is common to both places but here, at present, in a modified degree.
R.P. January 6 1918.
We are at present living in the midst of snow, and it is mighty cold. I had no idea the plains of Italy could be so cold, even in the north.
The Commander-in-Chief was to have inspected us yesterday, but as it snowed so hard he did not turn up. But the whole wretched battery turned out with the rest of the Brigade. The men and horses looked well, and it was a great pity he did not turn up.
I have lost two good horses this week owing to kicks, one with a broken leg and another with a fractured jaw. It is most unfortunate.
Leave from Italy has started, but at the rate it is going I may get my turn on the list within – don’t get excited – the next seven years!
I am glad to say that the Colonel has at last got a well earned and much too long delayed honour, a D.S.O. But unfortunately for him he is never very popular with the staff.
January 9 1918
Italian Expeditionary Force.
I have just been inoculated with a full dose of anti-typhoid, and ordered to bed in two hours time.
At the moment it is snowing hard, and this has ruined an inspection, which was to have taken place by General Plumer, who did not turn up. The battery looked better than I have ever seen it, so you can imagine how hard the limber gunners and drivers had worked. Even the Battery staff, often called the “Comics”, the signallers, director-men, range-takers, and such like turned up quite presentable.
The other day two of our subalterns, one we call Harry Tate and the other his “Idiot Boy”, were asked to dine with the R.A.M.C. Officers of the Italian Hospital here. They had quite a good dinner!! The day before one of our horses got its leg broken by a kick and had to be shot. I immediately received a request from the village butcher, who wanted to buy the carcase. I let him have it, and immediately the village shops were full of meat. He must have made a good profit. It appears that the Italian mess cook bought some of the delicacy, and our two officers had the unexpected pleasure of dining off one of their own battery wheelers! They said it was quite good. Thank goodness I did not go; but probably I have often eaten horse or mule unbeknownst in Italian restaurants. What a tragic end for a war horse, truly an economic one. He more than did his bit, he furnished one.
I may be able to get Italian leave soon. I much want to go to Rome and Naples. English leave has been opened; but at the rate it is going my turn will come in seven year’s time.
There is a good article in this month’s “Blackwood” called “The Brain of the Guns.” I do not know who “Anthony Price” is.
R.P. January 15 1918.
The “Times” is most welcome. Though they arrive in lumps they are none the less interesting to read for that.
The snow has turned to rain today, but it will freeze again tonight, so the roads will be slippery tomorrow.
Thank you for the book on Pompeii. I have already read about 200 pages. The Colonel has obtained special leave to England. Unfortunately I cannot get leave to England, but I hope to be going to Naples and Rome with two others on the 19th or 20th of this month.
We have been out all day in the rain, and have done very little good, so we have returned a little weary and ill tempered.
January 15 1918
We have come to the end of a perfect day. It has turned to a very cold rain now after heavy snow, and we have been out in it all day and have done no good. We are weary wet and not in the best of tempers.
The Colonel has gone away on special leave to England. Unfortunately I cannot get that, not being a colonel; but I hope to be going to Naples and Rome on the 19th or 20th. for a few days. Three of us are going together. I am trying to find time to read up something, and at present am wading through a tome on Pompeii, sent to me by my Father.
It is about time I had a few days off, I am getting a bit stale and off colour.
We have had great difficulty in keeping the horses on their feet in this weather. After today’s rain I suppose it will freeze again tonight and the roads will be horribly slippery tomorrow.
January 22 1918
The parcel of cigarettes, China tea, and cake arrived. The tea was much too good to be duly appreciated except by superior souls of whom our mess contains too few, so I invited Capt. Bell and Amour to tea to partake, and they together with the Doctor and myself thoroughly enjoyed a flavour rare on active service.
Our leave has been stopped for a few days, but we hope to go in three days. At the present moment we are on the trek again but it will not be for long.
The weather had changed and the frost and snow have gone. Today it was quite like spring, and instead of ice we have mud again.
Captain Bell is the man in “B” Battery, who is keen on history. He is extraordinarily ugly, very thin, and irresponsible – But most amusing and a delightful fellow. He wears an eyeglass on occasion, and does his hair in the Magdalen style. The other day I happened to be in a large town near here with Gilbey, O.C., B.A.C., and met him. Upon my enquiries as to what interesting places he had seen, he replied that he had just visited an enormous church, the largest he had ever seen, that it was full of the most beautiful statues of Madonnas, but that he had not the slightest idea where it was. From this information I gathered that, escaping from military restraint, he had lunched well but not wisely.
What do you think of Haig’s despatch? He appears to be annoyed with the Army Council and the French for altering his plans, and with the weather for hindering what he did attempt. The Boche has had all the luck this year. Russia has gone out for good; much good may it bring her! We may be able to do something this year, if only we can get the men. I am glad to see that Geddes has at last quite definitely put the alternative to the country: either the shirkers must be compelled, or else the fathers of families and leave stopped for us.
There is an officer here who irritates me intensely. He is a mannerless north-country liberal non-conformist of hypocritical habits, who worships his tin god, Lloyd George. He harangues us about “Democracy”, whatever that may mean. I asked him one night what he meant by the word, and to define it in an intelligible manner. He was annoyed. Why do such people get annoyed when asked such a question? I suggested that democracy meant running a battery by a commander appointed by a committee of drivers, (you should know what the mentality of the average driver is!) when no doubt he would be appointed, and a vote would be carried for no early morning stables and five bob an hour. Oh! he was angry. He is not liked by the men, and is very sore that he was not made a captain. He now sulks. The loss of his captaincy occurred in this way. I was appointed, and have been major for the last three months until the unexpected return of the original Major, Meuse, a few days ago, when I returned to the rank of captain and he to that of subaltern. He rebelled for a long time, and refused to take his “pips” down. This will explain what will appear in the Gazette shortly, my appointment as Battery Commander; but it will be followed later by a notice terminating it.
January 22 1918
The weather has completely changed, and instead of frost and snow it was quite like spring today.
We are on the move again.
Haig seems to be a bit rattled. From his despatch he seems to be very angry with the Army Council and the French for altering his plans, and certainly the weather was a bit trying.
For the past four months I have been a Battery Commander and acting major, but the original B.C. has unexpectedly returned from England a few days ago. Fearing that I should probably lose the battery I had not told you of my promotion. This will explain to you what you will see in the Gazette in a few days, but this will be followed by a cancellation. “C’est la guerre!
R.P. Post Cards.
January 30, 1918. Naples. We have done Pompeii and Vesuvius.
February 2, 1918. Rome. Today we visited the Coliseum and other places in the vicinity.
Jan 30 1918.
The weather is glorious. We have had a day in Naples, one in Pompeii, and one on Vesuvius. (CP)
Fourth Army No G.S. 221
Précis of Lessons learnt from the experiences of a Division in the Cambrai Operations.
30th November to 6th December 1917.
To be returned to Major W.C. Green.
The following extracts from the report of the 2nd Division on the Cambrai operations of the 30th November and subsequent days, during which the enemy made a determined attempt in great strength to break the British line between the villages of Moeuvres and Bourlon, are reproduced as an excellent example of how a successful defensive battle should be conducted:-
The Army Commander directs special attention to the following points which stand out as the chief factors in inflicting extremely heavy losses on the enemy and enabling the 2nd Division to hold their line secure against repeated assaults made by the enemy in very great strength –
No small credit is due to the Divisional Artillery for the promptness with which the barrage was imposed in answer to the “S.O.S.” signal and the continuous volume of accurate fire which was maintained without intermission during critical periods. Circumstances were difficult, but the artillery observation was good, and in several instances gunners were firing over the sights; but it was the whole-hearted co-operation of all arms in the one purpose of annihilating the attack which contributed more than anything else to the complete success of the defence.
The following extracts are taken from the official report of the 2nd Division:-
Great stress had been laid during the training on the constant practice of rapid fire. This was well repaid.
It would be beneficial to have opportunities of practice at longer ranges than are usually available. A 400 yards’ range is not often met with.
The difficulty of rapid movement and traversing of Stokes’ mortars was overcome by the firer steadying the gun between his legs without any platform.
This method had been previously practiced, and was attended with success, the extra mobility obtained and greater traversing power being marked.
The subsequent story is one so brimful of heroism that it deserves to take its place in English History for all time, and to be a proud day in the lives of all those splendid British soldiers who by their single-hearted devotion to duty saved what would have been undoubtedly a catastrophe had they given way.
On the morning of the 30th the Divisional front was held by the 99th Infantry Brigade on the right, with the 1st R. Berks (right), 17th R. Fus (centre), and 1st K.R.R.C. (left) and the 6th Infantry Brigade on the left, with 2nd S. Staffs (right), 13th Essex (centre), 17th Middlesex (left). About 9.0 a.m. the enemy attacked in great strength all along the Divisional front, the brunt of the first attack falling on the 1st R. Berks, 17th R. Fus, and 13th Essex Regiment.
“Of the heroism of the rearguard it is difficult to speak. Captain Stone and Lieutenant Benzecry, although ordered to withdraw to the main line, elected to remain with the rearguard. The rearguard was soon fighting with bayonet, bullet and bomb to the last. There was no survivor. Captain Stone, by his invaluable information as to the movements of the enemy prior to the attack and his subsequent sacrifice with the rearguard, saved the situation at the cost of his life. Lieutenant Benzecry was seen to be wounded in the head. He continued to fight until he was killed.”
On the left the 1st K.R.R.C. were attacked at the same time, but owing to the intense volume of rifle, Lewis gun, and machine-gun fire that was produced, the enemy were literally mown down, and never got nearer than 200 – 300 yards from the front line. Those who crept forward were disposed of by snipers and Lewis guns.
About 11.30 a.m, the enemy again attacked all along the line, and although at one point they gained a temporary success, they were hurled back with great slaughter, giving favourable targets at 50 to 200 yards range.
At 2.30 p.m. large masses of the enemy again attacked the 1st R. Berks. Regt.
On the left their attack was driven off with heavy loss by machine-gun, Lewis gun, and rifle fire, but on the right the enemy forced back the Brigade on the right of the Division, and captured the three extreme right posts, the garrisons of which fell fighting to the last, and there was such a heap of German dead in and around these posts that after the line had been restored (2nd December) it was impossible to find the bodies of our men.
The other five posts on the right stood firm and repulsed all enemy attacks, until reinforcements restored the situation and drove the enemy back behind the Ridge.
Too much praise cannot be given to this splendid company of the 1st R. Berks Regt and its commander, Lieutenant Valentine, for their valour and steadfastness in this most critical time, extending over some six hours. They met attack after attack of the enemy, who were always in vastly superior numbers, and who came on right up to them time after time, only to be mown down and retire in disorder. The casualties in this company were 46 all ranks and a Lewis gun, but they never flinched. They claim to have killed over 500 of the enemy, and it is believed that this is no exaggeration.
Two more attacks were made against the 17th R. Fusiliers during the afternoon.
By the end of the day the line stood practically intact, with the exception of one or two points at which the enemy had occupied our position.
During the day the work done by the machine-guns was of inestimable value; in some places where their positions enfiladed the enemy’s attacking lines, the execution done was tremendous. Guns continued in action after they had been completely cut off, holding out until eventually the enemy were driven back.
A.A. MONTGOMERY, Major-General
General Staff, Fourth Army.
31st January 1918
Field Survey Coy., R.E. 8210 31-1-18
Reprinted by Gale & Polden Ltd, Aldershot, for the use of the Senior Officers’ School, Aldershot.
Somewhere in France
My Dear Brother Sid,
Just a few lines hoping they will find you quite well as it leaves me A1.
I am sorry I cannot give you any address yet but hope to in my next letter, but don’t worry I am alright. I am enjoying myself fairly well up at this camp, we have plenty of sport and concerts and jolly good concerts too.
I see by the papers that some of you fellows will soon have to move I do hope they let you alone, they certainly ought to.
Just remember me to the “girl”. Ha Ha.
Dear Sid, you know I cannot write much, so of course it means very short letters not like the “Blighty” ones. Ha Ha.
I will write again as soon as I get the address.
Well Dear Sid, just cheer Mother up when you go home. “Don’t forget”
I haven’t anything else to say. So I will pack up hoping this letter finds in the best of health.
Goodbye Best Love
Your Loving Brother
205166 Rifn F.W. Springett
With cover to Mr S.K. Springett, 29 Bath Road Dartford Kent
Postmarked A.P.O. Rest unreadable. Passed by Censor 5321
AMERICAN COMMITTEE OF ENGINEERS IN LONDON
CONCERNING THE COMMITTEE REPORT ON “GERMANY’S IRON INDUSTRY AND THE WAR” DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM OF AN AIR OFFENSIVE.
F.W. Lanchester, M. Inst. C.E.
In the main Report and Dossier prepared by Mr. H.A. Titcomb, which has been submitted to me, the enemy resources in coal and iron have been subjected to careful analysis; a list of iron mines is given with output of ore, so far as known, and the location and relative importance of his iron works from which he derives almost the whole of his material for munition manufacture have been analysed as to years output, relative importance, etc., and the position of every iron works of importance has been located and marked on a number of maps; in many cases photographs and large scale plans are given.
The object of the present Memorandum is to deal with the problem of dislocating his supplies by the employment to bombing aeroplanes. This Memorandum is to be regarded as a preliminary attack on the problem – an endeavour, in the first place, Part I, to lay down the objective which can be most economically made the subject of attack, that is to say, economically from the point of view of obtaining the greatest crippling effect on the enemy with bombs, etc., and, in the second place, Part II, to find a basis for the assessment of the force of aeroplanes and establishment necessary.
As the present Memorandum is intended to be in no degree final or exhaustive, arguments are put in their briefest possible form for the consideration of the Committee, and the estimate of numbers of aeroplanes, etc., may be taken as purely tentative and not based on the fullest information which may be available when actual dispositions come to be taken. The further data which will be required in order to prepare a final Report I am of opinion exist, but on such points as probable losses involved in raiding enemy country, and such further questions as the efficiency factor representing the number of machines necessary for each machine maintained in daily commission, are matters on which the Military Authorities alone can give reliable opinion, since much of the existing data is in their hands and is confidential.
The first point I will discuss is the best objective. Firstly, I agree with Mr. H.A. Titcomb that to attack the sources of the enemy’s coal supply would be far less effective than to attack the sources of his iron supply.
Since pig iron is the basis of all steel manufacture the problem, therefore, is to destroy his capacity for producing pig iron by whatever means promises the most rapid and complete success.
The two main weak points in the manufacture of pig iron, as vulnerable to the bombing aeroplane, are unquestionably:-
Firstly, I will say that the weight of effort should be directed against the one or the other and not against both, for if we could smash half of his iron smelting works to the extent of putting out of action half of his blast furnaces, his production of iron ore would be a matter of indifference to us – his output of pig would be reduced to one half. If, on the other hand, our effort were divided between mines and iron works, diminishing, say, the capacity of each by 25% then his capacity for producing pig iron would only be reduced in about the same ratio. In other words, once a “bottle-neck” can be made at any point in his production it pays to exert every effort of strangulation at the “bottle-neck” to restrict production still further and not to act in some other place.
Now if we attack his mines and diminish the output of ore, he can replace his loss of ore to some extent by importations from Sweden. But even if the resources of Sweden are already taxed to their limit, he has considerable stocks of ore which doubtless would enable his blast furnaces to continue for some time before our action becomes effective as diminishing his supply of pig. Beyond this the raising of ore hinges on the question of labour supply, and it is reasonable to believe that his present limit is quite as much due to labour shortage as to the number and ultimate capacity of the pits, consequently, a great many pits would have to be put out of action before his supplies would even begin to show a falling off.
On the other hand, to bomb the iron works in any vital part might, and probably would, result in the blast furnaces “freezing” and in spite of any efforts he might make there would be a stoppage for at least three or four months; also the cessation of output would be immediate.
Beyond the above, an iron works is vulnerable in so many different parts, namely – the power house, the blowing engines, the hot blast stoves or regenerators, the gas washing plant, the water cooling systems and the blast furnaces themselves, besides quantities of piping, railway track, etc. The working of an iron works is as dependent one part on another as the parts of a geared mechanism, and a bomb dropping into any of the vital parts would be as fatal as a bullet through the mechanism of an eight-day-clock.
From the point of view of difficulty or distance there is very little to choose between the main shaft works and the iron works, except that the latter are, if anything, more conspicuous and less numerous, i.e., individually more important and of a larger vulnerable area.
I conclude, therefore, that the iron works should be made the subject of the attack.
From the main Report it appears that there are four districts within raiding distance from the Western Front, the complete output of which represents 83% of the total pig iron smelted in Germany;
The approximate particulars tabulated from the Report (see Dossier p.p. 2, 38 and 40) are as follows:-
|District||Nearest Point||No. of iron works||Approx. radius in miles||Percentage of Germany’s output for 1916|
|1. Annexed Lorraine||Nancy or Verdun||22||50||30|
|4. Westphalia||Nancy or Belgium||18||200||43|
Inspections of the various plans given in the main Report reveals the fact that a large iron works commonly covers a compact site of 150 acres or thereabouts, of which the more vulnerable or dangerous portion constitutes about 10 per cent, say 15 acres. This 15 acre area can be regarded as the target and its position can be located without difficulty from the fact that it includes blast furnaces (commonly arranged in rows) and the hot blast stoves, which are no less conspicuous and which form a corresponding row or number of groups. These conspicuous landmarks are not always located within the target in the same manner, but this fact presents no difficulty, as the anatomy of each works can be studied from its plan. Plans can of course be verified by air reconnaissance and photography, and thus any extensions and alterations can be taken account of.
Within the target aforesaid, commonly representing an area of 15 acres, there are certain objectives, such as the blowing engines and power-plant houses, the gas washing plant, the pumping machinery, etc., in addition to the system of piping, which consists of some miles or more of pipes and conduits from one to ten feet in diameter, any of which, seriously damaged, will stop the whole works. Such items represent within the 15 acre danger area, or target, about ten per cent of the total or commonly 1 – ½ acres.
I shall take, for the purpose of this Memorandum, that as an average figure the accuracy of bomb-sighting will be fairly represented by assuming that all bombs would be dropped with equality of distribution within a circle of a quarter of a mile diameter, whose centre is the objective, or bulls-eye. Such a circle, viewed from 12,000 feet represents a contained angle of 6O. This does not actually mean that in bombing practice a bomb will never fall outside such a circle, but rather that the density of the “pattern” in the central portion of the circle would correspond to an equal distribution of the total number of bombs over the area stated.
The area of a circle a quarter of a mile diameter is about 32 acres And if, to be on the safe side and to allow for some of the iron works not being as large as those which the figures given in the preceding paragraph were based, we take one acre as the vital area, we reach the result that 1/232 of the total charge dropped will be effective. I have credited nothing here for the fact that beyond the vital area there is also the area, ten times as large, which I have described as dangerous. A lucky bomb on this dangerous area might easily incapacitate or destroy individual furnaces or hot blast stoves thus, crippling the output of the works to a serious extent. However, it is well to leave something in reserve to be on the safe side.
Beyond this there is hardly a point in the whole iron works at which a large bomb would not do material damage and justify itself by tearing up tracts, damaging rolling stock, wrecking roofs and so forth. The factor 1/32 therefore may be looked upon as conservative, even sufficiently so to allow for a certain demoralisation of aim due to anti-aircraft fire, etc. However, it is easy to over-estimate the effect of a bomb. A large bomb might conceivably drop even in the vital area and not actually incapacitate a single machine. It is almost inconceivable that such a thing should be possible, but it is well to allow for it. I have, therefore, taken the factor for the latter purpose of the present Memorandum as half the above, namely 1/64. On the other hand I am definitely assuming that on this reduced basis the bombing is absolutely effective and that the consequence would be those of a “freeze-up” of the blast furnaces and a stoppage, either wholly or partial, for a period of two or three months.* * Compare foot note page 7 [5 below]
To put the matter definitely, the assumption is that the bomb contents of one raiding aeroplane, which we may assume to be a single bomb of 600 or 700 lbs, or an equal weight of lesser bombs, would, if delivered to the area described as vital, put the whole works out of action for a period of two or three months, assuming the charge to take effect; and that the further assumption is that on average once in 64 times this would be the case. I do not think the fairness of this estimate can be challenged on the basis of the data given.
We may represent the above statement in a ready form by laying it down that to maintain an iron works “out of commission”, in other words, to entirely stop its output, it will be necessary to make sufficient provision to raid it at the rate of one aeroplane per diem. In practice this would of course mean that it would be raided by massed squadrons, possibly once every 2 or 3 months to the extent of fifty to a hundred machines (See note *). It would be reconnoitered and kept under air observation from time to time to ascertain whether the bombing had been effective and would be raided on a large scale as often as necessary. The basis of one machine per iron works per diem however gives, on the data, calculations and allowances aforesaid, a measure of the establishment required.
Referring back to the table given, it will be noted that in cases 1 and 2 the distances to be flown are well under a hundred miles, that is to say, two hundred miles out and home, whereas in the cases 3 and 4 the distance is twice as great. As it is not always expedient to fly on the most direct course and the point of departure (aerodrome) has to be some distance back, it would be assumed that for cases 1 and 2 two hours flying is necessary and for cases 3 and 4 that four or five hours flying is necessary. Parenthetically it may be remarked that this suggests that two types of machines will be desirable, one for the shorter distance work and one for the long distance work; also that these machines will be wanted in about equal quantity, the total number of works in the two groups being 27 and 21 respectively.
Taking first the short distance group, in which there are 27 works, we shall require 27 aeroplane journeys to be made per diem on an average, and if we take four hours flying as a day’s work we have two journeys each, or, say, 14 machines required in constant service.
Taking the second group we have 21 works, and we shall require 21 machines, since the distance will only permit of one journey per diem, the total number, therefore, of machines in constant service will require to be 35.
It is for the Military Authorities, or those that have adequate experience of raiding work to state what this means in the total flying machines necessary. I am inclined myself to think that in order to maintain a daily performance the total bombing force would have to be several times as great numerically as the number required to be on duty. As a figure to form a basis of discussion I will take this factor to be five times, which will mean a total of 175 machines. This will allow an average of four days for refit and repair to each machine after a day’s work. In some cases doubtless, machines can be “gone through” and put into flying order in a few hours; in other cases the condition may be such as to require a fortnight or more in the repair shop. In taking the above factor I am assuming that each machine is provided with the usual complement of spare engines and parts and that adequate general stores are carried. If the above allowance appears more than adequate it is to be remembered that the enemy will do everything in his power to protect works which are of vital importance to his existence and to the continuing of the war, and existing experience cannot altogether be taken as a precedent; there will be a great measure of resistance which will have to be encountered and overcome.
These same considerations have equal weight, both as to loss of machines and loss of personnel. We commonly hear at present of raids being executed in which all the machines return safely; we cannot hope for anything so favourable when the work contemplated is taken seriously in hand. I am inclined, as a basis of discussion, to allow for 10% loss of machines on every raid. Since the raids contemplated on the above basis amount numerically to 48 out and home flights per diem, we must allow for five machines destroyed per diem by anti-aircraft fire and by defending fighting squadrons. This means that the manufacturing resources to support the establishment will require to supply 35 aeroplanes per week; this we may fairly assume divided in equal quantities between short and long distance machines. It will be well to allow for 20 of each type per week.
Likewise as to the loss of men either killed or taken prisoner, this would correspond with the losses of the machines and it would be necessary to provide for the training of men at the necessary rate for the special duty, namely, in the geography of the district and the character of their objectives and targets, beyond the ordinary training.
I believe that on the basis of equipment given and on the policy of execution, as above outlined, it would be possible in a very short time to so cripple the iron works in the districts in question that their output, if not reduced to zero, will become almost negligible. Also, by supporting the bombing aeroplanes by fighting squadrons and by the usual tactical jiu-jitsu in the matter of feint and surprise attacks, it would be possible to maintain a service constantly in the face of anything that the enemy could do, the raids being mainly conducted by daylight, but by no means excluding night attacks led by men who have had the necessary experience and aided by guiding lights.
It is necessary to emphasise the fact, which has already been clearly demonstrated by the main Report and is more than admitted by the writings of the German Authorities themselves, if Germany can be deprived of half of her output of pig iron the war could not last many months. (Compare Report Appendix E. page 39). I believe the statement to be in no sense exaggerated and its achievement to be within the reach of our potential resources.