Wednesday, 29 August 2018

BAPAUME - the meat grinder

Having resisted Operation Michael, the German Spring Offensive, the Allied armies entered a phase of the war which is now referred to as "the 100 days' offensive." (August 8 to November 11)  The German army had thrown is last dice with is offensive and were now desperately resisting the advancing Allies.

Bapaume is a small French town which was taken in the initial German advance of 1914.  It was retaken by the British army in 1917 and lost again in the Spring Offensive.  The town had been partially destroyed by artillery fire over the years of war, and the Germans had had plenty of time to fortify it and also place booby traps for occupying forces.

The Allied plan for the taking of Bapaume took this into account, attempting to surround it and avoid deadly and time-consuming house-to-house fighting. They had the technical and tactical advantage of armoured forces for the open country around the town. But the envelopment strategy using tanks didn't work.  Bapaume was taken, but the cost was high.

(From Captain Malcolm Ross, Official War Correspondent with the New Zealand Forces in the Field.) August 19. For some few days now, apparently in conformation with what may mean a more general scheme of retirement to a shorter and more easily defended line, the enemy has been gradually falling back opposite our sector. The first indications of this retirement were noted on the morning of the 14th, when, everything being extraordinarily quiet, patrols were pushed out at 5 o’clock. The enemy artillery was below normal, smoke was rising from certain localities in the enemy territory, while the German aircraft were inactive and showed no disposition to cross our lines. During the previous day a few of the enemy were seen going and coming in unusual places, and some stretcher cases wore carried away from a dug-out, but there were no signs of retirement. On the 14th, however, our patrols were soon pushing out towards the Puisieux-Serre ridge. Occasionally an enemy machine-gun opposed our advance on the right flank, but invariably after a few minutes’ firing it was withdrawn, and our patrols pushed on at the heels of the enemy. By nightfall, Canterbury and Otago troops had advanced the fighting to a line along the Serre-Puisieux road. They had killed and wounded several of the enemy, and were able to send back forty prisoners. On our left the Wellington troops found the enemy resisting more strongly, and progress was more difficult. Six prisoners were captured. Early in the morning we had occupied a system of trenches a thousand yards to the south of Puisieux. 
At dawn on the 15th two companies of the enemy had reoccupied a sunken road to the north of the village, but were engaged by Otago troops, who inflicted casualties, captured four prisoners, and advanced the line another eight hundred yards. During the day the enemy moving back were fired on, and machine-guns were silenced by our artillery. During the night a harassing fire was directed on the enemy communications, while trench mortars, moving forward with our infantry, gave covering fire. The aircraft gave timely assistance with special patrols, and brought back early reports of the location of the enemy. Progress on our left was slower, owing to the high ground not being in our possession. The enemy guns were evidently shooting at extreme ranges. They shelled the ruins of Serre village, and put down barrages with the evident intention of hindering our advance. Machine-guns in pockets gave considerable trouble to our advancing patrols, and in most cases held on till the last moment to delay the advance. The enemy was holding his front line with outposts, in which were eight men with one machine-gun, well in front of the main line of resistance, which contained the remainder of his forward battalion, the support battalion of each regiment being a long way further back. The enemy patrols had orders to beat off our patrols, but to fall back fighting if strongly attacked. In nearly every case his patrols gave way at once to a show of determined pressure. 
At dawn, on the 16th, the enemy attacked to reoccupy some trenches south of Puisieux, but the attackers were wiped out by the New Zealanders. Ten prisoners, including an officer, were captured, and the remainder killed. Two machine-guns were secured. The enemy shelled spasmodically our whole area, but with extraordinarily little effect, except at one place. In cleaning up a pocket that had been delaying the advance on the left, eighteen prisoners and two machine-guns were captured. At 5 o’clock on the morning of the 18th the enemy attacked the Otago’s front with four sections of a storm battalion and a party of the 418th Infantry Regiment, about a hundred men in all, the objective being a sunken road south of Puisieux, and their object the straightening of their line there. The enemy began with an intense bombardment on the front-line area, and infantry attack followed. On the right and centre of the front an Otago company pushed forward Lewis guns,'to bring flanking fire to bear on the enemy, and heavy rifle and Lewis gun fire was poured into the advancing Germans. This broke up the attack. A lieutenant then led his men forward to mop up what remained of the enemy, and captured eleven prisoners and eleven machine-guns. A small patrol then pushed through the village and killed six Germans. Later another patrol, pushing down a shallow valley counted German officers and twenty-five other ranks dead. Enemy orders for this attack appear to have been very indefinite, which fact no doubt contributed largely to its failure.
LONDON, August 23. Mr. Nevison states that Thursday’s attack was carried out by a part of General Byng’s Third Army in the northern seemr, ana part or General Itawnnson's fourth Army in tile southern sector. It is now permitted to mention that the New Zeaianders held a distinguished place in tne Third Army and the Australians in the Fourth. Doth these during the last two or three days maintained their remarkable reputation lor the qualities which count in war. There is hardly anything to choose between them. At the same time, we must not forget the silent and stolid battalions of the old British counties. The Australian staff officers repeatedly praised a brigade of a certain British division. They did extraordinarily well. Praise from such a quarter is weighty and valuable. 
NEW YORK, August 22. The New York “Tribune,” commenting on the British offensive, states that Field Marshal Haig’s new offensive is plainly counterpart of his late brilliant drive further south. The new drive began in a fog, and what has been accomplished is not yet fully reported. 
General Byng is moving with characteristic speed in the direction of Bapaume. 
General Foch’s plan is evidently to keep the Germans moving, and not allow them time to select winter quarters. The New York “Tribune,” commenting on the British offensive, says that General Byng has had a chance to come back at the Germans. He was unable to repeat his first day’s success at Cambrai, but nevertheless he shook the German line at a critical point, making more than ever likely a German retreat. 
LONDON, August 23. Six thousand prisoners have been taken in three days during the course of the British advance. They include upwards of a thousand taken before noon to-day. also a thousand on Thursday. Southward of the Somme the Germans were surprised at many points. In the latter regions Sir Douglas Haig quickly secured the high ground in the south, including the towns of Cruignes, Helebille and Chuigmoles. The Germans elsewhere were only overpowered after fierce fighting. The British lines now reach Soyelles, Ilanslmcourt, and Comiscourt. There many men were captured in the first rush. A bitter battle preceded,the capture of Albert, Before victory was achieved it was necessary to wipe cut a multitude of machine guns replacements, formed by the wreckage of a house and the famous church wherefrom the figures of the Madonna and Child were hung suspended for a long time, and which is now a striking monument of the Huns’ destructiveness. A sight which greeted the Tommies when pouring in on Thursday, was the church levelled to the height of the other ruins round about. The Germans tenaciously clung to the position, which had cost so much to attain, and which was only given up after the dead littered the broken piles of brick and stone throughout the city. The prisoners taken here numbered 750, including a battalion Commander and his staff. The city was attacked on two sides, while the brief haze of the morning lasted. The infantry crossed the Ancre southward and took up a position at the rear of the city. Then the forces holding the railway on the western edge, poured out, striking the town frontally. Shortly after ten, the desperate resistance ended. The divisions further south were able to use tanks advantageously, working up an exposed slope to take the measure of, and after severe fighting, pushing the Germans out of the so-called “Happy Valley.” Meanwhile the British carried their new line around northward of Bray, taking Hvo hundred prisoners, bringing the total for the first ten hours to fifteen hundred. There was furious fighting elsewhere. Bauregard and Dovecote changed hands five times. BRITISH FLANK EXPOSED. EXTENSIVE GAS ATTACK. LONDON, August 23. Mr. Nevinson said that prisoners taken at Wood declare that their part of the German army was in good condition and well fed, but there was a great shortage of first lieutenants. That gives an indication of the drainage of Germany’s best young blood. There was some opposition at Ablainzeville, Bucquoy, and Achiet le Petit, but hardly any at Prusleux. A division attacking Achiet le Grand did not quite succeed in taking it. The enemy till the afternoon held the railway cutting southward of the town. This is unfortunate, because the line covers it westward and threatens to expose our right flank. We put down a barrage here at midday to-day, preparatory to an assault. We filled the ruins of the L ies across the railway and Miramont with gas. The latter was not directly attacked. No one would now wish to enter that once admired place- The heaviest fighting on Wednesday and Wednesday night and Thursday was in the neighbourhood of Serre and Dovecote. Our forward battery at Serre was-heavily gassed to-dav. Counter attacks, including one by fresh divisions from Morris, failed. Our aeroplanes have done great service bombing transport and communications. They pursued and destroyed a train.
To-nigut, if you feel dull and stupid, or bilious r.nd constipated, take a dose of Chamberlain's Tablets and yon will feel all right to-morrow. Sold by Kettle Bros., Oroyrnonth.—Advt.


The newspaper reports on the fight for Bapaume were full of descriptions of the glorious part played by New Zealand troops.  However, by this stage of the war, the families of those troops knew what lay behind the glory.  Soon the newspapers would contain the lists of dead and wounded, to be scanned with nervous eyes for the name of a loved one.  Or ignored by the eyes which had read "the telegram" from the New Zealand government.  The price of glory at Bapaume for the families of all the soldiers there was a high one.

DECEIVERS DEALT WITH. [From Malcolm Ross, N.Z. official correspondent.] FRANCE, Sept. 2. The New Zealanders attacked the enemy again this morning; on the front at Haplincourt, four miles east of Bapaume, South Island troops being engaged. The Otago Regiment bore the brunt of the fighting. One company of Otagos found themselves against superior numbers of the enemy, who had crept forward during the night and evaded most of the barrage. They were in force at some of our old huts at the cross roads, and as our men advanced they were met with heavy machine gun fire, and later had to bear the brunt of shrapnel and high explosives. Fortunately only one company was exposed to this fire. Naturally they did not make much progress.
In the afternoon, at one o'clock, the New Zealand gunners put down a heavy barrage. The Otago Regiment, renewing the attack, went forward with grim determination, and finished the day's work in brilliant style. They got right on to the enemy, who was clustered in large numbers on a sunken road. They inflicted severe casualties. The sunken road was littered with German dead. 
Immediately afterwards the Otagos pushed on, and had the satisfaction of capturing 120 prisoners. These were a very mixed lot, and included several of new Prussian divisions, who had recently arrived from Flanders, and have already suffered heavy casualties. 
An English division on our right attacked at the same time, and captured the village of Villers-au-Floss, a little over a mile south-west of Haplincourt, taking many prisoners. 
Canterbury troops were also in this fight, but they had not such heavy fighting. Their casualties were light. In the morning's fighting one lot of the enemy put up their hands in token of surrender, but immediately went back and turned their machine guns upon the Otagos. They were promptly dealt with. During the past month we have captured 28 guns, including some 8 inch howitzers, 260 machine guns, some wagons, much ammunition, many rifles, and a great deal of equipment, trench mortars, and some minenwerfer. The ground recently won from the enemy is littered with German equipment, and at the railway sidings they have left behind large quantities of engineering stores. 
September 3. The troops, who wound up the day brilliantly, added another 120 prisoners to their tally during the night. This morning Haplineourt is in their hands, and their patrols are now pushing forward near Bertincourt, 8000 yards ahead.  -Northern Advocate, 9/3/1918

Here are those killed at Bapaume whose memorials and details I have been able to find.

58720 Rifleman Thomas Anderson  16/11/1894-26/8/1918.

Yet another of our district's boys to make the supreme sacrifice — Private Thomas Anderson of Poolburn. The list keeps growing adding to the debt which the Empire owes to those fine young lives, given freely in its service.  -Alexandra Herald, 11/9/1918.
News came to hand a few days ago of the loss of another of our Ida Valley boys at the front — viz., Thomas Anderson, second son of Mr and Mrs T. Anderson. Much sympathy is felt for the bereaved parents. Their other son is also reported wounded. Ida Valley has had its full share of losses.  -Alexandra Herald, 25/9/1918.

69048 Private Ernest Athfield  26/5/1882-26/8/1918.

Flags were half-mast to-day at Port Chalmers, news having come that Ernest Athfield had been killed in action at the front. This family have a particularly fine record of sacrifice for King and country during this war. Ernest left for the front only a few months ago. His brother David was previously killed in action. Another brother, Alexander, has been wounded several times, and still another brother, Albert (who is married) is now on his way to the front. Ernest Athfield was a leading oarsman at the Port before the war, and he and his brothers were highly respected at Port Chalmers.  -Evening Star, 5/9/1918.

49320 Private John E Barry 6/3/1891-26/8/1918.

John Edward Barry does not feature in the newspapers beyond the casualty lists.  here are some details form his army record - he was Catholic, a boilermaker working for Stevenson and Cook and living with his mother in Cargill Street, Dunedin.

He joined up in early 1917 and left New Zealand in the middle of that year.  He spent three days in the ship's hospital on the way over the the UK, under observation for VD - "result nil."  Arriving in France, he spent more time in hospital with influenza.  He was with the 1st Battalion of the Otago Regiment and died at Bapaume.  He was married to Elizabeth from Orepuki, on the south coast of the South Island.  Elizabeth and his parents, Mary and John, were left with his medals, his personal effects, 

29914 Rifleman John Young Cook  15/2/1882-30/8/1918.

Rifleman John Young Cook, who went into camp with the 18th Reinforcements in 19115, was killed in action on August 30. Rifleman Cook was born at Palmerston South, and was educated at the Mokoreta school. He took a lively interest in the affairs of Wyndham, in which district he was a farmer, and I was for a period secretary of the Wyndham branch of the Farmers’ Union. He was also a director and chairman, for a term, of the Wybndham Dairy Factory Company. He was a keen member of the Murihiku Mounted Rifles, and belonged to the Foresters’ Lodge and to the A. and P. Society at Wyndham. Rifleman Cook was a brother of Mr D Cook, East Gore, and another brother, Private Wm. Cook, was killed two years ago.

Balclutha Cemetery.

57317 Lieutenant George Marshall Don 17/4/1884-25/8/1918

Mr Jas. Don, of Windsor, has received word that his second son, Lieutenant George Marshall Don, died of wounds on August 25th. The late lieutenant was a member of the 33rd Reinforcements, and had seen tour months' service in France. Prior to going into camp he was engaged in. farming in the Tapui district. He was educated in the Ngapara and Waitaki Boys' High Schools. When seventeen he enlisted in the Sixth South African Contingent, and went as far as Christchurch, where he was rejected on account of his height. Some time later he paid his own passage to Sydney and joined the Second Scottish Horse, then being recruited in Australia by the Marquis of Tullibardine. On peace being declared he joined the Maxim gun detachment of the Natal Border Police, and served a year with them. Returning to New Zealand he took up farm work again. He was connected with the Volunteers in this district for many years, and was a sergeant instructor in the Territorial Forces for some time, being stationed at Mosgiel. Shortly after leaving this, he gained his commission in the 5th Otago Mounted Rifles. Another brother, James, made the supreme sacrifice on November 24th last year, while Alec was severely wounded last January and is expected to go back to France any time now.  -Oamaru Mail, 3/9/1918.
Oamaru Old Cemetery.

61280 Private Robert James Harris  12/5/1880-26/8/1918.


Private Robert James Harris (killed) in action) was the second son of Mr J. J. Harris, of Beaumont. He was born and educated in Roxburgh, and served his time at blacksmithg. After being employed at his trade, in various parts of Otago and Canterbury, he joined his brother (J. C. Harris) in a largoe orchard four years ago at Otiake. Of a kindly disposition, he gained the respect and appreciation of all who knew him. -Otago Witness, 25/9/1918.

Old Cemetery, Roxburgh.

40323 Private Francis Hurley 10/1/1888-1/9/1918.


Word has been received by Mr and Mrs Hurley, of 88 Liverpool street, Wanganui, of the death of their seventh son. Corpora! Francis Hurley, died of wounds in France, on 1st September. Mrs E. G. Cox, of 92 Glasgow Street, has received advice that her son, Rifleman Leslie S. Cox, who left with the 34th Reinforcement and was since transferred to the N.Z. Rifle Brigade, has been wounded in France and admitted to hospital August 30th. He has an elder brother still in the firing line.

In New Zealand's Roll of Honour in last week's Free Lance the photos of three soldier boys of the patriotic Wanganui family of Hurley were given, but the statement, "Killed in action," it now appears is not applicable to Trooper Arthur Hurley and Private Dan Hurley. They have both happily survived the war; Corporal Francis Hurley has not been so fortunate. He died of his wounds. Will our good friends in sending us photos of their soldier boys kindly write on the back thereof their names, place to which they belonged in enlisting, and whether they died of wounds or were killed in action? It will prevent mistakes being made.  -Free Lance, 28/11/1918.

Whanganui Cemetery.

46744 Corporal Leonard Lowden 5/3/1893-25/8/1918.


Corporal Leonard J.Lowden, killed in action in France, on August 25, was the only son of Mr and Mrs J. Lowden, of Christchurch. He was born in 1893, and educated at the Mornington School and Otago Boys’ High School, where he gained Junior and Senior scholarships, matriculating and taking the eleventh place on the list of candidates in the 1909 Civil Service examinations. Prior to enlistment he was chief clerk in the Dunedin branch of the London and Lancashire Fire Insurance Company. He left New Zealand as a private with the Twenty-fifth Reinforcements and was transferred to the Lewis gun section while on active service. Before leaving New Zealand he was married to a daughter of the late Mr O. E. Thompson, of Dunedin.

Andersons Bay Cemetery, Allan Steel photo.

8/1793 Sergeant Walter Macmillan 15/4/1894-25/8/1918.



Last Thursday brought with it some of the grim realities of warfare in the notification of the deaths of two young men who enlisted from Kaitangata.  Sergeant Walter A McMillan, second son of  Mr and Mrs Alexander McMillan who has been killed in action, left New Zealand with the 6th reinforcements and saw a good deal of service on the Peninsula before embarking for France where he was wounded and went into hospital. Upon his recovery he was again sent forward to rejoin his company. Walter was a fine young man of 24 years of age, and was born at Kaitangata, where he received his education and later commenced work in the local coal mines. His disposition was ever of the genial, good-natured kind which won the respect of all with whom he came in contact.
-Clutha Leader, 7/9/1918

The parents of the late Sergeant Walter A. McMillan (killed in action) are in receipt of a letter from their son, Private Jack McMillan, stating that his brother was presented with his military medal on the morning of his death, just prior to his going into action.  Walter had to present himself later for examination for a commission. Jack states that he was present at the funeral of his brother.  -Clutha Leader, 22/10/1918.
Kaitangata Cemetery

39295 Private Hector McNeill  4/3/1893-3/9/1918.

Hector McNeill left New Zealand for the war in February of 1917.  With the 2nd Battalion of the Otago Infantry Regiment, he was at Bapaume and wounded on Septmber 2nd.  He is recorded as having his right leg amputated due to a bullet wound on that day and dying on the third.

With thanks to Nat Wilson.

27548 Private James Michie 3/10/1880-26/8/1918.

I have been unable to find details from contemporary newspapers on James Michie.  These are from his military record.

He worked as a labourer for Speight's Brewery in Dunedin when he joined the army - his unit was the Otago Infantry Regiment.  He left New Zealand at the end of 1916.  He spent some time sick in hospital in early 1918 and rejoined the Otagos in time for the Battle of Bapaume.

53282 Private John Taylor 17/2/1877-26/8/1918.


Mr Thos. Taylor, manager of the National Bank for many years, received word on Friday from the Defence Office that his eldest son, Private John Taylor, was wounded on 26th August. He is unable to ascertain anything further so far. Prior to leaving for the front, Private Taylor, better known as "Toiler,” was accountant of the National Bank, Invercargill. He was a highly capable and courteous official, and as a sport, besides being a good tennis player, he has represented Southland at both football and cricket. His memorable goal against Auckland some years ago is still the pride and glory of Southlanders.  -Southland Times, 16/9/1918.


The many friends of Mr T. Taylor, Gore, will regret to hear that he received advice on Saturday that his eldest son, Private John Taylor, had died of wounds received while in action on August 24. Private Taylor was very well known in Invercargill, and at the time of his enlistment with the 27th Reinforcements was accountant at the local branch of the National Bank. He was born at Dunedin 41 years ago, and was educated at the Waikaia and the Southland Boys’ High Schools. He entered the Bank’s employ as a lad and had 25 years’ continuous service to his credit. He was a keen sportsman and besides swimming played tennis, football and cricket, representing Southland on more than one occasion in interprovincial football ind cricket matches. For his doggedness in football he earned the nickname of “Toiler,” by which he was more popularly known. Although he could play a fine game of soccer football, it was as a Rugby follower that he was best known and he was one of those rare performers who could shine with equal distinction in the pack, on the ride of the scrum, or with the rearguard, with a preference for five-eighth position. He was a very clever cricketer, both as a batsman and bowler, and he could send down a faster ball to an opponent than any other man of his time or generation in this part of the world. Mr Taylor, senr., has still two sons at the front and two more in camp. Mr and Mrs Taylor,together with their sons in Invercargill, Mr W. E. Taylor (N.M. and A. Co.) and Mr Roland Taylor (J. G. Ward and Co.) will have the sympathy of a large circle of friends.  -Southland Times, 23/9/1918.

Andersons Bay Cemetery, Allan Steel photo.

24/621 Corporal Edgar Wood 9/1/1892-27/8/1918.

In the Empire's Cause.
For some months the Dominion's troops were in a comparatively quiet section of the fighting line in France, casualties were in consequence light, and our immediate district was temporarily spared the grief attending the loss of any of its young men in the Empire's struggle. With the recent Allied attack, grief has unfortunately been widespread, and in one week we are called upon to record the death of no less than four young soldiers—Edgar Wood, Jim Anderson (Pembroke), Lawrence Smith (Bannockburn), and Arthur Clark (formerly of Lowburn). It is one of the heaviest shadows of sadness from the great war cloud that has yet been cast over the district, and we take this opportunity of extending our sincere sympathy to the bereaved families. The present list adds two more names to the terrible roll of honor which the Lowburn school has suffered, Edgar Wood and Arthur Clark being two of the ex-pupils. Corp. Edgar Wood, who had attained his 25th year, was the youngest son of the late Thomas and Mary F. Wood, and had served three years in the forces. A native of Lowburn, he was educated at Lowburn school, and on attaining manhood worked on his parents farm property in that district. He enlisted in April, 1915, and entered camp in May, attached to the first battalion, Rifle Brigade, and sailed on his 23rd , birthday, October 9th, 1915. Landing at Suez, he spent six months in Egypt on patrol and other duties and later went to France. He was severely wounded in the big Somme offensive but recovered after about twelve months treatment in England. Returning again to France he was transferred to the transport battalion, but evidently the need for infantry in the recent attack caused him to be placed in the front line. Numerous letters received of late were bright and cheery, but in the midst of this he has made the great sacrifice. In his district the deceased was extremely popular, and in Rugby circles was a leading member of the Lowburn football club, having also won his way into the county team. A memorial service was conducted at Lowburn yesterday afternoon by Mr A. L. Witheford, deceased having formerly been an office-bearer in the church, and fitting reference was made to his death.  -Cromwell Argus, 16/9/1918.

Cromwell Cemetery.

1 comment:

  1. Loovveee all of these so much!! The idea is ever green :)) also been loving light boxes ATM wish I could get one!!
    Loved this
    Meat Grinder