Category Archives: 1918

All diary entries written in 1918

21 March 1918; Thursday

[Page headedGerman Offensive1.]

Up about 6 o’clock. Lay awake from 3.30 listening to a very heavy bombardment. Thought attack must be coming next. On duty at 7 o’clock. A little friction on the bed-patient washing problem. Received orders first thing to clear all bed patients and all those patients to be dressed and ready to move. Later on received orders to pack waggons, and again later that we were not going. Ben taken off the ward in the afternoon. Glorious day. Gunfire very heavy all day.

  1. This German offensive, aka “The Spring Offensive“, “The Kaiser’s Battle” (die Kaiserschlacht) and “The March Retreat”, was the last German attempt to win the war in the West before (a) the Allied blockade would make the Germans’ military and domestic situation logistically untenable, and (b) the arrival of American troops in France could make a critical impact. The initial scene of the offensive was north and south of St Quentin, some 40km east of the Somme battlefield, against the British 3rd and 5th Armies, the latter of which especially had had its section of the front extended to relieve the French army, and both of which had undergone thinning-out to offset manpower losses (the British Government by now was restricting reinforcements for Haig, partly due to industrial and reserve manpower needs in Britain, but also, rightly or wrongly, to prevent him from attempting further offensives at huge human cost.)

    Malcolm Brown, in “The Imperial War Museum Book of the Western Front”, says that “The March offensive . . . made use of . . . means [including] surprise achieved by marshalling men and matériel to the front by night; deep infiltration before zero hour by storm-troop groups who bypassed front-line defenders leaving them to be dealt with by subsequent waves; and a concentrated, devastating bombardment on all key points of the British resistance, including headquarters establishments, dumps, magazines, even individual guns.” The attack was also assisted by fog at the vital time.

    There were further German onslaughts in the following weeks, re-taking a lot of the ground which had been gained since 1916 at the cost of great British and French losses. But: much of the ground regained, eg the Somme/Ancre area, was difficult to fight on due to previous devastation, including the Germans’ own mining, trenching, tank traps etc; at long last (26 March) Allied unity of command (under General Foch) was accepted by Haig and established; and in August there was a well-planned Allied counter-attack, integrating all kinds of troops, weaponry, air and communications resources, and achieving massive troop movements in complete secrecy.  

20 March 1918; Wednesday

Up about 6.30. on duty at 7 o’clock. Kept pretty busy all morning. Didn’t do much in afternoon. DMS 1 round and made drastic change in the ward. Concert of Number Nines2 at night. Pretty good considering the * and * *3. Had short walk afterwards. Little chat with John Dory and A B Watt and Watt lent me a paper to read an article on the “Chance of peace”

  1. “DMS”: Director of Medical Services 

  2. The Number Nines (assuming as always that the transcription is correct) were presumably a Forces concert party (and if so, presumably based on some medical unit) – ALL had previously mentioned the Number 9s [sic] on 15 August 1917. 

  3. The shorthand looks like “cooper and impairment file”, or “vile”; I can’t guess what it might really be. 

15 March 1918; Friday

Up about 6.30. On duty all day. Finished about 5 o’clock. Fine day but rather cold. Heard that Zeppelins had once more visited the north-east coast1. Had walk at night and glanced in at the picture show in the next village but didn’t stay. Had talk at night with Wood and Harvey on the war and things generally.

  1. On 13 March 1918 three Zeppelins set out to raid the North-East but only one of the three reached England, bombing Hartlepool. The bombs killed eight people, and Sgt Pilot Arthur John Joyce (9935) was killed when he flew his FE2b fighter into Pontop Pike near Dipton, County Durham. The latter incident may have been unconnected to the Zeppelin raid; contemporary accounts record only unknown reasons for the crash.