Centenary remembrances

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Chris Hall
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Centenary remembrances

Post by Chris Hall » Sun Mar 25, 2018 6:12 pm

Well, this is the last year of the WW1 Centenary events (if you exclude the 1919 Russian Expedition, that is).

On 21 March 1918 the Germans launched the Kaiserschlact, or Kaiser's Battle. This was Germany's last chance to win the War, using all the Eastern Front troops released after the collapse of Russia, and the well-trained Sturmtruppen, before the expected arrival of reinforcements from America, who had just entered the War (late, as usual :P).

By early 1918 the British and Commonwealth forces were close to exhaustion. And the French Armies were still recovering from the 1917 mutinies. So the days of packing the front lines with troops were long gone. Instead the concept of 'defence in depth' was used, with strongpoints channelling the enemy into killing zones. Well, that was the theory ..... but it barely worked, and Germany almost won WW1. For those of you who don't know it, the story of the Spring 1918 offensives is absolutely fascinating.

There was no place in the strategic thinking for tanks. Therefore, the Tank Corps came up with the weird concept of the 'Savage Rabbit' - tanks hiding, and then running amok in the enemies rear. It was a silly idea that lost a lot of tanks, as well as their brave crews.

Casualties were, of course, horrendous. Honours were even at about 400,000 killed, wounded and missing on each side. The battle went on in various phases and places until mid-July 1918, when there was a short pause until the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918, after which the Germans were in retreat until the Armistice on 11 November 1918.

On 25 March 1918, 100 years ago today, 303392 Rifleman Harry Aldridge of the 5th Londons was killed in action. He was 33. He rests today in the Pozieres British Cemetery, which is huge and commemorates all the fallen of the Spring 1918 offensives, most of which have no known grave and are recorded on panels - lots and lots of panels. And it's just down the road from the Tank Corps memorial, which marks the point where some of the tanks formed up for the first ever tank attack in history on 15 September 1916. There wasn't a whole lot of movement in WW1 ......

Aldridge, Harry - grave (small).jpg
Harry Aldridge was my Great Uncle. Please indulge my remembrance - I could think of no more appropriate place for me to record this.

In memoriam,

Chris
2 x Mark IV's (Abt. 14 Beutepanzer Liesel and F30 Flaming Fire II)
Morris Quad, 2 x limbers and 1 x 25-pdr (45RA, Korea 1951)
M3 Lee (25th Dragoons, Burma 1944)
Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (10(RN)AMB, German East Africa 1916)

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Stephen White
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Re: Centenary remembrances

Post by Stephen White » Sun Mar 25, 2018 7:48 pm

Fine thoughts Chris, thank you for bringing remembrance to the fore. The close link between our hobby and the history it's based on is inescapable. It's a link which enriches the experience of owning these fine models for those who embrace it.

A most appropriate way of recognising this would be for us as a community to support the Tank Museum Amiens 100 event in August. Not easy for those based outside UK (although you in particular would be made most welcome) but there are many Mk IV owners in UK who could attend. Thank you to those who've signed up already.

308147 Private James Henry Pulman, Tank Corps, died of wounds on 29th September 1918, just over a month before the end of the war. He has no known grave and is remembered at the Vis-en-Artois Memorial.

Picture1.jpg
James Pulman served as a driver in the Royal Flying Corps before transferring to the Tank Corps. He served in the two most innovative branches of the Army.

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Serving with the 16th Battalion in Mk V*s, he was wounded at the Battle of the St Quentin Canal, evacuated to a dressing station and subsequently killed when the dressing station took a direct hit from artillery.

Jim Pulman was my Great Uncle.

Fear Naught

S

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Chris Hall
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Re: Centenary remembrances

Post by Chris Hall » Sun May 27, 2018 4:11 pm

Today, 27 May, is the Centenary of a little known and almost forgotten battle known to history as the 3rd Battle of the Aisne. It took place on the Chemin de Dames, just north of Reims in France, well into the French Sector of the Western Front. But it involved a British Division which largely made the ultimate sacrifice.

That Division was the Eighth, nicknamed "the unluckiest Division in the British Army", because it fought in all the hot spots and kept having to be rebuilt (the British Army in those days never let a Unit die, which was a source of considerable aggravation to German Intelligence ! :)). This happened (again) during the Kaiserschlact battles in the Somme area during March / April 1918. The remains of the Eighth were pulled out for re-establishment and retraining, and exchanged with a French Division. They were sent to a 'quiet' sector of the Line, where no significant action had taken place since 1915.

The sector taken up by the Eighth was simply insane, as there was a river (the Aisne) between the Front Line and the Support trenches ! No matter, said the French, as it is very quiet, 'live and let live' round here. 'But', the French Commander went on 'this is Sacred French soil, which you will not retreat from in the (unlikely) event of a German attack'.

The Eighth may have been badly knocked about, but with experience comes wisdom. They could immediately see the deficiencies of ground, and the warning signs of an imminent attack. But the French told them they were just jumpy. So, being British, they moaned and made the best of it.

The Germans attacked in the early hours of 27 May, throwing everything in - artillery, gas, Stormtroopers, even tanks. The Eighth had no chance. They stood, and they died. Fate had no respect for rank - Colonels died alongside their men. Those that weren't killed were made POW. The only significant body that escaped was the Supply Train, which was the 'right' side of the river. The Division was (again) rebuilt from that, and went on to serve for the duration.

The Eighth Division was a polyglot group, incorporating Regiments from Middlesex, West Yorkshire, Devon, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Worcester and East Lancashire. Let one man's story serve. 202669 Private William Aldridge was in 6 Section, 10 (or 16) Platoon, C Company, 2nd Northants, and was captured on that day. He had served in France since 1915, lying about his age to get in (he was born on 12 August 1898), originally as 4185 in the 19th Londons (St. Pancras), being transferred sometime after December 1916. He spent the rest of the War at the Friedrichsfeld prison camp in Germany, being repatriated after the Armistice (26 November 1918). He spent a lot of time in King George's Hospital, Stamford Street, London SE1, recovering from wounds and illness - this was pre-Geneva Convention and, while captured Officers were treated with respect, Other Ranks were worked in the fields, factories and mines, often on starvation rations. Some were beaten to death.

William Aldridge was my maternal Grandfather. If those bullets had been just a bit closer ..... :( He lived on, never completely recovering from his experiences, until 1960, overlapping my birth by just a few months. I treasure his medals - the 1914-15 Star, the WW1 War and Victory Medals, and the 1939-45 Defence Medal as he was in the Home Guard.

And, finally, I mentioned that German tanks were used in the action - both A7V's and Mark IV Beutepanzers, including Liesel (who was knocked out just 5 days later). Records (which are pretty scanty) do not suggest that tanks were used on that day against the Eighth Division. But it pleases my romantic soul to think that my Grandfather may have seen on the horizon, through the smoke and dust, tanks lumbering around, or marched past them on his way to captivity .......

In memoriam.

Chris
2 x Mark IV's (Abt. 14 Beutepanzer Liesel and F30 Flaming Fire II)
Morris Quad, 2 x limbers and 1 x 25-pdr (45RA, Korea 1951)
M3 Lee (25th Dragoons, Burma 1944)
Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (10(RN)AMB, German East Africa 1916)

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