« « Week 195 | Week 197 » »

Monday 25 to Sunday 31 March 1918

WEEK 196: BULLETS & BILLETS

Monday 25 to Sunday 31 March 1918

The momentum of the German Spring Offensive was broken on 30 March 1918, when the Canadian Cavalry Brigade under the command of Major General Seely came head to head with the German army at Moreuil Wood. The Brigade had been tasked with preventing the Germans from crossing the L’Avre river which formed the last natural barrier before the city of Amiens. Two Regiments of the Brigade played a key role in the events which unfolded. Units of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, armed with pistols and bayonets, were sent into the woods to chase out German troops making their way through it. Owing to the nature of the terrain, much of the battle was fought as a series of engagements between small groups of soldiers. Meanwhile, units of Lord Strathcona’s Horse were sent around the wood to cut off the German retreat. When Lieutenant Gordon Flowerdew in charge of the C Squadron of the Regiment rounded the wood and encountered a 300-strong German force of retreating Grenadiers, he called out “It’s a charge boys, it’s a charge!” and led his men to one of the last great cavalry charges of the First World War. Such bravery came with a price: in the one and a half hours that the battle lasted, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade suffered 305 casualties and lost some 800 horses. Lieutenant Flowerdew, who died during the charge, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his gallantry. The Battle of Moreuil Wood was the first of the many Allied counter-attacks which led to the defeat of the German Spring Offensive and marked a dramatic turning point in favour of the Allies, heralding the end of the First World War.

Monday 25 March

jess__diary_cameoMended some of the morning. Muz & Tom wrote letters. We had lunch early, as Heppie was going in to Malvern to hear the latest war news. We walked to the station with her, & found our way across the fields, it is an awfully nice walk, then we had a lovely walk back, & brought back some wood for the fire, & then we chopped it. Read after tea, & finished “The War Wedding”.1 Heppie got back at about 7-30. We had a lovely fire with the sticks. We went to bed at about 9-30, & Muz rubbed my neck, when I was in bed.

Tuesday 26 March

jess__diary_cameoMuz & I wrote letters all morning, Heppie worked at the mats. Heppie went in to Malvern in the afternoon, & Muz & Tom went out. I cut wool, & Muz wrote letters again. Heppie got back at about 6-30. Muz rubbed my neck, when I was in bed.

Wednesday 27 March

jess__diary_cameoWe started about ten in Baker’s break, & drove to Worcester. It was quite a nice day, but not very warm. I had earache rather badly last night, & it hadn’t gone this morning, so I had to roll up! It was a lovely drive. We took lunch with us, & sat on seats near the Cathedral, then went to look at the Cathedral, & then wandered about & shopped, then went to the potteries. Tom & Heppie went round, & Muz & I looked at the finished things, & bought half a dozen coffee cups in a case – green ones with black & white – to send to Blanchie & John as a wedding present. Then had tea & at about six started home, & didn’t get back till nearly nine but it was lovely. I went straight to bed after dinner, & Muz rubbed my neck.

A coffee break

Thursday 28 March

jess__diary_cameoI stayed in bed all day as I had earache, & couldn’t get rid of my throat. I read all day, & finished “Hilary on her own”.2 Tom read, & Muz wrote letters. I had a fire in my room, as it was rather cold all day. Tom had a bath, & went to bed early, & I read till late, & then Muz came up to bed, & I slept in her bed.

Friday 29 March

jess__diary_cameoTom heard from Christy this morning saying he is engaged to Patricia Pierce. I stayed in bed all day, & read most of the day, & finished “Countess Daphne”.3 Muz & Heppie went to church in the morning, Tom wrote letters. In the afternoon they wrote letters, & later Muz & Heppie went for a walk. It was quite a nice day. I had a fire in the afternoon. After dinner Muz came up & rubbed my neck, before I settled off to bed, at about 9-30. Heppie brought Muz up later. Mallorey Waring is to be married next Saturday. Her man escaped from Germany a little while ago.

Mrs Armstrong with Ione, Tommy, Dusky and Harry Waring

Saturday 30 March

jess__diary_cameoI stayed in bed all morning. After lunch Muz, Heppie & Tom drove in to Malvern in Baker’s brake, to meet three of the Malvern boys & bring them out here for tea. We had settled to have a picnic but it rained nearly all day, so we were going to have them here instead, but they weren’t there when they got in. I suppose they thought it was too wet. I got up for tea, & afterwards Muz wrote & we read, I finished “Bullets & Billets” by Bairnsfather. After dinner sorted out papers etc: for Heppie to take to Clodagh for me. Muz wrote letters. Went to bed at about 10. Last night I wrote letters, before going to sleep so didn’t settle off till late.

Bullets & Billets

Sunday 31 March

jess__diary_cameoMuz & Heppie went to church. Tom wrote letters. I stayed in bed all day as my throat wasn’t any better. Read nearly all day, & finished “Molly Deverell”. Muz wrote letters all afternoon, & Heppie packed things to take back to Clodagh on Tuesday. After dinner Muz & Heppie went for a walk, & Heppie brought Muz up to bed later.

Letter from Geoffrey Wright to Captain Marcus Beresford Armstrong

“There is very little of my poor brigade left”

Dear Mr Armstrong.

I was glad to get your letter, but sorry to hear that you will not be in Folkestone. – I am staying the night here and cross tomorrow. – I cannot make out why I was not recalled, but I am afraid that there is very little of my poor Bde. left, as the total mass of the attack4 must have fallen upon their sector. – I hope to be in Boulogne tomorrow evening, and should reach my Div.5 the day after to-morrow night wherever it is. – It will be touch and go for Amiens. – We can only pray God it won’t go into Hun hands. – Best wishes to everyone.

Yours very sincerely

Geoffrey Wright.

P.S. We ought to have a POGROM in this country & slay & despoil some of your Jews. – This place is full of them today. Will write again soon.

Letter from Leila de Lisle, Burnham Grove, Burnham, Buckinghamshire, to Mrs Armstrong

My dear Rosalie.

I had a letter from Beau yesterday & in it he said he had just been to see Pat’s grave & that it looked so nice with fresh flowers on it – I ken you would like to know at once. I have had a terribly anxious week as I think Friday’s fighting was in [—] N of Arras, but I hope all has gone well. I am very sorry to see Gough has come home6 – or rather the 5th Army has a new Com: (who I don’t ken) so I conclude he is home. I am here till Wed & then return for sure. I am beginning to feel rested & less [?] glad to get away for a bit. Write me & let me ken when you are to be up. Your sister sent me a splendid lot of eggs from [—]. I thought I would get them before the order comes on stopping it! To move, just off to [—].

Your loving Leila

The Battle of Moreuil Wood


Footnotes

  1. The War Wedding (1916), a novel by the husband-and-wife team Charles and Alice Muriel Williamson
  2. Hilary on Her Own (1908), a novel by Mabel Sarah Barnes-Grundy, a popular writer known for her humorous romances and witty dialogue
  3. Countess Daphne (1884), a novel by “Rita”, pseudonym of Eliza Margaret Joan Gollan (1850-1938), a popular and prolific writer with almost 120 titles to her name
  4. The German Spring Offensive of 21 March 1918
  5. 36th (Ulster) Division
  6. Gough had been relieved of command of the Fifth Army at the end of March 1918 as a consequence of his style of command during the Battle of the Somme and the German Spring Offensive

Click to Follow our Story
 
« « Week 195 | Week 197 » »