Battle of Lys, 14th April 1918
14th April 1918
“On the next day it was decided to use an opportunity to improve the position of our outpost line by occupying a group of cottages which lay in front. A platoon of A Company practically reached the nearest cottages without a sign of hostile opposition being shown. The fate of this little operation was the fruit of my miscalculation of the enemy’s strength. The Germans knew better than ourselves how to sit still behind their machine-guns and avoid discovery. French civilians were moving about among the cottages at the time when our advance to occupy them was made and it seemed impossible that the enemy could be holding them even weakly. Civilians, too, were mingled in the fray as well on this as on later occasions. After trench-warfare days there was an incongruity in some episodes, which was not devoid of humour.
One old Frenchman, at an hour when his farm was actually being fought over, arrived at Company Headquarters with a special passport to feed his beasts; and the tenacity of an old woman in clinging to her household goods terminated in her discovery, at the time of an attack, in a shell-hole in No-Man’s-Land, where she was sheltering from the machine-gun barrage under a large umbrella (one felt that she at least deserved a copy of the operation orders!) During the ensuing weeks visits by French civilians to the front line became such that almost as many sentries were required to watch or restrain their movements as were needed against the enemy.
Killed in Action:
Private Harry Bowles, 200720, age 32.
Private George Herbert Dawe, 235137.
From the Story of 2/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment.
“Late on the night 13th/14th the Battalion moved into billets at St Venant. As far as possible the billets were fixed up in cellars and the necessity for this precaution soon became apparent as a 4.2 shell burst on the roof of a house just opposite to Battalion headquarters.
St Venant was not as delightful a spot as when the Battalion first passed through it in 1916., for the tide of the war had now rolled almost to its outskirts and it was steadily pounded to bits. It yielded however, a great deal of material that gave joy to the soldier’s heart: there was for instance a store of almost every form of military equipment, and so, many of the Battalion’s urgent needs were satisfied. There was, moreover, hardly a cellar that was not stocked with vintage as well as commoner wines and it says much for the troops that, with free access to these amenities, there was not a single case of indiscipline.”
From the 2/4th Royal Berkshire War Diary:
“Sunday 14th April 1918, France, Robecq
Lt Col W C OATES DSO, 2/8th Bn Notts and Derby Regiment assumed command.
New dispositions were examined and programme of work for night arranged.No enemy activity on Battalion front with exception of intermittent shelling.During night, work was carried out as per programme. Casualties during the day to other Ranks were 1 wounded.”