The Ambler

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Artillery of the BEF in 1917

The next talk, on 28 May, will be delivered by Geoff Spring who will relate the story of ‘Artillery of the BEF in 1917.’

Held at Alnmouth Ex-Servicemen’s Club, WFA meetings start at 7.30 pm for 8.00 pm. Visitors and new members are always made most welcome. The suggested minimum donation is £1 to include a light buffet supper.

At last month’s Western Front Association meeting Clive Bowery described the role of the 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry in the 1918 Battles of theLys.

The peace treaty which followed the 1917 Russian Revolution presented the Germans with a short window of opportunity and numerical supremacy on the Western Front before the American build-up could greatly influence events.

The Lys Offensive, Operation Georgettes to the Germans, was the second phase of their Spring Offensives launched in Flanders after attacks inPicardyhad petered out in early April

With 160 raw replacement troops recently arrive from theUK, the DLI battalion was in the process of moving forward over a few days to relieve Portuguese troops holding the front line near Neuf Berquin.

Fortunately, before the relief was completed battalion officers had already reconnoitred fall-back positions around thevillageofLestrumwhich is where the battalion was immediately sent when the Germans, with the advantages of firm ground and a thick morning mist, launched their attack on 9 April.

DLI positions held on the first day so that by the evening they formed a salient around which the Germans moved. The salient was expunged on 10 April but the battalion continued to hold ground on the edges of Lestrum.

During the next two days it was obvious to higher command that ground would have to be ceded to avoid a major disaster. Orders were issued for a fighting withdrawal in the general direction of the villages of Neuf Berquin and Merville.

Despite having been re-built with young inexperienced men fresh fromEnglandthe battalion gave a good account of itself. The fighting between 9 and 12 April was stubborn and the Germans only succeeded in advancing five miles. By 12 April the front line, then lying immediately to the west of Merville, held firm and the German offensive exhausted itself.

However, a heavy price was paid. Casualties were so heavy that, at various times, remnants of different formations were mixed together to form composite fighting units. When, eventually, the scattered remnants of the 8th Battalion, DLI were collected together there were only 9 officers and 158 other ranks who were organised into a composite company which was finally withdrawn from the line on 15 April. Casualties, killed, wounded and missing numbered almost 500 men.

Clive’s meticulous research and tremendous use of maps, photographs and film allowed him to translate and bring the subject matter to life & into the present day for his most appreciative audience.

The WFA’s next meeting, on 23 April, will be an opportunity for members and guests to share their interests and reflections on the First World War generally, including family histories.

The next talk, on 28 May, will be delivered byGeoffSpringwho will relate the story of ‘Artillery of the BEF in 1917.’

Held at Alnmouth Ex-Servicemen’s Club, WFA meetings start at 7:30 p.m. for 8:00 p.m. Visitors and new members are always made most welcome. The suggested minimum donation is £1 to include a light buffet supper.

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6 Comments

  1. My Great grandfather was John Trobe who died 17/10/1917 in Flanders. He was originally Bn 3 Northumberland Fusilliers but transferred to 1/4 Yorks and Lancs in August 1917 when he was posted to the front. If any of your researchers have come across him or have any knowledge of any events on and around his date of death, it would be appreciated. i have copies of his war papers and where he is buried in Belgium, but would like to know more of the circumstances of his death (basically, he was blown up).
    His name is on the Amble War Memorial.
    Regards
    Mick Wright

  2. From commonwealth War Graves Site please not different date of death.

    TROBE, J

    Rank:
    Private
    Service No:
    33597
    Date of Death:
    19/10/1917
    Age:
    35
    Regiment/Service:
    York and Lancaster Regiment

    1st/4th Bn.
    Grave Reference
    VI. F. 19.
    Cemetery
    NINE ELMS BRITISH CEMETERY
    Belgium
    West-Vlaanderen
    Additional Information:
    Son of John and Elizabeth Trobe, of Hartlaw, Acklington, Northumberland; husband of Catherine Ann Trobe, of 9, Church Street, Amble, Northumberland.

  3. Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) July to December 1917

    Historical Information
    The cemetery was begun and used by the 3rd Australian and 44th Casualty Clearing Stations when they moved to Poperinghe (now Poperinge), from Brandhoek and Lijssenthoek respectively, in September 1917. Nearly all the burials in Plots I to IX came from these Casualty Clearing Stations, whilst they operated in this area during the 1917 Battle of Ypres, up until December 1917.

    Plots X, XI, XIII, XIV and XV cover the dates between the beginning of March, 1918 and the 12th October, 1918, the period of the German offensive in Flanders, the British counter attacks and the final advance of August-September. The burials in these cases were carried out almost entirely by fighting units.

    The cemetery contains 1,556 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 37 German war graves from this period. There are also 22 Second World War burials in the cemetery, all dating from the Allied retreat to Dunkirk in 1940.

    The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

  4. Actual details of death may be held in 1/4 Yorks regimental diaries, they may be held in Imperial war museum, or National Records Kew, or even in the Artillery museum/ or yorks n lancs regiment records

    • Thanks for your feedback peter. I have his enlistment and posting record from Ancestry and details of his burial. If your colleague has the opportunity to photo his grave it would be much appreciated. His name is on both the Amble and Acklington memorials. I am toying with contacting the Northumberland Fusilliers museum at Alnwick to see if they have a photo but it is £36 for such research. I am also hopeful of tracking down other relatives in the Acklington / Amble area.
      Thanks for the pointer to the other potential sources of info.
      Regards
      Mick

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