Thursday 21 March 1918 We Lost 8,731

by greatwarliveslost

Wilfrith Elstob VC

At 04:50 a German bombardment begins on the British trenches, with one artillery piece firing for every 10 yards of the line. Gas shells and trench mortars also rain down on the British. The bombardment lasts until 07:00 and under its cover the enemy infantry cross the St Quentin Canal and assault the 2nd/2nd London Regiment positions in the Forward Zone. The Germans exploit the dense fog and are soon behind the Forward Zone positions. Two keeps (Japy and Brickstack) held by the London Regiment fall early but the Main Keep holds out until after midday before it is finally taken. At Travecy Keep the artillery bombardment lasts until 08:00, by which time all communication links have been severed and, in the thick fog, A Company is without support and completely isolated. As the barrage lifts the enemy attacks and takes a number of the forward posts and briefly penetrated the Keep’s outer defences to the north and south and heavy fighting develops on the right flank held by one platoon is reduced to 10 men and an officer. By 10:00 the surviving two men of this platoon fall back to the Keep. An hour later an attack, assisted by an aeroplane, develops to the north forcing two sections of A Company back to the Keep which is now under continuous machine gun and rifle grenade fire. An advance section are still undetected forward of the Keep and they inflict many casualties on the enemy during this attack with a Lewis Gun before retiring.

During the afternoon the enemy makes a number of determined assaults on the Keep, all of which are repulsed. At 17:00 Captain Maurice Harper calls for two volunteer runners to report to Brigade HQ. The men, Privates Banks and Ancliffe, return two hours later with the news that the enemy had penetrated two miles to the northwest and nearly three miles to the west and southwest. With its flanks driven in and the enemy behind it, Travecy Keep is completely surrounded. At this point Captain Harper’s force consists of 3 officers and 60 men. Just before dusk the Germans launch a further assault on all sides of the Keep and the fight rages for an hour before the enemy falls back. During the night the Germans continue to bomb the Keep and sweep it with machine gun and rifle fire.

At 09:40 for the first time five captured British tanks start their advance against British trenches at St Quentin. Two are damaged by British artillery fire, while the other three continue until they run out of fuel.

Lieutenant Colonel Wilfrith Elstob VC DSO MC (commanding 16th Manchester Regiment) is killed in action at Manchester Redoubt, near St. Quentin performing the duties that will result in his being awarded the Victoria Cross at age 29.  Elstob is the son of the Reverend Canon J G Elstob Vicar of Capesthorne, Manchester Hill. During the preliminary enemy bombardment he encourages his men in the posts in the Redoubt by frequent visits, and when repeated attacks develop he controls the defense at the points threatened, giving personal support with revolver, rifle and bombs. Single-handedly he repulses one bombing assault driving back the enemy and inflicting severe casualties. Later, when ammunition is required, he makes several journeys under severe fire in order to replenish the supply. Throughout the day Lieutenant-Colonel Elstob, although twice wounded, shows the most fearless disregard of his own safety and by his encouragement and noble example inspires his command to the fullest degree. The Manchester Redoubt is surrounded in the first wave of the enemy attack, but by means of the buried cable Lieutenant-Colonel Elstob is able to assure his Brigade Commander that “The Manchester Regiment will defend Manchester Hill to the last.” Sometime after this the post is overcome by vastly superior forces, and this very gallant officer is killed in the final assault, having maintained to the end the duty which he had impressed on his men – namely, “Here we fight, and here we die.”

Second Lieutenant Edmund De Wind (Royal Irish Rifles) dies of wounds received at Race Course Redbout, near Grugies at age 34.  For seven hours he holds this post and though twice wounded and practically single-handed, he maintains his position until another section could get to his aid.  He continues to repel attack after attack until he is mortally wounded.  For his actions on this day he will be awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.

At the beginning of the great German offensive the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service have a total of five hundred seventy nine serviceable aircraft in the battle area, two hundred sixty one of them single-seaters. Against them are deployed seven hundred thirty aircraft, of which three hundred twenty six are scouts.

In the dark hour preceding dawn the British destroyers HMS Botha (Commander Roger L’E M Rede) and HMS Morris (Lieutenant Commander Percy R P Percival) and three French destroyers Mehl, Magon and Bouclierare are on patrol in the eastern waters of the English Channel, when a sudden outburst of firing is heard to the north.  Vivid flashes of gunfire out to sea make it plain that the enemy is engaged in a bombardment of the crumbling bathing-sheds of deserted French watering places.  The Allied force promptly makes for the flashes at full speed, led by the Botha.  Star shells are fired in an attempt to light up the enemy and obtain their range, however, merely have the effect of quelling the bombardment and scattering the raiders, who are not seen again.  The patrolling force then proceeds to search to the north and west in the hope of intercepting any divisions of the enemy which have ventured more into mid-Channel.  Star shells are fired at intervals, as the morning is misty, and presently one of these bursting ahead reveals the outline of a force of enemy destroyers and torpedo boats heading through the darkness in the direction of their base.

Botha challenges, and an unfamiliar reply is received.  The next instant the British and French are pouring a heavy fire into the enemy.  The Allies rapidly overhaul the raiders and set the darkness ablaze with flashes of gunfire and blazing wreckage-flying broadcast from shells bursting on impact.  The Germans reply with torpedo shots, though none find their mark.  Morris, emerging from a smoke screen flung up by the fleeing enemy cuts off a German torpedo boat and torpedoes her at 500 yards. The German blows up and sinks almost immediately, heeling over amid clouds of steam and vanishing stern first.  In the meantime an enemy shell has severed the Botha’s main steam pipe, and she immediately begins to loose her way through the water.  As a result her commander quickly fires his torpedoes at the leading enemy boats, and putting his helm hard over, rams the number four amidships.  His speed has dropped considerably, but it is still sufficient to drive the knife-edge bow of the Botha clean through, cutting the enemy completely in half.  The Botha then swings around and attempts to repeat the coup on the next ship astern. This German vessel succeeds in eluding the Botha’s crippling onslaught, but she falls victim to the French destroyers. She is soon a flaming wreck under torpedo and gunfire.

The Morris by this time has relinquished her pursuit, having lost the quarry in the smoke and mist.  She returns to the scene of action and takes her lame sister in tow, while the French destroyers circle in the gray dawn picking up prisoners.  From statements made by these it appears that no fewer than eighteen torpedo craft have sallied forth for the raid. They have been unhesitatingly attacked and rather badly mauled by the two British and three French destroyers, torpedo boats A7 and A19 having been sunk in the action.  Both British commanders will be awarded the Distinguished Service Order for their actions on this day along with several of their officers and men who will also receive decorations of various awards.

Today’s losses include:

  • Multiple Battalion Commanders
  • Multiple Victoria Cross winners
  • Multiple sons of members of the clergy
  • Multiple families that will lose two, three and four sons in the Great War
  • Two brothers killed today in different actions
  • Multiple sons of Baronets
  • Multiple sons of Justices of the Peace
  • The son of a General
  • A man whose daughter will be born next July
  • The son of a Deputy Clerk of the Peace and Deputy Sheriff Clerk
  • A Royal Humane Society Medal for life saving
  • A man who will be buried in the Churchyard where his father is rector
  • A writer to the Signet
  • A Northamptonshire cricketer
  • An England player
  • The Assistant Master of Wem Grammar School
  • The Assistant Master at Ducie Avenue School
  • The brother of a Victoria Cross winner
  • A Military Chaplain
  • The son of the Clerk of the House of Commons
  • A man whose brother-in-law is killed in the Great War
  • A man whose son will be killed in 1941
  • A Police Constable for Aberdeen
  • A man whose father is killed in the Great War
  • The nephew of the Vice General of the Isle of Man

Today’s highlighted casualties include:

  • Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Bezley Houghton (commanding 2nd/6th North Staffordshire Regiment) is killed at age 44.
  • Lieutenant Colonel John Stuart-Wortley (commanding 6th South Staffordshire Regiment) is killed.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Hubert Wogan Festing DSO (commanding 15th Durham Light Infantry) is killed in action at age 35. He is the son of the late Major General ‘Sir’ Francis Festing and his daughter will be born on 9th July 1918.
  • Lieutenant Colonel James Robert MacAlpine Downie (commanding 1st/8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) is killed at age 40.
  • Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Stephen Dimmer VC MC (King’s Royal Rifle Corps commanding 2nd/4th Berkshire Regiment) is killed at age 35.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Spencer Acklom DSO MC (Highland Light Infantry commanding 22nd Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed at age 35.
  • Major (Brevet Lieutenant Colonel) Lawrence Julius Le Fleming (commanding 9th East Surrey Regiment) is killed at age 38. He is the son of the late Reverend John Le Fleming.
  • Major Henry Archer Johnstone (Royal Field Artillery) is killed at age 28. His brother was killed in February 1916.
  • Major John Hugh Jerwood MC (Durham Light Infantry attached Somerset Light Infantry) is killed in action at age 28. He is the son of the Reverend Canon Jerwood.
  • Major Claude Stuart Lyon MC (Royal Field Artillery) is killed in action at age 37. He is the son of the late James S Lyon, Professor of Engineering at Royal College of Science in Dublin.
  • Major Charles Reginald Chenevix Trench (Sherwood Foresters) is killed in action at age 30. He is the son of the late Reverend Herbert Francis Chenevix Trench Vicar of St Peter’s Thanet.
  • Major Thomas Wedderspoon Alexander (Royal Garrison Artillery attached Royal Field Artillery) is killed in action at age 34. He is the son of the Deputy Clerk of the Peace and Sheriff Clerk of Buteshire. Brevet
  • Major Malcolm Roy Wingate DSO MC (Royal Engineers) is killed in action at age 24. He is the son of the 1st Baronet General ‘Sir’ Reginald and Lady Wingate GCB GCVO GBE KMCG DSO.
  • Captain Wilfrid Henry Hensley (Somerset Light Infantry) is killed. He is the son of the Reverend Henry Gabriel Hensley Rector of Gt Barrington.
  • Captain John Brown MC (Royal Irish Rifles) is killed in action at age 23. He was awarded the Royal Humane Society’s Bronze Medal and Certificate for life saving from drowning at Belfast in September 1916.
  • Captain Thomas Horsfall Crofton (Connaught Rangers) is killed in action at age 28. He is the son of ‘Sir’ Malby Crofton the 3rd
  • Captain Francis Reginald Hudson (Royal Flying Corps) is accidentally killed in England at age 27. He is buried at Huntsham (All Saints) Churchyard where is father, the Reverend Arthur Reginald Hudson is the rector of the church. He is the younger brother of Godfrey Burnside Hudson who will be killed on 18th April 1918.
  • Captain Ernest Harry Gilpin (Durham Light Infantry) is killed in action at age 35. His brother died at home serving in the Royal Defense Corps.
  • Captain Philip Dawson Harris (North Staffordshire Regiment) is killed in action at age 29. He is the son of Arnold Elsmere Harris JP.
  • Captain Thomas Leslie Astbury (South Staffordshire Regiment) is killed in action at age 30 He is the son of the Reverend Canon George Astbury Vicar of Smethwick.
  • Captain John Balfour MC (Scots Guards) is killed at age 23. His brother was killed in October 1914.
  • Captain Robert Gerald McElney MC (Royal Army Medical Corps) is killed at age 25. He is the son of the Reverend Robert McElney.
  • Captain Wilfred Roland Desages (London Regiment) is killed at age 34. His brother will be killed in May.
  • Captain Marmaduke Marshall Shaw MC (Sherwood Foresters) is killed at age 21. He is the son of the Reverend Marmaduke Spicer Shaw Vicar of All Saint’s Exmouth.
  • Two sons of the late Percy and Mrs. Whitehead are killed in different actions today. Captain Percy Neil Whitehead (Royal Engineers) is 28 years old while his brother Second Lieutenant Hugh Maguire Whitehead (Sussex Regiment) is only 23.
  • Captain Maurice William Campbell Sprott MC (Norfolk Regiment) is killed. He is the son of the Bishop of Wellington New Zealand.
  • Lieutenant John Walcot Stewart MC (Royal Scots) is killed at age 33. He is a Writer to the Signet.
  • Lieutenant Derrick Osborne (Durham Light Infantry) is killed at age 20. He is the son of ‘Sir’ Francis Osborne 15th
  • Lieutenant Reginald Frederick Rowley (Royal Field Artillery) is killed in action at age 21. He is the son of the late Lieutenant Colonel ‘Sir’ George Charles, the 3rd
  • Lieutenant Edward Gladwin Arnold (Royal Field Artillery) is killed in action at age 26. He is the son of the Reverend Charles Lowther Arnold Vicar of Holy Trinity Fareham and his brother was killed in July 1916.
  • Lieutenant Harold Charlton Boycott (Coldstream Guards) dies of wounds at age 41. He played cricket for Northamptonshire and was also a member of the English hockey team for several years.
  • Lieutenant Ronald Morley Hooper (Royal Garrison Artillery) is killed at age 40. He is the son of Reverent J H Hooper.
  • Lieutenant Douglas Meldrum Watson Leith MC (Gordon Highlanders) is killed at age 26. He is the son of the late Reverend John Watson Leith Minister of O’Meldrum Aberdeenshire.
  • Lieutenant Alexander James Bartlett-Begg MC (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed at age 21. He is the son of the Reverend Alexander Begg.
  • Lieutenant Thomas Henry Liddon Addis (Dublin Fusiliers) is killed at age 20. He is the son of the Reverend William Edward Addis Vicar of All Saints.
  • Lieutenant Robert Gray Nicol Gibson MC (Royal Scots) is killed. His brother was killed in June 1915 on Gallipoli.
  • Lieutenant Alexander James Bartlet Begg MC (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed at age 21. He is the son of the Reverend Alexander Begg Rector of Unsworth.
  • Lieutenant Charles Leslie Wilkinson (Sherwood Foresters) is killed at age 20. He was awarded a medallion for life saving two years in a row at Haileybury.
  • Lieutenant Sydney Stranger Chaplin (Manchester Regiment) is killed in action. He is the son of the Reverend W Knight Chaplin.
  • Second Lieutenant Timothy Davies Williams (Royal Garrison Artillery) is killed at age 34. He is the son of the Reverend Charles David Williams.
  • Second Lieutenant Francis Edward Alexander Orme Davenport (Shropshire Light Infantry) is killed in action. He is the son of the Reverend Edward Davenport Rector of Draughton.
  • Second Lieutenant Stewart Spiers Jackson (Worcestershire Regiment) is killed at age 28. He is the son of the Reverend S Jackson.
  • Second Lieutenant Charles Lewis (Manchester Regiment) is killed in action at age 26. He is the Assistant Master of Wem Grammar School, Salolp.
  • Second Lieutenant Robert Adam Ingles (Royal Scots) is killed at age 23. He is the son of the Reverend Robert Ingles.
  • Second Lieutenant Eustace Charles Keble (North Staffordshire Regiment) is killed in action at age 20. He is the son of the Reverend Prebendary Thomas Keble Vicar of Christ Church Lichfield.
  • Second Lieutenant Charles Clark Fyfe (Black Watch) is killed in action at age 22. His brother was killed in July 1917.
  • Second Lieutenant William Henry Flory (Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry) is killed in action at age 22. He is the son of the Reverend Henry William Flory Vicar of St Matthew’s Littleport and has two brothers who will die before the end of the Great War in service of their King.
  • Second Lieutenant James Donald Allen Bell (Lancashire Fusiliers) is killed at age 30. He is the son of the Reverend Benedict Godfrey Allen Bell Canon of Norwich.
  • Second Lieutenant Eric George King (Royal Berkshire Regiment) is killed in action at age 31. He is the son of Walter George King JP.
  • Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Cates (Durham Light Infantry) is the middle of three brothers who lose their lives in the Great War. The first brother to be killed is Second Lieutenant George Edward Cates VC, killed in March 1917.
  • Second Lieutenant Cecil Christopher Baring (Royal West Kent Regiment) dies of wounds at age 20. He is the son of the Reverend Francis Henry Baring Rector of Eggesford who has two other sons who will lose their lives in the Great War.
  • Second Lieutenant Denys Stutely Rogers (Royal Field Artillery) is killed in action at age 21. He is the son of the Reverend W O Rogers.
  • Second Lieutenant Walter Stanley Manktelow (East Lancashire Regiment) is killed at age 21.He is a fine footballer and cricketer.
  • Second Lieutenant Henry Foss Wilson (Machine Gun Corps) is killed. He is the son of the Reverend William Henry Thomas Wilson.
  • Chaplain the Reverend Alan Cecil Judd MC (attached Sherwood Foresters) is killed at age 31.
  • Second Lieutenant Cyril Walter Fellowes (North Staffordshire Regiment) is killed. He is the last of three sons of Sir Edward Abdy Fellowes Clerk of the House of Commons.
  • Sergeant Frederick William Avery (Rifle Brigade) is killed at age 22. His brother will be killed in August.
  • Corporal Ernest Alfred Ward (Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry) is killed at age 21. His brother was killed in July 1916.
  • Lance Corporal Evan Davies (Rifle Brigade) is killed at age 29. He is the middle of three brothers who are killed in the war.
  • Lance Corporal Edward Brazier (Worcestershre Regiment) is killed as the last of four brothers who are killed in the Great War.
  • Lance Corporal John H MacDonald, 22, and his brother Private William, 24, are killed while serving with the Seaforth Highlanders.
  • Corporal Albert Victor Carey MM (East Kent Regiment) is killed at age 25. His older brother was killed in June 1917.
  • Corporal Albert Cleverley (Wiltshire Regiment) is killed. His brother was killed in October 1914.
  • Lance Bombardier Isaac John Moore (Royal Garrison Artillery) is killed by a chance shell from a long range gun. His brother was lost on HMS Formidable and a brother-in-law was also killed in the Great War.
  • Private Thomas Alfred King (North Staffordshire Regiment) is killed at age 20. His brother was killed in May 1917.
  • Private Thomas Bain (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed at age 19. His brother will be killed in four days.
  • Private Harry Abbotts (North Staffordshire Regiment) is killed in action at age 19. His brother was killed in August 1916.
  • Private Ernest Albert Negus (West Surrey Regiment) is killed in action. His brother was killed in October 1917.
  • Private Charles B Hambling (Lancashire Fusiliers) is killed in action at age 26. His brother will be killed in one month.
  • Private George Hodgkinson (Sherwood Foresters) is killed in action at age 20. His brother was killed in September 1916.
  • Private George Everley (Sherwood Foresters) is killed in action at age 36. His son will lose his life in 1941 while serving in the Shropshire Light Infantry.
  • Private Tom Place (Lancashire Fusiliers) is killed in action at age 39. His brother will die on service in April of next year.
  • Private John Myers (East Lancashire Regiment) is killed in action at age 22. His brother was killed in March 1917.
  • Private Percy Bartholomew (Gloucestershire Regiment) is killed in action at age 22. His brother Ernest will be killed next month.
  • Private Frank Whetstone (Machine Gun Corps) is killed in action at age 21. His brother Alfred will also be killed in the Great War.
  • Driver Edmund Mounsey (Royal Field Artillery) is killed at age 21. His brother was killed in October 1916.
  • Private Joshua Hall Bean (Durham Light Infantry) is killed at age 20. His father was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
  • Private Duncan Campbell Carmichael (Black Watch) is killed at age 19. His brother was killed in April 1917.
  • Rifleman Walter Plaice (Rifle Brigade) is killed in action at age 37. He is one of four brothers who fell during the Great War.
  • Gunner James McIntosh (Royal Field Artillery) is killed at age 31. He is a Police Constable for the Aberdeen City Police.
  • Rifleman George Arthur Tyerman (Irish Rifles) dies of wounds at age 29. His brother will die on service in February 1919.
  • Private William Johnston (Inniskilling Fusiliers) is killed in action at age 22. His father John was also killed in the Great War.
  • Rifleman George Payne (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) is killed at age 19. His brother was killed in September 1916.
  • Private Eli James Heald (Manchester Regiment) is killed in action at age 32. He is the Assistant Master at Ducie Avenue School, Manchester.
  • Private George David Jeffery (Lincolnshire Regiment) is killed. He is one of three brothers who will be killed in the Great War.
  • Private Levi Farrington Harding (Liverpool Regiment) is killed in action. He is the middle of three brothers who are killed in the war and a fourth will be lost in the sinking of submarine M1 in November 1925 when she collides with a Swedish steamship.
  • Private Frederick Andrew Dobie MM (Wiltshire Regiment) is killed at age 31. His brother was killed in June 1915.
  • Private Richard Steven Andrews (West Surrey Regiment) is killed at age 20. His brother died of wounds last October.
  • Private Geoffrey Bower Hughes-Games (Machine Gun Corps) is killed at age 26. His brother will be killed next October and they are sons of the Reverend Joshua Wynn Hughes-Games and nephews of the Vice General of the Isle of Man.
  • Private Archibald Gallienne (Royal Guernsey Light Infantry) is killed at age 24. His twin brother will be killed in two days and their older brother was killed in November 1917.
  • Private Joseph Leonard Garner (Manchester Regiment) is killed in action at age 31. His brother will die of wounds next year.
  • Private Richard Stephen Andrews (West Surrey Regiment) dies of wounds. His brother was killed in October 1916.
  • rivate William Swain (Bedfordshire Regiment) is killed in action at age 20. His brother was killed in February 1916.