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Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft

14th July – A huge German offensive was launched against French 12th July – On the Western Front, British troops used a new form of gas warfare for the first time. It was a railway train whose carriages were loaded with gas cylinders that could be brought up the front by narrow gauge railway, then pushed manually to within a quarter of a mile of the front. In the first attack at 1.40am on the 12th July, more than 5,000 gas cylinders were deployed simultaneously in this way. According to a British corporal, “the dense grey cloud made an awe-inspiring sight as it rolled steadily forward, widening as it went. We watched as it poured over our own front lines and continued across No-Man’s Land. Such a threatening cloud as this we had never before witnessed. Over the enemy lines the gas belt spread wider and wider, engulfing them from sight”. Several hundred German casualties were reported. Another, anonymous, member of the gas companies wrote a poem about their work

Science of the ages, the highest art of man,

Degraded and prostituted, that Man should take the van,

Whilst Empire, Justice, Freedom slumbered.

Then chemist, student, artisan answered Duty’s call;

Our arms, our arts, our poison fumes

Gained Liberty for all

and American held sectors. However, the timing of this attack had been revealed by several German prisoners-of-war, and, as a result of this intelligence, Allied artillery had been able to bombard the crowded German front-line trenches and staging areas for almost an hour before the German’s own artillery barrage began. The German barrage was formidable, with more than 17,500 gas shells (over thirty-five tonnes of explosives) being fired at a relatively small area. This artillery barrage was wasted though, as the French General staff had constructed a line of decoy and dummy trenches. The German attack rolled over these false trenches, killing the few troops stationed there (described as “suicide troops in all but name”) – but when the attack reached the real lines, the Germans found them almost untouched by shellfire, and heavily defended by French and American soldiers. After four days of brutal fighting, leaving carnage along the lines and severe casualties on both sides, the French launched a massive counter-offensive along a 27-mile front. 2,000 heavy artillery guns were in action, along with over 200 tanks. The German line was driven back four and a half miles, 20,000 German prisoners were captured, and 400 heavy guns were taken.

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 From Keighley News

 

 

 

 

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Wilsden

“WAR WEAPONS EFFORT” – The “War Weapons” effort which is to be made next week at Wilsden, in connection with Bingley, has already made a start. The village of Wilsden is asked to contribute £6000 [Over £350,000 in 2018], which will be equal to two aeroplanes and one gun, and the weapons represented by this sum are to be named after the village of Wilsden. The Wilsden committee (Mrs. Marquis, the Rev. F.C. Rollin, and Mr. S.H. Rawnsley) are using all their efforts to make next week a success. On Thursday night, as a preliminary, the Morton Banks Hospital Band gave a concert in the cricket field, with a programme of instrumental and vocal music. Mr. John Downs, of Thornton, occupied the chair, and a collection taken at the gate amounted to £6 in aid of the band. The speakers during the concert were the Rev. F.C. Rollin, Mr. Norman Hackett (Bingley), Private Macmillan (Morton Banks Hospital), and the Chairman (Mr. Downs). Mr. Rollin, in the course of his speech, surprised the audience, which was very good, by remarking that already nearly £4000 has been promised towards next week’s effort.

  • Keighley News, 6th July 1918

 

26th June – The battle of Bellau Wood came to an end. It had started back on June 1st and was the first major engagement of the US Army on French soil. On 26th June the American Marine Brigade finally gained the wood. Three weeks before the Marines had refused to retreat in the face of overwhelming odds and had been reduced to fighting off the counter-attacking Germans with fists and bayonets – but their bravery and eventual gains had come at a high cost. Of the 10,000 men of the division, over 5,000 were wounded or killed. The war cemetery at the edge of Bellau Wood holds the graves of 2,288 American soldiers, and the names of a further 1,060 who have no known grave.

 Keighley News, 29th June 1918

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