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Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft

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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11th June – After four days of continuous German attacks on the Western Front that had led German forces to within 45 miles of Paris, French and American forces launched a sweeping counter-attack. The counter-attack was supported by over six hundred French and two hundred British aeroplanes, as well as one hundred and sixty-three tanks. Combined-arms tactics were now becoming the norm, although there were still mistakes – one bombing error by the RAF wounded eight French soldiers and killed seventy-five horses. The German offensive halted on the 12th June, having only made small gains. However, the Allied forces continued to press forward, and on the 14th June the French used mustard gas on an extensive scale for the first time.


15th June – Working in a hospital in London, writer Vera Brittain received news that her brother Edward had been killed in an attack on the Italian front, shot by an Austrian sniper whilst leading his men to recapture a trench. Vera Brittain had now lost her brother, her fiancé, and two of her best friends in the war. On the other side of the lines, the Austro-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, serving in an Austrian artillery regiment, took control of a gun after its officer and crew were buried in an explosion. His actions led to him being awarded the Gold Medal for Valour, Austria’s highest award, for his ‘exceptionally courageous behaviour’.
The Austrian offensive failed to achieve a breakthrough, or to gain any of the original objectives. Over two thousand Austrian troops were captured by Italian, French and British forces, and many more were killed due to the huge superiority of numbers of Italian and British aircraft.

previewAustro-Hungarian supply line over the Vršič Pass, on the Italian front, October 1917 (image via Wikimedia Commons)