Header Copy

Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft

This Week in 1918

21st March – In the early hours of the morning, the Germans launched a huge offensive on the Western Front, aiming to drive the British from the Somme, the French from the Aisne, and to threaten Paris. With Germany now at peace with Russia, the German forces no longer had to be split across two fronts and the efficient German railway system quickly brought men and guns from the east to the west. The German General Ludendorff had managed to give the impression that his attack would come much further south than it did – British and French forces were caught off balance, with divisions massed in the wrong places, and the brunt of the German attacks falling on the depleted and understrength British Fifth Army. The attacks began with a five-hour artillery bombardment – over 6,000 German heavy guns and over 3,000 mortars were involved, firing both conventional ammunition and up to two million gas shells to incapacitate the Allied defensive artillery. The German attack was hugely successful – on the first day, they advanced in places up to 4 and a half miles, taking 21,000 British prisoners. The German superiority in numbers was telling – a British regiment fought to the last man at Manchester Hill but was annihilated; several villages along the lines were obliterated as the British forces defended their positions. On the second day of battle, the Germans made further advances. Of 22 British tanks deployed to counter-attack, 16 were destroyed. On the third day of the battle, three specially made German artillery pieces began to bombard Paris, seventy-four miles away, causing 256 casualties. British forces retreated to the Somme, causing the Kaiser to remark from Berlin that ‘the battle [is] won, the English utterly defeated’. Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, sent an impassioned plea to the American President Wilson, asking him to ‘drop all questions of interpretation of past agreements and send over infantry as fast as possible’. The President, without consulting Congress or even his cabinet, authorised the full deployment of the American army in France into mixed brigades with the British and French forces. German forces crossed the Somme on the 24th March, threatening to split the British and French forces – by the 25th March the Germans had captured as many as 45,000 British and French troops, and were still advancing, aiming to cut the British off from both the French army and the channel ports. But despite the seeming German advantages, they were becoming disheartened by the level of stubborn resistance put up by the British forces, and the British willingness to counter-attack, even in retreat. One British Captain sang a hymn to steady his nerves as he led his twenty men in just such a counter-attack – when he and his men approached the Germans in front of them, the Germans surrendered.


Gilbert, M First World War


John Edmondson

Pte. Edmondson, John    41409  6th Battalion  Leicestershire Regiment.


John was born at Victoria Street, Wilsden on 30 November 1898, the son of Rawnsley and Violetta Edmondson. He had a younger sister, Frances, and two much younger brothers, Fred and Norris. The family moved to 49 Lane Side before the birth of Frances.

John was apprenticed to a Plumber when he was called up in February 1917, just after his 18th birthday. He was transferred to the Leicestershire Regiment with Herbert Clark, also listed on Wilsden’s cenotaph, their enlistment numbers were only 99 apart.

 John died, aged 19, on 23 March 1918,  the third day of  Operation Michael, the German Spring Offensive in which Luddendorff planned to smash through the line held by the exhausted and depleted Allies before further re-inforcements, including the Americans who had finally entered the war, could make their way to the Western Front. In a desperate defence which went on until April 5th 22,000 British and Allied soldiers were killed. John Edmondson was just one of them

 John’s body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, France. He never got to meet his little brother Norris, who had been born just 18 days earlier, nor a younger sister Elsie who was born in 1921.

Herbert Wright

Capt. Wright, Joseph Herbert   (Military Cross)      8th Battalion  Gloucestershire Regiment.



Herbert was born at Ling Bob, Wilsden, youngest of four children of Ann and David Wright. He had two older brothers, Pickles and Enoch and a sister, Mary. Enoch died in 1895 aged 24 and their father died two years later when Herbert was 13. Herbert and Mary continued to live with their widowed mother, who kept a grocers and drapers shop at Ling Bob, while they studied to become elementary school teachers Eventually Mary gave up teaching to marry Wilsden’s G.P. Dr Marquis. Herbert took up a place teaching Science at Cinderford Higher Elementary School, a secondary school and centre for training elementary school teachers, which opened in 1910.

He joined up shortly after war was declared, starting as a private, probably alongside some of his former pupils, in the Gloucester Yeomanry and was promoted through the ranks to Captain. He was wounded in the Battle of the Somme, July 1916 and was awarded the Military Cross in the New Year Honours of January 1917. On 7th June 1917 Herbert was wounded again at Messines.

  Bradford Weekly Telegraph  13 June 1917;   - “Captain J.H. Wright of the Gloucestershire Regiment, only son of Mrs Wright of Wilsden and brother-in-law of Dr Marquis of Wilsden, has been admitted to hospital abroad suffering from a severe gunshot wound in the left eye. He has been at the front for two years and was wounded in the Somme fighting on July 3 last year. About a month ago when home on leave he received the Military Cross from the King. The award of the distinction was announced among the New Year Honours and it was given for his work on the Somme. He was formerly a science master at a school in Cinderford, Gloucestershire.”

Though almost certainly blind in one eye, Herbert recovered enough to be sent back to his battalion in

France. He was killed in action at Velu Wood in the First Battle of Bapaume on 25 March 1918,  aged 33, and is listed on the Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.  Bay 6.

Herbert is also listed on the Cinderford cenotaph.



Bingley Petty Sessions


Alfred Chadwick (16), a carter, of Keighley, was summoned for working a horse in an unfit state at Wilsden on March 5, and Bright Collingham, his employer, was summoned for permitting the horse to be worked. Chadwick pleaded “Guilty”, but the other defendant did not appear. Police-Constable Dunnet stated that on March 5 a waggon and two horses belonging to Collingham were in Main Street, Wilsden. One horse was in the waggon and the other was tracing, and Chadwick was in charge of the trace horse. This horse was jibbing and refusing to draw and twisting to one side, and, becoming suspicious, witness examined the animal, and found two raw sores, near together, on the point of the left shoulder. The youth said he knew about the sores, and his employer had also known about them since February 24, but the horse had worked regularly except on February 26 and 27. Later the same day witness saw Collingham, and he admitted the horse was suffering from a sore shoulder, and said he had been bathing and dressing it since February 24. He had a lot of work, he said, and could not afford to let the horse rest, and he also said he was too busy to attend the court. Police-Sergeant Consett gave evidence in corroboration. In answer to the Chairman, Chadwick said he had been driving the horse for three weeks only and had had no previous experience with horses. The case against Chadwick was dismissed on payment of costs, and Collingham was fined £3, including costs

- Keighley News, 16th March 1918


“A dozen ambulances which have been converted from touring cars and commercial vehicles and placed at the disposal of the Keighley National Motor Volunteers”


Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)




  7th March – On the night of the 7th March, a 1-ton bomb was dropped from a German Bomber on Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale, London, killing 12 people. It was also the most materially destructive single bomb dropped on Britain during the whole war, destroying six houses and heavily damaging dozens more.

9th March – A series of huge German artillery barrages and gas attacks on the Western Front signalled the opening phase of what would be their largest           gamble of the entire war – a huge assault on the British and French defences. Until this point in the war, the major set-piece assaults on the Western Front (such as the Somme, Passchendaele, and at Cambrai) had all been initiated by the Allies, and they had all broken on the superior German defence lines. It was now the Germans who would try to break through the lines of trenches, their overwhelming concern to secure victory before American forces reached the war zones. The main attack would begin on the 21st March.




Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)

Gilbert, M. First World War