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Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft
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23rd April – On St George’s day, three obsolete British Navy cruisers, with a large naval force in support, were sent across the North Sea to the German-held Belgian port of Zeebrugge, where the cruisers were to be sunk, blocking the entrance to the submarine base there. The mission was extremely risky and daring – during the raid eight Victoria Crosses were awarded. The heavily defended fortifications around Zeebrugge were stormed by British landing parties, destroying many of the defensive works there; despite the fact that the attacking soldiers and ships were exposed to heavy German machine-gun and artillery fire, and the British landing gangways and scaling ladders were not long enough to reach the top of the harbour walls. On the far side of the harbour, an outdated British submarine, packed full of explosives, was sailed into the supports of a railway viaduct and detonated, demolishing a section of the viaduct as the five-man British crew narrowly escaped in a rowing boat. In the chaos and confusion, a German cyclist corps, hurriedly sent as reinforcements and unaware of what had happened, cycled straight over the edge of the destroyed section. The blockships were successfully put into place, but within three weeks the Germans had dredged a channel around them, and submarines were once again able to raid into the North Sea and beyond. The British had suffered two-hundred killed and four-hundred wounded. The British public responded enthusiastically to the story of the Zeebrugge raid – the simultaneous, but unsuccessful, raid on the canal entrance at Ostend was barely reported on, and no medals were awarded for that action.

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A German aerial photograph of the blocked harbour at Zeebrugge, taken the day after the raid – the scuttled British ships Intrepid and Iphigenia are blocking the main channel, with Thetis further behind them.

Sources

Gilbert, M First World War

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)

Warfare Magazine Online http://www.warfaremagazine.co.uk/articles/The-Zeebrugge-Raid/105


This Week in 1918

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21st April – The day after shooting down his eightieth Allied plane, the German fighter ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, was shot down by an Australian anti-aircraft machine-gun crew, whilst dogfighting with Canadian pilots in the air above the Somme. Von Richthofen managed to land his plane, but when nearby Australian troops reached it, he had died of his wounds. Von Richthofen was the most successful fighter pilot of the war, with eighty confirmed victories – the most successful Allied pilots were the Frenchman René Fonck, with seventy-five confirmed victories, and Canadian Billy Bishop, with seventy-two.


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Image of Manfred Von Richthofen taken in c.1917, from Wikimedia Commons


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Sources

Gilbert, M First World War

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)

 

This Week in 1918

9th April - The British House of Commons extended conscription to Ireland, introducing the Irish Conscription Bill. This measure had previously been rejected due to the opposition of Irish Nationalists. However, it was not just the Nationalists who objected, across Ireland people were united in opposition to the bill. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, representatives of Sinn Fein, the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Labour Party, and Independents assembled at the Mansion House on 18th April and adopted the following resolution:

“Denying the right of the British Government to enforce compulsory service in this country, we pledge ourselves solemnly to one another to resist conscription by the most effective means at our disposal … The Irish people have a right to resist by every means that are consonant with the law of God”

Irish Trade Unions began to prepare for an all-Ireland General Strike, whilst across the country, groups of volunteers began to prepare to resist martial law, if it was imposed.

Bingley Petty Sessions

A WILSDEN BOY’S TEMPTATION

A 16 year-old Wilsden apprentice named Stephen Craven was charged with stealing £3 from the dwelling house of Mrs. Sarah Pullan, 15, Garden View, Wilsden. Superintendent Slack stated that Mrs. Pullan lived next door to the prisoner, who resided with his grandmother. About 7 p.m. on March 26 Mrs. Pullan went into the prisoner’s grandmother’s house, and as she walked in the prisoner went out. On her return she did not notice that anything had been disturbed, but when the following night she had occasion to go upstairs she found that a box in bedroom had been opened and £3 stolen. Suspicion fell upon on the lad, and eventually his uncle brought him to the Harden Police Station. When charged, he replied “I did take it and spent nearly £2 in different shops and picture houses in Bradford” – Sarah Pullan gave evidence bearing out that statement. The lad’s uncle spoke as to the boy’s conduct, and stated that this was not the first time that he had misbehaved. The Rev. F. C. Rollin said he had known the lad for three and a-half years, and he had done good work in connection with the church. The prisoner was fined £3 and costs.

- Keighley News, 13th April 1918

Sources

Gilbert, M First World War

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)