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Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft

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)
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preview- Keighley News, 8th January 1918




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- Keighley News, 1st June 1918

Sources

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)


  1. Herbert Clark

Pte Clark, Joseph Herbert      41310   Leicestershire Regiment. 6th (Service) Battalion.

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Herbert was born in Wilsden, son of Thomas Clark, a stone quarryman, and Mary Ann Clark of 20, Shay Gate, Wilsden. He had a younger brother, Frederick, and two younger sisters,

Emma Elizabeth (Bessie) and Daisy May and also three older half-siblings, Harry, Emily and Lucy. Herbert, who had been employed as a Draper’s Assistant, was called up in February 1917 just after his 18th birthday.

Herbert’s father died in March 1918 and only two months later Herbert was killed in action. The family suffered another serious loss when Mary Ann Clark died exactly one year to the day after her husband.

In May 1918 the Allies were expecting Ludendorff to attack again against one of the weaker areas of the front. The newest member of the partnership, America, was convinced that this would be in the area of Chemin-des-Dames in the Champagne countryside. It was a quiet and thinly defended area, held that May by four French divisions and the remnants of three exhausted British divisions which had been sent there after the Battle of Lys, under the command of French General Duchesne. Unfortunately the French commanders dismissed the idea out of hand and concentrated their defences at the front north of the Somme and the Arras sectors.

Ludendorff, meanwhile, had been quietly amassing German infantry and guns into Chemin-des-Dames, taking great pains to keep troop movements a secret from the Allies. The German attack was due to take place at 1 a.m. on 27 May. Fifteen minutes before zero hour thousands of gas shells were dropped on the British and French lines followed by an immense artillery bombardment lasting two and a half hours.

“At 3.40 a.m. the German Storm Troops began to move forwards behind the wall of their own bursting shells, through scenes of carnage and destruction beyond even the imagination of a Dante or a Hieronymous Bosch......By midday the Germans were five miles ahead and across the Aisne – aided by the fact that Duchesne had delayed until too late the order to destroy the bridges....By the evening the central German spearhead had reached the next river to the south – the Vesle – on both sides of the town of Fismes, and the following day they crossed the river and surged on towards the Marne.

In one day therefore, the German assault troops had advanced twelve miles – a feat which had long been considered impossible upon the Western Front by Allied commanders.”

‘1918, The Last Act’ by Barrie Pitt

 Herbert died in that German attack on 27 May 1918, aged 19, His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial.