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A1 and in the Pink – 100 years on

WWI as seen in the letters of Sgt GC Roberts MM of the 1/5th Welsh Regiment

April 19th 1918. In the Field.

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April 17th 1918 “this is a soldier’s war now”

April 16th 1918 “Church of the Forty Martyrs”

April 13th 1918 “a bit crook”

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To Dyfan Roberts (Aged 16 1/2) Mar 29th 1918, In the Field

Dear Dyfan,

I am very glad to be able to tell you that I have received your letter of Feb 10th thanks very much indeed for it and for your congratulations, but by your letter you seem to have more claim to it that me but I won’t argue with you as i must not argue with a superior officer. You want to know which is the best the DCM or MM well there is a twenty pound bounty with the DCM but it can be got behind the lines even in England. There is no bounty with the MM but it must be earned under fire so you can see for yourself which is the best. Well I was glad to hear that the operetta went off so well you seem to be getting quite a talented artist. I heard some time ago from Mailys that W Bebb has got married of course he has my deepest sympathy and all that. You needn’t be afraid of me bringing ant Syrian girls home with me as you suggest because I don’t intend to tie ant knot for years and years I am not quite so green as that. Bill Bebb and a few more like him have more feet than brains and it’s a certain fact they have not got the pluck of a rabbit. How are the cadets getting on what sort of time do you get with them let me know. Did Rees the history master get a commission in the Army he is a conscript is he not. Did Price have to go as well. I don’t suppose that C…. Wright will have to go. Thank him and RG for their kind congrats. You say that the folks in Hengoed did not seem very pleased. It is immaterial to me what they think therefore don’t worry about them I don’t worry over it in the least. When is Austin going to do a bit he seem to be having a good spell in Blighty I would not mind swapping places with him. You want to come out here in my place. Take my advice old chap and stay where you are is by far better. We have just heard that the Huns have made their big attack and he has caught a bad cold I think this will be the decisive battle of the war and the Huns have staked a great deal on the result but it won’t come off. Lew Morgan has gone to dock with something the matter with his stomach. I saw B Fry about three weeks ago before the last stunt he was alright and wishes to be remembered to you. By Jove you are not half swanking now uncle to two boys eh? Well I am enclosing a note for Jon will you please give it to him. How is young Glyndwr progressing does he sleep with you? I will chuck him out if he is not too big for me when I get home. Hope you are doing well in school hope you will pass the Senior CWB and the Matric good luck to you. Well I must wind up now. Best love and wishes . Hope Mailys is in the pink.

Your Affect Brawd, Goronwy.

Comment – https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-one/battles-of-world-war-one/the-german-spring-offensive-of-1918/

In the spring of 1918, Luderndorff ordered a massive German attack on the Western Front. The Spring Offensive was Germany’s attempt to end World War One. With 500,000 troops added to Germany’s strength from the Russian Front, Luderndorff was confident of success: By the spring of 1918, the Allies knew that there would be a major German attack – they just did not know where it would come. The British reinforced their positions near the coast while the French strengthened their positions to the south of the British. However, this left a weakness in the British line to the west of Cambrai. Here the British trench system had not been completed and those that had been dug were inadequate. Sir Hubert Gough, who commanded the Fifth Army in this area, was well aware of his predicament and more conscious of the fact that he had few reserves to call on if the Germans did attack the sector where the Fifth Army was stationed. German reconnaissance had made them aware that the area was less well defended. On March 21st, 1918, Luderndorff launched the offensive. In just five hours, the Germans fired one million artillery shells at the British lines held by the Fifth Army – over 3000 shells fired every minute. The artillery bombardment was followed by an attack by elite storm troopers. These soldiers travelled lightly and were skilled in fast, hard-hitting attacks before moving on to their next target. Unlike soldiers burdened with weighty kit etc, the storm troopers carried little except weaponry (such as flame throwers) that could cause much panic, as proved to be the case in this attack.

By the end of the first day of the attack, 21,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner and the Germans had made great advances through the lines of the Fifth Army. Senior British military commanders lost control of the situation. They had spent three years used to static warfare and suddenly they had to cope with a German onslaught. Gough ordered the Fifth Army to withdraw. The German attack was the biggest breakthrough in three years of warfare on the Western Front. Ironically, the British gave up to the Germans the Somme region – where so many British and German soldiers had been killed in the battle of 1916.

The German advance also put Paris in the firing line. The Germans had built the world’s largest artillery gun. Three Krupps cannons were moved to the front line and used to shell Paris. Paris was 120 kilometres from the front line but a shell from the huge guns only took just over 200 seconds to reach the city and 183 huge shells landed on the capital of France causing many Parisians to leave the city.

The first few days of the attack were such an overwhelming success, that William II declared March 24th to be a national holiday. Many in Germany assumed that the war was all but over.

However, the Germans experienced one major problem. Their advance had been a major success. But their troops deliberately carried few things except weapons to assist their mobility. The speed of their advance put their supply lines under huge strain. The supply units of the storm troopers simply could not keep up with them and those leading the attack became short of vital supplies that were stuck well back from their positions. In particular, the German 18th Army had been spectacularly successful. It had advanced to Amiens and threatened the city. However, rather than use the 18th Army to assist other units moving forward so that the Germans could consolidate their advance, Luderndorff ordered the 18th Army to advance on Amiens as he believed the fall of the city would be a devastating blow to the Allies. In this Luderndorff was correct. Amiens was the major rail centre for the Allies in the region and its loss would have been a disaster. However, many believed that the 18th Army could have been more positively used if it had supported other units of the German army as they advanced and then moved on to Amiens. The 18th Army found that it ran out of supplies as it advanced. Horses, that should have been used in the advance on Amiens, were killed for their meat. Therefore, the mobility of the 18th Army was reduced and the loss of such transport was to be vital. As the Germans advanced to Amiens, they went via Albert. Here the German troops found shops filled with all types of food. Such was their hunger and desperation for food that looting took place and the discipline that had started with the attack on March 21st soon disappeared. The advance all but stopped in Albert and the attack on Amiens imploded. Luderndorff could not have planned for this and he did not know what to do. Senior German officers based with Luderndorff feared that he was at a point of exhaustion and they feared for his mental health.

Though the German attack had been spectacular in terms of land conquered, it had also been expensive in terms of men lost. Between March and April, the Germans suffered 230,000 casualties. The German Army simply could not sustain such casualties.

At this time, American troops poured into the Western Front. By the end of March, 250,000 American troops had joined the conflict – Luderndorff’s worst planned for scenario. However, the impact of the Americans was hindered by the fact that the American General Pershing would not allow his troops to be commanded by either French or British officers.

Neither Hindenburg or Luderndorff could face the inevitable. By June 1918, the German Army had been severely weakened by the large number of casualties it had suffered. Then on July 15th 1918, Luderndorff ordered the last offensive by the German Army in World War One. It was a disaster. The Germans advanced two miles into land held by the Allies but their losses were huge. The French Army let the Germans advance knowing that their supply lines were stretched to the limit. Then the French hit back on the Marne and a massive French counter-attack took place. Between March and July 1918, the Germans lost one million men.

March 29th 1918 Good Friday, In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line again to let you know that I am as per usual in the pink and A1 and hope you all at home can say the same. I am very pleased to be able to tell you that I received a letter from Dyfan dated Feb 10th and 16th diolch yn fawr Dyfan am dano. …..a typical letter from him and he does start in a funny way. I thank him for his kind congrats. Am going to write to him with this. I told you in my last letter that I had received a letter and a fine safety razor from Jon. I have already written to thank him. By Jove the Roberts family is getting on and increasing by degrees. What are they going to name the baby let me know. Fancy two boys. I wrote to congratulate Jon and Mag. I have not got any news for you this time so you must excuse this letter not being a long one. We are down well away from the line resting and it has done me …….. of good, I feel much better for it because my nerves ……. a bit after the White Hill stunt and that shock I had when on Cape Hellas did not improve things, but I am alright again I could not stand a halfpenny worth of shell fire when i was up in the line last but I will be alright again by when I go back. I had a letter from auntie Annie last night it had been addressed to the battalion I don’t know what it was addressed there for …….my new address number 241261 Corpl GC Roberts 159 Bde Trench Mortar Battery EEF. I hear by that letter that Mr Williams all b it went west a few weeks ago, what is the matter with him, the usual? Well I must hurry with this letter as it is waiting to be censored. I will write to Mr B Bebb in answer to the letter I had from him as soon as I can. Glad to hear that Mailys has been excepted at Bangor College. Well I must close more next time. Best love and best wishes to you all.

I am, Your loving son, G.

March 14th 1918 In the Field.

March 8th 1918 In the Field.

3rd/4th March 1918 In the Field

Comment

The Minnie Pit disaster was a coal mining accident that took place on 12 January 1918 in Halmer End, Staffordshire, in which 155 men and boys died. The disaster, which was caused by an explosion due to firedamp, is the worst ever recorded in the North Staffordshire Coalfield. An official investigation never established what caused the ignition of flammable gases in the pit.

On Saturday, 12 January 1918, 248 men were working underground when a huge explosion tore apart the Bullhurst and Banbury Seams. Within minutes 155 men died from the effects of the explosion, roof falls or inhaling poisonous gases. Rescue teams from across the North Staffordshire Coalfield were quickly mobilised to search for survivors. But during the rescue attempts, Hugh Doorbar, Captain of the Birchenwood Colliery No. 1 rescue team,was killed in the operation. His death brought the final death toll to 156.

The explosions caused severe damage to the underground workings. Large sections of the pit had collapsed and methane remained an ongoing problem. Search and recovery teams were at all times aware that further roof falls or explosions might occur. It took 12 months to recover all the bodies from the pit.

The disaster placed a huge strain on the mining community at Halmerend and its neighbouring villages because their livelihoods depended on the colliery and it related industries. With the First World War entering its fourth year, many families had now lost men at home on the Western Front. The Miners Federation Of Great Britain established a relief fund, 6s and 3d a week were collected from miners and boys at other pits around the country. Financial assistance came from other relief efforts. The Podmore company paid out compensation to bereaved families. Nevertheless, many families were forced into poverty due to loss of their main wage earners.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnie_Pit_Disaster

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