Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – July 1918

JULY 1918

I believe that ‘the boats are swinging on their moorings’, showing the tide is turning – at last.  The boche have taken enormous casualties for the ground they won.  On the Fourth, the new Anzac commander, Monash, staged his giant raid at le Hamel, pushing them back in 90 minutes.  Aircraft were used to parachute ammunition to the machine-gunners as their rounds dwindled.  A stunning success, the Germans took it on their chins.

Eleven days later the elite Prussian Corps attacked the French Fourth Army at Perthes.  Gouraud had prepared a trap.  The enemy found the front trenches only manned by machine-gunners.  When they got past, the French heavy guns laid shells behind them as the 75s raked them.  They became disorientated finding themselves trapped in minefields between the shell curtain and the manned French front lines spitting small arms fire.  Only at Perthes did they get into the trenches.  Repeated waves were mown down.  Once the French sensed boche morale was collapsing, they surged forward driving the enemy back beyond their start lines.  Gouraud deserves all credit for this superb defensive success.

The US ‘42nd ‘Rainbow’ Division played its full part having machine-gunners in the ‘forlorn hope’ nests,  and working closely with the French regiments on both flanks.  America can take credit for the quality of their performance.

Success on the Piave has so changed Italian morale that some of their units have been seconded to the defence of Reims.  They have performed magnificently, French commanders are pleased to commend their bravery.

I have been reporting back to London on the continuing use of trains to carry the gas.  As before, care is needed.  One train set off away from the front line still spewing gas.  Having lost my darling Natasha, I am prejudiced against its use but have to discharge my duty whilst this weapon is a means of scientific warfare.

Three days after the Gouraud manoeuvre, Foch ordered the counter-attack west of Reims.  Tanks to the fore, the enemy was pushed back some 8 kilometres.  American Divisions fought alongside the French; the threat to Paris was over.  The British began advancing next day to the north.  All along the Western Front the Germans were being pushed back from the ground that cost them dearly in dead in the Spring.  The pushing continued until the end of the month, meantime I moved to Amiens to assist the movement of materials.

My ‘Eastern’ family will be greatly saddened by the reports the Russian autocracy is exterminated.  Messages have come in that the Tsar, Tsarina and their five children have been murdered in Ekaterinburg, where they have been held for months.  Our King offered to get help to get them away from the Bolchevik regime.  I have heard he was ‘persuaded’ to withdraw the offer because of  the fear of British anti-Tsar sentiment.  By shooting the four innocent girls, the Bolcheviks show they have no decency.

The influenza illness is spreading among all belligerents.  Many are dying.  This is having its greatest impact on the enemy, weakened by the food shortages.   Even Mother Nature wants the war to end with Germany and its allies defeated.  Amongst those affected was Charles, fortunately just a few days in bed saw him recover.  Delphine writes that to Rose’s delight he is now back in London with her, no longer needed in Poperinge.

Whilst I have been stationed in France this past month, Thom had his birthday and has joined the Yeomanry.  I would have wished to be at home for him to bid ‘God be with you’ but Delphine deputised.  She wrote to also tell me that Mr. Fenn gave Thom a hunter as a leaving present – I hope not to hunt Germans too closely!!  With Gwen’s help , Nat and  Mariya  made him a wollen toy horse to snuggle up to in his bed!   I suspect Thom will hide it deep within his knapsack.