Alexander Pepys’ War Dairy – May 1918

When at the club and over supper, I heard about the Abbeville conference on the 1st. The US General Pershing told Lloyd George and Clemenceau that America had joined the War independently of the British Empire and France and would fight under their own flag. With the allies having to face the continuing onslaughts, it was galling to them to find the bulk of the US troops now arriving in France would not enter the line until the American army was ready. Foch, having the responsibility for all our forces, was understandably shaken to find they might be overwhelmed whilst new troops were available but stuck in barracks. Pershing relented and would allow some 20% to join the line during this month. A thought, sometimes one’s allies are less helpful than are the enemy.

Our Royal Navy had another attempt at stopping the Kreigmarine. On the 10th, HMS Vindictive was successfully scuttled in Ostend harbour to block the enemy cruisers using the port.

Our Eastern sources tell us that the Austrian army, made up of many nationalities is starting to fragment – mutinies are being crushed and mutineers shot. This cannot help but boost the morale of the Italians fighting on the coastal battlefields and in the Dolomite mountains.

Towards the end of the month, the enemy struck again, but along the Aisne. The French forces were pushed back to the Marne. However the American troops now at the front were able to assist the French hold the southern bank of the river. The German momentum stalled.

Delphine arrived at my flat after I returned from the office. I had arranged with Mrs. Bentine for Delphine to use her spare bedroom rather than ask John. She prepared for the evening. Arranging a cab for 6 o’clock, I told the driver to motor past the Palace, along Regents Street and round Piccadilly Circus; showing Delphine some of the sights on the way to Pall Mall. We were shown to a window table at ‘The Rag’. I noticed some acquaintances from the War Office. Perhaps intrigued, knowing about Natasha, two came up to compliment me on my charming companion. I introduced them to Madame Legrande as a close friend of my wife before the war, but discretely said she was living in the Home Counties. I did sense intrigued glances at this elegant guest who, as dinner proceeded, relaxed and showed some of the gaiety for which Parisian ladies are renowned. I saw Delphine in a new illuminating light. After this most pleasant evening, we took a cab at 10 and returned to my mansion block where I left her with Mrs. Bentine. Next morning, I collected Delphine after her breakfast and carried her bag to Charing Cross where she caught the train. When I thanked her for coming up I was pleased when she kissed me on both cheeks. A memorable visit.

Two days later began four days of air raids on munitions dumps. A bomb hit the Etaples hospital, some thirty wounded soldiers and their nurses were killed. With over 10,000 tons of ammunition blown up, our unit had to rapidly organise the transfer of new stocks from British factories. The staff worked splendidly to get the munitions wagons over to France and quickly replenish the dumps.

Also on the 19th, some three dozen German planes came over and bombed London. 250 civilian casualties was the price Londoners paid for yet more boche bestiality.