Mexborough and Swinton Times December 28, 1918
The Stirring Events of 1918.
South Yorkshire’s Part in the Final Effort.
We have passed through the year of all years. It has been a year of profound dejection and supreme exhilaration. Of all the four hard stern years of war it has brought us the keenest pain and the brightest joy, pain for the losses and anxiety we have been called upon to endure, and joy in the salvation, which has come at last, salvation in victory and relief from the carnage of war.
The Mexboro’ district has taken its part very worthily in the war, and is entitled to Its share, of the national sense of duty done and triumph won. It has kept pace with the country and empire as a whole in the common effort to overthrow Prussianism, and the common suffering and sacrifice entailed in the task.
The year dawned inauspiciously for the Allies, and therefore for this little corner of Allied “territory.” The Russian Revolution had passed quickly from one phase to another, until it was concreted into Bolshevik anarchy, with a pronounced pro-German cast, and all hope of help from Russia had definitely vanished. We were confronted with the prospect of a German offensive more formidable than anything we .had yet been called upon to withstand, and it seemed as if our dwindling reserves of man-power would be unequal to the strain. The U-boats were worrying us mightily. There were food-queues in the land. We looked to America both for food and for men, and the ships which we relied upon to bring the help we sorely needed, were being harried and decimated by the cruel submarine pirates.
Yet we began the year as high in hope and as firm in determination as ever before. We made up our minds that if the impending German ” push” was likely to be the biggest it had only to be resisted and held and it would certainly be his last. The Navy tackled the U-boat menace with redoubled energy. Food distribution was reorganized; gradually order was evolved out of chaos, rationing was successfully’ applied to all the essential articles of food, the gallant merchant service saw to it that these islands were sufficiently victualled; America made a splendid effort, first with food and then with men, and then the great battle which was to decide the war—the “Kaiser’s battle”—broke out.
Every phase of that mighty struggle is firmly imprinted, we behave, on the memory of all of us, and there is little need for recapitulation. Out of they anxiety and gloom and heart-searching of those tense, fateful days of March, April, and May, came at last the blessed certainty of triumph. The British suffered grievously under the first incredible German onset: A portion of the British line—the weakest portion—was submerged, and for some hours it seemed certain that not only would Amiens and Paris fall, but that the British and French armies would be torn asunder, and all France laid open to the Huns. But the British rallied; the French and the American “Conteraptibles” flung themselves into the breach with desperate valour.
For the moment, we were safe. We were breathing hard, and a little uncertain of vision, but still ‘in fighting trim, and rapidly recovering. Amiens was made secure: Then Ludendorff changed the sledge-hammer into the other hand and struck through Armentieres for the Channel parts. There ‘followed the epic battle of Kemmel, and on April 29, with the Germans striving to push through Nieppe Forest to Hazebrouk, three glorious British divisions defeated General Sixt von Arnim’s army and definitely checked this second blow.
The Germans in 1918 had repeated the blunder. If 1914, cost them four years of devastating war, the blunder of 1918 cost them final defeat and irretrievable ruin. There followed an ominous lull. All through May the Allies, with ever increasing support from America, were fighting desperately to stabilise the line, and they counter-attacked ceaselessly.
On June 15 the Germans launched their last offensive blow of the war. Prince Rupprecht had tried to smash the British front and had failed. The Crown Prince now made his essay. He struck on both sides of Rheims. British divisions were there to meet the brunt of the blow. They had been worn out in the desperate fighting around the Somme and the Lyg, but they turned to meet the foe once more and covered themselves with glory, breaking the forte of the Germ: advance from the Chemins des Dames downto the Marne.
In this offensive Saissons was lost, and Compiegne was threatened. It seemed that Paris must fall after all. But at Chateau Thierry the Germans were arrested and foiled once more, this time by the French, with the brilliant- assistance of the Americans. The Germans were held in a deep, dangerous salleint depending from Soissons and Rheims.
On July 18, 1918, a date which will shine in history with all the lustre of June 18, 1915, or October 21, 1816, the final stage of the war commenced. Marshal Foch took the initiative, and from that hour to the end the Germans, up to then apparently irresistible, never won an engagement of any kind. Day after day and week after week they were continually buffeted and beaten. Marshal Foch wiped out the Marne salient, extended his offensive through Champagne to the British front, and then, on August 8 – another very famous date–the British took up the offensive and maintained it to the last day of the war—November 11.
As Marshal Foch has generously declared, these hammer-blows of the British, delivered here, there, and everywhere, in Picardy, Artois, and Belgium, set the seal upon Germany’s ruin, and finally crushed her armies. In time meantime the Americans had arrived in very great force, and after one brilliant exploit, the demolition of the St.Michiel salient, settled down with the French to a steady grinding offensive which slowly but surely corroded the flank and rear upon Germany’s ‘resistance to the British was buttressed. August saw the British armies assail the Germans in real earnest. The lost battlefield of the Somme was quickly re-won. There followed the thrilling episode of the smashing of the Hindenburg line, with tanks and incomparable infantry
At the end of August we were hack on the line from which the great German offensive’ was launched. St. Quentin was painfully “pinched out” by the French. Then followed the great fight for Cambrai. In that the Germans flung the, last of their remaining vitality, but at the end of September Cambrai fell, and the Germans accepted defeat.
Hurriedly they began to evacuate West Flanders. And now the ‘Allies began to advance all along the line, and to recover captive France and Belgium by many square miles a day. In October the Germans sent out their S.O.S. signal.
Hertling fell and was replaced by Prince Max of Baden, who at once threw Germany on the mercy of President Wilson. There followed the famous trans-Atlantic conversations. The Germans abjectly accepted President Wilson’s peace formula and begged for an armistice. They were referred to Marshal Foch, who confronted them with armistice conditions that staggered them. So hopeless and helpless were they, however, that they signed, the armistice terms, flung up the sponge, and retired beaten and disgraced from the greatest war in all history. The last shot was fired on November 11, 1918, at eleven o’clock, French time.
The capitulation of Germany had been preceded at regular intervals, commencing from the first week in October of Bulgaria, Turkey, and Austria-Hungary. Of enemy monarchs and rulers, only the Sultan of Turkey remains enthroned. All the rest have disappeared in the general ruin and overthrow of the Central Powers. To-dav the Allies occupy all Turkey, Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary, and hold the Rhine in force, dominating the whole of the German Empire.