Spring offensives hampered by a lack of reserves and supplies

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AS plans to force the Dardanelles were being prepared, which would involve a naval bombardment of the Turkish forts guarding The Narrows at the entrance to the Sea of Marmara, the land armies in France began offensive operations to seek a breakthrough in the stalemate which had developed over the winter months.

Although small-scale by comparison to the great campaigns of September and the coming two years, the attacks at Neuve Chapelle provided a boost to morale.

But lack of reserves prevented any advance of more than a few thousands of yards.

The reinforcements now in France were comprised of regular battalions relieved from imperial garrison duties by territorials sent to the colonies and some Territorial Army units of men willing to serve overseas – something they were not obliged to do under the terms of TA engagement.

The lack of artillery firepower and poor supplies of ammunition prevented any significant advance and losses mounted.

The diversion of ammunition to the Mediterranean would lead to the controversy of the Great Shell scandal of May 1915 and the appointment of David Lloyd George as Minister for Munitions.

Speaking in the House of Lords in March 1915, Minister for War Lord Kitchener remarked on these difficulties and the need for organised labour to relax peacetime restrictions and work practices.

This would be a theme in the arguments around the shortages of munitions in the coming months.

Kitchener, pictured, in the same speech praised the efforts of the 15th Indian Division of British and Indian troops at the battle of Neuve Chapelle and noted the arrival of the first of the divisions wholly formed of Territorial Army units.

He complimented the medical staff on the prevention of diseases associated with life in the trenches including the inoculation of troops against such diseases as enteric fever.

Unfortunately recent medical advances were not able to save the life of Thomas Read, of North Shields, serving with the 1st Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who died of enteric fever on March 11, 1915

He is buried at Wimereux Cemetery in northern France.

It was in these early months of 1915 that place names soon to have a resonance throughout the country came to public attention, Battles fought at La Bassee, Armentieres and Ploegsteert would provide the basis for songs, poetry and ribald humour that has endured in the national memory to this day.

Commenting on the attitude of the British to foreign places and languages in his essay in 1941, England your England, George Orwell highlighted the almost total failure (or refusal) of the ordinary British soldier to engage with local culture.

The bowdlerisation of French and particularly Belgian place names meant that a virtually new gazetteer of names became commonplace amongst the troops.

Thus Ieper (Ypres) became ‘Wipers’, Ploegsteert became ‘Plugstreet’ and so on.

These names would soon come to be burned into the collective memory of the nation as losses mounted and the sad litany of losses was reported in the press throughout the home country.

Anyone interested in visiting the battlefields of Belgium and France can join project members who are going to the Ypres and Arras areas in May.

Full details of the tour and how to book can found at www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/battlefields2012 or by calling 08715 229955.

Anyone with information about men included in this week’s casualty list or who wants to learn more about the project should visit the workroom at the Linskill Community Centre – Mondays to Fridays – from 10am to 4pm or visit the website.

The next open forum for project volunteers and members of the public interested will be held at 7pm on Tuesday, March 27, in the Linskill Community Centre, Linskill Terrace.

THIS week’s casualty list gives details of men who were killed or died in March 1915.

Chatter, Felix Leonard, Private, 2nd Battalion NF, KIA, 24th, 4 West Street, Milburn Place, Ploegsteert Memorial, entered France, March 10, 1915.

Gray, James Adam, Private, Scottish Rifles (Cameronians), died from gas poisoning, 11th, 15 Hylton Street – information needed.

Jobling, Thomas Milburn, age 20, Ordinary Seaman, RNR, HMS Bayano, LAS, 11th, 47 Howdon Road, son of John Thomas.

Lawson CH age 24, Engine Room Artificer, RNR, HMS Bayano, missing, presumed drowned, 11th, son of Joseph and Amy, Murie House, Monkseaton.

Mather, William Dowson, age 29, Private, D Company 2nd Battalion Scottish Rifles (Cameronians), KIA, 10th, son of John Robert and Mary Jane, 21 Addison Street.

Morley, Thomas, age 50, 1st Engineer, MN ss Beeswing, LAS 4th – details needed.

Newham, Robert, Sergeant, 4th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps, KIA, 2nd, 58 Military Road.

Read, Thomas Jennings, age 22, Private, 1st Battalion NF, died of enteric fever, 11th, 1 Coulson’s Bank, son of John Chisholm Read and Bridget Read.

Ridland, James R, age 43, Master Mariner, RNR, ss Caithness, drowned off Mostyn Deeps, 5th, 45 Waterloo Place, husband of Margaret, buried in Preston Cemetery.

Seccombe, James Alfred, Private, 2nd Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Yorks) Regiment, KIA, 2nd, 92 Belford Terrace.

Snow, Frank L, Private, 1st Battalion West Yorks Regiment, KIA, 26th, 9 Mindrum Terrace, Percy Main.

Thompson, John William, 2nd Engineer, MN, ss Beeswing, LAS, 5th, 6 Nelson Street, husband of Agnes Thompson (nee Shield).

Key:

KIA – killed in action

DOW – died of wounds

LAS – lost at sea

NF – Northumberland Fusiliers

DLI – Durham Light Infantry

RND – Royal Naval Division

RNR – Royal Naval Reserve

RFA – Royal Field Artillery

n Anyone with information on this week’s list or who wants to find out more about the project, should visit www.tynemouthworldwarone.org, e-mail contact@tynemouthworldwarone.org or write to Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project, c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields, NE30 1AR.