Enemy’s last throw of the dice as US troops flood into France

THE great German offensive of March 21, 1918, had been contained although much territory won at enormous cost over the previous two years still lay in enemy hands.

As US troops began to arrive in France in substantial numbers they were engaged alongside British and French armies and got their first taste of fighting on the western front.

Almost a third of a million would cross from America in July, adding to the quarter of a million in each of the previous two months.

Realising that these fresh troops, though not battle hardened, would soon turn the tide of the war, the Germans launched a final massed attack on the line of the River Marne along a 50-mile front on July 15, 1918.

The enemy attack would ultimately stutter to a halt in a matter of days and the beginning of the final stages of the war opened on July 18 with a great allied offensive, which would soon break the deadlock of trench warfare.

Local men were fighting and being killed in several theatres of war with a steady stream of deaths being reported to war weary families at home.

Edwin Calverley was killed in Italy where a large British contingent had been sent to reinforce the Italians fighting against the Austro-Hungarians.

He is an example of the very transient population of Edwardian Britain.

Born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, his parents had eventually settled in North Shields, although Edwin married in Tadcaster in North Yorkshire.

He died aged 33 leaving a widow with five children.

In a little known campaign area Mesopotamia – modern day Iraq – George Todd, aged 20, was to die of illness; the greater peril than enemy fire in that benighted area of searing temperatures and disease.

He is buried at Baghdad North Gate Cemetery.

Until recently it was in a poor state of repair until the war of 2001-07, when the cemetery was restored to the usual standard of British war cemeteries and Commonwealth War Graves Commission staff could be employed to maintain the memorials and graves along the river line from Baghdad down the Tigris-Euphrates to Basra and the and delta area.

Meanwhile in Germany, Frederick Greenacre was held prisoner having been reported missing in the fighting of the great spring offensive when thousands of British and French troops were taken prisoner in the first days of the German attack.

Frederick was reported missing on March 31 and died on July 2. He was finally laid to rest in Savy British Cemetery after the war.

Frederick was prominent in the beginnings of the scout movement in North Shields and has been recognised by local scouts in its history of the development of their units.

At home, men were dying of wounds and illness contracted in the appalling conditions of the front.

Thomas Johnson, of Addison Street, was discharged from the army May 31, 1918, as ‘no longer fit for military service’.

He was to live for only a few weeks until his death on July 3.

He is buried in Preston cemetery, one of more than 140 graves of men scattered throughout the cemetery but less than ten per cent of the total death toll of local men.

The majority were buried or recorded later on memorials to the missing far beyond the local area and impossible for families to visit.

The Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project will shortly detail plans for the next two years through to the anniversary of the outbreak of the war in 2014.

There will be a number of ways for readers to get involved in the next stages of the project’s work and opportunities to learn about researching the history of families and participation in gathering of oral histories of the post-war period of the 1920s as the town had to cope with the effects of the war.

This work is being made possible following the successful bid for grant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund as reported last week.

Anyone interested to learn about the project and how to get involved can visit the Workroom at Room B9, Linskill Community Centre, from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.

THIS week’s list gives details of men from the former Borough of Tynemouth who were killed or died in July 1918.

Buffham, Harry Augustus, age 27, Lance Corporal, 18th Battalion DLI, KIA, 19th, 3 Collingwood Terrace. Son of Reuben and Ellen, born Spalding, Lincolnshire.

Calverley, Edwin, age 33, Private, 13th Battalion DLI, KIA, Italy, 7th, 67 Chirton West View. Only son of W and S Calverley, husband of Annie Elizabeth.

Greenacre, Frederick Octavius, age 21, Lance Corporal, 5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders, died (POW) Germany, 2nd, 23 Silkeys Lane.

Hadaway, Ernest, age 23, Private, 19th Battalion Lancs Fusiliers, (formerly DLI), KIA, 24th. Details needed.

Hall, William Milton, age 28, Private, 6th Battalion DLI (formerly RND), KIA, 24th, 88 Chirton West View. Son of Robert and Barbara Ann.

Johnson, Thomas, age 34, Gunner, RFA, died of illness contracted on active service, 3rd, 67 Addison Street. Husband of Margaret. Buried Preston cemetery.

Lidster, Thomas Mercer, age 32, Private, 2nd/5th Battalion West Yorks Regiment, KIA, 20th, 8 Waterville Terrace. Husband of Amelia, her brother also KIA - Norman Wilfred Lawson.

Milburn, Thomas William, age 24, Private, 51st Company, Machine Gun Corps, (formerly 18th Battalion NF), KIA, 21st, 46 St John’s Street, Percy Main.

Rigby, Thomas Henry, age 25, Deck Hand, HMS Island Prince, died on active service, 28th, 2 Sibthorpe Street. Son of Annie S Rigby and late John.

Todd, George, age 20, Gunner, 384 Siege Battery RGA, died, 1st Tigris area, 60 Penman Street. Son of Margaret Bell (formerly Todd). Buried – Baghdad North Gate Cemetery.