Flamethrowers at Hooge | 30 July 1915

Herbert Sulzbach

Sulzbach is heading back to that lovely war with his new gun battery.

Entrain for the Western Front. Our Battery Commander is Lt Reinhardt, and our Battery officers are Lt Becker and Lt Bremshey. Our guns are decorated with the German, Austrian, and Turkish flags. We travel the same way we went on 2 September 1914, along the Rhine. The “Rhine maidens” bring us food at the stopping-places.


Back to Lieutenant Carey as the sun rises and the 8th Rifle Brigade prepares for morning stand-to.

There were servants and some odd men from my platoon in so-called “shelters” along there, and I wanted to make sure that these people who are apt to be forgotten at stand-to were all on the alert. Just as I was getting to the last of these there was a sudden hissing sound, and a bright crimson glare over the crater turned the whole scene red. As I looked I saw three or four distinct jets of flame, like a line of powerful fire-hoses spraying fire, shoot across my fire-trench.

For some moments, I was utterly unable to think. Then every noise under Heaven broke out! Trench mortars and bombs in our front trench, machine guns firing, shrapnel over the communication trenches and over the open ground between us and the support line in Zouave Wood. High explosive all round the wood itself.

They’ve been attacked by flamethrowers. Carey leads a retirement to the support line, during which he’s wounded and sent out of it. His premonition yesterday has proved inaccurate. However, by the time tomorrow, all the other lieutenants in his company, as well as the company commander, and most of the other officers in the battalion, will be dead, most of them killed while trying to lead counter-attacks to retake the crater in the afternoon.

Their brigadier, General Nugent, makes every representation possible for someone else to lead the attack, and he is overruled. The Germans have had twelve hours to relocate their mortars and machine guns into the crater. Most of the men who go over the top are cut down yards from their parapets. Incidentally, Hooge Chateau is still standing, although only as a shell. Over the next two weeks, it will finally be reduced to a few lonely, scattered piles of rubble.

August on Gallipoli: Cape Helles

Right, time to think about the upcoming attacks at Gallipoli in detail. The first thing to note is that Sir Ian Hamilton’s secrecy has worked, to a point. Liman von Sanders is pretty sure that something’s about to come off, but he has very little idea of what it might be. A big push at Krithia? Fresh landings at Bulair, or Suvla Bay, or Kum Kale, or somewhere else on the Asian side of the Dardanelles? He can’t concentrate reserves against any one possibility. There’s a window of opportunity for his enemy, if only they can take it.

The first part of the plan will be another attack at Cape Helles. Sir Ian Hamilton intends it solely as a diversion, to (at worst) freeze Ottoman reserves, and at best to draw them towards Krithia and away from Suvla Bay. Unfortunately, just as events at Suvla Bay are getting away from him rather, so too will things at Cape Helles. The departure of General Hunter-Weston has left a gaping void in command of VIII Corps. General Francis Davies, late of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and the Battle of Aubers Ridge, will soon be replacing him.

However, taking someone out of the Western Front is easier said than done, and he won’t be arriving until the 5th of August, right on the eve of the attacks. There’s no point in installing a new man immediately before an attack he knows nothing about. General Stopford took no more than nominal command for a few days, but now of course he’s busy with his own corps. Command has now passed, until the attacks end, to General William Douglas, in addition to his own 42nd Division command. Douglas is a busy man; and VIII Corps’s chief of staff, General Street, is the only person around who can provide any kind of continuity or corps-level thinking.

Unfortunately, the continuity that Street is providing is a continuity of attitude. He’s soon been able to convince General Douglas that it’s worth making more than a token effort. One more big heave, and at least they can succeed where Hunter-Weston failed, and install themselves in Krithia. In the immortal words of Bullwinkle J. Moose: this time for sure! Unfortunately, there really is nothing up his sleevies, not even his armies.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of the Isonzo (Second Isonzo)
Siege of Saisi

Further Reading

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. I’m reading the paper every day, and it’s where the content for Our Advertising Feature comes from.

(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)

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