Volume 2: Letters written on active service, M-W, 1914-1919 - Page 171
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Extract from a captured German Divisional Order. The Division was holding the line near Clery when this order was written:–
"The Division must hold its new sector against all attacks of the enemy. It must be made clear to our men that by using our small arms and the excellent support of our artillery, we can beat off even a British attack superior in numbers. The infantry, however, must not leave the artillery in the lurch."
Note:– We captured Clery on the day after this order was issued.
Extract from a captured German Divisional Order to the Pioneer Battalion:–
"Corps has ordered that the bridges which are still standing at Clery, whatever happens, are to be completely destroyed and rendered wholly useless for traffic as soon as possible."
Extract from the order from the Pioneer Battalion to one of its Companies on receiving the above:-
"It is imperative that an attempt be made to carry out the above Corps Order. Perhaps it will be possible for a small patrol of 2 or 3 courageous men to cross the destroyed bridges on the northern arm of the Somme and reach the bridges which are still standing, and carry out the demolition with concentrated charges.
"Division offers the Iron Cross, First Class, leave and a money reward for a successful attempt.
"Men who volunteer for the task, and make a determined effort to carry out the task, will receive 14 days leave, even if they are not successful."
Note:– The result of the above order was that a German Platoon Commander of their Pioneer Battalion made a plucky attempt to blow up these bridges, but was only partially successful, as he says in his report, owing to the deterioration of the charges. He also states that "it was only by violence" that he could induce his men to go forward.
Effects of Our Artillery Fire.
The following extracts from the translation of a German order signed by Ludendorff shows the effect of the Allied counter-battery work:–
"An accurate record of the wastage in heavy and field artillery material gives the following interesting result:–
"In one month the enemy's fire has completely destroyed in round numbers 13 per cent. of the guns taking part in active operations. This figure clearly brings out the value of persistent counter-battery work."
Effect of Our Air Operations.
The following extract from a letter by a German soldier in a labour battalion was written on the 19th August, 1918, during the Somme fighting, and affords evidence of the effect produced by our bombing:–
... "After travelling for 12 hours and wandering about for 8 days, we are now quartered near Peronne, and I can tell you that things have gone pretty badly with us.
"The English have just taken the Offensive, and no sooner had we detrained than a bomb landed on us, and we lost 14 men severely wounded and one killed. That made us want to bolt. You can just fancy that 200 to 300 men like that attract attention, and those beggars of airmen came as low down as one storey, and we wanted to wriggle into the ground. You must remember that those beggars have got the same sort of engines as ours, so that we cannot distinguish them. At night, the same sort of thing happened, so you can just imagine that we thought the world was going under; they have unloaded at least 300 bombs on Peronne."
A.I.F. Printing Section.