WORLD WAR 1 DIARIES Royal Engineers 97 th Field Company (21 st div 5 th Army) 1879 ROBERT LOCKHART World War One- Germany's last gamble The withdrawal of Russia from the war in 1917 released substantial numbers of German troops and gave the Germans a temporary numerical advantage on the Western Front. Aware that submarine warfare had failed to defeat Britain and that large numbers of American troops would soon be committed to the war the Germans prepared for their final Inoffensive. mid-February 191881 German divisions faced General Haigs 59 divisions and for the first time in three years the British had to prepare to face a major attack. By the spring the Allies knew that there would abe major German attack –they just did not know where it would Income. the days prior to the assault numerous German prisoners alerted the British about an impending attack and although the British had learned the approximate time and location of the offensive the weight of the attack and of the preliminary bombardment was an unpleasant surprise. Field Marshal Haigs British divisions were all under-strength in infantry. The government was unwilling to send more troops to the Western Front so Haig was forced to reduce the number of infantry battalions in his divisions which caused a weakened line. Haig could not afford to give ground near to the Channel coast so positions near the coast were reinforced while the French strengthened their positions to the south of the British. General Plumers Second Army around Ypres had to hold 37 kilometres (23 miles) of line with 14 divisions whereas south of Cambrai General Goughs Fifth Army only had 14 divisions with which to hold 67 kilometres (42 miles) of line which left a weakness in the British line to the west of Cambrai. Here the British trench system had not been completed and those that had been dug were inadequate. Sir Hubert Gough who commanded the Fifth Army in this area was well aware of his predicament and conscious of the fact that he had few reserves to call on if the Germans did attack the sector where the Fifth Army was stationed. CORPS OF ROYAL ENGINEERS The war of 1914-1918 relied on engineering. ?Without engineers there would have been no supply to the armies because the Royal Engineers maintained the railways roads water supply bridges and transport. ?There would have been no communications because theR.E. maintained the telephones, wireless and other signalling equipment. ?There would have been little cover for the infantry and no positions for the artillery because the R.E.designed and built the front-line fortifications. ?And finally without theR.E. the infantry and artillery would have soon been powerless as they maintained the guns and other weapons. The War Diary for the 225th Field Company of Royal Engineers is held under the reference WO95/2576 at the National Archives. Following are the pages of the war diary recording the last month of Roberts service to his country. TRANSCRIPTION OF WAR DIARIES MARCH 1918 ROYAL ENGINEERS 97 TH FIELD COMPANY 21 st DIVISION FIFTH ARMY A daily record of operations intelligence reports and other events was kept for each battalion by an appointed junior officer. One copy was sent into the War Office and is now stored in The National Archives. Other copies were kept by the unit and may now be with the regimental records. Some war diaries can be difficult to read as many were scribbled hastily in pencil and some use obscure abbreviations. Others are the second carbon copy of the original.
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