Talbot Fisher: France remains center stage this week 1918

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Talbot Fisher: France remains center stage this week 1918

Wednesday

Aug 22, 2018 at 7:33 PM Aug 22, 2018 at 7:33 PM

France remained the center of action and news during the week of Aug. 19-25, 1918, as the Second Battle of the Somme and the Second Battle of Bapaume began.

“Smashing northeastward between the Oise and the Aisne,” read Tuesday’s Evening Mail, “the French are rapidly developing a double flanking operation that may prove the most serious to the Germans since the counter-offensive began last month.”

“The fighting, which has gained an average of three miles on a front of more than 15 miles since Sunday evening, is expected to compel simultaneous evacuation of the whole southern portion of the German positions in Picardy and the western portion of their holdings along the Aisne.”

The next day reported that “British troops continue to progress in Flanders, pe rforating the enemy lines seemingly at will and advancing at other points as the boches retire voluntarily.”

The good news for the Allies continued as the British and French continued to take territory on two fronts as the week moved on.

“Albert, which formed the center of German resistance between the Somme and the Scarpe, was in the hands of the British today,” read Saturday’s Evening Mail.

“The attack carried out yesterday on the 6-mile front between the Ancre and the Somme, was completely successful, the British gaining two miles and capturing Albert, despite desperate enemy resistance.”

Buried on the last page of Monday’s Republican-Register was the news of death and rioting at Camp Merritt, New Jersey.

The race riot had left six soldiers dead, five black men and one white man, with several more hospitalized from bayonet wounds.

“The riot developed,” read the paper, “when a negro soldier from Texas attempted to sit at a ta ble where white soldiers from Mississippi were writing letters. A fist fight followed and both black and white soldiers were soon mixing in.”

Locally, it was announced that Lombard College, like Knox College, was to have a Students’ Army Training Corps.

“This action will put Lombard in a high position in a high position from a military standpoint, for President Tilden has already engaged as one of the new professors a man with much military training who will assist the officer in giving Lombard the finest drill and classroom tactics. The Lombard men in the student training camp at Fort Sheridan, where college men from all over the state … will also assist upon their return to college in September.”

Monday’s papers brought the news the hundreds of Knox County boys who left Galesburg in the June 24 draft to Camp Grant were believed to be on the way to France.

Galesburg’s Jesse Crafton, 27, wrote to his wife, describing his time in France. He descr ibed his frustration and amusement with French money and talked of learning the perspectives of the war from French citizens. He also touched on darker subjects.

“I saw my first group of German prisoners,” he wrote.

“They did not look under fed, nor young, nor very degenerate. They were large, strong men â€" hideous looking enough it is true, and very ragged. They moved very slowly and looked pitifully tired and unhappy.”

As previously reported, Norman A. Allen of Galesburg, 19, had been wounded in France. New details came this week. Allen’s father in Omaha received a letter from his son’s Captain.

According to a soldier who was with Allen when he was wounded, Allen’s “right arm will be lost between the elbow and the hand as it was hanging by the flesh when he bandaged it up. The injury was caused by a high explosive shell which landed right beside them.”

Charles Morrow of Galesburg, 22, wrote home to his wife from France, where he was part of a supply train.

“I am all alone here. None of the boys are here with whom I was with in the United States. They are all in the infantry yet. … We have been driving the Germans back … I don’t think we will have to be here long. I am lying out beside a wheat field and a man is cutting it by hand.”

Axel Johnson wrote home to his reverend father.

“I see a lot of things that make me feel pretty bad, such as seeing an old woman working, making coal blocks from coal dust, and this is very heavy work, also seeing little girls doing teamsters work and no young fellows are to be found except cripples and wounded that have done their bit.”

Another kind of story from France revolved around Lola Myrtle Gibbs of Galesburg, 23. A correspondent for the Chicago Daily News had told his paper that in the pocket of a Marine uniform found at a salvage depot was a picture of a girl. On the back it read “Lola Gibbs, Galesburg, Ill.”

The Republican-R egister talked to her and she couldn’t guess who it belonged to. She knew no marines, but had given her photo to several Army and Navy boys. The picture had been sent, and she said “that picture was taken three years ago and I had two dozen of them.”

She named four Army men she had given the photo and said “I have had no word that any of them are dead or missing.”

Talbot Fisher is weekend reporter for The Register-Mail. His weekly column looks at life in Galesburg 100 years ago and its connections to the Great War. Contact him at talbotefisher16@gmail.com; follow him on twitter at @TalbotFisher16.

Source: Google News France | Netizen 24 France

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