The Century Newsletter: Taking you back, day by day, through the Great War of 1914-18.
26th January - 1st February 1915
Smile, boys, that's the smile
by David Hargreaves
BROKEN DOWN into individual lives and single moments, the intensity was unspeakable.
At Cuinchy in France on 1 February, a Lance Corporal in the Irish Guards named Michael O’Leary took part in an action to recapture trenches lost the previous day. Remembering the position of the German machine gun (which he knew was about to start firing) he ran towards it, killing the five men who manned a barricade blocking his way. He then attacked the five machine-gunners, killing three of them (including their officer) and taking another two prisoner. The enemy trenches were recovered and O’Leary was immediately promoted sergeant. He was also awarded the Victoria Cross.
That week on the Western Front, fighting remained intense but indeterminate. The French, fighting in the Vosges, made ground at the start of the week, especially near Senones, while the Germans – who had once again failed to make a crossing of the Aisne near Soissons on 29 January – were thrown back in the Argonne. On 1 February, they attacked west of La Bassee, but were again kept at bay by a combination of French and British troops. By then, however, France needed the consolation of victory, however local: two days earlier in the Western Argonne, 700 of their forces had been taken prisoner.
The shortage of men was a growing preoccupation. To add to military disaster, the randomness of fate sometimes intervened. The Daily Express noted the tragic and pathetic tale on 26 January (“Officers shot by sentry”) in which two British officers had been shot dead by a sentry. Private George Harris, aged nineteen, of Exeter, was charged with causing their deaths.
Other impediments to recruitment also surfaced. “WHAT ABOUT PATRIOTISM?” the Express demanded to know on 28 January...
Read in full (http://back.thebrowser.com/introduction/1013)
News of the Week
Daily Express Finding jobs for enemy aliens
“Have you English gone mad? This was the question asked last night by a French restaurant proprietor in London with reference to the zeal displayed by agencies—official and semi-official—in finding work for Germans in London...
Daily Express In the enemies' country
About a month ago I left England to make a tour in Germany, and to see things as they are in the enemy’s country. I accomplished my purpose, and I have now returned after visits to Frankfurt-on-Main, Dusseldorf, Elberfeld, Bremen, Hamburg, and Munich...
Daily Mirror People whose hair is not on end
“London is great and wonderful, but you British are yourselves even more wonderful.” So thinks Dr T. Oshima, one of the two doctors in charge of the Japanese Red Cross contingent which has arrived in this country to assist...
Daily Express Naval battle, an eye- witness account
Sailors of the Dutch trawler
Erica, which arrived at Ymuiden this morning, were eye-witnesses of the naval battle on Sunday. I have had interviews with them, and one of them gave me the following account of the action...
Vossische Zeitung England, Demon King of the World
A new era is arising out of this terrible war of nations! Gradually we are beginning to think differently and to learn anew—from every point of view and on all subjects. Even in matters ethical is this process of evolution taking place...
Letter of the week Supplying the trenches
We generally deliver our load to our different regiments and then go to the railhead and unload. Of course, it all depends where our regiments are as to where we unload. Often we have gone right up to the firing line and dumped our stuff at the trenches...