David Childs

With the coming of Spring the German army stirred and stretched forward in a great and successful offensive. The list of battles which marked their advance a clear indication of the speed of their advance: Lys, Messines, Hazebrook, Bailleul, Kemmel Ridge, Béthune, Scherpenberg and, most cruelly considering the sacrifices of the previous year, on 16th the Germans reoccupied Passchendaele. Unable to stem the advance the allies at last agreed to appoint General Foch as their Commander-in-Chief in France. Two days earlier Field Marshal Haig issued his most famous order of the day, ' Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end.'

At the northern end of the Western Front on Saint George's day the navy launched daring raids on the U-boat havens of Ostend and Zeebrugge. Sadly, the sacrifice and gallantry, eight Victoria Crosses were won at Zeebrugge, was not reflected in the outcome for U-boat deployments were scarcely affected. Meanwhile, over in Finland the navy had also to scuttle a squadron of its own submarines to stop them falling into the hands of the advancing Germans. April was the cruellest month.


Many of Tisbury's serving men were caught up in April's battles which claimed the lives of two of them. On the 3rd, twenty-three year old, Corporal Ernest Humphries of the 16th Lancers died and was buried in the Terlinethun Cemetery at Wimile in France. On the 12th Private Harold Fry, aged thirty-three, was killed, his body being interred in the Ypres Resevoir Cemetery.


Geoffrey Dearmer, son of the Anglican hymnologist, Percy Dearmer, who published both The English Hymnal and Songs of Praise, was the longest lived of the war poets, dying in 1997 at the age of 103. His brother died of wounds in 1915 and his mother of typhus while serving with the Red Cross in Serbia the same year. The Geoffrey Dearmer Award for new poets was founded in his memory in 1997.


Five million men are dead. How can the worth
Of all the world redeem such waste as this?
And yet the spring is clamorous of birth,
And whispering in winter's chrysalis
The glad tidings to each clod, each particle of earth.
So the year's Easter triumphs. Shall we then
Mourn for the dead unduly, and forget
The resurrection in the hearts of men?
Even the poppy on the parapet
Shall blossom as before when Summer blows again.

©  Tisbury History Society
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