WORLD WAR ONE CENTENARY
TISBURY AND THE GREAT WAR
By the end of September the German advance into France had lost its steam and their retreat to the Aisne was fully underway. October was thus occupied with the 'race to the sea' with each army trying to outflank the other to the north - resulting in the long line of trenches stretching from the Swiss border to the deliberately flooded lowlands of Belgium. While this was happening Churchill raised a Royal Marine Brigade and a Royal Naval Division and sent them to Antwerp and Ostend to stiffen the Belgian resistance at these critical channel ports. They did not hold out for long and were withdrawn at the end of the month. The British advance through France was marked with battles at Messines and Armentières before the front line was consolidated around Ypres which the Germans had occupied on 7 October, only to move out a day later, leaving the way open for the British arrival on 13 October. They would hold it for the duration with the fighting to take or break out of the town resulting in some of the fiercest and most deadly engagements of the war beginning with the First Battle of Ypres which began on 19 October. Two battalions of the Wiltshire Regiment were heavily involved in the fighting.
Elsewhere, Turkey entered the war on the German side on 28 October when their fleet bombarded Odessa. A few days later the British fleet in the Aegean opened hostilities by firing on the Turkish forts at the mouth of the Dardanelles, the first move that would lead to the tragic landings at Gallipoli in 1915.
WE WILL REMEMBER
Private James Phillips of 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment, aged 29, died on 21 October 1914.
THE OCTOBER POEM
A E Houseman, author of the perennially popular A Shropshire Lad, did not pen this poem until 1917, three years after the Battle of Ypres culled so many of the original British Expeditionary Force. But it is the loss of that group, who the German's dismissed as 'a contemptible little army of mercenaries', to whom Houseman refers. It is one of the great epitaphs of the war reflecting, as do so many epitaphs, the imagery of classical Greece and the fallen at Thermopylae.
Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries
These, in the day when heaven was falling,
Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
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