23/9/1917 German fighter ace Werner Voss shot down over Ypres #1917Live

Against doctor’s orders, Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, came back to active service in late July after being wounded earlier that month. Since then he has managed to shoot down several enemy aeroplanes but is still suffering the after effects of his head injury. He is currently once more on sick leave but hopes to be back in action soon.

Richthofen is not Germany’s only star pilot. Another flier who has made a name for himself is Werner Voss, a subordinate commander of the Red Baron’s Flying Circus. Voss is now flying the new Fokker Triplane, a highly manoeuvrable and fast climbing aircraft. He has shot down some 47 enemy aircraft since his first kill in November 1916.

Voss’s squadron has been deployed to Flanders, where it is contesting Allied control of the skies above Ypres. Voss returned from leave yesterday and this morning he returns to the skies and shoots down a British bomber. On returning to his base he celebrates by looping the loop. Nevertheless his colleagues note that he appears unusually tense, with one reporting “He had the nervous instability of a cat”.

In the evening Voss and his comrades set off again. This time they find themselves caught in a battle royale with a large number of enemy aircraft. In the confused dogfight that develops, Voss finds himself being targeted by six British aircraft, all flown by ace fighter pilots. Accounts vary but he appears not to try to evade his pursuers, instead taking every opportunity to turn the tables on his opponents. He scores hits on most of the British aeroplanes but does not bring any down.

The uneven battle can have only one end. British bullets strike Voss and his aeroplane smashes into the ground on the British side of the line. That evening the British pilots drink a toast to the brave flier they have killed. Voss was 20 years of age.

See also: “Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 14: Lieutenant Werner Voss” by Eugene Frandzen

image sources:

Werner Voss (Wikipedia)

Werner Voss’s Fokker Triplane (Aerodrome: Roden 1:72 model kit cover) The model kit is for sale, priced €7.99

20/9/1917 3rd Ypres: a limited assault on the Menin Road #1917Live

Fighting at Ypres continues in fits and starts. The weather has improved somewhat, making it easier for the British. Plumer, the new local commander, is staging a series of limited offensives, though Haig continues to dream of a breakthrough. Today the British attack on a wide front straddling the Menin Road from Ypres. Artillery blasts German front line positions, with the guns then being retargetted to hit enemy forces staging counterattacks.

Plumer’s men make modest gains, advancing on average less than a kilometre. But this is deliberate, with the attack intended to seize and hold territory and then force the Germans to fight at a disadvantage. Now after the initial gains both sides attempt to reorganise their defences and take the best possible positions.

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British troops resting in a trench (Wikipedia)

Wounded Australian troops (Wikipedia)

12/9/1917 The Étaples mutiny suppressed #1917Live

Unrest has broken out among the British and Commonwealth soldiers based at the training camp of Étaples. Soldiers have been attacking military policemen and disobeying orders prohibiting their visits to the beach or the neighbouring town of Le Touquet. Army authorities fear that these disorders will escalate, engulfing the British army in the kind of trouble that plagued the French earlier in the summer.

After struggling to contain the unruly soldiers at Étaples the authorities now respond firmly. A reliable unit armed with staves supported by cavalry and a detachment from the machine gun corps arrive. This successfully intimidates the mutineers who go back to obeying their officers’ orders. With the trouble over the authorities breathe a sigh of relief and set about identifying the ringleaders and continuing to ready the rest for the fighting in Flanders.

image source:

Cartoon from postcard of training at Étaples, by JW Davis (Picture Postcards from the Great War)

11/9/1917 French ace Georges Guynemer disappears #1917Live

Germany has Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, but the Allies have their own star pilots. For the French, Georges Guynemer has become a national hero after has shot down over 50 enemy aeroplanes. Today he sets off on patrol near Poelkapelle in Flanders. His wingman sees him attack a German aircraft but is then distracted by some German fighters. When the wingman shakes off his pursuers there is no sign of Guynemer.

Unlike his wingman, Guynemer does not return from his mission. Reports emerge of his aircraft having been shot down behind enemy lines but with Allied shelling scaring away the Germans before his body can be retrieved. These reports are inconclusive; Guynemer’s final fate and resting place remain unknown.

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Georges Guynemer, by “Lucien” (Wikipedia)

9/9/1917 Mutiny at Étaples #1917Live

Étaples is the site of one of many British bases in France. Here British and Commonwealth troops are trained before being sent to the front. Units that have already been in the line are often redeployed here for more training.

Conditions at Étaples are poor. The base authorities have a reputation for harshness. As many of them have never served at the front they are regarded as shirkers by the men.

The nearby town of Le Touquet is out of bounds to enlisted men, its attractions reserved exclusively for officers; that does not stop ordinary soldiers from slipping over there. However, when a New Zealand private is arrested on his way back from Le Touquet, his comrades assemble to demand his release. Military policemen attempt to break up the crowd, without success.

Then a shots are fired: one of the MPs kills a Scottish private and injures a French woman. But instead of dispersing the crowd, the gunfire inflames it. More soldiers join the demonstration and the MPs flee to Le Touquet. Soldiers then rampage through the camp, at one point reputedly pulling the commander from his desk and parading him around the town as a trophy.

The British army has thus far been spared the large-scale disturbances that gripped its French counterpart earlier in the year. Now the authorities frantically prepare countermeasures to restore order in Étaples.

images source:

training (Roads to the Great War: Notorious Étaples Camp)

accommodation (Roads to the Great War: Notorious Étaples Camp)

26/8/1917 French gains at Verdun

French troops have been attacking at Verdun, looking to recover ground seized by the Germans in the terrible battle last year. The fighting has been tough and the gains modest, but the French have recaptured Mort Homme and Côte 304, both scenes of carnage in 1916.

In the fighting since the 20th, the French have captured a large number of German prisoners (some reports say around 10,000) but have also suffered a great number of casualties themselves. However the willingness of the French troops to endure these losses suggests that Pétain‘s efforts to revitalise the French army after this year’s mutinies are paying off.

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Verdun, Félix Vallotton (Wikipedia: Félix Vallotton)

map (Wikipedia: the Battle of Verdun)

25/8/1917 Ypres: the siege of Fray Bentos reaches its conclusion

A British tank, nicknamed Fray Bentos by its crew, has been stuck in a shell-hole since a failed attack on German lines near Ypres on the 22nd. The tanks has come under repeated attacks by the Germans, but the stranded crew have been able to repel them. They have also used their guns to disrupt disrupt counter-attacks on their British comrades.

Nevertheless, conditions in the tank become increasingly desperate. Daytime temperatures within Fray Bentos rise to over 30 degrees and the men have exhausted their drinking water; they are now making do with water from the tank’s radiator. Two of the crew have been killed by the Germans and several of the rest are injured.

Captain Richardson, the tank’s commander, decides that his men have done enough. In the small hours of this morning they abandon their vehicle and slip back unmolested to the British lines, where they are feted for their bravery under enemy fire.

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Diorama (Ebob Miniatures Eblog: Siege of Fray Bentos)