History Group Minutes Fubruary 2018

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1918 - The Last Hundred Days The talk by Robert Hesketh
Robert gave us an interesting and informative talk on the last 100 days of World War I as seen through the pages of the local Devon press.
During the talk he showed us numerous photographs to illustrate the narrative, the battlefields, the trenches, the wounded and the prisoners.
By 1918 the Americans were finally shipping troops over to Europe, however despite this in early 1918 the German Spring offensive saw the Germans gain ground and push West. 6000 German guns fired 1.16 million shells during this offensive. The Allies were heavily outnumbered and were forced to retreat. However this would be as far as the Germans would advance.
The Defense of the Realm Act (DoRA) of 1914 gave the Government a number of executive powers including the right to censor information, so newspapers had to be careful how they reported the fighting. The tone was invariably upbeat and triumphant, and although rather exaggerated in the early years, but mid 1918 it was a truer reflection of the war’s progression.
August saw the final turn of the tide as Marshall Foch halted the Germans at Marne, taking 29,000 prisoners. The use of tanks by the Allies were a significant development and it was some time before the Germans developed armaments capable of disabling a tank. War was evolving from trench warfare into armoured warfare.
Robert interspersed the facts with reading the headlines of the local papers. They not only noted the war progression -  “Allies are swinging forward” - but also local items concerning the war effort - “Pinhoe ladies entertain the wounded” - and also items that showed the country was not wholly united - “Scottish Demands” , miners on strike and other industrial unrest. Lists of the Dead and wounded were published, Awards for local fighting men noted, and articles detailing the stories of individual local soldiers.
The local papers also reported the war on a world scale, detailing the Balkan offensive of August, the 3000 prisoners taken in Palestine and, in October, the breaking through of the Hindenburg Line.
By October reports of influenza were beginning to appear, but with no inkling of the devastation it would subsequently deliver. More people would die of influenza that had been killed on all fronts during the entire war.
By 2nd November the papers were reporting “Good Progress”, “Allies advancing everywhere” and “Habsburgs doomed”; and on the 11th “How the mighty are fallen”.
Finally on the 12th November 1918 the Gazeteer’s headline read “World’s Nightmare Ended”.

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