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incident on 11 November 1918


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In his _1918: The Last Act_ (pp. 285-6), Barrie Pitt tells the story of a British battalion that was ambushed in "a village east of Valenciennes" on the morning of the 11th. A patrol encountered a wounded German lieutenant who assured them that the village was deserted. When the battalion naively formed up and marched into the village square, hidden machine guns opened up and more than 100 men were killed or wounded before the gunners (and the lieutenant) were shot or bayoneted. Pitt does not provide a reference, and I wonder if anyone knows more about this suicidal attack.

Many thanks.

Jeff

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I've read an account of a similar incident, but I don't think it occurred on the 11/11/18. I can't remember where I read it 'tho I'll have the book somewhere. It's claimed in the account I read that following the shoot up, survivors went back & killed the wounded German officer, who was calmly expecting this retribution.

I just can't think where I read it.

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Thought so -"Death's Men" by Denis Winter. He quotes H. Allen "Toward THe Flame", Harper, 1934:

"In the early days of November 1918 our advance had been carried out according to schedule. Each division was given a line to which it must attain before nightfall and this meant that each battalion in a division had to reach a certain point by a certain time. On the late afternoon of 10 November we were still far from our objective. We were on the edge of a plantation with a wide open space of cultivated land between us and the village at 500 yards, our objective. An officer was sent ahead with two men to reconnoitre. At the village entrance, propped up against a tree, they found a German officer severely wounded in the thigh. He was quite conscious and looked up calmly as Lieutenant S. approached him. He spoke English and, when he was questioned, intimated that the village had been evacuated by the Germans two hours before. It was nearly dusk. Our men gathered in the small square in front of the church. Then from the tower machine-guns opened fire to kill about 100 men and 5 officers. The crews were mercilessly bayoneted. The corporal who had been with Lieutenant S. ran to the entrance of the village to settle with the wounded officer who had betrayed them. The German seemed to be expecting him and his face did not flinch as the bayonet descended".

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Actually, it looks like the same description. The lieutenant is discovered by a corporal at the edge of a plantation, wounded in the thigh, propped up against a tree (Winter) or wall (Pitt). In both accounts it's the corporal who returns to bayonet him. I see that I inferred it took place on the 11th from the section above, which begins w/ the cease-fire message. But Pitt doesn't give a date. So being that it's the identical story, I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand. If my university library has Allen's memoir, I'll investigate further.

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Just a thought - was it Harper who published a series of "then & now" type magazines (of which I have some, somewhere ) in the 1930's?

In which case "Toward The Flame" may be a magazine article, rather than a book.

Do we have any idea which British division or brigade is likely to have been involved in this alleged incident, let alone regiment or battalion?

Just wondering re. histories that could be checked.

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Maybe it is a magazine article, though Winter lists only the book by Hervey Allen. I took a look at it, but could find no reference to the incident--not surprisingly, as Allen was an American and the memoir ends on August 14. (Both Allen's memoir and the account quoted by Winter are in the first person.) So this promising trail doesn't seem to lead anywhere, except to the conclusion that Winter's scholarship leaves something to be desired. _Death's Men_ has only 8 footnotes. A section called "References" lists all the memoirs he consulted, but there are of course no page numbers. Winter ( p. 214) does specifically attribute the quotation to Allen.

Wait a minute. Just noticed that a long quotation further down the page is attributed to "Read." In fact, it comes from Allen's book. Perhaps Winter transposed the names and the Weltmacht oder Niedergang incident is in Read. This may be Herbert Read, who I recall fought in the First World War. But no published memoir by Read is listed. However, under "unpublished material cited in the text" an "I. Read" is mentioned. Winter also lists D. Read's _Edwardian England_ under "social history." All of Winter's unpublished material is in the Imperial War Museum, so maybe if you or some other reader finds himself in the IWM with some time on his hands, this can be pursued further. One more illustration of how frustrating it can be when writers don't provide decent references.

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... and when tall tales just get repeated from one to another to another to another.

ANY unit that lost 100 men KILLED in the last 24 hours of the war would have made very noticable mention of such tragic waste in their official history.

I'd put this down with the female commandants of Zeppelins kind of urban legends.

At this remove in time, no trails left to track-- especially if there wasn't one to begin with! :cheeky:

:beer:

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Just a thought - was it Harper who published a series of "then & now" type magazines (of which I have some, somewhere ) in the 1930's?

In which case "Toward The Flame" may be a magazine article, rather than a book.

Do we have any idea which British division or brigade is likely to have been involved in this alleged incident, let alone regiment or battalion?

Just wondering re. histories that could be checked.

Guys,

Any help at all?

http://www.amazon.com/Toward-Flame-Memoir-...r/dp/0803259476

Regards Eddie

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Yes, because Allen is writing about Americans and can't possibly be the source.

Could you kindly explain how to look up "Soldiers Died"?

BTW, while the quotation in Winter claims about 100 men and 5 officers were killed, Pitt's total, "over a hundred," includes both killed and wounded. As I mentioned, Pitt also gives a location--"a small village east of Valenciennes." No "Read," "I." or otherwise, in his skimpy bibliography.

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"Soldiers Died", in printed form lists fatalities by battalion within regiment.

On CD, it is possible to check within a battalion or "across the board" for men within a unit, or who died on a particular date, or were called Fred & died on the first day of the Somme, etc.

The trouble is that the first edition of the CD did'nt do all that it was supposed to do - I think it won't actually let you search a specific date, I can't remember exactly what it's faults are.

I have the 1st edition CD, & I'm not likely to get the current versionas it costs about ?350, I think.

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