The Georgette offensive on the Lys ended on 29th April. There was now a pause. Ludendorff continued to thrash around from one direction of attack to another instead of concentrating on a single target.
On 27th May he hit the French just north of Chemin des Dames, where they had come to rest after the Nivelle offensive of 1917. On this occasion Bruchműller's preliminary bombardment (the peak of their artillery effort in the war) lasted just 3 hours. A surprise attack of 17 enemy divisions against an Allied defensive line of only 4 French and 3 British divisions secured spectacular initial territorial success. Our defences were all too bunched up far too near the front and unfortunately we had just moved exhausted divisions to what we thought was going to be a "quieter sector" for a rest.
The Germans advanced 12 miles on this first day. We were frankly battered and many battalions were obliterated. Within 3 days the Germans had reached the north bank of the Marne at Chateau Thierry. Soissons fell. Then this whirlwind advance was halted by reinforced armies including, for the first time, 2 American divisions. The enemy spearhead was slowed down by both our superior airpower and their troops looting and pillaging again. After all this was the Champagne region!
Ludendorff was now only 50 or so miles from Paris and could have shelled it, but he was determined now to drive on to capture the capital. However, US action at Chateau Thierry helped to halt this third phase of the offensive on 3rd June - the so-called Blűcher-Yorck attack.
Our locality lost 8 young men this month.
Private John Slater Kelsall of the 9th Royal Welsh Fusiliers (75904) died of wounds on the 2nd aged 37. He was the son of Thomas and Mary of 18 Park Road and the husband of Bertha who had died in June 1917. He worked as a confectioners' packer and is buried at Esquelberg Military Cemetery and remembered locally in St Bart's and on the civic memorial.
Second Lieutenant Robert Greg aged 19 died of wounds on the 3rd. He served with the 11th Cheshires and was the son of Colonel E W and Marian Greg of Norcliffe Hall. He is buried at Lijsennthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinghe and remembered in St Bart's on the full memorial (and in a private memorial as well), at Handforth and Styal.
Wilmslow Cemetery contains the grave of Lieutenant Samuel Fernyhough. He is remembered in St Chad's and on a family grave at Dean Row. He died aged 28 on the 7th serving with the 4th Manchesters. A member of the Stockport Grammar School OTC, he was an architect's assistant before the war living at Knowles House, Handforth where he is remembered on the memorial.
Private William Henry Timperley is remembered widely locally - the civic memorial, in St Bart's, and a family grave there, and in Wilmslow Methodist. He died of wounds, aged 19, on the 17th, formerly of the Manchesters but by then serving with the Royal Fusiliers (88112). In 1911 he was working with a confectioners and living on Parsonage Green. He is interred at the Le Quesnoy Community Cemetery.
Private Stanley Birtles died of his wounds on the 26th, aged 19. He served with the 7th London Regiment (73078). Before the war he lived in Manchester Road and worked for his coal merchant father. Stanley is commemorated in St Bart's, in Wilmslow Cemetery and on the town memorial. His grave is at Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt. His brother Albert had been killed in action at Ypres in May 1915 aged 26.
Three of the names of our lads killed on the Aisne can be found on the Soissons Memorial along with 70 others from Cheshire. They have no known grave.
Lieutenant Philip Minot of the Durham Light Infantry is also listed on the St John's memorial. He lived in Herman Villa, Albert Road with his widowed mother and family. His late father was a solicitor (died 1905) and Philip practised as an architect. He died on the 28th aged 38.
Lieutenant Herbert Godbert Senior died on the same day. A native of Chorlton cum Hardy, he had lived at "Bollinholme", Wilmslow Park and worked for his father - a cotton merchant. Herbert died aged 21 serving with the 8th Manchesters (the "Ardwicks"). Wilmslow and St Bart's memorials honour him.
The last to die this month was Private Arnold Edgar Glover (44962). He was aged 20 and died on the 30th serving with the 14th Northumberland Fusiliers. In 1911 he lived at 10 New Street, off Moor Lane and he worked as an errand boy for a confectioners. Wilmslow and St Bart's memorials record his passing.
Guest post by Jon Armstrong and Alan Cooper with a contribution from Michael Scaife, Wilmslow Historical Society.
Photo: Big Bertha - long range gun.