Ewhurst History Society

March 1918

The German Spring offensive of 1918

Strengthened by the release of troops from the Eastern Front, following the Russian surrender, the Germans launched a massive attack on the Western Front on the 21st March. A heavy bombardment was followed by a swift attack by elite storm troopers who quickly penetrated the British lines. Several Ewhurst men were killed or wounded during the offensive.

Corporal Thomas Mathew was Wounded in Action on the first day of the attack and died at a casualty clearing station at Dernancourt three days later. He was born in Ewhurst in 1886, the son of Thomas and Eleanor Mathew of Malquoits Farm Cottage. He left school at 14 to work as an under-cowman’, but by 1911 had moved away from Ewhurst and was working as an under-gardener at Rotherfield, Sussex. Thomas served initially in The Queens, but later transferred to the Durham Light Infantry.

Another Ewhurst man, Private Albert Buck, age 34, was reported Killed in Action near Arras on the 22nd March. The son of George and Rosa Buck, he had been born in Ewhurst in 1884, where his father was the landlord of the White Hart Inn. By 1911 his father had died and the pub closed, but Alfred was still living at home with his mother at The Old White Hart and was working as a postman. He enlisted in August 1914 in the Queens, but in April 1917 was transferred to the newly formed Labour Corps. This was manned by soldiers grade whose fitness was below ‘A1’, often due to previous injuries, and was responsible for general maintenance work, but they often had to work under dangerous conditions. The circumstances of his death are not known and his body was not recovered.

Lance Corporal Frank Jenkins of Ellen’s Green died on the 28th March. He had been wounded on the 24th / 25th March near Bapaume and taken to a casualty clearing station near Duissans, but died a few days later. He was the son of George and Eliza Jenkins of Furzen Lane and had enlisted in September 1914 in the Royal Engineers. He was 24 and his elder brother Alfred was serving with the Royal Sussex.

Captain Ralph William Frecheville was also serving with the Royal Engineers, although in a different Field Company to Frank Jenkins. He was wounded on the 27th March near Hamel. He had previously been seriously wounded in 1915 and on this occasion his medical report notes that he was “hit by machine gun bullets in both thighs. In each case the bullets entered about middle thigh and passed through obliquely from behind forwards and escaped”. He was evacuated to England.