Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

moggs

Disaster at Allonville 31st May 1918

Recommended Posts

moggs

In the early hours of 31st May 1918, German artillery fired 7 or 8 high velocity, likely 9 inch, shells towards the village of Allonville which is a few miles to the north east of Amiens. Two of the shells hit with devastating effect. The first of these caused the highest number of casualties from a single shell in the whole of the AIF - 69 men of A company, 14th Battalion. 13 men were killed outright and a further 12 died from their wounds (8 within hours of the attack). The second shell caused 17 casualties with at least 4 killed. (Official records state that 5 were killed but it doesn’t add up - more on that later!)

Casualties were was so high for the first shell because its force shattered the main beam holding the slate roof of the barn in which the men were sleeping. As a result slate fell to the ground and sliced through anyone and anything in the way. The collapsed beam crushed any in the way too.

My interest has been piqued due to my grandpa being in that barn for a part of that night. It was his first night back after a lengthy spell recovering from a wound. Family sources suggest that Ted moved away before the attack either because he was too hot and couldn’t sleep or because he’d been invited to listen to the battalion band in another barn. A combination of both stories is possible - it was a very warm night and the band were close by (the second shell hit that barn - the understanding is that Ted went back to help his mates in the first barn before the second shell struck). In any case, fate proved most fortunate for him and, following on from that, me and my family.

Friends, I have some observations to make and a few questions and enquiries for which I would appreciate some assistance.

Allonville, at the time, was 9 or 10 miles from the German lines. What made them attack in such a precise, long distance manner?

Conflicting stories have emerged about this. (See Bean and Wanliss in following posts.)

Are there any docs or views from the German side of this incident?

Wounded were taken to a number of CCSs but one, at Crouy, was quite a distance away. Was that a medical or practical move?

3 of the wounded died at Crouy (5th CCS), 2 at Vignacourt (20th CCS), 4 at Longeau (10th FA), 1 at Allonville (4th FA), 1 at Rouen (3rd Stationary Hospital) and the last, two weeks after the attack at Birmingham (1st Southern Hospital).

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Amazing stories of luck and courage happen in all aspects of war. Here’s how Newton Wanliss described a few of the men.

“Pte. Dick Radnell, M.M., with a smashed limb and mortally wounded, was carried out of the barn singing. He died next day. Another man with both legs severed above the knee, on being proffered assistance, said, “I am all right; get the badly wounded boys out.” One of the staunchest and most sterling men in A company was Cpl. Harry Reynolds, a man upwards of forty years of age, who lost an arm in the disaster. As he lay lying wounded on the stretcher one of his mates gave him a cigarette, whilst another offered to light a match for him. “No,” was the determined response of the veteran, whose sufferings had failed to quench his indomitable spirit. “I have to use one arm in the future, and I will start now,” and he lit the match himself.”

Any information on the unnamed man would be appreciated.

I wonder how Harry fared when he returned to Australia? In a nominal role gathered in the early 1930s he gave his address as the Soldier’s Memorial Hall, Oakleigh. That’s all I have on him.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Photos of the barn taken the next day.

post-54187-0-66096000-1338407086_thumb.j

From the various war diaries, the closest pin pointing of the site of the barns are east of Allonville and a map reference for a possible spot to the south east - 62D.G.18.a

Can anyone find a more precise reference for the barns? To my knowledge, they do not exist anymore, nor does the nearby chateau which is referred to in a number of sources.

Jonathan

Another

post-54187-0-93178200-1338407165_thumb.j

A close up from a different angle

post-54187-0-99225200-1338407235_thumb.j

The barn was rumoured to belong to the Hennessy family - of brandy fame. I’ve also read somewhere that the Hennessy family may well have owned the chateau mentioned above. No proof in any form.

La Hara farm was also mentioned in the battalion war diary. I can’t find any other reference to such a place. Any thoughts?

To the north of Allonville lie the Bois de Chateau and the Bois de Mai. There is another unnamed wood to the south - beginning at the map ref above. Is it the Bois de Allonville mentioned in the war diaries? I assume so but would love confirmation. Another company was placed there in the days prior to the attack.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Bean states in regards to the Allonville disaster, “About this time, according to the intelligence summary (dated May 17) of the 199th German Div. then holding Ville, the Germans captured prisoners who disclosed that headquarters of the 3rd Aust. Div. were at Allonville.” He goes on to say that such evidence lead directly to the attack on the 31st. Personally, I’m not so sure about that but it could have started the German interest in the goings on at Allonville. Certainly reconnaissance occurred and was used on the night of the attack. Bean again, “German artillery, firing high bursting shrapnel shells, was ranged on to Allonville by an aeroplane which, after the fourth shell, dropped coloured flares indicating that the range was correct.”

Wanliss states that “Billets had previously been allotted to the 14th on a farm of which, unfortunately, it was not permitted to remain long as sole occupant, for it had also subsequently been turned into a motor park for lorries of the 3rd division of the AIF, which were ranged outside some barns in which many of our men were housed.”

Later he states, “some think that the shooting was purely accidental, and that the fatal shells were either ‘shorts’, fired at the chateau housing Divisional Headquarters, or were merely discharged on the chance endeavour to explode some of the ammunition dumps in the locality.”

I’m seeking some confirmation.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

There are 18 men buried at Allonville cemetery - 13 who died outright from A company and 4 from the second shell. The 18th was John Mills who DOW at the 4th FA shortly after the attack. The 4th FA was placed in the nearby Bois de Mai at the time.

Wanliss appears to be confused over the deaths caused by the second shell, as are the battalion and brigade records. The claim of 5 deaths (2 band members, 2 scouts and a signaller) doesn’t add up to the 4 men accounted for at the cemetery and in the list (Wanliss pp290, 291).

In all the sources I’ve found I can’t work out the difference. Certainly, it was a confusing and stressful night for the battalion and I wonder whether Mills may have been counted as the 5th man by the officers at the time. Mills, though, was definitely hit by the first shell and definitely in A company.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Buried at Allonville

1668a Albert Robert Anderson

Labourer from Nhill, Victoria

Taken on strength from 29th Battalion AIF 4/3/1916

A company, 1st shell

Aged 21 at death

Plot B2

post-54187-0-27809000-1338407935_thumb.j

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

6221 Charles Ballis

Clerk from Ripponlea, Victoria

Taken on strength from 20th reinforcements 16/2/1917

A company, 1st shell

Aged 34 at death (not 20 as on his headstone)

Plot B5

post-54187-0-38864400-1338408090_thumb.j

4760 Sydney Ernest Beverley

Farm Labourer from England

Taken on strength from 29th Battalion AIF 29/1/1918

A company, 1st shell

Aged 24 at death

Plot B13

post-54187-0-81023900-1338408197_thumb.j

2152 Thomas Brinkworth

Station Manager from England

Taken on strength from 2nd Light Horse 14/10/1917

A company, 1st shell

Aged 27 at death

Plot B17

post-54187-0-32787100-1338408282_thumb.j

2240 Robert Delaney

Labourer from Warrnambool, Victoria

Taken on Strength from 4th Light Horse 12/8/1917

A company, 1st shell

Aged 21 at death

Plot B6

post-54187-0-67845200-1338408379_thumb.j

5764 Leopold Arthur Downey

Labourer, from Thornton, Victoria

Taken on strength from 18th reinforcements 26/12/1916

A company, 1st shell

Aged 27at death

Plot B11

post-54187-0-75040700-1338408445_thumb.j

1872 L/Cpl. John Herbert Dunn

Labourer from Trentham, Victoria

Taken on strength from 29th Battalion AIF 4/3/1916

A company, 1st shell

Aged 26 at death

Plot B16

post-54187-0-87776500-1338408519_thumb.j

7342 Bertie George Englert

Painter from Sydney, NSW

Taken on strength from 24th reinforcements 27/4/1918

C company, 2nd shell

Aged 31 at death

Plot B9

post-54187-0-94284800-1338408574_thumb.j

266 Lawrence Hustler

Labourer from Penshurst, Victoria

Taken on strength from 13th Light Horse 4/10/1917

A company, 1st shell

Aged 22 at death

Plot B10

post-54187-0-23957100-1338408629_thumb.j

602 L/Cpl. Hugh Albert Graham Kent (Signaller)

Dentistry student from Melbourne, Victoria

Original E coy

A company, 2nd shell

Aged 23 at death (not 21 as stated on headstone)

Plot B4

post-54187-0-71028900-1338408692_thumb.j

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

6126 Richard Madigan

Packer from Castlemaine, Victoria

Taken on strength from 3rd Pioneers AIF 12/1/1917

C company, 2nd shell

Aged 21 at death

Plot B7

post-54187-0-74002200-1338408823_thumb.j

1383 L/Cpl. Robert Mann

Ship’s cook from England

Original C coy 1st reinforcements

A company, 1st shell

Aged 28 at death

Plot B8

post-54187-0-15427900-1338408874_thumb.j

55a Norman McLeod

Labourer from Condah, Victoria

Taken on strength from 13th Light Horse 14/10/1917

A company, 1st shell

Aged 38 at death

Plot B1

post-54187-0-96201900-1338408927_thumb.j

2491 John Claude Mills

Blacksmith from Bruthen, Victoria

Taken on strength from 7th reinforcements 23/10/1915

A company, 1st shell (DOW 31/5/1918 at 4th FA)

Aged 22 at death

Plot B18

post-54187-0-77732200-1338408983_thumb.j

7588 George Walter Powell

Fitter from Fitzroy, Victoria

Taken on strength from 25th reinforcements 7/4/1918

A company, 1st shell

Aged 18 at death

Plot B3

post-54187-0-67371900-1338409033_thumb.j

5757 George Ray

Teamster from Footscray, Victoria

Taken on strength from 6th Battalion AIF 22/10/1916

A company, 1st shell

Aged 29 at death

Plot B15

post-54187-0-61213300-1338409088_thumb.j

2730 Arthur Thomas Riley

Driver from Elsternwick, Victoria

Taken on strength fro 8th Battalion AIF 31/3/1916

A company, 1st shell

Aged 27 at death

Plot B14

post-54187-0-53052900-1338409139_thumb.j

7606 William Wootton

Labourer from Brisbane, Queensland

Taken on strength from 15th Battalion AIF 4/5/1918

C company, 2nd shell

Aged 23 at death

Plot B12

He is Wooton on the headstone but nearly everywhere in his records and, particularly how he wrote his own, it was Wootton. On one letter (from the Australian Graves Services) both spellings are used. Quite bizarre really.

post-54187-0-95062600-1338409196_thumb.j

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Photo request for the following please, if possible.

1868 Leonard Best

Driver from Belgrave, Victoria

Taken on strength from 29th Battalion AIF 4/3/1916

A company, 1st shell (DOW 4/6/1918 5th CCS)

Aged 22 at death

Buried Crouy plot 3, row A, Grave 9

231 Albert V Green

Labourer from Birchip, Victoria

Taken on strength from 13th Light Horse 7/10/1917

A company, 1st shell (DOW 31/5/1918 5th CCS)

Aged 20 at death

Buried Crouy plot 2, row E, Grave 16

6612 Leslie Egbert Joshua Witcombe

Farm Labourer from Winchelsea, Victoria

Taken on strength from 21st reinforcements

A company, 1st shell (DOW 31/5/1918 5th CCS)

Aged 33 at death

Buried Crouy plot 2, row E, Grave 22

5344 Cpl Patrick Brennan

Labourer from Benalla, Victoria

Taken on strength from 17th reinforcements

A company, 1st shell (DOW 31/5/1918 20th CCS)

Aged 27 at death

Buried Vignacourt plot 3, row B, Grave 7

1734 George Walter (Dick) Radnell

Labourer from Gladstone, Victoria

Taken on strength from 4th reinforcements

A company, 1st shell (DOW 1/6/1918 20th CCS)

Aged 21 at death

Buried Vignacourt plot 3, row B, Grave 10

1805 Henry William Delora

Driver from Prahran, Victoria

Taken on strength from 29th Battalion AIF 4/3/1916

A company, 1st shell (DOW 13/6/1918 2/1st Southern Hospital, Birmingham)

Aged 22 at death

Buried Lodge Hill section B19, Grave 430

5682a Alwyn Morris Evans

Clerk from Melbourne, Victoria

Taken on strength from 6th Battalion AIF 1917

A company, 1st shell (DOW 31/5/1918 10th FA)

Aged 31 at death

Buried Longeau plot 1, row E, Grave 9

7522 Charles Edward Leigh

Butcher from Dandenong, Victoria

Taken on strength from 25th reinforcements 17/4/1918

A company, 1st shell (DOW 31/5/1918 10th FA)

Aged 20 at death

Buried Longeau plot 1, row E, Grave 12

4877 George Valentine Reddish

Ledger Keeper from South Melbourne, Victoria

Taken on strength from 29th Battalion AIF 29/1/1918

A company, 1st shell (DOW 31/5/1918 10th FA)

Aged 30 at death

Buried Longeau plot 1, row E, Grave 10

7080 Albert Edward Smith

Boot Clicker from Carlton, Victoria

Taken on strength from 23rd reinforcements 13/5/1917

A company, 1st shell (DOW 31/5/1918 10th FA)

Aged 25 at death

Buried Longeau plot 1, row E, Grave 11

3442 Frank Newbold

Glazier from North Melbourne, Victoria

Taken on strength from11th reinforcements

A company, 1st shell (DOW 8/6/1918 3rd Stationary Hospital, Rouen)

Aged 27 at death

Buried St.Sever Grave 3965

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
frev

Hi Jonathan

Fascinating project!

I don't know which shell caused his demise - but you don't seem to have this man:

BARRETT, Patrick Joseph - Pte 542, 14th Bn

Wounded 31/5/1918 - DOW 5th CCS 31/5/1918

Buried Crouy British Cemetery, II.E.21

"I wonder how Harry fared when he returned to Australia? In a nominal role gathered in the early 1930s he gave his address as the Soldier’s Memorial Hall, Oakleigh. That’s all I have on him."

Harry died 30/4/1953 at his home in Oakleigh, age 78

He's buried in the Springvale Cemetery - TG Allen Lawn

The Argus, Sat 2 May 1953:

DEATHS

REYNOLDS, Henry Robert – On April 30, at his home, dearly loved husband of Margaret, loving father of Charlotte (deceased), Caroline (Mrs Patterson), Henry, Phillip, and Margaret (Mrs Williams), fond father-in-law of Neil, Violet, Nancy, and Peter, loved grandfather of Harry, Margaret, Robin, Yvonne, and Maree, aged 78 years. – Thy will be done.

FUNERAL NOTICES

REYNOLDS – The Funeral of the late Mr HENRY ROBERT REYNOLDS (late 14th Battn, 1st AIF) is appointed to leave the late residence, 16 Richardson street Oakleigh, on MONDAY, after a service commencing at 1.30 pm for the Springvale Cemetery.

Cheers, Frev

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Thanks Frev.

I'm not at my home base at the moment so I can't check on Barrett - the name is familiar though and I may have missed him.

Thank you for the info on Harry. I'm pleased he kept going for so long but obviously had much sadness with which to deal as his daughter pre-deceased him.

I believe it was up to the family to apply to have an AIF memorial plaque placed on the grave. In any case he deserves one.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Crunchy

Jonathan,

The POW story is quite likely. A friend is undertaking a PhD on Australian POW on the Western Front, and has accessed German records. I recall him mentioning this, but by the time the Germans received the information the 3rd Division HQ had moved. His study shows that POWs gave the Germans quite a bit of useful information.

A divisional HQ would be a high priority target for artillery.

Regards

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Thanks Chris,

I always liked it, too, but think that a combination of factors linked to form the final response.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Frev,

What a story Patrick Barrett seems to have! I thought for a few moments that with such a low number (542) he was an original but looking at his records note he joined up in 1916 to the cyclists coy and only in Feb 1918 was he taken on strength with the 14th. Fascinating that he hasn't been included in Wanliss' list nor does he appear in the appendix to the edited 'Jacka's Mob' rolls. He's not included in any of the Red Cross files linked to the 14th either but I'm yet to check whether he may appear in another area.

The question begs - how did you come across him? And, are there others that have been missed?

Could he be the 5th man from the second shell - nothing in his records states which coy he was attached to, nor a role but coming form the cyclists could he have been a messenger, or even a scout? (I'm clutching at a straw on this one!)

Some more digging is on the way!

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Nothing in the Red Cross files at all.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
old joe

Well done on doing these men justice and keeping their memories alive.

Also for prompting me to learn what the occupation of 'boot clicker' entailed.

Regards,

Joseph

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Thanks Joseph,

Hopefully a whole lot more information will surface and we can see the memories truly honoured and enhanced.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
frev

What a story Patrick Barrett seems to have! I thought for a few moments that with such a low number (542) he was an original but looking at his records note he joined up in 1916 to the cyclists coy and only in Feb 1918 was he taken on strength with the 14th. Fascinating that he hasn't been included in Wanliss' list nor does he appear in the appendix to the edited 'Jacka's Mob' rolls. He's not included in any of the Red Cross files linked to the 14th either but I'm yet to check whether he may appear in another area.

The question begs - how did you come across him? And, are there others that have been missed?

Could he be the 5th man from the second shell -

Jonathan - as you were looking for a possible fifth man - I simply counted up the 14th men you had listed that died on the 31st & then counted up the 14th men that the AWM Roll of Honour had listed for that day - and their total was one more than yours - so I compared them to see which one. But as you say there were no specifics in his record as to cause of death....

Cheers, Frev

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you for your efforts. I am pleased that it's only the one extra.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Crunchy

Jonathan,

The mate who is doing the PhD came back with the following information:

"7th Brigade recovered German intelligence material which stated that Australian troops captured at Morlancourt disclosed the location of the 3rd Division headquarters at Allonville. It was subsequently shelled by a German rail gun, although two rounds hit an adjacent barn in which two companies of the 14th battalion were resting."

He has written an article on it in Wartime issue 57.

Regards

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Much obliged Chris,

Wartime 57 is now on its way.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Thanks to all who have responded and to those who have perused. The more I dig, the more questions I find - I think I'm on the way to becoming obsessed which is rather dangerous in my current situation! B)

What may have become lost in all the information I showed and sought after is a request for a view from the German side. If any of you have information or can lead me towards such research I would be very grateful.

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Jonathan,

The mate who is doing the PhD came back with the following information:

"7th Brigade recovered German intelligence material which stated that Australian troops captured at Morlancourt disclosed the location of the 3rd Division headquarters at Allonville. It was subsequently shelled by a German rail gun, although two rounds hit an adjacent barn in which two companies of the 14th battalion were resting."

He has written an article on it in Wartime issue 57.

Regards

Chris

A good article indeed thank you Chris. It didn't cite any references, though, and I was wondering whether you could get your mate to contact me (please, please) so I can follow up a few points.

Thanks

Jonathan

PS. I will try in another forum for any information from the German point of view. Somehow, the lack of a response to this aspect has surprised but then again, I don't know where to look either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

Thanks to Peter Bennett and Paul Le Trevier I have the photo of Frank Newbold's grave at St. Sever. It's a beautiful shot of a lovely headstone. My thanks to Peter and Paul for their efforts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
moggs

PS. I will try in another forum for any information from the German point of view. Somehow, the lack of a response to this aspect has surprised but then again, I don't know where to look either.

Have to say I've tried in other Forums and received absolutely zero. Either the information does not exist or I'm asking the wrong questions. So, if anyone out there can help me by giving any lead to go on I would be most grateful.

The information I seek is, which German Unit(s) were near Amiens on the night of 31st May 1918? Which ones may have fired the artillery shells which were directed at Allonville? Which air service may have directed the operation? Are there any records or war diaries which may support any of the evidence?

Still seeking…

Jonathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×