100 Years Ago This Month in WWI: September
By Leon Schmidt and Gary Blum
Special to the City Times
The Battle of Paschendaele Continues
The allied attack on the German lines eat of the town of Ypres in Flanders in August 1917 was mostly a failure. The German defense strategy, aided by the worst weather in a century, has combined to limit the British to minimal gains aat great cost in human life.
In September 1917, a new British general took over, General Sir Herbert Plumer. The new general was a meticulous planner whose strategy was to seek small gains of 500 to 1000 yards behind massive allied artillery bombardment, which would not be lost in subsequent German counterattacks. It was called simply “bite and hold.”
The rain let up, the British attacked and the German defenses couldn’t hold back the massive but short British advances. However, the British advances were relatively small in consideration of the large number of casualties that occurred. German casualties in the battle in September were about 42,500; British casualties were similar.
The German had very high casualties due to the enormous amount of artillery fire raining down on the German soldiers before and during the British attacks. Nonetheless, the British believed that things went reasonably well during the month of September, but the battle wasn’t over yet.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, the men from Wisconsin Rapids who made up “Battery G” of the First Wisconsin Calvary began the month at Camp Douglas in Juneau Co. doing drills, marching, and general training. On Sept. 7, 1917, Battery G received orders that it would be sent to Camp MacArthur in Waco, Texas. On Sept. 11, the baggage, horses, and men board a C&NW train bound for Camp MacArthur.
They arrived on Sept. 14. On Sept. 18, the men were told that the Wisconsin units were to be broken up and assigned to new units. The proud First Wisconsin Calvary would no longer exist. The men were assigned to the new 120th Field Artillery as “Battery D”. Then men were not happy to the change of their unit, but if they had refused the change, they would have become an ammunition train unit, so it was the lesser of two evils.
On Sept. 25, the men had to turn in their rifles and began artillery training. Many of the men may not have realized how enormously important Allied artillery would be when they arrived in France.
Submitted under the auspices of Post 9 of the American Legion of Wisconsin Rapids