THE third phase of the German Spring Offensive, codenamed Blücher–Yorck, was launched on May 27, 1918 and was to claim the lives of three men from Redditch in just four days while a fourth was to succumb to the after effects of a gas attack.
The Germans struck on a 36 mile front between Soissons and Reims.
The area was held by British and French troops resting and recuperating on a ‘quiet’ part of the front after holding off attacks earlier in the spring.
Encamped along the Chemin des Dames, now the site of a poignant war memorial, they were sitting targets for the German guns.
The aim was to reach Paris and the German offensive fell just 35 miles short before both supplies and moral ran out.
Sidney Roe was killed on the first day of the attack.
Born in Astwood Bank in 1899, he was the eldest of William and Annie Roe’s five children.
William worked as a cycle parts maker and the family lived in Rushey Fields, Webheath in a house owned by their aunt and uncle, Ernest and Sarah Jackson.
By 1911 they had moved to Gunstige Cottage in Callow Hill, by which time Annie was working as a cardboard box maker.
In January 1917 and aged just 17, Sidney married Hetty Smout in Droitwich, and the couple set up home in The Lodge on Highfield Road in Headless Cross.
Sidney was conscripted into the 2nd Battalion, the Northamptonshire Regiment and was killed in action on May 27, 1918.
He is remembered today on The Bridge War Memorial in Headless Cross.
Hetty later married Thomas Bray in Alcester in 1927.
Little is known of Luke Gardner except that he was born in Feckenham and later moved to Aldershot where he joined the Army.
He served as a Private in the 6th Battalion the South Wales Borders and was killed on the second day of the offensive, May 28, and is remembered today on the St John The Baptist War Memorial in Feckenham.
Harry Floyd and Howard Guest died on the same day, May 31, 1918 although under different circumstances.
Harry, a Private in the Machine Gun Corps, had been the victim of a poison gas attack on May 21.
His full name was George Henry Floyd and he was born in 1891, the son of George and Mary Jane Floyd.
In the 1911 census the family were living at 5 Worcester Road in Redditch, Harry working as a dental mechanic while his parents were both employed in the needle industry.
He enlisted in December 1915 and his Army records show he was 5ft 5ins and weighed 127lbs.
Following the gas attack Harry was transferred to a field hospital but died there ten days later.
He is remembered today on the St Stephen’s War Memorial.
Howard Guest served with the 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment.
Stationed at the Bois de Buttes they were overwhelmed by the German attack but to buy time for the rest of their Corps the 2nd Devons stood and fought, the battalion losing 551 soldiers killed or missing.
To recognise their courage the French awarded the Regiment the Croix de Guerre, whose ribbon all Devons wore on their sleeve thereafter.
Born in 1899, Howard was the second son of Joseph and Agnes Guest, and the family lived in Astwood Lane in Astwood Bank.
His father workeed as a needle bender.
Howard is remembered today on the Soissons Memorial in France and on the Astwood Bank War Memorial.
With thanks to:
Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes.