THE centenary of the great German offensive of the First World War, also known as the 1918 Spring Offensive, has just passed.

And with this in mind, Looking Back regular and Weymouth historian Greg Schofield has been in touch to pay tribute to the the Weymouth and Dorchester men who were killed in this, one of the last great offensives of the First World War, on March 21, 1918.

Greg tells us: "Early 1918 was a window of opportunity for the Germans.

"In January a peace treaty was signed with the new communist government of Russia, which ended the war on the Eastern Front.

"For the first time, the Germans were able to concentrate their army on the Western Front. However, the window was narrow; the USA had entered the war in April 1918 but had not yet arrived in any numbers, however, that would not now be long delayed and an offensive against the allies had to take place before they could be reinforced.

"The German General Ludendorff planned to attack the lines where the French and British lines met and cooperation and communication was at its least effective. New tactics were to be used which had been successful against the Italians in 1917; instead of a prolonged bombardment, General ‘Breakthrough’ Bruchmuller organised a short concentrated barrage, after which ‘stormtroopers’ armed with flamethrowers and machine pistols burst through the gaps created, ignored strongpoints and kept moving forward, forcing the allies to fall back in confusion."

Greg writes that the blow fell on March 21, 1918 on a stretch of the line held by General Gough’s 5th Army, which had just taken over some French trenches and had no defence in depth.

"The onslaught of 47 German divisions on 28 British and French divisions was immediately successful, the 5th Army disintegrated and the allies fell back in confusion, with a huge gap threatening to open up.

"All allied forces were put under the command of Marshal Foche and a defensive line hardened as the Germans ran out of steam. "They had advanced 37 miles in two weeks, but outrun their artillery and supplies, become exhausted through poor diet caused by the British blockade and disillusioned by the evidence of the allies’ plentiful supplies which they stopped to loot."

During the retreat, the following Weymouth men were killed:-

GEFFAL George (2nd Lieutenant, 2nd/ 4th Ox and Bucks Light Infantry. Killed 23rd March, 1918), HANSFORD P. E. C. (Company Serjeant Major, Royal Engineers. Formerly volunteer artillery. Killed 9th April, 1918, aged 31. Awarded DCM for conspicuous gallantry 24th August, 1916. Son of Charles (One of the Weymouth Town Sargeants) and Sara Hansford. Husband of Mary. Lived 106, Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey) HOOPER Thomas George Gunner, Royal Garrison Artillery. Killed 21st March, 1918, HUNTER Nigel Duncan Ratcliffe (Captain, Royal Engineers. Awarded M.C. and Bar. Killed in action 26th March, 1918, aged 23. Son of Mr and Mrs Duncan Hunter. Lived ‘Chesildene’, Rodwell, Weymouth.)

JARVIS Arthur Charles (Private, Royal Army Medical Corps. Killed in action 25th March, 1918, aged 27. Son of Thomas and Emily Jarvis. Brother a prisoner of war. Lived 61, Franklin Rd., Weymouth), LANGFORD William George Private, 6th Dorsetshire Regt. Killed 24th March, 1918. PITMAN Harry E. Rifleman, 1st/ 17th London Rifles. Killed 21st March, 1918, aged 33. Only son of Mrs Pitman. Lived 12, Spring Gardens, SARGENT Frederick Charles (Private, 7th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. Killed March 28 March, 1918, aged 27. Son of Mrs S. T. Sargent. Lived 1, Terrace St, Weymouth.) SCRIVEN Francis Henry (Private, 1st Wiltshire Regt. Killed 24th March, 1918, aged 19. Lived 22, Ilchester Rd., Weymouth. In 1917 his mother had appealed for exemption from conscription for Francis, her youngest son and only support at home. One son had already been killed and three more were serving in France. At home she had only a daughter and two sons under 15. The appeal was refused.) SMALE Stanley A. (Private, Royal Engineers. Killed 21st March, 1918, aged 21. Initially reported missing, confirmed dead in 1919. Enlisted August 1914; left for France 1915. Son of William and Phoebe Smale, 13, Kempstone Rd., Weymouth.) SQUIBB William Clive (Private, 2nd/ 4th Royal Berks Regt. Killed 21st March, 1918., aged 29. Husband of Katherins Elizabeth Squibb. Lived 10, Terrace St., Commercial Rd., Weymouth.) STEWARD Edward (Private, 8th The Queen’s (Royal West Surreys). Killed 21st March, 1918) WALBRIN James H. (Private, 6th Dorsetshire Regt. Killed 1st April, 1918, aged 28. Son of M. A. Walbrin, Glyde Path, Dorchester. Husband of Amelia G. Walbrin.) WENLOCK William (Private, 7th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Reported missing 22nd March, 1918; confirmed dead 2nd April, 1918. Aged 19. Youngest son of Theophilus and Lucy Wenlock, 18 King’s St, Weymouth. GES / March, 2018)