31531. Private Thomas John Howe

1st./4th. (Territorial) Battalion, Shropshire Light Infantry, Fifth Army. Formerly 4/40452. Private, Training Reserve Battalion. Born 1896 in Bronymaen, Glamorgan, Wales. Enlisted in Swansea. Killed in Action on Tuesday 26th. March 1918, aged 22, on the 6th. day of the German Spring Offensive, Codenamed “Operation Michael”, also known as “Kaisersclacht” - “The Kaiser’s Battle”. Lost Without Trace. No Known Grave. Known unto God. Commemorated on Bay 7 of The Arras Memorial to The Missing in the Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery,  Pas de Calais, France. Son of Thomas and Mary Jane Howe of 85 Clase Road, Morriston, Swansea, Wales. Thomas was entitled to The Victory Medal and British War Medal.

44 of Thomas’s Comrades from the Battalion also Fell on the same day, including:

200264. Private Thomas Charles Owen M.M.

The German Spring Offensive

At 4.40am on the morning of 21st. March, 1918, the beginning of the end of trench warfare opened with the most massive concentrated Artillery barrage of the War. Seven thousand German Artillery pieces began firing off over one million shells, a quarter of them being gas shells, at the unsuspecting British Fifth Army.

This is what Captain Ernst Junger of the 73rd. Hanoverian Fusiliers heard and saw:

“A tremendous roll of fire brought us to our feet; our uncertainty was dispersed by the instantaneous crash, the like of which has never been heard before by land or sea, from thousands upon thousands of guns roaring out on a front of 30 miles, and we knew that the hurricane had broken on us at last. The noise transcended anything I had ever conceived. We were stunned by the concussions of literally thousands  of bursting shells, and although the light was uncertain, for there hung a mist, we could see that all our front stood wrapped in a sea of smoke and flame, as the earth heaved and twisted under our feet. Supported by a creeping barrage of Artillery fire, squads of elite Storm-Troopers, armed with Automatic Rifles, Light Machine-Guns and Flame-Throwers, penetrated the shattered front line of the British Fifth Army. They broke through lines held for over 3 years and advanced 14 miles, the greatest gain of territory since the beginning of the War.”

Barry Jenkins