1918 The Spring Offensive

In January 1918 the Hertfordshire Regiment were transferred within the 39th Division to the 116th Brigade and left Ypres to move south to an area east of Amiens. Shortly after they arrived, the Germans launched an attack that is known as the Spring Offensive and the Hertfordshire Regiment were pressed into service.

The Regiment went into line on the 21st March 1918. They were fighting in the region between Ephey and St Emilie, to the north-west of St Quentin. By the evening of 27th March, the 39th Division were almost entirely surrounded and so transport from headquarters was unable to get through with much needed rations and water.

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After holding their positions through the night withdrawal began again the following morning and Lieutenant Colonel Gripper reported that:

The manner in which the Men, who were now very tired through lack of sleep and food, advanced to the attack against very heavy Machine Gun fire was most excellent. They moved with the greatest steadiness and got in with the bayonet, killing many Germans and securing 8 prisoners.

Fighting continued and by the 30th March the Division was totally exhausted and had suffered considerable casualties including the Hertfordshire Regiment’s commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel E.C.M. Phillips who was captured along with several men.

Thankfully for the exhausted men fresh troops finally arrived on the 30th March and their counter-attack marked the end of the German advance allowing the 39th Division including the remnants of the Hertfordshire Regiment to be brought out of the line into billets in Amiens. The men had been fighting continuously for 10 days during a withdrawal of 30 miles.

The Hertfordshire Regiment had suffered such losses that they were unable to reform the return to the operations and so in April moved close to Ypres to work on defences with occasional heavy enemy shelling and air attack.

On 9th May they moved south again to the area between Arras and Amiens. While the battalion was advancing into the line near Foncquevillers it was subjected to gas-shell bombardment and casualties were heavy. For the third time the battalion had almost ceased to exist as a fighting unit but it was combined with the 6th Bedfordshire Regiment and returned to the line to fight. Their final battle was the Battle of the Sambre on 4th November 1918.

Over the four years of the First World War the Hertfordshire Regiment lost 848 men and around 2500 were wounded.

Second Lieutenant Eleazer Freedman

Eleazer Freedman joined the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment in December 1917 as a temporary Second Lieutenant. He was one of several men taken prisoner during the German Spring Offensive in March 1918 and he was taken first to Karlsruhe which was an interrogation centre known as “The Listening Hotel” but he was then moved to the Holzminden Offizierlager near Hannover.

Freedman was repatriated in December 1918. In 1920 Freedman joined The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary or ADRIC a unit set up to counter the IRA. Enlisted men who had been commissioned as officers during the War often found it difficult to adjust to their loss of status and pay in civilian life, and historians have concluded that the Auxiliary Division recruited large numbers of these "temporary gentlemen". ADRIC became infamous for their violence against civilians and civilian property but Freedman deserted within days and returned to England.