World War One Diary for Sunday, March 24, 1918:
Somme: First Battle of Bapaume (until March 25). Separation of BEF and French Armies threatened. Germans destroy 500-strong South African Brigade, cross Somme between Ham and Peronne; farther south they push back Allies and capture Chauny rail junction. At Villeselve 150 British cavalry (73 casualties) charge and inflict 195 casualties, take 3 MGs.
A shaken Petain orders Fayolle above all to keep ‘the solid connection of the French armies and then, if possible, to preserve contact with the British Forces’. At 2300 hours Petain visits Haig and refuses further reserves as he expects main German blow in Champagne at any moment. Haig enquires if he means to abandon BEF right flank and allow Germans to penetrate; Petain nods assent! Haig cables War Office for Wilson and War Minister Milner to come to France at once, emphasizing ‘unless General Foch or some other determined general is given supreme command of the operations … there will be a disaster’.
Western Front: Waves of 20-80 French bombers intervene in BEF’s Somme battle, Group Fequant from Soissons and Fareen-Tardenois, with Group Manard from Chalons (March 25), effort especially against German convoys continues (March 26-29). Captain J L Trollope in Sopwith Camel of No 43 Squadron Royal Fling Corps scores 6 victories. Royal Flying Corps lose 65 aircraft to claim of 42 German (17 in Flanders). German claim is 35 Allied for 14 lost. Germans night bomb Albert and Amiens (10 hours interruption to rail traffic).
Germany: Handley Page bomber makes first raid on Cologne since 1914 (night March 24-25).
India – Northwest Frontier: 3 bombs kill 14 armed tribesmen at Marri district capital (submits April 19).
Palestine: 8 RFC aircraft bomb Amman.
Italian Front: 3 French divisions recalled to Western Front (until March 26); Corsican Graziani replaces Maistre as C-in-C.
Palestine: Anzac Mounted Division and Camel Brigade across Jordan, ride 9 miles on Amman in rain and mud; British 60th Division captures El Haud Hill with 3 guns. Now 9,600 British soldiers with 82 guns vs 5,500 (maximum) Turks and Germans with c.26 guns.