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Title: The 56th Division - 1st London Territorial Division
Author: Ward, C. H. (Charles Humble) Dudley
Language: English
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_Photo, Elliott & Fry._


(1st London Territorial Division)


D.S.O., M.C.

With a Foreword by General Lord Horne of Stirkoke,
G.C.B., K.C.M.G.

John Murray, Albemarle Street, W.

All Rights Reserved

                           TO THE MEMORY



                        BORN JULY 3RD, 1865
                        DIED JULY 24TH, 1920


When day broke on the 28th March, 1918, the 56th London Territorial
Division was in position on the southern portion of the Vimy Ridge. At
nightfall the division still held its ground, having beaten back three
separate assaults delivered in great strength by picked German troops
specially trained in the attack and inspired with confidence resulting
from the successes of the previous week. Truly a great achievement,
and important as great, for the Vimy Ridge covered the city of Arras
and the coalfields of Béthune.

Important as this success was held to be at the time, a time of great
strain upon the forces of the Empire, it was not till later on, when
Ludendorff took us into his confidence, that we learned its full
significance. Ludendorff gives us to understand that the failure of
the German effort of 28th March constituted the turning-point of the
1918 campaign. That evening Ludendorff recognised the beginning of the
end; the German nation lost heart; the _moral_ of the German Army
deteriorated rapidly.

I have selected the above--one of the many achievements of the 56th
London Territorial Division--to illustrate the stage of efficiency to
which the troops of our Territorial Army had attained in war.

I saw much of our Territorial troops in France: I had seen something
of them in pre-war days, and I recall an absence of appreciation of
the devotion of those whose patriotic enthusiasm put life into the
great organisation evolved from the brain of a statesman to whom
history will give the credit hitherto unworthily begrudged to Lord

I take this opportunity of paying my tribute of respect and admiration
to the Territorial Army as a whole, and the 56th London Division in

This note would not be complete without reference to that fine
soldier, the late Major-Gen. Sir Amyatt Hull, whose professional
qualities and personal charm gained the respect and affection of all
ranks, and who imbued with his own unconquerable spirit the officers
and men of the division which he commanded so long, and of which he
was so justly proud.

                                                 HORNE OF STIRKOKE,


                          G.C.B., K.C.M.G.

                             CHAPTER I


The Assembly--The Grouping of Units--The Size of a Division--Perfecting
the Organisation--General Situation--Falkenhayn’s View--Haig’s
Summary--Preparations for the Somme--The Division at Hébuterne--The
First Task--Extent of the New Line--The German Positions--Note by Gen.
Hull--The Date of Attack--Operation Orders--Artillery and
Smoke--Patrol Reports--The Attack--Gen. Hull’s Conclusion--The Battle
of Albert, 1916                                              pp. 1-48

                             CHAPTER II

                             THE SOMME

Tanks--Progress on the Somme--The Move to Battle Positions--In Contact
with the Enemy--The Battle of Ginchy--The Attack-Haig’s Dispatch--
Battle of Flers-Courcelette--Orders to Tanks--The Attack--The
Quadrilateral--The Battle of Morval--Battle of the Transloy
Ridges--The Division Relieved--Lessons of the Somme--Lieut.-Col.
Bayliffe’s Paper--The Bad Conditions--Lord Cavan’s Appreciation--
Falkenhayn on Verdun--Hindenburg and Ludendorff            pp. 49-100

                            CHAPTER III


Strength of the Division--Raids--Gen. Haking’s Appreciation--
Revolution in Russia--Move to the Third Army              pp. 101-113

                             CHAPTER IV

                     THE BATTLES OF ARRAS, 1917

The German Retreat, 1917--Plan of Attack--Artillery Control Signals--
First Battle of the Scarpe--The Attack--Clearing the Hindenburg
Line--The Advance Checked--German Comments--Move to the VI Corps--
Third Battle of the Scarpe--Result of the Battle--Minor Actions--
British Gains--Q.W.R. Observation--The Artillery          pp. 114-143

                             CHAPTER V


Gen. Sir C. P. A. Hull--General Situation--Opening of the Offensive--
Gen. F. A. Dudgeon--Preliminary Difficulties--The Attack--German
Pill-box Defence--Result of Ypres Battles                 pp. 144-164

                             CHAPTER VI


Organisation of Battalions--Patrol Encounters--The Plan of Attack--
Preparations--The Attack--Tadpole Copse--The Attack Held--Warning of
a Counter-attack--The Counter-attack--The Story of a Great Fight--Gen.
Dudgeon’s Report--The French Troops                       pp. 165-208

                             CHAPTER VII

                        THE GERMAN OFFENSIVE

American Action--The Enemy Strength--British Strength--German
Assembly--British Preparations--Frequent Change of Orders--Imminence
of Enemy Attack--Disposition of Troops--Enemy Attack Opens--The
Queen’s Westminsters--L.R.B. and 4th Londons--Kensingtons, London
Scottish--The Artillery--Enemy Failure--Reports on the Battle--The
Machine Gunners                                           pp. 209-242

                            CHAPTER VIII

                       THE ADVANCE TO VICTORY

Allied Defence--South of the Scarpe--Gen. Dudgeon--Raids--Division in
Rest Area--August the 8th--Haig’s Plan--Orders for the Advance--The
Position--The Battle of Albert--Croisilles--Battle of the Scarpe--Loss
of Direction--Bullecourt--The Artillery                   pp. 243-280

                             CHAPTER IX

                           THE ARMISTICE

The New Position--Battle of the Canal du Nord--German Resistance
Broken--Aubigny-au-Bac--The Allied Advance--Reorganisation--Open
Fighting--Battle of the Sambre--Demolition of Roads--
Intercommunication--The Grand Honnelle--Enemy Confusion--The
“Cease Fire”                                              pp. 281-314

APPENDIX                                                  pp. 315-326

INDEX                                                     pp. 327-331

Special thanks are due to Messrs. Hutchinson & Co., publishers of
_My War Memories 1914-1918_, by Gen. Ludendorff, and _General
Headquarters 1914-1916, and Its Critical Decisions_, by Gen. von
Falkenhayn; also to Messrs. Cassell & Co., publishers of _Out of My
Life_, by Field-Marshal von Hindenburg, for permission to print
extracts from these works.

                       LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

MAJOR-GENERAL SIR AMYATT HULL, K.C.B.                  _Frontispiece_

                                                          FACING PAGE
GOMMECOURT, JULY 1916                                              46




1. THE GOMMECOURT SALIENT                                          46

     25TH SEPTEMBER                                                78

3. THE TRANSLOY RIDGE                                              86

4. THE BATTLES OF ARRAS, 1917                                     134

5. THE BATTLE OF LANGEMARCK, 1917                                 158


7. THE BATTLE OF CAMBRAI                                          196

8. THE FIRST BATTLE OF ARRAS, 1918                                234

9. THE BATTLES OF ALBERT AND THE SCARPE, 1918                     278

10. BATTLE OF THE CANAL DU NORD                                   296

11. GENERAL MAP                                                   310

                      THE FIFTY-SIXTH DIVISION                             1

                             CHAPTER I


After the declaration of war, when the first news of the Expeditionary
Force began to trickle across the Channel, the people of England were
told that troops were marching to the lilting tune with the Cockney

     Good-bye, Piccadilly,
       Farewell, Leicester Square,
     It’s a long, long way to Tipperary,
       But my heart’s right there.

Within a few months territorial battalions were marching in France and
singing the same absurd song. But the London, the Cockney spirit,
impudent, noisy, but good-tempered and friendly, always wide awake,
observant, and ready for a scrap, above all never down-hearted, led
the way from the very beginning of the war. It is with the
light-hearted crowd of Piccadilly and Leicester Square that we are
concerned, for the whole of London some time or other passes through
those thoroughfares.

                     *     *     *     *     *

There is something peculiarly fascinating in following the fortunes of
London troops, particularly Territorial troops.

For some reason there has been a tendency of late years to look down       2
on the men of London, to dismiss them as weaklings, as men of poor
physique, with maybe smart tongues and clothes, but without the
necessary stamina for hardy soldiers. It would be difficult to say on
what ground such an opinion was based. At least it has no historical
foundation. The Trained Bands of London have a very definite place in
the history of England.

Although it is not the oldest corps, the Artillery Company of London,
formed to train men in the use of the long bow, cross bow, and hand
gun, dates back to the time of Henry VIII. Westminster and the County
of Middlesex were ever to the fore in raising Volunteers as distinct
from the Militia, though the distinction was not always too clear. St.
George’s, Hanover Square--Pimlico--Inns of Court--Bloomsbury--St.
James’s are names to be found in every record of effort to meet a
national danger. Enfield, Tottenham, Stoke Newington, Chelsea,
Kensington, Chiswick, Battersea, Clapham, Clerkenwell, Deptford,
Hungerford, Islington, Lambeth, and Wandsworth have all raised
companies for the defence of England in former times of stress.

There is no need to labour the point. Every student of the history of
the British Army knows what the Service owes to London. The Londoner
has always proved himself a valiant soldier, and has not withheld from

What England owes to the Territorial is above computation. As the
descendant of the old Volunteer he was enrolled to serve in England
alone. But when war with the Central Powers was declared he did not
hesitate--his response was immediate and unanimous. Territorials           3
landed in France in 1914, and continued to arrive in that country in a
steady stream as they could be spared from Great Britain.

When the 56th Division was assembled in France during the first days
of February 1916, it was not, therefore, a new unit, looking about
with wondering eyes at new scenes, and standing, as it were, on the
tiptoes of expectation as it paused on the outskirts of the great
adventure. The twelve battalions of infantry were veterans.[1]

On the 5th February Major-Gen. C. P. A. Hull, to whom command of the
new division was given, arrived at Hallencourt, between Abbeville and
Amiens, where his staff was to meet.

     Lieut.-Col. J. E. S. Brind       G.S.O.1.
     Major A. E. G. Bayley            G.S.O.2.
     Capt. T. W. Bullock              G.S.O.3.
     Bt. Lieut.-Col. H. W. Grubb A.A. and Q.M.G.
     Capt. W. M. Sutton               D.A.A.G.
     Major F. J. Lemon                D.A.Q.M.G.
     Lieut. H. C. B. Way              A.D.C.

The presence of these officers, however, did not constitute a
division. Brigade commanders and their staffs arrived--Brig.-Gen. F.
H. Burnell-Nugent, 167th Brigade, Brig.-Gen. G. G. Loch, 168th
Brigade, Brig.-Gen. E. S. Coke, 169th Brigade--and we find a wail of
despair going up from the 169th Brigade: “No rations, fuel, or
stationery yet available”--“No divisional organisation exists” (this
on the 8th), and a wealth of meaning in this note written on the 18th:
“The Brigade Interpreter (who should have been available at first)         4
arrived at last. Rain whole day.” Could anything be more tragic?

Our sympathies are entirely with the staff on these occasions, for
though the situation cannot be described as chaotic, it is
bewildering. Troops were arriving from all directions and at all times
of the day; the machinery was not in running order, and its creaking
wheels, which occasionally stopped, necessitated the most careful
watching and a great deal of work. When an organisation is being made,
no one can say “that is not my job,” for it seems as though all jobs
are his for the time being. The Interpreter would have been most
useful if only to arrange the billeting--and what is a staff officer
without stationery?

The Brigades were as follows:

The 167th Infantry Brigade; commanded by Brig.-Gen. F. H.
Burnell-Nugent, with Capt. G. Blewitt as his Brigade Major and Capt.
O. H. Tidbury as Staff Captain. The battalions of this brigade were
the 1/1st London Regt., the 1/3rd London Regt., the 1/8th Middlesex
Regt., and the 1/7th Middlesex Regt.

The 168th Infantry Brigade; commanded by Brig.-Gen. G. G. Loch, with
Capt. P. Neame, V.C., as his Brigade Major, and Major L. L. Wheatley
as Staff Captain. The battalions of this brigade were the 1/4th London
Regt., the 1/12th London Regt. (Rangers), the 1/13th London Regt.
(Kensingtons), and the 1/14th London Regt. (London Scottish).

The 169th Infantry Brigade; commanded by Brig.-Gen. E. S. Coke, with
Capt. L. A. Newnham as his Brigade Major, and Capt. E. R. Broadbent as
Staff Captain. The battalions were the 1/2nd London Regt. (Royal
Fusiliers), the 1/5th London Regt. (London Rifle Brigade), the 1/9th       5
London Regt. (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), and the 1/16th London Regt.
(Queen’s Westminster Rifles).

It is not easy to keep the brigade groupings in mind at this
stage--arrangements were recast and designations were changed. The
1/1st (London) Bde. R.F.A., the 2/1st (London) Field Coy. R.E., the
2/1st (London) Field Ambulance were posted to the 167th Brigade. The
1/2nd London Bde. R.F.A., the 2/2nd London Field Coy. R.E., and the
2/2nd London Field Ambulance were posted to the 168th Brigade. The
1/3rd London Bde. R.F.A. and the 2/3rd London Field Ambulance to the
169th Brigade. But we find that subsequent changes result in--

     the 1/1st London Bde. R.F.A. becoming 280th Bde. R.F.A;
     the 1/2nd London Bde. R.F.A. becoming 281st Bde. R.F.A.;
     the 1/3rd London Bde. R.F.A. becoming 282nd Bde. R.F.A.;

and a newly-formed 18-pounder brigade, the 283rd Bde. R.F.A. Also the
two field companies of the Royal Engineers become known as the 512th
and 513th Field Companies, and were joined by the 416th Edinburgh
Field Coy., which was posted to the 169th Infantry Brigade.

And the Royal Army Service Corps, which appears at first as numbers 1,
2, 3, and 4 Companies, become the 213th, with the 214th, 215th, and
216th posted to the three infantry brigades in numerical order.

The Stokes trench mortar batteries were numbered 167th, 168th, and
169th; the medium trench mortar batteries as X, Y, and Z. They were
posted in numerical or alphabetical order to the infantry brigades.        6
There was also a heavy trench mortar battery designated V Battery,
which was formed in May 1916.

The pioneer battalion was the 1/5th Battalion Cheshire Regt. The
veterinary unit was the 1/1st London Mobile Veterinary Section.

These were the bits of machinery forming the 56th Division.

The first divisional conference was held on the 11th February, when
most of the officers attending had their first introduction to Gen.
Hull. He was a tall, good-looking man with an abrupt manner, but of
singular charm. It did not take him long to win the complete
confidence of his division.

In the midst of the work of getting the machine properly fitted
together, there were the usual rumours and warning orders which came
to nothing. The first information Gen. Hull received was that the VI
Corps, of which his division formed a part, would relieve the XVII
French Corps and would move to the area Domart-en-Ponthieu. The move
took place on the 27th February, in the midst of a heavy fall of snow,
which made the roads very heavy for transport. And a further move was
made on the 12th March to the Doullens area, between that town and St.

Whenever units were behind the line they trained. It did not matter
how long the individual soldier had been in France and Belgium, he was
never excused as a “fully trained soldier.” Even instructors were sent
from time to time to receive fresh instruction at Divisional, Corps,
or Army schools. And so, during the period of assembly, the units of
the 56th Division trained. Some were attached for ten days or a            7
fortnight to the 14th Division for work in a “forward position” round
about Dainville--infantry, artillery, engineers, and field ambulance
took their turn at this work; others carried on the routine of
exercise on the training-grounds in the neighbourhood of their
billets. The Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, visited the
divisional area and the school at Givenchy on the 30th March.

In studying the adventures of a division, whether it is holding the
line or whether it is in a reserve area, one must always visualise a
great deal more than the twelve battalions of infantry which make or
repel the final charge in any engagement. A division occupies and
works over a large area, and depends, of course, on a base of
supplies. When a person is told of the front taken up by a division,
he will look at the map and measure off the width of the front line.
“There,” he says, “is the division”! But the division covers quite a
big area in depth as well. Not only do the billets of troops not
actually employed in the front line go back a long way in successive
stages, but the wagons and lorries of the Royal Army Service Corps
work back many miles. The narrowest measurement of a divisional area
is usually the front line.

Perhaps the following list, showing the dispositions of the division
in billets during March, will give those with no experience some idea
of what is meant by the word “division”:

     Divisional Headquarters                    Le Cauroy
     Divisional Artillery Headquarters          Le Cauroy
     Divisional R.E. Headquarters               Le Cauroy
     5th Cheshire Regt.                         Grand Rullecourt
     B Squadron King Edward’s Horse             Grand Rullecourt
     Divisional Cyclists’ Coy.                  Grand Rullecourt
     1/4th London Howitzer Bde.                 Wamlin and Rozière         8
     Divisional Ammunition Column               Etrée-Wamin
     Headquarters Divisional Train              Bruilly
     No. 1 Coy. Divisional Train                Wamin
     56th Sanitary Section                      Le Cauroy
     Mobile Veterinary Section                  Bruilly
     Salvage Company                            Le Cauroy
     R.E. Ordnance Dump                         Le Cauroy
     Divisional Canteen and Shops               Le Cauroy
     Divisional Schools                         Givenchy-le-Noble

                       167TH INFANTRY BRIGADE

     Brigade Headquarters                       Rebreuve
     167/1st and X56th Trench Mortar Batteries  Rebreuve
     1/1st London Regt.                         Ivergny
     1/3rd London Regt.                         Cannettemont
     1/7th Middlesex Regt.                      Beaudricourt
     1/8th Middlesex Regt.                      Rebreuviette
     1/1st London Bde. R.F.A.                   Rebreuve
     2/1st London Field Coy. R.E.               Honval
     No. 2 Coy. Train                           Rebreuviette
     2/1st London Field Ambulance               Ivergny

                       168TH INFANTRY BRIGADE

     Brigade Headquarters                       Manin
     168/1st Trench Mortar Battery              Magnicourt
     Y56th Trench Mortar Battery                Berlencourt
     1/4th London Regt.                         Beaufort
     1/12th London Regt.                        Ambrines
     1/13th London Regt.                        Lignereuil
     1/14th London Regt.                        Villers-sire-Simon
     1/2nd London Bde. R.F.A.                   Berlencourt
     2/2nd London Field Coy. R.E.               Sars-les-Bois
     No. 3 Coy. Train                           Denier
     5th Entrenching Battalion                  Blavincourt
     2/2nd London Field Ambulance               Liencourt

                       169TH INFANTRY BRIGADE

     Brigade Headquarters                       Houvin-Houvigneul
     169/1st and Z56th Trench Mortar Batteries  Houvin-Houvigneul
     1/2nd London Regt.                         Séricourt
     1/5th London Regt.                         Magnicourt
     1/9th London Regt.                         Houvigneul
     1/16th London Regt.                        Moncheaux                  9
     1/3rd London Bde. R.F.A.                   Bouret-sur-Canche
     No. 4 Coy. Train                           Houvin-Houvigneul
     2/3rd London Field Ambulance               Houvin-Houvigneul
     Divisional Supply Column                   Liencourt
     Divisional Ammunition Sub-Park             Avesnes-le-Comte

All these units contribute to an advance. Some designation, such as
“shops,” may strike the ear as strange, an unlikely unit to help much
in an advance; but a man cannot march without boots, a gun can neither
shoot nor advance with a broken spring, a motor lorry will not bring
up a single tin of “bully beef” if its axle breaks, and all these
things are put right by men who are labelled “shops.” Even the
Divisional Canteen plays its part, and has on occasions pushed well
forward to refresh wearied troops.

We say these units contribute to an advance! They contribute to every
action, to every move--they are the division.

As a further measure, which will give the importance of the unit
rather than the size of it, the maximum British effort was 99
infantry, 6 cavalry, and 4 yeomanry divisions (the latter were more
often infantry than cavalry).

The work of perfecting the organisation went on through the months of
February, March, and April. The problem of how to create from nothing
had sometimes to be faced as the Army usually faces such
conundrums--by cutting a bit from something else which did exist.
Capt. Newnham notes in the 169th Brigade diary under date 17th April:
“Brigade Machine Gun Coy. formed. Capt. J. R. Pyper, 4th London, to
command, and Capt. J. B. Baber, Queen’s Westminsters, second in
command. Company formed from existing personnel in battalions, each
battalion finding a section, and some from Headquarters. No M.G.C.        10
gunners available, as per War Office letter. Already weak battalions
lose good men and reinforcements will have to come from them as well.”

The health of the division was good except for an outbreak of measles
in the 169th Brigade.

On the 3rd May the 167th Brigade moved to Souastre, under the VII
Corps, and the rest of the division followed on the 6th May,
Divisional Headquarters being established at Hénu.

On the 9th May the C.R.A., Brig.-Gen. R. J. C. Elkington, took over
artillery positions from the C.R.A. 14th Division on the Hébuterne

                     *     *     *     *     *

Three months had elapsed since the division had commenced to assemble
at Hallencourt. Troops were well rested and trained, and were now to
be launched in the big operations of 1916. It would be as well at this
point to note the general situation, as from now on the 56th Division
took a prominent part in the severe fighting which commenced on 1st

We will give the German point of view as expressed by Gen. von
Falkenhayn and published in his war book[2]:

     “France has been weakened almost to the limits of endurance,
     both in a military and economic sense--the latter by the
     permanent loss of the coalfields in the north-east of the
     country. The Russian armies have not been completely
     overthrown, but their offensive powers have been so
     shattered that she can never revive in anything like her             11
     old strength. The armies of Serbia can be considered as
     destroyed. Italy has no doubt realised that she cannot
     reckon on the realisation of her brigand’s ambitions within
     measurable time, and would therefore probably be only too
     glad to be able to liquidate her adventure in any way that
     would save her face.

     If no deductions can be drawn from these facts, the reasons
     are to be sought in many circumstances ... the chief among
     them cannot be passed over, for it is the enormous hold
     which England still has on her allies.”

He then goes on to discuss what can be done to break the will of
England. He says that the history of the English wars against the
Netherlands, Spain, France, and Napoleon is being repeated. That
England is “obviously staking everything on a war of exhaustion.” He
puts the winter of 1917 as the latest date when a food crisis and “the
social and political crisis that always follow them, among the members
of our alliance,” will occur, and asks, or rather states, that England
must be shown that her venture has no prospects. But “in this case, of
course, as in most others involving higher strategic decisions, it is
very much easier to say what has to be done than to find out how it
can and must be done.”

How can one inflict a decisive defeat on England on land? Invasion is
impossible--the German Navy is convinced of that.

     “As far as our own Continent of Europe is concerned, we are
     sure of our troops, and are working with known factors. For
     that reason we must rule out enterprises in the East, where
     England can only be struck at indirectly. Victories at               12
     Salonica, the Suez Canal, or in Mesopotamia can only help us
     in so far as they intensify the doubts about England’s
     invulnerability which have already been aroused among the
     Mediterranean peoples and in the Mohammedan world. Defeats
     in the East could do us palpable harm among our allies. We
     can in no case expect to do anything of decisive effect on
     the course of the war, as the protagonists of an Alexander
     march to India or Egypt, or an overwhelming blow at
     Salonica, are always hoping. Our allies have not the
     necessary means at their disposal. We are not in a position
     to supply them, owing to the bad communications, and
     England, which has known how to swallow the humiliations of
     Antwerp and Gallipoli, will survive defeats in those distant
     theatres also.

     When we turn from them to the European theatre, where
     England can be struck on land, we cannot close our eyes to
     the fact that we are faced with an extraordinarily difficult

It would seem that England was giving poor von Falkenhayn a lot of
trouble. After looking vainly in the East for a vulnerable point in
her armour, he is forced to turn his eyes to the West. And in the West
he does not like the look of the British Army. He cannot collect more
than twenty-five or twenty-six divisions to attack with, and they are
not nearly enough!

     “Attempts at a mass break-through, even with an extreme
     accumulation of men and material, cannot be regarded as
     holding out prospects of success against a well-armed enemy
     whose _moral_ is sound and who is not seriously inferior in
     numbers. The defender has usually succeeded in closing the
     gaps. The salients thus made, enormously exposed to the
     effects of flanking fire, threaten to become a mere                  13
     slaughterhouse. The technical difficulties of directing and
     supplying the masses bottled up in them are so great as to
     seem practically insurmountable.”

He sweeps aside the idea of attacking the English Army with a final
complaint that, even if he drove it completely from the Continent,
“England may be trusted not to give up even then,” and France would
not have been very seriously damaged, so that a second operation would
have to be taken against her. It would be impossible to get sufficient

England’s allies are called her “tools,” and the only thing to do is
to smash up the “tools.” But no weapon is to be discarded, and so
unrestricted submarine warfare must be undertaken against this

     “If the definite promises of the Naval Authorities that the
     unrestricted submarine war must force England to yield in
     the course of the year 1916 are realised, we must face the
     fact that the United States may take up a hostile attitude.
     She cannot intervene decisively in the war in time to enable
     her to make England fight on when that country sees the
     spectre of hunger and many another famine rise up before her
     island. There is only one shadow on this encouraging picture
     of the future. We have to assume that the Naval Authorities
     are not making a mistake.”

As for the “tools,” Italy is ruled out as a possible one to be broken
as she is not of much account in Falkenhayn’s opinion, and he thinks
there will soon be internal troubles. Russia is also ruled out because
he does not see any gain in the capture of Petrograd or Moscow, and       14
there are also “internal troubles.” There is France left.

     “As I have already insisted, the strain on France has almost
     reached the breaking-point--though it is certainly borne
     with the most remarkable devotion. If we succeed in opening
     the eyes of her people to the fact that in a military sense
     they have nothing more to hope for, that breaking-point
     would be reached and England’s best sword knocked out of her
     hand.... Within our reach behind the French sector of the
     Western Front there are objectives for the retention of
     which the French Staff would be compelled to throw in every
     man they have. If they do so the forces of France will bleed
     to death.... The objectives of which I am speaking now are
     Belfort and Verdun.”

Altogether this document, which was prepared for the Kaiser and must
have been read by that potentate with mixed feelings, was not the work
of an optimist. It reads more like despair, as though Falkenhayn was
saying, “I can still fight, I can still hurt, but I am bound to go
down in the end”! One cannot see any very shrewd reasoning in it, for
he not only underrated the valour of the French (as the Germans always
did), but he was placed in very serious difficulties by the successful
attack of Brussiloff on the Austrians in June, so that he also
undervalued the strength of Russia. For this misfortune, however, the
Germans blame the Austrians, condemning them for their offensive
against the Italians in May, which was undertaken against German
advice and made the Brussiloff adventure possible. But this document
shows the policy and plans of Germany for the year 1916--the great
German effort on Verdun, which was to bleed France to death, dominates
all other events. The attack was launched on the 21st February and        15
coincides with the formation of the 56th Division, and the subsequent
movements of the division were connected with the wide-spreading
influence of the Verdun battle.

In his dispatch dated the 29th May, Sir Douglas Haig sums up the early
situation very briefly. Since the 19th December, 1915,

     “the only offensive effort made by the enemy on a great
     scale was directed against our French Allies near Verdun.
     The fighting in that area has been prolonged and severe. The
     results have been worthy of the highest traditions of the
     French Army and of great service to the cause of the Allies.
     The efforts made by the enemy have cost him heavy losses
     both in men and in prestige, and he has made these
     sacrifices without gaining any advantage to counterbalance

     During the struggle my troops have been in readiness to
     co-operate as they might be needed, but the only assistance
     asked for by our Allies was of an indirect nature--viz., the
     relief of the French troops on a portion of their defensive
     front. This relief I was glad to be able to afford.”

On the other hand, plans for a Franco-British offensive had been fully
discussed by Sir Douglas Haig and Marshal Joffre and complete
agreement arrived at. Vast preparations were in progress. Sir Douglas
Haig desired to postpone the attack as long as possible, because both
the British Army and the supply of ammunition were growing steadily,
and time would enable the newer troops to complete their training. But
though the original plans had no connection with Verdun, they were
bound to influence and be influenced by the great German attack.

It may be said that the Entente Powers were not looking for a speedy      16
termination of the war, but were bent on inflicting heavy blows on
Germany and her allies, while Germany was seeking, by a concentration
on France at Verdun, to gain a decision in the West. Falkenhayn’s
advice was being followed, although the unrestricted submarine warfare
was postponed for the time being.

The plan for the British offensive was that the main attack should be
delivered by the Fourth Army, under Sir Henry Rawlinson, on a front
stretching from Maricourt, on the right, to Serre, on the left; while
farther north the Third Army, under Sir E. H. H. Allenby, would make
an attack on both sides of the Gommecourt salient.

For an offensive on this scale enormous preparations were necessary.
There was no end to the amount of stores to be accumulated, from
ammunition to horseshoes. In the forward trench system many miles of
trenches had to be dug--assault trenches, assembly trenches,
communication trenches, trenches for telephone wires--dugouts had to
be constructed for sheltering troops, for dressing-stations, for
storing food, water, and engineering material, not forgetting
ammunition. We are bound to admit, however, that in those days,
although much work was done on dugouts, the infantry saw precious
little of them. Mining they saw, indeed, but dugouts were rare.

Then there were dumps to be made at convenient points, and many miles
of railway line, both standard and narrow gauge, to bring the stores
within reach of the fighting troops. Roads had to be constructed, and
in some places causeways had to be built over marshy valleys. Wells
were sunk, over a hundred pumping stations were installed, and a          17
hundred and twenty miles of water-mains laid.

The whole country behind this vast front was teeming with men and
horses, with wagons and motor lorries. At night it was as though an
army of gigantic ants were at work, stretched out in long lines,
building and excavating, marching in solemn silent processions with
grim, determined purpose in the slowness of their gait, and bowed down
under loads of material. They passed and repassed in never-ending
streams; the roads were congested with motor and wagon traffic; paths
across the open country could be traced by the shadowy silhouettes of
men in single file. And the horizon flickered with the flash of guns
as with summer lightning, while shells passed overhead with a
long-drawn, ghostly wail, or fell with a sharp swish and a crash. The
line, that maze of foul mud-filled ditches constructed in a belt of
shell-pounded and festering earth, was indicated at night by floating
starlights rising irregularly as sparks, bursting into brilliancy, and
remaining for a moment, suspended in the blackness of the sky like arc
lamps, then dying once more to so many sparks before they fell to the

Sometimes the nights would be quiet--that is to say, quiet except for
occasional crashes at intervals of several minutes--although the
constant flickering on the horizon would never cease; at others they
would be “lively,” one might almost say there would be a sensation of
hustle, so swift would be the wailing passage and so continuous the
crash of bursting shells. This might last all through the night as an
organised “shoot,” or would come suddenly, without warning, a swift
artillery attack on roads, working parties, or billets--what was          18
afterwards known as “harassing fire” though it was in a more intense
form--and shifting from one point to another, from front line to
roads, from roads to billets, from billets to some spot where troops
were suspected to be working. Or there would be a raid with an angry
concentration of artillery from both sides.

And night after night the preparation for the “Big Push” went on.

                     *     *     *     *     *

The 56th Division, now trained and “shaken together,” arrived in the
Hébuterne sector, on the right of the Gommecourt salient and towards
the left of the front under preparation for the British effort. The
167th Brigade took over the front-line system held by the 145th
Brigade, 48th Division, on the 4th May. The 168th Brigade marched from
their billets in the Doullens area on the 6th, and the 169th Brigade
followed on the 7th May. Divisional Headquarters were established at

First blood was drawn for the division by the 167th Brigade on the
18th May. A German patrol attempted to bomb a sap held by the 3rd
London Regt., and was beaten off with the loss of one officer and one
N.C.O. killed. These proved to be of the 169th Infantry Regt., 52nd
Division, one of the divisions of the XIV German Corps and a normal

The system of holding the line was one of “grouping.” On the 22nd May
Brig.-Gen. Coke, 169th Brigade, was in command of the line, which was
held by two battalions of the 169th Brigade and two battalions of the
168th Brigade. In support was Brig.-Gen. Nugent, with his headquarters
at Souastre, having under his command his own four battalions and one     19
of the 169th Brigade. Brig.-Gen. Loch, 168th Brigade, with his
headquarters at Grenas, had two of his own battalions and one of the
169th Brigade.

Plans were now in preparation for a very remarkable achievement.

We have seen that the scheme for the big British offensive included an
attack on the Gommecourt salient. This was to be undertaken by the
Third Army, and the task fell to the VII Corps (Gen. Snow), holding
the front in question. For the moment we will confine ourselves to the
point that the 56th Division was to be one of the attacking divisions.

When Gen. Hull was informed of what he was expected to do, he was at
once confronted with an obvious difficulty--the front line of his
sector was some seven hundred yards away from the enemy! It was not
impossible to shorten this distance, but, with one exception, the
several ways of doing it must result in heavy casualties; the enemy
would be bound to see what was afoot, and would try by every means in
his power to prevent and to hinder its execution, and render it as
costly as he could. It would also be a lengthy business unless it was
boldly tackled. Gen. Hull decided on the boldest of all courses.

He traced out a new line which was, on an average, four hundred yards
in advance of the old one. This meant working, in some spots, within
two hundred and fifty yards of the enemy. _And he decided to dig it
in one night!_ It meant that at least three thousand yards of
trench must be constructed in a few hours, a task of appalling
magnitude; and it must be remembered that every effort was always made
to limit the number of men in any working party required for No Man’s     20
Land. When he announced his intentions there was something like
consternation at Corps Headquarters.

The task was allotted to Brig.-Gen. Nugent and the 167th Brigade. He
had at his disposal, over and above the five battalions of his
“group,” one company of the 5th Cheshire Regt. with a half of the
2/2nd London Field Coy. R.E.

So that the men might know the lie of the land, the 167th Brigade was
sent on ahead of the rest of the division and straight into the line,
which it held for a fortnight. The Engineers, the company officers of
battalions concerned, and the brigade staff made most careful
reconnaissance, patrolling every night, noting landmarks, getting
acquainted with that silent, eerie tract separating the two lines of
combatants. Conversations throughout the day were punctuated with
references to “the strong point,” “the lonely tree,” the “May bush,”
“the Z hedge,” “the head of Sap 4,” as landmarks became familiar.
Sometimes German patrols were met, sometimes imagined.

It was decided to divide the whole front into four sections--A, B, C,
and D. The only difficulty was the junction between B and C, but this
was eventually marked by a heap of white stones--a small heap.

Four days before the date fixed for the operation, the brigade was
relieved, and during the following days the whole of the arrangements
were rehearsed--with the exception of the actual digging--first by day
and then by night.

Meanwhile the artillery were warned that nothing was to be done by
them to rouse the enemy while the work was being carried out, but that    21
all batteries must be manned and ready for instant action. All known
machine-gun emplacements were carefully registered, and arrangements
were made with the Brigadier-General commanding the Corps heavy
artillery to register on all German batteries whose zone of fire
included the area of the work. Two of the Divisional 4·5 howitzers
were to assist in the counter-battery work.

Although the trench was dug in one night, the whole operation required
three nights to complete. On the first night, the 25-26th May,
covering parties crept out and took up positions in advance of the
selected line. Then engineers followed, quiet and certain in all that
they did, and marked out the line with string and pegs. On the left
they got to work speedily: the pegs were about nine inches long and
made from small round stakes from which the bark had not been removed;
the string was ordinary jute twine which had been prepared with loops
at the proper intervals to mark the angle of bays and traverses. They
were undisturbed, and C and D sections were marked out.

But in A and B sections the night was one of excursions and alarms.
First of all there was great difficulty in getting the covering party
through our own wire, which suggests an unfortunate oversight; and
then German patrols were encountered. The latter occurrence was a
contingency which had always been reckoned with. A game of hide and
seek ensued, but meanwhile time passed. There was no question of
clearing No Man’s Land when other parties were working on the left,
and so the marking had to be abandoned. It did not, however, cause any
serious inconvenience.

The next night each battalion marched from billets fully armed for       22
digging. Ten per cent. carried picks, and the remainder carried
shovels which had been carefully sharpened. Each man had three
sandbags, one being wrapped round the shovel or pick to prevent noise,
and between them they also carried a quantity of white tape.

In the line ten exits had been made by cutting through our wire and
constructing steps out of the trench--trench ladders had also been
provided by the engineers in case the steps should be impassable
through rain. White boards were hung on the wire to mark these gaps
for the withdrawal.

The communication trenches to be used by the working battalions were
left quite clear by the troops holding the line, and, at the appointed
time, the head of each battalion was at the selected entrance and
advanced in the following order: covering parties, taping parties,
working parties.

The covering parties, consisting of sixty officers and men in six
groups, had orders to use rifle fire as sparingly as possible, but to
make full use of the bayonet if enemy patrols were encountered.

When the covering parties had been given time to get out, the two
other groups of parties followed at short intervals. And half an hour
after the digging parties had left the trench, wiring and carrying
parties, about a hundred men to each battalion, went out. There were
three thousand men in No Man’s Land!

The boldness of Gen. Hull’s enterprise was amply justified. By 2.30
a.m. the trench had been made and was held by posts, found from the
covering parties, reinforced with Lewis guns; they had rations, water,
and shovels to improve their positions, and were in telephonic            23
communication with the old trench, and all the working parties had
filed away as silently as they had come.

During the ensuing day the Royal Flying Corps successfully prevented
any enemy aeroplanes from approaching our lines, but our airmen
photographed the new line themselves, and at noon Gen. Hull was able
to see from a photograph what work had been done.

On the night of 27-28th the same number of men were out working again,
improving the front-line trench and wire, digging support lines and
two other communication trenches. The new work had been pegged out the
previous night by the engineers.

The 56th Division had then started its career with the astounding feat
of having in the space of forty-eight hours constructed and wired a
new system of trenches, comprising 2,900 yards of fire trench and
1,500 yards of communication trenches, in No Man’s Land and within 250
yards of the enemy. Casualties were 8 killed and 55 wounded. A little
luck had waited on audacity, but the success of the whole operation
was undoubtedly due to the intelligence and keenness of the men. They
had nothing much to help them. Gen. Hull had, indeed, ordered two or
three wagons, loaded with empty shell-cases and biscuit tins, to drive
up and down the roads in rear of his lines, and the artillery fired an
occasional round from a howitzer as a means of distracting the
attention of the enemy, but it only required one foolish man to lose
his head and disaster would have descended on the whole brigade.

It is interesting to note the dress. The covering parties were in full
fighting kit and carried one day’s ration; the taping, digging, and       24
wiring men had no equipment, but carried a rifle, loaded with ten
rounds, and one bandolier; the wire-carrying party had no arms or

The first stage was over. There was, however, still an enormous lot of
work to be done--the trenches had to be improved, deepened, revetted,
emplacements had to be made for machine guns and trench mortars,
stores for ammunition of all sorts had to be constructed, cables had
to be buried--it is but a repetition of what was going on everywhere
on that front.

                     *     *     *     *     *

Gen. Hull and his G.S.O.1, Lieut.-Col. J. E. S. Brind, an
artilleryman, were considering the problem of attack. The main
features of it are noted by Gen. Hull as follows:

     (_a_) The village of Hébuterne, which affords concealment
     from view to within a short distance of our present line and
     good observation of the German positions between Gommecourt
     and the spur north of the sunken road (K17a and b) on the
     right of the divisional front.

     (_b_) The valleys west of Hébuterne, which afford good
     artillery positions and cover from view, except from the
     trees in Gommecourt Park.

     (_c_) The spur running eastward from Hébuterne just north of
     the Hébuterne-Puisieux Road, which defilades the area, north
     of the spur, from the German trenches, south of the spur.

     (_d_) Gommecourt Park and village, which, to a certain
     extent, dominate the ground to the south.

     (_e_) The spur running from E29c (north-east of Gommecourt)
     through K5a and b to the Rossignol Wood along the southern
     portion of which spur runs the German fourth line.

     This spur commands the eastern edge of Gommecourt, dominates          25
     the German trench system south-east and south of
     Gommecourt, and affords concealment, both for battery
     positions in the valley to the east and for a covered means
     of approach for a counter-attack against the captors of

     (_f_) The valley south-east of Nameless Farm, in which runs
     the Puisieux-Gommecourt Road, a line of approach covered
     from view from our present line.

It was once asked after a severe action for the capture of some rising
ground, “What is the use of turning Fritz off a hill? There is always
another hill behind it.” Which was true enough. But it is as well to
remember that the high ground to the left as far as Blairville, held
at this date by the Germans, was in 1918 in our hands, and it enabled
Sir Douglas Haig to turn the whole of the old Somme position.

Of the German line Gen. Hull says:

     “The German position south-east of Gommecourt Park and
     village consists of three lines of trenches, of which the
     first is heavily wired, the second lightly wired, the third
     does not appear to be wired at all unless there is sunken
     wire on the road. All three lines are visible from our
     present position except the second and third lines behind
     the strong point K11c and d. The northern flank of this
     system of trenches rests on the southern edge of Gommecourt
     Park, the trenches along which are organised to fire south.
     The southern flank of the system rests on the strong point

     In rear of this system is another consisting of two lines of
     trenches running from the south-east corner of Gommecourt
     along the ridge in 5Ka, b, and c, to Rossignol Wood. The
     front trench of this system is heavily wired and visible.”

In a most interesting paper on the proposed attack Gen. Hull says:        26

     “The object of the VII Corps attack will be to establish
     itself on the line 16 Poplars-Nameless Farm-Little Z-Tree at

     The 46th Division will attack from the north and the
     question was discussed:

          (_a_) Should we endeavour to secure a footing on the
          ridge E29c-K5a in the initial assault, or

          (_b_) Should the 56th Division first secure the German
          third line from the south-east corner of Gommecourt
          Wood and then, under Corps direction, launch a second
          attack to secure the ridge?

     Whichever solution the Corps Commander considers it wisest
     to adopt, there is one point which I wish to urge: that no
     advance through the village or park of Gommecourt should be
     attempted until the ridge E29c-K5a is secured.

     The clearing of the village and wood is bound to be a costly
     enterprise if the enemy makes any attempt to fight it out.
     It is to be hoped that the heavy bombardment will very
     seriously affect the _moral_ of the garrison of the
     village and park, and I consider that the knowledge that
     they were cut off from escape and from reinforcements might
     have so great an effect on the German troops as to make them
     surrender and so save us valuable troops for further

     I was, and still am, in favour of the first solution, i.e.
     to secure the Quadrilateral in the first assault. The
     reasons which have been urged against this course are:

          (_a_) That at Loos no success was achieved after a
          certain limited distance had been carried.

          (_b_) That in the event of either the 46th or the 56th
          Divisions failing to achieve their objective, the
          detachment of the other would be in an extremely
          isolated position.

     I have carefully considered both these arguments, and do not         27
     think there is any reason to alter my opinion.

     At Loos the 47th Division was the only division to which a
     definite objective was given. Its rôle was to form a
     defensive flank on the right of the IV Corps. Its left flank
     advanced nearly 2,500 yards behind the German front line
     without serious loss or difficulty. In the present case I am
     proposing an advance, at one point on each divisional front,
     of only 800 yards, in the case of the 56th Division, and
     less in the case of the 46th Division. In the present case,
     too, we have the additional advantage of much heavier
     artillery, more ammunition, and a salient to attack.

     As regards the second argument, that in the event of one or
     other attack failing the detachment of the other division
     would be isolated:

     In the event of my reaching my objective in K5a, and the
     46th Division failing to reach E29c, I should consider it my
     duty to put in troops (if necessary from my reserve brigade)
     to help the 46th Division.

     Troops at K5a would be within 500 yards of the unit at the
     south-eastern edge of Gommecourt, and in direct
     communication by visual signalling with my present trench
     system, so that they can hardly be considered isolated, and
     the risk, if any, is, I consider, worth running in order to
     isolate completely the enemy troops in Gommecourt Park and

     I do not like the idea of delay and a second attack to
     capture the Quadrilateral in K5a. The second attack would
     have to be launched from our front line trenches, as I do
     not consider it would be feasible to organise and launch an
     attack from the newly-captured trenches. Any delay would
     enable the enemy to put his barrage in front of our
     front-line system, as if there is a weak point in our
     organisation, it is in the number of counter-batteries
     available to deal with the enemy guns. If we delay we lose
     the advantage surprise would give us.”

While these problems were being discussed, Sir Douglas Haig had           28
decided to hurry on his preparations. We have seen that his desire was
to delay as much as possible and perfect his machine, also that every
day meant to him added strength. But meanwhile the Entente Powers were
being pressed in another direction. The Austrians had attacked the
Italians with great initial success. By the end of May the situation
on that front was so serious that the Russian offensive was opened in
the early days of June in order to relieve the pressure.

The Germans accuse the Austrians of having drained their front in
Galicia of artillery for their Italian offensive, and also of holding
the line with troops of poor quality. However that may be, Gen.
Brussiloff’s army, “after a relatively short artillery preparation ...
got up from their trenches and simply marched forward.” Falkenhayn has
a delightful observation on the whole business: “A ‘reconnaissance’
like Brussiloff’s was only possible, of course, if the General had
decisive reason for holding a low opinion of his enemy’s power of
resistance. And on this point he made no miscalculation.”

The immediate effect of the Russian success was the transfer of three
divisions from the Western Front, and later more followed; but the
Germans were still very strong in numbers, and there was no slacking
off of their efforts on Verdun. They were able to help the Austrians
to check the Russian advance and eventually to repulse it, but, on the
other hand, the Italian counter-attack met with success and drove the
Austrians back.

Sir Douglas Haig says that

     “The heroic defence of our French Allies had already gained          29
     many weeks of inestimable value and had caused the enemy
     very heavy losses; but the strain continued to increase. In
     view, therefore, of the situation in the various theatres of
     war, it was eventually agreed between Gen. Joffre and myself
     that the combined French and British offensive should not be
     postponed beyond the end of June. The object of that
     offensive was threefold:

          (1) To relieve the pressure on Verdun.

          (2) To assist our Allies in the other theatres of war
          by stopping any further transfer of German troops from
          the Western Front.

          (3) To wear down the strength of the forces opposed to us.”

We begin to see now the dominating influence of Verdun. In any case
the offensive could not have been postponed much longer, and if it was
an alteration of plan forced by the enemy, it was not to be compared
with the abandonment by the Germans of their offensive--which
Falkenhayn says he had prepared against the British with the object of
forestalling the Entente blow on the Western Front--due to the
uncomfortable situation of the Austrians.

Probably, however, the date did influence the approaching action of
the 56th Division. The new front line was still a long way from the
enemy. The Queen’s Westminster Rifles succeeded in advancing a small
sector of the line by a hundred yards and, had there been time, the
whole division would have crept closer before jumping on the enemy.

The weather, too, was very bad.

In due course Gen. Hull issued his preliminary instructions, from
which it will be seen that the decision to attempt the capture of the
Quadrilateral in one operation had been taken:

     “The attack of the 56th Division will be carried out by the          30
     168th and 169th Brigades, whose tasks will be as follows:

          (_a_) The objective of the 168th Brigade will be to
          capture the German line from Fair Trench, about K11d13,
          along Farm, Fame and Elbe, Felon, to a point in Fell
          fifty yards north-west of the trench junction at K5c52,
          and to establish itself in three strong points:
            (1) About Farmyard, Farmer, Farm.
            (2) About Elbe, between Et and Felon.
            (3) About cross-trenches of Fell and Felon with Epte.

     168th Brigade will be responsible for the construction of a
     fire trench facing south-east to connect the right flank of
     the captured line to our present line in W47.

          (_b_) The task of the 169th Brigade will be carried out
          in three phases. The object of the 169th Brigade in the
          first phase will be to capture the line of German
          trenches from the left of the 168th Brigade along Fall,
          Fellow, the Cemetery, Eck, the Maze, Eel, and Fir, and
          to establish strong points:

            (1) From Feud through Ems to the Cemetery inclusive.
            (2) About the Maze.
            (3) About the south-east corner of Gommecourt Park.

     The second phase of the 169th Brigade attack will take place
     immediately after the first phase.

     The objective of the second phase is the Quadrilateral of
     the trenches in the south-east portion of K5a. The artillery
     lifts will be timed on the assumption that the infantry will
     reach Ems (between Etch and Fillet) twenty-five minutes
     after zero; and Exe (between Etch and Fillet) twenty-seven
     minutes after zero time.

     The third phase will take place directly after the
     Quadrilateral is captured, and will consist of the securing          31
     of the cross-trenches at K5a78 (where Indus crosses Fill and
     Fillet) and joining hands with the 46th Division along Fill.
     Fillet will be consolidated facing east.

     The following will be carried on the man:
         200 rounds S.A.A.;
         Waterproof sheet;
         Iron ration and current day’s ration;
         Two to three sand-bags;
         Two tube helmets;
         Proportion of wire-cutters, bill-hooks, tools.”

The instructions for the 167th Brigade are practically embodied in the
following paragraphs:

     “One company 167th Brigade will be placed at the disposal of
     the Brigadier-General commanding 169th Brigade, to hold
     sectors Y49 and Y50.

     Seven officers and 200 men of the 167th Brigade will be
     detailed for the control of smoke, and will be under the
     orders of the Divisional Gas Officer. Approximately 1,200
     men will be required for work under the C.R.E. on
     communication trenches across No Man’s Land and for carrying

Practice attacks, based on these instructions, were carried out by the
brigades in reserve.

We have written of the constructive preparations which were going on
all along the line of proposed attack. These preparations were
continued until the last moment. But meanwhile another element was
introduced--that of destructive preparation. It is scarcely necessary
to point out that neither form of preparation could be concealed from
the enemy. The Germans knew as well as we did where we would attack.

The Gommecourt sector to be attacked was held by the German 169th and     32
170th Regiments, with about 1-1/2 battalions on the front line, 1
battalion in support, 2 battalions in reserve in Bucquoy, and 2
companies at Ablainzeville. Their artillery consisted of 5 batteries
of heavy artillery and 12 batteries of field artillery. These
batteries were divided into three groups at Quesnoy Farm, on the left
of the British position, Biez Wood and Puisieux. There was a further
group of guns near Adinfer Wood which could assist in the defence.

The 56th Divisional Artillery, together with the heavy VII Corps guns,
had now to prepare for the infantry assault by smashing up not only
the wire and trench system, but billets and gun positions behind the
German lines as well. As regards villages, most attention was given to
Bucquoy, Essart, Ablainzeville, and Achiet-le-Grand.

Three groups of artillery were formed--a northern group, under
Lieut.-Col. Southam, a southern group, under Lieut.-Col. Macdowell,
and a wire-cutting group under Lieut.-Col. Prechtel. The northern and
southern groups were under the orders of the Corps, and consisted of:

                           NORTHERN GROUP

     3 batteries of 18-pounders (until zero day, then 4 batteries).
     1 battery 4·5 howitzers.
     Affiliated at zero to the 169th Brigade.

                           SOUTHERN GROUP

     4 batteries of 18-pounders.
     1 battery 4·5 howitzers.
     Affiliated at zero to the 168th Brigade.

                         WIRE-CUTTING GROUP                               33

     5 batteries of 18-pounders until zero and then 4 batteries.
     1 battery 4·5 howitzers.
     Two of the guns of the 4·5 battery will be at the call of the
       counter-battery group.

In the preliminary instructions it will be noticed that a party of
officers and men were detailed to act under the Divisional Gas
Officer. Their special duty was to cover the approach of the infantry
by the discharge of a smoke cloud. It was hoped to introduce some
element of surprise by occasional discharges of smoke during the
preparatory bombardment, and so the Corps ordered that the bombardment
should be carried out for a period of five days, and the attack would
take place on the sixth. These days would be known as U, V, W, X, Y,
and Z days.

     “Smoke discharges lasting for a period of ten minutes will
     take place on the days and at the hours mentioned below.
     They will coincide with the intense artillery bombardment of
     the enemy trenches. These bombardments will commence thirty
     minutes before the smoke, and will reach their maximum
     intensity during the ten minutes that it is being discharged:

          U day, no discharge.
          V day, no discharge.
          W day from 10.15 a.m. to 10.25 a.m.
          X day from 5.45 a.m. to 5.55 a.m.
          Y day from 7.15 a.m. to 7.25 a.m.

     On Z day the smoke cloud will commence five minutes before
     zero. On the 46th and 56th Divisional fronts its duration
     will be as arranged by divisions. On the 37th Divisional             34
     front it will continue for one hour.”

U day was the 24th June, but the whole of the great attack was
postponed for two days, so that, instead of having five days of the
preliminary bombardment, there were seven.

Naturally the Germans did not sit still under this destructive fire,
but retaliated on our front line and trench system, and on our rear
organisation. The enemy artillery had been active during the month of
May, and the division had suffered in casualties to the extent of 402;
for the month of June casualties leapt up to 801. The end of June was
a prolonged crash of guns. Only for one half-hour, from 4 p.m., did
the guns cease so that aeroplanes might take photographs of the German
lines, and then the sky was speckled with the puffs of smoke from the
German anti-aircraft guns.

The guns of the 56th Division fired altogether 115,594 rounds, of
which 31,000 were fired on Z day. To this total must be added the work
of the Corps heavy artillery. The 6-inch, 9·2-inch, and 15-inch fired
on V day 3,200 rounds, on W day 2,200 rounds, on X day 3,100 rounds,
and on Y day 5,300 rounds (which was repeated on the two extra days)
at the front-line trenches and strong points. 6-inch, 9·2-inch,
4·7-inch, 4·5-inch, and 60-pounder guns also dealt with the villages
of Bucquoy, Achiet-le-Grand, Essart, and Ablainzeville, but in nothing
like the same proportion of rounds.

The first smoke cloud was discharged on the 26th June, and drew very
little hostile machine-gun fire. The enemy lines were reported to be
much damaged on that day. On the 27th the smoke discharge was somewhat    35
spoilt by the premature bursting of a smoke shell an hour before the
appointed time. This misfortune caused the enemy to put down a barrage
on our front-line and communication trenches, which prevented the
smoke detachments getting to their appointed positions. When the cloud
was eventually discharged there was a large gap in the centre of it,
so it must have been obvious to the enemy that it was only a feint.

The continual bombardment became more intense, and the enemy reply
more vigorous. On the 28th the enemy wire was reported as
satisfactorily cut in front of their first and second lines. Observers
also noted that there was considerable movement of troops behind the
German lines.

Every night, the moment it was dark, although the artillery still
pounded trenches, roads, and tracks, patrols crept forward to
ascertain what progress had been made in the battering down of
defences. 2/Lieut. P. Henri, of the 3rd London Regt., raided the front
line. He found the Germans working feverishly to repair their trench,
and succeeded in capturing one prisoner, who proved to be of the
Labour Battalion of the 2nd Reserve Guards Division. He reported that
the wire in some places still formed a considerable obstacle.

A patrol of the 1st London Regt. reported, on the 29th, that new
French wire and some strands of barbed wire had been put up. Up to the
last moment the Germans worked at their defences. Great activity was
seen on the morning of the 30th.

The artillery grew more furious. A hail from heavy and field-gun
batteries descended on trenches and strong points. Lieut.-Col.            36
Prechtel’s wire-cutting group pounded away at the wire. The trench
mortar batteries added their quota, though they were chased from
pillar to post by German retaliation. And as the evening shadows fell
on the last day, the usual night firing was taken up by the
never-wearying gunners.

                     *     *     *     *     *

The main object of this attack was to divert against the VII Corps
enemy artillery and infantry, which might otherwise have been used
against the left flank of the Fourth Army at Serre. To achieve this
result the two divisions, 46th and 56th, were given the task of
cutting off the Gommecourt salient.

From the 24th to the 30th June the line of the 56th Division was held
by the 167th Brigade. The other two brigades then practised the
assault on a replica of the German defence system near Halloy. In the
early morning of the 1st July the 168th and 169th Brigades took over
the line, and the 167th withdrew to Hébuterne.

The 5th Cheshire Regt. had a company with each of the assaulting
brigades; the Royal Engineers sent a section of the 2/1st London Field
Coy. with the 169th Brigade, and a section of the 2/2nd London Field
Coy. with the 168th Brigade.

The London Scottish attacked on the right with the Kensingtons in
support; then came the Rangers with the 4th London Regt. in support.
The rôle of these battalions of the 168th Brigade may be briefly
described as a half-wheel to the right. They had to capture the strong
point round about Farm and Farmer trenches, and establish other strong
points at Elbe and Et, south-east of Nameless Farm, and the junction
of Felon and Epte.

On the extreme left of the division was the London Rifle Brigade, and     37
next to them the Queen Victoria’s Rifles. Again as a rough indication
of their task, they had to make a left wheel and hold the line of the
edge of Gommecourt Park, establishing strong points. The Queen’s
Westminster Rifles would then push straight on, carrying the attack
forward, as it were, between the right and left wheels, and capture
the strong point known as the Quadrilateral.

At 6.25 a.m. every gun opened on the German lines, and for one hour
the enemy was pelted with shells of all sizes, the maximum speed of
fire being reached at 7.20 and lasting for ten minutes. At this moment
smoke was discharged from the left of our line near Z hedge, and in
five minutes the smoke was dense along the whole front. Then the
assaulting battalions climbed out of their trenches and advanced
steadily into the heavy fog.

The German front line was reached with little loss--there was
machine-gun fire, but it was apparently high. Almost immediately,
however, the Germans gave an indication of their counter-measures--they
were reported by the London Scottish to be shelling their own line.
This gallant regiment succeeded in gaining practically the whole of
its objectives, but they were never very comfortable. Owing to the
smoke the two left companies lost direction, the flank company being
drawn off in the direction of Nameless Farm, and the inner company
failed to recognise its position and overran its objective. This was
in no way surprising, as it was extremely difficult, owing to the
heavy bombardment, to find, in some places, any trench at all.

Next to the London Scottish the Rangers met with strong resistance, and   38
probably strayed a bit to their left. They were soon in trouble, and
two companies of the 1/4th London Regt. were sent forward to reinforce
them. Together these two units succeeded in reaching the junction of
Epte with Felon and Fell, but there was a gap between them and the
London Scottish.

On the left of the attack the London Rifle Brigade had swept up to the
edge of Gommecourt Park and commenced to consolidate their position.
The Queen Victoria’s Rifles, on the other hand, were meeting with
fierce resistance, and were short of the Cemetery. The Queen’s
Westminster Rifles, advancing in rear, soon became hopelessly mixed up
with the Queen Victoria’s Rifles. Within an hour it became clear that
the infantry were everywhere engaged in hand-to-hand fighting.

The German counter-attack plans matured about an hour after the
assault was launched. Their barrage on No Man’s Land was increased to
fearful intensity, and from Gommecourt Park, which was apparently
packed with men in deep dugouts, came strong bombing attacks. The
London Rifle Brigade called for reinforcements, but platoons of the
reserve company failed to get through the barrage and across to the
German front line.

The assaulting companies had been provided with boards bearing the
names of the trenches to be captured, and as they fought their way
forward, these boards were stuck up to mark the advance. At about 9.30
a.m. the artillery observers, who did most useful and gallant work
during the whole action, could report that all objectives were gained
with the exception of the Quadrilateral. But the troops in the German     39
lines were now held there firmly by the enemy barrage; they were cut
off from all communication by runners, and from all reinforcements. On
the right the Kensingtons had failed in an attempt to reinforce the
London Scottish. Captain Tagart, of the former regiment, had led his
company out, but was killed, and of the two remaining officers, one
was killed and the other wounded. A confused message having reached
headquarters, a fresh officer was sent down with orders to rally the
men and make another attempt to cross the inferno of No Man’s Land. He
found that there were only twenty men left, and that to cross with
them was impossible.

The Royal Flying Corps contact machine, detailed to report on the
situation, sent constant messages that the Quadrilateral was empty of
troops of either side. The artillery observers, however, reported
seeing many parties of hostile bombers moving through the Park, and
enemy troops collecting behind the Cemetery.

It seemed as though all battalions had at one time gained their
objectives except the Queen’s Westminster Rifles, but no blame falls
on this fine regiment. Lieut.-Col. Shoolbred says in his report, “As
no officer who got as far as this (first line) ever returned, it is
difficult to know in detail what happened.” The three captains,
Cockerill, Mott, and Swainson, were killed before reaching the second
German line. Apparently the wire on this section of the front was not
satisfactorily dealt with. The report says:

     “A great deal of the wire was not cut at all, so that both
     the Victorias and ourselves had to file in, in close order,          40
     through gaps, and many were hit.... The losses were heavy
     before reaching the bank at the Gommecourt-Nameless Farm
     road. At this point our three companies and the two
     Victorias were joined up and intermixed.... Only one runner
     ever succeeded in getting through from the assaulting

There were a few brave young officers of the Queen’s Westminsters left
at this point--2/Lieuts. J. A. Horne, A. G. V. Yates, A. G. Negus, D.
F. Upton, E. H. Bovill. They proceeded to collect their men and lead
them forward, and while doing this 2/Lieuts. Yates and Negus were
killed. 2/Lieut. Upton, having then reorganised a bombing party,
bombed the enemy out of Fellow and reached the Cemetery. To do this
they had to run over the open and drop into Fellow. Another party
tried at the same time to bomb their way up Etch, but found it was too
strongly held by the enemy. Meanwhile, 2/Lieut. Upton had stuck up his
signboard, and more men doubled up over the open and dropped into
Fellow Trench. 2/Lieut. Horne then mounted a Lewis gun, under cover of
which a platoon of the Cheshire Regt. and some Royal Engineers blocked
Etch and also Fell (it would seem doubtful, from this statement,
whether Fell was ever held).

Sergt. W. G. Nicholls had kept a party of bombers together and, led by
a young lieutenant of the Cheshire Regt., whose name unfortunately is
not mentioned [we believe it was 2/Lieut. G. S. Arthur], this party
forced its way from the Cemetery to the Quadrilateral. The names of
some of the men are given by Col. Shoolbred:

     “Cpl. R. T. Townsend, L/Cpl. W. C. Ide, Cpl. Hayward,
     Rfn. F. H. Stow undoubtedly did reach the Quadrilateral,             41
     where strong enemy bombing parties met them, and the
     Cheshire lieutenant ordered the party to retire, apparently
     trying to cover their retirement himself, as he was not seen

In any case this advance into the Quadrilateral was but a momentary
success, and it may be said that the attack never got beyond the
German third line. Signals were picked up by the artillery observers
calling for bombs. As early as 10 a.m. two parties of London Scottish,
each fifty strong, attempted to take bombs across to their comrades.
None got to the German first line, and only three ever got back to

About midday the enemy was launching concerted counter-attacks from
all directions. He was coming down Epte, Ems, and Etch, he was coming
from Gommecourt Park, he was in Fall on the right. More desperate
attempts were made to reinforce the hard-pressed troops. Capt. P. A.
J. Handyside, of the 2nd London Regt., led his company out to try and
reach the left of the line. He was hit, but struggled on. He was hit
again and killed as he led a mere half-dozen men into the German first

Capt. J. R. Garland, also of the 2nd London Regt., attempted the same
feat with his company, and met with a like fate. All the officers of
both companies were casualties.

At 2 p.m. the London Scottish still held firm on the right and the
London Rifle Brigade on the left--indeed, 2/Lieut. R. E. Petley, with
thirty men, hung on to Eck three hours after the rest of his battalion
had been ordered to fall back on Ferret, the German first line. But,
although the two flanks held, the troops in the centre were gradually     42
forced back until isolated posts were held in the second German line.
By 4 p.m. nothing more was held than the German first line.

By 9 p.m. everyone who could get there was back in our own lines.

But we must not leave our account of the fighting with the story of
the 46th Division untold. It was not unreasonable for the men of the
56th Division to hope, while they were being hardly pressed, that the
46th Division might suddenly come to their aid. Perhaps luck would
favour that division!

The attack from the north was launched between the Gommecourt road and
the Little Z. The 137th Brigade, with the 6th South Staffordshire
Regt. on the right and the 6th North Staffordshire Regt. on the left,
had Gommecourt Wood in front of them. The 139th Brigade, with the 5th
Sherwood Foresters on the right and the 7th Sherwood Foresters on the
left, carried the attack up to the Little Z.

The account of this action is one long series of disasters. It seems
that the South Staffords on the right started by getting bogged in the
mud. A new front line had been dug, but they could not occupy it for
this reason. They filed out through gaps in their wire, and if any
succeeded in reaching the German front line it was for a period of
minutes only. The North Staffords fared no better, though a few more
men seem to have gained the enemy first line, but were, however,
quickly forced out. The utmost confusion reigned in that part of the
line, and the attack, from the very start, was futile.

The 5th and 7th Sherwoods got away to time (7.30), but

     “there was a little delay in the fourth wave getting out,            43
     owing to the deep mud in the trenches, and still more delay
     in the carrying parties moving up (due to a similar reason),
     and also on account of the enemy barrage of artillery,
     rifle, and machine-gun fire which became very heavy on our
     old front line.... Of the 5th Sherwoods the first and second
     waves reached the enemy first line fairly easily, but were
     scattered by the time this occurred. The third and fourth
     waves suffered severely in crossing from machine-gun fire.
     The majority of the first and second waves passed over the
     first-line trenches, but there is no evidence to show what
     happened to them there, for not a man of the battalions that
     reached the German second line has returned. The remaining
     waves ... found that the enemy, who must have taken refuge
     in deep dugouts, had now come up and manned the parapet in
     parties. The Germans were noticed to be practically all
     bombers.... The first three waves of the 7th Sherwoods (the
     left of the attack) moved out to time and found the wire
     well cut. So far as is known, only a small proportion of
     these three waves reached the German second line, and after
     a bomb fight on both flanks, the survivors fell back on the
     German first line, where they found other men of the
     battalion consolidating. After expending all their bombs in
     repelling a German counter-attack, the survivors retired
     over the parapet.”

One can therefore say that, half an hour after the attack was
launched, the Germans in the Gommecourt salient had only the 56th
Division to deal with. We know that the Cemetery was seen to be
occupied by our troops about nine o’clock, and it was probably shortly
after this that the party of Queen’s Westminster Rifles, led by the
gallant lieutenant of the Cheshires, reached the Quadrilateral. But the   44
Germans were then masters of the situation on the north of the salient
and, freed from all anxiety in that quarter, could turn their whole
attention to the 56th Division. Up to this time fighting had been
hard, but slow progress had been made, and with even moderate success
on the part of the 46th Division, depression and bewilderment might
have seized the enemy. But he turned with elation to the southern
attack, and shortly after 9.30 a.m. small parties of bombers were seen
moving through Gommecourt Park to attack the London Rifle Brigade, and
strong attacks were launched from the east of Gommecourt village.

For the rest of the day no help came from the 46th Division, though a
new attack was ordered, postponed, and postponed again. The plan was
to reorganise assaulting waves from the carrying parties, and at 3.30
in the afternoon it seemed probable that an attack would materialise,
but it did not. It was perhaps as well, for by that time the 56th
Division occupied the German front line only, and that in very weak

As night fell all became quiet. The 167th Brigade relieved the 168th
on the right; the 169th reorganised.

General Hull’s conclusions on this action are that

     “the primary reason for failing to retain the ground was a
     shortage of grenades. This shortage was due to:

          (_a_) The enemy’s barrage, and in a lesser extent the
          machine-gun fire from the flanks, which prevented
          supplies being carried across No Man’s Land.

          (_b_) To the breadth of No Man’s Land.

          (_c_) Possibly to insufficient means of collecting
          grenades and S.A.A. from men who had become                     45
          casualties, and from German stores.

     I understand that our counter-battery groups engaged a very
     large number of German batteries--the results were not
     apparent, and I think this was due to the limited number of
     guns available, and also to the small calibre of the
     majority employed (60-pounders, 4·7 guns, and 4·5
     howitzers). I consider it would be better to employ the
     heavy (9·2) and medium (6) howitzers, and even the

     It was particularly noticeable that, once our attack was
     launched, the Germans attempted practically no counter-work.

     The preliminary bombardment started on the 24th June, and
     continued for seven days. During this period the enemy
     seemed to have increased the number of his batteries.... The
     effect of the bombardment on the German trenches was very
     great ... on the dugouts the effect was negligible. On the
     _moral_ of the enemy the effect was not so great as one
     would have hoped....

     I am doubtful of the value of these long bombardments, which
     give the enemy time to recognise the points selected for the
     attack, and possibly to relieve his troops, and to
     concentrate guns, and to bring up ammunition.

     The intense bombardment prior to the attack lasted
     sixty-five minutes, considerably longer than any of the
     previous bombardments. I am in favour of having as many
     false attacks and lifts of artillery fire as possible, but
     consider there should be no difference....

     The German attitude and _moral_ varied considerably--some of
     the enemy showed fight, but other parties were quite ready
     to surrender as soon as they came up from their dugouts. But
     it cannot be said that their _moral_ was any more shattered
     by the bombardment than were their dugouts. Later in the day         46
     German bombers advanced with great boldness, being assisted
     by men who advanced over the open. Our men appear to have
     had no difficulty in dealing with enemy bombers at first--it
     was only when bombs were scarce that the enemy succeeded in
     pushing us back. The counter-attacks on the right were never
     made in great strength, but were prepared by artillery fire
     which was followed up closely and boldly by bombers. On the
     left the enemy appeared to be in greater strength, and came
     out of Gommecourt village and through the Park in great

The men of London had done well, although the salient remained in the
hands of the enemy. The effort of the infantry was valiant, and they
were supported with devotion by the artillery. The artillery observers
took great risks, and the conduct of one of Lieut.-Col. Prechtel’s
wire-cutting batteries is well worthy of note. It established itself
practically in our front line, about W48, and fired 1,200 rounds
during X, Y, Y1, Y2 days and on Z day fired a further 1,100 rounds.

The German plan was, as has been shown, to prevent all reinforcements
from crossing No Man’s Land, and to deal with those troops who had
lodged themselves in their trench system by strong and well-organised
bombing attacks.

  [Illustration: 1. THE GOMMECOURT SALIENT.
            _The dotted line is the old British line._]

  [Illustration: GOMMECOURT, JULY 1916]

There is no doubt that the main object of the attack had been
fulfilled. Unpleasant as it may seem, the rôle of the 56th Division
was to induce the enemy to shoot at them with as many guns as could be
gathered together, and also to prevent him from moving troops. The
prisoners captured were 141 from units of the 52nd Reserve Division,
and 37 from the 2nd Guards Reserve Division, so that no movement of       47
troops had occurred on that front, and we know that the number of
batteries had been increased. There were many more prisoners than
this, but they were caught in their own barrage as they crossed No
Man’s Land, and large numbers of dead Germans were afterwards found in
that much-battered belt.

The main attack of the Fourth Army, launched on the same day,
succeeded on the right. North of the Ancre as far as Serre our losses
were severe, and the initial gains of the assaulting troops could not
be maintained. After five days’ fierce fighting, the enemy’s first
system of defence farther south had been penetrated to a depth of a
mile over a front of six miles. But north of the Ancre, after the
first day, operations were confined to maintaining a steady pressure
on the enemy.

This battle, with the subsidiary attack on the Gommecourt Salient, is
known as the battle of Albert 1916.

                     *     *     *     *     *

The division was not relieved. It had suffered in casualties 182
officers and 4,567 other ranks. The London Scottish had sent 24
officers and 847 other ranks into battle, and 9 officers and 257 other
ranks had come out. The Rangers had sent in 23 officers and 780 other
ranks--6 officers and 280 other ranks came out. The Queen Victoria’s
Rifles came out with 22 officers and 160 other ranks; the London Rifle
Brigade, 18 officers and 300 other ranks; the Queen’s Westminster
Rifles, 19 officers and 160 other ranks. The supporting battalions
suffered only slightly less.

When the fighting had abated the enemy seems to have initiated a truce    48
to gather in the wounded. His own stretcher-bearers came out, on
seeing which ours also went out. This state of affairs lasted for an
hour, when our men were warned to get back to their lines.

The state of the line was extraordinary. The front line, over which so
much labour had been expended, had ceased to exist, and could only be
held by means of patrols and a few small posts. Our main line was now
what was known as the R Line, the original line when the 56th Division
arrived in the sector. And the front held by the division was
gradually increased. From the 3rd July onwards the division took over
the line to the left until on the 8th the 169th Brigade was north of
Fonquevillers with its left opposite Little Z. Each brigade held its
front with two battalions in the line, one in brigade reserve and one
in divisional reserve.

During the night of the 13th the artillery made a “demonstration” in
order to help the Fourth Army, which was again attacking in the south.
On this night a patrol of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles captured a
prisoner who proved to be of the 91st Regt.--a normal unit.

On the 17th of the month all three brigades attempted raids, but the
enemy were found to be too alert, and no prisoners were obtained.

The division remained on this front, keeping the enemy busy, until the
20th August, when it was relieved by the 17th Division, and marched
first to Doullens, then to Fromer-le-Grand, then to St. Riquier, where
it proceeded to refit and train under the orders of the X Corps.

     [1] Appendix A.

     [2] _General Headquarters, 1914-1916, and its Critical
     Decisions_--Gen. von Falkenhayn.

                             CHAPTER II                                   49

                             THE SOMME

                        THE BATTLE OF MORVAL

The move to St. Riquier, in the neighbourhood of Abbeville, revealed
to some of the officers that their men were not very fit for marching.
This knowledge appears to come as a revelation to some people. Those
on active service very soon discovered that a long period of trench
duty, though it hardened the men to those particular conditions, made
them unfit for any strenuous marching. It was probably never
understood by people in England. They were, then, weary battalions
that arrived at St. Riquier.

When it is said that a battalion or a division was “resting,” that
word must not be taken in too literal a sense. One might define it
with greater truth as being a change of location, sometimes a mere
matter of a mile or so, at others perhaps fifty miles. There were, it
is true, no trenches to man, no sentry groups by day and night, but
there was always work to be done. And the work, very naturally, had
always the one end in view--the defeat of the Germans.

The training was almost exclusively of an aggressive nature. Unless
there was some special object in view, when trenches would be dug to
represent our own and those occupied by the enemy, the optimistic
nature of the Higher Command always leaned to open warfare training.      50
Companies wandered about, as they do in England, attacking villages,
strong points, and woods, and indulged in vast schemes of pursuit
after phantom armies called Red or North or South Armies. But this
short period at St. Riquier gave the 56th Division a surprise in the
matter of training.

Battalions had been reinforced since the Gommecourt action, and there
was some grumbling about the nature of the reinforcements. Batches of
men, from all sorts of units, were drafted to battalions, and General
Hull made great efforts to get this system altered. Battalions,
however, were of fair strength.

We know that very early in the war the problem of barbed wire had been
exercising the minds of the Staff in general. Long after the Press
campaign for high explosives, when this form of shell was provided in
large quantities, wire-cutting was still ordered with quite a high
percentage of shrapnel. But whatever you did, however long the time
you gave to cutting the wire, it never disappeared entirely; vile,
treacherous strands stuck out of the earth like brambles, stakes
remained miraculously upright with waving lengths of wire to grab you
by the sleeve or the trousers; and when the cutting was well done,
there had been a mere substitution of obstacles--the state of the
ground, blasted into holes, pits, mounds, and mud made progress very
slow and difficult.

How was wire to be removed?

Mr. Winston Churchill let his mind wander round steam-rollers linked
up with chains. Other minds thought of tractors. At the same time,
inventors were considering the old question of moving forts. In August    51
1916 there came from England a weird and fearful-looking machine known
as a Tank.

On the 26th August the 7th Middlesex practised an attack in
conjunction with five Tanks. One can easily imagine the Middlesex men,
and everybody else who had wind of what was afoot, all agog at this
new form of field training! What were the criticisms of the London men
on this ... machine?

The Tanks had only been landed in France on the 25th, and it is not
surprising that two of them broke down. But the practice was continued
on subsequent days until each brigade had acquired experience. Sir
Douglas Haig, Marshal Joffre, and H.R.H. the Prince of Wales were
interested spectators of these evolutions.

The orders for this exercise were that the Tanks would cross our front
line at zero hour, and would be followed by the first infantry wave
one minute later. The second wave would start at zero plus three
minutes; the third wave at zero plus five minutes; the fourth wave at
zero plus six minutes. The infantry were instructed to advance in
short rushes up to, but not beyond, the Tanks--unless a Tank broke
down, when they were to proceed as if it was not there.

Everyone seems to have been much impressed by the behaviour of the

On the 31st August, General Hull received a warning order that his
division would move to Corbie and come under the XIV Corps (Cavan).
And on the following day the artillery was ordered forward. The 168th
and 169th Infantry Brigades left St. Riquier on the 3rd, and the 167th
Brigade on the 4th. Events came tumbling over one another.

On the 4th September the leading troops of the division were at the       52
Citadel and Happy Valley, near Carnoy; on the 5th at Maricourt Siding.
And on the 6th September the 56th Division was ordered to relieve the
5th Division that night in the front line.

No one will ever be able to describe in adequate fashion the scene
behind the Somme battle front. Piccadilly in the height of the season,
with its slow-moving and ever-stopping traffic, may give some idea of
the state of the roads--only one must substitute army carts, limbers,
lorries, for smart limousine cars and buses, one must substitute a
loose stone road covered with six inches of mud, and holes three feet
deep filled with water, for the smooth wood paving of that
thoroughfare. And there were no pavements, no sidewalks. The infantry
threaded its way in single file through this mass of dirty carts, and
sweating men and horses, and overheated motor-lorries, halting
sometimes for hours; or broke away across-country where, although the
traffic was not so congested, obstacles such as cavalry lines,
transport lines, camps, and, as the forward area was penetrated, lines
of heavy guns and howitzers were met with.

The whole country seemed pulsing with life and effort. Here was no
labour-saving device of peaceful civilisation, but a continual strain
of muscle and sinew. Difficulties were overcome by straining horses,
straining men, for where the greatest difficulty existed the engine
was of no use. And through the midst of all this, threading its way in
long files, passed the 56th Division.

                     *     *     *     *     *

We have said that the results of the first five days of fighting,
which started on the 1st July, was an advance of one mile on a front      53
of six miles. This was followed by minor engagements to adjust the

The two northern Corps of the attacking Army were given to Sir Hubert
Gough, with instructions to keep the enemy busy while Sir Henry
Rawlinson battered his way through farther south.

On the 14th July the Fourth Army was again launched on a front from
Longueval to Bazentin-le-Petit Wood. This battle was continued for
several days, and established the Army on a line from Maltz Horn Farm
(Montauban), where it joined on to the left of the French, along the
eastern edge of Trones Wood to Longueval, then westward past
Bazentin-le-Grand to the northern corner of Bazentin-le-Petit (and the
wood), and so to the north of Ovillers. Over 2,000 prisoners were
taken, which brought the total since the opening of the offensive to
more than 10,000, also in this battle we captured 4 heavy guns, 42
field-guns, 30 trench mortars, and 52 machine guns. [Battle of
Bazentin Ridge.]

But our line from Pozières to Delville Wood and Longueval, and then
south of Maltz Horn Farm, where it was carried still south by the
French to the village of Hem, made a most unpleasant salient. The
enemy had excellent observation from Guillemont, and could bring a
mass of surrounding artillery to bear on a comparatively small area
packed with troops, guns, and supplies. To relieve this most
uncomfortable position, it was arranged that the right of the British
Army should swing forward in conjunction with the French. To do this
the French would have to capture the strongly fortified villages of
Maurepas, Le Foret, Rancourt, and Frigicourt, while we would have to
take all the country up to Sailly-Saillisel and Morval, which included    54
the capture of Flers, Gueudecourt, Ginchy, Guillemont, and Les Bœufs.
Before this could be done, the enemy, on the 18th July, launched a
strong counter-attack on Delville Wood-Longueval-Waterlot Farm. And
this was the prelude to much fierce and very confusing fighting. [The
battle of Delville Wood commenced on the 15th July and ended 3rd

On the 30th July we attacked Guillemont and Falfemont Farm in
conjunction with our Allies, but without success; and on the 7th
August our troops again entered Guillemont and were again driven out.
Guillemont was the important point to be gained, but it was evident
that it could not be won in a small engagement, and as the only
objective, without heavy loss. So we and the French made a series of
attacks, advancing foot by foot on Maurepas, Falfemont, Guillemont,
Leuze Wood, and Ginchy. But no great progress was made. And so the
month of August passed.

On the 3rd September a combined French and British attack was made on
a wide front extending on the left to the Ancre, so that both the
Fourth and Fifth Armies were engaged. The gain in front of Sir Hubert
Gough’s Army was small, but the Fourth Army managed to win the
much-disputed Guillemont, and after many assaults Falfemont Farm
(which was only completely captured on the 5th) and the greater part
of Leuze Wood. Ginchy and High Wood remained in the hands of the
Germans, but we had made a step in the right direction, and had
advanced our right to a depth of one mile on a front of nearly two
miles and captured over a thousand prisoners. [Battle of Guillemont,
3rd-6th September.]

This was, briefly, the situation when the 56th Division marched           55
forward to take over the line from the 5th Division.

                     *     *     *     *     *

Brig.-Gen. Loch was ordered to take over a portion of the line, and
accordingly the 168th Brigade moved from Maricourt Siding in the
direction of Falfemont Farm, and came under the orders of the 5th
Division. The local situation was always most difficult to grasp. The
Somme field of battle was the most hideous place and absolutely
bewildering. A guide was a treacherous person to trust, or perhaps we
should say he was a broken reed to lean on; for the poor fellow had no
treacherous intent in his heart, he was anxious enough to lead troops
in the right direction, but nine times out of ten was completely lost
a few minutes after he started. And there were, perhaps, more mistakes
made in attempting to trace the front line in that great battle than
in any other.

Guillemont was held by us; Combles was strongly held by the Germans.
Between these two places was Leuze Wood. We held, with more or less
certainty, the line of the road between Leuze Wood and Guillemont, and
we also held the country between Leuze Wood and Falfemont Farm, and
had pushed troops into the wood itself; but the situation in the rest
of the square marked 27 was very vague (see map)--the only certain
thing was that there were many Germans there. Except for the wood and
the line of the road to Guillemont, the Germans held all of squares 20
and 21. We had a nasty, elongated triangle pushed into enemy
territory, and it had a wobbly right side to it.

The Kensingtons went into the front line not very far from Falfemont      56
Farm, in the lower left corner of square 27. The London Scottish were
supposed to be in support to the Royal Irish Rifles, and got into a
two-foot scrape, unworthy of the name of “trench,” about
three-quarters of the way through Leuze Wood. The Royal Irish Rifles
were imagined to be holding the most southern end of Bouleaux Wood
across the road which separated it from Leuze Wood.

The positions were, of course, taken over at night, and the next day
the French attacked Combles. In order to help our Allies our guns
started a bombardment, but unfortunately most of their shells fell
around Leuze Wood. It was one of the unavoidable accidents of war.
Close shooting has to be done, and there are many possible causes,
from faulty ammunition to wet ground, for guns shooting short. It is
none the less annoying to the infantry. Capt. A. H. Macgregor, of “C”
Company (London Scottish), made strong remarks in writing, but failed
to stop the energetic gunners.

The Irish were having a much worse time than the London Scottish, as
they were also being heavily bombarded by the Germans. So they decided
to evacuate their trench.

All this led to some confusion, and on top of it the enemy launched a
bombing attack, which was probably in support of their counter-attack
on the French. The London Scottish reserve companies, which were at
Wedge Wood, moved up, and the battalion prepared to defend Leuze Wood,
which they imagined would shortly be heavily attacked. But the Irish,
although they lost heavily, threw back the German bombers and were
relieved by two companies of the London Scottish.

By midnight everything was re-established as it had been before, and,     57
while probing about in the dark, the London Scottish gathered in two
enemy officers and fourteen other ranks of the 107th Infantry Regt. as

The position they were in was on the south of the road, and it was
decided to try and dig a trench on the edge of Bouleaux Wood, that is,
on the other side of the road. A platoon was sent forward the
following morning to undertake this work. It was successfully carried
out, and the covering party managed to inflict a good many casualties
on the enemy--Sergt. Smith, of “B” Company, shot eight--and three
further prisoners were taken.

This experience of the London Scottish will give some idea of the
conditions which ruled what was officially known as “holding the
line.” At any moment a post might be wrested from you and have to be
fought for again, and all the time you were described as “established”
in Leuze Wood.

On the night of the 7th September the Queen Victoria’s Rifles took
over this bit of line, and the London Scottish went back to Maltz Horn

On the night of the 6/7th September, General Hull took over command of
the divisional front from the G.O.C. 5th Division. There was a slight
readjustment of line the next night, and it was then held by the 169th
Brigade on the right and in touch with the 1st French Division, and
the 168th Brigade on the left and in touch with the 16th Division on
the Combles-Guillemont road.

There was to be a big attack on the 9th, but the position from which
the 56th Division had to start was not too satisfactory. A study of
the battle of the Somme will show that at some time or other every        58
unit lost direction. It was exceedingly difficult to recognise an
objective; even the heaps of ruins which marked the sites of villages
were frequently mistaken. It is a rolling, featureless country. But
perhaps the chief cause of loss of direction was the shape of the
jumping-off line. The German defence was very obstinate and the
fighting severe. Troops, having made an advance, had to hang on
anywhere, facing the enemy where he opposed them most fiercely. The
result was a zigzag line, a crazy front, where troops frequently faced
east and west and were told to attack north. On an ordinary practice
field-day, a platoon commander can get his men out of a trench and
make them wheel in the desired direction, but in action attacking
troops will always be drawn towards the nearest firing. Men getting
out of a trench and hearing or seeing an enemy in front of them will
go towards him, no matter how much orders to the contrary have been
dinned into their heads.

Consider the line of the 56th Division. The left along the
Guillemont-Leuze Wood road was facing due north; it then curled round
the wood and faced south-east; another curl made the extreme right of
the line face north-east. The attack on the 9th was to be in a
north-easterly direction.

To get a better line and form a strong flank facing Combles, an
attempt was made to clear the enemy from the trenches south-east of
Leuze Wood.

The London Rifle Brigade had relieved the Kensingtons on the right of
the line, and companies were somewhat puzzled by their position, which
is described as “most obscure.” On the night of the 8th they made a       59
bombing attack to clear the trenches on the south-east of the wood. At
first this met with some success, but in the early morning of the 9th
the enemy came at them again in large numbers, and they were driven
back to their former position. It was not thought advisable to try to
regain the lost ground.

The attack on the 9th September (the battle of Ginchy) was by the
whole of the XIV Corps in conjunction with the XV Corps on the left.
The XIV Corps held Guillemont; and Delville Wood was held by the XV
Corps. The object was to capture Ginchy and bring the line up to point
141·7, and from there down to Leuze Wood. Incidentally it meant
clearing the ground to the south-east of the wood, but in following
the actions from this date it must be remembered that the Higher
Command intended to work round Combles, and so the right of the
British Army was always working to form a defensive flank, until the
advance reached a point which would enable troops to join hands with
the French on the far side of Combles.

The task of the 169th Brigade was the forming of a flank against
Combles by capturing the trenches south-east of the wood (the trenches
they had failed to take by bombing) and to advance their line a short
way through Bouleaux Wood.

The 168th Brigade, who were on the line of the Guillemont-Leuze Wood
road, were to pivot on their right (the advance from the northern end
of the wood was very slight) and bring their left up to point 141·7.
This “right form” was to be done in two stages, the road to Ginchy
marking the halfway line.

The artillery were ordered to put up a creeping and stationary
barrage. Fifty per cent. of guns were to fire on a known position as      60
a stationary barrage; the other 50 per cent. were to start just ahead
of the infantry and creep forward at the rate of fifty yards a minute,
until the stationary barrage was reached, when the latter would be
jumped forward to the next stationary barrage line.

It will be gathered from the foregoing account of how the 56th
Division took over the line that the conditions under which the
infantry waited for the resumption of attack were not dissimilar to
those at the end, though not the actual termination, of an
engagement--when nobody knows within a few hundred yards where any
unit really is. And, indeed, that was always the situation during the
battle of the Somme. There was perpetual unrest in the line.

The battle on the 9th has always seemed like a wild rush in
fast-fading light. It was to open at 4.45 p.m., but on the left of the
Corps it seems to have been delayed. Nowhere was it entirely
successful in the assault. The situation remained obscure and fighting
continued for several days.

The truth of the whole matter was that the enemy defended Combles with
desperation. The right of the 56th Division had as hard a task as was
ever set for any troops, and on their left was a German strong point
bearing the ominous name of “the Quadrilateral,” the strength of which
was only learned at bitter cost. We will follow the fortunes of the
division from the right of the line.

The 169th Brigade was on the right with the London Rifle Brigade and
the Queen Victoria’s Rifles attacking. Leuze Wood, as we know, was
always a dangerous spot, and the task of the London Rifle Brigade was
to capture those trenches on the south-east of the wood and start the     61
building up of the flank facing Combles. But the moment the men left
their jumping-off trenches, their attack was met and destroyed by a
hail of rifle and machine-gun fire.

On the left of the London Rifle Brigade the Queen Victoria’s Rifles,
whose objective was the enemy trench on the far side of the Combles
road, met with more success and gained a precarious footing in a part
of that line. But no troops of the 169th Brigade could be said to be
established anywhere on their objective.

Part of the 2nd London Regt. was given to the London Rifle Brigade,
and a second attack was launched on the trenches south-east of the
wood, almost simultaneously with a counter-attack by the enemy from
his Bouleaux Wood defences. The Queen Victoria’s Rifles held on to
their gains, but the second attack on the trenches south-east of the
wood failed. The Queen’s Westminster Rifles, who were in reserve, were
sent for.

The 168th Brigade, on the left of the division, attacked with the 4th
London Regt. on the right and the Rangers on the left. The 4th
Londons, pivoting on the north end of Leuze Wood, gained their first
objective under close cover of our barrage and with little loss. But
the Rangers came under heavy machine-gun fire from their left. It was
ascertained from a prisoner, captured later, that a whole battalion of
his regiment, the 161st of the 185th Division, was in the centre of
the square marked 20.

The left company of the Rangers, with the troops of the 16th Division
on their left, met a strong force of the enemy and were driven back to
their point of departure. The right company, however, after hard
fighting which lasted until 6 p.m., reached their first objective, the    62
line of the road from Leuze Wood to Ginchy.

Meanwhile the 4th London Regt., sticking close to the artillery
barrage, had again advanced at 5.25 p.m. and gained their final
objective. But their losses were severe. The machine-gun fire was
tremendous, and its effects can be gathered from the fact that a post,
which was left to construct a strong point in the first objective, was
entirely wiped out.

The right company of the Rangers, having gained their first objective,
again advanced, though the opposition they had met with had caused
them to be late on the barrage. Again the murderous fire was poured on
them from the left, and they swerved so that they came up on the
centre of the 4th London troops. These two battalions were now on the
line of the trench leading to point 141·7, but exactly how near that
point was only determined later. On the right they were in touch with
the Queen Victoria’s Rifles.

By this time it was quite dark; and the left of the 56th Division was
so much in the air that the enemy was on all but one side of it. The
16th Division had fared badly.

The right brigade of the 16th Division had not been able to advance at
all, and were scattered about in front of Guillemont. The left brigade
had secured a footing in Ginchy, and the 3rd Brigade of the Guards
Division was already on its way to relieve the whole of the 16th
Division. But the situation was far from good.

The Kensingtons, who were in support to the 168th Brigade, had moved
forward to occupy the departure trenches, and the commanding officer,     63
seeing something of what had happened, promptly tried to strengthen
the flank of the 4th London Regt. and the Rangers. He disposed of his
battalion in forward positions with the object of protecting the left
flank. The London Scottish were sent for.

Before 11 p.m. the two reserve battalions, the London Scottish and the
Queen’s Westminster Rifles, had arrived in the vicinity of Leuze Wood.
But the situation which faced General Hull at midnight was not a
comfortable one. His left was surrounded by Germans, and probably only
protected by the night, and his right was uncertain; there had been
reports of enemy snipers in Leuze Wood, and the enemy was certainly
pressing strongly with his bombers.

Both brigades were ordered to attack again.

Following events from the right of the line, the Queen’s Westminsters
were ordered to attack and capture the trenches south-east of the wood
before dawn. The night was pitch dark, and the Germans were pouring
shells into the wood. The exact bearing of the trench and its distance
from the wood were unknown to the battalion. It was impossible to
arrange an earlier hour than 7 a.m. for the attack.

Patrols were sent out to get in touch with the enemy and reconnoitre
the ground, and while the battalion waited casualties mounted up. At
last came the dawn, but it brought no light; a thick mist had settled
over the country. At 7 a.m. the attack started.

Two companies attacked. The right company went straight ahead, and the
left was told to swing to their left and take a trench beyond the
sunken road leading to Combles. The barrage was described as              64
ineffective, which was, maybe, due to the fog. At any rate, neither
company reached its objective. The enemy was lining his defences in
force and poured in a hot fire with rifles and machine guns.

Later in the day a further attack was launched, but met with no
success, and the situation during the whole of the morning,
complicated by the thick mist, remained extremely uncertain.

On the 168th Brigade front the London Scottish had not waited till
dawn for their attack. They formed up in six waves, in trenches dug by
the 5th Cheshires on the extreme left of the original line of
departure, and were ordered to thrust through, moving due north, and
fill the gap between the 4th London Regt. and the troops of the 16th
Division in Ginchy. It was hoped that all the enemy troops in square
20 would be cut off.

A quarter of an hour after midnight, in pitch darkness, the battalion
started to advance. The first three waves progressed some 600 yards,
and then, failing to see any landmarks or recognise where they were,
they halted and sent out patrols. The last three waves were nowhere in
sight; they had lost direction and joined the 4th London Regt. and
Rangers on their right. But while the leading waves waited for their
patrols to get in touch with either friend or foe, they were attacked
by about a hundred Germans from their rear. The London Scottish
whipped round and scattered them at the point of the bayonet. The
enemy vanished, but left a considerable number of dead on the ground.

The London Scottish were now completely lost, and so marched south to
pick up their position again.

The attempted attack, however, was not repeated, but two and a half       65
companies were sent to the trench occupied by the 4th London Regt. and
the Rangers (Bully), where they attempted, by bombing, to reach point
141·7. Their efforts were not successful.

Meanwhile the situation to the left of the 56th Division was no less
obscure. The 3rd Brigade of the Guards Division had been hurried up in
the dark to relieve the 16th Division. The guides of the left brigade
of the latter division led a relieving battalion into Ginchy, but had
only the haziest idea where their own troops were. Part of the 16th
Division on the east of the village was not relieved until midday on
the 10th. Ginchy was repeatedly attacked by the enemy, and no one knew
with any certainty what was happening.

The right brigade of the 16th Division was not relieved for some time.
The guides to the relieving battalion lost themselves completely, and
a big gap existed between Ginchy and Guillemont. During the 10th this
gap was made good, but the whole of that day was occupied by repulsing
enemy attacks and trying to establish a definite line.

On the 56th Division front there were repeated bombing attacks by the
enemy, and the S.O.S. was sent up several times. We may say that the
battalion reports of positions were only relatively accurate, and that
nothing was clear to Gen. Hull until the weather improved and air
reports could be made.

Relief of the 168th Brigade by the 167th, and of the 169th by a
composite brigade of the 5th Division, took place, and it was then
ascertained that the London Scottish had, as related above, lost
direction in their attack and that no one was near the Ginchy--141·7
road. The enemy still held the Quadrilateral in force, and the most       66
advanced troops of the 56th Division were some way from it, though
they were strongly established in Bully Trench; and the enemy were
still in square 20. But the 56th and Guards Divisions were now in
touch and a firm line was held along the Guillemont--Leuze Wood road,
and from the cross-roads to Ginchy, which was also firmly held.

The Quadrilateral was the danger-point, and it defied all attempts to
take it by bombing, and successfully withstood the Corps heavy

                     *     *     *     *     *

Sir Douglas Haig sums up the situation at this point as follows:

     “... The French had made great progress on our right,
     bringing their line forward to Louage Wood (just south of
     Combles), Le Foret, Cléry-sur-Somme, all three inclusive.
     The weak salient in the Allied line had therefore
     disappeared, and we had gained the front required for
     further operations.

     Still more importance, however, lay in the proof afforded in
     the results described of the ability of our new armies not
     only to rush the enemy’s strong defences--as had been
     accomplished on the 1st and 14th July--but also to wear down
     and break the power of resistance by a steady relentless
     pressure, as had been done during the weeks of this fierce
     and protracted struggle. As has already been recounted, the
     preparations made for our assault on the 1st July had been
     long and elaborate; but though the enemy knew that an attack
     was coming, it would seem that he considered the troops
     already on the spot, secure in their apparent impregnable
     defences, would suffice to deal with it. The success of that
     assault, combined with the vigour and determination with
     which our troops pressed their advantage, and followed by the
     successful attack on the night of 14th July, all served to           67
     awaken him to a fuller realisation of his danger. The great
     depth of his system of fortifications, to which reference
     has been made, gave him time to reorganise his defeated
     troops, and to hurry up numerous fresh divisions and more
     guns. Yet in spite of this he was still pushed back,
     steadily and continuously. Trench after trench, and strong
     point after strong point, were wrested from him. The great
     majority of his repeated counter-attacks failed completely,
     with heavy loss; while the few that achieved temporary
     success purchased it dearly, and were soon thrown back from
     the ground they had for the moment regained.

     The enemy had, it is true, delayed our advance considerably,
     but the effort had cost him dear; and the comparative
     collapse of his resistance during the last days of the
     struggle justified the belief that in the long-run decisive
     victory would lie with our troops, who had displayed such
     fine fighting qualities and such indomitable endurance and

     Practically the whole of the forward crest of the main
     ridge, on a front of some 9,000 yards from Delville Wood to
     the road above Mouquet Farm, was now in our hands, and with
     it the advantage of observation over the slopes beyond. East
     of Delville Wood, for a further 3,000 yards to Leuze Wood,
     we were firmly established on the main ridge; while farther
     east, across the Combles valley, the French were advancing
     victoriously on our right. But though the centre of our line
     was well placed, on our flanks there was still difficult
     ground to be won.

     From Ginchy the crest of the high ground runs northwards for
     2,000 yards, and then eastward, in a long spur, for nearly
     4,000 yards. Near the eastern extremity of the spur stands
     the village of Morval, commanding a wide field of view and
     fire in every direction. At Leuze Wood my right was still
     2,000 yards from its objective at this village, and between          68
     lay a broad and deep branch of the main Combles valley,
     completely commanded by the Morval spur, and flanked, not
     only from its head north-east of Ginchy, but also from the
     high ground east of the Combles valley, which looks directly
     into it.

     Up this high ground beyond the Combles valley the French
     were working their way towards the objective at
     Sailly-Saillisel, situated due east of Morval, and standing
     at the same level. Between these two villages the ground
     falls away to the head of the Combles valley, which runs
     thence in a south-westerly direction. In the bottom of this
     valley lies the small town of Combles, then well fortified
     and strongly held, though dominated by my right at Leuze
     Wood, and by the French left on the opposite heights. It had
     been agreed by the French and myself that an assault on
     Combles would not be necessary, as the place could be
     rendered untenable by pressing forward along the ridges
     above it on either side.

     The capture of Morval from the south side presented a very
     difficult problem, while the capture of Sailly-Saillisel, at
     that time some 3,000 yards to the north of the French left,
     was in some respects even more difficult. The line of the
     French advance was narrowed almost to a defile by the
     extensive and strongly fortified wood of St. Pierre Vaast on
     the one side, and on the other by the Combles valley, which,
     with the branches running out of it and the slopes on either
     side, is completely commanded, as has been pointed out, by
     the heights bounding the valley on the east and west....

     The general plan of the combined Allied attack which was
     opened on the 15th September was to pivot on the high ground
     south of the Ancre and north of the Albert-Bapaume road,
     while the Fourth Army devoted its whole effort to the
     rearmost of the enemy’s original systems of defence between          69
     Morval and Le Sars.

     Should our success in this direction warrant it, I made
     arrangements to enable me to extend the left of the attack
     to embrace the villages of Martinpuich and Courcelette. As
     soon as our advance on this front had reached the Morval
     line, the time would have arrived to bring forward my left
     across the Thiepval Ridge. Meanwhile our Allies arranged to
     continue the line of advance in close co-operation with me
     from the Somme to the slopes above Combles; but directed
     their main effort northwards against the villages of
     Rancourt and Frigicourt, so as to complete the isolation of
     Combles and open the way for their attack on

That much was hoped from the big attack, to take place on the 15th,
there can be no doubt. Brigades resting in the rear of the divisional
area could see quantities of cavalry still farther back. It suggested
big results.

The limits of the Fourth Army attack were Combles Ravine and
Martinpuich, and it was to capture Morval, Les Bœufs, Gueudecourt, and
Flers. The Cavalry Corps was to have its head on Carnoy at 10 a.m.,
and as soon as the four villages had been captured it would advance
and seize the high ground round Rocquigny, Villers-au-Flos,
Riencourt-les-Bapaume, and Bapaume.

And it was the first battle in which Tanks were employed! [The battle
of Flers-Courcelette.]

Even in the midst of the struggle round about the Quadrilateral a
steady bombardment had been going on, in preparation of a further
attack, since the 12th September. Day firing commenced at 6 a.m. and
went on until 6.30 p.m., when night firing started. During the night      70
bombardment lethal shells were used.

On Z day the preliminary bombardment was to be the same as on former
days, with no increase until zero hour. When the intense fire, or
barrage, commenced, there were gaps left in it for the advance of

For the XIV Corps there were, taking part in this attack, fifteen
Tanks. Nine were allotted to the Guards Division, three to the 6th
Division, and three to the 56th Division.

The instructions given to Tanks were that they should start their
attack at a time which would enable them to reach the first objective
five minutes before the infantry. When they had cleared up the first
objective, a proportion of them was to push forward a short way, to
prearranged positions, and act as strong points. Departure from this
programme to assist any infantry held up by the enemy was left to the
discretion of the Tank Commander.

On the second objective Tanks and infantry would advance together and
pace was to be regulated to “tank pace,” which was given as from 30 to
50 yards a minute. For the third and fourth objectives there would be
no creeping barrage, and Tanks would start in time to reach the
objectives before the infantry. In all cases their action was to be
arranged so as to crush wire and keep down hostile rifle and
machine-gun fire.

Signals between Tank and infantry were arranged for by means of
coloured flags--a red flag meaning “out of action,” and a green flag
“am on objective.”

The main task of the 56th Division was to clear Bouleaux Wood and form
a strong protective flank, covering all the lines of advance from         71
Combles and the valleys running from the north-east of Combles. The
167th Brigade were ordered to advance as far as the bit of Beef Trench
running through Bouleaux Wood, and to Middle Copse on the left of the
wood; a flank was also to be formed to the south-east and clear of the
wood. The 168th Brigade were to pass through the 167th and carry on
the advance by further bounds. The 169th Brigade were to hold the line
through Leuze Wood and the left of square 27, and to capture the
well-known trench (Loop Trench) to the south-east of the wood which
runs into the sunken road to Combles.

One Tank was to advance on the right of Leuze Wood and assist the
169th Brigade to drive the enemy beyond the sunken road; it would then
establish itself in the Orchard as a strong point. This Tank was
called the Right Tank.

Two Tanks were to work from the north of Leuze Wood along the left of
Bouleaux Wood and assist the 167th and 168th Brigades. These were
known as the Centre and Left Tanks, and were eventually to proceed to
a railway cutting north-east of Bouleaux Wood, which promised to be a
point of some difficulty.

The Right Tank, having seen the 169th Brigade safely in its
objectives, was to move along the south-east of Bouleaux Wood and take
up a position on the cutting in the top end of square 22.

In the XIV Corps area the Tanks were by no means a success. It is only
right to say that this was not the fault of their crews. Every excuse
must be allowed, for the Tank was not only a new invention, and, like
most new inventions, somewhat clumsy in the first design, but the
ground was absolutely vile. We have not alluded to the weather, which,    72
however, was a most important factor just now. The field of battle was
a field of mud; the resting area of the division was a field of mud;
the roads and tracks were rivers of mud; anyone can paint a picture of
the battle of the Somme provided he can paint miles of mud. And the
Army had simply blasted its way forward so that the shell-holes cut
one another in the mud.

The scene round Leuze Wood, Guillemont, and Ginchy was a nightmare.
There had been little time to devote to the burial of the dead, and
corpses lay literally in heaps where the fighting had been severe. One
has only to imagine the results of repeated and obstinate attempts to
capture a position to realise what it must look like before it is
finally taken. An attack is launched and fails. Why does it fail?
Perhaps twenty men of a company get back to the trench from which they
attacked, and where are the others? On the ground. After five or six
attacks, each going out strong and coming back weak, each heralded by
a “barrage,” what will the place look like?

We may mention here that the stretcher-bearers worked with eight men
to each stretcher, and each ambulance required six horses to drag it
through the mud.

Just before 1 a.m. one of the Tanks allotted to the 56th Division
broke down on its way to the assembly position. This accident left the
division with one Tank working on either side of the Bouleaux Wood.

The assault commenced at 6.20 a.m., and was followed by some of the
fiercest fighting in the history of the war. On the right of the
division the 2nd London Regt. succeeded, after some hours of gallant      73
and determined effort, in driving the enemy from the greater part of
Loop Trench, the enemy clinging to the junction with the sunken road.
The Tank, which was some time before reaching the sunken road, gave
valuable assistance, but was set on fire by a direct hit from a field
gun. The fight then turned to the sunken road and the trench on the
far side of it; but the enemy was strong and no less determined than
the men of the 169th Brigade. No further advance was gained in this

On the left of the division the 167th Brigade attacked, with the 1st
London Regt. in line and the 7th Middlesex in support in Leuze Wood.
The 1st London Regt. captured that portion of Beef Trench outside
Bouleaux Wood and, together with the 7th Middlesex--who were to
advance through them, but both units became mixed--occupied Middle

So far as the 56th Division was concerned, the result of the day’s
fighting remained with the advance on the south-east of Leuze Wood as
far as the Combles road, and on the north-west of Bouleaux Wood to
Beef Trench and Middle Copse. The enemy retained the whole of Bouleaux
Wood and the trenches to the north of the Combles road, and the road
itself. But the action, certainly of the 167th Brigade, was influenced
by the fortunes of the divisions on the left.

The centre of the horseshoe which had been formed from the east of
Ginchy to the cross-roads east of Guillemont, and then to the north of
Leuze Wood and along Bully Trench, and which was prevented by the
Quadrilateral from being a complete circle, can scarcely have been an
enviable place for the Germans who were there. As fighters, these
Germans deserve the highest praise. They were of the 21st and 7th         74
Bavarian Regts., of the 5th Bavarian Division. They were well wired
in, and had in the Quadrilateral deep dugouts in their front lines and
others in the ravine behind the position. But though we grant them a
perfect position and well-constructed defences, we must also admit
they performed a fine feat of arms. Those in the Quadrilateral had
resisted all efforts of the 56th and Guards Divisions to bomb them
out, and those in the horseshoe had repulsed the 16th Division and the
6th Division, which attacked them on the 13th. They had actually been
under severe artillery fire and subject to repeated assaults since the
9th September, and on the 15th, in spite of Tanks, of creeping
barrages, and of the heavy artillery, they remained immovable.

The worst kind of luck had attended the Tanks of the 6th
Division--only one managed to reach the jumping-off line. This Tank
went on with the infantry for a short way, had all its periscopes shot
away, was pierced by most of the bullets which hit it (and a perfect
stream of fire was directed on it), and, the driver being badly
wounded, it retired through the ranks of the 6th Division. Had the
three Tanks attacked, something might have been done, anyhow with the
enemy to the south-west of the Quadrilateral; but with only one, the
barrage, arranged with gaps for three, became ineffective, and a
concentrated fire on the one Tank soon put it out of action--it also
drew attention to the infantry attack. Briefly, the 6th Division

There was still a chance that the Guards would advance and render the
position of the Bavarians impossible. But this chance was not
realised. The Quadrilateral was a mass of machine guns, and, taking       75
the Guards Division in flank, inflicted fearful casualties. The first
objective was taken and held--on the left the second objective was
reached--but already the assaulting troops were being shot in the back
by the Bavarians, and no further progress was made. Tanks do not seem
to have helped in that direction either.

With this state of affairs on the left of the 56th Division, the
attacking brigades were not likely to progress very far in the
building up of a flank facing Combles. Until the Quadrilateral was
taken the 167th Brigade could not possibly move. The 7th Middlesex had
lost a lot of men from machine guns firing into their left rear as
they advanced behind the assault of the 1st London Regt. And finally
their Tank had broken down and was being attacked by the enemy.

By 11 a.m. the two reserve battalions of the 169th Brigade were moved
forward to be used as reinforcements before the 168th Brigade was sent
into action. Gen. Hull was determined to clear Bouleaux Wood, which
had resisted so long. But at 1.30 p.m. the Corps Commander, Lord
Cavan, telephoned him that the Guards had not made as much progress as
he had thought, and that the operation against Bouleaux Wood would not
be practicable. But before this order could reach them the 8th
Middlesex made a further attempt to get into the wood and failed. All
attention was then centred on the Quadrilateral, which was holding up
the advance of no less than three divisions.

The division was ordered to consolidate where it stood, but during the
night bombing attacks were carried out by the 169th Brigade on the
sunken road and end of Loop Trench, and by the 167th Brigade on the       76
trench in Bouleaux Wood--neither met with success.

On the 16th the 6th Division again attacked the Quadrilateral and
failed, but they were now well up to the stronghold. The Guards
Division had also crept in from the north.

The 17th September was devoted to preparations for attacking on the
18th. The 169th Brigade made a trench parallel to the sunken road to
Combles, and also managed to occupy some 200 yards more frontage along
the road. Many dead Germans of the 26th Regiment were found.

The attack on the 18th was in conjunction with the 6th Division. The
task of the 56th Division was to capture the trench on the north of
the sunken road to Combles, and the south-west face of Bouleaux Wood,
to a point beyond Beef Trench, and from there through the wood to
Middle Copse, where touch would be obtained with the 6th Division, who
were making another effort to clear the Quadrilateral. The attacking
brigades of the latter division declined the aid of Tanks on this

The weather was appalling. The state of the ground was rather worse
than what is so frequently called a quagmire--troops could not get

The 167th Brigade had lost heavily, and was not in sufficient strength
to attack, so the London Scottish were attached to that brigade. But
the battalion was unable to reach the assaulting line.

Zero hour was 5.50 a.m., and on the right the 169th Brigade, with the
Queen’s Westminster Rifles and the London Rifle Brigade attacking,
failed to cross the fatal sunken road, which was not surprising, as       77
the mud by itself was an almost perfect obstacle from the German point
of view. While on the left the London Scottish failure to reach the
assembly trench caused the attack to be abandoned.

But the 6th Division was successful, and the Quadrilateral, which gave
such strong support to the enemy troops holding Bouleaux Wood, was
captured. The news was received by everyone with a sigh of relief.

Of the fighting as a whole on the 15th September and subsequent days
Sir Douglas Haig reported:

     “The advance met with immediate success on almost the whole
     of the front attacked. At 8.40 a.m. our Tanks were seen
     entering Flers, followed by a large number of troops.
     Fighting continued in Flers for some time, but by 10 a.m.
     our troops had reached the north of the village, and by
     midday had occupied the enemy’s trenches for some distance
     beyond. On our right our line was advanced to within
     assaulting distance of the strong line of defence running
     before Morval, Les Bœufs, and Gueudecourt, and on our left
     High Wood was at last carried after many hours of very
     severe fighting, reflecting great credit on the attacking
     battalions. Our success made it possible to carry out during
     the afternoon that part of the plan which provided for the
     capture of Martinpuich and Courcelette, and by the end of
     the day both these villages were in our hands. On the 18th
     September the work of this day was completed by the capture
     of the Quadrilateral, an enemy stronghold which had hitherto
     blocked our progress towards Morval.

     The result of the fighting on the 15th September and the
     following days was a gain more considerable than any which
     had attended our arms in the course of a single operation
     since the commencement of the offensive. In the course of
     one day’s fighting we had broken through two of the enemy’s          78
     main defensive systems, and had advanced on a front of over
     six miles to an average depth of a mile. In the course of
     this advance we had taken three villages, each powerfully
     organised for prolonged resistance.... The total number of
     prisoners taken by us in these operations amounted to over
     4,000, including 127 officers.”

The 168th Brigade, on the left of the divisional front, was
responsible for holding Middle Copse. On the two nights of the 19th
and 20th September the London Scottish provided covering parties for
the 5th Cheshire Regt., who connected Beef Trench with Middle Copse,
and carried on two lines of trench in a north-easterly direction as
far as the rail or tram line; companies of these pioneers also
connected the Copse with the south-east side of the Quadrilateral.
This work resulted in a firm line some 900 yards in length facing
Bouleaux Wood, and gradually working round Combles.

Prisoners captured by the London Scottish while covering the digging
parties were from the 2nd Battalion, 235th Regiment, Reserve 51st

The right wing of the British Army had not yet reached the line
desired by Sir Douglas Haig. Morval, Les Bœufs, and Gueudecourt were
still in the hands of the enemy, and on the right Combles still held
out at the junction of the Allied Armies. An Allied attack from the
Somme to Martinpuich was arranged for the 23rd September, but the
weather was so bad that it had to be postponed until the 25th. [The
battle of Morval.]

  [Illustration: 2. GINCHY & MORVAL.

The 168th Brigade were relieved by the 167th, and obtained a little
rest from the night of the 22nd to the night of the 24th. The battle      79
front of the division was then the 169th Brigade on the right between
Leuze Wood and Combles, the 167th Brigade in Beef and Bully Trenches,
and the 168th Brigade in the new trenches ready to attack Bouleaux
Wood from the north-west, or rather to envelop it, as the wood was not
to be entered.

The main task of the 56th Division was to continue building up the
flank, to neutralise the German detachments in Bouleaux Wood, and to
get touch with the 5th Division on the left. The actual objectives of
the 168th Brigade were some trenches between the north-east of the
wood and the tram-line, also the bank and cutting of the tram-line.
The 167th Brigade were to help by directing machine-gun and
trench-mortar fire on the wood, and the 169th Brigade by firing on the
north and north-east exits of Combles.

The whole Corps attacked at 12.35 p.m., and the German resistance
crumbled away.

The 4th London Regt. on the right and the London Scottish on the left
advanced under “a most efficient enfilade artillery barrage.” All
objectives were reached. The 4th London Regt. killed a large number of
Huns in shell-holes round the north end of the wood, and suffered
themselves somewhat from enemy snipers in the southern part of the
wood. The London Scottish had some trouble and quite a stiff fight to
clear the railway embankment, during which the left company suffered
severely. But four machine guns were captured there and eighty
prisoners. These two battalions overran their objectives and curled
round the end of Bouleaux Wood.

The 5th, 6th, and Guards Divisions on the left swept through all their    80
objectives--Morval and Les Bœufs were captured.

For some time the London Scottish were out of touch with the 5th
Division, which had swerved too far to the right, but the complete
success of the operations enabled the 56th Division to improve the
position round Combles. By three o’clock in the afternoon the 4th
London Regt. had two companies in the north end of Bouleaux Wood, and
both the attacking battalions of the 168th Brigade had pushed out
patrols towards Combles. Artillery observation officers reported to
Gen. Hull that the enemy could be seen hurrying, in small parties,
from Combles in an easterly direction.

A steady pressure was kept on the Germans in Bouleaux Wood. The centre
of resistance here was round the derelict Tank on the left edge of the
wood. The 1st London Regt. was on one side of the Tank and the enemy
on the other. On the right the London Rifle Brigade and the Queen
Victoria’s Rifles gave the enemy no rest in the sunken road and the
trench leading to Combles.

By midnight the 168th Brigade had posts east of Combles, the 167th
Brigade had cleared the lower end of Bouleaux Wood and got behind the
Tank, and the 169th Brigade had captured all of the sunken road trench
and the Combles trench. And at dawn an officer’s patrol of the 168th
Brigade had met a French patrol on the east of Combles. The London
Rifle Brigade had already entered the town at 3.30 a.m. and secured
touch with the French there.

The line desired by Sir Douglas Haig had been captured and there was a
momentary pause. The line held by the 56th Division at midday on the
26th was some 1,500 yards to the east of Combles. The 167th Brigade       81
were in the front line and in touch with the 5th Division and the
French; the 168th Brigade were a short distance in rear, round about
the railway cuttings; and the 169th Brigade were half in Combles and
half to the west of it. The Germans were some distance away, holding
what was known as Mutton Trench in force, and it was arranged that the
168th Brigade should attack with the assistance of five Tanks. But the
Tanks failed to put in an appearance, and after waiting twenty-four
hours, the Rangers were told that the attack was cancelled.

Meanwhile our Allies on the right had captured Frigicourt and had the
hard nut of Sailly-Saillisel to crack. To assist them in securing this
very important position, Sir Douglas Haig agreed to hand over the line
as far as Morval, so on the 28th the division was relieved and marched
for a few days’ rest to the neighbourhood of Ville-sur-Ancre and

                     *     *     *     *     *

The battle, however, still raged. Sir Douglas Haig was pushing the
enemy hard:

     “The success of the Fourth Army had now brought our advance
     to a stage at which I judged it advisable that Thiepval
     should be taken, in order to bring our left flank into line
     and establish it on the main ridge above that village, the
     possession of which would be of considerable value in future

     Accordingly, at 12.25 p.m. on the 26th September, before the
     enemy had been given time to recover from the blow struck by
     the Fourth Army, a general attack was launched against
     Thiepval and the Thiepval Ridge.... The attack was a
     brilliant success. On the right our troops reached the
     system of enemy trenches which formed their objective
     without great difficulty. In Thiepval and the strong works           82
     to the north of it the enemy’s resistance was more
     desperate.... On the left of the attack fierce fighting, in
     which Tanks again gave valuable assistance to our troops,
     continued in Thiepval during the day and the following
     night, but by 8.30 a.m. on the 27th September the whole of
     the village of Thiepval was in our hands.”

The rest for the division, however, was not for very long. Reinforced,
though hardly refreshed, the brigades began to move back to the line.
On the 29th September the 167th Brigade was in Trones Wood, west of
Guillemont, and the 169th in a camp near by. On the last night of
September the latter brigade took over the line from the 6th Division,
with the right in touch with the French, while the 167th relieved the
2nd Guards Brigade on the left.

The position taken over was outside Les Bœufs, in the trenches called
Foggy and Windy. Battalions in line from the right were the Queen’s
Westminsters, Queen Victoria’s, 1st Londons, and the 7th Middlesex.
The orders were that they should send out patrols and occupy a line of
posts over the crest of the ridge--the 169th Brigade posts A, B, C, D,
and the 167th Brigade E, F, G, H, and K.

On October 2nd the 167th Brigade reported having joined up a line of
posts, but we cannot make the map-readings given agree with what is
known of positions in subsequent events. The country was more than
ever devoid of landmarks--it was just a wide expanse of shell-holes in
a dark brown, almost black, kind of earth--and no one knew either
their own position or those of the enemy within a few hundred yards;
and the few hundred yards were a matter of importance. Anyhow, the        83
line was not the line of posts, but probably near the line we have
sketched on the left of 34. Touch was obtained with the 20th Division
on the left.

Gen. Hull was now instructed that the Fourth Army would renew the
attack on the 5th October, and that the XIV Corps would establish
itself on a line from which the main Transloy defences could be
attacked at a later date. The 56th Division would capture Hazy,
Dewdrop, Spectrum, and part of Rainbow, and establish a line along the
west crest of the ridge; the Division would then, as a second phase of
the attack, establish a line on the forward slope of the ridge from
which Le Transloy could be seen. The General ordered that the 169th
Brigade should attack on the right, and the 167th Brigade on the left.
[The battle of the Transloy Ridges, 1st-18th October.]

The weather became steadily worse and, though water is supposed to run
downhill and the division was on the slope of a hill, the troops might
just as well have been in the middle of a pond. No one could move, and
the operations were postponed for forty-eight hours.

Assembly trenches were dug; and patrols reported the enemy some 200
yards on the farther side of the ridge. The objectives for the attack
were well beyond the line of posts it had been hoped to occupy with
patrols, and the 2/1st London and 1/1st Edinburgh Field Companies
R.E., with two companies of the 5th Cheshire Regt., were given to the
two brigades to consolidate what was gained.

The assault took place at 1.45 p.m. on the 7th October, and on the
left was fairly successful. The 7th Middlesex, on the extreme left,       84
and the left company of the 1st London Regt. drove the enemy out of
the northern half of Spectrum and part of Rainbow, where they joined
with the 20th Division. The right company of the 1st Londons, however,
was held up by machine-gun fire from Dewdrop and failed to reach that
end of Spectrum.

The 168th Brigade fared badly on the right. Three battalions attacked
in line--the London Scottish, the 4th London Regt., and the Rangers.
Two machine guns were in the front line, for covering fire, and four
others west of Les Bœufs, for indirect covering fire; there were also
six Stokes mortars in Burnaby to put a barrage on Dewdrop. In some
respects the attack was peculiar. As was so often the case, the
direction of the attack was at an angle to our front, and the London
Scottish, starting the assault from the right at 1.45 p.m., were
followed by the 4th London Regt. at 1.47 and the Rangers at 1.49 p.m.;
this was calculated to bring the three battalions into line by the
time Dewdrop and the gun-pits were reached.

The leading company of the Rangers, on the left, was knocked out,
before it had gone fifty yards, by machine guns in the northern end of
Dewdrop, and the reserve companies of the battalion came under a very
heavy barrage and did not succeed in carrying forward the attack. The
remnants of this battalion lay out in shell-holes until dusk, when
they returned to the original line.

The 4th London Regt., in the centre, met with much the same fate. The
left company was annihilated, and the right company, managing to reach
a patch of dead ground, lay down unable to move. The rear waves were
met with intense artillery fire, but advanced most gallantly to the       85
line of the leading troops. From the dead ground attempts were made to
outflank the gun-pits, from which the hostile machine-gun fire was
directed, and small parties managed to work well round to the south.

The London Scottish advanced well for about 400 yards, and occupied
the south gun-pits and the southern end of Hazy. The enemy at once
attempted a counter-attack from the northern end, but this was driven
off. But it was found that a wide gap existed between the right of the
battalion and the French, who had attacked east instead of north-east,
and small parties of the London Scottish were successively pushed out
to fill the gap and get touch. At six o’clock they had succeeded in
establishing a thin but continuous line in touch with our Allies. But
the situation was a very difficult one. The enemy had received
reinforcements in Hazy and the north gun-pits--from all appearances
fresh troops--and both flanks of the London Scottish were in the air
and exposed to the immediate presence of the enemy.

At 8.30 p.m. the German counter-attack developed, and, though heavy
casualties were inflicted on the enemy, he succeeded in forcing the
London Scottish and the right of the 4th London Regt., which was
creeping round the gun-pits, to retire to our original line.

The division, at nightfall, was left with a net gain of part of
Spectrum and Rainbow. Gen. Hull then ordered a renewal of the attack
on the next day, and sent up the London Rifle Brigade and the Queen
Victoria’s Rifles to the 168th Brigade, and the Queen’s Westminster
Rifles to the 167th Brigade.

The assault took place at 3.30 p.m. on the 8th October, and almost at     86
once Brig.-Gen. Freeth reported that the barrage was very feeble.

On the 168th Brigade front the attack was arranged this time so that
it started simultaneously all along the line. The London Rifle Brigade
on the right advanced steadily for about 500 yards, and again gained a
foothold in Hazy. But the experience of the previous day was repeated.
The northern gun-pits, with their garrison of machine-gunners, was
held by the enemy, who poured a devastating fire into the left flank
of the four advancing waves, and on this occasion there was fire from
the right flank as well; the attack was in the main held up about
fifty yards from Hazy, where a shell-hole line was established. The
reserve company was sent forward to fill the gap which existed, as on
the first attack, between us and the French.

The Queen Victoria’s Rifles and the 3rd London Regt., on the 167th
Brigade front, failed to make any appreciable advance. Both Dewdrop
and the south of Spectrum resting on the sunken road were strongly
garrisoned, and the machine-gun fire was withering. At 10.30 p.m. all
troops were withdrawn to the original line.

The position on the morning of the 9th was that we held Spectrum to
the bend in the trench just south of the sunken road, and had a strong
party of the Queen’s Westminsters in the sunken road. On the remainder
of the front there had been no advance.

  [Illustration: 3. THE TRANSLOY RIDGE.]

On these two days 84 prisoners of the 31st and 84th Reserve Infantry
Regts., 18th Division, and two machine guns were captured. The great
difficulty experienced was to know where troops were situated. The
weather was bad, and the effort of attacking was in itself a gigantic     87
one, but that effort had been made, and seemed to hang on the brink of
success, and if the artillery could have helped a little more would
have been entirely satisfactory. The artillery, however, were greatly
handicapped. Maps could not tell them where the new enemy trenches
were, and aeroplanes were unable to take photographs. As to being
helped by roads, though these were clearly marked on the map, they had
been almost completely blown away by shell fire on the ground and were
by no means easy to distinguish. It was a vile country.

The latter days of the Somme battle were even worse for the R.A.M.C.
Wounded men had to be carried to Ginchy and frequently from there to
Montauban. The medical branch of the division never experienced a
harder time than that on the Somme.

On the night of the 9th October the 56th Division was relieved by the
4th Division. The battles of the Somme were practically over. Sir
Douglas Haig wanted to push on in the direction of Le Transloy:

     “On our eastern flank ... it was important to gain ground.
     Here the enemy still possessed a strong system of trenches
     covering the villages of Transloy and Beaulencourt and the
     town of Bapaume; but although he was digging with feverish
     haste, he had not been able to create any very formidable
     defences behind this line. In this direction, in fact, we
     had at last reached a stage at which a successful attack
     might reasonably be expected to yield much greater results
     than anything we had yet attained. The resistance of the
     troops opposed to us had seriously weakened in the course of
     our recent operations, and there was no reason to suppose
     that the effort required would not be within our powers.

     This last completed system of defence, before Le Transloy,           88
     was flanked to the south by the enemy’s position at
     Sailly-Saillisel and screened to the west by the spur lying
     between Le Transloy and Les Bœufs. A necessary preliminary,
     therefore, to an assault upon it was to secure the spur and
     the Sailly-Saillisel heights. Possession of the high ground
     at this latter village would at once give us far better
     command over the ground to the north and the north-west,
     secure the flank of our operations towards Transloy, and
     deprive the enemy of observation over the Allied
     communications in the Combles valley. In view of the enemy’s
     efforts to construct new systems of defence behind the Le
     Transloy line, it was desirable to lose no time in dealing
     with the situation.

     Unfortunately, at this juncture very unfavourable weather
     set in, and continued with scarcely a break during the
     remainder of October and the early part of November. Poor
     visibility seriously interfered with the work of our
     artillery, and constant rain turned the mass of hastily-dug
     trenches for which we were fighting into channels of deep
     mud. The country roads, broken by countless shell craters,
     that cross the deep stretch of ground we had lately won,
     rapidly became almost impassable, making the supply of food,
     stores, and ammunition a serious problem. These conditions
     multiplied the difficulties of attack to such an extent that
     it was found impossible to exploit the situation with the
     rapidity necessary to enable us to reap the full benefits of
     the advantages we had gained.”

Two attacks were, indeed, made to assist the French in their
operations against the important village of Sailly-Saillisel, which
fell to them on the 18th of the month, but by that time the weather
had become so bad, and the delay had been so long, that the decisive
moment had passed. [The short and successful battle of the Ancre was      89
fought on the 13-18th November, bringing the total number of 1916
Somme battles up to twelve.]

                     *     *     *     *     *

Lieut.-Col. A. D. Bayliffe, who commanded the 168th Brigade through
this great battle, wrote at the time an interesting paper which he
heads: “Lessons to be deducted from the Operations on the Somme.”
Written with the incidents and conditions fresh on his mind, and for
future guidance, it is not a criticism of the actions fought, but from
his recommendations we may gather something of the difficulties which
had to be faced and overcome. We give only some striking extracts:

     “The results of the operations carried out by this brigade
     bear out more than ever the necessity for an assault being
     made direct at the objective. Failures, or partial failures,
     are attributable to present-day troops being asked to
     perform a complicated manœuvre such as a wheel or change of
     direction during an assault.

     The objectives allotted should be as far as possible
     definite, and should be chosen on the ground so that
     well-defined landmarks may be included. With the heavy
     casualties which occur among the officers, and considering
     the partially-trained state of N.C.O.s and men, it is seldom
     any use leaving the site of the objective to the judgment of
     the assaulting troops.

     In order to comply with this suggestion, it is essential
     that a proper scheme of assembly trenches should be thought
     out, and proper time given for their construction even in
     the rapid advances which have been taking place.

     In this connection it should be remembered that troops
     engaged in holding the line cannot be expected to do much            90
     digging work. Also that, without further training,
     reinforcement officers are incapable of finding their way
     over unknown ground, even with good maps, and that they
     cannot tape out trenches and extend working parties. It is
     therefore necessary to use pioneers very largely for the
     digging of assembly trenches if this essential work is to be
     well done.

     Attacks delivered on too broad a front with too little
     weight fail even against what appears to be inferior hostile
     defences. The reason is that assaulting troops edge away
     from the source of hostile fire, and when the lines of men
     are too thin, they move forward through the gaps in the
     hostile defences without dealing with them.

     It appears that assaults, to be successful, should never be
     delivered with less than four waves even against near
     objectives. One hostile machine gun may completely break up
     the first wave or two; if there are two or more waves in
     rear they may successfully carry on the assault.

     It is desirable to have Battalion Headquarters as far
     forward as possible, right up in the front assembly trenches
     if possible, before an attack. But it is no good placing
     them there unless there is some suitable shelter (however
     small), and unless time is available to lay communication
     lines forward. Brigade Headquarters should also be right
     forward, provided there is some accommodation. This
     facilitates personal reconnaissance and liaison.

     If the efficiency of a brigade is to be maintained as a
     fighting unit through a period of several weeks of active
     operations, a far larger proportion of officers and men
     should be left back than is customary. The average
     reinforcement officer is quite useless when his first
     appearance on service is in the middle of a modern battle. I
     would suggest that a battalion should go into action with
     from 12 to 16 officers only, and that 4 to 8 more should be
     kept about the line of Brigade Headquarters, and the remainder       91
     to be at the transport lines. N.C.O.s should be dealt with
     in the same proportion.

     It is well borne out through these operations that, if the
     artillery barrage is good and the infantry advance close to
     it, they will probably reach their objective without heavy
     loss. Usually the standing barrage was put up behind the
     objective, and it is thought that the standing barrage
     should be on the objective until the creeping barrage
     coincides with it and then both move together to their next
     standing line.

     On one occasion (7th October) the three battalions of
     infantry on this brigade front had to advance at different
     times; the consequence was that the last to move had to face
     a very heavy barrage in addition to machine-gun fire. It is
     thought that the infantry should always move at zero, even
     if they are not in line with each other, and that the
     barrage line should be made to conform with the line of the
     assaulting infantry.

     As usual there was a complete lack of touch throughout the
     operations with the heavy artillery. It is thought that the
     artillery group system should be extended so as to include
     some heavy artillery.

     It is suggested that a large supply of signboards, painted
     white or luminous, should be prepared for active operations,
     and also a supply of trench bridges ... reliefs were often
     much complicated and delayed by the lack of good tracks.

     The value of the Stokes mortars in the more open fighting we
     have been having is very doubtful. The results achieved have
     never been commensurate with the great labour involved in
     getting the guns and ammunition forward. The trench mortar,
     from an administrative point of view, is more trouble than
     any other unit when frequent moves and reliefs occur, as it
     is not self-contained, and much work and trouble is involved
     at very busy moments in devising how its stores are to be

     The Tanks allotted to co-operate with this brigade were not          92
     found to be of any use at all. It is thought that Tanks
     require select crews of great determination, and officers in
     charge who have more experience and knowledge of the methods
     of infantry and artillery in war. If the speed of the Tanks
     could be increased, it would add very greatly to their

The difficulties indicated in this paper were those which faced the
actual fighting men. We have already mentioned the zigzag line, and
the reader will readily appreciate how the attempt to form a front,
moving in a given direction after the men had left the trenches,
frequently led to confusion and loss of direction. Col. Bayliffe’s
statement that men will edge away from the source of fire does not
necessarily contravert our assertion that they are drawn towards the
sound of fire, which must be read in conjunction with the admitted
uncertainty of the exact position of an objective. During an attack no
officer or N.C.O. can control more than half a dozen men, and the more
usual number is two. On this basis the proportion of officers and
N.C.O.s is totally inadequate, and it follows that success depends
largely on the men themselves. The assaulting troops will fall
naturally under two heads: leaders and followers. The leaders are the
men of greater initiative, and in moments of uncertainty, when doubt
of their direction seizes them, when no trench is visible, they turn
towards the sound of the enemy--the place where the firing comes from.
It is one of the factors to be dealt with in keeping direction. A line
which has become thin through casualties will, no doubt, swerve from a
strongly-held post.

And what a lot is covered by the paragraph on digging! The physical       93
effort required to go through a battle like the Somme was colossal.
Relief meant only relief from the actual front line, not relief from
open trenches, from wet, from mud, from cold, or even from severe
casualties; it was merely a case of moving a short way back to other
trenches. After days of this sort of life an assault was a most
exhausting experience and, if successful, was not finished with the
written message, “We are on our objective.” Exhausted men were called
upon to dig new trenches at once, under fierce fire, and the trenches
dug, they waited for the counter-attack which, on the Somme,
inevitably followed. Perhaps the counter-attack succeeded and the men
were driven back to their original line--and still there was no rest.

Imagine the condition of mind of the surviving officers and men of a
company when they were reinforced by troops straight from home, with
no experience of modern or indeed any other form of fighting. The
reinforcements came almost as an added anxiety to the old men. And how
could the new arrivals be expected to appreciate the advantage of
following close on our own barrage, in itself a doubt-provoking thing?
There was nothing easy for the regimental officer or for his men; they
fought the enemy, the earth, and the sky.

We give the gallant colonel’s remarks on Tanks as an interesting light
on the early proceedings of the new engines of war. We are well aware
that they will provoke a smile from some readers, but they are none
the less justifiable. Tanks accomplished very little on this part of
the battle front. To the infantry they seemed only to attract the
attention of the enemy with the appalling noise they made and the very
definite target they afforded, and then they broke down! Col.             94
Bayliffe’s opinion, which does not absolutely condemn the use of
Tanks, was shared by two Brigadier-Generals of the 16th Division, and
most of the infantry in less exalted positions. That they afterwards
accomplished the object of their inventors is beside the point.

Heaven forbid that we should appear to offer excuses for the 56th
Division--none are needed. But we find it impossible to give a true
picture of the conditions under which men fought, and by placing a few
of the difficulties before the reader, hope to enable him to
appreciate the truly great fighting qualities of these London men.
Success conjures up to the mind a picture of swift movement, and such
successes were gained during the war--but not on the Somme. The enemy
was strong and determined, and fought to the last. Gen. Falkenhayn,
who was the instigator of the Verdun offensive, seems to rather
pooh-pooh the battle of the Somme, and give the impression that it had
little effect on the Central Powers; but as he was dismissed at the
end of August, one might deduce that other people did not share his
views. Hindenburg and Ludendorff, on the other hand, wag their heads
gravely over the whole business. The Germans were being badly
battered, and were fighting most desperately to arrest disaster. And
so, in recording the exploits of the 56th Division, we have to repeat
somewhat monotonously the account of attacks being continually
delivered on the same trench or point.

The trouble in a battle of this sort is to reconcile the two points of
view: that of the Higher Command and that of the infantry. For the
infantry there was no break in the fighting--if they did not assault      95
“over the top,” they were bombing the enemy out of a trench or being
bombed out themselves. And it is not too easy to decide what
particular trenches were held at any one moment. The position in Loop
Trench, for instance, was continually changing. Combles Trench, the
sunken road, and the southern end of Bouleaux Wood were points of
continual struggle. The enemy exerted his full pressure on the 56th
Division. But for the Higher Command this month of fighting divides
itself into five attacks!

The plan on this part of the front was to surround Combles by joining
the French on the far side. The junction of two armies of different
nationalities might always be considered a point of weakness, and the
movement itself was one of which the enemy could take advantage. Lord
Cavan explains the position very clearly with a small rough sketch:

     “The plan to take Combles was like this:


     Therefore during the advance the protection of my flank from
     a possible counter-stroke down the arrow was most important.         96
     This protection from Leuze Wood to Morval was splendidly and
     gloriously afforded. Further, in the actual attack on Morval
     and Les Bœufs this protecting flank had to be advanced to
     keep pace with the attack. The key of this was the capture
     of a trench about X-X. This was captured and held, and the
     complete success of the battle was assured. I had every
     confidence in Hull and his men, tired though they were, and
     this confidence was more than justified.”

This grim, determined, and desperate struggle reveals qualities in the
London troops which, though they existed, would not in a more
spectacular success have been so clearly demonstrated. It requires
good men to attack again and again until their object is gained, and
when these attacks are launched against such splendidly trained
soldiers as the Germans, one can only marvel that the thing was ever
done, and applaud the steadfast courage, the endurance of body and
spirit, which enabled the men to do it.

True, the battles of the Somme ended with both sides being stuck in
the mud--an inglorious ending to so much heroism--and the final, and
perhaps fatal, stroke was snatched from our grasp by the weather; but
those who came through the battle may now consider dispassionately
what it was they had accomplished.

The Central Powers (we must always remember that we fought more than
the strength of Germany) had decided, as we know, to bleed France
white on the field of Verdun. They were also pressing Italy hard and
had gained important successes. The Entente Powers replied first with
Brussiloff’s attack, and secondly with the Franco-British offensive on
the Somme. Falkenhayn declares that the most dangerous moment of          97
the Russian offensive had been passed before the first shot of the
battle of the Somme had been fired. He also maintains that the
Austrian loss of the right bank of the Isonzo had no connection with
the Somme; that the Germans would not in any case have sent troops to
help their ally in Italy. As for Verdun, he deals with it in a
somewhat unsatisfactory paragraph:

     “The only tangible gain, then, of this battle to the enemy
     remains in its effect on the situation on the Western Front.
     As a matter of course, an expenditure of strength such as
     the enemy favoured demanded the use of corresponding forces
     for the defence. The operations in the Meuse area were not
     yet, however, immediately affected. On the 11th July we were
     still able, by a strong thrust, to advance our line on the
     east bank.... After this it was the tension of the whole
     situation, and especially the necessity to husband our
     _matériel_ and ammunition, which necessitated the
     abandonment of any big German offensive operations on the
     Meuse. The headquarters of the Crown Prince’s Army Group
     were instructed to carry on the offensive calmly and
     according to plan, so as to give the enemy no good reason
     for concluding that he could hope for its cessation. This,
     too, was quite successful, for the French were unable to
     bring up reinforcements from the Meuse to the Somme front
     until September, when, following on the change of Chief of
     the General Staff, the ‘Verdun-offensive’ had been
     completely abandoned.”

The last sentence is, of course, the bitter pill for Falkenhayn. It is
perhaps only natural that he would seek to justify his policy, and
persist that he was right and would have succeeded had he been left
alone. Hindenburg’s memoirs give one a somewhat different impression:     98

     “Very soon after I took over my new post I found myself
     compelled by the general situation to ask His Majesty the
     Emperor to order the offensive at Verdun to be broken off.
     The battles there exhausted our forces like an open wound.
     Moreover, it was obvious in any case that the enterprise had
     become hopeless, and that for us to persevere with it would
     cost us greater losses than those we were able to inflict on
     the enemy. The battlefield was a regular hell, and was
     regarded as such by the troops.”

And of the Somme he says:

     “The extent of the demands which were being made on the army
     in the West was brought before my eyes quite vividly for the
     first time during this visit to France. I will not hesitate
     to admit that it was only now that I fully realised all that
     the Western Armies had done hitherto.... I could now
     understand how everyone, officers and men alike, longed to
     get away from such an atmosphere.... Many of our best and
     finest fighting men had to pour out their heart’s blood in
     destroyed trenches....

     It was only when the arrival of the wet season began to make
     the ground impossible that things became quieter in the
     battle area of the Somme. The million of shell-holes filled
     with water became mere cemeteries.... Over everyone hovered
     the fearful spectre of this battlefield, which for
     desolation and horror seemed to be even worse than that of

General Ludendorff carries the impression still further[3]:

     “On the Somme the enemy’s powerful artillery, assisted by            99
     excellent aeroplane observation and fed with enormous
     supplies of ammunition, had kept down our fire and destroyed
     our artillery. The defence of our infantry had become so
     flabby that the massed attacks of the enemy always
     succeeded. Not only did our _moral_ suffer, but in
     addition to fearful wastage in killed and wounded, we lost a
     large number of prisoners and much material....

     The 25th saw the beginning of the heaviest of the many heavy
     engagements that made up the battle of the Somme. Great were
     our losses. The enemy took Rancourt, Morval, Gueudecourt,
     and the hotly-contested Combles. On the 26th the Thiepval
     salient fell....

     The fighting had made the most extraordinary demands both on
     commanders and troops.... Divisions and other formations had
     to be thrown in on the Somme front in quicker succession,
     and had to stay in the line longer. The time for
     recuperation and training on quiet sectors became shorter
     and shorter. The troops were getting exhausted. Everything
     was cut as fine as possible. The strain on our nerves in
     Pless was terrible....”

We may conclude, then, that the Somme, as the chief counter-stroke of
the Entente Powers, defeated the Central Powers; France was not bled
white; and although the Russians were driven back, and Roumania, who
had entered the war, was speedily defeated by the Central Powers,
Italy was relieved and delivered a successful counter-attack on the
Austrians. The situation, as a result of the Somme, although the
individual British soldier may not have thought it vastly improved,
was more than ever serious for the Central Powers, and one could not
at that stage hope for more.

The total number of prisoners taken by the British Armies on the         100
Somme, from 1st July to 18th November, was over 38,000. Also 29 heavy
guns, 96 field guns, 136 trench mortars, and 514 machine guns.

     [3] _My War Memories, 1914-1918_, Ludendorff.

                             CHAPTER III                                 101


One might well imagine that the 56th Division was entitled to a rest,
but the days when armies retired into winter-quarters had
passed--unless a “quiet” bit of the line may be so called. There was a
rest for a few days in the neighbourhood of Belloy-sur-Somme,
north-west of Amiens. Battalions moved there, after a night at
Bernafay Wood, Mansell Camp, or the Citadel, by bus, and all moves
were complete by the 12th October. Then they rested and cleaned up.

There was a slight rearrangement on the 20th, which brought Divisional
Headquarters to Hallencourt, and some of the units into other
villages, but the division was once more on the move almost
immediately, and on the 24th October was behind the 61st Division in
the country round Lestrem. Three days later brigades commenced the
relief of the 61st Division in the Richbourg l’Avoué-Laventie line.

This bit of country was exceedingly flat, and in normal times was
drained by innumerable ditches. It was one of those bits of country
where trenches are an impossibility--soil and water seem to be
combined in equal proportions. Naturally war conditions did not
improve the draining, and at times large tracts of the country were
flooded. Our defences were breastworks, and the system of holding the    102
line was by a combination of posts. There were certain advantages
about this line, matters of space and of easy approach, but they were
only apparent when the weather was fine; when it was cold and wet,
shelter was very difficult to find.

At first all three brigades were in line, but on the 27th November the
5th Division was put in on the right and the front was shortened, so
that two brigades held the line and one was in reserve.

The whole of the division, however, did not arrive in this sector at
once. The artillery had been left on the Somme battlefield covering
the left of the French. Of this time Brig.-Gen. Elkington writes:

     “During the whole of the month of October the heavy and
     incessant rain had made the going so bad that it was almost
     impossible to get vehicles up to the positions. Improvised
     ammunition carriers were made out of the baskets from the
     ammunition wagons, and for the last part of the operations
     all ammunition, rations, and water went up on pack animals.
     It was most difficult to get material for dugouts up to the
     guns, and in consequence officers and men suffered a great
     deal of discomfort. The horses also suffered very much from
     the constant hard, heavy work. The 56th Divisional Artillery
     were relieved on the 31st October by the 8th Divisional
     Artillery. Owing to the heavy going, the withdrawal of the
     guns was a difficult job, and one section of A/280, which
     got stuck in deep mud, took two days to get out. The 56th
     Divisional Artillery marched from the Somme on the 1st
     November, badly in need of a rest and refit in the way of
     clothes, etc., and on the 5th we arrived on the Neuville-St.
     Vaast front, and went into the line, covering the 3rd
     Canadian Division facing the Vimy Ridge, on the 6th. The
     headquarters of the artillery was established at Aubigny,           103
     where the headquarters of the Canadian Division, under
     Major-Gen. Lipsett, were.

     From the 7th November to the 1st December we remained
     covering the Canadian Division. The sector was a very quiet
     one, but the batteries were very extended, and it was a
     matter of very long walks going round them, as cars were not
     allowed forward. We were very well done by the Canadians,
     and the men were able to get reclothed, and the horses
     managed to pick up in the good stabling.... On the 1st
     December the 56th Divisional Artillery was relieved by the
     Canadian R.F.A., and we marched to the Neuve Chapelle area
     to cover our own division.”

Meanwhile the 56th Division was covered by the 6th Divisional

Reinforcements for the shattered battalions were prompt, and all
monthly strength returns show a good average of a thousand men for
battalions. Horses remained steadily about 5,100, although the number
fell during the battle of the Somme. In actual numbers the division
was of average strength, but the quality had suffered. We find, for
instance, a record that a draft of over a thousand men arrived about
this period, and that they had not been instructed in musketry! With
all the will in the world such men were not of very great use.
Provision was made, however, for their instruction.

Almost at once the reputation of this Neuve Chapelle front began to
change. It had been considered a quiet bit of line with nothing much
happening beyond mining and counter-mining. On the 28th October the
enemy opened a trench-mortar bombardment which Australian miners
declared to have been the heaviest they had experienced during their     104
stay in that line. The system of holding the line by means of posts,
too, gave many opportunities for patrol work, as it was a system
adopted by both sides. The advantage of position, as was so often the
case, was with the Germans, who were on the Aubers Ridge, with better
observation and drier ground.

The month of November was a quiet month, cold and wet. No Man’s Land
was flooded and patrols found it very difficult to move about, as they
could not avoid splashing and consequent betrayal of their presence.

On the 30th November the enemy raided the 7th Middlesex, who occupied
as part of their line a mine-crater. Major Emery was on the spot, and
with two men drove them off. They failed to secure identification. The
next day, however, we secured identification in the shape of a Lieut.
Steinhardt, 19th Bavarian Regt., who was in charge of a patrol which
was dispersed by one of our Lewis-gun teams--an experience which the
lieutenant found so bewildering that he lost his way and entered our
lines, under the impression that they were his own.

Two lance-corporals, Millar and Wodley, of the 2nd London Regt., also
secured identification by chasing a German patrol of five men, of whom
they killed one and the remaining four put up their hands. These men
were of the 7th Bavarian Regt., 5th Bavarian Division, III Bavarian

The policy of the XI Corps (Gen. Haking) was to annoy the enemy on all
occasions and keep him always uneasy. The month of December was
therefore devoted to most active patrolling, and the enemy lines were
entered again and again only to be found empty. There is only one        105
record of finding the line occupied, when the Queen Victoria’s Rifles
captured two prisoners. The reason, of course, was the state of the
ground, and it affords an interesting sidelight on the endurance shown
by the men of the 56th Division, as the trenches, or rather defences,
they occupied were similar to those of the Hun.

The operations of the winter are, in fact, only of interest as showing
the endurance, the determination, and the spirit of the 56th Division.
There was nothing in the nature of an attack or even a raid of any
magnitude--it was a matter of small parties of men resisting the
fearful conditions of climate, and penetrating with the greatest
boldness into the enemy lines.

Having ascertained that the enemy was not occupying his line, but
merely patrolling it, a more aggressive attitude was adopted from the
1st January, 1917. On the first day of the year snipers, from the
battalions in line, established themselves in the German front line
and remained there all day. They had a few opportunities which they
did not miss.

The operations until the 14th January were carried out by battalions
of the 167th Brigade; those between the 14th and 29th by the 169th
Brigade. Briefly they may be summarised.

On the night of the 3rd/4th January 100 men of a new draft were taken
across No Man’s Land, in parties of six, to “visit” the enemy
trenches; this was no easy matter on account of the state of the
ground. On the same night two officers of the 3rd London Regt.
penetrated almost to the enemy support lines, when they were held up
by deep water.

On the night 9/10th January four posts were established in the enemy     106
front line, and on the next night two more.

On the 14th a post known as Hampstead Heath was violently attacked by
the enemy in very superior numbers. This post was held by the 7th
Middlesex, and the men were so cold they could scarcely move; the
Queen’s Westminster Rifles were actually halfway across No Man’s Land
on the way to relieve them when the attack occurred. This relief was
apparently driven back by trench-mortar barrage and machine-gun fire.
The 7th Middlesex men put up a fight, but their Lewis gun was jammed
and useless, and they were forced out of the post. One man was found
to be missing. The record of this regiment is particularly fine, and
they felt very acutely the taking of this prisoner by the enemy. The
7th Middlesex is one of the two Imperial Service Battalions of the
Territorial Force which existed at the outbreak of war. It was the
first battalion to leave the country and was sent to hold Gibraltar.
In March 1915 it arrived in France and was attached to the 8th
Division at La Gorgue--in this same area. From the taking over of the
line immediately after the battle of Neuve Chapelle it went through
many engagements before joining the 56th Division, and up to this
time, in spite of all the attacks on the Somme, it had only lost six
men as prisoners. Its casualties in France, to date, were: 28 officers
and 338 other ranks killed, 35 officers and 763 other ranks wounded.

On the morning of the 15th January another post called Bertha was
attacked under cover of a dense fog, and after four men out of eleven
had been killed, the post (of the 1st London Regt.) was driven
out--but two were taken prisoners. Almost immediately, however, a
patrol of the same regiment, composed of four men, left our front        107
line and reoccupied the post, and by noon our troops had restored the
position. The enemy made another attack, but were driven off. This
post evidently caused the Germans great annoyance, as they attacked it
on the night of the 16/17th January and were again driven off.

From the 17th to the 20th the posts were bombarded by artillery and
trench mortars, and on the 21st, under cover of an intense
bombardment, the enemy succeeded in occupying Bertha Post. A
counter-attack was at once organised, but it failed, owing to two
machine guns which the enemy had brought up with them. In the early
morning our patrols discovered the enemy leaving it, and it was again

During the night 22nd/23rd January the enemy made an organised attempt
to recapture all the posts. After repeated attacks the garrison of
Bertha Post was once more forced to retire, and again reoccupied the
spot in the early morning.

The enemy shelled the posts all day on the 23rd and 24th, on the
latter with a large percentage of lachrymatory shells, which shelling
was followed by four separate attacks. After hand-to-hand and bombing
fights they were driven off.

On the evening of the 27th the enemy concentrated his artillery fire
on Irma Post, which until then had only received general attention
from him, and succeeded in driving the garrison out. We then drove the
enemy out by artillery fire, and the post was reoccupied by us.

On the 28th the Army Commander, Gen. Horne, directed that all the
posts should be vacated.

One cannot consider these incidents only as small bickerings. The       108
artillery fire which the men had to face was remarkably accurate and
very fierce, and there was also the weather. At first No Man’s Land
was a swamp, or a lake, and then a cold snap set in, which was
paralysing to all who had to live in the open. The men had no cover
either from shell fire or the weather--the “posts” were only a matter
of shell-holes on our side of the German breastworks, and improved
with the help of a shovel and a pick. In face of these hardships the
courage and determination of the troops of the 56th Division never
faltered, although at one time Capt. Newnham felt impelled to write
that, “although wiring has been much strengthened, actual
consolidation is impossible owing to the frozen ground. The garrison
feel they are occupying shell traps. Battalions are on the defensive
and not offensive, and the _moral_ of the men is suffering. At the
same time our existing defences are falling into disrepair.” In spite
of this dictum the men succeeded, after it was written, in driving off
four severe attacks, but it gives an indication of the desperate
conditions under which the 56th Division carried out an aggressive

All this work drew from the Corps Commander a personal letter to Gen.

     “I should be glad if you would convey, to the troops of the
     division under your command, my appreciation of the
     operations they have carried out so successfully during the
     last month in establishing posts in the German front line,
     and holding them in spite of heavy bombardments and hostile
     infantry attacks.

     The effects of the operations are much greater than the
     troops that took part in them are probably aware of. They           109
     have shown the enemy the offensive and enterprising spirit
     displayed by our troops, and have encouraged other British
     formations to adopt similar tactics which will have a
     far-reaching effect.

     Brig.-Gens. Loch and Freeth, who conducted the operations at
     different periods when you were acting in command of the
     Corps, deserve credit for the determined manner in which
     they continued the pressure against the enemy in spite of
     serious opposition. The various counter-attacks by our
     troops, immediately delivered without waiting for any
     further orders and simply adhering to the plan laid down by
     you, show a fine military spirit on the part of officers and
     men of the battalions engaged.

     I was particularly pleased with the action of the scouts of
     the 1st London Regt. who went across No Man’s Land in
     daylight on the 14th January, and with the prompt action of
     “B” Company, Queen Victoria’s Rifles, under Capt. Brand, on
     the night of January 22nd/23rd, when the posts were
     attacked. Also with “A” and “B” Companies of the London
     Rifle Brigade, under Lieut. Prior and 2/Lieut. Rose, who
     held Enfield and Barnet Posts in the enemy lines on the
     night of January 24/25th, when their posts were shelled with
     lachrymatory shells and our men had to wear respirators.
     These posts were then heavily attacked, and the supporting
     platoons quickly traversed No Man’s Land before the hostile
     barrage was put down. I am also glad that the artillery
     support on all occasions throughout these operations has
     been prompt and effective.

                               R. HAKING, Lieutenant-General,
                                    Commanding XI Corps.

     _3rd February, 1917._”

The division then settled down to more ordinary trench routine; but
the active season was approaching.

                     *     *     *     *     *

Although the first day of the new year seems to mark a definite break    110
in time, no such break was obvious to the British troops in France and
Belgium. Sir Douglas Haig was determined to seize every favourable
opportunity to push the advantage that had been won at the battle of
the Somme. Between the Ancre and the Scarpe valleys the enemy was in a
very pronounced salient. A series of operations were undertaken
against the flank of this salient, commencing in November 1916. It
was, however, necessary to wait on the weather, and although some
valuable positions were captured, real advance was not made until
January, when actions were won and ground gained at Beaumont Hamel,
Grandcourt, Miraumont, Serre, Gommecourt, and Irles. These successes
opened the way for a big operation against the Le Transloy-Loupart
line. The enemy then made his celebrated retreat to the Hindenburg
Line. This line branched off from the original German defences near
Arras, ran south-east for twelve miles to Quéant, and then west of
Cambrai towards St. Quentin.

The opening of the new year is a most interesting study. The Germans
were beginning to feel the lack of men. Their retreat was decided upon
for the purpose of shortening their line and avoiding a battle. They
knew it would require months of preparation before an army could
advance to the attack across the wide area which they had
systematically laid waste. Here at least they reckoned on a breathing
space. And in Germany itself the Hindenburg programme for production
was coming into operation--everywhere they were carefully going over
their resources and reorganising.

England reached, in 1917, the height of her fighting power as regards    111
the number of divisions, and this was known to the enemy. So he waited
with some anxiety for developments on the Western Front.

The Germans had started their unrestricted submarine campaign, from
which they hoped to gain much benefit, but, on the other hand, they
were nervous of Russia--and Russia complicated the situation.

Ludendorff writes:

     “How often had I not hoped for a revolution in Russia in
     order that our military burden might be alleviated! But my
     desire had been merely a castle in the air. Now it had come
     true and as a surprise. It felt as though a weight had been
     removed from my chest.”

The revolution in Russia took place in March, and so, right at the
beginning of what promised to be an ominous year for the Germans, they
were able, by a stroke of fortune, to save ammunition in the East, and
to transfer fresh divisions from the East to the West, and let their
worn-out divisions deal with the Russians.

The Entente Powers, however, had no reason to feel more than
disappointment, as they dealt the Central Powers a blow by the capture
of Baghdad; and although they had no immediate support from America,
that country declared war on Germany as a result of the submarine
policy adopted.

The 56th Division opened the new year in very fair strength, as the
following return will show:

                                       Officers.  Other Ranks.
  Divisional Headquarters                 22        103
  167th Brigade Headquarters               2          3
  1st London Regt.                        34      1,028
  3rd London Regt.                        32      1,066
  8th Middlesex Regt.                     22      1,051
  167th Machine Gun Coy.                  11        171                  112
  168th Brigade Headquarters               7         25
  4th London Regt.                        40      1,003
  12th London Regt.                       47      1,073
  13th London Regt.                       38      1,043
  14th London Regt.                       37        963
  168th Machine Gun Coy.                  11        165
  169th Brigade Headquarters               8         26
  2nd London Regt.                        41      1,012
  5th London Regt.                        35      1,052
  9th London Regt.                        34      1,030
  16th London Regt.                       39        975
  169th Machine Gun Coy.                  11        182
  5th Cheshire Regt.                      38        890
  193rd Machine Gun Coy.                  10        174
  56th Divisional Artillery Headquarters   4         19
  280th Brigade R.F.A.                    29        756
  281st Brigade R.F.A.                    26        748
  282nd Brigade R.F.A.                    28        705
  D.A.C.                                  24        806
  56th Divisional R.E. Headquarters        2         10
  416th Edinburgh Field Coy.              10        210
  512th London Field Coy.                 10        212
  513th London Field Coy.                 10        218
  Divisional Signals                       6        212
  Divisional Train                        18        388
  Medical Units                           26        573
  Mobile Veterinary                        1         23

But soon after New Year’s Day the artillery was reorganised. The 56th
Divisional Artillery became two brigades (280th and 281st), each of
three (six-gun) 18-pounder batteries, and one (six-gun) howitzer
battery. For this purpose A/282 Howitzer Battery was split up, one
section going to D/280 and one to D/281. The 282nd Brigade, under the
new organisation, became an Army Field Artillery Brigade, and to bring
it up to strength it absorbed “B” Battery, 126th Brigade, and one
section of “D” Battery, 126th Brigade. This battery and section came
from the 37th Division.

In the big operations which were soon to take place, Gen. Hull had       113
Lieut.-Col. Packenham to help him as G.S.O.1.

                     *     *     *     *     *

Although we say the division went back to ordinary trench warfare
after January, it must not be thought that the policy of aggression
had been abandoned. The enemy lines were constantly visited and found
on most occasions to be empty. But the 13th London Regt., the
Kensingtons, secured five prisoners of the 13th Bavarian Regt., and
killed about forty on one occasion; and the London Rifle Brigade
obtained identification and killed three in a subsequent raid. The
enemy also made one attempt, and entered our line between two posts,
but the posts attacked him vigorously and drove him out, after killing
three of the party, who proved to be of the 13th Bavarian Regt.

On the 6th March the line was handed over to the 49th Division, and
the 56th Division left the First Army and was transferred to the VII
Corps (Snow), Third Army. Brigades marched back to the Flers area,
Divisional Headquarters being at Le Cauroy, and battalions scattered
about the country between Frevent and St. Pol, in the villages of
Beauvois, Hernicourt, Croisette, Pronay, Siracourt, Blangermont,
Blangerol, Guinecourt, Héricourt, Framecourt, Petit Houvin, Nuncy,
Haute Côte, Sibiville, Séricourt, Honval, etc.

                             CHAPTER IV                                  114

                    THE BATTLES OF ARRAS, 1917

                    THE SCARPE--MINOR ACTIONS

The Germans had commenced their retreat, and we know that the British
Higher Command had planned large movements. On the 14th March the
169th Brigade took over the front line between Achicourt and Agny, to
the south of Arras, with the 30th Division on the right and the 14th
Division on the left. Two days after a number of fires were seen in
the enemy lines to the south. The Hun was moving, but patrols found
him very alert on their immediate front.

Brig.-Gen. Coke, 169th Brigade, went round his line on the 15th March,
and the diary notes that “trenches in a shocking condition, full of
mud and dirt”! It was a normal condition for trenches, and one might
well be excused for wondering if the Italians or the forces in
Salonica fared any better in this respect. Did they find mud on the
top of a real mountain? Maybe their position was always in the valley,
in the centre of a stream!

As usual, patrols were out on the night of the 17th (the patrolling of
the 56th Division is worthy of great praise) and noticed nothing in
particular. But some scouts of the 2nd London Regt., lying close to
the enemy wire as dawn was breaking on the 18th, came to the
conclusion that the enemy line was not normal. They investigated and     115
found it empty. This was promptly reported to the company commander,
who sent out strong fighting patrols and occupied the front line.

Officers in the line acted with the greatest promptitude. Brigades on
either side were quick to follow the example of the 2nd London Regt.,
and all Headquarters were buzzing with excitement, although the
situation, in view of what was happening farther south, was not

By midday the 2nd London Regt. had occupied Beaurains. The whole Corps
was ordered to advance; the German second line was occupied, and on
the left the 14th Division were in the third line. The Corps order for
the advance, however, was cautious. It pointed out the probability of
the enemy withdrawing to a main line of defence, Telegraph Hill, and
the east half of Neuville Vitasse. The 169th Brigade were to keep
touch with the enemy, but Brig.-Gen. Coke must avoid becoming involved
in a serious engagement at present.

By the early morning of the 19th March patrols had established the
fact that the enemy were indeed holding Neuville Vitasse, and on the
left he was found at Tilloy, the Harp, Telegraph Hill, and Nice
Trench. Troops remained in front of Neuville Vitasse and constructed
advance trenches.

We have pointed out the salient, between the Ancre and the Scarpe,
which was the result of the battles of the Somme; and we have
mentioned the actions that had been fought on the right of this
salient in preparation to a bigger operation. It was the intention of
Sir Douglas Haig to attack the salient from both sides--the Fifth Army
in the south operating on the Ancre Front, and the Third Army about      116
Arras. The plan included the pinching off of the whole area, and on
the north of the Scarpe the capture of the Vimy Ridge. This latter
operation was the task of the First Army.

So far as the Fifth Army was concerned, the German retreat had avoided
a battle, but on the Third Army front their retirement must be
limited, as the enemy had no intention of giving up the Vimy Ridge on
our First Army front. Indeed, there was no retirement on the left of
the VII Corps, just south of Arras, which was the flank of the
Hindenburg Line.

But adjustments and new orders were necessary to meet the situation.
It was most desirable to attract as many enemy troops to our front
before the French offensive was launched in the south, and so the
Fifth Army was ordered to follow the enemy closely to the Hindenburg
Line, where it would exert the greatest pressure, and the Third and
First Armies would, with slight modifications of detail, carry out the
original attack as planned on their front.

The VII Corps was the most affected. The objectives of the Third Army
had been Mercatel, Hill 90, the German third-line system from Feuchy
Chapel, and the high ground about Monchy. The effect of the enemy
withdrawals on the VII Corps front was

     “to change our task from an attack in a south-easterly
     direction from prepared positions, to an attack in an
     easterly and north-easterly direction from improvised
     positions. But the objects of the attack remain the same;
     that is, to break through the enemy’s defensive line on the
     right of the Third Army front, to overrun all his defences
     as far as the Green Line (the far side of the Cojeul River),
     and to clear and hold the southern side of the gap which the        117
     VI Corps, advancing simultaneously with us, will have made.”

The VII Corps front was held by the 21st, 30th, 56th, and 14th
Divisions in line, with the 50th in reserve. On the right the 21st
Division had a very small rôle allotted to it. The first attack was to
be delivered by the 56th and 14th Divisions with the VI Corps on their
left (no German retreat had taken place here), and gradually the 30th
and then the 21st Divisions would take part in the advance.

The first phase of the planned attack gave to the 56th Division the
task of capturing Neuville Vitasse (the 30th would conform on the
right, but even so would not approach the enemy main line), and to the
14th Division the piercing of the extreme left of the Hindenburg Line
and part of the Harp; the 3rd Division, VI Corps, on the left would
capture Tilloy.

The second phase placed the right of the 30th Division on the south of
the Cojeul River and in possession of St. Martin-sur-Cojeul, and the
left through the Hindenburg (Cojeul Switch) Line, while the 56th and
14th would be in front of Wancourt.

The 56th and 14th Divisions were not to go beyond Nepal Trench, as the
30th Division, pushing up from the south-west, would cross their front
and, passing entirely to the south bank of the Cojeul, would join
hands with the troops of the VI Corps east of Guemappe. The 21st
Division would contribute to the flank thus formed with its right
standing fast on Croisilles.

After this Green Line, as it was called, there was the usual hopeful
reference to a distant objective, Cambrai, and some talk of cavalry,
no doubt a necessary provision, but one which, nevertheless, was         118
greeted with hilarity. One thing, however, seems very certain: the
German retreat caused very little inconvenience to the Third Army, and
none at all to the First.

Preparations for the attack on the Third Army front were carried on
swiftly. The enemy made no further move, but to the south, where he
had many miles to go before reaching the Hindenburg Line, he was still
being closely pursued by the Fifth Army. By the 2nd April the general
line was Sélency, Jeancourt, Epéhy, Royaulcourt, Doignies, Mercatel,
Beaurains. Between Sélency and Doignies the enemy still held positions
in advance of the Hindenburg Line, and minor engagements were
continually taking place on this section of the front.

On the night of the 1st April the 167th and 168th Brigades relieved
the 169th Brigade in the front line. The bombardment of the enemy
positions commenced on the 4th, and was carried on for five days.
Meanwhile troops could study the country they were to attack.

While the 169th Brigade had been in the line, training had been
carried on extensively by the other two brigades. Some of the
instructions and arrangements are worthy of note. For the men, open
fighting was the main practice. Regimental officers were told that

     “it must be realised that the maintenance of forward
     movement depends on the determination and power of direction
     of sections, platoons, companies, and battalions. The habit
     of digging a trench and getting into it, or of waiting for
     scientifically-arranged artillery barrages before advancing,
     must be discarded. A slow advance will give time for the            119
     German reinforcements to arrive--the greater the rapidity of
     an advance the more is resistance likely to lessen. A few
     sticky company commanders may not only delay the whole
     operation but, by giving the enemy time to reinforce, will
     also cause unnecessary casualties.”

We quote this for comparison with other instructions given at a later
date. There is nothing new in it, and nothing to criticise in it, but
man is a lover of precedent, and trench warfare, and failure to get
through to open fighting, was the precedent established for him.

Very interesting instructions were issued on the subject of signals
between infantry and artillery. One of the most curious facts of the
war was the general lack of communication between attacking infantry
and artillery. True, the infantryman in the front line is not always
in the best position to direct artillery fire, but, on the other hand,
he is frequently the only man who knows anything at all. We learned,
to our cost, the excellence of the German control of artillery fire,
and though our artillery observation officers performed the most
gallant feats, our method never seemed as good as that of the enemy.
The instructions issued were in imitation of the German method.
Coloured lights were to be fired from any sort of pistol. Green lights
were to mean “open fire,” and white lights “increase the range.” These
were the only signals to be employed, either by the Forward
Observation Officer or by the infantry. The plan does not appear to
have answered very well.

There were also definite instructions as to the strength of battalions
and the number of officers, non-commissioned officers, and men to be     120
left out of the fight. We must deal with that in another place, merely
noting here that platoons were now made up of one rifle section, one
Lewis-gun section, one bombing section, and one rifle grenade section,
and that a Divisional Depot Battalion was formed at Bouquemaison,
where all details left out of the battle were sent. The Depot
Battalion ensured a number of trained reinforcements being available.

We have left the 167th and 168th Brigades looking at Neuville Vitasse.
The way to that heap of ruins seemed clear, with the exception of a
strong point, Neuville Mill, situated on the right and in a position
to enfilade the attacking troops. On the 7th the 1st London Regt.
attempted to capture the place, but found it well defended with
machine guns, and failed. It was decided to deal with it by means of

The attack launched by the Third and First Armies on the morning of
the 9th April was on a front of fifteen miles, from Croisilles to the
northern foot of the Vimy Ridge. It included between four and five
miles of the Hindenburg Line.

The 56th Division attacked with the 167th Brigade on the right, having
the 3rd London Regt. and 8th Middlesex Regt. in line, with the 1st
London Regt. in support and the 7th Middlesex in reserve; the 168th
Brigade was on the left, with the 13th and 12th London Regts. in line,
the 14th in support, and the 4th in reserve. The Edinburgh Field Coy.
R.E. (less two sections) were with the right brigade, and the 513th
Field Coy. R.E. (less two sections), one company of the 5th Cheshires,
and two sections of the 193rd Divisional M.G. Coy. with the left
brigade. As the whole success of the operation depended on the 14th      121
Division, the left brigade had to be prepared to make a defensive
flank--hence the machine guns and pioneers.

The method of attack was what was sometimes called leap-frog. The two
battalions in line on each brigade front were to capture Pine Lane and
Neuville Vitasse, and then the supporting battalion would “go through”
them and capture the second defence, which was the Hindenburg, or
Cojeul Switch. In the case of the 167th Brigade, the reserve
battalion, the 7th Middlesex, were to carry on the game of leap-frog
and capture Nepal Trench.

The weather up to this point had been fine, but on the morning of the
9th dark clouds rolled up, bringing heavy showers. The attack was
started by the Corps on the left. The 56th Division moved to the
assault at 7.45 a.m.

The first phase of the attack was the capture of Neuville Vitasse. The
3rd London Regt., on the right, progressed well--two Tanks worked on
this battalion front and dealt with the strong point, Neuville
Mill--and at 10 a.m. had reached their first objective--that is to
say, they were in a position short of the Hindenburg Line. The 8th
Middlesex Regt. were delayed at first by uncut wire, but soon entered
the ruined village. Just before reaching the site of the church they
found themselves confronted by a “pocket” of determined Germans with
several machine guns. Working round the flanks of this “pocket,”
bombers and riflemen succeeded in enveloping the enemy, so that just
before eleven o’clock sixty-eight survivors surrendered with four
machine guns. The battalion then cleared the rest of Neuville Vitasse    122
and were in touch with the 3rd London Regt.

The Kensingtons swept through the enemy front line with little
opposition, and soon reached Moss Trench. Their reserve company,
seeing that all was well, moved south into the village and rendered
some assistance to the 8th Middlesex.

On the extreme left of the divisional line the 12th London Regt.,
after going through the first line, met some uncut wire which delayed
them, but soon after ten o’clock they were in touch with the
Kensingtons in Moss Trench, although their left was thrown back owing
to the right of the 14th Division being held up by uncut wire.

Of the two Tanks on the 168th Brigade front, which were supposed to
work round the north of the village, only one ever started, and very
soon that one was on fire.

Meanwhile the artillery, the 281st, 293rd, and “C” Battery of the
232nd Brigades, had moved across the old German line and taken
positions, about a thousand yards west of Neuville Vitasse, by ten
o’clock. (It will be noticed that the artillery was “grouped” again.)

Everything was therefore ready for the assault on the northern
extremity of the Hindenburg Line, and an advance to Nepal Trench.
This, as we have said, was to be done by the 14th and 1st London
Regts., who were the supporting battalions to each brigade.

The general plan at this point was that the 14th and 56th Divisions
should attack simultaneously, and the 30th Division, on the right, was
to follow in echelon. Not until the 7th Middlesex Regt.--which was in
reserve to the 167th Brigade, and was detailed to attack and capture     123
Nepal Trench after the Hindenburg Line had been made secure--had
passed Neuville Vitasse was the 30th Division to move. As the fighting
on this right flank of the 56th Division was the most severe, we will
deal first with the left flank.

The attack started at 12.10 p.m., and the London Scottish, passing
through the Kensingtons and 12th London Regt., were soon engaged in
some lively fighting which lasted about two hours. They killed a
number of the enemy, captured 100 of them and one machine gun, and
overran the mass of trenches by 1,000 yards. On their left they were
in touch with the 14th Division, but their right was in the air. As
the 167th Brigade had not progressed so well, the London Scottish
position was not too good.

On the right of the 56th Division the situation was obscure. The 30th
Division--timed to advance after the 167th Brigade--had failed, and
this failure enabled the enemy in Egg and the adjacent trenches to
give their undivided attention to the flank of the 56th Division. The
attack was held up.

Gen. Hull had foreseen strong opposition in this direction, and had
given Brig.-Gen. Freeth the 4th London Regt., the reserve battalion of
the 168th Brigade, and the Queen Victoria’s Rifles from the 169th
Brigade. So when it was seen that the 1st London Regt. had failed to
make progress, the 7th Middlesex and 4th London Regts. were launched.
Some progress was made, but casualties were heavy, and the position
remained uncertain and enveloped in a fog of rumour.

In order to give more stability to the line, Brig.-Gen. Loch, 168th
Brigade, ordered the Kensingtons forward into that part of the
Hindenburg Line which the London Scottish had captured, and the latter   124
battalion to withdraw from their forward position and reorganise.

The situation at 6 p.m. is shown (_A_) on map.

But the 14th Division, on the left, ordered an assault of the Wancourt
Line at 6.45 p.m., which attack, owing no doubt to the situation on
the 56th and 30th Divisional fronts, failed.

Soon after ten o’clock that night (9th April) the Corps ordered the
assault of the Wancourt Line to take place at eight the following
morning, but Gen. Hull pointed out that fighting was still going on,
that the situation would not be clear until daylight, and that his
division would not be able to attack at that hour. The order was,
therefore, amended so that the attack should take place when the
situation on the 56th and 14th Divisional fronts was clear.

In the darkness of the night the 167th Brigade troops bombed the
Germans out of all of the Hindenburg Line on their front, but they
were still giving much trouble from the 30th Division area. The London
Scottish were now able to advance again on the left and get in touch
with the 14th Division about 15.

The position did not seem too favourable unless something was done on
the right, but at 10.45 a.m. the Corps issued a more ambitious order:
that the attack was to be carried on to the east of Guemappe.

At midday the attack was launched, but now the whole direction was
altered. The left of the line, advancing on Wancourt, was held up, and
the right, in order to get elbow room, was forced to clear the
Hindenburg Line on the 30th Division front. In this maze of trenches
the 167th Brigade made steady progress towards the junction of the
Hindenburg and Wancourt Lines. This was good work, and the Corps         125
ordered the occupation of Hill 90, on the far side of the Wancourt
Line. Gen. Hull, however, informed the Corps that it could not be done
that night.

On the left the position was as uncertain as it had been the previous
day on the right. The 14th Division claimed to be in the Wancourt
Line, and eventually it was found that they had swerved to their left
and created a large gap between their right and the left of the London
Scottish, who were lying out in the open.

So the situation (_B_) remained through the night. The next day,
the 11th, nothing was done on the left of the line, but the 167th
Brigade carried on their good work and the Queen Victoria’s Rifles
cleared the Hindenburg Line as far as the Cojeul River, and a long
length of Nepal Trench, which was part of the Wancourt Line. The
difficulty of the 30th Division was apparently uncut wire. They seemed
to be stuck facing the Hindenburg Line, while the Queen Victoria’s
Rifles cleared it. A Corps telegram to this division reads:

     “Not satisfied that the infantry are receiving sufficient
     support from the artillery. The situation demands that as
     many batteries as possible be pushed forward so that enemy
     machine guns be dealt with at decisive range.”

The 167th were relieved by the 169th Brigade late in the afternoon,
after three days of very severe and successful fighting.

The 169th Brigade were ordered to consolidate Hill 90 and to push
patrols into Heninel, and later, when the 30th Division had occupied     126
the Hindenburg Line, to cross the River Cojeul and make good the high
ground to the south.

The attack ordered started at 5.15 a.m. on the 12th, and after stiff
bombing fights, the 2nd and 5th London Regts., working to the north
and south of Hill 90, joined hands on the other side of it. It was
found necessary, during this operation, to have a password, so that
converging parties should not bomb each other. To the great amusement
of the men the words “Rum jar” were chosen. The Germans, being bombed
from both sides, must have thought it an odd slogan. The enemy were
then seen withdrawing from Heninel, and the leading company of the 2nd
London Regt. immediately advanced and occupied the village. The 30th
Division then crossed to the south of the Cojeul River, and made
progress along the Hindenburg Line. Meanwhile the 2nd London Regt. had
pushed forward patrols and occupied the high ground to the east of
Heninel, where they got in touch with the 30th Division.

The occupation of Hill 90, which had been made possible by the 167th
Brigade and the Queen Victoria’s Rifles (attached), also caused the
enemy to vacate the village of Wancourt, which was entered by patrols
of the London Rifle Brigade about eleven o’clock. The 14th Division
moved two battalions, one on either side of the village, with a view
to continuing the advance to the high ground east of the Cojeul River,
and at 1 p.m. the Corps ordered the advance to be continued to the
Sensée River; but these orders were modified and the 56th Division was
told to consolidate (_C_) and prepare for an advance on the 13th.

On the 13th April nothing much was done. The 56th Division held the      127
ridge from 35 to Wancourt Tower; on the right the 33rd Division, which
had relieved the 30th, failed to advance; on the left the 50th
Division, which had relieved the 14th on the preceding night, also
failed to advance, having been held up by machine-gun fire from
Guemappe. But the Corps ordered a general advance on the next day, the
objective being the line of the Sensée River.

During the night the enemy blew up Wancourt Tower, which seemed to
suggest that he was contemplating retirement. At 5.30 a.m. our attack
was launched, but almost at once the 169th Brigade reported that the
Queen’s Westminster Rifles had gone forward with no one on their left.
About five hundred yards in front of them were some practice trenches
which the enemy had used for bombing. Capt. Newnham writes of the
attack dissolving about the line of these trenches. Apparently
Guemappe had not been taken on the left, and a perfect hail of
machine-gun fire enfiladed the advancing troops from this village. The
Queen Victoria’s Rifles, who attacked on the right, met with no better
fate, the leading waves being wiped out. From the diary of 169th
Brigade we learn that

     “the 151st Brigade attack on our left never developed,
     leaving our flank exposed. Enemy met with in considerable
     strength; they had just brought up fresh troops, and the
     allotment of machine guns, according to prisoners, was two
     per battalion. The 151st Brigade attack was ordered with
     their left flank on Wancourt Tower, which was our left and
     the dividing-line between brigades. Great confusion
     consequently on our left front, where two battalions of
     Durhams were mixed up with the Queen’s Westminster Rifles,
     and the London Rifle Brigade, moving up in support, added to        128
     the congestion. Casualties were heavy--Queen’s Westminster
     Rifles, 12 officers, 300 other ranks; Queen Victoria’s
     Rifles, 15 officers and 400 other ranks.”

The attack had not, however, dissolved at all points, as a thin line
of troops undoubtedly advanced a thousand yards, and more, beyond the
practice trenches. But these gallant fellows soon found themselves in
a very lonely position, and as the 30th and 50th Divisions failed to
make any ground at all, they had Germans practically on all sides of
them. They remained for some time and eventually withdrew.

The next two days, the 15th and 16th, were occupied in consolidating
the ground gained. The division had alarms of counter-attack, but
nothing developed on their front. On the left, however, the enemy
attacked and recaptured Wancourt Tower from the 50th Division. This
point was not retaken by us until the next day, but the 56th Division
were not concerned. Further advance was postponed until the 22nd
April, and on the 18th the 30th Division took over the line from the
56th Division.

This was the opening battle of the Arras series, and is known as the
First Battle of the Scarpe, 1917, and is linked up with the Battle of
Vimy Ridge. The student would do well to consider the two battles as
one. The capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadians, and of Monchy by
troops of the Third Army, gave us positions of great importance and
improved the situation round Arras. The feeling of the 56th Division
was that it had been a great fight, and that they had proved
themselves undoubtedly better men than the Germans. The capture of
Neuville Vitasse and subsequent rolling up of the Hindenburg Line to     129
the south of Heninel was a feat of which they felt proud. And they had
killed a lot of the enemy at close quarters.

It is an interesting battle, as it undoubtedly inflicted a terrifying
defeat on the enemy. Ludendorff says of it[4]:

     “The 10th April and the following days were critical. The
     consequences of a break through, of 12 to 15 kilometres wide
     and 6 or more kilometres deep, are not easy to meet. In view
     of the heavy losses in men, guns, and ammunition resulting
     from such a break through, colossal efforts are needed to
     make good the damage.... A day like 9th April threw all
     calculations to the winds. Many days had to pass before a
     line could really be formed and consolidated. The end of the
     crisis, even if troops were available, depended very
     largely, as it generally does in such cases, on whether the
     enemy, after his first victory, would attack again, and by
     further success aggravate the difficulty of forming a new
     line. Our position having been weakened, such victories were
     to be won only too easily....”

Hindenburg also confesses to very anxious moments, and suggests that
“the English did not seem to have known how to exploit the success
they had gained to the full.”

In his dispatch on this battle Sir Douglas Haig said that:

     “With the forces at my disposal, even combined with what the
     French proposed to undertake in co-operation, I did not
     consider that any great strategical results were likely to be       130
     gained by following up a success on the front about Arras,
     and to the south of it, beyond the capture of the objectives
     aimed at.... It was therefore my intention to transfer my
     main offensive to another part of the front after these
     objectives had been secured.

     The front selected for these operations was in Flanders.
     They were to be commenced as soon as possible after the
     Arras offensive, and continued throughout the summer, so far
     as the forces at my disposal would permit.”

It must be remembered that the plans for the year were drawn up in
consultation with our Allies, and the battles of Arras must be taken
as a part only of those plans. The First and Third Armies secured
positions which Sir Douglas Haig intended that they should secure;
they inflicted great loss on the enemy, more than 13,000 prisoners and
over 200 guns; they drew German reserves until at the end of the
operations there were twice as many enemy troops on that front as at
the beginning, which materially helped our Allies, who were on the
point of launching a big offensive on the Aisne and in Champagne. On
the whole, these battles fulfilled their object and may be viewed with

On the 16th April the French attacked the Chemin-des-Dames, north-west
of Rheims, and in the Champagne, south of Rheims. They met with very
heavy losses and most obstinate resistance. These were the
much-discussed operations under Gen. Nivelle, and, in order to assist,
Sir Douglas Haig agreed to continue the operations round Arras longer
than was his first intention. Plans, which had been made for a
rearrangement of artillery and troops for the operations at Ypres,       131
were cancelled, and orders were issued for a continuance, with shallow
objectives, of the fighting at Arras.

The First Battle of the Scarpe and the Battle of Vimy Ridge were,
therefore, the original scheme, and the subsequent battles should be
considered with this fact in mind. They were: the Second Battle of the
Scarpe, 1917, 23rd-24th April; the Battle of Arleux, 28th-29th April;
the Third Battle of the Scarpe, 1917, 3rd-4th May. The Battle of
Bullecourt, 3rd-17th May, and a number of actions must also be
included in the subsequent Arras offensive.

A few days’ rest was granted to the 56th Division. The 167th Brigade
was round Pommier, the 168th round Couin, the 169th round Souastre.
Divisional Headquarters were first at Couin and then at Hauteville. On
the 25th Gen. Hull was ordered to hold himself in readiness to move
into either the VI or the VII Corps, and the next day was definitely
ordered into the VI Corps. On the 27th the 167th Brigade relieved the
15th Division in the front line, and Divisional Headquarters opened in
Rue de la Paix, Arras.

                     *     *     *     *     *

From the Harp, which it will be remembered was the original line, to
east of Monchy there runs a ridge of an average height of 100 metres;
at Monchy itself it rises above 110 metres. This ridge shoots out a
number of spurs towards the Cojeul River to the south. The position
taken over by the 167th Brigade was from a small copse south-east of
Monchy to the Arras-Cambrai road, about 500 yards from the Cojeul, and
on the reverse slope of one of these spurs. Observation for them was     132
bad, and the enemy trenches were well sited and frequently over the
crest of the hill.

On the 29th the 169th Brigade took over the right of the line from the
167th. The front line was then held by the London Rifle Brigade, the
2nd London Regt., the 1st London Regt., and the 7th Middlesex
Regiment. The Queen Victoria’s Rifles were in support of the Queen’s
Westminster Rifles in reserve to the right brigade, and the 3rd London
Regt. in support and the 8th Middlesex Regt. in reserve to the left

With a view to the important operations which the French were to carry
out on the 5th May, it was decided to attack on an extended front at
Arras on the 3rd. While the Third and First Armies attacked from
Fontaine-les-Croisilles to Fresnoy, the Fifth Army launched an attack
on the Hindenburg Line about Bullecourt. This gave a total front of
over sixteen miles. [The Third Battle of the Scarpe, 1917.]

Zero hour was 3.45 a.m., and in the darkness, illumined by wavering
star-shells fired by a startled enemy, and with the crashing of the
barrage, the men of the 56th Division advanced from their assembly
trenches. As soon as the first waves topped the crest, they were met
with a withering machine-gun and rifle fire. The ground was confusing
and the darkness intense--officers, as was so often the case in night
attacks, found it impossible to direct their men. Exactly what
happened will never be known in detail. No reports came in for a
considerable time.

With daylight the artillery observation officers began to communicate
with headquarters. Our men, they said, had advanced 1,000 yards on       133
the right, and were digging in near a factory (Rohart) on the bank of
the Cojeul, and the 14th Division on their right seemed to have
reached its objectives. About 300 yards over the crest of the spur was
a trench known as Tool, and this seemed to be occupied by the enemy.

Soon after this the 169th Brigade reported that the London Rifle
Brigade were holding a pit near the factory and a trench about the
same place; the 2nd London Regt. had a footing in Tool Trench. The
latter position is doubtful, but the 2nd Londons were well forward.

Cavalry Farm, near and to the right of the original line, was still
held by the enemy, and about 10 o’clock the Queen Victoria’s Rifles,
after a short bombardment by the Stokes mortars, rushed and secured
the farm. They found a number of dugouts, which they bombed, and
secured 22 prisoners. The farm was connected with Tool Trench, and
they proceeded to bomb their way up it. It would appear, therefore,
that the 2nd London Regt. held a small section of this trench farther
to the north, if any at all.

We must now follow the 167th Brigade on the left. The two attacking
battalions had been met with even worse machine-gun fire than the
169th Brigade. There was no news of them for a long time. It is clear
that neither the 1st London Regt. nor the 7th Middlesex ever held any
of Tool Trench, but a few gallant parties did undoubtedly overrun
Tool, and, crossing a sunken road known as Stirrup Lane, reached
Lanyard Trench, quite a short distance from the men of the London
Rifle Brigade, who had lodged themselves in the pit near Rohart
Factory. They were, however, not in sufficient numbers to join hands     134
with the London Rifle Brigade, or some small groups of the 2nd London,
who were also in advanced shell-holes, and about 8 o’clock in the
evening were forced to surrender. (A small party was seen marching
east without arms.) The remaining 1st London and 7th Middlesex men lay
out in shell-holes in front of Tool Trench.

Soon after the Queen Victoria’s Rifles had captured Cavalry Farm and
started to bomb up Tool Trench, with the forward artillery and trench
mortars helping them, the 3rd Division on the left of the 56th
declared that their men were in the northern end of Tool. They asked
that the artillery should be lifted off the trench, as they were going
to bomb down towards the Queen Victoria’s Rifles. But it appears that
they were very soon driven out, as by 3 p.m. the 3rd Division were
definitely reported to be in touch with the 7th Middlesex in the
original line.

Meanwhile the 14th Division, on the right, which had made good
progress at the start, had been violently counter-attacked, and at
11.50 a.m. reported that they had been driven back to their original

Brig.-Gen. Coke, of the 169th Brigade, now found his men in a queer
position. The troops on either flank of his brigade were back in the
line they had started from; he ascertained that none of his brigade
were north of the Arras-Cambrai road, and so he held a long tongue in
the valley of the Cojeul open to attack from the high ground on either
side of it.

  [Illustration: _4. THE BATTLES OF ARRAS 1917._]

  [Illustration: _4. THE BATTLES OF ARRAS 1917._]

Much movement by the enemy was observed during the afternoon;
reinforcements were assembling in Tool and the sunken road behind it.
About 10 o’clock in the evening the Germans started a fierce             135
bombardment of the tongue of land held by the London Rifle Brigades
and 2nd London Regts., and, after an hour of ceaseless fire,
counter-attacked and drove the troops back to their original lines.

Gen. Hull then ordered them to hold their original line and
reorganise, but before the orders could reach them these two fine
battalions had attacked again and reoccupied all the positions they
had gained in the morning with the exception of Cavalry Farm. But they
were in a bad situation. With the enemy holding the Cambrai road in
force, the only communication with the advanced troops was down the
bottom of the valley, a place of much water and mud. Brig.-Gen. Coke
therefore withdrew his men just before sunrise. They brought with
them, however, a German officer and 15 men who had surrendered in the
neighbourhood of Cavalry Farm.

It had been a day of very hard fighting, and the gain on the whole of
the sixteen miles of front attacked was Fresnoy, which had been taken
by the Canadians, and a portion of the Hindenburg Line, east of
Bullecourt, captured by the Australians. The enemy had been terribly
frightened by the successful start of the battles of Arras. Hindenburg
and Ludendorff were putting into effect their new system of holding
the front in depth, but thin in the forward zones, with many machine
guns, and strong supports for immediate counter-attack. It seemed as
though their system had broken down at the first test, and, as the
Russians were no longer a menace to them, they poured reinforcements
across Germany. But, as we know, this continuation of the offensive
was with the object of helping our Allies by holding troops and guns     136
which might otherwise have been used against them.

The 167th and 169th Brigades held the line for one day more, and were
relieved by the 168th on the 5th May. The latter brigade also took
over a stretch of extra line to the north.

The enemy was exceedingly quiet and our patrols very active. If any
indication is wanted of the high _moral_ of the 56th Division, it can
be found in this patrol work. After an action of this kind, when the
two brigades lost just on a thousand men, really audacious
reconnoitring deserves the highest praise. Again and again attempts
were made by patrols to enter Tool Trench, only to find the enemy
alert. Cavalry Farm, on the right, and the copse, on the left, were
both entered and found unoccupied; but the exact position of the enemy
in Tool Trench was ascertained.

Meanwhile the heavy artillery kept up a steady fire on Tool Trench,
causing large numbers of Germans to run over the open and seek safer
ground. And troops worked hard on our trenches, which were greatly

At 8.30 p.m. on the 11th May the 4th London Regt. on the right and the
London Scottish on the left attacked Cavalry Farm and the trench on
the far side of it, and Tool Trench.

A practice barrage on the previous day had drawn heavy fire in a few
minutes, and it had been decided not to have a barrage, but to keep
the heavy artillery firing steadily to the last minute. The enemy, who
held the line in full strength, were taken by surprise. Only Cavalry
Farm was visible from our line, and the 4th London Regt. swept into
this place with no difficulty. But the right of the enemy line was       137
able to put up a fight, and the left company of the London Scottish
suffered somewhat severely. Except for this one point, the trench was
vacated by its garrison in a wild scramble. They could not, however,
escape the Lewis gunners and brigade machine-gunners, who did some
good execution. Quite a lot of the enemy were killed in the trench and
a round dozen taken prisoner--they were of the 128th Infantry Regt.
and the 5th Grenadier Regt. Eight machine guns were also found.

Tool Trench was only a part of the enemy line which ran up the hill on
the east of Monchy. To the south of the copse it was Tool and to the
north it was Hook. The very northern end of Tool and all of Hook
remained in the hands of the enemy. A block was made by filling in
about forty yards of the trench and the new line was consolidated.

The new line had been much damaged by our fire, but it was soon
reconstructed, and two communication trenches were dug to the old
line. Meanwhile the trench mortars kept up a steady bombardment of
Hook Trench, and snipers picked off the enemy as he attempted to seek
the safer shell-holes in the open.

During the next few days several deserters from the 5th Grenadier
Regt. came in, and they, in common with other prisoners, persisted in
stating that the enemy was contemplating a retirement. Patrols,
however, always found Lanyard Trench and Hook fully garrisoned. The
167th Brigade had taken over the line from the 168th, and the 8th
Middlesex attempted to rush both Lanyard and Hook; this was not done
in force, but was more in the nature of a surprise by strong patrols.
They found the enemy too alert.

On the 19th something in the nature of an attack in force was carried    138
out. The 8th Middlesex made a night attack, in conjunction with the
29th Division, on Hook Trench and the support line behind it. The
Middlesex men gained the junction of Hook and Tool, but were very
“bunched”; the 187th Brigade on the left made no progress at all. It
is probable that the Middlesex were more to the left than they
imagined, as they were heavily bombed from both flanks, and eventually
forced to withdraw.

On the 20th May the weary troops of the 56th Division were relieved by
the 37th Division.

In these actions and in the battle on the 3rd May the objectives were
shallow and the enemy fully prepared to resist, with large
reinforcements of men and guns in the field. The enemy barrage was
considered the heaviest that had, as yet, been encountered. The
positions attacked were well sited and frequently masked, and there
was also the complication of night assaults at short notice.
Brig.-Gen. Freeth, in an interesting report of the battle on the 3rd,

     “... Owing to the darkness it was extremely difficult for
     the assaulting troops to keep direction or the correct
     distances between waves. The tendency was for rear waves to
     push forward too fast for fear of losing touch with the wave
     in front of them. Consequently, by the time the leading wave
     was approaching Tool Trench, all the rear waves had
     telescoped into it. Even if Tool Trench had been taken, much
     delay would have been caused in extricating and moving
     forward waves allotted to the further objectives.”

Anyone who has taken part in a night attack will appreciate these
difficulties. If it goes well it is very well, but if not the
confusion is appalling.

The casualties from the 29th April to 21st May were 79 officers and      139
2,022 other ranks.

The general situation was that on the 5th May the French had delivered
their attack on the Chemin-des-Dames and achieved their object, but on
the whole the French offensive was disappointing. On the British
front, however, 19,500 prisoners and 257 guns had been captured, and
the situation round Arras greatly improved. The spring offensive was
at an end.

But fighting did not cease round Arras and over the width of the sixty
square miles of regained country. The Messines attack in the north was
in course of preparation, and the orders to the Fifth, Third, and
First Armies were to continue operations, with the forces left to
them, with the object of keeping the enemy in doubt as to whether the
offensive would be continued. Objectives, of a limited nature, were to
be selected, and importance given to such actions by combining with
them feint attacks. They were successful in their object, but there
was bitter with the sweet, as Sir Douglas Haig writes:

     “These measures seem to have had considerable success, if
     any weight may be attached to the enemy’s reports concerning
     them. They involved, however, the disadvantage that I
     frequently found myself unable to deny the German accounts
     of the bloody repulse of extensive British attacks which, in
     fact, never took place.”

The attack on Messines was launched on the 7th June, and was a
complete success. With the first crash of our concentrated artillery
nineteen mines were exploded, and our troops swept forward all along
the line. By the evening 7,200 prisoners, 67 guns, 94 trench mortars,    140
and 294 machine-guns had been captured.

The 56th Division indulged in a little well-earned rest. We read of
sports and horse shows in the vicinity of Habarcq, of concerts given
by the “Bow Bells” concert party (formed in 1916 at Souastre), and
diaries have the welcome entries “troops resting” as the only event of
the day. But this was not for long. Battalions were soon back in the
line, though much reduced in strength. For the first time we find, in
spite of reinforcements, that the average strength of battalions fell
to just over eight hundred.

The 169th Brigade lost Capt. Newnham, who went to the New Zealand
Division as G.S.O.2. He instituted a form of official diary which is a
delight to read--concise, but with occasional reflections of a dry,
humorous nature. Capt. Carden Roe, from the 29th Division, took his
place as Brigade Major.

During the 9th, 10th, and 11th of June the division relieved the 61st
Division in the line. The position was the same--Tool Trench from the
copse, on the left, to Cavalry Farm, but it was extended to Wancourt
Tower on the right.

The front now held measured 2,700 yards. Wancourt Tower was on the
summit of the high spur which runs parallel to the Cojeul River on the
south bank. The line can, then, be visualised stretching across the
valley, with right and left flanks of the division on the high ground
on either side of the river. From the right good observation was
obtained over the enemy lines on the left of the divisional front, and
from the copse, on the left of the line, similar observation could be
had over the enemy on the right.

The 3rd Division was on the left of the 56th, and on the 14th June, at   141
7.30 a.m., the former launched an attack on Hook Trench. The attack
was a complete success; the division came level with the 56th and
captured 175 prisoners.

The right of the 56th Division was held by the Queen’s Westminster
Rifles, and a few minutes after five o’clock in the evening sentries
noticed enemy movement behind a wood (Bois du Vert) which was opposite
the 3rd Division and on the left flank of the 56th. Careful watching
revealed the massing of troops. A warning was sent over the telephone.
The 76th Brigade, immediately on the left of the 56th Division, was
informed, as was the artillery.

Killing human beings is not dear to the heart of Englishmen. Green
troops would stand violent shelling, merely looking a bit tense about
the face, but although they saw their comrades fall, shattered to
pieces, or badly wounded, they would sometimes show a great
disinclination to fire on Germans walking in the open behind the enemy
lines. It seemed as though the idea was that the particular German in
question was not trying to injure them--he might have been carrying a
plank or a bag of rations--and so they would watch him and no one
would attempt to shoot unless there was an old soldier with them. This
frame of mind, however, did not last long.

But the evening of the 14th June was an occasion for glee. The Hun was
going to attack and all was ready for him. At 5.30 the grey waves left
the enemy trenches, and at once a storm of artillery, machine-gun, and
rifle fire met them. The Queen’s Westminster Rifles, of course, could
not fire, but they watched the action with great joy, and kept Brigade
and Divisional Headquarters informed of every enemy move. The attack     142
was smashed up and, thanks to the Queen’s Westminster Rifles, the
enemy was chased out of sight by the artillery.

After this costly lesson the Germans tried a night attack on the 16th
at 2.30 a.m. This time they succeeded in entering two posts, but the
3rd Division drove them out and the men of the 56th inflicted heavy
casualties from the flank.

Nothing more was done in this line beyond some skirmishing round a
post. The division was relieved on the 4th July and moved to the Le
Cauroy area.

                     *     *     *     *     *

We have said very little about the Divisional Artillery, but to follow
them too closely in these engagements would lead to confusion. They
supported the 56th Division during the battle of Arras--in the
original scheme--and when the division moved on the 20th April the
artillery remained where it was. Brig.-Gen. Elkington writes:

     “The 56th Divisional Artillery remained in the line in this
     sector, under different C.R.A.s and covering different
     divisions, and were not under my command again until the end
     of May, as I remained with the 56th Division and commanded
     the artillery covering them. All the divisional artilleries
     became much mixed up, and very few of the C.R.A.s had their
     own artillery under their own command....

     On the 24th May the division moved to the Habarcq area, and
     remained there until the 9th June. I established the R.A.
     Headquarters at Beaumetz, so as to keep in touch with our
     artillery, who were still in the line. At the end of May I
     got four days’ leave and went to Paris with Hawkes,
     Jorgensen, and Robinson, and we were joined there by Cols.
     Groves and Lemon. We all had an excellent time, and                 143
     enjoyed it immensely.... On the 5th July the 56th Divisional
     Artillery returned to my command, and we started to march to
     the Ypres area, and arrived at Oudezeele on the 13th July
     1917. This was a very clean and comfortable village, and all
     ranks were well billeted. We remained there until the 28th
     July, a very pleasant and well-earned rest for both officers
     and men, beautiful weather, and many sports were organised
     for officers and men. Several fatigue parties had to be
     furnished to assist the heavy artillery in the supply of
     ammunition, and these had very hard work and some
     casualties. During the later part our trench mortar
     batteries, under Capt. Robinson, went into the line with the
     Guards Division, and had rather a strenuous time doing
     excellent work. On the 9th July I went home on ten days’
     leave, and I got married on the 12th July....”

At one period of the war it was thought that the artillery had a
“soft” time, but as the war progressed it was seen that the zone which
included the lighter guns included also conditions which rendered the
comfort of artillerymen scarcely more enviable than that of the
infantry. We shall soon be able to throw a little more light on the
work of this very gallant arm of the Service.

     [4] _My War Memories, 1914-1918._

                             CHAPTER V                                   144


On the 2nd July a rearrangement of the front had placed the 56th
Division in the VII Corps, and they remained at Le Cauroy under the
orders of that Corps until the 23rd July, when they moved to
Eperlecques, near St. Omer, and came under the Fifth Army.

But the division lost Gen. Hull. It was absolutely necessary that he
should undergo a surgical operation, and the matter could not be
postponed any longer, so he went back to England. He was looked upon
as a friend as much as a commander, his striking personality had
impressed itself on all ranks, and his tall figure was recognised from
afar and welcomed whenever he visited the line or billets. The men saw
in him a fearless commander who knew his business. We are indebted to
Major Newnham for the following anecdote:

     “After the 1st July show (1916), the 169th Brigade held the
     trenches in front of Fouquevillers. The trenches, though on
     top of a hill, were dreadful. My diary records ‘all C.T.s
     thigh-deep in mud.’ Gen. Hull doubted our statement, so on
     Sunday, the 9th July, when he came to Brigade Headquarters,
     I showed him the state of things. We went up the main C.T.,
     and gradually the slime rose, first ankle, then knee, then
     thigh-deep. At length, where the C.T. ran in a hollow, I
     said, ‘Now we get to a really deep bit, sir!’ He said,              145
     ‘Well, I’m damned if I’m going through it--I’m getting out!’
     And we went over the top, though in full view from a large
     part of the Boche positions, and walked back in the open,

And the General was enthusiastic in praise of his division.

“We were a happy family,” he says. And “what pleased me as much as
their fighting qualities was their good temper and cheerfulness under
all circumstances,” and the circumstances were at times appallingly
severe. He was himself always cheerful, though his pet dog, an Irish
greyhound named Roy, has been described as “a miserable hound.” He
encouraged his staff to play “bridge” whenever their work permitted,
as a means of taking their minds off the war. All work and no play
would have made even a G.S.O.1 a dull boy, and relaxation was not easy
to find. He commanded the 4th Battalion Middlesex Regt. at Mons, and
was given command of the 10th Brigade on the 17th November 1914. When
he first entered the army in 1887, he joined the Royal Scots
Fusiliers, and was transferred to the Middlesex Regt. in 1912. We are
sorry to say that the “miserable hound,” Roy, who had been with the
General since January 1916, cut a tendon and had to be destroyed in
Belgium, although he survived the war.

Gen. Hull was not, however, lost to the division, as he returned
later. Meanwhile Gen. W. Douglas Smith was given command.

Troops were being massed for the big offensive at Ypres, and the Fifth
Army Staff, under Sir Hubert Gough, had been moved to take command of    146
the greater part of the salient. Sir Herbert Plumer was still there,
but on the southern side, and with a reduced army.

                     *     *     *     *     *

In July 1917 England reached the summit of her military power in
France. There were 52 divisions from the Motherland, 4 from Canada, 5
from Australia, 1 from New Zealand. One might, therefore, expect a
year of great results. And so it was, though not perhaps obviously

Writing of the year as a whole, Sir Douglas Haig says:

     “The general conditions of the struggle this year have been
     very different from those contemplated at the conference of
     the Allied Commanders held in November 1916. The great
     general and simultaneous offensive then agreed on did not
     materialise. Russia, though some of her leaders made a fine
     effort at one period, not only failed to give the help
     expected of her, but even failed to prevent the enemy from
     transferring some forty divisions from her front in exchange
     for tired ones used up in the Western theatre, or from
     replacing losses in his divisions on this side by drafts of
     fresh and well-trained men drawn from divisions in the East.

     The combined French and British offensive in the spring was
     launched before Italy could be ready; and the splendid
     effort made by Italy at a later period was, unfortunately,
     followed by developments which resulted in a weakening of
     the Allied forces in this theatre before the conclusion of
     our offensive.

     In these circumstances the task of the British and French
     armies has been a far heavier one throughout the year than
     was originally anticipated, and the enemy’s means of meeting        147
     our attack have been far greater than either he or we could
     have expected.”

It was a year of disappointment, but was not a year without
achievement. We had failed against the Turk at Gaza, but had succeeded
at Baghdad; the French spring offensive had not succeeded, and our own
could only be described as a steadying blow at the Germans; Kerensky
came on the scene in Russia in May, and no doubt did his best, but
discipline had gone, and the offensive of Brussiloff and Korniloff,
though it succeeded at first, was well in hand, so far as the Central
Powers were concerned, in July. The East was the weak spot in our
calculations, with Russia going to ruin and dragging Rumania with her.
It was as well that Britain was at the crest of the power wave.

After all, battles have a further object than the mere killing of men.
For quite a long while after the commencement of the war the Germans
talked boastfully of their “will.” The will to victory was going to
crush the _moral_ of their enemies. But although the Russian
revolution caused great rejoicing, although the German High Command
claimed a long list of victories, it seemed that German _moral_
was somehow flagging, and their enemy’s will to victory was as
determined as ever.

Ludendorff admits that in the summer of 1917 the position of the
Central Powers was better than that of the Entente, but that there
were other causes for “our spiritual decline.” He says that
Field-Marshal Hindenburg wrote to the Emperor on the 27th June that
“our greatest anxiety at this moment, however, is the decline of the
national spirit. It must be revived or we shall lose the war.” There
were speeches in the Reichstag containing the despairing cry that        148
it was impossible to win the war. On the 7th July Hindenburg and
Ludendorff met members of the Reichstag to discuss “our defensive
attitude throughout the first half of 1917, the various failures near
Arras, in the Wytschæte salient, and in Galicia, where we had not as
yet attacked, the absence up to date of any decisive result from the
submarine war, and our serious situation as regards food and raw
materials....” And finally, on the 25th July, General Ludendorff wrote
that “it is certain that the Independent Social Democrats are carrying
on an agitation in the army which is in the highest degree detrimental
to discipline.”

And the allies of Germany were giving her a great deal of trouble.

One can only ask what created this frame of mind? Even a Social
Democrat must have the ground prepared before his doctrines can
germinate and flourish; it must be fertilised with dissatisfaction and
watered with despair. The German and Austrian nations were as one in
their desire for war in August 1914, and so strong that they had
little difficulty in winning the Turkish and Bulgarian nations to
their cause. Then surely we may answer the question by saying that it
was the guns of the Allied artillery and the rifles of the Allied
infantry that caused the “will” to falter, even when the position
seemed most favourable to the War Lord and his advisers. It was a slow
process, but a sure one.

One must admit disappointment to France and Britain, as the leaders of
the countries allied against the Central Powers, but we cannot see the
justice of the German contention that their own position was good.       149
In considering the events of this war, it is not easy to appreciate
the mind of a man who says “the military situation was good, but the
condition of the country behind the army was bad.” Country and army
surely hang together. The Germans never looked upon war as a clash of
armies alone, but sought by every means in their power, by oppression,
by slavery, by terror, to bend the non-combatant population to their
will. It is a logical view. This war, at least, was waged by country
against country, by nation against nation, and as a nation Germany was
cracking, and her allies with her.

This was the state of affairs when the Battles of Ypres, 1917, after
an artillery preparation which had been growing in volume for a month,
opened with a stupendous crash on the 31st July--an official date.

From the very first the Second and Fifth British Armies, and the First
French Army on the left, met with the fiercest resistance. The left of
the Fifth Army and the First French Army gained the greatest
success--the right of the Fifth Army and the Second Army did little
more than capture the enemy first line of defence. Whatever the
condition of the German people, the German Army seemed as strong as
ever. And yet it was being nursed.

The system with which the Germans started the war was not one based on
consideration for lives. Verdun and the Somme had shaken the very
foundations of that system, and, if the German Army was still strong
and good, German Commanders had already expressed anxiety as to the
future conduct of their troops. Loss of lives and loss of _moral_ had
been responsible for a new method of defence. The front line was to be   150
held by few men and many machine guns, and retirement before strong
enemy fire was advocated. The position was to be regained by means of
rapid counter-attack. Instead of holding a “line,” a zone was held.
Defence in depth was the policy.

This loosened method of defence lessened the wastage of troops from
artillery fire, and in addition the system of “pill-boxes” was
instituted. These small reinforced concrete forts could withstand a
direct hit of all but the heaviest shell, and were admirably adapted
for the defence of a place like Flanders, where dugouts were almost an
impossibility. In fact, the new German pamphlet, “The Defensive
Battle,” was a distinct departure from the old “Cannon Fodder” point
of view. If the Reichstag was openly saying that the war could not be
won, the High Command of the Army was wondering if it would stand many
more blows.

Men who fought at Ypres will say that they noticed no loss of
_moral_ in the enemy, and with this we agree; we only wish to insist
that there were indications which had not escaped the eyes of the
German Command. As to the hard, heart-breaking fighting of the Battles
of Ypres, 1917, it is only just to the gallant French and British
troops to point out once more the many advantages that lay with their

For over two years the Germans had held their semicircle round the
east of Ypres. The positions they occupied, though only the summits of
insignificant-looking “rises,” not even worthy of the name of “hills,”
overlooked the whole of the French and British assembly area. Not a
move escaped their observers, who knew every inch of the ground. What    151
a place to prepare for an attack!

Books of reference will give the 31st July as the opening date of the
1917 Battles of Ypres. It is false. The 31st is the date of the
assault--the battles started with the first indications of the British
intention to attack. Every new trench, every trace of new digging,
every new track taped out, every building, every hamlet, every wood
was bombarded by the enemy with guns and aeroplanes, which became
extremely active at this period. As the concentration of troops
increased, all attempts at concealment were abandoned, and camps were
pitched in the open. The whole area was a “target,” and was well
described by a gunner who remarked, “Every time a coconut!”
Observation, on the other hand, was denied to us.

All this, bad in itself, the troops were able to face. But the enemy
had another advantage, being on the defensive, and that was the
condition of the ground over which the attackers had to advance.

There is no place on the whole of the Western Front which can be
compared to this stretch of Flanders. If an infantryman or an
artilleryman attempted to give an adequate account of the conditions,
and the horrors which they occasioned, he would not be believed. We
will, therefore, give the words of the Higher Command, with the one
criticism that they are not strong enough. Sir Douglas Haig wrote:

     “The weather had been threatening throughout the day (31st
     July) and had rendered the work of the aeroplanes very
     difficult from the commencement of the battle. During the           152
     afternoon, while the fighting was still in progress, rain
     fell, and fell steadily all night. Thereafter for four days
     the rain continued without cessation, and for several days
     after the weather remained stormy and unsettled. The
     lowlying clayey soil, torn by shells and sodden with rain,
     turned into a succession of vast muddy pools. The valleys of
     the choked and overflowing streams were speedily transformed
     into long stretches of bog, impassable except by a few
     well-defined tracks, which became marks for the enemy’s
     artillery. To leave these tracks was to risk death by
     drowning, and in the course of the subsequent fighting, on
     several occasions, both men and pack animals were lost in
     this way.... As had been the case in the Arras battle, this
     unavoidable delay in the development of our offensive was of
     the greatest service to the enemy. Valuable time was lost,
     the troops opposed to us were able to recover from the
     disorganisation produced by our first attack, and the enemy
     was given the opportunity to bring up reinforcements.”

The enemy view of the conditions is given by Ludendorff:

     “Enormous masses of ammunition, such as the human mind had
     never imagined before the war, was hurled upon the bodies of
     men who passed a miserable existence scattered about in
     mud-filled shell-holes. The horror of the shell-hole area of
     Verdun was surpassed. It was no longer life at all. It was
     mere unspeakable suffering. And through this world of mud
     the attackers dragged themselves, slowly but steadily, and
     in dense masses. Caught in the advance zone by our hail of
     fire they often collapsed, and the lonely man in the
     shell-hole breathed again. Then the mass came on again.
     Rifle and machine gun jammed with the mud. Man fought
     against man, and only too often the mass was successful....         153
     And yet it must be admitted that certain units no longer
     triumphed over the demoralising effects of the defensive
     battle as they had done formerly.”


Very naturally Ludendorff claims that statues in bronze should be
erected to the German soldier for the suffering he experienced at
Ypres. But his own picture of the attackers seems somehow to be worse
than that of the defenders, if there are degrees of suffering.

On the 31st July the assault of the Fifth Army met with complete
success on the left, where the crossing of the Steenbeke was secured.
But on the right the II Corps was only partially successful. After
overrunning the first system of defence about Hooge and Sanctuary
Wood, divisions were met with tremendous opposition, and eventually
checked at Inverness Copse and Glencorse Wood.

On the 4th of August the 56th Division started to move from
Eperlecques, and on the 6th Divisional Headquarters were at
Reninghelst under the II Corps. Major-Gen. F. A. Dudgeon assumed
command of the division on the 10th; and on the 12th the division took
over the line from Surbiton Villas to Westhoek, facing Glencorse Wood
and Nonne Bosschen. But before this date the Divisional Artillery was
in action.

                     *     *     *     *     *

We cannot do better than quote from Brig.-Gen. Elkington’s most
interesting diary:

     “On the 2nd and 3rd of August the 56th Divisional Artillery
     relieved the 8th Divisional Artillery in the line, taking over
     their gun positions near Hooge. The artillery then experienced
     what I think was their worst time during the war. All the           154
     battery positions were shelled day and night, more in the nature
     of harassing fire with occasional counter-battery shoots. The
     ground was so wet that digging was impossible, and the men lived
     in holes in the ground covered with corrugated iron. The early
     dawn was the only time it was safe to get supplies and ammunition
     if casualties were to be avoided, and with all precautions most
     batteries lost 100 per cent. of their gun line strength in killed
     and wounded. The artillery supported operations on the 10th,
     12th, 16th, and 25th August, and answered S.O.S. calls on most
     days; also a very heavy day on the 24th of August, when the enemy
     counter-attacked in force. On the 16th and 17th the whole of the
     guns of D/280 were put out of action; enemy shell fire and
     exploding ammunition practically blew them to pieces, and except
     for the actual tubes of the three howitzers, nothing was found
     worth salving. On the 31st August the artillery came out of the
     line, and entrained south on the 1st September to rejoin the 56th
     Division, and all ranks hoped they had seen the last of the Ypres

We can only add to this that the selection of gun positions was a
matter of finding a place where the guns would not disappear in the
mud and which was not already occupied by another battery.

The battle of the 16th is the one which concerns us. On that day the
Fifth Army attacked from the north-west corner of Inverness Copse to
the junction with the First French Army south of St. Janshoek [the
Battle of Langemarck, 1917]. The French always attacked on the left.

The II Corps, on the right, attacked with the 56th and 8th Divisions.
The objective was the same as that of the 31st July, a line drawn to
include some 500 yards in depth of Polygon Wood, and so on to the        155
north. But there is not much point in going over orders. Brig.-Gen.
Freeth reports (with some bitterness it seems to us): “Orders were
received and issued so hurriedly that it was impossible for brigade
and battalion staffs to keep pace with them. There was not time for
the scheme of operations to be thoroughly explained to regimental
officers, much less to the men.” Indeed, the mass of documents is
appalling, and, taken together with the facts, point to confusion of a
most distressing nature.

It must be understood that Gen. Dudgeon was in no better case than
Brig.-Gen. Freeth. On the 11th August the division had been ordered to
take over the line from the 18th Division and portions of the 25th
Division. On that same day the General attended a conference at Corps
Headquarters and learnt that the 53rd Brigade of the 18th Division
would remain in the line and come under his orders for the battle. He
was called upon to attack on a front of 1,500 yards on a depth of
1,700 yards, with a defensive flank of 1,700 yards extending from the
south-eastern corner of Stirling Castle to Black Watch Corner. On the
12th the 169th Brigade was ordered to undertake a small operation with
the object of improving the line about Glencorse Wood, an undertaking
which the 18th Division had failed to carry out. But the 169th Brigade
met with strong opposition and also failed. On the 14th the enemy
attacked the 167th Brigade, on the left of the line, and drove in some
posts; they were re-established. Later on that day, at a conference,
the Brigadier-General commanding the 53rd Brigade represented that his
brigade was not in a state to carry out the attack ordered owing to
heavy casualties. The General then placed the 4th London Regt. under     156
the orders of the 53rd Brigade and the trouble commenced--the
Commanding Officer was wounded on his way to interview the Brigadier.
The second in command had then to go and reconnoitre on the following
day, which left his battalion less than twenty-four hours in which to
make the necessary reconnaissance and preparation to get into

On the 15th instant, as the result of a conference with the Corps
Commander and the G.O.C. 8th Division, the starting line was altered.

Owing to the date fixed for the attack, an inter-battalion relief was
necessary on the night 14/15th. In fact the ground was so bad that
there were reliefs, or remains of reliefs, going on every night. It
was not possible to undertake any patrolling to gain a knowledge of
the ground, and in daylight the shelling was so constant and accurate
that study of the country was most difficult.

The General writes:

     “The darkness of the night, the boggy state of the ground,
     heavy shelling of all approaches, and the fact that the
     division was strange to the ground and had little
     opportunity for reconnaissance and preparation presented
     great difficulties in carrying out the assembly ... but the
     difficulties were surmounted and the troops assembled in
     time, though there is no doubt that the state of the ground
     caused much fatigue.”

So by 4 a.m. the 53rd Brigade, with the 7th Bedford, 6th Berkshire,
and 4th London Regts. in line, was on the right. In the centre was the
169th Brigade with the 5th and 2nd London Regts. in line. On the left
the 167th Brigade with the 8th Middlesex and 1st London Regts. in        157

At 4.45 a.m. on the 16th August the barrage opened and the assaulting
troops clambered out of their mud holes. Red and green lights were
fired from the enemy rear lines, but his barrage did not answer to
these signals for some minutes. But the new enemy system of defence in
depth and by means of concrete forts was to be met for the first time
by the 56th Division. The barrage was good and, if anything, crept
forward too slowly, but the concrete fort was immune from damage by
shells from the lighter batteries, and the German machine-gunner was
able to fire through our barrage.

The 7th Bedford Regt. was stopped at once by one of these forts on the
north-west of Inverness Copse. The failure to capture this point
reacted on the 4th London Regt., which suffered very heavy loss and
was brought to a standstill to the north of the western side of the
wood; they managed to work their way forward and form a defensive
flank along the southern edge of Glencorse Wood.

                     *     *     *     *     *

The 169th Brigade progressed well at first. The London Rifle Brigade
and the 2nd London Regt. disposed of isolated parties with machine
guns dotted about in shell holes on their front, but soon bumped into
a marsh. The 2nd London Regt. edged to the right, pushing the London
Rifle Brigade still farther away. And the same obstruction being met
by the 167th Brigade, the 8th Middlesex edged to the left, to avoid
the marsh, pushing the 1st London Regt. as they did so. There was then
a big gap between the two Brigades very soon after the start.

The enemy resistance was found by the 169th Brigade beyond the marsh     158
in the centre of Glencorse Wood. Here, along a sunken road, was a line
of concrete forts, or pill-boxes. Hard fighting and heavy casualties
followed. The artillery was no longer helpful, but Glencorse Wood was
finally cleared. The leading waves of the two battalions then went on
and reached Polygon Wood, but what happened to them is not known. The
second waves were checked at Polygon Wood by heavy fire from the front
and the flanks, and before they could steady themselves were thrown
back by a counter-attack which was only stopped by the Queen
Victoria’s Rifles, who were coming up in support. Later in the day a
second and heavier counter-attack from the east and south drove the
whole of the brigade back to the original front line.

  [Illustration: 5. THE BATTLE OF LANGEMARCK 1917.]

The 167th Brigade, on the left, made better progress than any of the
others--for a time. The gap between the 169th and 167th Brigades was
never filled, so that when the 8th Middlesex came across a second lake
of mud, four feet deep, about the north end of Nonne Bosschen, their
right flank was exposed. And on the left the 1st London Regt. had been
heavily shelled before the start, so that when they did advance the
rear waves pressed on the leading wave until all became mixed, and no
one carried out the special task of clearing the ground as it was won;
the position was that, although the main weight of the attack was
carried forward to the left of the 8th Middlesex, many enemy snipers
were behind both battalions of the 167th Brigade. There is also, on
this flank, the mystery of a company that disappeared. Although it
seems pretty clear that the waves bunched up together, they must also    159
have split; the third wave, composed of the larger part of a company,
was reported by its company commander, in writing sent by runner, to
be in a position north of Polygon Wood; and no doubt he got there, but
neither he nor his men were heard of again. A thin wave of the 8th
Division reached this same line, but were immediately driven back by a
massed and carefully timed counter-attack.

But the attack of the 167th Brigade was completely held up. At 7 a.m.
the 8th Middlesex saw the troops of the 169th Brigade falling back
through Glencorse Wood; they then took up a position to their rear,
their southern flank being refused so as to gain touch with the 169th
Brigade. The situation remained unaltered through the afternoon.

About 3 p.m. the enemy was reported to be massing opposite the 25th
Brigade on the left of the 56th Division, and shortly after to be
attacking all along the 167th Brigade front. In view of the barrier of
mud it is probable that he was only trying to reoccupy the ground from
which he had retired. But our artillery had direct observation and
heavy fire was opened on him, and his troops dispersed.

About 5 p.m. the 167th Brigade again retired to a more favourable
position, which gave them a net gain of 400 yards beyond their
original line. They were then in touch with the 25th Brigade, 8th

All attacking battalions were withdrawn and the line was held by the
Queen Victoria’s Rifles, the Queen’s Westminster Rifles, and the 7th
Middlesex Regt. The division was relieved the following night by the
14th Division, and moved to Steenvoorde E., Ouderdom, Wippenhoek, the
brigades being quartered in that numerical order.

The total casualties from the 13th to the 17th August were 111           160
officers and 2,794 other ranks. The loss in senior officers was
particularly heavy: Lieut.-Col. H. Campbell, Major V. A. Flower, Major
J. E. L. Higgins, and Major M. R. Harris, all of the 13th London Regt.
(Kensingtons); Lieut.-Col. R. R. Husey of the 5th London Regt.;
Lieut.-Col. J. P. Kellett of the 2nd London Regt.; Lieut.-Col. P. L.
Ingpen of the 8th Middlesex; and Lieut.-Col. F. W. D. Bendall of the
7th Middlesex Regt. were all wounded.

Maybe the confusion was inevitable, but it makes a sorry story in
which the great gallantry of the London Territorials stands forth like
something clean and honest in the midst of slime and mud. Gen. Dudgeon
gives us some of the causes of the failure to reach the desired

     “Insufficient time for preparation and explanation of the
     scheme of attack to those taking part, and insufficient time
     to study the terrain.

     The portion of the 25th Division relieved by the 167th
     Brigade had only been in the line twenty-four hours
     previously, and could not assist much.

     Lack of previous preparation. No dumps of any kind were
     taken over in the area, and there was insufficient time to
     form all those that were necessary.

     Indifferent communications. Tracks east of Château Wood were
     non-existent, and the tapes were soon obliterated by the

     Difficulty of maintaining signal communication.

     Fatigue of troops previous to the attack, owing to the bad

     The condition of the ground over which the attack took
     place. The bog at the source of the Hanebeck made a gap
     between the 169th and 167th Brigades, which laid their left         161
     and right flanks respectively open to counter-attack. It
     also caused great fatigue to the troops.

     The nature of the hostile defences and new system of defence
     in depth. The enemy’s counter-attacks were so timed as to
     strike the leading waves about the same time as they reached
     their objectives, when they were more or less disorganised,
     and had been unable to consolidate the ground gained.

     The concentration of hostile guns opposite the front. The
     heavy shelling prevented the moving up of reinforcements,
     machine guns, and replenishment of ammunition.”

It seems very certain that the British Staff was somewhat rattled by
the German tactics in defence. Questions--long lists of them--were
sent out, and reports asked for. The pill-box, it was agreed,
disorganised our assaulting waves, although it did not stop them. But
there is a limit to the possible advance of troops in a rush, and this
had been calculated by the enemy, who placed his main forces so as to
counter-attack the exhausted leading waves of attackers before they
had time to consolidate, or even mop up the ground behind them. How
was this to be overcome?

All officers of the 56th Division seemed to agree on this question.
The answer was, “Do not try to penetrate too deeply.” Five hundred
yards was a distance which troops could cover without exhaustion, and
they would then be at such a distance from any troops assembled for
counter-attack as would give them time to consolidate, bring up
machine guns, and be ready for the counter-attack. Something of the
sort was eventually done, so the experience of the 56th Division was
of some service.

The attack was not renewed on this sector of the front until the 20th    162
September, when the Second Army (Sir Herbert Plumer’s command was
extended to his left) captured Glencorse and the half of Polygon Wood.

The fighting in Flanders was carried on until November. The French
launched a big attack at Verdun on the 20th August, which met with
notable success. Ludendorff confesses to a feeling of despair.
Concrete had failed him, and as to his troops, “At some points they no
longer displayed the firmness which I, in common with the local
commanders, had hoped for.” By limiting the depth of penetration and
breaking up the German counter-attacks with artillery fire the British
troops were slowly eating their way through the defences in Flanders,
in spite of having to wade through mud. Many were the consultations at
German Headquarters. “Our defensive tactics had to be developed
further, somehow or other.” The wastage of troops had “exceeded all
expectations.” Seven divisions were sent to Italy. A countering blow
was the best defence.

Sir Douglas Haig hoped that the phenomenal wet summer would be
followed by a normal autumn, and continued his attacks through
October. But the wet still continued, and important engagements, with
large numbers of troops and tremendous expenditure of ammunition, only
resulted in a “nibble” at the enemy territory.

The German-Austrian attack on Italy started on the 24th October, and
resulted in the Italian Armies being driven back almost to the
outskirts of Venice. This misfortune had the immediate effect of
reducing the British Army on the Western Front by several divisions,     163
which were sent under the command of Sir Herbert Plumer, and later of
Lord Cavan, to help our Italian Allies; it also determined Sir Douglas
Haig to continue his operations in Flanders. The fierce battle for
Passchendaele, in which the proud divisions from Canada added to their
immortal fame, was fought, and operations in Flanders reached their
final stages about the middle of November.

For the effort expended, the gain in territory was small, the number
of prisoners was 24,065, the number of guns captured (74) was
insignificant. But the balancing of results is a very delicate affair.
During the three and a half months of the offensive the enemy had
employed 78 divisions (18 of them had been engaged a second or third
time after having rested and refitted). Deductions from such facts,
however, are a weak basis for argument. Sir Douglas Haig wrote: “It is
certain that the enemy’s losses considerably exceeded ours,” but,
apart from considerations of expediency, it is not clear how he
arrived at this startling conclusion.

To compare the number of prisoners we captured with the number of
bayonets which the Germans could transfer from the Russian front is
absurd. What then have we left to show as a result for this costly
enterprise? Only damage to that highly important but very elusive
thing which we call “enemy _moral_.” The enemy charges us,
perhaps with some truth, with being clumsy soldiers with no
imagination, but he speaks with respect of the determination of the
British infantry, in a manner which suggests a growing conviction that
they could never be defeated.

                     *     *     *     *     *

An interesting figure was compiled by the II Corps giving the amount     164
of ammunition fired by the artillery of that corps from the 23rd June
to 31st August--2,766,824 rounds with a total weight of 85,396 tons,
delivered by 230 trains of 37 trucks and one of 29 trucks.

The battles of Ypres, 1917, are as follows: Battle of Pilckem Ridge,
31st July-2nd August; Battle of Langemarck, 16th-18th August; Battle
of the Menin Road Ridge, 20th-25th September; Battle of Polygon Wood,
26th September-3rd October; Battle of Broodseinde, 4th October; Battle
of Poelcappelle, 9th October; First Battle of Passchendaele, 12th
October; Second Battle of Passchendaele, 26th October-10th November.

      From a photograph taken by Lt. Wallis Muirhead, R.F.A.]

                             CHAPTER VI                                  165


The Divisional Headquarters opened at Reninghelst on the morning of
the 18th August; brigades were quartered at Steenvoorde and
Wippenhoek. These forward areas did not give uninterrupted rest;
frequent and close attention was paid to them by aeroplanes, and
during the following night two lorries were set on fire by bombs
dropped by the night birds.

On the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th the division moved back, resting at
Busseboom, and eventually arrived at the peaceful area of Eperleques.
The 5th Cheshire Regt., however, remained in the battle area until the
29th. A further move started on the 30th, by train, to the ruined
villages to the east and south of Bapaume, with Divisional
Headquarters at Fremicourt.

Sports, horse-shows, and the Divisional Band now played a more
prominent part in the life of the soldier, and we find the divisional
canteen being enlarged--a greengrocery, eggs, and butter department
being added, also a wholesale beer department. And, of course, there
was training!

At the commencement of the war the British infantry were the greatest
riflemen in the world. Then came a period when everyone was mad on
throwing bombs, and the rifle was neglected. At the end of the war one   166
sighed in vain for a half, even a quarter of the efficiency of the
pre-war rifleman.

Training in 1917 was based on four weapons, and the platoon. The
platoon, we were told, was the smallest unit comprising all the
weapons with which the infantry was armed. Exclusive of Headquarters,
twenty-eight other ranks was the minimum strength, and when the
platoon was below that strength the necessary numbers would be
obtained by the _temporary amalgamation of companies, platoons, or
sections_. We draw attention to these words because the order was
afterwards reversed.

The platoon was comprised of a rifle section, a Lewis-gun section, a
bomber section, and a rifle-grenade section. The principles governing
training were based on these various weapons. The rifle and bayonet
were for assault, for repelling attack, or for obtaining superiority
of fire, and the training of this section was considered of much
importance. Each man should be a marksman, first class with bayonet
and bomb, and a scout, in addition to being either a Lewis-gunner or
rifle grenadier. Bayonet fighting was recommended to all sections, as
it produced “lust for blood.”

The bomb was called the second weapon of all N.C.O.s and men, and was
to be used for dislodging the enemy from behind cover or killing him
below ground. The section should study bombing attacks and the duties
of “moppers-up.” These last individuals should work in pairs. They
were to drop into their objectives and work laterally outwards. They
killed the enemy met with in the trenches, and they also guarded the
entrances to dug-outs and side trenches. They were not to penetrate
down dug-outs until the platoon they were working for arrived.           167

The rifle grenade was described as the howitzer of the infantry, and
was used to dislodge the enemy from behind cover and to drive him
below ground. The section was trained to a rifle-grenade barrage.

The Lewis gun was the weapon of opportunity. Its mobility and the
small target it presented made it peculiarly suitable for working
round an enemy’s flank.

In each section sufficient ammunition was carried for immediate
requirements. Every man (except bombers, signallers, scouts, runners,
and Lewis gunners who carried 50 rounds) carried at least 120 rounds
of rifle ammunition and 2 bombs. The Lewis-gun section carried 30
“drums.” The bombers (with the exception of “throwers,” who carried 5)
carried at least 10 bombs each.

The men of the rifle-grenade section each carried at least six
grenades. With this organisation training was carried out in
trench-to-trench warfare and the enveloping of strong points.

In 1917 the strength of a platoon was not definitely laid down by the
Higher Command. It was suggested that a suitable number for each
section was nine--1 non-commissioned officer and 8 men. But there was
an order to leave 10 officers and 50 other ranks out of line for
“reconstruction.” They would not be available as reinforcements, but
were, generally, specialists and good instructors, on whom the
battalion could be rebuilt if casualties were heavy. Most units
carried out the suggestion of 9 to a section, and any extra men,
exclusive of the 50 for reconstruction, were used as reinforcements
during the battle.

On arrival in the Third Army area (now under the command of General      168
Byng, General Allenby having been given command in Egypt), the
strength of the 56th Division was very low.

The four battalions of the 167th Brigade totalled altogether 63
officers and 1,754 other ranks; the Machine Gun Company, 7 officers
and 150 other ranks; the Trench Mortar Battery, 5 officers and 50
other ranks.

The four battalions of the 168th Brigade totalled 94 officers and
2,802 other ranks; the Machine Gun Company, 7 officers and 160 other
ranks; the Trench Mortar Battery, 5 officers and 90 other ranks.

The four battalions of the 169th Brigade totalled 61 officers and
1,921 other ranks; the Machine Gun Company, 10 officers and 145 other
ranks; the Trench Mortar Battery, 2 officers and 75 other ranks.

It was therefore probable that when the period of rest was over the
division would go into a quiet bit of the line.

All doubts as to the ultimate destination of the division were laid at
rest on the 4th September, when the 168th Brigade relieved the 9th
Brigade, 3rd Division, in the Lagnicourt section. The 169th Brigade
relieved the 8th Brigade in the Louverval section on the 5th; and the
167th Brigade relieved the 76th Brigade in the Morchies section on the
6th. The situation was quiet, and the weather fine and hot.

Patrolling, of an active nature, commenced at once, and on the 10th
September the 167th Brigade secured a man of the 31st Reserve Infantry
Regt.; and on the same night the 168th Brigade secured two of the 86th
Reserve Infantry Regt. Various enemy posts were visited from time to
time, and occasionally entered, but the gem of these small enterprises   169
was that of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles. On the 29th September
2/Lieut. W. H. Ormiston, with thirty men, lay in wait in the middle of
No Man’s Land and successfully ambushed a patrol of fifteen Germans.
Eleven were killed and two brought in; unfortunately, the remaining
two proved swift of foot and got away. It was not done without a
fight. Six of the Queen’s Westminsters were wounded. Both Corps and
Army Commanders sent their congratulations to this well-known and
gallant regiment, with the added message that the identification was
of great importance. The prisoners were of the 414th Infantry Regt.

During this month six hundred gas projectors were dug into the 56th
Divisional Front.

During the month of October raids were attempted by the London
Scottish and the Kensingtons, but the enemy were found alert and the
parties failed to enter the German line. The Kensingtons, however,
were successful in rescuing a British pilot whose machine was brought
down in No Man’s Land, but they had to fight for him.

The only incident of importance in the month of October was a visit of
ten days of Major-Gen. Bloxom, U.S.A., with his chief of staff, with
the object of gaining experience.

The strength of the division remained about the same.

On the 2nd November a document headed “IV Corps, No. H.R.S. 17/48” was
received, into which we must enter at some length.

The Third Army stretched from the little stream of l’Omignon, which
runs into the St. Quentin Canal a few miles above that town, to
Gavrelle, north of the Scarpe. It was composed of the VII, III, IV,      170
VI, and XVII Corps from right to left (and later, the V Corps). The
III Corps had its right on 22 Ravine, between Villers-Guislain and
Gonnelieu, and its left to the east of Trescault. Then came the IV
Corps, with its left north of Lagnicourt, on a little stream called
the Hirondelle. These two corps were facing the Hindenburg Line, and
had in their immediate rear the battlefields of the Somme, and the
country which the Germans had laid to waste in their retreat in the
early spring.

At the time when our pursuing troops were brought to a standstill in
front of this celebrated line, preparations were at once commenced for
attack. Several actions had been fought on this sector before it
settled down to a “quiet sector”; assembly trenches existed, and
adequate shelter for brigade and battalion headquarters had been
constructed. It was now chosen as a sector to be attacked.

At this time our Italian Allies were in serious difficulties, and
seven German divisions were engaged in this theatre. And, although the
movement of whole divisions had started from Russia without exchange
from the Western Front, a mass of enemy troops were still pinned down
in Flanders. It seemed as though a sudden surprise attack might
benefit the Italian Armies and also improve the position on the
Western Front. But there was the obvious difficulty of a lack of
troops at Sir Douglas Haig’s disposal; the Flanders adventure had been
a most costly one for us, for practically the whole of the British
Army had passed through the salient inferno Ypres. Finally it was
decided that sufficient troops could be mustered to justify the
attack, and as the French not only promised to engage the enemy’s        171
attention elsewhere, but actually set aside a large force of cavalry
and infantry to help in the attack (they started to move on the 20th
November), the order was given.

The scheme, as set forth in this document, was for the infantry to
break through the German defensive system with the aid of Tanks on a
front from Gonnelieu to Hermies, seize the crossings of the Canal de
l’Escaut at Masnières and Marcoing, cut the last of the enemy’s
defences on the Beaurevoir-Masnières line, and pass the cavalry
through the break thus made.

The cavalry were then to capture Cambrai and Bourlon Wood, cut all
railway communications into Cambrai, and to occupy the crossings of
the Sensée between Paillencourt and Palleul to the north of Cambrai.
They would come up from Gouzeaucourt and Metz-en-Couture.

If this part of the plan was accomplished, the whole of the Third Army
would participate in further operations to complete the surrounding of
all the enemy forces in the Quéant salient. Presumably our Allies
would have been called upon as well.

The III Corps, composed of the 20th, 6th, 12th, 29th Divisions, and
2nd and 3rd Brigades, Tank Corps (less three companies) would secure
the canal crossings at Marcoing and Masnières, and form a flank from
Gonnelieu through Bois Lateau, Creve-cœur, to a spot called la Belle
Etoile a few miles south-east of Cambrai.

The IV Corps, composed of the 51st, 62nd, 36th, 56th Divisions, and
1st Brigade, Tank Corps, would attack with two divisions, on the left
of the III Corps, and the right of the Canal du Nord, towards            172
Flesquières and Graincourt.

The success of the whole plan depended on the capture of Masnières and
Marcoing, at which point the cavalry would be passed through the
break, and, as speed was the essence of the operation, in order to
obtain liberty of movement before the enemy could organise either
counter-attack or a fresh line of defence by bringing up fresh troops,
the leading cavalry divisions would have to pass through on the
afternoon or evening of zero day.

Meanwhile, the IV Corps would be pushing forward on the left, with the
first object of establishing a line from Noyelles, along the Canal de
l’Escaut, through Fontaines, and relieve the cavalry on Bourlon, or
fight for that position, and join with the original front line in the
Louverval sector.

Surprise was essential, so there would be no preliminary bombardment,
and these instructions insisted that the greatest care should be taken
not to divulge the presence of increased artillery to the enemy.
Registration and calibration was to be carried out by order of the
General Officer Commanding the Third Army Artillery.

One of the first tasks was to erect camouflage over all positions
which would be occupied by the artillery. Then weatherproof cover for
ammunition would be constructed. But little more than this could be
done in the time at the disposal of the Army. In any case, the
accumulation of ammunition would have to be spread over as long a
period as possible, so as to minimise the increase of activity on the

The action of the artillery would consist mainly in the formation of
smoke screens and barrages, on the front and flanks of the attack (to    173
cover the advance of the Tanks), and the neutralisation of hostile
batteries, the bombardment of positions of assembly, rest billets,
telephone routes, and known centres of communication and command. But
the very nature of the operation precluded the careful registration of
all batteries.

All the elaborate preparations of a trench-to-trench attack would be
reduced to a minimum, and in many items must be done away with. Cover
from weather would have to be provided for the full number of troops
when concentrated, but no extensive scheme of hutting or new camps
could be undertaken. In thick woods tents, suitably camouflaged, could
be erected, and in thin woods wire netting must be stretched
horizontally amongst the trees, about ten feet from the ground, and
have twigs scattered on the top of it, thus making a sort of roof
under which bivouacs could be pitched.

As to concentration, the idea was to complete the move of the
artillery before the infantry was brought into the area, to have the
extra infantry in the area as short a time as possible, and to bring
up the Tanks at the very last moment.

Finally, No. 15 Squadron R.F.C. was ordered to note particularly
whether any of the work being carried out was noticeable from the air.

The rôle of the 56th Division in all this was to make a demonstration
on Z day and attract the attention of the enemy, and later on take
part in the operation of rolling up the Hindenburg Line. When Bourlon
Wood had been captured, the IV Corps would secure a line
Rumancourt-Buissy-Inchy, which would cut off the German divisions in
the Quéant salient and threaten with immediate capture their gun
positions. In this move two brigades of the 36th Division would          174
take part on the east bank of the canal and one brigade on the west of
the canal, starting from the Spoil Heap near Hermies and moving in the
direction of Mœuvres and Inchy.

The 169th Brigade, which would be on the right of the 56th Divisional
front, would be responsible for joining hands with the 109th Brigade,
36th Division, and with them attack in the direction of Tadpole Copse.
In this attack Tanks were to be employed, but the number was never

Nothing amuses troops more than to deceive the enemy--and we say
“amuse” advisedly, for though it is in the midst of a battle, with
death and destruction going on all round them, men will be as keen as
children in carrying out the scheme of make-believe, and if it
succeeds will roar with laughter. Such a scheme was on foot for the
56th Division.

For the purpose of making the demonstration on the divisional front as
realistic as possible, a number of dummy Tanks were to be made by the
C.R.E., while brigades would amuse themselves by making dummy figures
of men to act as supporting infantry. The Tanks were to be put out in
No Man’s Land during the night, and would be half hidden by the smoke
barrage in the morning when the attack started; the figures would be
pushed above the trenches as though infantry were just emerging. A
motor-bicycle in the front-line trench was to imitate the noise of a

As might well be expected, excitement ran high in the division. The
construction of dummy figures and dummy Tanks was taken in hand at
once, and by the 19th November a dozen full-sized Tanks were ready,
together with some two hundred and fifty figures to each brigade         175

On the 6th November wire-cutting was commenced by trench mortars in
the neighbourhood of Quéant--250 rounds a day being fired--the Germans
would probably think a raid was contemplated, which would account for
any suspicious movements!

The time was short and, as preliminary preparation was to be cut down
to a minimum, fatigues were not very arduous. There was a certain
amount of work done on the roads near the front line, but the greatest
care had to be exercised not to make improvements of an apparent
nature. In the back areas, however, the strain was becoming
intolerable. There were troops in every hole and corner. Tents were
crammed full; huts, ruins, any place where men could find a little
shelter was used. And the weather was cold, and regulations about
lights and fires were very stringent.

In the front line every precaution against accidents was taken. The
attacking divisions occupied their positions in line, but the old
troops remained in the outpost line in case the enemy should secure
identification; also patrols were ordered to avoid any possibility of

On the 14th November the Corps ordered the 56th Division to hold the
line with two brigades instead of three, so as to have a concentrated
force ready to act in case of necessity. So on the night of the 18th
the 167th Brigade extended its left and took over the frontage of the
168th Brigade, which concentrated in Fremicourt and Beugny, to the
east of Bapaume.

On the night of the 19th the dummy Tanks were put in position about
300 yards from the front line. At 2 a.m. on the 20th gas drums were      176
projected into the German lines where the wire-cutting had taken place
(Quéant), and at 6.20 a.m. the whole of the artillery on the Third
Army front opened on the enemy lines with one stupendous crash.

In the 56th Division front line all was activity. The parties with the
dummy figures moved them up and down in as lifelike a manner as they
could, and other parties hurled smoke grenades so that the enemy might
not see too clearly.

The “make-believe” attack was a great success. The Germans opened
frantic and furious fire with machine-guns and artillery, and the
dummy Tanks were shelled until mid-day!

By 9.15 a.m. the 36th Division (109th Brigade) had advanced along the
west bank of the canal from the Spoil Heap to the Bapaume-Cambrai
road, where the 169th Brigade joined up with it on the old German
outpost line.

Meanwhile, great events had been taking place on the right. The III
Corps, on which so much depended, advanced through the Hindenburg Line
in grand style and, thanks to the rapid action of the 29th Division
(General de Lisle), which was to wait until news arrived of the
capture of the Hindenburg Support Line before advancing but attacked
instead on observer reports, seized Marcoing and Masnières. The first
bit of bad luck happened at Masnières, where the enemy had only
partially destroyed the iron bridge over the Escault Canal. It might
have been sufficiently strong for cavalry to cross over, or it might
have been repaired to enable them to do so, but a Tank attempted to
cross first and broke through it altogether. This unfortunate accident
did not stop a squadron of Canadian cavalry, who, with the dash usually  177
associated with that arm, rode over a flimsy bridge across a lock on
the Marcoing side of the town and attacked the enemy on Rumilly Ridge.
It was probably troopers from this very gallant squadron who reached
the outskirts of Cambrai.

Lieut.-Col. Johnston took the 2nd Hampshires across in a similar way
and secured the crossing. But in Marcoing other troops of the 29th
Division secured the bridge intact.

The III Corps had therefore done its job, but the IV Corps was not so
fortunate. Havrincourt Wood had been of great service to the IV Corps
in the assembly. The 51st and 62nd Divisions, with a fringe of the
36th Division in front of them until the last moment, had completed
their concentration without a hitch. On the nights of the 16th, 17th,
and 18th all the Tanks were moved into Havrincourt Wood, and except
that a battery of 6-inch howitzers got into difficulties farther
north, and that a lorry “ran into a train carrying Tanks,” the whole
concentration was carried out as desired. But, although we do not
believe it made much difference, the enemy were aware of the attack.
Unfortunately, some men were captured in a raid on the 36th Divisional
front, and from the statements of prisoners they evidently divulged
the fact that an attack was contemplated. The time and the extent of
it, however, seems to have been a complete surprise to the Germans.

At zero hour the Tanks advanced, followed by the 51st and 62nd
Divisions. There was in this sector some of the most formidable wire
on the whole of the western front, but the Tanks crushed wide lanes
through it and the troops advanced steadily. There was some obstinate    178
fighting in Havrincourt village and park, where parties of the enemy
held out until the afternoon, but otherwise the Hindenburg front line
was captured by 8 o’clock. A pause of two hours was allowed here to
enable troops and Tanks to reorganise for the attack on the Hindenburg

Once more the attack moved forward. The 62nd Division on the left met
with little opposition, and that portion of the support line allotted
to them was in their hands between 10 and 11 o’clock. But the 51st
Division on the right met with resistance at the village of
Flesquières. The infantry were prevented from advancing by machine
guns and uncut wire, and the Tanks, which came up on the ridge, were
at once put out of action by field guns, which had been pulled out of
their pits on to the slopes to the north of the village. Six Tanks
were to be seen here in a line, smashed to bits by a very gallant
German Battery Commander, who, it was said, served and fired the guns
himself, when his men had bolted.

The 51st Division could make no progress, but on their left the 62nd
moved forward to Graincourt, and the 36th, still farther on the left,
had moved along the canal to the Cambrai road. And on the right troops
of the III Corps were well on towards Cantaign. The 51st Division made
a second attempt with Tanks and again failed.

What follows is one of the mysteries of the Cambrai battle. A patrol
of King Edward’s Horse, operating with the 62nd Division, rode into
Flesquières soon after mid-day from the direction of Graincourt. They
reported only a few of the enemy there and do not appear to have
suffered any casualties themselves. But the 1st Cavalry Division,
which had been concentrated in the neighbourhood of Equancourt, had      179
been ordered at 8.25 a.m. to move forward with their head on Metz,
ready to advance. This they did. About 11 o’clock they were ordered to
push forward through the Hindenburg Support Line, but found that
Flesquières was still in the hands of the enemy, and they were unable
to pass. About 2.30 p.m. they were ordered to pass at least two
regiments by Ribecourt and Premy Chapel and work round Flesquières
from the north-east and assist the 51st Division in their attack from
the south. But they found they were unable to carry out this
co-operation on account of the delay which had occurred, due to their
first effort, and also that Nine Wood was not clear of the enemy. At 4
p.m. the Third Army ordered the cavalry to push forward in full
strength through Marcoing and carry out the original plan of a
break-through at that point; but darkness had come on and the order
was modified, one brigade being ordered to occupy Cantaign and cut off
the enemy retreating from Flesquières. Cantaign, however, was found to
be too strongly held for the cavalry to capture it, and therefore the
leading brigade remained at Noyelles for the night. It would seem that
the opportunity was missed.

As dusk fell, the 62nd and 36th Divisions were well forward towards
the Bourlon Ridge, the former just short of Anneaux, and then forming
a long flank back east of Graincourt and to the west of Flesquières,
where they connected with the 51st Division. Farther to the right of
the IV Corps the III Corps had also pushed well forward and made a
similar flank facing west, the ground between the two points of
greatest advance about Orival Wood being occupied by the enemy’s
artillery. (Line C.)

Immediately after the capture of the Hindenburg system the               180
redistribution of the artillery and machine guns began. The machine
guns, which had been massed under corps control, reverted to their
divisions. Four brigades of Field Artillery, one 60-pounder battery,
and one, horsed, 6-inch Howitzer battery were placed under the orders
of each of the 36th, 62nd, and 51st Divisions. But a fortunate
circumstance arose: it was found difficult to get the heavy artillery
across No Man’s Land into the Flesquières salient, and the congestion
there was such that the supply of ammunition would have been
uncertain; so it was decided to move the bulk of the artillery to the
left, close to the old front line round about Demicourt, Hermies, and
Morchies. In this position they assisted very materially in breaking
up the great German attack on the 30th November.

During this first day the Queen Victoria’s Rifles were on the right of
the 169th Brigade, and worked along the German outpost line in touch
with the 109th Brigade, who were clearing the Hindenburg Line, as far
as the Cambrai road. The 2nd London Regt. was on the left of the Queen
Victoria’s Rifles.

It had been calculated that no large hostile reinforcements would be
likely to reach the scene of action for forty-eight hours after the
commencement of the attack, and Sir Douglas Haig had informed General
Byng that the advance would be stopped after that time, unless the
results then gained, and the general situation, justified its
continuance. Although, as we have said, the movements of the Canadian
Cavalry and King Edward’s Horse would seem to suggest that the
opportunity of passing other cavalry through had been missed, there
remained one day when, given success, they could still be employed.      181
The 51st and 62nd Divisions were therefore ordered to capture the
Bourlon position, when the 1st Cavalry Division would follow up the
attack and seize the passages of the Canal du Nord between Palleul and
Sains-les-Marquion; and the 36th Division was to continue the advance
on the west of the canal, and hold the two brigades on the eastern
bank ready to push through and seize the canal, between
Sains-les-Marquion and Mœuvres, as soon as Bourlon was taken. The 56th
Division would be drawn farther into the operations on the left in the
direction of Tadpole Copse.

When the day broke, Flesquières was found, by the 51st Division, to be
unoccupied by the enemy; they therefore pushed on to the
Marcoing-Graincourt road, capturing a number of guns in the valley
which the enemy had not been able to remove in the night. The 1st
Cavalry Division then advanced and took Cantaing, after some stiff
fighting in which some of the 51st Division took part. On the left the
62nd Division captured Anneaux and Anneaux Chapel, after heavy
fighting, and made more progress north of the Cambrai road, where they
established themselves on the ridge west of Bourlon Wood, and also
gained a further stretch of the Hindenburg Support Line. On the left
of the 62nd the 36th Division advanced along the west bank of the
canal, meeting increased opposition, and for a time held the south of
the village of Mœuvres. On their left again the Queen Victoria’s
Rifles worked along the outpost line and captured a machine gun with
its crew of seven. Resistance, however, was stiffening. The dividing
line between the 109th and the 169th Brigades was the grid line to the
west of Mœuvres, and any farther advance to the north would bring the    182
56th Division in contact with the Hindenburg Line itself.

Meanwhile, in the centre of the battlefield, progress was not what had
been hoped it would be. The 51st Division were to work round Bourlon
Wood from the east, and join hands with the 62nd Division; but they
met with such opposition as delayed their advance, and they did not
capture Fontaine until late in the afternoon. The capture of Bourlon
was not achieved. At nightfall the 51st Division was holding a line
north of Cantaing forward to Fontaine, making a dangerous salient, and
then in a westerly direction to the north of Anneaux, where, joining
with the 62nd, the line was carried north of the Cambrai road, forming
another salient north of the Sugar Factory. The 36th Division then
carried on the line, which bent back towards the road near the canal
bridge and then forward again to Mœuvres. Due west of Mœuvres the 56th
Division held the line to the old British trenches. The Tanks, in
diminished numbers, had assisted during the day, but no advance had
been made without a struggle. (Line D.)

In the III Corps area there had been some heavy fighting during the
day, which resulted in some improvement of our positions. Heavy
counter-attacks were launched by the enemy, and much useful and
gallant work was done by dismounted cavalry beating off these attacks.
But the forty-eight hours had expired, and the high ground at Bourlon
Village and Wood, as well as certain tactical features to the east and
west of the wood, still remained in the enemy’s hands. It seemed
fairly clear that the surprise break-through and complete
disorganisation of the enemy’s back areas would not be accomplished.
Sir Douglas Haig had to decide whether to continue the offensive or      183
take up a defensive attitude and rest content with what had been done.

     “It was not possible, however, to let matters stand as they
     were. The positions captured by us north of Flesquières were
     completely commanded by the Bourlon Ridge, and unless the
     ridge were gained it would be impossible to hold them,
     except at excessive cost. If I decided not to go on, a
     withdrawal to the Flesquières ridge would be necessary, and
     would have to be carried out at once.

     On the other hand, the enemy showed certain signs of an
     intention to withdraw. Craters had been formed at road
     junctions, and troops could be seen ready to move east. The
     possession of Bourlon Ridge would enable our troops to
     obtain observation over the ground to the north, which
     sloped gently down to the Sensée River. The enemy’s
     defensive lines south of the Scarpe and the Sensée Rivers
     would thereby be turned, his communications exposed to the
     observed fire of our artillery, and his positions in this
     sector jeopardised. In short, so great was the importance of
     the ridge to the enemy that its loss would probably cause
     the abandonment by the Germans of their carefully prepared
     defence systems for a considerable distance to the north of

     It was to be remembered, however, that the hostile
     reinforcements coming up at this stage could at first be no
     more than enough to replace the enemy’s losses; and although
     the right of our advance had been definitely stayed, the
     enemy had not yet developed such strength about Bourlon as
     it seemed might not be overcome by the numbers at my
     disposal. As has already been pointed out, on the Cambrai
     side of the battlefield I had only aimed at securing a
     defensive flank to enable the advance to be pushed northwards       184
     and north-westwards, and this part of my task had been to a
     large extent achieved.

     An additional and very important argument in favour of
     proceeding with my attack was supplied by the situation in
     Italy, upon which a continuance of pressure on the Cambrai
     front might reasonably be expected to exercise an important
     effect, no matter what measures of success attended my
     efforts. Moreover, two divisions previously under orders for
     Italy had on this day been placed at my disposal, and with
     this accession of strength the prospect of securing Bourlon
     seemed good.

     After weighing these various considerations, therefore, I
     decided to continue the operations to gain the Bourlon

But in the morning, about 9.30 a.m., the enemy launched a heavy
counter-attack on the 62nd Division west of Bourlon Wood which,
although it did not succeed in driving them back, prevented any
advance. And about 10.30 they attacked Fontaine from the north-west
and east, and after heavy fighting drove the 51st Division out and
clear of the village.

During the afternoon the Germans again attacked the 62nd Division, but
were again repulsed, as they had been in the morning. On the left of
the 62nd, the 36th were unable to gain ground on the east of the
canal, and on the west bank entered Mœuvres for the second time, but
after an hour or so were driven out. (Line E.)

On this day, the 22nd November, the 56th Division played a more
important part. The 169th Brigade were still on the right of the
division. The Queen Victoria’s Rifles, in touch with the 109th
Brigade, were holding a line of posts across No Man’s Land and in the
old German outpost line. The Queen’s Westminster Rifles were ordered     185
to concentrate, slightly to the north of the Cambrai road, and to
advance, in conjunction with the 109th Brigade, at 11 o’clock along
the front trench of the Hindenburg Line which runs to Tadpole Copse.
They would also work their way up the communication trenches to the
second line of the Hindenburg first system, and clear both lines as
far as Tadpole Copse. The London Rifle Brigade were ordered to
assemble in the captured Hindenburg Line south of the Cambrai road,
and follow the attack of the 109th Brigade to where the Hindenburg
system turned away from the canal at Mœuvres (see Map); they would
then follow the Queen’s Westminsters in two columns, one in the first
line and one in the second, and reinforce if necessary. The 5,000
yards of British line up to the Hirondelle River were held by the
167th Brigade.

The instructions were to carry out a determined advance. The idea, of
which this was the preliminary operation, was for the 36th Division to
move forward through Mœuvres and Inchy, while the 56th Division
captured the Hindenburg Line up to Quéant.

It was entirely a bombing fight, and was supported by an artillery
barrage, which lifted off Swan Lane at 11.30 a.m. and moved forward at
the rate of fifty yards every five minutes. The division, until the
night 21st/22nd, had been covered by the 281st Brigade R.F.A. only--as
was usual in these battles, the artillery was switched about from one
command to another--but during the night the 280th Brigade R.F.A. had
moved to positions near Boursies and took part in this attack.

It was hard and slow fighting, as is generally the case in bombing       186
fights. Colonel Glazier, of the Queen’s Westminsters, writes:

     “The barrage got some way ahead of our men, but owing to the
     uncertainty of the position of the troops it was impossible
     to bring it back. At 12.30 p.m. a runner came with a request
     for more bombs, and the news that our men had passed the
     Boursies-Mœuvres road and were using German bombs.... Bombs
     were sent forward; large quantities were taken forward by
     the Queen Victoria’s Rifles.”

News of progress was very slow in coming in, and the first definite
information indicating success was obtained from observers, who
reported at 2.40 p.m. that the enemy were shelling Tadpole Copse. Not
until 5.30 was it known for certain that the copse was occupied by
three companies of the Queen’s Westminsters. They captured 3 officers,
70 men, and 3 machine guns.

The London Scottish had arrived at the old British front line about
Louverval at mid-day with the object of relieving the Queen’s
Westminsters and carrying on the attack. They were informed that the
attack would not be continued that day, and so formed a flank from the
south of Tadpole Copse to the old British line, although for the
moment they were unable to dislodge the enemy from a deep crater at
the road junctions some two hundred yards south-west of the copse. At
dawn they relieved the forward companies of the Queen’s Westminsters
and made ready for the morning attack.


Most useful work was also done during the night by the 416th Field
Coy. R.E., who constructed a bridge over the canal at the Cambrai
road, although the enemy kept up a persistent shelling of the road,      187
and particularly of the point of intersection with the canal. The
512th Coy. R.E. at the same time made good the road from Boursies to
the canal.

So the only progress made by the IV Corps on the 22nd was the capture
of Tadpole Copse by the Queen’s Westminsters, an important gain as it
occupies the high ground to the west of Mœuvres. But it became
apparent that the enemy was rapidly massing strong forces to stay our
farther advance.

The 40th Division passed into the Corps command and was sent to
relieve the 62nd. The Corps orders that evening were for the advance
to continue on the 23rd, with the assistance of Tanks, the chief
objective being Bourlon village. The 51st Division was to attack it
from the east and the 40th from the south-west; but when it became
known that the 51st Division had been driven out of Fontaine, their
task was modified to the recapture of that village. The 36th and 56th
Divisions were to continue the advance up the canal, and roll up the
Hindenburg Support Line.

All through the night there had been much shell fire on the 56th
Divisional front. Two counter-attacks had been successfully repulsed.
Owing to darkness and the congested state of the trenches, the London
Scottish were late in getting into their assembly positions, but as
they were not to move until an hour and a half after zero (6.30 a.m.),
which time was occupied by bombardment of the enemy positions, it did
not matter.

     “It was then found,” Colonel Jackson writes, “that the 169th
     Brigade had not reached Tadpole Lane, but the communication
     trench running from front to support trench on the north-west       188
     side of Tadpole Copse, and that a fairly deep valley existed
     between this communication trench and the Inchy-Louverval
     road. The Germans could thus directly enfilade the front and
     support trenches with rifle and machine-gun fire from the
     other side of the valley, where they had built strong blocks
     and loopholes during the night. The battalion was thus held
     up at this point until 2.30 p.m. By this time “D” Company
     had, with the assistance of the Stokes Mortars (169th), been
     able to cross the valley, face the block on the other side,
     and cross the Inchy road, thus surrounding the enemy still
     holding the block in the front line opposite “B” Company.
     Ten officers, 69 other ranks, 6 machine guns, and 1 trench
     mortar--all of the 20th German Division.”

It would appear that the German counter-attacks during the night had
gained some ground. The valley alluded to by Colonel Jackson is not
shown clearly on the British maps and is only indicated by the very
unsatisfactory sign of “banks.” An imaginative person might have
traced the re-entrant starting in square 7 right up to these banks,
but it was not always wise to be too imaginative with the British map;
at any rate the shape of the ground seems to have been a surprise.

By 4.30 p.m. the battalion had reached its objective, Adelaide street,
and was immediately strongly counter-attacked. The supply of bombs
failed--it is extraordinary how many bombs can be thrown on such
occasions--and the support line was lost as far as the Inchy road, but
the front line was held. In this counter-attack the London Scottish
were reinforced by two companies of the 4th London Regt. They were
ordered to consolidate.

The operations on the rest of the Corps front during the day resulted    189
in fierce fighting through Bourlon Wood, and the capture of Bourlon
village by the 40th Division, and a tremendous struggle for Fontaine
into which the 51st Division never really penetrated. Repeated and
heavy counter-attacks forced the 40th Division out of Bourlon village
to the north edge of Bourlon Wood. The 36th Division had captured and
again been forced out of Mœuvres, and had not been able to make much
progress on the east bank of the canal, a failure which caused the
position of the 40th Division to become a somewhat isolated one. The
gallant 51st Division, which had been used in such ruthless fashion,
was relieved by the Guards Division and went back to Albert (Line F).

At 12.50 a.m. on the 24th the Corps issued orders for the ground
gained to be held at all costs. The 40th Division were to consolidate
their position and attack Bourlon village with the assistance of
twelve Tanks at noon. The Guards Division were to consolidate the line
taken over from the 51st, and the 36th and 56th Divisions to continue
their clearing of the Hindenburg Line. But, as we have said, the order
applying to the 56th Division was subsequently cancelled.

The 168th Brigade, which was now in the centre of the division, took
over a stretch of the old British front line from the 167th on the
left; the forward position of the 169th was still in the Hindenburg
Line on the right. The main strength of the division was concentrated,
of course, about the Hindenburg Line to the west of Mœuvres, while in
the old British line it was strung out and thin. But the division as a
whole was strengthened on the 24th by the addition of one brigade of
Royal Horse Artillery.

At three o’clock in the afternoon the enemy again attacked under a       190
very severe barrage, and the London Scottish lost their hold on the
second line of the first German system, to the north of Tadpole Copse,
but not without a strong fight. The enemy came down all communication
trenches at once, while small parties of snipers advanced from
shell-hole to shell-hole over the open. The attack was pressed so
closely that the supply of bombs could not be maintained, and the
London Scottish men had eventually to retire across the open. The
front line, however, was still held to a point opposite Adelaide

On the night of the 24th the division passed from the IV Corps to the
VI Corps. But although the 56th Division passed from the IV Corps we
must not lose sight of the doings of that corps, which continued to
press towards the north, with the 56th Division on its flank. During
the day many attacks and counter-attacks took place, and in the end
the 40th Division retook the village of Bourlon.

By the morning of the 25th the London Scottish had been relieved by
the Rangers (12th London), in view of an attack to regain the stretch
of Hindenburg Line lost on the previous day.

The 4th London Regt. were in position on the right and the Rangers
(12th) on the left. The 4th Londons, holding the bit of the Second
Line north of Tadpole Copse, were to bomb straight ahead while the
Rangers, who were in the First Line, would bomb up the communication
trenches to the Second Line and join hands with the 4th Londons. The
attack started at 1 p.m. and progressed very satisfactorily for a
while; but the fighting was very hard and the men very tired. The 4th
London at one time reached the Inchy road, but their arrival there       191
seems to have coincided with a particularly violent effort of the
enemy which caused the Rangers to call for protective artillery fire;
the artillery responded and the 4th London, being in the zone of fire,
had to retire. The attack, which lasted until the evening, ended with
a small gain, but left the Germans in possession of the banks about
the valley north-west of the copse.

On the 25th the 40th Division was driven out of Bourlon village, but
retained the ridge running through Bourlon Wood. They were relieved by
the 62nd during the night. Three dismounted battalions of the 2nd
Cavalry Division were placed at the disposal of the IV Corps, and did
good work during the next three days in Bourlon Wood.

Bomb-fighting was carried on through the night about Tadpole Copse. We
have casually mentioned that the men were tired, and on the 26th Gen.
Dudgeon represented to the Corps that he considered his division was
too extended. It had captured and was holding about one mile of the
Hindenburg system, and, until Mœuvres was captured, his right flank
was in danger, while his left flank, on Tadpole Copse spur, was not
only exposed but being constantly attacked. Two brigades were involved
in the fighting about the Hindenburg system, and, in addition, were
holding a flank 2,000 yards long connecting up to the old British
front line. The remaining brigade was holding 5,500 yards of British
line, and had also to supply one battalion each night to work in the
captured position. There was therefore no divisional reserve, nor
could any reliefs be arranged for the troops who had been fighting.
The VI Corps placed one battalion of the 3rd Division (on the left) at
the disposal of the 167th Brigade, and this enabled the 8th Middlesex    192
Regt. to be placed at the disposal of the 168th Brigade, which eased
the situation in the Hindenburg system.

A heavy attack on the 27th was repulsed by the Rangers and the
Kensingtons, and on the following two days there is nothing more to
record than heavy shelling.

The 26th had been a quiet day for the IV Corps. Certain reliefs were
carried out. The 36th Division was replaced by the 2nd Division; the
1st Cavalry Division, which had taken part in the fighting up to this
time, was ordered to return to its own corps; and the 47th Division
was ordered into the battle area east of the canal.

On the 27th, after a night of storm and snow, the Guards and 62nd
Divisions attacked Fontaine and Bourlon villages. Though both
divisions entered their objectives, the positions were not held. The
resources of the Army were considered to be almost exhausted at this
stage, which was probably the reason for using only three battalions
of the Guards Division for this operation.

The 59th Division was placed at the disposal of the IV Corps and
relieved the Guards on the next day, while the 47th Division relieved
the weary 62nd. And the Tanks were completely withdrawn.

The battle had therefore petered out, leaving a most unsatisfactory
state of affairs about Bourlon Wood and village; the situation
opposite Fontaine was also not good. It will have been noticed that,
after the first rush, the fighting was done by the IV Corps against
the northern side of the salient which had been created, and the III
Corps held an extended flank which, at the junction with the VII Corps   193
on their right, was somewhat thin.

On the face of it it seems as though the mind of the Third Army Staff
was concentrated on the doings of the IV Corps and the enemy opposite
them. The Bourlon position had a mesmerising effect, and even though
the III Corps was suddenly warned by the Army to expect an attack on
the 29th, no very great preparation for such an event seems to have
been made. The divisions did all they could. The 12th Division on the
right of the Corps moved the two battalions in divisional reserve
nearer the line, and organised all reinforcements and the 10 per cent.
personnel, left out of the line, into a battalion about 850 strong.
Other divisions issued a warning to troops in the line. The 55th, on
the left of the VII Corps and next to the 12th, sent out a long order:

     “Certain indications during the day point to the possibility of
     the enemy making an attack against our front. All troops will be
     warned to be specially on the alert in trenches and all posts.
     Special patrols will be sent out at 4 a.m. to watch for enemy
     movement. Artillery will open fire on the enemy front line,
     commencing at 5 a.m. The most likely places for concentration to
     be selected by brigadier-generals commanding infantry brigades in
     consultation with group commanders. In case of enemy attack all
     posts and trenches will be held to the last at all costs, and
     there will be no retirement from any line to another line. The
     action of troops available for counter-attack will be considered
     now. All machine guns will be warned to be specially on the
     look-out for S.O.S. signals. From 5 a.m. 29th inst., 1/4th North
     Lancs. will be ready to move at half-hour’s notice from receipt
     of orders. Remainder of 164th Brigade will be ready to move         194
     at one hour’s notice from the same time.”

On the other hand, the Guards and 62nd Divisions had already started
to move out of the salient.

Nothing happened on the 29th, but on the 30th the enemy launched a big
attack on the III and IV Corps with the intention of pinching off the
salient and capturing all the troops in the area.

The enemy broke through the III Corps, the weight of his attack being
directed at the junction of the 55th and 12th Divisions. General H. B.
Scott, commanding the 12th Division, says:

     “I do not consider that the troops in the front system were
     in any way surprised. In fact, far from it, as on some
     portions there was a heavy bombardment and the Divisional
     Artillery had opened fire on S.O.S. lines at 6.30 a.m. Also
     on the evening of the 29th November warning had been sent to
     all infantry brigades and the C.R.A. that an attack was
     possible on the eastern flank.

     In my opinion, the troops in the centre of the 12th Division
     were pushed back by the force of numbers. The question of
     the flanks being turned is another one for which I have no
     evidence to show what actually happened to bring about those
     situations. From all accounts the flanks of the division
     were turned before the troops vacated the Banteaux Spur and
     Lateau Wood. This is verified by those in the vicinity of
     those places.

     The enemy had great facilities in assembling unknown to us
     in Banteaux, in the factory, and in the wood. Undoubtedly
     these were the places he used. The main attacks were, I
     consider, made along the Banteaux Ravine, keeping south of
     the Banteaux Spur; up the ravine from Banteaux to R23c (in          195
     the direction of la Vacquerie) and from the factory and wood
     (in the valley north of Banteaux) towards the western edge
     of Bonavis Ridge.

     I am confident that the enemy suffered heavy losses.
     Undoubtedly he attacked in force, and some must have been
     caught by the artillery and machine-gun barrage during the
     assembly and the initial stages of his advance. Besides
     this, there was much close fighting and many

The gallant 29th Division held on to Masnières like grim death, and
the enemy never moved them an inch, but he advanced as far as
Gouzeaucourt and was threatening Metz, through which lay the only good
road to the IV Corps.

It is not quite clear whether this was the main German attack or not.
About six divisions seem to have been used, but, judging by the length
of the attack and its ferocity, the big effort is indicated on the
other side, the northern side of the salient.

On the north side of the salient the divisions ran: the 59th, the 47th
(London Territorials), the 2nd, and the 56th. On the 56th Divisional
front the brigades holding the captured Hindenburg system were
disposed as follows:

The Queen’s Westminster Rifles on the right and the 2nd London Regt.
on the left of the 169th Brigade front in the Hindenburg Line, the
London Rifle Brigade and Queen Victoria’s Rifles being in the old
British line behind them.

The 168th Brigade, reinforced by one battalion, came next in the
Hindenburg Line, with the 8th Middlesex (attached) on the right and
the London Scottish on the left, and the 4th London Regt. holding the
defensive flank back to the old British front line. The Kensingtons      196
were in support in the old British front line, and the Rangers were at

The 167th Brigade had been relieved by the 3rd Division, and had
marched back to Fremicourt.

At about 10 o’clock in the morning the 2nd Division, who were astride
the canal holding the ground won by the 36th Division, reported a
heavy concentration of the enemy on the east of Quarry Wood, between
the wood and the canal, and just behind Mœuvres, also a division
entering Mœuvres itself. But before this mass of troops was reported,
the London Scottish, 8th Middlesex, and Queen’s Westminster Rifles had
noticed unusual happenings in the enemy lines.

The enemy had started registration by aeroplane, which caused other
observers than sentries to be on the watch. And then it was seen that
the Germans were wearing steel helmets instead of the usual soft caps.
The aerial activity increased, and soon heavy enemy fire was opened
between Mœuvres and Bourlon. The registration on the 56th Divisional
front was followed by slow, steady bombardment, which increased, until
about a quarter to ten a heavy barrage crashed down on the whole
front. It was obvious that an attack was impending, and the S.O.S.
rockets were sent up.

The enemy barrage, which consisted of light howitzers, field guns, and
trench mortars, was particularly heavy on the blocks in the captured
communication trenches. Gradually the German guns lifted, and at 10.15
a.m. the enemy swarmed forward to the attack.

  [Illustration: 7. THE BATTLE OF CAMBRAI.]

A glance at the map will show the precarious position, not only of the
56th Division and neighbouring units, but of the whole of the Third      197
Army troops engaged in the salient. South of the salient the Germans
were through our lines, and if they broke through in the north an
unparalleled disaster would be inflicted on the British Army. The
Germans tried hard. During the day no less than five set attacks were
launched, the heaviest with eleven lines of infantry advancing in
succession to the assault. We wish to emphasise the position of the IV
and III Corps and the general situation in the salient, for if the
56th Division failed to stand fast (and we know they could not be
called fresh troops) the fate of the two Corps was sealed. On no
portion of the front attacked could the Germans hope to gain a greater
success than on the part held by the 56th Division.

The intricate nature of the Hindenburg Line, although it afforded the
attackers cover for assembly close up to the troops of the 56th
Division, had its disadvantages. Small bodies of defenders could
inflict incalculable loss and, though surrounded, could break up the
attack so that it only trickled through feebly; but, of course, they
must be good men.

The 56th proved themselves once more to be good men. The German
storming parties were most cleverly supported by their trench mortars
and field artillery. A deluge of shells descended on the posts holding
the blocks in the communication trenches, and the enemy infantry
supplemented the bombardment with rifle grenades. The artillery lifted
slowly, and as it moved so the infantry, assembled at the other side
of the blocks, leapt out on the parapet and attempted to rush the
defending post. At the same time other infantry advanced over the open
from the main trenches.

With such a short distance between opposing troops one might well        198
suppose that this form of attack would succeed. It was sudden, it was
confusing, inasmuch as Germans appeared everywhere. But the men of the
56th Division showed the most astonishing, the most praiseworthy
calmness. The training of the division in the new organisation, with
platoons composed of rifle, bombing, rifle grenadier, and Lewis-gun
sections, combined with the coolness of the men now bore fruit.
Volleys from the rifle grenadier sections shook the Germans as they
emerged from their trenches; the riflemen picked off individuals who
were getting too close; Lewis guns, sited to sweep enemy avenues of
approach, sent streams of bullets into the mass of the enemy; and
where the Germans succeeded in reaching the trenches they had to deal
with the bombers.

In the tremendous battle that followed, the Stokes mortar batteries
supported their comrades in exemplary fashion. The most striking
individual work of all that was done by these batteries was that
carried out by Corporal Macintosh, of the 168th Battery. This corporal
had done extraordinarily good work on the 24th, but on this occasion
he surpassed his previous record. Captain Crawford writes of his utter
disregard for his personal safety, of his standing exposed, not only
to the fire of artillery and trench mortars, but the more deadly
sniper, calmly directing the fire of his gun where it was most
urgently needed. And what of Private Woods?

     “Private Woods had been forced to withdraw his gun from its
     original position, and in doing so he lost the stand. He
     took up a new position with another gun, and carried on             199
     firing incessantly; and later, when the stand of his gun was
     giving way through excessive firing, continued to use the
     primary ammunition on the enemy whilst holding the barrel of
     the gun between his legs.”

The Germans attacked with the greatest determination, and pressed
forward with a multitude of men. Posts all along the front line were
gradually surrounded, but the grim, steadfast fierceness of the men of
the 56th Division was doing its work. The enemy losses were appalling.
The losses of the 56th Division were great, and where gaps occurred
the enemy slipped through. They appeared in the front line (the
support line of the Hindenburg front system), on the right, in the
centre, on the left. Hard fighting had reached the second line of the
Queen’s Westminsters and the 2nd Londons. Col. Pank, of the 8th
Middlesex, was in his headquarter dug-out, situated in the support
line (German front line), when he was told the enemy was in the front
line; he ordered his runners, signallers, everybody to man the trench
outside, and, leading the way himself, clambered out of one entrance
to the dug-out while the Germans threw bombs down the other. Col. Pank
slipped down the communication trench which ran to the old German
outpost line, and gathering together the first men he could find of
his support company, with a supply of bombs led them back to attack.

The London Scottish were on the extreme left, holding the old German
front line through Tadpole Copse and across the Inchy road, and
therefore a continuation of the 8th Middlesex second line. Col.
Jackson was suddenly startled by finding the enemy in his line. But
the fierce attack led by Col. Pank shook the enemy, and though the       200
London Scottish had their hands fairly full on their front and left
flank, they dealt with the party in their trench. Col. Pank then
cleared the whole of his section of the old German front line. This
was the point of deepest penetration by the enemy, and was reached
somewhere about one o’clock.

We must point out that dug-outs in this line were far from comfortable
quarters. Their positions were naturally known to the Germans and they
were continually bombarded with enormous trench mortars, said to be
12-inch. In the expressive language of the Cockney, they were “bumped”
from morning to night. To get some idea of the effect of these engines
on those in the dug-outs, we need only say that each explosion
extinguished all the candles and left the occupants in darkness.

The Kensingtons had been sent up to Barbican, the sunken road in No
Man’s Land, as reinforcements, but in view of the uncertainty of the
position they were ordered to remain there.

One cannot hope to give a detailed account of attack and
counter-attack in this mass of trenches. Every hour brought a new
situation, now in our favour, now against us. The Queen’s Westminsters
and the 2nd Londons had suffered severe casualties. Everywhere the
line stood firm in the old German front line. Two companies of the
London Rifle Brigade had reinforced the Queen’s Westminsters, and
three companies of the Queen Victoria’s Rifles had gone to the 2nd
Londons. Practically the whole of the 169th Brigade was engaged, and
gradually they wore down the German attack.

The message “Am holding on--hard pressed” came by pigeon and runner      201
with distressing frequency. The Rangers were put under the orders of
the 169th Brigade. The remaining battalions of the 167th Brigade and
the 5th Cheshires were marching towards the battle. The S.O.S. was
signalled by the London Scottish at 4 p.m. At 6 p.m. fierce bombing
was still going on in all trenches forward.

The position was that the 169th and 168th Brigades held the old German
front line with blocks in all the communication trenches running to
the second line. The Queen’s Westminsters (in touch with the 2nd
Division on the right), 2nd London, and 8th Middlesex, on whom the
greatest weight of the attack had fallen, had lost the old German
second line; the London Scottish, faced with the flank of the German
attack, but nevertheless a hotly pressed attack, had lost no ground.

On this day the Divisional Artillery had fired on S.O.S. lines
continuously from soon after ten in the morning until six at night. A
number of fleeting targets and enemy batteries were also engaged with
good results. The Germans attempted to press forward with their
batteries; in fact, they believed they were going to break through,
and the batteries could be seen galloping into action. On one
occasion, about 1 p.m., a brigade of three German 77-mm. batteries
raced into the open, and were engaged so swiftly by the 280th Brigade
R.F.A. that only one battery was able to get off a round before being
knocked out. As usual the 56th Divisional Artillery supported the
gallantry of the infantry with equal gallantry and determination.

The German counter-battery fire had increased rapidly every day from
the commencement of the operations, gas being used chiefly at night.     202
But at no time did it reach anything like the same intensity as was
experienced on the Ypres front, or even on the Somme. Hostile aircraft
were very active, flying low over the front line and battery positions
during the latter part of the battle; and on two or three occasions
they hindered batteries in the open by machine-gunning their crews
when they were firing on S.O.S. lines.

On the right of the 56th Division, and on the west side of the canal,
the 6th Brigade (2nd Division) stood firmly in line with the 56th. The
attack on the east of the canal fell on the 99th Brigade of the 2nd
Division and the 140th Brigade of the 47th Division, holding the crest
of the ridge running from Bourlon Wood to the Bapaume-Cambrai road.
The attack came on, time after time, only to be hurled back by the
fire of the guns and the machine guns, and the fine fighting of the
infantry. Full-strength attacks were delivered at 9.30 a.m., 11.25
a.m., and at 2.30 p.m., but the enemy gained nothing more than a few
advanced posts, and an advance of about 300 yards near Bourlon Wood.

The situation in the morning had been a precarious one, indeed the
greatest anxiety prevailed throughout the day. The Guards Division had
stopped the German rush on the south side of the salient during the
early afternoon, but if the 56th, 2nd, and 47th Divisions had not
stood firm on the northern side, the Third Army would have suffered a
heavy defeat. There were some frantic telegrams sent at times. At
10.30 a.m. the 2nd, 47th, 59th, and 62nd Artillery were ordered to be
prepared to move their guns from the Graincourt Valley, and to have
their teams up in readiness, but these same guns did fearful execution.  203
The 47th Division reported at 11.35 a.m.: “Waves attacking over crest
F21 (Fontaine) held up by our barrage, which is very accurate. Our
guns have broken up concentration on E16 (west of Bourlon Wood). Dense
waves moving along crest E to W. Our guns apparently drawing them.”

But the relief felt by the General Staff found expression in a booklet
entitled _The Story of a Great Fight. (Being an account of the
operations of the 47th, 2nd, and 56th Divisions in the neighbourhood
of Bourlon Wood and Mœuvres, on the 30th November, 1917.)_ We can
only give extracts which concern us:

     “The 56th Division had been in line prior to the British
     attack of the 20th November, in which its right brigade had
     taken part, and since that date had captured and held about
     a mile of the Hindenburg Line west of Mœuvres, including
     Tadpole Copse. Almost constant fighting had taken place in
     this area since our attack, and the division, which at one
     time had been holding a front of 11,000 yards, had already
     been subjected to a very severe strain.... The story of the
     subsequent fighting on the Bourlon-Mœuvres front is one so
     brimful of heroism that it deserves to take its place in
     English history for all time. The most determined attacks of
     four German divisions, with three other German divisions in
     support, were utterly crushed by the unconquerable
     resistance of the three British divisions in line. The 30th
     November, 1917, will be a proud day in the lives of all
     those splendid British soldiers who, by their single-hearted
     devotion to duty, prevented what would have become a serious
     situation had they given way.... At 9.20 a.m. the enemy had
     been seen advancing from the north towards the Canal du
     Nord, and subsequently attack after attack was delivered by         204
     him on both sides of the canal against the 6th and 169th
     Infantry Brigades. South of Mœuvres the enemy succeeded in
     gaining an entry, but was driven back by a bombing attack
     after heavy fighting.... From Mœuvres westward to Tadpole
     Copse a desperate struggle was taking place for the
     possession of the Hindenburg Line, in the course of which
     the enemy at one time reached the Battalion Headquarters of
     the 8th Middlesex Regt., attached to the 168th Brigade, 56th
     Division. Here the German infantry were stopped by the
     gallant defence of the officer commanding the battalion,
     who, with the assistance of his headquarters staff, held off
     the enemy with bombs until further help was organised and
     the trench regained. Though much reduced in strength by the
     fighting of the preceding days, and hard-pressed by superior
     forces, the troops of the 168th and 169th Brigades beat off
     all attacks. Queen’s Westminsters, London Scottish, and the
     men of the 1/2nd Bn. London Regt. and 1/8th Bn. Middlesex
     Regt. vied with one another in the valour of their
     resistance.... At the end of this day of high courage and
     glorious achievement, except for a few advanced positions,
     some of which were afterwards regained, our line had been
     maintained intact. The men who had come triumphantly through
     this mighty contest felt, and rightly felt, that they had
     won a great victory, in which the enemy had come against
     them in full strength and had been defeated with losses at
     which even the victors stood aghast.”

The survivors will at least agree that when General Headquarters took
the trouble to print anything of this sort it had been well earned.

During the night of the 30th November reliefs took place. On the 169th
Brigade front the London Rifle Brigade relieved the Queen’s
Westminsters and the 3rd London (attached) relieved the 2nd London.      205
On the 168th Brigade front the Rangers relieved the London Scottish
and the 1st London the 8th Middlesex. The Queen’s Westminsters and the
2nd London, being the most worn troops, were sent into the divisional
reserve at Louverval, while the rest occupied the old British line.
The reliefs were not complete until 5 a.m. on the 1st December.

At about 3.30 p.m. the enemy commenced a heavy bombardment of the
trenches held in the Hindenburg Line and the S.O.S. went up. From
movement noticed beforehand on the north-west of Tadpole Copse it
seemed likely that he would attack again, but the attempt, if it was
to be made, was crushed by the artillery.

On the night of the 1st December the 51st Division started to relieve
the 56th, but, so as not to involve the 51st Division until the
following night, the front line was not relieved before the night of
the 2nd December.

Gen. Dudgeon makes some interesting remarks on the battle:

     “Although up to Z day the rôle of the division was to attack
     with Tanks over the open, the fighting which developed was
     almost entirely trench fighting with bombs. No shortage of
     bombs occurred, but the men employed at the divisional dump
     (eleven men) worked day and night detonating, and at one
     time the Divisional Artillery Column echélon had to be drawn

     It was found that pigeon messages were very slow, probably
     owing to the season of the year. Trench wireless sets were
     used with success from positions within 200 yards of the
     enemy, being erected only at night and dismantled by day.           206
     The reliable method of communication was by runner from the
     captured trenches to our old line, viz. over about 2,300
     yards of No Man’s Land, and a series of relay posts was

     The 168th Brigade, with the help of, on an average, two
     companies 1/5th Cheshire Regt. and one battalion 167th
     Brigade (occasional help), dug a communication trench ...
     (about 1,500 yards). This trench, being rather in line with
     the Inchy road, was somewhat subject to shell fire. 169th
     Brigade also, with the help of one company of Pioneers and
     one Field Company, dug a trench ... (1,300 yards), which was
     less shelled. The Barbican and Houndsditch provided some
     shelter, but in most cases reinforcements and supplies had
     to go over the open in full view of Mœuvres, from which it
     was impossible to obtain concealment.”

During these operations the 56 machine guns in the division (two
companies of 16 guns and two companies of 12 guns) were used as
follows: With each infantry brigade, 8 guns; in Divisional Pool, 32
guns. The 32 guns of the pool were employed on the 20th inst. in
barrage work outside the divisional area to cover the attack of the
36th and 62nd Divisions. They returned to divisional control on the
night of the 20th November. On the 21st and subsequent days the
headquarters of the Divisional Pool were in a central position in
Beaumetz.... On subsequent days the guns in the pool were used for
protection of the flank (a maximum of 10 guns were employed on this);
protective barrage on the Hindenburg Line and on the Hindenburg
Support; machine-gun defence behind the infantry.

We have mentioned the word “mystery” with regard to the battle of        207
Cambrai and the handling of the cavalry. Though they fought on foot
with the best at Bourlon Wood and Villers Guislan, there seems to have
been some hesitation on the first day of the battle. It is, however,
debatable whether they could have done much. Of the other mysteries
the success of the Germans on the southern side of the salient is one.
Early in the proceedings General Sir O’D. Snow, commanding the VII
Corps, is reported to have placed his fingers on a map at the point of
Twenty-two Ravine, and said, “If I were a German, I should attack
there”! No attempt was ever made to reinforce divisions before the
German counter-attack, although the Army was aware that one was
threatened. And this brings us to another mystery. Sir Douglas Haig
repeats several times in his dispatch a suggestion that he had a very
limited number of troops at his command. But we know that he had the
offer of French troops. He closes his account of the fighting on the
30th November by recording--

     “my obligation to the Commander-in-Chief of the French
     Armies for the prompt way in which he placed French troops
     within reach for employment in case of need at the
     unfettered discretion of the Third Army Commander. Part of
     the artillery of this force actually came into action,
     rendering valuable service; and though the remainder of the
     troops were not called upon, the knowledge that they were
     available should occasion arise was a great assistance.”

One naturally asks the question: “What would have happened if French
troops had been used even as late as the 21st November?” If they were
still too far away, there were undoubtedly British divisions quite       208
close up and quite fresh which could have been used to press the first
great advantage gained, and the French would still have been in hand
as a reserve.

Casualties from the 20th November to the 3rd December were 9 officers
killed, 202 other ranks killed, 43 officers and 1,003 other ranks
wounded, 17 officers and 352 other ranks missing.

                             CHAPTER VII                                 209

                        THE GERMAN OFFENSIVE

                  THE FIRST BATTLE OF ARRAS, 1918

Telegrams of congratulation on the action at Cambrai came from Corps
and Army Headquarters; Sir Douglas Haig also sent a wire. But there
was no question of rest for the 56th Division.

The strength of battalions on the 1st December was:

                               Officers.  Other ranks.
  7th Middlesex                   41           760
  8th     “                       35           571
  1st London                      43           740
  3rd     “                       37           813
  4th     “                       32           622
  12th    “                       28           754
  13th    “                       36           850
  14th    “                       42           949
  2nd     “                       32           529
  5th     “                       40           730
  9th     “                       31           789
  16th    “                       30           592

On the 3rd the division, less artillery, moved by tactical trains to
the area behind Arras; Divisional Headquarters were at Fosseux; the
167th Brigade in the Montenescourt-Gouves-Wanquentin area; the 168th
in the Warlus-Simencourt area; the 169th in the Bernaville-Dainville
area. The next day the division moved into the XIII Corps area with
Divisional Headquarters in camp near Roclincourt. Gen. Dudgeon went      210
to see the new line on the 6th, and on the 7th the relief of the 31st
Division started.

The line taken over was between Gavrelle and Oppy: Gavrelle was held
by us and Oppy by the Germans.

The enemy was very quiet and the weather not too bad for the time of
year. There was, of course, rain, and it was very cold; a short time
after the division took over the line it began to snow. Battalions had
about a week in the front line, a week in support, and then in camp
for a week. The great feature of this line was Arras, for at Arras
many comforts could be purchased to alleviate the life of the soldier.

Identification was obtained by the 168th Brigade--a prisoner from the
7th Reserve Infantry Regt., 5th Reserve Division. There were one or
two bickerings between patrols, but nothing of importance. And so
Christmas Day was passed with the division still in line.

On the 26th December General Swift, U.S.A., and his Chief of Staff
joined the division for a week, to study British methods.

On the 9th January the 62nd Division took over the line from the 56th.

                     *     *     *     *     *

The outstanding events of the year 1917 must be carried in the mind so
that the new situation can be appreciated. In the month of February
the Germans had started an unrestricted U-boat campaign and America
had broken off diplomatic relations with her. War was not declared
between these two countries until April, and as an immediate
consequence it influenced the plans of the Entente and Central Powers
according to the time which, in the judgment of either, it would be      211
possible for America to make her strength felt.

The Entente Powers looked upon America as a reserve upon which they
could count in twelve months’ time, or slightly over. They were free
to undertake large operations with ambitious objects, provided they
did not either break their armies, or so reduce them in strength as to
render their resisting power unequal to any sudden German attack.

On the other hand, the Central Powers had to do something before the
American troops arrived and gave the balance of power definitely to
the Entente.

Although American action in the future was the deciding factor, the
formation of plans could not rest entirely on such a direct
calculation. At first it seemed that the Entente had no reason to
think that the abdication of the Tsar would mean the defection of
Russia; and the Central Powers could only hope to delay the American
Armies by their U-boats. But the Russian debacle began with her defeat
in Galicia in the latter part of July, and it soon became evident to
the Entente that they would, before the American forces could be used,
have to fight for their existence. They had, it is true, brought the
Central Powers’ offensive in Italy, which had threatened to cause a
disaster, to a standstill, but the Bolshevist _coup d’état_ in Russia
in November had brought visions of an overwhelming mass of German
troops moving to the west. December, January, and February were gloomy
months of speculation which culminated in a state of nervous
apprehension in March.

During the first half of the year the Central Powers had not much to
congratulate themselves upon. Baghdad was captured in March. The         212
battles of Arras in April and of Messines in June were sudden and
definite blows which shook them, and though the Ypres battles in 1917
were a most costly affair to the British, the German losses had been
sufficiently heavy to create consternation. Well might Ludendorff
utter a cry of elation when events in Russia opened prospects of an
early release of the German armies on that front! He no longer
believed in the assurance of the German Navy that the U-boats would
neutralise American effort, but he saw a chance of victory before the
fatal date of effective American intervention.

He and the Field-Marshal Hindenburg must have known that they would
have to make the last fatal throw and that there was barely time to
rattle the dice. Austria was done, worn out, exhausted. It was
doubtful whether she could stand against the Italians. Allenby, under
whom the 56th Division had fought in April, had gone to Egypt in June,
and by December had captured Jerusalem; and Turkey, at the end of her
tether, lay at his mercy: events in this theatre of war might move so
fast as to bring disaster from that direction on the Central Powers.
The Bulgarians were not trusted. And there were signs that the German
Army itself had lost its arrogant spirit.

Hindenburg could count on a preponderance of numbers on the Western
Front, but desertions were appalling in number. Tens of thousands, we
are told, crossed the frontiers into neutral countries, and a great
many more stayed at home, “tacitly tolerated by their fellow-citizens
and completely unmolested by the authorities.”

The movement of troops from east to west was carried out rapidly. By     213
the New Year the Germans had a majority of thirty divisions over the
Entente on the Western Front. The plan was to attack with fifty to
sixty divisions under massed artillery, varying between twenty and
thirty batteries to each kilometre of front attacked, and a multitude
of trench mortars as well.

Meanwhile American troops were arriving and training in the back

                     *     *     *     *     *

The 56th Divisional Artillery had remained in the Mœuvres sector.
Brig.-Gen. Elkington and his headquarters had, however, moved with the
infantry, and we quote from the Brigadier’s diary:

     “The headquarters of the division and the R.A. were
     established in huts in Victory Camp, and I took over command
     of the R.A. covering the division on the 8th [December]. On
     the 17th and 18th the 56th Divisional Artillery returned to
     the division and took over in the line. This part of the
     front was at the time a very quiet one, but much harassing
     fire was done and a certain amount of enemy counter-battery
     work was done on the battery positions. Work was begun on
     rear lines and rear battery positions. Very cold weather was
     experienced in December.

     We remained in this sector with headquarters at Victory
     Camp, which consisted of Nissen huts and was the coldest and
     bleakest spot I encountered--it was a desperately cold
     winter. From the 1st to the 3rd January an American General
     and his staff officers were attached to the division and
     went round battery positions and saw some shooting. On the
     5th January the 62nd Divisional Infantry relieved the 56th
     Divisional Infantry, and on the 7th and 8th the R.A. of the
     62nd Division came and looked over the batteries in the line.

     On the 9th January the 62nd Divisional Artillery relieved           214
     the 56th Divisional Artillery and I handed over to the
     C.R.A., our batteries going back to the area round Berles
     for rest and training, the infantry having moved to the
     Villers-Chatel area. The R.A. Headquarters was established
     for the first four days at Bertincourt, and afterwards at
     the château at Berles, a very comfortable billet owned by a
     French Count who was very hospitable and glad to see us and
     did everything he could to make us comfortable. Inspection
     and training of batteries took place, but this was greatly
     hampered by the bad and severe weather.”

Training of the infantry was, owing to the weather, not very ardent
during the divisional rest from the 9th January to the 11th February.
But it was a welcome rest.

British strength on the Western Front was now on the downward grade.
From January divisions were cut down to nine battalions, and from the
30th of that month we must say good-bye to the 1st Battalion of the
Rangers, the 1st Battalion of the Queen Victoria’s Rifles, and the
1/3rd London Regt. The headquarters and transport of these battalions
joined the 58th Division and were incorporated in the 2nd Battalions
of their respective regiments. The 56th Division retained a certain
number of the men, who were split up as follows: Queen Victoria’s
Rifles, 5 officers and 150 other ranks to the 13th London
(Kensingtons), 12 officers and 250 other ranks to the 16th London
(Queen’s Westminster Rifles), 4 officers and 76 other ranks to the 4th
London; the Rangers sent 8 officers and 300 other ranks to the London
Rifle Brigade; while the rest passed out of the Division (7 officers
and 230 other ranks to the 1/23rd London, and 12 officers and 200        215
other ranks to the 2nd Battalion Rangers); the 1/3rd London sent 11
officers and 250 other ranks to the 1/1st London, 11 officers and 250
other ranks to the 1/2 London, and 2 officers and 34 other ranks to
the 1/4 London (12 officers and 214 other ranks out of the division to
their 2nd Battalion).

So far as the infantry were concerned, the forty-seven divisions on
the Western Front in March 1918 were reduced by a quarter--this is
exclusive of the Canadian and Australian divisions, which retained
their original strength, and includes the 41st Division, which
returned from Italy on the 2nd March.

The relief of the 62nd Division by the 56th started on the 8th
February, and on the 11th Gen. Dudgeon took over command of the line.

Meanwhile “the wind was whistling through the châteaux of the Higher
Command!” The severe cold and the snow at Christmas and the
commencement of the New Year was followed by a thaw and a lot of rain.
The result was that most of the trenches fell in. A period of feverish
activity followed; engineers and pioneers were working every night,
and the infantry had to provide as many men as was possible. Gradually
the defences were reconstructed and new ones added. All this activity,
mingled with orders and provisions for retirement, was greeted by the
troops with characteristic jeers.

We do not wish to contribute to the general abuse which was levelled
at the heads of the “Staff” or “Red Tabs”--the arrangements made on
this front at least were justified by the results--but we desire to
give as far as we can the feeling of the private soldier and
regimental officer.

Arrangements for retreat shock the troops in much the same way as a      216
coarse expression might shock a drawing-room full of ladies. They are
offended. They ask the question: “What’s the idea?” And although they
could not enumerate the difficulties of a gradual retirement, they
seem to “sense” the fearful responsibility that is being thrust upon
them. And the very nature of the situation caused orders to be given
which suggested uncertainty and indecision. The private soldier’s
point of view was simple: he wanted to be given orders to fight on a
certain spot, but to change the spot where he should fight annoyed

The system which was adopted to meet the onslaught of the Germans was
to spread the defence over a wide belt of country. The front-line
system was not to be held; it was to be occupied by outposts whose
duty was to watch the enemy and retire on the next line if he
attacked. The fight itself was to take place in what was called the
“battle zone”; and behind was yet another line through which the enemy
must pass before our defence was broken. If the Germans penetrated
these lines, they might be said to have broken our first system of

Behind the 56th Division were other defences on which it might fall
back, but we are only concerned with the first system.

As to the general distribution of forces to meet the German offensive,
one-half of the British strength was devoted to protecting the Channel
ports, and the rest was thinly dispersed over the remaining front. It
must be remembered that additional front amounting to 28 miles had
been taken over by the British in January, and that Sir Douglas Haig
was now responsible for 125 miles. In view of this length of line and    217
the extreme importance of the Channel ports, the general disposition
of troops would seem to have been wise.

The Germans claim to have effected a surprise in March 1918--a
contention which is scarcely justified. In his interesting, lengthy,
but somewhat vague account of the assembly of the great attacking
force, Ludendorff says that ammunition dumps had been increased all
along the British front, that movement of troops was carried out at
night, but that German aviators sent up to report could see signs of
concentration on the area chosen for attack which the blind English
were _unable to perceive_! This is not accurate, but one must
admit that the German concentration and preparation were superbly

We knew that a general movement of troops from east to west had been
started in November, and that roads and railways were being improved,
artillery increased, and ammunition accumulated all along the front
from Flanders to the Oise, and by the end of February indications
became apparent that the attack would be on the Third and Fifth

On the 19th March the Intelligence Department reported to Sir Douglas
Haig that the enemy preparations on the Arras-St. Quentin front were
complete and that the attack would probably be launched on the 20th or

Ludendorff assumes that “nor did the enemy discover anything by other
means ... otherwise his defensive measures would have been more
effective and his reserves would have arrived more quickly.” In this
his claim of surprise might seem to be justified, although the charge
can be met by a statement of the considerations which influenced Sir
Douglas Haig through this anxious period; he could give up no ground     218
in the northern portion of the British area where the Channel ports
were threatened, and he knew that the ground was exceptionally dry and
that preparations for an attack had been almost completed from the
direction of Menin; the same applied to the centre, behind which lay
the collieries of northern France, and important tactical features
covering his lateral communications; in the south, in the Somme area,
ground could be given up to a certain extent without serious

The dispositions of British troops according to the above
considerations had an effect on the Germans, for Ludendorff tells us
that when deciding on the front to be attacked he was faced with
strong forces about Ypres, that the condition of the centre (the Lys
Valley) would not admit an attack before April (which was late in view
of the Americans), that an attack in the direction of Verdun would
lead into very hilly country, and that in making his final decisions
he was influenced by the time factor and the “weakness of the enemy.”

During the early part of 1918 the whole of the British force in
forward areas was concerned with the problem of defence. It was not a
cheerful period. Closely typewritten sheets of paper flew about in all
directions, giving instructions, making amendments to previous
instructions, calling for suggestions, and ever warning commanders
against attack. The Cheshire Regt. and the Engineers of the 56th
Division worked night and day at improving rear lines and constructing
alternative ones; fatigue parties were called for from battalions both
in and out of the line; machine gunners and trench-mortar experts moved
restlessly from point to point, selecting possible emplacements for      219
their guns, and the artillery did the same farther back.

The men in the line were always the coolest in the whole of the army,
but the officers were gradually being worked up to a state of feverish
anxiety and a certain amount of bewilderment.

On the 9th March the Kensingtons carried out a smart and successful
raid, killing about 20 and capturing 4 Germans. The prisoners stated
that the German offensive was imminent. Orders were issued for battle
positions to be manned at 5 a.m. as from the 13th.

Another raid by the London Rifle Brigade on the 16th was hung up in a
mass of uncut wire, but 2/Lieut. Kite Powell hacked his way through
and, followed by four men, managed to enter the German line and kill
half a dozen of them. They secured no prisoner; still, the information
that the enemy front line was strongly held and that they were very
alert was of value.

Aeroplane activity was very great from the 18th onwards, and a great
deal of individual movement was seen behind the enemy lines. Harassing
fire by the 56th Divisional Artillery was increased, and with a good
percentage of gas shells. The enemy seemed to give a great deal of
attention to our wire with his trench mortars during the increasing
bursts of artillery fire.

On the 21st March, with one tremendous crash, the great battle opened
on a front of 44 miles, the artillery bombardment including the front
held by the 56th Division. But the attack was launched farther south
between La Fère and Croiselles.

No less than 68 German divisions took part in the battle on the first    220
day, many more than the whole of the British Army contained. The
training, carried out in some cases behind the Russian front, had been
so complete as to include the practising of infantry behind an actual,
live barrage. The result was admirable. Swarms of men, followed
resolutely and closely by artillery, broke through the Fifth and the
right of the Third Armies, which were composed of a total force of 29
infantry divisions and 3 cavalry divisions.

The German 17th Army, composed of 24 divisions, attacked north of
Cambrai; the 2nd Army, of 17 divisions, immediately south of Cambrai;
and the 18th Army, of 27 divisions, carried the attack down to La

The 2nd and 18th German Armies made good progress against the British
Fifth Army, but the resistance of our Third Army limited the enemy’s
success, so that the 17th German Army was not able to cut off the
Flesquières salient, near Cambrai, as had been planned. But during the
night of 22nd/23rd March the Fifth Army was back at Peronne, and there
was a deep bulge in the Third Army towards Bapaume. On the 27th the
German line ran through Albert and Montdidier. But the right of the
German 17th Army was not too comfortable--Arras must be swept aside!

Behind Arras the wildest excitement prevailed. The word “panic,” a
humiliating word, can be applied. But, as we have said before, there
was always a zone of calmness, and that zone was the forward zone. Had
the London men of the 56th Division been able to see the scurrying
motors and anxious faces of the “soft job” men behind them, they would   221
have been amazed. But the 56th Division just went on with the
ordinary, somewhat strenuous routine which had been instituted at the
commencement of the year, strengthening the defences, putting out
wire, arranging “blocks,” constructing emplacements for machine guns
and trench mortars. Being, however, on the flank of the XIII Corps,
regimental officers were subjected to the annoyance of frequent
changes of orders and plans.

On the 19th March an order was given for the 56th Division to alter
the method of holding the line from a three-brigade front to a
two-brigade front. Each of the two front-line brigades would have two
battalions in line and one in reserve, and the division would have an
entire brigade in reserve. The necessary moves were made on the night
of 21st/22nd March.

An order was issued on the 20th that the division would be relieved by
the 62nd Division, but this was cancelled on the 21st. On the 22nd a
further warning order was given that the division would be relieved by
the 2nd Canadian Division, and this also was cancelled on the 23rd.

The situation of the Third Army, on the right of the 56th Division,
brought a multitude of instructions. On the 22nd the XVII Corps had
been ordered to withdraw to its third system on the south of the
Scarpe, but to continue holding Monchy lightly. But north of the
Scarpe the 4th Division, on the right of the 56th, would not move
until Monchy had been captured by the enemy, in which case the 56th
Division would adjust their line to run through Beatty Post, Bailleul
Post, to le Point du Jour Post. General Matheson, commanding the 4th
Division, did not, however, intend to move unless definitely ordered     222
to do so, and if attacked would fight in three successive lines, the
last bringing him to the Point du Jour Post.

This last assurance of General Matheson was of a nature to simplify
the possible actions of officers of the 56th Division, and was
welcome. That the enemy was going to do something was becoming
evident. At 5.30 p.m. on the 23rd he exploded a land mine under the
wire in front of Towy Post, and appeared to be manning the line
opposite the divisional front thicker than usual. Harassing fire was
turned on the German trenches, and the reserve brigade was ordered to
stand to at 5 a.m. in future.

In the south the Germans were now approaching Albert and Roye. All
sorts of rumours were flying about behind the lines. On the 24th the
169th Brigade captured a wounded German, and he was sent for
examination in the early morning of the 25th. He said that the 101st
Reserve and 102nd Reserve Regiments, belonging to the 219th and 23rd
(Reserve) Divisions, had occupied the Wotan Stellung, behind the front
line, on the night of the 24th. These divisions had come from Riga,
and would attack on the 26th together with the 240th and 5th Bavarian
Reserve Divisions. They were to advance to a depth of four kilometres
with the right flank on Oppy, and then swing round towards Vimy. The
battalion section of the 471st Regt. had already 60 trench mortars in
position, and 8 more trench mortar companies were to arrive on the
night of the 25th. The ammunition was already in the line. One may
imagine that Gen. Dudgeon’s conference at 6.30 p.m. was far from a
dull affair.

The artillery were ordered to fire on chosen targets through the         223
night, and patrolling was active.

A great deal of movement had been seen throughout the day of men and
light railways. Troops were seen detraining at Vitry.

And that night there was an inter-battalion relief on the right, the
Queen’s Westminsters relieving the 2nd London. The party sent to
relieve Gavrelle Post found it occupied by two dead men only--the
remainder of the garrison had entirely disappeared. Signs of a
struggle were there, but no one on either flank had reported the post
being attacked, and, apparently, nothing unusual had been seen.

Gen. Dudgeon ordered both brigades to do their utmost to secure a
German prisoner. Every effort was made, but the enemy was found more
than ever on the alert, with parties lying out to catch patrols. It is
curious that one patrol reported the enemy repairing their wire--it is
probable that they were cutting it down.

The attack was coming, and Divisional Headquarters strained every
nerve to direct, encourage, and advise for the struggle. Some of the
orders are not too easy to understand, and one is of interest as an
example of rumour being accepted as fact.

The artillery, of course, was very busy, and we find an instruction to
cut German wire and to keep the gaps open! And the order we refer to
as being founded on rumour was as follows: “In view possible
appearance enemy agents warn all ranks against use of word
RETIRE. Any person using this word before or during an attack
to be shot.” This was, no doubt, based on a much-circulated statement
that the Fifth Army debacle was largely due to German agents, dressed    224
as British officers, giving the order to retire. We cannot believe in
a swarm of disguised Germans.

It must, however, have been a very weighty consideration which induced
the Higher Command to order an extension of divisional front on the
27th. General Sir H. de Lisle, better known as the commander of the
29th Division and now in command of the XIII Corps, was ordered to
take over the line to the Souchez River, on his left. This meant that
the 56th Division had to relieve the 3rd Canadian Division, on the
left, at Tommy and Arleux Posts during the night of 27th/28th March.
At the same time the division was again ordered to treat the front
line as an outpost line, and to fight on the line between Ditch Post
and Willerval South. But at the last moment the front line was ordered
to be held as such so as to conform with the 4th Division on the
right; the 56th Division was already so stretched out that this
curious eleventh-hour change did not make much difference.

The Vimy Ridge lay behind the division, but the ground they fought on
was not level. The 4th Division, on the right, was on high ground, and
Gavrelle lay in a slight depression; the ground rose again towards
Bailleul East Post, and fell once more in the direction of Oppy. The
division was, however, on a forward slope which gave them good
observation from a somewhat exposed position (see map contours).

The rearrangement of the line, which took place during the night, gave
the Queen’s Westminsters the right, holding Towy Post and Gavrelle
Post with one company, while the other three companies held posts
defending Naval Trench. The London Rifle Brigade held Mill, Bradford,
and Bird Posts with two companies and one platoon, the remainder of      225
the battalion holding posts on the Marine Trench line. The third
battalion of the brigade, the 2nd London Regt., held the Ditch,
Bailleul, and Bailleul East line. Behind them, in the Farbus line, was
one company of the 5th Cheshire Regt., and in reserve the 169th
Brigade held two companies of the 1st London Regt., attached from the
167th Brigade, and a detachment of the 176th Tunnelling Company, who
were in the Point du Jour Post.

The 168th Brigade, on the left, held Beatty, Wood, and Oppy Posts with
two companies of the 4th London Regt., and two in support on the line
Duke Street; and Tommy and Arleux Posts with the Kensingtons, two
companies in the front line and in support.

The actual distribution of troops on the left is not very clear, as
the redistribution was not complete when, at 3 a.m. on the 28th March,
the enemy opened a furious bombardment. We find a note that the London
Rifle Brigade had not at that hour relieved Bailleul East Post, and
that one company of the 1st Canadian Rifles were still holding Sugar
Post. This latter company remained at Sugar Post throughout the
battle, being placed, with that complete disregard of all, except the
winning of the battle, which characterised the Canadians, under the
orders of the 168th Brigade. But the London Scottish were also in this
Sugar Post-Willerval line. In the Farbus line were two platoons of the
5th Cheshires, and behind them, in the Point du Jour-Ridge Post line,
two companies of the 1st London Regt. and one and a half companies of
the 5th Cheshires.

The two remaining battalions of the 167th Brigade and three field        226
companies of Royal Engineers were in Divisional Reserve.

The opening of a modern battle is, with few exceptions, a matter of
artillery. Brig.-Gen. Elkington’s diary gives us some interesting

     “On the morning of the 28th March the 56th Division was
     holding a line south of Gavrelle to Arleux, a front of about
     5,000 yards. To cover this front the field-guns under the
     command of the division consisted of the 56th Divisional
     Artillery and 9 guns of the 52nd Army (Field Artillery
     Brigade), or 45 18-pounders and 12 4·5 howitzers. Six 6-inch
     Newton mortars were in action in the first-line system, and
     three were covering the Bailleul-Willerval line (that is our
     main line of resistance). Of the former, only two were
     manned, as all the ammunition at the other mortars had been
     expended previously, in accordance with orders which, later
     on, were cancelled, but not before the ammunition had been

     Between 3 a.m. and 3.20 a.m. the Germans put down a heavy
     barrage of gas and H.E. shells of all calibres on the
     Bailleul-Willerval line and the support line. At 4 a.m. the
     barrage increased over the whole of the front-line system
     and our posts were heavily bombarded with trench mortars.
     From 6 a.m. the hostile barrage of all calibres was heavily
     concentrated on the front line, and continued to be intense
     on this area until 7.15 a.m.

     During the above periods, that is from 3 a.m. until 7.15
     a.m., our artillery was firing heavily on the enemy’s front
     system of trenches, special concentrations being put down,
     in co-operation with the heavy artillery, on lines of
     organised shell-holes. It was considered at the time that
     these shell-holes were temporary trench-mortar emplacements,
     but from information given by prisoners after the attack,           227
     it appears likely that they were the assembly positions of
     the assaulting troops. From 6.45 a.m. onwards “counter
     preparation” was put into effect. At 7.15 a.m. the hostile
     barrage lifted from the front line to our support line, and
     the S.O.S. went up in the Gavrelle sector and was repeated
     almost immediately in the Oppy sector. Our S.O.S. was put
     down over the whole of the divisional front at the same

As may be imagined, the effect of this bombardment was terrible. The
bulk of the forward posts were obliterated. But even such
concentration as the Germans directed against the front line was not
sufficient to destroy all life--it could not deal with the whole of
the line. Towy Post and Wood Post had, during the last few days, been
subjected to a great deal of enemy attention, and the posts had been
moved--but even so the casualties were severe. One survivor came out
of Mill Post and reported that the trenches had been “blotted out,”
and that the entrance to a big dug-out there was blown in and

The Germans, advancing almost shoulder to shoulder, entered Gavrelle,
which, as we know, was in a hollow. Although there was no living soul
there to oppose them, the machine gunners had the place under indirect
fire from fourteen guns, and the enemy losses were severe. But the
first stages of the battle were centred round Towy and Wood Posts.

Capt. G. A. N. Lowndes, of the Queen’s Westminsters, was in command of
Towy Post, and with the lifting of the enemy barrage and the
appearance of the first Germans there came from the post the crackling
sound of rifle fire, joined, almost at once, by the rattle sound of      228
Lewis guns, until the whole developed into what might be described as
a roar. But the enemy was in Gavrelle and the undefended portions of
the front line on either side of Towy Post. Once in the trenches, the
storming troops could work slowly forward under some sort of cover. To
the rifle fire of the defenders was soon added the crash of bombs. The
enemy was confident; he worked slowly and surely round the post.

The glorious little band of Queen’s Westminsters knew what was
happening, but kept cool. Gradually they were forced into a small and
cramped area; Lewis guns and rifles dealt with Germans in the open,
clearing the ground round about and forcing the enemy to seek the
safety of the battered trench; but the store of bombs was getting low.

Capt. Lowndes, ably supported by 2/Lieuts. L. W. Friend and J. C. B.
Price, after hanging on to the last moment, directed his dwindling
company to fight through the Germans in rear, using the remaining
bombs, and swiftly, desperately, they broke through and reached Naval
Trench and joined the rest of the battalion round headquarters.

But the Germans, coming through Mill Post, were already in Marine
Trench, and Lieut.-Col. Glazier, commanding the Queen’s Westminsters,
passed a portion of his force into Thames Alley to form a flank.

Now trouble came from the right. The Lancashire Fusiliers, of the 4th
Division, fell back on to the Ditch Post line, and the enemy entered
Humid Trench. Col. Glazier swung back his right flank into Towy Alley,
and held the Germans firmly. And then for a moment the fortunes of war
turned against the Queen’s Westminsters.

The 56th Divisional Artillery, aware that the enemy were in our lines,   229
attempted to adjust their barrage in consultation with brigadiers. It
was a most difficult task, for, needless to say, communication was
almost non-existent. At the junction of Naval and Towy Trenches was a
block, and in front of it the enemy was held, but the artillery,
probably seeing the Germans in Humid and the end of Naval Trenches,
put down their barrage too close and blew in our block. The German
hordes quickly took advantage of this bit of luck and swarmed down
Naval Trench, either killing or capturing the garrison up to the
Gavrelle road.

About the same time the block on the left of the line, near Thames
Valley, was forced by the enemy, and the whole of the Naval Line was
in his hands. But the Queen’s Westminsters, gallantly led by Col.
Glazier, were still in front of the Germans on the line Keiller,
Pelican, and Thames Posts. Every bit of the communication trenches
which gave a good fire position, every dump-hole, even the shell-holes
were manned, and, as the Germans advanced over the open, in
reorganised lines, from Naval Trench, they were met with a fresh
rattle and roar of rifle fire. The ground was covered with silent and
groaning figures in the field-grey uniform, and the enemy had to
resort once more to bombing.

Again the Queen’s Westminsters gave up a little ground, but the
enemy’s effort was smashed. At 11 a.m. the position was: we held a
block in Towy Alley, about 300 yards east of the Ditch-Bailleul East
line, and Castleford Post, and the rest of the battalion had joined
the 2nd London Regt. in the Bailleul-Willerval line.

The account given by the London Rifle Brigade on the left of the         230
Queen’s Westminsters is short, but in it one can read the desperate
nature of the fighting and the gallant resistance which was put up.
The relief of Bradford and Bird Posts was not completed until 3.30
a.m., when the bombardment which heralded the attack commenced. All
forward and lateral communication was at once cut. Wire and posts
defending the front line were wiped out. When the enemy infantry
advanced, they simply walked into the front line, rushed the few men
left at the blocks in Belvoir and Brough, and commenced bombing
towards Naval Trench. The battalion was almost annihilated, and what
was left joined the Queen’s Westminsters in Thames Valley and became
mixed up with them. The fighting strength of this battalion at the
commencement of the battle was 23 officers and 564 other ranks; it was
reduced to 8 officers and about 60 other ranks.

The whole of the 169th Brigade now stood on the Bailleul-Willerval
line and the enemy was held. Twice he attacked over the open, with
aeroplanes flying low and pouring a hail of bullets on the defenders,
while field guns were dragged by plunging horses and straining men
across No Man’s Land as far as Naval Trench, but each time he was
defeated. The field guns fired no more than twenty rounds before being
silenced by the 56th Divisional Artillery; and though the enemy
infantry had a novel method of advancing--they stood up, threw their
rifles forward into a shell-hole, held up their hands, and advanced,
only to drop by the side of their arms, which they immediately
proceeded to use--they made no further progress.

The right of the 56th Division was, at 11 a.m., in touch with the 4th    231
Division. A battalion of the 167th Brigade was placed under the orders
of the 169th, and six machine guns were sent up to Point du Jour, and
two field companies of the Engineers to Tongue and Blanch Posts, so
that the right flank of the division seemed secure.

The 4th Londons, on the right of the 168th Brigade, put up a most
gallant defence. Wood Post, held by 2 officers and 45 other ranks, had
been moved before the bombardment and so was untouched. The full
garrison was there to meet the enemy, who advanced in a solid line on
the left of the wood, but came through the wood in groups of about ten
men each, 40 yards or so apart, and followed by further groups of
about thirty men each some 200 yards in rear.

The enemy was completely checked in the wood and on the left; but
Beatty Post, on the right, which had been badly battered about by
trench mortars, was occupied. The garrison, consisting at first of 3
officers and 84 other ranks, though much depleted when the assault was
launched, was overwhelmed by sheer numbers, and only 1 officer and 6
men ever returned. The enemy then started to work round to the rear of
Wood Post, but for over an hour this hard little band held out and
repulsed the enemy.

Oppy Post was also smothered by artillery and trench mortars, and
eventually overwhelmed by the storming infantry. Of the 2 officers and
48 other ranks forming the garrison, 1 officer and 5 other ranks were

Fifteen minutes after the assault was launched, the enemy was in the
Earl Lane and Viscount Street, but were held for a time by the troops
in Ouse Alley. But so long as Wood Post held, the enemy did not make     232
any great progress.

Major F. A. Phillips was in command of the forward fighting, and moved
about encouraging his men, who were inflicting heavy casualties on the
enemy whenever an attempt was made to advance over the open. But Wood
Post fell back just before 9 o’clock, and soon after the enemy began
to force their way up Ouse Alley from Viscount Street, in rear of the
troops who were fighting so successfully in Marquis Trench. Major
Phillips promptly attacked over the open with about twenty details
from headquarters, and drove them back.

The enemy had built up heavy rifle fire from Oppy Wood, although he
was suffering severely there from our artillery fire, and attacked the
left of the battalion many times over the open; but the Marquis line
held, and at 11 o’clock the position was extraordinary. The 169th
Brigade on the right was back in the Bailleul-Willerval line; and
while the advance companies of the 4th London were still holding the
Marquis line, the enemy was in Ouse Alley and bombing his way towards
the Bailleul line, also he was advancing over the open south of Ouse
Alley. The position then was very precarious, and the reserve company,
which Colonel Marchment had sent to get in touch with the forward
troops and form a flank, was unable to reach the forward troops. Major
Phillips decided to withdraw.

The withdrawal was witnessed by Colonel Marchment from his

     “I watched it through my glasses. It was carried out in a
     very steady and orderly way, the men leaving in groups of           233
     about a dozen. Although exposed to a heavy fire from front
     and flanks, they made excellent use of the ground, and
     suffered very few casualties.... The men of the reserve
     company met the survivors returning and covered their

The Kensingtons on the left of the division were not attacked. Some
fifty of the enemy approached Tommy Post, but were at once driven off
with casualties. But the battalion gave invaluable aid to the 4th
Londons, on the right, inflicting heavy losses by Lewis gun, rifle,
and rifle grenade fire on the German support troops as they came up to
the wood. About 11.30 a.m. the battalion was ordered to retire, in
conjunction with the right of the 3rd Canadian Division, on the left,
and so came into line with the rest of the division.

The intense anxiety at Brigade and Divisional Headquarters can best be
imagined. For the first two hours of the battle little news could be
gained from Battalion Headquarters as to the progress of the fight.
The whole battlefield was enveloped in smoke, and interest was chiefly
centred on the fine stand which was being made by the Queen’s
Westminsters at Towy Post, where a power buzzer was installed, and
messages were received from the signallers even after the capture of
the post. At one time, while the 4th Londons were still holding the
front-line system, the enemy was attacking Bailleul East Post, held by
the London Scottish, and had captured two machine guns with crews just
in front of the post. A well-timed counter-attack from this gallant
regiment drove the enemy back and released the guns and crews.

As the smoke cleared from the field, the Divisional Artillery took       234
every advantage of their well-situated observation posts. But, though
the struggle was going on before them, observers found that both sides
were frequently so mixed up that they could give no help. Small bodies
of our infantry could be seen clearly, fighting with Germans on all
sides of them.

On the right the situation of the 4th Division was very obscure. The
division was reported to have lost touch with its own brigades, while
the lateral line between the 169th and 12th Brigades was also cut.

With the withdrawal of the 56th Division to the Bailleul-Willerval
line the situation cleared. They were then in touch with the 4th
Division, and the artillery was able to put down a protective barrage
in front of this line. The 3rd Canadian Division gave valuable
assistance with nine 18-pounders.

  [Illustration: 8. THE FIRST BATTLE OF ARRAS 1918.]

     “From this time till about 3 p.m.” (writes Brig.-Gen.
     Elkington), “many excellent targets in the open were engaged
     by both field and heavy artillery with great effect.
     Unfortunately, owing to the limited number of guns
     available, and that many had to be used for the immediate
     protection of our infantry, only a few could be used for the
     excellent targets in the open. At about 3.30 p.m. the enemy
     made a heavy attack against the Bailleul line, particularly
     on Bailleul East Post; this was completely shattered by a
     concentrated barrage and by rifle and machine-gun fire. With
     the exception of hostile bombing attacks up the
     communication trenches leading to the Bailleul line, the
     enemy made no further serious effort to attack. All battery
     positions were heavily shelled throughout the day by all
     calibres of ordnance, the shelling being more of the nature         235
     of area shoots than definite counter-battery work. As a
     result, from dawn on the 28th to dawn on the 29th twelve
     18-pounders were destroyed or put out of action by enemy
     shell-fire. In addition two 18-pounders in position as an
     enfilade section near Arleux, facing south-east, had to be
     destroyed and abandoned when our line was withdrawn to the
     Bailleul line. This section engaged many targets with
     observation from the vicinity of the guns, and was fought
     until our infantry withdrew through it. The detachments then
     retired after damaging the guns, burning the dug-outs, and
     removing dial sights and breach blocks. All the six 6-inch
     mortars in the front line were lost to the enemy, and no
     news was available as to the fate of the officers and
     detachments of the two that were manned (they were
     afterwards found to have been made prisoners).... During the
     night of the 28th/29th, with the exception of two batteries,
     all the Divisional Artillery was withdrawn to positions at
     an average of about 3,600 yards to our new front, this move
     being carried out by single batteries in turns.... The
     ammunition expended from the early morning of the 28th to
     the early morning of the 29th by the 56th Divisional
     Artillery alone was: 23,000 rounds of 18-pounder and 8,000
     rounds of 4·5 howitzer.... As a result of an urgent request
     to the Corps on the afternoon of the 28th for new guns to
     replace the damaged ones, six new ones were sent up--these
     turned out to be 15-pounders, for which we had no
     ammunition.... The Germans in their official communiqué
     reported that the 56th Division had been annihilated!”

The German attack was definitely crushed in the morning, but during
the afternoon a number of half-hearted and tentative attacks were
made. The situation, however, became more quiet about 6 p.m., and the    236
169th Brigade was relieved by the 167th, with the 5th Canadian Mounted
Rifles in support at Point du Jour.

During the night the engineers were employed in blocking and
filling-in the communication trenches in front of the new line, and
patrolling was actively carried out. The Kensingtons penetrated into
Arleux Loop South, Kent Road, and the junction of Tommy and Baron,
which seems to show that the enemy were dazed.

On the 29th, except for some demonstrations at the bombing blocks, the
enemy made no move. There were many reports that he was massing for
further attacks, but it became evident that he was relieving his
storming troops. As night fell, the first platoons of the 4th Canadian
Division started to relieve, and during the night the 167th Brigade
moved back to Villers au Bois, the 168th to Mont St. Eloi, and the
169th to Ecoivres.

On the 30th General Dudgeon visited the First Army Headquarters, where
he was congratulated by His Majesty the King.

There is little doubt that the enemy hoped to achieve great results by
this new stroke, and that its failure was a serious set-back. Five
divisions attacked the 4th and 56th Divisions north of the Scarpe and,
according to captured documents, when the line Vimy-Bailleul-St.
Laurent-Blangy had been won, three special divisions were to attack
and capture the Vimy Ridge on the following day. South of the Scarpe
eleven divisions were launched, with the object of capturing Arras and
carrying the attack as far south as Bucquoy. The German official list
(published 1919) gives eleven divisions attacking north and south of     237
the Scarpe, one division at Neuville Vitasse, and one at
Moyenneville--thirteen in all. It makes no mention of an attack south
of Moyenneville. But the eleven which attacked on the Scarpe were
beaten by the four British divisions which held that line--the 4th and
56th on the north, and the 3rd and 15th on the south.

From this date onward the great German offensive began to decline, and
ended in the Somme area with a final effort to separate the French and
British Armies on the 4th and 5th April, by an attack on the north and
south of the Somme. “It was an established fact,” says Ludendorff,
“that the enemy’s resistance was beyond our strength.” Strategically
the Germans had not won what the events of the 23rd, 24th, and 25th
March had led them to hope for--the failure to take Amiens was a great

The total casualties of the division were 55 officers and 1,433 other
ranks--not excessive, considering the weight of the attack and the
immortal triumph gained by the 56th Division. The importance of this
battle is so great that we give the comments of the two brigadiers.

Brig.-Gen. Coke says that during the six weeks his brigade had been in
the line, the Cheshire Regt. had worked splendidly, and had put up
double apron belts of wire where they would be most effective--the
Naval-Marine line was protected by five belts of wire--and this stood
the bombardment well enough to be a serious obstacle. When the smoke,
which had enveloped the field at the commencement of the battle, had
cleared, excellent observation was obtainable, and the divisional
observers and artillery observers did splendid work. The enemy           238
batteries, which came into action in the open during the afternoon,
were brought up under cover of smoke, and started to fire point-blank
at the Bailleul line, but the Divisional Artillery silenced them in a
few minutes. There was no shortage of ammunition or bombs. The system
of keeping a plentiful supply in deep dug-outs proved sound.

     “All concerned are convinced that the enemy losses were
     extremely heavy in front of this brigade. The fullest use
     was made of Lewis guns and rifles, and every attempt of the
     enemy to advance on the Bailleul line over the open was
     checked by these means. The fire-bays constructed along Towy
     Alley proved specially valuable, and very considerable
     losses were inflicted on the enemy from them during our
     withdrawal to the Bailleul line.

     Many officers testify to the gallant way in which the
     Machine Gun Battalion served its guns to the last and to the
     good results of the machine-gun fire.

     Our artillery inflicted the maximum amount of damage
     possible. The number of guns available for the brigade
     section was quite inadequate to cover effectively such a
     wide front. But the infantry testify to the heavy losses
     inflicted on the enemy owing to the quick way in which the
     group and battery commanders engaged each good target as
     soon as it was observed.

     Gallant work was done by the 169th Light Trench Mortar
     Battery during the day. Three of the teams disappeared with
     the garrisons in the left sector. During the withdrawal,
     mortars were placed to cover Pelican and Bailleul Posts.”

It was widely noticed by the men of this brigade that the enemy
approached in a slow, dazed manner. The brigadier thinks that this may
have been due to the great weight carried by the German infantry, who    239
seem, amongst other things, to have carried a week’s rations. The
enemy advanced in three or four lines and almost shoulder to shoulder.

Brig.-Gen. Loch sent in a frank and interesting paper, in which he
points out:

     “(_a_) The uselessness of locking up large garrisons in the
     front-line posts which are clearly known to the enemy and
     are within effective trench-mortar range. Front-line posts
     should be held lightly, and be used as observation posts and
     to keep the enemy patrols from approaching our main line of
     defence. They should be carefully concealed, need have no
     regular communication trenches, and should be frequently
     changed. The garrisons should be small and frequently
     relieved. If rushed and captured from time to time, little
     harm is done, provided the garrison have no identification
     marks. Deep dug-outs in such posts are a positive danger and
     should not be allowed; shelters against the weather are
     ample. If heavily attacked, the rôle of such posts should be
     to put up the S.O.S. and withdraw. The sole exception to
     this rôle is in the case of posts whose whereabouts can be
     properly hidden from the enemy. Such posts can be strongly
     garrisoned and may have machine guns, as they will have to
     break up and delay an attack. The losses in the forward
     posts are sufficient commentary on the unsoundness of the
     (present) system.

     (_b_) The value of changing the actual position of the
     garrison in any post--_vide_ Wood Post.

     (_c_) The grave danger of altering carefully thought-out
     dispositions at the eleventh hour. On the evening of the
     27th inst. my dispositions, which had been most minutely
     worked out to meet the situation of an attack on my right
     flank at the junction with the left of the 169th Brigade,
     about Viscount Street, and covering Bradford and Mill Posts,        240
     had to be changed as the result of orders, and consequently
     this portion of the line (always weak) was rendered
     hopelessly incapable of withstanding a strong attack. It is
     recognised that larger questions were involved, and no doubt
     decided the redistribution, which was not complete before
     the attack developed.

     (_d_) The uselessness of Stokes mortars in the actual front
     line. Such weapons can only open on their S.O.S. lines, and
     are very vulnerable from attacks on the flanks. The four
     forward guns only fired about 50 rounds before being
     surrounded. Had they been behind the main defensive line
     covering the communication trenches, and themselves covered
     by the infantry, they would have been far more valuable, and
     would not possibly have been overrun.

     (_e_) The value of trench blocks was fully found out. Such
     blocks should be prepared ready against penetration
     laterally, so as to localise it.

     (_h_) Previous rehearsals and thorough knowledge of overland
     routes are essential. To the fact that these points had
     received proper attention is attributable the successful
     delaying action of this brigade.

     (_i_) Defensive flanks prepared as such are invaluable.

     (_j_) Infantry and machine guns must establish closer
     liaison.... It should be recognised once and for all that
     all machine guns in a brigade sector must come under the
     senior machine-gun officer in that sector.... Nothing herein
     said, however, should be permitted to detract from the
     principle that the battalion commander can and should issue
     orders to the guns covering him if he considers the
     situation demands it....

     (_k_) Main forward communication trenches should never be
     traced to lead into strong points.... Such communication
     trenches are mere covering approaches to these strong points
     and afford easy access to the enemy. Our main battle zone           241
     should not be covered by a single trench, e.g. the Red Line
     (Bailleul), but should consist of at least three trenches
     with strong points so constructed as not to be apparent and
     obvious. As with garrisons of forward posts, so with
     garrisons of battle trenches, they should be constantly
     moved so as to avoid giving away the position actually held.”

A captured German officer of the 152nd I.R., 41st Division, gave as
the main causes of the failure of the attack (_a_) the intensity of
the machine-gun barrage, which caused heavy casualties. His regiment
lost 12 officers and the 16th I.R. lost 24 officers; (_b_) watches did
not appear to have been correctly synchronised. We have mentioned the
service rendered by the Machine Gun Battalion, but, unfortunately,
there is no record of Lieut.-Col. E. C. S. Jervis’ dispositions. This
gallant and able officer says that the “tender spots” in his defence
were the low ridges running due east and west through Bradford Post,
and from Mill Post, south of Belvoir Alley, and then west. The former
could not be covered by machine-gun fire, the latter was. And we know
that the enemy, having exterminated the garrison, were mown down, in
and round Gavrelle, from the indirect fire of fourteen machine-guns.

Apart from the heavy artillery fire, which, in itself, caused heavy
casualties, Colonel Jervis points out an interesting feature in this
battle: the complete mastery of the air which the enemy had throughout
the day, resulting in machine-guns being spotted and engaged by
low-flying aeroplanes, which also directed the fire of specially
detailed heavy artillery. Needless to say, machine-guns are very
vulnerable to this form of attack; and we must also point out, having    242
mentioned the capture of guns, that when once the enemy has penetrated
the trench system machine-gunners have great difficulty in dealing
with bombing attacks from the flanks. The Machine Gun Battalion,
however, had a great opportunity in this battle, and took full
advantage of it.

Brig.-Gen. Elkington expresses the opinion that this was the best
action fought by the 56th Division. We do not go quite so far as this.
It was more satisfactory to the troops, no doubt, but there is a great
difference between defence and attack. A successful defence is more
cheering to the infantry and artillery, inasmuch as they can more
easily estimate the damage they do to the enemy; but it would not be
fair to say that this was better than the hard fighting at Gommecourt
and south of Arras in April 1917, or indeed on the Somme in 1916 and
Ypres in 1917. The fact remains, however, that the 56th Division had,
by its stout defence, twice saved the situation, which had been
imperilled by enemy successes elsewhere.

                            CHAPTER VIII                                 243

                       THE ADVANCE TO VICTORY


It must not be thought that this first great German effort ended like
Act I at a theatre, with a curtain dropping for fifteen minutes while
the actors rested and changed their clothes, and the spectators found
solace in nicotine or alcohol.

Troops in line, though they were not being attacked, probably worked
harder than ever before and the nervous tension was as great as ever.
All were conscious that the Germans might erupt again, and, as is
usual in such times of stress, the weak-hearted were always ready to
endow the enemy with miraculous powers of assembling, of covering
himself with a cloak of invisibility. The rush had been stopped, but
only by the sacrifice of a very considerable area of ground, and at
the expense of many reserves; but a mass of enemy divisions was still
concentrated on the Somme.

It was certain that the enemy would attack again, and it seemed
probable that it would be about the centre of the British line, where
his preparations were already complete. Indeed, the situation was more
serious than it had ever been.

The British Army had used up all its reserves in the fighting on the     244
Somme, and in addition ten divisions had been withdrawn from the north
and replaced with worn-out divisions, reinforced from England. The
reasons for draining the north are given by Sir Douglas Haig as being
that he could, under urgent necessity, give ground there to a limited
extent, but a break-through in the centre, about Vimy, “would mean the
realisation of the enemy’s plans, which had been foiled by our defence
of Arras on the 28th March, namely, the capture of Amiens and the
separation of the bulk of the British Armies from the French and from
those British forces acting under the direction of the latter.”
Therefore, in view of the preparations which had been made on that
sector by the enemy, British forces could not be reduced.

Certain preparations for an attack north of the La Bassée Canal had
been observed prior to the 21st March, and there were indications that
the enemy was completing these early in April; but the extent and
force of the possible attack could not be gauged.

On the 7th April a heavy and prolonged bombardment with gas shell was
opened by the Germans from Lens to Armentières. And at 4 o’clock in
the morning of the 9th the bombardment was reopened with the greatest
intensity. At 7 o’clock, again helped by a thick fog, the enemy
attacked the left brigade of the Portuguese 2nd Division and broke
into their trenches; a few minutes later the attack spread to the
north and south. The attack included the left of the First Army and
the right of the Second Army.

This great thrust in the direction of Hazebrouck was brought to a
standstill between Merville and the Forêt de Nieppe, but the enemy
penetrated beyond Bailleul, and in the north took Kemmel Hill and        245
forced a retirement from the Passchendaele Ridge.

This brings the general situation up to the end of April. But we must
note that on the 14th Marshal Foch became the Allied Generalissimo.

The next German move was on the 27th May, north-west of Rheims, on the
Aisne front. The 19th, 21st, 25th, and 50th British Divisions, which
had taken part in both the Somme and the Lys Valley fighting, had been
sent down to a quiet part of the French front; they were joined by the
8th Division, which had been in some of the hardest fighting on the
Somme. These divisions constituted the IX Corps and were included in
the Sixth French Army. The German attack fell on the IX Corps and the
French Corps on their left, which was holding the Chemin des Dames;
they were forced from their positions, and by the 30th May the enemy
had reached the Marne. The attacks continued until the 6th June, when
they culminated in two attempts on the Montagne de Bligny, but here
they were held.

By this time the Allied reserves were being used wherever they were
wanted. But it had been for the most part French reserves which had
come to the aid of the British. At the beginning of July, however,
Marshal Foch believed that the enemy was about to attack east and west
of Rheims, and he moved the whole of his French troops (eight
divisions) from Flanders, and in addition asked for four British
divisions to relieve French troops on the Somme. A further four
divisions were also sent down as a reserve behind the French front.

As the Marshal had foreseen, the enemy attacked on the 15th July, and,
after making progress and crossing the Marne, was held by French,        246
American, and Italian divisions.

On the 18th July the Marshal launched his great counter-offensive on
the Château Thierry-Soissons front, and in this used the four British
divisions he had held in reserve, and which constituted the XXII
Corps. (The 56th Division entered this Corps later on.)

In view of the defeats inflicted up to the moment of the
counter-offensive, it might well be supposed that the troops of the
Entente were despondent. The Germans were surprised at M. Clemenceau
stating that he would fight before Paris, that he would fight in
Paris, and that he would fight behind Paris, and this same spirit
certainly pervaded the 56th Division. With these great enemy successes
throughout the months of March, April, May, and July in mind, the
actions of the 56th Division during those months are perhaps the most
significant and, in our opinion, the most gallant work they performed.
There was no set battle. And a set battle is in some ways the easiest
kind of attack for the infantry. The operations through those months
were of a minor character, calling for a high level of courage and
determination from small parties of men, parties so small that the
success of the enterprise must depend on individual gallantry, as
there was no mass to drag them along. At any time minor operations
deserve more praise than is allotted to them, and at this time, in the
face of a series of German victories, they are worthy of the highest

Divisional Headquarters were at a place called Acq, to the north-west
of Arras, and the brigades in the neighbouring villages. Again the
division was not to know a lengthy period of rest, for on the 8th        247
April the 56th Division had relieved the 1st Canadian Division and
Gen. Dudgeon took over command of the line. During the week of
so-called rest, brigades were called upon to provide anything between
1,200 and 1,500 men each night for fatigues, digging further lines of
defence. “Bow Bells” were active, and those who were not on fatigue
joined in many a chorus with a flavour and memory of London Town.

The new front was south of the Scarpe and the Arras-Douai railway,
ground over which the division had fought in the same month of the
previous year. The high ground of Monchy and Orange Hill, on this side
of the Scarpe, had been lost on the 28th, and the line now ran through
Fampoux, on the north of the river, in front of Feuchy to Bois des
Bœufs, to the east of Tilloy, and so to Neuville Vitasse. Bois des
Bœufs was about the centre of the line held by the division, which was
thus astride of the Arras-Cambrai road. The Corps was the XVII
(Fergusson), and had been part of the Third Army, but on the 8th it
was transferred to the First Army.

From the moment of taking over the line, patrols were pursuing an
aggressive policy. Many small encounters took place in No Man’s Land,
the 56th Division gradually gaining the ascendancy over the enemy.

On the 19th, at 4.30 a.m., the 168th Brigade carried out a most
successful enterprise. The idea was to advance the outpost line on the
Tilloy-Wancourt road, and was undertaken by the London Scottish on the
right, with one company and a bombing section, and the 4th London
Regt. on the left, with one platoon and two bombing sections. The enemy  248
were taken completely by surprise. One warrant officer and three other
ranks were captured, together with nine machine guns and a
Grenatenwerfer. The enemy line was held throughout the day, but the
hostile artillery fire became stronger, the position was not
particularly good, and towards the evening orders were given to
evacuate it. While this was being done at dusk, the Germans launched a
counter-attack and a lively scuffle ensued. The enemy was first beaten
off, and then the retirement was effected.

A curious incident occurred during this brush with the enemy. The
Germans, as usual, sent up a multitude of lights, and a combination of
these appear to have presented to the artillery observers a cluster of
lights such as our S.O.S. rocket contained at that moment. The S.O.S.
barrage was accordingly put down, much to the surprise of the London

The prisoners were of the 65th Infantry Regt., 185th Division.

On the 23rd April the 56th Division took over from the 15th Division
the sector north of the Arras-Cambrai road, and held the whole of the
XVII Corps front.

The enemy raided on the 24th, and occupied for a short period a
gun-pit post. He was ejected and gained no identification, but two of
his dead were found and proved to be of the 28th Infantry Regt., 185th
Division. But the next night two prisoners were captured by a patrol
on the extreme left of the line, near Broken Mill, belonging to the
14th Bavarian Regt., 16th Bavarian Division, which indicated a relief
of the 185th Division.

Gen. Dudgeon, who had led the division through some very heavy           249
fighting, fell ill on the 25th and was sent to hospital. His record
with the division is a fine one. At the third battle of Ypres he had
scarcely time to look round, knew no one in the division, and his
position might be described as most unenviable; at the battle of
Cambrai he was called upon to carry out a most difficult task; at
Arras he went through a most anxious and trying period. At none of
these places did he falter. The ordeals which were thrust upon him
were heavy, but he brought the division through them triumphantly.

Brig.-Gen. Freeth assumed temporary command of the division, until
Gen. Hull arrived on the 4th May.

No man had such power over the 56th Division as Gen. Hull. The
wonderful pugnacious spirit they had shown in the Laventie-Richebourg
line was roused to its highest pitch when, after a quiet ten days’
study of the line, the General ordered a whole series of raids, which
at last caused the Germans to erect a board, in their line, on which
was chalked: “Please don’t raid us any more!”

On the 21st May the 8th Middlesex raided near the Tilloy-Wancourt road
and captured four prisoners and a machine gun. They established the
important fact that the 16th Bavarian Division had been relieved by
the 214th, the prisoners being of the 50th Regt.

On the 27th patrols ran into strong parties of the enemy covering a
large number of men engaged in wiring the enemy front. The next night
a somewhat ambitious raid was made on a wide front of either side of
the Tilloy-Wancourt road. On the left was the 7th Middlesex, in three    250
parties (one company in all), on the right two platoons of the 1st
London Regt.

The raid was a great success. Under an excellent barrage, of which
everyone spoke with the highest praise, the raiders entered the enemy
lines. They found it packed with men north of the road. The 1st
Londons claimed to have killed 40 south of the road, and the 7th
Middlesex appear to have spread terror and devastation in their area.

The right party of Middlesex estimated that they had killed 32 of the
enemy and captured 1 machine gun. The centre party first met the enemy
in shell-holes outside their wire, and quickly disposed of them; they
claimed 35 Germans killed, 1 prisoner, and 1 machine gun. The left
party counted the damage they inflicted as no less than 60 killed. The
artillery had also done fearful execution. Although many of the enemy
were seen running away, the total casualties inflicted by this raid
were reckoned to be 200. Making every allowance for exaggeration--for
it is extremely difficult to count dead men during a raid--the facts
remain that the raid was a huge success and the casualties inflicted
exceedingly heavy.

No attempt was made to advance our outpost line and our wounded were
taken safely back. The total casualties of the raiding parties were 2
officers killed and 2 wounded, 2 other ranks killed and 49
wounded--the wounds were mostly slight. The identification procured
was normal--50th Regt., 214th Division.

On the 30th May the Kensingtons sent out an enterprising patrol which
rushed an enemy post and captured two more prisoners. Identification

The month of June opened with a raid by the Kensingtons near the         251
Cambrai road. Many of the enemy were killed and 27 taken prisoners.
The Germans did not show much fight on this occasion, but in most
cases emerged from dug-outs with no rifles or equipment. They were
again of the 50th Infantry Regt., 214th Division. The Kensingtons’
casualties were 1 killed and 17 wounded.

On the 10th June the 7th Middlesex raided on the left of the line,
near Broken Mill, and secured two prisoners of the 358th Infantry
Regt., 214th Division.

One company of the London Rifle Brigade suddenly raided at 3 o’clock
in the afternoon on the 12th June south of the Cambrai road. They
advanced under cover of smoke and killed about 24 of the enemy and
captured 1 machine gun. Their casualties were only 3 killed and 11
wounded, in spite of their daring. Identification normal.

Soon after this raid the Germans were seen to be active in their
lines. Many officers were noticed examining our lines on the 24th
June, and the next night a platoon of the 1st Londons and a platoon of
the 8th Middlesex entered the enemy lines on the left and inflicted
casualties, but failed to obtain identification. This was soon
secured, however, by the London Rifle Brigade, who brought in a man of
the 50th Infantry Regt. on the 3rd July.

The Queen’s Westminsters sent a company over into some fortified
gun-pits on the 8th July, and secured three prisoners of the 358th
Regiment, 214th Division. They took over with them some heavy charges
of ammonal, as it was known that a deep dug-out existed. As soon as
the raiders reached the gun-pits the garrison, led by an officer,
attempted to come out of the dug-out. The officer was promptly shot,     252
though he missed the leading man of the Queen’s Westminsters by a
hair’s-breadth, and a charge of the explosive was thrown down the
dug-out. A terrific explosion completely destroyed that entrance. The
raiders then found the second entrance and treated it in the same
fashion. The prisoners stated that between fifty and sixty men were in
the dug-out with two officers.

This ended the series of raids, and it would seem as though the 185th
and 214th German Divisions had good cause to remember the 56th
Division. But it is an exceedingly fine record, and speaks highly of
the _moral_ of the London men and the inspiring leadership of
their General.

Gen. Hull handed over to the 2nd Canadian Division on the 15th July,
and the division moved through Roellecourt to Villers Châtel.

Before leaving this period we must quote from Brig.-Gen. Elkington’s

     “In addition to the 56th Divisional Artillery I had several
     other R.A. brigades under my command to assist in covering
     the front, namely the 29th, 277th, and 311th R.A. Brigades.
     During April and May Gen. Dudgeon suffered from severe
     rheumatism and had to give up command of the division.
     Major-Gen. Hull returned and took over command.
     Reconnaissances and selection of several back lines, in case
     of withdrawal being necessary on this front, were carried
     out, and all battery positions carefully marked and their
     observation posts selected, also their lines of retreat if
     necessary. Continual training in moving warfare was also
     carried out by means of skeleton drill with full staff. A
     polo ground was used near Dainville and play went on twice a
     week until the enemy elected to shell the ground, when it
     had to be stopped. During this period the artillery                 253
     supported many successful raids by our infantry and the
     Canadians on our right.... The ‘Bow Bells’ established
     themselves in a hut near our headquarters and gave many
     excellent shows to crowded houses. Towards the end of May
     Indian drivers were sent to us from the Divisional
     Ammunition Column to release the European personnel. These
     drivers did very well after they had been trained, but
     suffered rather from the cold during the winter. On the 15th
     July the 56th Divisional Infantry was relieved by the 2nd
     Canadian Division, and I remained in the line commanding the
     R.A. until the 21st July, when we were relieved.”

Refitting and training were carried out, and after two weeks in the
back area, which was not free from enemy attention in the nature of
aeroplane bombs, the division started on the 31st July to relieve
portions of the 1st Canadian Division in the Tilloy and Vitasse
sections of the line. The Telegraph Sector was relieved during the
night of the following day, and on the 2nd August Gen. Hull took over
command of the line.

The weather generally was very good and the line quiet. The 167th
Brigade obtained identification on the 4th showing that the 185th
German Division had been relieved by the 39th Division. On the 8th the
division projected gas on Neuville Vitasse, but otherwise everything
was quiet.

On the 15th the 167th Brigade was relieved by the 44th Brigade, 15th
Division, and moved by rail to Izel-les-Hameau area. On the 18th the
168th Brigade was relieved by the 46th Brigade and moved to Mazières
area. And on the 18th the 169th Brigade went to Arras.

At that date there was a proposal that the XVII Corps should attack      254
Orange Hill and Chapel Hill, and the 56th Division was to take part in
this attack. Days, however, were spent in moving about.

On the 20th Sir Douglas Haig visited Gen. Hull. The same day the 169th
Brigade moved to Avesne-le-Comte area, and the 168th to Lignereuil. At
mid-day on the 21st the 56th Division was transferred from the XVII
Corps to the VI Corps, and the whole division moved to the Bavincourt
area, when an entirely new scheme of attack came into being.

                     *     *     *     *     *

In his dispatch covering this period Sir Douglas Haig writes:

     “The definite collapse of the ambitious offensive launched
     by the enemy on the 15th July, and the striking success of
     the Allied counter-offensive south of the Aisne, effected a
     complete change in the whole military situation.”

This first big operation of Marshal Foch had inflicted heavy losses on
the enemy. Ten divisions were broken up and the remnants used as
reinforcements to others. The attempt to make the Entente Powers sue
for peace before the arrival of the Americans had failed--not only
were a million troops from the United States in France, but the
English divisions had been largely made up to strength. Between May
and June ten English divisions had been reduced to cadres--seven of
these were reconstituted during July and August. And German General
Headquarters had been forced to take momentous decisions. They had to
withdraw from the salient between Rheims and Soissons, and also abandon  255
their idea of a new offensive in Flanders. “By the beginning of
August,” says Ludendorff, “we had suspended our attack and reverted to
the defensive on the whole front.”

At a conference, held on the 23rd July, it was arranged by Marshal
Foch that the British, French, and American Armies should each prepare
plans for a local offensive. The objectives on the British front were
the disengagement of Amiens and the freeing of the Paris-Amiens
railway by an attack on the Albert-Montdidier front. The rôle of the
French and American Armies was to free other strategic railways
farther south and east.

There seems a suggestion in his dispatches that the British
Commander-in-Chief was somewhat perturbed by this decision. He had the
safety of the Channel ports and the danger of a fresh German offensive
in that direction ever in his mind, and we know that it was
Ludendorff’s plan. There is an indication that Sir Douglas Haig was
urging a counter-stroke in the north. “These different operations,” he
says, “had already been the subject of correspondence between Marshal
Foch and myself.” Ultimately he came to the conclusion that the tasks
assigned to the British forces east of Amiens should take precedence
“as being the most important and the most likely to give large

The attack opened on the 8th August on a front of over eleven miles
from just south of the Amiens-Roye road to Morlancourt. On the right
was the Canadian Corps, in the centre the Australian Corps, and on the
left the III Corps. The attack of the First French Army was timed to
take place an hour later between Moreuil and the British right. By the
12th August 22,000 prisoners and over 400 guns had been captured, and    256
the line had been advanced to a depth of twelve miles, to the old
German positions in 1916.

The 8th August was the black day of the German Army in the history of
this war, says Ludendorff.[5]

     “The Emperor told me later that, after the failure of the
     July offensive and after the 8th August, he knew the war
     could no longer be won. The official report of the evening
     of the 8th announced briefly that the enemy had penetrated
     our line south of the Somme on a wide front. Early the
     following morning General von Cramon rang me up from Baden.
     He informed me that my report had caused great alarm in
     Vienna. I could not leave him in any doubt as to the serious
     view I took of the situation. Nevertheless he begged me to
     remember how detrimentally the blunt admission of defeat
     must affect our allies, who had placed all their hopes in
     Germany. This occurred again on the 2nd September.

     The impression made on our Allies by the failure on the
     Western Front was great. The Emperor Charles announced his
     intention of coming to Spa in the middle of August.”

The great salient the Germans had created towards Amiens was
disappearing, and Sir Douglas Haig was faced with the old positions of
the opening of the battle of the Somme in 1916. But there was a
difference. The situation and his reasoning are succinctly related in
his dispatch:

     “In deciding to extend the attack northwards to the area            257
     between the Rivers Somme and Scarpe I was influenced by the
     following considerations.

     The enemy did not seem prepared to meet an attack in this
     direction, and, owing to the success of the Fourth Army, he
     occupied a salient the left flank of which was already
     threatened from the south. A further reason for my decision
     was that the ground north of the Ancre River was not greatly
     damaged by shell-fire, and was suitable for the use of
     Tanks. A successful attack between Albert and Arras in a
     south-easterly direction would turn the line of the Somme
     south of Péronne, and give every promise of producing
     far-reaching results. It would be a step towards the
     strategic objective, St. Quentin-Cambrai.

     This attack, moreover, would be rendered easier by the fact
     that we now held the commanding plateau south of Arras about
     Bucquoy and Ablainzeville, which in the days of the old
     Somme fighting had lain well behind the enemy’s lines. In
     consequence we were here either astride or to the east of
     the intricate system of trench lines which in 1916 we had no
     choice but to attack frontally, and enjoyed advantages of
     observation which at that date had been denied us.

     It was arranged that on the morning of the 21st August a
     limited attack should be launched north of the Ancre to gain
     the general line of the Arras-Albert railway, on which it
     was correctly assumed that the enemy’s main line of
     resistance was sited. The day of the 22nd August would then
     be used to get troops and guns into position on this front,
     and to bring forward the left of the Fourth Army between the
     Somme and the Ancre. The principal attack would be delivered
     on the 23rd August by the Third Army and the divisions of
     the Fourth Army north of the Somme, the remainder of the
     Fourth Army assisting by pushing forward south of the river
     to cover the flank of the main operation. Thereafter, if
     success attended our efforts, the whole of both armies were         258
     to press forward with the greatest vigour and exploit to the
     full any advantage we might have gained.”

                     *     *     *     *     *

It will be seen, therefore, that as the attack from Amiens advanced,
it was being taken up by troops on the left. On the 21st August the IV
Corps was engaged, with the 42nd, New Zealand, and 37th Divisions, and
the VI Corps, with the 2nd and Guards Divisions. On the 23rd a series
of strong assaults were delivered on practically the whole front of
thirty-three miles from our junction with the French at Lihons.

As the attack spread to the north, so activity in Corps, Division, and
Brigade Headquarters preceded actual movement of troops. A state of
brain and nerve tension prevailed. There was, too, a change of plan,
which is always one of the trials of the regimental soldier. It is as
well to recapitulate some of the movements.

The relief in the line was completed on the 18th August, and on the
19th the 169th Brigade was sent to Arras to carry out preparations for
an attack on Orange and Chapel Hills. Owing to the change of plan this
brigade was sent back to the Avesnes-le-Comte area on the 21st, and on
the same day the 168th Brigade marched from the Mazières area to
Lignereuil. The 56th Division now came under the VI Corps (Haldane),
and Gen. Hull at once visited Corps Headquarters, but did not succeed
in gaining any exact information as to the rôle the division would
play in the forthcoming operations. During the night 21st/22nd the
division marched to the area Barly-St. Amand-Saulty-Bavincourt.

Early in the morning of the 22nd Gen. Hull was called to a conference    259
at Corps Headquarters, where the operations for the next day were
decided upon. He did not get back to Bavincourt until 10.30 a.m., when
he held a conference and explained the operations to all concerned.
Officers of all brigades were then sent off to reconnoitre; and the
168th Brigade marched at 3.30 p.m. to Blairville, a distance of seven
and a half miles.

Time was now getting on and the Corps Operation order had not been
received. Gen. Hull, however, sent out his orders based on what had
been said at the conference in the morning, and at 9 p.m. the 168th
Brigade, with the 1st London Regt. attached, moved to the assembly
area, a march of another four and a half miles, ready to attack on the
left of the Guards Division. In the midst of all this movement and
with only a short time at their disposal, officers had no opportunity
of seeing the forward assembly areas or the objectives. They assembled
in the dark and attacked in the morning, never having seen the ground

The artillery was no better off than the infantry.

     “On the 21st August orders were received to join the VI
     Corps, and I went off to see the Corps R.A., who were a long
     way back, and also to see the 40th Division Artillery and
     the Guards Artillery and to try to reconnoitre the new
     front. On the evening of the 21st I received instructions
     from the R.A. VI Corps that all arrangements were at once to
     be made to put the 56th Artillery in action to cover the
     attack of the 56th Division on the morning of the 23rd, the
     divisional front being roughly from 500 yards north of
     Hamelincourt to just north of Boiry Becquerelle. The                260
     Divisional Artillery, for purposes of the initial attack,
     consisted of six brigades R.F.A., as follows: (_a_) Guards
     Divisional Artillery, (_b_) 57th, (_c_) 56th. On the 21st
     August these brigades were as follows: (_a_) in action on
     the front, (_b_) in reserve near St. Pol, (_c_) in reserve
     at Simencourt and Berneville. Reconnaissance was carried out
     during the morning of the 22nd, and at 8 p.m. that evening
     the brigades moved off to occupy the positions selected, and
     ammunition to the extent of 400 rounds per gun had to be
     dumped at the same time. This involved an immense amount of
     work, but it was successfully carried out by the brigades of
     the 56th Divisional Artillery by 2 a.m. on the 23rd; but the
     brigades of the 57th Divisional Artillery, though all guns
     were got into action, were delayed by heavy gas shelling,
     and were as a result unable to complete the gun-dumps by the
     opening of the barrage. At this time the artillery covering
     the division was organised as follows:

     Right group:

          74th and 75th Brigades R.F.A. Guards Divisional
          Artillery, in action west of Boisleux-au-Mont.

     Centre group:

          285th and 286th Brigades R.F.A. 57th Divisional
         Artillery, in action south-east of Boisleux-au-Mont.

     Left group:

          280th and 281st Brigades R.F.A. 56th Divisional
          Artillery, in action south-west of Boisleux-au-Mont.

     As far as the field artillery was concerned, the strength of
     the barrage was about one 18-pounder gun per 27 yards.

     Affiliated Heavy Artillery group--two brigades R.G.A.” [Gen.

The position from which the division attacked was a very strong one      261
for defence. The Cojeul River has two branches. The northern branch,
running from the high ground by Adinfer Wood, passes to the north of
Boisleux-St. Marc and Boiry Becquerelle. The southern branch, running
across the front of the division, is underground between Hamelincourt
and Boyelles, where it comes to the surface and joins the main stream
south of Henin.

The left flank of the division rested on Cojeul (north). There was,
therefore, a wide field of vision in front of them, with the one
exception of the spur which shoots out between the two branches of the
river to the north of Boyelles, and which afforded the enemy a
concealed position on that portion of the front. The general run of
the valley was across the direction of the 56th Division attack, and
Croisilles and St. Leger were over the ridge on the far side of the
valley. Beyond these villages the Hindenburg Line ran roughly from
Arras in a south-easterly direction, obliquely across the line of

The first objective of the 168th Brigade, which was to make the
attack, was the blue line--that is, the two villages of Boyelles and
Boiry Becquerelle; and the brigade would then push out a fringe of
posts in front. Twenty-one Tanks (two companies, 11th Battalion Tank
Corps) were to help in this attack.

As the battalions of the 168th Brigade marched to their positions, the
Germans used gas freely and respirators had to be worn. Fortunately
the night was light, but even so progress was slow, and such light as
there was did not help officers, when they had placed their men in
position, to see very much of what sort of a place it was they would
attack in the morning. It seemed that the enemy was very alert, as he    262
fired a great deal with machine guns and light trench mortars during
the night.

At 4.55 a.m. in the murky light of dawn the barrage, which had opened
at 4 a.m. at Gommecourt on the right of the VI Corps, crashed down in
front of the 56th Division. The Kensingtons, on the right, north of
Hamelincourt, the 4th Londons in the centre, and the London Scottish
on the left advanced to the assault twelve minutes later. The Tanks
cleared the way for the Kensingtons very effectively, only a few small
parties of the enemy showing much fight. The battalion, however, was
worried by machine-gun fire from the left, and it was seen that the
4th Londons were meeting with more determined opposition. Two platoons
of the Kensingtons were, therefore, sent to assist by attacking
Boyelles from the south. By 6 o’clock the Kensingtons had reached
their objective.

The 4th Londons had the village of Boyelles and the curious circular
Marc system in front of them. The ruins of the village could be seen
from the right, but Marc system was blind. Actually the ground between
our front-line trench and the enemy line was level, but it dropped
suddenly from the German line and was helped by a sunken road, so that
there was plenty of shelter from the barrage. The left of the 4th
Londons was held up in front of this place. For some reason no Tank
attacked the forward Marc system, and until a platoon enfiladed the
sunken road from the south, and the London Scottish threatened from
the north, the garrison held up the advance and inflicted heavy
casualties. When the troops pressed in from the flanks, however, the     263
Germans, 2 officers and 80 men, surrendered.

Much the same thing happened to the right company of the 4th Londons
in the village of Boyelles. But here four Tanks came on the scene, and
again the garrison surrendered with eleven machine guns. Six light,
heavy, and medium trench mortars were captured in the banks on the
north of the stream.

The London Scottish on the left met with opposition from Boiry
Becquerelle, but carried out a smart enveloping movement, closing on
the village from the flanks, and eventually getting behind it. Over
100 prisoners and 8 machine guns were taken by this well-known

All the first objective was then in our hands.

At 9.15 a.m. the 168th Brigade was ordered to continue the advance so
as to conform with the 2nd Guards Brigade on the right. The brigade
was to gain touch with the Guards at Bank Copse on the east side of
the railway curve into St. Leger. But this order had to be transmitted
by runner and distances were great; it did not reach the centre
battalion until 11.15 a.m.

The Kensingtons started their advance at 1.30 p.m., and almost at once
met with strong machine-gun and artillery fire. The advance was held
up on the Ervillers-Boyelles road, and much confused fighting ensued.
Two platoons managed to get round the opposition and joined the
Guards, with whom they attacked the railway bank to the west of Bank
Copse. The remainder of the battalion was apparently fighting in small
groups and was much scattered. The commanding officer, Lieut.-Col. R.
S. F. Shaw, went forward to try to clear up the situation and was
killed by a sniper. The position on this battalion front was not         264
certain until 9.30 p.m., when it was ascertained that they were on the
line of the Ervillers-Boyelles road.

The 4th Londons did not advance until 4.30 p.m. They attacked in
widely extended formation and casualties were very light. There was
opposition from five enemy machine guns, but these were outflanked and
overcome. The line of Boyelles Reserve was reached and patrols pushed
out 500 yards beyond without encountering any of the enemy.

The London Scottish attacked at the same time as the 4th Londons and
encountered strong opposition at Boiry Work, at the northern end of
Boyelles Reserve. For one hour the London Scottish worked slowly to
get round this position, but before they closed in the garrison
surrendered--86 prisoners. They were then in line with the 4th Londons
and their posts pushed out some 500 yards in advance.

In spite of the hurried orders it had been a successful day for the
56th Division. The Kensingtons had had the worst time, but they
captured in all 167 prisoners, while the 4th Londons had 243, and the
London Scottish 253.

Commenting on the attack, Brig.-Gen. Loch says that the chief
difficulty was the short notice given, and the fact that the brigade
was billeted in a much scattered area made the rapid issue of orders
impossible. It was also impossible to reconnoitre the ground, and the
approach march was made in exceptionally hot weather. There had been
no preparation of the front prior to the attack, and signal
communications were poor. Visual signalling was of little value, owing
to the dust and the heavy state of the atmosphere, and reliance had      265
to be placed, as it invariably was, on runners who worked well, but as
the distances were ever increasing it was a slow method.

     “The Tanks,” he says, “were most valuable, although through
     various causes they, in some cases, arrived late in the
     assembly areas. Their greater speed enabled them to catch up
     the infantry, and by working forward and then to a flank
     they evidently much demoralised the enemy and caused them to
     surrender more freely than usual.”

The machine guns, which since the beginning of March had been formed
into a battalion, were controlled by Lieut.-Col. Jervis, who was with
the Brigade Headquarters, and were echéloned in depth, the forward
line advancing with the assaulting infantry.

The enemy was in considerable strength, as is shown by the number of
prisoners, 663, and the 59 machine guns and 18 trench mortars which
were captured.

Other divisions of the VI and IV Corps were equally successful, and
the Germans holding the defences to the south, about Thiepval (which
had caused us such efforts to win in 1916), were in a precarious
position. The attack was pressed without giving the enemy
breathing-space, and he was becoming disorganised and showing signs of

But in writing of this great and last advance we are conscious that a
division, which until this moment had always appeared to be a large
and important unit in any operations, was being swamped by the numbers
set in motion. One of five or six is such a much bigger proportion
than one of fifty-seven or fifty-eight. And the French, American, and    266
Belgian Armies were moving too.

During the night the London Scottish were placed under the orders of
the 167th Brigade, which relieved the Kensingtons and 4th London
Regiment. The 169th Brigade moved to the Basseux area and, in the
morning of the 24th, to the Purple Line behind Boisleux-au-Mont.

The 167th Brigade were ordered to attack the next day, the 24th, with
Summit Trench as their first objective, refusing their left flank so
as to join with the 52nd Division on the northern boundary. The second
objective was Fooley Reserve-Hill Switch-Cross Switch, with the object
of enveloping Croisilles from the north, while the Guards Division
carried out a similar operation from the south. Twelve Tanks and one
company of the Machine Gun Battalion were to assist.

At 7 a.m. the barrage opened on the enemy frontline posts, and, after
ten minutes, crept forward, at the rate of 100 yards in four minutes,
followed by the infantry. The whole of the brigade, of course,
attacked--the 8th Middlesex being on the right, the 7th Middlesex in
the centre, and the 1st London Regiment on the left. The Guards
Division also attacked on the right, and the 52nd on the left.

The 8th Middlesex reached their objective in Summit Trench and Ledger
Reserve about 10 o’clock. Opposition was not of a fierce nature and
took the form of “patchy” machine-gun fire and rifle fire. Small
parties of men kept working forward and could be seen, with Tanks, in
and about Summit Trench by 8.30 a.m. The 7th Middlesex and 1st Londons
advanced in a similar fashion and with the same opposition.              267

But news came from the Corps which, for the moment, checked the
advance. From prisoners’ statements it was learned that three fresh
divisions had arrived in Bullecourt and Hendicourt, and the 56th
Division was ordered to make preparations to meet a counter-attack.
The 169th Brigade was ordered forward behind Boyelles, and the 167th
Brigade was told to occupy Croisilles “by peaceful penetration.”
Meanwhile the right brigade of the 52nd Division, which was attacking
Henin Hill, had been compelled to withdraw and was echéloned on the
forward slopes to the left rear of the 56th Division.

Patrols began to probe the country before them, and at 1.30 p.m. the
situation was: the 8th Middlesex had one company on the western side
of Croisilles with patrols on the outskirts of the village, two
companies in Summit Trench and that end of Leger Reserve, and one
company in Boyelles Reserve. The 7th Middlesex had two companies in
Summit Trench, with patrols in front, and support and reserve
companies in depth in rear. The 1st Londons had two companies in
Summit Trench, in touch with the 52nd Division, and support and
reserve companies in rear.

Reports tended to show that Croisilles had been evacuated, and after a
consultation with Brig.-Gen. Freeth, Gen. Hull ordered the Brigade to
attack and establish itself in the Hindenburg Support Line between
Hump Lane and River Road (Sensée River). Six Tanks were to be used,
and the 52nd Division was to attack on the left.

Attempts made by the 8th Middlesex to enter Croisilles were not          268
successful, and at zero hour, 7.30 p.m., the village was still in the
hands of the enemy.

The attack was met with determined and very heavy machine-gun and
artillery fire, and failed to gain any ground. Only one Tank came into
action, and that was met with gas which rendered it useless.
Croisilles Trench had been reached by troops, but found to be only 2
feet deep at the most, and quite useless as a reorganising point for
further advance. This trench had unfortunately been shown as an
organised and deep defensive work. Brig.-Gen. Freeth, therefore,
ordered Summit Trench to be held as the line of resistance.

The days’ fighting had resulted in an appreciable gain, but the
enemy’s resistance was increasing. The Corps ordered an attack on the
Hindenburg Support the following day, without the help of Tanks, and
Gen. Hull had to point out that the resistance was not only very
strong, as he had proved that day, but that the Hindenburg system was
very heavily wired. Tanks would have dealt with this wire had they
been available. The Corps then modified the order and instructed the
General to capture Croisilles and obtain a footing in Sensée Avenue,
to the north-east, so as to conform with the 52nd Division, who were
to attack on the left.

During the night the front-line battalions were heavily shelled with
gas, which forced them to wear gas-masks, in one case for six hours.
Patrols, however, went out, and their reports coincided with that of
the Guards Division on the right, that Croisilles was full of machine
guns. Also the 52nd Division on the left reported that the Hindenburg    269
Line was very strongly held. It was decided to bombard the village
while patrols would try to gain ground.

But the 25th August was a negative day. Some posts were established in
front of the main line, but the village itself was too strongly held
and the bombardment, apparently, failed to dislodge the enemy.

Meanwhile the 169th Brigade reconnoitred the position with a view of
attacking and enveloping Croisilles from the north and capturing the
Hindenburg Line.

At 8 a.m. the 56th and 52nd Divisions had been moved from the command
of the VI Corps to that of the XVII Corps, and it was decided that the
167th Brigade should attack on the 26th and establish itself on the
line of the shallow Croisilles Trench and Fooley Reserve. Roughly the
XVII Corps faced the Hindenburg Line, which swung round the left flank
of the 56th Division, and on this flank the 52nd Division were to
advance on the Hindenburg Line in conjunction with the attack of the
167th Brigade. Farther north the Canadian Corps were to assault the
actual Hindenburg Line, and if they were successful the 52nd Division
would continue to push down the system and roll it up in a
south-easterly direction.

The attack of the 167th Brigade took place at 3 a.m., and was nowhere
successful. The wire was still uncut (there were in some spots five
belts of it), and the machine guns in Croisilles poured a devastating
hail of bullets on the assaulting troops. But to the north the
Canadian Corps had been successful and had pierced the Hindenburg        270
system. The 52nd Division had thrust one battalion into the celebrated
line, and was progressing towards Henin Hill.

During the afternoon the 52nd Division reported the line from the
Cojeul River to Henin Hill clear of the enemy, and the 167th Brigade
was then relieved at 6 o’clock by the 169th.

The battalions in line from the right were the Queen’s Westminsters,
the London Rifle Brigade, and the 2nd Londons. On taking over, the 2nd
Londons attempted to clear the situation on the left by a “stealth”
raid with two platoons. The experiment was bad, as the platoons were
almost wiped out by machine guns.

The battle was continued the following day, the 27th, at 9.30 a.m. The
task was to keep in touch with the 52nd Division and sweep round the
north of the village. The Queen’s Westminsters, therefore, stood fast
while the London Rifle Brigade and the 2nd Londons executed a wheel to
the right. This was successful in reaching Farmers’ Avenue and Sensée
Avenue, while, on the left, the 52nd Division reached Fontaine
Croisilles and established themselves to the east of that village. A
glance at the map will show how the Hindenburg Line was being rolled
up, how desperate was the case of the Germans opposite the 56th
Division, and how necessary it was for them to concentrate their
fiercest resistance against the advance of the 56th Division. The day
was noteworthy for the good work done by the 2nd Londons in what was
the nearest approach to open warfare which had as yet been attempted.

Croisilles was the obstacle which stood in our way. The Guards
Division attacked on the right of it, and after an initial success was   271
counter-attacked so severely that they fell back on Leger Reserve, and
left a gap on the right of the Queen’s Westminsters, which was filled
by two platoons of the latter regiment. Farther to the south troops
were fighting on the Somme battlefield of the month of September
1916--still some way from the Hindenburg Line. But, as has been
pointed out, the whole of the old Somme positions were being turned
from the north.

During the afternoon the 168th Brigade took over the frontage held by
the right and centre battalions of the 169th Brigade. These two
battalions were then able to enter the Hindenburg system which had
been captured by the 52nd Division, and move along it towards the
Sensée River, where they would start the attack. The 2nd Londons
meanwhile cleared their front of some small parties of the enemy and
crossed the Sensée to Nelly Avenue, part of an outpost line to the
main defences. The division then stood fast under orders to attack the
Bullecourt area the next day.

During the night dispositions were altered. The 167th Brigade took
over the right of the Divisional front, with the 8th Middlesex, to the
west of Croisilles, and the 168th Brigade moved in position to support
the 169th in the attack along the Hindenburg Line. Also, the 168th
Brigade was to protect the flank of the 169th, if the village was not
taken, and “mop up” generally behind the attacking troops.

The first objective for the 169th Brigade was given as Queen’s
Lane-Jove Lane; the second was the trenches south-east of Bullecourt.

Patrols of the 8th Middlesex attempted to enter Croisilles several
times during the night, but were always met with machine-gun fire. In    272
the morning of the 28th, however, an aeroplane reported the village
empty, but at 8.30 a.m. patrols of the 8th Middlesex found only the
western portion of the village clear. The whole battalion then
advanced, and after some lively fighting occupied the village.

The 52nd Division, which had been relieved by the 57th Division,
passed through the troops in the line and joined in the general attack
of the 56th Division at 12.30 p.m. The action that followed is one of
the utmost confusion. The Queen’s Westminsters, who led the attack,
started from the line Nelly Avenue. The Germans on the right, in
Guardian Reserve, held out, and the 167th Brigade found sufficient of
the enemy to hold them up on the railway south-east of Croisilles. But
two companies of the Queen’s Westminsters and part of the 2nd Londons
lost direction, and seem to have become inextricably mixed with troops
of the 57th Division somewhere to the north of Hendicourt.

Apparently trouble started on the previous day (27th), when the
Queen’s Westminsters and part of the London Rifle Brigade were
relieved by the London Scottish in front of Croisilles. The two former
battalions had to march to a flank to get into the Hindenburg Line,
and were severely shelled in doing so. On arriving at the Hindenburg
Line, progress to their positions of assembly was seriously impeded by
the 52nd Division, who, at that moment, were also assembling to attack
on the following day. Col. Savill, who was commanding the Queen’s
Westminsters, says that his men arrived “dead beat” at Nelly Avenue
and Burg Support, having been on the move all night. He gives as the
cause of the loss of direction the heavy machine-gun fire which his      273
troops met from the right on emerging from the trenches, but a glance
at the map suggests another and more probable reason. He was unable to
assemble his battalion on a front conforming with the general line of
advance. The right of his leading companies was in Nelly Avenue, and
the left in Burg Support with orders “to swing round at right angles
to the Hindenburg system.”

It was pointed out at the battle of the Somme that the complicated
manœuvre of changing direction at the commencement of an assault
should be avoided. It is probable that the commanding officer had no
other alternative, but the lesson is once more demonstrated. To the
difficult task imposed upon them must be added the further
embarrassment of never having seen the ground. True that the attack
did not start until 12.30 p.m., but it was extremely difficult to fix
landmarks owing to the country being so overgrown with long grass and
weeds, and in any case there was rising ground between Burg Support
and Bullecourt, so that the few hours from dawn to the attack were of
little benefit.

The change of front by the left of the attacking force was further
complicated by the thick wire between the trenches of the Hindenburg
System. Before any manœuvre of the sort could be undertaken, these
belts of wire had to be passed, and by the time this had been
accomplished, all idea of direction had fled.

The London Rifle Brigade, in close support to the Queen’s
Westminsters, had three companies in line, the fourth company being in
support on the right and Battalion Headquarters on the left. The left
and centre companies followed the Queen’s Westminsters--even in field    274
practice this would probably occur.

The 2nd London Regt. was already reduced to 11 officers and 193 other
ranks, and assembled in King’s Avenue. The two left companies followed
the Queen’s Westminsters, while the two right companies fought down
Tunnel Trench.

Col. Savill, believing his battalion to be more or less on their way
to Bullecourt, moved with his headquarters down Burg Support and very
soon encountered the enemy. He was joined by the headquarters of the
London Rifle Brigade and the 2nd London Regt. It was thought that the
“mopping-up” had been badly done, and a message was sent for
reinforcements while the staff details tried to bomb their way

Soon after the attack opened, therefore, the 169th Brigade was trying
to capture Bullecourt with two companies of the London Rifle Brigade
on the right, three battalion headquarter staffs and a few scattered
men of the Queen’s Westminsters in the centre, and two companies of
the 2nd London Regt. (not a hundred men) on the left. The right, which
was the strongest part of the total force, was definitely held up by a
strong enemy garrison in Guardian, and in other parts of the front the
enemy resistance was too strong to be overcome by so weak a force.

Eventually a company of the 4th London Regt. was sent up Burg Support,
and by 5 p.m. progress had been made as far as the Hump. But on the
right the enemy, who were being continually reinforced by troops
falling back from the attack of the 167th Brigade through Croisilles,
still held Guardian Reserve. “Guardian Reserve,” writes Brig.-Gen.       275
Coke, “was a thorn in the side of the brigade until 6 p.m.” Not only
was the advance severely harassed from this place, but no track for
carrying ammunition, etc., was available until it had been captured.
By 6 p.m., however, the London Rifle Brigade, reinforced by two
companies of the Kensingtons and the 168th Trench Mortar Battery,
drove the greater part of the remaining Germans to surrender.

The advance continued on the right as far as Pelican Avenue, but in
the centre the Knuckle was not cleared until 5 a.m. on the 29th. The
situation all through the afternoon and night of the 28th August was
most complicated, the 2nd London, London Rifle Brigade, 4th London,
and Kensington Regts. being involved in a series of separate
operations dealing with scattered machine-gun nests, disposed in
trenches and in broken ground.

During the afternoon the 168th Brigade had been ordered to move to Leg
Lane and get in touch with the 167th Brigade, also to be prepared to
move into Pelican Avenue with the object of attacking Bullecourt early
in the morning of the 29th. But, owing to the state of affairs in the
main Hindenburg System, this was impossible, and troops were moved
into position in daylight on the 29th.

Meanwhile, all those troops who had gone careering about on the left
had become mixed up with the 172nd Brigade in the neighbourhood of
Cemetery Avenue to the north of Hendicourt. They had suffered a number
of casualties, and the remaining captain of the Queen’s Westminsters
had returned wounded during the afternoon, and had reported to the
169th Brigade that he and the force of which he assumed command had      276
occupied Pelican Lane. This will give some idea of the difficulties
which confronted Brig.-Gen. Coke.

The attack was resumed in strength at 1 p.m. on the 29th. The 168th
Brigade were in Pelican Avenue, with the Kensingtons on the right and
the London Scottish on the left, right and left support being the 4th
and 1st London Regts.

Pelican Lane appears to have been held by small parties of the enemy,
and the 169th Brigade assembled in the trenches north-west of that
place. But the missing companies, with the exception of the 2nd London
Regt., had not returned. The London Rifle Brigade led the attack with
two companies, having in close support 40 men of the Queen’s
Westminsters (which were all that could be found), and behind them the
2nd Londons, with a total strength of 7 officers and 95 other ranks.

The objective for the division was the trench system east of
Bullecourt and south of Riencourt. At the very start of the attack the
Kensingtons were held up at Station Redoubt; but the London Scottish
made good progress on the left, and by 2.15 p.m. were through
Bullecourt. The weak 169th Brigade made progress as far as Saddler
Lane and the sunken road on the left of the village. And the 57th
Division reported that they had captured Riencourt and were through

Tank Avenue was strongly held by the enemy and successfully arrested
any further advance in the centre; and on the flanks the first check
was not overcome. And so the line remained with the London Scottish
bulged out round Bullecourt, and the Kensingtons bringing the right
flank back to Station Redoubt, and the 169th Brigade the left flank      277
to Saddler Lane. The right of the division was in touch with the 3rd
Division, but the position of the 57th was obscure.

The 167th Brigade then relieved the whole of the divisional front, and
the night passed in comparative quietness.

At about 5 a.m. on the 30th the enemy counter-attacked the line
Hendicourt-Bullecourt-Ecoust in strength, and drove the 167th Brigade
out of Bullecourt to the line Pelican Lane and Pelican Avenue. At the
same time the 3rd Division on the right was driven out of Ecoust, and
on the left the 57th Division lost Riencourt and fell back on the
Bullecourt-Hendecourt road, the enemy securing the factory on that

The 167th Brigade at once attempted to regain Bullecourt; but the
enemy forces in Bullecourt received such strong support from the
Station Redoubt that all efforts failed. Gen. Hull arranged for a
bombardment of the Station Redoubt by the heavy artillery.

Orders from the Corps fixed the 31st August for a renewal of the
attack in conjunction with the VI Corps on the left. And so the 168th
Brigade was once more ordered to take Bullecourt and the Station
Redoubt, relieving the 167th Brigade on that portion of the front. A
company of the latter brigade would then take up a position on the
left of the 168th Brigade and attack the factory. The objective was
Tank Support with the left flank thrown back to the factory.

The relief took place, and all preparations were completed. At 5.15
a.m. on the 31st the brigade advanced under a creeping barrage, with     278
the London Scottish on the right, the 4th London Regt. in the centre,
and the 7th Middlesex on the left.

The London Scottish carried the Station Redoubt, and attacked
Bullecourt Avenue at 8 o’clock, obtaining touch with the 4th Londons.
But the latter regiment was held up in front of Bullecourt; and on the
left the 7th Middlesex were unable to capture the factory. A company
of the Kensingtons was sent up on the left, and by 10.15 a.m. the
factory was captured, and touch obtained with the 171st Brigade of the
division on that flank. Meanwhile, the London Scottish had captured
Bullecourt Avenue.

At 1 o’clock an artillery observer reported the enemy advancing over
the open and assembling in Tank Avenue and Support. All field guns and
the heavy artillery was concentrated on this target, and no
counter-attack developed. But the plans were modified to the capture
of the village only.

Two companies of the Kensingtons were sent up as reinforcements, and
bombing from the flanks was carried on round the village. By the time
it was dark only the eastern portion was not cleared up; and the enemy
remained in Gordon Reserve.

The 56th Division was then relieved by the 52nd, and marched out of
the line to rest about Boyelles. The captures during these operations

     29 officers, 1,047 other ranks.
     2 77-mm. guns and 1 8-inch howitzer.
     200 machine guns and over 50 trench mortars.

The casualties of the division were:

     123 officers and 2,381 other ranks.

  [Illustration: 9. THE BATTLES OF ALBERT & THE SCARPE 1918.]

The hard-working but cheery artillery remained in the line. All
through the battle they had pushed forward close behind the infantry.    279
On the 25th August the Guards Artillery had returned to their own
division, and as a consequence the 56th Divisional front had been
covered by the 57th Divisional Artillery on the right and their own
artillery on the left. At this time the 13th and 22nd Brigades of the
Royal Garrison Artillery had been affiliated with the 56th Divisional
Artillery. The enemy paid the closest attention to our artillery,
bombarding the battery positions incessantly with high-explosive and
gas shells.

On the 29th, early in the morning, all brigades of artillery advanced
to the outskirts of Croisilles. In the previous fighting they had been
1,200 yards behind the infantry in Summit Trench. On this same day the
232nd Army Brigade R.F.A. was transferred to the 56th Division, and
formed an independent group with S.O.S. lines superimposed. After the
advance in the morning the 56th Divisional Artillery became the right
group and the 57th the left group. And the next day the 40th
Divisional Artillery replaced the 57th.

The artillery passed under the command of the 40th and then the 63rd
Divisions, and eventually withdrew from the line on the 5th September,
all ranks and horses having suffered severely from gas.

There was to be little rest.

It is interesting to note that the official report of the Battles
Nomenclature Committee gives the Battle of Albert the dates 21st-23rd
August and boundaries Road Chaulnes--Lamotte--Corbie--Warloy--Acheux--
Souastre--Berles-au-Bois--Brétencourt--Héninel; and the Battle of the
Scarpe 1918 the dates 26th-30th August and boundaries Noreuil
(exclusive)--St. Leger (exclusive)--Boisleux-au-Mont--Roclincourt--      280
Bailleul--Oppy. The ground from the right of Boyelles (about the
station) to Mercatel is therefore included in both battle fronts--the
Battle of the Scarpe opening with the 167th Brigade attack on
Croisilles Trench and Fooley Reserve--and places the 56th Division
operating on the flank in each battle.

     [5] _My War Memories, 1914--1918._

                             CHAPTER IX                                  281

                           THE ARMISTICE

                           OF THE SAMBRE

When once the great offensive had started there was no pause in the
fighting. Divisions were relieved to reorganise. Sometimes they stood
their ground, so that supplies could be brought up, and so that they
might not shoot too far ahead of the base from which supplies were
drawn. The turmoil of the front line was assuredly no greater than the
turmoil in rear of the fighting troops. Activity, effort, unending
toil, went on behind the line as well as in the line. As the troops
drove the enemy in front of them, so engineers stood ready to rebuild
the shattered railways and reconstruct the shell-battered roads. But
the Army Service Corps could not stand still while the railways and
roads were in the hands of the engineers. They had to struggle forward
as best they could, and it is to their everlasting industry that the
troops in the fighting areas were fed, clothed, supplied with
ammunition, and, very frequently indeed, provided with water.

When the infantry of the 56th Division returned to Boyelles, the place
was unrecognisable. The railway was through. Trains were in Boyelles,
and lines of lorries stood, being loaded by a swarm of men. It was a
cheering sight for the tired but happy division.

Meanwhile the advance continued, fiercely opposed, but irresistible.     282
On the right of Bullecourt the Fourth and Third Armies had, by the
night of the 30th, reached a line from Cléry-sur-Somme, past the
western edge of Marrières Wood to Combles, les Bœufs, Bancourt,
Fremicourt, and Vraucourt. And, south of Péronne, Allied infantry had
reached the left bank of the Somme from Nesle to the north. Farther
south still, the French held Noyon. On the 1st September the
Australians entered Péronne.

On the left of Bullecourt the First Army had advanced (we have already
noted the advance of the Canadians) and were now on the high ground
east of Cherisy and Hautcourt, and had captured Eterpigny. On the
north of the Scarpe we had captured Plouvain. The Quéant-Drocourt line
was now within assaulting distance.

This powerful line ran from the Hindenburg Line at Quéant to Drocourt,
in the neighbourhood of Lens, and was attacked by the Canadian Corps
and 4th Division, of the First Army, and the 52nd, 57th, and 63rd
Divisions, of the Third Army, on the 2nd September. It was one of the
greatest assaults of the war, and was completely successful.

As the 56th Division knew very well, the Germans had been contesting
every inch of the ground. But now the enemy were in a most
unfavourable position, and started to fall back on the whole of the
Third Army front and on the right of the First Army. On the 3rd
September the enemy was on the line of the Canal du Nord; on the
following day he commenced to withdraw from the east bank of the
Somme, south of Péronne, and on the night of the 8th September was on
the line Vermand, Epehy, Havrincourt, and so along the east bank of
the canal.

Meanwhile the division rested, bathed, and reorganised. Divisional       283
Headquarters were at Boisleux St. Marc, and on the 3rd September Sir
Douglas Haig visited Gen. Hull and congratulated him on the good work
done for the division.

On the 4th a warning order, followed by one of confirmation, was
received that the division would move to the Quéant-Pronville area in
readiness to relieve the 63rd Division in the line on the 5th. But at
mid-day on the 5th this order was cancelled. Meanwhile the 167th and
169th Brigades had already moved to the new area, and so had a useless
march back again.

On the same day Gen. Hull was informed that his division would be
transferred to the XXII Corps and would relieve the 1st Division in
the line, command to pass on the 9th.

Due north of Cambrai there is a very marshy tract of land. It was a
feature, it will be remembered, in the scheme of attack on Cambrai in
1917. These ponds are fed by the Sensée and Cojeul Rivers, and the
Canal du Nord is planned to run up, after passing Mœuvres, by
Inchy-en-Artois, Marquion to a place called Palleul, where it cuts
across this marsh and joins up with the Canal de l’Escaut and the
Canal de la Sensée. This water covers a stretch of ground running well
to the west, towards the Scarpe, and tails off near a village called
Etaing. When the Canadians made their gallant and successful attack on
the Quéant-Drocourt line, the left flank of the advance rested on the
ponds and marshes of the Sensée, and this was the front which the 56th
Division was to take over.

The line was well up to the water and extended from a point about 500    284
yards north of Eterpigny, south of Etaing, south of Lecleuse, and
joined with the Canadians 1,500 yards east of Récourt.

The relief of the 1st Division took place on the 6th, 7th, and 8th,
command passing at 10 a.m. on the 9th September. The enemy was quiet,
but the weather was bad, cold and showery.

On the 16th it was arranged that the 4th Division should relieve the
11th, on the left, and that the 56th would extend the front held to
their right, taking over from the 3rd Canadian Division. Battalions
then engaged in a series of side-stepping reliefs to the right until,
on the 25th, the right of the division was on the Arras-Cambrai road.
On this day the only incident of note occurred when the enemy twice
attempted to raid the London Scottish, and was, on each occasion,
driven off with loss.

By this time preparations were complete for a further advance across
the Canal du Nord on the 27th September. The crossing of the canal was
to be forced by the Canadian Corps, when the 11th and 56th Divisions
would relieve the left of the Canadians and attack due north along the
eastern bank of the canal and towards the marshes of the Sensée. The
56th Division would be on the left--that is to say, they would advance
along the canal bank. The 169th Brigade was given the task of
attacking along the eastern bank, and the 168th was to clear up the
western bank.

The great attack on the 27th September met with the fiercest
opposition. It was obviously of vital importance to the enemy to
maintain his front opposite St. Quentin and Cambrai. The advance of
the British Armies was striking directly at the all-important lateral    285
communications running through Maubeuge to Hirson and Mezières, by
which alone the German forces on the Champagne front could be supplied
and maintained. It had been decided that the Americans were to attack
west of the Meuse in the direction of Mezières, the French west of the
Argonne with the same general objectives, and the Belgians in the
direction of Ghent. The British attack in the centre was where the
enemy’s defences were most highly organised, and if these were broken
the threat directed at his vital communications would react on his
defence elsewhere.

The British attack was, too, largely on the field of a former attack
in 1917, but there was this difference: the Canadians had smashed
through the Quéant-Drocourt system on the left. This would make the
attack on the Bourlon Wood positions somewhat easier. But the whole
system of defence round and about the Hindenburg Line varied in depth
between 7,000 and 10,000 yards, and was a most formidable series of

The First and Third Armies attacked with the IV, VI, XVII, and
Canadian Corps, the operation of the 56th Division being on the
extreme left and subsequent to the launching of the main attack. The
problem on the left, which the 56th Division helped to solve, was that
the northern portion of the canal was too formidable an obstacle to be
crossed in the face of the enemy, and it was therefore necessary to
force a passage on the narrow front about Mœuvres, and turn the line
of the canal farther north by a divergent attack developed fan-wise
from the point of crossing.

The morning broke wet and misty. The wind was from the west, and         286
carried the opening crash of the British barrage, at 5.30 a.m., well
behind the German lines. But they did not need this sort of warning.
For days they had watched the assembling of batteries, stores, a
gigantic army behind the infantry, who were ever keeping a steady
pressure on their advanced lines. Prepared as they were, however,
nothing could stop the assaulting lines of Canadians. News came in to
the 56th Division early that all was going well.

Enemy retaliation on the 56th Division was slight, and practically
ceased by 5.40 a.m. But as the morning progressed it became apparent
that the Canadians were meeting with strong opposition on the extreme
left. They were timed to reach a line immediately south of Sauchy by
mid-day, and the 169th Brigade was to carry on the attack from there
at 2.48 p.m.

Brig.-Gen. Coke ordered the London Rifle Brigade to send a company, as
soon as the barrage would permit, to establish posts on the east bank
of the canal, and cover the Royal Engineers, who were to build a
bridge about 1,000 yards north of the Arras-Cambrai road. A similar
bridge was to be made some 300 yards south of the road. The northern
bridge was to be complete by 11 a.m. and the southern one by mid-day.
But the village of Marquion was on the east of the canal, and on the
Arras-Cambrai road, and at 11.45 a.m. the village was still holding
out, which made it impossible for the 169th Brigade to keep to the
time-table and be in position for attack by 2.48 p.m. It was therefore
decided to postpone the attack until 3.28 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Engineers (513th Coy. and 512th Coy.) and Pioneers had    287
gone forward to construct their bridges, and had found themselves
opposed by hostile infantry. They, however, cleared the eastern bank
and commenced to build.

At mid-day it was reported that Marquion was clear, and the 2nd London
Regt. started to cross about that time, followed by the Queen’s
Westminsters and the London Rifle Brigade. The advance of the 169th
Brigade to the assembly positions completed the clearing of the ground
behind the Canadians--the Queen’s Westminsters capturing no less than
50 prisoners from fighting groups they met with before forming up.

At three o’clock the brigade was in position with the 2nd Londons on
the right and the Queen’s Westminsters on the left. The London Rifle
Brigade had one company between the two branches of the River Agache
clearing up the ground, and two companies in support of the 2nd
Londons; the fourth company was engaged in covering the Engineers, who
were making the northern bridge.

The attack swiftly reached and captured all the small copses, Kamwezi,
Kiduna, and Cemetery, which yielded many prisoners, but the 2nd
Londons were checked by machine-gun nests on the railway embankment
south-west of Oisy. The 2nd Londons and the London Rifle Brigade
attacked four times without success, and on the fifth the surviving
enemy and their machine guns were captured.

The Queen’s Westminsters met with the same sort of opposition. The
swampy ground in the triangle where the Agache joins the canal was an
effective obstacle behind which the enemy had placed machine guns,
which swept the line of advance. But the Queen’s Westminsters            288
worked cunningly round by the banks of the Agache, and eventually
surrounded the Germans, capturing 1 officer and 22 other ranks (21
dead bodies were counted in the post). By 7 p.m. the line of the
railway south-west of Oisy was held, and with the capture of a final
machine-gun nest defending the canal bridge east of Mill Copse, the
Queen’s Westminsters reached the final objective of the attack early
in the morning of the 28th.

The task of advancing on the western bank of the canal was given to
the 168th Brigade, and was carried out by the Kensingtons. For some
way they advanced in line with the Queen’s Westminsters, but were then
held up by machine guns in Mill Copse. The country was extremely
difficult owing to water. Mill Copse could only be approached by a
narrow pavé lane, which was flooded and much blocked by fallen trees.
At 6.30 p.m. the leading company was about 500 yards south of the
copse, and it was decided not to attempt its capture by daylight, but
to wait for the moon. The advance was then continued at 2 a.m., and
reached the final objective without opposition.

The following day the 169th Brigade pushed on to the marsh land east
of Palleul, meeting with no resistance, but securing a few prisoners.
Altogether this brigade captured over 400 prisoners and 34 machine

The total captures of the division were: 12 officers, 501 other ranks,
45 machine guns, and 10 trench mortars.

The 8th Middlesex (167th Brigade) then entered the village of Palleul,
after making a temporary bridge over the blown-up causeway, and
established a bridgehead at Arleux, a village on the north of the        289
marshes. The enemy made a small attack in this direction on the 29th,
and drove in the bridgehead; they also shelled Palleul with mustard

But the German resistance was broken. Gouzeaucourt, Marcoing,
Noyelles-sur-l’Escaut, Fontaine-Notre-Dame, and Sailly had been
captured, together with over 10,000 prisoners and 200 guns.
Consternation reigned at the headquarters of the Central Powers. The
Austrian Peace Note made its appearance on the 15th September;
Bulgaria surrendered on the 29th; and Damascus fell on the 20th. The
German troops on the Western Front fought desperately and well, but
they were being beaten, and frequently, on the British front, by
inferior numbers.

The actual position held by the 56th Division was along the marshy
ground on both banks of the canal. It included Palleul and the Bois de
Quesnoy. But on the 30th the front was prolonged to the right, when
the 168th Brigade took over from the 11th Division, up to a point on
the eastern outskirts of Aubencheu. The enemy were very alert, and
opened heavy machine-gun fire on the approach of patrols. And on the
6th they set fire to Aubenchaul. When the fires had died down, patrols
established posts on the bank of the canal.

This burning business was carried on extensively. Fires, accompanied
by explosions, were continually breaking out behind the enemy lines.
On the 9th October the division was ordered to take over a further
length of front and relieve the whole of the 11th Division, who had
their right flank on the village of Fressies. The object was to free
the 11th Division, so that they could follow the enemy, who were         290
evacuating the area between the Canal de l’Escaut and the Sensée
Canal, as the result of the capture of Cambrai by the Canadian Corps.
(Battle of Cambrai 8th-9th October.)

During the day it was found that the enemy were actually retiring on
the 11th Division front, and the 56th Division was ordered to
ascertain whether the villages of Arleux, Aubigny-au-Bac, and
Brunement were still occupied. Both the 167th Brigade on the left and
the 168th on the right sent out patrols, which were fired on and
engaged by the enemy the moment they crossed the canal. In Arleux
quite an exciting patrol action was fought, in which four of the enemy
were killed.

The relief of the 11th Division was completed by six in the evening.
Patrols found that the enemy was still holding Fressies, and the 168th
Brigade was ordered to attack and capture that village.

The operation was carried out by the Kensingtons, who stormed the
village most successfully at 7 a.m. on the 11th October. Two companies
only attacked, and the casualties were 1 killed and 9 wounded. On the
other hand, they captured 2 officers and 39 other ranks. A most
praiseworthy little action.

The enemy was now cleared from the south bank of the canal along the
whole of the divisional front. The 11th Division, pressing forward,
was still on the right of the 56th, and on the left was the 1st
Canadian Division. Farther on the left was the VIII Corps, and, on
this same day, they captured Vitry-en-Artois and drove the enemy back
on Douai. On receipt of this news the 56th Divisional Artillery was
ordered to keep the crossings of the canal from Arleux northwards
under fire, and the 167th Brigade were instructed to push forward        291
patrols and obtain a footing in Arleux if possible. This they were
unable to do, in face of the machine-gun fire, and a most unfavourable

In the evening the division passed to the command of the Canadian
Corps. The 1st Canadian Division, on the left of the 56th, had been
pushing forward on the north of the ponds and marshes for some days,
and on the 12th they captured Arleux in the early hours of the
morning. The 167th Brigade co-operated in clearing up the southern
portion of the village and relieved all Canadian troops, so as to
include Arleux in the divisional front.

Meanwhile, during the night 12th/13th October, the 169th Brigade
relieved the 168th on the right. A clever and daring enterprise to
capture Aubigny-au-Bac was then undertaken; in the words of Gen. Hull,
“initiated and carried out entirely under the orders of the
Brigadier-General commanding the 169th Infantry Brigade, who deserves
great credit for the successful exploit.”

The 169th Brigade held the right sector, with the London Rifle Brigade
and the Queen’s Westminsters in line, and as the front was very
extended, Brig.-Gen. Coke decided to attempt the capture of the
village with two companies of the 2nd London Regt.

The problem he had before him was to attack across the Canal de la
Sensée, which was 70 feet wide and had no bridges. Strong German posts
were stationed at two points, where bridges had formerly existed,
about 1,200 yards apart, and he decided to cross between these two
destroyed bridges.

Absolute silence was essential for the success of the scheme. The        292
416th Field Coy. R.E. was ordered to construct rafts to carry over an
officers’ patrol of the Queen’s Westminsters as soon as possible after
dark, and, after landing, the officers were to ascertain whether a
sufficiently large area, free of the enemy, existed for the assembly
of the attacking company. If it was found that there was room for a
company, the engineers were to construct a floating footbridge for
them to cross.

The time for making reconnaissance and bringing up material was very
short. The men who were to attack had to carry up the material. It was
raining, and the approach was over marshy ground. All the men were wet
to the skin before even the bridge was started.

Lieut. Arnold, of the 416th Field Coy., had silence and speed to
consider, and also the amount of material which could be brought up in
any given time. He decided he would not waste precious minutes over
rafts, but would proceed at once with the foot-bridge. By three
o’clock in the morning the bridge had been constructed, and the patrol
of Queen’s Westminsters went across. One cannot give higher praise to
the engineers than this: on landing, the patrol found that they could
not proceed more than ten paces in any direction without being
challenged by German sentries--there appeared to be three posts in the
immediate vicinity of the bridge.

It seemed as though the enterprise must be abandoned. But as the enemy
had not opened fire, the brigadier ordered the patrol to try to rush
the posts without raising an alarm.

The bridge was, from its very nature, an unstable affair, with no
hand-rail, and, owing to the rain which never ceased, a very slippery    293
surface. The night, however, was very dark and the rain was perhaps a
great advantage. A platoon of the 2nd Londons crossed over stealthily
and quickly overpowered two Germans, which was all the enemy force
they found. The remaining platoons of the attacking company now
crossed over.

The assembly area was far from a good one, being intersected by two
small streams, La Navie and La Petite Navie, of which nothing was
known. The artillery barrage was arranged against the flank of the
enemy position, creeping in a north-westerly direction. To follow it
in an ordinary way was out of the question, as the country was cut up
by many hedges and ditches. So platoons were directed to make their
own way to various points as soon as the barrage started.

At 4.30 a.m. Capt. Sloan, who was in command of the company, had his
men assembled, as well as he was able, in the blackness of early
morning, when dawn is postponed by rain and thick, low-flying clouds.
In silence they waited for zero, which was at 5.15 a.m.

The rest is a story of complete and absolute surprise. The attack came
from the least threatened side of the enemy position. Two machine-gun
teams tried to resist, but after several had been killed, the rest
threw up their hands. Altogether about 160 prisoners were taken in the

Posts were established on the outskirts of the village, but it was not
found possible to occupy the station, where the enemy was strong and
thoroughly roused, and so the momentary hope that Brunemont might also
be surprised, vanished.

At 6 a.m. two platoons of the supporting company came up and were used   294
to reinforce the posts already established.

The enemy now began to show fight. Two machine guns worked up close
and gave Capt. Sloan a lot of trouble. They were engaged with rifle
grenades and rushed successfully. The remaining portion of the support
company was moved across the canal and into the village.

As the morning advanced and the light grew better, the infantry
observation posts in Quesnoy Wood reported parties of the enemy moving
towards Aubigny. These were quickly dispersed, with many casualties,
by the artillery, who also put to flight the crews of several trench
mortars which were giving some trouble.

About ten o’clock a heavy enemy barrage was put down on the village,
together with a concentration of machine-gun fire. This lasted for
half an hour, and was followed by a most determined attack, with a
force estimated at a battalion, from the north, and a smaller force
from Brunemont. In spite of heavy losses, the Germans pressed on and
slowly outflanked one post after another, greatly aided by trench
mortars. The 2nd Londons were pressed back to La Petite Navie stream,
where a stand was made and the enemy prevented from debauching from
the village.

Being familiar with the ground, however, the enemy made full use of
the hedges, and although the four Stokes mortars of the brigade
battery, which supported the 2nd Londons, did exceedingly good work,
it became advisable to fall back farther to the canal bank.

A bridgehead was maintained for some time, but at 5 p.m. all troops      295
had returned to the southern bank. They brought with them three enemy
machine guns, and threw ten others into the canal.

But in the early morning, when still dark, a patrol started to cross
over the bridge with the object of establishing a post on the north
bank. The enemy was so close that the end of the bridge was within
bombing distance. This caused the men to “bunch,” with the result that
the bridge broke. Cpl. McPhie and Sapper Cox, of the 416th Field Coy.
R.E., jumped into the water and held the cork floats, which supported
the structure, together, getting their fingers badly trodden on by the
patrol. But the patrol crossed before the two gallant men let go. Cpl.
McPhie, realising the serious position of the men who had crossed to
the north side, set about gathering material to repair and strengthen
the bridge. Daylight came on apace, but the corporal never wavered in
his intention. Having assembled what he wanted, in the nature of wood,
he led the way with the curt remark to his men: “We’ve got to make a
way for the patrol--it’s a death-or-glory job.”

The patrol on the north bank helped him to the best of their power,
but they had the slenderest hold on that side of the canal. It was
daylight, and enemy snipers were concealed in every hedge. The
corporal started to work with bullets cracking like whips round his
ears. He was shot in the head and fell in the water. Sapper Cox tried
to pull him out, but Cpl. McPhie had sufficient strength to tell him
to leave go, as he himself “was done.” Sapper Cox persisted in his
efforts. The enemy fire increased: the corporal was hit again and
again; Sapper Cox had six bullets through him. The corporal was dead,    296
and Cox let go of his body.

Then Sapper Hawkins ran to the bank and threw a rope to Cox. This
wonderful man still had the strength to hold on to it while Hawkins
drew him ashore.

Cox died two days later!

McPhie was awarded the Victoria Cross.

                     *     *     *     *     *

In this very fine enterprise 3 officers and 87 other ranks formed the
attacking party. Altogether 6 officers and 165 other ranks passed over
the canal. But this small force captured 4 officers and 203 other
ranks. The casualties suffered by the whole of the 2nd Londons during
the day were 3 officers and 140 other ranks.

Until the 169th Brigade handed over to the 10th Canadian Infantry
Brigade, on the 14th October, they held the bridgehead and patrolled
the north bank of the canal. But on the 15th the Germans succeeded in
rushing the bridgehead, although they failed to get any

On relief the 169th Brigade moved back to Sauchy-Cauchy, and the
168th, who were in reserve, entrained for Arras. On the 15th the 167th
Brigade was relieved by the 11th Canadian Brigade and moved to
Rumancourt. On the 16th the whole division was in the outskirts of
Arras with headquarters at Etrun (except the artillery).

  [Illustration: 10. BATTLE OF THE CANAL DU NORD.]

All through these weeks of fighting a great strain had been imposed on
the Royal Army Service Corps and the Divisional Ammunition Column. The
roads were bad and fearfully congested, and the distances were great     297
and continually changing. When the great advance commenced railhead
was at a place called Tincques; on the 23rd August it changed to
Gouy-en-Artois; on the 27th to Beaumetz; on the 31st to
Boisleux-au-Mont. On the 8th September it was at Arras and on the 11th
October at Quéant. Not for one moment had supplies failed to be up to
time. The work of this branch of the organisation was excellent, and
the work of these units of supply should always be borne in mind in
every account of actions fought and big advances made.

The artillery remained in the line until the 23rd October, and then
rested in the neighbourhood of Cambrai until the 31st October.

                     *     *     *     *     *

The whole of the Hindenburg Line passed into our possession during the
early part of October, and a wide gap was driven through such systems
of defence as existed behind it. The threat at the enemy’s
communications was now direct. There were no further prepared
positions between the First, Third, and Fourth Armies and Maubeuge.

In Flanders the Second Army, the Belgian Army, and some French
divisions, the whole force under the King of the Belgians, had
attacked on the 28th September, and were advancing rapidly through

Between the Second Army, the right of the Flanders force, and the
First Army, the left of the main British attacking force, was the
Fifth Army under Gen. Birdwood. This army was in front of the Lys
salient, which was thus left between the northern and southern attacks
with the perilous prospect of being cut off. On the 2nd October the      298
enemy started an extensive withdrawal on the Fifth Army front.

Meanwhile the Belgian coast was cleared. Ostend fell on the 17th
October, and a few days later the left flank of the Allied forces
rested on the Dutch frontier. The Fourth, Third, and First Armies
still pushed on towards Maubeuge, and by the end of the month the
Forêt de Mormal had been reached.

The enemy was thoroughly beaten in the field. Though he blew up the
railways and roads as he fled, he was becoming embarrassed by his own
rearguards pressing on his heels as they were driven precipitately
before the Allied infantry; and the position of his armies revealed
certain and overwhelming disaster.

                     *     *     *     *     *

On the 27th October Austria sued for peace.

On the 28th the Italians crossed the Piave.

On the 29th the Serbians reached the Danube.

On the 30th October Turkey was granted an armistice.

The Central Powers lay gasping on the ground.

                     *     *     *     *     *

The 56th Division meanwhile led a quiet life, training and resting
round Etrun and Arras. Organisation of battalions was overhauled in
accordance with a pamphlet numbered O.B./1919 and issued by the
General Staff. It was designed to deal with the decreasing strength of
battalions, but, as it supposed a greater number of men than were in
many cases available, it was troublesome.

The outstanding points were that platoons would now be composed of two
rifle and two Lewis-gun sections; that a platoon, so long as it          299
contained two sections of three men each, was not to be amalgamated
with any other platoon; and that not more than six men and one
non-commissioned officer to each section should be taken into action.

     “The fighting efficiency of the section,” says the pamphlet,
     “is of primary importance, and every endeavour must be made
     to strengthen the sections, if necessary, by the recall of
     employed men and men at courses, or even by withdrawing men
     from the administrative portions of battalion and company
     headquarters, which must in an emergency be temporarily
     reduced. After the requirements of the fighting portion for
     reconstruction have been met (50 other ranks), if the
     battalion is up to its full establishment, a balance of 208
     men will remain for the administrative portion (90) and for
     reinforcements. This balance will include men undergoing
     courses of instruction, men on leave and in rest camps, men
     sick but not evacuated, and men on army, corps, divisional,
     or brigade employ. These latter must be reduced to the
     lowest figure possible, and will in no case exceed 30 men
     per battalion.”

The order against the amalgamation of platoons applied also to
sections, but was not invariably carried out by company commanders. It
had become a universal practice to detail six men and one
non-commissioned officer to each post. With double sentries this gave
each man one hour on and two hours off--anything less than these
numbers threw a big strain on the men; and so long as the company
commander had sufficient men for an adequate number of sentry posts,
he made them up of that number.

The details of a battalion as arranged by this pamphlet are              300

  [Header Key:
   A - Fighting position.
   B - Administrative position.
   C - Reconstruction (not for reinforcement).
   D - Supplies for reinforcement.]
                |    A    |    B    |    C    |    D    | Total.
  Battalion     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
  Headquarters  |  5 | 70 |  2 | 66 |  2 |  8 |  - | 27 |  9 | 171
                |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
  4 Company     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |}   |
  Headquarters  |  4 | 74 | -- | 24 |  4 | 10 | -- | -- |}   |
                |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |} 8 | 110
  Attached from |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |}   |
  platoons      | -- |  2 | -- | -- | -- | -- | -- | -- |}   |
                |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
  16 Platoon    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |}   |
  Headquarters  | 12 | 38 | -- |  4 |  4 |  8 | -- | -- |}   |
                |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |}   |
  Section       |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |}   |
  commanders    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |}   |
  acting as     |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |} 16|  64
  platoon       |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |}   |
  sergeants     | -- | 10 | -- | -- | -- | -- | -- | -- |}   |
                |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |}   |
  N.C.O.s for   |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |}   |
  reconstruction| -- | -- | -- | -- | -- |  8 | -- | -- |}   |
                |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
  64 sections   | -- |448 | -- | -- | -- | 16 | -- | 91 | -- | 555
  Total         |  1 |642 |  2 | 90 | 10 | 50 | -- |118 | 33 | 900

It will be seen that 732 other ranks were required to fill the
fighting and administrative minimum. The ration strength of battalions
from the 1st August and on the first of each month to the date of the
armistice was:

                 | August.  |September.| October. | November.
                 |Off.| O.R.|Off.| O.R.|Off.|O.R. |Off.|O.R.
  7th Middlesex  | 39 | 950 | 35 | 678 | 43 | 865 | 43 | 863
  8th     “      | 40 | 948 | 38 | 787 | 41 | 864 | 39 | 813
  1st Londons    | 40 | 931 | 27 | 613 | 40 | 657 | 40 | 712
  4th    “       | 42 | 898 | 32 | 710 | 37 | 705 | 38 | 721
  13th   “       | 38 | 925 | 24 | 685 | 41 | 691 | 46 | 649
  14th   “       | 43 | 925 | 30 | 548 | 31 | 622 | 34 | 705
  2nd    “       | 37 | 891 | 27 | 599 | 31 | 717 | 35 | 601
  5th    “       | 35 | 989 | 25 | 669 | 32 | 603 | 33 | 631
  16th   “       | 42 | 959 | 27 | 577 | 31 | 560 | 29 | 612

But these figures must be read with a reservation. In spite of all       301
efforts, men always disappeared. No battalion or company commander
ever had the men who were on the ration strength. Guards, fatigue
parties, sudden demands for men from higher commands, dozens of
reasons could be given for the evaporation of strength. Probably
two-thirds only of these men were really available for fighting. In
those days a general when inspecting companies had no difficulty in
finding fault if he wished to do so.

During the rest Gen. Hull discussed the subjects of organisation and
training with the officers of each of his brigades.

But in the evening officers and men could be cheered by “Bow Bells,”
which were to be heard at the theatre in Arras and the cinema at Haut

On the 31st the division moved into XXII Corps Reserve with
headquarters at Basseville, and on the 1st November was ordered to
relieve the 49th Division during the night 2nd/3rd.

On the 31st October the line immediately south of Valenciennes rested
on the 4th Canadian Division, from the Canal de l’Escaut to the
outskirts of the village of Famars, the 49th Division, on the high
ground west of the River Rondelle, the 4th Division, astride the river
and to the east of Artres, and then the 61st Division.

The 4th and 49th Divisions of the XXII Corps attacked on the 2nd
November with the object of capturing the two villages of Preseau and
Saultain, but only the first was taken, and the 49th Division held the
Preseau-Valenciennes road.

The 56th Division was now plunged into real open fighting. Their
objectives were no longer trench lines, but tactical features, such as   302
spurs, rivers, woods, and villages. An examination of Gen. Hull’s
operation orders reveals the new nature of the fighting.

The 169th Brigade was given the right and the 168th the left. The
objective of the XXII Corps, which was attacking with the 11th
Division on the right and the 56th on the left, was given as the
“general line of the Aunelle River left bank.” The Canadian Corps
would cover the left flank of the 56th Division by the capture of
Estreux. The division would be covered by six brigades of field

On attaining the high ground on the left of the Aunelle River, patrols
would be pushed out, “since if there is any sign of enemy retreat the
G.O.C. intends to push on mounted troops to secure the crossing of the
Petite Aunelle River and will order the leading brigades to support
them.” The mounted troops referred to were two squadrons of Australian
Light Horse.

Each of the attacking brigades had at the disposal of the Brigadier a
battery of field artillery, also two sections (8 guns) of the M.G.

As the front to be covered by the 56th Division was very extensive,
the 146th Brigade, of the 49th Division, remained in line on the left,
and was to advance until squeezed out by the converging advance of the
56th and Canadian Divisions.

On the night 2nd/3rd November the 169th and 168th Brigades relieved
the right of the 49th Division on the Preseux-Valenciennes road
without incident. Soon after 8 a.m. on the 3rd, patrols reported that
the enemy had retired. The two brigades advanced and occupied
Saultain, which was full of civilians, before mid-day. The cavalry and
a company of New Zealand Cyclists were then ordered to push forward      303
and secure the crossings of the River Aunelle. The line of the left
bank of the river was reached at 6 p.m., where machine-gun fire was
encountered. The brigades remained on that line for the night.

The advance was resumed at dawn on the 4th, when the Queen’s
Westminster Rifles crossed the River Aunelle and captured the village
of Sebourg; there was some half-hearted opposition from about thirty
of the enemy who were rounded up, but when they attempted to advance
east of the village they came under intense machine-gun and rifle fire
from the high ground. Attempt to turn the enemy flank met with no
success, and as there was no artillery barrage arranged, Brig.-Gen.
Coke contented himself by holding the road to the east of the village.

The 168th Brigade on the left were also held up by the enemy on the
high ground. The 4th London Regt. led the attack and took the hamlet
of Sebourtquiaux (slightly north of Sebourg), only to find that they
were not only faced with the enemy on the high ground to the east, but
that heavy enfilade fire was being directed on them from the village
of Rombies, on the western bank of the river, and on the Canadian
Corps front. The 4th London Regt. took up a position to the east of
Sebourtquiaux and astride the river, and so remained for the night.
(Battle of the Sambre.)

This attack had been made without artillery preparation, but the
position of the artillery is well described by Brig.-Gen. Elkington in
a short report drawn up at the end of the operations. He says the
barrage put down on the 1st November had been a very heavy one, and
that the enemy never again waited for the full weight of the artillery   304
to get into action.

     “The problem for the artillery then became a matter of
     dealing with machine-gun nests, isolated guns, and small
     parties of the enemy who were delaying our advance and
     enabling the main body of the enemy to retire. The enemy
     blew up bridges and roads, whenever possible, to delay the
     advance of our guns. In these circumstances the following
     points were emphasised:

     (1) The benefit of allotting artillery to each battalion
     commander in the front line. The battery commander, by
     remaining with the battalion commander and keeping good
     communication with his battery, could bring fire to bear at
     very short time on targets as they were encountered. In
     practice it was generally found that a full battery was too
     large a unit, and that four guns, or even a section, was of
     more use.

     (2) When more than one artillery brigade was available for
     an infantry brigade, the necessity of keeping them écheloned
     in depth and maintaining all but one brigade on wheels. If
     resistance was encountered, the brigade, or brigades, on
     wheels in rear could be moved up to reinforce the artillery
     in the line to put down a barrage for an attack, or, if no
     resistance was encountered, a brigade in rear could advance
     through the artillery in action, which in turn could get on
     wheels as the advancing brigade came into action. This
     procedure enabled brigades to get occasional days’ rests and
     obviated the danger of getting roads choked with advancing

     (3) The necessity of impressing on infantry commanders that
     though at the commencement of an attack it is possible to
     support them with a great weight of artillery, it is not
     possible to push this mass of artillery forward when
     movement becomes rapid, and that if they push forward               305
     rapidly, they are better served by a small mobile allotment
     of guns.”

The rapidity of the advance was little short of marvellous, for one
must remember that it did not depend on the ability of the infantry to
march forward, but on the engineers behind them, who were
reconstructing the roads and railways for the supply services.
Lieut.-Col. Sutton, who was controlling the Quartermasters’ Branch of
the division, has a note in his diary:

     “The enemy has done his demolition work most effectively.
     Craters are blown at road junctions and render roads
     impassable, especially in villages, where the rim of the
     crater comes in many cases up to the walls of the houses.
     Culverts are blown on main roads, and a particularly
     effective blockage is caused in one place by blowing a
     bridge across a road and stream, so that all the material
     fell across the road and in the river.”

This demolition was the great feature of the advance. The infantry
could always go across country, but guns and lorries were not always
able to use these short cuts. The weather was unfavourable, as it
rained practically every day. When craters were encountered, the
leading vehicles could perhaps get round, by going off the road, but
they had the effect of churning up the soft ground so that the crater
soon became surrounded by an impassable bog. The engineers and 5th
Cheshires worked like Trojans to fill up these terrific pits, or make
a firm surface round them.

At this date railhead was at Aubigny-au-Bac, the scene of that great
exploit of the 2nd London Regt. And when one takes into account dates    306
and distances, the achievement of those who were working behind the
infantry must be ranked as one of the finest in the war. One cannot
get a picture of the advance by considering the mere width of an army
front. The infantry were the spearhead, the supplies the shaft, but
the hand that grasped the whole weapon and drove it forward was that
of the engineer, the pioneer, the man of the Labour Battalion. The
effort of the army then must be considered in depth, from the scout to
the base.

Under these circumstances communication between units became a matter
of vital importance. The ordinary administrative routine of trench
warfare required little modification, up to the point of the break
through the Hindenburg Line--after that it became impossible. Brigade
Headquarters were responsible for the distribution of rations,
engineer material, ordnance, mails, and billeting. In the orders for
advance the General Staff informed the Brigadier-General what units,
or portion of divisional troops, including Divisional Artillery, would
be under his tactical control, and these units, irrespective of their
arm of the service, constituted the Brigade Group. The supply of
ammunition, on the other hand, was worked by arms of the service and
not by Brigade Groups. The channel of supply being the ordinary
one--from the Divisional Ammunition Column to batteries, or Infantry
Brigade Reserve, or Machine-gun Battalion Reserve.

                     *     *     *     *     *

The administrative instructions for the division point out:

     “The outstanding difficulty in all the administrative
     services will be that of intercommunication between the             307
     troops and the échelons in rear which supply them. The
     system of interchange of orderlies between the forward and
     rear échelons has been found unsatisfactory, as if the two
     échelons both move at the same time, all touch is lost.
     Prior to the advance, therefore, the administrative staff of
     each brigade group will fix a ‘meeting-point’ or ‘rear
     report centre’ as far forward as possible on the probable
     line of advance. This point will serve as a rendezvous for
     all maintenance service.... The principle of
     intercommunication by means of a fixed report centre will
     also be adopted by Divisional Artillery and the Machine Gun
     Battalion for the purpose of ammunition supply.”

This arrangement does not seem to have worked well for the artillery,
as we find Brig.-Gen. Elkington reporting:

     “For a time communication by orderly between units became
     the only feasible plan. Owing to the rapid movement these
     orderlies had the utmost difficulty in locating units. In
     this Divisional Artillery the system of using village
     churches as report centres was successfully tried, but,
     owing to the cessation of hostilities, the trial was not as
     exhaustive as could be wished. Notices showing change of
     location were simply stuck on the church doors or railings,
     and orderlies were instructed to at once proceed to the
     church for information on entering a village.”

This modification of the original scheme would seem to be a useful

In spite of all these difficulties, the 56th Division was advancing.
On the 5th November a barrage was arranged to cover troops attacking
the high ground to the east of the River Aunelle, as a preliminary       308
to subsequent advance. The London Rifle Brigade led the attack of the
169th Brigade at 5.30 a.m., and by 7.30 a.m. had captured the village
of Angreau. Here they were checked by the enemy, who occupied the
woods on both banks of the Honnelle River. On their right the 11th
Division captured the village of Roisin, but on their left the 168th
Brigade had not made such good progress.

Attacking, with the London Scottish on the right and the Kensingtons
on the left, the 168th Brigade were much hampered by flank fire from
Angre and the ground to their left, which was still held by the enemy.
The situation was somewhat eased by the capture of Rombies, by the 4th
Canadian Division, and at 3 p.m. the artillery put down a rolling
barrage, behind which the Kensingtons, and the London Scottish on
their right, advanced to the outskirts of Angre. The position for the
night was on the high ground west of the River Grande Honnelle.

The enemy had determined to defend the crossing of the river, and had
an excellent position on the eastern bank, where they held the Bois de
Beaufort in strength. The advance was to be resumed at 5.30 a.m., but
just before that hour the German artillery put down a heavy barrage of
gas-shells. Undaunted, the 2nd Londons on the right and the London
Rifle Brigade on the left of the 169th Brigade attacked in gas-masks
and crossed the river. The 168th Brigade, attacking with the London
Scottish and Kensingtons in line, met at first with slight resistance,
but as soon as the river was reached they were faced with a heavy
barrage of artillery and machine-gun fire. In spite of very accurate
fire, they succeeded in crossing the river to the north and south of     309
Angre. The position in front of them was of considerable natural
strength, but was turned by a clever move of the London Scottish from
the south, which established them firmly on the east bank. The
Kensingtons advanced to the high ground immediately east of the
village of Angre, and here met a heavy counter-attack which drove them
back to the west bank.

Meanwhile the 169th Brigade was engaged in heavy fighting. Only the
northern portion of the Bois de Beaufort was included in the attack,
and the enemy were found to be strongly situated on ground which
dominated the western bank of the river. The attack was delivered with
spirit, and the enemy driven back. The 2nd Londons had the wood in
front of them, and the London Rifle Brigade shot ahead on the left,
outside the wood. The enemy rallied and counter-attacked the forward
troops, while at the same time a force of Germans debouched from the
wood on the right flank of the Rifle Brigade men, who were driven back
to the west of the river. Some of the 2nd Londons were involved in
this successful enemy counter-attack, but a party of forty--a large
party in those days--held on to the position they had reached in the
Bois de Beaufort until late in the afternoon, when, discovering what
had happened on the left, and being almost entirely surrounded, they
retired fighting to the western bank of the river.

The right brigade, therefore, remained on the west bank. The
casualties had been heavy, amounting to 394.

The London Scottish had retained their hold of the east bank, and
later in the afternoon the Kensingtons again succeeded in crossing       310
the river, and definitely established themselves to the east and in
touch with the London Scottish. The casualties of the 168th Brigade
during these operations were 207. The prisoners captured by them were
111. The prisoners captured by the 169th Brigade were 43.

The general destruction of roads, combined with the vile weather, now
began to cause anxiety. Horses were used as much as possible--a horse
can drag a cart through places which would be impossible for a motor
lorry--and civilian wagons were pressed into service, being used in
conjunction with spare army horses. This was all the more necessary as
the administrative branch of the division had the additional
responsibility of feeding civilians.

All the villages captured or occupied by the troops were filled with
civilians. So great was their emotion on their release that they
pressed whatever they had in the nature of food and drink on the
troops. The coffee-pot of the French or Belgian housewife was
replenished with reckless disregard for “to-morrow.” And then as the
country was regained, so the villagers were cut off from the source
which had provided them with their limited supplies. With Germans in
retreat on one side and roads blown up on the other, they were more
isolated than they had ever been. On the 6th November the 56th
Division was rationing 16,000 civilians, and most of this work was
being done by the transport of the 168th and 169th Brigades.

  [Illustration: 11. GENERAL MAP.]

The battle on the right of the division had progressed with almost
unfailing success. The 11th Division on their immediate right had met
with the same check on the River Honnelle, but farther south the Army
had forced their way through the great Forest of Mormal, and troops      311
were well to the east of it. The German rearguards were only able, on
especially favourable positions, to check the advance of a few
divisions; on the whole the rearguards were being thrown back on the
main retreating force. The roads were packed with enemy troops and
transport, and the real modern cavalry, the low-flying aeroplanes,
swooped down on them, with bomb and machine gun spreading panic and
causing the utmost confusion.

During the night 6th/7th November the 63rd Division was put into line
on the front of the 168th Brigade, and the 169th was relieved by the
167th Brigade. The 56th Division was then on a single brigade front,
with the 11th Division on the right and the 63rd on the left.

At dawn on the 7th patrols found that the enemy was still in front of
them, and at 9 a.m. the brigade attacked with the 8th Middlesex on the
right and the 7th Middlesex on the left. They swept on through the
northern part of the wood, and by 10.30 a.m. the 7th Middlesex entered
the village of Onnezies. The Petite Honnelles River was crossed, and
the village of Montignies taken in the afternoon. But after the
Bavai-Hensies Road was crossed, opposition stiffened, and both
artillery and machine-gun fire became severe. A line of outposts held
the east of the road for the night.

Explosions and fires, which were continually observed at night behind
the enemy lines, were more numerous on the night of 7th/8th, and when
the advance was continued at 8 a.m., the two Middlesex battalions
occupied the villages of Athis and Fayt-le-Franc with practically no
opposition. By nightfall outposts were covering Petit Moranfayt, Trieu   312
Jean Sart, Ferlibray, and Richon.

The road situation was worse than ever. Railhead was at
Aubigny-au-Bac, and supply lorries were unable to proceed any farther
than the Honnelle River owing to the destruction of the bridges. Rain
fell all the time, and cross-country tracts were impassable. All
traffic was thrown on the main roads, which, to the west of the river,
were now in such a state that all supplies were late. Arrangements
were made for aeroplanes to drop food to the advance troops, but
fortunately this was found unnecessary.

The enemy was now in full retreat on the whole of the British front.
To the south the Guards Division entered Maubeuge, and to the north
the Canadians were approaching Mons. The 56th Division marched forward
through the villages of Coron, Rieu-de-Bury, Quevy-le-Grand, and
Quevy-le-Petit, and by the evening were on the line of the
Mons-Maubeuge road behind a line of outposts held by the 1st London

On the 10th November the 1st Londons continued the advance, preceded
by cavalry. No serious opposition was encountered until the infantry
had passed through Harvengt, when heavy machine-gun fire from both
flanks held up the advance. A squadron of 16th Lancers attempted to
get through, but failed. The infantry then attacked and cleared the
ground, entered Harmignies, and held a line to the east.

Orders were received that night that the 63rd Division would carry on
the advance as advance guard to the XXII Corps, and the necessary
reliefs were carried out. The artillery of the 56th Division remained    313
in action, and were just two miles south of the spot where Brig.-Gen.
Elkington was in action on the 23rd August 1914, at the battle of
Mons. Gen. Hull, on the other hand, had actually held an outpost line
before Harmignies with his battalion on the 22nd August, and had moved
to the north to hold a line from Obourg to Mons on the 23rd. After the
battle the celebrated retreat had taken him through the village of
Nouvelles due west of Harmignies, and so through Quevy to Bavai,
Caudray, Ham, and so on. What memories this second visit to Harmignies
must have brought back to him! From retreat to victory--from a
battalion to a division--Harmignies 1914, Harmignies 1918.

Brig.-Gen. Coke also fought as company commander in August 1914 within
five miles of the spot where he finished in 1918.

At 7.30 a.m. on the 11th November the XXII Corps issued orders that
hostilities would cease at 11 a.m. on that day, and that all troops
would stand fast.

Just before 11 o’clock all batteries opened fire. Each gunner was
determined to be the last man to fire a shot at the Germans. And then,
in the midst of the rolling thunder of rapid fire, teams straining
every nerve to throw the last shell into the breach of their gun
before the “cease fire” sounded, 11 o’clock struck, the first blast of
the bugles pierced the air, and with the last note silence reigned.

“There was no cheering or excitement amongst the men,” writes
Brig.-Gen. Elkington. “They seemed too tired, and no one seemed able
to realise that it was all over.”

                                                 G.Q.G.A.                314
                                         _le 12 Novembre, 1918._

     _Officiers, Sous-officiers, Soldats des Armées

     Après avoir résolument arrêté l’enemi, vous l’avez pendant
     des mois, avec une foi et une énergie inlassables, attaqué
     sans répit.

     Vous avez gagné le plus grande bataille de l’Histoire et
     sauvé la cause la plus sacrée: la Liberté du Monde.

     Soyez Fiers!

     D’une gloire immortelle vous avez paré vos drapeaux.

     La Postérité vous garde sa reconnaissance.

                                  Le Maréchal de France,
                          Commandant en Chef les Armées Alliées,
                                         F. FOCH.

The division did not move to the Rhine, but remained in this area,
with headquarters at Harvengt. They mended the roads, they drilled,
and they had sports. Towards the end of January 1919 demobilisation
had reached a point which rendered the division ineffective as a
fighting unit.

The London Scottish were moved to the 9th Division, in Germany, on the
16th January, and the 7th Middlesex to the 41st Division on the 25th
February. On the 14th March Gen. Hull gave up command of the division.

But their work was done. Officially the 56th Division returned the
first cadre on the 14th May, the last on the 10th June, 1919.

The total casualties of this division were:

     Officers            1,470
     Other ranks        33,339
           Total        34,809

                              APPENDIX                                   315


     Rank.    |        Name.            |         Remarks.
  Major-Gen.  | C. P. A. Hull, C.B.     | Joined Royal Scots Fusilier
              |                         |   Regt. 16/11/87. Middlesex
              |                         |   Regt. 24/2/12.
              |                         | Brigade Major 11th Brigade
              |                         |   10/11/03 to 9/11/07.
              |                         | General Staff Officer, 2nd
              |                         |   Grade, Staff College,
              |                         |   10/3/15 to 4/2/16.
              |                         | Commanded the 4th Bn.
              |                         |   Middlesex Regt. at the
              |                         |   battle of Mons. Brigadier
              |                         |   commanding 10th Brigade
              |                         |   17/11/14.
              |                         | After his illness he commanded
              |                         |   the 16th Division
              |                         |   from the 23/2/18 until he
              |                         |   resumed command of the
              |                         |   56th.
  Major-Gen.  | W. Douglas Smith, C.B.  | Royal Scots Fusilier Regt.
              |                         |   Commanded 56th Division
              |                         |   24/7/17 to 9/8/17.
  T/Major-Gen.| F. A. Dudgeon, C.B.     | The South Lancashire Regt.


  Lieut-Col.  | J. E. S. Brind, C.M.G., | From Royal Artillery.
              |   D.S.O.                |   Joined the 56th Division
              |                         |   6/2/16 and left 31/10/16.
  Lieut.-Col. | A. Bryant, D.S.O.       | The Gloucestershire Regt.
              |                         |   With the 56th Division
              |                         |   30/10/16 to 23/12/16.
  Lieut.-Col. | G. de la P. B. Pakenham,| The Border Regt.
              |  C.M.G., D.S.O.         |

                              G.S.O.s2                                   316

    Rank.     |     Name.         |  From. |   To.   | Regt.
  Major       |A. E. G. Bayley,   |5/2/16  |1/10/16  |Oxford and Bucks
              |  D.S.O.           |        |         |  Light Infantry.
  Major       |E. A. Beck, D.S.O. |28/9/16 |17/2/17  |The Royal Scots
              |                   |        |         |  Fusiliers.
  Major       |W. T. Brooks,      |15/2/17 |3/9/17   |The D.C.L.I.
              |  M.C.             |        |         |
  Major       |F. B. Hurndall,    |4/9/17  |9/7/18   |The 20th Hussars.
              |  M.C.             |        |         |
  Captain,    |T. O. M. Buchan,   |9/7/18  |Demob.   |The Queen’s R.W.
    T/Major   |  M.C.             |        |         |  Surrey Regt.


  Captain.    |T. W. Bullock      |5/2/16  |20/4/16  |The Dorsetshire
              |                   |        |         |  Regt.
  Captain.    |M. G. N. Stopford, |10/6/16 |5/12/16  |The Rifle
              |  M.C.             |        |         |  Brigade.
  Captain.    |J. D. Crosthwaite, |7/12/16 |7/7/17   |The 1st London
              |  M.C.             |        |         |  Regt.
  Captain.    |E. L. Rabone, M.C. |11/7/17 |11/11/17 |The Worcestershire
              |                   |        |         |  Regt.
  Captain.    |C. W. Haydon,      |11/11/17|11/5/18  |The Middlesex
              |  M.C.             |        |         |  Regt.
  Captain.    |T. L. C. Heald     |14/5/18 |4/2/19   |The 5th Cheshire
              |                   |        |         |  Regt.

                           A.A. & Q.M.G.s

  Bt. Lieut.- |H. W. Grubb,       |5/2/16  |4/12/17  |The Border Regt.
    Col.         D.S.O.           |        |         |
  Bt. Major   |W. M. Sutton,      |4/12/17 |Demob.   |Somerset Light
    T/Lieut.- |  D.S.O., M.C.     |        |         |  Infantry.


  Captain.    |W. M. Sutton,      |5/2/16  |4/12/17  |Somerset Light
              |  D.S.O., M.C.     |        |         |  Infantry.
  Major       |A. C. Dundas       |4/12/17 |10/12/18 |The Middlesex
              |                   |        |         |  Regt.
  Major       |A. Scott, D.S.O.,  |10/12/18|Demob.   |A. & S.
              |  M.C.             |        |         |  Highlanders.

                            D.A.Q.M.G.s                                  317

  Major       |F. J. Lemon, D.S.O.| 5/2/16 | 22/4/18 |The West Yorkshire
              |                   |        |         |  Regt.
  Captain     |T. F. Chipp, M.C.  |23/4/18 |  2/2/19 |The Middlesex
    T/Major   |                   |        |         |  Regt.


  [6]Lieut.   |H. C. B. Way       |10/2/16 | Demob.  |The 2nd London
              |                   |        |         |  Regt.
  2/Lieut.    |C. Burn-Callender  | 4/3/16 |  2/2/17 |The
              |                   |        |         |  Montgomeryshire
              |                   |        |         |  Yeomanry.
  Lieut.      |H. M. Woodhouse    |10/4/17 | 30/4/17 |The Notts
              |                   |        |         |  Yeomanry.
  2/Lieut.    |C. Y. Jones        |26/5/17 | 23/7/17 |The 13th London
              |                   |        |         |  Regt.
  Captain     |G. A. Greig        |24/7/17 |  9/8/17 |The Royal Scots
              |                   |        |         |  Fusiliers.
  Lieut.      |R. W. Broatch      |10/8/17 | Demob.  |The 14th London
              |                   |        |         |  Regt.


  Col.,       |R. J. G. Elkington,| 6/2/16 | Demob.  |
  T/Brig.-Gen.|  C.M.G., D.S.O.   |        |         |

                           BRIGADE MAJORS

  Major       |W. J. McLay        | 6/2/16 |  4/6/16 |
  Major       |J. A. Don          |28/6/16 | 27/9/16 |
  Major       |D. Thomson         |27/7/16 | 21/1/18 |
  Major       |H. D. Gale, M.C.   |21/1/18 | Demob.  |

                           STAFF CAPTAINS

  Captain      |B. Macmin          | 6/2/16 | 22/1/17 |
  Captain      |N. C. Lockhart     |22/1/17 | 12/2/19 |
  Captain      |J. D. Hendley Smith|12/2/19 | Demob.  |

     [6] NOTE.--Lieut. H. C. B. Way was away from 4/2/18 to
     4/4/18 as A.D.C. to G.O.C. 16th (Irish) Division.

                             ARTILLERY                                   318


  Commanded by:
    Lieut.-Col. L. A. C. Southam until March 1918.
    Lieut.-Col. Batt.
  April 16th. 93rd Battery joined and designated D/280th Brigade
  May 6th.    Designated 280th Brigade R.F.A.
   “ 17th.    B.A.C. posted to 56th D.A.C.
   “ 28th.    93rd Battery ceased to be D/280th Bde. R.F.A., and was
                transferred to 283rd Bde. R.F.A., and the original
                1/11th London Howitzer Battery became D/280.
  Nov. 5th.   Reorganised into four 6-gun batteries; “A,” 93rd, and
                “C,” 18-pounders; “D,” howitzers.
              93rd Battery and one section “R” Battery transferred
                from 283rd Bde. R.F.A. The original “B” Battery
                split up: one section to “A,” and one section to “C.”
              “D” Battery only had 4 howitzers until 25/1/17, when
                one section 500th Howitzer Battery joined from 282nd
                Bde. R.F.A.


  Commanded by Lieut.-Col. C. C. Macdowell.
  April 15th. 109th Battery joined.
  May 12th.   Designated 281st Bde. R.F.A.
   “  16th.   B.A.C. posted to 56th D.A.C.
   “  28th.   10th (Howitzer) Battery transferred from 283rd Bde.
                R.F.A. and designated D/281st Battery R.F.A.
              109th Battery transferred to 283rd Bde. R.F.A.
  Nov. 5th.   Reorganised into four 6-gun batteries.
              “A,” 109th, and “C” 18-pounders; “D” howitzers.
              109th Battery and one section “R” Battery transferred
                from 283rd Bde. R.F.A.
              The original “C” Battery split up. One section to
                “A” Battery. One section to “B” Battery.
              “D” Battery only had 4 howitzers till 23/1/17, when
                one section 500th Howitzer Battery joined from 282nd
                Bde. R.F.A.


  Commanded by Lieut.-Col. A. F. Prechtel.
  April 16th. 109th Battery R.F.A. joined and designated “R”
                Battery. (Duplicate--see 281st Bde.)
  May 6th.    Designated 282nd London Bde. R.F.A.
   “            7th, 8th, and 9th Batteries designated “A,” “B,” and
                “C” Batteries.
  May 17th.   B.A.C. posted to 56th D.A.C.                               319
   “  28th.   “R” Battery posted to 283rd Bde. R.F.A.
              B/167th (Howitzer) Battery joined and designated
                D/282nd Battery R.F.A.
              Reorganised into four 6-gun batteries. “A,” “B,” and
  Nov. 5th.     “C,” 18-pounders; “D” howitzers.
     to       500th How. Bty. R.F.A. joined 4/12/16.
    1917      One Section to D/280th Bde. R.F.A. One section to
                D/281st Bde. R.F.A.
  Jan. 25th.  B/126th Battery R.F.A. joined and designated A/282nd
              The original “A” Battery having been split up, one
                section each to “B” and “C.”
              One section D/126th Battery R.F.A. joined 25/1/17.
  Jan. 20th.  Designated 282nd Army Bde. R.F.A.
   “   25th.  One Section 56th D.A.C. joined and designated 282nd


  Commanded by Lieut.-Col. Wainwright.
  Nov. 19th,  Half of the B.A.C. left for Salonica to join 10th Division.
  May  6th.   Designated 283rd (Howitzer) Bde. R.F.A.
   “  17th.   B.A.C. transferred to 56th D.A.C.
   “  28th.   “R” Battery joined from 282nd Bde. R.F.A.
              109th Battery joined from 281st Bde. R.F.A.
              93rd Battery joined from 280th Bde. R.F.A. (all
              10th (Howitzer) Battery transferred to 281st Bde.
              11th (Howitzer) Battery transferred to 280th Bde.
  Nov. 5th.   93rd Battery and one section “R” Battery transferred
                to 280th Bde. R.F.A.
              109th Battery and one section “R” Battery transferred
                to 281st Bde. R.F.A.
              Brigade ceased to exist, but the new organisation was
                not completed until January 1917.


  Commanded by Lieut.-Col. E. W. Griffith.
  May 17th.   The B.A.C.s of 280th, 281st, 282nd, and 283rd Bdes.
                R.F.A. absorbed, Then consisted of “A” Echelon
                (H.Q., Nos. 1, 2, and 3 sections) and “B” Echelon.
  Jan. 25th.  One Section (No. 2) became the 282nd Army Bde. Ammunition
  Sept.       “B” Echelon reorganised as S.A.A. Section.
              Reorganised as H.Q., No. 1, 2, and S.A.A. Sections.

                           TRENCH MORTARS                                320

  March 8th.  “X” “Y,” and “Z” 2-inch Medium Batteries formed.
                Four mortars each.
  May.        “V” Heavy Battery formed.
  Sept./Oct.  Medium Batteries handed in 2-inch mortars and were
                armed with four 6-inch mortars each.
  Feb. 13th.  Medium batteries reorganised into two batteries (“X”
                and “Y”) of 6-inch mortars each.
              Heavy battery taken over by Corps.
  Feb. 6th.   Reduced to Cadre. Surplus personnel to Brigades and

                          ROYAL ENGINEERS
                            (See C.R.E.)

                 416th (Edinburgh) Field Coy. R.E.
                 512th (London) Field Coy. R.E.
                 513th (London) Field Coy. R.E.
                 56th Divisional Signal Coy.

                         PIONEER BATTALION

           1/5th Bn. Cheshire Regt. (Earl of Chester’s).
  Commanded by:
    Lieut.-Col. J. E. C. Groves, C.M.G., T.D., 14/2/15 to 21/2/18.
    Major (T/Lieut.-Col.) W. A. V. Churton, D.S.O., T.D., 21/2/18
       to end.

                         MACHINE GUN CORPS

            56th Bn. Machine Gun Corps formed on 1/3/18.
                  (See Divisional M.G. Officers.)

                           R.A.S.C. UNITS

                        213th Coy. R.A.S.C.
                        214th   “     “
                        215th   “     “
                        216th   “     “
  Divisional Train commanded by:
    Lieut.-Col. A. G. Galloway, D.S.O., to Sept. 1917.
    Lieut.-Col. E. P. Blencowe, D.S.O., to May 1918.


                   2/1st London Field Ambulance.
                   2/2nd    “     “     “
                   2/3rd    “     “     “

                 1/1st London Mobile Vet. Section.

        247th Divisional Employment Coy. formed in May 1917.

                             A.D.sM.S.                                   321

      Rank.   |         Name.         |  From.  |   To.   | Regt.
  Colonel     |E. G. Browne, C.B.,    |Feb. ’16 | Feb, ’17|R.A.M.C.
              |  A.M.S.               |         |         |
  Colonel     |G. A. Moore,           |Feb. ’17 | Feb. ’18|R.A.M.C.
              |  C.M.G., D.S.O.       |         |         |
  Colonel     |E. C. Montgomery-Smith,|Feb. ’18 | Demob.  |R.A.M.C.
              |  D.S.O., A.M.S. (T.F.)|         |         |


  Major       |L. M. Purser,          |Feb. ’16 |Sept. ’16|R.A.M.C.
              |  D.S.O.               |         |         |
  Captain     |D. Jobson Scott,       |Sept. ’16| Feb. ’18|R.A.M.C.
              |  M.C.                 |         |         |  (T.F.)
  Major       |W. T. Hare, M.C.       |Feb. ’18 | Demob.  |R.A.M.C.


  Major       |F. Hibbard             | 5/2/16  | 30/9/16 |
  Major       |W. Ascott, O.B.E.      | 1/10/16 | Demob.  |


  Major       |J. Bishop              | 6/2/16  | 10/3/16 |
  Captain     |P. S. Tibbs            | 11/3/16 | 23/7/16 |
  Lieut.      |V. C. Ward             | 24/7/16 | 22/11/16|
  Captain     |W. D. Harbinson        | 23/11/16| 27/5/17 |
  Major       |J. W. Burbidge         | 28/5/17 | Demob.  |


  Lieut.-Col. |H. W. Gordon,          | 6/2/16  | Oct. ’17|Royal
              |  D.S.O.               |         |         |  Engineers.
  Lieut.-Col. |E. N. Mozeley,         | Oct. ’17| Demob.  |Royal
              |  D.S.O.               |         |         |  Engineers.


  Major       |E. C. S. Jervis        | Jan. ’17| May ’17 |R. of O.
              |                       |         |         |  6th D.G.s.
  Major       |Roberts                | May ’17 | Aug. ’17|M.G.C.
  Lieut.-Col. |E. C. S. Jervis        | Aug. ’17| Mar. ’18|R. of O.
              |                       |         |         |  6th D.G.s.

                       167TH INFANTRY BRIGADE

                         BRIGADE COMMANDERS

  Major       |F. H. Burnell-Nugent,  | 6/2/16  | 26/7/16 | The Rifle
    (T/Brig.- |  D.S.O.               |         |         |   Brigade.
        Gen.) |                       |         |         |
  Bt. Col.    |G. Freeth, C.M.G.,     | 7/7/16  | Demob.  | Lancashire
    (T/Brig.- |  D.S.O.               |         |         |   Fusiliers.
        Gen.) |                       |         |         |

                           BRIGADE MAJORS                                322

  Bt. Major   |G. Blewitt, D.S.O.,    |  6/2/16 | 5/12/16 |The Oxford
              |  M.C.                 |         |         |  and Bucks
              |                       |         |         |  Light
              |                       |         |         |  Infantry.
  Captain     |M. Stopford, M.C.      | 5/12/16 | 25/3/18 |The Rifle
              |                       |         |         |  Brigade.
  Captain     |C. E. Clouting         | 25/3/18 |  8/4/18 |General List.
  Captain     |C. W. Haydon, M.C.     | 25/4/18 |  Demob. |Middlesex
              |                       |         |         | Regt.

                           STAFF CAPTAINS

  Captain     |O. H. Tidbury, M.C.    |  6/2/16 |27/12/16 |Middlesex
              |                       |         |         |  Regt.
  Captain     |T. F. Chipp, M.C.      |27/12/16 | 23/4/18 |Middlesex
              |                       |         |         |  Regt.
  Captain     |H. F. Prynn, M.C.      | 23/4/18 | Demob.  |13th London
              |                       |         |         |  Regt.
              |                       |         |         |  (Kensingtons).

                       168TH INFANTRY BRIGADE

                         BRIGADE COMMANDERS

  Bt. Col.    |G. G. Loch, C.M.G.,    |  5/2/16 |  Demob.  |The Royal
    (T/Brig.- |  D.S.O.               |         |          |  Scots.
        Gen.) |                       |         |          |

                           BRIGADE MAJORS

  Major       |P. Neame, V.C., D.S.O. |  5/2/16 | 28/11/16 |Royal
              |                       |         |          |  Engineers.
  Captain     |J. L. Willcocks, M.C.  |28/11/16 |   3/7/18 |The Black
              |                       |         |          |  Watch.
  Captain     |A. R. Abercrombie,     |  3/7/18 |  11/8/18 |The Queen’s
              |  D.S.O., M.C.         |         |          |  Regt.
  Captain     |R. C. Boyle            | 11/8/18 | Demob.   |West Somerset
              |                       |         |          |  Yeomanry.

                           STAFF CAPTAINS

  Major       |L. L. Wheatley,        |  5/2/16 |  7/3/16  |A. & S.
              |   D.S.O.              |         |          |  Highlanders.
  Captain     |R. E. Otter, M.C.      |  7/4/16 | 20/4/17  |London Rifle
              |                       |         |          |  Brigade.
  Captain     |J. C. Andrews, M.C.    | 26/4/17 |  7/3/18  | Q.V.R.
  Captain     |E. F. Coke, M.C.       |  7/3/18 | Demob.   |8th Canadian
              |                       |         |          |  Inantry
              |                       |         |          |  Battn.

                       169TH INFANTRY BRIGADE

                         BRIGADE COMMANDER

  Brig.-Gen.  |E. S. D. E. Coke,      | 5/2/16  | Demob.   |K.O.S.B.
    (Bt. Col.)|  C.M.G., D.S.O.       |         |          |

                           BRIGADE MAJORS                                323

  Captain     |L. A. Newnham          |  5/2/16 | 27/5/17 |Middlesex
              |                       |         |         |  Regt.
  Captain     |W. Carden Roe,         | 27/5/17 | 24/3/18 |Royal Irish
              |  M.C.                 |         |         |  Fusiliers.
  Captain     |Chute                  | 28/3/18 |  9/4/18 |
  Captain     |T. G. McCarthy         |  1/4/18 | Demob.  |2nd London
              |                       |         |         |  Regt.

                           STAFF CAPTAINS

  Captain     |E. R. Broadbent,       |  5/2/16 | 5/11/17 |8th Hussars.
              |  M.C.                 |         |         |
  Captain     |F. Bishop              | 5/11/17 | Demob.  |1/5th Bn.
              |                       |         |         |  Cheshire
              |                       |         |         |  Regt.


     Battalion.  |       Commanding Officers.  |           Remarks.
  1/7th Middlesex|Lieut.-Col. E. J. King,      |The Battalion went to
    Regt.        |  C.M.G.,  to 2/11/16, and   |  Gibraltar Sept. 1914.
                 |  from 4/2/17 to 14/5/17     |  France to the 23rd
                 |Lieut-.Col. E. D. Jackson,   |  Brigade, 8th Division,
                 |  D.S.O., from 2/11/16 to    |  in Feb. 1915.
                 |  4/2/17                     |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. F. W. D.       |
                 |  Bendall, from 15/5/17      |
                 |  to 17/8/17                 |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. P. C. Kay,     |
                 |  D.S.O., M.C., from         |
                 |  31/8/17 to 16/2/18.        |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. M. Beevor,     |
                 |  from 16/2/18.              |
  1/8th Middlesex|T/Lieut.-Col. E. D. W.       |This Battalion went to
    Regt.        |  Gregory, from 31/5/15 to   |  Gibraltar in Sept.
                 |  Sept. 1915.                |  1914. To the 88th
                 |Lieut.-Col. P. L. Inkpen,    |  Brigade, 3rd during
                 |  D.S.O., from Sept. 1915    |  Division, in France
                 |  to Oct. 1916, and Mar.     |  March 1915, and in
                 |  1917 to Aug. 1917.         |  April joined the 23rd
                 |Lieut.-Col. F. D. W. Bendall,|  Brigade, when it was
                 |  from Oct. 1916 to          |  amalgamated with the
                 |  Mar. 1917.                 |  1/7th Middlesex.
                 |Lieut.-Col. C. H. Pank,      |  Resumed independence
                 |  C.M.G., D.S.O., Sept.      |  on joining 56th
                 |  1917 to Mar. 1919.         |  Division.
                 |Lieut.-Col. M. B. Beevor,    |
                 |  from Mar. 1918.            |
  ---------------+-----------------------------+-----------------------  324
  1/1st London   |Lieut.-Col. E. G. Mercer,    |Went to Malta in Sept.
    Regt. (Royal |  C.M.G., T.D., from Jan.    |  1914. France Jan.
    Fusiliers)   |  1916 to June 1916.         |  1915, joining the
                 |Lieut.-Col. D. V. Smith,     |  25th Brigade, 8th
                 |  D.S.O., V.D., from June    |  Division, in March.
                 |  1916  to Oct. 1916; from   |  To the 56th Division
                 |  Feb. 1917 to April 1917.   |  April 1916.
                 |Lieut.-Col. Kennard, from    |
                 |  Oct. 1916 to Nov. 1916.    |
                 |Lieut.-Col. W. R. Glover,    |
                 |  C.M.G., D.S.O., T.D.,      |
                 |  from Nov. 1916 to Mar.     |
                 |  1917; from April 1917.     |
  1/3rd London   |A/Lieut.-Col. A. E. Maitland,|To Malta in Sept. 1914.
    Regt. (Royal |  D.S.O., M.C., until        |  France Jan. 1915 with
    Fusiliers)   |  Mar. 1917.                 |  G.H.Q. troops.
                 |Lieut.-Col. F. D. Samuel,    |  Garhwal Brigade,
                 |  D.S.O., T.D.               |  Meerut Division, on
                 |                             |  1/3/15. To 142nd
                 |                             |  Brigade, 47th Division,
                 |                             |  1/1/16. Left 56th
                 |                             |  Division and joined
                 |                             |  173rd Brigade, 58th
                 |                             |  Division, 2/2/18.


     Battalion.  |    Commanding Officers.     |         Remarks.
  1/4th London   |Major W. J, Clark, until     |To Malta Sept. 1914.
    Regt. (Royal |  23/3/16.                   |  France Jan. 1915 as
    Fusiliers)   |Lieut.-Col. L. L. Wheatley,  |  G.H.Q. troops. Joined
                 |  8/4/16 to 11/10/16.        |  Ferozepore Brigade,
                 |Lieut.-Col. H. J. Duncan     |  Lahore Division, on
                 |  Teape, until 17/3/17.      |  1/3/15. To 140th
                 |Lieut.-Col. A. E. Maitland,  |  Brigade, 47th
                 |  17/3/17 to 20/4/17.        |  Division, 1/1/16.
                 |Lieut.-Col. H. Campbell,     |
                 |  20/4/17 to 14/8/17.        |
                 |Lieut.-Col. A. F. Marchment, |
                 |  14/8/17 to the end.        |
 ----------------+-----------------------------+-----------------------  325
  1/12th London  |Colonel A. D. Bayliffe,      |To France 4/1/15 as
    Regt.        |  C.M.G., T.D.               |  G.H.Q. troops. Joined
    (Rangers)    |                             |  84th Brigade, 28th
                 |                             |  Division, on 4/2/15.
                 |                             |  Brigade moved to 5th
                 |                             |  Division 19/2/15 and
                 |                             |  rejoined 28th Division
                 |                             |  6/4/15. To G.H.Q. on
                 |                             |  19/5/15. Left 56th
                 |                             |  Division 2/2/18, and
                 |                             |  joined 58th Division.
  1/13th London  |Lieut.-Col. H. Stafford      |To France on 13/11/14,
    Regt.        |  until 28/6/16.             |  and joined the 24th
    (Kensingtons)|A/Lieut.-Col. W. W. Young    |  Brigade, 8th Division.
                 |  until 27/10/16.            |  To G.H.Q. on 19/5/15.
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. J. C. R.       |
                 |  King, until 13/6/17.       |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. J. E. J.       |
                 |  Higgins, M.C., until       |
                 |  5/8/17.                    |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. V. Flower,     |
                 |  D.S.O., until 16/8/17.     |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. R. E. F.       |
                 |  Shaw, M.C., until 23/8/18. |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. M. A. Prismall,|
                 |  M.C., until 28/9/18.       |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. J. Forbes      |
                 |  Robertson, V.C., D.S.O.,   |
                 |  M.C., until 13/10/18.      |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. F. S. B.       |
                 |  Johnson, D.S.O.            |
  1/14th London  |Lieut-.Col. B. C. Green,     |To France on lines of
    Regt. (London|  C.M.G., T.D., until 2/8/16.|  communication Sept.
    Scottish)    |Lieut.-Col. J. H. Lindsay,   |  1914. Joined 1st
                 |  D.S.O.,  until 6/10/16.    |  Brigade, 1st Division,
                 |Lieut.-Col. James Paterson,  |  on 7/11/14.
                 |  M.C., until 6/3/17.        |
                 |Lieut.-Col. E. D. Jackson,   |
                 |  D.S.O.                     |

                 INFANTRY BATTALIONS, 169TH BRIGADE                      326

  Battalion.     | Commanding Officers.        |       Remarks.
  1/2nd London   |Lieut.-Col. James            |To Malta Sept. 1914.
    Regt. (Royal |  Attenborough, C.M.G., T.D.,|  France Jan. 1915 as
    Fusiliers)   |   until Nov. 1916, and      |  G.H.Q. troops. Joined
                 |   Feb. 1917 to April 1917.  |  17th Brigade, 6th
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. J. P. Kellett, |  Division, 1/3/15. The
                 |  D.S.O., M.C., Nov. 1916    |  Brigade was transferred
                 |  to Feb. 1917; May 1917     |  to 24th Division
                 |  to Aug. 1917; Jan. 1918    |  1/1/16.
                 | to Oct. 1918; Jan. 1919.    |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. R. E. F.       |
                 |  Sneath, M.C., Aug. 1917    |
                 |  to Dec. 1917.              |
                 |A/Lieut.-Col. S. H. Stevens, |
                 |  M.C., Nov. 1918 to Jan.    |
                 |  1919.                      |
  1/5th London   |Lieut.-Col. Bates, D.S.O.,   |To France and joined
    Regt.        |  until 13/8/16.             |  11th Brigade, 4th
    (London      |Lieut.-Col. R. H. Husey,     |  Division, 24/11/14.
    Rifle        |  D.S.O., 13/8/16 to 4/5/18. |  To G.H.Q. 19/5/15.
    Brigade)     |Lieut.-Col. C. D. Burnell,   |  To 8th Brigade, 3rd
                 |  D.S.O., 4/5/18 to end.     |  Division, 1/1/16.
                 |  Also for one month,        |
                 |  22/4/17 to 20/5/17,        |
                 |  during Lieut.-Col.         |
                 |  Husey’s absence. The       |
                 |  latter C.O. was also       |
                 |  absent from 26/3/17 to     |
                 |  22/4/17, and 12/8/17 to    |
                 |  3/12/17, when Major        |
                 | F. H. Wallis took command.  |
  1/9th London   |Colonel J. W. F. Dickens,    |To France 24/11/14 and
    Regt. (Queen |  D.S.O., V.D.               |  joined 13th Brigade,
    Victoria’s   |Lieut.-Col. F. B. Follett,   |  5th Division. Brigade
    Rifles)      |  D.S.O., M.C.               |  moved to 28th Division
                 |Lieut.-Col. M. Beevor,       |  on 19/2/15, and back to
                 |  D.S.O.                     |  5th Division on 6/4/15.
                 |Lieut.-Col. E. G. H. Towell  |  Left 56th Division and
                 |                             |  joined 58th 2/2/18.
  1/16th London  |Lieut.-Col. R. Shoolbred,    |To France and joined
    Regt.        |  C.M.G., T.D.               |  18th Brigade, 6th
    (Queen’s     |Lieut.-Col. E. P. Harding,   |  Division, 11/11/14.
    Westminster  |  O.B.E., M.C.               |
    Rifles)      |Lieut.-Col. P. M. Glazier,   |
                 |  D.S.O.                     |
                 | Lieut.-Col. S. R. Savill,   |
                 |  D.S.O., M.C.               |

                               INDEX                                     327

  Ablainzeville, 32
  Achicourt, 114
  Achiet-le-Grand, 32
  Acq, 246
  Adinfer Wood, 32
  Agny, 114
  Albert, battle of, 258-268
  Ambrines, 8
  American power, 211
  Angreau, 308
  Arnold, Lt., 292
  Arras, battles of, 114-143, 208-242
  Arthur, G. S., 40
  Artillery Coy. of London (H.A.C.), 2
  Athis, 311
  Aubers Ridge, 104
  Aubigny-au-Bac, 290-297, 312
  Avesnes-le-Comte, 9, 254

  Baghdad, 111, 145
  Bapaume, 69
  Barber, Capt. J. B., 9
  Basseux, 266
  Basseville, 301
  Bavincourt, 254, 259
  Bayley, Major A. E. G., 3
  Bayliffe, Lt.-Col. A. D., 89
  Bazentin, 53
  Bazentin Ridge, battle of, 53
  Beaudricourt, 8
  Beaufort, 8
  Beaumetz, 297
  Beauvois, 113
  Bedford Regt., 156
  Belfort, 14
  Bendall, Lt.-Col. F. W. D., 160
  Berkshire Regt., 156
  Berlencourt, 8
  Berles-au-Bois, 214
  Bernafay, 101
  Bertincourt, 214
  Beugny, 175
  Biez Wood, 32
  Blairville, 25, 259
  Blangermont, 113
  Blangerol, 113
  Blavincourt, 8
  Blewitt, Capt. G., 4
  Bloxam, Major-Gen. (U.S.A.), 169
  Boisleux-au-Mont, 297
  Boisleux St. Marc, 283
  Bouleaux Wood (_see_ Ginchy), 56
  Bouquemaison, 120
  Bouret-sur-Canche, 9
  Bourlon (_see_ Cambrai)

  Bovill, E. H., 40
  Bow Bells, 140
  Boyelles (_see_ Albert)

  Brand, Capt., 109
    6th, 202
    8th, 168
    9th, 168
    12th, 234
    44th, 253
    46th, 253
    53rd, 155
    76th, 168
    99th, 202
    109th, 174
    137th, 42
    139th, 42
    140th, 202
    145th, 18
    171st, 278
    172nd, 275
  Tank Brigades, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 171
  Brigades, composition of, 4, 5
  Brind, Lt.-Col. J. E. S., 3, 24
  Broadbent, Capt. E. R., 4
  Bruilly, 8
  Brussiloff, Gen., 14, 96, 147
  Bucquoy, 32
  Bullecourt, 135 (_see_ Scarpe, 269-280)

  Bullock, Capt. T. W., 3
  Busseboom, 165

  Cambrai, battle of, 163-208, 290
  Campbell, Lt.-Col. H., 160
  Canadian Cavalry, 177                                                  328
  Canadian Mounted Rifles, 236
  Canal du Nord (battle), 280-289
  Cannettemont, 8
  Canteen, 9, 165
  Carnoy, 69
  Cavan, Gen. Lord, 75, 95
  Chemin-des-Dames, 130
  Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston, 50
  Citadel, 52, 101
  Cockerill, Capt., 39
  Coke, Brig.-Gen. E. S., 3, 18, 114, 134, 237, 275, 286, 291, 303, 313
  Combles (_see_ Ginchy)
  Corbie, 51
  Coron, 312
    II, 154, 163
    III, 170, 171
    IV, 27, 170, 171, 190, 258, 265, 285
    V, 170
    VI, 6, 117, 131, 170, 190, 254, 258, 265, 285
    VII, 10, 19, 113, 114, 170
    IX, 245
    X, 48
    XI, 104
    XIII, 209, 221
    XIV, 51, 59, 70
    XV, 59
    XVII, 170, 221, 247, 269, 285
    XXII, 246, 283, 301
  Canadian, 169, 282, 284, 291
  French XVII, 6
  German XIV, 18
  Couin, 131
  Cox (Sapper), 295
  Crawford, Capt., 198
  Croisette, 113
  Croisilles, 117, 268-275

  Dainville, 7
  Delville Wood (_see_ Ginchy), 53
  Divisional Band, 164
  Divisional Depot Bn., 120
      1st, 283
      2nd, 193, 202, 258
      3rd, 117, 140, 168, 191, 237, 277
      4th, 87, 221, 234, 237, 284, 301
      5th, 55, 65, 79, 102
      6th, 70, 74, 79, 82, 103, 171
      8th, 154, 245
      11th, 284, 301, 308, 311
      12th, 171, 193
      13th, 114
      14th, 10, 114, 117, 134
      15th, 131, 237, 253
      16th, 57, 62
      18th, 86, 128, 155
      19th, 245
      20th, 171
      21st, 117, 245
      25th, 155, 160, 245
      29th, 171, 176
      30th, 117, 128
      31st, 210
      36th, 171, 177
      37th, 112, 138, 258
      40th, 259, 279
      41st, 215
      42nd, 258
      46th, 26
      47th, 27, 192, 202
      48th, 18
      49th, 113, 301
      50th, 128, 245
      51st, 171, 177
      52nd, 266, 278, 282
      55th, 193
      57th, 260, 272, 282
      58th, 214
      59th, 192
      61st, 101, 140, 301
      62nd, 171, 177, 210
      63rd, 279, 282, 311
      1st, 178, 181
      2nd, 191
      1st, 247, 253
      2nd, 252
      3rd, 102, 224, 234, 284
      4th, 236, 301, 308
    New Zealand, 258
    Guards, 62, 70, 74, 79, 82, 189, 258, 263, 266, 312
      Guards, 2nd R., 35, 47
      5th Bav., 74, 104
      5th Bav. R., 222
      5th R., 210
      16th Bav., 248
      20th, 188
      23rd R., 222
      39th, 253
      41st, 241
      51st R., 78
      52nd, 18, 46                                                       329
      185th, 61, 248
      214th, 249, 250
      219th R., 222
      240th, 222
    Portuguese, 2nd, 244
  Domart-en-Ponthieu, 6
  Doullens, 6, 48
  Dudgeon, Gen. F. A., 153-249

  Emery, Major, 104
  Eperlecques, 144, 153, 165
  Essart, 32, 36
  Etrun, 296

  Falfemont Farm (_see_ Ginchy), 54
  Falkenhayn, Gen., 10, 29, 94, 97
  Fayt-le-Franc, 311
  Ferlibray, 312
  Flers, battle of, 54, 69
  Flower, Major V. A., 160
  Foch, Marshal, 245
  Fonquevillers, 48
  Fosseux, 209
  Freeth, Brig.-Gen., 86, 109, 123, 138, 155, 249, 268
  Fremicourt, 175
  Frevent, 113
  Friend, L. W., 228
  Frigicourt, 53
  Fromer-le-Grand, 48

  Garland, Capt. J. R., 41
  Gavrelle (_see_ Arras)
  Gaza, 147
  German prisoners (_see_ Regiments)
  Ginchy, battle of, 55-66
  Givenchy-le-Noble, 8
  Glazier, Lt.-Col., 186, 228
  Glencorse (_see_ Ypres)
  Gommecourt, action of, 18-47
  Gouy-en-Artois, 297
  Grand Rullecourt, 7
  Grenas, 19
  Grouping of units, 5
  Grubb, Lt.-Col. H. W., 3
  Guemappe (_see_ Arras, battles of), 117
  Guillemont, 55
  Guinecourt, 113

  Haking, Gen. R., 109
  Hallencourt, 3, 10, 101
  Halloy, practice at, 36
  Hampshire Regt., 177
  Handyside, Capt. P. A. J., 41
  Happy Valley, 52
  Harbarcq, 140
  Harmignies, 312
  Harris, Major M. R., 160
  Harvengt, 312
  Hauteville, 131
  Hawkins (Sapper), 296
  Hayward, Cpl., 40
  Hébuterne, 10
  Heninel, 126
  Henri, P., 35
  Henu, 10, 18
  Héricourt, 113
  Hernicourt, 113
  Higgins, Major J. E., 160
  Hindenburg, Gen. von, 94, 98, 129, 147
  Honval, 8, 113
  Horne, J. A., 40
  Horses, 103
  Houvin, 8, 113
  Hull, Major-Gen. Sir C. P. A., 1-144, 249-314
  Husey, Col. R. R., 160

  Ide, W. C., 40
  Identification (_see_ Regiments)
  Indian drivers, 253
  Ingpen, Lt.-Col. P. L., 160
  Isonzo, 97
  Ivergny, 8
  Izel-les-Hameau, 253

  Jackson, Lt.-Col., 188, 199
  Jervis, Lt.-Col. E. C. S., 241, 265
  Joffre, Marshal, 51

  Kellet, Lt.-Col. J. P., 160
  Kerensky, 147
  King Edward’s Horse, 178
  Korniloff, 147

  Lagnicourt, 168
  Lancashire Fusiliers, 228
  Laventie, 101-113
  Le Cauroy, 7, 117
  Lemon, Major F. J., 3
  Lestrem, 101
  Leuze Wood (_see_ Ginchy), 55
  Liencourt, 8
  Lignereuil, 8, 254
  Loch, Brig.-Gen., 3, 19, 55, 109, 123, 239, 264
  Louverval, 168
  Lowndes, G. A. N., 227
  Ludendorff, Gen. von, 94, 98, 111, 129, 147, 152

  Macdowell, Lt.-Col., 23                                                330
  Macgregor, Capt. A. H., 56
  Macintosh, Cpl., 198
  McPhie, Cpl., 295
  Magnicourt, 8
  Maltzhorn Farm, 57
  Manin, 8
  Mansell Camp, 101
  Marchment, Lt.-Col., 232
  Marcoing (_see_ Cambrai)
  Maricourt, 16, 52
  Masnières (_see_ Cambrai)
  Maurepas, 53
  Mazières, 253
  Méaulte, 81
  Mercatel, 116
  Millar, Cpl., 104
  Moncheaux, 9
  Monchy, 116
  Mons, 313
  Montauban, 53, 87
  Montignies, 311
  Morchies, 168
  Mott, Capt., 39

  Neame, Capt. P., 4
  Negus, A. G., 40
  Neuve Chapelle, 103
  Neuville Vitasse (_see_ Arras, battles of), 115
  Newnham, Capt. L. A., 4, 108, 140, 144
  Nicholls, W. G., 40
  Nonne Bosschen (_see_ Ypres)
  North Staffordshire Regt., 42
  Nugent, Burnell-, Brig.-Gen., 3, 18, 20
  Nuncy, 113

  Oburg, 313
  Onnezies, 311
  Oppy (_see_ Arras)
  Organisation, 167, 298
  Ormiston, W. H., 169
  Ouderdom, 159
  Ovillers, 53

  Packenham, Lt.-Col., 113
  Pank, Lt.-Col., 199
  Petit Moranfayt, 312
  Petley, R. E., 41
  Phillips, Major F. A., 232
  Pill-boxes, 150
  Pommier, 131
  Powell, Kite, 219
  Prechtel, Lt.-Col., 32, 36, 46
  Price, J. C. B., 228
  Prior, Lt., 109
  Proney, 113
  Pyper, Capt. J. R., 9

  Quadrilateral, 26, 60, 74
  Quéant, 177, 297
  Quevy-le-Grand, 312

  Raids, near Arras, 247-252
  Rancourt, 53
  Rebreuve, 8
  Regiments, German:
    5th Gren. Regt., 137
    7th R.I.R., 210
    7th Bav., 74, 104
    13th Bav., 113
    14th Bav., 248
    16th I.R., 241
    19th Bav., 104
    21st Bav., 74
    28th I.R., 248
    31st R.I.R., 86, 168
    50th I.R., 249, 251
    65th I.R., 248
    84th R.I.R., 86
    86th R.I.R., 168
    91st I.R., 48
    101st R.I.R., 222
    102nd R.I.R., 222
    107th I.R., 57
    128th I.R., 137
    152nd I.R., 241
    161st I.R., 61
    169th I.R., 18, 32
    170th I.R., 32
    214th I.R., 250
    235th I.R., 78
    358th I.R., 251
    414th I.R., 169
    471st I.R., 222
  Reincourt-les-Bapaume, 69
  Reninghelst, 153, 165
  Richon, 312
  Rieu-de-Bury, 312
  Rocquingny, 69
  Roe, Cardon, 140
  Rose, 2/Lieut., 109
  Royal Flying Corps, 15th Squad., 173
  Royal Irish Rifles, 56
  Rumancourt, 296
  Rum jar, 126

  St. Pol, 113
  St. Riquier, 49
  Sambre, battle of, 303
  Sars-les-Bois, 8
  Sauchy-Cauchy, 296                                                     331
  Savill, Lt.-Col., 272
  Scarpe, 269-280 (_see_ Arras, battles of)
  Sebourg, 303
  Séricourt, 8, 113
  Shaw, Lt.-Col. R. S. F., 263
  Sherwood Foresters, 42
  Shoolbred, Lt.-Col., 39
  Shops, 9
  Sibiville, 113
  Siracourt, 113
  Sloan, Capt., 293
  Smith, Gen. W. Douglas, 145
  Souastre, 10, 19, 131
  Southam, Lt.-Col., 39
  Steenvoorde, 159
  Stow, F. H., 41
  Sutton, Capt. W. M., 3
  Sutton, Lt.-Col., 305
  Swainson, Capt., 39
  Swift, Gen. (U.S.A.), 210

  Tadpole Copse (_see_ Cambrai)
  Tagart, Capt., 39
  Tanks, 51, 69, 70, 92, 171, 177, 261
  Tidbury, Capt. O. H., 4
  Tilloy (_see_ Arras, battles of), 115
  Tincques, 297
  Training, 166
  Transloy, battle of ridges, 83
  Trieu Jean Sart, 312
  Trones Wood, 53

  Upton, D. F., 40

  Verdun, reasons for battle, 4
  Victory Camp, 213
  Ville-sur-Ancre, 81
  Villers-au-Flos, 69
  Villers Châtel, 252
  Villers-sire-Simon, 8
  Vimy Ridge, 102, 116, 128

  Wamin, 8
  Wamlin, 8
  Wancourt, 124
  Way, H. C. B., 3
  Wheatley, Major L. L., 4
  Wippenhoek, 159
  Wireless, 205
  Wodley, Cpl., 104
  Woods, Pte., 198

  Yates, A. G. V., 40
  Ypres, battles of, 144-164

                             PRINTED BY
                   HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD.,
                       LONDON AND AYLESBURY,

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber's note:

Unprinted punctuation was added where appropriate.

Footnotes were renumbered sequentially and moved to the end of the
chapter in which the anchor occurs.

On page 240, there are no subparagraphs (f) and (g); subparagraph (h)
follows subparagraph (e).

A header key was added to the table on page 300 so that it would fit
on a standard computer screen.

Other changes:

  “compaign” to “campaign” ... unrestricted submarine campaign ...

  “bebauching” to “debauching” ... prevented from debauching from the ...

  “277//16” to “27/7/16”, entry for D. Thomson.
    in the table of 56th Divisional Artillery Headquarters, C.R.A.

  “5/2/6” to “5/2/16”, appendix entry for E. S. D. E. Coke,
    169th Infantry Brigade.

  “Marchmont” to “Marchment” in the index and twice in the text of
    Chapter VII.

  “O.” to “Off.”, table header for Officers in September on page 340.

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