With reference to my G.S. 555/60 dated 5th inst.
I submit herewith a complete narrative of the operations undertaken by the troops under my command on the 3rd, 4th and 5th September. I would particularly call the Corps Commander’s attention to my recommendations made in para 14. This was compiled by Lieut. Colonel James who was acting as G.S.O. I during the operation.
(sd) W. Douglas Smith, Major General,
15th Sept. 1916.
Commanding 20th Division
NARRATIVE OF THE OPERATIONS carried out by the 20TH (LIGHT) DIVISION
On 3rd, 4th and 5th SEPTEMBER, 1916
- Movements previous to the attack.
- Strength of the Infantry Brigades employed.
- Dispositions and Orders for the attack. Push pipes and Flammenwerfers.
- Attack on the first objective.
- Attack on the second objective.
- Attack on the third objective.
- Attempt to capture fourth objective.
- Events on 4th September.
- Events on 5th September.
- Work of the R.E. and Pioneers.
- Work of the Signal Company.
- Lessons to be learnt from the Operation.
LIST OF APPENDICES.
APPENDIX 1. Revised Operation Orders of 27th August and covering minute.
- Orders for the defence of GUILLEMONT.
- Operation Order No. 95.
- Operation Order No. 96.
- Operation Order No. 97.
- Operation Order No. 98.
- Report on the communications of the 20th Division during the operation.
LIST OF MAPS
MAP A. Showing objectives.
- Showing the Artillery Barrages.
- Showing positions of Assembly.
- Showing Dispositions at 12.30 p.m. on 3rd
- Showing Dispositions at 1.30 p.m. on 3rd
- Showing Dispositions at 3.45 p.m. on 3rd
- Showing Dispositions at 2. a.m. on 4th
OPERATIONS CARRIED OUT BY THE 20TH (LIGHT) DIVISION
On 3rd, 4th, and 5th September.
- Movements previous to the attack.
The Operations carried out by my Division on the 3rd September had, as you are aware, originally been planned to commence on August 24th, but, owing to various causes, including inclement weather, they were postponed from time to time and the attack was not actually launched until noon on 3rd instant.
These unavoidable delays, owing to the inclement weather, gave rise to a considerable amount of sickness, chiefly due to trench feet and diarrhoea which, together with considerable casualties, reduced the fighting strength of the Infantry to a serious extent.
This reduction of strength, combined with persistent bombardment with gas shells, rendered it necessary to with-draw the 60th Inf. Bde. from the left sector of the Divisional front and to replace it by the 47th Infantry Brigade which you placed at my disposal for that purpose. The 60th Infantry Brigade was relieved successfully on 31st August and was placed in Divisional Reserve at Carnoy.
On the night 2nd/3rd September the 59th Infantry Brigade reinforced by 6th Battn Ox & Bucks L.I. (from 60th Brigade) relieved the 61st Infantry Brigade in the Right sector of the line, and the 47th Infantry Brigade took up its battle position in the Left Sector. When relieved the 61st Infantry Brigade fell back into Divisional Support. This Brigade had orders to place one battalion at the disposal of each of the two assaulting Brigades to assist in capturing the fourth objective should it be found that by that time they were unable to do so with the troops of their own Brigades. The remaining two battalions were ordered to move forward and occupy positions as they were vacated by other units in their front; in this way a reserve of fresh troops was always at hand to meet any emergency. The two battalions placed at the disposal of the assaulting Brigades viz: 7th Somerset L.I. and 12th King’s Liverpools moved to their battle positions, the Somersets in the trenches between TRONES AND BERNAFAY WOODS, the Liverpools in the trenches in BERNAFAY WOOD itself. The remaining two battalions of this Brigade and the Brigade H.Qrs concentrated at the CRATERS.
- Strength of Brigades.
The available strength (Actual number of rifles) of the Infantry Brigades at the commencement of the operation was approximately as follows:-
47th Infantry Brigade ….. 2400
59th Inf Bde plus Ox & Bucks. 2300
60th Inf Bde less Ox & Bucks 1000
61st Inf Bde 2253
- Dispositions and orders for the attack.
Owing to the several occasions on which the attack had been postponed, various slight alterations had to be made to the Operation Orders originally issued. Revised Operation Orders embodying these alterations were therefore issued on the 2nd Sept. and a copy of these orders is attached hereto as Appendix 1. the objectives allotted to the Division are shewn on attached Map “A”.
In accordance with my orders troops under my command occupied the following positions during the night of 2nd/3rd inst., it being impossible to move them into position by daylight.
Right Attack. 59th Inf. Brigade H.Qrs at the BRIQUETERIE.
(a). Front line, from right to left – 11th R.B., 10th R.B., 10th K.R.R., plus one Coy 11th K.R.R.
In Support. – Ox & Bucks L.I. in SHERWOOD TRENCH.
In Reserve. – 11th K.R.R. less one Coy in LIDDEL TRENCH S. of BERNAFAY WOOD.
(b) The 96th Field Coy R.E. and one Coy 11th Durham L.I. Pioneers, attached to 59th Inf. Bde. were divided, one section R.E. being in SHERWOOD TRENCH about S.30.a.9.8., one section R.E. in JACKSON TRENCH about S.30.d.1.7. and the remaining half Coy R.E. and Pioneers in LIVERPOOL TRENCH S.29.d.7.9.
Left Attack. 47th Inf Bde. H.Qrs DUMMY TRENCH.
(a). Front line, from right to left – 6th Connaught Rangers in trenches facing E. and opposite to the QUARRIES, 7th Leinsters in the GRIDIRON TRENCH facing S.E. and practically parallel to BROMPTON ROAD.
In Support – 8th Munster Fusiliers in KNOTT, MIKE, EDWARDS and NEW trenches.
In Reserve – 6th Royal Irish in TRONES and SHERWOOD trenches.
(b) The 83rd Field Coy R.E. and one Coy 11th Durham L.I. Pioneers, attached to the 47th Brigade, were in DUMMY TRENCH behind BERNAFAY WOOD.
Supports to Right and Left attacks – Two battalions detailed from 61st Inf. Brigade viz 7th Somerset L.I. (detailed to support 59th Inf. Bde.) in trenches between TRONES and BERNAFAY WOODS. 12th King’s Liverpools (detailed to support 47th Inf. Bde.) in trenches in BERNAFAY WOOD.
Divisional Reserve. – 61st Inf. Bde. H.Qrs. at BERNAFAY WOOD S.28.b.6.7. The remaining two battalions of this Brigade viz 7th D.C.L.I. and 7th K.O.Y.L.I. moving forwards from the CRATERS with a view to occupying the trenches vacated by the 7th Somersets and 12th King’s Liverpools as soon as the latter battns advanced.
60th Inf. Bde. (less Ox & Bucks L.I.) H.Qrs. THE CRATERS.
11th Durham L.I. Pioneers (less 2 Coys). Trenches W. edge of BERNAFAY 84th Field Coy R.E. ) WOOD.
Artillery. – The attack of the Division was covered by the fire of the Artillery of the 6th and 24th Divisions, and the Corps Heavy Artillery allotted for that purpose. The two Divisional Artilleries were placed under the command of the G.O.C. R.A. 24th Division, Brigadier General L.M. PHILPOTTS. The principles upon which the Divisional Artilleries directed their fire are given in para. 9 of Appendix 1 and the lines upon which stationary barrages were established from time to time are shewn on attached Map ”B”
- Sept 3rd Attack on the first objective.
During the night of the 2nd/3rd September there was very little shelling and no bombardment with gas shells as there had been on the two previous nights. This was most fortunate for had the troops been forced to move into their battle positions with their gas helmets on, their movements would have been so hampered that in all probability it would not have been possible to complete the assembly before dawn. This would have been serious as the enemy would no doubt have realised the situation, shelled the assembly and communication trenches, and inflicted great loss upon the troops.
As it was, the enemy apparently remained ignorant of the concentration being carried out against them and the early morning passed quietly.
6.0 a.m. At 6.0 a.m. the Corps Heavy Artillery commenced a slow and deliberate bombardment of selected places in the divisional objectives. The Field Artillery co-operated during this bombardment by directing bursts of fire at irregular intervals over the area to be attacked.
8.15 a.m. At 8.15 a.m. a “Chinese Attack” took place and all batteries delivered a rapid burst of fire on the enemy’s front, support and communication trenches.
8.33 a.m. At 8.33 a.m. in accordance with previous arrangements, a special concentration of fire took place upon an area on the North Eastern side of GUILLEMONT which purposely had not been shelled during the preliminary bombardment. The whole of the Divisional Artillery of both the 6th and 24th Divisions concentrated an intense fire on this area known as the TRAP AREA for five minutes. At the same hour four of the field howitzer batteries opened fire with ”Lethal” shell and continued with this nature of projectile until 9.3 a.m.
9 a.m. At 9 a.m. the 5th Division on my right commenced their attack on FALFEMONT FARM supported by an intense bombardment. The enemy did not retaliate heavily on the trenches held by my Division, but contented themselves with shelling the assembly and communication trenches intermittently. This shelling did not inflict any serious losses on the troops and in no way affected their keenness to advance. The attack on FALFEMONT FARM at first resulted only in a partial success, but indirectly it was of great benefit to the subsequent attack of my division as it appeared to convince the enemy that no attack against GUILLEMONT was being prepared.
Noon. The morning passed comparatively quietly and both the 47th and 59th Infantry Brigades reported shortly before ZERO that the situation was as favourable as possible casualties having been very few. 10 seconds before ZERO i.e. Noon – the “Push Pipe” mine driven from the trench at T.30.b.5 ½ 1 ½. towards the hostile strong point at T.30.b.7.2. was exploded and the Flammenwerfer turned on to the same objective. The apparent results of the explosion was somewhat disappointing, as the trench formed was very shallow and only some 120 feet long. The actual results obtained from the combined effects of the explosion and the Flammenwerfer appear, however, to have been satisfactory, for the strong point against which they were directed gave no trouble to the troops during the advance.
The bombardment of GUILLEMONT was not increased in intensity before ZERO, and consequently the enemy had no indication of the infantry assault. At Zero the artillery fire became intense and the rolling barrages commenced.
Whether owing to some mistake in the time, or the keenness of the troops, the leading Companies of the Left Battalion of 59th Brigade, i.e. 10th K.R.R.C. (Note. Owing to the death of the Coy Comdr. It has been impossible to ascertain the reason for the departure from the orders laid down) quitted their trenches slightly before the appointed time and suffered some losses from our own barrage in consequence.
12 noon. The 6th Connaught Rangers on the Right of the 47th Brigade, determined not to be left behind followed suit, and punctually at 12 noon the whole front line of the 59th Brigade and the right battalion of the 47th Brigade pressed on to the assault, close, in fact in some cases too close, under our own barrage.
The enemy was completely taken by surprise, The QUARRIES were taken in the first rush, and there was comparatively little fighting. The enemy surrendered freely.
So impetuous had been the attack of the Connaught Rangers that they passed the QUARRIES without completely clearing them of the enemy. This placed the left flank of the 10th K.R.R.C. in a difficult position for a few moments, but Lieut. Colonel Blacklock, the O.C. of this Battalion detached 5 platoons to clean up behind the right of the Connaught Rangers, and the danger was soon obviated. Great credit is due to this officer for so quickly grasping the situation.
At noon also the left battalion of the 47th Brigade left their trenches and attacked their first objective, the North Western edge of GUILLEMONT. They reached the German line just as the enemy was manning the parapet and mounting a machine gun. Here also the garrison appeared to be taken completely by surprise, and most of the survivors surrendered at once.
12.15 p.m. At 12.15 p.m. the enemy placed a heavy barrage on the TRONES WOOD and the G.O.C. 59th Infantry Brigade asked for as much counter battery work as possible. This was arranged for accordingly.
12.30 p.m. From the aeroplane reports received it appeared that both attacking Brigades had succeeded in occupying their first objective by 12.30 p.m. These reports were confirmed shortly afterwards by the Artillery F.O.O. with the right battalion of the 59th Infantry Brigade.
Whilst the advance was being carried out the two battalions of the 61st Infantry Brigade detailed to support the attacking Brigades, moved forward. The leading battalion, the 7th Somerset L.I. at first occupied the trenches vacated by the 59th Brigade.
Moving on from there its two leading Companies reached the first SUNKEN ROAD from GUILLEMONT S.30. (b) by 12.30 p.m., the Bn Headquarters and two rear companies established themselves in LAMB TRENCH and the trenches about ARROW HEAD COPSE. The enemy had established a heavy barrage on the latter point, and the battalion in consequence suffered a considerable number of casualties.
The second battalion, the 12th King’s Liverpools, following some 20 minutes after ZERO, were advancing in assembly formation through TRONES WOOD to occupy KNOTT, MINE, NEW and EDWARDS trenches.
These two battalions were supported by the 7th K.O.Y.L.I. and 7th D.C.L.I. which were marching up from their billets. The former battalion reached the trenches between BERNAFAY and TRONES WOOD, where they halted.
The disposition of the troops under my Command at this juncture are shown on Map D.
- Attack on the second objective.
12.50 p.m. The attack on the second divisional objective was timed to take place at 50 minutes after Zero, i.e. 12.50 p.m. At 12.52 p.m. I received a report from my Liaison Officer with the 59th Brigade stating that wounded passing the Brigade Headquarters at ARROW HEAD COPSE were asserting that the second objective has already been taken.
At 1.20 p.m. confirmation of this rumour reached me in the shape of an aeroplane message saying that British troops were holding the GUILLEMONT ROAD running through T.25.b. to 25.c.6.9. A further aeroplane message, received at 1.35 p.m., stated definitely that the whole of the second objective had been taken, that our troops held the Eastern edge of GUILLEMONT and that a Yellow flare had been shown in the SUNKEN ROAD at T.25.b.1.5.
1.30 p.m. This message added that the enemy still held the trench from FALFEMONT FARM to WEDGE WOOD.
It would appear therefore that the capture of the second objective was completed by about 1.30 p.m.
From reports from the Brigades and battalions concerned it seem that when the barrage lifted the whole of the troops in the front line followed close under it and reached the second objective without much difficulty. Some casualties were caused by machine gun and shell fire.
The advance of the right brigade front was carried out by the 11th R.B., 10th R.B., and one Company 10th K.R.R.C. supported by the Oxfords and Bucks on the Right and the 10th K.R.R.C. on the left, with the 11th K.R.R.C. in reserve.
On the left Brigade front the Leinsters and the Connaughts were detailed to consolidate the positions already won, the former dealing with GREEN STREET, the latter with the Western Edge of HILL STREET to its junction with MOUNT STREET. The actual attack on the second objective was therefore executed by the 6th Royal Munster Fusiliers, who passed through the Connaught Rangers, pressed on and captured the Eastern part of the village up to and including NORTH STREET, taking 6 machine guns and a new pattern trench mortar designed to throw darts. The troops at once consolidated the position won, but avoided the actual edge of the village, the line dug in running about 100 yards in advance of the road on the right to about 30 yards in rear of the road on the left. The comparatively few casualties suffered by the troops whilst consolidating their position was due to the judicious line selected, and the importance of not consolidating on a line well-known to the enemy’s artillery such as the edge of a Wood or village, was once more proved.
Whilst the second objective was thus attacked the supporting troops moved forward and the methodical progression of re-inforcements from front to rear was maintained.
The disposition of the troops under my command at the time when the second objective had been taken is shewn on attached map E.
- 1.30 p.m. Attack on the Third Objective.
As our troops approached the second objective the enemy’s barrage round ARROW HEAD COPSE and TRONES WOOD BECAME HEAVY and the 7th K.O.Y.L.I. moved off to their right front to avoid it. When this barrage became less severe the Officer Commanding the 7th D.C.L.I. ordered his battalion to advance and occupy the trenches between the BERNAFAY and TRONES WOOD which he had seen the K.O.Y.L.I. vacate. The Western edge of GUILLEMONT was also heavily shelled at this time and F.O.O. reported that there was a considerable movement of enemy troops near the cemetery T.19.a. The reports were not very clear as to the direction in which these troops were moving, but in all probability they were the survivors of the GUILLEMONT Garrison retreating. In accordance with my instructions, however, the G.O.C. R.A. 24th Divisional Artillery directed the fire of all the guns he could spare upon this vicinity, and, if the troops seen were men massing for a counter attack, the artillery fire prevented them from delivering it.
2.15-2.25 p.m. At this time the situation as regards the advance of the 5th Division on my right flank was not at all clear. The G.O.C. 59th Infantry Brigade had reported that his right flank was exposed owing to the left brigade of the 5th Division failing to affect its advance. On the other hand I had received aeroplane reports stating that whilst British obviously those of 5th Division, held the German trench T.25.b.1.4. to T.26.c.0.6. German troops were still in the GINCHY GUILLEMONT Road from T.20.c.2.6. to T.26.c.1 ½.5. I also knew that the enemy still occupied the line FALFEMONT FARM to WEDGEWOOD. At 2.20 p.m. I learnt from your Headquarters that the 7th Division had occupied GINCHY and received your orders to co-operate closely with the 5th Division in clearing the trench running from the S.E. point of GUILLEMONT to FALFEMONT FARM by working down from the North. I therefore placed an additional battalion of the 61st Brigade at the disposal of G.O.C. 59th Brigade, but instructed him not to use it unless in case of absolute necessity.
2.40-2.45 p.m. At 2.40 p.m. the G.O.C. 61st Brigade reported that he was moving the 7th K.O.Y.L.I. and 7th D.C.L.I. forward to occupy SHERWOOD and TRONES TRENCHES. At 2.45 p.m. the G.O.C. 59th Brigade reported that the enemy were placing a very heavy barrage on TRONES WOOD and ridge to the South of it, and asked for further re-inforcements in view of the probability of a counter attack on his right flank.
I did not consider that the information I had pointed to there being any serious risk of counter-attack. I therefore contented myself with ordering the G.O.C. 59th Infantry Brigade to form a defensive flank and waited for further information.
3 p.m. This was not long in forthcoming as at 3 p.m. I received a message from the 5th Division stating that their left brigade had captured their 3rd objective, i.e. the trench running from WEDGE WOOD to T.25.b.1.5. and that their right brigade were just about to attack the line FALFEMONT FARM – WEDGE WOOD. Any anxiety that I had felt for my right flank was thus set at rest, but I had not received any very clear information as to the situation on my left. I therefore ordered the 47th Brigade to use every endeavour to link up with the 7th Division and in case of failure to form a defensive flank watching the approaches from GINCHY.
The delays caused by the hand-to-hand fighting in GUILLEMONT itself and the inevitable confusion which arose from the simultaneous assault of that village in front and flank had rendered it impossible for the troops to progress in accordance with the programme laid down in my orders. The G.O.C. R.A. 24th Division, however, maintained a clear grasp of the situation and modified his artillery barrages accordingly and with excellent effect.
3.35 p,m. The G.O.C. 59th Brigade reported that his front line had reached the third objective, the GINCHY – WEDGWOOD road without heavy casualties and that the position gained was being consolidated. The right of his Brigade had not, however, succeeded in gaining touch with the 5th Division. He therefore prolonged his right to the Southward towards T.26.a.0.3. and from that point formed a defensive flank to the S.E. towards T.26.d.5.9., this flank he strengthened with 7 machine guns posted on the line T.25. central to T.26?0.6. The four remaining machine guns he concentrated in the cemetery. The front line defensive flank of the right attack was being held by the following troops from right to left – 7th D.C.L.I. which the G.O.C. 59th Bde. had ordered to move up to his support when I had placed it at his disposal, 6th Ox. & Bucks L.I., 11th R.B., 1 Coy 10th K.R.R.C., 10th R.B., portions of the 96th Field Coy. R.E. The enemy had offered but little opposition to this advance.
Whilst the 59th Brigade was carrying out their advance the 47th Brigade had also moved forward. The Royal Irish advanced from our old front trenches near the station through and to the North East of GUILLEMONT. They experienced great difficulty in keeping their direction owing to the way in which the ground was cut up by shell craters.
MOUNT STREET upon which their right flank was supposed to rest was completely blotted out and only a piece of railing showed where the cemetery had been. They were followed by some of the Munsters whilst the remains of the Leinsters and the Connaughts remained in GUILLEMONT as a reserve. G.O.C. 47th Brigade had not intended the Munsters to advance at this junction, but their ardour could not be restrained and a great many pushed on and joined the Royal Irish. The Royal Irish thus reinforced approached to within 70 yards of the GINCHY – WEDGEWOOD road under hot fire, when the trenches were rushed and the enemy threw down their arms. Over 100 prisoners were taken on this portion of the front and a machine gun was captured. The Lewis guns were properly posted on the flank and a strong point constructed at the junction of MOUNT STREET and the GINCHY – WEDGEWOOD road. The rest of the Munsters came up and advancing some 40 yards beyond the road took up a position with their left running W. of the railway so as to form a defensive flank towards GINCHY.
The fighting in and around the ruins of GUILLEMONT village had in the meantime created some confusion. The G.O.C. 59th Inf. Bde. therefore detached one company of the 6th K.S.L.I. to reinforce the right of the 47th Inf. Bde. Companies of the 10th and 11th K.R.R.C. were also engaged in consolidating the village south of MOUNT STREET, whilst the remainder of the K.S.L.I. had continued their advance through the southern portion of the village. The last remaining company of the 7th K.O.Y.L.I. had also moved forward out of the heavy barrage on TRONES WOOD and had occupied SHERWOOD TRENCH as far south as SCOTTISH TRENCH.
On the left the 12th King’s Liverpools, the battalion of the 61st Brigade specially detailed to support the 47th Brigade, had under instructions from the latter Brigade, occupied our old trenches near GUILLEMONT STATION. Shortly after it reached its new position, this battalion in accordance with instructions received from 47th Bde sent forward two companies to support the Connaught Rangers. Two companies advanced accordingly, and at about 3.45 p.m. when the front line troops were in position in the third objective, had reached the point T.19.c.6.8. without, however, having gained touch with the Connaught Rangers.
During the fighting the 96th Field Coy and attached Coy of Pioneers had reached the road in front of ARROW HEAD COPSE where they halted. The half Coy of the 83rd Field Coy R.E. and the half Coy of Pioneers which had been ordered up from DUMMY TRENCH had succeeded in reaching GUILLEMONT and were assisting the Connaught Rangers to consolidate North Street. The position of the troops under my command at this time are shewn on Map ”F”.
- The attempt to capture the Fourth Objective.
The actual course of events immediately subsequent to the capture of the third objective did not at first become known to me with accuracy. I was aware that the 47th Brigade were not in touch with the 7th Division, but I was still under the impression that GINCHY had fallen into the latter’s hands.
3.50 p.m. I had heard from G.O.C. 47th Bde that the Munsters had been ordered to advance & take the Fourth Objective, that GUILLEMONT was being heavily shelled, and that the village itself was being consolidated by the Connaughts and the Leinsters assisted by two companies of the King’s Liverpools. I also knew that the other two companies of the latter battn had reached our old front line. I had therefore no immediate anxiety for my left flank.
4.30 p.m. At 4.30 p.m. I learnt from G.O.C. 59th Inf. Bde that latterly casualties amongst his troops had been heavy, that the Ox & Bucks L.I. were pushing on slowly to the 4th objective in touch with the 5th Division but not without losses, and that the GINCHY-WEDGE Road was being consolidated.
I had therefore every hope that the combined efforts of the right and left attacks would give me possession of the 4th objective.
5 p.m. At 5 p.m. the G.O.C. 59th Bde reported that his advance was held up by machine guns on the SPUR N.W. of LEUZE WOOD T.20 central and that the 6th Ox & Bucks L.I. supported by the Somerset L.I. were about to attack the final objective.
5.15 p.m. At 5.15 p.m. I received a report from the 47th Bde stating that the 22nd Bde of the 7th Division had evacuated GINCHY. I therefore requested G.O.C. R.A. 24th Division to barrage my left flank and his quick response did much to prevent counter attacks on that flank before a proper defence could be organised. I also ordered the 60th Bde to move up immediately into NEW GUARD TRENCH W. of TRONES WOOD, and not knowing that the G.O.C. 59th Bde had already called upon the 7th D.C.L.I. I placed that battn at the disposal of the G.O.C. 47th Bde.
5.30 p.m. At 5.30 p.m. I ascertained that the 47th Bde had suffered heavily in attacking GUILLEMONT, that the 7th Division had been definitely forced to give up GINCHY and that the 5th Division on my right had not succeeded in advancing up to their objective – the edge of LEUZE WOOD. The G.O.C. 59th Bde also reported that the enemy had been seen moving on the high ground to his right, about T.26 central. The position of my front line with both its flanks in the air appeared therefore to me to be too precarious to admit of a further advance to the 4th objective until the situation was cleared up. I therefore ordered the G.O.C. 59th Bde to consolidate his position on the GUILLEMONT-WEDGE WOOD road and confine his efforts against the 4th objective to pushing out strong patrols as close up to it as possible.
I also requested the Corps Heavy Artillery to open fire on the GINCHY – LEUZE WOOD road in case the enemy might mass for a counter attack and reported the situation to you.
I then learned for the first time that the D.C.L.I. had actually been drawn into support the 59th Bde, and at once placed the last remaining battalion of the 61st Bde, the 7th K.O.Y.L.I. at the G.O.C. 47th Bde.
The situation on my left flank in reality was far more precarious than I knew, and but for the prompt action of Capt. C.D.R. CLEMINSON, 12th King’s Liverpools, might have jeopardised the whole of the success already won.
This officer had been sent up in command of the two coys 12th King’s Liverpools detailed to reinforce the Connaught Rangers. As already related he had advanced to T.19.c.6.8. without gaining touch with the battalion he had been sent to assist, and whilst moving forward he had noticed parties of the 7th Division returning from GINCHY.
Shortly after arriving at T.19.c.6.8. he was joined by a party of about 60 men of the Manchester Regt. 7th Divn, without officers. These men stated that the 7th Division had definitely been driven out of GINCHY. Realising the danger to our left flank, Capt. CLEMINSON on his own initiative advanced towards GINCHY and occupied a line running from T.13.c.8.4. via T.13.c.9.3. to T.13.d.0.1. where he dug in. he had not been long in this position when he received a message purporting to come from an officer of the Royal Irish and asking for help. Capt. CLEMINSON at once sent forward a platoon and a Lewis Gun to the edge of GINCHY WOOD T.13.d.8.3. the place to which he was asked to send assistance. In advancing this platoon came under fire, the Platoon Commander and many of the Platoon being killed. The platoon Sergt, Sergt. JONES, took command, and after getting the Platoon and Lewis Gun into position returned to Capt. CLEMINSON to report that no trace of the Royal Irish could be found. Capt. CLEMINSON ordered him to return to his platoon and hold out in the position already gained. (Sgt. JONES & his party held their position until they were relieved on the morning of 5th ) Capt. CLEMINSON then reported the situation to his Commanding Officer who at once sent up an additional Coy. As soon as this reinforcement came under his command, Capt. CLEMENSON proceeded to organise a strong defensive flank towards GINCHY. Throwing out advanced posts to T.13.c.9.4 ½. T.13.c.9 ½.3. and T.13.d.1.1 ½. He strengthened his line by collecting parties of stragglers from the 7th Division, amongst which were two Lewis Gun detachments with their guns.
The additional Coy of the 12th King’s Liverpools he posted to protect his left flank as follows:-
One platoon at about T.13.c.7 ½.4. – 8.4.
One platoon at about T.13.c.6 ½.3. – 7 ½.3.
Two platoons at T.13.c.5.4. – 7.3 ½.
Capt. CLEMINSON gained touch with the parties of the 7th Division on his right flank fairly soon, but it was not until 9 p.m. that he gained touch with a party of about 50 rifles of the Royal Irish Rifles under Lieut HEAD. This party placed themselves under Capt. CLEMINSON and remained with him until the morning of the 5th when all were relieved.
5.30 p.m. At 5.30 p.m. a number of Germans estimated as 200 strong by one account and 400 by another were seen advancing along the road running through T.15.c., T.14.d. & c. to GINCHY. They were fired at by the Lewis and Machine Guns on my left and dispersed with considerable losses.
5.46 p.m. At 5.46 p.m. I received information from your H.Qrs that the 48th Bde of 16th Division at BILLON FARM was placed at my disposal and that the 49th Bde was being moved to that place.
6.30 p.m. At 6.30 p.m. the enemy again attempted to counter attack my left. No less than three attacks were delivered but all broke down under the fire of the defensive flank already alluded to.
6.40 p.m. At 6.40 p.m. I learned that the 7th K.O.Y.L.I. were approaching GUILLEMONT. The G.O.C. 59th Bde reported that he was consolidating his position on the GINCHY-WEDGE Road by every means in his power and that he was in touch with 95th Bde on his right, but believed that their right was in the air. He stated that some of the 47th Bde were mixed up with his men and that he feared he might lose what he had gained unless some stiffening was put into the troops on his left. He added that he was not attempting any further advance that evening. I told him that so far as the information at my disposal showed there were no serious hostile concentrations being carried out against his right. Throughout the whole period of consolidation after the capture of the third objective, messages were received stating that the enemy were moving W of LEUZE WOOD, and also in the valley to the N. of BOULEUX WOOD. None of these messages, however, reported the enemy in force, and the G.O.C. 24th Divisional Artillery at my request arranged with the 3rd Divisional Artillery to cover the whole of the area likely to be used by the enemy to concentrate for counter attack. The 3rd Divisional Arty arranged to keep the high ground swept with fire while the 24th Divl Arty dealt with the valley.
7.15 p.m. At 7.15 p.m. the Germans opened a very heavy barrage on the MONTAUBAN-GUILLEMONT Road and continued it for one hour.
- m. At 7.30 p.m. the situation was as follows:-
The 59th and 47th Bdes were holding the GINCHY-WEDGE WOOD road from about T.26.a.2.8. toT.20.a.1.2. Some patrols had been thrown forward on the right but they had not gained touch with any similar patrols sent out by the 5th Divn. The 59th Bde reported that Germans were still massing N. of LEUZE WOOD, but that our guns were dealing with them.
The 47th Bde had two battns in the front line along the GINCHY-WEDGE WOOD Road, and the defensive flank on its left was held by some 250 men of the Connaught Rangers and 7th Leinsters, some 60 men of the Manchesters without officers and 3 coys of the 12th King’s. Casualties had been very heavy in this Brigade and S.A.A. was running short. I therefore ordered the 48th Bde to move to CARNOY as Divl Reserve.
8.10 p.m. At 8.10 p.m. I received information from your H.Qrs to the effect that the troops of the 7th Division were back in their original trenches. I therefore determined to use the 60th Bde to relieve the 47th Bde and issued orders accordingly.
8.30 p.m. During the evening the enemy made repeated attacks upon my left flank, but their efforts gradually became less vigorous, and they were finally driven off at about 8.30 p.m.
During these counter attacks, the officer commanding the front line troops of the 47th Bde called upon the 59th Bde for assistance, and the G.O.C. of that Bde at once detailed two Coys of the K.S.L.I. to strengthen the defensive flank. The arrival of these troops added very materially to the defensive powers of that flank and made it practically secure.
11.25 p.m. At 11.25 p.m. I learnt that two battns of the 60th Bde, viz:- the 12th R.B. and 12th K.R.R. had started from TRONES WOOD at 9.15 p.m. to assist the 47th Bde in accordance with my instructions, and I therefore felt the situation on my left flank was more satisfactory.
- OPERATIONS ON 4TH SEPTEMBER.
12.10 a.m. At 12.10 a.m. I issued the following orders for the defence and consolidation of GUILLEMONT. A copy of the orders issued will be attached to this report as Appendix 2.
1 a.m. At 1 a.m. the Royal Irish and Munsters had been relieved by the 12th R.B. and 12th K.R.R.C. and returned to their original positions in BERNAFAY WOOD and at CARNOY. In view of a possible counter attack in the morning I ordered the 48th Bde to reach the following position at 6 a.m. One battalion to the trench running through BERNAFAY WOOD, S.29.a.c. One battn to the trenches along the Western edge of BERNAFAY WOOD S.28.b and d. One battn to the BRIQUETERIE and one battn to the CRATERS.
2 a.m. At 2 a.m. the situation was as follows:-
(a) Right attack. The front line of the right attack was established in the GINCHY-WEDGEWOOD road from the cross roads at T.20.c.2.4. to T.26.a.1 ½.6. This line was composed of companies of the 6th Ox & Bucks L.I. and 7th Somerset L.I., 11th R.B., 10th K.R.R., and 10th R.B. This line was in touch with the 47th Bde on its left and the 5th Divn on its right. The 96th Field Coy R.E., one coy 11th D.L.I. Pioneers and the 7th D.C.L.I. were in GUILLEMONT south of MOUNT STREET, the area they had been detailed to consolidate and hold.
(b) Left attack. The front line running from T.20.c.2.4. where it joined up with the 59th Bde along the GINCHY-WEDGE WOOD Road to T.20.a.1.2. From there it bent west and N in front of the old German trench in T.13.c.9.4 ½. This front was held by the 12th R.B. 12th K.R.R.C. 2 coys Somerset L.I.
A composite battn formed from men of the Leinsters and Connaughts, 60 men of the Manchester Regt. without officers, 50 men of the Royal Irish Rifles, and 3 coys of the 12th King’s. The left of this line was in touch with parties of the 7th Division. The 83rd Field Coy R.E. and one Coy 11th D.L.I. Pioneers were employed in strengthening the left flank and consolidating GUILLEMONT VILLAGE N. of MOUNT STREET.
- DIVISIONAL RESERVE R.E.
The 84th Field Coy R.E. and the remaining two coys of 11th D.L.I. Pioneers, were engaged on wiring in the front line and improving communication trenches back to GUILLEMONT.
The situation at this juncture is shewn on Map “G”.
4a.m. At 4 a.m. you’re your orders were received that the 20th Div. must be prepared to participate in conjunction with the 5th and 7th Divisions in an attack on the 4th objective which was to be launched by 3.10 p.m. After consulting your H.Qrs I issued the necessary orders, a copy of which are attached hereto as Appendix 3.
8.30 a.m. At 8.30 a.m. G.O.C. 60th Bde reported that the S. and S.E. end of GINCHY requires constant attention from the Artillery, but that E. of the GINCHY-WEDGE WOOD Road the Germans were a long way off. I accordingly arranged with the G.O.C. 24th Divl. Artillery to keep a barrage on this area. Unfortunately owing to reports that some of the 7th Division troops were still in GINCHY, the G.O.C. R.A. could not bring this barrage as close to our front as either he or I would have wished.
9.30 a.m. At 9.30 a.m. the G.O.C. 59th Bde reported that his men were very exhausted, and he did not think they could last longer than another 8 hours. He also stated that an officer’s patrol had entered LEUZE WOOD but found no Germans. I concluded from this and other evidence that there was no immediate danger to my right, and I therefore told the G.O.C. 59th Bde that whilst I would do my utmost to relieve his men at the earliest possible moment, I trusted him to hold out in the position he then occupied until I could effect his relief.
9.45 a.m. At 9.45 a.m. I sent out messages to Bdes warning them that they must be prepared to send out strong patrols during the afternoon to secure the line of the fourth objective.
10.50 a.m. At 10.50 a.m. as it was evident that some considerable time must elapse before the 59th Bde could be relieved by fresh troops, I ordered the two coys of the 11th D.L.I. Pioneers which had been in Divisional Reserve to relieve exhausted units of the 59th Bde. The units thus relieved I ordered to assemble at CARNOY.
11 a.m. I learned from G.O.C. 47th Bde that troops of the 7th Division had again entered GINCHY, and that the 7th K.O.Y.L.I. had taken up their position in the old German trenches running through S.19.b. with one coy in support in the GRID IRON. All these trenches had been badly damaged and the troops were digging themselves in.
12.25 p.m. At 12.25 p.m. the G.O.C. 47th Bde reported that the 7th Division had again been driven out of GINCHY, and that the 12th King’s Liverpools had defeated an attempt to work round their left flank.
1.30 p.m. At 1.30 p.m. I issued orders for the relief of 47th Bde and 60th Bde, less Ox & Bucks L.I. by the 48th Bde during the night of the 4th/5th September. A copy of these orders is attached hereto as Appendix 4.
3 p.m. At 3 p.m. I issued orders confirming the verbal instructions for the attack on the 4th objective which I had given in the morning. A copy of these orders is attached hereto as Appendix 5.
4 p.m. At 4 p.m. I issued further orders for the relief of the 59th Inf. Bde during the night 4th/5th by the H.Qrs and two battns of the 49th Inf. Bde. (16th Division) which you had placed at my disposal.
A copy of these orders is attached hereto as Appendix 6.
4.35 p.m. At 4.35 p.m. the G.O.C. 60th Inf. Bde reported that Germans had been seen moving about in the South end of GINCHY and that our men were retiring from that village. He also stated that all movement on his left flank was very hazardous as sniping from GINCHY was continuous. As this information again pointed to the danger of my left being driven in, I again arranged for the artillery barrage to be placed as close to the defensive flank as possible.
7.30 p.m. Owing to the state of the trenches and casualties amongst the runners, the orders given in my operation order No 97 did not reach battalions until some while after 6.30 p.m. the time at which the strong patrols were instructed to push forward. At 7.30 p.m. however, these patrols under cover of an intense creeping barrage had succeeded in establishing themselves on the line S.W. of LEUZE WOOD to T.26.a.6.5. Simultaneously the 5th Division captured FALFEMONT FARM and pushed out strong patrols to LEUZE WOOD. As I now had a line of strong posts with Lewis Guns formed across the whole of my front and was in touch with the 5th Division on my right, I felt confident that any danger of my being driven back from GUILLEMONT by an attack from my right front had ceased.
- OPERATIONS ON SEPTEMBER 5TH.
2 a.m. At 2 a.m. the G.O.C. 60th Bde reported that owing to messengers being killed and guides losing their way, the relief of the 60th Bde troops in the front line could not be completed before dawn. The relief of the remainder of the 47th Bde was complete and the relief of the 59th by the 49th Brigade was proceeding slowly.
Information regarding the progress of this relief was not at all easy to obtain and in view of the new line of advanced posts established during the night, I did not think it advisable to hand over command of the Divisional front until I was certain that the situation was satisfactory. The G.O.C. of the 16th Division concurred, and I did not therefore hand over to him until the G.O.C. 49th Bde reported that the
relief had been carried out successfully.
9.20 a.m. This report was received at 9.20 a.m. when I moved my H.Qrs in accordance with your instructions to the FORKED TREE CAMP. On handing over I left at the disposal of G.O.C. 16th Division, the following troops –
60th Inf Bde
7th Somerset L.I.
11th Durham L.I.
These troops rejoined my Division on 7th instant.
- The casualties suffered by the troops of my Division were as follows (excluding 47th Bde) –
Officers. Other Ranks.
- W. M. K. W. M.
59th Inf Bde 5. 20. 5. 117. 404. 416.
60th Inf Bde 2. 16. 2. 70. 231. 101.
61st Inf Bde 4. 12. 0. 64. 308. 46.
R.E. 2. 6. 42. 2.
Pioneers 4. 3. 78. 6.
R.A.M.C. 1. 1. 7. 0.
- 55. 7. 263. 798. 371.
GRAND TOTAL. 73 Officers 1632 other ranks.
The medical arrangements made for the evacuation of the wounded worked admirably in spite of the very great difficulties which existed owing to the mud and to the way in which the whole ground was cut up by shell fire.
How great these difficulties were may be realised from the fact that at one time wounded had to be carried some 5,000 yards before they could be placed in ambulances.
Moreover so bad was the condition of the roads that heavy motor ambulances could not get within reasonable distances of our front trenches. It became necessary therefore to transport stretched[r] cases firstly by horsed ambulances and then by light motor ambulances before they could be finally evacuated in the large motor ambulances.
- WORK OF THE R.E. AND PIONEERS.
The successful consolidation of the positions won and the construction of various strong points was very largely due to the assistance rendered by the R.E’s and 11th D.L.I. (Pioneers). These troops worked gallantly and strenuously without rest for some 48 hours, and during part of that time two companies of the 11th D.L.I. took over and held part of the front line of the 59th Brigade.
- WORK OF THE SIGNAL COMPANY.
The arrangements for transmitting orders and information throughout the division were devised by the Officer Commanding the Signal Coy, Major F.J.M. STRATTON, R.E. and worked admirably. I was in telephonic communication with the various Brigade H.Qrs practically continuously throughout the action and communication between Bdes and their component units was also maintained with unexpected success. This I attribute to the carefully thought out methods adopted by Major STRATTON who I consider deserves great credit for the manner in which he planned and carried them out.
A short report describing the methods adopted is attached hereto as Appendix 10.
- LESSONS TO BE LEARNT FROM THE OPERATIONS.
The operations did not reveal any unusual features, nor did they teach any new lessons. The value of well directed artillery fire was again emphasised, the infantry were loud in their praises in the way in which the barrages were controlled and the methodical searching of all areas from which the enemy might attempt to counter-attack, no doubt largely prevented any really serious effort to wrest the position again from us.
The value of Lewis and Machine Gun fire was most apparent.
The Lewis guns dug in with the advanced patrols were invaluable, and the fire of the Machine Guns which were brought up into or close up to the front line, served to disperse several counter-attacks attempted by comparatively small bodies of the enemy.
The consumption of small arm ammunition was unexpectedly great. Men went into action with 120 rounds a man each, and in spite of this, calls for more ammunition commenced early on the 3rd September, and continued throughout the 4th. I have gone very carefully into the reasons for this expenditure and have come to the conclusion that it was due to the fact that the fighting after the capture of GUILLEMONT was rather more of the nature of open than trench warfare. Small bodies of the enemy were frequently seen moving and numerous minor counter attacks were delivered especially on the left flank.
Men consequently had good targets for rifle fire with far greater frequency than is usual in trench warfare, and took advantage of it accordingly. I do not consider that 120 rounds is enough it there is any intention or possibility of driving the enemy into the open, and consider that the number should be raised to 220 immediately before an attack is launched.
In conclusion I would add that it appears almost certain that the Germans were not expecting an attack in the Northern end of GUILLEMONT and it shows the importance of the GRID IRON trenches which were dug before the operations. These were very heavily shelled on the days previous to the attack, but every night were reclaimed. It says a great deal for the discipline of the 7th Leinsters that they were able to keep themselves concealed in these trenches for the 6 hours before ZERO. Had they moved about or even shown their bayonets over the parapet, the Germans would have shelled them heavily.
Brigadier-General PEREIRA, Commanding 47th Infantry Brigade carried out the task which was given to him in a most masterly manner and although he was able to work on the Operation Orders prepared by Brigadier-General BUTLER, whom he relieved two days before the attack he had very little time at his disposal to make careful reconnaissances of the position and to explain the details to his commanding officers. That he made the most of his time is obvious by the great success gained by his troops.
The 59th Inf. Bde captured the successive objectives with courage and dash which is inherent in the Brigade, and great credit is due to Brigadier-General SHUTE, his Staff, and the regimental officers, for the careful forethought they gave to all details without which success cannot be assured. I again wish to bring to notice Brigadier-General SHUTE’s powers of organisation and command which eminently fit him for the command of a Division.
The names of other officers will be brought forward for special recognition when called for.