An appreciation of the situation from point of view affecting 64th Inf. Bde

Loose in p 56.

SECRET

B.M. 577

 

AN APPRECIATION OF THE SITUATION FROM POINT OF VIEW AFFECTING 64TH INF. BDE.

 

  1. The two recent successes during September drove the enemy back from elaborately prepared positions running approximately North and South through HOOGE and GLENCORSE Wood respectively. The German line now rests on the main PASCHENDAAL ridge. For the defence of their previous positions the Germans were able to assemble troops for the attack in a comparatively safe area east of the PASCHENDAAL ridge. This assembly place still exists for them (so far as this brigade is concerned it is to northwards of BECELAERE), but it is no longer a safe position.       The eastern slope of the ridge where counter-attacking troops would have to form up will be within our standing barrage when we have occupied our second objective, and will be in view of our advanced posts.

 

  1. The morale of the German troops cannot be otherwise than badly affected by their recent adverses. They have seen themselves driven back on both occasions when we attacked and they have seen their counter-attacks smashed and the limited successes which have occasionally attended these counter-attacks have been invariably nullified shortly afterwards.       Troops coming up to replace shattered divisions have heard their comrades’ stories, and recent voluntary surrenders have shown the effect of these on newly arrived regiments.

 

  1. The objective of the Brigade is the extreme left (Southend) of the high ground of the German position. From the starting off point, the ground falls till it reaches POLYGONE BEEK. The ground on either side of this is marshy and churned up by shells.       The beek is narrow but has water in it. Unless however, there is heavy rain the ground is passable at a slow rate.       The fact that Germans have been able to counter-attack across this ground proves this. On the right boundary of the **** advance, the road which crosses the beek will probably assist matters. On the east of the beek, the ground rises fairly steeply up to the top of the ridge which is reached on the first objective.

The advance to the second objective is on the top of the ridge. The chief obstacle to this advance are the village of REUTEL and the line of block-houses running northwards from east end of village.

As this is the left of the German line on the ridge top, we must expect that its defences will have been carefully and strongly prepared, and success will, to a great extent, depend upon the assaulting troops keeping right up to the tail of the barrage.

The strong points in the POEZELHOEK Valley are likely to be well equipped with machine guns, which may harass our advance from the right flank.  Special artillery arrangements have been made to deal with this matter.

 

  1. As regards counter-attacks.

The troops which capture the first objective may expect immediate counter-attacks by local reserves from REUTEL unless these have been shattered by our barrage fire. The supporting companies should be able to deal easily with such attacks if the front line has failed to do so.

The troops on the first objective must also be prepared to deal with a larger counter-attack coming from direct east. This attack should however, be completely broken up by our barrage fire.

On the second objective troops must be prepared for immediate counter-attacks on a large scale. The German main reserves are probably dug in on the slopes North of BECELAERE and in position to advance at once.  Our advanced posts should be able to give due warning of such an attack, which must be dealt with by rifles and machine guns.  The standing artillery barrage will also in this case help to break up the attack.

Later on – possibly at dawn on day after our attack – organised counter-attacks on a large scale must be expected. By this time our positions will have been further consolidated and troops re-organised and readier to beat off attacks.

 

  1. The plan for the attack is based on an attack in depth. The narrow front (250 yards) allotted to the Brigade permits of this. One battalion attacks and occupies first objective, and a second battalion assisted by one company of support battalion attacks and consolidates second objective. Two more companies of the support battalion move up to positions of readiness east of POLYGONE BEEK and the remaining company holds our original front line. The reserve battalion remains in position behind.

The battalions have been detailed for their special jobs but each battalion must be prepared to carry out any of the allotted tasks. The difficulties of communications make it more than ever essential that commanders on the spot must act on their own initiative to meet any situation which may arise.  This applies to platoon, company and battalions commanders equally.  Whenever any unit moves and acts contrary to its ordered actions, the commander must take care to pass back information of what he has done to his immediate superior and other commanders affected by the change in dispositions.

 

  1. The Brigade enters the battle at a late stage and is faced with the difficulties necessarily attendant to such conditions as regards preparation of trenches and dumps etc., and forming up for the attack. But such difficulties are far from being insuperable and in no way tend to mar success. The morale of all ranks is high. We go into the battle with the will to win. On either flank we have first class divisions. The Germans in front are fully conscious of, and affected by their constant reverses and retirements.

There is therefore, every reason for all ranks to feel confident and determined to add one more chapter to the great record of our Brigade and Division.

 

H.R. Headlam

Brigadier General

Commanding 64th Inf. Bde.

1.10.17

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