20th Division. 8 December 1917

20th Div. No. G.179.
The Division has now between withdrawn from the line to re-organize and re-equip. This is the first time since the active participation in the heavy fighting in Flanders in August that the Division has been billeted in the Back Area. From August up to the present time the Division has had practically no rest, and has been engaged in active operations during the whole period except for about 6 weeks when it was holding trenches with three Brigades in the line on the Third Army front.
On the 16th August the 60th and 61st Inf. Bdes. captured LANGEMARCK and ground to the North and East of it; the forcing of the STEENBEEK preparatory to this operation being undertaken by the 59th Inf. Bde. The Division on this occasion took all its objectives, with the exception of a small portion of EAGLE TRENCH, and many prisoners and machine guns. The Division received the thanks and praise of the Army and Corps Commanders, and added fresh honours to its name.
On the 20th September the Division again took the field and captured strong German positions on the XIV Corps front. EAGLE TRENCH at the conclusion of the days’ operations still held out, but two days later it was in our hands after a stiff fight, and nearly 200 prisoners were captured; again the Army and Corps Commanders were loud in praise of the gallantry and tenacity displayed by all ranks of the Division. The captured ground was handed over to another Division.
The 20th Division was on 30th September sent off to the South to join the Third Army and take over a portion of that line.
On the 20th November the great offensive in front of CAMBRAI began, and the 20th Division gained all its objectives, displaying all its well-known courage and fighting qualities. Although the Division had been holding the line previous to this operation, and had no opportunity of training or rest such as other Divisions in the back area enjoyed, it carried out its task without a hitch and added another victory to its long roll.
In the subsequent operations during the German counter-attack the units lost heavily, but the enemy’s advance was checked for the time being in the HINDENBURG LINE, and at LA VACQUERIE.
I wish all ranks, and especially the reinforcements of the Division, to realise the important part their units have played in the hard fighting which has driven the Germans over and over again out of their strongly prepared positions, and especially the HINDENBURG LINE which the enemy looked upon as impregnable.
The Division has a grand record behind it, second to none, and I feel confident that when called upon again to take the field, everyone will strive to live up to its reputation of which all, are rightly, so proud. Our rest may be a short one, and every day must be utilised to get the Division into fighting trim.

W. Douglas Smith Major General,
Commanding 20th Division.
8th December, 1917.
Copies to all Units.

George Ryan’s letter home dated 8 Dec 1914

George Ryan’s letter home dated 8 Dec 1914
“D” Company.
9th Battn Middx Regt
Victoria Barracks
8 Dec 1914

Dear Mother & F,

Thanks very much for yr letter dated 12 Nov also for the W. Chronicle. I said in my last letter you need not send me any papers but you can send me the W. Chron now & again when there’s anything in it.

Well, as you see we’ve got here at last. We had 3 days in the train, reaching here at 5.0 p.m. Sunday (6 Dec). It wasn’t a corridor train; but there was only 3 or 4 compartments to a carriage so there was about 18 in each compartment. They are very similar to the old N.L. minus the adverts. We got out at stations for washing & food, which was better than what we had on board the “old tub”, tea, dry bread, & stew (meat, cauliflower & potatoes). I slept on the floor.

The country we passed was very wild. A few mud hut villages here & there, but we saw nothing dangerous; only a few monkeys & wild birds, parrots etc.

I think we’re in for a jolly fine time here. There’s only 5 Companies, 1 other is a few miles away & the other 3 are at Dum-dum 300 miles away. The whole barracks cover about ½ square mile; I should think, they are quite open; there’s no wall or fence. Each building is in one long line, not square; only the ground floor, which is very lofty – quite as high as your house. The beds are quite far apart & we’ve each got a fair-sized trunk & proper rack for our rifle, equipment, helmet etc. The beds are made of corrugated iron, not round of course, but like this -. Then there’s a thing supposed to be a mattress, but it’s not very thick; & 1 blanket is all we’ve got at present. I think we get another blanket & a couple of sheets. We want them too, it’s jolly cold here at night. The buildings are so constructed so that the sun does not shine in, so it keeps nice & cool during the day, but we get plenty of air; there are big double doors between every two beds.

There’s a fine canteen, it seems a sort of general store & by what we’ve seen so far things are very cheap. We had a good tuck in there directly we got here Sunday night (10.0). We had 3 meat rissoles, potatoes, fried onions, cauliflower, bread & a small jug of tea for 5 annas (5d). It was jolly fine & went down A 1 I can tell you.

We are not allowed to do our own washing; we are stopped 14 annas ( ½d) a month for it.

Since writing about the beds we have received 3 sheets & a rug. We thought at first the rug was to go down beside our bed, then we thought perhaps it was a bed cover but I suppose it’s to lay on the iron as we roll the mattress & blankets up during the day. Whatever its purpose we ought to be nice & comfortable, as we have been promised some more stuffing for the mattress.

You asked me what tobacco I prefer; well something mild. Boardman’s I’m smoking at present. But it’s too expensive for you to send as I think the parcel rates are fairly heavy & it’s cheaper out here I think.

Bert mentions something about a scheme for you to get an allowance from the Government. We’ve heard nothing about it but a fellow told me you could not claim it if you are receiving 50% or more of your money from your place of business. If you think there’s any chance of getting it, of course send me particulars.

The weather out here is grand at present. We’ve had a clear blue sky every day for the last fortnight. But the roads are very dusty. 2 or 3 inches deep in some places.

Well I hope you are all quite well & are getting on alright. I wish letters didn’t take so long to come from England. Just fancy I you’re your letter on Dec 7th & you wrote it Nov 12.

The mail goes out here Thursdays & arrives Sundays, we get them on Mondays, so I suppose I shall receive May’s letter that you mention next Monday,

I’m glad you didn’t have to pay anything on my letter. I wrote to Uncle Tom, Aunt Charlotte, Cousin Ellen, Aunt Jinny etc just before we reached Bombay, (the same post as my last letter to you) to wish them the Compts of the Season, so I suppose they won’t have to pay.

Love to all,
Yr loving son