Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries 1917.

Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries 1917.

1917
15 Decr Played football for O.T.s v Ipswich School. We won 8.0. I scored 2.
Spent day with Bernard Pretty & wound up with tea and a bath at his
house.
17 “ Col B**ter notified that he would very soon be returned.
25 “ Found three pieces of amber. (I played football for the Bn every Sat
throughout the season. We only lost one match).

Narrative of the operations from November 30th – December 3rd 1917

APPENDIX “B”

NARRATIVE OF THE OPERATIONS FROM NOVEMBER 30TH – DECEMBER 3RD 1917

1. NOVEMBER 30TH.
(a) Dispositions. At 6.0 a.m. the Division was disposed as follows:-
59th Inf. Bde. Right Front Sector.
61st Inf. Bde. Left Front Sector.
60th Inf. Bde. In Reserve about FIFTEEN RAVINE and VILLERS PLOUICH.

(b) The 59th Inf. Bde. had relieved the 60th Inf. Bde. on the night of the 29th/30th.
(c) At about 7.0 a.m. the enemy opened a bombardment on the 12th and 55th Divisional fronts. Inter-communication between Battn and Coy. Headquarters on the 20th Divisional front conclusively proves that up to 7.30 a.m. no events had taken place on our front, while at 7.15 a.m. an S.O.S. GRAND (37th Inf. Bde., 12th Div.) was received. This clearly shows that the 20th Div. Front was not attacked till at least half an hour after the attack on the 12th Division. At 7.30 a.m., however, the enemy shelling appeared to spread to our front and soon intensified. Standing barrages were put down on the posts in the outpost line and another on the main line of resistance. This barrage (which included smoke) lifted later on to the valley W. of the CAMBRAI Road. A third barrage which included a proportion of “mustard gas” shells, fell on the Sunken Road leading from LA VACQUERIE to MASNIERES. The bombardment was followed at about 8 a.m. by an infantry attack on the entire Divisional front. The attack appeared to be launched in echelon from the left, the 55th Division having been attacked first; a few minutes later the 12th Div., then the 20th Div. the chief weight of the attack appeared to be thrown on the point of junction of the 12th and 55th Divisions. The outpost line of the 20th Div. was overwhelmed by a converging attack from RUE DES VIGNES and CREVECOEUR and driven back on the main line of resistance. This line was then heavily attacked by machine gun fire from low flying aeroplanes which also dropped smoke bombs thus concealing the approach of the hostile infantry who advanced, in what appeared to be Artillery formation, in successive lines (8 to 12 of these lines were counted). The leading line fired as it advanced. Partly owing to the weight of the attack, and partly to the fact that the enemy had by this time penetrated the line of the Div. on the right to such a depth that the main line of resistance was entirely out-flanked, the 59th and 61st Inf. Bdes. were forced to fall back to a line running approximately as follows:- L.34.a.5.2. – L.34.c.8.9. – L.34.d.5.7. – R.5.a.2.8. – R.4.b.8.2. – R.10.b.2.8. – R.11.c.2.9.

Machine Guns on WELSH RIDGE succeeded in holding up the enemy advancing from the N.W. from the direction of QUENET FARM while the 91st {92} F.A. Bde. in LA VACQUERIE VALLEY, (R.12.a & b) repulsed four attacks, firing at 200 yards range, but the gunners were finally overcome and forced to leave the guns after having removed the breech blocks.
The first indication that the enemy had broken through the front of the 12th Division was noted from Div. H.Q. Men could be seen retiring over the high ground about GONNELIEU. A Staff Officer was sent at once to ascertain the position about GONNELIEU and GOUZEAUCOURT and met men of various labour units and Railway Construction Coys. falling back from the direction of LA VACQUERIE, GONNELIEU, and QUINTIN RIDGE to the main GOUZEAUCOURT – VILLERS PLOUCH Road.
Most of these men were unarmed, and as none were acting under definite orders, those who were ordered to hold the bank of the GOUZEAUCOURT – VILLERS PLOUICH Road.
Meanwhile the 60th Inf. Bde. (then in Reserve) was ordered to move as follows:-
1 Battalion to LA VACQUERIE
3 Battalions to reinforce the QUINTEN RIDGE – GONNELIEU line.

When however it was reported that the 20th Div. front had been broken, 2 Battns of this Bde. were ordered to move to the HINDENBURG Line; 1 to LA VACQUERIE; and 1 to GONNELIEU.

The 2 Battns ordered to the HINDENBURG line were however by this time engaged in fighting about GONNELIEU and QUINTEN RIDGE and could not be extricated. Thus the Divisional Reserve were not available to make a counter attack on the 20th Divisional front, or to recapture the lost guns.

(d) At 11.40 a.m. the situation was as follows:-
The Reserve Bde held a line, R.31.d.5.5. – N.W. outskirts of GONNELIEU – LA VACQUERIE, with elements of the 12th Div. between it and the right of the 59th Inf. Bde., while the 59th and 61st Inf. Bdes. held a line approximately the same as described in para.1. (c).
The enemy had by this time penetrated as far as GOUZEAUCOURT from the direction of GAUCHE WOOD, and the situation was critical.

(e) At 12 noon orders were issued for one Battn of the 60th Inf. Bde. to make good the summit of QUENTIN RIDGE about R.31.d. and R.32.a., and if the enemy were found in occupation to counter attack and drive him off. Owing to heavy M.G. fire and also to the fact that the situation on the right flank was so obscure, one Coy. from the Battn. carrying out the attack had to be sent to GOUZEAUCOURT (which was then in the hands of the enemy), and the attack was unable to gain the top of the Ridge. The Coy. detached towards GOUZEAUCOURT however did good work in mowing down the enemy retiring S. from GOUZEAUCOURT before the counter attack of one Bde. of Guards. No artillery was available to support this attack.

(f) At 4.45 p.m. the situation was as follows:-

The line ran approximately from L.34.central – R.5.a. – R.10.a. – R.17.a. – R.16.d.5.0. – LA VACQUERIE – N.W. outskirts of GONNELIEU – GOUZEAUCOURT with a gap about R.10.b&d.
As no troops were available to fill this gap, the III Corps was asked for reinforcements, and two Battns. were allotted to the Div. from the 6th Div., the C.O’s reporting at Div. H.Q. (This was not done).
One Battn. (the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters) was sent to the 59th Inf. Bde. and located in the HINDENBURG Main Line in R.10.c. and R.16.b. while the other Battn. (1st Buffs) was used by the 60th Inf. Bde. to fill a gap in R.21.

(g) The line remained more or less the same as indicated above during the remainder of the day, while the enemy made periodical attacks up the LA VACQUERIE Valley.

DECEMBER 1st.
2. (a). At 1 a.m. the 60th Inf. Bde. (less 1 Battn. holding LA VACQUERIE), were ordered to attack from QUINTEN MILL to GONNELIEU inclusive with a view to re-establishing the line of the Ridge. The attack was met by heavy M.G. fire, and although the right pushed forward, the left encountered a hostile attack launched simultaneously with our own and failed to gain ground.

(b). At 2.10 a.m. Div. H.Q. was transferred from VILLERS PLOUICH to Q.29.central (QUEEN’S CROSS).

(c). At 7.0 a.m. the Guards Division carried out an attack and seized the high ground between QUINTEN MILL and GONNELIEU including the latter, but a hostile counter attack about 10.0 a.m. drove them from the village itself.

(d). At about 6.0 p.m. on the evening of December 1st, two Coys. of the 11th D.L.I. (Pioneers), who were then under B.G.C. 61st Inf. Bde. were placed at the disposal of the 59th Inf. Bde., who put them under the command of the O.C. 11th K.R.R.C. in the HINDENBURG Line and R.10.c.

(e). During the night of the 1st/2nd December no further attack was made by the enemy on the Divisional front. The Guards Division took over the front held by the 60th Inf. Bde. from QUINTIN RIDGE to GONNELIEU, while the 183rd Inf. Bde. 61st Div., relieved the 12th K.R.R.C. in LA VACQUERIE, thus releasing the whole of the 60th Inf. Bde. who were withdrawn to FIFTEEN RAVINE – VILLERS PLOUICH Area.

3. (a) During December 2nd the enemy confined his attacks to LA VACQUERIE where he was repulsed three times by the 183rd Inf. Bde.

(b). On the night of December 2nd/3rd the 183rd Inf. Bde. relieved the 59th and 61st Inf. Bdes., whilst the 184th Inf. Bde. went into Divl Reserve at about R.8., the command passing from G.O.C. 20th Div. to G.O.C.61st Div. at 7 a.m.

(c). At 8.0 a.m. on December 3rd the Div. was disposed as follows:-
59th Inf. Bde. FIFTEEN RAVINE, VILLERS POULICH area.
60th Inf. Bde. SOREL
61st Inf. Bde. FINS

The line as actually handed over to the 61st Div. ran approximately as follows:-
L.35.b – R.5.a. – R.11.c. – R.17.c. – R.22.b. – R.21.b. – R.20.d. – R.20.c. –R.26.d.

DECEMBER 3rd.
4. Div. H.Q. moved from Q.29.central to SOREL, and was established at SOREL at 7 a.m. December 3rd.

20th Division. 8 December 1917

A.D.C.
20th Div. No. G.179.
SPECIAL ORDER.
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.

EXPERIENCES GAINED IN THE RECENT OPERATIONS 22 November 1917

Appendix II

EXPERIENCES GAINED IN THE RECENT OPERATIONS
20th and 21st November 1917.

1 ASSEMBLY.

It is essential that Staff Officers with a full knowledge of orders for the forthcoming operations should control the traffic during the assembly and forming up of troops prior to attack. The assembly and forming up of troops prior to attack. The assembly and forming up was carried out up to time and successfully – but hitches occurred owing to an insufficient number of Staff Officers having been utilised.

In circumstances where the assembly of four Divisions can only take place by means of the roads originally at the disposal of one Division, the number of Staff Officers available from that Division for traffic control is insufficient.

The Staff Officers of the incoming Divisions had little or no time to grasp the essentials of the problem.

It is suggested that on such occasions a special Traffic Control Conference should be held and the points for which each Division should be responsible agreed upon.

2. R.A.

The operations under review have proved that a satisfactory barrage can be fired without previous registration, if care is taken to ensure accuracy of line beforehand.

If sufficient R.A. Officers are available it would be of the greatest assistance if an Artillery Liaison Officer could be attached to each forward Battn. for the purpose of keeping Battalion Commanders informed of Artillery arrangements and enabling them, when possible, to obtain Artillery co-operation.

The fascines carried by batteries proved most useful.
The enemy barrage, which fell on our front and support lines, was feeble and ragged.

The timing of our barrage and the proportion of smoke fired, i.e. from 18-pdrs 1/ 3 smoke appeared to be satisfactory.

It was again demonstrated that in an attack, risks can safely be taken that would not otherwise be justified, batteries can get into and out of action in the open, without undue casualties.

In all operations of this nature close co-operation between R.A. and Tanks is essential. The R.A. must know exactly the forming up places of the Tanks in order that there may be no chance of Tanks masking the fire of batteries. Instances occurred during the recent operations in which Tanks, owing to the nature of the ground, were obliged to form up in positions which temporarily masked the fire of guns.

3. R.E.

The light railway proved unreliable and could not be depended upon for getting up material other than ammunition during the time of preparation.
The urgent necessity of large parties of pioneers being employed at the earliest possible moment to repair roads, cut wire, fill in trenches, and make temporary bridges, etc., was most marked, and artillery will be seriously hampered when this is not attended to on a large scale.

4. COMMUNICATIONS.

(a). R.A. It is strongly recommended that a limbered G.S. wagon be substituted for a Brigade Cable Cart, which is in no way suited for travelling over rough country and is incapable of carrying the amount of wire required.
D.1 and D. 3 are the heaviest cables suited for Artillery Bdes. And Batteries.
The use of mounted orderlies was most necessary as all other methods of communication continually failed.

(b). Tanks. It is most necessary that routes for returning Tanks should be laid down and marked back to the original front line as the greatest difficulty was experienced in coping with the damage done to lines by returning Tanks.

(c). Power Buzzer and Amplifiers. The arrangements were for these to work from original Bde. forward Station to Cable Heads. As events proved they were not required in this position, and in the subsequent advance distances were too great.

(d). Wireless Sets. One set was allotted to the 59th Inf. Bde., and one to the 60th Inf. Bde. Both these sets were eventually used at Bde. H.Q., but they were not carried forward quickly enough. In future it should be laid down that the set moves with the Brigade Staff.

(e). Visual. Visual Signalling again proved of great value in spite of the use of smoke. The Lucas Lamp was much superior to any other system – a minimum issue of 6 per Battalion is recommended.

(f). Pigeons. The number of pigeons available (10 birds for this Division) were insufficient; 10 birds with each Brigade forward party would have been invaluable. Eight messages came through by this means.

(g). D.R’s – Motor Cyclists and Mounted. The Signal Service rule that Despatch Riders can go by any road at any time does not appear to be known to Traffic Control personnel. Mounted men were stopped and delays caused.

5. TRAINING AND EMPLOYMENT OF INFANTRY WITH TANKS.

(a) Training.
(i). Realistic training of infantry with Tanks is essential to the success of operations of this nature. The lack of training in this particular instance was counteracted by the element of surprise, but in all future operations, or operations of a deliberate nature, careful prolonged training will be essential.

(ii). Enemy machine guns and points of resistance should be simulated either by men or rattles in unknown localities, so that the subordinate commanders should have the opportunity of dealing with conditions as they present themselves on the spot.

(iii). Training should impress on the Infantry the absolute necessity of not keeping too close to the Tanks and of not bunching.

(iv). The most careful training is required in the matter of keeping direction of Tanks, and the strictest discipline should be inculcated in troops at training.
A real course must be mapped out, real trenches and real wire. Taped trenches and imaginary wire give quite a wrong impression.

(v). After reaching the final objective there is a tendency for men to unload themselves of their various impediments and wander about. This, of course, is chiefly due to the loss of officers. Training then, must include practicing of casualties among officers and N.C.O’s.

(b). Employment.
(i). The formation adopted, namely, irregular lines of Sections in file was found to be satisfactory, but it is suggested the 5 Tanks per Section would give better results that the present Sections of 3. With 3 Tanks, if one becomes a casualty, the pre-arranged plan for mopping up becomes ineffective, and the Infantry attached is left alone, and probably would not get through the wire.

(ii). Marauding Tanks are required to attack enemy nests and pockets.

(iii). During the attack Tanks were destroyed by approaching within point blank range of enemy field guns. in one instance, 4 Tanks were discovered “knocked out” within 150 yards of a hostile Battery. It would appear that known positions require special attention. The Infantry operating with a group of Tanks should advance in front of the Tanks on approaching a known Battery, and put the enemy out of action with Lewis Gun fire, the accompanying Tanks slowing down or halting under cover. An inspection of the battle-field showed that this could have been done in several cases. The enemy Batteries in question were all clear of the “wired-up” zone, and therefore the Infantry did not require Tank assistance.

(iv). Very clear markings are required on Tanks so that affiliated Infantry can recognise their own.

(v). In this particular attack the enemy did not appear to discover the approach of the Tanks until these were within about 200 or 300 yards.

6. EQUIPMENT OF INFANTRY.

The equipment as laid down in S.S. 135 was found satisfactory. The ordinary picks and shovels issued are too heavy for Infantry who have to attack over a considerable distance. Entrenching tools proved of no use and were merely an encumbrance.

7. MACHINE GUNS.

The principle of sub-dividing machine guns into Barrage Groups under Divisional control and consolidating guns under direct Brigade control was again found to be a suitable arrangement. Brigades in their turn allotted certain guns to Battns. for use as “opportunity guns”. In principle this seemed a sound arrangement, but in practice the C.O’s of Battns. neglected to give these guns a task, and owing to inexperience, or lack of initiative, these guns were not used to the best advantage by their crews.

8. LEWIS GUNS.

The Lewis Gun confirmed its value in every way. In one instance, after enemy guns had knocked out 2 Tanks, our Lewis gun fire killed all the gunners and allowed the advance to continue.
Lewis Gun teams were the first to cover and make possible the capture of the bridges. Too great stress cannot be laid upon the need for ample supplies of ammunition for Lewis Guns; Yukon Packs loaded with spare drums on pack animals were most useful in this connection.
Luminous sights proved of great value.

9. EMPLOYMENT OF CAVALRY.

In the operations under review, 2 troops of Corps Cavalry attached to 59th Inf. Bde. rendered invaluable service in maintaining touch between the 59th Inf. Bde. and the 12th Division on the BONAVIS – CREVECOEUR Ridge. As the operations of the 59th Inf. Bde. were in the nature of open fighting, the attachment of Cavalry was both necessary and suitable. Cavalry would, however, not have been of great use to the 60th and 61st Inf. Bdes. whose duty it was to break through the HINDENBURG LINE. Some mounted orderlies should be attached to all Bdes. as an adjunct to the Signal Service.
10. BOMBS.

“P” Bombs were not found necessary.

11. MOVES OF HEADQUARTERS.

It must be insisted that no Headquarters must close down one Station before another is established. Several instances occurred of Headquarters moving forward and all communication being lost for a considerable time.

12. CAPTURE OF STRONG POINTS.

The capture of strong points was effected in every case by out-flanking tactics, using Bombers and Lewis Guns.

13. SNIPERS.

Snipers were employed with considerable success in LES RUES VERTES and RUE DES VIGNES, and many casualties caused. One sniper killed 7 Germans in RUE DES VIGNES on the 21st November.
Telescopic sights were found useful, but the difficulty in replacing them in cases of loss caused diffidence in bringing them forward.

14. STOKES MORTARS.

Stokes Mortars were brought forward, but were not of great use owing to the open nature of the fighting.

10th December 1917.

20TH (LIGHT) DIVISION – 20TH NOVEMBER 1917

G.O.C.
APPENDIX “A”
NARRATIVE OF OPERATIONS

20TH (LIGHT) DIVISION – 20TH NOVEMBER 1917

1. ORDER OF BATTLE.
Divisional Commander Major General W. Douglas Smith C.B.
B.G.C. 59th Inf Bde. Br. Genl H.H.G. Hyslop, D.S.O.
B.G.C. 60th Inf. Bde. Br. Genl F.J. Duncan, C.M.G., D.S.O.
B.G.C. 61st Inf. Bde. Br Genl. W.E. Banbury, C.M.G.

59th Inf. (10th K.R.R.C. A/Lt. Col. A.C. Sheepshanks, D.S.O.
Bde. (11th K.R.R.C. Lt. Col. G.K. Priaulx, D.S.O.
(10th R.B. Lt. Col. L.H.W. Troughton, M.C.
(11th R.B. Lt. Col. A.E. Cotton, D.S.O.

60th Inf. (6th Oxf & Bucks L.I. Lt. Col. C.R.C. Boyle.
Bde. (6th K.S.L.I. A/Lt. Col H.E. Welch.
(12th K.R.R.C. A/Lt. Col G. Moore, D.S.O.
(12th R.B. Lt. Col H.L. Riley, D.S.O.

61st Inf. (12th King’s (L’pool) Lt. Col. A.N. Vince, D.S.O.
Bde. (7th Som. L.I. Lt. Col C.J. Troyte Bullock, D.S.O.
( 7th D.C.L.I. Lt. Col H.G.R. Burges-Short.
(7th K.O.Y.L.I. Major L.P. Storr.

Pioneer Battalion (11th Durham L.I.) Lt. Col. G. Hayes.

R.E. Units 83rd Field Coy. Major I.W. Massie, M.C.
84th Field Coy. Major P.G. Norman, M.C.
96th Field Coy. Major P.F. Story, D.S.O.

2. DISPOSITIONS OF TROOPS AT ZERO.
Map “A” is attached shewing dispositions of troops at Zero, which were as follows:-
(a) 60th Inf. Bde.
Front Line. 12th K.R.R.C. – from Rly. In R.8.c. to R.14.b.7.7.
Front Line. 6th Oxf. & Bucks L.I. – from R.14.b.7.7. to R.14.d.9.7.
Support. 12th R.B. – about R.14.a.8.7.
Support. 6th K.S.L.I. – about R.14.b.2.3.

The role of the front line battalions was to capture the BLUE Line from R.3.a.15.60. to R.10.a.3.5., after which the 2 Support Battalions were to take the BROWN Line from L.32.d.5.5. to L.34.b.2.5.

(b) 61st Inf. Bde.
Front Line. 7th D.C.L.I. – from R.14.d.9.7. to R.20.b.65.35.
Front Line. 7th Som. L.I. – from R.20.b.65.35. to R.21.c.4.6.
Support. 12th R.B. – about R.20.a.
Support. 12th King’s (L’pool). – about R.20.d.3.5.
This Brigade attacked in 3 waves as follows:-
(i) 2 Coys of 7th D.C.L.I. were detailed for the capture of the trenches about CORNER WORK about R.15.central, while the Som. L.I. were to capture LA VACQUERIE.
(ii) The 2 remaining Coys. of the 7th D.C.L.I. and 2 Coys. of the 12th King’s (L’pool) were detailed to take the BLUE Line from R.10.a.5.6. to R.16.b.6.4.
(iii) The 7th K.O.Y.L.I. and the remaining 2 Coys of the 12th King’s (L’pool) were to take the BROWN Line from L.34.b.2.5. to R.5.d.2.9.

(c) 59th Inf. Bde. In and about GOUZEAUCOURT to carry out a special task as described in paras. 3 and 4 (iii).

3. OBJECTIVES.
Map “A” attached shows the objectives:-
BLUE Line. 1st Objective.
BROWN Line. 2nd Objective.
RED Line The Defensive Flank to be taken up by 59th Inf. Bde. in touch with 12th Div. on right flank to the South, and in touch with 29th Div. on the left flank to the North.
The final position actually reached by 9 p.m. is as shewn on attached map “B”.

4. PLAN OF ATTACK.
(a) (i). The essence of the plan was to effect a surprise, overwhelm the enemy with a sudden rush of Tanks followed by Infantry, and to penetrate the first line before he had time to realise the nature or locality of the attack. With this end in view, there was no preliminary bombardment or wire cutting by the Artillery. The attack, besides being preceded by waves of Tanks was covered by standing barrages which included smoke. These barrages were arranged to lift from objective to objective as the attack progressed.
(ii). The 20th Div. was allotted 60 Tanks, and these were distributed to Brigades as follows:-
Right assaulting Bde. (61st Inf. Bde.) 1 Bn. – 36 Tanks.
Left assaulting Bde. (60th Inf. Bde.) 2 Coys – 24 Tanks.
(iii) The 59th Inf. Bde. was held in Reserve, but as soon as the successful issue of the operations undertaken by the two assaulting Bdes. Was notified, namely, the capture of the BROWN Line, this Bde. was ordered to advance down the LA VACQUERIE Valley, to follow the line of the Sunken Road from LA VACQUERIE Village to R.5.c.95.40., seize the bridges over the ST QUENTIN CANAL between MASNIERES and MARCOING until the arrival of the 29th Div., and then to establish itself on the line M.2.d.9.7. – LES RUE VERTES so as to form a defensive flank to cover the operations of the 29th Div. towards MASNIERES and MARCOING. This Bde. was also ordered to cover itself with an advanced guard, a portion of which was seize the crossings over the ST QUENTIN CANAL, if unoccupied, at G.26.b.4.4. – L.24.c.8.5. – L.23.d.9.3., and to form a bridgehead at the first-named place until relieved by the advanced guard of 29th Div. the 59th Inf. Bde. was allotted 10 Tanks for this operation to be taken from the original 36 allotted to the 61st Inf. Bde., which were to be at the disposal of the B.G.C. 59th Inf. Bde. as soon as the BROWN Line (2nd objective) was captured.

(b) The action of the artillery on Zero day consisted:-
(i). In placing a barrage on each objective prior to its being assaulted.
(ii). Forming smoke screens in front to cover the advance of the Tanks.
(iii). In neutralising hostile batteries.
(iv). In bombarding O.P’s, the positions of assembly, rest billets, and known centres of communication and command.

(c). The 2 assaulting Bdes. and their respective Tanks were moved to the assembly positions after dusk on “Y/Z” evening. Considerable congestion of traffic occurred N. and S. of R.19.central on the GOUZEAUCOURT – VILLERS PLOUICH Road which the Tanks had to cross at R.19.d.1.8. and R.19.b.3.2. in order to reach their positions of assembly. This congestion was due to the following causes:-
(i). Transport and Infantry personnel of 2 other Divs. Using this road instead of the one allotted to them.
(ii). The blocking of the Northern end of the two Tank crossing places by trains on the light railway which crosses the road near R.19.central. and then runs parallel to the road to VILLERS PLOUICH between the road and broad gauge railway.

These unforeseen difficulties somewhat delayed the assembly, but nevertheless all the units taking part in the assault were in position by
11 p.m.

The assembly positions were all approximately 1,000 yards from the enemy front line, and the noise of assembly was no doubt covered by the pre-arranged intermittent bursts of machine gun fire throughout the night.

5. ACCOUNT OF THE ACTION.
It suffices to say that the attack by the Infantry and Tanks allotted to this Division went entirely according to plan from the hour of Zero 6.30 6.20 a.m., until the 59th Inf. Bde. took up its position so as to form the defensive flank facing Eastwards. The enemy was completely surprised, and in those places where he held out for a time, his resistance was overcome by Infantry and Tanks.

The enemy front line was reported taken about 6.45 a.m., the BLUE Line, 1st Objective, about 9.30 a.m., then the BROWN Line about 12 noon. The 59th Inf. Bde. took up their position forming a defensive flank while the 29th Div. moved on MASNIERES and MARCOING, the bridges across the Canal at and W. of MASNIERES having been seized by the 59th Inf. Bde.

At 4.15 p.m. the situation was reported to be as follows:-
20th Div. in the BROWN Line with a defensive flank thrown out in M.2., the 12th Div. on the right held the BROWN Line including LATEAU WOOD, and were continuing the defensive flank to M.8.a., the 6th Div. held BROWN Line and PREMY CHAPEL Ridge, and were in touch on left with 51st Div. in BROWN Line near Corps Boundary. The 29th Div. held NINE WOOD with troops across Canal at L.33.a.0.8., while the 88th Inf. Bde. (29th Div.) were working through MASNIERES in co-operation with 59th Inf. Bde.
Div H.Q. moved forward from W.9.d.7.3. to VILLERS PLOUICH where they were established at about 2.45 p.m.

The situation at 9 p.m. on evening of the 20th was as shewn on the attached map marked “B”.

At 10.20 p.m. on the night of the 20th, orders were received from III Corps to the effect that every effort was to be made to gain possession of the MASNIERES – BEAUREVOIR Line to allow the early passage of Cavalry and also to capture CREVECOEUR.

The role of the Div. was to push on to CREVECOEUR, seize the bridges there and effect a junction with the 29th Div in CREVECOEUR. 12 Tanks from 3rd Bde. Tank Corps were placed at the disposal of 20th Div. for this purpose.

The 59th Inf. Bde. were detailed for this operation, and Zero hour was fixed in conjunction with the 29th Div for 11 a.m. The 12 Tanks were to assemble in G.33.c. The attack by the 29th Div. was, however, cancelled, and the 59th Inf. Bde. were to attack alone.

This attack was only partially successful, the assaulting columns coming under enfilade fire from high ground N. of Canal and E. of RUMILLY, and several efforts were made during the day to cross the Canal at CREVECOEUR, but owing to the bridges not being strong enough to bear Tanks, and the fact that some Tanks had run out of fuel and could not be moved, no appreciable advance was made. At 10 p.m. on the evening of the 21st the situation was as follows:-

11th K.R.R.C. consolidating about REVELON CHATEAU and guarding the bridges from the W bank of the Canal; 11th R.B. forming a defensive flank covering the crossing at G.34.a.2.9. and G.34.b.2.9., while 1 Coy. of the 10th R.B. held bridgehead in M.5.c. This Coy. was forced to retire during the night, and all efforts to destroy the bridge in M.5.c. failed.

6. (a). GENERAL RESULT.
The general result of the operations of the 20th and 21st Nov, were as follows:-
Thorough disorganisation of the enemy.
A large breach in his defensive system.
A loss to him of considerable personnel and guns.
On the other hand our lines at the conclusion of the operations formed a very dangerous salient completely overlooked from the high ground E. of RUMILLY.

(b). PRISONERS.
The total number of unwounded prisoners captured by the Div during these operations was 17 officers and 700 other ranks, including one Regtl. Commander. The prisoners were chiefly men of the 9th Res. Div. and 54th Div.

(c). CASUALTIES.
Our casualties during the attack itself were slight; the total casualties up to 12 mn. The 20th/21st being only 31 Officers and 515 O.Rs.

(d). MATERIAL CAPTURED.
A list of material captured is given in Appendix “I”

(e). LESSONS LEARNT
Any lessons learnt from these operations are to be found in Appendix “II”.

10th December 1917
………………………………………………………………………………………

APPENDIX “I”
LIST OF CAPTURED MATERIAL.

Map Spotting. Calibre. Condition Ammunition.

L.28.c.55.20. 15 c.m. All badly damaged. (Blown Plentiful.
(L.Z. 7) Up, no sights.)

L.34.a.95.40. 77 m.m. Bolts and breaches missing. Plentiful.
(in open) No sights.

L.34.d.50.90. 77 m.m. No sights. 1 no wheels. Plentiful.
(L.Z.20.)

L.36.b.30.01. 12 c.m. (4) 1 can probably be fired. Very Plentiful.
(L.Z.21.) (Captured The remainder no breeches.
French or All no sights.
Belgian How.)

R.6.a.75.70. 10.5 c.m. (3) 1 complete with sights. Very Plentiful.
(R.X.24.) Remainder no sights.

G.33.a.0.0. A.A. G uns (4) Complete.
on 4 wheeled
wagons.

R.5.a.00.90. 77 m.m. 1 sight only All used more (R.X.33.) being collected.

L.34.a.2.6. 1 T.M.
4 M.G’s

20TH (LIGHT) DIVISION ORDER NO. 218 18 Nov 1917

SECRET. Copy No. 1

20TH (LIGHT) DIVISION ORDER NO. 218
—————————————————————–
18th November 1917.
Ref. Map: 1/20,000, Sheets 57.c. S.E. & N.E.,
57 B. S.W. & N.W.
1. The 20th Div., in conjunction with other Divisions, as already notified in Instructions No. 1, will, on a date and at an hour to be communicated later, attack the enemy on our front.
Subsidiary attacks and feints are being carried out along the remainder of the Army Front.

2. The 12th Div. will be on the right, and the 6th Div. on the left of the 20th Div.
The 29th Div. will be in Corps Reserve, and will pass through the 20th and 6th Divns. In order to capture the heights S.W. of RUMILLY, NINE WOOD, PREMY CHAPEL.
The objectives and boundaries of the Div. are shown on the map issued with Instructions No. 1.

3. The attack will be carried out under the protection of waves of Tanks, as already detailed in Instructions No. 1 and amendments thereto.
The attack will also be supported by
(a) Standing Artillery and Smoke barrages which will open on the enemy’s front line and lift from trench to trench as the advance progresses (see Artillery barrage map issued on the 15th instant).
(b) Back and flank barrages of smoke and heavy artillery.
(c) Machine-gun barrages.
The first wave of Tanks will advance from their assembly positions 1,000 yards distance from the enemy’s front line at Zero minus 10 minutes, followed by infantry; succeeding waves are timed to advance so that they may reach their objectives without checking on intermediate objectives.
The Artillery and Machine-gun barrages will open at ZERO.
The final protective barrage beyond the second objective (BROWN line), will lift at times varying from Zero plus 210 minutes, to ZERO plus 240 minutes, to enable the Tanks to push on ands exploit the success.

4. After the capture of the BROWN Line, the Tanks will immediately exploit any success obtained as follows:-
(a) The Tanks from a Coy of ‘A’ Bn. allotted to the 60th Inf. Bde. will advance immediately to the Canal and seize the Lock and bridges at L.24.c.8.5., L.24.c.5.3., L.23.d.9.3., and L.23.d.25.05., and clear the area adjacent to the Canal Bank from G.25.b. (exclusive) to the RIBECOURT – MARCOING Railway line (exclusive).
(b) The Tanks from a Coy. allotted to the 12th Div. will proceed immediately from BONAVIS to MASNIERES, seize the bridges at G.27.a.2.0., G.26.b.4.4. and G.26.a.8.7., and form bridgeheads there.
(c) The above Tanks will maintain their positions on their objectives until relieved by the 29th Div., or in the case of (a), until the 29th Div. has passed through.
(d) Simultaneously with the action to be taken in (a), the 59th Inf. Bde. will advance and form a defensive flank from about M.2.d.9.7. to the road junction at G.26.b.3.0., obtaining touch at the first named point with the 12th Div.: and supporting, until relieved by the 29th Div., at the latter point, certain Tanks which are being pushed forward from BONAVIS to form a bridgehead about MASNIERES.
To assist the 59th Inf. Bde. in forming this defensive flank, the Tanks of one Coy. of ‘I’ Bn., hitherto covering the advance of the 61st Inf. Bde., will be attached to the 59th Inf. Bde. These Tanks will advance and clear the BONAVIS – CREVECOEUR ridge, supported on the right by the 12th Div. and in the centre and on the left by 2 Troops of the III Corps Cavalry, 1/1 Northumberland Yeomanry.
(e) The 2 Troops of Corps Cavalry above mentioned will rendezvous at Zero hour on the open ground immediately E. of FOX HILL (R.19.d.), at which hour they will come under the orders of the B.G.C. 59th Inf. Bde.
The role of the 2 Troops Corps Cavalry will be to establish posts along the BONAVIS – CREVECOEUR spur so as to deny it to the enemy, and to prevent his observation from this spur of the passage of the 29th Div. and Cavalry across the Canal at MASNIERES.
The Cavalry will be closely supported with strong detachments of infantry by the B.G.C. 59th Inf. Bde. It is intended eventually, when the Cavalry has pushed through, to establish a front facing E. along the line BONAVIS – CREVECOEUR – LA BELLE ETOILE.
(f) The 59th Inf. Bde. will support the Tanks mentioned in (a) with strong patrols followed by a company. These patrols will obtain touch with the 6th Div. at L.22.d.3.5.

5. Instructions for consolidation and for liaison posts on the flanks with neighbouring Divisions have been already issued.

6. After the capture of the heights above MASNIERES and MARCOING by the 29th Div., the 5th and 2nd Cavalry Divisions cross the Canal at the above two villages, and operate in a North-easterly direction.
7. A contact aeroplane will fly over the Corps front at
Zero plus 45 minutes,
Zero plus 2 hrs. 15 mins.,
Zero plus 3 hrs.,
Zero plus 3 hrs 30 mins.,
and subsequently as ordered.

8. Watches will be synchronised by a Staff Officer from Div. H.Q. at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Y day at the H.Q of the 61st Inf. Bde. Representatives of the 60th and 59th Inf. Bdes. will be present. Tank Bn. Commanders will synchronize their watches at the Bde. H.Q. to which they are being attached.

9. Divl. H.Q. will be at W.9.d.7.3. If operations are successful, the first move of the Divl. H.Q. will be to VILLERS PLOUICH, R.13.d.8.6., taking over the 60th Inf. Bde. H.Q.

10. All other details connected with the operations have already been issued in Instructions 1 to 6. (Instructions No. 7 is being issued to Inf. Brigadiers and B.G., R.A. only)

ACKNOWLEDGE

J.McJ Haskard
Lieut. Colonel,
General Staff, 20th Division.
Issued to Signals at 7 a.m.

Copies to :-
No. 1. G.O.C.
2. “G”
3. “A”
4. 59th Inf. Bde.
5. 60th Inf. Bde.
6. 61st Inf. Bde.
7. B.G., R.A.
8. C.R.E.
9. Div. Signal Coy.
10. Div. Pioneers.
11. A.D.M.S.
12.)
13.) 3rd Bde. Tank Corps.
14.)
15. III Corps.
16. G.O.C., R.A. III Corps.
17. 6th Div.
18. 12th Div.
19. 29th Div.
20. 59th Sqdn. R.F.C.
21. A.P.M.
22. D.M.G.O.
23. Div. M.G. Coy.
24. III Corps Cavalry.
25. Lieut. The Hon. C.F.N. Ramsay, 1/1 Northumberland Fus.
26. War Diary.
27. File,
.