Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries 18 July 1918

Gerald Benham’s notes from diaries

18 July 1918 Ordered by A.Q.M.G. Div to report to 11 Essex H.Q. Arrived at horse lines & met Maj & Q.M. Roberts.



Copy No …..6
18th July 1918.


1. The relief of the II Italian Corps by the XXII Corps is cancelled.

2. The XXII Corps will be prepared to concentrate during the night 19th/20th July in forward positions immediately behind the line now held by the II Italian Corps with a view to an advance on the morning of the 21st July.

3. The 51st Division on the left, and the 62nd Division on right will move into forward concentration areas on the night of 19th/20th July. Concealed positions of assembly will be reconnoitred to-morrow. Guides for the night march will be provided on application by the 120th and 14th French Divisions. Routes selected should be marked in addition as far as possible.

4. The general line of demarcation between Divisions will be NANTHEUIL – ST IMOGES – LA NEUVILLE all inclusive to the 51st Division.

5. The MESNIL Brigade, 51st Division, and rear units of the 62nd Division will be closed up to the line of the MARNE to-morrow morning (19th inst.) moving in small columns with a view to shortening the night march.

6. Pontoons of both Divs will be pooled and will be concentrated in the area of the PIEERY Brigade Group of the 51st Division to-morrow with a view to their being placed at the disposal of the French, if required. All pontoons to be placed under the Command of one Field Company of the 51st Division.

Signature unreadable.
B.G., G.S.
XXII Corps.
Issued at 11.20 p.m. to:-
Copy No. 1 51st Division
2 62nd Division.
3 C.E.
4 G.O.C. R.A.
5 Q
6 82nd Squad R.A.F.

22nd Corps ‘G’ 17 July 1918

22nd Corps ‘G’

1. It would appear that the Corps may shortly be engaged in operations of the nature of open warfare.
2. The following scheme is submitted for approval for more efficient aerial co-operation than has formerly been possible.
3. The system does not entail the use of any apparatus beyond the Popham panneau and ground strips already provided.
4. It is anticipated that should the scheme be adopted and the units on the ground be able to carry out their part. The Squadron would have no difficulty whatever in (a) keeping Corps informed of exact positions of units down to Brigades, and dropping messages to these formations; (b) in receiving messages from formations for transmission to Corps (thence to Divisions if required).
5. The scheme is easily capable of elaboration to include units down to Battalions, but it is considered that owing to the very short notice which it will be possible to give, it would probably be inadvisable to attempt to deal with smaller formations than Brigades.


1. Corps dropping station indicated in any suitable ****** – say “XII”
2. Divisional H.Q. to be indicated by Popham panneau with one of the letters W X Y or Z placed at 9 o’clock to the panneau. Divisional calls would thus simply W X Y or Z.
3. Brigade H.Q. will be indicated by popham panneau together with a call letter placed opposite one of the four corners “W X Y or Z” position. Calls of Brigades of W Division to be WW WX WY WZ and for ‘X’ Division XW XX XY XZ and so on.

1. A unit seeing a contact ‘plane in its neighbourhood and wishing to report its position, will merely expose its popham panneau and call letter in an approximate position. Machine will acknowledge, for example “XWRT”. If the unit wishes to communicate with a machine, it will open popham panneau in the normal manner and procedure will be as usual.
2. Corps wishing to communicate with a unit will forward message to Squadron giving as far as possible approximate location. The ‘plane will fly in direction of unit required sounding call letter on klaxon. Unit will expose panneau and call letters and machine will drop message.
3. In the event of a unit losing its popham panneau, or the situation preventing its being exposed, the call letter in ground strips will be sufficient indication.
4. In extreme cases when neither panneau nor strips can be exposed, it is suggested that units should fire four Very’s lights in rapid succession as a signal that it is the unit to which the plane is calling.


1. The procedure above outlined presents no difficulty whatever from the air point of view at least and will enable higher command (a) to locate its units at any time; (b) to communicate with the unit; (c) to receive messages from the unit.
2. Code calls are reduced to one or two letters only which are all made with straight ground strips.
3. The scheme is systematic in that units belonging to the same formation have the same initial letter in their call.
4. In the event of a particular unit being undiscoverable there should be little difficulty in locating a neighbouring unit and communicating with it instead.
5. Owing to the message having no “addressed to” but only a call letter address, little information is given to the enemy should they fall into wrong hands.
“Addressed to” will not be required. Normally all messages received from the ground will be dropped at Corps. “Addressed from” not required; call letters give sufficient indication.

J.M. S***
Commanding, No 82 Squadron,
Royal Air Force.
In the Field.
17th July 1918.

Co-operation scheme 11 July 1918


1. Introductory. Whether the move is an advance or a withdrawal, the problems to be solved are much the same: the latter case however, is the more difficult operation, and is herein dealt with. The principles can be applied to an advancing battle mutatis mutandis.

2. Role of Squadron. Provided Liaison with the ground can be efficiently maintained the functions of the Corps Squadron are properly –
(1) Battle Reconnaissances.
(2) Artillery work with surprise targets.
(3) Liaison Reconnaissance to identify, and communicate to with other Arms.

Systematic bombing and shooting up of live targets is more properly the role of Army Squadrons and reinforcing Brigades.

3. General Idea. If these duties are to be carried out, it is essential that the energies of the Squadron should not be taken up by moving daily from place to place: a situation must therefore be taken up well in rear, and touch kept with other Arms by means of advanced landing grounds occupied in turns.
A Map of all feasible grounds (in rear of a large sector of the front, to legislate for possible cases of divergent lines of retirement) should be compiled by R.A.F. Brigades, kept up to date, and issued to all concerned. If this is not available, the duty of selecting suitable sites, lies with the R.A.F. Officer attached to a report centre.

4. Main Report Centre. The first essential is to establish a Main Report Centre (M.R.C.) in close proximity to Corps H.Qrs. (Advd H.Qrs): It is a sine qua non that this Centre should be on a practicable landing ground.
This M.R.C. would be in charge of the Corps Squadron B.I.O., and its position notified to all units (if necessary by message dropping). All aeroplanes of the Squadron would land in the early morning at this Centre, and function from there throughout the day, returning to the base aerodrome in the evening.
A Wireless Station, a few small spares, petrol and oil, and a Corps D.R. service, would be installed at this M.R.C.

5. Move of M.R.C. In the event of Corps H.Qrs., continuing to move backwards a new landing ground will be taken up, and if possible installed before the first ground was abandoned. (see 7 below)
As soon as a move is contemplated an arrow would be put out near the T on the landing ground, pointing in the general direction of the new site. When the forward ground is finally vacated, the T is taken up, and the arrow left out.
It is hoped by this means to ensure constant Liaison between Corps and Squadron H.Qrs.

6. Artillery Work. Fire on targets notified from the air will largely be the task of the Divisional Artillery. Owing to the withdrawal of the bulk of Siege Batteries, and to the lack of means of communication from Corps H.A., to batteries, it is likely that H.A. H.Qrs., and the C.B.S.O. will cease to operate with large formations, and that their position will approximate to Corps H.Qrs. Mobile Heavy Artillery Brigades will be attached to Divisional Artillery.
All units must remember the absolute necessity of moving the personnel and material of their Wireless Station, and of erecting same whenever possible.
Artillery Units ready for action with aeroplanes, should keep out the ground strips of their calls, except in presence of Enemy Aircraft.

7. C.W.S become A.R.C. When Corps H.A., H.Qrs., ceases to function tactically the Central Wireless Station (C.W.S.), will remain as an advanced report centre (A.R.C.), for work with Divisions.
It will be under the charge of one of the Squadron wireless Officers, and will be equipped in the same way and will function in the same manner as the M.R.C.
When withdrawal becomes necessary the A.R.C., will move past the M.R.C., and will take up its position near the new Corps Advd H.Qrs., where the B.I.O., will again take command, it will thus become itself the Main Report Centre, while the old M.R.C., becomes the A.R.C.
One of these two Stations is thus likely to be in action and both will have landing grounds in their vicinity.
Communication between M.R.C., and the A.R.C., will be maintained by wireless.

8. Liaison Reconnaissances. The services of the R.A.F., will be of extreme value in identifying and reporting positions of unit Headquarters: they supplement other means of communication in this respect, or at times supplant them in the absence of telephone facilities, and during periods of road congestion. An efficient Air Service should be able to keep the Corps Commander informed of the position of his units and should be able to transmit his orders to them.
A whole Flight should be detailed for this important service (This Flight could reinforce the Battle Reconnaissance or Artillery Flight in the event of the withdrawal being premeditated and leisurely).
Every H.Qrs., should be provided with ground strips to form a two or three letter code call (only those letters should be used which can be formed into straight strips) and a Popham Panel. The code calls should not be arbitrary, but should have their index letter such as to indicate to the aeroplane, the nature of the formation to which they belong.
The Observer would then know for instance, that he had located 2 out of 3 Divisions – could inform a Division of the situation of a neighbouring H.Qrs., etc. etc., by means of message bags. (See Note).
If the importance of carrying and displaying these strips is impressed on units, it should be possible for an aeroplane flying over an area and calling by means of Klaxon Horn, or Very’s Lights, to rapidly accumulate valuable information as to the positions of units throughout the day.
This form of Liaison should be infallible, whereas, Wireless inter-communication may fail owing to lack of experience, delicacy of instruments, lack of trained signallers, running down of accumulators, etc.

9. Attachment of R.A.F. Observers to Formations. In order that the possibilities of Aerial Co-operation outlined above may be taken full advantage of, it would appear essential for a proportion of the Observers of a Squadron to live, and move with units of the Corps.
It is suggested that:-
2 Liaison Officers should be attached to Corps H.Qrs.
1 Battle Reconnaissance Observer to each Divisional H.Qrs.
1 Artillery Observer to each Divisional Artillery H.Qrs.
These Observers would be informed by the unit Commander, as to what particular information is desired: they would then proceed to the nearest Report Centre, and pick up the aeroplanes detailed for the service. It must however, be pointed out, that the R.A.F. cannot provide transport for each of these Observers. The essential principle of the whole scheme proposed, is that it should be possible to carry it out with the means at the disposal of every Corps Squadron in the Field, and the transport allotted is barely sufficient for present requirements.
If units desire the services of an attached Observer, they must when occasion demands, find some means of transport, horse, bicycle, motor bicycle, etc, to enable him to reach the nearest aeroplane landing ground.
The information obtained by these special Observers, though primarily for the benefit of their own formation, will be in every case transmitted to the M.R.C.: the Pilot will be responsible that this is done when the aeroplane lands on the advanced instead of Main Report Centre.

10. To sum up the essentials of the scheme proposed are:-
(1) A rearward location of Squadron aerodrome, and Administrative H.Qrs., to avoid constant movement and road congestion.
(2) Forward tactical landing grounds.
(3) The division of the Squadron into Battle Reconnaissance, Artillery, and Liaison Flights.
(4) The utilisation by of all units of ground strips to denote their positions.
(5) The attachment of R.A.F. Observers to units for Liaison work.
(6) No extra transport or material required, beyond that now in possession of Corps Squadrons.
(Details as far as at present worked out, are attached).

J.A. C****
Lieut Colonel,
Commanding 15th Wing,
Royal Air Force.
In the Field.



1. Wireless Stations. It is most important that all wireless stations held by artillery units should be used to their fullest extent. It should be realised by all concerned that the wireless station must be erected at the very first opportunity and not left to be erected until after arrangements for every other means of communication have been made.
Close co-operation with aircraft is of vital importance during a moving battle, as few batteries have wire oft time available to ensure good communication with ground O.P’s and aircraft are the first and frequently the only means of discovering concentrations of the enemy just prior to an attack. If all units have wireless sets working, such concentrations can be successfully dealt with by means of LL and GF calls. During the last withdrawal some such concentrations were successfully fired on and dispersed in this manner but in a great many cases wireless was not working at the critical moment and opportunities of inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy were missed. In many cases for lack of any other means of attack such concentrations have been dealt with by means of bombs and M.G. fire from the air.
It is of course impossible during hurried changes of position to avoid the loss of a certain amount of material but – once the vital importance of a serviceable wireless set is realised by all – it should always be possible to bring away the essential parts of a wireless set i.e. tuner, aerial and earth mat. Masts, if lost, can always be improvised by using trees, buildings or even short R.E. signal poles. A sheet of corrugated iron can be used to replace a missing earth mat or at a pinch any metallic earth such as a jack knife or earth pin can be utilised.
Efforts are being made to reduce the weight and bulk of a wireless station so as to render it more easily portable by Field Artillery units; even at present the essential portions, referred to above, can and should always be carried in the firing battery. They will then be immediately available and the station can normally be ready to take in messages within a few minutes of guns getting into action.

2. Field Artillery. Field Artillery during a moving battle will form a large proportion of the available artillery for engaging surprise targets. As Brigade Commanders may be out of communication with a proportion of their batteries, it is essential that as many Field batteries as possible should be equipped with wireless stations. This can only now be done by withdrawing stations from Siege batteries when no longer required. Squadron Commanders should make early arrangements with their Corps H.A. to withdraw the stations from those Siege batteries which are least likely to require them and reissue them to R.F.A. brigades for allotment to batteries. This must be done under Corps arrangements as R.A.F. transport is inadequate to deal with the situation.

3. Map references and calls from the air. The importance of having squared maps of the back areas ready marked up with zones has been touched on above: without security on this point Artillery will hesitate to fire and golden opportunities will be lost. Another cause of trouble is here dealt with. Owing to the small amount of wireless sending going on calls have in past moving battles been picked up from two map sheets away: the danger of this will be readily seen as the correct zone will not preclude the possibility of the call being taken in and acted on by batteries who should not have been affected: it is essential therefore in moving warfare for the Squadron call to precede any signal sent from the air including SOS, LL, GF, and NF, calls. The Squadron call and battery calls will remain unchanged during the whole period of movement.

4. Message Dropping. Pilots must not hesitate to use message bags to indicate favourable targets to our guns if the wireless produces no response: this practice has a great future before it. Pilots must not forget that if by any means concentrated artillery fire can be brought on to living targets far greater effect will be produced than by a few small bombs.

J.A. C****
Lieut Colonel,
Commanding 15th Wing,
Royal Air Force.
In the Field.