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2/Lt. Thomas O.S. WHITE, 2/Rhodesia Regiment & 2/KRRC

KRRC 2nd Rhodesia Regiment

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#51 MBrockway

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 01:08 AM

 .... on Google Maps a road listed as s D75 Rua du Maquis de Mazinghein ...

 

Simon - it's actually the D76 Rue du Maquis de Mazinghien becoming the Rue Jean Jaurès.  Neither street name is likely to be of Great War vintage - Jean Jaurès was a prominent left wing politician assassinated in 1914 only a few weeks before these villages fell into German hands, and the Maquis de Mazinghien were a WW2 french resistance unit!



#52 MBrockway

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 01:52 AM

"...and we set off by the map to a village called Molain
..<snip>
Then, thank Heavens, a rumbling and up rolls a tank.  We stopped it and a head popped out of the top and I told him what had happened.  It was a big tank with guns the size I do not know, but it waltzed up the main street, we three keeping discretely in the rear.  As soon as the tank got going you couldn't see for dust.  There was a commotion and my platoon, what remained of it, seemed to rise up from the wreckage of a house and joined us.  All we found were some machine-guns badly bent, some bodies very badly bent and some wounded rather badly damaged.
<snip>

 
I've also been trying to identify the tank that saved the day!
 
Three Mark V tanks from 16th Battalion, Tank Corps were assigned to support 6th and 1st Divisions in taking LA VALLEE MULATRE. 

 

One of these was working south of the VAUX ANDIGNY - LA VALLEE MULATRE railway line assisting with the attacks on the BELLEVUE SPUR.
 
The other two were working on the north flank of the railway in Thomas's generl area.
 
The sunken road between VAUX and MOLAIN that we've already mentioned would seem a natural route for a tank to take to cross the minor re-entrants at the head of the Selle.
 
There were also twelve Mark Vs of the US 301st Tank Battalion supporting US 30th Division.  Again it's possible one of these tanks may have come south into MOLAIN to avoid the swampy areas in the Selle valley between MOLAIN and ST MARTIN RIVIERE caused by the Germans damming the Selle further downstream.
 
There appears to be twelve 'Whippet' medium tanks from 6th Battalion, Tank Corps, which were attached to 1st Division, but were to be held in reserve to exploit any breakthrough on the Sambre Oise Canal much further east and it would seem too early in the battle for these to have been committed.  Thomas's description - "It was a big tank with guns the size I do not know" - seems also to fit a Mark V better than a Whippet.
 
Fourth Army records also mention Mark V tanks of 5th Battalion, Tank Corps being allocated to IX Corps (i.e. the British sector south of the Americans and north of the French) during the planning stages of the operation a few days earlier.  5th Tank Corps is not mentioned in further notes on tank dispositions on 15th October and I can find no mention of their actual deployment on 17 Oct.
 
Is there a Tankie Pal who can help identify the specific tank that dealt with the MOLAIN machine gun nest?



#53 MBrockway

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 01:31 PM

An early response from one of the Pals on the tank question, which I've posed in a separate topic here:

 


From the account I have Medium As attempting to assist British troops in the attack on Demi Lieue were initially driven off by heavy machine gun fire but some Mk V tanks of the American 301st intended to operate near Le Cateau  "put  a number of machine gun posts out of action permitting the infantry to advance" The 4th Tank Brigade on the 17th was composed of 1st Tank btn,supporting 9th Corps the American 301st and the 16th tank btn supporting the  13 Corps (with the 6th in reserve). The 301st was intended to support  the 27th and 30th  Division (and had 25 tanks allotted to the action) but with the fog and problems with compasses there was some confusion and tanks tended be out of position and  to support what they saw. Don't know if this provides any clues.

The Medium A's are the same as the "Whippets" in the records higher up in this thread, but as the term was used rather loosely to refer to medium tank types in general, centurion gets very cross if you call them that ;-)

 

I've asked that further replies get appended to this thread so everything on this action is kept together.



#54 MBrockway

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 01:35 PM

LA DEMI-LIEUE (Fr. "Half a league") is a farm and (former) railway halt about 1500m east of MOLAIN.  Map ref 57b W.18.d.1030.

 

It lies on the road heading NE from LA VALLEE MULATRE to RIBEAUVILLE where that road crosses the St SOUPLET-WASSIGNY railway line.

 

It lies close to the boundary between US 119th Infantry Regiment (US 30th Divn) and 2/KRRC.  The Americans were definitely held up by a German position in a railway cutting/embankment about 1000m to the NW of LA DEMI-LIEUE, but the US records clearly show the US II Corps tactical boundary and most of grid square W.18 is allocated to the British IX Corps - i.e. 2/KRRC.

 

The lie of the land might well encourage the US Mark Vs from US 301st Tank Battalion to loop southwards around the marshy area at the Sources of the Selle just to the east of MOLAIN.  Such an approach would also ease flanking attacks on the strong German defensive line established on the St SOUPLET-WASIGNY railway that were holding up US 119th and 2/KRRC.

 

I don't think the tanks were too strict about tactical boundaries.  Their role was to co-operate with infantry by removing machine gun postions wherever they encountered them and LA DEMI-LIEUE would certainly have been a stepping stone to the US objective of RIBEAUVILLE.

 

The Whippets (i.e. Medium A's) are mentioned in the 2/KRRC battalion records, but are recorded as being put out of action by anti-tank guns ...

Attached File  2-KRRC 17 Oct 1918 La Demi-Lieue - 01.jpg   9.87KB   0 downloads

Attached File  2-KRRC 17 Oct 1918 La Demi-Lieue - 02.jpg   69.98KB   0 downloads

 

The railway embankment on their left taken by joint Anglo-American co-operation is at Ref 57b W.11.d.5040.

 

The "sunken road to their left rear" is harder to confirm.  There are no sunken roads nearby specifically marked on the trench maps except for the road into MORLAIN we've discussed above, and that was certainly cleared by this stage.  This road is most likely either (a) the road leaving MORLAIN due east, crossing the Selle and rising up the valley sides en route for LA VALLEE MULATRE (the modern D77), or (b ) the minor road rising from St MARTIN RIVIERE towards LA VALLEE MULATRE.  The modern French IGN map has that road in a 25m long cutting centred on Ref 57b W.17.c.7080.  That would fit the bill very well and would be a natural infantry position forward of the machine gun nests in the railway embankment.

 

Based on all this, I think we're pretty safe if we take "the situation on the right" as being at LA DEMI-LIEUE


Edited by MBrockway, 11 December 2013 - 03:41 PM.


#55 stiletto_33853

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 02:16 PM

Big map, not sure how useful this will be in its reduced size to fit forums limits.

 

French XV Corps to the south and American II Corps to the north.

 

Andy

Attached Files



#56 MBrockway

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 03:35 PM

From the account I have Medium As attempting to assist British troops in the attack on Demi Lieue were initially driven off by heavy machine gun fire but some Mk V tanks of the American 301st intended to operate near Le Cateau  "put  a number of machine gun posts out of action permitting the infantry to advance"

 
2/KRRC battalion records ...
Attached File  2-KRRC 17 Oct 1918 Whippets AT fire.jpg   15.61KB   0 downloads
 
A frustrating discrepancy between the accounts.  2/KRRC has the Whippets "placed hors de combat by anti-tank guns"  which I would usually take to mean 'disabled' rather than simply forced to leave the field.

 

Also no mention in 2/KRR's account of Mark V's from US 301st.

 

As an interesting aside, here's a picture from US 30th Division's records of a German anti-tank "rifle" captured at Herbecourt on 05 Oct 1918 only a few days before this action.

Attached File  Gen EM Lewis (US 30th Divn) w AT Rifle captured Herbecourt 05 Oct 1918.jpg   44.54KB   0 downloads

 

 



#57 MBrockway

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 04:22 PM

<snip>

I have marked the apparent location of BECQUIGNETTE FARM as '1' on the map, though that is hardly "east of BOHAIN".  The other locations are reasonably clear.

Having found a better trench map, I can confirm that BECQUIGNETTE FARM is indeed at this location, Map ref 57b V.27.a.75.50.



#58 Cowshed

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 09:42 PM

 

Simon - it's actually the D76 Rue du Maquis de Mazinghien becoming the Rue Jean Jaurès.  Neither street name is likely to be of Great War vintage - Jean Jaurès was a prominent left wing politician assassinated in 1914 only a few weeks before these villages fell into German hands, and the Maquis de Mazinghien were a WW2 french resistance unit!

Mark, that was careless of me - yes, it is D76 - my fingers (or eyes) obviously weren't working properly!

 

Fascinating material you've managed to uncover.  Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that neither account (i.e. Thomas's journal or the KRRC Chronicle) is probably 100% accurate and they both, in effect, summarise events that would have been confusing to put it mildly. The writer (or writers) of the KRRC Chronicle must have relied on de-briefs and reports and so it seems perfectly plausible to me that errors creep in.  For instance, people's names are spelt slightly incorrectly sometimes and I'm sure some place names are wrong too (Gaulancourt, I reckon should be Caulaincourt, but I'll probably be proved wrong now!)

 

With reference to "the situation on the right", I note the KRRC Chronicle refers to "five enemy machine-guns, which were firing from a railway embankment".  Looking at the map posted by stiletto_33863 is there a railway line going north-westwards from a junction to the south-east of La Vallee-Mulatre.  Is this what you mean by "The railway embankment on their left taken by joint Anglo-American co-operation is at Ref 57b W.11.d.5040."?

 

Simon



#59 MBrockway

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 01:29 AM

With reference to "the situation on the right", I note the KRRC Chronicle refers to "five enemy machine-guns, which were firing from a railway embankment".  Looking at the map posted by stiletto_33863 is there a railway line going north-westwards from a junction to the south-east of La Vallee-Mulatre.  Is this what you mean by "The railway embankment on their left taken by joint Anglo-American co-operation is at Ref 57b W.11.d.5040."?

 

Simon

Yep!

 

That railway is the St SOUPLET-WASIGNY railway.  You can just see the 'W' of WASSIGNY on Andy's map.  St SOUPLET lies ~3km due north of MOLAIN

 

However ....

 

The railway embankment with the multiple machine guns (Ref 57b W.11.d.5040) was to 2/KRRC's left.  The "the situation on the right" is the strongpoint to 2/KRRC's right at LA DEMI-LIEUE (Ref 57b W.18.d.1030).  LA DEMI-LIEUE is a farm and a railway halt that sits where that railway meets the road leaving from LA VALLEE MULATRE in a NE direction towards RIBEAUVILLE (which is just off Andy's map).

 

The Germans built their defensive line based around that railway with advance posts on the east slope of the Selle valley.  It was only partially complete and was intended to connect up as the southern end of the German Hermann Stellung I stop line.

 

The solid black line running north-south on Andy's Fourth Army map is the British/American finishing position for 17 October.  If you squint carefully at the salient pointing eastwards to the north of LA VALLEE MULATRE, you can just make out the name "Demi-Lieue" inside that salient indicating that the position was taken by the end of the day.

 

If you follow the railway from LA DEMI-LIEUE towards the top edge of Andy's map you'll see it crosses the head of a shallow valley and then the end of a blunt spur.  The railway embankment is in the former, followed by the cutting in the latter.

 

The fire from the "sunken road to their left rear" was most likely coming from an enemy position in the 100m road cutting where the N-S road parallel to and ~750m west of the railway climbs the north slope of the spur heading westwards from LA DEMI-LIEUE towards MOLAIN.  This cutting is not shown on any trench map I've found so far, but is clear on the modern French IGN map and obvious in Google Maps.  It's also in the logical place to support/complement the positions further east based on the railway line.

 

I will try and annotate a large scale trench map so we can clearly see the landmarks of Thomas's October 17th.  That's a bit fiddly to do well though, so it may take me a few days.

 

I'll put some notes on decoding WW1 trench map references into another post and then you'll be able to make more sense of the references I've been using!  It's easy once you get the hang of it :-)



#60 MBrockway

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 01:41 AM

Actually better brains than mine have alreay produced useful guides on how to use the Allied WW1 trench map grid referencing system.

 

Take a look at these:

The Mother Site - http://www.1914-1918...trench_maps.htm

Typically thorough PDF article from the Western Front Association: http://www.westernfr...nchmap-rev5.pdf

Another clear explanation from the McMaster University trench map collection website: http://library.mcmas...w1/MapRefNo.htm



#61 MBrockway

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 03:23 AM

  .... Gaulancourt, I reckon should be Caulaincourt, but I'll probably be proved wrong now!

Simon - no, I agree with you on that one 100%.

 

2/KRRC were at "a wood east of Caulaincourt" (sic) on 15-18 Sep 1918 preparing for the Battle of Berthacourt.  When the Chronicle says on the night of 20/21 Sep the battalion were relieved and "marched back to Gaulancourt Wood", it seems likely the intended sense is that they returned to the wood where they had camped a few days earlier - i.e. Caulaincourt Wood, which is also about the right marching distance.  They certainly did not go far whatever, as they were back in the line on 23/24 Sep for the successful attack on PONTRUET.

 

Certainly I can find no "Gaulancourt" at a plausible location on the most detailed modern French IGN map.

 

I think you're right and this is an error in the KRRC Chronicle.  Thomas White joined the battalion at CAULAINCOURT about 10km west of St QUENTIN.



#62 MBrockway

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 01:10 PM

Returning for a moment to the origins of the links between the 60th and Rhodesia, I have now managed to get a copy of Col. Ferris's article from the 1959 KRRC Chronicle.  The most pertinent sections are included below ....

Attached File  Rhodesian Green Jacket Looks Back - 01.jpg   103.43KB   0 downloads

Attached File  Rhodesian Green Jacket Looks Back - 02.jpg   81.3KB   0 downloads



#63 MBrockway

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 01:14 PM

And this Footnote by Col. Thompson of 2/RRR  ...

Attached File  Rhodesian Green Jacket Looks Back - 10.jpg   23.26KB   0 downloads

Attached File  Rhodesian Green Jacket Looks Back - 11.jpg   51.77KB   0 downloads

 



#64 Cowshed

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Posted 27 December 2013 - 08:49 PM

Mark

 

Sorry I’ve been so long in replying, but I’ve now, at last, had a chance to digest all the information that has recently been posted.

 

My summary (speculation) on the events of the day is that Thomas’s and 2/Lieut. Pallett’s recce took them as far as D76 (Rue du Maquis de Mazinghein as now named) which is a sunken road and seems to fit with his description of “found ourselves in the front line - a sunken road passing through the village of Vaux-Andigny”.  If I’m reading the US map you posted correctly (see post #50) Vaux-Andigny was just inside allied lines as of 11th October, which seems to make this plausible.

 

According to the KRRC Chronicle the battalion assembled in the Bois de Busigny, which is the large wood that can be seen on Google Maps to the west of Vaux-Andigny.  This is the wood, I think, that Thomas refers too.  He then mentions marching along a straight road towards Vaux-Andigny along which they were heavily shelled.  This can’t be road the road labelled as Bois de Busigny Nord on Google Maps as, while it is very straight, it doesn’t lead to Vaux-Andigny and it goes into the American area.  I reckon it is most likely to be the road on the southern edge of the wood marked as “Rue de Flaquet” on Google maps, though this is only straight for a couple of hundred metres.  Interestingly the Bois de Busigny seems to be in the American area according to the US map.  I guess this road would have been a fairly straightforward target for the German artillery on Bellevue Spur.

 

When Thomas went back to recover the officer-less platoon, it seems he makes a wrong turn leaving Vaux-Andigny and takes the D76 (Rue du Maquis de Mazinghein) towards Molain, rather than the road nowadays called Rue Charles Diry which would presumably had led him closer to where the rest of his battalion were.

 

Thomas writes about going up the main street of Molain to the centre.  Presumably he is towards the eastern of the village before he is surprised by the machine guns.  I had always assumed these machine gun to be in the village itself, but I suspect they were just outside to the east.  One of the things that doesn’t make sense to me is how his platoon are pinned down in houses either side of the street, but he is able to talk to Americans who are passing and to two soldiers escorting prisoners.

 

My take on that the large tank that eventually helps them out is an American Mark V – it seems to make more sense that a Whippet or one of the British Mark Vs because of the location.  I think the Whippets referred to in the Chronicle are to do with a different incident - this seems likes an incident that didn't make the official record.

 

After over-coming the machine guns they eventually end up with the rest of the Battalion to the east of Molain, and north of La Vallée Mulâtre.  Thomas must still be very close to the Americans as he writes about seeing them advancing across a ridge about 1000 yards away.

 

With reference to the sunken road to the Battalions left rear referred to in the KRRC Chronicle is it the short section of road here on Google maps: 50.034113,3.560661 (+50° 2' 2.95", +3° 33' 38.44") ? [I've used the Lat/Long reference as when I tried to link to it, the link keeps going to the wrong place].

 

I’d welcome you views on this narrative – does it hold water?

 

Regards

 

Simon



#65 MBrockway

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 10:10 PM

Simon - it's actually the D76 Rue du Maquis de Mazinghien becoming the Rue Jean Jaurès.  Neither street name is likely to be of Great War vintage - Jean Jaurès was a prominent left wing politician assassinated in 1914 only a few weeks before these villages fell into German hands, and the Maquis de Mazinghien were a WW2 french resistance unit!

Slightly off topic, but there's a programme on the assassination of Jean Jaurès on BBC Radio 3 tonight: http://www.bbc.co.uk...rammes/b03ncnf9
 
From the blurb:

Paris - The Essay
Duration: 15 minutes; First broadcast:Tuesday 07 January 2014

Stepping back in time exactly a century, five BBC News correspondents present their personal perspectives on the principal cities of the major European powers that, later in 1914, would fight the Great War.
The programmes continue with Hugh Schofield reimagining the chic French capital of Maurice Ravel, the Ballets Russes and Henri Matisse - but which politically suffered continuing angst over its neighbour across the Rhine: Germany.
For many, the wounds of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1 had still not healed. And the assassination in Paris of the leading French pacifist and socialist, Jean Jaurès, in late July 1914 convulsed the city and crystallised the diverging views about France's relations with her European neighbours. Hugh Schofield tells the story of why this event provoked such turmoil at the time and why it still resonates powerfully today in the politics and culture of France.

 

It is now available for download here: http://www.bbc.co.uk...ts/series/essay


Edited by MBrockway, 07 January 2014 - 11:14 PM.






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