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David_Blanchard

Aisne- Chemin des Dames Battle May- June 1918

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David_Blanchard

Yes I am fairly sure its the same wall. There is a roadway sign in the top lefthand corner (this photo has been cropped) giving the direction 'Jonchery' which was the headquarters of the IX Corps on the Aisne, the direction sign can be clearly seen in the bottom photograph.

It was the existance of this sign that made the 'scene' easy to find once you were in Savigny.

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David_Blanchard
A survivor of the Lusitania, Cyril Pells, was to be killed on 27th May 1918.



'Cyril Elmore Pells, 24, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was aboard the Lusitania with his wife, Mary Anita, and infant son, John. The family had emigrated to Canada in March 1914, but they were returning to England where Elmore was to join his regiment as a Second Lieutenant. By his account, he and Mrs. Pells were in the second class dining saloon at the time of the torpedoing.

Elmore and Mary returned to their E Deck cabin to retrieve John, and Elmore made a second trip below for lifebelts. Not expecting to survive, they took seats together somewhere on one of the upper decks and sank with the Lusitania. Infant John was pulled away from Mr. Pells and lost, but Elmore and Mary managed to make it to an overturned lifeboat together. Neither his nor her account says by which boat they were eventually rescued.

The Pells were living in Kensington as of July 1915, but shortly thereafter he rejoined his regiment. Mary received a note stating his safe arrival in France, but after that he was never heard from again. His given date of death was May 27, 1918, at age 27.'


(information comes from: The Lusitania Resource Website: Click Here )





According to the CWGC:


PELLS, CYRIL ELMORE
Initials: C E
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Regiment: Devonshire Regiment
Unit Text: 2nd Bn.
Age: 27
Date of Death: 27/05/1918
Additional information: Son of Arthur and Caroline Pells, of "Briarwood," The Grange Estate, Beccles, Suffolk; husband of Mary Anita Pells (nee Reeve), of San Luis Obispo, California, U.S.A.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Memorial: SOISSONS MEMORIAL

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edwin astill

Responses so far very informative. My interest is in the 1/Wilts, part of 25th Div. The 1/Wilts war diary is available on the RGBW Wardrobe Museum Website. In researching for my book on the 1/Wilts I uncovered a very good diary in the IWM collection - 'My War Diary' Cpl T G Mohan, Ref. 80/28/1 which relates to Mohan's experience before, during, and after the battle.

Edwin Astill

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David_Blanchard

Hello Edwin,

Thanks for your reply- look forward to the book.

Send my regards to Salisbury, I used to teach History at Bishop Wordsworth's School, like the museum to be found in The Close.

Regards

David

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David_Blanchard
Devonshire Regiment 1914 – 1918 By C.T.Atkinson

2nd Devonshire Battalion's Role in the Aisne Battle






May 1918 Between March 21st and April 30th 1918, the 8th Division had suffered nearly 9,000
casualties. The West Yorkshires and The Middlesex Regiments had been practically wiped out twice. New drafts supplemented these losses, which comprised of practically untrained boys of 18.
Marshall Foch dispatched several French divisions to support the British in Flanders. In return 9th Corp, consisting of 4 Divisions, which like the 8th Division, had suffered terribly in recent fighting was sent to take over 15 miles of French front line, stretching between Bermicourt, not far from Rheims, and Bouconville, just NW of Craonne in the valley of Ailette.


This sector was quite and the place where tired French divisions were sent to recuperate. 8th division relieved French troops who never fired a shot in the past year.
The trenches were 10 foot deep, which proved useless as a fire trench. The deep dugouts were more comfortable, than defensible.

12.05.18 23rd Brigade took charge of the left of the 8th Divisions sector.
Centre of British line in this region.
British line stretched from Berry au Bac to midway between Juvincourt and Corbeny
50th Division holding right flank. 21st Division holding the left flank.

British Commanders were assured that the sector was so quiet, that an attack was unlikely. Even in the line it would be easy to give the young soldiers of whom the 9th Corps was mainly composed of, training that they desperately needed.

First days in the line provided little evidence to suggest that an attack would take place.
The ‘atmosphere was wonderfully peaceful’, country undamaged by war and peasants were working in the fields quite close to the front line.

12.05.18 to 2nd Devons held 23rd Brigades front line trenches. They found the line a pleasant
20.05.18 contrast to their recent experiences.
Occasional shelling, mainly upon gun positions, but singularly little infantry activity.




18.05.18 Germans did try to rush a post, only to be beaten off with great loss.

20.05.18 2nd Devon’s retaliated by raiding the junction of a communication trench called Boyau Baltique with the German front line. Raiders found trench to be deserted and obtained no identification or contact with the enemy.

2nd Devon’s pulled out of line and sent to Roucy, south of the Aisne in brigade reserve.

26.05.18 2 Germans captured and admitted that an attack would take place the following morning.
16:00 Hours: 2nd Devonshire’s warned that attack was impending and ordered to intermediate line of defence, where it would stand in reserve. West Yorkshires held outpost line. Middlesex held battle zone.

Before midnight, 2nd Devonshire’s were established in underground shelters at the Bois des Buttes (a small hill with two separate summits or pimples, about half a mile from the intersection of the Rheims – Laon road and the Juvincourt – Pontavert Road.)

Shelters comprised of tunnels running through the hill, fitted with electric light and provided comfortable and safe quarters. This was fortunate for the 2nd Devonshire’s during the bombardment.

27.05.18 01:00 Hours: German bombardment began, deluging the Bois des Butts with a flood of
H.E. and gas shells, which compelled everybody for miles back to wear gas masks.
04:00-05:00 Hours: 2nd Devonshire’s ordered to leave shelters to occupy trenches.
3 Company took up position in firing line. 4 Company in support established at Battalion Headquarters on rear of pimple.


03:45 Hours: German infantry had advanced and speedily overcame the remnants of the West Yorkshires and were already penetrating the battle zone, despite the efforts of the outnumbered Middlesex. Therefore the 2nd Devonshire’s found themselves heavily engaged almost directly as they emerged. One platoon on reaching its trench found German machine gunners already behind it. ‘We obliterated these before they knew what had happened,’ writes the platoon commander ‘and this cheered up the troops, who were young and rather demoralized by the shelling and general uncertainty.’



2nd Devonshire’s were at a disadvantage:
 Troops hardly seen ground before due to mist
 Country intricate and wooded.
 Trenches were of indefensibly deep type (could not fire from these trenches).
 Stragglers were retreating from the front, followed hotly by the enemy.

Despite these disadvantages, the 2nd Devonshires put up a splendid stand along northern edge of the Bois des Buttes. They held back the German advances. One eyewitness described the 2nd Devonshire’s as ‘merely an island in the midst of an innumerable and determined foe, fighting with perfect discipline and by the steadiness of their fire, mowing down the enemy in large numbers.’
However, Germans had progressed even faster against 50th Division, than against the 8th division. Outflanked at an early hour by enemy’s rapid advance against the French further west, the 50th Division was thrust back, exposing the left flank of the 8th Division’s Battle Zone.
07:00 Hours: Despite holding off the German advances, a turning movement between the Bois des Buttes and the Bois de l’Edmond cut off their direct line of retreat.

Exact details hard to retrace

Major of Royal Artillery witnessed Colonel Anderson Moreshead’s last stand. These particulars came from a letter to Sir G.M. Bullock from General Heneker, who wrote in high admiration of the Battalion’s splendid stand and glorious example of steadfastness and devotion.


‘At a late hour of the morning, I with those of my men who had escaped the enemy’s ring of machine-guns and his fearful barrage, found the C.O. of the 2nd Devon’s and a handful of men holding the last trench, North of the Canal. The C.O. was calmly writing his orders with a perfect hell of H.E. all round him. I spoke to him, and he told me that nothing could be done. He refused all offers of help from my artillerymen, who were unharmed, and sent them off to get through if they could. His magnificent and dauntless courage and determination to carry on to the end moved one’s emotion.’
No message of any kind came through from the Brigade and Colonel Anderson-Morshead, realising that the Battalion must hold on at all costs, issued written orders that there was to be no retirement, but these were not received by all companies. Platoons and Companies got split up in the maze of deep trenches, with them surrounded by the enemy.



German aeroplanes co-operated in the attack and poured heavy fire upon the British Units.

No.5 and No.6 Platoons after maintaining touch for some time got seperated and were forced back.

2nd Lt. Clarke and No.6 Platoon went in one direction, bumped into some Germans, ‘got rid of them and tried in the opposite direction, with the same result.’ Struck the right trench at 3rd attempt, got back into tunnels, went through hill and out the other side to be greeted by ‘bullets on all sides, including above’.

2nd Lt. Clarke led platoon towards Pontavert and managed by skill and coolness to reach the bridge, through the road and village under intense shellfire.

2nd Lt. Hill and No.5 Platoon went round the west of the hill, got fired upon by heavy German machine gun fire and lost heavily. They tried to make a further stand with remnants, but were pushed back and ultimately cornered and captured near the river, by that time only four men without ammunition remained.

09:30 Hours: Colonel Anderson-Moreshead had rallied less than 50 men, all that remained of the 2nd Devonshire Battalion and charged forward down the hill and opened fire on some German Artillery, who were advancing on the road from Juvincourt. Survivors were in two parties on either side of the road and in directing the movement of his men across the road to join the Adjutant, Colonel Anderson-Moreshead was hit and killed.


Captain Burke with less than 30 men withdrew half way up the hill where they could get a better field of fire. They found some ammunition, but this soon ran out. Ammunition depleted. Captain Burke was hit and the stand ended with a charge by a few survivors into the midst of the enemy.

Very few of the Battalion escaped. Many had fallen at the Bois des Buttes.

Only 80 were collected with 2nd Lt. Clarke’s party as a nucleus for a stand South of Pontavert.

Battalions determined resistance was not in vain. Divisional Commanders report on the battle ascribes to it no small credit for having enabled the Brigadier, General Grogan, to organise the defence of the river line at La Platerie.

General Grogans stand here did not finally prevent the Germans crossing the river, but it made the difference of delaying them long enough to let the 25th Division come up to reinforce the remnants of the 8th and 50th Divisions.

During the next five days, Germans were to press their advance to the Marne, but though shattered and all but obliterated, the 9th Corps managed night after night, day after day, to patch up something of a line, to check the pace of the German advance, to cover Rheims and in the words of General Maistre, commander of Northern Group of French Armies, to ‘allow of the formation of a dyke against which the hostile flood was in the end to break itself and be held.'’


The stand at the Bois des Buttes formed one of the cornerstones at that dyke, and is for all time to come, a most legitimate source of pride and inspiration to the Regiment, while the honour of being cited in the French Orders of the Day and the award of the Croix de Guerre, honours which the battalion was, the first British unit to receive, are ample testimony to its merits.

Colonel Anderson-Moreshead had not long commanded the 2nd Battalion, but his name will always be associated with its stubborn defence at Villers-Bretonneux and with the Bois des Buttes. Lesser deeds have won a posthumous VC; it is his greater glory that his battalion was so specially and originally honoured.

2nd Devonshire’s Casualties at Bois des Buttes

23 Officers and 528 men killed / missing.

Officers Killed

Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson-Moreshead
Captains Burke, Ferguson, Miller, Milner, Openshaw, S.H. Cox and Millman.
Lts. Tindal, Ruttledge, Barratt, Clegg and F.E. Hams.
2nd Lts. R.F.B. Hill, Pells, Cross, Wreford, Lambert, Maunder, Adams, Candler, Leat and Malkim.


2nd Devonshire’s Actions After May 27th 1918



27th May Remnants of 2nd Devonshire’s included Lt. Clarke’s party, the transport men and other
details back at Ventelay, those under instruction at Divisional Schools. On getting back
across the Aisne, 2nd Lt.Clarke’s party had been placed by General Grogan in some old trenches West of the Pontavert-Roucy Road. Germans held back here, but they advanced on the Devon’s right near Gernicourt, where bridges had been left in tact. This resulted in retirement to Roucy. Before noon remnants of the 8th Division assisted the 25th Division in holding back the Germans for several hours.

All 8th Division’s guns were lost north of the river. Without artillery support, defenders task was doubtly difficult. Their only weapons consisted of Lewis Guns and rifles.

By nightfall defenders fell back down slopes to Ventelay. At Ventelay 2nd Lt. Clarkes party joined Major Cope’s party comprising of 40 Devons who were under training at Lewis Gun and other schools. Two parties took up a line on high ground with the Vesle behind.



28th May Early: Germans attacked in force and a retirement across the Vesle was made. General
Grogan organised a determined stand. As men came pouring across the Jonchery Bridge,
8th, 25th and 50th Divisions all mixed up, Grogan rallied them along the railway
embankment, which ran parallel with the left bank giving a good position. There was a
wide stretch of marshy ground along the river, and the Devon’s thought that they could
stop the Germans.
Unfortunately Germans had better success against the French in the West which meant
that a retreat from Jonchery was necessary.
Covered by Major Cope’s command, who formed a defensive flank facing west, General
Grogan’s men got away from Jonchery, and once again halting and facing to their front,
took post between Vandeville and Branscourt for yet another stand, “fighting became
very monotonous now” writes a survivor, “we would hold a position till we were
outflanked, when we withdrew to the next ridge and the same thing happened again. Our
left flank was in the air the whole time and he always concentrated upon it.”

Devonshire’s held Germans until 20:oo hours, when the Germans emerged in force from
woods on the left and thrust the British off the top of the ridge, capturing a farm about
2,000 yards North of Savigny sur Ardre.


The Devon’s mustered 140, including details from the transport lines – supported by a
handful of men from other units. They dashed forward with a swift and resolute advance
thrushing the enemy back, and recovering and securing the dominating ground near the
farm.


29th May Position north of Savigny held until 11:00 hours when a fresh French withdrawal
compelled a retirement to a plateau north of Treslon.
17:30 to 18:00 Hours a determined German assault dislodged the British. As the troops
fell back, French reinforcements began to appear – if it had arrived ten minutes earlier,
situation could have been saved. Devon’s then retreated to a ridge north of Bouleuse.
At Bouleuse, 6th Wiltshires of newly arrived 19th Division were in position. General
Grogan rallied his exhausted men for another stand. “It was astonishing that they had the
strength to respond, but his extraordinary bravery inspired them to fresh efforts.”
It was for this action that General Grogan received the VC.
British line was on forward slope.
Germans attacked until 21:00 Hours when they relaxed pressure and withdrew.



30th May General Grogan handed over command to a Brigadier of the 19th Division. 8th Division
ordered to withdraw behind the Marne and 23rd Brigade established it’s headquarters at
Etrechy.
British pushed back to Champlat – Chambrecy – Bligny. 2 days here.

3rd June 2nd Devonshire’s reduced to 2nd Lieutenant Clarke and 90 men.

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David_Blanchard
THE DIEHARDS IN THE GREAT WAR
VOL. II 1916-1919
BY EVERARD WYRALL


The dispatches record that “the 8th Division (Major-General W.C.G. Heneker) had been involved south of the Somme in some of the heaviest fighting of the year and had behaved with distinguished gallantry. All these Divisions (8th, 21st, 25th and 50th Divisions) had but lately been filled up with young drafts and, despite their high spirits and gallant record, were in no condition to take part in major operations until they had several weeks’ rest.

The 2nd Middlesex, with other units of the 23rd Brigade arrived at Fere-en-Tardenois at 8.30 P.M. on the 4th May, and in a thunderstorm marched to billets at Dravegny, which village was not, however, reached until 5 a.m. on the 5th.

Training was carried out until the 10th when the Battalion began to move forward to the lines in a series of route marches. On the 10th the Middlesex reached Breuil-sur-Vesle, on the 12th Ventelay.

On the 12th of May, in very wet weather, the 23rd Brigade relieved the 217th Regiment of French Infantry in the left subsector of the 8th Divisional Front, the right flank of which rested on the Aisne River, north east of Berry au Bac, and left north-east of La Ville and West of Juvincourt, the latter village being in the German Lines.

The 2nd Middlesex, however, did not go into the front line but were in reserve in Guyencourt. Here they stayed until the 20th May, engaged in ordinary training. Their Diary records that Albuhera Day was spent in skill at arms competitions.

From the battle scarred Somme battlefields the Divison had come to a quiet and peaceful country looking at its best. The depressing monotony of Flanders and the awful wreckage of the Picardy landscapes, with their blasted woods and ruined villages, had no counter part in this fair country to which the tired and worn out 8th division had come. Only occasionally would a shell burst re-echo in the sleeping hills. And but for the frontline trenches, dug in chalk, and the shell holes and ground, honeycombed with dugouts, one would hardly have known that the holocaust of war had passed that way. That such a quiet spot could exist along the allied line seemed impossible.

On the 20th the Battalion moved up to the support line at Bois des Boches where they remained until the 27th, upon which date the Germans launched their great attack. For this quiet part of the line had been but a snare and a delusion. The Germans had fixed upon this peaceful part of the line on which to launch their great attack, just as we had selected the Cambrai front in November 1917, where we knew battle worn German Divisions were resting.

On the 26th greatly increased movement behind the enemy frontline suggested an attack by the enemy. Two prisoners captured by the French on the previous night, had definitely stated that the enemy intended launching a great attack on the 27th May.

At 6 p.m. all battle stations were occupied and the guns carried out a counter preparation bombardment. But throughout the evening the enemy’s artillery was silent. The captured Germans had stated that the enemy’s bombardment would open at 1 a.m. on the 27th and punctually at that hour there was a terrific roar.

“Within a second a thousand guns roared out their iron hurricane. The night was rent with sheets of flame. The earth shuddered under the avalanche of missiles…leapt skyward in dust and tumult. Even above the dim screamed the fierce crescendo of approaching shells, ear splitting crashes as they burst…All the time the dull thud, thud, thud of detonations and drum fire. Inferno raged and whirled around the Bois des Buttes (23rd Brigade Headquarters) The dug outs rocked…timbers started…Men rushed for shelter, seizing kits, weapons, gas masks, message pads as they dived for safety. It was a descent into hell.” Such is the description of what that terrific bombardment was like by an officer present (Captain Rogerson, 2nd West Yorkshire regiment, of the 23rd Brigade Staff).

The 2nd Middlesex were in the battle zone in front of Ville au Bois, supporting the 2nd West Yorkshires who held on the front line. For three hours this savage bombardment went on and then, between 4 and 5 a.m., the enemy’s infantry advanced the attack. They broke through the line on either flank of the Division holding the front and support lines. Of what happened to the 2nd Middlesex there is little record. The Battalion Diary has only the following entry:

Enemy bombardment commenced at 1 a.m. and continued till 5 a.m. (At) 4.35 a.m. O.C. ‘B’ Company reports to Battalion Headquarters that he has been overwhelmed by the enemy who are now close to the Battalion Headquarters. C.O. sends Captain E.C. Lawson to brigade Headquarters with message explaining the situation. As only Captain Lawson, 2nd Lieut. J.J.Carter and twenty-one other ranks got out of the line it is impossible to record what became of the Company Commanders and other officers and men of the Battalion. Captain Lawson, 2nd Lieut. Carter and twenty-one other ranks were detailed for guard on the three bridges crossing the canal and Aisne, south of Pontavert, till they were prepared by the Royal Engineers for blowing up. This party then retired to Roucy and took up a defensive position till forced to retire on Montigny.”

Fighting desperately, as they did on the Somme in March, the remnants of the Division fell back, contesting every bit of ground while there were men to hold on. On the 28th Major Drew rejoined the survivors of the 2nd Middlesex. On the 29th and 30th May 2nd Lieuts. Mahony and Polhill, with Personnel of Lewis-gun and Gas School, rejoined with sixty other ranks and ten other ranks from Corps Signalling Schools. These Officers and 2nd Lieut. Carter and seventy other ranks were sent as details to the forward area, the drummers and pipers also going. But on the night of the 29th./ 30th May, the 56th Brigade of the 19th Divison had arrived to relieve the remnants of the 23rd Brigade elements of the latter collecting at Nanteuil.

By the 31st of May the Allied line had been stabilized and on the 1st June ran from north of Rhiems, in a south westerly direction through Coulommes, Bligny to Dormans and thence along the Aisne to Chateau Thierry, from which place it arrived again in a north westerly and northerly direction to west of Soissons. This the enemy had made a deep pocket in the French and British Line. Again he had gained ground which was to be a danger to him.

Practically, the whole of the 2nd Battalion was lost in the Battle of Aisne, and so great were the casualties that the 23rd Brigade was only able to form one Composite Company, consisting of 250 rifles, of which number there were only ninety-two other ranks belonging to the Middlesex.

On the 2nd June, this Composite Company moved to Etrechy, elements of the Brigade troops being still in the line. On the 9th a move was made to Broussy-le-Grand; and on the 12th the brigade entrained at Fere-en-Campenoise which lieut. Colonel E.E.F. Baker (Commanding 2nd Middlesex) in temporary command.

Hangest was reached on the 15th, where on detrainment, all units marched to the Heucourt area, the Middlesex billeting in that village and in Croquison.

By the end of June, the 8th Division, with most of its units brought up to something near strength again, was in training in the Gamaches-St.Valery area, the 2nd Middlesex being billeted at Hebecourt.

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David_Blanchard
NOTES FROM THE WEST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT IN THE WAR 1914 – 1918
BY EVERARD WYRALL


THE BATTLE OF THE AISNE 1918
27TH MAY TO 6TH JUNE



It had been anticipated by the British General Staff that before the enemy resumed his main offensive on the Arras – Amiens – Montidier front, the Lys offensive would be followed by a similar attack on the southern flanks of the Allied Armies; i.e. on the Aisne.

The strength of the British resistance in Flanders had forced the enemy to disest and turn his attention southward, but before he could launch the Aisne offensive he had to rest and train divisions which had been used in the March Offensive, and before the end of May these divisions would not be fresh and fit to attack again.

In this attack, several British Divisions, which had been sent down to the Aisne to rest, became involved. They had been sent down at the disposal of Marshal Foch to replace certain French Divisions of the Sixth French Army, which had been concentrated behind Amiens. These British Divisions were the 8th, 21st, 25th and 50th, subsequently reinforced by the 19th Division.

“The 8th Division” said official dispatches, “had been involved south of the Somme in some of the heaviest fighting of the year and had behaved with distinguished gallantry.” That was during the German offensive in March in which the division had lost heavily; the drafts which arrived to fill up its ranks were young, and were in no condition to take part in major operations until they had several weeks rest and training.”

This was especially true of the 2nd West Yorkshires, who as recently as the 24th and 25th April at Villers Bretonneux, had lost 16 officers and 404 other ranks. During the Great War it was strange how Death stalked certain battalions like a greedy monster, for again and again the gallant 2nd West Yorkshires, in many a bloody fight, were all but wiped out; yet again and again they filled up their depleted ranks ready for the next encounter.

The 2nd West Yorkshires (Commanded by Lieut.-Colonel A.E. Lowry) were at Querrieu, whence the Battalion moved on 1st May to Boutellerie. The 8th Division was then under orders to move north-west for a training area near Abbeville, but these orders were cancelled, and instead the division was ordered down to the Aisne front for rest and training.

Drafts arrived for the West Yorkshires on 2nd May, and on the 4th the 23rd Brigade (8th Division), to which the 2nd Battalion belonged, marched to Saleux and there entrained at 6.30 a.m., marching, after breakfast, to camp at Bravegny where the 23rd Brigade was concentrating. In this camp the Battalion (and Brigade) remained until the morning of the 10th May, when a move forward to the front line began by a march of ten miles to Roucy on the 11th. The strength of the Battalion was now 26 Officers, 679 other ranks, less 12 officers and 86 other ranks, “away from battalion” leaving 14 Officers and 593 other ranks with the Battalion.

On the 12th May, the 23dr Brigade relieved the 217th R.I. of the 71st French Division in the left sub-sector of the 8th Divisional Front, which extended from the River Aisne at Berry au Bac to a point one and a half miles north-north-east of La Ville-aux-Bois. The 2nd Devons went into the front line, the 2nd West Yorkshires were in support with Battalion Headquarters in a quarry, and all companies comfortably settled in dug outs in Bois des Boches near La Ville-aux-Bois.

Several days of quietude, excepting counter battery work, succeeded the move up into the line. The weather was hot and although conditions were not unpleasant, though the enemy was obviously on the alert.

A further draft of 107 other ranks joined on the 19th May which brought the strength of the West Yorkshires up to 32 Officers and 783 other ranks, though only 18 Officers and 524 other ranks were with the Battalion.

On the 20th May the Battalion took over the front line from the Devons in front of La Mussette, which was on the Cambrai-Chalon-sur-Marne Road.

The line taken over by the 8th Division on the 12th May lay south of Juvincourt, it was the furthest point north east of the Allied line from Rhiems to Noyon. All three brigades were in the line, 25th right, 24th centre and 23rd left. Each brigade had one battalion in the front line, one in support and one in reserve; each front line battalion had three companies in the forward trenches and one in reserve.

The front line held by the 8th Division was peculiar; it formed a right-angled salient pushed out into the German positions. The northern side was about seven thousand and the eastern side some three thousand yards in lentgh. The Aisne and the Canal ran through Pontavert on the left, the village being roughly six thousand yards in rear of the front line trenches. On the right the flank of the division rested on the Aisne itself at Berry-au-Bac. The river and the canal then swung forward and running up along the eastern side of the salient, formed an obstacle both to the Germans and British and so protected the front line trenches from surprise attacks.

North of the Aisne the country in which the forward defences lay was fairly flat and open, with the exception of one wood – the Bois des Boches – in the left subsector and a hill called the Bois des Buttes, and was not overlooked by the enemy by the enemy except from Hill 108, a peculiar formation lying just across the Aisne from Berry au Bac. This hill was held half by the Division and half by the enemy and from it was possible to overlook a considerable portion of the British back areas of the river. This disadvantage necessitated the erection of a great deal of camouflage in order to screen the rear defence lines and communication trenches.

From Berry au Bac to the right, to Pontavert on the left, there were no less than thirty- four bridges across the Aisne and the canal. On the British side of the river the country rose at once to a line of hills which shut out the Aisne valley from the south. The principle feature, south of the Aisne, which concerned the defence of the line of the Aisne and was an important positioned, echeloned behind the right flank.

The only remaining important part of the front was the Miette stream which was deep, about twenty feet wide and with very marshy banks. The Miette ran from front to rear, at right angles to the front and servedas the dividing line between the right and centre brigades, it was bridged in thirteen places.

There were two lines of defence, the Outpost Zone and the Battle Zone. In the 23rd Brigade (The left subsector) the first line of the Outpost Line was Trench Godart on the right and Trench Wilson on the left.
The second line was Trench Van Haellerbrouck on the right and Trench de la Route on the left. The third line was Trench Migault.

Of the Battle Zone, the front line was the Ouv de Cologne on the right and Bois de la Musette on the left; the second, Bois de Dantzig; the third, Trench Boes. On the right of Trench Boes was the Reduit de Kiel and on the left Reduit du Bois des Buttes.

The 8th Division had received strict orders that “not one yard of ground must be lost,” and this necessitated the trenches being held in strength, and the bulk of the infantry of the division being within range of the enemy’s trench mortars.

Each night patrols crossed No Mans Land with the object of capturing a German prisoner for identification. On the night of the 23rd May one of two patrols sent out bumped up against a strong German patrol and a fight ensued, during which seven of the enemy were accounted for, one being taken prisoner but afterwards killed in the fighting. Two men of the West Yorkshires were wounded and three were missing. The next night the C.O. and “c” Company went back to billets in Roucy for training preparatory to a raid on the enemy’s trenches.

Nothing unusual occurred on the 25th May, but on the 26th the French obtained definite information, from captured Germans that the enemy intended launching a great offensive on the 27th May, and immediately preparations were made to meet the attack.

Colonel Lowry , with “C” Company, returned from Roucy and moved up into the support line – Trench Migault, the other three companies being then in the front line. The 2nd Devons were also moved up into the support line – Trench Migault, the other three companies being then in the front line. The 2nd Devons were also moved up into trenches in the Bois des Buttes, from Roucy, ready to take up an intermediate line as soon as the situation declared itself.

The captured Germans, besides giving information that it would be preceded by a three hours’ intense bombardment, and at 1 a.m. on the 27th May the hostile guns opened fire.

High explosives and gas shells rained upon the divisional area, the enemy’s trench mortars joining in the bombardment. At 1 a.m., when the enemy’s guns opened fire, there was only a slight ground mist, but by 3 a.m. onwards it was impossible to see more than thirty to forty yards ahead. Again the elements were on the side of the enemy. His tanks could overwhelm the front line troops ere ever they could be dealt with by anti tank guns of the divisional artillery.

During the hostile bombardment the 2nd West Yorkshires, in accordance with orders, evacuated the forward line and withdrew to the Redoubt line, and there awaited the enemy’s attack; in the hostile bombardment the battalion had already suffered heavy casualties.

Apparently the German attack fell first of all on the point of the salient held by the 25th Brigade. The enemy’s tanks first flattened out the wire entanglements and his infantry followed closely. Having practically wiped out two battalions of the brigade after they had put up a magnificent resistance, though almost surrounded, the enemy carried the Miette and attacked the main portion of the 25th Brigade from the rear, nearly Capturing the Brigadier and his staff.

The 24th Brigade, in the centre of the line, suffered almost the same fate as the 25th. The Brigadiers of both the 25th and 24th Brigades had to fight their way back clear of the enemy.

On the 23rd Brigade front, the Divisional Narrative states that the ‘S.O.S. went up at 5.25 a.m.’, but the Battalion Diary of the 2nd West Yorkshires stated that it was 430 a.m. when the enemy came over in very large numbers and, although at a disadvantage owing to having to wear box respirators ‘we promptly replied with machine-guns and rifle fire and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy, who were temporarily held up.’

Nevertheless it was evident that the enemy had penetrated the Redoubt line on the right and left of the Battalion and the latter found it necessary to withdraw to the support line.

The time was now between 5 and 6 a.m., the enemy was well past the West Yorkshires on both flanks and threatened to surround the 23rd Brigade as he had done the 24th and 25th Brigades.

The remainder of battalions and Brigade Headquarters therefore withdrew to a position south of the Aisne, just above La Platrerie. But the enemy had already crossed the river about Gerricourt and was advancing upon the right flank of the 23rd Brigade so that the latter was again forced to withdraw and took up another position at the base of Roucy Hill. Here the Brigade fell in with the remnants of the 24th and 25th Brigades and some troops of the 25th Division which had been sent up to strengthen the front line of the 8th Division.

Towards the night, however, the position had to be evacuated and the survivors of all three brigades and other troops who had attached themselves to the remnants of the 8th Division withdrew down the slopes of Roucy Hill towards Ventelay.

The official narratives and diaries contain practically nothing concerning the gallant defence put up by the 2nd West Yorkshires, only the Divisional Narrative records in the early stages of the battle “the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment steadfastly held their ground for a considerable time.”

On the night of the 27th May the line of the 8th Division apparently ran along the topr of the hill separating the Aisne valley from the valley of the Vesle River.

At 6 a.m. on the 28th May the Brigadier of the 23rd Brigade assumed command of all troops on the River Vesle from one mile west of Jonchery to one mile east of that place. All available men in the area were collected to form a firing line along the Vesle, the railroad embankment being used to align the men on.

By 10 a.m. a strong and fairly well organised line had been established west and east of Jonchery with bridgeheads strongly guarded. Despite vigorous attacks by the enemy, all of which were repulsed, the position was held until early afternoon. By this period, however, the Germans had crossed the Vesle about two miles west of Jonchery and were pushing on in the direction of Vendeuil. Fighting all the way the line, formed of remnants of the 25th, 50th and 8th Divisions withdrew slowly in the line of heights between Vendeuil and Branscourt. This line was reinforced on the right by French Troops, but on the left flank the enemy was continually outflanking and eventually the line was forced back to a position south east of Branscourt. Here the left flank was strengthened at night by a French regiment advancing from Savigny.

How many Officers and men were left of the 2nd West Yorkshires, or of the 23rd Brigade, by the morning of the 29th May it is impossible to say, indeed, even when the diaries of the battalion and the brigade mention “we” and “us” it is almost certain that the plural included troops of other units and formations. So that the story of the grim fighting which took place until the remnants of the 8th Division reached Manteuil loses its individual interest and becomes general.

The line taken up on the night of the 28th was reorganised and orders issued on the morning of the 29th that it was to be maintained as long as possible. Up to 11 a.m., the line was held intact, a little desultory fighting on either side taking place before that hour. But about 11 a.m. the French troops, on the left, who had moved up from Savigny the previous day, began to withdraw and the whole line then fell back to the Plateau Ridge, just north of Treslon, where a position was established on a slightly reverse slope, in conjunction with the French troops on the left and troops of the 21st Division and more French troops on the right. This position was not under direct observation excepting from balloons.

The enemy had followed very closely but was handled so roughly that he fell back, being obviously puzzled as to the exact position held by the 8th Divisional troops. But in little while he sent up observation balloons and aided by aeroplanes, he was able to detect the position of the reverse slopes of the hill.

About 1 p.m. long streams of enemy transport were seen coming along the Jonchery-Savigny Road up to the farm, which the 8th Division had evacuated. The transport proved to be trench mortars which, being established near the farm and directed by the balloons were soon pounding the lives of the harrassed British troops. The latter had had no time in which to dig themselves in and very soon casualties were again heavy. Several times during the afternoon the German infantry attempted to rush the hill, but on each occasion were beaten back with heavy loss. But towards 5 p.m. the British position was getting critical. Thinned out by heavy trench mortar and artillery fire, the gallant defenders had thrown all their supports into the firing line. By 5.30 p.m. it was evident that a crisis was impending. The enemy had thickened his firing line, he had brought up innumerable machine guns and his trench mortar and artillery fire had increased very much in volume.

About 5.45 p.m., after whistles had been heard, the German signal for attack, the enemy advanced and delivered a very determined assault against the right flank and the front. “This “ records the Diary of the 23rd Infantry Brigade “drove us, weakened as we were in numbers, down to the bottom of the valley and barely allowed us sufficient time to reform on the ridge, north of Bouleuse, where a battalion of the Wiltshires was in position.”

But this position was badly sited, the field of fire being hampered by woods and thickets, which enabled the enemy to follow close on the heels of the British troops.

A few hundred reinforcements then arrived, at a critical moment, and drove the enemy back when all seemed lost.

From 6 to 9 p.m. the position was desperate, but at the latter hour the enemy ceased his attempts and, when darkness fell, the position on the Bouleuse ridge was secure for the night. So intermixed had units become that the line rested that night on the ridge consisted of troops of the 23rd, 24th and 25th Brigades (8th Division), with elements of the 50th, 21st, 25th and 19th Divisions, as well as some French troops.

On the 30th May the 19th Division took over the line and the 8th Division (what was left of it) was collected at Nanteuil.

In the three days fighting from the 27th to the 29th May inclusive, the 2nd West Yorkshires had suffered in killed, wounded or missing no less than 23 Officers and 538 other ranks, the battalion on 25th May having had a fighting strength of 33 Officers and 760 other ranks and a ration strength of 23 Officers and 626 other ranks. It is very evident therefore that very few Officers and men came out of that terrible battle unscathed.

2nd West Yorkshire Casualties

Lieutenant-Colonel A.E.E Lowry had been wounded early in the action on the 27th May.
Major F.H. Tounsend was reported missing between 27th and 29th May.
Captain H. Bastow was killed on 27th May. (1)
Captain C.McAllister was gassed on the 27th May (2)
Lieutenant F.R. Kennington wounded on the 27th May.
Lieutenant N.O. Tucker wounded on the 27th May.
Lieutenant B.A. Peace wounded on the 27th May.
(Adjutant) Captain C. Sandars – first reported missing between the 27th and 29th May was afterwards reported killed. (3) Listed in Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register as Captain C. Sanders.
Captain R.H.L.Dashwood – first reported missing between the 27th and 29th May was afterwards reported killed. (4)
Lieutenant C.W.Hall was also reported missing between 27th and29th May.
2nd Lieutenant A.J. Stagg killed on the 28th May. (5)
2nd Lieutenant A.L. Pearson wounded on 27th May.
2nd Lieutenant F.R.Ransome reported missing.

Between the 27th and 29th May the following ten officers were reported as missing.
2nd Lieutenants W.B. Garrity
R.B. Richardson (subsequently reported killed) (6)
H.J.Rigby
D.G. Garbutt
R. Mason
V.R.Scott
H.Wiggins
J.W.Marsden
M.J.Wrigley
Lieutenant T.B. O’Dowd R.A.M.C (the Battalion M.O.)

So weak was the 8th Division that on the 1st of June, after all the remnants had been collected at Nanteuil, they could only be formed into Composite Battalion, under the title of 1/8th Battalion; what proportion of West Yorkshire men was with this Battalion it is impossible to say, but it must have been very small. A 2/8th Composite Battalion was formed on 2nd June 1918. These two Composite Battalions were attached to the 7th Brigade, 19th Division, then in the line. On the 6th June, when the Battle of Aisne, 1918, ended, the survivors of the 2nd West Yorkshires were at Etrechy.

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Florent

Hello from France,

It's my first message on the forum .

. I live in Marne area, France and am interested in british troops who fought in Marne in 1918 ( especially 19th - 51st -62nd Div- NZ Cyclists)

In fact, I live in a small village south East of Chalons sur Marne. The 19th division was billeted here at the end of May 1918, just before to be called on Aisne front.

My village is " Saint Germain la ville " , does anybody know wich unit of the 19th was billetted here in May 1918?

I know from war diaries that the 2 battalions were in neighbours villages; 2nd Wilts at Vesigneul and 9th R.W.F at Chepy. But which one at Saint Germain ?

Thanks you in advance

Regards

Florent

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edwin astill
Hello Edwin,

Thanks for your reply- look forward to the book.

Send my regards to Salisbury, I used to teach History at Bishop Wordsworth's School, like the museum to be found in The Close.

Regards

David

Thanks - the book is out and can be ordered over the museum website, £8.99 +pp. I shamelessly plug it since all the money goes to the museum. Our Regimental Museums exist on meagre cash sums and depend on volunteers - they are 'national treasures' and I fear they may disappear if not actively supported.

Regards

Edwin

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David_Blanchard

Yves,

Do you know this book? Is there much on the Aisne Battle?

Carnoye (J.-C.), La Cote 240, Vallée de la Vesle, Vallée de l'Ardre (Mai-Octobre 1918). La Défense de Reims, Carnoye, 1998, 84 pages.

Regards

David

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David_Blanchard

A selection of French Books on the Aisne (from the http://www.grande-guerre.org/Bibliographie/1918.htm website)

Troisième bataille de l'Aisne / seconde bataille de la Marne :

La Deuxième Bataille de la Marne, Guides Illustrés Michelin des Champs de Bataille, Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand, 1920, 150 pages.

Benoit (Christian), "La Marne 1918, le bois de Belleau", in Hauts Lieux de la Grande Guerre, Bernard Giovanangeli Éditeur, Paris, 2005, 160 pages.

Carnoye (J.-C.), La Cote 240, Vallée de la Vesle, Vallée de l'Ardre (Mai-Octobre 1918). La Défense de Reims, Carnoye, 1998, 84 pages.

Drémont (Pierre), Château-Thierry et ses Environs dans la Tourmente, 27 Mai - 21 Juillet 1918, Ysec Éditions, Louviers, 2001, 240 pages. Ce livre est disponible chez Anovi

Greenwood (Paul), The Second Battle of the Marne, 1918, Airlife, Shrewsbury, 1998, 211 pages.

Labayle (Éric), "La seconde bataille de la Marne (27 mai - 6 août 1918)", in Le Ruban Rouge, Juin 2004.

Labayle (Éric), "La bataille du bois de Belleau (30 mai - 5 juillet 1918)", in 14-18, le Magazine de la Grande Guerre, n° 22, Octobre-novembre 2004.

Lachaux (Gérard), 1918, Dernières Batailles de l'Aisne, C.H.A.V., Chavignon, 1998, 173 pages.

Nobécourt (R.G.), L'Année du 11 Novembre 1918, Laffont, Paris, 1968, 437 pages.

Portères (lieutenant-colonel), Le 167e Régiment d'Infanterie sur la Savière (Juin 1918), s.d., 26 pages.

Vedovati (Jean), Les Combats dans la Vallée de la Marne, Cercle Historique et Culturel Dormantiste, collection "Dormans 1914-1918", La Roue du Cercle, Dormans, 1997, 95 pages.

Vedovati (Jean), Combats de Lachapelle-Monthodon, du 15 au 20 juillet 1918, Deuxième Bataille de la Marne, Guerre de 1914-1918, Association pour la Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Historique et Culturel de la Commune de Lachapelle-Monthodon, s.d., 16 pages.

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Florent

Regarding the book " la cote 240":

Hill 240 is west of Reims, above villages of Vrigny, Gueux,Janvry and Mery-Prémecy.

Strategic point attacked by germans in May 1918 ( 33 ID -213 ID).

This book is good for those able to read french.

Some mistake regarding units. Few pages about May, more detailed for June-July on the Ardre valley.

with French, Italians, and british troops.

Detailed german regiment history book translated ( but in French !)

I don't know if still available now ?....

Regards

Florent

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David_Blanchard

Thanks for your help, Florent,

Regards

David

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David_Blanchard

Link to a recent Travel Guide to the Chemin des Dames, published on the 'Unfortunate Region' Website:

Click Here

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David_Blanchard
NOTES FROM SHORT HISTORY OF THE 19TH DIVISION
Battle of Champagne, May 27th – June 19th 1918



The detrainment of the Division in the Chalons-sur-Marne area was completed by May 19th. The Divisional Artillery followed two days later. The Division now came under the VIII British Corps and the Fourth French Army, commanded by General Gourard, known as “the Lion of the Argonne.”

Having suffered extremely heavy casualties in both the Bapaume and Lys operations, the Division was now composed almost entirely of new drafts many of whom were not yet fully trained, and the Division consequently remained in the Chalons area until May 28th, to rest, train and reorganise.

On May 27th, the enemy opened his Champagne offensive on a wide front between Rhiems and Soissons, and by the end of the day had penetrated the allied positions to some considerable depth. The Division was immediately ordered to stand by and the Infantry were hurriedly rushed up in buses on the night May 28th/29th, to reinforce the battlefront. After travelling all night, the leading Brigade (57th) reached Chambrely, where the troops debussed. The 58th Brigade followed and debussed in the same neighbourhood at 5 a.m. on the 29th. The position, as ascertained by the G.O.C. 19th Division at 9 a.m. 29th May from the IX British Corps was as follows:

“The enemy had energetically exploited his initial successes, and had already reached the villages of Crugny and Brouillet. British and French troops were much mixed up and, in many cases, disorganised, and all were tired and had lost heavily. A gap existed in the Ardre Valley between Brouillet and Serzy.”

The Division was therefore ordered to fill this gap and the 2 Brigades (57th & 58th) which had arrived were immediately moved forward with this object in view.

By midday, May 29th, a line had been organised and was held from Lhery to Faverolles on the River Ardle – 57th Brigade on the left and 58th Brigade on the right. Touch on the flanks were established by patrols with the 13th French Division on the left and the154th French Division on the right and this line was held throughout the 29th and the night of the 29th/30th. Various detachments of British and French Divisions in front of this line were driven in by the enemy and absorbed as far as possible on reaching this line. Meanwhile the 56th Infantry Brigade and the Machine Gun Battalion had arrived in the Chambrely area, and had been disposed in support positions, but it was not until the night of the 29th / 30th that the Divisional Artillery who had a lengthy march, were able to come into action.

In the early morning of the 30th and throughout the day the enemy delivered strong attacks and succeeded in penetrating the Allied Line on both flanks of the Division, reaching as far as Romigny on the left, and Bouleuose and Germigny on the right. The 19th Division was compelled to fall back fighting, and by short piecemeal withdrawals to a line from Aubilly to Ville-en-Tardennois. The flank of the Division had meanwhile become much extended during the day.

The 5th South Wales Borderers were holding the high ground to cover Romigny and the 6th Wiltshires Regiment had after a determined fight, been driven from Bouleuse. At nightfall the Divisional front was extended to approximately a width of 12,000 yards.

The newly drafted troops of the Division had acquitted themselves well, but casualties had been heavy, and the Division sustained a severe loss in that Brigadier-General A.E. Glasgow, D.S.O was slightly wounded. Brigadier-General Heath D.S.O. assumed command of the 58th Brigade as well as his own Brigade.

The 58th had suffered the most heavily as a result of the enemy penetration on the northern flank and hostile attacks from the rear.

Equally heavy fighting continued in the 31st and although several critical situations were temporarily eased by gallant counter attacks and desperate resistance – notably a counter-attack by the 9th Cheshire Regiment (led in person by their C.O. Lt-Col. W.W.S. Cunninghame) and also one by the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment – some ground was gained, including the village of Ville-en-Tardennois. All the main attacks, however were either beaten off completely or at most prevented from obtaining any serious success. Perhaps the most eloquent testimony to the day’s fighting was that by dawn on the June 1st the Division’s line was unbroken, but that the rifle strength of Brigade was reduced to:

56th Brigade 900
57th Brigade 750
58th Brigade 350
Pioneers 500
19th Battalion Machine Gun Corps had only 35 guns out of 64 still in action.

During the morning of June 1st, the enemy delivered further attacks against the French on our left and very rapidly poured troops into the Bois de Bonval, which was held by the French Division on our left. In the afternoon, he continued his attacks against the left of the Divisional front (57th Bdg) and later again his attacks spread along the whole of the Divisional front. Owing chiefly to his successes against the French Division on the left flank, the 57th Bdgs line west of Chambrecy had to be abandoned, but the line on the right was maintained with very little attention. The village of Aubilly alone was lost. Amongst other instances of hand fighting one may quote a counter attack carried out by the 8th Gloucesters Regiment in which the French 2/22nd Regiment rendered gallant assistance, and by which the important high ground north east of Chambrecy was denied the enemy and a critical situation averted.

An organised withdrawal was carried out on the enemy of June 1st to a line from the village of Bligny on the right and including the Montagne de Bligny and the Bois d’Ellisse, to the village of Champlat on the left.

The following message was received from General Franchet D’Esperey, commanding G.A.N. directs me to communicate to the G.O.C. 19th Division his appreciation of the spirit shown by the 19th Division during the present operations.

“On the eve of the birthday of H.M. The King of England the General Officer commanding the G.A.N. wishes to avail himself of the opportunity to thank Major-General Jeffrey and the Division under his command for their fine performance under trying circumstances.”


2nd June – 5th June No serious enemy attacks attempted. Troops heavily engaged in preparing defensive lines strengthening positions.
On numerous occasions heavy casualties caused by hostile artillery.

6th June Heavy fighting. Enemy attacked Montagne de Bligny, a summit held by the 9th Cheshire Regiment.
First two attacks driven off. At 1:00 a.m., after an intense bombardment, enemy succeeded in gaining the summit of the hill. An immediate counter attack by 9th Cheshire’s failed to restore the situation.
Second counter attack by the 1/4th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry succeeded retaking the hill, inflicting large casualties upon the enemy and the capture of 40 prisoners.
As a result of this operation and the defence of the 8th North Staffords on the right of the Divisional Front, the French Division on the right were able to retake the village of Bligny, enabling the British right to swing back.

The following extract from the official report of General Pelle, Commanding V French Corps, on
action of June 6th 1918.

“Behaviour of the British.
The 19th Division had been in the line for nine days and had five days of heavy fighting. It had twice been
reinforced by composite units, which had behaved well under fire. A very strict discipline exists in this
fine Division…. The French troops have been profoundly impressed by the fine bearing of their British
Allies.”

For this action 56th Infantry Brigade and the 1.4th Kings Shropshire Light Infantry were awarded the Crois
de Guerre with Star and Croix de Guerre with Palm, respectively.

8th – 19th June No attacks. Shelling persistent and heavy. Large proportion of gas used.

Resistance of the 19th Division had defeated the enemy’s plan, which was to advance up the Ardre Valley
and envelop Rheims from the South West. Had his plan succeeded, the whole course of the subsequent
fighting might have been changed to the serious disadvantage to the Allies.

All units of the 19th Division had been greatly reduced that it was necessary to reorganise the 19th Division
into one composite Infantry Brigade, one composite Battalion, being found from each of the three
Brigades.

June 19th Division relieved by the 8th Italian Division.

From March 21st to June 19th, 19th Division had borne the brunt of 3 successive German Offensives and had
suffered 13,000 casualties, 90% of strength of Division.

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David_Blanchard

There were two VC's won on the Aisne in May 1918, one was by Private Halliwell of the Lancashire Fusiliers the other by General Grogan of the Worcestershire Regiment:

Grogan%20(Stacke).JPG

Brigadier General George William St George Grogan - Worcestershire Regiment, Commanding 23rd Brigade (8th Division). Born Devonport, Plymouth on 1st September 1875. Eldest of five sons of Brigadier-General Edward George Grogan CB CBE JP formerly 42nd Highlanders (Black Watch) and Ida Mary Georgina Hall daughter of Admiral Sir W King Hall KCB. Father was responsible for developing the dockyard at Devonport. Educated at Stubbington, United Services College Westward Ho and Royal Military College Sandhurst. Commissioned into West India Regiment 1896. Served on operations in Sierra Leone 1898 and West Africa 1898-99. Employed with the Egyptian Army 1902-07. Transferred to KOYLI 1907 and Worcestershire Regiment 1908. Serving in Egypt when war broke out.

Returned to England. To France 9th November 1914. CO 2nd Worcestershire end-December 1914 - 6th January 1915. Wounded and evacuated. Returned to France as CO 1st Battalion March 1915. Brother Lieutenant James Colin Grogan King’s Own Scottish Borderers killed in action at Gallipoli 4th June 1915. Awarded Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, London Gazette 14th January 1916. Won DSO at Bouchavesnes on 4th March 1917 during a successful attack. While commanding his battalion he visited captured trenches during the action and gave instructions regarding dispositions and consolidation. He kept Brigade informed of the situation and his reports were of great value, LG 11th May 1917.

Commander 23rd Brigade 12th March 1917 - 12th May 1919. Captain F C Roberts, his Brigade Major, won the VC on 31st July 1917. Brother Lieutenant Gerald Forman Grogan 183rd Tunnelling Company RE killed in action 8th January 1918 and is buried in Bard Cottage Cemetery, Boezinghe, Belgium. Won VC at Bouleuse Ridge, River Aisne, France on 27th May 1918, LG 25th July 1918. VC presented by the King at Ranchicourt, France on 8th August 1918. Won Bar to DSO at Moreuil on 29th March 1918 for gallantry over a long period of active operations. On one occasion when in command of the left of the division it was mainly due to his efforts that the line was maintained and extended when troops on the left were withdrawn. Whenever the position became critical he went forward to restore it and his splendid example of courage and endurance greatly inspired all ranks, LG 26th July 1918. MID seven times.

Commander 238th Infantry Brigade, North Russian Relief Force May - October 1919. Companion of the Order of the Bath, LG 3rd June 1919. CO 3rd Worcestershires February 1920. Brought Battalion back from India prior to disbandment. ADC to the King April 1920. Married Ethel Gladys Elger 1920. Two sons. Colonel and Commander 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, Aldershot Command October 1923 - April 1925. Retired as Honorary Brigadier General June 1926. Colonel of Worcestershire Regiment 1938 - 1945. Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms, HM Body Guard 1933-45. Died at Silverdene, Sunningdale, Berkshire on 3rd January 1962, cremated at Woking Crematorium, Surrey and his ashes scattered there. VC held privately.

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David_Blanchard

The e-book of:

'When the Lantern of Hope Burned Low. The story of the 1/4th Northumberland Fusiliers (T.F.) during the German offensives of March, April, May, 1918. By Rev. R Wilfred Callin, C.F.'

Can be downloaded here:

Click Here

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David_Blanchard

Information regarding the V C won by Pte Joel Halliwell of the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, 25th Division can be found here:

Click Here

The 11th lancashire Fusilliers was the battalion that J R R Tolkien joined in the war. However, in 1918 Tolkien was struck down with gastritis and so missed the Aisne battle.

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DaveBrigg

A great resouce David - thanks for all the work

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David_Blanchard

There were two famous 'last stands' made on the 27th May 1918, one was by the 2nd Devons at the Bois des Buttes the other was made by the 5th (Gibraltar 1779-1783) Field Battery, Royal Artillery.

Below is a painting of the stand by the Artist Terence Cuneo:

6260054369_5fc13e4116_z.jpg

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6th Shropshires

Hi

This is a great thread.

Could anyone tell me where the 11/Cheshies where on the 1st June.

Thanks

Annette

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David_Blanchard

Hello Annette,

By the 1st June it would be difficult to say where the 11th Cheshires were, as this was a retreat and many of the battalions were severely reduced. A composite battalion of the 25th Division was formed under Major Trail of the 3rd Worcesters which would have comprised units of all brigades of the 25th Division, including elements of the Cheshires.

At this stage the 25th Div would have been in the area of Boullin near La Neuville (from Hist. of 25th Div page 267)

I hope this helps,

David

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6th Shropshires

Hi David

Thats fine, a distant relative wanted to know where her grandfather was killed and what actions the 11/Ches. were involved in, I had already told her that we may not find the exact location.

Thanks

Annette

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6th Shropshires

Hi David

After looking up where La Neuville is on a map, I now know they were behind the 19th Division on the 1st June an d after quick look at 19th Division's history can see more mentions of 25th Div., so can plot the rough movements.

Annette

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busman

David,

I've been researching a family relative who served with the 10th Cheshires (25th Div) and have enclosed the following account amalgamated from both the Battalions war diary and A.Crookendens 'History of the Cheshire Regiment in the Great War' which may be of interest to all.

However I still have two Questions....

(1)where can I obtain a copy of a 'trench map' of the relevant area

(2) what were the 10th Cheshires movements between the end of May 1918 and 23rd June 1918?

A most informative and interesting thread

regards

Busman

THE 10th CHESHIRES - BATTLE OF THE AISNE

On the 26th May the Battalion was located in Pevy, northwest of Reims, when a captured German Prisoner gave indications that a major German Offensive was to be launched the following day.

At 5.30pm that evening the Battalion was told to be ready to move and later at 10.30 pm, the 10th battalion was ordered to move ‘immediately’ to the Guyancourt area to act as a reserve as an enemy attack was expected. However, whilst moving up to this position the Battalion were halted just North of Bouvencourt where they became subjected to heavy Gas shelling which continued throughout the night and early the next morning.

Early on the 27th, the Germans opened a ‘hurricane’ bombardment described as ‘the heaviest, most terrible and most destructive of the war’, following which the German infantry, led by Stormtroopers, advanced and overwhelmed the front line defenders almost before the alarm could be raised. Just before noon the 10th Cheshires were ordered to proceed to support the line between Chalons le Verguer and Boufferingeux and located astride the Cormicy – Guyancourt Road.

The area was unfamiliar to the battalion with no regular trench system and it therefore had to set up defences and settle as it arrived. The German advance was rapid and by 3pm had entered Cormicy, 3.15pm had captured Guyencourt and at 5.30pm captured Boufferingeux. Despite the 10th Cheshires sending more troops to the north, they were unable to halt the Germans advance and therefore retired back towards Pevy where they arrived at 2.30 am the next morning. Again the Battalion sustained severe casualties and the remnants of both the 10th and 11th Cheshires formed a ‘Composite Battalion’ as it did during the Battle of Bailleul.

The first order was to again go forward to a defensive line approx 1 mile north of Pevy. Here they met retiring troops, the Germans having broken through already, and despite initially holding this line, orders were received to retire through Pevy and Prouilly in small sections to take up a new line south of Prouilly During this withdrawal the machine gun fire was described as heavy across the open ground giving the defenders little or no protection.

By 9am the battalion was located on the high ground 1 mile south of Prouilly when at 11 am the enemy brought up a battery of field guns and opened accurate fire on the men lying in open ground without cover .Without artillery support of any sort the battalion was forced to further retire to a partially dug line 250 yards back and having arrived there the Germans opened up with machine gun fire from the left rear. Again the battalion was orderd to retire at once this time back across the River Vesle. Following this they marched west along the Jonchery road to a position North of Branscourt where the now exhausted men reached at 7.30pm and following drawing rations from the nearby wood they were allowed to sleep in the ditches for a couple of hours.

The rest of the night and most of the next day was spent in reserve but the Germans commenced to heavily shell the wood and at 7pm orders where received to retire to a position north of Sapiecourt. Upon arrival they took up positions and finding the enemy were already in Sapiecourt were orderd to march to a new position just before of Rosnay. Here with rations now getting short they remained until 2 am the following morning.

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