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Officers of 9th Rifle Brigade, August 1916
This picture shows a group of exhausted officers from the 9th (Service) Battalion, Rifle Brigade, taken on the Somme in August 1916. From left to right the picture shows Lt Elliot, killed on 20 November 1916, Lt Kirkpatrick, wounded, Captain Garton, killed on 15 September 1916, Lt. Southwell, killed on 15 September 1916 and 2nd Lt Kiek, wounded on 27 April 1918. The 9th took part in the Battle of Delville Wood (15 July-3 September 1916 ) and the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September 1916)
Many thanks to Pen & Sword for providing us with these pictures, which come from Richard van Emden's The Somme: The Epic Battle in the Soldier's own Words and Photographs
AN HISTORIC & IMPORTANT 1914-15 TRIO & PLAQUE.To:3265. Pte. C.E.PEARSON. 4th & 9th RIFLE BRIGADE.Severely Wounded in the Attack on DELVILLE WOOD on 24th AUG 1916. Died on 25th (Severe Gunshot Wound to Right Forehead.)
AN HISTORIC 1914-15 TRIO & PLAQUE. To: 3265. Rifleman C.E.PEARSON. 4th & 9th Bn RIFLE BRIGADE. Who was SEVERELY WOUNDED IN THE ATTACK ON DELVILLE WOOD on 24th AUGUGT 1916 and Died next day (Severe Gunshot Wound Right Forehead)Charles was also hospitalised with Trench Foot and Frostbite during January 1915. Charles Pearson enlisted in the army reserve on 4th January 1909 and initially went to France with 4th Bn Rifle Brigade on 20th December 1914. While serving with the 4th Charles Pearson took part in the fighting on the Somme .The 4th landed at Havre and were engaged in various actions on the Western Front including Action at St. Eloi (Ypres area), Battle of St. Julien, Battle of Frezenberg, Battle of Bellewaarde. When the 4th were ordered to Salonika he remained in France and transferred to the 9th Bn. The attack on Delville Wood is perhaps one of the most iconic actions of The Great War where vicious hand to hand fighting and gunfire produced shocking levels of dead, missing and wounded. [NOTES FROM THE WAR DIARY. Which, this being a highly important action we consider are worth reproducing in full] THE TAKING OF DELVILLE WOODOn the 18th August, at 2.50 p.m., the 43rd and 41st Brigades attacked from Delville Wood, and captured 279 prisoners and some machine guns. The line was pushed out east of Delville Wood towards Ginchy, along Hop Alley, and consolidated. The trench at the north-east corner of the wood was also entered, but not held. On the 19th the Battalion marched at 6 p.m. to Montauban, passing through the ruins of Mametz, and occupied the reserve trench, Montauban Alley, just north of Montauban. On the same night the 9th Rifle Brigade went into the front trenches, east of Delville Wood. On the 20th August, at 6.30 p.m., thirty-two aeroplanes were counted overhead, chiefly ours, and there were many aerial combats without decisive result. At the same time, an enemy observation balloon was shot down. During the day officers reconnoitred the approaches to Delville Wood. Delville Wood lies immediately adjoining the village of Longueval. To the east is Ginchy, a small village held by the enemy. To the south-east, Guillemont, a somewhat larger village now being fought for. Away to the north-west is High Wood, the scene of many a fierce struggle, the possession of which is still debated. Immediately to the west, Bazentin le Grand. Delville Wood itself has been the scene of fighting since July 14th. At this date (20th August) we held a line running through the wood, and the enemy held a line within and parallel to the north and north-east edge. The ground is pitted everywhere with shell holes, and strewn with fallen trees and branches. Longueval is dust and craters, and both Longueval and the wood are carpeted with the remains of bodies, and discarded munitions and material of war, British and German. On the night of August 21st the Battalion relieved the 8th R.B.'s in Delville Wood. The strength of the Battalion on going into the trenches was 19 officers, 640 other ranks. Lieut. Colonel E. Benson sprained his ankle badly on going up to relief, and was evacuated the next morning, Major H. C. Porter assuming command of the Battalion. The 22nd was fairly quiet, and on that night the Battalion front was thoroughly patrolled, and the enemy's saps were found to be occupied by him. On the 23rd preliminary orders were received for ann attack on the 24th, in conjunction with other corps, and with the French. The day passed fairly quietly, with the exception of a rather heavy bombardment on Delville Wood. At 3.45 p.m., on the 24th August, a bombardment of our heavy artillery started, which fire was replied to by the Germans. At 5.45p.m. C and D Companies advanced to the attack, and at the same time A Company moved from the support trench (Devil's Help), and re-formed in Devil's Trench, ready to advance. The distance from Devil's Trench to the first objective varied from 250 to 300 yards. The ground was pitted with innumerable shell holes, and obstructed with the debris of fallen trees, necessitating a slow advance. Immediately the barrage lifted, and our assaulting troops climbed over the parapet. The enemy's artillery fire became intense, and machinegun and rifle fire was opened on them, causing many casualties. All the officers of both C and D Companies were either killed or wounded, Captain H. Richmond, O.C. D Company, being killed, and 2nd Lieuts. G. Edgar and J. Heaten, also of D Company, wounded, almost at the commencement of the assault. The men were rallied and led on by the N.C.O.'s. In C Company, 2nd Lieut. Farran was killed at the commencement of the assault, and Captain M. Mallalue killed, and 2nd Lieut. H. Robins wounded, on nearing the enemy's trench. On the right of Edge Trench, the enemy's wire remained to form a considerable obstacle, and the remains of C Company were unable to gain an entrance into the trench. The Company Lewis Guns, both of C and D Companies, were brought into action close to the German trench, and, for a time, until the teams were killed, fired with effect on the enemy. Sergeant Hamp of D Company, and Corporal Ord of C Company, in charge of the Lewis Gun Teams, fearlessly exposing themselves to heavy fire close to the enemy's trench, both gave their lives, and in the death of these two N.C.O.'s the Battalion has lost men who have always shown a steadfast devotion to duty, and a fine example of cool bravery. No history of the Battalion would be complete which did not record the services which Sergeant Hamp and Corporal Ord had always rendered to the Battalion, and the manner in which they served their guns, and met their deaths with unflinching courage. At 5.45 p.m. A Company advanced from Devil's Help, forming the third wave of the assault, maintaining its formation and direction splendidly. On our right the attack by the 8th K.R.R.C. from Hop Alley was making no headway, and a party of Battalion Bombers, under Sergeant Martin, was ordered to advance towards the junction of "Ale" and "Hop" Alley, which they found to be held by two men of the 8th K.R.R.C. They were ordered to hold this point at all costs. They established a barricade, from which they bombed the enemy, and held on there until relieved on the morning of the 25th. 2nd Lieut. H. Le Mesurier, advancing with A Company, together with two bombers, leaped over the barricade. 2nd Lieut. Le Mesurier was immediately killed, and the two bombers wounded. Lieut. G. Warner, commanding A Company, was wounded, and 2nd Lieut. P. Gould missing, believed to have been killed. Thus, at an early stage of the battle, every officer of the assaulting Companies had become casualties, and, a little later, at 7 p.m. the Officer Commanding B Company in reserve, Captain R. S. Daw, was mortally wounded. The attack was now entirely held up by wire, machine-gun and rifle fire - particularly from an enemy strong point situated in Edge Trench, which was found afterwards not to have been seriously damaged by shell fire. Sergeant Jordan, of A Company, and some men, however, entered the enemy's trench and made many prisoners. This trench and the dug-outs in it were found to contain a considerable number of German dead. On the 25th August, the following telegram was received from the Brigade The Army Commander congratulates you on your success yesterday, and wishes you to convey to all ranks his appreciation of their gallant work. The Brigadier wishes me to say that his confidence in the fine fighting qualities of the Brigade has been more than justified, and to convey his congratulations to all ranks on their success of yesterday. The losses suffered by the Battalion during these operations were unfortunately severe. Five officers killed, 1 missing (believed killed) and 6 wounded. Other ranks-41 killed, 190 wounded, and 46 missing. And thus once more the gallant 9th Battalion did what they were told to do, with credit to themselves and the blood shed by those brave riflemen who lost their lives for King and Country, will further serve to enhance the good name of a Battalion, jealous of its reputation, and of the honour of the Regiment to which it is proud to belong. The beginning of September found the Battalion enjoying a well-earned rest in the picturesque village St. Maulvis. Here, out of sound of the guns and under the pleasantest conditions it was possible to reorganise the Battalion after the heavy losses it had suffered in the strenuous fighting around Delville Wood. One Company of the 9th R.B.'s was now ordered to reinforce, and early the next morning, at 2 a.m., bombing attacks were organised by Lieut.-Colonel Morris, O.C. 9th R.B., in conjunction with Major H. C. Porter, commanding the 9th K.R.R.C. These attacks were carried out, and the enemy's trench was found to be almost entirely evacuated. As a result of the operations, our objective-the clearing of Delville Wood-with the exception of a small post, was entirely successful. 160 prisoners were captured, including nine officers and some machine guns.
And the men in these photographs were just a few of those who, after enlisting in response to Lord Kitchener’s call for volunteers to form a new Army — ‘Your country needs you’ — were sent to the killing fields of the Somme. Many would never return.
Some men in these images, having survived the initial onslaught, were slain later during the relentless trench warfare that continued until the winter.
Among them was Lieutenant Evelyn Southwell, pictured (right) with cigarette in his mouth among exhausted colleagues resting in a field. Shortly before his death in September 1916, he wrote to his mother to say how tired he and his comrades were after spending weeks in and out of the front-line trenches.
Facing the future: Smiling confidently in their trench beneath a clear blue springtime sky are two officers of the 11th Royal Fusiliers: Lieutenant Richard Hawkins, left, was wounded in February, 1917, during the final push on the Somme prior to German evacuation. Second Lieutenant George Cornaby, right, was killed on September 23, 1918, only weeks before the end of the war
A picnic in the sunshine: Officers of the 1/4th East Yorkshire Regiment enjoy an alfresco lunch beside their tents. Captain William Batty, right, died on October 25, 1916. A note on the rear of the photograph confirms the other unidentified men did not survive the war
Knee-deep in mud: Wading through a trench on the Somme are Major Beauchamp Magrath (left) of the 8th East Lancashire Regiment, killed on June 2, 1916, and Captain Paul Hammond, right, who died on February 25, 1916. The other two soldiers are not identified
‘We are quite exhausted. After a terrible 48 hours’ (on and off) bombardment, we came out and marched to bivouac in reserve. I went to sleep several times on the road and bumped into the man ahead! Comic, that, but it was one of the few times I’ve been so done that I had difficulty in keeping going.’
Among those who survived but were seriously injured was Captain William Purvis, pictured with fellow bathers, (bottom right).
He was 57 years old when seriously wounded in September 1916 — having demanded to be sent to France to lead the company that his own son, Captain John Purvis, had commanded before being killed at the Battle of Loos in September 1915.
Among the most intriguing of these images, from among the collection of leading military historian Richard van Emden, is the photograph of three officers snacking beside their tents, below. Van Emden could confirm the identity of only the man on the right, Captain William Batty, killed in October 1916.
Meeting the locals: Second Lieutenant Eric Anderson, left, of the 1/6th Seaforth Highlanders, takes time out to chat to a woman in the small hamlet of Bouzincourt. He was killed on November 13, 1916, at the storming of the village Beaumont Hamel which had been occupied by the Germans for two years
Keeping up appearances: Captain John Macdougall, of the 1/6th Seaforth Highlanders, has a morning shave in a trench near the village of Autuille in late 1915 — he was wounded early the following year
Waiting for the storm: The seated man (left) is Lance Corporal Andrew Blackstock, of the 1/6th Seaforth Highlanders, who was wounded three times but survived the war. Captain William Johnson (right), of the 18th Manchester Regiment, was photographed by a friend on the afternoon of July 1, 1916, walking along a captured German trench. He was killed six hours later
Keeping guard: The man leaning in the doorway is Captain Richard Vaughan Thompson, of the 11th Royal Fusiliers, who was killed in the attack on Thiepval on September 26, 1916
But he knows that the other two also died because of the contemporary handwritten note on the back of the picture.
Van Emden, author of The Somme (published by Pen & Sword Books), says: ‘These are all pictures taken by the soldiers themselves on their own hand-held cameras which they had brought to France.
‘Possession of cameras had been banned but a few men, mostly officers, secretly kept them to shoot some of the most poignant images of the war.
‘These pictures were taken to preserve the “adventure” for a time after the war when returning soldiers and their families might wish to look back on the campaign.
‘But instead the images captured a war in which adventure quickly turned to horror and snaps often included the last glimpses of friends and comrades who were to die.’
The Somme in colour: Photos capture the lives of Tommies on the frontline
Brought to life in vibrant colour, these photographs capture how British soldiers lived while on the battlefield of the Somme.
Tommies are seen tending to injured German prisoners, cooking together and watching from the lines as mines exploded. The images even show a visit to the front by King George V.
The images were colourised by specialist Tom Marshall from PhotograFix to pay tribute to those who risked their lives in the deadly battle.
'I believe that colour adds another dimension to historic images, and helps modern eyes to connect with the subjects,' he said. ' Black and white images are too often sadly ignored, especially by younger generations. By colourising the photos I hope that more people will stop to look and learn more about the soldiers at the Somme and what they went through one hundred years ago.'
He added: 'Of the thousands of photos taken during the Somme I have chosen a handful to illustrate the living and fighting conditions of British troops from the lowest to highest ranks.'
Two soldiers look out from a ramshackle hut that served as their home on the frontline during the Battle of the Somme in 1916
Three soldiers sit around a fire on ornate dining chairs as they cook a meal in a steel helmet near Miraumont-le-Grand
A solider leads a horse laden with dozens of pairs of trench boots through thick mud as the British Army continues the Somme offensive
A sign reading 'pack transport this way' sticks out among leafless trees stripped by artillery fire near the frontline of the Somme battle
A group of soldiers hang up clothes as they relax outside a shelter near the trenches of the battle of the Somme
A Boche prisoner, wounded and muddy is led along a railway track as soldiers return from another push on the battlefield
A group of soldiers line up behind a gun playfully etched with 'Somme gun' as they enjoy a light-hearted moment amid the carnage
Carrying heavy packs and metal helmets, a group of soldiers continue their journey across a landscape littered with shrapnel and debris
Commander explaining the capture of Thiepval to H.M. King George V from the top of the Thiepval Chateau
A soldier looks over exploding mines designed to clear the way for advancing troops during the Somme offensive
Soldiers' hidden cameras offer rare personal look at the bloody battle
These black-and-white photographs were captured by soldiers on cameras smuggled on to the frontline of the Somme offensive.
The men in these photographs were just a few of those who, after enlisting in response to Lord Kitchener’s call for volunteers to form a new Army — ‘Your country needs you’ — were sent to the killing fields of the Somme. Many would never return.
Some men in these images, having survived the initial onslaught, were slain later during the relentless trench warfare that continued until the winter.
The images, which show soldiers relaxing before the battle began and in action once the offensive started, have been put together in bestselling World War One author Richard van Emden’s book, ‘The Somme: The Epic Battle in the Soldiers’ own Words and Photographs’.
Van Emden said: 'These are all pictures taken by the soldiers themselves on their own hand-held cameras which they had brought to France.
'Possession of cameras had been banned but a few men, mostly officers, secretly kept them to shoot some of the most poignant images of the war.
'These pictures were taken to preserve the “adventure” for a time after the war when returning soldiers and their families might wish to look back on the campaign.
'But instead the images captured a war in which adventure quickly turned to horror and snaps often included the last glimpses of friends and comrades who were to die.'
He added: 'No other book has attempted to tell the story of the Somme from the British arrival in July 1915 until the Germans withdrew from the Somme to newly-prepared positions thirty miles east, in March 1917.'
Young soldiers, some little older than teenagers, get dressed in the trenches as they prepare to go 'over the top'
Horse drawn carts stand in wait in the middle of a town destroyed by bombs as workers search through the rubble behind
Four soldiers enjoy a quiet moment and a cigarette in the middle of a field, in a scene that seems a lifetime away from the horrors of war
A soldier, pipe hanging from his mouth, uses a makeshift walking stick to propel himself through the knee-deep mud of the trenches
Two soldiers stand watch inside a trench in a heavily wooded area. The photographs is one of a number presented in the new book
A group of soldiers pass the time in the trench by chatting, writing letters home and reading newspapers
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16th June 2021
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Yeovil's Virtual Museum, the A-to-Z of Yeovil's History
Arthur Samson Hayward was born in Houndstone, Yeovil, in 1886. He was the son of railway porter Eli Francis Hayward (b 1852), originally from Sutton Bingham, and his wife Elizabeth née Dade (b 1852) originally from Alvington. In the 1891 census Eli and Elizabeth were living at 5 Queen Street with their children Ernest C (b 1876), Walter F (b 1878), Ellen J (b 1881), Bessie (b 1883), 5-year old Arthur and Bertie J (b 1889). In the 1911 census 25-year old Arthur was lodging at 9 Camborne Street and was employed as an Engineer's machinist.
It is not known when Arthur enlisted but, from his Service Number 3/7362, it was most likely late 1916. He joined the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry.
In 1916 the 6th Battalion fought at Delville Wood, Ginchy and Flers-Courcelette in the Battles of the Somme. It is not known what part Arthur played in these great battles.
Delville Wood is to the north east of the town of Longueval in the département of the Somme in northern France. After the two weeks of carnage from the commencement of the Somme Offensive, it became clear that a breakthrough of either the Allied or German line was most unlikely and the offensive had evolved to the capture of small prominent towns, woods or features which offered either side tactical advantages from which to direct artillery fire or to launch further attacks.
Delville Wood was one such feature, making it important to German and Allied forces. As part of a large offensive starting on 14 July, General Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, intended to secure the British right flank, while the centre advanced to capture the higher lying areas of High Wood in the centre of his line. Delville Wood was a battle to secure this right flank. The battle achieved this objective and is considered a tactical Allied victory. However, it was one of the bloodiest confrontations of the Somme, with both sides incurring large casualties.
According to the Regimental History of the Somerset Light Infantry, after the first phase of the Battle of Delville Wood, the 6th Somersets had spent several days in billets in Fricourt. During August the battalion was involved in the taking of Hop Alley and Beer Trench adjoining Delville Wood. After much heavy fighting the whole of Hop Alley passed into the hands of the Somerset men. Following the fighting, according to the Regimental History, "They dug a new CT (communication trench) under heavy fire and did it quickly and well. Also carried wire, stakes, etc, to the front line. Sent back 82 prisoners under escort. Carried bombs and sandbags. Put up artillery boards. Sent 20 men to fill gap on our left. Sent 20 men to make and hold a strong point in gap between right companies. Sent 30 men to support C company in Hop Alley. And then, when night had fallen, the remainder of this gallant company carried bombs, SAA, water, etc. to the front line."
The Regimental History continues "A little later (at 5pm) officers of the 9th Rifle Brigade came to look round the trenches of the 6th Somersets and made arrangements for taking them over. Hostile shelling, however, prevented the relief taking place until almost midnight, but this was all to the advantage of the Somerset men, who had no casualties in coming out of the line. The relief was completed at 4:15am, the battalion being billeted in Fricourt. "The men," stated the Battalion Diary, "on arrival in rest billets, were absolutely beat the authorities had wisely kept them until the last possible moment and then taken them out." Thus ended another phase of the Battle of Delville Wood, a phase which cost the regiment five officers killed and seven wounded, with 48 other ranks killed and 220 wounded and missing. On 22 August the Brigade was paraded and the Brigadier complimented the 6th Somersets especially on the fine behaviour of the Battalion in Delville Wood."
On 26th August the 6th Battalion moved forward again to reserve trenches 300 yards in front of Bernafay Wood. Relief, however, came on 30 August, the 6th Somersets returning first to temporarily billets in Fricourt and then to a rest camp. On 31 August the Battalion entrained at Mericourt for Selincourt, 20 miles west of Amiens where, until 12 September, all ranks enjoyed a complete rest.
The Battle of Ginchy took place on 9 September 1916, when the 16th Division captured the German-held village. The British began a bombardment early in the morning but waited until late afternoon to advance, in order to deny the Germans sufficient time to counter-attack before dark. The British assault in the south by the 56th Division and the 16th Division reached Bouleaux Wood but the attack in the centre was repulsed. On the northern flank, Ginchy was captured by the 16th Division and several German counter-attacks were defeated. The loss of Ginchy deprived the Germans of observation posts, from which they could observe the whole battlefield.
The Battle of Flers–Courcelette was a battle, again within the Somme Offensive, launched on 15 September 1916 with the battle continuing for a week. Flers–Courcelette began with the objective of cutting a hole in the German line by using massed artillery and infantry attacks. This hole would then be exploited with the use of cavalry. It was the third and final general offensive mounted by the British Army during the Battle of the Somme. By its conclusion on 22 September, the strategic objective of a breakthrough had not been achieved however tactical gains were made in the capture of the villages of Courcelette, Martinpuich and Flers. In some places, the front lines were advanced by over 2,500 yards (2,300 m) by the Allied attacks. The battle is significant for the first use of the tank in warfare. It also marked the debut of the Canadian and New Zealand Divisions on the Somme battlefield.
Private Arthur Hayward was killed on 3 December 1916 in the general day-to-day trench warfare in France. He was aged 30 and was interred at Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calais, France, but his name is not recorded on the War Memorial in the Borough.
East, Wilfred John
Wilfred John East
Regiment: 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade
Parents: Mr Herbert & Mrs Ellen East
Home Address: 3 Norman Villas, Station Road, Hawkhurst
Aunt’s Address: 60 Paynton Road, Silverhill
Other Info: Killed at Neuve Chapelle. According to CWGC, Wilfred died aged 26 on 10th March 1915. He is remembered at Le Touret Memorial on Panel 24.
Please use the comments box below if you can provide more information about this person.
As the Battle of the Somme continued, the number of images taken by soldiers dwindled.
‘I think part of the reason they lost cameras is not just because of the attitude of the authorities, but also people were starting to get sick of it. Sick of fighting and sick of death. They decided it wasn’t fun any more, or something they would want to remember after the war.
‘I’ve seen lots of albums taken on the frontline where the number of dead in those pictures, given how many there must have been around, are very few. In one album I borrowed, there was a caption that said something like, “This person being carried down, he died shortly afterwards”, but the picture had been removed.
‘Objectively, you could say that was probably one of the most interesting ones he took, but at some point he decided, “I don’t want anyone else to see this I shouldn’t have taken it.”’
Until now, the public has never seen most of the photos in Richard’s book. It’s for this reason that Richard became interested in showcasing forgotten shots.
‘I’m so keen because nobody else has bothered with these images. They are incredibly rare and often stunningly taken, but totally forgotten about. I’ve really made it my business to bring something entirely new to the public.
‘When I write about the Great War, I’m not interested in generals, or tactics particularly I’m interested in writing about things about which people might say, “I cannot believe that happened.”
‘With these photographs I want to bring something fresh to the story instead of repeating the same stuff over and over again.’
About 3:30pm: men of the 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) and 7th Buffs (East Kent Regiment) take cover along a road, on the way to their objective, Montauban Alley
You can see more extraordinary photographs and read more about the battle in The Somme: The Epic Battle in the Soldiers’ Own Words and Photographs by Richard Van Emden, published by Pen & Military, price £25
Earlier this month having spent a few days recceing sites and walks for upcoming trips I spent a day showing a client, Tony Wright, around the Arras battlefields following in the footsteps of his great uncle, S/30401 Rifleman Herbert William Victor Wright, 9 th Battalion Rifle Brigade who was killed on 3 May 1917. It was most likely that Herbert had joined the battalion as one of nearly four hundred reinforcements received in January 1917. As such, the spring offensive at Arras would be his first major battle.
Sadly, Herbert Wright’s service record no longer existed and so we were unable to determine which company he had served in. However, with the knowledge that he would have been ‘in the area’ we started off by looking at the battalion’s role in the 9 April attack. The 9 th Battalion Rifle Brigade was part of 42 nd Infantry Brigade, 14th (Light) Division. The divisional objectives for 9 April were to capture the strong German position known as the Siegfried Stellung, (Hindenburg Line) which the Germans had fallen back to throughout the month of March. The hinge of the ‘old’ German line and new Hindenburg Line was the village of Tilloy-lès-Mofflaines. South of the village lay the 14 th Division’s objective, the southern part of The Harp, a formidable position some 1000 yards long and 500 yards wide, full of tangled field defences. Along with Telegraph Hill to its immediate south its dominant position enabled German defenders to fire in enfilade northwards up Observation Ridge and southwards to Neuville Vitasse its capture was absolutely critical.
The Harp and Telegraph Hill – objectives for 42nd Brigade on 9 April 1917
Looking across the rising ground of The Harp. The 9th Rifle Brigade advanced across here on 9 April 1917
The role of the 9 th Rifle Brigade on 9 April was limited to that of ‘moppers-up’. An initial assault was to be made against the southern portion of ‘The String’, a trench running down the length of The Harp, by the 5 th Ox and Bucks Light Infantry and 9 th King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Once captured the 5 th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry would then pass through or ‘leapfrog’ the two battalions to capture the second objective close to the Blue Line running south from the rearward face of The Harp down the Hindenburg Line. Nearly seven hours after the initial advance and with these objectives taken B & D Companies of the 9 th Rifle Brigade, under the command of Captain Buckley were to leave their positions in and around the old German front line to clear the ground between the Blue and Green lines within the Brigade boundaries.
German concrete position close to the final objective seized by 9th Rifle Brigade on 9 April 1917
They would also occupy an outpost line north east of the Tilloy – Wancourt road (now the D37). Considering the magnitude of the day’s fighting the Battalion war diary gives scant information about the work completed other than to record the final objective was gained by 1.30pm with one hundred prisoners and two machine guns captured. Casualties sustained were Captain D.E. Bradby killed , 2/Lt H.M. Smith wounded and fifteen Other Ranks wounded. Despite differing figures from those provided in Brigade records it is clear that losses amongst the 9 th Rifle Brigade were extremely light when compared to other battalions within 42nd Brigade.
After relief on 12 April the Battalion spent time in training where they received a draft of fifty two reinforcements. On 23 April the Battalion began their march back to the battlefield, moving into newly captured positions between Guémappe and Chérisy on the evening of the 24th. The war diary records constant shellfire for this entire period on one day alone 2/Lt J.M. Harper and a further sixteen Other Ranks were wounded. Between 30 April – 2 May the Battalion were in reserve but provided working parties to dig out a new communication trench named Jungle Alley running between the Ape and the Boar trenches before taking up their positions in the front line north of Chérisy on 2 May. The stage was set for a renewal of the offensive three armies would be attacking along a fourteen mile frontage from Bullecourt in the south to Fresnoy in the north. Having suffered such comparatively small losses on 9 April the 9 th Rifle Brigade was to take a leading part in the coming battle, attacking on the left of the Brigade next to the 5 th Ox & Bucks Light Infantry. The 5 th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and 9 th King’s Royal Rifle Corps were in Brigade Reserve.
Annotated trench map extract showing 9th Rifle Brigade attack on 3 May 1917.
The decision to launch the attack at 3.45am in darkness was contentious. Many commanders protested to no avail. A further complication for the 9 th Rifle Brigade was their position nearer to the enemy than neighbouring units. As such, they were not to advance from their jumping off line until eighteen minutes after Zero Hour. The Battalion had two objectives firstly to capture the Blue Line running in front of Triangle Wood and through Hill Side Work and then to push on to the Red Line, completing the capture of both positions. Advancing from a line 150-200 yards east of the front line marked by white tape fixed to the ground, the Battalion was to advance behind a ‘creeping barrage’ of artillery shells exploding in a slowly moving curtain across the battlefield.
3 May 1917 objectives overlaid on Google Earth.
Ten minutes before Zero Hour the first wave left the assembly trenches to line up on the tape. At 4.03pm they advanced, followed by the second wave that left the assembly trenches at Zero +42 minutes. In common with many units who attacked that dreadful day, no further report was ever received from the companies in the first wave. German artillery fire was extraordinarily heavy (lasting for over fifteen hours) with eight company runners either killed or wounded. Post -action reports noted the first wave veered to the right in the darkness, striking a new German trench wired and held by the enemy. Despite this, it was captured by Zero + 40 minutes and advance progressed. However, enfilade machine gun fire caused heavy casualties and ‘few, if any ever reached the rear of Hill Side Work’. All eight officers of the first wave became casualties very early in the day, some being wounded several times. Only seven NCOs of the first wave ever returned. The second wave fared no better. As their advance was in daylight they were subjected to machine gun fire sooner than the first wave and also came up against machine gun positions which had been established after or missed in the dark by the first wave, in addition to enfilade fire from across the Cojeul valley near St Rohart’s Factory.
Cross left in memory of Herbert Wright, 9th Rifle Brigade. Triangle Wood and Hill Side Work are on the horizon
The second wave was finally held up just in front of Spotted Dog Trench which was held by the enemy they dug in along a line of shell holes about 600 to 700 yards in front of their original front line at Ape Trench. A German counter-attack against the 18 th Division who had captured Chérisy forced their line back to its starting position this action rippled northward with orders sent out to recall the Battalion. Such was the dominance of German artillery and machine gun fire (firing continuously from both flanks and from across the river valley) that these orders could only be communicated to two platoons it being impossible to contact the remnants of the battalion occupying shell holes close to Spotted Dog Trench. On the evening of the 3 rd two patrols were sent to recall one company holding a line of shell holes and strong point close to the German trench. Over the next couple of nights survivors of the 9 th Rifle Brigade’s attack returned to the original British line. The Battalion’s casualties during the day’s operations were 12 officers and 257 Other Ranks. The 9 th Rifle Brigade was relieved on 4 May before heading back to The Harp. This disastrous day marked the beginning of the end of the Battle of Arras. Desperate fighting continued for possession of Roeux, its infamous Chemical Works and Greenland Hill plus around Fresnoy which was recaptured on 8 May. However, by then British attentions were turning northwards to Flanders.
As Herbert Wright’s company is unknown it proved impossible to know whether he formed part of the first or second wave of attackers. Tony and I we walked the attack, passing the assembly trench positions, taped line from which the battalion advanced before moving to the final positions reached. It was here that Tony laid a small poppy cross in memory of his great uncle. Herbert Wright was one of ninety seven men of the Battalion killed on 3 May all but two are commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing. We visited the Arras Memorial and saw Herbert Wright’s name on Panel 9.
S/30401 Rifleman Herbert William Victor Wright, 9th Rifle Brigade on the Arras Memorial
His remains may be buried in the grave of an unknown soldier or still be out on the battlefield. The Third Battle of the Scarpe, as the fighting over 3/4 May was named, was an unmitigated disaster for the British Army which suffered nearly 6,000 men killed for little material gain.
In the Official History, Military Operations France and Belgium 1917 Cyril Falls gives the following reasons for the failure on 3 May 1917 in the VII Corps frontage:
“The confusion caused by the darkness the speed with which the German artillery opened fire the manner in which it concentrated upon the British infantry, almost neglecting the artillery the intensity of its fire, the heaviest that many an experienced soldier had ever witnessed, seemingly unchecked by British counter-battery fire and lasting almost without slackening for fifteen hours the readiness with which the German infantry yielded to the first assault and the energy of its counter-attack and, it must be added, the bewilderment of the British infantry on finding itself in the open and its inability to withstand any resolute counter-attack.”
This stark paragraph illustrates perfectly the battlefield during the 3 May 1917 fighting nightmarish, terrifying and bloody. Having been at home for a week now I am still thinking about it and the windswept ridge between Guémappe and Vis-en-Artois.
“I spent an extraordinary day with Jeremy walking in the footsteps of my Great Uncle, who fell on May 3rd 1917 at the Battle of Arras. He did a wonderful job of balancing a very good explanation of the complexities of the overall battle itself with a highly emotional and personal end to the day of literally experiencing his final hours. As my Great Uncle was a private soldier, without detailed records of his service easily available, I was deeply impressed by how he brought together a range of different sources to nevertheless give me a really specific and personal understanding of what he and his comrades went through. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience”. Tony Wright
Officers of 9th Rifle Brigade, August 1916 - History
MY FAMILY AT WAR
THE BATTLE OF ARRAS A family affair
The battle of Arras lasted thirty-nine days during April and May 1917. Whilst not as well documented as the Somme or Passchendaele, in the opinion of many military historians it was the bloodiest battle of them all measured in terms of the daily casualty rates. Yet it was never meant to be a major battle. In the Doullens conference of November 1916 at the end of the Somme campaign, Haig had reluctantly agreed to launch an attack in the areas North and South of the city of Arras as a diversionary assault in order to take German attention away from the planned French attack on the Chemin des Dames by General Nivelle.
Arras, like Ypres, was a fortified medieval city and by 1916 had effectively become a British city with British law, administration and road signs. The French civilians had been told to leave though some remained to co-habit with the increasing number of soldiers from every corner of the British Empire who were arriving in force in the early part of 1917.
As the Bishop of Arras said:
“Arras will be able to brag that it has been defended by all races of the universe.”
The B.E.F. troops were billeted in what remained of the elegant city that had been reduced to rubble by a constant German bombardment. Arras was built on the top of a series of chalk caves which were extended into vast caverns by the B.E.F. tunnelers to be used to house the massive numbers of troops required for the surprise attack. One such cavern was created by the New Zealand tunnelers in the Ronville district of the city and became known as the Wellington tunnel. In 2007 it was reopened to the public and gives a graphic insight into the living conditions and the area from which many of the initial attacks were launched on 9th April 1917, well disguised from the enemy to provide the much needed element of surprise. Today, at the entrance to this tunnel, the visitor can see the long list of those B.E.F. Divisions who were involved in the short but costly Battle of Arras. (Figure 1)
Figure 1. Wellington Tunnel Today (C R Weekes)
Amongst this list are those divisions in which my own relatives fought and in some cases died:
17th (Northern), 18th (Eastern), 29th, 33rd, 37th and 50th (Northumbrian).
This is the story of the Battle of Arras from the perspective of these distant relatives. It tells where they came from before Arras, what they did during the battle and what became of them. 2012 is the 95th anniversary of this less well known episode of the Great War, thus an appropriate time to tell the story. My researches have been based upon the War diaries (series WO95) which are readily available in the National Archives in Kew and assisted by the Regimental and Divisional histories, where available, together with the few books that have been written on the Battle of Arras.
So who are the main characters in my story? All were brothers or cousins of my grandparents and had either volunteered or had been conscripted into the new armies by 1917. My maternal grandfather George Mason Maltby came from the extended Maltby family of Cambridge. His brother Frank Herbert Maltby had joined the Cambridgeshire regiment in November 1914 and after an extensive period of training was posted to France in August 1916 into the 5th Battalion Yorkshire regiment, The Green Howards. Whether by design or luck, his cousin Samuel R D Maltby, having been called up in August 1914, was in the same Cambridgeshire training unit and thus was also shipped out to France in August 1916 into the same platoon of 5th Battalion Yorkshire regiment. They both survived the later parts of the Somme and in April 1917 found themselves in the Ronville caves awaiting their time to attack. My maternal grandmother came from an extended family of agricultural workers in the village of Felsted outside Chelmsford, the county town of Essex. Her older brother Ernest Jarvis had not enlisted at the outbreak of the war and in fact made no secret of his dislike of the army and fighting. However, like many others, he was conscripted into the army and after a period of training he joined the 8th Battalion Suffolk regiment and fought with them in the later stages of the battle of the Somme including their capture of the Thiepval fortification. By the time of the Battle of Arras, Ernest had been transferred to the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers after a period of leave, during which he had married May Halls in Chelmsford in late November 1916. By April 12th the RDF had reached Arras and were billeted in the Citadel just outside the city centre. Ernest’s cousin Frank Jarvis also lived on the edge of the village of Felsted and at the outbreak of war he was in domestic service. He too had not volunteered in 1914/15 but may have done so in March 1916 or been conscripted. Whatever the circumstance of his enlistment he found himself in a training unit of the Essex regiment before being posted to France in late August 1916 and transferring to the 7th Battalion Border regiment. He too survived the later stages of the Somme and on 10th April 1917 the Borderers arrived in Arras and were billeted in the cellars of the Library museum. Ernest Jarvis had another cousin Wifred Livermore who, although considerably under age, had joined the 9th Battalion Essex regiment and went to France in May 1915. Having fought in the latter stages of the battle of Loos he went into the Machine Gun Corps, 112th MGC and after surviving the Somme, on 7th April 1917 together with the rest of the 37th Division was billeted in Arras. Wilfred had a much older cousin Esther, who had had a son out of wedlock called Albert Livermore though his medal index card mistakenly calls him Alfred. He too had not joined voluntarily, probably because he was married, so that in January 1917 he was called up and joined the 8th Battalion Norfolk regiment. According to their records he appears to have been put into a tunneling company for seven months before being transferred to the infantry in the late summer of 1917. This is likely to have been the 181st R.E. Tunneling company which, by March 1917, had moved into billets at Arras. Ernest Jarvis also had a cousin Percy Livermore who had been born in the Felsted area but by the outbreak of the war was living and working in New Cross S E London. He enlisted into the RFA in late April 1915 and was posted to France as part of the 167th Brigade RFA. Having been transferred to 162nd Bde R.F.A. in the 33rd Division Percy took part extensively in the battle of the Somme and by April 9th was ready to participate in the opening barrage of the Arras offensive. My paternal grandmother came from Somerset and had two brothers both of whom were called up in 1917. One of these brothers, George E Shallish was drafted into the 4th Battalion Worcestershire regiment 29th Division, which by 11th April was in Ronville, Arras. So my eight relatives, together with thousands of other B. E. F. troops, were all awaiting their chance to ‘have a go’ at the enemy.
Haig was able to employ fourteen divisions on the first day of the Battle of Arras exactly the same as on 1st July in the Somme. However, the artillery had been significantly enhanced with unlimited supplies of ammunition and a well-developed creeping barrage, where the troops were no more than fifty yards behind. (Figure 2)
Figure 2. Order of Battle at Arras April 1917 (Peter Barton)
The attack had been scheduled for Easter Sunday, 8th April but was delayed until Easter Monday, 9th April. The Sunday was spent at various holy services, some of which were held in the caves from which the attack would take place. However the weather turned really nasty with snow and cold on 9th April.
“Easter Monday April 9th 1917 Black Monday. A wretched awakening, pitch dark, cold, with a keen wind blowing.”
The tactics were for the leading divisions to gain an objective and then for the supporting divisions to ‘leap frog’ and go through them to take the next objective. The sudden attack at 6.06 am to the south of Arras took the Germans totally by surprise, such that the first objective called the Black line (Fig 3) was taken easily within thirty-six minutes of zero hour. (Figure 3)
Figure 3. Original 1917 Map of Arras Battle Zone (WFA / IWM)
Thus it was that the 37th Division entered the battle with the objective of taking the strongly fortified village of Monchy le Preux. This village was extremely important, for it occupied an elevated position from which the enemy could observe every activity. On 9th April Monchy could not be taken as the enemy machine gun fire from the village of Guemappe south of the Arras Cambrai road was too intense for the attacking forces.
As the War diary of 112th MGC (WO95/2538) records:
9/4. 7 pm attack on the Brown line was postponed. 112th MGC moved to within 800 yards of the Brown line astride the Cambrai Road.
On 10th April 37th Division was in position around Orange Hill (Fig 3) in preparation to leapfrog the12th Division and to take Monchy. The 111th Bde was to take the village whilst the 112th Bde, including L.Cpl .Wilfred Livermore in the 112th MGC, were on the south flank astride the Cambrai road. There was no creeping barrage when the troops attacked at 10.45 am and so they came under very heavy hostile fire. No real advance was achieved so that men and cavalry horses were left to spend the night out in the open battlefield in frost and snow after which many of both did not survive.
The war diary 112th MGC records:
10/4 12 noon attack on Feuchy Chapel began. MGC set up guns on Orange and Chapel Hills to provide support to attacking infantry on Monchy and Guemappe. 30000 rounds fired to 4pm.
5.00 pm Infantry requested MGC to restart their barrage as there were signs of the enemy advancing
5.30 pm The 37th Divisional advance resumed.
8.30 pm enemy counter attacked from Guemappe
9pm 112th Bde returned to its old position at Les Fosses Ferme.
Figure 4. Area of 112th Bde attack on 10/11th April 1917 (C R Weekes)
The next day, 11th April, was again snowy. The troops were out in the open fields awaiting their orders. It was a crucial day for there was a real chance of defeating the enemy. At 5.00 a.m. 37th Division advanced on Monchy the 111th Bde were to take the village whilst the 112th advanced along the Arras Cambrai road to protect the flanks. At 7.00 a.m. the 111th entered the village to find it empty of the enemy and met up with units of 15th Division who had attacked from the other side of the village. However, south of Monchy, the village of Guemappe was still occupied by the Germans who poured machine gun fire out onto the 112th Bde. It was at this time that the cavalry entered the battle in force. Some to the south had to dismount under heavy fire and effectively became infantry. The Essex Yeomanry and the 10th Hussars entered Monchy and came under an intense box artillery barrage that resulted in the massacre of five hundred horses, an awful sight of carnage being left in the streets of Monchy for days after. It remains a controversial issue as to why General Buckeley-Johnson, leader of the cavalry, ever decided to charge down Orange Hill, but as he himself was a casualty, we shall never know. Some argue that without the cavalry’s intervention, Monchy would not have been taken because the 37th Division infantry were exhausted by 11th April.
The 112th MGC war diary sums up the situation on 11th April:
11/4 5am The advance resumed
5 45 am objective gained by 112th MGC , suffered heavily from shell fire and M/G from Guemappe.
2 25 pm. Enemy mounted troops east of Guemappe were scattered.
2 45 pm 112th Bde were counterattacked by the enemy infantry from Guemappe. The counterattack broke down 400 yds from our line and the enemy bolted.
4 45 pm enemy counter attacked again and attempted to dig in.
5 pm Our artillery opened fire and the enemy bolted again. During the counterattack one gun and team were blown to pieces.
7pm . The enemy attacked weakly. Company relieved by 36th MGC .
10 pm The company was collected on Chapel Hill where it remained the night.
12/4 11 am returned to billets in Arras. During the operations some 50000 rounds were fired.
Figure 5. Guemappe Village Today (C R Weekes)
The Germans did not counter-attack Monchy on 11th April, but its capture, whilst important, led to many questions as to who was to blame for the appalling leadership and heavy casualties amongst the cavalry and infantry the first three days of the battle resulting in 13,000 casualties. The opportunity for a swift advance on 9th April had gone and it seemed that the old battle of attrition from 1916 had returned with a vengeance. (Figure 6)
Figure 6. 37th Division Memorial at Monchy (C R Weekes)
On 12th April fresh B.E.F. units were marched in. The 15th and 37th Divisions were replaced by the 17th and 29th Divisions and the 33rd and 50th Divisions moved in south of the river Scarpe.
Lance Corporal Wilfred Livermore and the 112th MGC marched back to Arras and away from the battle zone for rest and recuperation. They would be back.
The 29th Division had arrived in Arras on 12th April and was immediately moved into the Monchy sector. Included in this Division was the 4th Bn Worcestershire regiment amongst whose ranks was Private George Shallish from Banwell, Somerset.
As the War diary WO 95/ 2309 tells us :
12/4 8 am Marched through Arras
6.30pm moved down the Cambrai road to Feuchy Chapel cross roads lead by guides to trenches E of village of La Bergere and S of Monchy Le Preux.
13/4 orders received to prepare for attack at 2pm but cancelled.
At 5 30 pm the 3rd Div on our right attacked on a line running from the Cambrai Road to a point S of Guemappe.
14/4 5 30 am the battalion advanced under cover of a barrage and gained their objective.
10 am about 2000 Germans were seen advancing towards us with small parties of our troops retiring before them. The artillery was informed and barrage fire was immediately opened. When the retiring troops had cleared our front we opened fire with rifles and Lewis Guns and the attack was completely shattered by 12 30 pm although the enemy reached a point within 100 yards from our trenches.
The 29th Division had been given the task of taking the next objective - Infantry Hill. The 1st Essex and the Newfoundlanders attacked and captured the hill. But with no proper support, they were easily driven back by a massive counter attack to the very edge of Monchy, which was only just held through the efforts of the 4th Worcesters and 2nd Hampshires.
It was a very close fought skirmish which prompted the Divisional Commander Major General Beauvoir de Lisle to send a message to the Worcesters:
“I wish to convey to all ranks of the Battalion my high appreciation of the work performed by you on 14th which I consider was most creditable to the regiment.”
On 15th the Worcesters were relieved and returned to their billets in Ronville.
Also part of the 29th Division was 1st Bn Royal Dublin Fusiliers, which during the early part of 1917, had received over four hundred OR s as reinforcements after the Somme - one of whom was Ernest Jarvis formerly of 8th Bn Suffolk regiment.
The RDF War Diary WO95/2301 details their part in the battle for Monchy:
12/4 Bn moved from Simoncourt to Arras billeted in the Citadel. Received orders to go into the line tomorrow.
13/4 Bn parades at 6. 45 am and marches to trenches in the old German frontline.
14/4 moved to Brown line as Germans were count-attacking Monchy.
Bn not needed consolidated defences of Orange Hill.
So, for the time being the 1st RDF was not required to undertake any offensive role and remained out of the front line. Their time would come very shortly.
Another reinforcement Division was the 17th (Northern), part of which was the 7th Bn Border regiment including Private Frank Jarvis of Felsted, Essex who had arrived in Arras on 10th April and was billeted in the cellars of the Library Museum with fifty minutes notice to move. However, they were kept in the 51st Brigade reserve before on 13th April moving to Railway Triangle to await their turn.
Also kept in reserve was the 5th Bn Yorkshire regiment part of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division. In the 5th Bn were two cousins from Cambridge Privates Frank and Samuel Maltby who on the 12th April marched into Arras to be billeted in the caves that had been transformed into the giant billet by the tunnelers. There they remained for the first phase of the Arras battle.
The first phase of the Battle was relatively successful, partly as a result of the revamped artillery and the development of the creeping barrage tactic. Each division had its own artillery brigade. The 162 Bde RFA was attached to 33rd Division and included Gunner Percy Livermore from S.E. London. He played an important role at the commencement of the battle as the War Diary WO 95/ 2413 explains in great detail:
9/4 On 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th 33rd and 15th division artilleries bombarded the enemy front opposite that held by 15th Division infantry in preparation for a general aggressive operation.
South of Arras the enemy had fallen back to the Hindenburg Line.
At 5 30 am in a drizzling rain the infantry assault was launched by VIth corps on this front.
The German front system which was the first objective was stormed and rapidly carried by the 44th and 45th infantry brigades.
The German 2nd system was the 2nd objective and this was also assaulted by the 44th and 45th infantry brigades.
Stiff opposition was met at the Railway Triangle 1000 yards E of Blangy where the enemy were bringing strong machine gun fire to bear. Our barrage fire had passed over the embankment without harming the machine gunners. The barrage was brought back towards our troops until it rested exactly over the embankment when every living thing was wiped out.
Our batteries directly the 2nd system had fallen advanced by sections to forward positions on the right of the road mid way between Arras and Blangy.
A protective barrage of 4 guns per battery was maintained during the advance on the German 3rd system which was finally reached at nightfall the batteries having again advanced to positions near the Railway Triangle. Brigade head quarters occupied a dug out by the bridge of the Railway triangle.
10/4 At 2 30pm orders were received to advance to positions 1000 yards south of Feuchy. Owing to very heavy going of the roads and congestion of traffic, batteries did not get into position until 9am 11th. Hostile fire was very weak.
11/4 37th Div infantry who had been in reserve took up the attack and stormed Monchy Le Preux from the N E and after severe fighting the village was taken.
Battery and HQ wagon lines moved up to a position 500 yards behind the guns
12/4 HQ moved from the Railway Triangle to an old German gun pit in Feuchy.
13/4 Batteries and wagon lines during the morning were heavily shelled.
It was decided to hold the ground until the flanks came up and accordingly the battery wagon lines were ordered back to Arras. Pack animals were stationed at Railway Triangle
During the night batteries and H Q wagon lines were heavily gas shelled.
14/4 the enemy delivered a violent counter attack on Monchy Le Preux which was broken up by our artillery. (Figure 7)
Figure 7. Original trench Map East of Arras (WFA / IWM)
Thus ended the 162nd RFA Bde’s involvement in the first stage of the battle
Whilst the battle raged, behind the lines the support troops went about their important business. Included in this were the RE Tunneling companies who, as well as opening up the Arras caves, also improved the environment for the infantry. One such group was the 181st RE tunneling company in whose ranks was Private Albert Livermore from Great Leighs, Essex, having been transferred from 8th Bn Norfolk regiment. This RE company had been in Arras since March 19th 1917 and had been renovating the old German trenches after their retirement behind the Hindenburg line.
Their War diary WO 95/ 405 provides an outline of their laborious work:
April 1st to 7th Salving timber in villages and old German trenches around Blairville ( S W of ARRAS behind the lines ). Working on HQ for 37th Division in Arras caves. Improving old German dugouts for use as Bn HQ for 56th Division. Tunnel running from Blairville to old German frontline discovered.
April 8th to 13th Work on Wailly-Ficheux road but little transport available owing to battle. (Figure 8)
Figure 8. Tunnels and Sewers of Arras (Peter Barton)
The first phase of the Battle of Arras ended on 14th April. The opportunity of 9th April’s swift gains had evaporated and some of the Army commanders, notably Allenby, had adopted a very cautious approach with no clear cut battle plan. Haig would dearly have liked to have ended it there and then, but Nivelle had not yet attacked on the Aisne and thus the diversionary Battle of Arras had to be continued. The French offensive on the Aisne commenced at 8 a.m. on 16th April. It failed, so Haig could have closed down the Arras operation. That he did not, is a testament to the muddled thinking of the whole allied command during this phase of the war. Instead he elected to renew the Arras offensive on 23rd April 1917, St George’s Day. Thus it was along the whole of the Arras sector that, one by one, the old and fresh divisions were thrown into the battle. The Germans were totally puzzled by the British plans. They thought that this Battle on a relatively narrow sector of the western front must have the objective of a great breakthrough rather than a battle of attrition and diversion. The break in hostilities had given them time to introduce the new defensive system of ‘elastic defence’ which time and time again caught the British troops in a trap and resulted in higher and higher casualty levels.
The War diaries of the various battalions provide the details of how my relatives were engaged in what now became a rather pointless battle of attrition. For some it marked a temporary end to their war, but in two cases it marked the end of their lives.
On 22nd April 7th Bn Border regiment, including Pte 27587 Frank Jarvis, moved up to the assembly trench south of Lone Copse East of the village of Pelves. (Figure 9a)
Figure 9a. 51st Bde attack zone 23rd April 1917 (Colin Fox)
As their war diary WO 95/ 2008 records:
23/4 ..attack on enemy positions carried out on the whole front of the offensive.
Objective of 51 Bde Blue Line running from E edge of Pelves Village. Preliminary objective is Bayonet Trench.
Zero hour was at 4 45 am. At zero hour a standing barrage was put down on Bayonet trench. A creeping barrage began 200 yards west of Bayonet trench and moved at a rate of 3 minutes per 100 yards joining barrage on trench at plus 6 mins. Both barrages lifted at plus 10 and then crept E at rate of 4 mins per 100 yards as far as Blue line. Two tanks were detailed for the attack on Pelves. Bn advanced at zero hour. Right leading coy D lost direction and moved too much to its right striking old German trench. This coy then moved to its left and crossed Bayonet trench an intense MG fire was met from Rifle trench. The remaining men of D coy swung up to the left towards Rifle trench and entered a German strongpoint which they enlarged and consolidated. D coy was joined by survivors of C coy which had crossed Bayonet trench and advanced due E. the left leading Coy A struck Bayonet trench and was met by heavy M G fire from across the River Scarpe and Rifle trench. The left supporting coy B followed and was mown down by M G fire. The survivors of B and A coy retired to the assembly trenches N E of Lone Copse. By that time there were no officers of either coy surviving.
The survivors of the left coys then retired and occupied the assembly trenches to the N of Lone copse. The survivors of C and D coys remained out in shell holes until dark when they made their way back to our lines. Many were hit by M G fire on their way back
The Bn was ordered to move to Railway Triangle about 1 mile E of Arras and Bn HQ with about 100 men, who had come in, started to move at 2.30 am reaching the destination at 4 am.
25/4 51st Bde marched to Arras at 6 am and entrained at 10 am. Breakfast at transport lines. Detrained at Saulty station and marched to Grand Rullecourt about 6 miles. Bn billeted in chateau and huts. (Figure 9b)
Figure 9b. Village of Pelves today from Monchy (C R Weekes)
The attack had been a total failure and the casualties were high with over two hundred killed or wounded and two hundred and ten missing. As an eye witness from 7th Borders recounts in the book ‘Cheerful Sacrifice’:
“April 23rd 1917, St George’s Day, the day when very few of my pals came back. It was my first and last action. I was totally terrified but the lads tried to buck me up a bit but it felt like you were about to commit suicide. It was sheer murder. I panicked and dived into a shell hole and stopped there until dark.”
One of the wounded was Frank Jarvis who, after going through the evacuation procedures, eventually found himself in a hospital back in the UK.
Further south around Monchy Le Preux, the 29th Division was also engaged in the new offensive. On 19th April 4th Bn Worcesters were moved to reserve trenches in the Brown Line South of the Cambrai Road. (Figure 10)
Figure 10. Area of 4th Worcester’s attack 23rd April 1917 (C R Weekes)
Their War Diary WO95/2309 provides an account of the action in which my relative Pte George Shallish was involved:
23/4 By 4 am Bn formed up in the jumping off trenches.
4 45 am barrage started although it was supposed to fall 200 yds in front of our trench a great many shells dropped in close proximity both in front and to the rear of our trench.
The German barrage opened a few minutes after our own and was directed chiefly on our front line
4 45 am Bn advanced under cover of the barrage to the Blue Line. On arrival companies disorganized owing to high percentage of losses of officers and NCOs.
Considerably hampered by excessive sniping from direction of Bois Du Vert. ( see Fig 3 )
10 am Germans made counter attack which was beaten off mainly by rifle and Lewis gun fire but some of our advanced posts were rounded up. Intense shelling and sniping continued throughout the day.
4 pm another heavy counter attack was launched by the Germans who tried to force their way round the copse. Part of the Z Coy was forced back from in front of the copse but the remainder of the line held good and heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy.
5pm third attack was attempted by enemy but our S O S signal was answered by the artillery in 30 seconds and the attacking waves were completely broken up. Shortage of flares and ammo was now felt and under extreme difficulties the line was reorganized.
Rations were brought up from Fosse Farm 2 limbers and 10 horses were lost by shell fire.
24/4 2 am orders received that the battalion would be relieved by Royal Fusiliers. The relief was completed by dawn.
ORs killed 34 missing 53 wounded 325.
On relief marched down Cambrai Road to Ronville where the men were given tea and rum and hence to Schramm barracks in Arras.
4 am the Bn was conveyed by motor bus to Simoncourt a distance of 10 miles but owing to congestion of traffic did not arrive until 10 pm. Billeted in huts.
Following received from C in C ( Haig ) “ The fierce fighting yesterday has carried us another step forward. I congratulate you and all under you on the result of it and on the severe punishment you have inflicted on the enemy”
2/5 Moved by tactical train to Arras billeted in cellars in Grande Place. Battle stores issued and all preparations made to move at 1 1/2 hours notice
3/5 Owing to operations by 1st, 3rd and 5th armies not being successful as anticipated the Bn was not required.
The above description merely confirms that Arras had turned into another battle of attrition with the main objective being the infliction of maximum casualties on both sides and resulted in minimum territorial gains to the allies.
Also in the 29th Division was 1st Bn Royal Dublin Fusiliers with Pte 40413 Ernest Jarvis newly transferred from 8th Bn Suffolks.
Their war diary WO95/2301 explains the disaster that befell them and lead to Ernest Jarvis becoming another casualty:
17/4 Receive orders to move to Monchy tomorrow
18/4 Bn moves to Monchy and relieves Lancashire Fusiliers. Village incessantly shelled and extremely dangerous to move about above ground.
There are an extraordinary number of dead cavalry horses and men still in the streets but it is impossible to bury them.
21/4 Bn relieved by Lancashire Fusiliers. Bn arrives in Arras at 4 30 pm .
Billeted in caves very wet and damp.
23/4 Bn moves up to Brown line at 11 30 am. Orders issued for general attack tomorrow evening. Orders cancelled at 1pm. Battalion to attack Hill 100 at 4 pm. However owing to runner losing his way orders regarding change in time of barrage did not arrive.
W and X companies made attack unsupported by our artillery with great gallantry and were faced by very heavy shell, machine gun and rifle fire. After stubborn resistance they were compelled to fall back on our original front line leaving 20 killed 60 wounded and 37 missing in no mans land. (Figure 11a and 11b)
Figure 11a. Area of RDF attack on 24th April 1917 (C R Weekes)
Figure 11b. Trench Map of the RDF attack on 24th April 1917 (Paul Reed)
Pte Ernest Jarvis was posted as missing on April 24th 1917 but his death was not confirmed until April 26th 1918 in the Essex Weekly News:
“Pte Ernest Jarvis Royal Dublin Fusiliers formerly of Chelmsford reported wounded and missing on April 24th 1917 is now reported killed on or about that date.
He leaves a widow and one child who reside at 52 Primrose Hill Chelmsford.”
His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing, Bay 9. This beautiful memorial designed by Sir Edward Lutyens is located close to the site of the Citadel where the RDF had been billeted on their arrival in Arras on 12th April 1917. (Figure 12)
Figure 12. Bay 9 Arras Memorial to the Missing (C R Weekes)
South of Monchy the 50th Division including 5th Bn Yorkshire regiment had been moved up into the old German front line trenches ready for an attack on the Wancourt Tower. In this Battalion were two cousins - privates Frank Maltby 242470 and Sam Maltby 242471 originally from Cambridge. (Figure 13)
Figure 13. Area of the Yorkshire attack 23rd April 1917 (C R Weekes)
As the War diary WO95/2836 reports:
15 to 18th April in old German front line
19th to 22nd April In Nepal trench
23rd April 4 45 am Bn moved up to support 4th East Yorks who were attacking.
The whole Bn was brought up to meet the counter attack which had succeeded in forcing back our troops to their original front line. Here the Bn held the line until 6 pm when a second attack in conjunction with 151st Bde was carried out. This attack was successful and the line gained was held all night.
Casualties ORs 15 killed 118 wounded.
24th April Relieved by 151st Bde moved to trenches in divisional reserve.
Relieved in evening by 14th Division. Moved to billets in Arras.
Sam Maltby was wounded in the second attack on the Wancourt Tower and was transferred to No 12 General Hospital in Rouen as shown by a letter written by his wife to the regiment in April 1917. (Figure 14)
Figure 14. Sam’s Wife’s Letter (Ancestry Records online)
To the East of Arras, the Roux Chemical works had been a thorn in the side of the B E F since the beginning of the battle of Arras. The 37th Division had been used in the capture of Monchy in phase one of the battle after which they had been rested having experienced significant casualties especially amongst officers and NCOs. L. Cpl. 60989 Wilfred Livermore was in 112th MGC which between 23rd and 28th April was used in support of the infantry attacks on Greenland Hill. (Figure 3)
The War diary WO95/2538 of 112th MGC provides information on the action:
22/4 4. 30 pm Sections moved off at intervals for the Point Du Jour where they were in support.
23/4 4. 45 am No 1 and 3 sections commenced barrage according to programme. This barrage was kept up for 46 minutes. Some 30000 rounds were fired.
10 15 am No 4 section took up position and opened fire on large parties of enemy on Greenland hill firing 20000 rounds when they dispersed.
5 45 pm The three remaining battalions formed up with No 2 section in Hurray trench preparatory to an attack on Greenland Hill.
6 pm The 112th Bde had reached the Rouex – Garelle Road and were occupying it. No 2 section was in position protecting the front.
11 pm No 1 sect and 2 guns of No 3 sect into position for the attack next morning ( which was cancelled )
24/4 No 1 section throughout the day fired on parties of the enemy on Greenland Hill.
25/4 7 30 am Both the enemy’s and our signals went up on the right in the direction of Rouex. No 1 section opened barrage fire on South side of Greenland Hill and kept on until about 4 30 pm firing some 12000 rounds.
26/4 During the day no of parties of the enemy appeared. No1 sect fired at enemy’s aeroplanes whenever they appeared. On one occasion plane appeared to be hit.
27/4 4 45 am Barrage fire opened and Bde began to advance .
28/4 12 noon During the day No 3 section moved 2 guns to communication trench firing on the railway embankment and on enemy machine guns on our right flank throughout the day.
12 midnight. From midnight the brigade was relieved with the exception of the Machine Gun Coy.
29/4 The Coy was relieved during the night 29/30 April and arrived in bivouacs by 2pm 30th April.
30/4 Moved by motor bus to billets in Denier.
The war diary also lists those men who were awarded medals for bravery:
TILLOY During the month the following decorations were received for gallantry in the field.
60989 L Cpl (now Cpl) W W LIVERMORE GREENLAND HILL 23/4/17/30/4/17
W W Livermore received his M M for acting as a runner under fire during the Greenland Hill operation and was also made up to Corporal. This was confirmed in the London Gazette of 9th July and in the Essex Weekly News of 13th July 1917:
“Cpl W Livermore M G C of Felsted was promoted Corporal in the field for good work and has now been awarded the Military Medal for carrying messages under heavy fire.”
This series of infantry attacks was supported by the RFA. One such Bde was the 162nd in support to the 33rd Division which came into the battle in phase two. Gunner L/20271 Percy Livermore was part of a gun team in 33rd Division Artillery which supported the infantry attacks on 28th April.
From the war diary WO95/2413:
28/4 An operation was carried out to capture those portions of Bayonet and Rifle trenches still in the hands of the enemy.
The infantry attack began at 4 25 am when 12th and 33rd D A put up a protective barrage. Observations was rendered difficult by mist and shell smoke but at 5 58 am the first objective was reported gained. At 6 40 am owing to the Division on our left being held up a smoke barrage was put down on the south side of the river Scarpe. Early in the day our Howitzers were turned on to troublesome Machine Guns and during the rest of the day the batteries were fully occupied with protective barrage and smashing enemy efforts to mass for counter attacks.
The enemy’s artillery opened a light barrage three minutes after our own barrage commenced and at about 7 30 am a heavier barrage was put down on Bayonet Trench but generally speaking hostile shelling was slight until 10 am when things became livelier.
It was probably due to the excellence of the work done by FOOs and batteries that the many counter attacks attempted had been smashed before they could come to fruition.
On 30th April, Haig met with his army commanders Allenby, Horne and Gough to agree a plan for the next phase of the Arras campaign. This was done in the knowledge that elements of the French army had mutinied - refusing to attack but would defend against any aggression. Two million casualties since 1914 had broken the resolve of the poilus to continue the Generals’ war of attrition. Haig, based upon some over optimistic reports about the lack of German reserves, continued the Arras offensive into May 1917. May 3rd attacks continued against the same old objectives of Rouex, Greenland Hill and Bullecourt in the south where the Australians and British took days and suffered huge casualties to take the village - only to lose it. This phase involved fresh divisions so that those previously involved were all rested except the 162nd RFA.
May 3rd 3 45 am 36th and 37th Bdes attacked front between Arleux en Gohelle and Bullecourt supported by 33rd and 12th Divisional artillery.
The advance was met by very heavy machine gun fire and an artillery barrage but our front wave succeeded in forcing their way to Gun trench.
The 18 pounders kept a protective barrage over the 1st objective to save any infantry who had already reached there.
12 10 pm a new bombardment and attack was organized. About 50 Germans at once ran out of the end of the trench and fled down the bank. Another party estimates about 500 also left the bank and made for the road. Artillery opened on both parties with good results.
During the afternoon various targets presented themselves and were dealt with. A good view of counter attacks on the 4th division front were obtained and these attacks were effectively dealt with.
The attack was extended northward to the Roeux chemical works yet again.
May 11/12th our artillery assisted in an attack made by 4th Division on our left North of the River with the object of taking and holding the Chemical Works and Rouex cemetery.
At 7 30 pm we opened a very heavy barrage with a density of 1 18 pounder for every 7 yards of front.
May 12/13th At zero artillery put up a barrage on Devil’s Trench. I gun per 10 yards.
The attack was held up by heavy machine gun and rifle fire from both flanks.
The attack by the 3rd Division on our right was also unsuccessful and by night our infantry occupied their original line.
May 19th An attack was carried out to capture Devil’s trench.
As soon as our artillery barrage opened the enemy opened very concentrated M G fire. He also put down an effective barrage 30 seconds after ours.
The enemy’s fire rendered an advance impossible
Result – line remains unchanged.
Battle casualties 16 ORs.
Gunner Percy Livermore was one of the wounded and was transferred to no 4 General Hospital in Rouen before, in June 1917, he was repatriated to the UK.
The last elements of this diversionary battle centred around Rouex, Greenland Hill, Infantry Hill and Croiselles. Officially the Battle of Arras ended on 24th May. It had lasted thirty-nine days and cost 159,000 casualties. Hostilities did not end on that date. Some of the troops and equipment were moved North to be involved in what became officially known as Third Ypres, whilst others remained in the Arras sector continuing to harass the enemy. Such was the strength of the Hindenburg Line that tunneling companies had to be used to lay explosives to blow apart some of the defences. The 181st tunneling company did this in a section of the line around the village of Fontaine les Croisilles in the south of the battle zone as their war diary WO95/ 405 succinctly explains:
20th May Mine at T.6d.10.5 (map ref.) successfully exploded enemy block completely obliterated.
No doubt such actions helped the infantry, such as the 5th Yorkshires, to undertake attacks on the German lines. On 17th June 1917, the 5th Yorkshires were moved into the front line west of Fontaine les Croisilles.
The war diary WO 95/2836 recounts what happened:
26th June At 12 30 am in conjunction with 5th D L I on the left the Batt attacked the German position NW of Fontaine. Objectives were Rotten Row. Attack was carried out by A coy with D coy in support. The objective was gained at once and several dugouts were successfully bombed. The coy proceeded to dig in using an old German trench along the western side of Rotten Row. When daylight came the company was completely isolated from the supports who had moved up to the assembly trench, and at 5 am the Germans attempted to counter attack from the direction of River Road. The counter-attack was dispersed by M G fire and bombs and the company maintained its position all day being relieved at night by a company of the 4th East Yorkshire regt. Captures during the operations – 4 prisoners, 1 machine gun. Casualties 4 killed 11 wounded 1 missing. (Figure 15)
Figure 15. German fortifications around Fontaine Les Croiselles (C R Weekes)
This type of warfare, such as raiding the enemy’s trenches, continued along the front into the autumn of 1917.
The 5th Battalion Yorkshire’s diary WO95/2836 provides graphic details of their involvement:
10th July Bde relieved 149 Bde in new right sector. Batt relieved 6th N F in front line W of Cherisy. Relief complete 12 noon Lieut Col C H Pearce wounded. Major J A R Thomson assumed command.
14th 1 am Party of 5 Germans were seen from Otto Sap and fired on. 1 escaped but 3 were taken prisoner. One of the wounded prisoners died shortly after capture.
15th – 17th New front line dug by Pioneers joining heads of Byker and Dead Boche saps. This line was wired by 4th East Yorkshire Regt and 5th Yorkshire Regt.
19th 4 15 am The enemy put down a heavy barrage on front and support lines along the whole brigade sector and attacked at three points, the most northerly of which was at Dead Boche sap on the extreme right of the Batt subsector. A party of 3 or 4 succeeded in entering our front line at this point but were driven out by the garrison of one of the posts in the new Trench, leaving one of the N C O s dead in our trench besides several packs of bombs abandoned in their flight. Our Casualties from the bombardment 15 other ranks killed, 18 other ranks wounded. (Figure 16a and 16b)
Figure 16a. Area of the 1917 British Trenches around Cherisy (C R Weekes)
Figure 16b. Original Trench Map of the Cherisy sector July 1917 (Paul Reed)
One of those killed was my Great Uncle Frank Herbert Maltby, who was the only one of my grand father’s five brothers to be killed in WW1. Together with those others killed on 19th July, he is buried in the quiet Heninel Communal Cemetery Extension a few miles from the scene of his death. (Figure 17)
Figure 17. Heninel Communel Cemetery Extension (C R Weekes)
The record of his death appeared in the Cambridge Chronicle of August 8th 1917 together with the following:
“He went to the front in August (1916 ) and had seen some of the most desperate fighting in the recent big battles. About a week before his death he spent his 21st birthday in the trenches.”
So the Battle of Arras drifted away to be replaced by the Third battle of Ypres, the German Spring Offensive and the Final 100 days.
What did Arras achieve?
Given its original intention as a diversionary battle to take the German’s attention and resources away from the French attack on the Aisne, it was successful. The British army succeeded in fighting 36 enemy divisions to a virtual standstill and capturing 21,000 men and 250 guns. However, because of the French failure on the Aisne, the battle was prolonged and became something quite different to the original intention. The result was that casualty rates climbed and the territorial gains were virtually nil. The British Army and especially the infantry men were tested to breaking point and came through it with loyalty and cheerfulness unlike their French counterparts who, for the remainder of 1917 and well into 1918, could not be called upon to do anything because of the mutinies in the ranks. The Official War History is critical of the way in which the Battle was commanded:
“The fact is that Arras was forced upon Haig. His heart and mind were not in it and thus to him must be attributed the blame for the failure to take advantage of the surprise of Easter Monday 1917.”
Peter Barton in the excellent book ‘ARRAS The Spring 1917 Offensive in Panoramas’ is even more scathing:
“Arras was unforgivably shambolic and blundering. Eye witnesses testify to more instances of exasperation about the way the battle was conducted than any other of the war…
In no other clash did the events of one single day - April 9th - hold such promise to dramatically change the face of the wider conflict …
How the Germans must have laughed at us. One futile attack succeeded another with no co-operation, no guiding hand. It was no wonder that as casualties increased so confidence disappeared.”
So - what of my relatives whose stories have been told here?
For Frank Maltby and Ernest Jarvis the battle of Arras brought the end of their young lives as they both joined the lengthening list of casualties. Their names live on in the memorials to the “Glorious Dead” created by a grateful nation to ensure that they would never be forgotten.
Frank Herbert Maltby the butcher’s boy from Cambridge had his gravestone recently replaced in Heninel Communal Cemetery Extension South of Arras. His name also appears on the War Memorial in the Guildhall in Cambridge, in the Yorkshire Regimental Roll of Honour in Richmond Parish Church and on the WW1 memorial plaques in Ely Cathedral.
Ernest Jarvis, former departmental store shop assistant in Chelmsford, has no known grave. His name appears on a panel of the Arras Memorial to the Missing and on the War Memorial in Chelmsford Cathedral. Furthermore, because he served in the RDF an Irish regiment, he also appears in the beautifully illustrated books of Ireland’s Memorial Record IMR which contain the names of 49,000 men killed in WW1.
Wilfred Livermore was promoted to Serjeant in the 40th Bn MGC and wounded and taken prisoner in March 1918 whilst defending the withdrawal of 40th Division during the St Michael German offensive. He died in captivity in May 1918 and is buried in Favreuil British Military Cemetery near to Bapaume. His name is on the War Memorial in his home village of Felsted and on the Rolls of Honour in its two churches.
Frank Jarvis recovered from his wounds and returned to the Border regiment. He was killed in action in October 1918 whilst serving with 5th Battalion and is buried in Bellicourt British Cemetery near to St Quentin. He is commemorated on the Border Regiment’s Roll of Honour in Carlisle Cathedral and on the Felsted Village War Memorial and its church Rolls of Honour alongside his cousin Wilfred Livermore.
George Shallish continued to serve with the 4th Battalion Worcesters until July 1918 when he was transferred to 9th Gloucesters a Pioneer Battalion until the end of the war. He returned to Somerset where he lived until his death in 1932.
Samuel Maltby returned to 5th Battalion Yorkshires in early 1918 and was taken prisoner in May 1918 . He returned home in December 1918 to his old job at the Cambridge brick works until his death in 1964.
Percy Livermore recovered from his wounds and in September 1917 he returned to France but after only one month he was invalided out of the army with tuberculosis. Awarded the Silver War Badge, he died in 1920.
Albert Livermore was transferred from the 181st RE Tunneling Company back to the 8th Battalion Norfolk regiment sometime in the autumn of 1917. He was killed in action in October 1917 at the battle of Poelcapelle and is buried in Cement House Cemetery in Belgium and commemorated in the church at Great Leighs Essex.
As the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Arras approaches in April 2017, I hope that people will understand its importance in the context of the war and the sacrifices made by my relatives and the thousands of others who lie at peace in the beautiful cemeteries nestling amongst the rolling hills of Artois. Wars throughout time are remembered by the names of the places where significant actions were fought. In WW1, Mons, the Somme, Ypres, Gallipoli, Passchendaele are etched on the tablets of history. Arras should be there too.
1. Medal index / rolls - National Archives Kew London, War Diaries WO95 / 2538 / 2309 / 2301 / 2413 / 405 / 2008 / 2836
2. The Border Regiment in the Great War by H.C.Wylly, Naval & Military Press, pages 129 & 130
3. Neill’s blue caps, Naval & Military Press, pages 83, 84
4. Green Howards in the Great War by H.C.Wylly, Naval & Military Press, pages 157 to 159
5. The Fiftieth Division 1914-1919 by Everard Wyrall, Naval & Military Press, pages 202 to 232
6. Cheerful Sacrifice by Jonathan Nicholls, Pen & Sword Books, pages 129, 137, 139, 141, 164, 172, 187-189, 195-199
7. Monchy le Preux by Colin Fox, Pen & Sword Books, pages 24, 29-32, 47, 56, 66, 71, 72, 142
8. Walking Arras by Paul Reed, Pen & Sword Books, pages 149 & 165
9. Arras by P. Barton & J. Banning, Constable, London, pages 197-207, 226-228, 245-250, 258, 259, 297-299
Post-war service history [ edit | edit source ]
Colonel Alexander Dorofeyeev in Maykop, 1988.
After the war the division was returned to Krasnodar, and in 1950 the division was relocated to Maykop. After the reforms of 1956 the division became the 9th Motor Rifle Division and was based at Maykop for many years.
On 12 September 1992 the division was reorganised as the 131st Separate Motor Rifle order of Kutuzov and Red Star Brigade of the 67th Army Corps, North Caucasus Military District (Russian: 131 Отдельная мотострелковая орденов Кутузова и красной Звезды бригада (ОМСБ) ). The brigade participated in the First Chechen War of 1994–96, including the New Year 1995 assault on Grozniy during the combat for the railway terminal where it suffered severe casualties in dead and wounded following an ambush by superior enemy numbers. Γ] The battle for Grozny cost 157 casualties, including 24 officers (including Colonel Savin), one warrant officer (Russian: прапорщик ) and 60 NCOs and soldiers killed and 12 officers, one warrant officer and 59 NCOs and soldiers missing (presumed dead). The brigade also lost 22 T-72 tanks, 45 BMP-2s, and 37 cars and trucks. Δ] although other sources give higher losses attributed to the 81st Motor Rifle Regiment which participated in the operation. The brigade was forced to withdraw from combat, was surrounded, and forced to abandon all of its equipment, with the personnel escaping individually or in small groups. From March 1995 the brigade participates in the Gudermes operation. In all the brigade suffered 1,282 casualties during the campaign.
On 26 April 1995 the brigade returned to Adygeya but was recalled to combat service three months later to participate in further operations in Chechnya, eventually as two manoeuvre groups from 20 February to 7 October 1996.
Since the Chechnya campaigns the brigade has remained in the Caucasus region, and has again changed its name to 131st Separate Motor-Rifle Krasnodar Red Banner, Order of Kutuzov and Red Star Kuban cossack brigade (Russian: 131-й отдельная мотострелковая Краснодарская Краснознаменная, орденов Кутузова и Красной Звезды Кубанская казачья бригада ) Two of its battalions are participating in the peace-keeping missions in Georgia in the regions of Urta and along the Abkhazian-Georgian border. These battalions and the brigade's tank battalion are staffed completely with professional service personnel serving under the new contracts. The brigade has achieved first place in the performance assessment within the military district during 2005. [ citation needed ]