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Remembered Today:

Brigade pulled from the line


MelPack

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Hello

I was intrigued by the following entry in the war diary of the 1st Royal Berks:

1st Royal Berkshire Thursday 11th March 1915 France, GIVENCHY

Orders were received for the Battn to assault and take the German trenches (see attached order)

Captain C.G.HILL DSO Commanding the Battn made the following dispositions:-

"D" Company was detailed to deliver the first assault, objective German trenches near C1.D1 making good the trench C2.D2 (see sketch) . "D" Company at 8am was brought up and occupied Village Trench, its left resting on OBSERVATION HOUSE, and the assault was to be launched from the forward trench near what is known as the SHRINE. O.C. "D" Coy Capt M.C.RADFORD.

"C" Company was in immediate support in Village Trench and the communicating trenches leading into it. O.C. "C" Coy 2/Lieut W.G. Cox.

"B" Company was in local reserve distributed in trenches near FRENCH FARM. O.C. "B" Coy Capt G. Belcher.

"A" Company in reserve in and near GIVENCHY DUGOUTS. O.C. "A" Coy Lieut G.H. Woods.

Owing to fog the artillery did not start the bombardment until 9am.

This bombardment was continued for 2 hours and at 11.10am the 47th Battery reported that they had made a gap in the German wire. It was found on investigation that this gap was only 5 yards in length, and that some damage had been done to our forward trench from which the assault was to be made.

It was therefore decided to stop the artillery bombardment and repair the damaged trench. Capt C.G. Hill reported that unless more of the wire in front of the German trenches was demolished, the assault might not be successful.

Brigadier Gen R Fanshawe Commanding the 6th Infantry Brigade came up to the trenches and personally inspected the gap which had been made by our artillery. He decided that it was not sufficiently big, and ordered the assault not to take place. The Battn was then withdrawn to the positions it occupied overnight, and the trenches relieved by the IRISH GUARDS.

Orders were received about 6pm that our brigade would be withdrawn, and relieved by the 4th Guards Brigade.

This was done and the Battn was ordered into billets at BETHUNE and went into MONTMORENCY BARRACKS.

Reading between the lines, it would appear that the decision of Brig. Gen. Fanshawe to cancel the attack prevented a pointless slaughter. The order for the peremptory withdrawal of the entire Brigade from the line also indicates that the powers that be were less than impressed by his decision. The Brigade was kept on standby with orders to move at short notice for days afterwards which also suggests a degree of petulance. The Battalion diary also conspicously fails to mention the two OR fatalities and other casualties that were caused by friendly fire on the planned assault trench.

I have encountered other instances where a Battalion has been pulled from the line for a deemed lack of performance but never an entire Brigade. Has anybody come across other instances of this kind? What happened to Fanshawe's subsequent career given, at this stage, he had already served as a pro tem commander of the Division?

Regards

Mel

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Hello

I was intrigued by the following entry in the war diary of the 1st Royal Berks:

1st Royal Berkshire Thursday 11th March 1915 France, GIVENCHY

Orders were received for the Battn to assault and take the German trenches (see attached order)

Captain C.G.HILL DSO Commanding the Battn made the following dispositions:-

"D" Company was detailed to deliver the first assault, objective German trenches near C1.D1 making good the trench C2.D2 (see sketch) . "D" Company at 8am was brought up and occupied Village Trench, its left resting on OBSERVATION HOUSE, and the assault was to be launched from the forward trench near what is known as the SHRINE. O.C. "D" Coy Capt M.C.RADFORD.

"C" Company was in immediate support in Village Trench and the communicating trenches leading into it. O.C. "C" Coy 2/Lieut W.G. Cox.

"B" Company was in local reserve distributed in trenches near FRENCH FARM. O.C. "B" Coy Capt G. Belcher.

"A" Company in reserve in and near GIVENCHY DUGOUTS. O.C. "A" Coy Lieut G.H. Woods.

Owing to fog the artillery did not start the bombardment until 9am.

This bombardment was continued for 2 hours and at 11.10am the 47th Battery reported that they had made a gap in the German wire. It was found on investigation that this gap was only 5 yards in length, and that some damage had been done to our forward trench from which the assault was to be made.

It was therefore decided to stop the artillery bombardment and repair the damaged trench. Capt C.G. Hill reported that unless more of the wire in front of the German trenches was demolished, the assault might not be successful.

Brigadier Gen R Fanshawe Commanding the 6th Infantry Brigade came up to the trenches and personally inspected the gap which had been made by our artillery. He decided that it was not sufficiently big, and ordered the assault not to take place. The Battn was then withdrawn to the positions it occupied overnight, and the trenches relieved by the IRISH GUARDS.

Orders were received about 6pm that our brigade would be withdrawn, and relieved by the 4th Guards Brigade.

This was done and the Battn was ordered into billets at BETHUNE and went into MONTMORENCY BARRACKS.

Reading between the lines, it would appear that the decision of Brig. Gen. Fanshawe to cancel the attack prevented a pointless slaughter. The order for the peremptory withdrawal of the entire Brigade from the line also indicates that the powers that be were less than impressed by his decision. The Brigade was kept on standby with orders to move at short notice for days afterwards which also suggests a degree of petulence. The Battalion diary also conspicously fails to mention the two OR fatalities and other casualties that were caused by friendly fire on the planned assault trench.

I have encountered other instances where a Battalion has been pulled from the line for a deemed lack of performance but never an entire Brigade. Has anybody come across other instances of this kind? What happened to Fanshawe's subsequent career given, at this stage, he had already served as a pro tem commander of the Division?

Regards

Mel

The best thing to do, would be to see what the Guards did over the next few days, did they do the assault, or attempt it? If they did, then yes it could be the case that the Brigade was withdrawn, as the Guards were deemed more 'up' for it.

Though id say the Guards Higher Command would have been, i guess the actual Guardsmen would have been just as keen as the Royals were, seeing the state of the wire etc.

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Is this not what would normally happen if an attack was called off? Had the attack gone in the brigade would have been relieved by another to hold the position. As the attack did not go forward the relief went ahead anyway as the Guards Brigade would have been in close support. It is easier logistically to do that than to send them back and keep the assault brigade in the line.

The brigade being kept on standby suggests they were on standby to make the attack if the breach was widened rather than petulance.

Fanshawe commanded the 48th (South Midland) Division from May 1915 until June 1918.

I don't see anything here other than an attack being called off, a planned relief being made and a unit kept in readyness for an attack which is never made.

Edited to correct division.

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The following may assist from Ian CULLS book ‘The China Dragons Tales’ The 1st Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment in the Great War.

‘Brigadier Fanshaw decided to mount another attack in the afternoon, using the Berkshires and the remnants of the 2nd South Stafford’s, and sent orders to Major Hill to bring his battalion up to the front line. A second artillery bombardment was scheduled for 2.15pm and 'B' and 'D' companies of the Berkshires were ordered to assault at 2.45pm, provided the enemy wire was cut. Major Hill observed the bombardment from the front line, but could see no damage to the wire. Two men were sent across to crawl across no mans land and report. Private Frank Wood went right up to the enemy wire, leaving his companion half way, and found the wire uncut. On the way back he was mortally wounded, but managed to crawl back to the second man, and gasped ‘Wire not cut, enemy holding trench in large numbers’ The vital message was delivered to Major Hill, who cancelled the attack, a decision that Brigadier General Fanshaw endorsed. Private WOODS bravery had saved the Berkshires from a similar fate to the other Battalions of the Brigade. He was mentioned in dispatches and is buried in the Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner.

It goes on… The Brigadier decided to make another attack the following day, using 'D' Company of the Berkshires, who moved up to the front line with C Company in close support. An artillery Barrage commenced at 9.00 am and by 11.00 am reported that they had cut a gap in he enemy wire. Major Hill inspected the gap, discovered it was only 5 yards wide, and refused to sanction the attack. Fanshaw joined him in the front line, which had been damaged by shells falling short from our own bombardment. Fanshaw agreed that the gap was to narrow for the attack to be successful, ordered the artillery to cease firing, and no doubt grateful for their reprieve, the two companies set to work repairing the front line trench. Later that day the 6th Brigade went into reserve.’........................

We very often hear about the officers needlessly attacking when common sense dictated otherwise. It appears to me that HILL who was very respected in the Regiment was made of stern stuff, and FANSHAW appeared to be right at the front in order to make an assessment.

HILL was later killed in action on the 26th June 1915

Hope that helps a little

Cheers

MAC

Is this not what would normally happen if an attack was called off? Had the attack gone in the brigade would have been relieved by another to hold the position. As the attack did not go forward the relief went ahead anyway as the Guards Brigade would have been in close support. It is easier logistically to do that than to send them back and keep the assault brigade in the line.

The brigade being kept on standby suggests they were on standby to make the attack if the breach was widened rather than petulance.

Fanshawe commanded the 48th (South Midland) Division from May 1915 until June 1918.

I don't see anything here other than an attack being called off, a planned relief being made and a unit kept in readyness for an attack which is never made.

Edited to correct division.

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