Harper Posted 25 December , 2011 Share Posted 25 December , 2011 The handover from 3rd Australian Division to 66th British Division Night of 5th October 1917 was, to put it mildly, not smooth nor successful. Below are quotes from the website of the Manchester Regiment, part of the 66th Division and also from the Official History of Australia in War of 1914-1918. I should be very grateful if any member could help with my questions or point me to the appropriate resources. There appears to be a degree of passing the buck in the two sources quoted below. My questions are: 1. What actually happened during the handover? 2. What was the role of Capt. K. G. Maxwell, 2/6th Manchesters referred to in Bean’s footnote? What did he do to imperil his career in the words of Bean? One of his brothers had been seriously wounded the previous day during the attack of the 3rd Australian Division at Broodseine Ridge. Two other brothers were staff officers in the 4th Australian Division. So all four were very close to each other during this battle. From the Manchester Regiment website: “The 66th had been earmarked along with the 49th (West Riding) Division for the fourth in Plumer’s series of assaults designed to carry the ridge at Passchendaele. Once carried the assault along the coast and the amphibious landings at Ostend could then go ahead and Haig’s grand strategic plan realised. However time was running out. Unless the ridge was carried by mid-October the last high tide (vital to the amphibious landings) would be missed. If this were missed then the whole strategic element of Haig’s plan would fail. The attack must succeed. Its chances of success were diminishing for a number of reasons: 1) Despite the slow nature of Plumer’s operations the leading edge of the BEF was now too far in advance of its guns, especially the crucial medium and heavy guns. What was needed now was a long pause in order to construct the forward roads and tracks that were necessary to move the guns and ammunition. 2) II ANZAC Corps under Lt.-Gen. AJ Godley had failed to organise the forward area in a coherent manner. In a shocking lapse of command responsibility II ANZAC in effect just left Divisions to “get on with it”. Consequently forward communications were being built in a haphazard and piecemeal manner leading to supply and movement chaos on the battlefield. The last duckboard tracks petered out of existence a full 1½ miles from the actual front line. The 66th Division CRE Guy Williams along with many other engineers and divisional commanders was particularly scathing about II ANZAC preparations. 3) The weather had turned from bad to appalling. On 4 October the heavens opened and rain described as having a ‘tropical intensity’ fell. The already overloaded drainage system collapsed completely. Where there was once mud there now existed swamps, especially in the Ravebeek Valley area, slap bang in the middle of the assault zone. The omens did not look good, but a conference of Army and Corps Commanders, including Plumer, argued in favour of an attack. It is difficult to find words that can even begin to describe the appalling conditions under which this attack took place and history has not been kind to 66th Division. The Australian Official Historian CEW Bean castigated the abilities of the 66th Division and blames them for the failure of the assault. However Bean neglects to mention the appallingly bad roads and tracks or the spectacular operational mismanagement of II ANZAC Corps.” CEW Bean’s Official History of Australia in War of 1914-1918 Vol lV, Capter XX1 P886 “The 66th was an untried division as to the capacity of whose staff for this operation there was anxiety not only in Australian circles. The relief in which its 199th Brigade took over the 3rd Australian Division’s line on the night of October 5th was marked by an almost incredible degree of mis-management. 19 Footnote 19: Birdwood was so shocked by the particulars which reached his ears that he conceived that the corps and divisional commanders should be frankly informed of them. The sole effect of his representation, however, was to imperil the career of a splendid officer of the division (a brother of the Maxwells of Mouquet Farm and of Messines) who indirectly and unwittingly had been the channel through which Birdwood received the information.” I have had a look at Bean’s diaries and notes but cannot find any supporting detail. Many thanks. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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