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33rd Bn Machine Gun Corps (Infantry)


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Peter - The 33rd Btn MGC were formed in February 1918. If you look on the Long Long Trail website for the 33rd Division it will give a list of their activities from this time.

Duncan

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They are probably the most written-about MGC unit of all thanks to their commanding officer, Lt-Col Graham Seton Hutchinson. He wrote a history of the battalion; the history of the 33rd Division; and much more. He had been discussed at length on this forum, so a good search will bring up lots of stuff.

There is also a good history of the 33rd and 38th (Welsh) Divisions in the final phase of the war, by H. D. DePree.

Here is the link to the LLT page: http://www.1914-1918.net/33div.htm

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Another publication which may be of interest:

History and Memoir of the 33rd Battalion Machine Gun Corps and of the 19th, 98th, 100th and 248th M.G. Companies.

Written by Illustrated by Members of the Battalion.

Waterlow Brothers & Layton, 1919.

1600 copies, printed for private circulation

Mark

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That isn't 'another publication' - it is the book by Seton-Hutchison as mentioned above.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi all,

I am interested in the book already mentioned entitled "History and Memoir of the 33rd Battalion M.G.C. and of the 19th, 98th 100 and 248th M.G. Companies" written by Lt-Col. Graham Seton Hutchinson.

Is this a rare book or can it be found and bought easily?

David Whittaker.

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It's pretty rare - published in a limited edition of (as mentioned above) 1,600 copies. I don't think it's been reprinted by Naval & Military (I could be wrong).

It crops up from time to time in second hand dealers' lists: look at £150 as a guide (might be less).

be aware, too, that although an enjoyable book, it is not necessarily the last word in accuracy.

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there is a less than brilliant copy on the net for under 100.00

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Thanks to both Steven and Barkalotloudly for your replies.

The reason I asked my above question is that a friend asked me to look at a copy of this book that was handed down to him by his father. His father was in the 33rd Battalion M.G.C. and although my friend intends to keep the book he had it valued about 3 years ago and was told the book has little value but the pictures have a certain value. I'm pleased to say that he has not destroyed the book by cutting out the pictures and I have assured him that it certainly has a historical value.

As it so happens I am going on a Battle Honours tour shortly with Chris Baker as one of the guides and the 33rd Battalion M.G.C were actively involved in the Battle of the Lys and so I am currently enjoying reading the book prior to going on the tour.

Although the front and rear covers of the book are showing some wear as expected from being 95 years old, the book contains all the photographs, pictures and maps. My friend is contemplating having the book rebound. Is this advisable or should it be left as it is?

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That valuer is, he tries to put it politely, somewhat incorrect. In fact, I would say that the pictures are one of the least interesting aspects of the book. It is not a common book due to the number published, but it is equally not one that never or hardly ever appears for sale. That said, some chancers have asked £500 for it (far too much). Unless the binding is very poor my suggestion is 'leave as is', as a rebind would devalue it to some extent. Copy No.1 went to The King; I have seen Copy No.2 - author's own, which was then in his son's possession.

As an historical source, keep a salt cellar to one side (a pinch of salt may not suffice) as Seton-Hutchison was a prime self publicist. Even his name was an affectation; in the Army List he is simply G.S. Hutchison. He does extend that publicity to the units under his command, but does verge to hyperbole. He claims that 33rd Battalion was the most highly decorated MGC unit of the war; even adding in the pre-1918 awards to Companies - it wasn't. He also makes the claim that it was 33rd Battalion which finally stopped the German 1918 offensive. A very good narrative, but not to the highest standards of objectivity!

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  • 1 year later...

Could anyone who has access to Seton-Hutchinson's history of the unit or his other writings please check to see if he mentions 19 year old Lt Percy Barker from Heywood in Lancashire who was killed on 13th April 1918 and is buried at Meteren Cemetery? In any case I would be interested in details of the action fought by 33rd Company on that date. Any help as always much appreciated.

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According to Hutchison's History of the Thirty-Third Division, the division was split into two separate groups on 13th April. Hutchinson is rather lax on placename spellings, so I have corrected these below, but giving Hutchison's original for reference. Hutchinson also refers to 1st Btn, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and 5/6th Btn, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) as 1/Cameronians and 5/6th Scottish Rifles respectively, though both battalions were effectively from the same regiment by 1914. I have followed him in this.

2/Lt Barker (NB 2/Lt, not Lt) is not mentioned in the book's narrative, but is listed among the Fallen.

33rd Division's smaller group consisting of 100th Brigade and B Coy, 33rd Bn. MGC were put under the control of 25th Division and were in the line near NEUVE EGLISE where they fought a particularly intense action defending the village against a major German onslaught. All three battalions took heavy losses.

The larger group, made up of 19th and 98th Brigades with A, C and D coys, 33rd Bn. MGC, fought a series of engagements to the S and E of METEREN, particularly around the windmill at HOEGENACKER MILL (Hutchinson's 'Hoegenmacher/Hoegenmacker Mill') (Ref 27.X.27.d.7.7)

CWGC's Burial Returns list 2/Lt Barker's body as having been relocated from 27.X.13.b.8.2 and 27.X.13.b.4.9. These sites are about 300m apart and lie approx 2km due W of METEREN just E of what is now the Chemin des Sept Ormes , which strongly suggests Barker was in the larger portion of 33rd Division defending METEREN - i.e. A, C or D coys, 33rd Bn, MGC. Accordingly I've focussed on the 19th Brigade account.

By the 13 April 1918, Divisional HQ was established in METEREN with 19th Brigade in the line S and SE of METEREN and 98th Brigade in Reserve in METEREN itself.

Initially 33rd Bn, MGC Battalion HQ was set up in a farmhouse ~1 mile S of METEREN (exact location not given) with an Advanced BHQ at the crossroads at Ref 27.X.27.b.7.9 (see aerial photo below).

Hutchinson reports the intention on the previous day of moving BHQ to the Mill itself, but this would be some 300 yds closer to the firing line than the Advanced BHQ at the crossroads and he is ambiguous about whether that actually happened. The windmill changed hands several times over the next day or so, so not a very safe spot for a battalion HQ.

The infantry battalions of 19th Bde were arranged in a rough arc of approx 3 miles to the SE and S of METEREN. 5/6th Scottish Rifles on the left approx 200m west of the STEAM MILL (27.X.24.c.0.2) facing E and SE to cover the approaches to METEREN. 1/Queens in the centre on WINDMILL RIDGE around the HOEGENACKER MILL facing S. 1/Cameronians on the right straddling the METEREN BECQUE and facing S to cover the approach from OUTTERSTEENE and MERRIS. 1/Cameronians were in contact with the 1st Australian Brigade to their right believed to be holding MERRIS, though in fact the enemy had probably already infiltrated to MERRIS by this time. 2nd New Zealand Entrenching Battalion were in Support.

19th Brigade's battalions had been further bolstered by a composite force under Brig. Wyatt of ~1,000 men made up as a mixed bag of stragglers, signallers, cooks, tailors, pioneers, instructors and students from various Corps training schools etc., but these were passed to 25th Division on the night of 12/13 April to hold DRANOUTRE.

98th Brigade and D Coy, 33rd Bn. MGC were held in Divisional reserve further back in METEREN itself.

A and C coys 33rd Bn, MGC were deployed with A Coy on Windmill Ridge supporting 1/Queens and covering the approaches to METEREN from the S and SE. Half of C Coy were deployed to their right covering the valley of the METEREN BECQUE and towards MERRIS. The other half of C Coy was deployed to give depth behind, with one section behind 5/6th Scottish Rifles on the left.

That morning of the 13th April 1918, the enemy attacked under cover of mist at dawn with at least two divisions. Their main thrust falling on 1/Queens and A Coy MGC. The centre of 1/Queens gave way and the machine guns were rushed, the teams being killed almost to a man. Only one gun was successfully withdrawn. The flanks fared better however and after much attack and counter-attack, the line was eventually stabilised slightly further back with HOEGENACKER MILL now in enemy hands.

Here's an oblique aerial photograph from July 1918 showing the ground where 2/Lt Barker's final action probably took place. The view is looking SE over Windmill Ridge from a point approx 1 mile west of METEREN. The marker shows the road fork 250m N of HOEGENACKER MILL Ref 27.X.27.b.6.4 - IT IS INCORRECTLY MARKED WITH REF (27.X.)27.b.74.95, which is actually the crossroads in the bottom left corner where 33rd Bn. MGC set up the Advanced Battalion HQ on 12 Apr (see above). The area heavily pitted with shell craters on the right is the site of the windmill.

post-20192-0-23247700-1406543480_thumb.j

Fighting continued on the 14th April but, bolstered by the arrival of 4/KLR (98th Brigade, 33rd Divn) who were put under command of 19th Bde, the line held until a final determined German attack in the early evening when the right flank of 1/Queens was forced back and a general withdrawal took place, though still in reasonable order and well covered by the machine guns. New positions were established closer to METEREN, which were consolidated by digging in and wiring overnight. MGC 33rd Battalion HQ was relocated to a more central position on the METEREN-FLETRE ROAD (the D933) approx 300m W of METEREN. These positions were largely held until 19th April though the Germans managed to penetrate METEREN forcing the left flank on WINDMILL HILL to have to hook round more to the E and NE.

This was a key action in halting the German penetration of the Battle of the Lys and a very close run thing!

:poppy:

HTH.
Mark

Edited by MBrockway
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As an historical source, keep a salt cellar to one side (a pinch of salt may not suffice) as Seton-Hutchison was a prime self publicist. Even his name was an affectation; in the Army List he is simply G.S. Hutchison. He does extend that publicity to the units under his command, but does verge to hyperbole. He claims that 33rd Battalion was the most highly decorated MGC unit of the war; even adding in the pre-1918 awards to Companies - it wasn't. He also makes the claim that it was 33rd Battalion which finally stopped the German 1918 offensive. A very good narrative, but not to the highest standards of objectivity!

This claim is implicit also in his History of the Thirty-Third Division, which is similarly rich in detail on individual companies, even sections, of the 33rd Bn. MGC, but the division's infantry battalions and the actions/decisions of their commanders get very bare mentions. He also here claims the division's success was almost all down to successful machine gun tactics ... despite his vivid accounts of hand-to-hand fighting!

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Thank you for that most comprehensive answer. Needless to say Lt. Barker was an old boy of Bury Grammar School. I am very interested in Operation Georgette and the Battle of the Lys ( one of my great-uncles was captured during the defence of the Nieppe Forest) and I hope to include the 33rd Bn action in a future battlefields tour.

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Hutchinson also refers to 1st Btn, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and 5/6th Btn, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) as 1/Cameronians and 5/6th Scottish Rifles respectively, though both battalions were effectively from the same regiment by 1914.

Oddly, Mark, that might not be the author's fault. The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) were an odd lot: the 1st Battalion (the old 26th Foot) were always "The Cameronians", whereas the 2nd Battalion (ex-90th Light Infantry) were always "The Scottish Rifles". The TF battalions seem to have followed the Regulars'habits, so 1st Cameronians and 5/6th Scottish Rifles was actually the regimental usage. I agree with everything else you say about Hutchinson, though!

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Oddly, Mark, that might not be the author's fault. The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) were an odd lot: the 1st Battalion (the old 26th Foot) were always "The Cameronians", whereas the 2nd Battalion (ex-90th Light Infantry) were always "The Scottish Rifles". The TF battalions seem to have followed the Regulars'habits, so 1st Cameronians and 5/6th Scottish Rifles was actually the regimental usage. I agree with everything else you say about Hutchinson, though!

Yep, I was aware of that too, hence why I respected Hutchinson's usage. Rifles regiments eh? :whistle:

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  • 1 year later...

I thought this might be of interest to some. I bought this copy of Hutchison's History of the 33rd Machine Gun Corps today. It's marked as the author's copy & he's inscribed it to 'Quex' which was the pseudonym of Captain G. H. Nicols who wrote one of the War's classic memoirs 'Pushed & the Return Push'. Of more interest is the fact that Hutchison, who saw himself as quite an artist, has drawn the pictures shown below on the front endpaper.

post-35362-0-76218300-1448389732_thumb.j

post-35362-0-85465500-1448389751_thumb.j

Oddly the book was limited to 1600 copies - this one is numbered 1681!

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  • 1 year later...

It is really interesting reading this thread (and many others alike), I'm one of G S Hutchison's grandchildren. I've read a fair few of his original handwritten accounts of battle and they are fascinating. I'm very lucky to have read the original copies, and hear many of the stories told first-hand from his son, my grandfather. 

G S was quite the artist! Especially  when it came to painting in watercolour. Please reply, if this thread is still alive! 

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When I bought my copy of the 33rd MGC history (in about 1985), it cost me £25 at an antiques fair at a Village College in Cambridgeshire (Comberton, I think). My wife had spotted it and we were looking through it, when another (slightly older) couple came up who had obviously been looking at it previously.

 

The chap asked if he could see it, so I handed it over: their conversation made it obvious that the plan was to buy the book and remove the pictures for 'The Boy' who would, it seemed, like them. The chap then asked if I was buying it (£25 was a reasonable chunk of my disposable income in those days), to which my dear wife said "Yes" and took it back.

 

We have it still - pictures intact!

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On ‎11‎/‎24‎/‎2015 at 18:31, Dust Jacket Collector said:

Oddly the book was limited to 1600 copies - this one is numbered 1681!

 

My copy, no.368, still has it's original paperwork included, which states that "a limited number of copies over and above those subscribed for have been printed and can be ordered from the Printers at the price of Two Guineas per copy":

 

https://postimg.org/image/gn0ks0q5d/

 

RIMG1245.jpg

 

https://postimg.org/image/ovjs72kaf/

 

RIMG1904.jpg

 

9 hours ago, Steven Broomfield said:

The chap asked if he could see it, so I handed it over: their conversation made it obvious that the plan was to buy the book and remove the pictures for 'The Boy' who would, it seemed, like them. The chap then asked if I was buying it (£25 was a reasonable chunk of my disposable income in those days), to which my dear wife said "Yes" and took it back.

 

We have it still - pictures intact!

 

The same paperwork also states "that any of the coloured illustrations (mounted) can be purchased separately from the Printers at the price of 1/- or a complete set for 12/6. The originals of the sketches and a number of others not reproduced are for sale also to help cover the cost of reproduction..."

 

Would dearly love to be able to use the order form to order a few more copies of the book, but especially the illustrations, or purchase some of the original artwork. The one below is a particular favourite of mine:

 

https://postimg.org/image/bbhpyrp01

 

RIMG1247_Copy_Copy.jpg

 

 

 

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There is an online version of this book "Written and Illustrated by Members of the Battalion", which is copy 1617. I note it was uploaded quite recently to Archive.org in  September 2016.

https://archive.org/details/historymemoirof300unse

 

I don't know whether being one of the "extra copies"  supply of some of the pages had run out, but it does not contain the first two images posted by Andrew Upton,  one of which is the List of  Coloured illustrations. Or perhaps the omissions are due to the filming?

 

Cheers

Maureen

 

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15 hours ago, Maureene said:

I don't know whether being one of the "extra copies"  supply of some of the pages had run out, but it does not contain the first two images posted by Andrew Upton,  one of which is the List of  Coloured illustrations. Or perhaps the omissions are due to the filming?

 

 

They are actually physically separate pieces of paperwork that came with the book originally, not joined to the book itself. I can't imagine many copies have them still preserved intact. Mine was a gift from my mother, and she deliberately bought the best copy she could locate. It is virtually pristine for its age.

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21 hours ago, Maureene said:

There is an online version of this book "Written and Illustrated by Members of the Battalion", which is copy 1617. I note it was uploaded quite recently to Archive.org in  September 2016.

https://archive.org/details/historymemoirof300unse

 

I don't know whether being one of the "extra copies"  supply of some of the pages had run out, but it does not contain the first two images posted by Andrew Upton,  one of which is the List of  Coloured illustrations. Or perhaps the omissions are due to the filming?

 

Cheers

Maureen

 

Thanks for the link Maureene.

 

Random dips into this publication in some dozen or so places reveal that large parts of its text and some of the drawings are repeated verbatim in The Thirty-Third Division in France & Flanders 1915-1919.

 

Unfortunately my copy of the N&M reprint has the wrong title page (it's the title page from Macartney-Filgate's History of the 33rd Divisional Artillery instead) so I cannot give more detailed bibliographical info on the divisional history.  However Hutchinson's Foreword is dated 04 Aug 1921, so it looks like the MGC volume pre-dates it.

 

This would go some way to explaining the MGC "focus" in the Divisional History.

 

Mark

 

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  • 1 year later...

I have now unearthed Percy Barker's obituary in the 'Heywood Advertiser' This includes an extract from a letter from a Major Lewthwaite (that's how the newspaper spells it) saying that 2nd. Lt Barker was killed at about 5pm and was buried that night close to 'heroes of the 1914 retreat' (from 1st Battalion Royal Warwicks). I think that this offers more clues as to the location of his death. Does anyone know which company Lewthwaite commanded?

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