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Aloof Trench (August 21-25, 1917)


mordac
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Hi All:

While reading Victor Wheeler's '50th Battalion In No Man's Land' I came across an interesting account about the attack on Lens. Between August 21-25, 1917 the 50th (Alberta) was engaged in an attack on the Aloof Trench, which depleted their ranks. Can one of you kind souls please tell me who their German opponents were? Nicholson's official history of the CEF doesn't help me fill in the picture. Thanks.

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Mordac, I did a quick check before work and I came across some possibilities, the 1st Guard Reserve Regiment, 5th Guard Grenadier Regiment and 190th I.R. I have an account of the fighting by the 5th Guard Grenadier Regiment I believe and it does mention the Canadian defenders. I will see if I can't narrow it down. Exactly where is the trench mentioned in your inquiry?

Once I am home again I will check further. Hopefully you will get some additional answers shortly.

Ralph

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Ralph, I wonder if you could also check out who was opposing 29th Vancouver Battalion on August 21 in the attacks on Cinnabar Trench, Nun's Alley, and Nabob Alley. These are located NW of Lens, between St. Elizabeth and Cite St. Auguste, near the road to St. Auguste.

Peter in Sunny Vancouver

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Hello Peter, The 29th Vancouver Regiment was oposed by the 1st Guard Reserve Inf. Regiment on the 21st. I am still checking the other reference.

Ralph

Been to your area of the world twice and enjoyed it immensely. We would like to go back and see it again.

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Peter,

There are a number of possibilities that might fit your inquiry on the 50th Battalion. If you have any maps showing the location of the unit it would help to narrow it down. From what I can find there are at least three divisions fighting in the area. The 220th Division had three regiments in the fighting, the 55th Reserve, 99th Reserve and 190th IR. The 1st Guard Reserve Division had a reference to the 1st Guard Reserve Regiment and then there is mention of the 5th Foot Guard Regiment, from the 4th Guard Division.

If you could send me a scan or if someone else could provide one to me it would help. Also, please note the first messages have been edited, the original reference I found was in error and upon checking further I made the necessary changes.

I have two of the regimental histories of the regiments I mentioned, the 99th and 55th Reserve. Both have details about the fighting on 21 August. Please let me know if you can help with those maps.

Ralph

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Hi Ralph:

Here's Victor Wheeler's discription of the location: "Under 10th Brigade "Operations Order No. 80" we, the 50th, were prepared to attack seven hundred yards east of the Cite St. Pierre to Great Peter Street. At this Juncture with the Lens Road and Aloof Trench, which ran in a northerly direction for approximately one thousand yards parallel to the Lens-Bassee Road, was the German front line."

Many thanks.

Garth

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Hi Ralph:

Nicholson's official history of the CEF has a map of the complete Lens area showing all the Canadian battalions involved. However, the area of action for the 50th is a little confusing. If you want, I'll e-mail you a pdf of the map.

Garth

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Hello Garth, I did a little checking based upon the description you provided. I had three maps to review and the difference between them was amazing in detail. It is as if there were three different locations. However, until I see your map the best guess I have is that the 50th attacked near the junction between the 99th Reserve and the 55th Reserve from the 220th Inf. Div.

Hopefully I will have the correct one in the near future.

Ralph

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The 29th Vancouver Regiment was oposed by the 1st Guard Reserve Inf. Regiment on the 21st.

Ralph, in a 1919 speech by Colonel Latta of 29th Battalion about the fighting on August 21st 1917, he stated: "That was the first time we had ever really found a large body of Germans stand up and fight, and fight they did – big fellows of the Grenadiers and the 5th Prussians". Does that make any sense to you?

Come back to Vancouver anytime ! B)

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Hello Peter, The reference you mentioned does make good sense. The 4th Guard Division was also present at Lens at this time. The division consisted of 3 regiments, one was the 5th Foot Guard Regiment, another was the 5th Grenadier Regiment. Considering the type of fighting it was quite possible both of these regiments as well as others were in contact with the Canadian Battalion.

Ralph

P.S. I have an account of the fighting this day from a member of the 5th Guard Grenadier Regiment. I think I have already translated it. let me see if I can find it in my papers.

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Hello Garth,

The map was quite useful and I appreciate your sending it to me. I checked with the maps I have and I believe I can determine which German regiment was opposite the 50th Battalion. Based on your map I would say the attack struck the German lines at the right wing of Reserve Regiment 99 (5th Coy) and the left wing of Reserve Regiment 55. Both of these were from the 220th Division. This division was placed at the front to support the 11th Reserve Division that had suffered considerable losses. The 11th Reserve Division was reported to have left the line on 20 August.

I have both regimental histories and I will see what I can find regarding the fighting on this day.

Ralph

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5th Foot Guard Regiment, another was the 5th Grenadier Regiment.

Ralph, appreciate the lookup. Would the German Guards and Grenadiers still be "big fellows" in 1917? Please correct me, but if they were generally large in stature in 1914 like most other Guards and Grenadiers in other forces, would the regiments have been decimated by 1917 and any size men be serving in their place?

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Peter, I do not have any specific details regarding the question asked but if the Guard regiments were like other German regiments they would have received men from a number of different locations, size, etc. I doubt the pre-war or early war requirements (if any) could have been maintained given the level of casualties suffered in the German army by 1917. Regardless the Guard units were considered to be a higher level of soldier than many other units.

Perhaps others will have more details on this subject if they have access to more German unit histories of the Guards.

Ralph

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  • 11 years later...
  • 7 years later...
On 08/05/2003 at 21:18, Broznitsky said:

Ralph, in a 1919 speech by Colonel Latta of 29th Battalion about the fighting on August 21st 1917, he stated: "That was the first time we had ever really found a large body of Germans stand up and fight, and fight they did – big fellows of the Grenadiers and the 5th Prussians". Does that make any sense to you?

Come back to Vancouver anytime ! B)

Hello , you mention this speech by Col Latta; “1919 speech by Colonel Latta of 29th Battalion about the fighting on August 21st 1917”. 
 

I am searching for info on Lt Col Latta, would you happen to have a link to this speech I could get please.

 

Thanks

 

Jim

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  • 2 weeks later...

As I wrote my post 18 years ago, I would assume there was no link to the speech at that time.  No doubt I found it in some written materials I possess, or found it in a library or archive.

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