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smclaren

Company diaries of the 47TH (London) Division needed for NZEF research.

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smclaren

Merry Christmas, everyone ....

 

Can anyone tell me if the infantry companies of the 47TH (London) Division created official or personal ww1 diaries ? So that would be the 1/6, 1/7, 1/8, 1/15th battalions of the London regiment.

 

I have read the 47th Division's diary ... wondering if there were any company level histories completed ? 

 

I am researching my grandfathers (George McLaren 12/2419 - 3rd Company, 1st Auckland Battalion, NZEF) efforts with the New Zealander's around Flers during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916.

 

As a bomber in the 1st Auckland Battalion, he writes in his diary (and is supported by the official NZ unit diaries) about he and his team extending the Flers trench on the 17th and 18th of September 1916, originally taken by the NZ 3rd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade (with support from tanks) the previous day.

 

Sunday - 17th of September "at 6.30 had a bit of dust up with the Huns on our left. I shot two, we killed about six all together ..."

Monday - 18th of September - " Tommies took the two trenches on our left and us bombers has to run across a 30yrd open stretch swept by machine guns. Colin got killed ...."

 

That dash across open ground is (I am presuming) to connect with the Tommies (assuming they were elements of the 47th on the NZ left), finally breaking out of High Wood and making it up to the Flers Support/Trench system. My assumption is based on the official diaries of the 47th, that state .... "It was considered imperative to get a footing in the Flers Line where it was joined by Drop Alley, and on the evening of the 17th orders were issued to the 140th Brigade to effect this. But that day steady rain had begun, making bad conditions far worse, and it was decided to postpone this operation until dawn of the 18th.  A mixed force of the 8th. 15th, and 6th Battalions, under Lieut. - Colonel Whitehead, of the 8th, then attacked, and succeeded in occupying both the Flers Line and Drop Alley to within 50 yards of the junction which the enemy still held."

 

I'm always looking to get greater detail of my Grandfathers efforts ... and potentially these company level stories may hold more info.

 

If anyone could assist here, I'd be most appreciative. I have attached the page from Georges diary for your reference.

 

Best regards

 

Steve

nlnzimage (26) - Fri 15th Sept. Move to Mametz Woods. Wounded and Hun prisoners. Moved up to tranches. Flers System. Terrible shelling. Lots of dead wounded huns, aweful sights.Action. Somne Battle Colin Killed.jpg

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Skipman

Happy New Year. As far as I know there are no official company level diaries, there are battalion and brigade diaries available here on ancestry.co.uk not sure they will have the level of detail you might be looking for. There's also the History of the 47th (London) Division online free.

 

Mike

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Martyn61

Any ideas who 'Colin got killed' was?

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sotonmate

Steve

 

Here the data from National Archives Discovery database for the three Battalions:

1/6th :  http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14055440

1/8th:   http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14055448

1/15th:  http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7354554

They cost £3.50 each or if you have access to Ancestry UK you may be lucky to find them there. I have found diaries by using the WO95 number

(viz, for the 1/6th I would enter 2729/3 in the keyword box only) and it might appear. I also use the unit details and date and this sometimes appears !

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smclaren

Thanks Mike, for your response.

 

Martyn ... Colin was Colin Harrison (http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C6462) ... part of the 5th Reinforcements to the 1st AIB, like my Grandfather. Colin is mention many times in his diary as a mate and also part of his section of bombers ... from Gallipoli and then up to the Battle of the Somme that claimed his life. My grandfather actually buried him on the battlefield with the help of his best mate Frank Coulam (can you imagine that) ... but Colin tragically has no known grave.

 

Sotonmate ... thanks for those referrals. I will absolutely download those articles form the National Archives. 

 

Thanks 

 

Steve

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Drew-1918

Hello Steve,

 

You can read an online version of the 15th Battalion history here: The History of the Prince of Wales' Civil Service Rifles

 

I am not sure if it helps with anything specific to your research but at least it might be one to cross off your list. The description of the action around that time by a Corporal Guiton is extremely vivid.

 

I have a copy of the 6th Battalion history which I can check, if you would like, the only problem is that I am away from home until the 6th January. I can also check the 8th Battalion history as well, but would not expect much from that as it is a very slim volume indeed. 

 

Best regards,

 

Chris

 

 

 

 

 

 

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smclaren

Hi Chris

 

Thanks for the assistance. The link you gave me to the Civil Service Rifles was fantastic ... really added great detail to what was happening on my Grandfathers "left".

 

It even mentions the connection of the NZ and English efforts in the area on the 18th of September 1916. I would even go as far to guess that the "run across a 30 yrd open stretch" that my grandfather mentions in his diaries as being this section in the Rifles diary ... "The New Zealanders had a party in the Flers Line between the Bosches and the Civil Service Rifles ...".  But I am no expert on these matters and always happy to be proven wrong. 

 

Here is what the Civil Service Rifles account says of the action on the 18th of September .... 

 

"Before being relieved on the night of the 19th September by the 1st Battalion The Black Watch, the Civil Service Rifles undertook two more operations. The first was an advance into the Flers Line on the 18th, but as the enemy had by now evacuated this trench, the advance passed off without loss.

 

But the enemy still held the junction of the Flers Line and Drop Alley, and that portion of the Flers Line west of the junction. The New Zealanders had a party in the Flers Line between the Bosches and the Civil Service Rifles, but the Civil Service Rifles had a small force under Lieutenant B. K. Ware in Drop Alley. These two forces attempted, by joint bombing attacks, to dislodge the Bosches, but the attempt failed. The men were now thoroughly exhausted, for in addition to the enormous amount of work of the past few days and the excitement of the fray, the last twenty-four hours had been endured in a pitiless rain, which caused huge chunks of the trenches to give way. There was mud and rain everywhere and, as there was no shelter, rifles and Lewis guns eventually became choked with mud.

 

It was while in this state that the enemy attempted to drive Lieutenant Ware’s party out of Drop Alley. He partially succeeded at first, but was afterwards driven back. But at 7.0 p.m. on the 19th, he came again with renewed vigour, and got down Drop Alley, where the defending troops, with rifles and Lewis guns out of action, and themselves quite worn out, were unable to dislodge him. They did not give up without a struggle, however, and Lieutenant Ware died that night in a plucky attempt to achieve the impossible.

 

Thus ended the operations of the Civil Service Rifles at High Wood ...  "

 

I've attached the NZ battle map of the Flers action ... you can see in pencil (need to look very closely) the notes made around the Flers Trench and Flers Support trench referring to some of the smaller trenches in the 47 divisions area of responsibility (Cough Drop, Drop Alley) and all the units in action (140th Bde, LR (London Regiment ?), 1st Battalion Black Watch, Auckland, Otago etc).

 

Thanks again, Chris ... happy to look at any other detail that you can offer up ... when suits of course.

 

Best regards

 

Steve

Battle Map of Flers 1916.jpg

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Drew-1918

Hello again Steve,

 

You are very welcome, I am glad it was of some interest. I will have a look at anything else I might have, if no one gets back to you before.

 

By the way, have you ever used the online maps at the National Library of Scotland? The following one, from about a month after your grandfather was there, has ‘The Cough Drop’ and ‘Drop Alley’ marked on it, and may be of use in comparing with what you already have. In my own use of this site, what I find particularly interesting is the way you can toggle between the trench map and the modern day satellite image and see today the places where your relative may have been. 

 

57C. SW, 7th October 1916

 

Apologies if you already have this info.

 

Regards,

 

Chris

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smclaren

Thanks Chris ... I had used that site before but didn't pick up on the overlay function. Thats very cool. Thanks for pointing it out.

 

Steve

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Drew-1918

Hello Steve,

 

The following is a summary of details in The "Cast Iron Sixth", A History of the Sixth Battalion London Regiment, by Capt. E. G. Godfrey, MC:

 

"Sept. 15th, 1916

 

The 6th Bn. attacked at 8.30 a.m. The attack frontage of about 500 yards, was made in four waves, each composed of one platoon from each of the four companies: C Coy on the right, linking with New Zealand troops, B Coy, D Coy, and A Coy, on the left, linking with the 15th Bn. Intervals of 100 yds. were maintained between waves, and platoons, about 50 strong, carried 8 Lewis-guns.

 

At once it became apparent that 8th & 15th Bns. had not achieved their aims. The 6th Bn encountered strong resistance. The New Zealanders were also held up on the right, with the result that the enemy could concentrate on the 6th Bn. from both flanks. The key to success in this battle was early on recognised as the capture of High Wood. The Germans realised this too and their resistance was desperate:

“…the German rose from their trenches to meet the advancing waves in the open, and in the open they were slain”.

The 6th suffered heavily from enfilade fire from the wood and from the strong point known as the Cough Drop. The 6th Bn were not able to obtain their original objectives because they had to deal with the wood and strong point first. In the end, the Cough Drop was captured mainly by C Company [this was the company closest to the new Zealanders]. Of the gallant ‘Sixth’, only 2 officers and 38 men remained to face the suspected counter-attack. There were no reinforcements, and 50 men normally employed on regimental duties in the Transport lines were brought up to help. The total garrison was still lamentably weak. A small patrol was sent out and succeeded in locating the New Zealanders in a sunken road lying about 500 yds to the east, and then settled down for the night.   

 

Early the next morning (the 16th) 200 men of the 22nd Battalion arrived to strengthen the little force. The objective remained the Flers Lines. A further assault was consequently decided upon, and during the evening of the 17th, the Sixth were astonished to learn that they were to take part in it. In the early hours of the 18th, 200 officers and men from the 8th Bn. and about 100 from the 15th Bn., all under the command of Major Whitehead, arrived to take up “jumping-off” positions a little to the left of the posts occupied by the Sixth. At 5 a.m. the Flers Line was assaulted. The Sixth first took up some trenches occupied by New Zealanders, and operating on the right of the 15th Bn., occupied Drop Alley, a communication trench joining the enemy lines. At midday a detachment of New Zealanders relieved those of the Sixth occupying these positions, and withdrawing, the latter re-joined their comrades still in the Cough Drop, which now seemed to be the most “unhealthy” spot in the whole neighbourhood.

 

Early the following morning [19th] Germans attacked a party of the 15th Bn. holding Drop Alley, and it looked as if a bigger attack would come. However, nothing further occurred and the 15th were able to re-establish their positions. Still later, New Zealanders, in conjunction with the 15th Bn., made another assault upon the junction of Drop Alley and the Flers Lines in order to clear the enemy out once and for all, but the action was unsuccessful. The 1st Black Watch relieved the Sixth in the Cough Drop early on the morning of the 20th.

 

I do not know if you have established this, but it looks like the unit most likely to have been in touch with the New Zealanders would have been the 6th Bn on the 18th, and the 15th Bn on the 19th Sept. I wonder if your grandfather was part of the "detachment" sent to relieve the sixth? I hope this is of interest. Please send me a PM if you would like more of the detail. 

 

There is also the following oral interview at the IWM: Thorpe-Tracey, R. J. S.  . Thorpe-Tracey was in the 1/6th Bn and was wounded by a shell on the 15th. There is not much detail of that actual day, but I thought it was interesting to hear the testimony of a man who was at least there at the same time as your grandfather. 

 

Regards,

 

Chris

Edited by Drew-1918

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