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stiletto_33853

47th London Division

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stiletto_33853

Willing to do look ups.

Andy

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SOMMESOLDIER

Hi Andy, :)

Could you please let me know what it says about the 1/6th London's attack on the 15-9-16 on High Wood. Many Thanks.

Cheers

Tim.

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stiletto_33853

Tim,

Send me your e mail address and i will scan the relevant pages for you as there is too much to type in.

Andy

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Denise Ford

Hi Andy

Blame Steve for this one (from this thread...it's long, don't fall asleep! Great Uncle Jim)

But would you mind looking up the 21st Battalion London Regiment's movements around 15th Sept 1916, when my great Uncle Jim (Samuel James) died. I suspect he was killed either on the last day of the capture of High Wood or the first day of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette - perhaps you can help there?

Denise

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stiletto_33853

OK,

For both of you as it concerns the same day, lengthy piece so viavoice has its uses.

The Attack of September 15th was conceived on a grand scale. It was hoped that the breaking of the German third line, which was then holding us up, would constitute a decisive victory after the costly and indecisive fighting of the previous month. Many fresh divisions, of which we were one, were brought up for the occasion, and great hopes were placed on the effect of the novelty of tanks.Three corps were engaged, of which our own, the IIIrd Corps, was on the left flank. The function of the IIIrd Corps was to form a defensive flank on the forward side of the ridge of which Martinpuich and High Wood stand, to cover the advance northwards of the XIVth and XVth Corps on our right. The 47th Division was on the right og the IIIrd Corps, thus linking the north easterly movement (swinging north) of the IIIrd Corps with the northerly movement of the XVth Corps. It will be seen how the obstacle of High Wood, which delayed our advance for a time, while it went forward on both sides, made this task difficult. The Division attacked on a two brigade front. On the right was Lord Hampdens 140th Brigade, with the 7th Battalion clear of High Wood and joining the New Zealand Division, and next on the left, attacking up the east side of the wood, with two companies clear of it, came the 15th battalion.

The 141st brigade, under Brig-Gen McDouall, with the 17th battalion on the right and the 18th battalion on the left, was facing the wood all along its front. On the left came the 50th Division. Our attack had three objectives, First, a line clear of High Wood, Second, the Starfish Lane, down the forward slope, Third, on the right the strong Flers Line, where the 14oth brigade were to join up with the New Zealanders, falling back to join the 141st brigade in a communication trench, Drop Alley, whence the final objective was prolonged westwards along Prue Trench in the valley. On the right the 8th battalion were to pass through the 7th and 15th, and capture the Starfish Line, and the 6th battalion to pass through them again to the Flers Line. On the left the 19th and 20th battalions wre to capture and consolidate the second and third objectives. The 142nd brigade, under Brig-Gen Lewis, was in reserve about Mametz Wood, ready to move forward at zero to Bazentin-le-Grand, where it would be immediately in support of the attacking brigades.

Zero was 6.20am. The troops attacking High Wood were at once engaged in heavy fighting. Four tanks accompanied the attack, but could make no headway over broken tree stumps and deeply piited ground and were stuck before they could give the help expected from them. The Infantry, thus disappointed of the tanks assistance, were also deprived of the support of the guns, which wereafraid to fire near the tanks. The 17th and 18th battalions and half of the 15th battalion had a desperate fight for every foot of their advance. The enemy met them with bombs and rifle fire from his trenches, and machine guns from concrete emplacements, still undamaged, mowed them down. With the second wave of the attack the 19th and 20th battalions and part of the 8th joined the fight, and during the morning five battalions were at once engaged in the wood. Casualties were very heavy. Among many others fell Lieut-Col A.P. Hamilton, of the 19th battalion, who called all available men to follow him, and went up into the wood to try and restore order to the confused fighting. A little later Major J.R. Trinder, of the 18th was killed.

At eleven o'clock General McDouall arranged with Liet-Col A.C. Lowe, R.F.A. for a new bombardment of the wood. At the same time the 140th Trench Mortar battery succeeded in beating its previous record of concentrated fire. Its efforts finally demoralising the German garrison, who began to surrender in batches, and before one o'clock High Wood was reported clear of the enemy. On the flanks, meanwhile, our progress had been faster. Tanks had been a great success with the Division on our right, causing dismay to the garrison of Flers, and our right flanks had gone forward with the New Zealanders - the 7th battalion fighting their way to the first objective, a part of the 8th battalion to the Starfish Lane, and the 6th battalion beyond this gain. Some few got as far as the Flers Line, though this could not be held, and it was found later that their forward positions were in the Cough Drop, a group of trenches in a valley west of Flers. As these units of the 140th brigade went forward, they suffered more heavily from the exposure to their left flank, and the 6th battalion especially lost many men from enfilade machine gun fire, and there were only two officers and about one hundred other ranks of the attackers left to occupy the Cough Drop. On the left, similarly, the 50th Division went forward and occupied the second objective, but their right flank was exposed, and they could not hold their ground.

On the afternoon

More to follow.

Andy

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westkent78

Andy,

As you are already in "the zone" so to speak I would like to make this request.

Could you please continue your rendition to include the deeds of 142nd Bde on the following day, 16th Sept. I'm particularly interested in 23rd London's attack.

Thank you,

Matthew

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uncle bill

I have the diaries of a French gendarme attached to the 47th during Loos and towards the battle of the Somme. An interesting insight into life behind the lines. I could post some translations if anyone is interested.

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Denise Ford

Yes please, uncle bill!

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stiletto_33853

On the afternoon of the 15th our situation was that High Wood was captured after desperate fighting in which the 141st brigade had become so much disorganised from loss of leaders that it was temporarily formed into a composite battalion under Lieut-Col Norman of the 17th.

The work of establishing a line on the first objective clear of High Wood was started by a mixed party under Captain H.S. Read of the 20th battalion. On both flanks, meanwhile, the attack was going ahead, but was endangered by the gap opposite High Wood. Three battalions of the 142nd brigade had been sent forward during the morning and placed at the disposal of the attacking brigades; only one battalion, therefore - the 22nd - remained in divisional reserve, and nearly all that was engaged in the necessary work of carrying up ammunition. The cature of the Starfish Line, however, was considered essential, and at about 6pm the 21st and 24th battalions attacked with this object, under command of Lieut-Col Kennedy.

On the right the 21st battalion at great cost attacked the Starfish Line, and captured the Starfish Redoubt itself, but their attempt to get farther on to the Cough Drop did not succeedd. The 24th battalion, attacking from the wood, met such heavy fire that they did not get to the Starfish Line, but dug themselves in about 200 yards in front of the first objective of the 141st brigade. Only perfunctory artillery preparation could be arranged for this attack, and the assaulting troops suffered fearfully, the 21st battalion having only 2 officers and 60 other ranks left unwounded out of the 17 officers and 550 other ranks whoattacked. The night was spent in consolidating the ground along the Divisional front.

During the afternoon some of the batteries.

More to come.

Andy

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stiletto_33853

During the afternoon some of our batteries began to move up in support, the first being the 19th London Battery, under Major Lord Gorell, who brought his battery up into the shell hole area immediately behind High Wood. Accompanied by Major Marshall, of the 18th Battery, Lord Gorell made a brilliant reconnaissance of the Divisional front, and was able to report the line actually held that night by our troops, together with much other valuable information. For these distinguished services Lord Gorell was awarded the D.S.O.

With the object of securing the junction of the IIIrd and XVth Corps, we were ordered to make good a ridge running north east from High Wood to a point above the villages of Flers and Eaucourt l'Abbaye. This involved the capture of Cough Drop - a lozenge shaped group of trenches just under this ridge - and a communication trench, Drop Alley, which ran from it north east to the Flers line, and the Flers Line itself, forward of its junction with Drop Alley, on the ridge. Three companies of the 23rd battalion, with one company of the 22nd, were detailed for this job, under command of Lieut-Col H.H. Kemble, of the 23rd. They attacked at 9.25am on the morning of September 16th. The Cough Drop presented no difficulty, for the 6th battalion were found to be alredy in possession, but the trenches round it were effectually cleared of the enemy. The attack however, went beyond its objective, misled by the discovery that this objective held by the 6th battalion, and heading straight for the strongly held Flers Line. Aeroplanes reprted our men in the Flers Line, and even in Eaucourt l'Abbaye, and these may have been parties of the 23rd. If so, they were cut up before they could establish connection with the supporting troops, for they never returned.

From then on it deals with the 16th September, if this is of interest to you let me know and i will transcribe the 16th actions too.

Hope this helps you a little.

Andy

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Denise Ford

Andy that is wonderful. Absolutely humbling reading. My great Uncle Jim must've died in fight for the Starfish Line, I presume, being a member of the 21st Batt London Reg and dying on 15th Sept, and I assume too that that is where he still lies, or in that vicinity. What a tragic loss of life for all those who fought so incredibly bravely.

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stiletto_33853

Denise,

The 21st's actions and the Starfish Line are also covered in "The Hell They Called High Wood" by Terry Norman and "148 Days On The Somme" by Barry Cuttell should you require further information on this units actions.

Andy

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SOMMESOLDIER

Hi Andy, :rolleyes:

Brilliant stuff, thank you very much !

Cheers

Tim.

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Denise Ford

I am just about to buy The Hell they called High Wood (isn't Abebooks just great?!) but haven't heard of the other book you mention: would be interested to hear some of that.

Thanks!

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stiletto_33853

Tim,

Incidently the 1/6th are also mentioned in "The Hell they called High Wood" and "148 Days on The Somme"

Andy

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stiletto_33853

Denise,

Interesting afterthis thread, In the latest Spinks auction catalogue there is a lot there ' 161 to Captain S.G.H. Watts of the 21st Battalion who commanded "B" Company in the attack on the Starfish Line during thr Battle of Flers on 15th September 1916.

Just got the catalogue through the post today and was browsig.

Andy

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Denise Ford

Wow had a quick peek online. Feels very bizarre to see someone who must've known Uncle Jim... Captain Watts joined 21st Batt sometime after Uncle Jim but was lucky enough to survive the horrors that took Uncle Jim's life. Hopefully The Hell of High Wood will arrive in today's post: I'm itching to read it but the more I am reading the less I identify with how these men went through the war: it's too unimaginable to me: nevertheless it does show to me why Uncle Jim was so revered in our family.

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stiletto_33853

Matthew,

If you read the last paragraph of the last lengthy posting it covers the 23rd on the 16th. This is all it says on this attack by the 23rd.

Andy

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westkent78

Andy,

Thanks for posting all that information. It was very enlightening. Now I just have to find the war diary and see what is mentioned there.

Denise,

I can heartily recommend "Hell they Called High Wood". I read it recently, and it was very informative to discover the background to the operations on 15th/16th Sept.

I was looking through my information on the 23rd London and found I had also fortuitously copied something on 21st London's movements prior to 15th Sept.

Arrived Barly from Mazieres (4/8)

To St. Aucheul (5/8)

St. Riquier (6/8)

Buigny-L'Abbe (21/8)

Vignacourt (22/8)

Villers-Bocage (23/8)

Lahoussoye (24/8)

Becourt (11/9)

Trenches north of Fricourt (14/9)

Attack on High Wood (15/9) - moved forward via Mametz Wood to Bazentin-le-Grand in reserve- later assisted assaulting brigades (140th and 141st). Attacked Starfish Line about 5.30 p.m. Advancing east of wood under heavy shell fire brought to halt in front of objective.

Hope this helps.

Matthew

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stiletto_33853

Matthew,

A little more has come to light reading further into the Divisional History.

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 - Col Whitehead, of the 8th, then attacked, and succeeded in occupying bith the Flers Line and Drop Alley to within 50 yards of the junction which the enemy still held.

Earlier on the same morning two companies, one each from the 23rd and 24th Battalions (under Major T.C. Hargreaves and Captain Figg), has attacked and occupied a part of the Starfish Line west of the Starfish Redoubt, which the 141st Brigade and the 24th Battalion successively failed to take on September 15th. This night attack was guided by a lamp fixed forward of the objective by Lieutenant W.G. Newton, adjutant of the 23rd Battalion. The Boche counter-attacked soon after the trench was gained and succeeded in bombing our men almost back to the Redoubt. When we attacked again we found the trench deserted - a typical instance of the enemies clever and bold methods. Very gallant and devoted work had been put into the consolidation of the Starfish Lineon the night of 17th-18th by a large working party consisting of two sections of the 2/3rd London Field Coy, R.E. and two companies of the Pioneers.

Hope this little bit extra gives you an idea.

Andy

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Guest NZMel

Hello Andy, could you tell my anything about 1/17th London Regiment (the Poplar and Stepney Rifles) on the 16th of May 1915? Or suggest any books that may have made their way out to New Zealand?

thankyou Mel

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stiletto_33853

Hi Mel,

1/17th London Regiment in May 1915:

Moved to billets at Labreuvriere on 5th May then to Essers on 9th. Moved 11pm to Le Touret. To Lacouture 10th, Le Falon 11th, Beuvry 12th, front line at Givenchy 13th. Battalion Headquarters at Pont Fixe. Relieved 1st June and to Bethune.

From British Battalions on the Western Front January to June 1915 by Ray Westlake.

Hope this helps a little, I will see if there are any entries in the 47th Divisional History for you a little later.

Andy

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Paul Johnson

If anyone wants a copy of the 21st London War Diary for September 1916 please PM me your email address and I will send you a copy.

Regards

PAUL JOHNSON :ph34r:

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Guest NZMel

Hello Andy, thankyou for the information. It has provided a truly sobering thought.

"Frontline at Givenchy 13th May - Date Killed in Action 16th of May". Pte C E Harvey 2113 1/17 London Regiment. Only his death penny has survived until today, we now think the medals were never collected. Very sad. Mel.

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Ali Hollington

If you haven't already checked, his Medal Index Card might give you some indication if his medals were/were not issued/collected.

Regards

Ali

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