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55th lancs division history look up please


armourersergeant

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armourersergeant

I was wondering if anyone could do a look up for me please in this book.

I have read that Snow (VII Corps commander) and Juedwine (55th div commander) had increased the machine gun ratio in this area but even though this was done the retreating british troops stopped the gunners from killing the enemy as they 'got in the way'

I was wondering if the book makes reference to the expected attack, what involvement Snow had in this and how they detected this attack, was it from prisioners etc or just the increased bridge building and enemy activity.

Any help appreciated.

regards

Arm

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Arm

The History is short and lacks detail generally.

It makes reference to the Major General visiting the forward area and noticing increased enemy air activity. There was also observation that there appeared to be a large increase in enemy artillery registering ont he Divisional frontage.

John

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During November 28th the Major-General Commanding, while making a tour of the forward area, noticed that the enemy persisted in continuous reconnaissance with low-flying aeroplanes, and that he appeared to be registering various targets with his Artillery—particularly Little Priel Farm. This farm had been consistently used by the enemy as a registration point ever since the Division arrived in the area, but on this

occasion the volume of fire was so much above normal as to add to the suspicion that many new batteries were being registered. These circumstances, added to the facts that movement behind the enemy's lines had very markedly increased, and that the enemy's Artillery was more than usually active on other targets, led the Major-General to suspect that an attack upon our front was contemplated. Upon his return to Headquarters these suspicions were communicated to the VII. Corps, to the Artillery, and to the Infantry Brigadiers. Orders were given warning all troops to be specially on the alert; special patrols were to be sent out at 4 a.m. each day to watch for enemy movement, the Field Artillery were to open fire on the enemy's front line in bursts, commencing at 5 a.m., and units in reserve were brought closer up to the line and ordered to be ready to move at half-an-hour's notice. Endeavour was also made to arrange for " counter-preparation " by Heavy Artillery on the enemy's probable assembly positions, but this vital requirement could not unfortunately be met.

In accordance with these instructions, that same afternoon the 1/4th Loyal North Lancs, from the reserve Brigade moved up to Vaucelette Farm, leaving one Company at St. Emilie, and the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers moved from Tincourt to Villers Faucon and occupied the billets vacated by the 1/4th Loyal North Lancs. The orders given to Lieut.-Colonel Hindle, Commanding 1/4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, were to counterattack at once in case of an attack by the enemy, and to hold Villers Guislain Spur at all costs. (These orders were most loyally carried out.) Movement on the enemy's roads and back areas was again abnormal on the 29th, and positions at Villers Guislain were selected for four machine guns of the 166th Machine Gun Company, at the time in Divisional Reserve. These guns were moved into their positions that evening.

The Major-General's suspicions proved to be well founded, and the precautionary measures taken served to prevent what might have been a very serious catastrophe. In order to explain, as clearly as possible, what took place on the morning of the 30th November, it is important to state the positions of the troops of the Division at the moment when the attack opened. And first it must be mentioned that on the 29th October the Division had taken over from the 20th Division an area of, approximately, a battalion front, thereby extending our line northwards to just beyond the Banteau Ravine —a distance of 2,500 yards. The Division was therefore now holding a frontage of 13,000 yards, supported by only two Brigades of Field Artillery! This wide frontage could not, of course, be continuously held; it consisted of platoon posts connected by travel trenches, and distributed in depth so far as circumstances allowed. But with such a wide front an effective distribution in depth was impossible with the troops available. On the morning of the attack the portion of the line extending from Banteau Ravine to Wood Road, was held by the 1/5th South Lancashire Regiment. South of them in the Honnecourt sector were the 1/5th Loyal North Lancs., and in the Ossus sector the 1/10th Liverpool Scottish. The 1/5th King's Own Royal Lancasters were in support. The 165th Infantry Brigade, on the night was disposed as follows :- 1/6th Liverpools from Ossus Wood to Heythrop Post; 1/5th Liverpools from Grafton Post to Ego Post, and 1/7th Liverpools southward from this point to Cat Post and New Post. The 1/9th Liverpools were in support. The 164th Infantry Brigade were in Divisional Reserve.

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armourersergeant

Ken, many thanks

I am trying to confirm this extract from Haigs diary of the situation as had been and the action VII Corps took prior to the counterattack, especially by Snow himself.

“I next went to HQ VII Corps at Catelet about 3 miles east of Peronne and saw General Snow and his staff (Jock Stuart is BGGS) He has very few troops to hold a wide front. The 55th division which is weak holds 15,000 yards!! He expected the attack because the enemy had thrown 7 new bridges etc. and he accordingly did his best to prepare his left flank to meet the blow. He personally went the day before to Villers Guislain (where he expected to be attacked) and arranged for 13 extra machine gun posts! This he and Jeudwine Commanding 55th thought would render the place unassailable. Apparently the British fugitives rushing back in front of the enemy prevented our machine gunners firing and so all were captured without firing a shot!”

regards

Arm

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Cor blimey, Mr Lees, Sir. You have got quick typing fingers. Or was it already done?

T'was already done, one finger at a time, over many long years :blink:

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Arm,

I'm sure I read recently that there was an official enquiry into the collapse of the line during this counter-offensive. I will have a look for the source.

Ken

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armourersergeant

Cheers Ken,

Arm

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