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Quiz: Which South African Unit?


Jerrymurland
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March 23rd 1918. The 5th Army in retreat but the 9th Division retiring in an orderly and professional manner. The 6th KOSB were holding the temporary line between Nurlu and Moislains. at 7am their right flank was attacked and the KOSB were only saved from being outflanked by a South African unit who counter-attacked. (This SA unit had lost over 900 ORs in the proceeding 2 days since March 21st.

question:

1. What was the SA Unit?

Jerry

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No idea, but I'll guess:

1) 4th SAI (Scottish)

2) The 'boks Pack.......after Saturday night I wouldn't bet against them overturning a German attack

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Any port in a storm.

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2nd. SA infantry brigade ? :rolleyes:

There was only one SA Infantry Brigade in France, consisting of 1st, 2nd and 4th SA Infantry (3rd had been disbanced a month or so earlier). The brigade was in 9th (Scottish) Division so it could have been any one of the three, not necessarily the "Transvaal Scottish", the 4th Bn.

By July when they took part in the capture of Meteren, they had been reduced to a single "SA Composite Bn".

Ron

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I know that they were under command of Capt. Cockburn.

Who? The South African? The 6th KOSB were under the command of Gerald Smyth.

Jerry

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Taking the 900 O/R casualties then that has to be the whole South African Brigade of the 9th, and not just one of the Regiments (at that time 1st, 2nd and 4th).

Ian

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Well, I've looked in the 9th Div's history, and Buchan's "S A Forces in France", and neither are too clear.

I'd agree with SA bde, then, based on the earlier losses, but I have a point of pedantry: is a Brigade a "unit", or is it a "formation"? If the latter, then all bets are off and I'll keep my virtual wager....... ;)

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Well, I've looked in the 9th Div's history, and Buchan's "S A Forces in France", and neither are too clear.

I'd agree with SA bde, then, based on the earlier losses, but I have a point of pedantry: is a Brigade a "unit", or is it a "formation"? If the latter, then all bets are off and I'll keep my virtual wager....... ;)

British OH (including the maps) also says the SA Brigade. A brigade is a formation, not a unit.

Ron

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I also had glanced through the 9 Div history and whilst of course there is plenty of reference to the actions on these days, I could not find a specific reference to a South African counter-attack saving the KOSB. Of course plenty of SA actions, in the thick of it, including 'a unit' being totally surrounded and eventually captured. The history does not often give individual regiment numbers for the SA brigade, except now and then. I note a 1 Regiment Lewis Gun shooting down two German gun teams brought up to fire point blank.

Anyway, not to say 'it did not happen' but my meagre resources cannot focus on a single 'unit'. I just used the logic that this 'unit' had suffered 900 casualties on the preceding days. I think I am right in saying that the SA regiments were akin to a batallion. Hence I guessed the answer to be the brigade as a whole!

Ian

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I looked at Ewing's History of the 9th Div. It is a little vague but mentions in the description of 23rd March, p272 in my reprint edition. " .........and only a brilliant rearguard action by Captain Cockburn enabled the K.O.S.B. to extricate themselves from a critical position. The South Africans retired undisturbed to divisional reserve.............. " I took this to mean Captain Cockburn was in command of the South Africans who carried out the action. Since the question was which unit of SA were involved, I assumed that my contribution would be taken to refer to them.

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Credit to the thread-starter though: as a result of this, I have dragged the books off the shelves, blown the dust off, and re-read the reports of the action concerned.

Frankly, I am amazed at the bravery, resilience and downright excellence of the troops involved - both Scottish and SA.

A truly wonderful piece of work.

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Here, here - and just to think that this was just a couple of days out of many - more ahead and then back off to Flanders to keep up the good work next month.

Courage, fortitude and endurance in undilluted measure.

Ian

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Credit to the thread-starter though

Thanks Steven. I have been following the career of a relation of mine, Gerald Smyth DSO and bar, who was the one armed Irish CO of the 6th KOSB before he was promoted in October 1918. The history of the KOSB is full of praise for him and his leadership of the battalion.

Jerry

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I continue to be amazed at the reports I read of some of the local actions that were fought in the retreat of the 5th and 3rd Army. Despite the chaotic start I do believe that Gough's retreat was carried out in such a manner that it slowed the German advance up significantly - one only had to read the 9th Division's part in all this! Was Gough the scapegoat? I think so.

jerry

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Certainly not a wind-up! I don't know the answer which is why I put the question out to tender in the hope that wiser mortals than I may have answer. South African Brigade it certainly was but which particular unit of the Brigade still excapes me. It may have been a composite of several battalions considering the number of casualties they had sustained during the retreat.

Jerry

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Jerry, from the evidence gleaned in this thread, I'd go for the SA Bde as a whole.

You know, my old dad was in N Africa in the last lot, and he always reckoned the S Africans were the ones he'd most like to have alongside.

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