So if I understood that correctly, basically to make as much territory before the armistice took effect. The Germans being sensible to the futility of fighting so close to the end of hostilities.As well as Remembrance Sunday today is the 102nd anniversary of the Battle of the Sambre, The last major effort by the British Army on the Western Front. Almost unheard of now, apart from the death of Wilfred Owen, it was fought by the 3rd and 4th Armies and was larger than anything done by the British and Canadians in NWE in 1944-45.
The day’s objective for 3rd Army was a line of high ground three to five miles away that ran from just north east of Jenlain at the junction with 1st Army in the north, roughly south-east to just east of Frasnoy, then south within the forest of Mormal through Locquignol to les Grandes Pâtures and the junction with 4th Army. Corps objectives as set by themselves were up to a mile beyond the army ones. H hour was to be 6.15am on the far right and 5.30am for the rest.
For ground reconnaissance the three regiments of 4 Cavalry Brigade were split up between the corps in squadrons and troops.
On the left XVII Corps attacked with 19th (Western) and 24th Divisions supported by five RGA and six RFA Brigades. The army objectives were four lines across the corps front but patrolling over the last few days had cleared the first already. The 19th Division crossed the valley of the Petite Aunelle and captured Wargnies-le Grand but did not clear Eth and the final objective because the failure by XXII Corps of 1st Army to its left to keep up had left an exposed flank. Nevertheless, it was encouraging to see German machine-gunners, usually the most stoical of defenders, abandoning their weapons in retreat. The 24th Division had a harder fight for Wargnies le Petit but still secured all of its objectives by 6pm.
The V Corps attack was made by the Guards and 62nd (2/West Riding) Divisions supported by eight MkV tanks, five RGA and five RFA Brigades. The army objectives continued the four lines on the XVII Corps front. The ground rose gently to the fourth being cut by the head of the Petit Aunelle on the Guards’ front and the Rhonelle on the right, both of which were easily crossed by infantry but channelled artillery and ammunition limbers to a few bridges. The two leading brigades of each division were lightly shelled but otherwise hampered more by smoke from the right than by the Germans until the fourth objective was reached at about 11am. Then congestion at the only available bridge over the Petit Aunelle and machine-gun fire from Gommegnies and Preux-au-Sart on the corps final objective prevented the third brigade of each division from exploiting further so the advance was called off for the day at 8.45pm.
The IV Corps sent forward the New Zealand and 37th Divisions supported by five MkV tanks, five RGA and eight RFA Brigades. Its objectives also continued the line of the first three of the four lines from the north but with a corps one half to a mile further east. The New Zealand objectives also included the Vauban fortress of le Quesnoy but 3 New Zealand Brigade, whose task it was, was only a thousand strong. The investment began with a barrage by Q Special Company RE of three hundred oil drums from Livens projectors. Artillery then worked over the ramparts with HE and smoke until 8.30am. Patrols from 2/NZ Rifle Brigade then crossed the dry ditch and climbed the wall and two prisoners were sent in with demands for its surrender. Refusal by the officers led to a heavy trench-mortar bombardment of the western rampart from 4pm, under cover of which a patrol of 4/NZ Rifle Brigade climbed the wall using a single ladder, followed by the rest of the battalion and a patrol of 2/NZ Rifle Brigade through an unguarded road gate. The garrison, seven hundred unwounded and two hundred and fifty wounded, then surrendered. Around le Quesnoy the two divisions had made excellent progress with the help of four of the tanks and another oil drum bombardment, of Louvignies, by Q Special Company RE. The final corps objective was reached nearly everywhere despite some resistance from fortified posts in villages and the undergrowth of the forest. The corps captured 3,500 prisoners in total and over a hundred artillery pieces including a battery of 203mm howitzers.
On the right V Corps attacked with 17th (Northern) and 38th (Welsh) Divisions with twelve Whippet tanks supported by five RGA and six RFA Brigades. The army and corps objectives continued those of 37th Division to the left. On the left 9/Duke of Wellington’s Regiment of 17th Division sustained the heaviest unit casualties of the day in taking their part of the first objective but thereafter the two divisions were held up more by the undergrowth than the enemy and reached their final positions by late afternoon. Patrols were sent out during the night, one from 13/Royal Welsh Fusiliers reaching Berlaimont, three miles further on and returning with sixty prisoners.
In the ten days that 4th Army had been in place it had reduced the German holdings west of the canal to a thin strip between Ors and Lock No1 south of Catillon. On the day the army objective was a line two to five miles away that ran from the junction with 3rd Army in the north at les Grandes Pâtures in the forest of Mormal south, curving around to the east of Landrecies then back south to meet the junction with the left flank of the French 1st Army on the Sambre just north of Oisy. Both corps set their own objectives just east of the army one. H hour was to be 5.45am.
For ground reconnaissance the three regiments of 5 Cavalry Brigade were split up between the two corps in squadrons and troops, and 1st Cavalry Division with a few Whippets was held in reserve for wider exploitation.
On the left XIII Corps was to attack with 18th (Eastern), 50th (Northumbrian but only in name) and 25th Divisions supported by thirty one MkV tanks, five RGA and seven RFA Brigades. Their front was complicated by the Sambre which crossed it from six miles away on the left to just one on the right, all of the ground to the north being within the forest of Mormal. Nevertheless, the corps objectives were optimistic. On the left 18th Division and in the centre 50th Division would be slowly pinched out to single brigade fronts as they closed with the river while on the right 25th Division attempted to put a brigade across at Landrecies. The divisional RE worked hard at improvised crossing aids and 75 Brigade, made up of three battalions returned from Italy, managed to both find an undamaged bridge at Landrecies and force the enemy away from the other bank with help from a few tanks. Across the river thirty seven year old Lance-Corporal William Amey of 1/8/Royal Warwickshire Regiment earned a VC for knocking out two machine-gun posts and taking seventy prisoners. Between 2pm and 6pm all of the corps own objectives had been taken and preparations for further crossings were being made.
On the right IX Corps attacked with 32nd and 1st Divisions supported by nine MkV tanks, a handful of armoured cars, fourteen RGA and twelve RFA Brigades. It had the most difficult set of objectives of the day in clearing the west bank of the Sambre and Oise canal then crossing it on all but the most northerly part of its front. On the left 32nd Division’s two leading brigades, each with its own Field Company RE, reached the canal with ease but attempts to lay improvised trackways over it were unsuccessful at first in the face of heavy fire. North of Ors thirty six year old Major Arnold Waters and thirty nine year old Sapper Adam Archibald of 218 Field Company RE won VCs for the laying of a floating trackway in the face of point-blank machine-gun fire. Thirty one year old Lieutenant Colonel James Marshall (Irish Guards) of 16/Lancashire Fusiliers and twenty one year old 2/Lieutenant James Kirk of 2/Manchester Regiment both won posthumous VCs in encouraging their men across the canal. One of Kirk’s fellow officers killed was the poet Wilfred Owen. After the crossing the corps objectives, a mile and a half beyond the canal, were all reached by mid-afternoon. On the right flank 1st Division, most of 3 Brigade was to attack Catillon and 1 and 2 Brigades were to make the main effort in the centre. At Catillon the leading battalion caught most of the garrison in their dugouts. The crossing was complicated by reservoirs either side of the canal but 2/Royal Sussex Regiment and 409 Field Company RE got first a platoon then the whole battalion across at Lock No1 by 6.10am. The two COs, thirty four year old Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Johnson and twenty nine year old Major George Findlay were both awarded VCs for their efforts in the crossing and clearing the lock-keeper’s house – in which most of the defenders were killed by revolver fire. Both crossings, and a third on the right by 2/Welsh Regiment, were consolidated quickly and by the evening all units were on the corps objectives.
To the right the French 1st Army had failed to cross the canal giving some credence to Rawlinson’s and Byng’s contention to Haig that the French were content to let the British do the fighting.
Although there had been severe fighting in places, whenever they were pushed hard the German infantry had surrendered or retreated. As noted by 3rd Army even their machine-gunners’ morale was suffering. Between them 3rd and 4th Armies captured something over seven thousand prisoners and about two hundred heavy and field artillery pieces.
The RGLI Museum is located in Castle Cornet, on an island just off St Peter Port. It was a lovely little museum which I visited about five years ago when Condor Ferries ran a day trip from Poole that actually gave you about sixteen hours in Guernsey. Recently their day trips only gave you about three hours ashore so we haven't bothered, especially since I tend to get quite seasick.17th December 1916
The Royal Guernsey Light Infantry was formed with the introduction in the Channel Islands of the Conscription Act and the suspension of the Channel Islands Militia. The militias of the Channel Islands, in which all male Channel Islanders were obliged to serve, had been embodied on the outbreak of war in 1914. Many of them had volunteered immediately to serve in the war and, in the absence of a unit to serve in at the time, had volunteered to serve in 6th Bn, Royal Irish Regiment. The 2nd Royal Irish had been in the garrison of Guernsey prior to the war. The Channel Islands volunteers had formed D Company of 6th RIR as well as a company of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. All the Guernsey Officers in 6th RIR & 7/8th RIF were transferred to the 1st Service Battalion, RGLI. By March 1918, those two Irish battalions will be disbanded and the enlisted personnel transferred also.
520 Channel Islanders served in the ranks of the Royal Irish Regiment and Royal Irish Fusiliers. Of those that served in the RIR, 59 died, with 38 dying while serving in the Irish Fusiliers. 269 men transferred from the Irish regiments to the RGLI.
At the outbreak of war in August 1914 the Guernsey the Militia was mobilised in order to free the Regular Army units of the garrison for overseas service. The States of Guernsey decided to offer volunteers from the Militia to serve overseas. The majority in 1915 went to the 16th Irish Division...guernseydonkey.com