Safeguard our Flank

Safeguard our Flank

When writing History, Heroism and Home I included my father’s experiences during WW1. To give the subject justice: I assembled the latest books, scoured second hand bookshops, and spent ages scanning the internet. They allowed me to pen a version that gave a travelogue through the war until he returned home. I resolved later to write a fuller version of his Battalion’s efforts at Gommecourt. This work is still not a definitive version for which I apologise. My researches exposed many false trails, dashed hopes, and hidden facts… I have now come to the conclusion that it is impossible to give a complete account, for even official documents do not carry the facts nor do the individual Battalion Records account for every event. Battles rarely go as planned, individuals are not automatons and the elements are contrary. So I have to be content with getting a little nearer to the truth.

Map of Gommecourt

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Map of Gommecourt
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CHAPTER SUBJECT KEY
I.
The Chantilly Conference: – General Joffre – General Haig – General Rawlinson Relief for the French – Verdun – German Crown Prince – The Big Push – General Allenby – Lt-General Snow, 46th and 56th Division – Gommecourt – The Territorials
II.
Strategy and Tactics: – The Allies – Supreme Leader – General Joffre – Kitchener’s Army – Petain – Nivelle – Fort Vaux – Gas Attack – Hugh French losses – CinC General Haig – Rawlinson’s tactics – The British Artillery – The Kensingtons – Picardy
III.
A Diversionary Movement: – First, Second and Third Armies – The Kern Redoubt –The German trench system – North Midland Division – The London Division – Snow’s Plan – General Fritz von Below – 2nd Guards reserve Division – Prince Rupprecht
IV.
Face your Front: – The British Artillery – The Great Challenge – Germans forewarned – Rawlinson’s Wave System – Weapons used – Prelude to the attack – Final bombardment – Methods of Communication – RFC – Bombing – Spotting the shot
V.
The Northern Sector: – 46th North Midland Division – Maj. General Wortley – Practicing at Lucheux – Linking movement – Gommecourt Wood – Observation of shot – Surveyors – Weather conditions – Battle order – Smoke screen – General Hull
VI.
The North Midlanders: – Sherwood Foresters – Staffordshires – Lincolnshires – Leicestershires – Foncquevillers – Schwalben Nest – Registering the Guns – London Division – Kensingtons – Mobilization – Hebuterne – New front line – Communications
VII.
The Attack: – The Men involved – The Pioneers – Safeguarding the Flank – The Royal Engineers – Signalling – Gaps in the wire – Effective control – Achieving a breakthrough – The final shells – The smoke – Advance – The Germans fire
VIII.
The German Response: – 91st Reserve Regiment – Patchy Smoke screen – The Quadrilateral – The Kern Redoubt –Gommecourt Village – Attack becoming bogged down – Lack of ammunition and bombs – German reaction – Major Dickens
IX.
The Final Tally and Lessons Learned: – Total casualties – Unconcealed preparations – Bad Infantry tactics – Lack of Training – Poor Gunnery – Lack of smoke – Inflexibility – Lack of forward direction – Counter bombardment – Wrong shells – Gapped wire