BRITISH INFANTRY DIVISIONS
OF THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918
SHORT HISTORIES BY PAUL REED
PART 3 - THE REGULAR ARMY: 27th - 29th & GUARDS DIVISIONS
27th Division - The division was formed in 1914 from infantry battalions recalled to England from garrison duties within the British Empire. They came from a variety of locations: Canada, China, Hong Kong and India. Units of the division began crossing to France via le Havre in December 1914. The 27th Division took over positions on the Messines Ridge from the tired regular divisions which had fought in First Ypres, and in March 1915 fought at St Eloi. They played a prominent role in Second Ypres, fighting at the Gravenstafel Ridge, St Julien and Frezenberg. In May 1915 they were on the Bellewaarde Ridge.
During their period of service in Salonika, the 27th Division took part in the following operations:
30th September - 2nd October 1916
Capture of the Karajakois.
3rd - 4th October 1916 Capture of Yenikoi.
14th October 1917 Capture of Homondos.
1st - 2nd September 1918 Capture of the Roche Noire Salient.
22nd - 30th September 1918 Passage of the Vardar, and the Puruits to the Valley.
When the war ended, the division was near Lake Doiran.
There is no published history of this division.
28th Division - Formed at Winchester in December 1914, the units which made up 28th Division were regular army battalions that had been on duty in the various corners of the British Empire. They crossed to France in January 1915 and moved into positions in the Ypres Salient. During Second Ypres in April - May 1915, 28th Division was heavily engaged in the fighting for Gravenstaffel, St Julien, Frezenberg Ridge, and Bellewaarde Ridge. Unlike the 26th and 27th, 28th Division was posted to Northern France and took part in the Battle of Loos, September-October 1915. Here it fought at the Hohenzollern Redoubt and the Cuinchy Brickstacks. In November 1915 the division underwent some changes: several of the battalions were transferred and remained in France, while the rest of the division moved to Salonika where it stayed for the rest of the war.
In Salonika it took part in the following operations:
Occupation of Maziriko: 2nd October
Capture of Bairakle Jom'a: 31st October 1916
Capture of the Ferdie and Essex Trenches: 15th May 1917
Capture of Bairakli and Kumli: 16th October 1917
Battle of Doiran: 18-19th September 1918
When the war ended in Salonika in October 1918 the 28th Division was near Lake Doiran.
|2/Lt A.J.T.Fleming-Sandes||2nd East Surreys||Hohenzollern Redoubt 29.9.15|
|Pte S.Harvey||1st York & Lancs||Big Willie Trench 29.9.15|
|Pte H.Christian||2nd King's Own||Cuinchy 18.10.15|
There is no published history of this division.
29th Division - The famous 29th Division was formed between January and March 1915 from regular army battalions who returned to England from duty in the British Empire. It left England for Gallipoli, and took part in the landings at Cape Helles on 25th April 1915. On W Beach the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers achieved immortal glory, winning 'Six VCs before breakfast'. As the fighting moved inland both sides dug in and trench warfare began. The 29th Division was then involved in a number of costly actions around Gully Ravine, Firr Tree Wood and in the fighting for Krithia. Elements of the division served at Suvla Bay in December 1915, and the 'Immortal 29th' as it now became known, remained until the final Evacuation of Helles on 8th January 1916. From here the division spent several months on garrison duty in Egypt before moving to France.
Arriving on the Western Front in April 1916, the 29th Division took over the trenches near the village of Auchonvillers, and here they remained until the Battle of the Somme. On 1st July 1916 they took part in the unsuccessful attack on Hawthorn Ridge and Beaumont Hamel. In doing so they suffered 5,000 casualties, with six battalions losing more then 500 men each. A tour of the Ypres Salient followed, when the division suffered badly from a new type of German gas at Potijze in August 1916. They returned to the Somme in October, and fought at Guedecourt. The winter of 1916/17 was spent in the trenches of Sailly-Saillesel and Rancourt.
In April 1917 the 29th Division fought in the Battle of Arras, in particular at Monchy le Preux on 14th April 1917. In the summer of 1917 they moved up to Flanders and fought at Third Ypres: firstly at Langemarck on 16th August, then in the Battle of the Menin Road in September and Broodseinde and Poelcapelle in October. Returning to France the 29th were involved in the Battle of Cambrai on 20th November 1917, following the tanks into action near Masnierès.
During the German Spring offensive the 29th Division was heavily engaged in the Battle of the Lys in April 1918, fighting on the Messines Ridge, in the Battle of Hazebroucke and the Battle of Bailleul. They moved up to the Kemmel front, and stayed in Flanders for the rest of the war, taking part in the Allied advance in September-October their last action being the Battle of Courtrai on 14th-19th October 1918. When the Armistice was signed, the division was out on rest near Courtrai.
|Capt C.Bromley||1st Lancashire Fus||'Lancashire Landing' 25.4.15|
|Cpl J.Grimshaw||1st Lancashire Fus||'Lancashire Landing' 25.4.15|
|Pte W.Keneally||1st Lancashire Fus||'Lancashire Landing' 25.4.15|
|Sgt A.Richards||1st Lancashire Fus||'Lancashire Landing' 25.4.15|
|Sgt F.E.Stubbs||1st Lancashire Fus||'Lancashire Landing' 25.4.15|
|Capt R.R.Willis||1st Lancashire Fus||'Lancashire Landing' 25.4.15|
|Cpl W.Cosgrove||1st Royal Munster Fus||Nr. Sedd el Bahr 26.4.15|
|Capt G.N.Walford||RFA & Staff||Nr. Sedd el Bahr 26.4.15|
|2/Lt G.R.D.Moor||2nd Hampshires||Nr Krithia 6.6.15|
|Lieut H.James||4th Worcesters||Nr Gully Ravine 28.6 - 2.7.15|
|Sgt J.Somers||1st Royal Inniskilling Fus||Nr Gully Ravine 18-19.6.15 & 1-2.7.15|
|Capt G.O'Sullivan MC||1st Royal Inniskilling Fus||Nr Gully Ravine 18-19.6.15 & 1-2.7.15|
|Sgt E.Mott||1st Border Regt||Nr Le Transloy 27.1.17|
|Sgt A.White||2nd South Wales Borderers||Monchy le Preux 19.5.17|
|CQMS W.Grimbaldeston||1st K.O.S.B.||Nr Wijdendrift (Ypres) 16.8.17|
|CSM J.Skinner||1st K.O.S.B.||Nr Wijdendrift (Ypres) 16.8.17|
|Sgt J.Ockenden||1st Royal Dublin Fus||Nr Langemarck 4.10.17|
|Pte F.Dancox||4th Worcesters||Namur Crossing 9.10.17|
|Sgt J.Lister||1st Lancashire Fus||Olga House 9.10.17|
|Sgt J.Molyneaux||2nd Royal Fus||Conde House 9.10.17|
|Lt-Col J.Sherwood-Kelly||1st Royal Inniskilling Fus||Marcoing 20.11.17|
|Sgt C.Spackman||1st Border Regt||Marcoing 20.11.17|
|Capt R.Gee MC||2nd Royal Fus||Masnierès 30.11.17|
|Lt-Col J.Forbes-Robertson DSO MC||1st Border Regt||Vieux Berquin 10.4.18|
|Pte M.Moffatt||2nd Leinsters||Nr Ledeghem 14.10.18|
|Sgt J.O'Neill MM||2nd Leinsters||Nr Moorsele 14.10.18|
|Lieut D.McGregor||29th Bn MGC||Nr Hoogemolen 22.10.18|
Gillon, S. - The Story of the 29th Division (Nelson 1925)
Beauvoir de Lisle - Reminiscences of Sport and War (Eyre & Spottiswoode 1939) [Commanded Div 1915-17]
Creighton, O. Rev. - With the 29th Division in Gallipoli (Longmans 1916)
Farmer, H.M. - The Landing of the 89th Brigade (Sackville Press, no date)
Guards Division - This division was created in July 1915 by bringing together all the Guards regiments then in France and Flanders, including the newly formed Welsh Guards. The division's ancillary troops - Engineers, Medical Corps, Artillery, etc - were taken from their usual parent corps or regiments: the artillery came from the 11th (Northern) and 16th (Irish) Divisions, with the Engineers also coming from 16th Division. However, the exception was the brigade and divisional machine gun companies: rather than being MGC, these became units of the Guards Machine Gun Regiment. It formally became a division in August 1915, when all the units assembled at Lumbres, near St Omer.
The division's first action was the Battle of Loos in September-October 1915. In particular the Guards fought at Hill 70 and the Hohenzollern Redoubt: casualties during this period were 74 officers and 2,041 men. During the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the division fought at Guillemont and Ginchy during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette from 14th-22nd September, at the Battle of Morval 25th-28th September and in the Capture of LesBoeufs on 25th September.
The Guards Division spent the winter of 1916/17 holding the front line on the Somme, but did not fight at Arras in 1917. Instead they moved up to the Ypres Salient and took over the Canal Sector at Boesinghe. During Third Ypres they fought in the Battle of Pilckem Ridge from 31st July - 2nd August when they captured the German positions around Artillery Wood, and returned to Flanders for the Battle of Poelcapelle and Passchendaele in October 1917.
In November-December 1917 the division fought in the Battle of Cambrai, at Gonnelieu, Gouzaucourt and Gauche Wood losing 125 officers and 2,966 men. The winter of 1917/18 was spent on the Arras front around the river Scarpe. When the German Offensive broke on 21st March 1918, Guards division was in training at Arras. They moved up to the front between Boyelles and Henin, and later took up positions in defence of Ervillers. The division the withdrew through Moyenville to Ayette. By 31st March casualties had amounted to 59 officers and 1,080 men - light compared to some divisions.
In April 1918 the Guards Division took part in the Battle of the Lys and fought at Hazebrouck and the Nieppe forest, latterly alongside the Australians. Although the Germans were held, casualties were very high - one Brigade alone (the 4th Guards) lost 39 officers and 1,244 men from the 12th to 14th April. The Guards Division was subsequently relieved, and after a short rest returned to the Ayette sector. In June 1918 the division went into rest at Bavincourt before taking part in the opening phase of the Allied Offensive in August 1918. During these battles the Guards Division fought at St Leger in August, the Drocourt-Queant Switch Line and the Canal du Nord in September, the Battle of the Selle in October and the Battle of the Sambre in November. The division's last action was at Mauberge on 7th-8th November, where they stayed until the Armistice was signed. The Guards Division was selected to become part of the Army of Occupation in Germany, and remained there until March 1919.
|L/Sgt O.Brooks||3rd Coldstream Guards||Loos 8.10.15|
|Lt-Col J.V.Campbell DSO||3rd Coldstream Guards||Ginchy 15.9.16|
|L/Sgt F.McNess||1st Scots Guards||Ginchy 15.9.16|
|Sgt R.Bye||1st Welsh Guards||Yser Canal 31.7.17|
|Pte T.Witham||1st Coldstream Guards||Yser Canal 31.7.17|
|L/Sgt J.Moyney||2nd Irish Guards||Broenbeek 12/13.9.17|
|Pte T.Woodcock||2nd Irish Guards||Broenbeek 12/13.9.17|
|L/Sgt J.H.Rhodes||3rd Grenadier Guards||Houthulst 9.10.17|
|Sgt J.McAulay DCM||1st Scots Guards||Fontaine 27.11.17|
|A/Capt G.H.T.Paton MC||4th Grenadier Guards||Gonnelieu 1.12.17|
|A/Capt T.T.Pryce MC||4th Grenadier Guards||Vieux Berquin 11.4.18|
|A/Lt Col J.S.P.Vereker DSO MVO MC, Viscount Gort||1st Grenadier Guards||Canal Du Nord 27.9.18|
|A/Capt C.H.Frisby||1st Coldstream Guards||Canal Du Nord 27.9.18|
|L/Cpl T.N.Jackson||1st Coldstream Guards||Canal Du Nord 27.9.18|
|Pte W.E.Holmes||2nd Grenadier Guards||Cattenières 9.10.18|
|L/Sgt H.B.Wood||2nd Scots Guards||St Python 13.10.18|
Headlam, C. - History of the Guards Division in the Great War 1915-1918 (John Murray 1924) - 2 Vols.
- This book has recently (2000) been reprinted as one volume by the Naval & Military Press (see LINKS) in their Divisional History series.
Jolliffe, J. - Raymond Asquith: Life & Letters (Collins 1980) [3rd Grenadier Guards]
Macmillan, H. - Winds of Change 1914-1939 (Macmillan 1966)
©PAUL REED 2001
DIVISIONAL SIGNS ©JOHN WHALLEY