Divisional demarcation at the Battle of Loos

When researching for my chapter on the Battle of Loos – to be included in the follow up volume to “Stemming The Tide: Officers and Leadership in The British Expeditionary Force 1914”, I came across an interchange of memoranda between Major-Generals George Thesiger, commanding 9th (Scottish) Division, and Thompson Capper, commanding 7th Division, which sheds some light on the nature of the day to day relationship between divisions placed alongside each other in the frontline. The two divisions were then part of I Corps under Hubert Gough and were readying themselves for the battle that was to commence in fourteen days time.

Thesiger had sent a type-written note to 7th Division which was couched in a somewhat administrative and officious manner:
Screenshot 2014-12-20 18.05.20“As there seems to have been some misunderstanding about the new fire trench from K sap to your left sap head, I should like to point out that this Division does not recognise and has never recognised any responsibility for this portion of the line. The 120 yards of fire trench that the 9th Division has dug…has been undertaken by this Division voluntarily as a “quid pro quo” for the trench which was dug from Fontes des Marichons to Barts and afterwards handed over to us by the 7th Division and in order to work in a friendly spirit with this Division….I shall be glad if the 7th Division will undertake all further responsibility for this Section of the line. Do you agree to this arrangement?”

Capper responded by handwriting on the back of the memorandum the following: “As regards the labour of placing accessories in position, I understand you have to handle a number proportionate to those we have to handle as 3 is to 2. Under these conditions, I think the best plan would before us to completely take over the new trench…We would undertake all liabilities for the new trench…I will send a staff officer to meet anyone you delegate…and arrange the boundary mark.”
Screenshot 2014-12-20 18.05.34Both Thesiger and Capper were to be killed in action in the opening days of Loos and it is sometimes easy to get caught up in the action of the battle, thereby losing sight of the daily “management” tasks of commanders in the field. Who was responsible for which trench was simply one of the thousands of details that were under consideration by the staff at divisional and corps levels leading up to an offensive and gives a small insight into the scale of the operations these men were facing.


“Notre Joffre”


A recent visit to The National Archives unearthed the following interesting sketches from Haig’s diary. The drawings are by Commandant E. Requin, a liaison officer between General Joffre and General d’Urbals’s HQ.

The first sketch shows Joffre himself and then a soldier of the 97th Regiment.iPhone 119

The next is two views of Private J Dalzell of “The New Army”iPhone 120

The final sketch shows a pipe-smoking French solder in his dress uniform.iPhone 121

Haig thought the sketch of Joffre was “excellent” and noted that Requin had been at Aldershot.

In memoriam – Dr Bob Bushaway

Photo was taken on January 21, 2006  by Katie Fleming (auril2008 on Flickr)

Photo was taken on January 21, 2006 by Katie Fleming (auril2008 on Flickr)

1915 – The making of a World War: Dr Bob Bushaway. Recorded at the WFA’s President’s Conference 2012: A World at War 1914 – 1918: A Centenary Preview held in Birmingham, UK on 3 November 2012.

(c) Western Front Association

Biography from the Centre for War Studies website where Bob was an Honorary Research Fellow:

Bob Bushaway is best known for his work on popular culture. He is the author of By Rite: Custom, Ceremony and Community in England 1700-1880 (London: Junction Books, 1982), but has long been fascinated by the Great War, both its cultural and military history.

His article ‘Name Upon Name: The Great War and Remembrance’, in Roy Porter (ed), Myths of the English (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992) made a major contribution to the emerging scholarship on the construction of memory. He developed some of these ideas in ‘The Obligation of Remembrance or the Remembrance of Obligation: Society and the Memory of World War’, in John Bourne, Peter Liddle and Ian Whitehead (eds), The Great World War 1914-45 (Volume 2, London: HarperCollins, 2001), pp. 491-507. He has also contributed to the Oxford Companion to Military History ed. Richard Holmes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

In addition to “By Rite”, Bob also edited along with John Bourne – “Joffrey’s War: A Sherwood Forester in the Great War”, Salient Books (31 Mar 2012).

Peter Jackson – Restored Gallipoli Film


I will add some commentary in due course but for now these are the notes from the Auckland War Museum website:

A World War I buff, Jackson approached the Australian War Memorial with the idea of applying computer technology developed at Weta Digital. “He wanted to see how the technology could be applied to archival film,” says Madeleine Chaleyer, the senior curator of film and sound at the Australian War Memorial.

The War Memorial had destroyed its original nitrate source material in 1967, after copying it to safety film. The best print available was scratched, fuzzy and low in contrast. Weta has removed most of the scratches, white spots and some of the shudder caused by shrinkage and sprocket damage.

The result is that the film has not looked better since it was first screened to rapt audiences at the Empire Theatre in London on January 17, 1916, under the title With the Dardanelles Expedition.

Chaleyer believes there are dangers with digital restoration. “With advanced software you can now make a film look better and cleaner than the original ever did. Peter has done a great job because it still has the feeling of authenticity. The aesthetics have been maintained.”

The Maps, Plans & Drawings collection of Military Barracks in Ireland

The Defence Forces Ireland have started to make their archives available online on their website – http://www.militaryarchives.ie/home – with two areas released to date: The Bureau of Military History & The Maps, Plans and Drawings collection of Military Barracks in Ireland.

The Irish Military Barracks Maps, Plans and Drawings Collection is described as “a unique collection pertaining to the construction and maintenance of military barracks in Ireland from c.1830 to c 1980” and “contains many previously unseen architectural drawings from the British War Office, the Royal Engineer Corps, the Ordnance Survey and latterly the (Irish) Defence Forces Engineer Corps.” Of their collection of 4,000 maps and drawings, 650 have been released online already.

From a Great War point of view, there are several gems hidden within the collection, three of which are highlighted here.

Clandeboye Camp, Down, Ireland

This plan is dated 5th May 1915 and captures the layout of the camp right before the 36th (Ulster) Division vacated the camp on its way to Seaford in Sussex before embarking for France in October 1915.

Ballykinler Camp, Down Ireland

The other two plans show Ballykinler Camp – the overall map is dated 1903 while the plan of the camp layout is from 1919. Ballykinler was also used by the 36th (Ulster) Division for training before becoming an internment camp initially during the Irish War of Independence, this use continuing after partition in 1921.

For any researcher looking into the activities of the British Army in Ireland, the online archive can be highly recommended.

Memorial Plaques – St Nicholas Church, Harpenden

A nice set of brass memorial plaques from St Nicholas Church in Harpenden including a member of the Boer War Imperial Yeomanry. The two Lydekker brothers both served with the 1/5th Bedfordshires with Cyril dying at Suvla Bay in August 1915 while Gerard died at Alexandria in June 1917.

A busy night for the 3/1st North Midlands Divisional Cyclist Company

From – 2/Lt. A. P. F. Hamilton

To – The O.C. 3/1st N.M.D.C.C.

Report on patrol, 5/10/15

2/Lt. A. P. F. Hamilton and N.C.O.

The suspected house on HALL’s HILL, GRANTHAM, was carefully watched from all sides.

(1) A window facing West had an ill-fitting blind, but there was nothing suspicious observed from it.

(2) A hall window facing East, uncovered by a blind, was lit up by a powerful oil lamp; nothing suspicious was observed.

(signed)  A. P. F. Hamilton, 2/Lt. O. i/c Patrol