Thanks to Mr Paul Greenwood, who wrote and gave us this texte
In April, 1918, the Division was disbanded because of shortages throughout the British Army, its troops either being sent to joint the 61st Division or used as training units for new American Divisions.
By June 27th, the reconstruction of the Division began under the Commanding Officer, General Nicholson. The Artillery and the Royal Engineers Field Companies were returned, but the Infantry were all units new to France, from India, Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine.
The re-formed Division was organised using units from the Queens, the Royal Sussex, the Loyal North Lancs, the Cheshires, the Hereford Regiment, the Kings Own Scottish Borderers, the Scottish Rifles, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Somerset Light Infantry.
All the Infantry arrived by the end of June, the Artillery, Engineers and Machine Gunners by the first week of July, and the Division moved into the General Reserve for training.
Orders came on July 16th (at a few hours' notice) to move to an "unknown destination". This turned out to be Senlis, and from there the Division marched to the Viviers-Pusieux - Soucy-Longavesne area joining Mangin's Tenth Army' XXXth Corps (General Penet).
On July 21st, the Division was told to relieve the 38th French Division opposite Hartennes-et-Taux the next day. Before that relief even started there were more orders to join in an attack on July 23rd. This for a newly-constituted Division whose infantry had not yet seen action in France, and who were at the end of an exhausting journey by train, bus and route march, was a severe test. They were in a new area: there was no time for reconnaissance, trench systems as such did not exist, the German positions were not known until they were capured, and they were working for the first time with troops other than British.
The 101st Brigade led the march to Villers-Helon, and the troops took up positions in a valley and a wood north of the village and in the village itself, waiting for night to cover their move up to the line. During this time the aims of the coming attack were explained to the Infantry and Artillery, but the orders from XXXth Corps did not arrive until later.
The plan of attack was for the XXth Corps and the left to capture Tigny, Villemontoire and Taux, outflank the wood north of Hartennes-et-Taux, while the right flank of the XXXth Corps advancing through the Plessier-Huleu on the Orme of the Grand Rozoy, would turn the woods of Bois du Plessier and Bois de St. Jean. The 34th Division, with the French 25th and 58th on its immediate right and left, was to connect the northern and southern turning movements advancing due east to the high ground east of the Soissons - Château Thierry road. Most importantly the 34th was not to move until the XXth Corps on its left had passed that road.
Additional artillery was provided by the French 32nd and 41st artillery regiments, together with 12 155mm howitzers.
The Division's 101st Brigade relieved the French 8th Tirailleurs on the right, with the Loyal North Lancs on the right and the Queens Regiment in line with them. The Royal Sussex were in Brigade reserve. On the left sector, the Herefords and Cheshires took over the line from the French 38th Division's 4th Regiment. The5th Scottish Borderers and Somersets went into Divisional Reserve north of the Bois de Mauloy. The remainder of the Division's troops were held in the Corps' General Reserve together with the Engineers, who were ready to improve communications if the advance succeeded.
General Nicholson took command of his section of the line at 7am on the 23rd. Fifteen minutes later he was given the order to advance. The XXthCorps had still not crossed the Soissons - Château Thierry Road. (It is doubtful if it was crossed that day).
The 102nd Brigade started their advance on time with the Cheshires and Herefords making their way through high standing corn. Within 205m. of the west edge of the Bois de Reugny they were brouht to a standstill by intense machine gun fire from the wood and from the Village of Tigny on their left. They dug in and waited for the flanks to come into line, but they too were held up, so the line was consolidated and a defensive flank set up facing Tigny to gain contact with the French troops on the left and the 101st Brigade on the right. Their total casualties were 480.
To the right the 101st Brigade had almost no success. The Lancashire troops were all but wiped out in the first 50 meters, and though some units, together with men from the Queen's Regiment managed to cross the Coutremain-Tigny road and destroy several machine gun posts, they were driven back in a counter attack. During the night the 34th's machine guns were used to repel German counter attacks. On the flanks the French, too, were unable to advance, and the Corps Commander arrived next day to express Mangin's pleasure at the way the 34th Division had fought, and to express his own sympathy for the losses they had suffered.
The 34th Division was not sent into battle again until July 27th. During that time the 12th French Division took Villemontoire, but Tigny was still in German hands. Where the XXXth Corps joined the Sixth Army sector, good progress was made, and it seemed the Germans were making ready to retreat further.
During that night of 27th/28th, the 34th was relieved by troops of the French 25th Division, and concentrated in the Bois de Nadon and the Bois de Boeuf, ready to move forward and attack the Grand Rozoy Ridge on July 30th ... but as French troops capured Fère-en-Tardenois on the 27th, and there were strong indications of a further German retreat, it was decided to attack the Grand Rozoy on the 29th. The change was not officially announced to Divisional Headquarters until the night of 27th/28th, but somehow the troops and artillery had found out about it. They reached the Bois deNadon in the small hours of the 28th, so little time was left to explore the route to the jumping off line near the Bois de Baillette.
This move of some 16km. had to be carried out at night to avoid detection but the 5th French Division provided sufficient guides to ensure success.
The 103rd Brigade was on the right;the 101st on the left, with the 102nd in reserve. The Divisional artillery was augmented by 3 Regiments of 75's and 3 Howitzer groups.
The advance to the jumping off line found several units under heavy shell fire as they came through the wood. Two companies lost touch, and the troops were barely in time to start the attack on time. A rolling barrage covered the advance which was made in thick fog. The first objective was taken and the Beugneux-Grand Rozoy road was reached by 7am. Heavy machine gun fire was coming from the rear of the woods, from Beugneux itself and from Hill 158. The base of that hill was reached in spite of heavy losses, and more members of the Division were able to by-pass Beugneux and get well up the slopes of Hill 189 when they joined up with the Lancashire troops. The Royal Sussex could not get beyond the Courdoux-Beugneux road, but the Queens made some progress up the hill slopes north of Beugneux woods.
By mid morning the French had taken the Grand Rozoy, then the Queens were on the slope leading to the crest of Hill 189, while on the right the Royal Sussex flank was "in the air". Attempts to move forward in front of Beugneux and Hill 158 were driven back by machine gun fire.
The 102nd Brigade reinforcements were moved up to assist, but a heavy German attack on the French to the left meant the whole line had to move back to the original Gouvernement Militaire Paris position, the enemy being held back by fierce shelling while the line was reorganised. As dusk fell, outposts were set up from the foot of Hill 158 to the Beugneux-Grand Rozoy Road and along the road to join the French right flank. When the French had to retreat from the Grand Rozoy, the 34th Division set up a defensive flank towards the railway. However by next morning at six the French retook the Grand Rozoy, and the flank was secure.
July 30th passed quietly. Preparations started for an attack on the 31st, but this was postponed and was to be mounted on August 1st.
The XXXth Corps' line, as a result of July 29th's operations, now ran from the Bois de la Terre d'or, along the road to the Grand Rozoy, round the north edge of the village then about 80m. south of the road to Beugneux as far as the eastern edge of the wood, then so some buildings on the station side of Hill 158, and from there parallel to, and south of the Beugneux-Cramaille road.
During the night of July 31st/1st August the 34th Division again took up position ready to attack. This time 108 Field Guns and 32 Howitzers started harassing fire, gradually increasing to a heavy bombardement. The infantry objectives were the same as for July 29, but this time there was a great deal more success. Hill 158 was taken at the second attempt, while the Scottish Borderers, advancing through the aircraft landing ground and woods east of Beugneux, swung round and dug in on the right of the final objective east of Hill 189. There they came under heavy fire from Servenay which did not stop until the French took the position soon after 9am. The Herefords should have advanced to Bucy le Bras Ferme but had to dig in in line with the Scottish Borderers about 11 30am.
In the meantime the 101st Brigade had complete success, taking the woods north of the Grand Rozoy-Beugneux road in a bayonet charge. By 6am. the crest of the ridge was gained and machine gun fire from Hill 203 wiped out. From there an advance was made towards Le Mont Jour to cover the French 127th Division's move forward to take over the line, which was completed about 11am.
Much of the success was due to the accurate shooting of both British and French artillery.
By early evening it was decided a further advance was needed to cover the valleys on either side of Hill 199, and enemy action was causing trouble to the French 68th Division in Servenay. The entire sector of the French 68th and British 34th Divisions was therefore pushed forward about 300 meters under a creeping barrage about 7pm. There was more thick fog that night, and the Germans took advantage of it to cover their retreat.
On August 2nd, the French 25th Division passed through the 34th to follow up the enemy, now in full retreat. Battalions strength in the 34th Division was now down to less than 250 and the loss in officers was also heavy. During that night the Division received ordrers to return north to the British sector.
German documents, captured later, confirmed Mangin's view that the capture of the ridge north of the Grand Rozoy by the 68th, 25th an 127th French divisions together with the 34th British, had forced the Germans to retreat to the Vesle river. He added that the position captured by the 34th had been the key to the entire ridge.
Casualties from July 22nd to August 3rd were 153 officers and 3617 other ranks.
"Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men of the 15th and 34th British Divisions - You entered the battle at its fiercest moment. The enemy, once vanquished, again brought up against us his best divisions, considerably outnumbering our own.
"You continued to advance step by step in spite of his desperate resistance, and you held the ground won, in spite of violent counter attacks. Then during the whole day of the 1st of August, side by side with your French comrades, you stormed the ridge dominating the whole country between the Aisne and the Ourcq which the defenders had received orders to hold at all costs.
"Having failed to retake the ridge with his last reserves the enemy had to beat a retreat, pursued and harassed for twelve kilometers.
"All of you, English and Scottish, young soldiers and veterans of Flanders and Palestine, you have shown the magnificent qualities of your race; courage and imperturbable tenacity.
"You have won the admiration of your companions in arms. Your country will be proud of you, for to your chiefs and you is due a large share in the victory that we have gained of the barbarous enemies of the free.
"I am happy to have fought at your head, and I thank you.
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