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3rd Dragoon Guards and their part at Arras Offensive 1917.

While researching my Grandfathers actions during the Great War I gathered together a fair amount of detail on the Cavalry. I summarised it on my story of Jack’s involvement, but rather than trash the lot rest I’m leaving here as a blog to share what I found.

Much of this is cut and paste from original sources, so the language is not necessarily mine. There is also some repetition from the previous blog,

These are the events that happened one hundred years ago during the Arras offensive in northern France.  Jack Greenwood, my Grandfather, was possibly involved. This is the story of his regiment the 3rd Dragoon Guards who claimed their main WW1 battle honours at the First Battle of the Scarpe. I can’t say he was definitely there he may have been injured, ill or detached to another unit. But this is the best story we have.

jack at war mounted
Jack in uniform of 3rd Dragoon Guards

Jack had joined the Cavalry in York, probably in 1916, before transferring to the 3rd Dragoon Guards. Compared to the infantry on the front line, the Cavalry had a relatively easy life in France.  Held in reserve, they waited for the right battle, weather and opportunity to engage the enemy. Viewed as one of several mobile elements, including tanks, armoured cars, aeroplanes and bicycle mounted troops, they worked with the infantry to support any breakthrough of the enemy lines. If this was not possible, then horsemen were expected to use their mobility and get to places quickly, dismount and provide sophisticated fire with their light Hodgkiss machine guns. It was not their role to deliver a headlong charge, . However, according to the reports, in this battle, a charge did occur. In the film adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel ‘War Horse’ a charge takes place, leading some commentators questioning the accuracy of the novel. It was not their role to deliver a headlong charge, despite this being portrayed in the film adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel ‘War Horse’. Although in this battle, a charge did occur.

arras-map-april-19171

 

It would be probably true to say that during the war the cavalryman was on the whole the best trained all-round soldier in the British Army. He could use a bayonet and he could throw bombs. His musketry was of a high standard. He was proficient in the use of his automatic rifle. He had his own machine gun squadrons. On many occasions he took his place in the front line and knew that he was often called upon to do so when the situation was critical.
In a word he was capable of performing and constantly did perform all the duties of the infantryman. Between the periods of fighting he was employed on constructing railway tracks, making roads, or digging reserve trench systems. He was lent to this Army and to
that to perform whatever task was most needed. He was expected to be ready at short notice to fight as a mounted man, and his training as a cavalryman continued though often under great difficulties.
He was taught to ride his horse and to look after it. He knew how to use his sword and was ready for shock action. There was a time when the training of ” Dragoons ” to fight
on horseback was judged absurd. But the war has proved the value of trained cavalry who can be used with equal effect as cavalry, as a mobile reserve, or in an emergency as infantry pure and simple.
Examples of the employment of cavalry in all these three capacities are to be found in the history of the 6th Cavalry Brigade.

The 6th Cavalry Brigade (6 Cav Bde) began to form in England on 19 September 1914, part of the new 3rd Cavalry Division. The first two regiments to join were the 1st R Dragoons (1D) and 10th R Hussars (10H), both from S Africa where they were stationed when war broke out, and they constituted the brigade when it embarked for France during the first week in October 1914. The following month they were joined by 3rd Dragoon Guards (3DG) and ten days later by the North Somerset Yeomanry (N Som Yeo). After about a week 10H were transferred to 8th Cavalry Brigade in the same division, and from then for over three years 3DG, 1D and N Som Yeo constituted 6 Cav Bde. In March 1918, shortly before the German offensive N Som Yeo were withdrawn and converted to a MG role; they were replaced by 10H. The brigade saw a great deal of fighting both mounted and dismounted – First and Second Ypres, Loos, Arras, Epehy, the March offensive in which heavy casualties resulted in the N Som Yeo being returned to the brigade, back in the mounted role, as reinforcements. The regiment was broken up and personnel distributed among the other regiments in the brigade which took part in the advance to victory, the Hindenburg Line fighting and the final advance.

The 3rd Dragoon Guards spent the winter of 1916-17 training and parading mainly at Aix-en-Issant, close to the french coast at La Toquet. Early in April 2017 they marched to Gouyen en Artois, around 5 miles to the west of Arras ready to be called forward as the offensive progressed. At that time there were 25 Officers and 515 other ranks in the regiments.

Panoramic view of the British cavalry resting beside the St Pol - Arras road, April 1917.
THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, APRIL – MAY 1917 (Q 3217) Panoramic view of the British cavalry resting beside the St Pol – Arras road, April 1917. Copyright: © IWM.

Compared to the way trench warfare usually went, the first day at Arras was a success. Three and a half miles of depth was taken, although gains fell short of the town of Monchy-le-Preux.

The 3rd Cavalry Division retired at nightfall and bivouacked north of the Cambrai road
and west of the Wancourt-Feuchy Line trenches and Orange Hill. No hot food was
available and the ground was too soft to picket so the men sheltered in shell holes
holding the horses.

Its capture was planned again for the morning of April 11, when four regiments from 3rd Cavalry Division supported the infantry attack.  Vaughan’s 3rd Cavalry Division took up a position behind the infantry attack ready to exploit around the flanks of Monchy. Their objectives were Pelves Mill on the left, and Bois Du Vert and ‘Hill 100’ in the centre approximately 1000m (1100yds) beyond the village. At 7:10am 8th Cavalry Brigade learnt that 112th Brigade had a foothold in the western part of Monchy and reported this to 3rd Cavalry Division. 167 Later at 7:55am 6th Cavalry Brigade to the south passed on a similar report: “112 Brigade report Monchy has fallen, also considers it safe to say that La Bergère has also fallen.” Further patrol reports from the 3rd Dragoon Guards (6th Brigade) suggested that the village was not wholly in British hands but that it was at least partly captured.  Brig. Gen. Harman of 6th Cavalry Brigade to the south ordered his own lead regiment, 3rd Dragoon Guards forward to conform with the 8th Cavalry Brigade move and cover their southern flank. These three regiments moved forward over prepared trench crossings in the Wancourt Feuchy line at around 8:30am. 10th Hussars and Essex Yeomanry of 8th Brigade on the left (north), intending to circle around between Monchy and the Scarpe, while 3rd Dragoon guards of 6th Brigade headed south of the village. Emerging south of Orange Hill they advanced at the gallop, in line of troop columns, with one troop advanced as scouts.

An advance in brigade strength like this was a rare enough sight to make a
significant impression on the watching infantry. Capt. Cuddeford of the Highland Light
Infantry (15th Div.) was witness to this advance:
During a lull in the snowstorm an excited shout was raised that our cavalry were
coming up! Sure enough, away behind us, moving quickly in extended order
down the slope of Orange Hill was line upon line of mounted men covering the
whole extent of the hillside as far as we could see. It was a thrilling moment for
us infantrymen, who had never dreamt that we should see a real cavalry charge,
which was evidently what was intended.

It was at this moment that a decisive point was reached in the battle. The objectives of
the cavalry advance lay beyond Monchy, and the squadrons had intended to skirt around
the village, but after their experience the day before, Bulkeley-Johnson had ordered that
if fire was encountered from north of the river the 8th Brigade should swing right and
head directly for Monchy.

The 3rd Dragoon Guards reached the Monchy-La Bergre road south of the village. Here they dismounted and took up firing positions with their Hotchkiss machine guns making a defensive line between 111 and 112 Infantry Brigades. They endured heavy artillery fire and were strafed by low flying aircraft, fighting as infantry to repel potential counter attacks. They left the horses behind them, huddled in the snowy weather.

British cavalry sheltering from the snow behind their horses during operations in the Arras region, 11 April 1917.
THE BRITISH ARMY ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914-1918 (Q 2212) British cavalry sheltering from the snow behind their horses during operations in the Arras region, 11 April 1917. Copyright: © IWM.
6th Cavalry Brigade on APril 11th 1917
6th Cavalry Brigade on April 11th 1917

6th Cavalry Brigade advanced as far as the Monchy-Wancourt road south of Monchy, with 3rd Dragoon Guards leading. The regiment advanced with B Squadron in front (Capt. Holroyd-Smith), with one troop of the squadron in line and the remaining three troops in line of troop columns behind, followed by C Squadron (Maj. Cliff). On reaching the road, the Dragoons came upon a party of Germans attempting to dig in, in front of four guns. These troops fled leaving the guns. Very few friendly infantry were to be seen and the Brigade came under fire from Guemappe 1000m (1100 yards) to the south-east, so they took up dismounted positions along the road, deploying their Hotchkiss guns, and supported by the Vickers of the attached MG section.

An attempt was made at around 11.20am by the Royal Horse Guards (Blues), with the
remaining four guns of 8th Machine Gun Squadron to try and reinforce the village but
this was forced back by the weight of fire falling around the village. Two gun pack
horses were hit and the guns lost in the snow. 189 At this point Vaughan, in command of
3rd Cavalry Division realised that no further progress was likely and a decision was
made for the division to “strengthen any position they now hold” using machine guns
and to try to withdraw the remaining horses. Those of 6th Cavalry Brigade (3rd
Dragoon Guards) to the south of the village escaped without great loss, but the horses of
8th Cavalry Brigade were heavily shelled, and many more were killed during attempts to
withdraw them.

A further despatch from Whitmore in Monchy at 11:45am read ‘We are badly in need
of reinforcements and machine-guns.’ At 12 noon a 3rd Cavalry Division aeroplane reported that the enemy were entrenching on the line St. Rohart’s factory—Keeling
Copse—Pelves, and orders were received that the 6th and 8th Brigades were to send their horses back and hold the line they had then reached with Hotchkiss rifles and machine guns.

In response to this a second attempt was made at around 2:00pm by A Squadron of the Royal Horse Guards and the remaining subsection of machine guns to reinforce the village. No. 1 MG Section did make it into the village, although the accompanying squadron of the Blues was forced back, perhaps fortuitously as their additional presence in the village would probably have served only to provide further targets for the German guns.
Similar concerns were being felt by the 3rd Dragoon Guards on the right (6th Cavalry
Brigade) front. Fearing being outflanked to the south, where the line was held only by a party of about thirty infantrymen, survivors of the morning attack, a message was sent at around 2.30pm asking for reinforcements. One squadron of the North Somerset
Yeomanry (6th Cavalry Brigade), was despatched accompanied by four machine-guns,
and by regimental tool-pack horses.192 An initial attempt to advance mounted was met
with heavy machine- gun fire, but a second attempt on foot leading pack animals only
was successful, reinforcing the 3rd Dragoon Guards on the Wancourt road.193

By mid afternoon it was appreciated at all levels of command that the attack around
Monchy had stalled. At 5.00pm, Kavanagh at Cavalry Corps H.Q. ordered the
withdrawal of the un-engaged parts of the corps; (2nd Cavalry Division, and the 7th
Brigade of 3rd Cavalry Division) to their former positions to the west of Arras. The
remaining brigades in Monchy were to withdraw “…when the situation permits”. 194
Indeed despite the fact that the Hussars, and Yeomanry in Monchy and the Dragoon
Guards to the south fought on into the evening, Advanced Cavalry Corps Headquarters
in Arras ignored them, closing at 6.00pm and withdrawing to Duisans, west of the city.

With the departure of this stay-behind party on 12 April the part played by the cavalry
in the Arras offensive came to an end On the night of the 11th Allenby had ordered all
the cavalry back to its billets of 8 April, to the west of Arras. After resting there they
were further withdrawn on 16 April. On 18 April, Haig ordered Kavanagh to keep two
brigades in readiness within 36 hours of the front line, but these were never called for
and cavalry took no further part in the battle.197

Other cavalry arrived in the village enabled the struggling infantry to establish a defensive firing line. They dug into shell holes, deployed machine guns and established two dressing stations. This stiffened the infantry’s resolve, the dismounted cavalry provided rapid reinforcements, leadership and organisational proficiency at a crucial time, before the arrival of tanks and infantry secured the village. 600 cavalrymen were casualties and many more horses died. The animals were tethered in the open, as their riders took cover, while attempts to take them to the rear during a ‘box barrage’ only increased the killing.

Cavalry moving forward past a trench held by British infantry near Monchy-le-Preux, 13 April 1917.
THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, APRIL-MAY 1917 (Q 6412) Cavalry moving forward past a trench held by British infantry near Monchy-le-Preux, 13 April 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

As the Arras offensive illustrated,  Monchy-le-Preux highlighted the cost of using horses in close proximity to an established and static defensive position, where the enemy possessed artillery and aerial superiority. Yet it also underlined that cavalry could still play a decisive part with a clear understanding of its function, efficient tactical innovations and great courage.

Battle of the Scarpe. British cavalry resting on the Arras-Cambrai road, April 1917.
THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, APRIL-MAY 1917 (Q 2032) Battle of the Scarpe. British cavalry resting on the Arras-Cambrai road, April 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205073180

 

 

The Capture of Monchy-le-Preux

The day also saw the capture of Monchy-le-Preux by the infantry of the 15th and 37th Divisions, aided by six tanks. The capture of the village was an unbelievable feat of arms. Astonishingly, many of the attackers had lain out in the cold and snow for two days and it is a credit to their training and the fighting determination of the British Army that their attacks were pressed with such resilience. Despite the undoubted success of the infantry it is the fate of the cavalry that Monchy has become synonymous with. With the village captured the cavalry were to advance east to the Green Line. However, they were forced back into the village by German machine gun fire where they were subjected to a ‘box barrage’ of artillery. Unable to escape, the narrow streets were clogged with horses and cavalrymen. The latter dismounted; seeking refuge in cellars but the horses could do nothing and were killed in great numbers as shells rained down. The streets of Monchy, full of horse carcasses and the foul residue of high explosive shells and animals are said to have run with blood.

3rd Cavalry Division as a whole took 598 casualties over the three days, and the regiments that held the line around Monchy suffered the greater part of these losses; over 400. Col. Whitmore estimated that by 11.00 am on 11 April the garrison of the village, (formed of the 10th Hussars, Essex Yeomanry, 8th MG Squadron and some infantry) had been reduced to “…considerably less than half its strength”.
This human loss, however, was overshadowed in the eyes of contemporary observers
relatively accustomed such losses, (Preston described the casualties as … “Regrettable
[but] proportionately no higher than in many infantry attacks.”) by the more unusual
sight of the equally massive loss of horses. Lieutenant Alan Thomas, an infantry officer
who visited Monchy on the evening of 12 April as part of the 37th Division described
the scene :

Heaped on top of one another and blocking up the roadway for as far as one
could see lay the mutilated bodies of our men and their horses. These bodies torn
and gaping had stiffened into fantastic attitudes. All the hollows of the road were
filled with blood. This was the cavalry.”

This passage has been picked up by nearly every subsequent published account of the
battle, and serves as a graphic image of the scale of equine loss. Exact figures for
horse casualties are hard to determine (this question will be examined in more detail
later in this chapter), but may be estimated at somewhere between 500 and 1000. A 10th
Hussar survivor of the battle offered the higher figure, claiming that his regiment left
the village after dark with only 30 horses still in hand. Whatever the exact figure, the
loss was enormous, and the gains very limited.
It is tempting to look no further at the involvement of the cavalry at Monchy than this,
and to take Thomas’ final words “This was the cavalry” as an overall verdict on their
usefulness in the offensive. However while it is easy to characterise the offensive as a
whole, and Monchy in particular as expensive failures, when these events are viewed in
more detail, from the point of view of mounted troops, some facts emerge to the credit
of the cavalry and their commanders. Credit for the retention of the village in British hands for the remainder of the day falls to Col. Whitmore and the 6th and 8th Cavalry Brigades.

The accidental nature of the cavalry presence in the village should also be stressed Monchy did not form the objective of their attack; a commander who deliberately placed nearly an entire brigade of cavalry in such a position, and left it there at the mercy of enemy artillery for the remainder of the day would be open to serious censure. However, in the confused situation of the morning of 11 April, the ability of the cavalry to consolidate (albeit at great cost) the work of the infantry earlier in the day, until proper infantry relief could be co-ordinated, probably turned the attack of 37th Division from a costly failure into a success.

 

Sources;
–History of 6th Cavarly Brigade 1914-1918 BY LIEUTENANT J.B.BICKERSTETH. M.C. (http://www.archive.org/details/historyof6thcava00bick)

– Monchy Le Preux, By Colin Fox

‘War Horse’ at Monchy-le-Preux – 11 April 1917 by Stephen Barker

– BRITISH CAVALRY ON THE WESTERN FRONT 1916-1918, DAVID KENYON, PhD Thesis.
Defence College of Management and Technology. Cranfield University.

 

More Recent Additions to My Family Tree

David and Amy

 

Another wedding to add to the tree, or should I say the tree’s spreading roots.

A lovely addition and big welcome to Amy, who married David Greenwood. They held their wedding at Underlay Grange, Kirkby Lonsdale, with the families travelling from the North East and East Anglia and taking over  the whole house. The weather was delightful and sunny all weekend, great for enjoying the hot tub and gardens as well.

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Jack Greenwood of the 3rd Dragoon Guards at the First Battle of Scarpe, 11th April 1917

One hundred years ago the Arras offensive in northern France started.  The opening attacks included the Battle of the Scarpe in which the Cavalry Corps played a major part. Actually this was the main battle honours for the cavalry in the war.

This is the story of Jack Greenwood, my Grandfather, who was probably at the battle. His regiment, the 3rd Dragoon Guards, were key in capturing Monchy-Le-Preux, a village on the main objective line for the attack. I can’t say he was definitely there, he may have been injured, ill or perhaps detached to another unit. A separate blog will cover more of the scope of the battle and the role the 3rd Cavalry Division. But this is Jacks story, on the assumption he was with main regiment on those days of April 1917.

jack at war mounted
Formal Mounted Postcard, Jack in uniform of 3rd Dragoon Guards, probably taken in Canterbury before departing for France, early 1917. Yours sincerely, Jack, on the reverse.

Jack had joined the Cavalry in York, probably in 1916, before transferring to the 3rd Dragoon Guards. After writing a love letter to his girl friend, my grandmother. He set out from the Canterbury training base on Wednesday 14th February 1917 heading to Rouen before arriving at their winter quarters at Aix-en-Issan close to the French coast at La Toquet.

Compared to the infantry on the front line, the Cavalry had a relatively easy life in France. In the winter of 1917 they spent their days training and parading. They learnt about communications using pigeons and signalling. After nearly 3 years of war, tactics had changed and the mounted forces were viewed as one of several mobile elements. Usually held in reserve, the cavalry waited for the right battle, terrain, weather and opportunity to engage the enemy. Other mobile forces now were Tanks, armoured cars, aeroplanes and bicycle mounted troops – all working with the infantry to support any breakthrough of the enemy lines. Horsemen were expected to use their mobility if breakthroughs were not possible. They were to get to places quickly, dismount and provide sophisticated fire with their light Hodgkiss machine guns. A headlong charge was by now a tactic of previous wars, although in this coming battle that is what they actually did.

Working out who was where during this battle requires an understanding of the organisation of the Cavalry. The 3rd Dragoon Guards Regiment were made up of 3 squadrons (A,B and C). The Guards were part of the 6th Cavalry Brigade along with 2 other regiments, the 1st Dragoons (which Jack Greenwood was in when he initially joined up) and the 19th Hussars. Together with the 7th Brigades they formed the 3rd Cavalry Division.  The 3 Cavalry divisions formed the Cavalry Corp. Hope that makes it clear!

At the beginning of April 1917, in the build up to the Arras offensive, the 3rd Dragoon Guards marched 50 miles to Gouyen en Artois, around 5 miles to the west of Arras. Here the Cavalry Corp gathered, ready to be called forward as the offensive progressed. According to the regimental diary, they were in the best of spirits and full of enthusiasm.  At that time there were 25 Officers and 515 other ranks in the 3rd DG Regiment.

Panoramic view of the British cavalry resting beside the St Pol - Arras road, April 1917.
THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, APRIL – MAY 1917 (Q 3217) Panoramic view of the British cavalry resting beside the St Pol – Arras road, April 1917. Copyright: © IWM.

On the morning of the 9th April the Battle of Arras started. Compared to the way trench warfare had usually gone in the previous years of the war, this was a success.  During that day three and a half miles of depth was taken by the infantry, although they did fall short of their objective, held up short of the town of Monchy-le-Preux.

While the infantry were advancing,  the 3rd Cavalry Division, (including the 3rd Dragoon Guards, see above), moved closer to Arras for their approach march.  Part of the division, the 6th Cavalry Brigade, went into a bivouac while the officers surveyed the German trenches captured that day and planned the following days moves. During the night the weather turned from being fine to bitterly cold and snowy.

19_Fig-3_v7

Original 1917 Map of Arras Battle Zone (WFA / IWM)

Next day, Tuesday the 10th April, the 3rd DG were sent to construct crossings over the captured trench lines. Whilst this heavy work was underway, patrols went forward to find out the situation at the front line and to report on the progress of the infantry at Monchy-le-Preux.  Once out in the open, the patrols came under enemy shelling,  causing a few casualties in men and horses.  A fresh attack on Monchy was planned for the next day, so the Dragoons moved back to a safer position to bivouac again for another wet and cold night. No hot food was available and the ground was too soft to put up picket fences, so the men sheltered in shell holes holding onto the horses as in the official photo below.

Battle of the Scarpe. British cavalry resting on the Arras-Cambrai road, April 1917.
THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, APRIL-MAY 1917 (Q 2032) Battle of the Scarpe. British cavalry resting on the Arras-Cambrai road, April 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205073180

At 5:30am on the morning of the April 11, four regiments from 3rd Cavalry Division set off to support the infantry attack. This included the 3rd Dragoon Guards who were at the head of the 6th Brigade as they moved into position behind the captured trenches. The infantry had moved ahead so mounted patrols were sent out to keep in touch. By 8:30am it was reported that Monchy had been taken but still subject to counter-attack. Actually, the reports were wrong, fighting was still in progress and it was not going well in the town. So the Cavalry were called for and they started their advance across the trenches they had filled-in the previous day. Records of the battle and the regimental war diary explain they were to contour just north of the Cambrai Road, 1,000 yards E of Feuchy Chapel. These can be seen in the battle maps I have included below. B Squadron from the Dragoon Guards advanced in line of troop columns and started to galloped steadily across the ground.

An advance in brigade strength like this was a rare enough sight to make a significant impression on the watching infantry. Captain Cuddeford of the Highland Light Infantry (part of 15th (Scottish) Division) was a witness to this advance:

During a lull in the snowstorm an excited shout was raised that our cavalry were
coming up! Sure enough, away behind us, moving quickly in extended order
down the slope of Orange Hill was line upon line of mounted men covering the
whole extent of the hillside as far as we could see. It was a thrilling moment for
us infantrymen, who had never dreamt that we should see a real cavalry charge,
which was evidently what was intended.”

Another witness said;

“Just after dawn, we got the surprise of our lives when from a copse on our right there emerged the cavalry. It was a thrilling sight to see them line up in one long line. Then, with the officer and standard-bearer in the centre they set up a yell and set off hell for leather towards Monchy-Le-Preux. We all stood up in the trench and yelled with them. The element of surprise was on their side because they got half way to Monchy before the Germans realised what was happening  – then all hell was let loose and Jerry threw everything he had got at them.”

According to the war diary, heavy shelling was experienced immediately after leaving and 3 German machine guns continually swept the valley causing many casualties amongst the horses.  By 9:00am they reached the outskirts of the Monchy village where they dismounted and took up a fire position with their Hotchkiss Machine Guns. There they came under a hostile artillery barrage and very heavy machine gun fire which caused them to suffer a good many casualties.

The Germans then counter-attacked, advancing in strength from the NE but the dismounted brigade of the 3rd DG and Essex Yeomanry stopped the enemy. The rest of the Brigade arrived and they joined with the advance infantry, about 50 men of the N. Lancs. They all dug into abandoned trenches and returned fire.

Whilst the officers went to study the situation those in the trenches made contact with the command posts at rear of the lines.  Signalling, (probably flags but may have been carrier pigeon as they had been training with these recently), was resumed as the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) arrived and began to return heavy fire on the enemy.

Cavalry moving forward past a trench held by British infantry near Monchy-le-Preux, 13 April 1917.
THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, APRIL-MAY 1917 (Q 6412) Cavalry moving forward past a trench held by British infantry near Monchy-le-Preux, 13? April 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205215543

It was now 9:30am and a troop of the guards galloped forward towards Les Fosses farm supporting small groups of infantry that were there, about 20 men from the 112th brigade. More RHA arrived and shelling continued for the next 2 hours or so until 12:00 when the guns and horses were sent back to the reserve position. This movement caused a good deal of shelling and they took casualties as they went back. Five minutes after the horses of the 3rd DG had left, five German aircraft were over the position and the whole valley was subject to heavy shelling. Further up on the left of the Scarpe valley the 8th Brigade suffered heavily from the shelling.

British cavalry sheltering from the snow behind their horses during operations in the Arras region, 11 April 1917.
THE BRITISH ARMY ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914-1918 (Q 2212) British cavalry sheltering from the snow behind their horses during operations in the Arras region, 11 April 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205077953

By 2pm, the Germans started amassing for a counter attack from St Roharts Factory on the outskirts of the village. As the troop had been weakened by the action so far and many men had gone back with the horses, reinforcements in the shape of the heavy Machine Guns of the M.G. Squadron along with the dismounted North Somerset Yeomanry were sent from the reserves to reinforce the line. They had to march to the front line with horses only carrying equipment.

April 11 1917

After an hour those left on the front line watched an attack by the Gordon Highlanders  from the SW of the farm. which was brought to a standstill by an intense German Artillery barrage. Half an hour later, the dismounted reinforcements arrived somewhat fatigued, after a long march with all their equipment and ammunition.

All the troops then moved forward along with the Machine Gunners to move forward. Just south of the road 25 infantry had gathered in a trench, organised into a defence post by Private Batchelor of the 6th Bedfords. He had collected German rifles, ammunition and bombs for his party as they had only 5 rounds of their own ammunition left.

As they approached the outskirts of the village they came across an advance British MG post and more abandoned German guns and ammunition. The Dragoons had fought all day so around 5pm the Guards were told they would be relieved that evening. ANother regiment of infantry, the 13th Kings Rifles, came through and built strong points in front of the Dragoons.

After the position was safely strengthened they had a visit from the Officer Commanding 3rd D. Gds, who found “all correct and in excellent order. The men had worked splendidly and the Germans had ceased to worry (them) for the time being“.  He later reported very favourably on the small machine guns they were using – “the line held by 3rd D. Gds was defended entirely with Hotchkiss rifles which were able to break up an assembly of the Germans prior to their counter-attack.”

They arranged to hand over the trenches and evacuate the wounded before moving back to a collecting station which had been set up at Les Fosses Farm. Later that night, at 11:30pm they returned Arras and bivouac at the race course.

The casualties of the regiment were 1 Officer and 19 Other Ranks killed; 3 Officers and 56 Other Ranks wounded of which 3 died later; 196 horses killed or wounded.  I could speculate that Jack Greenwood was amongst the wounded although I havent been able to find out when and where this picture was taken.

jack at war injured
Jack Greenwood at a field hospital. He is in the bed on the far left.

It would be difficult to conceive of worse weather for these important operations. Numbers of men in the Brigade, after having been out in the open for three nights in the snow, had to be evacuated suffering from exposure. The horses suffered even more than the men. Every night they stood out in the driving snow up to their hocks in mud and slush. On one occasion it was impossible to water them for close on 48 hours. It was recorded that it was extraordinary how quickly the horses picked up after a week’s rest and care.

 

That’s it for the First Battle of the Scarpe, in the Arras campaign. From what I can see from the Regimental War Diaries, the 3rd D Gds cavalry were only subsequently in skirmishes in support of Infantry battles. A full reading of the diaries awaits the winter.

Some of the language in this story may appear a little odd. Much of the events of the battle are copied from official documents and so are written straight after the event on the battlefield. I have also tried to remove most of the army jargon, which is difficult to follow without a full glossary. Grammar mistakes must be mine and the officers in 1917 would have had a better education in English at their grammar school than I had at my Secondary Modern.

Sources;
War Diaries of 3rd Dragoon Guards, National Archives Piece 1153/2: 3 Dragoon Guards (1914 Oct – 1919 Jan)

– Monchy Le Preux, By Colin Fox ‘War Horse’ at Monchy-le-Preux – 11 April 1917 by Stephen Barker

– British Cavalry on the Western Front 1916-1918, DAVID KENYON, PhD Thesis.
Defence College of Management and Technology. Cranfield University.

– HISTORY OF THE 6th CAVALRY BRIGADE, 1914-1918, BY LIEUTENANT J.B.BICKERSTETH. M.C.

– Voices and Images of the Great War, Lyn MacDonald, 1988

Recents Additions to the Family Tree

Its good to report that I can add two new and contempary names to the Greenwood Family Tree.

One is Primrose Jane Greenwood, my nephews daughter, born in January 2017.

Secondly, we attended the wedding of Alisons nephew to Danielle. Also in January we had a fun day out with four generations from the Coopers/Shields family.

signing-the-register

Of course, for privacy reasons, the full details are being kept off the blog.

Jack Greenwoods War records

At a recent family party I was chatting with Matthew my nephew & godson. He was asking about Jack Greenwood’s war record and how many Greenwoods there were in the records. I promised him details of what I have, so here goes.

My grandfather was christened John Greenwood although his family and friends knew him as Jack.  His service records were one of the many destroyed in the blitz in 1940 nor did he keep a diary unlike my other Grandfather. What we do know about his part in the war has had to be pieced together from photographs we have of him; his Medal Card; the entry in the Medal Roll and a few clues from a letter he wrote to his then girlfriend and future wife.

Which Regiment was Jack in?

Formal Mounted Postcard, Jack in uniform of 3rd Dragoon Guards, probably taken in Canterbury before departing for France, Early 1917. Yours sincerely, Jack, on the reverse.
Formal Mounted Postcard, Jack in uniform of 3rd Dragoon Guards, probably taken in Canterbury before departing for France, Early 1917. Yours sincerely, Jack, on the reverse.

We can make the obvious first step that he is in the cavalry from the picture of him on a horse. His regiment comes from his cap badge which is the feathers of the 3rd Dragoons. The postcard of Jack in the field hospital (below) also shows his Prince of Wales feathers. The other photos we have of him in uniform has a cap badge from the 1st (Royal) Dragoons. This was the cavalry unit based at York at the start of the war. So it is likely he started at York before  moving to the 3rd Dragoon guards for his active service.

A further check is searching for all the John Greenwoods in the cavalry. From the War Medals index there are only two John Greenwoods in the Cavalry; one in the 3rd Dragoon Guards, the other in the Hussars.  His insignia are not those of the Hussars. So everything points to the Dragoons.

John Greenwood Medal Card

He had two Regimental numbers, first  GS/15242,  then D/15283. A prefix of GS means General Service in Cavalry units, which became D for Dragoons. All members of the Territorial forces, of which the Dragoons were part, had their numbers changed in April 1917. So we know that he joined up before the numbers changed in 1917.

Following a careful examination of the mounted photo above, I spotted a stripe on his arm. So Jack made it to Lance Corporal in Canterbury. He perhaps was acting during training, or maybe lost his stripe sometime during his service.

Jack didn’t volunteer at the start of the war, otherwise he would have a Star medal on his card. So it looks likely that he joined-up in 1915 or 1916, maybe the latter which was when conscription started.

Why did he join the Cavalry?

Most people who were conscripted joined the local regiment that were recruiting in the town at the time. Jacks brother Sid Greenwood, joined the 2/4 York & Lancs regiment probably when they visited York in April 1915.

Jack Greenwood is stood at the back right. He could be around 15, so this is around 1913.
Jack Greenwood is stood at the back right. He could be around 15, so this is around 1913.

Jack probably volunteered for the cavalry at the barracks close to where he lived in Fulford, York. There is a photo of a young Jack with Cavalry officers. Based on his age this was taken before the war started, so he was showing an early interest in the cavalry.

jack greenwood

 

 

Jacks uniform and equipment.

Here is Jack in his new uniform, probably taken just after he joined up. It shows the insignia of the 1st (Kings) Dragoons.

He is wearing the standard khaki service tunic, distinguished by a 90 round brown leather bandolier worn in the Cavalry. A stiffened flat-topped cap is on the table. These were worn in the early years of the war but later on and in active-service, the caps were replaced by an infantry soft cap.  On his arm he has the insignia of a signaller. Photographed with his group, below, probably still while training, he is also wearing the stiff cap and the insignia of the 1st Dragoons. jack at war group small

jack at war mountedThe later photo with Jack mounted on his horse shows him again with a stiff cap, but with the badge of the 3rd Dragoon Guards.  This is also a posed photo, in active service his horse would be loaded with extra equipment.  His weapon was the .303 Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifle. This is carried on the saddle in a specially constructed ‘rifle bucket’ for easy access. In action the sabre was positioned on the opposite side to the rifle bucket usually strapped with his metal mess tin. The cavalry were proud of their sabres, experts judged that this 1908 pattern cavalry sabre was, perhaps, the best designed and weighted edged weapon the British Army ever produced. Ironically, the sword was also one of the most under used.

 

Timeline

So Jack probably joined up in 1916, starting at York Barracks. He moved to Canterbury, the HQ of the Cavalry where did his basic training and the specialist skill of a Signaller. At some time in Canterbury he became a Lance-Corporal, but lost his rank later on.

After he finished his training he moved to the 3rd Dragoon Guards and prepared to move to the western front in France. Jack had a leave visit to York early in 1917, having an emotional departure from York Station. He wrote to Ada; “I must thank you for showing such bravery at the station… keep smiling and don’t worry + when I come back after this war we shall be happy together”. He left England on Wednesday 14th February, the day after he went into the YMCA in Canterbury and wrote his letter to Ada. He was on his way to France writing, “going tomorrow morning (Wed) + will write from Rouen.”

Once in France. he was billeted at Issant on the coast, well back from the front line. Action came a few weeks later in the battle of Arras in April. Jack is in the bed on the far left.

Jack is in the bed on the far left.

We cannot really know what Jack did during his active service. He did suffered injury or illness, we have a photo of him at a field hospital, although when this happened and where it is will be difficult to pin down. Jack recovered from his injury, he was fully fit at the end of the war and never mentioned it in later life. I also have a photo of Jack at the Railway workers convalescence home in Dawlish although he looks much older so this may not be his war injury. I will decipher the regimental war dairies in due course so we can follow the regiment through the rest of the war.

At the end of the war he was discharged on 18th October 1919 and returned to civilian life.  Although he left the army he was still an active reserve as a Section A and Class Z Reserve. There were fears that Germany would not accept the terms of any peace treaty so trained men were told they would be liable to be quickly recalled in the eventuality of the resumption of hostilities. He also committed to return for twelve days training every year.  Class Z reserve was soon abolished on 31 March 1920 as normal life returned.

Edith Cavell – one of my Grandmothers Heroes.

Edith CavellOne hundred years ago, Nurse Edith Cavell was executed by the Germans for helping Belgian and French soldiers escape Brussels. I found this postcard in my Grandmothers (Ada Greenwood) photo collection. I have recollections of talking to her about Edith Cavell and watching the B&W film with her on a sunday afternoon, probably in the late 1950’s. As a family we used to go around to our grandparents house after afternoon sunday school. We went for sunday tea and to watch the TV. They had a television, we didn’t, so Sunday was the day. We probably watched the Black and White film Nurse Edith Cavell from 1939 starring Anna Neagle as Edith and George Saunders as the German Officer.

This card was probably sold during the war and is printed on fabric. It was taken before the war, she sits in her garden in Brussels with her two dogs. The dog on the right, “Jack” was rescued after her execution.
Edith Cavell was definitely one of my Grandmothers heroes.

A Tale of many Thomas Greenwoods

This is a young looking Thomas Greenwood, possibly a wedding photo in 1892.
This is a young looking Thomas Greenwood, possibly a wedding photo in 1892.

I had to look up the plural of Thomas. I was surprised to find it is Thomases. I needed to know this because I am writing the family history and there are many Thomas Greenwoods. In my direct line there are four Thomases, and I have built family trees for three other Thomases around in Ryedale in the late 18th century.

This photo is my Great Grandfather, Thomas Greenwood, who was born in Welburn, Yorkshire, on the Castle Howard estate in 1862. He comes from a long line of Thomas Greenwoods, living in Ryedale in North Yorkshire.

I will be blogging this Thomas story in due course, but will start my story of the many Thomases with his Grandfather, another Thomas Greenwood born in the neighbouring village of Thornton le Clay in 1808.

This story of Thomases may take a few diversions to other North Yorkshire villages and other Greenwood families that moved to Ryedale at the end of the 18th century. I  researched these stray families trying to to establish links with Thomas above, mostly to no avail.

My Thomas Greenwood ancestory line is shown in the chart below, along with spouses.  So please refer back to this if you loose track in subsequent family stories.
Ancestors of THomas Greenwood

Jack Greenwood at Melbourne Terrace Methodist Church – York

(c) City of York Council
Melbourne Terrace Methodist Church York, Photo from City of York Archives, (c) City of York Council
This is Ada Himsworth and her Sister Sissie (Theresa) outside thier shop on Cemetery Road, York.
This is Ada Himsworth and her Sister Sissie (Theresa) outside their shop on Cemetery Road, York.

Grandfather Jack Greenwood was a member of the Methodist Church close to where he lived in York. He married Ada there in July 1921, a romance that had taken them through the World War. Ada had her shop just down Cemetery Road from the church, although it is remarkable that she married at the Methodist chapel as she was from an Irish Roman Catholic family.  Jacks parents had married across York at St. Paul’s Parish church, close to Mary’s home. They didn’t appear to be Methodists then! So I took a trip to the Borthwick Institute in York, where they keep the records for Melbourne Terrace. I wanted to see if  Jack, or his parents, were as active at that church, perhaps as they were at their chapel later on in Middlesbrough. First surprise was that many of the records are restricted as they may relate to people who are still alive. They cannot release records naming people until 100 years have passed. So unfortunately, I was restricted to public documents. I did find that the Church was of course an important part of the community, particularly between the wars. They held large Bazaars, taking over the church and school hall for a few days every few years. In November 1932 the theme was “Ye Olde English Village Bazaar”. On the third day of the event, the prayer was given by a Rev H Greenwood (no relation I think), with a Musical Opening given by the young people of the church. Amongst the list of people taking part was Irwin Greenwood who was 6 at the time. The Greenwood’s didn’t appear to involved in the organisation of the Bazaars, nor are they listed in the Leaders minute books, where the church groups got together for their all important Methodist meetings. So they weren’t involved in the organisation of church life in York as far as I can tell. So its fair to say that they moved to Middlesbrough sometime between 1932, when Irwin was coming up to seven and 1941 when they were living at Rockliffe Road.  

This picture of Cemetery Road shows the corner with Winterscale Street. The shop shown here (in 1935) had previously been Ada and Sissie Himsworth's. The pub in the background is the Melbourne Hotel, with Melbourne Terrace Methodist Church behind.
This picture of Cemetery Road shows the corner with Winterscale Street. The shop shown here (in 1935) had previously been Ada and Sissie Himsworth’s. The pub in the background is the Melbourne Hotel, with Melbourne Terrace Methodist Church behind.

When they moved to Middlesbrough the family became members of the Avenue Methodist Church in Linthorpe, Middlesbrough. One of the great things about the Methodists is that they do transfer membership to new chapels when families move, so they must have helped the Greenwood’s settle into Middlesbrough. Grandfather became Choir Master and Chairman of the Scout group. Gran was in the Womens Guild, choir and flower group. So their active church life started when they moved. Melbourne Terrace was requisitioned by the army during the second world war. It was damaged by bombs and the neighbourhood was afterwards left to decline. The premises were demolished in 1986 to make way for the current church. The rest of the site was demolished, along with most of the terraced houses along Cemetery Road and Ada’s shop. Modern houses now line the road overlooking the cemetery, all that is left is the Melbourne Hotel Terrace pub.

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