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47th (London) Division – August 1916

CONSIDERABLE reinforcements came to the Division during June and July 1916. Men from different parts of the country now came to our London battalions under the new scheme by which drafts from training depots at home were posted at the Base, and sent where they were most needed. But the spirit of the Division did not change, and each unit had a strong enough character and tradition to absorb any reinforcement that came its way.

It was a strong Division that started marching southward on August 1st. We had hot summer weather for the journey, and started early each morning from our billets to get our marching done before the heat of the day — a pleasant rest during the afternoon and evening in a quiet country village, a night under the sky in a green orchard, breakfast at sunrise, and on the road again. The 142nd Brigade did all its marching by night.

Five days’ march brought us to the St Riquier area, where the Division spent a fortnight. These were pleasant days, with training early and late to avoid the heat of midday, and plenty of opportunity for everyone to get fit and for battalions and companies to get to know themselves with that feeling of unity which is of priceless value at all times, but most of all in action. Billets were good, the people very friendly; it was a good war when one strolled about listening to the band on Sunday afternoon, or joined an expedition to the neighbouring town of Abbeville, not yet devastated by the bombs of enemy aeroplanes.

Towards the end of the period the Artillery carried out some open warfare training close to the field of Crecy.

On August 20th the Division started moving forward via Ailly-le-Haut-Clocher and Villers-Bocage to Baisieux, where it became part of the IlIrd Corps. The brigades were billeted round Bresle, Franvillers and Lahoussoye, and spent the next three weeks in training for the attack. On September 1st the 140th and 141st Brigades started rehearsing the High Wood battle on a flagged course. Representatives of the Division were introduced to the great secret of the moment, and hope of the future, the Tank.

The Divisional Artillery had been in action since August 14th, when they relieved the 23rd Divisional Artillery in support of the 15th Division. The batteries were in position in Bottom Wood and near Mametz Wood, with some farther east near Montauban and in front of Caterpillar Valley, and they knew the ground over which the Division was to operate, very thoroughly. They had been engaged in closely supporting the 15th (Scottish) Division in its gradual encroachment on the fortified village of Martinpuich, and had a full share of casualties, especially among observing officers and signallers, during” local attacks and in the constant “area strafes,” in which both sides indulged freely.

Read September 1916.