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8th Bn. GLOUCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT

Service Battalion 1914-19
Awarded 23 battle honours:
France & Flanders 1915-18. Aisne 1918. Ypres 1917. Somme 1916, 1918.
Albert 1916. Pozieres. Ancre Heights. Ancre 1916. Arras 1918. Messines 1917, 1918. Menin Road.
Polygon Wood. Broodseinde. Passchendaele. Cambrai 1918. St. Quentin. Bapaume 1918. Lys. Bailleul.
Kemmel. Hindenburg Line. Selle. Sambre.
Died: 42 officers and 931 men.

19th Division

Sign of the 19th Division: A butterfly, adopted before July 1916, by Major-General G. Bridges, CB, CMG, DSO.

57th brigade
8th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment
10th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment
10th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment
8th Battalion North Stafford Regiment

1914

Raised in September 1914 in Bristol. The 19th Divison was formed on Salisbury Plain and in December 1914 moved to billets in Weston and Clevedon.

1915

June 1915 the King George V, inspected the Division. From July 16-18th the Division embarked for France, landing on 18 July 1915.

21 July 1915 they were at Tilcques, on the 23rd the whole Division was around the St. Omer area. On the 31st July they moved to Merville and on 28 August 1915 the 8th Glosters moved into the front line. During the battle of Loos they were in reserve.

1916

January 1916 they were in reserve in the Lestrem area. 19th to 22nd April the 19th Division was withdrawn to the Therouanne area for training in preparation for the big attack on the Somme.

1 July 1916 they moved to positions north of Albert. On 3 July they attacked La Boisselle. During the attack the commanders of the other battalions of the 57th Brigade were casualties. Lieut-Colonel A. Carton de Wiart (commanding the 8th Glosters) took command of all three four battalions and led the attack and the repulse of a strong German counter-attack. He was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On the 5 July they withdrew to Albert. (casualties - 302). On the 9th they moved to billets at Millencourt, south of Fricourt on the 19th July, and into the old German line near Bazentin-le-Petit on the 20th. On the 23rd they attacked Switch Line, but the attack was driven off and the battalion suffered 200 casualties, including their Lieut-Colonel. Moved to Becourt Wood on 24th and trenches in front of Bazentin-le-Petit on the 29th. On the 30th July at 6.10pm they attacked Intermediate Line, but were driven off with 169 casualties. They withdrew at 9.30pm. Moved to bivouacs near Becourt Wood 31st July. To Bresle 1st August, entrained at Mericourt on the 3rd and went to Longpre and then marched on to Bouchon. On the 6th they took the train from Longpre to Bailleul.

On the 6 October the 8th Glosters entrained at Bailleul for Doullens, they then marched to Amplier. On the 7th to Bois de Warnimont, Warloy on the 17th, the Bouzincourt-Albert road on the 21st. On the 24th they moved to the front line east of Thiepval. At Ovillers Post 26th, reserve line 30th, Stuff Corner and Regina Trenches on the 2nd November. Reserve Line on the 3rd, Cromwell Huts near Crucifix Corner on the 5th. Front line near Schwaben Redoubt on the 8th. Crucifix Corner on the 12th, front line on the 17th. They attacked near Grandcourt on the 18 November and took their objectives but at a cost of another 295 casualties. The next day they withdrew to Cromwell Huts.

1917

January 1917 the 57th Brigade moved to the Hebuterne Sector. With the German withdrawal, the 8th Glosters advanced to Serre on 25th February. On the 22nd March they were south-west of St. Eloi and on 1st April in the Meteren area. On the 2nd/3rd May they were in the Ypres area, at Railway dugouts. On the night of the 9th May they assisted in the repulse of a German attack. On the 10th they moved to the Scherpenberg area.

At 3.10am on 7 June, 19 mines were exploded under German positions at Messines. The 57th Brigade advanced at 8.10am and consolidated the captured German positions. At 3.10pm they attacked and took Oosttaverne village and pressed on, but had to pull back when they ran into the British barrage. At dawn on the 8 June they attacked again and advanced to the Odonto Line. The next day they dug in and prepared defences.

27 July the Germans attacked positions around Well Farm, but were driven off by the 8th Glosters. On 20th August at 5.40am the Glosters attacked near Ravine Wood, however they advanced on very boggy ground and suffered heavy casualties taking their objectives.

On the 10th December 1917 the 57th Brigade was in the Ribecourt sector in the Flesquieres Salient. It was known that the Germans were preparing a big attack and work was done training, and improving defences.

1918

15th February 1918 the 19th Division was relieved by the 63rd (Naval) Division, and moved back to the Haplincourt area. The Germans had massed artillery all along the line and there were heavy bombardments with mustard gas. Finally, on 21 March the attack came. With the collapse of Russia in the east, many German Divisions were transferred to the Western Front; 76 German Divisions were launched at the 18 front line British Division (with 11 more in reserve). A heavy mist and severe bombardment gave the Germans a chance to get onto the British lines before many realised what was happening.

The 57th Brigade was now at Barastre. As the German advance continued, the 19th Division was ordered to counter-attack. The 57th Brigade was to attack Doignies at 7pm. The 8th Glosters advanced under heavy German machine-gun fire, but got to Doignies church. 'A' company was surrounded, but an attack by 'D' company got them out of the trap. But with casualties mounting, the battalion had to withdraw back towards Beaumetz.

At 4am on the 22nd March the 8th Glosters again attacked Doignies, but were again driven off. Three times the Germans attacked the positions near Beaumetz, but each attack was repulsed. During the 22nd March the 8th Glosters sustained casualties of 7 officers and 200 men. On the 23rd March, the 57th Brigade was withdrawn to Fremicourt as Divisional Reserve. But in the confusion of the days events the Glosters were fighting mixed with elements of the 51st Division in the trenches between Doignies and Beaumetz. When the 51st Division was pulled back the Glosters had to withdraw.

"Two incidents there were on the 23rd of March of outstanding gallantry. The first was the withdrawal of the 8th Gloucesters. The battalion was very hard pressed, and that it was able to get away at all was due to the heroism of Capt. M.A. James and officers and other ranks of 'A' Company who covered the withdrawal. Ordered to 'hold on to the last', with the enemy passing through on his right flank, he and his gallant little party stood their ground, inflicting heavy losses on the Germans and gaining valuable time for the withdrawal of guns. On the 21st March he had been wounded but continued to fight in the most gallant manner. As the bulk of his regiment was falling back, he led 'A' Company forward on his own initiative in a local counter-attack, being wounded again. The company maintained its position until the last man fell. Capt. James was seen finally manning a machine-gun single-handed, having been wounded a third time; he and the remnants of his heroic little party were then overwhelmed, but not before they had successfully covered the retirement of the other companies. Capt. James was taken and later he was awarded the Victoria Cross, which he so richly deserved."
(History of the 19th Division by E. Wyrall)

The Glosters moved back to positions near Velu Wood. On the 24th March the 57th Brigade moved to Bancourt. The German attacks continued thriugh the 25th and 26th March. The 57th Brigade was forced back towards Grevillers and then onto Hebuterne. By now the 57th Brigade could muster only 600 men. But at 1pm on the 26th March, the 4th ANZAC Brigade arrived to relieve the battered Brigades. The 57th Brigade had suffered the following casualties in those 6 days - 53 officers and 1,090 other ranks. The 19th Division as a whole had suffered 154 officers and 3,719 other ranks.

29th March the 19th Division was entrained at Doullens and Candas and sent to the Messines sector to relieve the 2nd Australian Division. At 4am on the 9th April the Germans launched a heavy bombardment using gas and high explosive shells. At 7am they launched a heavy attack on the 2nd Portuguese Division near Neuve Chapelle and broke through them. On the morning of the 10th April the 57th Brigade was attacked by as many as 11 battalions and 2 'Storm' battalions. (outumbering the British by 5 to 1). The positions were being overwhelmed and Royal Engineers and Pioneers were put into the trenches to help fight off the attacks. On the 11th April the South African Brigade moved in and the 19th Division was able to pull back.

April 13th to 15th the Division was near Neuve Eglise and the 8th Glosters assisted in holding the line during the battle of Bailleul. On the 16th the Germans turned on Kemmel. The 8th Glosters were in positions behind the village. Attacks on Kemmel Hill and village were driven off, then the French relieved the British defenders (and by the 26th both positions were in the hands of the Germans).

The 57th Brigade moved into reserve at Ouderdom. A period in the trenches resulted in more casualties, as the Germans shelled positions over the next days. On the 15th May the 19th Division entrained for Chalons. The Divison was given drafts of new men, not even fully-trained. They moved to the quiet sector in the Tahure area on the Rheims-Verdun front. On the 27th May the Germans attacked. The 57th Brigade was ordered to Chambrecy, and the 8th Glosters took up outposts north of the village. They then took up positions near the village of Coemy. In the early hours of the 30th May the attack came. The 57th Brigade was forced back south of Lhery, at one point the French fell back without informing the British battalions either side of them. The Germans continued to advance with superior numbers and by June 1st the 57th Brigade could muster only 750 men. The situation was critical. A German attack between the 2nd Wiltshires and 8th Glosters had resulted in the Glosters being pushed back. Captain E. Pope ('B' Coy.) rallied his company and led a counter-attack back up a slope and retook their original positions. (He was awarded the D.S.O.) The 2/22nd French Regiment joined the attack and their commander (Commandant A. de Lasbourde) also recieved the DSO). The 19th Division was moved back to positions near Bligny village.

On 6th June another large German attack was launched. However, this time the attacks were repulsed, inflicting heavy losses on the attackers. However a French Division was pushed back and the important position of the Montagne de Blingy was captured by the Germans. The position had to be retaken and the 1/4th King's Shropshire Light Infantry attacked and stormed the hill pushing the Germans down the other side. (the 1/4th Shropshire battalion was awarded the Croix de Guerre.)

On 19th June the 19th Division was relieved by the 8th Italian Division and moved back to south of Epernay and then onto Mondiment to rest and refit. On 1st July they moved to the Fauquembergues area.

On 6th August the 19th Division relieved the 3rd Division in front of Locon and Hinges. Patrols were sent out to keep touch with the now retreating Germans. The Division advanced over the next weeks and fought minor actions.

On 17th October 1918 the 57th Brigade was on the banks of the river Selle, at Haussy. The 8th Glosters were in reserve at St. Aubert. In the early hours of the 20th, the 57th Brigade, including the 8th Glosters, crossed the Selle in heavy rain. The attack was launched at 2am and by 5.30am all objectives had been taken. On the morning of the 22nd, the 8th Glosters occupied Ferme de Dieux. On the 23rd at 3.20am they attacked Les Fourrieres and took it by 4.30am. By that afternoon they had advanced along the St. Martin road. That night the 19th Division was relieved back to Avesnes-les-Aubert.

By November 3rd the 57th Brigade was at Montrecourt and Haussy preparing to advance again. They were ordered to march to Vendegies and then on to Sepmeries. On the 4th they moved to Maresches. At 6am on the 7th November the 57th brigade advanced near Houdain. At 6am on the 8th they moved forward to Tasnieres. On the 11th November the 57th Brigade was in the Flamengrie area when the War ended.

14th November the 19th Division was moved to the Rieux area, then to Cambrai on the 25th. In December all miners in the Division were demobilised and in January 1919 the full demobilisation of the Division was started.