The Manchester Regiment 1758 - 1958

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A History of the 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division During the Great War

The End of the 66th Division


I began this with a description of the Northern character of this division, of its roots in the cotton and manufacturing towns of Lancashire, and it is for that reason that I have decided to conclude this paper at this point rather than in November 1918. The Division was shattered after its magnificent defence in March and between 9 April and 18 September it was reduced to the status of a Training Cadre, training amongst many others the 30th American Division.

In September the Division was re-constituted and went on to become one of the BEF’s ‘crack’ spearhead divisions under the remarkable Hugh Keppell Bethell. However this division was not the 66th of old. Its battalions were broken up and amalgamated with other units whilst 197 Brigade had disappeared entirely. 198 Brigade still continued now under the command of Sir Anthony Eden, whilst GC Williams continued to command 199 Brigade.


However of the battalions left the bulk were either Irish or South African with only the 2/6 LF and 2/9 Manchesters surviving. Even their regional identity was only nominal made up as they were of men from all over Britain and containing few ‘Northern Lads’


So for me the true history of the 66th Division ends with the March battles. A history not of great victories but one of a much more Northern type of heroism. Of all the qualities that this forgotten but remarkable ‘ordinary’ division possessed one stands out. - Their endurance. Despite the rigours of LA BASSEE, the horrors of YPRES, and the savagery of the German Spring Offensives the men of this unsung and mostly forgotten division never gave up. For that we owe them both respect and a profound debt of gratitude.

NOTES

  • Guggisberg was twice married: first, on the 20th September 1895 in Trichinopoly, Madras Presidency, South India to Ethel Emily Hamilton Way, daughter of Colonel Wilfred FitzAlan Way, of the Northumberland Fusiliers whom he divorced in 1904 and by whom he had three daughters; secondly, on the 15th August 1905 in Staines to (Lilian) Decima Moore, the actress, daughter of Edward Henry Moore, of Brighton, county analyst.

  • In 1973 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the construction of Korle-Bu Hospital in Accra, the Ghanaian government honoured Guggisberg with the erection of a large statue, a rare tribute paid by a post-colonial government to one of it's colonial governors2

  • 2/Lt James Milton HAYES, MC, 2/7th Manchesters. Wrote ‘The Green Eye of the Yellow God’ in 1911 – ‘There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu…’. Won MC on 8th October 1917. Captured in March 1918.

©Rob Thompson

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