Author Topic: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill  (Read 1056 times)

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,658
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #45 on: September 01, 2017, 11:50:20 AM »
Charlie,

Referring again to the withdrawal of the guns, the Official History points out that: "Prisoners stated that an effort by a storm troop to save the guns coincided with the British attempt to withdraw them".    It continues.  "But for this the German artillery fire might have been concentrated on the guns and rendered success impossible, whereas it actually put a fairly innocuous barrage round them".    PhilipG.

Offline charlie

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,417
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #46 on: September 01, 2017, 05:22:13 PM »
Thank you Philip,
The Brigade Diary has a slightly different opinion of the barrage.

Apr 3rd 8.30pm - An extremely heavy "box barrage" was put on the village of Francilly by the enemy, thus covering the guns and making it extremely dangerous for the Artillery teams to come forward. Despite this the withdrawal was proceeded with and 4 guns were withdrawn with few casualties. The fifth gun had just been moved away when it was seen that a party of the enemy about 100 strong had broken through the covering party to destroy the guns.

Could the "innocuous barrage" have been a gun firing short? If the Germans had intended to destroy the guns rather than remove them would they not have just destroyed them with artillery fire?

Charlie

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,658
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #47 on: September 02, 2017, 12:29:17 PM »
Charlie,

Thank you.   I feel that the report in the Brigade War Diary must be preferred.

It was a moonlight night on the 3rd April 1917 and the H.L.I.'s covering party was ordered, that on leaving the trench lines at Francilly, they were not to go near the German battery as it was believed a German soldier was hiding in the gun pits in cable communication with his HQ.   That may be the reason the battery was not destroyed by German artillery, coupled with a later German intention of recovering the guns themselves, an intention which coincided with a similar intent by the British.

Both the hauling party and the covering party left the British lines at 8.15 pm, the hauling party going straight for the guns.  It would therefore seem that the observer in the battery's gun pits sighted the approach of the hauling party which resulted in German artillery fire on Francilly at 8.30 pm.

I would mention that two German officers involved in the action with the covering party were killed and it was noted at that time that no badges of rank were displayed, but that they were wearing white gloves which was taken by the British to be a means of identification sufficient in the moonlight conditions.

It also seems that frequent shouts by the German Sturmtroppen of "H.L.I." added to the confusion.   As the enemy force retreated, they were silhouetted against the skyline and many were seen to fall to the fire from the H.L.I.'s Lewis guns.

Lastly, reference to Replies Numbered 36 & 42 may assist in understanding the foregoing.   PhilipG.

Offline timberman

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,368
  • you will not always get the answer you want
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #48 on: September 03, 2017, 05:59:34 PM »
Philip
In reply to your question in post 40.

Thank you on your comments on my wide knowledge of the 2nd battalion
I think that may be a bit wrong. I must admit though I am a bit blinkered
when it comes to the 2nd.

Even though Charlies comments are compelling and in favor of the battery being
S.E. of Francilly. I am still struggling that the Battery was not N.E. at the cross roads.
After researching the other Battalions in the 14th Brigade I am getting conflicting
reports as to where they all were.
I will try and collate all the information I have and come back to this interesting
topic.

Timberman

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,658
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #49 on: September 04, 2017, 08:09:26 AM »
Timberman,


Thank you. PhilipG.

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,658
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #50 on: September 06, 2017, 08:11:59 AM »
Timberman,

I quote from the Regimental History of the Dorsetshire Regiment.   The 14th Brigade (1st Dorsets part of this brigade) were ordered to take Francilly, Selency and Holnon.   "The attack was launched at 5 am on the 2nd April, the 2nd Manchesters on the right and the 1st Dorsets on the left.   By 6 am the village of Holnon had been cleared by the battalion and all troops were on the road to the north, the final objective".   The map accompanying this text indicates the Final Objective.  The present day D1029 is indicated as the final objective.   As to the location of the 5/6th Royal Scots on that day, I have been unable to track its movements until the 13th April 1917 during the Fayet and Cepy Farm operations.    I do hope this has been helpful to you.   PhilipG.

Offline timberman

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,368
  • you will not always get the answer you want
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #51 on: September 06, 2017, 04:26:58 PM »
Thank you Philip

The 5/6th Royal Scots were held in reserve near Savy Wood.

Timberman

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,658
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #52 on: September 09, 2017, 10:51:13 AM »
Charlie & Timberman,

I have re-read this thread and I am firmly of the opinion that the location of the German battery was well indicated by the 15th Highland Light Infantry (Reply No. 14).  I am supported in this opinion by reference to the Brigade War Diary (Replies No's 35 & 36), the 2nd battalion War Diary (Reply No. 41), the 14th Brigade War Diary (Reply No. 42) and finally, the Official History of the War - Captain Cyril Falls 1940- (Reply No. 44).

I consider that the reference to "low ground NE of the village" on page 144 of the History of the Manchester Regiment is possibly a misprint and should be "low ground SE of the village".   I wonder, please, if that is what you both feel about the matter?  PhilipG.

Offline charlie

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,417
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #53 on: September 10, 2017, 04:53:57 PM »
Philip,
I am of the same opinion as to the Battery's location. I am also interested to hear Timberman's opinion. Hopefully I will get the German side of the story this week. The books I ordered were for the wrong Division.

Charlie

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,658
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #54 on: September 11, 2017, 11:08:39 AM »
Charlie,

Thank you.  As you may know, the 15th Highland Light Infantry was originally known as the Glasgow Tramways Battalion.  Its sister battalion, the 16th H.L.I.,  recruited strongly from the Glasgow Boys' Brigade and, like the 15th battalion, on occasion served alongside the 2nd Manchesters.

On the 22nd February 1918, the 16th H.L.I was formed as the Divisional Pioneer Company of the 32nd Division.   On the 4th November of that year, the battalion provided two companies in respect of the attack over the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors.   They were working under fire by the canal side under the guidance of a company of the Royal Engineers in the assembly of the bridges needed to cross the canal.   Their casualties were heavy.  They operated under the orders of Major A.H.S. Waters of 218 Field Company R.E.,who was later awarded the Victoria Cross.   The battalion's history records that the pioneers appealed to Major Waters to be allowed to assist in the attack over the canal, but this request was refused on the basis that the Highlanders had already suffered heavy casualties.   PhilipG.

Offline charlie

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,417
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #55 on: September 14, 2017, 10:37:25 AM »
Philip, Timberman,
There is no doubt as to the location of the gun battery. The regimental history of Feld Artillery Regiment 61 confirms the position (SE of Francilly) and loss of its No2 Battery. In due course I will post a translation of the events leading up to its loss and of the German recovery attempt.

Charlie

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,658
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #56 on: September 14, 2017, 01:16:17 PM »
Charlie,

Thank you. I always find it interesting to read the German account of what took place which you kindly provide us with from time to time. PhilipG.

Offline timberman

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,368
  • you will not always get the answer you want
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #57 on: September 14, 2017, 06:59:03 PM »
Thanks Charlie
I'll stop running around in circles trying to prove that it was NE of Francilly.
At least we now know that the report in the WD was wrong as to the position of the guns.
The possibility of the misunderstanding could of been as the attack was happening, as they
approached Francilly the guns would of been to the NE of their position. (just one of the  thought on
how the position was given wrong)

Thanks again, and I'll make an amendment to my data base.

Timberman

Offline charlie

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,417
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #58 on: September 14, 2017, 08:27:14 PM »
The following is from the history of Feldartillerie Regiment 61. 2/61 etc indicates No 2 Battery FAR 61, a battery had 4 guns. Not being ex RA I have no idea what half a battery is called so I have used the term Section ie 2 guns. The history uses the term "Vorposten Zug" I have translated this as Outpost Section, as I do not think we have an identical term in english. It is obviously a term used to indicate the guns that were far forward in support of the outpost line.

On the 1st April the enemy laid down a heavy barrage on Savy, Dallon and the artillery positions on the Windmühlenberg. In the early evening IR 117 at Grugies was attacked. The No 2 Division fired a well aimed barrage and the enemy withdrew. 2/61 was ordered by the OC Artillery to take up position Southeast of Francilly together with the Outpost Section 1/61. They engaged and drove back the English that were advancing from Savy. Outpost Section 3/61 engaged the enemy advancing on Selency. After Selency was evacuated during the evening, they moved to a position 100m further eastwards.

At 10pm 2/61 and Outpost Section 1/61 received an order to move to a position further eastwards and to support the infantry from there. As the infantry was relying on the barrage from the batteries, the OCs 2/61 and Outpost Section 1/61 informed the commander of the outpost artillery that it was no longer possible to fire ranging shots from the new position and they would remain in their present position and move to the new position on the following morning.  At 3am on the 2nd April the batteries received the order that they were to move while it was still dark. The OC 2/61 ordered that everything was to be made ready to move and conducted a reconnaissance of the new position further to the east at the Rosenwäldchen. On his way back to the battery he ordered the limbers to move forward and limber up the guns.

Suddenly a barrage fell on the positions of 2/61, Outpost Section 1/61 and also on the positions of the infantry in front of them. The batteries on seeing the infantry’s flares immediately opened fire. Before the OC 2/61 reached his battery, he was met by retreating infantry who informed him that the English had broken through. At this moment the enemy who, due to the half light, could only be seen when they were only a short distance away, appeared on both sides of the gun line. As the guns had sunk a good way into the soft ground while firing, it wasn’t possible to turn them. Their ammunition was exhausted and further resistance was impossible. To avoid capture the gun crews retreated under heavy fire. The guns had to be abandoned.

Outpost Section 1/61 fired over open sights, but as the enemy appeared in their rear they had to render their guns useless and retire. Two of the best batteries in the regiment, while doing their upmost to help the infantry who were in a dangerous situation, lost some of their guns. They would show the enemy that they had not been beaten by this a few days later. Outpost Section 3/61 engaged the English advancing to the south of Francilly. At 5.15am as our infantry withdrew, the section moved into a new position further east and engaged the strong enemy forces near Selency till 9am, they then moved into the Hindenburg Line. The Outpost Sections of 7/61, 8/61 and 9/61 were withdrawn during the night to the wire entanglement in front of the Hindenburg Line on the St. Quentin - Roupy road.

On 3rd April a heavy barrage from light and medium calibre guns fell on our positions on the Windmühlenberg, the outskirts of Isle and the Orphanage. Our batteries engaged the enemy advancing on a line from Francilly to Fontaine. During the evening of the 3rd the guns of Outpost Section 1/61 and 2/61 were to be recaptured. The operation was to be carried out by a raiding party drawn from the 25th Infantry Division, 2/61 and Outpost Section 1/61. Limbers each drawn by 10 horses followed on behind the raiding party. Despite heavy infantry fire it was possible to reach the position of the guns. There was only one gun still there, this gun was disabled as it was not possible to retrieve it. During the operation a box barrage was laid down on Francilly by the remaining batteries.


Charlie

Offline PhilipG

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,658
Re: 2nd Manchesters at Manchester Hill
« Reply #59 on: September 15, 2017, 02:56:55 PM »
Charlie,

Thank you for giving us the details of the movements of Feld Artillery Regt.61.  It is always interesting to learn of the German side of an engagement. PhilipG.