'A Lack of Offensive Spirit?'
please go HERE
The Attack at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916, The Official View
The Poems of Gommecourt
1. Eddie's Men
2. A 'Terrier' Division in France (read excerpt)
3. The Hohenzollern Redoubt
4. The Genesis of a 'Diversion' (read excerpt)
5. May 1916 (read excerpt)
6. June 1916 (read excerpt)
7. The Bombardment (read excerpt)
8. The Attack of the 137th Brigade (read excerpt)
9. The Attack of the 139th Brigade (read excerpt)
10. Renewing the Attack (read excerpt)
11. Afternoon and Evening
12. Counting the Cost (read excerpt)
13. "A Lack of Offensive Spirit" (read excerpt)
14. Grief and Relief (read excerpt)
15. The Taking of Gommecourt
Appendix 1: Touring the Battlefield
Appendix 2: 46th Division Instructions for the attack on Gommecourt
Appendix 3: The British Order of Battle
Appendix 4: German Order of Battle
Appendix 5: The Roll of Honour of the 46th (North Midland) Division
Appendix 6: German Casualties
Appendix 7: Clearing the Battlefield and Gommecourt New Wood Cemetery
Appendix 8: Details of Cemeteries & Memorials Mentioned in the Text
About 'A Lack of Offensive Spirit?'
Having completed 'Pro Patria Mori' in the Spring of 2006 I was faced with two issues. The first was that, as the writing of that book came to a close, I was becoming more interested in the fate of the 46th Division and its commanding officer, Maj Gen Stuart Wortley. Why, for example, if two of its battalions (the 5th and 7th Sherwood Foresters) suffered amongst the heaviest casualties of any battalion on the Somme on 1st July 1916, were they accused of a 'lack of offensive spirit' by their Corps commander, Lt Gen Snow? Why, on a day when there must have been plenty of candidates, was Stuart Wortley they only general sacked? And why was the 46th Division the only one subject to a Court of Inquiry in spite of the fact that their Corps and Army commanders and even Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Armies in France and Flanders, would later state that the 'diversion' at Gommecourt had fulfilled its objectives?
The second issue was that I knew I was facing a major operation which would keep me housebound for several months and I needed something to do to keep me occupied.
A summer's research
Having determined to write the book, and imagining that it had to be quite a lot shorter than 'Pro Patria Mori' I set to some frantic research. Thankfully, the help of many colleagues and the ability to use a digital camera at the National Archives were both of great help.
Sadly, there are not as many personal and public documents relating to the 46th Division at Gommecourt as there were for the 56th Division. This is, perhaps, because so many of the well educated officers were killed and that many of the men, the miners, steel and ironworkers, hosiers, boot and shoe workers were not as literate as some of the rank and file of the London Division, many of whom came from clerical and student backgrounds. There were, however, useful finds at the Imperial War Museum and Liddle Collection (Leeds University) and the Staffordshire Regiment's Museum at Lichfield.
This data, allied to the regimental histories of several of the battalions, was the major source, except that is, until I discovered the joys of the British Museums newspaper depository at Colindale in North London. Here, using both original and microfiche copies of the local newspapers for the summer of 1916, dozens of invaluable stories about the attack and the men involved were found.
Whilst recuperating I was able to kick all this material into shape and it soon became apparent that, rather than being shorter that 'Pro Patria Mori', this book would be substantially longer. And so it has turned out - it is 700 pages long with many photographs, maps and plans. I have again decided to self-publish this book but, anyway, no sane publisher would ever consider taking on a book that takes longer to read than the battle did to fight!
You can read some short excerpts by clicking on the chapter links in the Contents box.
The book is now available to buy HERE
© Alan MacDonald 2008. All rights reserved. No publication without permission.