WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
T. C. 86 E. C. JACK, LTD.
35 & 36 Paternoster Row, London, E.C.
I. ------FESTUBERT, June 15, 1915.
II. -----HIGH WOOD (Somme), July 1916.
III. ----BEAUMONT-HAMEL, November 13-14, 1916. (A mile north-east of the river
--------Ancre. Last notable Battle of Somme. Greatly helped in Spring Advance leading
--------to Bapaume, 1917.)
IV. ----ROCLINCOURT (Arras), April 9-11, 1917. (Part of the advance which won
V. -----FAMPOUX AND CHEMICAL WORKS, April 23, 1917.
VI. ----ROEUX AND CHEMICAL WORKS, May 16, 1917.
VII. ---NORTH-EAST OF YPRES, July 31, 1917.
VIII.---POELCAPELLE ROAD, September 20, 1917.
IX. ----SOUTH-WEST OF CAMBRAI, November 20-23, 1917.
X. -----EAST AND WEST OF BAPAUME, March 21-26, 1918.
XI. ----RIVER LAWE, April 9-12, 1918.
XII. ---BATTLE OF THE ARDRE VALLEY, July 20-31, 1918.
XIII. -NORTH BANK OF RIVER SCARPE, including fighting in which Greenland
--------Hill was captured, August 15 to September 14, 1918.
XIV. -PLOUVAIN AND GREENLAND HILL, September 26 to October 3, 1918.
XV. --IWUY TO FAMARS, October 1918.
51ST (HIGHLAND) DIVISION.
No division of the line in the British Army that fought against Germany in the Great War came through the years of campaign in France and Flanders with more renown than the Fifty-first. From the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, on the Somme, in November 1916, till the taking of Greenland Hill and the fighting from Iwuy to Famars in October 1918, its name was on every lip, not only in the army, but at home, where its exploits and its reputation made it unquestionably the star performer among all our infantry divisions. From every war some unit of command---a regiment or brigade---comes through with popular laurels, a name for ever after to be illustrious. In this greatest of wars that glory went to a whole division, and that a Scottish one, composed entirely of Highland territorials.
They had been, in the bantering fashion of the army, known as "Harper's Duds" months after they had gone to France--- a nickname inspired by the distinguishing mark "HD" on all the Division's vehicles. Though their record at Festubert, High Wood, and the Labyrinth was evidence enough of the stubborn and enduring stuff they were made of, a ridiculous underestimate of their quality, due to their purely citizen composition, kept them more or less in the background till the great offensive found them thrust into the most furious battling on the Somme. General Harper had never had any doubt of how his tartaned corps would bear themselves when their blood was up. He must have smiled at times at the wonder and the praise of his chiefs as gradually but swiftly they awakened to the truth that his "duds" were among the most intrepid and audacious units of the army !
The Fifty-first paid dearly---in toils, in trials, agonies of endurance, wounds, and death---for that eminence of renown that henceforth came to it. Thereafter it was chosen for the posts most critical; without intermission it was used in every menaced situation, hurled into the bloodiest attacks. Season after season passed, and Scotland knew her heart's blood streamed in the tracks of that kilted corps d'élite. Again and again its personnel was changed beyond recognition; its component regiments were repeatedly cut down by casualties to little more than cadres; there were desolating roll calls that seemed dreadful to the survivors of the shattered lines assembled after fierce engagements, and meant, for Scotland, anguished valleys, stricken little towns. But the terrible blanks were filled as soon as they were created; Scotland, to the last, sent drafts of gallant manhood from the same shires to uphold the reputation of a Division that was now her special pride.
From the Somme to the Arras front it passed in the spring of 1917; saw bitter hours in the shallow valley of the Scarpe; was rushed to the Lys to stem in April 1918 the break-through of the Germans below Armentières; swept south again to the south-west of Reims, where it fought beside the French in the terrible Ardre Valley; and in the autumn of 1918 stormed again through the Rux defences, and hewed its way along the Scarpe, the most vital point of the battle.
"Wherever the battle rages hottest, there is the Fifty-first," wrote an English correspondent. "The French now talk of it with almost religious fervour." In July of 1918, said the same writer, "it walked across a valley swept by a thousand machine guns, stormed Marfaux, and clinched the German defeat." Not once or twice in the war he had heard officers say, "Thank God, the Fifty-first are next to us!" Another correspondent reported that in a document captured "the Germans placed the Fifty-first first in formidableness on a list of hard-fighting British divisions."
There was for our Allies, the French, no more famous British division; for the peasantry behind the lines no more portentous appearance than that of those kilted troops, whose presence in any quarter, they had learned to know, meant imminent battles, critical hours. Even the enemy seemed impressed by the Fifty-first's ubiquity and stubbornness; their aviators one time dropped a message over it---"Good old Fifty-first ! Still sticking at it."
These redoubtable Scottish troops, as has been stated, were exclusively territorial. They had practically just completed their short annual summer training in Scottish camps and returned to their homes, when the command came for mobilization, and from then till May 1, 1916, when they crossed to France, had undergone a most drastic training in Bedford, where they were among the earliest to volunteer for active service abroad. They were men of the Highland counties, and of the Lowlands most contiguous to the Highland line; and when the Division was moulded into shape it was composed as follows:---
152nd INFANTRY BRIGADE.
5th Seaforth Highlanders--------------------from Sutherland and Caithness.
6th Seaforth Highlanders--------------------from Morayshire.
6th Gordon Highlanders---------------------from Banff and Donside.
8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders----from Argyll.
153RD INFANTRY BRIGADE.
----------6th Royal Highlanders (Black Watch)----from Perthshire.
----------7th Royal Highlanders (Black Watch)----from Fife.
----------5th Gordon Highlanders--------------------from Buchan and Formartin.
----------7th Gordon Highlanders--------------------from Deeside.
154TH INFANTRY BRIGADE.
4th Gordon Highlanders--------------------from Aberdeen.
7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders---from Stirling, Clackmannan and Kinross.
9th Royal Scots.------------------------------from Edinburgh.
4th Seaforth Highlanders--------------------from Ross-shire.
This list, however, does not apply to the whole period of the Fifty-first's campaigning; it is given merely as typical of the composition of the Division in the years of its highest renown. For a short period the 154th Brigade was made up of four gallant English territorial regiments, temporarily introduced to replace four of the kilted battalions that had gone to France, and between August 1914 and September 1918 there were changes made in all the Division's three brigades, which, for historical accuracy, it is essential here to indicate.
While in Bedford the Division was at first made up as follows:---
Argyll and Sutherland Infantry Brigade----6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
Gordons Infantry Brigade--------------------4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Gordons.
Seaforths and Camerons Brigade-----------4th, 5th, and 6th Seaforths, and 4th Camerons.
In October and November 1914 the 4th Seaforths, 6th Gordons, and 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders went to France, and were replaced by the 2/4th Seaforths, 2/6th Gordons, and 2/7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
In February 1915 the 4th Camerons, 4th Gordons, and 9th Argyll and Sutherlands went to France, and were replaced by the 2/4th Camerons, 2/4th Gordons, and 2/9th Argyll and Sutherlands.
April 1915 found- the Division reorganized as follows, and with this composition it went to France:---
152nd Infantry Brigade--------------------5th and 6th Seaforths, and 6th and 8th Argyll and Sutherlands.
153rd Infantry Brigade--------------------5th and 7th Gordons, and 6th and 7th Black Watch.
154th Infantry Brigade--------------------1/4th Royal Lancaster Regiment, 1/4th Loyal North Lancaster Regiment,
-----------------------------------------------1/8th Liverpool (Irish) Regiment, and 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers.
At the end of May 1915 the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers went to St. Omer for further training, and were relieved by the 6th Scottish Rifles. Two months later the Fusiliers returned to duty, and the 6th Scottish Rifles remained as an extra battalion in the 154th Brigade.
In August 1915 the 8th Royal Scots joined the Division as its pioneer battalion. In December the four English battalions of the 154th Brigade left to join the 55th Division; the 6th Scottish Rifles were reduced to cadre strength and sent to the base, and the 154th Brigade was reconstituted as follows:--- ,
4th and 5th Black Watch.
Two months later, owing to the reduced strength of the 4th Camerons and 4th and 5th Black Watch, these battalions were sent to the base. The 4th Camerons were reduced to cadre, and the 4th and 5th Black Watch were amalgamated, made up to strength again, and sent to another division. They were replaced in the 51st Division by the 4th Gordons, 7th Argyll and Sutherlands, and 9th Royal Scots. The new brigade therefore consisted of:---
7th Argyll and Sutherlands.
9th Royal Scots.
In June 1916 the 6th Argyll and Sutherland battalion of the 152nd Brigade, owing to grievous losses in the Labyrinth, was reduced so much that it had to be replaced by the 6th Gordons. Soon after, however, the 6th Argylls were made up to strength and joined the 5th Division as a pioneer battalion.
On the reorganization of all infantry brigades on a three-battalion basis in February 1918, one battalion, as under, was taken from each brigade. These three battalions were grouped together, and joined the 61st Division as a Highland brigade:---
152nd Brigade---8th Argyll and Sutherlands.
153rd Brigade---5th Gordons.
154th Brigade---9th Royal Scots.
After the German offensive in May 1918, these battalions were taken away from the 61st Division and sent to the 15th Scottish Division.
In September 1918 the 7th Gordons were broken up, and the personnel was distributed between the 6th Gordons of the 152nd Brigade and the 4th Gordons of the 154th Brigade, while the 7th Gordons were replaced in the 153rd Brigade by the 6th Argylls from the 5th Division.
No further changes took place in the Division, whose A.S.C. and R.A.M.C. were both composed of Highland units. Its artillery were territorial units from Renfrew, Aberdeen, Dundee, and Edinburgh; and the D.A.C. was recruited from Argyll, Bute, and Ross-shire; while its engineers were the 1/1st, 1/2nd, and 2/2nd Highland Field Companies of the R.E.
When the Division went to France, under the command of Major-General R. Bannatine-Allason, it was called the 1st Highland Territorial Division, a designation soon changed---somewhat to the chagrin of its personnel---to the Fifty-first.
For a while it was not in any close engagements, though it met with some serious casualties. It was in reserve for the Second Battle of Ypres, and at Richebourg in May 1915. At Festubert the Division, which had moved into the neighbourhood of Estaires to be ready to support the operations of the First Army, was attached to the Indian Corps for operations at La Quinque Rue, with the Canadian Division on its right. In that battle the enemy was driven from a position which was strongly entrenched and fortified, and ground was won on a front of four miles to an average depth of six hundred yards. It gave Field Marshal French his first experience of territorial divisions, and he found them thoroughly trustworthy and efficient. The Fifty-first at Festubert lost 1,500 men.
For a month thereafter it took over the sector in front of Laventie, and on 26th July started on a long journey via Calais and Amiens to Méricourt on the Somme, where Lieutenant-General G. M. Harper took over the command from Bannatine-Allason in September.
It was the first time the peasantry of Picardy had seen the jupe courte---the kilt; it was destined to be almost as familiar to them as breeches long before the war was over. Round Bresles, and spread over a great area of the countryside, the Highlanders found billets in villages and farm steadings. Instantly they took a great hold upon the imagination and fancy of the inhabitants. There may not be much in the popular theory that the days of the "Auld Alliance" are still affectionately remembered, but the cordiality between the French people and these Highland troops was marked enough to be attributable to any kind of romantic sentiment. Probably it arose less from a knowledge of history books than from the freemasonry, so to speak, which must ever exist between all essentially country folks.
Picardy soon became rather knowing about the different tartars---Black Watch and Argyll, Seaforth, Gordon, or Cameron; it quickly learned to distinguish them more readily than do many folk at home.
But, after all, the most obvious reason for the unquestionable popularity of all the Highland corps was that they were quiet, sober, well-behaved, honest, and cheerful fellows. Their pipes brought up the dawn to the tune of "Johnny Cope," and at evening hamlets echoed with old mountain airs; wherever were the Highlanders there were, in hours of leisure, volunteers for the labour of the fields, and even for the humblest domestic offices of the simple Picardy people.
At the end of July the Division went out of billets and took over the line at Authuille, Aveluy, and La Boisselle, from French troops, a little later extending to the south bank of the river Ancre and relieving the Indian Cavalry Division. It was here till the end of December.
From the beginning of the new year till February the Fifty-first was out of the line and resting in the Villers-Bocage area, where the men made acquaintance with Amiens, the first French town of any importance they were privileged to visit. Some weeks of training followed at Corbie, and early in March the Division was again on trek to the Labyrinth, that ugly sector of the line extending from Neuville St. Vaast to Roclincourt, where it relieved the French.
April came in with sunshine and bland airs that uplifted spirits wondrously; for the Highlanders, though well inured to austerities of climate, found the mud of the Labyrinth and its trenches even more hateful than the Boche, and the spring came to them like a tonic.
Unceasingly the enemy harassed them. His miners were active day and night, and it took all the craft and subtlety of a detachment of New Zealand Engineers, who were in the Division, to circumvent them by countermining. The most persistent enemy mining took place on the 152nd Brigade's front, and one morning a chain of five mines was touched off in front of the 8th Argylls and 6th Seaforths. The Germans followed this demonstration with an attack which penetrated the Highlanders' front line; but they had hardly entered it when they were driven out with the bayonet. In these irritating raids the 6th Argylls, the Paisley battalion, had inveterate bad luck: each time they took over the line they had it blown up under them. They were finally so depleted in numbers that, in the absence of adequate drafts, they had to be withdrawn from the Division and replaced by the 6th Gordons.
While still at Neuville St. Vaast the 152nd Brigade was the somewhat unwilling performer in as odd a camouflage as any to be recorded during the whole war. The men for a time discarded the Highland garb, and were served out with breeches, English tunics, and ordinary infantry caps. Thus masquerading as an English corps they took the place of troops in the 25th Division area, while the 152nd and 154th Brigades extended their lines so as to cover the space previously occupied by the three Highland brigades. The 25th Division had been badly cut up by a counter-attack from the enemy, and thus was their relief effected. But this piece of camouflage was dictated by further considerations: the 51st Division was now holding a front really much too long for safety---from south of Souchez to the north of Arras---yet the strategy of the Higher Command required a still further thinning out preparatory to the forthcoming Somme offensive.
On 12th July the Division left the Neuville St. Vaast sector, and went to the rest area between St. Pol and Aubigny. Its "rest" was transitory. A week later it was at Méricourt, and on 22nd July moved up by night through the amazing concentration of camps in the valley to the front of Bazentin-le-Grand and Bazentin-le-Petit.
It was the most bitter period of the Somme offensive, and the Fifty-first, for all its grim earlier experiences, was at the very top` of its form, still largely composed of pre-war, non-conscript, old Scottish territorials. Its hour of éclat -came in the attack on Beaumont-Hamel, when, to the surprise of the Higher Command, it did what had not been expected of it.
The Battle of the Ancre, whereof the storming of Beaumont-Hamel was a vastly important operation, opened on November 13, 1916, at six o'clock on a foggy morning, after two hours' intense bombardment, which destroyed the greater part of the German wire entanglements. Behind a terrific artillery barrage three divisions advanced t o the attack, the Fifty-first being in front of Beaumont-Hamel, with the 63rd Naval Division on its right and the 39th Division on its left.
A serious natural obstacle confronted the Highlanders in a deep fold of the ground known as Y Ravine, which ran down from the village to the German trenches, and the ground in general over which their advance was made was horrible with the dead and the litter of the struggle here in the previous July. The 152nd and 153rd Brigades led the attack, which quickly carried the front German lines and swept through the Y Ravine after a bitter bayonet conflict; and the whole Division, now hurled into the assault, burst in upon the village with its sinister network of caverns and strong points with a Highland élan that was irresistible. It was, said the Corps Commander, " one of the greatest feats of the war, and to those who know the ground and its defences it must ever be a marvellously fine performance." Six or seven thousand prisoners were taken by the Division, whose casualties, though grievous enough, were considerably less than had been calculated on.
This latter fact, no doubt, accounts for the Fifty-first being the only Division to go back immediately into the line again.
In the end of November it took over from the Canadians trenches at Courcelette, between Albert and Bapaume, that were the worst it had ever experienced---up to the waist in mud throughout the whole period of occupation. Then, finally, the Highlanders left the valley of the Somme. Their task in that stricken plain was done. Well might their pipes play vaunting airs as they turned their backs upon it; to many, however, "Farewell to the Somme" was a lament---for comrades young and gallant to be left behind commingled with the soil of the France of whose beauties they had witnessed nothing, only great fields unspeakably foul and mutilated, the débris of towns and villages. No fewer than 8,000 men of the Fifty-first were lost in the struggle for this dreadful valley; their graves are thick in Picardy.
Hard winter frost was still in the ground when the Highlanders found themselves in the line near Arras, again at Roclincourt, braced up by a period of intensive training and unremitting rehearsal for the April 1917 attack on the enemy's lines in the valley of the Scarpe, where every Scottish regiment in the army was represented by the best---and in some cases by most---of its battalions.
The Battle of Arras; on a front twelve miles from Lens to Arras, started on 9th April at half-past five in the morning. The 51st Division, which was in the XVII Corps under Sir Charles Fergusson, and part of Allenby's Third Army, was opposite Thélus and facing the outer spurs of Vimy Ridge, in front of which, to the Division's left, lay four Canadian divisions, while on its right was the 34th Division. A fierce enemy barrage preluded the attack; yet Gordons, Black Watch, Argylls, Seaforths, and Royal Scots swept through the first objective line of the German trenches as though they had been a triumphal arch. Only at one point called "The Pump" and the trenches east of it was the 152nd Brigade for a little checked by an appallingly concentrated, fire; two hours later they were assailing the second line with the invaluable aid of the tanks.
So far the progress made was considered to be cheaply bought, though we may accept as typical the experience of one battalion which went into the attack with 23 officers and 521 men, and had 12 officers and 175 men killed or wounded.
This first day of the Arras battle was the greatest blow delivered up to date by the British Army, for 13,000 prisoners were taken and an enormous number of guns.
The inevitable counter-attacking by the enemy followed. Then, from 23rd April onward, Haig, who seemed to have pinned his faith on his countrymen for this particular stubborn conflict, kept three Scottish divisions continuously hammering at it. There were most sanguinary engagements for the possession ofOppy, Gavrelle, Fampoux, Roeux, and the Chemical Works. The enemy had concentrated an unexampled array of machine guns on these positions. With unabated ardour the Highlanders, after a brief breathing-space behind the lines on the St. Pol-Arras road, came back on the 23rd, carried the Chemical Works and the Corona Trench beyond it with great dash, and fought bloodily for their retention during the whole day, though compelled at last to fall back upon a line a little to the east of their farthest advance. The most stubborn of Prussian troops were brought against the Fifty-first on the 23rd; how close and fierce was the fighting may be gathered: from the fact that on the steps of Roeux Cemetery a Prussian and a sergeant of the Argylls were found grappled in death---the Prussian with his teeth in the Highlander's wrist the Highlander with his in the Prussian's throat. They had been killed by a shell.
Rux and the Chemical Works were not permanently ours till 14th May, when the Fifty-first took them over from the 4th Division and held them through desperate counterattacks. Two days later a new division of the enemy thrust forward north of the Scarpe under an exceedingly heavy barrage, and for a while seriously menaced the Fifty-first in a very awkward situation alongside a railway embankment, flanking it and actually getting to its rear. But this force was virtually destroyed before its daring move had fully developed.
"Convey to 51st Division my congratulations on their great gallantry at Roeux and Chemical Works," wired General Allenby to the Third Army three days later.
From the Corps Commander, also, came this message: "Heartiest congratulations to you all on fine work on 15th and 16th, and especially to General Burn and 152nd Infantry Brigade, whose tenacity and pluck saved an awkward situation. The Division may well be proud of their latest achievement."
During the whole month's fighting on the Scarpe---as intense as any in the war---while the Germans were surrendering in hordes, they themselves got practically no British prisoners, and none unwounded.
At the end of May the Highlanders moved north to the Lys, and took part with the XVIII Corps in the Third Battle of Ypres, which opened on 31st July. For many weeks there had been formidable preparations in the Salient for an attack against the low Flanders ridges, of which the enemy was fully expectant, and for which he was prepared with an amazing concentration of "pill-box" fortresses.
The Fifty-first advanced with a velour there was no withstanding on the dismal morning of the 31st. Every obstacle went down before them; they had learned all that was to be learned about "pill-boxes" and the tactics for them, and these much-vaunted devices of the enemy, with few exceptions, proved comparatively easy to circumvent and put out of action. Mopping up the ground behind them, the Highlanders reached their objective--- the line of Steenbeck---where they dug themselves in and beat off all counter-attacks. So far as the north of the Arras sector was concerned, that opening day of the Arras battle was a decided victory for Britain.
A miserable month, for weather, followed; all active operations were impossible, and only once again on this front---on 20th September, on the Poelcapelle road---did the Fifty-first get into grips with the Germans. These were Prussian troops whom they handsomely thrashed.
Before the Highlanders quitted the XVIII Corps at the end of September, the Corps Commander wrote to say how much he had appreciated their services throughout three months of strenuous fighting. "What has struck me most," he said, "is the thoroughness of the organization within the Division, and the fact that all usual war problems have been thought out beforehand, discussed in detail, and are embodied in simple doctrines well known to all ranks. The result is the Division always fights with gallantry, and can be depended on to carry out any reasonable task which may be allotted to it in any battle. For this reason I venture to place it among the three best fighting divisions I have met in France during the past three years."
Mid-November found the Fifty-first in the Cambrai sector, and hotly engaged to the south-west of Cambrai itself.
In the first phase of the battle of the 20th November the Division had severe losses in its assault upon the strongly organized village of Flesquières, the approach to which was a long slope swept by machine-gun fire, which rendered the cooperation of the tanks unsatisfactory. By evening, however, the Highlanders had worked round Flesquières, and on the following day it fell. They carried oh for nearly three miles farther, taking Cantaing with 500 prisoners, and finally storming Fontaine-Notre-Dame with the aid of tanks and some squadrons of the 1st Cavalry Division. They were pushed out of Fontaine on the following afternoon, and suffered grievously in an attempt at its recapture on the 23rd.
It was obvious from the second day of the Battle of Cambrai that the maximum objectives were not to be attained; and though the taking of Cambrai itself was no part of the plan of Haig, whose main design was to capture the high ground of Bourlon Wood, the isolation of Cambrai by his cavalry on the first day was in his programme---a coup which did not come off; and when the enemy came on again with heavy reinforcements from his Eastern front on 30th November, the struggle, which began as a British victory, ended in a draw.
Lieutenant-General Fergusson, commanding the XVII Corps, wrote afterwards to the commanding officer of the Division: "I am proud and delighted with the Division, as they might well be themselves with the grand fight they put up."
In March 1918 "Uncle Harper," as its commander was affectionately known to his men, was transferred to the command of the IV Army Corps, and succeeded in the 51st Division by Major-General G. T. C. Carter-Campbell. It was virtually on the eve of the German offensive, which the Highland Division experienced in all its intensity east and west of Bapaume.
The German attack opened at 5 a.m. on the 21st March with a terrific bombardment of the trench areas occupied by the Fifty-first, and by heavy shelling of the back areas. This lasted for four or five hours before the infantry attack developed under cover of an effective smoke barrage aided by thick ground mist. The enemy broke through the front of the division on the left, and by an enveloping attack on the left flank captured the front line, in this flank, of the battle zone as far as Louverval.
The attack was not unexpected, for there were many presages of it in front of the Fifty-first; but the failure to withstand it was due to the fact that the Division's nine battalions were holding a line of 5,400 yards, with a responsibility for lines of defence nearly 4,000 yards deep, which made it impossible for the G.O.C. to retain any reserves in his own hands. Units of eight German divisions were found facing them astride the Bapaume-Cambrai road.
For three days the Division fought in trenches, then for two days fought stubborn rear-guard actions, during which its right flank was continually in the air and menaced from the rear.
During those critical days of March the casualties of the Division numbered 219 officers and 4,666 other ranks, of which 2,714 were missing.
When, on 29th March, the Fifty-first was transferred from the Third Army to the First Army, the Hon. Sir J. H. G. Byng, commanding the former, sent the Division a message speaking of its "splendid conduct during the stage of the great battle just completed." "By their devotion and courage," he said, "they have broken up overwhelming attacks, and prevented the enemy gaining his object---namely, a decisive victory."
"We all know the Fifty-first !" said King George with significance, when visiting his troops at the front in March. His Majesty on that visit paid many compliments to those men whom the Germans had placed at the head of the list of British divisions most to be feared as Berühmte. H.D."Its deeds will be memorable in the history, not only of the war, but of the world," said the Prime Minister.
Once more in Flanders, where the Division went to refit with large new drafts of officers and men, it was considerably less than satisfactorily reorganized when, between Robecq, its Headquarters, and the river Lawe, the German offensive opened, and the Fifty-first had to "stick it" again. It went into battle to save the situation created by the German offensive from the Aubers Ridge thrusting in the Portuguese, and lost 132 officers and 2,896 men.
In the middle of July the Highlanders entrained from the area east of St. Pol for Champagne, where they fought alongside Foch's French. On 15th July the enemy launched an offensive on an eighty-kilometre front from Château-Thierry to Tahure. The Fifty-first, who were with the Fifth French Army near Epernay, joined in the counter-attack, and Berthelot's praise of his kilted allies was eloquent of the impression their three weeks' co-operation with the French created. In those three weeks the Division lost 175 officers and 3,390 men.
It was again to the Scarpe the Division went from the Marne, and, fighting over ground made poignantly familiar to it by the battles of April and May of 1917, it now carried on a series of minor but important advances in August, culminating in its capture of Greenland Hill, the position on which the great move forward to the Canal du Nord pivoted.
October found it between Cambrai and Valenciennes, and from the 11th till the 29th it pushed the enemy back on a line one thousand yards north-east of Iwuy for a distance of ten miles, delivering four attacks on a two-brigade front and two on a one-brigade front. It was the final fight of the Highlanders, costing 2,872 casualties; a few days later brought the Armistice.
After the Armistice, until reduced to cadre and sent home for disembodiment, the Division remained around La Louvière, in Belgium, between Mons and Charleroi
Speaking in Glasgow University in 1919j the French President, M. Poincaré, took the opportunity of making special reference to the Division.
"The 51st Division," he said, "which had won everywhere the admiration of the Allies, signalized itself in 1915 at Festubert, where it lost 1,500 men; in 1916, on the Somme, where it lost 8,500 men, and on the Ancre, where it lost 2,500 men; in 1917, at Roeux, where it lost 3,000 men; in Flanders, where it lost in two battles 2,500 men; round Cambrai, where it took Havrincourt, Flesquières, Fontaine-Notre-Dame, and lost 2,500 men; in 1918, in the section of Morchies-Bapaume, where it lost 5,000 men and was honourably mentioned in the dispatches of the Commander-in-Chief; and, lastly, in the month of July 1918 amidst the French armies of Champagne, where it bravely attacked the Huns before Reims, and lost again 2,000 men. How many valiant Scots are thus lying on the soil of France, after fighting for the common ideal of both our nations ! To the mothers and widows of those heroes I give the assurance that their image will ever be engraved in the memory and the heart of my country, and that the French women will take care of their graves as if they were those where their husbands and children are sleeping"
While the Fifty-first was in France during the latter part of the war, Mr. Fred. A. Farrell, the Scottish etcher, was attached to its Headquarters Staff as official artist, and took the opportunity of traversing all the ground covered by the Highlanders in France and Flanders from Beaumont-Hamel onwards. He made careful studies of the salient scenes associated with its battles, and his sketches, which will be found on the following pages, associated with incidents of these battles as minutely described by actual participants on the spot, wonderfully reproduce the aspect and evoke the emotions of high historic hours. If in Mr. Farrell's sketches there be little to recall old battle scenes as painted by Meissonnier, De Neuville, or Lady Butler; or any of those magnificently imagined but quite untruthful canvases that, on the walls of Versailles and many national galleries, make war seem romantic and beautiful, it is because the greatest war in history was marked by no scenic splendour, thrilling panoramic effects, or great isolated incidents capable of representation by theatrical posturing afterwards before the easel. It is probable that the old fictitious type of battle picture will never be painted again by serious artists. Mr. Farrell's sketches will be recognized by all who were in France and Flanders in the fighting lines as truthful representations of the character and aspect of modern war. His figures in action are, generally speaking, portraits of actual men and officers of the Fifty-first, and his purely portrait plates have been got from sittings of the officers
War Sketches by Fred A. Farrell