Title: History of the Guards Division in the Great War 1915 – 1918 – Two (2) Volume set
Author: Headlam, C
Edition: 2nd Edition
Publication Date: 2001
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket
Comments: Formed in France in August 1915. Its first action was Loos and from then on it was seldom out of the fighting. Undoubtedly one of the finest fighting formations of the war. 44,333 casualties of whom 13,981 dead. Fifteen VCs. Includes an account of the 4th Guards Brigade before the formation of the division and after the brigade was reformed in Feb 1918. Order of battle, succession of commanders and staff, origin and history of Guards MG Regiment and Entrenching Battalion.
Volume 1 – 339 pages
Volume 2 – 369 pages
The Guards Division was formed in France in August 1915, the creation of Kitchener (then Secretay of State for War), who, after first obtaining the permission of the King, proceeded to form the division withouTt consulting either the War Office or the C in C of the BEF, Field Marshal French.
The first the latter knew about it was in a letter from Kitchener a month before the division came into being. It was formed by concentrating the eight Guards battalions already in France and bringing out from the UK four more, including the recently raised Welsh Guards, plus a pioneer battalion (4th Coldstream). The artillery (less the howitzer brigade), two of the three engineer companies and the signal company came from the 16th (Irish) Division, then still in Ireland; the howitzer brigade came from the 11th (Northern) Division, left behind in England when that division went to Gallipoli. The remaining divisional troops came from the UK or from divisions already in France.
The first GOC was the Earl of Cavan, a Grenadier, who was later to command British troops in Italy and, in 1922, become Chief of the Imperial General Staff. A month after its formation the division was in action at Loos, suffering just over 2,100 casualties. Thereafter it was seldom out of the fighting – Somme, Passchendaele, Cambrai, the German March 1918 offensive, Hindenburg Line and the final advance to victory. It lived up to its name, earning the reputation of one of the finest fighting formations of the war, an elite. Fifteen VCs were won, and in addition a further seven recipients were awarded theirs while serving with Guards battalions during the year before the division was formed. In all it suffered 44,333 casualties of whom 13,981 were dead.
In August 1914 the strength of the Foot Guards was 276 officers, 7,036 other ranks; in November 1918 it stood at 1,598 officers and 43,928 other ranks. This is a clear, factual and detailed history, an exceptionally good account, described by the author as “a strictly military record, based on the divisional, brigade and battalion War Diaries and supplemented, where necessary, by other official records, private diaries, personal narratives and various published works.” Plain facts, “no purple passages.” It opens with a brief account of the activities of the Guards with the BEF before the formation of the division: 4th (Guards) Brigade/2nd Division, 1st (Guards) Brigade/1st Division and 20th Brigade/7th Division.
It also describes the work of the 4th Guards Brigade after it was reformed in Feb 1918 with the reorganization of the BEF from four to three-battalion brigades, and allotted to 31st Division, winning another VC. Appendices provide order of battle details, succession of officers, staffs and commands, operation orders for major attacks, VC citations, notes on the origin and history of the Guards MG Regiment, on the Entrenching Battalion, on dress and equipment and more besides. The maps are good, clear and uncluttered and there is a comprehensive (22-page) index. This is a very competent piece of work, one of the best of the divisional histories.