Thanks to Mr Paul Greenwood, who wrote and gave us this texte

The front line of the 19th Division, 27th May - 6th June 1918


The move to Chalons began on 16th May. After its experiences in March and April on the Somme and the Lys replacement troops were completely inexperienced and the entire Division needed to be retrained. When completed it was intended the 19th would be sent to the quiet sector between Reims and Verdun. Headquarters were set up at St Germaine la Ville.

On May 27th the German attack fell upon the Chemin des Dames.

The 19th Div. did not receive notification of this until 4 p.m., and by that time much of the ground between the Aisne and the Vesle had been lost. The Divisional Infantry was sent towards the front by bus, while artillery and other sections were to make their way towards Jonchery sur Vesle.

In the small hours of the 29th the Infantry took up positions round Chambrecy. Divisional HQ were at Chaumuzy.

The rapid German advance continued. By now the French and British troops were very intermixed, had lost heavily and were almost at the point of exhaustion. The French Commander of the 154th division reported a gap in the line from Brouillet to Sergy et Prin, and the British 1Xth Corps commander ordered troops of the 19th Division to fill the gap

At 8 25 two battalions were sent to hold a line from Faverolles to Lhery, getting in touch with the French 13th and 154th Divisions on either side. The remaining battalions were placed in support and told that when the Faverolles/Lhery line was established, they were to try to push forwards towards Savigny and Brouillet. However, by now the enemy had occupied both places in strength and it was impossible to move the line forward. There were additional problems in gaining contact with the French 13th and 154th Divisions.

By the end of the morning the remaining elements of the Division had arrived in the Chambrecy/Chaumuzy area.

By late afternoon it was obvious the Division would soon become heavily engaged. The troops of the British 8th and 25th and the French 13th and 154th Divisions were being driven back on the right, while on the left all Allied troops on the Faverolles/Lhery road were being driven in and the 19th Division's position had become the front line. That night started quietly, but soon after midnight the Germans again started infiltration tactics preparatory to a further major attack. The attack itself started at 6 a.m..

On the Division's left the troops were driven back to the high ground south of Lhery. There were other enforced withdrawals and by 7 30 another line had been set up from Tramery - Bois d'Aulnay - Lhery/Romigny road. This, because the French on the right now withdrew, had to retreat with every possible fighting man being in action.

Making a fighting withdrawal, the line during the afternoon ran from west of Romigny through Sarcy to north west of Aubilly, where the French 28th Division was relieving the 145th. By now the French 13th Division on the left was completely out of touch, but the French 40th Division was moving up to take over the sector.

During the afternoon General Jeffreys of the 19th Division was put in charge of all British troops in the line (IXth Corps and other Divisional Hqs were withdrawn) and any British troops attached to the French Vth Corps came under 19th Division command.

During the afternoon the enemy, massing in the Bois d'Aulnay, was dispersed by artillery fire. On the left the Germans, now having crossed the Romigny/Ste Gemme road, forced the 74th Brigade (made up of stragglers from various Divisions) to meet the threat by forming a defensive flank on the west edge of the Bois de Bouval.

During the night of 30th/31st there were no further attacks, but the 19th Division was placed under control of the French Vth Corps - the Corps' front held by the French 28th Div. on the right, the British Division in the centre and the French 40th Division on the left. The British troops were therefore responsible for the sector above the Ardre valley. The 19th Divisional Commander urged the French Corps Commander to relieve the various remnants of the 8th, 50th, 21st and 25th Divisions, and this was done.

Heavy casualties were caused by severe shelling on May 31st, and in the afternoon, though one attack from south west of Ville en Tardenois was broken up, another from north-west of the town succeeded.

By 3 p.m. the German attack had spread to the right of the 19th Division and the French were driven from Aubilly ridge.

General Jeffreys ordered a counter attack, but before it could be organised the French were advancing again to their former positions on the ridge. British troops, joining the attack, captured the Montagne de Bligny after heavy fighting and German attempts to advance between Chambrecy and Ville en Tardenois were thrown back.

The night of May 31st/June 1st passed quietly. By now, brigade strength was considerably diminished. The 58th Brigade could only muster 350.

At 8 a.m. the 57th Brigade was under heavy machine gun fire and by afternoon the Germans were massing south of the Bois d'Aulnay. A heavy attack was made against the Brigade and the French 40th Division at 4 p.m. The French formed a new line round Boujacourt but the high ground south of Chambrecy was held. Meanwhile a counter attack drove the Germans back up the hill from Chambrecy. Because of the new line taken up by the French, the 19th Division had to realign from Chantereine- Bois d'Eclisse - Montagne de Bligny - Bligny village. The Montagne was a vital position as it controlled the whole of the Ardre valley and route to Epernay, and had to be held "at all costs".

The period from June 2nd to 6th passed without further attacks being made on the Division, but at 3 a.m. on the 6th a heavy enemy barrage was the prelude to an infantry attack. The defending troops left their trenches and met it in the open with a bayonet charge, repulsing it completely.

By 8 a.m. the fighting had died down, but then another assault at 11 a.m. gained the summit of the Montagne. The first counter attack failed, but one immediately following took the Germans by surprise, threw them back down the hill and re-established the line. No further German attack took place while the Division remained in the area. On June 19th the Division was relieved by the 8th Italian Division.