This book has a subtitle: Some Records of Battle and Laughter in France which sets the tone of this history, the history of one of the most remarkable brigades that fought on the Western Front, part of one of the most remarkable divisions. The 18th (Eastern) Division became an elite formation, one of Kitchener’s Second New Army divisions, which had the advantage of being commanded by Ivor Maxse, foremost among commanders for his training and leadership qualities. He commanded it for two and a quarter years and his successor, R.P Lee, another good commander, lead it for the rest of the war. Only two GOCs in four years of war.
The 54th Brigade was to win eight VCs, the highest number for a non-regular army brigade, eight out of the eleven awarded to the division. The history is made up of the stories and recollections of all ranks, and the style is very informal. The compiler or editor has chosen to remain anonymous, but the result is something like a regimental history, with a good sprinkling of personalities identified in the narrative. Much is made of the ‘Spirit of the Brigade, a morale booster undoubtedly helped by the fact the battalions stayed together from the time they arrived in France in July 1915 till the reorganization of the BEF in February 1918 when brigades were reduced to three battalions. The 54th Brigade certainly saw a great deal of action and there are plenty of lively descriptions. The Brigade commander tells of his visit to an emplacement known as Panama House during a lively ‘strafe’. The company sergeant-major emerged, grabbed the brigadier and threw him inside saying: “We don’t want no dead Brigadiers round our pillbox.” The brigade commanders and staff and the unit commanders are listed in the appendix and the eight VC citations are given.
54TH INFANTRY BRIGADE 1914-1918
The record of a brigade of one of the best divisions that fought on the Western Front, one of the New Army divisions – the 18th(Eastern). This remarkable brigade was awarded no less than eight VCs. Action packed history.