The 40th Division began to form in September 1915, by which time the standard height for an infantry had been lowered, and one of the brigades, the 119th, consisted entirely of ‘bantams’, all from Welsh regiments (RWF, SWB and the Welsh regiment). The other two brigades were of mixed height but with a good number of bantams and these two brigades had a large proportion of unfit men and it was quite clear to the GOC and brigade commanders that a drastic weeding out programme would be necessary before the division could even begin training. This was put in hand and the author gives a good explanation of how it was done. It wasn’t until June 1916 that the division was ready to go overseas, arriving in France on the eve of the Somme offensive, too late to take part in the main battles apart from the final one in November 1916, the battle of the Ancre. It fought with great distinction in capturing Bourlon Wood in November 1917 during the Cambrai offensive and holding it till relieved. In this action its casualties totalled 172 officers and 3,191 other ranks. To commemorate this achievement GHQ granted permission for an acorn and oak leaves representing Bourlon Wood to be added to the divisional sign of a diamond superimposed on the bantam cock.In May 1918 the division was one of eight reduced to Training Cadre, the battalions being replaced by Garrison Guard battalions from UK. In July the division was reorganized, the title Garrison Guard done away with, and by the end of the month the division had taken its place in the line, taking part in the advance to victory. The author, an officer in the Leinsters, was badly wounded in November 1914 at First Ypres and invalided home to staff appointments at the War Office, returning to France in July 1918 to a staff appointment at GHQ. A military historian with a number of books to his name, including the History of the Leinster Regiment, Whitton has provided a sound divisional history, relying much on personal experiences of others and on official records; there is no roll of honour nor list of honours and awards, though acts of gallantry earning awards are in the text. In all the division suffered 19,179 casualties; two VCs were awarded.
HISTORY OF THE 40TH DIVISION
Initially a ‘bantam’ division, the 40th did not arrive in France till June 1916. Distinguished itself in capturing Bourlon Wood during the Cambrai offensive, Reduced to cadre in May 1918, reorganized and returned to the line in July 1918. No roll of honour nor list of honours and awards.
Lt Col F.E Whitton
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2004 N&M Press reprint (original pub 1926).SB. vi + 315pp with four maps and one illus.