The last of Kitchener’s Second New Army divisions the 20th was, apart from the 36th Ulster and 38th Welsh, also the last division to have a title. It was formed in September 1914 and , as its title suggests, it was composed of battalions of Rifle and Light Infantry regiments, its brigades were numbered 59th, 60th and 61st. In January 1915 one of the battalions, 11th DLI, became the divisional pioneer battalion and its place in 61st Brigade was taken by 12th King’s (Liverpool), an army troops battalion attached to the division. The first GOC was Sir E.O.F Hamilton, a sixty year old who had retired in April 1914 and whose last appointment had been commanding troops in Jersey and Guernsey. He was replaced within a month and does not rate a mention in the book, his successor was a New Zealand officer R.H Davies; in all the division was to have six GOCs. The division moved to France in July 1915 and in the two weeks prior to embarkation all three brigade commanders were replaced, probably on grounds of age – the youngest was 58. Its first major action was a subsidiary attack in support of the Loos offensive, an action that brought the first of its six VCs to Lieut G.A. Maling RAMC of 61st Field Ambulance. During the first half of 1916 the division was in the Ypres salient where it played a supporting role during the German attack on the Canadians at Mount Sorrel; at the end of July it moved down to the Somme where it remained till March 1917, taking part in several of the battles, particularly Guillemont where the divisional memorial can be seen. It then moved back north for the Third Ypres offensive in which it suffered 4,600 casualties, distinguishing itself in the capture of Langemark where another divisional memorial located. It was at Cambrai and during the German offensive of 1918 it fought a rearguard action, continuously in action for twelve days. That it was a good division is testified by the fact that the Earl of Cavan specifically asked for it as GOC the newly formed XIV Corps, and after the Somme he made a point of asking the Army commander and C in C for not to transfer the division ‘if they can help it.’ In his introduction to this history he says: “The 20th Division never failed me, and never failed its neighbours during the time I had the honour to of commanding the XIVth Corps.” The total casualty list numbered 35,470.This history is a straightforward account, devoid of heroics or emotive descriptions. Operations are adequately described, including minor and individual actions, and changes in senior commanders and staff are noted. There are useful maps to support the narrative, a good index but no appendices giving such relevant reference material as honours and awards, casualty summaries and staff lists.
HISTORY OF THE TWENTIETH (LIGHT) DIVISION
A New Army division, formed in September 1914, it went to France in July 1915 and fought on the Western Front throughout the war, suffering 35,470 casualties and winning six VCs. Distinguished action at Guillemont 1916, Langemark 1917 and Cambrai 1918. Command and Staff lists.