The 18th (Eastern) Division was formed in mid-September 1914, part of Kitchener’s Second New Army. It was lucky in its first GOC, Ivor Maxse, who had been brought home from commanding the 1st (Guards) Brigade, an officer well known for his ability in training skills and for demanding the highest standards. He was to be their GOC until January 1917, when he was replaced by another highly capable commander, Richard Philip Lee, who remained in command for the rest of the war. With the advantage of having only two GOCs, both of such a calibre, the 18th Division reached a very high peak of efficiency and became one of the best in the BEF. It was awarded eleven VCs, the second highest number awarded to a non-regular division, after the twelve won by the 55th (W Lanc) Division, and gained over 4,300 other awards; total casualties amounted to 46,503.This is a well written history, one of the better works of its kind. It reads more like an adventure story than the somewhat stiff and formal style we find with some divisional histories. Cyril Falls rates it highly. The author was a journalist and this is reflected in his style of writing. He served in the division as an artillery officer in the 82nd Brigade RFA and his account takes in events great and small, the major battles and day to day happenings. He makes good use of official documents such as location states, operational orders, order of battle and citations as well as personal anecdotes and experiences. There is the curious statement that during a period of rest during Third Ypres the division was visited by the corps commander, Hunter Weston. In fact Maxse was the commander, their old divisional commander; the 18th Division never served in a corps commanded by ‘Hunter Bunter’. His account of the Battle of Boom Ravine (February 1917), suggests a clear cut victory, certainly not the case. He makes no reference to the fact that Gough (Fifth Army Commander) ordered an enquiry immediately after the battle to ascertain why the attack on 17th February failed to achieve the objectives. He does describe an act of treachery in which two men from a neighbouring division went over to the enemy and revealed the time of the attack. This, too, was the subject of an enquiry ordered by Gough. This is an enjoyable read.
THE 18TH DIVISION IN THE GREAT WAR
The history of one of the best British divisions to have served on the Western Front where it arrived at the end of July 1915. Eleven VCs and 4,300 other awards; 46,503 casualties. Only two GOCs, Ivor Maxse and Richard Lee, both very high calibre.