29th Division (United Kingdom)

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29th Division
British 29th Division Insignia.png
Active World War I
formed January 1915
Country United Kingdom
Branch Regular Army
Type Infantry
Nickname Incomparable Division
Engagements Battle of Gallipoli
o Landing at Cape Helles
o First Battle of Krithia
o Second Battle of Krithia
o Third Battle of Krithia
o Battle of Gully Ravine
o Battle of Sari Bair
   –  Battle of Krithia Vineyard
   –  Battle of Scimitar Hill
Battle of the Somme (1916)
Third Battle of Ypres
Battle of Cambrai

The British 29th Division, known as the Incomparable Division, was a First World War regular army infantry division formed in early 1915 by combining various units that had been acting as garrisons about the British Empire. Under the command of Major General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, the division fought throughout the Battle of Gallipoli, including the original landing at Cape Helles. From 1916 to the end of the war the division fought on the Western Front in France.

According to the published divisional history (see reference below), 'The total casualties of the 29th Division amounted to something like 94,000. Gallipoli alone accounted for 34,000. This must be, if not a record, among the highest totals in any division … The number of Victoria Crosses won by members of this division was 27 (12 at Gallipoli). This constitutes a record'.[1]

Unit history[edit]

King George V inspects the 29th Division at Dunchurch, 21 March 1915.

Gallipoli[edit]

The 29th Division served on the Gallipoli peninsula, a point in the strategic Dardanelles straits between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea (and thus the Mediterranean). The division was there for the duration of the ill-fated campaign. It made the first landings as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in April 1915 and was among the last to leave in January 1916. The division suffered through the worst of the fighting at Cape Helles before being moved to fight on the Suvla front as well.

On the morning of 25 April 1915 the Battle of Gallipoli began when battalions from the division's 86th and 87th Brigades landed at five beaches around Cape Helles at the tip of the peninsula under the command of Major-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston. Three of the landings faced little or no opposition but were not exploited. The two main landings, at V and W Beaches on either side of the cape, met with fierce Turkish resistance and the landing battalions were decimated.

The original objectives of the first day of the campaign had been the village of Krithia and the nearby hill of Achi Baba. The first concerted attempt to capture these was made by the division three days after the landings on 28 April. In this First Battle of Krithia an advance up the peninsula was made but the division was halted short of its objective and suffered around 3,000 casualties. The attack was resumed on 6 May with the launch of the Second Battle of Krithia. On this occasion the 88th Brigade attacked along Fig Tree Spur and, after two days of fighting without significant progress, it was relieved by the New Zealand Infantry Brigade. On 24 May Major-General Beauvoir De Lisle took over command of the Division.

On 4 June the 88th Brigade was once more required to make an advance along Fig Tree Spur in the Third Battle of Krithia. In the subsequent counter-attacks, Second Lieutenant G.R.D Moor of the 2nd Hampshires was awarded the Victoria Cross for shooting four of his own men who attempted to retreat.

Headquarters of the 29th Division at Cape Helles.

The division finally saw successful fighting at Helles during the Battle of Gully Ravine on 28 June when the 86th Brigade managed to advance along Gully Spur. As a prelude to the launch of the August Offensive, a "diversion" was carried out at Helles on 6 August to prevent the Turks withdrawing troops. In what became known as the Battle of Krithia Vineyard, the 88th Brigade made another costly and futile attack along the exposed Krithia Spur.

At Suvla, the Battle of Scimitar Hill on 21 August was the final push of the failed August Offensive. The 29th Division had been moved from Helles to Suvla to participate. The 87th Brigade was briefly able to capture the summit of the hill but was soon forced to retreat.

The division was evacuated from Gallipoli on 2 January 1916 and moved to Egypt before being sent to France in March.

Somme[edit]

Passing through the Mediterranean port of Marseilles the 29th Division arrived in the rear of the Somme battle front from 15 to 29 March 1916.[2] From this time the Division was put into the British Front in the area north of the Ancre River, near to the German-held village of Beaumont Hamel. For the following three months the battalions in the Division spent their time doing tours of trenches and training behind the lines to prepare for the large British offensive against the German position planned for the end of June.[2] Following a 7-day artillery bombardment of the German Front and Rear areas, the battalions of the 29th Division were in position in their Assembly Trenches in the early hours of Saturday 1 July.[2] At 07.20 hours the huge Hawthorn mine was blown on the left of the division's position. The leading battalions in the attack left the British Front Line trench at 07.30 hours.[2] The British casualties were very heavy, with many men never reaching the German Front Line. The men of the Newfoundland Regiment moved forward at about 09.00 hours to follow on behind the leading battalion in the advance of 88th Brigade.[2] Many of them were shot down trying to clamber overground to cover the few yards from where they were in the rear of the British Front Line to start their advance down the hill.[2]

Third Battle of Ypres[edit]

Battle of Cambrai[edit]

Formation[edit]

The division comprised three infantry brigades which at various times contained the following battalions:

86th Brigade[edit]

87th Brigade[edit]

88th Brigade[edit]

Artillery[edit]

90th Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery

14th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

Battles[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gillon 1925, p. vii.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Legg, Joanna. "Newfoundland Memorial Park, Beaumont Hamel, France". www.greatwar.co.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Gillon, S. (1925). The story of the 29th Division: A Record of Gallant Deeds. London: Nelson. 

External links[edit]