Fourth Army (United Kingdom)

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Fourth Army
Active First World War
1914–1918
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Army
Engagements First World War
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Sir Henry Rawlinson

The Fourth Army was a field army that formed part of the British Expeditionary Force during the First World War. The Fourth Army was formed on 5 February 1916 under the command of General Sir Henry Rawlinson to carry out the main British contribution to the Battle of the Somme.

First World War[edit]

History[edit]

The Fourth Army was formed in France on 5 February 1916, under the command of Sir Henry Rawlinson.[1] On the first day on the Somme, eleven Fourth Army divisions (including XIII Corps, XV Corps, III Corps, X Corps, and VIII Corps) attacked astride the Albert-Bapaume road. The attack was completely defeated on the northern sector so subsequent Fourth Army operations concentrated on the southern sector, handing control of the northern sector to the Reserve Army.

The plan for the Fourth Army during the 1917 Flanders offensive (that became the Third Battle of Ypres) was to mount an amphibious invasion of the Belgian coast once a breakthrough had been achieved. As the Ypres fighting became bogged down, the Fourth Army divisions were drawn off as reinforcements until the army was effectively disbanded.

The Fourth Army was reformed in early 1918 — once again under Rawlinson — following the virtual destruction and subsequent disbanding of the Fifth Army during the German offensive known as Operation Michael.

The Fourth Army spearheaded the British Hundred Days offensive that began with the Battle of Amiens and ended with the Armistice in November, 1918.

Composition[edit]

The 4th Army BEF was the only British force with major American (AEF) units subordinate to it:

  • II Corps, American Expeditionary Force
    • 27th Infantry Division AEF
    • 30th Infantry Division AEF

The 27th Infantry Division was a unit of the United States Army in World War I and World War II. The Division traces its history from the 6th Division, made up of New York units and formed in May 1917. The 6th Division designation was changed to the 27th Division in July 1917.[2]

  • Designated: July 20, 1917 as the 27th Division of the New York National Guard.
    • Deployed designation: 27th Division, American Expeditionary Force
  • Activated: July 1917 (National Guard Division from New York).
  • Initial strength: 991 officers and 27,114 enlisted men.
  • Shipped out: April 20, 1918.
  • Casualties: Total 8,334 (KIA: 1,442; WIA: 6,892).
  • Inactivated: April 1919.
  • Major operations: Meuse-Argonne, Ypres-Lys, Somme offensive.
  • Initially stationed in the East Poperinghe Line.
    • Battle of Dickebusche Lake, Summer 1918
    • Battle of Vierstratt Ridge, Summer 1918
    • German defensive Hindenburg Line, September 1918.
    • Somme Offensive, September 25, 1918
    • Le Selle River, Winter 1918
  • The 27th did break the Hindenburg line during the Battle of the Somme, initiating a German retreat from their defensive line and forcing the Germans to a final confrontation at the Le Selle River before Armistice was signed in February 1919.

Commanders[edit]

Second World War[edit]

In World War II, no British Fourth Army actually took the field, but as part of the deception plans Operation Cockade and the later Operation Fortitude North, the Germans were encouraged to believe that a Fourth Army had been established with its headquarters in Edinburgh Castle, and was preparing to invade Norway. This successfully drew and kept German units away from the real invasion zone in Normandy. In the subsequent 'Fortitude South' the Fourth Army with different units was presented as part of the fictitious First United States Army Group (FUSAG) in its threat to the Pas de Calais.[3]

Fictional composition of the British Fourth Army[edit]

Fortitude North[edit]

HQ at Edinburgh

Fortitude South[edit]

HQ at Hathfield

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ The British Armies of 1914-1918
  2. ^ Wilson, John B. Evolution of Divisions and Separate Brigades. United States Army Center for Military History. CMH Pub 60-14-1. 
  3. ^ Roger Hesketh. Fortitude: The D-Day Deception Campaign. St Ermins Press. 1999. ISBN 0-316-85172-8
  4. ^ Thaddeus Holt. The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War. Phoenix. 2005. ISBN 0-7538-1917-1