Fourth Army (United Kingdom)
General Sir Henry Rawlinson
|Active||First World War (1914–1918)|
|Engagements||First World War|
|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
The Fourth Army was formed in France on 5 February 1916, under the command of Sir Henry Rawlinson. On the first day on the Somme, eleven Fourth Army divisions (from 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 Third Battle of Ypres (31 July – 10 November 1917), was to mount Operation Hush, an amphibious invasion of the Belgian coast. Once the Germans had been pushed back from the Passchendaele–Westroosebeke ridge and an advance begun on Roeselare and Torhout, the XV Corps would mount the coastal operation. 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.
Order of Battle
On the first day of the Somme the Fourth Army comprised:
- III Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir William Pulteney.
- VIII Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston. (transferred to Reserve Army on 4 July)
- X Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Thomas Morland. (transferred to Reserve Army on 4 July)
- XIII Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Walter Congreve.
- XV Corps
When reformed for the Battle of Amiens:
- Cavalry Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Kavanagh
- III Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Richard Butler
- Canadian Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Arthur Currie
- Australian Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General John Monash
In September 1918 the Army was the only British force reinforced with substantial American (AEF) forces:
- II Corps, American Expeditionary Force under Major General George Read
- February– November 1916 General Sir Henry Rawlinson
- July– November 1918 General Sir Henry Rawlinson
Second World War
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. The selection of the inactive Fourth Army was likely very deliberate given its combat history in WWI. 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. Following Operation Market Garden, Fourth Army was notionally tasked with an amphibious assault upon the coast of the Netherlands and later along the German coast. This operation, Operation Trolleybar, was to involve a landing by the phantom 76th Division. This deception effort was ended in January 1945.
Fictional composition of the Fourth Army during Fortitude
HQ at Edinburgh
- British II Corps (fictional - HQ Stirling)
- British VII Corps (fictional - HQ Dundee)
- United States XV Corps (Northern Ireland)
HQ at Hathfield
- 2nd Airborne Division (fictional, Bulford)
- British II Corps (fictional - HQ Tunbridge Wells)
- British VII Corps (fictional - HQ Folkstone)
Notes and references
- The British Armies of 1914-1918
- Baker, Chris. "Battles of the Somme, 1916". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
- Baker, Chris. "The Battle of Amiens". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
- Hart, Peter (2008). 1918 A Very British Victory (2 ed.). London: Phoenix. p. 446. ISBN 978-0-7538-2689-8.
- Roger Hesketh. Fortitude: The D-Day Deception Campaign. St Ermins Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0-316-85172-5
- Thaddeus Holt. The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War. Phoenix. 2005. ISBN 978-0-7538-1917-3