The Attack on Cambrai 1917

The Attack on Cambrai

November 20th – December 30th 1917

An ephemeral battle of the war it was in the modern sports phrase “a game of two halves”. One day after the attack began, church bells were ringing all over England at this great breakthrough, but within a couple of weeks the gains had almost all been lost and the stalemate of 1917 continued. The Blencowe family played a role In the attack on Cambrai. Thirty Blencowe men can be identified to have taken part, the youngest being 18 and the oldest 48 years of age. Here is a list of the men.

 

  1. Charles Albert Blencowe 1893, Kidderminster but joined the war from Canada– 13th Company, Tank Corps
  2. Frank Blencowe 1888, Gawcott, Private, 78217, 49727, E (5th Bn.) HS Machine Gun Corps.(Tank Corps
  3. Henry Edmund Blincko, 1892-1971, Hackney, Private, GS10387, L-10133, 17th Lancers, GS Lancers
  4. Albert Blencowe 1898 – Bedfordshire Regt., 24th Brigade, 6th Division
  5. James “Willie” Blencowe, 1895-1946, Wortley, Private, 13698, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 20th Division
  6. Thomas “Henry” Blencowe 1896 -1979, Burton, Private, S7886, 10th Bn. (The Prince Consort’s Own) Rifle Brigade, 20th Division
  7. Henry Blinko 1880-1944, Lambeth, Private, 4661, A/200389 10th Bn. Kings Royal Rifles Corps. 20th Division
  8. Albert Blencowe 1877-1918, Bicester, Private, 12/47908, 12th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 36th Ulster Division
  9. Harry Ernest Blinko 1893 –1960, London, Corporal, 1/9th London Regt., 169th Brigade, 56th Division
  10. Allen Hodges Blincow Gartcosh, Private 8195, 514019, 47281 14th London (Scottish) Rifles Regiment , 168th Brigade in 56th  Division.
  11. William Frank Blincow, 1891-1955, London, Sergeant, 1/7th(237th) Royal Field Artillery, 47th Division
  12. Albert John William Blinko, Rotherhithe, 1894-1963, Sergeant, 1096, 590091, 18th London Regt. (London Irish Rifles)141st Brigade, 47th Division
  13. Jack (John Henry) Blencowe, Camberwell, 1899-1957, Private, 22948, 24619, 22412, 11th Bn. Kings Own Royal Lancasters,  40th Division.
  14. Ralph Blinkho, 1882, Birmingham, Private, 27515, 18th Bn Welsh Regiment, 40th Division
  15. Joseph Blincow, 1879-1950, Burton, Sergeant, 4th Bn Pioneer Coldstream Guards, Guards Division
  16. Joe Wallace Blincow, 1894-1968, Shoreditch,Regimental Sergeant Major 15135, 360436, 1st Grenadier Guards,Grenadier Guards (Buckingham Gate, London), Guards Division
  17. Charles William Blinco,1895-1962, Eton, Private, 9784, 912, 5374883 2nd Oxf. & Bucks Light Infantry, Army Cyclist Corps
  18. Herbert Ernest Blincow 1898, Shipston Worcs. Private, 38154, 3rd, 2/7th, 10th and 3rd Bns. Worcestershire Regiment
  19. William Reginald Blenco 1898, Wellingborough, Driver, 102509, 15th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery
  20. Charles Walter Blencowe 1894 Private, 6584, 242145, 2/8th Worcestershire Regiment. 183rd Brigade, 61st Division
  21. Thomas Richard Blenko 1899, Hackney, 23310, GS/76000, East Kent Regiment, 9th Bn. Royal Fusiliers, 36th Brigade, 12th Division
  22. ‘Percy’ Edward Blencowe 1893, Wolverhampton, Private, 28826, 14th Bn. Highland Light Infantry, 120th Brigade, 40th Division.
  23. Edgar Lionel Blencowe 1891, Wolverhampton, Private, 28826, 14thBn. Highland Light Infantry.120th Brigade, 40th Division.
  24. ‘Jack’ Thomas John Blincow 1892-1965, Prescot Lancs. either the 1/8th 55th Div. or 12th Bn. 61st Div. Kings Liverpool Regiment
  25. Ernest Alfred Victor Blencowe 1884, Bicester, Private, 5840, 267112, 143575, 59th Bn. Machine Gun Corps 59th Division.
  26. James David Eric Blinco 1893, Eton, Private, 7232, 103023, 146171, 2/6th Bn. Sherwood Foresters, 59th Divsion.
  27. Francis (Frank) Blencowe 1895, Whitchurch, Private, 19561, 1st Bn. Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, 16th Brigade, 6th Division.
  28. Richard Blencowe 1899, Tamworth, 18868, 11838, 72nd Machine Gun Company.
  29. Alfred Blinco 1869, George Green, Company Sergeant Major 1350, 604180, 13th Middlesex Regiment, 73rd Brigade, 24th Division.
  30. Victor George Blincoe 1895, Newmarket, Private, 8434, 5820466, 70407, 2nd Bn. Suffolk Regt. 76th Brigade, 3rd Divsion.

Much more of their individual stories is set out below.

Setting the Scene

The town of Cambrai was a communications centre for the German forces behind the Hindenburg line (a great front of trenches, pill boxes and wire ), it was a rail link to supply points and the towns of Douai, Valenciennes and Saint Quentin. Cambrai was also the headquarters and billeting place for German forces out of the line. The question for historians is was it strategic ? Most post war analysts think not and conclude the battle ill conceived and hastily planned as a result of political pressure on General Haigh to get a positive result in the war in 1917. General Haig is said to have at first turned down the idea of a surprise attack on Cambrai from General Byng, however pressure from Prime Minister Lloyd George caused Haig to scramble for a way to get an impressive win, so three months later he came round to the idea. The enthusiasm of the Tank Corps command had influenced General Haig, it had argued that an attack on all fronts could be made. Their view was, Tanks had failed at Passchendaele because of the mud, but the terrain around Cambrai would be much firmer and better suited to the Tank’s movement. In August 1917 the British Expendionary Forces had tried with success using “all fronts” techniques, that is Infantry, Artillery, Aeroplanes and Tanks coordinated in attack. Key to the success of such an operation was

  • Surprise
  • Neutralising the enemy’s fire power
  • Adequate Artillery and well trained and motivated troops

Attacking the Hindenburg line in front of Cambrai wouldn’t be easy. The defensive system of the Hindenburg line consisted of three barbed wire barriers each several yards thick and with enormous trenches some 14ft in width. The solution was to use a co-ordinated Artillery, Aeroplane and Tank attack to break through the Hindenburg line followed by Cavalry and Infantry to secure areas bridged. The Tanks were equipped with enough fire power to destroy pillboxes and gun emplacements and the improved Mk IV tanks employed had both Vickers machine guns and 6 Pounder cannons. The tanks had two innovations to overcome the Hindenburg defence systems they were;

  • barbed wire cutting capability – certain designated tanks were fitted what looked like anchors to be dropped onto the barbed wire and then drag the wire until taught enough to snap this involved a methodology that created gaps in the fortifications wide enough for Infantry/Cavalry to pass through quickly.
  • bridging capability for huge trench gap – tanks were fitted with “Fascines” (large bundles of brush wood tied with wire) that would be large enough when dropped into a trench to support tanks
Facines Tanks Cambrai Photo 1
Tanks with the huge bundles facines already in place. The facines were a method devised for assisting tanks to cross trenches in the forthcoming attack. They would be dropped into the enemy trench and act as a bridge

The Tank Corps were able to put into the attack a formidable force “378 fighting tanks in nine battalions; 54 supply tanks, 32 for wire pulling and two carrying bridges. Each battalion would have a wireless tank and so there would be a total of 476 tanks.4 The importance of keeping the attack a surprise The tanks were noisy and at least 1000 yds from the starting line less the enemy heard them. To get them this close and in reasonable speed without being detected was a huge task. This was achieved by the American Army Engineers building the rail lines out to rail heads almost to the “jumping off” point. The plan was once the key German Masnieres-Beaurevoir line had been breached by III Army, the Cavalry would pass through gaps in wire defences made by the tanks, over the secured bridges of the St Quentin canal, reach around and isolate Cambrai from the rear and cut the railways leading from it. The logistics of bringing up the Calvary and maintaining surprise were enormous, thousands of horses had to be fed and watered and at the same time hidden from German air reconnaissance. Another key part of the surprise was to use Artillery that was not “Registered”. Up until this time the process of setting up Artillery was to test range etc. on the targeted area this was called “Registering” the Artillery, of course it also had the effect of signalling intentions to the enemy. However by November 1917 the technology and systems existed to accurately set range and target without test firing. The massive force of the Third army had to be concealed from the enemy as it amassed. Places had to be found amongst the ruined buildings of villages such as Metz, Ytres, Neuville-Bourjonval, Ruyaulcourt and others. The Havrincourt Woods, had to be used, although it was often shelled being so close to the Hindenburg line. The tanks hidden here would have additional obstacles of large broken tree stumps to negotiate as the attack started.

Cambrai Photo 2
The attack lines for the III and IV Corps: note the Blue and Brown line objectives

The IV Corps of the Third Army under Woolcombe had the initial task of breaking north through the Hindenburg line with Tanks attached to the 51st Highland Division and heading for Havrincourt and Ribecourt as the first target line and then onto Flesquières Ridge. The III Corps consisting of three divisions the 20th (Light) the 12th (Eastern) and the 29th, four tank battalions and elements of the Cavalry III corps would take centre or the right flank of the attack. Tasked with breaking through the defences and driving towards Bourlon/Cambrai several miles to the north,they were then to hold a line on a ridge in front of Banteux looking down on the valley of the St Quentin Canal. The III Brigade of the Royal Flying Corps had 289 Aeroplanes that were to support the infantry and tanks with reconnaissance and bombing as needed. Overview of the Attack on Cambrai Battles of Cambrai 1917 As the above map shows, on November 20th as the the attack began the Allies held a line from Bullecourt through Havincourt onto Gonnelieu and south. The actual penetration of the attack was initially was impressive, and when news reached England the Daily Mail called it a “Splendid Success” and headlined on 23 November with “Haig through the Hindenburg Line”. As the blue line on the map indicates by the 28th November Bourlon Wood, Masnieres was to be the furthest points advanced. After the German counter attack of the 30th and by December 8th the allies were driven back to the red line that centred around Marcoing (although the allies were still in advance of the Hindenburg Line). Over the period of the Cambrai Operations from November 20th to Dec 3rd there were twenty one Divisions under Byngs command, of these 9 Divisions of the army were represented by Blencowe men. Those Army Divisions were ;

  1. III Corps 2nd,4th Cavalry, 6th Division, 20th Light Division, Guards Division and the 29th Divisional. Artillery.
  2. IV Corps 36th, Ulster Division, 40thDivision, 51st Highland Division and 56th Division
  3. V Corps 47th Division
  4. VI Corps 2nd Division

The Cambrai Operations took three distinct phases

  1. The Tank attack to Flesquières Ridge of 20-21 November
  2. Capture of Bourlon Woods 23-28 November
  3. The German counter attack 30th November to 3rd December

The Battle phases, Army divisions and the Blencowe men and their participation in each phase is shown below. Note only the IV Corps fought in the 2nd phase

Phase 1- The Tank attack Phase 2 – Capture of Bourlon Woods Phase 3 – German counter attack
2nd Calvary – Frank J. Blencowe 12th Bn Lancers 2nd Calvary- Frank J. Blencowe 12th Bn. Lancers 2nd Calvary- Frank J. Blencowe 12th Bn. Lancers4th Cavalry – Henry E Blincko 17th Lancers
6th Division – Albert Blencowe 8th Bedfordshire Regt. 6th Division – Albert Blencowe 8th Bedfordshire Regt.Francis Blencowe 1st Bn KSLI.
20th Division –James W. Blencowe 7th Kings Own Yorkshire L.I.Thomas H. Blencowe 10th Rifle Bde.Henry Blinko 10th Kings Royal Rifles 20th Division –James W. Blencowe 7th KOYLIThomas H. Blencowe 10th RBHenry Blinko 10th KRRC
36th Ulster Division –Albert Blencowe 12th Royal Irish Rifles 36th Ulster Division 36th Ulster Division –
40th Division – Jack Blencowe 11th Kings Own Lancaster Regt. 40th Division – Jack Blencowe 11th Kings Own Lancaster Regt.Ralph Blinkho 18th Bn Welsh Regiment‘Percy’ Edward Blencowe 14th HLI 40th Division – Jack Blencowe 11th Kings Own Lancaster Regt.Ralph Blinkho 18th Bn Welsh Regiment
51st Division – plus Charles A. Blencowe Royal Tank Corps 51st Division with only 2 tanks 51st Division
56th Division – Harry Ernest Blinko 1/9th London Regt. 56th Division – Harry Ernest Blinko 1/9th London Regt. 56th Division – Harry Ernest Blinko 1/9th London Regt.
Guards Division – Joseph Blincow 4th Bn Pioneer Coldstream GuardsJoe Wallace 1st Grenadier Guards Guards Division – Joseph Blincow 4th Bn Pioneer Coldstream GuardsJoe Wallace 1st Grenadier Guards
47th Division –William F Blincow 1/7th Royal Field ArtilleryAlbert J. Blinko 18th London Regt 47th Division –William F Blincow 1/7th Royal Field ArtilleryAlbert J. Blinko 18th London Regt
2nd Division –Charles William Blinco, 2nd Oxf. & Bucks LIErnest Edward Blencowe, 2nd Bn Worcs Rgt.Frank George Blinko, 2nd Bn Worcs Rgt. 2nd Division –Charles William Blinco, 2nd Oxf. & Bucks LIErnest Edward Blencowe, 2nd Bn Worcs Rgt.Frank George Blinko, 2nd Bn Worcs Rgt.
12th Division – Thomas Richard Blenko, 9th Royal Fusiliers Thomas Richard Blenko, 9th Royal Fusiliers
29th Divisional ArtilleryWilliam Reginald Blenco, 15th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery 29th Divisional ArtilleryWilliam Reginald Blenco, 15th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery 29th Divisional ArtilleryWilliam Reginald Blenco, 15th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery
61st DivisionCharles Walter Blencowe, 2/8th Worcestershire RegimentHerbert Ernest Blincow 2/7th Worcestershire Regiment

The Stories It must be noted that many of the Blencowe army records are incomplete/missing and that Battalion numbers are missing for quite a few. War diaries (if they exist) do not typically mention other ranks and so unless a man is specifically mentioned then absolute certainty of presence cannot be ascertained. Therefore the men listed in this chapter are those we have made a reasonable assumption were at Cambrai, typically they tick these boxes;

  • Were in the regiments which took part in the combat.
  • Were known to have been overseas at this time.

Tank Corps III Corps Overall 378 Mk IV fighting tanks were used in this attack the second battle that the new Corps were to be involved in. The Tank Corps and Infantry had been training together to develop new and improved techniques after the failures of the Third Battle of Ypres. The tanks were deployed and overall successful, although their speed and maneuverability was a reason so many got bogged, hit and destroyed. There were also mechanical failures and operation of the tank for the crew was hellish. Much more would be done over time to improve the fighting capability of the Tank Corps. Attached to the III Corps for this attack were four Battalions of the Tank Corps Charles Albert Blencowe 1893-1961, Kidderminster, 2nd Lieutenant, 13th Company, Tank Corps From Kidderminster Charles the son of John William (1849) and Mary (nee Jones 1850 ) had two brothers Harry James and John William who also served in the war. Charles was a postman in Birmingham when in May 1914 he quit his job and immigrated to Alberta in Canada, he had intentions of a career change as well, on his immigration forms he declared he was a Farmer seeking work in Alberta. One month after he arrived in Canada,war was declared which set in motion life changing events for Charles. 1915

  • Jan. he enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force with the 12th Canadian Mounted Regiment.
  • After 6 months training in Canada he embarked from Montreal on board the ship Missanabie arriving in England 18 Oct. 1915.
  • On arrival his Regt. was broken up and he was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Mounted Regt. and in February 1916 went to France with them.

1916

  • In June Charles and the 2nd CMR. were involved in the Battle of Mount Sorrel (East of Ypres) this was his first taste of conflict and while his battalion went on to fight many more battles Charles was not to be with them.
  • Charles must have impressed in his short army career as he was to apply for and be accepted to the Canadian Training School at Shorncliffe as a Cadet Officer.
  • He was transferred to 9th Reserve Battalion in August which was part of the Canadian Training Depot at Tidworth Barracks on the Salisbury Plain.
  • December he gained an appointment as a 2nd Lieutenant in what was to become the British Royal Tank Corps. Charles would then have been sent to attend Bovington Tank Training Facility in Dorset to be trained in the new fighting machine of the war, the Mark I Tank.

1917

  • Charles completed his training in the first half of 1917 and was sent to France as a Tank Commander in the 13th Company of the Tank Corps.
  • Charles first action at the Third Battle of Ypres on September 20th. In this battle he commanded the Tank ‘Executioner’
  • Charle’s Tank “Executioner” and another tank left Belle Vue 2.55 am.
  • “Executioner” crossed the Steenbeek at 5.50 after being held up behind another tank which had developed autovac trouble.
  • “Executioner” reached Janet Farm at about 6.05 am. whilst attempting to manoeuvre around a ditched tank his tank ditched several times, eventually becoming stuck fast close to four other ditched tanks. Tanks did not fire their weapons during the action.
  • Battalion failed to salvage “Executioner”

n summary the tank was a complete failure in this operation. Following this dismal display the Tanks were being developed rapidly and by Summer 1917 the Mk IV tank was much better than its predecessors. Attack on Cambrai November 1917 Charles and his crew of a new tank named “Empire” were ready to do battle with their equipment on the firmer terrain around Cambrai. Note: it was customary to name tanks with the same leading letter, all the E tanks belonging to the 13th Company of the Tank Corps. As the plans were drawn up for the attack at Cambrai the 13th Company was earmarked to take a leading role in attack, their initial target was to take Flesquieres Ridge with the 152nd Brigade of the Scottish Highland 51st Division. His section commander was Captain Hooley and the section consisted of three Tanks, note all tanks are designated ”Female”.The”Female” tank was a category of tank prevalent in WW1, which featured multiple machine guns instead of the heavier armament seen on the much more common “male” tanks. As such, female tanks were normally cast in an anti-infantry role. “Females” were also lighter than “males”.

  • Female EMPIRE 2nd Lt Blencowe Fighting tank
  • Female EXTINGUISHER 2nd Lt Llewelyn Fighting tank
  • Female EXCLUSIVE 2nd Lt Hughes Fighting tank Left of line

20 Nov 1917 the surprise attack on the German Hindenburg line began. Charles and his tank was part of the first of three waves. In the lead were “Rovers” (Crusher Tanks ) which were designed to drag and crush the wire protecting enemy front and lead the attack taking out on the way pillboxes, machine guns etc. The lead tanks had anchor like hooks and the tanks were used in pairs alongside each other hooking the barbed wire then setting out in opposite directions until the wire snapped, thus leaving a large hole for Cavalry /Infantry to get through unscathed. The commander of the 51st Highland Division, Major General Harper was concerned about the fact that the tanks tended not to go “straight on” all of the time, instead transverse as needed. The Tanks in fact had to almost stop and turn for the Gearsman to change gears before it could set off again. This indirect movement he believed would mean more enemy fire on his infantry, so for this reason he ordered his Infantry to stay at least 100 yds behind the tanks at all times. In the battle this was to cause the tanks and infantry to be too far apart at key times in the attack. Battle Orders9

  • 13 Company (Charles Coy) was to attack on the left of the battalion leading 1/8th Argylls”
  • 13 Company was to accompany the first wave of Infantry and secure the Blue Line (First Objective, far side of enemy’s front line system).
  • Three tanks were to start five minutes prior to Zero hour, crush the wire and deal with enemy machine guns in the outpost line. These three tanks were then to rally in the grand ravine and form a reserve along with the wire crushers from D battalion.
  • One of “E” Bn. Wire crushers was nominated to return to Havrincourt Wood and collect supplies; this may have been one of 13 Company’s tanks.
  • Once the blue line had been secured Company was to pause whilst the adjacent Divisions advanced to capture Ribecourt and Havrincourt
  • Then the whole battalion was to resume the advance with the infantry and take the Brown line (Flesquires ridge) and the exploit to the Third and Fourth objectives
  • Finally the Coy. was to rally at the Bn. rendezvous point.
  • The attack achieved its objectives and reached Flesquieres Ridge which the enemy had by then evacuated, but the German trench fortifications were to prove very costly to Charles Battalion, with many tanks being stranded in trenches too wide to cross, bridges collapsing and enemy artillery taking its toll.

Account of action 9

  • “Escapade” broke down in Havrincourt Wood and wasn’t repaired until 5 pm.
  • The remaining eleven tanks all attacked at the appointed time.
  • Extinguisher II and Eradicator II broke down in the German front line as they were disabled due to wire damage, its likely they were wire crushing tanks.
  • The third wire crusher may have been 2 Lt Cliffords tank which turned back and rallied after reaching the Blue Line, it may have returned to collect its a supply sledge before rallying.
  • A fourth tank, “Emblem” also broke down in the blue line.
  • The remaining seven tanks, probably joined by several tanks from 14 Company, must have rallied on the Blue line at 9.00 am and then attacked towards Flesquires Ridge
  • Part of the company appears to have baulked at passing through the woodland to the right of Flesquires village, these tanks moved to the right and thus crossed the ridge crest line astern. As each topped the rise they were hit by the field guns that had survived the artillery bombardment. “Earwig” was hit and burnt out, “Exclusive” II was hit and knocked out. “Eyewitness” and Charles tank “Empire” were both hit but rallied.
  • Charles tank was hit on the Brown line and while not destroyed, Charles was wounded and was invalided back to England.

1918

  • Charles joined the 17th Bn Armoured cars and was shipped back to Fance in April he was wounded twice once at the battle of Amiens and again more seriously at the attack in September on the Dropcourt-Queant Line. Again Invalided back to England he seems to have served Ireland with the 17th Bn and later for two years joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

“Knocked out” Tanks Eclipse II, Eve and Eileen II (all part of 13th Coy) being examined by the enemy after the attack. Source Flickr Drake Goodman For the crew of a tank, riding into battle was no picnic. Here is a description of the conditions from Private George Brown of No.24 Company “H” BnAt first we were just firing in the general direction of the enemy lines. Even at this early stage the atmosphere inside the tank was becoming too unpleasant, the fumes from the engine, the cordite fumes, the heat from the exhaust pipe which was now red hot. The noise was terrific, the rattle of the Lewis gun, the empty cartridges landing on the floor of the tank and the driver banging onto the engine cover signalling to the secondary gearsman.” Despite the many failures of the tanks, the attack achieved its objectives and reached Flesquieres Ridge which the enemy had by then evacuated, but the attack was to prove very costly to Charles battalion. “E” tank battalion had deployed 35 tanks at the start of the battle; by the afternoon of 20th November, 18 had been destroyed or disabled by enemy action, one was ditched and further 9 were unserviceable due to technical difficulties. 29 of the Bn. were dead, 31 were missing and 64 were wounded. No tanks were in action on 21st November and only 113 were used on 23rd in support of the attack in the area of Moeuvres. With this level of casualties it would be surprising if Charles was not wounded (we do know he survived this battle and the war) but its not clear so far from records if he was able to part take further in the Cambrai Operations. La Fontaine 1917, a captured tank, the shattered buildings, outcomes of the Operation. source F Lorentz http://www.europeana1914-1918.eu/ German forces recover a British Mark IV tank during the Battle of Cambrai during December of 1917 The Cavalry It was planned and intended that the Cavalry would have a critical role in the attack on Cambrai sweeping at rapid speed through the holes made by tanks in the Hindenburg Line and then swinging round behind the German defence to cut off rail and supply lines to Cambrai. However events didn’t turn out the way they were planned. Cavalry were held in reserve and used mainly in dismounted roles as Infantry. This quote from the defence of Bourlon Woods indicates the reality. “There were hundreds of horses of the cavalry had left nearby as the men went forward as infantry; and all the while the ground was harassed by German artillery fire from behind Bourlon Wood.” 7 Frank (Frederick) James Blencowe 1893- 12th Lancers, 2nd Cavalry, III Corps Frank a native of Norton, Daventry came from a military family. Frank’s father William had served in Jamaica and South Africa and ended his career as an instructor with the North Staffs Regiment. Thus it is no surprise that in 1911 Frank volunteered to join the 12th Lancers for a term of 12 years. Frank was already an trained soldier at the outbreak of war and was used early in August 1914 with the 12th Lancers in France. Its strange to consider now looking back but the changes for the cavalry and its role were dramatic in WW1. Frank took part at Mons 1914 in a charge “at the lance” ie Lancers carrying the ancient lance on horseback and charging the enemy and yet just three years later he was involved in a Tank, Aeroplane, Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry operation at Cambrai. Frank fought in many battles between August 1914 and November 1917 but over that time the role of the Cavalry was becoming more and more as a dismounted Infantry, this was also to be true of Cambrai. Attack on Cambrai

  • November 1917 the 2nd Cavalry was gathered before Havrincourt Woods in front of the German defence lines, the job of hiding the thousands of horses and supplies was skillfully carried out.
  • One of the early tasks for the 2nd Cavalry was to secure the bridge over the St Quentin Canal, but unfortunately the first tank to cross this structure caused it to collapse thus blocking any path to go over the Canal.
  • The Cavalry continued (as the attack went on) to be hampered by uncertain leadership and the tank failure to leave open pathways.
  • One of the key reasons that the attack failed was ”Insufficient mobile resources could not get through in time to exploit the tanks success, and within days the chance had gone”.7
  • A dismounted company (6 Officers 164 men) of the 12th Lancers were entrusted with the defence of the north east corner of Bourlon Wood and throughout 28th and 29th resisted every attack. Casualties 5 officers and 64 men killed. 14

The sight and experience of the tank attack must have impressed on Frank, because after the war when he had completed his 12 year term with the Lancers he immediately enlisted with the Royal Tank Corps. Frank served for another two years and then was discharged in 1926. On leaving the Army single and with both parents dead Frank gave Tidworth, Hampshire as his home address and after that we lose track of him. Henry Edmund Blincko, 1892-1971, Hackney, Private, GS10387, L-10133, 17th Lancers, GS Lancers Born in Hackney the son of David Henry (1863) and Emma Jane (nee Averillo 1854 ). Brother David William served with the Middlesex Regt. and Machine Gun Corps. Henry enlisted in the last quarter of 1914 its estimated, he landed in France 12 Oct 1915. The 17th Bn Lancers were mostly in reserve in the war, in 1917 it was formed into the 1st Reserve Regiment of Cavalry, but was finally used in dismounted combat action in November 1917, at Cambrai. Attack on Cambrai

  • 20th-29th Nov. as part of the 4th Cavalry Regt. 17th Lancers were in Reserve
  • 30th Nov. German counter attack began 17th Lancers were involved in dismounted action. “There where were hundreds of horses of the cavalry left nearby as the men went forward as infantry; and all the while the ground was harassed by German artillery fire from behind Bourlon Wood.” 7
  • 1st Dec-5th Dec. Nothing recorded, but all evidence points to the 17th being involved in dismounted fighting in the Cavalry retreat

1918 In early 1918 the 17th Lancers was transferred to the 7th Cavalry Brigade taking their turn in the trenches and training for the possibility of an infantry breakthrough which the cavalry could exploit. German Spring Offensive

  • the Regiment demonstrated its mobility and versatility, being occupied in a series of squadron and troop actions, fighting mounted and dismounted and conducting reconnaissance.
  • In the first fifteen intensive day’s fighting the Regiment won one DSO, 6 MCs and 6 MMs.

At the Armistice the 17th were posted to Liege in Belgium and from there to Cologne in Germany as part of the occupying army, before returning to England in the autumn of 1919. After the War Henry was married to Lydia V. Broughall at Berkhampstead in 1923 Two children Ida V. b.1924 and Brian H. b.1932 indicate the family was in the Hemel Hempstead area during this period. Death 1971 Watford, Herts. The 6th Division In November 1917 the 6th Division was one of the smaller divisions deployed consisting of just two Brigades, the 16th Bde and 18th Bde. The 6th Division was brought up from Reserves to fight at Cambrai. At the beginning of the attack the 6th was waiting behind Trescault Ridge just to the west of Beauchamp. The plan was for it to advance through Ribecourt in the valley bottom and then eastwards toward Noyelles on the left bank of the St. Quentin Canal 20th Nov. The 6th Division, drove through and crossed the crossed the Hindenburg Line successfully, and then moved forward and captured Ribecourt. 21st Nov by midday units of the 6th (Suffolks) entered Marcoing and cleared the streets after some fierce fighting there. Marcoing and West of Noyelles was to be the furthest the 6th would penetrate, being repulsed from Noyelles. As late as 30th Nov the 16th Bde. was being used to attack Germans entrenched on Quentin Ridge but their attempt failed as did other battalions thrown at this Ridge. The order to retreat was given 3rd Dec. and the 6th Div. was again back into Reserve. Albert Blencowe 1898, Brackley, 8th Bn. Bedfordshire Regt., 16th Brigade, 6th Division Albert a butcher’s apprentice from Brackley was 18 years 2 months when he volunteered to join the Bedfordshire Regt. in June 1916. His brother Arthur some 13 years his senior was a seasoned soldier, a volunteer before the war and a Sergeant with the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, Arthur was mobilised the day before Albert in June 1916. Albert’s parents Frederick and Elizabeth Blencowe (nee Lathbury) must have been worried if they would see their sons again and with good cause. As it turned out just 10 months later Arthur was killed in action at the Arras Spring offensive and their anxiety would now focus on their younger son. 1917 In October a couple of transfers within the Bedfordshire Regt. saw Albert arrive at the 8th Bn. Bedford’s part of the 6th Division. 1st of November, Albert was billeted in Le Souich some 80km west of the attack starting point Havrincourt. At this camp training was given for the role that the 6th Division was to play at Cambrai. 7th November the battalion;

  • was route marched in very wet weather to Blavincourt (about 14kms) to watch a Tank demonstration, then marched back to Le Souich
  • marched out again the next day in equally wet weather to Denier (about 12 kms) to watch Tanks and Infantry demonstration.2

Attack on Cambrai

  • 20th Nov. battalion was in the front line Highland Ridge N of Villers-Plouich -Beauchamps.
  • 20th Nov. tanks commenced their advance at 6.10 am and tens minutes later the Artillery barrage started and within minutes past over the enemy outpost.
  • 20th Nov. enemy response was feeble and so when the infantry advanced forward it was relatively easy.
  • 20th Nov. war diary– “6:35 am First wave of Infantry passed over enemy outpost line, the Bn. going over well, men lighting pipes and cigarettes on their way”. 2
  • 20th Nov. 7:05 am the 8th Bn. had taken the Hindenburg Main Line running from Villiers Ploich to Ribecourt and as early as 7:20 am a German officer and 6 men were taken prisoner.
  • The target of Ribecourt was captured and the resulting casualties were relatively light considering 1500-3000 men in the 8th Bn.
  • 2 Officers killed and 2 wounded.
  • 10 other ranks killed and 38 wounded or missing.
  • The war diary sums up the first day A very successful day and all ranks in high spirits quite ready for further action. TANKS did very good work“. 2
  • 21st and 22nd Nov. Bn. moved forward and relieved the Guernsey Light Infantry but apart from an enemy airplane bomb wounding one officer no casualties were sustained in these two days.
  • 23rd -26th Nov In the next three days the fighting for Albert was relatively quiet there were occasional shell bombardments and 1 man killed 5 wounded.
  • 26th Nov. the 8th Bn. was ordered into reserve back at the Hindenburg Support Line.
  • 30th Dec -6th Dec As the German counter attack began the 8th Bn. was moving backwards and further into safety and did not have a combat role in this phase.

Map showing the position of the Bedfordshire Regt. by 8th December For Albert the “Attack on Cambrai” was over and he went on to survive the balance of the war. 1918

  • 9th Feb. Transferred to the 7th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment. Note 16th Feb. 8th Bn. was disbanded in France.
  • 26th May. Transferred to 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment in the 54th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division.
  • 31 Jul. Wounded in the arm most probably in the build up to
  • Oct. Transferred to the Royal Fusiliers as a Garrison Guard.

1919

  • Garrison Guard until September 1919 .

We don’t know whether Albert returned to Butchery but his father Frederick and mother Elizabeth did see their youngest son return home to Brackley. Albert doesn’t appear to have married but like his father lived a long life, he died in 1988 aged 89 years. Francis (Frank) Blencowe, 1895, Whitchurch, Private, 19561, 1st Bn. Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, 16th Brigade, 6th Division. One of five sons of Charles and Maragaret Blencowe of Whitchurch Shropshire that served. A Post Office Telegraph Messenger before the war Francis seems to have been held back (quite rightly given the family commitment to the war) until conscripted in 1915. Francis enlisted in November 1915. and joined the 1st Battalion on the Western Front possibly in time to take part in the Ypres action of 1916, but certainly was at the Somme where he was wounded. 1916

  • 21st/22nd Apr. Ypres The Battle of Flers-Courcelette.Took part in the severe fighting for the capture of positions on the Ypres-Langemarck road. Three companies of the K.S.L.I. captured them on the night 21st/22ndApril. This was brilliantly accomplished in spire of the very heavy going, and the line firmly re-established, but with the loss of Lt.-Col. Luard, commanding K.S.L.I., who died of wounds.
  • 11th -18th Sept. The Somme. Attack on the Quadrilateral (trench) on the north-east of the Leuze Wood, In this attack the 1st Bn while not the lead battalion played a part in the capture of this significance position. the Quadrilateral, this redoubtable Strong point was at last captured with comparatively small loss after what must be conceded as a magnificent defence, and which had cost the 6th Division upwards of 3,500 casualties. Nine machine-guns and 160 unwounded prisoners were taken in the Quadrilateral and many Germans killed.1 Francis was wounded between 15th and 18th of September this was reported in Ludlow Advertiser 28th Oct.1916.

1917 We have no idea of how seriously Francis was wounded in September 1916 but he did continue to serve until the end of the war with the same battalion ie he was not given light duties or transferred to a labour battalion as others have been. We therefore assume he continued on and in November was at the battle for Cambrai.

  • 2nd/3rd Dec. German Counter Attack Cambrai. Occupied the south portion of the loop across the canal, the (1st Bn.) K.S.L.I. taking over the north hall. The whole position was in the salient subject to shell, rifle and machine-gun fire from north, south and east. At 12:15 hrs. the enemy attacked both D.L.I. and K.S.L.I. and penetrated the right of the D.L.I. Bn. but was again driven out. With a final attack at 12:.45 hrs. the enemy succeeded in forcing both battalions across the canal by sheer weight of numbers.

1918-1919 The 1st battalion was not involved in any major actions of 1918 and Frank was honourably discharged unfit to serve through illness or wounds in May 1919, he was awarded the Silver War Badge because of this. Frank returned home to Whitchurch married and had two children there, he died age 68 yrs. in 1963. The 20th Light Division III Corps. James Willie Blencowe 1895 – 7th Bn. Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Thomas Henry Blencowe 1896 – 10th Bn. Rifle Brigade Henry Blinko 1881 – 10th Bn. Kings Royal Rifles Corps The 20th (Light) Division captured La Vacquerie after a hard fight and then advanced as far as Les Rues des Vignes and Masnieres where there was a bridge crossing the St Quentin Canal. As previously mentioned securing the bridge was going to be vital for the 2nd Cavalry Division, planning to move up to the east of Cambrai. However, the weight of the first tank to cross the bridge, “Flying Fox”, broke its back. The tank clearly seen in the tangled and destroyed bridge at Masnieres Infantry could cross slowly by a lock gate a couple of hundred yards away, but the intended cavalry advance was effectively halted. An improvised crossing also allowed the B squadron of the Fort Garry Horse to cross, but they were left unsupported and withdrew. For no good reason, it was not noticed that further canal crossings at Crevecoeur-sur-Escaut were very lightly defended, until too late in the day. The 20th were halted at this point having captured territory from Masnieres to Banteux with the 29th and 12th Divs. 30th Nov The 20th was attacked by four German divisions and driven back retreating over the next few days. North-east of La Vacquerie the 20th Divisional Artillery repulsed four attacks, in some the enemy’s infantry approached to within 200 yards of the guns, before the surviving gunners were finally compelled to withdraw, after removing the breech-blocks from their pieces. The 20th and other divisions finally retreated to a line at La Vacquerie and held this position as the attacks petered out. James “Willie” Blencowe, 1895-1946, Wortley, Private, 13698, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 20th Division Known as Willie and from Wortley, Yorkshire, his parents were Walter (1849) and Elizabeth Ann (nee Fisher 1867). Walter and Elizabeth had two sons who served in the war James Willie and Reginald Lionel. While Willie had a long war his brother got sick and was sent home early and finally discharged in 1918. Willie landed in France in July 1915 with the 7th Bn. Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and went straight to Fleurbaix area for training in trench warfare. James and the 7th KOYLI took part in many battles from 1915-November 1917, surviving it seems unscathed. Attack on Cambrai

  • 20th Dec. 7th KOYLI took part in in the first wave of attacks and while in the first hour 11 tanks attached to their 61st Brigade had been knocked out they continued on and succeeded in breaking the Hindenburg line. It appears the 7th KOYLI reached almost to Marcoing. Estimate of regiment casualties: Killed 12, Wounded 149, Missing 35
  • 21st-27th the 7th KOYLI were put into Reserve at the Hindenburg support line, and were there when the German counter attack came, it doesn’t appear they had any further combat role in the battle.

Willie must have gotten home leave right after the Cambrai Operations (could have been injured) as he married Fanny Houghton in Sheffield in Dec.1917. The 7th KOYLI was detached from the 20th Light in 1918 and disbanded. Willie was discharged likely in 1919 After the War Children born before 1916 seemingly out of wedlock but to Fanny Houghton who he later married. Further Children born in Sheffield in the 1920’s Death Sheffield 1946 Age at Death: 51 years Thomas “Henry” Blencowe 1896 -1979, Burton, Private, S7886, 10th Bn. Rifle Brigade, 20th Division Henry as he was known, was born and raised in Burton, his father Henry senior originally from Souldern, Oxfordshire was a Brewery worker and his mother Louisa (nee Bryan) was a local girl from Dalbury Lees. In 1911 Henry at aged 15 was employed as a fitters labourer in an engineering works and so 4 years later when he volunteered for “Kitchener”s Army” he may well have had an engineering job that was a good one. Private S7886 Henry Blencowe joined the 10th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade in early 1915. The “S” prefix in his serial number stands for “Service” Battalion,those forming part of “Kitchener’s Army” of volunteers, as opposed to Regular Army or Territorials. The 10th Battalion moved to France in July 1915 and his medal card tells us Henry was with them. Henry was involved in many battles from 1915 until November 1917, these battles had resulted in heavy casualties for the 10th R.B. 1916 The Battle of Flers-Courcelette 15-22 Sept.

  • Capture of Martinpuich the battalion lost 28 men in this action most on 18 Sept.

The Battle of Le Transloy 1-18 Oct

  • Capture of Eaucourt l’Abbaye
  • Capture of le Sars
  • Attacks on the Butte de Warlencourt
  • Loss of 45 men in this time frame indicates a very active role in these actions.

Attack on Cambrai

  • 20th Nov. the 10th Bn was tasked to take the same hard path to capture La Vacquerie as the rest of the 20th division. The three battalions in the lead (left to right: 10/KRRC, 11/RB and 10/RB) soon got into trouble at the German second line, which had not yet been attacked. However, within the hour they had gone through the Brown Line and were looking down the long slope to Masnieres.5
  • 21st Nov. the Battalion hit resistance at Les rue des Vignes “10/RB was to facilitate the advance across the canal by attempting to cross it at a point where it makes a sharp U bend between Crevecoeur and Les Rues des Vignes. At 6.30 am the battalion attacked Les Rues des Vignes,but found that it was impossible to cross the lock to the east of the church because of the German machine-guns beyond it.” 5 Henry’s battalion charged into the village of Les Rue des Vignes when it became dark but were unable to link up with the 11th KRRC and withdrew.
  • 22nd-29th Nov 10th Rifle Brigade were behind the front a line.
  • 30th Dec. The 10th Bn RB were some 500 yds behind the front line when they heard the counter attack start but were surprised and overwhelmed by the enemy. The 10th RB’s C.O. was captured while on the telephone reporting the attack, although many of the Regiment escaped and joined the 61st Division nearby
  • 3rd Dec General Haig closed down the operation on the right flank and Henry and his battalion withdrew over the period 4-5th Dec

After the War Married 1924 to Ellen Nellie Hackman in Burton upon Trent No children found 1979 Death Age at Death: 83 Henry Blinko 1880-1944, Lambeth, Private, 4661, A/200389 10th Bn. Kings Royal Rifles Corps. 20th Division Henry was a Carman aged 35 from Lambeth when he enlisted in 1915 into the 3/22nd Reserve Bn. County of London Regt. He remained in Reserve until he was sent to France and was transferred to front line duty with the 10th Kings Royal Rifles in September 1916. Attack on Cambrai

  • 20th Nov. The 10th & 11th KRRC moved quickly to capture La Vacquerie
  • 20th mid morning – Moving through brown line the 10/KRRC, which moved up in support of 11/RB. They encountered a large body of the enemy in a sunken road in front of Marcoing Copse. After a brief fight some 200 Germans gave themselves up, but many others were seen running for the canal, in the hope of safety beyond it.
  • 21-29th Nov. The 10th KRRC consolidated at Lateau Wood at the extreme of the British advance when the German counter attack came.
  • 30 Nov 1917. Henry found himself surrounded as his 10th Battalion KRRC along with the 11th KRRC suffered a huge defeat by the German counter attack in the Cambrai Operations.
  • Many were either killed, wounded or captured with very few escaping this fate.
  • The war diaries record it this way “In the right sector, held by the 59th Brigade, the 10/KRRC immediately north of Lateau Wood had one company in the outpost line. This company saw nothing of the attack until the Germans appeared in its right rear. The enemy came on so fast from, it seemed, all directions…. four officers and 16 men of the battalion survived at the end of the day. Of the two outpost companies of the 11/KRRC next on the left the one holding the cemetery strong point was cut off and no more was heard of it. The other tried to fall back but could not get clear. Thus 11th Bn. KRRC shared the fate of its sister battalion. Nor did the disasters of the brigade end there. Five hundred yard further back the 10th Bn.Rifle Brigade, in support, was taken by surprise in the mist, being enveloped before the companies could counter-attack or even take up defensive positions. 5
  • Henry was initially reported missing on the 30th November but later recorded as a Prisoner of War at Altdamm Camp. Altdamm (now in the Polish city of Szczecin) consisted of three camps holding 15,000 men. In this camp Henry (as a non NCO) would have been set to labour in the fields or factories of the surrounding area.

The Armistice of 11 November 1918 provided for all prisoners of war to be returned within 14 days, however this was often not feasible due to the general chaos of Germany immediately after the war, and the unavailability of transport. It is then likely it was few months before Henry was eventually returned to England Henry was discharged on 19 Mar 1919 he appears to have returned to London well as no records of wounds or sickness found. Albert Blencowe 1877-1918, Bicester, Private, 12/47908, 12th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 36th Ulster Division Albert born in Bicester the son of Thomas (1851-1913) and Sarah Elizabeth (nee Brooks 1850) moved away to become a Police Constable in Eton by 1901. By 1911 he was married with a daughter and working as a factory hand in a sugar refinery in Battersea, London. Albert enlisted sometime in early 1915 and joined “D” Company of the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. His first action was in October 1915 when he was sent to the trenches attached to the Somerset Light Infantry and by 22nd Oct 1915 ‘D” company saw its first action and suffered its first casualties. From then on “D” company was in small skirmishes and patrols, until its first main action in Beaumont Hamel in July 1916. Attack on Cambrai

  • 21st Nov. The battalion was held in Reserve at Hermies on the first day of the attack and moved up to support the 109th Infantry Brigade who had taken up a position south of Moeuvres.
  • 22nd Nov. Bn. marched from the Hindenburg Line north of Hermies to relieve the 109th Bde. south of Moeuvres in order to attack and take the village. The 9th Bn.Royal Irish Rifles in support.
  • 22nd Nov. 10.30am – Under cover of artillery barrage, the Bn attacked the village of Moeuvres. All Coys. reached the northern edge of the village successfully. “A” company suffered the heaviest casualties
  • 22nd Nov. 4.30 pm – The Enemy counter attacked, but was met with such stubborn resistance from “A”, “D” and “C” Coys. that the enemy only succeeded in driving the Bn. back over part of the ground which it had already taken. Two Company commanders were killed uring this counter attack.
  • 23rd Nov. under cover of artillery barrage, the Bn again attacked. This time the enemy, put up a powerful resistance and very heavy fighting took place in the village of Moeuvres.
  • Albert’s Company Commander commander (Lt. E. McDonald) was killed in this phase.
  • The enemy had employed his very best troops in mass at this point, making it impossible to advance so the Bn. had to come back to its original position.
  • 24th Nov. Bn. was relieved and proceeded to Hermies.
  • 25th-30th Nov. Alberts battalion retreated to Gommecourt Camp, their part in the Cambrai operations over.

S 36th Div. positioning 23rd November 1917 adly one year later Albert was killed in action in some of the last fighting of the war, his widow Alice would have received a personalised Plaque and Scroll signed by the King. Probably of more practical importance would have been the War Widow’s Pension which because Albert was a Private would only have been 13 shillings and 9 pence a week and 5 shillings for daughter Edith (until she reached the age of 16). Harry Ernest Blinko 1893 –1960, London, Corporal, 1/9th London Regt., 169th Brigade, 56th Division Harry a Plumber’s labourer and son of Henry (C1864) and Frances (nee Janes 1864) lived in London when he volunteered for the army some time between late 1913 and early 1914. Harry joined 9th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regt. (Queen Victoria’s Rifles) which was a Territorial unit allocated to the 3rd London Brigade, 1st London Division. Early in the War, the 1st London Division was broken up to provide reinforcements for the B.E.F. and on 5th November 1914 the 1/9th landed at Havre and joined 13th Brigade, 5th Division. Harrys 1/9th battalion fought with 5th Division throughout 1915, at Hill 60, Second Ypres and St Julien. In February 1916 the 56th Division was formed in France and the 1/9th Battalion were allocated to the 169th Brigade. It fought with this division on the Somme, Arras and Third Ypres. Attack on Cambrai

  • 20th the division was involved in diversionary operations opposite Moeuvres
  • 23rd Nov 56th Div. attacked and captured Tadpole Copse and the Hindenburg Line near Moeuvres itself. Here they remained in reserve while the fighting for Bourlon Wood continued.
  • The 56th Div. had extended its hold on the Hindenburg line(see battle plan 7 above), however the 36th Division was not able to hold and was forced back.
  • 24th Nov. a very bad day, enemy counter attack the positions held near Tadpole Copse were overrun and the division forced back towards the old British front line. Casualties at Cambrai were 211 killed, 1,046 wounded and 369 missing.
  • The 56th Div. was so badly mauled it didn’t take part further and this was the end of the action for Harry and 1/9th London Regt.

In February 1918 where it amalgamated with the 2/9th to become the 9th Battalion and in 1918 as part of the 58th Division, 175th Brigade was involved in the following actions 1918

  • The Battle of St Quentin (21-23 March)
  • The Battle of the Avre (4 April)
  • The Battle of Villers-Bretonneux (24-25 April)
  • The Battle of Amiens (8-11 August)
  • The Battle of Albert (22-23 August)+
  • The Second Battle of Bapaume (31 August – 1 September)+ the battles marked + are phases of the Second Battles of the Somme 1918
  • The Battle of Epehy (18 September)++ the battles marked ++ are phases of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line
  • The general final advance in Artois (2 October – 11 November)+++ the battles marked +++are phases of the Final Advance in Artois

At the Armistice The Division had crossed the River Scheldt and the forward units were south of Ath on 11 November 1918. The Division remained in the Peruwelz area after the Armistice. Here the units began to demobilise and by early March 1919 the Division was down to a small set of cadres which were moved to Leuze. Harry was likely discharged in 1919. After the War 1933-1939 Electoral register show him living at 17 Chesham Buildings, 17 Brown Hart Gardens, Westminster. Death 1960 Camden, London. The 47th Division IV Corps. William Frank Blincow 1/7th Royal Field Artillery Albert John Blinko 18th London Regt. 141st Brigade The 47th Division was late to the Cambrai operation. Marched from its last battlefield and position at Oppy, on 27th November it came under the V Corps command who were in charge of the operations in Bourlon Woods. Bourlon Woods and the Village were positioned strategically as it looked down on the German lines all the way to Cambrai. Because an offensive and counter attack had taken place in both the Village and the Wood several days before the woods were already defended by several battalions. The command of the 47th was not happy about all of its seven battalions going into the Wood, 47th Command felt the place was too congested and not the best way to fight the enemy, however the orders were followed. 29th Nov.

  • several battalions of the 47th were in place.

30th Nov.

  • severe enemy gas shelling caused high casualties within the 141st Brigade, the gas hanging around for ages in the undergrowth.
  • As a result three battalions were allowed to go and thus thin out the defence force of the Wood.
  • fighting continued all day followed by a quiet night.
  • While 47th helped hold the Wood, the enemy had broken through to the south and captured the village of Gouzeaucourt.

3rd Dec.

  • despite still holding the wood the 47th were instructed to plan to withdraw

4-5th Dec.

  • withdrawal during the night to the Hindenburg support line, a total distance of nearly 5,000 yards.

This was carried out with great success and the enemy did not notice for a day or so. William Frank Blincow, 1891-1955, London, Sergeant, 1/7th(237th) Royal Field Artillery, 47th Division William son of Harry Blincow (1856-1937) and Mary (nee Raymont C1861) of London, was one of two brothers who served with the same Royal Field Artillery Brigade. Both brothers volunteered to join the RFA Territorial Brigade the same day in September 1914. Brother Stanley James had been wounded (likely in Summer 1917 at the Battle of Messines) and was at home when William took home leave in August 1917 to marry Mary Mitchell at St Mary’s Willesden. At his marriage, William was recorded as a Sergeant RFA (however he was shortly afterwards demoted maybe for overstaying his leave, an understandable crime given the circumstances) 1915

  • The 7th Bn. RFA landed in France 18 Mar 1915 with 4th London Brigade, 47th Division.
  • The Bn. was split into 235th and 238th Bdes 47th Div. (we don’t know which Brigade William was assigned to)

1916

  • Battle of Aubers Ridge, the Battle of Festubert, the Battle of Loos, the 1 July 1916 Battle of the Somme (1916), including the Battle of Flers-Courcelette and the capture of High Wood. After mid-1916 battles included the Battle of Le Transloy, the Battle of Messines.

235th Brigade (47th Divisional Artillery) watering horses in Flesquières, 24 November 1917. Source: Bourlon Wood by Jack Horsfall Attack on Cambrai

  • 27th Nov. 1917 the 47th Division had much of its force in Bourlon Wood after its capture in November 1917, however as the photograph above shows its seems at least the 235th RFA were held in support at Flesquieres while this was taking place.
  • As previously stated its not known which Bde. William was with, if it was the 235th then his time at Cambrai was quiet. If it was the 238th then he took part in the fighting and withdrawal at Bourlon Wood.

William survived the war and returned to his job as a lithographic printer at Phillips, the well-known map publishers, He and Mary had four children Lilian 1922, Dorothy Jane 1924, Frank 1927 and Irene E 1930 William died in 1955. Albert John William Blinko, Rotherhithe, 1894-1963, Sergeant, 1096, 590091, 18th London Regt. (London Irish Rifles)141st Brigade, 47th Division Son of Albert William (1864-1953) and Emily (nee Shimell 1857) from Rotherhithe. Albert attended Rotherhite school from aged 4 and in 1911 was a Junior Clerk living with his parents in Tooting. 1912 Albert joined the 18th Bn. London Regiment as a Territorial. 1914 Albert and 18th Bn. embarked to France 10th March 1915, landing at le Havre, the second Territorial Force Bn. to arrive in the war theatre. 1915 The Battle of Aubers Ridge, The Battle of Festubert, The Battle of Loos and the subsequent Actions of the Hohenzollern Redoubt. 1916 Vimy Ridge, The Somme in The Battle of Flers-Courcelette capturing High Wood, The Battle of the Transloy Ridges in which the captured Eaucourt l’Abbaye. The attacks on the Butte de Warlencourt. 1917 The 18th Bn were in action in The Battle of Messines, the Third Battles of Ypres and Attack on Cambrai

  • Albert was in reserve until 23rd Nov. then the Bn. were route marched 23rd-25th from Fosseux to Achiet le Petit to Rocquigny and then Bus to Rocquigny where they spent the 26th. The journey continued with a route march and Bus to Hindenburg Support line.6
  • 28th Nov. the 18th Bn moved into Bourlon Wood.
  • They immediately came under heavy shelling most of which was gas laden shells, this proved to particularly nasty as the gas hung around in the undergrowth of the Wood. Gas masks were required for prolonged periods of time. 8 Casualties were high this day.
  • 29th -30th Nov. The same story recurred with incessant bombardment and the 18th sustaining more casualties.
  • 1st Dec. was even worse as the 47th Division fought to hold Bourlon Wood. This action resulted in heavy casualties
  • 2nd Dec. the 18th Bn. relieved by the 34th Bn. London Regt. and moved back into Hindenburg Support line.
  • From then on action was slight and none when put on Reserve later in the month.6

1918

  • March 22 1918 – Mention, however, must be made of the splendid stand made by the i8th Battalion on the Highland Ridge. As soon as dusk fell the Germans attacked from Villers Plouich. The London Irish stood calm and, by rifle and machine-gun fire, beat off the enemy, who left many dead and wounded before our trenches. A second attack was launched. This, too, was unsuccessful. A third and a fourth time the enemy attempted to reach our position, but each time he was repulsed with great loss. The men of the i8th, anxious to convince the German he was trying an impossible thing, counter-attacked and cut off the hostile attacking party, and then proceeded to annihilate it. Seven Germans were spared and brought in as prisoners. Not one escaped. 8
  • 2 Oct. – 11 Nov. Final Advance in Artois including making the official entry into Lille.

At the signing of the Armistice

  • The forward units of the Division had reached Franses-lez-Buissenal. They marched back to Tournai and on the 26th of November moved on to the Bethune area where demobilisation began with the first parties returning to England in the first week of January 1919.

Albert was honourably discharged 24 Jan 1919 suffering with either war wounds or sickness. After the War 1921 Marriage to Daisey Laura Whyman Parish: Battersea St Saviour Living at 28 Chatham Rd Battersea, Occupation Stationer. Death 1963 Leicester 40th Division IV Corps. Tasked with simply taking Bourlon Wood and Village on the 23rd of November the 40th Division acquitted themselves with distinction in attempting to achieve this goal. They did capture the Wood and attack and penetrate the village but German artillery bombardment, counter attacks and the terrain were against this being successful. Reinforcements came in on the 24-25th. As the Division had taken great casualties and was exhausted, it was decided after the German ‘Hammer Blow” counter attack came that they should retreat from their positions. The 40th Division’s actions at Bourlon Wood was such a testament to the fighting spirit and determination of the Division that the symbols of the Oak and Acorn were incorporated in the Divisional sign. Jack (John Henry) Blencowe, Camberwell, 1899-1957, Private, 22948, 24619, 22412, 12th Btn Suffolk Regt. Royal Lancashire Regt,11th Bn. K.O.Lancs, 40th Division Jack was born in Camberwell and was the son of John George (1874-1948) and Nellie (nee Summers 1875-1931). Jack was the oldest of eight children, a labourer when he was enlisted in 1915 in the 12th Bn. Suffolk Regt. at Bury St Edmunds. In January 1916 he transferred to 2nd Bn. South Lancashire Regt. then transferred again to the 11th (Bantam) Battalion Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regt. (part of the 120 Brigade of the 40th Division). Jack was just 5 feet and 3/4 inch in height and thus his transfer to a “Bantam’ battalion where all the men were between 5ft and 5ft. 2 inches. In June 1916 he was sent to France. 1917

  • 11th Aug. The 3rd Battle of Ypres . Jack appears to have been wounded the records are hard to read but looks like bomb fragment hit him the buttock and he is treated for this wound in Remy?
  • 27th Aug. 136 Field Ambulance. Treatment and comments undecipherable. 136 FA was the 40th division Field ambulance unit.
  • 14th Sept. Returned to battalion.

Attack on Cambrai

  • 23rd Nov. 11th Bn. sent in to reinforce the 40th Div. in Bourlon Wood evening of the 23rd
  • 24th Nov. Germans massed for counter attack, fierce resistance staved them off. Jack’s battalion was involved in repeated attempts to capture Bourlon village and Bourlon Wood on the 24th & 25th November. They fought in cold and windy weather. The attack on the village was successful but the 25th November saw continuous hard fighting in the wood.
  • 25th Nov 120th Brigade taken out of the fighting and placed on Reserve
  • 26th Nov. 120th Brigade back in action with the 40th Div.

1918

  • 26th Jan. Jack wounded, a gunshot wound to the face.
  • 9 Feb. Jack returned to duty, no combat followed this period of convalescence and Bn. Into placed on reserve.
  • 7th–29th April, Battle of Lys
  • 9th April, Jack “missing in action”
  • Reported a Prisoner of War shortly afterwards, spent time in POW camp
  • 8 Dec. repatriated home by this date

Jack was demobilised 6 Mar 1919 but enlisted as a Sergeant with the RAF around September 1919. After the War 1922 Marriage to Beatrice Ruby Dray at St Pancras. Two children born Joyce W F 1923 Aylesbury and Beatrice J S 1929 Romford Jack died in 1957 at Thanet, Kent. Ralph Blinkho, 1882, Birmingham, Private, 27515, 18th Bn Welsh Regiment, 40th Division Ralph was adopted by Clement Peck and shows as such in 1891 census in Walsall, Staffs. By 1907 Ralph had married to Caroline Helena Carr and was a coal hewer underground (Miner). By 1916 he had four children. The only Army record we have is Ralph’s medal card, his serial number indicates he enlisted about 1 Feb 1915 and in the 18th Bn The Welsh Regiment. The Medals awarded also tells us that he served overseas. 18th (Service) Battalion (2nd Glamorgan) The Battalion was formed at Cardiff in January 1915 as a Bantam Battalion ie men under a height of 5ft. 2in. The 18th moved to Porthcawl and attached to 43rd Division. In July 1915 the Bn. transferred to 119th Brigade in 40th Division and moved to Aldershot in September. 1916

  • landed in France in June 1916.
  • Battle of the Ancre (a phase of the Battles of the Somme 1916)

1917

  • The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (March)
  • The capture of Fifteen Ravine, Villers Plouich, Beaucamp and La Vacquerie (April and early May)

Attack on Cambrai

  • 22nd Nov. the 40th Division was ordered to relieve the 62nd Division as previously mentioned and the 119th was asked to play a key attacking role to take the wood.
  • 23rd Nov. at dawn 119th Brigade crossed 1000 yds down the long slope from Anneux, across a sunken lane and up the rise into the wood, all the while under shell fire. Observers said later “The Welshman charged magnificently into the trees”. Note Ralph and his 18th Bn Welch were in reserve at this point.
  • German counter attack came and by 3 pm in the afternoon Ralph’s 18th Bn. was called into the action, with high casualties. The Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Kennedy, was killed by a bullet and the 2nd in command was also killed.
  • On the night of the 23rd it was decided to reinforce the 40th Division in the Wood, the Guards Division and others were brought in to continue the fighting for the Village and the Wood.
  • 24th Nov. they were still in place but the 18th had sustained great casualties and was again relieved.

We do know that Ralph survived Bourlon Wood. No records found to see if he was wounded. 1918

  • 21st – 23rd Mar. The Battle of St Quentin the battalion sustained heavy casualties.
  • 5 May it was reduced to cadre strength after suffering heavy casualties.
  • June, Ralph was sent home to England and his Bn transferred to 47th Brigade in 16th (Irish) Division based at North Walsham.
  • Later that month the battalion was enlarged by absorbing 25th Bn.and was moved to Aldershot to await embarkation once again to France in July 1918.
  • 21st Aug – 3rd Sep. Battle of Bapaume

Ralph was possibly in France until 1919 and returned home to be discharged early that year. After the war Ralph lived in Watford and at his death in 1956 in Battersea, London. ‘Percy’ Edward Blencowe, 1893, Wolverhampton, Private, 28826, 14th Bn. Highland Light Infantry. 120th Brigade, 40th Division. Known as Percy he was the son of Frederick and Amelia Blencowe Bakers and Confectioners of Wolverhampton. Brother Bert was serving with the Royal Engineers when he died in 1916 and brother George served the war out with the Royal Artillery. Percy was small and so had to wait until the ‘bantam” battalions were introduced in July 1915 before he could enlist which he did in December 1915. His war service until Cambrai was thus: 1916

  • 3rd Jun. Embarked for France, the Bn arrived in le Havre from Southampton.
  • 11th Jun. The Battle of Loos. The Bn arrived at Loos for first taste of trench warfare. They fought hard and occupied trenches in this area until October.
  • 25th Oct. The Somme Arrive in the the Somme via three days at Hebuterne and on to Bouchavesnes where they fought until 26th Jan 1917.

1917

  • 1st Feb-30th Mar. Peronne area.
  • Apr-Sept. Villiers Plouich. Where 14th Bn captured about 250 prisoners and several machine guns and many souvenirs!

Attack on Cambrai

  • 23rd Nov. Battle for Bourlon Wood & Village. 1030hrs – 40th Division launched a combined-arms assault against the German positions at Fontaine, Moeuvres, Bourlon Wood and Bourlon Village.
  • 24th Nov. Battle for Bourlon Wood & Village. 1530hrs – 14th Highland Light Infantry attack Bourlon, with elements reaching the far end of the village. 1600hrs – A German counter-attack at Bourlon Wood leaves the Highlanders in Bourlon trapped.
  • 25th Nov. Battle for Bourlon Wood & Village.0845hrs – Lost touch with three companies of the Bn. Cut off and surrounded and captured. Casualties high 17 Officers and 426 Men included killed, wounded and missing.
  • 112 men of the 14th Bn H.L.I. died between 1st October 1917 to 30 November 1917.
  • It is in the battle that Percy was likely wounded and was shipped to the rear for treatment and eventual return home.
  • 7th Dec. Percy suffers severe wounding which was reported in the Scotsman newspaper 7 Dec 1917 just a few days after Bourlon Wood.

1918

  • 5 Jul. Honourably discharged, disabled and awarded the Silver War Badge.

Guards Division III Corps. Joseph Blincow 4th Bn Pioneer Coldstream Guards Joe Wallace 1st Grenadier Guards The attack on Flesquieries The Guards (VI Corps) had a series of objectives to gain on its way to Flesquières.

  1. Canal du Nord and then the Hindenburg Main Line.
  2. Hindenburg Support Line on the southern and western edges of the village.
  3. The eastern end of the village, the road to Cantaing,
  4. the formidable defensive structure of the Sugar Factory
  5. Ribécourt.
  6. Marcoing and Premy Chapel.

The Guards progress against these objectives was good until the 27th November. 27th Nov. – The last Effort Insisting that Bourlon be taken and forever worrying that the enemy were on the point of collapse (Commader in Chief) Haig told (General) Byng to take over personal control of the battle. On the 26th the artillery began pounding the German lines in preparation for an assault by the Guards Division against Fontaine.

  • 0620 hours – 2nd Guards Brigade advanced. 3rd Grenadiers up the main road, 1st Coldstreams in the centre and 2nd Irish between the village and Bourlon Wood.
  • The Guards Div. 4th Bn. engineers and pioneers had constructed ramps and trestle bridges over the canal and in fact were still constructing them as the battle opened.
  • The first advance was of 1,500 yards. The Guards Division on the left and the 3rd Division on the right would have twelve tanks each.
  • The Guards suffered enormous losses as they advanced against enfilading fire from La Folie wood and became embroiled in house to house fighting. The situation was intolerable and by 1300 hours it was over. Despite great courage and tenacity (2 VCs earned) the Guardsmen had been overwhelmed by an entrenched enemy in superior numbers.” 12
  • 1300 hours – The Guards gave in and retreated, the Guards had uncommonly lost a battle.

Joseph Blincow, 1879-1950, Burton, Sergeant, 4th Bn Pioneer Coldstream Guards, Guards Division Joseph was born in Burton upon Trent in 1879. In 1915 he was married with a wife Millicent (nee Wright 1877 ) and one son Joseph Leonard (b.1909) and home at 105 Ashbourne Rd, Derby. Joseph aged 36 was conscripted in August 1915 into the 4th Bn. Coldstream Guards. The 4th Bn was a Divisional Pioneer battalion ie they were responsible for removing obstacles, construction etc but they also at times evolved into assault troops 1916

  • The Bn. was posted to France in June 1916 which coincided with the formation of a Guards Division which included the battalions of the Coldstream Guards.
  • Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the Battle of Morval, the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line,

1917

  • the Battle of Pilkem, the Battle of the Menin Road, the Battle of Poelkapelle and the First Battle of Passchendaele.

Attack on Cambrai

  • Nov. 20th -Dec 3rd – Joseph’s role would have been primarily in leading men to construct ramps and trestle bridges over trenches and the canal for the Guards Division to drive through. On the 27th Nov. the Bn. were still constructing pathways as the battle that day opened.

1918

  • On 8 February 1918 Joseph was transferred to 4th Guards Brigade, 31st Division.
  • April – The Bn. fought in the battle of Lys
  • 20 May 1918 he was transferred to GHQ reserve

Joseph was granted leave to England in November 1918 and may have not returned to France. He was transferred to the 2nd Bn. Coldstream Guards on 17 Feb 1919 and then discharged 21 Mar 1919. After the War Joseph died in 1950 Joe Wallace Blincow, 1894-1968, Shoreditch,Regimental Sergeant Major 15135, 360436, 1st Grenadier Guards,Grenadier Guards (Buckingham Gate, London), Guards Division Joe born in Shoreditch London, was the son of George Blincow (1871-1943) and Betsy Sabina (nee Fall 1863-1959). When of age Joe enlisted with the Grenadier Guards in February 1911 and signed on for a 12 year term. Joe was a Lance Sergeant when the War started and was then promoted to Sergeant later. 1914

  • Joe embarked with the 1st Grenadier Guards 6 Oct 1914 and landed at Zeebrugge.
  • 23rd Aug – 5th Sep. Retreat from Mons
  • 6th – 12th Sep. Battle of the Marne
  • 12th -15th Sep. The Aisne
  • 29th Oct. Gheluvelt – the Regiment suffered heavily throughout the War but early on was one of its most devastating losses.. the 1st Battalion suffered such causalities that it had no officers left and only 80 men (one of them Joe).
  • 2nd Nov (4 days later) after reinforcement, it had once more been reduced to no officers and only 120 men.

1915

  • Aug. 1st Grenadier Guards joined a new Guards Division in France. The 1st Bn. forming part of the 3rd Guards Brigade.
  • 25th Sep-8th Oct.Battle of Loos.

1916

  • The Somme
  • 9th Sep. Battle of Ginchy.

1917 Attack on Cambrai

  • 20th Sep. 3rd Battle of Ypres.
  • 23rd Nov. it was moved forward from Bapume to position west of La Fontaine and was expected to break out and attack to the North. Joe’s Third Guards Brigade was however held in reserve at Flesquieres.
  • 27th November Joe’s 3rd Guards Brigade seems to have still been in reserve. The battle for La Fontaine was fierce and while Joe did not have had a combat role the 3rd Grenadiers Bn. and 2nd Guards Brigade took the heavy load of the fighting. The fight was lost by 1 pm on the 27th and the casualties were heavy: 2 Guards Brigade had suffered a total of 38 officers and 1,043 other ranks. Uniquely, the Guards Division had lost a battle.7
  • 28th-29th Nov. holding the West of La Fontaine
  • 30th Nov. the “Hammer Blow” German counter attack. General Haig gave the order to pull back and whole force fought a rearguard action back to the safer defensible line of the winter.

This may have been Joe’s last battle in WW1, it appears he was suffering with Nephritis, inflammation of the kidneys caused by infection, commonly called Trench Nephritis. (About 2% of WW1 deaths due to this illness) Joe was honourably discharged with Trench Nephritis on 7 May 1918 and awarded the Silver War Badge. After the War Joe had two sons Albert Stanley Charles 1919-1944, Joseph Sidney 1924-1944 both tragically killed in WW2 Joe appears to have re-joined the army and continued with his Army career after the war he may well have served in WW2. 1949 Joe was awarded the British Empire Medal (Military Division) Joe in this award is designated as a Regimental Sergeant Major, Grenadier Guards. Joe died in 1968 at Bedford. 2nd Division VI Corps. The 2nd Division was made up of three brigades of Infantry the 99th Bde. 5th Bde and the 6th Bde, it was in the 5th Bde (Ox and Bucks LI) and 6th Bde. (2nd South Staffs) that Blencowe men were represented.

  • 26th Nov. the 2nd Division was ordered to join the battle and with barely two hours notice the 2nd Division moved forward, about 5 p.m. to relieve the 36th Division, and the left flank of the 62nd Division, in the front line South West of Bourlon Village. A heavy snowstorm and pitch black night both favoured and hindered the relief and takeover of the trenches by the 2nd Div.
  • The situation was reported thus ; “Bitter fighting had taken place for Bourlon Village and Bourlon Wood, both places having changed hands several times. Most of Bourlon Wood and the high ground north-west of it remained in our hands, but the village was still in the enemy’s possession. More to the south the important heights by the village of Fontaine- notre-Dame were still holding up our advance .”10
  • 27th Nov. the 6th Bde. and 99th Bde. provided reinforcements to the infantry in the Bourlon Wood. The 5th Bde was held in reserve this day in the Hermies area.28th was a quiet day but preparations for an attack to extend the line were completed.
  • 29th Nov. the 2nd Div. attacked the salient before them and while they achieved 300 yds of gain on one flank not much was achieved by this.
  • 30th Nov. was the day the “hammer blow” came, the morning was a series of attacks by German artillery and Infantry that the 99th Bde. and 6th Bde. fended off courageously. In the p.m. more of this action was continued the line being held despite the very difficult job of defending the line broken by the dry Canal Nord with its wide deep banks, thus making communication and support across the defence line very difficult. “if a man wanted to cross it he had to slide down a slippery 20-foot wall and climb up the other side by means of a rope — the while the enemy opened a galling fire on him with machine guns and rifles.” 10
  • The 5th Bde was moved up, just before 1 p.m. the 24th Royal Fusiliers and the 2nd Oxford and Bucks were ordered to move forward and counter-attack in the direction of the Sugar Factory, where it was reported the enemy had broken through. The reports were wrong and the two regiments held the line. Extremely bitter fighting for the balance of day and night resulted in the line being held and some 2,000 casualties were estimated, however the enemy fared worse.
  • 2nd-3rd Dec. Although fierce defence held the line against continued attacks, it was clear (to General Haig) by the 3rd Dec. that the whole attack must be given up.
  • 4-5th Dec. the 2nd Div. withdrew over these two days very successfully to the Hindenburg Supply Line.

Charles William Blinco,1895-1962, Eton, Private, 9784, 912, 5374883 2nd Ox. & Bucks Light Infantry, Army Cyclist Corps. Charles son of James Thomas Blinco (1862) and Harriet (nee Chapman 1867-1951) was born in Langley and was the youngest of four brothers who served in the War. James joined the Royal Fusiliers in 1907 and served with the RFA. Henry was killed in action in Iraq in 1916 and Albert was also with the RFA and earned a Military medal for bravery in 1918. 1914 Charles enlisted in 1914 and landed in France 27th Aug. 1914 The 2nd Bn. Ox and Bucks LI was part of the 5th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Division and when Charles arrived the Bn. had already been involved in a defeat at Mons and retreated 220 miles until it reached the outskirts of Paris. Charles likely joined as a reinforcement there.(note Charles did receive the 1914 Mons Star medal) The 2nd Bn had a long war with many battles Charles may have served in many of them

  • The Battle of the Marne
  • The Battle of the Aisne including participation in the Actions on the Aisne heights
  • First Battle of Ypres

1915

  • Charles married Rose Beatrice Clark in 1915 in Hillingdon, likely on home leave.
  • Winter Operations 1914-15
  • The Battle of Festubert
  • The Battle of Loos

1916

  • The Battle of Delville Wood*
  • The Battle of the Ancre*
  • Operations on the Ancre
  • The battles marked * are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916

1917

  • The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line
  • The First Battle of the Scarpe**
  • The Battle of Arleux**
  • The Second Battle of the Scarpe** The battles marked ** are phases of the Battles of Arras 1917

Attack on Cambrai

  • 27th Nov. Charles 5th Bde. placed in reserve in Hermies area, the balance of the 2nd Div. Was used to re-enforce 36th Division
  • 30th Nov.. 2nd Ox and Bucks were ordered forward to counter-attack in the direction of the Sugar Factory, where it was rumoured the enemy had broken through this wasn’t the case and the line there held.
  • 1st-6th Dec. 2nd Ox and Bucks placed under the 99th Infantry Bde. in Kangaroo Alley and were firstly defending the line and then bravely covering most of the 2nd Div. as it retreated back to Hindenburg line.
  • 4-6th Dec. The withdrawal was covered by 2nd Ox and Bucks, on 6th Dec. a heavy attack on the regiment was repulsed.

1918 The medal card for Charles indicates his last regiment was the Army Cyclist Corps. Its not possible to determine when Charles was transferred to the Corps. But this was mainly a home based Corps and it may well be this was a result of either illness or injury. In any event Charles was with the Cyclists at the end of the war and then as this Corps was disbanded (1919) he returned to the Ox and Bucks until 1924. After the War Charles and Beatrice lived in the Uxbridge area, had four children Charles F, Gwendoline, Henry and Betty between 1921 and 1929. In 1962 Charles died in Uxbridge, Middlesex The 29th Divisional Artillery The 29th Divisional Artillery was formed in 1915 in Leamington,Warwickshire. The Artillery consisted of

  • 15th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery
  • 17th Brigade Royal Field Artillery
  • 147th Brigade Royal Field Artillery
  • 29th Divisional Ammunition Column

The 15th Bde had by November 1917 four batteries “B”, “L”, “Y” and the Warwickshire battery. The gun used was the 18 pounder and pulled by horse train. While the 29th DA was part of the 29th Division on many occasions in the war it would come under other divisions command. The 29th had a long war with many actions the major ones being;

  • Gallipoli 1915-16
  • Somme 1916-17
  • Arras 1917
  • Battle of Passchendaele 1917
  • Cambrai 1917
  • Lys 1918
  • Gheluvelt 1918
  • Ledeghem 1918

In early November in preparation for the attack on Cambrai sent their guns to be calibrated on the Fricourt calibration range near Albert. A key strategy of “surprise” was Artillery not firing registration shots before the attack took place was achieved by this calibration. On the 12th Nov. the 29th DA was sent to Hennois Woods where they lay in wait until the 20th. The war diary gives some idea of the situation “The vehicles were concealed in the wood;horses were tied up to trees in odd groups; no lights were allowed. Bitterly cold weather and wet, no fires allowed and few tents provided old and leaked and no floorboards” 20th Nov. the attack started and the 29th acquitted themselves extremely well the creeping barrages and support of the Infantry actioned effectively. William Reginald Blenco, 1898-1984, Wellingborough, Driver, 102509, 15th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery. William son of Frank (1864-1923) and Eliza (nee Solomon 1876-1944) grew up in the shoe making town of Rushden Northants, his father a shoe maker, William and his brother John had followed in his footsteps and even in 1911 at age 13 and 15yrs were employed as Shoe Panner and Shoe Inker. Brother John enlisted 6 months before William in the Northampton Regiment but was injured at aubers Ridge in May 1915 and died of war injuries. It may well be that William joined after his brother had died and when he was just of age in mid 1915. After initial training William was sent overseas to join the 15th Brigade of the 29th Divisional Artillery RHA. This was likely about January 1916, the 29th had just fought in the Gallipoli campaign and landed in France. It was at this time that a new Battery “L” was added to the 15th Bde. And so its possible this was the Battery to which William was placed. We know that William was with the 15th Bde as both his medal card show this to be the case and the 1918 absent voter records for Rushden indicate the same. William and the 15th Bde. RHA were involved in a lot of action prior to Cambrai in 1917 there are no records for him except his medal card and so we presume he made it through to 1919 without major injury or sickness, given the amount of combat this in itself was very fortunate. As a Driver for the Horse trains he would have certainly had a role caring for the horses but also labouring for the Gun crews. Attack on Cambrai

  • Nov. 1th-9th the Bde began preparations for attack on Cambrai
  • Nov. 13th -14th moved to Hennois Wood came under direction of III Corps and thus part of the initial attack bombardment.
  • The need for secrecy of the pending attack meant especially the horses and gun trains had to be hidden from enemy spotter planes.
  • Nov. 20th Attack on Cambrai – The III corps attacked and 29th DA supported three divisions incl. 29th Div. With an unregistered creeping barrage, to great success.
  • Nov.21th-29th the batteries fired creeping barrage on the 21th, on the 23rd the DA was reinforced and batteries withdrawn for defensive positioning. The 15th Bde on the right in Vacquerie Valley.
  • Nov 30th German counter attack began with fire on all the batteries in the Vacquerie Valley using gas shells as well as H.E. The 15th Bde fired (as directed by 86th Bde) on assembly points of German infantry at Rumily and Plaisir Farm. Enemy aircraft attacked the batteries and did a great deal of damage. As the counter attack broke through retiring infantry passed through the 15th Bde they left the gun emplacements exposed. The enemy approaching could be seen and the 15th Bde engaged the enemy, holding them off for 1 hour then the batteries retreated with breechblocks and sights in hand. “L” battery remained behind and held the enemy for a while, then followed the others back to the Hindenburg Support line
  • The entire 29th Divisional Artillery was withdrawn from action for a complete refit.1918

The 15th Bde fought further Battles in 1918

  • Aug. 1st -Sept.13th the 15th Bde involved heavily in the support of the taking of The Action of Outtersteene Ridge
  • Sept.30th bombardment for the battle for Gheluvelt
  • Oct 14th -24th support artillery for the battle of Ledeghem

At the signing of the Armistice the 29th Division and Divisional Artillery were chosen to march into Germany and become an Army of occupation. It was along march, the 29th arriving in Cologne by December and staying their until April 1919. It is likely William was discharged in about April-May 1919 William was awarded the British and Victory medals. William returned to Rushden and in 1921 married Elsie Dorothy Madeline Chapman they settled in the area and had the following children; Pauline Ruth 1921, Roy William 1926 and Pamela Mary 1938. Son Roy served in the Army after WW2. William died at Kettering in 1984 aged 86 years. Blencowe Charles Walter, Private, 6584, 242145, 2/8th Worcestershire Regiment. 183rd Brigade, 61st Division Charles the son of Charles and Francis Caroline Blencowe originally from London who had settled in Kidderminster by 1901. Charles like his father and sibling brother was a Commercial Clerk when he volunteered in late 1915 to join the 2nd Line Territorial regiment the 2/8th Battalion of the Worcester regiment. 1915

  • Nov. Enlisted approx. 27th Nov. in the Worcestershire Regiment, part of 183rd Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. The 61st Div. was a second line Territorial Division. That is men who volunteered and were required to waive their right to stay home if they also volunteered for overseas combat.

1916

  • Feb-Mar. Training with the 61st Div. on Salisbury Plain.
  • 5th May. Division Inspected by George V
  • 24th May Landed at Le Havre, France.
  • 19th Jul. The Attack at Fromelles. The first major action in which the Division was engaged turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. An attack was made at Fromelles, a subsidiary action to the much larger battle taking place further south on the Somme. The Division suffered very heavy casualties for no significant gain and no enemy reserves were diverted from the Somme. Such was the damage to the Division and its reputation that it was not used again other than for holding trench lines until 1917. Fortunately it seems the 2/8th Bn. Worcesters were not used in this attack.

1917

  • 17th-22nd Mar. The German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line The 61st was one of the Divisions employed in the cautious pursuit of the enemy, when the Germans carried out a deep withdrawal from the area of the Somme to formidable pre-prepared positions that the British called the Hindenburg Line, in March 1917.
  • 17th Mar. The 2/8th Bn. and the 61st Div. captured Chaulnes and Bapaume. The 2/8th had a very active role in this fighting.
  • Aug-Sept. The Battle of Langemarck.* On the 17th Aug. the 61st Div was brought up to relieve tired divisions. The 183rd Bde was ordered forward to take over the capture line and 2/8th Bn. came under fire. The 2/8th took over theBrigade line with HQ at “Ulhan Farm” the next heavy fighting fell to the second line battalions. After a short tour in the forward area the 2/8th were relieved on the evening 20/21st. During the previous 3 days their had been some outpost fighting, notably in one incident a platoon of the 2/8th had surprised and annihilated a German outpost near Somme Farm.1 Casualties for the attack the 2/8th suffered 8 officers and 138 men killed or wounded.

Cambrai

  • 30th Nov. The German counter attacks** In late November 1917, the British Third Army made a highly successful attack, using massed tanks for the first time, near Cambrai. 61st Division was initially held in reserve and was still in the area when the enemy made a determined counter attack on 30th November. The Division was ordered up to reinforce the units under attack in the area of La Vacquerie and for some days was involved in a hard fight to stem the enemy attack.
  • 1st-3rd Dec. La Vacquerie. The 61st Div was brought up to support the 20th division. The 183rd Bde marched forward to Metz and then turned left into Havrincourt Wood. The battalions of the 183rd lay in Havrincourt Wood all day of 1st Dec. after dark came orders to advance. The entire Bde relieved the 20th at the line just in front of La Vacquerie, the 2/8th on the north flank. With the dawn 2nd Dec. the enemy’s attack was renewed, on the left the 2/8th repulsed all attacks but the enemy established a foothold at points in the line. Artillery bombardment and continual attacks followed and the 2/8th suffered badly 5 Officers were killed. By daylight on the 3rd Dec the Worcestershires were relieved by the Royal Warwicks. Casualties on the 2nd and 3rd Dec. 3 Officers killed and 10 men. wounded 9 Officers and 89 men. Missing 2 Officers and 36 men.

1918

  • 21st Mar. The Battle of St Quentin~ On 21 March 1918, the enemy launched what was intended to be a decisive offensive, attacking the British Fifth and Third Armies on the Somme in overwhelming strength. The 61st (2nd South Midland) Division was holding the forward zone of defences in the area northwest of Saint Quentin in the area of Ham and lost many men as it fought a chaotic but ultimately successful withdrawal back over the Somme crossings over the next ten days. In the initial clash, the South Midland faced three enemy Divisions and only began to retire on the afternoon of 22 March, when ordered to do so in consequence of the enemy’s progress at other parts of the line.3

By the time it was relieved after fighting all the way back to the very gates of Amiens in the First Battles of the Somme 1918, the Division had been involved in continuous action since August 1917 and was most exhausted. The remnants were moved north to what had been a quieter part of the line on the La Bassee Canal near Bethune. Unfortunately it was near where the Germans launched the second phase of their offensive on 9 April 1918. The Division became involved and many casualties were incurred. 1919 Charles was discharged most probably in 1919 he lived the rest of his life in Kidderminster marrying in 1925 and raising three children with his wife Ethel. Charles died at age 80 years in 1973. Thomas Richard Blenko 1899, Hackney, 23310, GS/76000, East Kent Regiment, 9th Bn. Royal Fusiliers, 36th Brigade, 12th Division Content to add List of Blencowe’s at Cambrai

  • Charles Albert Blencowe 1893 – 13th Company, Tank Corps
  • Henry Edmund Blincko, 1892-1971, Hackney, Private, GS10387, L-10133, 17th Lancers, GS Lancers
  • Albert Blencowe 1898 – Bedfordshire Regt., 24th Brigade, 6th Division
  • James “Willie” Blencowe, 1895-1946, Wortley, Private, 13698, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 20th Division
  • Thomas “Henry” Blencowe 1896 -1979, Burton, Private, S7886, 10th Bn. (The Prince Consort’s Own) Rifle Brigade, 20th Division
  • Henry Blinko 1880-1944, Lambeth, Private, 4661, A/200389 10th Bn. Kings Royal Rifles Corps. 20th Division
  • Albert Blencowe 1877-1918, Bicester, Private, 12/47908, 12th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 36th Ulster Division
  • Harry Ernest Blinko 1893 –1960, London, Corporal, 1/9th London Regt., 169th Brigade, 56th Division
  • William Frank Blincow, 1891-1955, London, Sergeant, 1/7th(237th) Royal Field Artillery, 47th Division
  • Albert John William Blinko, Rotherhithe, 1894-1963, Sergeant, 1096, 590091, 18th London Regt. (London Irish Rifles)141st Brigade, 47th Division
  • Jack (John Henry) Blencowe, Camberwell, 1899-1957, Private, 22948, 24619, 22412, 12th Btn Suffolk Regt. Royal Lancashire Regt,11th Bn. K.O.Lancs, 40th Division
  • Ralph Blinkho, 1882, Birmingham, Private, 27515, 18th Bn Welsh Regiment, 40th Division
  • Joseph Blincow, 1879-1950, Burton, Sergeant, 4th Bn Pioneer Coldstream Guards, Guards Division
  • Joe Wallace Blincow, 1894-1968, Shoreditch,Regimental Sergeant Major 15135, 360436, 1st Grenadier Guards,Grenadier Guards (Buckingham Gate, London), Guards Division
  • Charles William Blinco,1895-1962, Eton, Private, 9784, 912, 5374883 2nd Oxf. & Bucks Light Infantry, Army Cyclist Corps
  • Herbert Ernest Blincow 1898, Shipston Worcs. Private, 38154, 3rd, 2/7th, 10th and 3rd Bns. Worcestershire Regiment
  • William Reginald Blenco 1898, Wellingborough, Driver, 102509, 15th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery
  • Charles Walter Blencowe 1894 Private, 6584, 242145, 2/8th Worcestershire Regiment. 183rd Brigade, 61st Division
  • Thomas Richard Blenko 1899, Hackney, 23310, GS/76000, East Kent Regiment, 9th Bn. Royal Fusiliers, 36th Brigade, 12th Division
  • ‘Percy’ Edward Blencowe 1893, Wolverhampton, Private, 28826, 14th Bn. Highland Light Infantry, 120th Brigade, 40th Division.

Sources and Acknowledgements

  1. Analysis from Chris Baker researcher http://www.1914-1918.net/
  2. The 8th Battalion Bedfordshire Regt. War Diary November 1917 http://www.bedfordRegt..org.uk/
  3. According to the “Account of Operations before Cambrai 20 – 23 November 1917 by HQ 152 Inf bde” 15th Company of E Bn sent eleven tanks aginst the village; ten were destroyed by direct hits with only one returning to the rallying point. Horsfall and Cave state that seven tanks were halted by artillery fire; 5 of which were in flames – the seven listed were Emperior, Edinburgh, Endurance, Exquisite, Eileen, Eqypt II and Euryalus.
  4. Flesquieres – Hindenburg Line by Horsfall, Jack, and Cave, Nigel – Havertown : Pen and Sword :2008
  5. Cambrai – Cave, Nigel and Horsfall, Jack
  6. 1/18th Battalion – London Regt. – London Irish Rifles War Diaries at http://www.rimell.u-net.com
  7. Bourlon Woods – Cave, Nigel and Horsfall, Jack
  8. The 47th (London) Division 1914-1918 by WH Maude
  9. Landships Narratives online resource dedicated to Tanks
  10. The History of the 2nd Division – Everard Wyrall, The Naval and Military Press
  11. 29th Divisional Artillery: War Record and Honours Book 1915-1918, R.M. Johnson,The Naval and Military Press
  12. Purnells History of WW1
  13. Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War Vol 1-2, Fitz M. Stacke, Luton : Andrews UK :2013
  14. The 12th Royal Lancers in France : August 17th, 1914-November 11th, 1918. by H. V. S. Charrington