Bullecourt
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Resources
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Where to look for information

Detail of the sheet music for ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’

There are considerable resources relating to the First World War. These can be readily accessed through the Internet, your local library or at a number of specialist libraries and institutions. Those set out here are ones I have found useful or those which, on inspection, seem appropriate for study. There are others I’ve used in background reading but this is not intended to be an extensive resource for those studying the First World War. For that, you’ll have to do your own research. As in all research, I advise you to look at as much as possible, bearing in mind the considerable amount there is.

Much of what I’ve written here has been gleaned from the Internet, and discussion with people knowing far more about it than me. Generally the facts outlined are only those where there appears to be a consensus. Where I have given opinions, they are my own.

In addition to the few resources outlined on this page, I have included a brief overview of the structure of the British Army as I did not have a clear understanding of it when I began work on this site.

The village of Bullecourt is not a resource in the academic sense of the word, but I believe it is essential for anybody interested in the battles here to visit this area of northern France in order to obtain a feel for the landscape. It would help to visit in April and May, perhaps when the weather is not at its best as the battles were fought in poor conditions, snow falling for a part of it. In addition to this the peculiarly sticky mud has to be experienced at first hand in order to let it work upon your mind as you think about what happened here.

Although it helps to have a focus, it is not, perhaps, essential to visit Bullecourt, but it would be useful to look at any area of the ground over which this part of the campaign was fought. Bullecourt is interesting in that it is not generally well-known in England, but was the site of terrible losses by the Australians and British forces. The allied attack was focussed on the most dangerous part of the Hindenberg Line – a classic point to avoid.

Most of the resources are those associated with recording the activities of the time. I recommend a visit to the museum at Bullecourt in order to see at first hand artefacts which have been dug up in the area together with letters, newspaper articles and the like relating to those who fought and, usually, died there.

I understand that the museum is being improved with time but I rather liked it as I saw it – a single space crammed with artefacts. There are some additional, large artefacts in an adjoining barn, and one or two items in the courtyard between them, but the majority of things to see are contained within the main display area.

Throughout the Pas de Calais – and elsewhere, of course – there are museums to the memory of the events of the First World War.

I have not yet visited any of them but mean to do so. Those listed here would form the basis from which to select a visit matching particular interests, but more study will have to be made in order to sort out a way of characterising and recommending each.

Every regiment which served in the First World War has archives and museums devoted to their achievements. It is worth contacting those associated with any battles you are considering researching to discover the extent of their resources.

In addition there are a lot of cemeteries of those killed on both sides of the conflict. Travelling through the countryside they are an extremely poignant reminder of the bravery of soldiers and their officers, as well as the cupidity and stupidity of some of the politicians directing them, the cruelty of war and the debt we owe to generations past.

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Web sites

There are a large number of sites which have general or specific information relating the the First World War. I suggest the BBC site is a good starting point. These sites have been useful but there are so many I’m reluctant to cite more than a handful:

There is an excellent Australian site with considerable resources relating to their contribution to the First World War:

This site has information and leads to articles on Bullecourt. In particular:

The Public Records Office, Imperial War Museum and the like have a presence online, but are really better visited if you can. In particular I recommend a visit to Bullecourt itself.

A number of sites that used to deal with Bullecourt seem to have disappeared. One of them was specifically devoted to the battles of Bullecourt, and which I would strongly recommend – if only I could find it again. Perhaps it deals more with the Australian perspective, but gives valuable background to the battles there. This site is interesting with regard to the latter element of the war in Italy.

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Books

A number of books have been written relating to the battles of Bullecourt. The most specific are:

Bullecourt books

References in alphabetic order

   
Goold Walker Goold Walker, G. Ed. The Honourable Artillery Company in the Great War 1914–1919 Ed. [Naval and Military Press], 2004.
Keech Keech, Graham. Bullecourt: Arras (Battleground Europe S.). [Pen & Sword Books / Leo Cooper], April 1999.
Kendall Kendall, Paul. Bullecourt 1917: Breaching the Hindenburg Line. [Spellmount]. 2010.
Tucker Tucker, Spencer C. The European Powers in the First World War: An Encyclopaedia (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities). [Routledge]. 30 Mar 1996.
Walker Walker, J. The Blood Tub: General Gough and the Battle of Bullecourt, 1917. [Howell Press], March 23, 1998

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Army structure

A brief description of the structure of the British Army may help in dealing with descriptions of the army in battle. A better description can be found here, from which this is taken.

By the end of the First World War it comprised five armies, each army comprising three or four Corps, the Corps having between two and six Divisions.

It is important to realise that the Army in the field differs from the Regimental structure with which we are mostly familiar.

The Divisions of the Army in the field were of two types:

  • Infantry and
  • Cavalry.

Infantry Divisions comprised about 18,000 officers and men and usually contained:

  • 3 Infantry Brigades, and
  • 4 Royal Field Artillery Brigades.

Cavalry Divisions comprised about 9,000 officers and men and usually contained:

  • 4 Cavalry Brigades, and
  • 2 Royal Horse Artillery Brigades.

The Divisions included not just the Infantry or Cavalry, but also the ancillary elements which enable it to function. In the case of the Infantry they comprised:

  • Infantry,
    • 3 Infantry brigades, each of 4 Battalions,
  • Royal Artillery,
    • 3 Field Artillery brigades, each of 3 Field Artillery batteries with its Brigade Ammunition Column,
    • Field Howitzer brigade, with 3 Field Howitzer batteries and a Brigade Ammunition Column,
    • Heavy Artillery battery,
    • Heavy Artillery Ammunition column, and the
    • Divisional Ammunition column,
  • Mounted troops,
    • Cavalry squadron and a
    • Cyclist company,
  • Royal Engineers,
    • Field Companies, and a
    • Signal Company,
  • Royal Army Medical Corps,
    • Field Ambulances,
  • Royal Army Veterinarian Corps, and
  • Army Service Corps.

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Regimental structure

The British Army was supplied with its troops from the traditional regiments together with supplemental organisations raised specifically for the purpose of increasing the number of troops available. These latter were contained within the existing structures:

  • Infantry regiments,
  • Artillery regiments, and
  • non-combatant troops.

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Infantry

In peacetime the Infantry regiments normally comprise two battalions, though some have more than that. Each battalion would be commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel with his second-in-command a Major, contain about 1,000 officers and men, and consist of 4 companies each of 4 platoons. The battalions were numbered 1st and 2nd with the Reserve battalion being numbered 3rd and the associated Terretorial battalion, 4th.

With the increase in numbers required for the war new battalions were formed with their battalion numbers being prefixed to the number of their line Terretorial battalion; hence 1/4th, 2/4th etc.

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Artillery

The Royal Regiment of Artillery was divided into three groups which, by the end of the war, comprised around half a million men and officers:

  • Royal Horse Artillery,
  • Royal Field Artillery, and the
  • Royal Garrison Artillery.

Each of these groups consisted of a number of brigades, each brigade containing three or four batteries.

Each battery comprised two or three sections, each with two guns, the batteries being designated with a letter preceding the number of the brigade; hence B/40th being ‘B’ Battery of 40 Brigade.

The Royal Horse Artillery was attached to cavalary divisions and operated 13 pounder guns.

The Royal Field Artillery was attached to infantry divisions and operated 18 pounder guns and 4.5¨ howitzers.

The Royal Garrison Artillery operated in divisional heavy batteries or under Army control, operating 60 pounder guns and 6¨ howitzers at the outbreak of war as part of siege batteries.

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Non-combatant

The fighting troops were supported by a range of specialists who provided engineers, medical and veterinary specialists, as well as transport, each of these being provided to the Divisions and command structure.

 


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