The 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division in 1914-1918

The history of 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division

Divisional symbolOn 31 August 1914 the War Office issued instructions for all units of the Territorial Force to form a reserve unit. The men who had agreed to serve overseas were separated from the rest. Those left as 'home service only' were formed into 'second line' units, which would be this reserve. They were joined by many new recruits from September 1914 onward.

The 'first line' 42nd (East Lancashire) Division went to Egypt in September 1914.

The units of the 'second line', the 2nd East Lancashire Division, remained at home for quite some time. Along with other 'second line' Divisions suffered it greatly from lack of equipment of all sorts, and training was inevitably affected. The Division also continually supplied drafts of men to the 'first line'.

In 1916 the Division moved to the south of England and took responsibility for the defence of part of the east Coast. Most units were based in Suffolk.

1917

The Division received orders on 11 February 1917 for embaraktion for France. Entrainment began on 25 February and by 16 March all units had arrived and the Division concentrated under XI Corps. The Division then remained in France and Flanders and took part in the following engagements:

The Operations on the Flanders Coast (Operation Hush) ( 26 June - 25 September 1917)

The Battle of Poelcapelle 1917, a phase of the Third Battles of the Ypres (6-10 October 1917)

1918
The Battle of St Quentin~ (21-23 March 1918)
The Actions at the Somme Crossings~ (24-25 March 1918)
The Battle of Rosieres~ (26-27 March 1918)
~ the battles marked ~ are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918
The Divisional Artillery and 541 Company ASC of the Divisional Train remained in action when the rest of the Division was withdrawn from action, and did not rejoin until 8 November.

As a result of the losses it had suffered in this fighting, the Division was reduced to a training cadre and reformed and reconstituted. 197th Brigade left the Division and was retained in training drafts and reinforcements. It splace was taken by the South African Brigade. Many cadre units were attached to the Division for short periods between June and September 1918.

The Battle of Cambrai^ (8-9 October)
The Pursuit to the Selle^ (9-12 October)
^ the battles marked ^ are phases of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line

The Battle of the Selle, a phase of the Final Advance in Picardy (17-20 October)

On 20-21 October the Division was withdrawn and rested in the Serain area until 1 November. It advanced through Le Cateau from 2 November and had some sharp engagements over the next few days. On 9 November a number of units of the Division were placed under command of Bethell's Force (see below). At the Armistice the advanced units of this Force were on the line Pont de Republique - Grandrieu - east of Sivry - Montbliart.

The Division was selected to march through Belgium as part of the British force for occupying the Rhine bridgeheads. The move began on 18 November and took the Division through Philippeville, Dinant and Ciney. The units billeted in the area Dinant - Huy - Marche - Rochefort and there halted. Demobilisation began here and at midnight 24-25 March 1919 the 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division, the "Clickety Clicks", ceased to exist.

The order of battle of the 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division

197th (Lancashire Fusiliers) Brigade left the Division by 18 September 1918
2/5th Bn, the Lancashire Fusiliers left 18 April 1915
2/6th Bn, the Lancashire Fusiliers renamed 6th Bn 20 February 1918, left for 199th Bde 22 July 1918
2/7th Bn, the Lancashire Fusiliers left June 1918
2/8th Bn, the Lancashire Fusiliers reduced to cadre 22 April 1918, disbanded 31 July 1918
3/5th Bn, the Lancashire Fusiliers joined April 1915, disbanded 13 February 1918
202nd Machine Gun Company moved to 66th Bn MGC 11 March 1918
197th Trench Mortar Battery  
6th Bn, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers joined 21 July 1918, left for 198th Bde 19 August 1918
9th Bn, the Gloucestershire Regiment joined 21 July 1918, left to become Divisional Pioneer Bn 22 September 1918
18th Bn, the King's (Liverpool Regiment) joined 66th Div as cadre on 19 June 1918, moved to 197th Bde 8 August 1918, left for 199th Bde 19 September 1918
   
198th (East Lancashire) Brigade  
2/4th Bn, the East Lancashire Regiment renamed 4th Bn 19 February 1918, reduced to cadre April 1918, left August 1918
2/5th Bn, the East Lancashire Regiment reduced to cadre April 1918, left July 1918
2/9th Bn, the Manchester Regiment reduced to cadre April 1918, left for 199th Bde 22 July 1918
2/10th Bn, the Manchester Regiment disbanded 15 February 1918
203rd Machine Gun Company moved to 66th Bn MGC 11 March 1918
198th Trench Mortar Battery  
5th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined at Abancourt 19 July 1918
6th Bn, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers joined from 197th Bde 19 August 1918
6th Bn, the Lancashire Fusiliers joined from 199th Bde 22 September 1918
   
199th (Manchester) Brigade  
2/5th Bn, the Manchester Regiment reduced to cadre April 1918, disbanded 31 July 1918
2/6th Bn, the Manchester Regiment reduced to cadre April 1918, disbanded 31 July 1918
2/7th Bn, the Manchester Regiment reduced to cadre April 1918, disbanded 31 July 1918
2/8th Bn, the Manchester Regiment disbanded 13 February 1918
204th Machine Gun Company moved to 66th Bn MGC 11 March 1918
199th Trench Mortar Battery  
6th Bn, the Lancashire Fusiliers joined from 197th Bde 22 July 1918, left for 198th Bde 22 September 1918
2/9th Bn, the Manchester Regiment joined as cadre from 198th Bde 22 July 1918
5th Bn, the Connaught Rangers joined 25 August 1918
18th Bn, the King's (Liverpool Regiment) joined from 197th Bde 19 September 1918
   
South African Brigade joined from 9th (Scottish) Division 13 September 1918.
1st Regt, the South African Infantry  
2nd Regt, the South African Infantry  
4th Regt, the South African Infantry  
South African Trench Mortar Battery  
   
Divisional Troops  
10th Bn, the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry attached as Divisional Pioneer Bn from 2nd Division 6 July to 7 November 1917
1/5th Bn, the Border Regiment joined as Divisional Pioneer Bn 13 February 1918, left 7 May 1918
9th Bn, the Gloucestershire Regiment joined as Divisional Pioneer Bn from 197th Bde 22 September 1918
66th Battalion MGC formed 11 March 1918, broken up 15 April 1918
100th Battalion MGC joined 19 October 1918
   
Divisional Mounted Troops  
B Sqn, 2/1st Bedfordshire Yeomanry did not go to France
66th Divisional Cyclist Company did not go to France
   
Divisional Artillery Note: the artillery of 59th Division was also attached between 8 and 26 August 1918
CCCXXX (2/I East Lancs) Brigade, RFA  
CCCXXXI (2/II East Lancs) Brigade, RFA  
CCCXXXII (2/III East Lancs) Brigade, RFA broken up April 1917
2/IV East Lancs (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA broken up May 1916
1/2nd Lancashire Heavy Battery, RGA left 5 January 1916
2/1st Lancashire Heavy Battery, RGA left July 1916
2/2nd Lancashire Heavy Battery, RGA left when the Division moved to France
2/1st Wessex Heavy Battery RGA attached 24 January to February 1916
66th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA  
V.66 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, RFA joined February 1917; left 3 February 1918
X.66, Y.66 and Z.66 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFA joined February 1917; on 3 February 1918, Y broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each, Z then renamed Y
   
Royal Engineers  
430th (2/1st East Lancs) Field Company moved independently to France and joined 48th Division June 1915
431st (2/2nd East Lancs) Field Company  
432nd (2/3rd East Lancs) Field Company  
66th Divisional Signals Company  
   
Royal Army Medical Corps  
2/1st East Lancashire Field Ambulance left for 27th (American) Division 22 June 1918
2/2nd East Lancashire Field Ambulance  
2/3rd East Lancashire Field Ambulance  
South African Field Ambulance joined 23 September 1918
3/1st London Sanitary Section left before Division went to France
66th Sanitary Section joined near St Venant 5 March 1917, left for XI Corps 8-9 April 1917
   
Other Divisional Troops  
66th Divisional Train ASC 541, 542, 543 and 544 Companies ASC
1/1st East Lancashire Mobile Veterinary Section AVC  
254th Divisional Employment Company formed by 14 July 1917
   
Attached Troops  
A number of units were atteched to the Division in the period June to September 1918, while it was being rebuilt and reconstituted. Most stayed for short periods and most had already been reduced to cadres. Those marked * were disbanded or absorbed into other units while under the command of the Division. The rest were eventually transferred to other Divisions or the Lines of Communication:
18th, 23rd and 25th Bns, the Northumberland Fusiliers; 14th*, 17th and 19th* Bns, the King's (Liverpool Regiment); 2/5th* and 10th Bns, the Lincolnshire Regiment; 7th Bn, the Suffolk Regiment; 7th Bn*, the Bedfordshire Regiment; 6th Bn, the Yorkshire Regiment; 12th Bn*, the Lancashire Fusiliers; 13th Bn, the Gloucestershire Regiment; 11th Bn*, the Border Regiment; 2/6th Bn*, the South Staffordshire Regiment; 11th Bn, the South Lancashire Regiment; 10th Bn, the Black Watch; 7th and 16th Bns, the Sherwood Foresters; 17th Bn, the King's Royal Rifle Corps; 13th* and 17th* Bns, the Manchester Regiment; 2/6th Bn*, the North Staffordshire Regiment; 14th Bn, the Highland Light Infantry; 5th Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers; 16th Bn, the Rifle Brigade; 6th Bn*, the Leinster Regiment; 2/20th and 2/24th Bns, the London Regiment.
   
Bethell's Force  
Formed on 9 November 1918, Bethell's Force included a number of units from this Division: the South African Brigade and Field Ambulance, three Field and Signals Companies RE, one Company of the 9th Bn, the Gloucestershire Regiment, one Company of the 100th Battalion MGC and detachments from 2/2nd and 2/3rd East Lancashire Field Ambulance. The Force was dissolved after the Armistice and the units returned to the Division.

There are memorials to the Division at Passchendaele (stained glass window in church) and Le Cateau (horse trough).