imageA HISTORY OF THE 38TH (WELSH) DIVISION by the G.S.O.'s.I of the Division

In September 1914 a proposal was put forward by Lloyd George to form a Welsh Army Corps consisting of two divisions. The base on which to build this corps was no more than the three Welsh regiments – Royal Welsh Fusiliers, South Wales Borderers and the Welsh Regiment, and although permission was at first given to go ahead with the proposal it was eventually dropped in April 1915 and just the one division took the field, the 38th (there was already a Welsh Territorial Division, the 53rd). All the discussions concerning the formation of the corps are contained in the publication Welsh Army Corps 1914-1919 described elsewhere in this book list.

The division was raised as the 43rd in December 1914 but following the break up of the Fourth New Army in April 1915 to supply reinforcements to the first three New Armies, the division was renumbered 38 and went to France in December 1915 and served on the Western Front for the rest of the war. Its divisional sign was the Red Dragon of Wales and its first GOC was Ivor Philipps, something of a political appointment, who was given the heave-ho in July 1916 during the division’s fight for Mametz Wood. In all it suffered 29,380 killed, wounded and missing – the dead numbered 4419. Honours and Awards amounted to 2,664 including five VCs. Its first major battle was for Mametz Wood in July 1916 in which the casualty figures reached 4,000 but there was some criticism of the division’s performance, reflected in the commander’s removal in the middle of the battle. But whatever the merits of that criticism the division went on to prove its fighting abilities, acknowledged by Haig in the introduction to this History in which he highlights two outstanding examples of soldierly achievement: Pilckem Ridge on 31 July 1917 when the Welsh “met and broke to pieces a German Guard Division,” and the operation against Pozieres in August 1918 which he describes as “a most brilliant operation.” Although this is the shortest divisional history after that of the 30th it does provide a picture of the division’s part in the fighting during the three years it was on the Western Front. It is particularly good in the Order of Battle particulars including the roll of commanders (down to battalion COs) and staff (down to BM and G3) with dates and changes.

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