[ J. F. C. Fuller and the Tank Corps. ] Covering Duplicated Circular by Lieut.-Colonel J. F. C. Fuller, accompanying seven-page anonymous Duplicated Typed 'Battle Note No. 3. | Action of a A R.F.A. battery during the Second Battle of the Somme'.

Author: 
J. F. C. Fuller [ Major General John Frederick Charles Fuller (1878-1966) ], military historian and strategist [ Royal Field Artillery; First World War; Second Battle of the Somme, 1918 ]
Publication details: 
Fuller's circular and the 'Battle Note' both from Headquarters, Tank Corps ('HJB'), and both dated 23 July 1918.
£180.00
SKU: 18668

From the papers of Lieutenant Colonel William Otter Gibbs (1883-1960), Sixth Tank Battalion. Both items in fair condition, on aged and worn paper, with minor rusting from pin used to attach them. ITEM ONE: Duplicated Typed Circular by 'J. F. C. Fuller [ facsimile signature ] | Lieut.-Colonel, | General Staff.' 23 July 1918, headed 'G. T. 29/3/3', from 'Headquarters, | TANK CORPS. | 23, 7, 1918., | HJB.' 1p., folio. Small hole at top left, not affecting text. At foot of page: 'Copy to: - Headquarters, | Tank Corps., | LONDON, | (20 copies).' Stamp of 6 Battalion Tank Corps, with name of recipient 'Major Gibbs' in pencil on the first page. At the head of the page is a list of a total of 290 copies going to each of nine groups, from '1st Tank Brigade. (50 copies)' to 'Mechanical School. (10 copies)'. Reads: 'The accompanying account of the action during the second Battle of the SOMME, of a Battery R.F.A. Written by its Commanding Officer, is circulated for information. | Quite apart from its intrinsic interest as a narrative, the story told is remarkable, reflecting as it does a very high moral based both on tradition and confidence, and setting forth a method of training which faced initial difficulties and shortcomings and then proceeded methodically to eliminate them. | The narrative is to be distributed to Section Commanders and made known to all ranks.' ITEM TWO: Duplicated anonymous typed document headed 'G.T.21/3/3 | BATTLE NOTE No. 3. | ACTION OF A R.F.A. [Royal Field Artillery] BATTERY DURING THE SECOND BATTLE OF THE SOMME.' At end: 'Headquarters, | TANK CORPS. | 23rd July 1918. | HJB.' 7pp., folio. Accompanied by slip of paper on which is typed: 'To be read out to all ranks on parade.' Providing a guide to the events of the narrative, the account ends with a half page enumeration of 'ammunition fired' by the battery, 21 to 28 March 1918, from sixteen positions between '1 mile NE of Mory on main road' to '1 mile N. E. of Quesnoy Farm'. Regarding the list the author comments: 'The numbers are approximate but are under estimated. I do not possess a map of the part in question but the following are the map references of positions taken up.' The author provides an accurate and detailed – though somewhat sanitized – narrative, with the clear aim of boosting morale, his battery at one point being described as 'Alive, virile with the joy of life and efficiency and power moving splendidly into action with such precision and coolness', and no mention whatsoever being made of casualties. The account begins: 'I have been asked to set down in writing my impressions and experiences in commanding a Battery in the Field in that particular period from the end of the Paschendaele operations to the end of the first enemy offensive in March 1918.' After noting that he is making 'this record in response to a request from a military leader of high standing', the author continues: 'The Battery is a regular one. It has been out since the commencement of the War. Its tradition, its services have been of the highest. Excepting Cambrai it has been in every general engagement. | Paschendaele saw the end of the old Battery. It was filled up with new material, officers and men, and commenced anew. | January was spent resting, in other words getting clean. We spent our time getting horses into condition and keeping the men clean and well. February was spent in the line, our chief occupation being the construction of the new forward and reserve battery positions.' The account that follows reveals the gulf between the experiences of the officer class and those of their men: 'I drew up a programme of work one night, gave the next day to thinking over it, and on the eve of March 1st ordered each Section Commander to take his Section into action at 4.0 a.m. The next morning. The orders were written; the Section positions had their exact map reference and everything was very clear and definite. | I knew I was in for a painful surprise, but I was not prepared for what did happen. From my standpoint it resulted in my servant, my groom and a horseholder being sent back to duty immediately for being late. I might say it was quite dark and the confusion was hopeless. Two or three shells would have made the battery an undisciplined mob. There was no order, no method, nothing but a chaotic mass of inexperienced officers, N.C.O.'s, drivers, horses. I expected a surprise but nothing like the one I got. ' The following is a good example of the style: 'Every N.C.O., every driver, every gunner knew roads, paths, tracks, gaps in the wire, water supplies off by heart, and knew their way in the dark. Sub-section competed with sub-section; concerning the two officers who lost their way the first day, there is a little story to tell. | They were missing one night at dinner and non asking where they were, I was told that having had two unknown positions given to them, they were first going to walk over the ground in the dark. For this they had sacrificed their dinner and a cheery evening in the hut. This was what I wanted to see. | So it went on. I put down solemnly on paper the number of ways the Bosche could attack, and combinations of these ways and counter measures for each way were formulated. | I got infantry machine gunners to put my fellows through their paces with two Lewis guns I had. A very gallant and distinguished Colonel gave us a lecture on the value of holding strong points and of the moral effect of a high resistance. [...] Everybody took life seriously without being prigs and pedants. In the third week we had a holiday every afternoon. Guns and equipment were good to look at, harness was like silver, the leather was soft, the horses were muscled up and looked bright on the coat and in the eye, the men whistled and sang cheerily in their off-moments, and I think we played every game we could in the afternoon from tent pegging to very strenuous section football matches.' A gung-ho account of engagement follows, as, for example: 'When we retired to the Mory line, the trench was packed with men. There were none out in front on the forward slope. The Bosche under cover of darkness came up in a column (his cricket match crowd over again) collected for the rush just under cover in the forward slope and drove in his columnn through two hundred yards of our trench in width and simply passed on. When this happened along the line went the cry that the right or left had been turned and back went the Infantry thinking they had been cut off. Here and there splendid resistance were [sic] put up by isolated detachments of our infantry who stuck it and refused to go back. What we owe to these isolated detachments no one knows. But that is exactly what happened. We were not fought out of these defensive lines. The Bosche drove in this column and trusted to the moral effect. It succeeded.' ITEM THREE: Duplicated Typed Circular 'SPECIAL ORDER No. 15 | by | Major-Genl. H. J. ELLES, CB, DSO, Comdg. Tank Corps in the Field. | 13th August, 1918.' With facsimile signature of 'H. J. Elles. | Major-General, | Commanding Tank Corps in the Field.' 1p., landscape 12mo. Reads: 'At the close of the first phase of the present battle, I wish to thank all ranks upon the success which has rewarded the energy, forethought, and devotion to duty which they have displayed. | The fighting reputation of the Tank Corps has been fully maintained. | Many thousand lives have been saved by the gallant way in which Tanks have been fought. | Further calls will be made upon us. | We must meet them.' No other copies traced, either on OCLC WorldCat, COPAC, or at the Imperial War Museum.