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The Royal Naval Division in WW1


War Hero
Book Reviewer

The original RND deployed by Churchill for the defence of Antwerp largely went into the bag; resurrected it was minced at Gallipoli; by the time it was employed in Flanders and on the Ancre in 1917 after some battalions reached near-extinction on the Somme it was being recruited from Durham miners, but the RND retained its 'naval' attitude, even under the army General Shute that AP Herbert (a PO in one of the battalions) wrote a rude poem about ' .. will no-one shoot that sh1t Shute?', and even with army officers drafted in to replace heavy casualties of the mostly RNVR-commissioned officers. can usually be accessed at home via a 14 day free trial, or for free in many public libraries as Lots of other goodies there including, via the UK census collection, census of the RN (worldwide) which appears as a 'county' all its own.


War Hero
Book Reviewer
The Syndicate Rooms in the Royal Navy Division at JCSC are named after the original battalions


Lantern Swinger
Thanks for the story/link. Interesting, just a shame you have to pay for full access :-(

There's a 10,000 word supplement on the RND during the 1918 March offensive in the March edition of Navy News.


Lantern Swinger
A good thread.

The history of the RND is largely unknown - I know very little about it myself apart from what I gleaned from RNR history. I never knew they were the "crack troops" as mentioned.

As far as I know their only memorial is a plaque in Greenwich.

What on earth did these guys go through?

Why have they been confined to the footnotes of history as an appendix to Churchill's - not too efficient - term in charge?

Come to think about it, the Great Man never really got the maritime scene sorted out so how did he get the job in the first place?



A reasonably good book charting the RND's formation to disbanding is called The Hood Battalion, Royal Naval Division: Antwerp, Gallipoli, France 1914-1918 by a character called Leonard Sellers. ISBN 0850533869


War Hero
RN Division war diaries are held in ADM 137/3063-3088d in the National Archive. If you know the name etc of an individual, they have the records of 50,000 oficers and men who were in the RND during WW I on line - might be worth a look, but haven't tried it personally....


Lantern Swinger
Forgot to mention. You can read my articles on the RND at Arras here

And at Passchendaele here

The Somme/Ancre microsite still exists here:

If I can find sufficient source material, I'll tackle the 100 days to victory as well, but I'm really struggling with first-hand accounts from the men (I have lots of accounts from the British Army and German troops though...)


Lantern Swinger
Well yet again I have to say I have learned something new from RR today.

There cerainly used to be a plaque a Greenwich outside the Chappel I think.

Thanks for the links and the info. Will do some digging.



War Hero
letthecatoutofthebag said:
The RND Memorial is in Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall - see this link.

Strangely that memorial caught my eye as I was walking past Horse Guards this morning, although I didn't have time to look at it.


War Hero
Book Reviewer
The RND memorial at Horse Guards used to be in a rather obscure corner of the grounds of RNC Greenwich - funds were raised to move it to Horse Guards when the College was turned over to civilian use.

Sorry if I misled people about public library access to Ancestry - should have tried it out first - used 'Ancestrylibrary' this morning in the public library but the RND data hasn't been included yet. Maybe it has to wait for a new release or something.

My grandfather (always one of the Army's spare hands, served with West Africans (invalided 1914 from Sierra Leone after being left for dead in a ditch), Indians (invalided from Mesopotamia 1916 after the surgeon had had to cauterise a Turkish bullet wound with a red-hot bayonet), West Indians), was sent out to Nelson Bn on the Ancre early 1917 as 2i/c, lasted 6 weeks before being invalided after he was blown into a shellhole, got his feet caught in barbed wire at the bottom of it, stuck in water up to his waist which froze solid in the night. Millions of others had the same sort of war and like him only Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, and malaria and a limp, to show for it afterwards.

The RND Association has a quarterly (?) journal. Another significant RND was Prime Minister Asquith's son.


War Hero
Book Reviewer
how appropriate is your name..... and whatever happened to the DS who was supposed to be looking after you...

But I hope you scored full marks for initiative!!


Lantern Swinger
STREetwise said:

The link above is to my great uncle on the Comonwealth War Graves Commission site. Note date killed is 28th April 1917, which indicates that he was a casualty at Gavrelle windmill.

I'm a member of HMS Cambria, an RNR unit in south wales, and we send a party across to Gavrelle every couple of years to re-dedicate a memorial to the RND members that died at gavrelle. The memorial was set up by a guy from the swansea area I believe, and as well as the memorial dedication, and various visits, we also march down to the naval trench cemetry in a filed on the outskirts of gavrelle where a lot of the RND guys are buried. Last visit was last year, very sombre occassion it was too, and they're still finding ordnance in the fields around the village.
Also, in the village church there is a large wooden cross inscribed with all the names and divisions of the RND men that died at the battle.



Just a quickie from memory. The original RND Memorial was in Horse Guards Parade and errected in the 20's. When the bunker in Horse Guards was built before WW2 (the large ivy covered structure) the RND Memorial was moved to Greenwich as it was on the site. The Luftwaffe damaged the memorial and it remained there until 2003 when it was moved back to Horse Guards for 100th Anniversary of the RNVR. A large parade was held and many of the RNR not mobilised were there.


Lantern Swinger
A little taster from the supplement. As with all our supplements it features "both sides of the coin".

By mid-morning, the German gunners had perfected their hellish art.
The men stood in their shirt sleeves, sweat running down their faces, their arms and dripping on to the mud.
“Shell after shell is rammed into the breach, salvo after salvo is fired, and you don’t need to give orders any more, they’re in such good spirits, and put up such a rate of rapid fire, that not a single word of command is needed,†Herbert Sulzbach observed.
For five hours, the guns roared. The crescendo reached its peak shortly after 9am. “What we did not believe was possible now occurs,†wrote Robert Mimra. “The hurricane becomes even more ferocious.†For 30 minutes, a hail of high explosives the like of which the world had never seen fell upon the British lines.
In Leutnant Hermann Wedekind’s trench, something strange, uplifting occured. The battalion commander began to sing. Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles... His men joined in. The strains of Deutschlandlied echoed along the trench.
“It was the first time I had heard of our men singing the national anthem since the autumn of 1914,†Wedekind remembered. “The spirit now wasn’t the same, but I think the battalion commander sang to take our soldiers’ minds off the coming battle.â€
There was no singing among the Hanoverians of Leutnant Ernst Jünger’s regiment. The men moved about their assault trenches waiting for the signal to storm forward. An NCO stood in front of Jünger’s foxhole, urging him to take better cover as the British counter-barrage began.
“An explosion cut him off,†Jünger recalled. “He sprawled to the ground, missing a leg. he was past help.†The officer dove for another dugout. As clumps of earth and dust were tossed around the German trenches, Jünger watched powerless as his company was decimated.
And then the English barrage subsided. The officers drew their pistols, nodded at each other or engaged in small talk. Sporadically mortar fire falling short kicked up mud. Jünger’s comrade handed him a water bottle. He took a long swig, then tried to light a cigar. Three times the air pressure blew out his matches.
“I sensed the weight of the hour,†he recalled. “The mood was curious, brimming with tension and a kind of exaltation. The noise of battle had become so terrific that no-one was at all clear-headed.â€
It was now 9.40am. The barrage began to creep forward. In the German trenches, whistles sounded and trumpeters blew the historic call: leap up.
It was an exhilarating moment. “One division after the other breaks through in a gigantic leap,†enthralled junior officer Wilhelm Held wrote to his brother. “Across No Man’s Land, into the first enemy trench!â€

Richard Tobin sheepishly left his dugout. He had no orders and wandered into Havrincourt Wood in search of the rest of the Steadies. The Hoods were not there. They had been sent up to the front. Tobin walked down a plank road built through the copse by British troops. He found no Hoods. He did find confused soldiers coming back in dribs and drabs. None knew where the Hood Battalion was.

Machine-gunner Sgt Frank Cooper was also struggling to find his comrades.
Today was his 22nd birthday but the former factory worker from Walsall did not feel like celebrating. The war had already cost the lives of his two best pals.
The Royal Marine found not stragglers but an avalanche of British soldiers pouring back from the front line. Cooper’s commander tried to buttonhole a few of the retreating Tommies. The Germans have broken through, they told him. We’re falling back.
The commander of 190 Machine-gun Company could not fight the tide. He ordered his marines to withdraw and dig in with their four guns when a target presented itself.
As the Royals withdrew, the officer spied the outlines of German Stosstruppen moving through the mist to the right. The machine-guns “let flyâ€. Brrt. Brrt. Brrt. They fired no more than a handful of belts before the figures vanished. Once again, the Royal Marines picked up their guns and headed westwards.
Afternoon gents, first post on this site and I normally post on Arrse.

Here is a link you might find of interest.

RNID Dorset

I was based at Blandford in the early 90's and all the accommodation blocks (now all knocked down) were named after the RNID.
Benbow, Nelson, Anson and some other that I can not quite recall.

If you should go there today you will find Nelson Road, Hawke Square etc and there is a memorial to the RNID at the back entrance to camp which is on the A354 just after the village of Pimperne.
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