The Build-up to Langemarck, 8-15 August 1917

Prior to launching the final attack on Langemarck, 20th Light Division infantry manned the front lines directly in front of Au Bon Gîte, 300 yards on the eastern bank of the Steenbeck. To their left was the 29th Division and to their right was the 11th Division, both of whom had established some outposts on the eastern side of the stream. The 20th Division aimed to establish their own outposts.

11th Rifle Brigade were first up, sending over three patrols on 8 August – the road was blown up in front of one, a bridge blown up in front of another and only the third succeeded briefly for a day. Two companies of 10th King’s Royal Rifle Corps tried the same on 11 August, though with more men – only to be surprised by an oncoming enemy patrol.

On 14 August, two companies of 11th Rifle Brigade and all four companies of 10th Rifle Brigade tried again, led by Lt Colonel Troughton and supported by an artillery barrage. The costs were horrific on both battalions in losses of men and officers. They almost captured Au Bon Gîte and did suppress several other blockhouses. They now held the eastern bank of the Steenbeck to a depth of about 200 yards, fighting through the night into the early hours of 15 August. [Roughly along the 10-metre contour line beyond the Steenbeck towards Langemarck, marked in brown on the map below].

The larger attack was scheduled for 16 August – only a mile to go! How would the Division cope, now severely reduced? How would they keep supplies coming across the Steenbeck [seen below, after the battle with some of the crossing points in place].

This task would fall to the Royal Engineers field companies attached to the Division. Meanwhile, throughout all this, 11th DLI continued their work on roads, artillery dumps and railways: work of value to all the attacking forces in keeping supplies moving forward.




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