Ghosts of Old Companions

Lloyd George's Welsh Army, the Kaiser's Reichsheer and the Battle for Mametz Wood, 1914-1916

Jonathon Riley

There are numerous personal memoirs of the fighting in Mametz Wood, Regimental Histories and battlefield guides. There are also a number of fictional accounts. There is however no complete scholarly but readable account of the Welsh Division's preparations for war, its early apprenticeship in the line, and its part in the fight for Mametz as seen f
Date Published :
July 2019
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
124 b/w photos, 27 b/w ills, 39 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781911628866
Pages : 350
Dimensions : 9.75 X 6.75 inches
Stock Status : In stock


The 38th (Welsh) Division was formed from the many thousands of Welsh volunteers in late 1914 and 1915 as part of Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener’s New Armies – a force for the long war that he was the first to recognize. It was to be ready for battle in 1917. The Division subsequently carried out its training in Britain and embarked for France where it served numerous tours of frontline duty until summer 1916.

Mametz Wood village and the area around Fricourt village saw one of the few successes by the British Army on the notorious First Day of the Somme. BEF C-in-C Sir Douglas Haig decided to reinforce that success and attack again around Fricourt in order to seize the German second defense line at its closest point between Longueval and Bazentin. General Sir Henry Rawlinson, whose Fourth Army was to undertake the task, had little option but to assault the German positions frontally. He decided to do so between the Mametz Wood on the left and Trones Wood on the right. Initial attacks by other divisions on the night of 4/5 July resulted in the capture of preliminary objectives. The task of clearing the dense and seemingly impenetrable Mametz Wood was assigned to the newly arrived 38th Division.

What followed was a searing seven-day ordeal in dense undergrowth which, despite subsequent success, resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and the tarnishing of military reputations. Much reduced by casualties, 38th Division was relegated to the reserve with losses of between one-third and a half of its recorded fighting strength. As well as examining the story of 38th Division from its formation until the close of the Mametz Wood fighting, this volume also explores the German point of view by utilization of published regimental histories and personal accounts from the Lehr Regiment; Guard- Fusiliers; 9th Grenadiers; 122nd Württemberg Regiment; and the 77th, 163rd, 183rd, and 184th infantry regiments. It also reveals new material concerning the forces involved, the almost forgotten 1915 Christmas Truce, Mametz Wood defenses and the casualties killed, wounded and missing sustained by both sides.

About The Author

Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley is a General Officer with multinational operational command experience at all levels from platoon to corps in theatres from Northern Ireland to the Balkans, the Gulf, Iraq, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

General Riley has been awarded the DSO and NATO Meritorious Service Medal and is an Officer of the Legion of Merit of the United States of America. He holds the degrees of MA and PhD in modern history and has written numerous books. He is currently Visiting Professor in War Studies at King’s College London, a member of the British Commission for Military History, and Chairman of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum Trust.


"...another superbly produced volume by Helion & Company, with excellent maps, illustrations and many new photographs at an affordable price."

- Stand To!

"[This book] is very highly recommended and a must for any library covering either the Somme battles of 1916; New Army divisions or the Wales during the First World War."

- The Military Historical Society Bulletin

"I found it fluidly written and making for a good read. As such, it provides an excellent account and would be valuable to anyone interested in this subject."

- Long Long Trail

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