Canadian Officers Notes on “British Army Manoeuvres” Sept. 16th – 19th, 1912. Part I.

The term “Army Manoeuvres of 1912,” applying to the British Army, without awareness can be confusing, considering the title. Not forgetting the French, German, Swiss, American etc., Army Manoeuvres of 1912 were afoot. Considered as the last exercises of its kind conducted by several countries, armed forces, prior to the outbreak of the First World War. The Army Manoeuvres of 1913 were on a much smaller scale for all forces mentioned. Its true, in the British press etc., was dubbed as “Army Manoeuvres.” However the country’s name was added in the Canadian Militia Council, official submitted reports, on the “British Army Manoeuvres of 1912,” and the French Army Manoeuvres of 1912. The French Army were styled, “Les Grandes Manoeuvres” du Sud-Ouest en 1912, le pas cadencé, marche: 110 000 hommes (men), 500 canons and 50 Aeroplanes. The Kaiser’s Army: The Politics of Military Technology in Germany During the …By Eric Dorn Brose, page 157-159, on German Army Manoeuvres of 1812.


Grandes Manoeuvres De L'Quest A Marcilly Sept. 1912.

Grandes Manoeuvres De L’Quest A Marcilly Sept. 1912.


Camp Lee Army Maneuvers.

The U.S. Army’s War Games in Stratford in 1912: Lewis Knapp wrote in 1989, “In August 1912 Stratford was invaded. War was far from the people’s minds when the special trains pulled into the railroad sidings and disgorged whole trainloads of mule-drawn supply wagons, troops, and vehicles. Army……Twenty thousand troops were involved, in a scenario that assumed that an enemy force had captured Boston and was heading for New York. The Blue army set up tents in Stratford, Shelton (then named Huntington), and Monroe to defend the river crossings. The Red army disgorged fifty carloads of troops and supplies in Derby and spread out from New Haven to Danbury to attack the defenders.


In The Spectator, September 21, 1912, p.2.

The Army manoeuvres in East Anglia came to an end; on Wednesday, a day within the limit allowed for them, because the two forces had come into such close contact that only real fighting could have decided the final issue. General Haig commanded the invading army, whose objective was London. His plan was to draw an attack from General Grierson, who commanded the defenders, and to drive him towards Ely. According to the accounts of the conference or “pow-wow” held in the hall of Trinity College, Cambridge, after the manoeuvres, General Haig pointed out that his cavalry had successfully got round General Grierson’s south flank. General Grierson said that he had expected that as the invaders were pressed for time their line of advance would have been more to the west than it actually was. He was, however, kept fully informed of their movements by his aeroplane scouts. He had succeeded in completely hiding his fourth division on he right or southern flank. This division moved chiefly in the dark, and by daylight took cover when ever the approach of an aeroplane was signalled.

Sir John French pointed out that as it was open to the invaders to deal with the defenders in detail, an important lesson to be drawn from the manoeuvres was the need of the earliest possible concentration of forces. There is no doubt that the aeroplanes did extraordinarily valuable service, but, as has been said, they failed to discover the fourth division. The King, who had followed the latter part of the manoeuvres, was present at the conference, and, in the course of a short speech, said “My inspections during the past two years have satisfied me that the present system of training is conducted on sound lines, and I have especially observed the exceeding keenness of the men and the earnestness of purpose which are apparent in the Army. The aerial work and the rapid concentration of the troops by rail- way, without dislocating the ordinary civilian traffic, and the use of mechanical transport have been the special features of these manoeuvres.”

We gather from this that the rapid transport service by motors and the rapidity of the scouting by aeroplanes, speeded up the manoeuvres and caused the general scheme to be carried out well within the time-limit. These are obviously important facts.


  • Townsville Daily Bulletin 1912, September 21st,  p. 4.
  • LONDON, September 19.

Dunns; the military manoeuvres at Newmarket backfire bolt out the breech of a gun and a gunner’s right arm was blown off, and Mother Injured about the face and eye*. The manoeuvres terminated with neither aide having any great advance. The Bed cavalry captured the whole of the ‘Else’ mounted transport. The column under Halgh narrowly escapee capture.


An airship on Jesus Green, Cambridge during the 1912 army manoeuvres. Image provided by the Cambridgeshire Collection.

An airship on Jesus Green, Cambridge during the 1912 army manoeuvres. Image provided by the Cambridgeshire Collection.


AVIATION AT THE ARMY MANOEUVRES. IT is understood that aviation will play an important part in the Army Manoeuvres which are to take place in the neighbourhood of Cambridge from September 16th to 21st. Each of the opposing forces is to be attended by a section

of the Royal Flying Corps fully equipped with a number of aeroplanes, airships and man-lifting kites

AVIATION AT NAVAL MANOEUVRES.  IN connection with the Naval Manoeuvres in the North Sea, Commander Samson, with his hydro-aeroplane, was attached to the Red side and had his headquarters at Harwich. On Tuesday week he paid a visit to Lowestoft, where the craft came down on the water, and was later wheeled ashore in order to make some adjustments to the motor. It returned to its base at Harwich on the following day.


His Majesty’s Manoeuvres.

The Army Manoeuvres of 1912 were the last exercises of their kind to be held before the outbreak of the First World War, two years later. This film documents the third and last phase of military training for that year, which took place from 16th to the 20th September, close to Linton, Cambridgeshire. The manoeuvres were overseen by King George V, who arrived from Balmoral on Tuesday 17th and spent three days watching the exercises, before returning home.

The titles given to each section of the film by British newsreel, the Warwick Bioscope Chronicle, help to clarify proceedings. The manoeuvres involved two ‘sides’. The Red, or ‘foreign’, force (commanded by General Sir Douglas Haig) had to cross a border between Wells and Hunstanton before moving down to attack London. The Blue force (lead by General Sir James Grierson) was supposed to represent the British army itself and was part of a general mobilisation to defend the capital.King George V’s arrival by car is shown on film. He is flanked by a group of army officers, including Sir John French, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and director of the 1912 operation. At what is most likely the Abington crossroads at Linton, the King is seen riding past cameraman Ager Junior with a mounted escort. The Eastern Daily Press reported that many photographers and cinematograph operators were present that day, eager to document the King’s visit.


Canadian Oversea Representatives At British Army Manouvres, 1912.

Canadian Oversea Representatives At British Army Manouvres, 1912.


                                           Canadian Officers Notes on “British Army Manoeuvres” Sept. 16th – 19th, 1912. Part I.


                                                                                                            APPENDIX “G”

                                                                     NOTES ON BRITISH AND FRENCH MANOEUVRES 1912.

 Prepared by Canadian Officers in accordance with the instructions of the Hon. The Minister of Militia and Defence.



The Honourable the Minister of Militia and Defence proceeded to England this year, accompanied by a selected party of officers to attend the autumn manoeuvres of the British and French armies, and also to visit the military training depots, arsenals, establishments for the manufacture of arms and equipment, ordnance, &c. The party consisted of the Minister, Col. the Hon. Sam Hughes; Col. W. E. Hodgins, commanding the 1st Division, London; Col. J. P. Landry, commanding 5th Division Quebec; Lt.-Col. C. Greville-Harston, Chief Inspector of Arms and Ammunition, Quebec; Lt.-Col. E. W. B. Morrison, D.S.O., commanding the 8th Brigade C.F.A., Ottawa; Lt.-Col. G. S. Maunsell, Director of Engineer Services, Ottawa; and Major W. Robertson, General Staff Officer, 5th Division, Quebec. On arrival in England on August 29, it was found that the heavy rains which had prevailed for some weeks previously had flooded the manoeuvre areas to such an extent that it was feared the manoeuvres would have to be postponed. Fortunately the weather improved and the manoeuvres were proceeded with, but under conditions of unusual hardship to the troops, owing to the state of the ground and the occasional prevalence of cold and wet weather during the three weeks of the operations. The cavalry manoeuvres on a large scale took place during the first week of September, followed by the inter-divisional manoeuvres during the second week; the whole concluding with the army manoeuvres from the 16th to the 19th, inclusive. As the French manoeuvres were also held during the second week in September, it became necessary to divide the party, the Minister, with Col. Landry and Major Robertson, proceeding to Touraine and returning in time to take part in the British Army manoeuvres.

As will be perceived by a perusal of the diary of the trip many sources of military information were placed at the disposal of the Canadian officers through the courtesy of the British War Office and of the companies that make a speciality of the manufacture of arms and equipment. Every opportunity was taken advantage of to acquire the latest information on all points, and in regard to all branches of the service, that might be useful to the militia of Canada. In this manner a large amount of valuable data was accumulated. It was the first occasion on which such a visit had been paid by a party of representatives of the forces of the Over-sea Dominons and nothing was lacking on the part of the officers and officials with whom they came in contact to insure the collection of much profitable material as a result of the visit.

Acting undeArmy Manoeuvres of 1912r instructions of the Honourable the Minister of Militia and Defence the preparation of the present publication was commenced on the return voyage, while the facts and experiences were still fresh in the minds of all. The intention is not SO much the compilation of a formal and technical report, as to convey to the Militia of Canada in succinct form such items of the information acquired as are likely to prove most interesting to regimental officers in the various branches of the service, together with a brief outline of the strategically and tactical features of the manoeuvres.






  • 29th August.—Disembarkation at Bristol.
  • 2nd September.—Visit to small arms factory, Enfield Lock,
  • 3rd September.—Visit to Ordnance Mobilization Store Depot at Woolwich.
  • 4th September.—Visit to works of Vickers, Sons & Maxim, at Erith. Three officers to cavalry manoeuvres in the Thames valley.
  • 5th September.—Visit to Portsmouth coast defences.
  • 6th September.—Visit to School of Musketry, Hythe.
  • 9th-14th September.—Inter-divisional manoeuvres.
  • llth-14th September.—Three officers to French manoeuvres in Touraine.
  • 16th-19th September.—Army manoeuvres.
  • 20th September.—Visit to Coventry Ordnance Works.
  • 2nd October.—Visit to School of Military Engineering, Chatham.
  • 3rd October.—Visit to Portsmouth harbour.
  • 5th October.—Departure of Minister of Militia and Defence.
  • 6th October.—Visit to Aldershot to see administrative work in a division.
  • 7th October.—Visit to Woolwich Arsenal.
  • 7th-8th October.—Two Officers to Aldershot for tactical examination.
  • 9th October.—Visit to Territorial School of Instruction, Chelsea Barracks.
  • 10th October.—Second visit to works of Vickers, Sons & Maxim, at Erith.
  • 12th October.—Second visit to School of Musketry, Hythe.
  • 28th October.—Visit to works of Mills Equipment Company, at Tottenham.
  • 30th September to 29th October.—Officers individually paid visits to Territorial units, and underwent courses of instruction at Woolwich Arsenal, Small Arms Factory, Enfield Lock, Aviation School, Aldershot; School of Military Engineering, Chatham; School of Signalling, Aldershot; and visited battlefields on the Continent.
  • 30th October.—Embarked for Canada.


His Majesty’s Manoeuvres 1912.

His Majesty’s Manoeuvres 1912.


                                                                                                                    PART I.

                                                                                         BRITISH ARMY MANOEUVRES, 1912.

These manoeuvres took place in the Eastern Counties of England, north of London. The general idea, under which the operations were carried out, was that an Invading Army from Redland, whose imaginary frontier coincided with the eastern coastline, was advancing against London, the capital of the Home Territory (Blueland). The positions of the troops on each successive day are shown on the attached outline sketches of the theatre of Operations.

At the outbreak of hostilities the Red Army under Lieutenant General Sir Douglas Haig, consisting of one Cavalry Division and the 1st and 2nd Divisions from the Aldershot Command, about 25,000 strong, advanced across the frontier at Wells and Hunstanton, and commenced to move southwards to threaten London. The political and commercial centre of the Blue country being a decisive factor in the campaign, the Home Defence Forces were hurriedly mobilized and concentrated by rail to intercept the invader on his march towards the Capital. A detachment of all arms belonging to the Territorial Force, then undergoing training at the time, was given imperative orders to defend the important city of Cambridge at all costs in order to cover the detrainment of portions of the Home Army, which were mobilizing at all speed.

The task of defeating the invader was entrusted to Lieutenant General Sir James Grierson, who determined to assemble his Army, consisting of two Mounted Brigades and the 3rd and 4th Divisions from the Eastern and Southern Commands, southwest of Cambridge. The total force at General Grierson’s disposal amounted to about 30.000 troops of all arms, including the Territorial Detachment at Cambridge. The superiority of the Cavalry Force of the invader necessitated caution, during the opening stages of the campaign, on the part of Colonel Briggs, who had at his disposal a Regular Cavalry Brigade and a Brigade of Yeomanry with some 1,500 cyclists.

General Haig’s Red Cavalry Division consisted of three Brigades of Regular Cavalry with 1,000 cyclists, under the command of Major-General Allenby, from whom energetic action and decisive results were expected with this fine force at his disposal. The employment of numerous cyclists in co-operation with the mounted troops was an innovation, the success of which was confirmed during the fighting which ensued during the short campaign. During September 15 the Red Army made good progress in their march of invasion, and bivouacked for the following night with the first and 2nd Divisions in the area Stoke Ferry, Watton, Swaffham, covered by General Allenby’s cavalry at Easton with outposts on the river Lark running through Bury St. Edmunds. The rapid and successful concentration by rail of General Grierson’s Main Body was the outstanding feature of this day in the defender’s lines. Without any appreciable delays a succession of troop trains poured into the railway stations at Bedford, Gamlingay, Hitchin and Millbrook, discharging troops of all arms and administrative units, who at once set themselves in motion towards the concentration bivouacs allotted to them. So successful was this railway concentration that the whole of the defending army was ready to advance against their opponents on the morning of September 16, but General Grierson was obliged to hold back his eager troops until information regarding the position of the invading army could be gathered from reports sent in by his cavalry brigades and by the air-craft.


British Army  Manoeuvres, Skeleton Map of Situation 8 pm., Sept. 15th 1912. 1.

British Army Manoeuvres, Skeleton Map of Situation 8 pm., Sept. 15th 1912. 1.


During September 16 cavalry skirmishes were frequent, as the opposing mounted troops obtained touch near Horse Heath and Balsham: the firm front presented by Colonel Brigg’s horsemen in a strong defensive line prevented, however, any seriously Colonel Brigg’s horsemen in a strong defensive line prevented, however, any serious engagement until the bulk of the invading cavalry was with striking distance. The air-craft on both sides were particularly active, making frequent reconnaissance’s over the opposing troops with unfailing regularity, and disclosing to their Commanders the dispositions of the hostile main columns with startling accuracy.


British Army  Manoeuvres, Skeleton Map of Situation Evening Sept. 16th 1912. 2.

British Army Manoeuvres, Skeleton Map of Situation Evening Sept. 16th 1912. 2.

Map of British Army Manoeuvres Sept., 17th 1912. 3

Map of British Army Manoeuvres Sept., 17th 1912. 3


The 1st and 2nd Divisions reached Mildenhall and Bury St. Edmunds respectively, after a march of between 22 to 25 miles; each division marched with ease along the single road allotted to it and settled into bivouac, with all its transport within reach, early in the afternoon. Meanwhile the Blue Territorial Detachment, under Major General Lindsay, was busy digging itself into a defensive position north and east of Cambridge, covered by a protecting outpost line with cyclist patrols feeling for the threatening cavalry of the invader.

The night of September 16-17 passed quietly; the wearied and soaked troops on outpost duty were withdrawn to their respective mounted units which were early on the move, the duty of protecting the Red Columns in rear’ having handed been over to the useful cyclist battalions. General Allenby pushed forward towards Little Abington with his Cavalry Division at an early hour; the arrival at Dullingham of a mixed Brigade of all arms, detached from the 1st Division increased the striking power of the force at his disposal, but the supporting artillery and infantry were too distant from his horsemen to be utilized that morning in his advance. After desultory fighting all day with small bodies of cyclists reinforced during the afternoon by the arrival of the 3rd Division of General Grierson’s Army a gallant charge was made “en masse”  the whole of General Allenby’s Cavalry

Division across several fields separated by hedges which were cleared in great style; unfortunately it proved to be a blow in the air, as the only adversaries encountered were a few cyclists holding advanced positions. Disappointed in the results of the great charge and being beyond the reach of support of his infantry and guns at Brinkley, General Allenby broke off the fight, and moved across the front of the opposing line of outposts to Great Bradley without being molested. The result of his operations that day was that the arrival of the 3rd Division of the Home Army in the vicinity of Little Abington had been recorded. Meanwhile General Haig with the Main Body of the Red force advanced southwards to the neighbourhood of Cowlinge, the advanced guards of his two columns engaging in a running fight with the energetic Blue Mounted Brigades, by means of which Colonel Briggs was able to transmit to his own Commander accurate information of the dispositions of the Main Columns of the invader.


Map of British Army Manoeuvres Sept. 18th, 1912. 4

Map of British Army Manoeuvres Sept. 18th, 1912. 4


The march of the 4th Division of General Grierson’s force from their bivouacs near Royston and Saffron Walden commenced at 3 a.m. that day, so as to reach its destination before the ubiquitous biplane could record its movements. Special instructions were issued to the troops of this division to take cover on the approach of any air-craft; on the alarm being sounded by whistle, officers and men dived for the nearest cover and ‘lay low’ until the humming machine had passed out of range. No report of the position of this division reached General Haig during the day, although his aviators maintained stoutly that reports of the arrival of the 4th Division at Saffron Walden were submitted. The morning of September 18 dawned brightly after the drenching dew of the preceding night, but nothing daunted the spirits of the troops in their cheerless bivouacs. General Haig’s Red Divisions were early on the march towards Horse Heath and Haverhill where the final engagement of the campaign took place. General Allenby moved his cavalry Division towards the south on the arrival of the Advanced Guards of the main columns which were engaged at 11 a.m. with the right flank of the 3rd Division near Horse Heath and the Blue Mounted Brigades under Colonel Briggs.

Gradually the fight developed into two main encounters, one in the vicinity of Horse Heath and Bartlow, where the 1st Division of the invading force was opposed to the 3rd Blue Division, which concentrated on its right flank. The other combat between Ashdon and Haverhill commenced by the meeting of the advanced guards of the 2nd Red and 4th Blue Divisions on their march against each other. The Mounted Brigades under Colonel Briggs rendered a good account of themselves and afforded valuable assistance to the deployment of the 4th Division for a series of attacks near Camps Green and Wigmore Pond. The cyclists of the Home Army were able to delay the operations of General Allenby’s Cavalry Division for nearly two hours by holding on to a strong defensive locality, two miles south of Wigmore Pond; the bold use of their machine guns and rapid fire by an extended firing line, well concealed, deceived their opponents as to their strength for a considerable time.

General Snow’s 4th Division in the meantime delivered a succession of energetic attacks by throwing two out of his three Brigades against the woods to the west of Camps Green and on Wigmore Pond, but these were eventually repulsed after heavy fighting. However, the retirement was checked by the timely arrival of the cyclists detachment which was at once thrown into the fight. During the afternoon, about 2 p.m., the Blue Yeomanry Brigade with the Regular Cavalry Brigade in support made a sudden attack from the west on the village of Camps Green, and captured it: after the village had changed hands several times, it was eventually recaptured by the reserves of the 2nd (Red) Division from Haverhill. During the first assault on the village General Haig narrowly escaped capture by the Yeomanry.

The rolling downs near Horse Heath, spaced here and there with small woods, were the scene of the combat between the 1st Red and 3rd Blue Divisions. The direction in which the fight developed left a gap of some two miles between the two Divisions of General Grierson’s Army, of which his opponent made use to push in one of his Brigades to the village of Bartlow, It was not till late in the afternoon that the dangerous gap in the line of battle of the Home Army was filled in by the Territorial Detachment hastily summoned from Cambridge. As the afternoon passed long lines of infantry in successive waves swept across the open fields, supported by the fire of numerous batteries; the opposing lines surged backwards and forwards as reinforcements arrived, till about 5 p.m. the opposing forces were intermingled in inextricable confusion.


Army Manoeuvres of 1912.

Army Manoeuvres of 1912.

No official decision was announced regarding the probable result of the battle, but general opinion seemed to favour the fortunes of the Home Army under General Sir James Grierson, A full report on the Army manoeuvres, 1912, is being prepared by the War Office, and will be issued officially to Canada shortly for the information of all interested in the details of these manoeuvres.


SVP: In a personal comprehensive search at LAC’s archives, I failed to uncover the; full report on the British Army Manoeuvres, 1912, prepared by the War Office, issued officially to Canada.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s