Military Wiki
VI Corps
Active World War I
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Field corps

World War I:[1]

Sir John Keir
Sir Aylmer Haldane

VI Corps was an army corps of the British Army in World War I. It was first organised in June 1915 and fought throughout on the Western Front.

Prior to World War I

In 1876 a Mobilisation Scheme for the forces in Great Britain and Ireland, including eight army corps of the 'Active Army', was published. The '6th Corps' was headquartered at Chester, composed primarily of militia, and in 1880 comprised:

  • 1st Division (Chester)
    • 1st Brigade (Chester)
      • Denbigh Militia (Wrexham), 1st Cheshire Militia (Chester), Montgomery Militia (Welchpool)
    • 2nd Brigade (Chester)
      • Clare Militia (Enniskillen), Flint Militia (Mold), Carnarvon Militia (Carnarvon)
    • Divisional Troops
      • Cheshire Yeomanry (Chester)
  • 2nd Division (Liverpool)
    • 1st Brigade (Liverpool)
      • Dublin City Militia (Dublin), 2nd Lancashire Militia (Liverpool),Roscommon Militia (Boyle)
    • 2nd Brigade (Liverpool)
      • 1st Stafford Militia (Lichfield), 2nd Stafford Militia (Stafford), 3rd Stafford Militia (Newcastle-under-Lyne)
    • Divisional Troops
      • 2nd Bn. 20th Foot (Mullingar), Lancashire Hussars (Ashton in Makerfield)
  • 3rd Division (Manchester)
    • 1st Brigade (Manchester)
      • 1st Derby Militia (Derby), 2nd Derby Militia (Chesterfield), 2nd Cheshire Militia (Macclesfield)
    • 2nd Brigade (Preston)
      • 1st Lancashire Militia (Lancaster), 3rd Lancashire Militia (Preston), 4th Lancashire Militia (Warrington)
    • Divisional Troops
      • 1st Bn. 11th Foot (Manchester), Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry (Worsley)
  • Cavalry Brigade (Crewe)
    • Denbighshire Yeomanry (Ruthin), Derbyshire Yeomanry (Derby), Worcestershire Yeomanry (Worcester)

This scheme had been dropped by 1881.[2] The 1901 Army Estimates (introduced by St John Brodrick when Secretary of State for War) allowed for six army corps based on the six regional commands: 'Sixth Army Corps' was to be formed by Scottish Command with headquarters in Edinburgh. It was to comprise 3 regiments of Imperial Yeomanry, 26 artillery batteries (17 Regular, 6 Militia and 3 Volunteer) and 25 infantry battalions (2 Regular, 13 Militia and 10 Volunteers). Under Army Order No 38 of 1907 the corps titles disappeared.[3]

World War I

Operations around Ypres

VI Corps was organised within Sir Herbert Plumer's Second Army of the British Expeditionary Force on 1 June 1915. It was placed under the command of Lt-Gen Sir John Lindesay Keir, promoted from command of 6th Division. Initially it comprised 4th Division from V Corps and 6th Division from III Corps, and it took over the left of the British line at Ypres.[4][5]

VI Corps cooperated with the attack by its neighbour V Corps on Bellewaarde Ridge on 16 June 1915 with rifle and artillery fire, and in July and August 1915 it was engaged in trench fighting round Hooge Chateau.[6] The corps was first seriously engaged in the Second Battle of Bellewaarde, a subsidiary attack to assist First Army's attack at Loos on 18 September 1915.[1][7]

Phosgene attack

Before dawn on 19 December 1915 VI Corps was the victim of the first German attack with phosgene gas. It had 6th Division and 49th Division holding the line and 14th (Light) Division in reserve. The attack was made by the German XXVI Reserve Corps between the Roulers and Staden railways, NW of Ypres. The attack was designed to test new weapons (the gas released was an 80:20 mixture of chlorine and phosgene) and to inflict casualties. There was some shelling, but apart from sending out infantry and air patrols to gauge the effectiveness of the gas cloud, the Germans made no attempt to advance. VI Corps' anti-gas measures were reasonably effective, and a pre-arranged counter-barrage of shrapnel shells discouraged the enemy patrols. The British reserves stood to, but were not required. A total of 1069 gas casualties (120 fatal) were suffered, three-quarters by 49th Division.[8]


In early 1916 the expanding BEF was reorganised, and VI Corps became part of Sir Edmund Allenby's Third Army in the Arras sector, with which it remained until the Armistice.[9]

Order of Battle of VI Corps March 1916[9]
General Officer Commanding: Lt-Gen Sir John Keir

Later in the year, VI Corps was taken over by Lt-Gen J.A.L. (later Sir Aylmer) Haldane, promoted from command of 3rd Division, who remained in command until the end of the war.[10]

Arras Offensive

In the Spring of 1917 VI Corps took part in Third Army's Arras Offensive. During the phase known as the First Battle of the Scarpe (9–14 April), 37th Division of VI Corps captured Monchy-le-Preux. During the Second Battle of the Scarpe (23–24 April), 15th (Scottish) Division captured Guemappe.[11]

Order of Battle of VI Corps April 1917[11]
GOC: Lt-Gen J.A.L. Haldane

For the Battle of Arleux (28–29 April) VI Corps only had 3rd and 12th (Eastern) Divisions in the line, but 56th (1/1st London) Division was added for the Third Battle of the Scarpe (3–4 May). 3rd and 12th Eastern) Divisions took Roeux (13–14 May), which brought it up to the Drocourt-Queant Switch Line (part of the Hindenburg Line defences) and completed VI Corps' participation in the offensive.[11]

The German counter-offensive

VI Corps fought in the Battle of St Quentin (21–23 March), and the First Battle of Bapaume (24–25 March), the opening phases of the German 1918 Spring Offensive (Operation Michael), otherwise known as the 'First Battles of the Somme 1918'.[12]

Order of Battle of VI Corps March 1918[12]
GOC: Lt-Gen Sir Aylmer Haldane

By the end of the month, VI Corps was back where it had been a year earlier, fighting a new Battle of Arras on 28 March. For this action Haldane had 2nd Canadian Division and 97th Brigade of 32nd Division under command, as well as Guards, 3rd and 31st Divisions. 32nd Division took part in the Battle of the Ancre on 5 April.[12]

The Hundred Days

During the Second Battles of the Somme in August 1918, VI Corps attacked at Albert (21–23 August).[13]

Order of Battle of VI Corps August 1918[13]
GOC: Lt-Gen Sir Aylmer Haldane

For the Second Battle of Bapaume (31 August-3 September) and the subsequent Allied attacks during September 1918, VI Corps had Guards, 2nd, 3rd, and 62nd (2nd West Riding) Divisions under command.[13][14] During the Final Advance in Picardy, VI Corps fought in the Battle of the Selle (17–25 October) and the Battle of the Sambre (4 November).[15][16]

German resistance was now crumbling, and the Allied advance had become a pursuit. During the night of 8/9 November, the reserve of Guards Division, 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards, was pushed ahead through a black night with its machine guns on pack mules to seize the citadel of the old French frontier fortress of Maubeuge, which the Germans had captured after a siege in 1914. The main German defence line was now seven miles away. By 11 November when the Armistice came into effect, the 62nd and Guards Divisions were the advance guard of Third Army, but were doing no more than pushing forward infantry outposts and cyclist patrols against the dissolving German forces.[17] VI Corps was among Allied troops that advanced into the Rhineland after the Armistice.[18]

General Officers Commanding

Commanders have been:


In July 1918 the sculptor John Tweed, who had failed to gain employment as an official war artist, was commissioned by General Jan Smuts to travel to France and prepare designs for a proposed South African War Memorial. Tweed knew Haldane, who had raised the money for Tweed's sculpture of Lt-Gen Sir John Moore at Shorncliffe, and Haldane offered the sculptor facilities with VI Corps HQ. Tweed spent the last five months of the war as a civilian member of the corps staff, and accompanied the troops into the Rhineland. Although one of Tweed's studies entitled Attack was exhibited, the ambitious architectural monument that he designed for South Africa was never executed.[21]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The British Corps of 1914-1918
  2. Army List 1876–1881.
  3. Dunlop.
  4. Official History 1915 Vol II, p 86.
  5. Who Was Who 1929-40.
  6. Official History 1915 Vol II, pp 99, 102-8.
  7. Official History 1915 Vol II, p 139.
  8. Official History 1916, Vol I, pp 158-62.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Official History 1916, Vol I, p 39.
  10. Official History 1916 Vol II, p 184.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 The Arras Offensive
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 The First Battles of the Somme 1918
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 The Second Battles of the Somme 1918
  14. Official History 1918, Vol V, Appendix I.
  15. Official history 1918, Vol V.
  16. The final advance in Picardy
  17. Official history 1918, Vol V, pp 529, 553.
  18. Tweed p 173.
  19. Obituary: Lieutenant General Sir John Keir, The Times, 4 May 1937, p. 18.
  20. Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  21. Tweed pp 172-4.


  • Col John K. Dunlop, The Development of the British Army 1899–1914, London: Methuen, 1938.
  • Official History
    • Brig-Gen Sir James E. Edmonds and Capt G.C. Wynne, Military Operations, France and Belgium 1915, Volume I, Winter 1914-15: Battle of Neuve Chapelle, Battle of Ypres, London: Macmillan, 1927.
    • Brig-Gen Sir James E. Edmonds, Military Operations, France and Belgium 1916, Volume I, Sir Douglas Haig's Command to the 1st July: Battle of the Somme, London: Macmillan, 1932/Woking: Shearer Publications, 1986 (ISBN 0-946998-02-7).
    • Capt Wilfred Miles, Military Operations, France and Belgium 1916, Volume II, 2nd July 1916 to the end of the Battles of the Somme, London: Macmillan, 1936.
    • Capt Cyril Falls, Military Operations, France and Belgium 1917, Volume I, The German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the Battle of Arras, London: Macmillan, 1940.
    • Brig-Gen Sir James E. Edmonds, Military Operations, France and Belgium 1918, Volume V, 26th September-11th November: The Advance to Victory, London: HMSO, 1947 (Imperial War Museum reprint (ISBN 1-87023-06-2).
  • Lendal Tweed, John Tweed, Sculptor, London: Lovat Dickson, 1936.

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