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The Somme offensive: FRIDAY THE 15th SEPTEMBER 1916

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Auteur Bericht

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BerichtGeplaatst: 26 Dec 2009 21:41    Onderwerp: The Somme offensive: FRIDAY THE 15th SEPTEMBER 1916 Reageer met quote

The Battle of the Somme

(with the 50th Division)

The Somme offensive: FRIDAY THE 15th SEPTEMBER 1916

15th Sept to 14th Nov 1916

Captain Francis Buckley of the 7th N.F. was working for Brigade as an observer, and did many drawings of the sections of front line. This particular one was published in Buckley's book Q6a and other places.

The scene is set:

The two battalions of the 50th Division, crossed the old British front line of the 1st July just east of Becourt; they then had to traverse between two hundred and fifty and three hundred yards of what had once been No Man's Land before passing over the old Bosche front line. So battered and blasted by our gun fire was the latter that it was hardly distinguishable; only the second and succeeding lines were in anything like their original form, though dug-outs had been wrecked and timber and other debris thrown about in all directions. Lozenge and Shelter Woods were two of a cluster north of Fricourt and Fricourt Wood. The Quadrangle was about five hundred yards south-west of Mametz Wood, the latter presenting a truly terrible appearance. Bitter fighting had taken place for the possession of the Wood and Contalmaison village west of it. Swept by an awful holocaust of shell fire, first by the British guns and then by the German artillery on the Wood passing into our hands, it had become a place of evil repute - worse even to live in; for beneath and among the broken and lacerated trees, men had their habitation in tents or had burrowed into the ground - anywhere as shelter from the enemy's guns, which still kept the place under furious bombardments.

From the Quadrangle the "way up" led through a valley between Contalmaison and Mametz Wood, thence on to the road which ran east and west, dividing the two Bazentins (le-Petit and le-Grand) and villages and woods. But "Wood" was a misnomer, for only the gaunt skeletons of what had been trees remained to show what they had passed through. the route now led across a shell-torn country, pock-marked and broken with countless craters and holes gaping from the battered earth. Tangles of barbed wire, tossed and flung about in endless confusion, where everywhere.

Bazentin-le-Petit stood on high ground, beyond which in a small valley were the trenches to be taken over. There was no mistaking them, for they were covered by wreaths of evil black smoke from bursting shells, punctured every second or so by sharp stabs of flame as explosion succeeded explosion and fountains of earth and debris shot up into the sky.

Such was the introduction the infantry of the 50th Division had to front-line trenches on the Somme.

High Wood had proved a difficult problem, and by the 12th of September only half of it was in our hands, for immediately in the rear of the Wood, extending on the right along the high ground north-east of Delville Wood and Ginchy and on the left south of Martinpuich, was the powerful German Switch Line, that portion in front of the 50th Division consisting of three lines of trenches, i.e. (1) Hook Trench, (2) Martin Trench, the Bow and the Starfish Line, and (3) continuation of the Starfish Line and Prue Trench, all running east and south-east from Martinpuich.

Calamity fell on the 149th Brigade early on the 11th. At 7.25 a.m. Brig.-General Clifford set out with his Staff-Captain (Capt. D. Hill) to reconnoitre the assembly trenches, and was shot dead by a sniper. An N.C.O. of his brigade (Lance Corporal R.H.Temple, 4th Northumberland Fusiliers) fully expressed the opinion of all ranks when he wrote in his private diary: "It is a very great blow to the Brigade as he was a splendid soldier, a fine gentleman, and very brave. The last little act performed by him was when we marched away from Henencourt Wood. He saluted each platoon of the Battalion and we all thought it was very kind of him. He was practically the first in the Brigade to give his life in the 'Great Push.' "

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