Friday 15 July 2016

Day Fifteen on the Somme

Saturday 15th July 1916 From our Correspondent in the Field

Alas! My report of yesterday was written in high spirits, filled with expectation that a major rip had been made in the enemy line at High Wood and that cavalry, pouring through the gap could burst the whole front wide open. Sadly cavalry en-masse could not be brought up in time and, though the gallant 20th Deccan Horse did indeed charge into the wood and do great execution, it was a lone hand. Today 7th Division attacked High Wood at 9 am but found it now heavily garrisoned. There are, I believe, still units of 7th Division in the wood, contesting it with the German garrison even as I write.

Yesterday parts of the village of Longueval, immediately south of High Wood, were captured but the whole could not be gained. This morning the South African Brigade, part of 9th (Scottish) Division attacked the wood, determined to take it at all costs. The 2nd (Natal and Free State) South African Battalion attacked from the south-west at 6 am and the southern half of the wood was quickly taken. Soon after all but the north-west tip, where a German strong-point was located adjacent to the village of Longueval, was in South African hands and they began to dig in, at least, in-so-far as the roots and shattered trees would allow which, I understand from those who have spoken to South African wounded, was not very far.

At 11.30 this morning the Germans began launching counter-attacks, which were all repulsed with loss. This has continued all day but the men from the veldt have stood firm through it all and as I write a tremendous bombardment can be heard coming from the direction of Longueval village and its wood. 

Today 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment took its first active part in the Battle of the Somme, having formed a defensive flank for the capture of Contalmaison. It is part of 112th Brigade, attached to 34th Division and made an attack on the village of Pozieres from south of Contalmaison as part of a brigade attack. Hostile machine-guns meant that the attack petered out about one hundred yards from the cemetery north of Pozieres where the men dug in. In this action the battalion lost 3 officers and 32 other ranks dead, 25 other ranks missing and 9 officers and 174 other ranks wounded. Clearly this village will not be easy to take but it must be taken as it is one of the highest points on the whole battlefield with commanding views west, south and east.

Source: X550/8/1

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