Saturday 30 July 2016

Day Thirty on the Somme

Sunday 30th July 1916 From our Correspondent in the Field

Today the attack on Guillemont, anticipated since 16th of this month, has got underway. This attack has been undertaken by 30th Division, including 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. Having spoken with the Battalion’s adjutant it seems they were in reserve for the attack which was spear-headed by 19th and 20th Battalions, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment with 17th Liverpools in support. The attack was made in conjunction with an attack by the French, 30th Division being the most right-hand units of the British Expeditionary Force in France. A Company of the Bedfords, however, was part of the assaulting troops. As well as the attack on the village, 89th Brigade of 30th Division attacked Falfemont Farm, south-east of the village. On the other side of 90th Brigade Guillemont station and trenches north-west of the village were attacked by 5th Brigade of 2nd Division.

The attack began at 4.45 am and A Company, under Lieutenant White, operating with the French 153rd Regiment on its right flank it advanced north and seized Maltz Horn Farm(1) without opposition. This place was taken on 8th July but subsequently abandoned. There is a rumour that Lieutenant White and his French counterpart advanced arm-in-arm for part of the way, though I have not been able to verify this. The attack was a brilliant success, from seventy to eighty Germans being killed in the Maltz Horn Trench in front of the farm and one prisoner taken. The farm was found to be unoccupied. Once the position was taken the company rejoined the rest of the battalion in reserve and the farm was abandoned. The company lost about thirty men killed and wounded in this small operation, including Lieutenant H C Lovely, who was wounded.

Lieutenant Lovely

The main attack by the Liverpools was greatly hampered by a German bombardment last night and a dense fog this morning and about 6.30 am reinforcements were called for. B and C Companies of the Bedfords, accordingly moved out, but the Commanding Officer of 17th Liverpools stopped them from going too far as he had no word from his fellow commanders of the two assaulting battalions as to where exactly the support was needed. So the two companies stayed at the 17th Liverpools’ headquarters. Fifteen minutes later Lieutenant H A Chamen was seriously wounded(2).

Lieutenant Chamen

At 9 o’clock Lieutenant J T Coe and Lieutenant A L Gordon were both wounded and an hour later Lieutenant White again led A Company off to get back in contact with the French. Their attack had also been held up and they were digging in, so A Company dug in on their flank, just south of Maltz Horn Farm. Second Lieutenant F A Sloan was wounded just before midday.

Second Lieutenant Sloan

About 1.30 this afternoon it became clear that the attack on Guillemont had stalled and the Bedfords were ordered to consolidate a line along the low ridge from a small wood called Arrowhead Copse, just short of Guillemont, east to the French left wing. This they did, digging a new trench about 300 yards long. It is anticipated that the battalion will be relieved tonight, having suffered 6 officers and 186 other ranks dead and wounded.

I have just heard that this morning’s attack succeeded in entering Guillemont. However, due to the inability to communicate due to fog and telephone wires being cut Major-General Shea commanding the division took the decision to consolidate the line from the west side of Guillemont south-west to Maltz Horn Farm rather than losing what had been gained to any German counter-attack. The attack by 2nd Division on the north-west of Guillemont was a complete failure. The final line now extends from Maltz Horn Farm, to the road running south from Guillemont to Hardecourt, then north-west to Arrowhead Copse.

To assist the attack on Guillemont subsidiary attacks were made to the north-west at Longueval and Delville Wood again. This attack was confused and extremely costly and seems to have gained little or nothing. The fighting in this area may be described, not melodramatically, as a blood-bath and one of the Battalions of 5th Division is reported to have been reduced from 1,000 at full strength to just 175.

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) The proper name was Maltzkorn Farm after its founder, an 18th century German called Paul Maltzkorn. Today the farm buildings are long gone but a large crucifix stands on the site.
(2) Aged 22, he died on 1st August and is buried at Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension.

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