Sunday 31 July 2016

Day Thirty One on the Somme

Monday 31st July 1916 From our Correspondent in the Field

We understand that after the costly action yesterday at Guillemont 30th Division (which has been in action since the beginning of the month, taking Montauban on the first day of this Battle of the Somme and heavily involved in the fighting at Trônes Wood in the second week, was relieved by 55th Division last night.

Today Major-General Shea had the 2nd Bedfords drawn up and addressed them as follows: "I have come here this morning to thank you all for the way that you fought yesterday. It may seem to most of you that after doing all you could, you were only successful in capturing a small amount of ground.
This however does not in any way represent the results of your hard fighting.
It came to my knowledge only this morning, that eleven of the freshest German Battalions (The 12th Bavarian Reserve) had just been brought up on the front which you attacked”.

“There were only eight battalions actually fighting for the Division, and judging from the number of prisoners taken, and the number of casualties known to have been inflicted on the enemy, it is clear that you were instrumental in completely preventing what would have been a very strong counter attack on the Bantams(1) in Trônes Wood”.

“The Army Commander has told me to thank you for him, and to his thanks I add mine and my hearty congratulations”.

“Colonel Poyntz I congratulate you on your Battalion and on your men."

I have heard from the adjutant of 1st Bedfords that at 6.45 yesterday evening orders were received to reinforce 2nd Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers holding the line in Longueval with the 1st Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment in support. The leading platoon moved off at 6.53 p.m. and reached Longueval at 7.45 p.m. relieving the Royal West Kents

At 10.12 p.m., the commanding officer of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. reported that his men were retiring from the front line and A and C Companies were directed to proceed with guides to hold and consolidate this line. It was proposed to withdraw KOSB into reserve at dawn. Just after midnight the enemy began an intense bombardment on this already desolate and churned-up place and by 2.30 all companies were reporting heavy casualties including two officers killed and a number wounded.

All day snipers and machine gunners prevented the battalion establishing the line as had been ordered. Any movement attracted considerable shell-fire. Nevertheless the battalion held firm in the positions it had managed to reach until six o’clock this evening when the 1st Norfolks relieved both the shattered KOSB and the forward companies of the Bedfords who moved back to a reserve position east the remains of Longueval church. It is hoped that the battalion will be completely relieved tonight.

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/3/wd

(1) 35th Division, so-called because all men were under the normal height for soldiers in the British Army of 5 feet 3 inches.

(2) Second Lieutenant A N Marshall and Second Lieutenant D N Gaussen. Gaussen is buried at Gaussen Communal Cemetery but Marshall has no known grave at is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

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