Tuesday 26 July 2016

Day Twenty Six on the Somme

Wednesday 26th July 1916 From our Correspondent in the Field

The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, has been, by chance, bivouacked in the remains of the Pommiers Redbout, west of Montauban, which was captured by 7th Battalion on 1st July. During the day the battalion has been moving north towards the village of Longueval, still in German hands. They were held up for two hours, however, in Caterpillar Valley by a German bombardment which included poisoned gas. Fortunately only two men have been affected. 

This bombardment seems to have been a southern spur of the terrific bombardment of the area around Pozières which has been going on for two days now. Still there is no sign of an attempt by the enemy to retake the village. This evening the bombardment has intensified still further, a thing few thought possible, so our own guns are now all engaged on shelling the German artillery positions and trenches from which any attack will come.

7th Battalion is well to the north now, near the village of Wallon-Cappel between Saint-Omer and Hazebrouck, well behind the front line. The adjutant told me this evening by telephone that the divisional commander, Sir Ivor Maxse inspected the Battalion, which was formed up en-masse in a field. They paraded as strong as possible in dull order rather than parade dress. They totalled 29 officers and about 650 other ranks out of a notional strength of just over 1,000.

General Maxse complimented the battalion highly for turning out so clean and so well-clothed and shod after its recent heavy fighting. On completion of the inspection he called all officers together and spoke in very high terms of praise of both officers, N.C.O's and men who had taken part in the recent fighting. He particularly mentioned the splendid fighting spirit of the Battalion and thanked the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel G D Price and all concerned for the very efficient manner in which the attack on the Pommiers Redoubt was carried out on the 1st July.

Today is the first anniversary of the Battalion’s landing in France. The surviving officers (twelve in number) are assembling for a dinner at the Battalion Headquarters Mess. A very enjoyable evening is anticipated.

The 1st Field Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers have been under gas bombardment today as they move up to support an impending attack on Longueval. Their commander told me: "This barrage was continued for three hours and the wearing of the poisoned gas helmets coupled with the somewhat dense smoke cloud rendered the location of the various overland tracks extremely difficult as the only other route (Longueval Alley) was being subjected to a fairly severe enemy bombardment".

Sources: X550/2/5; X550/8/1; X550/WD3

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