Saturday 23 July 2016

Day Twenty Three on the Somme

Sunday 23rd July 1916 From our Correspondent in the Field

After a short two day lull the Battle of the Somme returned today in earnest. On this twenty third day of the struggle, the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment looked as if it was about to go into action in support of 13th Brigade of 5th Division in attacking Longueval but in the event that formation made no attack. This evening the battalion is preparing to move to a front line position between those two woods obdurately still in German hands – High Wood and Delville Wood.

There has been more fighting at the last-named wood today. A large-scale bombardment began last night for an attack early this morning and 3rd Division together with 95th Brigade of 5th Division (which replaced 14th Brigade in the division at the end of last year) assaulted Longueval village and strong-points in orchards to the north of it. The attacks initially made good progress but foundered on strong German resistance. An attack was planned later in the day for 13th Brigade but, as mentioned above, this was cancelled.

The other miserable wood (this battle at times seems almost exclusively arboreal) was attacked this morning by 51st (Highland) Division many of whose faces are familiar to those in Bedford where the division was billeted in 1914. Sadly the attack was a failure and, we understand, has cost somewhere in the region of 450 casualties though wounded Highlanders reckon the Germans have also lost severely in brutal hand-to-hand fighting. The Highland Charge so famed from the days of Bonnie Prince Charlie lives on, it seems, undimmed.

The major action of the day has taken place around the village of Pozières which occupies one of the highest points anywhere on the battlefield, astride the main road from Albert to Bapaume. This was undertaken by I ANZAC(1) and X Corps. 48th (South Midland) Division of X Corps and 1st Australian Division attacked from the south just after midnight. The Australians have succeeded in capturing the village and have held out all day against counter-attacks.

Source: X550/2/5

(1) 1st Australian and New Zealand Army Corps consisting of the New Zealand Division and 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions.

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