Sunday 7 August 2016

Day Thirty Eight on the Somme

Monday 7th August 1916 From our Correspondent in the Field

The adjutant of 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, the seventh battalion of the regiment to go into action in this war, that they are now in France, having kanded on 26th July, based behind the lines in the area around the town of Souchez, between Béthune and Arras. They are part of a most interesting Division called 63rd (Royal Naval Division). The Bedfords’ own Brigade (190th) consists of two other battalions from line regiments (7th Royal Fusiliers and 10th Royal Dublin Fusiliers) as well as a Territorial Army battalion, 1st/1st Honourable Artillery Company (an infantry battalion, not an artillery company, despite its name!).

The other two brigades are made up of two battalions of Royal Marine Light Infantry and six battalions made up of surplus sailors who have been turned into infantrymen. These six battalions are named after great British admirals – Drake, Nelson, Hawke, Hood, Anson and Howe. The exploits of Drake and Nelson are well-known. Edward, Baron Hawke (1705-1781) defeated the French at the Battles of Cape Finisterre in 1747 and Quiberon Bay in 1759. Samuel, 1st Viscount Hood (1724-1819) took part in the American and French revolutionary wars, distinguishing himself against the French in defending British possessions in the West Indies. Admiral Richard Howe (1726-1799) defeated the French on the Glorious First of June (1794) and relieved the siege of Gibraltar in 1783. George, 1st Baron Anson (1697-1762) sailed round the World in 1741-1742, oversaw the navy’s actions in an abortive invasion by the French in 1759 and commanded in successful actions against them in Canada and the West Indies. None of these men ever seem to have fought a German enemy!

7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, has re-entered the front line today. It is near Armentières, well to the north of here.

Lieutenant Jacka

Around 4 am this morning the Germans launched another attack on Pozières and quickly defeated and overran the Australians in the front line. However, we understand that a small counter-attack by Lieutenant Jacka VC and seven men inspired his compatriots to stiffen resistance and finally defeat the German attack(1)

Another attack has been made today by 17th (Northern) Division at Delville Wood following their failure on August 4th. This attack was launched at 4.30 this afternoon. Again German artillery stopped the advance whilst it was still in the remains of this accursed wood.

Overnight the German artillery proved positions held by 34th Division, which is in reserve in and around Mametz Wood. 6th Bedfords are part of this division and lost eight other ranks killed and one officer and twenty four other ranks wounded.

Sources: X550/5/3; X550/7/1; X550/8/1

(1) Albert Jacka had won the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli. He commanded 14th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. The fact that he was awarded a Military Cross for this action, rather than a bar to his Victoria Cross, was one of many sources of Australian discontent both during and after the war. 

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