Sunday 4 September 2016

Day Sixty Six on the Somme

Monday 4th September 1916: From our Correspondent in the Field

Readers will recall that last night’s despatch was sent as the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, was attacking Falfemont Farm. Their area of attack lay between this farm and Wedge Wood (which lies to the north-west)with 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment on their right flank. The attack actually got under way, the adjutant tells me, at 6.15 pm last evening and their objective lay across one thousand yards of open ground. Unfortunately the artillery barrage, behind which they were supposed to advance, had gone a long way forward by the time they started. 

In fact the attack veered a little to the left and they occupied a position between Wedge Wood, which had been taken, and a sunken lane running along its western edge, thus, by mistake, occupying part of the objective of the neighbouring 95th Brigade. By extending the line the Bedfords linked up with the Cheshires west of Falfemont Farm, each battalion holding a very long frontage of 1,200 yards each. Strong patrols were then pushed forward after dark and one managed to entrench about thirty yards from the enemy front line “in a very creditable manner” as the adjutant remarked to me. Two other patrols captured four prisoners between them. No patrols suffered any casualties.

Sadly this was not true of the bulk of the Battalion. All morning its positions were shelled by our own artillery, despite requests to desist. As the adjutant told me, with some anger “Finally two of the forward trenches had to be evacuated as the men were all being buried. In doing so the enemy opened with machine guns on them and there were several casualties. Quite apart from its morale effect some thirty men were will or wounded by our own guns”.

Misfortune also befell the enemy as the battalion continued its attack of yesterday: “In one instance a bomb set fire to a German bomb store. A whole company was sheltering in a dug-out with three entrances, according to the statements of two survivors: not many escaped”. The Bedfords captured 3 officers, 128 other ranks and 4 machine guns this morning and, in all reckon to have captured around 160. The final line reached and consolidated stretches from the northern corner of Falfemont Farm for 300 yards north-west across a plateau towards Wedge Wood. Thus the Bedfords succeeded in taking north corner of the farm and the west corner was also taken. Unfortunately other attacks failed to capture the bulk of the farm itself. Nevertheless, this is a significant achievement by the battalion, as the Germans only cede ground very unwillingly, as the intense fighting around Mouquet Farm in the last few weeks shows. The Australians have still failed to take it. So, despite severe casualties, satisfaction is felt by the survivors.

Elsewhere 20th (Light) Division occupied most of Leuze Wood and 7th Division attacked Ginchy without success

Source: X550/2/5

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