Wednesday 12 October 2016

Day One Hundred and Four on the Somme

Thursday 12th October 1916 From our Correspondent in the Field

Lieutenant-Colonel Poyntz

This morning 2nd Bedfords spent preparing for their attack on Bite Trench. Things did not begin well when the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel H S Poyntz was wounded whilst explaining plan of attack to company commanders at 11 a.m. 

Second Lieutenant Fyson

A curious incident occurred about this time - a party of Germans (two officers and about fifty men) appeared in Gird Trench without any arms. They made signs of surrender, but hesitated to come over for fear of being shot, Second Lieutenant H G Fyson, however went out and spoke to the German Officer who got back into the trench, but just as he got in, someone fired a shot at him, and after this, naturally they did not surrender and come over to our lines.

2nd Bedfords' sketch map of the plan of attack

This might have seemed a good omen. The attack commenced just after 2 pm but owing to the Battalion’s trenches not facing the objective the companies on the left had to make a turn across the enemy's front which was only 250 yards away.

The attack was made in four waves, C and D Companies forming the first two waves, C Company under Lieutenant R Hopkins on the right and D under Captain L F Beal on the left. B Company formed the third wave under Captain E S M Poyntz and A Company formed the fourth wave, in support, under Lieutenant W White. The distance between each wave was one hundred yards.

Second Lieutenant (later Captain) Reiss 

At first all went well on the left until the first wave of attackers reached a small ridge about sixty yards in front , when it came under terrific machine gun and rifle fire from the left and front in Gird Trench, causing many casualties. They pushed on and got within fifty yards of Gird Trench, but the fire was so great that they were held up owing to having so many casualties. Second Lieutenant Fyson, the would-be negotiator of the morning, was killed and Second Lieutenant J Reiss wounded in the first five minutes of the attack. Here the attackers had to lie out until nightfall, as the 17th Battalion King’s (Liverpool) Regiment on their left were also held up and could not advance.

Second Lieutenant L H Bird

Further right, however, C and D Companies made better progress and passed over the Southern end of Gird Trench towards Bayonet Trench. They also came under heavy machine gun fire, this time from Gird Support Trench and got held up. At this time, about 3 p.m., Second Lieutenant Bird and Second Lieutenant Walker, who supervised digging of the assembly trenches last night, were killed.

Captain E S M Poyntz

On B Company reinforcing the attack they pushed on again and captured about 200 yards of Bite Trench, which is a shallow communication trench, much blown in. Seeing that Gird Support Trench and Bayonet Trench were very strongly held and being under very heavy enfilade fire from Gird Support Trench, Captain E S M Poyntz and Lieutenant R Hopkins decided it was useless to attempt to get further, so they dug in along the captured portion of Bite Trench. 

Captain R Hopkins

This they did under heavy enfilade fire. This portion of Bite Trench was converted by B and C Companies into a magnificent fire trench and is very important owing to the observation that can be obtained from it. Half of A Company converted the Southern portion of Gird Trench and placed a block about 70 yards up. An attempt was made to cut a trench from here to contact up to D Company who were isolated and digging in about seventy yards to the West of Gird Trench, but this had to be given up owing to the enemy's fire on this point.

Captain L F Beal

All hopes, I have been told, have given up of trying to get in touch with D Company under Captain Beal, who is isolated with about fifty men. Several messages have been sent, but the runners were either killed or wounded. Eventually 2nd Lieutenant J P Pitts got back to Headquarters with a message and he took back orders for Captain Beal to withdraw to his original position after dark. We hope he finds him.

Second Lieutenant J P Pitts

Thus the attack by 30th Division on Gird Trench has had mixed fortunes. Less has been achieved than was hoped but not everything has ended in failure, with some ground having been taken. On the left of the division 9th (Scottish) Division made an attack towards the Butte de Warlencourt but were only able to progress about one hundred yards due to intense fire.

To the left of 30th Division, 9th (Scottish) Division attacked the Butte de Warlencourt and a small stand of trees known as Little Wood. These places were not taken, but an advance of 200 yards was made

To the right of 30th Division, 6th Division, though not 8th Bedfords, made an attack today on Zenith Trench between Lesboeufs and Gueudecourt but were repulsed. The 8th Bedfords are in front line trenches east of Gueudecourt from which they relieved the attacking battalions yesterday. Other attacks by the Division gained some small success. 12th (Eastern) Division made some small gains also. One of the attacking units was the Newfoundland Regiment, temporarily attached from 29th Division. These men from the wild east coast of Canada suffered terrible casualties in unsuccessful attacks on 1st July. Today they enjoyed a bit more success and have suffered many less casualties. Their bravery in July was an exemplar to all in the army and their work today, though slight in its gains was, we understand, carried out with the same gallant determination.

On the right flank of the British Army on the Somme, 4th Division attacked alongside the French and managed to get five hundred yards forward. Attacks on Rainy, Dewdrop and Spectrum trenches have met with failure, however.

Source: X550/3/wd

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