Sunday 13 November 2016

Day One Hundred and Thirty Six on the Somme

Monday 13th November 1916 From our Correspondent in the Field

Today the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division made its first attack on the Somme. Together with 51st (Highland) Division, whose base of operations in 1914 was Bedford, as residents will well remember. Other divisions, too, have been involved in an attack which stretched from Hébuterne in the north to Grandcourt, the front forming a rough L-shape.

31st Division made the attack near Hébuterne. They easily took the German front line trenches and got into a hot fight at the enemy’s support line, many Germans being killed during one of their counter-attacks. This evening, we understand, the division has been ordered to return to its front lines, yielding ground gained. This is because 3rd Division failed completely in its attack on the village of Serre. This area was the site of terribly costly attacks on 1st July by many pals battalions from the north of England, forming 31st Division. Then the ground was rock hard, today it was waist deep in mud and it was this, more than the German defences, which caused the failure. 2nd Division attacked to the south of 3rd Division, advanding along the Redan Ridge. Here some ground, including the German front line was taken.

The Highlanders attacked Beaumont-Hamel itself together with Y-Ravine with the Naval Division attacking between Y-Ravine and the River Ancre. The Scots’ attack was aided by the explosion of a huge mine at Hawthorn Crater. The blast was terrific, the very mud beneath one’s feet quivering with the shock waves. We have been told that 30,000 pounds of explosive were used. The attackers were also aided by a low mist which hampered the Germans’ line of sight. It was some recompense for the deep mud through which the men had to stumble and slog. Their achievement in taking Beaumont-Hamel and Y-Ravine was thus a very notable one of which the men from the glens can be proud.

The Royal Naval Division attacked with its sailors and Royal Marines (188th and 189th Brigades), the “army men” of 190th Brigade, including the 4th Bedfords, being held in reserve. The German front line was taken, along with Beaucourt Station and Station Road, four hundred prisoners being captured into the bargain. The attack on the left, closest to Y-Ravine, suffered many casualties and 190th Brigade was inserted at that point.

The Bedfords suffered from fire from an enemy strongpoint between the German first and second lines. This had been by-passed by the leading brigade. Nevertheless the battalion got to the enemy second line and from there parties pushed on to Station Road and beyond. Thus, in their first action the battalion did itself great credit, though I understand that losses have been heavy, disproportionately so amongst the officers.

On the other side of the River Ancre, 39th Division met with considerable success, advancing over a thousand yards and taking Beaucourt Mill. The village of Saint-Pierre-Divion fell before eight o’clock this morning. 19th (Northern) Division formed the right-hand of the attack. The brigade on the left managed an advance but the brigade on the right, where it joined 18th (Eastern) Division failed to make any headway.

So although today’s attacks have met with mixed success, two more villages, Saint-Pierre-Divion and the much longed-for prize of Beaumont-Hamel have been added to the “bag” in this battle of 136 days. 

No comments:

Post a Comment