Friday 17 February 2017

The Battle of Boom Ravine

Saturday 17th February 1917 from our correspondent in the field

The adjutant of the 7th Battalion has been in contact this evening to tell me about their attack on Petit Miraumont today. This village lies on the south bank of the River Ancre directly north of Pozieres. The village of Miraumont lies on the north bank.

The adjutant tells me that today was termed Z Day. All arrangements were complete for the attack by 4 am. The final objective was South Miraumont Trench (shown on the map above) which defends the southern portion of Petit Miraumont. At 5.45 am our Barrage opened - the attacking troops being formed up ready before this. In fact during this forming up the men were heavily shelled by the enemy who had apparently detected or gained information that something was taking place(1). Many casualties were suffered by this shell fire adding to the difficulties of making a good start.

The Bedfords were in reserve to the two assaulting battalions, 11th Royal Fusiliers and 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment and the support battalion - 12th Middlesex. The adjutant calmly related that the battle “progressed in the usual way” until the second objective was reached. This is a spot called the Boom Ravine (shown in yellow on the map above) about 500 yards short of the final objective. Maps show this ravine as being 40 feet deep. Here it was found almost impossible to advance further as most of the officers had become wounded also many other ranks. As soon as this fact had been established orders were issued by 54th Bde headquarters for the assaulting troops to entrench and make dispositions for holding the ground they had gained, this was done and by nightfall the work of consolidation was well advanced.

A German counterattack was to be expected and in view of this the General Officer Commanding 54th Brigade ordered two companies of the 7th Bedfords to be moved forward into close support. Accordingly A Company moved to a spot about 500 yards behind the front line known as The Gulley and B Company to Regina Trench(2).

This setback comes after successful attacks in recent days including a successful Australian attack on 4th February and an attack on 8th when 17th Division took the trench overlooking the village of Saillisel.

Source: X550/8/1

(1) Information seems to have been given the Germans by a deserter.

(2) As well as 18th (Eastern Division), 2nd Division was also involved in the attack which nowhere gained its full objectives but managed an advance of between 500 and 1,000 yards. Casualties were very high - nearly 900 men in 2nd Division and nearly 1,200 in 18th.

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