Thursday 29 June 2017

Successful Attack on Oppy

Friday 29th June 1917

Last night 15th Brigade of 5th Division and 94th Brigade of 31st Division attacked Oppy and Oppy Wood north-east of Arras. This position had been attacked on 3rd May but had withstood capture, this evening it is in British hands.

The attack seems to have been surprisingly easy, if the words of the adjutant of 1st Bedfords, which took part in the operation, are to be believed. The attackers left their trenches at 7.10 pm last evening, quickly gained all their objectives and then spent the night consolidating the ground against any German counter-attacks. It is understood that 15th Brigade have taken around 150 prisoners as well as a number of machine-guns. While 5th Division took the ruins of Oppy and Oppy Wood, 31st Division took Gavrelle Mill. Both positions have a good view of the German lines and rear areas. German counter-attacks seem to have been largely dealt with by artillery fire.

Second Lieutenant Whitfield [X550/1/82]

1st Battalion casualties during action have been reported as Second Lieutenant A S Trotter and Second Lieutenant C O Whitfield wounded, and Second Lieutenant Hope who dislocated a knee. Acting Company Sergeant Major W J Summerfield, from Wilshamstead, was killed along with eight other ranks, thirteen more are missing and ninety-five wounded, mostly from a German barrage which struck the front line two hours before the operation began.

Surprise seems to have been a key element. The bombardment of the enemy positions did not begin until 7 pm with the attack going in, behind a creeping barrage, just ten minutes later.

It is understood that attacks by 4th Canadian and by 46th (North Midland) Division (who were based in Luton at the beginning of the war) further north around Souchez have also succeeded. The word seems to be that these are not part of a full-scale offensive but rather a “tidying-up” of the line and limited operations to seize positions of tactical importance.

Source: X550/2/5

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