Friday, 24 August 2018
Advance on Bapaume
Saturday 24th August 1915
The advance continued today with IV Corps busy west of Bapaume. Whilst it was still dark the gallant New Zealand Division attacked the shattered foliage of Loupart Wood and the remains of the village of Grevillers. Meanwhile 37th Division attacked Biefvillers north-east of Grevillers. The intention was then for the men from the Land of the Long White Cloud to go on and take the town of Bapaume - the target, it may be remembered of four months' fighting in 1916. Around two dozen tanks were available to help the Kiwis in their endeavours.
Despite the rather poor weather today the New Zealanders quickly took Grevillers, though at some cost. At this time 37th Division was fruitlessly struggling to get up to Biefvillers under very heavy fire. rather than making a dash for Bapaume the commander of the New Zealand 2nd Brigade decided to add his numbers to those of 37th Division, surely the correct decision, and by ten o'clock this morning the village was taken. By this time the Germans, seeing the danger of this attack rushed reinforcements to the locality and a counter-attack pushed the leading British and New Zealand troops back from Avesnes-le-Comte. Bapaume may not have fallen today but the Kiwis are confident that it will fall tomorrow.
Meanwhile in the early hours of this morning 38th (Welsh) Division recaptured Thiepval and the Schwaben Redoubt. It will be remembered that Thiepval first fell to 7th Bedfords on 26th September 1916 and was held by the 4th Bedfords for a while during March. Seizing this high ground is vital as it overlooks enemy positions.
La Boiselle and Ovillers, or rather the pathetic little cairns which mark the graves of the houses in these settlements were also taken by 18th Division. We are given to understand that the Welshmen have captured nearly 150 enemy machine guns today. One hundred and fifty! The enemy usually gives up a single one of these weapons up about as willingly as a healthy man would give up a hand, a fact very suggestive as to the state of the enemy's morale.
In the south 18th Division has taken the hamlet of Becourt and its wood and elements from three divisions (12th 47th and 58th) have retaken Grove Town. During the 1916 battles Grove Town Camp was a huge staging post for men and material moving up to the front line. Finally the Australians have recaptured the remains of the town of Bray on the north bank of the River Somme. Any of these gains would be significant in itself and so many on one day means that the army is really beginning to believe that the dam of German resistance has cracked and it will only take a determined effort to break it completely.