Saturday 25 August 2018

Back at Mametz

Sunday 25th August 1916

Today the New Zealand Division planned to begin the task of taking the town of Bapaume, with 63rd (Royal Naval) Division advancing in protection of its right flank to the south and 37th Division doing the same job in the north on the left flank. Nothing less than the envelopment of the town was the aim in the hope that the Germans would see all was lost and give up the prize without street fighting, than which there is no worse battlefield for an attacker because the defender has the benefit of cover from houses, interlocking fields of fire and the ability to lay booby traps in ruins.

The attack began at first light  under cover of a thick fog. Good progress has been made and the town is partially encircled. More might, perhaps, have been achieved but 63rd Division ran into the hamlet of Thilloy which the enemy has turned into a strongpoint from which he can pour a deadly fire into attacking troops.

Part of the actions of 63rd Division was 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment which began the advance in support to 1st Battalion, Artists Rifles who themselves followed 189th Brigade. The division was given the job of taking Thilloy and Riencourt. The battalion bypassed Loupart Wood to the south and reached the main road from Albert to Bapaume. Ahead of them la Barque had been penetrated but the division was held up my machine gun fire from the right flank. The divisional commander decided to made a defensive flank against this machine gun fire so the Bedfords, forming part of this flank ended the day facing south-west. A few enemy attacks on the division were made this evening but have, so far, been beaten off.

The New Zealanders flowing round the north side of Bapaume also encountered stronger opposition than their comrades to the south. Tonight the town is not completely encircled but  the troops are in good shape and surround a good portion of it and a heavy German counter-attack north of the town has just been defeated by the 37th Division and the New Zealanders there. Four hundred prisoners have been taken along with machine guns and artillery pieces and continued determined action tomorrow and, if necessary, in future days should result in the fall of the town. 

Further south Mametz and Fricourt, famous names from the first day of the great 1916 offensive on the Somme, have been taken by 18th (Eastern) Division, coincidentally one of the divisions in action in this area on that now long ago July day. 12th and 38th Divisions have also advanced further today.

Source: X550/5/3

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