Transcript

Report on operations:
first day of the Battle of the Somme
Catalogue reference: WO 158/327


1st July, 1916.
(stamp over)
GENERAL STAFF,
HEADQUARTERS,
4th ARMY.

No.................
Date..............

7.30 a.m. to 8.37 a.m.
          At 7.30 a.m. the troops assaulted.
          The right b[attalio]n of the 87th B[riga]de, the 1st Inniskilling Fusiliers, advanced as if on parade up to the enemy's first line. There the bulk of the battalion was held up by wire, but a portion managed to cross the trenches and advanced over the crest to the support line. The 2nd South Wales Borderers on their left did not succeed in penetrating the enemy's line. Meantime the enemy barrage on our front line caused many losses amongst the 1st K.O.S.B. and the 1st Border Regiment and the K.O.S.B. crossed the parapet, but except for some of the leading sections of the Border Regiments, none reached the leading battalions.
          On the right of the 86th Bde. the 2nd royal Fusiliers advanced at 7.25 a.m. and immediately came under heavy cross machine-gun fire. A few reached the mine crater, but none got as far as the enemy's wire. On the left one company of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers and the two companies of the same regiment in the Sunken Road advanced simultaneously, but failed to penetrate the enemy's wire, and the survivors took refuge in any available cover. Meantime the enemy's barrage on our own front lines so hindered our advance that the supporting battalions did not cross the parapet until 7.55 a.m. The 16th Middlesex on the left moved forward steadily, and reached the crater with considerable losses. The Lancashire Fusiliers at 8.15 a.m. made another attack, but failed.
          At this time the Divisional Headquarters was under the impression that the 87th Bde. had reached its objective and the 4th Division on their left and the 36th Division on their right were reported to be advancing with little opposition. General de Lisle, believing that the leading battalions of the 87th Bde. had gone through and that the German machine-guns in the rear were checking the advance of the supporting battalions, resolved to make another effort to capture the front line. At 8.37 a.m. he ordered the 88th Bde. to attack the German front line with 2 battalions between the western point of the "Y" Ravine (Q.10.d.6.7.) and the right Divisional boundary.
8.37 a.m. onward.
          Accordingly at 9.5 the 1st Newfoundland Regiment advanced to the attack, but the 1st Essex on their right were delayed by blocks in the trenches. Both bns. suffered severely from machine-gun and shell fire, and neither reached the German lines.
          The artillery was due to lift off the BEAUCOURT-BEAUMONT-HAMEL Road at 8.50 a.m., but, in view of what had happened, it was arranged to keep the barrage there until
....9.20.
1st July, 1916.

(stamp over)
GENERAL STAFF,
HEADQUARTERS,
4th ARMY.

No.................
Date..............

9.20   This was subsequently altered to 9.50, then to 10.20 and finally to 10.50. At 9.20 came the news that the 36th Division on the right had failed with the attack on their left. At 10.5, when it became clear that the 88th Bde. had failed to advance, General de Lisle directed that no more troops should be sent forward at present.
          The Commander of the VIII Corps instructed General de Lisle to use the two remaining battalions of the 88th Bde. for a fresh attack on "Y" Ravine in conjunction with an attack by the 4th Division. The Divnl. artillery was accordingly ordered to recommence the bombardment at 11.0 o'clock and to lift at 12.30 p.m. At 12 noon the fire of the heavy artillery was brought back to the enemy's front line at BEAUMONT HAMEL, with orders to lift at 12.25. At 12.10 p.m. the 88th Bde. requested that the hour of attack might be deferred until 12.45, as the 4th Worcesters had not reached the front line owing to the congested state of the trenches. At 1.15 p.m. it was reported that the 4th Worcesters had not attacked and the artillery barrage was accordingly replaced on the enemy's front line. At 1.50 p.m. instructions were issued for the line to be consolidated and the trenches cleared, as all hope of further advance that day was futile. The 2nd Royal Fusiliers had meantime been driven back from the mine crater by trench mortar fire, and the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers, who made another effort to advance at noon, had been compelled to abandon the attempt.
          The positions now adopted were as follows:-
Right sector, 88th Bde., with in the front line, 1st Essex on the right and the 4th Worcesters on the left, and in support 1st Newfoundland Regiment and the 2nd Hampshires. Left sector, 86th Bde, from right to left, 1st Dublin Fusiliers, 2nd Royal Fusiliers, 16th Middlesex and the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers. The 87th Bde. were in the reserve trenches behind the 88th Bde. in the following order, from right to left :- 2nd S.W.B., 1st K.O.S.B., 1st R. Inniskilling Fusiliers, and 1st Border Regiment. That evening an artillery barrage was placed on the enemy's front line from 10.30 to 11.30 p.m. to facilitate the collecting of material and wounded, and during this period the 4 Stokes mortars which had been left at the crater were recovered.
4.     REASONS FOR FAILURE.
                   The causes of failure, in the view of the Divisional Commander, were :-
1.
The enemy was prepared and had reinforced his line.
2.
The enemy had brought up many additional machineguns, which were kept in dug-outs proof against heavy artillery and brought up to repel our inf[antr]y attack. The whole of the BEAUMONT HAMEL area is honeycombed with large caves, some of them capable of accommodating two bns.
3.
Under these conditions the extent of "NO MAN's LAND" to be covered by our assaulting troops was too great.
4.
The explosion of the mine warned the enemy of the time of the assault.
5.       DISCIPLINE AND MORAL.
                    The behaviour of the troops under trying circumstances was perfect. In spite of two attacks having
....failed

1st July, 1916.

 

(stamp over)
GENERAL STAFF,
HEADQUARTERS,
4th ARMY.
No.................
Date..............

failed, the two bns. of the 88th Bde. detailed for the third attack behaved with exemplary bravery. The Newfoundland battalion, for example, attacked 750 strong. 40 odd unwounded returned in the course of the day and the remaining 710 were casualties.
6.          CASUALTIES.
                     In the day's action the Division lost 209 officers and 5,058 other ranks.



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