Monthly Archives: Jun 2016

“Y2” DAY – Somme Bombardment Day 7

“Y2” Day, Friday 30th June 1916 – The final day.

Weather: Cool, very windy, wind west, about 40 mph. Over cast in the morning, clearing in the evening.

Day breaks on the seventh day of the bombardment, the next 24 hrs is the last chance to cut wire and neutralise and destroy the enemy positions at Fricourt.  Frederick’s howitzer battery concentrates on the targets of the previous days.  It is “Y2” Day, Friday 30th June 1916.

The last day of the bombardment has finally come.  One last day of effort before the infantry go over the top when the battery’s work will take on new meaning and shift to closer infantry support.  The old fire table schedules are consulted, ammunition stocks and rations are checked, everything is readied for this final day’s long bombardment.  Five hundred more high explosive are sent hurtling toward Fricourt, you could almost feel sorry for the poor devils at the other end.

DAILY REPORT

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The daily report (REPORT 23 – MB261) warns of some observed repairs to wire and areas where it remains uncut. It is hoped last minute action can deal with this. German retaliatory fire has increased, they have shelled both the front line and support trenches on the 21st Division front.  Another medium mortar position has been destroyed, with one man wounded.  Our own guns have been very active, more than one machine gun position has been identified and shelled, several dugouts have been exposed and blown in. The prolonged heavy use of the 18 pounders has exposed a design weakness in their “running-out” springs which help return the barrel to its pre-firing position. Several guns are out of action.  There have been just two men wounded, one with the Trench Mortars.

Frederick’s howitzer battery faces another night’s work, but notification of zero hour has been received.  It is set for 7.30am July 1st 1916, in full daylight.

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Thoughts will inevitably turn to tomorrow’s tasks when Frederick’s howitzer battery will follow fire table “H” (TABLE 6).  Time synchronisation will be of paramount importance as the bombardment schedule calls for a number of pre-defined “lifts” – a curtain of fire on the German trenches moving ahead of the advancing infantry.

FIRE TABLES

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MAPS

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The mass of khaki assembles along the entire 10 mile front from Gommecourt in the north to Maricourt in the South.  Many stumble and grope their way in the night through the communication trenches into the crowded narrow front line positions, there is hardly room to move.  All the while the enemy’s shells scream towards them, our own shells flew overhead. The restless nervous night is punctuated by the flash and crash of bursting shells and cries for stretcher-bearers. Despite the noise and danger, some would sleep, at least for a while, for others the tension was too great. Slowly day light comes, a gentle wind blows east as a few clouds float in the blue sky overhead.  Could they cross no man’s land and reach the first German line of trenches?  Would the day turn into a deadly race between attackers and defenders, or would General Rawlinson’s words prove to be true?

“nothing could exist at the conclusion of the bombardment in the area covered by it.”

 

“Y1” DAY – Somme Bombardment Day 6

“Y1” Day, Thursday 29th June 1916 – bombardment extended 48hrs.

Weather: Cool, windy, light showers, low clouds on the morning, over cast all day.

The 48hr postponement of the Infantry assault meant another consecutive night of firing for Frederick Buckland’s howitzer battery.  As day break comes, the bombardment of German positions at Fricourt stretches into its sixth day. It is now “Y1” Day, Thursday 29th June 1916.

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After the hurried conferences and re-planning of yesterday, “D” battery’s howitzers revert to shelling the same targets as laid out on “U”, “V” and “Y” day.  For Frederick Buckland it has been nothing but eat, sleep and shoot, eat, sleep and shoot, as the gun crews prepare for another long day.  They work as a well oiled machine, sighting, loading and firing the guns, with every man in his place.  The pattern hardly varies, as shell after shell takes it’s deadly course toward the target.  Frederick’s battery will have fired another 500 rounds of high explosive by nightfall.

FIRE TABLES & TARGET AREAS

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MAPS

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DAILY REPORT

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The daily report (REPORT 22 – MB205) reveals the nagging doubts over sections of wire that have not been cut. The weather conditions have made observation difficult and only 24hrs remain to cut wire.  The Germans have been shelling the 21st Division front line trenches and while their trenches appear badly knocked about, there are ominous signs that their machine guns are still active.  Bad luck continues to dog the medium trench mortars as more equipment fails, there are no more casualties but two men are suffering from shell shock.  A premature at a 4.5 howitzer wounds 4 men, but the gun is only slightly damaged.  Elsewhere, two officers and 4 other ranks are wounded.

Frederick Buckland’s “D” battery prepare for another night’s work, there can be no letup, no opportunity for the enemy to recover, the bombardment will continue to the following day break.  Another 200 plus rounds of H.E. will be fired.

“Y” DAY- Somme Bombardment Day 5

“Y” Day, Wednesday 28th June 1916 –  “Z”  day postponed

Weather: Cool, several storms, very wet, clouds very low all day, with frequent showers.

After the effort of maintaining four consecutive days of non-stop bombardment, the men of “D” battery may have been weary in body, but they were still keen in spirit, they stood by the guns ready for another day’s hard work.  They knew what was at stake, they knew the Infantry was depending on them to smash the German defences to give them a fighting chance when they went over the top. This was meant to be the final 24hrs of the preparatory bombardment, “Y” Day, Wednesday 28th June 1916.

The howitzer of “D” battery would fire 440 H.E. shells at various Fricourt targets over the next 14 hours, between 4.30am until 6.30pm.

FIRE TABLES & TARGET AREAS

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MAPS

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DAILY REPORT

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The weather had deteriorated and light was very bad all day for observing fire, reports from Infantry patrols confirmed the wire had been badly damaged along the whole of the 21st Division front and “laned” in several places. The daily report up for the 24 hours up to 28th June 1916 shows again the vital importance given to wire cutting.  German artillery has begun to shell the front line and support trenches of the 21st Division’s front.  The 96th Brigade’s medium mortar positions have suffered one destroyed and four other mortars buried.  Lt. Stower was killed along with three men and two others wounded. Two of the men had been killed by a mortar premature, some of the heavy mortar ammunition has proved defective.

The Infantry were meant to attack tomorrow when special fire plans would come into effect, but the weather was so bad the decision is made to postpone the attack for 48hrs. The urgent order (MB157) to this effect was transmitted to all batteries and their commanders.

URGENT ORDER

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Batteries were to maintain their full capacity of fire and the importance of night firing to prevent repairs being made by the enemy was stressed, cut wire must not be allowed to be repaired.  The Brigade officers had the task of rapidly re-calculating all plans, selecting targets for the next 48hrs and ensuring sufficient supplies of ammunition for the guns, and food and water for the men who must have been dog tired.  Sergeant Frederick Buckland would have had the task of passing on the news: “Two more days lads, two more days …

 

“X” DAY – Somme Bombardment Day 4

“X” Day, Tuesday, 27th June 1916

Weather: Cool and wet, clouds were very low in the early morning, but lifted slightly later. There were occasional showers of rain during the day.

Frederick’s “D” Battery have again fired through the night, and day break brings a cool and wet day.  The men may have preferred to work in cooler conditions, but no one liked the rain.  It is the fourth day of the bombardment, “X” Day, Tuesday, 27th June 1916.  The conditions do not seem to have hampered the shooting and observations of its effects. The howitzers continued to shell many of the same targets from the previous days. The only break in the schedule is for 40 minutes at 5.20am.  The men of “D” Battery toil for another 13 hours, shooting 540 rounds by 9pm at night.

FIRE TABLES & TARGET AREAS

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MAPS

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DAILY REPORT

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The daily report (REPORT 20 – MB129) leads on the all important matter of wire-cutting, giving details of the state of the wire opposite the 2st Division front as found by reconnaissance. There is concern that wire still exists at some crucial points and a warning that long range observation makes for uncertain results. One mortar position has been destroyed but no casualties have been reported today.

For the fourth consecutive night, the 4.5 howitzers of Frederick Buckland’s “D” Battery fire through the night on what are now familiar targets, expending 200 H.E shells between 9.30 pm and the following day break.

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, JULY-NOVEMBER 1916

A dump of 18 pounder shell cases used in the bomdardment of Fricourt. Extraordinary quantities of ammunition were used in successive bombardments. © IWM (Q 113)

“W” DAY – Somme Bombardment Day 3

“W” Day, Monday, 26th June 1916

Weather: Fine morning, heavy rain afternoon, low clouds.

Frederick’s “D” Battery have again fired through the night and the relentless pace does not slacken on the third day of the bombardment, “W” Day, Monday, 26th June 1916.  A fine morning allows good shooting at BOTTOM WOOD, from 4.30pm until 7pm, it is hit with 120 rounds of H.E. The CRUCIFIX is also targeted, before the Howitzers return to shelling yesterday’s targets once more. Fire is concentrated on CRUCIFIX TRENCH at the end of the day between 4pm and 8pm, hit with 90 rounds of H.E. Fredrick’s “D” battery have fired 635 rounds between 4.30am and 8pm.

FIRE TABLES & TARGET AREAS

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MAPS

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DAILY REPORT

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The daily report (REPORT 19 – MB 102) concludes that wire cutting has been satisfactory, but there is more to be done. Breaks in the wire have been confirmed by overnight Infantry patrols.

The enemy were more active, responding to both the overnight release of smoke (not effective) and gas. Trench mortar equipment continued to fail, some mortar round were seem to be duds, and N.C.T cartridges were proving unreliable. The trench mortar battery casualties were 3 killed and 2 wounded, and among the other units only one man was wounded.

For the third day in a row, Frederick’s “D” Battery fire through the night at the same targets as the first night. Another 240 rounds of H.E. hit the same targets between 9.30pm and the following day break.

“V” DAY – Somme Bombardment Day 2

“V” Day, Sunday, 25th June 1916

Weather: dull and warm, low clouds.

Frederick’s “D” Battery have fired through the night, there is no pause in the bombardment at day break on “V” Day, Sunday, 25th June 1916.  Muscle, sinew and nerve will feel the strain in the next twelve hours as the howitzers of Frederick’s battery follow their task of shelling positions at Fricourt.  The guns search back and forth across enemy lines as they hit the same targets repeatedly at different times of the day.  Both LONELY LANE and LOZENGE WOOD get special attention.  The fire table ends with a concentrated bombardment between 4pm and 5.20pm of LOZENGE WOOD & SUNKEN ROAD and DINGLE & SUNKEN ROAD – 120 rounds of H.E. are fired. Fredrick’s “D” battery have fired 500 rounds between 5am and 5.20pm.

FIRE TABLES & TARGET AREAS

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MAPS

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DAILY REPORT

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The daily report (REPORT 18 – MB74) notes mostly satisfactory results, one set of wire observed to have been repaired overnight was re-cut by additional shelling.  The strength of the wire is such that shelling has been ineffective in some places.  There has been an increase in retaliatory shelling of the 96th Brigades positions, but few casualties with 4 other ranks being wounded on “V” day.

Frederick’s “D” Battery again fire through the night on registered targets from 9.30pm until day break, returning to the last night’s targets and fire another 240 rounds of H.E.

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, JULY-NOVEMBER 1916

Dump of empty ammunition boxes. A small quantity of the total used by one British Division in the bombardment of Fricourt.© IWM (Q 112)

“U” DAY, The Somme Bombardment begins …

“U” Day, Saturday, 24th June 1916

Weather: Raining in the early morning; clearing about 9.00 a.m.. Showers with low clouds all day.

For Frederick Buckland and the men of “D” battery, the battle of the Somme was meant to began at 4.30am on the 24th June 1916.  But the early light was bad and shooting did not start as planned at day-break. The gunners were working to a strict timetable (TABLE A & B) which emphasised wire cutting at pre-designated trench locations in the Fricourt area, as highlighted in the daily report (REPORT 17 – MB3).

FIRE TABLES & TARGET AREAS

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MAPS

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DAILY REPORT

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The 96th Brigade are hampered by problems with their trench mortar equipment whose positions at BAILIFF WOOD, ABERDEEN AVENUE and BECOURT WOOD are intermittently shelled by the enemy during the day.  One 4.5 howitzer suffers a premature, slightly damaging the gun sight and wounding 4 men. Both the 18 pounder and howitzer mechanisms work with separate fuzed shell and cartridge.

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Diagram of British No. 101 E Fuze, and Gaine No. 2 Mk III, with delay. 101 nose graze fuze with addition of spin-controlled safety shutter, operating at 2000 rpm. For use with high-explosive shells.

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World War I Mk V high-explosive shell. Red band indicates it has been filled. Green band indicates it is filled with amatol or trotyl (TNT)
Contained 4 lb 10oz (2.09 kg) explosive

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Mk I cartridge case showing arrangement of cordite rings around central core. One or more rings were removed for shorter ranges

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Cartridge case for Howitzer Gun, the projectile portion was fed into the Breach of the gun first, followed by the charge rapped in cloth, then on top of that the cartridge casing containing the percussion cap was fitted over the charge and pushed up to the rim. The door of the breach was closed and the gun fired, all that was left was the casing, which was removed ready for the next projectile.

Shells were predominantly either shrapnel or high explosive (H.E.). The N.C.T (Nitrocellulose) cartridges give rather erratic results.

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, JULY-NOVEMBER 1916

Gunners of the Royal Field Artillery, have a cigarette break at a 4.5 inch howitzer emplacement at Thiepval in September 1916. Note the ready 4.5 inch shells, with No 101 Fuzes.© IWM (Q 1537)

Shooting continues all day, with the bulk of the wire cutting tasks falling to the 96th Brigade’s 18 pounder batteries, “A” , B” and “C”.  As the summer light fades and darkness approaches, the howitzers of Frederick’s “D” Battery fire through the night on registered targets from 9.30pm until day break. The howitzers fire 240 rounds of H.E. in seven hours from 9.30pm until 4.30am the follwing morning.  The 21st Divisional Artillery suffered one man killed and 4 wounded on “U” day.

The eve of the bombardment …

23rd June 1916The eve of the bombardment

The 4.5inch Howitzers of “D” Battery, 96th Brigade RFA, have been brought into new positions near Bercodel and made ready for action on 23rd June 1916, the eve of the bombardment.

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Ammunition, rations and water have all been stockpiled over the previous seventeen days. Lorries and the light railway from Albert to Becord Wood were used to get all materials as close to the batteries as possible before being man handled into position.

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, JULY-NOVEMBER 1916

A light railway engine of the Royal Engineers derailed. Note cavalry in background. Albert-Fricourt road.© IWM (Q 4343)

In the coming days, 47076 Serjeant Frederick Sizmur Buckland of Mitcham will have to use all his training, experience, and skill to ensure his gun crew shoots effectively, accurately and to the detailed timetables set out by the battery commanders. Their targets are the German positions at Fricourt.

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Serjeant Buckland was typical of Kitchener’s citizen army, a man with no prior military experience, an “Electrician’s Storekeeper”, before volunteering in December 1914 along with other men from various locations in the City and elsewhere. For example:

47015 a/Bmdr (later serj.) Ernest Shepherd MM, from Edmonton, volunteered on 2 Dec 1914, served in C/97th and D/96th Brigade RFA, wounded in 1917.

47031 Drv. Henry John Gutteridge, a carman from Hornsey, volunteered on 2 Dec 1914, served in C/97th and D/96th Brigade RFA, discharged unfit with Silver War Badge 01-May-1918, wounded in an accident.

47056 Drv. Sidney Arthur Peeke, a boiler tester from the Old Kent Road, volunteered on 2 Dec 1914, served in C/97th Brigade RFA.

47065 Drv. Alfred William Shuttleworth, a gardener from North Finchley, volunteered on 2 Dec 1914, served in C/97th Brigade RFA, lost a leg in the War.

47117 Sgt. George William Yenson MM, from East Ham, volunteered in early Dec 14, served in 97th and 94th Brigade RFA, discharged unfit 14-Feb-1919 with Silver War Badge.

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They all served in Brigades of the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) that would form part of the 21st Division in one of Lord Kitchener’s New Armies which was given the “triple seven insignia”.

Frederick Buckland was 23 years old and unmarried, he had been born and brought up in Tooting, his family moved to Marlborough Road, Collier’s Wood, by the time of the Great War. Frederick’s Brigade had first crossed the channel from Southampton to Le Harve on 10th September 1915 in three boats. He was then in the all howitzer “C” battery of the 97th Brigade, 21st Division.

Frederick had already seen the full horror of war at the battle of Loos almost a year ago. After just two weeks in France, and with no trench or battle experience, both the 21st and 24th Divisions were thrown into the second day of the battle of Loos, a major British offensive, on the 26th September 1915. This would be a horrendous baptism of fire for the infantry of the 21st and 24th Divisions. Tasked with a frontal assault in daylight without the cover of gas or smoke, the troops attacked the second German line, a series of well prepared trenches which lay behind thick belts of barbed wire that remained uncut. The ground was mostly open and flat, offering little cover and already strewn with the dead and dying of the previous day. At hill 70 they were attacking uphill. Frederick’s battery, and the other divisional artillery offered what support they could, but were mostly firing at ill-defined targets. There was a lack of proper trench maps, officers sent forward to reconnoitre were snipped at, the artillery was not able to provide close support for the attacking troops. The 21st Divisions infantry were simply cut down by machine gun and rifle fire, which for some units came from three sides and even from behind. Of the two division, there had been twelve battalions making the attack, in all close to 10,000 men, and in the three hours, or so, of that day’s action the casualties were reckoned to be 385 officers and 7861 men. The men of Kitchener’s New Army had paid a heavy price.

Frederick’s battery commander Captain G.E. Heath and 2nd Lt. R. St. G. Brooks were both killed when retiring from a forward position in front of Loos, they were caught by machine gun fire, and five NCOs were wounded that day. Frederick’s battery continued to engage the enemy as best they could over the next two days, themselves coming under repeated heavy shell fire. Further casualties were sustained by the battery on the 28th, including a group of six telephonists who either all killed or wounded by enemy shell fire. The Battle of Loos would not end until 14th October 1914, but Frederick’s battery was withdrawn on the 1st of October and moved to the Armentieres sector were they remained until the spring of 1916.

At home, Frederick’s older brother Ciifford Harold Buckland volunteered on 8th November 1915 he enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in West London, but for reasons unknown he was discharged in a matter of days and there is no other record of him serving in the armed forces. His other brother, Francis George Buckland, was called up in third week of May 1916. He was among a small number of men from the Tooting area assigned to one of the Royal Garrison Artillery’s Siege Batteries, who manned the heavy guns on the Western Front. He would not be in France until 1917. He would be awarded a Military Medal later in the war.

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In France, Frederick’s howitzer battery moved to Dernancourt, just south of Albert, in May 1916 and the 96th Battery was positioned at Bercodel, a little to the east of Albert. Orders were received from GHQ around 15th May for a re-organisation, Frederick’s howitzer battery, c/97, was to be interchanged with “D” battery of the 96th Brigade. Batteries of the 96th Brigade would spend much of May improving their positions, and especially the field telephone communications. It was obvious this was the build up to the “Big Push” on the Somme.

Now it was time to make the final checks and re-checks of plans, preparations and orders as originally laid out in detail in “96th Bde. Operational Order no.1” dated 16th June, 1916.

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Frederick and the men of his battery need to get as much rest as possible, a long day awaits them. The guns will in action at first light tomorrow ….

The “Big Push” is coming …

22rd June 1916 – The “Big Push” is coming …

The massed forces of the BEF are poised to launch the Somme Offensive, the infantry assault is planned for the 29th June, just a week away.  The much anticipated “Big Push” has finally come.

The theatre of operations is bounded by Gommecourt in the north and the marshy banks of the languid snaking Somme river in the south.

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It will be the biggest operation conducted by the British Army in its entire history as they attack with twelve divisions over a 20,000 yard front (approx. 12 miles) from Gommecourt in the north to Maricourt in the south. Beyond Maricourt, two French divisions to the north of the Somme and three to the south of the river will support the British attack.

The men of the B.E.F. on the Somme comprised a mixture of the remains of the pre-war regular army, the Territorial Force and of Kitchener’s New Army with its many Pals battalions, recruited from the same places and occupations.

Men from Mitcham were among the “Regulars”, “Terriors” and the “Pals”.  They filled the ranks of the gunners too.  The 56th (London) Division, an entirely Territorial Force, was at Gommecourt. With them were:

Frank Roffey, Private in 2nd London (Royal Fusiliers), from Byegrove Road, off Collier’s Wood High Street.

Herbert John Albert little, Private 1st/9th London (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), brought up in Tooting, family in Ashbourne Road, Mitcham, in war years.

Lewis Farewell Jones, Major “D” company C.O 12th London (The Rangers), born in Hampstead, family home “Brenley”, Cedars Avenue Mitcham.

The 29th Division was at Beaumont-Hamel, with them were:

Isaiah Lemon, Private in the 1st Bn. Border Regiment, from 6 Everitts Place, Phipps Bridge Rd, Mitcham.

Victor George Stokes, Private in the 1st Bn. Border Regiment, from Church Street, Mitcham, near the “Bull” public house.

Charles Edward Gibbs, Private in the 1st Bn. Border Regiment (awarded MM in 1917), from Pitcairn Road, Mitcham.

The 8th Division was at Ovillers, with them were:

Henry Stewart Jackson, Lt. 8th King’s Own Yorkshre Light Infantry, family home “White Heather”, Graham Road, Mitcham.

Frederick William Hawkins, Private 2nd Middlesex, husband of Elizabeth Mary Ann Hawkins, of 7, Western Road, Mitcham.

The 21st Division was at Fricourt, with them was:

Frederick Sizmur Buckland, Sergeant “D” Battery, 96th Brigade RFA , born and brought up in Tooting, family lived at 75 Marlborough Road by the time of the Great War.

The 18th Division was a Carnoy, with them were:

Walter O’Keefe, L/Cpl 7th East Kent (Buffs), from Marian Road, Lonesome, Mitcham.

Betram Joseph James White, Private 7th Royal West Surrey (Queens), family home 5, Westfield Rd., Love Lane, Mitcham.

Frederick Charles William Bass, Private 8th East Surrey, married with a son, family home in Collier’s Wood.

There were many others …

The plan for a joint Franco-British offensive on the Somme had its genesis in the Winter conferences of 1915, and soon after on 19th December, Sir Douglas Haig took command of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), and on the 30th December, Gen. Joseph Jacques Cesaire Joffre, was made C-in-C French Army. The British Army had taken over the “Somme sector” from the French as the impact of their defence of Verdun was felt.  This life or death struggle had been raging since 21st February 1916 and the imperative to relieve the pressure at Verdun was never greater than in May and June 1916. French involvement in the Somme attack was steadily scaled down as they suffered terrible casualties at Verdun.

General Rawlinson took over the planning of the Somme offensive which he envisaged as a limited “Bite and Hold” operation designed, as he put it, to:

“kill as many Germans as possible with the least loss to ourselves”. 

He proposed, in the absence of explicit instructions from above, a limited advance taking objectives of local tactical importance, well prepared by his artillery, which could then be easily defended against the inevitable German counter-attacks. General Haig viewed his plan as too conservative and wanted both an expansion of the front to be attacked and to a greater depth. Under pressure from his superior, Rawlinson successfully held out for a prolonged artillery bombardment.  He argued the need to deal with the barbed wire, dugouts and strong points that stretched across the two lines of German trenches to be taken in the first waves of the infantry assault.

The plan that emerged required the British divisions to take in one bound the first and second German lines from Serre to Pozieres and a position east of the villages of Contalmaison and Montauban at the southern end of the British line. The troops of the French 6th Army were to advance either side of the Somme river to positions also midway between the first and second German lines.  The attack at Gommecourt was conceived as a diversion to the main thrust.

The date for the start of the offensive was set for Thursday, 29th June 1916 with the bombardment due to start on Saturday, 24th June.

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, JULY-NOVEMBER 1916

General Sir Douglas Haig and General Sir Henry Rawlinson at the Fourth Army Headquarters, Querrieu, July 1916.© IWM (Q 817)

The Germans had been on the Somme for two years and had steadily turned the rolling chalk downs and woods of the Somme into a formidable fortress, expertly taking advantage of high points and natural contours, with trenches fronted by thick belts of barbed wire. They had built deep reinforced dugouts interconnected by underground passages and many machine gun nests were placed in concrete bunkers.

Trench Barat, Opposite Gommecourt Wood, March 1916
Trench Barat, Opposite Gommecourt Wood, March 1916© IWM (Art.IWM ART 4837)

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, JULY-NOVEMBER 1916

The steps leading down to a huge German underground shelter at Bernafay Wood, near Montauban.© IWM (Q 4307)

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In places, attacking troops would have to pass through interlocking fields of fire from three sides, while subjected to an artillery barrage.

As the plans were passed down the chain of command, those with doubts, or criticism, were regarded as unwelcome voices. Dissent was subdued, confidence was to be instilled, as the plan developed a life and momentum of its on. The largest ever British Army, swelled by Kitchener’s volunteers, was supported by a huge quantity of artillery pieces, 1072 light and 442 medium and heavy guns. The prevailing attitude was epitomised by General Rawlinson:

“nothing could exist at the conclusion of the bombardment in the area covered by it.”

The die was cast …

The Somme Centenary ..

mitchamwarmemorial.wordpress.com  marks the Somme Centenary with a special blog series.

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Follow Mitcham’s men during the opening seven day bombardment and the events on the first day of the battle,  1st July 1916.  Contemporary documents, photographs and eye-witness accounts are brought together to tell their stories across the battlefield, from Gommecourt in the north to Carnoy in the south.

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Click here to download the map

Today  “The Big Push is Coming ..”  sets the scene, tomorrow  “The Eve of the Bombardment ..” introduces  Sgt. Frederick Buckland of “D” Battery, 96th Brigade, RFA.   They shell enemy positions at Fricourt  day and night for five days, expecting zero hour to be on  29th June 1916.  Bad weather causes a 48hr postponement, the bombardment must continue without pause for two more days.  Read his story day by day, all this week.

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The “First Day” will trace the events of a dozen of Mitcham’s men across the Somme in what was the single bloodiest day in British history.

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