“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

43112_2136_0-00264

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.

No101EFuze&GaineNo2MkIIIWithDelayRL

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.

Shell_Q.F._High_Explosive_4.5_in_Howitzer_Mark_V,_plugged

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

4.5inchHowitzerCartridgeDiagram

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

A0361_ex

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.

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