“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.”

 

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