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Full text of "The battle of the Somme"

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University of Toronto 



http://archive.org/details/battleofsommOObuch 



THE 
BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

JOHN BUCHAN 



/ v 




ENTRANCE TO A CAPTURED 
GERMAN DUG-OUT 



533Sab THE 



BATTLE of the SOMME 



BY 

JOHN BUCHAN 

EENMANTLE," "THE THIRTY 
"THE POWER HOUSE," ETC. 

WITH MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS 




NEW YORK 
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY 



.--' 



COPYRIGHT, 1917, 
B¥ GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY 



D 
s l8<ZO 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



; 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

I. Preliminaries 13 

II. First Stage 34 

III. Second Stage 65 

IV. Third Stage 109 

V. Fourth Stage 152 

Appendix I. Sir Douglas Haig's Second Dis- 
patch 175 

Appendix II. Experiences of the IV German 
Corps in the Battle of the Somme 
During July, 1 9 1 6. General Sixt 
von Armin's Report .... 225 






ILLUSTRATIONS 

Entrance to a Captured German Dug-out .... Frontispiece 

PAGE 

Sir Douglas Haig and Lieu tenant-General Sir Pertab Singh . . 14 

Road Making on the Battlefield 15 

Infantry Going Into Action 15 

Some Big Shells 24 

Machine Gun Detail Equipped with Gas Masks 25 

Distribution of Ammunition to Men Returning to Fire Trench . 36 

A Roll Call on the Afternoon of July 1st 37 

Artillery Observation Post in Rear of German Line 44 

Clearing a Road Through Contalmaison 45 

Coming and Going 56 

Canadians Preparing to Charge 57 

In the Trenches Near Thiepval 66 

Comfort in a Dug-out 67 

Pipers of the Black Watch After the Capture of Longueval . . 74 

A Trench at Ovillers 75 

After the Rain. An Ambulance Stuck in the Mud 86 

Welsh Guards in a Trench at Guillemont 87 

The Worcester Regiment Going into Action 98 

A Fifteen Inch Shell 99 

British "Tanks" in Action 112 

British Shells Bursting on German Trenches 113 

Highland Brigade Relieved from Duty After the Capture of Martin- 

puich 122 

vii 



viii ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

Martinpuich Main Street 123 

Relieved Canadian Troops Passing Ammunition Train on Its Way 

to the Firing Line 130 

Moving a Big Gun 131 

Pointing a Heavy Gun 146 

Heavy Gun in Action 147 

Ruins of Beaumont Hamel 158 

The Railway at Beaucourt 159 

Repairing a Captured German Aeroplane 162 

A Mine Exploding Before the Assault 163 

Devastation — "Somewhere in France" 170 

Evening Behind the Lines 171 



MAPS 

PAGE 

Trench Map of the German Defences 18, 19 

Contoured Map of the Ground on Which the British Army Was 
Engaged 29 

The Front from Monchy to Fay, July 1st (showing general ar- 
rangement of opposing armies) 37 

Front of the British Left Attack, July 1st (Gommecourt to Thiep- 
val) 41 

Front of the British Centre and Right Attack, July 1st (Ovillers 
to Montauban) 42 

The First French Advance North of the Somme 50 

Allied Front on July 2nd (showing original line on the 1st and 
ground won up to the evening of the 2nd) 50,51 

Allied Front on July 3rd (showing the original line on July 1st and 
the ground won up to the evening of July 3rd) 52, 53 

Ovillers, La Boisselle, and Contalmaison 54, 55 

The Wooded Hinterland of Fricourt and Mametz 58, 59 

Bernafay and Trones Woods 61 

Map Showing the Allied Front Line on July 1st and the Ground 
Gained up to July 14th 62,63 

Longueval and Delville Wood 72 

Pozieres 78 

Guillemont and Ginchy 85 

The French Advance, August I2th-i6th 95 

Thiepval 97 

Allied Front on August 18th (showing original line on July 1st and 
the ground gained (shaded) from August 14th to August 18th) .96,97 

ix 



x MAPS 

PAGE 

The Advance of September 3rd 102 

Falfemont Farm and Combles 104 

Advance of Micheler's 10th French Army, September 5th and 6th 
(showing the original French front before July 1st, and the 
ground gained by the advance) 106 

The Allied Front on September 10th (showing the original front on 
July 1st and the ground gained up to September 10th) . . 106, 107 

The British Attack on September 15th 1 18 

The French Advance of September I2th-I4th (capture of Boucha- 
vesnes and Le Priez Farm) .126 

The Attack of September 25th and 26th (the gains on the right) . 128 

The Allied Front North of the Somme on October 1st (showing the 
front on July 14th and the ground gained from July 14th to Oc- 
tober 1st) 132, 133 

The Gueudecourt and Warlencourt Spurs 138, 139 

The Thiepval Ridge 140, 141 

The French Advance During October North of the Somme . . 145 

The French Advance During October South of the Somme (showing 
the front of the 10th Army on October 1st and the ground gained 
during the month) 147 

The British Line North of Thiepval on November 13th ., ■ . . 156 

The Attack on November 13th. (Scene of the victorious advance 
of the centre and right) , . . 156,157 

The Allied Front on November 19th (showing the original front on , 
July 1st and the ground gained up to November 19th) . . 164, 165 



THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 



THE BATTLE 
OF THE SOMME 



CHAPTER I 

PRELIMINARIES 

The Picardy Landscape — The Santerre — The Somme Front before 
Midsummer 1916— The German Situation — Why a Shorten- 
ing of the Line was Impossible — The German Position on the 
Somme — The Allied Plan — German Dispositions — The New Brit- 
ish Army — Its Quality — Its Munitionment — British Dispositions — 
French Dispositions — The Great Bombardment — Trench Raids 
and Gas Attacks — The Morning of the Attack, 1st July. 

FROM Arras southward the Western battle- 
front left the coalpits and sour fields of the 
Artois and entered the pleasant region of 
Picardy. The great crook of the Upper Somme 
and the tributary vale of the Ancre intersect a roll- 
ing tableland, dotted with little towns and furrowed 
by a hundred shallow chalk streams. Nowhere does 
the land rise higher than 500 feet, but a trivial 
swell — such is the nature of the landscape — may 
carry the eye for thirty miles. There are few de- 
tached farms, for it is a country of peasant culti- 
vators who cluster in villages. Not a hedge breaks 
the long roll of cornlands, and till the higher ground 
is reached the lines of tall poplars flanking the great 

13 



14 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

Roman highroads are the chief landmarks. At the 
lift of country between Somme and Ancre copses 
patch the slopes, and sometimes a church spire is 
seen above the trees from some woodland hamlet. 
The Somme winds in a broad valley between chalk 
bluffs, faithfully dogged by a canal — a curious river 
which strains, like the Oxus, "through matted rushy 
isles/' and is sometimes a lake and sometimes an 
expanse of swamp. The Ancre is such a stream as 
may be found in Wiltshire, with good trout in its 
pools. On a hot midsummer day the slopes are 
ablaze with yellow mustard, red poppies, and blue 
cornflowers; and to one coming from the lush flats 
of Flanders, or the "black country" of the Pas de 
Calais, or the dreary levels of Champagne, or the 
strange melancholy Verdun hills, this land wears a 
habitable and cheerful air, as if remote from the 
oppression of war. 

The district is known as the Santerre. Some 
derive the name from sana terra — the healthy land; 
others from sarta terra — the cleared land. Some 
say it is sancta terra, for Peter the Hermit was a 
Picard, and the piety of the Crusaders enriched the 
place with a thousand relics and a hundred noble 
churches. But there are those — and they have much 
to say for themselves — who read the name sang terre 
— the bloody land, for the Picard was the Gascon of 
the north, and the countryside is an old cockpit of 
war. It was the seat of the government of Clovis 
and Charlemagne. It was ravaged by the Normans, 
and time and again by the English. There Louis 
XL and Charles the Bold fought their battles; it 
suffered terribly in the Hundred Years' War; Ger- 
man and Spaniard, the pandours of Eugene and the 




SIR DOUGLAS HAIG AND 
LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIR PERTAB SINGH 




*.i 



INFANTRY GOING INTO ACTION 




ROAD MAKING ON THE BATTLEFIELD 



PRELIMINARIES 15 

Cossacks of Alexander marched across its fields; 
from the walls of Peronne the last shot was fired in 
the campaign of 1814. And in the greatest war of 
all it was destined to be the theatre of a struggle 
compared with which its ancient conflicts were like 
the brawls of a village fair. 

Till Midsummer in 19 16 the Picardy front had 
shown little activity. Since that feverish September 
when de Castelnau had extended on the Allies' left, 
and Maud'huy beyond de Castelnau, in the great 
race for the North Sea, there had been no serious 
action. Just before the Battle of Verdun began the 
Germans made a feint south of the Somme and 
gained some ground at Frise and Dompierre. There 
had been local raids and local bombardments, but 
the trenches on both sides were good, and a partial 
advance offered few attractions to either. Amiens 
was miles behind one front, vital points like St. 
Quentin and Cambrai and La Fere were far behind 
the other. In that region only a very great and 
continuous offensive would offer any strategic re- 
sults. In July 1915 the British took over most of 
the line from Arras to the Somme, and on the whole 
they had a quiet winter in their new trenches. This 
long stagnation led to one result: it enabled the 
industrious Germans to excavate the chalk hills on 
which they lay into a fortress which they believed 
to be impregnable. Their position was naturally 
strong, and they strengthened it by every device 
which science could provide. Their High Com- 
mand might look uneasily at the Aubers ridge and 
Lens and Vimy, but it had no doubts about the 
Albert heights. 



16 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

The German plan in the West after the first 
offensive had been checked at the Marne and 
Ypres, was to hold their front with abundant 
guns but the bare minimum of men, and use 
their surplus forces to win a decision in the East. 
This scheme was foiled by the heroic steadfastness 
of Russia's retreat, which surrendered territory 
freely but kept her armies in being. During the 
winter of 1915-16 the German High Command 
were growing anxious. They saw that their march 
to the Dvina and their adventure in the Balkans had 
failed to shake the resolution of their opponents. 
They were aware that the Allies had learned with 
some exactness the lesson of eighteen months of 
war, and that even now they were superior in men, 
and would presently be on an equality in munitions. 
Moreover, the Allied Command was becoming con- 
centrated and shaking itself free from its old passion 
for divergent operations. Our generals had learned 
the wisdom of the order of the King of Syria to his 
captains: "Fight neither with small nor great but 
only with the King of Israel"; and the King of 
Israel did not welcome the prospect. 

Now, to quote a famous saying of General Foch, 
"A weakening force must always be attacking," and 
from the beginning of 191 6 the Central Powers were 
forced into a continuous offensive. Their economic 
strength was draining steadily. Their people had 
been told that victory was already won, and were 
asking what had become of the fruits of it. They 
feared greatly the coming Allied offensive, for they 
knew that it would be simultaneous on all fronts, 
and they cast about for a means of frustrating it. 
That was the main reason of the great Verdun 



PRELIMINARIES 17 

assault. Germany hoped, with the obtuseness that 
has always marked her estimate of other races, so 
to weaken the field strength of France that no future 
blow would be possible, and the French nation, 
weary and dispirited, would incline to peace. She 
hoped, in any event, to lure the Allies into a pre- 
mature counter-attack, so that their great offensive 
might go off at half-cock and be defeated piece- 
meal. 

None of these things happened. Petain at 
Verdun handled the defence like a master. With 
a wise parsimony he refused to use up any 
unit. When a division had suffered it was taken out 
of the line and replaced by a fresh one, so that none 
of the cadres were destroyed. He was willing enough 
to yield ground, if only the enemy paid his price. 
His aim was not to hold territory, but to cripple the 
German field army, and his plan succeeded. The 
German force was, as the French say, accroche at 
Verdun, and was compelled to go on long after any 
hope of true success had vanished. The place be- 
came a trap where Germany was bleeding to death. 
Meanwhile, with the full assent of General Joffre, 
the Generalissimo in the West, the British armies 
made no movement. They were biding their time. 

Early in June the Austrian attack on the Tren- 
tino had been checked by Italy, and suddenly — in 
the East — Russia swung forward to a surprising 
victory. Within a month nearly half a million 
Austrians had been put out of action, and the dis- 
tressed armies of the Dual Monarchy called on 
Germany for help. The inevitable von Hindenburg 
was brought into play, and such divisions as could 
be spared were dispatched from the West. At this 



18 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

moment, when the grip was tightening in the East, 
France and Britain made ready for a supreme effort. 
Germany's situation was intricate and uneasy. 
She had no large surplus of men immediately avail- 
able at her interior depots. The wounded who were 
ready again for the line and the young recruits from 
the 191 7 class were all needed to fill up the normal 
wastage in her ranks. She might create new divi- 
sions, but it would be mainly done by skimming the 
old. She had no longer any great mass of free stra- 
tegic reserves. Most had been sucked into the mael- 
strom of Verdun or dispatched east to von Hinden- 
burg. At the best, she had a certain number of divi- 
sions which represented a local and temporary sur- 
plus in some particular area. Beyond these she could 
only get reinforcements by the process known as 
"milking the line" — taking out a battalion here and 
a battalion there — an expedient both cumbrous and 
wasteful, for these battalions were not fresh troops, 
and their removal was bound to leave many parts 
of her front perilously thin. Germany in the West 
was holding a huge salient — from the North Sea to 
Soissons, and from Soissons to Verdun. If a wedge 
were driven in on one side the whole apex would 
be in danger. The Russian field army could retire 
safely from Warsaw and Vilna, because it was mobile 
and lightly equipped, but an army which had been 
stationary for eighteen months and had relied mainly 
upon its fortifications would be apt to find a Sedan 
in any rapid and extensive retirement. The very 
strength of the German' front in the West consti- 
tuted its weakness. A breach in a fluid line may 
be mended, but a breach in a rigid and most in- 
tricate front is difficult to fill unless there are large 



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TRENCH MAP SHOWING THE GERMAN DEFENCES (TRENCHES IN RED) 



PRELIMINARIES 19 

numbers of men available for the task or unlimited 
time. We have seen that there were no such large 
numbers, and it was likely that the Allies would 
see that there was no superfluity of leisure. 

The path of wisdom for Germany in June, it might 
be argued with some force, was to fall back in good 
order to a much shortened line, which with her num- 
bers might be strongly held. There is reason to 
believe that soon after the beginning of the Allied 
bombardment some such policy was considered. The 
infantry commanders of the 17th Corps were warned 
to be prepared for long marches and heavy rear- 
guard fighting, instructions were given for holding 
bridgeheads well in the rear, and officers were ad- 
vised that the retreat might be either a retirement 
at ease or a withdrawal under pressure from the 
enemy. Had such a course been taken it would have 
been unfortunate for the Allied plans. But such 
a course was not easy. The foolish glorification 
after the naval battle of 31st May forbade it. The 
German people had been buoyed up under the dis- 
comfort of the British blockade by tales of decisive 
successes in the field. The German Chancellor had 
appealed to his enemies to look at the map, to con- 
sider the extent of German territorial gains, and 
to admit that they were beaten. He was one 
of those who did not fulfil Foch's definition of 
military wisdom. "The true soldier is the man 
who ignores that science of geographical points 
which is alien to war, which is the negation of war 
and the sure proof of decadence, the man who knows 
and follows one vital purpose — to smash the enemy's 
field force." 

Yet, in spite of this weakness in the strategic 



20 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

situation, the German stronghold in the West was 
still formidable in the extreme. From Arras south- 
ward they held in the main the higher ground. The 
front consisted of a strong first position, with firing, 
support, and reserve trenches, and a labyrinth of 
deep dug-outs; a less strong intermediate line cov- 
ering the field batteries; and a second position 
some distance behind, which was of much the same 
strength as the first. Behind lay fortified woods and 
villages which could be readily linked up with trench 
lines to form third and fourth positions. The at- 
tached trench map will give some idea of the amaz- 
ing complexity of the German defences. They were 
well served by the great network of railways which 
radiate from La Fere and Laon, Cambrai, and St. 
Quentin, and many new light lines had been con- 
structed. They had ample artillery and shells, end- 
less machine guns, and consummate skill in using 
them. It was a fortress to which no front except 
the West could show a parallel. In the East the 
line was patchy and not continuous. The Russian 
soldiers who in the early summer were brought to 
France stared with amazement at a ramification of 
trenches compared with which the lines in Poland 
and Galicia were like hurried improvisations. 

The German purpose in the event of an attack 
was purely defensive. It was to hold their ground, 
to maintain the mighty forts on which they had 
spent so many months of labour, to beat off the 
assault at whatever cost. In that section of their 
front, at any rate, they were resolved to be a stone 
wall and not a spear point. 

The aim of the Allied Command must be clearly 
understood. It was not to recover so many square 



PRELIMINARIES 21 

miles of France; it was not to take Bapaume or 
Peronne or St. Quentin; it was not even in the 
strict sense to carry this or that position. All these 
things were subsidiary and would follow in due 
course, provided the main purpose succeeded. That 
purpose was simply to exercise a steady and con- 
tinued pressure on a certain section of the enemy's 
front. 

For nearly two years the world had been full 
of theories as to the possibility of breaking the Ger- 
man line. Many months before critics had pointed 
out the futility of piercing that line on too narrow 
a front, since all that was produced thereby was 
an awkward salient. It was clear that any 
breach must be made on a wide front, which would 
allow the attacking wedge to manoeuvre in the gap, 
and prevent reinforcements from coming up quickly 
enough to reconstitute the line behind. But this 
view took too little account of the strength of the 
German fortifications. No doubt a breach could 
be made; but its making would be desperately 
costly, for no bombardment could destroy all the 
defensive lines, and infantry in the attack would 
be somewhere or other faced with unbroken wire 
and unshaken parapets. Gradually it had been 
accepted that an attack should proceed by stages, 
with, as a prelude to each, a complete artillery 
preparation, and that, since the struggle must be 
long drawn out, fresh troops should be used at each 
stage. 

These were the tactics of the Germans at Ver- 
dun, and they were obviously right. Why, then, 
did the attack on Verdun fail? In the first place, 
because after the first week the assault became 



22 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

spasmodic and the great plan fell to pieces. Infantry 
were used wastefully in hopeless rushes. The pres- 
sure was relaxed for days on end, and the defence 
was allowed to reorganise itself. The second rea- 
son, of which the first was a consequence, was that 
Germany, after the initial onslaught, had not the 
necessary superiority either in numbers or moral or 
guns. At the Somme the Allies did not intend to 
relax their pressure, and their strength was such that 
they believed that, save in the event of abnormal 
weather conditions, they could keep it continuously 
at a high potential. 

A strategical problem is not, as a rule, capable 
of being presented in a simple metaphor, but we 
may say that, to the view of the Allied strategy, the 
huge German salient in the West was like an elastic 
band drawn very tight. Each part of such a band 
has lost elasticity, and may be severed by friction 
which would do little harm to the band if less tautly 
stretched. That represented one element in the 
situation. Another aspect might be suggested by 
the metaphor of a sea-dyke of stone in a flat country 
where all stone must be imported. The waters 
crumble the wall in one section, and all free reserves 
of stone are used to strengthen that part. But the 
crumbling goes on, and to fill the breach stones are 
brought from other sections of the dyke. Some day 
there may come an hour when the sea will wash 
through the old breach, and a great length of the 
weakened dyke will follow in the cataclysm. 

There were two other motives in the Allied pur- 
pose which may be regarded as subsidiary. One 
was to ease the pressure on Verdun, which during 
June had grown to fever pitch. The second was to 



PRELIMINARIES 23 

prevent the transference of large bodies of enemy- 
troops from the Western to the Eastern front, a 
transference which might have worked havoc with 
Brussilov's plans. Sir Douglas Haig would have 
preferred to postpone the offensive a little longer, 
for his numbers and munitionment were still grow- 
ing, and the training of the new levies was not yet 
complete. But the general situation demanded that 
the Allies in the West must not delay their stroke 
much beyond midsummer. 

The German front in the Somme area was held 
by the right wing of the Second Army, formerly 
von Buelow's, but now under Otto von Below.* 
This army's area began just south of Monchy, north 
of which lay the 6th Army under the Bavarian 
Crown Prince. At the end of June the front be- 
tween Gommecourt and Frise was held as follows: 
North of the Ancre lay the 2nd Guard Reserve Divi- 
siont and the 52nd Division. Between the Ancre 
and the Somme lay two units of the 14th Reserve 
Corps,J in order, the 26th Reserve Division, the 

* His brother, Fritz von Below, was the general command- 
ing the 8th Army on the extreme left of the Eastern front. 

f The 2nd Guard Reserve were not true Guardsmen, but 
only a division used as a reserve for the Guards. The 
Guards proper were the Guard Corps, comprising the 1st 
and 2nd Guard Divisions ; the Guard Reserve Corps, com- 
prising the 4th Guard Division and the 1st Guard Reserve 
Division; and the 3rd Guard Division (the "Cockchafers"), 
who were not classified in any Corps. 

$ The 14th Reserve Corps was a mixed formation, nomi- 
nally raised in Baden, but containing also Wurtembergers, 
Prussians, and Alsatians. At the beginning of the cam- 
paign it formed part of the 7th Army under von Heeringen 
which advanced through the northern Vosges. In October 



24 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

28th Reserve Division, and then the 12th Division 
of the 6th Reserve Corps. South of the river, guard- 
ing the road to Peronne, were the 121st Division, 
the nth Division, and the 36th Division, belonging 
to the 17th (Dantzig) Corps. 

The British armies had in less than two years 
grown from the six divisions of the old Expedition- 
ary Force to a total of some seventy divisions in the 
field, leaving out of account the troops supplied by 
the Dominions and by India. Behind these divisions 
were masses of trained men to replace wastage 
for at least another year. The quality of the 
result was not less remarkable than the quan- 
tity. The efficiency of the supply and transport, 
the medical services, the aircraft work, was uni- 
versally admitted. Our staff and intelligence 
work — most difficult to improvise — was now equal 
to the best in the field. Our gunnery was 
praised by the French, a nation of expert gunners. 
As for the troops themselves we had secured a homo- 
geneous army of which it was hard to say that one 
part was better than the other. The original Ex- 
peditionary Force — the "Old Contemptibles," who 
for their numbers were probably the best body of 
fighting men on earth — had mostly disappeared. 
Territorial battalions were present at the First 
Battle of Ypres, and New Service battalions at 
Hooge and Loos. By June 191 6 the term New 
Armies was a misnomer. The whole British force 
1914 it was transferred to the 2nd Army, and since then 
it had remained in the same section north of the Somme. 
It comprised the 26th and 28th Reserve Divisions, and the 
52nd Division, which was formed early in 191 5. It was 
commanded at the time of the Somme battle by General 
von Stein. 



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PRELIMINARIES 25 

in one sense was new. The famous old regiments 
of the line had been completely renewed since Mons, 
and their drafts were drawn from the same source 
as the men of the new battalions. The only differ- 
ence was that in the historic battalions there was a 
tradition already existing, whereas in the new bat- 
talions that tradition had to be created. And the 
creation was quick. If the Old Army bore the brunt 
of the First Battle of Ypres, the Territorials were 
no less heroic in the Second Battle of Ypres, and 
the New Army had to its credit the four-mile charge 
at Loos. It was no patchwork force which in June 
was drawn up in Picardy, but the flower of the man- 
hood of the British Empire, differing in origin and 
antecedents, but alike in discipline and courage and 
resolution. 

Munitions had grown with the numbers of men. 
Any one who was present at Ypres in April and 
May 191 5 saw the German guns all day pound- 
ing our lines with only a feeble and intermittent 
reply. It was better at Loos in September, when 
we showed that we could achieve an intense bom- 
bardment. But at that date our equipment sufficed 
only for spasmodic efforts and not for that sustained 
and continuous fire which was needed to destroy 
the enemy's defences. Things were very different 
in June 19 16. Everywhere on the long British 
front there were British guns — heavy guns of all 
calibres, field guns innumerable, and in the trenches 
there were quantities of trench mortars. The great 
munition dumps, constantly depleted and constantly 
replenished from distant bases, showed that there 
was food and to spare for this mass of artillery, 
and in the factories and depots at home every minute 



26 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

saw the reserves growing. We no longer fought 
against a far superior machine. We had created our 
own machine to nullify the enemy's and allow our 
man-power to come to grips. 

The preparations for the attack were slow and 
elaborate, and conducted during indifferent weather. 
Sir Douglas Haig has described them. "Many 
miles of new railways — both standard and narrow 
gauge — and trench tramways were laid. All avail- 
able roads were improved, many others were made, 
and long causeways were built over marshy valleys. 
Many additional dug-outs had to be provided as 
shelter for the troops, for use as dressing stations 
for the wounded, and as magazines for storing am- 
munition, food, water, and engineering material. 
Scores of miles of deep communication trenches had 
to be dug, as well as trenches for telephone wires, 
assembly and assault trenches, and numerous gun 
emplacements and observation posts. Important 
mining operations were undertaken, and charges 
were laid at various points beneath the enemy's 
lines. Except in the river valleys, the existing 
supplies of water were hopelessly insufficient to 
meet the requirements of the numbers of men and 
horses to be concentrated in this area as our prepara- 
tions for the offensive proceeded. To meet this 
difficulty many wells and borings were sunk, and 
over one hundred pumping plants were installed. 
More than one hundred and twenty miles of water 
mains were laid, and everything was got ready to 
ensure an adequate water supply as our troops ad- 
vanced." 

The coming attack was allotted to the Fourth 
Army, under General Sir Henry Rawlinson, who 



PRELIMINARIES 27 

had begun the campaign in command of the 7th 
Division, and at Loos had commanded the 4th Corps. 
His front ran from south of Gommecourt across the 
Ancre valley to the junction with the French north 
of Maricourt. In his line he had five corps — from 
left to right, the 8th, under Lieutenant-General Sir 
Aylmer Hunter- Weston ; the 10th, under Lieutenant- 
General Sir T. L. N. Morland; the 3rd, under Lieu- 
tenant-General Sir W. P. Pulteney; the 15th, under 
Lieutenant-General Home; and the 13th, under 
Lieutenant-General Congreve, V.C. Behind in the 
back areas lay the nucleus of another army, called 
first the Reserve, and afterwards the Fifth, under 
General Sir Hubert Gough, which at this time was 
mainly composed of cavalry divisions. It was a 
cadre which would receive its complement of infan- 
try when the occasion arose. 

The French striking force lay from Maricourt 
astride the Somme to opposite the village of Fay. 
It was the Sixth Army, once de Castelnau's, and now 
under General Fayolle, one of the most distinguished 
of French artillerymen. It comprised the 20th 
Corps* of Verdun fame, under General Balfourier; 
the 1st Colonial Corps under General Brandelat; 
and the 35th Corps under General Allonier. Petain's 

* The 20th Corps was composed of the nth, 39th, and 
153rd Divisions. It drew its recruits from the best fighting 
stocks of France, the cockneys of Paris and the countrymen 
of Lorraine. Each of its divisions claimed to be a "Division 
de Fer," but this title was most generally bestowed upon 
the 39th. Besides Verdun the 20th Corps had been with 
Maud'huy in his great defence of Arras in October 1914, and 
in the Artois fighting of the summer of 1915. It was the 
153rd Division that mainly turned the tide at Douaumont on 
February 26, 191 6, and later retook the Avocourt Redoubt. 



28 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

wise plan of allowing no formation to be used up 
now received brilliant justification. The divisions 
allotted to the new offensive were all troops who 
had seen hard fighting, but the edge of their temper 
was undulled. To one who visited them in the last 
days of June it seemed that they awaited the day 
with a boyish expectancy and glee. South of Fayolle 
lay the Tenth Army, once d'Urbal's, but now com- 
manded by General Micheler. Its part for the pres- 
ent was to wait ; its turn would come when the time 
arrived to broaden the front of assault. 

About the middle of June on the whole ninety- 
mile front held by the British, and on the French 
front north and south of the Somme there began 
an intermittent bombardment of the German lines. 
There were raids at different places, partly to mis- 
lead the enemy as to the real point of assault, and 
partly to identify the German units opposed to us. 
Such raids varied widely in method, but they were 
extraordinarily successful. Sometimes gas was used, 
but more often after a short bombardment a picked 
detachment crossed No Man's Land, cut the enemy's 
wire, and dragged home a score or two of prisoners. 
One, conducted by a company of the 9th Highland 
Light Infantry (the Glasgow Highlanders) near the 
Vermelles-La Bassee Road, deserves special men- 
tion. Our guns had damaged the German parapets, 
so when darkness came a German working-party 
was put in to mend them. The Scots, while the 
engineers neatly cut off a section of German trenches, 
swooped down on the place, investigated the dug- 
outs, killed two score Germans, brought back forty- 
six prisoners, and had for total casualties two men 



PRELIMINARIES 29 

slightly wounded.* During these days, too, there 
were many fights in the air. It was essential to 
prevent German airplanes from crossing our front 
and observing our preparations. Our Own machines 
scouted far into the enemy hinterland, reconnoitring 
and destroying. 

On Saturday, 24th June, the bombardment be- 
came intenser. It fell everywhere on the front ; Ger- 
man trenches were obliterated at Ypres j 
and Arras as well as at Beaumont Hamel u ^' 
and Fricourt. There is nothing harder to measure 
than the relative force of such a "preparation," but 
had a dispassionate observer been seated in the 
clouds he would have noted that from Gommecourt 
to a mile or two south of the Somme the Allied fire 
was especially methodical and persistent. On Wed- 
nesday, 28 June, from an artillery j « 
observation post in that region it seemed 
as if a complete devastation had been achieved. 
Some things like broken telegraph poles were all 
that remained of what, a week before, had been 
leafy copses. Villages had become heaps of rubble. 
Travelling at night on the roads behind the front — 
from Bethune to Amiens — the whole eastern sky was 
lit up with what seemed fitful summer lightning. 
But there was curiously little noise. In Amiens, a 
score or so of miles from the firing-line, the guns 
were rarely heard, whereas fifty miles from Ypres 
they sounded like a roll of drums and woke a man 

* In the week preceding- the attack — that is, June 24 to 
July 1 — gas was discharged at more than forty places upon 
a frontage which in total amounted to over fifteen miles. 
During the same period some seventy raids were undertaken 
between Gommecourt and our extreme left north of Ypres. 



30 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

in the night. The configuration of that part of 
Picardy muffles sound, and the country folk call it 
the Silent Land. 

All the last week of June the weather was grey 
and cloudy, with a thick brume on the uplands, 
which made air-work unsatisfactory. There were 
flying showers of rain and the roads were deep in 
mire. At the front — through the haze — the guns 
flashed incessantly, and there was that tense expec- 
tancy which precedes a great battle. Troops were 
everywhere on the move, and the shifting of am- 
munition dumps nearer to the firing-line fore- 
told what was coming. There was a curious ex- 
hilaration everywhere. Men felt that the great 
offensive had come, that this was no flash in the 
pan, but a movement conceived on the grand scale 
as to guns and men which would not cease until a 
decision was reached. But, as the hours passed in 
mist and wet, it seemed as if the fates were unpro- 
pitious. Then, on the last afternoon of June, there 

j came a sudden change. The pall of 

u e o - c ioud cleared away and all Picardy swam 
in the translucent blue of a summer evening. That 
night the orders went out. The attack was to be 
delivered next morning three hours after dawn. 

The first day of July dawned hot and cloud- 
less, though a thin fog, the relic of the damp of the 

j j past week, clung to the hollows. At 

J " half-past five the hill just west of Albert 
offered a singular view. It was almost in the centre 
of the section allotted to the Allied attack, and from 
it the eye could range on the left up and beyond 
the Ancre glen to the high ground around Beaumont 
Hamel and Serre; in front to the great lift of 



PRELIMINARIES 



31 



MO metre* (459 «1» kkiP^ 
upward* P~-^"-3 

130 metre* (304 |t| toEZ'Zra 
mtlrti Yrt/fy 

KX> metres (328 ft.) tor 
120 m « ,r " ti& 

Under too metraa , , 

(328 «.» 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — CONTOURED MAP OF THE GROUND ON WHICH THE 
BRITISH ARMY WAS ENGAGED. 



32 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

tableland behind which lay Bapaume; and to the 
right past the woods of Fricourt to the valley of the 
Somme. Every slope to the east was wreathed in 
smoke, which blew aside now and then and revealed 
a patch of wood or a church spire. In the fore- 
ground lay Albert, the target of an occasional Ger- 
man shell, with its shattered Church of Notre Dame 
de Bebrieres and the famous gilt Virgin hanging 
head downward from the campanile. All along the 
Allied front, a couple of miles behind the line, captive 
kite balloons, the so-called "sausages," glittered in 
the sunlight. Every gun on a front of twenty-five 
miles was speaking, and speaking without pause. In 
that week's bombardment more light and medium 
ammunition was expended than the total amount 
manufactured in Britain during the first eleven 
months of war, while the heavy stuff produced dur- 
ing the same period would not have kept our guns 
going for a single day. Great spurts of dust on the 
slopes showed where a heavy shell had burst, and 
black and white gouts of smoke dotted the middle 
distance like the little fires in a French autumn field. 
Lace-like shrapnel wreaths hung in the sky, melting 
into the morning haze. The noise was strangely 
uniform, a steady rumbling, as if the solid earth 
were muttering in a nightmare, and it was hard to 
distinguish the deep tones of the heavies, the vicious 
whip-like crack of the field guns and the bark of the 
trench mortars. 

About 7.15 the bombardment rose to that hurri- 
cane pitch of fury which betokened its close. It was 
as if titanic machine guns were at work round all 
the horizon. Then appeared a marvellous sight, 
the solid spouting of the enemy slopes — as if they 



PRELIMINARIES 33 

were lines of reefs on which a strong tide was break- 
ing. In such a hell it seemed that no human thing 
could live. Through the thin summer vapour and 
the thicker smoke which clung to the foreground 
there were visions of a countryside actually moving 
— moving bodily in debris into the air. And now 
there was a fresh sound — a series of abrupt and 
rapid bursts which came gustily from the first lines. 
These were the new trench mortars — wonderful 
little engines of death. There was another sound, 
too, from the north, as if the cannonading had sud- 
denly come nearer. It looked as if the Germans had 
begun a counter-bombardment on part of the Brit- 
ish front line. 

The staff officers glanced at their watches, and 
at half-past seven precisely there came a lull. It 
lasted for a second or two, and then the guns con- 
tinued their tale. But the range had been length- 
ened everywhere, and from a bombardment the fire 
had become a barrage. For, on a twenty-five mile 
front, the Allied infantry had gone over the parapets. 



CHAPTER II 

TH£ FIRST STAGE) 

The Spirit of the Assault — The British Aim — The German First Po- 
sition — Gommecourt to Thiepval — The Mine at Beaumont Hamel 
— Temporary Gains — The Ulster Division — The Fricourt Area — 
Fall of Mametz — Fall of Montauban — The Nature of the Cap- 
tured Ground — Behaviour of British Troops — The French Suc- 
cess — Fall of Dompierre, Becquincourt, Bussu, and Fay — Small 
French Losses — Fall of Fricourt — French capture Curlu, Frise, 
and Assevilliers — Von Below's Order to his Troops — Situation on 
3rd July — The Two Sections of the British Battleground — Cap- 
ture of La Boisselle — The Fight for Ovillers and Contalmaison — 
Fall of Contalmaison — Description of the Captured Ground — The 
Struggle for the Woods — The Fight for Mametz Wood — Berna- 
fay and Trones Woods — The Difficulty of their Capture — French 
break into the German Second Position — Capture of Belloy, Es- 
trees, and Biaches — Sir Douglas Haig's First Summary. 

THE point of view of the hill-top was not that 
of the men in the front trenches. The cross- 
ing of the parapets is the supreme moment in 
modern war. The troops are outside defences, mov- 
ing across the open to investigate the unknown. It 
is the culmination of months of training for officers 
and men, and the least sensitive feels the drama of 
the crisis. Most of the British troops engaged had 
twenty months before been employed in peaceable 
civilian trades. In their ranks were every class and 
condition — miners from north England, factory 
hands from the industrial centres, clerks and shop- 
boys, ploughmen and shepherds, Saxon and Celt, 
college graduates and dock labourers, men who 
in the wild places of the earth had often faced 
danger, and men whose chief adventure had been 

34 



THE FIRST STAGE 35 

a Sunday bicycle ride. Nerves may be attuned to 
the normal risks of trench warfare and yet shrink 
from the desperate hazard of a charge into the 
enemy's line. 

But to one who visited the front before the 
attack the most vivid impression was that of quiet 
cheerfulness. There were no shirkers and few who 
wished themselves elsewhere. One man's imagina- 
tion might be more active than another's, but the 
will to fight, and to fight desperately, was universal. 
With the happy gift of the British soldier they had 
turned the ghastly business of war into something 
homely and familiar. Accordingly they took every- 
thing as part of the day's work, and awaited the 
supreme moment without heroics and without 
tremor, confident in themselves, confident in their 
guns, and confident in the triumph of their cause. 
There was no savage lust of battle, but that far more 
formidable thing — a resolution which needed no 
rhetoric to support it. Norfolk's words were true 
of every man of them: 

"As gentle and as jocund as to jest 
Go I to fight. Truth hath a quiet breast." * 

* A letter written before the action by a young officer 
gives expression to this joyful resolution. He fell in the 
first day's battle and the letter was posted after his death : — 

"I am writing this letter to you just before going into 
action to-morrow morning about dawn. 

"I am about to take part in the biggest battle that has 
yet been fought in France, and one which ought to help to 
end the war very quickly. 

"I never felt more confident or cheerful in my life before, 
and would not miss the attack for anything on earth. The 
men are in splendid form, and every officer and man is more 
happy and cheerful than I have ever seen them. I have 



36 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

The British aim in this, the opening stage of the 
battle, was the German first position. The attached 
map shows its general line. In the section of assault, 
running from north to south, it covered Gomme- 
court, passed east of Hebuterne, followed the high 
ground in front of Serre and Beaumont Hamel, and 
crossed the Ancre a little to the north-west of Thiep- 
val. It ran in front of Thiepval, which was very 
strongly fortified, east of Authuille, and just covered 
the hamlets of Ovillers and La Boisselle. There it 
ran about a mile and a quarter east of Albert. It 
then passed south round the woodland village of 

just been playing a rag game of football in which the umpire 
had a revolver and a whistle. 

"My idea in writing this letter is in case I am one of the 
'costs/ and get killed. I do not expect to be, but such things 
have happened, and are always possible. 

"It is impossible to fear death out here when one is no 
longer an individual, but a member of a regiment and of an 
army. To be killed means nothing to me, and it is only you 
who suffer for it; you really pay the cost. 

"I have been looking at the stars, and thinking what an 
immense distance they are away. What an insignificant 
thing £be loss of, say, 40 years of life is compared with them ! 
It seems scarcely worth talking about. 

"Well, good-bye, you darlings. Try not to worry about 
it, and remember that we shall meet again really quite soon. 

"This letter is going to be posted if . . . Lots of love. 
From your loving son, 



'Qui procul hinc 

Ante diem periit, 

Sed miles, sed pro Patria. ,, 



Fricourt, where it turned at right angles to the east, 
covering Mametz and Montauban. Half-way be- 
tween Maricourt and Hardecourt it turned south 



THE FIRST STAGE 



37 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — THE FRONT FROM MONCHY TO FAY, JULY 1ST 
(SHOWING GENERAL ARRANGEMENT OF THE OPPOSING ARMIES). 



38 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

again, covered Curlu, crossed the Somme at the 
wide marsh near the place called Vaux, covered 
Frise and Dompierre and Soyecourt, and passed just 
east of Lihons, where it left the sector with which 
we are now concerned. 

The British front of attack* was disposed as 
follows: From opposite Gommecourt to just south 
of Beaumont Hamel lay the right wing of Sir Ed- 
mund Allenby's Third Army and General Hunter 
Weston's 8th Corps. From just north of the Ancre 
to Authuille was General Morland's ioth Corps, 
East of Albert lay General Pulteney's 3rd Corps, 
one division being directed against Ovillers, and 
another against La Boisselle. South, curving round 
the Fricourt salient to Mametz, lay General Home's 
15th Corps. On the British right flank adjoining 
the French lay General Congreve's 13th Corps. 

It is clear that the Germans expected the attack 
of the Allies, and had made a fairly accurate guess 
as to its terrain. They assumed that the area would 
be from Arras to Albert. In all that area they were 
ready with a full concentration of men and guns. 
South of Albert they were less prepared, and south 
of the Somme they were caught napping. The 
history of the first day is therefore the story of two 
separate actions in the north and south, in the first 
of which the Allies failed and in the second of which 
they brilliantly succeeded. By the evening the first 
action had definitely closed, and the weight of the 
Allies was flung wholly into the second. That is 
almost inevitable in an attack on a very broad front. 

* According to the official dispatch the main British front 
of attack was intended to be from Maricourt to the Ancre. 
The attack from the Ancre to Gommecourt was subsidiary. 



THE FIRST STAGE 39 

Some part will be found tougher than the rest, and 
that part having been tried will be relinquished; 
but it is the stubbornness of the knot and the failure 
to take it which are the price of success elsewhere. 
Let us first tell the tale of the desperate struggle 
between Gommecourt and Thiepval. 

The divisions in action there were three from 
the New Army, two of the old regulars, which had 
won fame both in Flanders and Gallipoli, and one 
Territorial brigade. They had to face a chain of 
fortified villages — Gommecourt, Serre, Beaumont 
Hamel, and Thiepval — and enemy positions which 
were generally on higher and better ground. The 
Ancre cut the line in two, with steep slopes rising 
from the valley bottom. Each village had been so 
fortified as to be almost impregnable, with a maze 
of catacombs, often two stories deep, where whole 
battalions could take refuge, underground passages 
from the firing-line to sheltered places in the rear, 
and pits into which machine guns could be lowered 
during a bombardment. On the plateau behind, 
with excellent direct observation, the Germans had 
their guns massed. 

It was this direct observation and the deep 
shelters for machine guns which were the undoing 
of the British attack from Gommecourt r , 
to Thiepval. As our bombardment grew ^ * 
more intense on the morning of ist July, so did the 
enemy's. Before our men could go over the para- 
pets the Germans had plastered our front trenches 
with high explosives, and in many places blotted 
them out. All along our line, fifty yards before and 
behind the first trench, they dropped 6-inch and 



40 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

8-inch high-explosive shells. The result was that 
our men, instead of forming up in the front trench, 
were compelled to form up in the open ground 
behind, for the front trench had disappeared. In 
addition to this there was an intense shrapnel bar- 
rage, which must have been directed by observers, 
for it followed our troops as they moved forward. 

At Beaumont Hamel, under the place called 
Hawthorn Redoubt, we had constructed a mine, the 
largest yet known in the campaign. At 7.30 acres 
of land leaped into the air, and our men advanced 
under the shadow of a pall of dust which turned 
the morning into twilight. "The exploding cham- 
ber/' said a sergeant, describing it afterwards, "was 
as big as a picture palace, and the gallery was an 
awful length. It took us seven months to build, 
and we were working under some of the crack Lan- 
cashire miners. Every time a fresh fatigue party 
came up they'd say to the miners, Ain't your grotto 
ever going up?' But, my lord! it went up all 
right on 1st July. It was the sight of your life. 
Half the village got a rise. The air was full of 
stuff — wagons, wheels, horses, tins, boxes, and 
Germans. It was seven months well spent getting 
that mine ready. I believe some of the pieces are 
coming down still." 

As our men began to cross No Man's Land, the 
Germans seemed to man their ruined parapets, and 
fired rapidly with automatic rifles and machine guns. 
They had special light musketon battalions, armed 
with machine guns and automatic rifles, who showed 
marvellous intrepidity, some even pushing their guns 
forward into No Man's Land to enfilade our ad- 
vance. Moreover they had machine-gun pits far 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — FRONT OF BRITISH LEFT ATTACK, JULY (GOMME- 
COURT TO THIEPVAL). 



42 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

in front of their parapets, connected with their 
trenches by deep tunnels secure from shell-fire. 
The British moved forward in line after line, dressed 
as if on parade; not a man wavered or broke rank; 
but minute by minute the ordered lines melted away 
under the deluge of high-explosive, shrapnel, rifle, 
and machine-gun fire. There was no question about 
the German weight of artillery. From dawn till long 
after noon they maintained this steady drenching 
fire. Gallant individuals or isolated detachments 
managed here and there to break into the enemy 
position, and some even penetrated well behind it, 
but these were episodes, and the ground they won 
could not be held. By the evening, from Gomme- 
court to Thiepval, the attack had been everywhere 
checked, and our troops — what was left of them — 
were back again in their old line. They had struck 
the core of the main German defence. 

In that stubborn action against impossible odds 
the gallantry was so universal and absolute that it 
is idle to select special cases. In each mile there 
were men who performed the incredible. Nearly 
every English, Scots, and Irish regiment was repre- 
sented, as well as Midland and London Territorials, 
a gallant little company of Rhodesians, and a New- 
foundland battalion drawn from the hard-bitten 
fishermen of that iron coast, who lost terribly on 
the slopes of Beaumont Hamel. Repeatedly the 
German position was pierced. At Serre fragments 
of two battalions pushed as far as Pendant Copse, 
2,000 yards from the British lines. Troops of one 
division broke through south of Beaumont Hamel, 
and got to the Station Road beyond the Quarry, 
but few ever returned. One Scottish battalion en- 



J Miles v- / ^^T it' 



\, 



BATTLE OF THE SOMME — FRONT OF THE BRITISH CENTRE AND RIGHT ATTACK, JULY I 
(OVILLERS TO MONTAUBAN) 



THE FIRST STAGE 43 

tered Thiepval village. North of Thiepval the 
Ulster Division broke through the enemy trenches, 
passed the crest of the ridge, and reached the point 
called The Crucifix, in rear of the first German 
position. For a little they held the strong Schwaben 
Redoubt, which we were not to enter again till after 
three months of battle, and some even got into the 
outskirts of Grandcourt. It was the anniversary day 
of the Battle of the Boyne, and that charge when the 
men shouted "Remember the Boyne" will be for 
ever a glorious page in the annals of Ireland. The 
Royal Irish Fusiliers were first out of the trenches. 
The Royal Irish Rifles followed them over the Ger- 
man parapets, bayoneting the machine gunners, and 
the Inniskillings cleared the trenches to which they 
had given Irish names. Enfiladed on three sides they 
went on through successive German lines, and only 
a remnant came back to tell the tale. That rem- 
nant brought many prisoners, one man herding fif- 
teen of the enemy through their own barrage. In 
the words of the general who commanded it: "The 
division carried out every portion of its allotted task 
in spite of the heaviest losses. It captured nearly 
600 prisoners and carried its advance triumphantly 
to the limits of the objective laid down." Nothing 
finer was done in the war. The splendid troops, 
drawn from those volunteers who had banded them- 
selves together for another cause, now shed their 
blood like water for the liberty of the world. 

That grim struggle from Thiepval northward 
was responsible for by far the greater number of 
the Allied losses of the day. But, though costly, it 
was not fruitless, for it occupied the bulk of the 
German defence. It was the price which had to be 



44 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

paid for the advance of the rest of the front. For, 
while in the north the living wave broke vainly and 
gained little, in the south "by creeks and inlets mak- 
ing" the tide was flowing strongly shoreward. 

The map will show that Fricourt forms a bold 
salient; and it was the Allied purpose not to as- 
sault this salient but to cut it off. An advance on 
Ovillers and La Boisselle and up the long shallow 
depression towards Contalmaison, which our men 
called Sausage Valley, would, if united with the 
carrying of Mametz, pinch it so tightly that it must 
fall. Ovillers and La Boisselle were strongly fortified 
villages, and on this first day, while we won the 
outskirts and carried the entrenchments before them, 
we did not control the ruins which our guns had 
pounded out of the shape of habitable dwellings. 
Elements of one brigade actually penetrated into La 
Boisselle, and held a portion of the village. 

Just west of Fricourt a division was engaged 
which had suffered grave misfortunes at Loos. That 
day it got back its own, and proved once again that 
an enemy can meet no more formidable foes than 
British troops which have a score to wipe off. It 
made no mistake, but poured resolutely into the 
angle east of Sausage Valley, carrying Lozenge 
Wood and Round Wood, and driving in a deep 
wedge north of Fricourt. 

Before evening Mametz fell. Its church stood 
up, a broken tooth of masonry among the shattered 
houses, with an amphitheatre of splintered woods 
behind and around it. South of it ran a high road, 
and south of the road lay a little hill, with the Ger- 
man trench lines on the southern side. Opposite 



THE FIRST STAGE 45 

Mametz our assembly trenches had been destroyed 
by the enemy's fire, so that the attacking infantry 
had to advance over 400 yards of open ground. The 
division which took the place was one of the most 
renowned in the British Army. It had fought at 
First Ypres, at Festubert, and at Loos. Since the 
autumn of 19 14 it had been changed in its compo- 
sition, but there were in it battalions which had 
been for twenty months in the field. The whole 
division, old and new alike, went forward to their 
task as if it were the first day of war. On the 
slopes of the little hill three battalions advanced in 
line — one from a southern English county, one from 
a northern city, one of Highland regulars. They 
carried everything before them, and to one who 
followed their track the regularity of their advance 
w r as astonishing, for the dead lay aligned as if on 
some parade. 

Montauban fell early in the day, the Manchesters 
being the first troops to enter. The British lines lay 
in the hollow north of the Albert-Peronne road, 
where stands the hamlet of Carnoy. On the crest 
of the ridge beyond lay Montauban, now, like most 
Santerre villages, a few broken walls set among 
splintered trees. The brickfields on the right were 
expected to be the scene of a fierce struggle, but, 
to our amazement, they had been so shattered by 
our guns that they were taken easily. The Mon- 
tauban attack was perhaps the most perfect of the 
episodes of the day. The artillery had done its 
work, and the 6th Bavarian Regiment opposed to 
us lost 3,000 out of a total strength of 3,500. The 
division which formed the British right wing moved 
forward in parade order to a speedy success. 



46 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

At that point was seen a sight hitherto unwit- 
nessed in the campaign — the advance in line of the 
troops of Britain and France. On the British right 
lay the 20th Corps — the corps which had held the 
Grand Couronne of Nancy in the feverish days of 
the Marne battle, and which by its counter-attack at 
Douaumont on that snowy 26th of February had 
turned the tide at Verdun. It was the 39th Divi- 
sion, under General Nourrisson, which moved in 
line with the British — horizon-blue beside khaki, 
and behind both the comforting bark of the incom- 
parable "75's." 

To walk over the captured ground was to learn 
a profound respect for the beaver-like industry of 
the German soldier. His fatigue-work must have 
reached the heroic scale. The old firing trenches 
were so badly smashed by our guns that it was hard 
to follow them, but what was left was good. The 
soil of the place was the best conceivable for dig- 
ging, for it cut like cheese, and hardened like brick 
in dry weather. The map shows a ramification of 
little red lines, but only the actual sight of that 
labyrinth could give a true impression of its strength. 
One communication trench, for example, was a 
tunnel a hundred yards long, lined with timber 
throughout, and so deep as to be beyond the reach 
of the heaviest shells. The small manholes used 
for snipers' posts were skilfully contrived. Tunnels 
led to them from the trenches, and the openings 
were artfully screened by casual-looking debris. 
But the greatest marvels were the dug-outs. One 
at Fricourt had nine rooms and five bolt-holes; it 
had iron doors, gas curtains, linoleum on the floors, 
wallpaper and pictures on the walls, and boasted 



THE FIRST STAGE 47 

a good bath-room, electric light, and electric bells. 
The staff which occupied it must have lived in 
luxury. Many of these dug-outs had two storeys, 
a thirty foot staircase, beautifully finished, leading 
to the first suite, and a second stair of the same 
length conducting to a lower storey. In such places 
machine guns could be protected during any bom- 
bardment. But the elaboration of such dwellings 
went far beyond military needs. When the Ger- 
mans boasted that their front on the West was im- 
pregnable they sincerely believed it. They thought 
they had established a continuing city, from which 
they would emerge only at a triumphant peace. The 
crumbling — not of their front trenches only but of 
their whole first position — was such a shock as King 
Priam's court must have received when the Wooden 
Horse disgorged the Greeks in the heart of their 
citadel. 

It was not won without stark fighting. The 
British soldiers were quick to kindle in the fight, 
and more formidable figures than those bronzed, 
steel-hatted warriors history has never seen on a 
field of battle. Those who witnessed the charge of 
the Highlanders at Loos were not likely to forget 
its fierce resolution. Said a French officer who was 
present: "I don't know what effect it had on the 
Boche, but it made my blood run cold." Our men 
were fighting against the foes of humanity, and they 
did not make war as a joke. But there was none 
of the savagery which comes either from a half- 
witted militarism or from rattled nerves. The Ger- 
mans had been officially told that the British took 
no prisoners, and this falsehood, while it made the 
stouter fellows fight to the death, sent scores of 



48 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

poor creatures huddling in dug-outs, from which 
they had to be extracted like shell-fish. But, after 
surrender, there was no brutality — very much the 
reverse. As one watched the long line of wounded 
— the "walking cases" — straggling back from the 
firing-line to a dressing-station, they might have 
been all of one side. One picture remains in the 
memory. Two wounded Gordon Highlanders were 
hobbling along, and supported between them a 
wounded Badener. The last seen of the trio was 
that the Scots were giving him water and cigarettes, 
and he was cutting buttons from his tunic as souve- 
nirs for his comforters. A letter of an officer on 
this point is worth quoting: — 

"The more I see of war the more I am convinced of the 
fundamental decency of our own folk. They may have a 
crude taste in music and art and things of that sort; they 
may lack the patient industry of the Boche; but for sheer 
goodness of heart, for kindness to all unfortunate things, 
like prisoners, wounded, animals, and ugly women, they fairly 
beat the band." 

It is the kind of tribute which most Britons would 
prefer to any other. 

From the point of junction with the British for 
eight miles southward the French advanced with 
lightning speed and complete success. From Mari- 
court to the Somme the country was still upland, 
but lower than the region to the north. South of 
the marshy Somme valley an undulating plain 
stretched east to the great crook of the river beyond 
which lay Peronne, a fortress girdled by its moat of 
three streams. General Foch had planned his ad- 
vance on the same lines as the British, the same 
methodical preparation, the same limited objective 



THE FIRST STAGE 49 

for each stage. North of the Somme, where Bal- 
fourier had to face the ioth Bavarians and the 12th 
Division, there was a stiff fight on the Albert-Pe- 
ronne road, at the cliff abutting on the river called 
the "Gendarme's Hat," and in front of the villages 
of Curlu and Hardecourt. Of these on that 1st day 
of July the French reached the outskirts, as we 
reached the outskirts of Fricourt and La Boisselle, 
but had to postpone their capture till the morrow. 
South of the river the Colonials, whose attack did 
not begin till 9.30 a.m., took the enemy completely 
by surprise. Officers were captured shaving in their 
dug-outs, whole battalions were rounded up, and all 
was done with the minimum of loss. One French 
regiment had two casualties; 800 was the total of 
one division. Long ere the evening the villages of 
Dompierre, Becquincourt, and Bussu were in their 
hands, and five miles had been bitten out of the 
German front. Fay was taken the same day by the 
Bretons of the 35th Corps. Between them the Allies 
that day had captured the enemy first position in 
its entirety from Mametz to Fay, a front of four- 
teen miles. Some six thousand prisoners were in 
their hands, and a great quantity of guns and stores. 
In the powdered trenches, in the woods and valleys 
behind, and in the labyrinths of ruined dwellings, 
the German dead lay thick. "That is the purpose 
of the battle," said a French officer. "We do not 
want guns, for Krupp can make them faster than 
we can take them. But Krupp cannot make 
men." 

Sunday, the 2nd of July, was a day of level 
heat, when the dust stood in steady walls on every 
road behind the front and in the tortured areas of 



50 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 



l 9 - V. V^'-Trones Wood 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — THE FIRST FRENCH ADVANCE NORTH OF THE 

SOMME, 



THE FIRST STAGE 51 

the captured ground. The success of the Saturday- 
had, as we have seen, put the British right wing 
well in advance of their centre, and it was neces- 
sary to bring forward the left part of r , 
the line from Thiepval to Fricourt so as * ' 
to make the breach in the German position uniform 
over a broad enough front. The extreme British 
left was now inactive. A new attack in the circum- 
stances would have given no results, and the Ulster 
Division — what remained of its advanced guard — 
fell back from the Schwaben Redoubt to its original 
line. The front was rapidly getting too large and 
intricate for any single army commander to handle, 
so it was resolved to give the terrain north of the 
Albert-Bapaume road, including the area of the 4th 
and 8th Corps, to the Reserve or Fifth Army, un- 
der Sir Hubert Gough. 

All that day a fierce struggle was waged by the 
3rd Corps at Ovillers and La Boisselle. Two new 
divisions had entered the line. At Ovillers one of 
them carried the entrenchments before it, and late 
in the evening the other succeeded in entering 
the labyrinth of cellars, the ruins of what had been 
La Boisselle. The troops on their right, pushing 
across Sausage Valley, came to the skirts of the 
Round Wood. As yet there was no counter-attack. 
The surprise in the south had been too great, and 
the Germans had not yet brought up their reserve 
divisions. All that day squadrons of Allied air- 
planes bombed depots and lines of communications 
in the German hinterland. The long echelons of 
the Allied "sausages" glittered in the sun, but only 
one German kite balloon could be detected. We had 
found a way — the Verdun way — of bombing those 



52 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

fragile gas-bags and turning them into wisps of 
flame. The Fokkers strove in vain to check our air- 
men, and at least two were brought crashing to the 
earth. 

At noon on Sunday Fricourt fell; the taking of 
Mametz and the positions won in the Fricourt Wood 
to the east had made its capture certain. One divi- 
sion took Round Wood ; a second, brought up from 
corps reserve, attacked across the Fricourt-Contal- 
maison road ; and a third carried the village. During 
the night part of the garrison had slipped out, but 
when our men entered it, bombing from house to 
house, they made a great haul of prisoners and guns. 
Early that morning the Germans had counter-at- 
tacked at Montauban, and been easily repulsed, and 
during the day our patrols were pushed east into 
Bernafay Wood. 

Farther south the French continued their vic- 
torious progress. They destroyed a German coun- 
ter-attack on the new position at Hardecourt; they 
took Curlu; and, south of the river, they took Frise 
and the wood of Mereaucourt beyond it, and the 
strongly fortified village of Herbecourt. They did 
more, for at many points between the river and 
Assevilliers they broke into the German second posi- 
tion. Fayolle's left now commanded the light rail- 
way from Combles to Peronne, his centre held the 
big loop of the Somme at Frise, and his right was 
only four miles from Peronne itself. 

On Monday, 3rd July, General von Below issued 
an order to his troops, which showed that, whatever 

j , official Germany might say, the German 

™ 3" soldiers had no delusion as to the gravity 
of the Allied offensive. 



THE FIRST STAGE 53 

''The decisive issue of the war depends on the victory 
of the 2nd Army on the Somme. We must win this battle 
in spite of the enemy's temporary superiority in artillery 
and infantry. The important ground lost in certain places 
will be recaptured by our attack after the arrival of rein- 
forcements. The vital thing is to hold on to our present 
positions at all costs and to improve them. I forbid the 
voluntary evacuation of trenches. The will to stand firm 
must be impressed on every man in the army. The enemy 
should have to carve his way over heaps of corpses. ... I 
require commanding officers to devote their utmost energies 
to the establishment of order behind the front." 



Von Below had correctly estimated the position. 
The old ground, with all it held, must be re-won if 
possible; no more must be lost; fresh lines must be 
constructed in the rear. But the new improvised 
lines could be no equivalent of those mighty fast- 
nesses which represented the work of eighteen 
months. Therefore those fastnesses must be re- 
gained. We shall learn how ill his enterprise pros- 
pered. 

For a correct understanding of the position on 
Monday, 3rd July, it is necessary to recall the exact 
alignment of the new British front. It fell into two 
sections. The first lay from Thiepval to Fricourt, 
and was bisected by the Albert-Bapaume road, which 
ran like an arrow over the watershed. Here Thiep- 
val, Ovillers, and La Boisselle were positions in the 
German first line. Contalmaison, to the east of La 
Boisselle, was a strongly fortified village on high 
ground, which formed, so to speak, a pivot in the 
German intermediate line — the line which covered 
their field guns. The second position ran through 
Pozieres to the two Bazentins and on to Guillemont. 
On the morning of 3rd July the British had not got 



54 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

Thiepval, nor Ovillers; they had only a portion of 
La Boisselle ; but south of it they had broken through 
the first position and were well on the road to Con- 
talmaison. All this northern section consisted of 
bare undulating slopes — once covered with crops, 
but now powdered and bare like some alkali desert. 
Everywhere it was seamed with the scars of trenches 
and pock-marked with shell holes. The few trees 
lining the roads had been long razed, and the only 
vegetation was coarse grass, thistles, and the ubiqui- 
tous poppy and mustard. 

The southern section, from Fricourt to Mon- 
tauban, was of a different character. It was patched 
with large woods, curiously clean cut like the copses 
in the park of a country house. A line of them ran 
from Fricourt north-eastward — Fricourt Wood, Bot- 
tom Wood, the big wood of Mametz, the woods of 
Bazentin, and the wood of Foureaux, which our men 
called High Wood; while from Montauban ran a 
second line, the woods of Bernafay and Trones and 
Delville Wood around Longueval. Here all the 
German first position had been captured. The sec- 
ond position ran through the Bazentins, Longueval, 
and Guillemont, but to reach it some difficult wood- 
land country had to be traversed. On 3rd July, 
therefore, the southern half of the British line was 
advancing against the enemy's second position, while 
the northern half had still for its objective Ovillers 
and La Boisselle in the first position and the inter- 
mediate point, Contalmaison. 

It will be convenient to take the two sections sep- 
arately, since their problems were different, and 
see the progress of the British advance in each, pre- 
paratory to the assault on the enemy's second posi- 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME — OVILLERS, LA BOISSELLE, AND CONTALMAISON 



THE FIRST STAGE 55 

tion. In the north our task was to carry the three 
fortified places, Ovillers, La Boisselle, and Contal- 
maison, which were on a large scale the equivalent 
of the fortins, manned by machine guns, which we 
had known to our cost at Festubert and Loos. 
Thiepval on the extreme left was less important, for 
the high ground could be won without its capture. 
The German troops in this area obeyed to the full 
von Below's instructions and fought hard for every 
acre. On the night of Sunday, 2nd July, La Bois- 
selle was penetrated, ?nd all Monday the struggle 
swayed around that village and Ovillers. La Bois- 
selle lies on the right of the high road; Ovillers is 
to the north and a little to the east, separated by 
a dry hollow which we called Mash Valley. On 
Monday one division attacked south of Thiepval, 
but failed to advance, largely because its left flank 
was unsupported. All night the struggle see-sawed, 
our troops winning ground and the Germans win- 
ning back small portions. On Tuesday, j , 
the 4th, the heat wave broke in thunder- ^ 4 * 

storms and torrential rain, and the dusty hollows 
became quagmires. Next morning La Boisselle was 
finally carried, after one of the bloodiest contests of 
the battle, and the attack was carried forwards to- 
ward Bailiff Wood and Contalmaison. 

That day, Wednesday, the 5th, we attacked the 
Horseshoe Trench, the main defence of Contal- 
maison from the west. There a West r , 
Yorks battalion distinguished themselves ™ 

by a bold advance. On Friday, 7th July, came 
the first big attack on Contalmaison from Sausage 
Valley on the south-west, and from the tangle of 
copses north-east of Fricourt, through which ran 



56 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

the Fricourt-Contalmaison high road. On the latter 
side good work had already been done, the enemy 
fortius at Birch Tree Wood and Shelter Wood and 
the work called the Quadrangle having been taken 
on 3rd July, along with 1,100 prisoners. On the 

Jul 7 Friday the attack ranged from the Leip- 
1 y ' ' zig Redoubt, south of Thiepval, and the 
environs of Ovillers to the skirts of Contalmaison. 
About noon our infantry, after carrying Bailiff 
Wood, took Contalmaison by storm, releasing a small 
party of Northumberland Fusiliers, who had been 
made prisoners four days earlier. The 3rd Prussian 
Guard Division — the famous "Cockchafers" — were 
now our opponents. They were heavily punished, 
and 700 of them fell as prisoners into our hands. But 
our success at Contalmaison was beyond our strength 
to maintain, and in the afternoon a counter-attack 
forced us out of the village. That same day our left 
wing had pushed their front nearly half a mile along 
the Bapaume road, east of La Boisselle, and taken 
most of the Leipzig Redoubt. Ovillers was now in 
danger of envelopment. One brigade had attacked 
in front, and another, pressing in on the north-east 
flank, was cutting the position in two. All that day 
there was a deluge of rain, and the sodden ground 
and flooded trenches crippled the movement of our 
men. 

Next day the struggle for Ovillers continued. The 
place was now a mass of battered trenches, rub- 
, o ble, and muddy shell-holes, and every 
y ' y^ird had to be fought for. We were also 
slowly consolidating our ground around Contalmai- 
son, and driving the Germans from their strong- 
holds in the little copses. Ever since 7th July we 



THE FIRST STAGE 57 

had held the southern corner of the village. On 
the night of Monday, the ioth, pushing j , 
from Bailiff Wood on the west side in ™ 
four successive waves, with the guns lifting the 
range in front of us, we broke into the north-west 
corner, swept round on the north, and after bitter 
hand-to-hand fighting conquered the whole village. 
As for Ovillers, it was now surrounded and beyond 
succour, and it was only a question of days till its 
stubborn garrison must yield. It did not actually fall 
till Sunday, 16th July, when the gallant j , g 
remnant — two officers and 124 Guards- ^ 
men — surrendered. By that time our main push had 
swept far to the eastward. 

A good description of the country over which we 
had advanced is contained in a letter of an officer 
to a friend who had been invalided home: — 

"I suppose it would seem nothing to other people, but 
you, who were here with us through all those dismal winter 
months, will understand how thrilling it was to be able to 
walk about on that ground in broad daylight, smoking one's 
pipe. You remember how our chaps used to risk their lives 
in the early days for such silly souvenirs as nose-caps and that 
kind of thing. You could gather them by the cartload now, 
and Boche caps and buttons, and bits of uniform and boots, 
and broken rifles and odd tags of equipment — cartloads of it. 
To other folk, and on the maps, one place seems just like 
another, I suppose ; but to us — La Boisselle and Ovillers — my 
hat ! To walk about in those hells ! Not one of those broken 
walls we knew so well (through our glasses) is standing now; 
and only a few jagged spikes where the trees were. I went 
along the 'sunken road' all the way to Contalmaison. Talk 
about sacred ground. When I think what that No Man's 
Land was to us for nearly a year ! The new troops coming 
up now go barging across it in the most light-hearted way. 
They know nothing about it. It means no more to them 
than the roads behind used to mean to us. It's all behind, 



58 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

to them, and never was the front. But when I think how we 
watered every yard of it with blood and sweat! Children 
might play there now, if it didn't look so much like the after- 
math of an earthquake. But you know there's a kind of a 
wrench about seeing the new chaps swagger over it so care- 
lessly, and seeing it gradually merged into the 'behind the 
line' country. I have a sort of feeling it ought to be marked 
off somehow, a permanent memorial. 

"You remember that old couple who had the blacksmith's 

shop at . The wife was down at the corner by 

the other night, when I came along with half the platoon. 
I found her wringing the hands of some of our stolid chaps, 
and couldn't make it out. Then she told me, half sobbing, 
how she and her husband owned a couple of fields just beyond 
our old front line, and how she wanted to thank us for getting 
them back. Think what those fields must have been in the 
spring of 191 4, and what they are to-day, every yard of 
them torn by shells, burrowed through and through by old 
trenches and dug-outs; think of the hundreds of tons of 
wire, sand-bags, timber, galvanised iron, duck-boards, re- 
vetting stuff, steel, iron, blood and sweat, the rum jars, bully 
beef tins, old trench boots, field dressings, cartridge cases, 
rockets, wire stanchions and stakes, gas gongs, bomb boxes, 
S.A.A. cases, broken canteens, bits of uniforms, and buried 
soldiers, and Boches — all in the old lady's two little fields. 
Think how she must have felt, after two years, to know we'd 
got them back. She's walked over them by now, I daresay." 

To turn to the southern sector, where the prob- 
lem was to clear out the fortified woods which in- 
tervened between us and the German second line. 
From the crest of the first ridge behind Fricourt and 
Montauban one looks into a shallow trough, called 
Caterpillar Valley, beyond which the ground rises 
to the Bazentin-Longueval line. On the left, toward 
Contalmaison, is the big Mametz Wood ; to the right, 
beyond Montauban, the pear-shaped woods of Berna- 
f ay and Trones. 

On Monday, the 3rd, the ground east of Fricourt 



Mametz * «- 
ol. a_ q_ &~ a. 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME— THE WOODED HINTERLAND OF FRICOURT AND MAMETZ 



THE FIRST STAGE 59 

Wood was cleared, and the approaches to Mametz 
Wood won. That day a German counter- j , 
attack developed. A fresh division ar- ^ 3- 

rived at Montauban, which was faithfully handled 
by our guns. The "milking of the line" had begun, 
for a battalion from the Champagne front appeared 
east of Mametz early on Monday morning. With- 
in a very short time of detraining at railhead the 
whole battalion had been destroyed or made pris- 
oners. In one small area over a thousand men were 
taken. A wounded officer of a Highland regiment 
has described the scene : — 

"It was the finest show I ever saw in my life. There 
were six hundred Boches of all ranks marching in column 
of route across the open back towards our rear. They were 
disarmed, of course. And what do you think they had for 
escort? Three ragged Jocks of our battalion, all blood and 
dirt and rags, with their rifles at the slope, doing a sort of 
G.O.C/s inspection parade march, like pipers at the head 
of a battalion. That was good enough for me. I brought 
up the rear, and that's how I got to a dressing-station and 
had my arm dressed. I walked behind a six hundred strong 
column of Boches, but I couldn't equal the swagger of those 
three Jocks in the lead/' 

Next day, Tuesday, 4th July, we had entered the 
Wood of Mametz, 3,000 yards north of Mametz 
village, and had taken the Wood of Ber- T , 
nafay. These intermediate positions * l 

were not acquired without a grim struggle. The 
woods were thick with undergrowth which had not 
been cut for two seasons, and though our artillery 
played havoc with the trees it could not clear away 
the tangled shrubbery beneath them. The Ger- 
mans had filled the place with machine-gun re- 
doubts, connected by concealed trenches, and in 



60 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

some cases they had machine guns in positions in 
the trees. Each step in our advance had to be fought 
for, and in that briery labyrinth the battle tended 
always to become a series of individual combats. 
Every position we won was subjected at once to a 
heavy counter-bombardment. During the first two 
days of July it was possible to move in moderate 
safety almost up to the British firing-lines, but from 
the 4th onward the enemy kept up a steady bom- 
bardment of our whole new front, and barraged 
heavily in all the hinterland around Fricourt, Ma- 
metz, and Montauban. 

On Saturday, 8th July, we made a lodgment in 
the Wood of Trones, assisted by the flanking fire 

t j o of the French guns. On that day the 
J ( French on our right were advancing 
towards Maltzhorn Farm. For the next five days 
Trones Wood was the hottest corner in the south- 
ern British sector. Its peculiar situation gave every 
chance to the defence. There was only one cov- 
ered approach to it from the west — by way of the 
trench called Trones Alley. The southern part was 
commanded by the Maltzhorn ridge, and the north- 
ern by the German position at Longueval. Around 
the wood to north and east the enemy second line 
lay in a half -moon, so that they could concen- 
trate upon it a converging artillery fire, and 
could feed their own garrison in the place with re- 
serves at their pleasure. Finally, the denseness of 
the covert, cut only by the railway clearings and the 
German communication trenches, made organised 
movement impossible. It was not till our pressure 
elsewhere diverted the German artillery fire that the 
wood as a whole could be won. Slowly and stub- 



THE FIRST STAGE 



61 



bornly we pushed our way northwards from our 
point of lodgment in the southern end. Six counter- 
attacks were launched against us on Sunday night 



«/ /> ^*<5£''lLon6ueval) \i ^ 




^Arrow Head 
Copse 
UWHeights in metres 
H ^Position of enemy's 
trenches shown byi 
\\ lines of shade 
|l 
1500 v . ', 
_J Yards. 1 



BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — BERNAFAY AND TRONES WOODS. 



and Monday, and on Monday afternoon the sixth 
succeeded in winning back some of the j , 
wood. These desperate efforts exactly * 
suited our purpose, for the German losses under our 
artillery fire were enormous. The fighting was con- 
tinued on Tuesday, when we recaptured the whole 
of the wood except the extreme northern j , 
corner. That same day we approached ^ 

the north end of Mametz Wood. The difficulty of 



62 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

the fighting and the strength of the defence may 
be realised from the fact that the taking of a few 
hundred yards or so of woodland meant invariably 
the capture of several hundred prisoners. 

By Wednesday evening, 12th July, we had taken 
virtually the whole of Mametz Wood. Its two hun- 

j j dred odd acres, interlaced with barbed 

wire, honeycombed with trenches, and 
.bristling with machine guns, had given us a tough 
struggle, especially the last strip on the north side, 
where the German machine-gun positions enfiladed 
every advance. Next day we cleared this corner and 
broke out of the wood, and were face to face at last 
with the main German second position. Meantime, 
the Wood of Trones had become a Tom Tiddler's 
Ground, which neither antagonist could fully claim 
or use as a base. It was at the mercy of the ar- 
tillery fire of both sides, and it was impossible in 
the time to construct shell-proof defences. 

In the French section the advance had been swift 
and continuous. The attack, as we have seen, 
was a complete surprise; for, half an hour before 
it began on 1st July, an order was issued to 
the German troops, predicting the imminent fall of 
Verdun, and announcing that a French offensive 
elsewhere had thereby been prevented. On the 
nine-mile front from Maricourt to Estrees the 
German first position had been carried the first 
day. The heavy guns, when they had sufficiently 
pounded it, ceased their fire; then the "75's" took 
up the tale and plastered the front and com- 
munication trenches with shrapnel; then a skir- 
mishing line advanced to report the damage done; 
and finally the infantry moved forward to an easy 



THE FIRST STAGE 63 

occupation. It had been the German method at 
Verdun; but it was practised by the French with 
far greater precision, and with far better fighting 
material. 

On Monday, 3rd July, they were into the Ger- 
man second position south of the Somme. Twelve 
German battalions were hurried up from j , 
the Aisne, only to be destroyed. By the * ^' 

next day the Foreign Legion in the Colonial Corps 
had taken Belloy-en-Santerre, a point in the third 
line. On Wednesday the 35th Corps j , 
had the better part of Estrees and were ™ •>• 

within three miles of Peronne. Counter-attacks by 
the 17th Division, which had been brought up in 
support, achieved nothing, and the German rail- 
head was moved from Peronne to Chaulnes. On 
the night of Sunday, 9th July, Fayolle took Biaches, 
a mile from Peronne, and the high r / 
ground called La Maisonnette, and held ^ ^* 

a front from there to north of Barleux — a position 
beyond the German third line. There was now noth- 
ing in front of him in this section except the line 
of the Upper Somme. This was south of the river. 
North of it he had attained points in the second line, 
but had not yet carried it wholly from Hem north- 
wards. 

The deep and broad wedge which their centre had 
driven towards Peronne gave the French positions 
for a flanking fire on the enemy ground on the left. 
Their artillery, even the heavies, was now far for- 
ward in the open, and old peasants beyond the 
Somme, waiting patiently in their captivity, heard 
the guns of their countrymen sounding daily nearer. 
In less than a fortnight Fayolle had, on a front ten 



64 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

miles long, with a maximum depth of six and a half 
miles, carried 50 square miles of fortifications, and 
captured 85 guns, vast quantities of war material, 
236 officers, and 12,000 men. 

The next step was for the British to attack the 
enemy second position before them. It ran, as we 
have seen, from Pozieres through the Bazentins and 

j j Longueval to Guillemont. On Thurs- 

y 3' day, 13th July, we were in a condition 
to begin the next stage of our advance. The capture 
of Contalmaison had been the indispensable pre- 
liminary, and immediately following its fall Sir 
Douglas Haig issued his first summary. "After ten 
days and nights of continuous fighting, our troops 
have completed the methodical capture of the whole 
of the enemy's first system of defence on a front of 
14,000 yards. This system of defence consisted of 
numerous and continuous lines of fire trenches, 
extending to various depths of from 2,000 to 4,000 
yards, and included five strongly fortified villages, 
numerous heavily wired and entrenched woods, and 
a large number of immensely strong redoubts. The 
capture of each of these trenches represented an 
operation of some importance, and the whole of 
them are now in our hands." The summary did 
not err from over-statement. If the northern part 
of our front, from Thiepval to Gommecourt, had not 
succeeded, the southern part had steadily bitten its 
way like a deadly acid into as strong a position as 
any terrain of the campaign could show. The Allies 
had already attracted against them the bulk of the 
available German reserves, and had largely destroyed 
them. The strength of their plan lay in its deliber- 
ateness, and the mathematical sequence of its stages. 



CHAPTER III 

THE SECOND STAGE 

The British Attack on German Second Position — The Fete-Day of 
France — The Front attacked — British Dispositions — The Eve of 
the Attack — The Wood of Trones cleared — Capture of Bazen- 
tin-le-Petit, Bazentin-le-Grand, and Longueval — High Wood en- 
tered—British Cavalry in Action — Fight of the South Africans 
in Delville Wood — Fate of the 3rd Guard and 5th Brandenburg 
Divisions — Fall of Ovillers — Capture of Waterlot Farm — Diffi- 
culty of Longueval Position — British and German Losses — Ger- 
man and Allied Moral — The Attack on Pozieres — Bad Weather 
— First Attack on Guillemont — Capture of Pozieres — The Aus- 
tralians in Action — The Fight for the Windmill — Capture of the 
Windmill — Failure at Guillemont — Advance toward Mouquet 
Farm — German Disorganisation — The Somme Offensive compared 
with Verdun — Quality of British Forces — Records of Heroism — 
Great French Advance — British carry Leipzig Redoubt — Failure 
of Attack on Guillemont — German Counter-attacks — Efficiency of 
British Aircraft — French carry Maurepas — Capture of Mouquet 
Farm — Fall of Guillemont — Leuze Wood occupied — French 10th 
Army comes into Action — French Advance north of the Somme 
— Fall of Ginchy — French cut Chaulnes-Roye Railway — End of 
First Phase — Capture of German Prepared Positions. 

AT dawn on Friday, the 14th, began the second 
stage of the battle. 

The most methodical action has its gamb- 
ling element, its moments when a risk must be 
boldly taken. Without such hazards j 1 
there can be no chance of surprise. ^ 4 ' 

The British attack of 14th July had much of this 
calculated audacity. In certain parts — as at Con- 

65 



66 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

talmaison Villa and Mametz Wood — we held posi- 
tions within a few hundred yards of the enemy's 
line. But in the section from Bazentin-le-Grand to 
Longueval there was a long advance — in some places 
almost a mile — before us up the slopes north of 
Caterpillar Valley. On the extreme right the Wood 
of Trones gave us a somewhat indifferent place of 
assembly. "The decision," wrote Sir Douglas Haig, 
"to attempt a night attack of this magnitude with 
an army, the bulk of which had been raised 
since the beginning of the war, was perhaps the 
highest tribute that could be paid to the quality of 
our troops." 

The difficulties before the British attack were so 
great that more than one distinguished French offi- 
cer doubted its possibility. One British General, in 
conversation with a French Colleague, undertook, if 
the thing did not succeed, to eat his hat. When 
about noon on the 14th the French General heard 
what had happened, he is reported to have observed : 
"C'est bien! le General X ne mange pas son cha- 
peau!" It was a pleasant reflection for the British 
troops that they had surprised their Allies; France 
had so often during the campaign exceeded the 
wildest expectations of her friends. 

The day of the attack was of fortunate omen, 
for the 14th of July was the anniversary of the fall 
of the Bastille, the fete-day of France. In Paris 
there was such a parade as that city had not seen 
in its long history — a procession of Allied troops, 
Belgians, Russians, British infantry, and last of all, 
the blue-coated heroes of France's incomparable 
line. It was a shining proof to the world of the 
unity of the Alliance. And on the same day, while 






■J f, 



— 1 





'V 




j- * 


' 


1 


,^p* 








* «♦ 



THE SECOND STAGE 67 

the Paris crowd was cheering the Scottish pipers as 
they swung down the boulevards, the British troops 
in Picardy were breaking through the German line, 
crying Vive la France! in all varieties of accent. 
It was France's Day in the eyes of every soldier, 
the sacred day of that people whom in farm and 
village and trench they had come to reverence and 
love. 

The front chosen for attack was from a point 
south-east of Pozieres to Longueval and Delville 
Wood, a space of some four miles. Incidentally, it 
was necessary for our right flank to clear out the 
Wood of Trones. Each village in the second line 
had its adjacent or enfolding wood — Bazentin-le- 
Petit, Bazentin-le-Grand, and at Longueval the big 
wood of Delville. In the centre, a mile and more 
beyond the German position, the wood of Foureaux, 
which we called High Wood, hung like a dark cloud 
on the sky line. 

The British plan was for the 3rd Corps on the 
left to form a defensive flank, pushing out patrols 
in the direction of Pozieres. On its right the 15th 
Corps moved against Bazentin-le-Petit Wood and 
village, and the slopes leading up to High Wood. On 
their right, again, the 13th Corps was to take 
Bazentin-le-Grand, to carry Longueval and Delville 
Wood, and to clear Trones Wood and form a de- 
fensive flank. In the event of a rapid success 
the occasion might arise for the use of cavalry, so 
cavalry divisions were put under the orders of the 
two corps. The preceding bombardment was to be 
assisted by the French heavy guns firing on Ginchy, 
Guillemont, and Leuze and Bouleaux Woods. In 
order to distract the enemy, the 8th Corps north 



68 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

of the Ancre attacked with gas and smoke as if 
theirs was to be the main area of our effort. 

It was only the day before that we had consoli- 
dated our new line, and the work required to pre- 
pare for the attack was colossal. The Germans did 
not believe in an immediate assault, and when the 
bombardment began they thought it was no more 
than one of the spasmodic "preparations" with which 
we had already cloaked our purpose. In the small 
hours of the morning our guns opened and continued 
in a crescendo till 3.20 a.m., when the final hurri- 
cane fell. An observer* has described the specta- 
cle: — 

"It was a thick night, the sky veiled in clouds, mottled 
and hurrying clouds, through which only one planet shone 
serene and steadily high up in the eastern sky. But the 
wonderful and appalling thing was the belt of flame which 
fringed a great arc of the horizon before us, It was not, of 
course, a steady flame, but it was one which never went out, 
rising and falling, flashing and flickering, half dimmed with 
its own smoke, against which the stabs and jets of fire from 
the bursting shells flared out intensely white or dully orange. 
Out of it all, now here, now there, rose like fountains the 
great balls of star shells and signal lights — theirs or ours — 
white and crimson and green. The noise of the shells was 
terrific, and when the guns near us spoke, not only the air 
but the earth beneath us shook. All the while, too, overhead, 
amid all the clamour and shock, in the darkness and no less 
as night paled to day, the larks sang. Only now and again 
would the song be audible, but whenever there was an interval 
between the roaring of the nearer guns, above all the distant 
tumult, it came down clear and very beautiful by contrast. 
Nor was the lark the only bird that was awake, for close by 
us, somewhere in the dark, a quail kept constantly urging 
us — or the guns — to be Quick-be-quick." 

* The Times correspondent. 



THE SECOND STAGE 69 

At 3.25 a.m., when the cloudy dawn had fully 
come, the infantry attacked. In some places they 
had had to cover a long distance before reaching 
their striking-point. So complete was the surprise 
that, in the dark the battalions which had the farthest 
road to go came within 200 yards of the enemy's 
wire with scarcely a casualty. When the German 
barrage came it fell behind them. 

The attack failed nowhere. In some parts it was 
slower than others — where the enemy's defence 
had been less comprehensively destroyed, but by 
the afternoon all our tasks had been accomplished. 
To take one instance. The two attacking brigades 
of one division were each composed of two bat- 
talions of the New Army and two of the old Regu- 
lars. The general commanding put the four new 
battalions into the first line. The experiment proved 
the worth of the new troops, for a little after mid- 
day their work was done, their part of the German 
second line was taken, and 662 unwounded men, 36 
officers (including a battalion commander), 4 how- 
itzers, 4 field guns, and 14 machine guns were in 
their hands. One division had Bazentin-le-Petit 
Wood and village, and a second was far up the 
slopes towards High Wood, after taking Bazentin- 
le-Grand Wood; another had Bazentin-le-Grand, 
and another had all but a portion of Longueval. 
Trones Wood had been cleared, and a line was held 
eastward to Maltzhorn Farm. By the evening we 
had the whole second line from Bazentin-le-Petit 
to Longueval, a front of over three miles, and in 
the twenty-four hours' battle we took over 2,000 
prisoners, many of them of the 3rd Division 
of the German Guard. The audacious enter- 



70 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

prise had been crowned with a miraculous 
success. 

In the Wood of Trones on our right flank oc- 
curred one of the most romantic incidents of the 
action. On Thursday night an attack had been de- 
livered there, and 170 men of the Royal West 
Kents became separated from their battalion. They 
had machine guns with them and sufficient ammu- 
nition, so they were able to fortify one or two posts 
which they maintained all night against tremendous 
odds. Next morning the British sweep retrieved 
them, and the position they had maintained gave 
our troops invaluable aid in the clearing of the wood. 
All through this Battle of the Somme there were 
similar incidents; an advance would go too far and 
the point would be cut off, but that point would suc- 
ceed in maintaining itself till a fresh advance re- 
claimed it. A better proof of discipline and resolu- 
tion could not be desired. 

But the great event of the day fell in the late 
afternoon. One division, pushing northward against 
the 10th Bavarian Division, penetrated the enemy's 
third position at High Wood, having their flank 
supported by cavalry. It was 6.15 p.m. when 
the advance was made, the first in eighteen months 
which had seen the use of mounted men. In the 
Champagne battle of 25th September the French 
had used some squadrons of General Baratier's 
Colonial Horse in the ground between the first and 
second German lines to sweep up prisoners and 
capture guns. This tactical expedient was now fol- 
lowed by the British, with the difference that in 
Champagne the fortified second line had not been 
taken, while in Picardy we were through the two 



THE SECOND STAGE 71 

main fortifications and operating against a more or 
less improvised position. The cavalry used were a 
troop of the Dragoon Guards and a troop of Deccan 
Horse. They made their way up the shallow valley 
beyond Bazentin-le-Grand, finding cover in the slope 
of the ground and the growing corn. The final ad- 
vance, about 8 p.m., was made partly on foot and 
partly on horseback, and the enemy in the corn were 
ridden down, captured, or slain with lance and sabre. 
The cavalry then set to work to entrench themselves, 
to protect the flank of the advancing infantry in 
High Wood. It was a clean and workmanlike job, 
and the news of it exhilarated the whole line. That 
cavalry should be used at all seemed to forecast the 
end of the long trench fighting and the beginning of 
a campaign in the open. 

On Saturday, 15th July, we were busy consoli- 
dating the ground won, and at some points pushing 
farther. Our aircraft, in spite of the j , 
haze, were never idle, and in twenty- four * ^' 

hours they destroyed four Fokkers, three biplanes, 
and a double-engined plane, without the loss of a 
single machine. On the left we fought our way to 
the skirts of Pozieres, attacked the Leipzig Redoubt, 
south of Thiepval, and continued the struggle for 
Ovillers. We also advanced against the new switch 
line with which the Germans connected the uncap- 
tured portion of the second position with their third. 
We lost most of High Wood under the pressure of 
counter-attacks by the German 7th Division, and 
next day we withdrew all troops from the place. 
They had done their work, and had formed a screen 
behind which we had consolidated our line. 

On the right, around Longueval and Delville 



72 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

Wood, was being waged the fiercest contest of all. 
The position there was now an awkward salient, for 
our front ran on one side westward to Pozieres, and 
on the other southward to Maltzhorn Farm. The 
division concerned had on the 14th taken the greater 
part of the village, and on the morning of the 15th 
its reserve brigade (the South African under Briga- 



T^^te^ 













BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — LONGUEVAL AND DELVILLE WOOD. 



dier-General Lukin) was ordered to clear the wood. 
The struggle which began on that Saturday before 
dawn was to last for thirteen days, and to prove 
one of the costliest episodes of the whole battle. The 
situation was an ideal one for the defence. Longue- 
val lies to the south-west of the wood, a straggling 
village with orchards at its northern end where the 
road climbs towards Flers. Delville itself was a 
mass of broken tree trunks, matted undergrowth, 



THE SECOND STAGE 73 

and shell holes. It had rides cut in it, running from 
north to south and from east to west, which were 
called by such names as "The Strand" and "Princes 
Street/' and along these were the enemy trenches. 
The place was terribly at the mercy of the enemy 
guns, and on the north and south-east sides the Ger- 
mans had a strong trench line, some seventy yards 
from the trees, bristling with machine guns. The 
problem for the attack was far less to carry the wood 
than to hold it, for as soon as the perimeter 
was reached, our men came under machine-gun 
fire, while the whole interior was incessantly bom- 
barded. 

The South African Brigade* carried the whole 
wood by noon on the 15th, but the other brigades 
did not obtain the whole of Longueval, and the 
enemy, from the northern end of the village, was 
able to counter-attack and force us back. The 
South Africans tried again on the 16th, j , ^ 
but they had no chance under the hos- ^ 

tile fire, and a counter-attack of the German 8th 
Division forced them in on the central alley. Again 
on the 17th they endeavoured to clear the r , 
place, and again with heavy losses they ^ '' 

failed. But they clung desperately to the south-west 
corner, and it was not until the 20th that they were 
relieved. This is not the place to tell the detailed 

* The Brigade had already fought in Egypt against the 
Senussi. It was composed of the 1st South African Infantry 
Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel Dawson) drawn from the 
Cape; the 2nd Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel Tanner) from 
Natal, Orange River Colony, and the Border district; the 
3rd Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel Thackeray) from the 
Transvaal; and the 4th Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel Jones) 
from Scotsmen throughout South Africa. 



74 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

story of those days; but it may be hoped that, for 
the sake of the British Army and South Africa, the 
tactical history of that stand will be written. For 
four days the heroic remnant, under Lieutenant- 
Colonel Thackeray of the 3rd Battalion, along with 
the Scots of the other brigades, wrestled in hand- 
to-hand fighting such as the American armies knew 
in the last Wilderness Campaign. Their assault had 
been splendid, but their defence was a greater ex- 
ploit. They hung on without food or water, while 
their ranks were terribly thinned, and at the end 
j r when one battalion had lost all its officers, 

J ' they repulsed an attack by the German 
5th Division, the corps d 'elite of Brandenburg. In 
this far-flung battle all parts of the empire won 
fame, and not least was the glory of the South 
African contingent.* 

In this stage of the action we tried conclusions 
with two of the most celebrated of the German 
formations. For some days we had engaged the 
3rd Guard Division — that division which in April 
had been brought from the Russian front, and had 
been hailed by the Kaiser as the hope of his throne 
and empire. It contained three regiments — the 
Guards Fusiliers, the Lehr Regiment, and the 9th 
Grenadiers — and every one had suffered heavily. 
Some of them showed fine fighting quality, such as 
the garrison at Ovillers, but they met something 
more than their match in our New Army. About 
the 20th of the month the 5th Brandenburg Division 
appeared, that division which had attacked at Dou- 
aumont on 25th February and at Vaux on 9th March. 

* Delville Wood was not wholly in our hands till the attack 
of 25th August. 




1H 



THE SECOND STAGE 75 

Now it was virtually a new formation, for at Verdun 
it had lost considerably more than its original 
strength. It was scarcely more fortunate at Longue- 
val. "The enemy," said the Kaiser, in his address 
on 20th April, "has prepared his own soup, and 
now he must sup it, and I look to you to see to it 
May the appearance of the 3rd Guards Division in- 
form him what soldiers are facing him." The in- 
formation had been conveyed to us, and our men 
were by no means depressed. They desired to meet 
with the best that Germany could produce, for they 
were confident that they could put that best out of 
action. 

On Sunday, the 16th, Ovillers was at last com- 
pletely taken after a stout defence, and the way was 
prepared for a general assault on r / T fi 
Pozieres. That day, too, on our right we ^ 

widened the gap in the German front by the capture 
of Waterlot Farm, half-way between Longueval and 
Guillemont. The weather broke from the 16th to 
the 1 8th, and drenching rain and low mists made 
progress difficult. The enemy had got up many new 
batteries, whose positions could not be detected in 
such weather by our aircraft. He himself was bet- 
ter ofT, since we were fighting on ground he had 
once held, and he had the register of our trench 
lines and most of our possible gun positions. Our 
situation at Longueval was now an uncomfortable 
salient, and it was necessary to broaden it by push- 
ing out towards High Wood. On the 20th, accord- 
ingly, the 7th Division attacked again at High Wood, 
and carried all of it except the north part. A trench 
line ran across that north corner, where the prospect 
began to open towards Flers and Le Sars. The 



76 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

position was held with extraordinary resolution by 
the 8th Division of the 4th (Magdeburg) Corps, and 
it was two months from the first assault before the 
whole wood was in our possession. 

The total of unwounded prisoners in British hands 
at this stage was 189 officers and 10,779 men. The 
armament taken included five 8-inch and three 6- 
inch howitzers, four 6-inch guns, five other heavies, 
thirty-seven field guns, thirty trench mortars, and 
sixty-six machine guns. Of the German losses in 
dead and wounded no exact estimate is possible, but 
they were beyond doubt very great, and their abor- 
tive counter-attacks had probably already brought 
up the total of the defence to a figure as high as 
that of the attack. Captured letters all told the 
same tale. Instant relief was begged for; one bat- 
talion consisted of three officers, two N.C.O.'s, and 
nineteen men ; another was so exhausted that it could 
no longer be employed; another had completely lost 
its fighting spirit. 

No British soldier decried the quality of his op- 
ponents. At the most he declared that it was 
"patchy," which was the truth. There were ex- 
traordinarily gallant elements in the German ranks, 
but they were watered down with much indifferent 
stuff. Many had lost heart for the fight; they had 
been told so often of victory assured that they ended 
by disbelieving everything. On one occasion a 
hundred men put up their hands while actually 
charging. Distressful letters from their homes, a 
lack of confidence in their officers and enthusiasm 
for their cause, and the suspicion which comes from 
a foolish censoring of all truth, had impaired the 
fibre of men who in normal circumstances would 



THE SECOND STAGE 77 

have fought stoutly. The German machine was 
still formidable, but its motive power was weaken- 
ing. 

As for the Allies, every day that passed nerved 
and steeled them. The French had made the final 
resolution and the ultimate sacrifice, and of the same 
quality was the British temper. "Most of these 
men," said a chaplain, "never handled a gun till they 
joined up. Yet they have faced bigger things than 
any veteran ever faced before, and faced them stead- 
ily, seeing it all very clearly and fearing it not one 
scrap ; though they have again and again forced mad 
fear into the highly trained troops facing them. That 
is because they have something that you cannot make 
in foundries, that you cannot even give by training. 
I could give it a name the Church would recognise. 
Let's say they know their cause is good, as they very 
surely do. The Germans may write on their badges 
that God is with them, but our men — they know." 

The next step was to round ofif our capture of 
the enemy second position, and consolidate our 
ground, for it was very certain that the Germans 
would not be content to leave us in quiet posses- 
sion. The second line being lost from east of 
Pozieres to Delville Wood, the enemy was com- 
pelled to make a switch line to connect his third 
position with an uncaptured point in his second, 
such as Pozieres. Fighting continued in the 
skirts of Delville, and among the orchards of Lon- 
gueval, which had to be taken one by one. Apart 
from this general activity, our two main objectives 
were Pozieres and Guillemont. The first, with the 
Windmill beyond it, was part of the crest of the 



78 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

Thiepval plateau. Our aim was the crown of the 
ridge, the watershed, which would give us direct 
observation over all the rolling country to the east. 
The vital points on this watershed were Mouquet 




W6od&£ Heights in metres. Positidn of 

IS i Yards enemy's entrenchments shown 



by lines of shade. 



BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — POZIERES. 



Farm, between Thiepval and Pozieres; the Wind- 
mill, now only a stone pedestal, on the high road 
east of Pozieres; High Wood; and the high ground 
direct east of Longueval. Guillemont was neces- 
sary to us before we could align our next advance 



THE SECOND STAGE 79 

with that of the French. Its special difficulties lay 
in the fact that the approach to it from Trones Wood 
lay over a perfectly bare and open piece of country; 
that the enemy had excellent direct observation from 
Leuze Wood in its rear; that the quarry on its 
western edge had been made into a strong redoubt ; 
and that the ground to the south of it between 
Maltzhorn and Falfemont Farms was broken by 
a three-pronged ravine, with Angle Wood in the cen- 
tre, which the Germans held in strength, and which 
made it hard to form a defensive flank or link up 
with the French advance. 

Sir Douglas Haig has summarised the position: 
"The line of demarcation agreed upon between the 
French commander and myself ran from Maltzhorn 
Farm due eastward to the Combles valley, and then 
north-eastward up the valley to a point midway be- 
tween Sailly-Saillisel and Morval. These two vil- 
lages had been fixed upon as the objective respec- 
tively of the French left and of my right. In order 
to advance in co-operation with my right, and even- 
tually to reach Sailly-Saillisel, our Allies had still to 
fight their way up that portion of the main ridge 
which lies between the Combles valley on the west 
and the river Tortille on the east. To do so, tkey 
had to capture in the first place the strongly-fortified 
villages of Maurepas, Le Forest, Rancourt, and 
Fregicourt, besides many woods and strong systems 
of trenches. As the high ground on each side of 
the Combles valley commands the slopes of the ridge 
on the opposite side, it was essential that the advance 
of the two armies should be simultaneous and made 
in the closest co-operation. " 

The weather did not favour us. The third week 



80 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

of July was rain and fog. The last week and the 
first fortnight of August saw blazing summer 
weather, which in that arid and dusty land told 
severely on men wearing heavy steel helmets and 
carrying a load of equipment. There was little wind, 
and a heat-haze lay low on the uplands. This meant 
poor visibility at a time when air reconnaissance 
was most vital. Hence the task of counter-bombard- 
ment grew very difficult, and the steps in our prog- 
ress became for the moment slow and irregular. A 
battle which advances without a hitch exists only 
in a Staff college kriegspiel, and the wise general, 
in preparing his plans, makes ample allowance for 
delays. 

On 19th July there came the first attempt on 

Guillemont from Trones Wood, an attack which 

j , failed to advance. On the 20th the 

* ^" French made fine progress, pushing 

their front east of Hardecourt beyond 

the Combles-Clery light railway, and south of the 

Somme widening the gap by carrying the whole 

German defence system from Barleux to Verman- 

dovillers. For the two days following our guns 

bombarded the whole enemy front, and on the Sun- 

11 2? ^ a ^ 2 3 rc * J u ^' came ^ e next & reat m " 
J 3* fantry attack. Two new corps had been 

introduced into the Fifth Army from left to right, 

the 2nd and the 1st Anzac, which took up ground 

between the Ancre and just south of the Albert- 

Bapaume road. 

That attack had a wide front, but its main fury 

was on the left, where Pozieres and its Windmill 

crowned the slope up which ran the Albert-Bapaume 

road. The village had long ere this been pounded 



THE SECOND STAGE 81 

flat, the Windmill was a stump, and the trees in the 
gardens matchwood, but every yard of those devas- 
tated acres was fortified in the German fashion with 
covered trenches, deep dug-outs, and machine-gun 
emplacements. 

The assault was delivered from two sides — a Mid- 
land Territorial division moving from the south- 
west in the ground between Pozieres and Ovillers, 
and an Anzac division from the south-east, advanc- 
ing from the direction of Contalmaison Villa. The 
movement began about midnight, and the Midland- 
ers speedily cleared out the defences which the Ger- 
mans had flung out south of the village to the left 
of the high road, and held a line along the outskirts 
of the place in the direction of Thiepval. The Aus- 
tralians had a difficult task — for they had first to 
take a sunken road parallel with the highway, then 
a formidable line of trenches, and finally the high 
road itself which runs straight through the middle 
of the village. 

The Australian troops were second to none in the 
new British Army. In the famous landing at Galli- 
poli and in a dozen desperate fights in the peninsula, 
culminating in the great battle which began on Au- 
gust 6, 191 5, they had shown themselves incompara- 
ble in the fury of assault and in reckless personal 
valour. In the grim struggle now beginning they 
had to face a far heavier fire and far more formida- 
ble defences than anything that Gallipoli could show. 
For their task not gallantry only but perfect disci- 
pline and perfect coolness were needed. The splen- 
did troops were equal to the call. They won the 
high road after desperate fighting in the ruined 
houses, and established a line where the breath of 



82 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

the road alone separated them from the enemy. A 
famous division of British regulars on their flank 
sent them a message to say that they were proud to 
fight by their side. 

When all were gallant it is hard to select special 
incidents, but in their record of personal bravery 
the Australians in the West rivalled their famous 
attack on the Lone Pine position in Gallipoli. The 
list of Victoria Crosses awarded is sufficient proof. 
Second-Lieutenant Blackburn led four parties of 
bombers against a German stronghold and took 250 
yards of trench. He then crawled forward with a 
sergeant to reconnoitre, and, returning, led his men 
to a capture of a further 120 yards. Private Thomas 
Cooke, a machine gunner, went on firing when he 
was the only man left, and was found dead beside 
his gun. Private William Jackson brought in 
wounded men from No Man's Land till his arm 
was blown off by a shell, and then, after obtaining 
assistance, went out again to find two wounded 
comrades. Private Martin O'Meara for four days 
brought in wounded under heavy fire, and carried 
ammunition to a vital point through an incessant 
barrage. Private John Leak was one of a party 
which captured a German stronghold. At one 
moment, when the enemy's bombs were outrang- 
ing ours, he leaped from the trench, ran forward 
under close-range machine-gun fire, and bombed 
the enemy's post. He then jumped into the post 
and bayoneted three German bombers. Later, 
when the party was driven back by overwhelming 
numbers, he was at every stage the last to with- 
draw. "His courage was amazing," says the official 
report, "and had such an effect on the enemy that, 



THE SECOND STAGE 83 

on the arrival of reinforcements, the whole trench 
was recaptured." 

On Monday and Tuesday the battle continued, 
and by the evening of the latter day most of Pozieres 
was in our hands. By Wednesday morn- j , ^ 
ing, 26th July, the whole village was ours, * 

and the Midlanders on the left were pushing north- 
ward and had taken two lines of trenches. The two 
divisions joined hands at the north corner, where 
they occupied the cemetery, and held a portion of 
the switch line. Here they lived under a perpetual 
enemy bombardment. The Germans still held the 
Windmill, which was the higher ground and gave 
them a good observation point. The sight of that 
ridge from the road east of Ovillers was one that 
no man who saw it was likely to forget. It seemed 
to be smothered monotonously in smoke and fire. 
Wafts of the thick heliotrope smell of the lachry- 
matory shells floated down from it. Out of the dust 
and glare would come Australian units which had 
been relieved, long, lean men with the shadows of 
a great fatigue around their deep-set, far-sighted 
eyes. They were perfectly cheerful and composed, 
and no Lowland Scot was ever less inclined to ex- 
pansive speech. At the most they would admit in 
their slow, quiet voices that what they had been 
through had been "some battle." 

An observer * with the Australians has described 
the unceasing bombardment: — 

"Hour after hour, day and night, with increasing intensity 
as the time went on, the enemy rained heavy shell into the 
area. Now he would send them crashing in on a line south 
of the road — eight heavy shells at a time, minute after minute, 

* Captain C. W. Bean. 



84. THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

followed by a burst of shrapnel. Now he would place a cur- 
tain straight across this valley or that till the sky and land- 
scape were blotted out, except for fleeting glimpses seen as 
through a lift of fog. . . . Day and night the men worked 
through it, fighting the horrid machinery far over the horizon 
as if they were fighting Germans hand to hand; building 
up whatever it battered down ; buried some of them, not once, 
but again and again and again. What is a barrage against 
such troops ? They went through it as you would go through 
a summer shower, too proud to bend their heads, many of 
them, because their mates were looking. I am telling you 
of things I have seen. As one of the best of their officers 
said to me: 'I have to walk about as if I liked it; what 
else can you do when your own men teach you to ?' " 

Meantime there had been heavy fighting around 
Longueval and in Delville Wood. On Thursday, 

x , the 27th, the wood was cleared all but 

* '' its eastern side, and next day the last 

enemy outpost in Longueval village was captured.* 

j , ^ In this action we accounted for the re- 
™ mains of the Brandenburgers, taking 

prisoner three officers and 158 men. It was our first 
meeting with them since that day on the Aisne, when 
they had been forced back by our 1st Division behind 
the edge of the plateau. At the same time a High- 
land Territorial division was almost continuously 
engaged at High Wood, where in one week they 
made three fruitless attempts to drive the enemy 
out of the northern segment. On 23rd July we 
attacked Guillemont from the south and west, but 
failed, owing to the strength of the enemy's machine- 
gun fire. 

* The German troops employed in the defence of Longueval 
and Delville Wood since 14th July were successively the 6th 
Regiment of the 10th Bavarian Division, the 8th Division 
of the 4th Corps, and the 5th Division of the 3rd Corps. 



THE SECOND STAGE 



85 



Early on the morning of Sunday, the 30th, the 
Australians attacked at Pozieres towards the Wind- 
mill, and after a fierce hand-to-hand j , 
struggle in the darkness, advanced their ™ 3 • 

front to the edge of the trench labyrinth which con- 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — GUILLEMONT AND GINCHY. 



stituted that position. Next morning we attacked 
Guillemont from the north-west and west, while the 
French pushed almost to the edge of Maurepas. 
Battalions of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and the Man- 
chester advanced right through Guillemont, till the 



86 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

failure of the attack on the left compelled them to 
retire, with heavy losses. Our farthest limit was the 
station on the light railway just outside Guillemont 
village. 

Little happened for some days. The heat was 
now very great, so great that even men inured to 
an Australian summer found it hard to bear, and 
the maddening haze still muffled the landscape. We 
were aware that the enemy had strengthened his 
position, and brought up new troops and batteries. 
The French were meantime fighting their way 
through the remnants of the German second posi- 
tion north of the Somme between Hem Wood and 
Monacu Farm. There were strong counter-attacks 
against Delville Wood, which were beaten off by 
our guns before they got to close range. Daily we 
bombarded points in the enemy hinterland, and did 
much destruction among their depots and billets 
and heavy batteries. And then on the night of 

a Friday, 4th August, came the final at- 

&' tack at Pozieres. 

We had already won the German second posi- 
tion up to the top of the village, where the new 
switch line joined on. The attack was in the nature 
of a surprise. It began at nine in the evening, when 
the light was still strong. An Australian division 
advanced on the right at the Windmill, and a New 
Army division on the left. The trenches, which had 
been almost obliterated by our guns, were carried 
at a rush, and before the darkness came we had 

a taken the rest of the second position on 

&' 5' a front of 2,000 yards. Counter-at- 
tacks followed all through the night, but they were 
badly co-ordinated, and achieved nothing. On Sat- 



THE SECOND STAGE 87 

urday we had pushed our line north and west of the 
village from 400 to 600 yards on a front of 3,000. 
Early on Sunday morning the Germans a g 
counter-attacked with liquid fire, and &' 

gained a small portion of the trench line, which was 
speedily recovered. The position was now that we 
held the much-contested Windmill, and that we 
extended on the east of the village to the west end of 
the Switch, while west of Pozieres we had pushed 
so far north that the German line was drooping like 
the eaves of a steep roof. We had taken some 600 
prisoners, and at last we were looking over the 
watershed. 

The following week saw repeated attempts by the 
enemy to recover his losses. The German bom- 
bardment was incessant and intense, and on the 
high bare scarp around the Windmill our troops 
had to make heavy drafts on their fortitude. On 
Tuesday, 8th August, the British right, a r, 
attacking at 4.20 a.m. in conjunction &' 

with the French, closed farther in on Guillemont. 
At Pozieres, too, every day our lines advanced, 
especially in the angle toward Mouquet Farm, be- 
tween the village and Thiepval. We were exposed 
to a flanking fire from Thiepval, and to the exactly 
ranged heavy batteries around Courcelette and 
Grandcourt. Our task was to break off and take 
heavy toll of the many German counter-attacks and 
on the rebound to win, yard by yard, ground which 
made our position secure. 

In the desperate strain of this fighting there was 
evidence that the superb German machine was be- 
ginning to creak and falter. Hitherto its strength 
had lain in the automatic precision of its ordering. 



88 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

Now, since reserves had to be hastily collected from 
all quarters, there was some fumbling in the direc- 
tion. Attacks made by half a dozen battalions col- 
lected from three divisions, battalions which had 
never before been brigaded together, were bound 
to lack the old vigour and cohesion. Units lost 
direction, Staff work was imperfect, and what should 
have been a hammer-blow became a loose scrim- 
mage.* A captured letter written by an officer of 
the German 19th Corps revealed a change from the 
perfect co-ordination of the first year of war. "The 
job of relieving yesterday was incredible. From 
Courcelette we relieved across the open. Our posi- 
tion, of course, was quite different to what we had 
been told. Our company alone relieved a full bat- 
talion, though we were only told to relieve a com- 
pany of fifty men weakened through casualties. 
Those we relieved had no idea where the enemy was, 
how far off he was, or if any of our own troops 
were in front of us. We got no idea of our sup- 
posed position till six o'clock this evening. The 
English were 400 metres away, the Windmill just 
over the hill. We shall have to look to it to-night 
not to get taken prisoners. We have no dug-outs; 
we dig a hole in the side of a shell hole, and lie 
and get rheumatism. We get nothing to eat and 
drink. Yesterday each man drew two bottles of 
water and three iron rations, and these must last 

* The German High Command showed themselves good 
professional soldiers, and did their best to readjust their 
ideas to meet the new situation. See the report of General 
Sixt von Armin, which is printed in Appendix II. Von Armin 
commanded the 4th Corps, and was the general who first 
entered Brussels in August 1914. 



THE SECOND STAGE 89 

till we are relieved. The ceaseless roar of the guns 
is driving us mad, and many of the men are knocked 
up." Much of this discomfort was, to be sure, the 
fate of any troops in an advanced position, but there 
seemed to be an uncertainty as to purpose and a 
confusion in Staff work from which the Allies were 
now free. 

It was the fashion in the German Press, at this 
time, to compare the Picardy offensive of the Allies 
with the German attack on Verdun, very much to 
the advantage of the latter. The deduction was 
false. In every military aspect — in the extent of 
ground won, in the respective losses, in the accuracy 
and weight of artillery, in the quality of the infantry 
attacks, and in the precision of the generalship — the 
Verdun attack fell far short of the Picardy battle. 
The Verdun front, in its operative part, had been 
narrower than that of the Somme, but at least ten 
more enemy divisions had by the beginning of 
August been attracted to Picardy than had appeared 
between Avocourt and Vaux up tb the end of April. 
The Crown Prince at Verdun speedily lost the ini- 
tiative in any serious sense; on the Somme von 
Below and von Gallwitz never possessed it. There 
the enemy had to accept battle as the Allied will 
imposed it, and no counter-attack could for a mo- 
ment divert the resolute Allied purpose.* 

* The German Commands deserve a note. At the begin- 
ning of the battle von Below was in command of the 2nd 
Army, but as the attack developed and new troops had to 
be brought up, it was found convenient to revive the old 
1st Army (abolished since the spring of 1916), and put von 
Below in command of it. The 2nd Army farther south was 
commanded by von Gallwitz. Later a plan was adopted 
similar to the British, and corps commanders were given 



90 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

We have spoken of the stamina of the British 
troops, which was never tried more hardly than in 
the close-quarters righting in the ruined villages 
and desolated woods of the German second posi- 
tion. No small part of it was due to the quality of 
the officers. When our great armies were impro- 
vised, the current fear was that a sufficient number 
of trained officers could not be provided to lead them. 
But the fear was groundless. The typical public- 
school boy proved a born leader of men. His good- 
humour and camaraderie, his high sense of duty, his 
personal gallantry were the qualities most needed 
in the long months of trench warfare. When the 
advance came he was equal to the occasion. Much 
of the fighting was in small units, and the dash and 
intrepidity of men who a little before had been 
schoolboys was a notable asset in this struggle of 
sheer human quality. The younger officers sacrificed 
themselves freely, and it was the names of platoon 
commanders that filled most of the casualty lists. 

Men fell who promised to win the highest dis- 
tinction in civilian life. Many died, who were of 
the stuff from which the future leaders of the British 
Army would have been drawn. Such, to name one 
conspicuous instance, was Major William Congreve, 
who fell at Delville Wood at the age of twenty-five, 
having in two years of war already proved that he 
possessed the mind and character of a great soldier.* 

groups similar to the British corps, through which a large 
number of divisions were formed. Among the group com- 
manders were von Stein, von Quast, Sixt von Armin, von 
Marschall, von Kirchbach, von Hugel, and von Fasbender. 
* He was the son of the General commanding the 13th 
Corps, and had won the D.S.O., the Military Cross, and the 



THE SECOND STAGE 91 

And to take an instance from the French side, on the 
night of 13th July fell the last Due de Rohan, who 
had already been wounded at Verdun in command 
of his company of Chasseurs. He was killed in the 
course of a daring night reconnaissance, a young 
man with great possessions and a great future, who 
brought to the defence of republican France the 
proudest blood and most ancient lineage in Europe.* 
It was a heavy price that the Allies paid, but who 
shall say that it was not well paid — not only in 
military results, but in the proof to themselves and 
to the world that their officers were worthy of their 
men, and that they realised to the full the pride and 
duty of leadership? 

The list of Victoria Crosses can never be an 
adequate record of gallantry; it is no more than a 
sample of what in less conspicuous form was found 
everywhere in the battle. But in that short list 
there are exploits of courage and sacrifice which 
have never been surpassed. Major Loudoun-Shand, 
of the Yorkshires, fell mortally wounded while lead- 
ing his men over the parapets, but he insisted on 
being propped up in a trench and encouraged his 
battalion till he died. Lieutenant Cather, of the 
Royal Irish Fusiliers, died while bringing in 
wounded from No Man's Land and carrying water 
to those who could not be moved, in full view and 
under the direct fire of the enemy. Second- 
Cross of the Legion of Honour. He received posthumously 
the Victoria Cross. 

* Compare the Rohan motto : 

"Roi ne puis. 

Prince ne daigne. 

Rohan suis." 



92 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

Lieutenant Simpson Bell, of the Yorkshires, found 
his company enfiladed, during an attack, by a Ger- 
man machine gun. Of his own initiative he crept 
with a corporal and a private up a communication 
trench, crossed the open, and destroyed the machine 
gun and its gunners, thereby saving many lives and 
ensuring the success of the British movement. A 
similar exploit was that of Company Sergeant-Major 
Carter, of the Royal Sussex, who fell in the attempt. 
Corporal Sanders, of the West Yorkshires, found 
himself cut off in the enemy line with a party of 
thirty men. For two days he held the post, without 
food or water, and beat off German attacks, till relief 
came and he brought back his remnant of nineteen 
to our lines. Private Miller, of the Royal Lan- 
cashires, was sent through a heavy barrage with a 
message to which a reply was urgently wanted. Al- 
most at once he was shot through the back, the 
bullet coming out in front. "In spite of this, with 
heroic courage and self-sacrifice, he compressed 
with his hand the gaping wound in his abdomen, 
delivered his message, staggered back with the an- 
swer, and fell at the feet of the officer to whom he 
delivered it. He gave his life with a supreme devo- 
tion to duty." Private Short, of the Yorkshires, 
was foremost in a bombing attack and refused to 
go back though severely wounded. Finally his leg 
was shattered by a shell, but as he lay dying he was 
adjusting detonators and straightening bomb-pins 
for his comrades. "For the last eleven months he 
had always volunteered for dangerous enterprises, 
and has always set a magnificent example of bravery 
and devotion to duty." 

Officers sacrificed themselves for their men, and 



THE SECOND STAGE 93 

men gave their lives for their officers. Private Veale, 
of the Devons, went out to look for an officer and 
found him among standing corn fifty yards from the 
enemy. He dragged him to a shell hole and went 
back for water. Then, after vain efforts to bring 
him in, he went out with a party at dusk, and while 
they did their work he kept off an enemy patrol 
with a Lewis gun. Private Turrall, of the Wor- 
cester, when an officer was badly wounded in a 
bombing attack which had been compelled to fall 
back, stayed with him for three hours under con- 
tinuous fire, completely surrounded by the enemy. 
When a counter-attack made it possible, he carried 
the officer back to our lines. Private Quigg, of the 
Royal Irish Rifles, went out seven times under heavy 
machine-gun and shell fire to look for a lost platoon 
commander, and for seven hours laboured to bring 
in wounded. Another type of service was that of 
Drummer Ritchie, of the Seaforths, who stood on 
the parapet of an enemy trench sounding the charge 
to rally men of various units who had lost their 
leaders and were beginning to retire. And, per- 
haps the finest of all, there was Private McFad- 
zean, of the Royal Irish Rifles, who, while opening 
a box of bombs before an attack, let the box slip 
so that two of the safety-pins fell out. Like Lieu- 
tenant Smith, of the East Lancashires, at Gallipoli, 
he flung himself on the bombs, and the explosion, 
which blew him to pieces, only injured one other 
man. "He well knew the danger, being himself a 
bomber, but without a minute's hesitation he gave 
his life for his comrades." The General was right 
who told his hearers that the British soldier had a 
great soul. 



94 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

The French by the second week of August had 
carried all the German third position south of the 

a Somme. On Saturday, 12th August, 

&' ' after preparatory reconnaissances, they 
attacked the third line north of the river from the 
east of Hardecourt to opposite Buscourt. It was a 
superbly organised assault, which on a front of over 
four miles swept away the enemy trenches and re- 
doubts to an average depth of three-quarters of a 
mile. They entered the cemetery of Maurepas and 
the southern slopes of Hill 109 on the Maurepas- 
Clery road, and reached the saddle west of Clery 
village. By the evening over 1,000 prisoners were 
in their hands. Four days later, on Wednesday, 

a ^ 1 6th August, they pushed their left flank 
9' — there adjoining the British — north of 

Maurepas, taking a mile of trenches, and south of 
that village captured all the enemy line on a front 
of a mile and a quarter. Except for a few incon- 
siderable sections the enemy third position opposite 
the French had gone. 

The British to the north were not yet ready for 
their grand assault. They had the more difficult 
ground and the stronger enemy forces against them, 
and for six weeks had been steadily fighting up hill. 
At points they had reached the watershed, but they 
had not won enough of the high ground to give 
them positions against the German third line on the 
reverse slopes. The following week was therefore a 

a tale of slow progress to the rim of the 

u 9' 3~ plateau, around Pozieres, High Wood, 

and Guillemont. Each day saw something 

gained by hard fighting. On Sunday, the 13th, it 

was a section of trench north-west of Pozieres, and 



THE SECOND STAGE 



95 






(Trones Wood 

}» cjHardecourt Y*i i; j 

;• cl aux Boia |r#\ f / 

'< "^ &¥* U 

> =^==«L^ I* 

A* 
o 








^^feQlMaurepas 




"(OHM '.fill 1 1) \Htrt ^v^^t 

S\ [Farm] 




Miles 



BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — THE FRENCH ADVANCE, AUGUST I2TH-IOTH. 



96 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

another between Bazentin-le-Petit and Martinpuich. 
On Tuesday it was ground close to Mouquet Farm. 
On Wednesday it was the west and south-west en- 
virons of Guillemont and a 300-yards advance at 
High Wood. On Thursday there was progress 
north-west of Bazentin-le-Petit towards Martinpuich 
and between Ginchy and Guillemont. 

On Friday, 18th August, came the next combined 
attack. There was a steady pressure everywhere 

a o from Thiepval to the Somme. The main 

&' advance took place at 2.45 in the after- 

noon, in fantastic weather, with bursts of hot sun- 
shine followed by thunderstorms and flights of rain- 
bows. On the left of the front the attack was timed 
for 8 a.m. 

South of Thiepval, in the old German first line, 
was a strong work, the Leipzig Redoubt, into which 
we had already bitten. It was such a stronghold as 
we had seen at Beaumont Hamel, a nest of deep 
dug-outs and subterranean galleries, well stocked 
w r ith machine guns. As our front moved east to 
Pozieres and Contalmaison we had neglected this 
corner, which had gradually become the apex of a 
sharp salient. It was garrisoned by Prussians of the 
29th Regiment, who were confident in the impreg- 
nability of their refuge. They led an easy life, while 
their confederates on the crest were crowding in im- 
provised trenches under our shelling. Those not 
on duty slept peacefully in their bunks at night, and 
played cards in the deep shelters. On Friday, after 
a sharp and sudden artillery preparation, two British 
battalions rushed the redoubt. We had learned by 
this time how to deal with the German machine 
guns. Many of the garrison fought stubbornly to 



THE SECOND STAGE 



97 



the end; others we smoked out and rounded up 
like the occupants of a gambling-house surprised by 
the police. Six officers and 170 men surrendered in 
a body. In all, some two thousand Germans were 
caught in this trap by numbers less than their own. 
There was no chance of a counter-stroke, for we got 
our machine guns in position at once, and our artil- 
lery caught every enemy attempt in the open. 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — THIEPVAL. 



Elsewhere on the front the fighting was harder 
and less successful. In the centre a famous divi- 
sion pushed closer to Martinpuich, and from High 
Wood southward we slightly advanced our lines. 
We also carried the last orchard in Longueval, and 
pressed towards the eastern rim of Delville Wood. 
Farther south we took the stone quarry on the edge 
of Guillemont after a hand-to-hand struggle of sev- 
eral hours, but failed to hold it. Meantime the 



98 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

French carried the greater part of Maurepas village, 
and the place called Calvary Hill to the south-east. 
This last was a great feat of arms, for they had 
against them a fresh division of the Prussian Guard 
(the 2nd), which had seen no serious action for 
many months.* 

We were now fighting on the watershed. At 
Thiepval we held the ridge that overlooked the vil- 
lage from the south-east. We held all the high 
ground north of Pozieres, which gave us a clear 
view of the country towards Bapaume, and our lines 
lay 300 yards beyond the Windmill. We had all the 
west side of High Wood and the ground between it 
and the Albert-Bapaume road. We were half-way 
between Longueval and Ginchy, and our pincers 
w r ere encircling Guillemont. At last we were in posi- 
tion over against, and in direct view of, the German 
third line. 

The next week was occupied in repelling German 
attempts to recover lost ground, and in efforts to 
sharpen still further the Thiepval salient and to cap- 
ture Guillemont. Thiepval, it should be remem- 
bered, was a point in the old German first line on 
the left flank of the great breach, and Guillemont was 
the one big position still untaken in the German 

a second line. On Sunday, the 20th, the 

&' Germans shelled our front heavily, and 

at about noon attacked our new lines on the western 

side of High Wood. They reached a portion of our 

a trenches, but were immediately driven 

&' ' out by our infantry. Next day, at High 

Wood and at Mouquet Farm, there were frequent 

* The whole of the 1st Guard Corps — the 1st and 2nd 
Divisions — were now facing the French north of the Somme. 



THE SECOND STAGE 99 

bombing attacks which came to nothing. On Tues- 
day, 22nd August, we advanced steadily on our left, 
pushing our line to the very edge of what * 
was once Mouquet Farm as well as to the ^' 
north-east of it, and closing in to within 1,000 yards 
of Thiepval. 

The weather had become clearer, and our counter- 
battery work silenced some of the enemy's guns, 
while our aircraft fought many battles. We lost no 
single machine, but four enemy airplanes were de- 
stroyed and many others driven to the ground in a 
damaged condition. A sentence in a captured letter 
paid a tribute to the efficiency of the British airmen: 
"The airmen circle over us and try to do damage, 
but only enemy ones, for a German airman will not 
try to come near. Behind the front there is a great 
crowd of them, but here not one makes his appear- 
ance." 

Throughout the whole battle there was no 
question which side possessed the ascendancy in 
the air. Captured documents bore continual witness 
to our superiority. One corps report described 
our air work as "surprisingly bold"; another, 
emanating from an army headquarters, suggested 
methods of reorganisation, whereby "it is hoped 
that it will be possible, at least for some hours, to 
contest the supremacy in the air of the enemy." 
Here is the record of the doings of one flight-lieu- 
tenant, who encountered a detachment of twelve 
German machines. "He dived in among them, 
firing one drum. The formation was broken up. 

Lieutenant then got under the nearest machine 

and fired one drum at fifteen yards under the pilot's 
seat, causing the machine to plunge to earth south- 



100 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

east of Baupaume. Shortly afterwards some more 
hostile aeroplanes came up in formation. Lieutenant 

attacked one, which went down and landed in a 

gap between the woods. Several other machines 
were engaged with indecisive results, and, having 
expended all his ammunition, Lieutenant re- 
turned." This was on ist September, when part- 
ridge shooting begins. Lieutenant took the 

day's work as calmly as if he had been tramping 
the stubble. 

On Wednesday night and Thursday morning a 
very severe counter-attack on our position at Guille- 

a mont, pressed with great determination, 

£* ^ failed to win any ground. That after- 
4* noon, 24th August, we advanced nearer 
Thiepval, carrying Hindenburg Trench, and com- 
ing, at one point, within 500 yards of the place. 
In the evening, at five o'clock, the French carried 
Maurepas, and pushed their right on to the Combles 
railway, while a light division succeeded at last in 
clearing Delville Wood. Next day the French suc- 

a cess enabled us to join up with our Allies 

&' 5" south-east of Guillemont, where our 
pincers were now beginning to grip hard. 

The following week was one of slow and 
steady progress. We cleared the ground immedi- 
ately north of Delville Wood by a dashing charge 
of a Rifle Brigade battalion. The most satis- 
factory feature of these days was the frequency of 
the German counter-attacks and their failure. On 

a s- 26th August, for example, troops of the 

&' ' 4th Division of the Prussian Guard, after 

a heavy bombardment, attacked south of Thiepval 

village, and were completely repulsed by the Wilt- 



THE SECOND STAGE 101 

shire and Worcestershire battalions holding that 
front. One incident of that day deserves record. 
A dispatch runner was sent back with a message 
to the rear, which he reached safely. He started 
back, came unscathed through the German bar- 
rage, but in the general ruin of the trench lines 
failed to find the place he had left. He wandered 
on and on till he reached something that looked like 
his old trench, and was just about to enter it when 
he found it packed with Germans. He immediately 
jumped to the conclusion that a counter-attack was 
about to be launched, and, slipping back, managed 
to reach our own lines, where he told the news. In 
a minute or two our artillery got on to the spot, 
and the counter-attack of the Prussian Guard was 
annihilated before it began. On Thursday even- 
ing, 31st August, five violent and futile * 
assaults were made on our front between &' ** " 
High Wood and Ginchy, in which a battalion of 
the Sussex Regiment won great honour. It looked 
as if the enemy was trying in vain to anticipate the 
next great stage of our offensive which was now 
imminent. 

On Sunday, 3rd September, at twelve noon, the 
whole Allied front pressed forward. Australian and 
British troops attacked on the extreme <-« 
left — near Mouquet Farm and towards ^ ' 3" 

Thiepval, and against the enemy position just north 
of the Ancre. In their task they encountered the 
1st Guard Reserve Division, and took several hun- 
dred prisoners. They carried various strong posi- 
tions, won ground east of Mouquet Farm, and still 
further narrowed the Thiepval salient. Our centre 
took High Wood in the afternoon, but pressed on 



102 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 



: T7 



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W 



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=;Leuze2.^7 ^*- 

/ I V ^MMffiSCombles 

i/Lfc?' Falfemon^ 




fcspt. Si 




M 



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/ Maurepas 

i I 

at* //% 

a. 



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BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — THE ADVANCE OF SEPTEMBER 3. 



THE SECOND STAGE 103 

too far, and had to give ground before a German 
counter-attack. On their right one division took 
and lost Ginchy, while another division and one 
brigade swept 'through Guillemont to the sunken 
road, 500 yards to the east. Farther south we 
attacked but failed to capture Falfemont Farm. 
Meantime the French— the 1st Corps *— had 
marched steadily from victory to victory. Shortly 
after noon, on a 3K miles front between Maurepas 
and the Somme, they had attacked after an intense 
artillery preparation. They carried the villages 
of Le Forest and Clery, and north of # the former 
place won the German lines to the outskirts of Com- 
bles. 

As the bloody angle south of Beaumont Hamel 
will be for ever associated with the Ulster Division, 
so Guillemont was a triumph for the troops of 
southern and western Ireland. The men of Mun- 
ster, Leinster, and Connaught broke through the 
intricate defences of the enemy as a torrent sweeps 
down rubble. The place was one of the strongest 
of all the many fortified villages in the German line, 
and its capture was the most important achievement 
of the British since the taking of Pozieres. It was 
the last uncaptured point in the old German second 
position between Mouquet Farm and the junction 
with the French. It was most resolutely defended, 
since, being close to the point of junction, it com- 
pelled a hiatus in the advance of the Allied front. 
With its fall the work of two years was swept away, 

*The 1st Corps belonged to north-east France, and most 
of its men came from districts like Lille, Arras, and Roubaix, 
which had suffered severely from the German occupation. 
They fought literally to recover their homes. 



104 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 




THE SECOND STAGE 105 

and in the whole section the enemy were now in 
new and improvised positions. 

But the advance was only beginning. On Mon- 
day, 4th September, all enemy counter-attacks were 
beaten off, and further ground won by ^ . . 
the British near Falfemont Farm. That " * 4 * 
night, in a torrent of rain, our men pressed on, and 
before midday on Tuesday, 5th September, they 
were nearly a mile east of Guillemont, n ., 
and well into Leuze Wood. That even- ^ * •>" 
ing the whole of the wood was taken, as well as 
the hotly disputed Falfemont Farm, and the British 
were less than 1,000 yards from the town of Com- 
bles, on which the French were pressing in on the 
south. 

Meantime, about two in the afternoon, a new 
French army came into action south of the Somme 
on a front of a dozen miles from Barleux to south 
of Chaulnes. This was General Micheler's Tenth 
Army, which had been waiting for two months on 
the order to advance. At a bound it carried the 
whole of the German first position from Verman- 
dovillers to Chilly, a front of nearly three miles, 
and took some 3,000 unwounded prisoners. Next 
day the French pressed on both north and south 
of the river, and in the former area <-< ^ 
reached the west end of the Anderlu ^ ' 
Wood, carried the Hopital Farm, the Rainette Wood, 
part of the Marriere Wood, the ridge on which runs 
the road from Bouchavesnes to Clery, and the village 
of Omiecourt. 

From Wednesday, 6th September, to the night 
of Friday, the 8th, the Germans strove in vain to 
win back what they had lost. On the whole thirty 



106 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — ADVANCE OF MICHELER'S TENTH FRENCH ARMY, 
SEPT. 5TH AND 6?H (SHOWING THE ORIGINAL FRENCH FRONT BEFORE 
JULY 1ST, AND THE GROUND GAINED BY THE ADVANCE). 



THE SECOND STAGE 107 

miles from Thiepval to Chilly there were violent 
counter-attacks which had no success, though four 
divisions of the Prussian Guard shared ~ 
in them. The Allied artillery broke 6 ept 6 ~ 8 - 
up the massed infantry in most cases long before 
they reached our trenches. On Saturday, 9 th Sep- 
tember, the same Irish regiments which 
had helped to take Guillemont carried ^ ept 9- 
Ginchy. The attack was delivered at 4.45 in the 
afternoon, on a broad front, but though highly suc- 
cessful in this one area, it failed elsewhere. We 
made no progress in High Wood, we were checked 
east of Delville, and, most important of all, we did 
not succeed in carrying the work east of Ginchy 
called the Quadrilateral, which at a later day was to 
prove a thorn in our side. 

T>, Ne A V n rtI rl eSS the main ob J' ects had been attained, 
ine Al hed front was now in a symmetrical line, and 
everywhere on the highest ground. Combles was 
held in a tight clutch, and the French Tenth Army 
was within 800 yards of Chaulnes Station, and was 
holding 2 y 2 miles of the Chaulnes-Roye railway 
thereby cutting the chief German line of lateral 
communication. The first objective which the Allies 
had set before themselves on ist July had been 
amply won. 

By the 10th of September the British had made 
good the old German second position, and had 
won the crest of the uplands, while the r 
French in their section had advanced bept Ia 
almost to the gates of Peronne, and their new army 
on the right had begun to widen the breach That 
moment was in a very real sense the end of a phase 



108 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

the first and perhaps the most critical phase of the 
great Western offensive. A man may have saved 
money so that he can face the beginnings of ad- 
versity with cheerfulness; but if the stress con- 
tinues, his money will come to an end, and he will 
be no better than his fellows in misfortune. The 
immense fortifications of her main position repre- 
sented for Germany the accumulated capital of two 
years. She had raised these defences when she was 
stronger than her adversaries in guns and in men. 
Now she was weaker, and her capital was gone. 
Thenceforth the campaign entered upon a new stage, 
new alike in strategical and tactical problems. From 
Thiepval to Chaulnes the enemy was now in impro- 
vised positions. The day of manoeuvre battles had 
not come, but in that section the rigidity of the old 
trench warfare had vanished. 



CHAPTER IV 
the: third stags 

Situation after 3rd September — The German Third Position — The 
Strain on the Defence — Favourable Outlook for the Allies — Be- 
ginning of the New Bombardment — The Allied Plan — The Brit- 
ish Dispositions — The "Tanks" — The Battle of 15th September 
— Fall of Courcelette, Martinpuich, and Flers — High Wood 
cleared — Check on the British Right — Summary of Results — 
Achievements of British Aircraft — Death of Raymond Asquith — 
The French Advance — Capture of the Quadrilateral — The Bat- 
tle of 25th September — Fall of Morval and Lesboeufs — Battle of 
26th September — Fall of Gueudecourt, Combles, and Thiepval — 
Allied Outlook at Close of September — Nature of the Battle- 
ground — The Weather of October — Difficulties of Transport — 
The Struggle for the Spurs — Its Peculiar Severity — Capture of 
Regina Trench and the rest of Thiepval Ridge — The French take 
Sailly — Micheler's Advance — Summary of the Month — Death of 
Lord Lucas. 

THE capture of Guillemont on 3rd September 
meant the end of the German second position 
on the whole front between Thiepval and Es- 
trees. The Allies were faced with a new problem, 
to understand which it is necessary to consider the 
nature of the defences still before them and the 
peculiar configuration of the country. 

The advance of 1st July had carried the first 
enemy lines on a broad front, but the failure of 
the attack between Gommecourt and Thiepval had 
made the breach eight miles less than the original 
plan. The advance of 14th July gave us the second 

109 



110 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

line on a still narrower front — from Bazentin-le- 
Petit to Longueval. The danger now was that the 
Allied thrust, if continued, might show a rapidly 
narrowing wedge which would result in the for- 
mation of a sharp and precarious salient. Accord- 
ingly Sir Douglas Haig broadened the breach by 
striking out to left and right, capturing first Pozieres 
and the high ground at Mouquet Farm, and then — 
on his other flank — Guillemont and Ginchy. These 
successes made the gap in the second position some 
seven miles wide, and brought the British front in 
most places to the highest ground, from which 
direct observation was obtainable over the lower 
slopes and valley pockets to the east. We did not 
yet hold the complete crown of the ridge, though 
at Mouquet Farm and at High Wood we had posi- 
tions which no superior height commanded. 

The German third position had at the beginning 
of the battle been only in embryo. Before the at- 
tack of 14th July it had been more or less completed, 
and by the beginning of September it had been 
greatly elaborated and a fourth position prepared 
behind it. It was based on a string of fortified 
villages which lie on the reverse slopes of the main 
ridge — Courcelette, Martinpuich, Flers, Lesbceufs, 
and Morval. Behind it was an intermediate line, 
with Le Sars, Eaucourt TAbbaye, and Gueude- 
court as strong positions in it; and further back 
a fourth position, which lay just west of the Ba- 
paume-Peronne road, covering the villages of Sailly- 
Saillisel and Le Transloy. This was the line pro- 
tecting Bapaume; the next position, at this moment 
only roughly sketched out, lay well to the east of 
that town. 



THE THIRD STAGE 11X 

Since the battle began the Germans had, up to> 
the second week in September, brought sixty-one 
divisions into action in the Somme area; seven ho/!: 
been refitted and sent in again; on 14th September 
they were holding the line with fifteen divisions — 
which gives us fifty- three as the number which had 
been used up. The German losses throughout had 
been high. The French casualties had been singu- 
larly light — for they had fought economically un- 
der close cover of their guns, and had had, on the 
whole, the easier tactical problem to face. The 
British losses had been, beyond doubt, lower than 
those of the enemy, and our most conspicuous suc- 
cesses, such as the advance of 1st July south of 
Thiepval and the action of 14th July, had been 
achieved at a comparatively small cost. Our main 
casualties arose from the failure north of Thiepval 
on the first day, and the taking of desperately de- 
fended and almost impregnable positions like Del- 
ville Wood and Guillemont. 

In the ten weeks' battle the enemy had shown 
many ups and downs of strength. At one moment 
his whole front would appear to be crumbling; at 
another the arrival of fresh batteries from Verdun 
and new troops would solidify his line. The effort 
had strained his capacity to its full. He had revived 
the old First Army — which had been in abeyance 
since the preceding spring — and given it to von 
Below north of the Somme, while the Second Army, 
now under von Gallwitz, held the front south of the 
river. He had placed the Crown Prince of Bavaria, 
commanding the Sixth Army, in charge of the sector 
comprising his own and the First and Second Armies. 
He had followed the British plan of departing from 



112 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

the corps system and creating groups, through 
which a large number of divisions, drawn from 
many corps, were successively passed. He had 
used in his defence the best fighting material he 
possessed. During those ten weeks almost all the 
most famous German units had appeared on the 
Somme — the cream of the Bavarian troops, the Fifth 
Brandenburgers, and every single division of the 
Guard and Guard Reserve Corps. 

In the early days of September there was evidence 
that the enemy was in no very happy condition. 
The loss of Ginchy and Guillemont had enabled the 
British to come into line with the left wing of 
Fayolle's great advance, while the fall of certain 
vital positions on the Thiepval Ridge gave us ob- 
servation over a great space of country and threat- 
ened Thiepval, which was the pivot of all the Ger- 
man defence in the northern section of the battle- 
ground. The Allied front north of the Somme had 
the river as a defensive flank on its right, and might 
presently have the Ancre to fill the same part on 
its left. Hence the situation was ripe for a further 
thrust which, if successful, might give our advance 
a new orientation. If the German third line could 
be carried it might be possible to strike out on the 
flanks, repeating on a far greater scale the prac- 
tice already followed. Bapaume itself was not 
the objective, but a thrust north-eastward across 
the Upper Ancre, which might get behind the great 
slab of unbroken enemy positions from Thiepval 
northwards. That would be the ultimate reward 
of a complete success; in the meantime our task 
was to break through the enemy's third line and 
test his powers of resistance. 





BRITISH "TANKS" IN ACTION 



THE THIRD STAGE 113 

It seemed a propitious moment for a concerted 
blow. The situation on the whole front was good. 
Fayolle's left wing had won conspicuous successes 
and had their spirits high, while Micheler was mov- 
ing his pincers towards Chaulnes and playing havoc 
with the main German lateral communications. 
Elsewhere in Europe things went well for the Allies. 
On 28th August Rumania had entered the war and 
her troops were pouring into Transylvania. As it 
happened, it was a premature and fruitless move- 
ment, but it compelled Germany to take instant steps 
to meet the menace. There had been important 
changes in the German Higher Commands, and it 
might reasonably be assumed that von Hindenburg 
and von Ludendorff were not yet quite at ease in 
the saddle. Brussilov was still pinning down the 
Austro-German forces on the Russian front, and 
Sarrail had just begun his serious offensive in the 
Balkans. In the event of a real debacle in the West 
the enemy might be hard pressed to find the men 
to fill the breach. Every action, it should be re- 
membered, is a packet of surprises. There is an 
immediate local objective, but on success any one 
of twenty consequences may follow. The wise com- 
mander cannot count on any of these consequences, 
but he must not neglect them in his calculations. 
If the gods send him good fortune he must be ready 
to take it, and he naturally chooses a season when 
the gods seem propitious. 

On Tuesday, 12th September, a comprehensive 
bombardment began all along the British ~ . 
front from Thiepval to Ginchy. The ^ ' 
whole of Sir Henry Rawlinson's Fourth Army was 



114 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

destined for the action, as well as the right corps — 
the First Canadian — of the Fifth Army, while on 
the left of the battle to another division was allotted 
a preliminary attack, which was partly in the nature 
of a feint and partly a necessary preparatory step. 
The immediate objective of the different units must 
be clearly noted. On the left of the main front one 
Canadian division was directed against Courcelette. 
On their right a division of the New Army — that 
Scottish division which had won high honour at 
Loos — had for its task to clear the remains of the 
old Switch line and encircle Martinpuich, but not 
— on the first day at any rate — to attempt the cap- 
ture of what was believed to be a most formidable 
stronghold. Going south, two Territorial divisions 
— Northumbrian and London — had to clear High 
Wood. On their right the New Zealanders had 
Flers as their objective, while two divisions of the 
New Army had to make good the ground east and 
north of Delville Wood. Next to them the Guards 
and a division of the old Regulars were to move 
north-east from Ginchy against Lesbceufs and Mor- 
val, while on the extreme right of the British front 
another division of London Territorials were to 
carry Bouleaux Wood and form a defensive flank. 
It had been agreed between Sir Douglas Haig 
and General Foch that Combles should not be di- 
rectly attacked, but pinched by an advance on both 
sides of it. This advance was no easy problem, 
for, in Sir Douglas Haig's words, "the line of the 
French advance was narrowed almost to a defile by 
the extensive and strongly fortified wood of St. 
Pierre Vaast on the one side, and on the other by 
the Combles valley." The closest co-operation was 



THE THIRD STAGE 115 

necessary to enable the two Commands to solve a 
highly intricate tactical problem. 

The British force to be used in the new advance 
was for the most part fresh. The Guards had not 
been in action since Loos the previous September, 
the Canadians were new to the Somme area, while 
it was the first experience of the New Zealanders 
on the Western front. Two of the divisions had 
been some considerable time already in the front 
trenches, but the others had been brought up for 
the purpose only a few days before. All the troops 
were of the best quality, and had a proud record be- 
hind them. More perhaps than any other part of the 
battle this was an action of the British corps d' elite. 

In this stage, too, a new weapon was to be used. 
The "tanks," officially known as "Machine Gun 
Corps, Heavy Section/' had come out from home 
some time before, and had been parked in secluded 
spots at the back of the front. The world is now 
familiar with descriptions and pictures of those 
strange machines, which, shaped like monstrous 
toads, crawled imperturbably over wire and para- 
pets, butted down houses, shouldered trees aside, 
and humped themselves over the stoutest walls. 
They were an experiment which could only be proved 
in practice, and the design in using them at this 
stage was principally to find out their weak points, 
so as to perfect their mechanism for the future. 
Their main tactical purpose was to clear out re- 
doubts and nests of machine guns which, as we 
had found to our sorrow at Loos, might hang up 
the most resolute troops. For this object they must 
precede the infantry attack, and the task of as- 
sembling them before the parapets were crossed was 



116 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

fraught with difficulty, for they were neither silent 
nor inconspicuous. The things had been kept a 
profound secret, and until the very eve of the ad- 
vance few in the British army had even heard of 
them. On 14th September, the day before our at- 
tack, some of them were seen by German aeroplanes, 
and the German troops were warned that the British 
had some strange new engine. Rumours also seem 
to have reached Germany five or six weeks earlier, 
for orders had been issued to supply the soldiers 
with a special kind of armour-piercing bullet. But 
as to the real nature of the device the Germans had 
no inkling. 

On the night of Thursday, the 14th, the Fifth 
Army carried out their preliminary task. On a front 
<- , . of a thousand yards south-east of Thiep- 

^ ' 4' va j a brigade of the New Army stormed 
the Hohenzollern trench and the strong redoubt 
which the Germans called the "Wunderwerk," 
taking many prisoners and themselves losing little. 
The fame of this enterprise has been somewhat ob- 
scured by the great advance which followed, but 
it was a most workmanlike and skilful performance, 
and it had a real effect on the subsequent battle. 
It deceived the enemy as to the exact terrain of the 
main assault, and it caused him to launch a counter- 
attack in an area which was part of the principal 
battle-ground, with the result that our left wing, 
after checking his attack, was able to catch him on 
the rebound. 

The morning of Friday, 15th September, was 
perfect autumn weather, with a light mist filling 
the hollows and shrouding the slopes. At 6 a.m. 



THE THIRD STAGE 117 

the British bombardment, which had now lasted for 
three days, rose to the fury of hurricane ~ .. 
fire. The enemy had a thousand guns* of " • 5* 
all calibres massed against us, and his defences con- 
sisted of a triple line of entrenchments and a series 
of advanced posts manned by machine guns. Our 
earlier bombardment had cut his wire and destroyed 
many of his trenches, besides hampering greatly 
his bringing up of men, rations, and shells. The 
final twenty minutes of intense fire, slowly creep- 
ing forward with our infantry close under its 
shadow, pinned him to his positions and interfered 
with his counter-barrage. To an observer it seemed 
that the deafening crescendo all round the horizon 
was wholly British. 

At twenty minutes past six our men crossed the 
parapets and moved forward methodically towards 
the enemy. The Germans, manning their trenches 
as our guns lengthened, saw through the thin mist 
inhuman shapes crawling towards them, things like 
gigantic slugs, spitting fire from their mottled sides. 
They had been warned of a new weapon, but what 
mortal weapon w r as this terror that walked by day? 
And ere they could collect their dazed wits the Brit- 
ish bayonets were upon them. 

On the left and centre the attack was instantly 
successful. The Canadians, after beating off the 
German counter-attack, carried Courcelette in the 
afternoon. In this advance French-Canadian troops 
played a distinguished part in winning back some 
miles of French soil for their ancient motherland. 
On their right the Scottish division, which had al- 
ready been six weeks in line, performed something 
more than the task allotted it. The capture of 



THE THIRD STAGE 119 

Martinpuich was not part of the programme of 
the day's operations, but the Scots pushed east and 
west of the village, and at a quarter past five in the 
evening had the place in their hands. Farther 
south there was fierce fighting in the old cockpit 
of High Wood. It was two months since we had 
first effected an entrance into its ill-omened shades, 
but we had been forced back, and for long had to 
be content with its southern corner. The strong 
German third line — which ran across its northern 
half on the very crest of the ridge — and the endless 
craters and machine-gun redoubts made it a des- 
perate nut to crack. We had pushed out horns to 
east and west of it, but the northern stronghold in 
the wood itself had defied all our efforts. It was 
held on that day by troops of the 2nd Bavarian 
Corps, and the German ranks have shown no better 
fighting stuff. Our first attack failed, but on a 
second attempt the London Territorials, a little 
after noon, swept the place clear, though not with- 
out heavy losses. 

Beyond them the New Zealand Division, with a 
New Army Division on its right, carried the Switch 
line and took Flers with little trouble. They were 
preceded by a tank, which waddled complacently 
up the main street of the village, with the enemy's 
bullets rattling harmlessly off its sides, followed by 
cheering and laughing British troops. Farther south 
we advanced our front for nearly a mile and a half. 
A light division of the New Army, debouching from 
Delville Wood, cleared Mystery Corner on its eastern 
side before the general attack began, and then with 
splendid elan pushed forward north of Ginchy in 
the direction of Lesbceufs. 



120 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

Only on the right wing was the tale of success 
incomplete. Ginchy, it will be remembered, had 
been carried by Irish troops on 9th September, but 
its environs were not yet fully cleared, and the 
enemy held the formidable point known as the 
Quadrilateral. This was situated about 700 yards 
east of Ginchy at a bend of the Morval road, where 
it passed through a deep wooded ravine. One of the 
old Regular divisions was directed against it, with 
the Guards on their left and the London Territorials 
on their right. The business of the last-named was 
to carry Bouleaux Wood and form a defensive flank 
north of Combles, while the Guards were to ad- 
vance from Ginchy on Lesbceufs. But the strength 
of the Quadrilateral foiled the plan. The Londoners 
did indeed enter Bouleaux Wood, but the division 
on their left was fatally hung up in front of the 
Quadrilateral, and this in turn exposed the right 
flank of the Guards. The Guards Brigades ad- 
vanced, as they have always advanced, with perfect 
discipline and courage. But both their flanks were 
enfiladed; the front of attack was too narrow; the 
sunken road before them was strongly held by ma- 
chine guns; they somewhat lost direction; and, in 
consequence, no part of our right attack gained its 
full objective. There, and in High Wood, we in- 
curred most of the casualties of the day. The check 
was the more regrettable since complete success in this 
area was tactically more important than elsewhere. 

But after all deductions were made the day's re- 
sults were in a high degree satisfactory. We had 
broken in one day through three of the enemy's main 
defensive systems, and on a front of over six miles 
had advanced to an average depth of a mile. It was 



THE THIRD STAGE 121 

the most effective blow yet dealt at the enemy by 
British troops. It gave us not only the high ground 
between Thiepval and the Combles valley, but placed 
us well down the forward slopes. "The damage 
to the enemy's moral," said the official summary, 
"is probably of greater consequence than the seizure 
of dominating positions and the capture of between 
four and five thousand prisoners." Three famous 
Bavarian divisions had been engaged and completely 
shattered, and the whole enemy front thrown into 
a state of disorder. 

The tanks had, for a new experiment, done 
wonders. Some of them broke down on the way 
up, and, of the twenty-four which crossed the Ger- 
man lines, seven came to grief early in the day. The 
remaining seventeen did brilliant service, some squat- 
ting on enemy trenches and clearing them by ma- 
chine-gun fire, some flattening out uncut wire, others 
destroying machine-gun nests and redoubts or strong 
points like the sugar factory at Courcelette. But 
their moral effect was greater than the material 
damage they wrought. The sight of those delib- 
erate impersonal engines ruthlessly grinding down 
the most cherished defences put something like panic 
into troops who had always prided themselves upon 
the superior merit of their own fighting "machine." 
Beyond doubt, too, the presence of the tanks added 
greatly to the zeal and confidence of our assault- 
ing infantry. An element of sheer comedy was 
introduced into the grim business of war, and com- 
edy is dear to the heart of the British soldier. The 
crews of the tanks — which they called His Majesty's 
Landships — seemed to have acquired some of the 
light-heartedness of the British sailor. Penned up 



122 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

in a narrow stuffy space, condemned to a form of 
motion compared with which that of the queasiest 
vessel was steady, and at the mercy of unknown 
perils, these adventurers faced their task with the 
zest of a boy on holiday. With infinite humour 
they described how the enemy had surrounded 
them when they were stuck, and had tried in vain 
to crack their shell, while they themselves sat laugh- 
ing inside. 

In the achievements of the day our aircraft nobly 
co-operated. They destroyed thirteen hostile ma- 
chines and drove nine more in a broken condition 
to ground. They bombarded enemy headquarters 
and vital points on all his railway lines. They de- 
stroyed German kite balloons and so put out the 
eyes of the defence. They guided our artillery fire 
and they brought back frequent and accurate reports 
of every stage in the infantry advance. Moreover, 
they attacked both enemy artillery and infantry with 
their machine-gun fire from a low elevation. Such 
performances were a proof of that resolute and ex- 
alted spirit of the offensive which inspired all arms 
of the service. In the week of the action on the 
whole Somme battle-ground only fourteen enemy 
machines managed to cross our lines, while our air- 
planes made between two thousand and three 
thousand flights far behind the German front. 

In the Guards' advance, among many other 
gallant and distinguished officers, there fell one 
whose death was, in a peculiar sense, a loss to his 
country and the future. Lieutenant Raymond As- 
quith, of the Grenadier Guards, the eldest son of 
the British Prime Minister, died while leading his 
men through the fatal enfilading fire from the 



THE THIRD STAGE 123 

corner of Ginchy village. In this war the gods 
took toll of every rank and class. Few generals and 
statesmen in the Allied nations but had to mourn 
intimate bereavements, and de Castelnau had given 
three sons for his country. But the death of Ray- 
mond Asquith had a poignancy apart from his birth 
and position, and it may be permitted to one 
of his oldest friends to pay his tribute to a heroic 
memory. 

A scholar of the ripe Elizabethan type, a brilliant 
wit, an accomplished poet, a sound lawyer — these 
things were borne lightly, for his greatness was not 
in his attainments but in himself. He had always 
a curious aloofness towards mere worldly success. 
He loved the things of the mind for their own sake 
— good books, good talk, the company of old friends 
— and the rewards of common ambition seemed to 
him too trivial for a man's care. He was of the 
spending type in life, giving freely of the riches of 
his nature, but asking nothing in return. His care- 
lessness of personal gain, his inability to trim or 
truckle, and his aloofness from the facile acquaint- 
anceships of the modern world made him incom- 
prehensible to many, and his high fastidiousness 
gave him a certain air of coldness. Most noble in 
presence, and with every grace of voice and manner, 
he moved among men like a being of another race, 
scornfully detached from the common struggle; and 
only his friends knew the warmth and loyalty of his 
soul. 

At the outbreak of war he joined a Territorial 
battalion, from which he was later transferred to 
the Grenadiers. More than most men he hated the 
loud bellicosities of politics, and he had never done 



124 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

homage to the deities of the crowd. His critical 
sense made him chary of enthusiasm, and it was no 
sudden sentimental fervour that swept him into the 
Army. He saw his duty, and, though it meant the 
shattering of every taste and interest, he did it joy- 
fully, and did it to the full. For a little he had a 
post on the Staff, but applied to be sent back to his 
battalion, since he wished no privileges. In the 
Guards he was extraordinarily happy, finding the 
same kind of light-hearted and high-spirited com- 
panionship which had made Oxford for him a place 
of delectable memories. He was an admirable bat- 
talion officer, and thought seriously of taking up the 
Army as his profession after the war, for he had all 
the qualities which go to the making of a good soldier. 
In our long roll of honour no nobler figure will 
find a place. He was a type of his country at its 
best — shy of rhetorical professions, austerely self- 
respecting, one who hid his devotion under a mask 
of indifference, and, when the hour came, revealed 
it only in deeds. Many gave their all for the cause, 
but few, if any, had so much to give. He loved his 
youth, and his youth has become eternal. Debonair 
and brilliant and brave, he is now part of that im- 
mortal England which knows not age or weariness 
or defeat. 

Meanwhile the French had not been idle. On 
Wednesday, 13th September, two days before the 
~ British advance, Fayolle carried Bou- 

^ ' 3- chavesnes east of the Bapaume-Peronne 
road, taking over two thousand prisoners. He was 
now not three miles from the vital position of Mont 
St. Quentin — the key of Peronne — facing it across 



THE THIRD STAGE 125 

the little valley of the Tortille. Next day the French 
had the farm of Le Priez, south-east of - 
Combles, and on the afternoon of Sun- ^ * I ^* 
day, the 17th, south of the Somme their right wing 
carried the remainder of Vermandovil- - 
lers and Berny, and the intervening ^ * *" 
ground around Deniecourt. The following day 
Deniecourt, w r ith its strongly fortified ~ g 

park, was captured. This gave them ** e P' 9 . * 
the whole of the Berny-Deniecourt plateau, com- 
manding the lower plateau where stood the villages 
of Ablaincourt and Pressoire, and menaced Barleux 
— the pivot of enemy resistance south of the river. 

For the next week there was a lull in the main 
operations while the hammer was swung back for 
another blow. On the 16th the 45th Ger- <-, ^ 

man Reserve Division counter-attacked ^ ' I ' 
the Canadians at Courcelette, and the 6th Bavarian 
Division, newly arrived, struck at the New Zealand- 
ers at Flers. Both failed, and south of Combles the 
fresh troops of the German 18th Corps succeeded 
no better against the French. The most vigorous 
counter-strokes were those which the Canadians 
received, and which were repeated daily for nearly 
a week. Meantime, on Monday, the ~ . R 
1 8th, the Quadrilateral was carried— * ep 
carried by the division which had been blocked by 
it three days before. It was not won without a 
heavy fight at close quarters, for the garrison re- 
sisted stoutly, but we closed in on it from all sides, 
and by the evening had pushed our front five hun- 
dred yards beyond it to the hollow before Morval. 

The week was dull and cloudy, and from the 
Monday to the Wednesday it rained without ceas- 



aSt. Pierr^Vaast? 

a-^Woodx 
*• a. a. 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — THE FRENCH ADVANCE OF SEPTEMBER 12-14 
(CAPTURE OF BOUCHAVESNES AND LE PRIEZ farm). 



THE THIRD STAGE 127 

ing. But by the Friday it had cleared, though the 
mornings were now thick with autumn haze, and 
we were able once more to get that direct observa- 
tion and aerial reconnaissance which is an indis- 
pensable preliminary to a great attack. On Sunday, 
the 24th, our batteries opened again, this ~ , 
time against the uncaptured points in r • 4« 
the German third line like Morval and Lesbceufs, 
against intermediate positions like Gueudecourt, and 
especially against Thiepval, which we now com- 
manded from the east. On that day, too, our air- 
craft destroyed six enemy machines and drove three 
more to earth. The plan was for an attack by the 
Fourth Army on Monday, the 25th, with — on its 
left wing — small local objectives; but, on the right 
and centre, aiming at completing the captures which 
had been the ultimate objectives of the advance of 
the 15th. The following day the right wing of the 
Fifth Army would come into action, and it was 
hoped that from Thiepval to Combles the enemy 
would be driven back to his fourth line of defence 
and our own front pushed up well within assault- 
ing distance. 

The hour of attack on the 25th was fixed at 
thirty-five minutes after noon. It was bright, 
cloudless weather, but the heat of the ^ , 
sun had lost its summer strength. That ^ ' ■*• 
day saw an advance the most perfect yet made in 
any stage of the battle, for in almost every part of 
the field we won what we sought. The extreme left 
of the 3rd Corps was held up north of Cource- 
lette, but the remaining two divisions carried out 
the tasks assigned to them. So did the centre 
and left divisions of the 15th Corps, while part 



128 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME— THE ATTACK OF SEPTEMBER 25 AND 26 (THE 
GAINS ON THE RIGHT). 

of the right division managed to penetrate into 
Gueudecourt, but was compelled to retire owing 
to the supporting brigade on its flank being 



THE THIRD STAGE 129 

checked by uncut wire. The 14th Corps succeeded 
everywhere. The Guards, eager to avenge their 
sufferings of the week before, despite the heavy 
losses on their left, swept irresistibly upon Les- 
bceufs. South of them a Regular division took 
Morval — the village on the height north of Combles 
which, with its subterranean quarries and elaborate 
trench system, was a most formidable stronghold. 
The London Territorials on their right formed a 
defensive flank facing south from Bouleaux Wood. 
Combles was now fairly between the pincers. It 
might have fallen that day, but the French attack 
on Fregicourt failed, though they carried the village 
of Rancourt on the Bapaume-Peronne road. 

By the evening of the 25th the British had stormed 
an enemy front of six miles between Combles and 
Martinpuich to a depth of more than a mile. The 
fall of Morval gave them the last piece of un- 
captured high ground on that backbone of ridge 
which runs from Thiepval through High Wood 
and Ginchy. The next day we reaped in full 
the fruit of these successes. The divi- ^ , ^ 
sion of the New Army which had en- ^ * 
tered Gueudecourt the day before — but had failed 
to maintain their ground, now captured the famous 
Gird trench, assisted by a tank and an aeroplane — 
which attacked the enemy with machine-gun fire * 

* The official dispatch thus describes this incident : "In 
the early morning a 'tank* started down the portion of the 
trench held by the enemy from the north-west, firing its 
machine guns, and followed by bombers. The enemy could 
not escape, as we held the trench at its southern end. At the 
same time an aeroplane flew down the length of the trench, 
also firing a machine gun at the enemy holding it. These 
then waved white handkerchiefs in token of surrender, and 



130 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

— and by the afternoon had the village in their 
hands. This division was one which had suffered 
disaster at Loos a year before on that very day, 
and had, since the beginning of the Somme battle, 
shown itself resistless in attack. It had already 
played a large part in the capture of Fricourt; it 
had cleared Mametz Wood, and it had taken Bazen- 
tin-le-Petit Wood on 14th July. It now crowned 
a brilliant record by the capture of Gueudecourt 
and an advance to within a mile of the German 
fourth position. That day, too, the French took 
Fregicourt, and Combles fell.* The enemy had 
evacuated it, and, though great stores of material 
were taken in its catacombs, the number of prisoners 
was small. 

Meantime, on the British left the success was 
not less conspicuous. Two divisions of the New 
Army, advancing at twenty-five minutes after noon 
under the cover of our artillery barrage, had carried 
Thiepval, the north-west corner of Mouquet Farm, 
and the Zollern Redoubt on the eastern crest. The 
German pivot had gone, the pivot which they 

when this was reported by the aeroplane the infantry accepted 
the surrender of the garrison. By 8.30 a.m. the whole trench 
had been cleared, great numbers of the enemy had been killed, 
and eight officers and 362 other ranks made prisoners. Our 
total casualties amounted to five." 

* The French 1st Corps entered the line north of the 
Somme on 23rd August. At the end of six weeks, when they 
were relieved, they had taken the remainder of Maurepas, 
and the villages of Le Forest, Bouchavesnes, Rancourt, Fregi- 
court, and Combles, together with 4,000 prisoners, 23 guns, 
and 70 machine guns. They believed that they had inflicted 
at least 40,000 casualties on the enemy. They had the satis- 
faction of breaking up two divisions of the Prussian Guard, 
and of advancing two miles on a front of six. 



Y> 






**'3K 



,,' m" 



1 



THE THIRD STAGE 131 

had believed impregnable. So skilful was our bar- 
rage that our men were over the German parapets 
and into the dug-outs before machine guns could 
be got up to repel them. Here the prisoners were 
numerous, for the attack was in the nature of a 
surprise. 

On the evening of 26th September the Allied for- 
tunes in the West had never looked brighter. The 
enemy was now on his fourth line, without the bene- 
fit of the high ground, and there was no chance of 
retrieving his disadvantages by observation from 
the air. Since 1st July the British alone had taken 
over twenty-six thousand prisoners, and had engaged 
thirty-eight German divisions, the flower of the 
Army, of which twenty-nine had been withdrawn 
exhausted and broken. The enemy had been com- 
pelled to use up his reserves in repeated costly and 
futile counter-attacks without compelling the Allies 
to relax for one moment their steady and methodical 
pressure. Every part of the armies of France and 
Britain had done gloriously, and the new divisions 
had shown the courage and discipline of veterans. 
A hundred captured documents showed that the 
German moral had been shaken and that the Ger- 
man machine was falling badly out of gear. In 
normal seasons at least another month of fine 
weather might be reasonably counted on, and in 
that month further blows might be struck with 
cumulative force. In France they spoke of a 
"Picardy summer" — of fair bright days at the 
end of autumn when the ground was dry and the 
air of a crystal clearness. A fortnight of such days 
would suffice for a crowning achievement. 

The hope was destined to fail. The guns were 



132 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

scarcely silent after the great attack of the 26th, 
when the weather broke, and October was one long 
succession of tempestuous gales and drenching rains. 

To understand the difficulties which untoward 
weather imposed on the Allied advance, it is neces- 
sary to grasp the nature of the fifty square miles of 
tortured ground which three months' righting had 
given them, and over which lay the communications 
between their firing line and the rear. From a 
position like the north end of High Wood almost 
the whole British battle-ground on a clear day was 
visible to the eye. To reach the place from the old 
Allied front line some four miles of bad roads had 
to be traversed. They would have been bad roads 
in a moorland parish, where they suffered only the 
transit of the infrequent carrier's cart, for, at the 
best, they were mere country tracks, casually en- 
gineered, and with no solid foundation. But here 
they had to support such a traffic as the world had 
scarcely seen before. Not the biggest mining camp 
or the vastest engineering undertaking had ever pro- 
duced one tithe of the activity which existed behind 
each section of the battle line. There were places like 
Crewe, places like the skirts of Birmingham, places 
like Aldershot or Salisbury Plain. It has often been 
pointed out that the immense and complex mechan- 
ism of modern armies resembles a series of pyra- 
mids which taper to a point as they near the front. 
Though all modern science had gone to the making 
of this war, at the end, in spite of every artificial 
aid, it became elementary, akin in many respects 
to the days of bows and arrows. 

It was true of the whole front, but the Somme 



THE THIRD STAGE 133 

battle-ground was peculiar in this, that the area of 
land where the devices of civilisation broke down 
was far larger than elsewhere. Elsewhere it was 
defined more or less by the limits of the enemy's 
observation and fire. On the Somme it was de- 
fined by the previous three months' battle. It 
was not the German guns which made the trouble 
on the ground between the Albert-Peronne road and 
the British firing line. Casual bombardments trou- 
bled us little. It was the hostile elements and the 
unkindly nature of Mother Earth. 

The country roads had been rutted out of recog- 
nition by endless transport, and, since they never 
had much of a bottom, the toil of the road-menders 
had nothing to build upon. New roads were hard 
to make, for the chalky soil was poor and had been 
so churned up by shelling and the movement of guns 
and troops that it had lost all cohesion. Count- 
less shells had burst below the ground, causing 
everywhere subsidences and cavities. There was no 
stone in the countryside and little wood, so repair- 
ing materials had to be brought from a distance, 
which still further complicated the problem. To 
mend a road you must give it a rest, but there was 
little chance of a rest for any of those poor tortured 
passages. In all the district there were but two good 
highways, one running at right angles to our front 
from Albert to Bapaume, the other parallel to our 
old front line from Albert to Peronne. These, to 
begin with, were the best type of routes nationales 
— broad, well-engineered, lined with orderly pop- 
lars. By the third month of the battle even these 
were showing signs of wear, and to travel on either 
in a motor car was a switchback journey. If the 



134 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

famous highroads declined, what was likely to be 
the condition of the country lanes which rayed 
around Contalmaison, Longueval, and Guillemont? 

Let us take our stand at the northern angle of 
High Wood. It is only a spectre of a wood, a hor- 
rible place of matted tree trunks and crumbling 
trench lines, full of mementoes of the dead and all 
the dreadful debris of battle. To reach it we have 
walked across two miles of what once must have 
been breezy downland, patched with little fields of 
roots and grain. It is now like a waste brickfield 
in a decaying suburb, pock-marked with shell-holes, 
littered with cartridge clips, equipment, fragments 
of wire, and every kind of tin can. Over all the 
area hangs the curious, acrid, unwholesome smell 
of burning, an odour which will always recall to 
every soldier the immediate front of battle. 

The air is clear, and we look from the height 
over a shallow trough towards the low slopes in 
front of the Transloy road, behind which lies the 
German fourth line. Our own front is some thou- 
sands of yards off, close under that hillock which 
is the famous Butte de Warlencourt. Far on our 
left is the lift of the Thiepval ridge, and nearer us, 
hidden by the slope, are the ruins of Martinpuich. 
Le Sars and Eaucourt lAbbaye are before us, Flers 
a little to the right, and beyond it Gueudecourt. On 
our extreme right rise the slopes of Sailly-Saillisel 
— one can see the shattered trees lining the Bapaume- 
Peronne road — and, hidden by the fall of the ground, 
are Lesbceufs and Morval. Behind us are things 
like scarred patches on the hillsides. They are 
the remains of the Bazentin woods and the ominous 
wood of Delville. The whole confines of the British 






THE THIRD STAGE 135 

battle-ground lie open to the eye from the Thiepval 
ridge in the north to the downs which ring the site 
of Combles. 

Look west, and beyond the dreary country we 
have crossed rise green downs set with woods un- 
touched by shell — the normal, pleasant land of 
Picardy. Look east, beyond our front line and the 
smoke puffs, across the Warlencourt and Gueude- 
court ridges, and on the sky-line there also appear 
unbroken woods, and here and there a church spire 
and the smoke of villages. The German retirement 
in September had been rapid, and we have reached 
the fringes of a land as yet little scarred by combat. 
We are looking at the boundaries of the battlefield. 
We have pushed the enemy right up to the edge of 
habitable and undevastated country, but we pay for 
our success in having behind us a strip of sheer 
desolation. 

There were now two No Man's Lands. One was 
between the front lines; the other lay between the 
old enemy front and the front we had won. The 
second was the bigger problem, for across it must 
be brought the supplies of a great army. This was 
a war of motor transport, and we were doing to-day 
what the Early Victorians pronounced impossible 
— running the equivalent of steam engines not on 
prepared tracks, but on highroads, running them 
day and night in endless relays. And these high- 
roads were not the decent macadamized ways of 
England, but roads which would be despised in 
Sutherland or Connaught. 

The problem was hard enough in fine weather; 
but let the rain come and soak the churned-up soil 
and the whole land became a morass. There was 



136 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

no pave, as in Flanders, to make a firm causeway. 
Every road became a water-course, and in the hol- 
lows the mud was as deep as a man's thighs. An 
army must be fed, troops must be relieved, guns 
must be supplied, and so there could be no slacken- 
ing of the traffic. Off the roads the ground was a 
squelching bog, dug-outs crumbled in, and communi- 
cation trenches ceased to be. In areas like Ypres 
and Festubert, where the soil was naturally 
water-logged, the conditions were worse, but at 
Ypres and Festubert we had not six miles of sponge, 
varied by mud torrents, across which all transport 
must pass. 

Weather is a vital condition of success in opera- 
tions where great armies are concerned, for men and 
guns cannot fight on air. In modern war it is more 
urgent than ever, since aerial reconnaissance plays 
so great a part, and Napoleon's "fifth element/' mud, 
grows in importance with the complexity of the fight- 
ing machine. Again, in semi-static trench warfare, 
where the same area remains for long the battle- 
field, the condition of the ground is the first fact 
to be reckoned with. Once we grasp this, the diffi- 
culty of the October campaign, waged in almost con- 
tinuous rain, will be apparent. But no words can 
convey an adequate impression of the Somme area 
after a week's downpour. Its discomforts had to 
be endured to be understood. 

The topography of the immediate battle-ground 
demands a note from the point of view of its tactical 
peculiarities. The British line at the end of Sep- 
tember ran from the Schwaben Redoubt, 1,000 
yards north of Thiepval, along the ridge to a point 
north-east of Courcelette; then just in front of 



THE THIRD STAGE 137 

Martinpuich, Flers, Gueudecourt, and Lesbceufs to 
the junction with the French. Morval was now 
part of the French area. From Thiepval to the 
north-east of Courcelette the line was for the most 
part on the crest of the ridge; it then bent south- 
ward and followed generally the foot of the eastern 
slopes. But a special topographical feature com- 
plicated the position. Before our front a shallow 
depression ran north-west from north of Sailly- 
Saillisel to about 2,000 yards south of Bapaume, 
where it turned westward and joined the glen of 
the Ancre at Miraumont. From the main Thiepval- 
Morval ridge a series of long spurs descended 
into this valley, of which two were of special 
importance. One was the hammer-headed spur im- 
mediately west of Flers, at the western end of which 
stood the tumulus called the Butte de Warlencourt. 
The other was a spur which, lying across the main 
trend of the ground, ran north from Morval to Thil- 
loy, passing 1,000 yards to the east of Gueudecourt. 
Behind these spurs lay the German fourth position. 
It was in the main a position on reverse slopes, and 
so screened from immediate observation, though our 
command of the higher ground gave us a view of its 
hinterland. Our own possession of the heights, great 
though its advantages were, had certain drawbacks, 
for it meant that our communications had to make 
the descent of the reverse slopes and were thus ex- 
posed to some extent to the enemy's observation and 
long-range fire. 

The next advance of the British army had there- 
fore two distinct objectives. The first — the task of 
the Fourth Army — was to carry the two spurs and 
so get within assaulting distance of the German 



138 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

fourth line. Even if the grand assault should be 
postponed, the possession of the spurs would greatly 
relieve our situation, by giving us cover for our ad- 
vanced gun positions and a certain shelter for the 
bringing up of supplies. It should be remembered 
that the spurs were not part of the German main 
front. They were held by the enemy as intermediate 
positions, and very strongly held — every advantage 
being taken of sunken roads, buildings, and the un- 
dulating nature of the country. They represented 
for the fourth German line what Contalmaison had 
represented for the second ; till they were carried no 
general assault on the main front could be under- 
taken. The second task — that of the Fifth Army — 
was to master the whole of the high ground on the 
Thiepval ridge, so as to get direct observation into 
the Ancre glen and over the uplands north and north- 
east of it. 

The expected fine weather of October did not come. 
On the contrary, the month provided a record in 
wet, spells of drenching rain being varied by dull, 
misty days, so that the sodden land had no chance 
of drying. The carrying of the spurs — meant as a 
preliminary step to a general attack — proved an 
operation so full of difficulties that it occupied all 
our efforts during the month, and with it all was 
not completed. The story of these weeks is one of 
minor operations, local actions with strictly limited 
objectives undertaken by only a few battalions. In 
the face of every conceivable difficulty we moved 
gradually up the intervening slopes. 

At first there was a certain briskness in our move- 
ment. From Flers north-westward, in front of Eau- 



f 1/ ? /'''^ 




Heights in metres 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME— THE GUEUDECOURT AND WARLENCOURT SPURS 



1 T 



THE THIRD STAGE 139 

court l'Abbaye and Le Sars, ran a very strong trench 
system, which we called the Flers line, and which was 
virtually a switch connecting the old German third 
line with the intermediate positions in front of the 
spurs. The capture of Flers gave us the south-east- 
ern part of the line, and the last days of September 
and the first of October were occupied in win- 
ning the remainder of it. On 29th September 
a single company of a Northumbrian ^ 
division carried the farm of Destre- ^ * ^* 
mont, some 400 yards south-west of Le Sars and 
just north of the Albert-Bapaume road. On the 
afternoon of 1st October we advanced n + i 
on a front of 3,000 yards, taking the Flers 
line north of Destremont^ while a London Terri- 
torial division — the same which had taken High 
Wood — occupied the buildings of the old abbey of 
Eaucourt, less than a mile south-east of Le Sars 
village. Here for several days remnants of the 6th 
Bavarian Division made a stout resistance. On the 
morning of 2nd October the enemy had n + ? 
regained a footing in the abbey, and 
during the whole of the next day and night the bat- 
tle fluctuated. It was not till the morning of the 4th 
that we finally cleared the place, and on n f A f. 
6th October the Londoners won the mill C ' ^' 
north-west of it. 

On the afternoon of 7th October — a day of cloud 
and strong winds, but free from rain — we attacked 
on a broader front, while the French on n + 7 
our right moved against the key position ' ' " 

of Sailly-Saillisel. After a heavy struggle a division 
of the New Army captured Le Sars and won posi- 
tions to the east and west of it, while our line was 



140 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

considerably advanced between Gueudecourt and 
Lesbceufs. 

From that date for a month on we struggled up 
the slopes, gaining ground, but never winning the 
crests. The enemy now followed a new practice. 
He had his machine guns well back in prepared 
positions and caught our attack with their long-range 
fire. To chronicle in detail those indeterminate 
actions would be a laborious task, and would demand 
for its elucidation a map on the largest scale. We 
wrestled for odd lengths of fantastically named 
trenches which were often three feet deep in water. 
It was no light job to get out over the slimy parapets, 
and the bringing up of supplies and the evacuation 
of the wounded placed a terrible burden on our 
strength. Under conditions of such grievous dis- 
comfort an attack on a comprehensive scale was out 
of the question, the more when we remember the 
condition of the area behind our lines. At one mo- 
ment it seemed as if the Butte had been won. On 
*r 5th November we were over it and hold- 

' •*" ing positions on the eastern side, but that 
night a counter-attack by fresh troops of the 4th 
Guard Division — who had just come up — forced us 
to fall back. This was the one successful enemy 
counter-stroke in this stage of the battle. For the 
most part they were too weak, if delivered promptly; 
and when they came later in strength they were 
broken up by our guns. 

The struggle of these days deserves to rank high 
in the records of British hardihood. The fighting 
had not the swift pace and the brilliant successes of 
the September battles. Our men had to fight for 
minor objectives, and such a task lacks the impetus 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME— THE THIEPVAL RIDGE 



THE THIRD STAGE 141 

and exhilaration of a great combined assault. On 
many occasions the battle resolved itself into isolated 
struggles, a handful of men in a mud-hole holding 
out and consolidating their ground till their post 
was linked up with our main front. Rain, cold, 
slow reliefs, the absence of hot food, and sometimes 
of any food at all, made these episodes a severe test 
of endurance and devotion. During this period the 
enemy, amazed at his good fortune, inasmuch as the 
weather had crippled our advance, fell into a flam- 
boyant mood and represented the result as a triumph 
of the fighting quality of his own troops. From day 
to day he announced a series of desperate British 
assaults invariably repulsed with heavy losses. He 
spoke of British corps and divisions advancing in 
massed formation, when, at the most, it had been 
an affair of a few battalions. Often he announced 
an attack on a day and in a locality where nothing 
whatever had happened. It is worth remembering 
that, except for the highly successful action of 21st 
October, which we shall presently record, there was 
no British attack during the month on anything like 
a large scale, and that the various minor actions, so 
far from having cost us high, were among the most 
economical of the campaign. 

Our second task, in which we brilliantly succeeded, 
was to master completely the Thiepval ridge. By 
the end of September the strong redoubts north- 
east of the village — called Stuff and Zollern — were in 
our hands, and on the 28th of that month we had 
carried all Schwaben Redoubt except c M q 
the north-west corner. It was Schwaben ^ ' 
Redoubt to which the heroic advance of the Ulster 



142 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

Division had penetrated on the first day of the bat- 
tle ; but next day the advanced posts had been drawn 
in, and three months had elapsed before we again 
entered it. It was now a very different place from 
ist July. Our guns had pounded it out of recogni- 
tion; but it remained — from its situation — the pivot 
of the whole German line on the heights. Thence 
the trenches called Stuff and Regina ran east 
for some 5,000 yards to a point north-east of 
Courcelette. These trenches, representing many of 
the dominating points of the ridge south of the 
Ancre, were defended by the enemy with the most 
admirable tenacity. Between 30th September and 
20th October, while we were battling for the last 
corner of the Schwaben, he delivered not less than 
eleven counter-attacks against our front in that 
neighbourhood, counter-attacks which in every case 
were repulsed with heavy losses. His front was 
held by the 26th Reserve Division and by Marines 
of the Naval Division, who had been brought down 
from the Yser, and who gave a better account of 
themselves than their previous record had led us to 
expect. A captured German regimental order, dated 
q . 20th October, emphasised the necessity 

of regaining the Schwaben Redoubt. 
"Men are to be informed by their immediate supe- 
riors that this attack is not merely a matter of re- 
taking a trench because it was formerly in German 
possession, but that the recapture of an extremely 
important point is involved. If the enemy remains 
on the ridge he can blow our artillery in the Ancre 
valley to pieces, and the protection of the infantry 
will then be destroyed. ,, 

From 20th October to 23rd there came a short spell 



THE THIRD STAGE 143 

of fine weather. There was frost at night, a strong 
easterly wind dried the ground, and the air condi- 
tions were perfect for observation. The enemy was 
quick to take advantage of the change, and early on 
the morning of Saturday, 21st October, n 
delivered that attack upon the Schwaben 2I " 

Redoubt for which the order quoted above was a 
preparation. 

The attack was made in strength, and at all points 
but two were repulsed by our fire before reaching 
our lines. At two points the Germans entered our 
trenches, but were promptly driven out, leaving many 
dead in front of our positions, and five officers and 
seventy-nine other ranks prisoners in our hands. 

This counter-stroke came opportunely for us, for 
it enabled us to catch the enemy on the rebound. 
We struck shortly after noon, attacking against the 
whole length of the Regina trench, with troops of 
the Xew Army on our left and centre and the Cana- 
dians on our right. The attack was completely suc- 
cessful, for the enemy, disorganised by his failure 
of the morning, was in no condition for prolonged 
resistance. We attained all our objectives, taking 
the whole of Stuff and Regina trenches, pushing out 
advanced posts well to the north and north-east of 
Schwaben Redoubt, and establishing our position 
on the crown of the ridge between the Upper Ancre 
and Courcelette. In the course of the day we took 
nearly 1,1 00 prisoners at the expense of less than 
1,200 casualties, many of which were extremely 
slight. The whole course of the battle showed no 
more workmanlike performance. 

There still remained one small section of the ridge 
where our position was unsatisfactory. This was 



144 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

at the extreme eastern end of Regina trench, just 
west of the Bapaume road. Its capture was achieved 

Nov to on ^ e m ^ t °^ Iot ^ November, when we 
carried it on a front of 1,000 yards. This 
rounded off our gains and allowed us to dominate 
the upper valley of the Ancre and the uplands beyond 
it behind the unbroken German first line from Beau- 
mont Hamel to Serre. 

Meantime, during the month, the French armies 
on our right had pressed forward. At the end of 
September they had penetrated into St. Pierre Vaast 
Wood, whose labyrinthine depths extended east of 
Rancourt and south of Saillisel. The British gains 
of 26th September filled the whole French nation 
with enthusiasm, and General Joffre and Sir Douglas 
Haig exchanged the warmest greetings. The imme- 
diate object of the forces under Foch was to co- 
operate with the British advance by taking the height 
of Sailly-Saillisel, and so to work round Mont St. 
Quentin, the main defence of Peronne on the north. 

~ On 4th October they carried the German 

* 4- intermediate line between Morval and 

St. Pierre Vaast Wood, and on 8th October — in a 

n f o splendid movement — they swept up the 

Sailly-Saillisel slopes and won the Ba- 

paume-Peronne road to a point 200 yards from its 

northern entry into the village. On 10th October 

^v Micheler's Tenth Army was in action 

on a front of three miles, and carried the 

western outskirts of Ablaincourt and the greater part 

of the wood north-west of Chaulnes, taking nearly 

^ 1,300 prisoners. On the 15th Fayolle 

*>" pushed east of Bouchavesnes, and on the 

same day, south of the Somme, Micheler, after beat- 



THE THIRD STAGE 



145 




i I Miles \\ # 



BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — THE FRENCH ADVANCE DURING OCTOBER NORTH 
OF THE SOMME. 



146 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

ing off a counter-attack, carried a mile and a quarter 
of the German front west of Belloy, and advanced 
well to the north-east of Ablaincourt, taking some 
1,000 prisoners. This brought the French nearer 
to the ridge of Villers-Carbonnel, behind which the 
German batteries played the same part for the 
southern defence of Peronne as Mont St. Quentin 
did for the northern. 

Next day Sailly-Saillisel was entered and occu- 
pied as far as the cross-roads, the Saillisel section of 

r\ ± J* the village on the road running eastwards 
being still in German hands. For the 
next few days the enemy delivered violent counter- 
attacks from both north and east, using liquid fire, 
but they failed to oust the garrison, and that 
part of the village held by the Germans was 
mercilessly pounded by the French guns. On the 

q. 2 1 st the newly arrived 2nd Bavarian 

Division made a desperate attack from 
the southern border of Saillisel and the ridge north- 
east of St. Pierre Vaast Wood, but failed with many 
losses. There were other heavy and fruitless coun- 
ter-strokes south of the Somme in the regions of 
Biaches and Chaulnes. The month closed with the 
French holding Sailly but not Saillisel ; holding the 
western skirts of St. Pierre Vaast Wood, and south 
of the river outflanking Ablaincourt and Chaulnes. 

The record of the month, though short of ex- 
pectations, was far from mediocre; and, consider- 
ing the difficulties of weather, was not less creditable 
than that of September. The Allies at one point 
had broken into the German fourth position, while 
at others they had won positions of assault against it, 



THE THIRD STAGE 



147 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — THE FRENCH ADVANCE DURING OCTOBER SOUTH 
OF THE SOMME (SHOWING THE FRONT OF THE TENTH ARMY ON OCT. 
1ST, AND THE GROUND GAINED DURING THE MONTH). 



148 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

and the southward extension of the battle-ground 
had been greatly deepened. They had added an- 
other 10,000 prisoners to their roll, bringing the 
total from 1st July to 1,469 officers and 71,532 other 
ranks, while they had also taken 173 field guns, 130 
heavy pieces, 215 trench mortars, and 988 machine 
guns. They had engaged ninety enemy divisions, 
of which twenty-six had been taken out, refitted, 
and sent back again — making a total of 116 brought 
*f into action. On 1st November the 

enemy was holding his front with twenty- 
one divisions, so that ninety-five had been used up 
and withdrawn. Any calculation of enemy losses 
during the actual progress of operations must be a 
very rough estimate, but it may be taken for granted 
that no German division was taken out of the line 
till it had lost at least 5,000 men. This gives a 
minimum figure for enemy losses during the four 
months' battle of close on half a million, and it seems 
certain that the real figure was at least 25 per cent, 
greater. It must further be noted that, according 
to the German published returns, 41 per cent, of 
their casualties were irreplaceable — dead, prisoners, 
or so badly wounded as to be useless for the re- 
mainder of the war — a proportion greatly in excess 
of that which obtained among the Allies. During the 
month of October the British casualties were little 
beyond those of a normal month of trench warfare. 
The study of captured documents cast an inter- 
esting light upon the condition of the enemy under 
the pressure of our attacks. Letters of individual 
soldiers and the reports of commanding officers alike 
showed that the strain had been very great. There 
were constant appeals to troops to hold some point as 



THE THIRD STAGE 149 

vital to the whole position, and these points invari- 
ably fell into our hands. There were endless com- 
plaints o\ the ruin wrought by our artillery and of 
the ceaseless activity of our aircraft, and there were 
many unwilling tributes to the fighting quality of 
the Allied soldiers. But though indications of weak- 
ened enemy moral and failure in enemy organisa- 
tion were frequent, he was still a most formidable 
antagonist. He had accumulated his best troops and 
batteries on the Somme front, and was fighting with 
the stubborn resolution of those who knew that they 
were facing the final peril, and that they alone stood 
between their country and defeat. 

In the various actions the work of the Allied ar- 
tillery was extraordinarily efficient. Their barrages 
brilliantly covered the advance of the infantry; they 
searched out and silenced enemy batteries; they 
destroyed great lengths of enemy trenches and count- 
less enemy strongholds ; and they kept up a continu- 
ous fire behind the enemy's front, interfering 
with the movement of troops and supplies, and 
giving him no peace for eight or ten miles behind 
his line. The "tanks," though only occasionally 
used, had some remarkable achievements to their 
credit. On a certain day one got behind the enemy's 
front, and by itself compelled the surrender of a 
whole battalion, including the battalion commander. 
Much credit was due also to the transport service, 
which faithfully performed its duties under the most 
trying conditions. 

The weather was bad for all, but perhaps it was 
worst for our aircraft. The strong south-westerly 
gales greatly increased the complexity of their task, 
since our machines \ve v e drifted far behind the 



150 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

enemy's front and compelled to return against a 
head-wind, which made their progress slow and 
thereby exposed them to fire, and, in the case of a 
damaged engine, forbade a glide into safety. Yet, 
in spite of adverse conditions, they showed in the 
highest degree the spirit of the offensive. They 
patrolled regularly far behind the enemy lines, and 
fought many battles in the air with hostile machines, 
and many with enemy troops on the ground. They 
did much valuable reconnaissance, and repeatedly 
attacked with success enemy lines of communication, 
ammunition dumps, billets, and depots. Toward the 
latter part of October the German machines were 
more in evidence, but we dealt satisfactorily with this 
increased activity. As an instance of the audacity 
of our aviators we may quote the case of one pilot 
who, encountering a formation of ten hostile ma- 
chines, attacked them single-handed and dispersed 
them far behind their own front. 

We inflicted many losses on the foe, but we did 
not go scathless ourselves. The curt announcement 
in the communiques — "One of our machines has not 
returned" — covered many a tale of bravery and 
misfortune. About half the missing came down in 
enemy territory and were made prisoners ; the others 
perished in battle in the air, shot by machine 
or anti-aircraft gun, or dashed to earth by a crippled 
airplane. In a flight over the German lines on 4th 
*t November there died one of the most 

' 4* gallant figures of our day, conspicuous 
even in the universal heroism of his service. Lord 
Lucas, whom Oxford of twenty years ago knew as 
"Bron Herbert, ,, had joined the Flying Corps at 
the age of forty. He had lost a leg in the South 



THE THIRD STAGE 151 

African War; he had had a distinguished political 
career, culminating in a seat in the Cabinet as Presi- 
dent of the Board of Agriculture; he had great 
possessions and a thousand ties to ease; if ever 
man might have found his reasonable duty in a less 
perilous sphere it was he. But after the formation 
of the Coalition Government in May 191 5, he went 
straight into training for his pilot's certificate, and 
soon proved himself an exceptionally bold and skilful 
aviator. He did good work in Egypt, whence he re- 
turned in the spring of 1916, and after a few months 
spent in instructing recruits at home he came out to 
France in the early autumn. He was one who re- 
tained in all his many activities the adventurous zest 
and the strange endearing simplicity of a boy. With 
his genius for happiness the world in which he 
dwelt could never be a common place. In the air 
he found the pure exultant joy of living that he had 
always sought, and he passed out of life like some 
hero of romance, with his ardour undimmed and 
his dream untarnished.* 

* "When the Greeks made their fine saying that those 
whom the gods love die young, I cannot help believing they 
had this sort of death in their eye. For surely, at whatever 
age it overtakes the man, this is to die young. Death has not 
been suffered to take so much as an illusion from his heart. 
In the hot-fit of life, a-tiptoe on the highest point of being, 
he passes at a bound on to the other side. The noise of the 
mallet and chisel is scarcely quenched, the trumpets are 
hardly done blowing, when, trailing with him clouds of glory, 
this happy-starred, full-blooded spirit shoots into the spiritual 
land." — R. L. Stevenson. Ms Triplex. 



CHAPTER V 

THE FOURTH STAGE 

Improvement in the Weather — The Position North of Thiepval — The 
British Advantages — British Dispositions — The Battle of the 
Ancre — Failure at Serre — Ground gained North of Beaumont 
Hamel — Capture of St. Pierre Divion — The Taking of Beaumont 
Hamel — Fall of Beaucourt — Lieutenant-Colonel Freyberg's Ex- 
ploit — Number of Prisoners — Position at End of November — 
General Results of the Battle of the Somme — The Allied Pur- 
poses effected — Sir Douglas Haig's Summary — New German Ef- 
forts — Effect of the Battle on German Opinion — The Major Pur- 
pose — The British Achievement and its Cost. 

ON 9th November the weather improved. The 
wind swung round to the north and the rain 
ceased, but owing to the season of the year 
the ground was slow to dry, and in the area of the 
■kt Fourth Army the roads were still past 

' "* praying for. Presently frost came and 
a powder of snow, and then once more the rain. But 
in the few days of comparatively good conditions 
the British Commander-in-Chief brought the battle 
to a fourth stage, and won a conspicuous victory. 

On the first day of July, as we have seen, our at- 
tack failed on the eight miles between Gomme- 
court and Thiepval. For four months we drove far 
into the heart of the German defences farther south, 
but the stubborn enemy front before Beaumont 

152 



THE FOURTH STAGE 153 

Hamel and Serre remained untried. The position 
was immensely strong, and its holders — not without 
reason — believed it to be impregnable. All the 
slopes were tunnelled deep with old catacombs — 
many of them made originally as hiding-places in 
the French Wars of Religion — and these had been 
linked up by passages to constitute a subterranean 
city, where whole battalions could be assembled. 
There were endless redoubts and strong points armed 
with machine guns, as we knew to our cost in July, 
and the wire entanglements were on a scale which 
has probably never been paralleled. Looked at from 
our first line they resembled a solid wall of red rust. 
Very strong, too, were the sides of the Ancre, should 
we seek to force a passage that way, and the hamlets 
of Beaucourt and St. Pierre Divion, one on each 
bank, were fortresses of the Beaumont Hamel stamp. 
From Gommecourt to the Thiepval ridge the enemy 
positions were the old first line ones, prepared dur- 
ing two years of leisure, and not the improvised de- 
fences on which they had been thrown back between 
Thiepval and Chaulnes. 

At the beginning of November the area of the 
Allied pressure was over thirty miles, but we had 
never lost sight of the necessity of widening the 
breach. It was desirable, with a view to the winter 
warfare, that the enemy should be driven out of his 
prepared defences on the broadest front possible. 
The scheme of an assault upon the Serre-Ancre line 
might seem a desperate one so late in the season, 
but we had learned much since 1st July, and, as 
compared with that date, we had now certain real 
advantages. In the first place our whole tactical use 
of artillery had undergone a change. Our creeping 



154 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

barrage, moving in front of advancing infantry, pro- 
tected them to a great extent from the machine-gun 
fusilade from parapets and shell holes which had 
been our undoing in the earlier battle, and assisted 
them in keeping direction. In the second place our 
possession of the whole Thiepval ridge seriously out- 
flanked the German front north of the Ancre. In 
the dips of the high ground behind Serre and Beau- 
mont Hamel their batteries had been skilfully em- 
placed in the beginning of July, and they had been 
able to devote their whole energy to the attack com- 
ing from the west. But now they were facing south- 
ward and operating against our lines on the Thiepval 
ridge, and we commanded them to some extent by 
possessing the higher ground and the better observa- 
tion. If, therefore, we should attack again from the 
west, supported also by our artillery fire from the 
south, the enemy guns would be fighting on two 
fronts. The German position in July had been a 
straight line; it was now a salient. 

We had two other assets for a November assault. 
The slow progress of the Fourth Army during Oc- 
tober had led the enemy to conclude that our offen- 
sive had ceased for the winter. Drawing a natural 
deduction from the condition of the country, he 
argued that an attack on a grand scale was physically 
impossible, especially an attack upon a fortress which 
had defied our efforts when we advanced with fresh 
troops and unwearied impetus in the height of sum- 
mer. Again, the area from Thiepval northward did 
not suffer from transport difficulties in the same de- 
gree as the southern terrain. Since we would be 
advancing from what was virtually our old front line, 
we would escape the problem of crossing five or six 



THE FOURTH STAGE 155 

miles of shell-torn ground by roads ploughed up and 
broken from four months' traffic. 

It is necessary to grasp the topographical features 
of the new battle-ground. From north of the 
Schwaben Redoubt our front curved sharply to the 
north-west, crossing the Ancre 500 yards south of 
the hamlet of St. Pierre Divion, and extending north- 
ward along the foot of the slopes on which lay the 
villages of Beaumont Hamel and Serre. From the 
high ground north-west of the Ancre several clearly 
marked spurs descend to the upper valley of that 
stream. The chief is a long ridge with Serre at its 
western extremity, the village of Puisieux on the 
north, Beaucourt-sur-Ancre on the south, and Mirau- 
mont at the eastern end. South of this there is an- 
other feature running from a point a thousand yards 
north of Beaumont Hamel to the village of Beau- 
court. This latter spur has on its south-west side 
a shallow depression up which runs the Beau- 
court-Beaumont Hamel road, and it is defined on 
the north-east by the Beaucourt-Serre road. All 
the right bank of the Ancre is thus a country of 
slopes and pockets. On the left bank there is a 
stretch of flattish ground under the Thiepval ridge 
extending up the valley past St. Pierre Divion to 
Grandcourt. 

On Sunday, 12th November, Sir Hubert Gough's 
Fifth Army held the area from Gommecourt in the 
north to the Albert-Bapaume road. Op- M 
posite Serre and extending south to a V ' 12 ' 
point just north of Beaumont Hamel lay two divi- 
sions of the old Regulars, now much changed in com- 
position, but containing battalions that had been 
through the whole campaign since Mons. In front 



156 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 




BATTLE OF THE SOMME. — THE BRITISH LINE NORTH OF THIEFVAL ON 

NOVEMBER 1 3- 




IE, 00 Yards 
* Mile 



BATTLE OF THE SOMME — THE ATTACK OF NOVEMBER I3TH. (SCENE OF THE VICTORIOUS ADVANCE 
OF THE CENTRE AND RIGHT.) 



THE FOURTH STAGE 157 

of Beaumont Hamel was a Highland Territorial 
Division. They had been more than eighteen months 
in France, and at the end of July and the beginning 
of August had spent seventeen days in the line at 
High Wood. On their right, from a point just 
south of the famous Y Ravine to the Ancre, lay the 
Naval Division, which had had a long record of 
fighting from Antwerp to Gallipoli, but now for the 
first time took part in an action on the Western front. 
Across the river lay two divisions of the New 
Army. The boundary of the attack on the right 
was roughly defined by the Thiepval-Grandcourt 
road. 

The British guns began on the morning of Sat- 
urday, the nth, a bombardment devoted to the de- 
struction of the enemy's wire and parapets. It went 
on fiercely during Sunday, but did not increase to 
hurricane fire, so that the enemy had no warning 
of the hour of our attack. In the darkness of the 
early morning of Monday, 13th November, the fog 
gathered thick — a cold, raw vapour which „ 
wrapped the ground like a garment. It ^' 

was still black darkness, darker even than the usual 
moonless winter night, when, at 5.45 a.m., our 
troops crossed the parapets. The attack had been 
most carefully planned, but in that dense shroud it 
was hard for the best trained soldiers to keep direc- 
tion. On the other hand, the enemy had no warn- 
ing of our coming till our men were surging over 
his trenches. 

The attack of the British left wing on Serre failed, 
as it had failed on 1st July. That stronghold, be- 
ing farther removed from the effect of our flank- 
ing fire from the Thiepval ridge, presented all the 



158 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

difficulties which had baffled us at the first attempt. 
South of it and north of Beaumont Hamel we 
carried the German first position and swept be- 
yond the fortress called the Quadrilateral — which 
had proved too hard a knot to unravel four months 
earlier. This gave us the northern part of the under 
feature which we have already described as run- 
ning south-east to Beaucourt. Outf right wing had 
a triumphant progress. Almost at once it gained 
its objectives. St. Pierre Divion fell early in the 
morning, and the division of the New Army engaged 
there advanced a mile and took nearly 1,400 prison- 
ers at a total cost of less than 600 casualties.* By 
the evening they were holding the Hansa line 
which runs from the neighbourhood of Stuff trench 
on the heights to the bank of the river opposite 
Beaucourt. 

But it was on the doings of the two central divi- 
sions that the fortune of the day depended, and their 
achievement was so remarkable and presented so 
many curious features that it is worth telling in some 
detail. The Highland Territorials — a kilted division 
except for their lowland Pioneer battalion — had one 
of the hardest tasks that had faced troops in the 
whole battle, a task comparable to the taking of Con- 
talmaison and Guillemont and Delville Wood. They 
had before them the fortress-village of Beaumont 
Hamel itself. South of it lay the strong Ridge Re- 
doubt, and south again the Y Ravine, whose prongs 
projected down to the German front line and whose 
tail ran back towards Station Road south of the 



* At one moment the number of prisoners was actually 
greater than the attacking force. 




jm\ x 



m 



THE FOURTH STAGE 159 

Cemetery. This Y Ravine was some 800 yards 
long, and in places 30 feet deep, with over-hanging 
sides. In its precipitous banks were the entrances 
to the German dug-outs, completely screened from 
shell fire and connecting farther back by means of 
tunnels with the great catacombs. Such a position 
allowed reinforcements to be sent up underground, 
even though we might be holding all the sides. The 
four successive German lines were so skilfully linked 
up subterraneously that they formed virtually a sin- 
gle line, no part of which could be considered to be 
captured till the whole was taken. 

The first assault took the Scots through the Ger- 
man defences on all their front, except just before 
the ends of the Y Ravine. They advanced on both 
sides of that gully and carried the third enemy line 
shortly after daybreak. There was much stern fight- 
ing in the honeycombed land, but early in the fore- 
noon they had pushed right through the German 
main position and were pressing beyond Station Road 
and the hollow where the village lies towards Mu- 
nich trench and their ultimate objective — the Beau- 
court-Serre road. The chief fighting of the day cen- 
tred round Y Ravine. So soon as we had gained 
the third line on both sides of it our men leaped 
down the steep sides into the gully. Then fol- 
lowed a desperate struggle, for the entrances to 
the dug-outs had been obscured by our bombard- 
ment, and no man knew from what direction 
the enemy might appear. About mid-day the east- 
ern part of the ravine was full of our men, but 
the Germans were in the prongs. Early in the 
afternoon we delivered a fresh attack from the west 
and gradually forced the defence to surrender. After 



160 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

that it became a battle of nettoyeurs, small parties 
digging out Germans from underground lairs — for 
the very strength of his fortifications proved a trap 
to the enemy once they had been breached. If he 
failed to prevent our entrance he himself was wholly 
unable to get out. 

The foggy autumn day was full of wild adven- 
tures. One Scots officer and two men, who took 
prisoner a German battalion commander and his 
staff, found themselves cut off and the position re- 
versed, and then, as supports came up, once more 
claimed their captives. A wounded signaller held up 
a German company in a burrow while he telephoned 
back for help. Ration stores were captured and 
muddy Highlanders went about the business of war 
eating tinned meats with one hand and smoking large 
cigars. By the evening the whole of Beaumont 
Hamel was occupied and posts were out as far as 
Munich trench, while over 1,400 prisoners and be- 
tween fifty and sixty machine guns were the prize of 
the conquerors. To their eternal honour the High- 
land Territorials had stormed, by sheer hand-to-hand 
fighting, one of the strongest German forts on the 
Western front. 

On their right the Naval Division advanced against 
Beaucourt, attacking over the ground which had been 
partly covered by the left of the Ulster Division on 
1st July. On that day the British trenches had been 
between 500 and 700 yards from the German front 
line, leaving too great an extent of No Man's Land 
to be covered by the attacking infantry. But before 
the present action the Naval Division had dug ad- 
vanced trenches, and now possessed a line of depart- 
ure not more than 250 yards from the enemy. 



THE FOURTH STAGE 161 

Their first objective was the German support line, 
the second Station Road — which ran from Beaumont 
Hamel to the main Albert-Lille railway — and their 
third the trench line outside Beaucourt village. The 
wave of assault carried our men over the first two 
German lines, and for a moment it looked as if the 
advance was about to go smoothly forward to its 
goal. But in the centre of our front of attack, in a 
communication trench between the second and third 
German lines and about 800 yards from the river 
bank, was a very strong redoubt manned by machine 
guns. This had not been touched by our artillery, 
and it effectively blocked the centre of our advance, 
while at the same time flanking fire from the slopes 
behind Beaumont Hamel checked our left. Various 
parties got through and reached the German sup- 
port line and even as far as Station Road. But at 
about 8.30 the situation, as reviewed by the divi- 
sional commander, bore an ominous likeness to what 
had happened to the Ulstermen on 1st July. Isolated 
detachments had gone forward, but the enemy 
had manned his reserve trenches behind them, 
and the formidable redoubt was blocking any gen- 
eral progress. 

At this moment there came news by a pigeon mes- 
sage of the right battalion. It was commanded by 
a young New Zealander, Lieutenant-Colonel Frey- 
berg, who had done brilliant service in Gallipoli, and 
had before the war been engaged in many ad- 
venturous pursuits. The message announced that 
his battalion had gone clean through to the third 
objective, and was now waiting outside Beaucourt 
village for our barrage to lift in order to take the 
place. He had led his men along the edge of the 



162 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

river to Station Road, where he had collected 
odd parties of other battalions, and at 8.21 had 
reached Beaucourt trench — a mile distant from our 
front of assault. On receipt of this startling news a 
Territorial battalion was sent up to his support, and 
all that day a precarious avenue of communication 
for food and ammunition was kept open along the 
edge of the stream, under such shelter as the banks 
afforded. A second attack on the whole front was 
delivered in the afternoon by the supporting brigade 
of the Naval Division, but this, too, was held up by 
the redoubt, though again a certain number got 
through and reached Station Road and even the 
slopes beyond it. It was at this time that seventeen 
men of the Dublin Fusiliers, accompanied by a priest, 
performed a singular feat. Far up on the high 
ground east of Beaumont Hamel they came upon a 
large party of Germans in dug-outs, and compelled 
their surrender. They marched their 400 prisoners 
stolidly back to our line through the enemy barrage 
and our own. 

That night it was resolved to make a great effort 
to put the redoubt out of action. Two tanks were 
brought up, one of which succeeded in getting within 
range, and the garrison of the stronghold hoisted 
the white flag. The way was now clear for a gen- 
eral advance next morning, to assist in which a 
brigade of another division was brought up in sup- 
TV t/l P ort ' "^ art °^ ^ e a< ^ vance l° st direction, 
but the result was to clear the German 
first position and the ground between Station Road 
and Beaucourt trench. At the same time the right 
battalion — which had been waiting outside Beau- 
court for twenty-four hours — carried the place by 



THE FOURTH STAGE 163 

storm. Its commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel 
Freyberg, had been already three times wounded, 
but that morning he led the charge in person. 
Though wounded a fourth time most severely, he 
refused to lay down his command till he had placed 
posts with perfect military judgment to the east and 
north-east to prevent a surprise and had given full 
instructions to his successor. To his brilliant leader- 
ship the main achievement of the Naval Division 
was due.* His success is an instructive proof of the 
value of holding forward positions even though 
flanks and rear are threatened, if you are dealing 
with a shaken enemy and have a certainty of sup- 
ports behind you. Troops who make a bold ad- 
vance will, if they retire, have achieved nothing, 
and will certainly lose a large proportion of their 
strength. If they stay where they are they run the 
risk of being totally destroyed; but, on the other 
hand, there is a chance of completely turning the 
scale. For it should be remembered that an iso- 
lated detachment, if it has the enemy on its flank 
and rear, is itself on the flank and rear of the enemy, 
and the moral effect of its position may be the 
determining factor in breaking the enemy's resist- 
ance. 

By the night of Tuesday, 14th November, our 

* Colonel Freyberg had received the D.S.O. in Gallipoli 
for swimming ashore and lighting flares during the feint of 
landing in the Gulf of Saros on April 24-25, 191 5. He re- 
ceived the Victoria Cross for the taking of Beaucourt. "The 
personality, valour, and utter contempt of danger on the part 
of this single officer," so ran the official announcement, "en- 
abled the lodgement in the most advanced objectives of the 
corps to be permanently held, and on this point d'appui the 
line was eventually formed. " 



164 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

total of prisoners on the five-mile front of battle was 
well over 5,000 — the largest captures yet made in 
the time by any army in the West since the cam- 
paign began. And the advance was not yet over. 
The German counter-attack of the 15th failed to 

»r win back any ground. Just east of 

^* Beaumont Hamel there was an exten- 
sive No Man's Land, for Munich trench could not be 
claimed by either side, but in the Beaucourt area we 
steadily pressed on. On Thursday, the 16th, we 

*r ;■ pushed east from Beaucourt village along 
the north bank of the Ancre, establish- 
ing posts in the Bois d'Hollande to the north-west 
of Grandcourt. Frost had set in, and it was possi- 
ble from the Thiepval ridge or from the slopes above 
Hamel to see clearly the whole new battlefield, and 
even in places .to follow the infantry advance — a 
thing which had not been feasible since the summer 
fighting. By that day our total of prisoners was 
over 6,000. On the 17th we again advanced, and on 

^ ^ Saturday, the 18th, in a downpour of icy 
rain, the Canadians on the right of the 
Fifth Army, attacking from Regina trench, moved 
far down the slope towards the river, while the 
centre pushed close to the western skirts of Grand- 
court. 

It was the last attack, with which concluded the 
fourth stage of the Battle of the Somme. The 
weather now closed down like a curtain upon the 
drama. Though in modern war we may disregard 
the seasons, the elements take their revenge and 
armies are forced at a certain stage, whether they 
will it or not, into that trench warfare which takes 
the place of the winter quarters of Marlborough's 



THE FOURTH STAGE 165 

day. The Battle of the Ancre was a fitting denoue- 
ment to the great action. It gave us three strongly 
fortified villages, and practically the whole of the 
minor spur which runs from north of Beaumont 
Hamel to Beaucourt. It extended the breach in the 
main enemy position by five miles. Our front was 
now far down the slopes from the Thiepval ridge and 
north and west of Grandcourt. We had taken well 
over 7,000 prisoners and vast quantities of material, 
including several hundred machine guns. Our losses 
had been comparatively slight, while those of the 
enemy were — on his own admission — severe. Above 
all, just when he was beginning to argue himself 
into the belief that the Somme offensive was over we 
upset all his calculations by an unexpected stroke. 
We had opened the old wound and undermined his 
moral by reviving the terrors of the unknown and 
the unexpected. 

We are still too close to events to attempt an 
estimate of the Battle of the Somme as a whole. It 
will be the task of later historians to present it in its 
true perspective. Even now one thing is clear. Be- 
fore 1st July Verdun had been the greatest continu- 
ous battle fought in the world's history; but the 
Somme surpassed it both in numbers of men en- 
gaged, in the tactical difficulty of the objectives, and 
in its importance in the strategical scheme of the 
campaign. Calculations of the forces employed 
would for the present be indiscreet and estimates of 
casualties untrustworthy, but some idea of its sig- 
nificance may be gathered from the way in which 
it preoccupied the enemy High Command. It was 
the fashion in Germany to describe it as a futile 



166 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

attack upon an unshakable fortress, an attack which 
might be disregarded by her public opinion while 
she continued her true business of conquest in the 
East. But the fact remained that the great bulk of 
the German troops and by far the best of them were 
kept congregated in this area. In November Ger- 
many had 127 divisions on the Western front, and 
no more than seventy-five in the East. Though 
Brussilov's attack and von Falkenhayn's Rumanian 
expedition compelled her to send fresh troops east- 
ward she did not diminish but increased her strength 
in the West. In June she had fourteen divisions 
on the Somme ; in November she had in line or just 
out of it well over forty. 

By what test are we to judge the result of a battle 
in modern war? In the old days of open fighting 
there was little room for doubt, since the retreat or 
rout or envelopment of the beaten army was too clear 
for argument. To-day, when the total battle-front 
is 3,000 miles, such easy proofs are lacking; but the 
principle remains the same. A battle is final when 
it ends in the destruction of the enemy's fighting 
strength. A battle is won — and it may be decisively 
won — when it results in achieving the strategic pur- 
pose of one of the combatants, provided that pur- 
pose is, on military grounds, a wise one. Hence the 
amount of territory occupied and the number of im- 
portant points captured are not necessarily sound 
criteria at all. If they were, the German over- 
running of Poland would have been a great victory, 
when, as a matter of fact, it was a failure. Von 
Hindenburg sought to destroy the Russian army, 
and the Russian army declined the honour. The suc- 
cess or defeat of a strategic purpose, that is the sole 



THE FOURTH STAGE 167 

test. Judging by this, Tannenberg was a victory for 
Germany, the Marne for France, and the First Bat- 
tle of Ypres for Britain. The Battle of the Somme 
was no less a victory since it achieved the purpose of 
the Allies. 

In the first place, it relieved Verdun, and en- 
abled Nivelle to advance presently to conspicuous 
victories. In the second place, it detained the main 
German forces on the Western front. In the third 
place, it drew into the battle, and gravely depleted, 
the surplus man-power of the enemy, and struck a 
shattering blow at his moral. For two years the 
German behind the shelter of his trench-works and 
the great engine of his artillery had fought with 
comparatively little cost against opponents far less 
well equipped. The Somme put the shoe on the 
other foot, and he came to know what the British 
learned at Ypres and the French in the Artois — 
what it felt like to be bombarded out of existence, 
and to cling to shell holes and the ruins of trenches 
under a pitiless fire. It was a new thing in his ex- 
perience, and took the heart out of men who, under 
other conditions, had fought with skill and courage. 
Further, the Allies had dislocated his whole military 
machine. Their ceaseless pressure had crippled his 
Staff work, and confused the organisation of which 
he had justly boasted. 

Sir Douglas Haig's sober summary is the last word 
on the subject. "The enemy's power has not yet 
been broken, nor is it yet possible to form an 
estimate of the time the war may last before the 
objects for which the Allies are fighting have been 
attained. But the Somme battle has placed beyond 
doubt the ability of the Allies to gain these objects. 



168 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

The German army is the mainstay of the Central 
Powers, and a full half of that army, despite all the 
advantages of the defensive, supported by the 
strongest fortifications, suffered defeat on the Somme 
this year. Neither the victors nor the vanquished 
will forget this ; and, though bad weather has given 
the enemy a respite, there will undoubtedly be many 
thousands in his ranks who w r ill begin the new cam- 
paign with little confidence in their ability to resist 
our assaults or to overcome our defence." 

Let it be freely granted that Germany met the 
strain in a soldierly fashion. As von Armin's re- 
port showed, she set herself at once to learn the 
lessons of the battle and to revise her methods where 
revision was needed. She made drastic changes in 
her High Commands. She endeavoured still further 
to exploit her already much-exploited man-power. 
She decreed a levee-en-masse, and combed out even 
from vital industries every man who was capable of 
taking the field. She swept the young and old into 
her ranks, and, as was said of Lee's army in its last 
campaign, she robbed the cradle and the grave. Her 
effort was magnificent — and it was war. She had 
created since ist July some thirty odd new divisions, 
formed partly by converting garrison units into field 
troops, and partly by regrouping units from existing 
formations — taking a regiment away from a four- 
regiment division, and a battalion from a four-bat- 
talion regiment, and withdrawing the Jaeger bat- 
talions. But these changes, though they increased 
the number of her units, did not add proportionately 
to the aggregate of her numerical strength, and we 
may take 100,000 men as the maximum of the total 
gain in field troops from this readjustment. More- 



THE FOURTH STAGE 169 

over, she had to provide artillery and Staffs for each 
of the new divisions, which involved a heavy strain 
upon services already taxed to the full. We know 
that her commissioned classes had been badly de- 
pleted. "The shortage/' so ran an order of von 
Hindenburg's in September, "due to our heavy casu- 
alties, of experienced, energetic, and well-trained 
junior officers is sorely felt at the present time." 

The Battle of the Somme had, therefore, fulfilled 
the Allied purpose in taxing to the uttermost the Ger- 
man war machine. It tried the Command, it tried 
the nation at home, and it tried to the last limit of 
endurance the men in the line. The place became a 
name of terror. Though belittled in communiques, 
and rarely mentioned in the Press, it was a word of 
ill-omen to the whole German people, that "blood- 
bath" to which many journeyed and from which few 
returned. Of what avail their easy conquests on 
the Danube when this deadly cancer in the West was 
eating into the vitals of the nation? Winter might 
give a short respite — though the Battle of the Ancre 
had been fought in winter weather — but spring 
would come, and the evil would grow malignant 
again. Germany gathered herself for a great 
effort, marshalling for compulsory war work the 
whole male population between seventeen and sixty, 
sending every man to the trenches who could 
walk on sound feet, doling out food supplies on the 
minimum scale for the support of life, and making 
desperate efforts by submarine warfare to cripple 
her enemies' strength. But what if her enemies fol- 
lowed her example? The Allies lagged far behind 
her in their adoption of drastic remedies and even so 
they had won to an equality and more than an equal- 



170 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

ity in battle power. What if they also took the final 
step? They had shown that they had no thought 
of peace except at their own dictation. They had 
willed the end; what if they also willed the ultimate 
means ? 

In November, behind the rodomontade of German 
journalists over Rumanian victories and the stout 
words of German statesmen, it was easy to dis- 
cern a profound and abiding anxiety. Let us 
take two quotations from a heavily censored Press. 
The Leipsiger Neueste Nachrichten wrote: "We 
realise now that England is our real enemy, and that 
she is prepared to do everything in her power to 
conquer us. She has gone so far as to introduce 
compulsory service to attain her aims. Let us recog- 
nise her strength of purpose, and take the necessary 
precautions. It is more than probable that, if the 
lack of war material and supplies does not put a stop 
to the Battle of the Somme, she will not abandon 
her plans. On the contrary, she will make use of 
the winter to accumulate immense reserves of am- 
munition. There is no doubt as to her having the 
money necessary, and it would be foolish optimism 
on our part to imagine that the terrible fighting on 
the Western front will not start again next spring." 
And this from the Berliner Lokalanzeiger: "We 
recognise that the whole war to-day is, in the main, 
a question of labour resources, and England has 
taken the lead in welding together all such resources. 
Thanks to her immense achievement in this sphere, 
our most dangerous enemy has arrived at a position 
in which she is able to set enormous weapons against 
us. It is the Battle of the Somme above all that 
teaches us this." 



wm 



mm 



mi 



asm 



THE FOURTH STAGE 171 

In every great action there is a major purpose, a 
reasoned and calculated purpose which takes no ac- 
count of the accidents of fortune. But in most ac- 
tions there come sudden strokes of luck which turn 
the scale. For such strokes a general has a right 
to hope, but on them We dare not build. Marengo, 
Waterloo, Chancellors ville — ; '•ost of the great bat- 
tles of older times — showed th^ e good gifts of des- 
tiny. But in the elaborate and mechanical warfare 
of to-day they come rarely, and at the Battle of the 
Somme they did not fall to the lot of the British 
Commander-in-Chief. He did what he set out to 
do; step by step he drove his way through the Ger- 
man defences; but it was all done by hard and stub- 
born fighting, without any bounty from capricious 
fortune. The Germans had claimed that their line 
was impregnable ; we broke it again and again. They 
had counted on their artillery machine; we crippled 
and outmatched it. They had decried the fighting 
stuff of our new armies; we showed that it was 
more than a match for their Guards and Bran- 
denburgers.* All these things we did, soberly, 
patiently, after the British fashion. Our major 
purpose was attained. Like some harsh and re- 
morseless chemical, the waxing Allied energy was 
eating into the German waning mass. There was 
thought and care in the plan, and that resolution 
which is so strong that it can dare to be patient. 
The guarantee of the continuity of the Allied effort 
was its orderly progress. The heroic dash may fail 

* Between 1st July and 18th November the British on the 
Somme took just over 38,000 prisoners, including 800 officers, 
29 heavy guns, 96 field guns, 136 trench mortars, and 514 
machine guns. 



172 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

and be shattered by the counter-attack, but this sure 
and methodical pressure had the inevitability of a 
natural law. It was attrition, but attrition in the 
acute form — not like the slow erosion of cliffs by the 
sea, but like the steady crumbling of a mountain to 
which hydraulic engineers have applied a mighty 
head of water. 

The fall of winter, with its storms and sodden 
ground and brief hours of daylight, marked the 
close of a stage, but not of the battle. Advances 
might be fewer, the territory gained might be less, 
but the offensive did not slacken. Still on a broad 
front the Allied pressure was continuously main- 
tained by means of their artillery and other services, 
and the sapping of the enemy's strength went on 
without ceasing. The hardships of winter would 
be felt more acutely by forces which had been out- 
matched in the long five months' battle; for it is 
a law of life and of war that the weakness of the less 
strong grows pari passu with the power of the 
stronger. Those who judged of success only by the 
ground occupied might grow restive during those 
days of apparent inaction, but the soldier knew that 
they represented blows struck at the enemy which 
were not less deadly in effect than a spectacular ad- 
vance. The major purpose was still proceeding. 

A sketch of the main features of a great action 
is like the rough outline of a picture before the 
artist has added the colours and the proportions of 
life. It cannot even hint at the rich human quality 
of it all, the staunch brotherhood in arms, the faith- 
fulness, the cheerful sacrifice, the fortitude, any 
more than it can portray the terror and suffering. 



THE FOURTH STAGE 173 

But it is well to realise that this battle, unparalleled 
in its magnitude and gravity, was also unique in 
another circumstance. It was the effort of the whole 
British nation, and an effort made of each man's 
free will. Her armies were not a separate caste, 
whose doings the ordinary citizen watched with in- 
terest and excitement but with a certain detachment, 
as those of friendly gladiators hired for a purpose 
foreign to the decent routine of his life. They were 
composed of the ordinary citizen himself. The 
Army was the people. Not a class or profession 
or trade but had sent its tens of thousands to the 
ranks, and scarcely a British home but had losses 
to mourn. Those fighting men had come willingly 
to the task, because their own interest and happiness 
were become one with their country's victory. 
Having willed the end, they willed also the means, 
and showed themselves gluttons for the full rigour 
of service. The riddle which Lincoln propounded 
had been nobly answered. 

No great thing is achieved without a price, and 
on the Somme fell the very flower of our race, the 
straightest of limb, the keenest of brain, the most 
eager of spirit. In such a mourning each man 
thinks first of his friends. Each of us has seen his 
crowded circle become like the stalls of a theatre at 
an unpopular play. Each has suddenly found the 
world of time strangely empty and eternity strangely 
thronged. To look back upon the gallant proces- 
sion of those who offered their all and had their gift 
accepted, is to know exultation as well as sorrow. 
The young men who died almost before they had 
gazed on the world, the makers and the doers who 
left their tasks unfinished, were greater in their 



174 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

deaths than in their lives. They builded better 
than they knew, for the sum of their, imperfections 
was made perfect, and out of loss they won for their 
country and mankind an enduring gain. Their 
memory will abide so long as men are found to set 
honour before ease, and a nation lives not for its 
ledgers alone but for some purpose of virtue. They 
have become, in the fancy of Henry Vaughan, the 
shining spires of that City to which we travel. 



APPENDIX I 

SIR DOUGLAS HAIG'S SECOND DISPATCH 

War Office, 29th December 1916. 

The following Dispatch has been received by the Secre- 
tary of State for War from General Sir Douglas Haig, G.C.B., 
Commanding-in-Chief, the British Forces in France : — 

General Headquarters, 
23rd December 1916. 

My Lord, 

I have the honour to submit the following report on the 
operations of the Forces under my Command since the 19th 
May, the date of my last Dispatch. 

1. The principle of an offensive campaign during the 
summer of 1916 had already been decided on by all the 
Allies. The various possible alternatives on the Western 
front had been studied and discussed by General Joffre and 
myself, and we were in complete agreement as to the front 
to be attacked by the combined French and British Armies. 
Preparations for our offensive had made considerable prog- 
ress; but as the date on which the attack should begin was 
dependent on many doubtful factors, a final decision on that 
point was deferred until the general situation should become 
clearer. 

Subject to the necessity of commencing operations before 
the summer was too far advanced, and with due regard to 

175 



176 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

the general situation, I desired to postpone my attack as 
long as possible. The British Armies were growing in num- 
bers and the supply of munitions was steadily increasing. 
Moreover, a very large proportion of the officers and men 
under my command were still far from being fully trained, 
and the longer the attack could be deferred the more efficient 
they would become. On the other hand the Germans were 
continuing to press their attacks at Verdun, and both there 
and on the Italian front, where the Austrian offensive was 
gaining ground, it was evident that the strain might become 
too great to be borne unless timely action were taken to 
relieve it. Accordingly, while maintaining constant touch 
with General Joffre in regard to all these considerations, my 
preparations were pushed on, and I agreed, with the consent 
of H.M. Government, that my attack should be launched 
whenever the general situation required it with as great a 
force as I might then be able to make available. 

2. By the end of May the pressure of the enemy on the 
Italian front had assumed such serious proportions that the 
Russian campaign was opened early in June, and the brilliant 
successes gained by our Allies against the Austrians at once 
caused a movement of German troops from the Western to 
the Eastern front. This, however, did not lessen the pres- 
sure on Verdun. The heroic defence of our French Allies 
had already gained many weeks of inestimable value and 
had caused the enemy very heavy losses; but the strain 
continued to increase. In view, therefore, of the situation 
in the various theatres of war, it was eventually agreed be- 
tween General Joffre and myself that the combined French 
and British offensive should not be postponed beyond the 
end of June. 

The British Objective 

The object of that offensive was threefold: 
(i.) To relieve the pressure on Verdun, 
(ii.) To assist our Allies in the other theatres of war 



APPENDIX I 177 

by stopping any further transfer of German troops from 
the Western front. 

(iii.) To wear down the strength of the forces opposed 
to us. 

3. While my final preparations were in progress the 
enemy made two unsuccessful attempts to interfere with my 
arrangements. The first, directed on the 21st May against 
our positions on the Vimy Ridge, south and south-east of 
Souchez, resulted in a small enemy gain of no strategic or 
tactical importance; and rather than weaken my offensive 
by involving additional troops in the task of recovering the 
lost ground, I decided to consolidate a position in rear of 
our original line. 

The second enemy attack was delivered on the 2nd June 
on a front of over one and a half miles from Mount Sorrell 
to Hooge, and succeeded in penetrating to a maximum depth 
of 700 yards. As the southern part of the lost position com- 
manded our trenches, I judged it necessary to recover it, 
and by an attack launched on the 13th June, carefully pre- 
pared and well executed, this was successfully accomplished 
by the troops on the spot. 

Neither of these enemy attacks succeeded in delaying 
the preparations for the major operations which I had in 
view. 

4. These preparations were necessarily very elaborate and 
took considerable time. 

Vast stocks of ammunition and stores of all kinds had to 
be accumulated beforehand within a convenient distance of 
our front. To deal with these many miles of new railways — 
both standard and narrow gauge — and trench tramways were 
laid. All available roads were improved, many others were 
made, and long causeways were built over marshy valleys. 
Many additional dug-outs had to be provided as shelter for 
the troops, for use as dressing stations for the wounded, and 
as magazines for storing ammunition, food, water, and en- 
gineering material. Scores of miles of deep communication 
trenches had to be dug, as well as trenches for telephone 



178 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

wires, assembly and assault trenches, and numerous gun 
emplacements and observation posts. 

Important mining operations were undertaken, and 
charges were laid at various points beneath the enemy's lines. 

Except in the river valleys, the existing supplies of water 
were hopelessly insufficient to meet the requirements of the 
numbers of men and horses to be concentrated in this area 
as the preparations for our offensive proceeded. To meet 
this difficulty many wells and borings were sunk, and over 
one hundred pumping plants were installed. More than one 
hundred and twenty miles of water mains were laid, and 
everything was got ready to ensure an adequate water supply 
as our troops advanced. 

Much of this preparatory work had to be done under very 
trying conditions, and was liable to constant interruption 
from the enemy's fire. The weather, on the whole, was bad, 
and the local accommodation totally insufficient for housing 
the troops employed, who consequently had to content them- 
selves with such rough shelter as could be provided in the 
circumstances. All this labour, too, had to be carried out 
in addition to fighting and to the everyday work of main- 
taining existing defences. It threw a very heavy strain on 
the troops, which was borne by them with a cheerfulness 
beyond all praise. 



The German Position 

5. The enemy's position to be attacked was of a very 
formidable character, situated on a high, undulating tract 
of ground, which rises to more than 500 feet above sea-level, 
and forms the watershed between the Somme on the one 
side and the rivers of south-western Belgium on the other. 
On the southern face of this watershed, the general trend of 
which is from east-south-east to west-north-west, the ground 
falls in a series of long irregular spurs and deep depressions 
to the valley of the Somme. Well down the forward slopes 



APPENDIX I 179 

of this face the enemy's first system of defence, starting from 
the Somme near Curlu, ran at first northwards for 3,000 
yards, then westwards for 7,000 yards to near Fricourt, 
where it turned nearly due north, forming a great salient 
angle in the enemy's line. 

Some 10,000 yards north of Fricourt the trenches crossed 
the River Ancre, a tributary of the Somme, and still running 
northwards passed over the summit of the watershed, about 
Hebuterne and Gommecourt, and then down its northern 
spurs to Arras. 

On the 20,000 yards front between the Somme and the 
Ancre the enemy had a strong second system of defence, sited 
generally on or near the southern crest of the highest part 
of the watershed, at an average distance of from 3,000 to 
5,000 yards behind his first system of trenches. 

During nearly two years' preparation he had spared no 
pains to render these defences impregnable. The first and 
second systems each consisted of several lines of deep 
trenches, well provided with bomb-proof shelters and with 
numerous communication trenches connecting them. The 
front of the trenches in each system was protected by wire 
entanglements, many of them in two belts forty yards broad, 
built of iron stakes interlaced with barbed wire, often almost 
as thick as a man's finger. 

The numerous woods and villages in and between these 
systems of defence had been turned into veritable fortresses. 
The deep cellars usually to be found in the villages, and the 
numerous pits and quarries common to a chalk country, were 
used to provide cover for machine guns and trench mortars. 
The existing cellars were supplemented by elaborate dug-outs, 
sometimes in two storeys, and these were connected up by 
passages as much as thirty feet below the surface of the 
ground. The salients in the enemy's line, from which he 
could bring enfilade fire across his front, were made into self- 
contained forts, and often protected by mine fields; while 
strong redoubts and concrete machine gun emplacements had 
been constructed in positions from which he could sweep 



180 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

his own trenches should these be taken. The ground 
lent itself to good artillery observation on the enemy's 
part, and he had skilfully arranged for cross fire by his 
guns. 

These various systems of defence, with the fortified locali- 
ties and other supporting points between them, were cun- 
ningly sited to afford each other mutual assistance and to 
admit of the utmost possible development of enfilade and 
flanking fire by machine guns and artillery. They formed, 
in short, not merely a series of successive lines, but one com- 
posite system of enormous depth and strength. 

Behind his second system of trenches, in addition to 
woods, villages and other strong points prepared for defence, 
the enemy had several other lines already completed; and 
we had learned from aeroplane reconnaissance that he was 
hard at work improving and strengthening these and digging 
fresh ones between them and still further back. 

In the area above described, between the Somme and 
the Ancre, our front line trenches ran parallel and close to 
those of the enemy, but below them. We had good direct 
observation on his front system of trenches and on the various 
defences sited on the slopes above us between his first and 
second systems; but the second system itself, in many 
places, could not be observed from the ground in our pos- 
session, while, except from the air, nothing could be seen of 
his more distant defences. 

North of the Ancre, where the opposing trenches ran 
transversely across the main ridge, the enemy's defences were 
equally elaborate and formidable. So far as command of 
ground was concerned, we were here practically on level 
terms; but, partly as a result of this, our direct observation 
over the ground held by the enemy was not so good as it 
was further south. On portions of this front, the opposing 
first line trenches were more widely separated from each 
other; while in the valleys to the north were many hidden 
gun positions from which the enemy could develop flanking 
fire on our troops as they advanced across the open. 



APPENDIX I 181 



The Three Phases 

6. The period of active operations dealt with in this 
dispatch divides itself roughly into three phases. The first 
phase opened with the attack of the ist July, the success of 
which evidently came as a surprise to the enemy and caused 
considerable confusion and disorganisation in his ranks. The 
advantages gained on that date and developed during the 
first half of July may be regarded as having been rounded 
off by the operations of the 14th July and three following 
days, which gave us possession of the southern crest of the 
main plateau between Delville Wood and Bazentin-le- 
Petit. 

We then entered upon a contest lasting for many weeks, 
during which the enemy, having found his strongest defences 
unavailing, and now fully alive to his danger, put forth his 
utmost efforts to keep his hold on the main ridge. This stage 
of the battle constituted a prolonged and severe struggle for 
mastery between the contending armies, in which, although 
progress was slow and difficult, the confidence of our troops 
in their ability to win was never shaken. Their tenacity and 
determination proved more than equal to their task, and by 
the first week in September they had established a fighting 
superiority that has left its mark on the enemy, of which 
possession of the ridge was merely the visible proof. 

The way was then opened for the third phase, in which 
our advance was pushed down the forward slopes of the 
ridge and further extended on both flanks until, from Morval 
to Thiepval, the whole plateau and a good deal of ground 
beyond were in our possession. Meanwhile our gallant Allies, 
in addition to great successes south of the Somme, had pushed 
their advance, against equally determined opposition, and 
under most difficult tactical conditions, up the long slopes 
on our immediate right, and were now preparing to drive 
the enemy from the summit of the narrow and difficult por- 
tion of the main ridge which lies between the Combles Valley 



182 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

and the River Tortille, a stream flowing from the north into 
the Somme just below Peronne. 

7. Defences of the nature described could only be attacked 
with any prospect of success after careful artillery prepara- 
tion. It was accordingly decided that our bombardment 
should begin on the 24th June, and a large force of artillery 
was brought into action for the purpose. 

Artillery bombardments were also carried out daily at 
different points on the rest of our front, and during the period 
from the 24th June to 1st July gas was discharged with good 
effect at more than forty places along our line upon a frontage 
which in total amounted to over 15 miles. Some 70 raids, 
too, were undertaken by our infantry between Gommecourt 
and our extreme left north of Ypres during the week pre- 
ceding the attack, and these kept me well informed as to the 
enemy's dispositions, besides serving other useful purposes. 

On the 25th June the Royal Flying Corps carried out a 
general attack on the enemy's observation balloons, destroy- 
ing nine of them, and depriving the enemy for the time being 
of this form of observation. 



The First Stage 

8. On July 1st, at 7.30 a.m., after a final hour of ex- 
ceptionally violent bombardment, our infantry assault was 
launched. Simultaneously the French attacked on both sides 
of the Somme, co-operating closely with us. 

The British main front of attack extended from Mari- 
court on our right, round the salient at Fricourt, to the Ancre 
in front of St. Pierre Divion. To assist this main attack by 
holding the enemy's reserves and occupying his artillery, the 
enemy's trenches north of the Ancre, as far as Serre inclu- 
sive, were to be assaulted simultaneously ; while further north 
a subsidiary attack was to be made on both sides of the 
salient at Gommecourt. 



APPENDIX I 183 

I had entrusted the attack on the front from Maricourt 
to Serre to the Fourth Army, under the command of General 
Sir Henry S. Rawlinson, Bart, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., with five 
Army Corps at his disposal. The subsidiary attack at Gomme- 
court was carried out by troops from the Army commanded 
by General Sir E. H. H. Allenby, K.C.B. 

Just prior to the attack the mines which had been pre- 
pared under the enemy's lines were exploded, and smoke was 
discharged at many places along our front. Through this 
smoke our infantry advanced to the attack with the utmost 
steadiness, in spite of the very heavy barrage of the enemy's 
guns. On our right our troops met with immediate success, 
and rapid progress was made. Before midday Montauban 
had been carried, and shortly afterwards the Briqueterie, to 
the east, and the whole of the ridge to the west of the village 
were in our hands. Opposite Mametz part of our assembly 
trenches had been practically levelled by the enemy artillery, 
making it necessary for our infantry to advance to the attack 
across 400 yards of open ground. None the less they forced 
their way into Mametz, and reached their objective in the 
valley beyond, first throwing out a defensive flank towards 
Fricourt on their left. At the same time the enemy's trenches 
were entered north of Fricourt, so that the enemy's garrison 
in that village was pressed on three sides. Further north, 
though the villages of La Boisselle and Ovillers for the time 
being resisted our attack, our troops drove deeply into the 
German lines on the flanks of these strongholds, and so paved 
the way for their capture later. On the spur running south 
from Thiepval the work known as the Leipzig Salient was 
stormed, and severe fighting took place for the possession of 
the village and its defences. Here and north of the valley 
of the Ancre as far as Serre, on the left flank of our attack, 
our initial successes were not sustained. Striking progress 
was made at many points, and parties of troops penetrated the 
enemy's positions to the outer defences of Grandcourt, and 
also to Pendant Copse and Serre ; but the enemy's continued 
resistance at Thiepval and Beaumont Hamel made it im- 



184 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

possible to forward reinforcements and ammunition, and, in 
spite of their gallant efforts, our troops were forced to with- 
draw during the night to their own lines. 

The subsidiary attack at Gommecourt also forced its way 
into the enemy's positions ; but there met with such vigorous 
opposition, that as soon as it was considered that the attack 
had fulfilled its object our troops were withdrawn. 

9. In view of the general situation at the end of the first 
day's operations, I decided that the best course was to press 
forward on a front extending from our junction with the 
French to a point halfway between La Boisselle and Con- 
talmaison, and to limit the offensive on our left for the pres- 
ent to a slow and methodical advance. North of the Ancre 
such preparations were to be made as would hold the enemy to 
his positions, and enable the attack to be resumed there later 
if desirable. In order that General Sir Henry Rawlinson 
might be left free to concentrate his attention on the portion 
of the front where the attack was to be pushed home, I also 
decided to place the operations against the front, La Boisselle 
to Serre, under the command of General Sir Hubert de la 
P. Gough, K.C.B., to whom I accordingly allotted the two 
northern corps of Sir Henry Rawlinson's army. My instruc- 
tions to Sir Hubert Gough were that his Army was to main- 
tain a steady pressure on the front from La Boisselle to the 
Serre Road, and to act as a pivot, on which our line could 
swing as our attacks on his right made progress towards the 
north. 

10. During the succeeding days the attack was continued 
on these lines. In spite of strong counter-attacks on the 
Briqueterie and Montauban, by midday on the 2nd July our 
troops had captured Fricourt, and in the afternoon and even- 
ing stormed Fricourt Wood and the farm to the north. Dur- 
ing the 3rd and 4th July Bernafay and Caterpillar Woods 
were also captured, and our troops pushed forward to the 
railway north of Mametz. On these days the reduction of La 
Boisselle was completed after hard fighting, while the out- 
skirts of Contalmaison were reached on the 5th July. North 



APPENDIX I 185 

of La Boisselle also the enemy's forces opposite us were kept 
constantly engaged ; and our holding in the Leipzig Salient 
was gradually increased. 

To sum up the results of the fighting of these five days, 
on a front of over six miles, from the Briqueterie to La Bois- 
selle, our troops had swept over the whole of the enemy's 
first and strongest system of defence, which he had done his 
utmost to render impregnable. They had driven him back 
over a distance of more than a mile, and had carried four 
elaborately fortified villages. 

The number of prisoners passed back at the close of the 
5th July had already reached the total of ninety-four officers 
and 5,724 other ranks. 

The Result of Five Days 

11. After the five days' heavy and continuous fighting 
just described it was essential to carry out certain readjust- 
ments and reliefs of the forces engaged. In normal condi- 
tions of enemy resistance the amount of progress that can 
be made at any time without a pause in the general advance 
is necessarily limited. Apart from the physical exhaustion 
of the attacking troops and the considerable distances sepa- 
rating the enemy's successive main systems of defence, special 
artillery preparation was required before a successful assault 
could be delivered. Meanwhile, however, local operations 
were continued in spite of much unfavourable weather. The 
attack on Contalmaison and Mametz Wood was undertaken 
on the 7th July, and after three days' obstinate fighting, in 
the course of which the enemy delivered several powerful 
counter-attacks, the village and the whole of the wood, ex- 
cept its northern border, were finally secured. On the 7th 
July also a footing was gained in the outer defences of 
Ovillers, while on the 9th July on our extreme right Maltz 
Horn Farm — an important point on the spur north of Harde- 
court — was secured. 

A thousand yards north of this farm our troops had sue- 



186 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

ceeded at the second attempt in establishing themselves on 
the 8th July in the southern end of Trones Wood. The 
enemy's positions in the northern and eastern parts of this 
wood were very strong, and no less than eight powerful 
German counter-attacks were made here during the next 
five days. In the course of this struggle portions of the 
wood changed hands several times ; but we were left eventu- 
ally, on the 13th July, in possession of the southern part of it. 

12. Meanwhile Mametz Wood had been entirely cleared 
of the enemy, and with Trones Wood also practically in our 
possession we were in a position to undertake an assault 
upon the enemy's second system of defences. Arrangements 
were accordingly made for an attack to be delivered at day- 
break on the morning of the 14th July against a front ex- 
tending from Longueval to Bazentin-le-Petit Wood, both 
inclusive. Contalmaison Villa, on a spur 1,000 yards west 
of Bazentin-le-Petit Wood, had already been captured to 
secure the left flank of the attack, and advantage had been 
taken of the progress made by our infantry to move our 
artillery forward into new positions. The preliminary bom- 
bardment had opened on the nth July. The opportunities 
offered by the ground for enfilading the enemy's lines were 
fully utilised and did much to secure the success of our attack. 

13. In the early hours of the 14th July the attacking 
troops moved out over the open for a distance of from about 
1,000 to 1,400 yards, and lined up in the darkness just below 
the crest and some 300 to 500 yards from the enemy's trenches. 
Their advance was covered by strong patrols, and their cor- 
rect deployment had been ensured by careful previous prep- 
arations. The whole movement was carried out unobserved 
and without touch being lost in any case. The decision to 
attempt a night operation of this magnitude with an Army, 
the bulk of which has been raised since the beginning of the 
war, was perhaps the highest tribute that could be paid to 
the quality of our troops. It would not have been possible 
but for the most careful preparation and forethought, as well 
as thorough reconnaissance of the ground, which was in 



APPENDIX I 187 

many cases made personally by Divisional, Brigade and Bat- 
talion Commanders and their staffs before framing their 
detailed orders for the advance. 



The Second Stage 

The actual assault was delivered at 3.25 a.m. on the 14th 
July, when there was just sufficient light to be able to dis- 
tinguish friend from foe at short ranges, and along the whole 
front attacked our troops, preceded by a very effective ar- 
tillery barrage, swept over the enemy's first trenches and on 
into the defences beyond. 

On our right the enemy was driven from his last foot- 
hold in Trones Wood, and by 8.0 a.m. we had cleared the 
whole of it, relieving a body of 170 men who had maintained 
themselves all night in the northern corner of the wood, 
although completely surrounded by the enemy. Our posi- 
tion in the wood was finally consolidated, and strong patrols 
were sent out from it in the direction of Guillemont and 
Longueval. The southern half of this latter village was 
already in the hands of our troops who had advanced west 
of Trones Wood. The northern half, with the exception of 
two strong points, was captured by 4.0 p.m. after a severe 
struggle. 

In the centre of our attack Bazentin-le-Grand village and 
wood were also gained, and our troops pushing northwards 
captured Bazentin-le-Petit village, and the cemetery to the 
east. Here the enemy counter-attacked twice about mid- 
day without success, and again in the afternoon, on the latter 
occasion momentarily reoccupying the northern half of the 
village as far as the church. Our troops immediately re- 
turned to the attack, and drove him out again with heavy 
losses. To the left of the village Bazentin-le-Petit Wood 
was cleared, in spite of the considerable resistance of the 
enemy along its western edge, where we successfully repulsed 



188 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

a counter-attack. In the afternoon further ground was 
gained to the west of the Wood, and posts were established 
immediately south of Pozieres. 

The enemy's troops, who had been severely handled in 
these attacks and counter-attacks, began to show signs of 
disorganisation, and it was reported early in the afternoon 
that it was possible to advance to High Wood. General 
Rawlinson, who had held a force of cavalry in readiness for 
such an eventuality, decided to employ a part of it. As the 
fight progressed small bodies of this force had pushed for- 
ward gradually, keeping in close touch with the development 
of the action and prepared to seize quickly any opportunity 
that might occur. A squadron now came up on the flanks 
of our infantry, who entered High Wood at about 8.0 p.m., 
and, after some hand-to-hand fighting, cleared the whole of 
the Wood with the exception of the northern apex. Acting 
mounted in co-operation with the infantry the cavalry came 
into action with good effect, killing several of the enemy 
and capturing some prisoners. 

14. On the 15th July the battle still continued, though on 
a reduced scale. Arrow Head Copse, between the southern 
edge of Trones Wood and Guillemont, and Waterlot Farm, 
on the Longueval-Guillemont Road, were seized, and Delville 
Wood was captured and held against several hostile counter- 
attacks. In Longueval fierce fighting continued until dusk 
for the possession of the two strong points and the orchards 
to the north of the village. The situation in this area made 
the position of our troops in High Wood somewhat precari- 
ous, and they now began to suffer numerous casualties from 
the enemy's heavy shelling. Accordingly orders were given 
for their withdrawal, and this was effected during the night 
of the i5-i6th July without interference by the enemy. All 
•the wounded were brought in. 

In spite of repeated enemy counter-attacks further prog- 
ress was made on the night of the 16th July along the enemy's 
main second line trenches north-west of Bazentin-le-Petit 
Wood to within 500 yards of the north-east corner of the 



APPENDIX I 189 

village of Pozieres, which our troops were already approach- 
ing from the South. 

Meanwhile the operations further north had also made 
progress. Since the attack of the 7th July the enemy in and 
about Ovillers had been pressed relentlessly, and gradually 
driven back by incessant bombing attacks and local assaults, 
in accordance with the general instructions I had given to 
General Sir Hubert Gough. On the 16th July a large body 
of the garrison of Ovillers surrendered, and that night and 
during the following day, by a direct advance from the west 
across No Man's Land, our troops carried the remainder of 
the village and pushed out along the spur to the north and 
eastwards towards Pozieres. 

15. The results of the operations of the 14th July and 
subsequent days were of considerable importance. The 
enemy's second main system of defence had been captured 
on a front of over three miles. We had again forced him 
back more than a mile, and had gained possession of the 
southern crest of the main ridge on a front of 6,000 yards. 
Four more of his fortified villages and three woods had been 
wrested from him by determined fighting, and our advanced 
troops had penetrated as far as his third line of defence. 
In spite of a resolute resistance and many counter-attacks, 
in which the enemy had suffered severely, our line was defi- 
nitely established from Maltz Horn Farm, where we met the 
French left, northwards along the eastern edge of Trones 
Wood to Longueval, then westwards past Bazentin-le-Grand 
to the northern corner of Bazentin-le-Petit and Bazentin-le- 
Petit Wood, and then westwards again past the southern 
face of Pozieres to the north of Ovillers. Posts were estab- 
lished at Arrow Head Copse and Waterlot Farm, while we 
had troops thrown forward in Delville Wood and towards 
High Wood, though their position was not yet secure. 

I cannot speak too highly of the skill, daring, endurance 
and determination by which these results had been achieved. 
Great credit is due to Sir Henry Rawlinson for the thorough- 
ness and care with which this difficult undertaking was 



190 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

planned ; while the advance and deployment made by night 
without confusion, and the complete success of the subse- 
quent attack, constitute a striking tribute to the discipline 
and spirit of the troops engaged, as well as to the powers of 
leadership and organisation of their commanders and staffs. 
During these operations and their development on the 
15th a number of enemy guns were taken, making our total 
captures since the 1st July 8 heavy howitzers, 4 heavy guns, 
42 field and light guns and field howitzers, 30 trench mortars 
and 52 machine guns. Very considerable losses had been 
inflicted on the enemy, and the prisoners captured amounted 
to over 2,000, bringing the total since the 1st July to over 
10,000. 

The New Situation 

16. There was strong evidence that the enemy forces 
engaged on the battle front had been severely shaken by 
the repeated successes gained by ourselves and our Allies; 
but the great strength and depth of his defences had secured 
for him sufficient time to bring up fresh troops, and he had 
still many powerful fortifications, both trenches, villages and 
woods, to which he could cling in our front and on our flanks. 

We had, indeed, secured a footing on the main ridge, but 
only on a front of 6,000 yards; and desirous though I was 
to follow up quickly the successes we had won, it was neces- 
sary first to widen this front. 

West of Bazentin-le-Petit the villages of Pozieres and 
Thiepval, together with the whole elaborate system of 
trenches round, between and on the main ridge behind them, 
had still to be carried. An advance further east would, 
however, eventually turn these defences, and all that was for 
the present required on the left flank of our attack was a 
steady, methodical, step by step advance as already ordered. 

On our right flank the situation called for stronger meas- 
ures. At Delville Wood and Longueval our lines formed a 
sharp salient, from which our front ran on the one side west- 



APPENDIX I 191 

wards to Pozieres, and on the other southwards to Maltz 
Horn Farm. At Maltz Horn Farm our lines joined the 
French, and the Allied front continued still southwards to 
the village of Hem on the Sorame. 

This pronounced salient invited counter-attacks by the 
enemy. He possessed direct observation on it all round 
from Guillemont on the south-east to High Wood on the 
north-west. He could bring a concentric fire of artillery to 
bear not only on the wood and village, but also on the con- 
fined space behind, through which ran the French communi- 
cations as well as ours, where great numbers of guns, besides 
ammunition and impedimenta of all sorts, had necessarily 
to be crowded together. Having been in occupation of this 
ground for nearly two years he knew every foot of it, and 
could not fail to appreciate the possibilities of causing us 
heavy loss there by indirect artillery fire; while it was evi- 
dent that if he could drive in the salient in our line and so 
gain direct observation on to the ground behind, our posi- 
tion in that area would become very uncomfortable. 

If there had not been good grounds for confidence that 
the enemy was not capable of driving from this position 
troops who had shown themselves able to wrest it from him, 
the situation would have been an anxious one. In any case it 
was clear that the first requirement at the moment was that 
our right flank, and the French troops in extension of it, 
should swing up into line with our centre. To effect this, 
however, strong enemy positions had to be captured both 
by ourselves and by our Allies. 

From Delville Wood the main plateau extends for 4,000 
yards east-north-east to Les Bceufs and Morval, and for 
about the same distance south-eastwards to Leuze and Bou- 
leaux Woods, which stand above and about 1,000 yards to 
the west of Combles. To bring my right up into line with 
the rest of my front it was necessary to capture Guillemont, 
Falfemont Farm and Leuze Wood, and then Ginchy and Bou- 
leaux Wood. These localities were naturally very strong, 
and they had been elaborately fortified. The enemy's main 



192 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

second line system of defence ran in front of them from Wa- 
terlot Farm, which was already in our hands, south-eastwards 
to Falfemont Farm, and thence southwards to the Somme. 
The importance of holding us back in this area could not 
escape the enemy's notice, and he had dug and wired many 
new trenches, both in front of and behind his original lines. 
He had also brought up fresh troops, and there was no possi- 
bility of taking him by surprise. 

The task before us was therefore a very difficult one and 
entailed a real trial of strength between the opposing forces. 
At this juncture its difficulties were increased by unfavourable 
weather. The nature of the ground limited the possibility 
of direct observation by our artillery fire, and we were conse- 
quently much dependent on observation from the air. As 
in that element we had attained almost complete superiority, 
all that we required was a clear atmosphere; but with this 
we were not favoured for several weeks. We had rather 
more rain than is usual in July and August, and even when 
no rain fell there was an almost constant haze and frequent 
low clouds. 



The Swinging up of the Flanks 

In swinging up my own right it was very important that 
the French line north of the Somme should be advanced at 
the same time in close combination with the movement of 
the British troops. The line of demarcation agreed on 
between the French commander and myself ran from Maltz 
Horn Farm due eastwards to the Combles Valley and then 
north-eastwards up that valley to a point midway between 
Sailly-Saillisel and Morval. These two villages had been 
fixed upon as the objectives, respectively, of the French left 
and of my right. In order to advance in co-operation with 
my right, and eventually to reach Sailly-Saillisel, our Allies 
had still to fight their way up that portion of the main ridge 
which lies between the Combles Valley on the west and the 



APPENDIX I 193 

River Tortille on the east. To do so they had to capture, 
in the first place, the strongly fortified villages of Maurepas, 
Le Forest, Rancourt, and Fregicourt, besides many woods 
and strong systems of trenches. As the high ground on 
each side of the Combles Valley commands the slopes of the 
ridge on the opposite side, it was essential that the advance 
of the two armies should be simultaneous and made in the 
closest co-operation. This was fully recognized by both 
armies, and our plans were made accordingly. 

To carry out the necessary preparations to deal with the 
difficult situation outlined above a short pause was necessary 
to enable tired troops to be relieved and guns to be moved 
forward; while at the same time old communications 
had to be improved and new ones made. Entrenchments 
against probable counter-attacks could not be neglected, 
and fresh dispositions of troops were required for the new 
attacks to be directed eastwards. 

It was also necessary to continue such pressure on the 
rest of our front, not only on the Ancre but further south, 
as would make it impossible for the enemy to devote himself 
entirely to resisting the advance between Delville Wood and 
the Somme. In addition it was desirable further to secure 
our hold on the main ridge west of Delville Wood by gaining 
more ground to our front in that direction. Orders were 
therefore issued in accordance with the general considera- 
tions explained above, and, without relaxing pressure along 
the enemy's front from Delville Wood to the West, prepara- 
tions for an attack on Guillemont were pushed on. 

17. During the afternoon of the 18th July the enemy 
developed his expected counter-attack against Delville Wood, 
after heavy preliminary shelling. By sheer weight of num- 
bers and at very heavy cost he forced his way through the 
northern and north-eastern portions of the wood and into 
the northern half of Longueval, which our troops had cleared 
only that morning. In the south-east corner of the wood he 
was held up by a gallant defence, and further south three 
attacks on our positions in Waterlot Farm failed. 



194 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

This enemy attack on Delville Wood marked the com- 
mencement of the long closely contested struggle which was 
not finally decided in our favour till the fall of Guillemont 
on the 3rd September, a decision which was confirmed by 
the capture of Ginchy six days later. Considerable gains 
were indeed made during this period ; but progress was slow 
and bought only by hard fighting. A footing was established 
in High Wood on the 20th July and our line linked up thence 
with Longueval. A subsequent advance by the Fourth Army 
on the 23rd July on a wide front from Guillemont to near 
Pozieres found the enemy in great strength all along the line, 
with machine guns and forward troops in shell holes and 
newly constructed trenches well in front of his main defences. 
Although ground was won the strength of the resistance ex- 
perienced showed that the hostile troops had recovered from 
their previous confusion sufficiently to necessitate long and 
careful preparation before further successes on any great 
scale could be secured. 

An assault delivered simultaneously on this date by 
General Gough's Army against Pozieres gained considerable 
results, and by the morning of the 25th July the whole of 
that village was carried, including the cemetery, and im- 
portant progress was made along the enemy's trenches to 
the north-east. That evening, after heavy artillery prepara- 
tion, the enemy launched two more powerful counter-attacks, 
the one directed against our new position in and around 
High Wood and the other delivered from the north-west of 
Delville Wood. Both attacks were completely broken up 
with very heavy losses to the enemy. 

On the 27th July the remainder of Delville Wood was 
recovered, and two days later the northern portion of Lon- 
gueval and the orchards were cleared of the enemy, after 
severe fighting, in which our own and the enemy's artillery 
were very active. 

18. On the 30th July the village of Guillemont and Falfe- 
mont Farm to the south-east were attacked, in conjunction 
with a French attack north of the Somme. A battalion 



APPENDIX I 195 

entered Guillemont, and part of it passed through to the far 
side; but as the battalions on either flank did not reach 
their objectives, it was obliged to fall back, after holding 
out for some hours on the western edge of the village. In a 
subsequent local attack on the 7th August our troops again 
entered Guillemont, but were again compelled to fall back 
owing to the failure of a simultaneous effort against the 
enemy's trenches on the flanks of the village. 

The ground to the south of Guillemont was dominated 
by the enemy's positions in and about that village. It was 
therefore hoped that these positions might be captured first, 
before an advance to the south of them in the direction of 
Falfemont Farm was pushed further forward. It had now 
become evident, however, that Guillemont could not be cap- 
tured as an isolated enterprise without very heavy loss, 
and, accordingly, arrangements were made with the French 
Army on our immediate right for a series of combined at- 
tacks, to be delivered in progressive stages, which should 
embrace Maurepas, Falfemont Farm, Guillemont, Leuze 
Wood and Ginchy. 

An attempt on the 16th August to carry out the first stage 
of the pre-arranged scheme met with only partial success, 
and two days later, after a preliminary bombardment, last- 
ing thirty-six hours, a larger combined attack was under- 
taken. In spite of a number of enemy counter-attacks — the 
most violent of which, levelled at the point of junction of 
the British with the French, succeeded in forcing our Allies 
and ourselves back from a part of the ground won — very 
valuable progress was made, and our troops established them- 
selves in the outskirts of Guillemont village and occupied 
Guillemont Station. A violent counter-attack on Guillemont 
Station was repulsed on the 23rd August, and next day 
further important progress was made on a wide front north 
and east of Delville Wood. 

19. Apart from the operations already described, others 
of a minor character, yet involving much fierce and obstinate 
fighting, continued during this period on the fronts of both 



196 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

the British Armies. Our lines were pushed forward wher- 
ever possible by means of local attacks and by bombing and 
sapping, and the enemy was driven out of various forward 
positions from which he might hamper our progress. By 
these means many gains were made which, though small in 
themselves, in the aggregate represented very considerable 
advances. In this way our line was brought to the crest 
of the ridge above Martinpuich, and Pozieres Windmill and 
the high ground north of the village were secured, and with 
them observation over Martinpuich and Courcelette and the 
enemy's gun positions in their neighbourhood and around 
Le Sars. At a later date our troops reached the defences 
of Mouquet Farm, north-west of Pozieres, and made progress 
in the enemy's trenches south of Thiepval. The enemy's 
counter-attacks were incessant and frequently of great vio- 
lence, but they were made in vain, and at heavy cost to him. 
The fierceness of the fighting can be gathered from the fact 
that one regiment of the German Guards Reserve Corps 
which had been in the Thiepval salient opposite Mouquet 
Farm is known to have lost 1,400 men in fifteen days. 

20. The first two days of September on both Army fronts 
were spent in preparation for a more general attack, which 
the gradual progress made during the preceding month had 
placed us in a position to undertake. Our assault was de- 
livered at 12 noon on the 3rd September on a front extend- 
ing from our extreme right to the enemy trenches on the 
right bank of the Ancre, north of Hamel. Our Allies attacked 
simultaneously on our right. 

Guillemont was stormed and at once consolidated, and 
our troops pushed on unchecked to Ginchy and the line of 
the road running south to Wedge Wood. Ginchy was also 
seized, but here in the afternoon we were very strongly 
counter-attacked. For three days the tide of attack and 
counter-attack swayed backwards and forwards amongst the 
ruined houses of the village, till, in the end, for three days 
more the greater part of it remained in the enemy's pos- 
session. Three counter-attacks made on the evening of the 



APPENDIX I 197 

3rd September against our troops in Guillemont all failed 
with considerable loss to the enemy. We also gained ground 
north of Delville Wood and in High Wood, though here 
an enemy counter-attack recovered part of the ground 
won. 

On the front of General Gough's Army, though the enemy 
suffered heavy losses in personnel, our gain in ground was 
slight. 

21. In order to keep touch with the French who were 
attacking on our right, the assault on Falfemont Farm on 
the 3rd September was delivered three hours before the 
opening of the main assault. In the impetus of their first rush 
our troops reached the farm, but could not hold it. Never- 
theless, they pushed on to the north of it, and on the 4th 
September delivered a series of fresh assaults upon it from 
the west and north. 

Ultimately this strongly fortified position was occupied 
piece by piece, and by the morning of the 5th September the 
whole of it was in our possession. Meanwhile further prog- 
ress had been made to the north-east of the farm, where con- 
siderable initiative was shown by the local commanders. By 
the evening of the same day our troops were established 
strongly in Leuze Wood, which on the following day was 
finally cleared of the enemy. 

22. In spite of the fact that most of Ginchy and of High 
Wood remained in the enemy's hands, very noteworthy 
progress had been made in the course of these four days' 
operations, exceeding anything that had been achieved since 
the 14th July. Our right was advanced on a front of nearly 
two miles to an average depth of nearly one mile, penetrat- 
ing the enemy's original second line of defence on this front, 
and capturing strongly fortified positions at Falfemont Farm, 
Leuze Wood, Guillemont, and south-east of Delville Wood, 
where we reached the western outskirts of Ginchy. More 
important than this gain in territory was the fact that the 
barrier which for seven weeks the enemy had maintained 
against our further advance had at last been broken. Over 



198 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

1,000 prisoners. were made and many machine guns taken or 
destroyed in the course of the righting. 

23. Preparations for a further attack upon Ginchy con- 
tinued without intermission, and at 4.45 p.m. on the 9th 
September the attack was reopened on the whole of the 
Fourth Army front. At Ginchy and to the north of Leuze 
Wood it met with almost immediate success. On the right 
the enemy's line was seized over a front of more than 1,000 
yards from the south-west corner of Bouleaux Wood in a 
north-westerly direction to a point just south of the Guille- 
mont-Morval tramway. Our troops again forced their way 
into Ginchy, and passing beyond it carried the line of enemy 
trenches to the east. Further progress was made east of 
Delville Wood and south and east of High Wood. 

Over 500 prisoners were taken in the operations of the 
9th September and following days, making the total since the 
1st July over 17,000. 

24. Meanwhile the French had made great progress on our 
right, bringing their line forward to Leuze Wood (just south 
of Combles)-Le Forest-Clery-sur-Somme, all three inclusive. 
The weak salient in the Allied line had therefore disappeared 
and we had gained the front required for further opera- 
tions. 

Still more importance, however, lay in the proof afforded by 
the results described of the ability of our new Armies not only 
to rush the enemy's strongest defences, as had been accom- 
plished on the 1st and 14th July, but also to wear down 
and break his power of resistance by a steady, relentless pres- 
sure, as they had done during the weeks of this fierce and 
protracted struggle. As has already been recounted, the 
preparations made for our assault on the 1st July had been 
long and elaborate; but though the enemy knew that an 
attack was coming, it would seem that he considered the 
troops already on the spot, secure in their apparently im- 
pregnable defences, would suffice to deal with it. The suc- 
cess of that assault, combined with the vigour and deter- 
mination with which our troops pressed their advantage, and 



APPENDIX I 199 

followed by the successful night attack of the 14th July, all 
served to awaken him to a fuller realisation of his danger. 
The great depth of his system of fortification, to which refer- 
ence has been made, gave him time to reorganise his defeated 
troops, and to hurry up numerous fresh divisions and more 
guns. Yet in spite of this, he was still pushed back, steadily 
and continuously. Trench after trench, and strong point 
after strong point, were wrested from him. The great major- 
ity of his frequent counter-attacks failed completely, with 
heavy loss; while the few that achieved temporary local 
success purchased it dearly, and were soon thrown back from 
the ground they had for the moment regained. 

The enemy had, it is true, delayed our advance con- 
siderably, but the effort had cost him dear; and the com- 
parative collapse of his resistance during the last few days 
of the struggle justified the belief that in the long run de- 
cisive victory would lie with our troops, who had displayed 
such fine fighting qualities and such indomitable endurance 
and resolution. 

The Situation in Early September 

25. Practically the whole of the forward crest of the 
mam ridge, on a front of some 9,000 yards from Delville 
Wood to the road above Mouquet Farm, was now in our 
hands, and with it the advantage of observation over the 
slopes beyond. East of Delville Wood, for a further 3,000 
yards to Leuze Wood, we were firmly established on' the 
main ridge; while further east, across the Combles Valley, 
the French were advancing victoriously on our right. But 
though the centre of our line was well placed, on our flanks 
there was still difficult ground to be won. 

From Ginchy the crest of the high ground runs northward 
for 2,000 yards, and then eastward, in a long spur, for nearly 
4,000 yards. Near the eastern extremity of this spur stands 
the village of Morval, commanding a wide field of view and 



200 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

fire in every direction. At Leuze Wood my right was still 
2,000 yards from its objective at this village, and between 
lay a broad and deep branch of the main Combles Valley, 
completely commanded by the Morval spur, and flanked, not 
only from its head north-east of Ginchy, but also from the 
high ground east of the Combles Valley, which looks directly 
into it. 

Up this high ground beyond the Combles Valley the French 
were working their way towards their objective at Sailly- 
Saillisel, situated due east of Morval, and standing at the 
same level. Between these two villages the ground falls away 
to the head of the Combles Valley, which runs thence in a 
south-westerly direction. In the bottom of this valley lies 
the small town of Combles, then well fortified and strongly 
held, though dominated by my right at Leuze Wood, and 
by the French left on the opposite heights. It had been 
agreed between the French and myself that an assault on 
Combles would not be necessary, as the place could be ren- 
dered untenable by pressing forward along the ridges above 
it in on either side. 

The capture of Morval from the south presented a very 
difficult problem, while the capture of Sailly-Saillisel, at that 
time some 3,000 yards to the north of the French left, was 
in some respects even more difficult. The line of the French 
advance was narrowed almost to a defile by the extensive 
and strongly fortified wood of St. Pierre Vaast on the one 
side, and on the other by the Combles Valley, which, with 
the branches running out from it, and the slope on each side, 
is completely commanded, as has been pointed out, by the 
heights bounding the valley on the east and west. 

On my right flanks, therefore, the progress of the French 
and British forces was still interdependent, and the closest 
co-operation continued to be necessary in order to gain the 
further ground required to enable my centre to advance on 
a sufficiently wide front. To cope with such a situation 
unity of command is usually essential, but in this case the 
cordial good feeling between the Allied Armies, and the 



APPENDIX I 201 

earnest desire of each to assist the other, proved equally 
effective, and removed all difficulties. 

On my left flank the front of General Gough's Army bent 
back from the main ridge near Mouquet Farm down a spur 
descending south-westwards, and then crossed a broad valley 
to the Wonderwork, a strong point situated in the enemy's 
front-line system near the southern end of the spur on the 
higher slopes of which Thiepval stands. Opposite this part 
of our line we had still to carry the enemy's original defences 
on the main ridge above Thiepval, and in the village itself, 
defences which may fairly be described as being as nearly 
impregnable as nature, art, and the unstinted labour of 
nearly two years could make them. 

Our advance on Thiepval, and on the defences above it, 
had been carried out up to this date, in accordance with my 
instructions given on the 3rd July, by a slow and methodical 
progression, in which great skill and much patience and 
endurance had been displayed with entirely satisfactory 
results. General Gough's Army had, in fact, acted most 
successfully in the required manner as a pivot to the re- 
mainder of the attack. The Thiepval defences were known 
to be exceptionally strong, and as immediate possession of 
them was not necessary to the development of my plans after 
the 1st July, there had been no need to incur the heavy casu- 
alties to be expected in an attempt to rush them. The time 
was now approaching, although it had not yet arrived, when 
their capture would become necessary ; but from the positions 
we had now reached and those which we expected shortly 
to obtain, I had no doubt that they could be rushed when 
required without undue loss. An important part of the 
remaining positions required for my assault on them was 
now won by a highly successful enterprise carried out on 
the evening of the 14th September, by which the Wonder- 
work was stormed. 



202 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 



The Third Stage 

26. The general plan of the combined Allied attack which 
was opened on the 15th September was to pivot on the high 
ground south of the Ancre and north of the Albert-Bapaume 
road, while the Fourth Army devoted its whole effort to the 
rearmost of the enemy's original systems of defence between 
Morval and Le Sars. Should our success in this direction 
warrant it I made arrangements to enable me to extend the 
left of the attack to embrace the villages of Martinpuich and 
Courcelette. As soon as our advance on this front had 
reached the Morval line, the time would have arrived to bring 
forward my left across the Thiepval Ridge. Meanwhile on 
my right our Allies arranged to continue the line of advance 
in close co-operation with me from the Somme to the slopes 
above Combles ; but directing their main effort northwards 
against the villages of Rancourt and Fregicourt, so as to 
complete the isolation of Combles and open the way for 
their attack upon Sailly-Saillisel. 

27. A methodical bombardment was commenced at 6.0 
a.m. on the 12th September and was continued steadily and 
uninterruptedly till the moment of attack. 

At 6.20 a.m. on the 15th September the infantry assault 
commenced, and at the same moment the bombardment 
became intense. Our new heavily armoured cars, known 
as "Tanks," now brought into action for the first time, suc- 
cessfully co-operated with the infantry, and coming as a 
surprise to the enemy rank and file gave valuable help in 
breaking down their resistance. 

The advance met with immediate success on almost the 
whole of the front attacked. At 8.40 a.m. Tanks were seen 
to be entering Flers, followed by large numbers of troops. 
Fighting continued in Flers for some time, but by 10.0 a.m. 
our troops had reached the north side of the village, and by 
midday had occupied the enemy's trenches for some distance 
beyond. On our right our line was advanced to within as- 



APPENDIX I 203 

saulting distance of the strong line of defence running before 
Morval, Les Bceufs and Gueudecourt, and on our left High 
Wood was at last carried, after many hours of very severe 
fighting, reflecting great credit on the attacking battalions. 
Our success made it possible to carry out during the after- 
noon that part of the plan which provided for the capture 
of Martinpuich and Courcelette, and by the end of the day 
both these villages were in our hands. On the 18th Sep- 
tember the work of this day was completed by the capture 
of the Quadrilateral, an enemy stronghold which had hitherto 
blocked the progress of our right towards Morval. Further 
progress was also made between Flers and Martinpuich. 

28. The result of the fighting of the 15th September and 
following days was a gain more considerable than any which 
had attended our arms in the course of a single operation 
since the commencement of the offensive. In the course of 
one day's fighting we had broken through two of the enemy's 
main defensive systems and had advanced on a front of over 
six miles to an average depth of a mile. In the course of this 
advance we had taken three large villages, each powerfully 
organised for prolonged resistance. Two of these villages had 
been carried by assault with short preparation in the course 
of a few hours' fighting. All this had been accomplished 
with a small number of casualties in comparison with the 
troops employed, and in spite of the fact that, as was after- 
wards discovered, the attack did not come as a complete sur- 
prise to the enemy. 

The total number of prisoners taken by us in these opera- 
tions since their commencement on the evening of the 14th 
September amounted at this date to over 4,000, including 
127 officers. 

29. Preparations for our further advance were again 
hindered by bad weather, but at 12.35 P- m - on tne 2 5 tn Sep- 
tember, after a bombardment commenced early in the morn- 
ing of the 24th, a general attack by the Allies was launched 
on the whole front between the Somme and Martinpuich. 
The objectives on the British front included the villages of 



204 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

Morval, Les Boeufs, and Gueudecourt, and a belt of country 
about 1,000 yards deep curving round the north of Flers to 
a point midway between that village and Martinpuich. By 
nightfall the whole of these objectives were in our hands, 
with the exception of the village of Gueudecourt, before which 
our troops met with very serious resistance from a party of 
the enemy in a section of his fourth main system of de- 
fence. 

On our right our Allies carried the village of Rancourt, 
and advanced their line to the outskirts of Fregicourt, cap- 
turing that village also during the night and early morning. 
Combles was therefore nearly surrounded by the Allied forces, 
and in the early morning of the 26th September the village 
was occupied simultaneously by the Allied forces, the British 
to the north and the French to the south of the railway. 
The capture of Combles in this inexpensive fashion repre- 
sented a not inconsiderable tactical success. Though lying 
in a hollow, the village was very strongly fortified, and pos- 
sessed, in addition to the works which the enemy had con- 
structed, exceptionally large cellars and galleries, at a great 
depth underground, sufficient to give effectual shelter to 
troops and material under the heaviest bombardment. Great 
quantities of stores and ammunition of all sorts were found 
in these cellars when the village was taken. 

On the same day Gueudecourt was carried, after the pro- 
tecting trench to the west had been captured in a somewhat 
interesting fashion. In the early morning a Tank started 
down the portion of the trench held by the enemy from the 
north-west, firing its machine guns and followed by bombers. 
The enemy could not escape, as we held the trench at the 
southern end. At the same time an aeroplane flew down 
the length of the trench, also firing a machine gun at the 
enemy holding it. These then waved white handkerchiefs 
in token of surrender, and when this was reported by the 
aeroplane the infantry accepted the surrender of the garri- 
son. By 8.30 a.m. the whole trench had been cleared, great 
numbers of the enemy had been killed, and 8 officers and 362 



APPENDIX I 205 

other ranks made prisoners. Our total casualties amounted 
to five. 

30. The success of the Fourth Army had now brought 
our advance to the stage at which I judged it advisable that 
Thiepval should be taken, in order to bring our left flank 
into line and establish it on the main ridge above that village, 
the possession of which would be of considerable tactical 
value in future operations. 

Accordingly at 12.25 P- m - on tne 2 ^th September, before 
the enemy had been given time to recover from the blow 
struck by the Fourth Army, a general attack was launched 
against Thiepval and the Thiepval Ridge. The objective 
consisted of the whole of the high ground still remaining in 
enemy hands extending over a front of some 3,000 yards 
north and east of Thiepval, and including, in addition to 
that fortress, the Zollern Redoubt, the Stuff Redoubt, 
and the Schwaben Redoubt, with the connecting lines of 
trenches. 

The attack was a brilliant success. On the right our 
troops reached the system of enemy trenches which formed 
their objectives without great difficulty. In Thiepval and 
the strong works to the north of it the enemy's resistance 
was more desperate. Three waves of our attacking troops 
carried the outer defences of Mouquet Farm, and, pushing on, 
entered Zollern Redoubt, which they stormed and consoli- 
dated. In the strong point formed by the buildings of the 
Farm itself, the enemy garrison, securely posted in deep 
cellars, held out until 6.0 p.m., when their last defences were 
forced by a working party of a Pioneer Battalion acting on its 
own initiative. 

On the left of the attack fierce fighting, in which Tanks 
again gave valuable assistance to our troops, continued in 
Thiepval during that day and the following night, but by 
8.30 a.m. on the 27th September the whole of the village 
of Thiepval was in our hands. 

Some 2,300 prisoners were taken in the course of the fight- 
ing on the Thiepval Ridge on these and the subsequent days, 



206 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

bringing the total number of prisoners taken in the battle 
area in the operations of the I4th-30th September to nearly 
10,000. In the same period we had captured 27 guns, over 
200 machine guns, and some 40 trench mortars. 

31. On the same date the south and west sides of Stuff 
Redoubt were carried by our troops, together with the length 
of trench connecting that strong point with Schwaben Re- 
doubt to the west and also the greater part of the enemy's 
defensive line eastwards along the northern slopes of the 
ridge. Schwaben Redoubt was assaulted during the after- 
noon, and in spite of counter attacks, delivered by strong 
enemy reinforcements, we captured the whole of the southern 
face of the Redoubt and pushed out patrols to the northern 
face and towards St. Pierre Divion. 

Our line was also advanced north of Courcelette, while 
on the Fourth Army front a further portion of the enemy's 
fourth system of defence north-west of Gueudecourt was 
carried on a front of a mile. Between these two points the 
enemy fell back upon his defences running in front of Eau- 
court l'Abbaye and Le Sars, and on the afternoon and even- 
ing of the 27th September our troops were able to make a 
very considerable advance in this area without encountering 
serious opposition until within a few hundred yards of this 
line. The ground thus occupied extended to a depth of 
from 500 to 600 yards on a front of nearly two miles between 
the Bazentin-le-Petit, Ligny, Thilloy, and Albert-Bapaume 
roads. 

Destremont Farm, south-west of Le Sars, was carried by 
a single company on the 29th September, and on the after- 
noon of the 1st October a successful attack was launched 
against Eaucourt l'Abbaye and the enemy defences to the 
east and west of it, comprising a total front of about 3,000 
yards. Our artillery barrage was extremely accurate, and 
contributed greatly to the success of the attack. Bomb fight- 
ing continued among the buildings during the next two days, 
but by the evening of the 3rd October the whole of Eaucourt 
l'Abbaye was in our hands. 



APPENDIX I 207 



The October Fighting 

32. At the end of September I had handed over Morval 
to the French, in order to facilitate their attacks on Sailly- 
Saillisel, and on the 7th October, after a postponement ren- 
dered necessary by three days' continuous rain, our Allies 
made a considerable advance in the direction of the latter 
village. On the same day the Fourth Army attacked along 
the whole front from Les Bceufs to Destremont Farm in sup- 
port of the operations of our Allies. 

The village of Le Sars was captured, together with the 
Quarry to the north-west, while considerable progress was 
made at other points along the front attacked. In par- 
ticular, to the east of Gueudecourt, the enemy's trenches 
were carried on a breadth of some 2,000 yards, and a footing 
gained on the crest of the long spur which screens the de- 
fences of Le Transloy from the south-west. Nearly 1,000 
prisoners were secured by the Fourth Army in the course of 
these operations. 

33. With the exception of his positions in the neighbour- 
hood of Sailly-Saillisel, and his scanty foothold on the north- 
ern crest of the high ground above Thiepval, the enemy had 
now been driven from the whole of the ridge lying between 
the Tortille and the Ancre. 

Possession of the north-western portion of the ridge north 
of the latter village carried with it observation over the 
valley of the Ancre between Miraumont and Hamel and the 
spurs and valleys held by the enemy on the right bank of 
the river. The Germans, therefore, made desperate efforts 
to cling to their last remaining trenches in this area, and in 
the course of the three weeks following our advance made 
repeated counter-attacks at heavy cost in the vain hope of 
recovering the ground they had lost. During this period 
our gains in the neighbourhood of Stuff and Schwaben Re- 
doubts were gradually increased and secured in readiness for 
future operations, and I was quite confident of the ability 



208 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

of our troops, not only to repulse the enemy's attacks, but 
to clear him entirely from his last positions on the ridge 
whenever it should suit my plans to do so. I was, therefore, 
well content with the situation on this flank. 

Along the centre of our line from Gueudecourt to the 
west of Le Sars similar considerations applied. As we were 
already well down the forward slopes of the ridge on this 
front, it was for the time being inadvisable to make any 
serious advance. Pending developments elsewhere all that 
was necessary or indeed desirable was to carry on local opera- 
tions to improve our positions and to keep the enemy fully 
employed. 

On our eastern flank, on the other hand, it was important 
to gain ground. Here the enemy still possessed a strong 
system of trenches covering the villages of Le Transloy and 
Beaulencourt and the town of Bapaume; but, although he 
was digging with feverish haste, he had not yet been able to 
create any very formidable defences behind this line. In 
this direction, in fact, we had at last reached a stage at which 
a successful attack might reasonably be expected to yield 
much greater results than anything we had yet attained. 
The resistance of the troops opposed to us had seriously 
weakened in the course of our recent operations, and there 
was no reason to suppose that the effort required would not 
be within our powers. 

This last completed system of defence, before Le Trans- 
loy, was flanked to the south by the enemy's positions at 
Sailly-Saillisel and screened to the west by the spur lying be- 
tween Le Transloy and Les Bceufs. A necessary preliminary, 
therefore, to an assault upon it was to secure the spur and 
the Sailly-Saillisel heights. Possession of the high ground 
at this latter village would at once give a far better command 
over the ground to the north and north-west, secure the flank 
of our operations towards Le Transloy, and deprive the 
enemy of observation over the Allied communications in 
the Combles Valley. In view of the enemy's efforts to con- 
struct new systems of defence behind the Le Transloy line, 



APPENDIX I 209 

it was desirable to lose no time in dealing with the situation. 

Unfortunately, at this juncture, very unfavourable weather 
set in and continued with scarcely a break during the re- 
mainder of October and the early part of November. Poor 
visibility seriously interfered with the work of our artillery, 
and constant rain turned the mass of hastily dug trenches for 
which we were fighting into channels of deep mud. The 
country roads, broken by countless shell craters, that cross 
the deep stretch of ground we had lately won, rapidly be- 
came almost impassable, making the supply of food, stores 
and ammunition a serious problem. These conditions multi- 
plied the difficulties of attack to such an extent that it was 
found impossible to exploit the situation with the rapidity 
necessary to enable us to reap the full benefits of the ad- 
vantages we had gained. 

None the less my right flank continued to assist the opera- 
tions of our Allies against Saillisel, and attacks were made 
to this end, whenever a slight improvement in the weather 
made the co-operation of artillery and infantry at all possible. 
The delay in our advance, however, though unavoidable, had 
given the enemy time to reorganise and rally his troops. His 
resistance again became stubborn, and he seized every fa- 
vourable opportunity for counter-attacks. Trenches changed 
hands with great frequency, the conditions of ground making 
it difficult to renew exhausted supplies of bombs and am- 
munition, or to consolidate the ground won, and so rendering 
it an easier matter to take a battered trench than to hold 
it. 

34. On the 1 2th and 18th September further gains were 
made to the east of Les Bceufs-Gueudecourt line and east 
of Le Sars, and some hundreds of prisoners were taken. On 
these dates, despite all the difficulties of ground, the French 
first reached and then captured the villages of Sailly-Saillisel, 
but the moment for decisive action was rapidly passing away, 
while the weather showed no signs of improvement. By 
this time, too, the ground had already become so bad that 
nothing less than a prolonged period of drying weather, 



210 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

which at that season of the year was most unlikely to occur, 
would suit our purpose. 

In these circumstances, while continuing to do all that 
was possible to improve my position on my right flank, I 
determined to press on with preparations for the exploitation 
of the favourable local situation on my left flank. At mid- 
day on the 2 1 st October, during a short spell of fine, cold 
weather, the line of Regina Trench and Stuff Trench, from 
the west Courcelette-Pys road westward to Schwaben Re- 
doubt, was attacked with complete success. Assisted by 
an excellent artillery preparation and barrage, our infantry 
carried the whole of their objectives very quickly and with 
remarkably little loss, and our new line was firmly estab- 
lished in spite of the enemy's shell fire. Over 1,000 prisoners 
were taken in the course of the day's fighting, a figure only 
slightly exceeded by our casualties. 

On the 23rd October, and again on the 5th November, 
while awaiting better weather for further operations on the 
Ancre, our attacks on the enemy's positions to the east of Les 
Bceufs and Gueudecourt were renewed, in conjunction with 
French operations against the Sailly-Saillisel heights and 
St. Pierre Vaast Wood. Considerable further progress was 
achieved. Our footing on the crest of the Le Transloy Spur 
was extended and secured, and the much contested tangle of 
trenches at our junction with the French left at last passed 
definitely into our possession. Many smaller gains were 
made in this neighbourhood by local assaults during these 
days, in spite of the difficult conditions of the ground. In 
particular, on the 10th November, after a day of improved 
weather, the portion of Regina Trench lying to the east of 
the Courcelette-Pys Road was carried on a front of about 
1,000 yards. 

Throughout these operations the enemy's counter-attacks 
were very numerous and determined, succeeding indeed in 
the evening of the 23rd October in regaining a portion of the 
ground east of Le Sars taken from him by our attack on 
that day. On all other occasions his attacks were broken 



APPENDIX I 211 

by our artillery or infantry, and the losses incurred by him 
in these attempts, made frequently with considerable effec- 
tives, were undoubtedly very severe. 



The Fourth Stage 

35. On the 9th November the long continued bad weather 
took a turn for the better, and thereafter remained dry and 
cold, with frosty nights and misty mornings, for some days. 
Final preparations were therefore pushed on for the attack 
on the Ancre, though, as the ground was still very bad in 
places, it was necessary to limit the operations to what it 
would be reasonably possible to consolidate and hold under 
the existing conditions. 

The enemy's defences in this area were already extremely 
formidable when they resisted our assault on the 1st July, 
and the succeeding period of four months had been spent in 
improving and adding to them in the light of the experience 
he had gained in the course of our attacks further south. 
The hamlet of St. Pierre Divion and the villages of Beau- 
court-sur-Ancre and Beaumont Hamel, like the rest of the 
villages forming part of the enemy's original front in this 
district, were evidently intended by him to form a permanent 
line of fortifications, while he developed his offensive else- 
where. Realising that his position in them had become a 
dangerous one, the enemy had multiplied the number of his 
guns covering this part of his line, and at the end of October 
introduced an additional Division on his front between Grand- 
court and Hebuterne. 

36. At 5 a.m. on the morning of the nth November the 
special bombardment preliminary to the attack was com- 
menced. It continued with bursts of great intensity until 
5.45 a.m. on the morning of the 13th November, when it 
developed into a very effective barrage covering the assault- 
ing infantry. 

At that hour our troops advanced on the enemy's position 



212 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

through dense fog, and rapidly entered his first line trenches 
on almost the whole of the front attacked, from east of 
Schwaben Redoubt to the north of Serre. South of the 
Ancre, where our assault was directed northwards against 
the enemy's trenches on the northern slopes of the Thiepval 
ridge, it met with a success altogether remarkable for rapidity 
of execution and lightness of cost. By 7.20 a.m. our ob- 
jectives east of St. Pierre Divion had been captured, and the 
Germans in and about that hamlet were hemmed in between 
our troops and the river. Many of the enemy were driven 
into their dug-outs and surrendered, and at 9.0 a.m. the 
number of prisoners was actually greater than the attacking 
force. St. Pierre Divion soon fell, and in this area nearly 
1,400 prisoners were taken by a single division at the expense 
of less than 600 casualties. The rest of our forces operating 
south of the Ancre attained their objectives with equal com- 
pleteness and success. 

North of the river the struggle was more severe, but very 
satisfactory results were achieved. Though parties of the 
enemy held out for some hours during the day in strong 
points at various places along his first line and in Beaumont 
Hamel, the main attack pushed on. The troops attacking 
close to the right bank of the Ancre reached their second 
objectives to the west and north-west of Beaucourt during 
the morning, and held on there for the remainder of the 
day and night, though practically isolated from the rest of 
our attacking troops. Their tenacity was of the utmost 
value, and contributed very largely to the success of the 
operations. 

At nightfall our troops were established on the western 
outskirts of Beaucourt, in touch with our forces south of the 
river, and held a line along the station road from the Ancre 
towards Beaumont Hamel, where we occupied the village. 
Further north the enemy's first line system for a distance 
of about half-a-mile beyond Beaumont Hamel was also in 
our hands. Still further north — opposite Serre — the ground 
was so heavy that it became necessary to abandon the attack 



APPENDIX I 213 

at an early stage ; although, despite all difficulties, our troops 
had in places reached the enemy's trenches in the course of 
their assault. 

Next morning, at an early hour, the attack was renewed 
between Beaucourt and the top of the spur just north of 
Beaumont Hamel. The whole of Beaucourt was carried, and 
our line extended to the north-west along the Beaucourt road 
across the southern end of the Beaumont Hamel spur. The 
number of our prisoners steadily rose, and during this and 
the succeeding days our front was carried forward east- 
wards and northwards up the slopes of the Beaumont 
Hamel spur. 

The results of this attack were very satisfactory, especially 
as before its completion bad weather had set in again. We 
had secured the command of the Ancre valley on both banks 
of the river at the point where it entered the enemy's lines, 
and, without great cost to ourselves, losses had been inflicted 
on the enemy which he himself admitted to be considerable. 
Our final total of prisoners taken in these operations, and 
their development during the subsequent days, exceeded 
7,200, including 149 officers. 



The Rest of the British Front 

37. Throughout the period dealt with in this dispatch 
the role of the other armies holding our defensive line from 
the northern limits of the battle front to beyond Ypres was 
necessarily a secondary one, but their task was neither light 
nor unimportant. While required to give precedence in all 
respects to the needs of the Somme battle, they were respon- 
sible for the security of the line held by them and for keep- 
ing the enemy on their front constantly on the alert. Their 
role was a very trying one, entailing heavy work on the troops 
and constant vigilance on the part of Commanders and Staffs. 
It was carried out to my entire satisfaction, and in an un- 
failing spirit of unselfish and broad-minded devotion to the 



214 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

general good, which is deserving of the highest commendation. 
Some idea of the thoroughness with which their duties 
were performed can be gathered from the fact that in the 
period of four and a half months from the 1st July some 360 
raids were carried out, in the course of which the enemy 
suffered many casualties and some hundreds of prisoners 
were taken by us. The largest of these operations was 
undertaken on the 19th July in the neighbourhood of Armen- 
tieres. Our troops penetrated deeply into the enemy's de- 
fences, doing much damage to his works and inflicting severe 
losses upon him. 



The Objects Attained 

38. The three main objects with which we had com- 
menced our offensive in July had already been achieved at 
the date when this account closes; in spite of the fact that 
the heavy autumn rains had prevented full advantage being 
taken of the favourable situation created by our advance, 
at a time when he had good grounds for hoping to achieve 
yet more important successes. 

Verdun had been relieved ; the main German forces had 
been held on the Western front; and the enemy's strength 
had been very considerably worn down. 

Any one of these three results is in itself sufficient to 
justify the Somme battle. The attainment of all three of 
them affords ample compensation for the splendid efforts of 
our troops and for the sacrifices made by ourselves and our 
Allies. They have brought us a long step forward towards 
the final victory of the Allied cause. 

The desperate struggle for the possession of Verdun had 
invested that place with a moral and political importance 
out of all proportion to its military value. Its fall would un- 
doubtedly have been proclaimed as a great victory for our 
enemies, and would have shaken the faith of many in our 
ultimate success. The failure of the enemy to capture it, 



APPENDIX I 215 

despite great efforts and very heavy losses, was a severe 
blow to his prestige, especially in view of the confidence he 
had openly expressed as to the results of the struggle. 

Information obtained both during the progress of the 
Somme battle and since the suspension of active operations 
has fully established the effect of our offensive in keeping the 
enemy's main forces tied to the Western front. A move- 
ment of German troops eastward, which had commenced in 
June as a result of the Russian successes, continued for a 
short time only after the opening of the Allied attack. There- 
after the enemy forces that moved east consisted, with one 
exception, of divisions that had been exhausted in the Somme 
battle, and these troops were always replaced on the Western 
front by fresh divisions. In November the strength of the 
enemy in the Western theatre of war was greater than in 
July, notwithstanding the abandonment of his offensive at 
Verdun. It is possible that if Verdun had fallen large forces 
might still have been employed in an endeavour further to 
exploit that success. It is, however, far more probable, in 
view of developments in the Eastern theatre, that a consider- 
able transfer of troops in that direction would have followed. 
It is therefore justifiable to conclude that the Somme offensive 
not only relieved Verdun, but held large forces which would 
otherwise have been employed against our Allies in the 
east. 

The third great object of the Allied operations on the 
Somme was the wearing down of the enemy's powers of 
resistance. Any statement of the extent to which this has 
been attained must depend in some degree on estimates. 
There is, nevertheless, sufficient evidence to place it beyond 
doubt that the enemy's losses in men and material have 
been very considerably higher than those of the Allies, 
while morally the balance of advantage on our side is still 
greater. 

During the period under review a steady deterioration 
took place in the moral of large numbers of the enemy's 
troops Many of them, it is true, fought with the greatest 



216 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

determination, even in the latest encounters, but the resist- 
ance of still larger numbers became latterly decidedly 
feebler than it had been in the earlier stages of the battle. 
Aided by the great depth of his defences, and by the frequent 
reliefs which his resources in men enabled him to effect, 
discipline and training held the machine together sufficiently 
to enable the enemy to rally and reorganise his troops after 
each fresh defeat. As our advance progressed four-fifths 
of the total number of divisions engaged on the Western 
front were thrown one after another into the Somme battle, 
some of them twice, and some three times ; and towards 
the end of the operations, when the weather unfortunately 
broke, there can be no doubt that his power of resistance 
had been very seriously diminished. 

The total number of prisoners taken by us in the Somme 
battle between the ist July and the 18th November is just 
over 38,000, including over 800 officers. During the same 
period we captured 29 heavy guns, 96 field guns and field 
howitzers, 136 trench mortars, and 514 machine guns. 

So far as these results are due to the action of the British 
forces, they have been attained by troops the vast majority 
of whom had been raised and trained during the war. Many 
of them, especially amongst the drafts sent to replace wastage, 
counted their service by months, and gained in the Somme 
battle their first experience of war. The conditions under 
which we entered the war had made this unavoidable. We 
were compelled either to use hastily trained and inexperi- 
enced officers and men, or else to defer the offensive until 
we had trained them. In this latter case we should have 
failed our Allies. That these troops should have accom- 
plished so much under such conditions, and against an 
Army and a nation whose chief concern for so many years 
has been preparation for war, constitutes a feat of which the 
history of our nation records no equal. The difficulties and 
hardships cheerfully overcome, and the endurance, determina- 
tion, and invincible courage shown in meeting them, can 
hardly be imagined by those who have not had personal 



APPENDIX I 217 

experience of the battle, even though they have themselves 
seen something of war. 



The British Achievement 

The events which I have described in this Dispatch form 
but a bare outline of the more important occurrences. To 
deal in any detail even with these without touching on the 
smaller fights and the ceaseless work in the trenches con- 
tinuing day and night for five months, is not possible here. 
Nor have I deemed it permissible in this Dispatch, much as 
I desired to do so, to particularise the units, brigades, or divi- 
sions especially connected with the different events described. 
It would not be possible to do so without giving useful in- 
formation to the enemy. Recommendations for individual 
rewards have been forwarded separately, and in due course 
full details will be made known. Meanwhile, it must suffice 
to say that troops from every part of the British Isles, and 
from every Dominion and quarter of the Empire, whether 
Regulars, Territorials, or men of the New Armies, have borne 
a share in the Battle of the Somme. While some have been 
more fortunate than others in opportunities for distinction, 
all have done their duty nobly. 

Among all the long roll of victories borne on the colours 
of our regiments, there has never been a higher test of the 
endurance and resolution of our infantry. They have shown 
themselves worthy of the highest traditions of our race, and 
of the proud records of former wars. 

Against such defences as we had to assault — far more 
formidable in many respects than those of the most famous 
fortresses in history — infantry would have been powerless 
without thoroughly efficient artillery preparation and support. 
The work of our artillery was wholly admirable, though the 
strain on the personnel was enormous. The excellence of 
the results attained was the more remarkable, in view of 
the shortness of the training of most of the junior officers, 



218 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

and of the N.COs. and men. Despite this, they rose to a 
very high level of technical and tactical skill, and the com- 
bination between artillery and infantry, on which, above 
everything, victory depends, was an outstanding feature of 
the battle. Good even in July, it improved with experience, 
until in the latter assaults it approached perfection. 

In this combination between infantry and artillery the 
Royal Flying Corps played a highly important part. The 
admirable work of this Corps has been a very satisfactory 
feature of the battle. Under the conditions of modern war 
the duties of the Air Service are many and varied. They 
include the regulation and control of artillery fire by indi- 
cating targets and observing and reporting the results of 
rounds ; the taking of photographs of enemy trenches, strong 
points, battery positions, and of the effect of bombardments; 
and the observation of the movements of the enemy behind 
his lines. 

The greatest skill and daring has been shown in the 
performance of all these duties, as well as in bombing ex- 
peditions. Our Air Service has also co-operated with our 
infantry in their assaults, signalling the position of our 
attacking troops and turning machine guns on to the enemy 
infantry and even on to his batteries in action. 

Not only has the work of the Royal Flying Corps to be 
carried out in all weathers and under constant fire from the 
ground, but fighting in the air has now become a normal 
procedure, in order to maintain the mastery over the enemy's 
Air Service. In these fights the greatest skill and determi- 
nation have been shown, and great success has attended the 
efforts of the Royal Flying Corps. I desire to point out, 
however, that the maintenance of mastery in the air, which 
is essential, entails a constant and liberal supply of the most 
up-to-date machines, without which even the most skilful 
pilots cannot succeed. 

The style of warfare in which we have been engaged 
offered no scope for cavalry action, with the exception of 
the one instance already mentioned, in which a small body 



APPENDIX I 219 

of cavalry gave useful assistance in the advance on High 
Wood. 

Intimately associated with the artillery and infantry in 
attack and defence the work of various special services con- 
tributed much towards the successes gained. 

Trench mortars, both heavy and light, have become an 
important adjunct to artillery in trench warfare, and valu- 
able work has been done by the personnel in charge of these 
weapons. Considerable experience has been gained in their 
use, and they are likely to be employed even more frequently 
in the struggle in future. 

Machine guns play a great part — almost a decisive part 
under some conditions — in modern war, and our Machine 
Gun Corps has attained to considerable proficiency in their 
use, handling them with great boldness and skill. The 
highest value of these weapons is displayed on the defensive 
rather than in the offensive, and we were attacking. Never- 
theless, in attack also machine guns can exercise very great 
influence in the hands of men with a quick eye for oppor- 
tunity and capable of a bold initiative. The Machine Gun 
Corps, though comparatively recently formed, has done very 
valuable work and will increase in importance. 

The part played by the new armoured cars — known as 
"Tanks" — in some of the later fights has been brought to 
notice by me already in my daily reports. These cars proved 
of great value on various occasions, and the personnel in 
charge of them performed many deeds of remarkable valour. 

The employment by the enemy of gas and of liquid flame 
as weapons of offence compelled us not only to discover ways 
to protect our troops from their effects but also to devise 
means to make use of the same instruments of destruction. 
Great fertility of invention has been shown, and very great 
credit is due to the special personnel employed for the rapidity 
and success with which these new arms have been developed 
and perfected, and for the very great devotion to duty they 
have displayed in a difficult and dangerous service. The 
Army owes its thanks to the chemists, physiologists and 



220 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

physicists of the highest rank who devoted their energies to 
enabling us to surpass the enemy in the use of a means of 
warfare which took the civilised world by surprise. Our 
own experience of the numerous experiments and trials neces- 
sary before gas and flame could be used, of the great prepara- 
tions which had to be made for their manufacture, and of 
the special training required for the personnel employed, 
shows that the employment of such methods by the Ger- 
mans was not the result of a desperate decision, but had 
been prepared for deliberately. 

Since we have been compelled, in self-defence, to use 
similar methods, it is satisfactory to be able to record, on the 
evidence of prisoners, of documents captured, and of our 
own observation, that the enemy has suffered heavy casu- 
alties from our gas attacks, while the means of protection 
adopted by us have proved thoroughly effective. 

Throughout the operations Engineer troops, both from 
home and overseas, have played an important role, and in 
every engagement the Field Companies, assisted by Pioneers, 
have co-operated with the other arms with the greatest 
gallantry and devotion to duty. 

In addition to the demands made on the services of the 
Royal Engineers in the firing line, the duties of the Corps 
during the preparation and development of the offensive 
embraced the execution of a vast variety of important works, 
to which attention has already been drawn in this dispatch. 
Whether in or behind the firing line, or on the lines of com- 
munication, these skilled troops have continued to show the 
power of resource and the devotion to duty by which they 
have ever been characterised. 

The Tunnelling Companies still maintain their superiority 
over the enemy underground, thus safeguarding their com- 
rades in the trenches. Their skill, enterprise and courage 
have been remarkable, and, thanks to their efforts, the enemy 
has nowhere been able to achieve a success of any impor- 
tance by mining. 

During the Battle of the Somme the work of the Tunnel- 



APPENDIX I 221 

ling Companies contributed in no small degree to the success- 
ful issue of several operations. 

The Field Survey Companies have worked throughout 
with ability and devotion, and have not only maintained 
a constant supply of the various maps required as the battle 
progressed, but have in various other ways been of great 
assistance to the artillery. 

The Signal Service, created a short time before the war 
began on a very small scale, has expanded in proportion with 
the rest of the Army, and is now a very large organisa- 
tion. 

It provides the means of inter-communication between 
all the Armies and all parts of them, and in modern war 
requirements in this respect are on an immense and elaborate 
scale. The calls on this service have been very heavy, 
entailing a most severe strain, often under most trying and 
dangerous conditions. Those calls have invariably been met 
with conspicuous success, and no service has shown a more 
whole-hearted and untiring energy in the fulfilment of its 
duty. 

The great strain of the five months' battle was met with 
equal success by the Army Service Corps and the Ordnance 
Corps, as well as by all the other Administrative Services 
and Departments, both on the Lines of Communication and 
in front of them. The maintenance of large armies in a great 
battle under modern conditions is a colossal task. Though 
bad weather often added very considerably to the difficulties 
of transport, the troops never wanted for food, ammunition, 
or any of the other many and varied requirements for the 
supply of which these Services and Departments are respon- 
sible. This fact in itself is the highest testimony that can 
be given to the energy and efficiency with which the work 
was conducted. 

In connection with the maintenance and supply of our 
troops, I desire to express the obligation of the Army to the 
Navy for the unfailing success with which, in the face of 
every difficulty, the large numbers of men and the vast quan- 



222 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

tities of material required by us have been transported across 
the seas. 

I also desire to record the obligation of the Army in the 
Field to the various authorities at home, and to the workers 
under them — women as well as men — by whose efforts and 
self-sacrifice all our requirements were met. Without the 
vast quantities of munitions and stores of all sorts provided, 
and without the drafts of men sent to replace wastage, the 
efforts of our troops could not have been maintained. 

The losses entailed by the constant fighting threw a 
specially heavy strain on the Medical Services. This has 
been met with the greatest zeal and efficiency. The gallantry 
and devotion with which officers and men of the regimental 
medical service and Field Ambulances have discharged their 
duties is shown by the large number of the R.A.M.C. and 
Medical Corps of the Dominions who have fallen in the Field. 
The work of the Medical Services behind the front has been 
no less arduous. The untiring professional zeal and marked 
ability of the surgical specialists and consulting surgeons, 
combined with the skill and devotion of the medical and 
nursing staffs, both at the Casualty Clearing Stations in the 
Field and the Stationary and General Hospitals at the Base, 
have been beyond praise. In this respect also the Director 
General has on many occasions expressed to me the immense 
help the British Red Cross have been to him in assisting the 
R.A.M.C. in their work. 

The health of the troops has been most satisfactory, and, 
during the period to which this dispatch refers, there has 
been an almost complete absence of wastage due to disease 
of a preventable nature. 

With such large forces as we now have in the Field, the 
control exercised by a Commander-in-Chief is necessarily 
restricted to a general guidance, and great responsibilities 
devolve on the Army Commanders. 

In the Somme Battle these responsibilities were entrusted 
to Generals Sir Henry Rawlinson and Sir Hubert Gough, 
commanding respectively the Fourth and Fifth Armies, who 



APPENDIX I 223 

for five months controlled the operations of very large forces 
in one of the greatest, if not absolutely the greatest struggle 
that has ever taken place. 

It is impossible to speak too highly of the great qualities 
displayed by these commanders throughout the battle. 
Their thorough knowledge of the profession, and their cool 
and sound judgment, tact and determination proved fully 
equal to every call on them. They entirely justified their 
selection for such responsible commands. 

The preparations for the battle, with the exception of 
those at Gommecourt, were carried out under Sir Henry 
Rawlinson's orders. It was not until after the assault of 
the 1st July that Sir Hubert Gough was placed in charge 
of a portion of the front of attack, in order to enable Sir 
Henry Rawlinson to devote his whole attention to the area 
in which I then decided to concentrate the main effort. 

The Army Commanders have brought to my notice the 
excellent work done by their Staff Officers and Technical 
Advisers, as well as by the various commanders and staffs 
serving under them, and I have already submitted the names 
of the various officers and others recommended by them. 

I desire also to record my obligation to my own Staff at 
General Headquarters and on the Lines of Communication, 
and to the various Technical Advisers attached thereto for 
their loyal and untiring assistance. 

Throughout the operations the whole Army has worked 
with a remarkable absence of friction and with a self-sacrifice 
and whole-hearted devotion to the common cause which is 
beyond praise. This has ensured and will continue to ensure 
the utmost concentration of effort. It is indeed a privilege 
to work with such officers and with such men. 

I cannot close this dispatch without alluding to the 
happy relations which continue to exist between the Allied 
Armies and between our troops and the civil population in 
France and Belgium. The unfailing co-operation of our 
Allies, their splendid fighting qualities, and the kindness 
and goodwill universally displayed towards us have won the 



224 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

gratitude, as well as the respect and admiration, of all ranks 
of the British Armies. 



The Future Prospects 

In conclusion, I desire to add a few words as to future 
prospects. 

The enemy's power has not yet been broken, nor is it yet 
possible to form an estimate of the time the war may last 
before the objects for which the Allies are fighting have been 
attained. But the Somme battle has placed beyond doubt the 
ability of the Allies to gain those objects. The German Army 
is the mainstay of the Central Powers, and a full half of that 
Army, despite all the advantages of the defensive, supported 
by the strongest fortifications, suffered defeat on the Somme 
this year. Neither victors nor the vanquished will forget 
this ; and, though bad weather has given the enemy a respite, 
there will undoubtedly be many thousands in his ranks who 
will begin the new campaign with little confidence in their 
ability to resist our assaults or to overcome our defence. 

Our new Armies entered the battle with the determina- 
tion to win and with confidence in their power to do so. They 
have proved to themselves, to the enemy, and to the world 
that this confidence was justified, and in the fierce struggle 
they have been through they have, learned many valuable 
lessons which will help them in the future. 

I have the honour to be, 

Your Lordship's obedient Servant, 

D. HAIG, 
General, Commanding-in-Chief, 

British Armies in France. 



APPENDIX II 

EXPERIENCES OF THE IV. GERMAN CORPS IN 

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME DURING 

JULY, 1916 

GENERAL SIXT VON ARMIN'S REPORT 

I. English Tactics 

1 . Infantry 

The English infantry has undoubtedly learnt much since 
the autumn offensive. It shows great dash in the attack, 
a factor to which immense confidence in its overwhelm- 
ing artillery probably greatly contributes. The Englishman 
also has his physique and training in his favour. Com- 
manders, however, in difficult situations, showed that they 
were not yet equal to their tasks. The men lost their heads 
and surrendered if they thought they were cut off. It was 
most striking how the enemy assembled and brought up large 
bodies of troops in close order into our zone of fire. The 
losses caused by our artillery fire were consequently large. 
One must, however, acknowledge the skill with which the 
English rapidly consolidate captured positions. 

The English infantry showed great tenacity in defence. 
This was especially noticeable in the case of small parties, 
which, when once established with machine guns in the corner 
of a wood or a group of houses, were very difficult to drive 
out. 

Generally speaking, however, our infantry returned from 

225 



226 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

the fight filled with the conviction that it was superior to 
the English infantry. 

2. Artillery 

Particularly noticeable was the high percentage of medium 
and heavy guns with the artillery, which apart from this was 
numerically far superior to ours. The ammunition has ap- 
parently improved considerably. 

All our tactically important positions were methodically 
bombarded by the English artillery, as well as all known 
infantry and battery positions. Extremely heavy fire was 
continuously directed on the villages situated immediately 
behind the firing line, as well as on all natural cover afforded 
by the ground. Registration and fire control were assisted 
by well organised aerial observation. At night the villages 
also were frequently bombed by aeroplanes. 

3. Cavalry 

The frontal attacks over open ground against a portion 
of our unshaken infantry, carried out by several English 
cavalry regiments, which had to retire with heavy losses, 
give some indication of the tactical knowledge of the Higher 
Command. 

II. Organisation 

4. 'Allotment of Special Formations for the Battle 

The reports on the experience in the Battle of the Somme, 
submitted to Corps H.Q., unanimously agree as to the neces- 
sity for an increased allotment of weapons, means of com- 
munication and transport of all kinds, such as, Flammen- 
werfer, anti-aircraft sections, anti-aircraft machine guns, 
captive balloons, reconnaissance and battle planes, double 
telephone sections, motor-lorries, horse-drawn vehicles, 
motor-cycles, bicycles, light-signalling detachments, wireless 
stations, etc. The heavy fighting has undoubtedly proved 
the great value and the necessity for the allotment of all 



APPENDIX II 227 

these means of warfare. On the other hand, it is not con- 
sidered possible to allot all these permanently to, and as 
part of the war establishment of, Divisions and Corps, on as 
large a scale as is required. 

It is therefore necessary to hold ready in reserve for large 
operations sufficient numbers of additional units of the above 
mentioned description, under Army or General Headquarters, 
just as is done in the case of heavy artillery, battle-plane 
squadrons and pioneer formations, and to place them at the 
disposal of new Corps brought up for the battle. 

In this memorandum a permanent increase of personnel 
and materiel has only been asked for on the scale considered 
necessary for the normal conditions of trench warfare. 

5. Increasing the Staffs 

The composition of the staffs of the Higher Commands, 
which have been reduced during the war, proved inadequate 
in actual fighting. It is necessary to detail to staffs, as soon 
as the nature of the tasks is known, a sufficient number of 
orderly officers, and intelligence and liaison officers. The 
orderly officers are at the disposal of the commander con- 
cerned, chiefly for the collection of intelligence in the front 
line. 

6. Corps Headquarters 

The staffs of the XIV. Reserve Corps and the IV. Corps 
were quartered for several days in the same building. 

They had to share the available telephone communica- 
tions during that time. This caused difficulties, which were 
particularly felt during critical periods in the fighting, when 
all branches of both staffs were working at extremely high 
pressure at the same time. 

7. Drafts in Reserve for the Infantry Companies 

In the 5th Division, a fourth platoon was formed in the 
infantry companies. At first, these reinforcements for re- 



228 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

placing casualties were kept back with the 1st line transport 
(field kitchens). They were sent forward only when the 
losses of the three other platoons made reinforcements neces- 
sary. When they went forward, the fourth platoon took with 
it all that had been found necessary in the particular righting 
(hand grenades, entrenching tools, rations, etc.). This ar- 
rangement proved very successful. 

8. Infantry Pioneer Companies 

The infantry pioneer companies of each infantry regiment 
of the Corps proved of great value. Full use, however, was 
not made of their special training, as the fighting provided 
them with more urgent work. These companies, which con- 
sisted of men of experience and accustomed to work together, 
proved most valuable in the many difficult and unexpected 
problems which continually faced the regiments : — for in- 
stance, in the provision of the front line trenches with the 
materiel necessary for carrying on the fight. 

9. Increase in Machine Guns 

A wish is generally expressed for an increase in the number 
of machine guns. Their value in defence has again been 
shown, particularly in those cases where gaps in our position, 
caused by a long continued, concentrated, heavy artillery 
fire, could not be filled. 

Machine gun reserves, with the necessary men, ought 
undoubtedly to be provided for every Regiment, Brigade 
and Division. On the whole, it is considered to be very 
desirable to have at least 30 machine guns for every infantry 
regiment. 

III. Training 

10. Training 

The instructions based on our previous experience in 
defence and attack all took for granted a carefully constructed 



APPENDIX II 229 

trench system. The troops on the Somme found practically 
no trenches at all. 

The front line, and the ground for a considerable distance 
behind the fighting front, was kept under fire by the enemy's 
artillery; this fire was almost continuous and of a volume 
never before experienced. Several lessons for the training 
of the troops were learnt as the result of this bombardment; 
the most important ones, on which all the troops are agreed, 
are the following : — 

Every individual must be trained to the highest 
possible degree of self-reliance, so that he may know 
how to act during the critical periods of his own or 
the enemy's attacks, when he must generally be left 
to his own resources, and is beyond the control of his 
superiors. 

Crossing ground which is being heavily shelled. 
Training of the infantry in establishing relays of 
runners. 

Increase in the personnel trained in the use of our 
own and captured machine guns (officers and men). 

Training in the use of all kinds of German hand 
grenades. 

Training as many men as possible in the use of 
the enemy's hand grenades. 

Attacks by sectors, according to time table, fol- 
lowing close up to our barrage. Formations organised 
in as great depth as possible to be able to cope with 
surprises. The absolute necessity of this has again 
been proved in attacking in wooded country with a 
restricted range of vision. 

Rapid execution of counter-attacks over open 
ground under different conditions. Bombers in front, 
skirmishers about 10 metres behind them, a number 
of small bodies in support slightly further in rear. 
In wooded country these move in file, otherwise in 
extended order. 

Training in the rapid preparation of shell holes 



230 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

for defence, and in digging trenches by small parties 
in captured ground. Marching in file to form up on 
the tracing tape. 

The employment of improvised materials in con- 
structing defences if prepared materials are not 
available. 



IV. Lessons from the Fighting 

A. CONSTRUCTION OF POSITIONS AND THE DEFENCE 

II. Infantry Positions 

Narrow trenches with steep sides again proved very 
disadvantageous and caused considerably more casualties 
(men being buried) than shallower trenches with a wide 
sole. This result is due to the fact that the splinter effect 
of the majority of English shells is not as good as their 
destructive effect. One regiment is of opinion that the gar- 
rison is better protected if the men lie down or crouch at 
the bottom of the trench without any further cover, than it 
is if the so-called "rabbit-holes" are used. 

A cover trench roughly parallel to the front fire trench 
is not sound. Such trenches are destroyed by the enemy's 
fire at the same time, and in exactly the same way, as the 
actual fire trenches. To obviate this, trenches sited more 
in accordance with the ground, and consequently with certain 
irregularity of trace, are recommended instead of the formal 
type of cover trench hitherto in vogue. 

The Lochmann wire entanglement ("carpet" entangle- 
ment) has not proved satisfactory, as its transport is too 
difficult. A better method is that of screw posts and barbed 
wire, which is cut up into 20-30 metre lengths under cover, 
and then fastened to the posts. 

Curved sheet iron frames are considered a suitable substi- 



APPENDIX II 231 

tute for timber frames, as their elasticity frequently enables 
them to keep out heavy shells. 

12. Artillery Positions 

The English custom of shelling villages heavily, led to 
the adoption of the principle that batteries should never 
be sited in the villages themselves, but at least ioo metres 
away. In this manner the casualties of the artillery were 
considerably diminished. 

The employment of steep slopes for battery positions 
must also be discarded for similar reasons. When not 
possible to site batteries alongside existing fire trenches, etc., 
which are not in use, it has been found best, having regard 
to English methods of fighting, to select sites for batteries in 
open country which is merely concealed from direct observa- 
tion. The main essential is, of course, that such positions 
in the open should be immediately concealed from aeroplane 
observation. Wire netting, tent squares, etc., covered with 
material found on the surface of the ground round the posi- 
tion, have proved useful. As material for the construction of 
dug-outs arrived, a greater degree of security was attained. 

13. Battle Headquarters 

Battle Headquarters, also, when the artillery fire is so 
heavy, should not be sited in villages, on steep slopes, or at 
other points which stand out conspicuously on the ground 
or on the map. In cases where the existing telephone system 
necessitated the utilisation of such unsuitable points as Battle 
Headquarters, it resulted in frequent interruptions in per- 
sonal and telephone traffic by artillery fire, and overcrowding 
in the few available cellars in the villages. 

Staffs when going into their Battle Headquarters must 
see that there are as many clear signboards as possible to 
indicate the way to them. Owing to lengthy searches for 
Battle Headquarters, many casualties have occurred which 
might have been avoided. 



232 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

14. Relief of Infantry and Pioneers 

When troops are relieved in the trenches, it is of the 
utmost importance that the outgoing troops are careful in 
handing over the position. Whenever the tactical conditions 
permit, this should take place on the spot, the various com- 
manders and subordinate commanders meeting together 
for the purpose. At any rate, it is absolutely essential that 
the incoming troops should be thoroughly informed as to the 
tactical situation, by means of personal conferences between 
the outgoing and incoming commanders, with the assistance 
of maps and sketches which will be taken over by the latter. 
A perfectly clear picture must be given of the state of the 
positions, etc., particularly of their weak points, and also 
of any work which it had been intended to carry out, the 
degree of importance attached to it being specified. 

In order that a relief may be properly carried out, it is 
also necessary that the commanders of the incoming troops 
should acquaint themselves, by daylight, with the lie of the 
ground ; it may be necessary to send them on ahead in motor 
cars. The troops, too, must if possible be able to gain a 
general idea of the position while it is still daylight. Reliefs 
must therefore, unless there are cogent reasons against it, 
be begun at dusk and completed during the early hours of 
the night. 

If it is impossible to give the incoming troops an idea of 
the ground beforehand, then detachments of the outgoing 
troops must be left behind in the trenches. It is very im- 
portant that the junction points with other troops should 
be absolutely clearly indicated, as these are so easily forgotten 
when reliefs are carried out under heavy fire. 

Losses on the march up to the trenches can be minimized 
if the stretches of ground which are under fire are crossed in 
as small parties as possible. One Infantry Brigade recom- 
mends that the relief be carried out by platoons, at short 
intervals of time, and considers that the troops should move 
up in file. No hard and fast rules can be laid down. The 



APPENDIX II 233 

choice of the formation in which the troops are to move will 
always depend on the nature of the ground. 

When troops which are advancing are to be relieved, as 
much engineering and constructional material as possible 
must be taken with the relieving troops. In all cases the 
men must carry as many large entrenching tools as they can. 

15. Engagement and Relief of Artillery 

The same principles hold good for the relief of batteries 
as for infantry. If the tactical situation is such that rein- 
forcing batteries have to be brought up at night, without 
having had time to reconnoitre by day, then the want of 
knowledge of the ground must at least be counterbalanced 
by getting into touch as soon as possible with the artillery 
already in position, and by making the fullest possible use 
of the knowledge of the ground which that artillery possesses. 
If the reinforcements come under the orders of Artillery 
Commanders who are already in command in the sector, the 
staffs and officers already engaged must, as soon as it is 
known that reinforcing batteries are to be brought up, be 
detailed to reconnoitre battery positions for the commanders 
who have not yet arrived. The officers who carry out these 
reconnaissances must then be allotted as guides to the new 
batteries when these move up into position. 

16. Distribution of the Infantry 

One of the most important lessons drawn from the Battle 
of the Somme is that, under heavy, methodical artillery fire, 
the front line should be only thinly held, but by reliable men 
and a few machine guns, even when there is always a possi- 
bility of a hostile attack. When this was not done, the 
casualties were so great before the enemy's attack was 
launched, that the possibility of the front line repulsing the 
attack by its own unaided efforts was very doubtful. The 
danger of the front line being rushed when so lightly held 
must be overcome by placing supports (infantry and machine 



234 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

guns), distributed in groups according to the ground, as 
close as possible behind the foremost fighting line. Their 
task is to rush forward to reinforce the front line at the 
moment the enemy attacks, without waiting for orders from 
the rear. In all cases where this procedure was adopted, we 
succeeded in repulsing and inflicting very heavy losses on 
the enemy, who imagined that he had merely to drop into a 
trench filled with dead. 

The essential conditions for success are, therefore, that 
the various formations should be organised in depth but that 
their units should be employed side by side. Only in this 
way is it possible to ensure that a counter-attack in sufficient 
strength and with unmixed units can be made, if the enemy 
has succeeded in penetrating the line, an occurrence which 
cannot always be avoided when the artillery fire is so heavy. 

Even the Company Commander must, in no circumstances, 
neglect to provide himself with a reserve consisting of a few 
groups and, if possible, of machine guns as well. The Sub- 
sector Commanders must also have at all times sufficient 
troops at their disposal to be able at once to drive the enemy 
out, by means of a counter-attack, should he succeed in pene- 
trating into the position. It is self-evident that Regimental 
and Higher Commanders must have complete units at their 
disposal as a reserve. The more troops that are held in 
reserve the better. A considerably greater allotment of 
machine guns by Army Headquarters when troops are 
moved to the battle front is absolutely necessary, as this will 
enable infantry to be held in reserve on a sufficiently large 
scale. The great advantage offered by the increased possi- 
bility of exchanging the garrison of the front line with the 
reserves, is perfectly obvious. 

17. Organisation of the Artillery 

The formation of Corps Artillery was ordered by Army 
Headquarters with the object of avoiding, at any rate as far 
as the more permanent heavy artillery was concerned, the 



APPENDIX II 235 

frequent changes in command, due to the frequent changes 
of the Field Artillery Brigades. From the experience now 
gained, it seems advisable to place a few heavy batteries 
under the Commanders of the Divisional Artillery, in order 
to enable them to carry out all the tasks allotted to them 
as rapidly as possible. 

18. Reserve of Personnel and Materiel for the Artillery 

The supply of fresh guns was usually carried out rapidly. 
Nevertheless, it is very desirable that each Field Artillery 
Brigade should retain a few guns, with their detachments, 
to act as a reserve. Possibly it might be sound only to engage 
two of the three batteries of an Abteilung at first, and to 
retain one in reserve to replace casualties. Heavy batteries 
of four guns should only have three of their guns in posi- 
tion during such critical fighting, in order to have a reserve 
available for immediate use. 

19. Artillery Barrage Fire 

It was found very difficult to form a continuous barrage, 
without gaps, in front of our own lines, owing to the occa- 
sional uncertainty as to the position of our front line, which 
was continually changing during the fighting, the frequent 
changing of batteries, the re-grouping of the artillery which 
was often necessary, the bad conditions for observation, the 
permanent interruption of the telephone communications, 
and the practically continuous heavy fire which was main- 
tained behind our front line. 

Whenever we were successful in establishing such a 
barrage in a comparatively short time, it was entirely due to 
the forward artillery observation officers. The only means 
of communication which these officers possessed, as a rule, 
were light-pistols and runners. By full use of these means 
it was possible to carry out an approximate registration. 
The method employed was for the battery, at the exact time 
previously agreed upon, to open fire with a definite number 



236 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

of rounds on a point which was easy to observe. The fall of 
the shell relative to this point served as the basis of the regis- 
tration for the barrage in front of a specified sector. It was 
necessary to supplement these observations by means of 
personal verbal reports. It was found specially useful for 
artillery observation officers, who relieved each other, to go 
forward twice a day. This, unfortunately, led to heavy 
casualties among artillery officers, but saved the infantry 
many losses. (Regarding the action of the artillery obser- 
vation officers during an attack, see para. IV. C. 34.) 

In cases where it was not possible to register for the 
barrage in the ordinary manner, the employment of various 
natures of shell (time shrapnel, time H.E. shell and percus- 
sion H.E. shell), fired at various ranges, proved to be a 
useful expedient for a barrage. The different effects of the 
various natures of shell at any rate caused the fire to be dis- 
tributed in depth and breadth over a considerable area. The 
disadvantage of this method is the large expenditure of am- 
munition incurred, without which the desired effect cannot 
be obtained. 



20. Barrage Fire of Infantry and Snipers 

Over ground which cannot be observed, and at night, the 
unaimed but horizontal barrage fire of infantry and machine 
guns, during and immediately after critical periods, affords 
rest and protection to troops who are probably shaken for 
the moment, and not only scares the enemy but inflicts losses 
on him. 

The excellent results obtained from selected snipers posted 
at good view points, in trees, etc., are particularly emphasised 
by one Regiment. 

21. Action to Be Taken During Continuous Heavy Shelling 

It has been found to be a good plan, during the continuous 
heavy bombardment of incomplete front line positions, for 



APPENDIX II 237 

the garrison to advance 100-200 metres and to lie down in 
the open without any cover. 

It is advisable for a battery, the position of which has 
been discovered by the enemy, not to change its position in 
such circumstances, but to increase its cover as much as 
possible, as every new battery position is soon discovered 
when the enemy's aerial activity is so great. Further, fre- 
quent changes of position, involving new digging-in and the 
removal of the ammunition during the same night if pos- 
sible, are beyond the strength of the detachments, which 
has already been taxed by continuous firing. 



2.2. Employment of "Green Cross" (Gas) Shell 

The wish expressed in many quarters that the question 
of firing with "green cross" (gas) shell should be left to 
the Artillery Commanders of Divisions, with a view to taking 
better advantage of the tactical situation, could not be ac- 
ceded to, as the employment of this ammunition depends 
too much on the nature of the ground and weather condi- 
tions, which can only be fully appreciated by experts, and 
these were all, in the case in question, at the Army Group 
Headquarters. 

It is, however, sound, if sufficient field artillery is available, 
to allot permanently several batteries for the purpose of firing 
with "green cross" ammunition so as to avoid taking away 
batteries for firing with it from the Divisional Artillery 
Commanders without previous notice, at a time when their 
services are being relied on for the execution of other tasks. 
During the periods when it is not possible to fire with "green 
cross" ammunition (for instance, almost always during the 
day time), the batteries will be at the disposal of Artillery 
Commanders as reinforcements. 

According to apparently reliable information, the effect 
of the "green cross" ammunition was good. 



238 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

23. Bomb-Throwers and Trench Mortars 

The "Priester" bomb-thrower again proved itself to be a 
very effective weapon in the fighting on the Somme. 

Trench mortars, at least the light pattern, should be 
brought up into position at the earliest possible moment, 
even if the trenches are bad or if there are no trenches at all. 
They must not be held in reserve for fear of possible losses. 

24. Strong Points 

The preparation, for subsequent defence, of villages and 
other strong points afforded by the form of the ground 
behind the front line, cannot be begun too soon. Villages 
should be divided into sectors for purposes of defence, and 
should be provided with garrisons, however small these may 
be, and machine guns. Supports and reserves must not be 
quartered in the villages close to the line, owing to the par- 
ticularly heavy shelling to which these are exposed. The 
boundary of a sector should never run through a village. 

25. Retired Infantry Positions and Switch Lines 

The first necessities for retired positions and the extremely 
important diagonal switch lines, are entanglements, dug-outs 
and communication trenches. The number of these positions 
should be increased by continual work, and by making the 
fullest possible use of all available forces. It is always 
possible to dispense with digging the fire trench, which can 
be comparatively quickly constructed. This point must also 
be kept in mind from the start, when constructing retired 
positions in quiet sectors. 

In view of the experience gained, the following scheme 
appears to provide the most practical organisation for the 
construction of retired positions and communication trenches 
while fighting is in progress : — 

In the front-line area (the rearward limits of which vary 
according to the circumstances) the work will be done by 



APPENDIX II 239 

the Divisions. A responsible commander and a party of 
pioneers, who do not change when the Division is relieved, 
will be allotted to each of these positions, etc., to assist the 
Divisions. The working parties detailed by the Divisions 
will be under the command of officers from those Divisions, 
who are responsible for the quantity of work that is done. 
Particular conditions may make it necessary to attach work- 
ing parties to the Divisions to prepare positions, the rapid 
construction of which is of great importance. These must 
be detailed from troops not intended to take part in the 
fighting, otherwise they must be provided from the Divisional 
reserves. It is an established principle that any detachment 
of troops which is holding a position in the rear must work 
at strengthening it. 

The supervision of the Labour formations working at 
night requires much personnel. It is better to avoid the use 
of labour formations in the construction of positions which, 
though only occasionally, are under heavy fire. 

Special officers must be detailed for the construction of 
positions, etc., required in the area behind the lines. These 
will be immediately under the orders of the Army Group or 
of Army Headquarters. In order to furnish the necessary 
labour, pioneer and labour companies must be permanently 
allotted to them, as well as reliefs of other available troops 
and the necessary transport for bringing up materials. 



26. Retired Artillery Positions 

Experience has shown that the important point in the 
construction of artillery positions behind the lines is to begin 
with the construction of observation posts, cable trenches, 
and communication trenches. Battery positions can be con- 
structed by a battery in one night if necessary, provided 
that the materials are available. 



240 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

B. ATTACK 

27. Method of Attack and Time Required 

Insufficiently prepared attacks and counter-attacks nearly 
always fail through being too hurried. 

The greatest care must be taken to differentiate between 
counter-attacks which are undertaken immediately after the 
loss of a length of trench, or of any other section of ground, 
with reserves which are on the spot, and those which are 
ordered by a Higher Commander and for which the reserves 
of a higher formation must be brought up. 

In the latter case, the full time necessary for the prep- 
aration of the attack and the disposition of troops in the 
front line is frequently not sufficiently considered. In this 
respect, it is to be noted that the transmission of orders to 
the front line occupies more time than is often supposed; 
the telephone lines are destroyed, and messengers can only 
work their way slowly through the enemy's barrage. Even 
if the order has reached the front line, it requires some time 
to circulate it and explain the method of carrying out the 
attack and its objective, to the troops, distributed, as they 
are, in groups. Similar difficulties arise in the case of reserves 
which have been brought up. They advance slowly across 
country with which they are generally unacquainted, and 
which lies under heavy fire. The commanders of the reserves 
have to form an idea of the tactical situation, and for this 
purpose are obliged to get into communication with com- 
manders already in the front line. This all requires time and 
creates friction, both of which are increased at night and in 
country where the view is restricted (village or wood). 

In the case of counter-attacks which are to be carried out 
with the aid of strong reserves, a thorough artillery prepara- 
tion is necessary. This, too, requires time. The experience 
of the Battle of the Somme has again and fully confirmed 
the long established principle: — 

A counter-attack must either follow immediately and the 



APPENDIX II 241 

decision to counter-attack must come from the front line 
and the forces for it must be ready to hand before the enemy's 
attack is entirely finished, or the counter-attack must be 
methodically and thoroughly prepared by the artillery and 
carried out with reserves who have been instructed as to the 
tactical situation and the nature of the ground. 

// counter-attacks which, on account of the situation, ought 
to be methodically prepared are hurried, they cost much 
blood and cause the troops to lose their trust in their leaders 
if they fail, which nearly always happens in such a case, 

28. Approach March and Deployment 

Before bringing up troops into the zone of the enemy's 
artillery fire, the commander must obtain a clear idea, by 
means of clever scouts and by his own observation, how the 
enemy's fire is distributed over the ground to be crossed. 
When selecting the route, areas which are hardly or not 
under fire will be taken into consideration rather than the 
nature of the ground and the cultivation. Depressions and 
sunken roads which are invisible to the enemy are, as a rule, 
under such heavy barrage fire that it is not advisable to make 
use of them. Villages which lie in the enemy's zone of fire 
are to be avoided on principle. 

29. Methodical Attack 

An advance to the assault with a simultaneous lifting of 
our own artillery fire has proved extremely successful in 
attack. This was also the case when a definite rate of ad- 
vance for the infantry was settled and our artillery fire was 
lifted step by step, in accordance with this, on a pre-arranged 
time table. Only in cases where the infantry, through lack 
of practice in this new method of attack, pushed right through 
was the progress of the attack checked. 

30. Assaulting Parties 

The detailing of assaulting parties in an attack has proved 
very useful. Their chief advantage lay in the freshness of 



242 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

the specially selected personnel who had not been engaged 
in previous fighting. The careful training beforehand of 
the assaulting parties resulted in these troops proving them- 
selves quite equal to all tasks which fell to their lot in village 
or wood fighting. They felt that they were a body of elite 
troops, which indeed they proved themselves to be. 

31. Attacks in Woods 

When attacking in a wood, it is preferable, instead of the 
usual skirmish lines, following one after the other, to employ 
small assaulting columns following a single line of assault. 

The empoyment of small Flammenwerfer in wooded 
country which is full of obstacles, and in which there is no 
extended view, suffers, in an attack with a distant objective, 
under the disadvantage of the heavy weight of the apparatus. 
It is better to use the Flammenwerfer from a well prepared 
assaulting position and against well defined, close objectives 
which have been previously reconnoitred. 

The "Priester" bomb-throwers have been successfully 
used to clear out shell-holes which could not be reached with 
hand grenades. 

32. Procedure after a Successful Attack 

In order to be able to entrench rapidly and hold captured 
ground, carrying and working parties {see also para. XL, 65) 
must follow the assaulting troops under the leadership of 
energetic officers. 



C. CO-OPERATION OF INFANTRY AND ARTILLERY 

33. Communication between Commanders 

When the Corps was put into battle, the units of the 
troops already engaged were very much mixed. The ar- 
rangements for artillery command were not sufficiently clear 
in all cases. 



APPENDIX II 243 

The bringing up of new Divisions had, on account of the 
tactical situation, to take place as quickly as possible and in 
the dark. Necessary reliefs and movements of troops were 
taking place almost daily. 

Owing to all these circumstances and to faulty telephone 
communications, it was very difficult to establish touch be- 
tween infantry and artillery. In many places it was a long 
time before touch was obtained, greatly to the disadvantage 
of our infantry, which was heavily engaged. The greater 
the difficulties in establishing this absolutely necessary 
touch between infantry and artillery, the greater must be 
the efforts of both sides to secure communication. The best 
means to this end is for the infantry Regimental Commander 
and the Artillery Group Commander to be near each other. 
If this is impossible, their posts must be connected by tele- 
phone as soon as possible, in order that there may be con- 
tinuous change of important information. One artillery 
liaison officer of each of the groups in question (in certain 
circumstances, several groups) must remain continuously 
with the Infantry Regimental Commander. 

34. Communications in the Front Line 

The number and position of artillery observation officers 
{see also para. IV. A. 19) depend on the tactical situation 
and the ground. They must be connected with the sub- 
sector (battalion) Commanders in front of whose sector their 
artillery is working, in order to be able to receive and forward 
rapidly all requests and messages which come from the front 
line. In an attack, artillery observation officers must be 
sufficiently far forward to be able to observe our own front 
line continuously. It is not usually sound for them to 
remain in the foremost firing line. In country with a re- 
stricted view, as was the case in Delville Wood and Longueval 
village, our own front line could only be seen by the artillery 
observation officers if they followed immediately behind the 
foremost line. There still remain, of course, the difficulties 



244 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

of sending back important messages as rapidly as possible, 
especially those with reference to shells which fall short and 
so endanger our own infantry. These difficulties can be over- 
come by means of signals with light-pistols and by orderlies 
(relays), if proper arrangements are previously made, and 
the most reliable officers and orderlies (cyclists) are detailed 
for the responsible task of artillery observation and for the 
delivery of messages during an attack. 

It may, nevertheless, happen that events on the battlefield, 
especially if the fire is as heavy as that in Delville Wood 
and Longueval, may prevent important messages from the 
artillery observers from reaching the fire commander suffi- 
ciently quickly. One Regiment, therefore, has made the very 
valuable suggestion that artillery information centres should 
be pushed forward as an additional safeguard. Battalions 
and companies should be informed of the position of these 
centres, so that the result of their observation and their 
requests can be sent there as well as to the normal centres. 



V. Means of Communication 

35. Telephone Communications 

The existing telephone system proved totally inadequate 
in consequence of the development which the fighting took. 
This was aggravated by the division of the sector hitherto 
held by Stein's Army Group into two separate Army Groups, 
which required the provision of several new lines. The con- 
ditions here were, therefore, particularly unfavourable. But 
in trench warfare difficult conditions must always be reckoned 
with in this relation. It is therefore considered necessary to 
allot a double telephone section to each Division to reinforce 
the Corps Telephone Detachment, and to extend the existing 
lines by means of the stores in reserve, as soon as the Division 
arrives in the front line. The shortage of lines which was 
discovered to exist reacted most disadvantageously on the 



APPENDIX II 245 

communication between the infantry and the artillery, and 
could only be by degrees made good. 

It is advisable as far as possible to avoid erecting lines 
through villages, as they are subject to a heavy fire there. 
If lines start from villages, they should be diverted by the 
shortest route over open fields in the desired direction. 

To enable lines, which have been damaged by shell fire, 
to be repaired as quickly as possible, it has been found useful 
in practice to establish permanent telephone parties in dug- 
outs along the lines ; it is the duty of these parties to test 
the lines frequently and see that they are in working order. 

It is most desirable that the staffs of every field artillery 
regiment and Abteilung, as well as those of every foot artil- 
lery regiment and foot artillery battalion, should be per- 
manently provided with the larger pattern folding telephone 
box, so as to avoid the large number of separate boxes other- 
wise necessary at a regimental, or Abteilung, or battalion com- 
mand post. These take up room and are difficult to super- 
vise properly. 

The usual practice of changing telephone apparatus when 
reliefs were carried out, proved to be a source of very marked 
interruption. It must not take place when the fighting is 
so severe. The outgoing units should hand over their appa- 
ratus to the units which are relieving them. These remarks 
apply particularly to folding telephone boxes, the removal 
of which caused considerable interruption in the service. 

36. Wireless Communications 

It is desirable that light wireless stations should be allotted 
to the staffs of infantry regiments ar d battalions, in order to 
improve the communications in the front area. They could 
be formed from the stores in rese ve. 

37. Run >,ers 

Runners, and the establishment of relays of runners, have 
proved very useful everywhe z. The casualties were com- 



246 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

paratively slight. All important information and orders 
should always be sent in duplicate. One Infantry Brigade 
recommends that ioo metres should be the normal distance 
between the relay stations of runners in the fire zone. 

38. Motor-Cycles and Bicycles 

The Headquarters of Corps, Divisions, and Brigades must 
each have two motor-cycles from the reserve stores placed 
at their disposal when they go into the front line. The 
establishment of motor-cycles proved insufficient for the heavy 
fighting; this deficiency was painfully evident. The estab- 
lishment of ordinary bicycles was also not sufficient for the 
work to be done. 

39. Light-Signalling Lines 

The existing organisation of the light-signalling service 
does not meet requirements. It is considered urgently neces- 
sary that a complete light-signal detachment should be formed 
in each Corps. A total of about 30 signal lamps of medium 
range is required to enable a signal line to be established for 
every infantry regiment and every artillery group. Besides 
these, four light-signal sections, with apparatus of a greater 
range, are required to establish long distance light-signal 
communications in the Divisional sectors. The temporary 
allotment of light-signalling apparatus from reserve stores 
cannot be considered satisfactory, as the full utilisation of 
this method of communication depends mostly on the signal 
stations working well together and with their respective 
command posts. 

Until this urgent demand can be complied with, it is 
suggested that an auxiliary light-signal detachment should 
be formed in each Division by making use of the personnel 
of the search-light sections. It was not possible to employ 
the search-light sections for their proper work in the fighting 
on the Somme. Good results were obtained by an attached 
Division, which had already f rmed an auxiliary light-signal 



APPENDIX II 247 

detachment Another Division of the Corps succeeded in 
forming two auxiliary light-signal stations, and in maintain- 
ing satisfactory communication over a distance of 12 kilo- 
metres by flashes on the horizon, although direct vision was 
not obtainable. The great value of communication by light- 
signalling was made doubly clear by the continual interrup- 
tions of the telephone communications. 

40. Light-Pistol Signals 
The communication between the front line and the artillery 
for the direction of barrage fire was entirely confined to light- 
pistol signals. It was found that three light-pistols per 
company are not enough, and that the ammunition supply 
is too small. It is considered necessary that the establish- 
ment of light-pistols should be at least doubled by additional 
pistols from the reserve stocks, and that a large supply of 
ammunition should be provided before units go into the front 
line. As a result of the difficulties experienced, Corps Head- 
quarters were obliged, when the IV. Corps was relieved, to 
order all light-pistols the which were still available, together 
with their ammunition, to be handed over to its successors, 
although the light-pistols were part of the war establishment. 

41. Balloon and Aeroplane Observation 
The means for providing the artillery with aerial observa- 
tion has proved to be insufficient. It has again been shown, 
as indeed had already been recognised under less difficult 
conditions that it would be a great advantage to add a 
captive balloon and at least two observation aeroplanes to 

re^mentT) Cnt ° f ^ Fkld Artiller ^ Bri 9 ade ( of two 

Matters would not be improved by temporarily allotting 
these important means of obtaining observation, for good 
results can only be attained by continual co-operation be- 
tween the observer and the fire commander. 



248 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

The numerical superiority of the enemy's airmen and the 
fact that their machines were better, were made disagreeably 
apparent to us, particularly in their direction of the enemy's 
artillery fire and in bomb-dropping. 

The English aeroplane observers also made use of sound 
signals to communicate with their batteries while in the air. 
It is very likely possible that a rapid means of communica- 
tion with the batteries can be established in this way; it 
might be very serviceable as a complement to wireless mes- 
sages, which are frequently interrupted. Experiments in 
this direction are being carried out in the IV. Corps. 



42. Anti-Aircraft Measures 

The number of our battle-planes was also too small. The 
enemy's airmen were often able to fire successfully on our 
troops with machine guns, by descending to a height of a 
few hundred metres. The German anti-aircraft gun sections 
could not continue firing at that height without exposing 
their own troops to serious danger from fragments of shell. 
This has produced a desire for the anti-aircraft defences to 
be supplemented by machine guns ; these must, if necessary, 
be supplied from the reserve stocks. A further lesson to 
be learnt from this surprisingly bold procedure on the part 
of the English airmen, is that the infantry make too little 
use of their rifles as a means of driving off aircraft. 

The best defensive weapons among the anti-aircraft guns 
were the batteries of four 10-cm. guns of the foot artillery. 
The anti-aircraft guns mounted on motor-cars are considered 
less useful for the present conditions of fighting than the 
stationary guns, as they continually require new telephone 
connections with the anti-aircraft telephone exchange system 
as they alter their positions. 

It has already been found necessary, even in quiet sectors, 
to fit up some field gun sections as auxiliary anti-aircraft 
defences, to supplement the regular anti-aircraft gun sections. 



APPENDIX II 249 

This was still more necessary in the Battle of the Somme. 
It is desirable that at least one battery of each Field Artillery 
Brigade should be equipped with guns mounted on light field 
howitzer carriages, so as to have guns at hand which can be 
quickly employed either for anti-aircraft purposes or for 
forming a barrage. To make these guns still more useful 
for defence against aircraft, it is also desirable that each Field 
Artillery Brigade be equipped with portable anti-aircraft 
mountings (pivots) for two anti-aircraft gun sections. It 
would be possible to arrange for the transport of these mount- 
ings by the light ammunition column, on two-wheeled 
trailers. 

43. Special Reporting Detachments 

In consequence of the comparative slowness with which 
reports from the front line trenches reach the Higher Com- 
manders when sent by the usual channels, it has been found 
necessary for commanders to make arrangements independ- 
ent of these channels, and to keep themselves informed by 
their own agents of the course of the fighting. For this pur- 
pose the most practical method is the employment of so-called 
"spy-troops" (Spah-Tirupps) as well as the orderly officers 
who go forward from time to time. These special reporting 
detachments consist of one officer and a few picked non- 
commissioned officers and men, equipped with infantry tele- 
phone apparatus, to connect up with existing lines. They 
should choose their own position, so that they can observe 
any particular sector in which fighting is taking place. 

Their duty is to ensure that reports on the progress of the 
fighting reach the commander by whom they have been sent 
out, as quickly as possible, by means of a combined system 
of telephones and runners. To enable these detachments 
to work successfully in action, they should be formed in the 
Divisions during quiet periods, and be thoroughly trained 
in the duties which they have to perform. 



250 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 



VI. Arms 

44. Small-Arms 

Numerous complaints have been received of rifle breech- 
actions being completely clogged with dirt both in attack 
and defence. It is, therefore, advisable to fit a cover over 
the breech of the rifles, like that used in the English Army, 
which can be easily unfastened and then hangs from the 
rifle. 

The 1908 pattern pistol has proved to be a very useful 
weapon for hand-to-hand fighting in villages and woods. It 
is also recommended by several units as a useful weapon for 
machine gun detachments in close fighting. One Field 
Artillery Regiment recommends the adoption of the new 
pattern sword bayonet with saw-edge, which has already 
been experimentally adopted for mounted troops. Auto- 
matic rifles (Musketen) are stated to be useful weapons for 
trench warfare. 

45. Machine Guns 

Machine guns usually have to be brought up over open 
ground under a heavy barrage. The great weight of the gun 
has again proved to be a serious disadvantage under these 
conditions. Even if the gun is dismounted, it is very difficult 
to drag up the heavy sledge over ground which is under fire. 
All regiments are unanimous in recommending the introduc- 
tion of a lighter form of gun-carriage, modelled on that of 
the improvised gun-carriage used by the machine gun marks- 
man sections. One regiment has obtained good results with 
a gun-carriage of its own invention, which is even lighter. 

Complaints have also been received that the ammunition 
boxes and water-jackets of the machine guns are too heavy. 
It is proposed that the lighter boxes and jackets used by the 
machine gun marksman sections should be generally adopted. 

The wheels of the machine gun hand carriages, used by 
the marksman sections, are not strong enough for paved 



APPENDIX II 251 

roads, so that these carriages are not adapted for use on the 
march, but they have proved suitable for bringing the machine 
guns into action, and very useful for the transport of ammu- 
nition, rations and wounded. 

Spare parts for machine guns must be kept in readiness in 
large quantities behind the front line, so that they can be 
brought up to the troops quickly if required. 

46. Hand Grenades 

The hand grenade was the most important infantry 
weapon both in attack and defence. It is universally sug- 
gested that the supply of hand grenades should be increased. 
If it is possible to ensure a supply of different kinds of hand 
grenades, the general opinion is in favour of the use of "Ball" 
and "Egg" grenades for attack, despite their small effect, in 
preference to cylindrical grenades with handles, as a larger 
supply of the two former can be taken into action. 

It would appear advisable to use only one kind of hand 
grenade. This would simplify training in the use of hand 
grenades. In fighting such as we have had on the Somme, 
defence and attack continually alternate. It is not always 
possible to bring up sufficient quantities of the particular 
hand grenade which is best suited to the conditions of the 
fighting at the moment, but as the cylindrical grenade with 
handle is on the whole the most effective, it is recommended 
that this pattern should be universally adopted. 

47. Guns 

The guns of the field artillery proved on the whole to be 
thoroughly satisfactory. Their failure was usually due to 
the ammunition, or to the fact that the number of rounds 
fired was greater than the life of a tube permits. Jams 
were frequently experienced with field guns. These were due 
to steel cartridge cases (manufacturer's mark A.E.G.) and 
brass cartridge cases with steel base (Sp:6i). These car- 



252 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

tridges often jammed when the breech was opened, and could 
only be removed by the use of the rammer. The rate of fire 
was in consequence considerably reduced. Repeated forcible 
opening also damages the breech. It is true that many 
jams may have been due to the fact that the necessary care 
in the storing and handling of ammunition could not be 
observed under the conditions which existed on the Somme. 
The buffer proved to be the weakest point of the howitzer. 
The leather washers burn through and the glycerine runs out. 
The bad working of the buffer affects the sides of the car- 
riage, which are rather weak, so that damage easily occurs. 



VII. Ammunition * 

48. Various Kinds of Ammunition 

A supply of good ammunition of even quality and character 
is an absolute necessity for rapid preparation for action, a 
high rate of fire and accurate shooting, particularly if a bar- 
rage is to be placed close in front of our infantry. 

The long shell of the light field howitzer was supplied with 
five different fuses, of which two kinds had to be fired with 
safety precautions. Fresh registration or ranging is required 
when a change is made from one ammunition to another. At 
critical moments, or in the dark, it is not possible to ascertain 
with what kind of fuse every shell is fitted. This ammunition 
besides is supplied without shell baskets. It is therefore dif- 
ficult, and takes time, to bring the reserves of long shell up 
to the guns. 

The old pattern of field gun ammunition has proved 
efficient. 

The use of the "green cross" ammunition is very hard 
on the guns, for in consequence of the limited possibilities of 
using it, a great quantity of ammunition has to be expended 
in a short time. For example, a light field howitzer battery 
fired over 3,500 rounds of this ammunition in 24 hours. 



APPENDIX II 



253 



49. Expenditure of Ammunition 

The average daily expenditure of ammunition per gun 
during the whole period of the fighting was : — 



Field guns 

Light field howitzers . 
Heavy field howitzers . 


. . 145 1 

. 170 
. . 119 


*ou 

It 
a 


10cm. guns .... 
(21-cm.) mortars . 


. . 118 


u 



The small expenditure of (field) gun ammunition is to be 
attributed to the small supplies available. Instructions had to 
be issued to the troops to be economical with (field) gun shell. 

The highest daily average expenditure per gun reached 
during the period of fighting in the Army Group for the 
different kinds of guns was : — 



Field guns . . . 
Light field howitzers . 
Heavy field howitzers . . 


. 322 rounds 

• 479 " 

• 233 " 


10-cm. guns ..... 
(21-cm.) mortars .... 


. 321 " 
. n6 " 



The following quantity of ammunition is considered neces- 
sary : — 



Battery. 



Field guns , 

Light field howitzers 

Heavy field howitzers 

10-cm. guns , 

(21-cm.) mortars (2 mortars) 



In the Battery 
position. 



2200 rounds. 
2200 „ 
1400 „ 
1600 „ 
300 „ 



In reserve with 
the Division. 



500 rounds. 
500 „ 
300 „ 
400 „ 
80 „ 



In reserve with 
the Corps. 



2200 rounds. 
2200 ,, 
1400 „ 
1600 ,, 
300 „ 



Large quantities of ammunition can only be provided 
near the battery by extensive distribution in the surrounding 



254 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

country. Carrying ammunition over long distances by men 
must be avoided, as their endurance is fully taxed day and 
night by firing and entrenching. The more ammunition is 
collected near the battery position, the more will be exploded 
by being hit. Another result of storing large quantities of 
ammunition in the battery position is that, on changing 
position, a large part of it must be left behind in the old 
position, the subsequent removal of which, if indeed this is 
possible, can only be accomplished with the greatest difficulty. 

50. Ammunition Supply 

The supply of artillery ammunition of all kinds, during 
the first days of the battle, did not equal the great expendi- 
ture. Reserve supplies were only available in very small 
quantities. On the 14th July an English attack took place, 
which necessitated a great expenditure of ammunition. It 
was impossible to replenish the supply in the battery positions 
from the ammunition brought up by the L. of C, or from the 
ammunition depots of the Army Groups, to such an extent 
as to ensure that the requirements for the next day would 
be met. The Army Group was compelled to ask for ammu- 
nition from Stein's Army Group, and this had to be partly 
brought up by night, under difficult conditions, from the 
advanced ammunition depots of the two Divisions nearest 
to the Army Group in the North. 

From the 15th July onwards, the supply of ammunition 
was better. The amount sent up to the batteries was made 
up by supplies from the L. of C. in such quantities that, as a 
general rule, the amount of ammunition laid down in para. 
49, as being necessary in the battery positions and in reserve 
with the Divisions, was always available. The Army Group 
was also able to collect gradually a small reserve of ammuni- 
tion (exclusively field-gun ammunition), but the supply was 
never sufficient to make good the expenditure in the event of 
the railway being blocked for one or two days. The lack of 
gun ammunition was always felt, and large reserves were 



APPENDIX II 255 

never available. It is true that Army Headquarters always 
succeeded in bringing up the gun ammunition trains quickly, 
and sending the ammunition from these trains to the battery 
positions, but a block on the railway might have had serious 
consequences. It is absolutely necessary to place so much 
ammunition at the disposal of the Army Groups that the 
above mentioned "iron rations" are available in the battery 
positions, and in the Divisional and Corps ammunition depots. 

The supply of ammunition was arranged for by Corps 
Headquarters as far as the Corps and Divisional depots. 
Motor-lorries, artillery ammunition columns, and infantry 
ammunition columns, supply parks and supply columns 
equipped with heavy country carts, were all under one or- 
ganisation. As soon as the arrival of the trains was an- 
nounced, the columns were despatched to the detraining 
stations. The means of transport were sufficient. The Di- 
visions had at their disposal the battery and light ammu- 
nition columns, one supply park or supply column, and in 
some cases a foot artillery ammunition column as well. 

Motor-lorry columns have been very efficient, and have 
carried out their duties very satisfactorily. The allotment of 
the country carts to the columns which were used as a 
temporary measure to bring up artillery ammunition, proved 
a practical arrangement. 

There should be ammunition depots for a large quantity 
of ammunition close to the detraining stations. In addition, 
light railways are required from the detraining stations to 
the depots. These were not provided, and consequently a 
large quantity of ammunition was piled up along the railway 
lines immediately beside the detraining station. 

VIII. Engineer Stores 

51. Pioneer Park Detachment 

A pioneer park detachment must be available in every 
Corps to take over the management of the parks and the 



256 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

supply of engineer stores, as soon as the Corps is moved into 
a new position. Until an establishment for it is approved, 
the detachment must consist of troops drawn from the Corps, 
but it must be formed before the Corps takes up its new posi- 
tion. The Pioneer Commander must have a suitable officer at 
his disposal, who will be in charge of the supply of stores ; he 
should not, if possible, be on the establishment of any pioneer 
unit. The park detachment must be sent to its sphere of 
action as soon as the employment of the Corps is decided 
upon. In the interest of the troops, only specialists should 
be attached to it. 

The officer in charge of the supply stores must be able to 
move about, so that he can take personal action quickly 
should blocks occur. A small motor-car should, therefore, 
be allotted to him. 



52. Pioneer Parks and the Supply of Engineer Stores 

A special pioneer railhead for pioneer stores must be pro- 
vided. In order to facilitate supervision and traffic, ammu- 
nition and food supplies should not be unloaded at this 
station if possible. Entire trains loaded with pioneer stores 
must be brought up to ensure an ample supply. This will 
also obviate the necessity of shunting at the stations in the 
zone of operations. 

To enable him to send pioneer stores quickly up to the 
parks, the officer in charge of stores must have sufficient 
transport at his disposal; motor-lorries from the reserve 
depots are most suitable. Each Divisional Pioneer Park 
must have half a motor-lorry column at its disposal. Horse- 
drawn vehicles are only to be used in cases of emergency, 
owing to their limited capacity and speed. 

In front of the Divisional Pioneer Parks, small regimental 
parks containing pioneer stores, rations, and the most im- 
portant articles of equipment, must be pushed forward for 
the battle and established in convenient positions, distributed 
along the front immediately behind the trenches. The fur- 



APPENDIX II 257 

ther forward these regimental parks are, the better for the 
fighting troops who have to fetch their material from them. 
They should be under the supervision of officers or senior 
non-commissioned officers. It is the duty of the regimental 
store officers to see that the parks are constantly kept filled. 



IX. Clothing and Equipment 

53. Steel Helmets 

The steel helmets, issued immediately before and during 
the battle, gained a great reputation among the troops in a 
very short time. It is considered desirable to equip artillery 
observers and anti-aircraft posts with steel helmets. 

54. Jackets and Footgear 

Owing to the fact that the buttons down the front of 
officers' jackets are now covered up, it is impossible to attach 
field glasses and pocket torches to them. For the assaulting 
parties lace boots and puttees proved satisfactory. 

55. Packs 

Generally speaking, the knapsack has proved superfluous 
in such critical fighting, both in defence and attack. The 
fighting kit is sufficient. A sandbag converted into a knap- 
sack, in addition to the haversack and jacket and trouser 
pockets, has proved useful for taking a larger amount of 
supplies into the fighting line. 

56. Water Bottles 

It has been found necessary, during hard fighting, to 
supply infantry with large tin water bottles (capable of being 
slung) from the reserve depots, in order to carry a double 
supply of water, as infantry fighting in the front line suffers 
more from thirst than from hunger. 



258 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

57. Entrenching Tools 

Repeated requests from all arms for an increased supply 
of entrenching tools must be met by their provision from 
the reserve depots behind the battle sector. 

58. Hand Stereo-Telescopes 

It is very desirable that the troops be supplied with hand 
stereo-telescopes, as they are easy to carry, and are there- 
fore more convenient than stereo-telescopes or semi-stereo- 
telescopes for observers during heavy fighting. 

59. Maps 

The original supply of maps was insufficient, not only as 
regards quantity but also as regards detail. The latter was 
particularly apparent, owing to the fact that during the 
unfavourable conditions for observing which prevailed, firing 
had at first to be carried out chiefly by the map. Even if it 
could not be expected that all the numerous battery positions 
(which in comparison to the original front in June, are well 
behind the line) could be reconnoitred and fixed before- 
hand, it would nevertheless have been of advantage if a 
large number of points on the ground in question had been 
fixed and inserted on the maps. The subsequent supply of 
maps was also inadequate. 

60. Illuminating Material 

Arrangements can be made for the troops to have at their 
disposal a sufficient supply of illuminating material, by the 
issue of a certain quantity from the reserve supply of paraffin, 
lights, and spare batteries for electric pocket lamps. For 
the artillery, illumination is absolutely essential when firing 
at night, to enable it to distinguish the reference points, to 
set fuses, etc. 



APPENDIX II 259 



X. Horses and Vehicles 

61. Horses and Vehicles 

The horses have stood their strenuous exertions compara- 
tively well. This may be attributed to the fact that oats 
were available in considerable quantities. 

The supply of horses and vehicles to the troops has reached 
the utmost limits owing, on the one hand, to the permanent 
reduction in the establishment of horses and, on the other 
hand, to the permanent increase in righting material and 
articles of equipment. 

For bringing up trench material and sending forward 
food and ammunition at times when there are heavy demands 
for transport, it is very desirable that Divisions should be 
allotted motor-lorries and sections of horse-drawn columns 
from the reserve supply. 

In the case of machine guns, the absence of spare horses, 
which had been struck off the establishment, was badly felt. 
In one machine gun company all the riding horses, including 
that of the Company Commander, had, owing to the lack of 
spare horses, to be used as draught horses. 



XL Food Supply 

62. Rations 

It is necessary that fresh troops going into the line, when 
the precise state of the battle is uncertain, should be supplied 
with the 3rd iron ration. All troops were unanimous in their 
request for increased supplies of bread, rusks, sausage, tinned 
sausages, tinned fat bacon, tinned and smoked meat, and 
tobacco, in addition. There was also urgent need for solidi- 
fied alcohol for the preparation of hot meals. 

In various quarters, the necessity for a plentiful supply 
of liquid refreshments of all kinds, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, 



260 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

mineral waters, etc., is emphasised still more. On the other 
hand, the supply of salt herrings, which increase the thirst, 
was found to be, as a general rule, very undesirable. There 
is no necessity for an issue of alcoholic drink in warm and 
dry weather. 

Similar requests for improved rations, suited to the pre- 
vailing conditions, when in position, were made by the ar- 
tillery. 

63. Canteen Stores 

The fact that individual batteries of a field artillery 
Abteilung are often, for tactical reasons, some little distance 
apart, and the supply wagons are engaged in bringing up 
rations, has the result that the field artillery is in a less 
favourable position than the infantry as regards the supply 
of canteen stores, which are carried on the supply wagons of 
the Abteilung staffs. A large number of other units, by 
regulation, carry no canteen stores with them, and have to 
depend upon the friendly assistance of other troops. It is 
therefore necessary, on principle, that infantry units should 
allow the sale of canteen goods to artillery units, etc. 

64. Ration Supply 

No special difficulties arose. The supply columns proved 
sufficient. The Corps arranged for rations to be brought up 
to the Divisional depots. 

65. Carrying up Rations 

The formation of carrying parties (see also para. IV. B. 
32) was of great use in bringing up rations and also in sup- 
plying troops with ammunition and stores. Wherever infan- 
try pioneer companies were not used for this purpose, those 
carrying parties were formed within companies ; this has the 
advantage of the feeling of camaraderie which prevails be- 
tween such carrying parties and their fighting troops. 

During a battle, it is advisable to provide each battery with 
four "food-carriers" from the reserve supplies. 






APPENDIX II 261 



XII. Medical Services 

66. Reliefs 

The medical units of the Corps went into the line with 
the Divisions. The reliefs necessitated by this proved very 
useful, and this arrangement is preferable to taking over 
medical units already in the line and belonging to other Corps, 
when the latter are relieved. The duties of the medical 
services during continuous fighting in trench warfare are so 
strenuous, that the medical personnel urgently requires relief 
at the same time as the troops. Furthermore, the medical 
personnel takes greater pleasure in its difficult task and car- 
ries it out with more devotion if it is assisting the forma- 
tion to which it belongs. 

The relief of a field ambulance presents, it is true, many 
difficulties. It is best for the incoming personnel to arrive 
in the morning and for the outgoing personnel to leave 
during the afternoon of the same day. Should both parties 
be spending the night in the same place, the outgoing per- 
sonnel must, if necessary, bivouac, in order that the quarters 
may be at the disposal of the personnel on duty. 

67. Motor-Ambulances 

The attaching of a motor-ambulance column to the Army 
Group proved itself very useful. In this connection it was 
found sufficient to place only a small proportion of the cars 
at the disposal of the casualty clearing stations (Hauptver- 
b and plat z e) . The majority must be kept together so as to 
have a supply of cars available for use wherever they are 
most needed for the moment. This motor-ambulance reserve 
was principally used to transport cases to hospital trains. 

68. Stretcher Bearers 

It was of great advantage that before the Corps was sent 
into line, 50 stretcher bearers had been trained in each of 



262 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

the Divisional Field Recruit Depots, and were still there at 
the time the Corps went in. The great demand for stretcher 
bearers, which was universal, was in this way met to a certain 

extent. 

69. Communication between Medical Units 

Telephone communications also assumed great importance 
in consequence of the wide distribution of the medical ar- 
rangements. It is desirable that the Regulations should point 
out the importance of having ample telephone communi- 
cations between all the various medical units in the line, so 
that these are not neglected until all the other telephone 
communications have been provided. 



XIII. Billeting and Traffic behind the Front 

70. Billeting 

Owing to troops in the front line being constantly re- 
lieved, a frequent change of Town-Majors was necessary. 
In the case of extensive billeting, difficulties occurred owing 
to Town-Majors having first to acquaint themselves with the 
billeting conditions whenever troops moved in, and, further, 
agricultural products, special buildings and orders in force 
could not be properly handed over. Permanent Town- 
Majors must be appointed for villages in the areas in which 
the columns and trains are working, and in the rear por- 
tions of the Divisional billeting areas. 

At times when there is no great activity at the front, 
arrangements must be made for the construction of large 
wooden sheds in the back areas to accommodate men and 
horses. 

71. Military Police 

The police service behind the front is of the utmost im- 
portance. During any protracted fighting, men of sufficient 
authority and energy should be posted on all roads leading 
to the rear from the battle zone. Points of concentration 



APPENDIX II 263 

for suspects should be arranged by the Divisions as close as 
possible to the dressing stations and casualty clearing stations. 
In the villages behind the fighting line, not only should there 
be a strict control on all exits, but an internal control should 
also be inaugurated. Detailed regulations should be issued 
by the Town-Ala j or, who will appoint sergeant-majors and 
other personnel for carrying out this service. 

72. Road Traffic 

Regulation of traffic on all roads is the duty of the Field 
Mounted Police, assisted by cavalry. Each Division should 
have at least one through road allotted to it whenever possible. 

XIV. Railways 

73. Railway Buildings 

The fighting front of the Army Group Stein (later Armin) 
was at first dependent on the railway station at Bapaume 
for the whole of its supplies. This station was complete and 
well constructed. During the first days of the operations, 
the railway buildings came under fire; trains could only 
run into Bapaume during the night, and the detraining sta- 
tion could no longer be used. The stations under construc- 
tion further to the rear were not yet complete. In addition 
to the detraining stations required in normal times, well 
constructed detraining stations must be provided so far 
back that, even if the first or second line has to be aban- 
doned, the enemy's artillery will not be able to shell them 
(about 13 kilometres). 

Even in quiet times, all railway construction must be car- 
ried out from this point of view, taking into consideration 
the fact that, during operations on a large scale, at least three 
times the usual number of men must be provided for. The 
wish expressed by the troops that railways should be pro- 
vided to facilitate the transport of material to the front line 
trenches, and that the pioneer depots, sawmills, etc., which 



264 THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 

in normal times are close to the front, should be connected 
by railways, is easily understood. On no account, however, 
should comprehensive railway establishments further in rear 
be neglected ; during the battle period these ensure supplies, 
although during quiet periods their importance is not so 
apparent. 

All such railway stations must be provided with long 
sidings for ammunition, pioneer, supply and hospital trains. 
In addition, each siding will be provided with good roads 
to and from it, and good dumping places. 

74. Detraining Personnel 

During important operations, the detraining personnel must 
be permanent. The changes in commanders and men de- 
tailed from the front for this duty, caused by the continual 
reliefs of the fighting troops, had a very disturbing effect, 
and every one of these men is urgently required in the 
front line. The work at the detraining stations requires 
a staff with knowledge of local conditions, under the leader- 
ship of an experienced and energetic official. Insufficient 
staff is the cause of slow detraining, congestion at the stations, 
and blocks in the traffic along the whole section of the line. 

One officer provided with a motor-car must be made re- 
sponsible for the whole of the detraining arrangements. 

(Signed) SIXT v. ARMIN, 

General Officer Commanding. 





D 


Buchan , 


John 










545 


The 


battle 


of 


the 


Somme 




S7P8^ 













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