A very fine day! The 4th Division had an objective to take at a distance of about 3600 yards away. The objective was the ridge between GRAND COURT and PUISIEUX-au-Mont. The 11th Brigade which went forward first had as its objective the last trench of the German front system, named MUNICH TRENCH. The 10th and 12th Brigade had to move forward at a given time after the 11th Bde has had sufficient time to gain 'their' objective, to pass through the 11th Bde and gain the final objective along the Ridge. The whole attack was arrange by time, working in hours from zero. The 29th (Gallipoli) Division attacked on our right, and the 31st (New Army) Division on our left.
Zero was arranged for 7.30 am. From 5.30 am onwards there was a very intense bombardment concentrated on the German trenches in front. At 7.30 am the 11th Brigade moved forward from our front line trenches in waves.
By 8.45 am, no message had come through from the 11th Brigade, nor from Bde HQ. However, it was time for us to move forward to the patrols under Lt Harrison left the assembly trenches and advanced. Almost at once, heavy hostile machine gun fire commenced, fire coming chiefly from the direction of BEAUMONT-HAMEL, and Lt Harrison was badly wounded. (He died of wounds 5 days later at Doullens).
Our telephone wire to Brigade HQ being at that time out of order, two orderlies were sent there for orders. As they had not arrived back by 9 am, the hour appointed for the battalion to advance, the remainder of the Battalion moved forward. A Coy in the centre, C on the elft, B on the right moved in waves of platoons. D coy followed as company in reserve. The 12th Brigade advanced on our left, the 2nd Essex being next to us. The 2nd Royal Dunblin Fusiliers did not move forward with us, and keeping back, awaiting further orders from the Brigade.
On coming into view of the German trenches, the Battn came under heavy machine gun fire from the front and the direction of BEAUMONT-HAMEL. A gun firing from the front trench opposite the REDAN was later silenced by our Lewis gunners from behind, but owing to its fire, the rear company was ordered to cross the German trenches 150 yards south of the REDAN.
After passing the German front, parties pushed forward and reached the 3rd line between points 62 and 94.
Other parties of our men may have reached MUNICH TRENCH but there was no possible communication and none returned. It will be understood the 11th Brigade had failed to reach their objective, owing to very heavy machine gun fire, and by this time, we were right in away them. Their casualties were very severe, and they had already lost their Brigadier, General Prowse (died of wounds) and all four commanding officers (killed).
The Germans were holding their 1st, 2nd and 3rd lines on our right and left. Attempts were made to consolidate the ground gained. The enemy made determined bombing attacks on both our fflanks. These attacks were held in check as long as the supply of bombs lasted, and it was not until heavy losses had been inflicted on our advanced parties that the 3rd line was given up. This took place about 1pm.
By 11 a, there were only 5 officers left with the battalion, and casualties were proportionately heavy in the ranks. During the evacuation of the 3rd line, a large number of men of various regiments went right back to our trenches. It was at this juncture that no 68 Drummer Ritchie repeatedly jumped into the parapet of a German trench, and sounded the charge, with the idea of courageing those warriors how had lost their leaders. This gallant action in addition to his gallant conduct throughout the whole day gained him the Victoria Cross.
The next position held was about point 77. While there, Lt Buckworth, one of the regiment attaced to the 10th Bde M G Coy, came up and reported that he had a machine gun and 1 stokes gun in action just south of point 92 on our left. From there he was able to enfilade the Germans in their front line trenches north of point 87. It was soon after this that Lt Buckworth was severely wounded and last seen.
While holding the above position near point 77 as many bombs as possible were collected from casualties, and messages were sent back for further supplies, but as none arrived and the enemy continued to bomb our flanks, the line was finally withdrawn at about 5pm to the original German front line, position extending from pt 56 to pt K.35 C.5.8.
At this time, there were about 40 men of this Battn left, in addition to two platoons of the regt coy which were unable to advance from our trenches onto the south side of the REDAN. On arrival in the German front line, this trench was consolidated by double blocking the flanks, and at about 5.30pm, a supply of bombs arrived by carriers, and bomb depots were established on the flanks. After this the enemy made no serious attack and was easily driven back when he attempted to bomb us. Orders were received at 5.15pm to return to our line as soon as possible, after dark if necessary. It was considered that to wait till dark before leaving, in order to avoid casualties and to enable us to evacuate as many wounded and as much material as possible. A message was also sent back asking for stretcher bearers to be sent in. Several of the wounded were evacuated before dark and also a number of men from other battalions of the 11th and 12th Brigdaes returned to our lines.
At about 7pm, 2 platoons of the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers arrived with a good supply of bombs, and the right flank which we had consolidated was handed out to them. Th eother 2 platoons which were to follow went astray and got caught up by the enemy's artillery barrage which was sent across No Man's Land from about 10pm to 11.30pm.
At about 9pm, two messages, J22 and H18, were received from the 10th Brigade. The first contained orders to hold on at all costs and the other contained orders to return to our own lines. These messages were not timed, but both were brought by the same orderly. It was decided that J22 was the later of the two as the 1/RIF had been sent up to relieve us so therefore waited for the remaining 2 platoons of the 1/RIF to arrive. This they did about 1 am on the 2nd, and we returned to 1 SUNKEN ROAD in Q.3.a as previously ordered, taking with us what wounded we could find in the dark and all the material the men could carry. At this time, the enemy was quite inactive, so that the relief was completed without further loss.
[This account was taken from the report on the action by Capt J. E. Laurie, DSO, captain & adjutant]
Meanwhile, the 1st reinforcements left BERTRANCOURT at 8pm and following the same route as the battalion from BEAUSSART arrived in the TENDERLOIN about 10pm. They remained there for an hour or more, awaiting further orders, and then moved back to the SUNKEN ROAD. The men were put in a trench running along the last edge of The Road about 300 yards S of the SUCRERIE. Colonel Hopkinson who had during the later part of the day been wounded in the face and shoulder, Captain Laurie the adjutant and Captain Gordon of B coy with what remained of the battalion arrived at this point into the SUNKEN ROAD about 2 am.
Very great tribute was paid to the battalion by all who took part in the day's fighting and very particularly to Colonel Hopkinson, the adjutant and Captain Gordon who hung on for several hours, commanding and encouraging men, not only the remaining few of their own battalion but also men of every unit in the Division who having lost their own leaders left themselves in charge of Col Hopkinson and fought most gallantly. In due course, the Colonel and the adjutant were awarded the DSO, Captain Gordon the Military Cross and also CSMs [illegible] and Aitken of B and D companies respectively whereas 59 K. Mcleod of A company, who was left very early in the day as his senior NCO in his company, when all his officers and senior NCOs had been killed was awarded a truly well earned DCM.
The casualties were very heavy and the proportion of killed among the officers was particularly severe. The very large majority of the casualties especially those of the officers occurred during the first two hours of the day's fighting.
The casualties among officers were
Capt G. E. Baird
Sillars (3rd A&S High'rs)
Brown E. G.
D A Conner
M H Blackwood
W Harrison (died of wounds)
Capt A. W. Somerville
2/lt A. Bomthorne
D. A. Phillipps
J. A. Mckimmel
Capt Th B Goulding, RAMS
Lt A S C Jamieson
Wounded & duty
Lt Col J. O. Hopkinson
Wounded & missing
Capt M Macwath
2/lt J. R. Mackenzie
In addition to th eofficer casualties serving with the battalion, the following officers, who belonged to the Battn but were detached became casualties:
Capt G. N. Alison, killed. 10th Bde M. G. Company
Lieut C. R. Buckworth, wounded and missing, believed killed
Lieut J. N. Lowe, wounded and missing, believed killed
Lieut R. S. Paterson, wounded, 10th Bde Grenade School
The bodies of captain Alison, 2/lts Williamson, Broom, Buchanan, Blackwood and 25 other ranks were collected in due course and were side by sided in a large British cemetery, 200 yards NW of the SUCRERIE K. 32. d.
12 officers killed
1 died of wounds
1 wounded (at duty)
1 missing believed killed
5 wounded (at duty)