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Friday, 1 July 2011

War Diary Entry: July 1st 1916

The bombardment began again early & became more intense. At 7.20am the mine under Hawthorn Redoubt went up. As this mine contained 20 tons of ammonal (4 times larger than any single mine we have put up during the war) everyone cleared out of our dugouts in that part of the line. It made quite a good show, masses of earth going up in the air. The crater was immediately rushed by a party of 86th brigade.

After the explosion our Brigade began to file out of the trenches and form up in no man's land. A certain amount of machine gun fire was at once opened on them. At 730am the barrage lifted and the whole line advanced on the german 1st line, while the reserve companies moved forward out of our trenches. Very heavy machine gun fire was immediately opened on them. It looked as though a number of our people (the SWB on the left & RIF on the right of the line in the front line) were pushing through their frontline. One party of RIF were seen to place their bridge over the German 1st line, look down into the trench and then pass on. About 10 minutes later the 2 reserve battns (Borders on the left and KOSBs on the right) moved out of our 2nd & 3rd lines and advanced across the open swept by machine gun fire. About 745am flares began to go up in the Station Road. As this was the signal that the leading troops had reached their objective, things looked quite satisfactory. It was then seen that a number of Germans were still in their front line showing themselves and shooting at the men lying out in no mans land. This looked as though we had passed over their 1st & 2nd line without leaving enough men to deal with the Bosch as he emerged from his deep dugout. After waiting some time to see if the leading battns would send back a number of men to mop these up, the Newfoundland & Essex Battns were ordered forward to clear the frontline and pass through the 87th Bde. During this period it was reported that parties of the 87th had been seen fighting down by Beaumont Hamel cemetery and the station buildings. The Newfoundland battn started across the opne and was mown down by MG fire. the Essex were somewhat later, and I believe only 2 companies advanced and they met the same fate. By now no mans land was a mass of killed and wounded, and the Germans were firing at them with guns, rifles and machine guns. They also shelled our frontline very heavily with 5.9" HE shells. This trench was already packed with killed and wounded. Orders were then received that a fresh bombarment would be carried out after which the Worcesters (88th Bde) would assault the trenches about 1245pm. The bombardment started, but at the time laid down for the attack nothing happened.The Worcesters had been quite unable to get up the communication trenches into the frontline all of which were blocked with killed and wounded. The 88th bde were then told to report when the Worcesters were ready in position to attack. Fortunately shortly after the attack was cancelled, as it was bound to have met the same fate as the previous one. The afternoon was spent trying to clear the trenches of casualties and reorganise the battns (their remnants) of the 87th & 88th Brigades. It was subsequently sicovered that hardly a single man had reached the German frontline and that te best part of 6 battns were lying out casualties in no mans land. all the afternoon the Germans bombarded our front line. the 88th bde took over the front line and the 87th Bde collected their remnants in St Johns Road. this account only refers to what happened on the 87th Bde front (about 1000 yds).
During the night about 300 unwounded men of the brigade were collected, most of whom had crawled back from no mans land, including about 6 officers of about 80 who had gone over the parapet. A large number of the wounded were got in including a number of officers. Raikes (SWB) came in about 10.30pm, he had previously been reported killed. Welch (KOSBs) had fortunately not taken his hd qrs forward so was all right, all other COs and adjutants were killed or wounded.Every battn had left behind in billets 10% of their men & all officers over and above 22 per battn. With these and the survivors by morning (2nd) we had collected some 700 men. The 36th Divn on our right made no headway this side of the Ancre but S of it they went straight through the the German 3rd line. In the afternoon they were counter-attaked and driven back to the Germans 1st system of which they still hold a part. The 86th Bde got into the German line in places, I believe, but by the evening they were all in their own lines.

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