Falfemont Farm

Falfemont Farm

The attack on Falfemont Farm was made by three battalions of 15 Brigade, 5th Division. The 1st Norfolks were immediately handicapped by the inability of the French on their right to leave their trenches. The right of the 1st Norfolks was therefore devastated by machine-gun fire from the Combles ravine (Oakhanger Wood). The attacks failed. However, on the left of the 1st Norfolks one company of the 1st Cheshires managed to work their way round to the north-western face of the farm enclosure under the protection of the spur's shelter. From the north-west the 1st Bedfordshires bombed their way down the German trench, capturing many Germans who were driven towards the 1st Cheshire's men. The 1st Bedfords captured 130 prisoners, mostly from the 164th Regiment, as well as a number of machine-guns.. By 4.00 pm the northern and western parts of the farm’s enclosure had been captured. A further attempt to storm the farm at 5:30 pm was a failure and it was then decided that the 16th Royal Warwicks would sap towards the farm overnight. Whilst this process, continued the 1st Norfolks pushed into the remaining parts of the farm not yet captured and then sent patrols to clear the area down towards Point 48 to the south-east. The farm was finally taken in the early hours of the 5th September.

Extract from Philp Gibbs, one of Britain's greatest war correspondents witnessed numerous German Counter attacks…"Counter-attack!" came the order from the German staff, and battalions of men marched out obediently to certain death, sometimes with incredible folly on the part of their commanding officers, who ordered these attaches to be made without the slightest chance of success.

I saw an example of that at close range during a battle at Falfemont Farm, near Guillemont. Our men had advanced from Wedge Wood, and I watched them from a trench just south of this, to which I had gone at a great pace over shell-craters and broken wire, with a young observing officer who had been detailed to report back to the guns. (Old "Falstaff", whose songs and stories had filled the tent under the Red Cross with laughter, toiled after us gallantly, but grunting and sweating under the sun like his prototype, until we lost him in our hurry.) Presently a body of Germans came out of a copse called Leuze Wood, on rising ground, faced round among the thin, slashed trees of Falfemont, and advanced toward our men, shoulder to shoulder, like a solid bar. It was sheer suicide. I saw our men get their machine-guns into action, and the right side of the living bar frittered away, and then the whole line fell into the scorched grass. Another line followed. They were tall men, and did not falter as they came forward, but it seemed to me they walked like men conscious of going to death. They died. The simile is outworn but is was exactly as though some invisible scythe had mown them down.”

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