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Leipzig Salient

Leipzig Salient

The ‘Lonsdales’ at the Leipzig Salient…At zero hour, the 16th and 17th Highland Light Infantry led the assault on the Leipzig Salient and took the tip of it before the Germans had time to leave their dugouts. They were unable to progress beyond this, due to the volume of fire from the second line, the Hindenburg Stellung, and the Wundt (wonder) Werk Strongpoint, whose wire was uncut and whose machine guns had time to go into action. They were able, though, to hold and secure the Granatloch (this proved to be the northmost bite into the German lines that day!).

At 08.30, the Lonsdales left their positions in Authuille Wood as reserve for the 97 Brigade, they were supposing that the Leipzig salient was by now in British control. They left the wood and the plan was to advance up the communication trenches alongside the track from the wood to the quarry, to the front line. These trenches were Chequerbent Street to the east and Kersall/Chowbent Street to the west. On the day these trenches were full of wounded from the initial assault, and were registered by German Artillery. The Lonsdales left Birtle Post on the wood's edge and crossed open country, still about 500 yards behind the British front line. They came under enfilade fire almost immediately and their dead and wounded were strewn across the open ground, before they even reached the front line. The German strongpoint of the Nordwerk had enfilade fire over this area, as the attack on these positions by the 8th division had not made any impact. This, combined with the decision to only lightly engage the southern facing edge of the Leipzig Salient - for fear of catching the more northerly attacking troops in friendly crossfire, meant the Lonsdales walked into the teeth of some very heavy fire as soon as cover was left. It was now Colonel Machell decided to go forward and lead those of his men that had made the front line, over the top. He was killed almost immediately, as were most of the Lonsdales that were left, in No-Mans Land. Some of them however, made it across to the Granatloch where they held it with a mixture of remnant soldiers from all the attacking battalions. These men even tried to advance over the top and bomb their way towards the Wundt Werk and the maze of trenches that included the Bull's Eye but found the volume of fire too much and were forced to defend the 'bite' they had as several counter attacks were launched from the Hindenburg Stellung and the Bulls Eye. This they did….

Another version has it that at 'Zero hour’ on July 1st 1916 was 07.30 and the Lonsdales were to follow the Highland light Infantry battalion who went over first half an hour later. They were to march out of trenches in Authuille Wood and link up with the tail end of the Highland Battalion, then execute a 90 degree turn to face the Leipzig Salient. This manoeuvre left them open to enfilade fire at all times, if, as was the case, any German soldiers survived the bombardment. At 08.30 Col. Machell, gave the order to move out and the Lonsdales shook hands and, cheering and singing, went over the top to meet their date with destiny. As soon as they got into open ground beyond the wood deadly enfilade fire ripped their ranks to shreds, strewing the brave Lonsdales all over the open ground.

Col. Machell, made his way forward on seeing this, but was killed as he stood on the parapet, urging them on, as Major Diggle was wounded, soon they were leaderless. The Lonsdales however, pressed on and some actually made it to join with the Highlanders, although most were strewn all over No Mans Land, their last fight fought....'

Of the 800 men and 28 officers who advanced out of Authuille Wood that day, 500 men and 23 officers failed to attend roll call the next day, either killed or wounded.

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