Longueval

Longueval (+ Waterlot Farm)

The Scottish Division objective was to take the high ground of Bazentin Ridge, between Bazentin le Grant and Longueval. This also included taking control of the ridge road and Deville Wood behind Longueval village. By doing so, the British forces would occupy the high ground on the ridge and expose German positions to our artillery. In detail, the objective was…To advance from the British front lines to Longueval village 2.5 miles away….To continue into and through Deville Wood a further 0.3 miles…And to then extend the line eastwards a further 0.35 miles along the ridge road.

The 8th Black Watch, alongside with Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, was with the 26th Brigade of the 9th Scottish Division, on the east flank. Also, with the 9th was the 27th Brigade, including the Royal Scots, on the west flank.

The advance was along a 1500 yard long front. All this was across fairly open ground that had been subjected to a lengthy artillery bombardment and was visible to the German positions on the ridge. These positions, although heavily bombarded, were well constructed and provided the German troops with excellent protection. It allowed them to emerge from their bunkers and man the machine gun posts, protecting the down-slope over which the 9th Scottish Division would have to advance.

The German defences consisted of: Two barbed wire lines, 15 yards apart and 30 yards wide. The wire was double and triple thickness and between 3-5 feet high.

The front line consisted of three defensive lines 150 yards apart. These had been reinforced with trenches 20-30 feet deep and concrete firing positions.

The first line lay along the front of the village and ridge road; the second was within Deville Wood; and the third behind that and outside the range of British artillery.

At 0300 hours on 14th July 1916, under cover of darkness 26 Brigade move through “no man’s land” to within 400 yards of the German first line in front of Longueval. At 0325 the attack begins and by 1000 Longueval village is taken. The southeast corner holds out until 1700. At 1300 patrols of Deville Wood are met with resistance (the second line) and fall back to the village. German bombardment of the village continues throughout the night.

At 1100 on 15th July 1916, heavy bombardment begins and a counter-attack from the northwest (Deville Wood) is beaten off. The village is under constant bombardment and casualties are high.

On 18th July 1916, the 8th Black Watch sees more hard fighting. The Germans retake part of the village, but a counter attack drove them back and took part of Deville Wood. However, they were then outflanked and had to withdraw, with heavy casualties.

On 19th July 1916, the positions were reinforced by the South Africans and 8BW can withdraw.

The opening strength of 8th Black Watch was 739 men. Between 9th to 19th July, 110 were killed or died of wounds and 458 were missing or wounded. Of 739 men, 6 officers and 165 men – only 23% – marched out.

Three battalions of the 1st South African Brigade were also to attack Delville Wood, while the 1st Battalion continued as a reinforcement of the 26th and 27th brigades in Longueval. They were ordered to take the wood at all costs and that his advance was to proceed, even if the 26th and 27th Brigades had not captured the north end of the village. On the approach, instructions were received to detach two companies to the 26th Brigade in Longueval and sent B and C companies of the 4th Battalion. The 2nd Battalion reached a trench occupied by the 5th Camerons, which ran parallel to the wood (South Street?) and used this as a jumping-off line for the attack at 6:00 a.m

The attack met little resistance and by 7:00 a.m. the South Africans had captured the wood south of Prince's Street.Two companies were sent to secure the northern perimeter of the wood. Later during the morning, the 3rd Battalion advanced towards the east and north-east of the wood and by 2:40 a.m. It was reported that the wood had been secured except for a strong German position in the north-western corner adjoining Longueval. The South African Brigade began to dig in around the fringe of the wood, in groups forming strong–points supported by machine–guns. The troops carried spades but digging through roots and remnants of tree trunks, made it impossible to dig proper trenches and only shallow shell scrapes could be prepared before German troops began to counter-attack the wood. These counter attacks were repulsed, but reinforcements were needed as the Germans were massing in the North of the wood.  As night fell German high explosive and gas shelling increased in intensity and a German counter-attack began at midnight with orders to recapture the wood at all costs. The attack was made by three battalions from the 8th and 12th Reserve divisions and managed to reach within 50 yds, before being driven under cover by artillery and machine-gun fire. Later that night, fire into Delville Wood, from four German Feldartillerie brigades, reached a rate of 400 shells per minute! (The SA 1st Brigade was ordered to capture the north-west part of Delville Wood at all costs and then to advance westwards to meet the 27th Brigade, as it attacked north and north–eastwards through Longueval. The advance began on 16 July at 10:00 a.m. but the casualties had reduced the weight of the attack, which was repulsed by the German defenders. The 27th Brigade advance were pinned down in the village by machine-gun fire from an orchard in the north end of Longueval. The survivors fell back to their trenches midway in the wood and were bombarded for the rest of the day. The situation became desperate and was made worse by an attack by Infantry Regiment 153) TBC...

Waterlot Farm was in reality a Sugar Refinery, it lies half way between Guillemont and Longueval. The farm was a heap of ruins, but gave sufficient cover to install machine gun emplacements giving enfilade on any approach to Longueval from any direction except North. A British assault was made on the farm on the 15th July by the 5th Camerons (26th Brigade, 9th Div) supported by half of the 4th South African Regiment. After many attacks and struggles, the Germans were driven out but a German Artillery barrage delayed a permanent hold on the area until the 16th Cheshires took it on the 17th July, inflicting heavy casualties on three separate German counter-attacks. 

Mametz Wood

The Attacks on Mametz Wood July 1916.....................................................................................The 38th (Welsh) Division moved down from its training area on 1st/2nd July to Acheux, they hadn’t taken part in the Bog Push on the 1st July, but had undergone extensive training. One thing they were not trained for was how to capture a wood by means of a frontal attack with the enemy firmly entrenched within it, having numerous machine gun emplacements strategically placed.

The 38th relieved the 7th Division in the line from Caterpillar Wood to Bottom Wood. The following day the 17th Division took over from the 7th Division at Bottom Wood and and the area a little to the North, whilst the 38th Division occupied Marlborough Wood and the Western half of caterpillar Wood.

The 115th Brigade (38th Division) was to lead the assault. Taking cover from the confines of Caterpillar Wood, they soon reached the open ground and were met with enfilade fire from Flat Iron Copse and Sabot Copse, areas of woodland just a few hundred metres from the ‘Hammerhead’ of the Wood. They had to go to ground. They received support but they couldn’t get within 250m of the wood. They were ordered to withdraw.

On the 9th July an attempt was made to attack the Southern part of the wood, but again this came to an abrupt end due to the mud, water and debris.

It was decided to attack with the whole Division. A creeping barrage preceded the attack. The attack was made from White trench, south of the Wood. 113th Brigade on the left and 114th Brigade on the right. Objectives being the narrower Southern part of the wood and up to the ‘Hammerhead’. The 114th managed to gain entry into the woods, they dug in under enemy fire, the fallen trees, branches and tree roots making it very difficult. The support Battalion heading up towards the ‘Hammerhead’ but the attack was resisted. There were many dead.

The 113th Brigade attack was a little late and the men were caught by heavy fire from Strip Trench and other trenches to the West of the wood. They managed to push on to the first objective. The reserve Battalion were sent forward and eventually both wings received reinforcements. Many German prisoners were taken. The units joined up to attack further North in to the wood, attacks towards the ‘Hammerhead’ and the Western side of the wood were made but unsuccessful. Fighting was confused in the now shattered wood. Hidden German machine gun posts and artillery caused horrendous casualties. Limbs were torn from bodies, not just from shell fragments but from torn fragments of branches and tree trunks. It was mayhem with men firing wildly at no specific target. Hand to hand fighting ensued and no quarter was given or received. It was gruesome with many a bayonet piercing men on both sides. The ‘Hammerhead’ eventually was subjected to a heavy bombardment by Stokes Mortars, which helped the 114th seize it. The Western side was also a struggle, orders were received to take Wood Support Trench which ran across the re-entrant of the wood behind Wood Trench itself. Aided by Bombers, this was eventually captured as the Germans surrendered.

A general advance of all 3 Brigades commenced through the Wood, spasmodic hard fighting began to push the Germans towards the North of the wood. However, machine gun fire from the German second lines, halted the advance, and the men dug in. The men needed rest, food and water and relieved by other units of the 115th Brigade. The wood needed to be taken and fighting continued. Attacks were repulsed by a German barrage and the depleted battalions had to withdraw some 140 m. These Battalions were relieved, and the wood was finally cleared of all German resistance. Official History puts the 38th Division number of dead at nearly 4000.

The wood remained calm but the urgent task of burying the dead was paramount. It was a horrendous undertaking with bodies and parts of bodies intertwined with the branches and pulverized tinder. The weather was warm and the stench was unbearable. Thousands of bodies were buried in that wood on 15th July…

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