The Devons, were originally stationed in a front line trench in-front of a small copse on top of a steep bank for some months, with the German front line about 200m in front of them, with support trenches and the heavily defended village of Mametz 800m beyond. The British bombardment of the German front line, which began a week prior to the “big push”, had wrought a fierce retaliation in their sector, destroying the Devons’ front-line trenches, meaning new support trenches had to be built some 250 yards to the rear, which became the trenches from which the Devons would now have to advance at zero-hour, July 1st.
A Captain Duncan Martin, a native of Brockenhurst in Hampshire, and of the 9th Devons, having surveyed the topography, and reconnoitered the German trench system around Mametz, accurately predicted that the moment the Devons left the cover of the, now heavily bombed, front line trench, and emerged almost in single file around the perimeter of the small piece of woodland known as Mansel Copse, and advanced northwards down a slope and across the open Valle Saint-Martin towards Mametz, they would be exposed to rapid fire from a machine gun emplacement in “Shrine Alley”, a German reserve trench dug in front of a civilian cemetery on the outskirts of the village. About 600m away and directly in-front of Mansel Copse.
So concerned was Captain Martin for his troops, he made a model of the topography for his senior officers, pinpointed the exact location of the machine gun post and predicted the slaughter to come...