Maricourt

Maricourt

During the first week of January 1916 the British 30th Division took over the front line in front of Maricourt Wood. With the 17th and 20th Bn's Kings Liverpool's being the right-hand troops of the British Army joining with the French Army at a point known as Chem des Anglais on the northern edge of Maricourt Wood. Although it was supposed to be a quiet sector 5,000 German shells were fired on the Divisional area in 24 hours on the 28th January, followed by a raid of 100 Germans on the 29th. By June 1916 plans were being finalised for the joint French and British 'Big Push' and on the 24th June the preliminary bombardment of the Germans trenches, Faviere and Hardecourt began.

After 7 days of the largest bombardment ever known in warfare by the combined artillery of the French and British, the day had arrived for the infantry to do their bit. The British 30th Division were to attack north from Maricourt with the objective of Montauban with Dublin Redoubt and the Briqueterie strong points on the right. The French 39th Division's objectives were Dublin Redoubt, Bois Faviere, Bois d'en Haut and Hardecourt if things went well.

The infantry assault by the French 39th Division and the British 30th Division was launched at the same time 07:30. Where the British and French lines met at the Chem des Anglais, Lt Col Fairfax CO of the 17th Kings Liverpool's and Commandant Le Petit CO of 3e Battalion 153e Reg, left the trench together with the second wave in a sign of unity. The individual Battalions advanced to their objectives, both assisting each other in the capture of the Dublin Redoubt. The rest of the French 39th Division, commanded by General Nourrisson, attacked under the cover of a river mist, towards Bois Faviere and Hardecourt. They quickly over ran the German 6th Bavarian Reg, in Adolf and Faviere British & French wounded Maricourt July 1916trenches, they then advanced into what remained of Bois Faviere, where they were engaged in fierce hand to hand fighting, the Germans who held onto the bottom north eastern corner of the wood. By midday the situation was so satisfactory that Gen. Nourrisson proposed to attack Hardecourt, but he abandoned the idea after four German counter attacks were launched from Hardecourt, all of which were repulsed suffering very heavy casualties, with some German units being totally wiped out. So ended the first day with the French having taken all their objectives except a small area of Faviere Wood. The French now consolidated their gains as it was expected the enemy would attack in force at this point were the French and British lines joined expecting it to be a weak point.

The next joint anglo French and British advance was planned for the 8th July. The British 30th Division advanced to the north of Hardecourt to capture Maltz Horn trench and farm as well as Trones Wood. The French 39th Division attacked the western slopes of Hardecourt Ridge and Hardecourt village itself. At first light the French 146e Reg and 153e Reg advanced from their forward positions in Bois Faviere under the cover of a heavy artillery barrage. The French artillery bombarded Hardecourt with light to medium guns from the main Maricourt to Peronne ridge and with heavy artillery from Maricourt. The intense artillery cross-fire allowed the French infantry to cover the open ground to the village, however once they closed on the village they found themselves dragged into a fierce subterranean battle in the church catacombs and tunnels below the village that joined all the cellars and wells in the village. After 2 hours of intense infantry fighting the French had captured the eastern outskirts of Hardecourt.

The fighting around Hardecourt now ground to a stalemate with the French trench line established on the eastern outskirts of the village, less than 50 meters from the location of today's Chavasse Farm. It was probably about this time that the communication trench that runs through the garden was dug. Over the last two years we have found hundreds of relics connected to this period. The French along with the British 1/4 mile to the north attempted several times to push the line forward firstly on 20th July followed by the 23rd and 30th July, but it wasn't until early 15th August that the French managed to push the Germans down the valley to the outskirts of Maurepas. The fighting on the 30th July is one of the best small scale battles of British and French operations of the Great War. At 4:45 am on the 30th the 2nd Bedford's from the north and the French153e Reg from the south simultanisly attacked Maltzhorn Farm within 30 minutes the position was captured with all the Germans in the position being killed except one.

For the remainder of the 1916 Battle of the Somme Hardecourt remained a support position with several French and British Artillery batteries being established there, to the west of the village Chimpanzee Valley became a hive of activity as it was in dead ground to the German positions, as well as being the main approach route of British troops moving up to the front at Guillemont, several stores dumps, artillery batteries and CCS were located there. Early in September many of the new British Mk1 tanks moved up through the valley, stopping to refuel before moving on to take part in the first tank attack on September 15th. Towards the end of the Battle the French moved up Naval guns into Hardecourt ravine to fire on the German lines several miles away.

By the end of November the main fighting drew to a close, the British line had pushed slightly to the south and Hardecourt had become the joint between the British and the French armies, what was left of the village was now occupied by both armies, there was a British and French artillery battery in the vicinity and several stores dumps. Then early in 1917 the German army withdrew to the new Hindenburg Line leaving Hardecourt well in the rear of the fighting, it wouldn't be until 1918 that the fighting would return to the village.

In the early hours of 21st March 1918 the Germans threw sixty Divisions into a final push action. After three days of very heavy fighting the Germans had advanced to a line running from Delville Wood through the eastern edge of Hardecourt to Curlu on the River Somme. The 35th Division that was reasonably fresh moved up to cover large gaps in the line, the 12th HLI commanded by Lt Col W H Anderson covered the ground in front of Faviere Wood to the western outskirts of Hardecourt. The enemy began a heavy barrage at 7:45 am on the 25th March and then followed this with a strong frontal attack, an outpost was overrun and part of Faviere Wood was taken by men of the German 199th Division. However, realizing the seriousness of the situation Anderson made his way across the open ground towards the positions where his right companies were placed, and which had become disorganized. Getting them together Lt Col Anderson VCagain he set up and led a brilliant counter-attack which resulted in the lost ground being recovered together with twelve machine guns and seventy prisoners. The enemy attack again and at one point the 12th HLI were in real danger of becoming surrounded. They therefore fell back and moved into the timber yard three yards outside Maricourt. At about 5 pm Anderson took the opportunity to drive the enemy from Maricourt Wood. At this time there were no reserves to assist the 12th HLI, so a group of men who weren't usually front-line troops were summoned and were formed up on the right of the Battalion. The Germans were so surprised by the ferocity of the attack that they back down the slope towards Hardecourt for a distance of a thousand yards. Unfortunately, Anderson himself was killed during the attack on the furthest position taken, for his and the battalions actions during those few days he was awarded a posthumous VC, he is buried close to the site of the action in Peronne Road Cemetery Maricourt.

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