The Battle of the Somme- The assault on the Glatz Redoubt
The objective of the 90th Brigade on the 1st July was the important Village of Montauban. The 19th Battalions objective was the Glatz redoubt-a heavily fortified German position some 700 yards in front of the village. A terrific artillery bombardment had been laid down on the German defences for the previous six days and the Men, lying ready in their assembly trenches 1500 yards from the Glatz, were confident of a swift and unopposed assault of the position.
The attack had been timed to begin at 07.30 and in the minutes before, the artillery bombardment intensified and the ground beneath the Men shook as salvoes of shells slammed into the German positions. As the hour approached, the Men strained their ears listening for the blasts on the Officers whistles that would set them on their way to their objective.
At 7.30 the whistles sounded and the Men rose up out of the assembly trenches and set off across the badly churned up no mans land towards the Glatz redoubt.
The 19th Battalion were led by A Company on the right of the objective and C Company on the Left. In support were B Company and D Company were in reserve.
Number 1 and 2 Platoons led by Second Lieutenants Boxall and Allen were the first wave, followed by Number 3 Platoon (Second wave) led by second Lieutenant Craston and Number 4 Platoon (Third wave) led by Second Lieutenant Tidy. As A Company advanced towards the objective, the first German defences were carried without a halt and as the advance continued a creeping barrage of artillery shells moved forward to land on the next line of defences. This caused the first 2 waves to merge into one as they waited for the barrage to lift onto the face of the Glatz redoubt. As the barrage lifted on the objective, the waves of Men moved forward and carried the redoubt. They had reached their objective with relatively few casualties. The Men re-organised and then set about turning the newly captured German trenches into a defensive position facing the direction of the expected counter attack. Firesteps were cut into the trenches, wire was put out, Lewis guns were sighted and weapons were cleaned and readied for the next phase of the attack.
Number 10 and 11 Platoons led by Lieutenant Higgins and Second Lieutenant Atkinson (First wave),Number 12 Platoon led by Lieutenant Lersche (Second wave) and Number 9 Platoon led by Captain Cunliffe (Third wave) suffered about 40 casualties before reaching the German first line owing to a German Machine gun on the left of the Company. The casualties included Second Lieutenant Atkinson and several N.C.Os, but the Men pushed on towards their objective with great coolness and steadiness. As they reached the German front line, the enemy threw hand grenades and retreated towards the Glatz, but they were quickly accounted for. The Company pushed on and reached their objective, joining A Company in the consolidation of the position.
11 Platoon, C Company.
The Men of 11 Platoon with the Platoon Commander Second Lieutenant Arthur, Wilfrid Atkinson (Middle of the second row) Who was the only Officer killed on the 1st July. Eight of the Men on the photograph were also killed and two wounded on the same day. The bodies of the Men were never recovered and all are commemorated on the Thiepval memorial.
Number 5,6,7 and 8 platoons under Lieutenants Linnell and Pritchard (Fourth wave) and the Fifth wave under Lieutenant Outram and Captain Miller moved forward without a halt until reaching the mouth of the gorge in front of the Glatz, suffering about 15 casualties. The Men, under second Lieutenant Linnell, immediately began consolidation of the position and by midday the work was well advanced. It was here that a German Officer of the 6th Reserve Baverische Regiment was taken prisoner.
Number 13,14,15 and 16 Platoons (Sixth wave) led by Second Lieutenant Chadwick and Lieutenant Sharpington advanced to the German front line at Alt trench and consolidation was begun at once. About 10.30am, 2 Platoons under Second Lieutenant Keefe, were sent up to reinforce C Company. This party of Men suffered heavy casualties whilst constructing a strong point.
Headquarters were established in Cumberland Street and about 30 Minutes after the battle commenced an advanced HQ was established in the German Front line trench at Alt trench. All messages were directed through here and on to the Companies by Runners until telephone lines had been established. The battalion signallers under Second Lieutenant Ibbotson laid line to the advanced HQ which was repeatedly broken and repaired. Wires were also run to the Glatz redoubt and to the Support Company.
The Officers and Men of the 19th Battalion had done all that was asked of them. They had assaulted a heavily fortified and strongly defended enemy position and held their post. At 10.00pm on the 2nd July, the Battalion was relieved by the 20th Kings Liverpool Regiment and withdrew to the assembly trenches near Oxford Copse.
The Victory had come at a cost. Casualties for the day were ;-
Second Lieutenant Atkinson and 40 Men killed ; Second Lieutenant Outram and 11 Men missing and Second Lieutenant Allen and 136 Men wounded.
The battalion remained in the Assembly trenches and endured a day and night of heavy shelling until 5.30pm on the 3rd July, when relieved by the South African Infantry. They then marched to the Bois des Tailles for a few days rest.
Trones Wood and Guillemont
At 10pm on the 7th July, the Battalion returned to the trenches in reserve to the 2nd Yorkshire’s and the 2nd Wiltshire’s who were to attack Trones wood and Maltzhorn trench. The attack planned for the next day was held up and it was decided to attack again at 12.30pm. Orders were received by the Battalion at 11am to move up in support of the 2nd Wiltshire’s, who were to take part in the second attack. Accordingly, C Company moved to the Briqueterie, A Company to Glatz redoubt, Train alley and Nord alley, and B and D Companies to the sunken road . At 2.30pm, B Company moved into Maltzhorn trench to reinforce the 2nd Wiltshire’s.
Sergeant Barnes and a Bombing section covered a Platoon of the Wiltshire’s while blocks were constructed in the trench. This party of Men discovered a German machine gun and brought it in to the lines. A little later, 20 Men from D Company brought up an ammunition re-supply and remained there, sending out hourly patrols during the night. D Company remained in the sunken road until 3.15pm when it moved up to Trones wood in support of the Wiltshire’s, and proceeded to dig in. The night brought a heavy bombardment of all the positions and lasted until the 1.30pm on the 9th July, when the Battalion was relieved by the 18th Manchester’s. The battalion withdrew to the assembly trenches and rested until 10pm, when it moved to Billon valley where a bivouac was established.
Casualties for the above action were;
Killed, Captain Royle and 12 Men, Wounded-Second Lieutenant Hindle and 43 Men, Missing, 3 Men.
A fresh draft of 89 Men was received at Billon valley and on the 11th July the Battalion moved to Morlancourt where training was carried out. On the 13th they marched to Corbie and a further draft of 224 Men were received. On the 14th July the Battalion moved to Saisseval. The following day, the Battalion paraded with the rest of the Brigade and were addressed by the G.O.C and complimented on their recent actions. The battalion left Saisseval on the 18th for billets at Morlancourt. Orders were received that the Battalion were to attack the Village of Guillemont on the 23rd and on the 22nd they moved to Silesia support trench. At 10pm, the Battalion moved off in single file along the Maricourt-Montauban Road. The battalion formed up in a mass single rank behind Trones wood facing Guillemont. Trones wood was continually shelled during the night and at 2.30am the Companies moved through the wood and took up positions facing Guillemont. The attack began at 3.40am, and from the start, was subject to heavy shell, rifle and machine gun fire-but there were few casualties until the Men reached the German wire defences, when the loses became serious.
The Following is a summary of each Companies operations:-
The first two waves gained the German front trench without serious opposition and were about to leave for the second trench, when the third wave joined them. Heavy machine gun fire was experienced from the flank and was engaged by the Lewis guns. Second Lieutenant Tidy led a charge, but it was held up by heavy fire and bombing. A second attempt was made but this was also repelled and the survivors, about thirty men, fell back to the first line trenches.
A party of Men, led by Sergeant Rothwell took a Lewis gun and occupied the southern end of a quarry, supported by sergeant Spencer and a party of Bombers. The Germans were in strong force around the quarry, and the party was forced to fall back. Second Lieutenant Tidy then sent ten Men forward as reinforcements and the quarry was again partly occupied. Private Briggs was sent back for help and Sergeant Whitehead was also sent to report the position. He left Sergeant Spencer at the quarry supported by two N.C.Os and fifteen Men. Spencer had ordered his Men to “Fight to the last”, but to use the ammunition and bombs sparingly. Sergeant Whitehead expressed the opinion that the Men could not hold out much longer and would probably be overrun. They had been surrounded three or four times but had managed to drive back the enemy. Of this party, only the two messengers and one other survived.
The company advanced when visibility was very bad and the waves became uneven owing to shell holes and wire. The company, however, made it into the Village and the Lewis guns took up position and opened fire on large bodies of Germans in the village. The company became entirely cut off, and no more was seen of them.
The Company advanced to the German front line trenches and found the wire uncut. The Company was attacked by bomb, rifle and machine gun fire and about 30 Men were cut down. The rest of the Men managed to force their way through the wire and attempted to force the second row of wire, which was also uncut. The German trench was only a few yards away, but, after suffering heavily from bombs and rifle fire they were compelled to fall back. The Company withdrew along a trench which was bombed by the Germans, who were held back by Lance Corporal Sharples and his Lewis gun team until the withdrawal had been completed.
The Company was in support and followed in the rear of D Company and was compelled to withdraw with D Company after having lost many Men. Part of the Company, under Captain Birley, managed to push its way forward to the German first line of wire but it was stopped and Captain Birley was killed.
HQ moved to the edge of Trones wood at 2.30am and was heavily shelled and telephone communication was constantly lost with the Company’s. Pigeon messengers had to be relied on. Captain Myers, Sergeant Spink and a party of bombers and Lewis gunners constructed a trench block but were compelled to withdraw owing to heavy fire. Sergeant Spink was killed by a sniper after doing very effective work.
Casualties suffered by the Battalion in the above actions were:-
Killed; Captain Birley, Second Lieutenants Walton, Harrison and 4 other ranks
Wounded; Lieutenant Colonel Sir H.B Hill, Captains Mather, Myers, Second Lieutenants Needham and Tidy and 50 other ranks.
Missing; Captain Clarke, Lieutenants Caldwell, Foster and Lersche, Second Lieutenants Cassal, Craston and Compton and 493 other ranks.
At 3.30pm on the 23rd July the Battalion withdrew to Silesia support trench and later moved to Happy Valley. During the Night, Second Lieutenant Linnell, Sergeants Hart and Holding and about 30 Men made their way to camp at Happy Valley. The following day was spent resting. A draft of 182 reinforcements joined on the 30th and the following afternoon, sports were held.