Gommecourt - The Bombardment

Contents

U Day Y Day
V Day Y1 Day
W Day Y2 Day
X Day  

The Bombardment

U Day, Saturday, 24th June 1916

Weather: Raining in the early morning; clearing about 9.00 a.m.. Showers with low clouds all day.

167th Brigade - 1/7 and 1/8th Middlesex in front line, light casualties.
168th & 169th Brigades - rear areas training and preparing.
Field Artillery - start wire cutting.

German activity - artillery positions strengthened and decoy positions prepared, supplies brought forward. All leave cancelled when Pte Victor Wheat, 1/5th North Staffordshires, part of a wiring party is taken prisoner badly wounded. Tells interrogators that British will attack on 27th June and gives way tactics to be used, i.e. pincer movement avoiding Gommecourt Park and village.
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V Day, Sunday, 25th June 1916

Weather: dull and warm, low clouds.

167th Brigade - 1/7 and 1/8th Middlesex in front line. Heavy German bombardment in reply to start of the British heavy guns' participation. Brigade loses 12 killed and 46 wounded.
168th & 169th Brigades - Practice attack across fields marked out with tape at Halloy.
Field artillery - continue wire cutting.
Heavy artillery - start to bombard strongpoints, trenches and rear villages.
RFC - attacks German balloons bringing down six out of nine. Flights on counter-battery observation reported: "Owing to low clouds, observation of the effect of our fire was very difficult".

German activity - Aircraft bomb Pas-en-Artois.
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W Day, Monday, 26th June 1916

Weather: Fine morning, heavy rain afternoon, low clouds.

167th Brigade - 1/7 and 1/8th Middlesex in front line. Smoke demonstration in morning by 1/7th Middlesex attracts heavy German bombardment. Brigade and 169th Trench Mortar Battery lose 2 officers killed and 6 wounded, 15 other ranks killed, 10 missing and 78 wounded.
168th & 169th Brigades - practice attack in front of Allenby, Snow and Hull.
Field artillery - continue wire cutting.
Heavy artillery - continue to bombard strongpoints, trenches and rear villages.
RFC - Flights on counter-battery observation reported: "Many other hostile batteries located, but rain and low clouds prevented a real observation of the fire on most of them".

German activity - 55th Reserve Infantry Regiment suffers lightly under British barrage, losing one man killed and ten wounded.
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X Day, Tuesday, 27th June 1916

Weather: Cool and wet, clouds were very low in the early morning, but lifted slightly later. There were occasional showers of rain during the day.

167th Brigade - 1/7 and 1/8th Middlesex in front line. Trenches badly flooded and conditions very bad. 1/8th Middlesex relieved by 1/4th Londons in the evening. Battalion has lost 207 officers and men between 21st and 27th June. Rest of Brigade, 1/4th Londons and RFA lose 103 men on the 27th.
Night time patrols find wire uncut in centre of area to be attacked.
168th & 169th Brigades - march to billets in Souastre and St Amand.
Field artillery - continue wire cutting.
Heavy artillery - continue to bombard strongpoints, trenches and rear villages.
RFC - Flights on counter-battery observation reported: "Several of our own batteries were also called up by wireless to engage some of these (enemy batteries), but clouds rather hampered observation".

German activity - Infantry reserves brought forward and new battery positions dug for artillery reinforcements.
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Y Day, Wednesday, 28th June 1916

Weather: Cool, several storms, very wet, clouds very low all day, with frequent showers.

Weather so bad the decision is made to postpone the attack to 1st July.

167th Brigade - 1/7th Middlesex relieved by 1/2nd Londons. In five days, the battalion has lost 148 men: 16 killed (including 1 officer), 84 wounded (including 4 officers) and 48 sent to hospital sick. Men are so weak they are carried away in ambulances.
Casualties for Division: 2 officers wounded, 4 other ranks killed, 1 other rank missing and 50 other ranks wounded.
Night time patrols find wire still uncut in centre of area to be attacked.
Field artillery - continue wire cutting.
Heavy artillery - continue to bombard strongpoints, trenches and rear villages.
RFC - Flights on counter-battery observation reported: "Owing to the low clouds it was not possible to send out machines for this work before 5 p.m."

German activities: 55th RIR loses 8 men wounded under bombardment.
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Y1 Day, Thursday, 29th June 1916

Weather: Cool, windy, light showers, low clouds on the morning, over cast all day.

167th Brigade - 1/1st and 1/3rd Londons front line working parties.
168th Brigade - 1/4th Londons manning front line. Rest of Brigade resting.
169th Brigade - 1/2nd Londons manning front line. Rest of Brigade resting.
Casualties for Division: 1 officer wounded , 4 other ranks killed, 2 other ranks missing and 58 other ranks wounded.
Night time patrols find wire poorlycut in centre of area to be attacked.
Field artillery - continue wire cutting.
Heavy artillery - light bombardment of strongpoints, trenches and rear villages in order to conserve ammunition for Z Day.
RFC - Flights on counter-battery observation reported: "Low clouds interfered with observation of fire in most cases."

German activities: 55th RIR loses 4 men wounded under bombardment.
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Y2 Day, Friday, 30th June 1916

Weather: Cool, very windy, wind west, about 40 mph. Over cast in the morning, clearing in the evening.

167th Brigade - 1/1st and 1/3rd Londons front line working parties.
168th and 169th Brigade - Dump packs, collect equipment and start moving up to the front line in the evening.
Field artillery - continue wire cutting.
Heavy artillery - light bombardment of strongpoints, trenches and rear villages in order to conserve ammunition for Z Day.
RFC - Flights on counter-battery observation reported: "A machine patrolled the Corps front for this work from 3.00 p.m. until 8.55 p.m.. Very little hostile artillery activity was observed."

German activities: Artillery starts to bombard front line trenches and approaches to Hebuterne.
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Alan MacDonald's books about Gommecourt

'PRO PATRIA MORI'

'Pro Patria Mori', the account of the 56th Division's involvement at Gommecourt, was first published in 2006.  A revised edition was published in August 2008

For more about the book please go HERE.

'A LACK OF OFFENSIVE SPIRIT?'
The 46th (North Midland) Division at Gommecourt,
1st July 1916

For more about this book please follow this link

Both books are available through this web site or through Amazon Books and by order through all good bookshops


Home

The Germans prepare

"... our defence work continued at fever pitch: artillery emplacements were reinforced, they were expanded so that they could serve as infantry support positions in the event of any set-backs, all installations were concealed, ammunition was stored safely, all lines and levels of effectiveness were improved. The fire distribution plans were kept up to date taking into consideration all reinforcements that arrived, protection was checked, permanent observation posts were established in the fighting trenches, and signalling was systematically organised for the event that the telephones failed."

History of the 20th Reserve Field Artillery Regiment

Some were lucky

"On the eve of all battles a selection of officers who would not take part in it was made. The aim was that in the event of the battalion been wiped out these would form the nucleus of a new one... The second in command of the battalion and second-in-command of all companies together with 11 other officers would be left out. I was one of the lucky ones."

2nd Lt C E Moy, 1/16th London Regt
(Queen's Westminster Rifles)

Practice on parade

"We parade in our "front line" and take "enemy trenches" several times a day. Excellent practice, could anything be simpler? It is a fine sight to see 4,000 men advancing as if on parade and capturing in half-an-hour a model of the enemy trenches at Gommecourt. The country chosen is quite different from that of Gommecourt Wood, and I honestly believe that the practical value of the manoeuvring is nil."

Rfm Percy Jones, 1/16th London Regt
(Queen's Westminster Rifles)

Living in hell

"Thought that I was living in hell. The weather was awful, thunderstorms etc., and, owing to the amount of water in trenches most of us had swollen feet. Including trench feet cases our casualties were about 250."

Pte William Franklin, 1/8th Middlesex Regiment

Optimistic reports

"Wire reported satisfactorily dealt with in first and second German lines. In third line gaps have been cut but require widening… number of guns employed by (Germans) did not appear to be large."

56th Division Report
28th June 1916

What the Generals wanted to hear?

"The morale of the regiment is very low. Officers have been drinking heavily since the bombardment began and one officer was killed through exposing himself when drunk. The prisoner complained of the quantity and quality of food. They rarely got meat."

From interview with member of 8th Company,
55th Reserve Infantry Regiment,
taken prisoner on the night of the 29th June

An unfortunate respite

"Reference Y1 and Y2 days, (the reduction in the bombardment) was unfortunate, as it must have given time for the enemy to repair his lines to some extent."

Lt. Colonel J H H Jones, Brigade Major,
VII Corps Heavy Artillery

Getting ready for action

"The day before, somewhere behind the line, billeted in an empty room of a partly wrecked, derelict building were seven or eight of us. One of the boys named Slaughter said, "Well boys, this time tomorrow we'll be pushing up daisies" - how right he was. I never saw any of that lot again."

Rfm Arthur Schuman, 1/5th London Regiment
London Rifle Brigade

Bombardment title
A 6" BL Gun fires its 100lb shell at the enemy lines