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Webmatters : War Diary: 12th Royal Irish Rifles -- 1st July 1916

War Diary

12th (S) Bn Royal Irish Rifles

1st July 1916

The bombardment, which had lasted seven days without ceasing reached its climax at 6-25 a.m. on the morning of the 1st July, and from 6-25 a.m. until 7-30 a.m. the German trenches were treated to a perfect hurricane of shells. The companies who had already been in the trenches (HAMEL Sub Sector) two days, were in the following order: – ‘B’ Company had one platoon (No. 8) on the right made responsible for the marsh immediately on its left was another platoon (No. 6) responsible for the RAILWAY SAP. The other two platoons of ‘B’ Coy. were in support behind the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers. The 9th Bn. Royal Ir. Fus. were in between ‘B’ Coy. and ‘C’ Coy. ‘C’ Coy. Being on their immediate left. ‘C’ Coy. had ‘D’ Coy. on its left and ‘A’ Coy. was on the left of ‘D’ Coy.

Starting from platoon on the right, the attack, as far as it has been possible to gather from the information of eye witnesses remaining went as follows:-

Right Platoon

During the last ten minutes or so of the intense bombardment, No. 8 Platoon under. Sergt. HOARE left the CROW’S NEST and lay outside their own wire. At Zero and under cover of the Barrage of smoke put up by Trench Mortar Officer they commenced the advance. This Platoon was divided into three parts, one under Sergt. Hamilton who went to the left, one under Sergt. Bennison who went to the right and one under Sergt. Hoare who remained in the centre. This platoon was very heavily shelled going out and while out were under very heavy Machine-gun fire from both right and left, and Sergt. Hoare’s party soon all became casualties. The left party under Sergt. Hamilton also suffered very heavily but he managed to get into the German Sap with three or four men, but owing to the heavy Machine-gun fire were unable to remain and had to leave the Sap. On the right Sergt. Bennison was killed and this party with its Lewis Gun came under very heavy Machine-gun fire from the right and were unable to get forward at all. The casualties were heavy, and Sergt. Hoare sent back a man to Lt. Col. Blacker for orders as he could not advance He received orders to retire; he did so with what was left of the Platoon.

No.6 Platoon

This Platoon was under Lieut. Lemon and was made responsible for the RAILWAY SAP. The Platoon left our own trenches before Zero at the same tine and on the right of the 9th Royal Ir. Fus. but before reaching the RAVINE the whole Platoon with the exception of Lieut. Lemon and twelve men were all casualties. On reaching the RAVINE Lt. Lemon looked for some supports, but as none were available he advanced with his twelve men to enter the Sap. When he reached. the Sap he had only nine men left, but he entered the Sap at the Railway bank. L.Sergt. Millar and three men moved to the right to bomb down the Sap, but, these were soon all casualties. Lieut. Lemon and the remainder of the men advanced up the main Sap. The thick wires running into the first large tunnel was cut by Rfmn. Gamble who was the first bayonet man. There was a Machine-gun firing across the sap from the small tunnel. Lieut. Lemon, however, climbed above the small tunnel with some bombs in order to catch any Germans who might come out and sent the men on. Lieut. Lemon was then shot by two German Officers who fired their rifles at him from the top of a dug out which apparently led into the tunnel. The two German officers were afterwards killed by a bomb which exploded right at their feet. The remaining men got cut off between the 1st and 2nd German line and only two of them escaped.

7 and 5 Platoons

No. 7 Platoon advanced behind. the 9th Royal Ir. Fus., but as the Fus. Were held up, this platoon only got just beyond our own wire. No. 5 was the carrying platoon and did not leave our own wire. Capt. C.S. Murray was in command of these two Platoons, but was wounded at the very start.

The two Machine-guns which caught No. 6 Platoon so badly were right outside the German trench and the shelling was also very severe in the RAVINE. The Lewis Gun Team which was with No. 6 Platoon became casualties before reaching the RAVINE and the gun was put out of action by shrapnel. Corpl. Burgess and Rfmn. McNeilly were the two men who escaped from the Sap. Rfmn. McNeilly lost Corpl. Burgess on the way back and reported to two N.C.O.‘s of the 9th Royal Ir. Fus.

‘C’ Company’s Attack

Before Zero ‘C’ Company who were on the left of the 9th Royal Ir. Fus. left our wire and immediately came under very heavy Machine Gun fire. At Zero the company advanced led by No 10 Platoon and followed by No. 11. No. 10 were held up by the wire, which had only two small gaps cut in it at this point. No. 10 Platoon at once split in two, each half going for a gap. Some of this party succeeded in getting into the German line, but as there was a German Machine-gun opposite each gap the casualties were very heavy. No 11. Platoon immediately reinforced No. 10 and at once rushed the gaps and a few more men succeeded in getting through. The casualties were very severe, but Capt. Griffiths collected Nos. 9 and 12 Platoons and gave orders to charge. He was killed immediately he had given the order. At the same time an order came to retire. The remaining men retired with the exception of Sergt. Cunningham, Corpl. Herbison and L.Cpl. Jackson who remained and fired at the Germans, who were standing on their parapet firing and throwing bombs at our men. They killed or wounded at least ten Germans. Rfmn. Craig with a Lewis Gun kept up a good fire by himself, all the rest of the team having been killed or wounded. L.Cpl. Harvey then rallied all the men he could find and rushed the gaps again but had to retire for the third time. The Company had then to retire to the SUNKEN ROAD. Sergt. Cunningham and Corpl. Herbison again did good work by helping wounded men to get cover in the SUNKEN ROAD. The ROAD was being shelled very heavily all the time.

‘D’ Company’s Attack

‘D’ Company’s attack was led by 2/Lieut. Sir Harry E.H. Macnaghten Bart., and No. 16 Platoon. Sir Harry was on the right of his Platoon and Sergt. McFall on the left. At Zero this Platoon rushed the German front line and entered it. Sergt. McFall found some dugouts on the left and detailed two bombers to attend to each . The German second line was very strongly held and the Machine-gun fire from the Salient on the left (Q.17.B) was very heavy. The Germans stood up on the parapet of their second line and threw bombs into the front line, while they kept a steady fire up against the other advancing platoons (13, 14, and 15) These suffered very heavily as they approached the German wire and line. No 14 Platoon lost half its men before No. 16 had gained the German front line. An order to retire was shouted out and Sir Harry got out of the trench to order the men not to retire but to come on and just as he got out he was shot in the legs by a Machine-gun only a few yards away, and fell back into the trench. Rfmn. Kane who was quite close to Sir Harry bayoneted the German who was firing the Machine-gun. ‘D’ Company then fell back behind the RIDGE and were at once reassembled with the remains of ‘A’ Company by 2/Lieut. Dickson, who ordered a second charge at the German trenches. He was very severely wounded almost as soon as he had. Given the order, but carried on for a time until he fell, and then Sergt. McFall at once rallied the companies and they advanced a second time. The Machine-gun fire from the Salient was very severe, and they had to eventually fall back on our own trenches.

‘A’ Company’s Attack

‘A’ Company who were on the extreme left of the Battalion front, were in touch with the 29th Division. They left their new Trench before Zero and assembled along the SUNKEN ROAD. At Zero they began to advance, and at once came under very heavy Artillery and Machine-gun fire. No. 4 Platoon led the attack, and were badly cut up, but what men remained entered the German front line.

They were closely followed by No. 3, who at once reinforced them. The wire was well cut here but there were two Machine-guns on each side of the gap and three or four In the Salient, as well as a German bombing party. Lieut. McCluggage at once collected his men and tried to rush on to the German second line but was killed in the attempt. The Germans in the front line it was noticed all wore caps while those in the second line wore helmets. The German second line was full of men and there was a very considerable number at the back of the large mound on the left. All these men fired at Nos. 1 and 2 Platoons while they were advancing and threw bombs at Nos. 3 & 4 while in the German front line. The men of Nos. 3 & 4 Platoons bombed three Dugouts and shot a good many Germans. All these four Platoons suffered very heavily from exceedingly intense Machine-gun fire. An order to retire was passed along, and as there were no supports on the spot ‘A’ Company did so. Lieut. T. G. Haughton had been wounded in the leg soon after leaving our front line but led his Platoon on. He was wounded a second time during the retirement and killed. The Company then retired to the SUNKEN ROAD when 2/Lieut Dickson, who was the only officer left assembled the men there and ordered another advance. The men advanced again but were met with a terrific fire from all the Machine-guns in the Salient (Q.17.B.) and had to ultimately retire to the New Trench. Rfmn. McMullen, being the only man left of his team of Lewis Gunners, entered the German line with Lewis Gun and two magazines and fired from his shoulder at the Germans in the second. line. He retired with the company and brought the Gun with him.

All companies had now been badly cut up, and had very few men left. We were ordered to attack again at 10-12 a.m. with what men we could collect. Major C.G. Cole-Hamilton D.S.O. took command of the front line collected all the men he could find, about 100 assembled them in the New Trench and prepared to launch the attack. Sergt. McFall and Sergt. A Smith of ‘D’ Company and L.Cpl. W Harvey of ‘C’ Coy. were conspicuous for their coolness and skill under a very heavy fire in helping Major C.G. Cole-Hamilton D.S.O. to form up the men and carry out the attack. The attack was made under very heavy shrapnel fire from the time of the assembly and was finally stopped by Machine-gun fire. When in advance of the SUNKEN ROAD the same three N.C.O.s did magnificent work in steadying the men, while L.Cpl. Harvey brought a wounded man in on his back. About 11 a.m. another attack was ordered for 12-30 p.m. in conjunction with the 29th Division. Every available man was collected and assembled in the New Trench. The total number this time was 46. The men went forward before 12-30 p.m., and were lying in cover by 12-30 p.m. Major C.G. Cole-Hamilton D.S.O. finding that 29th Division did not launch an attack at 12-30 p.m. and not having a sufficient number of men to carry out an attack sent a message to the Commanding Officer to this effect. The Commanding Officer ordered the men to be brought back and the front line to be re-organised and held. Sergt. McFall, Sergt. A. Smith and L.Cpl. W Harvey again did splendid work in getting the men back and re-organised under very adverse conditions.

By 2 p.m. all the men were back and sentries were posted all along the line. This state of affairs continued until the few men who were left in the line were relieved by the York and Lancs. At 6-30 p.m.

G Bull
Lieut. Col.
12th (S) Bn Royal Irish Rifles.

8th July 1916