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Webmatters : Battle of the Somme: Ovillers and La Boisselle, 1st July 1916
Rough Map of Area

La Boisselle

The attack on 1st July 1916

At 0728 hours the two great mines either side of La Boisselle exploded and at 0730 hours the Division rose and advanced. This advance included the men of the Tyneside Irish who started to come down the slope from Tara Hill ready to take up the assault as soon as the lead Brigades had crushed the first line.

Within minutes of the start of the attack most of the men had been cut down by artillery and machine gun fire from positions untouched by the British bombardment. The Germans had been ready and the moment the barrage lifted off their front line and started towards the rear, they knew that the British were coming. They scrambled out of their dug outs and manned their firing lines. The British provided a duck shoot.

101st Brigade

On the right the Royal Scots found themselves coming under severe enfilading fire from the left which was forcing them off course and towards Fricourt. In doing so they managed to take and hold the aptly named Scots Redoubt.

A handful of the 16th Royal Scots managed to reach Contalmaison and were joined by a few men from the 24th Bn and 27th Bn of the Northumberland Fusiliers who had also managed to push right through to the village, but without support and short of ammunition they were forced to retire.

A monumental cairn can be found in Contalmaison commemorating the Scots advance.

 

The Lochnagar Crater

The Lochnagar Crater

The 10th Bn Lincolnshire Regiment lined up to the right of the Lochnagar crater had decided to allow 5 minutes for the debris from the explosion to settle back to earth. This was to prove far too long a period and by the end of the war hardly a minute would be given.

In effect this meant that the Lincolns would start their advance three minutes after the remainder of the front, and the Germans were well prepared for them. Devastating fire raked the British lines before the Lincolns had even chance to get out of their trenches.

Their bravery in crossing the 400 metres of no man’s land availed them of nothing and they were forced to ground wherever they could find cover, including within the great crater of Lochnagar.

102nd Brigade

On the northern side of Lochnagar the column was made up men from the 21st, 22nd and 26th Battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers. They had a much shorter distance to cover to get across no man’s land and into the German trenches and unlike the Lincolns attacked immediately, successfully storming the Schwaben Höhe.

Here they found themselves coming under fire from La Boisselle — the boast that all the defenders would have succumbed to seven days of bombardment proving to be a false hope.

The other half of the flanking movement against La Boisselle was being carried out by the 20th, 23rd and 25th Battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers from the northern side of the main road.

Theirs was a difficult task because the German line in following the terrain stretched directly away from them and along the main road towards Pozières. This meant that the left hand column of the 34th Division was going to have to pivot on the village and the mine at Y Sap.

With the village still capably defended the Tyneside Scots and Irish were badly punished in no man’s land. Pressing on with great gallantry most fell before reaching the German front line.

Evening

By the evening when the 19th Division took over the front line, Schwaben Höhe and a foothold on the Sausage Redoubt were the only gains that had been made. La Boisselle was still very much in German hands.