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Webmatters : The Battle of the Somme, Mametz Wood July 1916
Rough Map of Area

Mametz Wood

XV Corps: Mametz & Fricourt

1st July 1916

On the 1st July 1916 the XV Corps was responsible for taking two villages south of the main Albert Bapaume Road. It used its 7th Division to capture Mametz.

Mametz had fallen by the evening, but the 7th Division then had to wait until the following day for the 21st Division to finish taking Fricourt before being able to move up the valley towards Mametz Wood behind the village.

A lost opportunity

At 0900 hours on 3rd July 1916, XV Corps began to move on from its initial successes towards the seizure of Mametz Wood. To assist the Corps, 17th Division had been attached, and it was their 51st Brigade that made the initial good progress from the northern side of Mametz.

From the south, 7th Division reached Bottom Wood which lies about half way between the two villages and Mametz Wood. The Germans made a number of counter attacks but these were driven off.

Unfortunately instead of pressing on with the advantage Lt General Horne in command of XV Corps decided to consolidate his positions. No further forward movement would be made until darkness.

This advance failed to materialise as the 1st Bn Royal Welch Fusiliers and 2nd Bn Royal Irish both got lost in the dark. The poet Siegfried Sassoon who was serving with the 1st RWF noted: . “The guide, having presumably lost his way, was having a much hotter time than we were.”

By the time the battalions were in position the Germans had reinforced their positions in front of Mametz Wood. An opportunity had been missed.

 

Pushing on in the rain

On 4th July it began to rain. Much has been made of the mud at Passchendaele in 1917, but soldiers who served in both areas have remarked how the mud of the Somme was by far the worst of the two.

In front of Mametz Wood lay trench systems called the Quadrangle and Wood Trench. At 0045 hours on 5th July the 9th Bn Northumberland Fusiliers and 10th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers crept out of their trenches and towards the German line. From only 100 metres they leapt up and charged forward capturing the Quadrangle.

 

7th Bn Green Howards

Following their disastrous day on 1st July the 7th Bn Green Howards were now brought back into the line to assist with attacks on Quadrangle Support Trench.

On 8th July at 0700 hours they were part of an attack launched on Quadrangle Alley. This was beaten off by machine gun fire and a second attack was ordered for 1750 hours. This was also beaten off.

As the Battalion Diary remarks:

The mud in the trench was over the men’s knees & they soon became very exhausted but continued to move forward.

Within a few hundred metres the men were too tired to put in a spirited attack.

Yet another attack was ordered for 0015 hours on the 9th and this met with a similar fate. The Diary this time points out that the:

Stokes Guns unable to participate, ground too soft & muddy to allow suitable emplacements being made.

A night attack using bayonets was now planned for 2320 hours but some of the other units attacked before the given time and this alerted the German Front Line.

Some success was to come though in the small hours of 10th July as the 38th (Welsh) Division on the right pressed home an attack of their own. The Germans began to retire along the 17th Division’s front.

The last few patrols of the 7th Green Howards that night found the German front line abandoned. At 0100 hours they handed over their new position to the 8th Bn Lincolnshire Regiment.

 


Mametz Wood the 38th Memorial on the right

The red dragon of the 38th (Welsh) Division on the right
The Division attacked Mametz wood across Death Valley (right to left)