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Webmatters : War Diary: 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers -- 1st July 1916

War Diary

9th (S) Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers


Report on their action Composition and Format for attack

The Battalion moved at 12.5 a.m. from MESNIL to take up its position for the attack, in the Right of the HAMEL Sector, no special assembly trenches had been prepared, and existing trenches were occupied.

The Battalion was on a 4 Platoon front in the following order:- Right Company “A”, Captain C. ENSOR, Right Centre Company “B”, Major T.J. ATKINSON, Left Centre Company “C”, Captain C.M. JOHNSTON, Left Company “D”, Captain J.G. BREW, each Company being on a platoon front, making 4 waves: each wave advancing at 60 yards distance. The two leading waves assembled in the front line trench.

The 3rd wave consisting of supporting platoons in communications trenches.

The 4th wave consisting of consolidating Platoons in 2nd line trench.

Lewis Guns accompanied the leading wave.

2 Stokes Mortars accompanied the second wave.

5 Vickers M Guns accompanied the third wave.

The Battalion was reported in position at 3 a.m. Between which hour and the hour it moved out the Battn suffered some 50 casualties from large H.E. shell.

Four lengths of Bangalore tubes accompanied the leading waves of each Company.


Objectives

The German 1st, 2nd, and 3rd line trenches from Railway Sap to A 25 in 1st line – BEAUCOURT STATION and the Trench N of it and some detached houses near this station, the left boundary being a line drawn from A 25 to one of these detached houses thence S.E. to the RIVER ANCRE.

Troops on flank of Battalion

2 Platoons of 12th R.I.R. on Right flank.

3 Coys of 12th R.I.R. on Left flank.

2 platoons 12th R.I.R. in support of 9th R. Ir. Fus.

Apparent effect of Artillery Bombardment in Enemy’s position

(a) Wire cutting was well carried out and effective lanes were cut.

(b) The enemy’s trenches composing the objective of both 9th R. Ir. Fus and 12 R.I.R. did not suffer materially from the previous bombardment.

Nature of the ground

The opposing lines of trenches were approximately 400 yards apart with a Ravine some 70 yards in width about half way between the opposing trenches, the banks of which were 15 ft to 20 ft high in places and steep. The whole terrain sloping towards the RAILWAY SAP.


The Advance

Owing to the distance to be traversed and the necessity of the leading wave being within 150 yards of the German line at Zero time (7.30 a.m.), the

1st wave crossed the parapet at 7.10 a.m.

2nd wave crossed the parapet at 7.15 a.m.

3rd wave crossed the parapet at 7.20 a.m.

4th wave crossed the parapet at 7.30 a.m.

The 1st wave suffered little loss getting through our wire, lanes in which had previously been cut, but during the advance to the Ravine casualties were numerous, more especially to the left, from M.G. fire from the flanks.

The 2nd wave suffered more severely crossing our wire, and also came under the M.G. fire from the flanks.

The majority of the Officers of the 2 left Companies were casualties before reaching the Ravine, where the two leading waves were reorganized in one line and the advance continued.

The 3rd and 4th waves were caught by severe M.G. fire both frontal and flanking, and also by an artillery barrage which the Germans had now placed between our wire and the Ravine, and were practically annihilated.

Some 150 yards from the German line the assaulting line again came under heavy M.G. fire and suffered severely: notwithstanding this, small bodies of men of the Right and the two left Companies reached the German wire and charged he trenches, in places the Germans held up their hands to surrender, but realising there were no supporting troops resumed the contest till there were only a handful of our men left.

The Right Centre Company appears to have suffered less severely, and was seen to penetrate the 3 German lines and a small body of them was reported to have reached BEAUCOURT STATION.

Owing to the intensity of the fire only 1 Runner got through, he came from the Left Centre Company Commander, from a spot about 30 yards short of the Ravine, with the message “Cannot advance without support”.

The supporting platoon of the 12th R.I.R. was sent out but was wiped out.

Information

Previous to the attack the Intelligence Officer Captain MENAUL and 5 Battalion Scouts proceeded to SHOOTERS HILL whence a view could be obtained of all the attacking ground up to the front line, except on the extreme right. This officer kept Battalion H.Q. accurately informed of the progress of events by means of his Scouts acting as Runners from 7.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. this information was at once passed on to Brigade H.Q. by telephone as soon as received.

Action by the enemy

The main features of the Enemy’s defence were the handling of his M. Guns whereby he brought an accurate cross fire on the lanes cut in our own wire and on the gaps made by our artillery in his wire and subsequently the artillery barrage he placed between our front line and the Ravine.
h3. Action against possible counter attack by the enemy

When the extent of our casualties was realized every available man left in the Battalion was sent under the command of Major PRATT to hold the front line: the situation was reported to Brigade H.Q. and a request made for reinforcements, and 2 Coys York & Lancs Regt were sent up to assist in holding the line against a possible German counter attack.

Action subsequent to July 1

During the night of July 1st – 2nd the remnants of the Battalion were withdrawn into the village of HAMEL, the front line being held by 2 Coys 5/6 York & Lancs Regt.

Several parties were organized to search NO MAN’S LAND to bring in casualties, their search was continued by parties sent up to HAMEL on nights of July 2/3, 3/4, 4/5. On July 2 while carrying out this duty Lieut & Adjt G CATHER was killed.

Early on 2 July orders were received to hand over the line to the 87th Bde and for the Battalion to withdraw to MARTINSART.

General remarks

The outstanding feature of the day were the fine leading by the Company Officers, and the gallant spirit and magnificent dash by the men which carried them on in spite of the severity of the casualties.

Strength

The numbers advancing to the attack were

Officers Other Ranks
15 600 (approximately)

Casualties

Officers  
Captain Johnston C.M. Killed in Action, 1st July 1916
Lieut & Adjutant Cather G. St. G. S. Killed in Action, 2nd July 1916

 
Captain Brew J.G. Wounded, 1st July 1916
Captain Ensor C. H. Wounded, 1st July 1916
Lieut Jackson H.E. Wounded, 1st July 1916
Lieut Gibson J.E. Wounded, 1st July 1916
Lieut Shillington T.G. Wounded, 1st July 1916
Lieut Smith E.M. Wounded, 1st July 1916
2nd Lieut Barcroft G.E. Wounded, 1st July 1916
2nd Lieut Andrews A.A. Wounded, 1st July 1916

 
Major Atkinson T.J. Missing: Believed killed, 1st July 1916
Lieut Townsend R.S.B. Missing: Believed killed, 1st July 1916
Lieut Hollywood A.C. Missing: Believed killed, 1st July 1916
2nd Lieut Montgomery R.T. Missing: Believed killed, 1st July 1916
2nd Lieut Seggie A. Missing: Believed killed, 1st July 1916

 
2nd Lieut Stewart W.J. Missing 1st July 1916
2nd Lieut Craig G.D. Shell Shock 1st July 1916

Other Ranks  
Killed 56
Wounded 303
Missing 159
  518

A.C. Pratt Major
9th R.Ir.Fus.