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Webmatters : Somme 1st July 1916: The attack by the 36th (Ulster) Division
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36th (Ulster) Division

Saturday 1st July 1916


1st July Commemoration

1st July Commemoration

The Germans counter attack

By 1100 hours those Ulstermen who had advanced the furthest found themselves caught out in the open. Reinforcements and supplies could not reach them because no-man’s land was constantly swept by artillery and machine gun fire. This same fire also prevented them from being able to retreat.

The time table of the British Artillery schedule also meant that they could not bring back fire on the German positions to help alleviate their position and to allow them to get back to the British lines.

By 2200 hours that evening the German counter attacks had forced the Ulstermen back to the German front line trenches.

I suppose it could be argued that the reason the 36th Division’s successes amounted to so little by the end of the day was because the Divisions either side of them were stopped dead at their starting points.

Reality as can be seen from other pages on this site was that for one reason or another those two Divisions were never going to take their objectives.

This was a war in which artillery was the predominant killing machine and the prime arm of success. The barrage put down by the British was the heaviest it had ever engaged in. It wasn’t enough. The guns were too light, there weren’t enough of them and about a third of the shells failed to explode.

The casualties that day in the Ulster Division amounted to 216 Officers and 5,266 Men.

There are two cemeteries within walking distance of the tower. They contain the fallen from throughout the battle and witness the British Army’s endeavours to wrest the hill from the Germans.

 

First Minister of Northern Ireland, Ian Paisley leads the July ceremony in 2007

First Minister of Northern Ireland, Ian Paisley leads the July ceremony in 2007

 

Messines 1917

Just under a year later the men from Ulster would once again be making a great advance, only this time the territory they took would be held.

For a short account about recruiting the Irish Divisions and the Battle for Messines:

 


There are two short services of remembrance held each year at the tower. The main one falls on the afternoon of the 1st July and the second on Armistice Day (11th November).