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Webmatters : War Diary: 13th (S) Bn Royal Irish Rifles -- 1st July 1916
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War Diary

13th (S) Bn Royal Irish Rifles

7th July 1916

To 108th Infn Bde

I have the honour to forward herewith a narrative of events on the 1st July.

Very little, almost no information, was sent in, this was due in the first place to most of the officers becoming casualties, and the difficulty of getting men across the fire swept zone of NO MANS LAND.

Signalling wires had previously been laid out by the Signalling Officer of the 17th but all attempts by the signallers to take a line forward were useless. I had 10 signallers killed and wounded. I append a list of the officer casualties by Companies 2/Lieut Fullerton of D Coy is the only officer who went over who has come back unwounded & has very little information to give about his Company.

Wm. Savage
Comdg 13th R. Ir. Rifles

7th July 1916

Narrative of events on the 1st July 1916

5 – 6 am

The men had hot tea for breakfast and a rum ration before they got out to attack at about 6.30 am.

6.30 am

They paraded and filed up to the three gaps in our parapet, being on the steep hillside they were under cover from view & fire & there were no casualties.

7.15 am

At a quarter before Zero, they moved out & lay down on the tape, they moved off a couple of minutes before Zero time, so as to be within 150 yards of the German trenches at the lift.

7.30 am

Directly the start was made the German MGs could be heard firing at once.

From this time I received no messages, & the Companies were lost.

8.06 am

Captain Mathews Comdg A Coy on my right sent in a note to say he was held up in A Line & asking for Vickers Gun.

Captain Davidson whose guns were in reserve was then sent out.

9.20 am

Getting no news from the front I thought affairs could not be going according to programme. I tried to get reinforcements from 15th R. Ir. Rifles but they could give none, & said their Right Coys are through B Line and the Companies on the left are in difficulties. After this letter, I asked 108th Infn Bde for reinforcements but none were forthcoming.

10.20 am

Captain J S Davidson 108 MG Company reported: “Am in the B Line 7 have got up 2 Vickers Guns, am consolidating both. Cannot say how many infantry are in the line, but in this part, there are only about 30 men of the 13th, 11th & 15th Royal Irish Rifles. We cannot possibly advance & reinforcements, ammo & bombs most urgently needed”.

This report was sent on to 108th Infn Brigade Major with further request for reinforcements.

Somewhere about this time I sent out 2/Lieut RB Marriott-Watson — the Intelligence Officer to see if any information was forthcoming. He knew the ground well as he was Battn Scout Officer. He however was wounded and admitted to hospital.

The situation was quite confused & very conflicting reports were coming in.

12.40 pm

A message from Capt Davidson 108th MGC arrived. “I am holding the end of a communication trench in A line with a few bombers & a Lewis Gun. We cannot hold much longer. We are being pressed on all sides and ammunition almost finished”.

12.50 pm

I then sent up the few remaining Battn Staff, the orderly room Sergt, 2 Officers servants, two Coy QM Sergts with ammunition, these men were unable to cross No Mans Land. Two were killed three were wounded.

1.05 pm

270 bombs were also sent up with a party & a man who knew the way.

2/Lieut Findlay went out about this time for information & returned wounded later on.

1.40 pm

2/Lieut Dale sent in a note to say he was installed in a German trench 50 yards or more to the left of Captain Davidson, firing on German bombing party. This officer returned later on, gallantly saving his two guns & bringing in an extra tripod which he found.

3 pm

The situation was confused & no information was available. I received Bde Majors No 108/660 regarding party of Germans advancing on ST PIERRE DIVION.

3.20 pm

I replied with my No 2 of 1st saying I had no men & reinforcements were required. Rn J Blakely came in from the sunken road and reported that Capt Davidson had been wounded in the knee & while he & another man were carrying him out, he was shot dead between them.

3.50 pm

2 Coys of the York & Lancaster Battn arrived about this time, when Bde Majors information re the German counter attack arrived & these two Companies held the NW edge if Thiepval Wood.

Several batches of German prisoners came in under escort parties of the Ulster Division from A & B lines of German Trenches.

After this time the two Coys of the Y&L Battn were holding the front line & by night I had a party of 40 men gathered up from the men who returned to hold the left flank of Peterhead & Waterhead Sap.

A prisoner was captured on this flank after dark, which, read in conjunction with a note from Capt Powell RFA looks as if some Germans were coming in to give themselves up, but went away. The message was “Wounded man reports Germans advancing down marsh”.

The night was very quiet except fairly heavy shelling. Men kept coming in, wounded men & others so tired that they lay down just where they were.

2nd July 1916

Shelling very heavy throughout the day, the Germans seemed to have got the range of Speyside Road & came nearer and nearer the dug outs and shelters. One shell came through the dug out we were using as HQs where the Battn Staff & the 5th Y & L Regt. Fortunately only one man was hurt.

There was nothing doing in the morning except we were informed that we would be relieved.

In the afternoon Lt Colonel Crozier 9th R. Ir. Rifles used the Battn HQs whilst in command of a special … Bde to bomb the German A line & push in the direction of ST PIERRE DIVION.

At 5.30 pm I handed the Peterhead Sap & Waterhead Sap to the CO 5th Battn Y&L Regt. Which saps had been held by my men all night on 1/2nd July. At 7.30 pm I withdrew to MARTINSART under instructions received earlier in the day. By moving in small parties of 10 we were fortunate to come back via Speyside & Northern causeway with only 2 slight casualties.

Wm. Savage Colonel
Comdg 13th R. Ir. Rifles