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Webmatters : War Diary: 9th (S) Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers -- 1st July 1916
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War Diary

9th (S) Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers


Report on action of 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

1st July 1916

In the line

On the 1st July, an old landmark in the history of ULSTER, the day so long look forward to, & prepared for as the Great Offensive by the combined English & French Armies in the Somme commenced.

The attack was preceded by the most formidable artillery preparation employed as yet in the History of the War, lasting as it did 7 days & 7 nights. The Battalion was allotted Pride of Place in the attack about to be launched, being the leading Battn on the Right of the Division. On our Right was the 32nd DIVISION on our left the 10th (S) Battn R Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Our objective was the point christened LISNASKEA for the occasion R20.c7.4 ref Map 57D SE in the German Third Line. No 1 Coy under the command of Captain H C MACLEAN was on the Right of the Battalion & was supported by No 2 Coy led by Captain P CRUIKSHANK.

On the Left was No 3 Coy led by Captain WFH PELLY & supported by No 4 Coy under the command of Captain JC MURIEL.

At 6.25 am the final artillery preparation — the Intense Bombardment of the enemy lines — commenced. It was of a very furious description while it lasted & appeared so far as we could ascertain at the moment to be very effective. It was at first confined to the Enemy’s first line. Afterwards lifting as the Infantry advanced to the enemy’s successive lines at the given periods of time.

At 7.15 am after all our consolidation material, rations, water & ammunition supplies etc. etc. had been seen to & got ready, our men debouched from the trenches in THIEPVAL WOOD under cover of our artillery fire & took up their position in front of our wire through which lanes had been cut. Every Officer & Man was eager for the fray & determined to do their utmost that day. All Ranks realized that the great test had arrived & that the Honour of Ulster & the reputation of their Regiment was at stake. Everyone knew his position & the individual part he was to perform & this in itself inspired all ranks with the greatest confidence. At 7.30 am the Bugle sounded the assault & the two leading companies advanced immediately in perfect line followed by the supporting companies in Artillery formation. The discipline maintained by all was magnificent the advance being carried out as if it was a parade movement.

On reaching the SUNKEN ROAD in NO MAN’S LAND heavy machine gun & shell fire was encountered, the former from the village of THIEPVAL (afterwards alluded to by the German Prisoners as THIEPVAL FORT) and the ranks began to thin. Men falling by the score. The calm and deliberate advance however still continued. On reaching the German ‘A’ Line those still standing swept on with irresistible determination charging the machine guns which the enemy had mounted on their parapet. On they pushed toward the ‘B’ Line known as the CRUCIFIX Line. Sweeping over the ‘B’ line with men falling fast at every step but with magnificent courage they still went on. The enfilading machine gun fire from the right became more intensive & the fire from the machine guns in front from the ‘C’ Line more accurate.

The remnants of the Battalion however, steadily advanced towards the ‘C’ Line & succeeded in reaching their objective LISNASKEA. A mere handful of men under 2 Lieut. McKINLEY held on to the latter point for about an hour in face of superior numbers.

The Division on our right was held up & so our right flank was open and unprotected. The Germans then attempted to cut the party off. Our men were forced to withdraw to the CRUCIFIX Line when the supporting Battalions were endeavouring to establish themselves.

Here throughout the day the men toiled consolidating the position to meet the inevitable counter attack. This position was under constant M Gun fire from THIEPVAL & casualties were numerous. Ammunition & bombs soon began to run short. Messengers were sent for supplies but owing to the murderous fire concentrated on NO MAN’S LAND it was impossible to get stores across. Many of the brave messengers themselves were killed or wounded. At 10 o’clock in the morning Major PEACOCKE faced the merciless fire in NO MAN’S LAND & succeeded in reaching the enemy lines in safety and took charge of the situation.

At about 3 pm in the afternoon the enemy fiercely bombarded the piece of trench we were holding with high explosives and shrapnel, attacking at the same time with bombs on our right. Our bombs were at this time almost exhausted, nevertheless we held on to about 10 pm that night when we were compelled to fall back to the German ‘A’ Line, thence to our own trenches. During the night all that was left of the Battalion was reorganized & parties were sent out to succour the wounded lying out in NO MAN’S LAND. On the following day numbers of our wounded who had crawled into our front line the night previous were got down to Dressing Stations a& burial parties were told off to bury the dead as far as possible. A heavy barrage was kept up on our front and support trenches by the enemy practically throughout the whole of the attack & this made the task of attending to & dispatching the wounded to the rear an exceedingly difficult one. The casualties which were very heavy are recorded on Page 7.

To particularize is perhaps invidious, so magnificently did all behave but one cannot help alluding to a few individual achievements. Major Peacocke worked magnificently. He crossed No Man’s Land at a time when the fire sweeping it was most intensive. He organized and rallied our troops in the enemy lines. He fought hand to hand with the enemy repeatedly leading his men to repulse their bombing attacks. He was the life and soul of the defence and it was entirely due to his examples of coolness and gallantry that our unsupported troops held on to the position for the length of time that they did.

2nd Lieut. R W McKinley with a remarkable determination of purpose forced his way with his small band to LISNASKEA our ultimate objective. He gallantly held on for as long as possible and successfully withdrew his men when the position became untenable. He then although much exhausted rendered splendid assistance to Major Peacocke. Sergt Major Chapman although wounded early in the action continued to advance with his company and throughout the day fought with great coolness and gallantry. Sergt Kelly S whilst holding the CRUCIFIX Line Sergt Kelly volunteered to cross a piece of ground swept by the enemy fire in order to endeavour to get in touch with the troops on our right. He achieved his purpose and later during the day when all of the officers of his company had fallen he rallied his men and handled the situation with great gallantry and coolness working and fighting with untiring energy until wounded. Lance Corporal Little D found himself isolated with a Lewis Gun and Vickers Gun. He fought the Lewis Gun until all his ammunition was exhausted killing many of the enemy. He then destroyed both guns and bombed his way back to our main body near the CRUCIFIX. Pte Gibson T J on reaching the German’s wire saw three Germans manning a machine gun from their parapet. Single handed he attacked and killed all three with the butt of his rifle. In many cases during the attack isolated groups of 3 or 4 of our men attacked the enemy in his dug outs causing separate bodies of from 12 to 20 to surrender.

Casualties

As already indicated the casualties suffered by the Battalion were unfortunately very heavy. The officer casualties were as follows:

Killed

Captain HC MacLEAN OC No 1 Coy
Captain P CRUIKSHANK OC No 2 Coy
Captain WFH PELLY OC No 3 Coy
Captain J WEIR Junior Captain No 4 Coy
Captain HC MULKERN RAMC (MO attached)
2/Lieut. LWH STEVENSON
2/Lieut. WP FOX
2/Lieut. WA HEWITT

Wounded

Captain JC MURIEL OC No 4 Coy
2/Lieut. WE McCARTER
2/Lieut. WH LONG
2/Lieut. JL GRAHAM

Missing believed KILLED

Lieut. WM CROZIER
2/Lieut. JSM GAGE

The casualties amongst Other Ranks were as follows

Killed: 51
Wounded: 252
Missing: 124
Missing and wounded: 26
Missing believed killed: 4
Suffering from shell shock: 4

Total 16 Officers and 461 Other Ranks

2/7/16

In the line

The Battalion was relieved in the Trenches on the evening of 2nd Inst. by a Battn of the 49th Division & withdrawn to the rest billets in MARTINSART WOOD. The relief was affected without
casualties. A draft of 28 Other Ranks joined the Battn at latter place bringing the strength of this Battalion up to 25 Officers and 450 Other Ranks.