The Royal Marines and the Battle of the Ancre 13th Nov 1916

THE ROYAL MARINES ON THE ANCRE-13TH NOVEMBER 1916


cleggThis article is dedicated to the memory of all the Matelots and Marines who fought on 13-11-16. Especially Pte John Clegg, Capt. A,Staughton and Capt.E.Bastin all of whom died at that battle or of wounds incurred at that battle. Members of the families of these three men showed me a great deal of unpublished material relating to their service which put the human side forward, it is hard describing this battle without thinking of these men as I have almost come to know them.

Photo: Pte John Clegg.

On the night of 8th/9th January 1916 the last of the Royal Marines crept away from the Gallipoli peninsula with the last of the British Troops. Typical of the Royal Marines they had be the first in during shore raids and amongst the first in during the main landings and the last to leave. The Royal Marines who landed were a mixture of old veteran regulars and very young short service men, those that left were a much depleted haggard bunch. Behind them was the heartbreak of leaving the positions they had fought, bled and died for plus the feeling of the betrayal of their fallen comrades whose graves they were now abandoning. They were withdrawing because of the lack of political will and support, and the politicians had decided to support them no more, leaving a bitter feeling of betrayal, a feeling that was not unique to the Anzacs. It would be 1918 before British troops would be back on Gallipoli. The four Marine battalions had been reduced to two due to horrific casualties and the inability to maintain four battalions in the feild as the number of casualties was outstripping the abiltiy to train replacements. The Royal Naval Division was now scattered to the four winds. Some were sent to Stavros, some to Imbros and others to Salonica. Meanwhile at Whitehall the future of the Naval Division was being pondered. There was a clamour to disband it and it was decided to absorb the duration only RNVR men into the army , but the marines would be retained in the Navy and distributed to the ships of the fleet and to garrisons around the world. After a short exciting life the Royal Naval Division was going to die at the hands of it’s creators. Many of the regular marines had already been removed from the battalions and returned to the fleet. Then the news came that the Naval division was to be saved, it’s commander General Paris and been fighting for it’s survival and had succeeded. A deal had been struck , the Division was to be administered by the war office, replacements ad supplies would come from the army as opposed to the admiralty but the personel especially the marines were under the wing of the Admiralty. It was now decided to re assemble the division from all of it’s outposts , reinforce it to make up for casualties and transfers to the fleet and to send the division to France

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Capt Albert Staughton

Events in France up to the Battle

So in May 1916 the RND was reassembled and sent by ship to France landing at Marseilles. The division was now given an army division number and was known as the 63rd (RN)Division. There would be no longer three naval brigades, but two naval brigades 188th &189th and one brigade 190th containing army units. The Royal Marine battalions, 1RM and 2RM, were in the 188th brigade with two RNVR battalions. For once they had there own divisional artillery and it’s a matter of pride for me, being a man of Kent , that the Kent Territorial artillery was assigned to the 63rd Division. Since landing in France the division had re equipted and trained extensively as the style and conditions of fighting varied tremendously with that in Gallipoli. On the peninsular the front lines were very close together,often 20 yards apart and grenades could be thrown from one trench directly into the opponents. In France, however, there was usually a large no mans land to cross which wasoften swept by machine gun fire. This large gap meant that in France front lines were often not Garrisoned in strength as there was time to bring men up if needed , forces were often kept in the 2nd and 3rd lines and brought forward for counter attacking when the enemy had showed his hand. On Gallipoli as front lines were not far apart , they were packed to repel any mass charge by the Turks. If the Turks broke through the front line they could be down on the beaches behind the allies in no time, there wasn’t the luxury of defence in depth and regrouping if things went pear shaped. In France the front line was leveled by tons of shells and if held in strength carnage would be the result. Meanwhile on the Somme front the summer offensive had begun and was pressing ahead with mixed results, but in virtually all instances heavy casualties resulted. Other divisions which had been with the RND on Gallipoli, the 29th, the Australians and New Zealanders had already been commited and had suffered grievously.

On the 4th October theRND were transfered to the 5th Corps and told to prepare for an assault north of the river ancre. The division mover immediately to the Somme sector to begin reconoitering and extensive training. Since landing in France the casualties had been light, but on 13th October, whilst visiting the front line,General ParisRMA commanding the RND was seriously wounded; he was the father figure of the division , their protector and guiding light.He was replaced by Major General Shute, an army man who had scant regard to naval traditions. This was another attempt by the Army to bring the division to heel. The army disliked the naval traditions, ranks terms etc, and his appointment was an attempt to standardize things on army lines. He didn’t have the faith in their abilities ,which was to have other consequences later. Goinginto the first battle in France the RND had at their head a figure deeply unpopular who had little time for them or their unique ways. Once again the division was fighting on two fronts.

The location of the attack had been decided by mid October, and the operational order was issued on 23rd October; it was to be north of the Ancre in front of Hamel, an area that had been assualted 5 times since July 1st with every attack failing with heavy cost. This was going to be a nasty baptism on the western front. It might be wondered, and it’s a theory of mine that the location chosen was also part of the conspiricy to break the naval hold of the RND; by sustaining heavy casualties it’s will could be broken and it’s casualties replacements taken from the army would further dilute the naval element, although there is no firm evidence for this. The reason for this attack was that in the course of the battle the front had moved forward and was becoming concave. The front hadn’t moved much at all at Beaumont Hamel and Serre in the north of the Somme sector . There was to be attacks at these points to advance the line and take the convexity out-to broaden the shoulders above the ancre river. Therefore the RND were moved to the trenches of this sector and started rotating through them with spells in the front,second and reserve lines.

The attack had been planned and posponed several times , but on the 10th November it was finally decided that it would go ahead on the 13th .

These delays were in many ways benificial as it allowed extra trench raids and more artillery preparation was possible, it also meant that more men were lost through illhealth and natural wastage. The artillery started shelling the front line early every morning as if an attack was about to take place, but of course it didn’t. The delays forced the defenders into a set routine , a tactic that had allowed the British to put the turks to sleep to allow the escape from Gallipoli. This acclimatizing of the Germans helped in the attacks, as the shelling on the morning of the 13th was probably written off as yet another morning hate session. Also importantly there was more time for the artillery to cut the wire in front of the German positions. The original operational order of 2RM planned to include 6 tanks, but these were never used and I have been unable to find out why. It leaves you with the what if thought, but the ground in which they were to be used I feel was probably not the type of ground to try a tank attack.


The Plan

ancrestaThe attacks of the 13th November on the Ancre involved six divisions ; in the south against the north bank of the Ancre the 63rd RND; on their left the 51st Highland Div. To the left of them , between Beaumont Hamel and Serre, the 3rd Division and furthest north was the 31st Division in front of Serre. There was to be an attack south of the Ancre river by the 19th Division to run alongside the attack of the RND.

The objectives set on the RND front were coded by colour lines rather than by trench names. These were four objective lines, the green dotted line,the green line the yellow line and finally the red line. The first objective was the green dotted line,set on the German third trench line. The green line was set on the ridge behind station road, which linked Beaumont Hamel with Beaucourt; this was in a valley, was a fortified defensive position and was the second objective. The third objective was the yellow line, which was set on a trench called Beaucourt trench , which ran from behind Beaucourt , along the top of a ridge to behind Beaumont Hamel. It should be noted that the last three objectives were all on high ground ,affording excellent observation of the attacking troops . These lines were tiered like the side of a football stadium so that the occupants of all of these trenches could see the attackers and therefore engage them or call artillery strikes down on them. The colours assigned to the objectives are as defined in the RND divisional history , the operational order for the Royal Marines mentions different colours but changes them in an amendment to that order. The RND attacking formation was to be two brigades attacking side by side and one in reserve. The two attacking brigades were to be 188th and 189th , the two naval brigades, 188th was to be on the left. The reserve brigade 190th was to be deployed behind and across the whole width of the two naval brigades and was only intended for use if the momentum had dropped out of the attack. The attack was to be made leapfrog style, and each objective was assigned to two groups of attackers. The objective would then be assaulted and captured by the first group of attacking troops, who would once the objective had been taken ,consolidate and re organise. The next objective would be assaulted by the second group of attackers who would pass through the first group. On capturing their objective they too would reorganise and consolidate and allow the first team of attackers to pass through to the next objective and so on. This consolidation and re organisation on the objective was a concept born out of the early failures in the Somme offensive. Previously an objective had been taken and the assaulting troops pressed on , often in a disorganised state , without fully clearing the captured trenches. They would blunder on to the next set of enemy trenches , the Germans would then come out of their dugouts from the uncleared trenches and shoot them in the back. The attacking forces often then found themselves to be the filling in the sandwich. The lesson learnt was to rest on an objective, bomb and clear every dugout ; hence for this attack the leapfrog style was adopted.

Each brigade was split into two halves, one consolidating whilst the other attacked. In 188th Brigade , 1 RM and Howe battalion were to assault the green dotted line and the yellow line, 2RM and Anson battalion were to assault the green line and red line. In 189th Brigade Hood and Hawke were to take the green dotted line and the yellow line, Nelson and Drake were to take the green line and the red line. 188th brigade were to be supported by the 10th Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the 4th Bedfords, 189th Brigade by the Honourable Artillery Company and the 7th Royal Fusiliers. Although the Royal Marines were only represented by two battalions in this offensive there was a wider Royal Marine presence as the Commanding officers of Anson,Drake Nelson and Hawke Battalions were all Lieutenant Colonels of the Royal Marines.

The artillery support would also be of a new style , which had evolved during the somme offensive as a result of bitter experience. There was nothing new about the softening up bombardment, but it was the supporting bombardment that was to be different. Up to the start and including the first attacks on the somme battle the support of an attack consisted of the enemy front line being plastered and then the artillery would then move onto another target in the rear in a series of planned lifts calculated at a rate of an average advance. What was found was that when a bombardment stopped and moved off the front line , the Germans would rush out of the dugouts in time to catch the attackers in the open. The attackers would then be stuck there and their artillery support would move further away from them. A new method was developed , called the creeping barrage. This involved the artillery laying down a curtain of fire which advanced slowly, the infantry would advance just behind this, say 20 yards,. The advantage of this is the Germans would keep their heads down and when the barrage moved off the front line the infantry would be on it’s heels and on the Germans before they had come up from their dugouts. It was impressed on the troops to keep up with the barrage and move with it. The troops were also ordered to move forward no matter what was on the flanks, which was quite a revolutionary idea at the time. Even if units to the side were held up , they were to keep going on regardless.

The troops were issued with 4 empty sandbags plus various tools. Bombers had buckets of 50 bombs , wire cutters had yellow armbands and lightly armed runners had blue and white armbands. Most attacks were carried out by relatively fresh troops moved into the frontline the night before the attack. The RND battalions had been in the line without a break and had suffered quite severely from the normal wastage of trench warfare and therefore the battalions were going into the attack short on numbers and those that were attacking could be considered exhausted. One reliable source states that the battalions were about 500 strong; 1RM is recorded to have had 490 men and it can be assumed that 2RM would be similar. The fact that the battalions had been in the line for some time resulted in the men being in relatively poor condition. Many battalions would not have been able to attack in that condition, but the RND was a unique formation that had a terrific espirit de corps, especially the marine battalions. The bonding between officers and men meant that even in depleted numbers and bowed by fatigue the men were still able to mount an attack.

In a letter home an officer of 2RM wrote that the men were worn out , half starving after 20 months solid campaigning without leave and their boots were dropping off. While their morale was high, it was starting to break them and men were going sick each day. I have reference to this sort of condition in other RND battalions . Those that had served at Gallipoli had come to France with the clothes they stood up in , also no leave and had had none since. In unpublish letters I have seen there appears to be a sort of fatalism come over the autors, the fact they had no leave and the prospects for leave weren’t good, the fatalistic prophocy turned out to be true , the authors of these letters both perished at Beaumont Hamel. What also contributed to the fatigue was General Shutes insistance that new jumping off trenches were dug at right angles to the main axis of the attack, this digging further lowered the physical condition of the men. There was some wisdom in this order, it meant that when the attack went in the units would be properly orientated and the attack wouldn’t veer off course. The condition of the front line trenches between Serre and Thiepval were virtually untracable as they had been pounded into an unrecognisable line that were choked with bodies , mud and slime. These trenches consequently were only thinly held . The weather in the two weeks leading up to the attack had been bad. Much rain and cloud had made the earth very muddy and what matters worse was the proximity ogf this area to the river ancre, where the land was prone to flooding anyway. The effect of this heavy going was that movement for the infantry wound be slow and tiring. Accounts give stories of the bottoms of trenches being knee deep in mud which virtually stopped all movement.


THE BATTLE

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Concentrating on the 188th Brigade in which the Royal Marines were serving. The assembly of the troops began on the 12th November and was complete by 2030hrs. The communications trenches and front line had been shelled quite heavily by the enemy hoping to get lucky and the brigade suffered 70 casualties as a result of this probing shellfire. The operational order stated that the troops should be ready by 04:45 due to the fact that the trenches were under observation from the Thiepval ridge, bayonets were to be fixed in the dark as the sun catching hundreds of bayonets would give the game away. The attack went in at 05:45 with 1RM and Howe assaulting the dotted green line which consisted of three lines of German trenches. The weather was very misty obscuring the field of view. Each battalion went over in 4 waves as all four of the brigades battalions advanced. Within minutes of the opening barrage the Germans replied with artillery fire on no mans land and the support trenches. The land sloped down to the German trenches and as feared was terribly muddy and shell pocked which hindered fast progress. The Germans were also sweeping no mans land with machine gun fire. Casualties were suffered geting into the German front line; in 1 RM every company comander was killed before reaching the German front line, so the burden of command passed down onto junior officers and NCO’s

By 0630 the two leading battalions were on the green dotted line with the German first two lines taken , but 1RM was held up by strong machoine gun fire from the third line and a strong point on 189 brigades sector off to the right. The first trench was so badly damaged from artillery fire that it was virtually unrecognisable. Although the first two lines had been overun , there were many Germans holding out in dugouts and as they emerged they sniped at the attackers from behind. Severe hand to hand fighting ensued with bombing, bayonets, fists and boots. Bomb blocks were set up in these trenches; obstructions thrown up inside the trench like barracades. The Germans left in these trenches were being pushed southwards towards 189 sector

The second line trenches in the south sector of the brigade front remained in German hands and the attack bypassed it. The battalions became intermingled as the following units got sucked into the fight, even the battalions from the 190 brigade , who were meant to be in reserve, were drawn into the fighting. By 09:30 most of the first two German lines had been captured, except for some of the southern portion. There was no progress on the third line due to heavy machine gun fire from a strong point.

The original plan for specific battalions to take certain lines had now gone; 1RM and 2RM were mixed, Anson and Howe were mixed and there were various groups of isolated men. About this time reports from division stated that 189 brigade had reached the yellow dotted line and 188 brigade was being urged to do the same. Having said that , there were parties of isolated Royal Marines in station rd (green line) and some in the yellow line, mainly on the marines half of 188th brigades attack. On the Anson/Howe sector things were still held up on the German third lines. At 09:30 the order came for another push, a short barrage was started and the attack started with every available man advancing. Lieutenant Colonels Hutchinson (2RM) and Cartwright (1RM) were at the head of their men . Hutchison was noted as being seen waving his hat in the air and shouting “Come on Royal Marines!”. The attack was raked by enfilading fire from the German strongpoint on Hawke battalions front, but never the less part of the third line and station road were taken and held, mainly on the left of the sector.

There were many attempts to advance in the next two hours, but the third German line near the strongpoint was still not completely taken, much of it was occupied and there were some who made it to the green line, about 200 men of mixed units. By 12:30 much of the third line that had been captured had to be abandoned as it was being barraged by “friendly” artillery and the units had to pull back to the German second line for shelter. Friendly fire tragedies are not a new phenomenon. They were very common in World War One and most were due to bad communications. It is clear from reading the war diaries that the true position was not really known at any one point, so the artillery thought that the Germans still held their third line. The German third line was reoccupied at the end of the barrage. An entry in the brigade war diary at 12:20 stated an intense barrage was to be opened on the German third line and all troops were to assault at the end of it. This entry coincides with an entry in Ansons diary that their men were shelled out of this trench by their own artillery. What is clear is that only one portion of this line was now held by the Germans in any strength and this was the area around the strongpoint, although there were pockets of Germans in many points where they had been bypassed by advancing troops.

the position at 14:00 was that the green line was held by approximately 200 men of mixed units on the left of the brigade boundry. There were now no men in the yellow line and the 200 in the green line were remanants of a force that had reached the yellow line but were unable to hold it in the face of severe shelling. At 14:45 word was recieved from divisional HQ that two new battalions were to be brought forward to clear the strongpoint on the German third line as it was now behind the line of 1&2RM and Anson. These two battalions were not forthcomming , instead another barrage was ordered to be putdown on the German third line and all troops were to advance. By 18:00 the Royal Marines were in touch with the 1/7th Gordon Highlanders of the 51st Division to their left and held their portion of the green line. The three German lines had been captured up to the strongpoint. By 19:00 the whole green line had been taken and the strongpoint was now effectively isolated and it was hoped that it would wither on the vine. Y ravine, in the 51st Division sector adjoining the Marines, had also now been cleared of the enemy , which by any standards was an excellent feat of arms, it also secured the marines position.

The order was now put out to go firm ready to resume the the attack the following day, it was also learnt that tanks were being brought in to tackle the strongpoint. During the night the battalions re-organised on the green line. The final positions were still rather confused with Germans still in parts of captured trenches but many prisoners had been taken.The Germans in the strongpoint were now basically in an untenable position as were the isolated pockets of the enemy.

The final position of the marines was with their left flank in touch with the 4th Gordon Highlanders of the 51st Division, the marine battalions were on the green line and their right flank was in the air as there was a gap btween them and Howe battalion. The orders for the continuation for the offensive was that 111 brigade from the 37th Div was cross attached and would lead the offensive the following day with 188th Brigade in reserve. An order was put out that none of the 188th Brigade was to advance beyond the green line. I can only guess that, as the mantle of the attack had passed to 111brigade , this measure was introduced to reduce friendly fire casualties. At 06:30 the attack continued , two tanks advanced and quickly bogged down in the muddy conditions , but they fired their 6 pounder guns at the strongpoint and their crews dismounted with machine guns and opened fire on the German held areas. The Germans in the strongpoint surrendered and 400 men were taked prisoner. Howe battalion moved up and occupied this; more Germans surrendered in the small pockets and another 300 men were taken prisoner, so at last Howe were able to link up with the marines.

This was where the attack ended, with the whole of the green line taken with no Germans trapped , the bunkers in the third and second lines were treated to phosphorus bombs, which apparently burned for several days. There was sparodic shelling of the line during the whole day, isolated pockets of men began to rejoin their units and men who had made it to the yellow line were pulled back. It became apparent that the marines had suffered terrible losses with each battalion having only their CO and 1 other officer left. On the 15th the 63rd RN Division was relieved by the 37th Division and the marines trudged back to Englebelmer.

The attack by the rest of the RND, the 189th brigade on the right of the sector, started at the same time as the attack of 188 brigade. The front line was quickly taken by Hood and Drake battalions but the units that were meant to pass through, Hawke and Nelson, got machinegunned and shelled into virtual non existance, mainly at the hands of the strongpoint on Hawkes sector that also created much havoc to 188 brigade. This strongpoint was unmarked on any map therefore avoided the customary treatment from artillery preparation normally given to such structures. Commander Freyberg decided to advance his Hood battalion onto the next objective when the barrage advanced , as the unit that was meant to advance through them had been basically wiped out. On the green line Freyberg collected as many men as possible, despite being wounded several times and ,when the barrage advances again , took the remnants of Hood and others onto the yellow line and upto the village of Beaucourt itself. Beaucourt station had been taken and the edge of Beaucourt itself. For skill and determination , despite being badly wounded, Bernard Freyberg was awarded the Victoria Cross on a day in which much gallantry went unrewarded.


AFTERMATH

The cost of this operation was great. The RND was decimated but had succeded where others had failed for months as did the 51st Division next door to it, which upto that point had also been regarded as suspect. The attacks by the regular divisions in front of Serre failed while the attacks to the south had also succeeded. These successes allwed Sir Douglas Haig to go to the Chantilly conference with success to report and hence were of immense political value. The events of 13th /14th November were indeed a victory and the success filled the papers for days. It was the furthest advance on the Somme in one leap. The RND had made its mark in France with a fine fighting performance. The events that took place were very confusing . On reading diaries of all the units involved, it becomes clear that after the taking of the front line, the fighting became fragmented with large advances made by a few men and many Germans left in groups creating havoc. The strongpoint which created probably the biggest problems had been uncharted and therefore hadn’t undergone any softening up. It appears that most of the casualties of the Royal Marines occured in no mans land before the first line had been reached. As stated earlier, a lesson that was being learnt during the somme offensive was that dugouts needed to be cleared before progressing further. In this attack despite strong emphasis on consolidating the positions , dugouts were not cleared and it was only during late on the 13th and early on the 14th that proper mopping up started to take place with the use of phosphorus grenades. On examination many of these bunkers revealed enough space for a battalion and all the comforts of home; the Germans had no intention of giving up such a post. Most attacks in World War One were written off as thoughtless , unplanned and bungled, but studying contempory documents reveal that plans were painstaking and the aftermath of each action was was analysed to glean the lessons. The plain fact in my opinion , is that nobody give the Germans any credit for being an excellent army , who had the pick of the land , well prepared defences and a determination to fight for every inch. In this context the victory should be seen as an excellent feat of arms, this position had held out since day one on 1st July against many attacks by good units and it was the RND that took the position convincingly, but the price paid was an extremely heavy one.

The general perception of officers of the great war is one of Champagne and Chateaux ,butchers and bunglers, but in the battalions the life expectancy of officers was not long. This attack only succeeded because of the excellent leadership displayed by the officers and NCO’s , the extremely high officer casualties inthe Royal Marines demonstrated what was meant in the Royal Marines by leadership. The casualties in the Marines were not just confined to the RMLI battalions, Lt.Cols Burge and Saunders, who were the CO’s of Nelson and Anson had been killed at the head of their battalions; Lt.Col Tetley, CO of Drake battalion, died of his wounds recieved in this action on the 15th November. Lt.Col. L.O.Wilson, CO of Hawke battalion , was seriously wounded and lucky to survive. At the finish of the battle each CO of 1&2RM had only one other officer left and these casualties had mainly been caused before the German front line had been reached, and the responsibility of comand passed down to NCO’s, this demonstrates to calibre of the officers and NCO’s of the Royal Marines and what is meant by leadership-leadership from the front.


CASUALTY FIGURES

The casualty figures which follow are by deduction from various sources, bear in mind though that the battalions were around 500 men strong.

1 RM

The war diary states that the battalion advanced 490 strong and returned with 138, having had 47 OR’s killed, 210 wounded and 85 missing. Of the 22 officers engaged only 2 returned, 6 being killed, 11 wounded and 3 missing. This gives us definate numbers of how many started and how many came back, the numbers wounded should be accepted but some of these men died in the following days which will not be reflected in the numbers killed. This just leaves the missing who could either be dead, captured, misplaced or wounded and in hospital and unaccounted for. With retrospective analysis using ” Full and Grateful hearts”helps clarify things and I conclude that the casualty figures for 13th November are as follows: Killed: 10 officers, 88 other ranks Wounded: 10 officers, 210 other ranks ,unacounted for: 44 other ranks* * These men could be POW’s or were wounded but taken to regimental aid posts in neighbouring divisions. Some marines were reported as fighting with the Scottish units and these units are known to have buried some of the marine casualties. It is therefore reasonable to assume that they picked up some of the wounded and passed them down their medical chain, and it would take time for the notification to come through, most of the diary information is taken form 15th November so more information could have come later. When wandering in another part of the Somme I found the grave of a marine who obviously died of wounds from this fighting in a cemetery at Warloy, many miles from the fighting, his name didn’t appear in “Full and Grateful hearts”

2RM

The diary for this unit wasn’t so comprehensive in accounting for it’s casualties. It is reasonable to assume that the battalion started with roughly the same number of men and the casualty figures appear to be roughly symetrical, although I suspect that 1RM’s casualties would be higher as they were in the lead but conversely 2RM caught the worst of the artillery retaliation. With the aid of “Full and Gratefull hearts” and the diary and an educated hunch on the other ranks wounded figures these are my figures for 13th November: Killed: 3 officers 81 other ranks Wounded: 12 officers, 200 other ranks

The Royal Marines also had representatives and branches in other sections of the RND engaged in the action of 13th November and their casualty figure are as follows, the figures are killed only: R.M.Engineers: 1 officer, 4 other ranks

R.M. Medical Unit: 8 other ranks

RND Machine Gun company: 2 officers, 9 other ranks

The German casualties are not known to me but in terms of captured 1000+ men may be a little on the low side. In terms of killed and wounded I believe that they were substantial. A German account reports that one of its regiments in Beaucourt was surrounded, their artillery wasn’t responding to their SOS flares and they were suffering great slaughter with few men escaping or being captured. I have recently in the last couple of days looked at the war diary of 148 Field ambulance which war formerly 1st Naval Field Ambulance. They state that 990 German other ranks and 72 officers were treated by them. Bearing in mind that this was one of abouut 5-7 Field Ambulances serving the RND front, if around 1000 of the enemy were taken wounded to one of them the scale of losses can only be significantly higher than first thought by me.

Most of the casualties have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval memorial. Others are buried in a variety of cemeteries such as Y ravine, Ancre British, Hamel military and Serre no2. Interestingly every year over the last couple of year I have noticed an entry in the Time’s In Memorium-war section on every 13th November the following entry.

timesCapt. Bastin was a Colour Sargeant who was promoted to look after the machine gun section, he was wounded in Gallipoli and mentioned in despatches. He lies in Y ravine cemetery, we can only assume that the entry was place by a member of his family. Sadly this year no entry was made, but we don’t forget.

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