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Henry Tabor's 1916 War Diary

July 1916

 

 

1916 Diary entry

Research & comments 2003

July

1 Sat

Intense artillery fire from 5:45 am .  Infantry went over at 7:30 am .  Hear they are doing well.  Our aircraft doing good work spotting German batteries.

9:45 just heard third line taken, bon.

Ye gods what a row.

11 am , our infantry in Montauban.  Saw German prisoners go by, looked like I am, fed up.

8 pm Artillery very active, luggie tried to make counter attack: failed.  French 16 gun battery very active.

Battle of the Somme starts:

The offensive, launched in bright sunlight at 7.30 on the morning of July 1, failed disastrously on most sectors of the 18 mile front. British commanders were so confident they ordered their troops to walk slowly towards the German lines. Once they had been seized, cavalry units would pour through to pursue the fleeing Germans.

Even the explosion of several huge mines under the German front line did not prevent their machine-gunners emerging to create havoc among the waves of British infantry.

There was, however, a limited success at the southern end of the line [where HTT was stationed] where more imaginative infantry and artillery tactics enabled 18th and 30th Divisions to take all their objectives.  British capture Montauban and Mametz; break through towards Bapaume.  French attack towards Peronne; reach outskirts of Hardecourt and Curlu; take Dompierre, Becquincourt, Bussus, and Fay.  5,000 prisoners taken.

Many battalions were virtually annihilated. The British casualties on this one day totalled 57,470, the biggest ever suffered by the British army in a single day.

It was a baptism of fire for Britain 's new volunteer armies. Many 'Pals' Battalions, comprising men from the same town, had enlisted together to serve together. They suffered catastrophic losses: whole units died together and for weeks after the initial assault, local newspapers would be filled with lists of dead, wounded and missing.

July

2 Sun

Artillery very active from 4 am .  Further progress made by infantry.  Hear that Fricourt has been evacuated by Germans.  Bon.  Aeroplane shoot with 15 Siege.

British capture Fricourt; relinquish captured trenches at Gommecourt. 

July

3 Mon

Artillery fairly active.  Registered on Hun battery with aeroplane this evening.  Have been warned to prepare to shift tonight up to Carnoy, heigh ho.

Carnoy Valley 1916

July

4 Tue

Dumped down in La Pree Wood (right of Carnoy) at 2 am , came on to rain, rotten.

Fixed up station in open, made a small bivouac with strips, bless god drenched through.

Gives one the pip still we’re advancing so mustn’t grumble.

HTT moved to La Pree or Lapree Wood (now Bois St Cauchy) is 0.5 Km SE of Carnoy, where he stayed until 18th July.

Heavy thunderstorms impede operations.

British take Bernafay Wood, east of Montauban; make air attacks on Comines, Combles, St. Quentin.

July

5 Wed

Pulled out of bed at 3 am to fix up telephone wire drat them.  On duty from 3:30 am.  Had a decent shoot with 28th Siege.

How I long of the old country.

“In an active part of the Front the telephone wires would never remain intact for long, as they would be cut by shell-fire. It might have been quite useful if the enemy had not persisted in destroying the wires, or if they had left the observation post itself in peace. But this they would not do. They spotted an observation post within a half-hour at the outside and would shell it to pieces. They even shelled anything that looked like an observation post.”  - Wyndham Lewis

July

6 Thu

Two shoots with 9th Siege and two with 28 Siege.  Made a small dugout for instrument, shells came very near while working 28th wind up.

Had a fair night’s sleep for once.

British win ground on slopes of Thiepval [6 miles north of HTT].

9 Squadron aircraft in action directing artillery at a battalion of infantry moving from Bois de Leuze to Guillemont and directly machine gunning a brigade marching into Ginchy.

July

7 Fri

Rotten day for most part.  Few machines up this evening.  More shells very near.

British again advance; portion of Leipzig Redoubt carried on Thiepval Plateau.  Fighting at Ovillers and east of La Boiselle.  Contalmaison won but not held.

 

July

8 Sat

Guess we are in for a warm time, just here.  I want to go home.  Infantry doing well I understand.

The wireless is, after all, being used to great advantage and as for the aeroplanes, well they are great.

British penetrate southern part of Trones Wood, where HTT will be based from 14th September.  Hand to hand fighting in Ovillers.

French take Hardecourt.

July

9 Sun

Jolly warm all day.  Ruddy T.H.E. and shrapnel flying about, made sure I had got a blighty one when laying out strips.

Definition:  blighty one – a wound deemed sufficiently serious - but not potentially fatal - to necessitate either temporary or permanent recuperation in Britain

English make slight progress at Ovillers; fighting continues in Trones Wood.

July

10 Mon

Rotten muck up this morning, M6 and M19 both called in together, major got wild and ordered T to be put out and then MW called up a quarter of an hour later.  Had a fine shoot.

M6 and M19 are co-ordinates of artillery batteries.

Germans regain footing in Trones Wood.

July

11 Tue

Rottenest day I can remember, this position shelled out by eight inch.  Absolutely awful, I had to keep on running to and fro to see to wireless, also had to put out strips. 

Guns shifted away in front, poor me still here.  I’m going to kip down and damn them.

Contalmaison won and held against counter-attacks; British also take parts of Mametz [within half a mile north of HTT’s position] and Trones Woods.

Total prisoners in 10 days fighting 7,500, and 26 field guns.

July

12 Wed

Shelling continued all night, also this morning, this is a spot.

British gain Mametz Wood and make progress in Trones Wood.

July

13 Thu

More shelling, will they never stop.  Ropes of mast cut away.  Had tons of escapes even during today from flying pieces of shell. 

Infantry going at it again tomorrow, good luck to the boys.

Effects of shelling on Delville Wood, Somme

July

14 Fri

Terrific bombardment on both sides at 3 am , 3 killed and 7 wounded in this battery.  Fine sight at 9 am , to see the thousands of cavalry going up.  Hear our infantry have taken Longueval.

One of the finest sights I have ever witnessed was the cavalry going up this morning, string after string keep going by, until they stretch as far as the eye can see.  Ye gods wont old luggie get a doffing up.

Cavalry:  On July 14th there was a surprise dawn attack without a long preparatory bombardment. High Wood was taken by the 7th Division and Cavalry, for a day.  Unfortunately the cavalry was positioned too far back-to make a breakthrough into the open country beyond High Wood.

British attack German second line; capture Longueval and Bazentin-le-Petit, and the whole of Trones Wood.

End of first phase of Battle of the Somme .

July

15 Sat

No shelling of this place to speak of, just a few here and there.  Shoot with 9th Siege on Hun battery.  Expecting to advance again very soon.

Trones Wood will surely be famous after this, we have taken and lost it about six times already, now hear we hold it all.

Trones Wood:  On 14 July, during the opening of the third stage of the Somme Offensive, 18th Division secured the wood from the Germans.  (http://www.firstworldwar.com/today/18thdivisionmemorial_trones.htm)

British advance continued; capture of Delville Wood, penetrate to Bois des Foureaux and outskirts of Pozieres; 2,000 prisoners taken; second defence lines penetrated; British cavalry in action.

July

16 Sun

Very quiet as regards wireless.

British consolidate their positions; withdraw from Bois des Foureaux (High Wood)

July

17 Mon

Nothing doing up above.  Saw Pearce, Bunny and Wilkie this evening.

British storm and capture German second line positions on front of 1,500 yards.  Take Waterlot Farm, east of Longueval; clear Ovillers of the remaining Germans.

July

18 Tue

Nothing doing re wireless.  Had to shift station to other side of valley, no place to go to, so had to build a hut myself – v hard work.  Major reared up saying station was not up in about half an hour, the chump.

Moved to other side of valley from La Pree Wood for two days.

Germans make strong counter-attacks at Longueval and Delville Wood; retake part of latter.

July

19 Wed

Fair day, M19W called up, but the target was out of range.

German attacks on Longueval and Delville Wood continued; British regain some lost ground, repulse attack on Waterlot Farm.

July

20 Thu

French made an attack this morning, we are shifting again tonight. 

Awful game this keep on shifting.  Saw some fine thrilling air fights.  Boches come off worse every time.

HTT moved to position on road near Maricout Wood, where he stayed until 6th September.

Struggle in Longueval and Delville Wood continued.  British advance 1,000 yards between Bazentin and Longueval.

July

21 Fri

Put up aerial after about 4 hours sleep in the [...]

A lot of confusion as to where the station is to go up.  Terrible warm spot.

British push their advance to Bois des Foureaux (High Wood).  Germans counter-attack and regain some ground.

July

22 Sat

Thoroughly demoralizing today putting whiskers on me.  Shells, shells in a never ending stream. 

Decent aero shoot with 28th.  Big attacks on both sides tonight.

Dugout building is damned hard work.  Oh I am fed up with this ruddy war; only to get back to blighty.

From 28 Siege Battery ’s War Diary of 22/7/16 “Fired 583 rounds at hostile trenches, also in Guillemont, Ginchy and an S.O.S. into Longueval”

British attack along whole front from Pozieres to Guillemont; violent fighting.

July

23 Sun

Terrible here today from first thing in morning to last thing at night.  Had to shift to another dugout.  Lost revolver during the night, also all my private belongings.

Second phase of Somme Battle begins.

From 28 Siege Battery’s War Diary of 23/7/16 “Fired 947 rounds at hostile trenches near Wdge Wood, Guillemont, Ginchy and Maltz Horn Farm, also cut wire, this was successfully cut by using full charge.  Engaged a hostile battery with aeroplane observation, 5 OKs obtained and a great number of Ys”

Intense fighting in and round Pozieres; British recapture whole of Longueval, but Germans retake north end of village.

Outskirts of Guillemont twice change hands.

July

24 Mon

The same as yesterday, only worse.  About four machines called up this station at once.

Everybody thoroughly scared here, 21 fellows wounded, one serious and sergeant suffering from shell shock.

Struggle for Pozieres continues; British gain some important advantages.

Persistent German counter-attacks at High Wood and Guillemont.

July

25 Tue

Started off with shrapnel first thing this morning.  One wounded.  Only saved myself by a slice of big luck.  Fairly [...] hostile shelling from 12pm .

Terrible mess made of mast and guys.  Fed up.  First up had to repair it immediately though.

With fresh reinforcements the Germans counter-attack near Longueval and Bazentin; are repulsed.

Pozieres almost entirely in British hands.  British push along Albert-Bapaume road towards Hill 160.

July

26 Wed

Went up to Beardmore this morning as it was very still.  Hostile shelling continuous from 3 pm onwards, terrible wounded in this battery.

July 1st to July 26th, 30 casualties in this battery.

The whole of Pozieres village in British hands.

British advance continues northwards towards Hill 160.

July

27 Thu

Bit quieter today as regards shells in this quarter, still its rotten all the same.  Bags of mail today, bon.

Fresh British gains at Delville Wood and near Pozieres; fighting continues at Longueval.

July

28 Fri

Desultory shelling by Fritz, here, there and everywhere.  Knocked 12th Siege out of existence.  Aero shoot avec 9th Siege.

Big counter attack by Fritz tonight, terrific row.

Definition: desultory - marked by lack of definite plan or regularity or purpose; jumping from one thing to another.

British capture of Delville Wood and Longueval village; make further progress near Pozieres.  Enemy raids near Neuve Chapelle repulsed.

July

29 Sat

Same as yesterday re hostile shelling.  Shoots with 9th and 28th Siege.

Wish I was home tonight, suppose I should be going out somewhere with Gertie. 

Artillery bombarding all tonight.

Had to put on gas helmet three times during night.  Don’t know which is worse, gas or helmet.

Hand to hand struggle north and north-east of Pozieres and High Wood.  Two German attempts to recapture Delville Wood fail.

British troops in gas masks at the Battle of the Somme, 1916

July

30 Sun

Infantry advanced again this morning after a terrific bombardment all night.

Hear now that we have lost Guillemont again and again later we took it.

(M19N B)

Combined Allied advance north of Somme , from Delville Wood to the river.

British make progress east of Waterlot Farm and Trones Wood; French reach outskirts of Maurepas.

July

31 Mon

Grand day.  Absolutely wrecked [?] our instrument, with the French machines.  Shoots with 9 and 28.  Plenty of hostile shelling this afternoon.  Pay day first time for two months.

 

 

 

 

 

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This page was last updated on 23 February 2004.