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High Wood - Somme Battlefield
High Wood from the track leading from Crucifix Corner at Bazentin le Petit. This is the track along which the two officwers walked on the morning of July 14th.
Shown on maps as Bois de Foureaux it was to be last of the major Somme woods to be captured.
14 July a dawn attack on Longueval - Battle of Bazentin Ridge was successful and early in the day two officers walked to High Wood and found it unoccupied. Due to series of communication failures no attack was really launched until late in the afternoon when 2/Queens and 1/South Staffs reached the wood. Squadrons of Deccan Horse and 7/DRagoons also entered the Wood but found the Germans in increasing strength on the northern edge of the wood.
15 July Germans launched a counter-attack in the dark and regained most of the wood
20/21 July 1/Cameronians, 5/Scottish Rifles, 20/Royal Fus. attacked from south east and after gaining a foot hold in the wood were forced back. 2/RWelch Fusiliers attacked [ Robert Graves severely wounded near Bazentin churchyard ] but unable to hold the ground with every officer wounded.
22/23 4/Gordon Highlanders, 1/R.West Kents attacked but Germans had built additional defensive line - Intermediate Line.
30 Attack preceded by heavy barrage and troops using creeping barrage but German M-g drove attack back and 14/R.Warwicks lost 171 out of 468 attackers.
Tunnelling operation begun to lay mine under M-g position on eastern side of wood.
18 Major bombardment but attack gained little ground.
3 178/Tunnelling Coy. blew 3000lb mine under M-g and 1/Black Watch took position but 1/Cameronians and 8/Berks to the east were unable to advance and Germans rtegained the mine crater.
8/9 Another mine blown but Germans regained the crater as attacking troops caught in own barrage which fell short.
15/16 Plan was drawn up to use tanks but the terrible state of the ground with broken tree stumps negated their impact. Major Gen Barter, commanding 47th Div wanted to wthdraw his troops and bombard the wood but was refused.
The infantry attack on the wood was made by the London Irish (18th Londons), Poplar & Stepney Rifles (17th Londons) and two companys of the 15th Londons (Civil Service Rifles). They suffered from enemy machine-gun fire as, just before zero, they lay in No Mans Land ahead of their trenches. By mid-morning there were five battalions desperately fighting for possesion of High Wood, and they called for an artillery barrage on the west and north-west part of the wood, and trench mortars to bombard the eastern portion.
Finally at 1300 the British took the wood. Barter was subsequently relieved of command because of the losses which the 47/Div had suffered. The London Cemetery was started after this action
© Mike St. Maur Sheil / westernfrontphotography.com