Published By Ben Hillidge
Bazentin Ridge. 14-17 July 1916.
7 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 14-20 July 1916.
With Mametz and Trones Woods secured the next phase of the Somme offensive began. From Mametz Wood the ground to the east rises over the undulation of the Bazentin Ridge and then upwards to High Wood on the skyline. This part of the offensive had the objective of capturing the low and shallow ridge line that ran from the village of Bazentin le Petit to Bazentin Le Grand and ending at Longueval close to Delville Wood. The assault would then continue from the ridge uphill to High Wood. Tactics for the assault were radically changed and, instead of a prolonged artillery barrage and the massed advance of infantry in line abreast, there would be a very short barrage followed by a rushed assault. The assault would also take place at night. It was hoped that these tactics would introduce a much greater element of surprise. Zero hour was set as 3.30am on 14 July.
The 7 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry had marched south from the Ypres sector, leaving there on the 1 July and arriving at Carnoy village on 7 July. Preparations for the action began immediately with officers going forward to reconnoitre the battle ground. The 8 Brigade was to assault the village of Bazentin Le Grand, 7 Bn KSLI and 8 Bn East Yorkshire were to be the assault units supported by 1 Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers. On the 13 July they moved up to positions in front of Mametz Wood. By 11pm they had crawled out into no man’s land ready for the dawn. Their objective was the enemy front line and support trenches running through the village to a depth of 1500 yards. Owing to the undulation of the ground they could not see their objectives. At 3.20am the barrage opened up. Some of the shells fell short causing casualties among the Shropshire men. After five minutes of intense shelling the troops rushed forward. As they crested the skyline they found 2 belts of uncut wire, each 10-20 yards wide, in front of the enemy line. The first wave was held up. The second wave arrived. The congregation of men made easy targets for the enemy. Attempts to get through the wire were impossible and the men retreated back about 200 yards to a sunken road, leaving many dead & wounded, including C/O Colonel Negus who was captured by the Germans. At the sunken road they regrouped. At 11am information was received that the 2 Bn Royal Scots had succeeded in getting into the trenches to their left. At 12.00pm a second assault was launched under command of Captain WI Lloyd. Using bombers to cut the wire they managed to get through and rushed the enemy front line quickly overcoming the defenders and taking 250 prisoners, at this time too rescuing Colonel Negus. They gained touch with the Royal Scots and then consolidated their position and readied themselves to fight off the expected counter attacks. The War Diary records casualties of – Officers, 5 KIA, 3 died of wounds and 8 wounded; ORs 147 KIA, 278 wounded, of which 16 subsequently died and 16 missing. They held the new line for the next 6 days until relieved by 1 Bn RWF. When the battalion had first arrived at Carnoy their strength was 34 officers and 993 other ranks, the survivors now manning the new position numbered 6 officers and 135 other ranks. The battalion history notes that ‘This action practically annihilated what was left of the original battalion, within 12 months of their landing in France’.
Died at home from wounds received at Bazentin Ridge Private 15559 Thomas Mills, 7 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 6 March 1918. Oswestry General Cemetery
GOOGLE MAPS Satellite view centres on Bazentin le Grand
References and Sources War Diary 7 Bn KSLI. Regimental History KSLI.
B&O 1916. Somme. Bazentin Ridge. 7 Bn KSLI. 14-20 July 1916.