Published By Ben Hillidge
Delville Wood 15 July-3 September 1916.
- Delville Wood. 7 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 23 July 1916.
- Delville Wood. 5 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 24 August 1916.
- Delville Wood. 6 Bn King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. 29 August 1916.
After the opening day the Somme Offensive would continue eastward with a succession of battles to capture fortified villages and woodlands.
Delville Wood is located close to the village of Longueval and to the south east of High Wood. The action at Deville Wood was concurrent to the actions at High Wood. The first attacks were on 14 July when the village of Longueval was captured, also at this time Trones Wood had been finally cleared. This gave the British a start line from which to launch the assaults on Delville Wood and also the village of Guillemont. Both the Wood and Village proved to be extremely difficult nuts to crack and would not be captured until the first week in September. Delville Wood is now the site of their South African National Memorial
GOOGLE MAPS Satellite view centres on Delville Wood
Delville Wood. 7 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 23 July 1916.
After their mauling during the fighting at Bazentin Ridge the 7 Bn KSLI had been withdraw on 20 July to the old German front line at Montauban. There a draft of 2 officers and 130 other ranks joined. A third attempt to capture the Wood was planned for 21 July. On 22 July the 7 Bn KSLI was ordered to take a German trench north east of Waterlot Farm and to dig a communication trench from the Farm up to the Wood. The battalion moved forward to positions at Waterlot Farm; A Coy was to assault the enemy trench, B Coy was tasked with digging the communication trench. The attack went ahead on the 23 July but ended in confusion and disorganisation. Men from 19 Manchester’s, advancing from Trones Wood, managed to get into the Guillemont village but were forced back whilst to their left men from Green Howards lost direction in the smoke screen. Both units fell back to the cover of Trones Wood. Similarly, at Waterlot Farm A Coy was unable to make progress and the men fell back to Farm where they met up with other disorganised units also falling back. The day ended with no gains. B Coy had more success digging their communication trench which they now ‘upgraded’ to a firing line. The two companies of the battalion spent until 26 July holding and consolidating the trench and were then withdrawn back to Meaulte where they remained until 18 August. Casualties were ORs 3 KIA, 16 wounded and 10 missing.
Delville Wood. 5 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 24 August 1916.
August 1916 brought the 5 Bn KSLI to the Somme from Arras. They arrived at Buire sur l’Ancre near to Albert on 7 August and 5 days later moving to near Fricourt from where they would move up via Montauban to occupy Devil’s Trench (Map A)– running NW to SE through the Wood. The Battle for Delville Wood had started in mid-July, with mixed success. Another mass assault was scheduled for 24 August. After a two day bombardment at 5.45am on 24 August the assault began. The 5 KSLI were to the centre of the Brigade with 9 King’s Royal Rifles on their right and 5 Oxs. and Bucks. on the left. The Battalion objective was Beer Trench (Map B)– running N from about mid way between the Wood and village of Ginchy; this they achieved and the edge of the wood was cleared. Unfortunately the assault by the 9 KRR was held up. The battalion’s right flank was unsupported and they had to withdraw back first to Edge Trench (Map C) – running along the E edge of the Wood – and then further back to Inner Trench (Map D) which ran parallel to Devil’s Trench. During the action 2 machines guns and 117 prisoners were captured. Casualties were 7 officers and 194 other ranks. The next day they were relieved and moved back to a camp about 100 yards SE of Becordel-Becourt.
Delville Wood. 6 Bn King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. 29 August 1916.
On 24 August, during the final and successful attempt to capture Delville Wood, the 6 Bn KOYLI was in reserve at Montauban. They were working on carrying parties taking supplies and material up to the front line to amongst others, the 5 Bn KSLI, see above. Late in the afternoon of 25 August they went up to the front line to the vicinity of Devil’s Trench and Beer Trench. Here they were engaged in operations to break out of the eastern side of the Wood along Cocoa Lane. The time was very active with much shelling, patrols and continuing assaults to take the Wood.
On 28 August the battalion War Diary records: ‘….we are to be relieved tonight by 5th KSLI. As an anticlimax to this good news we received the terrible news about 4.45pm that all Y Company’s officers had been buried by a shell. A party lead by CSM Maltby immediately attempted to dig them out, but several more shells dropped practically in the same place. But Sergt. Gollick, Corp. McDonough and Pte. Hill still continued to try and get them out but were unable to reach them. Great Credit is due to CSM Maltby for organising this party and others to dig men out who had been buried and for eventually bringing his company safely out of the trenches under heavy shell fire’. The shelling was continuous and the relief by 5 Bn KSLI was delayed and not completed until 5.45am. The battalion moved back to Pommiers Trench in the old German lines between Montauban and Carnoy.
Casualties from noon 28 – noon 29 August were: Officers 6 KIA – probably the officers of Y Company – as well as ORS 10 KIA. 30 wounded and 2 missing.
See Map for 5 Bn KSLI above – Devil’s Trench ( Map A), Beer Trench (Map B), Cocoa Lane running at right angles from and out through eastern edge of the Wood.
WAR DIARIES 7 Bn KSLI. 5 Bn KSLI. Regimental History of KSLI.
6 Bn KYOL.
B&O 1916. Somme. Delville Wood. 7 Bn KSLI. 5 Bn KSLI. 6 Bn KYOLI. July-August 1916.