Published By Ben Hillidge
- La Boisselle. 9 Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 2-3 July 1916.
- La Boisselle. 1/6 Bn Gloucestershire Regiment. 17 July 1916.
The village of La Boisselle sits astride the Albert to Bapaume Road in the centre of the Somme battlefield. On 1 July it was a key objective to secure the way forward to Bapaume. The assault failed very heavy losses. The attack was renewed over the following days. These were partially successful but it would be 2 weeks before the German defences were finally overcome.
GOOGLE MAPS Satellite view centres on La Boisselle
La Boisselle. 9 Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 2-3 July 1916.
With the failure to take La Boisselle during the daytime it was now planned that the village be taken by 57 and 58 Brigades during a night attack at 10.00pm on the 1 July.
Orders were that La Boisselle was to be captured ‘this afternoon without fail, and regardless of losses’. The decision to attack was made late in the afternoon. At that time 9 Bn RWF were located in the Tara Unsa line on the ridge line on the road back to Albert and it was not until 6.00pm that they started to move forward. The communication and support trenches were crowded and congested with wounded and dying troops; there had also been much damage by shellfire. It was impossible for the battalion to get forward in time – by 5.30am the next morning they were still struggling through the support and communications trenches. The attack was postponed until the trenches could be cleared and was re-scheduled for 4.00pm 2 July.
The 9 Bn RWF and 6 Bn Wiltshire Rgt. would lead the assault on La Boisselle village. There would be a 30 minute bombardment of Ovillers, the next village to the left, to draw enemy fire. The tactic worked and the 2 battalions were able to cross no mans land with few losses and, after a short hard bombing fight, they captured the enemy front line trenches. They pushed forward but strong enemy resistance by bombers and snipers caused many casualties. By 9.00pm, as darkness fell, they had established themselves in the western part of the village.
The advance would continue the next morning, 3 July. They were tasked with capturing the trenches to the south and east of the village and then continue forward. At 2.45am the battalion moved into the village. There was close quarter fighting, house to house and shell hole to shell hole with bombing and sniping. By late morning they had reached the eastern edge of the village when the enemy counterattacked. They were forced back. As they retreated back through the village they came under fire from snipers who had remained behind hidden in the ruins. They retreated back to their start line on the west of the village, here they took a stand and stopped the enemy advance. They were relieved that evening and moved back to bivouac in the Tara Unsa Line. Casualties for the 1-4 July were: Officers, 3 KIA and 5 wounded: ORs 32 KIA, 128 wounded and 18 missing.
La Boisselle. 1/6 Bn Gloucestershire Regiment. 17 July 1916.
The 1/6 Bn Gloucestershire Regiment, although not in action on the first day of the Somme Offensive, spent July on tours in the front line engaged on raids to the enemy line. For the first 2 weeks they were in the Serre and Mailly sectors. On 14 July the battalion left Serre and went to bivouacs near to Couin. The next day they moved forward and, during the evening, went into the reserve line at Aveluy, Bn HQ was at Donnet Post. They were operating in the area between La Boisselle and Authuille Wood. During this period the main fighting was around Longueval and Deville Wood to the south of the Baupame road. In the ‘quieter’ sectors raids and ‘stunts’ were conducted to divert and draw the enemy attention away from the main battle area. There are no entries in the battalion War Diary for 16-19 July. Over the nights of 20-21 and 22-23 the battalion made 2 raids on the German lines at Ovillers la Boisselle. The raids had minimal results and were beaten back with heavy casualties. The battalion was withdrawn from the line on 24 July and went back to billets at Fransu for the remainder of the month.
Casualties for July were – Officers 5 KIA + 2 Died of wounds, 10 wounded and 1 missing; ORs 15 KIA + 5 Died of wounds, 62 wounded and 62 missing
References and Sources WAR DIARY 9 Bn RWF. Regimental History RWF.
WAR DIARY 1/6 Bn Gloucs. Rgt.
B&O 1916. Somme. La Boisselle. 9 Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 1.6 Bn Gloucestershire Regiment. July 1916.