Published By Ben Hillidge
- Mametz Wood. 119 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. 7-10 July 1916
- Mametz Wood. 16 Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 10 July 1916.
After the opening day the Somme Offensive would continue eastward with a succession of battles to capture fortified villages and woodlands.
Mametz Wood is situated some 1,000 yards north east of Mametz village. Capture of the Wood was essential in order to avoid a salient in the allied lines, and to enable the allied artillery to be brought forward for the assault on the German second line. Between 3-7 July the first attempts to capture the Wood had been from the direction of Fricourt; these had been only partially successful and the Wood was still in enemy hands. On 10 July the 38 (Welsh Division) was tasked, this time to assault the Wood from the direction of Montauban to the south.
The Division will forever be associated with Mametz Wood. Today it is the site of the 38 (Welsh Division) Memorial.
GOOGLE MAPS – The link takes you to Google Maps and the car park below the Welsh Memorial at Mametz Wood
Mametz Wood. 119 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. 7-10 July 1916
The 119 Brigade RFA was part of the Divisional artillery for the 38 (Welsh) Division. The RFA provided artillery support for the Infantry Brigades. They operated mobile field guns in close support of front line troops. The close support squadrons had to face German machine guns and artillery fire in the same way as did the infantry. On 4 July the 119 Brigade was at Treux, south west of Albert. For the next 4 days officers reconnoitred the new positions for the forthcoming attack on Mametz Wood. On 8 July they moved up to positions to the south west of Fricourt about midway to Becourt. Guns were registered on Mametz Wood and the village of Contalmaison. The guns went into action on 9 July with wire cutting and bombardment. No casualties are recorded in the War Diary for this period.
Mametz Wood. 16 Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 10 July 1916.
On 10 July a determined attack was made by the Welsh Division. The assault would be made from the direction of Montauban against the southern edge of the Wood and to move through to the northern edge. Battalions from the Welsh Regiment would attack on the right and centre. The Royal Welsh Fusiliers would attack on the left against the southern tip and side of the Wood. The 16 Bn RWF, with 14 Bn RWF, would lead the assault with 13 & 15 Bns RWF in support. The men assembled at Queen’s Nullah and then moved to their start position on high ground facing the Wood in White Trench. The advance was to begin at 4.12am but the Bn, C/O, Colonel Corden, had gone off to Brigade HQ intending to return before zero hour; when the time came he had not arrived back. There was confusion as to what to do. Zero hour passed. The 2C/O, believing that Corden had become a casualty, and when the Welsh Regiment to the right were seen advancing, ordered the battalion forward at 4.30am.
Starting from White Trench the advance dropped down a steep bank and then onto open ground on the approach to the Wood. As they went down the slope they were met by rifle fire from the front and machine guns enfilading no man’s land from German positions to the north. Also, men from the Welsh Regiment were seen pulling back. The advance faltered and men started to retire – the War Dairy records that ‘this was not a headlong flight but done slowly, and was largely owing to someone who cannot be traced raising a shout of ‘Retire’. At this time the Colonel arrived back, the men were rallied and the advance was recommenced. This time, despite the heavy fire, they moved forward in good order. The battalion managed to get into the wood but further progress was difficult because of the tangled undergrowth. Support units now caught up with the lead battalions causing congestion. The 16 Bn RWF began to dig in and consolidate their gains. At about 1.00pm they were withdrawn and returned to Queen’s Nullah. The assault on the Wood continued during the afternoon and by the end of the following day it had been cleared to within 40 yards of the northern edge, it was finally captured on 12 July by 21 Division. Casualties for the battalion were; Officers – 2 KIA and 2 wounded, ORs – 43 KIA, 186 wounded and 64 missing.
References and Sources (War Diary 16Bn RWF. Regimental History RWF) (War Diary 119 Brigade RFA)
B&O 1916. Somme. Mametz Wood. 119 Bgde, RFA. 16 Bn RWF. 7- 10 July 1916.