Bristish soldiers in front of Bernafay wood and Maricourt village before the "Big Push" in 1916
German soldiers in Bernafay wood and Montauban village in 1915 before the Battle of the Somme
XIII CORPS -CAPTURE OF MONTAUBAN -30th DIVISION
The wire had been cut successfully.The Germans were mostly caught in dugouts, so little resistance was encountered
89th Brigade : starting from four lines of assembly trenches at 7.30 AM ,17th and 20th King's met little resistance and moved on to Casement and Alt Trenches. The 2nd Bedfordshire were in support and mopping-up. The attack pressed on to Dublin Trench. At 8.30 AM the right of the line joined with the French and the left, in the east end of Glatz Redoubt; simultaneously, the 3rd Battalion of the French 153rd Regiment entered Dublin Redoubt at the east of Dublin Trench. The position was consolidated
21st Brigade : The enemy here was also caugh in its dugouts so little resistance was encouterd
Leading, with 19th Manchesters, 18th King's went forward until they caught up with British barrage at Alt Trench, where they had to wait until the barrage lifted at 7.45 AM , before occupying it. The Manchesters had few losses but the King's were caught by enfilade machine-gun fire from the west side of Railway Valley. Fire from the Warren caused severe casualties among 2nd Green Howards who were in support, and few managed to cross no man's land. A party of Germans came out of a deep dugout and proceeded eastwards but were out-bombed by a party of moppers-up. This enabled 18th King's to advance along Train Alley to Glatz Redoubt, reaching it at 8.35 AM and joning with 89th Brigade
90th Brigade : At 8.30 AM 90th Brigade began its advance on Montauban, passing through 21st Brigade with 16th and 17th Manchesters. The 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers were in close support. Despite machine-gun fire from Bresleau Alley, they continued their advance, and the German machine-gun was finally wiped out by a Lewis-gun of the 16th Manchesters. Under cover of a smoke-screen, the Manchesters and Royal Scots Fusiliers entered the village of Montauban at 10.05 AM , to find it deserted. By 11 AM the second objective in Montauban Alley was entered. The Germans were pulling back in large numbers. The 16th Manchesters rushed the battery in Caterpillar Valley and captured the first three guns of the battle. Montauban was consolidated.
At 12.30 PM 4th Coy, 20th King's (89th Brigade) attacked La Briqueterie from Dublin Trench under cover of an artillery bombardment
Simultaneously, bombers moved up Nord Alley cutting off the retreat of the garrison. By 12.35 PM La Briqueterie was taken, as were all objectives and the position was consolidated. By 6 PM the road to Maricourt-Montauban had been repaired 200 yards beyond the old German front line
The 30th Division had taken all its objectives
18th AND 30th DIVISION ATTACK ON MONTAUBAN, JULY 1st 1916.
Capt.W.P.Nevill, a company commander attached to the 8th East Surreys, thought of an original way to encourage his men to go forward at zero hour on July 1st. He gave each of his four platoons a
football, the idea being that they would compete to see which one would be the first to dribble their football up to the German front line. However the 8th East Surrey were badly held up by
the German machine-gun fire and suffered heavy casualties. They lost nearly all their officers, including Capt. Neville
XIII CORPS 30th DIVISION.
The Germans attacked twice between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. at Bernafay Wood. They were repulsed by a shrapnel barrage laid by 30th Divisional artillery, which later made an unsuccessful attempt to set
the wood on fire
Monday July 3rd 1916. Temperature 68°; fine, with some cloud and thunderstorms to the south-east
XIII CORPS. CAPTURE OF BERNAFAY WOOD.9th Division.
After a 20-minute bombardment of the near edge, 27th Brigade attacked Bernafay Wood at 9 p.m., occupying it almost unopposed and sustaining only six casualties. The 6th KOSB and 12th Royal Scots covered 500 yards of open ground and took 17 prisoners, three field guns and three machine-guns. The east of Montauban Alley was consolidated. Patrols sent out towards Trônes Wood found it held by some machine-gun detachments.
The only thing left intact in the village of Montauban and this large German shell lying at her feet which did not explose
This wood is frequentely mentioned as an evil place by Australian soldiers writing home. In the middle of the Australian sector of the Somme battlefield of 1916, Bernafay Wood had been heavily fortified by the Germans, and thier machine-gunners, concealed by the shelltorn tree stumps, inflicted many casualties
The cemetery was established on the very edge of the wood and British soldiers were being buried there by 8 July, only a week after the beginning of the British Somme offensive. The first Australian dead, of the 122 Australians now there, were buried in September 1916 and the last in May 1917 but the greatest number arrived there during the dreadful winter of 1916-17. The physical strain at that time is indicated, for example, by the death from"heart failure" at the age of 39, of Private William Watson, 6th Field Ambulance (Grave J.58)
Private Ernest Buckland, 3rd Battalion, was 44 when he died of wounds on 26 December. His widow, Elizabeth, of Laurel Street, Cabramatta, NSW, named her home "Bernafay". It expresses her anguish (Grave J.53)
A splendid soldier and gentle man, Captain Percy Chapman MC, 55th Battalion, who was killed on 12 March 1917, was a survivor of the Battle of Fromelles. He left a poignant description of an incident during that battle when he and Captain Norman Gibbins saw a German crawling towards them in the dark. Gibbins and Chapman led him but when Chapman let go one of his hands, "The poor mangled brute got up on his knees and started to pray. "O cruel, cruel", said Gibbins, as the two officers helped the German along. Gibbins himself was killed later in the battle ( Chapman's grave, J.42)
A very young, very brave, very junior leader in Bernafay Wood cemetery is also worthy of mention. He is Lance Corporal Robert Otter, 1st Battalion. A veteran of
the Gallipoli campaign, he was only 19 when he was leading patrols at Flers in October 1916. Two shells exploded in the middle of his last patrol and Otter was too severely wounded to be moved to
the rear. He died of his wounds on 1 November (Grave G.28)