Guillemont 1916

The Attack on Guillemont

Forming part of the 55th Division the battalion took part in the attack on Guillemont on 9th August 1916.

Map of the Area Between Trones Wood and Guillemont (Coop: The Story of the 55th Division)

Map of area between Trones Wood and Guillemont village - August 1916 (ignore stated scale as the image has been resized - the distance between the eastern edge of Trones Wood and the Y junction on the SW of the village is almost exactly 1000 metres)

Following the attack of 164th and 165th Infantry Brigades, both belonging to the 55th (West Lancashire) Division, on Guillemont on 8th August 1916, 165th Bde had had some success in the south but, in 164th Brigade, the 1/4th Bn King's Own Royal Lancaster Regimemt had encountered uncut wire 200 yards short of the Geman line to the west of Guillemont village and had been forced to retire. On the left of the attack, the 1/8th (Irish) Bn of the King's Liverpool Regiment (The Liverpool Irish) had attacked through mist and dust and appears to have veered to the left. Although it reached Guillemont station and entered the north of Guillemont village, German troops, either missed by the attacking Liverpool Irish or emerging from dugouts or the tunnels believed to exist under the village, appeared and dominated the ground behind 1/8 KLR. The Irish battalion was now unsupported on either side and its rear was blocked; the battalion was cut off.

In an effort to rescue the Liverpool Irish , believed to be holding out in Guillemont Village and at the Station, 166th Infantry Brigade (including the Liverpool Scottish) was ordered to make a hurried attack on Guillemont at 4.20 am on the next morning, 9th August.  This attack would take place astride the road from Trones Wood to Guillemont village. Following a verbal briefing of the COs of three of the brigades four battalions at 5:45 pm on the 8th (the CO of the 1/5th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was attached to another brigade at the time and not available), orders to move to the attack were issued at about 8pm.  

The Liverpool Scottish was to attack to the south of the Trones-Wood Guillemont road supported by the 1/5th South Lancashire Regiment and the 1/5th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was to attack to the north of the road supported by the 1/5th King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)

At 9 pm battalions were ordered to halt: it is believed that the 55th Division HQ was attempting to get the attack cancelled but the Corps HQ ordered that it should go ahead. Battalions moved off again at 10:45 pm but were told that detailed operation orders were to follow. The Liverpool Scottish arrived at their jumping off point at about 3:45 am. Only at this point did the CO receive detailed orders. There was no time for anything but a very cursory briefing of company commanders and even briefer words to platoon commanders and sergeants.

The regimental historian of the Liverpool Scottish records that 'many of the men said after the attack that it was not until the barrage opened that they knew which side of their jumping-off trench was their front and which was their rear'. This barrage opened only five minutes before they were due to attack. 

 The 1/5th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was in an even worse position and managed to arrive at only at 5 am (forty minutes after the barrage ceased) and attacked unsupported by artillery at 5r.20 am. Needless to say, that although a few  troops manage to break into German lines, the battalions of the 166th Infantry Brigade finished up back on their start line. 

Extract from the diary of Edmund Herd (Liverpool Scottish Stretcher Bearer) for the 9/8/1916

"Attacked at 4:10 a.m. after a short but terribly intense bombardment - there must have been hundreds of guns in action. Attack failed. We tried three times to take German front trench but men were just mown down by machine guns. Colonel wounded; Capt. Davidson, his brother wounded. Lieut. Slocock missing. Many friends and acquaintances killed or missing. Busy time for S.Bs. I was completely exhausted after the severe and ghastly work. I was buried for a short time but got out. How I escaped the hail of bullets was a miracle. At one time I spent what seemed an endless time in a shell hole with two wounded men. Escape seemed impossible because whenever any movement was made a machine gun was ranged on the spot but eventually when conditions seemed quieter I got out with one of the men with a leg wound and half dragged him to a spot where I had seen some tin hats moving. It proved to be a sunken road and, although (as I found out later) the distance was not more than 50 yards it seemed to be miles and we were all the time being fired on. As soon as darkness fell, which wasn't so dark really on account of the hundreds of Very Lights, all available S.Bs. went out to bring in wounded and dead. The man, a North Lancs I think, whom I had left in the shell hole, was found but he had passed away. He could not have recovered being badly wounded in the stomach. I had dressed him in the shell hole and realised that he was hopeless. During our night search we frequently took what cover we could from shrapnel and machine guns and there was only one casualty among S.Bs.- the Doctor- who got a piece of shrapnel in his thigh. By now, of course, it was much quieter."

As part of the Centenary Commemorations Major I.L. Riley has written a series of articles recounting the experience of the Territorial Force during the First World War. An article on the reforming of the 55th and its training can be found here. A further article on the Division's actions on the Somme can be form here.

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