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Location of 9th Duke of Wellington's 7 July 1916


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July 7th 1916.

The 9th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment, had already been in action around the southern side of the Quadrangle trench system, this was the system by Mametz Wood and Acid Drop Copse near Contalmaison.

This new army battalion was recruited mostly in the old West Riding area of Yorkshire in 1914. The 9th Battalion had trained at Wimbourne and sailed for the Western Front in August 1915. It was first sent to the Ypres area of Belgium, moving down into France during the autumn. The Battalion was part of the 52nd Infantry Brigade, 17th Northern Division, XV Corps (General Henry Sinclair Horne).

Friday July 7th 1916, saw a major assault on the German positions at Contalmaison. General Horne had given orders for an attack at the Quadrangle System. Quadrangle Trench had already been captured and was used as a jumping off point for the next attack. The purpose of this attack was to take the Quadrangle Support Trench, about five hundred yards away, and the trench leading from it known as Pearl Alley.

The commander of the 17th Northen Division, Major General Thomas David Pilcher, was most unhappy about the attack, he maintained that the machine-guns at Contalmaison together with others over to the right in Mametz Wood, would catch his men in a crossfire that would continue to bear down on them even after they had reached the enemy positions.

He initially considered refusing the order but then decided to go ahead and order the attack, afterwards he wrote: “I thought that the only consequence of such action would be that someone else would be put in my place and would probably carry out the operation in such a manner that far greater losses would be incurred than if I were to undertake it myself, and I issued orders in accordance with the instructions I had received, employing a minimum number of men”.

At 2 a.m., after a thirty-five minute bombardment, two battalions of Brigadier General Clarke’s 52nd Infantry Brigade went over the top and immediately found themselves in trouble. Flares lit up the sky and a German artillery barrage came down on the British positions and No Man’s Land. Heavy rifle and machine-gun fire opened up and to add to the attackers’ problems the British artillery was firing short and hitting the leading men. Worse was to follow when they reached the German wire and found it uncut. The survivors retired to their own trenches and managed to beat off the inevitable German counterattack.

General Horne gave orders to try again at 8 a.m. Once again the 52nd Infantry Brigade was detailed for action and Brigadier General Clarke ordered his two remaining battalions: the 12th Battalion, Manchester Regiment and the 9th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment, to move up to the Quadrangle Trench. The British artillery opened an intense barrage at 7:20 a.m. By now the Germans were thoroughly alert and laid down an equally ferocious barrage on the British lines. At 8:00 a.m. the British barrage lifted from the German forward positions and moved on to their support trenches and rear areas.

Unfortunately there had been a misunderstanding and the orders to the two battalions to move forward was late reaching them, this caused the attacking troops to be late arriving at their starting point, and this had the knock on effect of the British barrage moving off the German front line and their machine-gun posts before the attacking troops were anywhere near them. This gave the Germans time to reorganise before the attackers reached them. In broad daylight, without artillery cover, the two battalions attacked in two waves, both of which were shot down, mostly by machine-gun fire from Mametz Wood. The survivors came back to Quadrangle Trench, but some small groups remained out in No Man’s Land and were involved in grenade fights with parties of Germans throughout the rest of the day.

The Commander of the 17th Northern Division, Major General Thomas David Pilcher, was dismissed on July 12th and sent to command the Reserve Centre at St. Albans, a position he held until 1919.


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Thanks very much Tony and JW.

My great-uncle, James Buckley Kenworthy was injured - I believe - during this attack (one of the lucky ones!) See http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...=102478&hl=

(At least I think this must be it. As you'll see in the above post, it was reported that he'd been injured on the 4th, but I recently was lucky to find his service record on Ancestry and that shows the date he recieved his wound as the 7th or the 6th (there is some conflicting data in this difficult to follow record).

I was really impressed with the detai you had Tony, what was your source?

I also found the following links relevant to this day of action, inlcuding one which focussed on the actions of the Sherwood Foresters in the same place on the same day (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mike.briggs76/10th%20Btn.htm#The%203rd%20Attack%20on%20Quadrangle%20Support) and also a reference to a book on actions around this place and this date (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Quadrangles-Northern-Division-During-Battle/dp/1846858135/ref=pd_sim_b_46)



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There were a number of Holmfirth men with this battalion, so occasionally letters and bits of information appear in the local newspaper of the time. I have a letter from training and another from France which I can post if you wish.

The History of the 17th Northern Division obviously contains some useful stuff, and I will also have gone through the Official History - for this date you want: Military Operations France and Belgium 1916 Volume 2. This book starts on July 2nd 1916 and runs to the end of the year.

Bits of information have come from many different sources over the years, and of course the Forum. Click this link and take a look at posts numbers 18 and 19 which has photos of the place today.

Quadrangle area now.


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