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Remembered Today:

Fricourt trench positions - 1st July 1916


paul@bolton
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I was at Fricourt last year and visited the Fricourt New Military Cemetery. Despite some preparatory reading, I had some difficulty identifying the position of the British trenches and the direction of attack of both the 10th West Yorks and the 7th Green Howards and the reason why they suffered such appalling casualties. I read that this was due to the failure of one of the Tambour mines to explode which therefore failed to block off the field of fire of certain machine gun positions.

I would be very grateful if someone could post an overlay of the trenches on to a google map. Additionally, does anyone know where the machine guns that did so much damage were positioned? The shrine at Mametz is much talked about in relations to the Devonshires but I have seen nothing similar on Fricourt.

I have ordered the Battleground Europe book on Fricourt-Mametz by Michael Stedman and hope this will shed some light but, in the meantime, anyone able to help?

Thank you

Paul

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I recall Red cottage had a gun emplacement in it. I am also unsure that had the third and largest mine have detonated it would have made any/much difference. 21st division was also hurt by fire from its left flank where the adjoining division failed to make head way. On the opposite side Rose cottage was also a strong point. However 63rd brigade also met strong opposition from troops (with one assumes MG's) in Fricourt farm. It also has to be excepted that Fricourt village was a warren of strong points and deep dugouts.

Hope this helps somewhat.

Regards

Andy

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I was at Fricourt last year and visited the Fricourt New Military Cemetery. Despite some preparatory reading, I had some difficulty identifying the position of the British trenches and the direction of attack of both the 10th West Yorks and the 7th Green Howards and the reason why they suffered such appalling casualties. I read that this was due to the failure of one of the Tambour mines to explode which therefore failed to block off the field of fire of certain machine gun positions.

I would be very grateful if someone could post an overlay of the trenches on to a google map. Additionally, does anyone know where the machine guns that did so much damage were positioned? The shrine at Mametz is much talked about in relations to the Devonshires but I have seen nothing similar on Fricourt.

I have ordered the Battleground Europe book on Fricourt-Mametz by Michael Stedman and hope this will shed some light but, in the meantime, anyone able to help?

Thank you

Paul

I've done an overlay but when I tried to post it I had a message saying it was too big. How do I make it smaller so I can post it. Cheers. Dave

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I've done an overlay but when I tried to post it I had a message saying it was too big. How do I make it smaller so I can post it. Cheers. Dave

Dave - it has to be under 100KB to post.

Alternatively you can host it externally (on Flickr/Photobucket etc and link it here)

For resizing, if you reduce it to @ 100dpi you can get a reasonably sized image on here without losing too much detail.

Some image software has a one click "reduce size for web" button that will automate the process (but with mixed results in my experience)

Chris

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Andy,

Thanks. I will look for Red Cottage and Rose Cottage on the map.

Dave,

Thanks. Keep trying! Once we have the overlay, we can perhaps try to place the above MG positions.

Kevin,

Thank you for the link which I have read with interest and increasing confusion. Looks like I will need to do a lot more reading!

Paul

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Marcel,

Thank you for your help. I can easily borrow issue 83 so there is no need for anyone to go to the trouble of scanning this.

I would still appreciate the overlay if any 'techies' out there can find a way to post it.

Paul

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Hello Paul.

If you have any trouble locating a copy of Stand To! Number 83, i have Dave Stowe's article, complete with references already scanned on an external hard drive. Just drop me a PM and i will gladly send this fascinating piece of research on.

Ca Ira!

Chris.

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Paul,

If you Pm me your e-mail address I will let you have a map of Fricourt, which will show where the two cottages and the farm were. Its an official history one I have that I have used to look at the actions of 21st division.

Regards

Arm

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Hello Chris,

Thank you for your kind offer but I now have a copy of Stand To! 83.

Obviously plan 1 will help understand the article itself and, hopefully, the various red crosses, points denoted 'A' and 'C', blue line etc will be explained and make things clearer. Michael Stedman's Battleground Europe book on this area should arrive shortly and I also have Peter Barton's 'The Somme' to look over and compare.

I would still love to see a google may overlay if some kind soul could possibly oblige.

I'm sure many of the more experienced members of the Forum find further discussion of 1st July 1916 a bit repetitive and can fully understand this but if anyone can refer me back to a previous discussion thread where this is covered, I would really appreciate it. As, no doubt, would many of the newer members for whom 1st July is often their 'entry point' into their interest in/study of WW1.

Paul

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Paul,

I guess my map will be superfluous to your requirements. I have the Battleground book and it is a good little reference book.

As an old sweat I never tire of discussing topics, especially Fricourt area and 21st division, though I am working on the actions of 21st div from 1-3 July 1916 it is in embryo stage at the moment and stalled somewhat as life gets in the way. Hopefully a visit soon will reinvigorate that momentum. If you have any questions please ask and I will endeavour to answer them- pathetically no doubt!

I guess you have tried putting the word Fricourt in to the search engine to see what happens...I know the search facility has a mind of its own usually! I have had a look and it shows varied topics discussed but nothing jumps out at me. As for 1st July in general it will contain loads I would guess!

Regards

Arm

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On 1/25/2011 at 09:16, paul@bolton said:

Obviously plan 1 will help understand the article itself and, hopefully, the various red crosses, points denoted 'A' and 'C', blue line etc will be explained and make things clearer.

 

Edited by Paris
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Hi. If someone with more brains than me PMs me an email address I'll send the Fricourt overlay onto them, maybe they could get it posted. I'm afraid it's beyond me. Cheers. Dave

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Dave,

Thanks. may I ask where the trench map used on the overlay is from? Linesman?

This tends to indicate that, as the craters still exist within the area of rough ground, the three Tambour mines, exploded on 1st July, were not directly under the German front line (to create maximum casualties) but positioned in no man's land in order to unsight the front line German positions during the advance of the British troops. I understsnd this to be the case and I assume that the red stars represent earlier mines rather than these '1st day' mines. Also, from the overlay, they were not directly under the German tambour ( the roughly oval shape of trenches overlapping but mainly south of the rough ground) but, again, meant to prevent MG fire from this area.

Does anyone know which of the three mines did not explode as planned - north, middle or south?

Red cottage appears to be (from Plan 1. in Stand To! 83) where the last house coming out of the village on the road heading NW is now situated. MG fire from here on a line across the top corner of the rough ground across 'no mans land' might be effective but not enfillade troops crossing no mans land as effectively as fire from the south from the German tambour or beyond.

Always assuming that the topography is right. No doubt, over the next few years, we can expect 3D maps!

Got to go out now but will examine this when time permits.

In the meantime, all comments welcome. I am aware that I am leaving myself wide open to gales of uproarious laughter from the experts out there. Bring it on. I didn't get where I am today...............

And thanks again to Dave.

Paul

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The overlay map was from the national Archive British Trench Map. I always thought that the mines were set off so that the crator rim would serve as protection from enfilaade MG fire. Dave

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On 1/25/2011 at 20:37, paul@bolton said:

Does anyone know which of the three mines did not explode as planned - north, middle or south?

Paul

 

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From Jack Sheldon's book 'The German Army on the Somme' pages 160-161.

"Up above Fricourt on Hill 110, despite repeated attacks, the defence held firmly; the machine guns, in particular, took a heavy toll throughout the day.

Source: Rudolf Stadelbacher & Otto Schusele Machine Gun Company Reserve Infantry Regiment 111.

We were deployed in the front line trench of the gravel pit on Hill 110 near Fricourt and so had good fields of fire and observation over Fricourt Station, Fricourt itself and Becourt............As the gas slowly drifted away, we saw the enemy assault out of all trenches........ We put down a hail of fire on the attacking enemy. Two companies of British who attempted to assault from the area of Fricourt Station were quickly caught by our machine gun and suffered dreadful casualties".

As I understand it, there was no attack planned from the British trenches from the positions south of the 10th West Yorks until the afternoon of 1st July, so, although the 'area of Fricourt station' (see above quote) is south of the West Yorks position from which they attacked to the North of the Tambour, who else could the MG fire from Hill 110 have been directed towards?

Still waiting for the arrival of the Battleground Europe book and hoping that all will be revealed!

Paul

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I wonder whether volume 2 of Ralph Whitehead's book 'The Other Side of the Wire' will throw any light on this (not published yet)?

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Kevin,

Thank you for the WFA forum link and to Dave for his input and clarification. As for the 'discussed in clear and forensic terms' comment......... :blush:

I can only say that, having read Dave's two articles in 'Stand To!', I realise how much there is to learn and how much research he must have done on this. I am in awe.

Prima facie, the fact that it was the southernmost (and largest)of the three Tambour mines that failed to explode does seem to favour the idea that it was MG positions to the south (German Tambour, Wicket Corner, Wing Corner, Hill 110) that did much of the damage to the 10th West Yorks as they had the best opportunity to enfilade their advance. Plus it was the right hand company © which suffered the most. Plus these German positions were not being attacked directly and could focus their attention on the West Yorks which would have been the only - certainly the nearest - target available.

And was this so obvious to Major Kent of the 7th Green Howards, positioned immediately opposite this area, that he disobeyed orders and, on his own initiative, tried to rescue the situation by ordering an attack to try to silence these MG positions?

I will now do more reading - as well as looking at the list of MG positions that Dave has kindly provided.

Marcel - the blue line is, of course, the Willow Stream which bisects Fricourt and Mametz and then turns west-east to flow to the south of Fricourt. You can still follow its course on Google.

Thanks to all who have contributed to this thread. I have learnt a lot and I am sure that this knowledge will add tremendously to my visit to this area in May.

Paul

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  • 2 weeks later...

Comments submitted by new member Jager via "Report This Post"

10 West Yorkshires started 07.30 and the first wave ( 2 companies on a frontage of 600 yards ) reached the german frontline north of what they called then The Tambour ( Mines explosion site ) They crossed the frontline and also Konig Trench. Little resitance at that time and pushed forward to what we call Red Cottage ( Most northern part of Fricourt) They almost got to the sunken road leaving Fricourt in the north but could not get over the Konig lane. They were held in the area between Red Lane and Konig Lane.

When the artillery stopped slaming the frontline the germans were able to see daylight again and built up their machine guns. This locations were in The Tambour - North west part of Fricourt ( several farms ) and right at Red Cottage.

Because there was no attacking force to overrun The Tambour these germans machine guns could assist to the north and south.

At the time the second wave went forward, 3 and 4 companies the germans fired these companies in the flank. Very few made it to the first wave and the german artillery in Fricourt Wood wiped them out of these area.

When there came no reinforcement the few survivors left to the north

The last wave wich was sent forward 02.33 pm but could not reach the german frontline

So when we now know that on their right wing was no real attacking force - support force that made it possible for the germans to built up their machine guns and also gave them the possibility to guide their artillery.

I myself explored Fricourt and found last year in the area between The Tambour and Fricourt outscirt one of the tunnels ( german) in which they managed to survive.

In the area of Thiepval they made the same mistake and a breakthrough unit with only a few losses was not supported on their flanks and the germans also here were able to built up their defence before the secons wave came over.

I hope this is what you asked for

Henk

--

the green Howards with 1ste Lincoln ( 62 Brig ) were not in the first wave to support against Fricourt from the west. They were sent as a counterattack - reinforcement unit !!

They went forward against one of the strongest german defence spot. Fricourt a strongpoint and the germans knew using their machine guns. The attacking force could not see or detect these positions , Mostly they were firing in the flank of a attacking force.

Already after 2 - 3 houres fight they got the order to consolidate . I thought they lost 65% in 2 houres fight

Henk

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Henk (jager),

Thank you for your contibution. I am not sure if you will have found this topic - or will see this reply - as I do not know what Alan means by "comments submitted via report this post". Perhaps someone can explain this to me?

Assuming you are reading this. Welcome to the forum!

You may like to read the link to the Western Front Association website contained in post 5. Dave Stowe and others have done A LOT of research on this subject and his article, using original sources, indicates that the object of at least some of the 10th West Yorks was to occupy the Tambour craters. he also suggest that the machine guns which did the damage were possibly to the south of the Tambour craters, rather than to the north.

I do not dispute what you have said in your post but I would like to know the source of your information. We can then discuss further and, I hope, learn more together.

Paul

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