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French formations - Battle of the Somme - 1 July 1916


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I am sure that some-one has already answered this question on the Forum but I can't find the answer.

Which French formations took part in the attacks on 1 July 1916 to the east of the British assault, how much ground did they take and how many men did they lose?

Many thanks

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I only remember reading that the French lost 190,000 killed/wounded/lost during the period 1 July to mid-Nov 1916.

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I assume you mean south of the British on 1 July?

So, French formations, north to south:-

39th Div

11th Div

2nd Colonial

3rd Colonial

51st

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I assume you mean south of the British on 1 July?

So, French formations, north to south:-

39th Div

11th Div

2nd Colonial

3rd Colonial

51st

Would one of these divisions include the 6th Regiment d'Infanterie?

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Hello Old Owl

A listing I found on the Internet some time ago, but now cannot find, suggests that 6th Regiment d'Infanterie was at Verdun in 1916 and does not mention any service on the Somme.

There is a potted summary of the French action alongside the British on 1 July in the British Official History, 1916 Volume I, on pages 342 and 343, and Sketch 19. The fact that the section is headed "The Complete Success of the French on the 1st July" is a pretty accurate summary of the results. Apart from the village of Frise, just on the south bank of the Somme, the French captured all their objectives (half to three-quarters of a mile from their start line) and on the frontage of the Colonial divisions they passed beyond them and engaged the German 2nd position, about a quarter of a mile further on.

The note mentions that the XX Corps (39th and 11th Divisions in the front line) "had suffered very few losses, and had not employed any reserves, not even partially." The 61st Division (not 51st as mentioned by Nigel, although 51st was in the same corps), being on the flank, suffered some casualties from the unattacked German division to its south. Overall the French took some 4,000 German prisoners, f which 2,000 were on the front of the Colonial Corps.

As was the case with the British on their flank, success was largely related to the amount of artillery support available.

Ron

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It would be great to read more about the French part of the Somme campaign, it would tie together the British and other efforts more fully.

Cheers,

Hendo

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It would be great to read more about the French part of the Somme campaign, it would tie together the British and other efforts more fully.

Cheers,

Hendo

Working on it; I hope to get five or so Battleground Europes out on the French Somme effort (mostly, but not exclusively, related to the Somme 1916) in the next couple of years, all being well and with a following wind.

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The note mentions that the XX Corps (39th and 11th Divisions in the front line) "had suffered very few losses, and had not employed any reserves, not even partially." The 61st Division (not 51st as mentioned by Nigel, although 51st was in the same corps), being on the flank, suffered some casualties from the unattacked German division to its south. Overall the French took some 4,000 German prisoners, f which 2,000 were on the front of the Colonial Corps.

As was the case with the British on their flank, success was largely related to the amount of artillery support available.

Ron

Thanks for the correction, Ron. I got the information from the new IGN 'Somme' map (the only thing that I had to hand that was relevant); add it to the list of errors - the other glaring one is the omission of the 46th Div at the northern end of the British line. Mind you, not complaining too much - it is good to get a map at a reasonable scale that covers the whole of the 1916 Somme battlefield, so thanks very much IGN.

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There is a book in French, La Bataille de la Somme by Alain Denizot (Editions Perrin, 2002) which has several pages (83 to 90) describing the French share in the battles of early July. While I was Historical Information Officer of the WFA I gave Alain some very modest assistance on a few points, and he kindly sent me a copy by way of thanks. Incidentally, he quotes a figure of 202,567 for total French losses, KWM, for the entire Somme battles of 1916.

Nigel, if you cannot find the book easily, I will gladly lend you my copy. PM me if you would like it.

Ron

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Hello Old Owl

A listing I found on the Internet some time ago, but now cannot find, suggests that 6th Regiment d'Infanterie was at Verdun in 1916 and does not mention any service on the Somme.

There is a potted summary of the French action alongside the British on 1 July in the British Official History, 1916 Volume I, on pages 342 and 343, and Sketch 19. The fact that the section is headed "The Complete Success of the French on the 1st July" is a pretty accurate summary of the results. Apart from the village of Frise, just on the south bank of the Somme, the French captured all their objectives (half to three-quarters of a mile from their start line) and on the frontage of the Colonial divisions they passed beyond them and engaged the German 2nd position, about a quarter of a mile further on.

The note mentions that the XX Corps (39th and 11th Divisions in the front line) "had suffered very few losses, and had not employed any reserves, not even partially." The 61st Division (not 51st as mentioned by Nigel, although 51st was in the same corps), being on the flank, suffered some casualties from the unattacked German division to its south. Overall the French took some 4,000 German prisoners, f which 2,000 were on the front of the Colonial Corps.

As was the case with the British on their flank, success was largely related to the amount of artillery support available.

Ron

Many thanks Ron for this information which clarifies in part my thoughts on where they served in July 1916.

Robert

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The French XX Corps was north of the Somme, on the right of the British. The Colonial Corps and the XXXV Corps were south of the Somme, by the "big loop of marshland" familiar from most maps.

Ron

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Many thanks for this information

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Would one of these divisions include the 6th Regiment d'Infanterie?

The 2nd Battalion of the 6e R.I. (69 Bde, 35e D.I.) was serving in the vicinity of Cote 304, Verdun on 1st July 1916 and underwent an extremely violent German attack (including heavy use of flame throwers) from the early hours of that day. The 2nd Battalion casualties for 1st July 1916 included 3 officers killed ,2 wounded and 59 other ranks dead with 100 wounded. The regimental history notes that they counted over 400 German corpses following the attack.

With just a short period in the Argonne, the 6e R.I. served at Verdun from 20th May 1916 to 6th January 1917 before being withdrawn from the line completely for rest and refit. They returned to the Verdun sector in June 1917 and took part in the August 1917 offensive and only left the sector (for the Vosges) in October 1917. They didn't actually serve on the Somme at any period during the war (the nearest being during the bataille de Picardie' in 1918).

Dave

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So, French formations, north to south:-

39th Div

11th Div

2nd Colonial

3rd Colonial

51st

The 51e D.I. actually was holding the front on the 1st July 1916, but they neighboured the 61e D.I. to the south...

39 D.I.

11 D.I.

16 D.I.C. (one regiment)

2 D.I.C

3 D.I.C.

61 D.I.

51 D.I.

51 D.I., holding the area south of Foucaucourt and opposite Soyecourt ,etc were ,of course, not (directly) involved in the offensive actions of 1st July.

Dave.

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Thanks Dave. The sketch in the British Official History doesn't extend that far south - it shows the 61st but not the 51st.

Ron

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Working on it; I hope to get five or so Battleground Europes out on the French Somme effort (mostly, but not exclusively, related to the Somme 1916) in the next couple of years, all being well and with a following wind.

Good stuff. That would be a great addition to the catalogue.

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39 D.I.

11 D.I.

16 D.I.C. (one regiment)

2 D.I.C

3 D.I.C.

61 D.I.

51 D.I.

Regimentally, the units holding and attacking on the 1st July 1916 were as follows (north to south)....

17th Bn King's (Liverpool) Regiment (30th Division, British)

------------------------------------------------------------

153 RI

146 RI

156 RI

26 RI

69 RI

79 RI

37 RI

------------------------------------------------------------

RIVER SOMME & SOMME CANAL

------------------------------------------------------------

36 RIC

22 RIC

24 RIC

4 RIC

8 RIC

23 RIC

21 RIC

58 RIC

7 RIC

265 RI

264 RI

219 RI

262 RI

----------------------------------------------------------------------

(For completion, below are the divisions holding the line to the immediate south of the 1st July 'zone' as far as Marquevillers...)

51 DI

58 DI

62 DI

10 DIC

Note that the 36e R.I.C. (engaged from the Bois de la Vache and bordering on to the Somme Canal SW of Frise) was actually part of the 16 D.I.C. which, for some reason (possibly because it was the only unit from this division holding the front), always gets omitted from 1st July 1916 unit mapping.

Dave

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Working on it; I hope to get five or so Battleground Europes out on the French Somme effort (mostly, but not exclusively, related to the Somme 1916) in the next couple of years, all being well and with a following wind.

Nigel,

That sounds great, so often a writers narrow focus on a battle loses the political reasons, international imperatives and broader strategic situation driving the conduct of an operation.

Cheers,

Hendo

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