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1st Battalion, 180th Infantry Regiment,


Tony Lund

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Does anyone by any chance have information about the German units in action on the 3rd September 1916 in the St Pierre Divion - Thiepval area around the areas known as the Pope’s Nose and the Triangle. They are the 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry Regiment, who were later reinforced by elements of the 66th Infantry Regiment. It seems they were pushed out of their trenches and regained them soon after.

It is a very long shot I know, but does anyone have a copy of the account of the day written by the German Commander? Or anything else relating to these events?

Thanks,

Tony.

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Tony

I have the history of the 180th Regt and another book specifically on this Regt in the Battle of the Somme. I can post or send you scans of the relevant pages, although I have a feeling that Ralph W or Jack S might already have translated the relevant passages.

Regards

Simon

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I have a fair bit on the action you describe.  What is the precise question and can you read German?

Jack

I told you so!

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Jack and Simon,

I am looking for all the information I can get from all existing sources on the attack of the 49th West Riding Division. I am especially interested in the 1st 5th Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment that attacked the Pope’s Nose. This battalion was Huddersfield’s pre-war territorial battalion.

There does not seem to be a History of the 49th Division, but of the two brigades that attacked, each with two battalions, the 1st 5th Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Battalion from the 147th Brigade is the only one that does not have any reasonable account of its activities in any history book anywhere that I can find, and it is this battalion that was resonsable for the Pope's Nose itself, it is also the one that contains the Holmfirth and Huddersfield men. I have had to make do with information gleaned from the histories of the 1st 4th Dukes, also from the 147th Brigade which attacked the area just below the Pope’s nose and the histories of the West Yorkshire battalions in the 146th Brigade that attacked above it.

I have conflicting reports from both brigades, both came under machine gun fire from the Pope’s Nose, one report thinks it might have been evacuated by the German troops for a while, but another report makes no mention of that. This was the second worst day of the whole war for Huddersfield and Holmfirth, and there appears to have been controversy at the time, with both Gough and Haig making or repeating comments about the Division not really trying, and less than a thousand casualties. All denied by the Division’s officers of course.

I do not read German and it is clearly time I learned, but I do have a relative who can read it that I could ask. I think I have now seen all the English books that cover this, and all that is left to see now are the war diaries and the German accounts.

What I really need to know is which trenches around the Pope’s Nose were occupied by British troops. And if possible what times they were ejected or withdrew, and anything that is relevant to the attack really. I would like to be able to mark on a map a reasonably accurate position of British troops from all four battalions at the point of maximum penetration. On the maps I have the only position named in German is the Munster Gasse communication trench.

I would be grateful for any information I can get.

Thanks.

Tony.

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Tony

I have taken a look at the date and area which interests you. The unit involved was 3rd Bn Infantry Regiment 66, which came under command of IR 180 during the night 2nd/3rd September and occupied sectors C1 and C2. The remains of the old OP near the Ulster Tower are practically smack on the Pope's Nose, a point where the German front line took a right angled bend from more or less N-S and parallel with the track down to St P-D, to more or less E-W, to swing away around the back of the present day grounds of the Ulster Tower. Both the Triangle and the Pope's Nose are firmly part of C2. Some British maps put the P-N in C3, but this does not square with German maps and sketches in my possession, which place the boundary with C3, parallel to, but just to the east of, Meisengasse. This makes military sense. All trenches, roads, tracks etc are always 'inclusive' to somebody - otherwise there would be doubt about whose responsibility they were. Incidentally 'Meisengasse' [Titmouse Alley] became 'Maisie Lane' when it eventually belonged to the British. The next communication trench north of Meisengasse was Steinweg and the next one to the south was Muenstergasse (later Fienne's Street). The 3rd line trench (originally part of the First Position, but by the time of the Battle of the Somme the Intermediate Position) was called the Strassburger Steige ( Strasburg Line).

The position was badly knocked about, IR 66 was shelled and gassed as it moved into position, but there were no casulaties at that point. Drumfire opened up, directed particularly at the the 1st and 2nd trenches of C1 and C2 at 5.15 am (4.15 am British time). It lasted 30 minutes, then the frst attacks came in and were beaten back after hand to hand fighting by 11th and 10th Coys IR 66. In the sector of 9th Coy, however, there was no wire obstacle, the 9th had already suffered heavy casaulties and the British got into the first trench and began to barricade themselves in. The unwounded members of the 9th launched an immediate counter-attack and the 10th under Oberleutnant Hermenns rushed over to help, followed by every spare man of his Coy. Despite the difficulties of launching such an attack across unknown territory in the dark, it was a success. By 8.30 am the coys were reporting that the position was free of enemy. IR 66 suffered serious casuaties 2 offrs and 37 OR killed; one offr and 133 OR wounded.

There are three relevant pages in the history of IR 66, including a personal account of the day by Leutnant Meyer, a platoon commander in the 3rd Machine Gun Company. Unfortunately there is no relevant map in this history. Is your inbox large enough to accept two scanned A4 pages? - say 3mb? From what you say, it is probable that C3 was attacked by your men as well. In fact if they assaulted astride Meisengasse, then they certainly did. The book IR 180 in der Somme Schlacht also has a couple of pages on it, (another 2-3mb!) which states that there was a penetration into the first trench of C3 and that between Muenstergasse and Teufelsgasse [Devil's Alley], i.e the next communication trench to the south, the enemy was through to the second trench. Once again after grenade fighting and hand to hand stuff, the British were ejected and a carrier pigeon was despatched to Div HQ at 10.47 am (German time), saying so.

I hope this helps. Get back to me if you want any more.

Jack

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Thank you, plenty to think about. My inbox seems to be OK so far, I move everything I want to keep every now and then to make space. I'll see if I can fit this to the maps I have, thanks again.

Tony.

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Yes please, I need to collect together everything I possibly can about this incident. It would be a useful addition to the information already held.

Thank you,

Tony.

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