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Remembered Today:

First Casualties on July 1st, 1916


Nick Thornicroft
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Is it recorded anywhere the name of the regiment, or the individual(s), who had the misfortune of suffering the first casualties on July 1st, 1916? I am almost certain these occurred during the early hours when assault troops were leaving their assembly trenches to march to the front line & were bombed by German artillery.

Many thanks

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I can tell you that the 16th (Pioneer) Btn of the Royal Irish Rifles has only ONE fatal casualty that day. Which, as you will be well aware, must be some kind of record for a bn. involved on that day.

I'd love to know the answer to that one above too.

A time scale would be important ..e.g. McFadzean VC died before the attack had started. Are we talking from the period 7.00am (ish) when some units had men already out in NML? Or are we talking the official kick-off at 7.30am. Or, indeed, from 12 midnight?

Des

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Des.

Many thanks for your reply. I was thinking from midnight onwards, but if anyone has the data in the hour between 06:30 & 07:30, that would also be very interesting. As you indicated, it is clear some advanced units were out in No Man's Land before 07:30 (several Battalion War Diaries also reveal this), & these must have suffered casualties. It is well documented that most of the Accrington Pals were killed or wounded in the first twenty minutes after the attack began at 07:30.

I remember reading somewhere that there was a race to reach the rim of the Lochnagar Crater following its explosion at 07:28 in order to set up machine gun

positions. I wonder how close the British were - and were some TOO close?

Nick

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Nick,

I suspect that you might not find any definitive answer. A quick look at Middlebrook's First day of the Somme for example shows a German shell nearly obliterating a Platoon of Ulstermen (36th Divn I assume) as they were going to assembly positions. That sort of thing must have been common all along the line, and probably taking place from midnight onwards.

Brendon.

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Nick,

I would have thought that this would have been almost impossible to ascertain. Units of the 32nd Division travelled through Aveluy Wood, across the Ancre and waited in Blackhorse Shelters before moving on to Authuille Wood. This operation took nearly all night. It is recorded that they were shelled intermittently throughout. I am sure that a similar thing was happening throughout the zone of operations. Therefore any cut-off time would be arbitary as there were casualties occuring continuously along the line.

Regards

Steve

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Many thanks for your replies. With so many men on the move it was always a shot in the dark, as it were, but I was hoping someone, somewhere in history had tried to pin-point these figures. With nearly 20,000 dead by midnight on July 1st/2nd, I guess the numbers are just too overwhelming.

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With the number of men on the move (100,000?) and the complexity of the arrangements ascertaining the names of any casualties would have been very low on the list of priorities of the officers involved. Such was the chaos of the whole day that many regimental histories written in the 20s still could not determine the correct totals of dead and wounded, let alone when they died.

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At 1.55am, 1 July, a patrol from 22 Bn, Northumberland Fusiliers, (Tyneside Scottish) under Second Lieutenant McDonald, was sent out to 'report on the state of the Hun wire and if possible secure a prisoner'. The patrol consisted of one officer (McDonald) and five men. McDonald and two others returned to the British lines wounded, another patrol was sent out to find the other three, one of whom was seroiusly wounded, but no trace was ever found of them.

There must have been stories like this along the whole front, some happening around midnight, however in the war diary would these incidents be recorded as 1 July or 30 June?

Sean

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