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Bernard_Lewis

Remembering the lads of the 38th (Welsh) Division as they waited in the darkness opposite the dark mass of Mametz Wood on the night of 9 July 1916. They sang in Welsh to relieve the tension of a long night...

Twenty years later an officer of the Swansea Battalion commented that during the war the Swansea Battalion had done a great many things - but, he added, the hardest thing it ever did was attack Mametz Wood.

The battalion was never the same after that and the town of Swansea observed the 10 July as 'Mametz Memorial Day' until the outbreak of World War Two. The Old Comrades of the battalion posted an 'In Memoriam' notice in the local press until 1966, at which time there only a few left.

Not forgotten...

Bernard

post-64-1184019004.jpg

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Garron

Nice one Bernard, Was thinking of putting a thread about Mametz, you beat me too it,

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

Gaz

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Beau Geste

A few months ago, friends and I walked as much of the Mametz Wood battlefield as we could given the "agricultural" restrictions that exist today. In terms of the sheer difficulty of the task facing the men of the 38th Division it compares with the suicidal attacks of the Tyneside Irish attack from the Tara-Usna line, that of the 2nd Middlesex on Ovillers down Mash Valley and the attack by 32 Div on Thiepval Ridge.

Their courage and determination will live long in the memories of those who care in and outside Wales.

Harry

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Bernard_Lewis

Thanks Harry. At the time, of course, the Division was criticised for lack of 'push' after the failed attack of 7 July and Major General Ivor Philipps was sent home.

The Division certainly did not lack 'push' on and after the 10 July.

Bernard

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sjustice
A few months ago, friends and I walked as much of the Mametz Wood battlefield as we could given the "agricultural" restrictions that exist today. In terms of the sheer difficulty of the task facing the men of the 38th Division it compares with the suicidal attacks of the Tyneside Irish attack from the Tara-Usna line, that of the 2nd Middlesex on Ovillers down Mash Valley and the attack by 32 Div on Thiepval Ridge.

Their courage and determination will live long in the memories of those who care in and outside Wales.

Harry

Harry, I echo your sentiment but my own view is that the tragic and wholly awesome aspect of the Northumberland Fusiliers efforts on 1st July was the advance to destruction into the unknown. 2/Middx and 23rd Bde on the same day were wiped out before reaching their objective..and their CO had predicted it but not shared his thoughts downwards (not sure what's worse). I think there are parallels with the 32nd Div and Thiepval Ridge after Day 1 - they and 38th at Mametz Wood knew what was coming.

As my late brother used to say, "There's nothing worse than your second parachute jump, mate".

Kind Regards,

SMJ

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Beau Geste
Thanks Harry. At the time, of course, the Division was criticised for lack of 'push' after the failed attack of 7 July and Major General Ivor Philipps was sent home.

The Division certainly did not lack 'push' on and after the 10 July.

Bernard

I know Bernard but I've always felt that those criticisms of the Division and its CO were unfounded. Just reading about it hints at the "impossible" nature of the task given to them. Walking the ground they fought and died on multiplies that feeling a thousand times.

As you probably know from some of my previous postings I am convinced that my grandfather was there with the 15th Bn The Welch Regiment. They recruited in excess of 300 lads from Bolton in Lancashire in 1914 and I "know" he was the Pte 20304 Richard Lofthouse named in the medal lists.

Harry

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Beau Geste
Harry, I echo your sentiment but my own view is that the tragic and wholly awesome aspect of the Northumberland Fusiliers efforts on 1st July was the advance to destruction into the unknown. 2/Middx and 23rd Bde on the same day were wiped out before reaching their objective..and their CO had predicted it but not shared his thoughts downwards (not sure what's worse). I think there are parallels with the 32nd Div and Thiepval Ridge after Day 1 - they and 38th at Mametz Wood knew what was coming.

As my late brother used to say, "There's nothing worse than your second parachute jump, mate".

Kind Regards,

SMJ

Fair point Simon. It's impossible to disagree with most of what you say. I would add one point though. On 1st Jul there was a general feeling that it would be a "walkover." Some of the officers - Sandys is perhaps the best example but others like Reginald B-----d of the 2nd Lincolns had doubts about the message being filtered down from GHQ - but on the whole they left their trenches with, at worst, mixed feelings. Of course there was great anxiety but this, I think, was tempered somewhat because of the "erroneous propaganda" they had been subjected to beforehand.

Of course, it didn't take long before they realised the claims made were false but by then it was too late. What I'm trying to say is that the "Irish Geordies" and the soldiers of the Middlesex etc were a little more confident about the oucome of the attack than were the Welsh battalions at Mametz a week later. They knew what was waiting for them the moment they left their trenches and stepped into No Man's Land.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you say that Sandys "had predicted it (the disaster that befell his battalion) but not shared his thoughts downwards (not sure what's worse)". Worse than what?

He did, of course take his anxieties to those who had the power to do something about it but they wouldn't listen to him. What would he have achieved by filtering it downwards? He and his battalion had no other course of action available to them so to share his fears with his men or even just his officers would only have severely affected their morale. No CO would choose to do that especially in the hours preceding a major attack.

Harry

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sjustice
I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you say that Sandys "had predicted it (the disaster that befell his battalion) but not shared his thoughts downwards (not sure what's worse)". Worse than what?

Harry

I think I was pondering the question as to whether it was worse to know from the outset that the wire was uncut and therefore the attack would surely fail or to suddenly come to that conclusion having been [relatively] sure of success.

SMJ

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Bernard_Lewis

Lt Colonel Hayes of the Swansea Bn had predicted that they would gain the wood but lose the battalion. He told his officers this after receiving his orders for the attack. The Swansea Bn lost almost 400 killed or wounded out of 676 who were committed to the attack. Divisional casualties were 4000 approx.

Bernard

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Beau Geste
I think I was pondering the question as to whether it was worse to know from the outset that the wire was uncut and therefore the attack would surely fail or to suddenly come to that conclusion having been [relatively] sure of success.

SMJ

Oh I see. An interesting question that I think only those who were there would be able to answer.

Thank you Simon.

Kind regards.

Harry

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Beau Geste
Lt Colonel Hayes of the Swansea Bn had predicted that they would gain the wood but lose the battalion. He told his officers this after receiving his orders for the attack. The Swansea Bn lost almost 400 killed or wounded out of 676 who were committed to the attack. Divisional casualties were 4000 approx.

Bernard

Good God ! A perceptive man indeed and yet they didn't falter. Magnificent and yet so tragic.

Harry

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Bernard_Lewis

I think Hayes was quite a warrior yet came through the war unscathed. DSO and MC I think. From the Boer was he got a mention in despatches and the Queen's Medal with 5 clasps. He had to request permission to enter Mametz Wood after the attack had slowed but eventually got in.

In 1917 he met with officers of the 61st Infantry Brigade to discuss a 'handover'. The meeting was held at Periscope House, a 2 room cottage that had been fortified by the Germans before they were forced out. As the 8 man party left an enemy shell exploded killing 2 runners and wounding 5 officers. Hayes was untouched.

Post war he told ex-battalion men who could not afford to attend annual re-unions that they could come as his guests and at his expense. He was not a Swansea man (not even Welsh) and in fact never saw Swansea until after the war. Quite a man...

Bernard

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Beau Geste
I think Hayes was quite a warrior yet came through the war unscathed. DSO and MC I think. From the Boer was he got a mention in despatches and the Queen's Medal with 5 clasps. He had to request permission to enter Mametz Wood after the attack had slowed but eventually got in.

In 1917 he met with officers of the 61st Infantry Brigade to discuss a 'handover'. The meeting was held at Periscope House, a 2 room cottage that had been fortified by the Germans before they were forced out. As the 8 man party left an enemy shell exploded killing 2 runners and wounding 5 officers. Hayes was untouched.

Post war he told ex-battalion men who could not afford to attend annual re-unions that they could come as his guests and at his expense. He was not a Swansea man (not even Welsh) and in fact never saw Swansea until after the war. Quite a man...

Bernard

Quite a man indeed Bernard and obviously touched by the hand of God. Supported though by men of a fine battalion.

Harry

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maletdecarteret

I remember seeing the Dragon 10years ago? with Flanders Tours and can picture walking through the wood in the late afternoon, very creepy, it was drizzling.

A very sad loss indeed

Delville Wood will be next up - my great grandfather doctor was there on 18-20th July where he won his MC

best wishes

Ned

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Beau Geste
I remember seeing the Dragon 10years ago? with Flanders Tours and can picture walking through the wood in the late afternoon, very creepy, it was drizzling.

A very sad loss indeed

Delville Wood will be next up - my great grandfather doctor was there on 18-20th July where he won his MC

best wishes

Ned

Delville ! Another horror story !

Harry

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maletdecarteret
Delville ! Another horror story !

Harry

Indeed the decimation of the South African Brigade - Harold Ackroyd VC, MC, RAMC 6th Royal Berks rescued and treated Brits, Scots, South Africans and Germans.

regards

Ned

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Clio

Do many trenchworks survive in the Hammerhead these days ? I used to come across lots of banks and ditches about 15 years ago but never could make much sense of them. Maybe I was foolish to even try.

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Beau Geste
Indeed the decimation of the South African Brigade - Harold Ackroyd VC, MC, RAMC 6th Royal Berks rescued and treated Brits, Scots, South Africans and Germans.

regards

Ned

Another of the GREAT human beings that the horror of The Great War brought to the fore.

Harry

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Bernard_Lewis

My understanding is that at the time of the attack Mametz Wood was not especially well fortified. Its dense, tangled mass represented quite an obstacle in itself. A German deserter reported only one trench within the wood, augmented by dugouts for machine guns etc., many on the edges of the wood. Some of these were cleared at the point of a bayonet. There would have been fallen trees and shellholes to make it even more difficult.

When Lt Col. Hayes (Swansea Bn) entered the wood he promptly got lost, the 'rides' (paths) being clear on the map but hard to pick out on the ground. On his walk he found British troops firing at other British troops some way off, thinking they were Germans and a group of other men who were mistakenly following the path of a German barrage. Confusion was - for a while - total.

If you read 'In Parentheses' by David Jones (RWF) he gives a good prose impression of the chaos of the attack.

Bernard

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Trebrys

Is it safe to walk in Mametz Wood? A tour I went on said that you were not allowed to go into it because of the mire of unexploded bombs there.

As a child I can remember my neighbour with a big scar in his cheek. He'd been shot in the face by a sniper whilst carrying water by the wood during the attack.

Trebrys.

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Bernard_Lewis

I understand that you can enter the wood. Whether this is 'official' or not I don't know. I'm sure there are dangers within the wood, not least French hunters!? I didn't get in in 2002...

Bernard

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Garron

The land is under private ownership, Who owns it, I am not sure. I think it says in the Battlefield europe book. I will check for you.

I went in March 2007, Didn't go far, just into the hammerhead and took some pics said a prayer and left. Its true the birds really do sing again in Mametz. Its an weird place, made my hair stand on end theres a defo a vibe about the place.

I had to go in, I was there, I couldnt have left without going in. There is evidence of shell crators from the bombardment before the attack. Some are quite deep.

Gaz

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paul@bolton

At the risk of being told to "go away and do some reading", may I ask a question about the Welsh attack.

I have driven down the valley to the Welsh Dragon so Mametz Wood is to the left across the valley as one arrives at it. My question: where did the Welsh attack from? Was it from over the top of the hill, down past the position which the Dragon occupies and across the floor of the valley? Or was the attack down the length of the valley or on the opposite side? I have always assumed the former, having read somewhere that the Dragon faces across the valley in the direction of the attack but what would have been the extent of the British positions, left to right?

And, continuing an earlier comment about there being no trenches in the wood itself, where would the British front line have been - and is there any evidence there still? Would there be a trench map from this period? My guess is 'no' as there would not have been time to dig in to any great extent but I feel sure the experts out there will tell me.

My apologies if these questions fall into the 'obvious' category but we all have to start somewhere.

Thank you for any light you can throw on this. And any suggestions on what books to read will be gratefully received.

Paul

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Garron
At the risk of being told to "go away and do some reading",

We would never say that, and i doubt any pal on here would,

heres my attempt usin MS paint, its not to scale or any major detail some the trenches are not in the exact place, but gives a rough idea of the july 10 th attack where they attacked from.

post-7438-1184591659.jpg

Gaz

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paul@bolton

Gaz,

Thanks for your reply. Without referring to any other maps, am I correct in thinking that White Trench would have been somewhere in the vicinity of the Queens Nullah or is that further to the left?

I must climb up to the top of the bank above the Dragon on my next visit and take a look at the 360 degree view. It would help me with the geography.

Thanks again.

paul

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