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trenchtrotter

I have just had the privilidge of becoming the custodian of the BWM and Victory medal awarded to Pte 35328 Bertie Jenkins, 15th Welsh Regt who is recorded KIA 11/7/16. My question is...the attack was made on the 10th. What was the situation on the 11th for the 15th? Were they still in the wood or was he killed on the 10th but had his death recorded as the 11th? Or were the 15th in the wood on the 10th and overnight?

I purchased the medals at the Birmingham Militaria Fair last Sunday. As soon as I saw them I knew I had to buy them. To aquire such a group linked the the 38th Welsh Div at Mametz Wood is a rare opportunity and having visiited the area many times and recognising the sacrifice, it a very special aquisition and an opportunity to remember.

RIP Bertie you are remembered.

TT

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Bernard_Lewis

Forum member Steve John's book on the 15th Welsh is due out in September. I dare say he'll be along shortly.

Bernard

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Bernard_Lewis

This thread is proving to have a lot of stamina. A few comments:

'In Parenthesis' by David Jones does convey the chaos of the attack - and its attendant dangers. Well worth a read though some knowledge of the attack helps make sense of it. 'The Mabinogion', too!

Here is a link to Captain John Strange's (14th Welsh) post war notes on the attack made to help an artist who was attempting to paint the scene:

http://swanseabattalion.net/index.php?opti...mp;limitstart=4

If you can't read the original a typed transcript follows so work through the pages. They are Strange's answers to a series of questions so it doesn't read like a history.

The book on the battle is, of course, Colin Hughes 'Mametz - Lloyd George's Welsh Army at the Battle of the Somme'. Peerless. Out of print but you can probably get a copy on a specialist book site.

Bernard

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Open to correction here, but the 15th Welsh (in 114 Bde) were sent in to the attack at 7am on 10 July, establishing themselves in the "Hammerhead" feature of the Wood. A German counter-attack something over an hour later caused heavy losses, "B" company being virtually wiped out.

The rest of the unit fell back to the southern edge of the feature, and dug in for defence. There was a further advance into the Wood by units of the 114th Brigade at 2pm, the 15th Welsh moving over to the left of the Hammerhead and making room for the 10th SWB on their right. At 4pm there was a further assault, the battalion advancing up through the central part of the Wood past the second cross-ride. By 6.30pm the forward units were within 40 yards of the northern edge of the Wood. Heavy fire was opened on them, and after some confusion they dug in 2-300 yards back from the edge.

A proposed fresh attack at 8pm never materialised. After a night in the Wood there was further confused action the next day. So far as I can gather, 15th Welsh were then in a support role. They helped in an attack by 10th Welsh at 6pm, towards the western edge of the Wood, but in the end the overall position hadn't changed by nightfall, and the Welsh Division was relieved by the early hours of 12 July.

Your man might have been killed on either the 10th or 11th. The latter date is when his death was reported, and that might easily have been delayed by a day owing to the confusion in the Wood and the difficulties of calling the roll.

LST_164

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Before I begin, a word of thanks to Geraint for your kind words of welcome. I have been wandering around this forum for some while, but have been a little too daunted by the extraordinary wealth of knowledge shown by so many of the members here to dare to post my probably rather naive ramblings! However...

I have often wondered whether the position of the Dragon has created an illusion that the main attack of the 10th July went in against the Hammerhead. From the operational orders one gains the impression that the central axis of the attack comprised the ride that runs straight through the wood and onto the German communication trench that ran back to their main trench line, well to the left of the Dragon, with the 113th Bt to the left of the ride and the 114th to the right. However, this seems to leave a very narrow front for the 113th, as Strip Trench is only a short distance to the left of the ride, and units of the 17th Div were already occupying the left end of Wood Trench, whilst 114th would have had a very wide front, running right over to The Hammerhead. My main question though regards the right flank of the attack. Was it to the left of the Dragon, or did it extend onto the 'cheek' of the hammer to the right of the monument and across the valley that runs up to the cemetery. I understand that the 13th Welsh were to the left of the dragon. Did they have to attack straight onto the main stretch of the wood, on an axis roughly parallel with the ride but leaving them to cross a huge open area in defilade from the 'face' of the hammer, or did they attack straight onto the face? I understand that the 15th Welsh were to the right of the 13th, so presumably they did therefore attack onto the cheek, to the right of the monument.

I recall reading somewhere that there was some concern that the right hand flank of the attack would be exposed to hostile fire both from the front as it advanced down the slope as well as enfilade fire from Flatiron and Sabot Copses, and from the German main trench line, so the plans attempted to limit the extent of the right flank.

I understand, and it has now been confirmed above, that the 15th got into the Hammerhead, and that the Germans infiltrated back between the 13th and the 15th Welsh before the two units met up, decimating one company of the 15th before they were repelled.

I think that the gist of this question repeats that of a much earlier poster on this thread, but am I correct in wondering whether the position of the Dragon has given rise to something of a myth that the main axis of the attack went in on the Hammerhead?

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I post (and in the cases of the map repost) the following images to try to make my question above clearer;

On the map, the arrows clearly show the central axis of the attack as the ride, with the activities of 17 Div to the left of Strip Trench and onto the area of Quadrangle/Quadrangle Support/Wood/Wood Support trenches. The right flank of the attack (13th Welsh?) appears to be completely exposed to enfilade from the face/chin of the hammer to its right as it advances across the wide expanse of field onto the edge of the wood. It shows no attack onto the Hammerhead.

MametzMapDavidJones.jpg

The photos below were taken by myself in 2003. In the first can be seen the width over which 13th Welsh would have been exposed to enfilade from the face/chin of the hammer as it advanced over the area to the left of the Dragon and onto the wood in the distance.

Somme592.jpg

The second below shows the degree to which any troops advancing down the long slope from the area of White Trench would have been terribly exposed to enfilade down the valley from Flatiron and Sabot Copses, and from the area of the German second line at Bazentin Le Grand Wood beyond, as well as from positions on the cheek of the hammer;

Somme542.jpg

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Wait a sec Toby.

I'm not sure if you've got the geography a 100% correct. I'm getting a slight confusion as to 'Hammerhead', 'monument' and 'left'. The SWBs (your map) and the 13th Welsh would have been far further to the RIGHT of the Dragon on 10 July. The Hammerhead (where they attacked) is the bit on the extreme mid right of the map. The area directly opposite the dragon is Strip Trench going vertical with the treeline, Wood Trench meeting it at 90 degrees halfway up that field to the left, and Wood Support running with the treeline of the topmost trees. This is where the RWF (16th & 14th ) went in. The 14th ans 13th Welsh went in just off photo, pressing up rightwards towards the Hammerhead. The Dragon is situated near the old Cliff Trench, with White Trench behind, and Queen's Nullah to it's left. Your map, being a SWB map who were in support, shows a detailed outline ot the Woods and objectives, but I would ignore the accuracy of the blue pencil 'attack' arrows as being symbolic as opposed to actual.

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Geraint, I baulk at taking on a true Welshman on his own territory, and I shall be humble in defeat if I am wrong, but I don't think I have got my geography wrong!

In the probably rather more accurate field map below (and the one in which the alaphabetical location markers correspond with the order relating to the attack) I have marked the feature that I understand to be 'the hammerhead' (it certainly corresponds to the name in its shape) with a yellow H, and the location of the Dragon Monument with yellow star. I am sorry about the colour, which doesn't show well, but I can't work out how to change it in Coreldraw. The star is just below my letter H. I understand the hammerhead to be located by A-F-X, A being the point nearest the monument. The feature that I refer to in my question above as the 'face' or the 'chin' of the hammer is located as A-B-E-F. This is well to the right of Cliff/Strip/Wood etc trenches, Strip being located by the line I-U. You have located the monument at close to the word 'Cliff' on the map, opposite points I & H, which I think, if you will forgive me, is inaccurate.

I have cross checked with Geoportail, in which you can overlay their map and the arial, and this only serves to confirm my feelings, as the boundaries of the wood are pretty much exactly now as they were prior to the battle. The monument is shown on the map as 'Mon. Gallois' and is just under the word 'Wagnon'. It is also clearly visible in the arial photograph. I would place Flatiron Cemetery adjacent to the point X on the map.

I have also shown again the order for the attack for reference.

MametzWoodMap1.jpg

MametzOrder1.jpg

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Toby

It's me! Abject apologies. I took your second photo to be from the White trench area, wheras it is in fact looking at the hammerhead. There's half a mild in the bar for you.

The hammerhead was subject to far more intense fighting on 11th July, and as the RWF came up through the southern end and met up with the Welsh and SWBs the fighting in the hammerhead region came to symbolise the intensity of the battle. That's why the dragon memorial was sited there in 1987.

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Geraint,

diverting back to what was sung before going over the top at Mametz...

In the 1921 edition of Y Caniedydd Cynulleidfaol Newydd (New Congregational Songbook) published by Yr Annibynwyr Cymreig (The Welsh Congregational Church), Morgan Rhys' hymn Beth Sydd I Mi Yn Y Byd (2 verses) is listed with the tune "Aberystwyth".

When I asked my better-qualified brother to find the melody & full words he immediately responded by starting to sing it to Joseph Parry's tune, so it is commonly coupled with it.

Jesu Lover of My Soul / Iesu Cyfaill F'enaid i is listed in the same publication to a tune named "Heatherdale" by Caradog Roberts.

Just as a further refinement, the version of Iesu Cyfaill... currently printed in Caneuon Ffydd is the translation from Wesley's original into Welsh by D.Tecwyn Evans (1876-1957). The version commonly sung at the time of WW1 was however the translation first seen in the publication "Geirgrawn" of 1796.

I will try to get the words to both hymns posted shortly. It may be academic and now verging on the pedantic, but I'm curious as to what really might have been sung!

LST_164

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Thanks for that. Again Clive, it's the small actualities (call it pedantic) that makes such a vast difference when contemplating the actual event. It's the same process as other forum members have regarding the actual detail of kit and uniforms. For me, and I guess the same is true with you; it's the thought processes and mental picture in the lads' heads as they ran up that field; whether to survive or not; that's important to me.

Thanks for your research on the hymn. I've struck a blank!

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I offer two versions from my ?1844 Wesleyan Methodist hymnbook. I hope the size of the first one is legible.

3648636240_ea1b240709.jpg

and

3647830769_e5de22f373_o.jpg

which runs over the page -

3647831317_0263f6c0bd_o.jpg

Gwyn

Sorry, I don't know why the images don't render. I've adjusted my Flickr settings and they ought to be visible.

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Good stuff Gwyn.

I can recall singing the second version in school services to the tune of 'What a Friend We Have In Jesus'. The first version I recall sung to a far more sombre tune in Wesleyan services. The metre's different in both. The first version is far more theological than the first; with yearnings for the deliverence of Christ the saviour, his grace and temerity. The second version is a bit more concrete, offering his saving grace against the physicalities of tempest and storms. For a Kitchener man in 1916, that version would be literally describing his physical and actual dangers and situation in the trench. Literally 'in the valley of death'.

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Yes, I realised the metre of #2 is not that of Aberystwyth, just offering for interest. Thanks for the clarification. I've never been to a Welsh Methodist service, it would be pointless with my level of Welsh; only to English-language Methodist services in Wales. (But I have been to a Welsh language hymn-singing-based cymanfa ganu.)

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The 4, 5, 6, 7th RWF in Northampton, during their last weekend prior to embarking for France/Gallipoli etc in late October 1915 comandeered the largest church there and held a Cymanfa Ganu. The church held 1000, and it was 'double in audience'. The street outside was crammed with soldiers. A Sergeant took to the organ. The cymanfa lasted three and a half hours, with not a single hymn book nor sheet in sight, and not a hymn repeated. The last chorus of Am byth Amen lasted for twenty minutes. The Atsain (local paper for this area) carried a page spread on it. I know that none of these territorial battalions were at Mametz; but their brothers and cousins were! There was a wealth of hymns available; and a religious fervour that people today find impossible to comprehend.

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Bernard_Lewis

The images in post 108 are on my website. I'm not sure if that is where Toby got them but in any event I'm more than happy to see them spread more widely.

Bernard

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Bernard

I am not sure now whether I pulled them from your site through links already on this thread, or just from general searches on the net - both anyway likely to end up in the same place. I think I did a Google 'Image Search' for the maps. Either way, they are certainly 'borrowed', and I am most grateful. I would add that your site is a mine of fascinating information.

Too tired now, but still curious as to the 'right flank' info on the July 10th attacks. I will attempt to rephrase my questions tomorrow.

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Bernard_Lewis

Cheers Toby. I have more stuff to go on the site but am a bit short of time at present! I'll get round to it later this summer.

Bernard

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Sorry to but in on this topic, my query is about Mametz but on the 12th not the 9th July. I've posted it on a Battlefield tour thread but think the pals on here will have the answers (well I hope so)

Extract from 122 Bde RFA War diary 12 July 1916 (Bde in Mametz village)

2.22pm (A/122) Machine gun pit located in S.14.a.7.2 C.C. trying to knock it out

2.20 p.m. Apparently two concrete machine gun emplacements at S.14.a.73 and S.14.a.9.2 probably same as reported by “A” battery. Small amount of hostile shelling at present is remarkable.

C.C. “D”/122. (How) reports that although his howitzers get direct hits on the two concrete emplacements reported at 2.20 p.m. they produced no appreciable effects. Heavies also put shell on or near them without effect

Three questions:

1. Where were the emplacements - managed to work this one out now (learning slowly). Post 108 NE of wood where sheet is marked 'Barage 8.15'. I think.

2. What are/were the 'Heavies' refered to?

3. what is C.C. - Company Comander (stange for Arty Bde or Battery)?

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OK, in my efforts to clarify events in my mind, I have tried to put together a chronological sequence up to the fall of Mametz Wood as I understand it, using various sources but mainly "The Silent General" by Don Farr. On a wider strategic level it became clear in the period following initial July 1st attacks that successes between Fricourt and Trones pointed the imperative to the next stage of the attack being concentrated on the German second line on the Bazentin Ridge between the area north of Contalmaison/Mametz Wood and Trones Wood. To precede the main attack, and in the opinion of Haig if not altogether with the accord of Roberston, those objectives would first have to be consolidated.

2 July 1916 Fricourt and Fricourt Wood taken.

3 July 1916 Railway Alley and Bottom Wood taken.

3 July 1916 15:00 patrols pushed out into Mametz Wood and Quadrangle Trench, finding both empty. Orders issued to take Quadrangle, Strip and Wood Trenches overnight, but attacking forces not organised until daylight, by which time Germans had fed substantial forces into Mametz Wood.

5 July 05:45 7th Div assaults Quadrangle and Wood Trenches. Successful in centre on Quadrangle, with some success along Pearl Alley towards Contalmaison on left. 1st RWF (7th Div) clear eastern end of Quadrangle, but attack on Wood Trench by 1st Royal Irish founders on uncut wire. Gap between eastern end of Quadrangle and west end of Wood Trenches cannot be crossed by 1st RWF due to being swept by machine gun fire.

6 July 01:00 38th (Welsh) Div relieves 7th Div to hold line from Bottom Wood to Caterpillar Wood.

7 July Orders issued for attack on Mametz Wood commencing 02:00 with 17th Div on left assaulting Pearl Alley and Quadrangle Support prior to attacking Mametz Wood from west at 08:00 whilst 38th (Welsh) Div attacks south-eastern part of wood in the area of The Hammerhead. This is the first attack on Mametz Wood, and does not appear to involve any assault on centre section of the Wood.

17th Div preparatory attack founders amidst planning confusion in which barrage and subsequent assault becomes disconnected, and heavy rain. 17th Div assault on Mametz Wood fails to reach jump off positions and therefore cancelled.

Meanwhile planned attack of 38th Div along Caterpillar Valley goes in (at 08:00?). Original plan to put two battalions one behind the other with left flank tight on Caterpillar Wood in order to avoid exposing right flank to enfilade from Flatiron and Sabot Copses amended to an attack on a two battalion front with 16th Welch on the exposed ridge and 11th SWB below them on the left flank. Attack quickly runs into trouble when smokescreen on Flatiron and Sabot Copses dispersed by wind, and 16th Welch pinned down by heavy enfilade fire, whilst 11th SWB flayed by direct fire from Hammerhead to their front. Attack is cancelled. Two subsequent attacks, following further bombardments at 11:15 and 15:15 also fail, and all battalions withdrawn, with two companies of 17th RWF moved in to hold line opposite Hammerhead. Meanwhile a further attack by 17th Div on Quadrangle Support and Wood Trenches fails to make progress.

Casualty figure of for day is 400 (38th and 17th Divs combined, or only 38th?). Following failure of 7th July attacks General Philips of 38th (Welsh) Div sacked.

8/9 July. Further attack by 17th Div on Quadrangle Support fails, western end of Wood Trench falls to 6th Dorsets (17th Div). Planned attack by 14th RWF (38th Div) on Strip Trench abandoned due to disorganisation in the lines.

9 July 23:20 17th Div assaults Quadrangle Support (7th attempt on this trench) and although the centre section initially gives, left and right fails and Germans feed in from both ends driving off attackers.

10 July 04:15 38th (Welsh) Div attacks Mametz Wood in a 4 battalion assault between Strip Trench on left and Hammerhead on right.16th RWF, 14th RWF (113Bgde) on left and 14th Welch and 13th (114Bgde) in centre and right, with remaining battalions in reserve. Attack features new and sophisticated artillery fire plan in which a 45 min pre-assault bombardment is first lifted then returned onto German frontline positions, followed by a creeping barrage lifting at 50yds/min ahead of the assaulting troops.

Despite tenacious German resistance the left and centre battalions quickly into the wood, but 13th Welch pinned down by heavy enfilade from the Hammerhead, inflicting heavy casualties. Reserve battalions now engaged and Strip Trench taken. 15th Welch fed into right of 13th (presumably then to the right of the position of the memorial, and onto the cheek of the Hammerhead). German infiltration between 13th and 15th Welch results in annihilation of one Company of 15th. Welsh hold on Hammerhead subjected to continuous strong local counter attacks.

10 July 09:00 17th Div attacks Quadrangle Alley and Quadrangle Support as prelude to attack onto western side of Mametz Wood. First attempt fails.

10 July 10:30 the 7 battalions now in wood thinned and reorganised and orders issued to advance on 2nd objective (east-west line halfway through wood WVYO on map). However, Wood Support still in enemy hands, who are putting down intense fire on, and holding up, 113Bgde. Reinforcements from 17th RWF (115Bgde) brought in with orders to bypass Wood Support and fight through to 2th objective.

10 July 16:30 Attacks launched to complete advance through wood. These gain to within 40 yards of north edge of wood, but heavy fire from Middle Alley (connecting Mametz Wood to main German 2nd line) causes units to be pulled back 2-300 yards into wood.

10th July evening. Wood Support falls to 6th Dorsets (who have been in occupation of Wood Trench throughout), though with heavy casualties from fire from Quadrangle Support. 21:45 17th Div launches attack on Quadrangle Support after artillery bombardment. Quad Support finally taken, and Contalmaison falls to 23th Div.

10th/11th July. Attacks continue inside wood throughout night. By 05:30 10th SWB on right flank have gained full possession of Hammerhead. General Evans enters wood with balance of 115Bgde and takes command of all troops in the wood. In the sequence described in such vivid and moving detail by Llewelyn Wyn Griffith, Evans decides on a surprise 3 (4?) battalion attack to begin at 15:00 without a preliminary artillery barrage. Messages requesting cancellation of artillery fail to get back and pre-planned barrage commences at 14:45, provoking a fierce German counterbarrage, both of which cause extensive casualties and disorganisation amongst troops assembling for attack. Despite local successes, ensuing attacks are all driven back, and by nightfall all units are back on their start lines. Gen Pilcher of 17th Div sacked.

11th/12th July 38th (Welsh) Div replaced by 21st Div, and Germans, realising that wood is now untenable, withdraw onto their main 2nd line.

Given the above, and if we assume that I did get my geography right in posts # 105 and 108 (and I hope not to labour a point excessively), is it not possible that the Dragon Monument, facing as it does The Hammerhead, does give a slightly skewed, if magnificently dramatic, impression as to the axis of the Welsh efforts at Mametz Wood? It is clear that the disastrous attacks of 7th July DID go in against The Hammerhead, through and to the right of Caterpillar Valley. The main effort of the 10th July attacks though were well to the left of The Hammerhead, and between this point and Strip Trench. It would appear that there was no attack straight onto the 'face' of the hammer, and 13th Welch suffered grievously in enfilade from this position as they advanced onto the body of the wood. Presumably the subsequent (secondary) advance by 15th Welch, and later still 10th Welch, did go onto the cheek of the hammer?

I have probably exhausted everybody with this, but would welcome your thoughts....

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  • 2 weeks later...
clive_hughes

For those of you who like hymn singing (especially if you want to recreate the atmosphere on the 9 July before the second attack went in) - source as in earlier post : Welsh translation 1796 of Charles Wesley's original Jesu Lover Of My Soul

Iesu, Cyfaill f'enaid cu,

I Dy fynwes gad im' ffoi,

Tra bo'r dyfroedd o bob tu,

A'r tymhestloedd yn crynhoi:

Cudd fi, O fy mhrynwr, cudd,

Nes el heibio'r storom gref;

Yn arweinydd i mi bydd

Nes im' dod i deyrnas nef.

Noddfa arall, gwn, nid oes

Ond Tydi i'm henaid gwan;

Ti fu farw ar y groes

Yw fy nghymorth ymhob man;

Ynot, O fy Iesu, mae

Holl ymddiried f'enaid byw;

Nerth rho i mi i barhau

Nes dod adref at fy Nuw.

Gras sydd ynot fel y mor,

Gras i guddio fy holl fai;

Boed i'w ffrydiau, Arglwydd Ior,

oddiwrth bechod fy nglanhau;

Ffynnon bywyd f'enaid gwiw,

Rydd im' gysur ar fy nhaith-

Llonna f'ysbryd tra bwyf byw,

Tardd i dragwyddoldeb maith.

LST_164

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clive_hughes

Or if you're Geraint, and have a case for the singing of Morgan Rhys' hymn Beth Sydd I Mi Yn Y Byd to the same tune (the Caniedydd of 1921 labels it "A song in tribulation" :

Beth sydd i mi yn y byd?

Gorthrymderau mawr o hyd !

Gelyn ar ol gelyn sydd

Am fy nghlwyfo nos a dydd;

Meddyg archolledig rai,

Tyrd yn fuan i'm iachau,

Yna canaf am Dy waed

Nes meddiannu'r nefol wlad.

O na allwn tra fawn byw

Rodio bellach gyda'm Duw,-

Treulio f'oriau iddo'n llwyr

O foreuddydd hyd yr hwyr !

Iesu hawddgar, tyrd i lawr,

Gad im' weld Dy wedd yn awr;

Yna canaf am Dy waed,

Nes meddiannu'r nefol wlad.

Rough translation being:

What awaits me in this world?

Great and constant tribulations!

Enemy after enemy

Tries to wound me day and night;

Healer of the wounded ones,

Come swiftly to mend me,

Then shall I sing of your blood

Till I come into the heavenly country

Oh that I might whilst I live

Journey further with my God-

Spend my hours all for Him

From daybreak until late!

Amiable Jesus, come down,

Let me now see your face;

Then shall I sing of your blood,

Till I come into the heavenly country.

Both hymns seem appropriate to the situation in July 1916.

LST_164

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Bernard_Lewis

Thanks LST_164.

This thread is now a year old. Lets remember the boys (again) as they went into action 93 years ago tomorrow. As a commanding officer of the battalion said years after the war 'The battalion did a lot of things during the war but the hardest thing it ever did was attack Mametz Wood'.

Bernard

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I will certainly raising a glass tonight in honour of the 38th Div.

Gaz

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