I’ve been recording the activities of the 12th Battalion Royal Fusiliers during the battle for Guillemont on The Somme, 102 years ago exactly.
My great uncle Jack Walker fought with the 12th RF.
By September the 9th the Battalion had been pulled out of the area and were recovering behind the lines. More than 50 of their comrades had been killed.
This is taken from the Battalion diary on that day.
Place: Billets in Bussus.
Very fine day. Company carried out physical drill. Drill.Musketry. Battalion parade. Audit board held. Draft arrived of 50 OR (Other ranks)
Appreciation. The following message from Commander in Chief (Field Marshal Douglas Haig) to 4th Army begins: “The great successes gained by the 4th Army during the operations of the last three days are very satisfactory and reflects great credit on the plans and preparations made and on the troops who have carried out the attacks. The rapid advancement on LEUZE WOOD following on the capture of GUILLEMONT and FALFEMONT FARM shewed sound judgement and determination and has been of considerable assistance to the French army on our right. I warmly congratulate you and the Commander’s staff and troops under you on the results already achieved and on the energy and determination with which they are being followed up”
I’m not sure how this message would have gone down with the troops, bearing in mind the terrible price of capturing Guillemont.
As just one small example, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers were mown down in their hundreds as they attacked Falfemont farm mentioned above. The French had failed to clear a ravine to their right and the Germans poured machine gun fire into their flanks.
Between August 26 and September 7 the 5th Division lost 4,233 men. Between August 22 and September 8 the 20th Division lost 2,959 men.
They’d advanced less than 2 miles.