Bernafay Wood (left) and Trones Wood. 1916 Bernafay is under fire.
Bernafay Wood today
In late August 1916 my great uncle Jack Walker was fighting in the trenches with the 12th Royal Fusiliers in and near Bernafay, Trones and Delville Woods close to the village of Guillemont on the southern part of the Somme Battlefield. By now No Man’s Land was a scene of nightmarish horror. Littered with unburied corpses decaying in the sun. Water supply was a real problem. Artillery barrages went on for hours. More and more men were suffering from shell shock (PTSD)
The following is taken from the battalion war diary. It highlights one young man you’ve never heard of who displayed great bravery under fire. Sadly he didn’t survive the war.
Place : Bernafay Wood.
Fine and warm. Enemy artillery very active. Ammunition dump in road in front of HQ set on fire, causing many explosions of Stokes Mortar ammunition and casualties to our men who were trying to put the fire out. No 3 company CSM (Company Sergeant Major) being killed.
2nd Lt Tiffany showed great gallantry in recovering wounded men blown into the fire by the explosion. At 4.30 PM the attack on Guillemont was renewed. The 72nd Brigade taking the place of the 73rd Brigade. The attack in places was successful and all positions taken were held and consolidated
The 1st Royal Fusiliers had 3 companies reinforcing the attacking party of 8th Buffs and 3rd RB (Rifle Brigade)
The division lost about 35 officers and 1100 men. In the evening we relieved the 3rd RB and 1st RF in newly won line.
(Battalion) Casualties. Killed: 2 OR (Other ranks); wounded : 3 OR. Wounded (shell shock) 1 OR.
The body of Company Sgt. Maj. Albert Edward Darling was lost during the constant shelling. His name is inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial for the missing.
Capt Harry Waddington Tiffany who rescued injured men from burning ammunition, was just 22 years old. He hailed from the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa and signed up when he was just 19. He’d already fought against the Germans in South West Africa where he was mentioned in despatches for gallant service.
He was awarded the Military Cross.
Three months later while leading a raid on enemy trenches near Loos he was killed when British trench mortars targeted his patrol by mistake.
His body was never identified and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.