The Battle for Guillemont on the southern part of The Somme Battlefield came to end 102 years ago to this day.
For weeks vicious fighting had taken place in and around what remained of the village. My great uncle Jack Walker was there with the 12th Royal Fusliers.
What follows are entries from the battalion’s war diary on 3rd and 4th Sept. And the shocking account of a chaplain who visited the front after the battle.
Location: Orchard Trench. Chesney Walk. Water Lane (All trenches on, or very close to, the Front Line)
Weather: Fine. Our division represented by the 8th Buffs in conjunction with the 1st Div on our left and 7th Div on our right, made an attack at 12 midday. The attack by 8th Buffs was on Wood Lane (another trench near Delville Wood) and a strong point at junction of this trench + Tea Trench. Our no 4 company under Capt Anderson cooperating by bombing up Wood Lane (capturing enemy trenches by throwing hand grenades) towards the strong point. The attack by 8th Buffs, though made twice, failed owing to lack of proper military preparation. Our Lewis guns from Orchard Trench did considerable damage to the enemy, causing him at least 100 casualties. Enemy artillery very active. Casualties: 10 OR (Other Ranks) killed. 48 Wounded. 1 OR Missing. 3 OR shell shock.
Shell Found on the exact current day location of Orchard Trench.
Very wet. Enemy artillery again very heavy throughout the day. Relieved by the 6th King’s Liverpool Regiment and proceeded to camp in vicinity of Fricourt. 10 slightly wounded men returned to duty. Casualties: 10 OR killed. 8 OR wounded.
This was the end of the 12th Royal Fusiliers’ involvement in the Battle for Guillemont.
Since arriving in the area on August 10th the battalion had 51 men killed, 175 wounded and 19 men were suffering from shell shock.
On this day (Sept 4th, 1916) A padre serving with the 16th Division, Fr William Doyle, witnessed the terrible scenes in the surrounded fields.
“The first part of our journey lay through a narrow trench, the floor of which consisted of thick deep mud, and the bodies of the dead men trodden underfoot. It was horrible beyond description, but there was no help for it and on the half rotten corpses of our own brave men we marched in silence, everyone busy with his own thoughts. Half an hour of this brought us out on the open into the middle of the battlefield of some days previous. The wounded, at least I hope so, had all been removed , but the dead lay there stiff and stark, with open staring eyes, just as they had fallen. Good God such a sight! I had tried to prepare myself for this but all I had read or pictured gave me little idea of the reality.”
The dead in the trenches around Guillemont. My great uncle Jack Walker, who survived the battle.