North of the main effort made by Rawlinson's 4th Army there would be a diversionary attack by a corps of Gough's 3rd Army at Gommecourt where a German salient pushed forward into the British lines.  It was one of the strongest points to be attacked that day.  Here, the British 3rd Army made noticeable preparations for an attack, including advancing the trenches forward, hoping to divert German attention.  They hoped to pinch out the salient, capturing Gommecourt and the Germans at the tip.  The 46th Division, a unit of men from the Midlands, was to attack the northwest face of the salient while the 56th Division composed of Londoners attacked the southwest face.  The bombardment neglected counter battery fire, and the guns were allotted just 20 rounds per gun for the task.  When the bombardment lifted, Germans emerged from their dugouts, and the British began the attack.  It was 7:30am.  

Match the letters on the map with the panoramas.

A)  Gommecourt Wood New Cemetery

    At 6:25 along the 46th Division front, the Germans saw the British bombardment building to a climax, so they conducted their own bombardment of the British artillery.  A smokescreen designed to hide the attack actually confused the attackers along with old trenchs in no man's land.  The German barbed wire had been repaired the previous night.  German artillery caused many casualties among the attacking British, and even the third and fourth waves suffered heavily.  The first wave reached the German front line but barely held on.  The corps commander ordered another attack a little after noon, but the division commander saw the futility and canceled the attack.

    In the 360 degree view above, the British were attacking from trenches on this side of Foncquevillers, which they called "Funky Villas" in the direction of Gommecourt.  Gommecourt Wood New Cemetery is in no man's land.  The German front line was about 200 yards to the left of Gommecourt Wood.  1/6th South Staffordshire on the southern flank of the 46th Division attacked near here toward Gommecourt Wood, losing half its men.  1/7th Sherwood Foresters suffered 409 lost out of an original 536 men.

    The 46th Division was decisively repulsed, losing 2,455 men.  This allowed the German artillery to concentrate on the 56th Division to the south.

B) Nameless Farm

    Rossignol Wood was known to the Germans as Copse 125.  The wood was not a factor on July 1, 1916, but in 1918 Ernst Junger served there, and he later wrote of his experiences.  Felon Trench on the third line was behind us, and parallel to the road - on the far left and far right of the panorama.  Two German trenches were in front of Felon - Feint then Fever.  The German strong point, Nameless Farm was on the other side of the road in the right center of the panorama.  The British attack in this area reached the first line, then the second line, forcing the German defenders back to the third line near Nameless Farm.  The British attack on the third line was hindered by barbed wire and enfilade fire from Gommecourt Wood, and the attack was halted.  German artillery fire made reinforcement and resupply of the attacking British impossible, but fortunately a German counterattack was stopped by British artillery.  This was possible only because of good communication from forward observers, something that was not always possible.

C)  Civilian Cemetery Southeast of Gommecourt

    The London Rifle Brigade and Queen Victoria Rifles attacked over these fields as the left flank of the 56th Division's attack.  The British reached this cemetery, the wall of which you can see on the far right of the panorama, and fighting erupted inside the cemetery.

    In front of the 56th Division, the wire had been cut by the bombardment, but the division still lost 4,314 men.  The 1,000 yard attack front of 56th Division was just too narrow and allowed the Germans to concentrate their artillery fire, which was still in good shape as it had not been significantly disrupted by British counter battery fire.  The Gommecourt attack failed in an absolute sense in that the salient was not taken, but it also failed as a diversion as it did nothing to lure the Germans away from the main effort further south.  About two miles south the northern flank of the main attack was taking place near Serre.

Copyright by John Hamill, 2012

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