La Boisselle

III Corps faced a series of spurs off of Pozieres ridge perpendicular to its front.  The Germans, therefore, constructed salients on these spurs to dominate the valleys in between - creating a formidable defensive position with crossfires in the valleys.  The British used a relatively slow creeping barrage to support the attack and also blew several mines, but as was the case elsewhere, the bombardment did little to silence German artillery.

Wikipedia Map

The blue line is the approximate German front line.  The British attacked from the west - the left side of the map.

A) Ovillers Cemetery

This cemetery was begun on the site of a dressing station.  The 8th Division between Ovillers and Nab Valley lost 6,380 men.  La Boisselle is on either side of this 360 degree panorama.   Capturing La Boisselle was entrusted to the 34th Division.  One British mine was blown just on this side of the town and another on the far side forming Lochnager Crater.  Between the two craters and just southwest of town was an area called the Glory Hole.  Next we will drive to the other side of La Boisselle.

B) Glory Hole

On the right half of the panorama you can see La Boisselle, which we have just passed through.  The town was a strong point, so the British decided to attack it on either side rather than directly.  British troops of the 34th Division attacked the town from the direction of Tara and Usna Hills 900 to 1,000 meters from town.  The British support line was on these two hills.  The Brits used four columns of attack, each 400 yards wide and each three battalions deep.  The follow-on battalions of these columns went over the top at the same time as the front line battalions but from the support lines on Tara and Usna Hill hundreds of yards to the rear.  The front lines at the area called the Glory Hole, however, were quite close.  This area has recently been the subject of study, and if you are interested, a search for "La Boisselle Project" will likely fill you in on the details.  On the far side of La Boisselle, Y-Sap Mine - 40,000 pounds of explosive at the end of a tunnel over 1,000 feet long - was exploded.  The attackers still had to cross 800 yards of no man's land and suffered from enfilade fire from both La Boiselle and Ovillers.  This attack made no progress.  The other mine, Lochnager, would be more promising.  Next we continue along the road on the right side of the panorama - but behind us - to Lochnager Crater.

C) Lochnager Crater to La Boisselle

At far left you can see shell holes just outside the crater.  In the fight that ensued, British troops were able to pass through the German front line in the area of the right side of the panorama.  Let's see the crater itself.

D) Lochnager Crater

Here, a mine of 60,000 pounds was exploded here prior to the assault, forming a crater 270 feet across and 70 feet deep.  The merged image above honestly does not bring across the enormous size of the crater.  Earth was thrust 5,000 feet into the air from the explosion.  Schwaben Hohe Redoubt was smashed, and many of the German dogouts collapsed on their inhabitants.  Although the explosion was tremendous, Germans from outside the crater area survived and manned their posts.  The attacking British infantry got unexpected opposition but still reached the edge of the crater and even around to the left of it.  Enfilade fire was too much, however, and the attack was halted.

E) View of Sausage Valley

This is the view from the southern corner of the property, which was bought and preserved by an Englishman so that this crater would survive and not be filled-in as so many others have been.  Rock from the Lochnager tunnel was dumped near Becourt.

On the left side of the panorama - to the British the right side of the crater - the attackers made some progress.  A small advanced force of 13 men were tasked with moving into no man's land and occupy the lip of the crater immediately after the explosion.  They got so close that some were even buried by falling debris.  The British on this side of the crater reached the German fourth line, and they were able to hold onto the gains that night.  By the standards of what had gone on north of here, this was an achievement, but the 34th Division had lost 5,121 men that day.  

South of here, across Sausage Valley visible on the left side of the panorama, the XV Corps was attacking Fricourt.

Copyright by John Hamill, 2012

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