The Battles of the Somme: Battle of Albert 1-13 July 1916
In the early morning of 2 July 1916, the British 30th Division, holding the newly won Montauban Ridge repulsed two determined German counter-attacks. Both British and German commands recognised it was here, in the cramped southern sector of the battlefield (where most of the meagre British successes of 1 July had been achieved), that offered the most likely opportunities for further exploitation. But in the immediate aftermath of 1 July Rawlinson sanctioned repeated assaults against unbroken German defences over the battle-strewn uplands of the entire line of his original attack.
The period 2-13 July was characterised by a series of grindingly slow and costly British subsidiary attacks (principally in the southern end of the line), made to secure the flanks for a later major assault on the German second line positions. In a succession of bloody encounters the Fourth Army sought to secure Trônes Wood, Mametz Wood and Contalmaison; operations characterised by vicious hand to hand fighting, within devastated villages and shell-thrashed woods riddled with concealed strongpoints. Heavy rain on 3 and 4 July produced the first quantities of the infamous Somme mud and hinted at the difficulties which terrain and weather would pose later in the campaign. Chronology: 2 July Fricourt was occupied by British troops; 3 July saw the failure of the British attacks at Ovillers and Thiepval. La Boisselle was captured after much fierce counter-attacking between 4-6 July. Offensive operations began on 7 July to capture Mametz Wood, Contalmaison and Ovillers. 8 July saw the first attacks on Trônes Wood. The period 9-13 July witnessed bitter fighting for Trônes Wood and the eventual capture of Mametz Wood and Contalmaison.
Campaign map Army structure Terminology