The Battles of the Somme: the Battle of the Ancre Heights, 1 October - 11 November, 1916.
As a necessary preliminary to the Reserve Army’s part in Haig’s projected large-scale autumn offensive, General Gough sought to secure the whole of the Thiepval Ridge, and thereby obtain observation over the upper Ancre. This necessitated the capture, in full, of those intricate defensive positions which had repeatedly blocked the way to the vital high ground during the September fighting: Schwaben Redoubt, Stuff Redoubt and Regina trench.
Between 1 and 8 October the Canadian Corps assaults on Regina Trench witnessed brutal fighting, heavy casualties and temporary limited occupation of the objective. Meanwhile, in a confusing succession of attacks, 18th and 39th Divisions struggled unremittingly to clear the Schwaben Redoubt of its last defenders. Stuff Redoubt was stormed just after midday on 9 October, and following vicious actions Schwaben Redoubt finally succumbed to the 39th Division in the afternoon of 14 October. The weather and appalling battlefield conditions delayed further operations; it was not until 21 October that renewed efforts against Regina trench (and the adjoining Stuff trench) were possible. II Corps infantry attacked on a 5,000 yard front at 12.06pm, well supported by artillery, and after sharp fighting took all their objectives in just over 30 minutes. The whole of the crest of the ridge was now in British hands.
Canadian attempts on 23 October further to extend their occupation of Regina Trench were frustrated by mud and heavy enemy fire. It was not until 10 November, after days of rain, that a surprise midnight assault finally secured the eastern portion of this position. Next morning, following slight improvements in the weather (allowing some moderate drying of the ground), Gough finally decided that his much-delayed set-piece offensive would begin on Monday 13 November.
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