The Battle of the Somme: the Battle of Guillemont, 3-6 September 1916.
Throughout late July and August 1916, Guillemont (in the southern corner of the battlefield, a few hundred yards east of Trônes Wood) defied repeated British attacks. These bloody encounters led only to partial and temporary occupations of shattered ruins as determined German counter-attacks and continuous artillery fire forced later withdrawals.
Another major attack was planned for late August, though heavy rain delayed the operations until 3 September. Preliminary bombardments began on Saturday 2 September and, at 8.50am on Sunday morning, 5th Division advanced towards the protective strongpoint of Falfemont Farm to the south-east of the village. The main assault on Guillemont itself was made by 20th (Light) Division, two battalions of which crept forward before zero hour and took the Germans by surprise. At noon the main line, including a brigade of the 16th (Irish) Division, advanced and after much difficult fighting (especially near the quarry and station) Guillemont was secured and progress made several hundred yards eastwards. Although 5th Division failed to take the Farm, units did break into the German second line position. The next day saw 5th Division attempt advances towards Leuze Wood including another attack on Falfemont Farm which was not captured until early the following morning allowing contact with French infantry on the right. Later reports of enemy disorganisation prompted renewed attacks on Leuze Wood and eventual occupation of its south-western edge.
The major portion of wood was secured on Wednesday 6 September, but further advances beyond Guillemont were hampered by fierce German fire from Ginchy and a stronghold called the 'Quadrilateral'. It was clear that capture of Ginchy was essential in order to exploit recent hard-won gains.
The Battles of the Somme: the Battle of Ginchy, 9 September 1916.
Ginchy village, a mass of shattered masonry and shell-holes by late summer 1916, had been a key objective for 7th Division in the important attack of 3 September. It was not taken and in the days immediately following repeatedly defied British assaults. A further concerted attempt on Ginchy was planned for the afternoon of Saturday 9 September as Fourth Army sought to support French attacks beyond Combles (to the south-east) and secure a stable line of attack for a large scale 'breakthrough' offensive intended for mid-September.
The task of clearing the village was given to the depleted 16th (Irish) Division. Its two attacking brigades (47th and 48th) were supported on the right by 56th Division's operations in Leuze and Bouleaux Woods. Precisely at 4.45pm on 9 September, 48th Brigade rushed towards Ginchy from the south-west but was instantly halted by a ferocious German barrage. Two minutes later, 47th Brigade's attack (from the south) was immediately cut down by close range machine gun fire. In wet conditions, bad light and the confusion of the assault elements of the 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers veered to the flank and, there confronted by the enemy, resolutely drove the Germans back; pressing on, 48th Brigade troops were through the village by 5.30 pm and gains consolidated. The attack was characterised by dash, turmoil and heavy casualties. During the evening the Germans made several attempts to re-enter the village and fighting continued as 1st Welsh Guards relieved the exhausted 48th Brigade later that night.
The capture of Ginchy forced the remaining German defenders out from the eastern edge of Delville Wood, but the new British line formed a salient vulnerable to German counter-attacks.
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