The Battles of the Somme; the Battle of the Transloy Ridges, 1 -18 October 1916
Heartened by the occupation of much of the Thiepval Ridge, Haig determined to continue large-scale offensive operations into the autumn. The Battle of the Transloy Ridges represented Fourth Army's part in this grand design, and its constituent costly attacks were intended to coincide with simultaneous advances by the Reserve Army planned for early October.
The fighting took place during worsening weather and dreadful battlefield conditions. Fourth Army's objectives necessitated, as a preliminary, the taking of Eaucourt L'Abbaye and an advance on III Corps entire front was launched, after a seven-hour bombardment, at 3.15pm on 1 October. The attack met fierce German resistance and it was not until the afternoon of 3 October that the objectives were secured. Henry Rawlinson's follow-up attack was delayed by atrocious weather. Starting at 1.45pm on 7 October the advance involved six divisions and resulted in heavy British casualties and little success except for 23rd Division's capture of Le Sars. Continuous rain during the night hampered the removal of casualties and further forward moves. The failure to secure original battle objectives led to a renewed major assault on the afternoon of 12 October when infantry on Fourth Army's right floundered towards German trench lines in front of Le Transloy, while formations on the left slogged towards the Butte de Warlencourt. Despite the slightest of gains (measured in hard fought for trench yards) the operation was not successful.
Orders for a fresh attack, issued late on 13 October, ignored the desperate conditions and physical state of the attacking troops. The subsequent early morning assault on 18 October (well before daylight) witnessed heroic efforts to advance but minimal gains were made against resolute defenders well supported by accurate artillery fire.
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 Hubert 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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