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The Battles of the Somme: Battle of Morval, 25 - 28 September, 1916

The days immediately following the 15 September attack were marked on Fourth Army's front by a series of minor line-adjusting operations conducted in deteriorating weather. The increasingly wet conditions delayed preparations for a renewed effort to secure the villages of Morval, Lesboeufs and Gueudecourt, unattained objectives of the Flers-Courcelette fighting. This new offensive required an advance of up to 1,500 yards on a line from Martinpuich to Combles. The ruined villages of Morval and Lesboeufs lay on XIV Corps main front of attack; immediately left, XV Corps, was to sieze Gueudecourt; III Corps was to advance on the German line north-east of Martinpuich and offer cover for XV Corps left flank.

The preliminary bombardment began at 7am on 24 September; the assault troops waiting in muddy 'jumping-off' trenches early next morning witnessed a barrage of unprecedented ferocity on German positions, which intensified just before zero hour. At 12.35pm on 25 September, as the creeping barrage pounded down on No Man's Land, the infantry advanced. On XIV Corps front 5th, 6th and Guards Divisions methodically gained ground and both Morval and Lesboeufs were occupied by 3.30pm. XV Corps divisions had difficulty approaching the formidable Gird Trench and considerable disorganisation was caused by determined German resistance. It was not until early morning on 26 September that a section of Gird Trench was cleared, with the assistance of a tank, opening the way into Guedecourt village, which was taken that same evening. Earlier in the day Combles had been occupied by British and French forces. Further attacks were made by XV Corps on 27 September and the following day saw the handover of the extreme right of XIV Corps line to French forces.

Battles of the Somme: Battle of Thiepval Ridge, 26 - 28 September 1916

Originally planned to coincide with Fourth Army's Morval offensive, the Battle of Thiepval Ridge, conducted by General Gough's Reserve Army, began exactly 24 hours later, with the objectives of securing Thiepval and driving the Germans off the dominating crest line from Courcelette to the Schwaben Redoubt.

At 12.35pm on 26 September, after a preparatory three-day bombardment, four assault divisions surged forward on a 6,000 yard wide front between Courcelette in the east and the German front line south of Thiepval. On the extreme right the Canadian 2nd and 1st Divisions, shielded by a creeping barrage, made their first objectives north of Courcelette. The adjoining 11th Division, attacking northwards, quickly overran the unrecognisable rubble that was Mouquet Farm, but experienced the utmost difficulty subduing its surviving defenders. The eventual surrender of the depleted garrison allowed 11th Division to move against Zollern Redoubt but severe casualties slowed progress and by evening the attackers had stalled at its edge. 18th Division's systematic uphill advance on Thiepval met with early success, but enemy resistance stiffened and the push through to the village was halted by machine gun fire near the ruined chateau. A tank crucially intervened and by 2.30pm, after much hard close-quarter fighting, the greater part of Thiepval was secured; it was fully cleared early next morning.

During the afternoon, following the evacuation of Zollern Redoubt, 11th Division stormed Stuff Redoubt and gained precarious hold of its southern edge. In the afternoon of 28 September 18th Division advanced on Schwaben Redoubt, the southern and western faces of which were occupied by evening. By the battle's end the British had gained most of the ridge-line though sections of Stuff and Schwaben Redoubts remained in German hands.

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