Looking towards La Boisselle from the British lines

58th Brigade, 19th (Western) Division at La Boisselle

1st and 9th July 1916

The 9th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Welch Fusiliers [9 RWF] and 9th (Service) Battalion, the Welch Regiment [9 WELCH], both part of the 58th Brigade, and 5th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers), the South Wales Borderers [5 SWB], the divisional pioneers, played a waiting game on 1st July 1916 in front of La Boisselle as the 19th (Western) Division, to which they belonged, was the reserve Division for III Corps. The assault by the 34th Division did not go well and they were very badly mauled by the defending German infantry in La Boisselle. The level of casualties they sustained were such that the 19th (Western) Division was pushed forward into the British frontline in front of Albert to prevent a German counterattack. That evening orders were issued for the 19th (Western) Division to attack La Boisselle that night.

Tyneside Irish Brigade at La Boisselle on 1st July 1916

A support company of an assault battalion, of the Tyneside Irish Brigade, going forward shortly after zero hour on 1st July 1916 during the attack on La Boisselle. [© IWM - Q 53]

The night attack of 1st July 1916 against La Boisselle was postponed as it was impossible for the men of the 57th and 58th Brigades to get forward in time over the shell cratered ground that was littered with the dead and wounded of the 34th Division. It was 16.00 hrs in the afternoon on 2nd July 1916 before the attack was launched following a diversionary bombardment against Ovillers-la-Boisselle. The ruse worked and the enemy artillery were busy shelling the approaches to Ovillers when the 58th Brigade assaulted the western end of La Boisselle with the 6th Battalion, the Wiltshire Regiment [6 WILTS] and 9 RWF as the assaulting battalions. These two battalions captured the German frontline with little loss and pushed on into La Boisselle with the 9th Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment [9 CHES] joining them on the right. This involved the systematic clearing of dugouts and the cellars of the destroyed houses and the western end of the village up to the line of the road just short of the church was cleared by 21.00 hrs; this line was consolidated and held overnight.

The 57th Brigade was brought up on the left of the 58th Brigade and at 02.15 hrs the 8th Battalion, the North Staffordshire Regiment [8 N STAFF] and bombers from the 5 SWB led the advance forward between La Boisselle and the Albert to Bapaume road with the 10th Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment [10 WORC] covering the left flank. Then at 03.15 hrs the 57th and 58th Brigades pressed forward to capture the remainder of the village and occupy a German trench 400 yards beyond to tie in with the Divisions on either flank. Red flares were fired to signal that the village had been taken, but this brought a heavy reaction from the German artillery and mortars. The Germans then counterattacked from the direction of Pozières pushing back the 57th Brigade, The 10 WORC and 8th Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment [8 GLOUC] were sent forward to reinforce the Brigade. The fighting ended with the two sides facing each other on a line approximately 100 yards beyond the road running north — south in front of the church with the Germans occupying the ruins of the church.

On 4th July 1916 the 57th Brigade cleared La Boisselle, but for a few ruins at the far end of the village, and on 5th July the 56th and 57th Brigades attempted to straighten out the re-entrant on the left side with little success. On 6th July the 56th Brigade cleared the re-entrant between them and the 23rd Division who were now on their right.

On 7th July 1916 the 19th (Western) Division continued its push to the northeast of La Boisselle towards Contalmaison. At 08.15 hrs the 9 WELCH and the 7th Battalion, the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) [7 KINGS OWN] attacked towards Bailiff Wood and the adjacent trenches 300 yards away. They advanced as close as possible behind the barrage, but an error in timing caused them to run into it. This caused them to become disorganised and they sustained a considerable number of casualties. They quickly reorganised and with the aid of 6 WILTS they rushed the objective and captured 400 prisoners from six different regiments and five divisions. The 9 RWF were brought up to reinforce them and the gains were consolidated.

The 8th saw only bombing raids during the day and at 18.00 hrs a German counterattack was repulsed. The left of the Division later cooperated with the 12th Division on their left to attack a trench that ran into the north of Ovillers. This was taken with comparative ease and consolidated. During the night of 9th/10th July the 58th Brigade was relieved and moved back into billets in Albert. By the 10th all of the Brigades of the 19th (Western) Division had been relieved by the 34th Division and the 19th (Western) Division moved to Millencourt.

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Last updated: 17th December 2018