Ruins of Serre
10 RWF AT SERRE
10 RWF was part of 76th Brigade, 3rd Division and took part in the attack to capture the fortified village of Serre towards the end of the Battle of the Somme on 13th November 1916. This is the story of their battle.

10th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Welsh Fusilers at Serre

13th November 1916

Following their attacks against Lonely Trench on the Maltz Horn Ridge the 3rd Division moved away from the Somme to the Lens sector where they remained until the beginning of October 1916 when they once more moved back to the Somme. Initially they remained in the rear centred on Bus-les-Artois in the Serre sector of the Somme frontline.

Battle of the Ancre

The Battle of the Ancre.

On Friday, 10th November 1916 draft orders for the attack at Serre arrived at the headquarters of 10 RWF now commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Geoffry Lee Compton-Smith. The 3rd Division's plan was for the 8th Brigade to attack on the right and the 76th Brigade on the left. For the 76th Brigade's attack 10 RWF would be on the right with 2 SUFF on the left and 1 GORDONS and 8 KINGS in support.

On Saturday, 11th November 1916 training and preparations for the coming battle continued.

On Sunday, 12th November 1916 B and D Companies 10 RWF set off for the trenches in front of Serre in the early morning and A and C Companies 10 RWF followed that same evening. The Battalion was under orders to attack and hold four lines of the enemy's trenches in front of Serre. B and D companies 10 RWF successfully deployed in no-man's-land and A and C companies, the two rear companies, in front of Rob Roy Trench. The left of the leading company was on Mark Copse and the right in front of Matthew Copse, a frontage of about 250 yards.

At 05.45 hrs on Monday, 13th November 1916 the 76th Brigade attacked at Serre. 10 RWF advanced behind the rolling barrage at a rate of 100 yards in 5 minutes. B and D companies were leading with C Company employed in mopping up operations and A Company forming the reserve. The companies moved forward in two lines per company, eight lines in all. 2 SUFF were on their left and 1 R SCOTS FUS on their right.

10 RWF's advance began well, a message being received at 06.38 hrs to that effect. At 06.46 hrs a message was received saying "Welsh on objective." As the waves of 10 RWF advanced, however, the waves of the flanking battalions began to fall behind. This left the flanks of 190 RWF exposed and they had to form a defensive flank as they moved forward. Ground conditions were not good, four and a half months of battle had broken up the ground and the recent bad weather had turned the ground into a quagmire. Shortly after the advance began cohesion was lost, maintaining direction was proving difficult, the leading troops were struggling to see where the barrage was landing let alone keep up with it and gaps were forming everywhere. Onwards they continued, the German second line was reached and then the third.

The leading platoons of 10 RWF then entered the German fourth line, but by then had completely lost touch with the 2 SUFF and 1 R SCOTS FUS on their flanks. The German fourth line seemed to be packed with the enemy who came out of their deep dugouts as the barrage passed onwards. The German fourth line was hotly contested by the enemy who defended stoutly with bombs and machine gun fire. They finally managed to close on the leading waves of 10 RWF around their exposed flanks. The men of 10 RWF fought bravely but ultimately they succumbed to the weight of pressure applied by the enemy. Their company commanders, Captain W F Rudd and Captain E W Bishop, and all of their officers falling in the fight.

In the German third line the decision was taken to consolidate what gains had been made and to hold these at all costs. 10 RWF commenced to do this but the enemy counterattacked and it became increasingly difficult to hold on to the line. After about an hour they were forced back to the German second line. By 08.30 hrs it was clear that the attack had failed and orders were sent forward to Second Lieutenant M Watcyn-Williams, the only officer still capable of fighting, to withdraw to the original frontline and hold that at all costs. At dusk the following day the remnants of 10 RWF withdrew to Courcelles-au-Bois.

In the attack on Serre 10 RWF sustained 288 casualties: 9 officers were killed, 3 wounded and 1 missing; 17 other ranks were killed, 102 wounded and 156 were missing. The nine officers killed were:

Captain William Ferris Rudd who is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No.1 in grave I. G. 23.

Second Lieutenant Herbert Howard Locke Harries who is buried in Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps in grave I. G. 68.

Second Lieutenant Henry Myrddin Jones who is buried in Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps in grave I. G. 69.

Second Lieutenant Herbert Gordon Thomas who is buried in Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps in grave I. G. 70.

Second Lieutenant Arthur Edward Capell who has no known grave and is remembered with honour on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, Pier and Face 4 A.

Second Lieutenant David Davies who has no known grave and is remembered with honour on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, Pier and Face 4 A.

Second Lieutenant George Thomas who has no known grave and is remembered with honour on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, Pier and Face 4 A.

Second Lieutenant Peter Williams who has no known grave and is remembered with honour on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, Pier and Face 4 A.

Second Lieutenant Richard Henry Williams who has no known grave and is remembered with honour on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, Pier and Face 4 A.

The missing officer was Captain E W Bishop who was taken captive and is known to have been in the POW camp at Osnabruck during the winter of 1916-1917.

10 RWF remained at Courcelles-au-Bois until 17th November 1916 when they returned to the trenches relieving 1 GORDONS. By this time the Battle of the Somme had drawn to a close and the sector had returned to the normality of holding the frontline. In his special farewell order to 10 RWF Brigadier-General Kentish praised them for their efforts throughout the Somme battles and said:

"... Your casualties are in themselves severe and a lasting proof of the severity of the fighting in which you have been engaged. I personally deeply regret the loss of every single Officer and man of your Battalion, each one of whom I had come to regard as a personal friend. You have however the consolation in knowing that you have emerged from the SOMME fighting with the greatest credit and that to-day you stand in the ranks of a Battalion that can lay claim to a great record, a record of which the old parent Battalions of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and His Majesty the King, your Colonel-in-Chief, will ever be justly proud. ..."

Page last updated: 18th April 2018