Battle of Albert, 1-13 July 1916

Battle of Albert, 1-13 July 1916

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Battle of Albert, 1-13 July 1916

The battle of Albert, 1-13 July 1916, is the official name for the British efforts during the first two weeks fighting of the first battle of the Somme. As such it includes the first day of the Somme, the most costly day in British military history and one that has coloured our image of the First World War ever since.

The battle of the Somme had been intended to be a big Anglo-French assault on the centre of the German lines. The original plan had been somewhat disrupted by the German attack at Verdun on 21 February, which pulled in an ever increasing number of French troops. By the time the battle began, it had turned into a largely British affair, with support from the French Sixth Army on the Somme itself.

The artillery bombardment began seven days before the infantry were due to go in. It was not as effective as had been hoped, leaving large portions of the German front line intact. The German lines on the Somme contained a large number of deep concrete bunkers, which protected the Germans from the British bombardment, allowing them to emerge once the bombardment ended. Worse, along most of the British front the bombardment failed to destroy the German wire.

The attack on 1 July was made by eleven divisions along a fourteen mile front from Montauban to Serre. Haig hoped to capture the German front line along this entire front, then break through their second and third lines, before turning left and rolling up the German lines to the sea.

This would prove to be the most ridiculously optimistic plan. Along the northern two thirds of the front virtually no ground was taken. A few lodgements were made in the German front lines, but they were impossible to extend and difficult to support. The British suffered 57,000 casualties on 1 July, the most costly single day in British military history. Thirteen divisions at full strength contained 130,000 men, so the British suffered over 40% casualties in a single day.

On the right of the line the picture was a little less depressing. Between Maricourt and Fricourt the British XIII corps captured the entire German front line. To its left the 7th Division (XV corps) failed to take Fricourt, but the 21st Division, also of XV corps, captured 1,000 yards of the line, isolated Fricourt, which the Germans abandoned overnight.

At the end of the first day the British High Command had little idea of the scale of the disaster. Communications back from the front line were difficult or impossible, and it would take the best part of a week before the total casualty figures for the first day were known. Haig was encouraged to order a renewal of the assault along the entire front on 2 July.

2 July began with an unsuccessful German counterattack at the junction of the British and French armies, where both had advanced from their own front lines. During the day Haig’s planned attack was cancelled corps by corps as the scale of the losses suffered on the previous day became clearer. Very few brigades were still in a fit state to organise another major assault so soon.

The army was still in chaos on 3 July, when an attempt was made to capture Ovillers and Thiepval. The plan of attack was repeated changed, partly to allow units longer to prepare and partly in an attempt to save the already limited stocks of artillery ammunition. The German counter-bombardment had destroyed most of the field telephone wires connected various head quarters to their artillery batteries, so the changes in orders often failed to get through in time.

Haig now realised that his best change of success was to focus on the right of the line, where some progress had been made. This was an awkward area to fight from, cramped and away from the best roads, but elsewhere the German front line was essentially intact. General Joffre did not approve of this change of emphasis, even attempting to order Haig to attack further north, but without success.

The rest of the fighting in the battle of Albert involved a series of attacks on the front east of the village of La Boisselle, on the Albert-Bapaume road. This slowly pushed the Germans back towards their second position, on Bazentine Ridge. Haig’s intention was to launch an attack with XV and XIII corps against that part of the German second line, starting on 14 July (battle of Bazentine Ridge, 14-17 July).

The battle of Albert is best viewed as two entirely different battles. The first day of the battle, which saw the British attack on a wide front and suffer a heavy defeat, has come to dominate the image of the Somme campaign, deservedly so for it was an unparalled disaster. However it was not typical of the campaign as a whole. The remaining days of the battle of Albert were much more typical of what was to come between then and the end of the battle in November. A series of attacks were made, each with more limited objectives, most of which made some progress, but without ever quite achieving all of their objectives. The search for a breakthrough soon turned into a battle of attrition (or of material).

Books on the First World War |Subject Index: First World War

Battle of Albert (1918)

Battle of Albert (21–23 August 1918) was the third battle by that name fought during World War I, following the First Battle of Albert and the Second Battle of Albert, with each of the series of three being fought roughly two years apart. [1] This smaller third battle was significant in that it was the opening push that would lead to the Second Battle of the Somme and involved the Australian Corps. This attack opened the advance the main thrust was launched by the Third Army along with support from the Fourth Army. [2] The Second Battle of Bapaume, from 25 August to 3 September, was a continuation of this battle. [3]

The attacks developed into an advance, which pushed the German 2nd Army back along a 50-mile (80 km) front line. On 22 August, the 18th (Eastern) Division took Albert, with the British and Americans advancing on Arras. [2] The following day, the Australian 1st Division, which was advancing north-east from Proyart, attacked German fortifications around Chuignes, and succeeded in capturing the town.

On 29 August, during the Second Battle of Bapaume, the town of Bapaume fell into New Zealand hands. This resulted in an advance by the Australian Corps, who crossed the Somme River on 31 August and broke the German lines during the Battle of Mont St. Quentin. [2] The Westheer (German armies on the Western Front) was pushed back to the Hindenburg Line, from which they had launched their spring offensive. [ citation needed ]

Montauban Alley, 1 July 1916

This photograph was taken on the first day of the Somme. The original caption read: ‘In Montauban Alley, the final objective of 55th Brigade - taken about 6pm’. 55th Brigade was part of the 18th (Eastern) Division, whose objective on the first day was the French village of Montauban. It was one of the few objectives successfully taken on 1 July 1916.

The British had some success in the south, where the 30th and 18th (Eastern) Divisions took all of their objectives around Montauban and the 7th Division captured Mametz. At Thiepval, the 36th (Ulster) Division seized the Schwaben Redoubt, but was forced to withdraw because of lack of progress on its left and right. French forces operating to the south of the River Somme also achieved some success.

These limited gains came at a high cost. The first day of the Somme was the deadliest day in British military history – of the 57,470 British casualties, 19,240 men had been killed. But there was no question of suspending the offensive with the French still heavily engaged at Verdun. Ultimately the Battle of the Somme would continue for another four months. It became an attritional battle of limited territorial gain, but one that taught British commanders important lessons for later fighting on the Western Front.

The 36th (Ulster) Division on 1 July 1916

In December 1915, the Allies had agreed to launch a general offensive against the Central Powers in 1916. The plan included a decisive combined British and French offensive against Germany on the Somme. However, that plan had to be modified when the Germans began to 'bleed France white' during the Battle of Verdun. The 36th (Ulster) Division had been in the trenches of the Somme sector, north of the River Ancre, since February 1916. As spring arrived, the waterlogged trenches dried and the battle-scarred landscape was hidden under grass and summer flowers. Training intensified and the soldiers of the 36th (Ulster) Division knew that they were preparing for a great offensive.

The British Fourth Army's main line of assault would run for 25,000 yards, nearly 14 miles, from Serre in the north to Montauban to the south (map,left). The sector had long been quiet and the Germans had used this time to construct formidable defences of three consecutive lines, complete with railway tracks to carry supplies to the front. Each wood and village concealed a strongpoint with deep dugouts, many of which went down 40 feet and could hold a company of 200 men. These underground galleries were supplied with electricity and running water, had communications and first aid facilities, and could withstand the heaviest bombardment.

The Allies had counted on annihilating the German first line defenders with a week-long artillery bombardment the like of which had never been seen before 1,732,873 shells were fired from 24 June - 1 July but too many rounds fell short, were premature bursts or failed to explode. From 24 June, the soldiers had listened to the cacophony and imagined themselves going over the top to find no Germans alive.

(Right, the artillery bombardment of the 109 Brigade objective - the Schwaben Redoubt, 1 July 1916 © IWM (Q 11))

The 36th (Ulster) Division was the left division of X Corps and had been assigned the Thiepval/Ancre Heights sector, considered the key to the whole enemy line and the toughest area to attack (click on map, top-right). Major General O S W Nugent, commanding the 36th (Ulster) Division, fully realized that stopping the heavy preparatory bombardment ten minutes before the 0730 Zero Hour would give the Germans ten long minutes to come up out of their trenches and into position to meet the anticipated attack. Thus, he ordered that his Division would leave their assembly trenches prior to Zero Hour (0730 hours) and move forward to start lines. He calculated that although he might suffer losses from his own bombardment, the advantage of getting on top of the German 'Line A' under artillery cover far outweighed the risk.

The Ulster Division was to capture the German front line between the River Ancre on the left and Thiepval on the right. The 29th Division, the right division of VIII Corps, was to the left (north), the 32nd Division to the right (south) and the 49th Division to the rear. General Nugent divided his front into four sections. The left section, on the right (north) bank of the Ancre, was allocated to 108 Brigade. The left centre section, bounded by a line drawn from the north corner of Thiepval Wood just north of B 19, C 11, and D 11, and the Ancre, had its approaches through the Ancre marshy area and was not to be attacked directly. The right-centre section was allocated to 108 Brigade and the right section to 109 Brigade. The Divisional Reserve was to be 107 Brigade. The Division would therefore attack with 108 Brigade on the left astride the river Ancre, the objective being Beaucourt railway station over one mile away beyond the German third line, and 109 Brigade on the right with its objective as the formidable Schwaben Redoubt. The Divisional Reserve, 107 Brigade was to advance behind 109 Brigade and then pass through the Schwaben Redoubt and capture the German D line beyond.

By 2200 hours on 1 July, after a day of slaughter and sacrifice, the remnant of the 36th (Ulster) Division was forced back to the extent that it had no troops in any of the German lines except the dead, wounded and captured. When it was relieved by the 49th Division the following day the 36th (Ulster) Division had over 5,000 casualties. The dead numbered 2,069. All three regiments were awarded the Battle Honour ALBERT 1916, for the opening phase of the Somme Offensive, oficially designated the Battle of Albert, for the fighting from 1-13 July 1916.

John Buchan and his ‘Battle of the Somme’ (1916)

The end of this week sees the 100th anniversary of the ending of the Battle of Albert (1–13 July 1916) which comprised the first two weeks of Anglo-French offensive operations in the Battle of the Somme.

Also known as the Somme Offensive, the Battle of the Somme was a battle of the First World War between the forces of the British and French Empires on one side and the German Empire on the other.

Part of the large Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, at Thiepval, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens (GDE 2014).

It took place on the upper reaches of the River Somme (Picardy, France) in three major phases and several battles between July and November 1916: at Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Fromelles, Delville Wood, Pozières Ridge, Guillemont, Ginchy, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Transloy Ridge, Thiepval Ridge, Ancre Heights, and at Ancre. During the battles the use of air power proved important, and the Offensive also saw the first use of the armoured tank as a weapon. By the end of the fighting on the Somme, the British Army had lost over 400,000 men for an advance of a mere six miles. Between all belligerents, over 1,000,000 were killed or wounded.

Title-page of ‘The Battle of the Somme’, by John Buchan, published 1916.

Although these losses were huge, in his work The Battle of the Somme (1916) John Buchan, author, and later on governor-general of Canada (1935-37) and Chancellor of Edinburgh University (1937-40), described the Somme Offensive as so successful that it marked the end of the trench war and the start of a campaign in the open.

Buchan had been recruited by the War Propaganda Bureau and was asked to organise the publication of a history of the war in the form of a monthly magazine. Unable to persuade others to help him with the project, Buchan decided to tackle it alone, publishing through Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd. The first instalment appeared in February 1915 in Nelson’s History of the War. Profits and Buchan’s own royalties were donated to war charities.

Title-page of Volume II of ‘The Battle of the Somme’, by John Buchan, published 1916.

Later, in the spring 1915, Buchan became attached to the Army as a journalist, and was given responsibility for providing articles for The Times and the Daily News, and he covered the second Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Loos. From June 1916 he was drafting communiqués for Haig and others at General Headquarters Staff (GHQ), and his rank also provided him with the documents needed to write the Nelson’s History of the War.

German monument erected to fallen soldiers after they took Beaumont Hamel, 1914.

Buchan’s close relationship with Britain’s military leaders made it extremely difficult for him to include any critical comments about the way the war was being fought, and his History of the War provided the public with a completely false impression of what was happening at the Front. Indeed in 1915 Buchan was telling his readers that Germany was on the edge of defeat.

Sketch map in Buchan’s book showing the changing position of the German front just beyond the town of Albert on the Somme.

A series of pamphlets was written by Buchan and these – works of propaganda – were published by the Oxford University Press. He wrote: Britain’s land war (1915) The achievements of France (1915) and, The Battle of Jutland (1916). Also published in 1916 was his work The Battle of the Somme.

Sketch map of trench systems around Thiepval on the Somme. On the edge of Thiepval Wood today stands the massive brick-built Memorial to the Missing of the Somme designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1932.

In his work, The Battle of the Somme, Buchan claimed that the battle of the Somme was an Allied victory and that it would enable Britain to use its superior cavalry. What Buchan did not tell his readers was that of the 110,000 British soldiers making the assault, over 57,000 became casualties, and 20,000 were killed. As said earlier, by the end of the fighting the British Army alone had lost over 400,000 men for an advance of a mere six miles, and between all belligerents, over 1,000,000 were killed or wounded.

Part of the small CWGC Cemetery at Dernancourt, near Albert, on the Somme, also designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens (GDE 2014).

The map and sketch in this post (from Buchan’s book) show that area of the Somme region of France where the Battle played out. Some of the the most important monuments and some of the largest cemeteries (and many small ones) looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and of course Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (VDK) are located within the areas shown: Thiepval Memorial Ulster Memorial Tower the Lochnagar mine crater at La Boisselle McRae’s Battalion Great War Memorial at Contalmaison Courcelette Memorial, a Canadian war memorial (fighting at Flers-Courcelette saw the first use of tanks on the battlefield… on the Somme) and, at cemeteries such as that of Vermandovillers German Military Cemetery and Fricourt German Military Cemetery, and at the small CWGC cemetery at Dernancourt near Albert.

Buchan’s Battle of the Somme, published 1916 by T. Nelson, London, can be requested at Centre for Research Collections , Special Collections, and read in the Reading Room there. It has shelfmark : S.B. .9(40427) Buc.

Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts, Edinburgh University Library

Battle of Albert, 1-13 July 1916 - History

The 4th division was a regular division stationed at Woolwich, Shornecliffe, Dover and Colchester prior to the outbreak of the war. The 1st Bn. Hampshire Regiment was part of III Corps which consisted of the 4th & 6th divisions. The 1st Hampshire being in the 4th Division, 11th Brigade. It arrived in France in August 1914. Served in France and Flanders until the Armistice.

The 1st Battalion had moved from Aldershot to Colchester which transferred them from the 2nd Division to the 4th Division. On August 17 the Special Reserve was at its coastal duties, the Territorials were also mobilized and were taking over there stations. This relieved the 4th Division from its temporary role as spearhead of the Home Defence Force duties. The 4th Division could now follow the rest of the B.E.F. Overseas On the 21st-22nd of August the 1st Bn loaded on to thier ships at Southampton the right wing on the Braemar Castle, the left wing along with the Rifle Brigade on the Cestrian, and headed for Havre France. When the 1st Bn. Arrived the B.E.F. Was already in contact with the Germans at Mons. The 1st Hampshire detrained at Le Cateau.

Battles and Engagements

Click on the Battle to find out what part the 1st Bn. Hampshire played

Battle of Le Cateau. 26 Aug 1914.
Affair of Nery. 1 Sep 1914.
Battle of the Marne. 7-10 Sep 1914, including the passage of the Petit Morin and the passage of the Marne.
Battle of the Aisne. 12-15 Sep 1914, including the capture of the Aisne Heights including the Chemin des Dames.
Battle of Messines. 12 Oct-2 Nov 1914.
Battle of Armentieres. 13 Oct-2 Nov 1914, including the capture of Metern.
Battle of St. Julien. 24 Apr-5 May 1915.
Battle of Frezenberg. 8-13 May 1915.
Battle of Bellewaarde. 24-25 May 1915.
Battle of Albert. 1-13 Jul 1916, including the capture of Montauban, Mametz, Fricourt, Contalmaison and La Boisselle.
Battle of Le Transloy. 1-18 Oct 1916, including the capture of Eaucourt l'Abbaye, Le Sars and the attacks on Butte de Warlencourt.
First Battle of the Scarpe. 9-14 Apr 1917, including the capture Monchy le Preux and the Wancourt Ridge.
Third Battle of the Scarpe. 3-4 May 1917, including the capture of Fresnoy.
Battle of Polygon Wood. 26 Sep-3 Oct 1917.
Battle of Broodside. 4 Oct 1917.
Battle of Poelcappelle. 9 Oct 1917.
First Battle of Passchendaele. 12 Oct 1917.
First Battle of Arras. 28 Mar 1918.
Battle of Hazebrouck. 12-15 Apr, including the defence of the Hinges Ridge and the Nieppe Forest.
Battle of Bethune. 18 Apr 1918, including the second defence of Givenchy Pacaut Wood.
Advance in Flanders. 18 Aug-6 Sep 1918.
Battle of the Scarpe. 26-30 Aug 1918, including the capture of Monchy le Preux.
Battle of Drocourt-Queant. 2-3 Sep 1918.
Battle of the Canal du Nord. 27 Sep-1 Oct 1918, including the capture of Bourlon Wood.
Battle of the Selle. 17-25 Oct 1918.
Battle of Valenciennes. 1-2 Nov 1918, including the capture of Mont Houy.

Le Cateau, Retreat From Mons

On August the 24 th the 1st Bn arrived and detrained at Le Cateau at 4 am and walked six miles to Solesmes to cover the B.E.F. Retreat from Mons the B.E.F. Who were being pursued by a overwhelming forces. The Battalion moved into position at south west of Cattenieres, the Germans advanced 'D' company engaged them and they withdrew . During the night 'B' company engaged the enemy and had taken casualties, but while moving out of there position one detachment wiped out a platoon of "Jager". "D" company took a large amount of shell fire but had the satisfaction of seeing large amounts of German infantry advancing onto their positions, rapid fire turned the enemy who withdrew 300 yards.

The 11th Brigade which the 1st Hampshire, the Somerset Light Infantry, The East Langcasters, and the Rifle Brigade were part of, were ordered to re-form in front of Ligny. The Hampshire's and the East Langcasters were to move covered by the Rifle Brigade and Somerset L.I. As they did the Germans opened up, twice the Germans tried to advance on the position and each time beaten back, the 11th Brigade was then left unmolested. Later 11th Brigade started to retire from the Ligny position but orders did not reach several parties and all its units were broken up into disconnected detachments. 300 Hampshire's were holding on at ligny and were later given word about the move. The brigades wounded had been collected at Ligny and had to be left behind. The 1st Bn made its way across country and stopped near Serain, their losses came to nearly 200. The Brigade having maintained itself in one unfavourable position after another for 10 hours having helped foil the German effort to envelope and corner the wing of the B.E.F.

On the morning of August the 27th were moving across country again to Nauroy and arrived around 7 am North Irish Horse who were covering the position reported that German cavalry were approaching. Then German guns opened up and 'A" company were sent to cover the Brigade's retreat and silence the guns but became engaged by dismounted cavalry. This company held on for some time giving effective covering fire to the retirement of the main body.

The Hampshire's would go on to fight and by the end of 1914 The 1st Hampshire's had only six officers. Of the original other ranks 366 were still present, the largest number in the brigade: 265 N.C.O.'s and men had been killed or were missing, 390 had been wounded. Altogether eight officers had been killed, six were missing and fifteen had been wounded.

Battle of Albert. 1-13 Jul 1916,

In the opening phases of the Somme the great attack of July 1st 1916 on a 25 mile front began. The fourth were facing stronger defenses than anywhere else. They were to attack north of Beaumont Hamel where two redoubts and a quadrilateral trench were particularly strong. It was hoped that the Brigade would reach Munich trench 1000 yards behind the front line where supporting the 10th and 11th would go through it. At 7.20am 10 minutes before zero hour a large mine as blown up under the German redoubt Hawthorn Ridge. This gave away the exact time of the attack. After the heavy guns stopped firing the Germans had ample time to man there positions after being in deep undamaged dugouts. The Hampshire (leaving there trenches at 7.40) followed the East Lancashire who had already been almost wiped out. Very few Hampshire made it to the wire a few bombers were reported to have gotten into the German line, but the majority were brought down at or short of the wire. The survivors could only seek the poor shelter of the shell holes which pitted No Mans Land here they had to lie for hours until darkness fell . This was the 1st Hampshire's worst experience of the war it had cost them 11 officers and 310 men killed and missing, 15 officers and 250 men wounded.

Pacaut Wood ( contributors John. A. submitted Pictures. Vol.2 Regimental History C.T. Atkinson.) April 22nd 1918

Located across the canal oppersite Gonnehem, was of considerable tactical importance it being a location that the enemy may mass for an attack. The attack on Pacaut wood was aimed at securing a line across the wood from La Pannerie on the right to Reiz du Vinage and cutting off the southern part of the wood. The Rilfe Brigade's objective was La Pannerie and they would be attacking on the right, outside the wood. The Hampshire having three companies in the attack with one in support objective was the wood.

The company in support was located along the southern bank of the canal, which the front line had been drawn back to allow for a heavy trench mortar barrage along the south edge of the wood. This ment that our forces would have to recross the canal by footbridges laid for the purpose. Zero hour was 5.15 a.m. on April the 22nd and at 5.18 a.m. the German guns opened up in response to our shelling which incurred many causualties in "A" company in the center which had its Commander killed as they recrossed the canal. The attack went forward well "D" company on the right, "A" company in the center, "B" company on the left with "C" company in support.

"D" company when neared its objective came under heavy machine gun fire 2/Lt. Abbott calling up two Lewis guns to deal with them this allowed two right platoons to move up and get established on the objective within zero +25 minutes. This happening five minutes after "B" company securing its position.

"A" Company was held up due to its casualties but finally hooked up with "B"company. A gap had opened in between "A" and "D" company which "D" began to close and a platoon of "C" company had been called up to help close. This platoon being led by Captain Causton came under heavy machine gun fire which killed Captain Causton while leading a rush. The platoon pushed on killing many of the enemy and ove-ran a reinforcing party. The platoon reached it objective which was a crossroads and began extending its flanks by bombing.

11 a.m. the German machine gun fire was now begining to slacken but shell fire had increased along the canal bank and the Hampshire lost Colonel Armitage killed. By early afternoon the whole line was connected "A" company slightly short of its objective. The Germans put down a heavy barrage with rifle and machine gun fire without much effect. After dark they attempted a counter attack but where driven back by mainly rifle and lewis guns. The center had continued action well after the right and left was well dug in which continued after the Hampshire were relieved by the the Somerset L.I. and the Duke's and went back to billets in Lannoy.

This was a highly successful operation. Over 70 prisoners and several machine guns had been taken. The ground taken at Pacaut Wood allowed of another advanceat Riez du Vinage. Losses were heavy with five officers killed and 43 other ranks or missing. 3 officers and 148 other ranks wounded.

John. A's Grandfather was involved in the above action and wrote home to his wife about the battle and the death of Captain Causton which ended up in the Hampshire Chronicle of 31 August 1918. which is also pictured below.

My Grandfather wrote the letter to my Grandmother while still in the trenches, how it got through the censor we don't know. My Grandmother wrote to and sent the letter to JP Causton's mother for her to see. Mrs Causton was so touched she showed the letter to the local paper and then returned the letter with a photo of JP to my Grandmother.

Left is a picture of his grandfather Harry Tuffin who started the whole thing off.

below is the picture of Captain JP Causton killed at Pacaut Wood. And the letter that apperred in the Hampshire Chronicle of 31 August 1918. Click it to read it.


On 24 June 1916, the British began a seven-day preliminary bombardment. Haig’s artillery was expected to destroy German defences and guns, and cut the barbed wire in front of the enemy lines. When the attack began, it would provide a creeping barrage behind which the infantry could advance.

The British believed that the Germans would be so shattered by this bombardment that the infantry would rush over and occupy their trenches. But they overestimated their firepower. The guns were too thinly spread for the task in hand.

Estimates suggest that as many as 30 per cent of the shells fired in the bombardment before the Battle of the Somme failed to explode.

The British fired 1.5 million shells. Many were shrapnel, which threw out steel balls when they exploded. These were devastating against troops in the open, but largely ineffective against concrete dugouts. A lot of shells were also defective. The German defences were not destroyed and in many places the wire remained uncut.

The Allies also used mines to destroy the German lines before the battle. One was detonated at Hawthorne Ridge 10 minutes before Zero-Hour, unwittingly signalling to the Germans that an attack was coming.

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Detonation of Hawthorne Ridge mine, 1 July 1916

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The 103rd (Tyneside Irish) Brigade advance towards La Boisselle, 1 July 1916

The 103rd (Tyneside Irish) Brigade advance towards La Boisselle, 1 July 1916

Sites of Interest in Albert

In the centre of Albert is one of the most famous icons for the British in the Great War – the Golden Virgin on top of the Basilica. This is shown in the picture above in ruins. The golden statue of the Madonna holding aloft her child was visible from far away, and of course was an excellent target for enemy artillery. It was damaged fairly early on, in January 1915, and the statue was knocked from its pedestal but stayed leaning at an angle. It was later secured by the French in that position.

A superstition grew up among the soldiers that the war would end only when the statue fell. However, it remained in its leaning position all the time that Albert was in French and British hands.

The Germans advanced into Albert during their Spring Offensive in 1918. Well aware that the tower could be used as an excellent observation point by the Germans, it was British artillery that then deliberately targeted it and the statue finally fell. Albert was retaken by the British four months later, and three months after this the War was over.

Following the war, the Basilica was rebuilt, and the golden statue replaced, where it dominates the town and can be seen glinting in the sun from quite a distance away from high points around.

There are fountains opposite the basilica, and also car parking spaces. On the right hand side of the basilica as you look from the fountains is the Musée Somme 1916. Part of the museum is contained in tunnels beneath the town, which date originally from the 13th century, but were made into air-raid shelters in 1938 in preparation for the Second World War. The exhibits include a recreation of trenches, and a first aid post. Entry for individuals is €6.50, children under 6 enter free.

On the west side of Albert, on the main D929 leading towards Amiens is a Demarcation Stone. This is one of a series erected by the Touring Clubs of France and Belgium after the war, marking the furthest advance of the Germans. This one shows that the Germans did take Albert, briefly, but they did not hold onto it for long.

Demarcation Stone on the outskirts of Albert

On the wall by the entrance to the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) is a plaque commemorating the Machine Gun Corps. It was unveiled just before the Second World War, and commemorates the 13,791 men of the Machine Gun Corps who died, and the 48,258 who were wounded or missing during the Great War.

Machine Gun Coprs Memorial Plaque at Albert Hotel de Ville

July 1916: Royalty and World War I

“Somme. The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word.” These were the words of Friedrich Steinbrecher, a 24 year old German officer and theology student who fought in the Battle of the Somme and survived, but was killed in action in 1917 in Champagne, France.

The Battle of the Somme was a 141 day battle, more accurately called the Somme Offensive, that lasted from July 1, 1916 until November 18, 1916. Fought in northern France near the Somme River, the battle pitted the British and French forces against the German forces. The first day of the battle holds the record for the bloodiest day ever in British military history. The battle started at 7:30 AM, and by 8:30 AM, 12,000 British soldiers had been killed. By the end of the day, there were 57,420 British casualties: 19,240 dead and 38,180 injured. More than half of the British officers involved lost their lives that day. Many British soldiers were killed or wounded the moment they stepped out of the front lines into No Man’s Land, the area of land between the enemy trenches. As they walked slowly towards the German lines, burdened with supplies and expecting little or no opposition, they were easy targets for the German machine guns. The British lost nearly as many men in the first hours of the four month long battle than were killed in any of Britain’s wars of the previous 100 years.

British stretcher bearers recovering a wounded soldier from a captured German trench during the Battle of Thiepval Ridge, late September 1916, part of the Battle of the Somme Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Trench warfare was used during World War I and it was common practice to rotate troops. For example, a typical British soldier’s year could be divided as follows: 15% front line, 10% support line, 30% reserve line, 20% rest, and 25% other (hospital, travelling, leave, training courses, etc.). Trench warfare was intense and that meant that about 10% of the fighting soldiers were killed. This compared to 5% killed during the Second Boer War and 4.5% killed during World War II. Antibiotics had not yet been discovered and that meant what would be a minor injury today could result in death. World War I was the first war in which disease caused fewer deaths than combat, but sanitary conditions in the trenches were poor. Many soldiers suffered from dysentery, typhus, cholera, parasites and fungal conditions. Exposure was also a problem since the temperature in a trench in the winter could easily fall below freezing. The burial of the dead was frequently a luxury that neither side could easily afford. The bodies would lie in No Man’s Land until the front line moved and by that time the bodies were often unable to be identified.

Cheshire Regiment trench near La Boiselle, July 1916 Photo Credit – Wikipedia

By November 18, 1916, when the battle ended, British and French forces had penetrated only 6 miles (9.7 km) into German occupied territory and more than 1,300,000 soldiers from all countries involved were dead or wounded, making the Battle of the Somme one of the bloodiest battles in history. The British and the French won a Pyrrhic victory, a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is equivalent to a defeat. The phrase Pyrrhic victory is named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War.

Progress of the Battle of the Somme between 1 July and 18 November Credit – Wikipedia

Many members of the British Royal Family attended Centenary Commemorations of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest day in British military history.

  • June 29 – July 1, 2016 : The Princess Royal attended Battle of the Somme Centenary Commemorations in Canada
  • June 30, 2016 : The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh attended Battle of the Somme Centenary Commemorations at an Evening Vigil at Westminster Abbey
  • June 30 – July 1, 2016 : The Duke of Cambridge, The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry of Wales attended Battle of the Somme Centenary Commemorations in France
  • July 1, 2016 : The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall attended Battle of the Somme Centenary Commemorations in France
  • July 1, 2016 : The Duke of York attended Battle of the Somme Centenary Commemorations at the National Commemorative Service in Manchester, United Kingdom
  • July 1, 2016 : The Duke of Gloucester and The Duchess of Gloucester attended Battle of the Somme Centenary Commemorations in France

To learn more about the Battle of the Somme, see:

Timeline: July 1, 1916 – July 31, 1916

  • July – Battle of Taif inTa’if in Hejaz Vilayet (now in Saudi Arabia)
  • July 1 – Battle of the Somme in Somme, Picardy, France begins and continues until November 18, 1916
  • July 1 – 2 – British capture Fricourt in Picardy, France during the Second Battle of Albert
  • July 1 – 13 – Second Battle of Albert in Somme, Picardy, France (Opening phase of the Battle of the Somme)
  • July 2 – 25 – Battle of Erzincan in Erzincan, Erzurum Vilayet, Ottoman Empire (now in Turkey)
    July 3 – 7 – British and French capture La Boisselle in Picardy, France during the Second
  • Battle of Albert
  • July 3 – 12 – British and French capture Mametz Wood in Picardy, France during the Second Battle of Albert
  • July 3–17 – British capture Ovillers in Picardy, France during the Second Battle of Albert and Battle of Bazentin Ridge
  • July 4 – 6 – Battle of Kostiuchnowka in Kostiuchnowka, Poland (now Kostyukhnivka , Ukraine)
  • July 7 – 11 – British and French capture Contalmaison in Picardy, France during the Second Battle of Albert
  • July 8 -14 – British capture Trônes Wood in France during the Second Battle of Albert
  • July 14 – 17 – Battle of Bazentin Ridge in Picardy, France (Initial phase of the Battle of the Somme)
  • July 14 – September 15 – Battles for Longueval and Delville Wood in Picardy, France (Initial phase of the Battle of the Somme)
  • July 19 – 20 – Battle of Fromelles in Nord, France (Initial phase of the Battle of the Somme)
  • July 23 – August 7 – Battle of Pozières in France (Initial phase of the Battle of the Somme)
  • July 24 – August 8 – Battle of Kowel in Galicia (now in Poland and Ukraine)

A Note About German Titles

Many German royals and nobles died in World War I. The German Empire consisted of 27 constituent states, most of them ruled by royal families. Scroll down to German Empire here to see what constituent states made up the German Empire. The constituent states retained their own governments, but had limited sovereignty. Some had their own armies, but the military forces of the smaller ones were put under Prussian control. In wartime, armies of all the constituent states would be controlled by the Prussian Army and the combined forces were known as the Imperial German Army. German titles may be used in Royals Who Died In Action below. Refer to Unofficial Royalty: Glossary of German Noble and Royal Titles.

24 British peers were also killed in World War I and they will be included in the list of those who died in action. In addition, more than 100 sons of peers also lost their lives, and those that can be verified will also be included.

July 1916 – Royals/Nobles/Peers/Sons of Peers Who Died In Action

The list is in chronological order and does contain some who would be considered noble instead of royal. The links in the last bullet for each person is that person’s genealogical information from Leo’s Genealogics Website or to The Peerage website. If a person has a Wikipedia page, their name will be linked to that page.

A History of Canadian Soldiers in World War 1

Canada played a large and important role in World War I. As part of the Commonwealth, it immediately entered the war as soon as Britain declared war on Germany, so it was involved from the very beginning. Its troops fought courageously throughout the four years of war, and the conflict had a huge effect on the country, leading to greater independence. However, like many other countries, it also suffered great losses.

War Is Declared

Canada’s war began on August 4, 1914, the same day that Britain declared war on Germany. Canada joined automatically because it was part of the Commonwealth, but the government could still determine exactly how involved the country would be in the war.

When the Governor General declared war the following day and immediately raised an independent Canadian Expeditionary Force, it was clear that Canada would play an active role in the war effort from early on.

The First Major Battle

The first important battle for Canada in WW1 was the Battle of Second Ypres, which took place on April 22nd, 1915. During this battle, the Canadian Division were outnumbered, and the battle is known for being the first time that chlorine gas was used as a weapon in the war.

As a result, 6,000 soldiers were either captured, killed or injured, which made up an entire third of the force. However, it was not a complete disaster because the Germans did not manage to break through.

A Badly-Planned Attack

Beaumont Hamel was another important battle in the war for Canada, but it has gone down as one of the worst moments for the country. The battle took place on July 1st, 1916, and it involved the Newfoundland Regiment. Due to a serious miscalculation, the troops tried to attack through barbed wire that had not been cut, and they suffered heavy casualties. 801 soldiers attacked, and in half an hour 324 had died and 386 were wounded.

A Famous Victory

One of the greatest victories for Canadian forces in WWI was the Battle of Vimy Ridge. This took place over four days from April 9th to April 12th in 1917. It was a well planned and executed attack on a German strong point that achieved its objective.

Huge Losses Suffered

One of the worst battles for Canadian forces in terms of casualties came in the Battle of Passchendaele. This took place in 1917 and lasted from October 26th to November 10th. The weather conditions were terrible, and the fighting was particularly brutal. As a result, 16,000 troops were killed or wounded during the battle. Despite the loss of life, the forces managed to achieve their objective.

The Hundred Days

One of the most famous campaigns in Canada’s involvement in the war is now referred to as ‘The Hundred Days’. This was a serious of battles that lasted from August 8th right up to November 11th, 1918, the last day the war. Canada played a major role in these battles, and it was successful in driving back the German armies.

The War Reaches Canada

Nearly all of Canada’s involvement in the war took place in Europe. However, before the war ended, during the summer 1918, the war came to Canada when German U-Boats attacked the east coast of the country. Without strong defences, the coastline could have suffered huge damage, but fortunately the war ended before too much destruction could be caused.

Canada’s Huge Contribution to the War Effort

The population of Canada was below 8 million at the outbreak of war. At the end of the war, 619,000 had joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, a huge contribution from the country. Of those that fought, 67,000 were killed and 250,000 wounded, and the figures demonstrate the enormous contribution made by Canada during the war.

Watch the video: Battle of Albert, 3 - 4 July 1916 in the Great War