Day marks finest feat

PUBLISHED: 14:22 13 July 2006 | UPDATED: 11:53 04 May 2010

AS last week s article portrayed, July 1, 1916 was the costliest day in British Military history and remains ingrained in views of the First World War. Current historical debate accepts that this was indeed a devastating loss of human life on all sides.

AS last week's article portrayed, July 1, 1916 was the costliest day in British Military history and remains ingrained in views of the First World War.

Current historical debate accepts that this was indeed a devastating loss of human life on all sides.

What emerges is the determination of soldiers like Roland Ingle to play their part in the 'Great Push'. For them this was the war to end all wars and was a completely new concept of war and military tactics, now called Total War. What is now being researched and debated is that this fateful day created a sea change in military tactics, which were to prove successful in the continuing Battle of the Somme in 1916, and was further influential in the Battles of Arras in 1917 and Battle of Amiens in August 1918. The lessons learnt from July 1, 1916 were that the British did not have enough heavy guns and that there were too many targets shelled along the enemy lines. What was needed was careful preparation, improved tactics and an achievable target. General Maxse adopted these tactics and on September 26, 1916 the 18th division, after three days of intense fighting, managed to capture the bastion at Thiepval. This offensive had proved so costly on July 1. The Schwaben Redoubt was a German position on top of a hill overlooking the village of Thiepval, which was in German hands until September 30, 1916. Close by, were Thiepval Wood and the Ancre valley in Allied hands. Thiepval and Schwaben Redoubt were a crucial position for the German defence along the Western Front. Lt. Tom Edwin Adlam of the 7th Bedfords was awarded a VC for his gallantry in securing a foothold in the trenches close to Schwaben Redoubt on September 27/28.

Fighting continued and by October 5, the north-west corner of the Redoubt was in enemy hands. In early October the Cambridgeshire Regiment HQ was in a dugout at Hamel, close to Schwaben Redoubt. On October 14, the territorial 'Fen Tigers' were under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Pius Arthur Riddell they advanced on the Redoubt under the protection of a creeping barrage. The Cambridgeshire's entered the German defences without loss of life.

Intense fighting took place in the trenches with corporal and junior commanders engaging the men in bayonet and grenade attacks. The Germans were routed and despite a number of counter-attacks the Cambridgeshire's held Schwaben Redoubt for 24 hours before being relieved.

In total, 218 men were killed or wounded. The success of this feat was so important to the Allied offensive that General Haig referred to it as "one of the finest feats in the history of the British army". For personal skill and bravery 41 awards for gallantry were bestowed on the regiment. In honour of this brave achievement the Cambridgeshire Regiment Association are organising a special Commemoration Day to mark the 90th anniversary, on October 14, 2006. There will be a service at Ely Cathedral and presentations and awards afterwards at the Hayward Theatre, The King's School, Ely. There are also plans to visit the battlefield in September. The association is hoping to make contact with as many descendants as possible of the Cambridgeshire's that participated in the action and wish to invite them to attend the service. For further details and to register your interest, contact Martin Boswell by post at the Imperial war Museum Duxford or e-mail: mboswell@iwm.org.uk

INFO: You can visit the Roll of Honour at: www.roll-of-honour.com/Cambridgeshire or contact the Ely Standard newsdesk if you have any information or memorabilia or email the editor at: debbie.davies@archant.co.uk

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