July 1916

The 11th DLI was not one of the ‘Pal’s Battalions’ and not one of those chosen to be involved on 1 July 1916 on the first day of the Somme campaign. They were still based at Brandhoek in Ypres and, for the first two weeks of July, continued with the daily work of improving trenches, with occasional reliefs. On 14 July they had a visit at battalion HQ from the Prince of Wales. The following day they prepared to leave the Ypres sector.

They left by train for Winnezeele on 16 July and spent time at a series of training and rest camps until arriving at Divisional HQ three miles east of Bailleul on 20 July. From there onwards it was marching, day by day, via St Sylvestre Capel, Balinchove (train to Doullens), to Couin. Here they spent a day cleaning filthy billets that they were not actually to occupy – a job the battalion diarist frequently fumed over.

On 28 July, they relieved 19th Welsh Fusiliers at The Dell, taking over “the dirtiest camp we have yet struck”. It was not entirely surprising that things were in such a state, as they were to find when they spent the last days of the month clearing the dreadfully mangled landscape left by the first days of the Somme campaign. They had set off knowing that there had been a terrible series of battles, but nothing could prepare them for the horrors they witnessed on arrival.

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