August 1916

When the August battalion diary was submitted to Divisional HQ at the end of the month, it was accompanied with the following note: “I forward herewith War Diary for month of August 1916. The CO and Adjutant are both sick. The diary for the month of September will be more fully recorded. G Hayes, Major, Commanding 11th Durham LI (Pioneers)”.

The statement illustrates graphically how the first full month on the Somme battlefield took its toll on the battalion. The first fortnight was spent on trench work in the area of The Dell, repairing support lines, constructing deep dugouts and otherwise trying to bring some degree of order to the areas behind the front lines. Several officers reported sick, including Captain Pemberton, Lt Cunningham and Lt Floyd.

The battalion earned themselves a week out, cleaning themselves and their kit at Berneuil. They returned to the front via The Citadel to bivouacs near Carnoy, before moving into the old German front line trenches close to Guillemont. They fell to digging trenches for several more nights until on 29 August heavy rain made roads impassable and started to collapse the trenches they had laboriously built. Four men died during the month and another fourteen were wounded just in the process of this heavy labouring. What it was all for would become apparent early the next month.


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