September 1916

When he sent the September battalion war diary to Divisional HQ at the end of the month, Major Hayes commented: “I foreward herewith War Diary for September 1916. The delay in sending this in is regretted but was unavoidable owing to continual moves and lack of office accommodation in the trench”. It tells its own story of what happened to the battalion in the weeks after the Battle of Guillemont.

There was a brief ‘rest’ behind the lines at Mericourt, with a little road-making and drill to get the lads back into the mood for more labour! They were hardly in one place more than two or three days from 15 September: Citadel – Talus Bois – Bernafay Wood – Sandpits – Meaulte – Citadel – Maltz Horn Valley – Talus Bois – Trones Wood. There were only 440 men available – half the normal battalion size. Nevertheless it was an endless round of trench repairs, trench digging, cleaning dirty billets, road making, track repairs. Often as not, ‘billets’ consisted of old trenches and shell holes. They were under almost constant artillery bombardment. Casualties came as a steady attrition – hitting unexploded ordnance, caught by moonlight and a well-targeted shell.

This what the Somme meant in September 1916. Among the casualties were Privates Robert David Bennett and James Martin Thompson killed at night, Privates John George Cummins and John Iveson dying of wounds the day after. It is likely that Sergeant Hodges was wounded, as he was replaced in B Company by my grandfather, now Sergeant, Thomas Bashforth.

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