Recalling the end of the Battle of the Somme

British troops in the First World War.
British troops in the First World War.
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Today marks the centenary of the official end of the Battle of the Somme.

According to local historian Peter Hoy, the last major battle occurred one hundred years ago yesterday, the Battle of the Ancre, in which 31 South Tyneside men were killed in action on the same day (with 24 of these serving in the Royal Naval Division).

Here, Peter details the battle.

“Seven divisions of the Reserve (Fifth) Army attacked at 5.45am on November 13, 1916, bad weather having caused seven postponements since the original date of October 24.

“V Corps was north of the River Ancre and II Corps to the south.

“The purpose was to seize the high ground and capture Beaumont Hamel before winter set in. This time, the preparatory bombardment had been carefully monitored to guarantee that the enemy barbed wire had been cut, and that morning the artillery laid down a precisely timed creeping barrage.

“Additionally, this time, the carefully laid mines were all fired at the right time, the sappers of the Royal Engineers having tunnelled back under the old crater created by the Hawthorn mine on July 1, and placed 30,000 lbs of high explosives beneath Beaumont Hamel which was detonated at exactly 5.45 am.”

Peter explains that the attack began in the dark, and even after the sun rose, visibility did not substantially improve because of the thick fog.

“Beaumont Hamel and the infamous Y Ravine were taken by the 51st (Highland) Division. Immediately to the south, the Royal Naval Division took Beaucourt early on the morning of the 14th.

“The Highland troops had moved into no-man’s land earlier that morning and succeeded in occupying the mine crater blown at zero hour.

“However, Beaumont Hamel still proved difficult to capture.

“Machine-gunners emerged from their deep dug-outs and stopped the attack on the western outskirts of the village.

“However, reinforcements could be sent to take the defenders of the village on their right flank.

“By 10.45am Beamont Hamel had fallen.

“Further south the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division made the largest gains of the day. One detachment under Lt.-Colonel Bernard Freyburg, of the Hood Battalion, even pushed on to the outskirts of Beaucourt, which fell the next day,

“Nelson Battalion lost 136 men in the attack (including six South Tyneside men).

“With the fall of Beaumont Hamel and Beaucourt, the Battle of the Somme ended on the night of November 17/18, 1916.

Between July 1 and mid-November 1916, 520 South Tyneside men are known to have been killed in action or died of their wounds at the Somme.

Here Peter lists the names of the 31 men who lost their lives at the Battle of the Ancre.

They are: – Able Seaman (AB) William Adey, Hood Bn. Royal Naval Division (TZ/3255), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 19.

AB Edward Anthony Hogarth Aspin, Hawke Bn. RND (TZ/6580), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 19.

Corporal James Bainbridge, 8/East Yorkshire Regt. (15210), 13 November 1916, aged 31.

2nd-Lieutenant Harold Bell, 13/East Yorkshire Regt., 13 November 1916, aged 22.

AB Andrew Ernest Bennett, Howe Bn. RND (TZ/3115), 8 December 1916 (died of wounds sustained on 13 November 1916), aged 21.

AB James Henry Capstick, Hood Bn. Royal Naval Division (TZ/2380), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 19.

AB Alexander Cook, Nelson Bn. RND (TZ/3473), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 21.

Acting Corporal Cuthbert Edward Cook, 2/Royal Scots (10980), 13 November 1916, aged 22.

AB Arthur Couch, Nelson Bn. RND (TZ/137), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 24.

Leading Seaman John (Jack) Curbison, Hood Bn. Royal Naval Division (TZ/1736), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 23.

AB Robert Danby, Anson Bn. RND (TZ/6315), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 19.

AB Peter Duffy, Hood Bn. Royal Naval Division (TZ/4221), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 19.

Private Robert James Evans, 1/Gordon Highlanders (S/13678), 13 November 1916, aged 19.

AB James Gibbons, 9 Platoon, ‘C’ Company, Nelson Bn. RND (TZ/78), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 25.

AB Edward Henderson, 2nd Platoon, ‘C’ Company, Collingwood Bn. and Anson Bn. RND (TZ/1687), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 21.

AB George Herbert Hutchins, Anson Bn. RND (TZ/3464), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 19.

AB Edward (Eddie) Insall, Howe Bn. RND (TZ/3171), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 20.

AB George Foster Lambert, Nelson Bn. RND (TZ/365), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 23.

AB Henry Martin, Nelson Bn. RND (TZ/7542), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 20.

AB Richard James Mitchell, Anson Bn. RND (TZ/2299), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 25.

AB Thomas William (Tot) Moore, Hawke Bn. RND. (TZ/6573), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 23.

AB William Porthouse, Howe Bn. RND (TZ/6399), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 20.

AB John H. Pounder, ‘C’ Company, Drake Bn. RND (TZ/3554), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 24.

Petty Officer Henry (Harry) Raine, Hood Bn. Royal Naval Division (TZ/2301), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 24.

AB James Henry Roberts, Howe Bn. RND (TZ/6556), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 20.

Private Henry (Harry) Rowell, 1st/8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Territorial) (2580), 13 November 1916, aged 33.

AB Francis William Young (Frank) Rushton, Howe Bn. RND (TZ/4811), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 21.

Private John Smith, 6th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps (1909), 13 November 1916, aged 22.

Leading Seaman Thomas Hammond Wade, Hood Bn. Royal Naval Division (TZ/2664), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 23.

AB George Pratt Wood, Nelson Bn. RND (TZ/2617), 13 November 1916 (Attack on Beaucourt), aged 28.