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The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade

Section 4.—Further Progress of the Battle

page 146

Section 4.—Further Progress of the Battle.

October advances—Broken weather—Renewed offensive on the Ancre—End of the Battle of the Somme—Results achieved.

The account of the progress of the great battle from about the time of the departure of the New Zealand Division early in October up till the middle of November, when, owing to the continued bad weather, active operations of importance practically ceased, may be briefly summarized.

Eaucourt I'Abbaye on our immediate left, which had been captured early on October 2nd, was counter-attacked and retaken by the enemy on the same date, but it came finally into the possession of the British on the 3rd. In order to assist the French in their advance on Sailly Saillisel, Morval had been handed over to them. On October 7th another Allied advance began and by the afternoon Le Sars was taken, the line advanced close to Le Barque and Ligny Thilloy, and on to the crest before Le Transloy. The French advance brought them close to Sailly, and their right, farther south, had also gone forward. The general success could not be further exploited owing to heavy rain.

Operations re-opened on October 12th, the line being slowly pushed forward everywhere on the right. The French took Sailly on the 15th and Sailly Saillisel on the 19th. There is little doubt that only the abominable nature of the weather prevented the taking of Bapaume. Unfortunately "the moment for decisive action was rapidly passing away, while the weather showed no signs of improvement. By this time the ground had become so bad that nothing less than a prolonged period of drying weather, which at that season of the year was most unlikely to occur, would suit our purpose."*

On November 9th the weather moderated, being now dry and cold, with frosty nights and misty mornings, and final preparations for a renewed offensive on the Ancre were pushed on. The attack by the Canadians on the 11th brought the British close to the strong German positions immediately in front of Pys and Warlencourt, and on the 13th the attack on the Ancre front commenced. St. Pierre Divion, the famous Y-Ravine and the strong redoubts in rear, and the enemy's

* Sir Douglas Haig's Despatches.

page 147front line system half a mile beyond Beaumont Hamel, fell to the British troops on that day, and on the 14th the gains in this neighbourhood were still further improved. Then the weather broke again and continued to be so unfavourable that the Battle of the Somme of 1916 came practically to an end.

The three main objectives of the offensive had, however, been achieved. Verdun had been relieved; the main German forces had been held on the western front; and the enemy's strength had been considerably worn down. "Any one of these three results is in itself sufficient to justify the Somme Battle. The attainment of all three of them affords ample compensation for the splendid efforts of our troops and for the sacrifices made by ourselves and by our Allies. They have brought us a long step forward towards the final victory of the Allied cause."*

The captures made by the British from July 1st to November 18th included: 38,000 officers and men, 29 heavy guns, 96 field-pieces and howitzers, 136 trench mortars, 514 machine guns.

* Sir Douglas Haig's Despatches.

page 148