The Battle of Fromelles: 2/4th Oxfordshire and Other Battalions of the 184th Brigade
“This harassing warfare had a crisis in July. The operations of July 19, which were shared with the 61st Division by the 5th Australian holding trenches further north, were designed as a demonstration to assist our attack upon the Somme and to hold opposite to the XI Corps certain German reserves, which, it was feared, would entrain at Lille and be sent south. That object was achieved, but at the cost of severe casualties to the divisions engaged, which were launched in daylight after artillery preparation, which results proved to have been inadequate, against a trench-system strongly manned and garrisoned by very numerous machine- guns. The objectives assigned to the 61st Division were not captured, while the Australians further north, after entering the German trenches and taking prisoners, though they held on tenaciously under heavy counter-attacks, were eventually forced to withdraw. ‘ The staff work,’ said the farewell
message from the XI Corps to the 61st Division three months later, ‘ for these operations was excellent.’ Men and officers alike did their utmost to make the attack of July 19 a success, and it
behoves all to remember the sacrifice of those who fell with appropriate gratitude. It was probably the last occasion on which large parties of storming infantry were sent forward through ‘sally ports. The Battalion was in reserve for the attack. C Company, which formed a carrying party during the fighting, lost rather heavily, but the rest of the Battalion, though moved hither and thither under heavy shelling, suffered few casualties. When the
battle was over, companies relieved part of the line and held the trenches until normal conditions returned.”
2/4th Royal Berkshire War Diaries
Wednesday 19th July 1916, France, Laventie
Artillery preparation opened at 11am attack at 6pm 2/1 Bucks on our Left. Australian Division on Left of 2/1 Bucks. 183rd Bde on our Right and 182nd Bde on Right of 183rd Bde, 8th and 61st Divisional Artillery behind our lines.
Casualties Officers 3 Killed (Lt Col J H Beer, 2/Lieut G S Abbott and 2/Lieut F C D Williams) and 2 wounded (Major T Shields and 2/Lieut D R Gibson). Other ranks 35K, 115W and 8 Shell Shock. Bn relieved by 2/4 Oxford and Bucks LI at 1030pm. Marched back into billets at Rue De La Lys (G.27.c.2.2 1/2).
2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment
Story of the 2/5th Battalion the Gloucester Regiment 1914-1918
ed by A.F.Barnes
Format: 2003 N&M Press reprint (original pub 1930) 192pp with 39 b/w photos and 12 maps.
“Round about the middle of July ominous rumours got about of an impending attack by the 61st Division in cooperation with an Australian Division and movements became irregular. Small groups of Staff Officers and Commanding Officers could be seen, maps in hand, whispering together; large quantities of artillery began to assemble; trench mortars commenced to operate more frequently a “flying pig” memorable because another member of this porcine family had previously registered on this sector, dropped its message short and blown up two or three fire bays on its own side, made its appearance.
These omens materialized when on July 19th an attack was launched. The ostensible objective was the Aubers Ridge, some high ground opposite the British front from which the Germans could command a view of all the movements of their opponents. The real intention of the operation was to keep the German Divisions there so fully occupied that they would not be able to reinforce the troops on the Somme.
The Berks and the Bucks bore the brunt of the attack, while the Oxfords and Glosters were in support and reserve respectively. So far as the Aubers Ridge was concerned the attack failed dismally, but it probably had the effect of keeping the German Divisions there, at any rate, for the time being. The casualties of the 184th brigade were very heavy, the Bucks being especially hard hit. The lot that fell to the Glosters was the depressing task of bringing in and burying the dead. This operation took three or four days to complete and it is notable that the Germans allowed the stretcher-bearers and others to others to wander about No Man’s Land in broad daylight, picking up the dead and wounded without firing a shot.”