As A Company of 8th Suffolk stepped forward into no-mans-land, to begin the attack in Boom Ravine, they encountered many deep muddy shell holes filled with icy water. This terrain was to greatly hampered the advance.
As the Company pushed on, the cat was completely out of the bag and the Germans, sensing that an attack was being made, sent up numerous SOS rockets along the front which as the landed silhouetted the advancing attackers to them. However, sensing that this was a large scale attack, they pulled back in the darkness allowing their artillery to fire over them into the area of their old front line.
About 4.00 am, B Company on the right flank were getting into position and had already made the link-up with elements of their sister Battalion in the Brigade, the 11th Royal Fusiliers on the right hand edge of the Battalion front. Shortly afterwards, a heavy barrage was brought down beyond the German line, which was "not conducive to produce steadiness and calmness with was really so necessary in this forming up." The men were getting twitchy.
A follow-up barrage ended at about 5.45 am, and the attacking waves went over. Sections from No. 5 and No. 8 platoons went first, followed by 7 Platoon and 6 Platoon. It was still dark and casualties were not too great as the Company advanced. Moving forward at a reduced rate due to the terrain, there was a tendency for the line of advance to veer off course. Captain Whitehead shouted over to Lieutenant Green as they advanced to keep the line straight, but Green was soon hit by machine-gun fire. The Sergeant behind him pressed on keeping the men up close and back on course to the left. Soon, they were affecting a link up with A company in the old German line. "Coffee" trench on the right was taken by B Company, as was "Grandcourt" trench on the left by C Company. It all seemed to be going to plan up until this point casualties reported had been "slight."
By 5.45 am, B Company was into the ravine. The "moppers up" now started to concluded their task. A Company had to deal with an enemy outpost that remained still active in the right flank. Perceiving that this would hamper the second wave of the attack, Lieutenant Walker with Sergeant Eaves, wheeled about their men, and took on the position with accurate and sustained small arms fire. Sergeant Rose appeared with a couple of Lewis gunners and soon the position was overcome. The Adjutant wrote later that "they had the satisfaction of seeing the Germans at once, throw up their hands and surrender."
B Company too a nest of machine guns which they had some trouble in silencing. An MG team in a shell hole fired on at the advancing men of B Company. Observation had shown that it was linked by a small trench to the German front line. Germs continually ran down the trench with new supplied of ammunition for the gun, and despite heavy Lewis gun fire being brought to bear, the post could not be silenced. Corporal Wade tried first to get forward, but was immediately beaten back by enemy rifle grenades. Whilst the nest was occupied by Wade's attack, Sergeant's Backhouse and Wiggett worked round on the flanks and barred the communicating trench. The nest surrendered a few minutes later.
In parallel, C Company were advancing too just after 5.45 am behind a barrage that delivered them into no-mans-alnd with minimal casualties, however as the barrage lifted near the German line, they were swathed by machine gun fore that caused many casualties. Lieutenant Jeffrey was wounded, and shortly afterwards, so was Lieutenant Walters. Captain Hull remained the only uninjured platoon commander of the Company.
D Company faired not much better. Advancing as fire company in the centre, they took many casualties as the barrage lifted. Sections of no. 15 and No. 16 Platoons took heavy casualties, as did 14 and 13 platoons immediately behind them. Captain Keats, who had a redan named in his honour, was wounded and Hubbard and Bird were killed. Immediately Sergeant Bailey assumed command of what remained of these platoon and pressed on towards the enemy line.
The fire was however too great and no progress could be made. A gap was spotted in the wire by Lance Corporal Savage, and he along with about seven men, made a valiant effort to charge the wire. He succeeded in getting through and shot four Germans, before going on to shoot many more and thus silence the machine-gun position that was causing so much damage. It was an amazing personal feat of arms that turned the outcome of the battle for the Battalion.
As D Company surged on, through the railway cutting and up the other side of the ravine, the enemy could be seen running away up the far banks. Dug-outs in the German line, were quickly checked before the Lewis guns were brought forward to training on the rear slopes of the ravine. As consolidation continued, Sergeant Bailey was himself wounded, forcing command of C Company to another senior NCO, Sergeant Sheppard.
By 8.00 am, the battle it was noted "had virtually ended and consolidation and final clearing up was beginning, but the action was progressing over the crest of the hill and there was still considerable sniping and MG fire coming from the east slopes of Boom Ravine and Miraumont"
The spires of Miraumont were in sight and it was clear that the attack had succeeded. Though rumours of an enemy counter attack abounded, by noon, support elements and engineers had already arrived to make good the Battalion's gains allowing the Battalion to retire as relief units arrived. The advance had been quite phenomenal. Over 1000 yards covered and the Germans back behind the river Ancre for the first time in any months, but the cost was high. 35 men dead with many score wounded. Yet despite this, the loss rate was greatly reduced from those the Battalion had experienced in the preceding months of the Somme campaign.
The German withdraw back into the village of Miraumont, was the first stage in their calculated retreat behind their defensive bulwark known as the 'Hindenburg Line'. It was the beginning of the end for the German Armies on the Somme.
Welcome to our online 'blog' charting the history of the many Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the part they played in the Great War.
Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
Keep checking back to see how the Great War is progressing for the men of the Suffolk Regiment.