Title - Serre at 8.00am, 1st July 1916

7.20am | 7.30am | 7.40am | 7.50am | 8.00am and later

Map of Serre, 8.00am, 11k

It was only at 8am that I.R.169 Headquarters behind Serre received word that the regiment's lines had been penetrated in Sector S2. Minutes later, the regiment's 2nd Company was ordered to make an immediate counter-attack in platoon waves from the 3rd line.16 By this time, it is likely that only isolated pockets of British troops remained in the German front line along the whole of the 94th Brigade front.

Brig.-Gen. Rees, O.C. 94th Brigade, had no means of knowing the extent of the disaster that had befallen the leading battalions. If anything, the reports he was receiving from divisional artillery observers indicated that British troops were still advancing on Serre in force. So it was that troops continued to be pushed forward.

On the left flank of the attack, the 2nd Barnsley Pals had only just cleared Nairne Trench. Shortly after 8am, the remnants of "B" Company of the 1st Barnsley Pals crossed the British front line amidst a torrent of shellfire. Few, if any, reached the German lines.

Divisional observers continued to report sightings of British troops well inside the German lines. At 8.07am, infantry were sighted over the 4th line on the left of the brigade front.15 At 8.16am15 - and again at 8.25am17 - infantry were seen in Serre itself. The accuracy of these reports has never been verified.

As late as 8.45am, Rees was persuaded by reports of 93rd Brigade and 4th Division pushing forward on his right to order "C" and "D" Companies of the 1st Barnsley Pals to advance from Campion and Monk Trenches.6 18 The two companies suffered heavily before reaching the British front line, and were ultimately pulled back and ordered to re-form in Monk Trench.18

At 9.15am, I.R.169 was able to report to Brigade Headquarters that it was again in possession of Sectors S1 and S2. The battle for Serre was over.

"I have never seen a finer display of individual and collective bravery than the advance of that brigade. I never saw a man waver from the exact line prescribed for him. Each line disappeared in the thick cloud of dust & smoke which rapidly blotted out the whole area. I can safely pay a tribute also to the bravery of the enemy, whom I saw standing up in their trenches to fire their rifles in a storm of fire." (Brig.-Gen. Hubert Rees, O.C. 94th Brigade6)

"[On 2nd July 1916] R.S.M. Stanworth called the roll in the Rolland trench, which cut into the side of Observation Wood; 43 men answered it and while it was being called a shrapnel shell burst over the trench wounding the right hand man in the neck. It was heard after he died in hospital.

That left us 42 strong and our job for the next three or four nights was to carry in the wounded and bury the dead. Many of them were buried in Copse trench.

I well remember Private Naylor, who once worked on the Accrington trams, coming in spattered with blood and caked in shell-hole mud, but still smiling after three nights in 'no man's land' without food.

Wounded men were still coming into Observation Wood when we left on the night of the 5th or 6th of July. We marched our way to the 94th Brigade H.Q. with the band playing the Regimental marchpast and as we marched into the village not one man was out of step." (Ex-Lewis Gunner Sergeant Harry Pursglove D.C.M., 1956)20

© Andrew C Jackson 1999, 2006, 2019

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