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Ancre British Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel, Somme Ancre British Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel, Somme
First Name: John Walter Last Name: CLARE
Date of Death: 03/09/1916 Lived/Born In: Regent's Park
Rank: Rifleman Unit: Rifle Brigade16
Memorial Site: South Camden, St Mary Magdalene

Current Information:

Born-St Pancras

Ancre British Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel, Somme

 

The Battle of the Somme (July-November, 1916)

By the beginning of September, 1916,  the Battle of the Somme had been raging for two months. Thousands of men had already been killed or wounded or were simply missing, never to be seen again and and just a few square miles of the French countryside, all in the southern part of the battlefield, had been captured from the enemy. Mistakes had been made by the various commanders and would be continued to be made but there was no turning back as the British, Australians, South Africans, New Zealanders and Canadians carried on battering away at the German defences in the hope of a breakthrough, So it continued all the way through to November with nearly every battalion and division then in France being drawn into it at some stage. In the end the German trenches had been pushed back a few more miles along most of the line but the cost in lives had been staggering. By the end of the fighting in November, 1916, British Army casualties numbered over 400,000, killed, wounded and missing.

On 3rd September, 1916, the same day that the village of Guillemont finally fell to the British Army, there was another attack further north on the Somme battlefield, astride the River Ancre, a sector that had been largely inactive ever since the disasters of 1st July. 39th Division attacked along the north of the Ancre to secure a few hundred yards of high ground west-north-west of St Pierre-Divion in order to cover the flank of 49th Division attacking up the Ancre and to the south of it. Like so many other actions the British artillery barrage that preceded the attack left too much wire uncut and too many German machine gun nests and dug-outs intact. Add to this the power and the accuracy of the enemy artillery and the weak and exhausted state of the battalions involved and it becomes clear why the attack, despite great gallantry and repeated efforts, came to grief.

117 Brigade attacked on the left of 39th Division with 16th Rifle Brigade and 17th Sherwood Foresters. Zero hour was 5.10am and although the leading wave strayed off course the enemy first line was entered in a number of places. The second wave even managed to penetrate some parts of the German second line but as German resistance stiffened, the third wave was largely destroyed by machine gun fire and grenades and could get no further than the enemy first line. Within half an hour it was obvious that the attack had failed with the survivors either bogged down in the German first line or back where they started from. Nothing was seen again of those few men who had made it as far as the German second line. Twice more during the morning further attempts were made to press home the attack but to no avail. By the early afternoon those able to do so had returned to their original lines. 16th Rifle Brigade were very much a London battalion having been raised around St Pancras and its losses on 3rd September were crippling. There were nearly 450 casualties with over 200 missing or dead. One of these was John Clare.

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