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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Richard George Last Name: HOGBEN
Date of Death: 03/09/1916 Lived/Born In: Waterloo
Rank: Private Unit: Cornwall Light Infantry1
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-21

22, Commercial Road, Waterloo

 

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.

The German second line ran through the village of Guillemont in the southern part of the battlefield and all attempts to capture it through July and August, 1916 had failed. The ferocity of the battle there had transformed the area into something aptly described in the History of The Rifle Brigade 1914-1918, by Reginald Berkeley, as  “..a horror that can hardly be imagined. Not merely was the front line impossible to be held: it could only be approached by men of the most iron fortitude. The position was dangerously exposed to fire from the village; but that was nothing. What horrified the senses and shocked the imagination was not what might come from outside the trenches, but what was in them. From end to end they were choked with British dead, on their backs, on their faces, hideously doubled up, distorted with pain, blackened and bloated by the sun, the prey of myriad upon myriad of carrion flies, odiously green with corruption…like a descent to the anterooms of Hell”.

Between 3rd and 6th September the village of Guillemont was attacked and captured by 5th Division and 20th Division. Guillemont was in British hands by the end of the first day of the battle and by 6th September, further gains to the east of the village had taken the front line to the edge of Leuze Wood. At noon on 3rd September, 1916, 1st Cornwall Light Infantry and 12th Gloucestershire, both of 95 Brigade, 5th Division, attacked the German trenches on the Leuze Wood  spur. With some losses they captured the much battered trenches along with dug-outs and machine gun posts on the near slope of the depression opposite Wedge Wood. Fifty minutes later they continued their advance and the German 2nd line from Wedge Wood to south-east of Guillemont was taken. Most of the casualties sustained by 1st Cornwall on 3rd September came during the advance to the first objective although there was flank fire from Falfemont Farm to contend with as they later advanced towards their 3rd and 4th objectives. One of these casualties was Richard Hogben.

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