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First Name: William Richard Last Name: BRICKNELL
Date of Death: 18/11/1916 Lived/Born In: Kensal Green
Rank: Private Unit: Royal West Surrey (Queens)7
Memorial Site: Kensal Rise, St Martin

Current Information:


24, St Margaret's Road, Kensal Green

Stump Road Cemetery, Grandcourt, Somme


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

By the beginning of November, 1916,  the Battle of the Somme had been raging for four 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, nearly all in the southern part of the battlefield, had been captured from the enemy. With November came the winter weather and this, combined with the sheer exhaustion of all involved, brought about the end of the battle by the end of the month. Since the 1st July, 1916, British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African casualties numbered over 400,000, killed, wounded and missing.

During November the focus of the fighting switched to the Ancre valley where the last major British offensive was launched on 13th of the month. By now German defence tactics had evolved. They defended in depth without a well defined front line but rather setting up machine-gun nests in shell holes and other strategically important sites where just a few men could hold up an entire battalion. Meanwhile their artillery bombarded the British front line and all the communication trenches added to which the weather was simply awful turning the battlefield into a morass of mud. A few gains were made such as the capture of the village of Beaumont-Hamel and some of the marshy land either side of the river, but very few of the British objectives were achieved. Once again the casualty rate soared.

The final push of the Battle of the Ancre and indeed the final British offensive of the whole of the Battle of the Somme came on 18th November, 1916, a day when the first snows of winter arrived making the battlefield, cold, wet, muddy and probably the most miserable place on the planet. On the right of the attack the Canadians were able to capture their first objective, but elsewhere very little was achieved. 55 Brigade of 18th Division attacked next to the Canadians and deployed all four of their battalions; 8th East Surrey, 7th Royal West Kent, 7th East Kent (Buffs) and 7th Royal West Surrey (Queens), Before zero at 6.10am, they were sent to lie out in no-man’s-land which, despite the snow on the ground was a good thing because it meant they were not hit by the German barrage which fell on an empty Regina Trench. A good start was made to the attack with both 8th East Surrey and 7th Royal West Kent reaching their objectives and linking up with the Canadians. But things did not work out so well for the other two battalions. The companies sent forward by 7th Queens and 7th Buffs towards Desire Trench came to grief before they reached their objective. The detachment detailed to clear the dug-outs in Stump Road had suffered many casualties themselves and had not been able to accomplish this task. As a consequence, the enemy was able to emerge from these dug-outs and pour flanking fire on the advancing troops. German snipers and machine-gunners were also positioned in shell holes in no-man’s-land and their fire added to the carnage, The two battalions were effectively cut off and all the runners sent to make contact with them became casualties themselves. One or two managed to get back to their own lines but the majority of those who attacked from 7th Queens and 7th Buffs were not seen again. If not killed they were taken prisoner. Among those who lost their lives was William Bricknell of 7th Queens.

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