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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: William Last Name: EYDEN
Date of Death: 13/11/1916 Lived/Born In: Harlington
Rank: Pte Unit: Royal Fusiliers24
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:



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  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 the battle to a close 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.

On 13th November, 1916, the day the Ancre offensive began, 2nd Division attacked due east along the Redan Ridge. 5 Brigade were on the right of the divisional line with the 2nd Highland Light Infantry and 24th Royal Fusiliers battalions in front followed by 17th Royal Fusiliers and 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. The attack got off to a good start with the troops advancing close behind their own barrage and many of the enemy were caught as they emerged from their dug-outs where they freely surrendered. But it was not all plain sailing and the men of 5 Brigade suffered many casualties themselves from rifle and machine-gun fire before reaching their objective, Beaumont Trench, where they consolidated and blocked the captured trench to stop bombing attacks on their new positions. One of the casualties during this operation was William Eyden of 24th Royal Fusiliers.

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