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Warlencourt British Cemetery, France Warlencourt British Cemetery, France
First Name: William Henry Last Name: HADLEY
Date of Death: 08/10/1916 Lived/Born In: Brentford
Rank: Private Unit: London22
Memorial Site: Brentford Memorial

Current Information:

Age-32

149, Ealing Road, Brentford

Warlencourt British Cemetery, France

 

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

By the beginning of October, 1916,  the Battle of the Somme had been raging for three 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 Battle of Transloy Ridge

On 1st October, 1916, a new offensive was begun by the British Army. The Battle of Transloy Ridge was the last major operation fought during the battle of the Somme and it continued throughout the first three weeks of the month until the terrible conditions of rain, mud and cold coupled with the sheer exhaustion of the troops, brought things to a standstill. The aim had been to push the enemy further back to the next ridge of higher ground running between Le Transloy and Warlencourt. It was a very hard fight, progress was painfully slow, the casualty figure was shockingly high and the final objective was not achieved despite the best efforts of the attacking divisions. Three factors worked against its success. The first was the weather. It was simply awful. The second was the miles of war torn terrain which soon became a quagmire over which troops, guns, ammunition and all the other supplies had to cross to reach the front and keep the momentum of the offensive going. For the Germans, falling back on their own supply lines across relatively unscathed ground, this was not such a problem. The third factor was the new methods of defence employed by the enemy. They defended in depth without a well defined front line but instead setting up machine-gun nests in shell holes and other strategically important sites where just a few men could hold up an entire battalion. And of course, the German artillery had the whole area covered.

On 7th October, 1916, the second stage of the offensive, which had been delayed by the bad weather, was launched and both London divisions, 56th Division and 47th Division were fully involved. 140 Brigade of 47th Division attacked from their positions just to the north of Eaucourt l’Abbaye towards the Butte de Warlencourt, an ancient burial mound near to the village of Le Sars but met such fierce machine-gun fire that they were unable to even reach their first objective, Snag Trench.

The 21st London and 22nd London battalions of 142 Brigade were in support for this failed operation but in light of the lack of progress made they were not called upon. Their turn to face the machine-guns came on the following day, 8th October. Overnight they moved up to relieve 140 Brigade in the Eaucourt l’Abbaye trenches for their attack at 9pm. At first the plan was to have no preliminary artillery barrage at all and perhaps it would have been best to have stuck to that because in the end it was the hastily arranged one minute creeping barrage that alerted the enemy that something was up and prompted them to pour machine-gun and rifle fire across no-man’s land into the ranks of the two London battalions as they advanced behind this artillery screen. On the right, 21st London were also hit by enfilade (flanking) fire and their progress came to a complete halt Those still able to dug in and formed an outpost line. 22nd London fared a little better and were able to occupy parts of their objective, Snag Trench but they were not however able to hold on to this and eventually fell back to their original lines and a few outposts. In the end very little had been achieved other than the deaths of scores of young men with many more wounded. One of those who lost his life was William Hadley of 22nd London.

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