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Combles Communal Cemetery, Somme Combles Communal Cemetery, Somme
First Name: Walter Richard Last Name: WESTCOTT
Date of Death: 10/09/1916 Lived/Born In: Brockley
Rank: Rifleman Unit: London16
Memorial Site: Brockley, St Hilda

Current Information:

Crofton Park


Combles Communal Cemetery, 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 1st July, 1916, 56th (London) Division, which included 16th London of 169 Brigade, had been heavily involved during the opening day of the Battle of the Somme when they attacked the German defences at Gommecourt on the northern edge of the battlefield. They remained in that sector until they moved south, to where the battle was raging, at the beginning of September.

After the capture of Guillemont on 3rd September, the next target for the British was the village on Ginchy which was successfully taken by 16th Division on 9th September with 56th Division supporting them to the south. Their task on the afternoon of 9th September, when 16th Division attacked Ginchy, was to form a defensive flank along the slopes of the Combles Ravine and as part of this operation 5th London attacked the sunken road that lay between Leuze Wood and Combles. This involved a flank attack through the wood and resulted in some very heavy fighting but they were unable to dislodge the enemy from Loop Trench. Eventually, those who still could, had to retire back to the wood. That evening, the 16th London battalion were sent forward to assist in the attack on Leuze Wood and Loop Trench but did not arrive until 11pm when it was decided to wait for daylight. At 7am on 10th September, 16th London attacked south-east from Leuze Wood towards Combles. This attack failed. The covering artillery barrage was weak and did not dislodge the enemy from their defensive positions and when they moved forward they were confronted by heavy machine-gun fire from Loop Trench and the sunken Combles road and no progress was made. At 3pm, supported by a company of 2nd London they tried again after a Stokes mortar barrage and although they gained 100 yards they were later pushed back by shellfire. That evening the remnants of the battalion were relieved and moved back to the Citadel. Their casualties for the day amounted to over 300, one of whom was Walter Westcott.

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