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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Alfred George Last Name: HARRIS
Date of Death: 09/08/1916 Lived/Born In: Custom House
Rank: Private Unit: Essex13
Memorial Site: 1. East Ham, Central Park Memorial 2. Thiepval Memorial

Current Information:

Born-West Ham


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

By the beginning of August the Battle of the Somme had been raging for a full month. 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. 

2nd Division had reached the Somme battlefield towards the end of July, 1916 and been thrown into the awfulness of the struggle for Delville Wood which had been turned into a hopeless tangle of undergrowth, fallen trees, remains of trenches and dead bodies. By the end of July, 1916 the wood was in British hands and new objectives loomed on the horizon, notably the village of Guillemont. During the night of 5th-6th August, 1916, 6 Brigade of 2nd Division, moved into the front line in the Waterlot Farm sector to the south of Delville Wood in preparation for an assault on this village. On 8th August, 1916, 1st Liverpool (Kings) and 17th Middlesex both of 6 Brigade, 2nd Division attacked the German defences between Waterlot Farm and Guillemont but met overwhelming resistance and achieved little. 13th Essex, also of 6 Brigade, were in reserve for this attack but that night they moved up to trenches in Trones Wood for another attack on Guillemont Station where three companies of 1st Kings had been cut off. At 4.10am on 9th August, C Company moved up to within 50 yards of the German line and then tried to rush the trench when the artillery barrage lifted but the wire had not been cut and they were mown down by machine gun fire. Ten minutes later D Company tried the same thing and met the same fate and the attack was then called off. 13th Essex sustained over 70 casualties during this operation including Alfred Harris who was killed in action. 

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