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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: William Percival Last Name: HOBBS
Date of Death: 15/10/1916 Lived/Born In: Custom House
Rank: Private Unit: Essex11
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-19

58, Adamson Road, Custom House

 

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, nearly 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 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 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. And of course, the German artillery had the whole area covered.

By mid October, 1916, 6th Division had returned to the front line, taking up positions in front of Gueudecourt. Before dawn on 15th October, 2nd Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby) attacked and captured the enemy gun pits in front of Cloudy Trench. In conjunction with this, 11th Essex of 18 Brigade, crossed Mild Trench and began bombing up the Beaulencourt road. Here they met strong resistance and despite their best efforts they were driven back and no further progress was made. There were many casualties for 11th Essex in this failed attack, one of them being William Hobbs.

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