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First Name: Walter Last Name: McGRANE
Date of Death: 01/07/1916 Lived/Born In: Custom House
Rank: Lance Corporal Unit: Bedfordshire7
Memorial Site:

Current Information:

Age-23

Born-Canning Town

Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz

The opening day of the Battle of the Somme 1st July 1916

This was a disastrous day for the British Army in France. Eleven divisions of Fourth Army attacked along a 15 mile front from Maricourt to Serre. Two further divisions of Third Army launched a diversionary attack just to the north of Serre at Gommecourt. For a week beforehand the British artillery pounded the German trenches but the Germans had been there for a long time and they had constructed deep, concrete reinforced shelters beneath their trenches and many survived the bombardment. The troops went over the top at 7.30am but even before they had left their overcrowded trenches, many had been killed or maimed by German artillery. The Germans knew that they were coming. Once in No-Man’s-Land the artillery continued to take its toll and then the machine guns opened up on the advancing British infantry. They fell in their thousands and the attack came to a standstill almost everywhere. Survivors sought cover wherever they could find it and at night they crawled back to their own lines, often dragging a wounded soldier with them. Only in the south were any advances made with the attack on Fricourt and Mametz. Over 19,000 British soldiers were killed on this day, including 2,500 from London.

7th Bedfordshire, 54 Brigade, 18th Division took part in one of the successful attacks on the southern part of the front but nevertheless paid a heavy price. They had 320 casualties by the end of the day. Along with 11th Royal Fusiliers they led an attack up the southern face of the Mametz spur between the two mine craters that had been blown minutes before the attack. They took the first two trenches without too much difficulty but a single German machine gun at ‘The Triangle’ in the 3rd trench badly hit 7th Bedfordshire’s leading lines before it was rushed.  At 8.30am they advanced against the well-defended Pommiers Redoubt.  This frontal attack failed in the face of heavy German fire and in the end the redoubt had to be taken from the flank when 7th Bedfordshire stormed the the east side whilst  11th Royal Fusiliers attacked from the west.  Hand to hand fighting lasted an hour but the position was won.  They then pushed on to Beetle Alley where the barrage was now falling. This too was captured and all opposition dealt with by bombing parties.  Strong German resistance then prevented any further advance.

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