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First Name: Ernest Last Name: STODDART
Date of Death: 01/07/1916 Lived/Born In: Custom House
Rank: Private Unit: Essex2
Memorial Site:

Current Information:


Enlisted-Canning Town 

Sucrerie Military Cemetery, Colincamps


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.

The attack by 4th Division was made by 11 Brigade between the villages of Serre and Beaumont-Hamel. They met fierce resistance from German machine guns and artillery but even so, in some places the German front line was occupied, notably the Quadrilateral, a German stronghold  Meanwhile 10 and 12 Brigades moved up in the open from the reserve trenches.  In view of the lack of real progress a message was sent from Divisional HQ not to proceed but this was not received and at 9.30am, 4 ½ battalions in extended lines on a 1500 yard front, began advancing across no man’s land.  2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers and 2nd Seaforth Highlanders from 10 Brigade along with  2nd Essex, 1st Royal Lancaster and half of 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers from 12 Brigade. 2nd Essex and 1st Royal Lancaster, advancing on the left suffered badly from shellfire whilst crossing no man’s land but some did manage to make it to the Quadrilateral to lend support to the troops already there There were reports of a few making it even further into the German lines but counter attacks soon forced them back to the Quadrilateral where they hung on for 24 hours, before retiring to their own front lines. As elsewhere on this section of the front, no gains had been made and the casualties had been staggeringly high.

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