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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Reuben Last Name: BARCOCK
Date of Death: 09/09/1916 Lived/Born In: Custom House
Rank: Private Unit: Sussex2
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Enlisted-West Ham

 

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.

One stumbling block for the British advance on the Somme was High Wood, lying half way between Delville Wood and the village of Martinpuich. As the name implies it was on a ridge slightly higher than the surrounding countryside so it was a good vantage point for whoever controlled it. At a considerable distance behind the German front line on 1st July, 1916, it was briefly occupied by British troops during their offensive on 14th July before the Germans took it back and strengthened its defences. For the next two months it was the scene of bitter fighting and the graveyard of thousands of men until it was finally captured in mid-September.

On 4.45pm on 9th September, 2 Brigade of 1st Division attacked the western side of High Wood and part of Wood Lane, one of the main German defence lines that led from it in the direction of Longueval. With great dash, but not without casualties, 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps and 2nd Sussex stormed through to their objectives which in the case of 2nd Sussex was that portion of Wood Lane next to High Wood. Their passage across no-man’s-land was perilous especially for the left hand company nearest the wood from where machine dun fire was directed at them. In the wood itself, 1st Northamptonshire, also of 2 Brigade, had attacked after the explosion of a mine but after fierce fighting they were bombed out of the crater. This meant that 2nd Sussex had to hurriedly dig a defensive flank back to them. All the new positions were then consolidated. This success did not come without a cost. 2nd Sussex sustained over 250 casualties during the operation, one of whom was Reuben Barcock.

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