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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Thomas James Last Name: SPRAGG
Date of Death: 16/08/1916 Lived/Born In: Earlsfield
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Fusiliers4
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-22

Born-Earlsfield

 

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.  

On 15th August, 1916, 3rd Division relieved 55th Division in the front line running in front of the village Guillemont. The British had been battling in vain to capture this village and now it was the turn of 3rd Division to see what they could do. At 5.40am on 16th August, battalions from all three brigades of 3rd Division attacked the spur to the south of Guillemont. There was some initial success on the right where 2nd Suffolk of 76 Brigade cleared parts of Cochrane Alley but the story elsewhere was one of costly failure. The main reason for this was resistance encountered from the enemy holding out in Lonely Trench. This was, as the name implies, an isolated section of the German trench system in front of their main defences to the south of Guillemont. In theory it should have been dealt with by Stokes mortars before the infantry attack but this did not happen and as the men from 3rd Division moved forward it was now too close to them to be bombarded again. From this trench the Germans poured machine-gun and rifle fire on to the advancing British lines and the attack faltered, stopped, went to ground and eventually fell back to its starting points.  8th Royal Lancaster of 76 Brigade, 13th Liverpool (Kings) of 9 Brigade and 4th Royal Fusiliers of 9 Brigade all suffered this fate. The casualty list was high. 4th Royal Fusiliers had over 160 officers and men killed, wounded or missing. One of those killed was Thomas Spragg.

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