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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Walter Last Name: SPIRO
Date of Death: 18/08/1916 Lived/Born In: Kensal Green
Rank: Rifleman Unit: Rifle Brigade7
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:


36, Lushington Road, Kensal Green


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.

After a series of piecemeal, largely uncoordinated attacks against the German line in the first half of August, 1916, some lessons had been learned and the large operation carried out on 18th August at least had the merit of an attack on a broad front with a standard zero hour of 2.45pm. But in other respects, notably the artillery bombardment, tactics had not improved much. The Germans had by now adopted the tactic of placing their machine-guns in isolated shell holes which could only be destroyed by drenching the whole area with artillery but this did not happen and it was going to cost many British lives. The main focus of the attack was against the village of Guillemont but also stretched further along the line as far as High Wood. Despite some gains around Delville Wood and to the north and south of Guillemont, the attack was a failure. The main bastions of the German defence line were not breached.

41 Brigade of 14th Division attacked northwards from a position to the left of Delville Wood. The objective for 7th Rifle Brigade was the end section of Orchard Trench and the 200 yard stretch of Wood Lane running off it. On the right, ‘A’ Company kept close behind the artillery barrage and were soon at their objective, Orchard Trench where they captured two machine-guns. ‘D’ Company on the left were not so lucky. The artillery barrage did not work so well for them and they were hit by fierce fire from the flanks which caused many, many casualties among their ranks and prevented them from reaching Wood Lane, other than a very small section of it. Later ‘A’ Company, now joined by ‘C’ Company bombed their way up Wood Lane for 35 yards and then constructed a trench block. There were a large number of casualties for 7th Rifle Brigade on 18th August. One of them was Walter Spiro.

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