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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: John Albert Last Name: SCHMIDT
Date of Death: 29/09/1916 Lived/Born In: Holborn
Rank: Private Unit: London19
Memorial Site: 1. St. Pancras Parish Church 2. Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-19

1, Great Ormond Street, Holborn

 

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.

On 15th September, 1916, the offensive on the Somme was renewed with a full scale attack on the German 3rd line of defences. Four Army Corps were used on a front that stretched from Combles, through the village of Flers and on to Courcelette.. The artillery barrage that preceded this attack was more concentrated than that on 1st July and the attack itself was more successful. The villages of Flers, Martinpuich and Courcelette were captured and the enemy was finally pushed out of High Wood, but the breakthrough was not achieved and the reality was that when the battle ended on 22nd September, the front line had just been moved forward a mile or so. The battle is notable for being the first time that tanks were used.

47th (London) Division were heavily involved in this operation and 141 Brigade, including 19th London finally captured High Wood. 19th London were relieved on 17th September and did not return to the front line until 28th September when they moved into the Flers Line, south-east of Eaucourt-l’Abbaye. This was a very advanced and dangerous position. Between them and 20th London on their left there was open ground without trenches and the only communication between the two battalions was by runners.  The following afternoon, 29th September, 19th London were engaged in a bitter fight when they tried to alleviate this position by bombing along the German held section of the Flers line and a frontal attack across the open ground. This did not succeed and after two hours the survivors were back in their original positions. The battalion sustained many casualties during this attack, one of them being John Schmidt.

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