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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: George Last Name: BURGESS
Date of Death: 30/07/1916 Lived/Born In: Homerton
Rank: Private Unit: Essex13
Memorial Site: 1. Old Ford, St Stephen 2. Thiepval Memorial

Current Information:

Born-Bethnal Green

 

The Battle of the Somme (July-November, 1916)

On 1st July 1916 The British Army launched a massive offensive along a section of the front line running north of the River Somme. The French attacked south of it. The first day was a disaster for the British army which suffered nearly 60,000 casualties, 19,000 of whom were killed, and made hardly any inroads into the enemy lines. But the battle had to go on, if for no other reason than to relieve pressure on the French at Verdun where they had been facing the full onslaught of the powerful German Army. 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 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 14th July, 1916, a second major offensive was launched, this time against the German second line of defences stretching from Longueval to Bazentin-le-Petit, but unfortunately, after a promising start which saw some important gains on the first day, the British Army once again reverted to a series of uncoordinated attacks, using out dated tactics. Not surprisingly they soon found themselves engaged in a war of attrition as they attempted to push the enemy further back across the Somme battlefield. This was no more so the case than in the fight to capture the village of Longueval and Delville Wood that lay next to it; a struggle that went on for many weeks through the summer of 1916.

2nd Division left the sector to the north of Arras on 20th July, 1916 and proceeded to the Somme battlefield to join in the carnage there. On 25th July they relieved 3rd Division in the southern half of Delville Wood where a great deal of fighting had already taken place turning the wood into a hopeless tangle of undergrowth, fallen trees, remains of trenches and dead bodies. It was not the best of introductions to the Somme. Two days later on 27th July, 1916, Delville Wood was attacked once again, this time by 99 Brigade, 2nd Division, moving up through the southern part of the wood and 15 Brigade of 5th Division attacking on their left. Thanks largely to a terrific barrage laid down by the British artillery, nearly all of the wood was captured. That night, 2nd South Staffords and 17th Middlesex of 6 Brigade took over from 99 Brigade in the new front line running through the wood. The following day, 28th July, 13th Essex moved up to Breslau Trench in support and that night  two of their companies went forward into the wood to assist 2nd South Staffords who were being heavily counter attacked in their position along the northern edge of Delville Wood. They remained in Breslau Trench and Delville Wood until 2nd August in the face of determined German counter attacks and a persistent artillery bombardment which caused the casualty list to grow steadily. One of those killed was George Burgess on 30th July.

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