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Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval, Somme Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval, Somme
First Name: George William Last Name: BALL
Date of Death: 08/08/1916 Lived/Born In: North Kensington
Rank: Private Unit: Middlesex17
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Current Information:


Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval, France


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.

2nd Division had reached the Somme battlefield towards the end of July, 1916 and been thrown into the awfulness of the struggle for Delville Wood which had been turned into a hopeless tangle of undergrowth, fallen trees, remains of trenches and dead bodies. By the end of July, 1916 the wood was in British hands and new objectives loomed on the horizon, notably the village of Guillemont. During the night of 5th-6th August, 1916, 6 Brigade of 2nd Division, moved into the front line in the Waterlot Farm sector to the south of Delville Wood in preparation for an assault on this village. On 8th August, 1916, 1st Liverpool (Kings) and 17th Middlesex both of 6 Brigade, 2nd Division attacked the German defences between Waterlot Farm and Guillemont while 55th Division attacked Guillemont itself. The objective for 17th Middlesex was to capture the northern part of Z-Z Trench and then to block the communication trench running from it to the enemy defences west of Ginchy.  The attack was launched at 4.20am after a 17 hour long artillery bombardment of the German positions. 17th Middlesex gained a foothold in ZZ Trench but the company that tried to bomb their way south along it to join up with 1st Kings were overwhelmed with only a few men making it back alive. Another company was sent up but despite their efforts got held up and then pushed back. The only consolation for 17th Middlesex was that they managed to capture an enemy strongpoint to the west of Machine Gun House. Things were even worse for 1st Kings. Their objective was the station just to the north of the village but here they met overwhelming resistance and 3 of their 4 companies were swallowed up here and not seen again. All the attacking battalions sustained a very high number of casualties during this operation and were but a shadow of their former selves when they were finally relieved. Among the casualties of 17th Middlesex was George Ball.

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