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Thiepval Memorial Thiepval Memorial
First Name: Joseph Edward Last Name: COTSFORD
Date of Death: 01/07/1916 Lived/Born In: North Kensington
Rank: Private Unit: East Surrey8
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial

Current Information:


15, Tregerton Street, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington

The opening day of the Battle of the Somme 1st July 1916

This was a disastrous day for the British Army in France. Eleven divisions of Fourth Army attacked along a 15 mile front from Maricourt to Serre. Two further divisions of Third Army launched a diversionary attack just to the north of Serre at Gommecourt. For a week beforehand the British artillery pounded the German trenches but the Germans had been there for a long time and they had constructed deep, concrete reinforced shelters beneath their trenches and many survived the bombardment. The troops went over the top at 7.30am but even before they had left their overcrowded trenches, many had been killed or maimed by German artillery. The Germans knew that they were coming. Once in No-Man’s-Land the artillery continued to take its toll and then the machine guns opened up on the advancing British infantry. They fell in their thousands and the attack came to a standstill almost everywhere. Survivors sought cover wherever they could find it and at night they crawled back to their own lines, often dragging a wounded soldier with them. Only in the south were any advances made with the attack on Fricourt and Mametz. Over 19,000 British soldiers were killed on this day, including 2,500 from London.

On 1st July18th Division took part in one of the few successful attacks of the day. Succesful, but costly. They attacked at the southern end of the British front towards the village of Montauban, and as they had been in the area since March, they knew it well. Mines that had been blown earlier in the year had left a mass of small craters about 150yds wide near the Carnoy-Montauban road which the Germans occupied.  At 7.27am, two more mines were fired , one at Casino Point and the other further west.  This was the signal for the infantry attack,  protected by an artillery barrage. The attack by 8th East Surrey began with three footballs being kicked far into No Man’s Land, and the troops following behind. For many this was their last game of football.  8th East Surrey attacked on the right of 55Brig with 7th Queens on their left, but neither the bombardment, nor the clearing party, were able to clear the crater area on its eastern side and machine gun fire from there reaped a toll and caused a delay which allowed the Germans to man their support line.  8th East Surrey were further held up by frontal fire from ‘The Warren’, a German stronghold. When 30th Division on their right established themselves in Glatz Redoubt and Train Alley, the opposition melted away and 8th East Surrey were able to push on to a German trench just short of Train Alley.  By this time they had lost all the officers of their 3 leading companies, including Capt W P Neville the football  provider. By noon, 8th East Surrey had reached the Montauban road.  

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