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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: John Richard Last Name: HARRIGAN
Date of Death: 02/10/1916 Lived/Born In: North Kensington
Rank: Lance Sergeant Unit: Cornwall Light Infantry7
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Born-North Kensington


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

By the beginning of October, 1916,  the Battle of the Somme had been raging for three 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.

The Battle of Transloy Ridge

On 1st October, 1916, a new offensive was begun by the British Army. The Battle of Transloy Ridge was the last major operation fought during the battle of the Somme and it continued throughout the first three weeks of the month until the terrible conditions of rain, mud and cold coupled with the sheer exhaustion of the troops, brought things to a standstill. The aim had been to push the enemy further back to the next ridge of higher ground running between Le Transloy and Warlencourt. It was a very hard fight, progress was painfully slow, the casualty figure was shockingly high and the final objective was not achieved despite the best efforts of the attacking divisions. Three factors worked against its success. The first was the weather. It was simply awful. The second was the miles of war torn terrain which soon became a quagmire over which troops, guns, ammunition and all the other supplies had to cross to reach the front and keep the momentum of the offensive going. For the Germans, falling back on their own supply lines across relatively unscathed ground, this was not such a problem. The third factor was the new methods of defence employed by the enemy. They defended in depth without a well defined front line but instead setting up machine-gun nests in shell holes and other strategically important sites where just a few men could hold up an entire battalion. And of course, the German artillery had the whole area covered.

On 1st October, 1916, 61 Brigade of 20th Division were holding the line near Gueudecourt and at 3.15pm, the 7th Cornwall Light Infantry battalion moved to establish a new line of posts in front of their existing line, as a jumping off point for an attack. Three groups  of ten from A & B Companies, a Lewis gun and team, two sappers and five men as diggers made their way forward while a platoon from D Company accompanied them to protect the left flank. As soon as they left their trenches they came under flanking and frontal machine-gun fire  which reduced two of the groups to three or four men but despite these losses they dug themselves in well up to the objective given them, gaining up to 500 yards of ground. In retaliation the enemy opened up an artillery barrage on all the battalions positions resulting in many more casualties. The Battalion Diary for the following day, 2nd October recorded that it was a ‘quiet’ day, with intermittent shelling and makes no mention of any casualties so it is very probable that the death of John Harrigan, as with the others of the battalion killed during this operation, happened on 1st October but was not recorded until the next day.

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