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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Leonard Last Name: ELLIS
Date of Death: 08/07/1916 Lived/Born In: North Woolwich
Rank: Private Unit: Essex9
Memorial Site: 1. East Ham, Central Park Memorial 2. Thiepval Memorial

Current Information:


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.

The days immediately following the carnage of July 1st on  the Somme, had two main priorities. They were to rescue the wounded and to consolidate what gains had been made. However, despite the slaughter of 1st July, there was no going back. This was the “Big Push” and the attacks had to continue and Haig decided that they would continue on the southern sector of the front where the few successes had occurred. But first two diversionary attacks were launched on 3rd July to take the attention of the Germans away from the real target. The first of these was an attack by 12th Division on Ovillers and it was a repeat of what had happened two days earlier. An insufficient bombardment, uncut wire, thousands of casualties and nothing gained. 9th Essex of 35 Brigade had been involved in this operation and had sustained many casualties but were then called back to have another go at capturing the village on 8th July along with 7th East Surrey of 37 Brigade. By this time wet weather had set in and the mud slowed the attack down. By the end of the day an advance of just two hundred yards had been made into the ruins of Ovillers and many more men had lost their lives. One of these was Leonard Ellis, who was killed in action.

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