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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Walter Last Name: HARE
Date of Death: 15/07/1916 Lived/Born In: Regent's Park
Rank: Private Unit: Middlesex1
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Born-Whitechapel

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.

Two weeks after the events of 1st July, the British Army on the Somme was ready to renew the offensive along a broad front stretching from Longueval to Bazentin-le-Petit. The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, an attack on the German second line, began on 14th July, 1916. Different tactics were employed this time. The troops moved up, unseen and unnoticed, in the dark and after a fierce five minute artillery barrage, rose to the attack at 3.25am. The surprise element worked and the villages of Bazentin-le-Petit and Bazentin-le-Grand were soon taken as was most of Longueval but these early successes were not fully exploited and opportunities were lost, notably the failure to capture High Wood which was for a short time undefended. The new line was consolidated but once again the British Army found themselves engaged in a war of attrition as they attempted to push the enemy further back across the Somme battlefield.

33rd Division arrived on the Somme battlefield on 9th July, 1916, and on the evening of 14th July, 98 Brigade and 100 Brigade moved up to the forward positions between Bazentin-le-Petit and High Wood, that had been captured earlier in the day. Their orders for 15th July were to attack the German trench, the Switch Line, running in front of Martinpuich. Following a thirty minute bombardment of the German defences the attack was launched at 9am. On the right 100 Brigade were unable to penetrate the German defences and eventually fell back to their starting positions. On the  left 1st Middlesex of 98 Brigade made their forward to Bazentin-le-Petit through a gas cloud and then deployed along a road running north to south on the eastern edge of the village.  1st Middlesex attacked on a frontage of 800 yards with 2nd Welsh of 3 Brigade, 1st Division on their left. They immediately caught flanking fire from High Wood, which they thought was in their possession,  and this, followed by a heavy artillery barrage on their line of advance resulted in many casualties. 1st Middlesex now came under machine gun fire from both flanks and were brought to a standstill on the crest of a slight ridge.  They attempted to dig in but were eventually forced back to their starting point.  Their casualties for the day amounted to over 300, a third of whom were either killed or missing. One of these was Walter Hare. At 10pm the survivors were relieved and moved back to bivouacs near Mametz Wood.

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