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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Samuel Last Name: BUTCHER
Date of Death: 17/11/1916 Lived/Born In: Shoreditch
Rank: Private Unit: Middlesex4
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Born-Shoreditch

 

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

By the beginning of November, 1916,  the Battle of the Somme had been raging for four 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, nearly all in the southern part of the battlefield, had been captured from the enemy. With November came the winter weather and this, combined with the sheer exhaustion of all involved, brought about the end of the battle by the end of the month. Since the 1st July, 1916, British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African casualties numbered over 400,000, killed, wounded and missing.

During November the focus of the fighting switched to the Ancre valley where the last major British offensive was launched on 13th of the month. By now German defence tactics had evolved. They defended in depth without a well defined front line but rather setting up machine-gun nests in shell holes and other strategically important sites where just a few men could hold up an entire battalion. Meanwhile their artillery bombarded the British front line and all the communication trenches added to which the weather was simply awful turning the battlefield into a morass of mud. A few gains were made such as the capture of the village of Beaumont-Hamel and some of the marshy land either side of the river, but very few of the British objectives were achieved. Once again the casualty rate soared.

By midday on 15th November, 37th Division had relieved the battered 63rd (Royal Naval) Division in front of Beaucourt and prepared themselves, as best they could with knee-deep mud all around, to carry the attack forward. 4th Middlesex were the reserve battalion of 63 Brigade and they spent the next three days providing carrying parties taking equipment and food forward to the front line. This was dangerous work at the best of times but with persistent shell fire and the nigh on impossible conditions it was a nightmare. 4th Middlesex sustained 40 casualties while engaged in this work, one of whom was Samuel Butcher on 17th November.

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