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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Richard Samuel Last Name: HUTCHINGS
Date of Death: 07/10/1916 Lived/Born In: Silvertown
Rank: Private Unit: London4
Memorial Site: 1. Silvertown, Brick Lane Music Hall Memorial 2. Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-20

Born- Silvertown

 

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.

7th October, 1916, was a costly day for London on the Somme and by the end of it some 750 men from the capital had lost their lives and many thousands more were wounded. The second stage of the offensive, which had been delayed by the bad weather, was launched on this day and both London divisions, 56th Division and 47th Division were fully involved. 56th Division attacked on the extreme right of the British line with the French on their right. Their objectives were to capture the German trenches in front of them after which a second wave of men would move forward to the crest of the ridge covering the village of Le Transloy. The attack was made at 1.45pm by 1st London and 7th Middlesex  of 167 Brigade and the 4th London, 12th London and 14th London battalions from 168 Brigade.

At 1.45pm, 14th London and 12th London attacked on 168 Brigade’s front and two minutes later 4th London did likewise. Moving forward in six waves but were almost immediately hit by the German artillery barrage and by machine-gun fire from the northern gun pits. Two platoons had been sent to deal with this latter threat but they only expected to meet sniper fire and found it impossible to outflank the stronghold in the face of machine-guns. The attack faltered and was forced to form on one line in Foggy Trench. Despite some valiant efforts, no further progress was possible but they did manage to repel some counter attacks. That evening 4th London was relieved and moved back to bivouacs in Trones Wood. One of their many casualties during this day of fierce fighting was Richard Hutchings.

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