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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Henry George Last Name: KNIGHT
Date of Death: 15/09/1916 Lived/Born In: Silvertown
Rank: Private Unit: East Kent (Buffs)1
Memorial Site: 1. Silvertown, Brick Lane Music Hall Memorial 2. Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Born-Poplar

 

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

By the beginning of September, 1916,  the Battle of the Somme had been raging for two 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.

On 15th September, 1916, the offensive on the Somme was renewed with a full scale attack on the German 3rd line of defences. Four Army Corps were used on a front that stretched from Combles, through the village of Flers and on to Courcelette.. The artillery barrage that preceded this attack was more concentrated than that on 1st July and the attack itself was more successful. The villages of Flers, Martinpuich and Courcelette were captured and the enemy was finally pushed out of High Wood, but the breakthrough was not achieved and the reality was that when the battle ended on 22nd September, the front line had just been moved forward a mile or so. The battle is notable for being the first time that tanks were used.

6th Division attacked in front of the recently captured village of Guillemont on 15th September. Moving in a north-east direction towards the villages of Lesboeufs and Morval they first  had to deal with the Quadrilateral, half a mile north of Leuze Wood. Lying in a depression and protected by wire, this was a German strongpoint, concealed by grass and weeds which had not been badly damaged by the British artillery bombardment that preceded the attack. Three tanks were assigned to the attack on the Quadrilateral but only one made it to the start line. At 6.20am 8th Bedfordshire of 16 Brigade attacked the Quadrilateral over the open with one company bombing forward up the trench on the right. They met deadly machine-gun fire and because of the failure of the tanks to get forward and with the wire still intact, they had no chance of success. Those still alive went to ground and sought shelter wherever they could. Following behind came 1st East Kent (Buffs) and they met exactly the same fate but by now the enemy machine-guns were more alert and 1st Buffs suffered even more casualties than 8th Bedfordshire and did not even get as far forward before their attack was halted. That evening the survivors withdrew to trenches running south-east of Guillemont. Among those who did not make it back was Henry Knight.

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