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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: Thomas John Last Name: WOODS
Date of Death: 10/10/1916 Lived/Born In: Silvertown
Rank: Lance Corporal Unit: Middlesex11
Memorial Site: 1. Silvertown, Brick Lane Music Hall Memorial 2. Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-23

96, Oriental Road, 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, nearly 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 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 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. And of course, the German artillery had the whole area covered.

On 7th October, 1916, the second stage of the offensive, which had been delayed by the bad weather, was launched and 11th Middlesex were in reserve when 12th Division attacked from a line in front of and to the west of Gueudecourt with 36 Brigade and 37 Brigade. The attack failed to achieve its objectives and eventually the battalions involved were forced back to their starting lines where, they were relieved in the evening by 11th Middlesex. Over the next three days during which 11th Middlesex remained in these forward positions, the shelling by the enemy was heavy and constant as the battalion worked feverishly to strengthen their positions as well as bringing in the wounded from the failed attack on 7th October. Their own casualties steadily mounted and included Thomas Woods who was killed on 10th October.

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