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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: John Last Name: HOLLOWAY
Date of Death: 15/09/1916 Lived/Born In: Tottenham Court Road
Rank: Private Unit: Middlesex23
Memorial Site: 1. Westminster, St Stephen 2. Thiepval Memorial

Current Information:

Born-Westminster

 

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.

41st Division attacked the village of Flers on 15th September. They had ten tanks attached for this operation, seven of which made it to the starting line. Their assault on the enemy positions was made by 122 Brigade and 124 Brigade. Between them they had captured the entire village by 10am but by now their casualty figure had risen alarmingly, especially among officers and only a few isolated groups managed to push on to the third objective. At this stage, 23rd Middlesex of 123 Brigade moved forward from reserve to bolster the numbers and to help consolidate captured positions. They pushed through Flers and managed to take up positions along part of Bulls Road. After dark, 23rd Middlesex and 11th Royal West Surrey (Queens) took over the entire 41st Division front line along the third objective where they remained until the following evening. Under heavy shell fire the casualties mounted up. One of them was John Holloway.

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