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Thiepval Memorial Thiepval Memorial
First Name: Richard Albert Last Name: BESWICK
Date of Death: 01/07/1916 Lived/Born In: Kensal Green
Rank: Private Unit: Bedfordshire2
Memorial Site: 1. Kensal Rise, St Mark 2. Thiepval Memorial

Current Information:

Age-19

34, Waldo Road, Kensal Green

 

The opening day of the Battle of the Somme 1st July 1916

This was a disastrous day for the British Army in France. Eleven divisions of Fourth Army attacked along a 15 mile front from Maricourt to Serre. Two further divisions of Third Army launched a diversionary attack just to the north of Serre at Gommecourt. For a week beforehand the British artillery pounded the German trenches but the Germans had been there for a long time and they had constructed deep, concrete reinforced shelters beneath their trenches and many survived the bombardment. The troops went over the top at 7.30am but even before they had left their overcrowded trenches, many had been killed or maimed by German artillery. The Germans knew that they were coming. Once in No-Man’s-Land the artillery continued to take its toll and then the machine guns opened up on the advancing British infantry. They fell in their thousands and the attack came to a standstill almost everywhere. Survivors sought cover wherever they could find it and at night they crawled back to their own lines, often dragging a wounded soldier with them. Only in the south were any advances made with the attack on Fricourt and Mametz. Over 19,000 British soldiers were killed on this day, including 2,500 from London.

On 1st July, 30th Division attacked at the southern end of the British line with the French on their right. Their objective was the village of Montauban and this was one of the few successful attacks of the day. 89 Brigade and 21 Brigade led the attack at 7.30am, and within an hour had taken their objectives. The 2nd Bedfordshire battalion of 89 Brigade were lucky inasmuch as they were in reserve and did not go over the top in the first wave but even so they were vulnerable to the heavy shell fire of the enemy. Later in the day they were used as a mopping-up force, checking the captured ground for pockets of German resistance. At some stage of the proceedings Richard Beswick was killed.

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