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First Name: Henry Christopher Last Name: JOSLING
Date of Death: 17/02/1917 Lived/Born In: Plumstead
Rank: Private Unit: Northamptonshire6
Memorial Site: Plumstead, St Nicholas

Current Information:

Age-20

IO, Marmadon Road, Plumstead

Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, Somme

 

The Somme trenches were no place to be during the winter of 1916-1917.  Constant rain, snow and cold winds made them a nightmare. Men who were able to make the comparison said that the mud of the Somme was worse than that at Passchendaele, later in 1917. Simply surviving in the shell battered trenches was arduous enough but by now the plans for a major offensive at Arras were well advanced and they included a need to keep the Germans fully occupied on the Somme front. Starting early in the year, the British launched a number of attacks on the Somme front, aimed at capturing strategic points in the German line and thereby undermining their overall defences.

One example of this was when, on 17th February, 1917, 2nd and 18th Divisions attacked towards Hill 130, south-east of Miraumont, while north of the River Ancre, 63rd Division made a subsidiary attack. Unfortunately the whole operation was undermined by two factors. The first was an overnight thaw that turned the frozen, hard ground to thick mud which clogged weapons and slowed down progress. The second was that somehow the Germans had got wind of the attack and at 4.30am they opened up a violent artillery bombardment along the whole front of the attack, resulting in serious casualties for the troops moving up for the attack.

18th Division used 53 and 54 Brigades in this operation. 6th Northamptonshire and 11th Royal Fusiliers attacked on 54 Brigade front, each battalion having a company of 12th Middlesex attached to deal with dug-outs and to consolidate captured positions. By 7.45am they had completed the capture of Boom Ravine and some of 6th Northamptonshire fought their way into South Miraumont Trench despite losing the protection of the artillery barrage. Eventually a fierce German counter attack drove them back and intermingled with parties of 1st King’s Royal Rifle Brigade of 2nd Division on their right and 11th Royal Fusiliers on their left, 6th Northamptonshire swung back to form a defensive flank facing east, along the West Miraumont road. By now, their rifles and machine-guns were clogged with mud and further enemy pressure meant they had to withdraw the left of the battalion to a position 100 yards north of Boom Ravine. 11th Royal Fusiliers conformed to this movement and the attack came to a standstill. The final objectives had not been achieved but advances of of up to 1000 yards had been made. Boom Ravine had been taken but not Hill 103. British casualties were high. 18th Division alone had over 1,200 officers and men killed, wounded or missing. One of these was Henry Josling of 6th Northamptonshire.

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