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Vis-en-Artois Memorial. France Vis-en-Artois Memorial. France
First Name: Thomas Last Name: HOBSON
Date of Death: 08/08/1918 Lived/Born In: Borough
Rank: Private Unit: London2/2
Memorial Site: Vis-en-Artois Memorial, France

Current Information:

Born-Southwark

 

After having been on the defensive since March 1918, by August of that year the Allies were ready to move to the attack and on 8th August, The Battle of Amiens began, a battle that marked the beginning of what came to be known as the Hundred Day Offensive that culminated in the collapse of the German army and the end of the war. British, Australian and Canadian troops attacked on a wide front that stretched about eighteen miles from Morlancourt, north of the River Somme to the Amiens-Roye road while the French launched their own offensive to the south in the Battle of Montdidier. At 4.20am  on 8th August, aided by early morning mist and backed by 900 guns, 600 tanks and 2000 aircraft the assault was unleashed on the unsuspecting Germans many of whom surrendered straight away. Their resistance stiffened as the day progressed but despite this the Allied forces advanced about 7 miles by nightfall and further, but far less spectacular, gains were made over the next three days until the battle ended on 11th August. Losses had been enormous on both sides. British, Australian and Canadian casualties amounted to 19,000 but the Germans lost 26,000, including 12,000 taken prisoner, an awful blow that prompted Ludendorff, the German supremo, to call it the ‘Black Day’ of the German Army.

III Corps, north of the Somme had the task of protecting the flank of the Australians, keeping pace with their advance and securing the high ground overlooking the passages of the Somme. They attacked from right to left with 58th, 18th and 12th Divisions but despite having a more modest role than the Australians and Canadians they were unable to achieve the same measure of progress as them and on the opening day of the battle only managed to reach their first objective. This was due to the difficulty of the ground over which they attacked and the fact that they had all been heavily involved in the earlier battles of 1918 which meant that not only was there a shortage of officers and NCOs but that their ranks were filled with young, inexperienced recruits. To add to their problems, on the night of 7/8th August, before the attack began, this area, north of the Somme was subjected to heavy enemy shelling, including many gas shells, which not only caused casualties but hindered their progress to their starting lines as well.

 

174 Brigade of 58th Division used 6th and 7th London for their attack on Malard Wood, with 8th London in reserve. On this section of the front the enemy was aware that something was happening and their artillery and machine-guns were still active when the attack went in at 4.20am. However a strong and effective creeping artillery barrage soon dealt with the German guns and the men of 174 Brigade moved forward close behind the barrage in small groups at wide intervals, followed by larger parties. With the only resistance coming from machine-gun fire they soon captured the enemy front line. The advance to Malard Wood was decidedly tougher especially for 6th London who had to fight all the way, but by 8am a line was established on the far side of the wood. At the same time and in order to facilitate this attack on Malard Wood, the 2/10th London battalion from 175 Brigade in reserve attacked Sailly Lorette in the Somme valley, from where machine gun fire had been directed on the attack on the wood. By 6.30am they had taken the village except  for two machine-gun teams who held out in the church, until ousted half an hour later with the help of a tank. They also captured a quarry from where more machine-gun fire had been taking a heavy toll of the Australian attack on their right. They also took a sunken road and by 9.30am had pushed on a further thousand yards towards the Chipilly ridge having captured 285 prisoners, 98 machine-guns and 23 trench mortars. The next objective for 58th Division was the Chipilly ridge itself and 173 Brigade moved up to Malard Wood for this task. 3rd London and 2/4th London led their attack but as soon as they emerged from the cover of the wood they were met such heavy fire that they were unable to advance. It is possible that some men did manage to move forward and there were reports that a handful had reached the ridge but that hardly constituted capturing the objective so at 3pm, 2/2nd London, the reserve battalion of 173 Brigade renewed the attack. Unfortunately the artillery bombardment arranged to cover this attack was cancelled, precisely because of these reports, true or not, of British troops on the ridge. Consequently when 2/2nd London left the wood they were met with fierce fire that drove them back. Here they met up with the 9th London battalion from 175 Brigade who had moved up to join in the action but who were also, despite valiant efforts, unable to make any headway when they too attacked at 7.30pm. At the same time 2/10th London also tried to move further forward but in the face of very heavy machine-gun fire were unable to do so. 58th Division sustained many hundreds of casualties during the course of the day, the large percentage of who were London men. Included in this number was Thomas Hobson of 2/2nd London.

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