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First Name: Percy Bernard Last Name: SMITH
Date of Death: 22/08/1918 Lived/Born In: Borough
Rank: Private Unit: London24
Memorial Site:

Current Information:

Age-20

Born-Southwark

Bray Hill British Cemetery, Bray-sur-Somme, France

 

The Battle of Albert was a continuation of the Battle of Amiens that had been fought earlier in the month and which had been the start of the Hundred Days Offensive that culminated in the collapse of the German army and the end of the war. On the first day, 21st August, the British Third Army attacked along a front that stretched over ten miles northwards from the town of Albert as far as Moyenneville and made significant advances everywhere.

On 22nd August, the British Fourth Army came into action when they attacked the ridge of high ground that lay between the Somme and Ancre river valleys, stretching north from Bray to the town of Albert. 47th and 12th Divisions attacked with 18th Division swinging forward to protect the left and the 3rd Australian Division covering the right. At 4.45am, 47th Division sent forward the 20th London and 19th London battalions from 141 Brigade with  18th London in support. They had to cross a valley and a spur before they could reach Happy Valley, the intermediary objective for the day but a combination of mist, smoke, poor staff work and insufficient training of the young, inexperienced troops meant that  19th London and 20th London halted well short of their objective. The 22nd London, 23rd London and 24th London battalions of 142 Brigade moved up to this line to resume the attack but starting from the wrong position meant that they lost the accompanying artillery barrage and they immediately came under artillery and machine-gun fire. When the visibility improved, 141 Brigade realised their error and moved forward to the intermediary line which they found  was impossible to consolidate properly because of the heavy shelling there. At 8 am, on the extreme right of 142 Brigade, some of 22nd London reached their objective, the Chalk Pit at the southern end of Happy Valley, but the rest of the brigade, including 24th London, could not get within 300 yards of it. German artillery in front were firing over open-sights and machine-gun fire from Ceylon Wood and Hill 105 was fierce. To make things worse, a gap had developed between 12th Division and 47th Division which the enemy exploited especially as only one British tank made it to Happy Valley and that soon had to be abandoned due to mechanical troubles. By noon, 142 Brigade were holding a two mile line with only 600 men and the  enemy were well positioned on the uncaptured high ground from where they had a clear sight of proceedings. At 2pm the Germans opened up with an artillery  bombardment followed by a counter attack which filtered through the thinly held British line and forced 23rd and 24th London, both weakened by heavy losses, back to the intermediary line. The enemy attack then spread south to 22nd London and the 3rd Australian Division. The Australians held their ground and 22nd London formed a defensive left flank. In the evening, the 15th London, 17th London and 21st London battalions of 140 Brigade, moved up and relieved 142 Brigade. This significantly increased the pressure on the Germans and that night they withdrew from their forward positions. There had been heavy fighting throughout the day and the casualty list, which included Percy Smith of 24th London who was killed in action, was a long one.

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