The Ancre and Beaucourt: November 1916

Monday 13 November 1916
63rd (Royal Naval) Division
The opening attack: 13th November 1916


At 05:45 hours under the cover of the artillery barrage the leading battalions made good progress but at the cost of severe casualties from enfilading fire.
Lt Colonel Tetley the CO of the brake Battalion was mortally wounded and the CO of the Hood Battalion: Lt Colonel Freyberg found himself leading not only his own men but those of Drake Battalion as well.
By 06:45 hours Freyberg had managed to take his first objective along with hundreds of prisoners. On his left though the Hawke and Nelson Battalions had encountered very stiff opposition with the CO of the Hawke Battalion wounded and that of the Nelson killed (Lt Colonels Wilson and Burge).
To their left the 188th Brigade wore having an equally difficult time with 1st RMLI on the extreme left losing every Company Commander in the opening charge.
The Germans had been far from idle during their long stay in the area and they had constructed a well connected system of tunnels using medieval tunnels and catacombs.

This meant that in places machine gun posts were well concealed and specially adapted to provide enfilading fire against any attackers. Three in particular, which had escaped discovery and were not shown on any of the British maps, had caused terrible damage to the attacks made by the 188th Brigade and the left of the 189th.
Following General Shute's decision to use the 190th Brigade to press forward, the intermingling of units on the hillside became even greater and the confusion no less so. In the valley Freyberg advanced again at 07:45 with his two battalions and part of the 1st HAC. Within an hour and a half he was confident enough that he could take the village of Beaucourt.
However, with the left flank of the Division still hanging in the air, General Shute told Freyberg to hold fast whilst the artillery continued with the bombardment and the 188th Brigade attempted further attacks across its front.
By early evening darkness had fallen and the position remained as much as it had for the afternoon with Freyberg and his assortment of troops in a line from the railway at the southern edge of Beaucourt stretching across the front of the village and into the second German communication trench - Redoubt Alley. The rest of the advance had been badly held up in the front line but they were in contact with the 51st Division on their left who had taken the infamous Y Ravine. In 190th Brigade it was only 1st HAC who were still recognisable as a single unit, the remainder had become intermixed with other units.

The fall of Beaucourt: 14th November 1916

On Freyberg's right II Corps had taken St Pierre Divion on the afternoon of the 13th and men from the 1st Cambridgeshire Regiment had been ferrying ammunition and grenades across the Ancre to replenish spent supplies.

During the night 111th Brigade from 37th Division had been brought up to assist the 63rd in their assault on the untaken section of the Beaucourt Trench to the left of Freyberg's group. The 13th Royal Fusiliers and 13th Rifle Brigade started their advance at 06:20 hours but despite some gains it soon became apparent that nothing further was going to be achieved until Beaucourt had been taken.
For the push to take the village 190th Brigade had assembled as many men as it could in the vicinity of Beaucourt Station, including 400 men from 1st HAC and about 80 of the 7th Royal Fusiliers. These advanced at 07.45 hours as far as Freyberg, who then led the men immediately into the attack on the village.
Despite the strong resistance in the trenches to the west of the village, Beaucourt fell remarkably easily with the gain of 500 prisoners. By 10:30 hours Freyberg could report that he was in control of Beaucourt.

 


 



 

 

 

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