Been in the carry on…

Private G/5203 Frank Smith

18th – 21st August 1916

Frank Smith 1915

My Great Grandfather Frank Smith who served with the 8th Battalion Buffs in WW1.

My Great Grandfather Frank Smith was wounded in the advance on ZZ Trench on 18th August 1916. I actually believe that his wounds came from British artillery due to the fact that he was advancing with an artillery curtain. How he got out of the Hell of Guillemont I do not know but we can track his evacuation through primary sources to when he landed back in Blighty. Frank’s journey from the front would have been one that many men would take and he was lucky as many men simply died of their wounds in no-man’s land.

We certainly know that he managed to talk to a Chaplin who informed Frank’s wife Edith that he had passed through his dressing station on 19th August 1916, the day after he was wounded. I cannot make out the name of this Chaplin on the letter we have. But we do know he was serving with the 17th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.

Frank Smith August 19160004

The letter written to Frank’s wife letting her know he passed through the 17th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers dressing station on 19th August 1916.

Frank also wrote a letter to his beloved wife Edith and it said of the battle.

‘Been in the carry on along the Guillemont Front, and a very warm place we found it too never seen anything like before…’

Frank wrote this on Y.M.C.A. paper and it is a snapshot into is world where he described the 8th Buffs action at Guillemont and then how he was doing.

‘Been in the carry on along the Guillemont Front…’ This has always amazed me how matter of fact he is about this action. You are talking about an attack involving roughly 9,000 men advancing either side of Delville-Wood which pretty much failed apart from in small pockets. But having read a lot of his letters over the years this is how he skirted around the horrors on the Western Front.

This letter was not finished until 21st August when he landed at Southampton on the SS Marama.

Frank Smith August 19160002

Page 1 of the letter written by Frank to his beloved wife Edith recounting his experiences at Guillemont.

Frank Smith August 19160003

The 2nd part of the letter which was not completed until the 21st August when he got back to Blighty.

The reason we can pinpoint the ship is because he also sent a postcard on the same day letting Edith know he’d got back safely. The postcard was of the ship he was evacuated on.


The postcard showing you the hospital ship that Frank went back to Blighty on.

Marama 2

The writing on the back of the card,

There was also a best wishes card with that listing the staff of “A” Ward who looked after him.

Frank Smith August 19160007Frank’s war on the Western Front was over for now because he had received shell splinter wounds to his leg. He was initially admitted into F2 Ward of the Canadian Hospital at Paplow in Buckinghamshire.

It took 7 months for him to recover before he found himself serving as Private 198065 Smith in the 44th Labour Company in the Labour Corps who went to France on 25th March 1917. This is interesting because this shows he was not considered fit enough to serve in a front line infantry unit but was considered fit enough to do manual work.

We will leave Frank there for now and will see what happened to him in March 2018.



The 8th Buffs

18th August 1916

Guillemont 1916 2

The road to Guillemont. My Great Grandfather crossed over this road on 18th August 1916.

On 18th August 1916 my Great Grandfather, Private G/5203 Frank Smith, went over the top with the 8th Battalion Buffs (The East Kent Regiment) close to Guillemont.

By the 6th August 1916 the 8/Buffs were placed in the reserve to the north of Carnoy. They were positioned on the old front-line of the 1st July 1916.

At this point in time Haig was not happy that the recent attacks seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace and further pressure came down from on high, especially from the French, and he made his displeasure clear to Rawlinson. Therefore a new plan was put in place by Haig himself where the French and the British would look towards Guillemont and other positions all the way to the Somme River. This wide attack over a large frontage was designed to stop the Germans bringing both machine guns and artillery together.

Guillemont OH 19160001

The order of battle for 18th August 1916.

However, with its maze of underground tunnels, dugouts and concrete emplacements, Guillemont was a veritable fortress and unquestionably a tough nut to crack. It was also a place of death and destruction and the famous German author Ernst Junger, who would serve there later on in August, had this to say about the Guillemont Front.

‘From nine till ten, the shelling acquired a demented fury. The earth shook, the sky seemed like a boiling cauldron. Hundreds of heavy batteries were crashing away at and around Combles, innumerable shells criss-crossed hissing and howling over our heads. All was swathed in black smoke, which was in the ominous under lighting of coloured flares. Because of racking pains in our heads and ears, communication was possible only by odd, shouted words… When day dawned we were astonished to see, by degrees, what a sight surrounded us. The sunken road now appeared as nothing but a series of enormous shell holes filled with pieces of uniform, weapons, and dead bodies. The ground all round, as far as the eye could see, was ploughed by shells. You could search in vain for one wretched blade of grass. This churned-up battlefield was ghastly. Among the living lay the dead.’


Ernst Junger who wrote about Guillemont in Storm of Steel.

The 8/Buffs took over the line between Delville Wood and Guillemont on 17th August 1916. I often wonder what my Great Grandfather was thinking at this point. He had seen so much by this time having served on the Western Front from August 1915. He had been at Loos, had served around Ypres, and now he was on the Somme. The area he was in was decimated. Attacks around this area had failed. As Junger noted that in this area there was, ‘…nothing but a series of enormous shell holes filled with pieces of uniform, weapons, and dead bodies.’ The noise must have been indescribable and the area in a state of chaos. The 8/Buffs relieved the 12th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. What did he see as he moved past the men he and his mates were relieving? It haunts me to a degree because I know I would be terrified.

There are a number of accounts included with this research detailingc what happened to the 8/Buffs on 18th August 1916 and there is an interesting account from a witness who watched the advance that day. Second Lieutenant J.T. Godfrey, 104th Field Company Royal Engineers, was positioned in Trones Wood.

‘At 2.30 pm the row was terrific; every gun was slinging in shells as hard as it could lick; you had to shout to be heard by your next door neighbour; the whole earth and air seemed to vibrate, and the shells going overhead sounded like a hurricane going through a forest. Looking ahead, I saw the Hun trenches and the whole of Guillemont boiling like an immense kettle, with great spurts of earth for the bursting steam bubbles, and dust blowing away like brown steam. When the noise was at its height, up rose rows of infantry and went forward; almost instantly they were lost in the smoke and dust.’

What Godfrey had witnessed was a bombardment that had been going on for two days followed by an advance involving the 14th (Light) Division, positioned in Delville Wood, the 24th Division, facing Ginchy and Guillemont and the 3rd Division positioned to the east of Maltz Horn Farm. To their right was the French 6th Army who also attacked. The British put forward an attack involving around 9,000 men and they were to advance in front of an artillery curtain. This was designed to fool the enemy as to when the attack would go in. Unfortunately this did not work and all along the front the attack failed, except in one area.

The 17th Brigade were positioned just south of Delville Wood, running past Waterlot Farm towards Guillemont Station where they faced the German 125th and 120th Regiments. Here the 3/Rifle Brigade managed to capture Guillemont Station and part of the Longueval-Guillemont Road along with a large number of prisoners. The 8/Buffs had the task of capturing the southern part of the German line known as ZZ-Trench.

Machine Gun House

A trench map of the area around Guillemont. S18 D.7.4 to T19 A1.7. can be located on this map by looking right of the Sugar refinery and locating ZZ-Trench. You then follow that trench south east to where that trench links up with Gridiron 3 Trench.

Their starting points were the following:

A Coy with Bn HQ in Bullen Trench
B Coy two platoons in Hatton Trench and the rest in Bosky Trench
C Coy Bosky Trench
D Coy Hatton Trench

From the Official History of the Great War:

‘Bombers of the battalion entered the German line on the Waterlot Farm road, and having joined hands with the 3/Rifle Brigade, bombed their way north-eastward to ZZ-Trench. The Buffs collected about one hundred prisoners and at the extreme north of ZZ-Trench obtained touch with the troops of the 14th Division.’

The 8/Buffs also captured and consolidated a position called Machine-Gun House, also listed as MG House on a trench map. Bullen Trench can be located as being behind Waterlot Farm and the war diary makes mention of the 3/Rifle Brigade being in New Trench. Both are listed on a trench map so it can be gleaned that Bosky and Hatton would have been between the two.

We can also pinpoint where B Company was under the command of Captain GULLICK.

‘C Coy with two platoons of B Coy in close support to attack the ZZ-Trench from about S18 D.7.4 to T19 A.1.7 and to form a strong point at the latter position… The remainder of B Coy to be at the disposal of Capt GULLICK. At 2.45 pm the attack commenced. The assaulting party (C Coy plus 2 platoons B Coy) under Capt GULLICK climbed out of their trenches and keeping also under the barrage successfully reached their objectives with very few casualties.’


The field where ZZ Trench ran from left to right. Delville Wood can be seen in the distance.

Ernst Junger gives a graphic account of what he witnessed of the dead at Guillemont. He was positioned to the south-east of where Frank Smith advanced.

‘As we dug ourselves in we found them in layers stacked one upon the top of another. One company after another had been shoved into the drum fire and steadily annihilated. The corpses were covered with the masses of soil turned up by the shells, and the next company advanced in the place of the fallen. The sunken road and the ground behind were full of German dead; the ground in front, of English. Arms, legs, and heads stuck out stark above the lips of the craters. In front of our miserable defences there were torn-off limbs and corpses over many of which cloaks and ground sheets had been thrown to hide the fixed stare of their distorted features. In spite of the heat no one thought for a moment of covering them with soil.’


Junger’s Lane in the present day.

Jungers Lane

Junger’s Lane in 1916.


The road to Guillemont as it looks today. Every time I visit this area I know that I can specifically state I am following in the footsteps of my Great Grandfather.

The whole area around Guillemont was contested for another sixteen days until it was finally captured by the 20th (Light) & 16th (Irish) Divisions on 3rd September 1916. By that time the entire village had been reduced to rubble.


Guillemont after it had been captured.

In total the 8th Buffs lost 7 officers and 351 others ranks killed, wounded or missing. In that total was my Great Grandfather Frank Smith who was wounded in the leg and in the next blog we will see what happened to him and look at letters he wrote and other primary documents we hold in our family.

6th Avenue (Skyline Trench)

The 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment

12th – 13th August 1916

John Henry Rolfe

John Henry Rolfe who was the son of Mrs. Rolfe of High Road in Bressingham who died of wounds received in the action the 7th Battalion took part in on 12th and 13th August 1916.

The Battle of Pozieres was launched on 23rd July 1916 which saw the Australians, who had only arrived on the Somme two days earlier, and the British fight hard for an area that had the Germans controlling the high ground on the ridge. This meant they could observe everything around that area and places such as the windmill on the outskirts of Pozieres was used as an observation post in which to do this. The ridge did not fall until the 4th August, after almost two weeks of bitter fighting, and the Australians alone lost some 23,000 troops during this period. To the north west of Pozieres Mouquet Farm, given the nickname of Moo-Cow Farm by the Australians, which was an enemy strong-point, remained under German control.


Aus OH Map

The situation for the 7/Norfolks between 12th and 13th August 1916  shown from an Australian perspective in the Official History.

The 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment, along with the rest of the 12th (Eastern) Division, would take part in attempts to capture this area and they were put into the line on the 10th August. Between 11th and 12th August the battalion suffered casualties from enemy shelling including 2nd/Lt Frederick Marcus Beck Case.

Frederick Case

2nd Lieutenant Frederick Marcus Beck Case who was killed in action on 10th August 1916.

Frederick was born in Caister on Sea and was the second of five children born to William and Muriel Jessie Case. He was educated at Yarmouth College and had entered the National Provincial Bank in the City in 1912. He had been a pre-war TF soldier, enlisting with 1/28th City of London Battalion (Artist Rifles) in January 1913. He had landed with them at Boulogne on 26th October 1914. After being promoted to Corporal in 1915 he had been recommended for a commission and had had joined the 7/Norfolks on the 1st August 1916.

He was in support in the reserve trench at 4th Avenue when a shell hit his dugout showing that he lasted exactly 10 days as an officer in the battalion before he was killed. Sadly the Case family would lose another two sons in WW1. Frederick was 20 years old and is now laid to rest in Bapaume Post Cemetery. Between the 10th and 13th August the the battalion would lose 92 officers and men to shelling alone.

On the night of 12th and 13th August 1916 the 12th (Eastern) and the Australian 4th Division attacked the German lines in an attempt to capture 6th Avenue and the trenches in front of Mouquet Farm. This is what the Australian Official History noted about the orders for this advance.

“The formal second stage in the advance of I Anzac and the II Corps to the line of Mouquet Farm was fixed for the following night (August 12th), the 12th British Division assaulting Skyline Trench and the knot of German works at its south-western end, and the 4th  Australian Brigade attacking (according to the Reserve Army’s order issued on August 1oth) the enemy’s supposed line south-east of Mouquet Farm, however, the Australian line was already well beyond these objectives.”

Pozieres Map Aug 16

A more localised map which can be found in the war diary for the 7/Norfolks.

Depending on what history you read at this stage you can become quite confused! So just to clarify things. If you looked at the war diary for the 7th Battalion you would see that they were positioned in a trench called 5th Avenue and faced a German front-line trench called 6th Avenue. However, in both the British and Australian Official Histories, these have different names. In these accounts the 7th Battalion was positioned in a trench called Ration Trench and would be assaulting a German position called Skyline Trench, so called because it was positioned at the highest point on the crest of a spur. The highest point here, on the Pozieres-Thiepval road, within the Australian OH also had a name, ‘Point 81’.

At 10.30 p.m. the 7/Norfolks advanced with the 9/Essex on their left and the Australian 50th Battalion on their right marking the line between the Australian and British divisions. The Norfolks advanced with “A” and “D” Companies leading and “B” and “C” Companies behind them. The advance carried forward under the cover of a barrage and because of this the Norfolks managed to get into the German trench unopposed and caught the enemy by surprise capturing 20 out of the 30 Germans they encountered there. They then cleared out the dug-outs in the trench and consolidated their gains. They made contact with both the Essex and the Australians of which the Australian Official History (OH) notes

‘An hour later arrived news that the left company at 81 was in touch with the Norfolk Regiment in Skyline Trench.’

The Norfolk and Essex battalions sent out patrols who were held up by the British barrage although both managed to get into enemy positions where they captured six more of the enemy. Having consolidated their gains most of the men were withdrawn and only two strong-points were manned in Skyline Trench with one Lewis gun in each. They continued to be harassed by German artillery and it is also noted in the British OH that some of the shelling was caused by British heavy howitzer shells falling short on Ration and Skyline Trenches.


6th Avenue, AKA Skyline Trench, as it is today. I am stood on what would have been known as Point 81.

To give you an idea of the terrible fighting that went on here we will look to the Australian OH which details the 50th Australian Battalion’s advance on Mouquet Farm.

“As the II Corps had captured Skyline Trench, being held up only on the right, the total result was naturally announced by the higher staffs as a sweeping success. Unfortunately the line given by the 50th was, except as regards the left, incorrect. After advancing about 250 yards without opposition both flanks of that battalion had met some resistance. The left company had pushed on to its objective-Point 81, where Skyline Trench was crossed by the Pozieres-Thiepval road; but opposite The Quarry there had opened a gap of 350 yards. This was partly due to the operation orders not having got through to all the platoons. Thus, in the line advancing near The Quarry, all that was known to the platoon commander, Lieutenant Hoggarth, was that he was to go forward under the barrage and more or less conform to the company on his right. This he did, crossing the dip, mounting the far slope (passing east of The Quarry) and reaching, just over the rise, some large mounds of earth and rubble, which-though he was not aware of it were the southern ruins of Mouquet Farm. No one moved in the place, which then lay under the British barrage. Still with the notion of following the barrage, Hoggarth moved along a zigzag trench near by (the German “Grosser Riegel ”) until he was wounded by one of the shells of his own side. Some Germans in a dugout were killed and others captured and sent to the rear,’” and a German bomber, who now emerged from the farm whirling a stick-grenade, was shot. 

W P Hoggarth

Lieutenant William Paton Hoggarth 50th Australian Battalion.

Recognising that with Germans so near he could not hold an isolated position, Hoggarth returned, and dug in near Point 81 ; to his right was a wide gap, on the other side of which the centre and right of the 50th-still out of touch with the 13th-were established in detached bodies, 100 yards short of the objective.”

Lieutenant Hoggarth can be identified as William Paton Hoggarth who, it is later noted in the Australian OH, became the first Australian to reach Mouquet Farm. After being wounded he was evacuated and eventually returned back to the 5oth Battalion but sadly would not survive the war and he was killed in action at Noreuil on 2nd April 1917. He was 27 when he died and was the son of William Hanna Hoggarth and Helen Hoggarth and came from Adelaide.


Mouquet Farm seen in the distance from Point 81. Skyline trench would be roughly to the left of this photo. It was into this valley that Lt Hoggarth and his men advanced passing the quarry to the east, seen as the clump of trees in the middle distance, and establishing a line 100 yards in front of the farm.

On the morning of the 13th August the 7th Battalion was relieved by elements of the 48th Division and they marched to the rear. In the advance on Skyline Trench they had lost 6 officers and 128 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.


Herbert and Albert Capes. Herbert was killed in action serving with the 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment on 12th August 1916. (Photo Colourisation Nick Stone) original photo Karen Wallace.

An order of the day was issued by the 35th Brigade commander who noted this,

“Please convey to all ranks of the battalion under your command the brigadier’s high appreciation of the way they have comported themselves in the recent operations. Whilst it may be said that the task set was not a hard one, and that the actual infantry fighting was but little, the fact of being able to form up for and execute an assault after the severe shelling they had endured for a night and two days points to soldierly qualities of the highest order.”

Mouquet Farm Before

Mouquet Farm prior to the battle, note the trenches surrounding it.

Mouquet Farm After

Mouquet Farm after it was captured.

The Australians continued to push forward towards Mouquet Farm but never fully captured it and lost 6,300 men in the process. They were relieved by the Canadians on the 5th September 1916 who continued to fight over the ruins but the farm did not fall until the British 11th Division eventually captured it over the period of 26th/27th September 1916.


The Australian Memorial for Mouquet Farm and the rebuilt farm can be seen in the distance.


The graves of William Ecclestone and Robert Holden buried side by side in London Cemetery and Extension.

A total of 41 men were lost serving in the 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment between 10th and 13th August 1916. On my travels I have often came across them on the Somme. Two of them, Robert Chilvers Holden and William Robert Ecclestone now lie side by side in London Cemetery and Extension. Both were only 20 years old when they died. Robert was the son of Frederick and Emily Holden of Dunstan Common and William was the son of on of Charles and Bertha Ecclestone of Moulton St. Mary. Robert had the service number of 22704 and William the number of 22707 and I often wonder if they met when they enlisted and became friends afterwards.

The 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment would return back to the Somme in October 1916.






Intermediate Trench

The 207th Field Company Royal Engineers

4th – 5th August 1916

The 34th Division lost 6,591 men killed or wounded between the 1st and 5th July, including 8 senior officers. And because of this high casualty rate both the Tyneside Irish and Scottish brigades had to be withdrawn and were replaced with 111th and 112th Brigades from the 37th Division.

Henry Scott

Henry Scott from Worstead who died of wounds on 5th August 1916.

But their war did not stop there and they fought at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge between the 14th and 20th July before moving onto assisting in the capture of Pozieres Ridge.

On the 31st July 1916, the 34th Division took over positions from the 19th Division who had been in the line in front of a German defensive line known as Intermediate Trench which was to the north of Bazentin le Petit and to the west of High Wood. Half of Intermediate Trench had been captured by the 10/R. Warwickshires and the 7/King’s Own on the 30th July but other units had failed in their attacks and, although the position had been consolidated, German counter battery fire and a counter attack had stopped any further advances.

Intermediate Trench

The area where the 34th Division fought in the early part of August 1916.

The 19th Division had lost 6,597 officers and men in this attack the Germans continued to pour fire along this stretch of the line. The 34th Division was supported by British counter battery fire, but their position was precarious and pressure was also mounting on them to take the rest of Intermediate Trench. The rest of this trench had to be taken in order that the British could move onto capturing the Switch Line, and also what was left of the German’s line in High Wood. It is at this point that we now come onto how Henry Scott was killed.

The 207th Field Company had come under the command of the 101st Brigade on the 30th July and the brigade as a whole had marched from Becourt Wood, through Lozenge Wood and a position known as the Poodles, which was situated between Lozenge and Bottom Wood, then to the north west corner of Bottom Wood. From there they marched up to Mametz Wood and onto the positions held by the 19th Division. The 207th HQ set up in Mametz Wood and the sections, of which there were four, set to work. Their main job was to consolidate the positions held and they did this by digging communication trenches towards the front line, bringing barbed wire up, consolidating machine gun posts and working on dugouts.

On the night of the 4th August the 34th Division was ordered to take the rest of Intermediate Trench. All sections of 207th Company were sent directly up to the front to support the infantry as they advanced. This would mean bolstering any captured trenches and turning them around so that they could face any German counter attacks. However, the attack did not go to plan. From the 34th Division’s own history,

‘…the Boche, however, put up a terrific artillery barrage and machine gun fire that the attack failed after getting within 20 yards of its objective.’

The war diary for the 207th Company had this to say,

‘All 4 sections at night waiting in front line trench to follow up bombing attack on intermediate line & dig communication trench. Work impossible owing to failure of attack. Work on new communication trench continued.’ Sapper Clarke F L and Pioneer G Fowler Killed. Five men wounded.’

The two men listed as being killed are Sapper 85602 Frank Leonard Clarke from Beccles and Pioneer 45247 George Fowler from Middlesbrough. Both have no known grave and are now commemorated on Face 8 A and 8 D on the Thiepval Memorial.

From the Official History of WWI for the actions fought between 1st and 4th August 1916,

‘The 16/Royal Scots tried to extend its hold of Intermediate Trench on the night of 1st/2nd August by bombing westward, but met with no success. On the 2nd, however, an attack at 11 p.m. resulted in the gain of a hundred yards. Two companies of the Scots and two of the 11/Suffolk were ordered to make a frontal attack at 2.30 a.m. on the 4th, but only one company of the latter reached the trench. The small footing thus obtained soon had to be relinquished. That same evening the 101st Brigade sent in the 15/Royal Scots to bomb westward, which it did without much success, but on the following night, after the Germans had attacked in their turn, about fifty more yards of the trench was captured.’

The 34th Division, which had lost heavily on the first day of the battle, lost a further 3,000 men at the beginning of August and this would include Henry Scott who died of wounds on the 5th August. He had been severely wounded on the 4th and had been taken away by field ambulance. Two men wrote to his widow and I have transcribed what both of them said. The first comes from Sapper, 85060, Samuel Nash who came from the parish of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich and these letters are held by Henry’s family.

Sept 17/16

Dear Mrs Scott,

Just a line or two in answer to your letter dated Sept 12/16. Hope to find you and your family well. I was not with Harry when he received his wound and George Shepherd was not there. I know he was wounded and died from the effects a day or two after. I can quite understand your feelings, and I miss him very much, as you say he was light hearted when he left home. I can tell you he was just the same out here and there was not a better man in the company when we were exposed to shellfire and you have the deepest sympathy of all his pals. George Shepherd is well and sends his best respect to you and I am getting on well myself all being well I hope I shall be able to come and give you a look. I think this is all I can say at this time.

With my deepest sympathy I remain yours sincerely.

S W Nash

The other letter comes from Henry’s sergeant.

9 – 9 – 16

Dear Mrs Scott,

It was with deep regret I heard of Harry’s death. I didn’t happen to be with him at the time he was wounded, but I saw him soon afterwards & spoke to him though he was badly wounded, I thought with his strength and cheerfulness he might make a good though hard recovery, but it was not to be. The whole of his section send their deepest sympathy to you. They all thought the world of Harry; he was such a splendid worker & didn’t know what fear meant. I hope you will write & ask me for any information you might like concerning Harry & if it is in my power I will send it along to you. Please accept my deepest sympathy for yourself & family. 

Another man who was wounded on the same day died on 27th August 1916. Sapper 85087 Cecil Edward Beckett was born in Hedenham and was the son of Caroline Beckett. He had married Kate Buxton in 1913 and they had a son who was born on the 2nd February 1914 who they named Harley. Cecil died in No 8 General Hospital at Bois-Guillaume and is now laid to rest in Bois-Guillaume Communal Cemetery.


Cecil Edward Beckett pictured with his wife Kate and his son Harley who died of wounds on 27th August 1916.

Henry Scott now rests in Dantzig Alley Cemetery which lies a little to the east of Mametz along with 1535 other soldiers most of whom died between July and November 1916.

The Grave of Henry Scott

Henry’s grave in Dantzig Alley Cemetery.