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 And because of this high casualty rate both the Tyneside Irish and Scottish brigades had to be withdrawn and were replaced with 111th and 112th Brigades from the 37th Division.
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.
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.
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.
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.