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1/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion, Pozieres 23rd July 1916


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#1 steve Berridge

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 07:54 PM

90 years ago today, 23rd July 1916 the 1/1st Buckinghamshire was once again in action in front of Pozieres.
One of those who Died of Wounds received in the action was my Great Grandfather's Company Commander, Captain EV Birchall who was awarded the DSO for this action. It was said of Captain Birchall that "Probably no company had a better, fairer or more capable commander and no officer a truer friend". Major General Sir Robert Fanshawe GOC 48th (South Midland) Division referred to him as "brilliant"

Name: BIRCHALL, EDWARD VIVIAN DEARMAN
Rank: Captain
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
Unit Text: Bucks Bn.
Age: 32
Date of Death: 10/08/1916
Awards: DSO
Additional information: Son of John Dearman Birchall and Emily Birchall, of Bowden Hall,Gloucester.
Grave/Memorial Reference: I. B. 42.
Cemetery: ETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY

The following is extracted from:
"Citizen Soldiers of Buckinghamshire 1795-1926" by Major General J C Swann

On the night of the 22nd/23rd July a general attack was delivered by the greater part of the Fourth Army, during which the Australians captured Pozieres. The 145th Infantry Brigade of 48th (South Midland) Division attacked on their immediate left, in the following order from right to left: 1/4th Oxfords, 1/4th Royal Berks, 1/5th Gloucesters, the Bucks Battalion being in reserve in the Mash Valley behind Ovillers. The Oxfords and Berks gained a footing in their objectives, but sustained very heavy casualties, and were cut off from the Australians by a large stretch of trench which remained in the hands of the enemy. On their left the attack of the 5th Gloucesters was unsuccessful, which left them in a very perilous position without any communication with the rear.

At about 4 a.m. the Bucks Battalion received orders to attack, and seize at all costs, that portion of the trench against which the attack of the Glosters had been directed previously. Zero had been fixed for 6.30 a.m., and there were 2 miles of strange trenches to be covered before reaching the jumping-off trench. There was no time to lose. Orders therefore were of necessity scanty, and much had to be left to the initiative of the Company Commanders concerned, who fully justified the confidence reposed in them by the Commanding Officer. The attack was one of very great difficulty owing to the way the trenches ran. The enemy position was a stretch of trench approached by two communication trenches about 400 yards long. The right-hand one was in good condition and met the enemy’s trench at right angles, the enemy having a bomb stop about fifty yards from the end. The left-hand communicator was badly damaged, and ran at an obtuse angle into the enemy’s line.

“B” and “ D” Companies were detailed for the attack
—“ B” under Captain 0. V. Viney on the left, “D” under Captain E. V. Birchall on the right. Both Companies at Zero were to leave their trenches and form inwards on the intervening space—about 200 yards. “A” Company, under Captain N. S. Reid, were to be in support in the right communicator; “ C” Company, under Captain P. A. Hall, was to provide the necessary carrying parties after the attack had been launched. Unfortunately “B” Company whilst getting into position came under a barrage of our own heavy guns, which were shooting short, and sustained many casualties, being thus delayed in getting into position.
“D” Company, however, under the splendid leadership of Captain Birchall, carried out their orders to the letter, and by dint of advancing practically in the barrage succeeded in capturing the whole position single-handed. The support Company at once moved up to assist in the work of consolidation and clearing the prisoners, about 150 The result of this action was that touch was immediately established with the isolated troops on the right, enabling bombing operations to be carried out by the 145th Brigade, and a junction with the Australians was effected. Several attempts by the enemy to retake the position were successfully repulsed by the Battalion.

The Battalion sustained 88 casualties.

The Brigade Commander (Brigadier-General H. R. Done) expressed his appreciation of the services of the Battalion in a letter to Lieut.-Colonel Reynolds (CO 1/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion) thus:

“Please give my heartfelt congratulations to all ranks of the Regiment under your Command on their gallant and entirely successful attack on the 23rd July. By this success, which was obtained in spite of heavy loss, you enabled the Brigade to carry out the whole of the task allotted, and also made secure the position of the troops who had already gained a footing in the enemy’s position on your right.”


Remembering Captain Birchall and all those of 1/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion who fell before Pozieres, many of whom were my Great Grandfathers friends and comrades.

#2 gordon christie

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 08:09 PM

Steve,
great extract. Please could you tell me what same book tells of the events of july 21 attack from same start line involving 1/1 OBLI. My great grand father was a plt commander in I think d coy , KIA 21 july. Chapman JP.
Many thanks,
Gordon

#3 steve Berridge

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 12:54 PM

QUOTE (gordon christie @ Aug 16 2006, 09:09 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Steve,
great extract. Please could you tell me what same book tells of the events of july 21 attack from same start line involving 1/1 OBLI. My great grand father was a plt commander in I think d coy , KIA 21 july. Chapman JP.
Many thanks,
Gordon


Hi Gordon,
I hope the following of of interest to you.

The following is extracted from:
"Citizen Soldiers of Buckinghamshire 1795-1926" by Major General J C Swann

"On the night of the 20th/21st July the Battalion was ordered to carry out an attack in conjunction with the 1/5th Gloucesters and 1/4th Oxfords against the enemy positions between Ovillers and Pozieres. “A,” “B,”and “C” were detailed for the attack, with “D” Company in reserve. The German trench was about 325 yards distant from our front line. A tape line had been laid down by the R.E. 100 yards in front of Sickle Trench, due east of Ovillers, on which the formation of the units for the attack could be made. The formation consisted of two Companies in the front line, each in line of platoons in column of sections, two sections in the first, one in the second, and one in the third line. The third Company was in immediate support in one line. The advance to the attack was therefore in four lines, with ten yards distance between lines. At 2.15 a.m. our troops left their trench to form up. The attack was to be delivered at 2.45 a.m. At 2.35 a.m. the enemy opened very heavy machine-gun fire, and this, coupled with the fact that our barrage started two minutes too soon, and had no apparent effect on the machine-gun fire of the enemy, resulted in the failure of the attack. There is little doubt that owing to the bright moonlight the enemy had become aware of our intentions. A few officers and men succeeded in reaching the objective, but of these hardly any got back.
The want of success in this attack was keenly felt by all ranks, as it was the first serious attack in which the Battalion had been engaged. But they had not long to wait for their next chance, when a successful issue more than compensated for their present disappointment, though it could not make up for the heavy losses in this fruitless enterprise. Amongst the officers Captain L. W. Crouch, Second Lieutenants J. P. Chapman, C. G. Abrey, and C. W. Trimmer were killed,. and Second Lieutenants H. C. E. Mason, B. C. Rigden, H. V. Shepperd, and A. P. Godfrey were wounded, whilst of other ranks 8 were killed 96 wounded, and 41 missing. Captain G. G. Jackson was wounded and taken prisoner."


Captain P L Wright's "First Buckinghamshire Battalion 1914-1919" has in appendix V the following information:-

2nd Lieutenant John Percy Chapman joined the battalion as a Platoon Commander in C Company in France on 18.3.16 and was killed on 21.7.16 .


"We will remember them."

Steve

#4 Kate Wills

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 04:09 PM

Steve,

Have you discovered any references to Phil Wills, a battalion cook who later became a member of a divisional concert party?

I came across his story in Hawtin Munday's 'No Heroes, No Cowards'.

#5 steve Berridge

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 07:14 PM

QUOTE (Kate Wills @ Aug 17 2006, 05:09 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Steve,

Have you discovered any references to Phil Wills, a battalion cook who later became a member of a divisional concert party?

I came across his story in Hawtin Munday's 'No Heroes, No Cowards'.


Hi Kate,
Being a Wolverton lad myself I've read Hawtin Mundy's "No Heroes No Cowards" a couple of times with great interest and had another quick look through tonight to find the part about Phil Wills.

I also quickly scanned PL Wright's "First Buckinghamshire Battalion 1914-1919" this evening but I could find no mention of him in the main text although in one of the Appendix it goes on to list a " Nominal Roll of Warrant Officers, NCO's and Men who served with the Battalion during the period March 1915-December 1918" and came across the following names:-
Wills F,
Wills F.J, and
Wills W
Could one of these be your "Phil"?

Unfortunately the list is by surname and initial only, no ranks or other information is recorded there.

Steve

#6 gordon christie

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 04:46 AM

Steve
Many thanks for that info. Looks like the enemy knew they were coming and were ranged in at the getgo. I'm sure they knew they were in for certain death and off they went. It makes me shudder to think of the carnage.
Do you know of any air photo's of this trench system other than at IWM. I think I have a reference for it but won't be at IWM 'till christmas. Google earth is usefull , I think you can make out trench lines and craters. I'd be interested to know what it looked like during the war.
Thanks again and all the best,
G

#7 BarbaraF

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 03:30 PM

I have just come across this thread and am interested in making contact with the poster who is descended from John Percy Chapman who was killed 21 July 1916.

I am researching this man's family as his mother Mary Estelle was a Lewin prior to her marriage to Arthur Gerald Chapman.

Barbara