One hundred years ago today
Battle of the Somme
During the early morning of the 1st July 1916, the 16th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, moved out of Auchonvillers to their positions in support of the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, of which two companies had moved forward to the sunken lane at about 03-00 am that morning. Among the Middlesex Regiment in the support trenches were four young men, Private Walter Moody aged 19, Private Reginald Puddephat aged 18, Private Frederick Tagg aged 19 and Private William Wells aged 19.
They waited in the trenches for zero hour, with the bombardment going on. The soldiers had been told that the shelling of the German positions would have killed all of the enemy in the front line and that all the defences would have been blown to bits including the wire. This however was not the case, the Germans had been safe in their deep dugouts and the shells used were not suitable for cutting wire. As they sat waiting for 07.30 unaware of what was going to happen, the Hawthorn mine exploded in the German lines just to the right of them at 07.20 a full ten minutes before the attach was due to start. Haig had seen fit to set the mine off early, thereby giving the Germans good notice that the attach was about to start.
The four young men must have been shocked by the explosion, as 40,600 lbs of ammonal (18 ½ tons) blow the German position of Hawthorn Redoudt into the sky. Stokes mortars then started to fire on the German line. The minutes ticked by until 07.30 when the whistles blow and the great push started. B and D companies of the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers set off from the Sunken Lane towards Beaumont Hamel, many were cut down by heavy machine gun fire in the first few yards of leaving the Sunken Lane, a few reached the German wire. A and C companies moved forward towards the Sunken Lane from their front line and suffered heavy casualties. They were followed by the 16th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment who could see that much of the German wire was still in place and that the various gaps were full of dead and wounded. The 16th Battalion were cut to pieces, there is no record of how far they got that day. However when Beaumont Hamel was finally taken in November the remains of some 180 members of the 16th Battalion were found in the Sunken Lane. The Middlesex Battalion suffered 524 casualties that day.
The Beaumont-Hamel British Cemetery is between the Sunken Lane and the position of the German front line on 1st July 1916
The Cemetery contains 179 burials , 97 of whom are identified. 12 of the soldiers buried in the cemetery are from the 16th Battalion Middlesex Regiment who were killed on the 1st July 1916, four are listed below taken from Commonwealth War Graves Commission records
Private Walter Moody, aged 19 son of Alice Harriet Moody, of Goat Rd., Mitcham Junction, Surrey, and the late Walter Moody.
Private Reginald Puddephat aged 18 Son of Joseph Puddephat, of 6, Beddington Terrace, Mitcham Rd., Croydon.
Private Fredrick Tagg, aged 19 Son of Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Tagg, of 22, Lancaster Rd., Ealing, London.
Private William Wells, aged 19 Son of Charles George and Elizabeth Wells, of 15, Eaton Mews South, Eaton Square, London.