I just downloaded Paul Kendall's EXCELLENT "Somme 1916." Available in hard copy a few days before the anniversary but in ecopy now. Vey highly recommended he goes along the front and describes success and failure by battalion at a tactical level. He has produced the best description of the attacks in the Granatloch in the Leipzig Redoubt that I have yet read. The detailed descriptions of the attacks on Thiepval by the 1st and 2nd Salfords is also very well done..
Even better, he quotes a letter from George's Company Commander Lt. hibbert to Colonel Graham. The letter is an excellent supplement to the official reports in the 19th LF war diary.
"The Bosch harassed our advance from the gap in the wood (Authuille] at which point I have often wondered how you and Moxey [the Adjutant] escaped being shot, as you were so exposed to the fire from our right front [originating from the German Nordwerk position]. My 3rd platoon [George's platoon] had gone over from the gap and I should have taken the last platoon, but as no one appeared to be moving in front, you called me forward to ask what my men were doing. I was given orders to go out and get them on the move, but each line I came to were either dead or wounded. Making short rushes to dodge the tantalising machine-guns, I eventually reached the German front line by myself, as I had not found anyone fit to go forward. Mr. MIddleton having been hit in the arm just outside the gap, Mr. Chambers 15 or 20 yards further on , shot through the head and in front of our own front line trench I found Mr. Hewitt, badly wounded in the leg by machine-gun fire. This accounted for my three platoon commanders not being able to move.
When I reached the Bosche trench, I collected what men I could find (about 40). The Borders [i.e. 11th Bn. Border Regiment - aka Lonsdale Bn] were engaged further ahead, but as we had got all the front line, two wounded officers (I think of the Borders), came along the trench from the right and told me the Germans were moving along the trench in that direction and throwing bombs [grenades]. I did not see the officers again, as they were making for a dressing station.
We found the trench blocked. Who blocked it I don't know, but I think it was done by the Borders. We captured a Bosch Major and nine or ten men, whom I sent back to our lines. The bombs we had started with were used by now also some we found lying about, but with such a small party I thought it would be more effective and safer to hold the blocked trench by rifle fire from a position along a traverse and broken ground which commended the dividing line between us and keep on the defensive. Had the Bosch got any further along the trench, the forward party would have been between two fires."
From the content if George's letter, the war diaries of his and accompanying battalions and the references to 3 Platoon in this letter, it is clear to me that George was one of the 40 men who got into the Granatloch, holding the right wing of the British lodgement until relieved by 2nd Manchester at nightfall. Strangely, the three platoon commanders ID'd by Lt. Hibbert differ from the three A Company subalterns ID'd in the battalion war diary. I wonder why?
Thank you for the update - your persistence is bearing fruit. You really are bringing all the pieces together to form George's story. I know how frustrating it is when you cannot find anything for months, sometimes years, making you think if there is anything more out there and then "out of the blue" a small paragraph in a book adds that little extra.
I will try and get a copy of "Somme 1916" when it gets published in paperback (my wife would have my guts for garters if I spend £20+ on another war book).
The ebook is great but needs a good copy edit. I hope that happens before it goes into hard copy in late June. Too many references to the Newcastle Commericals!
On thinking the letter over, I think the author may have misattributed Lt. Hibbert to A Company. Per the 19th LF War Diary for July 1, Hibbert was the CO of B Company. Lts. hewitt and Middleton were both B Company oficers. A and B were the only complete 19th LF companies to attack the redoubt. Either way, it provides a personal perspective that is invaluable.
Thanks for your constant interest and encouragement Garry. I am currently trolling through the war diaries of the other units involved in the Leipzig Redoubt attack. The 19th LF diary is by far the most detailed as it includes an intelligence summary and detailed battle report to supplement the diary entries. Geoffrey Bache Smith was clearly good at his job.....perhaps hanging around with Tolkien paid dividends.
I just saw the latest CWGC video for Somme 100 on Facebook. I was astonished to see Actress Maxine Peake reading my great uncle George's letter! I am gobsmacked! What a beautifully delivered version too.
I wondered that myself. I have put it about various websites and my own blog a bit. But I didn't send it to CWGC. I wondered if perhaps Maxine had a hand in selection given she is from Bolton. Or perhaps they were after a pals letter to fit her accent. Perhaps they got it here...we'll never know. The letter does have a bit of everything and is probably the right length and date.
I was shocked when I first opened the video as I had already seen/heard her deliver the heartbreaking Horace Iles letter several times. She sits at the same table, wearing the same clothes and out come those words I know so very well. So they must have been recorded at the same time. I hope we get to see more of these.
First thing I thought of was that I hope my grandmother would be pleased he will be remembered by so many a century later. I admit I choked up a bit.
But the letter should be representative of the Somme experience of those who didn't get to send a letter and those whose letters have become lost and dust over the last hundred years.
Now I am off to rewatch Silk on Canadian Netflix, having become a big Maxine fan :-)
Maxine Peake has many links with Salford - attended Salford Uni, lived here (not sure if she still does) and is a friend of the Working Class Movement Library, Chapel St, Salford.
Try and watch "The Village" in which she delivers a superb performance playing the mother of a WW1 boy who is shot at dawn. The series finishes with the village memorial committee allowing the family to add their son's name to the local memorial, they used the words engraved on Albert Ingham's (Salford, shot at dawn) grave.
Shot at Dawn One of the first to enlist A worthy son Of his father