|Remembering Mametz and the Somme.|
Last Friday (July 1st) was the one-hundredth anniversary of the first day of the start of the battle of the Somme; there were 57,470 casualties, with 19,240 men being killed on the first day. The Somme battle would last through until it ended in November 1916. It was at Mametz Wood were the 38th (Welsh) Division, raised in Wales, would fight during the Battle of the Somme. Their attack was aimed German positions in the wood, between 7th July and 12 July 1916.
|The Somme 1916 (Reuters)|
On the 7th July the first wave, which was intended to take the wood in a few hours, ran into strongly defended fortifications, machinegun posts and shelling which killed and injured over 400 soldiers before they entered the wood. Attacks by the 17th Division on 8th July failed to improve the position. A full-scale attack planned for the 9 July was postponed until 10th July 1916.
The attack on 10th July was on a larger scale, in spite of heavy casualties the edge of the wood was reached and some bayonet fighting took place before the wood was entered and a number of German machine guns silenced. Fierce fighting in the wood took place the Germans defenders stubbornly gave up the ground.
By the 12th July Mametz wood was effectively cleared. The Welsh Division had lost about 4,000 men killed or wounded in this searing engagement and did not see action as a division until July 31st 1917 at Passchendaele. The fight for Mametz was essentially a soldiers battle, one fought with great courage and endurance, in the most difficult of circumstances.
|Welsh Memorial at Mametz|
Despite the delay in clearing the wood, a volunteer citizen force recruited from all parts of Wales (Caernarfon, Ynys Mon, Swansea, Cardiff, Rhondda, Gwent, etc.) achieved its objective, clearing the wood in the face of fierce resistance from what was probably at the time the most efficient well trained fighting force in Europe. They paid a terrible price suffering some 4,000 casualties – many of the dead and the missing still have no known grave, being commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.