From every hill in the Somme Region you can see
the Thiepval Memorial as an impressive landmark.
Thiepval Wood. Right; Thiepval village and the Memorial.
As you approach the hamlet of Thiepval, ...
... you can detect the Memorial on the former location
of the "Château Thiepval".
Before we visit the Memorial, we approach Thiepval village
again from the west, from the Mill Road.
The small village and the location of the Memorial used to be
the German Leipzig Salient.
The Württembergische 26. Reserve Division.
After fighting at the Grendelbruch in the Alsace in early August 1914, the Württembergische 26. Reserve Division arrived in the front sector around Thiepval on 27 September 1914. The Division was redeployed from Bapaume, and it was immediately involved in heavy battles with the French troops. The 26th R.D. drove the French back at Albert. The trench line consolidated at the end of September 1914 on a line running roughly from Beaumont via Thiepval to Contalmaison.
General der Infanterie, Franz Freiherr von Soden, commanded the 26. Reserve Division.
The Württembergische 26. Reserve Division consisted of the 51. Reserve-Infanterie-Brigade, composed by the I.R. 180. and R.I.R. 121, and the 52. Reserve-Infanterie-Brigade, composed by R.I.R. 119, R.I.R. 99, the Württembergische Reserve Dragoner Regiment, Res.-Feldart.-Regt. 26, R.F.A.R 27, 4 companies of Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 13, Württ. Reserve-Sanitäts-Komp., and reserve train units and communication units.
From 28 September 1914 until 7 October 1916 the 26 R.D. was based along a front line running roughly from Beaumont via Thiepval to la Boiselle, later to Flers.
The Division’s artillery support of F.A.R 116, the Regimental staff of 26 R.F.A.R., and the Staff of General von Soden set up Divisional Headquarters at Miraumont.
Facing for a long period the British 4th Army, General von Soden was fully aware of the British build-up of troops. Von Soden was relying on the fact that most of his men were veterans of trench warfare.
Leutnant Armin Stäbler.
In this frame about the Württembergische 26th Reserve Division these remarkable period photos are made by Leutnant Armin Stäbler of the Württembergische 26 Reserve Feldartillerie Regiment (26 R.F.A.R., or more short, 26 R.A.R.). As a staff officer Lt. Stäbler was not often involved in combat action. Following his regiment, wherever it was going, Alsace, Somme, Cambrai, St. Quentin, and Ypres, in his spare time Leutnant Stäbler created a unique photo collection, a documentation of the daily life of soldiers and officers of the 26th R.D. along and behind the frontlines.
Soden's Division and some Bavarian Regiments, like B.R.I.R. 6 and B.R.I.R. 8, held the Thiepval Plateau, which formed a key strongpoint in the German defenses.
This high ground dominated the entire, northern sector of the Somme front. It included the ruins of the village of Thiepval and a stronghold west of it, called by the British the Schwaben Redoubt, and by the Germans the Hansa Stellung.
Von Soden’s troops had turned the place into a fortress.
I consider the area around Thiepval also
as the centrepoint of the Battle of the Somme.
In Thiepval we found some memorials on the walls of the church.
This plaque commemorates Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart,
who won his Victora Cross at La Boiselle,
commanding the 8th Gloucesters on 2 and 3 July 1916.
On 2 July/3 July 1916, at La Boiselle, France, Lieutenant-Colonel Carton de Wiart's dauntless courage, and inspiration averted what could have been a serious reverse.
He displayed the utmost energy in forcing the attack home and, after three other battalion commanders had become casualties, he controlled their commands and made sure that the ground was held at all costs. In organizing the positions to be held, he exposed himself fearlessly to enemy fire.
Centrepoint of the Battlefield,
the Thiepval Memorial commemorates over 73.000 men, ...
...who have no known grave, and who fell on the Somme
between July 1915 and February 1918.
Behind the Memorial is an Anglo French Cemetery,
overlooking Thiepval Wood on the horizon.
As a symbol of their bonds as Allies,
the French and the English buried 300 soldiers
of each nation here.
After the bombardment and the detonation of 17 mines, at 7.30 AM, the British infantry troops had to go over the top to attack the 16 German Divisions under General Prinz Eitel Friedrich von Preussen.
In the north near Gommecourt General Allenby’s 3rd Army attacked the German Kern Redoubt with a bloody diversionary attack.
General Gough’s 3 Cavalry Divisions were kept in reserve to exploit successes.
General Rawlinson’s 4th Army attacked over a 30 km. front with 15 divisions near Hébuterne, south of Gommecourt, near Serre, Beaumont Hamel, Thiepval, Ovillers, La Boiselle, Fricourt, Mametz, and Montauban in the south east.
In the morning 60.000 British men went over the top, in the afternoon again another 40.000 men.
After 14 hours of fighting, the British were only successful in their southern front sector, by conquering Sausage Valley, south of La Boiselle, and the villages of Mametz and Montauban.
The French 20th Army Corps with its 39th Division, interconnected with the British, north of the river Somme, was successful in reaching Curlu.
South of the Somme General Fayolle’s 6th Army, reinforced with the 35th Division and the 1st Colonial Army Corps, reached all it’s goals for the first day by conquering the villages of Dompierre and Fay.
On this spot, near the Obelisque for the 18th Division,
used to be the tip of the Leipzig Salient.
The 18th Division succeeded to conquer Thiepval and surroundings,
3 months later, on 30 September 1916.
The Leipzig Salient.
To give you an idea of the Leipzig Salient, which these observers saw in 1916, two army pictures of the maze of trenches, barbed wire, dugouts, bunkers, and machine gun posts.
These pictures (resp. left and right) had been made from la Boiselle northward to Thiepval.
The Dorsets Memorial.
In 2011 we went southward, in birdsflight some 1.500 m away from the Leipzig Salient and the Thiepval Memorial, to visit the new memorial near Authuille and Thiepval, inaugurated at 7 May 2011, dedicated to the Dorsetshire Regiment.
In front of the footpath to Lonsdale Cemetery,
opposite the Thiepval Memorial, ...
... the Dorsets Memorial is standing on
the jump-off lines of the Dorsets.
On 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the 32nd Division,
which included the 1st Dorsets and the 11th Lonsdale Battalion of the
Border Regt. attacked the German line at this point and
stormed the Leipzig Salient, but were compelled to retire later in the day.
The four sides of the obelisque showing all Great War Battles,
in which the Dorsets participated.
View northward into the direction of the Leipzig Salient.
We return to the eastern outskirts of
the village of Thiepval to Mouquet Farm.
View from the Thiepval Memorial to the east in
the direction of Mouquet Farm.
The wartime Mouquet Farm was located at the northern side of the track to the farm.
Mouquet Farm was a central bastion in the second line
of the German defense system,
during the Battle of the Somme from July to October 1916.
It’s deep cellars and tunnels were connected to
a complex network of German trenches in the fields.
The shattered farmhouse was located to the left of
the farm road on the crest.
On 5 August 1916 the Australians were first to attack this stronghold, having just incurred a devastating loss of 17.000 men in the capture of Pozières, only 1 km. away.
After a month and 6.500 casualties, the Australians were relieved by the Canadians.
On 27 September, Mouquet Farm fell to the British.
Under the trees right is still a huge mine crater,
the field left is covered with shell holes.
This farmer does not even allow to let his sheep
enter this shell hole covered field!
View from Mouquet Farm Road to the Thiepval Memorial,
and right to the tower of the church.
We go back to what happened at the first day of the battle, ...
... the 1st. of July, at the nearby Thiepval Wood.
Continue to the next chapter: