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Attack An Infantry Subaltern's Impression of July 1st, 1916   By: (1895-1963)

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Transcriber's Note: Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document.

ATTACK

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO · DALLAS ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD. TORONTO

ATTACK

AN INFANTRY SUBALTERN'S IMPRESSIONS OF JULY 1ST, 1916

BY EDWARD G.D. LIVEING

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JOHN MASEFIELD

New York

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 1918

All rights reserved

COPYRIGHT, 1918 BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

Set up and electrotyped. Published, April, 1918

TO

THE N.C.O.s

AND

MEN OF No. 5 PLATOON

Of a Battalion of the County of London Regiment, whom I had the good fortune to command in France during 1915 1916, and in particular to the memory of RFN. C.N. DENNISON My Platoon Observer, who fell in action July 1st, 1916, in an attempt to save my life

INTRODUCTION

The attack on the fortified village of Gommecourt, which Mr. Liveing describes in these pages with such power and colour, was a part of the first great allied attack on July 1, 1916, which began the battle of the Somme. That battle, so far as it concerns our own troops, may be divided into two sectors: one, to the south of the Ancre River, a sector of advance, the other, to the north of the Ancre River, a containing sector, in which no advance was possible. Gommecourt itself, which made a slight but important salient in the enemy line in the containing sector, was the most northern point attacked in that first day's fighting.

Though the Gommecourt position is not impressive to look at, most of our soldiers are agreed that it was one of the very strongest points in the enemy's fortified line on the Western Front. French and Russian officers, who have seen it since the enemy left it, have described it as "terrible" and as "the very devil." There can be no doubt that it was all that they say.

The country in that part is high lying chalk downland, something like the downland of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, though generally barer of trees, and less bold in its valleys. Before the war it was cultivated, hedgeless land, under corn and sugar beet. The chalk is usually well covered, as in Buckinghamshire, with a fat clay. As the French social tendency is all to the community, there are few lonely farms in that countryside as there would be with us. The inhabitants live in many compact villages, each with a church, a market place, a watering place for stock, and sometimes a château and park. Most of the villages are built of red brick, and the churches are of stone, not (as in the chalk countries with us) of dressed flint. Nearly all the villages are planted about with orchards; some have copses of timber trees. In general, from any distance, the villages stand out upon the downland as clumps of woodland. Nearly everywhere near the battlefield a clump of orchard, with an occasional dark fir in it, is the mark of some small village. In time of peace the Picardy farming community numbered some two or three hundred souls. Gommecourt and Hébuterne were of the larger kind of village.

A traveller coming towards Gommecourt as Mr. Liveing came to it, from the west, sees nothing of the Gommecourt position till he reaches Hébuterne. It is hidden from him by the tilt of the high lying chalk plateau, and by the woodland and orchards round Hébuterne village... Continue reading book >>




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