This notice was written by Sir Edward Morris to the papers back in St. John's from London after the battle had taken place at Beaumont Hamel and was reporting on his visits with the men at the hospital in Wandsworth. Take notice of the date on which the first causalities started to arrive in London.



The Battle of Beaumont Hamel

The Story of July 1st Briefly told by Sir Edward Morris

London, July 10th, 1916. I have visited the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth pretty well every day last week since the men have been arriving from France. The first to arrive were on Tuesday, the 4th July.

The engagement as we may term it, or the attack by our men on the German trenches took place on Saturday, July 1st about 9 a.m. They had been stationed at St. John’s Road at the right of Beaumont Hamel, that is where they formed up previous to the raid on the German trenches. They had been in their own trenches up to that time in the third line defense about 400 yards from the German trenches. Ten per cent of the four companies were down at Louvencourt, they had been left there. The night before the attack at 9 p.m. they marched up to St. John’s Road from Louvencourt  that would be about 7 miles and arrived at St. John’s Road about 1 a.m.

They were brigaded with the 88th and our men were supposed to attack the German trenches in the third lines of their defense which was about 5,000 yards distance; the other two lines of defense, i.e. Nos. 1 and , were supposed to be attacked by the 86th and 87ths Brigades. At 7:30 in the morning the 86th and 87thth attacked, but failed in their objective that is they were supposed to clean out Nos. 1 and 2 and  of the German lines and occupy them themselves and consolidate their position and then the Newfoundland Battalion would pass over them on the third line of the German defense. The 86th and 87th however, failed because of the concentration of the machine guns, and then the Newfoundland Battalion was ordered to reinforce the 86th and 87th. This they did. The order came from the Commander to the O.C Companies. It was explained to them fully so it was said, what they had to do and then they formed up and started in extended formation: 'A' and 'B' Companies leading, 'C' and 'D' Companies supporting platoons, 40 paces between, and  25 paces between sections. All then marched with the hope of taking the No. 1 line of defense.

This country where the No. 1 line of defense was located had been shelled for over a week by British artillery of all calibres. This is a distinctive work from the infantry and had nothing to do with our soldiers. Between 6 and 7 that morning, Saturday July 1st the most intense bombardment had been made by the British on this No. 1 line of defense.

Our men then started as if on parade, marching smartly towards their objective point. After passing through their own barbed wire defenses they passed on over a grassy mound into a valley over a sunken road, up a gentle slope towards the German trenches, or No. 1 line of the German defense. They reached there in about 10 minutes. They had hardly got clear of their own trenches and their own barbed wire when they encountered the shot from the machine guns, the shrapnel and high explosives from the Germans. The guns seemed to be brought up on platforms out of the bowels of the earth, and several of those who made statements to me in formed me that as far as they could judge the week’s shelling and especially the intensive shelling of that morning did not seem in any way to have interfered with the preparedness for them of the Germans. Notwithstanding, however, this rain of shot from the machine guns, the shrapnel, and the high explosives, our troops moved on as if on parade, never faltered for a moment, although men and officers were falling all around. This went on until those who were left reached the first line of the enemy’s trenches; how many they were it is impossible to say but they only represented a small section.

It is not thought that any prisoners were taken. Some men returned in daylight, and the majority of those who came back had to remain in shell holes until dark, and then crawl back. The guns never ceased and the wounded men as they lay on the ground were shelled and shot by the Germans gunners.

At midnight there was a roll call and of those who answered, a large number had been wounded. Within a day nearly the whole of the wounded were collected and sent on to the various Dressing Stations all along the road, and with little or no delay brought on here to hospital. The expeditious way in which this part of the work was done is best testified to by the fact that they arrived here on Tuesday the 4th and up to Sunday afternoon about 320 arrived.

I have been at the Hospital every day and spent the whole of Sunday practically there. I found the men all rapidly recovering bright, happy, and cheerful only troubling about when they can get back. It is a wonderful spirit.

Nothing can exceed the kindness and devotion of the staff of the various hospitals; they are very fond of our men and give them they very highest character.

This report is far from complete and has been penned by me in a fragmentary way from facts obtained from the wounded men, few of whom can give a complete story, in fact many of those from whom I obtained this information were shot down with in a few yards of their own trenches very early in the day. Up to the present time of course there had been no dispatch from Headquarters, and nothing official beyond the mere lists of dead and wounded.

Up to noon today, Monday, July 9th , the compete number of officers and men killed and died of wounds is ……………. 16
The number of wounded………360
The number of missing……….......6

None of the officers and men whom I interviewed could give me any estimate of the number killed.

E.P Morris.

Source: The Daily News, July 28, 1916.


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