Mametz Wood - The 38th Welsh Division Memorial and the hammerhead shaped part of Mametz wood, looming on the horizon. The soldiers had to cross this no man’s land in order to attack the German positions in the wood.
During my research I discovered that there were famous poets and writers with Welsh roots amongst the soldiers who fought here.
The ones who drew my attention were Captain Llewelyn Wyn Griffith, who wrote his memories in “Up to Mametz" and Private David Jones, who is famous for his work "In Parenthesis".
I kept their words in mind as I walked and drove through the area around the wood, discovering the stories behind the battle.
On the 1st of July - the first day of the Somme offensive - the village of Mametz was taken by the 7th division. Nevertheless Mametz wood was still defended by the Germans.
The attacks on the wood in the days afterwards failed and plans were made for a final attack on the 7th of July. The 7th division had many casualties and was replaced by the 38th Welsh division. Artillery on the wood was intensified in order to break the German resistance and to cut the barbwire before the wood.
As Llewelyn Wyn Griffith wrote in “Up to Mametz":
"It all sounded so simple"
In the morning of july the 7th, the Soldiers of the 16th (Welsh), 10th and 11th Battalion (South Wales Borderers) waited in heavy rain. Their goal was to attack “ The Hammerhead” named after the hammerhead shaped part of Mametz wood.
The signal came and the artillery stopped. The battalions walked heavy packed towards the wood, without being protected by the planned smoke curtain. They were easy targets for the German soldiers of the Lehr regiment, who were defending the wood and its trenches.
While the heavy clay sticked on the Welshmen’s boots and glued them to the earth, the Germans opened fire from their positions in Mametz wood, along with enfilade fire coming from other positions like Flatiron Wood. The Welsh were swept away by the burning led. Another attack took place the same day, but with the same disastrous result.
Panoramic view over the Queens Nullah and Mametz wood.
This picture is taken a at the rear of the Dantzig Alley British Cemetery (near the seat-shaped memorial).
The Queens Nullah.
2nd Queens occupied this position on the 1st of July in 1916 and gave cover to the troops
during the battle of Mametz Wood. "Nullah" is the Indian name for a (dried up) watercourse.
One of the men who fought during the battle of Mametz wood was the poet David Jones. After the war, he described an experience he had while taking shelter behind the Queens Nullah:
There were more corpses than men
Mametz wood was finally taken on July the 12th 1916 but its capture was paid with the dead of many young man. At the end of the battle, the Welsh division had lost about 4000 men, either killed or wounded.
Flatiron Copse Cemetery, at the end of Mametz Wood.
Flatiron Copse Cemetery is situated near Mametz Wood. The ground was taken on July 14 1916, and first used as an advanced dressing station.
Three pair of brothers are buried here, side by side: the Tregaskis brothers, the Hardwidge brothers and the Philby brothers.
Arthur and Leonard Tregaskis had both been farming in Canada before the outbreak of war, but returned together to enlist. They joined the 38th Welsh Division.
They were both to die on the same day. Accounts of the battle described that as one brother fell, the other was wounded going to his aid, and together they died. They now lay side by side in Flatiron Copse Cemetery.
Join us in remembering the men who fought and died
Today Mametz Wood still bares the scars of its tragic history. The trenches and craters are silent witnesses of what happened here a hundred years ago, the ground being one with the bodies of the fallen from both sides.
Remember them while visiting Mametz and its surrounding fields.
Please reply and let us know if you have any relatives who fought during this battle.
Thank you for sharing our blogpost!
'Up To Mametz’ by Llewelyn Wyn Griffiths
David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet - by Thomas Dilworth
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Somme (map edited)
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