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3rd September 1916

The photograph is taken from near the Schwaben Redoubt at Thiepval, a formidable German stronghold not captured until the beginning of October. The trees line the banks of the River Ancre.

The task of the 39th Division of which the 11th Royal Sussex was a part involved attacking the German lines northwards towards Beaumont Hamel on a front of 1000 yards, together with the 14th Bn. Hampshire Regt. The 4th/5th Black Watch were set to work their way up the Ancre valley and keep in touch with the 49th Division attacking on their right flank. At first the assault by the Sussex and Hampshire men was successful, both battalions securing the German front line trenches against very little opposition. However, the Hampshires lost heavily and afterwards barely advanced any further. The llth Royal Sussex met with better fortune and made some progress, some individuals actually reaching the German support and reserve trenches.

Meanwhile, in the Ancre valley, the Black Watch suffered severely from machine gun fire and made very little progress. The men of the 49th Division on the Black Watch’s flank were quickly driven back from their start line in Thiepval Wood, Blunden reporting that the Division hardly got twenty yards from the edge of the wood.

Blunden was employed in bringing up parties of men carrying bomb buckets full of grenades for the bombers manning the British trenches and for his work received the award of the Military Cross.

The whole attack was unsuccessful and by the evening of 3rd September, the 11th Royal Sussex was relieved by the 6th Bn. Cheshire Regiment, going into billets at Englebelmer. The battalion casualties in the attack numbered some 300 men.

One of the men who lost his life in this engagement was No. SD/429 Sgt. F.A.Hoad. His wound was slight, but he refused to believe that it was genuinely a minor injury. Neither the encouragement of Blunden’s friend Sergeant Worley, nor a tot of rum could overcome the brave soldier’s shock and sadly he died. Blunden describes this incident in his poem "Pillbox".

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