- Simon Biggs
RMLI in action at Miraumont
Saturday 17th - 18th February. 1 RMLI and 2 RMLI in action at Miraumont
On the north bank of the Ancre, the 63rd Division attacked on 17 February, with the 188th Brigade and two battalions of the 189th Brigade, to capture 700 yards (640 m) of the road north from Baillescourt Farm towards Puisieux, to gain observation over Miraumont and form a defensive flank on the left, back to the existing front line.
Two battalions attacked with a third battalion ready on the right flank, to reinforce them or to co-operate with the 18th Division between the Ancre and the Miraumont road.
On the northern flank two infantry companies, engineers and pioneers were placed to establish the defensive flank on the left. The divisional artillery and an army field brigade with 54 × 18-pounder field guns and 18 × 4.5-inch howitzers provided covering fire, with three field batteries from the 62nd Division further north, to place a protective barrage along the northern flank.
The darkness, fog and mud were as bad as on the south bank but the German defence was far less effective. The creeping barrage moved at 100 yards (91 m) in four minutes, slower than the rate on the south bank and the Germans in a small number of strong-points were quickly overcome.
The objective was reached by 6:40 a.m. and the defensive flank established, the last German strong-point being captured at 10:50 a.m. A German counter-attack the next day was stopped by artillery-fire.
The 63rd Division lost 549 casualties and the three attacking divisions took 599 prisoners
At the Battle of Miraumont Major Harold Ozanne commissioned into the Royal Marine Light Infantry in 1897 was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for gallantry.
After the successful attack on Miraumont Major Ozanne gave an official report to Battalion HQ and added the comment ‘the Boche bolting like rabbits’. The Battalion Commanding Officer when reporting on to Brigade HQ repeated this rather un-military description not realising that he was speaking to the Brigadier, and not his signals officer. Realising his error the CO quickly changed his report to ‘Enemy retiring hastily sir, helped by our fire’.
Harold Ozanne's medals on display at the Royal Marine Museum Portsmouth see related article (Col Harold Ozanne)