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Operations on the River Ancre - The capture of Puisieux Trench

2nd February 1917

Operations on the River Ancre by 63rd (RN) Division The capture of Puisieux Trench.

After a short spell out of the line, the Hood battalion returned on the night of 1-2 February 1917 with the aim of attacking the two German trenches commanding Grancourt. The attack was planned to begin at 23.00. The attacking forces from the RND were given their separate objectives: the Hood was detailed to attack a well defined sector of German trench and an ill defined group of posts in the valley.

They were on the extreme right of the attack, closest to the river. An effort had been made to link up the shell holes into a continuous trench in which the attacking sailors could assemble. It gave them little cover, but it was here that the companies lined up at 21.00 on the evening of 03/02/1917.

There was a hard frost (the water froze in their bottles) and a bright moon.

Puisieux trench can be seen to the East of Bois d'Holland on the Map running N/S [Original Map here]

The distance to the German first line (Puisieux trench) was about 300 yards, with barely another 100 yards to the second line in River trench. The Hood probably assembled just downhill from the Bois d'Hollande. There was to be no attack on either flank, so the Germans would be able to rectify very quickly to this assault.

Puisieux Trench (photographic panorama taken on 16th October 1916) from the North of Stuff Redoubt. The Ancre river runs parallel to the trees in the foreground. River Trench is also highlighted - it was from here on 17th Feb 1917 in the opening stages of the Battle of Miraumontt.

The men set off behind a creeping barrage and soon occupied the first trench without too much opposition. There was, however, a machine gun position in a fortified emplacement to the left of the Hood's attack. In the confusion of the battle, the whole of the Hood ended up attacking the German posts in the valley; the left platoon should have carried on up the hill with the Hawke battalion to their left. The commanding officer of the Hood was wounded and his role was taken by Lt. Commander Asquith. He managed to get the Hood back into the correct alignment by 08.00

0n 04/02/1917 9 Royal Marines were lost in this phase.

RND, 2nd RM Battalion, France:

COOPER, Edward, Private, RMLI, 16393 (Po):

DWYER, Dennis, Private, RMLI, 16200 (Ply):

HAMILTON, Matthew, Private,

RMLI, S 273 (Po):

HOPKINS, Leonard J, Private, RMLI, S 1288 (Po):

SHAW, Robert, Private, RMLI, S 881 (Ply), killed

SHARPE, Herbert, Private, RMLI, S 1441 (Po),

DOW on the 3rd and GOLBY, Thomas E, Sergeant, RMLI, 15512 (Ply), DOW:

MATTHEWS, Wilfred, Private, RMLI, S 1154 (Ply) on the 4th.

RND, 190th Brigade Machine Gun Company, France:

EASTWOOD, Henry H, Colour Sergeant Major, RMLI, 10417 (Ch).

Related Royal Marines 'Dits'

References/ Further reading

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Having recently finished a book on the Asquith's this account highlights the role played by Asquith who was so well respected by his men. Son of the ex Prime Minister, his brother Raymond was killed in battle.

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Furthermore Arthur Asquith's battalion were in a small village called Gavrelle and incredible coincidence my grandfather, a Captain in the Tyneside Irish relieved the RN battalion. My grandfather was injured a few days after after leading his company in an attack. His war ended. And Arthur had his leg amputated in November 1917.

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