The battle of Guillemont, 3-6 September 1916, was the official name given to the fighting that captured the village of Guillemont during the first battle of the Somme. The dates of the battle are rather misleading. Guillemont had been on the right flank of the British line since the middle of July, and had been attacked without success during August. The official name also covers the fighting further north in Delville Wood and around Ginchy.
Progress on this eastern flank of the British line was essential if the French and British were to cooperate properly north of the Somme. By the start of September the capture of Guillemont was becoming more urgent, as the plans for an attack north toward Flers and Courcelette began to take shape.
The successful attack on Guillemont was made by XIV corps, and was led by the 20th Division, with the 5th Division to their right. Their target was Leuze Wood, 1,500 yards beyond the village, on a ridge overlooking the village of Combles.
The southern part of the attack on 3 September suffered the most heavily. There the 13th Brigade had been relying on the French for a final bombardment of their objective, Falfemont Farm, but the French became stuck in Combles Ravine, and were unable to make and progress. The leading waves of the first battalion to attack were wiped out by German fire. To their left the 95th Brigade (5th Division) captured its first three objectives, and reached a line east of Guillemont.
The 20th Division attack on Guillemont began from a series of trenches very close to the German front line. The village itself had been destroyed by repeated artillery bombardments, but underneath it was a maze of German strongpoints. Despite this the 20th Division attack succeeded, captured its three objectives and reaching the Ginchy-Wedge Wood road, east of Guillemont. Elsewhere British attacks on Ginchy and further west around the front met with little or no success on 3 September.
The advance east of Guillemont continued over the next three days. By the end of 6 September the British had reached their target line, around Leuze Wood, and were ready to turn north to deal with Ginchy. Everything would soon be in place for the next big attack, at Flers-Courcelette.
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