Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt

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Coordinates: 50°05′00″N 2°39′01″E / 50.08339°N 2.65015°E / 50.08339; 2.65015

Hawthord Ridge Redoubt
Part of the Battle of the Somme, First World War
Ancre sector 1 July 1916.png
Trench Map showing Hawthorn ridge and crater at top left
Date 1 July – 13 November 1916
Location Picardy, France
Result British victory
Belligerents
 British Empire  German Empire
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Douglas Haig German Empire Fritz von Below

Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt was a German front-line fortification west of the village of Beaumont Hamel on the Somme. It was the scene of several costly attacks by British infantry during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. It was also the location for one of the most famous pieces of film footage of the First World War, when the Hawthorn Ridge mine was detonated beneath the redoubt at 7:20 a.m. on 1 July 1916, the first day on the Somme.

Background[edit]

The Hawthorn Ridge mine was the northernmost of the ten mines dug by the Royal Engineer tunnelling companies. It was detonated on 1 July, one of the three large mines, the other two being the Lochnagar mine and the Y Sap mine at La Boisselle. The mine contained about 40,000 pounds (18 t) of explosives. The plan was to detonate all other mines at 7:28 a.m., two minutes before zero hour when the infantry advance would begin, but Lieutenant-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, whose VIII Corps was holding the Hawthorn Ridge sector, favoured blowing the mine hours before the main attack, believing this would give his 29th Division time to capture and consolidate the crater. The Fourth Army commander, Lieutenant-General Henry Rawlinson rejected this proposal, on the grounds that the Germans would probably take possession of the crater. In this stance he was supported by General Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force. As a compromise, Hunter-Weston was allowed to blow the mine ten minutes before zero, rather than two minutes.[1]

Battle[edit]

A witness to the detonation of the Hawthorn Ridge mine, was British cinematographer Geoffrey Malins who was filming the 29th Division attack. He had his camera set up about half a mile away, trained on the ridge and waiting for the explosion,

The ground where I stood gave a mighty convulsion. It rocked and swayed. I gripped hold of my tripod to steady myself. Then for all the world like a gigantic sponge, the earth rose high in the air to the height of hundreds of feet. Higher and higher it rose, and with a horrible grinding roar the earth settles back upon itself, leaving in its place a mountain of smoke.[2]

once the debris subsided, two platoons of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (86th Brigade, 29th Division) were sent forward to occupy the crater. However, the German defenders succeeded in holding the eastern lip of the crater. The early detonation alerted all Germans in the vicinity that the attack was imminent. By the time the infantry went over at 7:30 a.m., German machine guns were sweeping no man's land and artillery fire was falling on the British trenches. The attack on Hawthorn Ridge redoubt and on the entire VIII Corps front was a costly failure. By 8:30 a.m., the only ground captured by the 29th Division was the western lip of the crater held by one company but by the end of the day this was lost to a German counter-attack.[3]

Aftermath[edit]

After the disaster of the first day on the Somme, British efforts were concentrated south of the AlbertBapaume road and the Hawthorn Ridge sector was not subjected to further major attacks until the final push of the battle on 13 November, with the opening of the Battle of the Ancre.[4] For this attack another mine was laid beneath Hawthorn Ridge, this time containing 30,000 pounds (14,000 kg) of explosives. On this occasion, superior British planning resulted in a successful assault and Hawthorn Ridge as well as Beaumont Hamel were finally captured.[5]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Edmonds 1932, pp. 429–431.
  2. ^ Malins 1920, p. 163.
  3. ^ Edmonds 1932, pp. 431–437.
  4. ^ Miles 1938, pp. 476–527.
  5. ^ Miles 1938, pp. 491–494.

References[edit]

  • Edmonds, J. E. (1932). Military Operations France and Belgium, 1916. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I Sir Douglas Haig's Command to the 1st July: Battle of the Somme (IWM & Battery Press 1993 ed.). London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-89839-185-7. 
  • Malins, G. H. (1920). How I filmed the War: a Record of the Extraordinary Experiences of the Man Who Filmed the Great Somme Battles, etc. London: Herbert Jenkins. OCLC 246683398. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  • Miles, W. (1938). Military Operations France and Belgium, 1916. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. II 2nd July 1916 to the End of the Battles of the Somme (Battery Press 1992 ed.). London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-901627-76-3. 

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