The Great Assualt Of July 1st.
Within a few months of the outbreak of the 1st World War in August 1914, the Allies and the Germans had entrenched their western armies in continuous lines from the coast in Belgium, through northern France to the Swiss frontier.
The two armies were each dug-in, facing each other, behind defences often only a few hundred yards apart. These defences consisted of two or three lines of trenches for the men to use as cover, protected by hedges of barbed-wire. A normal battle consisted of the attackers launching, onto the opposing trenches, a fierce artillery barrage lasting for some hours; this was followed by the attacking infantry swarming out from their trenches to attack the enemy. The defenders would wait for the enemy infantry to attack and then direct their own artillery onto them and support this with intense machinegun fire. Casualty levels were very high indeed on both sides; generally those attacking suffered the highest rate of loss.
Middlesex regiment returning from the trenches in the pouring rain.
Australian troops parading at the trenches.
Irish Brigade returning from Guillemont.
In order to try and bring relief to the French forces who were fighting for survival at Verdun, the British and Empire forces agreed to start a major offensive in the Somme, the area chosen being the 18 miles or so running north from the river Somme to the village of Gommecourt. The battle lasted almost 150 days, from July 1st 1916 to November 26 of that year.
Large scale battles occurred infrequently of course but during the remainder of his time on the front the soldier often fought violent minor conflicts or was subjected to intense artillery barrages or gas attacks
Within the overall period there were numerous engagements and those that are pertinent are described below:
Name and Date of Death
Events that happened on that day
Rifleman Wilfred Earthy
Who was just 19 years old, was killed in action at Gommecourt. He fought with the 19th (County of London) Battalion (Queen Victoria's Rifles) (Territorial Force), which was assigned to 169th Brigade in 56th (1st London) Division.
His parents were: Frederick Rich and Helena Earthy.
The 1st of July, at the village of Gommecourt.
The 48th and 56th Divisions of the Allied third army were respectively ordered to attack the Germans, who were firmly established on the higher ground of the Gommecourt salient. The 48th were to attack from the north and the 56th from the south, their object being to meet up behind the village in order to surround it before forcing a German surrender. The enemy trenches had been subject to an intense artillery barrage for a week beforehand in order to flatten the barbed-wire and destroy the enemy defensive positions; this made the land heavily cratered. Coupled with the heavy rain that had preceded the attack, the shallow valleys between the armies became a quagmire.
The attack by Brigades of the 56th Division started at 07.30hrs and was initially successful. Although many men were killed as they slowly made their way to the enemy trenches, once there and against fierce opposition, they forced through the German lines and made for the rendezvous point with the 46th Division behind the village. However the 46th Division could make no headway and most of their men were killed trying to reach the enemy wire and were eventually forced to retire.
This failure by the 48th Division allowed the Germans to devote all of their strength to attacking the 7 invading Battalions of the 56th Division who soon needed reinforcements and additional supplies. However these could not be brought forward owing to the intense artillery barrage that the Germans laid down on no-man's-land. By late morning the position of the attacking Brigades was becoming dire and casualties mounted steadily. By 16.00hrs the attacking Battalions had been forced back into the first German trench and by the evening their position was hopeless and those few who remained alive struggled to return to their own trenches. Just before dusk the last German counter-attack came and it was all over.
From the 56th Division, 7 battalions (about 5,300 men) had attacked and over 1,700 men were dead; some 200, mainly wounded, were prisoners of war and 2,300 were wounded, most of them still lying out in No Man's land.
Overall on the Somme there were 58,000 casualties on this one day, 21,000 of whom were killed.
Private Stanley Harry Earthy
Was around 36 years old when he died on the 3rd of September 1916. That day his Battalion was in action at Guillemont. He fought with the 6th Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, which was assigned to the 47th Irish Brigade in the 16th Irish Division. Before the war, Stanley Harry had served with the East Surrey Regiment in India, Aden and Malta.
His parents were: Owen Charles and Lucy Earthy.
The 3rd of September 1916, at the village of Guillemont.
The battle for the village had involved many Allied formations attacking over many weeks. They first had had to fight to take two heavily defended woods, which lay in the line of attack. After bitter fighting the woods were taken by the allied forces in mid July but the Germans defending the village, less than half a mile away, could not be winkled out. Each time a bombardment was launched the Germans retired to underground bunkers and tunnels and re-emerged when it finished to cut down the attacking troops with machine guns.
Fierce attacks continued throughout July and August and although Allied troops several times succeeded in entering the village outskirts they were invariably surrounded by the defenders who emerged from their warren of tunnels causing their attackers to retreat or surrender. Eventually the village was captured when the advancing troops followed closely behind a slow rolling barrage and managed to overwhelm the front line defences and then take the rest of the village. The attack plan then called for an advance by the Royal Irish Regiment up to the Maurepas-Ginchy road to the immediate east of the village; this successful advance was made to the sounds of their battalion pipers.
The 6th Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment lost all 14 officers and over 300 men in the attack to take Guillemont and two men from other battalions of the 16th (Irish) Division were awarded the Victoria Cross on September 3rd.
Lance Corporal William Vaughn Earthy
Died on 28th October 1916. He was 27 years old and married. He was with the 33rd Division, 98th Brigade, and 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment.
His parents were: Henry Robert and Alice Julia Earthy.
William Vaughn's medals from the left The 1914-15 Star, The War Medal and the Victory Medal. (Click on the photo's for a larger image).

28th of October 1916, The village of Le Transloy.
The 1st Battalion the Middlesex Regiment went into the front line east of the village of Les Boeufs on the 24th October and successfully attacked the German positions known as Rainy and Dewdrop trenches in front of the village of Le Transloy on the 28th October at 05.30hrs. By 09.30hrs the objectives were attained although at the heavy cost of 36 killed, 29 missing and over 140 wounded.
Private Frederick William Allen Earthy
More about Frederick on the Australian Imperial force [AIF] page.
The 8th of December 1916.
The Australian Imperial Force fought throughout the battle of the Somme and in particular suffered severe casualties fighting for the village of Poziers on the well-defended Albert-Baupaume road.
Research Rikk Earthy January 2002