Thursday, 22 May 2014


David Ross says: "The Allied offensive between July and November 1916, between the Somme and Ancre rivers, was intended to relieve the pressure on the beleaguered French forces at Verdun.  The battle was launched on 1st July with the British divisions comprising mainly New Army “Kitchener” battalions hitherto untested in battle.
"The assaulting battalions went over the top on a blistering hot summer’s day, after a week long bombardment, which was meant to cut the German wire and destroy the substantial German defences.  A large quantity of the Allied artillery shells proved to be ‘duds’.
The novice infantry were laden down with equipment and extra ammunition and instructed to advance at walking pace in waves towards the Germans, who had ample time to man their defences.  Many were cut down by heavy machine gun fire as they left the safety of their trenches. Some limited success was gained, but these were not consolidated due to lack of support by the divisions on their flanks.
Nineteen thousand men were killed on the first day of the battle. Some were members of “Pals’ Battalions” of Kitchener’s army and many communities, particularly in the north of England were badly affected.  The British forces sustained almost 60,000 casualties.
The fighting continued with some gains into mid-November.  It became a battle of attrition, similar to the fighting at Verdun.  The cost was 615,000 Allied and about 500,000 German casualties.  1st July 1916 became etched in the memory of military history as the worst day of the British Army.  The battle was to consume five members of the parish: Ernest Whitehead, William Godfrey, Ernest Holman, Charles Olive and Robert Maxted. 

Ernest Whitehead
(15) Sapper 65314 Ernest WHITEHEAD 126th Field Company Royal Engineers.                   

Ernest Whitehead was the son of Herbert William and Louisa Whitehead of Cop Street, Ash. He was born at Maidstone and was employed by his father at Hadaway’s smithy in Cop Street. He was an active member of Ash Congregational Church.
He enlisted in Canterbury in January 1915, joining the Royal Engineers, and went to France in September that year.. He was killed by a shell during the battle of the Somme, whilst entering approach trenches on 4th July 1916, at the age of 19.  His commanding officer paid tribute to him in a letter to his parents, saying he had his bible in his hand when he was struck down.
He is buried in Norfolk Cemetery, Somme (plot I.C.90), close to the grave of Major Stewart Walter Loudon Shand of the 10th Battalion, Green Howards,  killed on 1st July,  who won the VC for continuing to urge his men forward despite being mortally wounded.  Wartime burials ended here after the first week of the battle, by which time there were 281 graves by the roadside. 

16) Pte G/5196 William James GARLINGE Military Medal 8th Battalion The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).

William James Garlinge was the son of John Albert and Annie Garlinge, of 1 Sayer’s Cottages, Broomfield, Herne Bay.  He was born at Richborough in Ash parish and enlisted in Margate.  
From the battalion diary: 17th Brigade 24th Division for 15th June 1916, he was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s despatch. 
He died on 17th July 1916 age 31, probably from wounds received during a large raid on 28th June on the German trenches at a point known as Ash Road Barrier near Ploegsteert, Ypres.
Two parties attacked the German line and moved forward under cover of an intense bombardment.  2nd Lieutenant Anderson’s party (which probably contained Private Garlinge) succeeded in entering the German front-line trench, and after a bombing engagement withdrew with their wounded. The raid proved to be costly, the other party being held up by uncut wire and forced to retire.
Such enterprises were extremely hazardous, and were intended to gain intelligence from captured prisoners.   Out of three officers and 100 men who ‘went over the top’, four men were killed and 20 wounded. 
William Garlinge was awarded the Military Medal for bravery during this action.  Notice of the award appeared in the London Gazette on 19th February 1917.
He is buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France (plot II.E.6.), close to the Belgian border. His brother Cecil was killed in action on 20th November 1917 during the First Battle of Cambrai.



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