The Afternoon
(Hill 100 - Fricourt)

By midday, according to XV Corps’ scheme of attack, 7th and 21st Divisions should have linked up at Bottom Wood, isolating Fricourt and the wood of the same name. However, although both divisions had secured ground on their respective arms of the engulfing manoeuvre, neither had achieved their ultimate first-day objectives. Lt. Gen. Horne assessed the situation based upon reports he had received from his subordinate divisional commanders. On the right, 7th Division was in Mametz and had secured most of the village. To the east, 91st Brigade was not yet on its first objective, Dantzig Alley, however, a revised assault was about to be acted out, supported by a re-bombardment. On 7th Division’s left, 20th Brigade had sent favourable reports confirming their push along the summit of Bois Francais Ridge was progressing well. To the north, 21st Division was known to have advanced across Fricourt Spur and was in the Fricourt – Contalmaison sunken road and the Dingle. With this information, Horne had an optimistic summary of events. What he did not know was 50th Brigade had failed to secure 21st Division’s right flank and the left flank with III Corps was totally in the air. Furthermore, 7th Division’s hold of Mametz and the triangle of trenches to its east was precarious. If the Germans had available reserves and counter-attacked in force, they were likely to push 7th Division out of the village and likewise, to the north a strong counterattack from Contalmaison would likely evict 21st Division from their gains on Fricourt Spur. Horne had no knowledge of the general German situation, and had he known, he would not have had any concerns. The 28 Reserve Infantry Division under the command General Hahn possessed very few reserves and their artillery force was all but defeated. An earlier order sent by Horne at 8 am, instructing 22nd and 50th Brigades to prepare to attack at 10.30 am, was cancelled and was followed by a second order at 12.50 pm informing Watts and Campbell that Zero Hour for the second phase would now be 2.30 pm. The supporting bombardment would commence at 2 pm.

22nd & 50th BRIGADES:

Two reduced Infantry Brigades were allotted to XV Corps’ second phase (subsidiary operation), each with their own specific attack plans supported by corps and divisional artillery, but with one goal.

Brig. Gen. Steele’s 22nd Brigade orders decreed:

The Brigade will clear the German trenches North of Bois Francais at an hour to be decided. This operation will take place in conjunction with 2 Battalions of 50th Infantry Brigade who will clear Fricourt Village and Wood.

Brig. Gen. Glasgow’s 50th Brigade orders stated:

The 50th Brigade will clear Fricourt village and Fricourt Wood in conjunction with 22nd Inf. Bde. of the 7th Div.

On the southern flank, assaulting Bois Francais (Hill 110), 22nd Brigade would attack with one battalion, 20th Manchesters and 1st RWF in support. The Manchesters would fight through to the 1st Objective of Rose Trench with three companies assaulting and one in direct support. The task was split into two attack frontages. On the left, two companies and two platoons of the support company would advance across the western slope of Bois Francais to Sunken Road Trench, assaulting through the German trenches to Rectangle Support, Papen Trench and Rose Trench. On the left flank, special bombing parties would bomb north and link with the right of 50th Brigade. On the battalion’s right, one company and two platoons of the support company would attack across Bois Francais crater-field and capture Bois Francais Trench and Support. Bombing sections were then to advance east to link with 20th Brigade. Once the two assault companies attacking across the western slope of the feature passed in-front, en-route to Rose Trench, the company in Bois Francais Support was to follow on behind and occupy Papen Trench. With the first objective fallen, the Manchesters occupying Rose Trench would perform a second advance while 50th Brigade cleared Fricourt Wood, a bombing party would clear along Willow Trench to Bunny Wood.

The support battalion, 1st RWF, was to move forward and occupy the vacated trenches with one company in the old German front-line in Sunken Road Trench and two companies in the British first trench. They would also provide a special mobile reserve consisting of two sections of bombers, two sections of infantry, a Lewis-gun team and two Stokes mortars.

On the northern flank, while 22nd Brigade attacked, 50th Brigade would conduct a direct assault to capture Fricourt. By this point in the operation, 10th West Yorks, who attacked at the morning Zero Hour, should have been entrenched along the northern edge of Fricourt. The main ‘assault’ battalion, 7th Green Howards had the daunting task of a direct frontal attack against Fricourt. They were to capture Fricourt Trench then fight through the ruined village to its eastern side where they would link with 22nd Brigade. The 10th West Yorks were detailed to assist the Green Howards by assaulting from the trenches they occupied in German territory in a south-easterly direction until touch was made with the latter battalion. Once the first objective had fallen, both battalions would perform a secondary task: the clearance of Fricourt Wood. The assault would commence as a supporting bombardment lifted off the western edge of the wood. This attack would be made in conjunction with 22nd Brigade’s advance along Willow Avenue.