XIII Corps would attack with two divisions, 30th Division on the right and 18th Division on the left. Talus Boise and a track leading to Montauban on the west of Train Valley would form the divisional boundary. The 9th (Scottish) Division was to be in Corps reserve, assembling in and around Billon Wood, Trigger Wood and positions sheltered from view by the crest of Maricourt Ridge.
The two leading brigades of 30th Division, 89th and 21st Brigades, were to capture the first objective, Dublin Trench to Glatz Redoubt, between Maricourt Ridge and Montauban. This would be achieved in two stages with the objective being taken by 8.28 am. The right brigade, the 89th, was to advance up the gradual slope of Montauban Ridge for its first phase, assaulting as far as Casement Trench, a switch trench running westward from Dublin Redoubt. For its second phase it would advance once the artillery lifted to Dublin Trench, where it would consolidate. The left brigade, the 21st, would advance along the western slope of the ridge to secure a trench 150-yards west of Glatz Redoubt with its northern boundary on Train Alley. For its second phase it would assault and capture Glatz Redoubt. The third brigade in the division, the 90th, would move up over the open ground from Cambridge Copse. At 9.30 am it would pass through the leading two brigades to attack and capture Montauban as far as Montauban Alley, the division’s second and final objective. The artillery lifts were timed to fit in with the three infantry stages. A barrage map showing seven lifts was issued by the divisional artillery commander, Brig Gen. G H A White. During the pause at the first objective the village of Montauban was to be bombarded for an hour.
The Brigade had the distinction of being on the extreme right flank of the British Expeditionary Force bordering the French Army. They would fight alongside 153e Regiment, 39e Division, XX Corps, otherwise known as the ‘Corps de Fer,’ or ‘Iron Corps.’ XX Corps came with an excellent reputation, having distinguished itself since 1914 and more recently at Verdun. It was a battle-hardened and experience formation, unlike their British neighbours. 1 July 1916 was to be the first offensive action of 89th Brigade and 30th Division. With the exception of 2nd Bedfords, the Brigade was untested in battle. What they lacked in offensive experience, they made up for in knowledge of the ground. The sector had been their home for seven months, the plan was known and had been rehearsed thoroughly, the men were keen, enthusiastic, fighting fit and predominantly well-educated. All were volunteers. At last their day had arrived. The waiting was over and it was now their turn to take the fight to the enemy.
The Brigade plan was simple. It would attack with two assault battalions, 17th King’s Liverpool on the right and 20th King’s Liverpool on the left. The 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment would provide support and 19th King’s Liverpool would take brigade reserve. There were two objectives. The first phase of the operation comprised an assault carried out in three bounds adhering to a strict artillery timetable. The orders dictated:
The timing of the lifts have been arranged on the principle that it is better for the infantry to wait until our barrage lifts than for the latter to be lifted prematurely.
Departing at Zero Hour, the two vanguard battalions attacked in four waves advancing to their first bound, Silesia Trench and Silesia Support. The supporting artillery would then lift to the second bound, Casement Trench, followed immediately by an infantry assault. At 7.46 am, the artillery would lift once more to the third bound, Dublin Trench, the first objective. There would then be a halt of 40-minutes during which Divisional and heavy artillery would pound Dublin Trench. At 8.26 am the infantry would attack once more. By 8.30 am they would be in Dublin Trench with the first objective secure. Following on in the rear, 2nd Bedfords would ‘mop-up,’ clearing all trenches and underground shelters whilst 19th King’s would carry forward stores to consolidate.
Concurrently, on the Brigade right-hand boundary, the French would be in Dublin Redoubt, whereas on the left, 21st Brigade ought to have captured Glatz Redoubt. There would now be a pause whilst 90th Brigade passed through 21st Brigade to capture Montauban. On the successful capture of Montauban the Brigade would seize its second objective, ‘The Brickworks,’ by a left flanking attack undertaken by 20th King’s Liverpool. The Brigade would then consolidate and construct six strongpoints with interconnecting trenches.
The 89th Brigade would have one major advantage over the other attacking Brigades of XIII Corps, French heavy artillery support. Three of the four Group de Menthon 220mm heavy mortar batteries would support each artillery bound with a total of twelve mortars, each with an allocation of ninety-five 200lbs shells. Engaging on a maximum rate of fire of one shell per minute per mortar. During the Brigade assault the French would obliterate the German positions and conquer resistance with over a thousand of these colossal missiles.
To the left of 89th Brigade the 21st Brigade would attack simultaneously from the British first three trenches. Their ultimate objective was the capture and consolidation of Glatz Redoubt and high ground overlooking Train Valley. The taking of this critical position was vital to the success of the divisional scheme. If 21st Brigade was to fail or be seriously delayed in this task the subsequent failure would result in 90th Brigade, who were advancing in rear, to have no ‘start line’ from which to launch the final phase of the divisional plan, the capture of Montauban.
The 21st Brigade would have the toughest task of the three divisional infantry brigades. The lay of the ground was difficult for assaulting troops. The narrow valley incorporating steep slopes on the left flank housed many enemy positions that ran in-depth. These dominated No-Man’s-Land. The valley changed direction from south - north to west - east behind the German lines, forming one side of a small salient with dead ground (known as the gorge) in the enemy rear that sheltered their dugouts from heavy artillery. The slight rise on the far bank of the valley housed three lines of German trenches, all of which overlooked the left flank of 21st Brigade’s attack. If the 55th Brigade, 18th Division, attacking on the left boundary, whose first objective was this ground, was held up or delayed, the left flank of 21st Brigade would be open and exposed to murderous enfilade fire. The west flank was not the only danger; Glatz Redoubt, the Brigade’s final objective, was the cornerstone in the German defence south of Montauban. It was by far the largest and most extensively constructed position in the German sector between the River Somme and Mametz. If the Redoubt had not been sufficiently obliterated by the heavy artillery, and its garrison survived in its deep shelters, the 21st Brigade would have a difficult task ahead of them.
The Brigade attacked with two assault battalions, 19th Manchesters on the right and 18th King’s Liverpool on the left, one battalion, 2nd Green Howards would provide support and 2nd Wiltshires would take brigade reserve. There was the one objective, Glatz Redoubt and the high ground to its west. To capture the position the operation would be conducted in three phases with four artillery bounds adhering to a strict timetable.
There was a difference of two hundred yards in distance over which the two vanguard battalions would have to cross No-Man’s-Land. To compensate for this difference 19th Manchesters would assault early at 7.28 am. The 18th King’s would also attack early but at 7.29 am, the one-minute variance would allow the two battalions to strike the German first trench at the same moment. At Zero Hour the artillery would lift its initial bound from the first two enemy trenches, Silesian Trench and Silesian Support to Alt Trench, the German reserve line. The assault would then have six minutes in which to catch the barrage before it lifted for a second time on trenches spanning the southern aspect of Glatz Redoubt and Train Alley Gorge. After a sixteen-minute bombardment the heavy and divisional artillery would lift once more. On this occasion it would put down a sustained forty-minute barrage on the northern perimeter defences of the Redoubt. On its completion at 8.26 am the two assault battalions would capture the objective. In theory, by 8.30 am, 21st Brigade would be in possession of Glatz Redoubt and on the right 89th Brigade would simultaneously capture Dublin Trench. If all went to plan 55th Brigade should be fighting up Breslau Alley on the left flank. However, it was not to be quite as easy as it was laid out in their orders.
The 89th and 21st Brigades had succeeded in capturing their objective, on time and as per the Divisional strategy. The first hour of the morning’s battle had been costly, particularly on the left. On the Division’s west flank 55th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division, still struggled to push forward, leaving its flank exposed. However, the door was now open for the capture of 30th Division’s chief prize, the village of Montauban. The open flank on the left would lead to additional casualties and difficulties in achieving this. The 90th Brigade’s task would certainly be no walk-over. The plan of attack submitted by Brig. Gen. Charles John Steavenson CMG was comprised of two key phases. Firstly, the brigade would ‘move’ over 2,100-yards from their assembly trenches to their jumping off point on the 21st Brigade’s objective, Glatz Redoubt, and the high ground overlooking Train Valley. The second phase, the Brigade attack, would commence from this location across Train Valley up the slope through Montauban village to Montauban Alley, the final objective, a long linear trench on the northern aspect of the village. To achieve the task before them, 90th Brigade would attack with two assault battalions, 17th Manchesters on the right, 16th Manchesters on the left, 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers in support and 18th Manchesters in reserve and as carriers.
The first phase, scheduled to commence sixty-minutes after Zero Hour, involved approximately 3,500 men advancing in the open across a wide expanse of ground ridden with shell craters and trenches. The move was subdivided into three stages. Initially, there would be an advance from the Brigade assembly trenches, in dead ground north of Oxford Copse, to the British front line, a distance of 1,100-yards. To ensure this advance remained in formation and to ease movement, over 400 trenches bridges were positioned by 90th and 21st Brigade prior to Zero Hour. It would be impossible to hide this movement entirely from German eyes in Montauban, Bernafay Wood and the Brickworks. It was clear if this target presented itself to enemy FOOs a rain of artillery shells would be called down upon them. To counter this threat, the Brigade planned to only advance once the 89th and 21st Brigades had lit 1,200 smoke candles. Only when the candles were alight and once Gen. Steavenson observed red ground flares would he give the command for his Brigade to advance. The smoke screen created would develop into a large cloud which would drift slowly north across Train Alley and towards Montauban, Bernafay Wood and the Brickworks, screening out 90th Brigade’s advance. As with the 21st Brigade’s earlier advance, the foremost danger existed on the left flank across Train Valley, while the Brigade crossed the 400-yards of No-Man’s-Land. This threat would continue as they worked over 600-yards of devastated enemy positions. On coming into line with 21st Brigade, the two lead battalions would go to ground and await the allotted hour for their supporting barrage to lift from Train Valley to Montauban.
The second phase, the capture of Montauban, would begin at 9.30 am. Five minutes prior to the Brigade advance two sub-sections of No.5 Battalion Special Brigade, operating from Glatz Redoubt, would fire a 4-inch Stokes smoke barrage on the right flank. The resulting smoke would screen the Brigade attack across Train Valley on their right flank from German FOOs in Bernafay Wood and the Brickworks. The plan of attack was uncomplicated; the Brigade would assault in waves across Train Valley and through Montauban village, 16th Manchesters continuing to Montauban Alley, 17th Manchesters forming a protective right flank and 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers clearing the village. Consolidation would follow immediately. It was imperative the Brigade was prepared and resupplied in readiness for the expected enemy counter attacks.