Battle of Flers-Courcelette - History of World War I - WW1 - The Great War

Battle of Flers-Courcelette - No Picture

More about World War 1

Battle of Flers-Courcelette Information

Battle of Flers-Courcelette

15 - 22 September 1916
Courcelette, France
Tactically: Minor Br./N.Z./Cdn Victory
Strategically: Insignificant
Territorial changes
British/Canadian/New Zealand advances of as much as 2,000 yds on a 12,000 yd. front
Date: 15 - 22 September 1916
Location: Courcelette, France
Result: Tactically: Minor Br./N.Z./Cdn Victory
Strategically: Insignificant
Territorial changes: British/Canadian/New Zealand advances of as much as 2,000 yds on a 12,000 yd. front
: United Kingdom
New Zealand
Commanders and leaders:
: Douglas Haig CINC, Henry Rawlinson 4th Army
Julian Byng
Alexander Godley
: 11 Divisions, 39 Tanks

Main battles in small caps and other engagements below: Albert - Bazentin Ridge - Delville Wood - Pozix¨res Ridge - Guillemont - Ginchy - Flers-Courcelette - Morval - Thiepval Ridge - Transloy Ridges - Ancre Heights - Ancre

Montauban - Mametz - Fricourt - Contalmaison - la Boiselle - Gommecourt - Longueval - Trx´nes Wood - Ovillers - Fromelles - High Wood - Mouquet Farm - Martinpuich - Combles- Lesboeufs - Gueudecourt - Eaucourt l'Abbaye - le Sars - Butte de Warlencourt- Schwaben - Stuff Redoubts - Regina Trench - Beaumont Hamel

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, which began on 15 September 1916 and lasted for one week, was the third and last of the large-scale offensives mounted by the British Army during the Battle of the Somme. The battle is significant for the first use of the tank in warfare.

The debut of the tank

Expectations were high that it would prove a decisive weapon, however the Mark I tank's performance was patchy and many felt that the tank needed still more improvement to be suitable for battlefield use. Nonetheless, General Sir Douglas Haig, who had wanted to stage a mass tank attack on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1, decided to send the 49 tanks that were available into battle. He was warned against this by both his subcommanders, such as Ernest Dunlop Swinton, and the French government, which sent Colonel Jean-Baptiste Eugx¨ne Estienne and Subsecretary of State of Inventions Jean-Louis Bréton, normally arch-enemies, to London, hoping to persuade the British government to overrule Haig. In the end, the tanks proved to be largely a psychological asset, emboldening the attackers and intimidating the defenders where they moved forward. However, tactically they provided little advantage or support to the attackers as many of the tanks broke down and weren't able to advance. A major driving force of the project that produced the tank, Winston Churchill responded: "My poor 'land battleships' have been let off prematurely on a petty scale" when he heard of the tanks use and performance at Flers-Courcelette.


Overall strategic objective

Like the earlier offensives of 1 July (Battle of Albert) and 14 July (Battle of Bazentin Ridge), Haig had hoped to achieve a breakthrough of the German defences, enabling a return to mobile warfare with cavalry units pouring through a hole punched in the line by a successful swift and decisive infantry strike. Though the British, Canadian and New Zealand forces did make significant gains on the day, a breakthrough was not forthcoming and the Somme front reverted to an attrition struggle, which, with the onset of wet weather, created dreadful conditions in which the infantry had to live and fight.

Objectives taken

After having struggling for the preceding two months to take control of it, the British 47th (1/2nd London) Division succeeded in clearing High Wood, sustaining heavy losses in the process.

The Canadian Corps made their debut on the Somme on the left flank. The attack with the Canadian 2nd Division advancing approximately two kilometres and capturing their assigned objective of Courcelette and the area surrounding the village. Noteworthy efforts from the 25th Battalion (the Nova Scotia Rifles) and the French Canadian 22nd Battalion (the 'Van Doos') were delivered in the process of clearing the German defenders from the village.

The New Zealand Division fought for and captured a position known as the Switch Line in 30 minutes after the British had initially set their eyes on the position two months earlier.

Untaken objectives

In the centre of the attack, two villages were captured. Martinpuich, wrested by the 15th (Scottish) Division, and Flers, captured by the British 41st Division were taken, but these were more than 2,000 yards short of the lofty final objectives of the fortified villages of Gueudecourt and Lesbœufs.

On the right, where Haig had hoped the hole would be opened in the line to allow the cavalry penetration and breakthrough, the attacks faltered. In this area a German position known as the "Quadrilateral" Redoubt sat west of Ginchy but due to poor weather that prevented flying and poor sight lines the exact position of the trenches of the redoubt were unknown to the attackers. The artillery preparation and tank support did little to neutralise the defenses and left the trenches and wire protecting the position largely intact which allowed the German garrison to batter the 56th (London) Infantry Division and 6th Division of the XIV Corps' attack. The 6th division finally took the Quadrilateral after four days of attacks on 18 September. The Guards Division made considerable headway, advancing 2,000 yards, but they were stopped short of Ginchy. To take the remaining objectives, the British Fourth Army launched the Battle of Morval on 25 September.

Victoria Crosses

The Victoria Cross is the highest military honour in the British and Commonwealth system of honours. It is awarded for acts of the highest valour in the face of the enemy in battle. For their actions at Flers-Courcelette four Victoria Crosses were awarded:

New Zealander, Serjeant Donald Forrester Brown of the Otago Infantry Regiment was awarded the VC for his heroic actions in battle southeast of High Wood on 15 September.
On the same day, Scottish Lieutenant Colonel John Vaughan Campbell of the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, Guards Division, earned his VC for his part in the fighting at Ginchy.
Again on the 15th, close to the village of Ginchy, Lance-Sergeant Frederick McNess of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, Guards Division, earned the VC.
On the 16th of September, Canadian Private John Chipman Kerr of the 49th (Edmonton) Battalion earned the VC for gallant actions fighting near Courcelette.


The Canadian actions on the Somme are commemorated at the Courcelette Memorial which sits beside the D929 (Albert-Bapaume) roadway, just south of the village of Courcelette itself.
The New Zealand Memorial to the New Zealand Division's actions on the Somme is found on the former site of the Switch Line trench on a lane off the D197 road running north of Longueval (GPS co-ordinates 50.039501 2.801512) and the New Zealand Division's memorial to its Missing in France is located near the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, just east of the village of Longueval.
The 41st Division memorial sits in Flers in commemoration of their liberation of the village. This memorial, topped with a bronze battle dressed soldier, has been made particularly famous in its depiction as the photo on the cover of Rose Coombs' quintessential battlefield tour guide Before Endeavours Fade.
A memorial cross to the Guards Division sits beside the C5 road between Ginchy and Lesbœufs.
A memorial cross to the 47th London Division sits beside the D107 road just inside High Wood between Martinpuich and Longueval.

List of Canadian battles during World War I


A Short History of the 6th Division Aug. 1914 - March 1919 Edited By: Maj. Gen. T. O. MARDEN, London, Hugh Rees Ltd. 1920
Commonwealth War Graves Commission - Battle of the Somme: Coucelette and

More aircraft.

Source: WikiPedia

eXTReMe Tracker