Friday 30 June 1916 – We Lost 996
At 03:15 two battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment, the 12th and 13th, with the 11th in reserve, go over the top at The Boar’s Head salient in the German lines near the small village of Richebourg l’Avoue in northern France. This is a diversionary attack is meant to confuse the enemy as to the extent of attacks on the Somme tomorrow. The 12th advance on the right, with the junction of the 12th/13th being the tip of the Boar’s Head, where an old communications trench runs from the British parapet across to the German front line. Going forward in the half darkness, the smoke bombardment intended to screen their advance drifts across the leading waves causing some confusion.
Not long after the British bombardment ceases, the Germans emerge from their dugouts and machine-gun fire starts to rake No Man’s Land. Officers in the leading companies begin to fall and it is left to Warrant Officers and NCOs to take over. Among these is Company Sergeant Major Nelson Victor Carter (12th Battalion). Armed with only a revolver, Carter leads his men forward and takes over when his company commander falls. When his group reaches the German lines, the wire is in places uncut, but they manage to affect an entry in a few places. Carter leads his men in and succeeds in reaching the support line. Here he expects to find the 13th Battalion, but there is no sign of them. After a few hours, German counter-attacks force them back and the position is abandoned with heavy losses. CSM Carter then assists in the evacuation of the wounded from No Man’s Land until he goes out one last time and is shot by a sniper, dying within a few minutes at age 29. For his actions on this day CSM Carter will be awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.
With the 13th Battalion the situation is even worse. The smoke bombardment drifts into the attackers and the men totally lose their direction. Some end up advancing at an angle across No Man’s Land exposing their flanks to the Germans. Again on reaching the German front line, most of the wire is intact. Very few of the 13th ever make it into the German trenches. By the close of operations only a handful of survivors have made their way back to the British lines.
The 11th is not committed as a complete unit. However ‘D’ Company has gone in as a carrying party. It is almost entirely wiped out including Second Lieutenant Francis Gricewood, whose brother died of illness earlier this year serving in the same battalion.
As roll calls are made back in the British lines the total casualties for the morning’s fight are placed at 15 officers and 364 other ranks killed or died of wounds, and 21 officers and 728 other ranks wounded.
- Among the dead are dozens of tragic stories including seven sets of brothers killed. Private Edward and Lance Corporal Frederick Bristow are killed serving with the 13th while Private Harold Summer also of the 13th and Sergeant John George Summer, age 19, of the 12th die of wounds received together. Private James George Honeyset (13th) a veteran of the South Africa War is killed at age 36 while his brother Private Cecil Honeyset of the same battalion is killed at age 29. Two more brothers in the 13th Privates Jesse and R Botting are both killed as are Private Frank (12th) age 27 and Private Leonard Blaker (13th) age 29. The Blurton brothers of the 12th Battalion also fall. Lance Sergeant Tom Pain Blurton age 20 and Private Eric Brian Blurton who is killed at age 19. Finally three brothers of the Pannell all Privates are killed. Charles John (13th) age 39 and his two brothers Alfred (13th) and William (12th).
- Captain Cyril Milford Humble-Crofts (13th) is killed just as he reaches the barbed wire entanglements while leading his company at age 34. He is the son of the Reverend Canon William John Humble-Crofts Rector of Waldron who will lose another son just after the Armistice is signed.
- Second Lieutenant Frederick Thomas Arkcoll (12th) is killed at age 27. His brother will die of pneumonia two weeks after the Armistice is signed.
- Sergeant Stanley Percival Brackell (Sussex Regiment) is killed. He is the first of three brothers who will lose their lives in the Great War.
- Killed in the attack is Corporal Percy Parsons (13th) who dodged sick parade to take part in the attack and died on the German wire at age 37.
- Lance Corporal Frederick William Murrell (Sussex Regiment) is killed at age 23. His brother died of wounds last October.
- Private Leonard Miles (13th) is killed. His brother will be killed in September 1917. Private Ernest Wooller (12th) is killed almost two years to the day before his brother met the same fate.
- Lance Corporal Frederick W Chandler (12th) is killed while his brother lost his life on HMS Caribbean in September 1915.
- Lance Corporal Robert Charles Veness (13th) is killed at age 21. His brother died of wounds last month serving in the same regiment.
- Private William Jenner (12th) is killed at age 18. His brother will be killed in September 1918. Private Charles Cyril Andrews (12th) is killed. His brother was killed on Gallipoli last August.
- A West Sussex Police Officer Sergeant Albert Edward Cutler (13th) is also killed in the attack.
- Private Archie Griffiths (Sussex Regiment) is killed at age 20. His brother was killed last August on Gallipoli.
- Private John Haggar (11th) is killed at age 20 and Private William Basil Haffenden (13th) is killed at age 24. Both are the second son to be lost in their family the other being killed in both instances last year. The father of the Haffenden boys will take his own life after the death of his sons.
- Private Arthur Tingley is killed as the middle of three brothers who are killed in the Great War.
Today’s losses include:
- The grandson of the Count Messina of Malta
- Multiple sons of members of the clergy
- Multiple sons of Justices of the Peace
- A Victoria Cross winner
- A West Sussex Police Sergeant
- Multiple brothers killed together include a single set of three brothers killed together
- Multiple families that will lose two, three and four sons
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Colonel Charles Maunoir Sumner (South Lancashire Regiment) dies at home at age 59. He is the son of the Reverend John Maunior Sumner Rector of Buriton.
- Lieutenant Colonel William Frederick Stringer (Army Service Corps, Assistant Director of Transport on the General Staff at the War Office) dies in London of heart failure at age 43.
- Captain Wilfrid Jervis Davis (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed in action at age 25. His younger brother will be killed in 1918 as a lieutenant in the same regiment.
- Second Lieutenant Alan Oswald Miles (Gloucestershire Regiment) is killed in action at age 27. He is the only son of the late Reverend Canon Charles Oswald Miles and a master at Pembroke Lodge.
- Second Lieutenant Robert Edward Thorne Huddart (Rifle Brigade) is killed by shell fire at age 31. He is the son of the Reverend G A W Huddart.
- Second Lieutenant Percy George Hall (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed at age 23. He is the son of James Robert Hall JP DL.
- Second Lieutenant Francis Julius Maria Grisewood (Sussex Regiment) is killed at age 36. He is the middle of three brothers and sons of Harman Grisewood JP and his wife Concetta the daughter of Count Messina of Malta who will lose their lives in the Great War this year.
- Sergeant Clifford Wharfedale Mather (New Zealand Rifle Brigade) dies of wounds received six days earlier at age 27. He is the son of the late Reverend J J Mather. Lance
- 2nd Corporal Walter Sydney Whiting (4th Signal Company Royal Engineers) dies of wounds received two weeks before at age 33. He is the son of the Reverend Frederick William Whiting.
- Another pair of brothers, twins Leonard and William Crossley die serving as Riflemen in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps at age 31 and are killed buried in adjacent graves in Berks Cemetery Extension.
- Sapper Charles Weston Hodgin (Royal Engineers) dies of wounds at age 19 received two days before. He is the son of the late Councillor James Henry Hodgin.
- Acting Bombardier William Robert Challis (Royal Field Artillery) dies in Mesopotamia. His brother was killed in September 1914.
- Private Peter P Williams (Essex Regiment) is killed at age 21. His brother died on service in Canada in 1915.
- Private Frederick Bradford (Sussex Regiment) is killed at age 32. He is the second of four brothers who are killed in the Great War.