The 10th Essex triumph at The Battle of Thiepval Ridge

A German tank at the Battle of Thiepval Ridge

A German tank at the Battle of Thiepval Ridge - Credit: Archant

The 10th Essex Battalion had been resting during the summer of 1916.

In September they were recalled for an attack on Thiepval, which the Germans boasted was “impregnable.”

General Maxse, commander of the 18th Division, prepared his troops meticulously. The 10th Essex were to attack on the right flank, with improved artillery support and several of the new tanks.

On the eve of the attack, General Maxse told his men that the Germans “have withstood attacks on Thiepval for two years but the 18th Division will take it tomorrow.”

They started their approach early on 26th September, cheerful and confident, with zero hour at 12.35 pm.

A heavy artillery barrage 60 yards ahead protected them as they advanced. The attack went very well, with the first objective taken in 13 minutes and Thiepval village taken 25 minutes later. They waited for an hour in the village to rest and reorganise.

They then moved towards the formidable Schwaben Redoubt, and halted after 100 yards under the expected machine-gun fire from the NW side.

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They dug in and made no further attack that day.

General Maxse said that taking 1000 yards and Thiepval village was all that was humanly possible. They had taken 800 prisoners and sustained 178 casualties on that day.

The night was fairly quiet, and they held their ground on the 27th under a ferocious German artillery attack. On the 28th the advance continued, but the 10th Essex had done its work, and were relieved by the 6th Royal Berks.

General Maxse was the hero of the British Army, and the 10th Essex were praised for leading the attack and breaking the “impregnable” defences.

The General’s brilliance was rewarded with promotion, which was sadly to deprive the 10th Essex of his command.

27 men of the 10th Essex were reported killed in this operation (4 officers and 23 other ranks.) 157 were wounded and 15 were missing. As far as we know none of those killed were from Redbridge.