The First Day of The Somme

1st July 1916

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt in a direction south-east to Maricourt. The 5th Battalion L.R.B., as part of the 46th Division were assigned the task of clearing the Germans out of Gommecourt, approaching from the North West.. The 6th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regt. would be on the right of the L.R.B. Operation Orders were issued by Lt. Col.A.S.Bates D.S.O, commanding 1/London Rifle Brigade under the signature of his adjutant, Capt. F.H.Wallis. . A trench map of the German lines had been prepared, and each trench given a name. ‘D’ Company’s objective was to take trenches FERRET, EXE, FEMALE and ECK in the area of Gommecourt cemetery. The attacking platoons would carry prepared name boards for erection in the trenches as they were taken. N.C.Os and riflemen would each carry two bandoliers of small arms ammunition, two Mills grenades, three sandbags, full water bottles, mess tin, mackintosh sheet, iron ration, remainder of ‘Z’ rations and two smoke helmets.


10th February 1916 – 30th June 1916

The Battalion returns to France, but this time to prepare for the major offensive planned for 1st June.  Hob is made up to L/Sgt. and then to Sgt., and the Battalion spends several weeks training and holding sports events until May 25th when they go back into the trenches again.


16th November 1915 – 9th February 1916

At the end of his second leave, Hob returned to his battalion at Ryveld and, a week later, they crossed the Belgian border to new billets at Poperinghe. Six days later they were back in the trenches again, but this time on fatigue work, and they returned to their billets at Poperinghe on 6th December after only seven days. They have a further nine days ‘rest and recreation’, and then return to the same trenches as before, but this time into the front line.


14th June 1915 – 15th November 1915

Hob returned to St Omer after his leave, and two days later the battalion was moved 15 miles down the road to Isbergues where they were to remain in reserve for three months until the end of September. These appeared to be excellent days, and Hob learned to swim in the Canal d’Aire.– a skill that had managed to elude him previously. It was then back to St Omer for a further five weeks before moving back up to the Belgian border area near to Steenvoorde, but still out of the front line. On 9th November Hob was given nine days leave, and returned home on his second visit, having seen no conflict for nearly six months.

Hospital and Home Leave

5th May 1915 – 15th June 1915

As well as having a slight shrapnel wound in his neck, Hob had also received two shrapnel wounds in one leg, sufficiently serious to warrant his being sent down to one of the main military hospitals in Rouen. After a week in hospital he moved out to a convalescent camp for the next three weeks, being returned ‘fit for duty’ rto his battalion, which by now had been pulled out of the line, at St Omer on June 5th. Three days later Hob heard that he had been given four day’s leave in England and so returned home for the first time in seven months.


5th November 1914 – 4th May 1915

The First Battle of Ypres opened on 12th October 1914 and, by the time the 5th Battalion L.R.B. arrived in France, had been in progress for about three weeks. There was still some further training and acclimatisation to be done and the battalion, having landed at Le Havre, moved quickly up to St Omer to be trained in battlefield tactics across the ploughed fields of the Pas-de-Calais. There they remained for a further 10 days before marching up through Hazebrouck and Bailleul to Romarin, on the French-Belgian border and, in the afternoon of 20th November, finally into the front line trenches.

Mobilisation & Training

2nd August 1914 – 4th November 1914

The previous week had been a busy one. Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia, and Russia, Serbia’s ally, had ordered the mobilisation of troops. Germany, ally of Austria-Hungary had declared war on Russia, and demanded that France, ally of Russia, remain neutral. France had refused and mobilised for war. It was clear that Britain would make her own position known within days, and the expectation of being personally involved perhaps prompted Hob to make the first entry of this diary. He was then twenty-five years old.


4 thoughts on “Chapters

  1. I have looked forward to the day by day experiences of Hubert Brown. My grandfather, Alwyn Holmes was in the same unit, and as far as I can tell was wounded in late April or early May. Will there be any more postings? Brown’s recollections shed new light on the life my grandfather experienced in 1915. I thank you for taking the time to publish the diary.

    • Apologies for having missed a couple of days. My mind was a bit distracted as I am a volunteer at the Surrey Infantry Museum. You may have seen in the press that the National Trust house at Clandon burned down a week ago. The museum was in the basement, and we have lost pretty well all of the display. I’m back up to date with the entries again. I had a look in the Bn War Diary to see if I could find a mention of your grandfather but, unless he was an officer, he along with Hubert would have been listed in the wounded report as ‘other ranks’! Would he have been Alwyn Arthur George? I found him listed in the Ancestry records.

      • That is correct. Do you have any more information other than what I have published on Thanks again for your efforts. Much appreciated. My grandfather died in 1932(New York), so no one in the family knows much about him. I am trying to resurrect him.

        • I have replied to you ‘off-line’ to your email address. Let me know here if you do not receive it.

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