Stories from the Volunteers: Somerset’s Remembrance Day – 16th September 1916

On 15 September 1916, in the latter stages of the Battle of The Somme, the tanks rumbled into battle for the first time in history at the village of Flers in Northern France.  The next day the 6th and 7th (service) Battalions of the Somerset Light Infantry attacked the German trenches just north-east of Flers, to drive the battle forward.

These two Battalions were the Somerset equivalent of the ‘Pals’ Battalions, where men joined up together and served together, many from the same families and villages.

So it was that two brothers, Albert and Robert Sugar, from Charlton Adam, volunteered in 1914 and both joined the Somerset Light Infantry. Albert in the 7th and Robert in the 6th Battalions of the new Kitchener’s Army.  By September 1916, Albert had risen to Corporal and become a bugler, and Robert had been promoted Lance Corporal.

On 16 September the 7th Battalion attacked as part of the Guards Division, across the fields towards the German front line at Les Boeufs.  The attack was successful but at the cost of 10 officers and 162 others killed and wounded.

On the same day the 6th Battalion prepared to charge a German Trench on the far side of a slight ridge.  As they went over the top, they were mown down by machine gun fire.  The casualties were truly terrible.  Every officer who went over the parapet (17 of them) became a casualty.  Three were killed, 12 wounded and two missing.  In other ranks the Battalion lost 41 killed, 203 wounded and 143 missing. Needless to say the objectives of the attack were not achieved.

On 6 October 1916 the Western Gazette reported the death on 16 September of Albert Sugar; 7th Battalion SLI.  The obituary said that Mr Alfred Sugar, his father, had still not received any definite news of his younger son, Robert.

Albert: Western Gazette 6th October 1916

Albert: Western Gazette 6th October 1916

On 10 November 1916 the Western Gazette reported the death also on 16 September of Robert Sugar, 6th Battalion SLI.   Whilst waiting for news of him, his mother had also died at home, leaving his father Alfred and young sister Blanche alone at Charlton Adam.  Alfred Sugar was my Great Grandmother’s brother; the boys were my grandad’s first cousins.

Robert: Western Gazette 10th November 1916

Robert: Western Gazette 10th November 1916

The casualties of 16 September were the greatest losses of the war for the Service Battalions of the SLI. The Guards’ Cemetery at LesBoeufs near Morval holds many   6th and 7th SLI soldiers and I like to think Albert and Robert are amongst them; their bodies were never found.

Guards' Cemetery LesBoeufs

Guards’ Cemetery LesBoeufs

Albert and Robert Sugar are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, as well as on the Charltons War Memorial at home.

This article was written by Ann Norman one of our volunteers for the Somerset Remembers Project.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Stories from the Volunteers: Somerset’s Remembrance Day – 16th September 1916

  1. My grandfather was part of the 6th battalion on that day. His was Bugler William Henry Phillips 3/7372and I like to think that he won his MM that day (it was announced in the London Gazette in December 1916) although I have not been able to prove it from war diaries. The family story was that his commanding officer had recommended him for a VC for attending wounded (he was a stretcher bearer) and rescuing colleagues from no mans land. I have a battered old postcard sent to my grandmother which puts him as a member of 16 platoon, D company. He was part of the Straw hat Brigade Volunteers from Yeovil and I was once sent a copy of the Yeovil Gazette which had a picture of the Straw Hatters leaving Yeovil at the beginning of the war. The caption mentioned my grandfather and his brother Jim as being amongst them. Unfortunately I have lost the newspaper but I do have a JPEG image of it. My grandfather returned to England in September 1917 following the Ypres battles at Inverness Copse in August 1917 when the 6th Somersets had huge losses. He had been hospitalised with leg and foot injuries and was honourably discharged in January 1918. This was fortunate for me as the 6ths were wiped out at St Quentin two months later. I have his medals and other photos. I would love to correspond with the lady who posted the article on the Sugar brothers. We may be able to share photos to our mutaual advantage. My email is bpwg@sky.com.

  2. My great Grandfather Francis Edmund Williams was wounded during the attack on LesBoeufs with the 7th Somerset Light Infantry on 15th September 1916.
    He originally joined the 6th SLI in August 1914 as a Kitchener volunteer and posted to D company where he was promoted to Corporal. He was wounded in August 1915 during the Battle of Loos and returned back to England until April 1916 when he went back with a draft to C Company of the 7th SLI.
    He was wounded on the 15th and was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station at La Neuville near Corbie where he died on the 30th September 1916 from his wounds and is buried in the La Neuville British Cemetery.
    I have now visited his grave and walked the battlefields of the 7th SLI many times.
    I would be very interested in any photos of the 6th or 7th Somerset Light Infantry.
    chris_lunt@yahoo.com

    • Hi Chris. As mentioned in my post of 14 December my grandfather was in the 6th SLI. He was in D company as well. I have a postcard photo from him marked 16 Platoon D Company and taken at Aldershot before embarkation. It would be a great co-incidence if your Great Grandfather was in this photo too! I will try and put it on this website or otherwise will email an image to you. You should know that there are many excellent quality photos of the 6th & 7th SLI held at the Somerset Record Office in Taunton and I think for a small fee you can take copies. They were taken at Aldershot and commissioned by the Regiment. Such is the quality that I was easily able to pick out my grandfather in the 6th battalion Band photo (he was a bugler). Will try and post the photos.

  3. My great great uncle, Reginald Sidney Barter was killed in action on 16th of September 1916 on the attack on lesboeufs. He served with 7th battalion Somerset Light Infantry. My family and I visited the Thiepval memorial and Lesboeufs this summer in his memory.
    Any photos of his battalion would be much appreciated.

    • Thanks for your message. There are a number of photographs in ‘Forged by Fire’ by Brendon Moorhouse. This excellent book charts the history of the battalion during the First World War. It’s available at the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton. Copies can also be purchased online.

      • I’m off tomorrow to the Somme so myself and my children can visit my great grandfather’s grave on the centenary of his death. Although wounded on the 16th he survived until the 30th at a Casualty Clearing Station at Corbie. Just to backup the recommendation of Bredon Moorhouse’s book Forged by Fire. It has been incredibly useful to trace my ancestors final movements with the 7th SLI
        Best regards
        Chris

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s