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.
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.
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.
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.