The battle of the Somme began officially on 1st July 1916. The Tyneside Scottish and Tyneside Irish brigades were to be deployed to the North-East of the town of Albert, attacking to the North and South of the village of La Boisselle. The Tyneside Scottish would begin the attack, the 1st battalion furthest north to the left of the 4th battalion. The 2nd battalion to the South of the village with the 3rd following them up. The actual village itself was not to be attacked immediately, the gap between the Scottish and Irish brigades being held by 'C' Company of the 18th (Pioneers) Northumberlands. The Tyneside Irish battalions were in reserve behind the Scottish. The 2nd Irish behind the 4th Scottish on the north side of the Albert - Bapaume road. The 3rd Irish on the south side, to their right the 1st Irish and to theirs the 4th Irish.
La Boisselle prior to the devastation of the Somme Offensive
La Boisselle during the Somme offensive of 1916
At 7.28hrs two great mines of 60,000lbs and 40,600lbs were detonated beneath the German positions. The larger to the south, the other to the north of the village. Two minutes later, time to let the earth settle, the whistles sounded and the attack began. Maj-Gen Ingouville-Williams committed the whole or his 34th division to the attack, leaving nothing in reserve. The 1st Tyneside Scottish had 500yrds to cover before reaching the German lines, the 3rd battalion a little less. The 2nd Scottish just over 200yrds but behind them the Irish battalions had 1000 to 1500yrds of exposed country to cover before they even reached the British front line. No sooner had the dust and earth from the two explosions settled than the German machine gunners emerged from their deep dugouts and began to spray the slowly advancing soldiers with deadly fire.
The British, advancing in rows at walking pace were mown down as they continued. No-one was allowed to stop and help those wounded, orders were to advance no matter what. It took some twenty minutes for the Irish to reach the British front line, by then they had been reduced from over 3000 men to a few handfuls here and there. Still they continued.
The village of Ovilliers La Boisselle 1916
It was recorded in the War Diary of the 4th battalion that 'Captain J.B. Cuby commanding 'A'Company was killed before he had gone 100yrds'
Lt. Alfred Edwin Shapley. KIA 1/7/16
Men were caught on the uncut barbed wire, desperately trying to find a way through they became even greater targets. Bitter fighting and bombing took place as the British fought to take ground and the Germans defied to hold it. The advance, almost completely held up, became a desperate close quarter fight. A small party of men combined from the remnants of the 24th and 27th battalions did reach the outskirts of Contalmaison but were so few in number that they had to withdraw.
26/828 Joseph Coleman from Middlesbrough who won the DCM on 1st July "For conspicous gallantry and ability. When all the officers and the CSM had become casualties, he took command of his company and did fine work as long as the battalion was in action. Later he called for volunteers and went back for the wounded". LG 19/8/1916. Joesph's brother 30/154 Peter Coleman was killed in action on the same day and is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial to the missing.
20/423 Sgt George Alexander Kirk won the Military Medal "For bravery at La Boiselle on 1st July 1916"
In most cases it would be days before the magnitude of the disaster could be seen. Roll calls of the depleted battalions must have been a harrowing experience for the survivors as it became apparent of the sheer loss of numbers.
A few of the missing men later turned up as prisoners of war. One of the 1st TS to be captured was Sgt 20/695 William Waugh had reached the German 2nd line when he was wounded. He was found by the Germans that night. Williams brother 20/693 Ralph Waugh was also wounded but managed to find his way back to the British lines. Ralph was sent home and later discharged while William spent two years in a POW camp in Minden, Germany.
Tyneside Scottish casualties Tyneside Irish casualties Officers Men Officers Men 1st TS 26 564 1st TI 18 616 2nd TS 22 578 2nd TI 18 491 3rd TS 20 628 3rd TI 19 470 4th TS 16 668 4th TI 20 519
There are many sources of reference for these figures. From my own records these are as accurate as I can make them. They include killed, died, wounded and missing.
It is my intention and ambition to compile a complete roll of all those men who originally enrolled in these brigades.
If you have any information regarding any man please contact