Battle of Thiepval Ridge (26-29 Septembre 1916)

The Battle of Thiepval Ridge took place from 26 to 29 September 1916, in the Somme region of France. The Allies’ objective was to take the high ground held by the Germans between the villages of Thiepval and Courcelette. Dominating the battlefield as they did, the German positions were particularly well defended. The 6,000-yard front was divided in two: the left half held by the British II Corps and the right by the Canadian Corps.

According to the plan, the 1st Canadian Division had to capture a succession of German trench lines along the ridge—the Zollern, Hessian and Regina trenches as well as a spur of the Regina Trench called the Kenora Trench. The 2nd Canadian Division was charged with taking enemy structures north of Courcelette.

For three days before the assault, the German positions were subjected to a continuous and heavy bombardment. Then, at 1235 hrs on 26 September, the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions attacked under cover of a heavy barrage to support the start of the attack. More than 800 Allied guns, howitzers and mortars were used. With the artillery fire primarily focused on their trench lines, some German troops were ordered to move into the shell holes and craters to their front, and these advanced positions surprised the attacking infantry. It was intended that the Canadian Corps would be supported by two British Mark I tanks, used for the second time ever on 26 September, but one broke down and the other was hit by a German shell.

German machine gun and artillery fire inflicted heavy casualties on the Canadian troops who had to advance across open terrain between the German trench lines and then face determined counter-attacks from the front and the flanks. By the end of the day, few of the enemy trenches had been captured and occupied fully.

Bowing to Allied pressure, the Germans began withdrawing toward the Regina Trench on the night of 26-27 September, but fighting continued in the following days, as the retreat happened progressively. On 29 September, the Canadian and British troops controlled the Zollern Trench and nearly all of the Hessian Trench, but they were not able to capture either the Regina Trench or Kenora Trench despite a number of costly attempts. The latter was to become the Canadian Corps’ next objective. This trench, fortified and ferociously defended, would take longer and be more difficult to capture than expected.

For meagre gains, the Canadians suffered approximately 3,500 casualties (counting those killed, injured and missing) during the Battle of Thiepval Ridge. To this day, more than 700 Canadians killed in action between 26 and 29 September 1916 have no known grave.

Based on a report submitted by an independent researcher and with the support of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Canadian Armed Forces Casualty Identification Program’s Review Board confirmed the identification of a previously “unknown” grave as that of the following soldier:

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