7th Argylls at the Ancre
The battle of Ancre took place in November 1916. However for the 51st Highland Division, including the 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, it will be remembered as the Battle of Beaumont Hamel. Beaumont Hamel had been attacked on the first day of the Somme. The attack had failed and the heavily fortified area was regarded as almost impregnable. The attack was to be carried out by the Fifth Army with the 2nd Corps South of the River bank and the Vth Corps north of the river. The Vth Corps attack would have the 63rd Division on the right 51st Highland Division and 2nd Division in the centre and the 3rd Division on the left with the 37th Division in reserve.
The objective ran from the village of Beaumont Hamel south east to a ‘Y’ ravine. The latter was a heavily fortified ‘Y’ shaped ravine with steep sides running towards the British line. There was a second valley down which ran the old Beaumont Road. To assist in monitoring progress of the attack there were a number of report lines the first objective being green and a second yellow. There were also intermediate report lines red, blue and purple.
The attack had been originally planned for 24 October but because of the appalling weather in particular torrential rain, there were a number of delays.
On 26 October both the 6th Black Watch and the 7th Gordon Highlanders of 153rd Brigade entered the enemy’s front line, the latter capturing a prisoner of the 62nd Regiment. On the same night the seventh Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 154 brigade made a similar attempt, but could not find a passage to the enemies wire. In the raid of the seventh Gordon Highlanders, Lance Sgt Morrison killed four Germans and disarmed 50 was taken prisoner. At this point some Morrison had expended all examination and bombs and was faced by two more Germans with fixed bayonets. Appreciating the situation, Private Louis Thompson rushed past sergeant Morrison and killed the first German with his entrenching tool. He then picked up the fallen Germans rifle and with it killed the second. For this exploit both Simon Morrison and private Thompson were awarded the military medal.
On 14 November attacks were made in conjunction with 2nd Division which culminated in the taking of the Munich Trench just short of the Frankfurt Trench on the Yellow line. During 15 November 154 Brigade took over the line from 152 and 153 Brigades and on 17 November the Division was relieved by 32nd Division.
Major F W Bewsher wrote:
The battle of Beaumont Hamel is the foundation stone on which the reputation of the Highland division was built. General Harper's leapfrog system of attack had been proved; his attack with two Brigades instead of three had been fully justified, and an experience had been gained from which the future training of the Division was evolved.