SOMME DIARY of WILFRED SEWELL


 

 

J. Sen?, Harrison & Hardcastle killed. All the casualties occurred during the German bombardment which lasted 40 minutes & commenced at 9.45pm 22/5/16. Harrison was found dead on the barbed wire alongside Kirton (?Herton) the following night. Colonel Taylor was wounded and Lieut Raynor killed. 25th May a day off. 26th 27th working up at the trenches, making barbed wire entanglements on the parapet at night


28th day off duty.
29th Digging at Colling Camp & Courrelles. 30th night digging at Sailly. Cable (?) returned 3am. 31st Played at YMCA with band. Received official news of Hopkins death. 1st June. B O S.
3rd Capt. Di Pledge killed. Major Dewhurst. Lieut. Smith wounded.
June 4th trenches J Garbutt & G Hutton killed at Euston Dump on the 9th June
10th June another bombardment. 12th June Came out of trenches. 13th & 14th played with band at ?? instead of digging at trenches. Rumours of big advance. 15th & 16th night work at trenches

17th On Guard at Div Bomb Store. Enemy aeroplanes fly over about 7pm. 18th come off guard. 7pm same date went up to trenches up to knees in mud, filling in Cable trench (?). Returned to Bus at 4am 19th June. Slept until 1pm & nothing else doing today. Digging etc up at the trenches until 24th when our great bombardment started.
25th June enemy aeroplanes fly over Bus & drop 3 bombs in our camp slightly wounding two KOYLIs. 26th Bosche shells Bus & kills 2 of 16th Bradfords & wound two or three more. 27th buzzed about all day getting ready for tomorrow night. Wrote letters in Bed to Maud. 28th Have sent letter to Maud, also P.Cs to Mother, Louis, Annie, Davy and Maud. Am patiently waiting for tonight & shall be glad when it is all over. 29th Advance postponed until tomorrow.
30th Address by Corps Commdr before the ??? tonight. Hunter Norton (?)

Mrs M Sewell
No 24 Newbawn
Farnley
Leeds
Yorkshire

Near the back - two pages of accounts

 

 

On the back page
Sergt W Sewell
15th West Yorks
93rd Brigade
31st Division

 

Lancashire Fusiliers in Sunken Lane This photo of men of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers was taken in the "Sunken Lane" just before the attack. These infantrymen (foot soldiers) are armed with rifles and long bayonets. They were sent out into no-man's-land, walking, rifles at the slope, against machine guns. The bombardment to which Wilfred refers in his diary was supposed to have destroyed the German machine gun posts and defences.  It didn't.  For ten minutes before Zero the artillery bombardment stopped and an eerie silence descended on the battlefield.
The attack started at 7.30 in the morning of 1st July 1916.  By 8.00am most of his battalion had been annihilated and Sergeant Sewell was mortally wounded with gunshot wounds to his head and thigh.  He spent the night out in "no-man's-land" and was brought back to England where he died of his wounds on the 9th July.

"Things had quietened down early on the Serre Front.  By ten in the morning it had been all over.  Two out of three of the men who had gone over the top had become casualties and lay dead or wounded on the gentle slope between their trenches and the German lines.  The Pals who had joined up in all the euphoria of the early weeks of the war, the lads from Leeds, from Bradford, from York, from Lancaster, from Sheffield, from Hull, had been slaughtered in the first short hour of the great battle.  The last echo of the cheers and the shouts, the last faint remembered notes of the brass bands that had sent them off from the towns and villages of the north, had died out in a whisper that morning in front of Serre."
(from Macdonald, L.,  Somme;  Penguin 1993)

For a fictional, although highly realistic, account of trench warefare,, see Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong

Maps