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Thursday, 3 July 2008

Private 25822 John Cornock

My Great Grandfather whose body was never found, but was killed in action on 13/11/1916 aged 34.

The Battle of the Ancre (The Somme)
The night of the 12th/13th November 1916, was dark and close, and before dawn the valley of the Ancre was filled with dense mist. “Zero” had been fixed for 5.45 a.m., well before daybreak, and consequently it was in thick darkness that the preliminary bombardment opened and the attacking troops went “over the top.” But the very obscurity aided the attack.
The defending troops were surprised and overwhelmed, and on the right flank the enemy’s first system
of defences was easily overrun. In the centre, however, a German redoubt, cunningly concealed so as to appear from the air to be an open communication trench, held up the attack and
inflicted severe losses. By that time all three Brigades of the 63rd Division were engaged and were much intermingled in the intricate defences.
The three half-companies of the 14th Worcestershire had gone forward with the attacking Brigades and were soon busy in all directions, consolidating the captured defences and preparing new works amid the general confusion and turmoil of battle. The second half of” B” Company were sent forward at 9 a.m. to Beaucourt Station, where they remained throughout the day.
The two officers of the half-company (Lieutenant H. C. J. Shuttleworth-King and 2/Lieut. B. J. C.
Hamm) were both hit, but Sergeant W. D. Cherry took command and directed the work with great skill and coolness
(Sergt. Cherry was awarded the D.C.M.).
After dark came orders that the remainder of the 14th Worcestershire were to go forward and assist in the consolidation of the line gained.
“A” Company and the remaining halves of “C” and “D” Companies accordingly moved off, passed over the old front line near the river crossed the captured German trenches and worked hard for many hours on a new defensive line along the bottom of the little valley which runs from Beaumont Hamel down to the Ancre.
Towards dawn they returned to camp, but at 9.30 a.m. “A” Company, under Captain E. M. Tweddlle, were ordered off again, to the assistance of the right wing of the Division.
The Hood Battalion, led by Colonel Freyberg (who there gained the Victoria
Cross), had stormed the village of Beaucourt. “A” Company made their way up to Beaucourt and worked hard under heavy fire on a communication trench to link up the captured village with the British positions in rear.
The work was dangerous in the extreme, for the enemy were heavily bombarding their lost ground: but Captain Tweddle and his men stuck gamely to their task and were fortunate in completing their task without undue loss.
Dawn of 14th November 1916, witnessed the fall of the German redoubt which had hitherto repulsed all attacks.
Three tanks were brought up from Auchonvillers to reduce it. One of them was knocked out by shells but the other two pushed on.
Both tanks became stuck in the mud close to the redoubt: but the menace of their approach and the fire of their guns produced the required effect. The garrison of the redoubt raised the white flag and gave themselves up— 8 officers and some 400 men.
The two victorious tanks, stuck in the mud on the crest of the ridge, were now exposed to destruction by the enemy’s artillery.
To their rescue was sent a party of the 14th Worcestershire ("B"
Company of 41 men) under Lieut. S. Hartley. Under heavy fire the pioneers laboured around the two helpless monsters and after hours of work finally succeeded in setting them free; after which the pioneer party returned to the Battalion’s camp, where the various companies and platoons were gradually reassembling.
By midday on November 15th all the parties were in, and at 2.30 p.m. the Battalion marched back to Forceville.
There the Battalion rested for a day (c), and received a warm message of congratulation from the C.R.E. of the Division.Casualties 14th Worcestershire from 13th - 15th November 1916;
8 killed, two officers (Lieut. H. C. J. Shuttleworth-King and 2/Lieut. B. J. C. Hamm) and 48 men wounded,3 missing.

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