July 3rd - 12th

On Monday 3 July came the task of assessing the losses, and there were, of course, occasional ‘shirkers’ to be dealt with. A young officer who had fled the scene of battle was found asleep in Martinsart and had to be Court-Martaialled. But it was likely that no court would ever find him guilty.......”for all the men who were with him are dead and cannot give their evidence”.
The Young Citizens also attempted to take a roll of survivors. As the remnants turned up in Martinsart during the course of the day, each looked down-hearted until the rest of the men already there gave them a great cheer, a cheer to celebrate survival, to let them know that they were the lucky ones who had returned from the ‘Devils Dwelling’ unscathed.
In the Co. Down Volunteers David John Bell called the roll. Name after name was read out and nobody answered. It seemed that only about one man in ten among the 13th Rifles had been left on his feet.

Identification of battle casualties

To each of the Battalions a ‘special order of the day’ was addressed by Maj. General Nugent :
“There is nothing in the operations carried out by the Ulster Division on the first of July that will not be a source of pride to all Ulstermen. The Division has been highly tried and had emerged from the ordeal with untainted honour, having fulfiled in particular the great expections formed of it.....The General Officer commanding the Division deeply regrets the heavy losses of officers and men. He is proud beyond description....of the magnificent example of sublime courage and discipline which the Ulster Division has given to the Army.......”
But no words of of commendation or regret, especially words so formal, could soften the impact of what happened. Maj. General Nugent met each of his Brigades in turn.
On 4 July at Hedauville the 109th Brigade assembled in a football pitch and was addressed by Nugent. After he had spoken Brig. General R.J. Shuter, Commander of the 109th also addressed the assembled men and then each Battalion received an ‘appreciation’ from its commanding Officer. At noon the rain began to fall heavily, deepening the gloom.
Later that day small parties returned to Thiepval Wood to make an attempt to find wounded men who might have been lying out in no-mans-land all the while. At 9pm a group of YCVs left their Battalion to search in the Sunken Road area. Incredibly, on the following day they arrived in with twelve men who were still alive.

Attending to the wounded at an Advanced Dressing Station.

On 5 July, also, the 36th Division made its way back to the vicinity of Rubempre and its neighbouring villages - all except the artillery, the Pioneers and the Engineers who remained in battle for some days to come. The pioneers attempted another communication trench across no-mans-land - work which left the men exhausted.
On 10 July the main part of the Division moved back from the Rubempre area to Bernaville and then prepared to leave the province of Piccrdy by train for Flanders.
On Tuesday 11 July the 36th Division left Piccrdy. They had experienced over 5,000 casualties, and were a very different body of men from the one that arrived in France, all those months ago. They would never be the same again.
The YCVs entrained from Canteville at noon and arrived at Berguette by 7.15pm to begin the long march to Blaringhem, where they were going into farmhouse billets overnight, before marching up to yet another front. The Twelfth of July was, of course, a special day of celebration for Ulster Protestants. Some of the men who were marching into Blaringhem saw small orange flowers growing by the roadside, and they were given permission to break ranks and put the blooms in their hats, jacket pockets or the barrels of their rifles. The bands marched ahead of the soldiers through the Flemish village, playing ‘King Williams March’.

Next, Aftermath >>