The 4 Bradfords
Heroes of World War I

The Butte de Warlencourt Memorial Plaques
and RBB Attack Report from 5th November 1916

Two memorial plaques were dedicated on 30th June 1990. One plaque with an inscription in English and the logo of the Western Front Association (WFA) was unveiled by the WFA President John Terraine. The second plaque, inscribed in French and in the colours of the Souvenir Francais, faced the battlefields of the French Sixth Army. This second plaque was unveiled by M. Andre Coilliot, of the Souvenir Francais.

The two plaques complement each other and symbolise the close and cordial relationship which has existed between the WFA and the Souvenir Francais for many years.

The inscription is:-



The hill on which you stand, the Butte de Warlencourt, marks the limit of the British advance in the battle of the Somme in 1916. Dominating the battlefield, it was strongly fortified by the Germans and withstood successive fierce attacks by the British 47th, 9th and 50th Divisions in October and November 1916. On the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line in February 1917, it passed into British hands, only to be retaken in the German offensive in March 1918. On 25th August 1918, during the final Allied offensive, it was taken by the British 21st Division without opposition.

This memorial was unveiled by John Terraine, WFA President, on June 30th 1990 in the presence of the Souvenir Francais - Arras Sector, local dignitaries and members of the Western Front Association. It marks the acquisition of this historic site by the WFA in remembrance of the Battle of the Somme.

Drawing of Butte de Warlencourt

A Drawing of the Butte de Warlencourt by Capt. Robert Mauchlen dated 8th November 1916 (Courtesy: D.L.I. Museum & Arts Centre, Durham)

On the reverse side of Captain Mauchlen's drawing is written the following:-

"151st Infantry Brigade. Herewith a drawing of the BUTTE and Environs. I should like the drawing when you have finished with it. If you could find out the Battalion which is going to carry out the next assault on the BUTTE, I will visit the CO and give him the benefit of my recent experience. R.B. Bradford. 8/11/16.

"O.C. 9 D.L.I. Herewith returned, many thanks. Commanding 151 Inf. Bde.

CLICK HERE FOR MAP showing Warlencourt Eaucourt and the Butte-de-Warlencourt, showing the layout of the various trenches mentioned in Roland Bradford's report of the attack

CLICK HERE FOR DIAGRAM of the Somme Area of northern France showing the relative disposition of the various armies involved in the campaign

Roland Bradford's own original handwritten Field Report still exists.
It may be viewed at the D.L.I. Museum & Arts Centre*, but is reprinted here in full, by courtesy of the D.L.I. Museum & Arts Centre.

Attack Made by the 50th Division on the BUTTE-DE-WARLENCOURT and the GIRD LINE on November 5th 1916.
Report by Roland Bradford.

In the first week of November 1916 there had been very heavy rain in the SOMME Area and the surface of the ground was thick with mud.

It was impossible to use any of the communication trenches, and movement across the open, even right behind our lines where you were unmolested by enemy fire, was attended with great difficulty and was most exhausting.

The front line held by the 50th Division in that first week of November was MAXWELL TRENCH which lay immediately east of the ALBERT-BAPAUME road and ran just behind the southern crest of the small ridge on which the BUTTE-DE-WARLENCOURT was situated. This trench opposite the BUTTE was separated by a distance of 250 yards, and throughout its length was an average distance of 300 yards from the German front line.

On November 5th the 151st Infantry Brigade was to attack in conjunction with the Australians on the right. The 46th Division on the left was not going to attack but was to co-operate with fire.

The Objectives of the Brigade were the capture of the BUTTE, the QUARRY and the GIRD Front Line on the left, and to capture and consolidate the GIRD Front and support lines on the right.

Three Battalions of the 151st Infantry Brigade were to assault - each Battalion being ona frontage of three Companies with one Company in reserve which was to remain in Maxwell Trench. The 9th D.L.I. was on the left, the 6th D.L.I. in the centre, and the 8th D.L.I. on the right.

The 5th Border Regt. was in Brigade Reserve and was in readiness in the trenches north of EAUCOURT L'ABBAYE. The 6th Battalion N.F. was attached to the Brigade as a further reserve and was situated in the FLERS Support Line just west of EAUCOURT L'ABBAYE.

At 9 a.m. the assaulting Infantry moved forward. These troops were in four lines with a distance of 15 yards between each line.

The 6th D.L.I. and 8th D.L.I. when they had gone forward about 50 yards came under very heavy mchine gun fire which caused them many casualties and prevented them from reaching their objectives although many heroic efforts to get forward were made. The Australians on the right were met by intense machine gun fire and they too were unable to make any progress.

On the left the 9th D.L.I. met with less opposition and succeeded in gaining all its objectives without suffering heavy casualties. The German Barrages came down at about four minutes after nine-o-clock. There were three barrages, one was a few yards in advance of MAXWELL TRENCH, another was on HEXHAM ROAD where Battalion Headquarters was situated in a dugout at the entrance to SNAG TRENCH, and the third was between HEXHAM ROAD and the FLERS LINE. All were particularly intense.

At 10 a.m. the 9th D.L.I. was disposed as follows:-

Four Posts were established in the GIRD Front Line the left one being on the ALBERT-BAPAUME Road. There were four Posts between the BUTTE and the GIRD Front Line. The front edge of the QUARRY was strongly held and two Company Headquarters were situated in the QUARRY in telephonic communication with Battalion Headquarters. Each of the assaulting Platoons had a reserve Platoon in BUTTE ALLEY the trench running immediately South of the BUTTE. Two machine guns were sited in BUTTE ALLEY and a 2" Stokes Mortar in the QUARRY. Two Battalion observers were on the BUTTE. The Reserve Company of the Battalion was in MAXWELL TRENCH. Eight Bavarian prisoners had been sent back to Battalion Headquarters. Some other prisoners who were on their way back had together with their escorts been annihilated by the German artillery fire. The Germans were still holding a dugout on the north east side of the BUTTE.

The Parties who should have "mopped up" the BUTTE dugouts had either gone forward without completing their work, carried away in the enthusiasm of the assault, or had been shot by German snipers while at their work.

The ground had been so pulverised by our Bombardments and was so muddy that it was not possible to do much in the way of consolidation. But the men were ready with their rifles.

The Germans had now realised the scope of our attack and many of their Batteries concentrated their fire on our new positions. Snipers from WARLENCOURT-EAUCOURT were subjecting our men to a deadly fire and it was almost impossible for them to move.

The Germans in the dugout on the northeast edge of the BUTTE had brought a machine gun into position and were worrying us from behind. Many gallant attempts were made throughout the day to capture this dugout but without success. All our Parties who tried to rush it were destroyed by the German machine gun fire from the direction of HOOK SAP and by the fire of the large number of snipers in WARLENCOURT. However a Party did succeed in throwing some Mills Grenades into the dugout and this made the Boches more cautious.

The first German counter-attack was made about 12 noon. It was a half hearted one and was easily stopped. During the afternoon the enemy launched several bombing attacks but these too were repulsed.

About 6 p.m. the Germans made a determined counter-attack preceded by a terrific bombardment and were able to get to close quarters. A tough struggle ensued. But our men who had now been reinforced by the Reserve Company and who showed the traditional superiority of the British in hand to hand fighting, succeeded in driving out the enemy.

The 9th D.L.I. was getting weak, but it was hoped that the Boche had now made his last counter-attack for that day.

It had happened that the Bavarian Division which was holding the line when we attacked was to have been relieved on the night of the 5th/6th November by the Prussian Guards Division.

At about 11 p.m. Battalions of the Prussians delivered a fresh counter-attack. They came in great force from our front and also worked round from both flanks. our men were overwhelmed. Many died fighting. others were compelled to surrender. It was only a handful of men who found their way back to MAXWELL TRENCH and they were completely exhausted by their great efforts and the starin of the fighting.

There were many reasons why the 9th D.L.I. was unable to hold its ground.

The failure of the troops on the right to reach their objectives and the fact that the Division on our left was not attacking caused both flanks of the battalion to be in the air. The positions to be held were very much exposed and the Germans could see all our trenches and control their fire accordingly. It was a local attack and the enemy was able to concentrate his guns on to a small portion of our line. The ground was a sea of mud and it was almost impossible to consolidate our Posts. The terribly intense German barrages and the difficult nature of the ground prevented reinforcements from being sent up to help the 9th D.L.I. Four hundred yards north of the BUTTE the enemy had a steep bank behind which they were able to assemble with out being molested. In the hope of being able to exploit success we had arranged for our barrage to be placed just beyond this bank. The terrain was very favourable to a German counter-attack. Besides the splendid observation points in their possession the ground provided great facilities for the forming up of their troops under cover.. At first sight it might appear as if the conditions were somewhat reciprocal for we had the MAXWELL TRENCH RIDGE which gave us some cover. But it was not really so. The ground between the FLERS LINE and HEXHAM ROAD before getting under cover of the MAXWELL TRENCH RIDGE is very exposed, and all the ground concealed by the Ridge was intensely shelled by the enemy throughout the day and night.

It is wonderful, when one considers the difficulties under which our men were working and the fearful fire to which they were exposed, that they held on for so long as they did. And it makes you proud to be an Englishman.

On looking back at the attack of the 5th of November it seems that the results which would have been gained in the event of success were of doubtful value, and would hardly have been worth the loss which we would suffer. It would have been awkward for us to hold the objectives which would have been badly sited for our defence. The possession of the BUTTE by the Germans was not an asset to them. From our existing trenches we were able to prevent them from using it as an Observation point.

The BUTTE would have been of little use to us for purposes of observation.

But the BUTTE-DE-WARLENCOURT had become an obsession. Everybody wanted it. It loomed large in the minds of the soldiers in the forward area and they attributed many of their misfortunes to it. The newspaper correspondents talked about "that Miniature Gibralter". So it had to be taken.

It seems that the attack was one of those tempting, and unfortunately at one period frequent, local operations which are so costly and which are rarely worthwhile.

But perhaps that is only the narrow view of the Regimental Officer.

[The above is a printed presentation of Roland Bradford's report, and below is shown a reduced copy of the original which is at the D.L.I. Museum in Durham. The WFA has been grateful to Steve Shannon of the D.L.I. Museum for permitting this to be published.]

Photocopy (reduced) of Roland's original handwritten field report about attack on the Butte-de-Warlencourt

A photocopy (reduced) of Roland's original handwritten field report about the attack on the Butte-de-Warlencourt on 5th November 1916 (Courtesy: D.L.I. Museum & Arts Centre, Durham)

On November 6th, what was left of the Battalion - - ninety-four officers and men in all, including headquarters - - was withdrawn from the line into camp near Mametz Wood. They had gallantly captured, and held for eighteen hours, a position which had often been previously attacked but had never been held. But at a terrible loss of life.

Some months later Roland had the honour of conducting H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught round the Butte and of explaining these November operations to him.

After the fighting of Warlencourt the remnants of the 9th Durham L.I. had a short period of roadmending, and then they moved back to rest and reorganise in the vicinity of Warley.

Strong reinforcements arrived from home and Roland, with tireless energy, set to work at once to imbue them with the same spirit and dash that had made their predecessors in the battalion so famous. His methods of training were always strenuous and often original, demanding much from both officers and men; but at the same time the equally important question of the amusement and comfort of his soldiers received his continuous personal attention, and he could sympathise with their disappointment as keenly as he could rejoice at their bravery.

The Rev. Cyril Lomax, who served as Chaplain with Roland, commented .."It was only natural that the men thought all the world of him. I remember the tremendous ovation he received from the battalion when news of his V.C. came through.
Yet he was strict. But his strictness and keenness were all to help the men to be proud of their battalion and sure of themselves. In this he succeeded so thoroughly that some people said (so many were the decorations won by the 9th) that any N.C.O. of the 9th appearing on parade without a medal ribbon was put under arrest for being improperly dressed!"