2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles, Battle of Bazentin Ridge.

Sunday, 16 July, 1916

During the Battle of the Somme, the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles participated in a local action known as the Battle of Bazentin Ridge. On 14 July 1916, the Battalion marched up to the front line trenches east of Ovillers, a village still heavily defended by the enemy.

On the afternoon of the 15 July, three brigades, each with a frontage less than 300 yards, attacked the village, but the attack was not a success. The Rifles in 74 Brigade in the centre, with 13 Cheshire, had assaulted with three companies in six waves, but enemy machine-gun fire and the subsequent disorganisation led to their withdrawal under cover of darkness. When enemy artillery barrages destroyed the communication trenches in the left-forward brigade, a battalion of The Royal Warwickshire Regiment was cut off. However, rescue was possible if the Rifles Battalion bombed its way up a German-held trench leading to the Warwickshire's right flank.

At 0900 hrs on 16 July, the Rifles began to bomb and fight their way towards the cut off battalion. Three hours later they had gained ten yards. Reinforcements, in the form of the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, a supply of rifle grenades and a Stokes Trench mortar came forward during the afternoon and added impetus to the advance. The Riflemen, fatigued after three days of fighting, dropped in turn to the bottom of the trench to snatch sleep while 20 yards ahead the furious fighting continued. All fought with such ferocity that the Germans suddenly raised a white flag and with cries of ‘Kamerad’ surrendered. Two officers and one hundred and twenty-six other ranks were captured, most of whom insisted on shaking hands with their captors as they passed down the trench! The Warwickshires were rescued and Ovillers fell shortly after.