The Battle of Bazentin Ridge was a military engagement that took place during the major Battle of the Somme, in World War I. It was fought between the British 4th Army, led by Henry Rawlinson, and three German infantry divisions from the 2nd Army, under the command of Fritz von Below, near the town of Picardy, France, on July 14, 1916. It began when two British Corps from the 4th Army attacked the Bazentin Ridge, which was held by German elements from the 2nd Army. The result was a tactical victory for the British.
Background to the Battle of Bazentin Ridge
The Somme Offensive had been launched on July 1, 1916, against the German forces entrenched near the Somme River. The objective of this British attack was to relieve the French Army which were under attack at Verdun by drawing German troops from there to the Somme area. After two weeks of fierce fighting, the British had torn a gap in the first line of German defences north of the Somme River, and now they were faced with a complete second line of defences which extended along the ridge of high ground from near Thiepval in the north to the villages of Guillemont and Ginchy in the south. Where the British had advanced at Mametz and Montauban, the German second line of defensive positions ran along the Bazentin Ridge on which lay the villages of Bazentin le Petit, Bazentin le Grand and Longueval. These villages became the objectives for the renewed British offensive.
The Battle of Bazentin Ridge began at 03:20 hours of July 14, 1916, when the British artillery opened fire on the German front-line trenches. The attack was carried out by two corps; XV Corps launched an assault on the left against Bazentin le Petit and Bazentin le Grand, while XIII Corps attacked on the right against Longueval. On the right, attacking between Bazentin le Grand and Longueval were the two XIII Corps divisions; left to right, the 3rd Division and the 9th Scottish Division. The 9th Division, which also contained the South African Infantry Brigade in reserve near Carnoy, took Longueval and reached the fringe of Delville Wood which flanked the village but were unable to take the German redoubt at Waterlot Farm.
As the vicious fighting for Longueval wore on, XV Corps took the Bazentin villages by 10:00 hours and the prospect of a breakthrough loomed. But the Bazentin ridge had not been captured yet. It would take several more hours of ferocious fighting in which the the British suffered 9,000 casualties. At the end they could look north-east across a shallow valley towards High Wood, beyond which lay the incomplete German third position. There was no sign of the enemy and thick stands of grain indicated terrain only lightly damaged by shellfire, promising good going for cavalry.