Battle of Flers-Courcelette

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette was a military engagement that took place during Battle of the Somme, near the town of Courcelette, France, from September 15 to September 22, 1916, during World War I. It was fought between elements of the British 4th Army, commanded by Douglas Haig, and three divisions of the German 2nd Army, led by Crown Prince Rupprecht. The result was a victory for the British, Canadian, and New Zealander troops, who were able to take Courcelette, the area around the village, and High Wood.

At the beginning, in July 1916, the British commander Douglas Haig had hoped to be able to punch a hole in the German defences, making it possible to a return to mobile warfare with cavalry units pouring through a gap torn in the line by a successful swift and decisive infantry strike. Although the British, Canadian and New Zealand forces did make significant gains during the first couple of days, they could not rip through the tough German defences and the Somme front reverted to an attritional struggle, which, with the onset of wet weather, created dreadful conditions in which the infantry had to live and fight.

Summary of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette

On September 15, 1916, the 2nd Infantry Division of the Canadian Corps launched an attack on the German positions as they advanced in an northeastward direction approximately two kilometers. After a vicious bayonet charge, they captured their assigned objective of Courcelette and the area surrounding the village.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Division launched an assault on the Germans deployed in an area known as the Switch Line, near Flers. After heavy fighting, the British 47th Divisions captured the German positions in High Woods.

During the Battle of Flers-Courcelette four Victoria Crosses were awarded. New Zealander, Sergeant Donald Forrester Brown of the Otago Infantry Regiment was awarded a VC for his heroic actions in battle southeast of High Wood on September 15. On the same day Scottish Lieutenant Colonel John Vaughan Campbell of the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, Guards Division, obtained his VC in the fighting at Ginchy. Close to Ginchy on that day, Lance-Sergeant Frederick McNess of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, Guards Division, earned the VC. On September 16, a Canadian, Private John Chipman Kerr of the 49th (Edmonton) Battalion earned the VC for gallant actions fighting near Courcelette.

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