Somme: The taking of Montauban


In the course of a graphic description of incidents of the great battle going on in France, Mr Phillip Gibbs, writing on Sunday, referred to the capture of Montauban.

The attack on Montauban was one of our best successes yesterday, he wrote. The men were mainly Lancashire troops, supported by men of the Home Counties, including those of Surrey, Kent, Essex, Bedford and Norfolk. They advanced in splendid order, straight for their objective, swept over the German trenches, and captured large numbers of prisoners without great loss to themselves.

Their commanding officers were anxious about a German strong point called the Briqueterie, or brickfield, which had been full of machine guns and minenwerfers [mortars]. The original intention was to pass this without a direct attempt to take it, but the position was found to be utterly destroyed by our bombardment. A party of men were detached to seize it, which they did with comparative ease.

The remainder of the men in those battalions went on to the ruined village of Montauban and, in spite of spasmodic machine gun fire from some of the broken houses, carried it in one great flood of invasion. Large numbers of Germans were taking cover in dug-outs and cellars, but as soon as our men entered they came up into the open and surrendered. Many of them were so cowed by the great bombardment they had suffered, and by the waves of men that swept into their stronghold, that they fell up[on their knees and begged most piteously for mercy, which was granted to them.

The loss of Montauban was serious to the enemy, and they prepared a counter-attack which was launched this morning at three o'clock, at a strength of two regiments. Our men were expecting this and had organised their defence. The Germans came on in close order, very bravely, rank after rank advancing over the dead and wounded bodied of their comrades who were caught by our machine gun fire and rifle fire and mown down.

Only a few men were able to enter our trenches, and these died. Montauban remains in our hands, and so far the enemy has not attempted another attack.

[The Luton News: Thursday, July 6th, 1916]