yeovil at War

Arthur Samson Hayward

Killed in action during the Somme Offensive

 

Arthur Samson Hayward was born in Houndstone, Yeovil, in 1886. He was the son of railway porter Eli Francis Hayward (b 1852), originally from Sutton Bingham, and his wife Elizabeth née Dade (b 1852) originally from Alvington. In the 1891 census Eli and Elizabeth were living at 5 Queen Street with their children; Ernest C (b 1876), Walter F (b 1878), Ellen J (b 1881), Bessie (b 1883), 5-year old Arthur and Bertie J (b 1889). In the 1911 census 25-year old Arthur was lodging at 9 Camborne Street and was employed as an Engineer's machinist.

It is not known when Arthur enlisted but, from his Service Number 3/7362, it was most likely late 1916. He joined the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry.

In 1916 the 6th Battalion fought at Delville Wood, Ginchy and Flers-Courcelette in the Battles of the Somme. It is not known what part Arthur played in these great battles.

Delville Wood is to the north east of the town of Longueval in the département of the Somme in northern France. After the two weeks of carnage from the commencement of the Somme Offensive, it became clear that a breakthrough of either the Allied or German line was most unlikely and the offensive had evolved to the capture of small prominent towns, woods or features which offered either side tactical advantages from which to direct artillery fire or to launch further attacks.

Delville Wood was one such feature, making it important to German and Allied forces. As part of a large offensive starting on 14 July, General Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, intended to secure the British right flank, while the centre advanced to capture the higher lying areas of High Wood in the centre of his line. Delville Wood was a battle to secure this right flank. The battle achieved this objective and is considered a tactical Allied victory. However, it was one of the bloodiest confrontations of the Somme, with both sides incurring large casualties.

According to the Regimental History of the Somerset Light Infantry, after the first phase of the Battle of Delville Wood, the 6th Somersets had spent several days in billets in Fricourt. During August the battalion was involved in the taking of Hop Alley and Beer Trench adjoining Delville Wood. After much heavy fighting the whole of Hop Alley passed into the hands of the Somerset men. Following the fighting, according to the Regimental History, "They dug a new CT (communication trench) under heavy fire and did it quickly and well. Also carried wire, stakes, etc, to the front line. Sent back 82 prisoners under escort. Carried bombs and sandbags. Put up artillery boards. Sent 20 men to fill gap on our left. Sent 20 men to make and hold a strong point in gap between right companies. Sent 30 men to support C company in Hop Alley. And then, when night had fallen, the remainder of this gallant company carried bombs, SAA, water, etc. to the front line."

The Regimental History continues "A little later (at 5pm) officers of the 9th Rifle Brigade came to look round the trenches of the 6th Somersets and made arrangements for taking them over. Hostile shelling, however, prevented the relief taking place until almost midnight, but this was all to the advantage of the Somerset men, who had no casualties in coming out of the line. The relief was completed at 4:15am, the battalion being billeted in Fricourt. "The men," stated the Battalion Diary, "on arrival in rest billets, were absolutely beat; the authorities had wisely kept them until the last possible moment and then taken them out." Thus ended another phase of the Battle of Delville Wood, a phase which cost the regiment five officers killed and seven wounded, with 48 other ranks killed and 220 wounded and missing. On 22 August the Brigade was paraded and the Brigadier complimented the 6th Somersets especially on the fine behaviour of the Battalion in Delville Wood."

On 26th August the 6th Battalion moved forward again to reserve trenches 300 yards in front of Bernafay Wood. Relief, however, came on 30 August, the 6th Somersets returning first to temporarily billets in Fricourt and then to a rest camp. On 31 August the Battalion entrained at Mericourt for Selincourt, 20 miles west of Amiens where, until 12 September, all ranks enjoyed a complete rest.

The Battle of Ginchy took place on 9 September 1916, when the 16th Division captured the German-held village. The British began a bombardment early in the morning but waited until late afternoon to advance, in order to deny the Germans sufficient time to counter-attack before dark. The British assault in the south by the 56th Division and the 16th Division reached Bouleaux Wood but the attack in the centre was repulsed. On the northern flank, Ginchy was captured by the 16th Division and several German counter-attacks were defeated. The loss of Ginchy deprived the Germans of observation posts, from which they could observe the whole battlefield.

The Battle of Flers–Courcelette was a battle, again within the Somme Offensive, launched on 15 September 1916 with the battle continuing for a week. Flers–Courcelette began with the objective of cutting a hole in the German line by using massed artillery and infantry attacks. This hole would then be exploited with the use of cavalry. It was the third and final general offensive mounted by the British Army during the Battle of the Somme. By its conclusion on 22 September, the strategic objective of a breakthrough had not been achieved; however tactical gains were made in the capture of the villages of Courcelette, Martinpuich and Flers. In some places, the front lines were advanced by over 2,500 yards (2,300 m) by the Allied attacks. The battle is significant for the first use of the tank in warfare. It also marked the debut of the Canadian and New Zealand Divisions on the Somme battlefield.

Private Arthur Hayward was killed on 3 December 1916 in the general day-to-day trench warfare in France. He was aged 30 and was interred at Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calais, France, but his name is not recorded on the War Memorial in the Borough.

 

gallery

 

Delville Wood after the battle. The wood itself is completely obliterated and the trench running up the centre of the photograph is almost unrecogniseable as such after being destroyed by shellfire during the battle.

 

Delville Wood, photographed shortly after the war.

 

Troops advance in the Battle of Ginchy, 9 September 1916.

 

The last Allied push began on 15 September, with the British engaged in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, which also saw the tank make its debut.

 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Arthur Hayward.

 

Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calais, France

Cabaret Rouge was a small, red-bricked, red-tiled café that stood close to this site in the early days of the First World War. The café was destroyed by shellfire in March 1915 but it gave its unusual name to this sector and to a communication trench that led troops up the front-line. Commonwealth soldiers began burying their fallen comrades here in March 1916. The cemetery was used mostly by the 47th (London) Division and the Canadian Corps until August 1917 and by different fighting units until September 1918. It was greatly enlarged in the years after the war when as many as 7,000 graves were concentrated here from over 100 other cemeteries in the area. For much of the twentieth century, Cabaret Rouge served as one of a small number of ‘open cemeteries’ at which the remains of fallen servicemen newly discovered in the region were buried. Today the cemetery contains over 7,650 burials of the First World War, over half of which remain unidentified.