Battle of the Boar's Head

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Battle of the Boar's Head
Part of the Western Front, in the First World War
Neuve Chapelle area, 1914-1915.png
Richebourg-l'Avoué area, 1914–1916
Date30 June 1916
Artois, France

Coordinates: 50°34′19″N2°44′41″E / 50.57194°N 2.74472°E / 50.57194; 2.74472
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  British Empire Flag of the German Empire.svg  Germany
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Douglas Haig Flag of the German Empire.svg General Erich von Falkenhayn
2 battalions
Casualties and losses
France location map-Regions and departements-2016.svg
Red pog.svg
Richbourg (Boar's Head)
Richebourg-l'Avoué, commune in the Pas-de-Calais department of northern France

The Battle of the Boar's Head was an attack on 30 June 1916 at Richebourg-l'Avoué in France, during the First World War. Troops of the 39th Division, XI Corps in the First Army of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), advanced to capture the Boar's Head, a salient held by the German 6th Army. Two battalions of the 116th Brigade, with one battalion forming carrying parties, attacked the German front position before dawn on 30 June. The British took and held the German front line trench and the second trench for several hours, before retiring to their lines having lost 850–1,366 casualties.

Richebourg-l'Avoué is a village and former commune in the Pas-de-Calais region of France. It was merged with Richebourg-Saint-Vaast to form the commune of Richebourg on 21 February 1971.

The 39th Division was an infantry division of the British Army, raised during the First World War. The division was part of Kitchener's New Armies and saw service on the Western Front and in Italy from 1916 onwards.

XI Corps (United Kingdom)

XI Corps was a corps-sized formation of the British Army, active during the Great War that served on the Western Front and in Italy. It was recreated as part of Home Forces defending the United Kingdom during World War II.


The operation was conducted when the British armies on the Western Front north of the Somme, supported the Fourth Army during the Battle of the Somme (1 July to 18 November). The British Third, First and Second armies conducted 310 raids against the Germans up to November 1916, harassing the Germans opposite to give novice divisions experience of fighting on the Western Front, to inflict casualties and to prevent German troops from being transferred to the Somme. From 19 to 20 July, XI Corps conducted the much bigger Battle of Fromelles, where British and Australian troops suffered an even greater number of casualties.

Western Front (World War I) Main theatre of war during the First World War

The Western Front was the main theatre of war during the First World War. Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne. Following the Race to the Sea, both sides dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France, which changed little except during early 1917 and in 1918.

Battle of the Somme Germany vs Britain and France, Western Front, WWI

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British Empire and French Third Republic against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies and was the largest battle of the war's Western Front. More than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.


On 1 June 1916, General Charles Monro, commander of the First Army, about 30 mi (48 km) north of the Somme, held a conference with the corps commanders for operations to be undertaken when the Fourth Army and the French Sixth Army began the offensive on the Somme. The First Army was to mislead the Germans, exhaust the forces opposite and reduce their efficiency during the preliminary bombardment on the Somme. On 7 June, the XI Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Richard Haking submitted the corps plan to fulfil the diversion policy, writing that saps had been dug towards the German lines and assembly trenches from 1915 had been refurbished. The divisions of XI Corps had plans for eight raids, to involve gas, smoke and wire-cutting bombardments each day, from 26 June until 10 July. A model of the German defences was built near each divisional headquarters (HQ) to be used in the planning of raids. [1]

Sir Charles Monro, 1st Baronet British Army general

General Sir Charles Carmichael Monro, 1st Baronet, was a senior British Army officer who served during the Second Boer War and the First World War and became Commander-in-Chief, India for the latter part of the conflict. From 1923 to 1929 he served as Governor of Gibraltar.

First Army (United Kingdom) military unit

The First Army was a formation of the British Army that existed during the First and Second World Wars. The First Army included Indian and Portuguese forces during the First World War and American and French units during the Second World War.

Fourth Army (United Kingdom) military unit

The Fourth Army was a field army that formed part of the British Expeditionary Force during the First World War. The Fourth Army was formed on 5 February 1916 under the command of General Sir Henry Rawlinson to carry out the main British contribution to the Battle of the Somme.


During March 1916, the month that the 39th Division (Major-General Gerald Cuthbert) arrived in France, Haking ordered divisional commanders to make lists of soldiers, NCOs and officers worthy of promotion, since quick advancement on merit encouraged efficiency and boosted morale. [2] [3] Haking was also ready to remove officers and in April wanted the three brigadier-generals of the infantry brigades sacked and replaced with younger men. The German troops opposite XI Corps were not passive and on 26 May, the 39th Division was raided. [4] From 23 June to 14 July, XI Corps conducted 14 raids with mixed results. On the night of 20/21 June, a party of 32 men of A Company, 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment crossed no man's land, to identify units opposite. The British wire was found to be insufficiently cut, the troops were caught by German machine-gun fire in the bottlenecks and were forced back with many casualties. [5] [6]

Gerald Cuthbert British Army general

Major-General Gerald James Cuthbert was a British Army officer who commanded a battalion in the Boer War and a division in the First World War. Cuthbert joined the Scots Guards in 1882 and served in Egypt and the Sudan during the late 19th century. During the Boer War he served with his regiment, rising to command a battalion and after the war he was given command of a brigade in the Territorial Force and then in the British Expeditionary Force of 1914. He served on the Western Front from 1914 to 1917, rising to command 39th Division, then returned to home service before retiring in 1919.

Gloucestershire Regiment Former British Army regiment

The Gloucestershire Regiment, commonly referred to as the Glosters, was a line infantry regiment of the British Army from 1881 until 1994. It traced its origins to Colonel Gibson's Regiment of Foot raised in 1694, which later became the 28th Regiment of Foot. The regiment was formed by the merger of the 28th Regiment with the 61st Regiment of Foot. It inherited the unique privilege in the British Army of wearing a badge on the back of its headdress as well as the front, an honour won by the 28th Regiment when it fought in two ranks back to back at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. At its formation the regiment comprised two regular, two militia and two volunteer battalions, and saw its first action during the Second Boer War.

On 13 June, troops from the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment (2/4th Berkshire) rehearsed a raid on the Ferme du Bois area in the afternoon and after a bombardment, attacked at 11:15 p.m. The raiders found that most of the German wire was uncut and only a small group got into the German front trench. The raiders returned to the British lines having suffered 38 casualties, more than a third of the party. [5] On 29 May, German raiders got into the 39th Division lines, killed two soldiers and induced several others to cast away their rifles. [7] An attack was planned by the 39th Division for the 12th and 13th (Southdowns) battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment, part of the 116th Southdowns Brigade to occupy the Boar's Head, a salient in the German front line. [8]

Royal Berkshire Regiment

The Royal Berkshire Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army in existence from 1881 until 1959. The regiment was created in 1881, as the Princess Charlotte of Wales's , by the amalgamation of the 49th (Hertfordshire) Regiment of Foot and the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot. In 1921, it was renamed the Royal Berkshire Regiment .

Royal Sussex Regiment British Army regiment

The Royal Sussex Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army that was in existence from 1881 to 1966. The regiment was formed in 1881 as part of the Childers Reforms by the amalgamation of the 35th Regiment of Foot and the 107th Regiment of Foot. The regiment saw service in the Second Boer War, and both World War I and World War II.

The 116th Brigade was a formation of the British Army during the First World War. It was raised as part of the new army also known as Kitchener's Army and assigned to the 39th Division. The brigade was originally numbered the 121st intended for the 40th Division of the Fifth New Army. The brigades first commander was Brigadier-General Reginald Barnes.


Richebourg-l'Avoue area, 1915-1916 Richebourg-l'Avoue area, 1915-1916.png
Richebourg-l'Avoué area, 1915–1916

The preliminary bombardment and wire cutting by the British guns commenced on the afternoon of 29 June and was reported to have been successful. The final bombardment commenced shortly before 3:00 a.m. including smoke shells and the 12th and 13th battalions attacked shortly afterwards at about 3:30 a.m., the 11th Battalion providing carrying parties. The British guns lifted their fire off the German front trench to the support line as the infantry crossed no man's land and German machine-gunners inflicted many casualties. The 13th Battalion survivors got into the German front line trench and then advanced to the second trench, encountering more massed machine-gun fire but captured the trench. Several German counter-attacks were repulsed and after about half an hour, the raiders withdrew because of a shortage of ammunition and increasing casualties. The 12th Battalion was obstructed by uncut wire but returned to the German front line and held it for a short time before withdrawing. German defensive tactics included shelling their own trenches where the British had gained a foothold. [8] On 6 July, the 2nd/1st Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (OBLI) near Ferme du Bois found that men of the Royal Sussex were still straggling back over no man's land. [9]

Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Former regiment of the British Army

The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was a light infantry regiment of the British Army that existed from 1881 until 1958, serving in the Second Boer War, World War I and World War II.



After the fiasco of 30 June, Haking wrote that the 39th Division had been in France since March but lacked offensive spirit. The attack on the Boar's Head had led to a great improvement in the fighting value of the division. Haking reported that the attack would have persuaded the Germans to keep reserves in the area, fulfilling the diversion policy. [10] Captain Christie-Miller of the 2nd/1st OBLI called the raid a "disastrous enterprise" which demoralised the British and cheered the Germans opposite. [11]


In 1938, the British official Historian Wilfrid Miles wrote that the 116th Brigade suffered 950 casualties and in 2012, Michael Senior gave figures of about 850. [12] [13] In less than five hours, the three Southdowns battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment lost 17 officers and 349 men killed, including 12 sets of brothers, three from one family. Another 1,000 men were wounded or taken prisoner. In the regimental history, the battle is known as "The Day Sussex Died". CSM Nelson Victor Carter was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions in the battle. [14]


The Le Touret Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery and memorial is sited at Richebourg. It was begun in November 1914 by the Indian Corps (in particular by the 2nd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment), remaining in use until the end of the war (barring a time in German hands from April–August 1918); the Le Touret Memorial is part of the cemetery. The Rue-des-Berceaux CWGC Cemetery is also here and includes the burial site of New Zealand tennis player Tony Wilding. [15] A modern memorial to the men of the Royal Sussex Regiment is sited within Beach House Park in Worthing, West Sussex.[ citation needed ]


  1. Senior 2012, pp. 87–88.
  2. Edmonds 1993, p. 24.
  3. Senior 2012, p. 256.
  4. Senior 2012, pp. 256, 84.
  5. 1 2 Senior 2012, p. 89.
  6. Littlewood 2005, p. 73.
  7. Senior 2012, p. 84.
  8. 1 2 Wiebkin 1923, p. 13.
  9. Senior 2004, p. 105.
  10. Senior 2012, p. 104.
  11. Senior 2004, p. 106.
  12. Miles 1992, p. 544.
  13. Senior 2012, p. 90.
  14. CWGC 2017.
  15. AFW 2016.

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Further reading