Sapper History




Western Front


Corps of Royal Engineers


Related Events, other areas of the war & notes

4 January 1916



The Battle of Sheikh Sa'ad is the first attempt to relieve the besieged British in Kut Mesopotamia. The Turkish finally withdraw, but the British casualties’ number 4000 a situation exasperated by the poor medical facilities.

8 January 1916



Allied evacuation of Helles marks the end of the Gallipoli campaign. Total Allied casualties since 25 April 1915 are 140,000.

24 January  1916

Introduction of conscription for those aged 18 to 14 [excluding married men]: The British Government passes the Military Service Act which came into force on 2 March 1916.



17 February 1916


Albert Medal to Lt Henry Higgs, Engineer Training Centre, Newark.


11 to 16 February 1916



Erzerum. Despite appalling snowstorms Russians capture Turkish held mountain forts protecting Erzerum in eastern Anatolia.

21 February to 18 December 1916

The Battle of Verdun starts with a German offensive against the Mort-Homme Ridge. The German plan is to bleed the French dry of men and resources. 335,000 German and 400,000 French casualties.



25 February 1916

German forces south of Arras pull back up to 25 miles into well prepared & straighter Hindenberg line.



9 March 1916



Germany declares war on Portugal. Six days later Austria follows suit.

5 April 1916



The Battle of Kut. The third and final Allied attempt to relieve Kut in Mesopotamia flounders in the mud along the Tigris with 23000 Allied casualties.

29 April 1916



Besieged garrison at Kut surrenders after 143 days and 3000 British and 6000 Indian troops go into captivity. 40% of these die of disease and starvation in prison camps.

May 1916

A second Military Service Act extended conscription to married men.



15 may to

10 June 1916



Asiago / Trentino offensive. Italians driven back 14 miles by Austrian forces in rugged terrain.

31 May to

1 June 1916



The Battle of Jutland. The German High Seas Fleet is forced to retire despite inflicting heavier losses on the Royal Navy (14 ships and 6,100 men) but the German fleet remains irreparably damaged for the rest of the war.

4 June 1916



The Russian Brusilov Offensive begins on the Eastern Front. Advance of 60 miles and a million casualties almost forces Austria-Hungary out of the war.

5 June 1916



Lord Kitchener sails for Russia on board HMS Hampshire. The ship is mined off Orkney and Kitchener is lost along with 643 other crewmen and general staff.

5 June 1916



Arab Revolt. TE Lawrence aids Hussein, Grand Sharif of Mecca in the Arab revolt against the Turks in Hejaz.

22 June 1916


Spr William Hackett VC 254 Tunnelling Coy, died with Pte T Collins

at Givenchy les La Bassee [near Bethune].


1 July to

18 November 1916

The Battle of the Somme sees 750,000 Allied soldiers unleashed along a 25 mile front. By the end of the day 57,470 are dead, wounded or missing for very little gain [19,240 killed in action]. Most of these losses were incurred in the Albert-Bapaume road to Gommecourt sector.  It is the worst single day's fighting in British military history. Further west the Newfoundland Regiment suffered 85% casualties in its attempt to take Beaumont Hamel.

The major actions are outlined below.



1 to 13

July 1916

The Battle of Albert: La Boiselle was taken on the 4th and Bernafay & Caterpillar woods were captured as well. Fighting to capture Trones & Mametz woods and Contalmaison continued until early on the 14th. The British lose about a further 25,000 from 2nd to 13th with the Germans suffering 40,187 casualties from 1 to 10 July.


Eight large mines and 11 smaller mines were exploded. 2 large and 9 small ones on the Mametz front; 3 large ones at ‘The Tambour’ [Fricourt]; 2 large [Lochnagar & Ovillers] and 2 small near La Boiselle and 1 large [Hawthorn Ridge] near Beaumont Hamel.

14 to 17

July  1916

The Battle of Bazentin Ridge [Longueval to Bazentin-le-Petit] marks the end of the first Somme Offensive. The British break the German line gaining 6,000 yards but fail to deploy the cavalry fast enough to take full advantage. Some 9,000 men are lost. Fighting for the village continues with that for Delville Wood.



15 July to

3 September 1916

The Battle of Delville Wood. The South African Brigade rapidly advance into the wood securing and holding much of it against heavy almost continuous counter-attacks. The S. African’s were relieved on 20 July and by 29 August all but a few of the German defenders had been cleared out. It was completely cleared on 9 September as Ginchy was taken [below].




23 July to 3 September 1916

The Battle of Pozières Ridge marks the second Somme Offensive. Close to the highest point of the Somme battlefield Pozières dominates the surrounding countryside. The action by 1 ANZAC Corps  to take the village costs 17,000 Allied casualties the majority of whom are Australian. Repeated efforts were made to take the ‘windmill’ and succeeded on 5 August. Attempts by the Australians to move on and take Mouquet Farm were repeatedly repulsed.



3 to 5 August 1916



Romani. In an attempt to take the Suez Canal German and Turkish forces attempt to take Romani in Sinai but driven off.

6 to 17 August 1916



Sixth Isonzo. Italians finally take Gorizia and secure a bridgehead across the river.

26 August  1916



Under General Smuts Britain enters the Morogoro Campaign in East Africa. The Germans lead a deadly guerrilla campaign but disease kills 30 men for every one that dies in combat.

28 August  1916



Italy declares war on Germany

2 September  1916



The first Zeppelin is shot down over Britain. The Royal Flying Corps uses a new combination of explosive and incendiary bullets to great effect.

3 to 6 September 1916

The Battle of Guillemont. Up until now the British attempts to take the village had seen temporary occupation being driven out by German counter-attacks. A major attack delayed by rain now commenced. The British secured and moved through the village taking Falfemont Farm and got into the south west edge of Leuze wood securing much of it on the final day. Further moves were held up by fire from the Quadrilateral stronghold and Ginchy.



8 September 1916



Hindenberg & Ludendorff order a change to defence in depth along the entire German line.

9 September  1916

The Battle of Ginchy. Ginchy village, now completely shattered by shell fire it taken after determined fighting. It is of vital strategic importance as it commands a view of the whole Somme battlefield.



15 to 22 September  1916

The Battle of Flers - Courcelette on a 12,000 yard front, signifies the start of the third stage of the Somme Offensive. Tanks are used for the first time. Flers, High Wood, Martinpuich and Courcelette are all taken on the first day. Despite these initial gains the Allies fail to break right through German lines.



23 September 1916



Construction of the Hindenberg Line commences.

25 to 28 September 1916

The Battle of Morval. Following a creeping barrage both Morval and Lesboeufs were occupied. A single tank assisted with taking of the Gird Trench and the final position fell a little short of the Gueudecourt – Le Transloy road. Combles had also been occupied during the day by British & French troops.



26 to 28 September  1916

The Battle of Thiepval Ridge. The attack was on a 6,000 yard wide front from south of Thiepval to Courcelette. The Canadians moved  into and eventually subdued Mouquet Farm and got to the edge of the Zollern Redoubt which the Germans left the next day. A tanks again played a crucial role in the capture of this Thiepval village. By the following afternoon most of the ridge line had been gained with the Canadian and British forces against southern faces of the Stuff and the Schwaben Redoubts which were still held by the Germans.



1 to 18 October 1916

The Battle of Le Transloy Ridges. Fighting here took place in the most appalling weather conditions and every yard of the water logged ground was hard fought over. Le Sars was captured but Le Transloy and the Butte de Warlencourt could not be taken despite heroic efforts by exhausted troops in the last few days.



1 October to 11 November 1916

The Battle of Ancre Heights. In order to secure observation of the upper Ancre valley the whole of the line north of Thiepval to Courcelette had to be taken. The German line east from the Schwaben Redoubt was known as Stuff trench [this contained the Stuff Redoubt] continued into Regina Trench. Much of the latter was on the reverse or further slope of the ridge beyond its crest. The Canadians initial assault on the Regina Trench resulted in temporary occupation and it was not until 10 November following a midnight assault that it finally fell. To their west the British eventually stormed Stuff Redoubt and finally took the Schwaben Redoubt on 14 October with the whole of Stuff Trench falling on the 22nd. The Allies now occupied the entire ridge.



13 to 18 November  1916

The Battle of Ancre. Action now moved to the north west bank of the river. This, the fourth phase of the Somme Offensive, is marked by the British capturing Beaumont Hamel, Beaucourt and St Pierre Divion [south east of the river] taking nearly 4,000 prisoners. The attempts to take Serre and the Redan Ridge were repulsed by the Germans. All major actions ceased here as the snow fell on the 18th.



7 December 1916



David Lloyd George elected British Prime Minister replacing Asquith.

12 December



Germany delivers Peace Note to Allies suggesting compromise.

18 December  1916

The Battle of Verdun ends. It is the longest and costliest battle on the Western Front. French and German casualties were estimated at 377,231 and 337,000 respectively.


It began on 21 February.

21 December 1916



French C-in-C Joffre sacked and Nivelle is appointed his successor.