July Talk: The Battle of Mametz Wood 1916

This month’s lecture was delivered by Dr Richie Wood, an Engineer whose PhD thesis was on the subject of Welsh Miners in World War One.

Dr Wood talked of Lloyd George’s desire to raise a Welsh Army, which when formed, consisted of 3 Brigades with 12 Divisions of a thousand men in each.

Although heavily criticised in some quarters for their delay in taking Mametz Wood, Dr Wood felt that the odds were stacked against the Welsh Divisions involved.

The men untried in battle faced a crack Prussian Regiment. They were tired having just marched 50 miles over 5 days, and the promised smokescreen did not materialise.

The open terrain was difficult to transverse with a steep gradient, and they struggled in heavy rain through a sea of mud and fallen trees. They were also subject to enfilading fire from German machine guns as they approached the wood. The battle plans of their Commander were subject to last minute changes by higher authority.

Given all the circumstances, Dr Wood felt the capture of the Wood after 4 days was a significant achievement. The cost to the Welsh Divisions was high with 1,297 men killed or missing. and 2,806 wounded.

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