This talk is about a 'small' action that took place on 19 July 1916, and is the anatomy of a ‘penny packet’ action.
Why did an attack by an otherwise successful formation go so badly wrong? The 53rd Brigade was part of the 18th Division, widely seen as one of the best divisions on the Western Front, and yet when placed under the command of the 9th (Scottish) Division - another highly rated New Army division - on the 19 July 1916 for a counter-attack on Longueval and Delville Wood, it failed to take any of its objectives. Moreover, as Captain Nichols, historian of the 18th Division remarked: ‘Delville Wood was the grave of the 53rd Brigade as it was constituted when it landed in France.’
To put this into some kind of operational and strategic context it may, therefore, be instructive to look closely at the counter-attack by 53 Brigade at Longueval and Delville Wood- which was emblematic of many of these ‘penny packet’ attacks, highlighting why this operation was launched, what was achieved, the lessons that were learned.