1 July 1916 - Mametz Wood and the Somme: A Background
The battle of the Somme started on the 1st July 1916, and proved to be of little success, at least in comparison with what the Military High Command anticipated. In many sections of the front no ground was won at all, at a cost of over 57,000 casualties, including over 19,000 dead, however one section of the front did see some significant gains. South of the Albert-Bapaume road, the villages of Mametz and Montauban were taken by British Forces on the 1st July, and the neighbouring village of Fricourt was abandoned by the Germans the following day. The gains at this section led Military High Command the believe that it was possible for the German second line situated along the Bazentin ridge to be pierced.
Field Marshall Douglas Haig believed that in order for this to be possible, British troops would need to capture the German held positions of Contalmaison, Trônes Wood and Mametz Wood, before an advance on the German second line would be possible. The task of capturing Mametz Wood fell to the 38th Welsh Division, which had been kept in reserve during the initial battles of the Somme offensive, and so had not experienced the heavy losses faced by other divisions.
By the time the 38th was deployed, the British lines had moved north as far as Quadrangle Trench to the west of the wood, the ridge running immediately south and south-east of the wood, and Caterpillar Wood directly to the east. With the 38th being responsible for all sections of the line south east of Mametz Wood in attack on the 7th July.