Battle of the Ancre Heights
The Battle of the Ancre Heights was a prolonged battle of attrition in October 1916 during the Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Somme (1916)
The Battle of the Somme , also known as the Somme Offensive, took place during the First World War between 1 July and 14 November 1916 in the Somme department of France, on both banks of the river of the same name...

. Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 Hubert Gough
Hubert Gough
General Sir Hubert de la Poer Gough GCB, GCMG, KCVO was a senior officer in the British Army, who commanded the British Fifth Army from 1916 to 1918 during the First World War.-Family background:...

's Reserve Army
British Reserve Army
The Reserve Army was a field army of the British Army during World War I and part of the British Expeditionary Force during the First World War...

 had finally managed to break out of the positions it had occupied since the start of the Somme fighting (1 July) and Gough intended to maintain the pressure on the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 forces on the high ground above the River Ancre. In three weeks of fighting the greatest advance achieved was little over 1000 yards (914.4 m).

The Canadian Corps
Canadian Corps
The Canadian Corps was a World War I corps formed from the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September 1915 after the arrival of the 2nd Canadian Division in France. The corps was expanded by the addition of the 3rd Canadian Division in December 1915 and the 4th Canadian Division in August 1916...

, commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Julian 'Bungo' Byng, was heavily involved in the fighting on the Ancre heights. The Canadian 4th Division was also involved, attached to the British II Corps. The Canadians
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 were far from impressed with Gough's conduct of the battle and expressed reluctance to serve under his command again. In 1917, when the corps was commanded by a Canadian, General Arthur Currie
Arthur Currie
Sir Arthur William Currie GCMG, KCB , was a Canadian general during World War I. He had the unique distinction of starting his military career on the very bottom rung as a pre-war militia gunner before rising through the ranks to become the first Canadian commander of the four divisions of the...

 and had endured the Passchendaele this dislike (born on the Somme) turned to outright refusal.

At 3:15 p.m. (zero hour) on October 1, the Canadians again tried to take Regina Trench
Regina Trench
The Regina Trench was a German trench dug into the top of the slope of a valley running from northwest of the village of Le Sars in a southwest direction almost to the German fortifications at Thiepval on the Somme Battlefield...

, in a downpour along a front that stretched for more than a kilometre. Artillery had bombarded the Trench but the 4th and 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles found that the barbed wire defences had not been cut and the German machine guns had survived and were able to open fire; casualties were high. The 22nd, 24th and 25th Infantry Battalions also faced uncut wire and intense machine-gun fire but managed limited successes including the capture of a portion of Kenora Trench. Beyond this initial attack incessant rain made it impossible to continue the offensive for another week. Throughout this lull, Canadian units prepared for the next phase of the battle.

The second phase began in a cold rain at 4:50 a.m. on October 8. Eight Canadian battalions renewed the attack on Regina Trench. Artillery had again failed to damage many German positions and the attacking Canadian units met heavy resistance. In one of the war's most poignant episodes, twenty-year-old James Richardson
James Cleland Richardson
James Cleland Richardson VC was a Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.He was 20 years old, born in Scotland and a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia,...

 of the 16th Battalion won the Victoria Cross, standing up in the line of fire and playing his bagpipes when his battalion's attack had stalled and the men had taken cover. His playing inspired the men to press the attack forward. Richardson survived the piping but his VC was awarded posthumously as he was killed later in the day. By the end of the day, few of the objectives had been achieved at a cost of 1,364 Canadian casualties. The Canadian Corps then withdrew, while the 4th Canadian Division was deployed on the Somme for the first time.

The final phase of the battle began on October 21, despite waterlogged terrain. The 87th and 102nd Battalions attacked Regina Trench. This time the artillery had cut the wire and the Canadians captured the position in about 15 minutes. At 7:00 a.m. on October 24, the 44th Battalion attacked a further section of Regina Trench. They did so after an inadequate artillery bombardment that left the German defences intact. Artillery pounded the attacking forces as German soldiers stood in the open to shoot the advancing troops; the attack failed. British and Canadian forces then regrouped and supplied themselves until just after midnight of November 10-11, when they began a final assault on the remaining portion of Regina Trench. The attackers achieved their objectives within a couple of hours and the Battle of Ancre Heights was over. The artillery had taken its toll on the position and the attackers reported in places that Regina Trench had been to a 'mere depression in the chalk' They spent the rest of the day consolidating their gains and fighting off counterattacks. Two days later Canadian artillery supported British troops as they pressed the attack on to the Ancre.

The battle of the Ancre heights was the prelude to the final act on the Somme, the Battle of the Ancre
Battle of the Ancre
The Battle of the Ancre was the final act of the 1916 Battle of the Somme. Launched on 13 November 1916 by the British Fifth Army of Lieutenant General Hubert Gough, the objective of the battle was as much political as military.-Prelude:The Allied commanders were due to meet at Chantilly on 15...

, which began on 13 November.
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