The Advance of the Ulster 36th Division 1st July 1916
"The greatest charge of that European war."
The Ulstermen were now in a state of patriotic fervour, and many of those who belonged to the Orange Order donned their treasured sashes over their cumbersome equipment. Prayers were said, hymns were sung and the Ulster Division was ready for battle. At the signal the Ulstermen rose and in few hours performed acts of courage, valour, and heroism which were unsurpassed anywhere during that long, savage day.
At first all went well for the Ulstermen. The German wire had been cut in many places, and in their eagerness, the soldiers forgot their orders to attack in ordered waves, but rushed up the hill to the first line of enemy trenches which was taken after a short, fierce struggle. Fired with success they rushed on towards the formidable Schwaben Redoubt - a heavily fortified area on top of the hill criss-crossed with wire, trenches, and underground dug-outs. The leading battalions fought furiously to capture the Redoubt. But now things started to go wrong. The 32nd Division to the right had been unable to capture Thiepval village and the machine guns which they should have silenced started to fire from the side and into the attacking Ulstermen. At the same time the German artillery - having had weeks to sort out their ranges - started to fire onto the following -up ranks of the four Belfast battalions. No-man's-land became a death trap. Some men started to waver, but, according to legend, roared on by cries of "No Surrender!" they gained new strength and reached the Redoubt and joined their comrades. There were now men from eight battalions engaged there. The fighting was at close quarters and vicious, but by mid-morning it was over and the Redoubt was in British hands. Many officers had been killed in the assault and the soldiers were un-coordinated and lacked central command. Patrols were sent out towards Thiepval and could perhaps have captured it from the rear, but this manoeuvre had not been rehearsed and the men had to return. Two small parties went on towards the second German line and the Stuff Redoubt. But, as nowhere else in the whole battlefield, they were ahead of schedule and shells from the British artillery started to fall on them and, although there were few Germans about, the Ulstermen had to retreat back to the Schwaben.
The Ulster Division of the New Army had no regular battalions attached to it to act as " stiffeners" yet it had advanced further than any other Division. For four miles on either side of them there was no advance to distract the German machine guns and artillery, and the enemy was able to gather its reserves and prepare its counter-attacks. The glorious advance was over.
AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM