This was the third day of the Battle of the Somme. The village of Thiepval had been an objective of the first hours on 1 July but had still not been captured. On 2 July, the 11th Cheshires received orders that they would take part in an assault on a German stronghold known as the Leipzig Salient, south of the village and they moved forward to assembly positions near Martinsart Wood. The planning for the attack, by the higher echelons of command, seems to have been poor as the plan for the attack was revised at almost the last moment and the details were not notified to the Battalion until 3 hours before zero hour at 3am on the 3rd. In consequence, it was necessary to delay the assault for another three hours.
The Regimental History notes that, whilst the infantry received new orders, the artillery did not. So, they started their barrage three hours early and, when they had to try and repeat the process to cover the actual attack, found they had insufficient ammunition and could only fire for a short while. It was to have disastrous consequences.
The Cheshires "went over the top" on schedule, at 6.20am, accompanied by the 8th Battalion, Border Regiment. The Battalion War Diary records that they passed over No Man's Land in perfect order but, about 50 yards from the German trench, heavy machine gun fire brought the attack to a standstill. "Line after line of troops were mown down". The Commanding Officer, Colonel Aspinal, was killed and every Company commander became a casualty. The Adjutant, Captain Hill, took command. He "decided to get the men still living back into the trench they had jumped off from and to hold it as a defence line."
The Regimental History records that "On the morning of the 4th, no organised body of men existed. One simply ran about no-man's land collecting men here and there."
Of the 677 soldiers who had gone into action, only 356 were able to answer roll call on the 4th. The rest were dead, wounded or missing. Amongst the 86 dead were Harry Bailey, James Canovan, Michael Cleary, William Collette, George Gaskell, Edwin Gray, John Henshall, Alfred Hough, William Kelly, John Lavelle, Fred Lloyd, William Mellor, William Toole, Harold Walters and John Worrall . James Boulton and Thomas Hazlehurst had been seriously wounded and would die later. Albert Nixon was wounded in this attack and probably never fully recovered - his death is thought to have been after 1921.
Thiepval would remain in German hands for many weeks and would cost many more lives.