Beaucourt-sur-Ancre

On 13 November 1916, when he was in command of the “Hood” Battalion near Beaumont Hamel, Bernard Cyril Freyberg won the Victoria Cross “by his splendid personal gallantry”.  During the battle of Ancre, the final phase of the first battle of the Somme, involved an attack on the German front line and the crossing of the Ancre River, a front that had been attacked on the first day of the battle but without any success. 

The 2nd Division were advancing along Redan Ridge and the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division attacked across the low ground between Beaumont Hamel and the river and reached the village of Beaucourt on the first day of the offensive securing it on the second.

Following the taking of Beaumont Hamel and Beaucourt the II division were ordered to drive north on the Munich and Frankfurt Trenches towards the Grandcourt village and the river, whilst V Corps were meant to secure the rest of Redan Ridge however neither attack was successful.

For most conspicuous bravery and brilliant leading as a Battalion Commander. By his splendid personal gallantry he carried the initial attack straight through the enemy's front system of trenches. Owing to mist and heavy fire of all descriptions, his command was much disorganised after the capture of the first objective. He personally rallied and reformed his men, including men from other units who had become intermixed.

He inspired all with his own contempt of danger. At the appointed time he led his men to the successful assault of the second objective, many prisoners being captured. During this advance lie was twice wounded. He again rallied and reformed all who were with him, and although unsupported in a very advanced position, he held his ground for the remainder of the day and throughout the night, under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire. When reinforced on the following morning, he organised the attack on a strongly fortified village, and showed a fine example of dash in personally leading the assault, capturing the village and 500 prisoners. In this operation he was again wounded.

The 189th Brigade (Hawke, Hood, Nelson and Drake Battalions) advanced along the northern bank of the river, and very gallantly captured their appointed trenches, and by noon were digging themselves in at the third objective on the outskirts of Beaucourt village. The 188th Brigade (1st and 2nd Marine, Anson, and Howe Battalions) encountered much more severe resistance. A German strong-point, which our barrage had left untouched, entirely commanded our line of advance, and for a time completely held us up. Eventually the Anson and two Marine Battalions on the left circled round it and reached the Station Road, in front of which they dug themselves in, and connected up with the Gordon Highlanders of the 51st Division, who were advancing to our immediate north, and with the 189th Brigade to the south. The garrison of the strong-point were consequently cut off in the rear, but still their machine-gun fire hampered our movements to a large extent. Three tanks were piloted up to the redoubt by Lieutenant Alan Campbell, and at last the garrison of eight hundred surrendered.

The 13th Rifles were now ordered to reinforce the Hood and Drake Battalions, which were gallantly holding on to their gains in front of Beaucourt, and at 7 p.m. the village was stormed by this composite force under the very gallant leadership of Commander Freyberg, R.N.V.R. They dug themselves in on the far side of the village, and connected up with the 39th Division on the southern bank of the river.

Source: On Four Fronts with the Royal Naval Division, Geoffrey Sparrow.