After having spent the first half of 1916 in the infamous Ypres salient in Belgium, in August the Canadian Corps, including the 15th Battalion, was moved to France near Courcelette on The Somme. The Regimental history states that the Battalion would remember The Somme “as a place to shun – a sea of mud, misery, dread and weariness.” but also ” of courageous perseverance that defies description.” During their first trip ‘up-the-line’ near Mouquet Farm, the battalion suffered over 100 casualties from German artillery fire. Their positions with familiar Canadian names like Regina and Kenora Trenches but others with more ominous names such as Sausage Valley and Death Valley were an omen of the casualties yet to come.
On 26 September the battalion was to take part in an assault against strong German positions on Ancre Heights with Regina Trench being their specific objective. It would be LtCol Charles Bent’s first major action as Commanding Officer following the death of LtCol William Marshall DSO who had been killed in action in May at the notorious Hill 60 in the Ypres salient. Flanked by the 5th and 14th Battalions, the 15th Battalion advanced across 1200 yards of mud soaked ground penetrating several forward German trench lines before running up against Regina Trench on the high ground making the deepest penetration of any of the attacking units that day. Although some elements of the assaulting companies made it into Regina Trench, they were forced back into Hessian Trench which they secured. The final objective had not been taken but they had advanced the Canadian line a considerable distance. The casualties however were high: 343 casualties of which 117 were killed or missing in action. The battalion left the Somme on 16 October and during its time there, including the 100 casualties from Mouquet Farm, the unit had lost almost half the usual strength of a front line battalion. Almost one hundred years later, on 28 September 2013, the 15th Battalion CEF memorial Project dedicated a memorial in the Courcelette town square to acknowledge the battalion’s participation in the battle for Regina Trench and to commemorate the Fallen.
This period photograph was taken shortly after the battle for Regina Trench and is dated 26-9-1916. Although the location is not known, it was likely taken sometime after the 28th when the battalion was pulled out of the line back into Albert. The image could appropriately be titled ‘to the victor go the spoils’ as it shows a group of Officers holding German Lugers, flare guns, binoculars and a Picklehaube helmet captured during the assault. Lt Col Bent is seated on the right. By 1916 most of the original members of the 15th Battalion were gone and of all the officers in this group, Mavor was the only ‘original’.