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Goose Alley

Goose Alley https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/goose-alley It took ten days of bitter fighting for the New Zealanders to take this trench. Ngā Tapuwae Trails https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/sites/default/files/stop/media/Western%20Front-Somme%201916-Goose%20Alley-Australian%20War%20Memorial-H08454.jpg

It took ten days of bitter fighting for the New Zealanders to take this trench.

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Goose Alley

You are standing in the area of Goose Alley, which was an important German trench, in the New Zealand sector, during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. It involved the New Zealanders in difficult and costly fighting in the days following the New Zealand attack on 15 September.

From where you stand on this rise, you can see High Wood on the skyline. Goose Alley ran along to this small rise and linked up with a very strong German defensive position on the slight rise behind you.

Flers is to your left front, and this road that you’re on runs from the village of Gueudecourt which is the village to the left of Flers among the trees - through Factory corner, which is the White House with the tiled roof down in the valley below you. The road continues on to Eaucourt l’Abbaye which is the tile-roofed building in the trees - down in the valley to your right, and beyond that again is the village of Le Sars. Essentially Le Sars and this open ground in front of you - with all these scattered villages that you can see up on the skyline, marks the furtherest extent gained by the British by November 1916

The New Zealand Division helped to secure the village of Flers, and achieved this by the afternoon of 15 September. Between there and where you stand now, they were picking away at each German trench system, with a series of small but costly engagements, with the Germans repeatedly counter attacking to take their trenches back. It took ten days of bitter fighting, from 16 September, right up until 25 September, for the New Zealanders to finally take Goose Alley.

Then, from 25 September it was a battle to take that next rise in the area between you and Eaucourt l’Abbaye on your right. That involved another eight to ten days of gritty fighting. The final New Zealand attack was on 1 October, and while Eaucourt l’Abbaye was captured, there were heavy casualties, particularly among the Otagos. It’s a black day for them, and it was during that fighting that Sergeant Donald Forrester Brown, led the way in knocking out German machine gun positions, but was killed by a sniper. His exploits saw him awarded the Victoria Cross.

This marks the end of New Zealand’s involvement in the battle of the Somme, with troops finally withdrawing over the following two days. This was as far as the British armies got in the Somme battles of 1916. Winter arrived, and by 16 November the rest of the advance had drawn to a halt because of the strong German defences that remained. Haig’s hoped-for breakthrough had failed.

In part, it was the rains that turned this battlefield into a quagmire, and stopped the advance. But it was also the gritty German defence, and their determination to counterattack, and try to regain every trench that the British took. It was this fierce determination that turned the battle of the Somme into a bloody war of attrition, with huge losses on both sides. The Somme was a terribly expensive, but important learning experience for the British armies on how to fight battles at this level, where huge armies were involved.

How to get here

Getting there

Continue along this road until you reach the T-junction. Turn right and follow Rue de l’Abbaye, taking the left-hand turn after the bend onto Rue du Tourrier. Turn left to join Rue de Bapaume/D197. Follow this road for about 1 kilometre and you will come to a crossroads.

Take the left turn onto the D74 towards Le Sars. Continue along this road for about 800 metres, the road slopes upwards, stop when you reach the crest. 

Where to stand

Stand on the right hand side of the road, looking across the road so that you are facing a wooded area in the distance with a radio mast showing through the trees - this is High Wood.

GPS
50°3'45"N
2°48'49"E
Decimal GPS
50.06261
2.813743
  • Wounded British soldiers, waiting to be taken to a casualty clearing station, lie on stretchers near Albert. 1916.
    Wounded British soldiers, waiting to be taken to a casualty clearing station, lie on stretchers near Albert. 1916.Credits

    Australian War Memorial Museum H08454 (CC BY-NC 3.0 AU)

  • Dead German soldiers in their front line trench. Battle of Flers-Courcelette. 15 September 1916.
    Dead German soldiers in their front line trench. Battle of Flers-Courcelette. 15 September 1916.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q189)

  • One of the roads of Flers in ruins. Battle of Flers-Courcelette. 15 September 1916.
    One of the roads of Flers in ruins. Battle of Flers-Courcelette. 15 September 1916.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 4269)

  • Soldiers sleep near the entrance to their trench. Eaucourt L'Abbaye. November 1916.
    Soldiers sleep near the entrance to their trench. Eaucourt L'Abbaye. November 1916.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 4389)

  • An aerial photograph of Flers. 6 September 1916.
    An aerial photograph of Flers. 6 September 1916.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 61153)

Stories & Insights

Wounded in no-man’s-land, Aitken had to find his way back.

Men of the Maori Pioneer Battalion take a break in a trench near Gommecourt. 25 July 1918.

Digging and repairing trenches and roads was vital work, but the Pioneers could also be called upon to fight.

As a Pioneer, Kōhere quickly developed a reputation for bravery and hard work.

Despite fierce German resistance, Inglis continued to lead his men forward during the attack.

Around one in seven of the 15,000 New Zealand men who fought on the Somme lost their lives, and many more were wounded.

Sending troops 'over the top' produced horrific slaughter.

Useful resources for those looking for more information.

A selection of First World War vocabulary and common phrases.

The Mark I, one of first tanks used in battle at the Somme, 1916.

Although clumsy and slow, the Mark I soon proved its worth in battle.

Take the next trail

The next Ngā Tapuwae trail is Somme 1918. Proceed to Euston Road Cemetery.
Link to the first stop

Decimal GPS:
58.8941060042426
-68.92675299999996
Sequence:
1
Decimal GPS:
69.88771936385766
-69.79599625000003
Sequence:
2
Decimal GPS:
72.7159773440205
-60.049908531250026
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3
Decimal GPS:
74.44287456001997
-79.14426481250001
Sequence:
4
Decimal GPS:
75.02310249610612
-114.49017706250004
Sequence:
5

Stop Images

Sequence:
1
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.0262
2.791997
Sequence:
2
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.03975
2.80166
Sequence:
3
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.04978
2.813861
Sequence:
4
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.06261
2.813743
Sequence:
5
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.0804
2.799862