- Joseph Alfred Stevens was married to Rebecca
Annie Stevens, of 57, Lion Street, Walworth, London. He has no known
grave and is commemorated on panel 16B of the Thiepval Memorial.
- On the day he was killed 13th Battalion had
to attack German positions at Contalmaison, France. They would lead the
attack of 111st Brigade. On their left the 25th Division would attack
and on their right the 23rd Division. The attack would be supported by a
heavy artillery barrage. The author of the book Somme 1916 (Lyn
MacDonald) wrote what happened during the attack on pages 134-143. She
wrote (translated from a Dutch copy of the book) about Rifleman George
Murrell of B Company who noticed there was no artillery when they
attacked. His brother, who served in the same battalion, was hit and
told George to continue the attack. Shortly after Murrell was hit in the
leg. He wasn't the only one who noticed there was no artillerysupport.
When Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Frederick Pretor-Pinney looked to behind
his own unit, he saw nobody of the Royal Fusiliers, who were suppossed
to follow the 13th Battalion. He also saw no troops on his left and
right flanks. Although they were on their own the battalion managed to
capture the first German trench and some even made it to the third line.
Just when they made it to this third defenceline a messenger reached
Lieutenant Colonel Pretor-Pinnet with the message the attack was
cancelled. The message had reached all the other units on time, but not
13th Battalion Rifle Brigade. The Battalion had to retreat to their
- Other Commonwealth units who saw the
movement at the German trenches thought the Germans were preparing an
attack and they called for the artillery to bombard the area. Just when
the survivors of 13th Battalion retreated they were shot to pieces by
their own artillery.
- On the website
Battalion was deployed in two lines with A and B Companies leading
and C and D Companies following 130 yards behind in support. C and
D were already in the support trenches and therefore A and B could
start as soon as C and D reached the front line for no time could
be lost. Although raked by machine guns from Ovillers still in the
enemys hands the Riflemen upheld the best regimental traditions
penetrating three lines of enemy trenches, capturing 200 prisoners and
inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Inexplicably after the attack
had been launched, a runner of the 10th Royal Fusiliers caught up the
rear companies after they had moved abut 200 yards forward with a
message that the operation was cancelled but by then the Battalion was
committed. The leading troops had penetrated the third line of the
enemies trenches before the order to retire was given when the Battalion
retired to its original position having lost 20 officers, including the
Commanding Officer wounded, Second in command Major Sir Foster Bell
killed in action, the Adjutant and all four Company Commanders two
Captains Walter Bladen and Geoffrey Smith being killed in action and 2nd
Lieutenants Ernest Boothby and Douglas Bruce being killed in action.
About 380 other ranks were casualties, 76 being killed in action."