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The Durham Light Infantry at the Battle of the Somme

1 July - 19 November 1916

Discover some key facts about the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) regiment at the Battle of the Somme, taken from research by the late John Bilcliffe. John’s extensive research into the 1916 campaign was never published during his lifetime. Now it appears on the Durham at War website, at the request of his family, to coincide with the Somme centenary commemorations.

Sixteen Durham Light Infantry battalions took part in the Battle of the Somme.

In total 2469 officers and men fell in action. 121 were officers, 2348 were other ranks.

The 15th Battalion suffered more than any other DLI Battalion, both on the Somme in 1916 and in the Great War as a whole.

September was the most serious month for losses in the regiment (984 killed in action or died of wounds) and during that month the Battle of Flers-Courcelette accounted for 784 of the casualties.

The worst days for casualties were:

16 September 1916 – 412 officers and men from ten DLI battalions were killed in action or died of wounds at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. Another 105 DLI men had already died in this battle on the previous day.

5 November 1916 – the other main disaster day, when the attack on the Butte de Warlencourt claimed 281 lives from five DLI battalions. Many, wounded, died later.

1 July 1916 – 208 officers and men from the 15th and 18th Battalions were killed in action or died of wounds on the first day of the Somme offensive at the Battle of Albert.

All the Durham Light Infantry battalions on the Somme came under the command of the Fourth Army, except for the 18th Battalion at Ancre in mid-November 1916, when it was part of the Fifth Army. The DLI battalions were split between a number of corps, divisions and brigades.

The battalions landed in France on the following dates:
2nd Battalion – 8 September 1914
5th Battalion – 17 April 1915
6th Battalion – 19 April 1915
7th Battalion – 19 April 1915
8th Battalion – 20 April 1915
9th Battalion – 20 April 1915
10th Battalion – 22 May 1915
11th Battalion – 21 July 1915
12th Battalion – 26 August 1915
13th Battalion – 26 August 1915
14th Battalion – 12 September 1915
15th Battalion – 12 September 1915
18th Battalion – 14 March 1916 (served in Egypt before going to France.)
19th Battalion – 1 February 1916
20th Battalion – 4 May 1916
22nd Battalion – 17 June 1916

The battles where DLI battalions were involved:

Battle of Albert (1-13 July 1916)
12th, 13th, 15th, 18th, 22nd Battalions
including the capture of Contalmaison by 12th & 13th Battalions

Battle of Bazentin Ridge (14-17 July 1916)
12th, 13th, 15th Battalions

Battle of Delville Wood (15 July – 3 September 1916)
10th, 19th Battalions

Battle of Pozieres Ridge (23 July – 3 September 1916)
12th, 13th Battalions

Battle of Guillemont (3-6 September 1916)
11th Battalion

Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September 1916) 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 20th Battalions

Battle of Morval (25-28 September 1916)
2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 15th Battalions
including the capture of Lesboeufs by 2nd & 14th Battalions
and the capture of Gueudecourt by 15th Battalion

Battle of Transloy Ridges (1-18 October 1916)
2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 20th Battalions
including the capture of Le Sars by 12th & 13th Battalions

Operations in October/November (including the attack on the Butte de Warlencourt on 5 November 1916)
5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th Battalions

Battle of the Ancre (13-18 November 1916)
18th Battalion (in Fifth Army)

Follow the link at the bottom of this page to read John Bilcliffe’s research in full.

Contributed by Durham County Record Office, courtesy of the Bilcliffe family |

Comments on this story


The agony of it all seems horrific, brace brave souls, a very interesting and informative story. Thank you.
D Murray.

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This is now fixed, thanks

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Gill Parkes

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