Aborting the attack
Vernon Owen’s regiment, attempting to advance alongside the 9th Welsh Regiment, suffered a similar fate. Later reports indicate that Billy was leading A Company, the advance company of the 9th RW Fusiliers. It was wrongly reported they had taken the first line trenches. In fact it was impossible to see because of the smoke and the men of D Company who should have been out in support of A Company were delayed.
Major Burrard of the 9th RW Fusiliers wrote: "At about 6.50 I met Lt. Col. Madocks [C.O. of the battalion] and his Adjutant in one of the centre bays. He seemed very optimistic and asked if D Company was out yet. I reported that D Company was not yet out. A quarter of an hour later Capt. Hogg, the Adjutant again went to inquire. Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Madocks who was observing over the parapet was struck by a shot in the temple and fell dead at my feet. It was evident at this time that things were not going well; not much could be seen on account of the smoke but there were rumours of the saps being encumbered with wounded which accounted for the delay with D Company.
I had seen Capt. Acton, commander of D Company a few minutes before just outside our wire entanglement and I suggested to Capt. Hogg to get into communication with him and to obtain his opinion; Capt. Hogg had been gone about ten minutes when I received information that both he and Capt. Acton had been shot.
The 6th Wilts were now beginning to arrive; to avoid a useless sacrifice of life I gave orders for a retirement."
The order to retire was given at about 07.00 and those outside the parapet had to do what they could to return to their trenches. This painful process continued until about midday when the remnants of the Battalion were reformed. In the early afternoon the Brigade was ordered to move back to the support and reserve trenches. Later, during the hours of darkness, many of the wounded were brought back.
The three officers mentioned were all dead as were four other officers.