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Second Lieutenant Harold Cope

Harold Douglas Cope was so severely wounded at Delville Wood on the Somme in August 1916 that his tunic had to be cut off him before he could receive treatment.

Cope landed in France in March 1915 with 1/8th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment. He served at Ypres as a corporal before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Border Regiment in November 1915.

In May 1916 he was posted to the 7th Battalion, the Border Regiment, part of the 17th Division. After serving in Flanders, the 17th Division went south to the Somme in June. On 1 July it was in reserve, but was quickly drawn into the heavy fighting around Fricourt and Contalmaison.

On 1 August, the 17th Division went into the line at Longueval and Delville Wood. Longueval was largely captured by the 9th (Scottish) Division on 14 July, but bitter fighting still continued. Delville Wood was believed to be in British hands, but in reality the northern half was still very firmly held by the Germans. It was a confused jumble of shell holes, broken trenches, torn wire and bodies, many from the South African Brigade.

The 7th Battalion, the Border Regiment took over the eastern half of the wood on 5 August. Two days later it was ordered to clear the Germans from their trenches. At 4.30pm, the men tried to cross the 65 metres of no man's land but were hit by devastating rifle and machine-gun fire. Cope was badly wounded in the right shoulder and immediately lost the use of his arm.

The attack failed and the wood was not finally cleared until the last week of August 1916. Cope was sent down the line and back to hospital in Britain, one of the 6,500 casualties suffered by the 17th Division at Delville Wood. Fifty years later, Cope donated his battle-scarred tunic to the Imperial War Museum.