Pozieres Heights: ‘a ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other spot on earth’
On the 3rd September 1916 the AIF 4th Division launched the seventh and what would be final attack by I Anzac Corps towards Mouquet Farm. Once again progress was initially made, this time by the 13th Brigade, but they had to withdraw as a result of the strong German defence and counter-attacking, and at 6.30pm, having been informed that all efforts by the Reserve Army had failed, General Gough suspended operations with the exception of safeguarding the higher ground captured. Two days later the AIF 4th Division was relieved thus bringing to an end the two devastating tours for each of the three AIF 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions conducted over a six week period on the Pozieres Heights.
Pozieres set the standard by which enemy shell fire was ever afterwards measured in the Australian Imperial Force as ‘better or worse than Pozieres’, and no village in the Somme area was so completely erased as Pozieres. I Anzac Corps had lost in this battle 23,000 officers and men, with the AIF 1st Division 7,654, the 2nd Division 8,114 and the 4th Division 7,058. When you add the 5,533 casualties of the AIF 5th Division at Fromelles, Australia suffered more casualties in these six weeks than the eight months of Gallipoli. The Australian army in France was faced with the immediate problem of replenishment, with the numbers of reinforcements in training in England or the returning sick and wounded, or on their way from Australia would not be enough to bring the Australian infantry divisions up to strength in the near future. As a result the move towards the adoption of conscription began to gather pace, leading to the vote in October.
The taking of the Pozieres Heights and the village did achieve the objective of preparing the ground for the third major British offensive on the Somme on the 15th September between Flers – Courcelette, the successful battle which saw the introduction of the tank on the battlefield. However the attack on Mouquet Farm proved to be futile and a waste of many a good man and resources. Indeed Mouquet Farm would not fall until the Battle of Thiepval on 26th September, which saw the village being taken by a frontal attack rendering the plan of the flanking attack via Mouquet Farm a misguided and futile concept.[Colour photographs above showing: top, the 23rd July 2016 Commemorative Service at Pozieres at the AIF 1st Division Monument; bottom, crosses in the shape of the Rising Sun at the Windmill where CEW Bean later described ‘a ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other spot on earth’.]
100 years ago today, the 22nd Battalion was: in Brigade reserve between Sanctuary Wood and the Menin Road in the Ypres sector
Recently added pages and updated sections
- Follow the AIF and the 22nd Battalion into the fighting at Pozieres, including through the soldiers own letters and diaries
- Roll of Honour for the 22nd Battalion with biographies and final resting places for the men from the 5th/22nd
- Gallantry Awards for the 22nd Battalion on the Somme with biographies for the men of the 5th/22nd
- AIF 1917 Combat Areas: the 22nd Battalion at Bapaume and the AIF pursuit of the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line