Tuesday 3 April 2007 by Craig Tibbitts. 33 comments
To Flanders Fields, 1917, Battles, Bullecourt, Commemoration

Sentries of the 8th Battalion in the Hindenburg Line (OGI Trench), captured in the fighting for Bullecourt. Identified nearest to camera is Lieutenant W. D. Joynt who would go on to win the Victoria Cross the following year back on the Somme near Peronne. E00439

Overview

Four experienced Australian divisions of I ANZAC Corps were part of the British 5th Army under Sir Hubert Gough. The general wanted to attack at Bullecourt to support an important offensive by the adjoining British 3rd Army to the north and the French Army further to the south. Relatively young, Gough was an energetic commander. However his aggressive spirit coupled with poor planning resulted in heavy losses. His attack launched at Bullecourt on 11 April 1917 was a disaster. Despite this a further attack across the same ground was ordered for 3 May. The Australians broke into and took part of the Hindenburg Line but no important strategic advantage was ever gained; in the two battles the AIF lost 10,000 men.

Basic Map: Bullecourt from the Official History Vol IV, p 310

Download planned objectives for First Bullecourt map (PDF file)

Download situation at Bullecourt map, 12 May (PDF file)

‘The death of Major Black’ by Charles Wheeler (1923) (AWM ART03558).

'Such success as the (Australians) achieved had been won by troops persisting through the sheer quality of their mettle, in the face of errors'.

Charles Bean, official historianFirst Bullecourt (April)

First Bullecourt (April)

General Gough planned to use the 4th Australian Division and the 62nd British Division to attack the Hindenburg Line near the village of Bullecourt. Rather than wait until he had sufficient artillery resources he decided to employ a dozen tanks to lead the troops through the enemy’s barbed-wire. An attack set for 10 April was suddenly abandoned when the tanks did not arrive. It went ahead the next morning with disastrous results. Exposed to murderous machine-gun and artillery fire the Australians were forced back to their own lines while tanks stood burning on the battlefield. The Australians had 3,000 men killed or wounded; many survivors remained bitter about such a futile waste.

'Bullecourt, more than any other battle, shook the confidence of Australian soldiers in the capacity of the British command; the errors, especially on April 10th and 11th, were obvious to almost everyone'.

Charles Bean, Official Historian.

Officer of the 22nd Machine Gun Company (AIF) observing artillery fire on the German wire before the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt, 23 April 1917. http://cas.awm.gov.au/photograph/E00603

Australian Field Artillery firing an 18 pounder on Bullecourt, May 1917. http://cas.awm.gov.au/photograph/E00600

Australian troops in the second line of the trenches before Riencourt in May 1917,cleaning their rifles in readiness for an attack on Bullecourt. E00454

In the Hindenburg Line near Bullecourt,8 May 1917.  Men of the 2nd Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery with a Stokes mortar (covered by ground sheet). E00457

8 May 1917.  The railway embankment which ran parallel to the Hindenburg Line south east of Bullecourt. The tank shown in the distance broke down during the first assault on 11 April 1917. http://cas.awm.gov.au/photograph/E01408

Aerial photo of trenches and roads south east of Bullecourt, after bombardment on 25 May. A02481

The remains of Bullecourt http://awm.gov.au/collection/A00664

The head of the salient before Riencourt, just east of Bullecourt itself http://awm.gov.au/collection/A02475

Second Bullecourt (May)

Despite the failure of the first attack on 11 April 1917, a few weeks later General Gough once again tried to break the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt. On 3 May 1917 the 2nd Australian Division attacked with the British alongside. Although the brigade on the right faltered under deadly machine-gun fire, the 6th Brigade got into the enemy’s trenches and, despite heavy shellfire and counter attacks, bravely held on. The 1st Division relieved the 2nd, and soon the 5th Division took its turn. Finally, after more than a week, the Germans gave up these blood-soaked fields. Then the depleted Australian battalions were withdrawn to recover. The furious fighting, which in the end only advanced the line a kilometre or so, had been at the heavy cost of another 7,000 Australian casualties.

'The Second Bullecourt (battle) was, in some ways, the stoutest achievement of the Australian soldier in France'.

Charles Bean, official historian.

German officers with a British Mark II female tank captured near Bullecourt on 11 April 1917 (AWM G01534J).

The tanks

The British had introduced tanks into battle during the previous year on the Somme where they had only limited success. Those available were primitive and unreliable Mark I and II types. When a dozen were provided to General Gough’s Fifth Army he immediately thought to use them to overcome his lack of artillery at Bullecourt. In the battle of 11 April the large and slow-moving tanks were soon hit or broke down leaving the Australian attackers exposed and vulnerable. Many later blamed the tanks for their heavy losses. The Australians maintained a strong mistrust of tanks that was not finally overcome until their success in the Battle of Hamel more than a year later.

Read more about the battles of Bullecourt:

The battles for Bullecourt - a 6 page article by Peter Burness, originally published in Wartime: the official magazine of the Australian War Memorial, Issue 18, 2002, pp 24-29.

Anzac to Amiens by C. E. W. Bean, Chapter 19 (30 pages)

Official History by C. E. W. Bean, Vol IV, Chapters 8-13

Comments

Aaron Pegram

One of the things not mentioned here is that in addition to the 3,000 men killed and wounded at first Bullecourt was the 1,170 Australians soldiers taken prisoner. By 1917, Australian prisoners had been captured at Gallipoli, Palestine, the Middle East, Fromelles, Pozieres, Mouquet Farm, in the Pacific, and lots of smaller isolated incidents on the Somme and at Ypres, however first Bullecourt remained the largest capture of Australian prisoners up until the fall of Singapore in 1942. Bean's quote mentioned above cannot be emphasised enough: the Bullecourt battles severely fractured Australian confidence in British command. Why? Firstly, the failure of tanks to breach the barbed wire entanglements of the Hindenburg Line proved to be deadly for the attacking troops. That British command relied so heavily on a weapon yet to be proved in battle seemed incomprehensible, and that the failure of the tanks to arrive on the jumping-off positions on the 10th April only foreshadowed their ineffectiveness. It would not be until the Battle of Le Hamel in 1918 when advancements to tanks were made, they had proved their effectiveness, and when used in greater numbers did the Australians trust working with tanks again. Secondly, British command itself. Despite the tanks failing to reach their starting positions to commence the attack on the 10th April, Gough orders a complete re-run of the proposed attack the following day. The Germans were well onto the plan on the 10th, and were well prepared for the attack which came on the morning of the 11th. Not only this, but Gough had planned to attack a redoubt, assuring that the attackers (mainly the 4th Brigade) were being fired at from multiple directions. Although first Bullecourt was a complete failure, Gough orders another re-run of the battle on 3rd May - this time with artillery - and is met with a similar outcome, with twice the casualties. But the sentiment was shared by the British too, underlined by another problem - communication, or more appropriately, the lack thereof. When the attack was canceled on the 10th April due to the non-appearance of the tanks, the British 62nd Division were laying prone in front of Bullecourt to the 12th Bridage's left flank. They never received word that the attack was off, and stormed the formidable Hindenburg Line completely unsupported. There could be a variety of reasons why the message never reached the front line, but the flanking brigade did not pass the message on, and the 62nd blamed their neighboring allies. Understandably, they were bitter. I find the battles for Bullecourt absolutely fascinating - and highly recommend anybody interested to read Johnathan Walker's 'The Blood Tub'. Its a little hard to find, but copies regularly pop up on eBay. Whats more is that I recommend visiting the battlefield yourself. I believe that Bullecourt is one of the most pristine battlefields on the Somme, and you dont have to look far to find remnants of the battles which raged there.

Veronica Di Toro

Yes, thanks for pointing out the capture of prisioners at First Bullecourt. My own uncle was one of those taken, Private Francis James Neal who was with the 14th Battalion. He was wounded and attempting to make his way back to a dressing station when captured. He had previously been wounded at Pozieres.
Of course I was not born during his lifetime but I feel very proud of him.

Jeff Hall

My great uncle (C coy, 1st Battalion) was killed in action at Bullecourt 6-8 May 1917. I am wondering now if he survived the first Bullicourt action only to perish in the second.
A not so funny coincidence about the British blunders mentioned concerning Bullecourt above. His son (B coy, 12 platoon, 2/30th Battalion) was a prisoner of the Japanese in WWII after the British blunders that preceded 15 February 1942 on the Malayan peninsula and Singapore Island.
Lest We Forget.

[Blog Editor/Administrator's Note: Many thanks for your comment Jeff. Being in the 1st Battalion (1st Division), your great uncle would not have been directly involved in the first action at Bullecourt on 11 April. 4th Division was the one involved in this case. During this time however, 1st Division was on their right flank, holding the front line from Queant to Hermies. A few days later however, 1st Division was in the thick of it, repulsing a powerful counterattack directed at Lagnicourt. 1st Brigade (including 1st Battalion) went into action in the Second Bullecourt battle on 4 May, in support of 6th Brigade who had spearheaded the attack the day before. It was presumably in the trenches of the Hindenburg Line just east of Bullecourt that your great uncle lost his life. On the topic of blunders, while I do believe the higher-level British plan for Bullecourt was a bad one, we Australians should also be mindful that sometimes our military tragedies were compounded by our own blunders at the lower level as well. There were indeed cases of poor Australian staff work and communication, and poor artillery coordination at First Bullecourt. There was also a panicky flight by some of our units before the German counterattack at Lagnicourt, and a puzzling retreat on the part of 5th Brigade at Second Bullecourt, which left their sister brigade (the 6th) somewhat in the lurch. Regards, Craig Tibbitts.]

Frank Basile

I have an interest in "1st Bullecourt" also. My wife's grandfather 3984 Pte Thomas Reardon of the 16th Battalion was captured during this engagement. The men actually did succeed in occupying sections of the line, and in the end were let down first by the tanks, then by the lack of requested artillery support. The 4th Division did a magnificent job and almost achieved the impossible. Pte Reardon, with others was captured at Riencourt, beyond Bullecourt, according to the documentation supplied by the Germans, as this soldier was on the "missing" list for some months before confirmed POW. The fact that soldiers were captured at Riencourt indicates to me that groups of Men managed to get beyond the Hindenberg line on this day. This action of which the 90th anniversary has passed, has very little recognition. The POW statements from these men make interesting reading. Another little known fact is that these men were held in the dungeons of Fort McDonald near Lille as "prisoners of respite" whilst the British and Germans haggled over POW labour being used near the front lines.............Frank.

Aaron Pegram

Hi Frank, Although Thomas Reardon's POW statement states that he was captured at Reincourt, I think that its alluding to him being captured in the defences in front of Reincourt. Whilst the battle is referred to as Bullecourt, the Australians were assaulting the ground in between Bullecourt and Reincourt, with the 16th Battalion assaulting the Hindenburg Line in front Reincourt. There is an excellent map of the battle for first Bullecourt in 'The Blood Tub' if you can get your hands on it. The 4 Brigade unit diaries (now digitised on this site) indicate that men breached the second line of defenses, but never the third. The men of the brigade had exhausted their bombs and small arms ammunition from repeated German counter-attacks, and either retired, were killed or wounded, or were taken prisoner. This is my take on events: the division was pinned down by German machine gun fire in Reincourt, and with little ammunition and able-bodied men left from the 1000 yard dash to the uncut wire and the fighting breaching the wire, they held on tight to the first and second line of trenches and waited for either the German counter-attack or reinforcements. The former took place. If any had made it into Reincourt itself, my guess would be that they would have been shot down. The 16th Battalion unit diary would tell an interesting story once it gets digitised and is accessible on the website. Hope this helps, Aaron

Lyn Whiles

My Great uncle was killed during the attack on Lagnicourt on 15th April, 1917 but this battle seems to be lost in history. Why is this? I think there would be a lot of families who lost someone on that day who feel that their sacrifice is just as important as the two Bullecourts etc. Lyn Whiles

Blog Editor/Administrator’s comment: I agree. The sacrifice of anyone, whether they died in famous battles, the more obscure ones, or even through illness or accident, should be equally remembered. I suppose the action at Lagnicourt became lost to history, apart from the chapter in the official history (read Lagincourt Chapter), because it was overshadowed by the shocking losses at First Bullecourt, just four days prior. Then came Second Bullecourt a few weeks later which again overshadowed what had happened at Lagnicourt. One could argue that much of the fighting in the approaches to Bullecourt, places such as Bapaume, Noreuil, Morchies and Lagnicourt have been similarly overshadowed, perhaps just being regarded as part of that whole period of fighting known as ‘Bullecourt’. Another factor is the official classification of 'actions' and 'battles'. Out of all these engagements, only Second Bullecourt (May 1917) is classified as a 'battle'. Events such as First Bullecourt and Lagnicourt are only recognised as lesser 'actions'. (see Battle Honours page). Yet tough fighting, many casualties and six Victoria Crosses were won during this series of engagements. Three were in fact won at Lagnicourt, by Newland, Whittle and Pope (see VC page). Maybe another reason for Lagnicourt’s obscurity was that initially some Australians did not do very well, although we should remember they were heavily outnumbered. I believe there were some recriminations about being ill-prepared for this German thrust, and concerning the panicky flight of a small number of our troops and the loss of some guns. The situation was recovered very well and very quickly however, which I believe overshadows the earlier failures. It is also worth appreciating that the German troops the Australians faced in these actions before Bullecourt and at Lagnicourt were not poor or even average enemy forces. During this period the Australians engaged and ultimately got the better of three divisions of the elite Prussian Guard Corps; the 2nd Guard Reserve Division, the 4th Guard Division and, arguably the best division in the entire German Army, the 3rd Guard Division. The context and purpose of these battles should also be considered. The actions before Bullecourt were against strong rearguards of a planned German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. The German attack on Lagnicourt was planned as a large-scale raid (with 4 divisions) to throw our forces off balance, disrupt them and capture as many guns as possible to weaken our ability to attack on that sector of the front. So the Germans only planned to raid the area, then withdraw back behind the Hindenburg Line. But I think Lagnicourt was indeed quite an achievement for the Australians and is worthy of greater recognition. In just a few short hours during the morning of 15 April, only about 4,000 Australians fought off around 16,000 Germans. They suffered about 1,000 casualties, while inflicting losses of about 2,300 on their opponents. The Official Historian, C. E. W. Bean summed up the battle: 'When all is said, however, the outstanding feature of the fight was the dependability of the 1st Division's infantry, who in their skeleton line of posts and supports - far too thin to be wisely protruded as a menace to the enemy - held up, without calling on the divisional reserves, an attack by four German divisions on a front of 13,000 yards. (Vol IV, p 403). Craig Tibbitts Blog Editor/Administrator

Judy McKechnie

My great Uncle, Sergeant George Rutherford Buchan, 13th battalion, was killed at the 1st Bullecourt battle. I have known of his loss all of my life, such was the effect on his family. I have been researching my family history for a couple of years now, and find myself being drawn back to this battle, and all I can find about it. I used to wonder how my Great grandmother and Great grandfather reacted to the loss of their youngest son. The answer? They made sure that his name could not be forgotten by we who were born later. They named their new house "Rutherford", one sister and one brother named their sons for him. Then, I found their grave, and he is remembered there, with the date of his death inscribed along side theirs, as he has no known grave. Thank you for your work on this site, I am sure there are many people who are very proud of their forebears for the sacrifice they made. Lest We Forget.

Peter Skinner

Congratulations on this marvellous work! In November my wife and I are going to retrace the steps of her grandafther Dennis Francis Grieve 14th Battery 5th Field Artillery Brigade who fought in France/Belgium 1916 - 1918. Are you aware of any iPod type "speaking" guide to places such as Pozieres, Bullecourt and Ypres which narrates the key events whilst one is "on site"?

We have printed out the Units War Diaries, Dennis Grieve's records and maps of the areas and have detailed information to help us get close to the actual sites he was at.

But it strikes me that, given GPS technology and the availability of "speaking guide" type technology in Museums and Art Galleries etc, this type of application could be feasible and would be a real boon for people like us making such a pilgrimage. Thank you, Peter Skinner

Editor's comment: Hi Peter, thanks for your comment. I hope you have a great trip next month to the old AIF stamping grounds. I'm not aware of any iPod or sound-based guides to those battlefields, but you could try the Imperial War Museum, In Flanders Fields Museum, or the Memorial Museum Passchendaele. Regards, Craig.

Robert Carlisle

My great uncle Henry Starr ( 58th Battn ) was killed at the second battle of Bullecourt age 32. Was a farmer from Gooloogong ( NSW). Died from "gross shrapnel wounds to knee and head" - took three days to die in the 3rd casualty clearing station. You can imagine the conditions. Both Henry ( Harry ) and grandfather Ted drove their horse and cart from Gooloogong to Bathurst recruiting station mid 1916. Only Henry was accepted because Ted had one dud eye as a result of a spring loaded bolt flying off a header. After Henry's death Ted tried to enlist again but was again knocked back by the medico. Henry left a lovely Oz spring to lob into one of the worst European winters on record. Was repatriated back to England three times to get wounds fixed and was back in France nine days when he was sent into battle at second Bullecourt.
My wife and I will be part of a trip in April next year to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the battle of Villers-Bretenneux
and will wear his medals at the march on Anzac Day at Villers-Bretenneux.

Editor's comment: Thanks Robert, I've put in a link to Henry's Roll of Honour entry. Looks like there's no photo of him to attach to that online record. Does your family have one we could borrow to take a digital copy? Cheers, Craig.

Robert Carlisle

Craig
Will be in Canberra 11/11 and will attend Les Carylon's talk in the Telstra Theatre. I have a copy of his book The Great War ( presently reading it for the second time ) and I was wondering if he wouldn't mind autographing it. Any assistance you can provide is appreciated.

Cheers

Robert Carlisle

Editor's comment: Hello again Robert. I wouldn't think I'd be able to help out with obtaining the autograph, but if you hang around after the talk and he's not in too much of a hurry, I imagine he'd probably be obliging. Craig.

Catherine Rashed

My uncle Vincent Longhurst was killed at 2nd Bullecourt in May 1917. My father (who would have been 15 at the time) never spoke about him or what was the reaction in the family when they found out he was dead. My wish is that one day I will be able to travel there to see it for myself. Editor's response: Thanks for posting this Catherine, I'm current reading about the unit he was in, 55th Battalion, and writing a history of one of its sister units, the 56th Battalion. If your family has photos of Lance Corporal Longhurst, please contact the AWM Photographs Section. We're looking for any photos we can find of those who died for the Roll of Honour. Thanks, Craig.

Graham Pringle

My Great Uncle 4879 PTE Fred Pringle 15th Bn was captured at first Bullecourt. He had been wounded in the leg.

Is there any way to find out if my Grandfather 4878 PTE James Pringle 15th Bn was also in the fight or left out of battle? I have read Beans and the unit history but without knowing which company my Grandfather was in (and I suppose he was moved around a bit due to casualties etc) it is difficult to place what he was doing. Given 15 Bn casualties I imagine he was very lucky or LOB at Bullecourt.

Both brothers were in the 15th reinforcement. Grandad got two MM's in 1918 using his Lewis Gun (big bloke) and ended the war a CPL. He has one small footnote in Bean's history. I have the CARO records but none of this indicates who was left out of battle nor what company etc he may have been in.

Is there any other record that I can access?

Editor's response: Hi Graham, you could try looking through the battalion war diaries, as there may be some indication there if you're lucky. They are available to read online here. The other records that may be helpful are what are called 'field returns' for each unit. These are in the Research Centre archives here at the Memorial, in Series AWM25. Lastly, if any of his private letters, postcards or diaries survived, these can often be helpful as they usually write the company number there so the return mail can get to where it should. Regards, Craig Tibbitts

Kay Podmore

My great uncle John Edward Hayes died of wounds on 28 April 1917. He was wounded at Bullecourt on 14 April between the 1st and 2nd battles. As a child I remember seeing the framed certificate awarded to the family on his death which hung above the door frame of my grandmothers home. I have no idea where it has ended up but would be so proud to hang it in my home.
I would also love to find out more about his time in the army. I have just seen the 33rd Battalion, B Company Roll and had tears rolling down my face at the fate of so many of these brave young men who joined up for their country. You will definitely know the site but I am putting it below for those who don't.

http://www.aif.adfa.edu.au:8080/showUnit?unitCode=INF33CB

Thank you so much for all your hard work in preparing the site for us. Cheers, Kay

AWM Roll number: 23/50/1

Embarkations:
From Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A74 Marathon on 4 May 1916

Editor's response: Hi Kay, nice to hear from you. There are a few resources where you can find out more about your great uncle, or at least some of the background of the unit he fought with and the events they went through. Fortunately many are online (click on the links below): C. E. W. Bean's Official Histories Unit war diaries which are a very detailed account of events recorded monthly. Your great uncle was in the 2nd Infantry Battalion. Your great uncle's personal service dossier. Nulli secundus: a history of the Second Battalion, AIF, 1914-1919 by F.W. Taylor & T.A. Cusack (Sydney: New Century Press, 1942). Regards, Craig Tibbitts

Kay Podmore

Thank you so very much Craig - what a treasure trove I found in Uncle JOhn's personal service dossier... letters signed by my great grandparents and even a mention of the commemorative plaque that hung above the door all those years ago. It is amazing these things have been kept all these years. Thanks again. Kay on the Central Coast.

kevin davies

thanks for your articles on Bullecourt. My Uncle Albert Henry Davies was killed there on April 11 1917. I am compiling a short story on his life and your articles were a great help in understanding more about the two battles.

Editor's response: G'day Kevin, thanks for your comment and I'm glad the articles on this blog were helpful to you. In case you missed it, the infantry war diaries are all available online now. Your uncle's 46th Battalion's are available here. All the best, Craig Tibbitts

dan regan

hi there,my grand father marton john healy 1477 16th bat was shot and taken prisoner at bullecourt on the 11/4/17 and there after was a prisoner of war at minden in germany I would like to find out more about his captivity at minden is there any such information availible and where do I look

Editor's response: Hi Dan, I checked our records database, particularly series AWM30 which are AIF prisoner-of-war statements, but unfortunately nothing came up under the name Healy. I suggest you contact Aaron Pegram who works here at the Australian War Memorial in the Photographs Section, as he's doing a thesis on Australians captured and imprisoned by the Germans during the First World War. He may be able to give you some useful advice on how to find out more about your grandfather. Aaron's email is, Aaron.Pegram@awm.gov.au Regards, Craig Tibbitts

dan regan

hi Craig i will contact aaron soon and would just like to thankyou for your time and effort this is a great site and source of info thanks dan regan

robyn mcfarlane

HI This site is very interesting my Grand father Daniel Charles McFarlane was in the Australian Imperial Forces. Not much is known about his battles. My granddad died when my dad was a young boy. All my dad could remember is that he was in were there was lots of gassing. Is there any sites to find the relivent information. Many Thanks robyn

Editor's response: Hi Robyn, I've looked at your grandfather's nominal rolls and service dossier now; thanks for clarifying his identity, Daniel Charles McFarlane (No. 7777). There are war diaries available for the units he served with if you'd like to get a feel for exactly where they were and what they were doing. Just click on the links in the paragraph below to go to the war diaries. It seems he was a reinforcement for 3rd Infantry Battalion, and as such went into the 1st Training Battalion once he got to England. In July 1918 he was transferred to 35th Infantry Battalion, and therefore initially went into the 9th Training Battalion. Later in July he joined the 35th Infantry Battalion in the field in France, where he apparently remained until after the Armistice, when in December 1918 he transferred into a position in the 3rd Division Headquarters. The division's administrative staff war diary is also recorded separately here. You should also read C. E. W. Bean's Official History, Volume VI covering the period in which your grandfather was at the front. Check the index at the back for references to 35th Battalion, or simply use the 'find text' function in the Pdf. There's also a short summary of the 35th Battalion available online here. As for his three months service in Scotland before going to Australia to join the AIF, I think that must have been British Army service. I don't know of any Australian unit that was based in Scotland. On his attestation form, that section is a bit of a mess. It appears to me they may have first written 'RFA', meaning Royal Field Artillery (British), then tried to change the 'F' to an 'A' (to denote simply Royal Artillery), then realised it was messy, crossed it out and have written another 'A' after it. So I don't think it could mean 'RAA' as in Royal Australian Artillery, rather it's just RA, as in Royal Artillery (British). For this short period of his service you'd need to contact the British National Archives. Regards, Craig Tibbitts Curator Official Records Australian War Memorial

Chris Finegan

My grandfather (John Pender Finegan no. 7764) served in the 5th FAB as a driver. I would like to find out about that unit & the circumstances that led to him being awarded the French Medal of Honour-Bronze.

Editor's response: Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. We keep the unit war diaries for the 2nd Division Artillery Column and the the 5th Field Artillery Brigade. They are available to read on microfilm at our Research Centre now, however we are currently digitising them and are making them available to read online. Just check this page over the next several weeks as more diaries are added. You can see the units you want are lower down the list but they will be done. In the meantime, you can get some very basic details on the 2nd Division's artillery from this page. Just scroll down the left side of the page and click on 'Artillery'. As for the French Medal of Honour we just have his database entry for that. It is referenced to the London and Commonwealth Gazettes, but you'd normally only see his name in a list there anyhow - no further details. There are however a few details referring to the award on his service dossier, available online via the National Archives of Australia. On page 14 it says the award was for 'conspicuous service'. Hope this is helpful. Regards, Craig Tibbitts Curator Official Records Australian War Memorial.

Chris Finegan

Thank you very much Craig.

Lynne Boskma

I am trying to find out about my grandfather Lieutenant James Allan Stanton, all I know is that he was awarded a Military Cross at Bullecourt but I don't know anything more I am hoping you can point me in the right direction.
Thankyou

Editor's response: Hi Lynne, fortunately there is plenty of information available online for you to find out about your grandfather. Please click on the links below: Embarkation Roll (this records basic details when he first embarked for overseas service). Personal service dossier (this records in detail all the details of his service. This record is held by the National Archives of Australia). Recommendation for his Military Cross (this tells you why he won the award). 46th Battalion unit profile (basic details about his unit). 46th Battalion war diaries (records in great detail the activities of his unit, month by month). I'm sure you'll find all of this interesting reading. Regards, Craig Tibbitts Curator Official Records Australian War Memorial

Veronica Di Toro

Its heart warming to share our pride and desire to know more of our brave ancestors here on this site. Since I first responded, I have found a letter written by my uncle Francis James Neal, 14th Battalion, among Emily Chomley's (Red Cross) papers in the War Memorial's Archives. Given Uncle Frank was a POW in Germany, captured at Bullecourt, I hoped by looking through the many, many papers kept from Miss Chomley's work with the Red Cross for the prisioners, that I may find some remote reference to my Uncle in the camps. I could see that there were photographs on the webite for example, of some POW in the German camps. Amazingly, I found a letter from Uncle Frank to Miss Chomley thanking her for her aid. He stated that without her help -food parcels and the like "I should have died".Can you imagine my joy at this discovery amongst the solemn silence of the Archives reading room...I wanted to scream and leap about !! It was my Uncle's voice. I think I was meant to find this letter... how else to explain the remote chance of coming across something so personal amongst so much?

Editor's response: Thanks for this Veronica and I'm so glad you were able to find the letter from your uncle Frank. One of the true rewards for us archivists is knowing when our work in preserving these records comes to fruition. We spend our time going over the records in order to understand them, then describing, indexing, digitising and making them accessible via the web. It's a real joy when a meaningful connection is made between present and past generations, especially when they are family. Cheers, Craig Tibbitts Curator Official Records Australian War Memorial

Robin Lee

Hello I am travelling to France this week and have been reading as much as I can about my maternal great-grandfather Major Armadale Charles Anderson, 26th Btn, and paternal great-uncle Pte Alfred Bryant, 8th Btn, both of whom saw battle on many parts of the Western Front, and both of whom were recognised for bravery - MID and MM respectively. I have only just received a copy of a very extensive newspaper article from the AWM archives about Major Anderson (including a photo), which I didn't know existed, and am intrigued to read that his company held the railway embankment during the 2nd Battle of Bullecourt and dug a trench which became known as Anderson's Trench. I intend now to try to locate it when I am at Bullecourt next week. Thank you to the AWM for helping to keep these men's memories alive for their families.

Paul Kendall

I am a British author who is writing a book about the Bullecourt battles which took place during April and May 1917. I have a strong interest in this battle because my great grandfather was killed on 13th May 1917 at Bullecourt while serving with the 22nd Battalion Manchester Regiment. My book provides an account of the battle and includes biographical tributes of the men who took part, to accompany the photos which I have obtained. I have made contact with many of the families of soldiers from Australia and Britain who took part in this battle. If anyone has any photos, letters, diaries or information, or would me to include their brave ancestor in my book as a tribute, please contact me at the following email address paulkendall291@aol.com I look forward to your response. Kind regards Paul Kendall

Gareth Jones

Hello, I have been following this page and the stirling work done by the AWM on digitising records. My great uncle Edward John Jones (4555) was killed on 15 May 1917 - he'd been in France for only a matter of weeks - and he has no known grave. I have copies of his service record, his battalion diary (30th) and have even managed to identify on some of the maps available here where he was before he was killed. I am currently trying to trace what he did in Australia (he emigrated from Wales in 1912). He apparently lived in Boorowa/Burrowa, where family legend has it that he worked on the Railways..., and joined in Goulburn. I discovered from his service record that he apparently had a sweetheart as he left her some of his belongings in his will. He had even started paying for a plot of land near Syndey. I went with my wife in 2006 to Villers Bretoneux to see where he is commemorated - this was the end of a research project that had started when I was still at school and had written to the CWGC for information. I have noted on many of his official papers that they have noted his address and place of birth as Kingston, England - in fact he was born in Kington, Radnorshire on the Welsh Borders. If anyone can shed any light on what happened to him/has any information on his time in Australia or France I'd be extremely grateful. (contact french_connexion@hotmail.com) Regards, Gareth Jones

Maureen Keygan

In regard to Robin Lee referencing Major Armadale Charles Anderson, can I contact Robin as I am also a descendant of the Major. I live in Tasmania.

Robin Lee

Hello Maureen Keygan You can contact me at robin.a.lee@gmail.com Robin

Bruce Kingdom

I found this page researching the fate of my wifes two great uncles who were both killed on 11 April 1917 in the first Battle of Bullecourt. The brothers were both from Adelaide SA and their remains were never found despite a Red Cross investigation. They have no known grave. Their names were Pte Ernest Henry Noy SN 3740 and Pte Leslie Cyril Noy SN 588 and the only information we can find on them shows them as members of the 48th Btn. We don't know anything more about what sections they served in or exactly where in the battle they fought. From what we can find they are named on the memorial at Villers Brettoneux. They were originally listed as missing but later posted as KIA. The fact they were brothers and both killed on the same day makes it a very sad event and we would love to know more about their service life and what happened to them on that day. My wife is researching her family tree and it would be fitting to add some more info on these 2 young men who made the ultimate sacrifice. I am not sure if you can help here as we have researched most records and the information is extremely scant but anything that you may be able to find would be greatly appreciated. As I write this the ceremony for the last unknown soldier from Fromelles is underway and I cannot help but think about all the other missing soldiers of that conflict and the many families who will never know what happened to their loved ones or have some closure to this episode in their history.

Susanne Reidy

Hi Craig...its ANZAC Day 2011..so I'm way out of date with this response to an editorial note you left in July 28th 2007 and I'm also a rank amateur compared to you...but you made the following statement in the note "... and a puzzling retreat on the part of 5th Brigade at Second Bullecourt, which left their sister brigade (the 6th) somewhat in the lurch." As the grand daughter of a L/Corporal of the 5th Machine Gun Coy (transferred from the18th Btn) I take exception to your note. If you know your Bean you will know that both brigades came under intensive shelling whilst laying out, that the 17th & 18th were told to stop due to major losses caused by poor cover due to bright moonlight,they then continued and the 5th came under intense machine gun fire which fractionalised the Brgd leaving men in foxholes and minus leaders. The Germans attacked & the Bgde was given a false command to retreat. Some of the Bgde retreated back on itself under the attack but as many as a third continued or stayed put in the foxholes and moved up later..in fact when the 23rd moved into Ostrich Ave men of the 18th were already in OG2 (which had been one of the 5th's objectives). Gellibrand took over 5th leadership but it was Murphy of the 18th who was one of the leaders of the advance with no covering barrage and under intense machine gun fire....It was the 18th and the19th who entered OG1 first and lost and regained it numerous times on that day..it was these men that protected the advance parties of the 6th Bgd in OG2. There's no doubt the main attack of the 5th was a failure and the day belonged to the 6th but there was NO way that the 5th left their mates in the 6th in the lurch!! It was the 19th that brought out the wounded of the 28th after their retreat...Look at the casualties in the 18th alone...of 22 officers-12 lost,of 84 NCOs-61 lost, and over 300 men killed or wounded. I'm sure the losses in the 6th would have been much much less if the 5th's attack had succeeded but give credit where credit is due...there were a lot of brave men in the 5th!

Story of Peter Anderson-Black « andoblack

[...] The Hindenberg Line. [...]

Alan Le Page Morris

I am trying to discover more about Samuel Francis Barber, who was killed in action at Bullecourt 3rd May, 1917 aged about 22. He and my mum were sweethearts.
Mum probably did not get over Sam's death. Sam's unit was the 24th Battalion, 16th Reinforcement. His dad was Henry William Stephen Barber, of 23 Langston Street Northcote, Victoria. Sam's Regimental number was 5791. He was born at Gudgewa Victoria.
Any one who can throw light on Sam and his family, please contact me on franal@westnet.com.au or 08 9756 2113.

Norm Miller

Charles Frederick Miller’s Last Day [Presumably Charles Frederick Miller (No. 4255) of the 14th Infantry Battalion]. We’re going over the top this morning and going to give the Hun a jolly good shock. The Brits are providing tank support and they will make it a cinch to get to the German Hindenburg line. They are going to cut straight through the barbed wire. When the 12 tanks get to the enemy line they are going to display a green disk which will signal “Come on.” It’s bitterly cold here and there is a flurry of snow covering “No Man’s land.” Thanks mother for that knitted cap I will wear it under my helmet when we go over. We’ll be off jolly early. We have to be in position by 4.16 a.m. A nice draught of rum will warm the cockles of my heart. I hope you got my last card I sent. We can’t say much because all outgoing mail is censored in case the Hun gets his hands on it. I am glad “Dempsey” is back home. That was a nasty shock to find he got a decent old dose of catarrh. I know he would rather be here with his cobbers. The other fellows said we were so much alike, same hair, same eyes, same height. Tell brother the boys still like my singing. Sergeant Slater wants us to form a group so we can sing to the men before tattoo. Captain Jacka has gone over the top to have a gander. He reports that the tanks will not be able to make no man’s land in time. One of the tanks has broken down! It’s 3.40 a.m and we are told we are going for the German line regardless. It’s time to go. I distribute the rum and give the fellows a wink. “For King and Country.” We rush no man’s land and get through the barbed wire. This is much easier than I thought. It’s 6.45 and we reach the Hindenburg just out of Reincourt. Jacka tells us that the tanks completely failed but we reached our objective. The Hun is retaliating. We are in his trenches and he doesn’t like it. I’ve copped three hits in the chest, arm and neck. I’m going down fast. The fellows are given the order to withdraw. Sergeant Copperwaite, my cobber from Stawell comes to me and says, “You alright mate?” I can barely whisper to tell him to leave me and get back. I wish I could tell him how much I enjoyed our days at Stawell and to give a message to Mother, Bill, George, “Dempsey", Bert, Edith, Alf and Harry. But here I am freezing in the bottom of a German trench. It’s one o’clock in the afternoon on April 11th 1917. I am so bloody cold and it’s getting so dark.

Norm Miller

The story about Charles Frederick Miller Regimental # 4255 is made up from WW1 Diaries and red Cross reports. I wrote it from his point of view. Charles Frederick Miller was the youngest son of Richard and Annie Miller he was 173cm tall, weighed 70 kg, had a reddish complexion, grey eyes and had auburn hair. He left his job at the Stawell Brewery and enlisted at Melbourne on July 7 1915. Charles' Regimental number was 4255. He departed Melbourne on board HMAT A64 Demosthenes on 29 December 1915. When he got to France he was a corporal in the machine gun corps of the AIF; 14th battalion of the 4th Division 13th Reinforcements. Charlie was killed in action on April 11 1917 at Bullecourt in France. During the dreadful winter of 1916-17 the A.I.F. fought in deep, gluey mud, rain and bitter cold. The grim period came to an end on March 17 1917 when the Germans began retreating to the Hindenburg Line. The British - Commonwealth pursuit culminated in the Arras offensive of April 9 1917. Charles' battalion was slaughtered by the Germans because of British incompetence. British artillery and the failure of the new British weapon, "the tank" didn't back up the A.I.F. 4th division charge. The Aussies were slaughtered as they charged the Germans on a hill. In some military tactics books this battle is a reference on how not to conduct this manoeuvre. During April 1917 3400 "Diggers" were killed. The Australian War Graves Commission have reported to me, “According to our records, Corporal Miller has no known grave and is therefore commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial to the Missing, France." In August 1993 I included Charles' details in a scroll of honour which was laid at Villers-Bretonneux in September that year. As part of the submission I gave details of the long time it took to confirm the death of Charles. The Governor General, Bill Hayden, responded; Dear Mr Miller Thank you for your thoughtful and sensitive letter about your great uncle. There are so many sad cases like his commemorated at the Western Front in Ieper. I found it an extraordinary, moving experience, though a very sad one. After the disastrous loss of life - on both sides- in the First World War, people around the world said "never again". In less than a generation we had an even bigger war. Regrettably they keep recurring.