1916: Australians in France
It is April 1916, the midpoint of the Great War. Australian units have begun to arrive in France . For the first time, the men of the AIF find themselves at the main battle front of the mighty conflict. At first they encounter a pleasant land – a welcome change from sea voyages, the cliffs of Gallipoli, and the training camps of Egypt . But in July, on the Somme , they will be thrown into one of the bloodiest, most destructive battles in history.
Over several weeks, in a series of determined attacks against strong defences around the ruined village of Pozières , the Australians will suffer a rate of casualties so great as to be nearly unsustainable for the volunteer army of a small nation. The AIF will confront its single worst day of the war at the battle of Fromelles, then endure six long weeks of fighting in the murderous ordeal that is Pozières. The year will end in the most severe winter of trench warfare ever seen.
Many households will be cast into mourning. In the face of such terrible losses, Australians will be asked to decide whether the conscription of civilians should be introduced. The ensuing debate will leave the community riven with bitter divisions.
1916 will be a terrible year.