Damaged camp kettle

First World War

At 7:45pm on 5 May 1916, a heavy bombardment began to rain down on the forward companies of the 20th Battalion. Occupying a feature known as the Bridoux Salient in Bois Grenier, the Australians were near Armentieres, in an area known as the “Nursery Sector”: an area where units would learn the rigours of trench warfare and familiarise themselves with conditions on the Western Front. This bombardment, the heaviest endured by Australians to that point, lasted for almost two hours.

As the bombardment kept men from coming to the aid of the forward companies, a German raiding party from the Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 230 entered the Australian trenches. Armed with pistols, grenades and trench clubs, the Germans were searching for tunnel entrances. They spent eight minutes in the Australian trenches, and suffered no casualties. The bombardment and raid cost the 20th Battalion 23 dead, 72 wounded, and 11 captured.

Adding to the severity of the situation, the Germans also captured two 3-inch Stokes Mortars. These classified weapons had been used to support the battalion during the day, and had been left at the front lines, in contradiction of strict rules governing their use.

This camp kettle was damaged by a German shell during the bombardment. It was collected by the 20th Battalion as a record of the event, and was handed to the Australian War Records Section in September 1918.