Touring the Somme 1916
The major battles of 1916 took place on the Somme. The offensive began on the 1st July 1916 and would become one of the most costly episodes of the war. Between July and mid November the losses reached a total of 1,300,000 men.
On the 23 July, not long after the Battle of the Somme commenced, the Australians took over and captured the main German line at Pozieres. The Australian 1st Division Memorial at Pozieres stands over this line. At the cost of 23,000 casualties the Australians captured most of the main ridge. The tour viewed the German blockhouse ‘Gibraltar' which became one of the only features on the razed landscape of Pozieres. From this point the Anzacs (and the tour) moved towards the windmill site and then advanced to Mouquet Farm.
The battles that raged around Pozieres demolished the village to a pile of brick and dust. Charles Bean collected a sack of the rubble for the Australian War Memorial's collections and the tiny pieces of different coloured brick and tile were recently used in an exhibition commemorating 90 years since 1916. Today the town is rebuilt and can be seen from the Australian 1st Division Memorial.
The Battlefield tour stood on the ground that was the remains of the windmill. The windmill, like Pozieres village was completely obliterated. It was the centre of the struggle in this part of the Somme Battlefield in July and August 1916 and was captured in August by the Australian troops who fell in greater numbers on this ridge than on any other battlefield of the war. At the recommendation of Charles Bean the Australian Government purchased this site as as permanent memorial to the Australians.
It's hard to imagine that this tranquil farm was the site of a costly battle fought by the Australians on the 5th August 1916. During the battle of the Somme, Mouquet Farm was central to the German defensive position. The original Farm house was situated just to the left of the new farm seen in the photograph. The Australians were the first to attack this position on Pozieres Ridge. The Germans had deep cellars and tunnels connected to trenches in the fields and were able to use these tunnels to attack the Australians from the rear.
Theipval was the high ground in this region and the overall objective of the operations on the Somme in 1916. From the windmill site the Theipval Memorial is clearly visible in the distance (photo top, left). Designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, the Theipval Memorial dominates the landscape. Set in tranquil gardens the memorial is 45 Meters high and carries the names of over 72,000 casualties of this battle.