Thursday 8 May 2008 by Robyn Van Dyk. 11 comments
News, Battlefield Tours, Western Front

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.

Australian 1st Division Memorial, Site of the windmill and the new town of Pozieres

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.

Mouquet farm in 2008

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.

Theipval Memorial & Anglo French Cemetery

Comments

Mal Booth says:

More great posts Robyn. I like the images.

Neale Wellman

great post. I visited the area late 2007 and was surprised and shocked at the numbers of smaller cemeteries that literally dot the country side in this whole region.

Peter Kelly

God bless you Robyn, for these immages. We lost one on 24th July 1916 in the battle for POZIERES. He has no known grave, and we have no way of ever being there to see the country for ourselves. Mnay thanks for such kindness.

Glynis Phillips

Hello! I have just been researching the battle for Pozieres for my Mother who lost her Uncle 23 or 24 July 1916. She was wondering if the current activity at Fromelles may turn out to be the resting place of her Mother's Brother. So after a few hours I discovered, through Red Cross records, that he was missing in action and later presummed dead at Pozieres.... now, in addition to the information, I can show my Mum photos, many thanks Robyn, Regards Glynis

Chris Collins

Hello, I too am researching my Uncle Pte.W H Butland of the 1/6th Batt Gloucester Regiment, KIA 23/7/16 at Pozieres ,I am still trying to find out where abouts his Battalion were engaged with the enemy at Pozieres, do you have any more info on the Glos Reg ??, Many thanks Chris

June Fisher

My uncle David Benjamin Roberts was killed on 29th July 1916, Red Cross searches show I Robinson 4208 C\B. Coy 25th Battn Farham Downs Camp Pte Robinson said that he was near David in the attack, said he was hit be a shell in No Man's Land and was kelled instantly. He saw David lying dead and fully recognised him It was not possible at that thime to bury him, enemy fire was too strong. We would like to know if he was buried or if any of Pte Robinson could contact us. It's good to know there are other people out there searching. Thanks for your pictures June

Elaine Candlett

My great uncle Norman Langley Surman 4280 50th Battalion was 18 when he fought and died on 16th August 1916. I believe he would have been one of the casualties around the Mouquet Farm battlefield. His burial place is recorded as Villers-Brettoneux, but we aren't sure how he died.

Robyn van Dyk

Hi Elaine - the Red Cross investigated what happened to your great uncle. There is a file available on the Memorial's website: /cms_images/1DRL428/00034/1DRL428-00034-2670507.pdf The Memorial has also digitised the 50th Battalions war diaries so you can also read what the 50th battalion was doing on that date. /cms_images/1DRL428/00034/1DRL428-00034-2670507.pdf Surman's service record is digitised on the National Archives website and it may also give you some information.

Genevieve Hudson

My grandmothers brother died here in 1916 , Reginald Ernest Mason from Tasmania, I don't know how or where he was buried ?

Genevieve Hudson

My grandmothers brother died here in 1916 , Reginald Ernest Mason from Tasmania, I don't know how or where he was buried ?

Krissy Kraljevic says:

Hi Genevieve Hudson, R.E. Mason is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux memorial as he has no known grave. You can find information about the listing on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.awm.gov.au/research/people/wounded_and_missing/person.asp?p=595061 The Red Cross investigated what happened to R.E. Mason, you can find the report online at /research/people/wounded_and_missing/person.asp?p=595061. For further advice about researching an individual’s military service, please see the Research Centre’s information sheets at www.awm.gov.au/research/infosheets/index.asp. Regards, Cameron Atkinson Australian War Memorial