Friday 1 July 2016 by AWM Website Admin. 1 comment
First World War Centenary, News



More than 100 years ago the Gallipoli campaign ended, leaving 8,700 dead, but the worst was yet to come. Beginning on 1 July, the purpose of the Somme offensive was to bring an end to the deadlock of trench warfare, and to relieve pressure on the French at Verdun. The campaign was massive, and included troops from Britain, Australia, France, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and Newfoundland.

Later in July the AIF joined the Somme campaign, beginning with the fighting at Pozières. Charles Bean, our official First World War correspondent at the front, was witness to Australia sustaining 23,000 casualties over the six weeks of intense fighting. This was in addition to the 5,500 Australian casualties sustained days earlier in less than 24 hours at Fromelles.

By the time winter hit four months later the British and French had suffered 485,000 casualties, yet the line had advanced just 12 kilometres; nowhere near its intended objective.



Paul Hickey

My Great Uncle, 3940, Pte Cecil Larsen, was killed in the Somme offensive. This is my version of his history in a page: Nineteen years old. Youngest of 12. Off Muradup farm, 20 miles West of Kojonup. A country boy. Mother, Catherine, saw him off at the station. In his Uniform. She was tough. She cried. She knew. Into the mindless slaughter called Pozieres. Salvo followed by salvo. The screams of the wounded. The stench of the dead. Nerve wracking. Two days in support, then … 7 August our time comes. 2 days in the firing line. No sleep. No letup. No hope. We need 10,000 sandbags. We need 500 tins of water. We need 800 shovels. Nothing arrives. How could it? Through that curtain of red-hot, murderous metal. The 16 Bn War Diary records “our casualties were severe”. Official speak for slaughtered. 12 August 1916 – “Missing” Like Hell. His mates knew. “Larsen was killed being buried by a shell and while he was being dug out another shell hit him.” His mother knew.” … his mates has sent word that they saw him killed … he was such a good boy always to his mother … tell me what you know. My poor dear boy”. Missing no longer. 20 years later. 1936 – “The grave of an unknown soldier has been found north- west of Pozieres and it has been possible to identify … Cecil Larsen.” Re-interred at Longueval, London Cemetery Extension, 1.F.26. Say g’day if you pass by. He will be chuffed that his Kojonup family dropped by just last week. To honour him. Not as a hero. But as one of many. They served. Rest in Peace Great Uncle Cecil. 100 years on we still remember. We will always.

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