Improvised sign 'WALKING WOUNDED' : Villers-Bretonneux, France

Accession Number RELAWM00756
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Iron, Wood
Maker Unknown
Place made Western Front
Date made c 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Improvised wooden sign board, possibly treated with creosote, made from a single plank. The sign is marked in black painted letters with the words 'WALKING WOUNDED' and an arrow pointing to the right. A single large 'W' serves as the first letter of both words. Three iron nails driven through the centre of the sign, which probably attached it to a supporting post, have been bent over at the rear.

History / Summary

This sign was collected from trenches at Villers Bretonneux by the Australian War Records Section. It indicated the direction of the nearest Regimental Aid Post (RAP) for lightly wounded men who were able to seek medical help without assistance.

On 4 April, the Germans struck with 15 divisions and captured Hamel, which gave them a footing on the strategically vital "Hill 104", close to the eastern outskirts of Villers-Bretonneux. They then attempted to capture Villers-Bretonneux, which was defended by both British and Australian troops. They had planned to push through to the city of Amiens, but were held back by the Australian brigades. German attempts to break through the lines of protection continued until the night of the 5th, but they never succeeded in penetrating the defences.

By 18 April, it was clear that the Germans would attempt to push on to Amiens again. On 24 April, the Germans captured Villers-Bretonneux- which just a few weeks earlier the Australians had fought so hard to defend. The town's defence had been given over to British troops while the Australian divisions regrouped. The enemy attack was spearheaded by A7V tanks which pushed through the British defences. This battle was the first involving tank-against-tank fighting.
Orders for the immediate recapture of Villers-Bretonneux were met with a plan to launch an attack by two brigades, the 13th and the 15th. The unconventional night attack began on the 24th. One brigade approached from the north and one from the south, meeting at the village's eastern edge, thereby surrounding the Germans and driving them from Villers-Bretonneux and the adjacent woods. The village was retaken on the 25th of April 1918 and is now the site of the Australian National Memorial in France.