Improvised Australian street sign, 'WOMBAT RD' : Peronne, France

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Peronne
Accession Number RELAWM00974
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Wood
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Entry Corridor: Trench Signs 1
Maker Unknown
Place made Western Front
Date made September 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Sign constructed of single plank of wood painted black with bevelled edges. 'WOMBAT RD' is hand painted in white letters. The white paint is considerably faded. There is a nail in each of the top corners.

History / Summary

Peronne was the objective of an intensive series of operations mounted by the Australian Corps between 29 August and 2 September 1918. Surrounded by sturdy 17th century ramparts, the town was the centrepiece of a heavily defended area that dominated the crossing points over the Somme, which turned south at Peronne, and thereby blocked an advance on the Hindenburg Line.

Advancing along the south bank of the Somme, the Australian Corps made its first attempt to take Peronne on 29 August. Neither the 2nd Division, in front of Peronne, nor the 5th Division, to the south of it, were able to secure a crossing point over the Somme and the town remained firmly in German hands.

The focus of the Australian operations was then switched to the north bank of the Somme. The 3rd Division, which had been advancing along the north bank, attacked and captured the village of Clery on 30 August, and advanced on the high ground to the north-east. The 2nd Division, and the 14th Brigade from the 5th Division, were withdrawn from their position in front of Peronne and crossed to the north bank of the Somme. Attacking around the bend in the river, the 2nd Division captured the heights of Mont St Quentin, which dominated the northern approaches to Peronne, over two days of intense fighting between 31 August and 1 September. This allowed the 14th Brigade to assault Peronne from the north on the morning of the second day. Meanwhile, troops of the 15th Brigade had forced a crossing of the Somme south of Peronne and begun working their way through the town. Peronne had to be cleared street by street, and it was not completely secured until the morning of 2 September.

After Peronne was recaptured by the Australians, they renamed a number of the streets in the town with mostly Australian themed names, such as 'Wombat Road', 'Wallaby Lane', 'Roo De Kanga' and 'Dinkum Alley'. This sign was only up for about a month before it was collected by the Australian War Records Section in October 1918.