Duckboard from Fromelles trenches

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Lille, Fromelles
Accession Number RELAWM00491
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Iron, Wood
Maker Unknown
Place made France
Date made c 1915-1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Wooden duckboard constructed with iron nails. The boards are nailed across three long sections of wood which may once have been painted in green and brown. There is additional bracing beneath the cross pieces. Wire mesh has been nailed across half the walkway to give users additional grip on the slippery boards.

History / Summary

This duckboard was recovered from trenches at Fromelles which were once manned by Australian soldiers.

The Battle of Fromelles on 19 and 20 July 1916, was the first major battle fought by Australians on the Western Front. Directed against a strong German position known as the Sugar Loaf salient, the attack was intended primarily as a feint to draw German troops away from the Somme offensive then being pursued further to the south.

A seven-hour preparatory bombardment deprived the attack of any hope of surprise, and ultimately proved ineffective in subduing the well-entrenched defenders. When the troops of the 5th Australian and 61st British Divisions attacked at 6 pm on 19 July, they suffered heavily at the hands of German machine-gunners.

Small sections of the German trenches were captured by the 8th and 14th Australian Brigades, but, devoid of flanking support and subjected to fierce counter-attacks, they were forced to withdraw.

By 8am on 20 July 1916, the battle was over. The 5th Australian Division suffered 5,533 casualties, rendering it incapable of offensive action for many months; the 61st British Division suffered 1,547. German casualties were little more than 1,000. The attack was a complete failure as the Germans realised within a few hours it was merely a feint. It had no impact whatsoever upon the progress of the Somme offensive.