1908 Pattern Entrenching Tool head : Fromelles Battlefield

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Lille, Fromelles
Accession Number RELAWM00538
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Cast iron
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1914-1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Cast iron 1908 pattern entrenching tool head with a battle damaged spade head. Stamped on the spade is a [broad arrow symbol] and what appears to be '18' below it. Opposite is stamped possibly 'V O' and obscured are what appears as four letters '- - JJ'. The pick at the other end of the toll is intact and is separated from the spade by three by four centimetre eye which would carry the helve (handle).

History / Summary

This entrenching tool head was found near Fromelles in the area of the Sugar Loaf, which was attacked by the Australian 15th Infantry Brigade on the 19 July 1916. It was collected on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, and given to the Australian War Records Section by C E W Bean.

Fromelles was the first major battle fought by Australian troops 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 1916, they suffered heavy losses at the hands of German machine-gunners. Small sections of the German trenches were captured by the 8th and 14th Australian Brigades, but, without 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, and had no impact upon the progress of the Somme offensive.