Improvised trench sign 'TRENCH N 92, BAY 12' : Fromelles, France

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Lille, Fromelles
Accession Number RELAWM00543
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Metal, Wood
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Western Front 1916: Fromelles/Nursery Sector
Maker Unknown
Date made c1915-1916
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Split wooden trench sign with a later wooden brace nailed to the back for additional support. Stencilled black paint on the front is: 'TRENCH N 92, BAY 12'.

History / Summary

Sign found in British trenches from which both the Australians and British advanced in their attack on Fromelles on 19 July 1916. The sign may have come from a section of front line trench numbered 'N92' , which was opposite Les Rouges Bancs, around a kilometre north east of Fromelles.

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 the Germans from the main 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 6pm 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 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 and costly failure as the Germans realised within a few hours it was merely a feint, and made no impact whatsoever upon the progress of the Somme offensive.