German wire entanglement from Fromelles

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Lille, Fromelles
Accession Number RELAWM00551
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Steel
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1916
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Description

These pieces of barbed wire are thought to be German. The first has two thick strands tightly twisted together with thinner strands twisted around one of the main wires to make barb. The other piece of barbed wire has a single thick strand of wire with thinner strands twisted around main wire to make barb.

History / Summary

These sections of barbed wire were taken from the German trenches which the 15th Australian Infantry Brigade attacked at Fromelles on 19 and 20 July 1916.

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.