German corkscrew picket support used for wire entanglements

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Lille, Fromelles
Accession Number RELAWM17119
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Steel
Maker Unknown
Place made Germany
Date made c 1915-1916
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Corkscrew picket made from a steel bar which has its bottom end bent into a spiral coil. It has four loops or 'eyes' .

History / Summary

This screw picket was recovered from the site of the battle of Fromelles in 1967, from the site of the German Sugar Loaf redoubt. The Australian attacking battalions, the 59th and 60th from the 15th Infantry Brigade, were practically wiped out during the assault.

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.

Screw pickets, used as supports for barbed wire defences, were introduced around 1915 as a replacement for timber posts. The picket was screwed into the ground by wiring parties, often operating at night, by turning it in a clockwise direction using an entrenching tool handle or a stick inserted in the bottom eye of the picket for leverage. The bottom eye was used in order to avoid bending the vertical bar of the picket, whose eyes supported the lengths of barbed wire.