Pozieres is a small village in the valley of the Somme and is the resting place of many Australian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Pozieres. This was a significant battle as the Pozieres Ridge was a prime, first-rate observation point to the surrounding countryside.The Battle of Pozières, was a two-week struggle for the French village of Pozières and the ridge on which it stands, during the middle stages of the 1916 Battle of the Somme.
The British Expeditionary Force had already tried five times to capture Pozieres without success and the task was then given to the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions. These divisions were involved in the famous battle of Gallipoli a mere few months back, and had sustained heavy casualties before their introduction to the western front.
The village was captured initially by the 1st Division on the night of 23 July 1916. The division clung to its gains despite almost continuous artillery fire and repeated German counter-attacks, which resulted in many losses.In five days the Australian first division was involved in the battle of pozieres it had suffered 5285 casualties, killed and wounded, and so by the 27th July the 2nd Division had to take over.
The overall commander of British operations in this sector, General Sir Hubert Gough, now ordered the 2nd Division to take the Old German lines on Pozières heights. The attack commenced at 12.15 am on 29th July but the German machine-gunners were ready and their fire was accurate. The attack, except on the right flank, failed at a deadly cost of 3500 casualties. Despite the losses however, Major General Legge, the commander of the 2nd Division , asked that his men attack again, rather than be withdrawn after failure. Eventually the Australians advanced, among the cover of their own falling shells which meant the Germans had insufficient time to leave their dugouts and set up their machine guns. The Australians captured a windmill that stood on an artillery-torn hummock, enabling them to overlook the German defensive positions. Again, the Australians suffered heavily from retaliatory bombardments and relentless counterattacks by the germans and were ultimately relieved on the 6th of August, having suffered 6,848 casualties.
The claiming of Pozieres was a great victory, and is primarily seen as an Australian battle. However the battle was won at a very hefty price.In less than seven weeks in the fighting at Pozières, three Australian divisions suffered 23,000 casualties which is more than half the number of soldiers that fought at Pozieres. Of these 23000 men, 6,800 were killed or died of wounds. It was a loss comparable with the casualties sustained by the Australians over eight months at Gallipoli in 1915, and in the words of Australia’s official historian Charles Bean, the Pozières ridge “is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth.”
And to this end this presentation, i’d like to read out a couple of quotes, by men who fought at Pozieres. First, by a British commander “ The Australians during the Battle for Pozieres seldom considered risk. Their favourite expression when confronted by a particularly dangerous project was “Give it ago”. They were less amenable to discipline than their English comrades and with a deep contempt for the “spit and polish” of the Parade Ground, which proved their worth as fighters.” And finally, a quote that may stay with me for many years to come. Its by Lieutenant J.A.Raws, who fought with the Australian Imperial Force and was the last thing he wrote before his death. “The sad part is that one can see no end to this. If we live tonight, we have to go through tomorrow night and next week and next month. Poor wounded devils you meet on the stretchers are laughing with glee one cannot blame them- they are getting out of this———, my tunic is rotten with other men’s blood and partly splattered with a comrades blood.”
Text by Rahul Kumar