Battle of Pozières, 101

Darragh Christie, 23 July 2016 · #

Densely sown sacrifice

Soldiers wait to go over the top during Battle of Pozieres

The Battle of the Somme began in early July 1916. In mid-July the heavily defended French village of Pozières and its surrounding ridgeline was invested by artillery and infantry divisions.

The village was captured by the 1st Australian Division on July 23. The 1st A.I.F clung to small territorial gains despite almost continuous artillery fire and repeated German counter-attacks. They were relieved on the 27th July having suffered 5,285 casualties.

The 2nd Division A.I.F. took over from the 1st, mounting 2 attacks – on the 29th of July – which was a costly failure – and the 2nd of August, resulting in the seizure of German positions beyond the village. Again, the Australians suffered heavily from retaliatory bombardments. The 2nd Div. was relieved on 6 August, with 6,848 casualties.

W J A ‘Allan’ Allsop a clerk from Brierley Street, Mosman, served as a stretcher bearer with the 8th Australian Field Ambulance. Having just recovered from the exhausting and traumatic battle of Fromelles. His diary gives us a 1st hand account of the artillery shelling behind the lines.

Exhausted Australian machine gunners of the 2nd division return from the trenches

4th August (Friday)
We passed through a night of anxious terror, sitting huddled up in the small dug-out – four of us. For days past Fritz has been exposing a notice “Keep your heads down till August 4th”. Yesterday he threw over some heavy shells. At exactly midnight terrific crashes broke forth. All our guns fired at the same time, some having been connected together so that they would go off at the one moment. Fritz got an awful introduction into the 3rd year of the war. The guns hammered away for hours in intense fury. We got no rest at all. This morning there were 4 casualties to carry down. A few more shells came close to us during the day. 8th Fld. Ambulance have moved from the Brewery to an unknown destination we are left isolated. No news of relief.
5th August (Saturday)
Lay awake for hours last night troubled by large mosquitoes, guns and machine guns. A few more patients this morning. One man was hit by an explosive bullet. The infantry here are being relieved today. My friend and I before settling down at Elbow Farm after changing over were required to take some dressings to an officer at Port de Cleus, between Fort Rompu and Fleurbaix. We had handed the dressings over and were having our tea in an estaminet close by when two shells came over with an awful crash. They landed in a farm yard not far behind us and the concussion shook the building we were in. 20 men were wounded by these two shells.
An aeroplane decended in the fields near us on the way back to Elbow Farm. It seems that the airman was hit whilst over Lille and he volplaned down to our lines. Today we had a look round the ruins of the Fleurbaix Church. No sooner had we got into bed at Elbow Farm than we heard the call for A.M.C. men. We went over to where the man was lying, carried him into our dug-out and soon decided that drink was the only complaint. He couldn’t return to his unit in this state so we put him to bed.
6th August (Sunday)
The bird gave trouble all night. We got rid of him at daybreak and slept in till 11 a.m. Quiet day except for aeroplanes. At night on returning to Wye Farm things were terrifying in the fields to our left. Guns and bursting shells made a fierce chaos. Looking out from the porthole in our building the scene was awful. We had no sleep till 3 o’clock in the morning.

Australian stretcher bearers at Pozieres, W.J.A. Allsop was with the 8th Field Ambulance

The 4th Division was next into the line at Pozieres. It defeated a determined German counter-attack on 7 August after suffering a massive artillery bombardment. The Germans failed to retake Pozieres. The 4th Australian Div. lost 7,100 men defending it.

Lieutenant John Raws of 23rd Battalion who was in the thick of the fighting wrote on the 4th August 1916

One feels that on a Battlefield such as this one can never survive, or that if the body lives, the brain must go forever. For the horrors one sees and the never-ending shock of the shells is more than can be borne. Hell must be a home to it. My battalion has been in it for eight days, and one third of it is left – all shattered at that. And they’re sticking it in. Incomparable heroes all.
We are lousy, stinking, ragged, unshaven and sleepless. Even when we’re back a bit we can’t sleep for our own guns. I have one puttee, a dead man’s helmet, another dead man’s gas protector, a dead man’s bayonet. My tunic is rotten with other men’s blood, and partly splattered with a comrade’s brains. It is horrible, but why should you people at home not know? Several of my friends are raving mad. I met three officers out in No Man’s Land the other night, all rambling and mad. Poor Devils!

The fighting ended with the Allied forces in possession of the plateau north and east of Pozières, in a position to menace the German bastion of Thiepval from the rear. The cost in lives for both sides had been very heavy -in the words of Australian official historian Charles Bean, the Pozières ridge “is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth.” in his diary on the 29th July 1916 he wrote

Pozières has been a terrible sight all day … The men were simply turned in there as into some ghastly giant mincing machine. They have to stay there while shell after huge shell descends with a shriek close beside them … each shrieking tearing crash bringing a promise to each man – instantaneous – I will tear you into ghastly wounds – I will rend your flesh and pulp an arm or a leg – fling you half a gaping quivering man (like those that you see smashed around you one by one) to lie there rotting and blackening like all the things you saw by the awful roadside, or in that sickening dusty crater

‘One feels that on a Battlefield such as this one can never survive..’ The lunar mud-scape resulting from artillery bombardments that combed every foot of earth in this sector of Pozières.

Mosman’s Dead at Pozieres

The 21 Mosman volunteers who were killed between the 23rd of July and the 17th of August were aged between 19 and 44 (with an average age of 25.) Their occupations were varied, but generally speaking were ‘white collar’ (‘Clerks’ or professionals – such as Richard Bradley of Belmont Ave, a 25 yr old, newly married music teacher – 1 of over 10,000 soldiers without a grave, remembered at Villers-Bretonneux cemetery and at the A.W.M. His name is not recorded on the Mosman Memorial.)

Source: George Franki’s Their Name Liveth for Evermore

ALFORD, Gordon Beresford
31; DOW 12/8/1916; 1st Battalion; Pozieres. Accountant, Bank of NSW. Tivoli St Mosman.

BLACKET, Alan Russell
22; DOW 16/8/1916; 19th Battalion; Pozieres.3rd year law student, University of Sydney. Gladstone Avenue, Mosman. Descendant of Edmund Thomas Blacket, distinguished architect, who designed the Great Hall of the University of Sydney, St Andrews Cathedral and many other prominent buildings in NSW.
“… he proved himself a very brave little fellow.”

BOONE, Claude Arthur
31; KIA 19/7/1916; 2nd Battalion; Pozieres. Clerk, Perpetual Trustee Company. “Hugundra” Orlando Avenue, Mosman. Brother of Lionel Boone, 7 FAB, who diedfrom war time gas poisoning, 22/2/1924. “He was absolutely one of the best, could not beat him.”

BRADLEY, Richard
25; KIA 15/8/1916; 19th Battalion, 7th reinforcements (4th Bat.). Pozieres. Music teacher. 43 Belmont Road, Mosman.

CHAMBERS, Leslie Keith
22; KIA 29/7/1916; 17th Battalion; Pozieres. Clerk. Arbutus Street, Mosman and Anzatonga Flats, Musgrave Street, Mosman. Served ANMEF and Gallipoli. Father, Horace Chambers of Bloxham and Chambers, Printers and Manufacturing Stationers, a firm still in existence 2011.

COLLIER, Bertram Henry
29; KIA 23/7/1916; 1st Battalion; Pozieres. Accountant. “Rewa” Iredale Avenue, Cremorne. Brother Capt.Frederick Collier, 15th Field Ambulance. A comrade wrote: “he was a very game fellow.”

24; KIA 17/8/1916; 1st Field Ambulance; Pozieres. Bank clerk. 35 Dalton Road, Mosman.

DOHERTY, Frederick John 21; KIA 30/7/1916; 19th Battalion; Pozieres. Printing ink maker. Father Frederick John, 59 Moruben Road, Mosman. An ‘original’ of 19th.

HUNT, George Bruce Fletcher
19; KIA 2/8/1916; 17th Battalion; Pozieres. Station overseer. Rangers Road, Mosman.

JONES, Waldo Emerson
21; KIA 20/7/1916; 35th Battalion; Pozieres. Accountant. Iredale Avenue, Cremorne. The Chaplain wrote and told his parents how high the corporal was held in the esteem of his mates.

LOWING, Walter Harold
35; DOW 6/8/1916; 47th Battalion; Pozieres. Commission agent. 9 Wolger Road, Mosman. Served Boer War, NSW Imperial Bushmen, with brother Bertie Lowing who also served in WW1 with 12th Light Horse Regiment being awarded an MC and Bar.

MACALPINE, George Wallace
23; died of bronco-pneumonia 28/2/1919; 4th Battalion. Warehouseman., 9A Harbour Street, Mosman and Calypso Avenue, Mosman. Macalpine enlisted in 1915 and was badly wounded at Pozieres in August 1916. His brother, Roderick Archibald Macalpine MC MID, served with 4th Battalion

MALE, William
23; KIA 28/7/1916; 18th Battalion; Pozieres. Blacksmith. Wounded Gallipoli. Letter in William Male’s records from Arthur Everitt, address, Kiosk Balmoral, states: “For years he made his home with me and looked on us as his parents.“and “he was champion bomb thrower of 18th Battalion.”

MEGGY, Douglas Ackland
20; KIA 22/7/1916; 3rd Battalion; Pozieres. Clerk accountancy. “He was a runner and a splendid fellow to everyone. Known as Tich.”

MOORE, Leo Paul
29; KIA 16/8/1916; 3rd Battalion; Pozieres Clerk. “Wariona” Moruben Road, Mosman. “He went out on patrol at Pozieres during our second stunt and was killed with others by a shell.”

NOBLE, Edgar Leslie
25; KIA 24/7/1916; 4th Battalion; Pozieres. Grocer’s assistant. 18 Wudgong Street, Mosman..

44; DOW 4/8/1916; 18th Battalion; Pozieres. Cafe proprietor, 77 Awaba Street, Mosman.
Son, Arthur James, 4th Battalion, aged 18, wounded Lone Pine, lost right arm, survived the War. “I was with him when he was killed by one of our own bombs. A store of bombs was exploded by a German shell at Battalion HQ on 4 August at Sausage Gully, Pozieres.”

PINNOCK, William Arthur
23; KIA 30/8/1916; 45th Battalion; Pozieres.Estate agent. Served Gallipoli. Member Mosman Rowing Club. 61 Prince Albert Street, Mosman. Brother, Clarence Tunbridge Pinnock, 13th Battalion. “Pinnock” was a famous brand of sewing machine.

SAUNDERS, Fred Edward Richard
21; KIA 24/7/1916; 1st Field Company Engineers; Pozieres. Apprentice mechanical engineer. 7 Milner Street, Mosman.

SIMPSON, Leslie Walter
22; KIA 22/8/1916; 31st Battalion; Pozieres. Paper ruler. 6 Musgrave Street, Mosman. Brother Arthur Roderick Simpson DCM No 1 Pack Wireless Squadron. “We called him Simmy – fair, thin, slight build.”

WATKINS, Frank Stanley Llewellyn
22; died of pneumonia following wounds received Pozieres 4/8/1916; 45thBattalion. Clerk. “Strathdene” 95 Spencer Road, Mosman.

WRIGHT, Maximilian Rupert Dudley
24; DOW 1/7/1916; 4th Machine Gun Company; Pozieres. Clerk. “Rothwood” Norman Street, Mosman.

Villers-Bretonneux cemetery