They fell at Pozières

Darragh Christie, 25 July 2021 · #

Australian 2nd Div infantry wait to go over the top during Battle of Pozieres

Densely sown sacrifice

From a tracing by Lieutenant Peter Rigby Wightman; a map of Pozieres and Mouquet Farm, Somme, showing the four main phases in the Australian attack, July – September, 1916. AWM J00158

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 of July having suffered 5,285 casualties.

The 2nd Division A.I.F. took over from the 1st, mounting two 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.

Australian machine gunners returning from the front line trenches to their billets, in France. AWM EZ0079

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.

Crozier, Frank. Depicts soldiers standing in the right foreground, watching the artillery bombardment of Pozieres, France. AWM ART00240

Lieutenant John Raws of the 23rd Battalion was in the thick of the fighting. He 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!

“Gibralter”, strong point, Pozieres. Charles Bryant AWM 00187

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 for both sides had been terrible

Official historian Charles Bean wrote on the 29th July:

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

Depicts three men standing in what had been the battlefield of Pozieres on the Western Front. The three men are, from right to left, a soldier in uniform with full kit, wearing a tin helmet, C.E.W. Bean, wearing a slouch hat and holding a pipe in his outstretched left arm and an officer wearing a cap. AWM ART02225

He later concluded:

The eight weeks of piecemeal attacks – the dreadful link by which Haig connected his big early offensives with these later ones – was past. During that “piecemeal” period there had been only one sector in which the British forces on the Somme steadily pushed ahead – on Pozieres ridge – and on that sector, the German artillery was free to concentrate as its commanders desired. At Bullecourt, Messines, Ypres and elsewhere Australian infantry afterwards suffered intense bombardment, but never anything comparable in duration or effect with this. On that crowded mile of summit, the three Australian divisions engaged lost 23,000 officers and men in less than seven weeks. The Windmill site, bought later by the Australian War Memorial Board – with the old mound still there marks a ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth.

Allan Allsop’s sleepless nights

Crozier, Frank ‘Diggers sitting in dugout’ Depicts several soldiers, in uniform and wearing tin helmets, sitting in a dugout. One holds a candle to read a letter by. AWM ART00235

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 a first-hand account of the artillery shelling behind the lines.

Scanned pages of Allsop’s diary at the State Library NSW, Aug 5 & 6 in this case transcribed below

23rd July (Sunday)

Last night we learnt that other creatures occupy the building besides troops. The place is alive with rats quite the size of a cat. Whilst lying awake several ran over me. It’s a relief to fall asleep. The New Zealand Field Ambulance Men have not yet been called away so we do not take over until they go. A few casualties came through during the night. Another farmhouse was set alight back near Fleurbaix. It seems that this is the exact place where British & Germans shook hands last Christmas, to the annoyance of the French people. Kemp & I went down to Elbow Farm for tomorrow’s rations. This was at about 9 p.m., and on the way back, just in rear of the farm on the road nine bullets flew past us.

Yesterday’s paper “The Daily Mail” refers to our recent fight as a raid.

29th July (Saturday)

Another lovely day. I went to Elbow Farm for the rations. We have decided that it is better to go for them in the mornings. Today the sky is beautifully clear for aerial observation and planes made the best of it. A great fleet of our aeroplanes passed across the German lines on a bombing expedition. Fritz fired wildly at them but without success. In the evening we had another trip to the R.A.P.

31st July (Monday)

About 6 a.m. took serious case down to Wye Farm – this man was shot through the head after sniping a few Germans. These cases are very unpleasant, especially before breakfast. My clothes were splashed with blood. The poor fellow died later I understand. A sergeant was also shot in the head but not seriously. There were 6 cases altogether. During last night the boom from our Naval Guns in the rear shook the earth. One of Fritz’s big guns was hit yesterday. My mate & I are now at Elbow Farm in a solid little dug-out. We have had rather a happy evening in company with two signallers and an A.M.C. detail man from the machine gun section.

Unidentified members of the Australian Army Medical Corps dressing the wounds of Australian soldiers in Becourt Chateau during the battle of Pozieres. At the time the chateau was occupied by a field ambulance of the 2nd Australian Division and a British field ambulance. AWM EZ0066

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 farmyard not far behind us and the concussion shook the building we were in. 20 men were wounded by these two shells.

An aeroplane descended 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 coming in under a white flag, passing the old cemetery of Pozieres, having come from the line near Mouquet Farm. At this point, Tramway Trench crossed Brind’s Cut. AWM E04946

Mosman’s casualties at Pozieres

Inscibed below the names on the North face reads: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ – John XV.13’. And the foundation stone below this says ‘In honoured memory of the men of Mosman who fought in the Great War 1914-19. -1922.’ Photo by the author Nov ’20

More than 20 Mosman volunteers were killed between the 23rd of July and the 17th of August. They were aged between 19 and 44 (with an average age of 25.) Their occupations varied greatly but generally speaking, were ‘white collar’. ‘Clerks’ like Allan Allsop or professionals. One unusual example is Richard Bradley of Belmont Ave, He was a 25 yr old, newly married music teacher. One of 10,000 soldiers without a grave. They are remembered at Villers-Bretonneux cemetery and the A.W.M. Most names are recorded on the Mosman Memorial, but more are being added to this site’s database.

Crozier, Frank ‘The search for identity discs’ Depicts a soldier in a muddy, war damaged landscape with wrecked buildings in the background, searching a dead body for an identity disc. Frank Crozier served in Gallipoli with the AIF in March 1915 and in France in January 1917 before being appointed an Official War Artist from September 1918 until June 1920. AWM ART00221

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, a 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 died from wartime 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.”

CUNNINGHAM, James 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 broncho-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..

PICKERING, Arthur 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.

Frank Crozier ‘Grave of a pal’ Depicts a soldier standing beside the simple cross of a friend’s grave, in a war damaged landscape. AWM ART00219


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