The Summer of 1916
When the line stabilised late 1914, the village of Pozières found itself behind German lines. The village was fortified and a strong trench system with two blockhouses north and south of the village was built. Pozières was an important strategic position, not only because it was located on a communications route, but also because its heights dominated the surrounding battlefields.
I Anzac Corps, part of General Gough's Reserve Army, was given the main task of capturing the German positions on the Pozières Ridge. After a preliminary artillery bombardment, men of the Australian 1st Division launched an attack on the village on 23rd July 1916, assisted by the British 1st Division on the right and the 48th Division on the left. The Australians rushed forward and successfully captured the southern side of the village and a blockhouse called ‘Gibraltar’. Consolidating their new positions, the Australians suffered constant shelling and counter-attacks before being relieved by the Australian 2nd Division on 27th July. The 1st Division had lost over 5000 casualties.
The 2nd Division made several attempts at capturing the German second line and the blockhouse called the Windmill to the north of the village. These positions were eventually taken on 4th August; the Second Division had been in the line just over a week and had suffered almost 7,000 casualties.
The 4th Division was now brought in to continue the fight in the direction of Mouquet Farm. Although occupied several times, German counter-attacks and bombardments did not allow the position to be firmly held. Canadian troops finally relieved the Australians in this sector in early September, but Mouquet Farm did not fall until the end of the month. The Australians lost 23,000 men at Pozières in just six weeks of fighting.
Memorial to the Australian 1st DivisionAndroid or Apple.
Australia's official war historian Charles Bean suggested that the site of the Windmill become an Australian memorial, because ‘The Windmill site ... marks a ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth’. The memorial particularly remembers the Australian 2nd Division who captured the positions on 4th August 1916.
Mouquet Farmfarm that the Germans turned into a heavily defended fortress. The troops often knew it as Mucky Farm or Moo-Cow Farm. Heavily defended, it protected the western and north-western approaches to Thiepval and included a system of chambers and interconnecting subterranean passages with numerous exits and entrances. The farm was rebuilt after the war and is now private property, but a memorial to the Australians stands at the roadside.
The Tank Memorial
On 15th September 1916, a battle was launched over a 11 kilometre front. 11 Divisions were included in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, including the Candians who had relieved the Australians earlier that month. The infantry were to be supported by a brand new weapon - tanks would make their very first appearance on a battlefield. Beginning with an intense preliminary bombardment on the 12th September, the battle was met with varied results. The battle faired badly on the extreme right, but better success was met in the centre, where tanks played a vital role especially in support of the 41st and New Zealand Divisions in the capture of Flers. Further to the left progress was made but at heavy cost; the Canadians, had captured Courcelette by evening. Of the 49 tanks available, 27 reached the German front line and just six their final objective. They may not have had the strategic effect desired, but they did have a lasting psychological effect on the enemy.
A memorial to the Tank Corps has been erected just opposite the site of the Windmill. The monument takes the form of an obelisk and with four finely detailed models of tanks, used between 1916 and 1918, standing on surrounding pedestals.
The Pozières British Cemetery and Memorial
Enclosing the Pozières British Cemetery, which contains the graves of over 2,700 Commonwealth servicemen, is a memorial commemorating almost 14,700 casualties of the United Kingdom and South Africa who have no known grave. These men were killed from March to April 1918 when the Germans launched their Spring Offensive and drove the Allied Fifth Army back across the 1916 Somme Battlefields. Many Australians who were killed in the summer of 1916 are buried in the cemetery itself; the Australian Missing, however, are commemorated on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.
Bid for UNESCO World Heritage Status
The Pozières British Cemetery and Memorial is among 11 sites in the Somme that have applied for UNESCO World Heritage status.
The architecture is innovative and doesn’t observe the cemetery-garden principle that is often seen in cemeteries that are more open to their environment. The enclosed space, by its aesthetic use of columns and walls, places emphasis on the Missing.
Sound & Light Display
Every second year, the Digger Cote 160, Association organises a sound and light display themed on various aspects of the Battle of Pozières. The show illustrates the life of the village in the torment of the First World War and its strong connection with the Australians who fought in the ruined village during the summer of 1916. The next perfomances are scheduled for 2018. For more information, please visit: www.diggerpozières.org
Free access to all sites all year round
For more information about the Australian Remembrance Trail, please click here.
The Pozières British Cemetery and Memorial is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Longitude 2.727785 | Latitude 50.040411