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Webmatters : The Australians at Pozières 1916
Rough Map of Area

Pozières

The attack is renewed

On the 24th the fight for the village was renewed with a double attack being mounted by the Australians. Both attacks were made in the dark. The first at 0200 hours would be made against the German trench system that had held up the 9th and 10th battalions to the east of the village. The second attack would be an assault on the village an hour and a half later.

Throughout that day and the next the Australians came under heavy bombardment from German artillery but slowly but surely they managed to advance into the village. Only on the right was little progress made in getting into the village from the eastern side.

On the 26th the Germans unleashed a bombardment of equal ferocity to the day before and it was impossible to see the village for dust and debris. That night an exhausted 1st Division was replaced by units from the 2nd Division. The bombardments continued by both sides and although plans were drawn up by the British for another night attack in the earlier hours of the 27th it was impossible to ascertain if wire had been cut, or to move men out into no man’s land ready for a swift assault on the German positions.

The attack went in at 0012 hours and for three hours the fighting raged before it became apparent that the attack by the Australians had been beaten off with serious loss. Whether the attack should have been made has been the subject of much speculation.

Under the circumstances it was not possible to give as much attention to preparation as perhaps the situation warranted, and Gough was insistent that the Australians continued with their efforts to take the remainder of Pozières. Haig blamed the Colonials for a poorly prepared operation. Australians tend to blame the British Generals for insisting the attack went ahead in the first case.

2nd Division AIF Pozières Mill

Wherever the blame lay, the Australian 2nd Division made plans for a second offensive which were to be far more thorough. At 1800 hours on the 30th July the barrage reached its climax with heavy howitzers pounding the German trenches in a programme of lifts and drop backs. At 2115 the final rounds were fired on the German trenches before the guns lifted to the rear areas and 5th Brigade attacked from the south quickly capturing the German front line and moving on to the German’s second line.

On the left 7th Brigade managed to make similar advances and with reinforcements finally managed to capture the ground around the Pozières windmill at the northern end of the village.

 

Lieutenant Albert Jacka

On the evening of 6th August the 14th Battalion from the Australian 4th Brigade formed part of the relief for the men of 7th Brigade. Amongst them was Lieutenant Albert Jacka, the first Australian to have ever been awarded the Victoria Cross (in Gallipoli). That night they came under heavy bombardment and just after four in the morning a large contingent of Germans was seen advancing on their position from the direction of Courcelette. The Germans managed to overrun the 48th Australian Battalion and captured a large number of men who were sent back under escort.

In the midst of the confusion reigning in the area Jacka had not realised what was happening until the prisoners and escort were passing his position. Jacka took a handful of men and opened fire on the escorts. The prisoners realising that they could get to freedom picked up the fallen Germans’ weapons and continued the fight eventually forcing the Germans in turn to surrender.

The Cost

On 7th August the 2nd Australian Division was removed from the line. In the space of twelve days of continuous bombardment they had suffered just over 6,800 casualties. In comparison the 1st Division in the opening stages of the attack had suffered almost 5,200.

Looking from the Pozières Mill towards Thiepval

Looking from the Pozières Mill towards Thiepval

Now that Pozières had been taken the Australians were now asked to turn their attention north to Mouquet Farm — one of the keys to Thiepval still looming over the allies to the west.