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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Many people contributed to this book in various ways.

Brigadier Chris Roberts AM, CSC (Retd) stood head and shoulders above all of them. Chris served with the SAS in Vietnam and has always been keenly interested in military history. He’s done some excellent work on the Gallipoli campaign. I know Chris from our army days together and was delighted when he volunteered to help with the project as a researcher. From the outset he was infinitely more than that. He plotted the data gleaned for each battle on the relevant map and then drew up a detailed framework for the drive or walk that was invaluable for me. His comments, as a soldier who has led in battle and also held senior command, on tactics and terrain during our visits to the battlefields were immensely helpful. Never hesitating to go the extra mile, Chris also undertook the myriad ancillary tasks, some unforeseen, that arose during the project’s course. Mate, without your enthusiastic help, I’d have laboured to get the book done. I dedicate it to you with ‘the deepest of gratitude and respect’. It’s also a pleasure to have you on the cover.

The wonderful staff of the Australian War Memorial took the project to their hearts. Major-General Steve Gower, the Memorial’s Director, gave me every encouragement and support. So did Nola Anderson, Head of National Collections Branch, and Helen Withnell, Head of Public Programs Branch. Marylou Pooley, Head of Communications and Marketing, who had the idea for the project, was a tower of strength throughout. My colleagues in the Research Centre and the Military History Section shouldered extra duties so that I could concentrate on my writing. I must mention Craig Tibbits, Senior Curator of Official and Private Records, in this context. Craig did a superb job while filling in for me as Head of the Research Centre towards the end of the project, which gave me a clear run to the last full stop. Janda Gooding, Head of Photographs, Sound and Film, Hans Reppin, Manager, Multi-Media, and Bob McKendry, Image Interpreter in Multi-Media ensured that the illustrations were of the highest quality possible. They patiently taught me about the wizardry of modern digital processing along the way. Nothing was too much trouble for Anne Bennie, Head of Retail and Online Sales, who deftly handled the considerable administrative dimensions of the project.

The maps reflect Keith Mitchell’s cartographic skill. Less obviously, they also reflect his forbearance and good humour in accommodating the frequent changes that were necessary to get them exactly right.

On the battlefields, Martial Delabarre in Fromelles, Jean Letaille in Bullecourt, Claude and Collette Durand in Hendecourt, Philippe Gorczynski in Cambrai, Charlotte Cardoen-Descamps in Poelcapelle, and Johan Vanderwalle at Polygon Wood were unstinting in their advice, assistance and hospitality. They are great friends of Australia. Closer to home, Dolores Ho, Archivist at the Kippenberger Military Archive in the New Zealand Army Museum at Waiouru, and, in Wellington, the staff of both the National Library of New Zealand/Alexander Turnbull Library and Archives New Zealand exemplified the ANZAC bond by handling every request for information promptly and efficiently.

To one and all, a heartfelt thanks.

 

 

Other books by Peter Pedersen

 

Monash as Military Commander
Images of Gallipoli
Hamel
Fromelles
Villers-Bretonneux
The Anzacs. Gallipoli to the Western Front
Anzacs at war

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr Peter Pedersen has written seven books on the First World War and contributions to several others, as well as numerous articles on campaigns from the Second World War, the Vietnam War, and battlefields and military and aviation museums worldwide. He appears frequently on Australian television and radio and has spoken at military history conferences and seminars in Australia and abroad. He has also guided many tours to the Western Front and other battlefields in Europe and Asia, which included leading and organising the first British tour to Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam. A graduate of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, the Australian Command and Staff College, and the University of New South Wales, he commanded the 5th/7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, and was a political/strategic analyst in the Australian Office of National Assessments. Dr Pedersen is currently Head of the Research Centre at the Australian War Memorial.

USEFUL INFORMATION

TOURIST OFFICES

Besides offering advice on accommodation and places to eat and drink, local tourist offices invariably carry a wealth of brochures and maps that provide useful information on the surrounding battlefields and nearby sights. They can also let you know about any events that may be going on at the time of your visit. It is worth dropping by them. Contact details for the main ones are as follows:

 

Albert

Tourist Office of Poppy Country
9, rue Gambetta
80300 Albert
France
Telephone: +33 3 22 75 16 42
officedetourisme@paysdu coquelicot.com

 

Amiens

Amiens Métropole Tourist Office
40, Place Notre Dame
BP 11018
80010 Amiens cedex 1
France
Telephone: +33 3 22 71 60 50
ot@amiens-metropole.com

 

Arras

Office de Tourisme
Place des héros
62000–Arras
France
Telephone: +33 3 21 51 26 95
arras.tourisme@ot-arras.fr

 

Péronne

Office de Tourisme
16, Place André Audinot
80203 Péronne Cedex
France
Telephone: +33 3 22 84 42 38
accueil@hautesomme-tourisme.com

 

Ypres

Ypres Tourist Office
Cloth Hall
Grote Markt 34
B–8900 Ieper
Belgium
Telephone: +32 57 23 92 20
toerisme@ieper.be

HANDY WEBSITES

Australian War Memorial ( ). Contains a wealth of information on Australia’s involvement in the First World War and guides to the relevant official and private records within the Memorial’s collection. Also offers plenty of advice for researching military service for family history.

 

Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs (). Among the many interesting sites on its Commemorations: Australia’s Wartime Heritage page is Australians on the Western Front 1914–18 (), which covers battles, cemeteries and memorials.

 

National Archives of Australia (). Holds the service records of Australian service personnel. All First World War AIF service records and RAN service cards have been digitised and can be viewed, and copies ordered, online.

 

National Army Museum, Waiorou, New Zealand ( ). Contains interesting information and occasional articles on New Zealand in the First World War.

 

Archives New Zealand ( ). Holds service records of New Zealanders who served in the First World War.

 

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (). Responsible for Commonwealth War Graves worldwide. Its online database has details of every BEF (and therefore Australian and New Zealand) fatality and the cemetery in which the grave lies.

GLOSSARY

Army A formation comprising a headquarters, two or more corps and assigned ‘army troops’ such as heavy artillery, cavalry and tanks.

Battalion An infantry unit of 800 to 1000 men, organised into a headquarters and four companies.

Battery An artillery sub-unit of four to six guns or howitzers.

Brigade A formation comprising a headquarters and four infantry battalions.

Brigade: artillery An artillery formation comprising a headquarters and three or four batteries.

Bomb A grenade thrown by hand; also the finned projectile fired by a mortar.

Bombardment The shelling of a target over a set period with the aim of destroying it.

Bunker A concrete structure used to shelter troops, aid posts and headquarters.

Company A 200- to 220-strong infantry sub-unit organised into four platoons.

Corps A formation comprising a headquarters, two or more divisions and assigned ‘corps troops’ such as heavy artillery, cavalry and tanks.

Creeping barrage A barrage that moves at a set rate to cover the advance of troops following it.

DCM Distinguished Conduct Medal

Dead ground Ground shielded from enemy observation and direct fire.

Division A formation comprising a headquarters, three infantry brigades, three artillery brigades, a field engineer company and logistic units.

DSO Distinguished Service Order

Dugout A shelter dug into the side of a trench or earthen bank for protection from fire.

Enfilade fire Fire from a flank that falls along the length of a line of troops.

Field-gun An artillery piece capable of being easily manoeuvred on the battlefield.

Howitzer An artillery piece capable of delivering shells on a high trajectory so as to hit targets behind fortifications.

Lewis-gun A light machine-gun with a rate of fire of 500 to 600 rounds per minute and an effective range of 800 metres.

Maxim-gun A German heavy machine-gun with a rate of fire of 450 to 500 rounds per minute and an effective range of 2000 metres. Normally served by a crew of four to six, it comprised the gun, a sled and water-cooling can and hose, and weighed 69 kilograms all up.

MC Military Cross

MM Military Medal

Mortar A muzzle loaded weapon delivering a finned bomb that follows a high angle of fire.

Pillbox A bunker from which the occupants can fire, either from inside or from the roof.

Platoon A 40- to 60-strong infantry sub-unit organised into three or four sections.

Re-entrant The low ground between two spurs that project from a ridge.

Section A 10-strong infantry element.

Spur A ridge projecting from a much larger ridge.

VC Victoria Cross. The highest award for valour.

Vickers-gun A British version of the Maxim heavy machine-gun with a rate of fire of 450 to 500 rounds per minute and an effective range of 2000 metres. It weighed 41 kilograms and was also served by crew of four to six.

Zero hour The time fixed for the launching of troops into an attack.

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bean, CEW. Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–18. Sydney, 1921–42.

— . III. The AIF in France, 1916. 1929.

— . IV. The AIF in France, 1917. 1933.

— . V. The AIF in France During the Main German Offensive, 1918. 1941.

— . VI. The AIF in France During the Allied Offensive, 1918. 1942.

Brittain, V. Testament of Youth. London, 1978.

Cutlack, FM (ed.). War Letters of General Monash. Sydney, 1935.

Dennis, P et al. The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History. Melbourne, 2009.

Downing, WH. To The Last Ridge. Sydney, 1998.

Edmonds, JEE et al. Official History of Great Britain in the War of 1914–18.

— . France and Belgium, 1916. II. 2nd July 1916 to the End of the Battles of the Somme. London, 1938.

— . France and Belgium, 1917. I. The German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the Battle of Arras. London, 1940.

— . France and Belgium, 1917. II. Messines and Third Ypres. London, 1948.

— . France and Belgium, 1918. I. The German March Offensive. London, 1935.

— . France and Belgium, 1918. II. March–April: Continuation of the German Offensives. London, 1937.

— . France and Belgium, 1918. III. May–July: The German Diversion Offensive and the First Allied Counter-Offensive. London, 1939.

— . France and Belgium, 1918. IV. 8th August–26th September: The Franco-British Offensive. London, 1947.

— . France and Belgium, 1918. V. 26th September–11th November: The Advance to Victory. London, 1947.

Ellis, AD. The Story of the Fifth Australian Division. London, 1920.

Harper, G. Dark Journey. Auckland, 2007.

Holmes, R. The Western Front. London, 1999.

Pedersen, PA. Fromelles, Barnsley, 2004.

— . Hamel. Barnsley, 2003.

— . Images of Gallipoli. Melbourne, 1988.

— . Monash as Military Commander. Melbourne, 1985.

— . Villers-Bretonneux. Barnsley, 2004.

— . The Anzacs. Gallipoli to the Western Front. Melbourne, 2007.

Joynt, WD. Saving the Channel Ports. Melbourne, 1975.

Knyvett, HR. ‘Over There’ with the Australians. London 1918.

Mitchell, GD. Backs to the Wall. Sydney, 1937.

Monash, J. The Australian Victories in France in 1918. London, 1920.

Pugsley, C. The Anzac Experience. Auckland, 2004.

Rule, E. Jacka’s Mob. Sydney, 1933.

Stewart, H. The New Zealand Division. Auckland, 1921.

SOURCES OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Note to e-book readers: the page numbers in this list refer to the print edition of this book.

 

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

184 (G-12753-1/2), 301t (F-103803-1/2), 302 (G-13484-1/2), 499 (025461), 500b (013608), 501 (013558), 512 (031675), 532 (031673)

 

Archives New Zealand, Wellington

526t (WA 10/3/3)

 

Australian War Memorial, Canberra

 

Photographs

xv (C01815), xvi (H10400), xvii (P03717.003), xviii (A03376), xix (E02790), xx (A02540), 1 (A03713), 2 (EZ0009), 3 (EZ0007), 4 (H08865), 11 (EZ0057), 13 (H09449), 14t (E04032), 15 (H01890), 16 (E05990), 17 (A03042), 18 (H16396), 19t (A01562), 19b (A01566), 26 (E03963), 30t (E03965), 38b (H12215), 41 (A03754), 42 (E00007), 43t (A02868A), 43b (EZ0100), 44t (J00187), 48t (H08482), 49b (EZ0113), 62 (E05748), 67t (EZ0095), 74 (E04710), 76 (H08347), 92 (E00220), 93 (E00579), 94 (P01465.004), 95 (E00179), 103 (E05701), 106 (E00374), 108 (A03366), 110 (C00440), 124 (P02939.012), 126t (E04581), 136 (A01121), 138b (G01534J), 139 (E00603), 140 (P01489.001), 142 (E00518), 151t (J00369), 168t (E04612), 169 (E04607), 170t (E01400), 183t (H12264), 186t (E01491), 186b (J00272), 187 (133440), 194t (E00650), 209 (E01200), 210 (E00850), 211t (E00901), 211b (E00711), 215 (E01220), 217t (E00889), 220 (E01121), 226 (J00191), 228 (E01912), 238t (J06409), 246 (E01076), 247t (E00914), 247b (E00918), 251t (E01034), 266t (E04591), 269 (J00285), 276t (E03864), 277 (E01162), 289 (E02278), 306 (E04661), 307 (A01058), 308 (E03804), 309 (A04803), 317t (H19207), 318t (E04832), 322t (E00072), 328 (E04851), 329 (A02103), 331t (E04828), 331b (E02877), 334t (E04787), 337t (E02434), 338 (E02685), 350 (E04744), 351 (E02088), 358b (J02577), 359t (E02804), 362 (E02350), 364 (H12187), 365b (02833C), 366 (E02620), 368 (E02844A), 373 (E03843), 374t (E02670), 380 (E02989A), 381 (E03883), 382 (E03014), 383 (E02880), 389t (E02842), 395t (A00006), 397b (P01695.002), 400 (E02847), 401t (E03051), 401b (E04405), 404 (H13436), 406t (E02866), 407t (P01383.016), 408t (A03534), 415 (E02951), 416t (E03116), 416b (E03039), 422b (E03061), 423 (E03067), 429 (E03104), 430 (E03147), 439t (E03302), 439b (E03183), 440t (E03149), 442t (E03139), 442b (E03126), 450 (C04505), 451 (E03260), 452 (E03755P), 458b (E03351), 464 (P00743.026), 466 (H12514), 467t (E03578), 476t (E03481), 487 (E03775), 488t (E03834), 488b (E03605), 528t (A02535), 529 (A02542)

 

Art

39 (James Quinn, Major General Sir Harold Walker; painted in France and London, 1918; oil on canvas, 93.4 x 81 cm; acquired under commission in 1918; ART03349), 138t (Leslie Bowles and Louis McCubbin, Bullecourt; created in Melbourne, 1930; diorama [figures: painted composite lead; background: synthetic polymer paint on fibreglass; modelling: plaster over wood and wire with wire, metal and paint], 400 x 730 x 215 cm; acquired under commission in 1930; ART41022), 141 (George Coates, Major General Sir Neville Smyth; painted in London, 1920; oil on canvas, 126.7 x 101.4 cm; acquired under commission in 1921; ART00199), 170b (Artist unknown, Menin Gate lions; sculpted in Belgium, c. 1200-1300; granite, 150 x 154.5 x 59 cm each; presented by the Burgomaster of Ypres to the Commonwealth of Australia in 1936; ART12510.001-.002), 175 (H. Septimus Power, First Australian Division Artillery going into the 3rd Battle of Ypres; painted in London, 1919; oil on canvas, 121.7 x 245 cm; acquired under National War Records Committee commission in 1919; ART03330), 185 (Charles Wheeler, The Battle of Messines; painted in Melbourne, 1923; oil on canvas, 137 x 229 cm; acquired under commission in 1923; ART03557), 232 (Fred Leist, Major General Joseph Talbot Hobbs; painted in Ypres, Belgium, 1917; oil on canvas board, 60.3 x 50.4 cm; acquired under the official war art scheme in 1917; ART02926), 239b (Fred Leist, Australian infantry attack in Polygon Wood; painted in London, 1919; oil on canvas, 122.5 x 245 cm; acquired under National War Records commission in 1919; ART02927), 330 (Will Longstaff, Night attack by 13th Brigade on Villers-Bretonneux; painted in London, 1919; oil on canvas, 131 x 208 cm; acquired under the official war art scheme in 1920; ART03028), 365t (George Bell, Dawn at Hamel, 4 July 1918; painted in Melbourne, 1921; oil on canvas, 127.7 x 244 cm; acquired under commission in 1921; ART03590), 467b (Will Longstaff, Breaking the Hindenburg Line; painted in London, 1918; oil on canvas, 127 x 234 cm; acquired under the official war art scheme in 1920; ART03023)

 

Imperial War Museum, London
5 (Q53), 270 (CO2246), 281t (Q5935), 288 (Q47997)

 

Kippenberger Military Archive, National Army Museum, Waiouru

268 (199-929), 290 (1993-1031 H484), 291 (1993-1031 H578), 498 (199-1031 H972),

500t (1993-1031 H986), 508t (1993-1031 H975)

 

Private Collections

14b, 20-1, 22, 24, 25t, 25b, 27, 28t, 28-9, 30b, 31, 32, 33t, 33b, 34, 35t, 35b, 315, 318b, 326t, 326b, 327, 332, 334m, 334-5, 335t, 336, 337b, 339, 340-1, 341t, 342, 343t, 343b, 344, 345t, 345b, 346t, 346m, 367, 370-1, 372, 376-7, 378t, 378b, 388 (Peter Pedersen); 70, 162, 163, 428, 458t (Robyn Van Dyk); 71, 447 (Karl James); 87, 322b, 323b (Gerard Pratt); 520t (Robbie Munro)

 

All other images are copyright to the Australian War Memorial

DRIVING THE BATTLEFIELD

Those who have been to Gallipoli will appreciate how the nursery’s flatness must have struck the Australian and New Zealand veterans of that campaign. Despite the lack of elevated vantage points, though, the views are often extensive. Hence most of the actions described during this drive can be followed in their entirety. But it only takes a tree line or a hamlet to block the view; when that happens relating one action to another is impossible. This does not really matter because the actions were not major attacks but small-scale raids, certainly in 1916. They were related to each other in that they were part of a raiding program rather than in a tactical sense on the ground. Don’t forget that the lines on both sides comprised breastworks rather than trenches.

MAP IGN Blue Series, 1:25 000, 2404E Armentières

e9781742169811_i0023.jpg

From Ypres take the N336 and swing right onto the N58 freeway just before Warneton. Continue over the Lys into France, where the N58 becomes the D7.

 

Once over the Lys, which the front lines crossed on your left, continue over the roundabout to the red and white shed between the agricultural machinery dealership and the power lines and look along the D7. Crossing the D7 at the roundabout behind you, the British front line, which the New Zealand Division entered on 13 May 1916, stretched to your right front. The power lines run above the centre of no-man’s-land, which was generally about 400 metres wide. On the other side of it the German front line went through Quatre Hallots Farm on the D7 directly ahead of you. In the New Zealand Division’s first raid on the Western Front, an 87-man party drawn from the 2nd Brigade passed through your location on its way to the Breakwater, a trench to the right of the farm. Designed to seal off the trench from the Germans, the New Zealanders’ box barrage wiped out the officers leading the raid. Two snipers were bayoneted but no prisoners were taken. The New Zealanders lost 10 men.

Return to the roundabout, head left on the D945 past Houplines and left again after 900 metres onto Rue Brune. Continue 500 metres to Pont Ballot at the T-junction by the electricity sub-station. Stand with Rue Brune at your back. The New Zealand line ran diagonally through the junction and on to your right front. The apex of a German salient directly opposite you reduced the width of no-man’s-land to 125 metres, making this location an ideal starting point for raids. The New Zealanders launched several, with mixed results. On 25 June 1916 the 2nd Rifles took nine prisoners; on 11 July the 2nd Otago got a bloody nose when the supporting barrage left the German wire intact.

Now walk to the dumping area under the power lines to your left, look along them towards the red and white shed and leap ahead to 27 February 1917. That night the 3rd Division, which became the pre-eminent Australian division at raiding, carried out the ‘big raid’. You are standing on the right flank, from where the 824-man raiding party, drawn from the 10th Brigade, spread across the divisional front line almost to the shed. General Monash, the 3rd Division’s commander, used ‘flavoured smoke’, probably for the first time in the BEF. The preliminary bombardment included smoke and gas to inveigle the Germans into wearing their gas masks whenever they saw smoke. The final bombardment omitted the gas, enabling the raiders to attack without gas masks and catch the Germans in theirs. Attacking to your right front, the raiders reached the third German line and occupied an 800-metre stretch of it for 35 minutes while protected by a box barrage so straight, said Captain Charles Peters of the 38th Battalion, ‘You could have toasted bread at it’. This was the most important raid launched by an Australian division. In the following days the Germans struck the 3rd Division seven times but only reached its line twice.

No-man’s-land, where 1st Otago was wiped out trying to cross on 13 July 1916. To the right of where this picture was taken, 1st Auckland had lost heavily 10 days earlier.

e9781742169811_i0024.jpg

Head right on Chemin du Pont Ballot, then left at the T-junction onto Chemin de l’Epinette and stop 800 metres further on at the T-junction with Rue de la Blanche on your right. Face the 50-kilometre speed sign on Chemin de l’Epinette. You are standing in no-man’s-land. The German line was 180 metres ahead of you. Late on 3 July 1916, two intense bombardments, each an hour long and the second using minenwerfers, pummelled 1st Auckland’s line, which ran behind the house on your right and met Rue de la Blanche 150 metres to your right. German raiders twice tried to enter but were beaten off. The Aucklanders lost 102 men. Next morning the area around you defied belief. The breastwork was flattened, men were buried alive and body parts lay everywhere. Torrential German shrapnel and machine-gun fire accounted for 163 of 1st Otago’s 175-man raiding party to your right front 10 days later.

e9781742169811_i0026.jpg The whole system of enemy works was thoroughly demolished, a minimum of over 200 dead have been counted, 17 prisoners were brought back; as also a very large quantity of material, including several quite new types of Minenwerfer Fuzes, a complete portable electric searchlight plant, several medical panniers, a miscellaneous collection of rifles, helmets and equipment, and a large mass of papers, maps and documents.

  Monash on the ‘big raid’ (letter to Birdwood, 27 Feb 1917, MS1884, National Library of Australia) 

 e9781742169811_i0027.jpg 

The ‘big raid’, as seen from the 10th Brigade’s right flank. At the far end of the German line is the Breakwater, where the New Zealanders carried out their first raid.

e9781742169811_i0035.jpg

Continue to the right along Rue de la Blanche, turn left beyond the railway at the T-junction and park 350 metres along at the sharp right turn . Stand with the railway on your left and the power lines ahead of you. The New Zealand line ran along the road to your right, through your location and then jutted to your front at the Mushroom Salient. It reached to within 50 metres of the German line, which would have passed under the power lines at that point. While standing sentry in the Mushroom late on 29 June, Private William Nimot became the only New Zealander to desert to the Germans. His parents were German, with the family name of Nimodt. The family needed police protection when news of the desertion reached New Zealand. It also brought trouble for those with Germanic names there. On 8 July the Germans raided the Mushroom twice within 45 minutes. 1st Canterbury repelled the first raid but the second got into the breastwork. The Germans were driven back yard by yard and finished off by a counterattack. All told, the Canterburys suffered 116 casualties.

Carry on for 850 metres and turn right onto the D933. Keep your eyes peeled and turn left opposite a grey concrete wall after 300 metres onto Rue des Glattignies. At the T-junction below the A25 autoroute, turn right onto Rue du Bois then immediately right again. The 2nd Rifles ejected German raiders who entered Rue de Bois redoubt here on 19 July. Head left at the T-junction onto Avenue Industrielle and pass under the A25. The British line crossed the Avenue Industrielle 100 metres beyond the underpass and ran along Rue François Arago, the first road on the right; the German line crossed 400 metres further on, at the slight leftwards bend in the road. As there is no parking there, continue another 400 metres to the old railway station, Ennetières en Weppes, and walk back to the bend Face the A25.

You are standing where the Australians opened their raiding account on the Western Front at 11.35 pm on 5 June 1916. Led by Gallipoli veteran Captain Maitland Foss, who was already known for his scouting of no-man’s-land in the nursery, the 66 raiders advanced towards you wearing unmarked British clothing to confuse the Germans and with faces and bayonets blackened. A box barrage protected them during the seven minutes they spent in the German breastwork here. Six Germans were killed and three captured but six raiders, and 20 men in the Australian line, fell victim to the bombardment that the Germans called down as the raiders returned across no-man’s-land. On 29 June, 312 men from the 6th Brigade struck the stretch of German line that extended from your location 500 metres leftwards. Entering it at three points under a heavy box barrage, they suffered 32 casualties but inflicted 111 in what the Germans admitted was very severe fighting. The 14th Battalion’s costly raid against the deserted German line on 14 July also occurred in this area.

Head back along Avenue Industrielle and turn left just before the A25 onto Rue François Arago. Head right onto Rue Ambroise Paré at the roundabout then left after 100 metres onto Chemin de la Patinerie. Once over the railway bridge, pause by the electricity sub-station to your left. The British and German lines paralleled the road on your side of the sub-station, which lies in the old no-man’s-land, and the far side respectively. During a raid on the German line to your left front by a 73-strong party drawn from the 5th Brigade on 25 June, Private Jackson carried wounded men back three times under heavy shellfire, and went out after a shell burst mangled his arm to recover two more wounded.

The view from the 20th Battalion’s front line in the Bridoux Salient.

e9781742169811_i0031.jpg

After another 1.1 kilometres turn right onto the D62 (Rue du Bas), then left straightaway onto Chemin du Vieux Bridoux, which you should follow around to the left, past the memorial to the 2/10 Scottish Battalion, The King’s Liverpool Regiment. Park after 400 metres at the slight leftwards bend and walk down the road until you can see the German bunker 500 metres to your right front and the spire of Fromelles church beyond it. You are now on the front line at the Bridoux Salient. The 20th Battalion held it when the Germans started out from their own line, which crossed the road on the near side of the houses to your front, at 7.40 pm on 5 May. This was one of the first occasions on which the Australians were able to glean the true texture of the Western Front. The heaviest bombardment they had yet known bashed them. ‘Some fellows’ nerves gave way & they became gibbering idiots, Sergeants and all sorts, god it was little wonder … fighting here is simply a massacre’, wrote Corporal Arthur Thomas. The Germans inflicted on the 20th six times their own loss of 19 men. Their capture of the two Stokes mortars, which should have been withdrawn after firing to the support line behind you, resulted in the sacking of the 20th’s commanding officer.

Head back along Chemin du Vieux Bridoux towards Bois-Grenier and take the first left, the D22, at White City, where the 20th Battalion’s headquarters was located. The D22 soon becomes the D175. Continue for 2.5 kilometres along it to the intersection with Drève Mouquet on the left and park. Look along Drève Mouquet. The Australian line ran to your front along the D22/D175 and the German line, based on the Tadpole strongpoint, paralleled it 250 metres ahead. Thanks to the supporting barrage, the 11th Battalion raided the Tadpole successfully on 2 July. As a ‘No Entry’ sign precluded further progress on the D175 at the time of writing, walk 400 metres along the D175, passing Cordonnerie Farm on the right, just beyond which the road bends sharply left.

Stand on the bend with the farm over your left shoulder and face the copse on the left of the road ahead of you. The Australian line stretched left to right along the front of the copse while the German line stretched along the rear of it. No-man’s-land, which the copse straddles, was therefore quite narrow, which made this location attractive for raiders on both sides. When the Germans raided the 9th and 11th Battalions here on 30 May, their barrage obliterated 60 metres of the Australian breastwork. The German raid report stated that: ‘Bodies, buried and torn in shreds, were found in great number, and also very many dead, apparently unwounded, were seen in dugouts’. But the 9th got its own back in its raid on 1 July. For the loss of 33 men, its 148-man raiding party killed or wounded 58 Germans and captured 21.

The crater made by a minenwerfer bomb during the bombardment that preceded the raid on the 11th Battalion on 30 May 1916.

e9781742169811_i0034.jpg

Return to your car, head down Drève Mouquet and turn right at the T-junction onto the D22. At the three-way intersection by the crucifix, head right on the D22c and follow it to the Australian Memorial Park to begin the Fromelles battlefield walk. To return to Ypres, continue past the park on what is now Rue Delvas to Sailly-sur-Lys and turn right onto the D945. On reaching the big roundabout beyond the TGV railway, bear half left onto the D945n, cross the Lys and turn right onto the D933 in Nieppe. Turn left after 400 metres onto Rue de la Chapelle Rompue and follow it to the N365, which takes you to Ypres.

LOCAL INFORMATION

CEMETERIES

Many of those who fell in the nursery lie in cemeteries on the Fromelles battlefield and are described in the chapter on that battle.

Brewery Orchard Cemetery, Bois-Grenier

Firmly linking this cemetery to the fighting in the nursery, 20 men from the 20th Battalion who fell in the German raid on the Bridoux Salient lie in one long grave at IV.C. Of the cemetery’s 344 burials, all but two of them known, 125 are Australian and 13 New Zealand. Started in an orchard at the end of 1914 to serve the British advanced dressing station set up in the cellar of the adjacent brewery, the cemetery was sheltered by the surrounding ruins of Bois-Grenier and remained in use for the next three years. Located next to the modern brewery that dominates the site today, it can be reached on the tour route by heading back from the Bridoux Salient along Chemin du Vieux Bridoux and continuing into Bois-Grenier. Turn right onto the D222 near the end of the village and the cemetery is on your left.

Ration Farm Military Cemetery

The cemetery is on the left of the D222 one kilometre past Brewery Orchard. A communication trench ran from the farm opposite to the British front line one kilometre beyond. Ration parties returning from the line along the trench brought the dead back with them to cemeteries either side of the D122. Ration Farm Old Cemetery, behind the ruined original farm buildings, was begun in February 1915. After the war, its graves, along with those from other small cemeteries and from battlefield burials, were concentrated in Ration Farm New Cemetery, which had been started in October 1915. It eventually became Ration Farm Military Cemetery. Of its 1317 burials, 639 of them known, 259 are Australian and 32 New Zealand. Gallipoli veteran Private Robert Jack of the 24th Battalion at I.I.6 was killed in the 6th Brigade’s raid on 29 June.

NEARBY PLACES OF INTEREST

Armentières

Initially held by the Germans, Armentières was captured by the British in October 1914 and became the main behind-the-lines centre in French Flanders. It was also immortalised as the home of the Mademoiselle featured in a humorous, and, in some versions, ribald, wartime ditty. Australians and New Zealanders stationed in the nursery in 1916 frequented the estaminets and restaurants around the main square, while premises offering more worldly delights could be found on the streets behind it. Armentières was largely intact when abandoned at the start of the German offensive on the Lys in April 1918. When the Germans left on 2 October 1918 it was in ruins. You pass by the town while driving between Ypres and the nursery.