The fighting at Pozieres, as part of the broader Battle of the Somme, involved the infantry battalions from 1, 2 and 4 Division. It covered a period of more than forty days, from 23 July to 5 September 1916, with the 3 divisions being rotated through the front line to mount an extended series of attacks on the German positions: the village of Pozieres itself, the so-called Old German Lines north of the village – including the Windmill – and finally Mouquet Farm. For an overview of the fighting see Beaumont (2013. pp 200-212).
There was tension between the British Army HQ and officers in the AIF. Pozieres was when Haig mocked Birdwood about the Western Front being the place where the AIF was up against a real enemy in a real war.
The losses for the 3 Australian divisions came to 24,000, with 5,500 killed and nearly 17,000 wounded. A distinctive feature of the fighting was the ferocious artillery bombardment, with a corresponding incidence of ‘shell shock’ experienced by the soldiers. In only 7 weeks over July and August 1916, the AIF suffered roughly the same number of casualties as it had in 8 months on Gallipoli. The Western Front was different, principally in terms of how little the life of the individual soldier counted. Entire battalions could be sacrificed for no military gain. From Verdun to the Somme and Pozieres it was a war of attrition. The AIF’s shocking casualty figures were set to play out in Australia’s conscription referendum.
There were 15 men linked to Shire of Alberton who died at Pozieres. They have been grouped according to the various phases of the fighting at Pozieres.
The fighting at Pozieres was exceptionally brutal – principally because of the overwhelming use of artillery – and this is evident in the case of the 15 men below. Three of them died of wounds. This meant that they were evacuated from the line, treated in at least a casualty clearing station behind the main action and then, when they died, buried in a near-by military cemetery. This leaves 12 men. Of this number, only 1 was buried in a recorded grave. Eleven of our small sample have no known grave. They disappeared at Pozieres. Their names are inscribed on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.
1 Division initial attack (23/7/16)
Leonard NOONAN 217
Herbert Ilott GEORGE 408
John Henry MANDERS 2865
Angelus Basil ELLIOTT 3741
2 Division relieves 1 Division and attacks (27/7/16)
Harold Christopher HOW 367
Roy Harry NEBBITT 2720
2 Division attacks again (4-5/8/16)
James Edward McINTOSH 3897
Percy James DAVIDSON 140
George Victor AUBREY 546
Arthur George INSEAL 1914
George Thomas MORLEY 4479
from 10/8/16 all three divisions (1,2 and 4) rotate in attempts to seize Mouquet Farm
Gordon William APPLEYARD 865
Alfred REEVES 3342
James NEIL 3897
Patrick Joseph MILLS 4236
Beaumont, J 2013, Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW.
page revised – to include Arthur George INSEAL – on 2/8/16.
page revised – to remove James Noble ROBINSON – on 16/8/16
page revised – to remove Arthur MORGAN – on 17/8/16