Chapter XXII
The Capture of Pozieres
Randwick to Hargicourt, pp. 163-166
Eric Wren

At 12.28 a.m., two minutes before zero, the full force of the British and Australian barrage fell on the German front line with an intensity not hitherto experienced or contemplated by our men. The flashes of the exploding shells were so close and continuous that they formed an almost unbroken wall of flame crowned by rolling columns of smoke illuminating the inferno below. The noise could only be described as tremendous. Separate explosions were quite indistinguishable, being fused into one continuous roar. No order could be head unless shouted into the ear.

Punctually at 12.30 the first line went over, the forms of the men silhouetted for a moment against the fiery background. In a few minutes – they seemed like hours – news filtered back that the first objective had been captured without resistance. The second line moved out and disappeared. Then, at 1 a.m., the attacking companies of the 3rd Battalion received the signal to advance, the scouts having already gone forward. But partly owing to the din and confusion, partly to the eagerness of the line of carriers to be “in at the death”, the instructions to advance in two lines were disregarded. All attempts to straighten out the line and swing it to the left were found to be wholly impracticable, and the men moved across No-Man’s Land in small groups which kept edging to the left in an effort to keep touch. The result was that Captain HARRIS [maybe HARRIS, John Redford Oberlin, later Major], who moved out on the extreme right of the battalion in order to keep that flank extended as far as the line of telegraph poles which marked the boundary of the battalion sector, found himself deserted by all except his batman.

However, before the barrage lifted from the third objective (the main Albert-Bapaume road), the men of the 3rd;s attacking companies generally were posted along the light railway, which served as a rallying line for the final assault. In fact,  some of D Company’s No. 13 Platoon, including its commander, Lieut Paul WHITE, and Sergeant “Denny” CAMPBELL, overran the railway line and were caught by their own barrage, sustaining some casualties. The successful organization [sic] of the final attack was largely due to WHITE and the intelligence officer, Lieut R.F. BULKELEY.

In this sector there was no semblance of resistance on the part of the Germans. No regular trench-line was discovered, either on the second or third objective, and the few casualties sustained were due to distant machine-gun fire or to men running into our own barrage. So great had been the confusion of the advance that C and D Companies were found practically to have changed places. D was now on the left and C on the right; and  the line included men from almost every company of the 1st and 3rd Brigades.

Officers quickly laid out a trench-line among the shell-holes and mounds of rubbish – all that was left of the cottages on the south side of the road – and the men began digging-in feverishly with their entrenching tools. They bitterly regretted the lack of picks, which had been jettisoned in the advance.

Patrols quickly linked up with the 4th Battalion on the left flank. On the right, however, there was, for a time, a perilous gap, caused partly by D Company having edged to the left during the advance, and partly by reason of the fact that the left-flank companies of the 3rd Brigade had either not yet reached, or had considerably overrun, the third objective in their sector. To obviate the danger of a German counter-attack driving a wedge through this gap, a Lewis gun post was established on the 3rd Battalion’s extreme right flank, and a patrol was sent out with orders to range wide in the hope of making contact with the 3rd Brigade. In addition, in case of need two platoons were brougth up from A Company; before their arrival, however, connections had been established on that flank also, and at daybreak, the division was strongly entrenched on the third objective.

1916.07.23 - G5831.S65 Sheet 7.17.1
Situation Map – Morning of July 23rd 1916
AWM25 – G5831.S65 Sheet 7.17.1

In the meantime the heterogeneous mass of men had been organized [sic] in temporary platoons and sections, and sufficient supplies of ammunition and bombs had been collected to repel any counter-attack. But, if we had only known what was happening on “the other side of the hill”, we would have been spared any anxiety about an immediate counter-attack. For the time being the Germans had had all the fight knocked out of them by the fierceness of the preliminary bombardments, and, except in O.G. 1 and O.G. 2, they were on the run all along the divisional line. Moreover, additional protection was being afforded us by the artillery barrage, which was still falling, if in greatly diminished strength, about 100 yards beyond the main road.

[In total 139 soldiers have been identified as having fought in the fighting at Pozieres (20 July-18 August) who all have no known grave. One hundred and four (104) soldiers from the Pozieres fighting are indicated as having died between 22-27 July 1916 and have no known grave. Of these twenty-four (24) have their date of death recorded as 23 July 1916.]