Chapter XXII
The Capture of Pozieres
Randwick to Hargicourt, pp. 174-177
Eric Wren

At the muster parade held near Becourt Wood on the 27th the losses were shown to be: – *

Officers: 3 killed, 9 wounded, 2 died of wounds
Other Ranks: 101 killed, 366 wounded, 43 missing

In addition to those already mentioned, the officers who fell included Lieut J.T. PHILPOT, who succumbed to his wounds on July 25th. PHILPOT, who had been a chemist at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, was one of the many Gallipoli veterans who perished at Pozieres, others being Sergeants [1089 Richard Walters] Dick ROSSER (a Coronation cadet) [], [1870 Herbert Victor] Victor SPELLER, [352 Frederick Hugh MATHESON] F.H. MATHIESON, [10 Lindsay Stuart MACCALLUM] L.S. MCCALLUM, and Corporal H.T. [736 Herbert Thomas] HARRIS – all men with fine records.

[ROSSER, SPELLER, MATHESON, and MACCALLUM all have their burial location recorded in their service record as being “in vicinity of Pozieres (57c S.E. X.4)”, and HARRIS as being “buried in Sausage Valley in vicinity of Pozieres B1056 Sheet 11”].

*Footnote: The Official History (Vol III, p. 593) shows the loss of the 3rd Battalions as 13 officers and 484 men. The battalion diary on July 14 gives the stength of the unit as 27 offices and 1063 other ranks, and on July 31 as 13 and 562, a difference of 14 and 501.

————————————————————-

Chapter XXIII
The Second Pozieres
Randwick to Hargicourt, pp. 175-177
Eric Wren

The march back from Pozieres is described by Signaller Len JONES” on July 27th the battalion moved to woods at the rear of Warloy-Baillon, arriving at 10 p.m. Next day the battalion marched out for La Vicogne. Warloy was packed with troops, either waiting their turn to go into the line, or, like the 3rd Battalion, on the way out. The 4th Australian Division was in waiting. Scottish and English units were everywhere.

“The men had now been able to remove, to an extent, some of the dirt and traces of Pozieres trenches. With equipment straightened up the battalion moved along the inevitable sunken road. What a difference our entrance into Warloy now compared with the 16th! Headquarters signallers and pioneers had been reduced to a few men. The companies were minus old commanders and platoons were just skeletons. Barbed-wire had taken its toll of uniforms. Faces were grey and lined and many men were suffering stomach trouble caused by gases from the devastating enemy barrage. But they marched as the 3rd Battalion could march when it wanted to.

‘On the road bank stood a lone Scotchman, dressed in his pitureesque kilt with khaki apron. Surveying the passing troops with a critical eye, he called out, ‘Where ye froom, chooms?’ Someone answered, ‘From the other side of Pozieres’. Turning round, the Scotty yelled to some pals, ‘Hi! Coom and see the Aussies whoo’ve taken Pozzaires’. One man became a crowd. Troops came running from all directions. In a manner of seconds the bank was lined with thousands of troops. Someone called out, ‘Give these boys three cheers.’  The cheering was taken up right along the line and the battalion marched out to La Vicogne through an avenue of shouting troops. Lieut-Col HOWELL-PRICE obviously was pleased and looked back proudly at his men. Faces brightened, shoulders straightened, and arms gave an extra inch to the swing, but nevertheless the men marched silently. Gone for the moment their usual flippancy and buoyancy and desire for humerous repartee will all comers, there were so many still on the other side of Thiepval Ridge. All ranks were, it seemed, relieved when the battalion reached the open country and faced the ten miles’ trudge to La Vicogne. Here the battalion slept for the night under apple and pear trees in an orchard”.

On July 29th the backward trek was continued by route march to Bonneville, and the following day a four-hour march brought the 3rd to the picturesque Picardy village of Pernois. Here the task of reorganizing [sic] the battalion was continued, and the inevitable training operations were soon in full swing. While there were reasonable periods of rest, the men were not allowed to feel that this respite would be of long duration. Indications were many that the battalion would shortly be called upon to do some more “scrapping”.

There was a certain amount of grumbling, as always, by a few – the “hard heads”; but the orders of the army commander – “Get the men into fighting trim and make every man physically fit” – were inexorable. There was no alternative. Now but a very small unit in a colossal assembly of troops, the battalion moved almost automatically according to a fixed schedule of days, hours, and minutes, which was plotted weeks in advance. An exacting high command had learned to calculate accurately just how long an infantry division could be expected to stand the strain of the fighting now in progress – so many days in the initial attack, so many in reserve, so many in attack again. There was no escape.

The great battle of the Somme had now reached a stage when the conflicting armies might have been compared with giant wrestlers who, locked together in fierce and evenly-matched dispute, pause and fumble breathlessly for the decisive hold that will bring mastery. The tactical situation was such as almost to brand the British offensive as a total failure. The impregnable resistance of the German flanking fortress-positions at Thiepval and Guillemont was casting a shadowy eclipse upon hope of a decisive victory. British bllod had been poured out like water, the utmost of sacrifice and heroism had been demanded and made by the flower of Empire troops. Yet, although the enemy appeared to be staggering and ready for the knock-out blow, there was not yet available to British arms any decisive answer to the German massed artillery and bravely served machine-guns.

[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.]

Advertisements