Chapter XXII
The Capture of Pozieres
Randwick to Hargicourt, pp. 177-180
Eric Wren

On August 9th the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade retraced its steps to the line. BY La Vicogne-Herissart-Valdencourt Wood the unit moved in stages that led to a bivouac on the brickfields near Albert. AMoung the new officers who now led platoons were Second-Lieuts C. O. CLARK, H. FERGUSON, R. B. ALLPORT, C. BULMER, H. M. BISHOP, J. V. PESTELL, H. D. ROBB, B. C. BERRY, C. LESLIE, and C. STURT (all ex-sergeants), F. T. MAISEY, E. R. SHELLEY, and C. T. CLIFTON (ex-privates). All subordinate ranks were again in full complement.

At Albert packs were dumped and “battle order” was donned. On the evening of August 15th began the long approach march, via Tara Hill and shelter trenches in the old British front line, where a brief halt was made, to the new front line in the Pozieres Ridge – Monquet Farm Sector. Rain was falling in torrents, and the chalky, shell-churned soil was soon a slippery quagmire that caused many hard falls and made the relief, begun before 1 a.m. on the 16th, a movement of singular hardship. Most of the troops were unable to reach the front before daylight, and found it the most grotesque sector of the fighting front it had so far been their fortune to inhabit. Utterly featureless, a dun-coloured wilderness of inter-lipping craters strewn with corpses, this north-north-eastward slope of the Pozieres ridge had become the most active section of the Anzac front.

1916.08.15 - G5831.S65 Sheet 7.17.6
Situation Map – Morning of August 15th 1916
AWM25 G5831.S65 Sheet 7.17.6

General Gough’s [General Sir Hubert GOUGH] tactics directed that the 1 Anzac Corps should continue to exploit the valuable ground gained on the Pozieres heights by making northward thrusts along the old German third line, in order to seize the ground behind the large isolated Mouquet Farm and so command the rear of the stubborn bastion at Thiepval. To this end the 4th Australian Division had already struggled for more than a week against the redoubtable 16th (Rhineland) Division, which was supported on its flank by the 24th (Saxon). These German troops, supported by favorable ground and the most fantastic situation of the attackers, had stoutly met every assault and had yielded ground only after the most bitter struggles. Evidence of this was apparent on all sides, and the 3rd Battalion stretcher-bearers were kept busy removing wounded of the 49th and 51st Battalions from isolated holes in No-Man’s Land. Privates R. PATTINSON and C. CLUTTERBUCK, in particular, were conspicuous at this work in all the daylight hours, braving a very troublesome sniping fire. PATTINSON was awarded the Military Medal for his work at Pozieres.

The general situation was most dangerously obscure. The position held by the 3rd Battalion was the point of a sharp salient, some 1200 yards deep, that trust like a horn into the left flank of the Monquet Farm defences. On the left, fronting the farm – which was visible only as a heap of reddish rubble and tumbled wooden beams on the distant northward skyline – the 4th Battalion occupied the only really habitable trench in the whole Australian sector. The remainder of our defences, for the most part, were merely remnants of the churned-up German lines, fortified with such T-head saps as could be hastily constructed in the face of practically continuous artillery-fire. The lack of any natural feature from which trustworthy bearings could be taken made the recognition of map reference points extremely difficult, and this grave danger was immediately recognised by Lt-Col HOWELL-PRICE and his scout officer, Lieut R. F. BULKELEY, whose excellent survey work in the face of danger had been repeatedly commended. Here again, as in the first tour at Pozieres, Lieut BULKELEY, supplied his information with an exactitude that was invaluable to his commanding officer, and was certainly the means of saving some lives, although, alas, not in time to save all.

The first suspicion that something was amiss came on the evening of the 16th, when, in answer to a call for fire on the battalion S.O.S. line on the occasion of a determined enemy counter-attack at 7.30 p.m., many of the shells of our side harassed the front and rear of the battalion’s most forward lines. In spite of this and the heavy German barrage, our left company (A) assisted the 4th Battalion to drive off the attackers, but the losses were so heavy that, in order to strengthen the line, A Company was moved up from support on the afternoon of the 17th to take over portion of the 4th Battalion right flank.

This movement was immediately detected by the ever watchful enemy, and the curtain of fire – which, hour by hour, normally harassed the long and difficult lines of communication on this front – was immediately thickened, and progress of any sort towards the front line was almost entirely stopped. Troops could filter through only by short rushes, and this led to much confusion and loss. Less than one-third of A Company personnel was reassembled in the line. Moreover, this movement doubtless put the enemy on the alert for the attack which was impending at this critical point. Much activity was observed along his shell-hole line, and his snipers, unusually aggressive along this front, added an extra spice of risk to all open movement in daylight. On the other hand our own riflemen accepted the German challenge, and found many fine targets. Our line, from left to right, was now held by A, B, C, and D Companies, under Lieuts Paul WHITE, C. H. HOWIE, Captain J. G. TYSON and Lieut G. E. BLAKE respectively.

[In total 139 soldiers have been identified as having died in the fighting at Pozieres (20 July-18 August) who all have no known grave. Six soldiers from the Pozieres fighting are indicated as having died on 16 August 1916 and have no known grave. They were: 2562A BELL, William John; 2399 MOORE, Leo Paul; 4614 RECKLESS, Henry William; 3206 SWANSSON, Egbert Isendale; 2838 WOODWARD, William; and 3937 WEBSTER, Robert. All three of their service records indicate they were buried “3/4 mile N of Pozieres & 4 1/4 Miles N.E. Of Albert (57C S.E.)”. In addition, SWANSSON’s Red Cross file states that he was buried alongside 12 others on 17 August 1916. There are a total of 19 men missing from the 16th and 17th, but given their proximity to the 4th Battalion it is difficult to assume that only those of the 3rd Battalion were buried together. All of the 25 missing soldiers from this action in August have “3/4 mile N of Pozieres & 4 1/4 Miles N.E. Of Albert (57C S.E.)” recorded in their service record.]