by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
The Rock-itt : January 2011
OUR DIGGERS IN THE GREAT WAR OUR DIGGERS IN THE GREAT WAR OUR DIGGERS IN THE GREAT WAR OUR DIGGERS IN THE GREAT WAR by Simon Lyon The Battle of Le Hamel To continue our journey through the 1918 battlefields of the Somme, takes us immediately to the amazing set piece battle that was planned by the Commander of the Australian Corps in France, General John Monash, a Jewish Australian soldier of some repute, who was present at the Landing at Gallipoli in April 1915. Monash had impressed Field Marshal Douglas Haig and The King of England, King George V, by his organisational skills and aggressive intent and had obtained permission to attack the German Army at a little village called Le Hamel, just east of Villers Bretonneux. The attack was the first time in the Great War that all services were brought together; that is Air Force, Artillery, Tanks and Infantry. It was to prove a blueprint for all future attacks upon the now retreating German Army. Monash, who spent hours meticulously planning the battle, often through the small hours of the night, estimated that this action would last 90 minutes. The Germans held the village which was a salient and held high ground to the east of the village which could still threaten the town of Amiens, a key town in the region, with the big guns that had been trained upon Paris. Co-ordinating his plan like a magnificent concerto, General Monash brought each weapon at his disposal into action at precisely the right time, and the battle was over in 93 minutes, a tiny three minutes longer than he had planned. It was a complete success; a pre dawn bombardment on the German lines on the 4th July 1918 behind which the advancing Australian (and some companies of American soldiers) took the Germans completely by surprise and over 1600 German prisoners were taken along with a massive amount of weapons, including machine guns and field artillery. Sadly out of the attacking force of 7,500 troops, 1400 became casualties, some wounded by shells falling short as the men were instructed to keep as close to the creeping barrage. The tanks were a revelation to the Diggers, who had been badly let down by them at Bullecourt in 1917; as trench busters and support to the advancing infantry they were priceless. Some were adapted to re-supply frontline troops with ammunition and airplanes dropped ammunition and supplies to soldiers in the forward zone. Le Hamel Memorial Monash with French PM Clemenceau When the battle was over Monash displayed all the captured weapons outside his headquarters in a show of triumph which Charles Bean, the Australian War Correspondent and future Historian of the Australians at War in the Great War, found most distasteful. However Monash was to have the last laugh, finally being promoted to Commander of the Australian Corps for the remainder of the War. The Australians had shown a spirit and energy that the exhausted British forces had long since lost at the terrible battles of Paschendaele in the Ypres Salient in1917 and the retreat from the German Spring 1918 attacks. The Allies were to take heed of the success of this set piece strategy and the planning that had gone into it and utilise this form in the next few summer months of1918. Ultimately it was this degree of planning and strategic action that resulted in the final surrender of all German forces in 11th November 1918 forever remembered by generations to come as Armistice Day. Monash attained the fame he sought but returned to Australia without the final recognition he so desperately wanted; a sad indictment on the Government of the day. Le Hamel village from Aussie lines