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The Rock-itt : June 2011
The Battles for Bullecourt 1917 The Australian 4th Division was to be part of a planned British attack on part of the Hindenburg Lines, north east of Bapaume, which was part of an overall action that was to take the focus of the main French Spring offensive further south under the leadership of General Nivelle (the Nivelle Offensive, which had been conjured up to break the German Lines once and for all). So about this time of the year, 94 years ago in Northern France, on the morning of the 11 th April 1917, the Diggers were to advance to take the trenches in front of the French village of Bullecourt, following the by now usual pre attack bombardm ent of the German lines by artillery, which were protected by wide belts of barbed wire. In conjunction with this advance, the troops were to be supported by British Tanks which were to squash the lines of wire in the direction of the attack thus enabling the Australians to enter the deep trench system . However in counter battery fire and because the fabled tanks were either too slow to arrive, or not arrive at all due to breakdown or shell damage, the Australians moved into no man’s land and were subjected to deadly machine gun fire and took many casualties. By mid morning though, the first two lines of the massive German entrenchments had been taken, but the troops were “in the air”, that is to say that on both flanks they were not supported by allies, and subject to enfilade fire and counter attack by the Germans. Seeking artillery support ahead of them by use of signallers, to enable them to stop the German counter attacks, the Diggers were trapped. Senior staff had refused the request for artillery support on the mistaken understanding that Australian troops had advanced further into the German fortifications than they in fact had. This lost opportunity enabled the Germans to counter attack and force the Australian troops out of their capture trenches and back across no man’s land under heavy fire. 3289 Diggers were casualties of this engagement. This first battle for these lines was to have a significant effect on Australian troop’s confidence in the power of the tank which would have implications for months to come and was not to be finally resolved until the Battle of Le Hamel in 1918. After the failure of this day’s work, the British were committed to keep up the pressure to assist the French and on the morning of the 3 rd May soldiers of Tank track at the Bullecourt Town Hall By Simon Lyon