97th anniversary of the Battle of Pozieres
THE Battle of Pozieres, the most costly battle undertaken by Australians in the number of dead and injured, took place from 23 July to August 7, 1916, during the First World War.
This year marks the 97th anniversary of the battle.
By the end of Australian operations around Pozieres, which also included heavy fighting for nearby Mouquet Farm between 8 August and 5 September, the Australian Imperial Force had sustained more than 23,000 casualties including some 6,849 dead.
The fighting at Pozieres represented Australia's first extended large scale operation on the Western Front.
It was from this small village on the Somme that soil was taken and sprinkled on the coffin of the Unknown Australian Soldier at the entombment in the Australian War Memorial on 11 November 1993.
The Battle of Pozieres lasted 14 days and was a dreadful introduction to large scale Western Front fighting for Australian soldiers.
At 12.30am on Sunday, 23 July 1916, the 1st Australian Division launched the initial attack and seized the German front line. Within an hour they had reached the main road through Pozieres and by dawn the German counter attacks had began
The Australians held on - and over the coming days they captured further ground, but under heavy artillery fire suffered great casualties.
Between 27 July and 7 August, the Australian Imperial Force's 2nd Division fought to capture and then hold Pozieres heights sustaining more than 6,800 casualties. This was the greatest loss ever suffered by an Australian division in one tour on the front line.
The town crest of Pozieres pays special tribute to those Australian soldiers who fought for and eventually freed the township. It features a slouch hat with Australian soldiers marching up the brim towards the historic windmill which was held by the Germans who used it to sight their artillery.
The famous 13th Century mill was almost completely destroyed and has remained in the same condition now for almost 100 years however, in 1932, the Australian War Memorial Board purchased the site and made it into a war memorial as the ridge is "more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other spot on earth."
The people of Pozieres are in the process of building a replica of the mill some 200m away, and turn it into a tourist information centre to feature photos and other memorabilia of the Australians in battle for their town.
Australians of the First World War will never be forgotten in Villers-Bretonneux but Pozieres is something special again for the people of France.