Friday, July 20, 2007

Bullecourt, France

The 4th Division Memorial stands on high ground where the Hindenburg Line once barred the Allied approach. The memorial is located on a farm road at the hamlet of le Petit Arbre, which is situated beyond the town of Vandancourt.

4th Divison Memorial

The descriptive plaque reads:

"In the allied offensive of April 1917 around Arras and Vimy, the German line was broken but in the south it held, particularly around Bullecourt in the main section of the formidable German "Hindenburg Line". To pressure the Germans the British high command ordered an Australian advance here across open, snow-covered ground. In the dark on the morning of 11 April, without artillery or tank support the Australians took the forward German lines. The Germans counter-attacked from three sides and forced a desperate retreat. The 5,000 Australians incurred 3,300 casualties including 1,170 prisoners.

A second better planned assault occurred on 8 may. this time a heavy pre-dawn bombardment preceded the assault and, as before, the Australians captured the Bullecourt trenches and held firm on a narrow front near' where the plaque stands today. In a fierce battle they gradually expanded their perimeter despite courageous German counter-attacks. Both sides fought to a stand-still and finally the Germans abandoned the area on 20 may. These allied gains were lost in the German advances of 1918. The second battle caused 7.000 Australian, 2,700 British and 6,000 German casualties."

Bullecourt in 1920.

"The Hindenberg Line at Bullecourt. Three trench lines and communications are here shown, with acres of wire entanglements in the left foreground protecting first-line positions. Beyond Bullecourt runs the St. Quentin Canal and tunnel, which was taken late in September by the Twenty-seventh and Thirtieth American divisions."

The Literary Digest History of the World War", volume V, p. 384

1 comment:

Jack said...

Here is the last three verses of a eighteen verse poem written in September 2008 about the Australian 4th Division part in the 1st Bullecourt battle.

In this battle the Australian 4th Division lost 66% of their total strength in one day because some new ideas were tried that did not work.

The English General Gough wanted to use the new British tanks instead of artillery to break the German wire trench defenses. But the tanks were late arriving, many broke down, got stuck, and the rest were easily destroyed.

The Australian ANZAC's were under the English command.

Bullecourt 11/4/1917

And the ANZAC spirit grows stronger still,
In the fields of France where blood did spill;
Beside the trenches of the Hindenburg Line,
At Bullecourt they were new at trying.

We are proud of these fine young men,
Who gave their life's with the Englishmen;
At Bullecourt in Northern France, They died that day while on home absence.

Now the lessons learned has made us strong,
Tanks were improved so they moved along:
Remains recovered from the battle ground
To lay at rest in the cemetery's around.

The full poem is available from the author.

Jack Gill