This Day In History: The Anzacs Battled the Germans at Pozieres (1916)

Advertisement

On this day in History on July the 26th , 1916, during the Somme Offensive of 1916, Australian troops taking battled the Germans at Pozieres. The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles in history and it resulted in the death and injury of up to 1,00000 men.

The battle at Pozieres involved units from the Australian and New Zealand army, who had been part of the Gallipoli expedition in 1915. In 1916, they were given the goal of seizing the heights at Poziere. This was an almost impossible task but it was a key objective for the success of the entire Somme offensive.

The Australians  began their attack late on the night of July 22. The Anzacs had only  just two days previously arrived in the Somme region. The ANZAC divisions  were supported by a British Division and they were to launch a diversionary attack on the Germans left flank. The main thrust of the attack was aimed at the Poziere heights.

The attack on Poziere occurred after an intensive bombardment. It seemed that the bombardment by hundreds of artillery pieces was so intense that it would sweet the Germans away. The British High Command wanted the Anzacs to capture Pozieres village. However, the massive artillery barrage failed to inflict the expected casualties on the Germans, Instead, they had the time to strengthen their defenses and they had created many machine gun posts. They had managed to place these guns before their own front lines.

On the night of July 26-27th German and Anzac forces had thrown grenades at each other.For their part, the Allies launched some 15,000 Mills bombs—this was 1-pound grenade with a serrated exterior. The bomb was to scatter shrapnel over a great distance. The Anzacs made repeated charges and they began to make headway and forced the Germans out of their trenches and retreating to positions some distance away.

1200px-Road_to_Pozieres_August_1916_(AWM_EZ0084)
Anzac forces on the road to Pozieres

Pozieres Ridge finally fell to the Allies on August 4, 1916, after two weeks of bitter fighting.  The Germans managed to retain control of the areas around the heights. They managed to contain the Anzacs on the heights and prevented an allied breakthrough.

The Australians were very bitter about he cost of the victory. The New Zealanders supported them in their views. They both argued that the British General Hough had badly prepared and planned the attack. This led to unnecessary casualties. They pointed out to the fact that it was only the bravery of the Anzacs that had allowed them to capture the heights.

The Anzacs had lost several thousand men and many, more injured. They had managed to push the Germans back but at a terrible cost.

 

Advertisement