23/7/1916 The Somme: British attacks fail but Australian troops seize Pozières

Britain and France are both attacking the Germans on the Somme, but the lack of a unified command structure means that there is little coordination between their efforts. The French attacked on their own on the 20th because the British were not ready then, but the two commanders, Rawlinson and Foch, agreed that a joint attack would take place today. However, now the French are not ready, so Rawlinson decides that his chaps will have to go it alone this time.

Rawlinson’s men attack by night, after a bombardment beginning yesterday. The plan originally was for all the attacking units to go forward at 1.30 a.m., but somehow the attacks end up taking place at a multiplicity of times, reducing the chance of overwhelming the Germans with one strong blow.

The attack is a dismal failure, with minimal gains and heavy casualties. Many of the men trying to advance in the Delville Wood area found themselves lost, wandering around aimlessly until German machine guns open up on them.

The one notable success is achieved by Australian & British troops attacking towards the village of Pozières. The Germans here have been subjected to a longer and heavier bombardment than elsewhere. The Australians also benefit from their supporting artillery using something approximating to a creeping barrage. They capture a series of German positions in brutal fighting that sees no prisoners taken. Then they manage to storm Pozières itself.

The Australians are unable to rest on their laurels. The Germans are determined to recapture Pozières. The Australians withstand two counter-attacks today, but they know that more will come tomorrow.

image source:

The Territorials at Pozières, 23 July 1916 (National Army Museum; painting by William Barns Wollen)

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