July Historical Highlight – Battle of Fromelles – Western Front
The Battle of Fromelles, the first major battle fought by Australian troops on the Western Front, occurred in France between 19 and 20 July 1916. Directed against a strong German position known as the Sugar Loaf salient, the attack was intended primarily as a diversion to draw German troops away from the Somme offensive then being pursued further to the south.
A seven-hour preparatory bombardment deprived the attack of any hope of surprise, and ultimately proved ineffective in subduing the well-entrenched defenders. When the troops of the Australian 5th and British 61st Divisions attacked, they suffered heavily at the hands of German machine-gunners. Small parts of the German trenches were captured by the 8th and 14th Australian Brigades, but, devoid of flanking support and subjected to fierce counter-attacks, they were forced to withdraw.
By 8am on 20 July the battle was over. There were 5,533 Australian casualties, rendering the 5th Division incapable of offensive action for many months; the British Division suffered 1,547. The German casualties were little more than 1,000. The attack was a complete failure as the Germans realised within a few hours it was merely a feint. It therefore had no impact whatsoever upon the progress of the Somme offensive.
Australian War Memorial and Rod Margetts
This entry was posted in Historical Highlights
. Bookmark the permalink