The Battle of Fromelles 19-20 July 1916

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    The battle of Fromelles, 19-20 July 1916, was a minor British attack launched close to Aubers Ridge in order to prevent the Germans moving troops from their quiet sectors to the battle of the Somme. The attack at Fromelles was first considered when it was believed that the fighting on the Somme was about to produce a breakthrough. The commanders of the armies not directly involved were asked to plan their own offensives in order to put extra pressure on the Germans when that breakthrough occurred.

    General Plumer, commanding the Second Army, reported that the only suitable place for an attack would be on his extreme right, opposite Fromelles. General Monro, commanding the First Army, agreed to attack on the same front, and asked Lieutenant-General R.C.B. Haking, commander of XI corps, to plan an attack using two of his divisions and one division from the Second Army. Haking began by planning for a general assault on Aubers Ridge, but as it became obvious that the predicted breakthrough on the Somme was not going to happen, was ordered to scale down his attack.

    The eventual plan was for two divisions to attack the German front line and dig in. Its purpose was to prevent the Germans from moving reinforcements from the Sixth Army to the Somme. The divisions to be used were the 5th Australian Division (Lieutenant-General J.W. McCay) and the 61st Division. Each would use all three of their brigades, but only half of their battalions, leaving half of the infantry in reserve. The 5th Australian Division was close to full strength, so its six battalions contained around 6,000 men, while the 61st Division provided 3,300 men for the assault.

    The plan was badly flawed. British maps of the German trenches showed an elaborate network of front line and supporting trenches, but most of these had been abandoned due to flooding, and the German line was actually a few hundred yards to the rear. Even if the plan had succeeded, all it would have achieved would have been to move the British front line closer to the German guns on Aubers Ridge, making it increasingly vulnerable to German attack. The sector had been quiet for 14 months, and during that time the Germans had constructed a number of hidden concrete machine gun emplacements.

    The artillery bombardment was carefully planned. Over 200,000 artillery rounds were provided, and it was planned to include a series of fake “ends” to the bombardment, as if the infantry were about to advance. It was hoped that these feints would trick the German infantry into exposing themselves on the parapets, but the tactic failed.

    The bombardment began at 11 a.m. on 19 July, with the infantry attack timetabled for 6 p.m. A German counter-bombardment inflicted heavy loses before the attack began. The attack by the 61st Division was a total failure. German machinegun fire forced them to retreat without occupying any of the German front line. The Australians did rather better. On their left the 14th (New South Wales) Brigade and 8th Brigade captured the German front lines and began to consolidate their positions.

    The new Australian line was indefensible. By the morning of 20 July the 8th Brigade had been forced to retreat back to its starting point, and the 14th Brigade was ordered to fall back in turn. The 5th Australian Division suffered 5,533 casualties, over 90% of the infantry involved in the attack. The 61st Division suffered 1,547 casualties, some 50% of their attacking strength, the early failure of their attack saving them from heavier loses. In the words of the official Australian history of the war, “it is difficult to conceive that the operation as planned was ever likely to succeed”. On 20 July, the Germans ordered the Guard Reserve Corps to be moved from the Sixth Army to Cambrai, to provide a reserve on the Somme
  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Here's an update ....

    It all happened in the tiny French village of Fromelles. There, in the first battle after Gallipoli, nearly 2000 young Diggers died in a single awful night back in 1916.

    But there's also an intriguing twist to the story. At least 170 Australians vanished that night without a trace - one of the great unsolved mysteries of the First World War. And now a couple of Frenchmen and a Greek-born schoolteacher from Melbourne are determined it will not be forgotten. Determined to honour those who died on that faraway battlefield, over 90 years ago

    27 May 2008 ........ Fromelles Dig

    For more than eight years Melbourne school teacher and amateur historian Lambis Englezos searched for the evidence of where 170 Australian WW1 soldiers were buried in Northern France. They died during the Battle of Fromelles, regarded as the worst 24 hours in Australia's entire history. Mr Englezos is now at the site, where excavations have begun to find the soldiers' remains.

    Thanks go to Lambis Englezos and those who assisted him for their untiring efforts throughout the years to ensure that the recently completed archaeological dig at Pheasant Wood near Fromelles took place. Lambis was the driving force behind the research and arguments put to the Australian Government to trigger them into action.

    As Patrick Lindsay in his book FROMELLES stated - without Lambis, the missing Diggers of Fromelles would still be languishing in their unmarked and lonely graves at Pheasant Wood.
  3. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Absolutely fascinating ..... thank you !! :)
  4. My pleasure Annie...

    And for who is interested some photographs of the dig.

    Attached Files:

  5. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    You had to stand well back huh ?? :rolleyes:

    I have to say that that report was quite poignant at times .. the part I found especially sad was ...

  6. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    Can we please have this accurately portrayed. It was not a battle but an attack. A 2 division attack by this time in 1916 was hardly worthy of the title battle and as the nomenclature committee did not deem it worthy of the title Battle it was an attack!!!! end of story.


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