- This is the English version of this page
- Go to the French version
France 1917: First and Second Bullecourt
Bullecourt, The Bullecourt Digger
A blur of brick and timber – Bullecourt 1917
- The village of Bullecourt lies about 13 kilometres north–east of Bapaume and can be reached from that town on the D956.
Like most of the villages in this area, and like most Australian towns, it has a war memorial which stands outside the Mairie (Town Hall). Engraved there is this dedication to the dead of the ‘Great War’:
A la mémoire glorieuse des enfants de Bullecourt morts pour la France 1914–1918
[To the glorious memory of the children of Bullecourt who died for France, 1914–1918]
As on Australian memorials, there is a list of those who died and, in Bullecourt’s case, the year of death. What, one wonders, happened to local men Jean Caron and Jean–Baptiste Gueant both of whom were killed in 1917, the year in which Bullecourt became connected forever with Australia. In April 1917 the war came to Bullecourt after the Germans incorporated the village into their main defensive line on the Western Front, which they called the ‘Hindenburg Line’ after one of the supreme commanders of the Imperial German Army, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg.
Directly opposite the Mairie is the church of St Vlaast. Like the rest of the village it was destroyed in the war and later rebuilt. A British journalist described Bullecourt in 1917:
This must once have been a pretty village, as pretty villages go in the river valley of the great coal–fields. It lay at the foot of a gentle declivity, was not remote from the vicinity of trees, and had a church and cemetery with some pretence to the picturesque. Red roofs there were and pretty little houses, and main streets with byways, winding and tortuous in the best French manner. Now it is a blur of brick and timber upon a fair prospect. Not levelled utterly to the ground as were Thiepval, Combles, and the villages of the Somme in the great battles of last year, it was yet so destroyed that the oldest inhabitant might have been hard put to it to say, which had been the Grande Rue and which the Petite. The very fact added to the difficulties of the English, the Scots, and the Australians who took it so gallantly.
‘The Great Battle of Arras – How Bullecourt Was Won’, The War Illustrated, 9 June 1917
Outside St Vlaast’s is a small monument surmounted by an Australian slouch hat. It is the ‘Slouch Hat’ Memorial to the two Battles of Bullecourt fought in April and May 1917. The names of the British and Australian units which took part in these battles are shown on the face of the monument and beside it is a rusty relic – a tank track.
© 2013 Department of Veterans' Affairs and Board of Studies NSW :: Last update - December 2010