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France 1916: The Battle of the Somme
Mouquet Farm, AIF Memorial
Lucky you weren’t hit – the road to Mouquet Farm
In the middle of Pozières village is a visible reminder of the presence of Australians here in World War I – a road sign with an AIF badge pointing in the direction of somewhere called ‘Moo Cow Farm’! The road, the D73, goes northwards from the village past Pozières Cemetery. There was heavy fighting here on 25 July 1916, two days after the opening of the Battle of Pozières, when the 4th and 8th Battalions AIF advanced northwards out of the village against German cross trenches. The 8th dug in about 40 metres beyond the cemetery and later the 6th Battalion came up and built a new defensive line from near the cemetery. They worked in the teeth of yet another ferocious German bombardment:
Large numbers were wounded, especially NCOs, one company losing all its sergeants. Lieutenant Thompson was mortally wounded, but Captain Binns, after pacing out the line, walked up and down the parapet all day. ‘Buried, were you?’ he would remark cheerily to men who had been covered and dug out. ‘You were lucky you weren’t hit’!
Charles Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Volume III, Sydney, 1929, p. 580
Lieutenant James Thompson, 6th Battalion AIF, a school–teacher from Inglewood, Victoria, is buried in Étaples Military Cemetery. He died of his wounds on 6 August 1916, presumably in a military hospital in northern France as Étaples is well away from Pozières. Captain Percival Binns MC, 6th Battalion, of Guildford, Victoria, had survived eight months service on Gallipoli in 1915. He survived Pozières as well but was killed in France on 8 July 1917 and is commemorated on the Australian National Memorial at Villers–Bretonneux.
Past the cemetery the road veers left and the modern farm buildings at ‘Moo Cow Farm’, Mouquet Farm, come into view across a small valley.
For four weeks, until relieved by the Canadians on 5 September 1916, the men of the First, Second and Fourth Australian Divisions took part in seven major attacks to dislodge the Germans from deep defences at the farm and surrounding trench systems. The purpose of the operations, the Battle of Mouquet Farm, was to drive a line behind the German strongholds at Thiepval, a kilometre or so away to the north, so forcing the enemy to give up these important positions. The enemy lines in front of Mouquet Farm ran from the north–east in a south–westerly direction a hundred or so metres beyond the first bend in the D73 past the cemetery.
© 2013 Department of Veterans' Affairs and Board of Studies NSW :: Last update - December 2010