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France 1916: The Battle of the Somme
Pozières, First Australian Division Memorial
Scene of the first operation – The First Australian Division Memorial
In Pozières there is a street named after an Australian military formation. At the western end of the village, just off the main road (the D929), stands a shrine to Notre Dame de Bon Secours (Our Lady of Good Comfort) leading into ‘First Australian Division Street’. At the corner of that street and the Rue de L'Eglise, in its own grassed space, is the First Australian Division Memorial. The view from the memorial stretches northwards across the fields to where the tip of the great British memorial to the ‘missing’ of the battles of the Somme at Thiepval appears above the trees. To the west, the view stretches back over the countryside towards Albert.
A large walled structure about a kilometre along that road is the Pozières British Cemetery. It was to that cemetery that the soldiers of the First Division came on 8 July 1917 to gather for a commemorative ceremony around a large wooden cross. The cross had been erected in memory of those men of the division who had lost their lives in the battles around Pozières between July and September 1916. In those actions the division estimated that it had taken 7,700 casualties of whom 5,285 (68 percent), had been killed or wounded on just four days: 23–26 July 1916.
After the war the First Division built its official divisional memorial, an obelisk, here at the western end of Pozières. On its eastern face a bronze plaque lists the division’s official battle honours and first among them is ‘Pozières’. Why Pozières? A divisional document explains:
As the scene of the first operation on a large scale undertaken by the 1st Division in France, because of its strategical importance in the Battle of the Somme, 1916, and on account of the intensity of the fighting and gallantry shown by both sides in its capture and retention, Pozières so impressed itself on the minds of the members of the 1st Australian Division that its selection as the site of the memorial to be erected to the fallen of the Division was unanimously endorsed.
‘1st Australian Division Memorial’, 623/4, AWM 27
© 2013 Department of Veterans' Affairs and Board of Studies NSW :: Last update - December 2010