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France 1916: The Battle of the Somme
Pozières, The Windmill
Fell more thickly – Pozières windmill
At the heart of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is a small scattering of the soil of France. It lies on the coffin of the Unknown Australian Soldier in his tomb in the centre of the Hall of Memory. It was cast there on 11 November 1993 by a World War I veteran of the Western Front, Robert Comb, during the funeral ceremony for the Unknown Soldier, a soldier whose body had lain in a war cemetery in France for 75 years. As Robert cast that symbolic piece of France into the tomb, he was heard to say: ‘Now you’re home, mate’.
That soil came from the Windmill site just outside Pozières on the D929 and to the left shortly after leaving the village in the direction of Bapaume. Cut in stone at the site are these words:
The ruin of Pozières windmill which lies here was the centre of the struggles in this part of the Somme battlefield in July and August 1916. It was captured on 4th August by Australian troops, who fell more thickly on this ridge than any other.
The second line of this dedication is a slight reworking of the words of Charles Bean who wrote:
The Windmill site – bought later (1932) by the Australian War Memorial Board – marks a ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other spot on earth.
Charles Bean, Anzac to Amiens, Canberra, 1983, p.284
In the fighting at Pozières, around the Windmill and northwards along the ridge towards Mouquet Farm, the AIF suffered more than 23,000 casualties in litle more than six weeks, between 23 July and 5 September 1916. Of these casualties, nearly 7,000 were killed, had died of wounds or were ‘missing’.
Visible from the Windmill along the road eastwards towards Bapaume is a tall red marker. It states that here was the front line on 1 September 1916. Just a kilometre or so away across the fields to the north–west lie the modern farm buildings of Mouquet Farm and about a kilometre back down the road through Pozières is the First Division Memorial. Here the eye can take in a small area where, in just over six weeks, 23,000 Australians became casualties of war.
© 2013 Department of Veterans' Affairs and Board of Studies NSW :: Last update - December 2010